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Facebook Bans AdSense In Apps

weston Re:Facebook is pretty much an abusive platform (130 comments)

they would hit an early-adopter demographic just at the time they were forming many new social connections (freshers) that they wouldn't want to lose by moving to a different network later, and the network effect would make it grow. That ain't no accident!

Theory #1 is compatible with the idea that while what you're saying is true, neither Zuck nor anybody else involved had an explicit understanding of this while they were building it.

Newsflash -- they're all abusive platforms. That's what tech giants do.... And it's not conspiracy -- it's explicit. The VCs that fund them in the start always ask the question "How are you going to protect your market?" -- or in other words "How can we achieve lock-in?"

The problem with this response is that most of the deficiencies I'm describing don't help them do any of this. Apple's abuses related to iOS and its developers are ridiculous on any number of levels but all more or less make some kind sense from a standpoint of QC, promoting future purchases, and lock-in. And, OK, banning AdSense fits in with the goals your describing.

But seriously, what good does it do Facebook if their APIs and SDKs suck? If their documentation is terrible? If they deprecate useful interaction hooks in favor of less useful ones which end up banished entirely? There's really only one advantage -- they push the development costs of polishing these things off their own plate and onto the backs of their third party devs. And they can get away with it because of their position in the market... but that's the kind of advantage that really should only appeal to a shoestring operation with limited resources, not a rapidly growing company with ambitions of having deep ties to many of the future services deployed on the web. It isn't going to help them capture anything.

more than 3 years ago

Facebook Bans AdSense In Apps

weston Facebook is pretty much an abusive platform (130 comments)

A couple of months back I spent a few weeks looking at developing a Facebook App. By the time I was done coding a simple one, I'd basically come to the conclusion that there were a lot better things to do with my time. Here's why:

* The APIs and SDKs. There's a lot of them. And not in the lots-to-love sense. In the dissociative identity disorder sense. Some of them work as specified. Some of them don't.

* The documentation. It sucks. It sucks extra because of the changes to the APIs -- a lot of times, you don't know if any given howto, forum post, internet article, and (in some cases) actual official documentation refers to the version of the API or SDK you're using. It sucks *particularly* hard because some complete moron at Facebook made the decision to blow away a community-built wiki site and replace it with a Bing search of the half-hearted official docs. And a lot of the links still out there still point to it.

* The policy/UI changes. Profile boxes (rather successful interaction hooks) were phased out in favor of tabs, which were going to be The New And Better Way. Now tabs are going away -- why? Oh, because it turned out that people didn't actually use them and Facebook now has another idea of what to do.

And this is from a company that's certainly sitting on the actual resources to do a hell of a lot better than this.

Watching all this, I developed two theories about Facebook:

1) It's possible that its success is more or less an accident of history -- they put something good enough together at the right time to become the premiere social network, and because of the network effect, it's sticky enough people don't simply defect despite its problems. But as an organization, they're not genuinely smart enough to do much further effectively... including providing a good platform for third-party devs.

2) Facebook doesn't really actually care about providing an effective and reliable platform for developers. They don't have to. There's enough incentive for would-be devs to try something and see if it works out that they can let the mass of attempts hit the wall and fail, and still reap benefits from those who break through and make things work. In the meanwhile, they can pretty much shift agendas as they see fit, and if that breaks a number of developer eggs, oh well. More will come.

I'm not sure which one is more true. My money is on #2, really, but there's possibly some measure of #1 as well. Either way, though, the upshot is that it's more or less an abusive platform, and the announcement that they're forbidding AdSense doesn't surprise me in the least -- it's totally consistent with both theories.

If you've got an idea that needs to feed from the fabric of the social web in order to succeed, then it's still the place to go. But if you've got another idea that doesn't, it might be better to go with that than to work with these guys.

more than 3 years ago

Will Google Oppose DRM On HTML5 Video?

weston DRM is a lock on a door (399 comments)

Door locks don't keep burglars or determined attackers out, either. So, what purpose do they serve?

They make it hard to *casually* invade a room or building. They make it so there's at least a small hassle involved.

I think it's more or less true that carrots probably work better than sticks -- it's probably better to combat piracy with affordable prices, convenient availability, and a feelgood sense of legitimacy. But I can kindof understand why some content purveyors would also want to do something to stop casual piracy. And as long as DRM is optional -- as long as every codec that allows DRM also allows un-DRM'd content -- I don't see a problem with letting people see how offering restricted content works out for them.

more than 3 years ago

Hummingbird-Size Wing-Flapping Drone Unveiled

weston +1 Funny & Insightful (108 comments)

Wish I had the mod points for it.

more than 3 years ago

Microsoft Makes Chrome Play H.264 Video

weston Because it's the belief system that made the web (535 comments)

Ogg Theora is technically highly inferior to H.264. All it has going for it is religion and ideology... Why should Microsoft support your particular belief system over the beliefs of anyone else?

Because it's not just an arbitrary or personal belief system. It's one of the important qualities that made the Web a wildly successful medium. When you've got protocols and formats that anyone can freely implement -- when authoring and rendering tools are unencumbered by rentiers who would extract tools -- then anybody who wants to has nearly no barriers to creating value-adding services around the "edges" of this agreement.

Imagine for a minute how well things would have gone for the WWW if tolls were required for anybody who implemented a browser, a server, an authoring tool. It might have been somewhat successful anyway, but it likely would have been a lot more like AOL or eWorld instead of what it is today.

more than 3 years ago

The Matrix Re-Reloaded

weston Why Neo could sense/confound squidbots (640 comments)

After all, THAT would at least have explained better why Neo was able to sense the damn squidbots and blow them up.

Seems pretty clear to me why Neo could sense & blow up the squidbots: they're part of the machine network, connected to some master system ("the source") that activated when he visited the architect.

about 4 years ago

America Losing Its Edge In Innovation

weston Has Problems != Broken (757 comments)

The entire public education structure is broken

Not really. And I say this as a former would-be teacher who bailed because of weaknesses in the system, and of course, as a grown-up student who can now see many flaws in my the education I received.

On the other hand, of course, I actually got a pretty great public education, at the end of which I knew basic Calculus, electronic circuits, Pascal & C, how to use UNIX, basic writing and argument skills, an appreciation for poetry and literature, a little bit about the Spanish language, and college credit for a lot of this (never had to take freshman comp, general biology, american history, and I also had two semesters of Computer Science down). I can come up with examples of holes in my education too, but honestly, with a bit of better counseling from somebody or a better internal compass, I could have *easily* gotten a lot more out of the whole thing -- there was simply a lot stuff on the table that I just left there. All from a state (Utah) that tends to lag in per pupil spending.

The school I did my student teaching had at least that much to offer. Problems, yes, not necessarily the apogee, but pretty good.

Yes, of course there are districts and schools and individuals out there in deeper trouble than I'm describing... enough that reform is a worthy problem. But this idea that it's all broken top to bottom seems fishy to me, and I think it's driven more by a subtle antipathy than actual analysis.

A HS teacher should have at least an MS in the field they teach and not in education.

Credentialism isn't going to save us from any of our current problems. In fact, we probably need less of it: slightly lower barriers to getting into the profession, better evaluation of those already involved.

But even if we were talking about more subtle solutions, a subject-and-practice focused undegrad (augmented with some light pedagogical theory) is going to be as helpful as tacking on an extra two years of study, particularly for the better candidates.

On the teaching side HS should be more like college and less like grade school

Oh, certainly. Probably most importantly in having more time for teachers to refine and practice their subject matter and less time on per-se prep and teaching. Of course, that's going to cost us, particularly if we're also increasing the professionalization of teachers (and compensating accordingly).

about 4 years ago

Ars Thinks Google Takes a Step Backwards For Openness

weston Not open if you can't freely re-implement (663 comments)

it IS AN OPEN STANDARD. It's just not free as in beer.

It's not free as in libre either if you can't freely re-implement.

  Imagine a world where HTML itself was controlled by a patent association that charged fees to anyone who implemented authoring or rendering software.

You're essentially arguing for that.

about 4 years ago

Ars Thinks Google Takes a Step Backwards For Openness

weston Maybe a Standard, but not a web standard (663 comments)

Wrong. H.264 was created to create a STANDARD.

Great. If they want a standard, they're welcome to it. And if the members of the patent pool want the pool to protect their intellectual property and mine the value, then that's their privilege.

If they want a *web* standard, though, that's different.

You do not have a open web -- in the free/libre sense -- when its clients can't be freely implemented and re-implemented. Imagine a world where HTML itself was controlled by a patent association that charged fees to anyone who implemented authoring or rendering software and you start to get the idea. Yet some people are apparently OK with playing exactly that game with a key piece of the HTML5 spec.

WebM is a step away from that.

I wish people would just stop drinking the Google Cool-Aid and think about WHY they are making this move. It's not about the money. it's not about openess. It's about trying to make the standard that they bought the standard for video on the web. Next thing, they will limit the licensing to their competitors so that they can't do everything they are doing with video on the web.

Google has granted a perpetual, royalty-free patent license to VP8/WebM.

Who's drinking kool-aid again?

about 4 years ago

Scientist Says NASA Must Study Space Sex

weston Cosmopolitan vs Journal of Cosmology (389 comments)

The Journal of Cosmology has published a special issue...which touches all the bases. In a chapter titled Sex on Mars...

Are we sure we got the right "Cosmo" here?

about 4 years ago

Jerry Brown Confiscates 48,000 Cell Phones

weston Re:YRO? (738 comments)

Your "taxophobic minority" is another person's "reasonable concern."

You may not be aware of this, but there are substantial members of the caucus that likes to present themselves as "reasonably concerned" about taxes that are actually signing pledges from people like Grover Norquist and similar ilk stating that they will flat-out oppose any new tax or tax increase. No consideration of policy, no assessment of fiscal impact. No tweaking the code by increases here, decreases there. Pure monotonic ratchet down.

Sound "reasonably concerned"? Or does "taxophobic" maybe start to sound more accurate?

designed to divide and conquer. For example, "shall we raise taxes on beer?" The majority of people, not being beer drinkers, thinks this is just swell. "Shall we increase the cigarette tax?" Different majority, same result.

Alcohol and tobacco as examples of singling out powerless minorities? Dude, you can't be serious. Taxes on those things pre-date income tax by decades, probably are among the earliest taxes in the USA, and the rationale behind them has far more to do with "sin tax" anti-incentives and public costs associated with their trade, use, and abuse than it does with rarity of use amongst population -- particularly alcohol, since depending on who you ask, 40-50% of the population drinks beer, and 60+% drinks something (yes, I suppose that technically makes beer drinkers a slight minority, but a minority that's as big as a plurality in many presidential elections is not the kind that isn't going to have any clout when the issue comes up for review).

I'm even a full supporter of the idea that anyone who votes in favor of a tax has to be subject to that tax even if they don't participate in the actions being taxed.

Sure! And while we're at it, let's extend the operative principle here to *all* areas of the law! Proposing or voting for a new statutory punishment? Well, get ready to pay the fine and do the time yourself, buddy!

about 4 years ago

Is Net Neutrality Really Needed?

weston TFD is the least of your worries (705 comments)

The Fairness Doctrine is being leveraged to ensure that there are only two viable political parties.

If you're worried about an entrenched party duoarchy, any content-focused "Fairness Doctrine" should be the least of your concerns. Even if it were still operating (it's not, and it's pretty easy to verify both by pointing at examples of broadcast outlets that violate its principles as well as checking history), any effects it has are an order of magnitude lower than the plurality voting system.

more than 4 years ago

Obama FCC Caves On Net Neutrality

weston Depends on the regulation (853 comments)

Then when new regulations are passed that give more power to the corporations, you blame the people who told you that was going to happen if you kept pushing for more regulations.

Naw, I blame the people who talk about about "regulation" vaguely and as if it's some monolithic thing, of course. Always easier rhetorically, particularly when you're preaching to a choir of fellow conservatives who've repeated the "regulation bad" mantra for so long it's become their own personal lobotomy and they are no longer even *capable* of actually thinking about policy specifics.

So here's the question: can you describe the mechanics of how a regulation that, say, prohibited tolls or discrimination based on packet source/destination would create barriers that favor existing big companies?

more than 4 years ago

Al Franken Makes a Case For Net Neutrality

weston Either that (604 comments)

The ONLY way to stop corporate control of something by a small group of companies with lobbying power is not to regulate it. End of story.

Either that, or write regulations that are a matter of condition rather than favor.

It's really not that hard to stipulate something to the effect that carriers aren't allowed to bill by source or destination of a packet.

more than 4 years ago

WikiLeaks Defenders Threaten Amazon

weston Sure. (703 comments)

Packets are speech, after all. Is a DDOS really so different from too many people trying to use a telephone system at the same time?


more than 4 years ago

Netflix Signs Deal With Disney-ABC

weston Two Wor... er, characters: P&F (212 comments)

Phineas and Ferb.

I can't stand the rest of Disney's lineup, but that show is one of my favorite pieces of television ever. A light and pleasantly self-aware show where the protagonists build fantastic things to enjoy and play with? All the fun of Family Guy without the grossness and empty cynicism? Yes, more please.

more than 4 years ago

Ex-Sun CEO Warns Oracle of Death By Open Source

weston Rand & Marx (408 comments)

Man, none of you guys have a clue. Have you read Rand or are you just regurgitating what you read on Wikipedia?

I've read The Fountainhead, Anthem, and a number of Rand's essays, as well as Wikipedia and other biographic articles. I also, of course, know who John Galt is. I think some of her work has some depth it's not given credit for (unfortunately, as much by her apparent followers as her critics).

But I don't think her critics here have no clue. They might be ignoring how noble the protagonists in her fiction are, but they're not incorrect that her philosophy as policy would lead to as many (if not more) James Taggarts and Ellsworth Tooheys as Reardens and Roarks (not to mention the problems with Roark, however romantic a character he is -- sure, he had a contract with Keating that enabled him to blow up the building, but did Keating have a contract with the land owners/developers/ect that gave him property rights that he could transfer to Roark?). And as has been pointed out, when it's come to practical recognition of real-world individuals, Rand has endorsed some individuals and behavior that resembles psychopathy.

On the other hand, the Karl Marx philosophy is about theft. Those who need take precedent over those who produce.

So, speaking of "Have you even read _____" criticisms.... how much Marx have you read? Because while needs are part of the philosophy (and the fact that this is a target of criticism says something about the critics, I'd say), there's a hell of a lot more to Marx than that -- it is, in fact highly concerned with "a fair reward for [the] inspiration and sweat" of laborers and craftsmen. I'd recommend, for starters, this slashdot comment about the implications of a competitive market for labor-as-commodity.

more than 4 years ago

PC Era Forecasted To End In 18 Months

weston Not the end of PCs, just the PC-centric "Era." (449 comments)

This isn't about PCs disappearing. This is about the bulk of personal "computing" moving onto devices other than PCs*. And even if it's overstated in the article, it's essentially sound as a trend. For people who aren't authoring (and even some who are), PCs are more or less overkill.

None of this means PCs won't be produced or used. They'll just likely become a minority in a larger sea of devices. Or, as his Steveness says, PCs will be like trucks. That's the end of the PC-centric Era, and it's not a particularly controversial idea.

* Where PC means the desktop/workstation form factor that terms has come to signify. Yes, I know, technically it means "personal computer" and you could grandfather anything with a CPU into that; doesn't change the fact the term PC has come to mean something more specific and it's this usage the article is running with.

more than 4 years ago

Former Student Gets 30 Months For Political DDoS Attacks

weston *He* Went To Prison for *This* (486 comments)

The author went to prison, but you asked him (as he's been asked in interviews) he'd tell you he's not the only person who's ever, ahem, skirted the law.

more than 4 years ago

Which Language To Learn?

weston Re:Don't pick just one (897 comments)

I know people who take the same approach to natural language. After all, Spanish and Italian are very very similar, aren't they? The reality with natural languages is that "all languages are the same" thinking enables you to abuse several cultures without actually understanding any of them.

Having seen a fluent southern brazilian portuguese speaker effectively navigate the baja peninsula, I know you're overstating your case. Sure, if you only know one romance language, you'll have vast gaps in your knowledge of another. If you're fluent in one, though, and particularly if you understand its mechanics well on a descriptive/meta level, you can pick up another one much more quickly than if you're learning one for the first time. And in some cases, fluent speakers of one can understand and be understood by speakers of another.

Even if this weren't the case, your objection would have a big problem: programming languages are orders of magnitude more compact and less complex than natural languages. There is, quite simply, a lot less to learn.

And I think that to a large extent the same thing goes for programming languages. For example, if one of your "paradigms" is "object-oriented", does learning Smalltalk really prepare you for making best use of OO in Java or C++? Or vice versa? The inventor of Smalltalk and OO certainly doesn't think so.

SmallTalk would absolutely prepare you to work in Java or C++ in some ways. Maybe not as well as it'd prepare you to work in Ruby or Objective C. Perhaps not as well as C# might prepare you. Definitely better than Pascal would. Paradigms might be a bit more fine grained than "object-oriented", but that doesn't mean that working in one language and (more importantly) understanding the descripting mechanics of it won't dramatically help you with another.

I spent some time a while back trying to explain Scala to a Java programmer. His response was "It's just like Java." Well, Scala *is* just like Java, as long as you ignore the huge and central features that are not like Java. When I started to show him those features, generally in a "replace a page of code with one line" sense, his response was "I don't like it", and that was the end of the conversation. That, in practice, is what "learn 7 languages in 7 weeks" looks like.

No, it's what dislike of the unfamiliar and intellectual incuriosity looks like. The GP posited someone who knew a few paradigms, not someone who didn't like learning new things.

If you want to understand what "learn 7 languages in 7 weeks" looks like, consider part of Daniel Friedman's The Role of the Study of Programming Languagesin the Education of a Programmer ([original postscript] [Google HTML]):

"When I was just starting out in computer science in the Spring of 1964,one of my goals as an undergraduate was to learn at least one new language per semester. ... this was not easy, particularly because languages were not as well designed then. When I went tograduate school, I chose to ratchet up my personal expectations a bit. Now, instead of understanding a language per semester, I wanted to be able to implement a language per semester. Later, I wanted to be able to implement a language per week."

more than 4 years ago


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