Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

November 2009 Posts

Firefox 3.6 Beta

Wed, 11/25/2009 - 03:48 -- rprice

I've been trying to keep up with web browser innovation for a while now, even though it might be painful or inconvenient. At the same time, it's one thing I get some satisfaction out of. I've talked in the past about Flock, Songbird, Miro, and lots of web browser related topics.

This morning I grabbed Firefox 3.6 Beta 3 (download), and it's got some interesting fun features. First of all, HTML 5 Videos can go full-screen. This is a big step towards in-browser video. Another huge improvement is support for CSS3 fonts, particularly the new WOFF format.

There are also some cool new CSS and DOM features, like crisp vs smooth image scaling (the only way to see the result is to have 3.6 installed) - then there is something very cool I would love to see someone play with - accelerometer support! I assume this will be most useful when they start rolling out mobile browsers, but it currently works on Mac OSX.

I've also been helping to test some extensions by just doing basic reporting with the Addon Compatibility Reporter. Really, the best part here is that it will let you use Extensions that are not properly flagged, so I get to work around one of the most frustrating beta-testing features, which is that you lose some of those useful tools! I'm glad they have a way to keep my essential addons around.

Go Try it out!


Commenting on this Blog post is closed.

How to Upload Podcast Files to Amazon S3 with Firefox

Tue, 11/17/2009 - 16:03 -- rprice

I recently moved several gigabytes of audio podcast files off of my server into the cloud. Amazon S3 is a simple and cost-effective way to reliably and quickly distribute files like podcasts to a large audience.

This video shows how to upload audio files and set public permissions using the Amazon S3 Firefox Organizer and Amazon's Simple Storage Service. Check my channel for more how-to videos and for Drupal tutorials and podcasts.

Commenting on this Blog post is closed.

Bootstrapping a Videoblogging Army

Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:19 -- rprice

Every time I happen to catch a few minutes of the nightly news, I kind of want to vomit. The scare tactics, the way they talk down to the audience, the insanely short clips, and the tons of other tricks that mainstream media uses to bolster ratings and viewership really grind my grindable parts.

Then we have the exact polar opposites, like Orlando Event TV - Orlando Event TV this and several other shows produced locally are really trying to show everyone what it really means to be a citizen of this community, and they are all about the transparency. When you watch this video of Mark Baratelli in Winter Park, for example, the voice is completely different than the nightly news. He is much more watchable than a talking head in a TV studio.

I had a similar dream not too long ago, and that manifested itself as Orlando Scene TV and a bunch of other sites, like Orlando Video. The honest truth here is that I was not able to keep the momentum going for long periods of time. Producing video and being an unstoppable advocate for your product take a lot of time, energy, and the cooperation of a passionate community. Then there's a question of money - how can I pay my rent, etc. if all I'm ever doing is recording people's rock shows and theatre performances. It just never added up for me.

Then a little while ago I realized that the only way to really get a local indie TV project off the ground would be to distribute the workload as much as possible.

What does this look like? Well, now that I have the idea from The Art of Community to come up with a list of teams and their responsibilities, I see the teams as follows:
Internet TV and Local Events Community
Let me be clear about a few things:


The role of the audience here is to let us know that we are giving them something they want, and to give us some ideas to keep moving this machine forward. Kickstarter (or something like it) could be a powerful force here: we can hold certain great ideas for ransom unless there is a certain amount of community support. The audience laid out here is really a fraction of the audience, the most passionate 2%. I also think this group will be web-savvy enough to have their own web sites or popular facebook profiles (hundreds of friends), and they will want to use these channels to help us promote our cause.

Tech Leads

Aside from pushing buttons, I also put these people in the role of "product designers". If Jony Ive has a lot to do with the success of Apple products, then we should be able to assign a few people in our community a similar amount of responsibility. These people are very highly skilled, and may only contribute once every few years, when we redesign the title graphics and the website, or they may help us create fliers, blog badges an mini-sites on a more frequent basis. These are also the User Experience designers - in charge of the overall way in which people interact with the product.


Here, a producer is anyone who makes something. That means hosts, script or show notes writers, video editors, etc. A production team could be all of one person, or it could be as large as 5 or 6. It really depends on the skills of everyone involved and the scope of the particular project. A large goal here would be to make sure that anyone who counts as a producer could technically do everything by him- or herself if needed, but it's really a question of time. Like I said before, this is the repetitive and time-hogging part, even if we can streamline the whole process.

The other key is to make sure that everyone owns his or her work, not only from an intellectual property perspective, but in a support fashion as well - if someone has a question about the restaurant you reviewed, you should be the one to get the notification and reply. In this way, people may start to develop a "beat" or even "channels" of information, and it could make sense to give certain producers their own sites. Pulling a line from The Starfish and the Spider, the producers give little more than spiritual guidance to the community. He can suggest large projects or hair-brained schemes, but he will be on his own unless they get a decent number of other community members to support and participate. These ideas can even come from the Audience, but as they don't often produce content, an audience member will have to find a champion for her great idea.

The last piece of this puzzle for me is the equipment. We only need a few REALLY expensive tools - many people already own a computer, and video editing tools are freely available. Coming by decent video cameras is what used to be difficult, until recently. If you really want to spend some green, go ahead and get a Flip or a Kodak - even most consumer still cameras have pretty nice video capabilities. However, this still costs anywhere from $100 - $350, and that is a large financial barrier right now.

What if we could make the cost of entry $30?

That's such a small amount, we could probably raise a few hundred dollars from our community and outfit an entire army with these cheap video tools in no time at all!

I heard about the Coby CAM3000 Mini Digital Camcorder on a podcast I regularly listen to, The Daily Giz Wiz. As far as I know, this is the absolutely least expensive (yet decent) tool for capturing video made by a well-known manufacturer. I plan on picking one up just to field test it - it's so affordable, why not?

The other part of my plan here is to get some training and best practices in the heads of these videobloggers before they get out in the wild. We already have some community spaces and LOTS of events happening, so the material is always out there. We could pair up one new guy with an experienced producer and mentor them in the basics. Make sure they know not to film in too much or too little light, how to get some decent sound, introduce them to some basic video editing, and how to post videos. This might take one long day or a few evenings out, but there will be a certain point when a new producer will just have to get out on her own and start learning by doing.

We won't just "give" out these cameras - they will have to be earned. If we apply some sort of a value to the camera - say, 10 points, and videos another - say 1 point for a video shorter than 3 minutes, 2 points for a video 4 minutes or longer of a reasonable quality - later when we can offer better equipment - the Kodak Zi8, or the Flip Mino HD, or perhaps even other stuff to barter for. I also have this thought right now that if we have any advertising revenue to share, it will be based on your continued contribution of at least X points in a 1-3 month period - we would probably need a way to make sure that we always have fresh content coming in, so we need to assign deadlines to keep people from getting lazy. As soon as this machine loses a certain amount of momentum, it might as well not be running at all.

That's as far as I'm going to wander into this thought experiment for now. I don't have a great picture of how other organizations do it, and this is just something I've been stewing on for a few months when I really get the chance to think about it, which is not very often at all. I'd love to take a look at how NowPublic and a whole bunch of other public media entities handle this. There are lots of questions unanswered here, but I've been struggling to really write down and communicate this idea to a large group for a while now.

If you'd like to talk more, I think we should wake up the PodCamp Orlando mailing list. I'm going to send this same text out there to see if we get any bites. Please blog about this, tweet it, point to the list page, get everyone who might be interested involved in the discussion.

Tonight is a Florida Creatives Happy Hour, and Friday is MOOM. We should be having a Likemind on December 4th, and another Happy Hour on December 21st. If you'd like to talk in person, these days are really good ones to engage me and others who are interested in making Orlando more awesome.

Update: We now have a project planning site - if you want to get an invite, leave a comment below, and make sure you fill in the email field.

Commenting on this Blog post is closed.

Drupal and Interactive Marketing

Thu, 11/12/2009 - 09:45 -- rprice

Check out this slideshow by Robert Douglass at a recent conference in Europe. Pretty heavy on the Acquia love, but a nice overview of some ways large companies are rolling out dozens of sites and micro-sites to as many different audiences with Drupal.

This was actually a large part of my daily responsibilities while working for Popular Science. We spent a lot of time working on a site for the annual Best of What's New promotion (the email for this year's BoWN just went out), as well as some micro-sites for a sports promotion, and the B2B part of BoWN.

Drupal's multi-site capabilites, combined with things like Themes, Internationalization, Installation Profiles (or Features), and finally management products like Aegir, can really make rolling out a few dozen Drupal sites just as easy as rolling out just one site. We've actually had talks about this at some recent Florida Drupal User Group meetings.


Commenting on this Blog post is closed.

What's been going on in my life?

Sun, 11/08/2009 - 11:04 -- rprice

Lemur!, originally uploaded by

Um... where has the time gone? So many things have been happening lately, I feel like if I were to tell them all here, I'd pass another 2 weeks just re-counting all of them.

After the New Media Think and Drink, (go listen to the audio, and the audio of the 2nd half), I was excited about Community Building and Social Media Consulting even more than I have been in a long time. Also, the Digital Media Banner Center asked me to contribute to their New and Emerging Industries Task Force, which is basically trying to find jobs for journalists who have been laid off recently. I was very excited and honored to be a part of something constructive and forward-thinking. Needless to say, they were able to (once again) gather a group of smart, talented and well-experienced people and get them to talk about changing the world. I love that kind of stuff.

We have been doing lots of awesome DrupalEasy stuff lately - we have great podcasts with book authors and our patented "bookaway" contests, where you get Drupal books just for listening and commenting. I also got the chance to FLY up do to some Drupal Training in North Carolina. It was the first time that someone (specifically, Tomas and Jerry) actually FLEW to come hear me speak. I was proud.

I had a great time and got to try some wonderful craft beers at the Flying Saucer in Raleigh. I also learned that Raleigh has a Drupal User Group, but a bit too late. They actually had their meeting the same night I was headed home. Maybe next time!

The new house is treating me very well, the cats, Mariah and I are all settling in just fine, but Fozzie (my cat) has to stay in his cage, because he's still trying to heal his leg, and he gets in too many fights with Litmus and Loki (Mariah's cats), who are much older and set in their ways. He really likes chasing them around the house and is constantly getting hit in the face while trying to mount the large cat tree in the living room.

It's also really nice working here. I have been "working from home" for most of the past 6 years, but only in this house have I ever had a dedicated room as an office, and an atmosphere that was so conducive to working and collaborating with others. I think getting this house will be one of the things I look back on as being very good for my work and creative lives, in addition to the benefits everyone else gets from owning a house. We already had one big party here, back on Talk Like a Pirate Day, and a few weeks ago, we tested out the Party Patio, the BBQ grill, and the fire pit.

A large part of my last few months was actually dedicated to working with a friend of mine, Kyle, on teaching him Drupal, and updating the website for his podcast, the Student of the Game. That site and Florida Creatives are two of the ideas that have really stuck back from the days when I was doing Liberatr more full-time. Kyle was laid off, and I was trying to introduce him to web site building and freelancing. We got pretty far with the whole idea, but it's not like you can just flip a switch and change someone's life, so he's taken a contract with some place crunching database rows and generating reports. We'll keep working on it, just a bit slower. That's fine, because I need to work too.

Speaking of Florida Creatives, we are inching up on the start of the 4th year of Orlando Happy Hours for creative people. Our regular meetup will take place on the 16th at Crooked Bayou, just like it always does. I've also been trying to delegate some of the responsibility, like website design. Erik Baldwin is a fantastic designer and a good friend, and he's been coming up with some designs based on my rudimentary wireframes, and I've also been adding new features to the site, like the Communties and Meetups page. I'm not sure how this feature will ultimately present itself, but it's already better than a flat wiki page with just text and links. There's nothing stopping anyone from adding new ones, but we're not exactly advertising the feature just yet.

Also this week, I have been having some problems with an old server I keep around for hosting personal sites and sites for friends, so I started the very large task of moving several gigabytes of files over to Amazon S3. Namely, all the podcasts I recorded a few years back, and everything Kyle produced for the Student of the game in the past 4 seasons of football. As far as I can tell, everything is happily hosted by "the cloud" now, and the end users don't know the difference.

One more geeky update, and I'll be through. It's about Twitter, so feel free to tune out now.

Twitter finally added a feature... something useful, and something that would be hard for a 3rd party to add. It's called Lists, and I started making some. They're useful for me, as I'm following 1700 people and my attempts to make the list shorter are really just making me find more people I want to follow, but for a multitude of subjects. One is just plain old technology, which is what my RSS reader used to be for. The next is a collection of the other Twitter accounts I own or manage, and hopefully one day twitter will let me say WHY I made each list one day. The last and most complete right now is my list of Drupal people. I think I'm also going to start one for coworking, but I haven't really done much with it yet.

I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but I feel pretty well vented right now. I really need to get to this blogging thing more often...

Commenting on this Blog post is closed.