SitePoint Podcast #131: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges

Episode 131 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week the panel is made up of Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Brad Williams (@williamsba), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves and Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy).

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Episode Summary

Here are the main topics covered in this episode:

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/131.

Host Spotlights

Interview Transcript

Louis: Hello and welcome to yet another episode of the SitePoint podcast, I’m here with the regular panel to talk about the news on the Web this past week, hi guys!

Stephan: Howdy, howdy.

Brad: Hello, hello.

Patrick: Hey!

Louis: How you all doing this week?

Patrick: That too loud for you? No, I’m just kidding (laughter). I’m doing good actually, I’m in the middle of web hosting nightmare day, but other than that I’m excellent.

Louis: Oh, web hosting nightmare day, is that like programmer’s day?

Patrick: Yes, exactly, it’s a made up holiday.

Brad: I don’t think it’s as fun as programmer’s day.

Patrick: Don’t think it’s as fun but it’s caused by programmers sometimes. No, just kidding, one of those days.

Louis: Well, we’ve all had ‘em.

Patrick: Yeah, well, hopefully you won’t lose 10 days of content when it happens to you.

Louis: Oh, that hurts!

Patrick: Yes, it does, thank you (laughter).

Brad: Starting the show on a bright note today.

Patrick: Yeah. This is actually the highlight of my day. I don’t know if that’s sad or that’s good, but I mean — I don’t know.

Stephan: So the people in their cars heading to work today it’s like a wake-up to them to double check their backups, is that what you’re saying?

Patrick: Right. Well, no, I have backups but, you know, I don’t have backups to the second, I have backups every two days that I take and there’s like a system of backups and, yeah, maybe I’ll lose five days, I don’t know, but anyway, losing content, yeah, is never good.

Louis: Did the server just die?

Patrick: It’s a complicated issue. No, the server didn’t die, in fact, there were probably too many servers and the wrong one was cut, so, yeah, it’s been fun today, all day, and last night quality of sleep was up there for sure.

Louis: Alright, well, let’s try and shift your mood a little bit by kicking into the news. Does anyone want to go first? Let’s not do Stephan’s story first because that will not improve anyone’s mood.

Stephan: It’s a real downer.

Brad: I’ll go first. I don’t know how exciting it will be for Patrick being a non-developer, but, if you are a developer there’s a new API out there and it was released about two weeks ago, but it was a couple days after our last live show so I thought it was important enough to bring it up, and that was the Google+ API has been released, the first version, obviously it’s a very limited API but they finally got it out, and it’s a restful API design so it basically uses standard http methods to retrieve and manipulate data. And currently the API only allows you to access public information, so if you post something on Google+ and you’ve made it public you can access that via the API, however, if you post something to a specific circle that is not available to it through the API. So I think it could be really fun to see how developers kind of take this and see what they can start doing with it, and if people really kind of stick with Google+, especially after some of these apps that they’re used to seeing on other social networks start showing up on Google+.

Stephan: The way I measure success is when Scrabble shows up or Farmville.

Brad: It’s the games; it’s all about the games, right?

Louis: They’ve all got games like two days after the initial launch.

Brad: You have to launch some games unless I mean or else no one will show up. It looks pretty cool, it basically returns JSON, so there’s a couple interesting little tidbits, it returns JSON only, so there’s no XML option, it launched with OAuth2 support for authentication, which apparently the only thing you can actually do when you authenticate at this point is get the nice user name instead of using their Google ID.

Louis: It’s a pretty limited beta here.

Brad: Pretty limited but considering they got it out pretty quick, I mean it’s been, what, I think they said three months and people were kind of hammering at the door like why isn’t there an API, which I thought was a little ridiculous, that’s pretty quick to get an API out.

Louis: I’m sorry; I’m going to join the chorus of people saying why isn’t there an API. Look, the infrastructure is there, you’ve got your database schema, you’ve got — your web version is just an API, right, you’re just pulling data out, and for something like this, just rest returning JSON, that’s not hard; it seems like for something you want to get early adopters, and early adopters include a lot of developers who are going to want to try and play around with this and see what they can build on top of it, I don’t think there’s any reason why they couldn’t have launched with an API available from day one.

Patrick: I hope they take the API away now because of this.

Brad: I think you’re right, they could have launched with it, but reading some of the articles about the release of this it sounded like Google wanted to get Google+ out there and get people using it to see how they would actually use it, because they weren’t — they had a good idea of how people were going to use it, but you never really know until millions of people show up on your site and they start using it. So I have a feeling that is probably helping shape the future of the API even though what they released is pretty limited right now I’m sure they’re working hard on the next version of it, and I’m sure that watching how these tens of millions of people, I think they’re up to around 30 million now on Google+, how they’re using the service is going to really help shape how this API evolves.

Stephan: Well, maybe it wasn’t about how they were going to use the service but if they were going to use the service (laughter), that’s the real question.

Louis: Yeah, I mean on the plus side to speak positively of this I have to say you know it’s great to see API’s this cleanly designed, obviously there aren’t a ton of methods available yet, but having a nice easy rest API that returns JSON and works with OAuth is great having had to work with a couple of let’s say less elegant API’s over the years, I think us as developers we can all agree that this is refreshing.

Stephan: This leads me to my question; do you guys prefer the JSON method rather than XML?

Louis: Absolutely, no question.

Stephan: Okay, got it.

Brad: I mean I work with both, especially like a lot of the CMS’ really support both, open source CMS’, so to me I could go either way, it’s not like I require one over the other, but I think everything is kind of leaning towards JSON now, so I think that’s where, you know, I better start getting used to it I guess.

Stephan: Yeah. That was just a question I had.

Louis: One of the things I like about the JSON is it’s kind of self-documenting, you know a lot of API’s out there if it’s from a small company that hasn’t released a full service they can just give you an example of what the JSON returns, and it’s much more readable I find, so it’s easy to look at and be like, oh, I’m getting a person with a username and a password and whatever, XML’s got so much cruft around it that it’s harder to read for humans.

Stephan: Yep, I agree.

Brad: You know going back to what we talked about and how they took a little bit to release it, I think another thing, and we’ve discussed this on the podcast, it’s been a while, maybe six or eight months ago, but we talked about how developers are getting very frustrated with these API’s that are being released and then changed every six months; Facebook’s notorious for that. The Facebook API since it’s launched has changed a ridiculous amount of times, and it can be extremely frustrating for developers if they have to keep going back and changing the methods that they’re using, changing the code that you would expect to be not necessarily locked in but not something you have to change every six months. So, by them taking their time and, like you said, coming out with good standards using things like OAuth and JSON right out of the box it’s comforting to look at this and think as it stands right now I know it’s very basic, I wouldn’t see this changing any time soon.

Louis: Yeah, I definitely look forward to seeing what can be done with that. Google+ reminds me in a lot of ways of FriendFeed in the way that it works in terms of comment streams and public and private posts, and I remember when FriendFeed came out with its API like there was so much innovation around that, so I’m really as excited to see, and this has got a much bigger audience obviously which includes a lot of developers, so it’ll be really cool to see what people do with it.

Patrick: Yeah, you guys aren’t really too active on Google+, I just pulled up your profiles just to see. Brad has one update since August 8th, Louis has one update in September, one since August 26th, Stephan, of course the worst of everyone, has two updates overall, July 4th and August 6th, so it’s not because there’s no API; why is it that you guys just haven’t spent too much time over there, I guess Brad first?

Brad: The biggest thing for me is probably that it doesn’t support Google apps, and I’m logged into Google apps all day long, so for me to log — I basically have to switch accounts in the middle of the day to get on Google+, so it’s a bit of a — a little bit of an inconvenience, it’s not like it’s that hard to switch accounts, but it is a big enough inconvenience that if I do get on it it’s usually like in the evening on the laptop, and I guess I’m just not — I haven’t really — it hasn’t become a habit for me, whereas Facebook and Twitter are kind of habits for me at this point, they’re sites and services I check throughout the day multiple times, and Google+ just hasn’t got there yet.

Patrick: Yeah, you make a great point because — and for me it’s kind of opposite because my YouTube usage has dropped because I associate it with the wrong account, and now first world problems, white wine, whatever you want to call it, I don’t want to switch, I just don’t bother to switch the accounts. And a friend of mine, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, he’s not on Google+ yet because of the Google apps thing because he merged his accounts and he can’t use it yet, and it’s funny they’re prompting me to merge my account now or to separate it, and he’s like “Don’t do it, never do it!” Because they have locked out people who use a Google apps email address and he’s just out of luck right now, and it seems like such a strange problem, I don’t know why they’re doing that.

Louis: The stuff is getting better. Look, I understand they’ve had massive problems with the Google apps issue before, but it used to be, you know, like a friend of mine posted on Twitter something about playing Google apps roulette, and whenever you went to Docs you’d be logged into some random account, like you’d click on a link in an email —

Brad: Docs is the worst.

Louis: – in your Gmail, and then when you arrived at Google Docs you’d be logged into a different account suddenly and it’d say you don’t have access to view this document when I just clicked a link in an email that was sent to me.

Patrick: Yeah.

Louis: It was really random. And it has gotten better, the new account switcher I use it in Gmail and I’m logged into all three of my, you know, two Google Apps accounts and my personal Gmail account all day and it works pretty well, there’s only a few little tweaks, it’s getting better. Yeah, as for me, why haven’t I used Google+ more, there’s a couple of things, one is I find the stuff that people are posting less interesting than on other networks. And I don’t know it’s maybe just the people I’m following, but it seems like people are trying to post more blogg-ish content and trying to like not just sort of offhand, hey, here’s what I’m doing; it doesn’t feel like a casual social environment, it feels very like I’m trying to get people to comment on my stuff, and maybe that’s just because the early adopters are very much in the sort of blogger and tech-focus kind of person.

Patrick: Yep.

Louis: The other thing that bugs me is, like I said, for me it reminds me of FriendFeed but then it’s missing some features that I really like, so it always feels kind of awkward because I feel like I’m in that environment and then suddenly I’m not. So, for example, you don’t have friend of a friend, so if somebody that I follow Like something or Plus1 something that someone else has posted I don’t see that, so I only see the stuff that’s posted directly by people I follow, so there’s less serendipity, like I won’t randomly see stuff by new people and get to discover new people, and the other stuff is stuff doesn’t float to the top as it gets Liked or as it gets commented on, it’s all sort of in chronological order of when it was posted; it just doesn’t feel as good an interaction to me as, you know, like I know FriendFeed’s dead, I know nobody uses it anymore but it’s still what I like best.

Patrick: You’re like on the street corner impassioned; give me back my FriendFeed Zuckerberg! (Laughter)

Louis: You know, look, that’s how I feel about it.

Patrick: Yeah. And Brad I saw just updated his Google+, thank you, Brad.

Brad: You called me out, that’s my status update for the month (laughter).

Patrick: Stephan, what about you?

Stephan: I just don’t have time (laughs).

Patrick: Okay, insult the rest of us. I’m too busy.

Stephan: If it had an iPhone app I probably would, yeah, just because I could download everything real quick and then read it later.

Brad: There is an iPhone app.

Stephan: Oh, there is?

Brad: It’s pretty good, too.

Stephan: I’ll have to look that up then. Alright, so maybe I will get addicted now.

Brad: Yeah, check it out. It’s not perfect but it’s considering how new Google+ is it’s pretty far along I think.

Stephan: I’ll have to check it out then; I haven’t even looked at it so I’ll do that.

Patrick: Yeah, Brad, you’re a little like Zuckerberg because he has zero updates and like a million followers and people in his circles, you have 10 and 500, so that’s like an update for every 50 people that follow you.

Brad: I should update more. I hope they’re not expecting much.

Louis: I’ve got a really weird story that I don’t really — I’m not sure I 100% understand it but I’m going to throw it out there because in theory it sounds pretty cool but it also sounds kind of messed up. So what it is is it’s on the Mozilla blog and it’s from I think about a week ago, and they’ve launched something called the Open Badge Infrastructure Project. So, they describe it as an effort to make it easy to issue and share digital learning badges across the Web.

Patrick: It’s the gold star API!

Louis: What’d you say?

Patrick: It’s the gold star API.

Louis: It is literally a gold star API. Now, I’m just going to stop there, I can go in more detail about some of the technical stuff behind this a little bit later, but I just want immediate reactions from you guys on this idea.

Patrick: I think you can insert the obligatory, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” quote in here.

Louis: I was kind of expecting that.

Brad: Because I guess maybe I don’t quite get it, so you get — badges are for what, for like — it looks like learning like languages on the Web, learning different — I mean is a kind of like a certification, is that what we’re talking about here, it would be a badge instead of a cert?

Louis: I guess it kind of is. So let’s say, for example, that I have an online set of tutorials or I teach webinars on something, right, and then when people attend my webinar or once they’ve completed my course I can give them a badge. And this provides an API to sort of sign it, so what it does is it embeds some JSON metadata into the PNG file that I issue to them, and then you can verify that against Mozilla’s API at openbadges.org and sort of add it to a badge backpack and display it on other sites and it’s certified via this API. So the idea is you’ve got this sort of consistent standard for issuing badges and displaying them on your sites.

Stephan: This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen (laughter).

Brad: I was waiting for someone to say it.

Stephan: What’s even dumber is that I read down here at the bottom of this article that they’ve got a million dollar grant to do this, Mozilla did, to work on this infrastructure.

Louis: Yes, from the MacArthur Foundation.

Stephan: Yeah, from the MacArthur Foundation.

Patrick: Money’s money.

Stephan: Yeah! I’ll come up with some badges for a million bucks, sheesh.

Patrick: See, when I get a badge I always download it and upload it to my server so I don’t suck down their bandwidth, right, but this throws that idea completely on its head.

Louis: No, no, no, it does work like that.

Patrick: Okay.

Stephan: (Laughs)

Patrick: So I still have to download stuff?

Louis: As an issuer of a badge, right, you just — you sign it with this JSON encoded in the thing, right, and then you can just sent it to the person via email or whatever and they can display it on their site or whatever, but it’s been signed with this API so if you have a plugin for WordPress, for example, you can report back to the API and get the metadata and get links to where this badge was issued from and all that from the PNG.

Patrick: And I know Mozilla probably has different projects they’re interested in beyond just Firefox, but this is on the Mozilla Firefox, I mean there’s a logo for Mozilla Firefox on the top left of the page, so I’m just going to associate it with Firefox and say is this what’s supposed to halt Firefox’s continued market share loss, the open badges?

Louis: Well, I don’t think, I’m going to be fair, I don’t think this specifically has anything to do with Firefox because there’s not implicit or explicit link with the browser, you don’t need Firefox to use it, sorry to shoot you down there.

Patrick: No, I get it but I just wonder…

Brad: To me this just seems like a lot of these kind of arbitrary certifications you hear of or people put on LinkedIn and you’re just like what is that certification, you know it doesn’t — it’s from some strange website that no one’s ever heard of.

Stephan: Well, that’s the beauty of it, Brad, that’s the beauty of it; now you’ll know, now you’ll actually know, you’ll be able to click on it (laughs).

Patrick: It’s standardized, Brad.

Brad: I promise if someone hands me a resume with badges on it (laughter) I’m probably gonna laugh for a little bit but I doubt they’ll get the spot.

Louis: I’m going to read a quote from the press release from the MacArthur Foundation, the quote is from Julia Stash, Vice President of U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation: “Digital technologies are helping to re-imagine learning, and badges are emerging as a new way to both encourage and demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills of all kinds in formal and informal settings. Badges are simple, easy and if done well can present a more nuanced picture of what an individual knows and can do, there’s much more to learn and we expect that this competition will continue to developing a badge system that could change the way people share information about themselves, businesses make hiring decisions and organizations support the acquisition of skills important to their mission or to the larger society.”

Stephan: So, well we know where $50.00 of that million dollars went, to write that.

Louis: (Laughs)

Patrick: That’s how much copywriters go for, wow.

Stephan: I think so, yeah, it took about an hour. So, I just don’t get it. It’s like Call of Duty badges for the Internet (laughter).

Patrick: Oh, man, but if you could flash right in front of your face, right, like HTML5 unlocked! Wouldn’t that be awesome.

Stephan: I really look forward to putting this on my resume.

Patrick: So they have a flowchart on openbadges.org, which is the website for this effort, and it’s at the bottom so you have to scroll all the way to the bottom, but they have like I guess the evolution of your badge, so badge issuers they show after-school programs, online learning, job training then it goes to badges then learner who has a badge backpack who then embeds those badges on the website, social networks, blogs and resumes, I guess online resumes and employment sites, and then from that they get jobs, educational opportunities and they unlock new privileges.

Louis: I don’t know who drew this thing.

Stephan: That would be new attachment for your gun in Call of Duty (laughter).

Louis: Yeah, man, look, I definitely had kind of the impression when I saw this like, “what, really?”

Patrick: And there’s a whole FAQ on their website that helps to, I don’t know, I don’t know if it helps or not, but.

Louis: I don’t think it really helps.

Patrick: What I kind of got was they’re going to have to tighten who can issue these badges, right, I mean it’s not going to become something that you can every — you don’t go to Brad, you know, Webdev Studios and say, Brad, we need to develop this open badge!

Brad: Hey, give me a million dollar grant I’ll make a badge system for you.

Louis: But I think that’s it, I think the idea is not controlled, right, if I’m any kind of website I can issue badges to members or whatever.

Patrick: Geez.

Stephan: You’re going to have a set of hackers who look like they’re the Mensa Foundation (laughter).

Brad: I’m trying to find a list of all the badges, is that not available?

Louis: See that’s it, this is just infrastructure, it’s not like — they don’t have badges, it’s just an API that any website can use.

Brad: I just want to see the badges!

Patrick: Yeah, interestingly if you click on user stories on their site it takes you to a blog that actually has posts from March of this year, it’s a post from March of this year I should say, “Badges in the Real World,” and it says, “How do we explain Mozilla’s Open Badge Project to beginners,” and it goes from there talking about different people, students, and how badges benefit them. And this is from March so I guess this has been in development for a little while.

Louis: Yeah, it’s in very early days, and if you look at they’ve got a version of the code to interact with the API on GitHub and the documentation is somewhat incomplete, for example, he talks about he wants to eventually do sort of public/private keys for signing the badges, but that’s not done yet so all you do is embed the metadata directly in the thing rather than embedding the private key, so it’s a long way from being what they want it to be I guess. I’m definitely going to read this article about Badges in the Real World from this blog just to read about these user stories, I mean if people have compelling experiences learning stuff and teaching stuff with the help of badges then I guess more power to you. But, yeah, call me skeptical off the bat, that’s kind of where I sit on this.

Patrick: If you’re a badge holder leave a comment at sitepoint.com/podcast and let us know.

Louis: Yeah, absolutely. Look, if people want to email us and tell us in any kind of story about how — I’ll be fair, like there are computer games that I’ve spent longer playing than I would have if it hadn’t been for achievements and badges, you know, like I’m done, I’ve had my fun and I finished the game so I would just move on, but it kind of sucks me back in with, oh look, I can get an achievement if I do this or whatever. And you know I can see that maybe you could apply that same whatever psychological motivation to other context that are more productive than Call of Duty, yeah, I mean, look, if it works I guess.

Patrick: I don’t want to unlock new achievements, I want to unlock higher pay grade (laughter).

Louis: Yeah, well, I can’t see it; it’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which this would be applicable in that kind of context, in the context of a resume or in the context of unlocking new privileges which is what they said which is weird, but it’s hard for me to visualize a future in which an employer would look at an online resume and say, ooh look there’s a badge from the school of web something, you know.

Patrick: Yeah.

Louis: I don’t really — I don’t get it.

Stephan: Hey, if you’re applying for a job at Mozilla then maybe.

Louis: Well, maybe, yeah then it’s all about the badges.

Stephan: So let’s go down the depressing road, and there’s a story coming out today, Oracle announced — it actually came out the 16th of September, Oracle has announced the availability of commercial extensions for the MySQL database, MySQL database. These new extensions are only being added to the Enterprise Edition and will further differentiate the commercial edition from the community edition. So, this is the beginning of the end, I think, or part of the end I think.

Louis: I think everyone when Oracle picked up Sun had sort of fears that this sort of thing might happen down the track.

Stephan: And Monty, Michael Widenius, the guy who originally invented, started MySQL, has a pretty good blog post on his blog about how this kind of spells the beginning of the end and why the open core, which is the model they’re going with, is kind of the wrong way to go. And it’s a really good read, it talks about you’re depending on one vendor now for your project, you can’t really do any bug fixes yourself and you really can’t contract anybody to do them for you except the original vendor, and things like that, so it’s a really good read if people are interested on what this means in the future, so check it out and we’ll link to it. What do you guys think?

Brad: I wonder what this does to the actual MySQL license because MySQL released on the GPL, and obviously you can certainly sell software under the GPL, but if it’s not freely available as part of that then that would essentially break the license.

Patrick: Uh, oh, WordPress developer among us, everybody run!

Brad: (Laughs) Well, I mean anytime you talk open source there’s always debates on the software license behind it and what exactly it means, and this is that. But at the end of the day if it’s released under the GPL then introducing something that’s not actually open where they charge for it, they can charge for it all day long if they wanted, that doesn’t void the GPL, but if it is encrypted code, for example, then that would. And there’s no specifics in these articles, so I’m curious if they’ve mentioned that or if maybe Enterprise comes under a different license.

Louis: Yeah, well I image it’s probably the core still has to be open because it’s GPL, as you’ve mentioned, but I guess these extensions are probably just sort of separate code bases that are under different licenses and that sort of plug in to Oracle.

Brad: And that’s a whole nother argument you could have is whether — and this is any open source project, if anyone’s listening that has worked with one knows especially on the licensing, that it can get extremely tricky when you say what’s — you know like a plugin in WordPress, is that considered a part of WordPress because it has to have WordPress to run and if it’s a derivative work of WordPress because it’s a plugin for WordPress, I would kind of consider that the same for MySQL if it’s kind of like an add-on for MySQL that you have to have MySQL for it to work, it’s not going to work if you just run it by itself. I could be totally off; I don’t know anything about these plugins or the commercial extensions they’re starting to sell.

Stephan: Well, something interesting that they’ve done here is that, just reading through Oracle’s press release, they have kind of thrown in some of the Oracle features that are out there now for commercial, their commercial use, which like VM template which is something that they have for Oracle already, and the Windows clustering they already have that for Oracle. So, I’m wondering maybe they’re trying to merge the two a little bit and trying to get some of their MySQL customers to move over to Oracle or, I don’t know, I don’t know what the future holds.

Patrick: So let’s say we agree now MySQL, like you said by the way, both MySQL and MySQL, just so that one day Google can index audio we’ll get both of those (laughter). That’s like genius foresight. But, also let’s say MySQL is dead now, everyone hates it, we want to get away from it; what do people do now understanding that it is, you know, in wide use on a lot of lower priced especially hosting accounts let’s say, what do people switch to, what do hosting companies switch to tomorrow?

Stephan: MariaDB?

Louis: PostgrSQL.

Patrick: Is that a smooth transition?

Louis: Probably not.

Brad: Well, I mean there’s various database platforms out there that are open source, MySQL’s obviously the most popular for web based, Postgress or PostgrSQL, I can never say it. I’m not familiar with it but I know it’s an extremely popular one as well.

Louis: I’ve worked with it before. Now, interesting I was working at the time in Drupal5 which didn’t have support for PostgrSQL, I don’t know if that’s still the case in current versions of Drupal, so I had to do a little bit of hacking around in the core actually to get that functionality working because there’s a few slight syntactic differences between PostgrSQL and MySQL. I don’t know; I think WordPress does have out of the box support for PostgrSQL, though, doesn’t it?

Brad: It has basically a database API so you could hook in, and I know there are plugins that will basically overwrite the database class so you could hook it into PostgrSQL, you could hook it into SQL server, so even commercial database platforms you could hook it into. I think a lot of the CMS’ out there kind of have the same setup where it’s essentially a database class or API that could tap into and hook it into whatever system they want to.

Patrick: So I guess what I’m saying is that I guess we’re relying on it to some extent right now. I know Monty has MariaDB 5.5 which you mentioned, Stephan, I don’t know; have you worked with that at all?

Stephan: No, but from what I’ve read it’s pretty much a drop in replacement, so you could drop in MariaDB and it’d work just fine.

Patrick: So he’s positioned himself in a good spot right now to pick up some users.

Louis: Yeah, it’s interesting. So, I guess it’s probably worth briefly discussing what these extensions are, because if there’s things that most people won’t need then it’s not really super relevant, right, if the community edition still does exactly what you need it to do for your purposes then there’s no need to worry about it all, you can still get the community one which is open source and which you can freely use on your database. So, what we’ve got here is a thread pool which offers improved performance on 16 core or larger systems, so I guess this is mainly improvements for extremely large servers, so they’ve got a graph in the press release where it shows sort of a performance graph between the MySQL Enterprise Edition with the new thread pool and the Community Edition without the thread pool, and it only really drops off at around, what is that, about 500 simultaneous database connections, anything below that the lines are really one on top of another. So I guess it really depends on your use case for MySQL if you’re running a fairly small site or even a fairly large site but running it on commodity server infrastructure then it’s really not an issue. But I guess it does open the door to eventually adding other features to MySQL which are only available in the commercial edition; I guess that’s what people are concerned about.

Stephan: Yeah, I mean if you’re using large scale MySQL implementations then I think some of these features, like thread pools, that would be great because you could have a 16 core or bigger system, one box; I see the appeal but I don’t know if it’s enough to make people move to Enterprise unless you’re doing high-end stuff.

Patrick: So on September 22nd Facebook held its annual F8 developer conference keynoted by none other than Mark Zuckerberg, and if you have a chance you have to check out the video with Andy Samberg of SNL opening for him and pretending to be Mark Zuckerberg, it’s on YouTube on the Facebook official channel and it’s —

Louis: It does kind of look like him, doesn’t it?

Patrick: (Laughs) And he even played into it even more, like made himself look even more like him as far as like hair and wearing the zipper hoodie, or whatever it is, and yeah, and coming out to All I Do is Win by DJ Khaled which is a pretty good clip, so check that out. But they did make a number of meaningful announcements, especially to Facebook users, and I thought I’d talk about a couple of them. The biggest one to me was the introduction of Timeline, it’s not out there yet for everyone but it will be soon and right now if you do a little hack around, so to speak, and you can get a developer view of it and actually get access to Facebook Timeline which is the new format for profiles on Facebook. Have you guys done this?

Louis: I started it out by trying to go through this developer workaround and I kind of lost interest about halfway through, but then a couple days later they just said, hey, you want to check out Timeline? So I have seen it, yep.

Patrick: Okay, and what do you think?

Louis: Eh, I don’t know, I haven’t been really interested in anything Facebook has done for like four years now.

Patrick: You’re still on FriendFeed.

Louis: Basically since they bought FriendFeed it’s just been —

Brad: He’s bitter.

Louis: It’s all over (laughter).

Patrick: Stephan, Brad, have you played around with it at all?

Brad: I haven’t seen it. I’ve seen that a lot of people are posting screenshots and obviously it’s been all over the news and tech sites, the screenshots, but I haven’t actually had hands on it, no.

Patrick: Cool. So, I mean the way they look at it is that it is a better way of showcasing the content that you assimilate over the years, it’s easier to look back at things you did years ago and to pull them back up and to look at them in this Timeline format which organizes the content you’ve added to Facebook by years and then months and so on, and even goes further back, for example, to include your birth date if you included that. So, everyone needs to go Like my birthday right now if you have access to that, Like the fact that I was born, or else. So, yeah, I found it to be interesting, it’s an interesting kind of evolution to the profile page, I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Facebook changes over the past, you know, every time they change.

Louis: Well, let me just ask one question. So, it’s originally available through this Facebook developer’s linkup.

Patrick: Yeah.

Louis: Maybe he sold it this way at F8; what’s the pitch to developers, like as if I have a Facebook page for my company or I integrate Facebook into my website, what does Timeline give me that I didn’t already have?

Brad: Yeah, it didn’t come off more really as a developer feature to me unless there was some kind of new hooks within the open graphs that you could work with.

Patrick: Yeah, it’s a better way in their eyes anyway to showcase the content and to make it easier for people to get in depth with profile pages. Matt Hicks who used to work at Facebook as the community manager I’ve recently met him at a conference, and he was talking about how some people spend so much time on the news feed of Facebook where this has the potential to shift that I guess imbalance, so to speak, and you’ll see people spending more time on individual profile pages just scanning through the history looking at the different things there are to look at just because the content is more accessible, it’s there, there’s more of it, it’s not just one update, one update, one update, you know, it’s not update, update, littered with then Like, Like, Like, Like, Like, commented on this; it’s cleaner and maybe easier to use. And I don’t know how that impacts developers right now, that will probably become more apparent as people use it. But speaking of developers, one thing they did put out there is some new actions that people can take beyond Liking. Commonly cited ones are things like listened, watched, read; Zuckerberg said, “You don’t have to Like a book you can just read a book, you don’t have to Like a movie you can just watch a movie, you can eat a meal, you can hike a trail, you can listen to a song, you can connect to anything to any way that you want.” And so they’re kind of going to break out of that standardized verbiage of Like and Liking everything on every page on the Internet pretty much it seems like where you can Like there will be some languages and context that apply to a specific type of product or a web video or an eBook, or those sorts of uses where people can talk about how they — or just say they consumed a product versus saying I Like the product. And I’m probably not smart enough to figure out how developers will use that, but there is already some — I think there’s a book social network; the name of it escapes me right now, that is already building into that ‘read’ functionality. So, maybe there’s a better opportunity to share content.

Brad: I saw like Spotify’s on there, so if you listen to Spotify it’s hooking into what you’re listening to and Netflix is on there now, so if you are watching movies or shows it will say what you’re watching.

Louis: Aw, thanks for bringing up all those cool U.S. only services. (Laughter)

Brad: Oh, sorry. But I mean it just goes to show that they have expanded a little bit to where these services are getting in. Now, I don’t know if those are available to the general public, but I know they’re certainly coming if they’re not. But maybe, I don’t know, maybe I’m a hippie but it seems like it’s getting like too much, it’s too much information in one spot, it’s almost getting overwhelming.

Patrick: You don’t have the hair to be a hippie.

Brad: When people post what they’re up to and what you like, or whatever, that’s kind of straightforward kind of easy, but now it’s like it’s feeding everything, and it’s been going on this way for the past few years anyways, you’re feeding everything into one spot, so it’s like the amount of data going into Facebook from your friends is ridiculous, you almost can’t even keep up with it because Susie’s listening to this, and Brad’s reading that, and like it’s almost too much to me.

Patrick: Who’s Susie, Brad? Does April know about Susie? (Laughter)

Brad: I don’t think I know a Susie.

Patrick: I was going to say something about the U.S., there is one thing, it’s a small, extremely small consolation, but they also announced a lot of big name partnerships and one of them is with Netflix who has been beat around big-time lately, but they have integration with it where you can easily share even automatically I think what you’re watching on Netflix and it will work in 44 out of 45 countries, the one exception is the United States where a bill, some sort of law prohibits the disclosure of one’s video rental information. So, we are the only country I guess as far as Netflix is concerned that cannot share our watching habits with Facebook right now. So you have that, Louis.

Brad: That’s weird.

Louis: That is weird. Well, I’ll not touch on that. I just want to say, though, so there’s a couple things, first of all I did see this alternate verb thing because when that little sort of hacker workaround for getting the Timeline involved setting up a new app, and when you set up a new app in the Facebook developer interface it asks you to create a verb for your app, so either ‘read a book’ or ‘watched a movie’ or whatever, and I had a look at the interface and I thought that’s actually pretty interesting, I can sort of tie this in. And the other thing I wanted to mention is that I really like this, no pun intended, I really like this because I’m sure everyone’s had this situation where someone will post this article or call for donations relating to, for example, a humanitarian tragedy or like this awful news story and your only option on Facebook is Like to show support for this, which I’ve always found like no I don’t like the fact that there’s a famine in the horn of Africa, I want to point out that yes I support this charity or whatever, right.

Patrick: Right.

Louis: I think that that’ll be — at least sort of solve that cognitive dissonance that you always feel when you go to click the Like button on something that you actually don’t like.

Patrick: Definitely. And the one other thing I wanted to mention quickly is the ticker which we’ve kind of been exposed to I would say before F8, the ticker to the right side where things are streaming down, there is a lot, a lot more activity there to be seen from pages and from user profiles as well. So, Spotify’s a great example; my ticker I’ve noticed since they made that announcement and availed it has been showing a lot of listens from Spotify, xyz is listening to this song on Spotify right now. And I’m sure I can disable that; I think someone said if you hide enough Spotify stories they won’t show up anymore, but, there’s a lot of power there to be brought up in this sort of chronological fashion because the newsfeed is Facebook decides what you want to see based on your usage habits, that’s the newsfeed. And with companies and with pages and with apps and whatever else you have that publishes to the newsfeed, they determine that based on edge rank, which is a semi-mysterious calculation or algorithm where they take into account the relationship between you and the page or the user, and then how much you guys interact and then factor for a degrading of time; the longer it’s been on there. So, on the right side, though, this ticker is essentially content as it happens, so as people are using your apps, as people are Liking your page or Liking something you post, that is appearing in this ticker for their friends on Facebook. I don’t know; I, myself, like it, I’m finding myself discovering a lot more things randomly than I previously would have just going on Facebook’s curated newsfeed, but I could see how some might feel this is just kind of too much and adding to an already busy space.

Louis: Yeah, I kind of feel that way whenever I use the Facebook app on my phone. I don’t know why but somehow it’s different, like what I’m getting on the phone is the real time and not the curated or something, because I’m seeing a bunch of news stories from pages that I’d forgotten that I followed that I never see in my newsfeed when I go to the website.

Patrick: Yeah.

Louis: So probably something similar to that. But then a lot times I’m just like oh wow this is all noise, I just want to see stuff from my friends, but, eh, well, whatever. I guess for people who have Facebook pages it’s valuable.

Patrick: Right, right. And someone did tell me, because I asked that, I’m like well what if you don’t want to see this? And someone told me, I’m not sure how true it is, you can click on the item and then click on the little dropdown and click hide story or report story or spam, and if you do that enough it learns from what you hit, that’s what I’ve been told, I don’t know if that’s 100% sure but it would make sense.

Louis: Awesome. I think we’re coming to the end of the show; you guys want to jump into the spotlights?

Patrick: Yes! I’ll go first. I DJ’ed with DJ Jazzy Jeff on Turntable.fm this last week or so, that’s not my spotlight, I’m just throwing it out there; I thought about making it my spotlight but, yeah, I added it to my bragging rights on my Google+ profile.

Brad: Did you get a badge?

Patrick: No, there’s no badges on Turntable, they have to hook in with the Open Badge API to make that happen though. I want to be an expert DJ.

Brad: That would be one you might put on your resume (laughter).

Patrick: Sure, when I apply for a job at Webdevstudios.com I’ll be sure to include that badge. Yeah, but my real spotlight is a website called Garbage Horror. Now, are any of you guys horror movie fans?

Brad: I am.

Louis: Sort of. Let’s just say I used to be before I moved in with Gretel.

Patrick: (Laughs) What about B movie fans?

Brad: I looove B home movies.

Patrick: Okay, so you’re gonna love this site then, garbagehorror.com is a video show, it is — I don’t know what their publishing schedule is, I thought it was about weekly, but they’re putting out even more video reviews of low budget horror films. So, it is a fun show, it’s co-hosted by my friend Jonathan Bailey and his significant other, Crystal Rami, and they review a different, like I said, low budget horror film every episode. Latest ones are The Nude Vampire, Birdemic, Vampaggedon, It’s My Party and I’ll Die if I Want To, Rabid Grannies.

Louis: I do particular like Birdemic because it looks exactly like The Birds.

Patrick: Right, right.

Brad: I’ve seen more of these than I want to admit to (laughter), surprisingly.

Louis: Rabid Grannies is another —

Brad: I’ve seen Rabid Grannies; I’ve seen Boy Eats Girl.

Patrick: Wow, I’m surprised! So, yeah, you should hook up with Jonathan and watch this show then because they look at it from a fan’s perspective and they have a lot of fun with the show, yeah, so definitely check that out if you’re either a horror fan or a B movie fan or both this is a great show to subscribe to.

Brad: Yeah, I dig it. Alright, I’ll go. So my spotlight is a blog post by a gentleman named Mahdi Yusuf and Mahdi actually programs in a lot of different languages on a consistent basis, and a lot of the pretty common ones, a couple strange ones, but you know JavaScript, Java, C, C++, Ruby, and he was curious what keys he was hitting the most for each language, so he actually took some of his code that he would write for the day and dropped it into this keyboard heat map website and it actually shows on the site, in the blog post he has screenshots of the heat map of what he was basically coding on for those languages and how you can see they differ, which I thought was kind of interesting. So there’s PHP’s on here and some of these languages were a little different than what I expected, so can you guys, well, you’re probably looking at the post now, but what do you think?

Patrick: Yeah, we’re cheating.

Stephan: I haven’t looked at it yet.

Louis: Why are there so many E’s?

Brad: E is the number one key in everything except for Lisp.

Stephan: I haven’t looked at it yet, but I would say curly braces in PHP, is that a big one?

Brad: It’s not as big as you would expect.

Stephan: Ah, dang it!

Brad: It is in there though. I’m assuming e with PHP because of the echo. It looks like E and then T is the number two and then R and S are kind of a close third and fourth there.

Stephan: Interesting.

Louis: I guess well those are just common letters in words, so you’d have to do a bit of math on this and try and extrapolate out the keys that are common, because basically all your variable names like shopping cart, or whatever, or whatever variable name you use will have letters that are common in the English language, so that probably E, R, T, S thing is probably just a by-product of the fact that he’s writing code in English.

Brad: Yeah, and he actually if you read the post he does mention that. With variable names and tabs and spaces obviously are not accounted for, but that would probably be the number one, spaces obviously. Yeah, but there’s actually a link at the bottom of the post, and we’ll make sure to put it in the show notes, where the heat map JavaScript file of this guy set up a website where you can just paste in whatever code you want and it will heat map it for you, so if you’re curious you can take a code snippet or whatever, any kind of text for that matter, drop it in here and it will actually heat map it on a keyboard in realtime so you can see what letters are actually hit the most, you can even swap out the keyboard layout so if you’re any crazy dvorak fans or even crazier Colemak fans you can have all sorts of fun on this thing.

Louis: I had a friend in university program that keyboards in dvorak and spent like two months not being able to type anything (laughter).

Brad: I actually know five or six Dvorak programmers and they swear by it, I’m just not patient enough to do it. But it’s pretty neat, so you can paste anything in here and apparently the JavaScript framework that’s available he mapped out JS which is kind of cool, I might play with that, so kind of a fun website but it’s kind of neat to skim through the different programming languages and see what keys are being pressed.

Patrick: Yeah, and your spotlight made me curious, though, what — is there like a general understanding of letter frequency in I guess language? I was looking for typed, the most commonly typed letters, but the quickest thing I found was a Wikipedia page for letter frequency which cites a study I think in 2000 published by Wiley, from what I’m seeing in the footnotes, for just letters, and the most commonly appearing letter in the English language is E.

Stephan: R

Patrick: Why did you guess?

Brad: Makes sense that’s number one.

Stephan: Why did I guess that? Because R S T L N E, I mean come on it’s Wheel of Fortune (laughs).

Patrick: No, that’s good. But E is the only one that is double digit percentages, 12.702% of the English language is E followed by T, A and then it gets a little hazier, O and I. So, those are the most common letters and I guess the gibe with the keyboard, all except for Lisp which is numbers, 9 0, yeah.

Louis: Those won’t be the 9’s and 0’s, those will be parentheses which are above 9 and 0.

Patrick: You’re a smart man.

Louis: (Laughs)

Brad: Yeah, both parentheses are the number 1 and 2.

Patrick: The only lisp I’ve heard of is the spoken lisp.

Stephan: Mine this week is not appropriate for children and possibly if you’re sensitive to harsh language (laughter).

Patrick: But didn’t you just hear what we did earlier, this is a family friendly show.

Stephan: It is SL Ipsum and it’s Ipsum text that is Samuel L. Jackson quotes.

Patrick: Oh, goodness.

Stephan: So you can imagine where this is going. It’s pretty awesome though.

Louis: It looks like it’s mostly Pulp Fiction dialogue?

Stephan: Mostly Pulp Fiction, yeah.

Brad: I don’t think I’ll be using this on client sites any time soon (laughter).

Stephan: You don’t think so? You don’t think they’ll appreciate it, I don’t know why.

Brad: I use placeholder kitten pictures all the time, but this is, uh, —

Patrick: This is how developers should speak to their clients; you want a “beep” header tag? Yeah, I’ll take a “beep” H1.

Brad: This is funny.

Stephan: It’s pretty funny.

Louis: Yeah, it’s funny. I like the fact that all these — I mean it seems to be a sort of a trend of Lorem Ipsum generators that use various alternate languages or dialects, so it’s a lot of fun to see new ones. And this is particularly good because it’s coherent, it looks like they’ve taken whole paragraphs of text rather than —

Stephan: Just pieces.

Louis: Rather than just randomly generating words, so it actually — it’s readable which is kind of cool because you get sucked in to the content a little bit more than you usually do with Lorem Ipsum.

Patrick: And you notice the one you’re sent to by default is Slipsum Classic, not safe for work and he’s holding a gun, but if you click on Classic Ipsum he’s holding a — like, oh, gosh, rolls of paper, scrolls, and if you click on Slipsum Lite he’s holding a bouquet of flowers, a much less offensive placeholder text generator.

Louis: What is Slipsum Lite? I just want to see what Slipsum Lite is.

Brad: It says it’s a much less offensive placeholder text, so maybe that one is a funny site.

Patrick: Yeah, it’s less offensive. The one I got is, “I’m serious as a heart attack, now that we know who you are I know who I am, I’m not a mistake,” so, yeah, that’s how it starts.

Louis: These are also Samuel L. Jackson quotes but maybe from other movies that were somewhat less — yeah.

Patrick: Except for the classic one, the classic one is just the normal type of Lorem Ipsum text that you get on other generators.

Louis: Yeah, it’s just regular.

Patrick: The scholarly Samuel L.

Louis: But really there’s not point to go to this website if you don’t want that Pulp Fiction stuff.

Patrick: I think every website should have a filter at the top that he’s either Samuel L. Jackson-ified or lite or classic to just filter the whole website through. No one else likes that idea, sorry.

Louis: (Laughs) Well, I’ll let you take care of generating the WordPress plugin to translate our websites into Samuel L. Jackson speak, and if you do that —

Patrick: I’ll be the creative lead and Brad will develop it.

Brad: It’s at the top of my to-do list.

Patrick: We’ll get on that.

Louis: Cool. My spotlight for the week is a website called FutureFriend.ly which is sort of a I guess manifesto for an open web, and I know this is sort of a tired topic for a lot of people, but if anyone’s been following sort of the web developer/designer Twitter this week and there’s been stories about sort of a big argument that broke out between sort of Joe Hewitt and everyone else on the Web this past week. So there’s this story about it in ReadWriteWeb, a story about it on Bruce Lawson’s site sort of talking about this big debate where basically Joe Hewitt said something about how —

Patrick: He said the Web sucks.

Louis: He said, “To thrive HTML and company need what those other platforms have, a single source repository and a good owner to drive it. A standard’s body is not suited to perform this role, browser vendors are innovating in some areas, but they’re stalled by the standard’s process.” So he’s just kind of blasting on the standards process, and a lot of people, Bruce Lawson, John Allsopp and others have come out sort of in defense of this, but one of the things I’m not sure if this has been a response to this debate or whether it was around or it came out around the same time as people were having this debate. So it’s futurefriend.ly, and it’s just sort of an open letter or manifesto I guess about the standard’s process and how this stuff comes about and the changes in devices and changes in modes of access, and the way we’ve been going is an open Web with open standards is still a good solution, still the best solution, and it’s got a resources page that includes a lot of cool texts and ideas and other articles about how to approach the modern Web, multiple screen sizes and all that. So it’s a really nicely simply designed website that I think a lot of designers and developers will get a kick out of.

Patrick: I demand that they allow either you or Kevin to sign this thing; I don’t really care which one as long as it’s somebody that’s been on the podcast. I’m just kidding. Why is it asking me to allow storing data for offline use?

Louis: I don’t know.

Patrick: Does it want me to sign it? I’m going to click allow.

Louis: Mine didn’t do that.

Patrick: I don’t know, prompt at the top, allow to store for offline use, I clicked allow and nothing really happened.

Louis: What browser are you on?

Patrick: Firefox, the latest version.

Louis: Maybe Chrome doesn’t prompt you for that; maybe Chrome just accepts offline storage.

Patrick: That’s the Google way (laughter).

Louis: Yeah, I don’t know, a lot of websites just use offline storage now. It’s got a cache manifest. After the call, because I don’t want you to cut your Internet connection now because then we’ll just lose you, but after the call you can cut your Internet connection and try browsing back and forth between the pages and then my guess would be that it’ll still work.

Patrick: Excellent.

Louis: He’s using a cache manifest and some offline storage stuff from HTML5.

Patrick: It’s feature friendly so when we live in a day where our Internet is cut off it’ll still work (laughter).

Louis: Exactly, after the zombie apocalypse.

Patrick: Totally future friendly.

Louis: That’s what future friendly really means, will your website survive the zombie apocalypse, that’s future friendly. Alright, we’ve been running a little bit long, let’s wrap this up.

Brad: I’m Brad Williams, Webdev Studios, and you can find me on Twitter @williamsba.

Patrick: I am Patrick O’Keefe for the iFroggy Network, I blog at managingcommunities.com, on Twitter @ifroggy, i-f-r-o-g-g-y.

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

Louis: You can follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, that’s sitepoint d-o-t-c-o-m; you can follow me on Twitter @rssaddict. We’d love to hear what you think about all these stories, so you can email us at podcast@sitepoint.com or you can go to sitepoint.com/podcast to leave a comment on the show, so we’d love to hear about your alternative databases for when MySQL goes commercial about your experiences with Facebook pages. Thanks for listening.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

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  • Dr Madvibe

    First, thanks for yet another great show guys.

    Now I’d like a big shout for Alfred Vail who, in 1844 I think, identified the frequency of letters in an English language newspaper and assigned sequences of dots and dashes for each; the most common e.g. e and t having shorter sequences: dot and dash in this case. Let’s hear it for Morse code.

    • http://www.managingcommunities.com Patrick O’Keefe

      Haha. Good call, Dr Madvibe. :) Thank you for the kind words.

      Patrick

  • http://www.gilman.k12.wi.us Mark Carrara

    Either I didn’t understand the badges concept or you didn’t. To me it sounds like a great idea, not much different than certifications. I could say I have a MSCE or some other cert. Now with a badge from the trainer I have proof that I can put on my web site, social profile or where ever. Maybe the issuer is a community college, or private training organization. They could issue a badge indicating what courses I have completed. As long as the badge issuers are vetted in some way this should be a good thing.