Thursday, August 31, 2006

CoComment is pretty cool

I’m finding I’m relying more and more on CoComment, a service that keeps tabs on sites where I comment, and alerts me when others respond. It works really well, and it has a nice Firefox extension which provides a visual indicator when new comments are found. It’s made me more responsive to conversations I join on other sites, which is a good thing: nothing’s worse than showing up, leaving a comment, then forgetting to go back and see if anything else has changed.

What do you use to track comments you’ve left?

links for 2006-08-31

Quote of the day

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.
Edward R. Murrow, 1954, as cited by Keith Olbermann, in a wonderfully written piece on Secretary Rumsfeld’s laughably un-American speech given to the American Legion earlier this week. Lots of points worth considering.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

links for 2006-08-29

Monday, August 28, 2006

Naperville Yard Sales

Wow. I think I just made Betsy’s day (year?). is a combination Craig’s List and clearinghouse of info about upcoming yard sales. Brilliant idea – the site’s well built and it’s going to help me clear out a bunch of stuff that’s been hanging around the house for the past several months. They’ve got a blog too, and were recently featured in the local paper and on the cable access channel.

I love it when I find stuff like this locally. See? Naperville’s not just about two high school freshmen suing each other over a lost iPod. We actually have good uses of tech too. ;)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Use FeedBurner for your mobile-friendly site

Ed Vielmetti asked how FeedBurner can help you create a mobile-friendly site. Little did he know, this is one of the easiest things we can do for you. In fact, I’ve had it on my site for a while now, and forgot to document it. Thanks for the reminder, Ed!

Our BuzzBoost feature lets you create a chunk of javascript code that will render your feed’s content on a webpage. Just log into FeedBurner, go to “publicize”, then select “BuzzBoost” and configure away. Once you’re done, activate the service, and we’ll give you the resulting BuzzBoost code.

With that, now create a simple HTML page, and include the BuzzBoost javascript in the section. Save the file, and you have yourself a mobile-friendly page!

For the hard-core geeks among you, you might want to try this post on for size, where you can either use .htaccess or PHP to sniff the browser’s user agent: if the visiting browser is using a mobile app to view your page, you can auto-redirect them to a mobile-friendly version of the page. (That’s what I’m doing right now — when you try going to using a BlackBerry, a Treo, or other mobile device, you’ll be routed to this page.)


Nicco Mele

A couple days ago, my friend Nicco Mele (most famous for being the webmaster for Dean for America, but also known as the founder at Echo Ditto) announced that he was supporting John McCain for president in 2008. Reaction was swift: Markos wrote him off. Zack Exley (formerly at MoveOn, and former tech guy at the Kerry campaign), while saying Nicco’s still his friend, wrote that he should be persona non grata in Democratic circles.

Throughout the day following Nicco’s announcement, I got IMs from friends from the Dean days, a few former Echo Ditto folks, and a couple clients of his who’ve stayed in touch with me over the years. Reactions were in line with Markos’s and Zack’s comments: a combination of surprise, disappointment, and some bitterness. “How could he do this?” and “What was he thinking?” were the most common refrains.

I think Nicco will find it quite a bit harder to get work in Democratic campaigns for a while. Indeed, as Harish Rao, Echo Ditto’s interim CEO, notes — Nicco’s taken an immediate leave of absence from his duties at Echo Ditto. The New Organizing Institute, a progressive group working to train grassroots activists, kicked Nicco off their advisory board late in the week.

That’s not particularly surprising, nor, in the political realm, is it really wrong. But what’s really frustrating to me are the ridiculous suggestions in the comments at DailyKos and elsewhere that Nicco must have dropped everything because McCain threw a pile of cash at him. As has been widely reported, Nicco’s not on McCain’s payroll. And as anyone who knows Nicco would attest (whether they consider him a friend or not), it’s his abhorrence of the influence of money in politics that lead him to think so highly of McCain. Whether McCain’s the right guy to carry that torch, and whether his other positions make him a candidate worthy of Nicco’s support, is an entirely separate matter.

I’ve been proud to consider Nicco a friend for over three years. To those who’ve suggested he’s abandoned his principles to support John McCain, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Misguided? Maybe. A sell-out? No way.

(Disclosure: After the Dean campaign ended, Nicco founded Echo Ditto and I did some paid consulting work for Echo Ditto, as the individual primarily responsible for running the Obama campaign weblog.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Search as a leading economic indicator

Bill Tancer’s latest post about Hitwise having advance indications of yesterday’s announcement of a drop in July home sales is fascinating. In short, Bill points out that the National Association of Realtors require 3-4 weeks to put their analysis together, so, even though September’s almost upon us, we’re just now hearing that home sales in July fell.

Except Hitwise saw this coming. The web stats and competitive intelligence company saw a drop in July in searches for terms relating to home sales, and has seen a similar pick-up in August. So Bill’s not only saying they saw this coming, he’s predicting that August’s numbers will pick up. (Reuters picked up on this yesterday.)

I’ve thought about this before — namely in terms of political polling, when one speech on C-Span by then-unknown Howard Dean led to a 600% surge in traffic to my site. I figured that meant Howard Dean had some potential — and that was February of 2003, before he had a campaign blog! I had a similar experience when looking at search traffic indicated that a friend of mine had passed away (a sudden surge in traffic for people who’d searched on her name was the suggestion that, after battling a crippling disease, she had in fact died).

So the question is: who else is using search as a leading indicator of future activity, and who’s making money on it? Who’s brokering access to the real-time search data?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How flying is like the First Amendment

Ze Frank explains that like with free speech, while you have the right to recline your seat, if you exercise that right to its limits, many around you will think you’re an asshole. That, and many other spot-on observations, in today’s the show:

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

links for 2006-08-23

Is this being blogged?

Fascinating conversation over at Andrea Weckerle’s blog about the firing of a Goodwill worker. Andrea not only reports the orginal story, but followed up and spoke with several people at Goodwill. Subsequently, a number of concerned Goodwill customers forwarded a link to her blog through Goodwill’s corporate site, resulting in a discussion of the matter with Goodwill’s marcomm person. In the interim, lots of input from PR professionals about how they would have handled it and what Goodwill could have done differently.

What stuck out for me: Goodwill’s marketng person (Aimee) saying:

We do have a policy in place for news media inquiries. If an employee is contacted directly by a reporter, they are to redirect the call to Marketing and Communications, or to obtain the caller’s name, contact information, affiliation, and a brief description of the subject in question, for the call to be returned. Andrea was viewed as a member of the donating public, who works in PR as a profession. Had there been a mention of online media, an article, or story, I would have been notified immediately.

In a world when calls to customer service are recorded (by the customers, not the service!) and bad experiences are recounted — is it even practical these days for a company to have different policies for the public and the press? When they’re the same thing, that seems an impossible standard to set, and one ulimately designed to fail.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In a world...

I’m just blogging this so it’ll be easier to find the next time I want to have a good laugh… (If you haven’t seen it before, it’s five of Hollywood’s most popular voiceover guys, doing a trailer for a film about themselves. Hilarious.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kid-proofing a PC

I recently bought Robin a laptop, which meant that her 3+ year-old PC is now freed up to do the thankless job of being the kids’ computer. It’s running WinXP home, and has a wifi connection to the home network, and before I let the kids run loose on the thing, I’d love to hear from any of you who’ve been through this process.

First, the stats: my oldest son is 6, his brother is 4 and Becca’s a couple years from being on a computer. The computer has plenty of RAM (half a gig), a decent processor (1+ ghz, if memory serves) and lots of hard drive space. Most of what the kids will be doing for the next year or so will be playing a handful of Windows-based games (educational, nothing too taxing on the graphics processor), visiting a few family-friendly websites, and, in Ricky’s case, possibly sending/receiving emails to family members. Basic Internet access for playing chess with me when I travel would be cool too.

I’m not particularly interested in locking this thing down tighter than a drum (that’ll just turn me into 24×7 tech support for yet another PC, something I really don’t want to have happen), but I am interested in taking basic precautions to keep them safe and in avoiding the inadvertent “oops, I deleted the hard drive” kind of stuff. So… what have you done?

Thanks for any suggestions.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

FeedCrier - New RSS-based IM system

I’m pretty intrigued by Adam Kalsey’s new service, FeedCrier. FeedCrier will notify you by instant message (currently AIM only, others in development) whenever a feed updates. Adam announced this last night on his blog, and I looked at the instructions for publishers and figured out that it’d take about 2 minutes to integrate FeedCrier into FeedFlare.

Sure enough, it was pretty easy. FeedFlare, you’ll recall, is the FeedBurner service that adds functionality to your feed and/or your website; more details are here. I built a FeedCrier FeedFlare unit here – if you want to use it, just copy that URL into your FeedFlare configuration screen. Then you can choose to add the links to either your feed, your site, or both. After that, FeedCrier links will be active and your subscribers/readers will be able to register for IM alerts automatically.
Nice work, Adam! Looks like a cool service.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on box office: Jackie Chan is safe

DeadlineHollywoodDaily has the news.

New WordPress plugin - Landing Sites

I’m in love. I just found a WordPress plugin that replicates some nice functionality I had in my old Movable Type install. The Movable Type version was called MT Refsearch, and the idea behind it is pretty cool: if you come to a page on my site because you searched for a post, Refsearch would search my database to see if I had other posts on that topic and show you links to those posts. Since Google often decides it likes one post far more than others (due to inbound links, the phases of the moon, etc.), it’s likely that there’s a lot of content here that might be of interest to you if only you knew to look for it. (Bite your tongue, it could happen.)

So I installed MT-Refsearch, and people even raved about how cool it was. Except one day it broke, the author no longer supported it, and I didn’t have the slightest clue how to fix it. Then I converted to WordPress, and didn’t even try looking for a replacement: at the time, I just wanted to make sure the content came over in one piece.

In setting up a blog for a friend today, I was persuing the WordPress Plugin database, and stumbled upon Landing Sites, which does effectively the same thing as Refsearch did for Movable Type.

Want to test it out? Blogbeat tells me lots of people are coming here today looking for — what else? — all things Snakes on a Plane:
Blogbeat searches

So now, go to Google and search for Snakes on a Plane review. For now, at least, I’m #8… but as loyal readers know, I’ve written a few other things about SoaP. And if someone’s hitting my site looking for a SoaP review, well, maybe they’d, you know, want to read even more about SoaP. (SoaP fans are obsessive? Who knew?)

So now, if you do that Google search and come over to my site, here’s what you’ll see:

SoaP related posts

I love it. If you’re running a WordPress site, it’s a brilliant plugin that should help your search visitors find what they want and increase page views within your site. What’s not to like?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Last Snakes Post (maybe)

I had a lot of fun reading through the comments from SoaP viewers this morning over on Brian’s Snakes on a Blog site, when I stumbled upon this comment from the director, David Ellis:

I am so happy that I delivered the fun of the film that you all wanted. I am so proud to be one of the first directors to listen to and react to what the fans want to see. You now have a huge voice in the marketing of films as you should.

That’s pretty cool.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Snakes on a Plane: Review

Just got back from seeing Snakes on a Plane with Mike and Kris. It was every bit as bad and brilliant as we’d hoped.

It’s unclear to me how this movie could have been watchable as a PG-13 film; the fall-off-your-chair funny scenes were the most graphic (some nudity, lots of gore). The film never takes itself completely seriously, though every once in a while it gets right up close to trying to be an actual horror movie, then it goes right back to all-out camp.

The audience was seriously into it… 45 minutes ahead of the previews starting, we had one guy walking around with a 2’ tall picture of Samuel L. Jackson’s face which elicited squeals of delight from people in the theater. Another guy was actually dressed from head to hips as a snake. And when the previews actually started, consensus formed around their relationship to the film we were about to see. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning was really just “Snakes on a Farm”. Denzel Washington’s Deja Vu? “Snakes on a Brain.” You get the idea.

So the movie itself was great. I haven’t had that much fun at a movie — actually laughing at the screen, even shocked a few times at unexpected twists — in a long time. People brought rubber snakes which were repeatedly thrown around the theater. Several lines of dialogue were often completely unintelligible because people were either laughing, shouting or cheering so loudly that you couldn’t hear a thing from the movie.

All in all, a great night. Lots of fun to finally see the movie…

Snakes on a plane poll

As you may know, Rush Hour 2 holds the record for biggest August opening ever, at $67m. Will our beloved movie end Chris Tucker’s and Jackie Chan’s reign?


Update: Yes, I know this poll breaks the feed. No, I don’t know how to fix it. Sorry.

Snakes. On a plane. 9 hours to go.

SOAP_logo.jpgHard to believe, but the day we’ve all been waiting for is upon us. It was exactly one year ago today that screenwriter Josh Friedman graced us with what will no doubt go down in history as the day that changed cinema. On that day, the brilliance of a movie title so simple, so powerful, was shared with us in the blogosphere. And bloggers, never ones to miss an opportunity to turn a dumb idea into, well, a dumber one, jumped on board.

It became an Internet sensation. A law student started a blog to try and get himself invited to the premiere (it worked, he’ll be in Hollywood tonight). Fan demands of a line of dialogue: “Get these motherf—-ing snakes off this motherf—-ing plane” — which would not only require a re-shoot but changing the rating from PG-13 to R — were heeded. Tireless promotion by Samuel L. Jackson, who mentioned the film and its allure (“You either want to see a movie with a title like that, or you don’t.”) countless times — on NPR, on Conan, honestly, to anyone with a microphone — resulted in adulation the likes of which he likely hasn’t seen since Pulp Fiction. Hell, you can even send friends a voicemail — personalized! — from Samuel L. Jackson himself.

And here we are, about to witness a watershed event in entertainment. You’re going tonight, right? 10pm is when it opens around the country. You’re going, right? RIGHT?

If you really want to get goofy, spend most of your day watching the Hollywood Stock Exchange’s ticker for Snakes on a Plane (I would have preferred the ticker “SNAKE”, but that’s a minor complaint). Or just spend the day counting down the hours until the lights go dark, and we’re blessed with one hour and forty-five minutes of terrible, brilliant film-making.

Snakes on a Plane. I’m pretty excited.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rick James? Nobody.

Pure, unaldulterated ego:

Rick on Google

That’s me: the #3 Rick on Google, more popular than Rick Springfield and Rick Santorum (I’m not really sure that’s worth bragging about, but whatever). Rick Dees and Rick Steves still have me beat, but Rick James is all the way down at #10.

(I’ll enjoy it while it lasts; I was once in the top 10 for Rick, only to drop down to #30 or something, so I have no expectation that this will last. But it’s still kind of fun.)

Preaching to the wired

A couple weeks ago, I gave a keynote presentation to the ELCA Communicators Conference. ELCA is the largest association of Lutheran churches in the US, and the conference is a bi-annual meeting that gathers communicators from across the church to learn about how to better communicate to their members, employees, etc.

I was particularly excited about the presentation because it was to a group that’s decidedly outside the normal audience I speak to: though almost every hand went up when I asked how many were “on the Internet”, only 10% or so read blogs and just a handful in the room listened to a podcast. I decided to focus on new opportunities to communicate online, and ended up talking about blogs, podcasts, wikis, MySpace, Second Life, and YouTube.

Feedback from the talk was uniformly positive, and I’m happy to report that several new blogs popped up after I gave my talk – but that’s not what I really wanted to talk about. (I do appreciate the feedback, however!)

I made a rather provocative statement (inspired in part by Reverand Marsh’s words before my presentation) that, though the entire room claimed to be “on the Internet”, none were using MySpace. Consequently, I claimed, none of them were actually on the Internet. My point wasn’t that they all have to hang out on MySpace… but that since many of their younger members are spending considerable time there, they should at least pay attention to it and find ways of engaging the kids on turf that’s familiar to them.

One day later, one synod (a collection of churches) made the plunge, and created a MySpace page. Two days after that, the synod’s communications committee asked that the site be taken down; among other reasons, they pointed out that parents were trying to get their kids off of MySpace, so the church shouldn’t be seen as encouraging the kids to spend more time there. I’m sensitive to that point – I really am – but I see it as a missed opportunity. The kids are seeking out opportunities to chat, and data from a couple years ago from Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates that nearly 2/3 of those online use the Internet in part for spiritual inquiries. As I said in an email over the weekend to the person who had to take the site down:

If the kids are there, then you have an opportunity to reach them there. Now, that may be a sensitive (and, potentially impossible) position for the church to be in… but I think that, absent the often alarmist reports about myspace (and the people who hang out there), there are legitimate and fulfilling uses of the service that will enrich a young person’s time online. The church has a chance to be a part of the good use of the service.

By the way, I was excited to find a great site that speaks to these challenges, Church Marketing Sucks. This past spring, they did a pretty comprehensive series about What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church, and among other things, talks about how to use MySpace. If you’re interested in these issues, it’s a great overview and deserves your attention.

There’s a follow-up to the story. This evening, I was checking to see if anyone else from the conference had written about their impressions before I wrote this post. I found this post from a Lutheran church-goer in Lodi, CA, who was reporting on yesterday’s surprising announcement from the Pastor that he’d created a MySpace page. And at the 11am service, he made sure everyone knew the URL:

I can’t claim any credit for Pastor Eric Griffith’s dive into MySpace (at least, I don’t think I can – I don’t think he was at the conference), but if I ever wanted a perfect example of how a Pastor can get the voice for a site like MySpace just right, I’ve got it now. Kudos to Pastor Griffith!

They not only hate freedom

They not only hate freedom

Originally uploaded by 5500.
I look at this picture, and I shake my head at the terrible marketing instincts on the part of the person who drafted this note. Instead of focusing on the people who can’t buy your products, what of all the passengers who had to ditch their lotions, deodorants, shampoos and perfumes at the gates in their departing cities before arriving in Seattle, desperately in need of Body Shop products?

Ernie the Pundit

Over the weekend I caught up on the mail which had piled up during the past few weeks, and saw that my alumni magazine did a big story on blogs. I was pleased to see that their “best of the best” they put Ernie on the list. If there was ever any doubt Ernie belonged on a few “best” lists, this post should erase those questions.

By far my favorite post of Ernie’s ever.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Airport security

I was on a redeye Wednesday night, which means that yesterday’s threat change by the TSA happened while I was in the air. The last time our nation’s air travel was so significantly affected was 9/11/01, when I was also in the air. It’s enough to make you a bit edgy.

Like my experience on 9/11, no announcements were made on the plane during the flight; even after landing everything was “normal”. It was only when I was in a cab on the way to my house to shower before heading into work that I heard the news… and it took a while to fully grasp the significance of what had apparently happened.

I’m on my way to DC today to reunite with my family — Robin and the kids have been at her parents in DC while I’ve been running around the country — so I was a bit concerned about the potential for a wasted day at the airport getting through security. I clocked it: from the time I got out of the cab, walked in the terminal, got my boarding pass, got in line at the security gate, went through security and then reassembled my belt, laptop, cell phone and shoes, it was a total of six minutes. Now, granted — I have status with United, so i got to go through the priority check-in line. But the ordinary line was only about 30 people long, and their wait looked to be about 10-15 minutes.

Yesterday, of course, was a mess — mostly, I’m guessing, because nobody had a chance to understand what the changes meant… remarkable that one day later, after a huge change in security procedures, that there’s no discernible impact. I’m not complaining, mind you — instead of shuffling through a line for 2 hours, I’m sitting at my gate, getting work done — but it’s still remarkable.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Lafayette's podcasting

Speaking of Lafayette, how cool is it that WJRH (the campus radio station, where I was a DJ for 3 years) is podcasting? And using FeedBurner?

I love my job.

Lafayette College on TechCrunch

Very cool – my alma mater, Lafayette College, made TechCrunch today in a post about video start-up Viddler. I think one of the founders is a Lehigh grad (boo!), and the sample screen shot at TechCrunch is focused on the Lafayette/Lehigh rivalry, which is the most-played rivalry in college football.

Go Leopards!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Speaking at SES today

I’m at SES in San Jose today, speaking on Blog and Feed SEO. This is a similar presentation I gave back in February with the same speakers… what was most interesting for me as I put the presentation together was noting how much had changed in just a few months. We’re introducing some new features specifically geared to the SEO world (I’ll write more after I give my presentation, don’t want to scoop myself!), there are new services built around feeds (TechMeme was just on the radar last time, Sphere is new, IE 7 is coming soon which will change how individuals access feeds, Edgeio hadn’t yet launched), and a few services that are now offline or not working.

I’ll report back after the presentation to see what questions people asked; it’s always interesting to see how the audience impacts the direction of the panel discussion. Given that we’re in the heart of the Valley, I anticipate this discussion will take a much more technical path.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Back from vacation

Vacation ended a week ago and it already feels like a year ago. Funny how that works.

No doubt the most exciting (in a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me way) part of the vacation was a 4am call from ADT telling us our house was on fire. Yep, those are great calls to get. In what can only be termed a delicious (in hindsight) irony, there was no actual fire. This is ironic because two years ago, we actually had a fire, and ADT didn’t detect it. So in the five years that I’ve paid them $30+/month to keep my house safe, there have been two fire-related incidents. The fire went undetected, the non-fire woke us up in New Jersey and my in-laws in Virginia (they’re on the notification list in the case of an alarm event). Wanting to know whether our house was actually burning, we woke our neighbors up, and they walked a cordless phone over to the fire marshall who was about to break a window in to find the fire.

I walked him through how to get in the house without breaking the window, he walked around and confirmed that there was no fire. Terrific.

When I returned this week and called ADT, I suggested that since this wasn’t my idea of effective alarm monitoring, they told me they thought they’d done their job: “the fire detector detected a fire, we called the fire department. We did our job.”

I’m currently in the market for another alarm service. Any suggestions?