Careful with how I name my articles, or not...

This week I received an interesting comment on one of my old posts in one of the precursors for this blog:

Why use inheritance

I wrote that post after interviewing a candidate that had no idea of what OO design really was, and this wasn't caught by a previous interviewer because I don't think that that person knew the answer for that question either.

So what was the comment? I quote (because I don't remember the password for my previous blog, so I can't approve it on that post):

We actually hoped that this post will help us to answer the question "Why use inheritance?", so please STOP and DON't use a title like "Why use inheritance?" to catching people from google search ;) See, your sucked article is a base class and my reply is a child class...

Anyway, I didn't choose that name to become a top result on Google search when you search for "why use inheritance" (I was number 3 on that search last time I looked, which is not an example of how good I am at SEO, but how bad Google is at ranking). I chose it because that's what was going through my mind when I wrote that post. I did add a "disclaimer" that it wasn't suppoed to be considered as an authoritative answer to the question. I'm sorry if Google's search engine doesn't know how to read disclaimers.

PS: Yes, I know that by adding one more link to that article there is a chance that it will be moved even further up on Google search results. Oh, well...

Social TV - GetGlue stats commentary

So GetGlue released its social television statistics results for 2011 and they are interesting. Here are the things that I found most interesting:

  1. Look at the "Top Shows by Gender". Isn't it interesting that the average of the top 5 male check-in shows have about 54% check in rate while female rate is at 79%? Is there just more options for men, or women that watch shows watch all of them, or nothing?
  2. Out of the top 10 best new shows, only two appear in the top shows by genre ("American Horror Story" and "The X Factor").
  3. The top 5 of the top 10 best new shows are all sci-fi/fantasy-esque.

The rest is a little on the predictable side.

New stuff

So here I am again to talk about a lot of random topics that I've completely kept to myself for the last couple of months. Busy months, but not in the same way that most of the rest of my year was busy. Yes, I have still been working more than the average person in the US, but it hasn't been nearly as crazy. Work changed to being much more focused on designing the "next thing" than actually getting something out of the door (the Kindle Touch). But I won't talk too much more about it, just that I didn't really have anything to do with the "famous" Kindle Fire, even though I did buy one and have one at work for development. I'll talk about it later.

More things that happened: my first niece, Sophia, was born and I went to Sydney, Australia to visit her (and my sister and brother-in-law, just because I might as well say hello to them if I'm there). It's strange to hear my parents calling themselves grandfather and grandmother, but besides that it was great. Australia is a country worth visiting! After spending a week in Sydney, we went to Tasmania for 3 days and then Melbourne for another 3 days. All amazing places! I'll post links to the pictures when I finally finish selecting a reasonable number of them.

After I came back, weather started turning colder and leaves started making a mess on the ground everywhere. But that didn't really make me stay home more often, as we are starting to plan home remodel phase II, and there are always many things to do during the weekend, just really prepare to do it through buying more toys:

iPad - Well, technically I bought this just before our trip to Australia so that I would be able to travel without taking my laptop and it worked alright. It's just that some hotel WiFi authentication systems don't work very well with the iPad (or iPhone). Nothing really interesting to mention here. It's an iPad and it's a very solid piece of technology. There are lots of applications for it, even if it's less than for the iPhone (and it's very annoying to use iPhone-built software on the iPad)

iPhone 4S - I really considered jumping ship to Android when I was switching my phone, but I wasn't very happy with any of the Android phones out there. Too many mixed reviews with people complaining about battery life, lack of stability, weird update behavior, etc. And I'm so used to all the applications that I had on my iPhone 3GS that I decided to be "safe" and continue on the platform at least for another 2-year cycle. Anyway, it's not a huge change from my 3GS. Siri is pretty good, which makes me use it quite often, but I'm not as bullish about it as many tech analysts out there, but I can see how it is the closest that I've seen to a real usable speech-based UI so far. It's certainly not something added to the phone just to catch up with Android (which has voice input, but not really a system that can answer natural language voice questions, like "is it going to snow today?"). It's always great to see technology moving forward!

Skyrim - Probably the most expected game of the year, for friends around me. Yes, there were tons of sequels this year, like Portal 2, Uncharted 3 and Gears of War 3, but out of those sequels that I've played, Skyrim is hands-down the best of them. Just like any Elder Scrolls game, it's not a very quick game (I know people that have already clocked something like 80 hours on it, considering that I has only been out for 9 days now), but it has the level of depth, intrigue and oddness that just makes you excited about most of the time that you are playing the game (not the time that you are lost in the dark trying to find your way to your next destination on the other side of the map).

Kindle Fire - as I've mentioned, I did buy one. At $200 it was difficult not to allow my curiosity about owning an Android device to win (even if it's nothing like your typical Android device). What are my impressions, you might ask... Well, it's not a bad device. There are quite a few things that work well, like the cloud player integration, the Kindle books, and the Amazon Appstore. However, it's also a little finicky at times. Some applications crash from time to time (although I heard things like that from any Android device), and only having soft buttons (including volume control) is a little weird in some applications. All in all, it's certainly a good buy, but I'll be more excited after a couple of updates (and I'm not talking about new functionality that I may or may not know that is coming in future updates, more about bug fixes and clean up of some weird UI oddities).

And that's it. As you can see, I can keep myself busy for a long time! And this doesn't even talk about pre-existing projects.

Goodbye R.E.M.

I guess I can't really let this news pass without writing it on my blog. Today (well, technically yesterday, Wednesday, September 21, 2011), R.E.M. announced in their blog that they decided to split the band up.

R.E.M. probably still is my favorite band. It doesn't mean that I still listen to their music all the time, but every time I do, I remind myself why they were so good.

Anyway, eventually people move on, even the best of them.

Back from Whistler

Amy and I just arrived back from our 1-year anniversary trip to Whisler, BC, Canada. It's actually quite amazing that this weekend (well, a prolonged weekend, as we've arrived only today, Tuesday) was the first time that I've been to Canada (except for the Toronto airport on the way to Spain last year), and I've lived only hours away for almost 7 years now... There are reasons, but I'll leave them for some other time. Let me focus on this post on first an overview of the trip. Once I have the pictures ready, hopefully I'll find some time to post more details with pictures.

The trip started on Saturday morning. We left Seattle in the morning, arrived at the border at around 11am, went through in about 20 minutes and at 11:45 we were at our first destination: Dim Sum in Vancouver at Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant. Amy had to survive a Dim Sum (yes, like all Dim Sums around here, it's not very vegetarian-friendly), but the food was quite good. Certainly the best Dim Sum that I've had yet, but that shouldn't be shocking for anybody that knows the quality of Dim Sum in Seattle and Vancouver.

After that, we went for a walk around Stanley Park. It's a huge park, great for hiking around, but not necessarily that good for just strolling and enjoying the sights. When you get to the water the view is just OK and most of the hikes are in the middle of wooded areas, so you don't get a lot of variety.

Then we left for Whistler... It's supposed to be a 2-hour drive but there was a motorcycle accident on the road and we were stuck in traffic for an hour until they were able to divert everybody. We arrived in Whistler it was already around 6pm. We walked around Whistler Village, had a not-so-good dinner and listened to pretty terrible music, and learned that even though the temperature during the day gets pretty warm, it's quite cold at night, and we weren't very ready for it.

Sunday we took the gondola up Whistler mountain, and hiked a little around there, enjoying piles of snow, took the gondola to Blackcomb and then down to the upper village. The rest of the day was hanging out at the village.

Monday, our anniversary, we rented some bicycles and went around the lakes for a 20-kilometer bike ride, stopping to have a picnic around one of the lakes, and then arrived back to the hotel to realize that none of us are in great shape for riding bicycles for that long, so we mostly just crashed at the hotel until dinner. Dinner was at Bearfoot Bistro, which was quite excellent. Then back at the hotel we had our wedding wine and crashed.

And now we arrive at today, Tuesday. We woke up quite early, packed and left back to Seattle, stopping at Bellingham for lunch. The trip back was much shorter, as we barely had any traffic anywhere, including as we were arriving in Seattle at 4:30pm. But it's still tiring...

That's it! It ended up having a little bit more details than I was planning. I'll add pictures to the story in the (hopefully near) future.

Doing

Things have still been busy. Summer in Seattle is always a little crazy. At the same time that it's really the only time of the year that you can more safely venture out and schedule trips and outings (for example, last weekend we went camping with some friends at Cougar Rock, below the snow line on Mt. Rainier - pictures available on my SmugMug gallery), it's also time when days are long and my brain seems to be more active.

Yes, most of the days I arrive home a little on the tired side, but when I'm not (like today - and I'm not going through the reasons for why I'm not that tired today), I keep thinking of what else I should be doing. So I finished reading The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1), I watched some TV, but then I was eventually back to my computer thinking of what I want my next project to be.

Yes, I still have the robot to work on and from time to time I find myself in my new "shop" trying to get back to it and remember what I was trying to do (mostly still make sure I can consistently install Linux with all drivers, libraries and tools that I need on my BeagleBoard). At the same time, I feel like I need something more tangible and that I would be able to finish with the little time that I have free during this time of the year.

Here are my current thoughts:

  1. Automated irrigation based on soil moisture sensors: Not too hard to do. There was an article that talks about part of it on some Make Magazine at some point in the past (although what they were doing was activating a pump for indoor irrigation, instead of turning on my drip irrigation system, which is what I plan on doing). The tricky thing is that probably when I'm done with it, planting season would be either over, or close to it.
  2. Wireless lighting control: switch all my light switches with a combination of a switch and a wireless controller, to allow me to easily just turn off all the lights in the house, or turn on lights from anywhere I am. I actually have a plan for this, but at the current estimated price of $50 a light switch, it's a very expensive endevor.
  3. Some sort of sensor network, like keeping track of the wine temperature. It would be a start for #2 to see if I really want to go ahead with it.

There are a couple of other minor project (and a couple of other major ones, like building a 3D printer), but they are not really in the running. The issue is that I've been thinking and planning those projects, and when I think I have made a decision, it's almost 1 AM and I probably shouldn't be doing anything about it. And here goes yet another day of not doing. At least I blogged about it. So it's like talking about not doing anything.

Our trip to Kitsap - Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Mini Maker Fair

Last weekend, Amy and I decided that because it was one of the very few weekends I didn't have to work, we should get out of town. I looked at my calendar and saw that on Sunday it was the Kitsap Mini Maker Fair. So we decided that we were going to head that way, spend the night in a bed and breakfast around there and then head to Poulsbo for the fair.

The final plan ended up being:

  • Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island early afternoon on Saturday (we had to run some errands in the morning)
  • Walk around downtown Bainbridge Island (a.k.a. the big construction zone)
  • Go to Holly Lane Gardens bed and breakfast and spend the night there
  • Drive to Poulsbo in the morning after breakfast and walk around downtown Poulsbo (which doesn't take very long)
  • Head to the Fair
  • Drive to Kingston and take the Kingston Ferry back

Pictures are worth more words than I can write here, so for a visual summary of the weekend, head over to my SmugMug slideshow. Here are some highlights:

The King's Speech... meh

I guess the title of this post tells everything I really want to talk about this movie. I just watched it with Amy. The story is interesting, because it talks about somebody that rarely appears in the WWII stories, but was there and had some importance to what was going on. Another plus was that it didn't really have any romance just injected to make some people happier with the movie. But that's where it ended. Acting was alright, although some times I though the main characters were a little lost on their personas. The king-to-be sometimes would lose his stutter for no apparent reason, or get completely blocked. The "doctor" was also sometimes brilliant on his approach to break the psychological blocks around the stutter, but sometimes it would just feel like he was talking to a different patient.

Another thing that I actually didn't like was the camera angles. Most of the movie was shot with close-up shots with a blurred background, and made you lose a little bit the sense of location, while this was a very important piece of the movie. They were in London just before WWII started, it wasn't really a "timeless" story.

Anyway, would I recommend other people to watch it? I don't think so. Will the movie win a lot of Oscars? Probably, but that hasn't meant much in a long time.

Opening a new chapter

Yesterday marked the last day at my old position at Amazon. It was a wonderful 6+ year ride, but I decided that I should try something else for a change. I'm still at Amazon, but instead of working in the catalog side, I'm moving to the Kindle side. I can't really talk much about what I'll be doing there, which is the major drawback for this new position, but it's certainly going to be very exciting, and challenging (which are two highly correlated features).

Looking back at my work so far at Amazon, it has been a very interesting mix of things. It's actually not that easy to come up with a very well abstracted set of problems that I've worked with all the time, but let me give it a try:

  1. I've started with metadata modeling and building services for exposing this metadata, and allowing people to edit it.
  2. Then I moved to classification, which was also quite interesting, mostly due to philosophical discussions of what classification really is, and how it affects customers.
  3. After that my next step was analyzing and visualizing entity extraction algorithms. 
  4. Next was data modeling, storage and building APIs for people to use this structured data efficiently in high load, low latency systems.
  5. Then came NLP and building parsers, which turned into building a domain-specific language for configuring those parsers.
  6. Finally I moved to something more like IR, but that ended up being much more like building parsers again.

In the middle of all this, there was a lot of teaching people, interviewing and designing.

I guess that's it for now. My house is in a little bit of a turmoil because we are remodeling the downstairs. Weekends are busy going shopping for materials and other remodel stuff. So I haven't been staying at my computer much, which ends up reflecting on the amount that I've been blogging lately. I don't expect this to change any time soon, but we'll see how inspired to write about things I'll get once I start diving deep into learning new things for my new position.

Reflections on an old year

I guess it's time for my annual reflection of the previous year (actually twice yearly, as I do that for Jewish new year also). A lot happened this year so it's really hard to know where to start. Let's start with the personal accomplishments:

  1. I'm now married: I guess that's probably the most important thing to write about, although I can't really say that things changed much after that, besides a lot of bureaucracy of joining bank accounts and credit cards.
  2. Out of my local (meaning, Seattle) closest friends, most now have kids. Last year the count was at 2, now it's at 5.
  3. I decided to move onto a different job. It's still at Amazon, but I decided to work on something quite different, somehow related to the Kindle. I can't talk much more about it yet. Maybe by April or May I can provide a little bit more insight on what I'm working on.
  4. I'm starting a big home remodel, redoing the whole basement. Technically the remodel will only happen in 2011, but the selection of architect, architecture plans and contractor happened in 2010, so that counts. And that's very fresh on my mind because I was moving everything out of the basement this whole weekend.
  5. I've reached my weight goal. That's what happens when I stop going to the gym... :-)

Now maybe I need a little bit of personal shortfalls this year:

  1. I was not able to get the robot project completed by Robothon 2010. It was a busy year and getting my architecture that used multiple processors to work the way I wanted was way more time-consuming than I was expecting. I can't even say that I have the Linux part under control. Things were starting to work and then I destroyed my OS and when I went to reconstruct it I realized that my documentation wasn't as complete as I was expecting, so it's still not working.
  2. I gave up on almost all my other side-projects. I either realized it was going to take too much time, or suddenly I wasn't really interested in it anymore.
  3. I didn't really blog as much as I was hoping to blog
  4. I didn't develop my website as much as I was hoping for. This was probably mostly due to shortfalls #1 and #2, because I was hoping that sharing what I was accomplishing with those was going to be the main content of this site. However, as I didn't accomplish much, I ended up not writing much.
  5. I continued my trend of not really reaching out to friends and keeping track of what they are up to and if they need help. It was still just easy to play the "I'm busy" card and not do anything. I'm sorry...

And let me stop here. There were lots of other things that I wanted to accomplish this last year and I didn't get there, but I don't think they were really realistic. This year will start a little slow because I'll probably be spending a lot of time early in the year learning the skills I need to learn for my new job and looking for materials and stuff for the house remodel. Hopefully by the middle of the year I'll start having time again and will then set up some goals for the year. So no new year resolutions yet (well, there were some, but nothing worth sharing here yet).

Anyway, I was going to try to summarize some non-personal accomplishments here also, but actually there weren't too many this year. We had a lot of disasters (oil leaks, big earthquakes leveling almost whole countries, the US economy and the mortgage crisis, which is not a 2010 thing), but not a lot of good things. Yes, Spain won the World Cup and they were very happy about that (and they should be), but somebody had to win it. Nothing else really comes to mind, which is quite sad. So, in order for me not to be too sad, I'll end here and wish everybody a good 2011! Let's hope this is a better year for the world. It's certainly going to be a different year for me!

When familiarity is a bad thing

Today I was watching this week's episode of The Event and at one point they go and meet somebody "just outside" Tulsa, OK. I was excited, because I've been there and I could relate to what they were going to show! Then they get to the person's house and there is a dialogue that said that the kid was found at a bus stop in Stillwater, OK. Awesome! I lived in Stillwater for almost 4 years, and I should really be excited about it, right? Well, unfortunately not really. First, buses and Stillwater are concepts that don't work very well. Yes, there is a Greyhound stop in Stillwater, but that's the only non-school-only bus stop in the city. So saying that a person was found at a bus stop in Stillwater doesn't sound very realistic. But things get worse.

Right after this scene, there is a car chase scene where they are going after somebody's car leaving "just outside Tulsa". And what is the scenery? Hills and curving roads! That's certainly not the Oklahoma I know! Think flat and almost perfectly straight roads and you will be closer to it. Unless "just outside Tulsa" was at the border with Arkansas where there are more hills...

Anyway, there has been a study that shows that movies sell more if they depict locations that people can relate to. For example, a movie that takes place in New York City will generally sell more than a movie with the same plot that takes place in North Dakota. However, if you go that way, make sure to get your details right! Yes, I know that choosing Oklahoma as a place for part of the episode does not qualify as a place that people can relate to and they need to get the details right...

Lots of thinking, some doing?

Again I haven't been posting much. Things have been quite hectic here, with lots of events, and then lots of work. This is the first weekend that I think I have actually not had that much to do. Sure, I destroyed the downstairs bathroom to decide that there isn't anything I can do about the latest leak, but besides that, that's all I have to really talk about. Amy and I even went to the movies in the afternoon watch "The Social Network" as a good companion to the book I'm reading right now, Nick Bilton's I live in the Future & Here's How It Works. I'm half-way through the book right now, so I'll wait until it's over to talk about it. It's an interesting book so far, but it feels a little "rushed" as if the author was trying to get the book out before it was too late and too many books about social networks and "collective intelligence" were out there already. So some facts are only half-written, some problems are just mentioned in passing and never put enough details (like privacy), but it's still entertaining.

About the movie: it's not a bad movie, but it's also not very good. I think it tries to be too Hollywood-y with deep intrigue and emotions, while things are not necessarily that interesting in real life. It also starts with a scene of him "hacking" the different face books from dorms on campus to get pictures of people, which in reality was really not that exciting. He was just scripting to bulk download images from multiple servers, which is something that is quite easy to do. One interesting thing about the movie is that it's talking about somebody working on technology only a few years ago, which makes it much easier to relate to and much less impressive.

So what did I like about the movie? Well, I thought it was entertaining. I thought it didn't try to make anybody real heroes or evil people (well, maybe Sean Parker was a little evil), or too unapproachable. I don't like half-truths (because it's hard to figure out what is real and what isn't), but they could have done a much worse job at it.

Anyway, beyond that, I've been doing a lot of thinking. Lots of new ideas going through my head, but I feel like I should use at least some part of this weekend to relax a little before I start putting a little bit more effort on those ideas. Some of them are actually already underway, but too early to blog about.

Picasso and Spur Gastropub... What an interesting evening!

Amy and I went out this evening to see a Seattle Art Museum member-only talk and exhibit on Picasso's collection from the Musée National Picasso. Until January 17, 2011 SAM has a very interesting exhibit with 150 Picasso pieces from all the periods in his life. The most interesting thing about it is that you can see how much his style changed throughout his life. It was always "modern" but it switched from a more impressionist type, to more cubist, to others. He was really an amazing painter with a very long life (and many relationships).

After that we went to Spur Gastropub for dinner for another quite good experience. Also quite modern, with lots of interesting flavor and texture components, like a cheddar cracker, or creamy cauliflower puree, or plum jelly. We weren't that hungry, so we only had 3 different dishes, but it's probably a restaurant that is worth going back for. Maybe the next time I won't have cocktails at SAM before and try the 5-course meal (or the 8-course one, if I don't eat for a couple of days before it).

I feel like I should be providing deeper commentary than two paragraphs about the evening, but maybe I'm a little too tired for that. I had a very small glass of wine at the SAM reception and a glass of some mixed drink at Spur and that's enough to make me quite sleepy. So I guess I'll take off for the evening... But before I do that, I just remembered that there is one more thing I wanted to plug: OnLive. If you don't know what it is, go to their website and find out. It's a fascinating proposition.

I've been playing with it on and off for some time now and they are very close to getting it. At first I was quite disappointed because my connection would be interrupted once every 10 minutes or so making the game quite unplayable. However, lately things have been going almost smoothly. I haven't had any game interruptions in a while and the only thing that still happens in sometimes things get a little laggy. The worst was when I was playing the demo of Fear 2 and when I turned around too quickly it couldn't quite refresh things fast enough, which made me get confused on how much I had actually turned. So sometimes I would enter a room, look around and thought I saw where I had to go next. However, when I actually opened the next door I would realize that I actually had gone full 360 degrees and was going back from where I came. Quite annoying... But the actual shooting part was quite smooth and workable. And, by the way, the first 20 minutes of Fear 2 (which was the only free time that I had today to play) were quite great! I'm considering making it the first game that costs more than $5 that I'll buy from OnLive... I still have to think about it.

I guess that's it. Time go log off for the evening.

The disappointment of being unable to help

From time to time I receive some invitations to participate on online surveys (like pretty much everybody as online surveys are generally "cheap" to make and send around). And most of the time I decide to actually go through it, because I think that if I can give people feedback, there is a chance that I'll end up getting something that I'm a little happier about if I can add to the numbers. Or maybe it's because I'm a software developer, so I need to keep convincing myself that my clients actually know what they are talking about by putting myself on their shoes... 

Independent on what the psychological reason is to go through surveys, the worst experience is when I'm going through a survey and then suddenly I hit a bug that prevents me from finishing it. I've had this experience more than once with IEEE surveys, because their web administrator and designer are quite terrible (which is quite sad, as they are supposed to have tech-savvy people there). But today the problem was with a Chase survey. And it was an odd one... Somewhere after the 10th page or so, suddenly I reached a page that when I clicked the button to go on, the button appeared pressed but nothing happened. I tried to reload the page multiple times and do it again with the same result. The conclusion: I gave up on it and decided to write blog posts. Isn't this much better?

Status on my project to use less Google products

I've been actively trying not to use Google products still. I've still been using Bing at work for general search and trying to search more "specialized" locations when I know what I'm looking for. I think the most successful has been using delicious for searching for specific websites. But I guess I've been so busy trying to finish a specific project that I haven't had much more time to look at other things, so not much more done in that.

One part that I didn't want to talk about last post is the one that I have done most change: Google Reader. I've realized that RSS doesn't really work very well if you receive more than 500 messages a day (actually some days it was closer to 1200) and you only have time to check it every couple of days. So I decided to change my approach and go for tiering:

On Google Reader I'm keeping the blogs that have rare activity, or that I want to make sure not to miss. That includes blogs from friends, some local news and some electronics blogs, because it's always fun to see what people are making out there. The rest all became bookmarks in a "daily" or "weekly" folder that I try to look almost daily and almost weekly. It's been working alright so far. Actually the experience of actually looking through people's websites and not just an RSS reader is quite nice (because some RSS feeds are very annoying with banner ads and only containing part of the article).

On the mail side, I've also started to unsubscribe to a lot of mailing lists that I didn't read and that apparently reduced a little the number of false positives that the spam detector identified (where a positive is that it is spam). But it's a little early to say. Unfortunately some mailing lists have no website counterparts, especially "deal" emails. Is this all that is going to be left from emails?

Google Instant, Wave and gmail... Time to move on... But where?

Google has been getting on my nerves lately. Maybe I'm just too busy and small things can cause me to overreact, but here is the rundown:

1) Google Instant: interesting idea, but I don't generally find it very useful. The main problem that I have with it is that it only returns 10 results and then you have to page through 10 results at a time! Very inefficient! So I decided to turn it off and get back to my normal use. This worked fine in the computer at home, but at work Google refuses to disable Instant! I can turn off with the selection on the right of the search bar, or on my preferences and it refreshes the page and Instant is still on.

2) Google Wave: yes, I don't think it was all that useful, but I was using it. Now they are shutting it down perhaps by the end of the year. So all this time spent setting up a Wave and getting used to it might have gone nowhere. Yes, I was an early adopter and early adopters need to deal with things not working out, but coming from Google it sounds silly. They have a lot of products out there that don't work, nobody uses it, but it's still up and running.

3) Gmail: my annoyance with gmail is the same as I've had in the past: it is too aggressive on trying to remove spam from my inbox, and classifies random emails as Spam from time to time. I have to keep adding people to list of "known contacts" so that they don't get sent to spam, but I can't keep doing that all the time. And the most annoying thing is that you can't know why something ended up there. Sometimes it's obvious, but most of the time I can't seem to find anything on the email to suggest that it should be classified as spam.

The challenge now is what to do about this. I've tried at work to switch to Bing, but there are a few things about using Bing for general search that doesn't work so well. The way results are grouped is a little less useful, based on how I've been trained so far. For example, let's say that I want to search for "wicket nullpointerexception dropdown":

On Google, as of today (because those things change quite rapidly), you can see a clear pattern: there are multiple websites with some results and some with repeated results, because they are showing the same thing: the archive of the mailing list. On the first page of results you can see nabble, mail-archive, osdir, archiveorange, and mail-archives.apache.org all showing the same fundamental results from their users mailing list. The "great" thing about the Google results is that I can easily spot it, look at the quality of the results and decide whether my question might be on those mailing lists or not. If they are, I can choose one of them and select "see more results from ...". If not, I can just ignore them.

On Bing things are quite different. All results are mixed in and you can't easily spot when it's a mailing list and when it's the Wicket wiki page, or their old sourceforge page. The relevance itself is about the same (an actually pretty bad, as most of those types of queries), so not being able to effectively filter and dig deeper into the results is a pretty bid disadvantage.

So what is the conclusion? Well, I can't do Google with only 10 results per page, and I suffer through Bing, so maybe I should try my hand again on giving up on general search and just keep links to "specialized" pages, like searching mailing lists directly, or doing code search on koders.com, or something else that I don't know of yet. I tried to do that before, but it never worked for very long. Maybe I just didn't have enough motivation then.

Now onto the next topic: Google Wave. This one is trickier, because I haven't really tried anything else yet. So I'll leave this topic for future analysis.

gmail... Being a front-end for one of the oldest technologies around the web, there must be equivalent offerings out there, right? Well, unfortunately no. People have found that email doesn't really make money, so nobody has really invested in it. There are only two "better" options that I can think of:

 

  1. Giving up online access and believe in ubiquity of mobile devices and make my iPhone my email client of choice. I can still write longer emails on "crappy" web email clients, but leave the iPhone to do all the display. The problem with this solution is that the iPhone mail client is still quite crappy. The inability to batch select items and mark them as read is very annoying when you subscribe to mailing lists that have some discussions I don't really care to read at all. So not optimal, but maybe do-able, considering that I don't really receive that many emails on my inbox (I have a lot of emails that are auto-archived to mailing lists - those I'll handle next)
  2. Give up on email. Yes, I know I can't really give up on email, the same reason why I can't give up on snail-mail. But I can greatly reduce its usage. For mailing lists I can use the multiple online interfaces (some of them I mentioned above on the search result) and stop subscribing to them directly. For alerts that I receive from some companies, I can just visit their websites. For talking with friends, I could use other means, like twitter, Facebook (ugh), text messages or many other messaging solutions.

 

So, as you can't see, they aren't much better, but they provide a little bit of a solution.

What is next? Well, I'll start implementing some of those things. I'll get back to my plan of not using web search, I'll start reducing the email that I receive and see if I can at least get it to only receiving personal email on gmail (yes, I can't see myself going the Facebook direction). Let's see how it goes.

Another Google property that I use more than I actually enjoy is Google Reader. But I didn't want to go that way yet. I've been playing with Digg, but it hasn't worked quite as well. Maybe I just don't have enough friends there.

Kicking people that don't know how to drive off the roads

Sorry, I feel like ranting today... It's very well known that people in Seattle don't really know how to drive. But sometimes it really feels like something needs to be done to keep roads safer to drive. I'll start with some examples from my 15-minute drive back home from choir rehearsal tonight:

  1. I'm driving down Sand Point Way at a part where there are two lanes and the speed limit is 40 mph. I was driving on the right lane at speed limit and I see a car also driving on the right lane at about 30-35 mph. That's fine. People should be allowed to drive below speed limit if they want, so I move to the left lane to pass him. I was going to turn left in a few blocks anyway, so it was all fine. However, the person decides to also move to the left lane and continue driving at below speed limit! Note, there was nobody else on the road. At first I thought that maybe this person was also planning on turning left in a few blocks, so it was alright. However, he didn't. He just stayed on the left lane driving at his slow speed until I had to turn left. (sorry, I don't want to say it was a man driving by using "he" - it was too dark to see the gender of the driver). There is one rule that Seattle drivers need to understand: only use the left lane for passing or when you need to turn left!
  2. A little earlier than that, I was driving on 125th on the right lane and the car in front of me decided to turn right. He (again, I don't know the gender of the driver) signaled (GOOD!) and then slowed down... And then continued slowing down... And slowing down... When he turned, he was almost stopped before turning! Second rule of the day: you (almost never) need to slow down much to turn! There are some exceptions, though: sharp curves, bad weather, bad car or if the driver has a medical condition in which he should avoid sudden movements. I can't really tell if it was the latter, but from the way the person was driving before (stopping at lights), it didn't seem so. And certainly it wasn't any of the other 3 cases.

So what can be done about it? I'm sure those drivers don't read my blog. I also don't think that the ripple effect of the few people reading this blog and talking with their friends about it if they think it's insightful (which really isn't) will change anything. Talking about driving doesn't really have much of a viral effect because you can't act on it reactively (like retwitting or forwarding an email). So here is my suggestion:

What if each person had the ability to vote somebody out of the streets? Voting costs some small amount. Once that person is voted more than X number of times, they get a warning. Two warnings they are required to take a defensive driving course that is paid (partly or fully) by the votes of the people that cared enough to ask you to learn how to drive better.

I probably would go broke if I actually did this, but I think it would be an interesting experiment.