Friday, May 28, 2010

Is a Pure Meritocracy Possible in Open Source?

I've been asking myself this question a lot lately.  Before we continue this discussion, let's look at how Meritocracy is defined (as by Wikipedia):
Meritocracy is a system of a government or other organization wherein appointments are made and responsibilities assigned to individuals based upon demonstrated talent and ability (merit). In a meritocracy, society rewards those who show talent and competence as demonstrated by past actions or by competition. Evaluation systems, such as formal education, are closely linked to notions of meritocracy.
Some open source projects like the Apache claim to be a meritocracy where contributors gain "status" by their merits usually through contributions (code, documentation, mailing lists, tutorials, etc.).  Some people say that the Apache Project is more egalitarian than meritocracy however I'm not writing this to lobby either case.

In the terms of the projects I'm involved with, the biggest for me is the Mach-II Project.  A lot of people on Team Mach-II were asked to be on the team because of pure merit.  Flashback to 2005 when I started with Mach-II and apply merit to me, I would never be selected -- I was too green.  I would say we try to run Mach-II as a meritocracy as much as possible, but I definitely believe there is a bit of benevolent dictatorship in the mix as well.

In the end, not every decision can be made by committee. At least a "good" decision made.  Some of the problems with committees are while they take account of a bunch of different view points they are terribly slow to move and sometimes produce less than desirable results.  Then introduce politics (especially when financial implications of multiple parties are involved) and things typically grind to a halt.  Committees only work when all parties involved want the same result.  I have little patience to be part of committees / processes that are jaded that progress can be made despite have multiple parties with different financial interests.

This is one of the reasons why committees by company / association appointment in open source just don't work.  Money will nearly always triumph over pure idealistic concerns even when "doing the right thing" would be better.  Does this mean that humans are just greedy by nature? I'm glad I don't have to answer that question (it's been a funny premise on the Simpsons before as well).

People appointed by merit (and not company / employer association) typically share a common goal.  However, who is to break a stalemate?  This why most "meritocracies" still have some person in the "dictatorship" role.  In regards to Mach-II, I definitely play this role.  In the Rails project, DHH still plays the role of the dictator when needed.

So yes, I believe meritocracies can exists, but in certain situations somebody has to play the role of "dictator" / "president" / etc.  However meritocracies need transparency to function properly.  Transparency will be a subject for a future blog post.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do you know if this is a Honey Locust Tree?

We're located in Minneapolis, MN and the photos were taken today (May27).  Based on my limited knowledge of trees and my searching on the interwebs, I've come to the weak conclusion that we have Honey Locust Tree in our backyard.  Are you a tree expert or know more than I do? Then comment on the type of tree we have.  And if I know you, I owe you beer / drink the next time I see you.

Edit 6/3/2010:

According to my friend Adrian (see comments for links), this is a black locust tree due the size of the seed pods.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Contrabass French Horn (Video)

OMG! I nearly shit myself seeing a Contrabass French Horn playing an excerpt from Ein Heldenleben.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Feud: Debian-Ubuntu Relationship (via Mailing Lists)

On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 10:32:09AM +0200, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:

>   I've been invited to give a talk at the forthcoming Ubuntu Developer
> Summit, on May 13th in Brussels. I've accepted, since I'd like to take
> the chance of the talk to present to the Ubuntu (and Canonical) people
> how we feel about the state of the Debian-Ubuntu relationship. I'm
> therefore seeking your feedback on the topic, in order to present our
> views rather than mine only.

So, I'm now back and with some feedback to share. I'll first post (in
this mail) a summary of the replies I got to this "poll" and later on a
more general summary of what I did at UDS.


I got about 50 feedback mails in a bit less than 2 weeks, which I
consider a fair amount of feedback. In case people are interested in
giving more feedback, by all means go ahead and mail me. The more, the
better. Obviously, the summary I report below is limited to the
feedback mails I got thus far.

Success stories

I got quite an amount of "submissions" for the success stories category
(frankly, more than I expected).

The most appreciated collaboration paradigm between Debian and Ubuntu
seems to be "mixed teams", where people from both distros work together
using some $VCS. I got report about a dozen such teams, of varying sizes
from a handful of packages to several hundreds. An interesting and
appreciated trend is that such teams usually lead to a direct
involvement in Debian by Ubuntu people: first as DMs, then as DDs, and
in some cases also to greater involvement such as becoming members of
our core teams (e.g.: ftp-master).

Other reported success stories are in the development of some core tools
such as dpkg and d-i where, starting from Ubuntu-specific needs, generic
technical solutions have been developed, benefiting not only Debian and
Ubuntu, but all possible Debian derivatives.

People also appreciate bug filing from Ubuntu [1] (especially if with
patches [2]) in the context of large changes such as the default gcc

Interestingly enough, even for parts of the two distros that are
packaged independently (e.g. GNOME), some Debian people have now more
trust in Ubuntu patches than in the past and that entails a more
fruitful exchange or cherry pick of patches.




Now to what people don't currently like in the Debian-Ubuntu

I won't spare much mail space to discuss episodes that concern
individuals. In fact, one such episode (i.e. the "python affair", see
#573745) has been reported by several people, and details can be found
in the tech-ctte bug log.

Beside that, people don't like when Canonical does not behave as a good
upstream, e.g. when they are not reactive to Debian developers as their
downstream distributors. More generally, people would like to see
efforts in packaging Canonical software---when is not Ubuntu
specific---into Debian directly.

Similarly, people don't like when Ubuntu does not behave as a proper
downstream. In particular, there seems to be a desire to have more
triaging of Launchpad bug and then forwarding to the Debian BTW when
they apply to Debian too (no surprise here: it is the most "traditional"
complain Debian had wrt Ubuntu).

Several people do care about the status of their Debian packages in the
Ubuntu distribution. As a consequence, those people find annoying when
those packages degrade in quality due to reasons not under their control
(e.g. they are synced in bad moments, patched inappropriately, etc.);
that seems to mostly affect the Ubuntu universe.


The last category of feedback sought in the poll was "requests".

A recurrent request is to give more credit to Debian. Coming from the
tradition of free software, people have no problem with the fact that
Ubuntu benefits from Debian work, but they feel that the mantra "give
credit where credit is due" should be better respected. All in all,
people don't like the equation "GNU/Linux = Ubuntu" which is slowly
getting through.

Another recurrent request is to push the culture of "do changes in
Debian first". That would mean discussing changes in Debian first; then,
*if* an agreement can be reached (which is not necessarily the case, of
course), people would like to see those changes implemented in Debian
first; from there, they will naturally flow to Ubuntu.

Then, I've also collected tons of technical requests related to how
Debian people can more easily interact with the Ubuntu infrastructure
(most notably with Launchpad) in "their" way, i.e. via mail, via the
Debian BTS, etc. In that category---that I won't detail to avoid abusing
your patience---there is stuff like: an opt-in service to be notified of
Launchpad bugs, Ubuntu accepting uploads from our keyring, Ubuntu having
something like patch-tracker.d.o to better split patches, etc.

While on the above I've noticed no real convergence, it seems that in
general those Debian people which care about their packages in Ubuntu,
would like to have a contact point where to drop sync requests. It seems
that using the suggested way to do that (don't ask me what it is :))
does not really work, as they get lost in the noise or similar.

Ok, for the first time I've seen -- a real account of the feud going on why some people are hating Canoncial (the makers of Ubuntu). Lately, I see 140 character posts on Twitter or that is just "complaining" without any real concrete reasons. If this is the reason, then there is something you complain about. However, denting/tweeting is not a good format.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alien Arena - Fix audio/sound on Ubuntu

Just recently started playing Alien Arena for fun (free) on Ubuntu which is Quake II or Unreal Tournament.  AA is available for Windows, Linux and FreeBSD.  However, I found that after upgrading to Ubuntu Lucid 10 that the audio no longer functioned.  Open up Synaptic Package Manager and see if "libopenal1" is installed.  Installing the Open Audio Library packaged fixed the issue for me.  See you on AA.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Google Me - The Documentary Film

My wife and I just watched Google Me - a film by Jim Killen and stars seven guys named Jim Killeen.  Jim travels the global to meet other Jim Killeen's and find out about their life.  He only meets people get can find on Google.  An interesting concept.  And for your viewing pleasure, you can watch on Hulu:

[hulu id=lW9PLkpIgIv-wobKxeB18w width=500]


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Google screws Scroogle (via The Register)

Scroogle, the privacy-friendly Google scraper, has been crippled by changes to one of the dominant search engine's interface pages.

The unheralded alterations to yesterday could mean Scroogle has to be "permanently retired", its operator Daniel Brandt wrote.

As a full-time user of Scroogle for years, I was saddened to see Scroogle crippled yesterday. Google has not way of doing private searches. I don't agree with Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt regarding privacy: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

There is a difference between wanted to hide your search because you're doing "evil" or just not wanting to share with another company about what you search for. It's not that I search for anything terrible, but in end I think my searches should be my own if I wish. I especially see this as important since more and more of our lives are being "put" online forever without our direct consent.

Looking for CFML / ColdFusion jobs in MN, CA, DC or Scotland? Here are some great places to start...

Seems to be there are a great influx of CFML / ColdFusion jobs available.  I've been asked by three people I know to ask around and I thought I would just post on my blog.  A lot of these jobs are looking for CFML framework experience.

AW2.0 - Scotland, UK

Located in the town of Dumfries, go join Alan Williamson and Andy Wu in the next generation of CFML using the latest cloud computing technologies.  I've personally interacted with both Alan and Andy online and I've found them to be extremely smart individuals.   Looks like they offering a bounty so if you are interested and I know you -- let me pass your resume on for you. Ideally, candidates would be local to the UK - but who knows?  Maybe a move across the pond is in store for you!

We are looking for the following roles:

Our recent hires are quoted as saying: "best job I have ever had"

By the way, if you are happy in your current role but you know someone who could fit the bill, then please pass their resume to us, and if we end up hiring them, we'll give you £500 bounty for your trouble!

CTIA - The Wireless Association - Washington, D.C.

A friend of mine, Ted Hovis asked me to pass this along with you.  Look for a fast paced job in the heart of D.C.?  Then go take a peek at CTIA job posting.  CFML framework experience (like Mach-II) a PLUS!

CTIA-The Wireless Association is seeking an experienced Senior Web Developer / Architect.  This individual will be responsible for planning, coordinating and maintaining the functionality and performance of CTIA's multiple web properties.

The person's duties are to: ensure the timely delivery of new applications and releases from a development to production environment, site monitoring, traffic and performance analysis. Assistance with general site related technical management and system / security considerations, as well as dealing with partner and consultant relationships, as well as with the technical evaluation and direction setting of web enterprise-related efforts.

Jobs2Web - Minnesota

My fellow TCCFUG member, Kevin Penny asked me to post about this job.  Job2Web offers employers a recruiting platform and is one of the fastest growing startups in Minnesota.  Kevin is always talking about all the neat stuff they having been using from JMS to Solr.  CFML frameworks experience such as Mach-II or Fusebox is a big PLUS however they are looking for somebody with Java experience.  Check out the Production Support Developer job posting.

Jobs2Web helps employers maximize their interactive recruiting strategy using our recruitment marketing platform. The Jobs2Web platform helps major employers to attract, capture, and communicate with quality talent all while measuring recruiting effectiveness using our patent-pending solutions which dramatically reduce dependency on expensive and less effective sourcing mediums.

Working within our company will put you close to our award winning technology that combines the best of recruiting and marketing solutions including Search Engine Marketing (SEO), SEM (Pay-Per-Click), Social Networks and Social Media Marketing, and Email Marketing.

The Production Support Developer ensures the stability, reliability, and performance of the Jobs2Web Recruitment Marketing Platform and associated applications through rapid resolution of production issues. - California

Ever noticed that places like (owned by use CFML?  I just did and then found out that is hiring for both Sr. Web Programmer and Jr. Developer.  Both list CFML frameworks as required experience. is the 3rd largest e-tailer in the Home Improvement space.  We are profitable, rapidly growing, $200M/ year online retailer.  Our mission is to triple our business in the nest 3 years.  We are expanding our Software Development team to drive this growth strategy.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Speedy Websites -- Free Online Presentation Recording on YSlow Available

Special thanks to Charlie Arehart and the Online ColdFusion Meetup for letting me present on Speedy Websites -- Using YSlow to Analyze Front-End Performance.  Here's an overview of what we talked about:

Websites are not always slow due to poor server-side code or database queries. Learn how to identify potential issues using YSlow and Google Page Speed to implement best practice changes to drastically optimize the front-end performance of your web pages. Front-end optimization helps to keep your users engaged, improve general server performance and reduce hosting/bandwith costs. A little front-end optimization elbow grease can yield dramatic results.

The presentation was recorded.  I apologize for the poor video quality.  Adobe Connect does not support Linux screen sharing so I used remote desktop sharing to a Windows machine using TightVNC.

Watch online now

Monday, May 3, 2010

Free Online Presentation: Speedy Websites -- Front-End Optimization -- CFMeetup May 6th -- Noon ET

Our 12pm (US ET) talk on Thursday May 6 will be “Speedy Websites -- Front-End Optimization”, with Peter Farrell.

TOPIC DESCRIPTION: (provided by the speaker)

Websites are not always slow due to poor server-side code or database queries. Learn how to identify potential issues using YSlow and Google Page Speed to implement best practice changes to drastically optimize the front-end performance of your web pages. Front-end optimization helps to keep your users engaged, improve general server performance and reduce hosting/bandwith costs. A little front-end optimization elbow grease can yield dramatic results.

MEETING URL: http://experts.acroba...
DURATION: Approx. 1 hour
Meeting will be recorded. URL will be posted after meeting at http://recordings.col...

SPEAKER: (provided by the speaker)

Hailing from the frigid tundra of Minnesota, Peter J. Farrell has a Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Institute at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. While studying music, Peter took his life-long interest with computers to a new level and started learning about web development technologies. He has been working with CFML since 2001 and is the lead developer of the Mach-II framework since 2005.

Peter is a Senior Technologist for GreatBizTools, a human resources consulting firm. He and his wife, Allyson, live together in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

WHEN: Thurs. May 6, 12:00pm US ET (UTC/GMT-4)

What time is the meeting in your timezone? The following link shows a page with the time as US ET, and you can choose your city from the list offered to see what time that is in your own timezone:

RECORDING: As always, the meeting will be recorded, and the recording URL will be posted after the meeting at http://recordings.col....

A downloadable FLV file will be made available after each meeting, offered as a link from the recordings page. As for creating other file formats (such as mp3, mp4, etc.), you can find discussion of the challenges creating such downloadable recordings here:

LOGGING IN: When you login to the Connect room (the link above) to view the meeting, PLEASE USE THE "LOGIN AS GUEST" option, and USE YOUR NAME, but do NOT attempt to use your username/password or any Connect account. Just sign in as a guest.

Hope to see you there.

Coming soon to Amazon: Amazon MP3 via Wish Lists?


Looks like wish list support for Amazon MP3 (and I can only assume Kindle books) is coming soon as you can now add MP3 digital downloads to a wish list (see mine).  If only Amazon offered all of their content in OGG format as well....

Open letter to Google: free VP8, and use it on YouTube (via FSF)

Dear Google,

With your purchase of On2, you now own both the world's largest video site (YouTube) and all the patents behind a new high performance video codec -- VP8. Just think what you can achieve by releasing the VP8 codec under an irrevocable royalty-free license and pushing it out to users on YouTube? You can end the web's dependence on patent-encumbered video formats and proprietary software (Flash).

To sit on this technology or merely use it as a bargaining chip would be a disservice to the free world, while bringing at best limited short-term benefits to your company. To free VP8 without recommending it to YouTube users would be a wasted opportunity and damaging to free software browsers like Firefox. We all want you to do the right thing. Free VP8, and use it on YouTube!

It's about time that the debate between Adobe and Apple just ends. Google can end part of it by opening up the VP8 codec. Suddenly, H.264 is not relevant if there is a high performing codec that is being pushed on YouTube.