Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in Feb, 2011

Filters: Year: 2011 × Month: Feb ×


Which Bay Area startups are going to SXSW 2011?

http://lanyrd.com/ will be there—both myself and Nat.

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Where can I find a text corpus of English language personal email on the web?

The Enron email corpus is pretty useful, though I don’t know how “normal” you would consider it.

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Is Lanyrd meant to be tech-industry specific, or is that just a byproduct of the early adopter demographic?

We want to cover all sorts of conferences (and user groups, and meetups, and conventions... any event where people get together to share their knowledge). We have a good start on technology because that’s where our early adopters are, but we’re starting to pick up in a few other categories as well. Here are some of my favourite examples:

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One interesting quirk of Pinboard is a complete absence of unit tests. I used to be a die-hard believer in testing, but in Pinboard tried a different approach, as an experiment. Instead of writng tests I try to be extremely careful in coding, and keep the code size small so I continue to understand it. I’ve found my defect rate to be pretty comparable to earlier projects that included extensive test suites and fixtures, but I am much more productive on Pinboard.

Maciej Ceglowski # 11th February 2011, 2:57 am

CSRF: Flash + 307 redirect = Game Over. Here’s the exploit that Django and Rails both just released fixes for. It’s actually a flaw in the Flash player. Flash isn’t meant to be able to make cross-domain HTTP requests with custom HTTP headers unless the crossdomain.xml file on the other domain allows them to, but it turns out a 307 redirect (like a 302, but allows POST data to be forwarded) confuses the Flash player in to not checking the crossdomain.xml on the host it is being redirect to. # 10th February 2011, 10:07 pm

URLs are supposed to represent resources. A web app can be a resource, and there are techniques for managing state within those. Hashbangs might be one of these. But when large web properties are converting all their links to _articles_ and other _bits of text_ (tweets/twits/whatever) into these monstrosities, it’s not innovation. It’s a huge mistake that ought to be regretted now and will certainly be regretted in the future.

Reed Underwood # 10th February 2011, 4:56 pm

Before events took this bad turn, the contract represented by a link was simple: “Here’s a string, send it off to a server and the server will figure out what it identifies and send you back a representation.” Now it’s along the lines of: “Here’s a string, save the hashbang, send the rest to the server, and rely on being able to run the code the server sends you to use the hashbang to generate the representation.” Do I need to explain why this is less robust and flexible? This is what we call “tight coupling” and I thought that anyone with a Computer Science degree ought to have been taught to avoid it.

Tim Bray # 10th February 2011, 6 am

What is the “best” programming language to learn if you want to mockup your own ideas but don’t have a technical background?

I knew a very talented UX designer at Yahoo! who did all of his interactive mockups in PowerPoint—including widgets that you click to transition to another “page” in the interface. I’ve heard of people doing the same thing in Keynote, and OmniGraffle Pro also has tools for creating interactive mockups.

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Going Postel. Jeremy points out that one of the many disadvantages of publishing JavaScript dependent content on the Web is that a single typo can render your entire site unusable. # 9th February 2011, 2:18 am

Breaking the Web with hash-bangs. Mike Davies explains why Gawker’s new Ajax fragment-tastic redesign is a web architecture error of colossal proportions. # 9th February 2011, 2:17 am

elasticsearch: Percolator. Another fascinating elasticsearch feature: Percolator lets you register searches with your elasticsearch cluster, then pass in a document and have the matching query IDs returned. It’s an upside down search engine. I’m sure there are some very neat things you could build with this, I just haven’t figured out what they are just yet. # 8th February 2011, 11:16 pm

Is a relational database with many-to-many relationships difficult to develop into a web app?

Many to Many tables can be a bit of a pain to deal with using regular SQL, but a good ORM can abstract away any potential complexity almost entirely. I find using the Django ORM means I’m much less likely to shy away from a design that involves a many-to-many relationship because I know it won’t increase the complexity of the application. I imagine the Rails ORM has the same effect.

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Is South the best tool to use when doing database migrations in Django?

Yes. And I say that as an author of another Django migrations tool (dmigrations) which offered a small subset of South’s current functionality.

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What are some good user interface/user experience workshops/conferences coming up this March(p.s. distance isn’t a factor, I’m willingly to travel)?

We have a list on http://lanyrd.com/topics/user-ex...—the best option in March looks to be Adaptive Path’s MX conference: http://lanyrd.com/2011/mx/ / http://mxconference.com/

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UK Web Archive: WW2 People’s War. Good news: the British Library has already archived the BBC’s WW2 People’s War site (on 22nd May 2006). # 8th February 2011, 12:58 am

Erase and rewind. The BBC plan to delete 172 sites from the bbc.co.uk domain, including WW2 People’s War, described thus: “The BBC asked the public to contribute their memories of World War Two to a website between June 2003 and January 2006. This archive of 47,000 stories and 15,000 images is the result.” Appalling. # 7th February 2011, 4:24 pm

What is it like going through the Y Combinator program?

This essay is pretty comprehensive—it’s what convinced us to apply to YC, and our experience so far has been true to what it describes: http://ycombinator.com/atyc.html

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Where can I find a good list of conferences that take will place Boston in early April 2011?

http://lanyrd.com/places/boston/ lists a few events coming up in early April.

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What are the top five food blogger conferences to attend?

I can’t give you a top five, but you might find this list of 10 upcoming food blogger conferences useful: http://lanyrd.com/topics/food-bl...

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Why do websites contain multiple webpages when they could use AJAX?

Because it shouldn’t require a full-blown JavaScript interpreter just to access content on the Web.

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