The SitePoint Podcast: What’s The Alternative To Google?

The SitePoint Podcast

Episode 138 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week the panel is made up of Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Brad Williams (@williamsba), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves and Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy). Listen in Your Browser Play this episode directly in your browser — just click the orang.

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Episode 138 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week the panel is made up of Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Brad Williams (@williamsba), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves and Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy).

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Host Spotlights

Interview Transcript

Louis: Hello and welcome to yet another episode of the SitePoint Podcast. We’re here this week with a full panel to discuss the past few weeks’ events in the world of the Web, so hi guys.

Stephan: Howdy, howdy.

Patrick: Hello.

Brad: Hey-oh!

Louis: So this time is a bit special for a couple reasons, but first up, Brad and Patrick happen to be in the same room as we’re recording this.

Patrick: That’s right.

Brad: Sadly.

Louis: (Laughs)

Patrick: Brad is kind enough to have me as a guest in his home.

Louis: That’s terrifying (laughter).

Patrick: Yes.

Brad: Just a bit.

Louis: So there’s another reason why today’s show is a bit special, and I guess Brad can fill us in on why that is.

Brad: Yeah, so sadly this will actually be my last SitePoint Podcast that I’ll be doing, so I’ll be stepping away from the show.

Louis: Noooooooo!

Brad: I know.

Louis: I was just trying to add some drama, obviously we were aware before the show, but I want to — you know.

Stephan: I had no idea; what are you guys talking about? (Laughter)

Brad: Surprise! Yes, it’s true. Actually the day after, I’m sorry, the day the show is released will be three years and one day since our first episode, so if you can believe it or not we’ve been doing this for over three years, and I think the time’s come for me to kind of move on and try some different things, and I’ve certainly had a great time and I definitely hope you guys will have me back on, on occasion, if you need to someone to fill a seat or just want to hear my sexy voice I’ll be more than happy to come back on the show.

Patrick: Yeah, well, Kevin said the same thing and you see how many times we’ve had him back on (laughter). You know I told Brad he’s going to need to get the tissue box for me here in case I get a little emotional, but –

Brad: We can hug it out.

Patrick: Yeah, I mean I always want to give a little history lesson for people like Brad was really the person who took the initiative to start the SitePoint Podcast, we have a forum post up in front of us here in the SitePoint Forums in the staff section from June 27, 2007 Brad just basically pushed the idea out there, he says, “I just wanted to get everyone’s thoughts on a SitePoint Podcast. It would take quite a bit of work to get it rolling, but with the knowledge just of the forums staff I’m sure we could make a very interesting show.” And so from that thread spawned months of discussions, and eventually Stephan and myself saying, hey, we’ll speak on this, we’ll participate, we won’t maybe do much more than that, but we’ll be glad to show up and speak and participate. And, yeah, we did a pilot together, us three, thereafter I believe, and then Kevin jumped on board, I don’t know, maybe the office needed some oversight or something, the SitePoint office, so Kevin was like yeah, okay, you guys finally got it to the finish line so let’s get it started and I’ll be a part of it, and you know we’ve won the .net Magazine Award, Podcast of the Year, like a year and a half ago, and, yeah, it’s been three years, 100-and however many episodes it’s been, and it’s been a great run and I’m going to miss having Brad’s perspective on the show and thankful for the opportunity to have got to know him better through the show.

Brad: Yeah, it’s funny because a lot of people when I explain how the show started and most people don’t realize that it was over a year from the time of when we initially talked about it, and literally a year of forum threads back and forth just playing the show, and we did some test runs and we did some pilots and all that, so a year leading up just to that first episode, so there was a lot of work behind it. And it wasn’t just us, there was a lot of other people on the SitePoint Forums’ staff and the editors and getting people to help with articles, so there was a lot of people involved to make this show a reality, so it was extremely exciting to get that first episode out and just to look back and know that we’ve had three years of just a really successful show is something that I know we’re all very proud of. So I’ll certainly miss it and I’ll miss hanging out with you guys all the time, but like you said, we’ve all become pretty good friends from the show, even moreso than we were, so I know I’ll certainly see you guys around.

Louis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean obviously from my perspective I’ve only been doing the show with you for a short while, but it’s been fantastic and it’s sad to see you go, but hopefully good things in the future for you, so, you know, all the best.

Stephan: We’ll miss you, Brad.

Patrick: I was gonna say, Stephan, speak up, say something (laughter).

Stephan: But we’ll really miss your Google Chrome comments, so, you know, I’m going to have to listen to Patrick tell me how great IE 8 is for the next however long (laughter).

Patrick: Yay!

Brad: I’m going to wait until he’s asleep tonight and install Chrome on his computer (laughter).

Stephan: But it’s been fun, it’s been a good three years.

Patrick: Yeah, and on that note we were just at WordCamp Philly, that’s what brought me to Philadelphia, Brad is one of the co-organizers of WordCamp Philly; WordCamps are conferences focused on WordPress if you’re not familiar, and we met two, not just one but two SitePoint Podcast listeners at the event which is a good size event but it’s not thousands of people, it’s a few hundred, a very large WordCamp, and we had not just one but two listeners and that was pretty cool as well. And I think with that we can get right into the, uh, with the stories.

Brad: Let’s do it.

Louis: Right. So I’ll kick it off this week, my first story it’s a Google related story which seems to happen a lot, and I know we’ll probably have some more Google stories on the show today. This was an announcement by Google about two weeks ago now, but it was definitely after we did the last panel show, Google will be introducing rate limits and overage fees to the Google Maps API which is something I know a lot of web developers and designers use in their sites and in client sites, so that could definitely have an impact. So what they said is that, bum, bum, bum, as of the new year I think, so in January 2012, there will be a limit placed on the use of the maps API to 25,000 map loads per day, and with a fee of $4.00 per thousand loads in excess of that limit.

Brad: Yeah, my initial reaction is this is going to make Google quite a bit of money because I know a lot of sites that use Google maps that I’m sure blow away that limit, 25,000 is not that many map loads per day.

Louis: Yeah, it’s pretty significant. I mean so there’s been obviously a pretty vocal reaction in blogs and on Twitter to this announcement, but at the same time to me at least it doesn’t seem totally unreasonable, we’re talking about a couple of dollars a day maybe if you’re exceeding that limit, and a lot of small, you know, the smaller sites that are sort of like if you’re a site for a restaurant or for a local business and you just have a map in your page to point people to your location that’s not going to affect you. So, I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like that huge a deal to me at least, and it certainly seems fair if they’ve got a service that’s good enough that everyone will keep using it even though it’s paid, and I think that will be the case; it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable for them to try and recoup some money on it.

Brad: It’s funny because with Google Maps the API version 3 they actually removed the API key requirement which seems odd now that they’re looking to go back and charge where they probably will need some type of API key to validate that the person has an actual account and is in good standing with their bill.

Louis: Yeah, that’s interesting actually; I hadn’t looked at the version 3 of the API so I wasn’t aware that they’d removed the API key.

Brad: Yeah, yeah, so I don’t know if they’re bringing that back or if they have some other method of paying it, but you’re right, I mean with the smaller sites, the local mom and pops sites finding their store or even smaller retail stores, even if they’re a small chain they have find the local or the closest dealer near you, or whatever it may be; they probably won’t hit the limit but, again, 25,000 that’s not that many views if it’s a significant feature on your site, so it’s definitely something people are going to have to be aware of. I mean how long have maps been around, for a long time now, so I’m sure a lot of people are going to get struck that don’t realize this is coming and all of a sudden their map stops working halfway through the day and they don’t know why, and then they’re going to find out and be very shocked that to keep their maps running on a daily basis that might cost them a few hundred dollars.

Stephan: And I’m wondering, too, like when you look at this, when you look at Google Maps, they have the ads on, they have the ads, the feature places, or whatever they call it, so was that not enough you think then to subsidize this or do they just see this as another revenue stream like on top of that? I wonder what the thinking was because, like you said, it’s going to be kind of a shock for people who maybe don’t follow all the Google news, it’s going to be one day their maps aren’t going to work and be like “What the heck is going on?!”

Louis: Yeah, it is interesting, because as you say there is already sort of a revenue stream involved in Google Maps, and you’d think that getting maps out in front of the most people possible is only going to increase that ad revenue regardless of any other money they could make on it, but maybe somebody sat back, looked at the numbers and said you know, look, this is costing us more than it’s bringing in because a lot of people are using it for other purposes that don’t really tie into advertising, that aren’t based on search, that are really just, you know, I can’t even come up with any examples, but, you know, tying into different applications that you really can’t monetize, and maybe said, look, if we lose a couple users it won’t be a big deal because we would make a little bit of extra money to cover costs and be able to keep growing the capacity. Speaking of which, though, what are the alternatives if someone was using Google Maps and putting through, you know, let’s say tens of thousands of requests a day and doesn’t want to spend this extra? So we’re talking let’s say you go over the cap by let’s say you do 30,000 a day, that’s an extra 5,000, so that’s $20.00 a day so that’s not insignificant, that’s $600.00 a month.

Brad: I don’t know of any other map platform that’s even close to same level, obviously there are sites like MapQuest which at one point was the standard, and Google Maps pretty much flew by them and I think now they’re playing catch up. They do have an API but, again, I don’t think it’s been seen as a real alternative, however, like you said now with the charging that certainly could be. Going back to what you said about utilizing Google Maps where you’re not getting those ads and things, you know we’ve set up a lot of sites where we use reverse geolocation to get longitude and latitude for addresses, and you can actually do that through the API where you simply send Google Maps an address and it will send back a longitude and latitude coordinates; prior to that I didn’t know of any free service that did that, everything we could find was a paid service and Google was the first one that I knew of that did it for free which was great for us, but I expected at some point they were probably going to start charging for stuff like that because it’s a pretty valuable tool to have.

Louis: Yeah. I’m having a look at the Bing maps at the moment, I’m just sort of scrolling around a map of Melbourne on Bing, and, ah (laughs), let’s just say it’s okay, it’s not great, I’m not seeing some of the stuff I’d like to see, it feels a little sluggish, can’t click on a train station and get the train times which you can in Google Maps. I’m not seeing traffic information available, it seems a bit limited, so yeah, maybe there’s an opportunity for some other player in the market to step up and try and wrest a bit of control away from Google.

Stephan: Which I guess kind of we can tie in to what I’m going to talk about. Did anyone else notice that they changed Google Maps as well? Now you have the option to do the new vector stuff if you’re in Chrome, and I’ve noticed it to be nothing but a problem lately, it is really, really slow, and in their press release they said oh this is going to make it so much faster, maps are gonna load, and yeah it looks like it loads faster because the tiles don’t all have to load, but you still got to wait until all the vector stuff to fill your browser, it just drags and drags and drags.

Louis: So I noticed this a while back because they rolled out the vector version of Google Maps to Android probably almost a year ago at this point, and I remember on Android working on a 3G connection it was a massive improvement over the tiles because if you were in a sort of spotty reception zone on 3G trying to get these tiles to load it was horrendous, but getting the vector maps was great. I don’t think I actually — oh, wait, does it want to try something new, is that what this button is?

Stephan: Yeah, yeah.

Louis: Alright, I bet that’s what it is (laughs), I hadn’t even noticed that.

Stephan: That’s the one (laughs).

Louis: Let’s click on this and see what happens. Alright, it looks superficially the same and if I do a bit of zooming –

Patrick: Is this only in Chrome?

Stephan: I believe so, yeah. Actually I think it’s any browser that can support the vector images.

Louis: So is this all done in WebGL or something like that?

Stephan: Yeah. Let me see if I can find the press release real quick.

Louis: It does seem — like I was just playing around with the tiled version a bit before, I think zooming in and out seems like it’s a little maybe slower, but when you scroll onto a new region of the map, like if you just pan the map –

Stephan: Oh, yeah, that part’s great.

Louis: And then everything is there, it just sort of gradually fills out the smaller side streets and adds the names gradually, so panning is a little bit better. Yeah, I think — I don’t think it’s necessarily better if you’re on broadband, I don’t think that would be the goal for them is to make it better for broadband users, I think it’s mostly going to save them bandwidth.

Stephan: Because they can preload the vector stuff.

Louis: Well, I just think it’s a lot less data, I think sending vector information about how to draw the streets and what they’re called is a much smaller package than sending a bitmap of all these different resolutions of the map, right.

Stephan: Yeah.

Louis: So it probably saved some bandwidth and it’s also, you know, from experience I can say I had a better experience with it on a mobile broadband connection, but for a real — sorry, not a real (laughs) — for a ‘real’ Internet connection, no, but I mean if you’re plugged in in your house on a fast connection it probably won’t make a huge difference, and as you said it might be a little bit buggy still; they have the advantage in Android of being able to code it natively in the app whereas here they have to work within the browser so it might be a little trickier to work with.

Stephan: That explains it. Yeah, we can talk about the changes and get it out of the way, I mean if that’s cool with y’all. I mean so much for the rant, I was just gonna — (laughter). No, so we talked about the maps a little bit but there are some other big changes that have taken place over the last week, week and a half. The first is they’ve now introduced the new Google Mail interface, and they’ve also introduced the new Google Reader interface and its integration into Google+ which we can touch on more later I’m guessing, Patrick, because I think you have a story about that.

Patrick: Yes, sir.

Stephan: I think from what I’ve — because I’ve played with it a lot, I’m usually in Gmail almost all day because it’s the way I keep in touch with some people around the world, and I usually don’t check my email on it and I’m usually just using it for the chat, but I’ve been using it the last week, the full week, and it’s been terribly slow, and I’m using Chrome, but it is astoundingly more responsive in Chrome than it is in Firefox, so in Firefox it’s almost unusable. So I was just wondering if you guys had the same experience if you’ve gotten the new look, because it’s optional, and what you think of it if you have, and then we’ll talk about Google Reader a little bit because it’s changed as well.

Brad: You know what’s weird is I have multiple Gmail accounts, one for work, one for personal, one for other things, and I have it on one of them but not the other ones which I thought was strange. You’d almost think if they know you have shared accounts or multiple accounts that you log into you’d think once they opened it up they would just kind of open it up to all of your accounts.

Stephan: Your accounts are linked, right?

Brad: No, they’re not linked, they’re individual accounts, but I’m basically on a daily basis flipping back and forth between the new and old design which makes it almost even more confusing because I’m almost rather be stuck on the new one or go back to the old one. Like you said, I guess I could turn it off but I did want to play with it. It’s like anything else, when a new design comes out I’m always usually very critical at first, and I’ve been trying to get better at that over the years to where I give it a couple weeks, you know, give it two to four weeks before I start complaining about it just because I’ve noticed that it generally grows on me, so I’ve learned like just to kind of keep my mouth shut, use it for a while, and then if two to four weeks go by and I still don’t like it and there’s still some big problems with it then I’ll start getting kind of vocal, but it is definitely different and it’s certainly when you first see it, it blows you back a little bit. It’s clean; I don’t know if I noticed it being any slower for me necessarily.

Stephan: And don’t get me wrong, it looks good, like it’s a nice looking design, but the biggest problem I’m having is with the chat window, the JavaScript effects that they’re using and stuff, it seems like they’re just — you go over to the left-hand side and an example is you have your different flags, you know, whatever they call them, tags for your email, and underneath it you have your chat window. Well, whenever you scroll over your tags it expands it, so if you have more than say 10 it shows you all of them, and if you do that enough it just seems like it just drags down the browser, like they have a real issue with something in there. And so I’ve — I don’t know, I mean it looks good but little things like this really they nag me because it’s stuff that should’ve been caught in my opinion.

Louis: Yeah, there’s definitely — I have actually run into some actual bugs in the implementation. I was trying to do something yesterday and I’m going to try and see if I can recreate it. When you do a search for like email sent to a certain address and then you try and do the thing where you create a filter from this search, and once you create it I think it accidentally — it sort of pre-fills one of the text fields with undefined by accident.

Stephan: Which makes you wonder what else is going on (laughter).

Louis: Yeah, any filter that you create from a search because this word, ‘undefined’, gets added into the text field search the search basically doesn’t work as a filter because it’s looking for email that contains the word undefined, so I couldn’t find a way of actually working around that and getting a search based filter to work. So, yeah, it seems like it was rolled out a little faster than maybe it should’ve been, like the design, I agree with you it’s really slick but maybe a bit more time on quality assurance would’ve been nice.

Stephan: Yeah. It’s a good looking change.

Louis: Here’s another thing, right, does everyone have it, has this been rolled out across the board or is it just to, like, us (laughs) as people that Google have identified as sort of early adopter types?

Stephan: I think that when I was reading the press release they said that they rolled it out so that it’s an option if you want to enable it on your account, and like Brad said it hasn’t hit his account yet so I don’t know, you know, maybe they’re doing it in phased releases but they said that everybody was going to have the ability to test it, to try it out.

Brad: Yeah, it hasn’t hit my main account but I’m anxious for it to because that’s the account I use 90% of the day, so that’s the one I’m really going to notice the little things that you’re mentioning. The other accounts I check them once maybe twice a day tops, so it’s not my main account so I’m anxious for that to happen. Overall it looks nice, but you’re right, I think there are some rough edges on it.

Stephan: Well, so they’ve taken these changes too, the look, the general overall feel with these nice little CSS drop shadows on their buttons and stuff and moved it over to Google Reader as well and kind of really cleaned up that interface, and I actually don’t know if I like the Google Reader interface as much as I like the Gmail interface. The Reader interface is almost too white for me, I can’t tell where things begin and end, it’s very jumbled, so I was wondering if you guys used it. I don’t know; do you guys use Google Reader?

Louis: Yeah, absolutely. I like the way it looks, so in terms of the new design I’m a fan, I like the way the new buttons look, I like the way everything’s a little bit more consistent. You know Google interface design in the past different applications would have different icons to mean the same thing or buttons would be in different places, now everything seems really consistent across the application so I like that. What I don’t like about Reader, though, is the plus integration; before when you clicked on share on a story in Google Reader that sort of went to a public stream or page that you had of your shared items, and there was an RSS feed for that so you could pipe in your Google Reader shared items into your blog or whatever from this public RSS feed, and now the only option is plus-one something on Google+ which I think sort of takes away from some of the social features of Google Reader that it had as an independent application trying to tie it into plus which I haven’t really gotten on board with yet, I don’t know.

Stephan: No, I’m completely with you because my wife and I use Google Reader to kind of share things that we like or things that we think are interesting, like I’ll share — I’ll come across a lot of math stuff in my line of work so I’ll share it with her, and so it was an easy way because she didn’t have to — she just subscribed to my feed, my RSS that I had, right, that’s all she had to do, and now neither of us really want to use Google+ if we don’t have to. I’m not sold on Google+, yes I know they have an iPhone app, I don’t really — I don’t get it yet, I don’t find it to be useful in my day-to-day, and so what I’m trying to do now is put — you know you can do send to Delicious, so I’m creating an RSS feed for my Delicious account and then that’s how I’m going to share with her.

Louis: Right. The other thing I didn’t get is so let’s say I wanted to forgo this or to try and use Google+ to actually do the same thing, when someone plus-one’s something public like that does that go into their stream like visibly or is it only when you actually post it? And there doesn’t seem to be a link to actually post it, like is just the plus-one enough to share it to everyone; I don’t even know how this thing works.

Stephan: See I don’t either. I plus-one’d something but it wanted me to put in like comments about it. Well, I didn’t want to put in a comment about it; I just want to put it up there if I’m going to put it up there, right. That was the whole thing with share, like if I wanted to add a note about oh this is cool right here, look at this paragraph, I could. With this the implementation needs to be tweaked I think; Patrick, maybe you know, like the Plus-one how does that work?

Patrick: Well, if it works like the normal Plus-one button does on websites, what I have found is that it’ll only go into your stream if you add the comment, and if you don’t add the comment it’ll go to the plus-one’s section on your profile, so if you navigate to your Google+ profile page at the top there’s that gray bar that says post about photos, videos, if you have those enabled, and then plus-one’s, and that’s where it might appear. Now I don’t know if it factors into the front page in some other way, but I just tested it myself in Google Reader and did a plus-one with a comment and without a comment, and when you try to type the comment in you’ll notice that it adds your circles to the bottom of that comment where you can say public or you can add more people, so I do believe that is how it works.

Louis: Yeah, so I just saw a testing here shared from Plus-one public, and the testing is the one with the comment?

Patrick: Yes, sir.

Louis: Right. See that annoys me. There’s no way like you just plus-one it without a comment I’d like to see those, and I’m not going to go to everybody’s individual profile to go and see what they’ve plus — anyway, I don’t like this thing.

Patrick: No, not at all. And Plus-one is going to factor into the search results I guess on, I guess like if I plus-one something and you search for that topic then it might be more likely to come up, but right now I don’t see that it’s relevant beyond that sort of thing so it kind of defeats, like you said, the purpose of sharing something through your stream.

Stephan: Okay, so I can kind of understand them trying to integrate all their products, right, and trying to really bring out Google+ and make it some big feature thing that they love, but I don’t understand fixing a problem that doesn’t exist, right, why not leave share, why get rid of it completely? I don’t — it completely broke my workflow. And then there’s apps on my iPhone, so I use Reader, I don’t know if you guys are familiar, but it’s an RSS reader on the iPhone, so I download all my feeds before I get on an airplane, or whatever, and I read them on the plane and then it syncs back up when I land. And now this functionality is just gone, so since it was a folder all my shared items that were shared with me are just gone off my phone because when it syncs it says, hey, that folder no longer exists and it’s gone, which that’s ridiculous. Or am I just crazy?

Louis: Yeah, I have to say not a fan either of the changes in functionality, like I said, I’m totally okay with the design change, like I said, I think it’s prettier, it’s cleaner, probably easier to use, but you know actually moving a functionality that people use then it was, you know, judging from comments I’ve seen it seemed to be a pretty popular feature of Google Reader because a lot of people complained about this.

Stephan: Yeah, if you read my Twitter stream it’s probably — if you guys read my Twitter stream when that came out it was kind of an eyeful (laughter).

Louis: So, again, what are the alternatives? I mean it seems like this is the ‘what are the alternatives to Google show’.

Stephan: Can we restart Bloglines, can that happen?

Louis: Oh, boy.

Patrick: Yeah, I used to use Bloglines too.

Louis: I used to use Bloglines for sure, yeah.

Brad: Dead pool.

Patrick: I think we need to go in business (laughter), buy the brand, buy the trademark from I guess it was Ask, who owned Ask, um, gosh, I don’t even know, anyway, yeah.

Stephan: RIP Bloglines.

Patrick: Okay, cool, so before we go ahead and move on from all this Google stuff I did want to briefly mention that Google+ just launched pages on the social networking platforms. Now if you’re an organization, a business, a website, a celebrity, whatever, just like you might have a Facebook page you can now have a Google+ page. Previously Google discouraged businesses and organizations from creating a Google+ profile because it was meant for in their eyes individuals; now that is gone and you can create your own page right now at, so you can actually now promote your business on Google+ so get on that.

Louis: So when does this become genuinely important for social media strategy? I know that Google+ is still kind of a fringe thing, it’s something that’s used by some nerds but not by the general public, so if you were advising a local business on their social media strategy, for example, you’d probably tell them you definitely want a Facebook page, you might tell them they want a Twitter page; do they want a Google+ page right away?

Patrick: Well, I would say beyond having the ability to update it I would say just go ahead and have one so that you can start building connections on that platform because I do believe that if you’re not already on there in some capacity as an individual or a business you should just go ahead and do it if you are in the business of engaging with your customers. So I do think it’s important to go ahead and be represented on the platform, I read an article on The Next Web by Drew Olanoff, and basically his overriding point was that Google+ pages are important because of Google’s overall product lineup and how they can or already have tied in to Google+ pages, for instance, they have Google Analytics so it’s not a far reach to say that they will offer better analytics. We talked about on a previous episode recently Twitter’s finally pushing out some analytics, I don’t think it’s available for everyone just yet, so Google has that capacity already in its arsenal and you could see that being rolled out, and then they have tools that could help with the CRM solution, so if people complain on Twitter it’s not something that you can just use Twitter to solve necessarily on a large scale, you need to use third party tools. But Google already has Google apps and they have Google Voice, and they can probably tie it in with another solution, so I guess the overriding theme there is that Google is so powerful and has so many complementary products already that it might represent a better experience for customer or brand interaction than you would receive otherwise on Twitter or Facebook, so I do think it’s a good idea to get on there and get started.

Louis: So are you using some kind of tool to cross post to Facebook and Google+? I notice that a lot of your posts seem to –

Brad: I asked him the same thing (laughter).

Patrick: Right now I’m not. I’m using TweetDeck for Twitter but for Facebook I’m posting manually right now, posting manually on my pages that I manage and on my profile, and the same for Google+ I’m posting manually on Google+ right now and I think it’s a good idea to do that at the moment with Facebook just because we have seen some drops in views for people using some of these automatic posting tools, and it’s maybe not 100% clear what the full cause of that is, I’ve heard that maybe it’s due to people blocking certain apps, but I know in my case I use Network Blogs Facebook app and that’s pretty popular and saw a drop in views and just shut it off and started posting manually and noticed an increase, so it may not be feasible for some enterprise people who work with a lot of different brands and pages, but if you’re just running a blog or you’re a small business or you just have a couple pages to manage, I would just say to go ahead and post directly at this time.

Louis: Oh, man, I am so sticking to code.

Patrick: Get out there, Louis, build that brand.

Louis: (Laughs) oh, no, man, there’s no — I mean you know.

Patrick: You know how long it took me to say your name correctly.

Louis: (Laughs)

Patrick: Now if you’re already a household name like you should be I would’ve already had that down.

Louis: Look, yep, I guess that’s just the cost of not being willing to update more than one social network at a time. I’ll just sit back and wait for there to be a clear winner and then –

Brad: And then someone else will come up.

Louis: Uh, yeah, I guess there’s no win; Microsoft took them up with the social network, next. When is Bing+ coming out?

Stephan: Hey, I’m still waiting for Orkut to take off.

Patrick: It depends on what country you’re from.

Louis: Yeah, it’s huge in Brazil, right, is that the one that everyone in Brazil uses?

Stephan: I think so, yeah.

Patrick: I think that sounds correct, yeah. I wouldn’t know Brazil particularly well.

Louis: (Laughs) I don’t know why I found that funny, sorry; to all the listeners who are confused there’s no inside joke, it’s just (laughs) –

Patrick: Just random laughter.

Louis: Yep.

Brad: So my story there’s a really interesting post written by a guy by the name of Dodgy Coder, sorry Mr. Dodgy I could not find your real name, I looked all over your site, we’ll call him Mr. Coder for now, but he wrote a post about Stack Overflow which I thought was pretty interesting. So he basically had the impression that Stack Overflow was a little bit biased towards developers because those are — C Sharp is the most tagged entry on Stack Overflow, so he decided to compare the rankings of the tag popularity on Stack Overflow with the leading language popularity indexed which he used the TIOBE Language Index. Any of you guys familiar with the TIOBE Index?

Louis: No.

Brad: So I wasn’t really either (laughter) so I looked it up, and basically it’s an indicator of the activity of a programming language. Now a lot of people think it’s the indicator of a programming language’s popularity, it’s not, it’s the activity across things like search engines, you know, how often is the word PHP mentioned. So it may signal that it is a popular language, it may signal that it’s a language that a lot of people are looking for help with, it may signal a lot of different things so that’s why there is some controversy around this language index.

Louis: So if a language is obscure but incredibly complicated it will generate a disproportionate amount of searches and therefore increase its TIOBE ranking?

Brad: It could. You could do that, yes, so it’s certainly not a scientific survey by any means, but it gives you kind of a guide to at least compare some other stats too. Now, whether it means anything who knows, but I thought this chart and these numbers were kind of interesting. So basically what he came up with is called the Stack Overflow Representation, and he gets these numbers by taking the — it represents ratio of the Stack Overflow tag count for each language as a percentage of the total questions divided by the TIOBE language Index percentage. So basically what this means is an overrepresentation of a particular language, so anything greater than 100% might mean there’s a greater number of questions on Stack Exchange than we would expect, and an underrepresentation of anything under 100% would mean there’s not as many questions as we would expect. So the thing that really strikes you when you look at this chart in this diagram is that the number one overrepresented programming language out there — and I’ll pause so our listeners can think about what their answer would be.

Louis: A bit of a dramatic; can we fill in with some dramatic piano cues here?

Brad: Because we’re looking at this so we obviously know what it is.

Stephan: Dun, dun, dun!

Louis: Thanks, Stephan.

Brad: The number one overrepresented language is JavaScript. So the big question is why is that? So on TIOBE JavaScript comes in at 2.19%.

Louis: I have a theory.

Brad: Stack Overflow percentage comes in at 6.3% which is an overrepresentation of — or a total representation of 293%.

Louis: I have a theory for that.

Brad: I would love to hear it, what’s your theory, Louis?

Louis: Alright. Stack Overflow is a thing question and answer, anyone who’s not familiar with it go check it out because it’s a great place to find answers; there’s so many times when I find myself Googling a programming problem and the first result is a Stack Overflow of someone having exactly that problem, and it’s a voted question and answer for the response so it’s really good. Now, all these other programming languages are used by programmers, JavaScript being a front end language is going to be used by a lot of front end web designers who aren’t programmers and so probably might — or who are novices just getting into web design and want to do some basic JavaScript effects, and so who will be stumped more often by some, you know, maybe some basic programming concepts that anyone working with any one of these other languages would probably already have their head around, so that’s gonna be my theory.

Brad: Yeah, I think you’re probably dead on it. Between that and the fact that even if you are familiar with JavaScript, in my opinion it’s a harder language to work with.

Louis: It’s also, yeah, it’s kind of a crap language (laughs).

Brad: I’m sure some of our listeners are not going to agree with that.

Louis: We’re going to get a bunch of angry emails about that, but alright, I’ll take it on, I’ll debate you.

Brad: I’ve definitely banged my head on the desk on some serious JavaScript issues over the years, so I’m not saying it’s the hardest but it’s definitely not the easiest.

Louis: There’s another point there, like you just mentioned banging your head against JavaScript issues, JavaScript is the only one of these where you’ll have different platforms for it to run on, right, JavaScript runs in a variety of browsers which have different implementations of the interpreter which isn’t the case for any one of these other languages; some of them have multiple interpreters available but they’re pretty consistent in their behavior so it’s probably less of an issue.

Brad: Yeah, and I was reading through some of the comments, there were some good points, some things to take into consideration are the age of the language, so the longer a language has been around the more resources are going to be available, books, resources online, blogs, whatever, forums, versus a new language where there’s not as much so there’s going to be a lot more searching for those languages, so those would probably be represented a little bit higher and especially a lot more questions asked. I thought it was interesting too that PHP was almost dead on, it’s 104%; Stack Overflow representation is almost exact to the TIOBE Language Index.

Louis: Yeah, that’s interesting, and Ruby and Python are also very close to even. But an interesting fact there is that PHP, Ruby and Python are exactly the kinds of language you would think Stack Overflow would be helpful for, right, I mean a lot of people who do computer science or software engineering in school are going to learn C++ or Java, so they learned it in school and they’ve got their textbooks and they know how to do it, whereas PHP, Ruby and Python are largely web programming languages and a lot of the people using them are self-taught so that’s where those kind of resources really come into play.

Stephan: See I think there’s a slightly — I have a slight theory on all this, right. So India, right, which is a very large outsourcing area, the focus of languages there are Java and .net, and a lot of those folks are self-taught, even though they know theory they still teach themselves syntax and different functionality things, and so I think that plays into it a lot. And PHP after you’ve learned C++ or even .net for that matter, I think you could PHP or Ruby fairly easily in my opinion minus the syntax, so I think that plays into it a little bit, right, on the — what’s it called, the TIOBE reference, I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy.

Brad: Yeah, I think you kind of have to take these stats with a grain of salt, but it is kind of interesting to talk about and kind of look at how some of the different languages stack up, and like I said, it’s not necessarily based on the popularity in the TIOBE Index, it’s based on the activity. So there obviously could be a lot of debate around why a particular language is being discussed more than another one, but it’s interesting so we’ll have the links in the show notes so you can check out some of these graphs that they have.

Louis: Yeah, absolutely. Cool. I had one last story for this week and it was sort of a brief, I don’t know how to describe it, a storm in a teacup I think, at the WHAT WorkingGroup concerning some new elements in HTML5. I don’t know if any of you caught wind of this furor on Twitter?

Stephan: Whoo-ooh-ooh.

Patrick: I felt a stiff cold breeze last night.

Stephan: There was another Hitler video on YouTube.

Louis: Oh, was there?

Stephan: No, I don’t know; furor, you said furor.

Louis: Almost certainly. Oh, I meant like –

Patrick: Ahhhh! Boy.

Louis: Now I’ve got to find out if there was a Hitler video for this.

Patrick: Terrible. Let’s go searching for the Hitler video.

Louis: See how easy it is to sidetrack us.

Patrick: That’s how we prepare for every SitePoint Podcast, look for the new Hitler videos.

Louis: It does not appear that there was any of that downfall remix about Hitler finding out that the time element had been briefly removed from HTML5. So there’s a couple of great articles about this posted exactly a week apart on .net Magazine, so I’ll post links in the show notes, the first one is on October 31st HTML5 Scraps the Semantic Time Element. So if anyone was unaware, in the HTML5 spec there was this idea that you would have this time element, and the purpose of it would be to markup any kind of date or time, so if you’ve got a post you could put the, you know, October 31, 2011 inside a time element and then you have an attribute on the time element that allows you to put in a standardized representation of the UTC time in a machine readable format so that way a spider crawling your page could be able to read the time and not have to parse the actual language, it would just be able to look at the time element and say, oh, this was published on such and such a date. So it was an element that had garnered some usage already even though it wasn’t the final version of the spec, it was already being used by GitHub, it had been — it was in I think released versions of WordPress and Drupal was in the process of implementing or making use of the time element in their default themes. And then Ian Hickson who was the editor of the HTML5 spec at the WHAT Working Group decided to ditch it basically arguing that styling dates and times was not something that people did and its use wasn’t widespread enough so it just dropped it. A bunch of developers got up in arms about this so for the day it happened, I guess I don’t follow the same people on Twitter as you guys do because the day this happened my Twitter stream was full of everyone complaining about this decision, so all sorts of blogs came out against it so this blog post by Bruce Lawson, by Jeremy Keith; Jeremy Keith even went so far as to say look it doesn’t matter what the spec says it’s useful and the implementations are out there so just keep using it. And then a week later the decision was reverted so that change was rolled back, so it’s back, we’ve got time again in HTML5, so basically the outcome of this story is that nothing happened.

Patrick: That’s almost one of those stories that we could just say it doesn’t need to be mentioned, I don’t know, no, I’m just kidding, but it’s funny you mentioned the Twitter thing because I mean if it doesn’t get mentioned by like airlines, zombies or Diddy, you know, the three of us would normally have paid too much attention to it.

Louis: (Laughs)

Patrick: So, yeah, I guess we do follow different people. Diddy did not bring up the HTML5 time element; oddly enough I guess it’s just not mainstream enough to go into that sort of press.

Louis: Yeah, get it out in the mainstream press.

Patrick: But, yeah, is this how quickly they get rid of it and how quickly they can restore it? I mean I’m looking at the time, the dates on these articles, I guess it’s not that quick, October 31st and November 7th.

Brad: That’s a week.

Patrick: I mean did they not have any discussion about removing it before they just came out and said, bam, it’s gone?

Louis: Yeah, so here’s the thing with HTML5 and the WHAT Working Group, right, you guys will probably remember there was a very, very long period of time in the history of web development when the W3C was theoretically working on XHTML2 and they were often fantasy land working on this thing that no browser would ever implement because we couldn’t deliver it with the right mime type anyway.

Patrick: Right.

Louis: And it had just completely stalled and nothing was being added to HTML and people were either using XHTML1.0 or HTML 4.01, and this was the state for many, many years and then some people at the W3C kind of got dissatisfied with that and formed this splinter group called the WHAT Working Group, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, something like that, and came up with the HTML5 spec very, very rapidly, and the reason for that is rather than this sort of consensus based approach, the committee sort of driven approach used by the W3C, they had sort of one editor who wrote the spec who was Ian Hickson and that allowed them to move a lot faster. So we saw the advantages of that workflow in the fact that it got us HTML5 a lot faster than we would have gotten it if it had been up to the W3C, but then last week we kind of saw the flip side of that is if Ian Hickson decides he doesn’t want something even if a bunch of people are using it and disagree with him he can just go ahead and drop it. In this case it so happened that the outroar was widespread enough that the decision was made to revert it. But even then looking through the mailing group, the mailing list, when the decision to revert it was made — and the initial argument was made on a technicality, it was made on sort of well the spec is already past the point when we shouldn’t be reverting features, not an argument from its value which is an argument that it’s too late to be removing elements.

Brad: I think Ben Ward said it best when he Tweeted, “We may as well just consider replacing all HTML tags with derp!” (laughter).

Louis: Pretty much like that because the original argument I think from Ian Hickson was that we just wanted to use a data element, a generic data element that you would just put the machine readable version inside the tag and then have that do its thing, but the argument for time is that this is a one specific format, it’s really, really commonly used on the Web, it was easy to use, everyone understood it, you just, you know, put the element in there and it gives you a lot of extra flexibility. So it’s good to see that it’s back and it’s good to see that the developer community at large definitely has an influence on this, so people should definitely pay attention to what’s going on in these specs because if there’s something you disagree with you can get out there and convince a lot of people that it is a bad idea then it has an impact on what eventually goes into the spec.

Stephan: Keep calm and carry on.

Louis: (Laughs) so I guess that’s the end of that story.

Brad: My spotlight is a fun little site by Mr. Doob called Google Gravity. It basically is a fun site that loads up what looks like to be the Google website homepage and then the page basically kind of all collapses down to the bottom of the screen and you can actually grab the various elements that have fallen and drag them around and slam them into other elements, and the search box is actually fully functional so you can search something, hit enter and the results will also fall down on the screen and fall into your pile of various elements. It’s kind of hard to describe but it’s one of those really fun sites to play with and waste a little bit of time on, so we’ll definitely have a link, that’s called Google Gravity.

Louis: So do you know what the deal is with the tech here, is this all JavaScript, are these the actual elements moving around?

Brad: You know I was looking into the backend and I didn’t get far enough to figure that out, it looks like it might very well be.

Louis: It definitely looks like it, it looks like it’s not Flash, it’s definitely just all this stuff moving around which is pretty impressive.

Brad: Yeah, it’s certainly not Flash, it looks to be all JavaScript based, I was actually hoping it would be HTML5.

Patrick: I guess you guys all saw the dual barrel roll thing; I don’t think you could have missed it.

Louis: Yeah, yeah.

Patrick: It’s not possible to miss it.

Brad: It was an obvious spotlight, I avoided that one.

Patrick: Right. And there was the one that led me to the one for more Google tricks.

Brad: Easter eggs?

Patrick: Yeah, Easter eggs. And there was one, recursion, I don’t know if you saw that one, it’s a little subtle because recursion, according to Wikipedia, is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way so if you enter recursion into Google it asks ‘did you mean recursion’ and will always ask that.

Louis: So, yeah, you click on did you mean and it just brings it back to the same page.

Patrick: Yeah.

Brad: So that’s funny, I didn’t realize my spotlight was Google based, but I guess that fit right in.

Louis: That one’s definitely geekier than do a barrel roll. Stephan?

Stephan: So my spotlight is a series called Made by Hand, and it’s a bunch of videos and they’re kind of coming out in different pieces, and it’s basically documentaries, little mini documentaries about different things that are made by hand. The first one is about the distillery, it’s about a distillery, and then the second one’s about a knife maker and they’re just kind of interesting little videos and I’m into things that aren’t television that I can watch, so it’s cool.

Louis: Very cool, I’ll check this out, these knives are just sort of I assume totally handmade.

Stephan: Totally handmade and when you listen to the guy’s story you would never think that he was going to become a knife maker.

Louis: Well, you wouldn’t think that anyone would become a knife maker, right, it’s one of those professions that you think the last knife maker died in 1867 (laughter).

Stephan: Well, what’s funny, and I’ll have to find the video, is that this isn’t the first video I’ve seen about a knife maker.

Louis: (Laughs)

Stephan: There’s another one and it was actually really well done as well, and he talks — this guy makes like $5,000 knives, so interesting stuff.

Patrick: But where is the video for the guy who you wouldn’t think would have became a murderer with knives but then went ahead and did it (laughs), where’s his bio?

Stephan: That’s on MSNBC at night, you know; To Catch a Predator.

Patrick: Very good, very good. No, no, I was just commenting on Brad’s but I can see how you would say that.

Brad: You were trying to sneak half a spotlight in there.

Louis: So my spotlight this week it was a hard pick, there was actually a couple of things I wanted to spotlight on, but the other one hopefully it will come up in the interview show next week, that’s all the spoiler I’m going to give for that so we’ll see what happens there. So the one I found was this post on which is the personal website of an interaction designer called Brett Victor. And it’s sort of this really — it’s just a rant in response to a YouTube video, I don’t know if you guys saw this video but it was sort of — it’s called Productivity Future Vision, it did the rounds on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and it’s sort of animation video of a bunch of futuristic user interfaces, people with all these kinds of crazy digital magazines in their hotel room. It’s this business woman showing up for a meeting and doing all her preparation in her office, in her hotel room with all these kind of fancy interfaces that don’t exist yet and that have been cleverly animated, so it’s a pretty impressive video, it’s worth having a look at. But what I was really interested in is all the points raised by Brett in response to it, sort of saying these are all sort of unimaginative interfaces, right, because they’re all sort of this sort of pictures behind glass on a screen where all you can do is swipe, basically it’s the one thing that we do, and he has this really nicely illustrated rant which is super well designed, so it’s not really just a blog post because he’s got illustrations and pictures and it’s really its own website covering all his points about how we can do better in terms of interface design and build things that are really tactile. So I thought it was a really interesting read so that’s my spotlight.

Patrick: Cool, very cool, yeah, that’s a handmade blog post right there.

Louis: Yeah, that’s one of the things that impressed me was you know there’s been so much care put into making the thing pretty, so it goes beyond a blog post, it’s like a, you know, a full-on sort of magazine article with layout and pictures and all that.

Patrick: Cool. So if Brad wasn’t leaving today my spotlight probably would have been Heavy D related because Heavy D the rapper just passed away today, RIP Heavy D. Go check out the You Can’t See What I Can See music video. But since Brad is leaving I have to give it to something else, see what I did right there, no. So my spotlight is the first episode of the SitePoint Podcast, SitePoint Podcast #1, The Economy. And I think Brad was like you shouldn’t put that out there, that might not be our greatest moment, but, it’s important to know where you have been so, yeah, I would definitely encourage all listeners to take a look at the first episode of the SitePoint Podcast released on November 10, 2008, and I think as Brad said this show is going to be coming out on November 11, 2011, so three years and one day later and, yeah, you can see what it was like at the very beginning when we just got started, pushed on by Brad but with us along for the ride as well.

Louis: Alright, well that’s it for this week’s episode, and that’s it for Brad’s tenure on the show. So, again, Brad it’s going to be sad to see you go.

Stephan: We’ll miss you, buddy.

Louis: But all the best.

Patrick: Yeah, we’ll miss you.

Louis: And we’ll definitely have you back on. Unlike Kevin you’ve got to come back for real, not like Kevin.

Brad: Yeah, thanks guys, I’ll certainly miss it (laughter). Hey, send me the invite, I’ll be here.

Louis: Awesome.

Patrick: Very good. Well, I guess lead us off on around the table for the last time.

Brad: So I’m Brad Williams with and you can find me on Twitter @williamsba.

Patrick: I am Patrick O’Keefe for the iFroggy Network, I blog at, on Twitter @ifroggy, i-f-r-o-g-g-y.

Stephan: I’m Stephan Segraves blogging at; you can find me on Twitter @ssegraves.

Louis: And you can find SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, that’s sitepoint d-o-t-c-o-m. You can find everything related to the SitePoint Podcast from the first episode on up at, and you can email us at [email protected], you can find me on Twitter @rssaddict. Thanks for listening.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

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