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June 29, 2004

Easy HTML-hinted comment feeds

So, kwc and I were talking earlier about a comment feed system for MovableTypo. And we came up with a couple of things, a couple of which are currently implemented on my blog.

  • Whole-blog comment feeds [subscribe], thanks to the results of a google search
  • Individual entry comment feeds, basically by mutating the above, and turning it into an individual archive template for MT. I'll post more specific details if anyone wants them.
  • A <link> tag which tells tools where to find the aforementioned comment feed. For now, it takes the form: <link rel="commentsalternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Whatever" href="thefeed.xml />. Fwew. Thank you Markdown for keeping me from going nuts typing that in!
  • And, last but not least, the beta-quality bookmarklet that lets you quickly find this feed, and subscribe to it with a tool like NetNewsWire or Shrook. Drag this to your bookmark bar, if you want (or just click it to try it on this page): CommentLinkFinder (best to examine it on the individual archive page - I don't have a <link> in my main page yet.

One more plug - making a bookmarklet would've been a nightmare without this helpful tool

June 28, 2004

Web comic presentation?

So, as some of you may have noticed, J and I are busy trying to find the time to make web comics. I hope someone laughs a little at them - we're having a great time putting them together, but it's a lot of work to make these things if it's just for our own entertainment.

Anyway, we're rapidly approaching the point of putting together a sort of full-length comic. The first half (yes, it'll be a cliff hanger and all, so you'll get only half at a time) is nearly drawn, according to J, and it's nearing 30 distinct frames - so, if we're lucky, probably in the neighborhood of 10 pages, if it were to be printed.

Therein lies the problem, of course. We're making a web comic, and the web isn't the same thing as the printed page. So, J and I have been discussing ways to sort of blend the two.... "animation", pre-loading, really-long scrolling (one dimension only, hopefully), etc.

But I'm not really satisfied - does anyone have any suggestions for how to make "comic of more than 3 or 4 frames" work in the web browser context?

June 21, 2004

Experiment in eBay/Supply economics

So, with the recent increases in Gmail invites, I decided it would be fun to experiment with eBay and the (expected) drop in Gmail account invite prices as supply flooded the market.

Here's the trend that I got:

Personal Google Gmail trend

If I had any invites prior, I'd expect to have seen the high end be closer to the ~$80 that I saw around June 1, but this is only my data, so I'm only reporting that.

Likewise, the number of Gmail auctions went from hundreds at the beginning of the month, to 4000-5000 open auctions over this weekend.

Worth noting: It costs ~$0.50 to open an auction of this type on eBay. So, closing prices over the weekend were dropping below break-even for most people tinkering in the market. In other words - gmail accounts really should be free, unless sold as larger lots. Unsurprisingly, there are several of these "5 gmail invites" or "10 gmail invites" kinds of auctions running right now.

And, yes, I have a couple left, which I will happily dispense to people that I know. If you know me, write me (here). They seem to keep topping off my invite balance anyway...

June 17, 2004

Who needs Longhorn?

Alright, I admit it, I haven't followed Longhorn's feature map. I'm referring to the supposed "search everything" metaphore that they're planning to introduce.

However, quite without intending to, I'm already mostly there. Many of you may know that my primary machine is an Apple Powerbook (12", the better to fit into my bag...). I've used several tools on it that bring search into my everyday use, and they're all really cool.

The first, now deprecated, was called Another Launcher, now known as Butler. This is a handy little Mac OS X tool which lets you set keyboard shortcuts to launch just about anything (bookmarks, apps, I think even contacts). But the defining feature was the ability  to set a keyboard shortcut that would search it's list of stuff. It's pretty easy (probably the default, I forget) for all applications in the normal places to be automatically included in this list.

I quickly stopped using the mouse to launch apps. Instead, I typed Cmd-Space, and typed part of the app's name, then enter. It did partial matches, and generally found the right thing. Need Mail? 5 or 6 keypresses, of the easiest non-finger-bending variety would get it for you. Same with Safari, or, more importantly, any of the 20-30 apps I use less than once a day, but still want to have easy access to. And no training myself how to launch each - just the one keystroke needs memorizing.

I used Another Launcher for a long time with happiness, until I ran across a review of QuickSilver. The version I have, apparently an older version than is being tested right now, is still a little green around the corners. But it still takes search up a level. I have it set to index pretty much my entire home directory (well, like 3-levels from home, which is good enough), and all of the sources of bookmarks and applications that I have set up on the machine. It also happens to support reading the Mac OS X address book, among other stuff. Same Cmd-Space assigned to it... Butler had to take a secondary keystroke, 'cause it wasn't as flexible. But, now, I can type part of any document name, application, folder, control panel, etc. and it comes up. I no longer need to know where anything actually is, spatially or otherwise, to get it up on the screen.

This might not be for everyone, but I heavily multitask. And I still plan to organize my documents into useful hierarchies for browsing. But I'll do that once, when I first save the document. From then on, I'll search for my active documents (ones recent enough that I remember what I called them), thank you very much. Browsing is slow, and mentally taxing, compared to instant-find.

Does anyone know about such tools for either KDE or Win32? I'd really like to bring the rest of my operating environments up to speed.

Caveats: Both of these tools only search metadata, which is perhaps less than Longhorn and similar technologies will provide. I imagine that such depth will be useful, but, since it implicitly increases the collision space for short queries, one of the charming elements of the use cases I describe above, I think it's going to need to be a secondary feature. What's lovely about QuickSilver is that, once you've used it a little (search results appear ordered somewhat based on which ones you've used before, if any), it returns a very relevant top-two to an extremely short query. Picking the right one is easy. If that relevance dropped even to top-5, I think its usefulness would drop significantly.

June 12, 2004

Pic of the Day: Presidential Contemplation

Just thought, at the end of this week of remembering a past president, I might offer this semi-relevant photo, even though it didn't really come out that well.

J and RR

June 11, 2004

Latest GadgetGuy comic...

And, the last time I'll specifically announce GG stuff here, since there are better ways to discover stuff in the future.

Anyway, the third Gadget Guy comic is now up here

June 07, 2004

Today's Pic of the Day - A duck in a pool?

I thought this was so funny, I just had to take several pictures (and a couple of movies)

A Duck in a Pool!

June 04, 2004

Another reason Gmail rocks...

After having Gmail for a month and a half, I have to admit, the search functionality that it's billed for isn't something I use constantly. But, that's really not too surprising, either. Since Gmail makes organizing and dealing with e-mail overload so easy, by grouping threads and hiding redundant text in them, I rarely use search for what it always used to be used for - finding a message relevant to a discussion in progress.

But, the search really is nice. With the keyboard shortcuts, I'm at most a keystroke or two from doing a search at any one point, and a search takes place very quickly. Where my old mail systems (Mail.app + IMAP, or the Eudora+IMAP that preceded it) was too slow to justify a search unless it was, you know, important, or really worth it, I actually do use search on Gmail casually. Come to think of it, maybe I'm under accounting for how often I do searches. I wonder if the guys at Gmail can look up that kind of information for me?

One to my point.... it was doing such a casual search today when I noticed a neat feature of Gmail's search that I hadn't seen before - search windows update continuously. Well, more or less... they update as regularly as Gmail refreshes the screen to notify of new mail, or remove notices displayed (like "That message marked as Spam", or whatever).

Why is this cool? Well, since search results windows look and act just like mailboxes on other systems, you can basically get a keyword-based mailbox. Or enter a search for a message you're expecting to get soon, and see it pop up, all by itself, as soon as it comes in.