Alex Payne recently blogged about Criticism, Cheerleading, and Negativity. It is unsurprisingly lucid, well-thought out and well-spoken. I also think it’s missing a large piece. That piece is the voice of one of his “cheerleaders.” I’m going to fill that hole.

But First…

Having a kid, of course, makes one an expert on all subjects. So before, I provide the missing viewpoint in Alex’s piece, I wanted to agree and expand on what he said.

Twitter   Erik f.  Kastner  Hunger is the Arbiter of Taste

When you’re young, your range of experience is so limited that everything is vaguely good. As are exposed to more and more, that continuum expands, and you can place things relative to one another according to your personal taste. This is similar to what Alex is saying, stated differently.

The other thing (which is neither here nor there, ) is that if you’re starving, anything will taste good. It’s difficult if not impossible to be discerning when you NEED to eat.

The Missing Link (I swear I just shaved)

I am one of the cheerleaders that Alex mentions. I can fall in love with almost any pop song, playing it on repeat until people around me revolt. I have the ability to turn off that critical part of my mind (for some things) and just be entertained. This also applies to people, computer languages, movies… all kinds of stuff. Does this mean I have no taste? Maybe, but I don’t think so. If I had to, I could tell you why Billy Joel might not be the greatest artist of all time, but I’d rather enjoy him (I celebrate his entire catalog.)

Do I get burned? Sure sometimes… Do I miss out on chances to expand my palette? Yea, probably. But not as much as you might expect. I see a wide range of movies. I listen to just about every kind of music. The only place this has bit me is food – and I’m willing to bet that’s just my stubbornness :)

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 269 user reviews.

A lot of things in nature and life in general are cyclical. I am of the opinion that content and expression of personal thought is on the upswing.

Maybe it’s just me

I’m changing jobs (more on that later) after being at my current employer (Wine Library) for over 7 years. Naturally, with a huge life change coming, I’d be more sensitive to noticing change. I think this is more than that, but even if it isn’t, I think the change I’m describing is coming.

First, the Ebb

Over the past year or two, I’ve noticed a decline in thoughtful blogging and expression on the web. I’m hardly unique in this observation, a lot of it has been blamed on twitter, facebook and our always-connected existence. Now that it’s easier than ever to put anything out there, it’s harder to put something out, or so the thinking goes. I’m going to take a different approach. I think We (big capital we!) were molting.

The Flow

I didn’t realize what I was missing until it came back, as sad as that is. Going through my feeds this morning, I saw some very (VERY) thoughtful and thought-provoking posts from people I respect immensely. What I hadn’t realized was how long it’s been since that’s happened. I’d see a great post here and there, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen multiple posts that really got the juices going in such a short period (and it’s not even 10am yet).

The Decline?

Does this mean that twitter is doomed? That the droves are going to abandon Facebook? I doubt it! I do think that we’ve binged on the low-threshold creation, however, I also think that those services (and others) have changed us in a profound way and will be a part of our lives (or their successors) for a very, very long time. I know I’d be sad if I didn’t get the minutia of my friend’s lives. As terrible as the term is, I’ve gotten used to the “ambient intimacy”! The bottom line is that I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game. We can have it both ways, and I think we’re heading there.

The Opportunity

Seth Godin posted the following today in a post named “Tough“:

I built my first internet company before and then during the dot com boom. It was far easier to do great work before everything heated up, far easier to stand out and far easier to make a difference. This is your moment, but I’m afraid it won’t be easy.

It’s hard to tell when Seth is being challenging or honest, but taken at face value, I have to disagree with him. I think it’s easier than ever to make a disruptive service than ever before. Now that there are HUGE amounts of people online, getting them to use a DIFFERENT service is orders of magnititudes easier than getting them to use ANY service (for the first time). Thanks Facebook and Twitter!

A friend of mine is working on a super-secret blogging-type disruptive technology. I thought he was nuts (but didn’t tell him), I thought in the age of micro-posting and life-streaming, people would care less and less about a homebase that was their own. I’m still wary about it, but I do think that we’re
breaking out of our cocoons, and opportunity is coming!

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 247 user reviews.

It’s been a few days since I ended my first week of goals. I was always taught
that excuses were a weakness, so this is going to be some weak stuff right here.

This past week was one of the most stressful I’ve ever been through. Defiantly
the hardest since Color Wars last year. I worked on 2 rails apps, a php script
and 2 iPhone apps.

I did try to do something this week though:

  • Lose 3 lbs. Well. No. I gained 3
  • 100 pushups. I was able to get 50 in.
  • 60 minutes of cardio. Nope. This is the one I’m most
    disappointed in. There was no reason I couldn’t find a few minutes here and
    there to get it done.
  • 7 new pictures posted. I took more than 7, but lost my card
    reader, and just didn’t have time to sit and process images
  • Save $50 for Dani. YUP!

Not a great result, but frankly I’m not that upset. There were a few times this
week when I was exhausted but did push ups anyway. I need to choose goals that
I really care about and move my life forward instead of just random stuff I think

I’m taking this week off and will be thinking about what really matters.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 221 user reviews.

I’m pretty happy with how February turned out with my goals. I’m going to keep the momentum going and state my goals for my next cycle. One thing I realized at the end of last year was that a Year was way too long of a time-span for goals for me. After this past month, I think I can say the same about a calender month. I’m going to try week-length goals for a little while and see how they fit.

Another thing about February was that I specifically didn’t have any health, weight or fitness goals. That was by design. I’ve set and failed at those goals so many times that I wanted to get a few wins under my belt before trying them out. This week however, I’m going to focus on almost nothing but!

Here, then, is my list for the week of 3/1 – 3/7:

  • Lose 3 lbs
  • 100 Pushups
  • 60 minutes of cardio
  • 7 new pictures posted
  • Save $50 for Danika’s post-highschool fund

And here is the picture for my phone:

3/1/09 Goals

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 181 user reviews.

Back on February 1st, I posted my goals for the month. I only managed one status post, but I did manage to hit most of my goals.

10% More with RSS and Twitter

These were harder to hit than I expected, but was a good exercise because I had to work on it every day to get there. I did get there though:

1500 Rank in Yahoo! Games Reversi

This one was my big failure. I made a mad dash the past few days, but it wasn’t meant to be. Coming into the month, I was playing very well, and expected to hit 1500 pretty quickly. I’ve had some stress and a large lack of sleep lately, and I think it’s thrown me off. I’m going to take a break from Reversi and hopefully be better when I come back.

Put Danika to Bed as Much as Possible

I had a few people single this goal out as not S.M.A.R.T., and the way I phrased it, it wasn’t. That was to protect myself — I was worried if I wrote down my actual goal and didn’t hit it, I wouldn’t be able to look at myself! The actual goal was 15 days. I ended up doing a lot more than that. I did it every day! There was one night that my wife had to put her to bed, but she woke up during the night and I had to get her back to sleep.

10 Blog Posts

Check it out! This bad-boy is #10! One of the posts (guess which one) was a total punt, but they can’t all be gold can they? I could have managed my time a lot better than I did on this goal, but I didn’t save it all for the last minute – and THAT means more than any of you can possibly know!

Lessons learned and a look ahead

I’m pretty disappointed that I didn’t achieve all my goals, but very very happy with what I was able to accomplish. I’m very happy with how much I got done, and even though some of the goals were arbitrary, I showed myself that I can do it if I try.

Going forward, I’m going to continue to publicly set goals, and I’m going to continue to make images for my iPhone background (that worked great). I am going to tweak a few things for the next cycle though — more on that tomorrow!

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 227 user reviews.

Some technology you don’t want in your bathroom.

If you have one of those new, shiny 17-inch macbook pros, you probably aren’t bringing it into the toilet anytime soon. A Dell Mini 9, on the other hand probably goes great.

The Kindle is perfect for the bathroom. Better even than a paperback (which usually requires two hands). What other gadgets go well in the bathroom?

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 226 user reviews.

My talk, “INTERFACES ARE DUMB (AND THAT’S A VERY GOOD THING)” was accepted for the 4th annual Rails Conference in Las Vegas. I’ll have more to say about this talk soon, but I wanted to let my friends know right away!

Speaking last year at RailsConf was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and I’m really looking forward to doing it again this year. If you’re able to come to the talk, please do!

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 293 user reviews.

My buddy ReinH asked me in an off-handed way if I knew how to link up a url dragged from safari into TextMate.

I couldn’t think of an easy way, so I hacked something up. It doesn’t do the original goal, but gets pretty close. It grabs the url of the foremost safari window, and makes a textmate link (like how command+shfit+l does).

If you want to download it, you can grab the “My Junk Bundle”. If you’d rather just put the code into your own bundles, here it is:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby -wKU
require ENV['TM_SUPPORT_PATH'] + '/lib/escape.rb'
require 'erb'
require 'open-uri'
require 'net/http' 

def entity_escape(text)
  text.gsub(/&(?!([a-zA-Z0-9]+|#[0-9]+|#x[0-9a-fA-F]+);)/,  '&')

url = %x{osascript <<\EOF
tell app "Safari"
  return the URL in document 1
end tell

title = url
if url =~ /^http:\/\// and url != ''
  eval 'title =<title>([^<>]*)<\/title>/i).to_a[1].strip rescue nil' if fp = open(url) rescue nil

input = title

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 261 user reviews.

My good friend John Kassimatis informed me today that I never wrote about the game he released a little over a week ago: Binary Game. After swearing he was nuts and must have just missed it, I checked and saw that, indeed, I haven’t written about it yet!

Let’s rectify that now

Binary game is pretty sweet. You’re given a target number and have to hit buttons with set values (like 128, 64, 32, etc) to match the target. It’s one of those “take a minute to learn, a lifetime to master” games. Well for me at least, looking at the High Scores, some people are much more masterful than me! (Seriously, 24 seconds to solve 16 of these things? I’m in the 60 second range…. jeeze!)

Beyond just being a cool game, I got to help John out (with our good friend Brian Woolley) with code, graphics and Word Press Hacking (the plugin I built is here: gist 64298). I really enjoy iPhone hacking. It’s tough and not intuitive in places, and there are plenty of hoops to jump through to get your app released, but where else can you go from idea, to running code IN YOUR POCKET so quickly? We live in the future!

So check it out, and let me know on twitter (@kastner), if you’re faster than my 60 seconds in speed round.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 194 user reviews.

What a jerk that Jamis Buck is, right? He’s abandoning Capistrano and related bits. At least, that’s the position some very vocal people are taking in response to his announcement (both points it seems).

From what I’ve seen, there are two main public positions people are taking:

  • Massive amounts of thanks and well wishes
  • Major pushback that Jamis is “abandoning” Cap, or at the very least that he didn’t beg for someone to take it over.

And while I always wish Jamis the best (and thank him for all of his contributions, both code and otherwise), I don’t see why the first position is predicated on his announcement. And that second viewpoint? I just don’t get it even a bit.

Let me explain, my reaction (and since I’m the one writing, we just assume I’m right, of course), was pretty much, “Oh, Ok?” So what? If I want to use capistrano, I’ll keep using it. If I find a bug that I can fix, I’ll fix it. I doubt I’ll even need to though. With our without Jamis “blessing” a specific version, there will be updates, plain and simple.

And I think that gets to what these people are really most hurt over, that Jamis didn’t follow their idea of how OSS should be transitioned. He didn’t follow an outdated, broken, pretty much anti-open-source practice of finding a successor, training them, then reluctantly giving up control.

Here’s a brilliant comment Jamis made on Hacker News:

If you’re this traumatized by my decision, then honestly, I blame you (and people like you) for my burn out. Where were your contributions to the library, your documentation patches, your discussions of better ways to implement things? Have you been in the IRC channel, daily, helping people troubleshoot problems? Have you posted frequently on the mailing list in response to questions? If you’re so dependent on Capistrano, where have you been? If your silence was because it all “just worked”, then why are you so disgusted now? It all still “just works”.

It’s a bit defensive, but if you follow the comments leading up to you, you’ll see that’s downright tame for the amount of crap being slung his way.

I’m not going to claim that this new model of Open Source is 100% attributable to GitHub, but for me, it’s the project that embodies it, as well as opened my eyes to it’s posibility. It’s still got a long way to go (mostly with regards to authority), but I think the shift has been made, and going back to what we had by default before would be a huge step backwards.

It’s been pointed out before, but I’m gonna give the very very short version of one possible path that Capistrano could take.

  • Someone very passionate about the project, and how much it’s helped them (and trust me, there’s a lot of us) realizes there’s a gap in what it provides and wants to plug that hole
  • They fork the code on github and bring the code up to their vision
  • They tell people about this change and why it rules
  • More people spread the word about this great new functionality
  • This becomes the defacto new capistrano
  • It gets fuzzy here because there are so many paths it could take:
    • Jamis could add our mystery coder as a contributor to the “main” capistrano project
    • Jamis could give the rubyforge project over to this person, and they’d update all the info to point to their code
    • Jamis could do nothing, and people will STILL FIND THE CODE (github could feature the project, DHH can say it’s what he uses now, WHATEVER)

We are in a meritocracy (with a bit of popularity thrown in), and this new model of shifting ownership and authority is just the next logical progression. What if, instead of just being burnt out, Jamis when on an 18 month world-wood-carving-tour? Would Cap just be frozen in that time? What if he decided that coding was so last century and walked away from everything?

I think what someone should be really scared of is someone coming along and making their projects better, and since they’re a control-freak jerk-face, they don’t allow someone else to contribute, and the new version becomes the standard (*cough*emacs*cough*).

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 157 user reviews.