Friday, February 29, 2008

Pangea Day: seel life through someone else's eyes

What would it be like to see life through someone else's eyes?

TED's released a gripping little trailer to Pangea Day that gives us a sample from the not-too-distant past:

The trailer's a play on the man-stops-tank scene from Tianamen Square almost 20 years ago. While the still shot of the scene of that lone man stopping the line of tanks on their way to Tianamen Square is burned brightly in my memory, the motion picture adds a new level of enormity to this brave act.

Take the sixty seconds to watch the trailer, then go to the web site: Pangea Day to see how you can participate on launch day, May 10, 2008.

tweets o' the day

  • 10:11 See you at Swell Season #
  • 11:19 trying to take Google Sites for a spin, but am watching the "please wait" icon spin instead #
  • 12:58 it's too beautiful, sunny and warm to not eat lunch outside #
  • 19:11 getting ready to play week 2 of the scvda spring dart season #
  • 22:15 GWB bs: "$4/gal gas? I haven't heard of those forecasts" out of touch? or simply stupid? #
  • 22:59 rough night at the ockey. getting schooled by the best team in the league #
Automatically shipped by LoudTwitter

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Great example of leveraging a somewhat inaccurate story

Throughout my career, I've seen comm folks react to published stories with a grumble-grumble about how they were "misunderstood by the author" and "taken out of context" and other such complaints. These reactions spark up the moment the finished piece is published (and therefore out of reach to "sculpt") and are usually accompanied by exasperated hand-wringing and a "no! No! NO!" chorus as each new paragraph is consumed. Energies are then funneled into picking out everything that was "gotten wrong" in the story and crafted into a one-on-one message delivered straight back to the writer. As if anyone's going to read the retraction or errata in the next issue.

The point is: no one ever knows of the correction but the writer and the story subject.

Quick: what's the last time you read a correction in the newspaper and changed your opinion of the original piece (assuming you remembered the original piece the next day)?

So, I'm not surprised to see the folks at 37signals do a bang-up job in "setting the record straight" on their blog coincident with the just-published story about them in WIRED magazine's March 2008 issue.

In the post, Jason Fried clearly and concisely gives his side of the observations made by author Andrew Park that Jason refers to as "myths," complete with the blurb by Park that captures the myth:
  • Myth: Whoever spends the most wins
  • Myth: 37 signals customers are unhappy
  • Myth: We don't care about our customers
  • Myth: Complexity is a necessary byproduct of the modern age
  • Myth: we refuse to change
Of course, Jason ends the whole thing giving props to Park's effort and product overall.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is a great way to get your message out in this world o' blogs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Waiting on Mt Whitney Lottery results

Mt Muir and Mt WhitneyAt the beginning of February, I entered the lottery to climb Mt Whitney again this summer (see last year's successful climb pictures here and the video here).

Per instructions, I submitted an application via snail mail at the beginning of February. I'm hoping to lead a group of eight to do an overnight hike (just like last time) on one of the close-to-full-moon Thursday nights in July or August as my first choices, but will be happy just to get the permit for any of the nine nights I listed on the app.

Someone's crunched the data to show how many unused Whitney permits there were last year (see the spike at the end of September that coincided with the snow storm and explains why so few folks were on the trail with us September 29). Given the data, I think our odds are good in that I've asked for non-weekend days that aren't near any typical holidays.

And now I'm stuck in a holding pattern waiting for the permit lottery process to play out. My paper-based application is in a big tumbler with all the others and will be drawn out randomly to get my date assigned (and my check cashed).

So all I can do now is check the mailbox each day to see if I'm a winner. The suspense is killing me!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

walking the talk on 2.0 tools

Great to see the lead article in the latest newsletter from CIO Insight is all about urging CIOs (and their ilk) to use Web 2.0 tools.

Edward Cone writes:

Understanding Web 2.0 applications is important to your business, and you need to spend some quality time using them to really get what they’re all about. The power of user-driven tools lies in the using. Just reading about them, or spending an hour or two playing with them, doesn’t do them justice; you’ve got to go hands-on to appreciate their power.

Yet, according to studies conducted by CIO Insight Research, many CIOs have limited experience with these tools. Fewer than half the CIOs participating in our 2007 Emerging Technologies Survey said they personally make use of blogs, and just over one-third use any form of social networking software; more than one in 10 respondents said they don’t participate in any Web 2.0 activities.

It's really easy to spot the tech person who's done limited time on 2.0 tools. It's far harder to understand whether they've decided to ignore 2.0 tools out of laziness or ignorance or both.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

our phone number has been hijacked, so we've had to change it

Some time in the last six months or so, a person going by the name of Terry Barnes decided it'd be a good idea to put down a phone number that wasn't his on any and all forms he filled out that asked for one.

I know he's done this because we've been receiving an increasing volume of calls from businesses seeking to speak with Terry Barnes at our unlisted home land-line number.

We've only given out our unlisted land line to a select few friends and family because, until Terry threw his pursuers into our lives, we've known that when the home phone rings, it's someone we want to talk to.

It doesn't matter that we insist there's no Terry Barnes at this number, we still get called again and again as Terry defrauds more and more businesses. Collection agencies, attorneys, private investigators... evidently the "there's no one here by that name" no longer means anything to these folks: they're all on the trail of Terry and he keeps giving them our number as his own.

In seeking help with the situation from AT&T, we were informed that the only solution was to change our own unlisted number and go about informing our limited "unlisted" network that we've had to move. Evidently this particular brand of identity theft happens a lot more than you'd think. The stakes aren't as high as when they take your social security number or credit card number, but there's still a big inconvenience factor.

Aside from my bank, PayPal and Google AdSense, I can't think of anyone that's ever verified my phone number. So of course, falsifying phone numbers is piece of cake when filling out apps at Blockbuster or the library or any other place that doesn't do an extensive credit check.

Here's an idea: smart vendors should start verifying phone numbers by requiring cell numbers and making a call to said cell phone on the spot to make sure it rings.

Oh, and if you happen to get any kind of application from Terry, cut to the chase and call the cops straight away. I'm sure all those collection agents would appreciate the tip.

Friday, February 08, 2008

testing recipes for America's Test Kitchen: it's over

I love to cook, and I also enjoy testing recipes and giving feedback and helping improve the ultimate product so others can create a fantastic dish (see my post on helping create the Good Home Cookbook). Volunteer recipe testing is a fun way I can collaborate with cooks across the country/world without actually sharing the same kitchen.

Along those same lines, for the last year or so I've been participating as a volunteer recipe tester for America's Test Kitchen (ATK). I'm a huge fan of the ATK shows, and I've got copies of their last five annual recipe books. I'm also a subscriber to Cook's Illustrated, the magazine produced every other month by the same staff. I find the ATK/Cook's Illustrated approach to teaching about food and cooking is a great combination of science, technique and, ultimately, delicious food.

Through the program, I've had the opportunity to test 23 different recipes
over the course of fifteen months, ranging from pear crisp to thin and crispy oatmeal cookies to rack of lamb. Along the way I discovered a fabulous scone recipe,
one for chilaquiles (tortilla casserole) and another simple yet
delicious one for sautéed spinach with lemon and garlic.

As an ATK recipe tester, I'd get a recipe in my email every few weeks or so asking me to test it and submit feedback on both the instructions and the results. There was never any pressure to submit results, but there was
always a time window in which they needed to hear back (typically: ten
days from receipt). Of the twenty-three recipes offered, I think I gave feedback on eight of them, and 0.347 is a good batting average in baseball, right?

In the last couple months, the recipes they've sent for testing were decidedly not in keeping with my weight-loss-and-exercise program getting ready for my first triathlon in April. So I haven't submitted feedback on recipes since, gulp, September.

So, I was a little wary this morning when I found an email from ATK titled "Friends of Cook's Program" instead of the usual "New Cooks Illustrated Recipe to Test." When I opened the email, my fears were confirmed, as this is what they had to say:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for the contributions you have made as a recipe tester for America’s Test Kitchen. The information we receive through the recipe testing surveys is an invaluable asset in the development of recipes and the improvement of our publications. In an effort to continue to expand our understanding of the landscape our readers face while preparing recipes, we will be refreshing our list of testers and looking for input from new cooks.

As we update our lists, our veteran recipe testers will no longer receive new requests, as a way to allow newer members a chance to participate.

We appreciate your ongoing dedication to helping our publication's continued success.

Happy Cooking!

The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Perfectly in line with all the other experiences I've had with the folks at ATK/Cook's Illustrated, even this Dear John letter was classy. And I can now call myself a "veteran recipe tester."

If you're interested in becoming a recipe tester yourself, follow the link at the bottom of the ATK home page and sign up. If you've got even the slightest joy in cooking, it's a great experience (heck, I may just sign up again under a nom de cuisine).

Thursday, February 07, 2008

seeing my dots on the Dopplr map

If you haven't yet signed up on Dopplr, you simply must go there immediately after reading this post to register and start using it. The Dopplr gang have created a great service that allows you to share your travel plans with friends and associates and find out when you'll be in the same city as they are be it at one another's home base or half way around the world.

And, over on the DopplrBlog, they've got a cool post on the roundup of Dopplr user statistics in 2007. The Dopplr gang refer to it as the Dopplr Raumzeitgeist or "Space Time Spirit" (that's the right translation, Dani?).

You'll have to read the post to get at all the numbers, but I found the map (minimized above, click through to see the bigger version) to be the most intriguing part of the report.

Why? Because I can make out the dots I contributed last year by while being a Dopplr user: San Francisco, Boston, Stockholm, Amsterdam, New York, Santa Fe, Seattle, Berlin, Kuala Lumpur. They're all there.