Jonathan Deutsch's weblog covering mac app development, engineering management, running a startup, HTML5, and all things Apple.

Hearts and Minds

In light of WordPress controversy, I have come to realize that conducting business ethically is truly in the best interest of the business itself. The WordPress community has suffered a serious blow, one that could have easily been averted if the founder would have been more upfront about his revenue streams. I do not want to see HyperEdit tarnished in the same matter, so I’m going to be upfront about one of the slightly-less-than-ethical techniques I use to increase HyperEdit sales. People often tell me how much they love HyperEdit. While I’m definitely flattered, this comes as no surprise to me.

Anyone who has seen Saved By The Bell knows of the episode where Zack puts a subliminal message in a tape for Kelly Kapowski to try to convince her to go to a dance with him. The point of a subliminal message is to use the power of suggestion in a way not conscious to the person, but that still gets processed by their brain. Zack used a frequency spectrum that went unnoticed because the brain receives the signal, but filters it out.

HyperEdit uses a similar technique, but with vision. In order to increase sales and win the hearts and minds of my users, I have embedded an image in the preview pane of HyperEdit that says, “I love HyperEdit!” (“I,” instead of “you,” because studies show the message should be written in a way that the user would say it themselves). Because of how it is displayed, the brain filters it out, but the suggestion still gets embedded in the subconscious. Here’s a snapshot of what it looks like:

As you can see, the image is very light and blurry — barely noticeable. It actually only gets displayed for one frame every 5 minutes, and is synced to the monitor’s refresh rate. Thus, if your monitor has a vertical refresh rate of 75 hz, this image will be displayed once every 22,500 frames in a span of 5 minutes. Since the human eye cannot perceive much beyond 60 hz, the small flash gets filtered out by the brain. The risk of people noticing it is further diminished by the fact that most people when using HyperEdit focus on the editor pane, thus the preview pane is still slightly out of focus.

So, if after using HyperEdit, found yourself in love with the little app, I’m sorry to say it isn’t because of its usefulness, but because of my unethical business practices. Depending on how the community reacts, I may remove this feature from the next version. Hopefully being upfront about this will avert any crisis.

Appcasting

Fraser Speirs has a good idea:

Podcasting is, technologically, nothing more than using the enclosure field of an item in an RSS 2.0 feed to deliver the URL of an MP3 file which your aggregator then downloads for you.

I was thinking about setting up a development blog for FlickrExport when it occurred to me that you could use exactly the same feature of RSS 2.0 to deliver updates to an application.

I think I’ll set this up for HyperEdit, and perhaps some of my other endeavors.

del.ico.us Smart Tagging Version 1.1

As you may be able to see from looking at my blog, I’ve finally gotten around to making some improvements to the del.icio.us Smart Tagging Plugin for WordPress. Version 1.1 of the plugin has the following changes:

  • Link image is less saturated, unless you are mousing over the link (Daniel J. Wilson’s suggestion)
  • It only links to the first occurrence of a particular tag per post (Jason’s suggestion)
  • It does not link inside <a> tags.
  • The cache file for tags is simply called “deliciousTagCache.txt” now.
  • Other parsing fixes.

I think it works a lot better and is much less visually distracting. This version is a little slower than the previous version, however. Also a word of warning: if del.icio.us happens to go down, then your blog may become inaccessible once the tag cache expires. It may also take a while to build the tag cache if you have lots lof links/tags. You can always disable the plugin from the wp-admin interface if this happens for an extended period of time.

Installation Instructions

  1. Download deliciousTagging.zip.
  2. Edit lines 12 and 13 of deliciousTagging.php so it has your del.icio.us username and password.
  3. Place the contents (not the folder itself) of the deliciousTagging folder in your wp-content/plugins. This is 5 files.
  4. Make sure the deliciousTagCache.txt file has write permissions. If you have command-line access, you can type:
    chmod 766 deliciousTagCache.txt
  5. Activate the plugin in WordPress through the Plugins tab of the wp-admin interface!

As always, feedback is welcome!

del.icio.us Smart Tagging Plugin for WordPress

As you may have noticed, there are lots of little checkered images in my blog now. These are links to my del.icio.us tags. I decided it would be interesting if my blog was smart tagged so people who read entries on this blog could visit my del.icio.us links on the subject to learn more about what I am discussing. So now, if I discuss programming, Cocoa, or Smalltalk, there will be some personally-picked references to visit. Hopefully this will be useful and not distracting.

If you’d like to add this capability to your WordPress blog (or modify it to another other system), here is the source code:

deliciousTagging.zip (view source)
deliciousIcon.gif

Place these files in wp-content/plugins. In deliciousTagging.php, make sure to set the del.icio.us login and password, and also check to make sure the cache directory has proper write permissions. The code isn’t perfect — the regular expressions for identifying when to tag needs to be improved and the links aren’t aligned properly when viewing in NetNewsWire. Feel free to fix it and send me the new code.

UPDATE: Version 1.1 and better installation instructions are available here.

Rich Text Plugin for SourceTab

One of my experiments for SourceTab is to have an open plugin architecture that allows heterogeneous types of tabs. Types go beyond C, C++, Perl, HTML, etc. files — I want source editors alongside web browsers, image viewers, or whatever other plugin someone would like to add to SourceTab. I’ve already created the basic source code and web browser plugins. Having a web browser right next to the editor is extremely useful for looking up documentation.

After being told that SourceTab was used for taking notes in class, I realized plain text notes must suck, so tonight I wrote a plugin for editing rich text documents in SourceTab!



click for a larger view

You can open and edit RTF and Microsoft Word files. The Word formatting is of course messed up a bit on complex documents since it uses Cocoa’s .doc handling, but gets the job done. Adding rich text support only took an hour and about 40 lines of new code.

Now back to work on HyperEdit!

Another Kendo Post

I came across this video, which seems to be a National Geographic special on the Kendo 8th Dan test:

http://kendoshop.com/images/8dan.wmv

The 8th dan is like an 8th degree blackbelt in other martial arts, and it is the highest grade awarded in Kendo through taking a test. The video follows two kendoka as they attempt to pass it.

If you only watch for one minute, watch the segment starting at 17:44. Here, an 80 year old is schooling a 78 year old, saying stuff like, “You’re too hasty. Pretend you’re in a match — wait and grab an opportunity!” and then shoving him back to do it again. It’s great.

Kiai prescribed to treat high blood pressure

Arthur sent me this passage yesterday:

“Language is an imitation of sounds heard in nature, each word holding the pattern of energy of that which is imitated. Resonance is the transfer of that energy. For example, the samurai’s fighting cry kiai induces in the opponent a catatonic fear, creating partial paralysis which reduces blood pressure. This demonstrates the importance of words and names, and why the power of charms and spells should not be taken lightly (Andrews 1966).”

It is a footnote from Secrets In The Field, a book about crop circles by Freddy Silva. Kiai is best translated as “vocal spirit.”

Tumult Comics!

While I scanned my calligraphy, I figured I might as well scan some other images.



click for a larger view

In 5th grade I started a comic book company called Tumult Comics. By 6th grade I had “published” three comics: Tracey 1 and 2 by me, and the spin-off, Mackie, by Ryan Geismar (who also did a couple pages of Tracey 1). There was a festival every year called the Pumkin Patch Festival at my elementary school, and I saw in the newsletter announcing the event that people interested in selling arts and crafts could get a booth. I seized the opportunity and landed a spot for my fledgling company to sell our comics. The night was a big success, and we grossed over $120 which was a lot for a 6th grader.

From left to right: Paul Gubani – booth boy, Ryan Geismar – artist, Me – President & CEO, Jerod Ibarole – Inker. Yeah, I was short. To make matters worse, Ryan and Jerod were abnormally tall.


click for a larger view

In 5th Grade, my grandfather won the Small Business Exporter of the Year award, so the entire family that could go took a trip to Washington D.C. to watch him recieve it. Al Gore gave a speech aboout the importance of Small Businesses, and since my mom told me he had a son, I decided to give a copy of my comic book to him (at this time, only Tracey 1 had been completed) . After the speech, a bunch of people lined up to shake his hand. When he got to me, I handed him the comic, and said “Give this to your son.” Evidently, a bunch of the secret service people started to move in on me until they realized I was harmless, although I didn’t notice that. One random lady took a picture, and later sent it to us (no clue how she knew who we were). I’m in the lower right corner, and you can see Al Gore holding my comic :-). I put my address on it, but never heard anything from the Vice President or his son. Now that he’s a board member at Apple, I might take the opportunity to ask him if he remembers!

Tumult Comics sure has come a long way!

Four and a half mice!

HyperEdit received a four and a half out of a five mouse rating in the November Macworld! w00t! It is featured in the “Even More Software Bargains” section on page 66, with a screenshot and a white background that makes it stand out from the rest of the reviews on the page. I feel the concluding sentence really hits the nail on the head:

Live previewing makes HyperEdit a real time-saver and ideal for learning.

The review is short and sweet, and I am very satisfied with how my product fared! The November issue will hit newsstands later this month, or you view the article from the digital version.

Homework stifles creativity (4/11/2000)

My senior year in high school was one of the most creative years of my life as I felt my computer graphics and especially computer science skills were outgrowing that of a student and into a that of a professional. As such, I did as little homework as possible.

In my honors physics class that year, we would have “Homework Quizzes,” where the teacher would put put the numbers of homework questions on the board, and all we had to do was copy them from our completed assignment to prove we had done it. Naturally, I only had time to do one out of eight problems in the few minutes of class, so I thought I might try to score a few points for being clever. Here’s what I wrote instead as the rest of the class furiously copied (the teacher’s comments are in red):

I have done considerable research on the matter, and the evidence leads me to conclude that homework stifles creativity. Homework is a structured, monotonous, plug-and-chug activity that promotes narrow-minded thinking among students. If I were to spend my time doing homework, I would not be able to contribute to the world with my computer science efforts. In fact, doing homework would cripple my brain into thinking un-creatively. Without my creativeness, I would not be able to program our brave new world that the earth is about to embark on. I would also be unable to write this create letter (although I wouldn’t have a need for this letter, but that’s beyond the point!). 🙂 Creativity is what allows a society to flourish and grow. Homework cuts into that by unexercising the mind. It’s like a muscle: if you don’t use it, it won’t stay the same, it will grow weaker. I am trying to use my brain in a way to help society, can you condemn me for that? Well, actually…

No points were awarded for cleverness :-(.