Category Archives: Web

Flickr and Getty are Dating

To borrow Heather Champ‘s language from the discussion thread:

This is just the announcement of our relationship (like, we’ve just started dating).

Here’s the official announcement on the Flickr blog, and the basic FAQ that’s started.

Congrats to all involved! Being an avid Flickr-ite and a recent employee of the big G, I can’t wait to see it come together from both angles. I expect the usual mix of confusion and backlash from the announcement, but I have no doubt it’ll all work out in the end.

PicLens Abstract Digital Glitch Art

Yesterday I fired up the slick PicLens plugin to play more extensively after only ever seeing videos or over-the-shoulder pieces of it. It really is an awesome plugin and smoothly panned through my various Flickr and Facebook photo feeds and searches. While browsing through some of my historical Flickr stream, I ran across this awesome bug/glitch/computer-expressing-itself-through-art feature:



The top one was the first I saw on my screen and I loved it. I went straight for the screenshot keys a couple times and then gingerly closed the window, hoping it wouldn’t be lost. To my relief, I was able to reproduce the glitch on some more photos. I started browsing my photostream for bunches of photos that might look good all mashed up together. Whatever the bug was, it didn’t really follow predictable rules, so many of my rational creative attempts were in vain.

The bug was also very intermittent. I’d scroll through a few screens of photos with nothing, and then finally get another surprise. But still, this process went on for longer than I’d like to admit. As you can see, there was an occasional continuity or pattern in the images, but not all. I like the glimpses of eyes, faces, or occasional landmarks sneak into focus in some panels.

What a beautiful bug! Some people pay hundreds of dollars for filters or plugins like this! Thank you. (not sarcasm, it really is fun)

PS – PicLens: If this is your bug, I was not able to reproduce this when looking at Facebook albums, only my Flickr stream so far. Browser: Firefox 3.0 Beta, Mac. It happened on clicking for a larger view of an image in the default view. When the higher-res photo finished loading, it would display as the glitchy image. They sometimes show the background window contents appearing in places. Following the link to the original image site, the photos always appeared OK.

PPS – Mozilla Firefox 3.0: If this is your bug, I’m using 3.0 on a fully patched Mac OS X 10.3. I think I had Bloglines and another Flickr page open in other tabs.

PPPS – Apple OS X/iMac: If this is your bug with system, drivers, or graphics card, well, see above if that helps. I don’t want to go buying another computer right now. :)

Bowling advertising on lopolis

I clearly sold out my blog a while ago, but it still caught me by surprise when I checked my last post and saw this big honkin’ thing at the bottom:

Google has done display ads for a while, and it’s also no secret that my most-traffic-getting popular blog post on bowling team names is what brings in all the dough1. At the same time, there are a couple things that struck me about this ad. First off, that’s a giant AT&T logo! My first thought when I saw the ad was actually, “Wow, it’s a new AT&T online advertising network,” followed by, “Or maybe AT&T is trying a viral campaign of fake sites based around non-sequitur hobby-site domain squatting.” Yikes, my mind has gone web geek.

After reconsidering my initial surprise, I think I’m going to leave the ads there. I figure that the loyal readers(?) out there either come to the home page, or read me by RSS, so I’m only bugging the random visitors. Not an ideal customer acquisition strategy, but I’m not exactly screaming for attention here anyway. I’ll take what I can get.

1And by dough, I mean, in one year now I get maybe two of the checks mentioned in the first link of this post instead of one. If you look at Google’s minimum check allowance policy thingy, you can figure how little it is. Almost covers hosting.

WordPress: Updatin’ the bloggin’

Yeah, it’s been a few months since I’ve posted much here. Work and life have a tendency to catch up with you. No more boring exposition here, just trying to pick up the pace again…

As a kickstart, I updated WordPress to the fancy new version 2.5. The admin interface is much better on the eyes and the controls are familiar enough that I can’t figure out if something is different, or I just haven’t been using this as much. The upgrade process was as easy as it ever was, just copying in the new files and hitting the upgrade page. I did a database switch at the same time, since my host had a new server available and was recommending it. That was easier than expected and felt like a glimpse back at the stuff I used to know better.

And then there’s WordPress and comment spam… I’ve still never found or trusted the right system for this. I went for the praised Spam Karma way back when, but had trouble configuring it and found that it wasn’t deleting comment spam, but just flagging it in the database and keeping it off the site. I may not have dug enough to find the right answer, but gave up and went back to moderation by default.

Now, WordPress 2.5 has Akismet by default which seems like a blessing. Somewhere between trying to clean out my latest batch of comment spam in the newly designed WordPress menus, and trying out the new Akismet features, I inadvertently deleted a couple new comments that I intended to have stick around. Controls and workflow for flagging and deleting comment spam was just different enough from what I’d been used to that I probably missed a step. Anyways, apologies to my recent commenters.

I think the best spam solution really is a simple captcha or “type: I am human” validation. Low barrier for the end user, low maintenance for the admin. I’ll try that next.

3 Years of Flickr and 1000 Photos

Sunset in Jordan, first photo posted to Flickr Somewhere in the midst of uploading bunches of photos from my New York trip, I surpassed 1000 uploaded photos on Flickr. This really isn’t a lot considering I’ve got tens of thousands more that I’ve taken, and many Flickr accounts have a few thousand photos here and there. From the start, I decided to be a little more selective with what I shared (everything is public by default, afterall), and see what else was out there. Just over 1000 photos now, 3 years later, equates to about 1 photo every day. They came in fits and starts, but if I can keep that up for another 3 or 10 years, I’ll be happy.

When I first started using Flickr in 2004, I was immediately hooked by many aspects of the site, but by far the most exciting for me wasn’t their fancy Flash (remember it used to be Flash back then?) Organizer, it was the idea of “community involvement by default” (public photos). This seemed scary at first (not to mention different from most other photo sharing sites at the time), but was completely engaging and kept me coming back. People were commenting, adding favorites, inviting to groups and generally connecting over each other’s photos. I immediately wanted to come back and post more to see what else I might discover.

And now for a little more trivia…

Freebasing the semantic web?

I’ve seen Freebase.com get some more attention lately as the Alpha invites continue to spread. O’Reilly posted a great walkthrough of an earlier version of Freebase.com here.

The discussion that follows in the comments is some insight into the various sides of the “semantic web” debate, and the challenges that come with organizing so much data. The holy grail is not just categorizing or labeling all of the information, but knowing the relationships between it all.

Will users find enough value in the Freebase system to want to actively contribute to it? Why not start at Wikipedia as a framework and add the relationship layer to the existing site? What about the existing social/inter-personal relationship layer of Facebook and adding other layers on top of that (the Parakey acquisition could be a step in this direction)?

This is the weakness in having individual sites try to be “the answer” to such inter-related problems. Until all of these pieces are decentralized and opened, I’m afraid we’re still stuck with a bunch of walled information gardens.

Unfortunately, the end goal of many of these efforts and the idea of the mythical “semantic web”, doesn’t exactly have a place for single-resource destination sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, or Freebase. Given that none of them want to relinquish control any time soon, we should continue to see these power struggles for a long time to come.

So who is in a good position to bring us toward a more semantic web? Out of the big guys, I think Facebook is in one of the best places. As far-fetched as it may be, if they were to open up a true Facebook API, opening their social network for use to the outside (not forcing people to play around inside), they could leverage their huge user-base and be the social network provider that’s plugged into every new service out there. Somebody will have to do it. People are dying for the “web 2.0 address book.”

On the smaller fronts, microformats continue to gain traction and OpenID is opening a few walled gardens (or at least creating consistent gates into them).

Lastly, I think web browsers are in perhaps the best position to take advantage of these evolutions. It may be no coincidence that the Firefox creators who started Parakey are now snatched up by Facebook. Look at what Greasemonkey and Firefox plugins have done to the way people view web pages. Look at what widgets, gadgets, feed readers, and the iPhone/Safari “platform” are doing to the way you consume/search/browse information from different sites and through different devices.

The semantic web might never arrive, but a semantic web may already be here.

When Web-scraping Doesn’t Cut It

When you search for my name on the “professional search directory” ZoomInfo, you get some very interesting results. My favorite:

Very Subtle Captain

I’m pretty sure their web crawling/scraping algorithm needs a little tweaking. Somehow they also connected an article about New Hampshire history (circa 1770-1790) which also mentioned a “Captain Chase Taylor”. Again, they might want to refine the sources (and the methods) that they collect their data from.

It’s a monumental task to try creating useful profiles of people from content scattered across the web. Spock is at least one startup that thinks they can do a better job, and they’re going for an even larger data set than what ZoomInfo currently boasts. Scouring information in a controlled way from the right places, I think it may achieve some decent results. Afterall, the current bar is set at combining Revolutionary War era military records with soccer goalie quotes from 2005, so the sky’s the limit.

My First Google Check

Just the other day I received my very first check from Google. I’ve experimented with AdSense on my site for quite some time now, mainly on the individual post pages. I can’t tell you how much I make, but since I’m only getting my first check now, you can make some guesses (it ain’t much).

Google Check

I won’t be retiring on it any time soon, but it’s a fun moment in the current state of the web. My own little piece of the Google advertising empire.

IA Summit 2007: Vegas, Part II

Finally, here’s my somewhat belated wrap-up of the IA Summit, which I attended in Vegas. The conference was absolutely amazing. I met a ton of interesting people from all over the world, including quite a few Seattleites, and had some great conversations. The workshops and presentations were non-stop brain food, and incredibly inspiring. Slides for a number of the presentations are up on SlideShare here, with more coming. Podcasts should be showing up in the coming weeks on the IA Summit blog.

Some conference highlights

  • Leisa‘s suite party the first night, with great company and conversation: Livlab, Andrew Hinton, Dave Malouf, and Jared Spool.
  • Joshua Prince-Ramus’ keynote was a great look into the architectural process. A very similar talk of his is up here at TED talks, including the evolution of the new Seattle Public Library.
  • Twitter. It adds so much to the conference/social/community experience. Leisa wrote a good post on how to get the most from a conference and includes some observations on Twitter.
  • Andy Budd‘s birthday celebration at the Pink Taco. Hanging out with Derek, Thomas, Nick, and even Jared Spool again. Here’s Jared doing drunken card tricks for some Dutch folk.
  • A very moving and mind-expanding talk by Grant Campbell, titled: Utilizing ritual in the design of information spaces for the cognitively impaired. The talk focused on the challenges of interactions with people who have dementia/Alzheimer’s, and how we may need to rethink our traditional methods of organizing information or designing iteractions. The biggest example was that of an advanced Alzheimer’s patient who could barely concentrate or remember anything, yet could participate in the entire Catholic eucharist ritual with complete attention. A great quote from Jesse James Garrett in the discussion afterwards (paraphrased):

    “What if you applied the same design/IA tactics to something like a communion ritual? Like counting clicks to a certain destination… you’d say why not just hand out the wine and wafer to people at the door as they walk in. And you lose the entire point.”

  • Countless other little things that I’ve got jotted down in notes. Microformats, design patterns, data streams, agile workflows… I’ll try to collect my thoughts into some more in-depth follow-up posts.

Any downsides or disappointments? Just that trying to fit in some Vegas fun on top of a jam-packed conference was barely doable, and very exhausting. It didn’t stop me, but it was a very hard bizarro-city to find that balance in.

What a great conference. I can’t wait until next year in Miami.

IA Summit 2007: Vegas, Part I

I’m currently in Las Vegas attending the 2007 IA Summit. Tons of geeking-out over Information Architecture with a lot of great people… in a crazy, crazy city.

The internet connection is incredibly flaky here, otherwise I’d be trying to update more often. I’ll write up some more thoughts and stories when I can. I’ve been trying out Twitter without too much fanfare, mainly because I don’t want to take the phone/text message plunge (SMSes aren’t free for me). But I’m absolutely seeing the draw to Twitter via text-message now, with people using it to keep in touch at a busy event, find out what’s going on, and adding color commentary during the presentations.

I’ve tried uploading a couple Flickr photos, but again the connection is too flaky to do much. Plus, there’s just too much going on to stop and spend time sorting and uploading all my photos right now. There are a lot of great shots under the iasummit2007 tag on Flickr too.

More to come!

How Much Money Did Ze Frank Make?

On Saturday, the epic journey that has been Ze Frank’s The Show, came to an end. With Ze’s final show, he closed out the promised year (minus weekends and holidays) of his daily energetic ramblings. Back in October he added the Gimme Some Candy donation system, where viewers could donate various amounts of money to the show, and get a simple ducky or jewel icon and custom message displayed on The Show’s site. For whatever reason, I started tracking the total donations for each day when I watched The Show. And here’s what I came up with:

Total Ze Frank donations: $28,535
Total from Bling Duckies ($250 each): $3,750
Total from Big Duckies ($50 each): $15,400
Total from Little Duckies ($10 each): $7,540
Total from Jewels ($5 each): $1,845
Highest single day (the last day of the show): $6,045
Average daily donations (including the last day): $297
Modified average (minus first two days’ spikes, Valentines, and final day): $170

And here’s what the daily data looks like in a not-so-pretty Excel chart:

Ze Frank Candy

Ze Frank daily donations (minus the last $6000 day, which threw off the scale)

I took out the final day, since it threw the scale out of whack and left things even less intelligible. You can clearly see the initial spikes when he announced the donations, and the quick drop down to the average levels. There were a few times during the year where Ze reminded his viewers of the donation system directly or indirectly. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas had increased donations from the generous givers out there. And Ze Frank also ran custom Valentine’s Day candy. I didn’t see the actual donation page that week, but assumed the sizes of the icons still translated to the same pricing. Aside from the $6000 finale, Valentine’s Day was a clear winner.

So in the end Ze has to pay some hefty taxes on his $28,000, but it still ain’t bad for just 5 months of the show. This doesn’t even take into account how much he made from his Revver.com video hosting and ads. He also had a couple show sponsors towards the end, with Dewar’s sponsoring the final week of the show. I’m sure there’s at least a few more grand in there. Ze often joked about wanting to sell out, and while he’s not gonna retire off these donations alone, the show itself and the incredible fan base gave him more than enough fame to move on to Hollywood. I look forward to whatever’s next.

Let’s Ignite Seattle

Bridge Building Last night I attended the first Ignite Seattle event, hosted by Make magazine and O’Reilly Radar. I took quite a few photos of the bridge-building contest and there are plenty more photos of the bridges and presentations in the Ignite Flickr pool. There was plenty of hot glue flying and some impressive bridges for a 30-minute time limit.

Speakers
After the bridge contest and a short break, the Ask Later talks began, with the whirlwind format of 5 minute presentations, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide (not under the speaker’s control). There were some really well organized talks for having to fit in just 5 minutes, and a wide range of topics. This roundup covers some of the highlights better than I can. RealityAllStarz got a good laugh, and many people seemed impressed by the Dorkbot presentation on technological art projects, which got some oohs and aahs from the crowd.

Scott Berkun gave an all-too-brief teaser of his upcoming book about innovation and the myths of innovation, pointing out a couple common misconceptions about famous innovators and “eureka” moments of discovery. I’m anxious to read more. Bre Pettis from Make magazine gave a really funny disjointed presentation on all sorts of random things he’s made, including a bat detecting watch. Damn cool. Buster McLeod from The Robot Co-op and 43 Things also gave an inspiring talk on the currency of motivation, and how motivation of yourself (through others) can help inspire you to tackle larger and larger challenges. He also mentioned his new venture, the McLeod Residence which is an art and technology gallery/bar in downtown Seattle, which sounds interesting. His hand-drawn slides were also great.

By far, the oddest, most confusing presentation was by Kathleen Dollard from GenDotNet. I still don’t know what exactly she was pitching, or whether it was coming from Microsoft or not. It was something (software? service? tool?) called “Workflow” which is designed to help engineers interact with their managers and coworkers better. It was literally a flowchart of “What do I do next?” for people who have zero interpersonal skills whatsoever. Say you e-mail the boss with a question and a) he doesn’t respond, b) he responds this way, c) he responds that way… here’s what you do next. I couldn’t help thinking that the whole thing was a joke, but it really wasn’t. Somebody next to me muttered, “It’s like Office Space the flowchart.” I’m sorry, but if you have individuals in your organization that can’t interact with each other, or their managers, the answer isn’t to give them a flowchart of how to work. I might suggest you instead look at finding some better managers or engineers that can work with each other. I could see a suite of development process flows being helpful to some organizations, but this example seemed like a little too much micromanagement.

Event thoughts
Overall I thought the event was pretty interesting, especially considering I’ve missed the past Seattle Mindcamps. The CHAC Lower Level was a decent venue, although the setup of the main room and the single entrance caused a bottleneck. There was plenty of space in the room for people to stand and sit, but tables blocked people’s way. Also, having a loud DJ start in the bar area when people are still giving presentations was a bit obnoxious.

The presentations themselves were often more on the product/website/group promotion side. I would have liked more of the 5-minute presentations devoted to a single drilled-down topic, or more practical coverage of some subjects rather than the common, “Here’s the business/site I started, isn’t it cool?” Some of the presentations that seemed to work best were the editorializing on a specific area (motivation, innovation, startup funding…) rather than the tip-of-the-iceberg presentations of a really big topic (although it was fun seeing people jam those into 20 slides and 5 minutes).

I’m sure there will be plenty of refining for the next event, and I’m looking forward to see what comes of it. A big thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. I’ll see you next time.

The Two Dollar Homepage is for Sale Again!

It has been a year since the Two Dollar Homepage was started, and that means it’s time to sell again! For just $2, you can get a full year of exposure on the Two Dollar Homepage, promoting whatever you’d like. That’s much cheaper than the alternative, if it were even still available. And the best part is that it’s just you on the page! No sharing the real estate, and your $2 gets you a full 500×500 pixels (that’s 250,000 pixels!) instead of a measly block of 100 little pixels.

First come, first serve… If you want to buy the Two Dollar Homepage for the next year, just write to:
contact [at] twodollarhomepage [dot] com

How common is your name?

Have you ever wondered how common the name, Jed Scattergood is? No? Well, it ain’t too common. WhitePages.com only knows of 1 person with that name. Although the last name Scattergood is actually more common than I would have guessed. It’s more common than Lovendale, Dalasta, Drott, Favuzza, Langager, and nearly as common as Salway. Scattergood is just above the last name “Mittelsteadt” and there 138 Scattergoods listed in the country.

I wasn’t surprised when I checked out Chris Taylor and saw my name ranked 3,200th out of more than 34 million unique full names. I was pretty sure there was one name that could beat it, but Andrew Davis comes in at 4,303. If I go with my given name of Christopher Taylor, I fall behind. There’s probably some data that could be better consolidated there, since phone records don’t necessarily reflect people’s given names. And my middle/nickname Chase Taylor is even less common.

Some other interesting names and tidbits…

  • Marshal places pretty well as a first name, right in between “Homes” and “Mustafa”. That’s some good company.
  • Surprisingly, the last name Funk is even more common.
  • The last name Qwerty is unfortunate, and tied on the list with the million some-odd single occurrences of last names in the data.
  • There are only 5 Arcelaschi‘s listed in the country. 4 in CT, 1 of which looks like a dupe at an old address, and 1 in Massachusetts.

And how many more of you are there in the country (with landline phone numbers)?

455 First names of Skyler
118 Last names of Litwack
109 Shannon Carter
64 Michael Ellsworth
45 Charles Carlin
42 Dan Savage
17 Andrew McClain
11 Alex Shepard
10 Chris Fairbanks
9 Adam Kenney
4 Antonia Bruno
4 Dan Reade
2 Veronica Mars