Scripting News for 4/4/2007

An imbalance with Twitter 

When Twitter was new, “friendship” required agreement, it was a two-way thing, I couldn’t subscribe to you unless you agreed to subscribe to me. This is the normal behavior for social networks, and something like instant message buddy lists, even mail lists. I learned this from listening to the Calacanis interview with Evan Williams.

Somewhere along the way they made a fundamental change, breaking that link. You could subscribe to anyone, without permission, and with no obligation on their part to subscribe to you. This creates imbalances, and makes Twitter like RSS and the blogosphere. Or like publishing anywhere. I might read the Chicago Tribune, but there’s no requirement that every columnist has to read this weblog.

So when I ask a question on Twitter, someone who’s “following” me might not be able to communicate to me through Twitter, because I might not be following them. You can see this in MD’s post, on his blog, where he laments that he had his “first taste of frustration with one-way friendships on Twitter” when I asked my questions. He had answers, but he thought, no way to communicate them.

However, I saw his answers anyway, despite his certainty that I wouldn’t. How?

Well, like a lot of other Twitterers, I have a blog, and I use Technorati to see who’s talking about my blog. He did a smart thing by pointing to my blog, and he must have pinged Technorati, because his post showed up there shortly after I posted my questions on Twitter, and I saw it, in time for his knowledge to make a difference.

He could have also gone to my account page on Twitter, seen that I have a blog, click on the link, find the comments, and post there.

The point? All these tools integrate and mix. Twitter adds something new and useful, but the other tools don’t become less important because of it.

Today’s links “Microsoft plans to follow Apple in selling unprotected songs from EMI.”

At times like this I think our President has an emotional age of about 14 or 15.

Twapper lets you “keep up with Twitter on your mobile phone browser.”

Lifehacker: Get happy in 60 minutes.

A browser feature that would make me happy 

I’d like a preference that told the browser to remember the text size option on a per-website basis.

Some people use styles that make the text too small to read. So I make the text larger. Then I navigate away. Make the text smaller.

Too much work.

It would be nice if the browser popped up a dialog asking if I’d like it to remember this text size for this site for the next time I go there.

Crazy Bob says NoSquint is just the thing!

Jason Lefkowitz found something even better — a minimum font size preference. I just tried setting it to 13 and already some sites are more readable (like Gmail). Thanks!!

Co-existing with platform vendors 

My experience with platform vendors…

1. I have been a platform vendor.

2. I had to live within the platform of a huge vendor.

3. I observed up-close how huge vendors dealt with developers in platforms I didn’t develop for.

From the vendor’s perspective: How can I prevent collisions with developers? This is what the platform vendor worries about, assuming they care about their platform continuing to be a platform. I tried to deal with this by telegraphing my roadmap to developers. Aldus, whose Pagemaker product had an active developer community, had a rule that they wouldn’t squash a developer for at least one product cycle, that is, they wouldn’t integrate a developer’s idea as a feature until version 4.0 if it came out during the lifetime of 2.0. Not sure the developers would have appreciated this if they had known about it.

From the developer’s perspective: How can I choose a niche that’s either not likely to interest the vendor, or one that’s likely to get me acquired by the vendor or another big company with lots of money who wants to make trouble for the vendor (in the latter case, Microsoft on the Mac in the mid-late 80s is a good example). Sometimes developers choose a niche that’s either directly in the path of the vendor, or even worse, on the roadmap of the vendor. In those cases, they don’t really deserve our sympathy. It’s almost like a game of PR, there’s no way you’re not going to have a fight on your hands. The various vendors of widget environments on the Mac come to mind.

The issues are so thorny and so impossible to solve that I came around to the opinion that the only solution was to get rid of the idea of platform vendors altogther, and see the Internet as the platform without a platform vendor. That actually seems to be working! πŸ™‚

I tried to help RSS be such a platform, and so far it’s resisted various attempts by technology companies to turn it into something they control, where one vendor can crush anyone that enters their eminent domain.

Today some technology bloggers are debating the issues around the future of Mozilla, which is the oddest of beasts — it has a non-commercial platform vendor, a foundation, and it’s rich, generating tens of millions in revenue. They are truly a dangerous vendor to develop for, how are you going to figure out what motivates them (not profit for sure, their problem is how to get rid of the money they accumulate!) and you surely can’t get acquired by them, and foundations don’t attract competitors, so it’s hard to imagine a rich suitor coming along wanting to create trouble for them. Looks like somehow we’ve backed into a pretty tough corner. No matter how nice they are, how benevolent, they’re going to make more and more developers miserable, and their existence might not be good for the health of the browser ecosystem, long-term.

8/22/95: What is a Platform?

Just some thoughts from a guy whose been around this block a number of times. πŸ™‚

Scott Knaster 

Turns out Scott Knaster, who I’ve known since the very early days of the Mac, has been working on Google Desktop for the Mac, which just came out today. I tried it on Windows when it came out in 2004, and was really psyched, but it didn’t turn out to be as useful as I thought it would because most of my work had migrated to the web. Today, even more so. I have four computers that I use regularly, so there’s really very little that’s unique about each desktop other than its location (and one of them has Parallels and Windows XP, which I still find amazing). But Scott’s one of the best designers I’ve ever known, and a great guy, so I’ll probably give it a try.

Yes, there is a scripting language in there 

Phil Jones asks if there’s scripting in the OPML Editor.

Yes, of course — it’s running in Frontier, which was GPL’d in 2004. It’s got the full environment, the object database, scripting, verb set, TCP support, web server, CMS, etc.

You can see lots of examples starting in the Window menu. The community functionality is implemented in dotOpml.root.

Twitter API news 

There are new docs for the Twitter API. They’re more philosophical and a bit more dense than the previous version, which may have lacked detail, but it was all guessable, and served well as a crib sheet for programmers. This one, not so much.

Good news, it appears there are two new entry-points for sending and receiving direct messages. I’ve already written and released glue for the OPML Editor for receiving, I’ll do the sending part later this morning. This feature was the basis for the speculation in this March 28 piece.

There’s a scary bit in the docs, where they say they’re working on an authentication scheme we are not familiar with and have no code to implement. Are they going to break us? I wish I didn’t have to worry.

I added a Twitter badge in the right margin. Not sure how long it will last.

MD answers some of the questions I asked on Twitter earlier today. Technorati was the key to me finding his post, btw.

Postscript: I got a note from Alex Payne who’s working on the API at Twitter, and he says the current authentication method will not be deprecated, so that’s a relief. I’m having fun with this stuff, and adopting a new method of authentication, esp one that isn’t supported in my environment, is work! πŸ™‚

15 responses to this post.

  1. Have you looked at the twitter fan wiki api docs? (google for link)

    fyi, Twitter badge can slow a pageload down I have heard.

    fyi, we dont know what looks like πŸ™‚ I cant sign in

    Have you looked at what tumblr is doing? Is this what you mean?


  2. Dave,
    The AuthSub Authentication they are talking about is well documented – see the Google Accounts Group and the Blogger API group
    It’s the same type of Authentication recently applied to all Blogger accounts (the so-called ‘beta’ – now live)

    As long as your system supports the SHA1 encryption algorithm, BASE64 encoding and you understand the ‘token exchange’ mechanism, you’ll work it out.
    About a month ago, while adding support for cross-posting to the new Blogger system (along with all the other major blogging platforms) from (my Second Life blogging system) I finally worked out all this AuthSub business in PHP and wrote it up in the groups.

    You can find my post about it here, with well-commented source code to the PHP to help people understand how it works.

    There are two different methods for web-based apps and installed desktop apps. Choose which one suits your system best. (And in your case, it could be either, possibly)


  3. Hi Dave,
    Regarding using the Internet as a platform (absolutely the best approach), now the “format wars” are a thing of the past, perhaps you’d be interested in looking again at developments around using the web as a data platform. Tim Berners-Lee just did a short (8mins) video on The Semantic Web of Data giving a big picture view.

    btw, congrats on 10 years of Scripting News!


  4. To zoom fonts on a site by site basis, you want NoSquint. You can set a default zoom for all sites (I use 150% nowadays). If you change the text size on a specific site, it remembers it. You can also match sites in a more fine-grained manner using text patterns when you need to. I blogged about it


  5. I’d like a preference that told the browser to remember the text size option on a per-website basis…

    Dave, this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but I think it would still solve the problem you describe…

    In Firefox, you can set a Minimum Font Size. Go into the Options dialog, and choose the “Content” tab. Click the “Advanced…” button under “Fonts & Colors”. In the dialog that pops up, you’ll see a drop-down menu labeled “Minimum font size:” over on the right. It’s turned off by default, but if you choose a value from the menu, no site will be able to set a font size smaller than that; if they try, FF will just render the text in the minimum permissible size.

    It’s not the same as per-site font size preferences, but from a usability perspective it’s actually better (IMHO) because there’s less fiddling required — rather than have to set a pref for each site with squinty-size text, you just set this once and then all squinty-size text becomes non-squinty.


  6. wow. congrats on 10 years. it’s scary that I have been reading you for longer than that. I know this because I wanted to read the seminal, “Platform is Chinese Husband” Davenet from oh so long ago, 1994! It can’t have been that long ago… unfortunately, search is missing on, but google delivered.

    I want to take issue with your criticism of Mozilla. Mozilla is a good husband, and it’s a eunuch, and it’s clonable. The roadmap is true and honest. Something really amazing would have to happen in the internet to change the roadmap. but it won’t change because the CEO or the new crop of computer whiz kids smelled pink, taligent or opendoc air fresheners at some party and started going wild for girls that smelled like those vapors. All wives get treated pretty much the same.
    the wives don’t have to read the husband’s tea leaves.

    and if a wife does not like her husband anymore, she could even take his clone and go make him into the man she wants. it’s open source and free. roll your own if you like. not many people do this though… but it happens (eg. camino)

    If anything the platform is too slow to develop. but I think that is because there are not enough programming languages for it yet. one day that will change. then firefox really will compete with the platforms it lives on.


  7. you know, since it’s been 10 years, I don’t just want to say congrats , I want to say thanks.

    for the following things:

    BOGU, keep digging, platform is chinese husband, mind bombs, the power of essays, come as you are, and giving thanks. I’m sure there are a few other nuggets of wisdom I forget so thanks for those too.

    Mostly though, thanks for writing, thanks for blogging.


  8. WRT font size. Give OmniWeb a try. You can save all sorts of remarkable things on a per web site basis, including masquerading as your least favorite browser. My favorite is to override all CSS so I can read in black on white instead of the “young eyes” glaring white on black.


  9. Durnit, Chris beat me to it. OmniWeb r0xx0rs. πŸ™‚


  10. the thing i hate about small fonts, and designers’ insitance that it “BE” that way or a tissy happens…is it just makes it that much harder to read and the added verberage usually disapaits quality.

    what really irks me, is that, even if i set it in the browser to use larger fonts, the html programmers over-ride the option by using css.

    everything should be 12pt.

    5pt is classifieds, 9/10pt is copy and if your paper is located in miami (south florida) you use 12pt for copy
    b/c ur pop is older on avg.

    and if your name is lemon, u never capitalize. and write freestyle. verse.


  11. Posted by John Starta on April 4, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Safari allows you to specify a minimum font size preference as well. You can find the setting in the Advanced tab in Preferences.



  12. Posted by Diego on April 4, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I second the suggestion to use OmniWeb on the Mac to help with the squinting.


  13. Thanks!!

    You’re welcome πŸ˜€


  14. Hi Dave.

    I’m happy (and surprised!) you found the blogpost. And even happier that you actually found it in time for the entry “to make a difference.”

    You’re spot on when you said I could have left a comment on your blog. I almost did, to be honest, but I didn’t know which entry to leave my comments/answers on since it would have been off topic.

    Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to mention and link to the my answers. Thank you.

    ~ MD


  15. Hello,

    I have known your blog through Spanish newspaper “El PaΓ­s”:

    I want to congratulate you because your post of April 1,1997 was the first one. I have written a post in my blog.




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