Orkut Needs Permachat

A community without communication is a dead community and friendship is more than just a wall of faces.  Connections between people are born out of interactions between them and strength of connections are primarily based on the amount and frequency of interactions.

So it is communication that binds people and communities together yet there is little of that going on in Orkut.  Yes, there is the message feature but it's works more like radio and discourages interaction.  Communities have topics, but topics are little rooms one must make effort to enter and compartmentalized conversations within a group setting do not encourage others to join in uninvited.

To get around these problems.  I think permachats should be created centered around individuals and communities.  A permachat is like IRC except conversations takes place over much longer period, days even.  Visibility of permachat should be limited to friends or friends of friends only.  Amount is determined by rate of actvity.  To promote interaction and to encourage the sense of conversation, sense of time is removed, leaving only faces and names next to each entry.  Amount of activity within past 24 hours should be displayed in the 'view network' and 'my communities' pages using color hints (i.e. red for hot).

Permachat allows people who know me to communicate with me as well as others who know me.  This in turns allows them to become friends over time instead of using more explicit introduction based social networking.  It also allows interaction without spammy messages invading private spaces and deteriorating sense of friendship.

For communities, permachat serves as the single thread that binds the community.  Topics is too focus-oriented to serve this function.  Permachat allows casual conversations, encourages interaction, and informs every member with minimal effort.  And, most importantly, permachat allows new friendship to be born out these intereactions among community members just as conversations among friends of an individual helps them form new friendships.

A working example of permachat is #joiito.  #joiito IRC channel not only binds the friendship network centered around Joi, but also builds a community in itself as people get to know each other.  Topics come and go just as Joi comes and goes, but the conversation rolls on and weaves its social magic around everyone.  I think Orkut use a bit of that magic.

Barbershop Approach to Security

To fix the bug I mentioned in Spoofing for Dummies, Microsoft announced that it is removing support for following form of URL in IE:


In the old days (old as in swords were still popular), barbers also served as surgeons which explains the design of the barber's pole (blue band for barber service, red band for surgery service).  Well, micro-surgery wasn't invented yet so a surgery typically involved a lot of cutting and sawing.

While I respect the IE teams decision, the 'fix' surprised me and reminded me of the barbershop of old days.  Maybe this is why barbers often ask me if I am there for just a haircut…

GNU Arch and Windows Services for UNIX 3.5

GNU Arch

From Ted Leung's recent post on 'tla', I found GNU Arch, a very flexible lightweight distributed revision control system.  Here is a list of its unique features:

  • distributed repositories — each hacker or group can host their own branches. There's a global (world wide) name-space for lines of development and revisions. Branches can be formed from any repository to any other and merge operations can span repository boundaries without needing to actually duplicate the full contents of a repository at each site.
  • advanced merging capabilities — 'arch' has support for various styles of history-sensitive branch merging. The way branches and patch-sets interact with distributed repositories makes it practical to distribute the responsibilities for patch-review and merging.
  • low barrier of entry — You can easily host repositories off an existing HTTP, FTP, SFTP or WebDAV server. In general, you need not even be able to execute commands on the server that you host your repository on. Some web space is enough. Together with the previous item, this means that everybody can easily publish their changes to other projects and make it _easy_ for the original maintainer to fold their changes back into the original tree.
  • renames handled — of course file and directory renames are handled accurately. So are symbolic links and file permissions.
  • unobtrusive operation — 'arch' is designed to stay out your way while making changes and rearranging files. It is designed to have a clean and self-documenting command-line interface having the finest characteristics of good Unix tools.
  • revision libraries — 'arch' includes tools for building a space efficient library of all past revisions, represented as ordinary file system trees.

Yummy!  Note that Arch 1.1 final was recently released and version 1.2 with extra security features are being worked on.

Windows Services for UNIX  3.5

While reading through Arch Wiki, I read that Arch can build and run under Windows Services for UNIX (SFU)  Hey, didn't I hear just a few days ago that SFU 3.5 is now available for free?  So I went over to SFU home page to check it out.  But I wasn't tempted to try it until I read this glowing review by Roberto J. Dohnert who hasn't had a good thing to say about Microsoft until SFU 3.5.  He wrote:

I have a colleague that runs his webserver with Windows 2000 Server with SFU 3.5 beta and Apache compiled for Interix and he has reported to me that he has had better performance than he did with Solaris and Apache.

I really had no negatives with SFU, which is weird because I can ussually find negatives in most software. It does whats advertised and then some. I never thought I would give a thumbs up to Microsoft, but there is a first time for everything.

Dang.  If that ain't a glowing review, I don't know what is.  If all goes well, I will be replacing Cygwin with SFU.  Hmm.  I wonder if I can run Gimp under SFU?


When you install SFU, you will note that some tools are missing.  For example, bash is not there.  Interop Systems has bash and other tools available for free download at their Tool Warehouse page.

Revenue Pheeds

Commercial interest in RSS seems to be heating up.  I was intrigued by the domain name (pheedo.com) of one of the commenters (Bill Flitter) to the Ads in Feeds and OEM News Aggregators posts, so I looked up and found this:

Pheedo provides comprehensive solutions to help publishers maximize revenue from content syndication including RSS and ATOM formats.

Maybe Bill Flitter can talk a bit about his (Portland-based?) company and what it's about.  Bill?

Is it just me or am I starting to sound like Larry King?

RSS Security/Billing Software

If you are developing RSS security/billing applications or platforms and are close to beta, let me know.  Someone in the VC biz is interested in chatting with ya.

To send me e-mail, just slap my handsome face with your mouse.

Hackers Use People as Bots

Cory Doctorow describes how some creative hackers are using people as bots to workaround 'captchas', images of distorted text, which is used to protect against bots by websites such as Hotmail and Register.com.

The ingenious crack is to offer a free porn site which requires that you key in the solution to a captcha — which has been inlined from Yahoo or Hotmail — before you can gain access. Free porn sites attract lots of users around the clock, and the spammers were able to generate captcha solutions fast enough to create as many throw-away email accounts as they wanted.

The darkside aside, I am impressed by their ingenuity.  But then I guess it is easy to think outside the box if you were never inside the box to begin with.

Watching BitTorrents Fly By

Now you can find out what torrents are available at Torrentz.com (via Robert Scoble).  Interesting thing is that, nstead of using spiderbots, they are using people as bots, meaning users register torrents streams they either own or found.  Is it working?  You bet.

What's available?  Rips of all kinds including movies, porns, music, toons, appz, warez.  For example, one of the most popular torrent is Adobe Photoshop CS 8.0.  I am sure RIAA will be chasing those torrents soon if not already, but I am not sure if Torrentz.com itself is illegal or not.

There is a bit of drama behind the site too.  Apparently, some joker hacked the site to steal the source code and setup his own site, TorrentReactor.net, with minimal changes.  The guy even admits he stole the code.  I guess he thought stealing from someone who encourages theft is not really stealing.

It's a dog eat dog world out there.

DRM Ownership Token

There is a big rant exchange going on over music encoding schemes (WMA, AAC, MP3), DRM, and degree of choice.  It all started with Robert Scoble and then bounced all across the board touching off iPod fanatics, Microsoft hater, and copyright guerillas.

As for me, I don't think music encoding scheme will matter in the future.  I think market competition, consumer activism, and hackers together will eventually force online music services to provide a token of ownership for each music one buys, a token that can used to get same music encoded in a different format.

Anything else will be as attractive as going to a underground disco without fire escapes.

Thinking Aloud: Hotspot Machine Translation

Reading Tim Oren's The State of Machine Translation post made me think about practical ways to use machine translation technology on the web despite all of its problems.  Since I was wrestling with Hotspot JIT compiler just before, I naturally mixed the two to get: Hotspot Machine Translation.

Hmm.  What could that mean?  It's a Twinky in need of filling.

Documents have hotspots.  Title is a hotspot.  Phrase "sign here" is a hotspot.

User interfaces have hotspots.  Buttons are hotter than menus, window titles, etc.  Words that results in action are hotter than other types of words.

Web pages have hotspots.  Hyperlinks are obvious hotspots, but buttons are hotter because they are often used to commit or submit.

I see now.  Hotspot Machine Translation is realtime translation of words in hotspots.  How are hotspots different?

  • Hotspots contain incomplete sentences, typically just a few words.
  • Number of words and phrases used in hotspots are potentially much smaller.

What can one do with it though beyond being able to more easily navigate foreign porn sites?  Oops.  My bus to Dreamland is here.