BloggerView #5: Pedro Melo

After a week without BloggerView here is the 5th BloggerView with Pedro Melo, author of the blog “Notes: Building simplicidade.org: notes, projects and ocasional rants”, where he writes in English. Usually he talks about technology, especially Perl and XMPP. I hope you enjoy reading this BloggerView, as much as I did.

1. When did you start blogging? What were the main reasons that take you start blogging?
Pedro Melo (PM): My first post was in May 2004.

I started because I needed a place to talk about the software I was writing on my spare time, and to rant about random stuff I came across. Also I use it to keep track of some topics I like, and try to increase awareness about them.

Looking back I think I mostly ranted and I didn’t talk enough about my software. That is one of things I really would like to change this year.

2. What were your reasons to christen your blog as you did?
PM: I like simple things. I like simple solutions to problems. Also I like one of the motos of Perl a lot: simple things should be simple, difficult things should be possible.

Also, I have a tendency to over-engineer, so I think the title helps me keep the focus on the path.

3. Do you have any specific goals or objectives you want to achieve with your blog? What are they?
PM: I think I have two main goals.

The first is to make people aware of XMPP and Perl, the two main focus of my professional life.

The second one is to notify people of software I write.

4. In your opinion, what role could blogs play in the future, for instance at companies or at schools?
PM: I think blogs are a basic building block, a content creation medium, nothing else. I think they are the current best way to publish on the Web.

The magic comes from the syndication and aggregation that you can do on top of that. That is where I see the value that can be extracted from all these posts everybody is writing.

Companies and Schools still don’t have the right tool to leverage blogs. You can provide blog tools to your employees or your students, but although they are in same democratic medium and can be seen by each other, there is no value in that. Hosting the blog in the school server or the company server gives you no extra value, you are probably better off hosting it in a professional blog site like Live Journal or Blogger.

We still have problems with blog technology. Although you can have interesting monologues in blog-land, you cannot easily have and keep track of a conversation. I don’t think is a mere technical problem, but believe we still don’t have a good technical solution to keep threads of conversation between blogs of different people.

What will change that is a software that groups can use to aggregate posts from people who share a common interest (like belonging to the same class in school), and make the relations between the people in the group more clear. With proper tagging of threads of conversation, we should be able to jump to the next step, creating value between blogs of different persons and starting talking again as civilized people instead of trying to be over-heard in the park shouting above all the others.

We should stop trying to beat the other guy on google rankings and start getting relevance by the threads where you participate. If thread creation is based on a meritocracy, people will be the next page-rank. Your own value would be measured by the value you add to a conversation.

5. What do you think will be the future of blogs over the next couple of years?
PM: I still know people who write a diary, on paper. So blogs will probably be around for a long time.

But as I said in the previous question, their value per se is not evident to me. I think we need to have better tools to cross reference them together.

I think that is where you’ll see the most interesting stuff happening.

6. How many feeds do you have on your news aggregator? What news aggregator do you use? Why?
PM: I have 211 feeds currently. I dropped from 245 yesterday after a clean up.

I use NetNewsWire because its the one which fits best with my workflow.

I keep a strict organization of folders of feeds, most of them with different refresh schedules. They are organized by importance to me, and when I open the NNW window, I read the unread items top to bottom. If I don’t have time to finish all the items, I mark all of them as read. I never leave the window with unread items. I don’t let them pile up.

Also I prefer full feeds, preferably with comments included. I don’t like leaving the feed reader to read the entire post or the small conversation that comments provide. I don’t use the internal browser of the application, I prefer to open links in Safari.

7. What do you think about RSS? What role do you think RSS can play in future, for instance in the relation between government and citizens?
PM: When people speak of RSS, I tend to translate that to syndication. I don’t like wasting time discussing tools and which one is better, and I don’t want to provoke the ire of Atom believers. 🙂

Syndication is the real magic bullet for me. Blogs didn’t start this revolution. If I kept my site and I didn’t provide people syndication files, nobody would know about simplicidade.org and probably you would never ask me to answer your questions. It’s the syndication that provides the fabric for all the cool kids to work on. Technorati, PubSub.com, Feedster and others would not exist without it.

So the question becomes how we can leverage syndication in the future to improve relations between people. Or in your example, between government and its citizens.

I can’t imagine anything good out of a government syndicating citizens content. But the opposite can be very valuable if you feel that syndication is the best way to get your content rapidly indexed, tagged, and aggregated. The Portuguese government (all of them in the last years, really) talked about opening up and sharing more of the information they produce every day on the Web. I’m all forward, but browsing is no longer an option to find something. You just Google it. So having all the government information available on some sort of syndicated feed would enable two things:

 * Easy and fast Google indexing;
 * Live real-time queries by PubSub.com.

And that would be a good thing.


8. What do you think is the most important thing happening in the Web, now? Why?

PM: The Web 2.0 APIs.

By creating open APIs to all the services, we will be able to improve the services the desktop applications can provide.

This is something I’ve been trying to write about and I never quite get the correct message across, so forgive me if I later contradict myself on my blog: I don’t believe on the Web 2.0 sites and browser-based applications. I think the browser as it is today is the wrong platform to do all these services, even with all the AJAX sparks on top. I do believe that the browser is getting new tricks, mostly due to the WHAT-WG (http://www.whatwg.org/), but that effort will take time.

I’m constantly amazed at the web applications that appear every day, and the lengths developers go to write them in the cross-platform nightmare that is the browser platform. I think they are geniuses.

But I also wonder what that mental energy would be able to create if it where directed to making desktop applications, using the full power of the graphical desktops we have today, with all the OpenGL mojo, that leverage all the APIs out there.

I think that we needed this step, the browser-based web applications. Without it, we would not have the APIs. But now that we have them, I think the next step is desktop application leveraging those APIs.

9. Beside blogs, do use other social software, like Flickr, Del.icio.us, Diigo, LinkedIn, or any other?
PM: I keep all my photos on my desktop, with iPhoto. I publish select pictures to my Flickr account.

All my bookmarks have moved to Del.icio.us, but I browse them with Cocoalicius, keeping a local backup of them.

I also use Backpack, but I’m getting frustrated with it in recent months. I’ll probably drop it. I kept my Plazes menu item open for quite some time, but it was not that stable.

I have a Orkut account but I don’t see any output of the effort put in those networks of friends, not even a simple iCalendar file with my friend birthdays.

I don’t use Diigo, and only recently joined LinkedIn. I still have reservations about LinkedIn, but I was very pressured to join by certain friends that share my hosting server with me.

10. With the release of Google Talk, and more recent, with GTalk open, what do you expect for the future of XMPP world in the next couple of years?
PM: I think that XMPP will dominate the IM market on the desktop. It will take some time, but I think is inevitable. One of the big networks (AOL, Skype, MSN or Yahoo) will be the first one to open up federation via XMPP, I’m betting on AOL or Skype, and after that I think is game over for closed IM networks.

The mobile platform is much more complex, and although I hope that we make some progress there, I don’t believe that we currently have someone that can make that push.

With the recent Jingle specs for voice signaling over XMPP, and with the future Jingle-to-SIP gateways that we are seeing, I also believe that we could make a dent in the desktop VoIP application market.

But what I find most promising for XMPP is the recent updates to the publish-and-subscribe specifications. XMPP is not just a instant messaging technology. First, it is a XML streaming technology on top of which a instant messaging network was built. But you cannot and should not treat it as a IM technology.

In 97, there was a company called PointCast Media (founded in 92) that had a network to push content to a desktop application called PointCast desktop client, strangely enough. At the time, it wreck havoc with the networks, due to the massive (for the time) amount of traffic that was sent. The client would keep the user up-to-date with news, stock quotes, and sports results. Their last push to clients was in 2000. They got a lot of things right, specially the Marimba framework they used to implement the service.

Jump back to 2006 and we happily use pull technology (ie, your feed reader) to keep up-to-date to all of that. That’s a huge wast of bandwidth, and people don’t complain because bandwidth is cheap for the consumer. The producer, however, is getting bigger and bigger bandwidth bills, though.

I think the world is ready for another try for push technology to the desktop, and my only hope is that we can make XMPP the best  way to do it. blogsRSSWeb 2.0InterviewbloggerviewBloggerSocial SoftwarePerlXMPPPedro Melo