The Perils of Talking with the Media

I was contacted by Inman News a few weeks ago and asked about a service our company uses. Unfortunately, the reporter seemed to have missed the point of our 30-40 minute conversation. When asked if we would consider another service to replace a solution we use, I said something to the effect of: “If there was [sic, I suppose] a better product available, we would look at it, because our responsibility to our associates is that we consider everything that might work well for them.”

Disappointingly, he quoted me as saying, “If there was a better product available, we would look at it.” The assumption from the quote in the article is that we would gladly jump to another product if a better one came along. I think he assumed that “better” in my mind meant better from a technological standpoint. But bells-and-whistles do not a better product make.

The product concerned is a contract and document management system that many REALTORS use. Apparently, there is a very good solution from the technical perspective, but it is missing necessary content features. For example, it doesn’t integrate well with the existing contracts we, and almost every other residential real estate agent in our state, use. First and foremost, a better product must include the contracts that everyone is familiar with.

The lesson for me when I put my developer’s hat on is that whiz-bang features aren’t of much value if you aren’t able to use them with the desired content.

When I’m wearing my business operations hat, I always must ask what the switching cost is. In the case of this product, the real switching cost is the loss of the combined familiarity with the existing forms. It’s almost like moving from Facebook to Tent.

Finally, I learned a lesson about how Inman News works. I never received a call from an editor verifying my comments. If the conversation was recorded, I would request a copy of it. Accuracy and verification are two important points in journalistic ethics. Principle 3 in the Principles of Journalism found at the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism points out that the essence of journalism is a discipline of verification. The time between my interview and the article’s publication was well over a week. The reporter and his editor had plenty of time to verify that the quotes attributed to me were in context, but they didn’t.

Does a More Expensive Camera Lead to More Interesting Photos?

When it comes to hobbies, an age old question is whether the cost or quality of gear leads to better results. Online message boards have millions of posts comparing this piece of equipment to that one. Passion can flow stronger than sanity, leading to insults being traded.

I enjoy photography and I wanted to look at this question. The first question I grappled with was how to define a good photo. I turned to the online photo sharing site Flickr. Flickr has an “interestingness” ranking on all photos. This algorithm looks at several metrics, and there’s a pretty good explanation of Flickr’s interestingness algorithm on Wesley Hein’s blog. Continue reading

Four Tips for Writing Facebook Ads that Convert to Customers

Over the last several years, social media has exploded. If you’re thinking about promoting a product or service of any sort on a budget, it would behoove you to think about whether running ads on Facebook could help move you toward your sales goals. But before you jump to buying ads, do you know the key factors that will cause a Facebook user to click on your ad? Continue reading

My Email Solution with Domains at Linode

To set things straight, I am comfortable in the Ubuntu terminal, but by no means am I a LAMP guru. I follow directions well and learn quickly, but often need to refresh my memory before attempting to update or adjust something.

I am slowly consolidating about a half-dozen hosting accounts to my provider of choice: Linode. Linode offers root access in a virtual machine, meaning lots of freedom, but also lots of tweaks. I’ve been able to do everything I’ve wanted with Linode, except for one: email. Continue reading

Setting Up Subdomains in Linode and Apache

I’ve been using Linode for a few months to host about a dozen websites and I’ve been very happy with the experience. I have found the documentation at Linode to be clear and concise, especially when it comes to setting up multiple sites using a standard, Ubuntu-based LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) configuration.

I decided to take one of the sites to the next level and add a subdomain. (An example of a primary domain is davidpodley.com while a subdomain would be the ‘blog’ in blog.davidpodley.com.) Unfortunately, Linode’s library and other documents was less than clear about all of the steps.

My goal here is to explain, step by step, how to add a subdomain to your Linode service. I suppose this could work for any Ubuntu-based LAMP stack, but this may have some Linode-specific information.

URL Shortener

If you use Twitter or Facebook, you’re probably familiar with services that shorten a URL, turning something like

http://www.website.com/this-is-a-test-and-it-is-a-lot-to-type-into-a-browser

into

http://pod.li/abcd

For many years, a site called TinyURL.com managed this quite well, and as far as I know, it still does. But as Twitter has taken off, the number of characters in link has become more important. Twitter’s 140 character limit on posts has driven people to use sites such as http://ur.ly or http://bit.ly for their shorter domain names.

I recently bought the domain name http://pod.li and installed an open source domain name shortening program on it. (In case you’re curious, the .li in http://pod.li is based out of Liechtenstein.)

Book Recommendation for Facebook Development

Over the last year I’ve bought a handful of books that help with Facebook application development. Although I’ve yet to release an application into the wild, I’ve had fun putting some applications together for my own use.

When I came across Essential Facebook Development by John Maver and Cappy Pop, I figured I’d give it a try because it’s the newest book in this field.

The book is well written and leads the reader through a clear path toward not only building an application, but understanding how an application is built. It uses quite a bit of object oriented PHP, so for someone new to programming, it might not be the best resource, but overall it’s a great book.

The bulk of this post is about two other issues, though. First up is the speed of changes in Facebook’s application development API. The second point is the responsiveness of authors and the value it adds to readers in niche markets.

Continue reading

The Tale of the Broken Kindle(s)

I read about two books a year. For some, that seems like a lot of books, for others, it isn’t. Nonetheless, our home is running out of space to store our books. If you figure an average book is 2 inches thick, that’s about 4 feet of books each year I add to our bookshelves.

When Amazon released their Kindle, I was skeptical at first, but when Jeff Bezos announced an updated version of the Kindle, I picked one up and I’ve absolutely loved it. The idea of taking a medium-sized library with me was exciting, and the instant delivery over a cellular network quenched my thirst for immediate gratification.

The first Kindle that showed up had a stuck volume button. (For those who don’t know, the Kindle can double as an audio book reader for Audible books, as well as simply play MP3s.

Continue reading

Shouldn’t Apple Have Figured This Out?

I got a new MacBook Pro the other day and I went through the process of installing my software. I have a couple of Apple’s pro media suites (Final Cut and Logic Studio). I installed Logic, then Final Cut. I compressed some video, played with Logic a bit and all was good.

Then an odd thing happened when I opened Final Cut Pro. I got the following message:

You cannot open the application “Final Cut Pro” because it is not supported on this architecture.

It seemed odd. The same day I had done a Software Update and one of the items on the list was a fix to the NVIDIA video card, so I figured there might be an incompatibility.

Long story short, I was wrong. Apparently the order in which you install Apple’s Pro Media programs matters a great deal. Kind of like mixing acid and water (acid into water, not water into acid, by the way, which is a funny story how I learned that one).

The correct order is Final Cut Studio THEN Logic Studio. Don’t ask me why.

I called AppleCare to make sure I was right about this, and the nice young woman on the phone said, yes, I did it wrong. I should also reinstall the operating system if it’s not too much of a hassle because uninstalling the Pro Apps is near impossible.

I’m now backing everything up with SuperDuper! (a great program, by the way). I’ll soon have everything worked out. Hopefully.