Google Reader

Poking around today, I noticed that Google Reader seems to have fixed some of the problems I had had with it when it was younger1 I’m going to give it another shot and will report back in a week or two.

  1. 1. Primarily its inability to retrieve anything but the post "summaries" from certain sites, which meant you ended up at the site reading the whole posts anyway. Not much value add there. []

A Futurist’s Manifesto?

Bryan Brady II, the director of training for Locals 40 and 361, said, “The future is going to be a lot different than it is now.”

I actually ran across this great quote (from this New Yorker article) on the way to HotOS’09, where Adam Greenfield was the featured keynote speaker. At the time I was venturing through “Everyware”, his first book, and was curious about meeting a self-described “critical futurist” in person. He turned out to be nice enough.

Anyway, just keep it in mind: the future is going to be a lot different than it is now. In ever-changing world of critical futurism, at least we can be sure of that…

Academics v Industry

I found Colin’s blog today.1 And then I found this post essentially asking, for not the first time, whether the academic community has “lost its way” because we don’t invent things that people use anymore2

This isn’t a complete thought, but I was reflecting on this a month or so ago as I tried (not for the first time) to separate what I do at my desk every day (or most days) from what colleagues and friends that I know that work at Microsoft, Facebook, Google or even smaller outfits like Sentilla do at their desks every day. What makes what I do “research” as opposed to what they do (“work”)?

To me at least it seems that the clearest separation emerges from considering the role of the “consumer”. To put it simply, I think that the job of someone working at Microsoft is to do what consumers want. That doesn’t mean always giving them what they want, since you can certainly lead the market and people aren’t always good at describing or predicting what technology or design will really please them. But that should still be at the front of your mind. It probably isn’t for most engineers that aren’t customer-facing, but someone else is there or there’s some structure encouraging them to pay attention to these things.

Me? I don’t think much about consumers. At all, really. Not about “consumers”, per se. To avoid getting into trouble, I should be fairly specific here. I think a lot about the goals and desires of the people that are using my contributions. Are these users “consumers”? You might be able to make the case that they are, but it seems different to me somehow. Maybe because we interact differently? I don’t really know.

OK, this rapidly morphed from a “deep thought” to a “I have no idea what I’m talking about” post. Wow. Sometimes its good to get these things out onto paper, just to find out how little sense you make once they get there. Sheesh.

  1. 1. Which I'll start reading along with a few new additions: Successful Researcher, A Gentleman's C, and FemaleScienceProfessor. []
  2. 2. The post should be read in its entirety, since my reduction of it is probably neither complete nor accurate. []

Wordpress Hacking

Spent a nice afternoon hacking on WordPress. All was blissful until I realized that the Category Access plugin by David Coppit I had installed, while nice, had a subtle bug that was causing it to display empty posts for things that are hidden behind login access at this site (mainly some private content and notekeeping functionalities for myself). I had previously hacked around this but my hack was causing WordPress to act up and not display the right number of posts on the front page.

Anyway, at this point I know more about WordPress than I’d like to, and found a fairly simple workaround to the bug that didn’t require any WordPress hacking (just the plugin). Phew. Off to the gym now… hours of squinting at a computer screen always makes a run feel oh so good.

Progress

So I’ve been slowly moving content over from my old site. In general the process of reproducing static pages has been fairly straightforward, however the “Page” editing entry process sometimes does strange things to tags that it can’t understand (<div>’s, <a>’s that span multiple lines) which necessitates some fairly annoying manual post-processing.

In any case, I’m fairly happy with what’s happening here. At some point I’ll move this to the front of my site. For the time being it’s time to get out and play some IM football! Go Eliot House!

WordPress Setup

Setup was fairly easy. Now let’s see if I can setup the layout to look OK, and get some static content up.