The Brunch Table


Welcome! (Again)

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:58 am

Exiting Dupont Circle

Welcome back! If you’re reading this, you’ve successfully transitioned from the old blog, vector, to the new one, The Brunch Table. Why the change? Most immediately, I realized that the hosting plan that Justina and I have with DreamHost could host more sites than we were using it for, so I decided to move over there and save a bit of cash money. While I was at it, DreamHost has a one-click WordPress install feature, and WordPress has better anti-comment-spam options than the old version of Movable Type that I was using before, so I decided to migrate over to WordPress.

At the same time, some things had changed about vector. For one, it had become just as much Nick’s blog as mine (he’s been much better at posting interesting stuff than I have). Also, I found myself conflicted by my desire to talk about both work stuff and random interesting things about the world in general, because I thought those two trains of thought might have somewhat different audiences. So, this blog has become The Brunch Table, more focused on the sorts of things that Nick and I would talk about at Sunday brunch. (Thanks to Ratha, LiveJournal users can syndicate this feed through brunch_table.) At the same time, I’ve created a new shop talk blog for myself called The Incrementalist, where I can geek out to my heart’s content without boring you guys with my code listings. Also, neither here nor there, I’ve been posting more photos to my Flickr account, which tends to be more about my day-to-day life than either of the blogs. So, thanks for reading—we’ll keep doing our darndest to stuff your RSS stockings with worthwhile content.

(Update) Mike created an incrementalist syndication account on LiveJournal—thanks!


Comment Abuse

Filed under: — Joe @ 2:18 pm

Okay, the comment spam really seems to have reached some inflection point, and at this point, we’ve gotten far more comment spams than actual comments here at vector. As of right now, I’m disabling comments on new entries, at least I get around to upgrading to MT3.x or WordPress.


Bootleg RSS (for Mossberg and National Corridors)

Filed under: — Joe @ 1:49 pm

As time goes on, I’ve found that I’ve been increasingly shifting my internet reading habits from mailing lists (which now get auto-filed into a rarely-visited folder) and random surfing (which is too addictive) to RSS/Atom feed reading (mostly through Somniphobia). There are still a few syndication-less holdouts that I like to read, which is why I was so glad to see Carlo Zottmann’s offer to create a “bootleg” RSS feed for any site, and to maintain it for a year, for the reasonable fee of $2 per feed. Here are two that I paid for:

Feel free to subscribe to either if you’d like.


This one goes out…

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:29 pm

…to all the LiveJournalers out there. If your friends page is full of posts from my blog, blame RSS b0rkenness. Does LJ support the RDF version with the actual timestamps for posts?


Marc Laidlaw Hits the Donkey’s Behind With a Belt

Filed under: — Joe @ 4:51 pm

Boing Boing often has interesting guestbar bloggers, but I’ve been particularly delighted by Marc Laidlaw’s recent tenure there. When he was first announced, I thought his name sounded familiar, and it was–he’s the writer for Half-Life, as well as the author of The Third Force, a novel which was much better than the game it was based on.

So far, he’s name-checked PaRappa, betrayed his obsession with Shoggoth and Daguerreotypes, and pointed me to a bunch of great sci-fi, like George Saunders.

I had actually read and enjoyed Jon before, but one of Marc’s entries pointed me to Sea Oak and My Flamboyant Grandson as well. Saunders’s dystopic hyper-suburban tales, delivered in a rambling, valley-girlish voice, are at the same time funny, horrifying, and touching.


William Gibson’s Blog

Filed under: — Joe @ 12:08 pm

This one has already been blogged to death, but in case you haven’t seen it elsewhere, William Gibson has a weblog now, and his entries to date have been uniformly excellent. Let’s hope he can keep it up in the long run…


Clay Shirky on

Filed under: — Joe @ 9:52 am

Clay Shirky has written an article about the site, which collects feature and application requests from bloggers and other random passers-by. At least he does name-check some of the site’s predecessors, such as ShouldExist, and the wonderfully-named halfbakery. However, he also makes some rather dubious statements, such as:

However, nearly a decade of experimentation with single-purpose portals shows that most of them fail.
What of Google or or I don’t think being “single-purpose” necessarily hurts a site; rather, I would say that it’s difficult for any one site to garner a critical mass of traffic. Therefore, the problem with upstart sites that depend on user-generated content is that there’s less incentive for users to contribute, given that their audience will probably be small. (This is why is practically the only ecommerce site that has a significant number of customer reviews for a given book or album.) There’s also the specter of CDDB-like foul play, in which the company could later try to charge the users for access to the content that they had contributed.

Here is where the LazyWeb site, and other sites that make central use of TrackBack-type mechanisms, have a clear advantage. The actual user-generated content resides on the users’ own blogs, which allows them to retain control over their own content, and makes the core audience more of a known quantity. The TrackBack mechanism allows distributed discussions on a particular topic to be brought together in one location on the web, without requiring much effort from the bloggers or the owner of the TrackBacked site.

As for the idea of the “imperative” LazyWeb, wherein talking about an idea actually causes it to happen, rather than merely discovering that it’s already happened, I have my doubts. There are infinite numbers of people who would like someone else to do things for them for free. Shirky does identify the social aspect of implementing a LazyWeb idea:

Furthermore, LazyWeb etiquette involves publicizing any solution that does arise, meaning that the developer gets free public attention, even if only to a select group.
I would attribute much of the early success of the LazyWeb meme to the fact that those who’ve invoked it have been relatively well-known in the blogosphere (i.e. Steven Johnson, Cory Doctorow). They have large audiences, which means that they’re more likely to find a taker, because more people see the request, and they have more fame to offer the taker. Without this “star power”, I don’t think that LazyWeb requests will be substantially more successful than requests posted to ShouldExist.


LazyWeb Proves Itself

Filed under: — Joe @ 1:40 pm

Seems like several well-known bloggers have taken a shine to the LazyWeb meme–today, Steven Johnson tossed out another idea. To summarize, the idea of “LazyWeb” is that if you talk about something on the web long enough, it’ll eventually just happen–or will have already happened. To wit, ShouldExist has been a repository for grand ideas for some time now. The main differences between ShouldExist and the concept of LazyWeb is that LazyWeb projects are often less grandiose, more on the order of a couple afternoons’ work for some smart cookie, and that LazyWeb projects (the ones we hear about, anyway) benefit from the “star power” of their conceptualizers.

It turns out that I’ve been working on a few ShouldExist projects without realizing it (see and

Ultra map Mapquest for public transportation Public domain map…


Welcome, welcome all over again.

Filed under: — Joe @ 2:13 pm

I’ve just finished converting my old Blogger blog over to a swanky Movable Type system. I’d also like to welcome Nick Fox-Gieg as a new co-author. Enjoy.


As Bloggers May Think

Filed under: — Joe @ 9:15 pm

I had finally gotten around to playing with this “blogging” thing the kids are all talking about these days, and I was chatting about it with Mike H.

[03:40] sui66iy: is there an auto-blog? it could digest other blogs and automatically generate new ones…

As it turns out, a Salon article that I was reading pointed me to something similar–a site which uses blog references to determine the flavor du jour.

One of the interesting recent blog-memes has been the idea of exposing HTTP referrer logs in a way that allows the readers of an article to see who’s been linking to it, and what they’re saying about it. One of the primary vectors of this idea,, has a discussion of how it relates to its Memex/Xanadu ancestry. I think their browser plugin idea is too wonky, but I do think they (and all these other guys) are on to something–that bloggers are chomping through the info-space like so many earthworms, leaving a rich trail of organization and context in their wake for those who know how to look for it (to torture a metaphor or three).

Is blogging anything more than the democratization of content management systems? Maybe not, but by making content creation less of a pain, it makes it a lot more appealing for the hoi polloi to create (or at least contextualize) on a daily basis. Has Google already cornered the means of extracting the value from all this distributed work?

This is probably all obvious and/or worthless, which is why I’m posting it to my own blog.

int main(void)

Filed under: — Joe @ 12:49 pm

Huzzah! I’ve finally jumped on the stupid blogging bandwagon. Hello, world.

Powered by WordPress