Housekeeping

For those of you who read this blog through a reader, I took care of few things on the blog this weekend to clean things up a bit.

  1. My recommended software for the E71 has proven very popular but that is only one of the three phones that I use on a regular basis and there’s lots of good software to recommend for those too. On the top tab I have added two news ones, Software for your N97 and Software for your N900.
  2. I replaced the hosted lifestream from MyBlogLog with a self-hosted lifestream provided by the excellent WordPress plugin, WP Lifestream
  3. I added a SoundCloud dropbox widget to my sidebar. Feel free to use it to send me any tracks you want to share. I’m always looking for new music.
  4. I created a mobile template of my site for those coming to my site via a mobile phone. The template is easily created using the WordPress Mobile Pack which comes bundled with analytics for your mobile traffic from PercentMobile. You can see what their reports look like on percentmobile.com.
  5. I re-activated my Blogroll page. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I this day of metacuration, it’s useful to share your influences.

Avatar, Performance Capture

I had a chance to see Avatar this evening and was blown away at what James Cameron has done to evolve the art of motion capture. Anyone who has seen the film would agree that the bar has been moved higher in capturing not only the physical motions but also the full range of emotional power of the actors and overlaying it  seamlessly onto the animated characters.

The clip below how a whole suite of new technology came together to create what they call, Performance Capture.

Dating Site Profile Pics

The dating site okcupid.com published a fascinating study of their member profile pictures to validate and debunk what makes for an attractive profile picture, one that generates conversation and interest which is important if you’re on a dating site.

clothes

Some of the findings:

  • Smile for the camera if you’re a girl. Guys do better if they look away, be the man of mystery.
  • Despite what most think, the self-posed MySpace shot is the single most effective photo for women. The poor quality of the cellphone in mirror more than made up for my the sense of intimacy.
  • Ab shots (“headless horsemen”) for men are successful in youth but fall off quickly as you get older when I suspect it gets kinda creepy in an ex-con way.
  • Cleavage shots for women are always a hit and actually do more for older women than young.

This is a dating site and they measured effectiveness on number of conversations. People are looking for love here so they are going to emphasize certain things about them. Furthermore, there is no correlation to what is in their photo and what they write on their profile. I would love to see a similar study done on profile pics on a regular social networking site such as facebook or twitter.

What does your profile pic say about you?

Fun with SoundCloud

I’ve been playing around with a service based here in Berlin called SoundCloud. It’s geared towards DJs who want to distribute their mixes making it drop-dead easy to upload typically large files and embed them across the web in widgets. The closest thing I would compare it to is the flickr badge for photos or YouTube embed for videos.

What’s nice about SoundCloud for the professional DJ is that plays on the widget and also back on the profile page are collected for reporting back on the artist’s SoundCloud home page so the DJ can see where their tracks are getting the best, er, traction.

It’s also a great service for someone like me who would just from time to time to shine a light on my favorite live music sets. Here’s a set from the April, 1999 run Phil Lesh did with Trey and Page from Phish at the Warfield in San Francisco. And see that little widget over in the sidebar to the right? Yeah, I listen to a lot of music so if you have a mix you think I might enjoy, use the Dropbox to push it my way.

Enjoy.

Scarlet > Fire > The Eleven by Ian Kennedy

Haiti Decends into Terror and Chaos

haiti

The terror and chaos that is Haiti following the devastating earthquake is hard to imagine. 50,000 dead, millions are homeless.  It’s now 10 days later and the threat of disease is descending upon the survivors who are literally fighting for their lives. The shocking photo above comes from a series of dramatic photos posted by Anderson Cooper who is covering the story for CNN.

There are a number of ways to contribute and thankfully the donations are pouring in including over $10 million raised in just a few days by text messages (UPDATE: now more than $25 million) . I just contributed my bit over at Shelterbox thanks to a pointer by a classmate from college.

shelterbox

Every little bit helps people. We’re making a difference.

shelterboxtweet

Misa, a touchpad guitar

Misa

The Misa is “not a guitar” says Michael, it’s creator based out of Sydney, Australia. The Misa is designed to play electronic music.

In electronic music, the timbre (or colour) of the sound can be morphed in an infinite number of ways. For a guitar to accommodate this, the right hand needs more control than just plucking strings. You need to be able to control elements of the sound, such as sustain, pitch, filter cutoffs, contour or any other synthesizer parameter, in a way that has no physical constraints.

Misa digital guitars to acoustic guitars or electric guitars. Those are different instruments, for different artforms, for different music. This is electronic music.

The Misa plugs into a MIDI controller and runs a Linux kernel. The instrument’s software is open-source and designed to be enhanced by the community.

Here’s how it works.

if you tap on the left side of the screen you play a note with an effect parameter knob turned more to the left and if you tap to the right side of the screen the note is played with the knob turned to the right. Similarly with the top and bottom of the screen. Since there are two axis’ (X/Y) you can actually control two parameters at once.

Pretty cool.

How to Export Your Data from MyBlogLog

It was a sad day when I read the ReadWriteWeb post about the rumored shutdown of MyBlogLog. Yahoo has since come out with a vague response that pulling the plug is only one of several “options” but I thought it good to post a few things you can do now just in case they do take MBL out behind the shed.

MyBlogLog Outage Screen
MyBlogLog Outage Screen, we only used it once

Grab your Stats

If you’re a pro user, visit your blog’s stats page and run a report to get your stats. You run reports by clicking on the report tab on the right-hand side of the second row of tabs. There are several options showing the type of data you can get. Run a few reports on just a few days to see what’s there and then go for it. After running a report, you can highlight the data, copy then paste it into Excel or Google Docs as a .csv file and then do things like filter and sort.

If I recall correctly, the report routine would choke if you threw too much data so if it hangs, try to chunk it into smaller timeframes. I’d recommend monthly which you can later aggregate onto a spreadsheet.

Tighten your Connections

Use the Friender feature to find any of your contacts that are on MyBlogLog. The way this works on a high level is that it suggests people that are connected to two or more of your contacts but not connected to you. For more info on Friender, you can read the original post announcing the feature.

Once you’ve found all your friends on MyBlogLog, you can use the Connector feature to see how you’re connected to everyone and fill in the missing blanks. If you follow someone on twitter and are connected to him on MyBlogLog, the Connector will tell you how to find them on flickr, delicious, Pownce (ok, that will no longer work), digg, last.fm, and YouTube. You can click each link to their prospective profiles and friend them there or click the uber-arrow on the right and spawn multiple tabs for each service. More on the Connector on this post.

Back up your Contacts

One of the great things about MyBlogLog is that each person’s MyBlogLog profile is a pointer to all their other profiles on the internet. I was going to suggest to manually save those that were important to you but then Manny, one of the old MyBlogLog engineers, whipped up a Python script that uses the MyBlogLog API to archive everything for you. It creates a directory on your hard drive (Windows & Linux only) and creates up to four files for each contact (sites authored, an hcard file, a list of their communities, and a list of services).  Here’s what you need to do.

1. Download the  script (right-click & save as mbl_depart.py)

2. Install a Python interpreter such as Python 2.6.4. Remember, this script only works if you’re on Windows or Linux. Once you’ve installed Python, copy the script into the same directory where you installed Python.

3. Edit the the script with a text editor and replace “foo” with your Yahoo API key. If you don’t have one, you can login to Yahoo and go to the YDN site to request a key.  You only need the Generic key because you do not need to authenticate to read the data you are getting.

4. Run “cmd” to get a DOS window, navigate to the directory then run the code with your MyBlogLog username as the parameter. For example,

cd c:\python26
python mbl_depart.py iankennedy

The script should then run in the command window (if not, you may need to add your python directory to your path variable). The script will save all your data to the directory where you installed python in a directory the with the same name as your username. Subdirectories will be there for all your contacts.

Subscribe Directly

Another cool things that MyBlogLog did was aggregate all your contacts’ activity into a news feed which we called New in My Neighborhood. We called blogs Communities so it kinda fit. Aggregated feeds of the social activity of your contacts are nothing new and FriendFeed famously went on to build out a service exactly like this. Take a walk down memory lane and have a look at the communities that you follow and use the Subscribe widget on the Community page to subscribe directly to each site’s feed in the RSS reader of your choice. As for social profiles, you can use the Connector described above to directly subscribe to any of your friends’ activity.

Likewise, you might want to message everyone following your blog via using the MyBlogLog messaging feature and remind them that they can subscribe directly to your blog and provide pointers to your other profiles that you want to promote.

That’s it. Now you’re safe with all your contacts backed up should anything happen to the service.

Check out Alternative Widgets

Should the service ever get taken offline, it’s a good idea to have alternatives scoped out should you need to switch over.

Recent Reader Widget – TwitterCounter has a cool little widget that shows the face of recent twitter visitors who have opt-ed into their service. Google Friend Connect is also similar but more about community members, not recent visitors.

New with Me widget – Mark Krynsky has an excellent gallery of different services on his Lifestream Blog.

Coda

If you’re reading this post because you were a member of the MyBlogLog community, I hope that this post at least provides you with a way to get your own copy of everything you put into the service. I’ve been assured by someone at Yahoo that the earlier post stands and there is no final decision on the future of MyBlogLog. Until then, as with any hosted service, it’s always good to have your own copy.

It was great working on MBL as the Product Manager, the team was stellar and they are all doing interesting things, albeit now outside of Yahoo. Some of the innovations we launched there are all glimpses of services that now exist as entire businesses.

The Confederate

Confederate

I think I found a motorcycle that rivals the Honda Valkyries. Made out of aircraft-grade aluminum in a design that maximizes torque, the Confederate P120 Fighter kicks out 160 horsepower that the maker describes as, “explosive.”  This machine may not be the most comfortable ride but only 50 will be made so grab yours now (51,000 euros each!)

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Navel Gazing, 2009

For giggles, let’s repeat what I did almost exactly a year ago and take a look back at my online activity from a year ago and make a snapshot for future reference.

top post of the yearIs this the new Obama phone? was the top post of the year, mostly because of traffic early in the year from StumbleUpon. Another top post was a write up I did on software I recommended for the Nokia e71. Seeing as I now also have an n95, n97 and n900 and plan on recommending software for those as well, it made sense to move into it’s own tab. Last year’s post about Barack Obama’s speechwriter still did well and was the 4th most popular post on the site.

2009stats1

biggest traffic day of the year – as in 2008, my traffic is normally around 100 visitors/day but in late-February you see a spike on the previously mentioned Obama-Phone post from StumbleUpon.

source of readers – Google organic search drove 58.06% of my traffic, up from 51.72% from last year. I’m embarrassed to say that “british slang insults” is the lead referral phrase for my site where I am #4 on Google’s search listing pointing to a silly little post from over four years ago. Interestingly enough, twitter.com sent more traffic my way than either Yahoo or any of the Microsoft search engines (Bing, MSN, or Live).

comment spam – I’m happy to say that comment spam is a non-issue for me. I suspect this is because I’ve switched over to hosted commenting provided  by the good folks over at Disqus.

browsers and OS – Firefox took the lead and now 45.29% of my readers are sporting the Firefox. IE has dropped to 35.34% and Chrome has climbed from 1% last year to 5% this year. Still over 76% of my readers are running Windows.

mobile OS – new category for this year, still very small percentage of users come via mobile but it’s worth tracking this as time goes on. iPhone is at 0.76%, symbian at 0.39%, iPod is at 0.18%, Android at 0.06% and Blackberry at 0.04%. I love that I got 6 visits from a Danger Hiptop!

2009stats2

rss subscriptions – I’m really not sure how relevant this is anymore. My numbers have been steady but I think many people are dropping their feed readers and letting their twitter and facebook friends recommend what to read.

twitter – I was at 1,142 last year and followed 343 back. This year I am at 1,516 and follow 390. I’m not sure if these numbers mean so much anymore with all the auto-following going on. My tweetstats info graphic looks like this:

tweetstats2009

friendfeed – 807 followed me last year, today it’s 1,301. Since they were purchased by facebook, I have to confess I don’t use this service anymore and wonder if it will still exist as a stand-alone service next year.

mybloglog – 1,148 people followed me last year, this year it’s 1,814. I fear this is another service that has an uncertain future in 2010. I’m working on a post to help people pull their data as a service.

top track of the year – According to my last.fm chart, David Bowie by Phish was my most popular track. My scrobbling activity has gone way down this past year because the firewall at work blocks the ability to scrobble.

yesyoucan

top photo of the year – unchanged from last year, Yes you can is still the all time most interesting photo from my collection. I uploaded 2,058 photos to flickr in 2009, more than 750 than last year. The all time most popular photo is still Jaws (4,460 views) with a photo of a classic BMW motorcycle (4,014 views) that I took in Los Altos coming up fast at #2.

youtube – I don’t upload a lot of videos. The most popular video from last year was a crappy one I took of a Japanese flip phone when I visited Tokyo (2,414 views). The most popular video of all time is a short clip from a Harlem Globetrotters “game” (8,349 views).

del.icio.us – I have been using twitter to syndicate many links so my usage of this service has gone way down. My top tag of all time is still, yahoo, my previous employer.

google reader – my most read feeds are TechCrunch, Laughing Squid (which I read to keep up on the SF scene), and YLE (an English language news feed about Finland)

googlereader

dopplr -my raumzeitgeist shows quite a bit more travel than last year, especially with the weekly trips I have been making to Berlin in the last few months.

raumzeitgeist

Physical and Virtual Spaces

Outside Yodobashi Camera

I just returned from a year-end holiday in Tokyo. As always, the city never ceases to amaze me.

The people in the photo above are all standing outside Yodobashi Camera, an electronics store in Akihabara. The store offers free wifi for anyone with a Nintendo DS and on that network they can get access to free games and unique characters for games they already own.

In a similar type of cross-promition, my son walked into a McDonald’s and switched on his DS and downloaded a free Pokemon character for a new game he bought. In a clever cross promotion between Nintendo, Game Freak (the game publisher), and McDonald’s, the character was only available via wifi at McDonald’s. After giving your name, age, and email address, the character is downloaded to a specific location in the game.

Tyler has been spending the last week making his way through the game to reach the in-game location so he can interact with the character. Brilliant way to combine physical and virtual location around brands and maintain engagement.

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