There’s been much ado of late about Google‘s acquisition of YouTube. Many are referring to YouTube now as GooTube, and it’s clear from some videos on YouTube that some folk are pretty nervous about the acquisition, fearing that the video service will become a pay-to-play service or that Google will find some other way to ruin YouTube. My own attention lately has been directed largely to the preparation of my home for sale, and as part of those preparations, I’ve purchased a product, pictured here, that may be of interest to those worried by this new business partnership. I present to you “Goo Gone,” which in my experience is better at killing ants than it is at anything else. Apply to GooTube and rub vigorously. Results may vary.
While waiting in line at a craft store today, I saw the item pictured here in a display by the cash register. Next to it were some other “Flocked Minis” of Halloween figures (ghosts and pumpkins), but for my purchasing power, the birds were it. (There were also some little bears that I almost always think about getting for my daughter when I see them, but they didn’t come in the tangentially-Flock-relevant packaging, so I opted out of those once again.)
Lest you think this is an ill-advised product placement, let me explain that flocking is (among other things) a technique of texturing or patterning something with pulverized wool or felt (source). These turkey figurines are flocked. I wonder if turkeys actually flock in the wild.
I’m no good with version numbers, but I hereby propose that whatever version number we’ve reached when we’re down to the letter “T” in our count (our already having used Buzzard and Cardinal and heading into Danphe) that we name the browser Turkey.
My daughter enjoyed playing with the turkeys.
I picked up Cal Henderson’s Building Scalable Web Sites the other night hoping to learn something about “The Flickr Way” of building scalable web sites. I’m about halfway through and have mixed feelings so far about its usefulness for my purposes, but I couldn’t help feeling a little thrill when I encountered a reference to Flock on page 142. This portion of the book gives a brief explanation of the http request/response life cycle, and Cal happened to be using Flock while generating his example request (which returns a 404, if you’re interested, though the example suggests otherwise 😉 ).
I suppose I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised to see a Flock reference in a book by a guy from Web 2.0 darling Flickr. That Lloyd and Cal are buddies (there are photos to prove it) and that Cal has been spotted at SuperHappyDevHouses (the creation and proliferation of which past Flockers Termie and Factoryjoe have been instrumental in) should have rendered it even less of a surprise. Still, when I saw the example, I flopped the book down and exclaimed to my wife, “Hey, Flock’s in this book! Woo hoo!”
I wrote the other night about my frustration with comments in WordPress. The anti-spam tools that come with the software are great for squashing spam, but I still occasionally go through periods during which I get a bunch of emails asking me to log in and moderate spam, and that irritates me. Most of these moderation requests are for spam on old posts. So I decided to write a WordPress plugin that would auto-disable comments and pings on old posts. This allows me to keep comments open for those who read my stuff and would like to comment within a reasonable timeframe but keeps me from having to go back and manually run mysql queries by hand (or, worse yet, manually edit old posts) to turn off comments on individual posts. (The WordPress options for commenting affect only future posts.)
The plugin is a simple one, providing an option under the “Manage” and “Manage Comments” administrative screens allowing you to set the number of days old a post must be to have its comments disabled. If you post infrequently, this plugin won’t do you much good, as its action is triggered by the saving of a post. If you post every few days as I tend to, though, it’ll do an ok job of keeping old posts from picking up comment spam. The default threshold is 14 days. So any time I add or save a post, WordPress runs a query that disables comments and pings on all posts created more than 14 days ago. That’s all there is to it.
Download the plugin here if you think you’d find it useful.
Tonight, I attended the blogger meetup that Mike organized. Counting Mike’s brother and girlfriend (both of whom were mostly absent but were warm bodies in occasional attendance, so I’ll count them provisionally), there were eight of us, all tied to Mike through past or current jobs or the aforementioned relationships. One guy was an apparently random acquaintance of Mike’s who since connecting with him has gotten a job at Mike’s place of work through no help from Mike (more or less at random, that is). Weird. Anyway, so we had a pretty decent crowd for a first meetup, though I hope that for future meetings, we can expand our network a bit and bring in some new folk. (Which let me say is a strange thing for me to hope because I’m generally pretty reclusive and not interested in adding more people to the list of those I feel obligated to remember or communicate with. Let’s keep that our little secret.)
We had discussion of three items on the agenda: photo manipulation/hosting tools, Flock as the blogger’s browser, and video blogging.
First, Mike gave an overview of Google’s Picassa, which includes a desktop client for photo manipulation and a (beta) web service for display of photos in albums. The client looks pretty nice, with basic and pretty easy-to-use tools for manipulating photos. Want to bring out highlights in a picture? Just hit the highlights button and adjust the levels (or something like that). It seems like a great lightweight tool for doing the sort of basic operations that those of us who’re intimidated by Photosho or The Gimp are likely to want to do. As for uploading and displaying, there are some weak points. You can’t upload one-off photos, for example — they all have to go into an album. For most users, this is probably fine, but it’s nice to be able to post a one-off screen shot as well. The web display itself seems pretty weak. There’s a concept of favorites or friends, and there are settings to be able to publicly list albums, but there seems to be no interface for searching for photos or friends. If I happen to know Mike’s gmail username and know the base url for the photo service, I can assemble a url that will show me his albums, but that’s not user-friendly to say the least. I imagine the service will be expanded to fix these problems. All of this is basically moot for me, as the client isn’t available for linux, but it was interesting nevertheless.
Next, Mike gave a demonstration of Flickr’s capabilities. I hadn’t expected to learn much here, but he showed me some things I hadn’t looked into before, most of the details of which I’ve forgotten by now but will delve back into as need arises. There’s more you can do with Flickr’s organizer tool than I had ever discovered; I had always thought of it as merely a way to organize sets, but you can batch add tags, set privacy, etc., and with some of the gaps in Flock’s ability to batch edit photos, these things are very useful. There are also some neat views of photos and tags that I hadn’t looked into. My impression of Flickr in recent months has been a better one than previously. Things seem more discoverable since some features were added to the site. Between that and Mike’s demo, I may find myself actually using the site more than I’ve been accustomed to doing in the past.
At this point in the evening, after a late start, we’re more than an hour into the evening and it’s my turn to present. Mid-presentation (baby’s bed-time), I get a call from my wife that I dismiss. The moral of the story is that we need to plan less stuff for these meetings and trust the power of gab to carry us through to a sufficiently lengthy time. I thought at this point about suggesting that we push either Perry’s vlogging segment or my segment off to a future session, but I wimped out, not wanting to hijack the meeting.
As I result, I rushed through my segment, for which I’m a little embarrassed to admit I wasn’t terribly well prepared. It was clear that Mike had spent some time thinking about what he was going to demo. I had run through doing a blog post in Flock’s editor but hadn’t really scripted anything out, and I think that between that and my being in a rush, I probably did a pretty poor job of showcasing Flock’s capabilities. We’ll be releasing a new version of the software before too long, and there’ll be big changes then, so perhaps I can get some more time then and do a better job. The 30-second version of my presentation is roughly as follows: Hey, there’s an html rich editor, so you don’t have to code html anymore. There’s also this little shelf thing at the bottom that you can drag pictures and text into and then back out of to construct rich blog posts. And there’s this photobar that shows your Flickr photos (and those of others) for easy dragging into blog posts. And you can easily drag/drop upload photos straight from within your browser and get notifications when your friends post their photos. (Not covered in my presentation but important is the fact that this uploader tool works in linux and thus has caused me to upgrade to a pro Flickr account and actually bother to snap photos.)
Now Perry stepped up to the plate to talk about screencasting. A screencast is basically a movie of somebody’s desktop as they use software and explain the process. He reviewed several tools that I was interested in seeing but that were sort of dead ends for me because they can’t be used on linux. (Side note: A week or two ago, I briefly evaluated something called xvidcap for linux; after hacking the config so that it would compile on my system, I wound up finding the software difficult to use, but probably about as good as it gets for this type of software on linux.) In one case, Perry used a piece of screencasting software to do a screencast of the software itself. (It was during this window that my future self came back to visit me and prevented my future untimely demise by suggesting that I take an alternate route home; it was strange.) I found myself thinking during Perry’s presentation that the perfect synthesis of our evening would be Perry’s doing a screencast of Picassa and posting it to his blog using Flock. (My future self had nothing to say about whether this would actually happen, though I did press for an answer.) (Ahem. It’s late and I’m tired.)
After Perry’s talk, we briefly discussed finding a mechanism for publishing events. Orkut (which several of us had signed up for) sucks for this sort of thing, and who wants to pay meetup.com for this? We discussed using Gmail’s calendar, which we should be able to syndicate for publication on a web site if we ever build one. We also discussed finding a plugin for WordPress and just having a blog site. I think we finally concluded to not worry too much about web infrastructure until the core group’s a little more established and we have any hope of attracting a broader audience.
And so concluded our meetup. I think Mike briefly proposed discussing next time (probably a month or so from now) some of the options for hosting your blog. All in all, it was a good meeting, and I’m frankly a little surprised to report (see note above about my being nearly pathologically anti-social) that I look forward to the next one.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the driver’s seat for a Flock meetup here in Knoxville. My pal Mike has since begun organizing a Knoxville bloggers meetup to discuss blog tools more generally. Details (straight from Mike’s blog):
When: Wednesday, August 23rd 7:00pm
Where: Mike’s Place (directions when you RSVP)
What: Knoxville’s local bloggers get together to talk about tools and services that help bloggers.
Who: Anyone who has a blog, wants a blog, or wants to learn about blogs.
Why: We don’t need a why!
You can RSVP to me or go over to Mike’s site to RSVP. Mike’ll give a little presentation on some image hosting/manipulation tools, I’ll give a half-assed demonstration of some of Flock’s features, and Perry will talk a bit about video blogging tools. From there, we’ll talk amongst ourselves about the tools presented and figure out where to go from here with the meetup group.
If you’re already a blogger or are just curious about what all this blogging stuff is all about, this first meetup should provide a good introduction to some of the tools and services available to you.