Tag - web

New Dilbert Mashup: cool but broken

Scott Adams has a new Dilbert mashup on his main site, Dilbert.com. Very cool.

The question posed is: are you funnier than Scott? You then get to change the punchline on the final pane of a Dilbert cartoon to something else … and people can vote on your version.

Only problem: it didn’t work as advertised. Not cool.

Here’s my cartoon, and the ostensible problem: “invalid panel count.” I’m not quite sure what it’s referring to …

O'Reilly web2.0 expo

Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco 2008Just got a note from Janetti Chong, the community and content manager for O’Reilly’s web2.0 conference, that they are interesting in having me attending the event as a media partner … and are offering a free conference pass valued at $1500.

(I’m sure many, many other bloggers are also getting the opportunity.)

I have to say, I’m really tempted. San Fran is beautiful, it’s a short hop down the Pacific time zone, and the conference is guaranteed to absolutely rock … there’ll just be way too many smart cool people there to not be good.

Of course, it might mean missing yet another game with my ice hockey team. This may not go over too well.

Thinking, thinking, thinking.


Thanks to an extremely generous brother-in-law, I’m blogging this from my new iPod touch.

Far, far, far too cool.

Of course, I quickly picked up the $20 extra apps package from Apple, which really makes this useable as a mobile platform …

Well, enough for now.

I’m super-happy with the Touch, but I’m not going to start writing novels on a touchscreen.

Link exchanges are so 1997

UPDATE Feb 21: pls note Trisha’s gracious reply below …

I can’t believe believe people are still sending out link exchange requests:


Recently I contacted you regarding a link exchange request. I was hoping that you’ve had the time to review this request and consider my proposal. We are developing a reciprocal link area on our website and would be happy to trade text links with your website. You links will be on the PsPrint.com website, although we are not entirely sure where at this point in the project.

Please let me know if you are interested in discussing this further. You can contact me at trisha@psprint.com or 510.224.2106. If you are not interested in a link exchange, please let me know and I will discontinue contacting you regarding this matter. Thank you for your time.

Trisha Fawver
Marketing Manager
Create. Print. Mail. Faster.

This is now the third email I’ve gotten from Trisha, which is starting to approach spammishness. Note the veiled threat in this statement:

If you are not interested in a link exchange, please let me know and I will discontinue contacting you regarding this matter.

In other words, I’ll continue to receive unsolicited emails until I say yes or until I waste my time composing an email saying no.

First miss for Shelfari (and Amazon)

As you may have noticed, I’ve begun using Shelfari to catalog the books I’m reading.

After a couple of months, I’ve finally found a book that Shelfari doesn’t know about: At the Sharp End, which is Tim Cook’s novel about the Canadian contribution to WWI. Interestingly enough, neither does Amazon.

However, Indigo (a Canadian bookseller owned by Chapters) does, and here it is (volume one at any rate).

I’ve wondered before if Amazon and Shelfari are linked … particularly since Shelfari buy-the-book links are to Amazon. Amazon has invested in Shelfari … which is probably why Shelfari seems to be using the Amazon book database.

. . .
. . .

Interestingly, when I fed Shelfari’s import functionality this page, it came up with a different book by the same author: Clio’s Warriors.

Oddness abounds.

A mash-up of me: my online identity in one place

I’ve finally, finally, finally invested some time and energy in this, my new blog … and it feels good.

The idea is that Sparkplug 9 is the focus of my digital life. It’s the hub connecting all the spokes of my online interactions.

  • Sites
    So the latest sites I’ve found useful and interesting are in Links, courtesy of delicious.

  • Photos
    Photos that I’ve considered good enough to upload to Flickr are in Photos.

  • Books
    The recent inhabitants of my bookshelf, nicely organized and maintained thanks to Shelfari, are in Books.

  • News updates
    Nonsense that reflects my momentary state of mind is in Ephemera, thanks to Twitter.

  • Videos
    Videos and little screenshot movies I’ve uploaded to YouTube stream into Videos.

And they all – plus anything that doesn’t quite fit into any of the above categories – make up my online footprint.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how it all fits. It’s all very web 2.0 to be able to link bits and pieces from many different sites. Ideally, YouTube would have a better way to stream your videos onto your site … I’m not sure that having them all appear in one video player is the best option. But overall: not bad.

The beauty of it all is that it’s so easy with WordPress, the blogging software I use. Most major web 2.0 companies supply WordPress plugins to add their functionality to your site. And if they don’t some enterprising and generous plugin writer has, and is sharing the fruits of his labor.

Online identity is a complex thing … we worry about who owns it, we look for different ways to analyze it, we want to control it, and we worry about who will find it.

As for me, I’m just going to worry about creating it. Or, more accurately, living it. I’ll let the chips fall where they may … since the only worse than having a negative online identity is having no digital footprint at all.

Slightly less negative on Facebook

What with the insane euphoria of the web 2.0 crowd having found something slightly less web 1.0ish than MySpace in the social networking space and the insane euphoria of the VC crowd having found a new poster child for massively inflated valuations, I’ve been trying to maintain sort of a cool distance from Facebook.

(While, naturally, having a profile that I hardly touch.)

But this morning an old buddy from school sent me a message. By old buddy from school, I don’t mean university or even high school. I’m talking elementary school.

Wow. I hadn’t even remembered his last name, but I had remembered Jaimie.

Reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in maybe 20 years is pretty cool.

Feedyes? Feedno! Finding a working YouTube RSS Generator

I’m trying to create a feed for a page that has no feeds:http://youtube.com/results?search_query=serious+games&search=SearchFeedYes is supposed to be able to do that … but annoyingly, the site continually has technical errors that prevent me from making a feed. First of all, it doesn’t show steps 3 and 4 … after showing steps 1 and 2. And secondly, after following the instructions in step 2, it tells me that the URL is invalid … after just using it to create a perfectly good list of recent videos.Arggh …Dapper has issues as well. In fact, in total, I probably spent about 45 minutes fooling around with FeedYes and Dapper before finding a service that actually worked …The best I found for YouTube RSS is actually YouTube RSS Generator, which looks decided low-tech but gave me a perfectly functioning feed in about 25 seconds.

Firefox rocks

Wow wow wow.It’s been about a year – an eternity in web terms – since I’ve seriously tried Firefox. I’ve been using Safari: it just has better aesthetics, and up till now has been significantly faster.However, I’ve just updated, and wow … Firefox launch time is a quarter what it used to be on Mac OS X.Dunno yet if it’ll be the one, but it’s going to get another long look from me.[ update ]Holy mother, the typography has improved on Firefox. Unbelievable. Poor typography – letters that looked like marching ants – was one of the reasons I could not live with Firefox (or Flock) a year or so ago.

MacSurfer update: grand old dame gets a facelift

Count me shocked.

MacSurfer, the grand-daddy and still king of Mac news sites, has unveiled a new look, now in beta. Times have changed, mullets have gone out of fashion, Michael is no longer the king of pop, and tie-dye is out … but MacSurfer, the essense of web 1.0, has stubbornly remained completely and utterly static. So any update is a bonus.

Major changes:

  1. 1-column to 3-column
  2. Font size for article titles is smaller
  3. Tabbed navigation (as opposed to no navigation at all)
  4. More add space (in the afore-mentioned 2 extra columns)
  5. Integrated search (not just a link)
  6. Archives
  7. Archives!
  8. Let’s say it one more time: finally, finally, archives! Now that great article you saw on MacSurfer but forgot where it was is findable.
  9. Translations (don’t get too excited, they’re via Google … “El Maco updating system blue muy excellent sofa” is a likely translation)
  10. Times when articles added

That’s a lot of change for a grand old dame … but there could be more.

Social features like commenting, submissions, and voting might make MacSurfer less of a jumping-off site and more of a social hub … which I think would translate into significant value for its owners. At any rate: wow – great to see the change.

Virtual worlds, real economy

The world’s first economist studying a virtual world (more accurately: virtual universe) has delivered his first report:

This is the first Econ Dev blog on the economics of EVE. We are heading into unknown territory since there exists no standardized measures on how to describe and analyze an online universe, or if indeed there is a need to have new tools to describe virtual reality. Trade and industrial activities are an important part of EVE and therefore descriptive analysis of trend in quantity traded, price fluctuations and regional differences are always of interest to those participating in that business. In order to fulfill the expectations of pilots we need your comments on this dev blog and which parts are most interesting. Selected sections of this dev blog could be updated on a regular basis if the demand is there.Minerals are the basis of everything in EVE. Most things built in EVE require one or more minerals; some easy to get, others not so much. Minerals provide income for professional miners and newbies alike and no war can be won without having a good supply with which to build and equip an armada. The constant demand for minerals makes the market one of the most effective in the EVE Universe with huge volumes and thousands of trades on a daily basis. That is why examining the mineral market in some depth has been chosen as the topic for the first Econ Dev Blog (EDB).

Good news? Bad news? I don’t know … but it sure is interesting news.

Updates, ETEC, CrowdTrust, Life

In case you’re wondering what’s going on with this blog, I’m currently taking 2 courses for my Master of Educational Technology program at the University of British Columbia.

Plus doing some home reno, plus I have 3 kids, plus my wife seems to feel that somehow I ought to spend some time with her (odd, that), plus I have a full-time job (money: it’s a love/hate relationship).

So some things suffer.In any case, for my ETEC 522 course “Ventures in Learning Technology” we’re reviewing educational technology ventures: start-up businesses. Since one of the profs for the course is behind a social knowledge storage/management start-up called CrowdTrust, we’re putting most of our thoughts and comments into that system. (Here are mine.)

One thing I wanted to share here is a memo I wrote concerning a company’s pitch for VC money.

Hopefully I haven’t been too savage.

Brand protection, marketing, and responsiveness in a new media world

Consumer-generated Media has a nice breakdown of Steve Jobs open letter to early iPhone adopters who hit the roof when Apple recently announced the $200 price break.Excerpt:

What an incredible year to watch and learn from CEO-level behavior in times of crisis and difficulty. First we had Jet Blue, faced with an impossibly difficult situation, take to the airwaves on YouTube, apologize profusely, and announce a new passenger bill of rights. While Menu Foods practically hid their CEO during the pet recall issue, Mattel put their CEO, Bob Eckert, on the website video airwaves to nurture trust and confidence in the wake of the toy recall (a still-in-progress case study). Now we have Steve Jobs, who just wrote and posted the most remarkable letter in response to concerns about iPhone’s recent price decrease. He coupled an apology with a $100 Apple credit for all early-buyers of the iPhone. This is classic Defensive Branding. I predict it will be one of the most discussed, debated, and linked-to letters of the year, and so far I’ve already counted over 800 unique blog postings referencing his letter since 6 PM last night.

A full breakdown of the letter follows …

The iPhone comes to Canada … well, sorta

Well, I just made my first iPhone call.That’s no biggie to hundreds of thousands of people in the US, of course, but the iPhone has not yet been released in Canada.Mike Skovgaard, a buddy at work, has been buying them in the US and taking them up to Canada to unlock them to work with the Rogers and Fido cell networks. He’s already done it with a few, and showed me his latest. Apparently, Mike was only the third person in Canada to unlock the iPhone.So, review in one paragraph or less? Awesome. Cover flow is great, voice quality is excellent, phone usability is amazing, photos are really cool, Google Maps is incredible, etc. etc. Everything just works, and everything just works the way you think it ought to work.Love it, can’t wait for it to “officially” come to Canada.

Monster security fiasco – literally

Job warehouse Monster has had an ongoing security nightmare, with hackers infiltrating the database and pilfering usernames, passwords, and email addresses with which to launch phishing attacks.The worst part? Monster doesn’t know how bad the problem is! From an email sent to me this morning (note the bolded portion):

As you may be aware, the Monster resume database was recently the target of malicious activity that involved the illegal downloading of information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for some of our job seekers with resumes posted on Monster sites. Monster responded by conducting a comprehensive review of internal processes and procedures, and notified those job seekers that their contact records had been downloaded illegally.The Company has determined that this was not an isolated incident. Despite ongoing analysis, the scope of this activity is impossible to pinpoint. Monster believes illegally downloaded contact information may be used to lure job seekers into opening a “phishing” email that attempts to acquire sensitive financial information. This has been the case in similar attacks on other websites.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Photo used in Schmap Vancouver

Just got this email letting me know this photo of mine with a CC license is being used in a map/guide to Vancouver. Cool!

Hi John,I am delighted to let you know that one of your photos witha Creative Commons license has been selected for inclusionin the newly released third edition of our Schmap VancouverGuide:Science WorldIf you like the guide and have a website, blog or personalpage, then please also check out our schmapplets -customizable widgetized versions of our Schmap VancouverGuide, complete with your published photo:http://www.schmap.com/schmapplets/p=18955080N00/c=SE28031505Please enjoy the guide!Best regards,Luke Ritchie,Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

WordPress admin panel: why is Akismet not under Comments?

wpI guess the title says it all … Akismet, which is a comment spam identification and deletion tool, is under the active menu, Manage, not under Comments.Odd.On a related note, I’m getting something like 5000 comment spam attempts a week, of which about 1 makes it through onto the site.Two things that implies:

  1. Akismet is stunningly amazingly incredibly good. There are no words.
  2. A huge amount of web traffic is spambots looking for places to implant their evil input. I wonder what percentage? 1%? 3%?
  3. Bonus implication: the success rate for comment spam is approaching zero … for blog/forum owners who know about Akismet.