Category > Rants

Fixing FeedBurner Fiasco, Conclusion

06 March 2009 » In Other, PHP, Rants » 16 Comments

In the previous post I mentioned that I was going to migrate to Google account on FeedBurner using a trick to avoid spamming the subscribers with old posts. The trick seemed to work fine, so here’s the explanation. I use WordPress (2.6), but this can be generalized to other systems. In wp-includes/feed-rss2.php, find the beginning of the post loop – the while( have_posts() ) line – and add another one after it to exclude the posts dated earlier than the migration date from the feed. It should look something like this:

 <?php while( have_posts()) : the_post();
 if (get_post_time() < strtotime('2009-03-01')) continue;

The end result of this is that your feed will contain only the items published after the specified date. This may be a bit strange for new subscribers, so I made a new blog post so as not to keep my feed completely empty, but for existing ones it should be transparent.

In general, I want to say that Google has completely mishandled this transition after their acquisition of FeedBurner. Chris Shiflett already explained what problems he saw with it, but I found one more: they broke the Awareness API. I noticed this because my feed statistics were all 0. Turns out that the old API URL (http://api.feedburner.com/) was gone, and you had to use the new one (http://feedburner.google.com/api). Breaking the legacy API URLs is a major violation of the contract you make with the users when you publish the API. At the very least, Google should have silently redirected the requests to the new API instead of doing the most egregious thing possible and simply removing the old URL. Shame on you, Google.

Presumption of uncluefulness

19 July 2007 » In PHP, Rants » 6 Comments

PHP internals mailing list has been filled with massive threads lately, mostly concerning PHP 6. Nothing too surprising in the amount, topics, or quality of polemic there, but I just love it when someone pipes in with a post like this:

I don’t really know much about topic X, and to be honest, I don’t really
know much about the internal workings of php. I’m going to suggest an implementation suggestion… Keep in mind I havent
hacked around with php source, so my variable naming etc will be wrong…
and its all psuedocode, so its not

[a page of C++ snipped]

I think this would provide a very fast implementation of what is trying to
be done.

Im just making a suggestion, and feel free to ignore/criticise me if im
wrong. I don’t know anything about phps internals… Just an idea

That’s just awesome. We totally haven’t considered that before, but your brilliant, yet humble and self-deprecating idea has shined new light onto the issue. Don’t worry about PHP internals, it’s just some hackish code we had lying around.

I just have to wonder why someone would post this without bothering to research the issue at hand for at least 15 minutes. It’d be like me going to the space shuttle designers and saying, “Hey, I know I don’t have a degree in rocket engineering and it’s just an idea, but that problem with the insulation foam you’re having.. have you thought about putting some duct tape on it?”

Every message like this leads me to change my default presumptions about the cluefulness of the new posters to the list, and unfortunately, not in a better direction.

99 Frameworks of Code Out There

16 February 2007 » In PHP, Rants » 35 Comments

People, enough with new frameworks already. I know you might be lusting after Rails for some reason and want to have the fame, the glory, and the dancing girls of DHH, but are we not going to be satisifed until Sourceforge is filled with the object-oriented diarrheal remains of our overblown egos and delusions of grandeur? I counted no less than 3 separate announcements about new PHP frameworks today, just by scanning the front pages of phpdeveloper.org and planet-php.net. As well intentioned and technically robust as these efforts might be, do we really need yet another patterns-based abstracted MVC-driven buzzwords-filled concoction? Look at the list of existing PHP frameworks, are they really all that different? Why start another one? Why? How long are we going to be suffering from the NIH syndrome? Oh, the humanity…

If you have an itch that only frameworks can scratch, then my advice, should you choose to take it, is to find an existing mature framework that gets as close as possible to your requirements and work on it. Add features, fix bugs, write documentation, promote, contribute, and improve in general, but resist the urge to spew out a torrent of code into our environment simply because you thought of an oh-so-clever moniker and need to stick it onto something. Please, no more new frameworks.

This is who I am. Are we Clear?

03 January 2007 » In Rants » 4 Comments

While waiting in the security line at the San José airport before my trip to Portland, I noticed a TSA officer handing out well-designed, colorful brochures similar to the ones you can find at your local bank. Except this one had CLEAR in big letters on the front. I took one and read it on the flight.

Basically, TSA is instituting a FlyClear program, wherein travelers may choose to get screened in advance in order to facilitate their progress through the security in the future. You provide two forms of government issued ID (including US Passport or green card, but “a passport is strongly preferred”) with your application, they take your fingerprints and iris photos, and the first-year $99.95 fee. What goes on next is unclear (hah), but apparently TSA “makes the necessary security threat assessment” and issues you a Clear card, if you pass. Once you have the card you have access to a designated Clear lane at participating airports, where in addition to the good old metal detector and the X-ray machine for you baggage, you also undergo some biometric checks.

So on the surface it’s nothing more than a FasTrak pass, except for people (instead of cars) going through metal detectors (instead of toll booths). You pay for the privilege of potentially avoiding long security lines, which seems like a big pro for those who travel often. But I see at least one big con here: the government now has access to your complete biometric data. They say that it’s required in order to verify your identity in the Clear lane, but that smells fishy to me. Identity verification has been working fine in the normal lanes for a long time now, and if it hasn’t, why is the practice continuing? Also, TSA says they continuously monitor your security status, and if it changes, your membership will be immediately deactivated and back to the normal lanes you go. How much sense does that make? If someone’s status is suspect, wouldn’t you want them to get more stringent identity checks at the airport?

I think this is nothing more than a ploy to get at your biometric information. The FlyClear privacy policy makes all kinds of assurances about this info being collected purely for identity verification and underscores that the entrance log files are purged after 24-48 hours. Personally, I am skeptical of these promises in light of what has transpired in the past. I also can’t help feeling that the future portrayed in Gattaca is not too far off. So, FlyClear if you must, but remember this: Big Brother just got a brand new Christmas present.

UPDATE: Bruce Schneier makes some other good points about this program.

Recruit This!

09 October 2006 » In Rants, Work » 2 Comments

By virtue of living in Silicon Valley and working at Yahoo!, I frequently get phone calls or emails from recruiters. Their general expertise and cluefulness range is pretty wide: some are knowledgeable and do their research on my background before contacting me, while others expect that Hey, I have a C#/.NET as well as Java positions in New York City, please get back to me as soon as possible will garner some sort of response. And of course there’s the middle ground. But by and large, the scale is definitely skewed towards the not so good side. I received another “hot” email today:

Hi Andrei,

I am a recruiter in software industry and I work with few exciting
start-ups and other big companies in silicon Valley. I got your resume from internet and would like to discuss about some opportunities in Silicon Valley. Please let me know what would be the best time and phone number to reach you.

Where to start… First of all, I understand that English might not be this gentleman’s second language. Still, when you contact people on behalf of your clients, you do want to project a professional attitude, and that involves correct grammar and spelling. But even disregarding that, the email is very, very vague. So I applied my patented DeRecruitoMizer™ algorithm to it:

Original: Hi, Andrei
Decoded: My mail merge software tries to be personable. Nifty!

Original: I work with few exciting start-ups
Decoded: I don’t really care that omitting an article conveys a completely ridiculous impression upon the person I am contacting.

Original: I got your resume from internet
Decoded: I, for one, welcome our Google overlords whose mind-bending search technology put your resume in the top 20 results when I typed in “C#”, even though it is mentioned only once in the text under “secondary experience”.

Original: let me know what would be the best time and phone number to reach you
Decoded: Come on, call me. I know you are desperate for a sucky job in New York City, since you have your resume on the intraweb. You are desperate, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Why won’t you talk to me? Whyyyyyy? <sobbing>

I think that, given the top tech news of the day (hint: the combined service name might be GooTube), I think my response was quite appropriate:

Hi,

Can you still get me into YouTube?

-Andrei

This Is Not “American Idol”

29 November 2005 » In PHP, Rants » 9 Comments

The latest round of discussions on the php-internals mailing list highlights something that has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. As PHP became more and more popular, the number of people subscribed to the mailing list has grown as well, and lately this has resulted in a slew of interminable threads of will-crushing length. It seems that every time I open my mail reader, the counter next to “php-internals” blinks and jumps to over a 100. And roughly half, if not more, of the messages are, a) from people I have never heard about, and b) contain opinions, rants, and “votes” on fairly important issues, as in “I’m +2 on this namespace separator”.

A whole lot of these folks are under the impression that one can simply subscribe to the list, read discussions while lurking or semi-lurking, and start to vote on things that affect intimate parts of the language. That is… kind of gall-ish, if you ask me. I have lived in the United States for over 13 years, I pay all my taxes, I respect the law (except for occasional speeding), yet I still cannot vote in either federal or state elections. Whether it’s fair or not is debatable, but at least there is a vetting process in place that requires immigrants to fully adopt this country as their new home before being able to vote.

I appreciate the enthusiasm with which these people partake in the discussions, and I understand that they may have strong opinions on things that PHP does or does not do. However, in order to be taken seriously one has to have a certain amount of respect, experience, “karma” – call it what you will – and that has to be earned.

And how do you earn it? Through concrete participation, be it code contributions, documentation write-ups, bug triage, or just some good ideas that you design and promote in a respectful and polite manner. But to show up, issue forth proclamations on topics that you do not even necessarily understand, and assume that you can influence the course of development through sheer arrogance or grandiose rants is a misguided, if not brazen, attempt at “democracy”. And if your first email to the list ignores the customs and practices of the group, your subsequent ones are likely to be taken less than seriously. First impressions count, you know.

Why not just ignore posts like these, some would say? Because on average, the signal to noise ratio on php-internals is still pretty good, and there are occasional insightful posts from new people that I would like to read. But since they may be buried under an avalanche of superfluous messages, I have to take a deep breath and wade through until I find the worthy ones. And that takes time. Precious, precious time.

To sum up: make a difference, contribute something, think before you post, be polite, and try to consider that yours is not the only opinion out there, especially if you are new to the list.

Oh, if you are using a mail reader that screws up message threading, I will hunt you down and stuff you full of Perl internals until you look like a camel. I will go fucking ninja on you, and you will not see me coming.

Adventures in Phone Menus

14 October 2005 » In Funny, Rants » 7 Comments

I am not a violent man. I’d much rather sip a latte in a café than engage in broken bottle bar fights. But exchanges like the following make me want to use the Chinese water torture (or vice grips) on the designers of said systems:

Andrei is calling Comcast to change some services. 1-800-COMCAST.

Phone Voice: Thank you for calling COMCAST. Please enter the telephone number including area code for where you have or want service.
Andrei: (enters the phone number)
Phone Voice: For English press 1, para español oprima el dos.
Andrei: (dutifully selects 1 as he doesn’t know Spanish)
The phone system waits for an inordinate amount of time all the making sounds like someone trying to quitely pass a kidney stone.
Phone Voice: (cheerfully) To continue this call in English press 1, para español oprima el dos.
Andrei: (jamming finger into 1 again)
The phone system passes another, but smaller, kidney stone.
Phone Voice: Please enter the phone number of your account.
Andrei: the hell ? (enters phone number again)
Phone Voice: I will connect you to the customer service representative now.

CSR comes on line.

CSR: How can I help you?
Andrei: I need to change some of my services. (but really wanting to say “by fixing your damn phone menu”)
CSR: Can I have your phone number please?
Andrei: (head explodes)

PageRank – nyet!

18 May 2004 » In Rants, Tech » 9 Comments

In yet another illustration for Jeremy’s PageRank Is Dead article, consider this: a search on Google for sailing lessons brings up a page of results with #2 spot being occupied by my previous post about sailing! This is completely nuts. As much as it strokes my ego to know that I’m now an instant authority on this topic and that my page will be getting even more referrals from Google :), I cannot say that this is a good situation. The famed Google quality seems to be rapidly deteriorating, and in all honesty I think Yahoo! results are getting much better, as evidenced by the fact that the same search does not put me at the top of the pack. Conclusions? Draw your own, please.

The Fat of the Land

04 January 2004 » In Rants » 14 Comments

Researches have linked obesity to… food portions. Pardon my French, but no shit, Sherlock. What’s next, cigarettes cause various diseases including cancer? Give me the grant, I’ll link reading funny stories to me inadvertently squirting out of my nose whatever I happen to be drinking at the moment.

Seriously, obesity which plagues this country is not a complicated nut to crack. Oversized portions, lack of exercise and general activity, foods high in sugar and fructose, obnoxious advertisement of junk food – they all contribute in fairly equal manner. Yes, there are genetic reasons but those are rare. And no fad diet or fat burner pills or miracle herbs will save the poor obese kids or adults. Not Atkins, not Dr. Phil, not anyone but themselves. Start moving, cut down on junk food, reduce portions, get some exercise, build up lean muscle mass and watch the pounds melt away. That’s the only recipe, buddy.

Armed With an Almanac

30 December 2003 » In Rants » 6 Comments

When I saw this story on the front page of Yahoo!, I could hardly believe my eyes. To summarize:

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

This is rapidly approaching the crest of ridiculous and crossing over into land of idiotic. Almanacs? Yes, the level of precipitation in Guam or who won the Emmy for best sycophant in 1962 are really dangerous facts to know. Let’s up the stakes: put the passport control at the library entrances, outlaw tourist guides (buh-bye Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and the like), immediately arrest those with Farmer’s Almanacs (weather forecasting is the domain of Homeland Security), and remove any sort of map installation that says “You are here”. That’ll stop them. They’ll think twice about picking up a copy of Webster’s too. At this point, the goverment’s efforts to stop terrorism remind me of a person who thinks a bee is about to sting them – spasmically waving hands, trying to shoo the insect away, and wreaking havoc on everything and everyone around them. Whatever will come next…

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