ralphm's blog

Friday, 29 August 2003


Déjà vu

I was pointed to a new blog over at Corante called The Instant Messaging Industry Insider written by Stowe Boyd, also of Timing. It is a brand new blog and my attention was immediately drawn to the entry about Mo'time.

Mo'time is a Jabber Powered online blogging tool. It features an alerting system for new blog entries (from other blogs, but also your own) that uses Jabber when the user is online, but has a Web-based digest to catch new entries while the user is offline.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

Mimír is a system exactly doing this. It came out of my wish to better organise my information gathering back in October 2002. I didn't want to have to poll a lot of sites, but get alerted when something new was there. But Mimír is not limited to blogs, but can collect news from any kind of news source. Check out its architecture.

The cool thing about Mimír is that you could have news sites publish their news as it is created, not having to have aggregators poll sites every now and than. This blog is an example of that. As I told before, its storage format is XML. I have a small Python script that extracts an item (usualy the most recent one) and publishes it to a Mimír pubsub node. All of the subscribers to my blog get a notification instantly when they are online, or have the item marked on their news page for later reading.

Nice to see one of my ideas in another setting. I especially liked the following quote by Howard Liptzin of Tipic, the company behind Mo'time:

It's a next-generation aggregation system.

Always good to know...

Sunday, 24 August 2003

Busy weekend

Work, work, work.

Well, I've managed to bring back my backlog of e-mail and news to manageable levels, although I still need to read through several Jabber mailinglists. Working away the backlog has been a little more difficult because I have spent a lot of time in my new apartment.

So far, we have been doing a lot of preparation work, helped out by our parents and also my brother Menno. But painting has commenced and we are really getting somewhere. One drawback is the ceiling. It turns out the previous occupant applied chalk instead of latex and this has to be removed. All of it. But that ought to be done by the apartments owner, not by me. I hope to speak to them about it tomorrow.

Tomorrow I'll be at Philips again, working on my Masters' Project for the next 3 months. There's still a lot to do, but I'll manage. But that leaves only evenings and weekends for working in my apartment and hopefully some free time as well. Probably not very much time to hack on Jabber, unfortunately.

Expect light blogging.

Thursday, 21 August 2003

Back from Mallorca

Home sweet home

We had a really great vacation. Very warm, but good. Now a lot of mail awaits my attention and my Mimír news page has 1477 items. Ouch.

Also, there seems to be a router outage somewhere in the US my provider peers with (maybe indirectly), so I can't reach a lot of sites. I checked it via other networks, and the sites are perfectly reachable from there. Hopefully it is better tomorrow.

But first: sleep!

Saturday, 9 August 2003

Ralphm goes Mallorca

Signing off...

I'm going to spend my vacation on Mallorca, along with Irma, my girlfriend. We should be flying at 05:00 and be back 20 August. Check out The Map to see where it is and what it looks like!

Monday, 4 August 2003

RSS Rendering

Happy polling!

When I announced my new blog engine, the RSS rendering was not finished yet. In fact, the URL that used to hold it, presented the HTML rendering.

For all aggregators, the RSS feed is working again, like before.

I also discovered that my new blog engine uses month numbers in stead of abbreviated month names in the permalinks. That caused old links to the archive to fail. I now accept both month names and numbers, but still produce only the numbers. I think I like it better and it is (because of the order) unambiguous.

Saturday, 2 August 2003

JSF Interview

Who are you anyway?

I forgot to blog about this yesterday, but also a cool event was that offline offlinestpeter asked me to do an interview, and of course I agreed. It even has a nice picture of me behind my home desk. Have a good read!

Accepting our new apartment

We're just going to do it!

Yesterday, my girlfriend and me took a look at the apartment I told about yesterday. It looks great! The optional wall that divided the smallish living room and a bedroom has already been removed, so that saves us a lot of work. Also, we can take over the carpeting and rolling shutters which are in a very good state. As for the walls, we need do a bit of painting and papering.

Anyway, we decided to take the apartment and finally have a place of our own. I'm really excited about it!

Friday, 1 August 2003

Version 0.3 of the User Moods JEP

More, more, more!

Triggered by my post to the standards-jig mailinglist, offline offlinestpeter has issued version 0.3 of the User Moods JEP. In this new version a few new moods have been added to the list of possible mood values. Some of these moods (like hungry, cold and sick) are arguably really user states. It seemed rediculous to make another JEP for those, also because most user states directly invoke a mood.

Also, stpeter made me co-author of this JEP. Check out my Moods overview page for the cool icons I assigned to the new moods.

New Blog Unreadable?

Where did the content go?

Because I had so much to blog today, I put my new blog engine in production in a hurry. I forgot to update the production site with all necessary changes. Sorry about that.

As a side note, the notification sent out by Mimír, and also the descriptions that will appear in the RSS files when I have them ready, are just abstracts. The blog contains all the long-winded stories ;-)

New Blog Engine

Now fully XMLified

I've been thinking for a while about my blogging engine. It used to work a lot like blosxom with .txt files. These files then have their first line as a title and the rest as content, using HTML markup.

Somehow, I didn't like having to use HTML for my blog. It is very presentational, really. For other documents, I use DocBook XML to write in. DocBook has the great property of being almost completely presentation agnostic. You just say what is a chapter, a title or a figure.

So, also inspired by the XML powered blog by offline offlinestpeter I've created an XML format for the source documents of my blog, using DocBook-like markup for all content. That way it can be rendered in all kinds of formats, without having to deal with the quirks of HTML.

The work is not complete, as for example the RSS feed is not yet done, but the HTML rendering, with archive, should work now. Also I've created a little tool to publish each new item to my pubsub node. The only subscriber so far is Mimír.

Later more.

A new home

Leaving the birds' nest.

The best news arrived on wednesday and is of course the fact that Irma (my girlfriend) and I have been drawn as #1 candidate for an apartment in Veldhoven, a suburb of Eindhoven. Whohoo! We have been wanting a place of our own for a while now, and this time been lucky in the housing lottery.

For a hardcore Eindhoven guy this is almost betrayal, but then again, Veldhoven is a part of Eindhoven really, they're just still in denial!

For those familiar in the area: the address is Nijverheidslaan 99, in 't Look. The apartment has a large livingroom (32 m^2, after we have taken down a wall) and two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and separate toilet. It is located on the fourth floor (3e verdieping), on the corner of the building and we have two balconies and a small side window. A small Albert Heijn (supermarket) is nearby.

Tonight, we will be taking a first look on the inside, but the housing organisation had rated it well taken care of, and that is a qualification they apparently rarely give. My girlfriend already took a look on the outside, and it all seems pretty nice.

If all is well, we will receive the keys on 29 August, and move in late September. We will probably be ordering most of hour furniture this weekend, because delivery times are somewhere between 10 and 12 weeks.

User Activities JEP


Last monday I talked with offline offlinestpeter about another kind of extended presence. We formalised this in the User Moods JEP. User Moods tell what a user is doing at that moment in time. This can range from having coffee to on vacation. There are three pieces of information here: a general activity, a more specific activity and a natural language text.

I think people can more effectively communicate with each other when they know what the other person is doing. Sure, you can use away messages (as part of presence) for that, but having it formalised with fixed values, you can have clients that do something with it. This is easier that scanning natural language text.

A way of presenting this information to the user is using icons. For example, you can have a cartoon character (like a smiley face) and attire that with items. If you are on the phone, the client of all subscribers to your user activity, can display a phone with the cartoon. If you are busy with working, you can give it a builder's hat. And so on.

Other things you could do is use the activity to have the client warn you when you start typing a chat message to someone. If I am in a meeting, it will probably not read your message for a while.

Setting your current activity might be tedious. A client should try and present extended presences together when you want to change one of them. If you are going to have dinner you'll obviously be away, so your presence can be altered, too. Keyboard shortcuts can come in handy here.

If your client has access to your calender (like with the Chandler project, it can also set user activities for you. If you have an appointment scheduled, your client can set your activity to having_appointment. If you have a scheduled holiday, the client can show that, too. Note that you do not necessarily have to be online yourself (presence) to set your activity. Maybe your client can also detect when you are on the phone. Handy!

The JEP still needs a bit of work. We have to clean up the possible values a bit, and I also want to have a way to communicate how long the current activity is going to last. Stay tuned.

A Moods JEP

When things get formalised.

I've been expirimenting with moods for a while now, as you can see throughout this site. I took moods as my first application on top of pubsub to get a feel of how that could work.

Moods are how people feel. It is something belonging to you and can be seen as an extended kind of presence. There are more things that fall in this category like location and user activity. Last week, offline offlinestpeter published a new JEP on User Moods. It was a first draft on how you could communicate user moods.

The JEP used the <presence/> element to transport the moods. As I am a firm believer in pubsub for these kinds of information, I proposed to use that instead. Furthermore, the JEP contains a list of possible mood values, taken from research on this subject. But there was no natural language field to augment such basic mood information, like in my home-grown protocol. So that's in there now, too.

It is also possible to send your mood in one-on-one chats, inside the <message/> element, which I think is a very nice touch.

Anyway, I've worked on moods last week and updated my site and tools to use the new JEP, and it works great. Because the JEP proposed a fixed set of mood values, I had to get a lot of new icons for them, too. Checkout the Mood Overview Page for more information.

Flashback of the week

What was it like?

What a week. This week had a lot of things happening, but I didn't take the time to blog on them. I'll try to do that a bit better in the future. Blogging as it happens, so to speak. I will cover the events in separate entries.