April 29, 2009

Pr0n on the Couch

Yes, I saw the slide of the presentation CouchDB: Perform like a Pr0n Star. It's sparked a raging debate all over the internet that's taken a life of it's own. I'm getting some testy emails. So I think I should say something, lest some people interpret my silence as approval.

Now, I don't know what it was like to be there in attendance, but what I saw I was not offensive to me (as if!). I thought it was kind of humorous. But how I felt is besides the point.

Was it sexist? Not in my opinion. Sexual themes aren't necessarily sexist, and I didn't see anything to support a notion of women being less suitable for development or other tech work. Reasonable people can differ here, but I don't see sexism in this talk.

But was the talk inappropriate? In my opinion, yes. I wouldn't give a talk like that, and I would discourage colleagues from giving talks like that at a developer conference.

Some people in attendance were, if not offended, at least made to feel uncomfortable. I can imagine there are conferences where it's just fine, even encouraged, to push the limits of polite behavior. Heck, sounds like a fun conference, can I go too?

But at a developer conference, that's not a good thing. Most everyone at conferences are strangers to one another, and developers aren't known to be the most outgoing people. Anything that makes people feel uncomfortable is going to shut down communication and openness. Even if those who are uncomfortable skipped the talk, others didn't and no doubt will be gabbing about it afterward. There can be no doubt that sexual themes absolutely will make some people feel uncomfortable and close them off. Not just women, some men also feel really uncomfortable about this stuff, but are less likely to admit it.

Now, I'm not against making people feel uncomfortable (sometimes I even like it). There are a lot of very important issues that people feel uneasy discussing, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss it. I remember as a kid watching C. Everett Coop talk about condoms and intercourse during the AIDs/HIV crisis. Lots of people got wound up about that. But he absolutely had to, the cost of people's discomfort was nothing compared to their ignorance.

But in this case, the cost of people's discomfort was outweighed by nothing. It was simply unnecessary, and therefore inappropriate. Not wildly, dangerously, or seriously inappropriate. Just your garden variety inappropriateness.

Now, the reason I'm writing this is not to express my disapproval or outrage on this talk. Honestly I don't feel that strongly about this talk, and I'm a little surprised it's such a big issue. But there can be no doubt it is a big issue and lots of people are talking about it.

The real reason I'm writing this is I don't want to see a misinterpretation of CouchDB culture, or worse a trend of being so cool we don't need politeness and decorum. We shouldn't be that way, we are an inclusive community and CouchDB is a progressive technology, not a cultural movement. If we piss people off it should be because our technology is disruptive, not our community.


April 22, 2009

CouchDB Coming to the Bay Area

CouchHack, a 3 day hacker-fest at my house here in Asheville, is now done and I really had a blast. It was great to meet everyone and just hang out, and somehow a lot of code got written (but not by me). Thanks to Chris Anderson, Brad Anderson, Paul Davis, Jan Lehnardt, and Benjamin Young. You were all excellent guests and are invited back when we do it again.

And thanks to my very understanding and supportive wife Laura. It was her idea to have it at our house, she and the kids visited Grandma so we could hack!

Next week I'll be in the San Francisco area tuesday April 28 through March 2 to give a keynote at the Erlang Factory Conference. CouchDB contributers Chris Anderson, Paul Davis, Adam Kocoloski and Jan Lehnardt will be there too.

Last Minute Special: If you just want to learn about CouchDB, there is a now a special price for the CouchDB conference track only.

Contact me if you want to meet about CouchDB or related projects and ventures while I'm in the area: damien_katz@yahoo.com


April 17, 2009

Can't Pair a Bluetooth Apple Keyboard to Another Computer?

Your new computer can see it, but it fails to connect to it? It's not because you need to put the keyboard into discoverable mode (it does that automatically when first turned on). It's because it's still paired and connecting to the first computer. Even if that computer is in another room. Even on another floor.

None of the Apple support articles I found mentions that, because they assume you aren't an idiot. But I'm an idiot, and it took me way too long to figure it out. Hopefully you'll find this article if it happens to you, and you won't feel like such an idiot.


CouchDB in the Browser

Atul Varma of Mozilla has created a javascript implementation of the CouchDB api in the browser. Note this isn't the actual CouchDB backend, it's a javascript re-implementation that mimics it.

This is quite exciting as the first step to full browser integration of the CouchDB API. Now, if you thought CouchDB was all about the cloud with huge clusters and Map/Reduce, you are probably wondering "Why put it in the browser?"

Because CouchDB is as much about data movement and locality as it is about being the "cloud".

I think most people think of cloud computing as a way to temporarily get access to large clusters of machines, for doing things like large scale number crunching or handling massive floods of traffic. In the past, that's where cloud computing has had a lot of success, building and housing massive clusters is very expensive. But it's only half of the cloud computing story, and I think in the grand scheme of the things, it's the less important half.

The real future of cloud computing about being a simple, low cost, high availability way to get your data and applications online, saving you the cost and hassle of building and maintaining your own infrastructure. You aren't just saving yourself from building a cluster, but from installing applications, applying patches, monitoring security, keeping backups, etc. Your cloud provider maintains the applications while making sure your data is safe, secure and accessible. They worry about the infrastructure so you don't have to. Think Google Docs and Salesforce.com.

However the problem with the cloud is it forces you to store all your data remotely. It's only highly available if *you* can get to it. If you can't get a good connection (overloaded pipe, weak signal, intermittent connection, no connection, latency, etc), then all that data center expertise, hardware and bandwidth is useless. That's the problem with the cloud, it's can only be as reliable as *your* connection to the internet.

This is the problem that CouchDB is designed to solve. Not just putting your data and apps into the cloud, but onto your laptop, your phone and your local office server. Fully query-able and editable in your browser, your data is available wherever you are, despite network outages, air travel or blocked access.

And it's not just files and documents, but whole entire applications, with all the application code, html and images stored right in the database and replicates along with your data. If you need a CouchDB application that's on your laptop to also be on your phone, just replicate it over. Use the app and makes changes on your phone and replicate back to the laptop, or up to the cloud and then replicate the laptop with the cloud. Your data and apps everywhere you want it.

We aren't there just yet, but its coming. Soon.


April 2, 2009

Moving To California

My wife and I are seriously thinking about moving to the Bay Area sometime before the next school year. We aren't completely sure yet, but we are starting to look into it.

Why move? So I'm not so damn far away from where all the action is. Everything I do is email and phone calls. There is so much more I want to be doing with CouchDB that will just be easier when I can meet people face to face. Plus, on a personal there are a lot of people I find really interesting there, and I think the culture and people might be a better fit for us.

Why stay? Asheville is very nice, a great place to raise a family. Maybe California will suck for my family. Maybe I'll become part of the herd and lose my perspective. Maybe I'll lose my soul. Maybe maybe maybe.

I'm interested to know what others think, particularly people who have moved out there. What was good? What was bad? Would it be good for my family? Would it be good for CouchDB?