Infrequently Noted

Alex Russell on browsers, standards, and the process of progress.

Sweet Gig

SitePen is hiring.

To be honest, SitePen is usually hiring, so why the blog post? Because I'm hiring for a SitePen R&D Associate. This isn't your average programming job. Not only will all the work from this new position be released as Open Source software,it's a self-directed research job. Combined with SitePen's completely-virtual structure, you can work on what you feel is important and live wherever you want.

Read on for the full description:

Position

R&D Associate (title negotiable)

	<h3>Description</h3>
&lt;p&gt;
	SitePen is a fast-growing services company with deep roots in Open Source web software and an ongoing commitment to give back to the Open Web. The problems we solve for clients sit at the intersection of Computer Science and Interaction Design while cutting across a wide variety of problem domains. As an R&amp;amp;D Associate at SitePen you'll be responsible for investigating and developing solutions to the thorniest problems in real-world web application development and since everything you do will be Open Source, your impact will be both meaningful and lasting.
&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;p&gt;
	Some topics currently of interest to SitePen include:
&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;ul&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;web framework scalability&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;parametric CSS&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;ES3/ES4 implementations across VMs&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;publish/subscribe messaging and scalability&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;web-based interaction design/analysis tools&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;Open Data portability and metadata normalization&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;browser-based data visualization&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;/ul&gt;

&lt;p&gt;
	But those are just the problems that keep us awake at night. What we're &lt;em&gt;really&lt;/em&gt; interested in is hearing about how you'd like to make a difference in the evolution of the web. At SitePen, you'll have the freedom to pursue your interests and a mandate to work with broader communities to make your ideas reality.
&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;h3&gt;Required Qualifications&lt;/h3&gt;

&lt;ul&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;contributor to at least one Open Source project (active committers preferred)&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;fluent in one functional or scripting language (C experience a plus)&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;must be able to author technical papers&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;must be comfortable presenting and defending work to groups of various sizes&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;permanant legal right to work in the United States&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;/ul&gt;

&lt;h3&gt;How To Apply&lt;/h3&gt;

&lt;p&gt;
	Send a plain-text email to &quot;alex@sitepen.com&quot; with the subject line &quot;R&amp;amp;D Associate Application&quot;. In the body of the email, please explain why you think you'd be good for the job, what research interests you would like to pursue, and if you have one, a link to your website/blog. Please include links to your Open Source involvement and note major contributions (planning, design, features implemented, research contributed, UI/UX/IxD, etc.).  Also, either include a link to an online resume or attach one in plain-text or PDF format.
&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;p&gt;
	There is no deadline for application, but the earlier you apply the better your odds.
&lt;/p&gt;

&lt;h3&gt;Benefits&lt;/h3&gt;

&lt;ul&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;Senior Engineer grade pay&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;Comprehensive health insurance&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;All work product Open Source&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;/ul&gt;

&lt;h3&gt;Additional Information&lt;/h3&gt;

&lt;ul&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;
		&lt;b&gt;Location:&lt;/b&gt; anywhere you damn well please. SitePen is an entirely virtual organization.
	&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;
		&lt;b&gt;Travel:&lt;/b&gt;10-25% travel, depending on personal choices regarding conferences and symposiums. Presenting papers and speaking on your work is encouraged.
	&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;
		&lt;b&gt;Job Type:&lt;/b&gt; Full Time
	&lt;/li&gt;
	&lt;li&gt;
		&lt;b&gt;Reports To:&lt;/b&gt; Director of R&amp;amp;D (Alex Russell)
	&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;/ul&gt;

Uniquely for an R&D job, there are no minimum education requirements. We only care how effectively you can advance the state of the art on the Open Web. If that sounds like a calling you can get behind, I'd love to hear from you.

Lost and Found

Scott Beale's Paradise Lost party was outstanding. Jennifer and I have kind of "dropped out" of the Web2.0 scene for lots of very obvious reasons, but every now and again it's wonderful to see everyone. Folks were bummed about the lack of the planned fire displays (darned city permitting!), but the Photo Boof was awesome.

"...unless acted upon by an outside force"

I'm back from OSCON, and while I spent more time holed up in my hotel room working on slides than I would have liked, it was a thought-provoking trip. OSCON, unlike a lot of conferences, does a great job of getting "the right people on the bus" by not tying itself to a particular technology. Full disclaimer: I was ostensibly on the OSCON program committee this year, although I was mostly a slacker about it. The hallway track this year was particularly strong. The evolved term for what OSS enables seems to be "participation", and OSCON really keeps getting to the heart of that.

Just before the official OSCON start this year was "Ubuntu Live". I didn't have an opportunity to go, but its very existence says something important about a transition that seems to be happening in the OSS world. Yes, ORA is also transforming into a conferences company with an incidental publishing arm, but I don't think that explains all of it. There are still religious partisans at gatherings like OSCON but more and more of the folks I talk to (self selection?) are "socially Open Source" people, and that's leading (I hope) to a re-balancing of priorities inside the projects they are involved with. Instead of just focusing on how free something is (in whatever sense you prefer), there's a sea change which focuses also on the end user experience. This seems long overdue and a good sign. Focusing exclusively on the user experience without any attention to negative externalities leads to a world which I wouldn't want to live in, but when there is tension between them there is hope for progress. It's market competition, but not in the sense of products jockeying for dominance (although that's one of the ways it is expressed). It's competition in the marketplace of ideas. It prompts important questions like:

The OSS world has had answers to many of the code-focused parts of these questions for a long time, but the "whole product" questions are still in relatively blurry focus. The OSI adopting a new license seems like another acknowledgment that product vs. project is coming to the fore, and the web is forcing the issue(s).

In fact, I suspect that the web is playing an under-valued role in this transition. Since the web is partially open by default, it closes many of the solved questions for practical intents and brings the questions of data and community and design/experience into sharp focus. How will OSS projects handle them? Can existing project structures even being to address them? We're struggling with the last one daily in Dojo.

The assumptions of OSS have always been that there's some relatively open commodity platform which is mostly knowable, but what happens when you depend on web services or plugins which behave like hardware; sans ownership? What's the imperative for the OSS community to build full web applications and services now that the desktop application is clearly on the wane? How will we address the fundamental, centralizing architecture of the web without resorting to religious discussions? What is the implication of not having an open, ubiquitous platform for user experience design and analysis?

I think these are questions that the Dojo Foundation should start to wrestle with. The answers to them may not come from us (although "us" is anyone who wants to get involved), but I'm strongly in favor of the Foundation trying to find ways to think about and address them.

A last-minute schedule change got me home to catch the last day of TAE. Having given 2 talks earlier in the week, it was great to catch sessions without stress. Like OSCON, the vibe at the last day of TAE was very low-key and hype-free. Seems the breathless nature of "AJAXWorld" may have finally blown the chaff away, leaving TAE and other smaller conferences to provide the beer-and-ideas atmosphere that is so desperately needed to keep things moving forward.

Various Notes

First, I'm gonna be at OSCON the same week that TAE is going down. If you were counting on me buying you beer while in SF, you'll have to collect from Dylan (he's good for it) or one of the other Dojo's.

Next, can y'all please stop conflating Comet with a particular HTTP-level mechanism for achieving the stated user interaction goal? It's getting quite tiresome to hear folks say things like "long polling or Comet" as though they're different. The XMPP HTTP binding guys even go to great lengths to explain how their Comet technique (BOSH, aka: "long-polling") isn't Comet. Almost as entertaining as it is wrong. Long polling along with other techniques are ways of implementing the basic Comet pattern. The general description of the pattern contains no preference for one or the other. It only requires that you not naively poll N seconds.

Lastly, I'd like to express my disappointment that Jack didn't include Dean's excellent Base2 in his latest round of benchmarks. It's doing us all a disservice that he's not including the fastest engine around in his benchmarks.

Processing

I was lucky enough to attend Foo Camp again this year. Like last year, its left my head so full of ideas, interactions, and permutations on themes that it has taken me a week and a half just to work through enough of the ideas to be able to start writing about them. I didn't open my laptop all weekend. Talks like Paul Graham's session on "how to have good ideas" give you a lot to reflect on as you introspect on your own day-to-day activities. Since Foo is the "Switzerland of Tech", there are whole raft of things I can't blog about, and that is as it should be, however there were some fascinating talks and discussions which seem to be dovetailing with more of what I read on a regular basis.

For instance, I stumbled into a series of discussions about broadcast media, societal fragmentation (and unification) and the political and technical enablers for that fragmentation. They seems only mildly related and even more distantly related to the tech parts of tech, but a whole host of ideas I absorbed at Foo funnel into larger debates I have with myself and with friends. I'm finding amazing parallels in those discussions and ideas from Foo with The Authoritarians and with things like this.

I'm becoming more resolute in some of my suspicious about what's currently broken with the way we build things on the web, but for the time being I'm going to practice some of the advice in Paul Graham's article: i pensieri stretti. Oddly, it somehow feels safer to talk about national politics out loud. Maybe I'll start doing more of that. My particular brand of technical heresy isn't going to play well for another half decade, I think.

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