Archive for August, 2006

On Truth and Goodness

Eric Gill, a British Typographer, as quoted by Edward Tufte in Beatiful Evidence:

“If you look after truth and goodness, beauty looks after herself.”

Amen – there is much beauty in simplicity and truthfulness. I love Tufte! I must be a geek for finding his books relaxing to read. Thanks to Brenda for a bookmark to that great listen on NPR.

The View From Shanghai

I am in Shanghai this week for work and it’s been fantastic. I have learned a ton about our local business environment in Asia generally, and China specifically. I have also heard about and experienced the Great Firewall – very interesting.

The flight over actually went great – 12 hours to Tokyo and then another 3 to Shanghai, but the 12 leg was not nearly as bad as I thought I would be. I sat next to a very cool, young Japanese couple. Yumi-san gave me some Japanese lessons and she and Kanai-san shared thoughts on life in Tokyo which was fascinating. Kanai-san is a screenwriter for a weekly Japanese TV show and had some interesting stories that he wrote up for his show. They very graciously invited me to stop by their house, but my layover was nowhere near long enough. Some day, but not this trip…

Shanghai is huge and fascinating. My hotel is in the Pudong area, as is the main office. But I also visited an office near Puxi and the contrast was amazing. My host has been getting me out in the evenings and helping me navigate the wild mix of food. I assumed but never realized the extent to which Chinese food is in Americanized in the States – I mean sour jellyfish and smoked goose livers??!! For the record, they were both great… everything is served family style, but I’m devouring it like it was just my order!

Getting around Shanghai is a breeze. There are train lines which I haven’t needed to use yet, and taxis are everywhere and cheap. You can ride clear across town for just a few US dollars. There are tons of bikes, electric bikes, and scooters – with dedicated commuter lanes. Very cool to see such a bike-friendly community. I am self-conscious taking photos of people in public, but need to start getting shots of the variety – I have seen a family of four riding on a scooter like a Shanghai mini-van, vendors hauling goods and people in 3-wheeled bikes with a pick-up style bucket in the back, and people hauling more stuff than I have hauled in my car tied down on the mini-rack over the back wheel. I love it!

But the days have been long. We have been working well into the evening at the office, then going out from there to take in Shanghai. For some reason – don’t know if it’s latent jet lag, my enthusiasm for being here, or just being hopped up from free tea all day long – I am still not sleeping well, and wake up extremely early but don’t feel as exhausted as I would think. At any rate, I’m not going to be taking time to blog this trip as much as I had planned – the action will be micro-blogged over at flickr and YouTube, so check those out if you want to play along at home.

UPDATE:How ironic – Simon is in China right now, too!

Great Podcast on XSS

I saw this great podcast on cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks come through on Sam’s links. Dan Kuykendall covers the anatomy of an XSS vulnerability starting at square one.

If you are somewhat familiar with XSS this might be review, but I strongly recommend it if you are looking for a place to start becoming familiar with XSS. Dan walks through a few types of vulnerabilities, and has a honeypot web site where you can try them out during the podcast. He even goes so far as to walk you through some examples that don’t work – giving you insight into how crackers have to probe to fine vulnerabilities.

Great job, Dan and thanks for the tip, Sam. If anyone else has good sources for XSS info, please comment or for: me in

Sam is also posting some great stuff on Ajax security, so be sure to check that out, too.

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Must listen: Jon Udell and Lou Rosenfeld

I am finally catching up on my podcast listening – two
key factors are responsible. For one thing, my otherwise extremely cool
employer decided to move my office 25 miles away so now I have a lovely commute
with plenty of think time. The other is that I decided to spoil myself,
and finally blew a pile of money squirreled away in mattresses on an iPod. Was it a stretch to
make this part of my commute coping strategy? I don’t think so – this is
precious podcast time!

Anyhow, I finally listened to Jon Udell’s
conversation with Lou Rosenfeld
, and this is a fantastic listen. Jon’s
title for this conversation is “A conversation with Lou Rosenfeld about search
analytics, information architecture, and designing for usability”, but that
doesn’t do it justice. They discuss the false dichotomy of folksonomies
and controlled vocabularies, the process of creating and consuming meta
information, and microformats among many other topics. Lou calls this “an
interesting and wandering discussion” and he’s right on.

I have been a subscriber to both Jon and Lou for quite awhile now and they do not
disappoint. Lou covered some of his upcoming publishing efforts, and the
notion of participatory publishing. So you should definitely get in on the action if this
is your field or interest area.

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Charity And The JDRF

Many of you probably saw that James McGovern called me out yesterday on his blog. James promises to donate $1 for every trackback he gets to that post.

Is this a noble gesture of charity? Is it really all about calling attention to people out who don’t enable trackback? Is it just a queer tactic to boost his Technorati ranking?

The answer for me: who cares?

I don’t exactly care because I’m pragmatic, and I’m a huge fan of anything I can do to promote the visibility and mission of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Diabetes has had a huge and personal impact on our family – I have a 6-year-old son who has Type 1 Diabetes. So we are all about the JDRF at our house.

James has previously posted valuable thoughts about what charity means. Charity is a notion of helping others rather than your own kind. It’s about directing acknowledgement and benevolence towards others out of empathy rather than pity. I was certainly pleased but even more surprised when I was notified by the JDRF that James had made a donation in our family’s name. That was a most unexpected response to my idle mention that he should take a look at the JDRF. Thanks, James. I need to act in a more charitable fashion like that. I might focus too much on things where I benefit more directly.

Some people give away $100 to drive traffic to their blogs. Some people do what they can to foist their faux morality on others and erect barriers to healing the sick. James frequently uses his blog as a bully pulpit to promote various charities.

Where do you fit into the equation?

Watch Out Shanghai

I will be in Shanghai for a week later in August for work – if anyone out there happens to be in Shanghai, please drop me a line. I would love to connect with someone who knows the local beat – I hate fending for myself in a new spot, and would much rather hook up with someone who knows their way around.

It’s interesting getting ready for a totally new experience like this. I recently discovered Shanghai Diaries and Dan’s fantastic article on Shanghai hot spots. Pefect timing! I will definitely be hitting Chun – how can you resist a restaurant with four tables??!!

I have also been subscribing to Shanghai-tagged photos at flickr. I have never done this before to get to know a place before a visit, but from now on I always will. It’s really an unbeliveably diverse preview of what you will see – I highly recommend this.

Anyone else been to Shanghai? I would love thoughts, recommendations, etc. I am definitely not the tourist type so would appreciate any thoughts on more out of the way places.

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