General

Media Bias and Google News

A local radio host was droning on about media bias again today. I thought I’d go to Google News to see about validating this theory in a highly unscientific but empirical fashion. My sloppily contrived metric? The presence of the phrase “right wing” versus “left wing” in indexed articles. I factored out Columbia (space shuttle news), soccer, hockey, and nhl as phrases that were introducing false positive hits. I chose the “wing” phrases since, when used, they are backhanded phrases used to undermine a position as extreme to one side or the other by discrediting the opinion-holder.

The results:

Right Wing: About 9,220 hits

Left Wing: About 4,890 hits

Omitting “Bush” from the right-wing search cuts out about 1/3 of the hits.

Cutting [Cindy] “Sheehan” from the left-wing results eliminates about 20% of the hits.

There are any number of conclusions that can be drawn, but I’ll leave that to my readers.

Technology

Development Management Thoughts

One of our managers here went on a 2 week motorcycle trip, so I’ve been taking on both his duties and mine over the past couple of weeks – I’m the lone development manager right as we are about to deliver one of our more complex releases in recent memory. Over this time, I’ve had a few thoughts worth keeping. Of all the different things I’ve done, I’ve realized that most of the management tasks can be put into 3 easy categories:

  • Communication – keeping people informed of the information that is useful and relevant to them. The importance of open communication cannot be stressed enough. The importance of not over-communicating also cannot be stressed enough
  • Directing traffic – making sure business priorities are translated into actionable tasks, and distributing that work, then ensuring that the process goes smoothly, and being prepared to red light or green light the results objectively.
  • Removing obstacles – this is essentially enabling developers to focus on the things they do best, which is good for the business and for morale. Good developers don’t enjoy wasting cycles waiting for a document’s approval, preparation of a test environment, a new task, etc. When possible and reasonable, rapidly clear these issues so everyone can get back to work.

It’s a bit oversimplified, but I think it’s a pretty good starting point. I learn more each day.

Technology

Best front-end language for desktop multimedia?

I’m contemplating developing a new bit of software. Requirements are: 1) Runs on Linux and Windows, 2) Can easily support development and responsive playing of audio and video, animation is a plus, 3) must either be a solid back-end language for file access, shell commands and LAN networking, or easily integrate with a language that is good at these things, 4) Must be able to run as a full-screen application.

My initial thought is a Flash front-end communicating with a Java back-end, but I don’t really know the particulars of how this would work, tips would be helpful. I’m shying away from .NET because I don’t trust Microsoft not to kill MONO in the blink of an eye, and Java because Java GUI development is a pain. Think I’m wrong, convince me otherwise. Think I’m missing something? Enlighten me.

Technology

Halving bandwidth w/ mod_gzip/mod_deflate

We recently rolled out mod_gzip, an apache mod that zips up content between the browser and server. Mod_gzip works with Apache 1.x, mod_deflate is its Apache 2.x counterpart. The results for our largest customers, both Fortune 500 companies, are nothing short of staggering.

We applied this Apache mod to just the portion of our app that goes between us and our customers – the content there is a mix of applets, images, xml, and html/javascript/css. On average, our bandwidth decreased by 58-62% – we are now consuming less than half as much bandwidth, and the cost is only a minor increase in CPU utilization. This minor change will save us gigabytes a day in bandwidth, so I’m quite excited.