Tuesday, 30-Aug-05 16:39
Open Source Marketing

Charlie asks: Where are all the open source marketers? Good question. My own marketing efforts for JSPWiki have more been in the line of "if it's good, the users will find it" -line, and it seems to work. I don't have the time and effort to start promoting JSPWiki as such, partly because I just don't have any inclination towards marketing, and partly because the more popular it is, the more I need to work on it. JSPWiki is not big enough so that I could quit my day job and work on it full-time (and still pay the bills), but it's no longer small enough to be managed a couple hours a week.

Maybe the reason for the lack of OSS marketing is that many OSS projects don't have the capacity to handle the additional workload? The big ones get their own marketing by simply being part of a bigger collective, e.g. the Jakarta Project. The smaller, independent ones use only word-of-mouth.

Then what could an OSS community do with marketing? Of course, the traditional channels are available: Firefox users bought a full-page ad in NYT. Buying an ad campaign in Google Adwords might be expensive, but someone could contribute by buying a search keyword for a few days. User groups and other peer support work usually well in a OSS environment.

In an OSS environment, your users are really your marketers: A happy user will install the software everywhere, a disgruntled user will search a new alternative. In a vast majority of OSS projects, nobody gets paid to be an evangelist. Therefore the enthusiastic promotion you get comes directly from people involved at some level - not from someone who is just renting his mouth to pay the bills. While OSS marketing may be less professional, it's certainly more honest than with commercial software.

(There may be something interesting brewing with respect to JSPWiki marketing. Stay tuned.)

Monday, 29-Aug-05 04:49
Off we go again

Good bye Vancouver, good bye Seattle. 24 hours of travel, and I am back home. Whee!

(I like the idea of a blog concentrating on proper Finnish language in blogs. However, could the author please be a bit more friendly and constructing instead of giving snide remarks about style issues? I would love to read a properly written blog where a professional would highlight typical mistakes bloggers do, give some advice on style, talk about language issues in general, and in general help others to become better writers. At the moment the site seems only go half-way: the advice may be true, but it is delivered in a tone that is more likely to create an anti-proper-language movement than to encourage people to pay any attention to what they're writing. Finland needs more good blogs about real issues, not another blog that just talks about blogs with an annoyed tone.

And yes, I am aware of the irony of me criticizing the style of a blog complaining about the style of other blogs. No need to point it out, thankyouverymuch.)

Sunday, 28-Aug-05 02:38
Oh you bloody RSS bugger

Here's another caveat for RSS and spiders, that Wiki authors probably should be aware of:

Figured out why Grey (the machine that's hosting jspwiki.org, this blog, and suomigo.net has not been doing very well lately: The loads go up to 12, and I am getting lots of errors, as if the machine was under enormous load. However, when looking at the list of top processes, even if the load is up to 12, the CPU usage is about 20%.

I was looking through the load/IP activity logs and realized that there is a four-hour cyclic, massive increase in both the number of simultaneous connections and CPU load. I already had a nagging suspicion that the RCS back end we're using might be the cause of the load-that-does-not-show-up-in-CPU-usage, because it tends to spawn many quick processes very rapidly, so they never show up in top. I went through the Apache log files and realized that MSN bot was hitting all these sites at a very rapid rate.

Then I realized what was going on: since JSPWiki offers an RSS feed for every single page (so that you can follow the changes to any page with your aggregator), the MSN bot wants to download them all, every four hours. So, for jspwiki.org, I get 2000 hits every four hours, at very rapid intervals. Because the MSN bot does not seem to support If-Modified-Since header, I end up sending a HUGE amount of data every day, just to satisfy one bot. Our backend is simply not designed to work well under such conditions: we do cache (because it makes sense for the browser-based interface), but we're not doing memory (or disk) caching of old versions or diffs, so all requests for these go to a back end. That means roughly 50,000 processes created every four hours within about fifteen minutes. And that's just killing the server - amazing it has been up even this much.

So, as a temporary solution I'm going to put RSS feeds of my server to /robots.txt, so that these guys stop indexing them. As a long-term solution I'm going to start to cache the RSS feeds as well.

Update: It's not quite 50,000 processes in 15 minutes, but 200,000 processes/day. Made a script mistake, oops. Still, MSNBot's RSS scanner can cause quite a lot of heavy traffic, if you're not prepared, or you have not designed your back end for such access patterns.

Saturday, 27-Aug-05 11:53
Code complexity at night

A late-night discussion with Dragon made me realize that at about this point JSPWiki source code base is approaching the point where it no longer cannot be understood by a single person. The auth code additions are on the verge of being "code I don't need to grok in order for it to work".

So the line seems to go at 60,000 lines of code, with the time I can currently devote to the project.


(Oh yeah, almost forgot: There are only few moments of perfect beauty in the world. I experienced one today, tasting food somewhere deep in Vancouverian suburbia. Thank you, Sanjay.)

Friday, 26-Aug-05 02:55

Here's the Top-16 of the Finnish "Hot"-list. Note that out of these, five are metabloggers that talk mostly about other bloggers, one is essentially a sex blog, and the rest are knitting or other craft blogs.

It strongly suggests that people are interested in the three basic things in life: a) themselves, b) sex, and c) crafts. In the future, few will care about the good writers, the ones with something to say, the budding journalists, the politicians. It's gonna be just people gossiping about other people - and porn. And probably, in the future, gossiping about porn. I guess that's because our vulgar interests are the same, but our finer interests are different. It's easy to get on the top of any lists by throwing controversial subjects on the table, because there is a small narcist and a tiny voyeurist in everyone.

But at least y'all will be warm.

+171.3°   Sun äitis 
+151.6°   Blogikriitikko X 
+130.0°   No Sex In The City 
+126.4°   Puikkotaisteluni 
+119.6°   Kielipoliisi 
+119.6°   Blortti 
+108.4°   blogisweetikko 
+108.4°   MadeByMyself 
+107.0°   Marjan käsityöt 
+105.4°   Lankakomero 
+105.2°   Vikatikkejä 
+104.7°   Distant Knitter - Etäistä neulomista 
+101.6°   Neulova lehmä 
+92.8°    Tiny Winy Knitting Blog 
+91.6°    Annin sekametelisoppa 
+88.8°    Viiniä ja villasukkia 

(And a smiley for the humour-impaired ;-)

Thursday, 25-Aug-05 01:50
MS Store Visit

I know I'm getting hell for this, but I did actually buy stuff from the Microsoft Company Store. Got myself Office for Mac with Virtual PC for... pretty much pennies. It was odd to see people, normally a bit... apprehensive of Microsoft go on a shopping spree. People looked a bit of ashamed of themselves, as they carried loads and loads of Microsoft software to the cashier with glee.

But I wasn't any better. As my defense, I can say that I was probably the only one buying Mac software.

(As for that Windows XP... Outi specifically asked for it. And it was cheap. Really.)

Tuesday, 23-Aug-05 01:21
So yeah...

I'm spending the whole week in Redmond, WA, in Microsoft country. Someone in the office asked if I remembered to bring my allergy medicine... Harhar.

To me, one of the biggest differences between the US and Finland is noise. Here, I find it difficult to find quietness: either the radio is blaring, or the traffic is hard - there's always something. I needed to turn down the air conditioning in my hotel room simply because it was too loud for me. Heat is better than noise.

Of course, once you go out of the urban area, it changes. But cities are very grey, very... regular in their randomness, and very noisy. The whole place feels as if it was designed to turn you inward, find a retreat, a place where you can just be with the people with as little contact to the outside world as possible. Or maybe it's vice versa. I don't know.

(Incidentally, I made a new podcast from here. In Finnish, of course.)

Friday, 19-Aug-05 22:21
The real worth of money

You know... This wireless connection costs me 30 USD for about ten hours or so. Expensive? I don't think so. It allows me to fire up Messenger and talk to Outi whenever I want. I could even run Skype, and hear her voice. So here I am, somewhere above Greenland, and I can be with her. I am here, huddled in my own small part of the world, limited by elbows and benches, listen to old Finnish pop songs on my headphones, eat ice cream, and she is here with me.

It's totally priceless.

Friday, 19-Aug-05 19:31
Cheap joy

What makes a geek happy? Transatlantic flight with ~WiFi on board! :-D

(I'm coming to Seattle for about a week and very probably going to visit Vancouver as well - I say very probably because I haven't yet figured out how to get from Seattle to Vancouver. If you're around, drop me some email.)

Thursday, 18-Aug-05 19:21
The Shadow Finlandia is out

Karri Kokko collected words, sentences, and thoughts from a number of Finnish blogs between April and June, 2005. The end result is Varjo-Finlandia (free PDF), a book that perhaps adds nothing new, yet is a new literary work of art: it's remix culture at it's strongest. The author has selected, anonymized, and organized sentences, thus giving the readers a glimpse of the Finnish blogosphere through someone else's eyes.

And boy, is it depressing or what. Reading through it feels like a hangover that never ends, a pain that does not go away, or a distant relative that keeps calling to demand the inheritance even though your granddad ain't dead yet. There are infinite ways to tell that things are not okay; and this book feels like it has most of them. It's like someone took all the bad feelings a person can have, slap the whole pile in front of you and say: "ok, here it is. LOOK, GODDAMMIT!" And all that from three months in the Finnish Blogosphere...

You can at least buy the book online from Kirja kerrallaan; don't know whether it's available elsewhere.

(A partial English translation is available.)

Thursday, 18-Aug-05 12:14
Whatever makes you happy

If Wishers Were Horses - The site dedicated to Human-Equine Transformation. (Via Boing Boing.)

This site contains useful instructions on "how to make hooves" and less useful sentences such like "Lets assume for a moment that Matter Transporters are a reality".

Thursday, 18-Aug-05 11:24

Saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Boring.

This was a bit funny, though: "In one shot, the Apple Mac logo is visible on the side of Deep Thought, the giant computer."

(Because people invariably misunderstand me, let me just say that I'm a huge fan of both the Finnish radio series and the original books in both English and Finnish. The movie didn't just do it for me.)

Tuesday, 16-Aug-05 14:43
Scheduling a meeting with myself

Something sorta clicked today after reading going through my email and reading some blogs. One worrying trend I've noticed recently is, well, for the lack of a better word, "human optimization". I keep getting these meeting requests, where the agenda looks somewhat like follows:

Topic Time
Topic A 09.00-10.30
Networking break 10.30 - 10.45
Topic B 10.45 - 12.00
Working lunch 12.00 - 12.30
Topic C ...

Note the use of the words "networking break" and "working lunch". So, instead of "relaxing break during which you can go to the toilet and whip out your willy and play with it all you want" and "a lunch during which you can eat, laugh, talk unimportant things, or just watch out of the window while munching", you are expected to network (what a dreadful word) during breaks and talk business during lunch.

The Skylab-4 astronauts had their not-so-famous "24 hour mutiny" when the flight controllers started to schedule experiments during their meal times as well. Instead of complying, they just spent 24 hours relaxing and resting, looking out of the window.

I'm not saying this is a problem with corporations being evil. It's more like a question of attitude - people are proud to optimize their time to accomplish as much as possible in any given time. I can't count the times someone has suggested that we should have a system that would allow us to schedule meetings more efficiently. I usually scream loudly at that point, and explain - with a foaming mouth - that we need a system that is less efficient in scheduling meetings. Because the easier it is to do something, the more you tend to do it.

The whole thing reminds me of Dragon's Bigger Pizza Theory (via Katri). If you get into the loop of trying to optimize more and more, so that you can get more done, you fill up all the freed time with more things you can optimize instead of actually having the free time to punch your baboon. I mean... Everyone always gives the answer that they are efficient because that allows them to spend more free time with their family/friends/whatever, but somehow I doubt that. I know I am dreadful at it, so I'm arrogantly assuming everyone else is, too. There are two programmer sayings that are very apt in this situation as well: "Premature optimization is the root of all evil", and "hard drive space is always 90% full". Or at least I think they are apt; YMMV.

People aren't resources. An employee can treat you as one, because you have a contract which gives you money in exchange for your time and skills. But treating yourself as a resource to be optimized... I am not so sure anymore whether that actually makes any kind of sense.

(Incidentally, the Skylab-4 astronauts never flew again in space.)

Monday, 15-Aug-05 01:11
Coding frenzy

I've spent most of the weekend in a coding frenzy, the result of which is now in JSPWiki CVS. The all-new rendering engine is now included (though not enabled). I know I probably should've spent time in fixing ~WebDAV bugs, as well as all of the open bugs, but... hey, I do this for fun, so I get to use my time in the parts of the code I enjoy ;-)

(Hmm... Saying coding is fun does not exactly improve the sad geek image I have. Oh well. BTW, for those who care, I am probably going to WikiSym in San Diego. Drop me a note, if you are also a sad geek in San Diego and want to drown sorrows together in a few pints of local brew.)

Sunday, 14-Aug-05 02:15
How to make a sad geek happy?

Hihi, hoho, hehe... Just committed the new JSPWiki rendering engine to CVS. The following test measures how much faster it is to cache the intermediate results of WikiMarkup translation than it is to render the page each time anew:

DOM cache speed test:
  Nocache took 0:00:10.562
  Cache took 0:00:00.359
  Approx speedup: 29x

100 page renderings in 359 ms on a 1GHz PPC. Not bad. Not bad at all. I should've done this sooner.

Now, if only I could get all the tests to run...

Friday, 12-Aug-05 13:02
...and now for a word from our sponsor

As an experiment, I'm adding Google's AdSense advertisements on this blog. I figured that this is something I have no experience on, so what would be the best way than to plunge head-in...

Don't need the money, but I need to know how well the advertisement business actually works with respect to personal publishing... Not that I am expecting any big wads of cash.

(I'm a bit hesitant to add advertisements to jspwiki.org main site. However, I was thinking about opening a ~CafePress shop so you could buy JSPWiki apparel. You know, for the truly desperate geeks. I'm just wondering about slogans...

"JSPWiki - for the truly desperate geek in you"

"<%="Hello, JSPWiki"%>"

"- I have JSPWiki. - I'm so sorry! Is it serious?")

Discussion on advertising in general, how well it goes together with personal publishing and blogging, and stupid ideas for JSPWiki slogans welcome in comments.

Friday, 12-Aug-05 12:01
Here it goes...

You thought the weather was odd? Well, here you go... it's gonna get a lot odder and more dangerous. Fuck Bush and other politicians who would rather protect jobs than lives.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

Global warming tipping point reached.

(Via Matt.)

Tuesday, 09-Aug-05 17:56

You know that you have been traveling and vacationing just enough, when you come to the office in the morning and realize you don't remember which floor you work on.

For all people interested in wikis, here's a pic of Outi's parents' dog, who is called 'Viki' :) [Close enough to be funny. At least in a very geeky sort of way. Very. Geeky. In a sort-offish kinda way.]

Saturday, 06-Aug-05 17:26
Wikimania, day 2

Morning - what a hangover. Also reminder to self: Start bringing your own extension cord to these conventions. There are power-hungry geeks here and the fight over every single power outlet is a fierce battle where prisoners are not taken.

The lead developers of ~MoinMoin, ~TWiki, ~PurpleWiki, ~EmacsWiki, JSPWiki and ~MediaWiki got together today and we had a brief discussion on a common approach towards ~WikiSpam. We agreed to work on a common blacklist format, with further extensions to follow. This will be hashed out somewhere on some wiki, but I think it was a good conversation.

I could also like to plug !Cellphedia, a mobile service where you can make questions and people answer them. Of course, it only really works in the US, as Cellphedia does not have to spend money on fanning out the SMSs as they come in: the recipient pays the SMS. In Europe, the business model of this system might be a bit more complicated.

Off to hear Ward Cunningham to speak. Ta ta for now...

Saturday, 06-Aug-05 13:26
Make software, go to jail

Er. Now, if I read this right - if you make software that is used illegally for filesharing, you go to jail. So, if someone installs JSPWiki and starts using it to share mp3 files with friends, I'm responsible? Wikis are meant for sharing things, after all.

The thing is, on this blog I've said on several occasions that I don't think file sharing as such is bad, and I think that if used the right way, it could change the entire business model of the music industry. Or something to that effect. This may be enough for someone to consider it "inciting to commit copyright violation" (which it isn't). Since I also make software that *could* be used to do such a thing (but it's not really intended for that), I'm getting into an area that is legally more gray than I would really like. If I speak favourably on say Grokster or other P2P companies, is that "inciting" for copyright infringement?

So, do I shut up and stop talking about copyright; or do I stop making software?

Friday, 05-Aug-05 17:00
Ei jumankekula

Anteeksi kiroilu. Hiljaista Huutelua (loistava blogi, muuten, lukekaa) on löytänyt varsinaisen helmen.

(Sorry. Someone found a real gem - the ultimate conspiracy. But it's in Finnish so... I just finished my presentation, and I'm trying to hold my laughter and tears. What an article.)

Friday, 05-Aug-05 12:31
Wikimania, day 1

Reminder to self: always, always get a single room, or reserve the room for myself completely. My room mate snores in that earth-moving, death-inducing, keep-awake, oh-my-god-is-he-going-to-die -way. Even while he is on his stomach. I know. I watched him for hours. I catalogued twenty different basic types of snoring.

Anyway, in the morning a bunch of German guys ran a series of presentations on Wikipedia, Semantic Web, metadata and RDF. I'm still a bit sceptical on that, as the failing of the Semantic Web is in the fact that nobody usually bothers to add semantic information - or if they do, they don't bother to update it. This is because there is little immediate benefit from the metadata, so most people don't bother. But the German wikipedians managed to get a party together and convert 30,000 pages in three days to use biographical metadata.

Jimmy Wales is talking about things that will be free: Well, the encyclopedia and dictionary of course, but he also adds things like classic music recordings: there is a lot of music already in public domain, but there are few free recordings of this music. And it makes sense - there are quite a few student and volunteer orchestras that could contribute.

There are some practical problems with old paintings (which should be free) as well: galleries seem to think that if they own a 400 year old painting, they can control any reproductions as well. Wikipedia has received several takedown notices... But they ignore them. So, if you happen to be in a gallery, with a tripod, and happen to take a high-quality picture - donate it to Wikipedia...

Other things that should go free are the file formats (absolutely) and maps. I agree on the maps; in Finland it's too expensive to get hold of digital map data. Most people just use US services to find routes in Finland... just because there is not other choice.

Jimmy mentions also the craft culture that is going on in the internet, such as the Finnish knit blogs, and how that sub-culture is growing. They have issues on product identifiers: it's difficult to talk about something because there are no proper, unique names on things. You can link to Amazon products, but that namespace is owned by Amazon, so it may be difficult to find a competing seller (because they might call it by a different name). Maybe. But isn't this an engineering approach to crafts? Would it work?

Free TV listings? *bore* For some reason I don't really care. Amazon.com is my TV listing these days, and the European digital EPG is essentially a free TV listing. telkku.com is a great service for all Finns anyway...

Free communities - demand a free license from web forums, discussion boards, wiki pages, etc. Otherwise the company controls the community. I agree, but aren't there some liability issues here? Also, if you are buying access to a community (say, a MMORPG), who should really own that data? This is maybe one of the reasons why Flickr works - they use a CC license by default, so if Yahoo! went crazy, the communities in it could just take all the data and re-establish elsewhere. WikiCities is a free community site service.

Someone asks about free search engines - and Jimmy agrees; says it should be number four on the list. Oops :)

A question about free wireless. Jimmy answers that he personally thinks that free, municipal wireless is a bad idea, because it kills innovation on the wireless area. I slightly disagree, as it opens up innovation on a lot of things that are dependent on the access to the wireless.

Jimmy also continues that he thinks that governments should release any data they collect on tax money to the public. E.g. NASA is very good at this, ESA is not. People should demand that data paid for by tax-payers money is freely available.

On the subject of free news and citizenship journalism: "Well, everybody tells jokes. But we still have professional comedians."

Some commenter notes that the Austrian Ministry of Health has opened a web service where physicians can anonymously contribute false diagnoses, so that others can learn from their mistakes. Interesting. You wouldn't normally publish something like that under your own name - we like our successes to be public and failures to be private.

Update: Ross Mayfield has far better notes.

Thursday, 04-Aug-05 12:48

Yes! It's! Wiki! Mania! With! Exclamation! Marks!

I'm sitting in the open-air garden, working feverishly on my presentation. Jimmy Wales is right in front of me, doing endless interviews. There are at least three TV film crews here, and my face (and my Powerbook and my hat) are probably now filler in some late-night German news show, with the dubbed voice of Jimmy droning in the background.

I just heard that the presentations will be audiocast and recorded - probably even videotaped.

Panic mounts.

Update: I was just interviewed by a German newspaper. I had no idea this Wiki thing interested the media so much.

Tuesday, 02-Aug-05 13:52

Three hours of sleep, and a four-hour transfer at Copenhagen. Hooray for Wifi and the Powerbook battery that just keeps going...

I'm too tired to do anything useful (other than read blogs and chat) and I have this sense of impeding doom over me - I have another conference coming up real fast, and I haven't prepared.

One of the best things about role playing games is that you learn to improvise. That skill has saved my butt on several occasions, but it's a constant struggle: when you realize you can wing things with reasonable ease, there's a huge temptation to just keep winging things and not prepare properly. I sort of hate myself for doing that too often, but I keep dividing my attention to so many places, that I almost invariably end up doing improvisation in some degree. On the other hand, it's useful to divide your attention, because it allows you to make connections between things you normally wouldn't do. On the other hand... it also means that you rarely get anything proper done.

ADD and ADHD. At least it's an interesting combination.

Tuesday, 02-Aug-05 04:03
New podcast

SaunanTakaa has a new episode. This time some of my English-language readers might also want to take tighter look (ear?) at it, as it contains a 16-minute interview of Ewan Spence, an all around cool guy, and the author of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival podcast. If you can't be bothered to fast-forward all the dumb Finnish bits, at least check Ewan's podcast of this world's largest festival (25,326 performances of 1695 shows by 735 companies in 236 venues in 2004.)

Monday, 01-Aug-05 11:39

I'm in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the MRC 2005 conference. The Scots make the best chips in the world, I am now convinced. I also reaffirmed my belief that I really do like haggis. And whisky. Of course. Mmm...

I also bought the new Harry Potter (link is safe from spoilers, contains flash animation) from the airport. Not, because I thought I have the time to read it, but because some bloggers I know are discussing blatant spoilers about the content of the book - with little or no spoiler warning. So I had to buy the book and join the herds, because I prefer that the plot and the content of the book is told by the author, not all the random people I meet... I'm funny that way.

(I also saw Rupert Grint on the street in Edinburgh's Old Town. Which was sort of strangely fittingly out-of-place.)

Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.

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