Revisiting Blog Posts Ten Years On

9 thoughts
last posted Sept. 17, 2014, 7:45 p.m.
get stream as: markdown or atom

I started blogging ten years ago.

I thought it would be fun to regularly look back at what I blogged about ten years previously and give some thoughts here in this stream.

In some cases it may trigger the creation of other streams to further explore past ideas.


To provide some necessarily context...

Ten years ago I was living in Perth, Western Australia but working for a Boston-based company I helped start.

I was making frequent trips back and forth between Perth and Boston. Note: Perth is the furthest city in the world from Boston.


I spent the first half of the last ten years working for a venture-funded company in Boston and the second half with Eldarion for which I deliberately did not seek VC money.

Attending the WA Venture Capital Symposium ten years ago was my one and only contact with the VC community in Perth (or Australia, for that matter). To be honest, I haven't had much contact with the VC community in Boston the last five years other than occasionally seeking the advice of various VCs I know.

I'm sure things have changed a lot in both Perth and Boston. There certainly seemed a big difference between Perth and Boston scenes 10 years ago (and 15 years ago when I first left to work for a Boston startup).

I remember an older US-based entrepreneur originally from India telling me that had India been like it is now when he left, he wouldn't have needed to leave. I suspect the same may be true of the Perth startup scene for me.


Ten years ago was the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Oscar party I attended in LA.

I'm a little sad to be missing the Oscar party for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug this year.

The night before the Oscar party ten years ago was the incident that led to running joke amongst my friends that I was the sound designer on Lord of the Rings. See this card in my Anecdotes stream for more details.


The startup, mValent, I was involved with before Eldarion built in many respects what could be described as an IDE for devops (before that role had that name—in fact we spent a lot of time trying to convince IT management that people in that role needed tools).

Our tool was built on Eclipse (not just an IDE but a framework for building IDEs). I was actually involving in the early days of the Eclipse Foundation.

Ten years ago, I was playing around with the Eclipse Graphical Editing Framework (GEF), which was a framework for building vector graphics editing tools (or similar functionality within other Eclipse-based tools). I think it had originally been designed as the basis for UML diagramming within Eclipse.

I was researching it partly for use within mValent (diagrams of PaaS stacks, etc, again before the term "PaaS" existed) but also for a generic pipeline processing tool I was working on personally called "River".

GEF was a pretty extreme example of design patterns (there was overlap between the Gang of Four and the Eclipse team plus have you often noticed how often drawing shapes is used in examples of OO and design patterns?). There wasn't just models, views and controllers but model, parts, figures, policies, commands and more—all loosely-coupled and extensible.


Ten years ago, I was eagerly watching progress on OSAF's Chandler. I had a lot of ideas of what a PIM should look like and was excited by the direction Chandler was going (inspired in part by David Allen's GTD).

Even though I was working a lot in Java, I was still a keen Python programmer and Chandler being written in Python was another big attraction.


I've had the domain since September 2nd, 1996. It wasn't my first domain (that was the now lost nor was it my first website (that was twenty years ago, in 1994) but it's been my online "home" for almost half my life.

By 2003, I'd gone through multiple technologies: static HTML, static HTML with server-side includes (remember those?), Perl scripts, XSLT.

In 2003 I decided that rather than editing files on disk and processing them to "generate" the site, I wanted something wiki-like where I'd be able to edit in some lightweight markup language directly in the browser.

I built a little system in Python. It carried over the wiki concept to basically have a page for each subject I was interested in, each project I was working on, etc.

In early 2004, when I decided I wanted to try blogging, I implemented some very simple extensions to my code to treat pages under /blog/ slightly differently. On April 21st, 2004, after a couple of people inquired about the code, I open sourced Leonardo. I liked the name a lot because it evoked the notion of a technologist's or scientist's notebook. And it didn't have "Py" in it like every other project written in Python at the time seemed to.

Content was stored on the file system with extra files for metadata.

The markup language was similar to wikis like MoinMoin but I had my own extensions like being able to link to a book on Amazon with just [amazon:{isbn}]. There was also the notion of including the contents of one page in another with [include:{wikiword}].

Some of the stuff I did (and talked about doing) in Leonardo in the couple of years that followed foreshadowed ThoughtStreams. I'll talk about that a little more as I hit those blog posts.


Blogs, Annotations, Comments and Trackbacks

Early on in my blogging (and in the development of Leonardo), I was thinking about new ways of thinking about comments and I decided they were really just a form of annotation and had a relationship to trackbacks.

The way trackback worked (I don't know if they are still a thing, at least in the form they had 10 years ago) was you pinged a blog with information about a reference that had been made about an entry in that blog. The information could include an excerpt of what was said.

The trackback implementations I'd seen tended to give a trackback URI for an entry that ws different from the URI for the entry itself. A more RESTful approach (and one I planned to implement in Leonardo) would be to have the trackback URI be the URI of the entry. So you POST to the blog entry to trackback.

I had already considered POSTing to the blog entry as the mechanism for comments and that is when it first struck me that comments and trackbacks were really the same thing. Comments are just trackbacks without a reference to an external resource (sort of like self posts to reddit or Hacker News nowadays).

Because Leonardo treated a blog entry as just another page on the site, building this for Leonardo would have meant a fairly generic web page annotation system.

In my blog post on this ten years ago, I also talked about the notion of the annotations being out of band (i.e. the statement is stored in a third location, not the same as the subject or object).


Poincaré Project

10 years ago today, I started my Poincaré Project with this post. I'd love to return to it as there's still a lot more to do.

reposted to Poincaré Project