About the Author

Chris Shiflett

Hi, I’m Chris: entrepreneur, community leader, husband, and father. I live and work in Boulder, CO.

All posts for May 2006

Mob Mentality and Web 2.0

Disclaimer: I'm an O'Reilly author. I've been to Foo Camp. I've spoken at OSCON.

This is an opinion piece. I'll provide plenty of quotes and links, so you should have no trouble digging into the issue and coming to your own conclusions. These are mine.

Last week, Tom Raftery, an organizer for the Web 2.0 Half-Day Conference received a cease and desist letter from CMP Media, the company who produces the real Web 2.0 Conference with O'Reilly.

Understandably, Tom blogged about it. (Letters from lawyers are intimidating.) When I read his post (it was the first thing I read about this incident), I couldn't help but think the entire thing was crafted to be deliberately misleading. At first glance, I was appalled at O'Reilly's behavior, but I quickly realized that O'Reilly was not involved. A lawyer representing CMP Media sent a cease and desist letter for an obvious trademark infringement, yet this is the title Tom chose:

O'Reilly trademarks "Web 2.0" and sets lawyers on IT@Cork!

CMP Media filed for the trademark (for live events) back in 2003 (before, and in anticipation of, the first Web 2.0 Conference), and its lawyer sent the letter. Why? Well, the reason is right there at the bottom of Tom's post:

I am on the steering committee of IT@Cork and the organising committee of the Web 2.0 conference.

Although he seems to be claiming otherwise, Tom is not involved with the Web 2.0 Conference. Confused yet? You see, in an attempt to discredit CMP Media's actions (and tarnish O'Reilly's reputation), he slips up and demonstrates why trademarks are important. As Connor MacLeod would say, there can be only one.

Tom didn't stop there. With the attention he gained from his first post (it was Dugg, among other things), he continued with a series of related posts. In the first, O'Reilly's mean-spirited response, Tom references O'Reilly's initial response, Controversy about our "Web 2.0" service mark. (In it, Sara Winge gives a safe, corporate response, simply stating the truth. This is what a typical company would do, but people expect more from O'Reilly.) Tom also makes another very misleading statement:

If we run an event on Microsoft Windows, would Microsoft would send us a cease and desist letter for using their trademark in the title? Of course not, how is this any different?

It's unclear whether Tom is genuinely confused about trademarks or deliberately trying to be misleading again. O'Reilly and CMP Media have a conference called the Web 2.0 Conference. Microsoft has an operating system called Windows. Can you guess what would happen if Tom tried to sell an operating system named Windows?

Tom's series of posts continue with Cory Doctorow - O'Reilly apologist, O'Reilly vs. IT@Cork and Web 2.0 - a legalistic solution, I couldn't possibly condone this!, and finally, Sorry Tim. The last post is a rather weak apology, but an apology nonetheless. (He apologizes for not sending Tim an email first, but does not apologize for deliberately spreading misinformation and encouraging vitriol.)

Tim's response, which he just posted yesterday due to being on vacation last week, is very measured and genuine. Most corporate responses are similar to the previous ones made by O'Reilly in Tim's absence - safe and formal. Tim's response is a blog post, complete with personality and even a bit of edge. In fact, before discussing the issue in detail, he takes some well-deserved shots at the mindless mob mentality:

I used to bristle when members of the mainstream press wagged their fingers at the unprofessionalism of bloggers. I looked around at all the bloggers who are, to my mind, practicing great journalism, and wrote off the MSM criticism as fear of the new medium. But now I'm not so sure. The flap about the Web 2.0 Conference trademark has shaken my faith in the collective intelligence of the blogosphere. Of all the hundreds of people who commented on this issue, only a few touched base to do a bit of fact checking. The New York Times, by contrast, was all over doing due-diligence. They talked to everyone they could get their hands on before publishing their story.

He also makes a subtle reference to Tom's inappropriate behavior:

Given that Tom and I had previously had a conversation where I wished him the best of luck with his conference, while the lawyer's letter came from CMP, I would have thought that he would have wondered whether the right hand knew what the left hand was doing before launching and then encouraging the torrent of net vitriol that's come our way. He did call CMP to talk to the lawyer who wrote the letter, but he never tried to contact me. While he acknowledges that the letter was from CMP, he used O'Reilly's name in the headline and repeatedly throughout the piece for maximum net impact. So while we owe Tom an apology for heavy-handed tactics, I think Tom owes us an apology for the way he responded.

I was delighted that Tim didn't play it safe and instead offered a genuine, personal response to this incident. That's one of the reasons I respect Tim, and by association, his company.

ApacheCon Early Bird Ends Soon

Don't forget to register for ApacheCon Europe before June 6 to receive the early bird discount. This is also when the conference organizers decide which tutorials to keep, so don't wait until the last minute to sign up for your favorites, else you might be disappointed to find out that they're no longer available.

The discounts are pretty good - 349 euros for a full-day of tutorials. (309 if you send three or more people.) Speaking of tutorials, there are some good ones to choose from, and OmniTI is well represented:

As Laura points out, you can make Tuesday a full day of PHP tutorials.

The multidisciplinary approach of conferences like ApacheCon (and OSCON) tends to always make them my favorites, largely due to the cross-pollination. I'm sure I'll especially enjoy ApacheCon Europe this year, because it's in Dublin! :-)

Hope to see you there.

Reporting Vulnerabilities

Ed Finkler (of CERIAS) just pointed me to a blog post made by one of his colleagues about reporting vulnerabilities.

The post discusses the risks associated with reporting vulnerabilities, and the conclusions drawn are disappointing but understandable. It's worth a read, and it relates slightly to a discussion Paul Jones and I had last year.

I've seen my share of irresponsible disclosure (and publicity), but it's sad that a basic risk analysis dissuades well-intentioned people from doing the right thing.

Note: You can Digg it.

OmniTI Acquires Brain Bulb

I'm very excited to announce that OmniTI has acquired Brain Bulb, which basically means that I'm now a principal of OmniTI and get to work with some of the smartest and friendliest people around, such as George, Theo, Wez, Laura, and Amy.

While traveling recently, I read an article entitled "The Best Company to Work for in the World - Period." I saved this article and was showing it to Wez last week. His first reaction was, "Oh, is that an article about OmniTI?" After only a few short weeks, I already share this sentiment. The combination of working with super smart people and getting to work on super cool and important stuff is a lot of fun. Want to join in on the fun? We're hiring PHP and Perl developers. (Knowing MySQL and PostgreSQL is also a big plus.)

George blogged a few more details about what I'll be doing here, and you can read the official press release for more. Just be advised that I've never used the word synergistic. :-)

PHP Lightning Talks

If you're attending OSCON this year, be sure to check out the PHP Lightning Talks being hosted by George and Laura:

Lightning talks are a collection of 5-minute talks given by you, members of the PHP community. A mainstay of the Perl side of the convention, lightning talks are an exciting format and an excellent place to showcase new ideas, ask questions, or rant.

In the meantime, you can learn all about lightning talks, read some tips on giving lightning talks, or submit a PHP lightning talk proposal of your own to lightningtalks-oscon2006@omniti.com. Proposals are being accepted until 21 Jul 2006.

PHP 5.1.4 Fixes Critical Bug

I haven't seen an official announcement, and it's not mentioned on the downloads page yet, but you can grab PHP 5.1.4 from your favorite mirror.

Presumably, this release comes so soon after 5.1.3 due to the critical bug mentioned on PHPDeveloper.org. I just downloaded and installed it, and the bug seems to be fixed. Thanks, Dmitry!

Renkoo Launches Beeta

Congrats to Adam, Joyce, and the rest of the Renkoo team on the launch of their beta (beeta). I think George gives a decent one-line description of the service:

Renkoo is essentially Evite on crack; an efficient, featureful, real-time way to coordinate group events.

I haven't explored it very much yet, but it seems quite cool. I have never really liked Evite, but it's a useful service that many people I know use. Now I finally have something better to point them to when I complain as I'm accepting an invitation. :-)

The about page mentions being powered in part by these third parties:

Ben mentions their use of Comet, a new term that describes an old technology:

Comet applications can deliver data to the client at any time, not only in response to user input. The data is delivered over a single, previously-opened connection. This approach reduces the latency for data delivery significantly.

The Renkoo user interface is definitely feature-rich. I haven't explored it enough to see which features are a result of this technology, but it sounds like Comet is a lot like using flush() to send output to the browser before a page finishes processing. This is made possible by sending a chunked HTTP response, which is one that is broken into pieces. Instead of a Content-Length header designating the size of the response in its entirety, each chunk indicates its own size (in hexadecimal), with the final (empty) chunk being 0 bytes in length, so the end result looks something like this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Transfer-Encoding: chunked

<p>Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;</p>

<p>I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.</p>


I'm assuming this is what Comet refers to, so not only does it describe leaving an open TCP/IP connection, but in fact it describes a virtually never-ending response, where the browser is kept waiting for the next chunk. I'd love to hear George comment about what pitfalls this presents in terms of scalability. You know it has to present some challenges with all those open connections. :-)

php|tek Recap

I've been extremely busy since returning, but I do want to mention that Marco and the gang (Sean, Arbi, etc.) pulled off another great PHP conference with php|tek.

This year, php|architect has provided a page listing all of the slides, and Trevor Lowing has created a Cluesheet with his notes from the various talks.

It looks like php|architect has opened the call for papers for this year's php|works conference in Toronto. You have until June 5 to submit your talk proposals.

Boston PHP and the Zend Framework

I'm visting Boston PHP this Thursday to speak about the Zend Framework. I'll most likely focus on the topics presented in the Zend Framework Tutorial.

The meeting begins at 6:30 PM at Optaros. There's a map if you need help finding it.

I hope to see you there.

LinuxWorld Recap

LinuxWorld was an interesting conference, but the corporate atmosphere was rather alienating. There were only two PHP talks (both given by me), and I wasn't at the conference long enough to meet many other people, because I had a flight to Orlando (for php|tek) later the same day. Also, despite attendance being lower than at most other conferences I've been to, the large size of the convention center in Toronto gave the conference a quiet and isolating atmosphere.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the conference as a whole, I enjoyed my talks, and I had good audiences for both. My first talk discussed What's New in PHP 5 and focused primarily on the new object-oriented features. I also gave a quick overview of SimpleXML and SQLite, including some brief examples. You can download a PDF of my slides:

My other talk was a tutorial about PHP security, and the slides for it were just a selection of slides from past talks.

Probably the most interesting thing about the conference was the location. It was right by the CN Tower and Rogers Centre (where their baseball team plays). In fact, the window in my hotel room looked out over the field, which was pretty neat. If I actually liked baseball and there was a game that night, it would have been awesome. :-)