Ben Langhinrichs

May, 2004
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Mon 31 May 2004, 09:54 PM
Now, this isn't a post about lies that news stories may contain, we'll save that for another time.  This post is about a more peculiar phenomenon which seems to be more common these days - headlines that don't tell the truth about the story underneath.

On CBS News, there is a headline titled Poll: Most Oppose Same-Sex Unions, which seems fairly clear.  There must have been a poll, and in the poll, more than fifty percent of the people polled must have opposed same-sex unions, right?

Wrong!  See this quote from the actual story:
28% of Americans think gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry --up slightly since March. Another 29% say gay and lesbian couples should be permitted to form civil unions. Overall, 57% of Americans support some type of legal status for same-sex couples. Four in 10, however, think the relationships of same-sex couples ought to have no legal recognition.
So, if 57% support either marriage or civil union, two forms of "same-sex unions", that must mean that 43% (or "four in 10" as they say it) oppose same-sex unions.  So how can the headline claim that "most oppose same-sex unions"?  See the article.  In case you think this was just an innocent mistake, note that the first paragraph also claims that "The American public continues to oppose the idea of same-sex marriage and supports a constitutional amendment to outlaw it.", as if that proved the headline correct, even though their own statistics challenge this.

This is a particularly nefarious form of lying, because many, many people will only see and believe the headline.  If anybody challenges CBS News, they can say it was clearly just a mistake, since the actual numbers were right there in the story.  This is not the first time I have seen this form of lying, but it worries me.  What do you think?

Oh, by the way, note that many other sites carry "headlines" from CBS News and other such sites, and on those other news feeds, little but the headline will ever be seen.  Just try searching the web for "Poll: Most oppose same-sex unions" and see how many hits there are clearly pointing to the CBS News site.  Thus, the lie spreads and will be quoted and believed even though the story belies the headline.

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Fri 28 May 2004, 05:23 PM
My daughter is working for the John Kerry for President campaign as part of her Senior Project.  She had some materials she wanted to make copies of, so she decided to go to OfficeMax to make the copies.  Since the material was on the MoveOn.org website, and she didn't have a printer handy, she called OfficeMax, and they said she could print a page from the internet from their store, and then make copies.

So, when she go to the store (driving herself with her brand new driver's license), she went to the CopyMax part of the store and asked them to print out the page and copy.

"We can't do it.", they said.

"Why not?", my daughter asked.

"We are not allowed to print or copy anything from MoveOn.org.  Company policy." was their answer.

Not allowed to print or copy anything from MoveOn.org?  That sounds a lot like censorship.  Now, I don't just feel like that because MoveOn is a liberal organization.  I would feel the same way if they said they wouldn't copy anything from George Bush's website.  I am a strong believer in free speech, and restricting the content of what people print and copy seems a pretty strong deterrent to free speech.

It makes me not want to patronize OfficeMax, which is pretty painful, as OfficeMax has the rare distinction of being yet another company headquarted in Shaker Heights.  Still, principles are important.  

I also intend to communicate with the owners and see if I can get a clarification on this policy.  I'll keep you informed.

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Tue 25 May 2004, 12:50 PM
It is hard to switch perspective sometimes and see the world from a customer's point of view.  While it is easy for me to understand why not to upgrade my Windows OS version, or why not to upgrade my Notes version, it is harder to understand why people would not want to upgrade their Midas version.  It seems so obvious to me, and not just because my daughter is going to college next year <grin>.  But then, I am reminded that other people have to pay to upgrade, and they have to justify the cost, not just of the relatively reasonable upgrade fee, but also of testing and of taking a risk that something will have changed.

So, for those perfectly reasonable people who may wonder "Why bother?", I'll try to pull together a few reasons.  Whether these are compelling or not may depend on your perspective.  No matter what your perspective is though, the upgrade discount of 50% only applies through the end of May, so if it is compelling, better jump while the jumping is good.

Reasons to Upgrade from Midas 2.x to 3.x:

Separate, and above all else for many people:
  • Midas 2.x is not supported for Notes/Domino 6.x or 6.5x.  Midas 3.x supports all Notes releases from 4.5x to 6.5x.  Using 2.x versions may work with ND 6.x and above, but is likely to cause data corruptions and odd results, and the frequency of such problems is likely to increase with time.


Other good reasons (not all-inclusive, but a good start):
  • Support for layers and other Notes 6 rich text constructs
  • Support for Notes 6 parameters on older constructs (e.g., support for captioned tables)
  • Support for creating and modifying image maps
  • SmartRefs technology allowing dynamic cross referencing and much more (see this news article)
  • Extensive changes and improvements to HTML generation capabilities
  • HTML import to allow conversion of HTML with CSS and such to high quality rich text
  • Ability to convert Notes Bitmap images to GIF images, and better handling of graphics in general (6.0.2 and above)
  • Performance enhancements on finding and modifying text chunks
  • Better handling of HTML attributes on tables, fields and other constructs
  • Workaround techniques for Notes version related issues (such as this one)
  • Exporting to MIME files
  • Advanced sorting for tables, including secondary columns, accent and case sensitive sorting, etc.
  • Better handling of international characters.


One last reason:
  • Support for Midas 2.x is dying, going away, less and less helpful, etc.  Face it, almost eighteen months after the last maintenance release, your problems are just more likely to get solved if you use Midas 3.x, and all upgrades within 3.x are free if you upgrade to any 3.x version.  In fact, due to our constant effort to tune and improve, you are less likely to have problems if you upgrade.


So, compelling or not, those are some reasons.  Of course, if you want to continue using 2.x, or even 1.x for that matter, you certainly can.  You have a perpetual license, and if you are not upgrading to Notes 6 and beyond,  and if your applications still work, why not keep using it.  I still use Windows 98, so who am I to complain?

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Mon 24 May 2004, 09:22 AM
In Carl Myhill's article, Get Your Product Used in Anger!, he demonstrates that many design flaws or weaknesses are not exposed until a product is used "in anger", which he defines in the sense of use in the real world under real conditions, not in a demo or lab.  As a quick example, see the footpath below, and the "Desire Line" which people really want:


Mr. Myhill further argues that a product designer should try to get their product "used in anger" before finalizing the design.

But how to do it?  Beta tests are often ineffective.  Radically changing the design after your first release is usually a bad idea.  Your best bet is usually finding a client who needs the product and working with them to develop a product, as they have tremendous incentive to use it "in anger" before your first public release, but then you my design too closely to their requirements and have trouble designing for broad appeal.

At Genii Software, we've tried all of these approaches in one way or another.  COEX! Links was first developed for a large customer (our version 1.0 , which was developed along with two other partners, as opposed to our current version, which is all ours).  The Midas Rich Text LSX was designed and adapted under the "Sell slowly, adapt quickly" model, where you may force the first few users to undergo a certain amount of design shock as you alter things, but since you sell slowly at first, not too many are inconvenienced.  @Midas Formulas is likely to follow this second approach, although we have had a beta test and some early adopters.  With ReportLogic, we did almost everything wrong, as we seemed to continually develop a great product underneath with all the wrong "Desire Lines".

How would you, or how do you, get your products "used in anger" before they are "set in stone"?

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Thu 20 May 2004, 12:13 PM
The Gold forums have a particularly annoying pest right now who keeps sucking people into inane discussions of topics.  He goes by the name "rodente v bharti", and he seems to relish the idea of wating people's time and insulting them.  Through a bit of detective work, I now have a fairly clear idea of who this person is, and certainly what company he is posting from.  Is exposure justified?  Do I leave it alone, or let people know what company he works for (which should make it fairly easy to track him down), or call them up and complain?  What would you do?

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

Wed 19 May 2004, 11:30 PM
We released Version 3.00 of the Midas Rich Text LSX back in February of 2003.  Since then, we have offered a discount of 50% for anybody wanting to upgrade from Version 2.x to Version 3.x  Most people have upgraded, but there are still some hold outs who still use Version 2.51, or earlier.  Well, your time is running out.  At the end of May, the discount ends.  People upgrading after that will just pay full price.  We have sent out emails to everybody, we have contacted a few larger customers directly, but time is running out.  Upgrade now, or pay more.

Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about the Upgrade
  1. Do I have to upgrade, or can I keep using Version 2.x? Nobody has to upgrade.  Your license for Version 2.x is perpetual.  On the other hand, Version 2.x is NOT supported for Notes/Domino 6.x and higher, and you will not be able to take advantage of the many new features.  Still, you can use Version 2.x as long as you like.  We just advise strongly against using it with Notes 6, or even with Notes 6 generated rich text, as it can cause some odd data corruptions.
  2. Can I still use Version 3.x with Notes R5? This is one of the most frequent misunderstandings about the Midas Releases.  Version 2.x supports R4.5x, R4.6x and R5.x.  Version 3.x supports R4.5x, R4.6x, R5.x, ND6.x and ND6.5x, so there is no need to worry.
  3. If I buy Version 3.x for R5 now, do I have to upgrade again when I move to ND6 or ND6.5?  No.  The Midas Version is not tied to the Notes Release.  You may need to download a different version from our website when you upgrade, but the same license is used for all Notes releases.
  4. My company doesn't move fast enough, or doesn't have budgeted, the money to upgrade now.  Is there any way we can delay this?  Give us a call and we will talk.  I don't anticipate long delays, but we are reasonable people.


I have to say, when we announced the end of the upgrade discount, I anticipated a few complaints.  I certainly did not anticipate thanks, but two customers have done just that, thanked me.  Both had basically the same thing to say, "I couldn't convince my company to upgrade, and this gave me the ammunition to convince them.  Thanks!"

You don't have to thank us, but you still might want to take the opportunity to upgrade now.

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.