My Favourite Quote About XML

Alex fighting the other Droogs in “A Clockwork Orange”

A recent comment to this article in Coding Horror reminded me of the joke about XML:

“It has been said that XML is like violence; if a little doesn’t solve the problem, use more.”


Lesson from a Criminal Genius

(The idea for this post came to me while posting this story on my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.)

Take a look at the close-up of the front page of the Lewiston Tribune, a newspaper in Lewiston, Idaho. Note the two pictures, which are for different stories: one of a guy making a Christmas sign, the other being surveillance camera footage of a thief. Do you see something odd that connects the two otherwise-unrelated pictures?

Snippet of the front page of the Lewiston Tribune featuring two photos for different stories, but with the same guy in each.
Click the photo to see a full-size PDF of the front page of this newspaper.

Luckily someone at the local police read the paper, put two and two together and made the arrest.

My first thought after reading the story was “Why didn’t the photo editor or layout people at the paper figure it out?”.

Then I wondered what would’ve happened if the photos hadn’t been laid out on the same page. The connection between the guy making the sign and the wallet thief wouldn’t have been as apparent, and there’s a chance that he wouldn’t have been arrested.

That’s when the not-so-obvious lesson from this incident came to me (the obvious lesson being “when committing a crime, don’t wear clothing that easily identifies you). That lesson comes in two flavours:

  • The layout of information matters. (I’m half-expecting Edward Tufte to burst into the room, point at my monitor and go “See? SEE?!“)
  • Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to rearrange the given information.

This can be applied to all sorts of areas in development:

  • On the front end, the way you present information in the user interface can directly affect the way it’s analyzed by your users and can even affect the conclusions they come to.
  • On the data side, the way you cross-reference (or, if you prefer the new term, “mash up”) data can make the difference between an app that just collates information and one that does something useful and provides new insights.
  • In your code, the way you arrange it can make it more or less understandable, and therefore more or less maintainable.

Reminder: TSOT’s Ruby/Rails Project Night – January 8th

Here’s a quick reminder about TSOT’s upcoming Ruby/Rails night, which takes place on Tuesday, January 8th, 2008:

Bruce Lee, wearing a TSOT t-shirt and holding Ruby on Rails nunchuks.

TSOT Ruby/Rails Night
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 (and the second Tuesday of every month)
@ TSOT’s office — 151 Bloor Street West (on the south side, just east of Avenue Road)
11th floor
Door open and food at 5:30 p.m.
Presentations start at 6-ish
FREE ADMISSION (but limited space)
To register, please email

For more details, see this entry or this page on


Can Social Networking Co-Exist with the Workplace?

I’ve filed it in my “to read” list and forwarded it to a number of other people at TSOT (we make social software): a ZDNet article titled Can Social Networking Co-Exist with the Workplace?.


eWeek’s “Most Important Products of 2007”

One Laptop Per Child XO laptop
The OLPC XO Laptop. It’s one of eWeek’s “Most Important Products of 2007”.

In case you wanted a quick list of what eWeek declared as the “Most Important Products of 2007”, here they are:

  1. Amazon EC2
  2. Apple iWork ’08
  3. DiVitas Mobile Convergence
  4. Fluke Networks OptiView Series III Integrated Network Analyzer
  5. Google Apps Premier Edition
  6. Hewlett-Packard Hp c3000 blade server
  7. One Laptop Per Child XO
  8. Oracle Database 11g
  9. RIM BlackBerry 8820

My reaction: “iWork? Really?” I’d have picked the iPhone, as I think its approach to the mobile browser is worth stealing.


“Duke Nukem Forever” Teaser Trailer

It’s out! Not Duke Nukem Forever, but its teaser trailer.

As I was watching the video, I kept thinking: Where’s the one liner?! I want the one-liner! Don’t worry. there’s one at the end.

Click here to see the video on its YouTube page.

If you want to get a higher-quality version of the video, this entry in the 3D Realms blog has all the details.

The question remains: will the game finally get released, and after all this time, will anyone care?

For those of you who’ve forgotten, here’s the trailer from Duke Nukem Forever, which was released at E3 1998:

Click here to see the video on its YouTube page.


Our “Space” Shoot

Last week, my friend Mark Askwith, a producer at Space — the Canadian sci-fi channel — dropped me a line asking if I’d like to talk about a couple of cool gadgets in a segment for HypaSpace, Space’s “geek news” program. It sounded like a fun idea, so I said I’d do it.

Mark and Space camera guy Darcy came over to the TSOT offices last Wednesday to do the shoot, which some of my co-workers starred in. The segment will air during the year-end installment of HypaSpace; I’ll post the broadcast date as soon as I found out when it is.

I took some photos during the shoot — they appear below.

Darcy the camera guy from Space
Darcy, the camera guy from Space. In this shot, he’s setting up his camera prior to the shoot.

Darcy films as Adam and Mariko play Wii Bowling
Strike! Darcy films a segment where my co-workers Mariko and Adam play a round of Wii Bowling.

Mark and Darcy watch as Adam and Mariko play Wii Bowling
Wii action. Mark and Darcy watch and Mariko and Adam bowl on the office Wii. Gotta love the perks in the place.

Darcy shoots as Alex demos his iPod Touch
“Music is where I’d like you to touch…” My co-worker Alex demos his iPod Touch as Darcy films.

Alex demos the iPod Touch as Darcy shoots and Mark watches
Alex is a hand model now! Mark watches as Darcy shoots an iPod Touch segment — I’ll do the voice-over.

Darcy the camera guy from Space
The “beauty shot”. Darcy gets a shot of the featured gadgets, using the office video game screen as the background.