I’m not one for excessive self-reflection. Like the Heresiarchs of Uqbar, I think that mirrors are abominable. However, since I have simultaneously reached my 100th blog post as well as my one year anniversary with An Antic Disposition, I feel that an inward glance is both appropriate and timely.
Only 100 posts in a year? I remain in awe of other bloggers who manage to put out an order of magnitude more material, sometimes several posts in one day. Writing is not easy for me. Although it may not always show, I agonize over every word. I aim for clarity, euphony, a smart rhythm and a bit of wit.
Clarity is difficult, since my readers come from a wide range of technical backgrounds, so some posts are high-level, simplified descriptions, while others dive into the bowels of the beast. But of course, clarity is no excuse for not being understood. As Gertrude Stein wrote:
Clarity is of no importance because nobody listens and nobody knows what you mean no matter what you mean, nor how clearly you mean what you mean. But if you have vitality enough of knowing enough of what you mean, somebody and sometime and sometimes a great many will have to realize that you know what you mean and so they will agree that you mean what you know, what you know you mean, which is as near as anybody can come to understanding anyone.
Since I started blogging on document format issues last July, here are the basic stats on the blog, once I subtract out other parts of this website, like my weather observations and family tree pages:
- Average page views per day: 2,082
- Average visitors per day: 1,800
The traffic has been steadily increasing over the last 12 months, so I’m actually averaging closer to 3,000 visits/day today.
I’ve been Slashdot’ed a few times and featured on GrokLaw more times than I will ever be able to thank. Such days can drive traffic up to 25,000 visitors.
Technorati shows 787 links to the blog, which is pretty good. It gives me a Google PageRank of 7 which has some humorous implications as we’ll discuss later.
Most popular posts by hits:
- How to Hire Guillaume Portes (71,152 hits, 3 January 2007) The intent here was to create a fictional name, which roughly translated “Bill Gates” into French. However I later found out this is the real-world name of a game programmer in the UK. I hope he took this with good humor (or even humour). The post dealt with how overspecification can hurt a standard. This post tipped people off to the weird compatibility flags in OOXML that tie it to undefined legacy behaviors in Word 95, etc. The line, “This is not a specification; this is a DNA sequence” was a spontaneous insight I came up with in response to a question from the audience at the KDE aKademy 2006 conference in Dublin the previous October.
- OOXML Fails to Gain Approval in US (48,802 hits, 15 July 2007) This was a report on the INCITS V1 OOXML vote. It became widely quoted, very quickly. I think this was partially because was in a straightforward, factual style of reportage, without overt color or opinion. My working title was “US Technical Committee Fails to Approve OOXML,” but that caused the title to wrap to two lines, which I try to avoid.
- The Formula for Failure (37,648 hits, 9 July 2007) OOXML’s spreadsheet formula specification is full of mathematical errors. How was this not detected earlier by Ecma? What does this say about the sufficiency of the Ecma review process?
- A Leap Back (20,270 hits, 12 October 2006) A look at the history of the Gregorian Calendar, and how OOXML gets it wrong. Microsoft says it was done for “legacy reasons,” which is another way of saying it is a bug that they don’t want to fix.
- Math Markup Marked Down (21,358 hits, 25 April 2007) This post told how Nature and Science journals were rejecting submissions in OOXML format.
- The Chernobyl Design Pattern (21,079 hits, 26 October 2006) This one was never widely quoted, but continues to receive sustained traffic from StumbleUpon.
- A game of Zendo (9,344 hits, 18 July 2006) This post lacks focus, seemingly trying to discuss Zendo, backwards compatibility as well as Word art borders. The technical points are sound, but I think the post lacks cohesion.
- The OOXML Compatibility Pack (8,067 hits, 6 September 2006) This was an early post on the topic, but the later Interoperability by Design post covered it better, I think.
- File Format Timeline (9,920 hits, 24 June 2007) I first posted it as just a PNG graphic, with no HTML text. I received no links. It is hard to quote something that has no text. So I added some text and received links and a lot more traffic. A good lesson to remember: A picture is worth a thousand words, but if you don’t have any text, no one can quote you.
- More Matter with Less Art (8,730 hits, 31 January 2007) This is a long, rambling response to critics of How to Hire Guillaume Portes. I’m reminded that the old saying “It is impossible to make something foolproof because fools are so ingenious” applies to arguments as well.
My personal favorite posts, in no particular order:
- How to Write a Standard (If you must) A look at how Microsoft and Ecma are making a travesty of standards development. I originally wrote this post as a straightforward analysis, but it was ponderous. Then I rewrote in the form of an antipattern, but it still lacked crispness. Then I had the key insight — If I simply state their argument explicitly, it works as a satire.
- How Standards Bring Consumers Choice This was written for a general audience who knew nothing about OOXML or document formats. I had a lot of fun reading up on the various electrical standards.
- A Tale of Two Formats One of the problems that I perceive is that we are not dreaming big enough when it comes to the future of office applications. Many seem satisfied with simply being a mini-Office or following after Microsoft’s technologies at a delay of a few years. But I think we need a more radical re-imagining of what office productivity applications are all about. What we have today is determined by the dead hand of a monopolist leading us in conventional circles, unable to innovate because of the grip of their own installed base. Are we ready for some real innovation? Or are we happy with 15 more years of paying for upgrades and only getting dancing paperclips?
- File Format Timeline I first posted it as just a PNG graphic, with no HTML text. I received no links. It is hard to quote something that has no text. So I added some text and received links and a lot more traffic. A good lesson to remember: A picture is worth a thousand words, but if you don’t have any text, no one can quote you.
- The Legend of the Rat Farmer Another parable, this time to refute the specious argument that more standards improves interoperability.
- Pruning Raspberries Zero comments, zero links. Sometimes I write for an audience of one, and that is fine.
- The Cookbook Another parable. Why parables? For over 2000 years (e.g., Christ, Socrates and Confucius) story telling has been an important rhetorical device. The point is not that a story is the easiest way to explain something. On the contrary, it is much harder. But a story is one of the best ways to explain something if you want it to be remembered. Another good technique is to express the argument in song lyrics with a catchy tune, but I promise you I will not go down that road.
- The Case for a Single Document Format (in 4 parts, unfinished) This one is stretching the bounds of what I can do in a blog, due to length. I still need to finish part 4, and in the end I might just redo this as a paper rather than these too-long blog posts. But the material gives a good multi-disciplinary look at the question of standards and tries to answer the question, “Why do some technologies have a single standard, while others thrive with multiple standards?” We must acknowledge that both occur, but we must also acknowledge that it is important to know whether this is random, or whether a single standard regime is the natural and indeed the desired outcome under some conditions.
- Essential and Accidental in Standards Yes, it rambles, and takes a long time to make a simple point, but I think it is an interesting trip. A simpler version of the same basic argument (the theme of a sweet spot for technology) has been covered more succinctly (and perhaps more convincingly) by Tim Bray.
- The Parable of the Solipsistic Standard Another story, but I think this one went over almost everyone’s head. Solipsism is the ultimate philosophically reduction of the Not Invented Here (NIH) Syndrome. Mixing epistemology with linguistics and standards and satire is asking for trouble. I think I got what I deserved here. But it was fun and some readers enjoyed it.
Top counties based on number of visits:
- United Kingdom
Most active states based on number of visits:
- Washington DC
- New York
- New Jersey
Most Active Cities based on number of visits:
- Beijing, China
- Mountain View, California
- Carson City, Nevada
- Washington DC
- Denver, Colorado
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- London, UK
- Gliwice, Poland
- Chester, Pennsylvannia
- Malchow, Germany
- NYC, New York
- Dublin, Ireland
- Bellevue, Washington
- Auckland, New Zealand
- West Sacramento, California
So my question is: who is in Gliwice, Poland? I didn’t know I had so many readers from there. Ditto from Carson City, Nevada.
Top search phrases that lead people to this web site:
- rob weir
- jingle bells batman smells
- antic disposition
- jingle bells batman smells lyrics
- rob weir blog
- jingle bells santa smells
Around 30% of the traffic is directed from search engines. I have observed the danger of having a high PageRank web site. Whenever I use an odd word in a post, this blog automatically becomes one of the top hits for people querying on that term. So a post from last July called, Cum mortuis in lingua mortua generates many search referrals from those who are merely looking, I presume, for more information regarding the Latin conjunction “cum” meaning “with.” I hope they found what they were looking for.
Similarly, an old blog post talking about transmission of culture among children mentioned the “Jingle Bells/Batman Smells” parody. This gets many hits, especially in December. Although I have no particular expertise in Latin conjunctions or Christmas carol parodies I am an instant “authority” on these subjects (according to Google at least) because of this blog’s ranking.
- 38% Firefox
- 7% I.E. 6.x
- 6% I.E. 7.x
- 2% Opera
- 1% Safari
- 1% Konqueror
So some good strength being shown by Firefox.
- 35% Windows XP
- 30% Other
- 19% Linux
- 5% Mac OS
- 4% Vista
- 3% Windows 2000
- 2% Windows NT
- 1% Sun OS
- The Atom feed gets around 1,400 hits per day
- The RSS feed gets around 300 hits per day
Thanks, everyone, for reading!