Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Archive for December, 2007

Don’t Make New Years Resolutions

The first day of a new year is a great day to look back at the previous year and look forward to the next. It is a day when many people examine themselves and consider what they should change going forward. New Year’s resolutions may include exercising more (losing weight), spend more time with family, start a business, write more blog posts, go out more, etc.

New Year’s resolutions are not effective ways to make or break habits. One of the hardest ways to break a habit (like smoking) is cold turkey. It is just as difficult to jump into a new habit and make it stick.

The best way to try to improve yourself, start good habits, or break bad habits is to regularly (not annually) evaluate yourself and take action immediately. Don’t wait until New Year’s to change.

ReadPhoenix: Top Blog Posts of the Week #3

Two weekly posts in a row. Do you know what that tells me? It says in no uncertain terms that I am not writing enough. That is one of the most valuable benefits I receive by doing this. The weekly write-up gives me an obligation to post regularly and the desire to make sure those scheduled posts are not my ONLY posts.

It is also great for me because it ensures I do not miss anything going on in local blogs. I want to keep up with what people are talking about locally, but if I did not set this obligation for myself, I probably would not spend time making sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Blog: BrainFuel
Author: Thomas Chapin
Company: Tornado Design
Post Title: Overnight Project

Tom whipped up a fun micro site recently, 100factsabout.com. It allows you to input a person’s name and it will return “100 completely accurate, verifiable facts about anyone.” Everyone has probably heard a couple of “Chuck Norris facts” during the last couple years. Now those same fun facts can be applied to you, your friends, or even your enemies.

Early this week, an anonymous Twitter user popped up on my radar, linking me to BrianShalerFacts.com. I tried to track down the person responsible. Unfortunately for me, Tom used private domain registration, hosted it on a different server in a different state from his regular sites, and used a proxy service to leave a comment on my blog. I was unable to track down who made it, but Tom later confessed and allowed me to help him with some pseudo-randomization PHP code. (Try looking up facts for multiple names)

Read on and see what facts you can dig up about your friends!
 

Blog / Author: Sunny Thaper
Company: Forty Media
Post Title: Radiohead’s In Rainbows Dumb Business Move?

Sunny starts off this post with: “Fortune Magazine claims that Radiohead’s latest album “In Rainbows” is the 58th dumbest moment in business.”

I agree with Sunny on the fact that Fortune is absolutely, positively, confoundedly incorrect. I might not go so far as to say it was the 58th smartest moment in business, but there would be a strong argument in their favor. What I can say is that it was one of the most consequential business moves in the music industry. A band sells their album online, makes it available for free, and proves that such a model can yield massive monetary success. It provides more evidence of the music industry’s obsolete business model.

Read on to see Sunny’s side and the links he provided.
 

Blog: DontTrustThisGuy.com
Author: Jim Jeffers
Company: Sitewire
Post Title: Advocates vs. Practitioners vs. Practicality

Jim brings up a good point about advocates and practitioners. With the success stories of Internet startups piling up, everyone is pushing the next big thing. Major companies are inventing new platforms to develop on left and right (Look at Google: OpenSocial, Android, Gadgets [Desktop, iGoogle, web], Google Gears, APIs for: Maps, Search, Feeds, Charts, Checkout, Calendar, Picasa, YouTube, etc). There are countless startups pushing everything from a new take on social networking (Facebook/MySpace-killers), communication (Twitter/Jaiku-killers), search (Google-killers), etc.

Read on to see Jim’s point of view.
 

Blog: Arizona Coffee
Author: Chris Tingom
Company: Tornado Design
Post Title: Boost Sales: Have a Starbucks Next Door?

Chris asks: “Could it be that having a Starbucks near independent coffeehouses actually helps boost sales?”

He provides a link to a great article from Slate Magazine that looks into the effect Starbucks has on independently-owned coffee shops. Much to Starbucks’ dismay (they intend to run competitors out of business), the presence of a Starbucks actually helps sales soar at competitors’ shops.

Read on at Slate Magazine.

ReadPhoenix: Top Blog Posts of the Week #2

This week features:
– Effective Branding Case Study
– Building Phoenix’s Tech Community
– Spotlight on Phoenix Startup, JumpBox
– Book reviews: Simplicity, Happiness, Being Busy

Blog: BrainSpool
Author: Derek Neighbors
Company: Integrum Technologies
Post Title: Make a Mark on Your Customers

I think this was probably the best read of the week. While considering how to take his company’s brand to the next level, Derek talks about one of the best examples of successful branding, QuickTrip. I have had conversations with friends about this topic and Derek did a great job of laying out specific reasons and examples. Honestly, I often drive past other gas stations or drive out of my way to get to a QT.

Read on as Derek explains why many people can feel so strongly about QT.
 

Blog: Code, Content, Caffeine
Author: James Britt
Company: Rising Tide Software
Post Title: BarCamp Follow-up Follow-up: Ignite Phoenix

It is no secret that I am a supporter of building a stronger, more connected technology community in Phoenix. I think this is a great idea and would definitely attend if someone set something like this up. Want to organize something like this? Bring it up with me, James (his email address is on his site), or even the Refresh Phoenix Google Group.

Read on to learn more about Ignite [City] groups in Seattle, Boston, and San Francisco.
 

Blog: Scrollin’ On Dubs
Author: Sean Tierney
Company: JumpBox
Post Title:

It’s always great to see local companies getting attention of some of the most-followed people in the industry. Congrats guys!

Read on about his interview. Includes video.
 

Blog / Author: Sunny Thaper
Company: Forty Media
Post Title: Think Small, In A Big Way!

Sunny is currently reading a book by John Maeda called “The Laws of Simplicity.” I recognized the name and title from a great TED Talk video I saw earlier this year: “John Maeda: Simplicity patterns

Read on about Sunny’s review of the book.
 

Blog / Author: Erica Lucci
Company: Integrum Technologies
Post Title: Stumbling on Happiness

Another review of a good book. She talks about the book “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert. Believe it or not I recognized the name and title from another great Ted Talk video I saw last year: “Dan Gilbert: Why are we happy? Why aren’t we happy?” It is a great presentation. Be careful, after watching it, you might end up buying the book.

Read on about “Stumbling on Happiness.”
 

Blog: John Murch the Self Proclaimed Geek Guru
Author: John Murch
Company: Nomad Thinking
Post Title: Geek Guru Book Club Review Crazy Busy

Another book! John reviews “Crazy Busy” by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell and gives examples of some tips. I don’t have a video of Dr. Hallowell’s presentation on the topic, but John was lucky enough to meet him recently and watch a live presentation. Lucky!

Read on about “Crazy Busy.”

Facebook Poke-A-Thon Friday

Facebook - Application Requests & Pokes - Screenshot

If there is one feature on Facebook that I just don’t “get”, it’s Poking. You can poke a friend or a non-friend and that person will see a notification in their sidebar the next time they sign in. It would be a cool feature if Facebook did not have the “news feed” that displays your friends’ recent activity, because the poke could represent an unobtrusive way of saying “Check out the changes I made to my profile.”

I don’t know if I have as many application requests as Clintus McGintus (I caught a glimpse of his flooded Facebook sidebar at PodCampAZ). I used to clear out my requests every time I signed into Facebook, but realized that those seconds add up and only served to distract me from going in there and doing what I really wanted to do (check my FB fanmail*). I stopped clearing out the requests and noticed that the sidebar filled up quickly. With 10,000+ Facebook applications available, you can imagine how your Facebook sidebar could end up looking if there are not measures in place to limit the number displayed (and provide a link to show the rest). After 40 applications piled up on my sidebar, I started thinking about the 7 pokes I had below that.

It is a simple experiment and perhaps I am the only person who wonders about this. How big can that sidebar get? Application requests come naturally as your friends install and use them. If you ask for more of those, you are asking for a lot work from your friends (go to application page for each application, find invite utility, select my name, send invite). However, with pokes, you can provide a link and anyone (friend or not) can poke you in a matter of a few seconds.

I grabbed the link to my profile and sent it out to my friends on Twitter, asking them to poke me. I discovered that, unlike the application request list, the poke list does have a limit to the number of items displayed at a time. After 20 pokes, a link appeared to “see all” on another page. With almost 80 pokes, I had 4 pages of pokes to view. 

For the sake of an interesting visual, I used Photoshop to piece together the 4 pages of pokes to show how they would look without the “see all” functionality. Only the top 20 pokes are actually appearing on my Facebook home page.

* = That “FB fanmail” remark was a joke ;)

ReadPhoenix: Top Blog Posts of the Week #1

Before jumping in, I should explain what is going on here and why.

A Series?

By the “#1” in the title, you can tell that this is intended to be something I will try to do regularly. I will try to remember to take note of my favorite blog posts during the week and do a quick write-up on Friday.

ReadPhoenix

In race car terms, the Phoenix tech community is a sleeper. There are a lot of ideas, developers, designers, companies, and potential, but most people don’t realize it. One recent movement to draw attention to the fact that there is activity in this desert valley is ReadPhoenix.com, a web page maintained by Erica Lucci of Integrum Technologies. At ReadPhoenix.com, you can find a list of Phoenix-based bloggers with links to their respective blogs. I have met many of the people on that list and thus read most of the blogs listed. There are currently 55 RSS feeds marked “Phoenix” in my feed reader.

Weekly Highlights

The goal is to help introduce people to new blogs that provide interesting content. With the most active Phoenix blogs I’m subscribed to posting just under a once-per-day average, I figure I should be able to pick and choose from over 50 blogs (and 100+ posts in the last 7 days) to find at least two or three posts worth sharing.

Why?

There are a few reasons why I think I should do this. Most importantly, I want to give exposure to content producers in the Phoenix tech community. With any luck, some of the lesser-known authors will get a few more subscribers. Some people have made remarks about my watchful eye on Phoenix blogs — I subscribe, read, click-through, and comment when I can. If I am a person that watches more, I should be able to act as a human filter and help people find the most interesting content in the Phoenix blogosphere. Part of the motivation was from those remarks and another part was from one of the posts I chose to feature this week.

So Without Further Ado…
 

Blog: Scrollin’ On Dubs
Author: Sean Tierney
Company: JumpBox
Post Title: The best cross-platform RSS feed reader

He had me at “The best cross-platform RSS feed reader is still a smart friend who reads a bunch of feeds and has coffee with you once in awhile.” Sure, it doesn’t have the same ring as the Jerry Maguire quote (“You had me at hello”) but I wanted a fun way of expressing how this quote really made the article stand out and “stick”. The article makes a great point that feed reader applications being great, but nothing can compare with the human mind’s ability to pick out and share only what is valuable and relevant to you.

Now, I started this post off talking about how I keep track of what everyone is doing in the valley. If you want to offer to buy me a coffee, please form a single file line to your right. ;)

Read on about why it is more valuable to YOU to talk to people than it is to subscribe to every RSS feed under the sun. (I don’t subscribe to too many blogs outside of the Valley of the Sun to maintain some sanity)
 

Blog: ok with failure
Author: Curtis Edmond
Company: Integrum Technologies
Post Title: Flickr makes with the stats

By now, if you think Flickr having stats is interesting, you should already know. People have been talking about it. The reason I wanted to highlight this post is because when it popped up in my RSS feed late Thursday night, I had not yet heard the news. This was great news to me and I am grateful Curtis posted about it so quickly.

Read on about the new stats feature you should know about by now.
 

Blog: Wurkit Books
Author: Dan Ritzenthaler
Company: Forty Media
Post Title: No Need To Fake It

Dan’s post focuses on this quote:
In spite of the drawbacks, companies are lured to initials like moths to a candle. The success of the IBMs of this world seems to be proof that initials are effective. It’s the classic confusion between cause and effect… It’s like trying to become rich and famous by buying limousines and corporate jets. First, you have to become successful in order to have the money to buy the fringe benefits.

My experience in marketing and interest in branding made this blog post resonate with me. It is a great quote from a book on branding and positioning (titled, oddly enough, “Positioning”). Dan compared it to the phrase “Fake it, ’till you make it.” This is true, but I would like to add that companies are diluting their brand and reducing its stickiness while they think they are strengthening their brand image.

Read on about the quote, Dan’s commentary, and the many other Wurkit quotes.
 

Blog / Author: Josh Huckabee
Company: Integrum Technologies
Post Title: Want an iPhone for Christmas?

Here’s the short and skinny. Donate money to receive one raffle ticket per $1 donated. Next week, a winning raffle ticket will be selected and that individual will get a free, brand new 8GB iPhone.

Read on for more details on the raffle. Give a few bucks to people in need.
 

Blog: Code, Content, Caffeine
Author: James Britt
Company: Rising Tide Software
Post Title: The Downside of Clever

Quote: “Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you’re as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?” — Brian Kernighan

James mentioned the quote at BarCampPhoenix and I asked him to post it. It is a great quote that can be used to promote Test Driven Development and code analysis tools like flog. The less clever you force yourself to be in early development, the less strain you will have to endure to debug it.

Read on about this quote, James’ review, and check out the other valuable Ruby-related content he publishes.
 

Blog: BrainSpool
Author: Derek Neighbors
Company: Integrum Technologies
Post Title: kthxtees Tech Shirts

On Wednesday, I started thinking about a new idea for a series of t-shirts. What designer (web, print, et al) hasn’t at some point thought about designing t-shirts? There are two types of designers, those that have thought about designing t-shirts and those that have actually made their designs into real shirts. On Thursday, I found out that Integrum is going to join the latter group. They have a few sample designs posted and have vowed to post new designs every week.

Read on to learn more about their t-shirts.
 

Exhausted

I’ll tell you. That wasn’t easy. I hope to streamline the process a little more by compiling a draft post throughout the week instead of waiting until Friday night to type it all up. I hope you found some or all of this content useful. If so, please leave a comment so I know it wasn’t a waste of time! ;)

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