Scripting News for 12/19/2006

Shall we have a bloggers meetup in NYC next week? 

Note, the password on the wiki is hotpasta. 

The San Francisco Chronicle tries to write about the Silicon Valley Asshole Society, a late-80s early-90s phenomenon. Its name was chosen so as to make it impossible for press people to write about it. I think Marc Canter was kicked out because we knew it would piss him off. And everyone said they were the founder of the society. That was the nature of the group. BTW, I was the actual founder, along with Stewart Alsop and Guy Kawaksaki. ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Mary Hodder recommends a conference on DRM in March in Berkeley. Reviewing the schedule, it seems there’s plenty of discussion and advocacy of DRM but not much dissent. Imho there’s no DRM in our future. It’s like discussing OpenDoc and OLE in the years the web was gaining traction. Podcasting and RSS point the way for media in the age of the Internet. BTW, I’m pretty sure Mary would agree. 

The President wants to send more troops to Iraq. Almost no one else thinks this makes sense. Will civil disobedience follow? 

Five things you didn’t know about me 

I’ve finally been tagged, by Maryam Scoble, who I saw on Sunday at the lasagna dinner. So here they are, five things that you didn’t know about me.

1. The women in my family are beautiful and powerful. My mother has a PhD and she doesn’t take any shit. Her mission is to get all the buses in NYC to turn off their engines when idling, and she’s winning. She played a role in integrating the schools in the neighborhood I grew up in. Her picture was once on the front page of the NY Times walking my little brother to school in Corona, which is a black neighborhood adjacent to Jackson Heights, the neighborhood we lived in. One of her cousins was the famous 40s box office bombshell and geek, Hedy Lamarr.

2. My brother lives in Los Altos and has three kids, and is married to the VP-marketing of Filmloop.

3. My iPod has every song recorded by Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello and the Beatles.

4. Some people think that one of the reasons I kept this blog going is because I am in a fight with Mike Arrington, but this is not true. I like Mike, he’s helped me many times, he’s intensely loyal, under a lot of stress, and I absolutely do not hold anything like a grudge with him. I never want to fight with Mike, but I don’t always agree with him.

5. I might write a book. I have to learn how to write an outline and a proposal, and then after that comes the task of writing the book itself. I already have an agent, and there are publishers that are excited about it.

Now I have to tag five other people.

Amyloo, Doc Searls, John Palfrey, Keith Teare, Mike Arrington.

Two notes about TV shows 

My parents were here for the lasagna dinner on Sunday and for breakfast on Monday. My dad, as usual, is full of stories. Apparently he’s been watching Dr. Phil, because he quotes him all the time. “What were you thinking?” is the punchline of many of his tales. It’s often a good question.

For no special reason, I want to say that Deal or No Deal has become my favorite TV show. Ever since Howie Mandel made an appearance on Studio 60, I’ve been tuning in whenever I can. It’s a very nice show. A little math and a lot of spunk.

The last post on the Google API 

We were excited when the Google API came online, we waited for them to come up with a licensing plan that would allow developers to build Internet-scale applications using the API. Today, the wait is over, and it’s not good news.

Google is deprecating the API, which means, for now, they will continue to implement their side of it, but they won’t be issuing new keys, and presumably we should not wait for a business plan. This leaves the door open to others — my recommendation would be to support the API as-is so that developers who have built on it can just change the name of the server and their software works. Google blinked in search. Who would have thought such an opportunity would present itself. Seems a perfect opening for Amazon or Yahoo.

Postscript: The discussion here has taken an interesting turn.

29 responses to this post.

  1. Yahoo! does have one and its pretty neat and can return JSON for swift AJAX lovelyness.


  2. Posted by Jacob Levy on December 19, 2006 at 8:50 am

    Your writeup is misleading. They continue to support the AJAX search API. Please tell me why the SOAP API is better than the AJAX API and why they should support that as well.


  3. Jacob. I wrote some software that works on top of the SOAP API. I had, at one time, hopes of making a commercial product of it, but with the limits they had on their API, I couldn’t. That they have another API, at this point, is utterly irrelevant — my software doesn’t work with it. How much work would it be to convert it? Well, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter anyway, I’m not going to do the work. Peace.


  4. Posted by Jacob Levy on December 19, 2006 at 9:37 am

    In general I agree with you, the limitations on the search APIs (yahoo!’s limitations are just as bad) are silly. The SE that has a totally open API where anyone can play is the one that will win.


  5. Please tell me why the SOAP API is better than the AJAX API and why they should support that as well.

    Because you can use a SOAP API to write applications that don’t live in Web pages?


  6. Jason, is it not possible to use the AJAX API to call it from other languages other than Javascript? How does it know what environment you’re calling it from?


  7. Dave, it may well be, except based on my (admittedly cursory) look over the docs for the AJAX API, it looks very Web centric:

    The docs only talk about using it in the context of the browser, and there’s external JS and CSS files you have to pull in from Google to make it work.

    Presumably you could reverse engineer the Javascript and write your own library in your language of choice to do the data interchange there, but that’s exactly the sort of tedious stuff that SOAP/XML-RPC type APIs help you avoid.


  8. Ahhh. So that’s why the search was borked!

    btw: where did your directory go?


  9. its sad when developers can only think in terms of a web-browser/ajax.

    remember the days when people glady wanted to think outside the box.


  10. Posted by Jacob Levy on December 19, 2006 at 11:58 am

    In fact I’ve often used the AJAX API from scripts in php, tcl, python, outside a web browser, and no problems. So I don’t think Jason’s claim has merit.


  11. Jacob:

    1. Does that violate their terms of service?

    2. Want to publish some sample source?


  12. Posted by Jacob Levy on December 19, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    I guess the above is not very informative. I did something similar to whats described here:


  13. Some snippets from the Terms of Use document, emphasis mine:

    1.1 Description of Service. The API consists of Javascript that allows You to display results from Google searches, including text and URL results from Google Web Search and results from searches on other Google services (“Google Search Results”) on your website, subject to the limitations and conditions described below…

    After supplying Google with Your account information, the URL of your service, and agreeing to the Terms of Use, You will be issued an alphanumeric key assigned to You by Google that is uniquely associated with your Google Account and the URL of your service. Your service must import the Google AJAX Search API using an HTML SCRIPT tag that contains this key, as described in the Google AJAX Search API documentation, and Google will block requests with an invalid key or invalid URL…

    You agree that you will not, and you will not permit your users or other third parties to: (a) modify or replace the text, images, or other content of the Google Search Results, including by (i) changing the order in which the Google Search Results appear, (ii) intermixing Search Results from sources other than Google, or (iii) intermixing other content such that it appears to be part of the Google Search Results; or (b) modify, replace or otherwise disable the functioning of links to Google or third party websites provided in the Google Search Results.

    So they give you some JavaScript that does some stuff, and gives you back HTML, which you agree to display unmodified. Hard to square that with any use-case you’d want in a desktop app (or even in a web app, beyond “Google search widget for my blog” kinds of uses).

    Oh, and they prohibit you from using it in any service you charge users for, too.


  14. Jason, that pretty much settles it — the Javascript interface is not a replacement for the SOAP interface. It’s not even close.

    My conclusion — based exclusively on reading their docs — I’ve never talked with anyone at Google about their API strategies, is that there’s never been a consensus at Google that the API was in their interest, and over time, they’ve become less sure of it. They want the PR hype that comes from saying they have an API, but they don’t want to take the risk that a developer would create something that people might actually want to use. We’ve never been given a chance to create that.

    Amazon, on the other hand, has taken the chance. That’s why I think this is an opening for them. They have nothing to protect in search, they don’t have any market share to speak of. But they have already created Internet-scale storage and CPU services. They’ve made the jump at a philosophical level.

    I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to fill this void. I spent a bunch of time trying to convince them to take a serious shot at search APIs, a couple of years ago, without success.


  15. Oh, and one more thing: after thinking some on the matter, I think this whole kerfluffle actually sums up Google pretty well.

    Once upon a time Google was about search. Fast, elegant, accurate search. In that context, it makes perfect sense to contemplate an open API whose revenue would be generated by developers paying you to access the fast, elegant, accurate search technology.

    Today, though, Google isn’t about search. It’s about displaying ads. And in that context, an open API makes no sense — the developer can reformat the search results, and even show them (gasp) without ads!

    Hence the “AJAX API”, which forces you to take the ads along with the search results. You can’t really do much with it, but it does create a new place for Google to show ads on — your blog/site/Web app.

    From that perspective, Google’s move makes perfect sense and is perfectly in line with their business strategy.


  16. Jason, I fully agree.

    And of course they’re leaving the door open for someone else to fill the role that we loved Google for filling so nicely.

    You’d think they might want to cover that. Alta Vista didn’t protect that territory, and Google exploited the opportunity.

    Let’s see if anyone with the resources needed to take a chance here will actually take the chance.


  17. Posted by Joe on December 19, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    I’m not a developer, but Amazon also has great open access to its product descriptions. Using MediaMonkey (an MP3 jukebox), I can have the software auto-tag songs/CDs with artist/title/album/year/description/etc by pinging Amazon, a huge time saver and nice re-use of data….


  18. Posted by Jacob Levy on December 19, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    I like the new one-day-only display… Much better and quick to load.


  19. If Microsoft concludes that they are loosing in the ad business they’ll be much more open to providing search APIs.


  20. Posted by Jake on December 19, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    If DRM, Podcasting, and RSS coexist today, why won’t they coexist in the future?


  21. So, I won’t use google’s AJAX library unless I get paid, b/c there is not way i’m going to embed something displaying ads to my cutomers and not get compensation; which is not a bad strategy for google.

    as for DRM. its dead and in my opinion is nothing more than over-intelligent people making the world worse by over thinking the problem and not understanding art.

    click on my name and you’ll see where i think the world is headed…distributed commerce.


  22. Posted by barb on December 20, 2006 at 5:46 am

    Howie Mandel and Deal or No Deal rock!!!!


  23. If DRM, Podcasting, and RSS coexist today, why wonโ€™t they coexist in the future?

    Thing is, for the most part, they don’t co-exist. Podcasting and RSS live over in one corner of the market, DRM lives in the opposite corner. There are no podcasts using RSS to distribute DRM’ed content that I’m aware of; and (AFAIK) the major vendors of DRM’ed content (online music stores) don’t do much with RSS or podcasting*.

    * Yes, I know you can use iTunes as a podcatcher, but that has nothing to do with the iTunes Music Store, where their DRM’ed content comes from.


  24. You were tagged by me yesterday, but I just swapped you out for Dr Fran, the coolest poidcastah in Noo Yoik. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  25. I usually agree with your TV show values but “Deal or No Deal”? It’s vapid, greedy and there is no significant aspect of skill. I do agree that Howie Mandel shines on, and to a greater extent, around “Deal or No Deal”, like the “Studio 60” appearance you point out and on talk shows where he has said he sometimes wants to plead with the contestants to take a life-changing sum rather than risk going home with just enough for a one day fling.

    As long as I mentioned Studio 60, you said you were giving up on it a few days back. I think that’s wrong. “The Christmas Show” was excellent. The prattling dialogue is still the best on sub-premium pay TV, e.g. the obstetricts examing room scene. It’s every bit as good as most of West Wing, but it’s about an entertainment show, so it can’t be as consistently *meaningful*, i.e. about the BIG ISSUES. But it gets its digs in, just like other prattlers in the series, e.g. “Sports Night”.


  26. Vapid? It’s math, greed, love, common sense, and religion (the banker is god). And it’s so simple. And it’s sexy in so many ways. First there are the contestants and their families. They pick people who are entusiastic and spunky. And the models in the black dresses! Oh man. There’s something for everyone.

    Studio 60, now there’s something vapid. ๐Ÿ™‚


  27. from the Five Things ‘You Don’t Know about Me”
    –Dont’t Know how to Outline
    Thst’d funny Dave,
    Jim Forbes in Escondido, CA


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