My Christmas List

Can be seen here.
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A little remodelling

There was a little downtime while I rearranged the furniture a bit over here. You'll notice some more clutter at the bottom, most of which is entirely for my own use. Probably most interesting is the slightly experimental "recently bookmarked blogs" bit, which searches my recent bookmarks for entries tagged "blogs" and then (very dumbly) guesses what the root of that blog might be, and links to that. Long-time readers -- and to my ongoing surprise, there are still quite a lot of you -- may welcome the return of the calendar module, which was top-right on the old design. The only other changes are some fixes for IE7, and some very, very basic IE6 support, consisting mainly of a notice telling you to upgrade.
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For the record

The mild annoyance of having drunken friends turn up just when you were about to go to bed is more than outweighed by the pleasure of knowing that turning up at your house and hanging out seems like a good idea to them even when they're drunk. I am still quite tired though.
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Yahoo! and Google: who will win?

This is something I get asked with reasonable frequency by people who are not in the web industry. Pay close attention, because this is confusing: Google's new Chinese homepage (or a possible one) looks a lot like Yahoo! used to look (although the current Yahoo! China is a bit more elaborate). Meanwhile, Yahoo.cn looks quite a lot like iGoogle. Furthermore, China's home-grown, market-leading Baidu looks an awful lot like Google's US homepage, which has also been copied by Yahoo! Search. What does this tell us about these companies, and the web? Who's copying who? Who's the real innovator? Which is the real best web page: a simple search (Google US, Yahoo! Search), a customized search portal (iGoogle, Yahoo.cn), or a full-on portal (Yahoo! US, the new Google China)? Who, in short, is going to win? The obvious answer is: nobody. There is no "best" homepage. Portals like Yahoo! have had a place since the birth of the web, and always will. Google gained popularity (even when Yahoo! owned a big chunk of...
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Work ethic

You know why America is the richest country in the world? It's because these people work like maniacs, all the time, constantly. They don't need to be smarter or more efficient than other countries because they just work so much more. More days, more hours, every year, a tiny difference in each individual but with a cumulative, geometric effect that means America must simply produce much more each year than everybody else. It's hard to understand coming from a European context. It's not a question of "where are you going on holiday this year?", it's "are you taking a holiday this year?". And a holiday is a 4-day weekend, maybe a whole week. The reason they don't have passports isn't because they're not interested in leaving the country, it's because they're too damn busy working to ever get out of the office, far less the state. This work ethic is what is kicking my ass at the moment. I am producing some of the finest work of my career, but I have gone a solid 10 months without taking a single day of...
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Oops

Something is wrong with the comments. It's really messy down there. I really don't have time to debug my own site right now, so please ignore the errors. Update: Okay, so maybe I can't ignore them myself. Fixed. It was goddamn comment spam! Why on earth would anybody bother to program a spambot to get around my (somewhat simple) spam protection?
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Google Web Toolkit and a high-level language for the web

I was recently having a discussion with some other webdevs about Google Web Toolkit, a Java-based library for creating dynamic, application-y websites. GWT, as I see it, has two main ideas: Writing for many browsers is hard; write once and compile to any/all browsers. The best way of creating a user interface in code, is a layout manager, like Java and other desktop application languages. Idea 1 is sound, and IMHO completely inevitable. Idea 2 is laughably, embarrassingly wrong, and it's why nobody but Google is using GWT. I will probably always be a web developer*, but I accept that at some point I will stop writing my HTML and CSS directly, and maybe at some point JavaScript too. Writing multiple times for multiple platforms is a problem that computing keeps solving, over and over. Each new language corrects deficiencies in the old ones, compresses idioms into new language constructs, and promises to work on more platforms without rewriting. Eventually somebody will get it right for HTML and CSS. I'd...
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Idle question

Does anybody know anybody at Microsoft? I want to find one of the microsoft.com webdevs and ask them how they feel about IE6.
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It's out there

So the last time I talked about work here was March 22nd. Since then -- so, roughly 8 months or so -- I have been working on basically one thing: the new Yahoo! Widgets. Since round about July, I have been joined in my quest by the eminently capable Matt, who has some thoughtfully-taken before-and-after screenshots of the gigantic changes we've made to the site, which has been rewritten from the ground up using the Symfony MVC framework. We replaced, in 8 months, a site that had been cobbled together over more than 3 years. The new site is bigger, faster, more searchable, better looking, more maintainable, more extensible, more scaleable, more secure, does more and is just better than the old site in every metric that it is possible to objectively measure. It is without question some of the best and most complex work that I've ever done. I'm proud of it. Launching it was far from easy. As everyone who's interacted with me in the last 2 months knows, it has been constant late nights, a bunch of missed...
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In which I make my best joke ever

A recent IM conversation: Ed: you sat on your camera? Laurie: It was tragic Ed: sounds tragic. though also a little funny, to be honest. Laurie: It was in my back pocket. Laurie: It's usually not a problem. Guess I'm too fat. Ed: yes, you are morbidly obese Ed: idiot Laurie: Whatever Laurie: The camera doesn't lie.
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Related stories

Is the BBC going to continue its policy of reporting at every integer increment of the oil price? (Apart from, apparently, the unloved $94?)
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Cultural differences

In the US, the president has recently been accused of covering up an act of treason. By the standards of this administration -- which has also been accused of sanctioning torture and illegally spying on its own citizens -- this is barely a blip, and it's not even front page news. Meanwhile in the UK, some junior officials accidentally lost two CDs containing names, addresses, national insurance numbers and bank details for an admittedly staggering 25m people. There is no indication that this was intentional or that this information has fallen into the wrong hands -- it just seems to have been literally lost, in an office move. This scandal is leading to speculation about whether it will bring down the government. Is there some island in the middle of the Atlantic where people neither over- nor under-react to scandals?
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Nils Voss, 1908-2007

I hesitate a bit to write this memorial so soon after a similarly sombre post, but we cannot choose when we die, and it would be a huge injustice to deny my grandfather this, my own personal form of mourning and memorial. I also hesitate because, truly, I know so little about him. Who was my grandfather, really? The image of grampa that is stuck in my brain is the one that will be familiar to almost anybody who knew him: in worryingly short shorts and a shirt-jack, sitting on his porch next to the pool, with a rum in his hand and a laugh on his lips. "Remember to speak up, your grandfather is a bit deaf," I remember mom telling me, as I suppose she had told me every time we visited until I was old enough to remember it from one visit to the next. We weren't close, but there's no blame to place for that. He was a man from a different era -- 1908! Never mind mobile phones or the Internet, or even television and jet engines, he was born before tanks were a feature of war, before helicopters flew, before...
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