November 2008

New Sites!

I’m a little obsessed with twitter. So is Tara. You might have noticed. We use it all the time but we also look at how other people are using it. It’s really interesting to start seeing the trends develop. One thing that we noticed was that people were using twitter a lot to point out things they think are cool and are lusting after, especially things they have just stumbled across. Things they want. This got us thinking.

When someone you are friends with points out something they think is cool there’s a good chance you’ll dig it too. But this stuff existed before your friends found it, so maybe there’s a way to find this stuff earlier. We started noticing people were posting links to this stuff and decided to try to isolate those tweets. We messed around with the twitter API and after a week or two we’re psyched to launch tweetwants!

It’s pretty simple and straightforward for the most part. If you post on twitter and say that you want something, with a URL immediately following the word “want” it’ll get pulled for tweetwants. It’s not 100% perfect, but it works pretty well. We’ve also set up @tweetwants on twitter where we’ll be posting news, as well as trends we notice. We’re doing it by hand at the moment so no promises, but so far it’s been exciting to see something new pop up and then people from all over catch on and repost it. We even have a “retweet” option on the site so if you see something you also want, you can tweet it with one click.

We got that together and assumed when it launched it would be a massive hit. Legendary even. And everyone knows the best way to capitalize on a success is with a follow up while it’s still fresh on people’s minds. So obviously the best time would be at the same time. So we tweeked the images and code and birthed the step sister site – tweetfails. This site, as you might have guessed, tracks things people think are fails. Fails actually show up more often than wants, but it’s equally interesting and amusing. We think so anyway, and hope you will to. If nothing else both sites were super fun to build.

We’ve got a few other ideas kicking around, but in the meantime I’d love to hear what you think of these.

Happy Birthday Sean Patrick McCabe

Today would have been Sean Patrick McCabe’s birthday. He would have been turning 37. He died on August 28, 2000. I found an old blog post I wrote about him and thought I’d republish it for today.
inkanddagger.gifI just found a wikipedia article on Ink & Dagger and realized that there really needs to be one for Sean at some point. I don’t recall the first time I met Sean Patrick McCabe in person but it was early 90’s – 93 or 94 perhaps. I’d known him for quite sometime prior to that from the #sxe IRC channel that all 14 of the straight edge kids who had internet connections at the time used to hang out on. He also wrote a lot on his university provided “homepage” which I wish I had archives of all these years later. He quickly became a very close friend of mine, probably because of our similar tendencies towards causing trouble to keep people on their toes although he was much better at it than I was.

Over the next few years we talked hundreds of times about every topic I can think of and I frequently stayed at his apartment when passing through Philly although was never able to return the favor. For a while he worked at Kinkos and a handful of the first Toybox Records releases had printing that was done with his “help.” Before I officially stopped doing Toybox there were only a few records that I had ever hopped to put that had not actually come to fruition. One of those was the Frail Album (Don later went on to Join Sean in Ink & Dagger) and the other was a CD of all the songs from Sean’s first band, Crud is a Cult. Frail never ended up recording the album, but with Crud it wasn’t even that good of an excuse. Sean and I had the whole thing planned out and it was all recorded, the problem was he couldn’t get ahold of the masters. Some were being held by ex band members, some by other labels that had planned to release them. What he had he sent me and I still have some of those songs but wish I had the others. Once I moved to Chicago we didn’t talk as much but it was for no reason other than hectic schedules which I’m finding out is a worse excuse all the time. I did see him a few times when Ink & Dagger was on tour through town but we only talked every few months, if that. A lot of the people who used to look up to him in the early 90’s turned their back on him when he started drinking (as most straight edge kids from that era did) but I never really gave a shit about that, and I think he knew that. I never bought into the “if you aren’t now you never were” bullshit that holier than thou flag wavers used to preach. Sean was my friend and that was way more important that what he did or didn’t drink. Or maybe judgement has just never been my thing.

It had probably been almost a year since I talked to him when I heard that he died a few months earlier. At first I didn’t believe it, it seemed very much like the kind of prank he would have tried to pull on everyone. I tried to contact some of our mutual friends to no avail but a few weeks worth of searching seemed to confirm it. He was found dead in a hotel room in Indiana in 2000, after choking on his own vomit or something like that. I wish I could make the Spinal Tap joke about how they couldn’t prove that it was his own vomit but the whole thing still bums me out too much. His birthday just past about a month ago, November 13th. He would have been 35 this year. For some fucked up reason a lot of people I knew died while I was in High School and College but Sean was the first one to really get to me. He was easily one of the most influential people I’ve ever known and someone that I still think about all too frequently. The crazy thing is, the very few people who knew him that I’ve talked to about him since he died have all had similar memories of him. One of those really bright stars that burned out too quickly.

Qwitter is bad for everyone

I’ve been meaning to write something about Qwitter for a while now but have been holding off because of two main reasons, namely that I really despise the app coupled with the fact that I really like the guys who built it. If you don’t know already Qwitter monitors your twitter account and notifies you when someone stops following you. It’s built by Ireland’s Contrast who are extremely cool and totally rock in my book. So, there you have my biases front and center.

My biggest problem with Qwitter, and the one that covers all the bases in one shot is that is creates drama and negativity from something that should be innocuous. Can you imagine if there was a service out there that notified you when someone you know chose to move an e-mail you sent them from their inbox to their archive folder, or worse to delete it? If you got a notice saying “Britney Spears just deleted the e-mail you sent on the 5th of October with the subject ‘OMG R U Pregnant AGAIN?!’ ” – Even if Britney had already responded to your e-mail you’d be forced to wonder what she was thinking when she clicked delete. Maybe she was pissed off at you and steaming at the thought of it, or maybe she was just deleting all the e-mails she’d gotten last month that had already been responded to. You wouldn’t know either way, but are now forced to wonder. An act as simple and common as deleting an old e-mail has now sparked feelings of resentment.

In a way that is what Qwitter does to twitter. I’ve written before about how I use twitter and have heard from a good number of people that their usages follows mine to some extent. On any given day I add 2-3 people, remove 2-3 people, read the tweets by several people that I don’t follow by looking at their page on the site, and maybe turn notifications on or off for a person or two. If I’m traveling, that gets compounded. Frequently when going to a new city I’ll start following 10-20 new people who I might be interacting with, and I might stop following 10-20 people from a previous city who I won’t be running into on a daily basis. I’ve written about how when I start following more than 200 people the flood of tweets is so constant that I miss more than I get and it becomes useless for me. And the beautiful thing is that because of the web version of twitter, and tools like Facebook, Ping.FM, Friendfeed, Loopt, etc – I don’t need to actually “follow” someone on twitter to read everything they post to twitter. To go back to the e-mail analogy I don’t need to keep an e-mail in my inbox to be interested in what the person has to say.

iTunes Library hell

I’ve written before about my problems managing my iTunes library and it’s just getting worse and worse so I’m posting again in hopes that someone has figured out a solution or something that can help make it a bit less sucky.

So here’s my problem, I have a huge iTunes library. Easily 100 gigs. My main computer is a laptop, which doesn’t have the HD space to hold 100 gigs of MP3s. Moving it to an external HD was my original solution except if for some reason iTunes was launched without the HD being plugged in (by clicking an iTunes link, plugging in my iPhone, or any number of other reasons) then iTunes would not see the external HD, redirect the music links to the internal music folder which of course didn’t contain anything and then break all the links. Upon plugging the HD back in, iTunes would not look at it and the songs would remain broken and would need to be fixed by hand one at a time, or reimported creating duplicates. Argh!

My follow up solution was to have my full library at home, and a separate library, much smaller and mostly newer, on my laptop. Occasionally I’d dump the new stuff on to the old larger library and keep fingers crossed that this synced. Well it never did and I’m back with two different libraries both with tons of duplicates and missing songs, even though the files are there.

This really sucks.

6 best ways to get into conferences free

It’s web conference season again and being someone who goes to a ton of conferences, sees a lot of value in talking to the people who also attended a lot of conferences, sees little value in most of the panels at conferences and hasn’t paid for a conference in recent history, I thought I’d pass on a few tips to all you whippersnappers looking for ways to check this out. First off, let me take a second to note that I’ve talked to a lot of people recently who have relayed massive sob stories about not being able to afford conferences so therefor not going. Let me tell you, back in my day we didn’t let silly things like “not having the cash for admission” stand in our way! Anyway, here’s a few tricks to add to your jelly bean bowl that might help you get a seat for free that someone else had to con their company into paying for.

  1. Just walk in. Seriously, you’d be surprised at how often this works. The guards at the doors are supposed to be looking for badges but I suspect they are greatly underpaid and most don’t really care. Just act like you know what you are doing when you walk by. If for some reason they do stop you and ask, tell them you left it in your bag which is already inside and you just walked out a moment ago, don’t they remember?? You’ll be in in a heartbeat.
  2. Don’t want to risk having to BS with a guard? Get yourself a lanyard. A little known secret is that most conferences have unique sponsor branded lanyards that are just as good as a pass. Offer a real attendee $10 for their lanyard and put it around your neck, but tuck the end where a badge usually would be into your sweater or jacket – the guards will see the lanyard and assume you have a badge and waves you right past.
  3. Still worried about having your bluff called? Get a real badge. Doesn’t matter what name is on it, the guards aren’t checking IDs. If you have a pass from last year chances are it’s the same, if you don’t hang around at the end of day one and ask people who are leaving, ESPECIALLY speakers, if they are coming back the following day, and if not can you have their pass? I walked into an O’Reilly conference one year with Tim O’Reilly’s badge and the security didn’t even question it.
  4. Go as press. Finally you are official. After you’ve been to a few of these things chances are you’ve developed some kind of opinion about it. Write something up, and offer it to a few websites that cover these kinds of events/issues. If you don’t sound like a toolbox they might just take it and then presto, you’re a tech journalist. Apply for a press pass next time and maybe you can move up to “topical expert.”
  5. Get an invite. This takes a little more work than you might be up for, and might require doing a few of the above first so that people start to know who you are, but once you have a contact for the conference organizers and have some value you can offer them, most will be happy to slide you a pass.
  6. Be on a panel or present something. The logical next step, stop attending and start contributing. You know you have some scary insight by now right, so go for it.