November 30, 2006


I'm really glad this woman is raising my kids with me.

November 26, 2006

Metadata Celebrity Cage Match!

It looks like Mike Daconta is going to take on Cory Doctorow's venerable Metacrap rant, point by point. The series begins clumsily by questioning Doctorow's qualifications for having an opinion about metadata.

Of course, publicity is not any indicator of truth and I surmise that most links to his article are merely people commiserating the fact that metadata is hard to do right. Fortunately, there are those of us that still believe that "hard" does not equate to "wrong" and that this is a temporary state due to lack of expertise.

I'm curious to see where the critique goes when it gets to point #3 of Doctorow's, wherein he agrees (five years ago) that, as difficult as it may be, improving metadata is a worthy goal.

So, the first "straw man" (I've never understood the usage here, but it makes for a catchy title) is that People Lie. Daconta calls this claim "ridiculous," because it doesn't apply to the corporate intranet. Well, it's true that this is less true on the intranet. However, it's also true that liars don't have to gain access to your metadata to affect you. By spamming the keywords field, spammers rendered the keywords field useless for everyone, including all the honest taggers out there.

Daconta also makes the counterpoint that people can lie about data (in addition to metadata), and yet Doctorow doesn't suggest that the Web itself should be distrusted. In discussions like this, I think it's very important to carefully define the line between what's metadata and what's data. After all, metadata is data too, and data may be metadata. In the context of Doctorow's essay, I think it can be agreed that data represents the visible content on Web pages, while metadata is the structured and often hidden data that describes it. I can't speak for Doctorow, but I think he would recommend that you take the visible content on the Web with a grain of salt too. That's just not the point of the essay.

I think Daconta is absolutely right about the importance of knowing the pedigree of your metadata, but that simply reinforces Doctorow's basic point. To be useful, all of your metadata must be reliable. If some (in fact a good chunk) of that metadata is unreliable, then the metadata is not useful.

In fact, applications that have made successful use of metadata, such as Google's search engine, and Yahoo!'s directory, succeeded by solving the pedigree problem. For example, a quick way to get your site banned by is to stuff your pages with hidden text that doesn't relate to what you're showing your human visitors.

Daconta's also right in saying that you'll get better mileage on the intranet -- at least in regard to the lying problem. But I can tell you first-hand stories about how true the remaining problems are in that sheltered, intranet environment. This should be an interesting series.

(Updated to change some really awkward phrasing. I'll never be a poet.)


November 11, 2006

...and it's perfect running weather!

dave lemen rocks -  the fan club I should be running a marathon today, but no, I'm just sitting here doing homework! As much as I love Optimal Binary Search Trees, I'd rather be running on this beautiful Fall day.


November 10, 2006

Measuring software productivity

Priceless Spolsky:

The email contained a lot of words (“benchmarking,” “outside in,” “performance metrics,” “best practice,” “process and organization”) each of which set off a loud buzzing alarm-like sound in my head. The noise from the buzzing was so loud and so distracting that I found myself completely unable to parse the email.


November 7, 2006

Election 2006

Walking to the polls

Happy Election Day! Have you voted yet? I took the day off from work to help out with kid coverage (school's out) and the PTA bake sale table.

I had to vote on a provisional ballot this year, as I didn't change my address since we moved last year. Still, I guess the precinct may be the same, because it really wasn't a big deal. I just had to fill out a new application that was attached to an envelope into which I sealed my paper ballot. I overheard the poll workers assisting one woman whose session on the electronic voting machine had timed-out. I also heard people talking about a 30-second timeout period that was causing problems for voters who took time to read the ballot initiatives. If true, that does concern me. There were a couple initiatives on our ballot this year that were very difficult to understand.

I was asked not to take any photos in the polling place, but I was able to take some outside and in the hallway. I've posted several of them on Flickr. There are lots of others tagged election2006.

Update: I was told by one of the poll workers this evening that the timeout is actually for two minutes of inactivity.


November 5, 2006

The reason they call it "The Closet"

... is that it's so dark in there.

Ted Haggard's confession to his congregation included this disturbing quote:

The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.

It's a part of his religion that is repulsive and dark, not being gay, if that's what he was talking about. And he can't "take responsibility for the entire problem" either, because he didn't create the rule that says being gay is sinful and dirty (even though he made a good show of embracing that rule).

My previous post described what true grace and redemption might look like in this situation, as improbable as it may be. It's probably true that most people won't learn anything by this, but it's also true that some will. I hope that Haggard and his loved ones at least can accept that he's gay and come around to understanding that there's nothing wrong with that. He would find that having integrity gets a whole lot easier.


November 3, 2006

Evangelical Sadness

You've probably heard by now that evangelical mega-pastor Ted Haggard has admitted to buying methamphetamine and a "massage" from a gay prostitute, Mike Jones, who has made public claims of a three-year relationship. These admissions certainly make Jones's claims sound more believable than Haggard's initial denials.

Haggard was included in Time Magazines list of the 25 most influential evangelicals, served as senior pastor to the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

To me, reading this news feels like driving past a car accident. It's a particularly compelling story to me, as a former evangelical Christian who has come around to a belief that the "Biblical" view of gay people is simple bigotry. On the one hand, the irony of this is so rich that Alanis Morissette may need to update her song. Haggard was a leading proponent of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, and pastored the largest church in the Capitol of Family Values, Colorado Springs. On the other hand, I feel compassion for Haggard, his family, his church, and many others who looked up to him. This revelation is undoubtedly devastating to all of them.

When I went to the NAE Web site to see what they were saying about all this, it had only the brief notice, "The NAE website is being updated. Please check back later for more information."


I imagined the leadership huddled together, trying to interpret these events, and hoped they might update the site with a message like this:

"The NAE was obviously shocked at the revelation that the man who has served us so well as a spiritual leader could be gay. In retrospect, we can see that it was possible for him to be both godly and gay, or impossible for us to know who is, or is not, godly. We regret that our unreasonable expectations forced Pastor Haggard to pretend for years that he was someone else and caused such devastaton for him, his family, and his church members. We clearly need to reevaluate our understanding of the scripture that led us so far astray. With humility and courage, we resolve to accept Ted as the gay man he is, help reconcile him to his wife and children, restore him to the ministry to which he was clearly called and capable, and to rethink our doctrine that is so obviously wrong.

I went back and checked a few moments ago. They've chosen to post something dumb instead.