Thoughts on The Future
back to all thoughts
Oh, hey! I almost forgot I have a blog.
Well, the colors are annoying to me and my comment system sucks
but, meh. I wanted to write a quick note about where
you can find stuff I write.
David Lowery wrote a piece on how downloading music is hurting musicians (which is a response to Emily White's piece on admitting to not buying music). Here is my response.
Music is a really interesting "product," especially when distributed digitally for $0.001 cents per download (production costs: bandwidth, storage, etc). The real production costs are for the time put in by the artist, studio fees, and creativity. Besides the creativity part, that formula sounds a little bit like the FDA drug market, right? It costs about $0.001 cents to manufacture a pill so the hefty price tag goes to recoup the money spent on drug research. Or does it? Yeah, selling drugs is a messed up industry...
At ORD Camp last weekend Ben Huh led a discussion about how we -- a group of geeks and artists -- can save the Internet. We won the fight against SOPA and PIPA for now but those laws will just sneak in through some other bill. Will wikipedia be there to black out again in protest? The fight is nowhere near from over and we have to get organized...
Most people at Mozilla are remote so each quarter we sync up face to face as a group for an all-hands meeting. There are over 600 employees! We of course sync up in smaller groups more frequently but this is a chance to see what's going on across the entire Mozilla horizon.
So what's happening at Mozilla? We're on the cusp of a huge shift towards an open web platform. That is, something more than a web browser -- something you can run "native" apps on. There's a lot of work left to do, of course. Here is a random dump of interesting projects in the works...
The release of Google Plus presents a unique opportunity to open up the social web. Why? Because it's a compelling product -- it's intuitive and fun with innovative features like circles, hangouts, sparks, etc. In many ways it's a clone of Facebook but that's just a reinforcement of what Facebook (and before that, Friendster) got right. If Plus continues to succeed then the optimist in me envisions this as a golden opportunity! ...
A few services have been popping up lately that let you stream music from any
computer or device (the so called "cloud"). Amazon just released theirs,
uncreatively named Cloud Player.
I'm pretty excited about this one because it's the first I've seen to actually
offer sane, reasonable pricing ...
The Internet was invented so that data could be decentralized and liberated.
Well, so much for that idea.
With the rise of services such as Facebook and Twitter we are back to the
original mainframe problem: everything is stored and controlled by a central
authority. Ironically, today's "to the cloud" meme is making us depend
on central authorities even more.
So what about data privacy? In this centralized
model we go about our online lives constantly posting data to all these different
servers that we trust...
Firefox 4 is near the end of its beta cycle but what is so special about this
release? Why not see for yourself on the new demo site, the Web of Wonder
(requires Firefox 4 beta but some demos do work in Chrome and Safari).
I'll be honest, as a web developer, the new power of HTML5, CSS3, SVG, WebGL, etc
totally blows my mind...
As web developers we are faced with this problem: how do we scale up our code to handle high traffic? A lot of time and engineering goes into this problem -- time to simulate the traffic we expect and add servers to our cluster, cache heavy database access, etc, in anticipation of the load. Time is precious. This time could be spent optimizing the usefulness of our web product and creating interesting content. No one really congratulates you when a website works, they expect it to work.
When Google App Engine was released their pitch was...
Whenever I'd hear about someone from the Python community getting hired by Mozilla I'd get really excited because I knew they'd continue to share and collaborate in the open source world that I was a part of. So here I am about a month into joining Mozilla myself to work with the WebDev team. Everything Mozilla does is right out in the open: ideas are posted on blogs, code is committed to public repositories--free to use, free to fork, etc. They take a firm stance that everything you do on the web should be free and open even to the point where the new Firefox 4 audio API (which is amazing) doesn't even support the patented, closed MP3 format despite its ubiquity.
This transparent approach to technology is really powerful...
CHIRP Radio in Chicago is looking for someone to help us build a custom Android application so that our listeners can have a better experience on their Android phone. There are already a few Android apps for radio but they are clunky. Also, we have some plans to better engage listeners on phone apps with currently playing tracks, click-to-request-a-song, and other ideas like that.
We already have a pretty slick iPhone application created by volunteer John Carlin and after only a few months it already has 1,000+ downloads...
Most deployment systems depend on PyPI, the Python Package Index, for fetching and installing dependencies. Although performance and reliability has greatly improved, there are still days when you may find PyPI down and thus are unable to deploy through the normal fashion.
Finally, there is now a concerted effort to create official mirrors of PyPI that everyone can use (see PEP 381). The mirrors are pretty simple--they're not full blown package indexes--and you can already start using them for experimentation. Also, thanks to Richard Jones, Martin Löwis, Guido, and others at EuroPython, my half-baked idea of using Google App Engine as a PyPI mirror has been resurrected! I don't know if it's fully implemented yet but you can try it out at pypi.appspot.com. App Engine seems like a logical place for a mirror due to its scalability. However, I am skeptical of how well it will perform. App Engine still has a long way to go with regards to stability.
To get involved with the mirroring project you can follow the discussions on the Python Catalog SIG mailing list. The next step will be modifying clients to discover and fallback on available mirrors.
Zed Shaw recently wrote a clear and concise defense for why he used the GPL on Lamson. I've seen a few mentions on twitter that alarmed me because people seemed to think now is the time to release all software as GPL. Here's what you need to ask yourself before you license your code as GPL. First, do you have a business plan that involves selling your software? Most people do not, most business plans have to do with actually using custom software. If that's you then your software and your business become better as more developers work on your software. I.E. when your software is applied to more real world situations, more bugs are fixed and more patches for features are received. GPL does not help you gain users because it shuts out most commercial enterprises ...
At PyCon 2009 the fact that Python needs to solve the "packaging problem" came up a few times. This is not a new discussion. However, the problem is still not completely solved so here I'll point out the details of the problem, the unsolved parts, the solved parts, and how the solved parts could be solved better ...
I came across this article today on Coding Horror about how Google has a monopoly on search engines and how something must be done about it. I'm not one who falls into the "Google Is Evil" camp; I actually think they are a benevolent force in the world :) However, as with any monopoly, the lack of competition stifles progress. And when I think about the state of today's technology, I can't help but wonder why Google has not fixed the most fatal flaw in their Googlebot :
It does not behave like a web browser.
Search engines are made for people and the majority of people browse the Internet with a web browser. The first comment on the article is a cry for help: "What can we do?" I have an answer to that question. And you can take my answer and turn it into a business plan and climb the golden staircase to success. Any smart investor would be begging you to take their money. Google generated $5.37 billion dollars in Q2 of 2008 and their flagship product doesn't even work! In fact, I'm going to give this to you all for free; all I ask is that you visit me one day and say thanks. Are you ready?