Scripting News for 10/2/07

Random evening thoughts 

Are we going to start a war with Iran? Listen to the Terry Gross interview with Seymour Hersh. What will Iran do after we attack? The British are evacuating Basra, will Iran invade to fill the vacuum? What will Bush do then? And will Iran move into Afghanistan? They share a long border. Will Pakistan then move into Afghanistan? Hersch says it will be a 20 year war. He can’t imagine a President of the US trying everything before going that route, yet, of course, Bush is doing nothing. At this point, knowing what we know about Bush, we are complicit if we do nothing.

Don Park advocates comment gardening.

We have many beautiful streets in Berkeley.

Microsoft announces a new Zune in the NY Times. Okay, but did they seed any bloggers? Feels like they keep going over our heads. I’ve heard nothing from Microsoft PR. Do I have to buy a Zune to evaluate it? Unless it’s an unqualified home run, wouldn’t it be smart to first market it to people who might work with them to smooth it out? They say they want to build community. Wouldn’t it make sense to use the communities that are already interested in this stuff?? (BTW, it looks like Engadget and Gizmodo didn’t get briefed.)

Music is great too 

I love podcasts, I take a walk every day, and listen to whoever Terry Gross is interviewing, or Tim Russert. I love it all, but sometimes there’s no substitute for a great schmaltzy song and some of them never seem to get old, they just get better.

One of those songs is You and Me Babe, from the Ringo album. I’ve said it before, this album is really the last Beatles album, all four of the Beatles write, produce and perform. To me, a Beatles fan since I was a Mets fan, it’s a beautiful album, there are reprises from some of the great post-Beatles music of McCartney, Harrison and Lennon. And I love it even more because it’s all got the Little Help From My Friends spirit that RIngo embodied.

I dare you to listen to that song without smiling. 🙂

Can iTunes do this? 🙂 

My podcatcher has its own Twitter account, which everyone can follow.

Right now it doesn’t subscribe to very many feeds, just the ones I try to stay current on. You’ll get at most one or two podcasts a day, except Sunday, when you’ll get at least four, Murphy-willing: Meet the Press, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Face the Nation and 60 Minutes.

Of course you don’t have to listen to any of them, but you can, with a single mouse click. And you’re notified within an hour of when they’re available.

BTW, this is a feature of my podcatcher, when it’s released. Heh heh *cough* tease *cough* heh heh. 🙂

What is Google doing? 

I use Google for a lot of things. I trust them not to screw with my data. I trust them to keep their hands off things they shouldn’t touch and their eyes out of places they don’t belong.

For example, I have confidential conversations using Gmail with execs at companies that compete with Google. At one time, when I ran UserLand and they owned Blogger, I actually competed with them myself. The fact that I continue to use Gmail shows that I have a lot of trust in the ethics of the people who work at Google.

I also use Google Analytics to monitor the traffic on my site. I allow them to run ads on a few sites that I run as a community service, to compensate me for hosting costs. From time to time, I run ads myself. I keep financial data in Google’s spreadsheet.

If things were different I might use Feedburner. Especially on weekday mornings it’s amazing how much traffic one file, my RSS 2.0 feed, gets. So it occurs to me that I could streamline things simply by offloading that file to Google. Now that they own Feedburner, this is something I might do, if they take a pledge not to break aggregators that depend on the format of my feed not changing. If someday my feed were to change format and break just one person reading it, I would consider that a serious support issue. It’s not something I want to take a chance with. Some people trust me in this way. Not so many people as Google, but to me, they’re very important. Could I delegate that trust to Google? No, not at this time.

There’s another side to it. Even though I don’t choose to use Feedburner, because I subscribe to the feeds of people who do, I am effected when they change the format of their feeds. When Google does this they inevitably break products that compete with theirs, the most obvious being Google Reader, but there are also server-side products that compete with Google’s that depend on being able to read RSS feeds. If all of a sudden a large number of those feeds become invisible to them, people would find their services less useful, and therefore less competitive. This is exactly the kind of behavoir that made Microsoft such a bad corporate citizen in the 90s as they tried to suffocate the web to protect Windows and Office.

Now, amazingly, it seems as if Google may be doing this. I’ve seen it myself, files that mysteriously change format and break apps and users, and I’ve heard about it from a couple of developers. No one has said anything publicly, that I know of.

So, as a responsible corporation, it seems that Google should say something. What’s their policy about breaking users of Feedburner, and people who read their feeds? Is this something they will do quietly, a sort of “silent data loss,” or do they feel the need to be public about such policies? And what other products will they mess with this way. Will someday I look in my spreadsheet files and find that Google has changed the numbers? Or will emails from execs at Yahoo contain racial slurs or outright lies? See how much damage Google can do because we trust them?

I honestly don’t know what they’re doing, and I don’t want to guess. I’d like them to come forward and explain.

Seth E: “Someone asked me yesterday to sign a petition to have remove JewWatch, a anti-semitic weblist of powerful Jews, removed from Google’s search-engine.”

8 responses to this post.

  1. I can’t find the feed for THIS WEEK without David Brinkley. Do we have to wait for your app?


  2. Steve, what’s your hurry? 🙂


  3. Posted by Jake on October 2, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Blah Blah Blah Trust Feedburner Blah Blah Blah

    You want Google to explain that they’re doing something or not doing something about which those who believe something is or isn’t happening won’t speak? Huh?

    Why the subtlety?


  4. Jake, because if it’s a bug or an accident, I don’t want to blame them. We all make mistakes. “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”


  5. the answer is simple: maximizing profits.


  6. Someone asked me yesterday to sign a petition to have remove JewWatch, a anti-semitic weblist of powerful Jews, removed from Google’s search-engine. Now being Jewish I certainly support combating such things (especially since I’m nowhere on the list) and was about to sign when I asked myself a question: Do I really want them to control what I see and don’t see? I mean I don’t “want” to see JewWatch, but do I really want Google having the power to do such things. What if it were an ISP? Would I want them choking JewWatch’s packets from getting to me? No. Maybe slippery slope arguments are getting out of hand nowadays, but isn’t it just that? I think this question goes beyond corporate citizenship, considering that Google has become the Main-St. of the internet (i.e. being effected whether you use Feedburner or not). If the last seven years have taught this American young man anything; it’s never “just trust them”.
    Although, this all my be moot, considering that GOOG has already done such things in other countries, and done so for strictly business reasons.


  7. Dave,

    Can you be more specifc about what you’re seeing Feedburner doing?

    Feedburner have a service (and have since before they were owned by Google) called “SmartFeed”, which they describe as:

    > Reach the widest possible audience while publishing a single feed on
    > your blog or site. Translates your feed on-the-fly into a format (RSS
    > or Atom) compatible with your visitors’ feed reader application.

    Is it possible that what you’re seeing is a bug/misfeature associated with that?

    I’d appreciate it if you could be more specific. I’m using FeedBurner for my feeds myself, but if there is a real problem along the lines of what you’re alluding to, I’ll probably drop them and serve myself.

    There’s more info on SmartFeed at


  8. Posted by Colin on October 3, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Here is the article Seymour wrote about it.


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