Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Using “googol” in a sentence

An email went around the Engineering department at work discussing security and keyed hashes. We take security seriously, but that doesn’t mean we can’t joke around. A VP responded to the security email by suggesting we could prevent the vulnerability outlined in the referenced article by disabling logins for accounts that have more than 1 trillion login failures.

Being the contrarian that I am, I had to throw in my two cents about his proposed solution:

It’s frustrating when you try to log in a trillion times, can’t remember your password, get locked out, and then have to contact support to get your account unlocked.

The number of login attempts should definitely be set to a more reasonable number, like a googol. If I can’t guess my password in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 attempts, I’ll probably break down and contact support.

I thought it was worth sharing because it’s not every day I get a chance to use googol in a sentence.

A 5,000+ Mile Jump

On October 15th, 2006, while a small group of amateur photographers were hiking at Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona, something strange happened. A guy jumped. Well, actually, another guy jumped first, then his wife, and then the jumper jumped. At the time, he wasn’t the jumper. In fact, he very rarely jumped and nobody had ever remarked that his jumping was any different than anyone else’s.

The Original Shaler Jump
A guy jumps

The strange thing which happened that afternoon was the jumper’s jump. It didn’t end when his feet returned to the ground. In fact, the jump didn’t even end in Phoenix.

At the time, nothing seemed special about the jump. The preview screen on the camera showed what appeared to be a well-captured photo of a good jump. Nothing spectacular. Just a good jump. The hike resumed.

Throughout the following months, the group met up at other locations around Phoenix. When the opportunity arose, the photographers enjoyed taking other jumping photos. The jumper, who was still not known as such, happily obliged.

At a conference in November of 2007, the jump that left the ground over a year earlier started to turn into something. The jumper was introduced to someone he had never met by someone he had never met as, “the guy that jumps.” The jump had somehow preceded the jumper.

Jumpers jump the jumper’s jump in NH

Fast forward another thirteen months to December of 2008.

A group of people in New Hampshire who had never been in direct contact with the jumper scheduled a local photography meet-up. The theme of the meet-up was to jump. More specifically, it was to emulate the jumper’s 2006 jump and those that followed.

How the jump traveled over 2,000 miles to the Northeast United States on its own is a testament to the strange power of the Internet.

Amazingly, the jump didn’t stop there.

The jump that left the ground in 2006 was seen again in 2009 on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Some 5,000 miles away, a German Flickr and Twitter user visiting Lake Garda in Italy decided to jump the jumper’s jump.

trying a shalerjump @ lake garda
“trying a shalerjump @ lake garda” by vanse1980 on Flickr

That, to me, is a leap of unimaginable scale. One that started innocently enough during a hike in Phoenix, Arizona.

Should I Start a “Mazda Movement”?

I got an email from the Ford Fiesta Movement campaign this morning:

Thanks for your interest in The Fiesta Movement! As you probably know by now, we received over 4,000 entries! We have been very busy culling through all of the submissions and the competition was stiff! We have finally chosen our 100 Fiesta Movement Agents and unfortunately we are not able to offer you one of the positions at this time.

In the end, Agents were chosen for a variety of reasons. In keeping with what we set out to do with the Movement, we wanted to make sure we did a thorough job of different kinds of Agents from across the US who spend time in a variety of social network channel. That being said, we had to spread our 100 Fiestas to everyone from bloggers, to YouTube stars, Twitterati, Flickr fiends and most importantly, some really engaging people who we thought would have a great story to tell if we let them. On top of that, we wanted our voice to stretch far and wide, so we made it a point to spread our Fiestas throughout as much of the country as possible.

However, there are still opportunities for you to get behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta and let us know what you think. As part of the Movement, we will be taking global Fiestas across the US for the next several months, stopping at key events and everyday locations to allow people to connect with the Movement & test drive the vehicles for themselves. For more information you can find a calendar with our whereabouts on (coming in early May), as well as the full content stream from the Movement.

Thanks again for your interest in the Fiesta Movement, we truly enjoyed and appreciated your submission.

– Fiesta Movement Mission Control

A few things to note:

“we received over 4,000 entries!”

Fiesta Submissions on YouTube

They asked applicants to submit a YouTube video and tag it “fiestamovement.” They chose their 100 agents from these 600 entries (less, actually, because not all videos tagged “fiestamovement” are application videos). The fiestamovement YouTube account had 413 application videos in its favorites list.

“we had to spread our 100 Fiestas to everyone from bloggers, to YouTube stars, Twitterati, Flickr fiends and most importantly, some really engaging people who we thought would have a great story to tell if we let them.”

I know I don’t have much reach on YouTube, but I think I’ve got at least a little bit of credibility when it comes to blogging and Twittering. And Flickr? Have you seen my automotive photos?

Ford Edge Crossover SUVFord Mustang ConceptHDR - Mazda MX-5Mazda CX-9 in motionVolkswagen Passat Wagon Grille
Mazda Nagare Conceptarchive0032006 Mazda MX-5 - Downtown Phoenix, AZPicture 078Mazda Nagare Concept

As for telling an engaging story, it’s very subjective. However, I think a fair share of the people who have been following me on Twitter for 2 years would say they do so because they think (and I know this because they tell me) I’m interesting, exciting, and/or funny. I’m spontaneous and I travel a lot. I meet tons of people. I personally think my ongoing story is a great one to tune in to.

“we wanted our voice to stretch far and wide, so we made it a point to spread our Fiestas throughout as much of the country as possible.”

I didn’t see any agents from Arizona. It looked like there were 10-20 agents from Southern California, though. To be fair, there was a little bit of spread to more obscure areas like Midwestern states.

Mazda Movement

Brian, quit your whining. If you’re so freakin’ interesting, why don’t you just get out there and do it anyway?

I’ve got the three C’s required to be an agent: a Car, a Computer, and a Camera/Camcorder.

I like my car. It’s very fun to drive. I don’t have to be given a free Mazda MX-5 to be willing to tell that to people. I’ll do it for the car.

Ford Fiesta Movement

Ford is doing a little campaign involving their 2011 Fiesta. They’re giving away 100 cars to 100 bloggers / social medians for six months. During that time, the “agents” are supposed to create content around the car with monthly “missions.”

I decided to participate, and this is my video application:

My submission went through right at the buzzer, so I’m far behind many of the other applicants with video views. I figured posting it around a little bit would help me catch up!

If I explain it to one person, I might as well…

If I explain it to one person, I might as well explain it to everyone. I received an email recently asking some questions and/or seeking clarification. Topics include ShalerJump photos, personal branding, and Twitter.

The sender’s name, pieces of the original email, and pieces of my response have been removed.

> My first impression of you from a year or two ago was, “Who is this clown
> who’s trying to be famous for jumping?” No offense.

I wouldn’t say I’m trying to be famous for jumping. I was part of a photography group and jump photos were a fun activity. The first photo of me jumping was taken in October of 2006.

After putting them online, they started getting tagged “ShalerJump” (by the photographers of each photo, not by me) so people could view all of them in a search result. A year later (November, 2007), I was at a conference and someone I had never met introduced me to someone else I had never met as “the guy that jumps.” It sounded fun and interesting, so I decided to roll with it. In May of 2008, I finally bought the domain name

> I read something you
> and/or Adam Nollmeyer wrote, like an interview, about what the Shaler Jump
> was and what it was intended to be… some sort of exercise in personal
> branding I seem to recall. I thought, “this guy is full of himself” and
> “what is he even supposed to be famous _for_?”

The jump photos started to become part of my personal brand when people saw them online and thought of me as “the guy that jumps.” That happened on its own. When I noticed this happening, I adopted it to help in grow, which is the point where it can actually be considered a personal branding effort.

Fame has nothing to do with it. The jump photos serve as both branding and marketing. The marketing side is what draws people in, looking at the photos for what they are and sharing them with friends. The brand side of it is when people actually associate the photos with a person. I brand myself as someone who has fun and does interesting things. (“fun” and “interesting” are both vague words, though I use them quite a bit)

I participated in the interview. Adam thought it would be a good idea to give people more back story on why there are all these photos of me online. To some extent, though, whenever we write publicly about it, we usually take a tongue in cheek approach of making it sound like there’s more to it than there really is. It’s to intrigue people and to mess with them a little bit. (“mess with” as in “confuse” or “to make stop and think”)

> Recently, my curiosity led me to read more about you.

This is something I try to accomplish. I don’t want to try to push who I am onto people. I want to draw people in by being interesting and triggering some level of intrigue.

> Call me old school,
> call me a skeptic, call me cynical, but I look for concrete reasons to
> respect someone, such as skills, talents (other than jumping ha ha),
> concrete accomplishments, etc. Once I did some digging through your
> websites, I realized that you do have some of these things. Maybe not so
> much that I understand why you have 10,617 followers on Twitter at the
> moment, but enough to see that you deserve credit for something other than
> having friends take photos of you while you jump like a lead guitarist in a
> rock band. :-)
> (I hope you’re catching onto my dry humor here. At least a little.)

[Brace yourself. Name-drop alert. Will probably sound uncharacteristically egotistical.]
I started working on personal branding after I realized that being an award-winning web developer didn’t make people respect you. There is one little place on one of my sites where you can find a brief mention of the fact I have worked with: Mazda, Nike, Boeing, Ford SVT, Lincoln (automotive), Mars Inc (Twix), Nivea For Men, Chrysler Financial, Shamrock Farms, blah blah blah.
[Done name-dropping]

You wouldn’t have found me or had an opportunity to judge me (whether or not you should respect me) if it hadn’t been for my for-fun stuff like ShalerJump photos,, various crap/tools/eye-candy I made for the Digg community, photography (+photography tutorials), various micro-sites (,,,, etc), and various things I did on Twitter during the last 1.5 years (TwitLibs, TAG: Twitter Acronym Game, etc).

This illustrates why personal branding and marketing was so crucial. I’m not trying to be “famous for jumping.” It’s simply one of those things I do because it’s fun, and it opens another avenue for people to find me.

> I still don’t understand why anyone would follow 5,741 people, much less be
> followed by twice that number. I’m not saying that in a mean way, just in an
> honest, baffled way. I currently follow 20 people. 5 of them bore me to
> death, 5 of them are tolerably interesting, and the other half don’t even
> update. And I’m getting ready to unfollow some more. ;-) How do you stand
> following 5,741? I would truly appreciate some insight into this.

I follow back everyone who follows me. It’s something Twitter set up for my account over a year ago. Last year, I was following more people than were following me. When I joined Twitter, I started by following a lot of people. Nowadays, I rarely follow people on my own. When/If they follow me, I automatically follow them back.

After Twitter set up the auto-follow-back functionality, my “following” count went up along with my “followers” count. A year ago, I was following over 11,000 people and was followed back by around 7,000. (@garyvee actually gave me crap about this at SXSW, on video. “Who follows 4,000 more people than are following?”) Since then, I have continued with the auto-follow-back, but I have been steadily unfollowing people who are spammers, don’t tweet in English, don’t actually USE twitter (e.g. all their tweets are from twitterfeed), etc. I have gotten it down to 5,741 (as of this writing: 5,712) and out of those, I can probably eventually get down to about 4,000 (but may never hit that specific number, because people will continue to follow me).

I don’t attempt to read every single post from everyone. There isn’t a single person on Twitter whose every update is completely relevant and useful to me. Some people have a high percentage of meaningful tweets, while others have a low percentage. By following a lot of people, I have the ability to “tune in” (like TV) to Twitter whenever I can and skim many tweets to see what’s going on.

There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter. I’m VERY interested in what is going on and what people are doing. I follow people who try to be funny/entertaining (140 characters is a great constraint for witty one-liners), I follow people who link to tech news, and I follow people in my industry (software development, web development, Flash, etc). I follow people who don’t exactly fit those criteria, but a little noise doesn’t hurt, as long as they’re human and tweeting about something. There’s nothing wrong with following only a few people and making sure never to miss a single update — the majority of Twitter users do exactly that.

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