- Nelson Minar: A Real French Lesson – “Apparently I know enough French to stare down a punk.“
- Wikipedia: Technology Evangelist – “An evangelist promotes the use of a particular product or technology through talks, articles, blogging, user demonstrations, recorded demonstrations, or the creation of sample projects.“
- Dorai: I Envy His Job – “I heard him three times and every time, I have noticed packed rooms, lots and lots of questions.“
- Motorati Life – “We bought 96 acres and named it Motorati in hopes of kick starting car culture in Second Life. To find out how to become part of the action, check back soon.“
- Business Week: Second Life Lessons – “The current flood of corporate press releases announcing a Second Life for presence has echoes of the late ’90s, when every CEO wanted an e-commerce site. Then, as now, it was cool and timely, but not easy to make any real money.“
- Business Week: How to Get a Second Life – “Take this as seriously as taking your company to a new country or continent. For example, do Second Life residents really wear and, more importantly, buy simple T-shirts and jeans?“
I listen to 5 to 7 podcasts per day on my daily commute and often hear interesting things, but rarely blog about them or do any other followup. Here are some recent goodies:
- Venture Voice: Guy Kawasaki – “If you look at the huge successes, they are zero for three, so I could more easily build a case that you should look for an unproven team with unproven technology in an unproven market, cause that’s the billion dollar deal.“
- IT Conversations: Ruby Design Principles – I don’t have the exact quote, but he said something like “We measure efficiency in keystrokes.“
I am about to listen to this one:
Got an email a couple of days ago from an internet correspondent that was really entertaining. He is talking to a company about a new position and they had trouble describing the job to him in detail. Finally, they told him they wanted him to “Be our Jeff Barr.” He had never heard of me before but found me after a quick Google search. We had a good phone call yesterday and I gave him the full scoop on what life is like as a technical evangelist. I hope that he gets the job, and I am flattered that I am now being used as a job description!
- PRWeb: Pepsi Mentos Challenge – “You gotta get it so that they all just slide in at once…“
- Joshua Culdesac: Why a blog, and About What ? – “In fact I had several blogs, but I assume the topics were not as exciting as SL is“
- Isabel Wang: What ThePlanet-EV1Servers Needs to Succeed – “What Doug (as well as many other web hosting companies) could use is a corporate evangelist, similar to Jeff Barr at Amazon Web Services (AWS).“
- Reuters’ ‘Second Life’ Reporter Talks Shop – “The more time I spend in “Second Life,” the more it feels like any other beat. Once you get over–or maybe embrace–the weirdness, it’s much the same job: You find interesting people, read as much as you can and chase up the interesting story ideas you find..“
- This guy really likes the Mechanical Turk – I don’t often cross-post between my blogs, but this video deserves lots of attention!
I spent a couple of hours this evening finalizing my Text On a Prim project, adding the following new features:
- Ability to change the Message channel (the default is 1) and the Style channel (the default is 2) to any desired values. Of course, once you change them the prim is no longer listening on the old channels, so these commands must be used with care.
- Ability to set a Click message and a Click URL on the prim. If an avatar touches the prim and there’s a Click URL defined, a popup dialog displays the Click Message and asks the user if they want to open an external browser on the site denoted by the Click URL.
- Certain commands are now accepted only when sent by the owner of the prim. Commands which affect the appearance of the prim are accepted from any user who happens to know the proper channel. Commands which accept the behavior of the prim are accepted only when sent by the owner of the prim.
- Font: command, with options to use Arial, Century, Garamond, Palatino, Tahoma, or Verdana. One font at a time. I can add more in the future by simply uploading the appropriate TrueType files to my server. I went overboard in Photoshop and created an animated GIF showing the same string in a number of fonts:
Now I need to write some notecards and build a little vendor and I should be all set!
One of the new terms we are using at Amazon is Web-Scale Computing. Using this model, businesses need not invest huge amounts of capital in infrastructure. Instead, they can use the Amazon Web Services on a pay-as-you-go basis. The business can start small, with minimal overhead. Perhaps it needs a little bit of storage (e.g. Amazon S3) and a server or two (e.g. Amazon EC2). As the business starts to take off, more storage and more servers are brought online when and as needed, and not a moment before. Instead of having to invest in anticipation of future needs that might or might not ever develop, costs rise in direct proportion to actual usage. With the right infrastructure in place, this can happen at a very fine-grained level. For example, I have talked to people who will run 5 EC2 instances during US business hours and then scale down to 1 or 2 on weekends and after hours.
Its time for me to practice what I preach and to start web-scaling Syndic8. I don’t anticipate getting rid of any hardware in the near future, but I am pretty sure that I can use S3, EC2, and SQS to create some much-needed room to grow.
Although I am ostensibly doing some of this work as part of my job, it will be charged to my own Amazon account and I’m going to do a real economic analysis to make sure that I can do it on a cost-effective basis. I don’t have a funny-money account and I don’t have a rich uncle.
In the next couple of months I will be writing a series of blog posts to document the calculations and design decisions that I made as I modify the Syndic8 code and architecture to make it web-scale. I will take on the following aspects of the Syndic8 processing system:
- Ping Processing – Syndic8 is a ping receiver and handles 2 to 3 million pings per day and does some processing on them.
- Feed Polling – Syndic8 downloads the latest content from nearly 400,000 feeds every 24 hours.
- XML Storage – Syndic8 stores two weeks of raw XML for each feed.
I will build new, general purpose code as needed for this project. I will, however, try to use existing PHP packages where possible.
Because I don’t have a test server, I will be making all of the code changes in live, step-by-step fashion. I don’t anticipate the need to take Syndic8 offline and plan to rebuild the foundation code under the running system. This might seem tricky or even impossible, but it can be done with careful planning and sufficient attention to detail. In the past I have managed to change database schemas, file storage formats, and so forth without dumping and reloading huge amounts of data or running “alter table” commands on tables with millions of rows.
This is going to be fun!
- Synthtravels: The 1st Online Virtual Travel Agency – “Synthravels is the first organization to offer a complete guide service to all the people who want to make a tour in virtual worlds without knowing these new realities, even if they have never put their feet in these strange, synthetic grounds. “
- Print(Fu): Super Fast. Super Cheap. PDF Book Printing – “PrintFu is a super easy to use system that will take your large (more than 25 page) PDF files, print them double sided, bind them using a comb binder (or 3 hole drill if the document contains more than 700 pages). We then ship the manual the same day. Delivery date is usually 2-3 days“
Just a week or two ago I was on the road and my phone rang. I answered, and the caller introduced herself as Wina Sturgeon, a writer for the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City. I’m still not quite sure how she found me, but that’s ok. I was about to head into a meeting, but we agreed to continue the conversation later in the day. We did so, and she explained her situation. She writes a regular column for the site and she wanted to increase her readership. Her columns weren’t very findable within the site and as a result it seemed like she had trouble building and keeping an audience. In fact, John Saltas had the following to say about the ABC4 web site:
I didn’t think it was possible, but there is indeed another media outlet with a worse and more hideously hard-to-navigate Website than our own.
She had heard that RSS could be of help here, found me somehow, and wanted to know how to get started. I asked her to email me a bit more information so that I could figure out the best way to help.
That evening I took a look at what she had, and decided that I could help her pretty easily. Using my own account, I did some experimentation with PRWeb’s RSSPad and saw that it would fit the bill. Using RSSPad, I quickly created a trial feed and added her articles to it.
Because I wanted Wina to be able to edit her feed on her own, I asked her to create accounts at RSSPad and at FeedBurner and to send the login information along to me. I also asked her to send me links to all of her earlier columns.
Last night I created the actual feed on RSSPad, entered the past columns, and then ‘Burned it over at FeedBurner so that Wina would have access to statistics about item use and subscribers. I also entered the final URL (http://feeds.feedburner.com/WinaOnTheWeb) into the suggestion boxes at My Yahoo, Google Blog Search and Syndic8. As soon as she adds a few more items I will also make her a Syndic8 Featured Feed.
Finally, I sent Wina some information about what I had done. I still need to show her how to use RSSPad, but it is pretty straightforward and I don’t think that will take too long.
I did start the title of this post with the phrase “Closing a Long Loop,” and that’s where it gets interesting.
The first column that Wina sent me told the story of how she watched the first moon landing along with her husband “Ted.” After another search or two (I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a stalker) I realized that Ted was Theodore Sturgeon, acclaimed science fiction writer. Way back in 4th or 5th grade, I bought my first science fiction book, a 50 cent anthology by the name of Giants Unleashed. I’m pretty sure that I still have that book in my garage. Anyway, the best story in that book was one of Ted’s early works — Microcosmic God. In this story, a scientist retreats to an island and breeds a race of intelligent creatures called Neoterics. He forced them to evolve and to invent by subjecting them to extreme conditions. A great story, one that I haven’t read in a long time.
Without my early interest in science fiction I probably wouldn’t have ended up as a computer geek and then wouldn’t have been able to help out Wina.
They say that what goes around comes around, and I’ve somehow managed to close a 35 year old loop by helping out Ted’s widow.
Who says there’s no such thing as karma?
- CFO Search – A local (Seattle) startup is looking for a rock star CFO with a strong track record in that position or in the number two slot to the CFO, preferably with experience raising capital and taking a company public. If you meet these needs contact me and I will pass along some more information.
- Microsoft: Be Ready for Automatic Update Distribution of IE7 by November 1 – “To help you become more secure and up-to-date, we will distribute IE7 via Automatic Updates as a high-priority update. We will start very soon with those of you who are already running IE7 pre-releases and then move onto IE6 users after a few weeks. We will progressively roll out to all IE6 users over a few months, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see the update right away.“
- MSFT Extreme Makeover: What Ever Happened to Hardcore? – “Gone, seemingly, is the concept of being hardcore. Microsoft’s strategy now – as best as I can discern it – is to sit back and wait until someone else either proves out a lucrative new market, poses a competitive threat (real or imagined) to existing profit streams, garners (in MSFT’s mind at least) too much media attention, or simply pisses off Gates or Ballmer. Then, invariably way late to the party and often without any real plan for a successful and profitable market entry, the company plunges in.“
- Amazon’s Jeff Barr on future of shopping – “My job is to be the Web services evangelist… to communicate with developers all over the world, encourage them to look at Amazon’s collection of Web services, and encourage them to build great applications on top of those services. When I saw Second Life it really struck me as a developer platform. It was the place to go for folks … who think creatively, think about the future — I’ve just been really impressed so far.“
- WISDUMP: What WoW Can Teach Web 2.0 – “Maybe its not fair to compare an online game with static sites that don’t offer the interactivity of an online universe. But sit back and take a look at how great some of these sites could be if they implemented what WoW does just a bit more into their fold.“
- Skype + Podcast Recorder = SkypeCasters – “or the last few days I’ve been recording podcasts using Skype. As the call ends with a couple of clicks it is converted to mp3 and uploaded to a blog. This is a real bloggers solution providing podcasting in almost real-time without resorting to studios, or fancy gear.“