Allow me to Complain…

Festivus was the other day, the traditional day that people “air their grievances”. Since I did not do that but I seem to be a bit fired up today, I’m going to separate from the normal informative, intellectual articles that would normally go up here, and instead rant a bit. Because there are a lot of things to rant about and I believe very good reasons for those rants to come. If you will allow me…

The Rooney Rule

The Rooney rule in the NFL is a rule that requires an NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for an NFL coaching position before it can be filled. The principle is clear… there are not enough opportunities for minority coaching candidates so the NFL mandates the requirement.

The problem is, it does no good. It has become a thing of bureaucratic obstacles and a checklist item for franchises. Take the case of the Washington Redskins who are likely to fire head coach Jim Zorn in the next week after yet another abysmal performance.

During the preliminary process of hiring a new coach, the Redskins interviewed Skins Secondary coach Jerry Gray. Cool, cool. Except that it seems to have been done to fill a quota (yes, I used the Q word). Gray is not likely to get the job and probably never was likely to get the job but it was required that the Redskins interview a minority. Even the front page teaser of the article on suggests the process is a quota-based process with the phrase, “Skins Interview Gray, Satisfy Rooney Rule”. Duh?

Search Neutrality

Search Neutrality is the bastard half-child of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality, for context, is the Internet policy argument that states that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be able to offer preferential treatment to higher paying customers. First let me go on record to say that I don’t necessarily support net neutrality, though there should be some regulation around Internet service provisions because it affects more that just carriers pissing among themselves.

Though I am not a fan of unfettered capitalism (thus my support for some regulation around net neutrality), two or more companies trying to make money should be able to create incentives to customers that would provide better services (or preferred service, if you will) to better (or more high paying) customers. This has existed forever. You have Airline frequent flier miles. You have Premium accounts over basic accounts. You have different versions of operating systems offering better features. Etc. Etc. Etc. The Internet is not a Constitutionally protected right and is subject to the laws of competition and capitalism.

Which brings me back to search neutrality. There is some buzz around the idea that there should be regulation around search engines that would prevent search providers (Google, Bing, etc) from having editorial policy (read: search algorithms) that provide more favorable treatment to some publishers over others. Or would prevent search providers from supplying paid placement opportunities to publishers in an agnostic fashion.

This, on its face, is wrong. Yet don’t underestimate some guy who has no idea how to organically grow search result placements (SERPs) to try to rally support from the ignorant to punish the evil empires of Microsoft and Google for exercising capitalistic rights and sound business opportunities. Let me be clear, any kind of neutrality buzzword derives from the inability of some to compete on merit in a marketplace. Can’t get SERPs… smack Google with a search neutrality policy that makes everyone, everywhere completely equal while we eat fruit from trees while riding our unicorns. It doesn’t happen this way, people. Competition is created by innovation and capitalism. Survival of the fittest.

7 Words That Must Die in 2010

Another year gone and, with it, another decade in the books. 10 years ago today, we all were frantically wondering what the hell was going to happen when the digital apocalypse descended on us in a thing we all called the Y2K bug. The natural disaster that could have been was the first global digital crisis that never happened. Well, that and AOL chatroom dating, but that’s a different issue.

Over the last 10 years, the digital economy collapsed, but not before laying the groundwork for the digital world we live in now. Massive telecom behemoths riding high on the digital bubble of the late 90s (MCI Worldcom, Global Crossings), laid tens of thousands of miles of fiber traversing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and tying the world together…. and then promptly went bankrupt as a result. But not without leaving their enduring mark on the planet.

MySpace brought social networking to the masses. Friendster tried and failed. Facebook perfected it, kinda. Blogs gave every person the ability to reach the world. Twitter gave every person the ability to live tweet their breakfast experiences. Flickr gave the world a reason to buy digital SLR cameras that most camera owners use embarassingly.

But more importantly, but not unique to our digital world, the web gave us a new language. New buzzwords. New verbal and written diarrhea. These words cause other people, who are a little more grounded in reality, to punch people. But at least the punchee thinks he sounds important.

This past year has brought even new words into our lexicon. As the Washington Redskins are to the chalk marking the endzone, I hope we as technologists, entrepreneurs, digital communicators and, in general, web people can learn to avoid these words in the coming year and decade.

Down Round

With the economy tanking in 2008, the word “Down Round” has been introduced (or re-introduced) to our vocabulary. A down round is a round of financing (generally venture) that is based on a lower-than-before valuation. It does not mean “less money”, though. It generally does mean, however, that the money given is in exchange for a lesser value on the company thus being a greater percentage of company ownership. This word must die because it is not productive for entrepreneurs to get financing just to give away more of their companies in exchange.

Fail-Safe Venture Investment
Photo by Phrenologist

Too Big To Fail

Another product of the financial crisis, the words “Too big to fail” were used to justify bank and corporate bailouts at AIG, GM and other places. Now it has taken on a life of its own where anything that is perceived to be big is labelled “Too Big to fail”… Like Twitter.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is not new but with the Obama administration trying to put a premium on cloud services and the launch of to provide a list of GSA-recommended cloud service providers, everyone is now going in the direction of this technology. Not that it’s a bad technology, but everything in moderation.

Real Time Web

We all want instant gratification, but this push for “real-time” is becoming more buzzword that actuality. Between services like Twitter and instant publication notification services and protocols like PubSubHubBub and RSSCloud, this infatuation needs to get tamed a bit. Incidentally, a similar word that must die and means the same thing is “push”, as in “push notifications”. If your product is real-time, call it something other than real-time for the sake of my sanity.


Now I realize this one is a little controversial. I’ll probably get loads of hate mail. In fact… wait a minute….

Okay, I’m back. Just had to create a new Gmail filter to send emails about this post containing the word “Zombie” to the bit bucket.

Alright. Zombies. Let me be clear. There are no zombies. Despite great survival guides for the zombie apocalypse, zombies don’t exist. So let’s stop pretending they do.

Zombie Apocafest 2008 - Justin's quarantine camp
Photo by dunechaser

In 2009, zombies took on a whole new level of myth and legend with plenty of zombie books, movies and games – most notably the Xbox Live bonus “Nazi Zombie map” in Call of Duty: World at War. Just stop.

Social Proof

I hadn’t heard of a term called “social proof” until earlier this year. Apparently, the word has been around for at least a few years. But now that I’ve heard it, I can’t stop hearing it. The word describes a psychological phenomenon where people lend decision making to group-think. We call it crowdsourcing elsewhere. When I determine what my actions will be based on what others are doing, I am demonstrating “social proof”.

Besides the horrible concept of being a lemming and following (the political discourse is a good example here), the word “social proof” must die. It’s bad enough that we use groupthink or crowdsource. We shouldn’t use this one too.


Whether the new Google product that is in private beta stage, or the new terminology surrounding microcontent as instituted by the new Google product, the idea of a “wave” as a form of communication is ridiculous on it’s face. It’s just as bad as being in a social situation and talking about tweeting. It must die.


Another word that has been in our lexicon for a few years now but, if we’re lucky, will be killed in 2010: Transparency. Having its roots in both politics and online business interactions and customer service, it is neither transparent nor endearing. Let me put it this way: If you say you’re transparent, you’re hiding the truth. Let’s move on from the transparent-love.

What words would you kill off?

Can we Identify the United States as a Bad AT&T Service Area?

AT&T has upped the ante on their service level. Seems they realize they have a really bad reputation of “Fewer bars in more places” and Verizon Wireless is taking it to them with their “There’s a map for that” ads. These ads caused AT&T to sue Verizon Wireless because the ads apparently misrepresented the truth (though AT&T never denied the ads validity – the maps are comparisons between Verizon Wireless’ all-3G network and AT&T’s much more limited 3G network that complements a larger non-3G calling network). Subsequently, AT&T dropped their suit after it became clear they would not win.

So AT&T admits they have bad service back in September (video below) with “Seth the Blogger Guy” (LOLWUT?) and then sues Verizon Wireless for not being wrong (LOLHUHWUT?)

Now AT&T, according to Download Squad has released a new iPhone app to let users submit reports of bad service. Presumably this QA process will help AT&T beef up their network coverage in the areas that are lacking…. like the United States (LOLWTFWUT?).

Because really, if you can’t get reliable service at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the heart of iPhone zealotry, why not just mark the whole network as unreliable?

This jockeying comes at a critical time when Apple is deciding whether to renew their exclusive relationship with AT&T or to expand to other networks like Verizon Wireless who are preparing to launch their 4G LTE network nationwide. Meanwhile, Verizon is planning at least three new Android phones in 2010 raising the spectre of a holy war among iPhone loyalists and Android fans.

As my friend Jimmy Gardner says on Twitter regarding the multi-tasking ability that is making current Android phones so much more desirable than the iPhone:

From a former iphone snob … had u a droid you could check the traffic while listening to pandora At the Same Time

I’m just saying.

* Thumbnail image by Aaron Landry

PHP Doesn't Do WordPress and WordPress Doesn't Do PHP

If there’s one thing I have been consistent on in the past (almost) 6 years of blogging and engaging on the web, it’s that I believe in the mantra “no sacred cows”. In politics, I confound and confuse members of both parties who look at life through sterilized lenses that reflect their party platform. I will often stir up controversy by dragging people into a process of debate that, while respectful, causes them to think and re-think their positions. At least that’s the goal. I am a fiercely independent thinker and though some of my closest friends are on the left, I’ve ruthlessly challenged the parts of the left that I don’t like while supporting the ones I do. I’ve done the same thing with folks on the right.

So as I prepare to write this article with an admittedly slightly inflammatory title, I expect it will cause some controversies – maybe, and perhaps intentionally, it will cause some rancor in the leadership of the WordPress community itself – the ones who set the tone and cadence for the rest of the community. This is not all bad and nobody can ever accuse me of not being consistent in how I approach issues I feel strongly about.

For nearly 10 years, I have been coding in PHP. For the past 4, I have spent my time focusing my energies on WordPress specifically. It seems to me that for software that is built on PHP, then, there should be some consistent crossover between the WordPress community and the PHP community. That natural convergence does not seem to exist however.

Early on, when getting started on the web, I hung out a lot over at the SitePoint Forums. It was there that, through a community of PHP developers of varying skill levels, that I cut my teeth. I knew nothing at the time and there were folks who were much more skilled than me. It was in the PHP 4 era (that era had just begun and has since ended) so there was no such thing as real classes and object orientation. XML parsing became a hot topic during those days as PHP devs wrestled with the best way (they were all ugly!) to parse XML. I was just trying hard to figure out how to connect to a database.

I spent months learning and picking up what I could and contributing back my learnt wisdom to other newbies along the way. The cycle of karma was great as people learned and taught each other.

Shortly after I left SitePoint in 2003, I started blogging (May of 2004). I started on Textpattern but within a week, as my curiosity about this new WordPress platform started hitting my ears, I switched over to WordPress. I joined the wp-hackers mailing list and began immersing myself in the WordPress community. Generally speaking, people were very helpful and I learned a lot.

Eventually, as part of that community, I would lead the technology efforts at b5media where my team was responsible for a very large WordPress farm. Having some of the best and the brightest working alongside me meant that my good understanding of the PHP involved in WordPress, and the event driven nature of its core, would increase to maybe very good.

Today, my business is WordPress. I just wrote the WordPress Bible. I do WordPress consulting. I run all my blogs on WordPress. I speak at WordCamps all over. Heck, I’m organizing WordCamp Mid-Atlantic again this year. I love the WordPress community.

During the writing of the Bible, Keith Casey, my friend and also a top developer in the PHP community (He works with Marco Tabini of PHP Architect – if that doesn’t give him street cred, I don’t know what will), offered to review anything I wrote along the way. I took him up on it even though I already had editors including a very WordPress-specific technical editor. My thinking? Having someone from the greater PHP community look at my code for the WordPress world can only make it better.

My question is, why doesn’t the rest of the WordPress world do this as well? We, as a community, can only be better by embracing the greater PHP community. We can learn things from them. They can learn things from us. Of course, the greater PHP community is going to scorn WordPress for remaining PHP 4 compatible when PHP 4 is end of life and I think that point has validity but that’s not the point. I think both sides can agree that WordPress has its way and it is not likely to change its philosophy on this soon.

However, what about the rest of the converging community? Why do WordPress people not participate in the major PHP conferences like Tek-X or ZendCon? Why was Beau Lebens the only WordPress guy that I’m aware of that attended any of the 7-conferences-in-14-days-roaming-conference CodeWorks?

Why is it that when WordPress developers are asked to speak at these events, they look down their nose in scorn (I can think of two specific incidents that have been related to me)?

Hey, if we’re going to have a war on PHP coding ability, I’ve got to side with the PHP coders of the world, not the WordPress coders. If we’re going to have a war on extensible platforms, well, I’ll probably go with WordPress.

My point is really simple: The WordPress community needs to abandon this concept of elitism and isolationism. Yes, isolationism only makes you isolated. Over the past six months, I have come to appreciate the greater PHP community more. I’ve rekindled my love for that community and the karma and learning that comes from it. I’ve discovered new things about PHP because I’ve opened my horizons again and got outside the WordPress box. Fortunately, by doing so, I can apply that knowledge and karma inside the WordPress world as well. It’s sort of like finally getting that water after being parched and thirsty for so long. It’s refreshing and gives new energy and drive.

So in 2010, I will continue to work inside the WordPress world to try to influence change. My code will reflect that change. I’ve abandoned PHP 4 (but again, that’s beside the point) and won’t work with it in my own work, plugins, etc. I hope to make a major announcement regarding some crossover and convergence in the next few weeks as well.

To the PHP World: Understand that the WordPress world is different. You already know this. We are a PHP 4 world for a reason, like it or not. We need some understanding. We also have our feelings on GPL and open source which don’t always jive. Work with us. Help us be better.

To the WordPress world: Get outside your comfort zone and embrace the leaders in the PHP world. I already mentioned Keith. Add Marco Tabini, Ben Ramsey and Cal Evans to the list of people to pay attention to.