Practical Advice from the Pros, “Speaking With a Hangover”

Brett Tabke has been running the PubCon/Webmaster world conferences for as long as I remember and posts a great piece on how to give a great presentation. Since the main PubCon is always in Vegas, he also rounds it out with some sage advice on how to prepare ahead of time in anticipation of having to give your talk after a night of drinking.

 

  • Lay out your speaking attire the night before going out to a fun PubCon bash. Put your PowerPoint on a USB stick and put it in the pants pocket. Make sure you have cab fare and directions prepared if you are staying away from the conference hotel.
  • Pack some eye drops in your overnight bag for every conference. Use ’em for the redness.
  • Light colored or clear alcohols are better. They have fewer byproducts. Milder hangovers.
  • Less than one drink an hour and skip the beer bongs, jello shots, and tequila twisters.
  • Fill up on as much food as possible while drinking. Multivitamins and especially Vitamin C are said to help some people.
  • Pain killers (aspirin tends to work better with hangovers).
  • Eat as soon as you think it will stay down.
  • Bland liquids – lots of water – caffeinate liberally – Gatorade if available.
  • Take a long hot – then cold shower.
  • Go last on your panel.
  • Warm climates like Vegas, make partying much easier than cold climates like – oh say – cold and windy Chicago.
  • Turn down the brightness on the presentation laptop then request the lights be lowered so people can see the screen better.
  • Buy a pair of lightly tinted sunglasses that look like real glasses.
  • Women – avoid high heels the day of your presentation. Men – clip on ties only.
  • If you expect a hangover, then bribe your chairman to put you last in the day very early on in the speaking selection process.

 

 

Facebook and RSS out

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(photo by: mariachisamurai)

Dave Winer pointed out that RSS feeds are now available for your Friends Status, Friends Posted and Notifications pages in Facebook. The friends updates have been around for a while but the notifications feed might be new. An astute comment on the Techcrunch post about this news says:

The news feed really was a stroke of genius. As simple of concepts as they are, the feed plus the simple little “X” that lets you remove an item from your history are the two most important features.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two feeds they’ve opened up have direct competitors. Status plays to Twitter and Jaiku, while Posted Items play to Digg and Pownce.

Without any worthwhile competitor to a comprehensive news feed of friends, I’m betting Facebook will keep that info behind the wall.

There is no real competition to the comprehensive News feed and Mini-feed which is core to Facebook’s value as a destination site. Facebook’s FAQ on their RSS feeds explains the difference between the published RSS feeds and the News and Mini feeds:

The Atom feed or RSS feed of your friends’ notes, statuses, or posted items or an individual user’s notes, statuses, or posted items contains that content only, whereas News Feed contains stories about photo postings, relationship changes, etc. Also, your News Feed won’t show a story every time one of your friends posts a note to Facebook; your News Feed only contains the stories we think you’ll be the most interested in. The RSS or Atom feeds of a user’s notes or your friends’ notes, for example will contain every note posted.

There are subtle nuances in what Facebook shows you. There is some “special sauce” which calculates what “they think” you’ll be interested in. That’s not something an RSS feed can calculate unless it can be vectored against meta-data about your friends and your stated interests.

This is where it gets interesting. Both Fred Wilson and Mark Mezrich post at length about yesterday. You can pull in all the status updates and news updates you want from all over the web but it’s all just noise unless it can be filtered in a unique and meaningful way. We’re approaching a world where you should be able to swap your friend networks in and out as a social filter on anything you look at online.

Last.fm is great for finding people with similar musical tastes and finding new music you might like. What about using that same network to find something good to read? How about swapping out your favorite Yelp restaurant reviewers and directing them to pick out the best stove for your kitchen? Like the device used by the eye doctor when you get new glasses, swap in a new lens and make what is blurry today crystal clear. Is the solution to make social networks as interchangeable as the lenses at the eye doctor?

BarCamp Palo Alto next weekend

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I’m very excited that I have time to check out BarCamp next weekend in Palo Alto. This will be the first BarCamp that I’ve been to. I’ve been to workshops and sessions put on by Chris Messina and other folks affiliated with BarCamp and they’ve been really good so I’m sure this will be great. I have lots of ideas to bring.

 BarCampBlock Wiki

Social News

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The Social Media Club gathered at the KQED studios in San Francisco to discuss “social news aggregators.” It was a panel discussion so unfortunately there was not a lot of time for interaction with the audience but with Digg, Reddit, and Topix represented on the panel, there was plenty to learn. Pictured above, the panel included:

From my notes,

Story to Comment Ratio. In response to a question from Daniela. Out of about 40k stories/day Digg figures they get about 8k comments. The story/comment ratio is an important metric for measuring the health of a community but we need to keep in mind that Digg stories are usually not much more than a line or two summary of what they’re pointing to.

Copyright. For mainstream media, copyright often extends to headlines. Topix had to negotiate the right to republish headlines. Wired re-writes them. The Digg users often re-write Wired News headlines. Evan complimented the Digg community for sometimes coming up with better headlines than their own.

Where’s the Story? – In response to a comment from Tom Foremski Evan said that professional newspaper journalists have been sitting in a happy medium between the trade journals and the public. The trade journalists are doing all the heavy lifting, staying close to their sources and sniffing out the stories because of their deep understanding of the industry. Once the trades publish a story, the mainstream journalists would pretty up a technical article, make a few calls to verify facts, and publish it for the mainstream audience.

This game is now being played on the general news organizations. Online aggregators are picking up the general news and re-purposing it for their audiences. The social tools that overlay the aggregated news feed is a “crowdsourced” version of the newsroom.

Traffic Sources: Evan mentioned that 90% of their traffic comes via the sidedoor (RSS feeds, clicks from aggregators such as Digg). Yet, even with just 10% of the traffic, it is important for them to spend time on their front door because that represents their brand.

Advertising: Chris had a great observation on the shift to online and what that means for existing business models of the large media companies. A member of the audience mentioned that large media companies are resisting the shift to online because they have a large infrastructure and revenue stream to protect. To this, Chris further added that as the management of these companies look at their net yield/user, it’s a fraction of what they would make from them via advertising on the traditional print or broadcast video channels.

As readers come online and shut off their TVs or cancel their newspaper subscriptions, it’s not like the receivers of the attention are gaining the same amount of revenue that the large media company has just lost. It’s not zero-sum, value is being lost and will be captured elsewhere. Advertising models are going to have to change, it’s not about net impressions, it’s going to be something else. We’re currently stuck in a new world with measurement tools based on the old business model. Until that gets changed and we learn to measure and value something like engagement, it will always appear as if value is being “destroyed.”

Ambition

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“Oh, and one more thing just before I head home today”

This note was spotted on one of the MyBlogLog engineer’s desks. Not too ambitious is he? I like the fact that it’s on a Post-It, just a reminder in case you forgot!

Closed Social Networks as a Gilded Cage

There’s been a lot of talk about the limitations of closed social networks. Jason Kottke kicked it off when he described Facebook as a more updated version of the AOL walled garden and others such as Jeremiah Owyang and Robert Scoble calling it a black hole because all your data goes in but there’s no RSS out.

I totally see where they’re coming from. Heck, I just spent the greater part of a day pulling all my data out of various blogging systems in order to bring them all together here on this new domain. I’m happy to say the text of the posts was not the issue, that’s portable. It’s the meta-data associated with the images that is causing me problems and I’ve resorted to a manual pull of everything in order to make sure things look just right.

The next step is resetting all my pointers. It seems that every web 2.0 beta that you sign up for has a place in its profile for your blog URL. What happens when you change to a new domain? You need to go back to each one and update it. Your blog URL is an updated version of your email address, an important part of your address card. Feedburner saw the writing on the wall and effectively serves as a .forward file for your RSS feed, maybe MyBlogLog can step in and solve the other part of the equation which is your static URL.

But step back a minute. As often happens in the Valley, we, the hyper-connected few are the vast minority. How many actually would use a Facebook RSS feed if it was available to them? How many people really need a service that points them to their latest blog URL? How many even know of services such as pobox.com that can forward your email address to your most recent address?

Playpen

Sure it’s hard to get your images off of TypePad and it’s impossible to pull your mini-feed out of Facebook but do the vast majority of people really care? What’s more important is that the system they use works in an integrated way and they don’t have to fiddle with it to get results. iTunes/iPod, Microsoft Windows/Office, and Quicken/TurboTax pairings all work together in tightly bound ecosystems because to do so allows them to guarantee a level of stability for their customers. As much as they might want to be open, Facebook limits what you can do using proprietary subsets of HTML and SQL in order to lock things down and keep things neat. It doesn’t hurt that it results in user lock-in but their challenge is to provide maximum flexibility within the constraints that they lay down.

There are several noble attempts to build outside the box. People Aggregator, Ning, and Profile Builder come to mind. Yet the problem here is flow. The flow of readers across a profile out in the wild is so hard to build up. If you update something in Twitter or Facebook the closed network will channel that flow strong and fast so you’re bound to get a response. As anyone who has hosted their own blog can tell you, it takes a long time to gather an audience of regular subscribers – post something pithy in a closed network like Vox and you’re bound to get a reaction – their broadcast signals are much stronger.

So the challenge to anyone building an open social network, one that overlays the existing networks, is to locate and connect people of like interests and maintain a quality of decorum so it continues to be worthy of their attention. A fair bit of community editorial is required because anything totally open is going to be overrun by spammers if no one tends the garden. On top of that, it needs to be dead easy to understand, can’t break, and be immediately valuable to the casual browser just poking around. Think Soccer Mom. What’s going to compel her to create a universal profile? What’s she going to get out of it? What problem are you going to solve?

I don’t have all the answers, I’m still thinking them through. I think there’s a need for a service that connects you to the people and sites that are important to you in an interactive way. People search engines such as Spock only get us halfway there. They just crawl what’s out there but don’t really have a sense of the user doing the searching. The right answer for what you’re looking for depends entirely on who you are. I’m looking for a service that will take what I invest into it, not just the one -time editing of my profile but my ongoing interaction with it, either directly or via an API, and pay me back in spades when I turn around and ask the service for guidance, again, either directly or via my UI of choice.

As Dave Winer so aptly put it last week:

It’s the basic trust proposition of the Internet. People will only trust a service that gives them complete freedom to come and go as they please. Further, they’ll want to come back if you send them to cool places. It’s why people like Facebook today, and why they’ll be tired of it tomorrow, if it only sends you to places within the Facebook silo.

What do you think? Would you find such a service useful? Would the Soccer Mom?

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The Journey Begins – Consolidating multiple blogs to WordPress

Over the years I have maintained blogs on a number of different platforms. I started in 2003 with Blogger moving later to TypePad and finally to Movable Type hosted on Yahoo Small Business. In order to simplify my life, I set out to bring them all together into a single domain. What follows are my notes on the process and what I learned along the way. This is a work in progress, check back for updates as I continue down this path.

Preamble: Why WordPress? Why did you leave Yahoo Small Business?

Short Answer: TypePad is a great place to start blogging and Movable Type on Yahoo Small Business is a pretty good solution for the more advanced user. I had played around with WordPress but basically I wanted to get down in the weeds with WordPress and I would never do that unless I made it my primary blogging platform.

Long Answer: I needed to redirect all my traffic from cavitate.net to everwas.com. I have a number of links coming into the old domain so I wanted to use an .htaccess file to set up permanent redirects and preserve the search engine rankings. Yahoo Small Business doesn’t allow .htaccess so that cinched it.

Those that know me know that I’ve been a huge fan of Movable Type (I used to work at Six Apart). I actually gave the MT4 beta a try just to see what it was like but when I had problems with the installation reading the MT-Static directory correctly (yes I did fiddle with the permissions) I ran out of patience. Frankly, I was itching to try a WordPress installation just to see what all the fuss was about. When it installed immediately and I began to play around with the template files, I was immediately impressed with its speed – no more rebuilding!

Right, on to the journey!

1. Exported all my TypePad entries and saved them to my desktop.

2. Exported all my Movable Type entries and saved them to my desktop.

3. Downloaded and installed WordPress into my new hosting account at Laughing Squid.

4. Modified my DNS entries to point to the Laughing Squid name servers (they only provide hosting, no domain name services). I then waited a couple of days for the new DNS entry to propagate. Once I confirmed that I was able to reach my WordPress site via everwas.com, I got to work building the new site.

5. Downloaded the Underscore Permalinks plugin. Because TypePad and Movable Type write their URLs with the underscore (_) in between the title words instead of the (-) that WordPress uses, activate this plugin before you import any of your old posts to preserve the trailing links on the url. This is important if you want to later use .htaccess to preserve your links. (oh great, I just read this!)

6. It’s also important to preserve your old directory structure. Use WordPress’ Options > Permalink area to match your existing directory structure for your individual posts. Mine is [/%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%.html] for example. There are a number of resources which you should read carefully before you begin. The WordPress Codex page is a good place to start. Be sure to read the bit about running an SQL Query on the wp_post table in order to preserve the entire length of our URL.

After the permalink structure is changed and the %postname% dashes have been set to underscores, an SQL Query must be run on the wp_post table in the WordPress mySQL database. This is because every Movable Type installation has a different %postname% length cutoff point. On the contrary, WordPress displays the whole URL. Before running this SQL query, replace “15” with the number of max characters in the %postnum% for the particular MT installation.

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_name=SUBSTRING(post_name,1,15)

You can find your Movable Type %postname% length settings under “Basename Length” under Settings > New Entry Defaults in MT 3.2x.

Now you’re ready to import your old posts!

7. My Blogger entries were the oldest. WordPress has a built-in importer which you can run from within WordPress. When you run the importer, it’ll ask for your Blogger username and password, Google will then ask if you want to grant access to Blogger from WordPress. Once you do that, it’ll pull everything over. Both Movable Type and TypePad entries imported easily (seconds!). Now I had all my text in one place. Comments and Trackbacks made it through with the URLs preserved. All was gravy. [I did have one false start but you can use Justin Watt’s excellent WordPress Suicide plug-in to delete everything and start over]

Now my only problem is that all the images were now getting pulled from their original location. I needed to re-publish all these posts to point to their new home. There’s probably a better way of doing this. I could just upload all images to a location on my new host and run a SQL Query to replace their old hostname with the new but I took a manual approach in order to re-visit my earlier posts and re-format my images to fit the new template.

Images

8. Blogger: I saved all my images by going to each blogspot post and right-clicking on them and saving them to a “blogspot” directory I created on my hard drive. I think Blogger also offers FTP access but I only had a few posts with images so it didn’t take too long.

9. Movable Type: I simply FTP’d into my Yahoo Small Business account and pulled down everything in my Images directory and saved it to a “mt” directory I created for them.

10. TypePad was a bit more difficult because they don’t allow FTP access. I had to basically pull down each file using the TypePad File Manager to view the graphic in my browser window and then right click to save it. I saved all my TypePad images to temporary “typepad” directory.

11. Starting with my oldest post in February 2003, I overwrote any entries for the old images and replaced them with a new one. I took the time to re-format them to fit the new template and if I found any dead links, took the time to update them. Call it a walk down memory lane, it was amazing to see how much things had changed! I’m working through the entries slowly but surely so if images are missing, that’s why.

12. Added the MyBlogLog sidebar so I could see who’s visiting my new blog.

13. Changed my Feedburner settings to read from my new xml file over at everwas.com using Feedburner’s FeedSmith plugin. I’m keeping the old feeds.feedburner.com/flashpoint address for now until I think through what I want to do about the existing RSS subscribers. If anyone knows a transparent way to take advantage of Feedburner’s domain mapping so I can move to a Feedburner-hosted everwas.com/feed url without interruption, let me know!

14. Modified .htaccess to redirect www.everwas.com to everwas.com.

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.domain.com$ [NC]

RewriteRule ^.*$ http://domain.com%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

Also specified this preference in Google’s Webmaster Tools so all search results strip the www off the url.

15. Yay! It looks like I can do future posts! Yahoo Small Business doesn’t provide cronjob access so this was a limitation I’m glad is behind me.

16. Open hosting account on Laughing Squid for cavitate.net so I can set up a .htaccess file. Move DNS mappings to point to Laughing Squid DNS servers. Wait several hours for new settings to propogate.

17. Create .htaccess file in root of new cavitate.net directory to permenantly redirect all traffic to cavitate.net/flashpoint/foo.html to everwas.com/foo.html. Mine is simple:

Redirect 301 /flashpoint http://everwas.com

Redirect 301 / http://everwas.com

18: Added Google Analytics plug-in. There are several but I chose this one from Semiologic.

To Do:

  • add favicon
  • Modify <title> on default template
  • Update Blogroll
  • add Blog Business Summit badge
  • add microid header to verify blog on claimid.com
  • update facebook profile
  • update flickr profile
  • update delicious profile
  • update upcoming profile
  • update linkedin profile
  • update Plaxo Pulse (wow! the new Pulse page looks good!)
  • update Yahoo profile page
  • update LastFM profile
  • update Yahoo Videos profile
  • update You Tube profile
  • update vox profile
  • add everwas.com to Google Webmaster Tools
  • add robots.txt file
  • update twitter profile
  • update yelp profile
  • add everwas.com to Yahoo Site Explorer
  • create sitemap using Chris Peason’s xhtml sitemap generator, submit to both Yahoo Site Explorer and Google Webmaster tools and add an entry for it to robots.txt
  • Configure Archives Page
  • Write About Page
  • message flashpoint members in MyBlogLog of new site
  • Create Widgets page for all the dynamic crap I’m always adding into my index page
  • install wp-chunk plug-in to shorten long urls in comments (so it doesn’t mess up layout)
  • install sociable plug-in for sharing with delicious, digg, and technorati
  • install Alex King’s popularity contest plug-in to display most popular posts in side bar