Social Networking, It's What's Missing From the Kindle

After reading @kindlejunkie’s tweets on how to update your Library Thing via Twitter (and how it’ll work from a kindle), I got to thinking about the Kindle and how it should be integrated better into social networking.

History

Most people know that Amazon bought Shelfari back in August and I thought this was an inspired move. I figured a tight integration between the 2 services would be fantastic. Imagine that when you write reviews on Shelfari they get ported to Amazon (and vice versa). When you buy a book off of Amazon it gets added to your book shelf automatically.

What Does This Have to Do With The Kindle?

If Amazon builds the infrastructure I began discussing about above it would be trivial to add the following features to the Kindle:

  • Update the books on your shelf based on your kindle purchases and books loaded onto your kindle via USB.
  • Update the “Book I’m Currently Reading”.
  • Rate and Review books, directly on your Kindle and update not just Amazon.com but also Shelfari.
  • Import book annotations into Shelfari.

Now It Can Really Get Cool

Once all this is in place there are some rather interesting thing that can happen:

  • As you search the kindle store your friends reviews would float above anyone else’s.
  • On a Daily basis whispernet could deliver all your friends’ statuses and reviews to your kindle. There would, of course links to the book referenced to make purchases easier.
  • Annotations could be shared amongst friends. Imagine you’re in a class and could effectively setup virtual study groups by share thoughts on book passages via your kindle.

That’s just a start. There’s more I’m sure but that’s a beginning.

    Posted: Mar 10, 2009

IT Apology 2: Next Steps: Electric Boogaloo

After writing my apology on behalf of the IT industry, I’ve been thinking about what our next steps need to be. What does the industry need to do to make computing easier for the home user who doesn’t have an IT staff? I might not have all the answers but I do have some suggestions.

First off, we have to admit that home users don’t need to have as much power as business users. There’s no reason to believe that Ms. Alice Olivia Livingstone has to have the same setup at home as she does at work where there’s a team of people who’s responsible to tune her machine and her network. This is like saying that homes need professional level kitchens to cook dinner for a family of 4.

We need to reexamine the myth that people need to have the same hardware, capabilities and experience at home as they do at work. There are truck drivers who drive Honda Civics at home. Does the paradigm shift effect them? Why do we think that computer users are any different?

We should really review the flexibility people have on their home boxen. It’s one of those axioms: “Flexibility, Simplicity and Security choose any 2”. MS has been trying provide all three and failing miserably because it’s not possible. Linux and BSD have mostly gone the Security and Flexibility route and it has worked for them. On the whole, Mac has gone with Simplicity and Security.

Although it’s rather criticized, one of the reasons for the success of the iPhone is the locked down nature of the device. By having a gate keeper for any software loaded on the device you protect less educated users. Where I understand why it’s necessary to allow businesses, power users and hobbyists the ability to install what they want on their machines, 80% of home users don’t care about it. They would be more then happy to go a trusted source for all their software. In an ideal world these users won’t be able to get software from another source.

For home users I’m a big fan of “big button” computing. When you turn on the computer, there are just big simple buttons for the functions you need like e-mail, web browser, word processing, spreadsheet, etc. There’s also a “add software button” which gives you the ability to download software from only approved sources. This is the default way a number of the linux based netbooks work. This would be the first step towards moving away from traditional computers and towards “appliance computing”.

Now, at the users risk you should be able to load a different OS on these boxes. This way the hobbyists, experts and psuedo-experts can go ahead and do what they want to.

I have more thoughts coming but that’s enough for part 2.

    Posted: Mar 8, 2009

Drupal 6:Social Networking by Michael Peacock

Recently, there was some discussion on twitter about a new book Drupal 6:Social Networking by Michael Peacock. I picked up a digital copy of the book and have been impressed enough by it to write up my thoughts on it.

The most common question I get from folks looking at Drupal after they install it is “OK, I’ve got it installed, now what do I do?”. This book takes you from installation through deciding what features you’d like for your site to finally building a fully functional social networking site. It walks you through configuring drupal, the installation of appropriate modules and theming. The examples Michael gives in the development of “DinoSpace” a social network for people with pet dinosaurs are approachable to anyone.

It could be that I tend to gravitate towards programming books, but I think this is the first Drupal book I’ve come across
which I feel is accessible to non-programmers. Other then one chapter on module building, (which isn’t important for the site being built) I could hand this book to anyone looking to build a social network and they take the examples given and apply them to their own sites.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is starting out with Drupal. There’s also some good information for intermediate users.

I’d love to write more, but I have some sites to code. Enjoy!

    Posted: Mar 8, 2009

Noticing Who Watched the Watchmen (Spoiler Free)

Saw Watchmen last night and where I found it to be excellent and probably the best translation of the comic to the silver screen possible, I suspect there are a lot of disappointed non-geeks who really weren’t prepared for what they saw.

If you went to the movies expecting to see a comedy and were presented with Bridge Over The River Kwai you’d be disappointed, even though the film is one of the best films ever made. The same is happening with Watchmen. Watchmen, the film and comic, are not a Super Hero properties, it’s Noir. It’s social commentary.

From what I saw, there were 2 groups of people who saw the film:

  1. Geeks who either read or who knew what they were getting them selves into.
  2. Non-Geeks who were expecting a Superman / Spider-man Super-Hero film and were turned off by Rorschach’s first voiceover and never came back into the film.

I think this is going to another example of what I’m staring to call “Serenity Syndrome”, a problem where the entertainment industry attempted to create a blockbuster out of a geek property with a large cult following. A major symptom of this is where you see people rating the film either 1 or 5 and not in the middle.

I’ve always felt that Watchmen would be better served as a mini-series on HBO then as a film, partially because it would be a little cheaper to make, so there’d be less pressure to put butts in the seats and partially because the story would be served better by the longer arc. That as a film the film makers would either need to cheapen the material (which they didn’t) or disappoint mainstream viewers (which they have).

So, Again, great film, go in expecting Noir and you’ll love it. Go In expecting Super Hero you’ll leave wanting more.

    Posted: Mar 7, 2009

Webcomics and Drupal Part 0: Some Thoughts on Drupal, WordPress and ComicPress

Recently I’ve been in chatting over email with a tweep who’s looking to build a webcomic system in Drupal and get her webcomic publishing friends to use it as well. We’ve gone back and forth discussing what Drupal can do, what it can’t do. Where I have no interest in publishing webcomics I have often wanted to put together a photo of the day site to show off some of my photography, which has mostly the same functionality. I haven’t gotten around to setting it up because the cobbler’s children have no shoes. Over the next few days I’m setting up the site and writing a howto along site which can be used by someone looking to setup a webcomic. As I started the howto I realized that I wrote up a preamble which made sense as a different post. So, without further ado, here it is.

Why Not Use ComicPress

As you read this tutorial on Drupal and Webcomics you might be saying “ComicPress does everything I need, and is easier to setup, why would I use something else?”. To be frank, that’s a good question and Drupal might be overkill for you. Some of my more zealoty Drupal friends and contacts would hate that I’m saying this but Wordpress and ComicPress are excellent products and if you want hassle free blogging or comic publishing they might be the way to go. If you’re looking to build a community around your blog or comic Drupal might be better for you. You should look at the features of both before making a suggestion.

Drupal and WordPress

So what’s the difference between Drupal and WordPress? It all comes down to the balance between simplicity and power.

WordPress is a blogging platform which simplifies the process of setting up a blog. Effectively, if you want to push a button to setup your blog, choose a theme and start blogging wordpress is what you should be looking at. There are less features but there is less to know so you can get going going quickly.

Drupal is either a CMS with an attached development framework, or a development framework with an attached CMS. There is a wider set of modules for Drupal, if you’re building a social network, looking to integrate a number of services, or are looking to build a community it’s a tool for you. There are far more decisions and options you need to be aware of before getting up and running, but once you do you’ll have a tool

At the end of the day, if one were inclined, and had more time then sense, they could build WordPress in Drupal. The inverse is not true.

Why Not Build a Web Comic Module

I’m pretty sure this has been done (or at least is in beta) but, IMHO Drupal is about building blocks giving you functionality. The purpose of this tutorial is to show a person that with existing modules how you can build a simple webcomic site and how you can extend it using modules that already exist. If I were to build a module for this, you’d install it, but really not be able to take it to the next level. If you’re not going to be able to harness the power of Drupal you might as well be using ComicPress.

OK, Where’s the tutorial

Working on that as we speak. Check back soon.

    Posted: Mar 6, 2009

In These Troubled Times, Can't We Find Something Better to Fight About?

Had a conversation with an old school friend on my over Facebook. She tends to be considerably more conservative then I am and seemed to be annoyed by the President on a number of issues which I considered to be superficial at best. As people who read this blog know, I'm more interested in us getting along as a nation and this is the type of BS that gets in the way.She stared off with one of my pet peeves. She referred to him as "Osama / Obama". I pointed out that the only reason people invoke the Osama or Hussain cards is to link the man to terrorism. She feels that anyone who was given those names should've changed them in light of 9/11. I really believe that's a trap. If he changed them the topic of conversation would be "see he's secretly a Muslim and changed his name so we wouldn't realize it". Also I pointed out that I share a last name with open source developer and wife murderer Hans Reiser. A number of people in my field know about Hans. Should I change my last name to announce that I don't support murdering wives?She also had issue with the fact that he's known as Barry to his friends and Barak to the nation. She feels that he goes by Barak to "push something down our throats", although I didn't understand what was being pushed, it's his name. She kept bringing up that the name Barak Hussain Obama isn't "apple pie" enough. I will say she is consistent, I asked if Bobby Jindel decided to use his given name, Piyush, more if she'd have a problem with it. She told me she would.Finally, and this is where it got really odd this was a discuss on whether Obama is really America's First African American President. She points out that Obama is of mixed race and is both white and black. And, where that's mathematically correct I use a different test, which I call the Good Ol' Boy test. If you get pulled over in GA by a state trooper, does the officer treat you like you're white or black? I use that because that really defines a person's experience. No one has ever looked at Obama and thought "I wonder if he's white" and, unlike every other president, he doesn't look like he could be on the cover of WASP Weekly (Yes, I know JFK was Catholic and not technically a WASP but he certainly looked WASP-y).At the end of the day, she confessed that she's mad at him for beating McCain. Isn't that part of our system of government? Someone wins, someone loses. If anything is un-American, I think it's being bitter when our candidate loses and acting out of spite. Isn't' there something better for use to argue over?

    Posted: Mar 4, 2009

Some Random Advice I Gave to Some New Podcasters

Recently, on Craigslist, there was a post looking from some new podcasters looking for someone to promote their podcast for them. I wrote them the following email while I felt might be of interest to the world at large. BTW, you can replace podcast with blog, twitter, or anything else and I feel a lot of the advice here will work for you.

Saw your post on Craigslist and got to thinking about the best way I can help you. I'm a technologist who's rather active in the social media and I have been watching the podcasting community since it started. Over the years I've gotten to know a number of podcasters personally and have watched them grow their brands into sucesses amd failures. Where I don't have the talent to actually appear on a podcast I have learned things from them.1) Have you done 10 podcasts yet? If not then don't worry about promoting them yet. As a wise man first said "Your first podcast is crap, your second is better but it's still crap". That's not a reflection on you, persay. You're still figuring out how not to step on each other when you talk, how close to the microphone to sit, and what compression settings to use. You're adding and deleting segments and just trying to figure out what your podcast is about and what it's format is. You don't want to start any sort of push until you've doped that all out.2) I know you say you don't "understand blogs or podcasts" but I assume you are posting your podcasts someplace every week. If not you might want to take a look at libsyn (http://www.libsyn.com/). The price is reasonable (most folks get away with the 5 bucks a month plan) and you really don't need to understand how podcasting works to post your podcast. They also make the process of submitting your podcast to directories like iTunes easy.3) No one can promote your podcast better then you. I assume your podcast has a specific genre and that you're active in the community for that genre. Whether it's the Yankees, a Science Fiction Show or Knitting, I assume you comment on blogs and post in forums. You should make sure your signature says something like "Check out my podcast at " and wherever one can find the podcast. Reach out to those site owners and ask for a link.4) I know you're concerned about getting word out about your podcast via twitter and social networking but take advantage of the networks you already have first. Building a network at the same time you're building spreading the word about your podcast is hard. Reach out the to networks you've already established and worry about twitter later.5) I assume you listen to other related podcasts. Cut a promo (30 secs or so) and ask those podcasters to run the promo (offer to run their promo in return). If you're not listening to related podcasts you should be.6) You should also be including the link in the signature line of your emails (take a look down at my .SIG; 2 of my blogs and my company site are listed there).7) Meet other podcasters. Check out meetup.com for when the podcasting meetups in NYC area. If you want to be a podcaster, be around other podcasters, they are gennerally friendly folks who freely share their knowedge. Have cards with you with your email and a link to your podcast.8) Always remember this is about having fun.In closing, I remember something that Evo Terra once told me while he was in town. We were discussing generating blog and podcast traffic. At the time I was getting around 50 hits a day on my blog and I was dejected that I was never going to break past that. As close as I can remember he said "Sean, if you were giving a lecture series at a local library and every week 50 people showed up to listen to you talk, you'd be estatic. Why is this different?". Over time my numbers went up, but it takes time.
    Posted: Mar 3, 2009

State of the Union - Watching the Tweets

It's been a while since I've felt inspired to write in this blog, other projects have gotten in the way but tonight I seem to have found my voice.I'm watching the State of the Union address while watching and it's amazing to me how much we're still divided as a nation. And whether our side won or lost we're still bitter.

kelly_erin: Okay, even if you voted for McCain, you have to admit that when they flash to him in the audience, you shudder a little bit.

Zut_Radio: Not to mention sending John McCain back to Vietnam to recover some of the plane parts of his 3 that went down !!!

MizJJ: Ha ha ha. CBS just showed John McCain looking so sour. You lost...loser. Ha ha ha.

haikubirdie: Just saw John McCain/ is his face melting or what? / who threw the acid?

Guys, Obama won, McCain lost it's time to live and let live, Don't be so bitter the man gave almost every he could for this county in Vietnam and that, by itself means he deserves our respect.

simonebisou: Joe Lieberman looks even worse than I do...after a few days in Airzona...white people who forgot to slather on the SPF 45

CompanyWoman: Is Joe Lieberman allowed to stand and clap for Obama? I don't think so. Sit down, Joe. And shut up. #sotOu

chayner: What side is Joe Lieberman on?! #nsotu #sotu

So, using some combination of personal loyalty and conscience he chose the losing side. He knew it would cost him. Oh chayner I think he's on the American Side, is there another?

joshuamcintire: Michelle Obama's hair came back!? Behold the first weave on the first lady?? So much better!

Green4Health: Michelle Obama is having a good hair day, love the purple dress she's wearing

You see what Michelle Obama is wearing Nancy Pelosi? Add a nice suit coat and that is the sort of attire you should be sporting right now.

"I know that every American sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed

theHOMUNCULUS: is it me or is biden's forehead extra square??? looks like magneto...

OK when did this became the Academy Awards? Will Perez Hilton be interviewing congressmen on the Red Carpet asking "Who are you Wearing?"

#nsotu republ;itards can see good guys?

yobeeone: and I repeat - dissent from day 1. Obama is NOT my president.

It's over, get over it! There are more important things then blind partisanship.

Obama: "I know that every American sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed"

God, I hope so. It's what I want, but too.

    Posted: Feb 25, 2009

GMail Panic

I hate to admit this but I'm enjoying the gmail panic. At the time of this writting gmail has been down for about an hour. Here is a same of some of the tweets I'm seeing:

lindyasimus : Wonder if Gmail has been attacked by hackers

imjakesamways : The Internet is falling apart without Gmail

Haddock55 : GMail died - and the world stopped spinning... Damn!

itamars : Gmail is a harsh mistress

carlpruitt : Trouble In The Clouds: Gmail Turns Into Gfail

danyork : Gmail users - PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD! Gmail is down. Dead. Having 7 zillion people try to simultaneously refresh won't help.:-)

angelfrouk : Damnit! Gmail is down just when i need to print my ferry ticket for a job interview.

chibijax : oh my fucking god gmail i swear to god if you can't send a fucking email i will be very, very angry. right now, this is just angry. *growl!*

Timfreeman84 : Is mad because Gmail is down :(

amyn02: Yeesh! Gmail WILL NOT WORK!!! Arrrgghh!!!

sanjeevsarma: doomsday alert ! GMAIL DOWN !!! outlook installed frantically, grrr, bah bah bah !!!

PictJurr: Gmail under attack ! Big crash in gmail server

The reason I find this funny: gmail is still a beta service, which loosely translates as "the shit might hit the fan, but we think we'll be OK". Email servers go down every day. I've never had an ISP keep email up for an entire year without an "unscheduled outage". Folks, it's email and it's coming back breathe.update this tweet came in after I posted "#gmail. Not convinced. IMAP is working, but flaky. Nothing via the web yet.This day will stick in my mind in much the way 11/9 did"

    Posted: Feb 24, 2009

The Day the Gmail Died, a musical tribute

A long long time ago
I can still remember how that gmail used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those bits dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every packet I'd deliver
Bad news on the cloud
I couldn't speak out loud.
I can't remember what happened before
I read about his 404
But something touched me deep inside
The day the gmail died

    Posted: Feb 24, 2009