Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in 2010

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Spacelog: space exploration stories from the original transcripts. The product of the most recent /dev/fort outing—a beautiful, web-native interface for browsing the NASA transcripts from the Apollo 13 and Mercury 6 missions (more to come). Every key moment has a URL. # 10th December 2010, 10:07 am

Tracking Every Release. How Etsy use Graphite to monitor their continuous deployment releases. # 10th December 2010, 10:04 am

Indexing JSON in Solr 3.1. The next release of Solr will support indexing documents provided as JSON—Solr currently requires incoming documents to be formatted as XML. # 10th December 2010, 9:46 am

What are the underlying, unspoken values of TED?

Not unspoken, but the ten commandments they send out to their speakers are pretty interesting: http://www.ted.com/pages/360

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Why do browsers allow cross-domain JavaScript to execute but not XMLHttpRequests?

It’s called the Same Origin Policy, and it’s principally about intranets. Imagine you have a URL http://intranet.corp/top-secret-...—and you then visit http://evil.example.com/ . If cross domain XHR was allowed the evil site could suck that secret document off your intranet without you realising.

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What are some scalable OAuth and OpenID server implementations?

Any OAuth library should scale horizontally—I can’t see how any one library would be a better choice than another.

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How do you correctly send the oauth_verifier parameter using python-oauth2 and the Twitter API?

This seems relevant: http://groups.google.com/group/t...

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What are some ways I can get the word out about my startup/entrepreneur focused conference?

Add it to lanyrd.com and make sure you list all of the speakers. Then anyone who signs in to Lanyrd and is following at least one of your speakers on Twitter will be told about your event.

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Are there any well-known websites that use Facebook connect or Twitter OAuth as the only sign-in solution without its own sign-in password?

Our site http://lanyrd.com/ only accepts Twitter OAuth logins (at least for the moment).

[... 42 words]

What are the most recommended upcoming  mobile tech conferences in North America?

Our site, Lanyrd.com, is relatively new but already has a pretty good list of mobile conferences in the USA. Try this page: http://lanyrd.com/topics/mobile/...

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Google and Microsoft Cheat on Slow-Start. Should You? Fascinating optimisation tricks by some of the big websites, which violate the RFC governing the TCP slow-start algorithm in order to perform better in the common case. # 3rd December 2010, 7:03 pm

Google Maps and Label Readability. Obsessively detailed analysis of exactly what makes Google Maps so readable when compared to Yahoo! and Bing. # 3rd December 2010, 5:08 pm

I think the Web community has spoken, and it’s clear that what it wants is HTML5, JavaScript and JSON. XML isn’t going away but I see it being less and less a Web technology; it won’t be something that you send over the wire on the public Web, but just one of many technologies that are used on the server to manage and generate what you do send over the wire.

James Clark # 2nd December 2010, 6:48 pm

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using MongoDB vs CouchDB vs Cassandra vs Redis?

I see Redis as a different category from the other three—kind of like you wouldn’t say “what are the advantages of MySQL v.s. Memcached”. Redis makes an excellent complement to pretty much any other persistent storage mechanism. I expanded on this here: http://simonwillison.net/2009/Oc...

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What are the tradeoffs (e.g. development speed, performance, scalability) between using various php frameworks, ruby/rails, or python/django?  Is there any reason to choose one overwhelmingly over another?

At this point, I’d argue that the decision between them comes down to programming language rather than framework—the frameworks have mostly converged on a very similar set of features.

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What are some things that most hackers used to do themselves but now use other people’s software to do?

Renting co-located servers. These days, most people just use virtual machines for their own personal projects.

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What is the best software for conference participants?

Our site http://lanyrd.com/ helps you find the Twitter names of speakers and fellow conference attendees, which should make it easier to connect with them.

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Why is Diaspora built on Ruby on Rails instead of Node.js?

Because Node.js had almost no visibility at all six months ago when Diaspora started. Also, Node.js has only very recently stopped breaking API backwards compatibility on a regular basis. Plus the Ruby library ecosystem is much, much larger than the Node.js ecosystem.

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How do you successfully outsource a web application project that is a copy of another website?

You may find that the quality of developers you can hire depends on the quality of the project. Copying another website doesn’t sound like a very interesting project.

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Find conferences to speak at with Lanyrd. We just launched calls for participation on Lanyrd. You can list calls for any conference, browse them by topic, and subscribe to an Atom feed of calls for your area of interest. # 24th November 2010, 2:38 am

Who are the top Python programmers on Twitter?

Our site Lanyrd catalogs conference speakers by their Twitter ID, so you could use it to find people who speak at Python conferences—for example:

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Is it possible to link to a Twitter user’s page with their user_id instead of their screen name?

You could always build your own URL to do this as part of your own application—something like http://your-twitter-app.example.... which does a Twitter API lookup for that user and then redirects to http://twitter.com/their-twitter.... You can cache the ID-to-screen-name lookups that you’ve made in the past (not forever though, remember people occasionally change their screen names).

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Does Twitter use a 3rd party software for rate limiting their APIs? If yes, who’s the 3rd party?

I wrote up a technique for doing simple rate limiting using memcached a while ago, which I later found out was somewhat similar to how the Twitter API does it.

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What UX/UI conferences in the SF Bay area are worth attending?

BayCHI is excellent from what I’ve heard: http://www.baychi.org/

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What is the best site for event information (Eventful, Happenr, Upcoming)?

It depends entirely on what kind of events you are looking for. PlanCast, Upcoming and Eventful are all good general purpose event listing sites. Songkick is doing a phenomenal job covering concerts and gigs. Our startup, Lanyrd.com, is focusing exclusively on conferences and other professional events.

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What are the differences between GDC and SXSW? Which one is better for a web entrepreneur?

I haven’t been to GDC, but it’s a game development conference. SxSW interactive is almost entirely web stuff, so it would be a better fit for a web entrepreneur.

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How do you work with front-end developers?

Build them a virtual machine image using VMware or similar that includes ALL of the server stack that they need, pre-installed—then give them detailed written instructions on how to run it and pull the latest versions of the codebase.

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Why does Java encourage over-engineering?

I suggest reading “Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns” http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/...

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Why is Java perceived as not cool for startups? We seem to be getting a lot of feedback lately that a startup should be using Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, etc., if they want to be agile and iterate quickly.

You should re-evaluate your beliefs. Dynamic language programmers spend a great deal of time thinking about code quality and maintainability. TDD (and BDD), which I believe was first popularised within the Ruby community) are extremely widespread, and profiling and debugging tools are widely used and constantly improved. A strong test suite provides far more effective protection against bugs than static typing and an IDE.

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Is Django a good option for crowdsourcing site?

Yes. I’ve built multiple crowdsourcing sites using Django, including http://mps-expenses2.guardian.co... , http://www.wildlifenearyou.com/ and http://lanyrd.com/

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