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Archive for July, 2010

Word Of The Week

The word of the past week is WikiLeaks, of course! Although not a Wiki in the classical sense of the word, watchdog sites like this are essential in a democratic society.

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Electronic Kids-ID Required?

Yesterday, there were alarming messages in the newspapers and on radio and TV: if a Belgian family wants to take a child to a foreign country they need to have an electronic “Kids-ID” when boarding a plane, a ferry or a fast train:

That Kids-ID is pretty expensive if you need it in a hurry (the local authorities in my village make you up to 180 EUR for a document that costs just 3 EUR if you can wait a month). So did my wife and I needed to panic, since our daughter didn’t have such an electronic ID card?

Of course not! Belgian law is clear: Belgian children under 12 years of age need an “identification document”, but the “old” paper version is just as good as the electronic version, as long as the validity date isn’t in the past. So why all the fuss? Well, basically because journalists don’t seem to take the time to verify their sources. Copying text from another website, whether that is a news agency or a competitor, seems to be the rule these days. Is that just because it’s easier and quicker? Do journalists no longer care about what they write, or about the correctness of the information they provide? Do journalism schools no longer teach the need for a critical evaluation of news sources, or the need to verify information? And where are the editors and publishers?

I know, I know: this is my second rant about sloppy journalism in just a few weeks (see 2010-07-07). A sign of the times? Or am I just getting grumpier and grumpier? I hope not!

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Hindsight

Last night I added another month to the archive section of this blog: February 2004 has been resurrected. This time, I have tried to correct broken links , whenever possible – I care about what I wrote then, even if it’s just to see what tickled my fancy then… Imagine my surprise when I found references to the Apple iPhone even then – just check the link about a mysterious new Apple PDA on 2004/02/19!

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Yes, it’s a great little tool for developers, beginning and experienced alike – if you’re on a Mac: “OS X Development Tool: RegExibit“. You can use it to teach yourself regular expressions, or to make it easier on yourself when you’re working with regexes. Not too many of us are capable of whipping up complex regular expressions while writing code, so I guess I’m not the only one who will happily use this tool! By the way: I have seen at least one similar application online.

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Dave Winer, in his post “Apple’s Flash policy is a breach of Postel’s Law“, writes: “Linkrot is usually accidental, but this was deliberate.” Well, if it’s deliberate, then it’s not linkrot, but link poisoning.

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It’s a long presentation, but it’s an excellent overview of what our social “networks” look like in real life: “Presenting ‘The Real Life Social Network’ at the IA Summit“. At the same time, it’s also a clear explanation of why current social networking tools like FaceBook and Twitter will have to change fundamentally if they want to survive in the long term… or will they be replaced by others, that are more tuned to the realities of how we want to interact with our family, friends, co-workers, etc? After all, just like in a content management system, we want to target our messages to a specific audience – which is why I mainly use email (but with seven or eight different email addresses) to converse with others… but that isn’t ideal either.

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CushyCMS

These days, a ‘content management system’ is supposed to be a “serious” tool, and that usually translates to a big and somewhat complex software system, that is either hard to install or hard to use, and often both. CushyCMS is something quite different: there’s nothing to install, since it is a hosted package. For the end-user, it’s a very simple tool: log in, select a webpage from your site, and edit away in a wysiwyg editor. How does it do that? Technically, CushyCMS can best be described as a web-based editor, that uses FTP access to a website to read and write pages.

CushyCMS basically sees two types of users: designers of webpages, capable of building the site, and editors, i.e. the people that will edit the content on those pages. With CushyCMS, an editor cannot edit the whole webpage, but only those part that the web site designer marked as editable. Web designer and editors must be defined on the CushyCMS website, together with the specifics of the website to be edited. You have to tell CushyCMS the account and password of the FTP access to your website, and unfortunately there’s no explicit explanation of their policy concerning your privacy and the security of your data.

I’ve tried it on the nukleos.com website. I had a bit of of a problem while configuring CushyCMS and my homepage at the same time: I had both my FTP tool and CushyCMS opening a connection to the site simultaneaously, and CushyCMS got very confused. But apart from that, it works well. Adding the required markup for CushyCMS to detect the editable parts of a page isn’t too difficult, as long as you’re not afraid to dive into a bit of HTML coding; any web designer can take care of that. Editing the content takes place in rich text editor panes, one for each designated zone on the page you’re editing. Pasting text from your word processor will be a bit disappointing, since CushyCMS only accepts plain text, without markup or links. Whether that is an acceptable limitation depends on the situation.

CushyCMS won’t replace my FTP-plus-text editor, because adding new pages or paragraphs to my site is a job that CushyCMS can’t do. But changing a typo, adding a bit of text or editing a link is much easier and comfortable with CushyCMS.

So, do you need this solution? In practice, CushyCMS should only be applied to simple static sites, with a limited number of pages. But for those sites, it’s quite an easy way to get one or more end-users involved in the maintenance of the content. The name of the tool raises high expectations, and actually it’s not really a ‘content management system’ (CMS), but just a web page editor. But as such, it does what it promises.

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Metaweb: “we’re very pleased to announce that Metaweb is now a part of Google“. In other words, Metaweb has been bought by Google. Nothing too spectacular, because it isn’t the first time that Google has bought another company, nor will it be the last time. This might be different, since metadata will only become more important in the search universe. Metadata is the firm behind Freebase, and Freebase is a somewhat strange beast: a user-defined database of data about concepts, people, and much more. I don’t think Freebase will ever be as popular as the Wikipedia: it’s a lot harder to enter data into it. But the data in it can be very interetsing, because it’s not just data, but data with explicit connections to other data. What will that bring to Google? We’ll see that sometime in the future, I suppose…

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Jeff Potts has an interesting post about Alfresco, NOSQL, and the Future of ECM: “If, however, it turns out that being backed by a NOSQL repository is a requirement for a modern, Internet-scale CMS, we may see a whole new line-up of players in the CMS space before long“.

At work, we have chosen not to put documents into an RDBMS – only metadata goes into an RDBMS. But as users of a file system for those documents, we know the limitations once you accumulate large numbers of files, especially if you keep a copy of each version of every file unless it is explicitly deleted. A distributed and more scalable storage mechanism can do wonders in that situation! Too bad we didn’t find such a tool in 2004-2005, when we architected and built our CMS…

Back to today. Outerthought has already started the migration to NoSQL; Alfresco seems to be heading in the same direction – so when will Microsoft follow? Let’s see: currently you have to pay them for every byte you store in a SQL Server database, so I guess MS isn’t going to change their strategy unless they are forced to do so – or unless they can make us pay for their own NoSQL store ;-) [[ Updated 2010-07-19: of course Microsoft has a sort of NoSQL solution in Azure. It’s called Azure Table Storage. Why you would use it if there a relational DB in the same environment is a bit misty to me, especially since there seem to be a few flagrant limitations to AZT… But I haven’t used it, so don’t take my word for it, go experiment and see for yourself.]]

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Don’t know if Steven noticed it, but since a few days there’s a ColdFusion wrapper for the DaisyDiff library, developed in a Google Summer of Code 2007 project for DaisyCMS. Can’t say I’ll be needing that today, but hey, who knows what tomorrow may bring??

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Snakes Anybody?

Searching for the word “python” on Twitter launches you into the universe of Monty Python; doing the same on identi.ca projects you into a group of software developers that swear by the programming language called Python. My conclusion as an amateur social-mediologist: Twitterers care about entertainment, identi.ca is for (open-source) developers. I should go and see if there are more serious studies pointing to similar conclusions… but when you look at the list of identi.ca groups with most members there isn’t much more need for that ;-)

I guess I’ll have to create an identi.ca account to expand my audience…

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Small print on the Google blog: “Update July 9: We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China“. The current censorship remains in place, otherwise the Chinese autorities wouldn’t have been so “gentle”. Like I said: “enterprise” and “ethics” are words that you seldom need in a single sentence…

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I like to keep my pictures on the memory card in my camera, once they’re backed up. That way, I can show them to friends and family on the fly, even when there’s no computer in sight (any modern TV has an SD slot, right?). But it’s no use keeping all those ‘digital negatives” together with the JPEG files. I have finally taken the time to look for a simple automated solution to delete all those .NEF files in a single swoop, and simple it is:

find . -type f -name *.NEF -exec rm -f {} \;

I’m writing it down here, because searching my blog will be faster than using the ‘man‘ command in the OS X Terminal the next time I need to do this! Just be careful to pick the correct ‘current directory’ from which to launch this line, otherwise it will destroy your archive as well!

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In the (enterprise) content management universe…

  • governance” is about culture, not about rules.
  • governance” is about culture, not about tools.

I guess those statements are true in other contexts as well; I’m just sticking to what I know ;-)

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Facebook Fatigue Where?

Facebook Fatigue? Or just a sensationalist catch phrase? The title of this article seems a bit out of line with the study it reports on: “Teens Experiencing Facebook Fatigue [STUDY]” (Mashable). For me, that study has more important conclusions, and I’m guessing that marketeers will agree with me (you have to look at what 81% is doing, not at the remaining 19%). At least for the interviewees, games are becoming the backbone of social networks for teens. That’s hardly a surprise for parents: kids like to play, and if you give them computers and a network (and money ;-), they’ll do it online too.

Anyway, I like the alliteration in the title. But what will journalists – or bloggers – come up with next? Twitter Tiredness? Windows Weariness? Those expressions have been used before, I’m afraid…

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