Thursday, March 20, 2008

The O'Reilly Fiction

When I first saw Bill O'Reilly's show several years ago, I thought he was a pompous ass, but I respected the fact that he aired negative feedback from his viewers. That was about all I knew of the guy. Of course, once I watched enough episodes, I found his personality abrasive enough to be disinterested whether I agreed with him or not.

Since then, I've gone on to lose interest in Fox News completely because of both bias (keep in mind, I'm conservative to an extreme) and incompetence. However, with the Obama/Wright issue recently, I started watching again because other networks were sanitizing the debate by playing less offensive videos.

One show I caught was an O'Reilly Factor episode where one of the other topics was The Huffington Post and offensive comments O'Reilly staff had found there. O'Reilly distorted the issue by noting Arianna Huffington as the editor and hence responsible for all text on the site. In this case, he was referring to the anonymous comments found in discussion of articles on the site.

Tonight, he's at it again. He sent one of his paparazzi-like camera crews after Huffington to interview (harass) her over the issue. Huffington responded here in far too respectful a manner.

What bothers me about this is that O'Reilly is deliberately misleading his viewers. He knows comments sections are open forums, not articles, editorials, or even letters to the editor. This isn't content sanctioned by Huffington. It's content created by users interested in discussing the issues raised in the article. And, the Internet is a tough place sometimes. People exercise their free speech rights there more than anywhere, and I would think sites should celebrate that speech in our country, not hide it like Huffington is doing and O'Reilly expects all of us to do. Let people speak their mind. If they say something offensive, they can deal with the fallout. Leave the site owners alone.

So who's less American...really?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Wright Video to Show

Last night while watching the Daily Show, I saw a clip of The Trinity United Church of Christ preacher Jeremiah Wright saying something I thought I had misunderstood. It turns out I hadn't misunderstood it and found a more complete clip:

Let's write out what he actually said in case you don't want to watch or the video disappears:

...The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a 3 strikes law, and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no. Not God Bless America. God Damn America. That's in the Bible. They're killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating her citizens as less than human...

The thing you have to remember is this guy is part of Obama's spiritual advisory committee, and Obama has referred to him as "a crazy uncle who sometimes says things he disagrees with." Huh? That's it? He later goes on to use the following phrase in another clip in the same video:

U.S. of KKK A.

As much as I think Obama appears to be a decent fellow from what I've seen of him, are we going to take a chance and elect someone to the presidency who was brought to religion by, married by, and studied under a man who is obviously bigoted and anti-American? All we have are a few recent statements by Obama saying he disagrees with Wright on some issues weighed against some 20 years of membership in Wright's church.

What are we to believe? If we've all learned anything this past week, we should have learned to keep a healthy dose of cynicism about all politicians regardless of what they may be leading us to believe, right?

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Incompetent Developers - Thanks a Whole Lot

Today, I get to dig in and update my SMTP server software. This is not an update like the rest of the world does. No, I have to go into my C++ source and change my positive completion replies of 251 to 250 because some lazy ass, incompetent corporate programmer couldn't read a damn RFC. If you have any idea how much of a complicated, jumbled mess that source is, you'd understand why I'm angry. I've avoided touching it for some 2-3 years for this very reason.

Am I happy I'm still running my home-grown SMTP server in 2008? No, but no other product does out of the box what mine does, and it's now really hard to unwind from it because there are custom applications taking advantage of its features.

So, for those of you writing corporate or open-source mail servers, pull your collective heads out of your asses and read the damn RFC's before you write your code.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sensible Defaults

As a developer, I'm very familiar with the idea of pickings sensible defaults when I write software. In the web-based database application world (i.e. snooze-fest), that usually means setting up an invalid default that will trigger an error if the user doesn't select anything. In other settings, though, you want to make sure the user doesn't take an action inadvertently by providing a bad default.

Such was my experience in signing up for Flixster at Simone's invitation. The sign-up process felt a little like a GoDaddy domain name registration with repeated screens asking for information I didn't want to provide. In most cases, I could bypass them by hitting continue. On the last screen, that wasn't the case. The system fired off "friend" invitations to something like 5 people by default when I hit continue on that last page.

Nice job Flixster developers.