Kids in the Park

December 14th, 2005

What I love about the web and blogging is the chaotic and largely egalitarian nature of publicity and “exposure” that the medium offers. In 2005, a computer programmer of modest means can fire up MarsEdit and get a message to the world as quickly as he or she can type it. Some of you who slog through my loquacious posts have probably figured out that I can type pretty quickly. If nothing else, I do get words into the pipe!

But what’s really interesting is the changing nature of the world – the recipients of my words at any instance in time. Unlike the New York Times, the Economist, or Jane magazine, blog readers may come and go in giant or subtle waves of attention and distraction. If you’re using a news aggregator, my “magazine” may show up on your doorstep every few days, but it’s also exceedingly easy to “recycle” it before giving more than a cursory glance at the subject line. The world on day one of this blog was much different than the world today. Tomorrow, I may write the most interesting thing ever penned, while my readers have an especially tough day at work and “mark all as read.” And right at this moment, you’re reading this blog for the first time and we share a particular kinship as I observe the synchronicity of it all.

Every so often, the world gets all shook up, and I experience an influx of new readers – more than I could possibly hope to attract by mere internet inertia. Some pass through town, while others stick around – inevitably adding to the quality of the blog and this microscopic community. Today’s link from John Gruber’s linked list is an excellent example of this. A week or so ago, I got a similar surge from a link. What’s cool about the “link and surge” nature of blogging is that completely fresh groups of people are pushed into the dark recesses of the internet. A thousand pumps of different sizes bringing writers and readers together who would otherwise never meet. These passers-through bring ideas and observations that sometimes clash with mine and often resonate – just like real life. I’m stoked!

I’m reminded of the comments made by Joel Spolsky in an ITConversations podcast, where he compares the urban studies of William Whyte to online social spaces, arguing that increasing participation improves the “quality of life” on the web in the same way that, for instance, bustling public parks are better and safer for the community at large. Though we all yearn for occasional moments of solitude in abandoned fields at sundown where we can engage without humiliation in sissy meditation postures, most of the time we’re happy to have kids running around screaming and blowing bubbles. It keeps the crackheads at bay.

A modest example of the benefits of participation came from one of today’s new readers. Jan Lehnardt wasted no time in finding and building upon my “Terminal At Selection” script, which makes it a snap to open a Terminal window targeted at your selection in the Finder. While he appreciated the solution I provided, it was more or less useless to him as an avid user of iTerm, a third party (free) alternative to Apple’s built-in utility. He offered his improvements to the script, which I’ve happily accepted and incorporated into the latest revision, available for direct download here. By editing a variable at the top of the script, you can easily adjust the script to work with whichever of the two Terminal applications you prefer.

Thanks, Jan. And thanks to everybody else who has popped their head in for the first time over the past day. I hope you find something worth coming back for, and I look forward to seeing your contributions in comments and email.

4 Responses to “Kids in the Park”

  1. CJ Says:

    I tried downloading “Terminal At Selection” because I need it — I know about “open .” in Terminal (to open the current directory in the Finder) but I often need the reverse function and typing all those escapes for spaces and other characters in directory names gets old.

    Unfortunately, it came with no instructions as to where to place the script, and — should there have been instructions in the script itself — Script Editor refuses to open the script because I don’t have iTerm. Every time I try to open the script I get a dialog box asking me to locate iTerm, the only choices being Browse and Cancel. I think it’s reasonable for me to balk at locating and installing iTerm in hopes of finding hypothetical instructions that may or may not be located in the script so I can use it. And in fact I cracked the script open with Text Wrangler and there are no instructions.


    1) Where do I install the script?
    2) How do I use it without installing iTerm?

    [Further meta-usage note: Thanks so much for explicitly designating the required fields in yr comment form. I’m pretty freaking tired of losing submitted comments elsewhere when the required fields aren’t marked.]

  2. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Hi CJ – thanks for bringing to light a few important issues:

    1. I often assume an expert level of experience with AppleScript among the recipients of my scripts.
    2. The script as modified to support iTerm makes it so you *have* to have iTerm. That’s no good!

    I will fix the iTerm problem ASAP. In the mean time, one thing you can do is just pick *any* application on your computer when it asks for iTerm. In fact, probably just pick Terminal. It will then mess up the script for iTerm, but should leave it working fine for Terminal.

    The question as to where scripts should be installed is somewhat complicated, because different “script runners” look for scripts in different places. However, the most standardized location is that used by Apple’s Script Menu. This location is under the “Library” folder in a folder called “Scripts”. For instance:


    If you install my FastScripts utility you can use it to locate and/or create global and application-specific script folders using this convention. The scripts will be accesible from Apple’s script menu, FastScripts, and a number of other applications out there.

    Note that to make this script really useful, you’ll want to hook it up to a keyboard shortcut. FastScripts is also an excellent choice for accomplishing this.

    Thanks for the comments,

  3. Red Sweater Blog » Blog Archive » WordPress 2.0 Says:

    […] On the subject of feeds, Eric Albert of Out of Cheese recently asked me if there was a method of subscribing to all of the comments made to the blog. He observed that my increasingly sophisticated readership manages to inject some pretty interesting information “below the fold” on some of my entries. While each entry offers a link for subscribing to that particular entry’s comments, I had never noticed a method for subscribing to the whole kit and caboodle. But I noticed on WordPress’s administrative interface, that it showed me a running tally of just such a thing. A little research discovered a variation on the RSS URL that does just that. I was pleased to see that it continues to work as expected in WordPress 2.0. I realized during this examination that I didn’t previously list the basic “subscribe” link anywhere on the page. For those unlucky enough to be running a browser that doesn’t put a big obvious “RSS” button in your address bar, that might come in handy. So I’m adding two links to the main sidebar: one for the blog, and one for the comments. I’ve said it before: my readers make this place worth coming back to. I love the interplay between “really smart people” that takes place after I’ve left the building. Hopefully by subscribing to the comments feed, you’ll be able that much more likely to notice when you have something valuable to contribute. […]

  4. Red Sweater Blog » Blog Archive » WordPress 2.0 Says:

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