Monday, November 29, 2004

firefox as part of this balanced web breakfast

Do you do spend any time at all working on HTML or CSS? Maybe you just tweak your blog templates, or possibly you've taken up with the web standards camp (like I have)?

Whatever your ambitions, if you're looking to really speed up the feedback loop when testing your creations in a browser, you must run, not walk, over to
Web Developer Extension on chrispederick.com and download this extension for Firefox 1.0. (It goes almost without saying that you should already have Firefox installed on your machine, especially if you use Windows.) This extension allows you to X-Ray your HTML and CSS on live web pages and see where your layout and/or code is flawed. Plus, built-in hooks to popular code validation services further help trim unruly cruft from your code. If you're still just View Source-ing and reading those tea leaves, you're wasting a lot of otherwise productive time.

Browsers may still be forgiving of sloppy code, which is good, but if you're looking to achieve a certain layout and aesthetic goal, you'll do much better to play by the standards and create valid markup.

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Great tips for PC hobbyists

Yeah, I admit it: I'd rather build a new PC than buy one ready-made because I can perpetuate the illusion that I have some Old World craftsman thing for assembling off-the-shelf parts into a functioning rig. Millions of otherwise ordinary PC hobbyists take matters into their own hands with Intel and Athlon-powered machines every day just by replacing a video card, expanding system memory, or upgrading a hard drive. But relatively few realize that to take it a step further and build a machine completely from a parts list and a usage spec (e.g., "gaming rig," "tivo clone," "cheap web server") requires just a little bit of planning and some Saturday-in-the-garage spirit.

If you want to get a taste of what's possible, check out ExtremeTech's Build It article series. Given a variety of needs and budgets, the editors provide a great array of approaches to building a system for peanuts or princely sums.

The bottom line? You're not building a machine to save money. Dell and Gateway rarely lose on pure cost/capability. It's best to build when you want to completely control the parts spec, have very specific performance goals, or simply want to learn about how a PC becomes whole from a bag full of parts. I say if you ever disassembled a four stroke engine -- lawn mower, edger, whatever -- and you haven't yet looked into building a PC, you're too curious to be missing out on this highly accessible pastime. That, and Half Life 2 just came out and your current rig totally can't deal.

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Monday, November 22, 2004

"Hello from London."

...with those words from Bono and four cracks of Larry Mullen Jr.'s drumsticks on the downbeat, U2 began to give all it could to bring Americans who watched them back from the edge of an inconsolable despair, barely two weeks beyond September 11th. If you watched them that night, when they took a plain white soundstage for their portion of the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert, you may have realized for the first time why U2 has mattered for so long. If you're about my age -- 34 -- some part of your life was bettered by the band providing its soundtrack. On that night, their music touched millions who simply needed to feel anything other than the familiar rough surface of their communal grief, fretted raw.

Heaven on Earth,
We need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around


It wasn't their best live performance -- not at all. Presumably, the sound engineering was hastily assembled for an impromptu international broadcast. It read the band flat, with even a slight line buzz through the Edge's chiming guitar intro. Bono's voice itself was weary. He carried it through the opening verse like a folded flag.

I'm sick of the sorrow, sick of the pain
sick of hearing, again and again
that there's never gonna be -- peace on Earth


When the Edge broke the hymnal wide open, leaning into the soaring opening chorus, I mainly remember completely losing my composure for the first time since it all happened. I couldn't take my eyes off the television as a band I had grown up with reached out to say "We don't know how to get through this, either. So we'll play."

And if your glass heart should crack
for a second you turn back, oh no be strong, walk on
what you got they can't steal it, no they can't even feel it
walk on, walk on
stay safe tonight


A song about overcoming your lament of something loved and left behind, now seemed to tell you that something was a way of looking at the world. U2 has always been known as a band of tireless faith, and I hope theirs in the rest of us wasn't misplaced. With today's release of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, I'm virtually certain my next four years are going to be colored in some way by this music that other works simply won't match. I only hope that the moments this time around are much more benign, everyday, but every bit as personal.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Interview with Lindon Leader (the guy behind the FedEx logo)

Thanks again to Eric for pointing another one out to me: The Sneeze interviews Lindon Leader, the designer who architected FedEx's revolutionary identity scheme in the early 1990s. Eric primarily pointed this one to me for the font geekery within (which is tasty, true), but I really found the rest of the backstory of how FedEx CEO Fred Smith gave the designers a simple vision -- "If I�m standing on a street corner, I need to see a FedEx truck from five blocks away" -- compelling. If you think about it, the 5 blocks rule is still working for FedEx trucks today -- and they didn't have to paint their fleet DOT yellow in order to be noticed.

As for the FeedBurner logo? Well, I, uh, see "evolutionary possibilities" there. Ahem.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Why you shouldn't keep a wifi laptop near the TV

Against all better judgment, I chose to visit Chicken Fight.com after seeing that mostly-ridiculous yet mildly amusing Burger King commercial promoting two new sandwiches. What you'll find at the site is a remarkably lengthy video of the actual "fight" (don't worry, I wouldn't dare spoil it for you), a gimpy vote-for-your-favorite feature and some legalese that makes the mind wobble:

"No real chickens were harmed in the making of this advertising campaign. Burger King Corporation does not endorse or condone animal cruelty in
any way including chicken fighting. The chicken characters featured in this advertising campaign are just actors wearing a chicken costume."


Isn't Burger King's business, uhm, based on industrialized cruelty to lots and lots of tender, plump and juicy chicken?

Also, does BK really need to run the chicken costume disclosure language? What, PETA's that all up in your heads that you think the costumes are gonna trigger nationwide picketing in the drive-thru lanes?

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

If you're a Big 10 basketball fan, you should miss Gene Keady when he's gone.

Andy Katz's column on the end of the Gene Keady era in the Big Ten has me thinking that college basketball is gonna miss that combover more than it knows right now. I'm still smarting over Purdue's nail-biting loss to Wisconsin in 2000 to secure what likely would have been Keady's only Final Four appearance. Can this year's team get him there? Odds are incredibly slim, but you've gotta figure the players are going to give the ol' man maximum effort -- and you know he wouldn't expect anything less.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2004

add to my christmas list, please

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Mobile Blogging with Craig Cline

A session to discuss moblogging or, well, blogging that doesn't have to be tied to the desktop and the buzzing flourscent light overhead, etc.

note: Winer's not here, so "vendors" may be able to fly in the radar. we'll see.


fight developing between traditional photography manufacturers and handset makers -- a struggle to define who owns the digital camera space in the most practical means possible.
photo quality will soon outpace data networks' capacity to carry the data efficiently in the near term. multimegapixel images on T-Mobile GPRS? Ooph.
audience member: "i bet 90% of what people worry about is gov't spying on consumers, but what about consumers spying on other consumers?" the distribution of others' privacy is 'democratized' by devices, carrier networks, and flickr/blogs
is moblogging a distinct activity from "desktop" blogging? for some it is, for others it's simply an alternative mode for input to the same content base. for me, my moblog is my flickr account and it's a continuous visual diary. This blog is a place where I trap and keep things that cross my attention mainly when I have my laptop. Place has a *huge* effect on what I write about -- in fact, whether I write at all. For example I probably won't have a FanBlogs posting today because I couldn't be further from college football being played in real time. Frankly, it's nice to have a break -- Purdue is just bagging it.
good user observation: "we have to embrace [decentralized] surveillance, since we're all under observation anyway."
"i'm a videoblogger -- i think people are missing the storytelling aspect of blogging. i like to take a lot of little clips, put 'em together." how is that different from what good bloggers do? what story does your content tell over time?
GPS is underrated as meta data. Location as another way to subscribe to interesting photos, postings, in 4d -- location and time are part of GPS signal -- might be very very cool. Agreed.
"moblogging captures the spontaneity of life...it's shared with our families and our friends."
russell beattie: "i sense that people believe mobile blogging is not quite legitimate...that we have to make it more like blogging...i say that moblogging is one of the most important things to happen to data services and blogging. ability to broadcast to tens of thousands instantly hasn't been there until now. TypePad/6A working on a carrier-dist'd. moblog solution, Google as well."
i shot a question out to the group: "we've spent much of our time discussing the production of content -- what about mobile consumption? is there something to driving adoption by making it easier to consume these works while on-the-go?"
crickets.
overall i wasn't totally energized by this session -- seemed to wander without getting anywhere. that's as much the audience's fault as it is anyone else's. could've been a collective, post-lunch carb crash.

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Robert Scoble on "Overload"

Scoble leads a discussion on aggregator overload...how we're all getting firehosed by RSS and what we can do about it.


"I want the raw you...unfiltered. Filters throw a way "random stuff" that I like to discover."
"I catch a lot of the 'long tail' stuff using filters at Feedster. It's 'purified sugar'"
Bob Wyman, PubSub: "very very dangerous to let aggregators make decisions about what you should read. Even the fact that a story was duplicated in a search or something is possibly useful....."
Winer cuts off Wyman for getting too commercial -- he says "only users should participate." Aren't we all users, Dave? Entire room gets decidedly uncomfortable, bristles at suggestion that vendors aren't users (duh).
Scoble: "I use repetition to help tell me what's important in the blogosphere." Redundancy is data, after all.
Steve Gillmor: brings up attention.xml as a multi-vendor solution to infoglut, metadata management problem. "I have 144,000 unread marks in NetNewsWire. Attention.xml is proposed as a standard that tells you what you've read, in what order, for how long." I think I need to learn more about what's going on that space.
longhaired blogger developer (steve?): "huge privacy issues with sharing attention.xml as it is. i don't think everyone's gonna wanna publish everything they're reading/interacting with."
Scoble has 3700 Bloglines subscribers. He wants to know what people click on/talk about and he doesn't know right now. Surely FeedBurner, among others, have part of the answer already?
"Time famine" -- good term used by commenter up front.
"It becomes incumbent upon producer to see what people are reading, what's getting read...you have to moderate. You can post too much ... self-selection is important." (didn't get his name)
Right now: users are speaking, others are blogging what people are saying (like me), still others are commenting on the big screen via IRC. The problem of "overload" is in evidence in this room right now.
"I want a thumbs-up, thumbs-down on feeds." Ah, the TiVo metaphor, unkillable. (another commenter)
"How do you find the people who are doing the appropriate level of filtering?"
Scoble: Wants many more ways to sort his feed list; alpha ordering is obviously not functional enough. Technorati cosmos, my personal favorites, my most read authors, my *least* read authors, and so on.
General point made by several: the blog as Cory Doctorow's "outboard brain." Many people use their blog as a catch-all for things they themselves want to collect and recall later. Yourself as your reader.
Scoble says he spends just "3 hours per night" reading blogs. I'm sure some days it's more time than that. I'm beginning to wonder if many in this room are entirely too obsessed with the act of information consumption itself -- and how elegantly or efficiently they complete it -- rather than questioning whether this endless quest for "staycurrency" is just another damned El Dorado.
Dave Slusher: "stop feeling pressured to read every little thing out there in the world." It's hard to resist that pressure, however, if you work in this subindustry. For sure.
Something that just occurred to me: nearly all current aggregators spend a lot of energy textualizing importance. Bold text for new items, lists and columns of postings, lots of ASCII used to convey meaning. Where are the visualizations? Even something as simple as what Flickr does with public tags -- text size indicates tag popularity -- packs a lot more meaning without scrolling than any ranked list. Imagine if something like Tufte's efficiency and creativity combined with the data we've already got flying around out there. It would certainly help you become more aware, more quickly.

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Adam Curry discussing Podcasting

Adam Curry and the blogorati go back and forth on podcasting and the troubles with consuming so-called new media.

"we started on this about 4 years ago ... using various open technologies that existed"
"people have been putting MP3 files on the for years...problem i always had was locating the files i wanted, organizing what i downloaded. i wanted to have that happen automatically."
"i saw the pieces of what became podcasting lying around in google...and i wrote a terrible applescript to pull them together to create a podcast."
"anyone with a computer and a built-in mic can podcast."
"people want to see how i do a podcast...so i'm gonna demo it"
"you can hear the humanity [in podcasts]"
Dawn & Drew --- podcast pioneers. "Dawn: I get a little burnt out [doing a daily show]. How many times can you say 'fuck' and 'shit' every night?"
"Dave Slusher: Danny Gregory invented the term 'podcast'."
"Dan Gillmor says, we're already at the limit of attention...we need metadata to help tag and filter podcasts...[to Adam] you're the Allan Fried of podcasting."
"Gillmor: Nick Bradbury says FeedDemon will now support Podcasting." Didn't specify upcoming version, patch, what exactly.
"Adam: radio has been my life...you trust the DJs you like as friends"
"we may not be thinking enough of making direct connections with other people [in podcasting]."
just noticed this SSID in my 'available networks' list: "wifi here is like @ WWDC :("
A blogger in the front row has overlaid podcasts into the GTA San Andreas. He listens to "Vegan Talk" while doing driveby shootings.
Curry: "let's not make too many rules in this kind of broadcasting...you don't need to have a fancy intro, all the usual conventions"
iPodder.org has started an open podcast directory; it's not owned by Adam or anyone in particular. Another community effort.
Winer just bonked Dave Sifry for making a "commercial" comment. Dave was just pointing out that Technorati is starting to index podcasts to see what's popular. It was, uhm, a relevant comment. Hank Barry followed up Winer's comment with "Dave Sifry is my hero." Then points out that this thing might be too dependent on Apple -- and Apple could shut down MP3 support on the iPod. A risk against open adoption. Curry strongly disagrees that MP3s are "going away," here comes Lessig.
Lessig: "history of the internet: tech ppl have great ideas, lawyers come in with hatchets and cut it apart. i think we should design this system to avoid [that fate]. . How can we wrap this so that it's impenetrable by the RIAA/21st century lawyer mind. Architecting freedoms in the system...so that the people i train for a living don't stand between you and your work."
Note from Curry on how he podcasts: I do it "on the fly." Pretty much uses manual volume control to fade between tracks in individual QT files. For an old broadcasting pro, he's pretty JV (and readily admits it).
Key takeaway: Podcasting is exciting because its barriers to entry are only conceptual. Clearly though, discovery, usability, reliability (and exposure to ligitation?) are in earliest stages at both publisher and consumer ends.

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bloggercon laptop census

At the opening session, I'd say it's 3:2 for Macs over PC variants. Seems low, frankly.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Unfortunate Dialog Boxes (2nd in a series)

From MS Office:Mac 2004, PowerPoint:

postreform.jpg

"German post-reform rules?" What the fark is this? Does it force-convert any Reichsmarks references to Euros?

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Thursday, November 4, 2004

Bloggercon

I'll be attending BloggerCon this weekend as both a minor league blogger and an official FeedBurner representative. I'll use everything in my power to keep the screechy commercialism to a minimum and I look forward to participating in what looks to be a pretty unusual "unconference."

If you're a FeedBurner user and you want to talk RSS, feature wishlists, or of course college football, seek me out!

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