Friday Heh

  • The Beard Cap – Sort of a balaclava plus built-in sweet stache.
  • Pac-Man, the Text Adventure – “…the game actually isn’t all that fun, since your choices are pretty much limited to “forward,” “backward,” and “eat dot.” ”
  • Get Connected Worldwide, Rock On – Rap video featuring the executives of Singapore’s Media Development Authority. I think I know why this happens. Just like all nations must go through the painful growing pains of an industrial revolution of some kind to get to mechanization and mature capitalism, most countries will experience the “inappropriate appropriation of hip-hop” phase so crucial to more advanced stages of indigenous rap development. CF: Rappin Rodney circa 1983. [via Anselm]
  • HEH Associates – Although I do congratulate HEH Associates of Wilton, CT for their 2006 Spotlight award, I have to say I’m disappointed by the apparent lack of heh to be found in their practice and its web presence.
  • The Chewbacca Backpack – ThinkGeek will send you a functional Chewbacca to wear on your back in exchange for a mere $39.99.

  • Send a Borat Voicemail – I salute whoever had the courage to allow Borat to be true-to-form and slightly mangle the URL. [via Leah Jones]
  • Fox News Porn – “All clips used in this video were taken from Fox News Broadcasts.” [via jzawodn]
  • Jazzercise With A Boogie Body – Future anthropologists will speculate on the importance of The Boogie Body as it related to the unfortunate development of the vestigial Jazz Hand.
  • The Shut Up Ringtone – A rare piece of AP heh. “Many Spaniards were so amused when their king told Venezuela’s president to “shut up” they want to hear the words every time their phone rings. A leading news paper in Madrid says about half a million people have downloaded a mobile phone ringtone featuring the phrase “Why don’t you shut up?” in Spanish.”

**If you enjoy the heh, consider circling April 25-27 on your calendar and making time to attend the first annual ROFLCon in Cambridge, MA.

Thankful For Technologies

This year I declared myself thankful for some of the technologies that help bring my family together. The tools have clearly gotten easier and more familiar to people who don’t live so much of their life online like I do. I found this year that the tools I was showing off all provided some real value in my family’s lives, and it wasn’t such a hard sell for me to explain why I spend so much time in that world. Here’s a quick rundown of some of what I mean.

  • I made Moo stickers from some of my photos on Flickr, and gave them out when I saw my nieces and nephews at Thanksgiving this year. Noah was thrilled to have a sticker of himself to wear on his hand. Flickr and Moo work seamlessly together, and there was a lot of talk about stickerbooks for Festivus.Moo stickers rule
  • Speaking of Flickr, Noah, Jake, and Milly were also amazed at how I could take their pictures with my iPhone, and then in seconds they could see themselves on my computer on Flickr.
  • Earlier this year I set up a Slingbox at home so that I can share Oakland Raider games with my dad back in Rhode Island. The device was around $130. He can now control my television remotely, and for the most part it “just works” for him though he sometimes has to restart his XP machine to get it working. It seems to work every time without problems on my mom’s MacBook Pro. We share commentary throughout the games via SMS. Just a year ago I would not have imagined that we’d both be texting so much. I never had to explain that when you have something short and declarative to say, a phone call can be clunky and text is really the best way to go.
  • I also showed my dad how to use his DVR so that we could time shift the LSU/Arkansas game when I had a change in plans and couldn’t be around for the live game. That caused some frustration when the game ran extremely long and the DVR decided not to record the three overtimes, but we used the internet to catch up on what we missed. My folks loved that we could skip commercials and watch the game much faster. Time shifting reduces the stress that comes from trying to accomodate everyone’s individual schedules during a short visit.
  • We all enjoyed trying out new video recording and sharing site Seesmic. My mom has gotten so internet savvy that she asked, “and where do the uploaded videos go — to Flickr?” Here’s the first video we shot. The nieces and nephews loved seeing themselves afterwards:

    And in the second video, they all explained what they are happy about this year:

    Seesmic pretty much “just worked” in conjunction with my Macbook Pro and the great advantage over a video camera was that there was no delay between shooting the video and seeing it up online. That can make a big difference.
  • Tour of webkinsRachel and Noah and Jake also gave me a tour of the world of Webkins. It was neat to me that they and their parents “got it” as far as the fun of socializing online and doing things that aren’t just traditional games. Noah bragged all day about the job he did in Webkins, painting a fence to earn some cash to get more jewels for his crown. He wanted to do another job right away, but there’s an 8 hour waiting period between jobs and he kept asking me to check again to see if he could take on another one.

But Don’t Forget The Songs That Made You Cry

“But don’t forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you’re older now
And you’re a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you”
The Smiths, Rubber Ring

Darren Barefoot just started, a project that encourages us all to send a few bucks directly to our favorite artists as a little something for the effort in these times of labyrinthine licensing agreements and rights management, and document the transaction on the site. The thought occurred to me that it would be nice to extend a similar gesture to the striking television writers.

Dear Radiohead
Uploaded by Darren Barefoot

More backstory on Darren’s blog., discovered via marshallk.

Friday Heh On A Wednesday

My Fridays haven’t lended themselves to publishing the heh list of late, and as a result I’ve yet to publish my first one here on Extraface. I have some time this morning, so let’s make Wednesday the new Friday:

Atlanta Startup Weekend Is A Success, Skribit Launches

Congratulations to the Startup Weekend Atlanta crew. I was only there for part of Friday night, but I’ve been following the action (and the drama) on the Startup Weekend blog. Anyone who can endure an entire weekend of wall-to-wall effort with a sizable crew of people they largely don’t know deserves some serious praise. They launched Skribit late last night, and TechCrunch picked it up shortly after. I think Mike got it right — the emphasis here shouldn’t necessarily be on the application they built, but on the ability of an ad-hoc team to get together on a Friday night, come together to choose a project, and do it. I’m very impressed with the number of people who saw it through.

Startup Weekend Atlanta Begins

Huge thanks to Lance Weatherby for bringing an SW to Atlanta and pulling it all together, and to founder, organizer, and facilitator/emcee Andrew Hyde. It was a pleasure meeting Andrew and I look forward to following his work.

I haven’t made my way through the participants’ write-ups yet, but I did read Micah’s piece about why he left on Saturday. Micah’s main point was that 30-60 people is a lot of cooks, especially when there are no agreed-upon processes ahead of time and no comfort level already established.

He wrote:
“Most of my following criticisms are simply extensions of what happens when you have too many people. Fixing this one issue would go a very long way to improving the experience. On the flip side, ASW wouldn’t be that exciting if only 5 people were invited…”

I sensed the same thing on Friday night. It simply felt too chaotic for me with that many people bound by so few shared assumptions. That said, it looks like it worked out well for those who stayed. In the end they developed enough rapport and shared structure together to make it through. It just may not be the right environment for me. As it was, Friday being my last day at EarthLink I needed the weekend for some important personal time, so I might have felt differently if I had come in in a different mood and mindset.

I feel that I forfeited my right to complain too hard about the idea chosen because I didn’t stick around through the voting. And I fully support the efforts of my friends, colleagues and new acquaintences. But I do have a few comments. I’m not sure I see the well-defined need for the idea they chose — wondering what my readers want me to write about is just not a friction point I feel and doesn’t fit with my vision of blogging. I have comments, and an available email address, and beyond that my readers have their own blogs on which they can write whatever they want. When I wanted Lance to write about Paul Graham’s Valleycentric comments, I emailed him about it, and that worked fine. My readers are individuals, and I like to hear from them individually. It’s artificial to me to think I need a widget to take requests, and widget space is precious these days. But maybe if you have the problem of too many readers and comments, this becomes a real issue for you, and in that sense it’s more like a productivity tool.

I would have liked to see the group tackle a real need or a small piece of a big problem. We have a tremendous water shortage in Atlanta right now, but most people in the room didn’t seem to interested in doing something in that arena. I don’t know much about what Skribit became, only what the idea was at pitch-time and during the prior discussions at BarCamp Atlanta. It’s a fine kind of idea to execute in a weekend. It’s a bite-sized piece of functionality, and that’s probably what’s most important for this all as an exercise. I’ll be taking a closer look with an open mind and reserve the right to do a 180 on it if I’m getting this wrong.

Closing Up One Shop, Opening Another

After trading in my foot patrol beat for a desk job several weeks ago, I just relinquished my badge and service weapon to EarthLink and am done there. If you’re interested, I wrote a series of three last entries [1, 2, 3] on Earthling to explain the transition. Starting today I’ll be a free agent, and my dance card is already filling up with project and consulting work. In honor of the transition, this afternoon I’ll also be switching my “feeling most like” photo on the Extraface main page from boat patrol McNulty to…

bunny colvin
Bunny Colvin, post-Hamsterdam, Season 4.

P.S. Thanks to all of my friends on Twitter for your kind words, and thanks for the beer, @brianoberkirch. Can we make that one of your Sazeracs?

Happenings In Atlanta

Some things you could do before the holidays are upon us:

  • Meet Pandora Founder Tim Westergren and fellow Pandora users this Thursday the 8th at 7pm at the 14th St. Playhouse. James at Metroblogging Atlanta highly endorses it.
  • Be a part of Startup Weekend Atlanta and lend a hand as the collective builds a full-fledged web something in the span of a couple of days.
  • Bring your dog to see 2007 Atlanta Laptop Battle Champion Dr. Maximilian Reinhardt at dog-friendly coffee shop Park Grounds on Saturday the 10th at 8pm.

  • Come to the Atlanta Social Media Mixer at 6pm on Tuesday the 13th for conversation and booze at a location yet to be determined.
  • Stop by Eyedrum Gallery while the Drive-By Press is parked there next Wednesday, and pull your own art and t-shirt prints off of blocks donated by artists.
  • Also on Wednesday, there’s the VOX Sip and Shop Wine Tasting and Silent Auction over at King & Spalding.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere At Forrester

While one side of the house is focused on new systems that will let you become a fansumer and have advertising-mediated interactions with the companies you like to do business with, a few mere months ago VP Bill Doyle presented some great material about what really matters in the financial services world — companies showing and proving that they put the needs and interests of their customers first in meaningful ways. Building relationships by doing the work of building relationships, rather than by token social transactions. VP Bill Doyle at the Forrester Finance Forum says “what drives real loyalty is that the firm does best for the customers, and not just for the firm’s bottom line”:

Interesting point about three minutes in — that in this world the successful businesses have relatively few customer touchpoints after the sale, but when they do, they maximize them. It’s not about being in your customer’s face all the time, it’s about doing it right when you’re called upon.

I’m part of the loyal USAA customer base he describes. I’ve been a USAA customer in one form or another ever since I got my first credit card entering college. As I grew into adulthood I never thought I’d care about who manages my banking and insurance. USAA has made me care because they have treated me like a human all the way through, both in individual interactions with agents and through their products and services. And I’ve had contrasting experiences elsewhere, especially as my local bank got gobbled up by bigger fish several times over. In one recent instance, the new company had little interest in my transactional history prior to the acquisition, which was of course pretty important to me when I had tax questions. They indicated that it would take them undue effort to pull my old history off of microfiche, and they had made an agreement not to import more than two years of the nitty gritty details of my investment data from 5 years ago. That left me to do my own laborious legwork in answering an important question from the IRS, and the sense that I was nothing but a figure on a spreadsheet to them, almost punished for multi-year loyalty.

USAA has continuously improved the way they do business to make sure staying with them doesn’t put me behind the services curve, and they’ve left me with the impression that they treat me and my concerns individually. To this day, I’m willing to stay with them even if their returns are a point lower than the competition, and am in the process of consolidating most of my banking, credit, and insurance with them. I wish I could recommend them more widely, but I imagine part of what has led to their success is their limited growth focus. To become a member, you have to have been in the military or have family that has been in the military. So I can’t necessarily recommend you use them unless you qualify in one of those ways, or marry someone who does. Thank goodness my dad served time in the Navy (heh, though not as a cook as we somehow thought when we were kids.) I wonder if that simple, mild limit to their growth over the years has forced them to think longer-term and stay focused on keeping who they have.

I think this lesson should apply outside of the financial services sector as well. While I still feel it’s very important for companies to be a presence and participate in wide social circles online in meaningful ways, I’d much rather the companies I do business with spend time and money on ways to align themselves around doing right by the customer, instead of spinning their wheels creating social profiles that give me the opportunity to declare my alignment with them. Facebook was interesting to me when it was forcing companies to think hard about what real value they could provide in that space(or not), and now many of those same companies may be led down this new pre-paved low resistance path and forego that important hard thinking step.

Thanks to Geoff Livingston for the pointer.

Suggestions For Mashable’s Top Ten Blog Conference List

Alexdc’s twitter stream pointed me to a list put together of their top 10 blogger-related conferences. I think they missed the mark on one glaring omission (SXSW Interactive, the highlight of my conference year), and gave too much weight to conferences that haven’t proven themselves yet, most notably PostieCon and to a lesser extent Rick Calvert’s Blog World Expo, which looks to have a pretty good head of steam. I have had great experiences at SXSW, BlogHer, Gnomedex, and the Bloghaus last year at the Consumer Electronics Show, and would put those first three and possibly the fourth at the top of my list of big events. I also applaud the inclusion of participatory events like BarCamp and PodCamp, and have found those I participated in to be extremely valuable. (Update:) And jeez, how could I forget to mention BlogOrlando, which this year had a truly international draw and was one of the best events of the year.

But I think overall this list might lead people away from what’s in front of them. The intro sets up the list as what to do if online interaction isn’t enough for you — “Blogging can be a lonely business. And if online blogger communities don’t satisfy you desire to mingle…” If you’re in that situation, I strongly recommend first looking to your local community and specific areas of interest, wherever you are. The proliferation of new social technologies online have only made this easier.

Your top ten list should start with:

  • Events in your area. Unless you are specifically trying to cover the national technology scene, if online blogger communities don’t satisfy your desire to mingle, use what’s around you first. Get to know the other writers, thinkers, and doers in your area. It’s a lot cheaper and more convenient than traveling nationally, and it just makes sense to connect locally first. In addition to keeping your eye out for PodCamps and BarCamps and the like, try and, for example. Or noonhat, for smaller, ad-hoc meetups that can help you discover fresh faces. One of the great things about BarCamp Atlanta was that it hipped me to smaller groups that I didn’t know much about, like atlHack, the Jelly co-working intiatives, and the Ruby meetups here.
  • Things happening in the real world that you care about. Events about blogging itself are only part of the equation. Whatever it is you think about, write about, and participate in, seek out events in that world. This may, and in many cases will, have nothing whatsoever to do with technology or blogging. Plan your travel based on what really interests you, and pick one or two of the big national events about blogging-qua-blogging if your budget allows.
  • The event you organize. It takes good planning but not much more to bring together people you’d like to connect with locally. If there are no pre-existing gatherings for what you’re in to, try setting one up at a coffee shop.
  • (More of a conference hack for the big events) Events where people you want to connect with will be attending or speaking. Look over the rosters and attendee lists of these events. Are your professional and peer group going to be in attendance?

In short, don’t forget to look in your back yard, and nurture your own interests in addition to thinking about the medium as a whole.