Monday, March 30, 2009

Wikipedia habits

I've been a wikipedia editor, with extremely variable levels of activity, since 2005. Recently, I created a few articles that I was surprised to find were missing:

Humane Society of Indianapolis
John Wesley Hardrick, artist

If you have some info - referenced facts, I should say - on either topic please stop by and make a contribution.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Tonight, my family participated in Earth hour along with many others in Earthhour observers in Indianapolis. We turned down all the lights from 8:30-9:30 EST. Although I don't personally find the "stop global warming" movement to have a persuasive logical argument, I do feel that our nation's energy policy needs to be addressed and that individually we should be more conscientious about our profligate use of energy. Also, the lack of light pollution in our neighborhood was wonderful - I wish the sky hadn't been overcast so that we could have seen the stars. The kids have asked if we can do this again next month. We did take a photo of our house during lights out also - check out the sky behind the trees, still lit up by the city light pollution even during earth hour.

I'm also interested to see how energy savings for earthhour compare to daylight saving time - and I'd easily be willing to swap the one for the other. I hate daylight saving time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gmail stickers

Get your Gmail Stickers at the Gmail blog. I got mine!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Venn diagramming using visio

I work with a programmer who is really talented at hand-drawing Venn Diagrams. Since my handmade sketches are no where near as clear to read as hers, I turned to Visio to sketch up some diagrams.

Here's how to draw a Venn Diagram with Visio:
  1. Draw ovals
  2. Select ovals, then format --> fill, and change Transparency to 50% (adjust according to taste)
  3. Select Shape --> Operations --> Fragment
  4. Shade each fragment to indicate designation
  5. Add a legend if necessary and use format painter to repeat shading.
For a demonstration of the value of this tool, refer to the diagram I just whipped up this morning. I'll submit it to graphjam for posterity as well. And fyi - if you want to avoid the Visio gymnastics, check out graphjam's Venn Diagram builder.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Godaddy site redirects

I often forget my profile addresses on the various online communities of which I am part. In order to consolidate my profiles and remember them more easily, I started creating redirected links on a minor domain I own. I think of this as my own personal tinyurl service. Following is an example of how to do this with a domain managed with godaddy.
  1. Open your hosting Control Center
  2. Scroll down, and open the "content" section
  3. Click "Site Redirects"
  4. Click "New redirect"
  5. Complete the Domain and Path for the location you wish people to use to get to your content. For example, you can set up to redirect people from that url to the hosted location of your resume at another address.
  6. Complete the Domain and Path for the destination address.
A specific example:

I set up to redirect to my Linkedin profile at

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shelter dog adoption

Adopting a dog from a shelter is a great option. Animal shelters have a variety of dogs available of different sizes and breeds. A good shelter will provide behavioral testing and initial vet care also, so that your new pet has a head start on their health when they come to your new home. Many shelters list their available dogs at Petfinder.

Shelter workers usually don't have a particular breed of dog they're interested in promoting ahead of others, and they hate returns more than anything, since that shows that a match between the dog and its owner wasn't successful. A good shelter will always be ready to take back an animal if it doesn't work out. Because of their aversion to returns and independence of recommending any particular breed, they can often recommend a breed or type of dog that you should consider based on your lifestyle and preferences. I also like the dog breed selector by Animal Planet.

If you do already have a specific breed in mind, then contact a breed rescue group. There are rescues for every kind of breed out there, and most are findable by Google.

Some people find that shelter dogs show a lot more gratitude for their home, too.

Training an older dog can be a concern. I've personally had no trouble, and so long as the dog's motivation can be found any dog is trainable. I've trained 10 year old Chihuahuas to dance, a 3 year old Coonhound to sit at attention, and a 2 year old beagle to sneeze. All of these were dogs from the Humane Society of Indianapolis.

Shelter dogs often come with a pet health insurance policy at adoption, which is a wise way to limit your risk in adopting a pet. I do know of one person who rescued an abandoned puppy and spent a lot of money on vet care. Going through a shelter to adopt makes financial sense, again because they have screened the dog for health issues and provided initial vet care. They sometimes miss things, that's true, but many shelters provide a pet care insurance policy free for the first 30 days to cover anything they have missed which your vet finds. We use it for our dogs, and if you mention us as a referral we'd be happy to donate the $25 referral bonus they pay us to an animal shelter of your choice.

For some, a shelter can be an overwhelming place. If that is true for you, contact your shelter and see if they have any foster dogs available. Often a foster parent can work with you to adopt the dog from a home, and you still get the benefits of having the dog's initial screening and vet care completed. Plus, to get along in a foster home most dogs will learn a few house-manners and even some training.

I've included some photos of dogs we've fostered to show what great variety of dogs are available. For more info about our foster dog's experiences, check out the former fosters blog.

Monday, March 16, 2009

TwitterRemote by TwitterCounter

I like this nifty new javascript widget from You can get TwitterRemote for your blog using the TwitterRemote widget customizer. Check it out for yourself, too.

A related project of theirs is My Twitter Weighs a ton which is a list of terms most often found in people's first tweets. Do you see that none of the top 100 terms are negative? The terms frustrated and confused don't make the list. Perhaps twitter attracts people to use it who are less change-averse than average. Or perhaps twitter manages new user sign up with such ease that those reactions aren't prevalent.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cool thing from a cool band

I saw on twitter that The Elms, a band from my husband's home town, have been working on a new album. I've been following their tweets for a while. They are, as I write this, streaming live from the studio as they work on it. There are two streams, one in the control room and one in the studio proper. This is one of the cooler things I've seen on the web in long time. Drop in and listen ... and watch! (And good luck with the album, guys!)

Google Voice Screenshots

I just converted my Grand Central account to the new and improved Google Voice service. Here's some screenshots for your viewing pleasure. The first is of the notice which appeared in my Grand Central inbox. The second is the screenshot after I clicked "Yes, Upgrade me!"

The conversion was done in moments. Next, I navigated via my iphone 3G to and logged in there. The new google voice works wonderfully well on the iphone, messages play as quicktime movies. I've been using Grand Central for over a year, and recommend it highly.

I checked over my settings, and noticed that my customized call groupings had been hosed. Not a big deal to straighten out. Basically, in the conversion the process assumes all caller groups should ring all phones and that isn't how I had it set up before. And the caller groups are missing anyway, so I'll have to recreate those. Also, I will need to record new greetings; my account was reset to standard greetings.

Later today, I'll try digging into the SMS, voicemail transcript and conference call features. And check it out - Google spiffed me a dollar for being part of the beta. Thanks, Google.

More updates have been available via twitter at @GoogleVoice.

Customer Service

What makes for good customer service? On the internet or in a store, there are some basic things to get right and everything else will follow. Online businesses could stand to learn a few refresher lessons from their counterpart businesses in the brick-and-mortar world.

I have family in Chicago and live in Indianapolis, so I head back and forth down I-65 on visits. A few years back, I started stopping regularly at the Logan's in Lafayette, because they do customer service right. A road trip for us is no meager affair; today, for example, there were 6 of us in transit - 2 adults, 2 energetic boys and 2 bouncing beagles. We pushed through to LaFayette in good time, and walked in a bit frazzled, happy to be back in 3G territory after the digital wastes of Northern Indiana, needing sustenance. The staff greeted us, seated us promptly, were courteous throughout. The restrooms are clean, the food is good.

Oh, yea, that's *every* restaurant's policy, what's the big deal? I can regularly walk into a speedy-eats restaurant nowadays and tell them "I feel welcome to your restaurant, would you take my order please?" and nonplus even the most doughty clerk. But here's the difference.

They know me at Logan's. In a restaurant 60 miles from anywhere I usually go, they know me. The manager made a point to learn the boy's names. For some reason, the boys think it is really neat to sweep with the staff, and the manager lets them help out. This is a big deal to boys who have been cooped up in a car and need a chance to move around. The staff makes a fuss over them, and they're just delighted with it. Once or twice, the manager spotted us a free dessert. We've talked about his wife's degree program, our holiday plans, nicknames for the kids. If the game's on, we get the score report when we walk in. We've swapped wii codes, and can battle in guitar hero. I can wear my Indiana University hoodie in the restaurant - in the university town of LaFayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University - and walk out unscathed. 'Nuff said.

So what happens from this level of customer service? I got served the wrong order once, but decided to try it instead of being a pain and sending it back. They apologized, and I learned about a new menu item that was pretty good. Once, the manager stopped by and saw that one kid's meal was overdone, so he had the dish remade. When family comes down from Chicago, I tell them to stop there. Over the course of a few years, I've probably spent or referred $1,000 of business there. All without a club card. That level of authentic, purposeful customer service has some pretty tangible benefits - I'm less likely to be a pain as a customer, I'm getting better service, and I'm spending more of my money there. And I'm not alone - the reviews on Google are good too. It benefits me as the customer *and* the restaurant as a business.

So look around for yourself at the businesses you patronize and figure out what not only serves you as a customer, but delights you. In an online business model, it is far easier to know your customer - they tell you who they are with each login. Are you using what you know to delight your customer?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Google desktop and downsizing

I installed Google Desktop recently, as have a number of people in my office. It has made it ever so much easier to find documents. I can't tolerate using the built-in windows search functionality with the annoying puppy any longer. If only it indexed our corporate wiki as well, it would be perfect.

One very useful application of the Google Desktop search is to find documents authored by co-workers. Especially if the otherwise conscientious co-workers are abruptly no longer in the employ of the company, and thus unable to offer instructions as to the whereabouts of relevant documentation. This is an increasing concern for those people left behind in the office after a layoff. (My sympathy is still with those now unemployed, not those still working.)

For more philosophical musing on the effects of the current economy on the American worker, take a listen to Do More With Less from Planet Money on NPR or read an AP article, Recession finds even those with jobs losing pay.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Daylight saving nonsense

At 2 a.m. on March 8, 2009, groggy Americans will turn their clocks forward one hour, marking the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST). I hate daylight saving time the way that the French hate a loaf of Velveeta.

I find it terribly ironic that only after I moved to Indiana did the state start following DST. And a new study, by Matthew Kotchen and Laura Grant of University of California at Santa Barbara reports that DST increases residential energy use. The article is available at “Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana

Friday, March 6, 2009

QR codes

Have you ever struggled trying to type in a url on your iphone to get to a new website? Struggle no more with mine at least. Instead, snap a photo of this image and use a barcode reader to request the URL. My preferred reader is Barcodes in the iphone App Store.

Granted, the applicability of this to a blog like mine is a mere exercise in usability. But the extensibility of the idea is great - a performance group like Indyprov can post the code at events to let people in the know use it to easily get to their site to find out about future events. Animal rescue organizations can use these outside each kennel to provide details on each animal. What use could you put it to?

You can make your own barcode with Google Charts.

Thanks Rick Klau for the basic info on how to get started.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why I Twitter posted at Biznology

Twitter, how do I love thee? I had the strangest experience recently of multiple people asking me about it, from all walks of life and from various social circles. It was as though I had been tagged with a real life meme. So, I counted up the ways and wherefores of twitter recently over at Biznology for your reading pleasure.

I'll look for you on twitter.

Image by Mykl Roventine via Flickr

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why ask why?

Why I Twitter

My design for Twitter's "over capacity&qu...

Image by Mykl Roventine via Flickr

by Eva Lyford

Despite all the talk about it, most people, even most savvy Web types, don't use Twitter. That's not a problem--it's just true. That means that even among the dress-in-black blog-writing, Facebook-using folks "in the know," Twitter people like me are still in the minority. It also means that I often get asked why I Twitter, so I decided to sit down and make a list.

Twitter, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. Twitter makes me a better writer. In 140 characters, a person has to be concise. As an example: there was a time I would have said "pretty concise" in that sentence, but now I'm over it. The term "pretty" adds no value to the thought, so I downsized it. I credit Twitter with forcing me to reexamine my writing style and improve it so that each word adds value to a sentence.
  2. Twitter networks me with interesting people. On the one hand, there are the celebrity thinkers like Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, and Guy Kawasaki who would be interesting in any venue; they happen to be on Twitter. Next, there are everyday people who I'm getting to know; Carma, Kristin, Michelle, Chuck and so many friendly others.
  3. Twitter is functional. Indyprov, the improv comedy troupe I'm in, uses Twitter to promote local shows. The Humane Society of Indianapolis, who I volunteer with, uses Twitter to promote adoptable pets. Local Indianapolis businesses, such as The Bean Cup and Yats practice micro-marketing and make offers which I've taken advantage of and recommended to others via retweets--that's good business for both of us.
  4. Twitter is local. Twitter facilitates connections on a local level; as an example, I noticed a few of my local followers often mention hanging at The Bean Cup, an independent coffee house in southside Indianapolis. I live only 2 miles away, but have never heard of them because their location is hidden from view of the nearby thoroughfare. I checked them out by taking them up on a Twitter promotion offering free coffee for Twitterers who stopped in. I liked the place so well, I've been back often. And from the business perspective, that's an effective promotion.
  5. Twitter is global. When something happens in the world--the Mumbai attacks or the Miracle on the Hudson--Twitterers are talking about it. Sure, I didn't need to know that a Flat Stanley survived Flight 1549's landing, but I found out through Twitter and that personalized the event for me. The news is no longer remote to me when I get these details.
  6. Twitter interlinks my social networks. I have networks on plaxo, on friendfeed, facebook and on linkedin. They operate differently, and through the magic of RSS I can keep them updated and current--I can be with my network contacts wherever they chose to be. Some people get heavily invested in their network and don't want to leave to join you on another site; with Twitter, I can update their preferred networking site at will and stay in touch.
  7. Twitter is an instant expert aggregator. Post a question, and hear back from your group with their thoughts and ideas. Even when the question isn't answered, often direction is given which can lead you to an answer.
  8. Finally, Twitter still has that new-website-smell. Almost 2 years since I joined, it hardly feels broken in, and I'm enjoying being part of the community who is defining the utility of the site. Daily I find new uses for Twitter and I enjoy sharing them on my blog. In this way, I've created a niche for myself where others come to me to find out about Twitter tools and tips.

What do you like about Twitter? Post to let me know--or tweet me @ejly.

also published at

Update twitter with digg via twitterfeed

Wondering how to update twitter with Digg bookmarks? Here's the steps:
  1. Set up an account with Twitterfeed
  2. Find out your Digg bookmarks RSS feed. Go to your digg history page (as an example, here's my digg history and look for the RSS icon on the page. It looks like a dot with 3 lines:
  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 "history.rss."
  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.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Exceedingly charming

I'm exceedingly charming; I have it on authority and officially, now, that I am.

Thanks Carma. I take back what I said about you being cheesy. You're not cheesy; you're the cheesiest! Carma has awarded me a 'friends award' -

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I would like to share this award with some of the friends I have, and have made through blogging and twittering and whatnot. Especially whatnot. If you didn't make the list, don't pout as it will give you wrinkles: