Live from LA: XML on the rocks

Lamont Adams' recent self-discovery via an online search reinforces concerns about privacy in the Internet age. He also spins out on the latest gritty .NET hype and discovers a sort of AOL for developers--but it's a good thing. Really.

The next time you have a couple of hours to kill, or you have insomnia, you should try this: Run your name through your favorite search engine. The amazing things you’ll turn up about yourself almost make the effort worthwhile.

For example, during a recent bout of sleeplessness, I discovered that I finished fifth in the USATF of Oregon’s Midget Boys 100 Meter Dash, and later finished eighth at the national Junior Olympics. Funny…I don’t remember that. Also, I was evidently in for my two-year checkup at Rochester General Hospital in January 2001, which is odd, considering I was pronounced dead after shooting myself in 1994. That might explain why I don’t remember winning those track and field awards.

Once you get past the humor of finding out things about others who share your name, there’s a certain chilling quality about it—at least there was for me. We live in a world where large amounts of information are available to anyone just for the asking, and where more is bound to become available as Web services open up easy collaboration between Web-based consumer service providers. Imagine what you could turn up with a more determined search, possibly exploiting a few security holes along the way. Yet another reminder that security and privacy need to be more on the minds of developers than it historically has been.

Technobabble follies
A few days ago while on MSDN's Web site, I ran across the most remarkable example of technobabble I’ve seen in a long time. I read an article that actually used this phrase: “XML is .NET’s technology substrate.” A technology substrate? What the heck is that supposed to mean?

One of my hobbies is keeping aquarium fish, which I do in a semibig way, so when I read the word substrate, I subconsciously replaced it with the word gravel: “XML is .NET’s technology gravel.” And then I visualized aquatic plants and driftwood sprouting from tiny XML elements:
<gravel size = “big” color = “brown”/>
<algae color = “green”/>
<gravel size = “small” color = “light brown”/>
<fish_poop size = “very small” color = “reddish-brown”/>
<gravel size = “medium” color = “off white”/>

Now I’ve written enough here at on the subject of marketing hyperbole, particularly as it relates to Microsoft and .NET, for you to have a pretty fair idea of how much I detest it. So far, I’ve been able to say that, for the most part, serious developer resources such as MSDN’s documentation have remained relatively clear of this sort of thing. I really hope that this “substrate” business is an isolated incident and not a sign of things to come.

Coming clean with Web dev
I’ve got to confess a little prejudice on my part when it comes to Web development. You see, there’s always been something about embedding pieces of script in an HTML document that seemed a little unclean to me. So I never really bothered with ASP, PHP, or JSP, even though I respected those who did. I have, however, lately begun playing around with ASP.NET, largely because of its codebehind model, which I find very elegant. If you’re unfamiliar with the term codebehind, I recommend this article.

An amazing Artifact
I think I clicked on a “pop-under” advertisement for the first time in my online life the other day. It was for a product with the odd name of Artifact, which is essentially a desktop client for a set of online language-themed development communities. In addition to message boards, technical articles, and neat chat and IM features, Artifact hosts a library of downloadable code samples, which are rated by other Artifact users. There’s not a huge amount of activity yet, and the client itself has some rough edges. But it's still in beta, so that’s to be expected. The developers hope to keep a free, open version operating after the beta period ends by selling a private version to larger development companies as a collaboration tool. Check it out if you get the chance. It feels a lot like AOL for developers, and I mean that in a good way.

I like getting feedback
Hey, you behind the monitor. Let me know what’s been rattling around in your head: Send me an e-mail.


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