Scripting News for 2/16/2006

Essay: What’s rotten about tech conferences

Ernie the Attorney: Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffet, Paul Simon, Keith Urban and Bob Dylan at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, April 28-30 and May 5-7. 

WSJ: Amazon Plans Music Service To Rival iPod

Firefox started misbehaving, so I thought — let’s go download a fresh install. Guess what’s waiting for me: no choice but to install the Google Toolbar. Remember what they said about their hack, if you don’t like it, don’t install it. Well, there it is. Where’s the choice now. Back then I couldn’t get anyone to listen. Letting Google modify our content to add links to their sites was a very bad idea then, now maybe others get that too? Now that they’re doing it for the Chinese censors. Why do you guys trust Google so much. They’re a corporation; they’ll do whatever they have to do to make money, do you think the integrity of your writing is even the smallest little issue for them? I don’t. Now here I am and so are you. Someday you’ll have to run the Google Toolbar. Today I don’t have to, I can accept a misbehaving browser, or I can learn how to uninstall it after the fact (good luck, I still have some Google crap from the Desktop Search product that I can’t uninstall), or switch to another browser, or back to Windows. At least Microsoft isn’t fucking with my integrity (and yours) the way Google is. 

Follow-up, that was an adware site which I got to through Google. Actually makes it even worse. Google behaves more and more like a spammer. And trust has value too. Microsoft tried to get us to use Passport after they had been caught killing Netscape. No one would trust them after they became an outlaw company. So when you push the limits of the trust of your users, eventually it does cost your shareholders. Something for Google’s board to think about.  

I’ve started to listen to WAMU, the NPR station in DC. I’ve gotten tired of WBUR, the same old people, same endless pledge drive. I also like WAMU because they have Diane Rehm. She’s so good she could be a blogger. :-) 

I’m starting to get a new release of the OPML Editor together, as part of the release I asked Andre Radke to prepare a download for the kernel source. The OPML Editor is an open source app, licensed under the GPL. There is a developer’s mail list and a Sourceforge project, but I wanted to get a single place to download a snapshot of the source on the last release of the OPML Editor, and this is it.  

Ed Vielmetti helped me when I was first exploring the web in 1994 and 1995. When web hosting was a mystery to me, he gave me some space on his server so I could experiment with the beginnings of content management on my side. It’s interesting to watch him explore the world of outline-based blogging. And it was just in this last week that the OPML equivalent of weblogs.com started reaching a critical mass, when you’d go there during the day and often see that 10 interesting blogs had updated. I told Amyloo in her chatroom hack that by the end of March there would be 100, and then 500 and so on. OPML has the feeling of something that has taken root and is growing on its own.  

Yesterday I wrote “The pros have gotten lazy, they only take the stories fed to them.” I got a bit of pushback, via email, from pros who think that there might be exceptions to that rule. Yeah there might be, but they’re rare, and too much is made of them. It’s been a long time since a political leader has been brought down by an investigative reporter, and god knows there have been plenty worth bringing down. We routinely get stories in the blogosphere that we can’t get the pros to run with. Why? Yeah, sometimes they generate their own stories, but when do they generate one that bucks conventional wisdom? When do they inform us about what’s really going on? When don’t they just chip at the edges? When do they have the guts to explain how things really work? The answer — it never happens. And for every rare heroic act there is also the reporter who is on the payroll of his or her source. So, yeah, I stand by the statement. The pros are lazy, they aren’t doing their job. Wish it weren’t so. 

One year ago today: “There are business guys who think a good deal is one where they make all the money and you make none.” 

Reminder, you can comment on Scripting News. Please do. 

39 responses to this post.

  1. It’s been a long time since a political leader has been brought down by an investigative reporter, and god knows there have been plenty worth bringing down.

    That’s true, but these days political leaders don’t have as much conscience as they used to. Scandals that used to be big enough to shame leaders into stepping down – like going to war on false pretences – are now spun every which way by partisan media. What could an investigative reporter unearth these days that would be big enough that a leader couldn’t explain it away?

    Reply

  2. “We routinely get stories in the blogosphere that we can’t get the pros to run with..”

    I would agree with you in general the “pros” are lazy. However, once in a while they due run with it.
    See,

    http://scientificactivist.blogspot.com/2006/02/breaking-news-george-deutsch-did-not.html

    and then,

    http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30816FD3F5A0C7B8CDDAB0894DE404482

    Reply

  3. SInce you’re asking… Why is your feed so slow? When I click on a post from your feed in the newsreader, it takes several seconds too get the post. I would say that Scripting news is the slowest to display it’s posts of all feeds I subscribe too.

    Reply

  4. Where are you going to get Firefox? That screencap doesn’t look like the mozilla site at all. Probably a scam.

    Use: http://www.getfirefox.com

    or: http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/all.html

    Reply

  5. Posted by Marcelo Lopez on February 16, 2006 at 7:04 am

    Paul, with all due respect, because I don’t entirely disagree with you statement, but you left out “I did not have sex….”. Sure, to some folks that’s a little triviality, but didn’t your parents tell you when you were a kid, if you tell a little lie, it covers up a lot of other bigger lies ? I know mine did, and it’s still the standard I apply to every politician, or reporter. Or blogger, for that matter.

    Dave. This surprises you ? Edward R. Murrow had a CLEAR target. Sen. McCarthy. Who to call the “bad guys” isn’t as black and white as everyone likes to rant and rave about. Today’s good guy is tomorrow’s bad. Nagin, for instance, going to FRANCE, for assistance ? C’mon, what is that ? And Chris Matthew’s, “he was shot in the heart !”. Are you kidding me ? Not to belittle the poor man’s situation, but one pellet, equates to direct aim firing into the heart ? I’ve never been hunting, but I’ve seen the results of a hunt, and believe me, if the veep had fired directly into the guy’s heart, he wouldn’t still be alive. What do you call THAT kind of journalism ? I know I DON’T call it by that name. If it quacks like a spinmeister, it is a spinmeister. It’s sensationalist demagoguery. There is an overabundance of this crappola. Like Brian Williams commenting on the war during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Are you kidding me ?!? I want to see the regalia, the presentation. There’s PLENTY of time to discuss the mis-this or mis-that of post 9/11 America, and during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics isn’t one of them. Where do they think they are, 1936 Munich ? Or 1972 Munich ? GMAB. Give us ALL a break, is what I say.

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  6. The standard Firefox 1.5 download does not include the Google Toolbar. See http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/

    Reply

  7. Posted by Mike on February 16, 2006 at 7:17 am

    “Guess what’s waiting for me: no choice but to install the Google Toolbar.”

    It would annoy me, too – not that I’m a Google-hater, but I don’t take to people foisting software on me.

    However, I’ve never come across this before, and I have to ask, Where did you go? Try downloading from here:

    http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/all.html

    I’ve had no toolbars for the latest release of Firefox on Win or Mac or Linux. At the moment, however, I’m not using FF but the new Camino which has just hit full 1.0 release:

    http://www.caminobrowser.org/

    Reply

  8. Dave, Shoepal — thanks for teh pointers. I got to that page by clicking on a link in Google.

    I see that you’re right, this is not the official release of Firefox. I think what’s happening is that Google pays money for installations of the Toolbar and this site has bought position on Google’s search for Firefox. I had these tactics explained to me in a briefing at Yahoo a few weeks ago. Make Google’s attitude about our integrity even MORE insidious, not less.

    Net-net: Google is starting to behave like a spammer, and it’s getting nastier all the time.

    PS: I installed Camino, but that still doesn’t get me away from Google, which is the default search here too.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Darren Stone on February 16, 2006 at 7:20 am

  10. Not a scam, they just make the $1 off of every install. You’re still downloading an official release.

    Reply

  11. BTW, even if Firefox came bundled with the Google Toolbar extension, you can always disable or even uninstall it. I know it’s the principal of the thing, but you came across very alarmist.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Mike on February 16, 2006 at 7:48 am

    “PS: I installed Camino, but that still doesn’t get me away from Google, which is the default search here too.”

    You can customize the search-engine list in both Firefox and Camino. Here are the instructions for Camino:

    http://www.caminobrowser.org/support/docs/search/

    Reply

  13. Glad I came off alarmist, I can’t believe how apathetic you guys are.

    Did you read the part where I couldn’t uninstall a bit of the Google Desktop? It hijacked the Page Not Found error page and won’t give it back. So do I trust that I could uninstall the toolbar once it’s installed? Maybe at one point I would have, but these companies are really fucked up.

    Did I ever tell you the story about Verizon DSL? They hacked up my browser to say “brought to you by Verizon” after I installed some piece of software that they insisted I had to install. (Later I found out this was bullshit.) I called them up and asked how dare they do that. They didn’t provide the brower, it came with the damn computer. They said they had the right to do it. I asked what gave them the right. They said it’s in the agreement I clicked OK to. Ahhhh.

    So no, I feel like taking the chance that Google’s attorneys have put something like that in their EULA. Let’s get smart and stop being such sheep, what do you think?

    Reply

  14. Posted by Xavier on February 16, 2006 at 7:52 am

    Google themselves aim at promoting Firefox buy paying $1 to every download made through the AdSense account of such sites. I guess it’s only fair if they can also put their toolbar in there. Open Source, y’know.

    http://www.marketingshift.com/2005/11/google-pays-for-firefox-switch.cfm

    http://www.explorerdestroyer.com/

    http://www.killbillsbrowser.com/

    Hence, Google != spammer. The scam site you stumbled on just happen to use their tag, to get money from Google.

    Reply

  15. Dave, ever since Watergate, journalists have become obsessed with the idea of bringing down a politician, preferrably a president. As a result, news coverage suffers, with any stupid story about a politician cheating on his wife or cursing in public or shooting a friend getting more press than serious political issues that affect our civil liberties, our taxes, our jobs, thngs that matter.

    When you say:

    “It’s been a long time since a political leader has been brought down by an investigative reporter, and god knows there have been plenty worth bringing down.”

    You’re encouraging that lack of social consciousness, and later encouraging the blogosphere to feed those stories and that obsession. If a politician needs to be taken down, it has to be because of a focus on the issues, not on taking them down. Trying to take down a politician encourages lazy investigation of their personal lives, and distracts from serious issues.

    Lets encourage the blogosphere to be different from mainstream media, to bring all the little details of policy on capitol hill to the forefront, to make sure the public knows when an awful law gets proposed and that the politician who proposes it suffers the consequences. Lets let political moves dictate news coverage, and not controversy and tabloid journalism.

    Reply

  16. Net-net: Google is starting to behave like a spammer, and it’s getting nastier all the time.
    More accurately, Google is allowing its algorithms to be gamed by spammers. Its reliance on robot thinking is leaving it open to subversions like this, which affect its own products. Unless the link you clicked on the Google search page was a clearly-labelled sponsored link, in which case G has nothing to answer for (I trust that’s not the case).

    It’s right not to be apathetic about Firefox (or PC makers, perhaps more importantly) bundling Google code, due to Hal Varian’s “power of the default”. Having Google as the default search engine in the search bar is far less intrusive though: something has to be the default, so is whichever company that gets that spot going to be accused of nefariousness? That seems unfair to me.

    Reply

  17. The company I work for has been in the news (local, national and international editions of print, TV, and web news) quite a bit in the last 6 months and EVERY SINGLE TIME we have been miquoted, misunderstood, or worse… From using a department name for the name of the company, to cherrypicking quotes in order to support a predetermined slant, to claiming whomever they spoke to is the the CEO of the company, the stories have ranged from slightly off to completely incorrect every time.

    “The pros are getting lazy” ?

    Yeah, to say the least.

    Reply

  18. Paul –> NO!

    The way they add links to my copy is spam. It’s unique to Google, we didn’t tolerate it when Microsoft did it, but somehow Google got a pass.

    You need to pay attention to this. You’re all missing the point.

    Reply

  19. Shannon, there’s an article in the Guardian today in which a former competitor of mine lies openly about our respective roles in the market. The Guardian didn’t fact-check him, or call me. This is not the first time I’ve seen the Guardian, which I understand is one of the highest reputation papers in the U.K., let someone use their space and name to lie. (And when I call them on it, they typically threaten to abuse me with a lawsuit. They supposedly have an ombudsman, but they don’t actually do anything when you raise an issue with them, other than try to smear your reputation.)

    Reply

  20. Dave, try http://www.maxthon.com instead. The simpliest and fastest tabbed browsers around. And you can search in as many search engines as you want in parallell and even add your own.

    Reply

  21. Posted by David on February 16, 2006 at 9:13 am

    The way they add links to my copy is spam. It’s unique to Google, we didn’t tolerate it when Microsoft did it, but somehow Google got a pass.

    This is still an opt-in function, on all versions of the Google toolbar, correct? I really like that feature – I use it to load maps and get directions (Yahoo! maps, in fact).

    Reply

  22. David, it’s not opt-in, if it were I would have no objection.

    In fact it’s not even opt-out-able.

    People have a way of ignoring that the writer has rights. But we don’t miss it in China. Why do we miss it in the U.S.?

    Reply

  23. Net – You can add as many search engines as you want in Firefox, too.

    Dave- I’m not sure what the problem with Camino is. Google and Firefox (and thus Camino) made an agreement that involved Google to be the default search engine. Similarly, Yahoo! is the default search engine for Firefox in Asia (as of version 1.5), MSN is the default search engine in IE, etc.

    Google has a program that gives site operators money to help promote Firefox w/ bundled toolbar. Lots of sites use it because they want to help get people away from IE and also make some money. Of course, some sites (like the one you found) try to take advantage of this program, but it’s not actually lying about anything: the link says you’ll get firefox with the google toolbar.

    If you search for “download firefox” in google, you get a sponsored link to one of these sites, but you’ll also get the same sort of site if you type the same query into msn search or yahoo. Additionally, the first actual result for the query in any of those engines would send you to the “pure” firefox installation page.

    Reply

  24. Is anyone having trouble receiving The Scripting News email in their Yahoo mailbox? Mine’s coming in sans text…

    Reply

  25. Dave-
    Followup:
    I just installed Google Toolbar in order to test your assertion that “David, it’s not opt-in, if it were I would have no objection. In fact it’s not even opt-out-able.”. I did make the following assumptions:
    1. By “it”, you’re referring to the Auto-Link feature that takes mailing addresses and makes them links to a maps site (configurable to google maps, map quest, or yahoo)
    2. “We didn’t tolerate it when Microsoft did it” is a reference to Smart Tags.

    If my reading is correct, I disagree with your assertion. The AutoLink button appears, yes, but it doesn’t DO anything to the page unless the USER requests it by clicking the button (I just tested it). This seems to be implicitly opt-in to me, since I’m controlling what pages I alter. I can’t see how this is any more evil than a greasemonkey script would be.

    The irony is that after all the marketing Google did for its toolbar, you’re the one that got me to actually install it ;)

    Reply

  26. Posted by Chuck Shotton on February 16, 2006 at 10:59 am

    Comment on yesterday’s comments about 3Bubbles. There IS a use for this technology, but not in conjunction with relatively static blogs. It’s a great tool for marrying real-time comments to real-time media. Streaming audio sites, video feeds, etc. could benefit enormously by allowing a collaborative discussion to take place, synchronized with the media playback.

    I’d love to be able to discuss music streaming from an Internet radio station (or comment on guests on the Diane Rehm Show), or make remarks about the local town council meeting as the video plays back. Sites that present/broadcast realtime media could definitely use a tightly coupled, browser/standards-based chat tool.

    But IMO, it makes absolutely no sense to have a low signal-to-noise ratio chat stream spewing out beside a mostly static blog article.

    Reply

  27. Posted by FoxyBetty on February 16, 2006 at 10:59 am

    Hi Dave,

    Here’s a bit more information about the Google Toolbar program: http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/archives/2005/11/google_referral.html

    Firefox is available for free download at the http://www.mozilla.com, the official Mozilla Web site.

    Reply

  28. Oh…my…friggin…god…

    What is it with the anit-establishment mentality regarding software?!?!?

    I put up with it regarding Linux and listening to people bash Microsoft as pure evil. My personal opinion is that these are the same types that protest infront of World Trade meetings. Nothing better to do.

    Now it’s on Google?!?! Well, you prolly should’ve not used Firefox to start with. All that rage over Firefox becoming the next great evil–those cats are gonna make money one way or the other. Thats the nature of the beast.

    Yes–it is an opt-in….you opted in to going rogue and using firefox. I’ve used Firefox and I find it to be slightly under-capable and it’s a slightly different GUI—thats about it. Me thinks it’s all in ones own perception of not wanting to follow the heard.

    But slamming Google? Sure–they screwed upwith China, but they know full well that the genious of using google is that you can find ways around any given restriction.–including the ones that google itself has set up.

    Why not use IE? It never crashes on me, everything ever written in recent history works with it, and Bill Gates is our One, True God.

    On a serious note though…if Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape, etc..could offer all the IE and Google currently do, then trust me–I’ll switch in a heartbeat. But realize that its only an altruistic gesture to swich now and support the ‘under dog’ and wait (hope) they advance themselves to where IE is.

    Reply

  29. I can’t speak for others, but my pushback on the journalist thing wasn’t that there “might be exceptions,” but that it was a generalization to the point of meaninglessness.

    Which it is.

    You wanna talk lazy? Your statement is lazy and reductive.

    I think the dichotomy you set up with bloggers is pretty weak, too — of course there are great stories being reported by bloggers, but there are plenty of lazy rumor-mongering bloggers out there, too.

    Am I defensive because I’m a professional journalist? Maybe, but I think this is based more on observations as a consumer of journalism.

    Reply

  30. Posted by Colin Faulkingham on February 16, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    “This seems to be implicitly opt-in to me, since I’m controlling what pages I alter. I can’t see how this is any more evil than a greasemonkey script would be.”

    Matt –

    It’s not about whether the user can opt-in or opt-out it’s about the publisher of the data being able to opt-out or opt-in. It’s ass backwards.

    Reply

  31. Colin-
    Thanks for the clarification, I think I see what you mean now. With that said, I still believe that users should be able to opt to view content the way they want it. Shouldn’t readers be empowered to create a better reading experience if they choose to? Popup blockers, greasemonkey scripts, and autolink scripts all allow the user to modify the page they’reviewing without the site author’s permission (and the publishers can’t opt out of these, either).

    Smart Tags, which Dave referred to, were initially opt-out for users, which I think is a big difference.

    Perhaps it’s more of a slipperly slope issues. For example, what if Google decides to show adsense ads on your pages? Well, as long as it’s still opt-in for the reader, I still don’t see the problem. If the reader thinks this is a better browsing experience, let them do that. I certainly wouldn’t opt in for obvious reasons (heck, I run adblock in firefox, so I don’t see adsense ads anyway).

    Reply

  32. I can’t decide which annual WBUR pledge drive sucks worse, the Valentine’s Day one or the Mother’s Day one.

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  33. The only thing I have against Google is the China thing about them agreeing to block sites that would open the way to democracy. Otherwise, the toolbar is great as I can actually see Google PR and Firefox is a great tool for bloggers especially after installing some wordpress blogs and ProBlogger.

    Reply

  34. Dave, I have a small fraction of the comments you have, how do you attend to them? I can’t.

    Reply

  35. […] Dave’s WordPress Blog » Scripting News for 2/16/2006 (tags: dave wordpress blogs) […]

    Reply

  36. No Opera (www.opera.com) fans around? I have it on my old pc at home and would it be a bit more stable and I would have it here too. Still haven’t installed their latest version.

    Reply

  37. Posted by Marcelo Lopez on February 17, 2006 at 7:08 am

    Nathan Weinberg for President ! Or something, anyway.

    I feel now like I’m not the only person who saw “All the President’s men” when he was a teen and later saw news coverage, and realized, “It’s their manifesto. This movie !”. They just simply can’t get away from chasing their own tail.

    Dave…….have you ever tried Shirra ? It’s a Safari-Clone that’s quite good, give me most of what I’ve found useful in FireFox, and has no affiliation to anybody. Give it a try. You might like it.

    Reply

  38. antonio, I use opera. It’s my favorite browser.
    I use Opera 90% Firefox 8% and IE 2%

    Reply

  39. Posted by Jackson Hewitt on April 26, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Maybe you just don’t know how to run a PC, because I hear from a lot of users and the only ones with trouble using firefox & google toolbar are very old PCs and people that don’t know what they’re doing.
    period.

    Reply

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