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28 posts from January 2007

What looks like bombs under bridges? Real-world disruption in Boston and other cities due to crazy advertising campaign

xxC.C. Chapman writes about today's craziness in Boston caused by an advertising campaign gone wrong.   Reading the news out of the Boston Globe, it sounds like a pretty crazy day there.  More news here.  And it's not just Boston... these packages are in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia.  You can almost see someone thinking about it... "why don't we place these signs around cities and encourage people to go out and find them?"

But... duh!... in this day and age, to go and plant things under bridges? and other similar locations?  What in the world were they thinking?  Very unbelievable?

On the other hand, Turner Broadcasting has now received more attention that they could ever have imagined for this cartoon series.  I imagine someone's head will roll at Turner... but I also have to wonder how many people will at least know of the series name by now.

Crazy stuff...

Using FeedBurner Networks to build "The One Feed To Rule Them All".... all Dan York... all the time... :-

If you have multiple blogs, how do you easily create a single RSS feed that aggregates all of your blogs?  I have faced this issue directly with my migration from a single weblog into a network of blogs.  Some of my readers may, for whatever reason, still want to read all my writing (and to my amazement something like 15 people have subscribed to this feed I'm talking about below).

As I first wrote about over on my personal blog, there is a way now to do this. By using FeedBurner's relatively new "Networks" feature (FAQ here), I have now created the "Dan York - All Feeds" network. There is now a webpage with recent posts and links to the blogs and then an aggregated RSS feed that combines posts in all blogs.

Now, if you look at FeedBurner's list of Networks, you'll see a wide range of uses.  Dave Jones put together one that may be of interest to readers (if you are not already aware) called the Public Relations feed.  It provides a nice list of PR-related feeds and, like mine above, gives you a webpage with sample posts and an aggregated feed.  Each blog included can use a "badge" to promote their inclusion in the network.  For instance, you can look at Dave Jones' blog to see the PR network badge in the top of his right sidebar.  Note that you can click a link to advertise in the network or you can explore network members.

Which gets to the larger point -  FeedBurner is really targeting its "Networks" as a way to enable advertisers to advertise across a series of feeds, i.e. a bunch of feed publishers can band together and then, if they want, get advertising that goes across all their feeds.  Presumably they will have far greater numbers together and thus be able to attract bigger advertisers.

So obviously by building my own private network, I'm twisting the intent a bit.  And the advertisting focus did impact my efforts a bit because in order to create a FeedBurner Network, you have to have a blog that is a member of the FeedBurner Ad Network (FAN).  With a FAN-activated feed, you can then create a Network.  NOTE: None of the other feeds HAVE to be FAN members, but at least one must.  Once you have created a Network, you can invite other people to add feeds via email, or you can add one of your other FAN-activated feeds.

Given this, my steps to create the network were basically:

1. Login to FeedBurner, go to "My Networks" and click "Create a network"
2. Choose one of my FAN-activated feeds to "anchor" the network.
3. Fill out the form and, under "Privacy", switch it from the default of "Public" to "Private".
4. Submit the form and proceed to the page to invite members.
5. Add any of your other FAN-activated feeds to the network using the easy form.
6. Send yourself an email invitation for each of the other feeds to invite them in.
7. For each invitation, accept it on behalf of each different feed.
8. Sit back and enjoy your aggregated feed and site.

Now, if you think about step #6 for a moment... I have 8 feeds I wanted to aggregate, yet only 3 of those are FAN members.  So, yes, indeed, I sent 5 separate invites to my own inbox. I then clicked the link in each separate email and entered FeedBurner to accept membership in my new network for each of the different feeds.  In the end, I did wind up with my "one giant Dan York feed", but the separate email invites was a bit tedious.

Of course, I do understand perhaps why FeedBurner doesn't make this overly easy for non-FAN feeds.  FeedBurner is a business and they are experimenting with the whole FAN idea and the concept of getting advertisers to insert ads in feeds.  So it's in their interest to encourage feeds to be in the FAN so that they have more feeds for advertisers to join into.  So it makes sense in that way.  It may also very well be that the folks at FeedBurner didn't really think people would do what I did here. 

In any event, I thought I'd post this for those of you who: a) use FeedBurner; and b) have multiple blogs/podcasts/feeds/etc.

Let me know what you think... and if for some reason you really want to see all my writing across all my blogs, the feed is now there (well, actually, that's the web page... the feed is down in the lower right marked "Network Feed").

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Joining the "2000 Bloggers" project...

 Given that it seemed an interesting (and one-time) experiment, I left a comment on Tino Buntic's 2000 Bloggers project page and now have been added to the giant page of photos of the 2000 bloggers (WARNING: The page is (Duh!) graphic heavy!)  Rather than leave the URL for my personal blog, I left the URL for this new blog, partly as an experiment in site traffic.  Being so new, I can get a better view of site-driven traffic... we'll see.  I don't really know how many visitors would actually come over here as a result of my picture (the same standard one I use on this blog).  Now, if my picture had been a bit different or strange or weird, perhaps... Anyway, it's just another part of the ongoing experiment in all these media.

BTW, he says he has not yet his 2000 bloggers, so if you are interested in being included, head on over to his page and leave a comment.  (You just need to have a photo on your blog and have been blogging for a bit.)

Meanwhile, do check out the pictures and see how many people you know... :-)  It's also just quite fun to see the wide range of faces and photos.

In praise of dinner conversation with random strangers in airports... and pipe organs

You are in an airport at dinner time. You are hungry. Do you:

  1. Grab some food from a fast food vendor/pushcart, go to your gate area, put your music player headphones on and tune out everyone around you while you eat.
  2. Grab some food from a fast food vendor/pushcart, go to your gate area and start talking to the people around you while you eat.
  3. Go to an airport restaurant, sit down alone at a table, bury your nose in a book and/or put your music player headphones on and zone out while eating.
  4. Go to an airport restaurant, sit down alone at a table and attempt to strike up random conversations with the people sitting next to you, who are also dining alone (and who aren't buried in their book or music player)

Given that on any personality test like Myers-Briggs, I pretty much max out the Extrovert scale (big surprise, eh?), you can imagine that my choices are usually either #2 or #4. I've learned over the years (painfully, sometimes) that extroverts like myself can be sheer horror for our polar opposites, the extremely introverted. And even the extroverted sometimes want to just zone out or have some peace (there are times when I want that!).... so I won't intrude if someone looks adamant that they want their space. But if someone is open to a conversation, I'm usually more than happy to join in... for one basic reason:

Everyone has a story to tell and you can always learn interesting things from random conversations.

Take last week. I was travelling home from Atlanta and was stuck in Newark for a couple of hours. I went into ...

Continue reading "In praise of dinner conversation with random strangers in airports... and pipe organs" »

Google launches "Build Your Campus in 3D" contest... and linking SketchUp to SecondLife?

 Per a post in the Google blog, Google is launching a "Build Your Campus in 3D" competition to encourage students to create a 3D version of their campus using Google's SketchUp tool... that are then linked in with Google Earth, of course.

As a guy who used to play around with creating 3D objects in the now ancient era of VRML in the mid-1990s, it's intriguing to see how far the tools have come.

It also makes me wonder... while many folks are experimenting with building 3D objects in virtual worlds like Second Life, is Google evolving its own 3D world that might have a similarity to our own real world?  (Right here they will be getting, I am sure, a good number of campuses submitted...)

Another interesting question - could SecondLife someday import things created by Google's Sketchup?  (Well, it seems people are working on exactly that here and here.)

Note to self: add Google SketchUp to the already insanely long list of things to check out sometime...

What happens to your blog(s) when you die?

When you die, what happens to your blog(s)?  What happens to all that writing?  Think about how things have changed... traditional "writers" have always left behind their writings.  On paper, in journals/diaries, in printed books and magazines.  Perhaps out in public view or perhaps in the "box up in the attic".  However they are stored, the writings survive the death of the writer and then are seen some day by family or perhaps by researchers.  Indeed, historians relish finding old caches of (snail-mail) letters, diaries, unfinished books or poems. Famous (or wealthy) people have bequeathed their "papers" to a library, often at the university they attended.  Families pass down the "family bible" through generations. It's all part and parcel of how we have accounted for - and preserved - our history as a culture.   Often the historians prize most the "everyday" writings... the letters... the postcards... the brief notes... as they offer a glimpse into a distant era.

Fast forward to today... while we still generate printed books by the millions and while people still do write in paper diaries/journals/etc., so much of our writing has moved online.  Yet let's think about what happens when you die:

  1. Sooner or later, the registration for your domain(s) will expire and people won't be able to find your material at the regular URL.
  2. Likewise, sooner or later your subscription at your hosting provider expires. (whether that is a true hosting provider where you are running your own software or a hosted blogging provider like TypePad)
  3. Because of #2, your files are eventually purged from the hosting provider.
  4. Your writing disappears... except, perhaps, to maybe live on in the Way Back Machine if your site was included in one of its snapshots.

Now, #1 and #2 might be delayed a bit if you set your subscriptions/registrations to "auto-renew".  They would keep auto-renewing at least until the credit card they have listed expired. (Which, one might think, might be relatively soon if your bank cancels it.) Perhaps you could tie it to a bank account that might live longer... but the point is that sooner or later it runs out.

What about the "free" blogging sites like Blogger, LiveJournal,, etc?  Good question.  Blogs that are created there do seem to stay around for a very long time after they've been updated.  But still, you'd have to think that after some (potentially lengthy) period of inactivity, eventually the system admins are going to archive off inactive accounts.  Odds are that some historian 20 years from now won't see your pages on LiveJournal (if, indeed, LiveJournal is even still around in its current form).

So what does happen?  Do your entries... just... stop?  Does someone else go in and put in a final entry? (as was done for Dave Ross in "Oh Crap. I have Cancer.")  Who has your username(s) and password(s) to be able to go and do this?  Does someone else pay for your domain name?  Or print it all out?  Do you have instructions for someone?  (Is this a new area to be added to wills?)

Or do you even care?  Are your online writings not worth saving?  Do you want them all to die out with you?

(I got on this train of thought because of recent conversations on FIR and in other places about "what happens to your corporate blog when you leave the company?"  Should it stay up?  Or should it be removed? (as email addresses would be removed for employees who left the company) It just occurred to me that the argument begged the follow-on question raised here.)

Michael Seaton on plagarism and blogs (a.k.a. why do people feel it's okay to steal content?)

If you have not read Michael Seaton's post "Plagarism hits The Client Side a.k.a. Scott gets caught", I'd recommend it as a warning for the kind of thing that can happen to any of us.  In it, Michael details the fact that another blogger out there took one of Michael's posts, made a few minor changes to it and then posted it as the blogger's own post without any kind of attribution.  Michael noted another post that was a plagarized version of a TechCrunch post, and as you'll see in the comments, I found that one of the blogger's other posts was also a duplicate - this time of a post from another blog back in June 2006. 

I didn't note it on my comment in Michael's blog, but in the post I found to be a duplicate, the blogger had been rather dumb in that the image (of DropSend usage) that he pulls in is actually pulled from the blog where he copied the text!  I mean, if you are going to steal someone's content, you might want to put the images up on your server so that it can't be tracked back to the source!

But seriously, it's a shame to see this kind of thing.  As noted by Michael, the blogger in question seems to be a senior marketing person at a well known company in Washington, DC.  And here he is posting other people's content as his own.  Michael has asked for an explanation, but so far there has been no word publicly from the blogger.  (Although I'll note his blog hasn't been updated since January 18th, which I think was when Bryper commented on his re-post of Michael's text and that post suddenly came down.)

Time was that unethical people could do this type of thing... "can I copy your essay?"  But in the age of Google, Technorati and friends, you will eventually be found out.  You may have a good run... maybe even a long run... but eventually you will be discovered.  And guess what, courtesy of both Google's caches and sites like the WayBackMachine, your content lives forever. So even if you take down the posts, they are still out.  (And of course, people like me can help in that, as I just used "wget" to grab a copy of the blogger's website.)

There's a very simple solution of, course, which can be summarized in this:

Write your own <insert-favorite-expletive> content!

Need we say more?

Huh? So Skype is changing it's tag line to what?

Okay, so if you have a brand ("Skype") that has a tremendous amount of recognition, what makes you wake up one day and decide that you are going to change your main tag line from:

The whole world can talk for free

to... wait for it... yes... they actually do appear to be serious:

Take a deep breath

Huh?  Jaanus explains it a bit on the Share Skype blog and hints at a longer post to come about the whole brand transition.  I'll have to say that will be interesting to read, because this move seems a bit puzzling.  I personally won't miss the conversation bubbles (although their story is interesting), but the change in the tag line seems puzzling at best.  Obviously we have to stay tuned...

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TypePad Hacks gives me "Applied Hacking Award" for blog redesign...

Last week, John Unger over at dropped me a note to let me know that I was given an "AHA" award for my blog redesign.  It actually mentions "Disruptive Telephony", but I'll note the award here since this blog shares the same design and I write about blogging here.  He notes my use of the three-column hack and also the menu bar hack.  I do definitely appreciate the notice and feedback, so thanks, John, but I'll really say thanks back to John and all the other members of the TypePad Hacks community who have put together the various "hacks".  The site does make it very easy for someone to learn how to tweak their blog in different ways.  I've learned a good bit from the site and have more ideas for things I'll do to these blogs once I can find some more of that mythical thing called free time...

P.S. Also check out the "landing page" of the other award winner, David Alexander. It's nicely done and something I've been thinking about doing with another page (Hint... you'll notice that I'm missing an "About" link here.  Stay tuned...)

SecondTalk adds voice via Skype into SecondLife

Given that I know some of the folks reading here are interested in SecondLife, you may be interested in my post over on my DisruptiveTelephony blog about how SecondTalk will apparently let you easily use Skype from within SecondLife.  I could have really written it in either blog, but chose to post it there.  Anyway, check it out... and if you decide to try out SecondTalk and get it to work for you, I'd be interested in hearing about that.