I spent some time today digging into treemaps, a way to represent information visually as a series of nested rectangles whose colors are determined by an additional measurement. If that explanation sounds hopelessly obtuse, take a look at a world population treemap created using Honeycomb, enterprise treemapping software developed by the Hive Group: This section of the treemap shows the countries of Africa. The size of each rectangle shows its population relative to the other countries. The color indicates ... read more

FriendFeed is working on Simple Update Protocol (SUP), a means of discovering when RSS and Atom feeds on a particular service have been updated without checking all of the individual feeds. Feeds indicate that their updates can be tracked with SUP by adding a new link tag, as in this example from an Atom feed: <link rel="http://api.friendfeed.com/2008/03#sup" href="http://friendfeed.com/api/sup.json#53924729" type="application/json" /> The rel attribute identifies an ID for the feed, which is called its ... read more

I was clearing off my desk today when I found an article I've been meaning to scan and send to somebody -- the story of how my friends almost elected a dalmatian and squirrel to the homecoming court of the University of North Texas in 1989. The alumni magazine wrote a feature on Hector the Eagle Dog and Agnes the Squirrel's campaign, which attracted national media and made a few of the human homecoming candidates very angry. I can never tell when a file's too big to send in email without aggravating the recipient, ... read more

I'm working on a programming project that requires an XML format to represent bookmarks and other collections of URIs, but before I reinvent the wheel I'd like to see if there's an existing format that meets my goals. The format should be able to hold all of the following information: Bookmarks in web browsers Links in web directories like the Open Directory Project Feeds in an OPML subscription list Social bookmarks in Delicious There are several potential formats that could be put to use: XBEL, the outline ... read more

I spent a little time this morning improving the comment system on Workbench. There's now a comments page that shows the 50 most recent comments submitted to the weblog. After you submit a comment here, the site will store your name and home page link in cookies for 180 days so you don't have to type them in again. I've also added a line to the site's moderation policy: "Comments that have nothing to do with the subject of a post will be deleted." There's too much off-topic noise here. I'm not interested in seeing ... read more

I've added a ReCaptcha component to the comment form on Workbench to deter spammers. The ReCaptcha system presents two hard-to-read words that must be typed in successfully for a comment to be saved. Here's what the component looks like: I tried as long as possible to avoid using captchas, but the amount of spam hitting this blog continues to grow, particularly from foreign IP addresses. Workbench has received 16,000 comments and more than 260,000 spam since it began accepting comments in 2002. The ReCaptcha ... read more

Last night several of my web sites, including the Drudge Retort, began crashing Internet Explorer with the error message "Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site ... Operation aborted." I've encountered this error before, and when it occurs out of the blue on a site you haven't changed, the culprit is usually a problem with third-party Javascript code, as CNet's Clientside blog explains: IE does this when you attempt to modify a DOM element before it is closed. This means that if you try and append a child ... read more