One of my goals for 2007 is to spend less time on the road, and SitePen has been helping to make sure that I get real blocks of time for R&D. This is all the more important given the aggressive Dojo 1.0 roadmap. As a result, I'm skipping some of my favorite conferences (SxSW, ETech, etc.) and doing less speaking in general. But that doesn't mean I'm not traveling at all, just that we're trying to "make it count".
Here's an abbreviated version of my conference schedule until about June:
- ISOC-IL 2007 Conference: after a full day of listening to me yammer, hopefully there will still be some interest in using Dojo somewhere in Israel.
- ETel: the telco guys don't know me, but if they show up at ETel the sure won't like me when it's all said and done. This talk will be something of a reprise of my no-holds-bared EuroOSCON talk. Swearing will most certainly be involved.
- AjaxWorld NY: not speaking (Dylan is!) but as I'm on the board of the Open Ajax Alliance, I'll be in NY for the members meeting at the very least.
- Web 2.0 Expo: thanks to Simon I'll be on an Ajax Toolkits panel. A good time will be had by all while we dodge the "why shouldn't I use Flash/Flex?" question.
- Java One: Jean Francois, Greg Wilkins, and I will prognosticate about the state of Comet in Java. Thanks to the hard work of both of those chaps, the future is surprisingly bright.
- 2007 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy: I'll be attending this one, and thankfully it's in Oakland. Lots to talk about regarding security on the web these days and this is the place to do it.
Believe it or not, that's a relaxed schedule from last year. If you're going to be heading to any of these and want to catch beer, don't hesitate to drop me a line.
I don't blog much, if at all, about politics but I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Recently, someone told me that members of my generation don't care or know anything about politics. I was aghast at the suggestion but upon reflection I think I can understand where he was coming from: having grown up in an environment of growing disenfranchisement leads to a belief that it's impossible to effect change, even if you think you know what to change. I don't even remember a time when congressional districts weren't gerrymandered beyond recognition or when incumbency was unassailable. Unless something changes, my little brother will only vote in presidential elections where untrustworthy electronic voting systems are the norm.
Despite all of that, however, I vote every chance I get. Jennifer and I study for elections, usually reserving most of a weekend beforehand to pore over the hundred-plus pages of voter information booklets that get shipped to every California voter. We spend time researching, trying to pick the best person for the job, peering through the morass of private interest and political machinations and not always coming away feeling like we really understand all that's at stake. I've never voted a straight party ticket in my life, mostly because I don't think anyone really has all the answers. I expect my elected representatives to duke it out to a good compromise. I want the kind of slow, deliberative government that leaves everyone slightly bruised and no-one very happy.
And I worry a lot about the health of the fourth estate. I'm something of an NPR junkie and my favorite show is without a doubt On The Media. It says something about me that I'm not sure I want to acknowledge that I try to make sure I'm by a radio every Sunday a 2pm to hear it. Even though I already get the podcast.
Which is why the administration's saber rattling toward Iran scares the living shit out of me. The Senate can't seem to shake its limp-wristed, morally-equivocting response to the last war while an executive that couldn't be bothered to plan for the aftermath of a war of choice attempts to foment another. The disastrous consequences of our failure to win the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan brings me close to tears. We've shattered hundreds of thousands of lives, returned Afghanistan to the warlordism and feudalism which gave rise to the Taliban in the first place, and wrought untold damage in Iraq. It was our responsibility to ensure law and order after ousting the existing regimes of these countries. This isn't the America that liberated Germany, this is the America that fucked Guatemala for half a century and overthrew an elected democracy in Iran. That overthrow, incidentally, has led us into a trumped-up "conflict" with a bruised, malignant, and blighted society next door to an American quagmire. It frightens me that Bush administration shows no signs of wanting to understand the causes of Iranian intransigence toward American foreign policy dictates. One can only imagine the lack of perspective and historical context in the discussions surrounding American/Iranian policy. The Bush administration wants influence in the mideast and something, anything to draw attention away from 30% approval ratings and a war that is now receiving something that might one day resemble congressional oversight.
Those are both pretty thin reasons to go laying the groundwork for yet another conflict in a region that is both critical to our national interest and growing more unstable by the day. As Juan Cole keeps pointing out, the agro directed in the general direction of Tehran doesn't even make any sense. And it's not like there are any good policy options for a president intent on trying to bully Iran anyway. Sure, there might be some purely military options that would perhaps be available to the US given that we've now got permanent bases in Iraq, but as James Fallows has illustrated, none of them actually make policy sense. Which is why congress needs to find its hands and then use them to find its ass, and quick. Spun the right way, the over-broad authorization of force against Iraq could be twisted to justify limited tactical strikes against Iran. When it blows out of proportion (as it inevitably would), will congress have the cojones to say no? I doubt it. They can't even get to a debate on a freaking non-binding resolution against a horribly unpopular war backed principally by a lame-duck president with approval ratings not seen since the Carter administration. Even with elections looming. Such is the jingoistic power of potentially being seen as "weak on defense" or "not supporting the troops".
And so the media fails us again, the administration makes allegations that aren't even plausible, and the attention that should be directed to a thousand other places gets focused on what can only be described as the wrong things. How long can our flirtation with authoritarian incompetence last? And what will we pay in the decades to come for our duplicitous national arrogance and cowardly ignorance?
I've been trying to avoid regular expressions in dojo.query. It's a difficult tradeoff since regexes are very space efficient vs. lots of
indexOf operations. A little digging on the point turned up a fascinating article on why regexes in most languages are slower than they need to be.
Now if only there were some explanation of why regular expression string replacement, not just matching, is brutally slow across the board.
Ajax is getting us "old apps ++", but even with Comet in the stew, too much complexity is still laid at the feet of end developers. Complexity == cost. Cost == opportunity. Is it any wonder that the most interesting startups today are either retreads of old concepts or simple integration of new data paths into the old ones?
So long as it's still this hard for everyone to build web apps that don't contain nasty surprises, the web's formidable advantage in openness will always be at risk of being dominated by other factors. As the Linux world has painfully discovered, being open isn't a guarantee of value to everyone you wish to entice. It's an opening gambit in convincing people of top-to-bottom value and not even a strong one.
I'm starting to focus more and more on the "sharp edges" of the web development experience because I find that web developers discount mental overhead and workflow impediments without much thought to the real costs. Jot's design hit a chord with me precisely because it rounded off some of those sharp edges: the hours of database and web server setup. It's those kinds of assumed costs that keep tripping us up. They're fine for organizations that want to be experts or think they can get competitive advantage out of it, but how is it good for everyone else?
One of the big goals with dojo.query wasn't only to be relatively fast compared to the other query engines that you can chose from, but it's to help even out the performance peaks and valleys. It's still possible to write poorly performing queries with dojo.query, but for the most part you're going to have to do more typing to get a slow query than a fast one. It may not be the kind of thing that webdevs will notice, per sae, but rounding off the sharp edges is an exercise in usability: things are only useable when they do what you expect them to. A system that hurts you more than you expect isn't useable.
I'm not sure that I have a point with all of this other than to hope that others will either point out a great big hole in my logic or, like me, start to work on rounding off those edges. If I'm right, the web needs us to question our sacred cows and continually sunk costs. Openness might not have strong value on an individual basis, but in the aggregate it's important for everyone.
Jennifer and I were lucky enough to be able to visit Hong Kong for the last week and change, and I've gotta say that it's one of the best places I've visited. On the way there, the camera we brought broke, and so while we picked up another one, all the pictures we took are on Jennifer's Flickr stream.
We had a great time and Jennifer's talk was very well received. Getting around Hong Kong is surprisingly simple given how tortured the street layouts are. The service at hotels there is like nothing else, and the city is breath-taking in scale. We had some of the best thai, cantonese, and dim sum we've ever tasted, thanks in large part to a little guide book we picked up in a book shop in Kawloon. Also, if you get to Hong Kong and you need your daily dose of dorkyness, check out the Science Museum. Their 4-story-tall Rube Goldberg device is something you don't easily forget.
If you were trying to get ahold of me in the last couple of weeks, I'll try my best to get back to you soon.