Deploying Jabber in the workplace

Oktay Altunergil has written an article called Company-Wide Instant Messaging with Jabberd which explains some of the benefits and pitfalls of, and alternatives to, rolling out a Jabber server in the workplace and covers some of the more practical stuff like what kind of hardware you might need, how to set up encryption on your server, and how to configure Active Directory authentication.

This a pretty good article and certainly seems to cover most of the topics involved in rolling out IM at work. Well worth a read for those looking to set up a centralised, private, small-to-medium sized IM network.

Also, my (year-old) post on Moving to Jabber in the workplace is still mostly relevant too, but more focussed on the client side of things.

Podcast quandary

I like the idea of podcasts. There are some I even subscribe to: LugRadio, Ricky Gervais, Mark Kermode’s film reviews and now Channel 4 have their own podcast which allows you to listen to “Jon Snow’s specially commissioned radio programme” (via Fintan).

The problem is, I use a web-based feed reader, but I want podcast mp3s on my local machine, whichever one that might be. I suppose I could auto-download them to my web host and then use something like the play tagger to stream them back, but I don’t always have my browser open (although I do most of the time, it has to be said), and I don’t want to keep a tab or window open just for mp3 playback when I already have Winamp, which minimises away to the tray thank you very much.

Maybe the key is to also have a desktop aggregator which queries my web-based aggregator about podcast feeds I’m subscribed to (or feeds which use enclosures in general), so that it can download them in the background, and it’s just ready to go? That sounds like it might be a good solution, and I think it would be reasonably straightforward. Any other ideas?

Why poll for changes?

Two things I’ve come across today have talked about the integration of external RSS feeds into a site or application: SniffingGlu and user control of syndication and Synchronizing REST Resources With Asynchronous Notification: A Practical Proposal. The first is focussed on things like making it easy for users to roll their own version of SuprGlu (my glu, if you missed it before), the second says:

When you render a web page that contains pieces snarfed from other web pages, such as a transcluded RSS box, you would often prefer to start spitting out your web page without waiting for the other web pages to load first. So you maintain a local cache you can consult quickly, which may be out of date, but you try not to let it get too out of date.

You can do this by polling the current state of the other web pages; in fact, when you begin to depend on a new web page, polling for its current state is unavoidable. But it would be nice to push change notifications instead of polling for them. If you run both web sites, you could install software on both of them to do the change-notification pushing; but how does that software work?

We will term the association between a web page and a recipient of change notifications a “subscription”.

Well, *bing* if we haven’t heard that before! Off the top of my head, if you’re going to start to want notifying web pages (read: applications, even if it’s just a state machine) that something has updated, at some point you’re almost certainly going to want to notify other things (like, er, people), so let’s use PubSub, yeah?! If you’ve not heard me bang on about it before, PubSub is basically having information pushed at you (once you’ve asked to have that information). RSS, for example, typically works in exactly the opposite way – your aggregator just keeps on asking a server if it has any more information, again and again and again. With the PubSub way, your aggregator subscribes once, and then when there is something new, the server tells you.

The way this is implemented in the specification is over XMPP, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, which is the basis of Jabber. There are currently XMPP libraries in every language you can think of: PHP, C, Java, Python and more. There is currently an internet draft for Transporting Atom Notifications over XMPP (although this expires on Feb 20th this year!), and this is how implement their search result browser sidebars and C# code libraries (there is also a tutorial for’s use of XMPP).

The point I’m slowly getting around to is: use Atom over XMPP for your notifications! It’s easy! It’s extensible! It’s buzzword-tastic!

If you know a criminal, are you a criminal?

One of my old colleagues, Adam Smith, has written a very interesting post called If you know a criminal, are you therefore a criminal? bringing together threads from social networks and current informal network data aggregation tools and comparing the impact of voluntary data provision to that of data about you which will be collected on your behalf and stored on government servers when the Data Retention directive comes into force.

A very interesting read, and a nice drawing together of information from different sources. A lot of defendents of the Data Retention directive cite the fact that because the contents of messages (such as phone calls, IM messages and emails) are not stored, no-one should be worried. As far as I can see, and as Adam points out, this isn’t really the case.

Battlestar Galactica kicking ass

The new television series of Battlestar Galatica has started; or rather, the concluding episode of the last series has been aired, and the new series is about to start. If you haven’t been watching it, and you like sci-fi, then shame on you, because it’s brilliant.

As well being a great programme, the website provides top-notch added value. For every episode so far there’s been a downloadable real-time commentary by the producer in mp3 format, and the site makes these available via a podcast, so that you can get the latest commentary automatically, and listen to it when you’re watching the telly.

Additionally, now that it’s come back to the screens, you can now watch the entirety of last season’s finale online, as well as two extra deleted scenes. This, my friends, is what online added value is all about, and is something I’ve not seen before (are there other programmes which do this which I’ve missed? let me know!). What with this, the BBCs iMP and the ever-increasing amount of content available via the existing website such as the new BBC Three ‘comedy’ TittyBangBang (you don’t get a link, it’s not worth the time out of your life), I’m really looking forward to being able to watch what I want precisely when I want, regardless of its origin.