Ranting Considered Useful

2008-12-29 19:00:00 -0500

In contrast there are masters in the martial arts who learned their art as a means of survival and became masters in a realistic and hostile environment. We don’t have anyone like this in the programming profession, or at least I haven’t met any. I believe that my generation of developers will produce the kind of masters forged in the real professional world. ~ Zed Shaw

I think that’s probably a prescient assessment of things in the hacker profession right now, and it takes a certain amount of audacity to make such a declaration. Zed Shaw is one of those people who seems to really have his finger on the pulse of things in the tech world, and he doesn’t mince words. I tend to think that his rather contrarian views in the various Ruby circles are mostly a result of an unwillingness to accept gospel over logic, and while some folks see this sort of thing as peeing in the mailbox, it really never hurts to have someone around who’s willing to stand up and call bull when he sees it.

Stephen and I were talking yesterday morning about Zed Shaw’s recent blog post wherein he declared that he is retiring from the ranting-on-ruby scene, and I thought maybe we should put something up here taking notice, because Zed has been an important voice in the Ruby-centric tech community. You may not like his over-the-top style, he may have you given you the finger at some point, but you may have deserved it, too. We generally keep our distance from the spats that seem to break out in the Ruby community (it’s a sport not unlike watching train wrecks, and we’re pretty busy people), and often wonder where some of these folks find the time. So I’m guessing that kind of thing wears on you as a real critic in the thick of it, and I’m not surprised if Zed is getting bored. However, Stephen suggested something this morning that bears repeating:

“Indirectly [Zed’s rants] served as jump off points for a lot of other people to say, you’re right this is screwed up, gave people a way to question the core team, who, by most measures are held up as infallible technology gods. By taking such an unpopular and extreme view he opened a lot of middle ground for people to take up well-thought-out positions that were contrary to the core of the Rails community elite. He kind of made it ok. That is a function that will be missing now, especially with the approaching Rails / Merb love fest.”

I tend to think that more criticism is always better than less, and that’s sort of the point of open-source development. So, if Zed is retiring from the rant stage, I’m hoping that maybe we can look forward to seeing more of his essays, which are really informative, well-written, and considered writings in that style of his:

After reading that first one I found myself engrossed in a historian’s letters on the subject of the popularly accepted but likely fictional accounts of Myamoto Musashi. The second had me learning this cool statistics programming language and graphing toolkit I’d never heard of called ‘R’.

I think we can expect to see more of this, but I hope others have gotten as much out of Zed’s ranting as we have, it’s been a fun read.

Deep Thought

2008-12-29 19:00:00 -0500

Isn’t it time for Sun to buy Palm and just get it over with already?

Data Pr0n

2008-12-22 19:00:00 -0500

The newest version of the Statistical Abstract of the United States for 2006-2009 is now available online from the US Census Bureau over here. Invaluable data reference. Murders! Price indexes! Agricultural output! Metropolitan Statistical Areas! Prison counts! Per capita income! Banking and financial stuff! The list goes on.

I was that kid who read history textbooks for fun, so I hope you’ll excuse the geeking out.

Service Announcements

2008-12-21 19:00:00 -0500

We’ll be interrupting service quite briefly on Tempo and PingMe tonight to push some service updates, around 10pm EST.

  • PingMe: Greatly improved reliability on Twitter follow-backs
  • Tempo: Fix to that nagging issue with Basecamp project imports
  • Tempo: Reverting to context-scoping of tags displayed in Include and Exclude drop-downs

We’re using our own version of the Twitter Ruby gem that has some additional support for exception handling that we needed. Caveat emptor, but it works pretty well for us, solves the issue of being able to respond accordingly to errors as the come back from the Twitter API. Not all 403’s are the same, that kind of thing. You can check it out over here. At some point I’ll get a blog post together describing how it works. Bit busy right now.

Darn Good Website - WNYC.org

2008-12-21 19:00:00 -0500

I just want to quickly point out what a great website they have over at WNYC.org, a radio feed that I usually leave running all day while I’m hacking away. Aside from the fantastic programming, they have a really keen integration between their on-air programs and the website. While you’re listening to their shows you can hop on over to a thread of the particular segment you’re listening to and interact with other users in the comments. Simple thought there, nothing really new technology-wise, just expertly positioned and well-made.