September 29, 2003
That's just evil...

When you have a monopoly you should be required to be a little nicer than everybody else, not a lot worse. If this is true...

I've heard rumors that Microsoft is moving to protect Office file formats under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to protect them against reverse-engineering.

...then no self respecting public institution can use these file formats for their works. Otherwise freedom of information is just a joke.

Via Gotzeblogged. It is reassuring that Gotze is involved at the center of Danish activities in this regard, and acutely aware of the issues.

Posted by Claus at 10:21 PM
Just goes commercial

Just-blog has started AdWhore'ing - and I can see his head transforming slowly into that of a bull as I write this. AdSense is a nice program, and if I ran a commercial or even a non-personal newsservice I would have been subscribed a long time ago. But for my personal rants I prefer a clean and sober style.
Of course the real test of resolve will come when Just starts flashing all his new AdSense paid gadgets. I must say though, that I think "Blogs with AdSense" sounds very much like an internet bubble money scheme to me.The numbers will tell if this suspicion is warranted, but for now I just make note of the fact that I am not alone in thinking like that.

Posted by Claus at 10:02 PM
It's "Identities" not "Identity"

The Red Herring died, and the piece is not dated so it's impossible to tell when this piece on social tech was from. It argues that the many attempts at social software have two main flaws:

  • Too many incomplete protocols

  • Too much openness and explicitness

As to the first argument: Maybe so, but it is not an interesting problem. If somebody fixes it in an easy and affordable manner, then fine. It clearly has a technological fix.
The second point does not have a technological fix however. The problem with one unique advertised identity is that it corresponds very poorly to our off-line life. Keeping up with acquaintances in the same fashion you keep up with close friends will offend your friends and embarrass your acquaintances (or yourself). The flow of information around a person is much more sophisticated than that.

In a way, the incompatible and incomplete protocols protect us from waking up in such a flat nightmare society where relationships are indistinguishable from one another. Suppose the technical issues above we're fixed. We would immediately require the implementation of new barriers and ways to hide aspects of ourselves from others in particular situations and expose them in others.

Posted by Claus at 07:01 PM
Google goes international

As I write this, this Italian language news story is Google News' top pick in the technology category....

Posted by Claus at 02:03 PM
Foul googling?

The latest bit of Google paranoia revolves around the Google weblog being the most popular search result for the word 'weblog'. Again, lets do a simple test: The Google weblog has PageRank 7. For lack of a better ranking system, I looked at Bloglines' 'most popular blogs' list. The top listings on Bloglines above 'Google Weblog' (which is ranked 6th on Bloglines) are Slashdot, Wired News, Bloglines' own information feed, Boing Boing's and CNet. Of these, Bloglines, Slashdot, CNet and Wired only have hits for the phrase 'Weblog' on pages of ranks less than 7. Boing Boing best hit for 'Weblog' has a page rank of 7. I know there are link cluster ordering going on in Google search results (otherwise Amazon's many product pages would be much less frequent than they are in search results), but still: The returned results are explainable merely by resorting to page rank ordering. The page rank 7 for Google weblog is completely inconspicuous. Plenty of sites have rank 7 and it would be a very odd rank to forcibly promote a page to.
In short, I think Dan Gillmor, Microdoc News, and (surprise!) Dave Winer are just plain wrong. Conspiracies are so very tempting.

Previous Google paranoia postings:
here, here, here, and here.

Posted by Claus at 02:21 AM
On the RIAA 'anti-class action' lawsuits

The RIAA is busy doing a 'reverse class action' lawsuit, namely an entire wall of lawsuits against (what they believe to be) various minor copyright infringers. They are in fact quite simply spamming the legal system. Needless to say, with the number of lawsuits they haven't really tested their claims properly, and the completely unfounded lawsuits are beginning to get some press. I think Joi Ito sums the problem with this tactic up nicely:

Being sued isn't like, "oh sorry... wrong number.."
That's right. The RIAA aren't calling people names, they are harming their reputation in society in general. I assume these lawsuits are a matter of public record.

A bunch of paraphrases come to mind: Spamming the legal system, as mentioned above, since the level of public resources these lawsuits will take up is quite substantial. This underlines the practical background for the position that "a law that two thirds of the population are against and/or violate on a daily bases is just not a reasonable law". It's 'Commercial McCarthyism', since the main point, or at least the consequense of the lawsuits is the creation of an environment where random accusation is commonplace, with chilling effects on the general climate of society. I wonder if one day we will add the moniker 'The Second Prohibition' to these last couple of years, where rabid Intellectual property law was allowed to create this atmosphere, and almost destroyed the commons.

Posted by Claus at 01:46 AM
September 28, 2003
Cory Doctorow and Fahrenheit 451

In an interview Cory Doctorow has made some remarks about the fragility of paper, and how that makes knowledge on paper ephemeral:

I mean, books are printed on substrate that is so fragile that it burns when it comes into contact with oxygen. We actually use that substrate to wipe our asses with. This is not robust, archival material. This is the very definition of ephemeral, that literature is a book written on toilet paper.

Burn when in contact with oxygen? Doctorow should really know that given sufficient encouragement most things will burn when in contact with oxygen...

Posted by Claus at 09:30 PM
Feed reading you don't have to install

You've probaly all heard of Bloglines, the web based feed reader. As long as they don't turn in to an ugly monopolized 'will feed for cash' service, it is a very good idea. It takes some of the bandwidth requirements out of publishing a weblog, since they crawl your site only once regardless of number of subscribers, and then they do something very nice in their UserAgent string that they pass along as they crawl:

The Bloglines crawler includes the number of subscribers to your blog with each feed request, so you will always know how many Bloglines subscribers you have

Excellent idea! Some actual localized information. No shame in confessing to being Bloglines. Not the usual "We're Mozilla" UA strings that everybody else is using.
I'm adding a subscribe with bloglines link to my front page...

Posted by Claus at 08:48 PM
Sun tries the desktop...again

Sun has a new bet for the end user desktop Java Desktop System. Interestingly, since this is Sun, the product is based on Linux instead of Sun's Unix variant. I have a hard time seeing this succeed though. It appears to offer nothing not already on offer from other vendors, except maybe some Java gunk thrown on. The particular combaination of development tools doesn't look like somethign anybody but Sun would want to target, and then this is just Sun's own distribution of Linux with a heavy Java add-on.

Posted by Claus at 08:17 PM
War hacking?

The usual virus scenario is one of a lone malicious hacker driven mainly by vanity. Virus are usually software graffitti tags. On slashdot however they are speculating about some recent distributed Denial of Service attacks on spam blocking services and their connection to recent heavy viruses. The way this particular conspiracy theory goes, the DDoS attacks on the spam blocking services are being piggybacked on the current SoBig infection.
To the story's discredit it is being propagated by The Register, the most paranoid 'alternative' news source around. But the thought is certainly obvious. Even if SoBig got its start in the usual fashion, it seems like a pretty straighforward thing to create a strain that attacks a particular site.

I don't think the Register is really the origniator of this story. The story is getting coverage from more and more sources, and seems creditable. But please note that some analysts do consider this paranoia. It is simply unnecessary to add the prosecutable crime of spreading a virus to the spamming itself. There are plenty of effective ways to spam.

I wonder what the proper response is. 'More hardware and bandwidth' is probably a losing strategy. If it was possible to distribute the RBL itself somehow, then that might work....

Posted by Claus at 05:04 PM
It's official: WiFi has reached the mainstream

The restaurant guide and listings empire Zagat's has decided that WiFi is one of the things to list.
In Europe that must mean it is only a question of time before Guide Michelin starts dishing out radio beacons along with the stars.

Posted by Claus at 03:59 PM
Woody Allen on Woody Allen films

I just saw Richard Schickel's documentary "A Life in Film" - an interview with Woody Allen about his films. There is little that is truly newsworthy if you know Allen's films beforehand, but Allen is as engaging when talking about his films as they are themselves. The best example I think was a quote about Crimes and Misdemeanors. About the Martin Landau storyline he says:

I just wanted to illustrate, in an entertaining way, that there is no God and that we're alone in the Universe, and there is nobody out there to punish you. That your morality is strictly up to you. If you're willing to murder and you can get away with it and you can live with it, that's fine.

Hardly surprising if you know the film, because Allen is a very overt film maker. But nicely put, and reflective of the dry, witty 'almost cynicism' of the later Allen films.
And there's one more thing: Woody Allen is, I think, the only person I ever heard use the original complete form, perquisite of the term 'perk' in its meaning of 'just one of the perks of being a celebrity'

Posted by Claus at 03:46 PM
September 26, 2003
SiteFinder: Everybody hates it - and it's more evil than you think

If you were in doubt about what the world thinks of SiteFinder, VeriSigns large scale commercial hijacking of DNS, take a look at the news. Absolutely nobody thinks it is a good idea. VeriSign has said that they are waiting for various advisory groups to comment. They have started to do so: here's the IAB, here's ICANN's security and stability advisory committee. There's plenty more where that came from.

As if SiteFinder itself wasn't obnoxious enough, think a second about the security concerns. VeriSign receives a copy of all HTTP request that had a misspelled domain name, and they are forwarding all of these requests to a marketing analysis company. This is simply pure evil, ranking VeriSign up there with SCO in the competition for "most despicable business initiative of the year".

And then of course there are all the standard utilities that all of sudden don't have proper failure diagnostics (samples are windows tools, but the conclusiong applies everywhere).

Maybe we should simply start petitioning ICANN to take .com and .net away from VeriSign at next review of the agreement, regardless of whether or not they take down SiteFinder. It appears they are just not trustworthy. It's pretty ironic that a company whose other business is to make sure you only go where you want to and always in a safe fashion, are at the same time busy eroding the trust in addresses in general. Or maybe its not so much ironic as deeply cynical. One wonders if there is some internal memo floating around at VeriSign HQ that analyzes the possible spin off value of an increased deplyment of certificates by people who want to be absolutely sure that their customers aren't misdirected to SiteFinder and therefore shit their web traffic to https instead of http.

Posted by Claus at 10:14 PM
September 25, 2003
Monopolies suck

The recent introduction of VeriSigns obnoxious SiteFinder service is , fortunately being fought from all angles. If ICANN let's VeriSign do this without taking away the com/net monopoly, we will need a new ICANN. VeriSign is not only hijacking the domain industry, but also the search industry and DNS itself. Meanwhile VeriSign is busy putting a 'we put customers first' spin on this abomination. Keep the lawsuits coming.

While we're waiting for this, we have to investigate the technical means for fightiing this service. Complete filtering of all traffic from the SiteFinder address is the most appealing option. This could be a very popular browser plugin.

BUT of course the ultimate solution is to 'fix' the DNS lookup itself - simply treating the SiteFinder ip-address as a black hole. Bind is currently being patched to do exactly that.

Here's a partial quick fix for the problem: Route the traffic to sitefinder via a nonexistent address. It is not efficient - it takes a while to fail - but it will give you the satisfaction of not generating traffic for SiteFinder...
If you're on a Windows NT/2000/XP machine here's how: Open a command prompt and use the following command

route -p ADD MASK

What this does is force traffic to the SiteFinder address to route via the nonexistent address. This assumes that you're actually on the same network as (eg your address is and your subnet mask or similar). The -p makes this route persistent so it remains after reboot.

Do let me know if you know of a good reason not to do this (i.e. harm to others of some kind. The local damage I can deal with)

Posted by Claus at 03:56 PM
Started using w.bloggar

I have just started to use w.bloggar instead of Moveable Types own interface, which I had been using because I didn't like any of the other RPC blogging tools I had tried. W.blogger is quite nice. The spell checker doesn't really work that well and the RPC api does not support all the interactions and editing features of the MT post editing page, but the advantages of a rather nice, local responsive GUI far outweigh any complaints. Never again will I have to deal with the annoyances of

  • Losing the MT browser editor window because it was opened from a child window whose parent then decided to reload some other page

  • Having a miniscule text field as your primary editor

  • Living with the browsers usual funky behaviour of search, up, down, home, end when you're editing in a browser text field

Of course the optimal system isn't a special GUI at all but just an add-in to your favourite editor. For that reason, Just and I are working on an MS word add-in that will automagically translate documents built with a certaint template as blog posts.

Posted by Claus at 12:31 PM
September 24, 2003
En ulykke kommer sjældent alene

Det har været en hård uge for Danmark. Tirsdag rammer en massiv strømafbrydelse hele det østlige Danmark. Butiksliv og togtrafik går øjeblikkeligt i stå. Tusinder forlader deres arbejdspladser uden egentlig at kunne tage nogen andre steder hen. På barerne serveres kun lunkent øl af flaske.Forsigtige skud siger at strømafbrydelsen kommer til at koste 2 mia. kroner på årets BNP.
Næppe har Østdanmark rejst sig fra afbrydelsen og repareret de værste skader før den næste katastrofe ramler ind over landet. Kronprinsen skal giftes. Da infrastrukturen allerede er svækket efter strømafbrydelsen bukker den fuldstændig under denne gang. TV og Radio, der blev holdt igang under strømafbrydelsen med hjælp fra dieselgeneratorer, bryder totalt sammen. Både DR og TV2 må opgive hele den normale sendeflade. Istedet vises hele aftenen prøvebilleder af medlemmer af kongehuset og båndede indslag med andre medlemmer af kongehuset. Også alle landets webaviser er ramt og præsenterer nu kun spartansk nyhedsdækning under anvendelse af ordene Frederik og Mary.
Endnu tør ingen byde på hvad de økonomiske konsekvenser af onsdagens meddelelse vil blive, specielt da skadevirkningerne dennegang ventes at strække sig til langt ud på foråret.

Posted by Claus at 11:27 PM
Prince Frederik of Denmark is getting married

And now you can celebrate his coming union with Miss Mary Donaldson by playing The Royal Marriage Mission a journey from Tasmania (Mary's home) to Denmark in relate-a-space.

Posted by Claus at 03:30 PM
Jeg ville hellere v?re i ?rhus

Det er ikke hvad jeg har t?nkt mig skal st? p? min gravsten. Men ligenu er det i ?rhus det sner hvis man interesserer sig for at lave software, for der er nemlig JAOO.

Jeg genl?ste fornylig Paul Grahams forbehold ovefor Java. Der er mange fornuftige ting i det han siger - og det mest interessante ved det er at selv sv?rindustriel IT i h?jere og h?jere grad bev?ger sig mod den mere dynamisk og interaktive og koncentrerede udviklerstil som Graham, qua sin Lisp baggrund, m? formodes at st?tte.
Men imod hans mange Java forbehold taler det forhold at java kulturen dog alligevel udvikler sig s? hastigt som den g?r, og er s? orienteret mod design og mod at l?se problemer ved at t?nke f?rst og kode bagefter. Man kan ikke forestille sig en konference med samme alvor og grundighed og vidensbasering/faglighed for noget andet g?ngst udviklingsmilj? end Java. Den dagligdags kedsommelige og udsigsl?se 'l?sningsfokus' er ellers normen for events p? den st?rrelse, og det er virkelig en gave Java milj?et har, at man kan skabe interesse for at tage problemerne lidt fra oven.

At den megen snak s? ogs? r?ber noget om Java's uhyggelige verbositet (p? dansk m?ske 'ordflommethed'?) er en anden sag - og det kan selvf?lgelig v?re sv?rt at se p? afstand hvilken af de to faktorer (designfokus vs sproglig overv?gt) der ender med at dominere den anden.

Posted by Claus at 02:13 PM
California democracy hijackers hijacked

The sadly pro-Arnold AlwaysOn network is, annoyingly, using their technology site and newsletters to run pro-Arnold politics. Lately in one of the blogs on the site, there's an interesting headline: California%u2019s Recall Hijacked :: AO. Perception is everything it seems. While the vote on voting machines does seem rather political, let's not forget who are the original hijackers here: The republican recall activists.

Posted by Claus at 11:57 AM
September 23, 2003
Power outage in southern Scandinavia

To our loyal foreign readership: Today's brief unavailability was caused by a massive power outage in eastern Denmark and southern Sweden affection more than 4 million people. has no emergence power - as has been made apparent through a number of incidences last winter: this incident and this incident.
There seems to be a clear escalation to the outages: First one room. Then one street. Then 2 times half a country,

Posted by Claus at 09:28 PM
Graffitikunstnere i hele landet foren jer...

...og g? straks igang med at male p? landets McDonald's restauranter. Det m? v?re opfordringen i den seneste McDonald's reklamekampagne hvor burgerk?den bl.a. har fundet det smart at male grafitti p? Storkespringvandet.

Jeg er ellers ikke meget for selvt?gt (og heller ikke for grafitti), men jeg er endnu mindre for friskfyragtige reklametiltag der fuldst?ndig uden selvkritik erobrer og ?del?gger det offentlige rum.

Posted by Claus at 12:20 PM
Stormin' Norman and the hidden keyboard of tomorrow

The indefatigable Just has also been reading Don Norman, as is evidenced in his keyboard rant micro-play wherein a variety of input devices get together in the text lounge for a debate. I'm not so sure about the condemnation of Fastap - one needs to feel it with fingers to judge - but that doesn't detract in any way from the keyboard conversation.

Posted by Claus at 12:42 AM
September 22, 2003

The latest voicemessaging 'phone-killer' - Skype - works quite well. Excellent sound quality and apparently limited bandwidth and processing hit (why wouldn't it be? It's just voice data).

Of course the Kazaa people have a less than stellar track record on spyware, so watch out for bad news.

Posted by Claus at 11:57 PM
Ingen natur i ?kologien

Det er sikkert en gammel nyhed, men jeg havde ikke lige lagt m?rke til at Irma har droppet naturen fra den ?kologisk m?lk, som demonstreret i dette billede:

Slut med s?de billeder af glade dyr og flotte afgr?der. Nu er ?kologi alts? ikke egentlig noget man praler med mere, men snarere noget man lader v?re underforst?et - m?ske ogs? fordi Irma helst vil s?lge den dyrere ?kologisk m?lk, mens den almindelige kunde - selv i Irma - egentlig er ligeglad og k?ber p? pris.

Posted by Claus at 09:02 PM
e-voting: Just say no.

All the right people are objecting to a proposed e-voting standard. The standards effort is apparantly railroaded by the voting machine industry (and doesn't the fact that they're already doing this immediately disqualify the same industry from the trust we need in their product?) and the standard lives under the hideous assumption that voting is a technological problem in need of a technological fix. Of course not. Voting is politics and emotions, and the old adage on justice applies: 'Justice must not just be done, it must also be seen to be done'. In the same way our ability to understand and failure proof and manually verify the voting process is essential to the integrity of the vote. There is no technological fix to guarantee that. The only possible verification is bi-partisan verification of paper ballots. No amount of crypto, and certainly no signed guarantee from a closed source voting software company can provide the same assurance.
When democracy is at stake, price is just not an issue.

Posted by Claus at 02:05 PM
September 21, 2003
Just Read: The Invisible Computer

Donald Norman's attack on the PC and the technology mindset it propels is interesting reading, even if we early adopters might feel that the PC is a little better at what it does than Norman would have us believe.

One of the annoying things in the book is that Norman does not consider the possibility that maybe GUI's could be more like appliances. Maybe the PC as such is viable as appliance infrastructure, it's just the bulky applications that have matured on the platform that aren't delivering on usability. In fact there is an interesting story (supporting Norman's theories on technology development drivers) to be told in that regard. When I started reading computer magazines, the object oriented architecture of GUI's was still up for grabs. The battle was over Microsofts OLE technology or the OpenDoc technology sponsored by IBM and Apple. Both technologies address the composition of complex documents from parts, but the way the story is usually told the two technologies differed in philosophy exactly by being tool-centric (OLE) and document-centric (OpenDoc) respectively. The reason for Microsoft's tool focus was exactly according to Normans argument: The monolithic apps provides Microsoft with a lock-in strategy, which further enhances the market dominance of Microsoft.
So the PC and its GUI could have been an appliance assembly platform, but due to the nature of technological competition that just didn't happen.

Another reason why the book is interesting reading is that it is from 1998. As I was reading the book and the many dreams of a better way, I felt a slight disconnect with the book even though I considered it contemporary. But 5 years is a lot of time in technologyland. Many of the developments in low price displays and better batteries that Norman talks about have happened, and indeed the devices are beginning to appear. Sofar they have made hardly a dent in the PC infrastructure, but that of course is in the nature of disruptions. Apple is certainly beginning to see a complete change into a content and appliance company via the iPod - a development foreseen with great precision by Norman.

And finally, on reading the book it is crystal clear what the deal is with usability and cognition/behavioural science. For that reason also it is recommended.

Posted by Claus at 10:01 PM
September 20, 2003
Stuff your censorship where the Sun don't shine

It is a lucky coincidence that corporations defend their unreasonable trademark and other IP rights so forcefully that we are never in doubt that they really shouldn't have those rights at all. Recent cases in point are the Fox vs Franken lawsuit on the use of the term 'Fair and Balanced' and then there's Sun's Terms of Use. They actually believe that they can reserve the right to mention Sun brands in sentences of particular forms, as reported by Cory Doctorow. Examples are along the following lines:

WRONG (verbs)
"I Java-tized my applications."
"I improved my applications with Java technology."

Posted by Claus at 10:16 PM
The joy of frameworks

Michael Feathers thinks about frameworks. They're supposed to be nice and reusable, but more often than not they're hard to use and the abstraction that was supposed to get you reuse gets you headaches instead. Sad examples include the Java IO system, and e.g. the Xerces parser - and these are only small, local, limited libraries. The really big, hairy ones (e.g. J2EE) are much worse than that and basically inaccessible without framework specific tooling to handle the heavy lifting.

Of the things I have used and worked on, a couple of rules apply

  1. Keep simple things simple. Generality must never get in the way of the simplest possible gain from the framework. If you cannot begin to use the framework in less than 10 lines of code the entire thing is sunk. (First draft said 30 but even 10 is actually too much).
  2. Reuse first - generalize later. There's an engineering discipline that is sadly nonexistent: Source code usability. I mean actual usability studies, where developers are given an API cold and studied as they struggle to apply the ideas of the API. In lieu of that, we'll have to make do with actual use in actual situations. The only abstractions I find I keep using are the ones that have arisen out of actual uses, the ones that just keep on coming up and proving themselves. Abstractions for rare problems are more trouble than they're worth.
  3. Spoil your users with examples and facades. While good frameworks are crisp and terse and reuse a few core abstractions a great deal, nothing is more damaging for reuse than a steep learning curve. This advice is sort of an intersection of the first two points: Once you've identified the crispy concept that really drives your framework, that should be the only thing you leave in use, but by supplying samples usable as solution templates or by making facade interfaces for common problems, one gets an easy way into the world of the framework. What I have in mind is something like the best module synopses on CPAN. Most of the time the module doc is simply 'that thing everybody wants to know how to do' as an example. So for HTTP::Daemon it is 'the worlds simplest daemon' - SOAP::Lite is admirable in this respect as well.

Actually, point no. 2 comes with a caveat which probably says more about my particular style of thought than about the Principles of Good Software: When faced with a bulky but simple one-off development task I find that I prefer to 'design' my way out of the problem rather than just doing the work in a straightforward but possibly tedious fashion. I prefer to write a use-once framework that solves the problem indirectly. This has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantages are a) that I'm not bored - and bored people tend to write worse software and b) when my solution fails it does so in an 'interesting' easily spottable way. I find that I can have greater confidence in the final solution once there are no obvious flaws.
The main disadvantage is when my intuition on the cost of the use-once framework is wrong and I find myself heavily delayed, doing work of little immediate value and no lasting value.

Posted by Claus at 09:31 PM
What's the deal with usability and neuroscience?

There seems to be some interesting informal link between the fields of usability and neuroscience. Donald Norman (of the Nielsen Norman Group) got his start in neuroscience (psychoacoustics as far as I recall), and Jeff Hawkins - inventor of the palmpilot, and through that one of the real world usability heroes has founded The Redwood Neuroscience Institute - an institution involved in mathematical modeling of cognition.
Obviously there's a mutual interest in behaviour between the two fields - but I find it interesting that this interest in behaviour is as concrete as it appears to be. It is as if the construction of usable objects functions as a concrete test for cognitive theories.

Posted by Claus at 08:49 PM
Test before you claim

A new search engine will do keyword weighting as reported on Yahoo News. The idea is an old one: When you're searching for "free downloads", "free" is a qualifier for "downloads" thay you're not willing to live without. Therefore a search engine strategy is to cluster words, hierarchically, so that pages that match "free downloads" are favoured over pages that just list "downloads". It's a proxy for genuine understanding of language of course, since you really need to determine whether "free" or "downloads" is the key word of the search phrase.

Claims are being made about a new search engine capable of this, but the researchers making the claims haven't rehearsed what they want to say properly:

Clever ranking algorithms, such as Google PageRank, are becoming misused (spammed) by techniques like 'Google bombing,'" Schaale explained. Vox Populi can help remove this kind of spamming by identifying so-called "artificial" link clusters, he explained.

To spam Google, wily Web masters create "domain clusters" that consist of hundreds of homogeneous dummy sites optimized for keywords. The word "women" might appear in thousands of dummy sites that contain pornography, for instance. A person seeking information on "women's studies" might have to wade through page after page of spam before hitting a university women's studies department.

Let's test the claim that Google is broken, like so. There is absolutely no porn in sight. It's a good thing these people are researchers. If this was a commecial demonstration everybody would now be walking away from it laughing.

Posted by Claus at 04:47 PM
A highly readable weblog

Through heavy recommedations from the cluetrainers, I found and it is indeed a good read, being a little heavier on the arguments than the cluetrainers (I wonder if Nike makes ClueTrainers?).

As an example, here's a good entry on the chilling effects of differential pricing, and here's one on the evils of artificial scarcity.

Posted by Claus at 04:17 PM
September 19, 2003
Ximian (and Mono) has a solid sponsor

This is some old news I hadn't noticed: Novell has bought Ximian. This is good news, in that the rather impressive mono project now has a solid corporate sponsor.

While open source diehards will probably lament the fact that Microsoft is the driver behind the .NET architecture (and we can all dread an MS led SCO like lawsuit against mono) mono is an exciting cross platform development opportunity.

Posted by Claus at 12:20 PM
September 18, 2003
Netop set: Dissing + Andersen

Min lilles?ster huskede heldigvis at sp?rge om jeg ikke ville v?re med til at st? i k? to timer for at se Povl Dissing og Benny Andersen i Visevershuset i Tivoli. Det gjorde vi s? (med samt Julie's k?reste og en veninde).
Det var s? rigeligt tiden v?rd at opleve Dissing og Andersen p? denne alletiders hjemmebane. Foran et ganske lille publikum som er fuldst?ndig fortroligt og loyalt med Dissing og Andersen bliver musikken ogs? afslappet og fortrolig. Der er ikke nogen and?gtighed - der spises og drikkes under koncerten, og synges med og det er altsammen helt i tr?d med de direkte og livsglade sange. Povl Dissing synger sangene med m?ngder af temperament og gestik, s? meget endda at man tror at det egentlig kun kan g? hjem i s? lille og t?t en forsamling. Kom man for at h?re 'musikken fra pladerne' ville man m?ske egentlig v?re blevet skuffet fordi sangforedraget er helt p? kanten og liges? meget komisk scenenummer som sang. Men i denne her sammenh?ng passer det perfekt ind. Benny Andersen introducerer stort set alle numre, ikke fra klaveret, men istedet ved at rejse sig, g? rundt om klaveret og stj?le Dissings mikrofon. Den store overraskelse for mig er Andersens fabelagtige komiske timing i disse introduktioner og ved klaveret. Jeg har kun set Dissing og Andersen optr?de p? TV og der synes jeg altid rollefordelingen har v?ret at Dissing stod for komikken og snakken, mens Andersen har siddet ved klaveret som bagmand og forfatter, men s?dan er showet slet ikke denne aften. Istedet tager Andersen f?ringen som spasmager og ?jebliksdigter.
Koncerten best?r af en r?kke greatest hits med hovedv?gt p? Svantes viser i f?rste s?t og i andet s?t et stor buket af sange til og om Rosalina. Disse sidste sange leveres med en beundringsv?rdig og befriende gl?de og stadig med Andersen som glad midtpunkt. En god aften.

Posted by Claus at 10:09 PM
September 16, 2003
Brilliant dismantling of bush-o-nomics

In a lengthy and technical (for a newspaper) account of the American tax system, "The Tax-Cut Con" in NY Times magazine, Paul Krugman dispells some of the myths of the tax haters, and reveals what looks like the master plan behind bush-o-nomics. A massive planned federal fiscal disaster that will make drastic cuts of social security and healtcare systems to a pre-depression level.
A abbreviated version of the argument goes like this: The current fiscal deficit is so drastic that it will not last another decade. When catastrophe ensues it will be completely impossible to combat the disaster by raising taxes, since that will shock the economoy badly if the taxes go up enough to have a meaningfull effect on the deficit. The only other alternative is drastic cuts in public spending and welfare programs are the only ones of sufficient size to matter in such a disaster.

In other words: According to Krugman, any notion that Bush is cutting 'responsibly' must be viewed as pure spin. He's just comforting voters until, faced with a complete disaster, they come around to his view of minimal government. Krugman also picks apart the anti-tax propaganda, describing it as consistently wrong and misleading in its description of the damages of taxation. In particular, the tax cuts consistently are marketed at the middle class, whil ein fact they rarely benefit anybody but the affluent.

Required reading.

Posted by Claus at 02:31 AM
September 15, 2003
Tired: Flash mobs. Wired: Stealth Disco

Stealth Disco is when you sneak up behind people and secretly get your groove on, while being filmed by an accomplice.
If you're not doing it yet, the Stealth Disco site will convert you immediately to start stealth discoing at home and at the work place.
Utterly great link - via Boing Boing.

Posted by Claus at 11:57 PM
Being or not being propaganda

David Weinberger proposes a distinction between loud rhetoric and propaganda: Propaganda is wrong and not based on facts whereas loud rhetoric is ready to fall back to not so loud rhetoric. I see the point, but my feeling is that the 'not so loud rhetoric' that one can fall back on has about the same effect as the fine print below the beautiful images of happy children and the amazing speed reading after the product praise that happens at the end of pharmaceutical ads: Nobody reads it or listens to it. It's just there, so that when somebody complains you can fall back to that text and say 'I told you so'.
I admire the freshness and aggresiveness of loud expression too, (e.g. someone like Barbara Kruger), but I think it has a certain poisoning effect also that is particularly dangerous in the current political climate.

Oh, and as to Martin Luther King: I think 'I have a dream' is about as far from 'slick' as you can get. Powerful rhetoric, sure - but clearly not at all in the same vein as the kind of attack rhetoric I'm criticizing.

Posted by Claus at 11:13 PM
Even vira that don't affect you may hurt

Jon Udell makes some points about side effects of the current blaster worm, and how if affects non Microsoft customers. Since the worm generates so intense traffic, ISP's that you've never heard of has taken to blocking port 135 on which it attacks. That means that the routing layer - that is normally completely transparent to you - sudden fails to route traffic on this port, even between networks that are not vulnerable to the blaster virus, simply to protect their networks against virus induced overload. This may or may not be necessary, but if it spreads then the concept of free traffic on the internet could soon be over again.

Posted by Claus at 10:51 PM
September 14, 2003
How to lose subscribers from your news source

Rule 1. Break their links.
Rule 2. Make sure they don't notice the links were broken.

As an example on of how to do it perfectly, take a look at Microdoc-News' old feed. No ' We have moved' post in the discontinued feed. No HTTP permanent redirect. Just a dumb 'human consumption only' HTML redirect.
My newsreader of course didn't interpret this correctly, so I was actually just assuming that feed had gone dead - ontil I checked and found the new feed elsewhere.
Not a very clued move by a guy who's trying to make a living through micro publishing.

The reason I bothered is of copurse the good copy on Microdoc News. For example this instruction on accessing specialized google sub searches is useful, although I'm not sure I think Google's implementation of these smart words is as admirable as the page rank itself.

Posted by Claus at 10:40 AM
Propaganda is propaganda is propaganda

David weinberger recommends this piece of anti-Bush propaganda. That disappoints me. The data in the report may be accurate but the piece is still just propaganda and that is bad news. While a robust fight against the end of democracy is required it shouldn't be carried using the weapons of totalitarianism (just as the fight against fundamentalism and nationalism in the middle-east shouldn't be carried out by falling back to more and more nationalism and fundamentalism at home). This is not in my mind a 'hawks vs. doves' issue - I wouldn't recommend any compromise on the issues - but clearly the messages just blur together into a large blitz of value based attack ads, and nobody is the winner after such a thorough destruction of reason and sanity.

Posted by Claus at 10:25 AM
Closing of America part no. "I don't even keep track anymore"

Some further evidence that the Bush administration simply don't care about freedom and equality at all. The Attorney General, John Ashcroft, is now refusing select members of the press access to press conferences on tricky issues like the Patriot Act as reported here.
Only if your sense of fairness, openness and democracy has gone completely dark is that acceptable. Furthermore, the people doing the blocking are not his press people but Secret Service agents.
He should be fired just for this.

Posted by Claus at 10:05 AM
September 12, 2003
Only in Norway...

Tim Bray informs us about the oddities you encounter, when googling Elephant Lightning. Of particular interest is the biblical plague angle. Reading the story reminds me of when I was a student in Canada, in Waterloo, Ontario, and had some magnificent rainstorm experiences. This led my flatmate Joe to look through the excellent library at UW. I can almost remember one phrase from the uniquely odd book he picked up on weather phenomena: Only in Norway has there been reports of a rain of rats. Or words to that effect. Entire sections of the book formed an odd collection of samples of the amazing things thunderstorms have been known to pick up (much like this) and all of these crazy stories were listed in the book as pure science, next to an account on the theory of thunder and tornados.

Posted by Claus at 02:31 AM
September 11, 2003
A day of deaths - and an anniversary

So today is now:

  • The day of the world trade center disaster

  • The day of Augusto Pinochet's bloody coup in Chile

  • The day when Scandinavia once again was reminded that political assasinations are a reality even in our peaceful part of the world

And finally, today is also the 100th birthday of Theodor Adorno. Oddly appropriate that such a staunch critic of the modern world should find himself in accidental relationship with so much modern world sadness.

As an aside to Theodor Adorno's anniversary, it has been interesting being in Austria in the days leading up to his anniversary. His name was simply everywhere, in a way that would be unimaginable for any writer of books in Denmark, let alone a philosopher. He was on the cover of newspapers. Books published to commemorate the anniversary filled bookstore windows. Even the german language music video channel on my hotel TV set had a VJ who talked about Adorno (seriously! I'm not making this up).
I am not sure how much this is just a different 'sense of duty' wrt to the past and how much this is old fashioned book learning that is still alive and kicking in a broader sense in the German speaking world than in Denmark, but I think that it must mean that there still is a living Bildungsideal in a completely different sense than what's left of that kind of bookish culture in Denmark.

VJ's namedropping philosophers may not seem hot to you, but I think it is infinitely cool.

Posted by Claus at 06:36 PM
Genstart those colors

Just-blog has done the reasonable thing and moved his blog to the root of (although not - that's a problem with speednames name management they should fix). His latest rant on color makes a good point: Instead of desperately jogging the colow wheel of your drawing software, harvest your colors from a beautiful landscape.

Ooops. That was actually the message from here. There was a link on just-blog, but I failed to see the invisible (or were they white?) citation boundaries around the direct quotes.
Boxes and Arrows (are they a couple of private detectives?) seems like a nice site overall, by the way. Bookmarked.

They also recommend the use of Sitemaps. So I hurried up and added one to, here.

Posted by Claus at 05:49 PM
Anna Lindh killed

The Swedish social democratic party has lost once again one of its leading members, and Sweden its foreign minister as Anna Lind dies after being stabbed yesterday.

The circumstances of the event shows you how unused and unprepared we are for violence. An attack by a single person, in a (one supposes) busy Stockholm department store, and still the killer was able to get away.

As was the case with the murder of Olof Palme we now have to wait in unpleasant uncertainty, not knowing whether this was a random attack, an attack by a mentally unstable person or political violence.

The most beautiful words heard yet in the many eulogies: 'She knew much about what had already happened but was intent on what was to happen [in the future]'. Source escapes me right now, but it was a Swedish political colleague of hers.

Posted by Claus at 11:59 AM
September 10, 2003
Back , and then back.

Classy's "Getting in touch with the past and the future" expedition to Austria has been completed - an (almost) total success.
After the Ars was completed as far as I am concerned with a brilliant concert evening, I went back to Vienna to catch a few missing museums, and now I'm back in Copenhagen. I took a lot of pictures, and wrote a lot of notes about the Ars, and that will be trickling onto the log over the next couple of days. The festival was (even for the sake of only a short visit) definitely worth it. The staff was friendly and mostly bi-lingual, which helps even though I mananged to survive my previous visit to Vienna entirely without the use of English - using instead my crufty, dated primary school German (lessons took place from 82-85, and I didn't even like it as a subject back then). Surprising what you can remember when you have to.

Posted by Claus at 11:47 PM
September 08, 2003
Nice piece of Ars

For once there's an excuse for my horrible typing, as this comes to you from a German qwertz keyboard instead of my usual qwerty.
After some fine weather, lovely museums, decent coffee, and cheap beer in Vienna I have moved on Ars Electronica in Linz, where terminals are abundant - so I thought I might as well post a little.

Vienna was great. I supplemented my understanding of Wienna by reading before my stay Musil's "Man without qualities", during my stay first "Wittgenstein's Vienna" - a book on the cultural background of Wittgensteins work, that does what seems like a fine job at describing the atmosphere of the town (I was glad to have read Musil first though) and finally Zweig's "The World of Yesterday". Zweig's book is realy impressive. He has a personal account - and indeed some personal experience that makes his account live - of everything important going on in Europe around the (last) turn of the century. And then apparently he knew everybody, from a old woman whose head had been touched by the hand of Goethe, to Rodin, whose atelier he visits. And he was there when they built the Panama canal (literally! Zweig went to Panama and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time at the construction site).

The final connection to present day comes from the latest issue of Die Zeit that I picked up ot read on the train journey to Linz. It gives J?rgen Habermas' personal account of friendship with Theodor Adorno, who in turn took music lessons from Alban Berg - obviously an acquaintance of Zweig's.

Here in Linz the digital arts festival is in full swing, with a highly international (i.e. Japanese and American) crowd as well as a highly international (i.e. Japanese and American) list of artists. There is much to like about the stuff on display - mostly so when it is either essential or not apparent what the 'digital'/'electronic' is doing in the piece on display. What I mean by that is that the good pieces either use 'digital everyday life' as the offset for whatever is expressed - or is estethically pleasing to such an extent that the technique in play is completely irrelevant for the observer. The finesse in some of the work (and again - the japanese examples shine) is so stunning that you simply forget about the means of expression.

More on this later. I have had many good ideas and experiences with only half a day spent here yet. Meanwhile the Festival website is quite good - and even contains some of the webbased works on display (clearly the most boring and least promising category of work. It smacks of 1980's and 1990's 'interaction art' made with Macromedia Director).

Posted by Claus at 02:28 PM
September 02, 2003
There is nothing the american right will not say to maintain power

I've been reading lately on the American presidential race, and following that on the web is difficult to do in a balanced fashion. The web - as a forum for public discourse is characterized by the absence of dialogue and a proliferation of soapboxes (this being one of them) where people say exactly what they think is true. Some are worse than others of course - and I can't think of anything worse than the many right wing publications. The kind who do 'value politics'. The kind to whom all opposition therefore is immoral, and therefore not something to consider the merit of, but something to strike down. That position of course is as unsound and dangerous as any other fundamentalist position, be it left or right wing. Furthermore, the kind of argument put forward in favour of the cause always buts the cause first and the argument second. They couldn't care less about beating democrats on the issues. They just want to beat the democrats, since the democrats are quite simply evil. A case in point is a complete slamming of The BBC. The reason the right cares is of course the recent backlash against the strongly right wing Fox News channel after the war in Iraq. This has given BBC a foothold in North America, so now some countermeasures are needed.
The article even plays on the Fox News debate be reusing the words at the center of that debate - namely "Fair and Balanced"
Of course the author reaches the conclusion that the BBC is a wholly untrustworthy, pro-Hussein, tax payed, evil, out of control mammooth. Any and all means are used to reach the conclusion. At the center a coverage of the David Kelly hearings. This is laced with charcater attacks on the BBC personnel involved in that inquiry, attacks on BBC reporters pronunciation of "Paul Wolfowitz", quotes from other BBC bashers (who are quoted simply as the received opinion on the BBC, which they are not of course) even down to a mention of George Orwell and how he also hated the BBC. That BBC was critical of the decisions leading the the war in Iraq is of course interpreted as evidence of "the BBC's desire to prevent the death of Saddam's regime".

To give you an idea of the climate of this coverage, the story ends with a "funny" quote from another BBC basher: "About the only thing in Saddam's favor was that you could get the death penalty for listening to the BBC".

In short, there is quite simply nothing american right wingers won't say as long as it helps the goal of power.

Posted by Claus at 08:58 PM
Spamhole beaten

Mailinator beats my previous throwaway email provider spamhole. Mailinator cuts out the forwarding to your address. On 'nasty spam site X' you simple use the emailaddress '' the 'i_wont_have_it' should be your own secret and something other than 'i_wont_have_it'. That address is now a login (no password) for Mailinator's website where your password conformation email will be waiting. Nice.

Via Joel on Software.

Posted by Claus at 02:45 PM
Are you looking for "1+1" or '1+1'?

Google has added yet another 'smart feature' to Google search, namely a calculator. If you search for 1+1 Google will now show you a page with the result 2. Very nifty, but personally I must say that I consider this feature to be a nail in Google's coffin, nota milestone on Google's path to supremacy. I realize there aren't maybe that many of us - but what if I was actually looking for a website that contained the phrase '1+1'? You read something and you remember that the expression was on the page, and you search for that, based on the notion that 1+1 is a pretty rare thing to write on a webpage, hence a good filter to apply. There's an escape hatch - a link that asks if I would rather have searched for the expression than the result, and that is good information economy (On average, very few additional clicks are added to searches), but when I'm looking for the expression I don't really care about the average, all I know is that I now have further to go.
Similarly with searches for phrases like ''. For a while that simply took me to - now there's a complicated escape hatch with 5 options - dangerously close to the maximum number of options that one can comprehend easily.
All of these things just underline two basic problems:

  1. The more blanket assumptions Google make about the context of search as it existed before I turn to Google the closer Google gets to the annoying ways of the Microsoft Office applications: "Since people aren't that smart on average - we're going to assume that you're an idiot". It's true that it works a lot of the time, but I would hate to have to do the same half hour configuration tango to turn off "smart" features for Google that I have to do for MS Word

  2. Trying to be everything to everybody is IMO a direct violation the 2. and 3. Google Commandments (see the left bar of this page).

A couple of features more and there'll be an opening again for "just the search, please" companies. It's classic "Innovators Dilemma" stuff.

Posted by Claus at 12:24 PM
Off to Vienna

The recent lack of posts has been casued be me being on vacation, and feeling no real urge to punch in for blogging. Been reading a lot though, so maybe a little later I will post about the stuff I'm reading. Tomorrow I leave for Vienna to catch a glimpse of "Die letzten Tage der Menschheit" (the last days of humanity)as life in pre WW1 Vienna was to Karl Kraus. The Staatsoper tickets for Tristan und Isolde are booked, as is the journey onwards for Ars Electronica. Details on that on return (or possibly from a browser somewhere while I'm gone), but some impressions from afar are in order: It will be interesting to see to what extent the idea of digital art and futurism is selfsupporting, and to what extent one gets a feeling of 'over-curation' which is so easy to feel at exhibits. The program for the festival seems to have an edge compared to 'any old art' simply because the technical difficulty in working with the digital media in an interesting fashion presents a useful obstacle to draw inspiration from. The obstacle is new which is essential for keeping the expression fresh. But those of course were notes from afar.

Posted by Claus at 11:48 AM