Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Testable Credentials in the era of Smartphones

Fri, 05/07/2010 - 05:03 -- rprice

While I haven't ever read Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, I recognize the book as a brand around the idea of these "sticky" concepts. Here is a neat video re-posted from Fast Company with one of the authors of Made to Stick.

Testable Credentials

How do you get people to believe your ideas? Well, there’s something we can learn from really sleazy ideas that catch on. For years, Snapple struggled to fight rumors that it supported the KKK.
This crazy rumor challenged people to “see for themselves.” See, look, there’s a K on it. Its credibility derived from something that people could test for themselves. My brother and I call this a “testable credential.” Notice what’s going on here conceptually—when we think about making ideas credible, we usually think about the source. The Surgeon General says something, and we believe it, because he’s a credible authority. But when you use a testable credential, you’re basically outsourcing the credibility of your idea to the audience. It’s like a “try before you buy” concept for ideas.

These sorts of things go over very well in conversations at bars, and they challenge our knowledge of trivia. For example, someone recently claimed to me that Ghirardeli Chocolate was owned by Kraft. Before the rise of internet-connected phones, I would take their word for it and try to remember to look it up later. However, even if I didn't, I'd probably still spread that meme until I could prove otherwise.

Now, every bet can be settled with Wikipedia and IMDB on your phone - particularly if these sites were to provide an off-line version of their database. I know there are several ways to get Wikipedia's English database onto smartphones, even if it takes up a few gigabytes of space.

What will be the next behavior that is outmoded by the wide availability of inexpensive portable internet-connected devices? Maybe my friends and family will stop calling me because they're pretty sure I'm "In front of my computer".

My response could be: "Of course I am, I picked up my phone!"


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BarCampOrlando 2010

Sat, 04/03/2010 - 17:16 -- rprice

I promised some folks from BarCamp I would link to my blog post where I talked about saving local bookstores. I will post some slides soon, but I want to include the bullet points (i.e. actually finish the slides) before they get posted to SlideShare.

Also, if anyone out there is looking for the mailing list for New Media Orlando, jump on there and join the discussion.


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Days of Wine and Roses (and Podcasting)

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 09:00 -- rprice

I'm having a day of nostalgia. I was fiddling with a few things over on the Liberatr site (which seems totally redundant now) when I decided to sample a few of the early episodes of You Can't Spell Crapface Without PFA. I was having such a great time, I listened to one of the shows all the way through, and laughed the whole time! It's probably just the fact that I was there, but by the end of the show I was thoroughly convinced that Emily, Gina, Mumpsy, Marc, Nicole and the rest of us should start doing these talk shows again, if only for an excuse to have a weekly conversation.

Hear what I mean:
Crapface 09 - That was like ESPN!

I'll admit I have a lot of fun recording and keeping up with the DrupalEasy Podcast, but our goals are SO different from that of a laid-back, wine-induced, pop culture free-play verbal romp.

I'm now trying to get a group of people excited about producing local independent media so we can publish it on Orlando Scene TV, but the goals and the tone there will be equally different from DrupalEasy or Crapface. I miss sitting on the couch and broadcasting to 3 people. Let's bring it back.


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Chasing the Bunny in a Blue Ocean

Tue, 02/09/2010 - 02:20 -- rprice

Whenever I write something, from tweets to blog posts, I re-post it to Facebook. My 900-or-so friends are very inclined to comment and reply there. Many of these friends are from the "real" world, but several are not. Most of the people who comment, I notice, are those whom I have met.

In response to my eBook reader review, I got some discussion. One comment in particular drew me to want to write a longer post.
Adam McKercher (I went to school with him) wrote a comment:

I don't know how you [...] keep up with all the "If Only" aspects of computer culture, the vastness and need for improvement, and constant revision is what ultimately lead me to change majors.

I have to say, being in a business like this requires you to be able to look through a telescope, binoculars, bifocals and a magnifying glass, sometimes in the same sentence. Keeping yourself sane while doing so is... an exercise in the power of the human brain. I'm actually hoping to do less "microscope" level work in the future. I really like following trends and making recommendations based on my knowledge of some sort of understanding of the eco-system.

At the same time, when I talk about following trends, it's difficult to draw a hard line between watching trends and keeping up with the Joneses. If you pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing, it will end up influencing your medium-term decisions, and most critically, your day-to-day work.

A former manager of mine had this illness: the "me-too" illness. My coworkers and I started calling it "chasing the bunny", like a greyhound on the racetrack. We would be hard at work on something that we were told to do the previous week, and then we would get these mixed messages from our manager. Once we learned to ignore it, things were OK, we were able to focus on work. However, now we were used to ignoring our manager. This tells me that chasing the bunny is not a good management style. The environment we had was not agile enough to be able to make these changes in direction very easily.

I guess a really easy way to avoid this is to have a great mission statement for your business or product, and create a very clear vision - the place you want to reach in 3, 5 or even 25 years. If you know where you're headed, you won't be prone to rubbernecking at your competition while you should be keeping your eyes on the road.

Blue Ocean Strategy This idea is not completely mine (at least not lately). I've been reading a killer book on a recommendation from Mike. The subtitle of this book is "How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant". Basically, their advice tells you to look at the competition, and "zag" where they "zig". Instead of directly competing, try removing from your product three things that they claim are important, and add a few things that they're not even thinking about.

In the case of 37 Signals' Basecamp, they may have just taken out those three things and stopped. I'd love to see the 4-square Strategy Canvas for any 37 Signals product. Maybe I'll have to blog about this one later.

The book itself was written in 2004, so their case studies are a bit dated - similar to how reading The Long Tail (which was written pre-YouTube), kind of feels like it's missing the boat on the biggest long-tail product of the decade.

At the same time, if you're any good at abstraction, you can take the case studies in these books, extrapolate a bit, and come up with a decent picture of what the author(s) might have said, had they gotten an extra 6 or 7 years to write the book. Maybe that's the best argument ever to create "living" books, like the Complete Guide to Google Wave. When you're writing about something that changes almost daily, how do you reach the point when you can say, "this is the most complete picture of this concept". I read earlier this week about a fancy kind of publication called a Monograph. What a very old-world concept. Very pretentious. Very wrong.

How much do you follow trends, and consciously let those trends effect your work? Would you rather just stop reading raw, real-time messages, and only consume "dead tree" media, allowing time for the message to slowly drip into your train of thought? Do you have a system for absorbing this stuff at all?


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Comparison of eBook Readers for Mac: First Impressions

Sat, 01/30/2010 - 06:08 -- rprice

I have tried reading books on my computer screen before, and I have been disappointed. Mostly, I have realized that scrolling sucks. Given that I have already paid to download a few technical books as PDF, I needed a reader that could make the PDF experience easier than Preview or Adobe.

(psst: I've heard good things about the Kindle, though I have not extensively used one myself. [affiliate link])

EDIT: If you're looking to create ePUB files, check out the beautiful and open source Sigil.

I'm learning to develop for iPhone, so I found two books from Pragmatic Programmers, Cocoa Programming Quick Start and iPhone SDK Development.

Following this, you'll get a screenshot of each reader, and a bit about why I would / wouldn't use it.

Here's Preview:
[caption id="attachment_864" align="alignnone" width="266" caption="Preview"][/caption]

After having gone through the other apps in this list, Preview is actually not too bad for reading technical books, but not my first choice.

I had heard Andy Ihnatko talking about Stanza. I think he likes it to synch books between his iPhone and his laptop. I'm pretty sure you can also buy books wirelessly from your iPhone inside this app.
[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="stanza"][/caption]

The problem here is that this app is designed for reading story books - tons and tons of text, no fancy formatting. In fact, this app strips out all of the formatting and fonts, to the point that it makes no sense for tech manuals.

I saw Tofu on another site reviewing Mac eBook readers.
[caption id="attachment_865" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Tofu"][/caption]

In the description, there was a line "Tofu is different". In fact, Tofu works almost exactly like Stanza (at least for my purposes). While Tofu did keep more of the fonts and formatting, Tofu still wants to break the layout that the original publishers created, which makes this the wrong choice for programming books.

Then I discovered my saving grace: Skim - and it's open source!
[caption id="attachment_863" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Skim"][/caption]

It may be because it is created by programmers scratching their own itches, or maybe because it is not geared specifically for mobile devices or story books, but something just felt right about Skim. I really like the ability to highlight text and leave notes. Everything you highlight now becomes a bookmark you can jump back to for future reference. This seems like an app I'll keep open while I'm coding to go back and refer to examples and explanations. More or less, exactly what I was looking for.

It also has pretty good search functions - when it finds a word you're looking for, it circles it in red. You also have tools to manually circle text, draw a box, underline or strike through text, or draw arrows to help you annotate graphics.

There is a full screen mode and a presentation mode, as well as a neat feature called the reading bar - basically, a line-by-line bookmark to let you remember where you left off.

I've said the most about Skim because that's my pick. It's free, Mac-only, and open source.

A final note: I also tried an application called eReader Pro. This seemed to be tied to an online bookstore, and had zero support for PDF. Any tech book I've seen comes as a PDF, so steer clear of this one if you're a programmer.


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Yay Boston!

Fri, 01/22/2010 - 07:52 -- rprice

It was prohibited to use a camera inside the museum, so I recorded this one in the parking lot.

I had a great time conducting training in Boston and met some great Drupal folks - @starshaped, @finkatronic, @himerus, and @susanmacphee. We hung out and had some good times, and I got a tour of the MIT Media Lab, which is on my short list of places to go if I ever feel insane enough to attempt graduate school. At the very least, that building houses some of the coolest projects that mankind has created in recent years. I'd like to go back, and I may get a shot when the next Desgin4Drupal event comes up.

While I was at the museum I also purchased a Diana F+ Camera by Lomography and proceeded to incorrectly load the film - I'm pretty sure my first sixteen photos on Lomo will be ruined, but we'll see.

I am finally getting to hang out at Proctors after having built them a new site last spring. It's cool to actually see this space "IRL".

Now I should get back to work fixing their Drupal TV displays. I only have a few minutes before I go meet everyone from the theatre.


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Florida DrupalCamp - Feb 20-21, 2010

Sun, 01/17/2010 - 04:08 -- rprice

This is the 2nd annual DrupalCamp Florida held in Altamonte, FL. Open Source software tools are a great resource for companies and organizations to cost-effectively connect, communicate, and organize members using the Internet. One of these free tools for website creation and management is Drupal, a content management system that uses a modular approach that allows organizations to easily customize their websites and use blogs, video and user content to build their communities.

Florida DrupalCamp - Feb 20-21, 2010
Click here to register and get more info about DrupalCamp

Drupal has a very active community that will gather at DrupalCamp Florida on February 20 and 21st, where new and seasoned users learn about and share their knowledge of Drupal. The event is an opportunity to get an overview of Drupal and the developer and user community in Florida.

We will be having an event after all the learning to get some grub, drinks, relax, and get to know each other better.

If you're interested in this event, please comment below and let me know!

Download a 10 minute podcast about the 2010 Florida DrupalCamp and our Coding for a Cause non-profit benefit

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Community Media works when you get involved

Mon, 01/04/2010 - 04:09 -- rprice

We had our first official Producers meeting about the new Orlando Scene TV (background) this week. Michael showed us all a trailer based on footage he and I had put together, and something funny happened inside me:

I was overjoyed that this crappy video I shot was getting used in something so professional and awesome.

Then I realised that we can bring that feeling to dozens and dozens of people every time we release a half-hour show, and a whole bunch of pieces clicked together in my head.

In order to really have the community feel like they own this thing, we have to make a pointed effort to include their contributions in every single episode, and make a call for entries loud and clear.

This isn't about UGC. This is about something more real than that. Each community member has an equal chance of creating something that makes the final product better.

Then, they will want to call their mom and their friends and tell them "turn on channel 1, watch my video on this show!"

If I can call my mom, then we have succeeded.

When there are moms calling other moms, we have reached the tipping point.

If all those moms and their kids give us a few bucks, we can quit our jobs and make this full-time. We can rent a coworking space, train new filmmakers, buy them equipment, build a network and live the dream.


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On the end of Terrestrial TV Broadcasting

Sun, 01/03/2010 - 05:17 -- rprice

There was a big discussion last week on my local geeky mailing list that started because of a mention that local TV stations may stop broadcasting over-the-air for free.

From Yahoo News:

The recession has squeezed advertising further, forcing broadcasters to accelerate their push for new revenue to pay for programming.

That will play out in living rooms across the country. The changes could mean higher cable or satellite TV bills, as the networks and local stations squeeze more fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV for the right to show broadcast TV channels in their lineups. The networks might even ditch free broadcast signals in the next few years.

I say this can be a good thing for Local Producers looking to grab ad dollars from retailers in their area, and find ways to connect with their local community and economy. The hyper-local video shows we are producing in the dark now will have a hungry audience looking for content.

However, I don't think that we can be successful unless internet gets a lot more ubiquitous - we either need more competition, or more over-the-air access to the network, or both. Where is all the WiMax we were promised?

Once we get the WiMax, then why doesn't it come bundled with content, similar to Verizon FiOS? They would do well to throw in a set-top box like a Roku or the upcoming Boxee device with a 2-year contract, and maybe some bonus subscriptions thrown in there.

A small chunk of the ad revenue is being recouped online, where the networks sell episodes for a few dollars each or run ads alongside shows on sites such as Hulu. Media economist Jack Myers projects online video advertising will grow into a $2 billion business by 2012, from just $350 million to $400 million in 2009.

But that is not significant enough to make up for the lost ad revenue on the airwaves. Advertisers spent $34 billion on broadcast commercials in 2008, down by $2.4 billion from two years earlier, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising.

Crybabies! Figure out how to operate lean and mean, trim the fat, and stop paying people who think they know what's best for their audience - why not try asking us for a change?

If all they're going to do is keep making reality TV, I'll be happy that it's not getting sent over the airwaves - I don't want to see any more of that crap. I don't care if they do have Ben Folds now, it's stupid, mindless and childish.

But tell us how you really feel...

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Magazine Reader Concept by Bonnier

Sat, 01/02/2010 - 06:33 -- rprice

The parent company of my old employers have hired a design firm to create a concept of an ideal electronic magazine reader.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

One of my favorite parts is when he talks about feeling as though you have "completed" reading the magazine. He says it from the editorial point of view, but for me it has to do with my habits (or you could call it OCD). When I'm reading email or feeds, I get driven by the number, as in the number of remaining articles to be read, or the number of comments to approve, the number of plugins to update, the number of emails to delete. It gives me a sense of how far I've gotten, and it's a powerful motivator for someone like me.

It's also cool that the spine is e-paper. That and the "heating up" rubbing gesture are two of my favorite parts about this video.

Really, these concept videos are so damn flashy - even though this one is trying to be minimalist. I get frustrated, because I know that actually seeing this device is still several years away, if it ever gets made. I still think of the Optimus Keyboard, which is now finally released 4-5 years later, and with a $2000 price tag. On the other hand, it's pretty awesome.

Even if we never see this device in the wild, hopefully the good design and user experience will make its way into other applications and devices in the next few years.


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