Philly Future Status: In Transition

DNS is still propagating so there are two status messages to pay attention to on Philly Future. Each alerts you to whether you are using the new Philly Future, and can resume posting and commenting, or the old.

Hopefully by noon we will be in better hosting environment, one that is more reliable, better performing, and can handle the growth in features and in scope I’ve been wanting to tackle.

Philly Future Status: All clear

Let me put this diplomatically (for now): I am in the process of resolving Philly Future’s hosting issues and expect, by morning, for Philly Future to not only be clear of the downtime that was inflicted on us, but for Philly Future to be blazingly fast as well. I expect there will be few lingering issues to resolve, but over the next few days, we should be able to tackle them and come out of this better than ever.

Philly Future Status: Dreamhost has shut us down

Yesterday, March 11th, at 6:23 PM, a Dreamhost staffer alerted me that Philly Future was incurring too much database load and that they were disabling it:


I am sorry but I had to disable your database (it was single-handedly killing the database server – the load was around 20 and is now down
under 1 (4 is optimal) after disablement.

We can re-enable it if you can assure us you’ll take proper steps to curb the usage (you need to be sure you are indexing things if you weren’t and perhaps re-evaluate the efficiency of your code).


Immediately upon getting the notice we emailed Dreamhost our intent to help them resolve any issues they may have.

As of 12:03PM EST I still cannot access our database to attempt to improve performance or do a dump of it to migrate us. I have been emailing them all night.

This situation comes as a surprise since back on February 3rd we received a thank you from Dreamhost stating we had successfully reduced resource utilization:

You have successfully reduced your resource usage on machine limbo-spunky.

Therefore we have moved your account (#109016) back to its original home machine foothill.
Thank you for your efforts and we are glad to have your account in good standing again.

Moving you back to the original server will change any IPs associated with your web services. Please get the new ones if you set up any custom scripts or DNS that relies on the old IP to function.

Happy Dreamhost Support Team!

While we looked for and prepared a new hosting solution, Dreamhost’s staff worked with us to reduce our CPU utilization to an acceptable level over the course of January and as you can see, we had a successful resolution.

That experience strengthened my trust in Dreamhost, I came away impressed by them, and it enabled me to not worry about our hosting situation while my daughter was being born.

I assure you there were *no* warnings and *no* indications of a current problem.

I want to apologize to our community. This is an unacceptable situation that we hope to have resolved sometime today.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

More updates as they come.


Emma and Xena

I can’t express what becoming a dad is like without using old cliches, but isn’t that the way it should be? Everyday a new adventure, everyday a new discovery. If anything, I feel younger then I’ve felt in years. I don’t think I’ve been this comfortable in my own skin since I was a teenager. It’s amazing the clarity of purpose that comes. People warned I would need to give up much. Well, what I’ve let go I’ve gained back a million fold.

Understandably we were very concerned about introducing Emma to Xena, our dog.

Stories of dogs becoming jealous are common place. Xena was a surrogate baby for us. She’s a confidant, a friend, a playmate. While bringing up Xena, I had read a ton of books including the terrific “How Dogs Think”. We hoped that we had done our job and been responsible parents and that she would be fine. But there is always that X-factor – she definitely has a mind of her own and is a very physical dog. How would she handle a new arrival?

We flipped the traditional advice on its ear that has to do with introducing your baby to your pet. “How Dogs Think” and the the Dog Whisperer both are clear that dogs need to know who is pack leader. It’s about confidence and sense of order. So we had Xena away with a family member for a few days and when she came back, we were already settled in with Emma. By then Emma’s smell was all over the house. It was her house. So when Xena met Emma, she acted almost as if Emma was always here. A little curiosity, but not too much. No pawing. No jumping. No licking even. Sniffs from a few inches. Walking to her when she is crying. Following Richelle and me around while we feed, change and cuddle with Emma. All along we’ve made sure to give Xena a great heaping of attention, less to be sure, but she’s not rejected, she’s still part of the pack. No matter our comfort level however, we never leave the two of them alone, nor out of our sight when together.

Here is a great shot of my mom and her granddaughter 🙂

Late night TV watching leads back to Roseanne and a wish for my Democratic friends

Q: What is the difference between TV characters Dan and Roseanne Conner and the Clintons?

A: The Conners own their own home.

Day and night blend into one another when you have a baby. You find sleep where you can. One of the things you start to do is watch TV at weird hours and because your priorities are far more straight, you don’t care to change the channel when you normally would.

A couple nights ago Richelle and I were watching back to back episodes of Roseanne on Nick at Night, the show finale and immediately following, the show premier.

Roseanne has long been a favorite of Richelle and I, probably for different reasons. Richelle I think, loved the brutal honesty and frankness of the Connors, me, having that where I came from, looked to the Connor family as an ideal – while it had its struggles, it stuck together and fought out of hope and love. People can argue the show jumped the shark a few times. It certainly did. But along the way it confronted the issues of the day and expressed, to me, what family was all about.

A question popped into my head while watching the two episodes I couldn’t shake – “what political party did the Connors belong to”?

Dumb question? Not really, keep reading…

Aaron Michael Gordon: Rediscovering Roseanne:

When “Roseanne” made its debut in the late-1980’s, I was too young to fully comprehend the greatness of the series. I liked it a great deal at the time, merely because it was funny. Because even though the Connors weren’t representative of my family’s income bracket, we shared a lot of life in common. The domineering, slightly off-the-cuff mother. The sibling rivalry and camaraderie. The aunt who was always “rediscovering herself,” simultaneously getting lost in her thoughts…while never physically leaving the living room. The grandmother you are forced to socialize with, who everybody hates and despises.

Now that I’m older, the true genius of “Roseanne” is more apparent. “Roseanne” isn’t a comedy. Or a drama. “Roseanne” is as realistic a representation of life in middle-America that ABC would dare to put on the air (both pre- and post-Disney ownership.) It seems strange, to think that “Roseanne” was innovative…putting the truth out there for the world to see, but American media doesn’t really delve much into the truth. Consider the archetype family situation comedy and you’ll see what I’m talking about. They typically present a good-looking, upper-middle class family dealing with problems that typically are solved by the end of an episode.

This “typical” family is never in any real danger. You’re never worried that the parents will lose their job…or that little Rudy won’t get asked to the prom. Sometimes, to add a “twist,” they’ll shake up the familial formula. For example, consider the beloved sitcom about a rich white family adopting two poor African-American kids. Or a WASP-unit where the kids are conservative and the parents are freewheeling ex-hippies. And the masterpiece that is “Must See TV,” a show about a gay man who basically never dates, and his female best friend (who is, of course, not only thin and beautiful, but gets plenty of action in the boudoir. I don’t know about you, but most “fag hags” I know never met a buffet they didn’t like, and an attractive, successful gay man never has problems getting some.)

Compare this to “Roseanne,” either the most dramatic sitcom ever made, or the most comedic drama ever made. The Conner Family and their friends and relatives aren’t perfect. Some of their traits are downright unlikable. Roseanne Connor is presented as a nosy, over-protective, harsh mother…who always has to have the last word. It’s her house, and woe to the husband or child who disagrees. But out of this honest, non-glossy image of an overweight, struggling mother a true heroine emerges. Roseanne Connor may expose her family to the abrasive nature of the truth, but her kids are stronger and more resilient for it. She may be a bossy, know-it-all, but she shows that being a mother is a full-time job. And that somebody has to be the boss. Finally, “Roseanne” reveals the slogan “You can have it all” as the advertising hogwash that it is. A mother can be both a parent and an employee, and both will suffer for it. “You can have it less” rings with more authenticity, no?

The rest of the characters on “Roseanne” also fill out their less-than-desirable characteristics with honest strengths. Dan Connor may drink too much on the weekends and may let his wife run the show, but underneath is a jaded, working-class family man, who would do anything for his brood (including going to jail after beating up his sister-in-law’s abusive boyfriend.) Darlene is definitely not a girl you’d like to meet at the mall and talk about trivialities with, but you would want to wax poetic about art, politics and life with her. And we all know (or are) Jackie: Roseanne’s loopy, day-dreamy sister who just can’t stop blaming her family for her life, her problems…and just can’t get it together. Together, they make up a cast of flawed, sometimes frightening human beings. Together, they help make “Roseanne” an example of flawless storytelling. (And if you think the “Gay Revolution” on television began with “Ellen”, tell that to Leon, Nancy and the rest of the three-dimensional homosexuals who work with and befriend Roseanne Connor.)

Except for having two parents, and that stupid last season, well the show is *still* cutting edge by blowing apart the bullshit expectations of our society and culture. No show, I can think of, has represented the American family as well since.

So tell me – what political party do you think they were? It was the 80s/early 90s remember. Probably Democrat, which might seem like a shock to some since this world has gone so upside down.

At one time the Democrats certainly were the Connor’s representatives. Not today.

Elected Democrats joined hands with Republicans and passed a bankruptcy bill that breaks the backs of the working class for political expediency. Republicans? Well they talk a good game, but their record is that of empty promises, unfunded mandates, cutting safety nets, making our streets less safe (less cops in the cities and letting the assault weapons ban slide), and dodging responsibility (does anyone EVER get fired from this bunch?).

Both parties have abandoned the Connors and the working-class American family. They’ve replaced slogans for policy. Sound bites for substance. Attack ads for action. All while pursing donations to wage never ending political campaigns that are about winning – not about serving the people.

Andrew Sullivan, conservative blogger laments: in the Washington Post:

You have to understand the people in this administration have no principles…Any principles that get in the way of the electoral map have to be dispensed with.

There is strong evidence that Democrats will have a good election season. Voters are waking up. That’s great since the current regime is criminally inept. But will Democrats take this opportunity to come back to their roots and represent the people that make this country work? I remain a Democrat in hope they do, because we can’t keep going the way we are. We just can’t.

Quote viewer in AJAX…

I switched the implementation of my quote viewer from Flash to Javascript last night for fun and education. If you view source, it’s there for you to find in gory detail, but here it goes for the lazy…

In the header of this page you will find tag that loads the script that enables the quote viewer:

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="/widgets/quoteview/quoteview.js"></script>

At the top of the script you will notice two variables, one sets the number of seconds I want this quote to auto-refresh (set to -1 to disable) and the the next indicates where to find the XML document that contains the quotes I want to display.

Methods in the script will load a random quote and refresh a div element on the page:

<div id="quoteview"></div>

To kick it off, I call a method from the script:

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="/widgets/quoteview/quoteview.js">quoteViewXmlRequest();</script>

And that’s it 🙂 I’m a server-side developer by trade so if you care to take a look at this and critique, it could be helpful.

Missing Monday and vote in the Koufax awards

* Spread the word about missing people by posting information on a missing person today. See the growing list of participating blogs at Philly Future.

* Philadelphia is all over this year’s Koufax awards. Philly Future, among many favorites of mine, was nominated for best state and local blog! Go vote!

See PF for a full list of Philadelphia nominated blogs.

I don’t care about the Oscars, but now YOU do – think!

Jon Stewart hosting the Oscars has helped draw the attention of many, many bloggers. Lots are trying to cash in on the hype by publishing prediction lists of winners – an old cheap writing trick. Admittedly, I’m curious, so for once I will tune in for a few minutes, but nothing more. If something interesting happens, I will hear about it from my online community of friends and I will download it via Bittorrent. Even with all the new buzz this year, I’m sure the Oscars remain the self-congratulatory circle-jerk they always were. ‘Nuff-said, right? Well no. This opens a door to connect some dots…

Publishing a list is one type of attention drawing tactic, being snarky is another…

Dave Winer:

These days you could rename Memeorandum to Snarksforall, with one blogger trying to top another for the most vacuous post.

So true! Performancing has a handy guide to these techniques: 10 Killer Post Ideas:

…Here are ten proven post formulas to get your creative juices, and your traffic, flowing.

…1. How to…2. Lists…3. Campaign…4. Interview…5. Review…6. Case study…7. Research results…8. What’s new, trends…9. Attack!…10. Ask the audience…

There are other linkbait guides out there for you, go ahead and search if so inclined. Howard Stern was ahead of his time man. Way ahead of his time.

Then again, you can have the best writing or service in the world, if no one knows about it, you’re shit outta luck. You need to know how to get the word out. You need to know who has influence and who doesn’t.

Publishing 2.0: Who Are the New Media Gatekeepers?:

Who decides what�s worthy of your attention � a Web 2.0 application, a newspaper columnist, a talk show host, an editorial staff, an influential blogger, a community of thousands, a community of millions?

Answer for today: bloggers!

Jeremy Zawodny: How to give Oral Sex to Bloggers in Return for PR Favors:

..there’s nothing like a few excited bloggers to kick off a good viral marketing campaign, right?! Who cares if your product is lame. Just get some bloggers to talk about it!

But which ones? Well it’s Technorati to the rescue…

Guy Kawasakli: How to Suck Up to a Blogger:

…Nowadays buzz begets ink. Journalists no longer anticipate or create buzz–rather, they react to it: “Everyone is buzzing about FaceBook. There must be something to this, so I had better write a story about it.” This role reversal has fried people’s minds.

The latest development is that blogs beget buzz. Blogs have changed everything because they represent a cheap, effective podium for creating buzz on a massive scale. Technorati provides an easy way to identify the A-listers, so all you have to do is attract the most influential bloggers.

…Sucking up is not an event–it’s a process.

Don Dodge: The new way to launch your product or company:

It doesn’t cost anything to publicize your new product or service. Simply engage a couple of the “A-List” bloggers (Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, Om Malik, Steve Gillmor, Cory Doctorow, Richard MacManus, Stowe Boyd, and others) by sending them a link to your new product or service. Tell them what problem it solves and why it is cool. When they blog, people listen. When their stories hit Tech Memeorandum, Digg, TailRank, and other services the story explodes across thousands of blogs within hours.

You see, if you don’t have buzz, you don’t have reach. You don’t have reach, no one will know you exist without one hell of a hard slog – no matter how good you are.

NYMag: Blogs to Riches: The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom:

…By all appearances, the blog boom is the most democratized revolution in media ever. Starting a blog is ridiculously cheap; indeed, blogging software and hosting can be had for free online. There are also easy-to-use ad services that, for a small fee, will place advertisements from major corporations on blogs, then mail the blogger his profits. Blogging, therefore, should be the purest meritocracy there is.

…In theory, sure. But if you talk to many of today�s bloggers, they�ll complain that the game seems fixed. They�ve targeted one of the more lucrative niches�gossip or politics or gadgets (or sex, of course)�yet they cannot reach anywhere close to the size of the existing big blogs. It�s as if there were an A-list of a few extremely lucky, well-trafficked blogs�then hordes of people stuck on the B-list or C-list, also-rans who can�t figure out why their audiences stay so comparatively puny no matter how hard they work. �It just seems like it�s a big in-party,� one blogger complained to me. (Indeed, a couple of pranksters last spring started a joke site called Blogebrity and posted actual lists of the blogs they figured were A-, B-, and C-level famous.)

That�s a lot of inequality for a supposedly democratic medium.

It’s because the web resembles the wishes, desires, and motives of humanity. And humanity, while striving for something greater, is grounded in behaviors inscribed in our hearts, in our minds, in our genes.

Clay Shirky: Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality:

…In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution.

…inbound link data is just an example: power law distributions are ubiquitous. Yahoo Groups mailing lists ranked by subscribers is a power law distribution. (Figure #2) LiveJournal users ranked by friends is a power law. (Figure #3) Jason Kottke has graphed the power law distribution of Technorati link data. The traffic to this article will be a power law, with a tiny percentage of the sites sending most of the traffic. If you run a website with more than a couple dozen pages, pick any time period where the traffic amounted to at least 1000 page views, and you will find that both the page views themselves and the traffic from the referring sites will follow power laws.

…any tendency towards agreement in diverse and free systems, however small and for whatever reason, can create power law distributions.

Because it arises naturally, changing this distribution would mean forcing hundreds of thousands of bloggers to link to certain blogs and to de-link others, which would require both global oversight and the application of force. Reversing the star system would mean destroying the village in order to save it.

Given the ubiquity of power law distributions, asking whether there is inequality in the weblog world (or indeed almost any social system) is the wrong question, since the answer will always be yes. The question to ask is “Is the inequality fair?”

So, lets get this straight shall we? The new way of doing things looks remarkably like the old way. The names and methods have have changed, but that’s pretty much it. At least Technorati lets me see who those with influence are. I wonder when that will go behind a pay wall?

Some A-listers seem to want to keep this knowledge obscured while selling an ideal that doesn’t exist. It’s a very sellable ideal. In a way, these few folks exhibit a form of long tail denial. Kent Newsome connects the dots nicely here: Bloglogic and the Litmus Test for Link Love:

…making traffic and links your focus is not the most effective way to build a blog. Most of the people who have been at the table when we’ve talked about it seem to agree with that.

But just because traffic and links aren’t the focus doesn’t mean they aren’t legitimate goals. To tell someone that traffic and links don’t matter at all is a little like a rich guy telling a poor guy not to be so concerned about money. I don’t obsess about money, but making some is certainly one of my goals when I head out the door each weekday morning.

The key is to have many goals, but a narrow focus.

…Here’s the only question you have to answer to determine whether traffic is one of your blogging goals: would you blog happily for an extended time if no one ever read your blog? No Comments, no clicks, no links. Just a dark corner of cyberspace where your blog sits idle and completely unnoticed

Dave Rogers:

It’s just marketing.


For my part, I’m going to keep doing it the way I always have – by trying to put out the best service I possibly can, and be a good person. That service attempts to use its influence to expose those who should be heard to a wider audience. I don’t have the time, nor inclination, to play suck up. I guess that’s my loss.

Update: I check Technorati fairly regularly to see who is linking here and to my surprise, Memeorandum picked me up. I was indeed there for a few seconds, as you can see from this archived page, but whatever algorithm Memeorandum uses has replaced me, with someone who ranks higher.

Update: Whups. Incorrect. It moved my link reference to someone else. I’m still there. It’s fascinating to watch it move links and references every few minutes to help present a picture of the thread. Okay.. I’m breaking my Lent promise…walk away… walk away…

Foregoing Memetrackers for Lent


In Lent, it’s traditional to give up something(s) that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in. This ‘giving up’ is done : as a discipline for learning self-control, to free our minds from the chase after material things: as a reminder of Christ’s sufferings and what our true pleasures are as followers of Christ, as an act of sorrow over our sin.

Sometimes we don’t notice how certain things we do have gained power over us and dictate our actions. In Lent, we discover these things and give them up so that God can be in charge. Franciscans use the term ‘detachment’ : the less that ‘stuff’ preoccupies your life, the more room there is for God.

And, consequently, the more room there is family. So with this in mind, I am giving up memetrackers for Lent including: Digg’s Topstories,’s popular list, and Memeorandum (which will be really hard, the new design is very thoughtful and makes the site even more addicting), blogsnow, Technorati’s Explore and Drudge. No more Drudge dammit.

Why these sites? Well I visit these services multiple times an hour to find out what everyone is talking about. Inevitably it leads me to read many stories of interest, that more often then not, have little to do with my priorities and take me off on tangents. Almost always they lead me to being a follower of someone else’s point, someone else’s cause, instead of my own true goals and principals.

Case in point, I’m writing a mini-river of news style aggregator widget to experiment with a few ideas and want to explore RawSugar. Each minute I spend on a Memetracker, and then getting lost in someone else’s threads, keeps me from mine.

Believe it or not, this is going to be hard. Very hard. Memeorandum is like crack. No lie. I work on the web, I live the web. But I know this will give me more time for my family, more time for my friends (including those I follow with Bloglines), and more time to be a dad.