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I have changed my mind about this ABE Books thing. I have had 40
books up there for over a month and at this moment absolutely nothing
has happened. I had to make the decision to either get much more
involved and put in a few hundred books or to cut bait and not waste
any more time on it. My goal was to break even on the subscription fee
over the first 6 months. However, at this point I’m convinced that
there is no way that could happen, even if I got every book I have to
sell in the system. Rather than send good time after bad, I’m just
pulling the plug. Our neighborhood is having a yard sale this Saturday
and I’m putting them all up for sale there. Since it is away from the
house, anything that doesn’t get sold will get driven to either the
library or to the Salvation Army. In some ways this irks me because
some of these books are of reasonable value and it seems like their
getting underutilized. On the other hand, it is cheaper for me to give
them away and not have to spend lots of time on it.

What does bug me is that one of my dreams was to become a bookseller
kind of guy, in person or on the internet or something. In retrospect
that probably isn’t ever going to be anything other than an expensive
hobby. I hate to cut loose dreams, but for the forseeable future I
have better things to do with my time than trying to peddle goods one
by one. Que sera, so it goes.

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One mystery is solved on the weblog. Several people told me about the
fact that my tables where waaaay wide, but when I looked at individual
pages, that wasn’t the case. I tracked it down to this page and the SpamAssassin rules surrounded
by the <pre> tag. Oops. I broke it up into multiple lines and
thus it is all OK. Must remember to not do that.

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As I was sitting here this morning a link was IM’d by my coworker
Darin, one to a discussion called Rule
Number Four: Great People Can Manage Themselves
from Joel on
Software
. This discussion comes from the fact that Google more or
less lets developers manage themselves. My take on this is right in
the center of opinions of what has been expressed on their thus far. I
think the best way to manage developers is this: you clearly specify
everything you care about (the software must do this, must work on
these platforms, must use these libraries that we have already paid to
license, must be ready by this date, whatever.) Every single thing you
don’t specify, you don’t care about. Once you’ve told them what you
need, they do it and how they do it is not really your concern. It is
true that you can’t do this with undisciplined slackass bastards, so
the best way to deal with that is to not hire them or to fire them
once you realize they can’t work this way.

If the product is structured this way and you get something back you
didn’t like it comes down to one of two cases: did it meet what you
asked for or not? If the latter, the engineering team failed you and
you deal with that thusly. If the former, it is your fault for not
asking for what you wanted. I call that a “Requirement/spec bug.” It’s
really unreasonable to expect to get back products that meet
specifications that one is too fucking lazy or too fucking incompetent
to express to anyone, but I see it happen every day. This
unreasonability is never realized as a failing of management but
always interpreted as a failure of engineering. In the cases where I
have been on teams given clear requirements and cut loose, we have
always turned out better product faster than when we are
micromanaged. In the first case, we are on board and our goal is to
achieve, in the second everything is fiat and our goal is to game the
system to give the minimum that meets what weird input we get. Which
case do you want your developers (ie, and your money) going towards?

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From my friend Kevin comes this nugget: Major Music Labels
Use Artificial Intelligence To Help Determine “Hitability” Of
Music
. It’s an interesting coincidence that the day he forwarded
me this link, I had been in the gym listening to Queen bootlegs and
wondering if it would be possible to do a Bayesian net on guitar
sounds and identify the features that make music distinctive. I fear a
little the use to which the dumbass biscuitheads that control the
gates of Big Machine Music will put such machinery. It just seems like
one more bit of initial data that they use to justify their
self-fulfilling prophecies. “This music has no hit potential, so we
won’t promote it.” “Hey, that record didn’t sell – just like the
computer said it wouldn’t. Thank god we didn’t promote it!” I think it
is a really interesting and cool technical challenge that will be put
to horrible uses by an industry already rife with the debris of
previous modes of doing business just like this.

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Some links I’ve had for a while but didn’t blog: SF writer Bill Shunn
points out Rent my Chest, on
which he advertised
recently
for his upcoming book Missionary
Man
. The ad is an interesting (if weird) concept, the
only downside being that to shouldersurfers in your cubicle at work it
looks vaguely like gay porn, all these pictures of a skinny guy’s bare
torso. I’ve been looking forward to reading Missionary
Man
for a long time, since I first heard some of his tales
that will be in the book. Was this on GEnie? It was a long time ago
whenever it was.