Monthly Archives: May 2008

What’s the impact of time shifting on mass entertainment?

The NYTimes looks at the effects of DVRs and Web video on mass entertainment. It’s not as clear cut as you think: In the Age of TiVo and Web Video, What Is Prime Time? – New York Times: “As a result of time-shifting, the biggest shows are getting bigger and some of the smaller shows are getting negatively impacted,” the senior television executive said.

That’s so counter intuitive. In my experience, my TV watching not only increased, but Richelle and me watch a far wider variety of shows.

Celebrating Life

You can’t help but be inspired by how Randy Pausch is facing his oncoming death – by celebrating his life and sharing it with others.

NYTimes: Keeping Priorities Straight, Even at the End:

The real wisdom of Dr. Pausch is that he tries to enjoy every day he has left with his family, while at the same time trying to prepare them for life without him. To that end, he is videotaping himself spending time with Dylan, Logan and Chloe so they can look back and see how he felt about them.

“I’ve always said I only care about the first three copies of the book,” Dr. Pausch said. “The lessons learned are the lessons I’ve learned and what worked for me. But so many people wrote to me and said, ‘This was a jumping-off point to have conversations with my kids we haven’t had.’ “

Using Disk to Scale

One of the largest concerns when developing an infrastructure for a site as large as Comcast.net is determining smart ways to scale. By smart, I mean requiring the least amount of effort to launch new channels or services. Each new channel or page can draw thousands, if not millions of page views. You need to plan for it.

When growing Cofax at Knight Ridder, we hit a nasty bump in the road after adding our 17th newspaper to the system. Performance wasn’t what it used to be and there were times when services were unresponsive.

A project was started to resolve the issue, to look for ‘the smoking gun’. The thought being that the database, being as well designed as it was, could not be of issue, even with our classic symptom being rapidly growing numbers of db connections right before a crash. So we concentrated on optimizing the application stack.

I disagreed and waged a number of arguments that it was our database that needed attention. We first needed to tune queries and indexes, and be willing to, if required, pre-calculate data upon writes and avoid joins by developing a set of denormalized tables. It was a hard pill for me to swallow since I was the original database designer. Turned out it was harder for everyone else! Consultants were called in. They declared the db design to be just right – that the problem must have been the application.

After two months of the team pushing numerous releases thought to resolve the issue, to no avail, we came back to my original arguments. The terrific thing was that restructuring the database was a no pain affair – we had a terrific service layer between the main web tier and the db that hid its schema. We were able to deliver a release of the database that did not require any code changes on the web tier.

There is no silver bullet here, for smaller sites you are adding a great degree of complexity taking this route and it is, most likely, not advisable. However, if you have a large site that is thrashing – dealing with the demands of growth – take a hard look.

Related – and supporting of this:

High Scalability: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Using a Lot of Disk Space to Scale”.

High Scalability: Scaling Secret #2: Denormalizing Your Way to Speed and Profit

Dare Obasanjo: When Not to Normalize your SQL Database

Social Software Links for May 20th, 2008

  • Epicenter: Google Health Goes Live – It will have huge ramifications in how very sensitive data will get shared and managed.
  • Google Friend Connect launches, proving what me and a few others have said in the past – Social Networking isn’t a set of destinations, but a set of features that services that aim to surface online community focus must provide. Forums and Instant Messenging 3.0.
  • Talking about opening conversation in a truely powerful way, ever notice how few talk about mental illness? Well the same holds true online as well. Furious Seasons, a great blog that discusses mental health care from different angles, shares that one of the best blogs about the subject, editor of the Philadelphia Weekly, Liz Spikol, maybe leaving us.
  • Philly.com relaunches. I have a lot to say about the work Mark Potts and team accomplished, but for now – congrats!
  • ReadWriteWeb shares The Ultimate Twitter Revenue Model. Advertisements. Show me a business plan that doesn’t include them. The funny thing is we all claim to have read The Cluetrain Manifesto, yet instead of discouraging advertising as a business model – it appears to have empowered it as one. Maybe reinforced it as one. The irony is thick.

Leg pain returning, but there are some sports stars dealing with this too

I’ll post an update about the latest injection’s progress (not good), but while researching my condition using Powerset I found out that NBA MVB, the Suns’s Steve Nash, and tennis star Andre Agassi, have my condition, spondylolisthesis.

Sports Illustrated: Point Guard from Another Planet

NBA.com: Steve Nash’s MVP Workout

Charlie Rose Show: A conversation with basketball professional Steve Nash

Tennis Warehouse: Interview with Andre Agassi

theage.com.au: Pain is Agassi’s main foe

webmd.com: Andre Agassi’s Battle With Back Pain

cnn.com: Interview With Andre Agassi

“When we’re poor… our economic worldview is shaped by deprivation”

Boston.com: The sting of poverty: The more of a painful or undesirable thing one has (i.e. the poorer one is) the less likely one is to do anything about any one problem. Poverty is less a matter of having few goods than having lots of problems.

NYTimes: Paul Krugman: Poverty is Poison:To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country. And that, the neuroscientists tell us, is what poisons a child’s brain.

Philly.com: The new mandate: First, find them a home: Deborah Harmon, 43 and mentally ill, was released from jail for panhandling, and again faced living on the streets or in a shelter. Runell McKnight, 25, had no place to go with her two young children after she broke up with the man she was living with. Today, both women have apartments of their own, with each a beneficiary of programs that aggressively promote the notion that, above all, the homeless need homes.

The Gospel of Consumption: “Nothing,” he claimed, “breeds radicalism more than unhappiness unless it is leisure.”

Elizabeth Warren interview at UC Berkley: It is partly about politics. If you don’t email your congresswoman or your congressman and your senator, then you are part of the problem today. You’ve got to tell them that this is an issue that matters to you, that this really, truly matters.

Leg/Back Pain Update

I had a follow up at the University of Pennsylvania last Friday to discuss my progress.

My lower back pain symptoms has been unchanged, I still get a very hot pain while sitting, either happening immediately in unergonomic settings, or after an hour or so in ergonomic-correct settings.

My leg pain (only my left leg) begins after walking 3 or more blocks and progresses to a level 2 after five blocks, requiring me to stop walking and take a break for it to settle down. If I don’t the pain rapidly grows into something that incapacitates me.

The leg pain starts in me left hip, left knee, left shin almost simultaneously (I think the hip just slightly before the rest). Along with that is a growing tingle in my left big toe and a pressure on the top of my left ankle. Sometimes the tingle remains in the toe whether sitting, standing or walking. Most times all of these will subside when sitting down or leaning against a wall.

Unfortunately, the level 2 pain is a step back from the level 1 pain I felt earlier in the week (which was a level 5-8 pain before the first shot in this series), when I sounded so optimistic. I’m doing everything ‘right’ as far as I know. Eating well. Exercising. Watching posture and my body mechanics.

The doctor was encouraged by my progress. The leg pain/tingling used to come on earlier and far more strong. So he’s scheduled me for two more Selective Nerve Root Block injections.

I don’t mind the back pain. Don’t care that much about it at all. Getting up every hour to relieve it is good for for me. But the leg pain continues to be a drag on so much.

Gotta keep on trucking. Things could be far worst.