SitePoint Podcast #102: Dumb Quotes

Episode 102 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week your hosts are Brad Williams (@williamsba), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), and Kevin Yank (@sentience).

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Episode Summary

Here are the topics covered in this episode:

  1. How J.C. Penney Became The Number One Search Result For Nearly Every Google Search
  2. HTML5 Will Be Done in 2014, What Comes Next?
  3. HTML5 for Web Developers
  4. What’s New in WordPress 3.1?
  5. What’s So Smart About Those Quotes
  6. Cussing in Commits: Which Programming Language Inspires the Most Swearing?

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/102.

Host Spotlights

Show Transcript

Kevin: March 4th, 2011. HTML5 is ready to use, WordPress 3.1 is out and some languages make developers swear more than others. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #102: Dumb Quotes.

Kevin: And welcome to the SitePoint Podcast #102! It feels like ages since our live show #100 a little while back guys.

Brad: We survived it.

Stephan: Yeah, it took me off guard a little bit.

Kevin: Yeah, I forgot that we did this thing every two weeks, it’s like the live show was such a big event, it took several days to prepare, and we recorded on a Monday instead of a Tuesday, or a Sunday instead of a Tuesday, so yeah we’re way out of sync. Thank you to Louis Simoneau who recorded episode 101 and released it earlier this week, our interview with the author of The Web Design Business Kit latest edition. But we are back, our regular hosts and co-hosts, Stephan and Brad are here with me today, I’m Kevin Yank of course, and Patrick is listening in but he is at a remote, undisclosed location so he won’t be joining us on the show here today I’m afraid, but hello to everyone, hi Stephan, hi Brad.

Brad: Hello.

Stephan: How you doing?

Kevin: We’ve got some stories that have piled up as well. A couple of these stories are like two weeks old now, but I made sure they were in there because I thought they were important, important and/or entertaining, whereas this first one I would definitely class under the entertaining category depending on how important search engine optimization is to your universe. This is a story on Gizmodo which explains how JC Penney became the number one search result for nearly, they say nearly every Google search, I’d say nearly every search for something that was sold at JC Penney. Guys did you read this story?

Stephan: Yeah, it’s kind of hilarious (laughter) in a sense.

Brad: Devious.

Kevin: So refresh my memory, what happened here? It’s a New York Times piece that sort of uncovered this all, but Gizmodo has a really nice summary.

Stephan: Yeah, it sounds like they dropped their links, or whoever their company, SearchDex, their search engine consulting firm, SearchDex, dropped their links everywhere, hundreds of sites all over the Web and they all lead back to JCPenney.com, and it’s bumped up their rankings for around it looks like what did it say, 70,000, is it 70,000, yeah, I think it is 70,000 results.

Kevin: I’m just pulling up The New York Times story here, but yeah that’s it; I think they unleashed a monster, they hired a search engine optimization firm is the best I can sort of gather and they went a little crazy with black hat techniques creating sort of false sites with links. Just reading from the quote that Gizmodo pulled here, “Google draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and white hat approaches which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site’s visibility. ‘Penney’s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line,’ says Mr. Pierce.” This is Doug Pierce, an expert in online search. “He’s described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to gain Google’s search results that he has ever seen. ‘Actually it’s most ambitious attempt I’ve even heard of,’ he said. ‘This whole thing just blew me away, especially for such a major brand; you’d think they would have people around them that would know better.’” So, yeah, for a few days there, for a little while there JC Penney was the top result for things like bedding, things like dresses. I’m sure JC Penney has a lovely selection of bedding and dresses, but do they deserve to be number one in the Google rankings? It seems pretty obvious not.

Brad: Yeah, this doesn’t really surprise me. I think a lot of online companies kind of bring in these large third party SEO houses that promise the world, they promise they’re gonna double, triple their traffic, whatever in a few short months, and they’re paid based on results so if they don’t provide they’re not getting paid, so they’re pretty much gonna do whatever they can. This actually reminded me about three or four years ago I worked for a very large ecommerce company, we had something very similar happen to us, we brought an outside SEO firm, we didn’t know much about SEO at the time so we brought in the experts, wanting them to kind of guide us on what to do. And essentially I was told to give them full access to the server and the website, and reluctantly I did. About a month later we completely disappeared off of Google, and we got the email directly from Matt Cutts who pointed out exactly what they did, and they were doing —

Kevin: Wow! That’s a milestone in your career as a web developer I’d say if you get an email from Matt Kutz.

Brad: Oh yeah, it’s funny because I very specifically remember the email because it was matt@google, and I was like this is spam, ignore it, and we thought it was junk. And then sure enough like a few hours later we disappear from Google, and we’re like okay maybe we should look at that email again. And, yeah, they were doing alt text on styled images, images that had nothing to do with the content but more about the style of the website, and just really shady stuff that we didn’t know any better. So we immediately fixed it, we fired the company, very similar to JC Penney’s and moved on, but I feel like a lot of these companies just bring in somebody and they just blindly trust them with something as sensitive as SEO, it’s kind of baffling.

Kevin: Hmm, yeah. So, according to The New York Times story they actually benefitted from that position for a while, they got away with it for a while, it says their top spot lasted for months, most crucially through the holiday season when there’s a huge spike in online shopping. So, I don’t know, when Google was put on to it apparently overnight they dropped from first place to way down the list, 70th on the list I believe, but you know maybe the ends justify the means here, maybe they made enough money that it doesn’t matter how low they are on the list now; I suppose it’ll be a while before JC Penney gets much of a ranking on Google now, right?

Stephan: Yeah, they’re gonna “continue to work to retain their high natural search position,” whatever that means.

Kevin: (Laughs) well good luck with that. Yeah, so in the story a JC Penney spokesperson, Darcie Brossart, said it was not JC Penney that was behind the rankings. “JC Penney did not authorize and we were not involved with or aware of the posting of the links that you sent to us as it is against our natural search policies.” She added, “We are working to have the links taken down.” So it feels like a bit of a left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing at worst here. Yeah, really fascinating. I don’t know, let’s think about this here, what if we take this woman at her word and JC Penney had nothing to do with this. Could you get one of your competitors banned from Google by employing black hat SEO techniques in their favor and then reporting it to Google?

Brad: Sure. I mean how are they gonna prove one way or the other who did it unless they track it all down; if there’s a thousand crazy spam link farm sites pointing to your server it doesn’t necessarily mean you did it, but all signs are gonna point to the fact that you did, so I mean it’s—

Kevin: Yeah.

Brad: I remember having this exact same conversation like five or six years ago, like what’s to stop our competitor from doing something like that, and it would not surprise me if there were people out there doing that, it would be an interesting route to take.

Kevin: What would you call that? I think you would call that black hat, black hat SEO, it’s double black hat.

Brad: I’d call it something with more cursing in it, but— (laughter).

Kevin: So, yeah, it’s just a bizarre story from the annals of the Web. This was like two weeks ago now but it stuck out for me and I really wanted to make sure we covered it. Something else that was a couple of weeks back now was word coming out of the W3C that HTML5 will be done in 2014, which it may sound ages away to some of you but according to the story their original target date was 2022 which is even further in the future. But whenever this finish date is they have actually given the go-ahead for developers to start using HTML5 today. This is a quote from Ian Jacobs, head of W3C marketing, who says, “Developers can use HTML5 now and we encourage them to do so.” What’s your take on this guys?

Brad: I’m happy to see they set a date, like you said, 2022 is a bit— I mean that’s far enough out there that you just don’t really think, it’s hard to fathom where anybody’s gonna be at in 2022, I mean just picture where each one of us were at five years ago and who knew we’d be here doing a podcast together, you know, but 2014 that’s just a couple years away so I can imagine where I’m gonna be at, at that point, and it’s nice to see that they’re actually saying alright start using it, start encouraging other developers to use it, start learning the spec, get familiar with it because this is it, it’s coming, so get ready.

Kevin: Yeah, definitely. I seem to remember roughly six months ago, six months to a year, someone at the W3C made a public statement and said, no, HTML5 is immature, it’s a work in progress, people shouldn’t be using it yet, and it created a big controversy because the developers of the spec actually said, you know what, if you shouldn’t use HTML5 what should you use? Because HTML5 even though it is a work in progress is provably a superior spec even to the latest official spec out of the W3C which was HTML 4.01, which believe it or not was released in 1999. So it’s gonna be, you know, even if they make this date it’s gonna be, what, 15 years between versions of the HTML5 spec out of the W3C.

Stephan: Yeah, so I mean you can really consider them releasing it a little early to be a real plus for most people.

Kevin: Yeah, I think so too. Yeah, I put a little— Like it pricked my ears up when I saw that the person making this quote was head of— a person in W3C marketing; I suspect the person who made the previous comment that it’s not ready yet, I doubt they were in marketing somehow. Were you surprised to read that the W3C has a marketing wing at all?

Brad: It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t really research and study up on it, but I can honestly say it’s the first I’ve heard of a marketing department for them.

Kevin: Yeah, definitely. I guess with the big splash they made with the HTML5 logo we’re seeing a fair bit of marketing starting to come out of the W3C now which is something that we really haven’t seen before; the most I’ve seen coming out of the W3C apart from technical specifications has been people presenting at conferences and things like that up until now. They had really sort of a word of mouth kind of way of spreading their message, and the fact that they’re actually taking clearly coordinated marketing efforts now around HTML is interesting, it’s a change from their way of doing business before, I wonder how recent it is.

Stephan: I wonder if this has to do with getting it under reigns all the people referring to certain things as HTML5, just blatantly calling something HTML5 when it’s really not, you know, when it’s just JavaScript.

Kevin: Yeah. But the W3C has been as guilty of that as anyone, or at least when they first released the logo there was a lot confusion around that. Speaking of confusion around HTML5, the original creators of HTML5, the WHAT Working Group, are not to be one-upped here by the W3C, they themselves are also releasing materials to promote and get the message out about HTML5. They have a document called HTML5 for Web Developers, and this is a version of the HTML5 spec with all of the technical detail, the nitty gritty stuff that really you only need to know about if you’re building a web browser that needs to support this language, but they’ve taken all that out and they’ve left in plain English, really clear, succinct explanations of all of the parts of HTML5 targeted for web developers. This is something that the W3C has not, well, I don’t know, has the W3C done this?

Stephan: Not that I know of. I haven’t seen anything before.

Kevin: Ah, that’s right, I just remembered with the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 2, they released something like five different documents of that, and one of them was sort of a set of guidelines for content creators, and that was the first time I can remember the W3C creating multiple versions of a spec for different audiences. And on the one hand I think if you got the right version for you it made it easier to digest, but at face value when you went to the spec place it said, okay, the first thing you need to know is which of these five books you want to read, and it made it especially intimidating to try and tackle coming to grips with a spec like that. The WHAT Working Group I guess thinks they can do a better job of that; I wonder if the mixed messages with the W3C releasing their messaging around HTML5 and the WHAT Working Group releasing their own documents around HTML5, is this gonna lead to confusion?

Brad: I think as long as it’s accurate, as long as it’s giving accurate information then I don’t know if it really matters; I mean as long as I go somewhere and I find out alright this is how I do it, this is the proper way to do it, then does it really matter? It could be W3Schools for all I care, just tell me how to do it correctly.

Stephan: And don’t black hat those WHAT-WG guys.

Kevin: (Laughs) yeah, exactly. But I suppose you’re right, as long as HTML5 is pretty much the same, the parts of it that people care about today between the two sources it’s gonna be fine, but I suppose this is part of why the WHAT Working Group renamed their thing from HTML5 just to HTML. Do you want to know about HTML5 the fixed spec or do you want to know about HTML? But it’s weird that this document is called HTML5 for Web Developers, then, I wish they’d make up their mind (laughter).

Let me see here; let me confirm that, because that doesn’t make sense to me. The story on Web Monkey talking about this is called HTML5 for Web Developers, and yeah, if you go to developers.whatwg.org you will see that the document is entitled HTML5, Addition for Web Developers, so how does this relate to The WHAT Working Group Spec, is it The WHAT Working Group does the HTML then the W3C puts a version number on it, HTML5, and then The WHAT Working Group makes the developer version of that spec? Already I’m confused.

Brad: Yeah, as you keep talking I’m getting really confused so maybe you have a good point there.

Kevin: Yeah. Alright, well anyway it’s a really good document no matter what it’s called, and if you’ve been looking the skinny on HTML5 from the horse’s mouth, this is a great place to go and check it out. Our next story is, drum roll please, a new version of WordPress.

Brad: WordPress, WordPress! Oh, sorry, I get excited when new versions come out. Yeah, WordPress 3.1, nicknamed Reinhardt after the jazz musician Django Reinhardt, was released on February 22nd.

Kevin: Really, it’s called Reinhardt?

Brad: Reinhardt, yeah.

Kevin: Hang on, hang on, that’s controversial because there’s another web framework out there named after the same guy.

Brad: Well, originally when it was released they called it Django and that caused some problems because like you said Django’s already out there, so like I think a few hours after it was released changed the name to his last name which was Reinhardt.

Kevin: Okay, fair enough.

Brad: Same guy, just using a different name so there’s no confusion, so I think it’s a smart move.

Kevin: Are there not enough jazz musicians out there that we have to start doubling up?

Brad: There’s a lot of popular ones but we’re at 3.1 here, we’ve had a few versions.

Kevin: Where’s Miles Davis’ version of WordPress?

Brad: I’d have to look through the archives; he might’ve been used already. A lot of the more popular ones that most people are familiar with have been used in earlier versions, now they’re kind of getting into the lesser known, at least if you’re not in the jazz community, lesser known jazz artists. But anyway, 3.1 came out, in less than a week passed a million downloads which is pretty amazing.

Kevin: Geez, that is amazing.

Brad: It’s at about 1.2 million now in just what are we looking at, nine days; it’s just amazing how quickly it’s been downloaded. All sorts of new features, all in all it has 820 closed issues on Trac, essentially bugs and new features, I believe there are about 180 developers involved in the new version, some features like the new admin bar which is kind of nice, you might be familiar with it if you have a WordPress.com site, it’s the little bar across the top.

Kevin: It’s really cool, once you’re logged in to your WordPress backend then as you browse around the live pages of your site there’s a nice bar along the top that lets you change things without actually having to go into the admin.

Brad: Yeah, it’s really cool. And the developers can actually hook into that so you can additional menu items and links and things like that with your plugins, which as a developer I find really cool. Post formats is another big one, this is more for like your bloggers and your writers, you can have kind of standardized formats for different types of content between themes, a good example I like to tell people because it’s a little weird to get your head around at first are like quotes; if you want just a quote in your post and typically if you see a quote on a website it’s a little bit larger because it’s not a lot of text, maybe a sentence or two, so each theme that supports the quote post format you know if you switch themes all of your quotes are still gonna look good, you’re not gonna lose that formatting, it’s gonna look good in that new theme, so over time more and more themes will support that and it will be more usable. Another one that I really like is the internal theme.

Kevin: Maybe you can clear something up for me, Brad, before we go any further: on those different post types how does that relate to the, I guess, the content types that were introduced in WordPress 3.0 where you could have posts with different types of content and have them treated differently, how is this new feature different from that?

Brad: It’s for posts so it’s basically a formatting that you use on your posts, so essentially it wraps your content and says this bit of content inside my post is a quote, or this bit of content is an image gallery or whatever the other — I think there’s about eight supported post formats, eight or nine, right around there. Or this is a chat message or a Tweet or whatever it may be, there’s a list of all the supported ones; I believe 2010 only support three or four out of the box but I believe there’s about eight, and WordPress.org has a list of them all on there you can check out. I don’t know if it’s going to be all the rage that a lot of people think it might be because I feel like it is really kind of niche, and if you’re using it on your theme, obviously most people don’t change their theme that often, maybe once a year, maybe every other year they change the design, but it’s not something you’re doing every week. And it really only comes into play when you’re doing that, so you can set up post formats on your current theme which is great, but then when you move themes you need to find one that supports those same formats. It’s a little weird to get your head around but they’ve got a lot more information on WordPress.org.

Another cool feature is internal page linking, so they made it much easier as you’re writing posts or any type of content to find posts you’ve already written quick and easily so you can highlight a bit of text, click the link button and you can easily search through your existing posts or pages or whatever it may be and link to those, so rather than digging through your post archives and copying and pasting the link it does it all for you, I found that one to be very useful when I’m writing blog posts. There’s a lot of other kind of more technical, there’s like the network admin screen, so if you’re using multi-site mode you might be familiar with the super admin menu, they’ve now moved that to its own section called the network admin section, so it kind of gets all that away from the normal users and puts it in its own section which is kind of nice if you’re using multi-site.

Stephan: I was surprised that they didn’t update the theme, like we didn’t get a 2011.

Brad: Yeah, there’s been a lot of talk about that, and everything I’ve heard is that 2011 is going to come; I don’t know if it’s going to be a separate theme or a child theme of 2010 because 2010 is essentially a framework, you can make child themes for it. I haven’t heard any definitive answer either way, but from what I’ve heard they’re still planning on doing it in 2011, and so it will probably be in 3.2.

Kevin: Well thanks for the roundup, Brad, we’ve got a blog post over at sitepoint.com covering all of those important features, that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a WordPress user and you’re wondering whether to make the leap. I suppose as usual it is always best to keep your WordPress blogs up to date because that’s a piece of software that is under constant fire by hackers, and so you always want to stay as up-to-date as possible.

Another blog post that caught my eye over at SitePoint this week was a post called What’s So Smart About Those Quotes, and I was thinking of this Brad when you were talking about the new quotes feature in WordPress 3.1, it has nothing to do with that, it’s the actual quotation marks that we use when we’re typing on the Web, in email, anytime we’re using a computer, and there’s this thing called Smart Quotes and some people know what they are, some people don’t know what they are, and some people kind of know what they are. So this is a nice short and sweet post that demystifies these Smart Quotes. Brad, if I were to ask you what a Smart Quote is what would you tell me?

Brad: It’s a really stupid quote that I hate.

Kevin: (Laughs) What have you got against Smart Quotes?

Brad: I hate, hate, hate, hate Smart Quotes.

Kevin: I love Smart Quotes!

Brad: With a capital Hate.

Kevin: I’m gonna type some Smart Quotes in the chat room right now, that’s how much I love them.

Brad: The main reason I hate Smart Quotes, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve banged my head over some code that looks flawless and the only problem is I pasted it in a Smart Quote and didn’t realize it in my editor and it completely bombs in PHP and most languages if you put a Smart Quote in there, it’s looking for a regular quote so it completely bombs and you can’t figure out why, and it’s happened time and time again, and I go through the code and I’m like this looks fine, come to find out there’s a Smart Quote in there.

Kevin: Where is this code coming from that you’re doing Smart Quotes?

Brad: I’m copying and pasting from untrusted and unknown sources.

Stephan: The interwebs.

Kevin: (Laughs) So for those who are wondering what the heck we’re talking about, Smart Quotes are those curly quotation marks that I think the time people first see them is when they use Microsoft Word, so you’re typing along and you type a set of quotes, and then as you write the word that goes between the quotes you noticed, if you’re paying close attention or if you have a particularly big font selected, you notice that Word automatically converts the straight up and down version of your quotes into curly ones that go around the piece of text that you wrote. So you’ve got basically three quotation mark characters that you can type, you can type the straight one, the left curly one or the right curly one, and on most keyboards all you have is the straight ones, but depending on how deft you are with the keyboard shortcuts on your operating system you can learn to type the curly ones yourself as well, and that’s something I’ve done. On the Mac it’s especially easy, you can type curly quotes by holding down the ‘alt’ key and using the left square bracket and right square bracket keys, and then you can get the double quoted versions of those by holding down shift — no, the left and right square brackets give you single and double quotes I believe, yes, and then you can hold down shift to get the opposite side of those, the right-hand curly version. On Windows I think you have to hold down the alt key and type some codes on your number pad to get them.

Brad: I still don’t understand what are they for, I mean what’s the proper way to use a Smart Quote?

Kevin: It’s cause they’re pretty, Brad!

Brad: That’s it, just because they look nice, that’s ridiculous.

Kevin: (Laughs) Well, you definitely, like you said, you definitely wouldn’t want to use these things in your programming code, and I once or twice, because you know I’ve written a lot of books about programming, and every once in a while I get an email from someone who’s read my book and they’ve tried to type the code in my book into Microsoft Word and then save it as a text file, and Microsoft Word helpfully goes and puts those curly quotation marks in, and of course the programming language doesn’t know from curly quotation marks, you’re supposed to use the straight ones when you’re programming, and that’s where you get into trouble. But if you are writing text to go on a web page the curly quotes look a lot better; Brad, you’re a fan of WordPress, you know WordPress automatically curls the quotes in your posts, right?

Brad: Yeah, I mean I’m assuming they do if you use the WYSIWYG editor; I stick with the HTML myself.

Kevin: No, I think even in the HTML editor by default if you type straight quotes and they’re not part of the code, they’re part of the text, it automatically curls them for you.

Brad: It’s ridiculous.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Brad: Just give me a dumb quote and I’m happy.

Kevin: Ah, well, the problem with curly quotes, you know, you could say that if they just caused problems for people who are dumb enough to code in Microsoft Word they wouldn’t be so bad, but the problem is that their interaction with text encodings, so if you write your content for your webpage in a text editor that is not configured to save that text as Unicode, and then you put that content into a page on your site that has a meta tag that says it’s Unicode, those curly quotes break and that’s when you get garbage characters or the question marks in the black diamonds, those sorts of things are what happens when you use curly quotes and you’re not keeping tight control over your text encodings. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t like them because it forces them to worry about text encodings when they would rather not have to worry about it, and if they can confine themselves to just using the 128 safe characters they can type on their keyboard, or however many it is, that are common between all the text encodings then they won’t have these problems. Are you one of those people, Brad, that you rather have straight quotes because you don’t have to worry about text encoding?

Brad: Yeah, I don’t like anything changing what I do, so whether it’s a dumb quote to a Smart Quote or something else leave it as I type it and then if I want to change it I will, and I know Word’s notorious for doing stuff like that.

Stephan: You’re a creature of habit.

Kevin: I can kind of agree with you there, now that I’ve learned how to type Smart Quotes myself I type them when I mean them and I don’t type them when I don’t mean them, and any program that stepped in and auto-changed them for me would be kind of annoying, but you don’t think they’re worth having at all?

Brad: Down with Smart Quotes.

Kevin: (Laughs) Alright, well you’re the tie-breaker, Stephan, where do you fall on Smart Quotes?

Stephan: I like Smart Quotes, I mean they have their place, I think they look neat in typography and stuff like that. Yeah, and I’m not lazy, so I’ll check the file format and see unlike Brad.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Brad: You guys are implying I code in Word and I’m lazy.

Stephan: I guess it’s because I use— I guess it’s good because I have editors, I have two editors that I use, on Windows I use Notepad++ and it has Unicode and stuff in the menu, real easy to switch back and forth, so I don’t notice it, and on the Mac it’s TextMate so I never notice.

Kevin: Yeah, ditto. Alright, well before we get Brad swearing too much let’s turn to our next story which coincidentally is all about swearing, swearing in programming code. This is a hilarious story that I spotted over at WebMonkey but it’s referencing a blog post by developer Andrew Voss who must’ve had a slow weekend because he decided to sit down one weekend and write the code necessary to do a statistical analysis of all the Open Source code hosted on GitHub, which is this popular Open Source code hosting service; if you’ve heard of Google Code or Source Forge before that, well, GitHub is the new awesomeness when it comes to hosting your Open Source code. And he did this analysis to spot curse words in the comments in the code of all of these Open Source projects, and he’s generated bar graphs and all sorts of fascinating things. I know we’re a big fan of graphs here at the Podcast, right guys?

Brad: I love your graphs (laughter).

Stephan: Oh yeah, charts, maps, love it all.

Kevin: So he’s obviously gotten a lot of traffic to this blog post because he’s posted a few updates to it, but let me read it from the man himself here, he says, “Last weekend I really needed to write some code, you know how it is, any code, I ended up ripping just under a million commit messages from GitHub,” okay, so these aren’t the comments, these are the messages that developers put on the commits, so if you’ve got a version of your code, you make some changes to it and you want to save that new version of your code into the GitHub system you usually, if you’re a good developer, you type a little comment explaining a summary of what has changed, and so he has analyzed all of those commit messages across GitHub. Going back to his post he says, “The plan was to find out how much profanity I could find in commit messages and then show the stats by language. These are my findings: out of 929,857 commit messages I found 210 swear words, note that I ripped an equal amount of commit messages per language so the results aren’t based on how many projects there are per language.” So, some of these graphs we can’t really read out on the Podcast because this is a family show after all, but the one that I think most people are paying attention to is the graph that ranks the number of swear words by language. So, Brad, do you want to make the big announcement, what is the most swear worthy language here?

Brad: Yeah, and you know I would probably agree with this, the most swear worthy language is C++, by a hair but it’s there.

Kevin: C++ by a hair; with 56 swear words, C++.

Brad: I could see that. Number two I completely agree with, too, JavaScript.

Kevin: What, JavaScript?

Stephan: No, Ruby.

Kevin: Ruby’s number two.

Brad: Is it? I was looking at the graphs, they’re really close (laughter).

Kevin: So we’ve got C++ with 56, Ruby with 53 and JavaScript with 46. Now, I agree with you, Brad, C++ clearly the language that is going to generate the most swear words just because it is so byzantine and if you type something wrong it tends to crash your program completely. Ruby, on the other hand, is touted as the language that developers switch to because it makes them happy to sit down and open their text editor and have Ruby code appear before them and be able to express their ideas in almost plain English, this is touted as the language that is the language of happiness, that makes developers enjoy their jobs, but apparently they’re swearing up a storm about it. Stephan, how do you explain this?

Stephan: They’re all working for startups.

Kevin: (Laugh) I think you could be on to something.

Brad: Red Bull and no pay. I have a good explanation that might actually be something. Ruby is the newest out of all the languages, right, so can’t we assume that most people using Ruby, chances are they’re learning it whereas people using PHP and C++ have been using it for quite a few years where they’re a little bit better at it.

Kevin: Maybe. So you’re saying these things are getting lots of swear words for different reasons, Ruby it’s because it’s a new language and people are trying to learn it, C++ it’s because it’s an old language and people wish they didn’t have to use it.

Brad: Yeah, exactly.

Stephan: I like my hypothesis better.

Kevin: I think Stephan’s on to something, the people who are writing Ruby code are the people who are, a) either doing it in their spare time because it’s the hobbyist language of choice right now or, b) they are working for these hip companies that they’ll let the developers use whatever language they prefer and they’ll also let them write whatever they want in their commit messages.

Stephan: While they live in a 35 square foot apartment. (Laughter) sorry, I love startups, I’m sorry.

Kevin: I too love startups; I wish I worked at a startup so that I could swear in my commit messages.

Stephan: Me too.

Brad: They don’t allow that at SitePoint, huh?

Kevin: Actually I think we probably could get away with it, but we don’t have a whole lot of Open Source code at SitePoint, so we swear all we want because people can’t see it. Anyway, fascinating breakdown here, JavaScript is, yeah, one of those languages that you think it’s doing one thing but it’s actually doing something else, so I could see that generating a bit of swearing, and number four is Perl, so say no more.

Brad: I’m just happy that I am working with PHP which is the lowest cussing one on the list 99% of the day, so I’m happy that I picked that language.

Kevin: That I don’t understand. I don’t understand, Brad. Brad, I know you love PHP but if I wasn’t getting to work in other languages, PHP would make me swear a lot. What’s your explanation for the low swear count on PHP, seriously?

Brad: I mean PHP as far as programming goes it’s not that hard of a language, I mean it’s a scripting language, and at least I’ve been doing scripting languages for probably about ten years so I think it’s natural for me at this point but, I don’t know, I just always thought they came a little bit easier than some of the other ones maybe object oriented or things like that.

Stephan: Maybe it’s actually a relief to commit the stuff.

Kevin: (Laughs) That’s right, so you’ve gotten all your swearing out of your system by the time you get around to committing.

Stephan: It’s physically in the code.

Brad: We use more innovative swear words since this is all based off the George Carlin— What’s it called?

Kevin: The seven words you can’t say on TV.

Brad: Seven dirty words, yeah, so we have more innovative ways that we can cuss.

Stephan: Inside jokes, things like that, yeah, I agree.

Kevin: Alright, well, yeah I love reading into a graph like that, and a more intriguing one has not come across my screen for a long time. So that’s it for our stories today which leaves us, guys, with our host spotlights and it’s a complete mystery to me this week, I have no idea what you guys have for your host spotlights. Brad, do you want to lead us off?

Brad: Sure. I have a YouTube video and I’ll just throw it in the chat here real quick, and there is actually a group out there called Omnimaga, I hope I’m saying that right, and their goal is to convert all these great old games to run on calculators, Texas Instruments calculators, so they’ve actually successfully ported Doom, the original Doom, over to a calculator, and they have a working demo that you can watch on YouTube where they’re actually playing Doom on this old Texas Instruments calculator, it’s really interesting. And I went to their website and they have this list of projects that they are working on or have already successfully converted to work on their Texas Instruments calculators.

Kevin: You know when I was in school my calculator could add, subtract, multiply and divide, and that was plenty.

Stephan: You guys didn’t have games on your TI83?

Kevin: It was solar powered, that was the fancy feature in my calculator.

Brad: I had Tetris, Tetris was it when I was in, that was all I would play. I mean they’re working on Bomber Man, Contra, F-Zero from the Super Nintendo, I mean these are classics.

Kevin: Whoa! I would buy a calculator just to play F-Zero.

Stephan: And it’s all in Basic, right, or is it all— Oh no, it’s Assembly I bet.

Kevin: Oh, geez, yeah it must be.

Brad: I’d like to see the curse words on those commits (laughter).

Stephan: That’s funny because I actually, I have a TI84, my wife’s a math teacher so I have a bunch of calculators sitting around the house, but I use them, I have one that I’ve programmed to be my inner volumeter for my camera, so it sits next to my camera and it takes time lapsed pictures whenever I want it to.

Kevin: How do you connect the two?

Stephan: It has the little output; the actual output actually fits into where the inner volumeter would fit in on your camera. And it just takes a bit to fire the shutter, I just send a bit to the camera. Okay, I’m a complete nerd.

Kevin: (Laughs) Brad, I want to pull up the YouTube video but I don’t want to interfere with our live stream here, so what are the display capabilities of these calculators that they’re developing for?

Brad: Oh, it’s horrible, it’s as bad as you’d expect, I mean it’s literally like black and green and a little bit of shading.

Kevin: But is it like shaded or is it line drawings?

Brad: It’s shaded, I mean it’s the game but it’s pretty much just kind of black and green, and the darks are really dark and it’s kind of hard to see like down a hallway, but it’s a really short video, it’s about a minute and a half, but you can see it’s definitely playable. I don’t know what the end goal is here because they did it but I can’t imagine really enjoying the game for a long period of time like this.

Stephan: It’s better than doing calculus.

Brad: I guess if you’re sitting in class—

Kevin: Point taken! Yeah.

Brad: —but do people really use these types of calculators anymore?

Stephan: Yeah, let me tell you in high school I used one of these and I used to download Assembly games off the Internet and they were actually pretty good graphics for what it is.

Brad: In high school, come on, we’re not young anymore, Stephan, let’s be honest you weren’t in high school yesterday.

Stephan: Guys our age probably aren’t using them, but the people in high school I mean these kids are using these things, I mean now they have their iPhones in their pockets.

Kevin: It’s true, a family member of mine who shall remain anonymous for his own protection, but he started a new university course where they needed him to buy a tricked-out calculator, and he convinced someone to buy him the fancier model which he confided to me was simply so that it could play these games.

Stephan: Because you can’t have your phone in a lot of the classrooms so you have to have a calculator, so they use a calculator.

Kevin: I could just imagine mashing the keys of the calculator in the class trying to frag an opponent.

Stephan: I’m gonna videotape me playing some of these games now, that’s what I’m gonna do tonight.

Kevin: Alright, Stephan, what’s your spotlight?

Stephan: So people may have already heard this but it was released on Valentine’s Day, it is a new Chrome extension from Google that blocks sites from Google’s web search results.

Kevin: Yeah, I saw that.

Stephan: And it is sweet and I love it and I will continue to use it and my list continues to grow.

Kevin: What sort of sites have you blocked Stephan?

Stephan: I’ve blocked a lot of content farms; you know we had that whole discussion about that, so I’ve blocked eHow, I’ve blocked About, things like that, sites that I don’t really get much value when they come up in results and they usually are pretty high, I’ve blocked most of that.

Kevin: Do you ever feel like, okay this eHow result was useless, the last ten eHow results I got was useless, but one of these days I might search for something and the eHow article on it really is the best place to learn about it.

Stephan: I’m willing to take that risk.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Brad: This is nice. I thought Google back in— Didn’t Google used to have this built in to just Google itself where you could just block sites and then they got rid of it at some point?

Stephan: Yeah, I thought it used to be on google.com.

Brad: I thought so. I really like that, you’re right, because you constantly get these sites that you know you’re never gonna go to, even though they rank really high you automatically discount them and you’re not gonna do it.

Stephan: Yeah, I skip two or three results on certain terms just because I don’t like any of the sites that come up, so I’ve just blocked them all and now I don’t have to worry about it so it’s really cool.

Brad: I’m sure they’re watching that data, too, to see who’s blocking what and if it’s something they need to look at, you know.

Stephan: Yeah, definitely.

Kevin: Yeah, no doubt. I think someone joked around here when that extension came out, is this Google saying “Fine, you do it!” (Laughter)

Stephan: It’s them getting lazy.

Brad: It’s a good idea, why not put the control on the users, if you’ve got millions and billions of users using Google I mean you can assume that some of the data that they tell you is going to be correct, you can at least look at it and possibly learn from it.

Stephan: Next thing you know they’re gonna abandon curly quotes. (laugh)

Kevin: It’s a story we didn’t cover here today but Google the upcoming, last time we talked about it was Google the upcoming algorithm change that de-emphasized content farm or low quality sites like these has gone live, and Google made a big noise about it; when they first said they were going to do it, it was buried on Matt Cutts’s personal blog, but it seems like now that it’s out there they’re ready to shout it to the rooftops and say hey we just made a big change that improves your search results. So I’d be interested if you turned off that extension, Stephan, if those sites would even be appearing in the first page of your results at this point.

Stephan: I’ll have to do some experimentation and just see what I get; I have two computers side-by-side and do it and see what I get.

Kevin: My spotlight for today’s show is placekitten.com, that’s placekitten.com, and this is one of those sites that lets you generate placeholder images for use on sort of the templates that you’re building for a new website. So you’re putting together a page, you know there’s going to be an image there but you don’t have it yet so you need a placeholder of an exact size? Well this site you can just put in the dimensions that you need in the URL and it generates an images of a cute baby kitten!

Brad: This is awesome. This is great. I love these sites.

Stephan: I’m gonna use this constantly.

Kevin: This is my new favorite one. There are serious ones out there, this is not, this is a cute one. And the only thing that would keep me from using this today is, and this tells you how interested I am in this, I actually dug in and had a look, the one thing they’re missing is HTTPS, so if you’re building a secure HTTPS website protected SSL then using these images will generate those annoying mixed content warnings that you get in Internet Explorer and some other browsers, so I’m hoping they will get around to putting an SSL certificate on their site so that that no longer happens. Otherwise this is a slice of web perfection as far as I’m concerned.

Stephan: It’s awesome.

Kevin: placekitten.com.

Brad: This is great. So now the client’s gonna be looking at his site going why do I have all these kittens on my site. (laughter) What’s with all the kittens?

Stephan: I need a placedoggie.com now, that’s what we need.

Kevin: If you don’t want kittens on your site you should not hire a designer with a heart. (laughter)

Brad: Yeah, I guess at the end of the day you can’t get mad at kittens, it’s only gonna put you in a better place, right.

Stephan: Gotta hire the soulless people. (laughter)

Kevin: And that’s our show for today, thanks guys, it was great to get back in the saddle.

Stephan: It was a good one.

Brad: Yeah, I had fun.

Kevin: Yeah, let’s go around the table and tell people where to find us.

Brad: Brad Williams from webdevstudios.com and you can find me on Twitter @williamsba.

Stephan: I’m Stephan Segraves, you can find me online at badice.com and I’m on Twitter @ssegraves.

Kevin: And you can follow me on Twitter @sentience and follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom. These days we’re experimenting with recording the Podcast live, and we are announcing it on the @sitepointdotcom Twitter account, happens Tuesday evening in the United States every second week, but the best way for you to get notified and hopefully join us in the chat room to watch us record this live is to follow @sitepointdotcom on Twitter. Visit us at sitepoint.com/podcast to leave comments on this show and to subscribe to receive every show automatically. The SitePoint Podcast is produced by Carl Longnecker and I’m Kevin Yank, thanks for listening, bye, bye.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.

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  • fvsch

    About developers.whatwg.org, it’s a nice improvement upon the former author view, or upon this previous attempt at the W3C: http://dev.w3.org/html5/html-author/

    But, even removing the implementation details from the spec is not enough for most developers to learn HTML5. The W3C has had a wiki effort to document current HTML (not a specific spec), and that’s probably the way to go, but it needs some loving (content and design). See:
    http://my.opera.com/karlcow/blog/2011/03/02/html5-a-better-documentation

  • netnerd85

    I prefer the W3C spec myself. The spec is great for all the technical details you should know but it doesn’t always match the Browser implementation.

    W3C is always the way to go.

  • Kim Røen

    Brad’s spotlight is supposed to be “_block_ sites from google search”, no?

    • Brad Williams

      Hey Kim, my spotlight was the DOOM mod on a calculator. Stephan’s spotlight was the new Chrome extension for blocking search results you don’t care to see again

  • typemad

    The “curly” quotes are the correct ones from a type design point of view. The idea is that one OPENS a quote and the other CLOSES a quote. I could go one about legibility and how the shape of characters help us read better, but its long and boring to most people. You’re correct in saying they’re “pretty”. Aesthetics is a big part of type design. Using the straight quote is actually incorrect. WordPress and MS Word do the smart quotes because those pieces of software know that most people would automatically use the incorrect ones simple because they’re the easiest ones to type on a standard keyboard. Even the slightly easier Apple OS X solution still wouldn’t be known by the majority of users.

  • kaf

    Brad! Did you just say that PHP is not object oriented?!!

    PHP is every bit as object oriented as languages like java. If you can’t write OO code then you should be using a framework to hold your hand through the process.

    It’s scripters from PHP3 days who are stuck in the past who are giving PHP a bad name.

    Saying PHP isn’t OO because PHP3 wasn’t is like saying java isn’t OO because the syntax is loosely based on C.

    Please all PHP coders use your objects! It’s the rest of us who will have to maintain your spaghetti code in the future!

    PHP3 !== PHP5

    • Brad Williams

      Hey kaf, you’re certainly correct. PHP can be OOP or scripting. I was just stating that in my opinion it’s still used as a scripting language more often than OOP. And to be honest it could just be the crowd I run with.

  • John Griffiths

    HTML is your freind.

    To say
    Hello World

    use markup
    <q>Hello World<q>

    Removes all the character encoding problems, points out that quotes are like any other bracketing symbology (begin/end (/) [/] {/} </> ‹/› «/») and stops fiddling around with keyboard code pages.