Monday, January 17, 2005

Snowboarding on ice

Saturday afternoon I braved some seriously cold weather to go snowboard at the closest ski resort, The Summit at Snoqualmie. There isn't much snow, and my board now has some scrapes from all the exposed rocks. This was also the first time I have had to cope with ice since moving out to Seattle. Ice + Snowboard = Bad. Fortunately, I have enough experience skiing on icy slopes (I learned to ski in New England), to know how to avoid the worst of the ice patches.

The good side of crap snowfall is that the lift-lines were empty. I got almost 4 solid hours of boarding in. I am not an expert, but am a decent intermediate. I rarely crash, but rarely make it through the moguls without some minor incident. I discovered unintentionally that I can handle small jumps, after dodging some ice lead me over a bump that had a steeper trailing edge than I expected.

The only downside is my car. I've got all-wheel drive, but with sport-tires. Not a great combo in snow. They handled light snow reasonably well on the way back from the mountain, but I don't really trust them to handle real snow/ice very well. If I went more often and had more cash on hand, I'd just buy some cheap wheels and tires for the winter. I guess I'll just have to find other people to drive.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

SOAP is not RPC

Back in November I posted some of my frustrations with how I see people are busing SOAP. Greg Pavlik recently posted something in a similar vein. Part of what can make SOAP work is it's very XMLness. SOAP should not be seen as a replacement for RPC. If you want RPC, use one of the many existing solutions. Using SOAP instead of any of the pre-existing RPC solutions, when one of those solutions would have worked just as well will only cost you performance and complexity. Like any technology, use as appropriate, not just because you can...

Search is not Search

A while back Dare and I were talking about a blog entry of his. I was reminded of that conversation today, when catching up on a recent-ish publication from MIT's Haystack team: The Perfect Search Engine is Not Enough: A Study of Orienteering Behavior in Directed Search. One of the main points of the paper is that people tend not to use 'search' (think Google), even when they have enough information for search to likely be useful. Often they will instead go to a know location from which they believe they can find the information they are looking for.

For me the classic example is searching for music. While I tend to store my mp3s in a consistent directory structure such that the song's filename is the actual name of the song, I almost never use a generic directory search to find a song. I tend to think of songs as "song name: Conga Fury, band: Juno Reactor", or something like that, so when I'm looking for Conga Fury, I am more likely to walk the album subdirectories under my Juno Reactor directory, than I am to search for file "Conga Fury.mp3". The above paper talks a bit about why, and I think another key aspect that they don't mention is that search via navigation leverages our brain's innate fuzzy computation abilities. I may not remember how to spell "Conga Fury" or may think that it was "Conga Furvor", but by navigating to my solution, such inaccuracies are easily dealt with.

On the other hand, one of the problems that plagues me when searching for obscure information is that there are often many ways to refer to a concept. Which one will get me the information I want? Worse, I find that my mind often gets stuck on one particular form and simple variants just don't occur to me. When navigating to locate information, I have many opportunities to adjust my search strategy as I go, factoring in input acquired as I navigate. Navigation better leverages both the computer's and my own abilities.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Janus IM

Janus was a roman god who had 2 faces. While, I don’t count myself a regular Scoble fan, his recent post about why he dislikes IM calls out one of my long complaints about IM. I would like to be like Janus, and have a different face for my different collections of cronies. Like many people, I have many email addresses, and different people email different addresses, but there is no way to tell an IM client I have used that I have 2 MSN IM accounts.

Scoble's reason and mine are different, but I find it interesting that no-one would require you to have a single email address at HotMail or Yahoo, yet that is exactly what the IM services effectively do. Sure, I could have multiple accounts, but I can't use multiple accounts simultaneously. I want multiple accounts and then (as Scoble mentions) be able to set my status independently amongst them.