Archive for March, 2000

Friday, March 31st, 2000

I just read raph‘s diary
entry for Wednesday (29 Mar 2000) in which he talks about
Slashdot being slow. Indeed, this is something
that has changed significantly in the last year(s), even if
this is not the only thing that has affected the quality of
Slashdot. The obvious question is: why? If
Slashdot has some problems, we should make sure that
Advogato and other sites do not suffer from the same
problems later.

I think that two of the main reasons for the long delays
in posting articles (which are not “news” anymore) are
volume and noise level. If Slashdot has
more than 1,000 articles in the input queue and there is no
tool to help the editors to pre-filter and prioritize the
submissions, then it becomes very difficult for them to pick
up the good stuff. It gets even worse if the queue is
mostly FIFO: it may take a couple of hours or days before
enough old garbage is thrown away and an interesting article
gets noticed by the editors (especially if it does not have
a subject line that would immediately draw the attention of
the editors and have them read the article earlier). By the
time it is posted, the article may be outdated.

If you run a news service that has to be attractive to
both casual and regular visitors, then you have to make a
selection and post less than 20 articles per day (otherwise
they do not fit on a reasonable front page). If I refer to
the figures published by CmdrTaco some time ago, this means
that Slashdot has to keep less than 1% of the submissions.
Not an easy task, especially if you do not have good tools
to help you.

We should pay attention to these problems, because they
can certainly hit any site that becomes very popular. A
system that works well for a few thoudsand users may suffer
from scalability problems when the number of users increases
by two orders of magnitude. I am not sure about how much
content could be automatically pre-filtered. The naive
approach of looking for keywords in the submissions would
probably not work very well, because most people who submit
stories think that their article is the most important (and
besides, some weenies
would certainly try to fool the filters on purpose).
Filtering on the sender’s name (Slashdot karma or Advogato
trust metric) has other problems too, because sometimes the
best contributions come from newcomers. So we need
something more than that, perhaps a combination of several
filters.

I’ll think about it…
Note
to self: I still haven’t finished and posted my article on
moderation, and I’m already drifting on another topic.
Hmm…

Thursday, March 30th, 2000

On Saturday, I got my photos from GUADEC. Not too bad. I
have been off the net since then and I haven’t had the time
to scan them and post them yet, but I will do that soon…

Thursday, March 23rd, 2000

Here are more random tidbits that I forgot to add in my
GUADEC summary:

  • While working
    on some icons for gnumeric, Tigert had set his
    desktop background to display an ocean image (I think it was
    this
    one
    or something similar). On top of that, there was
    xfishtank using the shape extension. Well, I could not
    believe how many people came and asked “hey, you have a cool
    background, what program did you use to do that?”

  • Wacom has probably sold a few more tablets by now, after
    some people saw how easy it is to use the GIMP with these
    nice tools (and Tigert is very good at demonstrating that).
    The support for pressure and tilt really makes a difference.

  • The presentation of Pango and the plans for
    GTK+ 1.4 were very interesting. As a kind of joke, I
    asked Owen if GTK+ would support UNICODE for the name of its
    internal signals. The answer was no, of course. Think
    about how you would read some source code containing signal
    names in Japanese, Greek, Arabic and so on… Wouldn’t that
    be fun? (err… no!)

  • Nautilus can be extended to support more file formats
    (for creating thumbnails or viewing some files inside the
    Nautilus shell). I think it uses bonobo components for
    that. It would be very cool if the GIMP plug-ins could be
    used in Nautilus. Many plug-ins have been written to
    support exotic file formats and it would be nice to be able
    to use them in other GNOME applications. But bonobizing the
    plug-ins should not be considered until after the GIMP 1.2
    release.

  • Some people use gmc and like it. Really!
  • Considering how much some hackers were drinking at the
    HelixCode party, it is good that none of them were drowned
    in
    the Seine (the party was on a boat). Or maybe the corpses
    haven’t been found yet…

Hmm… I will probably add more later, when I
remember…

Thursday, March 23rd, 2000

It’s about time for me to write a short report on the
GUADEC… I’m probably the last one to do it.

I am glad that I decided to go to the GUADEC even if that
was a last-minute decision, because otherwise I
would
have missed a great event and many opportunities to talk to
some
very cool guys. The discussions in the corridors, in the
hacking room
and around some restaurant tables were as important as the
scheduled talks (if not more). I talked to some hackers
that I had
met before (Sven and Mitch) and
many others that I met for the first time: Tigert (he got
many requests for creating new icons and did some amazing
things), Lauri Alanko
(he reminded me of my Quake days), Raph Levien (he
was very busy but he had some nice examples of his new
printing stuff), Tim Janik and
Owen Taylor (the GTK+ guys), Keith Packard, Ville Pätsi, David
Monniaux
and many others who will hopefully forgive me
for not mentioning their names here.

Some random notes about what happened while I was
there:

  • I had my camera with me but since it is not a digital
    one,
    it will take a few days before I can scan the photos and put
    them
    on some web site. I wonder if Larry Ewing
    will be
    happy to see a picture of himself sleeping in the hacking
    room. I also wonder what others will think of Miguel de
    Icaza after seeing
    his various facial expressions. I hope that the photos will
    be OK – the film is not developed yet.

  • On Thursday evening, we went to a small restaurant for
    dinner. There was an interesting discussion between Owen
    Taylor and Keith Packard about the way X Window handles
    scrolling and backing store (Owen: it sucks; Keith: it’s not
    my fault, and you should not use it like that anyway).

  • On Friday and Saturday morning, the agenda said that the
    hacking room would be open from 8am until noon. I was not
    really
    surprised to see that the room was almost empty in the early
    morning (people started to come after 10am). Around noon,
    the room was filled with hackers glued to their laptops.

  • It was funny to see tigert and drc arguing about who
    should get the pen and/or the mouse for drawing some icons
    and other stuff. There were not enough computers in the
    room.

  • While tigert was using the GIMP, I wrote down all the
    bugs and other undocumented features that we discovered. I
    will try to fix some of them before 1.2 is released.

  • I liked the presentation of Evolution. I even won a
    small plush bonobo for guessing that Matt Loper (one of the
    authors) was using Outlook as his e-mail client. Despite
    the boos and bahs that came from the audience, I think that
    it is important to have a groupware tool that can be used
    easily by non-hackers. There is still some work to be done,
    but Evolution seems to be a good answer to that problem.

  • The presentation of Nautilus was also great. If they
    manage to
    include all of the features that were demoed as well as the
    ones that are planned into something that is stable and
    reasonably small and fast, then GNOME will have a very good
    file manager. Andy surprised some people with some quick
    hacks (i.e. being able to drag some colors into the window
    resulting in a nice gradient for the background) but there
    were many more important things that do not always look cool
    but are helpful for the user. For example, I liked the zoom
    levels giving more and more information about the files
    (similar to what EPOC does on the Psion 5). I also like the
    fact that the icons are trying to show (a part of) the
    contents of the files, and that the users can customize many
    display options. The different modes were also a good idea,
    so that the novice users are not lost in the menus and
    options. Oh, and of course the “view as music” option was
    very cool.

  • After seeing the demos, it looks like the GNOME
    applications such as dia and gnumeric have evolved a lot
    since I had a look at them. I think that I will grab a
    recent version and install them on my PC.

  • The HelixCode party on Saturday night was nice, except
    that the music was a bit too loud (for some reason, many
    hackers prefered to talk outside instead of going on the
    dance floor). This is also the first time that I go to a
    party in which the bar presents a selection of appetizers,
    drinks, CD-ROMs and plush bonobos. I didn’t try to eat the
    CDs.

Well, what else can I say, except that I am looking
forward to GUADEC 2…

Saturday, March 18th, 2000

Today is the last day of the GUADEC meeting. I came to the
conference room in the morning. Looks like everybody was
asleep because the room was almost empty (except for Keith
Packard who seems to be always among the first to wake up).
I saw that Sven is trying to
recover from his late night activities. Lots of nice things
here. Nice demos of Evolution and Nautilus. More about
that when I come back on Monday…

Wednesday, March 15th, 2000

It is a bit late, but I just decided that I would go to the
GUADEC tomorrow.
So I
quickly called some hotels to find a room, tried to find
some train tickets to go to Paris, and registered for the
workshops and talks.
I’m not sure that I will be able to stay until the Helixcode party, but I
hope
that I will have a good time there and lots of interesting
talks with
other developers.

Tuesday, March 14th, 2000

Darn! Almost one month since I said that I would post a new
story “soon”. I have collected many ideas about moderation
and
content rating, but I still have to organize them in a
structured
document that is suitable for posting here. That would be a
good complement to the discussion about content syndication.
Hmm… I’ll have to re-shuffle some things on my TODO
list… So many things to do, so little time…