“Two Generals’ Problem” doesn’t make sense

July 31st, 2007

Two armies are preparing to attack a city from opposite sides. The General of army A is orchestrating the attack, and has decided that they must attack simultaneously at noon on March 3rd to succeed. He sends a sealed, encrypted letter by messenger across the valley to the General of army B, informing him of the plan, but worries that the messenger might be intercepted, so General B may not be informed. (If the attack is not simultaneous, both attacking armies will be destroyed by the defenders.)

As it so happens, General B does receive the message, but knows that General A cannot be sure of this. He sends back a receipt of the attack plan. Then he wonders... will it go through? What if General A does not receive it and decides not to attack, being unsure of B's knowledge? And even if General A sends over an acknowledgment of the plan's receipt, there is no guarantee it will arrive.

Given this faulty communication channel, how will the generals coordinate their plan?

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Keeping track of comments

May 31st, 2006

I find it interesting how advances in web technology come in waves. Weblogs have been around forever, but blogs really came into their own with the development of simple CMS apps that ordinary folks could use (instead of manually editing and uploading every time they had something new to say). And each new advance begets a new problem.

With blogs that incorporate comment systems has arisen a new need: the need to keep track of the comments one has written. I like to follow up on comments that I leave on other people's blogs, so after commenting, I drag the link to a folder in my bookmarks toolbar in firefox. Then I occasionally revisit the links in the folder, deleting where necessary. It's not efficient, and I'd like to see some automation. Some scattered sites and systems have their own systems that work by email, such as LiveJournal and Movable Type. But that's not enough. There needs to be a system independent of the CMS in use by a site. I know others must be feeling just as frustrated.

So I wasn't entirely surprised to see a system appear on the del.icio.us/popular list recently: coComments. I'm signing up for the service as I write this, and I intend to test it thoroughly.

What do you do manually on the web that can be automated? What will the next advance be?