Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

April 2008 Posts

Which days of Fringe do I take off?

Mon, 04/28/2008 - 12:14 -- rprice

I have a choice: do I take the first three days of Fringe Week off, the middle three, or the last three? I know opening weekend, the last weekend and Memorial Day will be action-packed, but I also don't want to lose too much money from work.

Blogging Fringe (or this year, my personal blog and OrlandoScene.TV) will be taking up some time, but I also don't want to take ALL week off so I can save my pennies. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions?

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Hacking as Art

Mon, 04/28/2008 - 10:46 -- rprice

Last week, I started the discussion of programming as a form of creative expression with some of the kids at work, and Kevin pointed us to John Littler's Art and Computer Programming article. That led Eric to post a link to Paul Graham's essay on Hackers and Painters, which I gobbled up and loved.

I'm writing this blog post so I can click on my own Amazon link to order this book for myself. If you appreciate the recommendation, you could do the same. Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age is a collection of 14 essays by Graham on "the importance of beauty in software design, how to make wealth, heresy and free speech, the programming language renaissance, the open-source movement, digital design, internet startups, and more."

Again, I'll say that I don't like the use of the word renaissance, since the medium itself has hardly affected 5 generations of men and women. This next wave where we move toward semantic web and a mixture of online and offline applications shows lots of promise, but I won't agree that this era can be referred to as a rebirth for many years to come, when I'm old and I've had some time to look at it from a distance.

Just that first essay where Paul talks about getting a day job and hacking at night is certainly how I've always felt about podcasting - I love it, and I'd love to get paid for it, but to do it 40 hours a week would really feel like implementing someone else's plan instead of creating the art myself.

From Paul Graham's original Hacking and Painting essay:

If a hacker were a mere implementor, turning a spec into code, then he could just work his way through it from one end to the other like someone digging a ditch. But if the hacker is a creator, we have to take inspiration into account.

I say this all the time, but one reason why I think so many folks at the Florida Creatives Happy Hour are programmers is because of the nature of the medium. We hack in our spare time, we release the apps quietly, thousands of people anywhere in the world may use and love the results of our labors of love, but we don't get to see them face to face - painters, filmmakers, actors, poets, all have the ability to be present with their audience the first time they experience it. Television and radio are more removed. Web apps further still. We crave that human interaction, and the validation you can only get from your peers and your audience. That's why all the hackers are there.

One of these days I'll get some Processing projects going, and have some literal art created by a hacker to show off. When I get some free time, you'll see. Whenever that happens.

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"5 Minute Romance" Follow-up

Sun, 04/27/2008 - 16:17 -- rprice

Mark Baratelli asks:

Saw your podcast post re: lady rap and your experience with the puppet festival. What was the outcome of that?

The outcome with Heather was sort of that she was too busy at the time to listen to hours and hours of podcasts, and the memory of it sort of came back to me recently when I thought about writing this blog. I don't know if she ever listened to any of the shows, but it was a good example about how this blogging stuff is not always good at making first impressions.

I was referencing your (Lady Raptastic) show because it's not the sort of thing that I myself got into after listening to it once, you know? You've got so many episodes, where does one begin to introduce someone to a new universe?

This new media stuff is hard to digest sometimes, I think I am trying to start a meme.

I actually just tried to call Mark so I could record his initial thoughts about the 5 Minute Romance idea, but I got a voicemail. I'd love to get a dialog going here, if anyone wants to chime in, leave a comment or call me.

Also, using the words "5 minute romance" or tagging a post with "5minuteromance" will be a good way to keep this going, I think. I'm going to set up Google Alerts for these and see what happens.

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Muder We Wrote at Rollins College

Sat, 04/26/2008 - 15:05 -- rprice

Where does one begin? I often find that when writing these theatre reviews, it's a good idea to gather my thoughts, think about what I want to say and in what order; I don't have time for that, I'm going back to see the last showing in an hour!

I first learned about this production through a friend who helped to workshop the format for this improvised 90-minute board-game inspired murder mystery... she and several other students, under the direction of David Charles, PhD. - Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at Rollins College. The whole play is improvised, so there are bound to be some times during such a long show where the scenes may be stronger or weaker - to counteract that, "Dr. David" and his class developed dozens of devices to help them create a sustainable story throughout the length of the show.

We begin at the stately home of a Mr. Phil Reynolds, a successful lawyer with a deceased rich wife. His business partner Toni and spouse Gene the artist will be guests at tonights party, along with his child Bobby and sibling Toni, servant Pat, and lifelong friend Dr. Chris. An unexpected guest arrives, and, inevitably, there is a murder! Some classic (yet improvised) scenes are played on the stage of the Annie Russell Theatre, which has been masterfully converted to the perfect setting for these 8 unlikely murderers or murderesses to play out their little drama. You'll laugh, you'll scratch your head, and above all you'll have fun.

I've got so much more to tell, but no time to tell it... we continue our recap when I return from the last showing of Murder We Wrote tonight!

**** Continued ****

As the play begins, you see a man sitting at a bar, and as he turns to the audience, he gives us the look the look that says "Are you ready for this?". At all three showings, David's entrance gave us a laugh. This audience was ready to have fun. The story is set up as an "exploration of the human psyche" where "a seemingly random series of events" may yield "murderous results", and the setup for the game begins. Three decks of cards are passed out to the audience and shuffled, then used to select a victim, a murder weapon, a location and... the murderer. The recited banter during this section kept us paying attention, instead of looking down at our "ballots" where we would later guess whodunnit. Only the Assistant Director and the killer know all the details of the crime before the final moments of the play when a confession is yanked out of the murder him or herself.

Once the setup is done, we the audience have also suggested a song title, a nervous habit, an annoying catch phrase, and several other ways for the players to use to make us feel as much like the writers of the story as the people on and off stage. Just before, however, is perhaps the most exciting part: the character cards are shuffled, and 7 of the 8 roles are completely randomized by members of the audience. All the parts are non-gender specific, including the married couple, and relationships between siblings and children. Even the order of entrance for the characters is ever-changing, decided by the backstage team of a dozen or more people who are constantly feeding the actors suggestions, props, cues, even their catchphrases, and reconciling any plot holes during intermission. There are countless challenges for the lighting and sound team as well, and opportunities for them to drive the story as much as anyone down at the stage level.

The most rewarding parts of the show come in the second act, where the details of the murder are spoon-fed to us at fixed intervals (or as much as can be with an improvised show). We already know the victim before we take the intermission and make our guesses, and immediately after, the location of the murder is revealed. I don't know to give credit to one person for this, or the whole team of students, along with Dr. David who playtested and researched this last summer, but there is some expert game design at work here.

Then someone suggests "we should split up and search the house", and each of the 8 characters takes one of the doors leading to various wings and levels of the house, only to frantically burst out of the door in a ballet of "who am I on stage with, and what do we do now?", the inner workings of which I know is my job to keep a secret, but congratulations to J. Hannah White, the lighting designer for her brilliant stroke on that one. There's also a more traditional improv game set up in the coat closet, at the bar, and up on the balcony, where the players pass lines to each other like a hot potato that is always unpredictable and fun. It's these sort of moments that make us forget we're watching the story being written in real-time.

Last but not least, all the cast re-assemble in the main hall to try and figure out for themselves who the murderer is. Things at this point can get rather tense, and apparently, a wrestling match broke out during this scene on Friday between actor Seth and Dr. David. The atmosphere teeters on melodramatic as actors are eliminated, concealed weapons are pulled, dead bodies lie on the couch and revealing letters are read... or none of these things happen and they just wing it, it's really different every night.

What's that? Sorry you missed it? I feel sorry for your too. This show could run every night down on International Drive if the team were so inclined. I don't remember how much of Sleuths Dinner Theatre is improvised, maybe I'll have to go back and do some post-game research. So far, the closest things I've seen to this level of story plus improvisation in such a long form are The Adventurer's Club at Pleasure Island, which I would consider a distant script-heavy cousin of Muder We Wrote (all the endings are decided, most of the jokes and songs are repeated, but the cast is always changing), and SAK Comedy Lab's The Early Show, which plays every other Friday at Midnight, and is completely improvised with no backstage magic, just the performers left to their own devices.

What makes these other productions around town the same or different from this show? In Murder, we the audience are all following this global discovery as we ourselves and the rest of the actors and around-stage hands and minds try to figure out the story. In regular improv or something more scripted, we either have a better or worse idea of where the ending is. We have an idea of how we think it could happen, and the several dozen people actually driving do as well, but there's no way to know until the last possible moment when the killer reveals his or her secret and we have a collective pay-off. There's lots more to say about what's happening here and how they pulled off the format, but then this would be getting into research paper territory, and I'd need to start giving examples from other historic or contemporary works, and... well, we're only blogging here!

I've never taken a theatre class in my life, and I graduated from UCF 4 years ago (almost to the day), but my biggest takeaway from this was a desire to enroll at Rollins under Dr. David Charles. You can tell everyone involved on this play was having such a great time, and the fact that people were coming back to watch a second, third, or even more showings is a testament to the fun and intrigue of this production, and the charm exuded by David and his cast. Congratulations to Megan Borkes, Ana Eligio, Joseph Bromfield, Chelsea Dygan, Erica Leas, Seth Strutman, Emily Smith, Roberto Pineda, Michael Neil Mastry, Danny Tuegel, Liz Weisstein, and Rob Yoho, along with all the other cast and crew, on an excellent run.

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Falling in Love 5 Seconds at a Time

Fri, 04/25/2008 - 05:31 -- rprice

As a follow-up to my last post, I will give the additional point that on Twitter your 5 minutes are reduced to something more like 5 seconds

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Falling in Love 5 Minutes at a Time

Fri, 04/25/2008 - 05:28 -- rprice

A few years ago at the second Orlando Puppet Festival, I was trying to sell Heather Henson on the idea of my podcasting about the festival becoming official. Needless to say, she's super-busy running the festival, and we don't have time to get into all the ins and outs of podcasting, so she asks me to give her a sample. The next time I see Heather I hand her a CD, and she's grateful for the ability to time-shift her decision-making process.

The following day I see her, she's a bit frustrated with me, because she says "I put this in my car and nothing happened, you gave me a bad CD!" Oops! Not the case, in fact it was a collection of every podcast I'd released to date - totaling around 80 hours of audio, or about enough to fill 60 regular CDs. "They're MP3's" I said, "Normally you'd have to spend hours downloading them all, and I've saved you the trouble!" Heather retorts, "But how do I know where to start?" She didn't like having the entire library of congress and no card catalog (OK, not the ENTIRE library, but still...).

This brings me to an interesting point I haven't dwelled much on in the past year and a half. How do we begin to introduce people to something like, let's say Lady Raptastic, which has more than 80 hour-long episodes by itself, not to mention all the other shows Mark Baratelli produces. I suppose the old adage "You're only as good as your last [whatever]" may come into play here, but that's just not how it is with blogs and most podcasts.

I was having a conversation with someone at BarCamp about this very subject. She was getting into blogging based on a few pokes by her friends, and she was worried about writing something relevant. I told her "The magic of blogging doesn't happen in an instant, you sort of fall in love 5 minutes at a time."

I don't really know where else to go from here, but suffice it to say there will likely be a "part 2" of this post, and perhaps more. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'd especially like to see what the 200+ attendees of BlogOrlando have to say about the subject.

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For Post's Sake!

Tue, 04/22/2008 - 20:30 -- rprice

Feeling like I haven't blogged in a while, so here are some things that have happened.

I saw (and played a bit at) an awesome marathon show by marc. with a c. on Saturday at Stardust. I used to be in the band, and I remain a fan. Marc just released his latest album, Linda Lovelace for President, on Amazon MP3, official plastic + DVD due out this summer.

We had a super-awesome Florida Creatives Happy Hour last night - HUGE thanks to all the first-timers, and of course our repeat offenders. If you haven't seen or registered for the new site yet, surf on over and create a group, get organized, or otherwise try to toss some useful information in there.

Went to an inaugural Refresh Central Florida and Orlando PHP group (seperately). Refresh may or may not be the "tech association" that everyone has been hububbing about - there was talk of turning it into a "United Arts for Geeks", supporting local groups and individuals. Actually, I was thinking of using United Arts as a channel to have a Florida Creatives professional grant that gets specified in all the same ways the regular UA grants go, just sponsored by us.

Things have been going gangbusters for pet dating site Petentials.com in the last few weeks our US ranking for Alexa is hovering around 100K (we're more like 400K globally). We're currently on the second page of Google for "Internet Pets", but not too high for "pet dating", hence the googlebombing you may or may not want to participate in... ha!

We're planning a downtown Orlando photowalk as part of an episode for OrlandoScene.TV - this will be either May 10th or 11th, barring weather, number of RSVPs and other factors. Bring your SLR and your eyes. We'll be doing interviews with photographers and linking to photosets and whatnot. The idea is to get a little co-promotion on, and get a hold of some much-needed production stills for Orlando Scene. In the AXIS Mag article, well, globe with a network cable... yikes.

Did I mention the kick-ass Drupal meetup we had last week? That was a fun time. I signed up to talk about Drupal Theming with Zen and... I think Views sometime this summer, but I know for certain that our next meetup will be held May 17th in Maitland. Check the Florida Drupal Group page for more info.

Ah, let's not forget Likemind - we ARE still doing that - now we're back at Panera Bread by Lake Eola. The next one of those should be May 16th. I have a picture of that somewhere... check the Ryan Price and the Media feed for those bonus Flickr pics you get in there from time to time.

I'm sure I'm missing lots and lots and lots. I have been SO busy lately.

BTW, over at Bonnier (the makers of PopSci) we're hiring a MySQL Admin. If you are an experienced database administrator, or you have several years of experience with MySQL, send us an email.

P.S. I almost forgot! If you like the movie Clue, Improv Comedy, theatre, mystery, games, or if you're my friend then you MUST MUST go and see "Murder We Wrote" over at Rollins College this weekend. YOU WILL THANK ME.

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Blogging Fringe 2008

Mon, 04/14/2008 - 22:41 -- rprice

My Friends,

As you all know, I've done this Blogging Fringe thing for the past two years. Sadly, this year looks like I'll be pulled in more directions than ever before. I've been up until 2AM every night for weeks on end and I'm not sure when this will stop.

At the same time, I really love the opportunities the Fringe Festival presents to show off some great groups in Orlando and Internationally, and introduce the world to our potential.

At this point I have received dozens of press releases from faithful producers who would love a mention on the blog. I'd love to contact them, conduct interviews, post them to the site, get everyone excited and oh so much more, but that's not going to happen.

Some of you have contributed time to this project before, others are simply friends, but you are all tied to the theatre community and you have proven your interest in making our community something special.

My plan for Blogging Fringe this year is to write a small number of posts on my personal blog and have them automatically re-posted to BloggingFringe.com, and I'm going to open that up to everyone in the world. All the content on the site will be release under a Creative Commons license, meaning anyone will be free to re-post and re-mix the work in any medium for non-commercial purposes This includes all archived content on the site as well.

Getting your content posted is simple. We'll agree on a keyword, something like "bloggingfringe", or "Orlando Fringe", something you will only write on your blog if you'd like the content to be seen, and those posts will be re-posted with a link back to your blog. An example of this is on Liberatr.net where all the posts link to the original home instead of inside the site.

This project has never been about my own personal gain - I've sunk hundreds (thousands?) of dollars of my money into creating an environment for patrons and artists to have a conversation, but I believe I've fallen short of the mark up until now. Beth will be the first person to say that the Fringe website is not the place she'd like this conversation to happen - that's one great thing about a site like ours.

All the editorial content on Blogging Fringe - the reviews, videos, audio podcasts, will no longer be called Blogging Fringe, but instead Ryan Price Media, Orlando Scene TV and Florida Creatives. These three websites will just be other first-class citizens of the community like anyone else in the world. If I end up being too busy to post many videos, podcasts or blogs, that will show, because they'll be lost in the ocean of posts created by the blogging Fringe Faithful.

If I have to I'll paint the administrator password to Blogging Fringe on a canvas and submit the artwork to Visual Fringe. That's how open this should be. Anna, what's the entry fee again?

More news on exactly how to get your blogs re-posted to a public, highly visible website for free coming soon. I hope the Fringe itself, the Orlando Weekly, Elizabeth Maupin, Orlando Arts Blog and others will be proud to include their blogs in the list, because the point is visibility, not exclusivity.

The contents of this email are posted at bloggingfringe.com/2008/04/15/blogging-fringe-2008/ in order to make this information as public as I possibly can. If you'd like to contribute, you can start by posting a link to your blog in the comments! All serious submissions (and some not so serious) will be accepted.

Peace,
Ryan Price

321-441-3964
BloggingFringe.com
FloridaCreatives.com
OrlandoScene.TV

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Petentials on Fox News

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 20:40 -- rprice

Petentials on Fox 35 | Petentials Park

Also, here's an email Darren sent out to friends and advisors.

As some of you know, the Fox reporter, David Martin, informed me today that the feature on Petentials was picked up by Fox national news. I think what this means is that it'll be aired on local news shows throughout the country over the next several days...or weeks.

We've had about 50 new accounts created in the last 24 hrs. In fact, 4 have been added in the last 2 minutes. There are 20 people on the site right now.

It looks like we're now getting some Tennessee traffic, so my guess is that we were on the early news in Tampa tonight and the late news in/around Cleveland, Tennessee. Exciting stuff!

Now it's hit Minneapolis/St. Paul (and maybe others). 123 people currently on the site...and rising with every refresh! At least 20 new registered users in the last 20 minutes. Plus, we have someone who wants to be our community ambassador for Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Update: Detroit Free Press Article

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Giving the client what they need, not what they ask for

Thu, 04/10/2008 - 06:28 -- rprice

Just now I was buying a new domain name because of a misprint in my AXIS interview - it's probably a common mistake, so it was worth the $7.

Anyway, there was an ad for some wannabe-posh restaurant on I-Drive - "Bola". link

OK, seriously, who has a flash website that plays music? With late-90's slideshows?

I also love that when I link to the "blog" - check out the design they chose for that. All of the posts on said blog have this huge text right below the title and right next to the very stale and infrequent date of the posts - "No Responses".
No Responses

Way to go on the authenticity, D*****bags! It's not the designer's fault, there was a breakdown in communications. Somebody has also dropped the ball on doing a follow-up with the client once the dist settled.

If you really want to create a compelling experience on a website these days, I think the only option is to use video. If your restaurant is so "high-end", hire a damn video crew to come out once in a while and throw THAT on your site - or maybe even your non-blog.

Check out some of the stuff MindComet is doing, for example. They don't mess around. I can't say I always love every site they put out, but they know their strengths. I definitely appreciate the need for experienced marketing folks working along side talented designers and developers. I don't slight the person who created this project, they just had too many things to think about all at once.

I've recently been re-reading a book by one of my role models - Hillman Curtis. It's called MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer.

I actually had "New Media Developer" printed on my business cards for a while, and people would ask "What does that mean?" I'm sad to say I didn't have a story for them at the time, but now I think I'd have a thing or two to say about it.

In MTIV (Making the Invisible Visible), Hillman, who is a world-renowned designer with clients like Adobe and bestselling bands on his client list, tells you how he gets his work done. In fact, all of his books are like that - he goes through his creative process. He's got some steps, he identifies the goals at each step, and he gives lots of anecdotal support. He's clearly been working at a very high level for a long time.

People who have read this book and really understand it would have never designed that site for BOLA - at least not in the last 18 months or so.

MTIV Here's lesson 1 (implied) from the book for me: separate the technical requirements of the project from telling the story. As a team of one, when I go into the job, I always know I am going to have to turn around and implement these ideas once I get back to my text editor, so most times when I'm in a meeting with a client, my brain is already downloading Drupal modules and clicking checkboxes. At my new job, this isn't so much of a problem, because my role during those meetings is to translate what the editorial folks or the PMs are asking of me into technical requirements, identify sticky points, and give them an estimate of how long this new awesome feature will take.

However, even at a job I had for a couple of weeks managing an online store for a print shop, I not only had to put my propeller hat on, but my marketing/customer/business hat on, and normally the propeller hat gets priority. That means I'm donating 40% at best to thinking "is this even a good idea, does this communicate the message, will visitors understand the story?"

Then a few weeks later, I've started writing code, laying out the homepage, or what have you, and it hits me - THIS SUCKS! Did I design this? Then I remind myself I'm "not a designer" (which is bollocks because I'm always calling myself a "front end guy"), and I come to terms with the reality of the situation. We're not communicating effectively here, we're masturbating and pretending the result was a web page.

How do we fix it? Drive back to Sanford, tell the client "I'm sorry Mike, I had my head up my ass when I designed this... will you pay me to fix my own mistakes?" Nobody is going to go for that! Sure, you can give them a spiel about ROI and conversions, and maybe wrapped in the warm fuzzy blanket of "SEO", which might as well be voodoo and divination to most clients, you might even be able to convince them to spend 30% of the original budget doing what you really should have done in the first place, in 15% of the time, without your trusty subcontractors, in your spare time, just so you feel good about work that you'd already written off as "finished".

No, you can't fix it. Clients don't go for maintenance contracts any longer. Most of them don't even want to pay you for hosting, let alone support.

The ONLY solution is to do it right the first time. That means making checklists, getting your freelancer buddy support system to consult and make sure you're not leaving any huge gaps (oh, you do have some sort of a peer support system, right?), and above all, making sure you understand what the client needs.

I'm only feeling the slightest bit hippocritical right now, and if you've worked with me in the past, and you're quietly thinking I'm full of shit as you read this, consider this my formal apology for underdelivering. In most situations during my "freelance" ("slacker") career, I didn't put 110% to anything work-related, and it wasn't until my "Tabula Rasa" day (Jan 17th, 2006), that I had even decided to push myself to improve, and it looks like it's taken about 2 years and 3 months.

So, FullSail grads, budding New Media Designers and Developers, and folks that have been doing this "since the early days", and are planning on making a concerted effort to create stunning work, every single time, even if it's for half of your rent money, here are a couple of tips:

  • It might take 27+ months to feel as though you've arrived
  • You MUST make sacrifices in your personal life for professional improvement
  • Freelance is not a hobby, it's making a living. Mom and Dad can't pay the bills forever
  • Go buy a copy of MTIV, you'll thank me later
  • Keep your head out of your text editor (or photoshop) while you're asking the client how you can work together to effectively communicate the story of his/her business
  • Don't use flash slide shows with music on every page ;)
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