Thursday, July 12, 2007
If you love internet radio (soma, ioio, woxy, pandora, etc), time is running out before U.S. congress signs off on a rate hike that will, basically, anihilate the landscape of internet radio and support for independent music and thought as we know it.

Time and options are running out for Internet Radio. Late this afternoon, the court DENIED the emergency stay sought on behalf of webcasters, millions of listeners and the artists and music they support.

UNLESS CONGRESS ACTS BY JULY 15th, the new ruinous royalty rates will be going into effect on Sunday, threatening the future of all internet radio.

If you live in the United States and you rely on internet radio in any way, I implore you to find out who your senator or representative is (lists are available), and call, email, whatever. In two days time, it's going to be awfully quiet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Internet Radio Day of Silence: One day is enough!

So, if you're like me, music is an integral part of your day. I am an avid listener to an internet radio station, and recent events have me worried.

The future of Internet radio is in immediate danger. Royalty rates for webcasters have been drastically increased by a recent ruling and are due to go into effect on July 15 (retroactive to Jan 1, 2006!). To protest these rates and encourage the millions of net radio listeners to take action and contact their Congressional representatives, today is a national Day of Silence.

When my beloved WOXY went off the air last year, they were resurrected for the 3rd time by an angel in the guise of But, had they stayed off the air, I would have had many other options. If the royalty rate increase goes through as planned, that's it. Across the board, mainstream and alternative entertainment sources will suffer, and that's sad. So make your voice heard if you care about internet radio.

On a related topic, WOXY's benefactor,, have now launched a DRM-free music service that will download music directly to your iPod, bypassing iTunes. How successful will this be? Well, it's gutsy, that's for sure, and a company well worth keeping an eye on.

On an unrelated topic, Danah Boyd's Apophenia blog is getting a massive number of hits in response to a blog-essay she posted recently on an apparent class separation between high school mySpace and FaceBook users. Unfortunately, many of the blog-essay's readers have apparently missed the point that the essay itself deals with teens, and is intended to open a dialog, not as an academic paper.

What amazes and saddens me is that Danah has intentionally put a blurb on the front page of her blog:
Welcome! If you're new, please check out Best-Of Apophenia. A feed for this blog is here.

Which I think is an absolutely brilliant idea, to situate the arguments that she is about to present. Unfortunately, most commentary on the blog is apparently made without the benefit of this context, which is really too bad.

When you read a post on a blog, try reading at the very least a few other posts before commenting; you might save yourself coming off as an ignorant ass!

Friday, April 20, 2007

CaseBook, "Simple Ships", The Twilight Sad

CaseBook is an open-source quality assurance tool developed for my current client to organize and generate testing documents. It is similar in concept, though not in scope, to DocBook, consisting of a data-schema or three and an assortment of xsl transforms. When new application features are developed, a high level map is built in the CaseBook document, detailing pages and states, controls on the page and assertions about the page. This document is then transformed to generate acceptance, integration and regression documents. Once the application map has been created, further assertions can be skimmed out of our bug-tracking database (Bugzilla), using its Atom format reports.

For our latest development sprint, I was able to build a testplan containing some sixty testcases for a manual tester in a couple of hours. Refactoring this data is not difficult since all reports are generated by transforms. Adding further assertions is also quite simple.
Last Summer, at Home I had become the Invisible Boy - okay, so the title of this track from the debut release from Glasgow's Twilight Sad may be a little long... but, wow, if you like folky shoegazey music that grabs you by the guts and demands your attention, don't miss this one. "Last Summer" opens with a pounding percussive line reminiscent of Galaxie 500's cover of "Don't let your youth go to waste", building to an emotional release at the end, with vocals that could only come from Glasgow. I want to raise my children in that fair town, just so they can speak with that accent.

Last Summer, At Home....
The Twilight Sad - myspace

CaseBook is available at SourceForge.

During one of my early experiences as a developer, I worked in a development group that worked very hard to follow the keep it simple rapid development principle of "Simple Ships." Ideally, new modules are developed in short sprints, architectures don't become grandiose, and life is good. But we found ourselves adopting another adage: "Stupid Ships," and only half in jest. We discovered very often, throwaway ideas which began as a joke would prove to be more shippable than more traditional solutions. I have given a lot of thought to this as the years have passed: why is it that successful development often begins in jest?

The funny textual intrusions for record reviews and such also began as a joke, a holdover from my MA thesis, stolen quite shameslessly from David Foster Wallace's footnotes for Infinite Jest.

Even though we are told that creativity and innovation are absolutely essential to survival in today's technology market, the fact remains that ideas which are too far outside the box are shot down without consideration of merit due to time constraints. An idea promoted in jest may slip under the radar and plant a seed. I have definitely seen this happen on several occasions. What begins as an employee's throwaway takes on a new life when it is suddenly assumed by management. Often this happens when a new feature is given a silly name, for instance. In my experience, people like silly names, because it personalizes the otherwise obscure process of software development.
In reality, I was having a very hard time focussing on the task at hand, and since various other ideas kept interrupting the process of writing, I decided they should also interrupt the process of reading.

The jest, in this case, may create a safer forum for discussion, and one which has enough distance from the anticipated or perceived problem that a solution may be found that challenges the initial premises of the problem, which is often enough to create an innovative solution. "Wouldn't it be funny if instead..." is a great way to refactor a problem so that it becomes solvable.
This was also supposed to suggest a shuttle weaving from one side of the page to the other, but that is another story.

Also, if you are one of those developer people who experiences a knee-jerk reaction when your boss or client tasks you by executive fiat - "this is how it is going to be" - then the phrase "Stupid Ships" takes on a different shade of meaning: "Well, maybe I think this is stupid, and maybe I don't, but if you want it, and you will support it, and you will support me in developing it, then, well, we can ship it."

I believe a fundamental component in the shift from apprentice developer to journeyman, and then master comes from recognizing these "jests of brilliance" for what they are, as we encounter them, and instead of presenting them as throwaways, presenting them as statements that we are fully prepared to stand behind and back up.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's a Spider... Man! The friendly neighborhood internet:

Is the web becoming more collaborative? More semantic? metaphoric? I would expect in the coming days, all these things come to pass. And most people will fail to notice. The original hypertext transfer protocol was groundbreaking because it filled a niche, and did so in a remarkable fashion. For early adopters, that was enough, and out of the aether, or arpa, the web was born; but the sea-change occurred when the web ceased to be primarily textual, and became visual.

Currently loving on:

Mason Proper - Rest Up
(live in the WOXY lounge)

I still can't get enough Mason Proper, and their latest appearance in the WOXY lounge, their second, sounded great. I have Rachael from Underrated to thank for tipping me off to Mason Proper, so props!

I am lead to believe that the next global shift in the web will be visual also, when 3d replaces 2d. Not sure if Second Life fills the bill. I could be wrong, though, web 2.0 represents a decentering of the web object, shifting focus to the audience, and though web 2.0 applications do tend to share a visual look (well, rounded corners, obv, and tableless design), this is mostly stylistic, an attempt to "look 2.0".

My personal take is that the emerging web is still primarily solipsistic and protective, but I see the self-sustaining nature of WikiPedia becoming more pervasive as online identities become less anonymous.

Peter Parker was a reporter. Perhaps in the 21st C, he'd be a blogger. As his secret identity Spiderman, he maintains law and order in his friendly neighborhood, even though sometimes he has a hard time explaining how Peter Parker happened to be on the scene when he shows the photographs to J. Jonah Jameson later.

For the most part, the web is a friendly neighborhood, and Spiderman has a lot of help. I've seen plenty of flame-wars end with a troll banned or otherwise ejected, and the neighborhood returns to order. And people stand up for each other on the web, and for the things they believe in, against the tyrannies of homophobia, misogyny, civil liberties or any other unacceptable behavior. And I am proud of these people.

I think there is a tipping point in one's life when one gains a certain notoriety for one thing, and then applies that notoriety to reaching a wider audience.

And therein lies something I find problematic: Spiderman is notorious, Peter Parker is not. But Spiderman is the facade. We live in a time when anyone with a PC and an ISP can create a web presence online (myspace page etc), and the only reason many choose to remain anonymous is because that is the norm. A forum could decide that it would only allow posts from members who have created a web presence (an online location to associate with this person if they act in a destructive fashion; a personal namespace) - at this point, true dialog begins to emerge from identification.

Of course, this ability exists already, but is not a norm, and this sort of dialog runs against the extreme virtualization of Second Life and its ilk. Wikipedia and Digg are other examples of applications which successfully blend anonymity and collaboration.

I am increasingly enjoying Danah Boyd's Apophenia Blog. At the top of her blog roll is a little notice:

Welcome! If you're new, please check out Best-Of Apophenia. A feed for this blog is here.

This is fantastic! The Best-of link is a great idea! I can't count the number of times I've come across a weblog, liked what the person has to say, but been unable to really get a bead on where they're coming from, ideals etc. Putting a Best-of link right up front tells new and familiar visitors alike what you consider to be the writing that has best conveyed What you are trying to say. The words you choose are like the clothes you wear when you travel around the web-o-sphere - these are your red and blue spandex, so why not make them noticeable?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why I don't like Pandora

I really wanted to like Pandora when I first started streaming music there some several years back... the idea of audiomemes appealed to me, but, there were no PEOPLE there! Then one day I discovered WOXY, the greatest internet radio on the planet (who are launching a new music blog today), and never looked back. 6 months back or so, WOXY went off the air, to be resurrected a month later by, who now give them the support and resources they needed, but had the good sense to leave everything intact.

The lesson: don't mess with success, stand out of the way of the people... and don't mess with this developer's radio!

Cheers WOXY, and thank you lala!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Project CaseBook:

CaseBook is a collection of XML Schema, XSLT and XQuery which allow you to model an application's controls, pages and states at a high level in an XML document, then use this model to generate documentation for manual testing. Information can also be skimmed out of Bugzilla (or any issue management tool with an Atom feed). CaseBook is intended to fill a need for an easy to use knowledge-base for quality assurance data. I began this project as a way to replace a number of Word documents that were constantly out of date.

I am currently in the process of adding CaseBook as an open source project on SourceForge, under GPL.

Because a CaseBook knowledge base can be implemented using exclusively XML technologies which are freely available, it is by design a very extensible solution, as opposed to less abstract approaches to generating testing documents. This is intended to provide a mid-range between storing testing data as unformatted data (ie word) and using a costly solution.

The CaseBook Schema can be used as is with a XML-friendly editor like oXygen or StylusStudio for transforms, or can be staged on an eXist database equipped server (my preference).

Watch this space for more updates.

- Currently listening to WOXY's coverage of SXSW 2007 - wish that I was there right now.

She, Sir - It's my way of staying connected

Friday, March 09, 2007

"With all of these changes, XSLT 2.0 is able to assume a much more extensive “work-horse” mode than it has previously. Most of these modes have already been explored with older extended XSLT 1.0 processors, but because such implementations tended to differ in critical areas developers and IT managers tended to shy away from them for all but very specialized applications. "

- from his o'reilly blog, Kurt Cagle on XSLT 2.0, a very good summary of the technology and its ramifications.

One thing Kurt mentions is the ability to use unparsed-text() to build up-convertors - Michael Kay has a great paper on this topic, up-converting genealogical data to XML.

Currently still loving Loney, Dear, and more than a little obsessing over Mason Proper and She, Sir. Too bad it's not "Mason, Proper" - for symmetry, see?

Let's see: Michigan based, debut album self-released "There is a Moth in Your Chest" - Vocally, Mason Proper remind me a lot of the 90's experimental work of Ian Masters in the Pale Saints and Spoonfed Hybrid... and that's a really good thing for me, since I loved those bands a ton.

Listening to Mason Proper has the wonderful effect of cheering me up. That's also a very good thing. If you listen to the lyrics a bit closer, well, damn! they're pretty cool, never too obscure, and twee only to the point that it's fun, not obnoxious. Good stuff, I only wish they'd tour my neck of the woods!

Mason Proper - The World Is Smaller Than you Think
Mason Proper - Mr. Charm
Mason Proper - Lights Off
Mason Proper - Chemical Dress

MySpace - Mason Proper

Friday, March 02, 2007

Innovation = Insight + Judgment + Invention

Dan Safer [Adaptive Path] in Newsweek:

"Innovation is traditionally understood as a combination of insight
and invention, with insight being the 'Aha!' moment and invention
being the company's muscle to make it happen. This is all well and
good, but one crucial aspect of the definition is missing: The
ability to judge the inspiration and determine whether it is
worthwhile to spend the company's resources on the invention. Without
this judgment, innovation is just The New, and new isn't always
better. It's a louder sizzle, not a juicier steak. For innovation to
be truly important, it needs to resonate with consumers. Insights
need to be derived from the unmet needs and desires of people, not
simply the company's feeling that it needs to innovate."

The rest of the article is available online [1] (subscription
required) or at your local newsstand. Look for the March 5, 2007


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Planar Chaos Capsule Reviews

Courtesy of NicotineJones of MiseTings

Planar Chaos - White
Planar Chaos - Blue/Black
Planar Chaos - Red
Planar Chaos - Green/Gold etc

My thoughts? I really like Giants, and not so much Boros Deck Wins, so the extra stuff in RW is pleasant, but the Hammerheim dude doesn't do a lot for me. Shade of Trokair looks nice; Sinew Sliver-Cautery Sliver could be a lot of fun, and I really want to play Pyrohemia for something. Dreamscape Artist (the Harrow guy) seems really good too, maybe with the Ana Battlemage to back him up (so I liked BUG a lot too).

Oh p.s. happy birthday to me! Just discovered this little snippet of info: — 23 January 2007 — Based on widespread implementation experience and extensive feedback from users and vendors, W3C has published eight new standards in the XML Family to support the ability to query, transform, and access XML data and documents. The primary specifications are XQuery 1.0: An XML Query Language, XSL Transformations (XSLT) 2.0, and XML Path Language (XPath) 2.0; see the full list below.

These new Web Standards will play a significant role in enterprise computing by connecting databases with the Web. XQuery allows data mining of everything from memos and Web service messages to multi-terabyte relational databases. XSLT 2.0 adds significant new functionality to the already widely deployed XSLT 1.0, which enables the transformation and styled presentation of XML documents. Both specifications rely on XPath 2.0, also significantly enriched from its previous version.

W3C’s XSL Working Group and XML Query Working Group, who created these specifications, have addressed thousands of comments from implementers and the interested public to ensure that the specifications meet the needs of diverse communities.

Nice! Looks like some of my favorite technologies just became official! Thank yous to everyone involved!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Loney Dear

Okay, so Loney, Dear makes me happy, very happy, and I'm sure we'll hear more from them (him) in the future. The song I am John is so infectious, in fact, that I can't stop listening to it. The sound is kind of ABBA-esque, kind of Belle and Sebastian-esque, kind of Brian Wilson-esque, kind of its own thing. The song actually reminds me a lot of Broken Social Scene, which is odd, since Loney, Dear is really a one man band, one Emil Svanangen. It has a real "pass the mike around" feel, even though I believe it's all one guy with an impressive vocal range, guaranteed to cheer you up, and never gonna let you down!

I'm gonna go on record here with this one before someone beats me to it -- "Sweden's Robert Pollard"

Loney, Dear - I am John

Friday, January 05, 2007


To start, apparently, like Pixies before them, Sprites choose not to use the. Fine enough! I checked this out with a visit to their wonderful website, a real work of art by one Susie Gahramani. The website is all friendly and tweedy, much like Sprites' sound. I love grainy vocals, and head-sprite Jason Korzen's definitely fit the bill, reminding me in a way of Mark Kozolek or Nada Surf.

And who doesn't love horror movies? Dropping pop culture references like a genial Quentin Tarantino, George Romero is the track on Modern Gameplay that I can't get out of my head.

Sprites - George Romero
Sprites - I Started a Blog Nobody Read
Sprites - Do It Yourself

Musical Quark: Collectives

Okay, I love the new K-OS track Valhalla. Love it. K-OS is a contributer to the Broken Social Scene collective, which Wikipedia describes as a "Supergroup." I'm also loving Lambchop's Kurt Wagner showing up guest vocals on a track by Morcheeba. Like Lambchop, Broken Social Scene is both a small (1 or 2) group of core members, and a whole bunch of people who also showed up for a particular session. Collectives are a wonderful thing, and the world should have more of them.

To quote the Sprites website:
People have frequently assumed that "Do It Yourself" was written specifically about Barcelona, but its not entirely the case. The song is really just about the difficulty of writing songs with other people, the compromises involved, and the inevitable disappointment. Jason felt so strongly about this that Sprites, the band, was intentionally formed with a changing cast of characters. Not a backing band, but a group of friends who could come together in different arrangements, write songs together, perform, and hang out. Nobody should ever have to be kicked out. The band would never have to break up.

I want to be in a band when I get to heaven; anyone can play guitar!