Archive for March, 2006

DonorsChoose Gift Certificate

Last month, I auctioned off a copy of Upgrading to PHP 5 on eBay with the proceeds going 100% to the EFF.

Today, I received an e-mail giving me a $30 gift certificate to DonorsChoose as a thank you for my eBay Giving Works listing! Cool. I didn’t know we did that.

DonorsChoose allows teachers to submit requests for projects or materials they need for their classrooms, and then allows donors to choose which ones to fund.

In recognition of my friend Jon Kline, I selected a project for the Oakland school system. It’s titled “Improve Reading Engagement with Book Club Books!“. I love the idea of students reading and discussing books in a group.

The project is now 9% of the way to it’s $762 goal. If you can, please support it, so it can achieve success.

OSCON 2006 Proposal Accepted

This year’s OSCON isn’t until July, but I’m ready to book my tickets because my proposal on “Dirty secrets of PHP 5’s ext/soap extension” was accepted today.

I’ve spent many months using ext/soap with eBay’s WSDL writing sample code and testing out various functions. Bit-by-bit I’ve picked up a number of tricks and discovered quite a few un- (or mis- or poorly) documented features. Thanks to this talk, I will finally have the excuse to put them all together in one place.

Here’s the official description:

PHP 5’s ext/soap extension is an excellent Web services client. However, while the easy things are easy, lack of documentation means the hard things can appear downright impossible. Starting with SOAPClient basics and building upwards, learn the hidden secrets necessary to conquer even the strangest WSDL.

The one bad part about this talk is that I won’t be giving “Abracadabra and hocus pocus: Magical methods and PHP 5” or “Consuming Web Services Using PHP 5.” Of the two, the first would have been a blast to give, but I already have slides for the second, which is nice. (Well, I haven’t heard one way or another about those talks, but I’m assuming they were rejected. That’s fine, since I only have time to prepare one talk.)

See you in Portland!

More from MIX 06

Ever since I started at eBay, I’ve been excited about using our Web services to improve the eBay experience for buyers. In particular, I think there are lots of interesting ways to integrate eBay into programs other than Web browsers. So, when we looked to put together demos for MIX 06, we decide to show off a search widget and Outlook 12 integration (see yesterday’s post for more information).

After poking around Feedster and Technorati, I’m glad to see other people are equally excited by these ideas:

The best demo was one that showed how you can integrate eBay with Microsoft Outlook, giving you a single place to manage your auctions. One can envision many similar uses that aggregate task-based communications into your email software.

Trapper Markelz

[Joe Belfiore] demo’d a cool add in that eBay created for monitoring auctions. Although not an avid eBayer this is something I’ve wanted for a while.

eBay had a talk about building their search gadget – source speaks louder than words – it’s available on

Jon Gallant

Later today I’m hosting a round table, so if you’re still at MIX, come on by the eBay table and I’ll buy you lunch.

Other links:

MIX 06

Today’s Day 2 at Microsoft’s MIX 06 conference. I’ve had a great time so far. Here’s my recap:

Yesterday, was the big Bill G keynote and 1-1 chat with Tim O’Reilly. During Bill’s opening remarks, he gave the eBay Web service a nice plug by saying “eBay is an extreme example where half the product listings are done in a programmable way.” Technically, it’s 47% of listings, but what’s 3% among friends?

Later on, Dean Hachamovitch, king of IE 7, showed off eBay’s new support for viewing search results via RSS directly within the browser. Even better, we’ve integrated support for Microsoft’s Simple List Extensions to RSS, so you can sort and filter eBay items by category, format, price, etc. I think it’s a great way of using RSS outside of news syndication.

After lunch, I was on a panel titled “Web 2.0: Show Me The Money,” with Tim O’Reilly, Jeremy Zawodny, Michael Arrington, and Royal Farros. At first, I was worried we couldn’t fill up the entire hour and fifteen minutes, but we actually ran three minutes late and could have kept going. I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing, but a number of people have come up to me after the panel to say they enjoyed it, so I’m going to assume we were at least entertaining, if not actually informative.

Here’s the round-up from the blogsphere:

I hustled from my panel to Christin Boyd’s Office 2007 talk, where she demoed (in grand style) an eBay and Outlook integration, where you can pull in the items your watching and bidding on from eBay directly into Outlook. They appear directly inside a folder that you can sort, label, etc. Even better, they appear on your calendar, so you get a reminder 15 minutes before the auction closes. She even overwrote the “Reply” button on the ribbon turning it into a “Bid on eBay” button. Quite cool!

This morning, Joe Belfiore demoed this in front of the entire MIX 06 crowd during his morning keynote as an example of Office integration with third party sites using Web services.

Right now, I’m taking a short break before lunch, and then I’m off to hear Alan Lewis demo his eBay Live.Com Gadget. He’s learned all sorts of practical information about combining widgets and gadgets with Web services, and he’s going to share best practices with the attendees.

I got a chance to play around with the gadget over the past week, and it’s quite nice. Kudos to Alan, Rob, and Tim, for the design, programming, and UI. They really took this from idea to concept to actual code all by themselves. In particular, they added this nifty feature where the gadget will intelligently expand and truncate the search results depending on the width of your screen. Very impressive.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll share my one Vegas celebrity almost sighting. Yes, a real “appears in the National Enquirer” celebrity, not a tech “has an a-list blog” celebrity. While we were at dinner last night, Britney Spears rolled into the restaurant. Unfortunately, no thanks can be shared with “It’s 30 seconds too late, but now’s when I’m going to mention this” Arturo, who didn’t alert the people at the table with our backs to the entrance. I admit to shamlessly trying to “go to the bathroom,” but she was hidden away in a private room, and the bathrooms are in the casino, so that line didn’t work so well.

The Sopranos: Season Six

This show fucking rocks!

Werewolves of Edinburgh

Thanks to Ewan, I played an amazing game of Werewolf at ETech.

The great thing Werewolf is that it’s always different. I’d played it a few times previously at FOO Camp, and it was fun, but this may have been the best game yet.

As in the typical game of Werewolf, the villages were grasping at straws to identify the werewolves. In fact, since I was a werewolf, I knew they were even worse than normal because they hadn’t come close to naming either Weston or me and were generally fighting back and forth among themselves.

In situations like that, all a werewolf needs to do is sit back and let the villages lynch each other. You contribute just enough to the conversation to keep yourself from getting on the inevitable “now we’re going to kill you because you haven’t said a word all game” list, but you don’t need to be too aggressive and risk getting tossed.

In those cases, I first kill off the smart people (sorry Dick) and then the “quiet, but not too quiet people”. I actually try and keep as many suspected werewolves around because it confused the shit out of the villagers. They don’t know what’s going on because everyone is a suspect. If you kill off potential werewolves “to send a message,” you just end up eliminating a likely lynchee — or someone’s that’s likely to convince the crowd to lynch a villager.

In this case, I also killed off David early on because he knows me pretty well, and that seemed a little risky to me. I was thinking about keeping him and trying to use that to my advantage, but then he got accused — which gave me a chance to defend him under the “I’m a good friend of David, and he got incorrectly nailed last game for acting in a similar manner” line. Of course, that just made it smart for me to kill him one or two rounds later.

Fortunately, in turns out that was a good thing to do. As part of Jane’s PhD research, she added in “blink” and “wisdom” cards to try and capture first and last impressions. It turns out David correctly nailed me in his blink card. After the game, he told me that he was able to guess me because of how I reacted, but only because he knew me so well. (As it turns out, nobody else named me in their blink cards.)

Two people named me in their wisdom cards. I talked to one of them, and he said “It was pretty obvious, I accused you and then I died the next turn.” I actually agreed with him, but I had deferred to Weston’s judgement during the night. People forget that the werewolves can’t actually talk to each other, so you need to come to some form of emergent strategy without communicating. However, nobody left alive caught on, so this ended up as a great call on Weston’s part.

But I can’t forget about Ewan. About halfway through the game, Ewan gets up and declared “I’m the seer and he’s a werewolf!” This had me a little worried until I realized that Ewan wasn’t pointing a me or Weston, but to an innocent villager! Later on Ewan names three villagers, including myself.

The village ended up lynching the so-called-werewolf, who somewhat lamely protested that, actually, thank-you-very-much, he was the seer. Later on, they lynched Ewan. The remainder of the game was spent trying to figure out if Ewan was the true seer, or actually a werewolf pretending to be the seer. Either way, the town was sure they had killed at least one of the werewolves when in fact, both of us were alive.

Apparently, nobody ever expects the “crazy villager” strategy. :)

It turns out, that solely by chance, Ewan had actually named the seer as a werewolf. However, we must have killed all the people he asked for information about, so he had nothing to share on his way out, thus totally muddying the waters. I had somewhat guessed this because I knew Ewan’s “werewolf” was a fake, but I really didn’t believe it until much later in the game when nobody came forth as a seer.

From there, it was all about not saying anything stupid, which is actually much harder than it sounds. (Right Cal?)

ETech 2006 Review

I spent much of last week down in San Diego for ETech, O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference. I’ve been to a number of O’Reilly shows, but this was my first time at ETech.

I really enjoyed the show. Lots of interesting people there. One nice thing about ETech is that there was a little more emphasis on the social instead of the technical. Technology is always fun, but you need to remember why you’re deploying it, and how its design affects the people and groups who interact with it, both positively and negatively.

To that end, I was a little disappointed in the lack of diversity. Delyn guestimated the crowd at only 10% female. Christine backs that up with a slightly more accurate 11.62%. This was even lower than OSBC! I would have thought that ETech would have had more women than the norm.

Besides, after last year’s conversation, I was hoping for more. I just did a rough count of the speaker ratio, and it actually grades out at an improved 15%. (I removed all the paid sponsor slots, since Rael has no control over that.)

As someone who works on my own conference, and has also picked papers for a track at another O’Reilly Convention, I know it’s tough. Frankly, you just don’t get enough submissions by women. And I know Rael’s working on it.

But the show would be far more interesting to me if it had a more diverse set of speakers and attendees. However, that does remind me to review the eBay Developers Conference speaker list before we go final with it.