Where does trivial stupidity lead to?

As usual, Matthew Thomas is on the money with his concerns about the recent addition of animated rendering of the Marquee tag in Mozilla. Where’s this lunacy stop? I don’t know. The box has been opened. Perhaps it will lead next to ActiveX controls in Mozilla. Support for ActiveX would be both a blessing and a curse. Being able to embed some of the Internet Explorer controls, particularly the HTML editor, would be nice. It might also serve to even out the differences between IE and Mozilla, particularly on intranets. With the growing capabilities of DHTML, ActiveX is becoming less and less necessary, though. Even if Mozilla had ActiveX support it would still lack support for IE’s document.all DOM. But then that could be added, too. Please…

Make the madness stop…

Yes, I promise, this is the last time I’ll use the Marquee tag.

Getting the message

Doc Searls suggests that AOL should open the protocol to AOL Instant Messenger or adopt the Jabber protocol. He writes:

AOL Instant Messenger is a client-only lock-in that will be undermined totally once the Jabber protocol (or some other IM protocol) ubiquitizes into the same grade of Internet infrastructure as SMTP and POP3 provide for mail service and HTTP provides for Web service.

I agree that it is inevitable that instant messaging protocols will eventually be opened. It would be the best for AOL to open up all their protocols as it would give them an immediate advantage and help them become the standard.

Opening just the AOL client protocol is missing the point (and it has already been mostly reverse-engineered as well as licensed twice). Much more interesting and useful is to open the protocol that AOL uses to communicate between servers. To be able to bridge instant messaging systems at the server level opens up a whole world of possibilities. It would allow variation in clients while still supporting interoperability. It would allow differences in protocol that might not be included in the standard, such as different encryption formats or additional features. An extensible protocol could allow some of this, although adding new data encryption techniques after the fact while maintaining interoperability would likely be difficult or impossible. Opening the server protocol would also allow more secure, inside-the-firewall servers that have their own unique features and configurations, such as message logging (a legal requirement in some industries).

Blatant plug for the company: Lotus Sametime already offers many of these “fit for business” requirements as well as AOL Instant Messenger compability.

Building good infrastructure

It looks like Dean Peters of the Heal Your Church Web Site that I mentioned earlier has heard from BibleGateway about XML support. It appears they somewhat missed that providing an API is different than providing XML-based markup for the scriptures. Of course, they already provide a kind of API through the query string interface. See my Bible Gateway bookmarklet.

Dean, who appears to be keeping busy like I am, has also launched Blogs4God, which is building a list of Christian bloggers.

Freedom of the press and open source

Via a circuitous route I stumbled across Doc Searls’s commentary “Cheap Talk: Why Open Source and silence don’t mix” It summarizes the wisdom of The Cluetrain Manifesto:

  1. Markets are conversations
  2. Talk is cheap
  3. Silence is fatal

Open source implicitly trusts and relies the conversations that comprise its markets. This is what makes open source fundamentally different than closed source. Not only can you do more with it (and to it) because everything about it is exposed, but it trusts you enough to disclose all of itself to you….

Open source [is] burning down Development as Usual. Why? Is it just because open source has more Goodness than closed source? No…. Open source has no secrets. It is inherently disclosing. And disclosures start conversations – and then do nothing to stop them.

So here’s the clue we’re talking about here: Outside the secret-keepers themselves, there is no demand for secrecy. No market for it. And since markets are conversations, you can’t use secrecy to make a market. Only to prevent one.

I’ve been thinking about this for days since I first read it and had to wade through my browser cache to find it again. Open source is about freedom and relies on rights similar to freedom of the press. Software patents and threats of software patents are dangerous. Having worked with the Mozilla project for years now, I still find it refreshing that they have nothing to hide. The project is developed in the open. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Does technology make the church?

Notes from the Cave (via The Shifted Librarian) suggests that Gen-Xers are evaluating churches based on their use of technology:

Today I had a good conversation with Matt and his wife, Kim, about the unique perspective that Gen-Xers have on church. In particular, Gen-Xers expect far more use of computers and electronic communications such as e-mail, instant messaging, and yes, even PowerPoint.

One of the things that Matt said that really stood out is that he and his wife checked to see whether our church had a web site, and if it didn’t that would have told them a lot about our church. The lack of a web site might have caused them to not come to our church.

The conversation inspired many thoughts. One would be, wouldn’t it be cool if churches provided mail servers, message forums, online chats, and web server space for weblogs–tools to extend their community into cyberspace? When a person joined the church they would be given an email address. They would be provided the webloging tools to contribute to the community by providing their own content….

Another thought I had would be to set up the entire church with a wireless LAN. When I say entire church I mean even the sanctuary. Then I would set up an internal web server (effectively building an intranet within the church) and put as much information on that server as I could.

All of this is pretty easy to put together, but these ideas also raise an issue. What is needed here is the coordination of this technology in a manner that supports the mission and vision of the church. Corporations encountered this problem ten years ago, and the solution was the Chief Information Officer. I think that real insightful churches looking to meet the needs of Gen-Xers and just plain grow would create their own Chief Information Officer position….

The label doesn’t matter, but the spirit does. The point is that churches today have got to start using technology as a means to reach out to their membership and communicate with them in ways that make sense to the membership.

Um, yeah. The church I attend, St. Athanasius Orthodox Church (OCA), might be looked at as backwards technologically. We still burn oil lamps and beeswax candles and celebrate liturgies that date from the earliest years of Christianity. My priest is fond of pointing out how “earthy” and real Christianity is and how our modern technologies have gotten us so far away from that. This is particularly evident in how distanced we are from death.

On the other hand, my journey to the holy Orthodox church was greatly helped by technology, particularly the many orthodox resources available online. We are blessed with a number of technologically adept members in our parish and could easily set up some of the systems suggested. But I’d have to ask why. It’s missing the point if you’re going to be surfing the web (or intranet) during prayers. I mean, would’t it make more sense to cut down on the distractions? I agree that it makes sense to use modern communications tools (the printing press, phone, email, irc, instant messaging, web sites) to be able to communicate to church members about church events. But that just seems obvious and natural.

Some church websites are downright evil

It doesn’t matter what kind of site you’re making. Bad design is still bad design. I found an Orthodox Christian, now attending a Baptist church, who rants about icky religious websites and makes some good points about the Divine Liturgy and Greek Orthodoxy not being about Greek culture along the way. It’s not a one-time thing, either. Go see what he has to teach about how to Heal Your Church Web Site. He suggests that church and religious websites need to get on the ball and catch up with current technology. He says that the online Bible sites should have XML-RPC mechanisms in the works, if not already released. I’m definitely going to be spending some time reading this site.

Tabbed browsing’s killer feature

I’m a reluctant and occassional user of Mozilla’s tabbed browsing feature. I agree with Matthew Thomas that tabbed browsing is cluttering the UI of Mozilla. It could have been easily predicted that Open in New Tab would start to appear everywhere that there was Open in New Window. This adds to the complexity of the UI for little gain: new windows and new tabs give almost identical results.

Tabs do have a killer feature that may explain why people enjoy using tabs: open links in background. The idea is simple–instead of having new tabs open and take focus immediately, you can click a few links and have the tabs load while you continue reading the current page. This more closely matches the behavior I want. When reading a page, I often open links in new windows so that I can look at them later and not be distracted from the current page. When doing this with new windows I have to explicitly return focus to my previous page.

Bug 56690 is working to allow background loading of new windows, much like the tabbed browsing feature. As with many UI bugs, there’s more discussion than coding going on. Yesterday, Jesse Ruderman posted a cool bookmarklet that converts all links on a page so that they open in new background windows. Unfortunately they would open in reverse order: the last one clicked would end up being topmost behind the current window. I tweaked his bookmarklet to create a new open behind bookmarklet. Mine places the windows in the background in the order they were clicked; the first one clicked will be the first one visible behind the current window.