Dennis Ritchie on C and UNIX

Dennis Ritchie, designer of the C programming language, and co-inventor of UNIX — arguably two of the most influential computer science creations ever — passed away at 70.  As my formative years in computing were highlighted by UNIX and C, I felt a bit of nostalgia as well as gratitude for “dmr”s contributions.  I still think of the original K&R as the best programming book ever – when a colleague told me he was going to write a book on C, I couldn’t understand why – since K&R existed, nothing else need be said!  In fact its conciseness greatly influenced my own writing style – some might say to a fault.  Years later, I used the first edition K&R as guidance for the original DMTF DMI 1.0 spec (sadly, no longer available), which was somewhat ironic that I’d use it for a standards committee document:

When I read commentary about suggestions for where C should go, I often think back and give thanks that it wasn’t developed under the advice of a worldwide crowd.
— Dennis Ritchie

Tonight I spent quite a bit of time reading sections of his Bell Lab’s home page — technical materials and observations that I hope stays up for posterity.  These are important artifacts that brought us to where we are now.

From an operating system research point of view, Unix is — if not dead — certainly old stuff, and it’s clear that people should be looking beyond it.

— Dennis Ritchie, 1990 Summer Usenix keynote speech

UNIX, if you don’t know, is the basis for the software that runs Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iPhones & iPads, and lots of other stuff.  Not too shabby.

Ken Thompson sitting and Dennis Ritchie at PDP-11

Dennis Ritchie on C and UNIX

What comes next after Insanely Great?

I don’t have any personal stories to tell about meeting Steve Jobs.

I’m not a “long-time” Apple user.  But I am acutely aware of the date I would become one: January 7, 2003.  Steve Jobs introduced the 12″ Aluminum PowerBook G4 at MacWorld.  I’m not sure how I knew about the keynote – perhaps because I had an iPod and thought it was great – but that afternoon I found myself watching the QuickTime replay from Apple’s web site, hunched over some Windows laptop.  I’d never seen a SteveNote before, and was hooked by everything about it, and I said “I am switching to the Mac.”  Keep in mind I hadn’t even used one at the time, but I still knew it.

Long story short, while diving into Apple’s worldview can be daunting, it’s been incredibly rewarding.  I’ve learned a lot about how difficult it is to make something appear simple.  I started thinking about software in words like elegance, and started using the word design to mean more than architecture.

The iPod and the PowerBook have long since been retired, obsoleted by newer models.  But I still have them, because they were my first.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs.

Apple steve silhouette

What comes next after Insanely Great?

iPhone Sales Tax is on the Unsubsidized Price

So the iPhone 3G S is lust-worthy, if for no other reason than the 3MP autofocus camera and the speed increase. There’s plenty of news about how AT&T is lagging – no MMS (coming), no tethering (maybe coming), giving smaller discounts to iPhone 3G customers than to new customers.

I’m not eligible for the $299 price because I’ve given Apple too much business, thus AT&T has had to subsidize me twice (read: I bought an original iPhone and a year later bought an iPhone 3G). So I get the option to wait until October to get the $299 price, or pay $499 now. I’ll wait, thanks. Maybe for whatever Apple announces next summer.

But Heidi never upgraded to the iPhone 3G, so she’s eligible for the $299 price. Great, let’s put that puppy in the cart. Whoa, look at the tax!

AT&T iPhone tax

Yep, the tax is calculated as 9.5% (welcome to California) on the full $699 retail price of the phone. AT&T doesn’t subsidize that, and I couldn’t find it disclosed anywhere. I asked the Apple Store live chat — they were useless (told me the tax was on the $499 price) until I (duh) backed into the number on my own.

So, Apple’s ads should say the 32GB iPhone costs $699, minus an “instant rebate” that depends on how much AT&T has already subsidized you. But giving the real price wouldn’t sound as lust-worthy, would it?

Update July 18:At the online Apple Store, there’s small print at the bottom of the buy iPhone page that says

In CA, MA, and RI, sales tax is collected on the unbundled price of iPhone.

The CA regulation that requires Apple to collect this tax is documented at What Apple doing isn’t illegal — just a bit misleading.

iPhone Sales Tax is on the Unsubsidized Price

Yahoo! acquires IndexTools

iPhone in Hungary
Today Yahoo! and IndexTools announced that Yahoo! is acquiring IndexTools. Here is the official press release.

I’m really jazzed about it. IndexTools is a great group that’s been laser focused on the stuff that customers care about. They have a very practical attitude towards their products. Because they started in 2000, they learned from the pioneers, and built a deep analytics system that really works well. That much was clear as soon as we popped the hood and poked around inside .. unlike a lot of their competition, they didn’t have an old and a new product that they bolted together.

So does this mean we’re going to do “Yahoo! Analytics”, and try to “steal” web sites away from Google Analytics or the commercial web analytics vendors? See, that’s not what this is about. Yahoo! has stated its desire to be a “partner of choice”, and as the new Yahoo! strategy began to sink in, it became clear that the new Yahoo! was going to need to offer a new level of products to its partners. We have many, many thousands of small and medium businesses partnering with us now, and we want to make sure they have the tools they need. We’ve already announced an open strategy where developers can take advantage of Yahoo! products and services; we want to make sure they get the analytics they need too. Yahoo! has so many partners in so many places that can benefit from this technology, it became clear — even obvious — it was now the right thing to do.

Yeah, we still have a team working on analytics solutions for our “owned and operated” world — Yahoo! is too big a customer for IndexTools, or any other commercial vendor for that matter. There’s a world of difference between massive scale for one huge customer, and massive scale for a huge number of small and medium-sized customers. Now we have both.

As for what this means for the web analytics industry, I’ll leave that to the pundits, analysts and fortune tellers.

Here’s some of the combined team after a day of meetings at IndexTools.

IndexTools-Yahoo! Dinner

(and yes, that’s Dennis at the head of the table, farthest away from the camera.)

Some reactions from around the web:

Yahoo! acquires IndexTools

The Behavioral Targeting Penguin

Behavioral PenguinHi kids! Today the cute and cuddly Mr. Penguin from AOL will answer all your questions on behavioral targeting! Isn’t he cute! Now you know that behavioral targeting is your friend!

Have a good day! And a tip o’the cap to the Good People at AOL who keep Mr. Penguin in anchovies in return for a little education gig he does for them.

PS oh, and did you know that Google doesn’t track you around the web? Hahahahahahaha!

PPS Seriously, why doesn’t AOL focus on the benefits of BT — like that the ads you’ll get are actually relevant? I am also concerned that they are confusing BT with tracking across an ad network. They are not the same. As it is, what I see from the storyboard is I get a TRACKING COOKIE ON MY COMPUTER followed closely by somebody thinking “I should remove that cookie”… is BT the new cookie? Is the cookie the new cookie?

The Behavioral Targeting Penguin

Twitter: Social Microblogging

TwitterI’ve been dorking with Twitter .. still trying to figure out if it’s a great waste of time, or a lousy waste of time. I’m sure the cool kids are using it via SMS, but something about having my phone buzz me to learn that one of my friends is now eating a cookie just doesn’t get me that excited. The web site seems to be the best place for browsing and discovery, but for plain ol’ status updating, I’m using Twitterific for a local Mac app that grabs updated tweets every so often. PC users might want to opt for TwitBox.

I dismissed Twitter when I first tried it, but later read that what I experienced was typical, and exploring a bit can lead to an appreciation for the nuances of the service. But it wasn’t until I read Jeffrey Walker’s two Twitter posts that I decided to take another look.

With a little web spelunking, there’s an interesting social web under Twitter. (e.g. Jenna Jameson is “friends” with Barack Obama and John Edwards) but from what I can tell, the definition of “friend” is pretty loose. The “six degrees” aspect isn’t being visualized yet, but that isn’t to say people aren’t trying various mashups: witness David Troy’s Twittervision and Twittermaps. For more, check out the Twitter Fan Wiki.

I can see a great use of Twitter: as a (non-human) status service. In this specific case, you can see BART service messages – useful if you need real-time status updates for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. Another: Red Sox updates! Having Twitter as a micro multicast/social alert system (or heck, an emergency broadcast system) is a great idea – it’s faster than the typical way one uses RSS. To that end, I wonder what Bob Wyman thinks of this “publish/subscribe” system.

I know I started the post sounding skeptical, but the Twitter crew did the right thing by providing an API to the service. That means it’ll become a platform, and taken in directions the developers haven’t thought of yet. One of these may end up being a killer app.

Twitter: Social Microblogging

FeedBurner to Google

FeedBurner LogoLike many bloggers, I use FeedBurner to distribute my RSS feed. They provide well-formed feeds, predictable performance, and a small amount of reporting so I can see how many RSS readers I have and what articles they click on. You might recall that FeedBurner acquired BlogBeat some time back, but I don’t think they actually integrated it into the main FeedBurner offering. In any event, FeedBurner’s reporting makes a decent supplement to Google Analytics.

Looks like soon there won’t be a need to supplement, as TechCrunch is reporting that Google has agreed to acquire FeedBurner. So it’s not out of the question that some kind of BlogBeat-FeedBurner-MeasureMap-GoogleAnalytics mashup is in the future.

Ads by Google ..

FeedBurner to Google

WPP and 24/7; Microsoft and aQuantive

WPP LogoThe online ad market gets more interesting by the week. Yesterday WPP Group, a huge advertising conglomerate, agreed to acquire 24/7 Real Media.

Microsoft LogoaQuantive Logo Microsoft, not to be denied an ad network, purchased Seattle-based aQuantive — for an amazing US$6B in cash, an 85% premium. That means Microsoft gets Avenue A | Razorfish and Atlas.

This of course comes on top of the Google-DoubleClick and Yahoo!-RightMedia deals. Now ValueClick‘s shares are up. Will they be picked up by … or perhaps Omnicom Group? Or are we done for now?

WPP and 24/7; Microsoft and aQuantive

Notes on Emetrics Summit San Francisco 2007

Another Emetrics has come and gone. Many of the Summit’s highlights have been presented in other blogs, but I did want to point out a few personal observations:

Big News and Rumors: Eric Peterson strikes out on his own, a new Google Analytics, and WebSideStory changes its name to Visual Sciences. But the biggest question I kept getting was “how do you feel about having to work for Microsoft?”

Attendees: Wow. There were a lot of people. Many faces from Emetrics Santa Barbara 2005 and 2006, but lots of new faces as well. The surge in attendees meant I was running into a lot of people new to web analytics, but I also took note of people representing sub-specialties such as SEO and SEM, now as legitimate peers of web analytics. I don’t remember the number of attendees, but there’s no way all of us would have fit in the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara.
Emetrics Crowd
Kudos to Jim Sterne for having the foresight to move the Summit to a larger venue this year. The Palace Hotel kept up the high standards.

Hiring! Anyone who was hiring stuck a green dot on their badge. There were LOTS of green dots. If you’re interested in web analytics, it seems there’s a job for you, somewhere!
Emetrics SF Badge
Special thanks to Eric Peterson for announcing on stage that the Yahoo! data team is looking to hire over 120 people. Eric, I owe you one – or several. For everyone else .. send resumes!

Vendors: All the vendors you’d expect were there, showing their latest. One vendor was even promoting a sniffer technology, so you didn’t have to manually tag pages – wow! Unlike Santa Barbara, where the vendors were in the same room as the presenters, in SF there was a separate “vendor room.” That increased the times available for product demos, but it did mean attendees needed to make a special trip to the room. The genius move was to put the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks at the back of the vendor room, which no doubt increased traffic.
Emetrics SF Vendors
And no, the floor wasn’t really sloped.

Blogger’s Lunch: Unfortunately I was on conference calls until 1:30 Monday, so I missed the blogger’s lunch table. In fact, I missed lunch… and Jim’s keynote…

Google Analytics: You’ve no doubt already seen the buzz about the new Google Analytics. What you probably don’t know is that Jeffrey Veen gave a really great presentation. It took him a while to get his Mac projecting, but Brett Crosby did a good tap dance, and the eventual presentation was well worth it. I don’t know if he was using PowerPoint or Keynote or what, but the screen animations looked like somebody offscreen was doing a live demo.
Jeff Veen demos Google Analytics
After the presentation, I asked Somebody Who Would Know about MeasureMap, the blog analytics technology Google bought and then seemed to bury. Did the new Google Analytics contain all that MeasureMap goodness? With a wink and a smile, I was told that MeasureMap isn’t dead, but I got the impression that if I was told more, I would have to be killed. So I got a Google Analytics T-shirt instead.

The Sessions: Of course the sessions are the reasons most people go to Emetrics. As usual, some of them were fabulous and others were take-it-or-leave-it. Unlike previous years, there were so many presenters that much of the summit ran in four tracks. That made it a bit of a challenge to get to every talk I wanted to see. However, four presentations stood out for me.

First was Bryan Eisenberg‘s Persuasion Architecture talk. I love how Bryan brings reality into analytics. Persuasion Architecture focuses on outcomes, not activities. Amen to that!

Second was Joseph Carrabis‘ talk “Quantifying and Optimizing the Human Side of Online Marketing.” Honestly, the title sounded a bit dry and I wasn’t sure why I wandered into that particular room. (I’m sure Joseph could say!) But immediately, I was captivated. First, you need to understand that this talk had nothing to do with web analytics. Second, Joseph comes across like Robin Williams as a professor — he read his material from a script, but packed so many asides and ad libs into the presentation — all relevant — that it was fascinating to witness. He had five points to make, and after 50 minutes, had only covered the first two. He asked the crowd which of the final three we’d like him to cover, and everybody said “all of them! We’ll stay!” Keep in mind, this was the last session of the day and people were getting ready for Web Analytics Wednesday (read: free drinks). That’s how good he was – everyone stayed another 30 minutes. Since returning from the Summit, I’ve been looking up Joseph’s other writings, and my hope is to have him come speak at Yahoo! sometime.

Aside: check out the game. I have no idea what this is, but I hope one day Joseph reveals his findings.

Third was a talk from Seth Romanow and Chris Worland from Microsoft where they coined the term “personamous” to talk about personalized content to anonymous visitors. (During the talk, Seth said was still available. A week later as I write this summary, it’s still available.) The reason why this session stood out for me was that they had three main lessons. Two of them (stuff interest/activity data in the cookie, rather than in a central database, and avoid a recommendation engine) were the opposite of what Yahoo! does. My hope is that they came to the conclusions they did based on the the time and available resources to get the job done. Yahoo!’s been doing this for 12 years, so we may be talking on a very different time/resource/focus scale.

Finally, Tim Hart of the J. Paul Getty Trust really nailed how web analytics can help you align your web site with your mission. While he was presenting, I was reminded of Xavier Casanova’s presentation last year where he used web analytics to help his startup figure out positioning, messaging and buzz.

Privacy / Ethics: I had more than a handful of people tell me they’ve been thinking about ethics of web data. During the WAA meeting on Sunday, Jim Sterne made a call for a WAA Ethics Task Force. Alex Langshur and I talked about how important privacy guidelines were to the public sector web sites – something I hadn’t previously considered. René Dechamps Otamendi brought in the European angle. I’m very glad to see an increased level of awareness and interest — and I’m looking forward to additional discussions.

Web Analytics Wednesday (on Tuesday): There was a great turnout for Web Analytics Wednesday, the social event for web analytics geeks – you know who you are. More recruiting ensued…. a number of us then migrated to the WAW after-party, which meant actually leaving the hotel. I don’t think we lost too many people along the way.

There’s an unwritten law that any post about Emetrics has to have a photo of either Jim Sterne or Eric Peterson. Since I mentioned Jim’s “Godfather” video already, and because Eric’s now on his own, here’s Eric, wondering when Andy Benkert (center) and I are going to get the hell out of the doorway:
Bob Andy and Eric at Emetrics WAW
The sign on Andy reads: “Web Analytics Wednesday (on Tuesday) After Party.” Many thanks to June Dershewitz for organizing this WAW!

It was great to meet and/or re-meet so many people. The LinkedIn connections are flying, so we’ll all stay in touch — at least until October, when Emetrics moves to Washington DC.

Other Emetrics summaries (list is in no way complete):

Notes on Emetrics Summit San Francisco 2007