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Putting on a Kickass Talk Like a Pirate Day Party

Sat, 09/17/2011 - 16:05 -- rprice

As International Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up, I am in the midst of my annual preparations for our 3rd Pirate Party. This year is probably the most organized we've been about the affair. I've learned a few things in the past few years putting on these events, so I thought I would share some tips here for making your party a success.

  1. Pick a good date. This year's Sept 19th falls on a Monday, which works well for holding a party at the office, but not so well for a party with friends. We tend to choose a Friday or Saturday for our festivities.
  2. Dress like a pirate. For the past few years, Target has had a selection of foam swords in their $1 section, in preparation for Halloween. In fact, the idea of holding Talk Like a Pirate Day was a stroke of genius by the creator, because it makes getting a hold of costumes much easier.
  3. Encourage guests to dress up too. The first year we held the party, we put a lot of emphasis on the "talking" like a pirate, not much on dressing. In later years, we've made sure to mention it in invitations.
  4. Music can set the mood.I've done some research into MP3s available through Amazon, and built up a wish list for possible future purchases. If I can only recommend one, it would be the double album Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Song And Chanteys It features recordings of many "classic" pirate songs by modern artists, some well known for making music, like Bono and Sting, as well as obscure guests John C Reilly and Ralph Steadman. With few exceptions, every song here has an old world feel which could really help set the mood for your party. Something I found on my journey that is not very "traditional" pirate or seafaring music, but still beautiful is Alela Diane's The Pirate's Gospel. For a full wish list, check out my Pirate Songs Wish List. (Listmania Lists can't have MP3 Downloads for some reason)
  5. Have a Pirate Name. Google "pirate name". Encourage your friends to do the same.
  6. Pirate Games. Pirate Fluxx is a great variant on the Looney Labs classic of ever-changing rules with a few extra goodies thrown in like the Scurvy card. There are also countless Pirate Board Games, such as Avalon Hill's Sword & Skull, which a friend gave me one year. I've also thought of putting together a "pin the eyepatch on the pirate game." All you'd need is a photo of any celebrity (black out a tooth or two and scribble on a beard with a magic marker) and a piece of black construction paper with some Scotch tape.
  7. Visit the Party Store. We got some great stuff at a party supply store as well as our local Hobby Lobby - props like a fishing net, cupcake holders, toothpicks with flags on them, cocktail accessories and much more. We also have a huge sign one our front door warning "Baware of Pirates".
  8. Visit the Flea Market. I found an awesome brass flagon with a glass bottom, and we also found an old cigarette lighter that looks like a pistol.
  9. Drink Pirate Drinks. I found several drink recipes online with neat names like "Bilge Water", "Crow's Nest" and "Foul Weather". There are also many competing recipes for Grog out there.
  10. Eat Limes. We normally go for a few tropical fruits - we make something called a Hawaiian Wedding Cake, which has pineapple and coconut in it, as well as serving sliced pineapple and anything with fresh lime. Maybe next year we'll spring for some Key Lime cupcakes.
  11. Get inventive with the food. Trying to research what pirates ate didn't get us anything interesting, so we decided to make it up. We get these mini-quiche from the wholesale store and stick some of the Jolly Roger toothpicks in them - they almost look like little boats. My philosophy is that if you have access to all the world's oceans, then you could really put anything on the menu, since you're currently "at port" during your party. Eating what they would have had after long weeks at sea is mostly maggoty bread and meat. Wasa is my preferred hard tack, if you must know.
  12. Make your own costume. You will be more satisfied with your costume if you buy a real shirt and a separate hat, and then just wear some black dress pants or jeans instead of getting a cheap Jack Sparrow costume - they fall apart, don't fit well, and don't look good either. There is a costume shop near our house that had some great peasant shirts, and I used a piece of scrap fabric to make myself a bandana and a sash for around my waist. Some of the cheap "boot toppers" will go a long way too. Since we have this party every year, I am slowly building up a costume that is much nicer by purchasing one new piece a year. Last year it was a cool telescope with stainless steel and leather trim from Hobby Lobby. A fake earring and a cheap eye patch can help too for a male costume. For the female costumes, you may need to be more of a tomboy, unless you want to be a slutty pirate or a bar wench.
  13. Mood lighting. Lanterns, candles, and tastefully placed lights can certainly help a costume party of any kind. Seeing everyone in stark light is not as good as something a bit more subdued - let the imagination fill in the details.
  14. Nametags? We are going to try nametags with your chosen Pirate Name this year to see if that helps the theme out. Results TBD.
  15. Provide Dress-up accessories for guests. Make sure you aren't making it too difficult for your guests to participate. We decided the nametags with some pre-selected names and having a few dress-up items like eye patches, temporary tattoos, earrings, etc can help people get involved without investing in a costume of their own.
  16. Have fun. Don't stress out. I recommend setting a budget, and planning to stick to it. You can always do it bigger and better next year!

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How to: New Google Analytics Widgets & Dashboard

Sat, 09/17/2011 - 14:02 -- rprice

The most popular (and free) system for web analytics has got a new interface, so I decided to give a quick tour of the home screen and share three widgets I like to use to get an overview of the activity on my websites.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are things I am interested in right now:

  1. find out how many people are accessing my site from mobile devices, or not from Mac/Windows/Linux operating systems at least
  2. find out the most popular keywords bringing traffic to my site, and how many of the visitors are new (this month)
  3. find out what are the most popular pages on the site, and how often that is the only page someone visited (bounce rate).

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What is Drupal?

Fri, 09/16/2011 - 17:53 -- rprice

I love this video. Looks like it is an ad for a Drupal event in the UK, but I think a lot of people could use this if the filmmaker would allow us to.

What is Drupal? from Larchmont Films on Vimeo.

With over half a million contributing developers in 200+ countries, Drupal powers over 2% of the web including such diverse sites as The White House, Economist.com, Examiner.com, Amnesty International, MTVuk, .net magazine and Data.gov.uk.

Drupal (pronounced drew-pull) is a Content Management System and web application development software written in a popular scripting language - PHP. Drupal has over 11,000 modules and over 1,000 themes, along with both a point and click interface to allow tech-savvy people to put together websites with no programming experience; and an API and framework for programmers to develop unique applications. Best of all, it's free, open source software!

To find out more about Drupal, come along to the Drupal Discovery Day in Brighton on 16th September

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How can cities benefit from Tummlers?

Sat, 09/03/2011 - 13:15 -- rprice

If you can't tell, this is a bit of a theme on my blog this year. Ever since I started listening to Tummelvision, I have really started to identify with this label.

Edit: If you're interested in hearing more about the practice of Tummeling, definitely watch Heather Gold's Tech Talk at Google about Designing for Conversation (How to be a Tummeler).

Last night, I was a speaker at PechaKucha Night Orlando v3, where I gave a talk titled "Life as a Tummler". I had to give the title before the talk was fully baked. A more appropriate title would have been more like the title of this post.

Life as a Tummler - Pecha Kucha Orlando Sept 2011

View more presentations from Ryan Price

I had a really great time last night. I'm glad Orlando has awesome cultural events like this, and venues like Blank Space where they can thrive... they must have 200 beers in bottles! I love that.

This week, we've got Show and Tell, and later this month, Likemind and Florida Creatives Happy Hour are coming up. These things all build on each other, so if you like one, the others should excite you too!

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Now with more Responsive HTML5 Goodness!

Fri, 09/02/2011 - 15:00 -- rprice

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.

I wrote a post that included videos just to test out the "responsive" scaling stuff built into the Omega theme on my Drupal 7 site. Check out my last post, Commercial Applications of Augmented Reality, and then resize your browser window to see what I mean.

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.

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Commercial Applications of Augmented Reality

Wed, 08/31/2011 - 11:26 -- rprice

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.

The original concept is actually quite steampunk.

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).

Links: Boston.com
nytimes.com

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Tummeling with Heather Gold

Sat, 07/02/2011 - 02:23 -- rprice

This is a video of a talk by Heather Gold (Tummelvision, Unpresenting, Heather Gold Show, @heathr) from WordCamp Seattle a few days ago.

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.

Heather Gold – Tools For Tummeling at WordCampTV

What the heck is Tummeling again? Heather explains it pretty early on in the video, but the "about" page for Tummelvision is a decent place to go.

Heather does a great job of including the people (formerly known as the audience) at the talk, and mentions the importance of phatic communication, and hopes tech tools in the future will help us to share that kind of communication.

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)

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Google Plus, a lot like Buzz so far

Thu, 06/30/2011 - 02:39 -- rprice

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 absolutely can't wait for tomorrow's Social Media Day / Mashable meetup at Urban ReThink and Tummelvision - that is going to be epic. I actually had a little chat with Heater Gold today on Plus, and all because I mistakenly thought they might have already taped this week's episode.

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Google+ 1st Post

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 18:06 -- rprice

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 Leo Jeff and Gina now?) are chatting about it and discovering new things about it on TWIG.

Google What?

Really curious about some of the features? See the official Google announcement page or read the article in Search Engine Land

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.

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Streaming Music from a NAS at Home to an Android Phone

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 18:05 -- rprice

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.


D-Link DNS-321 2-Bay Network Attached Storage
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!

One of the many nice features of the D-Link DNS-321 Network Attached Storage is the ability for it to act as an iTunes server. The iTunes sharing feature uses a protocol called DAAP, or Digital Audio Access Protocol. DAAP is now available as a means of sharing media between many different devices and programs, and it turns out my phone is one of them.

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.

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