When you comment on one of my blog posts, if you should ever do so, you’ll note that Echo is now enabled on this site. This video interview by Robert Scoble of Khris Loux the co-founder of JS-Kit will explain what Echo is and how it works.
It might be worth making a comment just to see how it works!
I spent 55 minutes of my early Saturday morning watching this video, laughing and sometimes being moved to tears, but overall feeling it was one of the best hours I’ve spent in a long time. Instead of watching some inane TV program, do yourself a favor and spend that hour watching this remarkable teacher.
Today is the 8th anniversary of the day I first put pen to pixel and created this blog. It’s been hosted at different locations from time to time, but it has been semi-continuously updated since that first Father’s Day in 2001. My one-year hiatus last year will be the subject of a book about what I learned trying to lead the team out there in Las Vegas. I want to reflect on what happened and my complicity in the outcome.
Since I’m mentioning my project for next year, let me point you to the site where I’ll post about it most often so that you can follow me and be a part of the system I am using to hold myself accountable to achieve this objective. The site is called Las Vegas MyOptic. I believe the initial posts there will explain what I have in mind for the project. The site is my way of keeping my head still in Las Vegas.
After many years of relying on free hosted blogging services like Blogger and most recently this site on WordPress.com, I have now taken the plunge and registered a domain name for myself, http://perry-nelson.com, and over the weekend I began posting to my blog located there. Here is the link written out so you can see it, but it's active too so you can click it to go to the new location, http://perry-nelson.com/blog/ If you'd like to continue reading It's News to Me, please update your bookmarks so that you can still visit when you want to.
The primary reason for making this move is to give me greater control over my blog and an opportunity to experiment with other features on the web site that will eventually appear there. Right now the primary link, perry-nelson.com, only has a page containing a single link to my blog. In the future, there will be other content there, but that will take me some time to achieve.
My time on WordPress.com has given me a chance to experience the WordPress blogging software, and I've been quite pleased with it. But I wanted access to more of its features which the new site will provide. You'll notice a new look on the new site, one that I think is cleaner and easier to read. That different look was made possible by choosing a different template for my blog and being able to make such choices was one of the reasons for me to make the move to my own web site.
I am very grateful to the folks at WordPress.com for giving me the chance to blog here. I think it is a terrific place for someone to get their feet wet in blogging. If you are considering doing so, I recommend it highly. It is free, after all, and that price is hard to beat, but more than that, it offers an excellent blogging platform. And if you are thinking of starting a blog, Paul Stamatiou posted an excellent piece yesterday called HOW TO: Start Blogging.
So now that I've made this announcement, let me suggest that you come on over to the new location and let's continue our conversation there. I want to take this occasion to say thanks for your loyalty in reading my blog and for your patience in making the transition with me.
I have previously blogged about the virtue (as I see it) of being able to customize your applications to your own preferences. This afternoon I see that Daryl has made a plea for such customization of a feature in Flock, the alerts he receives from the Flickr Photo browser. He said:
In its current form, with some of the contacts I happen to have on my list, the photo topbar provides more of a distraction than a benefit. It provokes me far too often to stop what I'm doing so that I can look at photos of little consequence.
I know what he's talking about, and in general I agree with his proposed solution or at least with some variation of it. I'd like the ability to turn off notifications when some of my Flickr contacts post pictures and to specify how frequently I am notified about updates to their photostream. If I could specify that for some contacts I want to be notified as soon as they've posted their photo and for others that I want to be notified only once an hour of their updates, that would be an improvement over the current way it operates, I think.
But the point of this post is to raise the question for Flock's developers of whether they are really willing to give us to the ability to fine tune Flock's functions. There is, of course, an Options section in the Tools menu where I can specify a variety of preferences, such as which web services I use, which search engines I want as the default, which blogging service I use, etc., but in my conversations with them, I've met with some resistance (it seems) to building in a lot of configurability into Flock.
I've seen this resistance with regard to at least two of the functions that make Flock unique, the blog editor and the web snippets area location.
In its initial incarnation, the blog editor was a free-floating separate window that tended to get lost, particularly if you ran your browser maximized. Next the blog editor opened in a tab, not in a separate window. Since the editor has recently been improved and updated (completely re-written, if I understand correctly), it opens in a separate pop-up window that by default is opened on top of other windows. Right now there is no way to set it to open instead in a tab, and I have yet to see any discussion of the fact that the option to change that default behavior is going to be available. I have, however, seen a number of user comments indicating they would prefer to have it open in a tab. I don't think it should be only one way. Let the user choose which he or she prefers.
The web snippets feature (previously called The Shelf) was originally a topbar just like the photo browser or the Mapper function. In its most recent rendition, it is located in an area at the bottom of the browser window that auto-opens when you drag a web snippet to it. (Web snippets are nothing more than a bit of text, a graphic or a link that you find on the web that you want to retain, perhaps for later use in a blog post.) Back when it was a topbar, there was some discussion of making it a sidebar or a bottom bar instead. At that time, I said my preference was for us users to have the option of making it either, simply another thing that we could specify as we saw fit.
The resistance I sense among the developers to that idea goes something like this. "We don't want the browser to become bloated, and besides most users would end up just using the defaults anyway. And what's more, many users might find it hard to discover the configuration options." They are the developers, of course, and I am only a user, so I can't argue with the point that providing user preference options might contribute to bloat. However, I don't think the argument that most users might use the defaults or that many of them might not discover the configuration options holds much water. Though both suppositions may be true, that isn't any reason to deny users, who are willing to explore the features of the product and want choices, the option to "have it our way."
So as I write in support of Daryl's idea, I also would like to prod the Flock developers to become more open to giving the user greater choice about how Flock behaves. Stop short of making the code bloated, but go as far as possible in providing users choice. It's easier to create fans if give them the ability to control the application through configuring it to their desires.
At least the "Blog this" function at Flickr enables me to post a picture as the previous entry illustrates, however neither changing the theme nor trying to post a small version of a picture instead of a large one works yet when dragging pictures to the blog editor in Flock. Despite this, it still doesn't seem as if it is the blog editor in Flock that is at fault. Here's why I think that. When I create the post, the blog editor saves a copy of the post on my hard disk. I can look at that .html file and in the version on my hard disk, everything looks normal. So it seems that something in the process of publishing the post to WordPress.com strips out a part of the code and therefore causes the picture not to appear. That is true with the two themes I have tried this morning, so I'm not convinced that it is due to the theme I am using. Fortunately, Erwan and Daryl are looking into this problem to see if they can diagnose what is causing it and perhaps fix that.
I'll just have to await further development of the blog editor and the development team's investigation to get a resolution. In the mean time I can work around the problem if I need to post a picture by using Flickr's "Blog this" option.
In the most recent build of the blog editor I am pleased to see that a spell checking option has been added. Heaven knows I need help spelling and while a typo or two isn't something I'm going to stress out about, I do like to spell check my posts before I publish them.
This screenshot illustrates Flock's new implementation of its RSS news reader, called "My Newspaper." The icon to call up the sidebar is designated by the red arrow pointing to the iconbar. In the list of RSS feeds, the bold font indicates unread items on that particular feed.
The photo is being posted, this time, using Flickr's Blog This option, so I am doing further testing to see whether it will post successfully with the Flickr tool.
The lastest version of Flock, soon to be released in beta and codenamed "Cardinal," has improved the way RSS feeds are handled. The feed reader in Flock is called My Newspaper, and it is represented by an icon in the icon bar that looks like a newspaper (what else?) and is positioned just to the left of the icon for starring a favorite (which, in Flock's terminology, equates to marking a site as a favorite).
It was reasonably instinctive to me how to open the My Newspaper sidebar (just click the My Newspaper icon), but how to add a feed to the newspaper didn't seem as immediately obvious. So once I figured out how to do it, I decided to record a short video and upload it to YouTube to illustrate the process.
I saw this comment (#7) over on Mike Neel's blog this morning and decided I'd better post something here on my blog before such comments begin appearing in my comment section. So let me try to catch you up on some of the things that have been capturing my attention during the last week or so.
Yesterday morning I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me about the upcoming Cardinal release of Flock sometime in May. If I understand correctly, Cardinal will be the first actual beta version of Flock. Up until now, all the releases have been termed a "developer preview," and they were accompanied by a warning that the software wasn't even to the beta stage yet. Despite that very preliminary, and yes even buggy, version of the browser, I began using it back in November as my default browser. At any rate, yesterday I decided to download the latest "daily build" of Flock to see what has changed, so I downloaded version 0.7.0.3.0 and installed it. A number of changes have been made, some of which I like and some of which I don't.
For instance, I am now using the new built-in blogging editor for this post. When you press the hot key for it (Ctrl-B), the editor pops up a separate window, which is okay I suppose, but one of the things I notice immediately that there is no way to enter categories for the post. That means that posting to the blog will have to be a two-staged adventure. First, I can draft the post in the editor, but afterwards I'll have to open the post in WordPress and change the categories there. That is not very efficient and surely it is an oversight.
Also the editor doesn't seem to separate paragraphs with a space when you press Enter. I won't know how the post will appear on the blog until I publish it, but if it doesn't add the space between paragraphs I'll have to add them during that second stage of editing the post when I am adding the categories. I can, of course, modify my behavior to add those extra CR/LF (carriage return / line feeds) when I'm editing the post, once I discover how the editor treats them, but this behavior is a departure from the previous versions of the editor and to me it seems an undesirable change. Also this version of the blog editor no longer has a spell checker built in. Given my poor spelling skills, that is definitely not an improvement.
Another change in this version of the software is that the widget for selecting which collection is displayed at the top of the browser has been moved from the left side of the window to the right. Why? I have no idea. Again I can get used to that, but it doesn't seem to be an improvement to me and I see no rationale for the change.
What used to be called "the shelf" is now referred to as web snippets, and its location has been moved from the topbar to the bottom window. A feature has been added that allows you to highlight text, graphics, and links and drag them to the bottom of the window which causes the web snippet window to open automatically where the item can then be deposited. Once you've done that, moving the cursor back to the browser window closes the web snippet window. I think the rationale for this change was to make the web snippet window easier to use. I'll just have to see whether this configuration proves easier and more desirable. So far, I'm not convinced that it is.
One of the things that I do like about the new version is the modification they have made to the photo browser. I can now see all the photos of my friends on Flickr instead of just the ones that are public, meaning that I can see the photos that are classified by the photographer as for "friends and family" only when I am one of their contacts. That makes sense and is a change that needed to be made. Also the developers have added a link to each photograph that permits you to drag either a small or a large version of the photo to your blog post. I'm pleased with that capability. Previously you could only drag a small version of the picture so this new ability gives greater choice, and I'm almost always in favor of that.
So, despite my kvetching about the little niggling things I don't like about the newest version of Flock, I'm still a big fan of this browser because I've become reliant on the tools it provides for interacting with the web. I like the fact that when I mark something as a favorite in the browser it updates my del.icio.us site.
Flock is very innovative in the ways it encourages you to participate online rather than to merely observe content that others have generated. And since I favor all of us contributing to what's online, I think Flock will make a major contribution to that capability. Other browsers are like radios (one-way conversation) whereas Flock is more like a telephone.
Update: Upon publishing from the blog editor, I discovered to my delight that I did have the option for adding categories after all because upon pressing the "publish" button I was presented with a list of my categories from which to choose, and when I clicked on the "advanced" button I found that I could even enter Technorati tags too. So the paragraphs in which I complain about those absent features just reflects my lack of familiarity with the features. On the other hand, my observations about the CR/LF issue were correct, so in the future I'll know that if I want a blank line between paragraphs when I'm using the blog editor, I'll have to put them there. That's not hard to do, though, so I'll just modify my behavior to account for the way it works.