Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

How to save Local Bookstores and your App

Mon, 05/17/2010 - 05:17 -- rprice

Back at BarCampOrlando this year, I gave a (mostly finished) version of this presentation, about the fall of the local bookstore, and a strategy for saving such establishments. As BarCamp is filled with programmers, I then tried to give them a relevant example: how to make your app better. (read: website, product, video, etc.) My argument is to focus on storytelling, and think like a Boutique. Credit goes to Tara Hunt for the idea of boutique stores. This is also related to a post about bookstores on this blog.

Some posts about this year's BlogOrlando:

[caption id="attachment_893" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="BarCampOrlando 2010 by JRNoded"]BarCampOrlando 2010 by JRNoded[/caption]
Thanks to Jim, Hewie, and all the other photographers for all the great pictures.

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New Media Orlando Meetup

Wed, 05/12/2010 - 04:53 -- rprice

Had a great meetup last night. I've left some audio notes here.

Download New Media Producers Meetup

 

Length: 3:13

The original meetup post and facebook event are around, but I took some great notes during the New Media Producers meetup using iEtherPad.

Also, I planned to show a YouTube video I recorded with a public media veteran and documentary filmmaker from St. Paul, MN, Barry Madore. However, it was way too noisy in Stardust. I like the idea of priming people's brains with a short talk or story, but you'll just have to check it out here:

Barry on the Tube

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Testable Credentials in the era of Smartphones

Fri, 05/07/2010 - 08:03 -- rprice

While I haven't ever read Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, I recognize the book as a brand around the idea of these "sticky" concepts. Here is a neat video re-posted from Fast Company with one of the authors of Made to Stick.

Testable Credentials

How do you get people to believe your ideas? Well, there’s something we can learn from really sleazy ideas that catch on. For years, Snapple struggled to fight rumors that it supported the KKK.
...
This crazy rumor challenged people to “see for themselves.” See, look, there’s a K on it. Its credibility derived from something that people could test for themselves. My brother and I call this a “testable credential.” Notice what’s going on here conceptually—when we think about making ideas credible, we usually think about the source. The Surgeon General says something, and we believe it, because he’s a credible authority. But when you use a testable credential, you’re basically outsourcing the credibility of your idea to the audience. It’s like a “try before you buy” concept for ideas.

These sorts of things go over very well in conversations at bars, and they challenge our knowledge of trivia. For example, someone recently claimed to me that Ghirardeli Chocolate was owned by Kraft. Before the rise of internet-connected phones, I would take their word for it and try to remember to look it up later. However, even if I didn't, I'd probably still spread that meme until I could prove otherwise.

Now, every bet can be settled with Wikipedia and IMDB on your phone - particularly if these sites were to provide an off-line version of their database. I know there are several ways to get Wikipedia's English database onto smartphones, even if it takes up a few gigabytes of space.

What will be the next behavior that is outmoded by the wide availability of inexpensive portable internet-connected devices? Maybe my friends and family will stop calling me because they're pretty sure I'm "In front of my computer".

My response could be: "Of course I am, I picked up my phone!"

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BarCampOrlando 2010

Sat, 04/03/2010 - 20:16 -- rprice

I promised some folks from BarCamp I would link to my blog post where I talked about saving local bookstores. I will post some slides soon, but I want to include the bullet points (i.e. actually finish the slides) before they get posted to SlideShare.

Also, if anyone out there is looking for the mailing list for New Media Orlando, jump on there and join the discussion.

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Days of Wine and Roses (and Podcasting)

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 12:00 -- rprice

I'm having a day of nostalgia. I was fiddling with a few things over on the Liberatr site (which seems totally redundant now) when I decided to sample a few of the early episodes of You Can't Spell Crapface Without PFA. I was having such a great time, I listened to one of the shows all the way through, and laughed the whole time! It's probably just the fact that I was there, but by the end of the show I was thoroughly convinced that Emily, Gina, Mumpsy, Marc, Nicole and the rest of us should start doing these talk shows again, if only for an excuse to have a weekly conversation.

Hear what I mean:
Crapface 09 - That was like ESPN!

I'll admit I have a lot of fun recording and keeping up with the DrupalEasy Podcast, but our goals are SO different from that of a laid-back, wine-induced, pop culture free-play verbal romp.

I'm now trying to get a group of people excited about producing local independent media so we can publish it on Orlando Scene TV, but the goals and the tone there will be equally different from DrupalEasy or Crapface. I miss sitting on the couch and broadcasting to 3 people. Let's bring it back.

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Chasing the Bunny in a Blue Ocean

Tue, 02/09/2010 - 05:20 -- rprice

Whenever I write something, from tweets to blog posts, I re-post it to Facebook. My 900-or-so friends are very inclined to comment and reply there. Many of these friends are from the "real" world, but several are not. Most of the people who comment, I notice, are those whom I have met.

In response to my eBook reader review, I got some discussion. One comment in particular drew me to want to write a longer post.
Adam McKercher (I went to school with him) wrote a comment:

I don't know how you [...] keep up with all the "If Only" aspects of computer culture, the vastness and need for improvement, and constant revision is what ultimately lead me to change majors.

I have to say, being in a business like this requires you to be able to look through a telescope, binoculars, bifocals and a magnifying glass, sometimes in the same sentence. Keeping yourself sane while doing so is... an exercise in the power of the human brain. I'm actually hoping to do less "microscope" level work in the future. I really like following trends and making recommendations based on my knowledge of some sort of understanding of the eco-system.

At the same time, when I talk about following trends, it's difficult to draw a hard line between watching trends and keeping up with the Joneses. If you pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing, it will end up influencing your medium-term decisions, and most critically, your day-to-day work.

A former manager of mine had this illness: the "me-too" illness. My coworkers and I started calling it "chasing the bunny", like a greyhound on the racetrack. We would be hard at work on something that we were told to do the previous week, and then we would get these mixed messages from our manager. Once we learned to ignore it, things were OK, we were able to focus on work. However, now we were used to ignoring our manager. This tells me that chasing the bunny is not a good management style. The environment we had was not agile enough to be able to make these changes in direction very easily.

I guess a really easy way to avoid this is to have a great mission statement for your business or product, and create a very clear vision - the place you want to reach in 3, 5 or even 25 years. If you know where you're headed, you won't be prone to rubbernecking at your competition while you should be keeping your eyes on the road.

Blue Ocean Strategy This idea is not completely mine (at least not lately). I've been reading a killer book on a recommendation from Mike. The subtitle of this book is "How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant". Basically, their advice tells you to look at the competition, and "zag" where they "zig". Instead of directly competing, try removing from your product three things that they claim are important, and add a few things that they're not even thinking about.

In the case of 37 Signals' Basecamp, they may have just taken out those three things and stopped. I'd love to see the 4-square Strategy Canvas for any 37 Signals product. Maybe I'll have to blog about this one later.

The book itself was written in 2004, so their case studies are a bit dated - similar to how reading The Long Tail (which was written pre-YouTube), kind of feels like it's missing the boat on the biggest long-tail product of the decade.

At the same time, if you're any good at abstraction, you can take the case studies in these books, extrapolate a bit, and come up with a decent picture of what the author(s) might have said, had they gotten an extra 6 or 7 years to write the book. Maybe that's the best argument ever to create "living" books, like the Complete Guide to Google Wave. When you're writing about something that changes almost daily, how do you reach the point when you can say, "this is the most complete picture of this concept". I read earlier this week about a fancy kind of publication called a Monograph. What a very old-world concept. Very pretentious. Very wrong.

How much do you follow trends, and consciously let those trends effect your work? Would you rather just stop reading raw, real-time messages, and only consume "dead tree" media, allowing time for the message to slowly drip into your train of thought? Do you have a system for absorbing this stuff at all?

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Comparison of eBook Readers for Mac: First Impressions

Sat, 01/30/2010 - 09:08 -- rprice

I have tried reading books on my computer screen before, and I have been disappointed. Mostly, I have realized that scrolling sucks. Given that I have already paid to download a few technical books as PDF, I needed a reader that could make the PDF experience easier than Preview or Adobe.

(psst: I've heard good things about the Kindle, though I have not extensively used one myself. [affiliate link])

EDIT: If you're looking to create ePUB files, check out the beautiful and open source Sigil.

I'm learning to develop for iPhone, so I found two books from Pragmatic Programmers, Cocoa Programming Quick Start and iPhone SDK Development.

Following this, you'll get a screenshot of each reader, and a bit about why I would / wouldn't use it.

Here's Preview:
[caption id="attachment_864" align="alignnone" width="266" caption="Preview"][/caption]

After having gone through the other apps in this list, Preview is actually not too bad for reading technical books, but not my first choice.

I had heard Andy Ihnatko talking about Stanza. I think he likes it to synch books between his iPhone and his laptop. I'm pretty sure you can also buy books wirelessly from your iPhone inside this app.
[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="stanza"][/caption]

The problem here is that this app is designed for reading story books - tons and tons of text, no fancy formatting. In fact, this app strips out all of the formatting and fonts, to the point that it makes no sense for tech manuals.

I saw Tofu on another site reviewing Mac eBook readers.
[caption id="attachment_865" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Tofu"][/caption]

In the description, there was a line "Tofu is different". In fact, Tofu works almost exactly like Stanza (at least for my purposes). While Tofu did keep more of the fonts and formatting, Tofu still wants to break the layout that the original publishers created, which makes this the wrong choice for programming books.

Then I discovered my saving grace: Skim - and it's open source!
[caption id="attachment_863" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Skim"][/caption]

It may be because it is created by programmers scratching their own itches, or maybe because it is not geared specifically for mobile devices or story books, but something just felt right about Skim. I really like the ability to highlight text and leave notes. Everything you highlight now becomes a bookmark you can jump back to for future reference. This seems like an app I'll keep open while I'm coding to go back and refer to examples and explanations. More or less, exactly what I was looking for.

It also has pretty good search functions - when it finds a word you're looking for, it circles it in red. You also have tools to manually circle text, draw a box, underline or strike through text, or draw arrows to help you annotate graphics.

There is a full screen mode and a presentation mode, as well as a neat feature called the reading bar - basically, a line-by-line bookmark to let you remember where you left off.

I've said the most about Skim because that's my pick. It's free, Mac-only, and open source.

A final note: I also tried an application called eReader Pro. This seemed to be tied to an online bookstore, and had zero support for PDF. Any tech book I've seen comes as a PDF, so steer clear of this one if you're a programmer.

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Yay Boston!

Fri, 01/22/2010 - 10:52 -- rprice

It was prohibited to use a camera inside the museum, so I recorded this one in the parking lot.

I had a great time conducting training in Boston and met some great Drupal folks - @starshaped, @finkatronic, @himerus, and @susanmacphee. We hung out and had some good times, and I got a tour of the MIT Media Lab, which is on my short list of places to go if I ever feel insane enough to attempt graduate school. At the very least, that building houses some of the coolest projects that mankind has created in recent years. I'd like to go back, and I may get a shot when the next Desgin4Drupal event comes up.

While I was at the museum I also purchased a Diana F+ Camera by Lomography and proceeded to incorrectly load the film - I'm pretty sure my first sixteen photos on Lomo will be ruined, but we'll see.

I am finally getting to hang out at Proctors after having built them a new site last spring. It's cool to actually see this space "IRL".

Now I should get back to work fixing their Drupal TV displays. I only have a few minutes before I go meet everyone from the theatre.

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Florida DrupalCamp - Feb 20-21, 2010

Sun, 01/17/2010 - 07:08 -- rprice

This is the 2nd annual DrupalCamp Florida held in Altamonte, FL. Open Source software tools are a great resource for companies and organizations to cost-effectively connect, communicate, and organize members using the Internet. One of these free tools for website creation and management is Drupal, a content management system that uses a modular approach that allows organizations to easily customize their websites and use blogs, video and user content to build their communities.

Florida DrupalCamp - Feb 20-21, 2010
Click here to register and get more info about DrupalCamp

Drupal has a very active community that will gather at DrupalCamp Florida on February 20 and 21st, where new and seasoned users learn about and share their knowledge of Drupal. The event is an opportunity to get an overview of Drupal and the developer and user community in Florida.

We will be having an event after all the learning to get some grub, drinks, relax, and get to know each other better.

If you're interested in this event, please comment below and let me know!

Download a 10 minute podcast about the 2010 Florida DrupalCamp and our Coding for a Cause non-profit benefit

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