I've been doing some restructuring of my personal sites and the underlying servers in the past couple of weeks - trying out some new tricks to get similar results with fewer (cheaper) resources, and at the same time learn about some modern web architecture at all levels of the stack.
If you are viewing this page on a phone, you probably already see what I mean, because the site should be alright on your device. I can't control the fact that many of these sites still use flash for video, so don't get down on me for that.
If you're still scratching your head, you might want to check out the orignal Responsive Design article from Ethan Marcotte, or the latest issue of Drupal Watchdog magazine, both of which define this new system for "design once, run everywhere". You might also hear people bandying about "mobile first". For me, this is mostly an experiment, and my personal site is a great place to do just that.
The MIT Media Lab is at it again, this time in collaboration with Best Buy. Everyone has seen AR tricks like making a video pop up on a magazine, but here is one that hopefully improves the experience for a confused consumer and makes a good use of modern technology.
I also like their 2D barcode design - instead of being little square boxes, it looks more organic.
This is from the same group at Media Lab who created the awesome siftables, which I think have been turned into a product based on Scrabble now. According to David Pogue, Hasbro "borrowed" the idea, the two aren't directly related. They do have a product you can get called Sifteo, though. They are currently in pre-order and promise to be shipping in a few weeks, along with an SDK in C# (yuck! but I guess a lot of commercial game developers already use that language).
The idea of Tummeling is something I have come to identify with quite a bit since I heard about it - I think it goes a long way in describing my interactions in communities like Florida Creatives, Drupal, BarCamp, the Orlando Scene, Podcasting/Social Media and Coworking. Any chance to see Heather, Deb or Kevin talk about Tummeling is worth your time.
The second half of the video is really great, where Heather starts talking to the people who write the corporate blogs, and tries to give them a methodology for changing the narrow-sighted CEOs mind about corporate communication.
Heather often tells a story about how she started as a stand-up comic, then realized that the audience could be as funny, if not funnier than she was. If you like what you see, She takes her show on the road, and teaches a workshop about doing talks that are more "tummelish". You can request to have the Unpresenting Workshop come to your area. (hint: I might be campaigning to have it come to Orlando)
I remember the first few days that Buzz was around... there was some activity there, the tech people were all talking about it (plus the obvious privacy backlash). Then it died. It died a quiet lonely death, and nobody smelled the body until a few years later...
When Google+ started.
Will this "project" go the way of Wave, Jaiku, and Dodgeball? Will they open source Hangouts, like they supposedly open sourced Wave?
What about some way for me to advertise that I want to be found in relation to ... X? I guess the web (and Google search) already have that covered? The lists are cool, but a listserv does not exist here, and part of me hopes the Googlers never create a way to spam everyone. That would make this exactly like every other social network, and Google keeps contending that it is not a social network. Therefore, what is it?
I heard about Google+ about from a million places when I checked in to the world this morning, and as I write this Leo, Jeff and Gina (or is it LeoJeff and Gina now?) are chatting about it and discovering new things about it on TWIG.
One thing I don't understand is why Google is releasing this as a suite of products... from the company that is so famous for launching things in "beta", why not just roll out one feature at a time?
Clearly, the Profiles, Plus One feature (and Buzz?) were part of the rollout of this product, but today they introduced so many new features and new paradigms that I don't see this as a staged rollout anymore.
Did they feel it wasn't compelling enough to simply have posts that could be shared with a select group of people, or to have a Google branded group messaging service (several of which launched in the past few years at SXSW) that was only available on Android phones?
Clearly, one of the great launches today is the Hangouts - group video chat - for up to 10 people, for free. While there are a lot of group video solutions, many of them cost money - making the product free is a great way to get people to try it, and use it whenever it is needed.
(for those of you reading on facebook, there is a video here)
This was something I asked for on the Our Yellow House podcast - a Chat Roulette about a particular topic. For example: there is a group here in Orlando that has a TED meetup once a month. They watch a video from TED, then proceed to have a 45 minute discussion inspired by that video. What if you don't live in a big city, where it is a bit easier to get together in person? You still want to participate in the conversation, but you can't get a group together. Now you just need to start a Hangout and get a discussion going.
I can already see a great application here for the Drupal Dojo - a weekly virtual meetup group that shares knowledge about Drupal.
Having an IRC chat with sound and video is going to be huge for collaborative groups.
In my job, I have at least one phone call every week that can last as many as 5 hours... right now, we open up Skype and get online, then start working. Through the open audio channel, we don't necessarily have to be "on the phone" the whole time, but when we have a question for the other person (who is sitting 2,000 miles away), there is a zero connect time. Skype has video capabilities, but if your call has more than one person on it, you can't use video anymore. A really important part of my job is seeing what the other person is seeing, and the solutions to make that work tend to cost money - anywhere from $15 to $50 to hundreds of dollars a month. This is free.
There were some interesting social conventions brought up in the TWIG episode - like do you announce yourself when you enter or leave a Hangout? Apparently when someone says something dirty you can do a "hand check", and I'm sure other conventions will pop up, a la hashtags, @ signs and other hacks introduced on Twitter.
A few more anecdotes:
When we first started doing Likemind in Orlando, I would sometimes have a hard time waking up and making it down to the coffee shop, and I had to walk, so instead of missing 20 minutes of the meetup, I just had John RIfe open up Skype from the event and have me join via telepresence. This again, is great for that.
There is a Drupal meetup in Broward County sets themselves up with a Skype channel while they are holding the Broward Drupal meeting to let other people join in if they choose. Traffic in South Florida is notoriously bad, despite the fact that most areas of the metro are not physically far apart, it takes a long time to get across town, so this is a good choice for locals or anyone else around the world who wants to join in.
Back to my rant about rolling out too many new features all at once...
If the Googlers are such experienced engineers, then why don't they just show us one tool at a time, UNIX command-line style? It feels a bit UNIX-y to have these different tools and let each of them be used one at a time, but why show us so many all at once? There are a lot of new vocabulary words here (something that I know is confusing from the Drupal community - Node, Taxonomy, Entity, Field, Views, Panels, Pages, Context, etc have been hard for some to keep straight), and there are obvious ways to combine the tools here - phrases, as it were - I'm sure new ones will emerge eventually.
Still, I wonder if it will be too confusing to "the masses" - the people they will clearly want to be stealing from Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft. We all saw Wave go crashing down because of the numerous new concepts and difficulty of understanding how to use them all and make it work. Also, Wave was a little too much of a walled garden to be useful right away. At least with Google+ it seems like making things public isn't too hard.
I could go on, but without an invite and some more experience, that's about what I'm thinking for now.
I have a huge music collection that I digitized years ago that I don't / can't carry around with me everywhere. I have been keeping my files on a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device I picked up on rebate - basically some hard drives connected to a low-powered computer with a network cable. I've been looking for a way to play tunes when I'm out in the yard weeding or gardening, or when I'm halfway across the globe. Following is a summary of how I got it to work.
Given the massive number of Android apps in the Market, I figured there must be some way to get the music from the NAS to my phone, and it turns out I was right. This solution is pretty nice, because it doesn't require me to keep a computer running all the time, just the NAS and my Wi-Fi Router.
Had I known about the 321's big brother, the D-Link DNS-323, or the less expensive DNS-320, I might have searched around to buy one of those. They both include a USB print server on top of the built in FTP and file serving capabilities.
The 323, though, has grown a serious hacking community around it. On the DNS323 Wiki, hackers detail a quick way to load software onto your NAS, like a web server, bittorrent client, and more. If you're not afraid of a little hacking, check out this wiki!
There is a smart little program for Android called DAAP Media Player that does one thing very well - connect to a DAAP server on your local Wi-Fi (by auto-discovery) or on the web (if you have the address). You are presented with some broad song categories, and the ability to browse by artist or album. If you read the app's description, you also learn that there are a number of ways to publish your media library via DAAP. In this case, the DNS-321 does the job just fine.
In my case, I have a static IP address at home. This means I can point a domain name at the IP address for my house, do a quick configuration to do some port forwarding on my router (port 3689), and to quote Steve Jobs, "boom", I can now get to my music library from anywhere on the planet.
Isn't technology cool?
Yes, I also have a membership to the Google Music Beta, where I have already uploaded about 6,000 songs, but I don't know how long the beta will last, if (or what) Google will charge in the future, and if they will ever shut down the service. This way, I can take control of the service on my own terms.
I also realize that Amazon and Apple have similar services - more on this in a future post. As a rule, I prefer to manage this sort of thing myself whenever possible. From where I'm sitting, I'm not giving up anything except a bit of time to make it work.
This library represents almost a decade of digital packratting, as well as several plastic discs I ripped. That was a huge investment for me, and I want to make the most of it. I see this as a great way to get everlasting value out of my collection.
Here is a quick one about connecting Firefox Sync with your mobile phone or other computers:
Some more really cool features are the ability to create Tab Groups, which you can save, or use as an alternate to switching between windows.
App Tabs are small tabs that stay visible in your window even when you have tons of other tabs open - they glow blue when they get updated, and they even stay attached to your window when you quit the browser and start it back up.
At 10:30 or so last night, I was on a phone call with Mike Anello and Earl, another coworker, when Mike tells us that the President is coming on TV for a special announcement in a few minutes.
I'm like, "the President of the United States?"
I searched Google News - nothing seemed to be there yet. Twitter was exploding with it, confirming what Mike believed the announcement was about: Osama Bin Laden had been killed, and the President was going to tell us on Live TV.
So I checked Wikipedia - the date of his death had been updated just minutes before I heard it.
I gave a talk at Rollins to an MBA class about Technological Entrepreneurship, taught by a friend of mine. The bulk of it was about how I have brought my career to where it is, and the things I use to sell myself.
Three things I spent some time talking about were:
Open Source Software: my latest mantra here is that people are putting in hundreds, thousands or millions of hours into creating this software, and you don't have to pay a penny. You can also potentially benefit from each person who uses it - that doesn't happen with commercial software, except in the very best of companies with the very best feedback systems. Even then, you may never meet many people who use the same proprietary software as you. Finding others in the Open Source world is as easy as email, IRC, Google, and a hundred other technologies that also don't cost you anything. I've been able to build all my business in the last 5 years on the back of Drupal, and people build huge companies on the same platform.
Podcasting and Blogging: For the amount that a podcast costs me to produce (only my time), I have gotten a lot of my business by giving away what I know. The thing is not what you know, but how you are able to teach yourself new things, and keep your finger on the pulse - watch trends, do research, experiment, and discover.
In-Person Involvement and Meetups: Just the fact that I am involved with Urban ReThink, Florida Creatives, the Florida DrupalCamp and BarCampOrlando has helped me build a reputation I could not imagine. At the same time, the "Long Tail" involvement I have with communities - the ones where I have a smaller impact, but am nonetheless important - simply because I am there - those are some places where I become even more well-connected. Take poetry, Film, Art, Theatre or Music as examples of communities where I don't show up often, but often enough to be known.
Perhaps most importantly, I have a strong group of advisers, mentors, and peers who I can bounce ideas off of, and vice versa. We can talk about things I would not be comfortable discussing with others, and I generally tell them things it would be hard to tell others, because they are not as invested in my career, with the same level of understanding of how I come to evangelize ideas. These people are an absolutely indispensable part of my world.
It may seem like I am patting myself on the back, but that is really the mindset I had to have to put together this lecture. If I am able to call myself a success in my own right, how did I get here?
In the last few minutes of the talk, I decided to put together a list of books I thought the class members would be interested in. These books really helped me get where I am now, and help me to make hard decisions all the time.
Some time ago, I heard about a company that was acquired by Google that had created some software called EtherPad. If you ask me, this is how Google Wave or Google Docs should have been done. You can see the updates in real-time, everyone's changes are tracked, you can save revisions, you can chat with other collaborators, and it even uses wiki-style red links, so that when you click on a link to a page that doesn't exist, a new one gets created. It's all the best things about wikis, documents and IRC.
I set up the site at http://pulpp.org - initially to get things going during BarCampOrlando, but I plan on leaving the site up there for locals to use.
You can even embed the results in another page, almost like Wave: Edit: I have taken out the embedded pad. Not a good idea for your home page.
EtherPad runs on Java, and the version I downloaded uses Jetty, which is to Tomcat what Lighttpd is to Apache (I think, I'm not a Java guy). EtherPad is a package in a repository that you can add to your apt-get list in Ubuntu, and it basically installs itself.
I ended up doing a little bit of customization, and turning on a few plugins, like the Twitter-style tags, which is a great way to get things to show up on a search page.
If you've never heard of EtherPad before, visit the site and create a page. Then invite a friend to come check it out and edit the page with you (or ask me). When you use it at a live event, like during a meeting, your workflow for working on meetings, and the way you think about wikis will change.