Making the Best of Afghanistan

Canada has a significant proportion of it’s military involved in a combat and reconstruction role in Afghanistan. In principle, the mission is a good one: get rid of what’s left of the Taliban; help rebuild the damage done by war; establish a stable political system that allows the country to become self-sufficient.

Everything sounds pretty good except for that last part. Try holding a gun to someone’s head and saying “right, form a stable civil state or I’ll shoot.” It’s not going to work.

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Ranked #1 on Google!

A year or so ago, I needed a tool to generate thumbnails of Web pages. I found a lot of inadequate tools and a server based solution with limited flexibility (thumbshots.org). So I decided to throw together Thumb-Page to do the job, and then I decided to release it as open source.

Since then, it’s been a surprisingly popular application. I figured maybe a few hundred people would be interested in it… instead it’s clocking in at about 400 per month. Now compared to a “hot” shareware application that can pull in 400,000 downloads per month, that’s not so hot, but it’s still pretty good. (more…)

Serendipity (s9y) is Fantastic

After a few days of plug-ins and tweaks, I have to say I’m phenominally happy with Serendipity, my new blog software. Open source rules the day again.

From the user side, the best feature is the ability to grab an RSS feed by category. Not interested in my ramblings about daily life? Grab a feed from the categories you like.

As a developer, it’s not very often that I install an application without muttering under my breath about something that isn’t done right, or at least could have been done better. This package is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, the only thing it did that wasn’t to my liking was create a new user for the posts I imported from Blogger. If it had asked if I wanted to merge the posts into an existing user, it would have spared me a little digging into the database and a quick SQL query to patch things up.

I’ve also deployed Serendipity in the “Flexistuff” blog over at One of a Kind Publishing. This new blog is going to be all about personalization and customization, but it will take a little while for it to get up to speed. After all, blogs are all about content, and good content is never easy. There’s also a good chance that we’ll be rebranding; I’ll update the link if/when things change.

Bye Bye Blogger!

Okay so it’s been a long time since I’ve made a post here. There’s lots of reasons for that, but one of them has been that I just couldn’t tolerate Blogger anymore.

After looking at a variety of solutions, I finally stumbled upon Serendipity (www.s9y.org), and it looks like it’s going to do the job very well.

There’s still a few things to take care of, a few broken links and style tweaks to get into place, but it was easy to install, fairly easy to extract data from Blogger, and it generates decent HTML.

We’re back in business!

Things You Can Learn from a Survey

I just fielded a call from Ipsos-Reid, a large and reputable polling firm. The subject was Canada’s "diplomatic and development" role in Afghanistan. The sponsor of the survey was the Federal Government. It began by asking what aspects of the media’s coverage I was aware of. Then it went on to ask about how I felt about the role, conveniently ignoring anything to do with the military’s current combat operations. Then it asked if I agreed or disagreed with various aspects of our non-military activities. After going through all of these items, it asked again how I felt about the overall role (still restricted to diplomacy and development, of course).

The repetition of the question is fascinating. You expect that really what’s being measured here is this question: "If we keep telling Canadians about all the good things, will they change their opinion to support the mission, conveniently ignoring the occasional body bag (which we’ll hide by blocking the media from showing them)?"

But that’s not the reason for this entry… (more…)