phil wilson :: a geek commodity

3:28 PM

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Friday, May 30, 2003


I’m slightly confused.

When entering the details of your friends in the Foaf-a-matic2, you can enter either their email address in the mbox field, or an SHA’d value.

But then what happens if you have “hide email addresses” selected?

This means that the value in the email address box gets encrypted via SHA. So all addresses you entered which were already encrypted get encrypted again. Surely this is an oversight?

Should there be a separate field completely for SHA’d mbox values?

I think this is the only decent way around it.

That way, when loading FOAF files, if you’d previously encrypted their addresses, those encrypted values get loaded, and don’t get double-encrypted when you re-save the file.


10:23 AM

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Wednesday, May 28, 2003


The Blam! Review Creator, along with Blaxm! Reviews Exchange seeks to be a way of centralising reviews made by disparate people over the web (check out the format).

Now, all this was done a few weeks ago, and I’ve spent some time thinking about it; and it’s a good idea.

In the same vein, is a project to let people “swap books with people near you”, which works off of your ZIP code (for those who have one of course, unlike anyone, er, outside of the US).

I’ve said pretty much the same thing on the rdfweb-dev mailing list (but not got around to implementing yet – too much time figuring out how Jena works!), but surely all this would be so much better done by including reviews (or a link to a review file) from within your FOAF file, where you also specify your geo-location (all I can think of is nearestAirport at the moment, but I know I was reading about something better the other day – can anyone remind me?). You could then easily do things like “find me films I might like within 3 degrees of separation”, or “find other people who liked this book who live within 5 miles” and voila – list. If anyone else reviews ever anything, of course.

I’d also have thought that “swap books with people near you” would have been better off using GeoURL in the first place – then you get a worldwide service, instead of one restricted to the US.

In other news, the List of known ontologies really isn’t as useful as it could (should?) be. What would be better would be a list of the ontologies (as exists now), then when you click on one, you get a tree-like structure displaying the Class and Property relationships. This is what people need to be able to see RDF and how it works, at least to begin with. Just presenting a big list where properties and classes are listed all jumbled up doesn’t really help anyone.

10:19 AM

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Friday, May 23, 2003

Writing for the web bugs me.

In fact, it’s not writing for the web that bugs me. It’s marking-up text for the web that bugs me.

It’s not just IE’s rendering bugs, and its broken box model, or any of the bugs that make people proclaim that Gecko is the rendering engine of the Gods.

It’s the failure of every single browser to even implement what we consider the basics – HTML and CSS2, regardless of whether that implementation is broken or not. Maybe even parts of CSS1, I don’t know, I haven’t checked.

The thing that annoys me most is the complete absence of any support for generated content, stuff like quotation marks. How hard can it be? I mean, really? The other day Dave Hyatt asked: If you had to pick a W3C technology to implement next in WebCore, which one would you choose?

Fucking HTML and CSS2, bitch.

Oh and of course, there are supposed to be quote marks around Dave’s question. But I’m not supposed to have to type them. I’ve already used the <q> tag thanks very much. Gecko puts in the quotation marks for me. Does anything else? Fuck knows.

Now OK, hands up here, I’ve not extensively tested Safari (I don’t have a Mac), but I’m more than willing to put large amounts of money on Safari not supporting the full range of CSS1 and CSS2, and people are talking about browser support for CSS3!! (and to be fairer still, it’s being talking about not just for Safari but for a host of browsers)

There’s pressure on the Mozilla team to produce the best rendering engine out there – the most standards compliant, full ranging, all-signing, all-dancing, w3-tastic engine there is. SVG? In the works. MathML? Coming soon. CSS2? No idea.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just haven’t trawled through the travesty that is BugZilla enough (I’ll save a rant about that for another day) to see the outstanding troublesome issues surrounding the remaining parts of CSS2.

Generated content? no support. Pseudo-classes? some support (hellooooooo first-child: where are you???) Pseudo-elements? sometimes they seem to work, sometimes not (ok, bit weird that one).

There’s just so much that browsers could and should do today but they just don’t. And we talk about moving forward and onto something else, just setting ourselves up for yet another unimplemented spec.

If even the most lauded of rendering engines can’t manage the CSS2 generated content, what chance is there that they’ll manage the CSS3 generated and replaced content ?

Consolidate. Make it work. Then move on. But only then.

Do I ask for too much? I think you'd better not answer that.

Based on the feedback, I dug a little deeper.

9:12 AM

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Gene says:
I think you're missing the point. Not only did Dave Winer invent weblogs, he invented all weblog software. In 1997.

» by Gene

Man, that's funny. :)

3:37 PM

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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

When we speak of free software,
we are referring
to freedom, not price.

Haikus in the GPL

9:43 AM

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I completely hate bandwagon-jumping and just linking to other people’s stories, and becoming one of the thousands of blogging sheep who wait for something cool, and then all link to it.

Sadly for me, today Simon Fell links to an announcement in the Spring weblog about preliminary FOAF support.

Now I don’t have a Mac, but Spring looks like the kind of app I’d like – a natural, intuitive method of linking and performing actions on people, places, and sources of information. It certainly looks like the way user-centric apps should be. As soon as I can, I think I’ll see if I can try this out on the Mac in our office. (Of course, there’s always a slight worry in that Andrew Orlowski endorses it – see bottom of Spring homepage)

Simon also reports on a new feature in Syndirella, toast – that is, a small popup that displays the latest feed update in a window such as that MS Messenger displays when you get new mail (FWIW Feedreader also does this). There’s a download available, as well as diffs between this version and the original. There may be a problem with the licensing, as the code for “toast” is from The Genghis Project, the license of which may be incompatible with the GPL, but at the moment it looks A-OK.

I have a personal interest in Syndirella, because I intend to use it as a testbed for learning C#, just as soon as I get around to installing VS.NET ....

3:51 PM

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Monday, May 19, 2003

One day, we’ll be able to use Ideagraph to make diagrams like this

12:37 PM

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Thursday, May 15, 2003

someone does need to implement CSSable RSS feeds

Well RSS is XML, and everyone and their pet monkey knows you can style XML with CSS.

Two sites that spring to mind which use CSS to style their RSS feeds if you come across them in a browser are the W3’s feed and

If the reader wants to be able to just display that feed rendered with its CSS, just give the user the option to do just that – “Displays items with feed’s associated stylesheet” or whatever.

I question why you might want to do it, but the option to do it is already there.

Jerakeen likes, but as he says, I don't support Trackbacks. I want my new server so I can run this web log off something other than Blogger. Incidentally, if you don't have a decent browser, you won't notice the big UPDATE: before this paragraph, and other paragraphs in previous posts. Get with the program, people.

2:11 PM

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Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I just finished updating my FOAF file. Thanks Jim for the help. – Eric Thauvin

We shouldn’t have to do this by hand. We need GUI tools. FOAF-a-matic mk 2 is good but incomplete. As of ten minutes ago it now imports friends from vCard files and you can open your existing FOAF file and have the GUI updated with the info it contains.


  • provide GUI components for all base FOAF properties
  • look into providing dynamic a GUI for properties from other namespaces (I doubt this is possible in Thinlet)


  • App now inclues Jena libraries, and is massively bigger as a result
  • I don’t know if Leigh Dodds (the original author) has already done this work, or more, or anything. I emailed him a few days ago, but no response as yet. Does anyone know anything?
10:56 AM

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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I feel lucky.

9:58 AM

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RSS Bandit. Found it

I had a dream last night. It was about RDF and the semantic web. It was all about automated agents talking, relating; RDF documents find out stuff about other RDF document and becoming cleverer. They link together and become a gestalt entity, greater than the sum of their parts.

There were plain old documents in it too. They were like farmyard animals, chewing the cud.

Incidentally, I didn’t find RSS Bandit via Google. I found it because its author posted a link on a weblog I read.

Searching for “RSS Bandit” on Google produces hundreds of links to pages mentioning it, but none to either its homepage, or its gotdotnet workspace (there’s a link to an old MSDN article about it). The link to the workspace may be on any number of those returned pages, or all of them (it’s not linked to on the first page returned). This is normal Google usage. And it doesn’t work any more.

4:29 PM

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Monday, May 12, 2003

All our new projects at work are being done in Tapestry.

It makes my brain bleed.

RDF is supposed to be hard, but it’s a walk in the park compared to this.

11:44 AM

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Ian Davis writes that Dan Brickley’s proposed FoafNews is just RDFNews.

I think he’s right. Why use the FOAF name in this? This is the point where I’d like to use, for the first time ever, the phrase ….. (fanfare please) ... FUD.

4:15 PM

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Saturday, May 10, 2003

A summary:

Zeldman has redesigned his website, and it looks absolutely beautiful. Is this finally an end to the proliferation of white-only websites (I have an excuse – I have no design talent)?

A few days behind, but still, XHTML 2.0 considered hopeful. It’ll be so nice to see many of the broken facets of XHTML 2.0 fixed.

It’s also (vaguely) interesting to see the CSS debate continue on and on and on.

FOAF and co-depiction gets a mention on a completely unrelated website, which I think is a good sign of its growing popularity (or at least mindshare).

Dare's RSSBandit is actually looking really good now, and as soon as I find out where to download it from, I’ll be trying it out.

Oh. It’ looks like it’s not out yet.

Slightly more interestingly, Jena includes a tool called “schemagen” which takes in an RDF schema and produces an appropriate vocabulary class in Java. Excellent! I was really expecting Jena to be much much harder to use, but it appears to be fairly simple.

p.s. I’ve just spotted a design suggested for Dave Hyatt’s website. I think I’ll convert to CSS and steal it (using -moz-border-radius to do the corners for gecko-browsers).

3:14 PM

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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

They say the Net expands as necessary to fill your free time, and this has been true for me for years, and with the advent of RSS aggregators there’s no excuse for anyone to have a moment’s free time; I’m subscribed to thirty feeds, but there are people who subscribe to three hundred, or more.

But recently I’ve found this not being the case, in fact, the opposite; now, I don’t even have enough time for the computer at all, let alone keeping up with the virtual joneses. More quality time with ‘er indoors means that (through no fault of my own) I’m kept up to date on the dalliance of Kat Slater and Alfie Moon in Eastenders. Some people would say this is healthy, I say “where’s my personal coding time?”. I need a laptop.

3:58 PM

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Tuesday, May 06, 2003

BIO: A vocabulary for biographical information and Friend of a friend.

The GEDCOM Standard and any of one, or a mixture, of Simple API for GEDCOM, GedML, GEDCOM to DAML.

Does anyone see where I’m going here?

Possibly converting GEDCOM to DAML to use Jena instead of the Stanford RDF API, and then using XSLT on the resultant XML to produce good FOAF using the BIO vocab.

And voila, your family in your FOAF file. Why you'd want to do so is a different matter.

Incidentally, I've seen a lot of talk (esp. on rdfweb-dev and rdf-interest) about GEDCOM -> RDF but no concrete code, hence why I thought I'd have a go.

3:03 PM

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Thursday, May 01, 2003

Public Service Announcement

In an attempt to help Mark Pilgrim (of reduce his bandwidth cost, the application will from now on ignore any attempt to retrieve any url from and associated sites. The algorithm to protect Mark Pilgrim from having to pay the price of unwanted bandwidth use is as follow: any url simultaneously containing "diveinto" and ".org" will be ignored. This should hopefully cover most of Mark Pilgrim's sites.

The maker of ZOE is publicly urging any person in a position to help Mark Pilgrim reduce his bandwidth cost to do so promptly as Mark Pilgrim's situation is untenable. Removing any references to and associated web sites from your DNS server should be the most efficient way to help Mark Pilgrim reduce his bandwidth cost. Thank you in advance for helping Mark Pilgrim.

This site is taking up the call, removing Mark Pilgrim from the blogroll on the right, and the owner's aggregator. Help Mark Pilgrim today!