The year 2007 in review

2007 is almost over, so it’s a good time to take a moment and review how it passed.

First, let’s see how my 2007 expectations turned out to be:

  • Paperwork. I have done a few things about it, but not as much as I have expected.  While bureaucracy can often be blamed, this time it’s not the case.  The lack of progress in this area is totally my fault.  Laziness.
  • Business.  I managed to fly the company into the ground.  It crashed, burned, and disappeared. It’s a bit sad that it didn’t work out, but I’m glad that it happened earlier than later, and I’m glad that I’ve learned so much out of it.  I will surely try it again, but in a different key, and after I take a break to heal the wounds.
  •  Traveling. It didn’t go as good as I expected it to, but I did manage to get out of country.  A few days in Greece with some really cool people.

Secondly, let’s take a look at the highlights of the year (most of these overlap with this recent post):

  • Getting in and out of my own business is surely THE highlight of the year.  Getting another job after that is a nice addition.
  • A few days at Greek Blogger Camp. Unforgettable experience, cool people, inspiration for new ideas, and all that.
  • Lots of family related  happenings.  Maxim starting with his kindergarten, mother visiting us twice this year, grandmother passing away, Maxim getting a little surgery, and some more.

Thirdly, here are my impressions of the year:

  • It was THE LONGEST year of my life.  On several occasions I had doubts that this year will ever end. And even though there are just a few hours left in it, I still don’t feel comfortable enough speaking of it like it’s over.
  • I’ve learned a lot. And I went a long way.  Most of the things I’ve learned were about myself, and many of these weren’t as pleasant as I’d like them to be, but I’m glad I know them know. Heck, I even I learned to deal with some of them to a certain degree.
  • I got more ties with my family. I’ve heard before that the older you become, the more family means to you.  I feel it coming true.  I am as close to my parents as I ever was, and I understood a little bit more of how much my wife and my son mean to me.  More than I thought or felt before.  As weird as it is.
  • I discovered that I have more good people around me than I ever knew or even expected.  I’ve discovered some really great things about people who have been nearby for years, and who I barely noticed.  It’s amazing how much can one see by just looking and hear by just listening.  I should work a bit more on myself to get better at that.

Here is 2007 in one line: it was a great and long year, but I hope it will never happen to me again.

Now, let’s go for the bright side of things – which expectations do I have for the year 2008?  I have plenty:

  • Jobs, projects, business.  I expect some stirring up in this area during 2008.  I am working on some things already, and I have plenty more in mind.
  • Traveling.  I do expect a bit more of moving around.  Some will be family related, some – business related, and some – recreational.
  • Paperwork.  There are some really strong reasons for this to be either completely resolved this year or getting much closer to resolved.
  • Technology.  I have plenty of expectations in this area for the coming year.  Many of this expectations are related to Google, mobile computing, Web, and growing number of people using technology to earn money and make their lives easier (globalization, et al).

Let’s see how it will turn out…

Happy New Year!

Good bye, Netscape

People all over the web are saying good bye to Netscape.  Since Mozilla and Firefox started to get better, Netscape sort of faded away.  Now it faded away so far that AOL decided to end the support for the browser. This is the time when thousands of people all around the world, including yours truly, suddenly felt very old and broke out into uncontrollable nostalgia…

If you want to read more about the sentiment, here are some links for you:

Quantity and quality in the entertainment industry

While reading this post at Techdirt about a starting decline in DVD sales, I was thinking about quality and quantity…

We get more and more music and movies released these days than ever.  But most of them suck.  Most of them suck so badly, that nobody cares about them.  If I’m bored and I have plenty of time on my hands, I’ll watch a movie.  It’ll help me kill a couple of hours.  If that movie sucked or if it didn’t left anything for me to reflect on, I’ll grab the next film from the top of the pile and I’ll watch it.  And then the next.  And then the next.  A couple of years ago I had a period of time when I was watching 4-5 movies a day.  (I had a lot of time on my hands, and I had a friendly DVD rental right next to my apartment).

If in my crusade to burn free time I stumbled upon a good movie, my behavior changed totally.  After watching a good movie, I’d need some time alone to “sink” it into my brain.  To think about it.  Then, I’d go on the web to read more about the movie and people involved.  That can range anywhere from actors biographies and filmographies (most IMDB pages) to movie mitakes and trivia. I’d often feel the need to discuss the movie with other people, read other people’s reviews, blog about it, and, eventually watch the same movie a few more times.  I’d have no problem buying a DVD (bonus materials anyone?).  I’d be more inclined towards investigating and watching films with the same actors, of the same director, producer, screenwriter, etc.  I’ll even go to the movies.

Something similar happens with music.  I’d get an mp3 from the web.  If I didn’t like it particularly, I’d get another one.  If I liked it though, I’d get an album. If the album was any good, I’ll get the discography.  I’ll try to get my hands on live performances.  Videos are very welcome too.  And posters.  And interviews.  And I’ll listen to the music several more times.  Then I’ll learn the lyrics.  Then I’ll listen some more.  If I get a chance to go to the concert, I won’t miss the opportunity.  I’ll blog about it.  I’ll talk about it with people I know…

Now, back to the quantity vs. quality.  Producing a good piece of entertainment, be that music, movie, or anything else, is hard.  Everybody knows that, and I’m not an exception.  It takes time, money, dedication, and talent.  Mass producing crap seems simpler.  However, when applied over huge numbers (think globalization), is it still so?  Is it really easier to keep up with the demand for entertainment by  producing, distributing, and advertising crap?  I don’t know for sure, but I have my doubts.  Why?

Because of two points:

  1. Anybody can produce crap.  Seriously, how hard can that be?  Even I can do it.  I know, because I did. (and still do sometimes)
  2. The lower goes the quality, the harder it is to see the difference.  How much one crappy movie was worser than another crappy movie?  Nobody cares?  Both of them weren’t worth the time and money the spectator spent on them.  That’s as bad as it can go.

Content is getting easier and cheaper to produce.  Mobile phones had built-in photo cameras for years.  Most of them can record video now too.   And sound.  Semi-professional equipment is getting cheaper too (think camcorders, DSLRs, etc).  Software and hardware is getting more and more powerful, closing up the gap between a personal computer and a rendering cluster.  More and more people are getting connected to the Web.  More and more content sharing web sites are coming up (YouTube, Google Video, Flickr, PBase, etc).

I think the competition in crap producing is getting tougher and tougher because everyone and their brother can do it now.  The quality stuff, on the other hand, is something completely different…

Gmail filter activity feature wish

Since my Gmail account gets all my mail from all my email address, I have a huge list of filters configured to sort all that mail the way I want.  After reading this post, I got a bit worried and went to check if there were any filters in my account that I haven’t created.

That was the moment when I got this idea for a new feature – filter activity report. This should work similar to how feed activity works in Google Reader.  With a tiny bit of statistics it easy to drop inactive feeds to clear up the  list of your subscriptions.  The same way, it should be easy to drop old and inactive filters from Gmail.  It should be pretty trivial to do.  Even interface-wise it should be pretty easy with something like “Last used on [insert date here]” indication near each filter in the filter management screen.

How marketing research works

Here is a quote of an insightful comment from this Slashdot discussion:

IDC just released its predictions for 2008 with regards to data storage trends. Its research shows…

If you’ve ever been involved in an IDC, Gartner or whatever marketing discussion, you know that the “research” mainly consists of going from vendor to vendor (data storage vendors in this case) and asking what, in their wildest dreams, would the ideal demand curve look like. Then they charge for actually coming up with some supporting information to meet the vendors’ preferred conclusion, and release the whole thing to consumers in the hopes of stimulating some demand for the paying vendors. Very scientific.

Google Reader search within single feed

I’ve been using Google Reader for quite some time now, but it was only today that I noticed that I can search within a single feed.  The drop down menu near the search box at the top contains choices like “All items”, “Starred items”, and “Shared items”, which are followed by the tags.  But if you scroll further down, after the tags, there is a list of all your subscriptions.  You can pick any feed that you are subscribed to and search within it.

I’m not sure if this is a recently added feature or if it was there for ever, but it’s priceless.  I was missing out on it, because I use way too many tags and, apparently,  never scrolled down deep enough.

A little RSS reading tip

ReadWriteWeb runs 2007 : The Year in RSS post.  Nice read. Among other things it has this little tip:

For some crazy reason the world is full of people who still feel morally obligated to read every single item in their feed reader. These people, probably the majority of RSS users in fact, complain that RSS is becoming a big source of information overload. (Hint: it’s ok! Just read what you can and don’t worry about the rest!)

Chess bits

I’ve been fascinated by chess for as long as I can remember.  This is one of those games that brings it all together – intelligence, suspense, entertainment, magic…  Unfortunately, I wasn’t ever any good at playing chess, or even understanding most strategies.  But that didn’t stop me from enjoying a game now and then.

I have recently came across two interesting bits about chess.  One is this post on the gaping void blog with the history of chess pieces.  It explains where from the names and looks came, as well as why the pieces move the way they move.  Another one is this Battle Chess web site (in Russian).  Battle Chess is a variation of the chess game, which, as the site says “is a war, not a game”.  What they do is let each chess player arrange his pieces on his part of the board any way he wants.  The second player does the same.  The trick is that they don’t see each others positioning before the game starts.  And then they start.  Sounds exciting. And innovative.  Which I guess isn’t very easy to do with a game a few centuries old.

On copyright, fair use, and free speech

TechCrunch has an excellent cover of the “photograph in the video” story that has been going on all over the web in the last few days.  Basically, somebody wrote a funny song and made a video for it.  In that video a bunch of images were used including one that was downloaded from Flickr without permission of the photographer.  The photographer got really pissed off and such.  The video was re-edited to remove the offending image, but there was plenty of discussion on how is right and who is wrong in this story.  Some really important questions on copyright, fair use, and free speech were asked, and some really smart people tried to answer them.

The rights of the copyright holder have always been balanced against the more fundamental right of free speech. And free speech in the Internet age, more so than ever before, goes way beyond words and text. The way people express themselves on the Web increasingly involves images, video, animations, and other rich media, often in mash-ups of pre-existing works. That is how people communicate today. Both copyright law and industry standards need to evolve to take that into consideration.

While I support the (copy)right of the author to command the usage of his or her work, I think that this particular case wasn’t handled properly by the photographer.

Happy Birthday, Perl!

My favorite (so far) programming language has been born 20 years ago.   It’s been loved and hated.  It’s been praised and damned.  It’s been complimented and criticized.  But all that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that it has been helping people all over the world to solve problems.  Tricky, boring, annoying problems.  It provided enough power to build enterprise grade applications, while still being easy and flexible enough to be the super-glue of many systems.

I’m sure Perl will still be with us in another 20 years.  I wish it to be as useful in that time, as it is now.

Thanks, respect, and best wishes to everyone who created and supported Perl, its community and tools all these years.  Happy birthday!