Sunday, 20 March 2005

Make Meaning

There really is only one question you should ask yourself before starting any new venture:

Do I want to make meaning?

Meaning is not about money, power, or prestige. It's not even about creating a fun place to work. Among the meanings of "meaning" are to

  • Make the world a better place.
  • Increase the quality of life.
  • Right a terrible wrong.
  • Prevent the end of something good.

Goals such as these are a tremendous advantage as you travel down the difficult path ahead. If you answer this question in the negative, you may still be successful, but it will be harder to become so because making meaning is the most powerful motivator there is.

It's taken me twenty yeas to come to this understanding. [Guy Kawasaki - ]

For six months I've tried to answer that question. I've thought about the times I was happiest in my life. I realize that I am happiest when I am teaching and inspiring people to do something they consider impossible. That is my purpose in life.

What should I teach? I've thought about teaching technology, but that bores me to tears. One of the few good teachers I've had was my high school chemistry/physics teacher Mr. Seela. He won Iowa Teacher of the Year for 2004 and he deserved it. Mr. Seela was one of the few people who never gave up on me in high school. No matter what I did, he kept trying to reach me. I've thought about following in his footsteps and teaching high school science. But the pay sucks. And the system sucks. Mr. Seela deserves to make 10 times what he makes but most of my other teachers should not be allowed within 100 yards of the nearest classroom.

When I was younger I dreamed of being a software developer, a Navy SEAL, or a Navy fighter pilot. At one point I planned to become all three - a real life MacGyver if you will. Eventually I realized one of my dreams. I became a software developer. I should be happy right?

Last year I realized that writing code to make someone else more profitable, by making banks more profitable, isn't that fulfilling. That's when I decided to go into business for myself. I thought that if I chose the products I worked on, I could make meaning with the products I created. But the idea of writing code in my spare time doesn't appeal to me anymore. I want new challenges. More importantly, I want to spend more time working with people than I do working with machines.

Then I remembered one of the other passions from my youth - flying. I've thought about becoming a flight instructor in the past, but like many teaching professions, the pay sucks. But I see ways to change that. And I want to change it. I want to change the way the flight training industry works. I want to find a way to make flight instructor the premium position in the aviation industry. I also want to find a way to reach kids that are like I was in school. I know that Mr. Seela could've reached me by teaching me to fly. That would have been the motivation I needed to live up to my potential in school. I know that there are kids out there like me, who need something to focus their attention. I know that through flight instruction, I can change the world. And who doesn't want to change the world?

So thanks David Seela. Thanks Guy Kawasaki. Thanks Robert Scoble. Thanks Steve Pavlina. Thanks Dave Winer. Thanks Adam Curry. Thanks Eric Sink. Thanks Jon Udell. Thanks Seth Godin. Thanks Jack Canfield. Thanks Harvey Mckay. Thanks Duane "Dog" Chapman. You have all inspired me to change the world.

03/20/2005 11:16:06 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Saturday, 07 February 2004

RSS Bandit is amazing

I've been a Bloglines user for almost a year. I needed a portable aggregator because I use several different computers. Then a few months ago I got a TabletPC. Now portability isn't as critical since I always have my Tablet with me. I stayed with Bloglines though because none of the client-side aggregators I tried before worked for me.

I just downloaded the latest version RSS Bandit. I love it. It is much more polished than it was the last time I tried it. Combine that with the dasBlog integration and the upcoming SIAM support and I'm in hog heaven. Thanks Dare, Torsten, and everyone else that helped make RssBandit what it is.

02/07/2004 20:57:40 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Monday, 02 February 2004

Guilty as charged

Of the 200+ feeds to which I subscribe, fifty 35 seem not to support either of these two bandwidth-saving techniques, which means they're probably getting battered unnecessarily by feedreaders. [Jon Udell]

I installed an older version of dasBlog that doesn't support ETag or conditional GET (If-Modified-Since). I'm going to upgrade to the latest version of dasBlog later tonight. It supports both ETag and conditional GET.

Note to self: the latest version of dasBlog only lives at GotDotNet.

Update: My feed now supports ETag & conditional GET.

02/02/2004 20:39:08 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Wednesday, 07 January 2004

NewsGator Online Services

I don't use NewsGator now but I can't wait to try NewsGator Online Services. There is a ton of potential for this type of service. Greg Reinacker and the rest of the NewsGator team seem poised to deliver a lot of the tools I want but am too busy to build myself. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
01/07/2004 16:33:57 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Tuesday, 01 July 2003

Subscription API

Dave Winer is thinking out loud about developing a tool to harmonize subscriptions. Sounds awesome. While you're developing a protocol to do this, why not include the actual RSS feeds in the equation? There currently is no way (short of password protection) for a feed publisher to know how many unique subscribers it has to a feed. So why not ping the publisher at the same time you ping the feed harmonizer? [Derek Scruggs]

07/01/2003 23:59:10 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

Subscription API: Group Subscriptions

Good idea. That would be even more interesting to us if we could use it to synch a bunch of subscriptions among several users. [Olivier Travers]

Something similar has been done with Groove and this is something a well specified API should accommodate. It'd be an easy to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

07/01/2003 20:16:04 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

Subscription API

When you have a laptop, a desktop, and a computer at work that all have a different (well, same program) aggragator running, getting them all synchronized together is a pain. However, I don't feel Dave Winer's approach is really all that great. For instance, it doesn't allow for synchronization of the actual articles that have been read/unread in a given feed. It is also based on XML-RPC, which while UserLand invented that technology, seems to add a lot of unnecessary overhead to the whole communication layer. [ Ryan Gregg]

07/01/2003 20:02:13 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

Subscription API

HA! I've actually already implemented this in Ruby. And it keeps track of which items you've read. Of course it has no admin interface to speak of. So adding new subscriptions is a pain. [Justin Rudd]

Yeah but what we really need is a well specified extensible API. I hope the community is patient and thinks this through before everyone jumps on a band wagon that paints us in to another corner.

FYI: NewsMonster users got a not-very-interoperable version of this feature with NewsMonster RC1 about a week ago.

07/01/2003 19:48:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

Subscriptions Harmonizer

I'm thinking out loud here about a new Web Service for people who use aggregators and have more than one computer. The problem: I subscribe to a feed at home but my aggregator at work doesn't know about it. It's actually kind of tricky to solve the problem, but I think I know how to do it. This is my scratchpad for thinking about it. Please don't deploy. Thanks. [Dave Winer]

If it doesn't synchronize which items I've read it won't do me any good as a user.

07/01/2003 17:28:56 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Saturday, 31 May 2003

Titles Matter

Basic functions of HTML doctitles:

Search engine results display
Search engine results weighting
Bookmark display
[Jon Udell]

The very first change I made to BlogX was to fix the titles on the permalink page. I'm still waiting for the solution to many other BlogX problems though.

05/31/2003 10:49:03 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Wednesday, 28 May 2003

Patrick Steele Moved

Patrick Steele has a new home at .NETWeblogs. Welcome back Patrick.
05/28/2003 10:22:19 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Sunday, 25 May 2003

OCS in RSS Bandit

Dare is adding OCS support to RSS Bandit.
05/25/2003 18:00:33 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Thursday, 22 May 2003

ETag Support

I have a new RSS feed that supports ETag. The old feed is still active so if you don't care about wasting bandwidth feel free to continue using it. I won't move it again I promise ;-)

Note: The new feed doesn't support Last-Modified yet because I wasn't in the mood to fight RFC 822 dates.

05/22/2003 01:40:50 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Wednesday, 21 May 2003

Open Content Syndication

Bill Kearney says aggregators should use Open Content Syndication (OCS) to store their subscriptions. I was aware of OCS because that is NewzCrawler's default format and I had to deal with it when I migrated from NewzCrawler a few months ago.

Why didn't I mention OCS? Partly because it seems tailored more for content producers than content consumers, but mostly because it makes heavy use of the namespace. Yes I know that isn't a good reason to ignore it but there you go. I doubt I'm the only one that looked at <rdf:RDF> and thought "no thanks I've got better things to do with my time".

I'm not dismissing OCS mind you. I'm just trying to understand how the cost of RDF complexity is justified for OCS.

05/21/2003 20:47:18 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

RSSConnect now has a page where you can read RSS feeds/blogs - a simple Web-based interface to read RSS feeds. Team PerfectXML will be adding some features (such as adding blog entries to favorites, searching, and other customizations), till then enjoy the RSSConnect at []

It looks great. I'd love to be able to use something like that for reading my news remotely. Of course I'd still want to use Luke Hutteman's excellent SharpReader when I'm at my primary machine(s). If they both supported a common subscription format and a common API for managing the subscriptions I'd be able to do that.

I wonder if RSSConnect uses a caching proxy or if it downloads the RSS every time someone requests a feed.

P.S. I'm in the process of updating my RSS feed so it supports ETag and Last-Modified properly. It doesn't look like it is possible to do it from an ASMX but I may be missing something simple.

05/21/2003 19:51:27 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Tuesday, 20 May 2003

The Tragedy of the API

Looks like we're locked in the trunk this time. [Simon Fell]

05/20/2003 09:39:58 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Monday, 19 May 2003

Serval, an aggregator with Whuffie

I've given the aggregator a concept of whuffie. I can give any item that has been aggregated a thumbs up or thumbs down, increasing or decreasing the item and site's wuffie. I sort the sites out as I display them by their whuffie. It is a simplistic way of keeping the sites I'm interested in at the top of the list. I'd like to wire in a Bayesian classifier too, and see if that helps me get the items I like to the top. [John Beimler]

05/19/2003 08:31:15 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

 Sunday, 18 May 2003

Manufactured Serendipity?

How strange. I posted a screen shot of TouchGraph running on .NET in response to a post by Scott Hanselman about .NET Purity. He commented on that post so I visited his site again. In the process I reread an unrelated post of his. That's when I saw this:

I'm envisioning a full-screen, small-font, very dense RSS aggregration workspace (much more dense than Outlook Today) perhaps ala The Brain...I'll need hunt around and perhaps write this if I can't find it...maybe I can pull from Danny Ayer's IdeaGraph? [Scott Hanselman]

No wonder he thought my TouchGraph screen shot was cool.

P.S. I'm seriously considering a .NET port of TouchGraph. If you are interested let me know.

05/18/2003 23:47:30 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback

Extensible Subscription Format

On a slightly related note Matt Griffith asks for functionality that's been in RSS Bandit since version 1.0. The primary reason I started work on RSS Bandit was because aggregators didn't provide a portable way to serialize feed information besides scanty OPML files. Maybe more news aggregators should use the feed list format described my Building a Desktop News Aggregator article. [Dare Obasanjo]

Excellent. It looks like a very good start. But RSS Bandit doesn't like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<feeds xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:xsi="" refresh-rate="3600000" proxy-server="http://desktop" proxy-port="83" xmlns="" xmlns:sub="">
 <feed category="Mine">

Also, I'm probably missing something but it doesn't look like a feed can belong to more than one category.

I would love to see the community work to design a common extensible Subscription format. Then we could define an API for saving and retrieving the subscriptions to a central store. Anyone else interested?

P.S. RSSBandit holds a lock on the import file when an exception is thrown during the import.

05/18/2003 21:03:42 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback


Attention LazyWeb. Let's create an ISubscription interface along the lines of the IBlogExtension interface. Here's the idea:

I visit a web page. If the page supports RSS Autodiscovery my browser's Hypothetical RSS toolbar button toolbar button is enabled. I click the RSS toolbar button and it runs all the ISubscription plug-ins I have installed. The plug-ins are passed the Uri of the page and the Uri of the RSS feed.

I have some ideas how this could be implemented for IE using COM and/or .NET interfaces. But I'd also like to think of ways to enable non IE browsers and non-COM/.NET plug-ins. Comments?

05/18/2003 11:25:49 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Trackback