New Site Features

posted on 2005-08-25 at 22:23:21 by Joel Ross

The other night, I quietly added a few new things to the site. When I do these things, I like to add value to everyone, including me.

So that's why (if you visit the site, and aren't reading this in a feed reader) you'll see more ads. That's my value. Now, that doesn't mean you should just go out there and click at random. Some of the ads don't work that way - you have to actually purchase something for me to get anything. With the exception of the Google Adsense ads, all of the ads are from companies that I use.

Now what value did I add for visitors? Well, I added search. You can either search this site, or the web from the box, but I mainly added the Google search because it allows you to search my site.

I also added my bookmarks on the left side. I post anything that I want to remember there, and you can now see what's there, as well as subscribe to the feed if you want to. This is my new linkblog - and it's pure!

Other minor additions? I added a link to my guest map. I fixed the code for my BlogMap - now it shows how many bloggers are near by. I added in my Google Talk contact information. I added a few new podcasts that I listen to. I added a link to my gVisit page. And I fixed my MSN contact information (thanks, Andrew!).

I think that's about it. We now return you to your (semi) regular blogging.


Categories: Blogging


RossCode Weekly #014

posted on 2005-08-22 at 01:01:05 by Joel Ross

Welcome to RossCode Weekly! It's been a busy week. Lots of news. I'm not sure if that means there actually was a lot of news, or if I just wasn't as picky this week. I am going to try to include more technical news - things that aren't exactly big news stories (I'll still cover those though), but the things that everyone is talking about. Not this week, but probably next week. So with that intro, let's get into the content.

The google rumor mill is heating up again this week. First, there's rumors that Google will be offering an iTunes clone. I know - that's been rumor for a long time now, but the new rumor is that not only will it be an iTunes clone, but that it'll hook into the iTunes music store, and not a "gTunes" store.

More Google rumors. WiFi for everyone! Could Google be building a country-wide wireless network that'll be free for everyone? Well, free is relative, right? Let me start again. Could Google be building a country-wide wireless network that'll be ad-supported for everyone? It's an interesting concept. I think I'd still stick with my cable modem. I'm not sure how the ads would be delivered, but I'm not a big fan of ads in the first place. Plus, I want my firewall. Now, give me a wireless router that can connect get it's external IP address from another wireless access point, and you may have a chance to get me to switch.

I haven't used blogger since my early days of blogging, but Google's apparently done some research about it's users. And they've worked with Microsoft to get this done. Anyway, you can now post directly to blogger from Microsoft Word. I remember working for a client who used a publishing program that exported content to Word. From there, we had to allow them to copy that into their CMS system. The hardest part of the whole operation was stripping out all of the malformed HTML that Word produced. I feel for you, Google!

Ok, I don't feel for you as much after this. Google has plans to sell off more than 14,000,000 shares of stock, which at current market value would raise about $4,000,000,000. Maybe that's all to pay to fix malformed Word HTML, but somehow I think there'll be a little left over. Maybe enough to buy Skype?

Speaking of VoIP, rumors are flying that Yahoo will be offering a solution (dedicated, not the messenger integration one they have now) in the next couple of weeks. It'll be interesting to see what the offering is and what the incentive to move away from Skype will be.

More Yahoo now. They've enhanced local search to include what other users have recommended (as well as what you recommend - but seriously, if you recommend it, would you really be searching for it?). It's also got maps, events, and RSS feeds. is in the process of buying Blinkx. Blinkx is a video search company. I'm curious why this is a good buy for I know they do a lot, but I didn't think they were (or wanted to be) a player in the search business. By the way, are there any other competitors with Google's video search besides Blinkx?

In response to Jason Calacanis' request, Feedster introduced the Feedster 500. It's basically a popularity contest among the "A-listers" crossed with a publicity stunt by Feedster. Everyone on the list gets a Feedster icon they can add to their blog stating how important they are. Sense some cynicism here? You should. The whole list mentality is old, and I'm not saying that because I'm not on them (man, how long would that list have to be for me to be on it?!). I'm saying that because I don't care who is on the list. If someone is interesting to me, I don't care if they're ranked 24 or 24,000,000. I'll subscribe, plain and simple. has added recommendations. If you have 10 links added to a tag, then they'll start making recommendations. I'm late into the whole social bookmarking game, but I've been adding links recently. Now, I'll be able to go back and find more content, because I don't have enough information overload already!

One more thing from You can now easily add recent links to your site using a simple Javascript include. I'll be adding one to this blog shortly - when I have the time. This is pretty cool, and if you want control over what's shown, or how it's shown, you can get that too.

A virus hit this week, and the first one it targeted seemed to be the main stream media organizations. Interesting choice. Jason Salas has a theory that it was done by a podcaster or blogger, but I'm leaning another way. I think it was done intentionally to garner negative press about Microsoft. Most of the time, by the time the MSM gets around to reporting a virus, it's followed up by "and Microsoft has a patch to get rid of it." But by targeting them first, they'll report it before there's a fix.

So a virus was thrown at Microsoft this week, as well as a reported vulnerability with IE and DirectX controls that isn't yet patched. But what did Microsoft do that was good this week?? How about being able to develop for their search toolbar? Or, better yet, do no development and get weather right in the toolbar? Yeah, that'll work!

Or, how about this? According to one recent study, IE usage has increased and Firefox usage has decreased over the past month. Not much, but a little bit. Maybe the release of the IE 7 beta? No. There's not enough MSDN subscribers to fix the numbers. Maybe it's the latest security issues with Firefox. Yeah, that's probably it.

Ok. Those last two Microsoft items were pretty tame. But they did announce the much anticipated pricing of the Xbox 360 - $399. Yes, I know there's a cheaper option, but without a hard drive, it just doesn't seem right. Plus, the wireless controller and backward compatibility are key features which aren't included with the $299 version. Either way, I'll probably still wait until it comes down to a semi-reasonable price to get one anyway.

And that's a wrap! Next week will come to you from California!

Categories: RossCode Weekly


Parameterized Unit Tests

posted on 2005-08-21 at 17:13:45 by Joel Ross

This is older, but Microsoft has a research paper about Parameterized unit tests. It's an interesting concept. Let's say you have a method that has a few extremes that need to be tested - let's try a simple example of multiplication. You would want to test something multiplied by 0. You'd want to test an overflow situation. Then, you'd want to test multiplying by a single negative number. Then maybe two negative numbers.

You get the idea. I listed out 4 tests above, but there could be many more. If you were to write unit tests now, you'd write 4 separate tests that all do the same thing - multiply two numbers together and check the result against a known result.

That's repetition. What if you could have a unit test that took three parameters - two numbers to multiply by, and a result. Then you feed the engine an input file - XML or something like that - and have it automatically run all cases of your unit test - and all you did was write one test.

I found this via Alan Dean, over at dotNetJunkies, and he seems to think it's a good idea, and that Nunit should look at implementing it. I wonder if they will.

Categories: Development


RossCode Fantasy League - An Update

posted on 2005-08-21 at 17:12:14 by Joel Ross

I'm down to two openings left for the RossCode Fantasy League, and it'd be great to fill those. I don't think I've mentioned this before, but the draft will be on September 5th. That's the Monday after the last preseason game. You'll get your team, rosters will be locked for a day, and for the next two days, all players will be on waivers. So either Wednesday or Thursday, you'll get any players you claim off of waivers if you need to make any roster moves. Just in time for the first regular season game of the year!

I was set up to only have 4 teams in the playoffs. I have 14 teams right now, and I bumped it up to 6 teams, reducing the regular season to 13 weeks, with three weeks of playoffs. With only 4 teams in the playoffs, we'd have 14 weeks of regular season, and 2 weeks of playoffs.

On a side note, I don't like to use week 17 in my leagues. Why? Too many good players are sat out or limited because their team's spot in the playoffs is secure. I'd hate to see a team lose the championship because a player that carried their team sits one out.

Anyway, I have 5 people saying they want one of the open spots, so if they follow through, I'll have a 16 team league. And so everyone knows, don't pay attention to the draft order yet. Once the last two spots are filled (if they get filled), I'll run one more "randomizer" on it, and that will finalize the order. Then everyone can really start preparing their list.

Anyway, if you're interested, the spots are first come, first serve. Head on over and get the details, and then sign up!

Categories: Football


I'm Going Going, Back Back to Cali Cali

posted on 2005-08-21 at 16:55:05 by Joel Ross

For the 4th time in a little over a year, I'll be back in California for a week. Specifically, Santa Rosa. Well, staying in Rohnert Park, but working in Santa Rosa. I fly into San Francisco on August 29th, drive up to Santa Rosa for the week, and fly out late on September 1st.

Anybody in the Santa Rosa area? I'll be busy, but a man's gotta eat, right? You can reach me at 616.485.8062 - give me a call or drop me an email and we'll try to work something out.

Oh yeah. For anyone wondering about the title. It's from a song on Notorious B.I.G's last album.

Categories: Consulting



posted on 2005-08-21 at 16:36:32 by Joel Ross

A while ago, I blogged about wanting to find a way to share code snippets for a team. Ben Carey (who used to work at Sagestone, before we became NuSoft), read it, talked to Dave Donaldson, and Dave contacted me to help him test CodeKeep. I didn't do as much as I would have hoped to help him out, but it's now public.

You can read Dave's announcement or just go to the website. So far, I've only added three snippets (all public). It's a very cool idea, and Dave plans to add to it as it goes. One of the cool things it does have is a Visual Studio add-in that allows you to work with snippets from within Visual Studio. Nice job, Dave!

Categories: Software


Creating My Own Idea

posted on 2005-08-19 at 23:35:09 by Joel Ross

Well, I've been harping on an idea for a while now, and instead of waiting for others to get on board, I decided to see what I could do myself. I started making the code, and to get a quick and dirty version up and running, it was actually pretty simple.

Here's the high level logic of my initial run:

1. Get an OPML file.
2. Load each feed for that OPML file.
3. Parse the content of each item in each feed and pull out each URL.
4. For each URL, keep track of the domain. If the domain isn't in the list, add it. If it's in the list, then add one to it's link count.
5. Once you're done, sort it by the link count (descending) and show me.

There's a lot of room for improvement, but it worked?for a first cut. It took about 15 minutes so far. I ran it through an OPML listing of my top ten blogs, and here are the top domains linked to, followed by the number of links: (43) (36) (28) (25) (23) (21) (13) (13) (13) (10) (10) (10)

As you can see, it's not very accurate yet. It does reflect where people are linking to, but here's how it could be improved.

1. Add caching of feeds. This would make the retrieval faster - you only need to retrieve feeds that are updated. (and for those in my top ten, sorry for banging on your feed!)
2. Make the updating of feeds happen in the background. By doing this, the feeds are loaded separately of your request to see your "Top Blogs List." I would also store the parsed URLs by feed, so I have that information at hand.
3. Let this handle multiple users. It could right now, but not smartly. If the feeds are stored generically, that data can be used across users. This would obviously be key for large aggregator companies like Newsgator or Bloglines.
4. Add a list of invalid URLs. This could be used for two purposes. First, sites like aren't exactly blogs, and, if this is a top blog list, then it should be excluded. Second, notice that three of the top four domains linked to are aggregate blogs. By adding a site like to the invalid URL list, it would force the software to dig further - looking for something like, which is a valid blog URL.
5. Exclude links to themselves. 6 of my 12 top linked domains are domains in my top ten blog list. I'm not sure right now if it's because they are linking to each other, or because they're linking to themselves. The latter should be excluded.
6. Exclude links to blogs already in your OPML. This way, you only see the top blogs outside of your network. Maybe another option would be to see only the blogs in your OPML - who's the most influential among your circle.

Since I've started thinking about this, I've seen a few downfalls of this approach. First, non-full text feeds are all but useless (but you knew that already, didn't you?). Most don't provide enough content to be useful, let alone include any links. No links - no influence! The other thing that's a little more subtle is that feeds that provide more items in their feed will get more influence than feeds that only include a few items. Obviously, the last one can be solved by only using the latest x number of feeds, and then you'll get the same number of items from each feed. This can also be handled with caching - if you only provide 7 items in your feed, and I want to base my Top Blogs on 15 items, then I can cache 8 items that aren't in your feed anymore.

I may spend some more time refining this, but I'm not sure. For now, it was a good chance to mess around with RSS and the wonderful open source RSS.NET framework.

Categories: Blogging


Developing For

posted on 2005-08-19 at 23:22:46 by Joel Ross

No. Not working at Microsoft - I don't think. Extending's functionality though? Now, that would be cool. [via Scott]

Categories: Blogging


Show Off at PDC '05

posted on 2005-08-19 at 23:19:57 by Joel Ross

Mike Swanson has a cool idea for the PDC this year. He wants developers to show off what they're working on. Got something cool? Make a short video demoing it, and during PDC, they'll show it in a video with a bunch of other cool projects.

Go read about it and if you have an idea, then send in a video. I'll look forward to seeing it once it's released to the masses (I'm not going to PDC).

And if you don't want to read his post, listen to Mike and Thomas Lewis talk about it on the PDC '05 Buzzcast.

Categories: General


MCMS Manager

posted on 2005-08-18 at 00:22:54 by Joel Ross

I haven't used it yet, but there's lots of good feedback about MCMS Manager, something developed by Chester that adds a lot of functionality missing from Site Manager.

If you want to know what it adds, then you should check out his latest post, a comparison between Site Manager and MCMS Manager. On my next full-blown MCMS project, I'll have to check this out!

Categories: Software


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