Saturday, February 28, 2009

Laff-a-thon 2009

I participated yesterday in two sets with INDYPROV at the Laff-a-thon at Theatre on the Square in Indianapolis. Thanks to all pals and frenemies who showed up to laugh.

When I was considering joining INDYPROV, one of the attractions of the group was that the members have a strong charitable drive and willingly volunteer to perform gratis to help our local community. Performing today was a fulfillment of the group's promise to stay engaged with local civic life and give back to the community, as it is our community who supports us.

Speaking of community, I was pleasantly surprised to see support for the event from twitter! Thanks to all the twitter folks who tweeted and RT'ed the laff-a-thon bulletins, especially @jelefant, @MikeMoran, @wzpl @Carmasez, @burchie, @rbb9753, and @NickiLaycoax.

Update twitter with delicious via twitterfeed

Wondering how to update twitter with Delicious bookmarks? Here's the steps:
  1. Set up an account with Twitterfeed
  2. Find out your Delicious bookmarks RSS feed. Go to your delicious home page (as an example, here's my bookmarks) and look for the "RSS feed for these bookmarks" text on the page.
  3. Copy the RSS link by right clicking (or control clicking, my dear Mac friends) on the link by the rss icon. Note that the link should end with "v2/rss/ejly?count=15." where the username, ejly, would instead show your own username.
  4. Go back to Twitterfeed, and click the link to "Create New Feed." Fill out the easy form, and you're set.
Some further advice: don't irritate your twitter friends by blasting out 5 updates at a time via twitterfeed: that's the default option but I don't like it. Their interface shows: Post up to new updates each time by default, I change that to 1 for my feeds. If you want to be chattier on twitter, then change the update frequency to more frequent intervals.

Yes, this works for any service which is rss-able. You can set up Flickr updates to twitter or even Facebook updates to twitter.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

How to find contacts on Twitter

A recent tweet caught my attention; a former coworker and fellow tweeter Mike Duff was looking for a way to check to see if any of his outlook contacts were on twitter. It used to be that twitter provided additional tools for doing this, but those have been retired with no reinstatement date in site.

As an alternative, one can use a 5-step process to find out if your outlook contacts are on twitter. This would also theoretically work for any mail program with exportable contacts, such as Apple's Mail program or my beloved Eudora. (YMMV with Pico.)

Step 1: Log into a webmail provider supported by twitter, such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail or MSN. See for the list of supported services, which may change over time. If you have an existing account and are comfortable with using it for this purpose, you can use that. Or, you can create a specific account for this purpose only, then delete it when you're done.

Step 2: This varies by webmail provider, but find the contacts area of the service and import your contacts. Based on the service you use, read their directions for exporting a list of contacts from your mail program which is suitable for import for their service.
  • For Gmail, the address book is labeled 'Contacts' and they provide an 'Import' function. Google notes "We support importing contacts in the CSV file format (Comma Separated Values). For best results, please use a CSV file produced by Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo!, or Hotmail. For Apple Address Book, there is a useful utility called "A to G".
  • For Yahoo, the address book is labeled 'Contacts' as well. Once in the 'Contacts' area, click on 'options' to reveal the 'import contacts' option. Note: yahoo has a new service called ymail , but twitter doesn't seem able to work with ymail today. So this info is strictly for email addresses
  • Use another service? Please post the info in the comments to help your fellow twitterers.
Step 3: After your import has completed, log in to twitter and go to Log into the webmail service you picked to use in step 1. If you have security concerns in spite of twitter's assertions of righteous behavior in processing your emails, then stop here.

Step 4: As of today, twitter defaults to suggesting that you add everyone from your contact list who is on twitter, and I surely wish they didn't. You can send invites to all your contacts, but I wouldn't recommend it without serious pre-planning. The better use of the tool is to uncheck the 'select all' option and then scroll through the list to determine who you should follow. As a rule of thumb, I skip anyone who has a non personalized id - the mismatched O's in blue on a background of brown. If that argument isn't persuasive enough to get you to reconsider inviting everyone from Aethelred to Zebediah to connect, consider also that your follower/following ratio will look out of whack for a while if you send off a bunch of follower requests as it will take some time for the folks involved to respond. Small batches are better.

Step 5: You're done... for now. Twitter users sign up every hour, so you may want to try again another day! Alternatively, you may prefer to delete the account if you're not comfortable with keeping the webmail account. But if you do keep it, it is easy to check back regularly to see if any more contacts have joined up. Otherwise you'll have to repeat the export-import process.

Thanks @Duffgalleries for the inspiration to write these instructions up.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deactivate profiles? What a strange thought.

I read PM Network regularly to stay up to date on Project Management industry news, and they have very solid coverage of PM tools and tips. It is also enlightening to occasionally read the descriptions of project methodologies outside my industry. Recently, I was presently surprised to see PM Network venture into the social marketing arena with a short article in the February, 2009 issue by John Sullivan, titled The Social Scene. Primarily intended to advise project managers on how to use social networking for career advancement, the article does a solid job of covering the basics such as Linkedin, Googling oneself, and Facebook.

Some of the sites listed were perplexing though. Ziggs was a new one to me so I checked it out. I performed a few searches on the author's name in a few combinations but he doesn't appear to be listed. I'm not sure why one would mention a site one wasn't using in an article. Possibly, the site has secret profiles not indexed by search? I can't see the point of that. So, I opted not to register for my own account and moved on.

The author advises readers to get recommendations (not on Facebook, I suppose, that would be a whole new realm of applicability for the "it's complicated" relationship label), use a good photo and commit to maintaining one's profile. That is solid advice and will get you far.

But the advice to Consolidate wouldn't work for most networkers (quoted from the article):
Some sites, like Facebook, are more social in nature while others, such as Linkedin, are more career oriented. Pick one for each purpose and remove or deactivate profiles on other sites.
The author advises readers to pick two sites and run with them. While this might work as an initial first step, it seems woefully inadequate long term. Additionally, a neophyte might naively assume that the networks won't cross, when I can guarantee this will happen. Just last week a new team member at work told me he'd seen a photo of me on facebook, because his fiancée is in my facebook network and showed it to him. So trying to keep two networks separately is not a good long term strategy - the world is a small place, and due to the strength of weak ties it is getting smaller.

Further, consolidating to just two sites may isolate you from other networks. I have networks on plaxo, on friendfeed, and on linkedin. They operate differently, and through the magic of RSS I can keep them updated and current. So why would I want to shut those profiles down? Or, potentially lose folks as contacts who are heavily invested in those networks and don't want to follow me to my network of choice? And don't you dare trying to take my twitter away from me.

I'm glad to see PM Network addressing social networking technologies, and I hope that their coverage will expand in the future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


My son recently got Spore Origins by EA from the Apple Store, and it is his current favorite electronic game. He was so enchanted, in fact, that he agreed to pay for the upgraded app from his own chore money. He's evolved a few creatures already and enjoys planning out what they need to have to advance through the next level. I recommend it for any budding evolutionists.

For more on evolution, we'll check out Evolving Planet at the Field museum.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The three rules of robotics apply to Eve

I saw Wall-E recently with my boys, and loved the movie. Compared to the general fast-food like frenzy of most modern children's cartoons, Wall-E seems like a slow-food gourmet feast.

I was particularly impressed with how well the movie carried itself even lacking dialog during the early part of the movie. Harpo Marx would have been proud.

Reflecting upon it now, I am trying to determine whether the hypothetical designer of all those robots kept in mind Asimov's rules of robotics when they were made:

1. do not harm humans through action or inaction
2. obey orders except where conflicting with 1
3. do not harm self except where conflicting with 1 or 2

I think that that must have been part of the vision for the movie, that the robots would each be adhering to the rules of robotics but through differentiated interpretations would come into conflict. It was clear that Auto thought that it was serving rule 1; and Wall-E was willing to take on injury to himself in order to follow rule 2, thus demonstrating the solidity of the hierarchy in his mind. But what about Eve?

Eve was clearly a rule follower, and was willing to accept personal injury in order to meet her objectives - so the hierarchy is programmed into her functioning. Yet she discards her objective when, I surmise, she interprets her actions as having endangered Wall-e and continuing to endanger him. I can't reconcile that with the rules of robotics; had Wall-E not persuaded her otherwise, would she have given up on her mission for his sake?

Research a little further and an answer emerges: the Zeroth law. The Zeroth law, number such that it would precede the others, is in summary:

0. a robot should not harm humanity through action or inaction.

Even in the Asimov books, it was not often invoked and perhaps was only the faintest of subprocesses in a purpose-built positronic brain such as Eve's. One could speculate that it was Wall-E's actions in retrieving the plant for Eve after she'd discarded it that were required to invoke this subprocessing. I like that; the story has a neat arc to it if Eve's disregard of her objective was necessary to invoke her zealous pursuit of it once her objective was related to a higher purpose.

But this does highlight a missing 4th rule for robotics: do not harm other robots unless conflicting with the other laws. Then again, if that law was there, then perhaps all the characters would have remained on the Axiom and never headed to Earth, as to do so would endanger the robots.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Designing for a good user experience

Take a look at the following alert message I captured recently. If you speak English, you're fine. But because the translation wasn't done thoughtfully, people who speak other languages will be looking for a button that isn't there. French speakers will be looking for a button labeled 'Quitter'. German speakers will be looking for a 'Beenden' button. Italian speakers will be looking for the 'Esci' button. And Spanish speakers will be looking for the 'eliminar' button.

Think about how to communicate to other markets before just running your text through Google Translate. Details matter.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Update Twitter with Flickr photostream via Twitterfeed

Wondering how to update twitter with flickr status? Here's the steps:
  1. Set up an account with Twitterfeed
  2. Find out your flickr photostream's RSS feed. Go to your photostream (as an example, here's my photostream and look for the "Subscribe to ____'s photostream" text on the page. Obviously, fill in the blank with your own flickr name.
  3. Copy the RSS link by right clicking (or control clicking) on the link by the rss icon. Note that the link should end with "&format=rss_200."
  4. Go back to Twitterfeed, and click the link to "Create New Feed." Fill out the easy form, and you're set.
Some further advice: don't irritate your twitter friends by blasting out 5 updates at a time via twitterfeed: that's the default option but I don't like it. Their interface shows: Post up to new updates each time by default, I change that to 1 for my feeds. If you want to be chattier on twitter, then change the update frequency to more frequent intervals.

Yes, this works for any service which is rss-able, even Facebook.

Thanks @CharityHisle for the inspiration to write these instructions up.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I do other things

When I'm not online, I have a real life. With real people. Really.

I'm part of Indyprov, and we were featured recently at the Indy Theatre Habit Blog! 'Cause we have a fun picture. Of real people. Who will be playing at the Laff-a-thon on February 28th.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Holy Bat Estrogen

I don't trust the return of Batwoman by DC Comics. I suspect that her character will be written as lesbian in order to titillate male audience members, rather than to introduce a woman who is not heterosexual. Additionally, this doesn't fit with Batwoman's historical story line at all - she is Batman's love interest. So did she ditch him and become a lesbian after things didn't work out in the happy Batfamily? Or is DC Comics retconning her past such that she meets Batman later and he wins her over?

Oh, I've heard she's Jewish too (per unconfirmed sources). What that has to do with anything in DC comic's mind I don't know, but aren't there enough comic book heroes around to be diverse with that they don't have to cram all the diversity into one resurrected character? Next we know, Batwoman will probably end up being the descendant of Chinese railway workers from San Francisco and escaped African-American slaves from Ontario too. On her father's side.

It would have made far more sense, from a literature perspective, for Batman to come out of the closet. And then we could make more sense out of this Robin sidekick thing too.

And if they want diversity, why not do more with Green Lantern? Heck, he could run for president. Unless that's been done before.

That said, I like the boots. Are those acrylic heels?

More Batwomany goodness:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Corporate Tweet style

I have a new article up at Biznology, What's your company's tweeting style? In the article, I group corproate twitterers into 5 categories. There are probably more, but it seems like a good start towards a taxonomy.
Twitter bird image from Smashing Magazine.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chihuahua available for adoption

Our foster dog, Cameron the Chihuahua, is available for adoption. The tough guy was rescued from a puppy mill in Indiana, where he probably spent his whole life in a cage. His attitude is fantastic: he's learning all sorts of wonderful new things, like chicken, playing, chicken, running, comfy pillows,chicken, and chicken. (Have I mentioned that he likes chicken?) He's adapting to being with people, but is not very fond of kids - he's an older dog and would be a great lap-dog companion. I'd be surprised if he weighs more than 5 lbs - he's tiny! One friend calls him a chalupa dog, and I think I have seen bigger burritos.

He's up to date on shots (including rabies), has been groomed and is house-training. Cameron's foster care and adoption are through the Indianapolis Humane Society, adoption info is available from them or from petfinder. His adoption fee is $105, fully payable to the charity.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tweet style for corporations and organizations

What's your company's tweeting style?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

by Eva Lyford

There are a few different ways that corporations are approaching twitter. If you haven't decided which way you should go, consider a few paths that are being trod already. Or, blaze your own trail and tell me about it! And be wary: don't be trapped into a reactive position.

Two recommended approaches:

The Personal Approach. Take one motivated executive/employee, add two parts interestingness, with a modicum of humility and restraint, and mix to achieve desired consistency. This isn't right for everyone, as few executives are motivated to participate or understand the medium well enough to be comfortable in it or to approve budget for the staff (your mileage may vary). But the combination of personhood with engagement is an attractive proposition--one that leads to a true following, a following that will occasionally respond to your offers, because they are familiar with your product/service and engaged with your brand. Note that responding to and interacting with fellow Twitterers via @ (public replies) and direct messages (private replies) is critical to this approach. Check out,,,

The Committee Model. Launch a half dozen Twitterstreams, potentially having each managed by multiple persons, and potentially require that they coordinate their posts with one another to present a unified front to readers. As a bonus, let the individual personalities peek through using "I" language and replying to people who send a message. Use of the "we" language can be confusing to readers, but is a side effect of the committee approach. This can work with a single Twitterstream too; the key is to make sure that the authenticity of the communication isn't lost when it becomes a committee assignment. Check out or or or

Two approaches to avoid:

The Corporate Bot. Automate announcements of Web site changes, sales, and specials via Twitter. And that's it. Decline to engage with anyone who messages you, don't devote time towards following anyone and don't seek out anyone discussing your product, service or organization to engage them in conversation. If something goes awry in your automation, don't backtrack to fix it or apologize to any followers you have, just trundle on as if nothing happened. or are examples.

The Corporate Hack. Speak in the first person of the corporation as though it were an individual, hide behind the corporate facade and refuse to answer any customer inquiries because that's not what you're there for. Generally, this approach represents a little-thought out strategy to corporate marketing or a defensive position, neither of which is well regarded, as shown by Sad alternative: park your name and just hang out aimlessly

And one approach you should absolutely not be forced into:

The Reactive Apologizer. Pop up in a crisis and vanish without a trace. As an example, in November of last year, Motrin offended some moms with ads that popped up on the Internet. Heated discussion ensued on Twitter regarding these ads. Motrin's response was to sign up for Twitter and join the conversation (see the first post in response), which was pretty brave, considering the backlash. By the end of the day, had put the baby to bed... and then vanished from Twitter, not heard from since. On the other hand, the #motrinmoms tag has enjoyed a healthy life since, becoming apart of the cultural fabric of twitter as a reference to how far and how fast a movement could go. One can only speculate as to how things would have gone for Motrin with their ad had they been part of the social marketing mix from the beginning, and able to reach before the outrage reached maximum velocity.

Where does your company stand with Twitter? Did you recognize yourself in one of these approaches or are you still waiting to get into the game? Twitter's not for everyone, but approached correctly it can humanize your company and get people rooting for you.

This article was originally published at biznology.

2009 Internet Predicitions on Biznology

I met with a virtual writing team via Google Moderator to brainstorm some predictions for 2009 in January, and came up with some. Let's revisit in January to see where we ended up with Twitter Monetezation and mobile phones, shall we?

The Last 2009 Internet Predictions You'll Have to Read

Wikipedia image

Thanks Josh Greenfield for getting us together. This article also published at:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grand Central

In February of 2007, I set myself up with Grand Central (see Grandly grand, centrally central). One year later, I'm still loving it. Thank you Grand Ccentral for eliminating all the phone spam.

Update 3/12/09: Grand Central converted to Google Voice. I upgraded to Google Voice today and it was a snap.