Dear Twitterer, I read your weblog

October 10, 2007

For whatever reason, it's suddenly become common to draft a "tweet" linking to just-published weblog entries. This practice makes me crazy, because if you're following someone on Twitter, you're obviously also following their site — that's how you found out about their Twitter account in the first place!

In case you haven't made the logical leap, these discourteous time-thiefs hit us twice with a notice that they've just added new content to their site. We'll see your latest post in our news aggregators — we don't need to see it in Twitter too! Sure, your admiring public will be in the dark for an hour (or less), but I promise they'll make do.

Unless you're warning me of imminent physical danger, please refrain from telling me about it more than once.

I realize that Twitter's "what are you doing?" inducement fell away almost immediately and that the service is now used predominantly to communicate random, immediate, and ephemeral thoughts, but that doesn't mean it need also be an extension of your weblog feed!

Please respect my time.  ;)

Searching for god in the brain#

Using fMRI and other tools of modern neuroscience, researchers are attempting to pin down what happens in the brain when people experience mystical awakenings during prayer and meditation or during spontaneous utterances inspired by religious fervor. Such efforts to reveal the neural correlates of the divine [...,] not only might reconcile religion and science, but also might help point to ways of eliciting pleasurable otherworldly feelings in people who do not have them or who cannot summon them at will.

What GPhone?#

Google is not building a phone. The company is building a mobile phone operating system, as well as what technologists call a ‘reference platform,’ a set of specifications for how hardware makers would build a phone based on that software. Google is also beefing up its mobile applications, and it is believed to be creating software to ensure those apps run smoothly on as many phones as possible.

Who do you read?

October 08, 2007

Why do I ask? Because you no longer list that information on your site. It used to be common practice on personal sites to list those sites frequented by the author (my list), but over the last few years this convention has waned and it's now pretty rare to see such a list.

I always enjoy seeking out new, interesting sites to add to my daily routine, and it used to be that the best way to do that was to look at the list of sites suggested/pushed by those I already read. These days however, the only way I seem to find new sites is through "via" links, or similar. It's all a bit more organic now, which is fine, but sometimes I just like to flick through all the sites enjoyed by a particular author.

What makes the increasing paucity of these lists infinitely more frustrating is the ease with which they can be maintained. For example, I currently use Google Reader for feed aggregation and perusal, but still perpetuate my Bloglines account so that I can use its blogroll feature to publicly share my feed list. When I add a new feed to Google Reader, I also add it to Bloglines (if it's a site I don't put in my "personal" or "non-public" folders), and the rest is done automagically.

Going forward, I think there should be some sort of unspoken rule that bloggers publish their feed lists at a pre-determined URI (e.g., /blogroll); that way, authors who don't want to link to it don't have to, but others who want the information can still find it.

HyperDither#

[A]n OS X image processing utility that converts color or grayscale images to 1 bit black & white using a sophisticated dithering routine. Specifically, HyperDither implements the ‘Atkinson’ dithering filter.

Beating minimalism over the head

October 08, 2007

I've been "refreshing" the site a bit over the last few days and am quite pleased with the 'final' result; it seems every time I look to redesign the site, I inevitably want to make it simpler, even when that seems impossible.

How much more bare-bones could I get? Well, I found more wiggle room than you might expect. You'll notice that I redid the header and stripped from it both the menu and my name. I snuck the header menu into a side-menu paragraph. Regular visitors will probably find this a little confusing at first, but will obviously figure it out; I think new users will take to it immediately as they're compelled to read the side-menu paragraphs — there's no other place to look!

The impetus behind the 'new' menu consists of more than just my personal aesthetic predilections; it's also drawn from observations I've made regarding visitors to this site. My various stats packages make clear that almost no one clicked on the menu at the top, and after I really thought about it, it kind of made sense. I mean, I hardly ever click on menu items myself. I think the only time I do is when I'm linked to a site I'm not yet subscribed to; if the piece I read is interesting, I may skim the site to see if there are similar pieces to be found, and if I'm convinced the site may produce something I'd like to read in the future, I'll likely add it to my aggregator. Save that, I get in and I get out, and apparently most others do the same.

Please don't think I'm trying to make a case for the Internet-wide removal of horizontal/vertical menus, which are about as common as web pages themselves. In fact, I'll likely re-add the top menu at some point — statistical evidence be damned — but I just thought I'd try something slightly more "conversational," and a little less rigid. At the end of the day, I don't feel I'm sacrificing any real-world usability by toying with the menu's ostensible relevance; if you think otherwise, please let me know.

Quite a few other subtle changes were made, but they'll likely be appreciated only by anal-retentive types. For all you typography nerds out there, the font used for the menu headers on the right is called DIN Schrift MittelSchrift (at 16pt with a tracking value of 25/1000 ems).

The only thing I'd still like to do is work out a way to more effectively funnel visitors to the photography section without detracting too much from the site's simplicity.

Writing your own toy OS#

This article is a hands-on tutorial for building a small boot sector. The first section provides the theory behind what happens at the time the computer is switched on. It also explains our plan. The second section tells all the things you should have on hand before proceeding further, and the third section deals with the programs.

The article continues in parts two and three.

A brief history of slashdot.org (part 1)#

I remember around the same time just watching 'tail -f' on the access_log. My world was rocked over and over again as I watched the domain names... mit.com! ibm.com! redhat.com! Hell, even microsoft.com kept scrolling through the log. I knew we had something... people from around the world, from the highest institutions in the land, from the biggest companies in the tech sector and to the most influential in the Linux world were all reading Slashdot.