Installed a sitemap

I’m on a mission to take the top spot when searching for “Callum”. I’m currently number 2 on Scroogle and number 21 on Yahoo. In my continuing efforts for worldwide Callum domination, I’ve installed the XML Sitemap Plugin. Hopefully this will help these search engines to realise the error of their ways and promote me to my rightful position as number 1!

I finally joined Flickr

Somewhat begrudgingly, I have finally joined flickr. I was delighted to discover that I got the url flickr.com/photos/chmac – my usual username. It’s somewhat confusing, I log into flickr with my yahoo account callum_macdonald then my flickr username is callummacdonald (no underscore) and my url is chmac. Oh well, the chmac part is the important bit!

Here’s my first flickr photo…

Callum

Open source and adding value

There has been an interesting shift in Intellectual Property over the last few years. Particularly, the rise in popularity of open-source software. Companies like MySQL, Zend, RedHat, and others are pioneering a new way of doing business. Their core “product”, the software, is freely available. Not only is the product free to use, but you’re free to modify and re-distribute it.

I think this marks an interesting change in focus. What do these companies do to create value? The typical, old-fashioned model is you create something once (some Intellectual Property, IP) and you sell it many times over (Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc). Yet these new companies give you the IP for free.

Where many of these companies make money is by charging for additional services. Support, consultancy. Some also charge for alternative licences if you want to include their free software within your non-free software.

Personally, I like this direction. I support the idea of people being paid when they actually do something, rather than being paid many times for the same work. I think music will move in this direction over time, where fans pay for concerts, for events, but not for the music that has already been recorded. Interesting times.

Risen to Number 2

In a scroogle search for “Callum” I have risen from the mirky depths of around 15 to second place! For the past few weeks I’ve been on a concerted effort to litter the web with my calling card as simply “Callum” instead of my full name. The aim was to increase my exposure to the single search term. It seems to be working.

I can almost taste the victory… :-p

Upgrade to 2.3

I successfully upgraded to WordPress 2.3 today. There were one or two glitches to start with, thankfully I had a full backup and was able to restore it quickly. Second time round it went fine. I’m now using WordPress’s own tagging system. Alas my tag cloud is not quite as pretty as it used to be, I’ll work on that!

I’m Sticking with PHP

Thanks to an article by Derek Sivers, I’m sticking with PHP. I’ve dabbled with Ruby on Rails, but in the end, I just can’t be bothered learning a whole new language just because it’s cool and new.

Here’s my favourite quote from the article:

#7 – PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES ARE LIKE GIRLFRIENDS: THE NEW ONE IS BETTER BECAUSE *YOU* ARE BETTER

Rails was an amazing teacher. I loved it’s “do exactly as I say” paint-by-numbers framework that taught me some great guidelines.

I love Ruby for making me really understand OOP. God, Ruby is so beautiful. I love you, Ruby.

But the main reason that any programmer learning any new language thinks the new language is SO much better than the old one is because he’s a better programmer now! You look back at your old ugly PHP code, compared to your new beautiful Ruby code, and think, “God that PHP is ugly!” But don’t forget you wrote that PHP years ago and are unfairly discriminating against it now.

It’s not the language (entirely). It’s you, dude. You’re better now. Give yourself some credit.

Hat tip to Marc Canter for pointing me at this article midway through his (somewhat random) post!

Is the traditional relational database dead?

Just read a fascinating paper on relational databases. Aside from being filled with TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) the paper was pretty accessible to the non-expert (me) and thought provoking for anyone interested in the field of databases, scalability, technology evolution, and so on. I’ve read a few interesting articles on High Scalability recently.

Ragging on OpenID

Stefan Brands wrote a post slating OpenID and talking about why his company’s proprietary software is unlikely to ever be OpenID compatible. He raises a few valid points amongst the provocative language.  Most his arguments are, in my view, either non-issues, untrue (no list of OpenID consumers) or true of any single sign on system.

I see the valid criticisms of OpenID are:

  • Phishing – If users login to a url that’s not theirs (http://spamsite.etc/blah) then they’ll give away their logins (same as PayPal, your bank, or any other site).
  • DNS Poison – If a hacker can convince your ISP to send traffic to the wrong server, they can steal your login details (as above, true of all logins).
  • Privacy – You need to choose an OpenID provider you can trust, personally, that would mean my own server or not at all.

Overall, I think OpenID is a good thing, and I think it will lead to increased security if it’s widely adopted. Primarily because if your OpenID password is the key to your online life, providers will hopefully force you to look after it better than your Hotmail password!

Social Networking Rights

After talking about member rights on CouchSurfing, I was interested to see this article that Dante forwarded about creating a bill of rights for members of the social web. I’m strongly in favour of outlining exactly what rights users of social networks should have. I’m really pleased to see an increasing level of awareness and discussion on the subject.

I think for social networking to become ubiquitous, users must own their own data, and different systems must be compatible. I believe Email is so widely adopted because it’s a single standard. It doesn’t matter what email client / server / software you use, you can email anyone else on any other system. If social networking is to go the same way, it will need to be similarly standardised.

Burn Your Feeds, Burn Your Profits

I’m surprised by the continued success of Feedburner, the popular blog feed stats service. On the one hand, you get a great stats package, offload some traffic from your blog server, and it’s free. However, for those benefits, you give up control of your feed and you give up a share or all of the ad revenue.

With plugins like Google AdSense for Feeds WordPress users can put their own ads into their feeds. With a handful of feed stat plugins around, it must be possible to get all the benefits of FeedBurner without the downsides.

I suppose it’s one of those situations where they’ve “made it” sufficiently that using FeedBurner is the norm. That and they were just acquired by Google, uh oh, the G disease is spreading…

WP Mail SMTP v0.3

A few people reported problems with the WP Mail SMTP plugin. I’ve resolved a few bugs and added a new feature that allows you to set the From name and email address of all mail sent by the wp_mail() function. I’ve thoroughly tested this version (unlike previous versions, oops!) and I’ve released it for immediate update.

Please note: SMTP authentication does not work in version 0.2, I encourage all users to upgrade immediately.

More Time instead of More Cash

What if, instead of giving financial bonuses, a company offered holiday bonuses? If the company increases performance, staff leave 10 minutes earlier each day, or take one half day a month, or get an extra 3 days holiday each year.

I was considering the motivation of offering people more money if they work harder. I think there’s a fundamental flaw in that this model encourages staff to want more money. In my opinion, there aren’t many people in the western world who need more money. I think most people could benefit from more leisure time.

If we work harder, we become more efficient, we generate more with less time, why not give that time back? Why not take that time off?

Would this simple system work in today’s competitive employment market? Would you be willing to work for a company that offered you a bonus of time off instead of more cash?

First Published WordPress Plugin

I just whipped up a very simple little WordPress plugin called WP Mail SMTP. It’s not my first plugin, I’ve created quite a few for clients, but it’s the first one that I’ve published in my own name.  It’s already listed on WP-Plugins.net and I’ve submitted it to WordPress.org, how very exciting! 🙂

Review: Fuerzabruta

I went to see Fuerzabruta this evening. It’s a truly awesome show. It’s hard to describe exactly why or what the show is, but it’s definitely spectacular. I believe Fuerza means Force and bruta means Brute, so the literal translation of the name is brute force.

It’s an immensely physical show with some amazing staging, lighting and effects. It’s a highly technical performance, there’s lots of ropes, pulleys and other equipment. The music is fantastic, the sound system kicks some serious ass.

You’ll almost certainly get wet, you might get soaked, and I think everyone will enjoy it. If you can, I highly recommend you go see Fuerzabruta.

Sophisticated Spam

I received the most sophisticated spam email I’ve seen this weekend. The text of the message was:

Man you have got to tell me where you picked her up. I saw this on the web, it has to be you. see for yourself… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKfyzCIq1ls

Cunning readers will notice that although it looks like a link to a YouTube video, it is in fact a link to another web site (an IP address), which is presumably the spammer’s site. I came very close to clicking the link, but something about the message seemed a bit off (the fact I had no idea who the sender was maybe!).

Spam is getting smarter. I think the solution lies in trust mechanisms and authorised emails.

Affiliate Revenue Sharing

A friend recently told me about rakeback poker sites. When you play poker, you pay a small fee to the casino for the use of the table, this is called a rake. If I introduce you to Poker Website X, they will pay me a percentage of your rake. The latest affiliates offer to share that percentage with you, it’s called rakeback.

I think this concept will take off and spread to other affiliate schemes. For example, the travel related site BeWelcome.org could sign up as an affiliate with somebody like Expedia (an online travel agent). If BeWelcome receive 5% of user spending, they could split that with the user. The result as a user is a 2.5% discount on Expedia.

The same principle could apply to any number of affiliate schemes. From selling books to cars or credit cards. I think there’s a great untapped market here, particularly amongst existing community web sites like Facebook and MySpace. These sites could command impressive deals with affiliates and offer their users great bargains. It’s a win-win.

Using the purchasing power of 30m Facebook users to get better deals would be great for business on all sides.