Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

WordPress Adds Writing Helper

Posted: May 9, 2011 in Software

My first thought while reading the blog entry explaining the new Writing Helper feature was that it seems like it should be hard to write something like “We know the hardest part of blogging is actually writing posts” with a straight face. It’s almost like saying that the hardest part of writing is doing the writing.

Once you get past the fact that it sounds silly, it’s very true. Many people aren’t very confident about their ability to write, and some of the people who are confident probably shouldn’t be.

These are both great features. I’m sure that a lot of people who need to reuse the same format repeatedly have already taken the step of creating a template for themselves that they could copy and paste, but the Copy A Post feature simplifies the process.

I think that the Request Feedback feature has a lot more potential to have an effect on the development of blogs. You were always able to email someone a copy of what you wrote and ask for feedback, but this makes it seem a lot more natural to do so. The best way to improve your writing is to get feedback on what currently isn’t working, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the little nudge of having a special button for the purpose encourages people to actually do so.

Jane McGonigal originally created the SuperBetter game as a tool to help herself deal with the process of recovering from concussion that was having some serious lingering effects. It’s an awesome little trick that basically turns the basic things that you know you ought to do in order to get better as thoroughly and quickly as possible, and makes it more exciting to do it by turning it into a game. It also creates opportunities to ask friends and family to help you through your recovery and give them specific useful things that they can do.

SuperBetter has now gotten its own domain name because she’s developing it into a commercial product that is intended to become “a system that can be used to feel better, faster through any injury, illness or chronic condition — including asthma, diabetes, migraines, depression, chronic pain, quitting smoking, and rehabilitation for sports-related injuries.”

Part of my interest in this is the possibility that it could turn into something even more general. The site Health Month has already been trying to put more of a gaming twist on the idea of doing the things that you believe will lead to living a better life. While it seems like SuperBetter is going to be focusing a lot more on health problems specifically, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a good way that the final implementation ends up being something that could be functional for addressing nearly any bad habit.

They’re planning to start clinical trials this summer. It’s going to be really interesting to see how well it works!

WordPress And Thesis

Posted: July 25, 2010 in Software
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been reading a little on the debate over whether themes built on WordPress need to be GPL. It’s an interesting issue for more than just WordPress itself. In the history of the GPL there has been a lot of FUD thrown around where some were basically trying to give the impression that the GPL was ‘viral’ and would stretch beyond the boundaries of any software that you use to require anything so much as developed near it to be released under the GPL.

I’m honestly curious to see how this debate will play out for its own sake, because if all WordPress themes should be considered derivative of WordPress itself that’ll have some major implications for the WordPress community as a whole. Some people will probably leave and stop developing themes, and others will be happier than ever to work on things related to the software.

The bigger implications might be for the GPL. On one hand, if this really does turn into a lawsuit it could be an opportunity to get more definition for the boundaries of the GPL in court. The GPL seems to be pretty legally solid (though I say this as someone who is a definite non-lawyer), but the exact amount of clout it carries isn’t very clear since there isn’t much in the way of actual decision making by judges on how it should be interpreted.

The other issue is the implications that this could have for GPL products in general. This seems to feed nicely into the potential for fear-mongering along the lines of, “Look, you’ll work hard to build a project based on something and then when you start to make money off of it they’ll come back and take it away from you because of the GPL!” That’s not an outcome I’m particularly eager to see, since it could be harmful to GPL projects in general.

I’m not saying that I don’t want Matt to pursue this, though. I think the people who are most opposed to the GPL will grab onto anything they can get in order to make it seem scary and troublesome. You can’t just resign yourself to never enforcing the license because you’re too worried that someone might try to turn it against you.

What Will We Use?

Posted: June 23, 2010 in Software

I’ve agreed to start writing an occasional entry for the What Will We Use? web log. It’s run by Beth Lynn Eicher (my sister) and a couple of other people, and it basically focuses on the issues in the technology market related to Microsoft Market Share. Essentially, Beth made a bet with someone that Microsoft would no longer dominate the market for office suites by June 30, 2011.

I’m not confident about that specific deadline, but I do agree that the general trend in the software market is away from the kind of commanding lead by a single company that Microsoft has enjoyed for a long time. Fortunately, Beth is open to other perspectives, even when they don’t agree with her on everything, which is one of the great things about her.

In the longer term, I think that users tend to get a better experience when they’re dealing with several large companies that are competing for control of a market, rather than just one company. So, all possible gripes anyone might have about Microsoft aside, I think that it would serve a larger good if we found ourselves in a world where the competition to Microsoft Office was more significant than it currently is.

Monoculture — no matter who created it — really leaves the door open to problems like viruses. To paraphrase Matt Mullenweg, as long as there is code there will be bugs. Our job is to figure out how to deal with the fact that we live in a world where software bugs are just part of the deal. Having everyone run exactly the same software is not a good approach.

Of course, I’m actually an odd duck who has computers handy at this particular moment that could be booted into Ubuntu (10.04), Windows XP, Windows 7, or OS X, so if I were to be telling you that everyone running the same thing is good, I’d have a lot of explaining to do!

Anyway, the first post I’ve written for it is about what the tablet market could mean for Microsoft.

Eclipse Logo

Eclipse is an open development platform that’s developed with an open source model and license, but sponsored by a number of different companies. They synchronize the releases of their projects so that everything comes out at the same time once a year, and the next big release is going to be on June 23, 2010 (tomorrow!).

To celebrate the Helios release, they’re going to be holding an Eclipse Blogathon to encourage people to try out the new versions of the projects and post lots of reviews everywhere. There’ll be some minor prizes involved, but either way it’s still nice to draw attention to the best projects that open source has to offer.

If you want to participate, the deadline will be July 31 at 4 PM EST. I’ll admit to being a little bit curious why they chose 4PM specifically.

I haven’t decided yet on whether I’ll be participating. After the release date I’ll probably start playing around with it and try to get a sense of what they’ve been doing and whether I find any specific project interesting enough to write about.


Posted: June 19, 2010 in Linux, Software

Meego is a brand new distribution for Linux, but it looks like it might have an interesting future. Reviews of Meego that are just beginning to pop up seem generally positive at least. It seems to be backed by the folks at Intel and Nokia, so it should be interesting to watch what kind of investment they’re willing to make in it for the longer term.

It’s netbook-oriented, so I might eventually yield to the temptation to play with it a little on a netbook we have here that’s going mostly unused. Of course, that’ll require getting things set up so that we can back that machine up properly (there’s virtually nothing on it, but I’m pretty sure there’s no restore disk so at least the OS would have to be backed up).

I did just have to send their webmaster an email about the link to their installation instructions being incorrect. I suppose that’s not the best sign, but many things can be forgiven for a product that’s at 1.0 so long as they seem determined to improve.