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March 2008 Archives

March 8, 2008

Street Team Needs Some Street Smarts

Tho' their aims may be admirable, I have a real problem with the methods that the Web Standards Street Team are proposing to 'help' update the "outdated web design and development books [...] lurking in your local library, school or college, waiting to corrupt an innocent mind?"

I just sent the team a letter (you can, too, at goodbooks@webstandards.org) and I think it expresses my concerns best:

Hi! I have a concern about your approach. You should trumpet LOUDLY the idea that the best way to get involved is to contact your local library and volunteer to help them replace outdated books. Where volunteering could take the form of working with them to ensure that all new book purchases come from your list of good books, or could actually involved DONATING books from the list to them, asking only that they remove one outdated book for each good one received.

I'm sure you're aware that (especially public) libraries have a hard time keeping accurate and up-to-date technical titles in stock. This is for a variety of reasons (budget, reliance on donated books—which will always lag behind by a generation or two, and lack of qualified personnel to make purchasing decisions about state-of-the-state anything, let alone latest best practices in web standards.) Wouldn't it be much better to lend a hand to those folks than to wag a finger?

Your proposed solution—a preachy card silently slipped into books—is no real fix. Who, exactly, is the intended recipient? The borrower—who may have checked out the book because he or she can't afford to buy a new book? The librarian? Odds are good that he or she won't see the card slipped between the pages. AND they typically don't make purchasing decisions for the library. The book buyer? Why not just call them and express your concerns?

Thanks for listening, and I would be perfectly happy to work with the Street Team on developing a program of library outreach, to achieve your goals in a more-straightforward (and less pejorative) fashion.

Bryce Glass

Here's hoping I hear back! FWIW, I do find their list of good books on web design and development to be incredibly useful, and will refer to it often.

March 10, 2008

Don Norman on 37Signals

Or… "You damn kids stay off of my lawn!!" Sigh… Don, don, don. Why'd you have to go there?

An aside: Norman's "Essays" (which is really just a classier way of saying 'blog entry', right? Right?) could really use some date-stamps. Closest thing to one on the page is a ©2004 statement.

Equal Time

Jason Long points to a long list of published papers from Google Researchers. I just wanted to point out that Yahoo! Research keeps a list as well. (I, like Jason, am baffled by a larger percentage of them, however—some look fun.)

March 11, 2008

JJG at CCAD for the CSCA

Hey now! This is really cool—my friend Ray informs me that Jesse James Garrett (Mr Ajax®!) is coming to Columbus next Thursday to speak to the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts. Unfortunately, I'll be traveling next week, but I'm betting there are plenty of local folks who'll be interested in attending. Spread the word!

March 14, 2008

Good Ol' Gal

Babe, originally uploaded by soldierant.

This is Babe. An old family friend and one of the sweetest dogs you'll ever meet. She finally reached the end of her road today and has gone on to be with someone who loved her dearly. Goodbye, Babe. We'll miss ya, gal.

March 15, 2008

Fun Hack: Retweet Your Favorites on Twitter

It all started with a simple question (as most great—and less-than-great—adventures do.) My friend Christian wond'red aloud on Twitter: "any way to tell who has favorited one's tweets (if anyone has)?"

Which took me through a series of twists, turns, and at least one significant misunderstanding. Which I'm not going to bother to recount! Cause it's boring! (Honesty in blogging is so refreshing, idn't it?)

Note: For those who'd like to read more about Twitter favorites, I'd recommend that you start here.

What I ended up with, however, is a way to share your favorites back to the community, so at least the folks you've favorited might see that fact, and get a tiny bit of Christian's desired ego-boo.. I've been doing just that for a little over a week now, and here's how you can, too.

One: First, head on over to the Yahoo! Pipe that I've created for this purpose: Feed your Favorites. Enter your Twitter name and password, and the Twitter name of the person for whom you'd like to fetch favorites.

Caveat Clickor: The pipe will produce an RSS feed, the url to which will contain the Twitter name and password that you enter in naked, unprotected plain text. So if that creeps you out for any reason, then run away now!)

Now, this Pipe is a little over-engineered. For our purposes, you probably want to fetch your own favorites, so the third text-entry box is probably extraneous. But I plan on extending it down the road to do some other cool things. So, for now, just go ahead and enter your own Twitter name in that third box, too. Then click 'Run Pipe'…

Two: From the resultant… um, results… that… result… from having clicked the button, you should see a 'More Options' link.

Pipes: Feed your Favorites

Click that, then click 'Get as RSS', which will return an RSS feed. You want to copy the URL for that feed and save it for the next step…

Three: Visit TwitterFeed and set up a new twitter feed, using the URL collected in Step Two.

I'm not going to go step-by-step into using TwitterFeed. It's pretty straightforward. But I have a couple of recommendations. I would recommend setting a patient interval for updates—I've got mine set to 6 hours. This has two benefits: it's easier on Mario's bandwidth; and it helps prevent near-instant re-tweeting. (I think sharing your Favorites is more impactful if ppl aren't seeing them hit your stream mere minutes after the original observation was made. It's noise at that point.)

Also… I recommend prefixing each tweet with the hashtag '#Favorited'. Please do this, even if you're amongst the possible majority of people who hate hashtags. Because then I can—to some degree—track the usage of this hack.

Finally, where Twitterfeed asks you to Include "Description Only" or "Title Only"… pick one or the other, but not both. For this feed, they're completely redundant, so only one is necessary. And check the checkbox to include an URL. So people can view the original tweet.

Four: Go and Favorite some tweets on Twitter! Then wait for whatever interval of time you specified in the Twitterfeed setup screen. Sometime during that interval, you will see exactly one (the newest) of the items you've favorited be re-posted to your Twitter-stream. It should look something like this:


After that first run, you should see up to 5 favorites tweeted each time Twitterfeed runs. (It depends on the number that you configured at twitterfeed.)

Five: If you continue to let this hack run, you should donate some sheckels to Twitterfeed, to ensure that it keeps on runnin'! Cause bandwidth ain't free, homes. There is a 'Donate' button on their site which—particularly if you followed Step Three, above—you couldn't have missed. I would just link straight to the Paypal donation form, but for some reason that feels kinda phish-ey to me, so go find the button and show Mario some love. (Yes, I did already.) He's built a fun and wicked-handy little service for us all.

Oh, and if anyone actually follows these directions and starts re-tweeting your favorites, please leave a comment below with your twittername so I can follow you!

March 21, 2008

Mini-Review: "Crécy" by Warren Ellis

Bloody Frogs, originally uploaded by soldierant.

Tapped out quickly, cause it's on my mind: if you get the chance, you should definitely check out Warren Ellis' Crécy. It's a you-are-there retelling of the humiliating defeat that the French King Philip and his chivalrous army of nobility suffered at hands of… well, what amounted to a 12,000-strong marauding force of armed peasantry. The battle took place at—where else?—Crécy, France in 1346.

The volume is slim (~40 pages, maybe?) but ambitious. In one taught, economical tale Ellis explains exactly why the English hate the French (and the Welsh hate the Cornish. And Suffolks hates 'em all. And… you get the idea) The narrator, William of Stonham, is a foul-mouthed wonder. (Best line—"Old English proverb: if you keep on being their cunt, they'll keep fucking you.")

You learn a lot about warfare and strategy of the day. How longbows work; why crossbows were feared. (Some really nasty strategies for spreading infections to wounds, too. Yick.) In fact, for the educational value, Crécy kind of reminds me of another series of books I really enjoy by illustrator Stephen Biesty The Biesty books, btw, are much more kid-friendly than this one—in fact, don't get this comic for your kid. (Didn't the quote convince you? Also—David Macaulay treads this same territory, too, though I think I've read-but-not-bought some of his works.)

Crécy is great storytelling, and well worth the 6 bucks and change. Check it out! (Or ask me to borrow it.)

About March 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Soldier Ant in March 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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