Why Ovid Doesn’t Do TDD, Julie Learns to Program, and More

  • Anecdote Driven Development, or why Ovid doesn’t do TDD
    Listener Philip sent me this excellent musing by Perl hacker, Ovid. I think his experience represents the quiet majority. While I don’t share the remorse over not being able to say I strictly adhere to TDD, I do tend to take a more practical view of when and where the benefit of writing automated units tests is really worth the often not inconsiderable cost.
  • Adobe is bad for open government
    My friend Gavin sent me this excellent post by Clay Johnson of the Sunlight Labs. Folks too easily mistake the ease of access and share of PDF as good enough for sharing information from critical sources. Johnson does a good job of highlighting just how difficult PDF as well as Flash make it for analytical projects like Sunlight Labs to parse, extract and re-purpose this information versus even plain old ASCII text. XML is being touted as the gold standard, but any unencumbered, easily computer parsed format would be better than what Adobe is selling, especially since nothing truly prevents them from breaking format compatibility over time.
  • Canadian anti-spam bill passes committee without copyright lobby provisions
    Professor Geist shares the good news as well as explaining how even during the review big content and its captive legislators kept trying to re-introduce these problematic dilutions of the consumer protection bill. It still has to be put to a vote but this is a critical success regardless.
  • Google launches music search
    The NYT does a good job of clarifying exactly what the new service is and what it is not. It is not a music story like iTunes or Amazon but rather another extension of its core search through various partners. For Amazon, at least, there could be an opportunity to play ball and drive more customers into its MP3 store. iTunes’ walled garden would seem to make that pretty much impossible for Apple.
  • Julie learns to program
    Via Nat’s Four Short Links at O’Reilly Radar. This is a very earnest account of a non-programmer tackling the challenge of learning to code. It isn’t a tutorial or any sort of guide, just the engaging story of Julie’s personal progress grappling with her first programming language.
  • Twitter bans satirical, fake persona account
    Mike Masnick has the particulars of the story at Techdirt. You cannot really get all that incensed about this story since Twitter is essentially a private service and can ban whomever they choose for whatever or no reason at all. To me, it provides another reason that reinforces a discussion that went round the blogosphere a few weeks back, that we really need to crack social messaging from private, centralized players like Twitter and Facebook into open, federated systems.
  • Advance in phase change memory
    Jon Stokes at Ars points out some new research buy Intel and its partner Numonyx in increasing the density of a storage technology first proposed over thirty years ago. Unlike a lot of these kinds of stories I follow, this particular technology, the non-stacked version, is already shipping in some projects which makes me optimistic about this new development hitting market faster than some other approaches to increasing storage densities.

Another Book Scaning Project, Whether New Technology Should Have New Patent Rules, and More

  • HP’s, UMich’s book scanning collaboration
    Jon Stokes has the details at Ars of a project that may be similar in spirit to Google’s original Books project but rather different in the details. While it will be making digital versions from the university’s rare books collection available online, for free, HP is also offering a novel print-on-demand offering designed to work with high resolution scans that otherwise are not suitable for your run of the mill PoD service.
  • Another online, anonymous speech case
    Jacqui Cheung at Ars describes the latest in an developing trend of cases testing the limits of online, anonymous free speech. A final ruling on unmasking an anonymous commenter is still pending and if granted could set precedents that contract anonymous speech. Here’s hoping the proceeding uncovers clear and indisputable facts so the ruling can be more of a bright line, either defending the commenter as reporting the truth or clearly committing defamation.
  • New comment system goes live at the FCC
    At Ars, Matthew Lasar points out a lot to like about the new online system. In particular, the I am hoping the enhanced transparency will make it easier for activists and advocates to keep pressure on the issues, rather than comments getting lost in the tubes. Lasar points out one procedural concern, about which comments will be tallied as formal comments. I think that slots into a larger concern about whether the much more usable system will result in better attention to the public discourse from the FCC.
  • More details on Canadian net neutrality ruling
    Professor Geist provides some excellent analysis of what the CRTC has committed to, especially in the realm of network management. This expands on the story as I picked it up last week, filling in much clearer detail on the further ramifications of this policy making. Geist also dwells on the remaining challenges in this area that he feels need regulatory attention.
  • New bill seeks to change patent rules for new technology
    The bill in question is apparently motivated by the market realities of much higher costs to develop biotechnology. One of the problems I have with this is whether it is reasonable enough to assume that the cost will remain high, hence worthwhile to ossify a response into law. I leave the parallel concerns for software patents to the reader.
  • More details on Mozilla’s Raindrop
    Ryan Paul at Ars gives a good walking tour of this project that was announced last week. His findings are pretty consistent with my own quick experimentation over the weekend.

First Release of Open Source Voting System, Mozilla’s Social Messaging Aggregator, and More

  • MySQL developer responds to Stallman’s plea to free MySQL from Oracle
    The basis of Brian Akers’ response seems to be taking issue with RMS’ apparent support for dual licensing. His argument makes a certain amount of sense but I don’t think this risk of dual licensing is unique to the GPL, I think concerns around copyright assignment and ownership persist regardless and require more discussion and thought.
  • Mozilla’s answer to aggregating social conversation?
    My biggest disappointment with Wave is that I don’t see it ever addressing the need to aggregate distributed conversations across multiple social networks. Raindrop, a new project from Mozilla, however, appears to be aiming squarely at this need. I am cautiously excited at the potential in this project.
  • AT&T urges employees to speak against FCC’s net neutrality plan
    Via the Net Neutrality Squad, a correct link to the original email text. The link some sites used is in many cases apparently broken. Looking this over, it seems to be carefully worded enough to remain legal but I think it is still pretty sleazy if not outright immoral.
  • EFF steps in to defend culture jammers, Yes Men
    At Ars Matthew Lasar explains what has the Us Chamber of Commerce peeved to the point where they issued a DMCA takedown against the pranksters. The EFF is working to defend them on a fair use basis, as the site in question is clearly intended as satire and social commentary. I am guessing the USCoC is stinging more over a Yes Men member infiltrating a meeting.
  • Data entry errors result in improper sentences
    This story is horrifying, really, and I would think a very strong case for usability expertise for any sort of system where such a human error could have dire consequences.
  • Foundation opens the source to Symbian’s kernel
    As Ryan Paul explains at Ars, this is the latest step in responding to competitive pressure from other, newer mobile platforms that started their lives as open source. Paul also spoke with the executive director of the Symbian Foundation about the relative advantages the more mature and widely adopted OS brings with both the opening of its sources and the delivery of a supporting SDK.
  • First release from open source voting system project
    According to Wired, this project has already been in the works for several years, not sure how I missed prior mention of it. This release is essentially very early prototype code but hopefully will get the academic community analyzing and providing necessary feedback, as they have been doing to the less receptive commercial vendors.