Have been checking out twitter integration tools for Drupal and am testing one particular module that looks like it will post to Twitter everytime a node of a specific content type is posted. Let's see if it works.

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Just got yet another DirectTV solicitation in the mail. I'd be interested as our basic cable service provides us with 12 or so channels. I wouldn't mind investing in a modest upgrade to get CNN, the History Channel, and a few others.

But...when I tried to read the soliciation, I could barely make out anything important (i.e. the actual cost and terms of the service being offered). I've toyed with the idea in the past, but now I'm implementing it: I will immediately 86 any offer that contains any type smaller than 10 pt type.

If I see 9 pt type or less, I'm going to read the message as, "Here's where we try to screw you." And I'm just not interested in playing that game: there aren't enough hours in the day.

I found myself trying to play the John Hammond version of this song today, but not quite succeeding. (I can't figure out which album of his it's on...I can't find it online....we had a bunch of CDs stolen from Sarah's car this spring...three of my best John Hammond CDs were part of the take...along on with a couple Tom Waits albums. Sigh. I suspect that whoever ransacked the car has no idea what they took. Postscript: I think it's an album that
Duke Robillard produced and Marty Ballou played bass on...the bass has that Marty feel to it.....).

John Hammond's version of this song is an upbeat, slidey thing...kind of a lizard in mud feel. Nothing you'd notice at the first playing, but its a version that insinuates itself into your bones after 2-3 listenings.

So I google for the lyrics, and find...a Ray Charles version. Which is nothing like John Hammond's version. It looks like it might have originated with Lightning Hopkins, but who knows? So I go onto iTunes, and find hundreds of "Come Back Baby", a few of them related, none seemingly related to the John Hammond version.

About halfway down the list I hear a song of the same name by Mance Lipscomb, a Texas blues singer that died in 1976. Never heard of him, but want to learn more...he produced a lot of music, most of which has "the stuff."

It's interesting (to me at least) how I can hear literally dozens of versions of various songs, and then latch onto a singer or performer that defines the song. Same words, similar melody and rhythm...but there's something that distinguishes the voice, the delivery that makes it the definitive version.

What is it?

So I come to find out that there's a guy who's tracked down a lot of diffferent versions of this song here: http://elisblues.blogspot.com/2007/02/come-back-baby-part-2.html

I love the internet.

The Local: Germany published a story detailing a Saudi company's request for a German patent on a cyanide capsule activated by an RFID chip (http://www.thelocal.de/sci-tech/20090515-19313.html).

The idea behind this device is that it would be implanted into a human or animal, then could be triggered if the chip went past a specially encoded RFID scanner: ideal for keeping domestic servants from skipping out of the tent.

I can't quite make up my mind what is more appalling: the invention or the use case scenario.

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I've been poking around the idea of open-source business models since 1997. I like the idea, but they're difficult to make work. Very few have succeeded. I wanted to illustrate one model that I'm pretty sure is going to fail.

The project I'm currently working on requires that users be able to upload files and images to create interesting stories. We rely on a couple open-source modules (GPL'd) that work with the open-source content management framework Drupal (also GPL'd -- all free as in beer).

Two of these modules use another module (called GetID3) that has a dual-license: one for non-commercial use, one for commercial use. Fair enough. If you're making money with someone elses invention and hard work, one should pay a reasonable amount to support the original authors of that work.

However, this is where we get into the business model stuff. GetID3 is a bunch of php scripts and libraries that determine the metadata of multimedia objects (images, videos, documents) to provide useful information back to the user and or developer about precisely what kinds of files are being stored and accessed on their system. A useful thing, in most cases.

However, we had happend to install a buggy version of this, and in the course of debugging the problems we were having, came across the dual licensing requirements for GetID3. Looking a little deeper, it turns out that we'd be required to pay $1500 for a lifetime license for the library.

The GetID3 site (http://getid3.sourceforge.net/) lists about seven companies that have paid the fee over the past 3 years, and then requests the reader to let them know about other companies that might be using the module on their site without paying the fee.

I know that given the effort that must have gone into building these libraries, that $10,500 wouldn't begin to cover what it cost to develop them. Might have paid for some server fees. But the not so good part is that this information (the fee and the approach) instantly made me rethink the value of this library. Had the GetID3 team said, license fee: $75/yr -- no problem, would have recommended it in a second, even maybe $100/yr. But $1500/lifetime, plus bugs, plus attitude, no way.

So now I'm spending my afternoon looking for alternatives to getID3 to do what needs done, am saving my employer $1500, and will end up having the satisfaction of doing it myself, legally.

I guess the bottom line is, if the value exchange doesn't pan out, no matter what your license, it's not going to work. The trick is to get a value exchange that makes sense given the effort you put in to create the product, and the value it has to the end-user who has to both consume (and in this case, debug) the product.

I LOVE this new feature: http://www.nytimes.com/timeswire/index.html

It works great, provides great content, and I suspect I'll be using this as my NYTimes interface from here on out.

Just as an aside, I think the Times approach of subtly introducting new features is the right way to do things: it provides a good soft-launch to assist in debugging, and if it doesn't work, they can just as quietly retract the feature and work on it until it they can make it work well.

My only complaint is how difficult it is to figure out how to return to a multimedia feature once you've seen it (or, email the feature link to someone). But this is a minor gripe. In general, I really admire the NY Times website. I think that out of all the other news sites out there (including overseas services) they tend to get it right.

Yesterday there was a story that was covered all over the place (Reddit, Wall Street Journal, American Spectator) that stated that Seymour Hersh implicated Dick Cheney in an assasination plot that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

I didn't even bother to click thru the links because the source was a newspaper in Pakistan, a country well-known for producing journalists who employ J. L. Austin's idea of performative utterances to make fantasy reality.

Did anyone who passed along this story bother to ask the source of the story to confirm it's veracity? Apparently not. This post on RAW STORY reveals the shameful state of journalism today: http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/05/18/hersh-did-not-say-cheney-ordered-...

I guess I'm just feeling cranky about this: mainstream media is doomed (for me at least) unless it provides value beyond simply parroting statements made by seemingly authoritative sources. Bloggers and ideologues can do that just fine thank you. If I want conspiracy theories all I have to do is go to reddit or Digg and believe what I read on the front page, and allow "zionistconspiracyrulesall" to shape my neurospace.

If journalists are going to keep the industry that funds their work alive, they're going to have to do better, fast. My morning current affairs stream looks like:

-Yahoo! News!
-Helena Independent Record
-Raw Story
-Reddit (200 stories scanned)
-NYTimes
....then the Washington Post, Digg (200 stories scanned), SF Chronicle, LA Times, and misc blogs if there's time.

From this list, I get a pretty good overview of world, national, local political, cultural, national security, business, economic, science, and technology news, plus get a smattering of language and perception trends. I read a lot of news daily, and I suspect I've developed some cognitive tools that let me segregate the signal from the noise. But it's not my job, not my profession, just something necessary to keep from going crazy. I expect higher standards from people who are paid to to gather and report news.

Maybe study of J. L. Austen's "How to do things with words" (plus a course in classical rhetoric and logic) should be required for all journalists, with test to follow. Otherwise, no press card.

Bob visited us for dinner last night. As usual, we had a great conversation and good libations. He provided more than his usual number of insightful observations, and I just wanted to get a few of them down. These aren't necessarily the best ones, just the ones I remembered this morning.

"I'm not sensitive, but I'm trainable."

"We live in an age of splinter skills."

"You can't bullshit a boat. You have to do it right, or pay the price. You may be lucky for a while, but sooner or later you're going to learn about nature and yourself. Most people give up."

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