Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Ghost Lamp – A Photograph

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Authorized – A Photograph

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Taken at St. Edwards State Park, Kenmore, WA, September 23, 2012.

Speaking in Tongues – A Short Story

This is the transcript of Ms. Rhonda Wainwright, subject #RW-PKB120724:

“I’m concerned about clean water supplies. Does anyone know if any of these cities _don’t_ fluoridate the water? I wouldn’t want my babies drinking that. We only drink bottled water now that the system we were hooked to by the county has fluoride in it. The government seems to meddle in everything right now. Don’t you find that it seems like more and more of our taxes are being spent on more and more sinful things? I can’t believe that Communist dictator of Cuba is taking American chemotherapy. If he was really ready to die for the revolution, don’t you think he’d not use the yellow running dog imperialist capitalist pharmaceutical output built upon the slave labor of the oppressed developed world laboratory technicians? I mean really! The gall of it. Don’t get me started, or I’ll give you an earful about hedge fund managers that should be strung up by their duodenums from the gibbards. Those rat bastards put a dent in George Bush’s economy and prevented that professional aircraft destroyer and oh my God I love her shoes from taking their blessed, rightful position at the helm of this great nation. Instead, we were cursed with the wickedness of the evil Joe Biden, forehead of portent doom. I mean those Democrats haven’t put up a Vice-Presidential candidate without a forehead freeclimbers on El Capitan dream about in their fecally resplendent cocoons. One cannot trust the freethinkers of California – their reefer dreams have infected the very birds and bees of the countryside, leaving Mother Nature to weep over seedy dispensaries atop storm drains that drain to stream with the effluent of the very machines that convey us to our doom. Yay, the hour is neigh that Lucifer shall rise up from upon his coaly throne and bring righteousness to the wicked and apostasy to the devout. For Satan is but a fallen agel, dropped from the lap of God for soiling his mighty white tunic and befouling the aether. My ex used to fart like a coon dog on squirrels and I was so happy when I finally kicked him and that freeloading sister of his out of our apartment. I mean the nerve of some people! She had the utter audacity to put the butter dish in the icebox without a cover! Can you imagine! Butter that tastes like leeks and ham? Gosh I hope the Dark One smites her down into melted butter! Billy’d always said that long pig tasted better in butter, but he ain’t never brought none home. He said’n he’d only had it on the river, downstream where it gets all hot and jungly, and twern’t fit for man nor beast, only Frenchman and Creoles. I saw this voodoo princess at Disneyland once, (the Florida one, not the California one,) with these hawt tattoos, and it got me thinkin’ of of my lover, Jimmy Beam and his 750ml of liquid brown essence, make a man out of a woman and a woman out of a man, fool noobody but themselves and the drunks. They go down the dark way, towards Soddom Hussein’s way and Im’a sure he’s a gonna change. Speaking of those professional rip-off artists, what the fuck is up with Nickelback? WHY ARE THEY EVEN STILL TALKED ABOUT? Jezzus Khrist they’ve gotten more airplay than Zappa and they’re a scintilla of the musical chops of Frank, Allah Rest His Soul. OMG, did you see that Van Halen was touring again? Valerie looks better than Diamond Dave in a dress and I wish it would stay that way. I find that comment systems on publically available websites are great places to pick up learnings about revolutionary thinking to topple the white, male, patriarchy that holds the systers down! Did you know that paradichloral benzene mixed with high-test petrol creates a napalm so effective, that only UN peacekeepers in Syria is allowed to use? It’s true. During the siege of Galal and Ga, they used it to great effect to repel the hordes of alien invaders. Those bastards didn’t even have green cards, and being from Japan and all, got a free ride during the Reagan administration, which was almost tragically cut short due to Bobby Dinero’s crackerjack performance in Dog Day of the Condor from the 1970’s. Isn’t Robert Redford dreamy? Sorry, I got sidetracked there for a minute on a bridge maintained by the county that those lazy SOBs haven’t inspected since the Wilson administration. There was a socialst president. Starting that League of Nations bullshit. Lot of good that did, except for the lobbyists in Gucci Gulch, as always. State dinners here, consul relations there; where’s the crystal fork, my dear? Those same said lobbyists that talked to those bankers on gibbards, I’d say! Additional scoundrels, dredged from the oily deeps of adolescence and student association elections. Only the psychopaths won, but the sychophants smelled opportunity that they’ve leveraged into a new Mandarin class, formulaic in their spreadsheet accuracy to the bottom line of their corporate lollipop, that they lick and lick, looking for the center by never finding it, they being too wedded to their steady minstrations of the USC like dung beatles to the feast. Rise up, rise up, I say and cast the liars and cheats from the hallowed chambers they have soiled by their very small presence of mind within it, diminishing them by their petty, self-aggrandizing thoughts. Only true patriots need apply. Leave your cable, your doggie day care, your yoga mat and your gossipy ways behind as you storm the gates of citizenship and reclaim your earned birthrights of dignity, sanity and leadership. Step away from the anti-thought people who seek to control you via religion, politics and economic injustice wrought upon a subdued populance conditioned to believe it’s for their own good. Oh dear. That sounds awfully messy, and I wouldn’t want those dirty, smelley [insert current terrorist profile here] bastards to win, so I’ll gladly have my innards and outards irradiated like haggis. Be free, I say, be free!

When I can start bottle-feeding my baby CocaCola?”

Dropped – A Short Story

The servicemech moved to the next bay and repeated the cycle. It flipped the main circuit on, tested the pathways, affixed a time and location marker, activated the telemetry systems, and checked the power generation subsystems for stability.

Satisfied that all was well, it cleared the niche’s occupant for drop and moved to the next bay.

Punching planetward at hypersonic speeds, the bow shock went from invisibly dark to red to white in seconds. Ablative plates melted into fragmentary slag that cast off molten runnels and fluid drops that further aerosolized into the atmosphere. LIDAR monitored range, and at the defined value, initiated the descent thrusters.

More expensive models would have gravity surfed down using microgrips of the local brane deformation and not required the internal gyroscopic gimbals for payload stabilization, but this was a budget-conscious operation.

The peat was on fire now and would likely burn for centuries. A fish splashed nearby – an attempt upon a dragonfly that flew up and away from the brief, mirrored reflection of itself that it was investigating, pulled in a thermal away from the now rapidly cooling sphere.

The frogs resumed their chorus first, no longer seeing anything moving, and then their backing symphony quickly swelled to full volume within the naturally encircling amphitheater of conifer and deciduous trees. At least, what remained of it that wasn’t scorched to grey ash.

Sensing internal azimuth cardinal direction variance exceedence from local gravity, a panel located at the orb’s 0,0,0 location recessed open and slid away, fully exposing an opening. With a burp, a leaded weight crimped upon a line was ejected and landed in the mud five meters away.

The gossamer filiment of the line settled atop the muck, spectrum sparkling in the sun’s light, which now penetrated to the surface through the newly smashed hole in the canopy. The end of the line, now embedded within the humus, began to grow straight down into gravity’s well until it encountered bedrock.

Sensing the crystal matrix, the line split into a random radiating splay across the surface for nine meters before sending deep roots down into the rock across the radii. Thus securely anchored, the burrowed nanoline began to tension and solidify upwards, perpendicular to the plane of the local field. Once above the surface, the tensioning began to pull the capsule towards the bedrock anchor and it eventually began to climb up the line and sit atop it like a finial.

Achieving proper orientation, it began to eat itself down the line now and then settled back into the mud and revealed itself to be an errant, alloy palantír as its exposed surface danced through the spectrum as it cycled through reflection, absorption, and emission.

A sharp exhaled hiss accompanied the unscrewing and rotation up of the entire upper hemisphere as the internal, argon atmosphere mixed into the planet’s mostly nitrogen one. After being completely unfastened, hydraulic lifts elevated the dome until it toppled away.

Now fully exposed, the cargo activated and disengaged from the harness before clambering out of the probe, intent upon its mission.

Copyright 2012, Chris Kilbourn

30,056 of ???

Still writing. Finally cracked 30K words after over a month’s hiatus.

The Redesigned Visual Studio Developer Center

If you’re a frequent visitor to the Visual Studio Developer Center on MSDN, you’ll notice that we just switched things around a bit. Okay, quite a lot, actually!

We’ve fundamentally changed the information architecture of the site, implemented a regular page pattern for non-Library pages and significantly shrunk the number of non-Library pages on the site.

Information Architecture Changes

Over the past six months, my team and I have been looking closely at site metrics around page views, clicks on pages, survey and other site feedback, and other data available to us around how developers use the site. What emerged from that noise of data were some clear signals about how the site was being used and we’ve tried our best to respond with updated site navigation and content organization.

The most obvious change is in the site navigation:

The Old Visual Studio Developer Center Header Navigation

The New Visual Studio Developer Center Header Navigation

The Old Visual Studio Developer Center Footer Navigation

The New Visual Studio Developer Center Footer Navigation

The biggest change is moving from eight items to six and the addition of sub-navigation links.

What went away were top-level links to Support and Downloads.

The Support link was rarely clicked and the page itself did not receive that much traffic, so that was an easy choice. On the other hand, the Downloads navigation link was consistently the most-clicked link in the header navigation and surfaced as a top task on the site as a whole.

So why remove Downloads from the site navigation? It seems counter-intuitive to do so. In the old model we had a dedicated downloads page that aggregated links to most of the popular or key downloads and these links spanned Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server. Finding the download you were looking for involved skimming a few dozen links and if you didn’t find it, you were pretty much stuck performing a site search or going back to your favorite Internet search engine.

In the new model, downloads are now part of the page-level information architecture as a regular link block, appear on every page, are scoped to the topic of the page they appear on, and usually provide an “all downloads” link that takes you to the Microsoft Download Center. I’m very curious what you think of this change, since it’s a big one.

Other visible changes of note are changing Library to Documentation, Learn to Languages, and the addition of sub-navigation links.

Library, as a term, has specific connotations for developers in general and Microsoft developers in particular. To avoid potential confusion for non-Microsoft developers and in the interest of clarity, changing to Documentation more accurately reflects what you can expect to find behind that link.

When we looked at the data around Learn, it was clear that developers were looking for language-specific learning resources more than anything. In fact, wherever we had a language learning link, it often was the most-clicked link on the page. By elevating Languages to the top-level navigation, we’re hoping that when you come in to the site via search, which many of you do, you’re now only a click away from those language learning resources.

The reasons behind the addition of sub-navigation items were twofold: more clearly represent the lower-level structure of the reorganized site in the header and provide a sitemap like experience in the footer. Hopefully this will help with the, “Where the heck is ‘foo’?”

Under the hood and not so obviously, the navigation now reflects the underlying content information architecture that pivots around products, samples, languages, extensions, documentation and community. Each one of these “buckets” now only contains content aligned with it, whereas before we had all sorts of stuff spread across the entire site.

Regular Page Pattern

I’m a strong believer that regularized page patterns assist repeat site visitors and that placing things in standard spots reduces the cognitive burden of analyzing a page for the task you are trying to complete. Prior to today, we had pages that more or less followed a handful of page patterns, and several that were freeform designs. If you had picked five pages at random from the site and examined their functional layout, chances are none of them would have matched.

As much as possible, (there are always exceptions,) we have a single page pattern across the site:

The New Page Pattern

As much as possible, we have contextualized the links in the right-hand column to provide the most-requested downloads and link you to places that make the most sense when coming from this page.

I’m hoping that if you’re a frequent visitor of the site, you’ll be able to more quickly find what you’re looking for, because now things will always be in the same place on the page.

Page Reduction

How many web pages does a website need? It depends.

In the case of Visual Studio, we had around 323, give or take a handful. The traffic graph yielded a curve like this, with the long tail being very flat when you looked out to the end:

When I see something like this across hundreds of pages, I naturally ask, “What are those pages that aren’t getting much traffic and do we need them?” As we clicked through each page of the site, what we discovered was that most of them were very out of date or had been shimmed into the site to solve some short-term need and then forgotten. Others were important to internal, company stakeholders but uninteresting to customers.

After careful deliberation, we’ve removed and redirected hundreds of pages. The site is now about 80 pages, which we’re going to be continually working on driving down to under 50. The core site, which you directly access via the navigation and sub-navigation elements, is 11 pages.

By doing this, we’re hoping that your search experience just become a whole lot better. Fewer pages with completely re-written, focused content limited to a single topic should provide better search engine results than many diffuse pages that span multiple topics.

Please let me know what you think about this new experience in the comments, as I’d love to have more input as we consider the future evolution of the site.

The One Weird Trick to Save Our Democracy

Vote.