February 7, 2013

Twitter is stupid and here's six reasons why.

1) The 140 character limit. This has been twitter's big thing ever since it started in 2006. The limit was set so that tweets could be sent and received via SMS, which had a 160 character limit, with twitter reserving the extra 20 for usernames. This limit is and always was stupid.
  a) No one uses twitter via SMS anymore. There may be a handful of people who still tweet via SMS, but no one, no one receives tweets via SMS and needs all of them to be under 160 characters. Also...
  b) Up until recently, I had a Nokia 1100. It came out in 2003, three years before twitter. Do you know what happened when it got a text message longer than 140 characters? It would receive them as two messages and then seamlessly stitch them into one without breaking a sweat.
  c) Log on to facebook. Go ahead, I'll wait. How many posts on your newsfeed are longer than 140 characters? One, maybe two? Would they have made it under the wire if they had spelled a couple things wrong like changing you're to ur and please to plz? Is it that hard for you to get through the full 200 or so characters? Most other social media outlets that don't limit by characters end up with pretty short messages most of the time too. The arbitrary character limit that supposedly makes twitter unique barely matters and necessitates terrible grammar and url shorteners.

2) One time, I decided to follow @uberfacts. I thought they would be an interesting addition to my twitter feed. I was wrong. They became my entire twitter feed because they post multiple times an hour. I don't check twitter more than once a day, if that, and the fact that they drowned out everyone else I was following made me had to unfollow them. Twitter has had half a decade to solve this problem and they haven't.

3) Trying to follow a conversation on twitter becomes a whole thing. On facebook, it's really clear. People's names are separated out from the content of the message, everything is threaded in a way that's easy to digest, instead of this mess that mixes and matches names with usernames and somehow takes my entire computer screen to show me four replies.

4) You have to click on a tweet to find out if it got any replies, retweets, or anything, which makes this thing appear: . This is a stupid button whose sole function is to collapse the expanded stuff that you just wanted to show, even though the link to collapse it is right where you just clicked. Also, this stupid button continues to be there, even if the thing you expanded isn't on the screen anymore.

5) God damn it twitter, when I click on someone's username, I want to go to their profile, not get a stupid little window with their name and three of their tweets.

6) I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Will, everyone knows that the web interface to twitter sucks, you need to download an app." My response to which is "FUCK YOU." You want me to pay $20 so I can view images and small blocks of text? That is literally what web browsers were invented to do. Apps are cool when they need to, say, use hardware, or run in the background, or whatever else apps do better than the web. But twitter is just a stream of text. Get it together twitter. Now that you've finally figured out how to keep your servers from crashing once a day, maybe now you can get around to building a web site that doesn't suck.

Posted by Will at 4:54 PM | Comments ()

November 25, 2012

Get your shit together, New York Times.

For previous New York Times sonning, see here, here, here, and here.

Take a look at the header image for Nintendo Confronts a Changed Video Game World.

A few things:

1) Nintendo does not own Sonic the Hedgehog.
2) While he has appeared in Nintendo console games in recent years, he is only on one game for the Wii U. He appears in at least seven games for iPhone, so really, he should be on the other side.
3) Angry Birds and Plants Vs Zombies have entries on Nintendo platforms, although I appreciate the fact that they're better known for their iOS versions.
4) There's an Ice Climber in the corner of that picture and I like that so I'm not mad anymore.

Posted by Will at 9:01 AM | Comments ()

April 12, 2012

I received this message though my contact form and I am now going to make fun of it.

Hi Will,

The reason for this email / note is that I am leading a search for a specific dev and think you might be a good fit.

I obviously do not have a good understanding of your skill set or what is you would want to do... but having said that, this is the reason for this note.
I am hoping you can spare a few mins to chat about what it is you do and more importantly what it is you want to do.
I always take a sincere approach and would hope to figure out what it is you want and see if what Im working on makes sense.
Please contact me on my cell at anytime... [redacted]

Syd

So basically, you know nothing about me, but you think I "might be a good fit." And you would like to talk to me to "see if what Im working on makes sense." I'll help you out with that, Syd. Whatever you're doing, it probably makes no sense.

Posted by Will at 4:16 PM | Comments ()

March 18, 2012

You messed with the wrong Ice Climber player, Jeff.

More to come.

Posted by Will at 8:41 PM | Comments ()

March 16, 2012

New York Times, prepare to get sonned by me yet again.

You may recall that I have sonned the Grey Lady on three other occasions. So here comes number four.

Check out this article on the new Smithsonian video game exhibit. Actually, don't, I'm just going to show you the important part. It's this image and its caption:

That is not a still from "The Legend of Zelda." This is a still from "The Legend of Zelda."

The still they're using is from "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," which, admitted, is part of the Legend of Zelda series, but they specifically refer to it as a game, not a series.

So nice work Times, you were only about twenty years off with that one. I hope you enjoyed your sonning.

Posted by Will at 2:55 PM | Comments ()

March 1, 2012

I just talked to Kristin Scales... OR DID I!!?!!??!?!?!?!?

I just had a chat with a support representative from my credit card company. Halfway through I became curious whether the person I was talking to was actually a computer. Below is a transcript of the chat, slightly redacted to protect my credit card information which gets stolen like once a year, so I don't even know why I bothered.

Kristin Scales: Welcome to Credit Card Chat Service. My name is Kristin. I'm here to assist you with your personal Credit Card Accounts. May I know your complete name as it appears on Credit card?
You: Sure, it's William Carlough.
Kristin Scales: Hello, Will.
Kristin Scales: I'm sorry, William*
Kristin Scales: May I please know the last four digits of your Credit card number?
You: No, no problem, my name's Will.
Kristin Scales: Great.
You: Yes, xxxx.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for providing the account number.
Kristin Scales: How may I assist you with your Personal Credit card today?
You: I think I've gotten to be a month behind in my payments, but the balance summary is confusing.
You: So like I've been paying the month before's bill for a couple months.
You: My question is, do I have an outstanding balance that I should pay now, or am I good and should wait til 3/15, my next billing date.
Kristin Scales: I understand that you would like to know the status of the balance and the payment on the account.
Kristin Scales: I'll certainly check that for you, Will.
You: Yes, lovely, thank you.
Kristin Scales: You're welcome.
Kristin Scales: Your account security is of prime importance to us. May I ask you a few verification questions before I proceed?
You: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for your understanding in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Could you please provide your Date of Birth and the last four digits of your SSN?
You: Sure. xx/xx/xx and xxxx.
Kristin Scales: Perfect, thank you for the information.
Kristin Scales: Please give me few minutes to check your account details.
You: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Thank you, Will.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for your patience, I appreciate it.
You: No problem.
Kristin Scales: Will, I see that the next billing date is :03/19.
Kristin Scales: I also see that you have a outstanding balance of xxxx at the moment on the account.
You: So that's stuff I should have paid before, you're saying.
Kristin Scales: I mean, you have an outstanding balance to pay on the account.
You: Gotcha.
Kristin Scales: Absolutely, you got me correct, Will.
You: I have one more question, if you'll humor me.
Kristin Scales: I really appreciate your quick thinking in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Sure, I'll be more than happy to assist you if you have any other questions?
Kristin Scales: That's alright.
You: I'm wondering whether you're a computer or not, so could you name a character in a Star Wars movie?
Kristin Scales: Will, I'm a Live Person, you can be sure of it.
Kristin Scales: I'm sorry, I would not be able to provide you any other information apart the information relating to your Banking Needs.
Kristin Scales: I would sincerely request you to understand in this regard.
You: That's okay.
Kristin Scales: Thank you, Will !
You: I'm a little disappointed you can't name a Star Wars character, but I understand.
Kristin Scales: I appreciate your understanding in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Sorry to hear that, you're disappointed today.
You: All right, you had me going that you were a person for a second, but now you just sounded like a computer again.
Kristin Scales: So, do you feel that I'm sounded like a Computer, Will?
Kristin Scales: If the answer is "YES", then I'm sorry once again.
You: Now I can't tell if you're a computer or someone just messing with me.
You: You're good.
Kristin Scales: Nice to hear that, Will, and it was really wonderful chatting with you today.
You: Touche, touche, Kristin.
You: Well, a pleasure talking with you, and thanks for your help.
Kristin Scales: You're welcome, Will.
Kristin Scales: Please contact us for any further questions, we'll be happy to assist you.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for choosing Bank of America's Credit card Services.
You: I will. And if I need to find out the name of any Star Wars characters, I'll find someone else.
Kristin Scales: You have a Wonderful weekend !!
You: Thanks, you too.
Kristin Scales: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Sure, you can always do that.

I would have kept going, but if Kristin is a real person, I would have felt bad making her look bad at her job.

So, first thing I should note, is that the company providing the software and possibly Kristin herself is called Live Person, so that explains her weird line, "Will, I'm a Live Person, you can be sure of it."

Second is, sorry I couldn't come up with a better Turing test than naming a Star Wars character, but asking Cleverbot, an award winning chatbot resulted in this:

Me: Name a Star Wars character.
Cleverbot: Ron Weasley. Duh.
Me: Who is Luke Skywalker's father?
Cleverbot: Darth Vader.
Me: Who are Darth Vader's children?
Cleverbot: They are a family in the future.
Me: Who run Bartertown?
Cleverbot: Your father.

So clearly computers don't know that much about Star Wars, when it takes place, or whether or not Master Blaster runs Bartertown.

I'm sure many of you have interacted with a customer service representative who was not allowed to go off script on the phone, so a lot of this chat makes sense as someone who is just copying and pasting out of a list of things they're allowed to say. The most convincing argument that Kristin is a person is right in the beginning, when she gets my name wrong. It's hard to believe that someone would program a computer to call someone by a common nickname and apologize for it. A friend that I showed this to offered up an interesting theory, and it's that Kristin is both a human and computer. She starts out as human, and when she realizes that this is a fairly standard case, she passes it off to computer Kristin, and when the computer gets scared, it asks for person Kristin again. Others have suggested that Kristin is someone in a call center in India whose English isn't very good, which I don't really buy.

There are some weird grammatical inconsistencies throughout the conversation, like the fact that "credit" is always capitalized, but "card" usually isn't. "Thank you for choosing Bank of America's Credit card Services." She really went out of her way not to capitalize "card" that time. Then there are certain words that are capitalized out of nowhere like "Wonderful" and "Banking Needs". There's occasionally an extra space before the end of a sentence, and a colon before the date she gives me, which could be sloppy copy and pasting or shoddy programming. So none of that is evidence either way, I just wanted to let you know I've really thought about this a lot.

My favorite part is when she says "If the answer is "YES", then I'm sorry once again." I mean, that's just crazy. No human would ever say that and no one would program a computer to say that. It's like I'm talking to someone being held hostage and they're trying to slip me information about how to rescue them without their captors catching on.

Anyway, what a dystopian future we live in where we can't tell if the people we're talking to are people or robots. Do any of you have a strong opinion either way as to who or what Kristin Scales is?

Posted by Will at 8:51 PM | Comments ()

December 28, 2011

I fixed a bug in Double Feature Finder today.

Now all that's left is to figure out what to see after Twilight: Breaking Dawn.

Update: I fixed more bugs in Double Feature Finder today. Also, Translation Party works again, because of a surprise twist that no one would ever see coming, Google shut off their translation api for basically no reason, and Microsoft gives theirs away for free.

Posted by Will at 3:16 PM | Comments ()

May 27, 2011

Hey Google, fuck you, you indian giver.

Apologies to my Native American readers.

Google has announced that they are deprecating their translation api:

Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.

What that means is that come December, Translation Party will be no more because that translation api was doing all the work behind the scenes translating things back and forth. Are they talking about us when they mention extensive abuse? Maybe. But whatever, I'm mad now.

Posted by Will at 4:26 PM | Comments ()

March 18, 2011

I put facebook comments on this blog and I forgot why.

Facebook recently released a way for a regular old blog like diogenes club to have its commenting system implemented and stored by facebook. If you scroll down and you're logged into facebook, you might very well see a picture of yourself next to the comment box and the option to post your comment on facebook.

Will, why did you do this, you might ask. I already told you, I forgot. It may have started with me being annoyed that when I would link here on facebook, some people would comment on facebook, and some people would comment here. (Or, more likely, no one would comment at all.) This doesn't actually fix this since comments on something I post on facebook won't show up here in the new way either. It would help with comment spam, except I had already squashed it entirely by making people type "yeah" into a box before they commented.

There is an option to blacklist certain keywords and to automatically correct common grammar mistakes, but I've turned both of them off, because what's the point of commenting on the internet if you can't swear and use bad grammar?

A lot of real blogs have started using facebook comments with the idea that it would increase civility because people need to use their real name. Those people clearly don't know how to create a fake facebook profile. It isn't hard.

So, in short, I handed over control of my blog to a guy whose only motivation is impressing his ex-girlfriend from college. For absolutely no reason.

PS: I also put a like button on everything cause fuck it.

Posted by Will at 9:34 PM | Comments ()

March 9, 2011

WTF Obama wrap up

So it's about time I talk about whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com here. Well past about time, really. I posted a bunch of things about it to facebook at the time, just because it's so easy, so all you clubbers out there are getting the news a little after the fact, but you can rejoice in that you're getting it all in one fell swoop.

Shortly before election day, my friend Shavanna texted me with the idea to make a site listing all of Obama's accomplishments in the style of whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com. (Credit where credit's due, as far as I know, whatthefuckshouldimakefordinner.com was the first site like this.) I made a quick prototype and sent it off to Rick, co-creator of Translation Party, and within a few hours, we had a site. We posted it to facebook and twitter and a few friends. Cas, the creator of Crying While Eating and Internets Celebrities actually had the idea to change the sarcastic quip every time, which kills me, because I had done that with both Question Party and Translation Party, and it would have never occurred to me to do it for this.

It started spreading pretty quickly, mostly just because of people passing it along to their friends, but a few big names gave us a link too. Most notably:

The Flaming Lips
Questo of The Roots
Daring Fireball and
Carrie Fisher

I have to say, Carrie Fisher was very exciting, because now if I ever see her at a party, I'll have something to say to her besides, "Hey, you're Princess Leia."

We got to do some interviews. We decided to do email interviews instead of phone interviews, so it would be easier to sound clever. We did ones for:

PBS
ABC and
Uptown Magazine

We also made it into the New York Magazine Approval Matrix, which marks the third time I've been in the magazine in some form or another, not that I'm counting.

And then we got our biggest plug from Michael Moore, who mentioned us in an interview with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, which led to us being interviewed on the same show a few days later. No more email interviews for us, we were going to have to sound clever on the spot. I think it could have gone a lot worse:

So there you go, a few hours of work, and a small internet sensation. If only it were always that easy.

Posted by Will at 1:37 AM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2010

The fastest Mac ever

Apple decided to email me today about their new Mac Pro, its main selling point being that it's faster than all the other Macs they've made in the past.

If they were making Macs slower than they were last year, that would be worth telling me about.

Posted by Will at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)

August 1, 2010

Nobody comments anymore wah

Here's a follow up on Readership is down, posts continue to be erratic

More noticeable than diogenes club's declining readership is its declining comments. Here's a chart:


PS: I made this chart a few months ago, forgot about it, and then didn't feel like updating the data when I remembered it

What can we take from this chart? Not that much, but I think facebook has taken away some of the club's thunder. Way back in 2004, there wasn't an easy way to keep up with people and leave comments on it and stuff, so people settled for just keeping up with me and commenting here. Now that facebook is around, you can keep with everybody and leave as many comments as you want, rendering diogenes club somewhat obsolete.

But don't think that'll stop me. I'll be posting here on the incredibly irregular basis I've been keeping up for almost six years, and I don't care if anybody comments or not.

Posted by Will at 7:09 PM | Comments (3)

July 24, 2010

Fandango, you tease.

This is the page you see after you buy movie tickets on Fandango:

click the image for full size

Posted by Will at 4:07 PM | Comments ()

April 13, 2010

Twitter has a plan to make money from people who do things that don't make any sense

I've made my feelings on twitter known before, but this article from the Times makes me feel like I'm on crazy pills:

Twitter Unveils Plans to Draw Money From Ads

Go ahead, read it, I'll still be here.

You done? Okay. You remember this part?

"When people are searching on Starbucks, what we really want to show them is that something is happening at Starbucks right now, and Promoted Tweets will give us a chance to do that..."

Why on god's green earth would someone search on twitter for Starbucks? For one thing, if someone's searching on twitter for Starbucks, Starbucks' advertising has already done its job, so there doesn't seem to be any reason for Starbucks to give twitter any money at that point. For another, check out what actually happens when you search on twitter for Starbucks:

https://twitter.com/search?q=starbucks

Did you look? Was it a bunch of people you don't know or care about saying that they're going to Starbucks? It was? Now check this out. Go back to that page. Now are there dozens of new posts about Starbucks that are similarly useless and inane? There are?

I suppose Starbucks being able to promote some deal or something above the chatter of any idiot with a cell phone would be an improvement, so bravo to twitter on that front, but I'm still mystified as to what could be gained by anyone searching for twitter on anything ever.

What I should have done was make this post during sxsw. During the last one, I actually swallowed my pride and tried to use twitter to find out what was going on. Someone named Andie Grace had this to say at about the same time:

"I grabbed my phone to tweet that I was grabbing my luggage (at the airport)....But I stopped myself from Twittering and I thought if everybody did this, it's going to be useless."

Well, everyone did do that and it was useless. Hundreds and hundreds of people just telling me that they're at a cool/boring/average party or that they lost their keys or something, tagging it with #sxsw, at a pace literally faster than I could keep up with.

Okay, people like twitter, and I sort of get that now. People like having a platform where they can broadcast bite-sized ideas and keep up with the mundane details of the lives of their friends and Ashton Kutcher. But good god, searching for something on twitter is an awful, awful experience that could never possibly lead to finding anything remotely useful or interesting.

Please, I beg you, explain to me why I'm wrong. I'm not even being facetious there, I honestly want to know what the hell people are doing searching on twitter.

Posted by Will at 9:02 AM | Comments (4)

March 9, 2010

NY Times on Google's translation service

Google's Computer Might Betters Translation Tool

In the article, they admitted that the system "still needed improvement," which any user of Translation Party could have already told you. Translation Party, you see, uses Google Translate to do all of the translation legwork behind the scenes.

Google actually made significant improvements to their system just a few weeks after Translation Party launched, breaking (or fixing, depending on how you look at it) some of our favorite translations. To remedy this, we looked into different, more obscure languages that Google might not have improved as much. After a little testing, we realized that Japanese was still our best bet. We even looked into Microsoft's translation API's. If there's anyone who could really botch a translation up it's Microsoft, right? Unfortunately, in every example we tried, Microsoft did a better job than Google, and most parties ended up with slightly mangled, but still somewhat sensical English. Leave it to Microsoft to do something right when you're counting on them to screw up.

Anyway, a person might argue that it's intellectually dishonest to purposely use the worse API, and that choosing the better one might better illustrate the irreconcilable differences between the two languages. But that person clearly doesn't like to party.

Posted by Will at 1:37 AM | Comments ()

February 24, 2010

Hey la, hey la, Question Party is back

Question Party, after taking a long hiatus due to lack of hosting, is now back online and just as incomprehensible as ever.

Here's a chart detailing Question Party usage over the years. That spike near the end was due to occasionally telling people about it in the Translation Party success message.

I like making charts.

Posted by Will at 9:44 AM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2009

My cell phone is worth $32,000


It has come to my attention that my cell phone, the Nokia 1100, released in 2003, with its tiny monochrome screen and inability to access the internet may very well be worth $32,000. So laugh all you want, iPhone users, with your piddly sub-ten-grand phones. You might wonder how this came to be. Well, according to wikipedia:

The phone can be programmed to receive messages directed to a different phone number, thus receiving sensitive bank or other data.

Now, this can only be done with a batch made in a factory in Bochum, Germany, and I have no idea whether that's where mine came from, so I'll cut you a deal. I'll start the bidding at $31,000.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Will at 3:37 PM | Comments ()

August 13, 2009

Own your own Translation Party!

This is the last thing I'm going to say about Translation Party, I promise.

Now you can buy a t-shirt with whatever party you make! And we make a very small amount of money with each t-shirt you buy, which will make us feel better about the half hour we spent making the site. So get to it!

Let's have a Translation Party!

Posted by Will at 12:35 AM | Comments ()

August 8, 2009

The parties continue

Thanks to everybody for helping Translation Party blow up the internet. As of right now, people have put in 679,658 phrases and that number keeps going up.

We made it to the front pages of Digg, Reddit, Tech Crunch, Meta Filter, Neatorama, and many others.

Also, the most interesting use of Translation Party I've seen so far is Isaac Butler's contest to try to recognize Shakespeare quotes after they've been fed through it. I've done enough translation partying so that I can recognize a few, but there are some tough ones in there.

Anyway, again, thanks everybody!

Posted by Will at 6:03 PM | Comments (2)

August 5, 2009

Translation Party Live!

Check it!

Translation Party!

Here's a video of me presenting it to 700 people at NY Tech! (You might want to skip the first two minutes to avoid a technical difficulty plagued screening of the rap sensation that is sort of sweeping the nation, LOL.)

(direct link)

Posted by Will at 6:27 PM | Comments ()

August 3, 2009

Translation Party at NY Tech

I will be unveiling my new web project, Translation Party tomorrow night, Tuesday August 4th, at NY Tech. All the info is here:

August 2009 NY Tech Meetup

If you can't make it, the site will be live for your internet perusal some time soon thereafter.

Posted by Will at 4:05 PM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2009

Your mother knows very little about Macintosh products and related services

This is a list of Macintosh your mom jokes that I made eight years ago and never put anywhere. I think the world is ready now.


  1. Your mother thinks that slot loading iMacs have Mezzanine ports.

  2. I have noted on numerous occasions that your mother doesn't use
    option L when writing long lines of AppleScript.

  3. Your mother once confided in me that she has tried to install OS
    9 on a 68k Macintosh.

  4. Many people of reputable stature have told me that your mother bought
    more than seventy-two megs of ram for her 61xx Performa.

  5. I have serious doubts as to whether your mother knows the difference
    between Sawtooth and Yosemite motherboard designs.
  6. When porting a major game to OS X, your mother was caught making
    calls to Game Sprockets.

  7. Your mother bought O'Reilly's Missing Manual for iMovie.

  8. I couldn't help but notice that your mother has her Help balloons
    turned on.

  9. I feel it's important that you know that your mother insists that
    Sherlock was part of OS 7.6.

  10. Your mother thinks that the Newton is a new unit of measurement
    for weight!


Posted by Will at 1:19 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2009

Twitter

If something is worth saying, it's worth saying with more than 140 characters. And yes, I realize that this is less than 140 characters.

Posted by Will at 4:47 PM | Comments ()

June 2, 2009

I am an internet hundredaire

I got a check from google the other day for a hundred dollars. You remember Double Feature Finder? Well, there are ads on it. Google doesn't bother cutting a check for anything less than a Benjamin, so this is the first time I've seen any money in DFF's three and a half year history. I'm going to go buck wild tomorrow and put it towards a new hard drive.

Posted by Will at 1:13 AM | Comments (3)

March 12, 2009

GROUP_CONCAT is the most awesome MySQL function ever

It's been a while since I've filed a post under the 'boring tech stuff' category, and I discovered something today that I found very exciting. For those of you who don't know what MySQL is, you can stop reading now. This will be very boring and won't make any sense.

Now, let's say you have an online store. You have a tabled called user and one called purchase that holds the data for every purchase a user makes (including stuff about the item they purchased, which would usually be in a different table, but for the sake of simplicity, we'll say it's in purchase). Now let's say you want to get a list of all your users and all the purchases they've made. Until I found out about GROUP_CONCAT, I would have done something like this:

SELECT user.user_name, purchase.item_name FROM user, purchase WHERE purchase.user_id=user.user_id

which would return something like this:

user_nameitem_name
Willcomic book
Willvideo game
Carlhair gel

And then I'd have to go through that data programatically to group my comic book and video game together.

But with GROUP_CONCAT, I can do this:

SELECT user.user_name, GROUP_CONCAT(purchase.item_name) FROM user, purchase WHERE purchase.user_id=user.user_id GROUP BY user.user_id

Which gives me:

user_nameitem_name
Willcomic book,video game
Carlhair gel

Now let's say you want to get a list of all your users and the most expensive thing they've ever bought. You'd think this would work:

SELECT user.user_name, MAX(purchase.price), purchase.item_name FROM user, purchase WHERE purchase.user_id=user.user_id GROUP BY user.user_id ORDER by purchase.price DESC

But it doesn't. It'll give you the maximum price, but the item_name will be whatever MySQL feels like giving from the purchase list, not necessarily the one that goes along with the MAX(price), even with that ORDER BY at the end. Here's where GROUP_CONCAT comes in, using its optional ORDER BY clause.

SELECT user.user_name, MAX(purchase.price), SUBSTRING_INDEX(GROUP_CONCAT(purchase.item_name ORDER BY purchase.price DESC), ',', 1) FROM user, purchase WHERE purchase.user_id=user.user_id GROUP BY user.user_id

That's a bit of a mess, so let's look at the important part:

GROUP_CONCAT(purchase.item_name ORDER BY purchase.price DESC)

That gives the list of purchases for the user, ordered by price descending, and since we're only interested in the first entry in that list, the most expensive one, we slap around it:

SUBSTRING_INDEX(GROUP_CONCAT..., ',', 1)

The two arguments after the GROUP_CONCAT are to tell it to look for the first comma it sees and return whatever's before it. So you end up with:

user_nameMAX(price)item_name
Will50.00video game
Carl30.00hair gel

Like I said before, you can do all this stuff programatically, but if you hate leaving your SQL prompt, this comes in handy.

Apologies to my non-techie readership. I'll come up with some other way to bore you next time.

Posted by Will at 11:22 PM | Comments (3)

November 10, 2008

I keep on keeping movies out longer and longer on Netflix

Netflix was pretty thrilling in 2001. I mean, the very idea! Getting DVDs! Digital Video Discs! In the mail! I'm sure it's going to be one of those things that I tell young people in fifty years, and they'll think I'm an idiot for ever thinking it was exciting.

But, here we are in 2008, my queue hovering around a hundred movies, which it's been doing pretty much since I joined. The difference is, a lot of those movies, nay, most of those movies, I'm not sure why I put them on there in the first place, and when they finally show up at my house, it'll take me a long time to finally sit down and watch them.

This is basically just a long winded excuse for me to post another chart I made in Excel.

Around mid-2002, I was returning movies pretty much as quickly as they came. As you might imagine, I was unemployed at the time.

Two movies have the honor of sitting on my desk for over a hundred days: Triumph of the Will and Bus 174. Triumph of the Will, of course, is the famous Nazi propaganda movie by Leni Riefenstahl. I didn't think I could want to be a Nazi less than I already did, but boy, is that movie boring. I ended up sending it back without finishing it. Bus 174 is a documentary about a Brazilian bus being taken hostage, is generally depressing, and also got sent back unfinished.

Twelve movies made the quickest possible round trip, three days, including three made for video animated Batman movies, a Deep Space 9 Season 4 Disc, and Mutiny on the Bounty, which I don't recall ever actually watching, though I probably did.

The average is thirteen days, which, when you think I'm paying twenty some bucks a month for Netflix, isn't that great a deal compared to going to the video store. But then, video stores in my neighborhood don't have the weird selections that I choose on impulse and then regret a few months later when I actually have to watch them. Not to mention, it would be a lot tougher to make graphs.

Posted by Will at 12:53 AM | Comments (2)

May 6, 2008

Don't start a poke war with me because I'll win.

I'm assuming that most of you have at the very least heard of facebook, but there are probably a few people who are unfamiliar with the concept of poking, so I'm going to explain it. You facebook pros can skip ahead to the next paragraph. When you're on facebook, looking at someone else's profile, you have the option of poking them. If you poke them, next time they log in, they'll have a little message saying that you poked them. They then have the option of poking you back or removing the poke. What is poking for? It's basically a way of getting someone's attention without having to go to the trouble of stringing a few words together. I was going to do a post about how poking is possibly the lowest form of human communication, one rung below grunting and pointing, but I'll save that for another day.

I myself, have been poked by four people. One was an old friend looking to get back in touch. Another was a woman I didn't know who I'm fairly certain thought I was cute. (I'm relatively sure that this is its main use, but what do I know.) The third was someone who I think just didn't know what poking was. And the fourth was my poke war rival.

The concept of a poke war had never occurred to me when all this started. When my rival poked me for the first time, I poked him back and thought that would be the end of it. He quickly poked me right back again and I did the same back to him. I soon realized that this was going to be an ongoing thing and was pretty sure I was going to win. I pride myself on being able to do things I don't enjoy for long periods of time. There was no way I'd get tired of this before he did.

The thing about poking is you can't just flood somebody with pokes over and over again. You have to wait for them to remove your poke or to poke you back before you can send them another one. So the real trick of a poke war is trying to poke someone back as quickly as you can after they poke you.

A month or two went by and my rival showed no sign of stopping and I was at the end of my rope. There's only so much poking a guy can take. There was almost no point in poking him, because his return poke would appear seemingly instantly. I wasn't going to win this through sheer force of will. I was going to have to cheat.

Through a little googling, I found a script that automatically pokes people by pretending to be a web browser, logging into your account, and then poking whoever's poked you. It didn't actually work in its current state, but with a little bit of tweaking, I got it to run and changed it to fit my specific needs. Then, I set up a separate mail address to receive all my facebook email. Every time the account got an email telling me my rival had poked me, it would poke him right back. Every time it got an email from facebook unrelated to pokes, it forwarded it on to me. I was able to wage a poke war without even having to think about it.

A few days ago I checked in to see how it was all going. It had been ten days since I had last received a poke from my rival. The war was over. But it was such an empty victory. And not because I had cheated, although that was part of it. I expected some fanfare. A formal surrender. Something. But really, all I ended up with was a facebook account that wasn't even worth logging into. What's the point now that it's all over? I haven't told him it was a computer poking him all those times and not me. I don't think I will. It seems mean somehow. Poke war is hell.

Posted by Will at 1:48 AM | Comments (2)

February 4, 2008

Thank goodness I have facebook to tell me these things

some guy added sex to his interests

Posted by Will at 9:37 PM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2007

This is a real question party!

I give you http://questionparty.com/

Update: Video of my presentation to the NY Tech Meetup. If you're hoping for an explanation of question party, you're not going to get it here.

Posted by Will at 11:34 PM | Comments ()

June 13, 2007

Safari 3's search is kinda cute and all

But it didn't take me long to find out that searching for Cobra Commander here...

becomes...

And yet, I'm still going to use Safari 3, just cuz. Go figure.

Posted by Will at 2:27 PM | Comments ()

June 9, 2007

What a creepy spam I just got

It's like M. Night Shyamalan himself needs for me to know about Canadian pharmacies.

Posted by Will at 4:13 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2007

This is an ad for myspace's job section

Seriously, myspace? This is seriously your ad for your jobs section? I'm not saying that you've got to be all dreary suit and tie about it, but geez. You think you're going to trick horny teenagers into becoming responsible members of society or something? How dumb do you expect your users to be? I mean, I'm already insulted enough by your dating site ads that are supposed to make me think some hot college girl is somehow trying to magically video instant message me. And I know it's passe to be bagging on you these days myspace, but you've really gone all out with this one.

Speaking of those dating site ads, I wonder if there are people who actually think that hot college girl is trying to chat with them. I'm tempted to say there aren't, but then why would they keep making the ads? It must be the same people who are unemployed and looking for sexy summer jobs.

Posted by Will at 1:19 AM | Comments ()

February 13, 2007

My digg rss yahoo pipe

Note: regular readers who don't know what digg is will probably find this post confusing and/or dull.

I'd tried to use digg to promote diogenes club with little success, and had been trying to figure out a way to lure people from digg here and realized the only chance a plain old blog like diogenes club had of getting to the front page of digg is by making a post about digg itself. Add the technology people are most excited about but aren't quite sure what to do with, yahoo pipes, and I might have a shot. So here it is, my digg rss limiter:

digg limiter

What's it for, you say? Well, anyone subscribed to digg's rss feed knows that there's just too much damn stuff in there, you can barely keep up with it, even if you're intent on getting no work done all day. Fortunately, digg puts the amount of diggs and comments any story has in their feed, so you can strip out the slightly less popular ones. I like setting the threshold at 500, adjust it to your taste. Admitted, this doesn't take into account digg's crazy algorithm for figuring out how interesting a story actually is, but it's a start.

Oh, and speaking of rss, diggers, feel free to add diogenes club's to your readers, (assuming some intrepid commenter didn't already decide this was blog spam and post a direct link to the pipe itself). I do interesting stuff every once in a while, I made the Double Feature Finder, I was one of the original Crying While Eating criers, I made that Batman movie with Sam Rockwell and Justin Long, Robin's Big Date that ended up going to Sundance last year, and all kinds of stuff. And what with this digg limiter, you're going to have a lot more free time at work, so you might as come here every once in a while.

Update: This attempt to get on the front page of digg was as dismal a failure as the first three times. Ah well.

Posted by Will at 12:54 AM | Comments (2)

January 28, 2007

Thoughts on House of Pain lyrics and the Sega Dreamcast that you may or may not find interesting, depending on how much you like rap and video games

"Trying to play me out like as if my name was Sega"

That's a line from House of Pain's 1992 hit, Jump Around. At the time, there were two big video game console companies, Sega and Nintendo. The choice to reference Sega instead of Nintendo might have been influenced by the edgier image that Sega had at the time with their console, the Genesis. It might also have something to do with finding a rhyme for the preceding line -- there's not that much that rhymes with Schwarzenegger. The next line, "but I ain't going out like like no punk bitch" was moving onto a different thought, but come 2001, it took on another meaning. Sega's system at the time, the Dreamcast, was struggling in its competition with the PlayStation 2, the GameCube, and the Xbox, so they announced that they were throwing in the towel. They ceased production and gave up the console business, deciding to stick to making software for other companies' systems. Sega, in the end, went out not unlike a punk bitch. Prophetic words from Everlast and House of Pain.

Posted by Will at 9:14 PM | Comments (7)

January 14, 2007

If you wanted to know what search terms and posts were most popular in 2006, this is the post for you

The top post of the year goes to the one about Ashlee Simpson with the Cheaper By the Dozen 2 one a distant second. People who went to the first one were probably just looking for before/after pictures of Ashlee, I'll be damned if I can figure out why people were searching for a smarmy looking picture of Steve Martin.

Least popular post goes to:

A list of things that people seem to find hilarious, but I either never did or have gotten sick of for various reasons. I was always pretty sure no one cared what I found funny, but now I know it for a fact.

Now here are the top eight search terms for last year. My comments to the people searching for those things follow.

1. minnie mouse porn -- Good god, this is the number one search term for my site, and I'm at the top of the list on google. I don't mind you searching for porn, but try to keep it to porn that might possibly exist.
2. diogenes club -- Sadly, I'm #4 on google for this one. #1-#3 actually talk about Diogenes Club, the cheaters.
3. will carlough -- I used to have #1 on google for this, now it's been usurped by my myspace page. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
4. margaret cho sucks -- My post about Margaret Cho sucking was on of the first ones I ever wrote, I'm not even sure why I was mad at her anymore.
5. at june 17 2005 -- What happened on June 17, 2005 and what's it got to do with me? Seriously.
6. green leotards -- People need their green leotards, I guess.
7. ashlee simpson -- I should probably just give people what they want and make this an Ashlee Simpson fan site.
8. karate jokes -- Man, I'm only #10 on google for this one. I've got to come up with some more karate jokes. Or I'll just type karate jokes a bunch of times here. Karate jokes are karate jokes and there was this one karate joke that was a karate joke. Karate jokes.

There are a lot of terms that only got a few people here that are worth noting:
why is wario mean to mario, 1 person -- Because Mario picked on him when they were younger. Mario started it, look it up if you don't believe me.
jason statham and hotels in kent he stays at, 2 people -- You are creepy and you have bad taste in people to stalk.
you are a idiot, 2 people -- No, you are a idiot.
fuck club, 3 people -- I wouldn't let you in, even if this were one. Which it might be, you'll never know.

Hoo. It was a heck of a year. More as it comes. Oh yeah, and karate jokes.

Posted by Will at 12:17 AM | Comments (3)

October 27, 2006

Will

I realized the other day that pretty much since I started regularly using email, some time in late 1995, I've been writing "Will" at the bottom of each message that I send. If I were smart, I'd have put it into a signature, and just have the computer insert it into the bottom for me. How much time would I have saved? Judging my sent box, (which only goes back two years and probably doesn't contain every email I've sent in that time period and is inaccurate for any number of other reasons) I've sent 16,000 emails in the last eleven years. Let's say it takes me half a second to type "Will" every time. That's over two hours I'd have back! Not to mention the five minutes I've spent typing this post. And yet, I'll probably never make the change. Why? Stuck in my ways? Not worth the trouble? I think I just like typing my own name.

Posted by Will at 9:16 PM | Comments ()

October 19, 2006

Think before you click submit.

I recently changed the contact forms for the League and the Club. They used to say "Your address:" where you're supposed to put your email address. Enough people put in their street address so that I finally decided to make it clear that it was their email address I was looking for. That didn't stop this guy:

From: 89 Dundee Drive
do you have money

Apparently the guy found the League from a New Zealand msn search for 'bat man' and, well, you know the rest. Now, I don't want to take potshots at msn or its user base, but when I track down how the especially stupid people get here, it's usually through msn.

On a less mean-spirited note, congratulations to the Hazzards for being awarded The Village Voice's Best Ukulele-playing Fag Hags, 2006!

Posted by Will at 12:12 AM | Comments (3)

August 4, 2006

Instead of posting more frequently, I made a graph of how infrequently I post

This is how long it is between posts since the beginning of diogenes club back in September 2004.

I made that graph with the intention of proving that I post just as infrequently as I ever did, but apparently that's not the case. So I've been slacking off. Suggestions for upcoming posts are welcome in the comments. Otherwise I'll just find a bunch of random comments from strangers and make fun of them.

Posted by Will at 12:27 AM | Comments (24)

June 22, 2006

Luigi, dictator

To further embroil the raging controversy over the representation of Mario and Luigi, I present to you the finishing screen from the arcade version of Bionic Commando:

Recognize that L on the hat?

Sometimes I even bore myself.

Posted by Will at 6:21 PM | Comments (4)

May 22, 2006

The Anti-hero-ization of Mario

Nintendo, in the past few years, has developed an uncanny sense of what I want, occasionally sucking me back into the world of video games like the green pipe used to suck you out of the underground level when you were trying to get the last coin block. And true to form, last week, Nintendo released New Super Mario Bros., the first original Mario 2-D platformer since, I don't know, since I was in high school?

Anyway, I won't bore you with a review of the game and a comparison to earlier entries in the Mario saga*, but there is something important to note. When you start a level, Mario proclaims, "Here I go!" I've played a lot of Mario Kart in my day, and Mario was always the one to shout, "Here we go." "Here I go" was reserved for Wario, Mario's evil twin (I'm not sure if they're actually related). This somehow implied that Wario was greedier and more selfish than Mario, although I never really bought it. I mean, they were both clearly racing out of self interest, it's not like Mario was helping Toad and Yoshi across the finish line.

I didn't think much of it until I played New SMB as Luigi, who nervously screams, "Here we go" when he's shot out of a cannon. Is Luigi being portrayed as the more altruistic Mario brother? That's what I thought until I realized that at the end of every level he tells you, "Yay for me, Luigi," saying his own name, like you didn't know who he was already. And when he starts a level, I think he says, "Oh, 'uigi," which is weird too. It kind of comes off as affable overcompensation for being the less famous brother though.

So what's this all mean? It means I put more thought into Mario's sound bytes than the game designers probably did. Yay for me, Will.



* Although I was ridiculously close to doing so.

Posted by Will at 11:46 PM | Comments (3)

December 22, 2005

The Double Feature Finder

Want to spend the whole day at the movies? Check out...

doublefeaturefinder.com

Posted by Will at 4:39 PM | Comments (2)

July 27, 2005

I got identity thefted!

And I'm not even the first person to come up with the term "identity thefted," sadly.

The other day, I got my bill from my credit card company, looked it over, everything looked okay. I went online to pay the bill, and it said there was an error in logging me in and I should call some number. Well, whatever, I thought, they're stupid, I'll do it later. The next day I tried to buy something online with the card, and it was denied. It seemed like it was worth it to call now.

As I waited on hold for a little while, I realized that I had probably set off some warning in their system by buying a new computer and blowing some money in Montreal. I'd tell them everything was fine and to stop being a bunch of nervous nellies with my damn card. When they got to my call, I had trouble convincing them that I was, in fact, Will Carlough, since I wasn't calling from my home phone number (a number which is now defunct) and I didn't get the security question that I had come up with five years ago right, for reasons I won't go into, in case there are any prospective identity thefters reading. (Fuck, I didn't come up with identity thefter either.)

So the guy started listing off things that were bought in The Philippines and Great Britian that I had never heard of: A cell phone bill, an ebay purchase, I forget what else. Nothing too exotic, it all seemed rather mundane, other than the locales. I'm a little disappointed my thief didn't have more fun with it. The guy on the phone wrapped up the list, told me to cut up my card, they'd send me a new one, and they wouldn't charge me for any of the stuff. (I probably should have told him my computer and the Montreal trip weren't me either.)

I went back to my desk and was ready to forget about this petty annoyance. I was in the middle of an instant message conversation with my friend Michelle, so I told her about what had just happened. "You must feel so violated!" she said, or something to that effect. Hey, you know what, I hadn't thought of it until then, I was still on my kick of being annoyed by my stupid credit card company for making me call them. Maybe I did feel violated. I started to think, how could my card have been leaked? I'm usually fairly careful. Was it that tape stock I bought over the phone the other day? Did someone out there have more personal information on me? I'm stealing wi-fi from my neighbor, could he have intercepted something?

Well, who knows. My neighbor's probably out, since he can't even figure out how to password protect his wi-fi network. I vaguely remember an episode of CSI: Miami about identity theft, and they said that most identity theft is all about just garbage picking. I think. Oh, and my friend Peter claims that what happened doesn't qualify as identity theft, because no one actually assumed my identity, they just got a hold of my credit card number. I think he was implying that identity theft is more pervasive than just a credit card. It's true, that lady on CSI had to carry around paperwork proving that she was herself. And then the thief started doing the same thing, it was crazy! Well, you had to be there. And that's how I became an identity theftee. (Finally!) More from Montreal next time.

Posted by Will at 11:52 PM | Comments (2)

June 12, 2005

I'm sure you all get as much or more spam than I do, but I thought I'd share this.

And I may be naive, but I'm almost positive this isn't true.

Female club readers, feel free to correct me.

Posted by Will at 12:42 AM | Comments (3)

May 30, 2005

How to spend a lot of money on bandwidth

Avid club readers may have noticed the site going down a fair amount this month (although to be honest, I've gotten more complaints about benfine.com being down). I can only blame my poor planning. See, my hosting company gives me 80 gigs of transfer each month. After people download 80 gigs of stuff, they shut me down. The Bat-man movie is 20 megs. If I had done the math, I would have realized that if 4,000 people watched it, that would have been it. I also posted a torrent file, but if I had given it any thought I would have realized that a) most people don't know what a torrent file is, and b) if people have a choice between watching the movie in a browser and dicking around with bittorrent, they're just going to watch it in the browser. Oh yeah, and once the site goes down, the torrent is useless.

But all that boring tech stuff is neither here nor there.

Posted by Will at 1:23 PM | Comments ()

April 18, 2005

Some more kind of funny search terms that got people here and reader mail

"episode baby ducks chicks daily show"

"harlem rennaissance cocktail"

"fefe dobson ethnicity"

And of course, lots of bloggers trying to uncover more of The Bravery's dirty secrets. It's quite a thrill being an obscure footnote of popular culture. An email from a fan:

this is for Will Carlough... you said in your blog that you were in The El Conquistadors/Skabba the Hut, and if that's true, do you have any photos from when you were in them? I'm trying to destroy the bravery and need some pictures of Sam Endicot with that gorgeous blond 'do.

Well, as eager as I am to aid in the destruction of people who I've been friends with for the better part of a decade, I sadly don't have any pictures from those halcyon days. Oh wait, hold on, here's a picture of their keyboardist, John Conway, and me eating...

MCDONALDS! Can you believe it? I think I cracked the case.

Posted by Will at 5:41 AM | Comments (9)

A link, but I made it myself

Brooklyn hearts you. It's a sign making company.

Posted by Will at 4:00 AM | Comments ()

February 24, 2005

Logs and the League

In that last post, I referenced Doctor Who and Star Trek just in the title. I should thank God everyday that I've even kissed a girl.

I've gotten a couple of compliments on diogenes club, both in the comments section and in real life, which really puts the pressure on to come up with material. Especially since the compliments are usually followed by something about how I should post everyday. But it's nice to know that these postings aren't being totally lost in the ether. The logs claim that the club's readership has been steadily growing, and I'm occasionally pleasantly surprised by a complete stranger posting a comment. I started this blog so that people who visit the League would have something to come back to more often than when we make a new movie or I come up with another The Bat-man comic. I didn't do that great a job, because the relationship between the two is probably unclear to the casual observer, and the links to each other are not immediately apparent, which I kind of did on purpose so that diogenes club wouldn't take focus away from the League. That said, the League gets four times the traffic that this site does, despite the fact that it hasn't been updated in months, so I don't have to worry about this overshadowing all the good stuff on the League. I may try to make their relationship more obvious, but as anyone who's ever used the double feature finder knows, in the web development world, user interface is not my speciality.

More interesting than numbers in the logs, though, are the search terms that get people to this page. By far, the biggest search term that draws people to this site is Jonathan Togo, who I mentioned once in a post mostly unrelated to him. Most people were probably disappointed that this is just a site where I complain about movies and talk about people on the subway that I hate, but for all of you Togo fans out there, there may or may not be a special something for you in the League archives.

Most other search terms other than Will Carlough and diogenes club only brought one person here, but here are some of the more interesting ones:

"underwater homes"

"he doesn't make sense, i don't make sense , together we make sense - to what movie" (It's Untamed Heart, by the way)

"porn with the scooby-doo characters" (sorry to disappoint)

"grammer you and" (I misspelled grammar on the right on purpose, I'm not sure if this guy did)

"bunch of jerks"

"trimspa sucks"

"margaret cho sucks" (I suppose this site really is all about negativity, isn't it)

Anyway, I've got one or two more ways to tell a movie's bad in me and maybe another vaguely offensive picture that takes me a lot longer to do in photoshop than it should. More as it comes.

Posted by Will at 9:56 PM | Comments (6)

February 1, 2005

All right trackback spammers, you got me

I wasn't going to brag about it, in fear of spammer retaliation, but I thought my little hack of movabletype to require that 'yeah' thing for comments was pretty clever. On their website, movabletype recommends against methods like this, because spammers can easily adapt, but my site is so small, I doubted they'd go to the trouble. The mt code seems pretty well orgainzed, even though some of the Perl is so Perl-y it, well, you don't really care about Perl syntax I bet. But I'll be damned if I can figure out why they've got some php files kicking around in there too.

Anyway, the reason why I bring it up is that, while the tweak was successful (I haven't had any comment spam since), spammers have taken to a new method of annoying me: trackback spam. I got my first twenty sometime this morning. Trackbacks, for those of you who have always wondered why there's 'Trackbacks (0)' on the bottom of most blogs, are how blogs tell other blogs that they're linking to a specific article. That's all well and good, but I've only had one legitimate trackback in my blogging career. I've seen a few solutions for trackback spam, but they all seem like a lot of trouble for how effective they may or may not be.

So, sadly, trackbacks are off for good. They always kind of depressed me anyway, those big zeros at the bottom of each entry.

I'm also turning on anonymous posting, since asking people to put their email address onto a web page is exactly what spammers want me to do. If you do want to post anonymously, I encourage you to at least make up a funny name.

So, that's it for now. Sorry this wasn't more exciting, I've got some more interesting stuff in the hopper.

Posted by Will at 3:52 PM | Comments (2)

December 28, 2004

I minored in math at college

Let's take the old saying, comedy is tragedy plus time.

c = r + t where c is comedy, r is tragedy, and t is time.

Subtract c.

0 = r + t -c

Subtract t.

-t = r - c

As you can see, tragedy minus comedy is negative time. Yes, I just invented time travel.

Posted by Will at 4:26 AM | Comments (3)

December 7, 2004

All right, you can stop hitting refresh now

Occasionally, diogenesclub.net will come up in polite conversation with a friend. They usually say something to the effect of, "Yeah, I used to check it, but you don't update it every day." To which I reply, "Well, you should subscribe to my rss feed." To which they reply with a blank stare. Explaining rss to someone unfamiliar with it is like explaining email to my grandfather. Even if you can get him to understand what it is, you still are going to have a job convincing him he should use it.

A note to my coworkers and anyone reading this in an rss reader, you can pretty much mark this is as read, I'm just going to be preaching to the choir here.

So rss. I won't bore you with the Webster's definition of it or what it stands for or anything, you can look that up yourself. But rss basically solves a big problem for people trying to waste time at work when their boss isn't looking: Sites like this one don't update every day. And it's an exercise in disappointment to come here and have that same old story about The Will Show staring you in the face all the time. In short, rss tells you when a site updates.

Rss didn't click with me for a long time. (So it tells me if a site updates, so what, I can figure that out by going to it.) That is, until Thunderbird, an email client, came with its own rss reader. It finally made sense. It's just like getting an email. I can give Thunderbird the address of a site, and it's like the site emails me every time it updates. It appears right next to my inbox, with the title of the article where the subject would be, and a brief summary below. You can then read the article, mark it is read, and it'll remember that you've read that article next time you look. (Keep in mind that you don't have to use Thunderbird to use rss, more on that later.)

But Will, you might be saying, your blog is the only blog I read. It's not worth the trouble for me.

First, I'd like to compliment you on your discriminating taste. Second, I'd wager nine out of ten of the sites you read, be it Salon, The New York Times, Slate, or BBC News publish rss feeds too. Often times, a quick google search can find a feed for sites that don't publish their own like Ain't it Cool News. So with your rss reader, you can browse the headlines of Times without having to look at ads trying to trick you into seeing that sucky new movie, Closer, and never have to browse the same headline twice.

So after I figured this all out, I installed rss readers on the three computers I use on a regular basis, and it was pretty sweet, until I realized that I could mark an article as read on one machine, and the other two machines would still think it was unread. Imagine marking every message in your inbox as read every time you check it. It blew. That's when I found out about Bloglines.

Hold on Will, I kind of followed you on the email comparison, but now I'm going to a web site to see if another web site is updated? That's stupid.

I know, I know it seems stupid. Here's why it's not:

First, it's one site instead of how ever many sites you read. Take a look at this guy's list, and it starts to make sense. Checking all of those sites for updates all the time would take more time than I'm usually trying to waste.
Second, regardless of what browser you're using, there's a bloglines notifier. The Firefox version is a little B that sits politely in the corner until there's an update, at which point it gets a little red dot that you can click on and go straight to see what sites have updated.

So, there you go, rss, na na. Most of the time I'm pretty indifferent to whether people are using technologies that I like (as a Mac and Linux user, it's a necessary defense mechanism). But there are only so many movies I can post and trivial things I can complain about, and I wouldn't want you all to forget about little ol' diogenesclub.net just because I'm a little slow on the draw sometimes.

Posted by Will at 12:54 AM | Comments (8)