Parking tickets

March 28, 2005

Not to be a whiner, but I have recently broken out in a rash of utterly ridiculous parking tickets. Isn’t the whole POINT of California that we should be able to park anywhere we want?!??! And they aren’t deductible, even if you incurred the ticket while at a business meeting that went long. Argh!

I found out the hard way that you can pay your San Francisco parking tickets on the web. They charge a fee, but it’s way less than the extra $25 late fee they assess after 21 days. Whores! No wonder I hate San Francisco. Grump.

Yahoo 360 preview

March 27, 2005

On Thursday I was pleased as punch to be invited to a preview of Yahoo 360, the long-awaited Product Formerly Known As Mingle, which goes into beta tomorrow. I felt out of place through most of the event — I believe I was on the only guest who didn’t mention Flickr — but it was intensely interesting to see Yahoo’s product development process at work.

360 itself is a testament to the strategic intelligence, grinding relentlessness, and sheer hard work of the top-notch Yahoo product teams. The best capsule description of the product I’ve heard so far is “LJ with fewer cutters”. 🙂 I’ve never personally used Yahoo Photos or written any reviews on the shopping-related parts of Yahoo or done much on Yahoo Groups, but those are very neatly integrated with the service. What Yahoo 360 most interestingly doesn’t have is a graph that allows you to peruse friends of friends of friends.

Which brings me to what I really learned from my visit to the big Y. I thought a lot of the discussion was unfocused by the fact that no one in a position of authority would definitively say, “This is or isn’t our target market”. I would have thought it pretty obvious that Yahoo isn’t going to explicitly target the Xanga teens or the Slashdot wireheads — I mean, their marketing is 100% mainstream whitebread America — but I still kept waiting for someone to say it. Then after awhile, it began to dawn on me: wow, with 165 million users you don’t have a single target market.

That said, I think the brilliance of the product is that it fills the big market that is most underserved by blogging today: mainstream women over 22. Whether consciously or not, 360 is a surprisingly feminized product — with heavy use of gendered terms like “sharing” as well as functionality (e.g. fine-grained privacy controls, secret personal groups) that jibes exactly with the needs I mentioned in my SXSW talk. A surprising number of women still feel that their thoughts are not “important” enough to impose on the public, but they might enjoy communicating with their friends using these new tools.

As a mainstream woman over 22, I’m seriously thinking of moving part of my blog, if not the whole thing, over to Yahoo 360. I’ve wanted a semipermeable blog for a long time, but the only alternative was LiveJournal — which isn’t particularly my peeps, as shown by the fact that only one of my friends has a LiveJournal. But all my close friends are already registered Yahoo users, so it will be easy to let them see my secret blog entries. I’m a little concerned about the legal aspects — I’m pretty sure it would take only a simple subpoena to make Yahoo give up my private data without a peep — but it might in fact be good to fight those court cases on the Yahoo platform. I’m psyched about finally being able to blog what I’m really thinking and feeling, not just what I feel is OK for public consumption. If Yahoo 360 gives me that, I’m going to give it love no matter how unhip it supposedly is.

Zend Conference

March 23, 2005

I’m happy to serve on the program committee of the first Zend PHP Conference, which will be held in beautiful downtown Burlingame this October. I’m excited because I think this will be the first PHP conference to really focus on business use of our favorite web scripting language. I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised at the different speakers and points of view we’ll be offering.

The call for presentations is now open. I want to especially invite speakers who have solid business uses of PHP but thought they were maybe insufficiently sexy for a conference preso. We’re all the about the real-world experience and the business case for PHP! I’m actually trying to figure out whether I have anything worth presenting myself, since it’s been months since I wrote significant business-worthy code.

Speaking of which, I’ll be presenting on “XSLT in PHP5” at OSCON this year. It’s kind of funny because everyone said that topic was a yawner; but my sexier topic, “Practical Social Networking for Every Site”, was rejected by the apps committee! Good thing the PHP peeps have the love. OSCON should be a blast this year, come and hang out with us.

One box

March 23, 2005

For years I’ve carried around a single box from job to job. It held my CDs, my toys (mostly a collection of plastic and rubber bugs), the JavaScript pocket reference, and some odds and ends. My rule was I could never have more personal belongings at work than would fit into that one box. I never wanted to be one of these people who took longer than 10 minutes to clean out my desk if I lost my job.

Recently, by switching to an iPod and jettisoning the toys, I’ve reduced the box to a coffee cup, a sweatshirt, and a tube of hand cream. It all fits in my laptop bag now. I think I’ve reduced the 10 minutes to 10 seconds.

SprintPCS Vision

March 20, 2005

One of the funniest moments at SXSW was when Ernie said, “I am so moblogging this!” Then and there I decided to learn how to do this newfangled moblogging thing all the kids are so jazzed up about. Dylan taught me how to use the camera on my Treo, John gently introduced me to the “Flickr magic email address”, and I read the Treo manual. It took a village, but I managed to upload a photo! Yay!

I have to admit that I still have a hard time understanding the whole Sprint system. What they call “SprintPCS Vision” seems to be what I’d call “wireless web”. There are different flavors of the Vision package, with different capabilities — I got the one that allows you to sync with Outlook (SprintPCS Vision Professional Pack), just in case I ever need to. But it took me a long time to figure out whether time you spend on the wireless web comes out of your phone minutes, and whether you have to deliberately close the Vision connection when you stop using Vision services, and what happens if you get a phone call while you’re browsing. It’s a different paradigm, and a remarkably badly-documented one.

Another thing that drives me batshit about SprintPCS is that apparently every one of their services is actually subcontracted to someone else… and that leads to this bizarre situation where you have to sign up for each service and each part of the website separately, and sometimes they have partial outages separately. Wouldn’t you think that by signing up for a package of services, you’d automatically be assigned a webmail address, a web space for pictures, and a business services account? All with the same username and password? The way they charge for things seems awfully strange in today’s environment too. Why would I pay $5/month to upload pictures when I already have a Flickr account, and I can upload to it via email for free? Why would I pay $5/month for unlimited SMS when I can IM for free? Why should I pay $15/month to sync with my office calendaring app when I already have a Yahoo calendar? Mobile is where the telco and web worlds collide, and it’s not a smooth transition yet.

SXSW2005

March 20, 2005

I must be the most clueless person in America, because somehow I had never quite gotten the picture that SXSW is all about the party. I showed up about 8PM on Monday night, politely refused all phone calls and SMSes and emails entreating me to go out, soberly consumed a Flintstone-esque beef rib, gravely downed a shot in a totally empty 6th street bar (mostly just so I could say I’d done the Austin thing), and went to bed by 10:30. I was a Wednesday Addams killjoy! Then it was up early in the morning to go over my presentation notes and hustle on down to the Green Room to meet my fellow panelists. As Ernie kept moaning, we’re a sitcom, not a panel!

I feel like I never quite got into the spirit of SXSW — OSCON is really more my peeps, and I felt uncomfortable with SXSW pretty much in direct proportion to its lack of OSCON-ness — but I did enjoy the actual panel quite a bit. Tantek is a genius at shepherding people through complex processes with clarity and kindness. Basically if you don’t take his direction, you have no one to blame but yourself for a suboptimal experience… but if you do what he suggests, everything will work out great. If you ever get a chance to sit on one of his panels, take it and learn.

My trip was so brief that I didn’t have time to hit the LBJ library — thus depriving me of a key piece in my subcollection of presidential refrigerator magnets — but I did snag the long-coveted bat magnet and also one with a photo of the Stevie Ray Vaughan sculpture. Did you know that Austin has an actual bronze sculpture of Stevie Ray? Yeah, me neither.

OK, Timboy was right: the cheaper than cheap Treo was not worth it.

First off, my highly paranoid credit card company declined the charge because I guess credit thieves like to buy Treos online. I had to call TreoCentral twice to get that resolved, which added two days to my order. Then the order status website told me I had to call yet again, which turned out not to be true — the website just wasn’t synched up very well with the actual order system. Then, as feared, I was in fact assigned a new phone number. So then I had to call SprintPCS a couple times to get that resolved, and it actually turns out to be not so easy. And I had to wait several hours for the service to be switched over, on top of the couple days it took to find the time to call. As Timboy so sweetly pointed out in the comments to my last entry, I didn’t have a working Treo for an extra 2 weeks after he got his.

I have hereby learned my lesson. Even if the clerk at the Sprint store tells you to buy online, do not listen to him! If you value your time at some notional amount, like $50/hour, it’s still not worth the extra time and hassle.