What's the deal with PhilG?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Robot Wisdom : One Thread

I'm interested to hear what people think of PhilG, why he's doing what he does, why the major media pay him scant attention, which of his resources you find most useful, and which you wish were different?

- I don't understand why this BBS moves my own messages to the top of the thread.

- And his polls allow customised templates I've never explored.

- And I just started using uptime [qv], which is awesome.

- And his book [qv] and his article about writing the book [qv], I think are brilliant and hilarious.

- And I just noticed he calls Web Tools Review [qv] a 'magazine' he edits' on web publishing'.

-- Jorn (jorn@mcs.com), November 16, 1999


He talks sense, practices what he preaches, and delivers with what he practices. It's that which gains him respect among his peers: the kind of respect which is shared among craftsmen, while the demands of fashion make the Sunday supplements.

Photo.net has been one of my bookmarks since "Travels With Samantha", and I don't see that changing. It's that simple.

-- Nick Sweeney (nick.sweeney@jesus.ox.ac.uk), November 16, 1999.

He's not popular with the popular media because he doesn't succumb to the latest "Creating Killer Websites" schlock; because he believes in function over form.

I think his attitudes about software are a little over-influenced by the academic experience and the accompanying excess of resources, but he makes more money than I do, and his web sites are more popular, so it's not like I've got any more credibility on these matters of opinion.

His BBS moves messages to the top of the thread because it wasn't originally planned for being a discussion area, it was planned as a resource to provide lasting comments to a specific question, and as such it was assumed that the moderator/owner's opinion was more important than everyone else's.

Finally, I think the 'magazine' moniker is closer to the truth for the more useful web sites than any other. One of the advantages of the web is that publication is continuous, and 'bloggers serve much the same function as magazine editors, but unlike magazines web publications don't have to revisit the same material once a year to attract new readers.

-- Dan Lyke (danlyke@flutterby.com), November 16, 1999.

I've been following Philip for about two years now, dating back to reading his first database book, then reading Travels with Samantha, then reading all the great web tools review articles. My first impression of him was that he was an academic and a unix bigot. Over time, I've come to many of the same conclusions he has (unix is usually the best way to do things), so my opinion of him has changed for the better. I respect him a great deal because he gives away everything he's learned and done before. He also has a history of doing cool non-profit projects like funding young programmers. His company is doing great business now, but I don't get the feeling it's going to his head, he still does many projects for unselfish reasons. I just saw him give an all day talk last Sunday, where he talked for 8 hours about how he developed his codebase, how to use it for your own projects, and how to extend it (the whole day was free of charge by the way). It was a great experience, and another instance of him giving away knowledge for free. I don't know why the major media outlets don't pay attention to him though, I guess he's not a sound bite kind of guy. His company is making waves though, you'll definitely be hearing about ArsDigita more and more in the future.

-- Matt Haughey (matt@metafilter.com), November 16, 1999.


He DIYed the first Web-based, one-man stock photography service -- and made it popular. Etext pioneer (I *love* reading his books -- online!). He's extremely anal retentive, a characteristic that all great Web/etext designers must have, I think. greenspun.com is the only gratis Web service I trust.

For me the blemish was how some of the photo.net admins (not Philip) deleted posts they didn't like, including all discussion on their censorship practices! They tended to favor the rich man's Nikon and Canon, to the extent where messages on working-class topics like estate-sale equipment seemed unwelcome. (But the site now has a Pentax wing, so this has probably changed in the past year.)

With the exception of camera recommendations, I usually agree with him 99% of the time.

(He'd mentioned once that LUSENET cost him something like a million-odd dollars to maintain -- I wonder what the estimated dollar cost of distributed Usenet is, in world-around servers, disks and other equipment; CPU usage; power consumption, etc.?)

-- Michael Stutz (stutz@dsl.org), November 17, 1999.

I took one of his one day courses over at MIT once. Just one obvservation that I'd like to point out. During his presentation he lauded his newest dbase website for enviromental awareness scorecard.org. At the end of his presention he handed out the lastest version of his book to everyone in the class ~150 people attended. All ~300 pages or so (I don't know exactly since I didn't take a copy), printed no less on paper that I am sure contributed to some northwestern state's lousy rating due to papermills polluting the streams and other water sources. you can take whatever you would like from this, although I definitly would like to see more pro bono activities from members of the web community. PhilG thankfully servers as a standardbearer in that case.

-- Yang Tang (the_preacherman@hotmail.com), November 20, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ