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13 posts from April 2008

A web page you should NEVER see...

UPDATE - May 7, 2008: A bit of an apology to Fast Company is in order here. Shortly after I posted this piece back on April 30th, Paul Maiorana, who works with the Fast Company web site, contacted me asking for the original URL I used that got me to the screen I include below. After I provided the URL, Paul very quickly said it was the wrong format for the Fast Company site (even before the site re-org) and the blog where I found the link was using the wrong link. He also provided me with the correct link.


So of course if I am following a link to a page that never existed on a web site I will naturally get an error message like the one I show. As to my inability to find the article through the search box, all I can say is that whatever search terms I used at the time (I have no clue now what they were) didn't find the article for me. It was, though, there on their site.

So my apologies to Fast Company for criticizing aspects of their website redesign. Clearly in this case such criticism was not warranted.

I'd note that the point I was making about web site redesigns still stands - if you have a valid URL from before a redesign, it should still work after a redesign. Obviously, if you have an invalid URL, it still won't work.

P.S. For the record, the post I was trying to find was "The Ultimate Calling Card" about books and self-publishing.

I'm sorry, but I find pages like this utterly inexcusable:

Okay, so you went and "re-organized" your web site and in the process completely screwed up all the URLs that used to be there. But, c'mon, man, haven't you heard of Apache redirects (and their equivalents for other web servers)? In my opinion, part of any website reorganization/redesign/whatever really MUST include some plan to redirect the old URLs. Why? Simple:

Once posted, URLs live "forever".

Those URLs are linked to by other web sites. They are incorporated into blog posts. They are sent along in email and IM messages. They wind up in search engine databases.

Once used out on the Internet, in my opinion, URLs should never be deleted. Redirected, yes... but not deleted. Unless, of course, the content is actually being removed from the web server in which case, sure, the URL will no longer work. But if the content is just being moved to a new location... to a new URL... because of a redesign then I shouldn't get a 404 for following a link to your site for the older URL.

Sure, with a large site setting up the redirection will take a good bit of work, but the benefit is people will still be able to easily get to your content, nevermind all the SEO advantages. Unless, of course, you don't really want them to find your content anymore.

P.S. I did search Fast Company's site for the article I was looking for and couldn't find it. Fast Company's loss... it sounded like an interesting article to read that I probably would have passed along to the 1,200 people following me on Twitter.

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An easy way to add video comments to your WordPress blog via Seesmic

seesmiclogo.jpgDo you want a quick way to record and embed videos in your WordPress blog? Would you like to make it so that visitors to your blog could leave you video replies?

If so, Loic LeMeur and the Seesmic gang have come up with a rather cool option in the form of a WordPress plugin for Seesmic video. First announced yesterday on TechCrunch and then on Loic's blog, this plugin simply installs into your WordPress site and lets you both easily embed videos in your blog entries and also lets people leave video comments.

Given that I run this site on TypePad, I can't demonstrate the plugin here... but I built Voxeo's corporate blog portal using WordPress MU which does work with the video. You can see the plugin in action in this blog post in both the main post and also in the comments. (Please feel free to leave a comment as well! I'd love some more testers, especially "anonymous" testers without Seesmic accounts.)


One curious thing I did notice about using the plugin. If you have a Seesmic account, then the videos you create with the plugin also go out in your Seesmic feed. On one level, this is rather cool as it means that anyone following you in Seesmic will see the videos you create. However, when you are creating the videos you MUST remember:

Your video will be viewed in two different channels - with and without the context of the blog post.

For instance, here's the video I recorded this morning when I got the plugin working with the site:

Viewed within the context of the blog post, this video makes sense. However, just as a raw video in my Seesmic stream, the context isn't there. On what blog site was I testing out the plugin? Who is the "we" to which I was referring?

To make this make sense in both channels, I probably should have started off with something more like this:

Hi, this is Dan York and today I'm experimenting with adding the Seesmic video plugin for WordPress to our corporate blog site,, ...

Or something similar that clued people in to the blog site I was talking about.

Likewise when leaving a comment to a blog post, you will be commenting on the contents of the blog post. Someone seeing that within Seesmic will have no clue what you are talking about. Should you then start your post with something like this?

Hi, this is Dan York commenting on the blog post at <URL>:... blah, blah, blah...

Now here we have a problem. Without an intro like that ("commenting on the blog post at..."), the video comment makes perfect sense within the context of the blog post, but doesn't make sense in the Seesmic video stream. With an intro like that, the video seems a bit strange in the context of the blog post (you already know the URL of the site so why are you mentioning it), but does make sense in the Seesmic video stream.

Two different audiences viewing the same video with and without the context of the blog post.


Perhaps Seesmic needs to somehow add a field so that when a video is posted (either in the main post or as a reply) via the WordPress plugin there is a link in the Seesmic stream of the user back to the blog post where the video appears. Not sure how feasible that is, but perhaps it might address this issue.

In the meantime, users of the WP plugin should bear this dual audience factor in mind when you are recording videos.

If you do want to check out the Seesmic video plugin in action, you can visit the blog post I made earlier today and... seriously... feel free to leave a video comment if you have a camera. I'd love to get some more testing done of the plugin.

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When Twitter Goes Down... oh, how we have come to rely on it

239F0ED3-565A-4A5B-8B96-F77D463A8AB2.jpgIf you are a Twitter user, you are no doubt by now aware that there is a serious problem. Annoyingly, it's not a catastrophic failure... it's far more subtle than that. The site looks like it is fully operational. You can post tweets. You even get some tweets from people you follow.

But that's the issue... you get some of the tweets in your twitter stream, but very definitely NOT all. As now noted on the Twitter site, some maintenance they did this weekend to improve caching obviously didn't work:


The problem, of course, is that for those of us who have integrated Twitter into our regular workflow, it has become part and parcel of how we communicate. I liked what the folks at Mashable said:

Why the hysteria? Well, Twitter seems to have become more than a service. It’s a new way of communication. You simply cannot replace it with anything; what are you gonna do, get all your Twitter friends to become your friends on ICQ? That steady stream of freshly baked, human-created (well, some of it is bots) info is the information junkie’s bread and butter.

Indeed it is more than simply a service. Here's hoping that they get it working again soon.

P.S. Several writers have pointed out that we might actually be more productive today without Twitter around to potentially distract us. On one level that might be true... but on the other level Twitter users might be distracted in checking to see if the service is back up! :-)

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The Economist's "MUST READ" Special Report on the "new nomadism" and how our world is changing...

It's not very often at all that I say that there is something out that I think that people really "must read". In fact, the last thing I can really thing of that I recommended this strongly was The Cluetrain Manifesto, but that was back in 2000!

economistlogo.jpgSo I find myself a bit surprised to be making that recommendation for a piece in that most mainstream of all business publications, The Economist.... but in my opinion it really is a series of articles that people should read, contemplate, and talk about.

The Special Report, titled "The New Nomadism", looks at the changes happening in our society as we arrive at this fascinating intersection where we have incredible amounts of network bandwidth available wherever we are - and smaller more powerful devices that can take advantage of that bandwidth. When we can work wherever we want, whenever we want, what does that mean for our society? for our work environment? for our work/life balance? for our communities?

The piece has 7 main articles, several of which go on for several screens:

(FYI, the Economist has made this report available for purchase if you would like it in print form.)

There is also an introductory piece, "Our Nomadic Future", which is also worth a read.

All together the pieces ask some of the excellent questions that I think we need to be thinking about. I intend to write some further thoughts in the days and weeks ahead. We also discussed this whole piece at some length on the April 16th Squawk Box podcast and it was something I covered in my report into yesterday's For Immediate Release podcast.

Here's a taste of the first article in the series:

Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don't even bring laptops. Many engineers at Google, the leading internet company and a magnet for nomads, travel with only a BlackBerry, iPhone or other “smart phone”. If ever the need arises for a large keyboard and some earnest typing, they sit down in front of the nearest available computer anywhere in the world, open its web browser and access all their documents online.

Another big misunderstanding of previous decades was to confuse nomadism with migration or travel. As the costs of (stationary) telecommunications plummeted, it became fascinating to contemplate “the death of distance” (the title of a book written by Frances Cairncross, then on the staff of The Economist). And since the early mobile phones were aimed largely at business executives, it was assumed that nomadism was about corporate travel in particular. And indeed many nomads are frequent flyers, for example, which is why airlines such as JetBlue, American Airlines and Continental Airlines are now introducing in-flight Wi-Fi. But although nomadism and travel can coincide, they need not.

Humans have always migrated and travelled, without necessarily living nomadic lives. The nomadism now emerging is different from, and involves much more than, merely making journeys. A modern nomad is as likely to be a teenager in Oslo, Tokyo or suburban America as a jet-setting chief executive. He or she may never have left his or her city, stepped into an aeroplane or changed address. Indeed, how far he moves is completely irrelevant. Even if an urban nomad confines himself to a small perimeter, he nonetheless has a new and surprisingly different relationship to time, to place and to other people. “Permanent connectivity, not motion, is the critical thing,” says Manuel Castells, a sociologist at the Annenberg School for Communication, a part of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

This is why a new breed of observers is now joining the ever-present futurists and gadget geeks in studying the consequences of this technology. Sociologists in particular are trying to figure out how mobile communications are changing interactions between people. Nomadism, most believe, tends to bring people who are already close, such as family members, even closer. But it may do so at the expense of their attentiveness towards strangers encountered physically (rather than virtually) in daily life. That has implications for society at large.

Anthropologists and psychologists are investigating how mobile and virtual interaction spices up or challenges physical and offline chemistry, and whether it makes young people in particular more autonomous or more dependent. Architects, property developers and urban planners are changing their thinking about buildings and cities to accommodate the new habits of the nomads that dwell in them. Activists are trying to piggyback on the ubiquity of nomadic tools to improve the world, even as they worry about the same tools in the hands of the malicious. Linguists are chronicling how nomadic communication changes language itself, and thus thought. Beyond technology

This special report, in presupposing that a wireless world will soon be upon us, will explore these ramifications of mobile technology, rather than the technologies themselves or their business models. But it is worth making clear that technology underlies all of the changes in today's nomadic societies, so that its march will accelerate them. Wireless data connections, in particular, seem to be getting better all the time. Cellular networks will become faster and more reliable. Short-range Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up in ever more places. And a new generation of wireless technologies is already poised to take over. Regulators have grasped that the airwaves are now among society's most important assets. America, for instance, has just auctioned off a chunk of spectrum with new rules that require the owner to allow any kind of device and software to run on the resulting network.

Cumulatively, all of these changes amount to a historic merger, at long last, of two technologies that have already proved revolutionary in their own right. The mobile phone has changed the world by becoming ubiquitous in rich and poor countries alike. The internet has mostly touched rich countries, and rich people in poor countries, but has already changed the way people shop, bank, listen to music, read news and socialise. Now the mobile phone is on course to replace the PC as the primary device for getting online. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 3.3 billion people, more than half the world's population, now subscribe to a mobile-phone service (see chart 1), so the internet at last looks set to change the whole world.


The most wonderful thing about mobile technology today is that consumers can increasingly forget about how it works and simply take advantage of it. As Ms Canlas sips her Americano and dives into her e-mail in-box at the Nomad Café, she gives no thought to the specifications and standards that make her connection possible. It is the human connections that now take over.

It is truly a fascinating time that we live in right now, and kudos to the Economist for a strong piece that looks at the larger societal implications of all these changes.

What do you think of all these changes going on?

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Vote TODAY for the new logo for the Data Portability project now!

While I have written a bit about the project and am, in fact, subscribed to the project mailing list, I admit that I haven't been reading the list or following it enough to realize that Red Hat had sent them a "cease and desist" letter regarding the logo. As chronicled here, a logo competition ensued, and the 15 finalists are now posted for people to vote on.

If you are interested in the project, cast your vote today! The deadline is tonight at 11:59pm Pacific US time.

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How about checking with the target before posting that blog post?

In the latest reminder that in the "rush to publish", blog writers need to remember some of the basic rules of journalism, last Friday Duncan Riley over at TechCrunch came out with "Twitter Testing Advertising in Twitter Streams". Given Twitter's current prominence in the social media playground, this naturally set off a blogstorm of commentary around the potential of ads in Twitter.

And then Vasanth Sridharan over at Silicon Alley Insider did what should have been done at the beginning... he checked with the folks at Twitter! Their answer... no ads in Twitter.

Now, sure, Duncan Riley and the TechCrunch crowd are in the business of breaking news and in an era when gaining the credibility as a place to get breaking news means being only minutes (or even seconds) ahead of your competitors, I can understand why he ran with it. But it does seem odd given that it's Twitter and all of us on the service are so interconnected, that a quick fact check with the folks at Twitter couldn't have been done. (I also agree with I know that most all of us in the blogging world weren't schooled in the traditional ethics of journalism... nor do we necessarily claim to be journalists... but on a certain level, it seems to me to just be plain old common senses:

If you are going to write about someone, why not check with them about the accuracy of your story first?

Kudos to the Silicon Alley Insider folks for doing the right thing. P.S. On a similar vein, "Veracity: The Future of New Journalism" (although I agree with Mathew Ingram that spelling is also important!)

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Calling all developers - Social Dev Camp East - May 10th, 2008 - Baltimore

socialdevcampbaltimore.jpgIf you are developing applications in the social media / social networking / web 2.0 space, you should know about Social Dev Camp East, coming up on May 10, 2008, in Baltimore. Some info is in PBWiki, although most of the activity is happening on the Facebook event page. It looks like some great topics and events and given that Dave Troy is one of the organizers, I expect it should be good. Dave's the guy behind Twittervision and several other sites and is also the one who put the open source Asterisk PBX running on top of a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner (seriously... "Press 1 to start sucking"!).

On the wiki there are already a bunch of folks signed up and I look forward to hearing about what happens. (I won't be able to attend due to other commitments.)

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Local TV station using Twitter to solicit stories

wcaxstories.jpgI was amused to see in my Twitter stream a tweet from local (Burlington, VT) TV station WCAX asking if anyone had story ideas. The page the link takes you to does indeed have contact info. I do wonder if they actually did receive any story ideas.

It's been interesting to watch WCAX's use of twitter. When they started off back in October, they were providing very regular updates on news in Vermont. So much so that I did follow their Twitter stream. I found this a bit ironic since we don't have a TV and so I never actually watch WCAX, but yet here was a way that I wound up interacting with them. At least once this winter their Twitter stream was very useful in that when I saw that there was a major accident on the local highway (I-89) I was able to call my wife to let her know (turned out she was going a different way anyway, but it could have been otherwise).

However, over the last few months there's been a definite fading of the tweets. Instead of many times a day, the tweets came a few times a day, then once or twice... and now, as noted, their last tweet was 2 days ago. (And yes, we do have news going on here in Vermont!) There have also been some big gaps (like from February 21 to March 4 and March 14 to April 9th) that make me wonder if perhaps this is just a side project for someone who isn't always available (or goes away on assignment).

Perhaps I should contact them to actually do a local interview (or maybe suggest a story about their use (or not) of Twitter? :-).

Regardless, it just thought it was fun to see a local TV station here: a) using Twitter; and b) asking for stories through Twitter.

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SlideShare raises the upload size to 50 MB...

slideshare.jpgI was pleased to learn today (via Marshall Kirkpatrick) that SlideShare had increased their allowable upload size to 50 MB. Why is this important, you ask? Shouldn't presentations be well less than 50 MB in size?

Well, yes, ideally they should be, but sometimes they aren't, especially when the presenters use high-quality photographs to stress their points. Or, if you are an Apple Keynote user like me, you export the slides to PDF to be able to upload them to SlideShare. This happened to me last week when I was trying to upload several of our CTO's (who I work for) presentations. I eventually got them all up into SlideShare, but one of them took a bit of work. The PDF file came in at 43MB. After trying a couple of things, I queried my Twitter network and got back a great number of suggestions. Ultimately I learned about the Automator tool built directly into Mac OS X and soon had a little script going that solved my problem.

The point is that all of that took time, which I didn't really have for my "Oh, I'll just upload the 3 presos to SlideShare" side project. (And then of course once I couldn't do it I just had to figure out why not and how I could.)

So I'm delighted that SlideShare has raised the upload size - thank you!

P.S. And yes, the other things they mention about seeing the number of embedded views, including videos in replies, etc. are all interesting, but not as exciting to me as the upload size.

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Isn't TweetLater missing the point of Twitter?

Schedule Future-Dated Twitter Tweets » have to admit that I don't quite get TweetLater:
"Now YOU Can Schedule Future Tweets For All Your Twitter Accounts"
And this:
"Stuck on an aircraft? Back to back meetings? Taking vacation? Running errands? Playing with the kids?

Have peace of mind and more free time. Keep your Twitter feed ticking over with new tweets even when you're not in front of your computer."

Now, don't get me wrong... I fully understand and appreciate the value in scheduling blog posts. Some time back when I was more interested in growing my readership, I did exactly that. I would write up a series of posts and have them set to publish on certain days at certain times. Do a flurry of writing and then let the posts just stream out there over the next days or weeks. Every now and then I consider doing that again. It makes sense to me if you are trying to maintain/grow readership and want to maintain consistency in posting.

But those are blog posts... usually larger blocks of text. And usually pieces that I really need to write on my laptop or other computer. They are took long to really type on a Blackberry or other portable device. (or at least longer than *I* want to type on a Blackberry!)

Do we really need this for Twitter?

Isn't the point of Twitter really to talk about what you are doing now... or what has your attention now? Isn't it really a tool for your life stream? Or for pointing to your blog posts? Or querying your network of people? Or hanging out at the virtual water cooler?

Now maybe those are just ways that I use it and maybe others have other uses where TweetLater might be useful. But given that you only type 140 characters or less and that you can do this from a zillion different interfaces (cell phones via SMS, cell phones via web, Internet cafes, any web access, other sites, etc.), it seems to me that it is easy enough to update Twitter from most places.

More to the point, if you are stuck on an aircraft or playing with your kids, why should you be twittering? In my book it's perfectly okay to be offline sometimes.

Are we finding people who feel they MUST twitter all the time?

Are there people who feel that they need to twitter on a consistent basis in order to grow/maintain their followers? Will people really have more "peace of mind" if they queue up a bunch of tweets?

Are we just creating another rat race where Twitters feel they have constantly keep producing? (And isn't that just a hamster wheel?)

That's certainly not how I use Twitter, and it seems to me to be the polar opposite of the whole Twitter "What are you doing" mindset... but maybe there are some folks out there of feel "they have to twitter" in order to keep on going. (I would suggest that perhaps such folks need to "chill out", but hey, that's just my view.)

Where I could see it working

Now where I can see something like TweetLater being used is for Twitter accounts tied to an event where you tweet out parts of the schedule. For instance, let's take a tech conference that has keynotes, breakout sessions, breaks, etc. The organizers could publicize that people could stay up-to-date on what is going on at the conference by following the conference twitter ID. The organizers could then use a service like TweetLater to queue up tweets to go out at certain times:

  • 8:55 - "Keynote with XXX, CEO of YYY, starting in 5 minutes in Grand Ballroom I"
  • 10:30 - "Morning refreshment break in Foyer II sponsored by XXXXX"
  • 10:55 - "Concurrent sessions starting: XXXX in Panama 1, YYYY in Panama 2.."
  • 11:00 - "Exhibit Hall now open. Visit booth 1234 to win an iPod."
Etc, etc. You get the idea. The conference staff could queue up these scheduled tweets to go out but then also send out unscheduled tweets as the need arose ("Session A in Panama 2 has been cancelled as the speaker's flights were cancelled."). Attendees who followed the conference name could get those updates on whatever device they found useful. All in all I could see that being useful at a conference.

So there I could see it being useful. But for individual twitter users? I don't see it... but maybe I also don't see all of how twitter has evolved.

What do you think? Would you use a service like TweetLater? Do you know of people you think might?

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