A Friday’s Worth Of Heh

Flip Ultra Gift Giving Guide, Mac Edition

Based on all of the rave reviews, I gave my mom a Flip Ultra video camera for her birthday last week. She’s generally been very happy with it, but as it turns out it wasn’t as one-click, no fuss easy as many of the reviews indicate.

Flip Video - Ultra Series
Not quite so easy in this case…

Any time I give a technology gift to my mom, especially one that claims it’s so simple for the non-geek, I want to know it’ll work without making her do any additional research or setup. Recording was no problem for her, but she got hung up in transferring video to her Mac. Namely, she found that once the video showed up on her computer, the sound wasn’t working. A quick check of the camera showed that sound worked fine when it was played back on the camera, but it didn’t work at all on her Mac, or when she uploaded it to the Flip’s companion sharing service, AOL Uncut. She knew to check the volume controls and audio settings on her Mac, and all of those checked out normal. Her Mac OS and Quicktime software is up to date as well, as best I can tell. From a distance, it can be hard to diagnose these things.

I did a quick google search and found this helpful forum thread that explained that Mac users need to install some additional software(called Perian) because of the codec the Flip Ultra uses. I’m not sure if that’s the only way to fix it, or if there’s an additional codec she was supposed to install via the Flip. A quick search of Amazon’s forums shows others have had this problem as well, and turned to the Perian app for the solution. I’m not sure if mention of this or some other extra step is included somewhere in the packaging and built-in software or not, but clearly it wasn’t prominent enough because my mom didn’t do it. Flip ought to fix that. Here are a few additional tips to help anyone who might be thinking about buying a Flip as a gift, especially for a Mac, non-geeky user:

  • There’s a Firmware Update as of December 2007. I’m not sure if my mom’s camera needed it or not, but it might be a good idea to make sure your giftee checks.
  • Tell them to download Perian in order to make sure sound works with the Flip footage on their Mac. I’ll correct this later if it turns out there’s some other, Flip-based way to fix this.
  • Explain that there are other options for sharing video online other than the easy-upload AOL Uncut and Youtube buttons. This might also warrant a how-to. My mom loves Flickr, and I’ve helped her figure out a longish way to share her videos via Flickr but since I don’t have a Flip I haven’t yet been able to explain a more streamlined way.
  • From the ever-helpful Leah Jones: “Make sure you finish saving the video before you pull the camera out and start deleting all the clips.”

Any other tips that would be helpful for a non-geek Flip Ultra recipient to know?

TAG WebChallenge: High School Students Build Facebook Apps

Last Friday I was invited to attend and photograph the WebChallenge ’08 awards. The Technology Association of Georgia, SAP, Appcelerator, and entrepreneur Wayt King hosted the competition wherein small teams of high school students are tasked with putting together the best Facebook application. Josh Mangel and Avi Zolty of The Weber School and Alan Barber and Brent O’Neill of North Gwinnett High School took home first and second place, respectively, in both Best Concept and Best Implementation. Josh and Avi’s app is called I Recommend It and Alan and Brent’s is Remember When. The “Most Viral” competition was split four ways between those participants and these two teams: Christopher King, Joseph Hughes, Stark Riedesel, and George Ursu at the Academy of Computing and Information Technology, and Josh Patton, Josh Halliday, Josh Kilcoyne, and Ben Crete at Horizon Christian Academy(War Games). I hope to see some of these budding developers at upcoming events like BarCamp Atlanta ’08.

Here’s a collection of photos from WebChallenge:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Building a Facebook app is no small task, and I’m very impressed with what these students were able to accomplish. Having anything “go viral” is an exciting outcome but not a very predictable or plannable one. None of these apps truly “went viral” in some sense and I think that’s a useful lesson both for the organizers and for the participants. Just ask any number of web application developers, content producers, advertising and marketing agencies, and global brands that have labored under the misconception that somehow with the right magic idea, the right formula, the right partners, strategic advertising purchases and some special SEO blend they could “just make it go viral” in the larger sense. One suggestion I have for next year — perhaps the awards could focus more narrowly on rewarding specific attributes that would help guide young developers in a strong direction for the next steps in their careers, like good problem area definition, smallest codebase, most benefit to the casual end-user, and simplicity of application design.

The Friday Heh

Previous hehs.

Two Good Recipes for Custom Topic Tracking

Many companies I’ve worked with have wanted my help in developing something beyond Google Alerts to help them track news around particular topics. One of my hallway conversations with Marshall Kirkpatrick at SXSW this year confirmed that custom RSS tracking development work is one of the things he’s called upon to do quite often as well.

Marshall recently published a very helpful how-to/case study on his work for Sun’s JavaOne conference using technologies like Google Blog Search, Feed.Informer(new to me), Dapper, and AideRSS to generate a nicely formatted aggregated feed of the most relevant blog discussions around the conference. He explains each step from creating searches for the best possible matches, filtering for relevance, removing duplicates, and styling and presenting the results. It’s a great recipe for any consultant, project, or company to follow.

If you want more of a quick and dirty one-click solution, Yahoo Pipes is currently featuring a useful simple interactive tool built by Daniel Raffel for following discussions around a topic. You just enter some keywords and then hit “run pipe”:
Pipes: Aggregated News Alerts

Pipes gives you several choices for how you can grab the results as a persistent stream of data, searching regularly for new matches:
Results Choices

Pipes can also be cloned easily, so if there’s some way you wish this one behaved slightly differently, you can always clone it and build/modify to suit your own needs.

As Marshall describes in his blog entry, the real art and elegance in these projects and part of what makes his specialized knowledge and experience extremely useful is in the cleverness of the search strings, the filtering mechanisms, and the tools and techniques that select for the most useful information on a particular subject.

The Occasional Friday Heh List

  • 8th Grader Shows More Class Than City Councilwoman Conyers – Credit Ms. Conyers with the willingness to debate a group of short-pants-wearin students on the impact of her tirades against the City Council President, but pity her inability to own up to her bad behavior and make good. [via Craxy]
  • Barbarian Group Nigerian Scammer-baiting – Barbarian Nick contributes some great material to the tradition of baiting Nigerian “I want to transfer you a zillion dollars” e-mail scammers out of their hideyholes. Catch up to this multipart series: [ 1, 2, 3, 4]
    Aside: Barbarian Blogmaster, this stuff doesn’t seem to show up on the main scroll of articles and I think it’s some of your best material. It makes it hard to keep up as a reader.
  • Tin Foil Hat Couteur:

    Protect yourself from the forces of evil without sacrificing dashing good looks with this jaunty beret/tin foil combo seen on the streets of New York.
  • The Will Smiths – A great album cover that never happened. [in case that link isn’t working, I’ve mirrored it here]
  • ROFLCon Hehs – From the soon-to-be-defunct Super Deluxe blog, SD’ers recollect their favorite moments from the conference, including Tron Guy’s “FAIL” and a live silent Rickroll.
  • Black Hearted – Papermilk uncovers an artful negative comment on a seller.

Props For The HAPO Study And Dr. Don Coustan

My dad had a nice mention in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about a 10 year Gestational Diabetes study he’s been working on that just published some of its results. It’s great to see the fruits of the HAPO study reach the popular press. I’ll leave it to WaPo author Serena Gordon to provide the quick version of the study’s findings: “The higher a woman’s blood sugar levels were, the more likely she was to have a C-section, to develop preeclampsia, have premature delivery and to have the delivery complication known as shoulder dystocia, the study found…Babies born to women with higher glucose levels were more likely to have high insulin levels, low blood sugar, and to have a large birth weight, all indications of exposure to high glucose levels.” Although it didn’t prescribe a specific threshold for when knowledge of these risks should play in to pregnancy treatment plans, it’s expected to spark discussions around that topic in the medical community in the upcoming weeks and months that could lead to some of those standards being modified. Congratulations to the HAPO study team, all of its authors, and everyone who contributed along the way. I still remember their brainstorming session for the all-important acronym, about a decade ago.

My dad’s WSJ quote makes a career blogger proud, making sure the reporter understands the research value of the study in its proper context and seeks to make sure its immediate impact isn’t overclaimed in the mainstream press:

“Dr. Coustan said the implications of the study are “about the future, not about the present,” adding it won’t “affect clinical practice this week or this month.”

The Washington Post also wrote up the study, as did US News And World Report, Forbes, and several other outlets. He said he did some interviews with bloggers as well, but since the medical blogosphere isn’t on my daily reads, I haven’t come across any coverage there yet.

This also represents a strange collision of my family life and the Friday Heh Lists. Yes, last night it dawned on me – my dad studies the beetis.

A Hero To Small Plants Everywhere

I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Pete Hottelet of Brawndo fame while at ROFLCon. He was giving away cans of the electrolyte-packed, thirst mutilating soft drink made famous by the Mike Judge movie Idiocracy.

Here’s a clip of a small contribution I made to the Brawndo table. I know a plant in need when I see one.:

[More on Brawndo via some Buzzfeed links]