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User Journal

Journal Journal: Back to Apple... 8

I'm on my way back to Infinite Loop, and I'm starting on Tim Cook's first day as CEO. Wish us luck.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: Just testing out some journal submission changes 8

I don't actually have anything to say. Kathleen is due any day, and I'm looking forward to a few weeks of staying home, getting poor sleep, and changing diapers.
But mostly I'm testing to see if journal saving works properly.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Updates to Journal System 13

We've made some significant updates to the submission/journal system. Visiting Submissions and Journals yields a new form that allows stuff like tags to the data types. There are a number of annoying bugs, but for the most part the dust is starting to settle. More notes will be coming, but this journal entry is really just me putting the final test on the new Journal form.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Journal

Journal Testing.

OS X

Journal Journal: Is your company new to the Mac or the iPhone? 1

1) Mac users are highly sensitive to the quality of your products' user experience. What this means is, go native or don't bother. Even though Google Earth and Photoshop are rife with UI atrocities, don't imagine that you can get away with ignoring the rules like they can. They're 500-pound Gorillas, and you're not. If you are Google or Adobe, get with the program and write a Cocoa UI, already. It's about time.

2) The native language for the Mac and the iPhone is Objective-C. Get used to it; it's not hard to learn. Any developer familiar with C should be able to learn Objective-C in a day, and be an Objective-C language lawyer within a week if he cares to. Yes, there are Ruby, Python, and other bridges you can use, and they work just fine, but limit this to integrating existing libraries with your apps. DO NOT try to use the bridges as a way to avoid learning the environment you're working with.

3) A cross-platform GUI is neither feasible nor desirable. You can't #ifdef the difference between Cocoa, xlib, and Win32. Don't believe me? Look at OpenOffice. (If OpenOffice looks OK to you, then please, forget about offering your products on the Mac. You'll only cause us pain.)

4) Don't bother with third-party cross-platform GUI libraries like Qt. Yeah, you can make it sort of work, but you'll get a lot of complaints from your Mac customers, and it will be more expensive than properly factoring your code and writing a native GUI for each platform. For every Mac customer who complains about a bad UI, there are many more who took one look at it and decided never to do business with the vendor in question. I just learned from a friend that Qt is far worse than I'd realized: if you use Qt, you wont' get any hardware acceleration , and you won't be able to deliver ADA compliance.

5) If you're shopping for people with years of experience in Cocoa and Objective-C, you should know that they're pretty scarce due to the flood of iPhone projects going on these days. I'm hearing about people getting $200 to 250/hr for iPhone projects. Keep in mind that you're also competing with Apple for those developers, and chances are your project isn't as interesting as Apple's. If you're a start-up and you can offer equity, then it's not too hard to find people who are willing to gamble with you if they believe in your business plan. Mac and iPhone developer tend to be somewhat less risk-averse than the average engineer, in my experience.

6) If you can't afford experienced Mac developers, you'll have to make your own. Save yourself a lot of time and money by sending your people to a class. I recommend Big Nerd Ranch, that's where Apple sent their own people when they quit doing Cocoa training in-house. Keep in mind though, that once your newly-minted Cocoa developers have a year or so of experience under their belts, you'd better be prepared to offer them market rates, or you'll lose them. Back in the NeXTSTEP days, Fannie Mae insisted on low salaries, and they lost people steadily to other NeXTSTEP shops. Attrition is expensive; it will cost you more than you think when your institutional knowledge of your product scatters to the winds.

7) Send your people to the Apple developer conference every year. I can't emphasize this enough. Time is money, and the connections you can make there with the Apple engineers you need to know can save you weeks or months of trial and error.

That should do for starters.

Addition 8/24/09:

8) When interviewing an Objective-C expert, DO NOT try the "Microsoft style interview". (See #5 above.) We are not entry-level, fresh-out-of-DeVry kids who have the time for solving the little brain teasers that someone looked up on the web last night. Talk about the actual work at hand, how the candidate's previous experience is relevant to what you need to do, and ask for some examples of creative solutions they've come up with before.

9) Probably the best place to advertise for iPhone or Mac developers is the cocoa-dev mailing list at lists.apple.com. You have to be a subscriber to the list, and you have to send your ad to the moderator for approval first. In any ad on Cocoa-dev, be very specific about what kind of developer you're looking for, and what the job entails. This is not the place to just list buzzwords or try to lowball anyone.

10) When advertising for candidates, don't hide behind a webform or an e-mail address. Put a phone number in your ad that reaches a human being. People with skills that are in high demand aren't going to mail their resume to recruiter@companyNobodyEverHeardOf, because that kind of thing gets you spammed.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: A Rant

This goes out to every left- or right-wing power seeker, who believes that everything will be just dandy if only they get the right bunch of little tyrants in office.

Ok, time for a bucket of cold water in the face, kids.

First, income is not "distributed", it's earned, and it belongs to those who earn it.
Second, you have no moral right to take someone else's earnings, even if they have more than you do. It doesn't become moral if you hire a thug to do it for you, and it doesn't become moral if you have a group of hundreds of thousands of thugs and bureaucrats to do the dirty work.

The legitimate power of the state can ONLY derive from a delegation of the rights of the people. Free people institute governments to secure our rights, not to interfere with them.

We have a written constitution in this country, and despite its having been routinely ignored whenever government found it inconvenient, it is nevertheless the entirety of the legal basis for the government's existence. If the government doesn't want to follow the constitution, then the government has no legitimate authority, at all.

Maybe you can make a compelling utilitarian argument for some of the currently unconstitutional activities that the federal government engages in, and if so, then propose an amendment, let's have that national debate, and maybe you can get your amendment ratified. Until and unless that happens, the federal government has no legitimate basis to harass sick people for using marijuana, to take our hard-earned wealth and give it to failed banks, to "redistribute" our earnings, to interfere with the choices we make for our health care, to prevent us from traveling to any country we care to visit, or to draft us into "national service."

We are not the property of the state. Get that through your power-hungry little minds.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: Minor and Major updates 8

Pudge made a cool change in discussions- if you link to a comment deep inside a thread and click 'More' the sytem is much more intelligent about crawling down and retrieving children, and then parents and grandparents and so forth up the ancestry. So odds are you'll get more related comments sooner.

We now abbreviate journals in the firehose... so they are more like slashdot stories with a Read More link to the full text.

The big user facing change this week was structural: historically we had 2 different "skeletons" on Slashdot, but with this refresh we unified to a single one. This change simplifies maintenance for us quite a bit (maintaining the idle section and the firehose views of the same data was a royal pain).

You also will see some changes to the firehose.pl layout. We're playing with the tab layout a bit, moving some menus around and better integrating the core functions into the site chrome. It's a bit buggy atm, so feel free to email me if you see something wonky. We're extinguishing a few minor brush fires but there's no forest fires that we're aware of.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Wind

Zach knows the wind now. I saw him look at the window and see the leaves rustle. He then started making blowing noises. We blow the mobile over his crib whenever we change his diaper, so he knows the blowing noises move objects. But he's translated that to leaves hundreds of feet away through a window. Now I'm not saying he's a genius, but he's pretty awesome.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Beta Metamod Updates 28

This won't significantly affect most of you, but we have been working on some meta mod changes. The most user visible change is that the UI we used to use was thrown out, and instead we are using one based on the firehose. Subscribers will see it when they go to the old metamod link although users can see it by going to this version of those hose

The first real change is that we've changed the meanings of the UI around. The old system is 'Fair' and 'Unfair' and the new system is '+' and '-'. The meanings are subtly different. You are no longer rating individual 'Insightful' or 'Troll' or whatever... you are now stating basically "Is this comment good or bad for you". Personally, since I find very few Score:5 funny comments to be actually really funny (and not just cliche memes) I '-' most of them. You are encouraged to be harsh if you don't actually think something is insightful or funny, call it such. The system encourages more of what you + and less of what you -.

You are also welcome now to do more than 10 m2 per day... however we internally have diminishing returns after 10, so you can do more, but they start to matter less and less.

There will undoubtedly be bugs so feel free to email me or vroom at slashdot if you find them. Probably next week or so we'll move this out to everyone, so your assistance is appreciated.

The Internet

Journal Journal: D2 Remembers What You've Read 5

Well, for subscribers only this week at least. We have a half dozen minor bugs left in the TODO list, but if you are a paying subscriber you can test it out. It works best if you are using the keybindings to navigate. Pressing 'f' takes you to the next unread comment respecting thread order... so you can press that over and over again.

We also added a thing to 'collapse comments after reading' which I think I might turn of as a default setting soon. This is only usable for subscribers atm as well. But basically, as you navigate through a discussion, it collapses the comments you've read after you move on. This makes it really easy to navigate large discussions without having to scroll over 150 comments you've already read.

we're aware of a number of annoying bugs, but hopefully most of them will be squashed by Pudge for this weeks code refresh. If things are stable, we hope to roll this out for everyone rsn.

also my baby cut his first tooth yesterday. My furniture will never be ungnawed upon again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Parsing our National Anthem.

I happened to hear a recording of a fine performance of our national anthem a short while ago, and the question posed at the end of the song suddenly caught my attention.

"O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, over the land of the free, and the home of the brave?"

That's really the most profound thing that Francis Scott Key ever wrote. The question isn't whether the symbol of freedom still exists, we can see that it does. The question is: are we still free? Are we still brave enough to demand and defend our liberty?

A year ago, I would probably have said no. Today though, with Ron Paul's book at #1 on the New York Times' bestseller list, I'm rather more hopeful than I have been in a very long time.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: Flat Mode Discussions 13

So as we've been migrating the system from the tired old D1 to the exciting and awesome new D2 a number of complaints have come up. I'm going to talk about a couple of them here because I'm really looking for feedback on THESE issues. Please only talk about these points or I will mod you offtopic or troll or something.

The issue is about the use of Flat/Threaded/Nested modes. D2 cleanly replaces both threaded and nested modes- you effectively get nested mode by bringing the 2 sliders together. And threaded mode is vastly more flexible because you can choose the level at which comments are abbreviated or displayed in full text. So users of those modes should be set (obviously there are other reasons not to use D2, I'm just talking about the layouts here tho)

What's left is flat mode, which has a number of sort options. Now flat mode is used by roughly 4% of our active population. When i think about flat mode, I think about 2 reasons you would have to use it:

  1. I hate indenting and whitespace. I want a big vertical column now this isn't my bag, but I can understand it and even consider supporting it in D2. I think you sacrifice legibility, but this is a personal preference. It also would be easy to support in D2. Hell, you could probably do it in a greasemonkey script no problem.
  2. It's easier to remember your place in flat mode This to me is the only reason to use flat mode- you can reload your page an hour later, find the last comment you read, and pick up where you left off.

Now I Would think that the only reason to use flat mode is #2... except that only a couple hundred Slashdot readers have the 'ignore threads' sort order enabled. So either they don't understand what they are doing, or #1 above is the real reason that they use flat mode.

So in a nutshell, the question I am asking in this journal is 'Why do you use flatmode?' Is it cosmetic? To more easily keep your place in a discussion? Something I'm just missing? We have plans to implement a read/unread state retention for discussions, so maybe would you migrate to a threaded view if that function exists? Or is it purely aesthetic... an irrational hatred of scrollbars and whitespace? :)

The reason this matters is that simply formatting the page flatly is easy. Probably a simple greasemonkey hack or maybe a few lines of CSS. But re-implementing the alternate sort is gonna take some work. And I'm ok with that... except that the logs say that nobody actually USES that sort... they ONLY are using flat mode for the cosmetic reasons.

Speak out! Stay on-topic or you WILL be moderated down.

User Journal

Journal Journal: D2 Updates 70

In-Place Posting is now live for all logged in users. Hopefully there are no surprises. We've found a number of very tiny bugs, but nothing show stopping. We'll leave the link up to the 'classic' reply form for a few weeks. Next week anonymous coward will get the new posting form... hopefully there are no surprises with that.

A few new keybindings aren't documented yet... v (end) t (top) [] change upper threshold and ,. change bottom threshold. Also 'r' opens the new reply box, m opens the mod total thingee.

The only major complaint so far is that the design changes consume a lot more whitespace. I have mixed feelings on the subject, but am aiming to strike a balance. We noticed 2 very clear places where the whitespace is excessive and hopefully that will be fixed RSN. But on the other hand, making deep threads visually clear, and drawing some attention to the 'reply' buttons is beneficial to everyone, so bare with us as we work to strike some sort of balance.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Discussion2 In-Place Posting Testing 16

Discussion2 rolls on... the most recent addition to the system is in-place comment posting. Essentially, little dynamic ajaxy slideout boxes to post directly within the thread, without going to a stand-alone page. This is great because you don't have to lose your place within the thread to post.

this functionality is currently only available to paid subscribers, and several hundred of them have tested it out already. We still need to make it look pretty and add a few minor things (like the CAPTCHA for anonymous posting) but it's almost done.

Also worth noting is that logged in users can click on the 'Score' field of comments to view the moderation information on the comment. This information was previously not visible within D2, unless you navigated outside the d2 system (opening a comment in a new window did it). I doubt most people really care about this info, but it's available.

We also have one (perhaps minor) thing to get in... right now if you visit a comment directly via a CID link you can navigate within that thread, but navigating 'up' the comment hierarchy results in a new page, and a new discussion... this makes context a pain to maintain. So pudge is going to change that page to display the parent posts in an abbreviated format. This will mean that you can climb back up the thread easily, even if you entered the forum via a link deep into a thread.

A few minor items left on the todo list (keybindings for threshold changes... maybe press 'r' to open the reply slideout from the current comment, and a bunch of small design issues to make the threads a little more visually clear and easily navigatable) and we're ready to call D2 finished.

We have no plans to remove D1, so those of you who hate D2 are welcome to stay on the old system, but obviously new moderation tools and whatever else we think of will be attached to D2, not D1, so you've been warned ;)

Software

Journal Journal: Discussion2 Notes 18

In the last few weeks, we've switched most users over to the new 'D2' discussion system- a fully ajaxified discussion system. There are a number of minor bugs, but I figured I'd toss up a few quick notes to address the biggest user complaints.
  1. you can turn it off if you log in. Some people get stuck in there ways, and no matter what we build it will never make you happy. So you can have the old lame system and we'll all enjoy the new cool system without you.
  2. you can get 'nested' mode back by dragging the 2 thresholds together in the floating slider. they connect and become a single thing. it's quite nifty, and if you are logged in the setting is remembered so you don't have to click to navigate deep threads.
  3. you can get more comments at once from the 'prefs' link. the default is currently 50, but choosing 'many' changes that (currently) to 250, which means you will get roughly the average number of comments in a typical slashdot story. Yes you will need to click 'more' on a huge discussion, but at that point we're talking about very large pages and slower computers like to choke on huge pages anyway so we have to balance size and performance.

there are 2 huge wins here for everyone... the first is retention of context. You can wade into a thread, retrieve more comments, change your threshold, all without losing your place like you did in the old system. And using the WASD keys to navigate makes it very easy to peruse discussions in a number of interesting ways. mouseover the help text in the floater for more information about how they work. We're open to suggestions on how this should work- i'm not totally happy with it yet... but it *is* possible to mash a single key and go from start to end of a discussion, which pleases me.

the second is that the default users see the highest score comments first. You can change this by logging in and toggling the retrievable order to oldest first, but for most people this means that the first comments they see will be the best. There are so many great comments on Slashdot, but most users don't see them because they are buried within the discussion. I think this goes a long ways towards helping.

A final word about the ads in there- unfortunately there are ads in the new system. Changing from a static page-page-page system to a dynamic ajax system with a single 'page load' causes us to serve hundreds of thousands of fewer ads. We worked out roughly how long people read discussions and are trying to strike a balance so that you see roughly the same number of ads under this system as you would have under the old one. We'll tweak it of course, but we gotta pay the bills here people!

And obviously all of this is a work in progress. Pudge is leading development work on this. The next project is to make it possible to post without losing your place in the discussion, and then to refine navigation keybindings and thread expansion/contraction controls to make the whole UI clean. We appreciate constructive criticisim. There are bugs (especially in IE, but almost no slashdot user runs IE) but we're mashing them out- thanks for your feedback on them. As we sand off the rough edges I think you'll all find the new system a vast improvement if you just play with it for a bit and give it a fair chance. Not all change is bad ;)

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