Harper is no leader


I liked Scott’s recent posts on Canada’s unfortunate position in the world with respect to Climate Change action: Leading from behind and What real “leadership” on climate change looks like.

It’s so frustrating to live in a country where the people are clearly in favour of doing so much more than we are, yet our PM thinks he can get away with lip-service to action. As we saw with the recent 3-4x increase in Green Party votes in the recent Ontario election, things are changing. I hope this issue unseats Mr. Harper or at a minimum forces him into more action. He can’t get away with inaction for much longer.

Sustainability challenges

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I like the idea of small goals, actions or games to encourage sustainability. Keeping the goals small makes them more appealing to people who might not otherwise have considered trying it.

I created 2 sustainability challenges at YouSustain:

Both of these are easy to complete and many of my coworkers and friends have joined up. It’s been fun to have a common goal this week.

You can also see the full list of sustainability challenges on YouSustain.

Who wants friends like these?

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As pointed out on Warren Kinsella’s fancy new blog:

“Ah, yes. George W. Bush’s great friends, and his great allies in the so-called war on terror.”

He was referring to this article: Saudi court punishes rape victim with 200 lashes

A woman who was raped by multiple men was sentenced to 200 lashes because at the time she was kidnapped she was in the presence of a man who was not her husband or family. He was apparently her ex-boyfriend and she was retrieving some of her items. According to Sharia law, this is an offense worth 200 lashes, even under those circumstances.

It doesn’t seem too productive to lament the hypocrisy of our Western governments for being friendly with this nation, so what is the best answer? Would treating them similarly to the way Bush is treating Iran make things better or worse? I would have to guess worse, since Bush’s actions have strengthened the hard-line element of Iran. Maybe being as friendly and open is the best answer, since it does seem like most societies that are exposed to social liberalism tend to keep moving in that direction. At least, I can’t think of a counter-example at the moment.

QCon, San Francisco, 2007

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I don’t write about software development very often on here, but I’d like to summarize some of the highlights of the QCon conference I attended this week.

First two days: tutorials

I really liked the tutorials, I think mostly because the smaller environment lead to more discussion and diving into details. I attended the Domain Driven Design and Domain Specific Languages tutorials.

The DDD tutorial had a lot of good insights, the best probably was that we should spend the time to figure out what part of the software we’re building is really core to the domain of the business and make sure to design that really well to reflect the business. Other parts are slightly less important, but will benefit from the good design of the core.

The DSL tutorial was more interesting from a forward-looking perspective. I can see DSLs being useful in some cases, and no one was saying they are universally useful. But, there are some very early stage development tools that try to model everything as a DSL. No one seems to know yet how well these tools will work, but it will be interesting to see.


The last 3 days of the week were the conference. The main themes, at least of the talks I attended, were architecture of large-scale systems, REST vs. SOA, and new technologies.

There was only one session I didn’t like. The architecture talks were generally about how various companies architectures look today, and sometimes how they evolved over time. One of the talks showed how one company composed a new application with pieces of their existing architecture (that are also sold as services) and ended up giving no concrete details of any of it. That’s great if I happen to want to buy those services but provided me no insight otherwise.

My favourite conference talks were:

  • The architecture of Second Life. What set this apart was that he covered how their architecture evolved over time, what mistakes were made, and how they solved them. I find sharing mistakes more insightful than successes. Almost anyone can read a few books and sketch out what should be a decent architecture (not that it would necessarily work, though). But, seeing the problems others ran into while trying to apply those principles in the real world is very useful.
  • The REST vs. SOA talk given by one of the creators of SOAP. Most of the talks were REST-oriented, but this one was most interesting because the entire room full of people was hammering him with questions and counter-points and he fielded them very well. He dove down into very technical details of why each style works the way it does. To me, honestly, this whole religious war between REST and SOA feels very contrived because each has their use. The speakers I saw that I respected the most acknowledged each has their place.
  • Designing for testability. They didn’t go into enough details and examples, in my opinion, but the talk was still good. Anything which increases awareness that we do have to put a little thought into how code we write will be testable is good. And, any person who puts on a slide that “Statics are evil” is a winner in my books.

Another general theme of the conference was of dynamic (scripting) languages. This specifically is causing me to rethink a lot of my old assumptions. I’ve used scripting languages for years on side-projects I’ve been involved with. But, having worked in J2EE for many years now on very large apps and websites, my gut instinct has always been that a very large project required a mature language like Java with all it’s mature frameworks. Parts of the industry are now starting to embrace these languages, so it will be interesting to see how it works out. Languages like Ruby still have performance issues, but those will get worked out over time the same way it did with Java. My current thoughts are that if I were designing a very large website I’d consider implementing the view layer with Ruby or PHP and implement the back-end services in Java (assuming there were complex back-end services (and/or resources!)

Personal Sustainability

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I’d like to announce the start of a Beta for a new site I’m proud to be a part of. This has been in the works for a while and after lots of positive feedback we’re ready to open up to the public.

The site is called YouSustain and it’s goal is to promote personal sustainability. There’s a running description of the vision of the site at a lite blog here. We have never run into a site that has good, concise and organized data on things I, as an individual, can do to be more sustainable – YouSustain is trying to fill that void.

As a summary, YouSustain is trying to do 3 things:

  • Build a wealth of information related to personal sustainability “solutions”.
  • Calculate how sustainable we are. This is an important motivational tool for ourselves but can also be shown off (via our planned Facebook application, for example) to help promote sustainability to others.
  • Collaborating to promote personal sustainability, via groups. The long-term vision of this area of the site is the most unclear to us right now. We don’t really intend this to be a “sustainability social networking” area of the site, unless that’s what people end up wanting.

The biggest key for now is building the “wealth of information”, which is largely based on links to articles and information by the community.

So, please check out the site, submit articles you think are good, vote on articles, build your own sustainability profile and show it off to others, etc. Also, please send us any feedback along the way about how the site can be improved.