BarCamp Atlanta Short Update

I’m dragging this morning, so just a brief check-in. BarCamp Atlanta went on to the wee hours, in to the morning, and we’re now on day two. So far in a very condensed period of time I’ve heard interesting talks on OpenID, Merb, Web Comics, Second Life, Amazon FPS, and Facebook Apps. I’ve learned about at least two user groups/meetups I’ll now be attending, and met a bunch of people I’ll be keeping up with from now on.

Some people left last night, some, like me, slept on floors of conference rooms or in hallways, and some never went to sleep at all.
BarCamp Atlanta - Day 2

More photos at the BarCamp Atlanta Flickr group.

Two Hours To BarCamp Atlanta

I’m hurriedly shoving things in a bag for tonight’s BarCamp Atlanta session, which in theory lasts all the way through until tomorrow night. I’m very much looking forward to meeting more local developers and getting a glimpse into what’s happening development-wise in these parts. The prototype I’ve been thinking about didn’t come together in time, so instead I’m preparing, if called upon, to share some more thoughts about how to Make Better Product Blogs. I’ll embed the presentation here when it’s ready to rock. I’ll be uploading photos and thoughts whenever I get the chance.

Lil Help Lazyweb? Your Photos of Athletes

For a goofy personal side project I’m working on, I need a whole mess of low resolution photos of famous/infamous/funny/beloved/obscure athletes. Snapshots and candids are welcome, and even better if they happen to show the athlete’s uniform number. Flickr user Seluma the hermit was already nice enough to grant me use of her fantastic photo of Johnny Bench for the cause:

Johnny Bench
Uploaded by Seluma, some rights reserved.

If you personally own any photos that fit this description, please drop a link in the comments or send me an email. If it’s not clear who is depicted, please note who it is. I’d like to comfortably know I have permission to use them, so please only speak for your own photos. If they’re already licensed under Creative Commons, great. If not, just let me know if you have any special conditions. I’ll give a credit and linky to any of them that I use.

I’m going to beat the Flickr groups and Smugmug bushes as well, but would love to see what you’ve got first.

Thanks For The Suggestion, Facebook

I’ve come to like and appreciate the 30boxes calendar system, both in its standalone form and inside Facebook as an embedded app. But today as I checked my appointments, I got a most unwelcome suggestion atop my calendar:
Fart jokes, now appearing atop my Facebook 30Boxes calendar.
Are fart jokes just that ubiquitous now?

Update: I appreciate Narendra, founder of 30Boxes, coming by and leaving the following comment on that screenshot in Flickr:

Yeah, I can’t say that I am a fan of that combo, but since we are behind *both* 30 Boxes and the ad network (fbExchange) that is serving that add, we only have ourselves to blame!

I’m sure you realize that if you view your calendar at 30boxes.com, we have no ads!

First off, thanks again for noticing my screenshot and leaving a comment. Second, I grant that nobody is bleeding from this foul, it’s just off-putting especially coming from an app I’ve really warmed up to. The unusual thing about that particular ad placement is that it’s mostly just advertising to me, the calendar owner. I’m the one who sees it the vast majority of the time. Previous ad creative up there hasn’t bothered me, but this one makes me feel like one of my favorite applications is talking to me like a knucklehead 14 year old brother. Up until then, it had spoken to me like a friendly colleague.

Since Facebook has all of this rich profile and preference information on me, and in signing up for 30Boxes Calendar I probably signed all of that away for private viewing by the app, is there a way the ad exchange can serve me ads that have the potential to appeal to me? Seems like that would make everybody happy — the Facebook app being advertised, me, the ad network, people who like fart jokes, etc. I guess another alternative is to screen the creative coming in.

Google Reader Wish/Gripe List

I’m currently ping-ponging between myEarthLink Reader and Google Reader, since neither really gets me where I want to be anymore. I spend a large portion of my internet days and nights using an RSS reader. It has become the primary way I take in information each day, in multiple visits. When you depend on an application for so much of what you do, what may seem like little things can stand out like sand in your bathing suit. It can be torturous when the app you depend on doesn’t behave. Here are a couple of recent tweets from friends about it:

“@extraface everyday with google reader is a day of punishment.” –J05h

“dear google reader… you are too demanding and i kind of hate you.” –gregg

Hyperbole notwithstanding, this is something we talk about on a fairly regular basis. What’s particularly surprising is the lack of real alternatives in the world of River Of News web applications. I’ve been around, and will continue to get around, until I find one that’s right. Or I’ll pitch in in making a better one.

I wrote on Earthling about the revitalization I’d like to see on myEarthLink Reader, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the top few things that would make Google’s Reader more livable for me.

  • It’s too hard to unsubscribe. It’s important to be able to make snap judgements about a feed. Sometimes I notice that I’m subscribed to sources that are extremely duplicative of each other. Or sometimes I decide I’m no longer interested in what a feed has to say. Feeds should be “hire fast, fire fast.” They’re cheap to add and they should be cheap to remove. I’d like to be able to unsubscribe from the entire feed right there within an item. There are five choices in the item footer, and I rarely use any of them: Add star, Share, Email, Mark as read, Add tags. I’ve added a script to give me the option to send articles straight to my Del.icio.us account, and why can’t I have an “unsubscribe from this feed” button down there along with or instead of those other options.
  • Let me hide the unread counts. This is easy enough. Some of us don’t like to keep score. It adds stress to know how much is left to be read in each source. It has also encouraged a bad habit in me of skipping around within my sources, favoring one because it’s more fun to read, ignoring others. This is easy to fall in to, and not a habit I want. I’d like to skim through all of my new stuff every time I visit my reader. Offering a preference to hide the unread items count for each source and clean up the left nav would help me with that. I suppose I could hide the entire pane, but I like having that gutter there. If there’s a Greasemonkey script to accomplish this, please let me know. I did find the nice Google Reader Minimalistic script this morning, which strips out the header and footer to help make things cleaner, but it doesn’t remove the unread counts.
  • Solve the vacation problem. Expect that I’m going to take a few days off every now and again, and create some kind of new case for that. Notice that I’ve been gone for a while, or that my feeds are really stacking up, and offer me some help in deciding what to read or getting through them all. Treat me like a human, and not a feed-consuming robot.
  • Let me disable the infinite scroll. I get ahead of that scrolly thing sometimes, and then I’m stuck waiting around for it to catch up. Sometimes I don’t mind it, but often I don’t have the patience for it. I’d much rather have the option for a manual scroll that wouldn’t get hung up. Maybe it is already and I just don’t know how to do it.
  • (added) Let me be done. It’s neat that the application auto-polls and auto-refreshes the source list if it finds new items while you’re reading, but it can prevent me from ever feeling like I’m done with my feed reading session. The yellow highlight that appears on the left to indicate a newly updated feed has started to condition me to feel like I should be waiting around expectantly for new stuff to come in. When I see that, I tend to hit “refresh” in the main pane to see what’s what. And that conditions me to hit “refresh” all the time, much like you can get into the rut of hitting send/receive in an email client. This is another bad habit I don’t want to reinforce. I want to get in, read what’s new, and then go off and be productive in a different way for a while. This should be controllable.

What’s on your RSS reader wish list? I think I’ll also wander over to the Bloglines Beta to see if that might be a viable alternative. Last I checked, they had gone River Of News, so there may be some potential there.

Flickr Change Of Address Cards

So far, one of the toughest parts of migrating my online identity from Earthling(and EarthLink) to just plain me has been moving my Flickr account from anearthling to extraface. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about the process, poking around in the Flickr interface and 3rd-party tools, and finally in the Flickr mail system manually sending messages out. For good reason, Flickr makes it tough for you to spam your entire friends or contacts list, and it’s equally tough to send a message out to all of the people who count you as a contact. So if you need to get a message out to a lot of people, like if you’re switching accounts, you’re left to your own devices.

Change-of-address

On the flipside, I can say that I’ve never been spammed inside of Flickr, and identity has been a pretty trustworthy and stable construct. Although you can change your username several times, once you choose a personal URL (www.flickr.com/photos/extraface, for example), it can’t be changed. That’s part of why I chose to make a whole new account for myself, leave anearthling behind as something of a hybrid me/EarthLink account, and start fresh.

I didn’t find the perfect utility for letting everyone know about my account change, but I did find a couple of tools along the way that I would recommend for something like this:

  • Migratr – I haven’t tried it yet, but this Windows app purports to download all of your Flickr photos with metadata preserved (except for things like favoriting and comments), and allow you to reupload them to a number of services including Flickr. I should be able to bring the photos I care about with me over to Extraface. I’ll let you know how this goes.
  • Steeev’s Flickr Projects – In here I found an excellent Firefox Greasemonkey script that enables group mailing inside Flickr. It wasn’t *exactly* what I was looking for in that it didn’t allow me to group-mail from the list of people who count me as a contact, but if you want to send a message to all the people you count as contacts it’s pretty easy using this.

So how have I been getting the word out? Moving my own contacts over should be relatively easy — just a lot of looking at the old list and then clicking “add so-and-so as a contact?”

Telling people who have added me as a contact is more difficult. I suppose I could have written a screen-scraping script and then something to plug in a sequence of names into the Flickr mail form, but with my level of chops that would have taken a long time. I opted for brute force and pasted the screens I needed into a spreadsheet, cleaned it up, compared it to the people who have already added me at Extraface, and began the process of emailing the list one at a time to give them the scoop. I haven’t gotten very far with the mailing, so if you haven’t gotten one from me yet, you probably will shortly unless you’ve already made the switch. This morning I published the change of address image you see above, and hopefully that helps as well without too much bacony irritation.

I know identity migration is something of a special case and is probably reasonably rare in the world of Flickr, but it would be nice to have an easier change of address notification system. Any advice for how I could have done it differently, or pointers to other useful Flickr migration tools out there?

Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hydrofoil

The ad below represents the first time I ever heard the word “hydrofoil.” I was ten. To my mind at the time, the evidence was in. This was a word I’d obviously need to master for future grown-up conversations.

One of the great disappointments of adult life is that I’ve never once yet had the chance to compliment someone on their lovely hydrofoil.

BlogOrlando Notes

What a great event. I can’t say enough good things about it. With more than double the attendees from last year, it still managed to work remarkably well as an unconference — in many ways even better than last year’s. Josh Hallett did a phenomenal job bringing a unique array of people together, scheduling a good balance of interesting activities that showed off the host city, creating opportunities for attendees to have meaningful conversations, and immersing us in thought about what we do for a couple of days. Josh created just the right environment for an unconference to unfold within.

Geoff Livingston and Jake McKee, who I had the pleasure of meeting this weekend in addition to so many other thoughtful people, wrote great descriptions of what made it all work so well. As I followed the links and comments in those this morning, I came across more from Joe Thornley, Alex Rudloff, and Laurie Mayers. I’ll add updates as I find more from attendees. My notes are below:

  • On Thursday night I enjoyed meeting some new friends around the dinner table and spending time with those I now consider old friends, like Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells. Shel Israel and Joe Thornley had some interesting observations about the history of Orlando’s development. I also found out that back in Boston Shel knew a circle of writers and thinkers I met through my friend Doug McDermott, including David Nyhan, Paul McDermott and Marty Nolan. I deeply respect those guys and the values of professionalism, mutual respect and support, and shared dedication to do right that they live by. There’s a quote that appeared in David Nyhan’s obituary attributed to him a couple of years ago that is always rattling around in my head: “If you’re going to help someone, really help them.”
  • It was also good to meet fellow Georgian Nik Wilets, and reconnect with Jim Hathaway, who I’d met last year at BlogOrlando and kept up with mostly via Facebook. And great to reconnect with Judson Collier as well.
  • During his Keynote, Shel Israel made the point that PowerPoint can function as a means of command and control — that it can establish and preserve distance between an audience and a presenter. In the corporate world, I’ve seen way too many uses of traditional PowerPoint when a more straightforward and human(and brief) presentation and discussion would have accomplished so much more. I also agree with Jake that the message that all web technologies come from Silicon Valley was overstated, or maybe the emphasis was just put in the wrong place.
  • I got a lot of tea and sympathy for my shattered but functional iPhone.
  • In the WordPress session, as Mark Jaquith explained the idea of keeping the core set of functionality as tight as possible, he pointed out that WP developers fight feature bloat and eat their own dog food by implementing some core features as Plugins using their own Plugin API.
  • I kept up my impeccable record of Orlando geotarditude as I took Tom Biro and Annie Heckenberger on a slightly wrong turn on the way to Kennedy Space Center. In case you’re keeping score, I also managed to get lost last year, with responsibility shared between myself and Andrea Weckerle on the way to Disney World. This time around, Tom co-piloted and got us back on course using Google Maps and the Helio Ocean GPS. And then, of course, I got lost several times again on the way back to the hotel. I blame construction.
  • A couple hours before my own session at BlogOrlando, I published the final entry on Earthling. Although I’d been planning it for a few weeks and had published two more prior to that, it had a big effect on me emotionally. Between that and some projector issues, I had a hard time keeping my Product Blogging session on track. The audience more than picked up my slack, but there was some important setup material and lines of conversation I didn’t manage to get us to. I’ll probably return to that subject here to communicate some more specific thoughts.
  • Thanks to everyone for their support during this time of transition for me as I spend my last few weeks at EarthLink and work through next steps.

My Flickr photos are in this set, the group’s photos are over here, and my 43Showers write-up is here.