Do I have spambots reading my LJ?

I think that some of the latest users to friend my LJ are spambots: specifically abarot, albatius, axtty, and balaklavaris. Why? (1) They don’t post anything, which would make sense if they are bots, because their posts would eventually give them away. (2) No known humans appear to be friending them back, they are only friends with one another. (3) Their profiles are empty, except for one which has a link to what appears to be the homepage of two gay lovers, but which I suspect is a site designed to raise the Google rank of some related gay porn sites.

What should I do? I can’t prove that they’re spammers, but if they are they should be kicked before they can waste everyone’s time.

Follow the bouncing Nelson

On January 4-7 (Weds-Sat) I will be in Cambridge, Massachusetts for’s first Board of Directors meeting.

On January 13-14 (Fri-Sat) I will be in New York City around Columbia University for’s first Northeast regional summit. If you’re interested at all in free culture, please register and come to our conference!

Naturally, if you want to meet up and you are in either of those locations, drop me a line.

A user-oriented open source software bounties site?

For those who haven’t seen Bounty County yet, it is Downhill Battle’s new effort to make a central open source bounties site, where open source programmers can go to find projects that they can get paid for. Excellent job! I’d like to think that I can take some credit for this, since I was prodding them earlier this month about the need for a such a site, but it’s something they had thought about in the past, and they did all the work, so it’s difficult to understate my role ^_^

At any rate, while Bounty County is a great start, it falls short of the ambitious project which I outlined for them over the phone, so I’d like to briefly share with you my vision. Below is an excerpt from an e-mail which I sent to Nick and Holmes today.

Hey Nick and Holmes,

Congratulations on making Bounty County and getting it Slashdotted! As always, you folks work quickly ^_^ I hope that it will serve as a good way to help open source projects get the coders that they need, and to compensate programmers for their time.

However, I had something slightly different in mind, which I would like to work on… a user-oriented open source software bounties site.

One problem with open source software is that users who are not programmers have difficulty telling the difference between freeware and truly free software. The freedom to adapt a program to your needs seems unimportant if you do not actually have the ability to edit the program yourself. How can we make the freedoms of free software more important to ordinary people? There are a few ways to address this problem:

(1) Increase the programming skills of the ordinary user, or make it easier to acquire these skills. Free online tutorials and teach-ins can help to some extent, but ultimately this method requires a good deal of time and effort on the part of the user, and therefore the majority of users will never bother to acquire programming skills.

(2) Make it possible to program without any significant programming experience whatsoever (or at least make it easier for newbies to program). Some revolutionary intuitive open source programming environment could be imagined to fill this need. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to implement this.

(3) Make it easier for the ordinary user to find programmers who can implement the features and customizations that they want/need. This is the method that currently interests me the most.

I’m convinced that the best way to do this is to set up an open source software bounties site which makes it easy for programmers and ordinary people to get together. Rather than having the money come from the project itself and reflect what its developers see a need for, a user-oriented site would reflect what the public sees a need for. If the developers disagree and think that the feature requests are stupid, there is always the right to fork, which is another thing that makes open source different from proprietary software. As I may have mentioned to you, I envision a system that works with or some similar web 2.0 system to make it easy for users to get together and raise money for a credible bounty, even if no single individual has enough money.

A user-oriented bounty site and a project-oriented bounty site are not mutually exclusive: I think that we could add on a section like that to Bounty County if you were interested. Would that be something that you would approve of? Or do you think this would be best done as a separate site? More importantly, is this a good idea at all? Let me know what you think, and I’ll start shopping this idea around.

UPDATE: Nick replied with this quick response:

I like this idea a lot, but it’s very ambitious and would be a serious challenge to build. I would need a really really good interface to get beyond a narrow user base and it would need to raise more money than typical bounties if it’s moving towards a model where developers are actually doing this stuff for the money. Interface mockups would be the place to start.

We’re certainly not opposed to something like this, but we can’t really put time into it now, but feel free to take a shot at it and we’ll be happy to take a look at plans, schemes, and mockups.

New Year’s Eve party, my house

On Saturday, January December 31 (how did I screw that one up?), I will be having a New Year’s Eve party at my house in Morris Plains, NJ. The party will begin after dinner around 7pm, and run indefinitely into the morning, as New Year’s Eve parties are wont to do. There will be party games, board games, pinball, music, and plenty of other ways to keep entertained. If you know where my house is, you’re invited. If you don’t know where it is, and you wish to attend, talk to me and I’ll give you directions ^_^

I’d like everyone to wear something slightly odd, unconventional, or unexpected. This is inspired by an interesting article of clothing which I recently received as a gift, and which I intend to wear at the party, but which I have no desire to turn into a full-fledged costume. Weird hats or t-shirts, off-colored sweaters, thrift store items… anything interesting from your wardrobe is welcome.

People are also encouraged to bring any bizarre stocking stuffers that you may have received. I know my grandparents always give me some strange things for Christmas, and I’m sure I’m not the exception. The goal is to have a surfeit of conversation pieces 😉

If you have any suggestions for activities to engage in at a New Year’s party, leave a comment, and I will take it into consideration.

Actually, I think I’ll move to Scuttle

OK, looks like I spoke a little bit soon… while seemed like a good choice at the moment, there are a crapload of social bookmarking services to choose from! Barry’s paradox of choice strikes again :-/ Wikipedia links to a review of 19 bookmarking services, which can help you decide what to go with.

I’m setting an ideological filter and only considering open source options. I am also requiring the private bookmarks function, otherwise there’s no point in switching away from What does that leave me with? Scuttle, unalog, and Connotea (and of course That’s still too many options. Let’s consider which one makes it the easiest to import my bookmarks from According to the chart, only Scuttle offers this feature. Sold! As soon as gets back up, I’m going to try using Scuttle’s web interface to import my bookmarks. As a bonus, it has a “friends list”-privacy feature, like Livejournal or Flickr, and it has… wait for it… comma-separated tags! That is one of the “features” of that I hate the most, the fact that you can’t have tags made from multiple words unless you mash them together somehow, tags are space-separated. Scuttle is just oh so superior, to both and Check out my Scuttle page.

If you’re worried that none of these webservices are trustworthy, I suggest you try Foxylicious, a Firefox extension that lets you back up your bookmarks into your browser. In fact, although this extension makes it easier to leave for another site, it also makes a compelling case for staying with … No, no looking back! I am departing for the world of open source and privacy, and that’s final.

UPDATE: OK, not everything on Scuttle seems to work quite as reliably as one would hope, most notably my personal RSS feed. This is annoying, but I guess I’ll report the bug and hope someone fixes it. Personally, this experience is becoming a confirmation of Barry Schwartz’s theories. Choice is evil! It makes us unhappy with our current lot in life! Or something…

UPDATE to the UPDATE: I reported the bug on their Sourceforge project forum, and it was instantaneously fixed. Scuttle has a friendly, responsive developer community, which is always a joy to have with an open source project. It gives me the warm fuzzies and makes me want to stick around.

UPDATE^3: The transfer went perfectly! It even turned all the stupid underscores in my tags into spaces, which looks a lot nicer. I’m falling in love all over again. has too much downtime, I’m switching to

After an outage of multiple days, I’ve gotten sick of waiting for my account to return to normal so that I can post my bookmarks online. Therefore, I have I’ve switched to, because (1) it’s currently operating, (2) it runs on completely open source software, and (3) it has this nifty “@private tag” feature, which allows you to hide certain bookmarks from the public eye. lacks all 3 features.

If you know me, feature #2 is key. It means that I could theoretically run my own installation of the same software that runs It’s called Rubric, and it is released under the GPL. I’m not sure I have the expertise or server space to install it, but it’s the thought that counts.

The absence of feature #3 means that I’ve been putting my private bookmarks in my browser, where they are inaccessible from other computers and vulnerable to a hard drive crash. My private bookmarks include sites which I don’t want to show up in Google, surprises that I am planning for friends, and links which just aren’t relevant to outsiders (e.g. the directions to where I am going tonight). I’m sure you all have your own uses for private bookmarks…

At any rate, as soon as gets back up I’m going to try to run the Del2Del perl script to import my bookmarks from to, and reduce my dependency on proprietary software.

On emoticons

How did we communicate :-P, the tongue-y face emoticon, before there were emoticons? How do you translate 😛 into face-to-face communication, telephone calls, or dead-tree letter writing? Most people don’t stick out their tongue in normal day-to-day conversation, although there are a few people who use it as a common gesture, and probably inspired the emoticon.

There appear to be multiple meanings of :-P:
(1) Sillyness
(2) Disgust
(3) Annoyance

Perhaps that is why I find it difficult to replace this surprisingly complex emoticon. How did I survive without it?