Episode 134 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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- SitePoint Podcast #134: 410, Gone (MP3, 45:20, 43.5MB)
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Here are the main topics covered in this episode:
- NGINX Venture Funding
- iOS Boilerplate
- Adobe Acquires PhoneGap
- Adobe Acquires TypeKit
- Adobe Demos Incredible New UnBLur Feature For Photoshop
- European Legislation Outlaws Pre-Ticked Checkboxes On Shopping Sites
- Searching For Mark Pilgrim
Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/134.
- Patrick: WeirdAl.com
- Brad: WordPress.org releases WordPress 3.3 beta 1
- Stephan: Southpark Documentary Trailer
- Louis: Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
Louis: Hello and welcome to the SitePoint Podcast, we’re back with a full panel show this week to talk about the last couple weeks of news and happenings in the Web world. I’m joined by the usual panel, Patrick, Brad, Stephan, hi guys.
Patrick: Hey, Louis.
Louis: Hey, how you guys doing?
Stephan: Doing alright.
Patrick: Doing good, doing good; had a fun weekend but I’ll talk about that during my spotlight.
Louis: (Laughs) Now I’m concerned.
Brad: Is that your spotlight your weekend?
Louis: Now I’m worried.
Patrick: More or less it is.
Louis: Are we doing like here’s what I did on my summer vacation for spotlights now because our show’s going down hill.
Patrick: Why not, it was that good.
Louis: So, hey, I’ve actually got a lot of stories to cover this week. The first thing that struck me is something I saw just this morning is a story that I found on Hacker News, it’s a press release on Nginx.net. So anyone who doesn’t know what NGINX is it’s a web server, it’s an open source server, it powers a lot of very high traffic websites, it originated in Russia so it’s more popular in Russia than in the rest of the world; however, it has become increasingly used by high-scale websites because it serves — it’s very good at serving a lot of traffic very quickly unlike Apache which has a big memory footprint when you get a lot of connectivity. So in the press release it mentions it’s used by websites like Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, Hulu, TechCrunch, Dropbox, WordPress, so, big websites, and —
Patrick: Who was that? (Laughter) Who were those people?
Louis: Alright. So NGINX has I guess started as a company now and they’ve announced three million dollars in the Series A funding, so I guess reading into this I guess it’s kind of like how MySQL or other open source projects also have a sort of commercial arm where they provide support and consulting. So it’s a big move for something which was — I mean if you went to nginx.net you can go into the Internet archive and look at what the website looked like a few months ago, and it really looked like some hacker’s in his basement open source project, it really looked like a website that wasn’t of a proper company, and now it’s revamped and it’s out there with commercial support now, yeah.
Brad: Does anyone else think that three million seems low? I mean obviously that’s a lot of money but for Series A, and maybe that’s all they’re asking for, I don’t know all the intricate details of this, but it seems low. You read on a daily basis on TechCrunch or other sites where these really weird random startup ideas, you know, they’re throwing 10 million here and 15 million there, whereas this is a proven —
Louis: Yeah, exactly, it’s already in use by high profile websites.
Brad: And maybe that’s all they wanted but who knows, the first thing that caught my eye was three million, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot but maybe it’s enough.
Patrick: So for someone who’s not involved in this sort of server space and doesn’t know a lot about it, I have a couple questions. The first is how are they making money? You mentioned how it’s a low amount of funding, what is the business model for them to justify them receiving 10 or 20 million dollars? I did notice on their website that it has a four commercial entity section, and that references annually paid flexible support options as well as consultancy services for large scale web installations based on their web server. So, I guess that is the primary way that they’re making money, their support packages.
Louis: Yeah, support and consulting; I mean it’s not the first time we’ll see an open source project go down this route. As I mentioned already, MySQL before the Oracle purchase had sort of a commercial arm, Canonical that provides support and consulting for Ubuntu servers, so there are other examples out there of companies involved in this kind of thing.
Patrick: So you mentioned how NGINX is more efficient in handling load than say Apache. What is stopping NGINX in being more widely used?
Louis: It’s not so much load as it is concurrent connections.
Patrick: Right, yeah.
Louis: So it’s useful as — a lot of people use it as a reverse proxy sitting in front of Apache, so your initial connections hit NGINX and then its static resources will be served directly by NGINX, and then if you need to actually hit PHP then it proxies that over to an Apache server with PHP running behind it.
Louis: So that’s a common use case, there’s a bunch of other different ways you can use it, for a while I was playing around with actually running PHP under FastCGI and then using this weird setup to get it working with NGINX directly. I wrote an article about that on SitePoint about that a while back. But I guess there’s a lot of hosting companies out there that come with Apache pre-installed, Apache has these modules that are built in for PHP, for example, so getting up an Apache server to serve a PHP app is a matter of a few minutes, just sort of you install a relevant module, activate them, create a virtual host and you’re done. Whereas doing the same thing under NGINX is at the moment still a little trickier, I don’t know whether with this increased focus on maybe documentation and making it more available whether you’ll see, for example, different hosting companies moving towards NGINX. The other thing is it doesn’t have any kind of — I don’t know, Patrick, do you know what HTaccess files are, yeah?
Louis: Right. So NGINX doesn’t have the ability to use HTaccess files, you have to define everything in your actual configuration files which I guess makes it less appealing for shared hosting because you can’t let people sort of override settings on a per directory basis.
Patrick: Right. So it sounds like right now NGINX is more complementary toward Apache but that could certainly change, especially with the funding where they could —
Brad: Yeah, this could certainly be the boost they’re looking for.
Patrick: — take that market share.
Louis: Yeah, absolutely. And like I said, there are definitely applications out there that use it at different places in the infrastructure. A lot of people, for example Ruby on Rails application, use it as the main front web server that then passes to these little Ruby application servers either Thin or Mongrel or Unicorn running in the background. But, yeah, there are a lot of different ways to use it, it’s really flexible and this is impressive; well, I mean I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of this, whether it will mean a lot of development in the open source project and maybe more attention to it.
Patrick: Very cool. Congrats on the funding.
Brad: Alright, there is a new boilerplate out there, and we’ve talked about the HTML5 boilerplate a few times.
Patrick: You love boilerplates.
Brad: Boilerplates, I just like saying it, it just sounds cool (laughter). So the HTML5 boilerplate was just updated to, what, 2.0 not too long ago. Well, there’s a new one out there and it’s iOS boilerplate, so it will actually make iOS apps. A guy by the name of Alberto Gimeno has developed and released this on GitHub and it’s exactly what you would expect, it’s basically a base of code to start with for developing iOS apps, so apps for the iPhone and iPad. So if you never dove into it it’s certainly pretty cool looking, it integrates http requests, integrates the image manager, it has UI table view in cells so you can easily pull up cells and swipe-able cells pull down to refresh; all the familiar movements and controls you’d expect on the iOS platform, it integrates maps and everything, it’s pretty cool looking. So if you’re into iOS apps or just thinking about getting into it this would probably be a good place to start because it will kind of get your feet wet and kind of hold your hand a little bit while you get started. But in reading through this and reading some of the comments out there about it, it kind of reminded me of the various conversations we’ve had about Responsive Web Design over the past few months, it’s certainly been our buzzword on the show lately. But it got me thinking like is the trend of this kind of segmented web where every time you launch a site now you have to build an app for it on every phone out there, and now you have to build an app for it on every social network out there. That’s certainly the trend now which a lot of people have kind of dubbed “segmenting the Web.” Is this going away or are we going to keep seeing more apps or are we going to start seeing a lot more responsive designs so you can kind of go back to where we started focusing on one mobile site that’s going to work across various mobile platforms or even tablets for that matter, it doesn’t have to be mobile, but, what do you guys think; do you see the segmented web kind of moving forward and staying stronger or do you think we’re going to go back to our roots?
Patrick: It’s definitely not going to be me, so, Stephan; you have to add something in this spot.
Stephan: I think we’re going to stay with the segmented web personally. Why would we move away from it, is there any incentive to move away from it?
Louis: One of the things that keeps coming back in every discussion about this is it really is going to be, and it will continue to be I think, a case-by-case basis depending on the site or the application; I think for a lot of sort of content driven sites it totally makes sense to do one site and just adapt it to different screen sizes and contexts using the techniques of Responsive Web Design. And there are other contexts where it might be a better idea to have two different websites but still serve everything through the Web, and there are probably yet other situations where you need sort of hardware functionality that you can only get by developing native apps and developing a couple of different native apps for each different platform.
Brad: Yeah, and a good example I like to show people that I think is done really, really well as far as going away from the various apps is Basecamp, so I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Basecamp or if our listeners are, but it’s basically a very popular online project management software for businesses or anybody really that needs project management. So you load in projects, you load in your to-do lists, your tasks, you users, whatever, and you can kind of track your projects. Rather than going with apps — they don’t have a single app for any phone out there. What they did, they built a very, very solid mobile site that works across all devices and it works really, really well; it works better than most of the third party apps that people have been developing, so I can pull it up on my Android and iPhone, whatever it may be, a Blackberry, Windows 7 phone, and it works and you can do pretty much everything on the mobile site that you can do on the Web itself. So rather than going with four or five different apps they have to support they’ve stuck with kind of the true and tested way of having a very strong mobile app, mobile presence, which I think is — I mean it’s a great example and it’s something I’m kind of leaning towards doing rather than looking at building these different apps for clients is to kind of go back to the roots and build a really strong and flexible mobile sites and designs that are functional.
Louis: Absolutely. I think if you don’t need any of the — for example, there’s some stuff that is still very limited access via the Web. For example, if you want to access the device’s camera to a lot of people to upload photos that’s something you can’t really do via mobile web app at the moment. Now, there are a bunch of specs in HTML5 to make that possible, and some browsers have started very preliminary support for this but it’s still very limited, and it’s something you can’t really do whereas you can do that in a native device app very easily. If the listeners haven’t read it that’s a really good example of the Basecamp mobile, but there was a great blog post when they first launched their mobile web app back in I think February of this year or was that February of last year, it just say February; yeah, February of this year. And, yeah, it’s great because they explain that for one of their other apps made by some company, this is made by 37signals, one of the other apps they do is Highrise which is sort of CRM tool, and for that one they did have someone come in and develop an iPhone app, but this was sort of before Android started really making a run in gaining market share, and then when they came around to doing the same thing for Basecamp they though well, look, we can either bring in external people for all these different platforms and have all of these different code bases to maintain or we can just try and use our existing skill set and build just a really good mobile web app like you were saying.
Brad: Yeah, there’s definitely this trend out there and it’s like — and I’m to blame, too, it’s kind of like where he builds it up in our head if you don’t have an actual app you’re not a serious company or whatever your service is, you’re not serious if you don’t have an app up there; if I look for your app on Android and I don’t find it you’re not serious. A lot of people think that, sometimes I think that, I’m trying not to box companies in like that. My bank, for example, they do not have an app and they’re a very large bank. So at first I was like every other bank out there has an app except for my bank, and then I actually went to the mobile site and I was able to do everything I needed to do right through the mobile site, so they went the same route, but the first thing I did was go look for an app, so it’s kind of like kind of breaking that mindset as a user, like you don’t have to have an app for it not to work good. I don’t know, it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves over the next couple of years especially with HTML5, like you said, bringing in a lot of these features that it wouldn’t have been able to do short of Flash or something like that. But if you want to check out the iOS boilerplate the website is iosboilerplate.com, so if you want to stick with apps and keeping our Web segmented have at it.
Patrick: Funding? (Laughter)
Louis: I don’t know what the status of funding is but they are being acquired by Adobe. And that’s not the only company being acquired by Adobe this month, they’ve also acquired Typekit which is a — most people are probably familiar with Typekit, but it’s sort of a pay to play hosted web font service so you can license and directly have web fonts hosted by their service for a fee on your websites.
Patrick: Yeah, I’m definitely more familiar with Typekit and I think we’ve talked about them numerous times over the life of the show. But one thing that stood out to me in the FAQ about the Nitobi acquisition was that they are pursuing, this is their words, “A contribution of the PhoneGap code to the Apache Software Foundation to ensure open stewardship of the project over the long term. As part of that process it will be renamed to a new Apache branded name, Callback. Adobe fully supports this contribution and will continue to host the PhoneGap community site with full participation from its contributors as well as the PhoneGap build service.” The build service they say “Incorporated additional proprietary code allowing developers to build their apps from anywhere without installing mobile platform SDKs,” so PhoneGap code is going to Apache but they’re going to build some more or less add-ons, I suppose, that are commercially viable.
Patrick: Right. I mean they are — that’s what they do is they sell something. They do offer a free level but if I recall correctly, yeah, they offer a free level at the 25,000 pageview a month mark which is fairly limited, a lot of small personal websites would fit into that, but if you do more than that then you’re paying $25.00 a year or $50.00 a year or $100.00 a year, for a business that generates millions of pageviews even more than that. So they obviously a company making money, I think that’s part of the reason Adobe went after them, and I think that they’ll continue to offer that service and be successful with it because I don’t know that there’s a lot of competition for that, it’s sort of a niche thing, and it’s interesting to me that it’s big enough for Adobe to care about really, more than anything else I think that’s kind of an interesting point because not that Typekit’s not a really cool service or that I haven’t seen it in numerous places, but it’s not like it’s a mainstream tool that you see on a lot of websites, it’s definitely still very much, you know, a nice service that people who love to use that custom typography or who love fonts or are committed to the idea of having a really unique looking website.
Louis: Yeah. It’s worth pointing out that Typekit would have had an existing relationship with Adobe even before this acquisition because it had fonts licensed from Adobe’s library of fonts available for use on Typekit, so there would have already been a business relationship in place there.
Louis: Yeah, and like you were saying that can be a big boost, right, you’re saying users have this sort of intrinsic, I guess, training to when they to find something they go look in their app store or the marketplace, right. So if you can use your existing web development skills but build apps that are available in those platforms that are installable apps on the platforms, that can be a big boost in terms of at least consumer awareness of your product. One of the things, I don’t know, do you expect that this kind of PhoneGap, that you’ll have sort of the PhoneGap project as a preset in a future version of Dreamweaver maybe, that you’ll be able to just start a PhoneGap project and it’ll contact their build servers and deploy it automatically without it needing any extra installation? That sort of seems like what the logical progression would be.
Brad: Yeah, and that would be the smart move for sure, yeah, absolutely.
Stephan: Don’t they already kind of have that functionality?
Louis: I don’t know. I don’t pay enough attention to Dreamweaver (laughs).
Stephan: I don’t either but on their blog they have an Adobe Dreamweaver 5.5 supports PhoneGap post.
Louis: Oh, right, and when was that?
Stephan: That was April 12th of this year.
Louis: Alright, so obviously it’s something they’ve been paying attention with already, and maybe they thought that they could make it better by having that build service under their control, that way it’s easier for them to control the end-to-end if you can click on the build and deploy button in Dreamweaver and it will contact the servers which now Adobe owns and send your app out to the world.
Patrick: If you are a small company, or relatively small, offering some sort of tool for developers and Adobe establishes some sort of small business relationship with you, there is a fair chance that you will end up as part of the company (laughter).
Brad: I’m just looking at this and it looks like the only revenue model for PhoneGap at the moment is support, so I’m curious — as far as I can tell there doesn’t seem to be anything — I mean you can download it, you can integrate it, you can run it.
Louis: Yeah, I think Nitobi, correct me if I’m going to be wrong about this, but I was under the impression that Nitobi was a sort of development and consulting company that did actual client mobile web development, and PhoneGap was something they build for internal use and then open sourced. So if you go to natobi.com the homepage it still looks like they’re a company that sort of builds mobile web apps for people and maybe that will change now that they’ve been purchased by Adobe and they’ll focus more on building these tools.
Patrick: That’s what it sounds like.
Brad: Very cool.
Patrick: So all of these Adobe-flavored announcements are coming out because Adobe just held their annual conference, Adobe MAX. And so they are making tons of announcements, doing demos, there’s a lot of presentations going on and so forth, and one of the more interesting things that came out of the event was a demonstration of a new unblur feature. Now, I was reminded of this story by Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of SitePoint, and he linked me to 9to5Mac, but the story is with The NextWeb and they have a video of the demonstration, it’s a little shaky, but if you press play on it and you open it up full screen and put it on the 720p HD you can pretty clearly see what’s going on; the gentleman demoing this feature which is not scheduled to be shipping yet, it’s called a sneak, they don’t commit to a timeline, they don’t tell you it’s coming at all or in what version, but it’s something they’re working on. He takes a photo that’s blurry and shows how this feature will find the projection of the camera. They try to estimate how the camera moved to create that blur and then using that information they fix the photo, and in this case fix means to un-blur it to sharpen it so that it looks like the blur wasn’t there at all but it’s a clear photo, and it’s really an amazing demo. I don’t know if you guys have played this video at all but it’s something to behold to see blurry text go clear and a blurry photo of a crowd clear itself up.
Louis: So, yeah, anyone should definitely check it out because it is an amazing video and, you know, like the crowd absolutely goes nuts when he hits the button and the thing unblurs and goes sharp.
Patrick: Yeah, it’s fun to listen to the crowd.
Louis: And the guy who’s on stage with him like presenting it, I don’t know who the guy was but he obviously was not a —
Patrick: Rainn Wilson who is on The Office TV show.
Louis: Oh, okay, right, that’s why he didn’t seem to be too technically savvy.
Brad: It’s Dwight!
Patrick: Yeah, Dwight.
Louis: So, anyway, he was just like, no, that’s impossible, you didn’t just do that (laughter) which is pretty much how I felt about it but, yeah, I guess it’s going to be pretty impressive, I’m looking forward to the next version of Photoshop believe it or not.
Patrick: You know what came to mind when I first saw this, well, one of the things that came to mind was I run Photoshopforums.com and I forgot what member said this, but, people post blurry pictures all the time and they’re like, help, can you do anything with this? And oftentimes they’re just terrible, and of course there’s really not too much that you can do — yet anyway — depending on how bad it is because as the member put it you can’t polish a turd. Well, now it appears that you will be able to polish it, at least in one form or another if this feature comes out. So, I’m looking forward to seeing that; this will reduce the amount of requests that people post on forums asking for help I think.
Stephan: Yeah, so in Europe the BBC is reporting that they’re starting to outlaw pre-ticked checkboxes on shopping websites, so they just approved this legislation. So those checkboxes on let’s say an airline website that signs you up for insurance and it’s already checked when you go through will now be against the law in Europe. Interesting because it’s a common practice, it’s fairly common here in the United States; I don’t know if it’s common where you’re at, Louis.
Louis: Yeah, well, I mean I think it’s common everywhere, right, I mean any —
Louis: Look, I mean I sit right next to the marketing guy in flippa.com, and every time we roll out a new feature that’s exactly the kind of thing, he’ll be like, ‘oh can you make the checkbox pre-ticked?’, that’s the kind of request we get from marketing. So I think it’s something that will happen on any website really because you’ve got the pressure of people wanting to try and make more sales, and one of the ways to do that is to make it so that if people don’t realize they’re buying something they’ll buy something.
Stephan: Yeah, yeah. And this also included some legislation, or it also includes the wording that online traders will have to disclose the total cost of a product including all fees, so this is another common practice with other industries where they will not disclose all fees until the very end or all taxes until the very end.
Patrick: Until the final checkout process.
Stephan: Yeah. So people get through thinking they’re going to pay a set price and at the very end they’re paying double or some ridiculous number. It’s interesting, it’s going to change the way that people do business in Europe.
Brad: Yeah, I hope this catches on everywhere.
Stephan: Yeah, it’d be nice. I’m interested to see what you guys think about it; do you think this is the right way to go or do you think that people should just do the right thing to begin with (laughs), that’s the way I feel.
Louis: Obviously people should just do the right thing, but that’s not what’s gonna happen.
Brad: Good luck with that!
Louis: (Laughs) It’s a matter of catching up, right, I mean there’s a bunch of rules about how you can see products in your physical store, and those rules have been on the books hundreds of years in most countries, and it’s just a matter of sort of the rule-making body sort of catching up with online commerce and what the things are they need to be protecting people from.
Stephan: Well, what I find interesting is say here in the state of Texas there’s an 8.25% sales tax, but you don’t put that on your price tag in the store, you know, you just put the price. But what we’re asking companies now to do is put that price out front on their web store, and I think that’s kind of one of those things that comes back to the Amazon issue, you know, not charging sales tax in other states and not because they’re not located there and things like that. So, it’s a whole new dynamic and I think that finally legislators and politicians are finally realizing that this is a new way of doing business even though it’s been around for how long now.
Patrick: I guess that depends on the case and the particular use. I think online it seems like it’s easier to deceive people online, Louis was mentioning in-store sales have different laws and rules that govern them. I think that’s a part of it but it wouldn’t be terrible if when you saw a price at the store that it included the sales tax.
Patrick: Just because the stores already collect the sales tax, so maybe it could just be switched around so that they get the sales tax percentage of the amount brought in and it could just be factored by the business and pay through their taxes as they already pay it. But instead of having to factor it after the fact and us see it on the receipt we can see it on the actual tag in the store.
Louis: Yeah, that’s how it works here in Australia, and it was the main thing I notice when moving from Quebec to Australia where, you know, and Quebec has huge sales tax, I don’t know what it is, something like 15%, something crazy like that.
Louis: And coming here all the prices are higher obviously because they include the sales tax, but it’s definitely much more convenient and you don’t wind up with these awkward prices; if something is $20.00 you pay a $20.00 bill and that’s how much it costs, not $21.50 or $21.67 or whatever.
Patrick: Right, yeah, that would be interesting to see. I don’t know if there’s an equivalent in real life — real life (laughter) — to a checkbox, I don’t what it might be to a checkbox.
Louis: Well, and equivalent would be like if you walked up to the store and you had a thing, you brought it to the checkout aisle and they put it in your bag and they also put something else in your bag behind the counter and made you pay for it.
Stephan: Or this whole notion of not using credit cards or debit cards for anything less than, you know, you have to make a five dollar, ten dollar purchase before you can use your credit card, which isn’t illegal but it is against the terms and conditions of the credit cards, so that’s another one of those little things; you walk in, you don’t have any cash on you, you want to buy, I don’t know, something, and you can’t.
Patrick: I actually have a story about that. I don’t know even know if it’s happened to me more than once, but the one time I remember is with Brad at South by Southwest. We went into this little convenience store, I think him and Brian, his business partner, were looking for souvenirs and I wanted a bottle of water that was like two dollars and they wouldn’t take a credit care, like, what? Oh, okay, so I had cash, but, yeah I know exactly what you mean.
Stephan: It’s to get you to buy more, right; I mean they want you to buy more because they have to eat the fee.
Patrick: Right. And it’s because they can take the — they don’t get that full cash amount, there is the merchant charge and that’s — I mean I would think that and to get people to pay more but the merchant charge being taken out of it.
Stephan: That’s the big thing.
Patrick: But still to me that’s a part of the price of doing business, but obviously some particular stores, especially smaller ones, are going to do that sometimes.
Louis: Yeah, but I mean if you’re paying a whatever, let’s say a fifty cents merchant charge and your margin on something is 10%, anything less than five dollars the merchant charge is costing you more than the profit you’re making on the goods you’re selling right?
Louis: Now, you know, I agree with you, I think it’s the cost of doing business, you know, you just deal with it, especially when the credit card company has terms and conditions that explicitly say you can’t do that, but it’s gonna keep happening. Anyway, I think specifically coming back to the checkbox thing and actually coming back to the Internet, (laughter) just got a little bit sidetracked here, no, I think it’s a great idea. Look forward to similar legislation everywhere. Yeah, alright, so the last story this week is a bit of a strange one. It’s something that went down about a week ago. Mark Pilgrim, who many of our listeners will know from his Dive Into website, so Dive Into Python, Dive Into HTML5, his GitHub, Reddit, Twitter accounts all suddenly went offline, he turned off all his email accounts, so if you try and send an email to any of his accounts it bounces straightaway, so he just suddenly disappeared from the Internet. And I’ll give away the ending right away, he apparently was located, there was a bit of a panic on web designers’ and web developers’ fear of Twitter and other social networks; where’d he go, what happened, is he alright? And he was located and said he was annoyed that people called the police, but that’s all we know at the moment, no one’s had any extended communication. So it’s interesting for a couple of reasons, there are a couple things I wanted to talk about with you guys. One of them is more of a technical issue is when all his websites that he hosted personally were returning an HTTP 410 error code, HTTP 410 is gone. So what that means is it’s basically permanently offline, the resource is gone. So rather than just taking them off and letting them 404 or redirecting to something else, he actually put in 410 which means it’s gone and it’s going away. And in a quote from his blog in 2003 that Eric Meyer brought up in his blog post initially when Mark went missing, there’s a quote from Mark Pilgrim saying, “Embracing HTTP error code 410 means embracing the impermanence of all things.” So I wanted to know what you thought about the inherent geekiness of going offline and using the correct status code to represent your absence, first of all, and second of all do you think that the Internet really is impermanent and is 410 something we should all be seeing more of?
Stephan: I still want to know why he did it. I was actually trying to download some Python stuff and get some stuff working, so I went into Dive Into Python, I guess the date has happened and it was dead and I couldn’t find — I just thought maybe he was down temporarily and then I looked at the code and was like, crap, what’s going on. So, I just want to know what happened.
Brad: He needed to unplug.
Stephan: I guess. Permanently.
Patrick: I think the Internet is somewhat impermanent. We always talk about how when you put something out there you can never get it back, but mostly that just applies to celebrities (laughter).
Louis: Well, it’s interesting. People have put up mirrors of almost all of his content, so Dive Into HTML5, Dive Into Python, all this stuff has been scraped off of archives and copied to other places and put back online. So the stuff is all there, it really is all there, it never goes away, you’re right.
Patrick: But is it his personal stuff or is it just the, I want to say, the knowledge sharing, the techie stuff? I didn’t know much about him; I didn’t really know him but I don’t know if he had a personal website or not, or some other kind of social profiles where he was not the geeky coding person all the time but also someone else. I don’t know, I didn’t know him but I mean it’s an interesting thing; I personally am one of those people who say, you know what, you can’t flip it all of. You can’t control the Web and you can’t control what people will disseminate, or scrape in this case, or the Wayback machine has on file or whatever, but I think you can step away and then can leave it behind, and that’s apparently what he did. It definitely piques your curiosity but at the same time I’m more or less like, well, I guess if he’s okay and everyone who cares about him is good then that’s all that really matters.
Brad: And I like to think if I shut down all my sites and deleted my social network accounts and just disappear that you guys would come looking for me.
Patrick: Well, I do have your phone number.
Brad: I’d like to hope you guys would come looking for me.
Patrick: So that would have been my first start (laughter).
Brad: Send the police.
Patrick: I would.
Louis: So the other thing I wanted to maybe — so there’s this bit about the error code which is one thing I thought was kind of cool and geeky about it, his disappearing but doing it in the technically correct fashion, but the other thing is a lot of the stuff was educational resources, right, that’s stuff that’s used by thousands of people out there teaching themselves HTML5 and Python, for example. I don’t know, how do you feel about the decision to sort of turn all that stuff off, even though I guess on some level he must have known that people would be able to resurrect it.
Patrick: Right, yeah. I mean me personally I share a lot for free, I put a lot out there, I answer a lot of emails and whatnot about community, and I don’t necessarily think anyone’s entitled to the things I provide forever, I mean if you buy a book that’s fixed, that’s fine; if you buy an eBook that’s fixed, that’s fine, that’s a little different, but as far as a website or what I put out online I don’t necessarily feel that it’s — it’s inappropriate to remove a site — where his sites free to access?
Patrick: Okay, I mean I don’t necessarily feel it’s inappropriate to remove a site that was free to access. I can understand how someone might be frustrated because they referred to it a lot and now there’s a lot of dead links or because they enjoyed the information, but, I almost feel like you have to appreciate what you have while you have it and not expect it to be there forever.
Stephan: I think if it was like personal blog posts, yeah sure, fine, but it was essentially a reference tool; if Wikipedia, which is crap anyway, but if a site like that (laughter) was taken off — someone’s personal site was taken offline and other people were using it as a reference tool and you knew it was being used that way do you feel it’s right to take it offline?
Patrick: I mean right or wrong is kind of a different question. Do I feel it’s right or wrong? I kind of don’t feel it’s either because, again, I kind of go back to the thought of it was shared freely, it’s not something that you’re entitled to I guess is my thought. I don’t know; Brad, what do you think?
Brad: Like you said, if it’s not something that people are paying to access and there’s some kind of certain commitment then there’s really — there is no commitment whether that stuff’s going to stay online. Like if I decide to — I’ve had my blog up since 2006, if I decide to take it down that’s my prerogative, I can do that, it’s my content, it’s my site, I can do what I want with it, so if he wants to take it down I have no problem when people take their sites down. Now, like you said, if it’s a resource that I liked and used on a weekly or daily basis I would certainly miss it, but there are ways to find that stuff through archive.org or other various resources.
Stephan: I guess I just don’t have the time you guys do to go searching places like this (laughs).
Patrick: You’re just too entitled.
Brad: I’m not saying I wouldn’t miss it but who am I to say that they don’t have the right to take down their site with all their content on it that I can get to for free, you know?
Patrick: (Laughs) when you put it that way.
Stephan: I guess I’ll just go by the book is what you’re saying.
Louis: Look, it’s all back online now. If you do a Google search for Dive Into Python or DDive Into HTML5, somewhere on that first page are mirrors of the content with the full content available from other places, so it’s all there, it’s all back. But, yeah, I mean I guess I’m kind of on the fence as well, I feel like I can understand, so I guess it’s sort of almost a psychological question like how can you on the one hand want to make all this stuff free and available and help people learn stuff and then decide that you don’t anymore? Like I don’t — I don’t know.
Patrick: Yeah, it’s tough. Obviously something happened.
Louis: But, look, it’s no criticism. Obviously there was so much good work done and, you know, Mark was an amazing help to a lot of people, I think probably half the people in the world who write Python learned it from Mark, and likewise for HTML5, there was so much good quality in there and it’s still out there and really, really fantastic work, and huge respect for the guy no matter why he chose to do this or whatnot, I think he was a massive, massive contribution to the Web. Yeah, I guess we can move from that somewhat more introspective note to a somewhat goofier note in spotlights.
Patrick: I’ll go first with goofy. I want to talk about my weekend, this weekend I went to see Weird Al Yankovic in concert at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, North Carolina. And I’ve been a Weird Al fan for a long time and never seen him live in person, it was awesome! It was a great show, a lot of fun, I went with my two brothers and that’s my spotlight it Weird Al, WeirdAl.com. If you are a fan of Weird Al in any way, shape or form, even in a minor way, I would urge you to go see him perform live when he comes to your area. He tours somewhere regularly, internationally even, so there’s a good chance he’ll be coming near you; he was about four hours from me, and it was a great, great show, I loved it. So that’s my spotlight. I don’t know; any of you guys Weird Al fans?
Louis: I think there was a time it would’ve been, man, it would’ve been like going on like 10 years ago now when I was like really, really into a couple of those records. But, yeah, it’s been ages since I put that stuff on.
Brad: I was a big UHF fan back in the day (laughter). Do you remember UHF, the movie?
Patrick: Yeah. It’s funny we’re thinking about how long he’s been around and been successful, like if you go and look at his albums and where they chart and how well they do, he’s been really successful for a long time and he has a diverse fan base as far as age, like there are people, I don’t know, from every decade there for the last 80 years maybe. And it was really interesting to see someone who isn’t necessarily a mainstream star, but yet if you go down the street so many people will know who Weird Al is even if they don’t necessarily have his music or like it or whatever, just because he has that level of notoriety. So it was a great show, I really enjoyed it.
Louis: I think “It’s All About the Pentiums” really struck a chord with us geeks.
Patrick: Yeah, he actually didn’t do that song. But of course he’s done all the — how many geeky songs can you do (laughter) I mean all of his songs are geeky. He did do White and Nerdy, and the encore was the two Star Wars songs, The Saga Begins and Yoda. So, you know, he is — I would say he’s one of those acts that is predisposed for the geeky side of us all.
Brad: My spotlight this week is actually WordPress related, surprise.
Louis: I’m shocked, Brad, I’m absolutely shocked.
Brad: Hey, I got to keep you guys on your toes. WordPress 3.3 beta 1 has been released. It seems like we were just talking about 3.2 and guess what, 3.3 is getting ready to come out, they’re shooting for the end of November, but the beta is out there and there are some pretty cool new features. We got, let’s see, so far we got the new feature popup, so they made a system where kind of like when you install a new application and you fire it up for the first time there’ll be various little hints and tips as you navigate through the software pointing to different things giving you a tip of what that button does or what that menu might do. Those are built-in now and actually plugin and theme authors can hook into that and add tips to their plugins and themes which is pretty cool.
Louis: That’s a really good idea because I find that a lot of — especially the themes that have a lot of options, like you activate it and then there’s a bunch of other stuff you need to do before it gets going but you don’t know where that stuff is really, so just having stuff where it’ll be able to show you in the menu, hey, go here to pick a background image or whatever.
Brad: I haven’t actually played with it yet on the plugin side but I’m anxious to try it because, you’re right, it something especially if you have a more complicated plugin or theme it would be extremely handy to point new users in the right direction. And there’s a new admin bar revamped, so they kind of darkened it up and rearranged the icons a bit and the dropdown; a new flyout menu so when you hover the menu’s they’ll kind of pop out and show you the submenus underneath there so it makes navigation a little bit quicker. And probably the most notable change is going to be the new media uploader which they’ve integrated Plupload; I don’t know if it’s Plupload or PL upload, Plupload just doesn’t sound right (laughter). I’m going to go with Plupload.
Patrick: Good old Plupload.
Brad: It’s made by the same team that does the TinyMCE editor which a lot of people, a lot of developers I’m sure are familiar.
Patrick: Tiny Mickey.
Brad: Tiny MCE, Tiny Mice some might say, but essentially the new media uploader you click upload media and you can just drag files from your desktop, so you don’t have to select files and go into the browser, you know, the select file dialogue; you literally just grab however many files, whatever files you want off your computer, drag them over to the website, drop ‘em and it’ll upload them for you. So it’s kind of based on the Google+ image uploader how you can just drag your images, and it’s actually a really cool — this Plupload is actually pretty cool because it supports Flash, HTML5 and Silverlight, so before the image uploaded for bulk uploads was all Flash based, now that it supports HTML5 that opens up the door to kind of use it on different platforms and make it a little more native which is pretty cool. So the beta’s out, you can download it, install it, bug test it, provide feedback, it’s always fun to play with a new version before it goes public and everyone else gets to see it, so there’s a great article on WPTavern.com that has screenshots if you don’t feel like installing it you can check out the screenshots and the various explanations about the different new features, and then if you go to WordPress.org they have a link, you can download the beta, so download it and help provide some feedback.
Louis: I’ve really enjoyed the last pretty much since 3.0 every point release has been really good stuff in it. I’m loving the way the interface works now, like that admin bar is really useful, yeah, just really impressed by the work they’ve been doing.
Patrick: And speaking of WordPress, WordCamp Philly is coming up November 5th and 6th in Philadelphia, I’m looking forward to heading up there and Brad’s co-organizing that, so if you’re into WordPress and in that area definitely check it out.
Brad: It’s going to be the event of the year, you heard it hear first (laughter).
Patrick: Mark your social calendar.
Brad: The event of the year. Patrick’s speaking; I’m speaking, event of the year, WordCampPhilly.com, that’s all it takes.
Patrick: My gosh.
Stephan: I’m a big South Park fan and there’s a new documentary coming out called Six Days to Air, it’s the making of South Park and it talks about how they kind of just make the show up at the last minute, and it’s pretty good, so there’s a trailer out for it and it looks really good.
Louis: Yeah, it sounds good. It’s always been I think South Park’s strength really is that what they lack in polish they have in sort of topicality because they’re always right on top of any news story.
Patrick: Just like our podcast.
Stephan: It’s like a news, you know, episode that’s put together and well thought out before its run. Like Jon Stewart, he’s fairly relevant because it’s nightly and once a week or whatever it is, but it’s news, right, he’s just reading the news and writes some comedy, he’s got a bunch of writers; this actually has to be animated and there has to be a storyline and things, so it’s interesting to me.
Louis: Interesting indeed. My spotlight this week is a post from The Big Picture Blog on Boston.com, I don’t know if any of you are familiar with The Big Picture.
Stephan: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Louis: It’s a really fantastic photography blog that just sort of takes some of the better photography from news stories from a week, or whatever, so any major news story there will often be a special post on The Big Picture with some of the best photography about that story. Now, this week there was a post about the Nikon Small World Photomicrography competition, so it’s a competition of I guess microscopic photography, and they’ve got some of the best photos that were submitted to that competition as well as some other photos that they’ve really liked in the genre, and some of these are absolutely amazing. I don’t know, I got really kind of a geeky thrill out of seeing sort of all this stuff really up close and how weird living things look when you’re really close to them, I don’t know, what do you guys think?
Stephan: It’s really cool.
Patrick: Yeah, some of these are nightmare worthy.
Louis: (Laughs) Yeah, the last one.
Patrick: I hope I don’t wake up like tonight and think, Louis! What did you do to me?
Louis: Some of them are gorgeous, though; you see number 33 which is a butterfly egg, it’s just absolutely gorgeous, it looks like something out of, you know, science fiction.
Patrick: Yeah, gorgeous science fiction alien baby, sounds wonderful (laughter).
Louis: The other one I really like is the one of sand because it looks like most of it isn’t actually sand, it’s number 15.
Patrick: Okay, there we go. Yeah, it’s cool.
Louis: It’s sand but it’s like most of it, I mean there’s two pieces of what definitely look like – Silicon oxide. But one of them is a —
Patrick: Is that a tooth (laughs).
Louis: — tooth of some kind of little animal and then there’s like a shell and some pieces of coral, so I guess what we think of as sand isn’t actually mostly just plain sand but a bunch of other microscopic —
Louis: Garbage (laughs).
Patrick: It’s a bunch of garbage. That’s funny.
Louis: But, anyway, it’s really beautiful, the colors, just the amazingness of living things. And that’s my spotlight for this week. Yeah, let’s wrap it up!
Brad: I’m Brad Williams from Webdev Studios and you can find me on Twitter @williamsba.
Louis: And you can follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, that’s sitepoint d-o-t-c-o-m; if you go to sitepoint.com/podcast that’s the place to find all of our episodes or leave a comment on this show or any of our previous shows. You can find me on Twitter @rssaddict. Thanks for listening!
Theme music by Mike Mella.
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