FreePoverty.com - Knowing Helps...

WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE?

See how many cups of water you can donate by testing your knowledge about the world. Each correct answer means we will be donating 10 cups of water on your behalf. The number of cups of water donated on your behalf depends on how accurate your answer is. Once you have located one city or landmark, another location will be shown to you.

You may play the game however many times you wish. Of course, the more you play and the more you are correct, the greater difference you will make with your donation. If your answer is correct, 10 cups of water will be donated. The further away you are from the location, the number of cups will decrease. If your answer is nowhere near the exact location, no cups of water will be donated. Therefore by playing this game, not only are you doing a good deed for others, but you are also gaining knowledge for yourself. Good luck, and have some fun -- it feels good to help someone!


FACTS ON POVERTY

Every day, at least 30,000 people around the world die from poverty; most of whom are under five years of age. They die because they are undernourished, and do not have enough food or water to survive. More than 800 million people go hungry every day. This is 13% of the world population. How can you help? By playing this game on FreePoverty.com, each answer you get correct, 10 cups of water will be donated. Somewhere in the world, someone will receive it. And it will make a difference to their day.


WHY WATER?

70% of a human being is made up of water. Water is the second most essential element for survival, after oxygen. Over one billion people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water; hence, causing them to develop deadly diseases. Moreover, without water, the brain is not able to function properly. One cup of water can make difference to someone's day. FreePoverty allows you to donate as many cups of water as you can to save millions of people.


MORE INFORMATION ABOUT FreePoverty.com

FreePoverty intends to do the same, and they want you to contribute. By testing your basic knowledge on their map, each correct answer means you will be donating 10 cups of water. FreePoverty chose water as their primary source of donation, because it is something that all human beings need to survive. Around the world, there are too many people who don't have access to clean drinking water; thus causing various illnesses. With your contribution, FreePoverty may be one drop closer to ending poverty and making the world a better place.

Goin' Home Again

When I Grow-up...

I just read a really nice post on Fuel Your Creativity about social networks by Andy Jacobson where he described the positive impact his online social life has on his design work and how it related to his "Home Town". Good stuff. I really like the metaphor. The somewhat short and simple post and some of the comments left by folks got me thinkin' about the topic, and I thought I'd tap-down some of my own thoughts on the subject.

meFor me, while growing-up the world got bigger as I did, and then I reached a tipping point -- and as I moved around a bunch it began to get smaller. I realized that there are many more things we all have in common than there are differences. Sometimes it's tough to remember this during the day-to-day hustle-bustle though.

I think everybody can appreciate it when folks put the "real" them out there... it's honest and heartfelt, you know? It's like a well-written short story. It's like a timeless photo. It's the stuff that gets into your core right down to the human element.

I've always felt we all unknowingly weave our brief and seemingly random, thread-like lives into a "Human fabric." It's old and worn, and it gets ripped and tattered but it won't ever tear apart. It's the metaphor I've always visualized to describe the Human condition.


Them Miles I've Traveled

I've been surfing the web since the early Nineties... Waaay back when there was only one browser: Mosaic, and a 300 baud modem was fast. I started trying to build web 'pages' around that time too. Heck, I had a Zenith 286 laptop with 1 Megabyte of RAM and I was doing "page layout" and brochure pages as a freelancer so it kinda made sense. Really basic stuff. Besides, I thought it just might be "the next big thing!" In retrospect, I've cobbled together a decent career over the years and rubbed elbows with some really fantastic people, built some great relationships and friendships because of computers, the web -- and now with Social Media.

I grew up in a small (one square mile) town just outside NYC. It had a town center, and everyone pretty much knew everyone else and it really had a sense of community. I have a busy offline "real" life and I'm slowly building a really nice, enjoyable and complimentary online virtual life as well. I now live in New England very close to Needham where Andy grew up. Small world.

Like Andy -- and probably a lot of other folks -- I love the cool factor that all the Web 2.0 technology presented. I always felt that the "you have to eat your own dog food" analogy made a lot of sense. You really have to use it to be able to design it well, right? I've been signing up for just about every service I run across to see what it does, and how it does it, and to soak-in that "virtual goodness" -- that cool factor that makes even the toughest geeks get all warm and fuzzy on the inside.


It's Good To Be Home

Maybe it's the time of year. Thanksgiving and some quality time spent with the family? Maybe it's my recent trip back home for a High School Reunion. It's nice to be a thread in the fabric, however torn and tattered it may be.

meFor me, it's nice to be a part of something bigger than the everyday stuff. The rough and tumble, "I just gotta get through this week" stressful kinda stuff. The virtual world doesn't seem to have the same challenges, nagging issues or problems that can build-up and stick-around in my "real" life. I like the energy and enthusiasm of the design community, and it's nice to be able to tap into a flow of consistent creative inspiration. I'm always inspired to try and continue to learn, challenge myself and try to hone my skills... feeling like I'm a prt of something bigger helps me to try to always keep an optimistic outlook on things, and "keep on keeping on" when things get tough.

I like the "connectedness" of my virtual social life, and I like the fact that it's always there, active and churning, rumbling with life. An endless virtual stream of something new and exciting just around the corner.

Posted via web from ptamaro's posterous

I am Now Publishing on AddsYou.com

Social Publishing Network | AddsYouAddsYou is a social publishing network (still in Alpha) that pays authors for their written works. Not all the features are complete, but the core of AddsYou is up and running and can be extensively tested.

The AddsYou mission is to be the most visited and lucrative user-generated content site on the Internet contributing to the creation of a world-wide database of knowledge sharing as much revenue as possible with our best contributing users.

It’s a community full of fun and passionate authors that are hungry for writing, sharing, and interacting with other authors with similar interests. What do you know? Share your knowledge today!

Content on AddsYou is published by people like you from all around the world. AddsYou lets you publish just about anything you like online. Many authors publish their school papers, how-to's, news articles, journal entries, reviews, tips, poems, research reports, short stories, tech talk, e-books, ezines, etc… Be creative and more importantly, have fun!

Have fun publishing and make sure to send them feedback!
Find out more: www.addsyou.com
Get your FREE account now, it's super cool!
username=MjAwOC0xMi0wNSAwODo1MDowNQ==

Wow, I Got Smashed!

Check out the December '08 Desktop Wallpaper Calendars at Smashing Magazine »Yes, we can...
Here's one from the "Stick to it, you can do it" Category... Way back in March of this year Smashing Mag started featuring stunning desktop wallpaper created by amazing artists and designers working on the web. I was hooked on Smashing since they rolled in the Fall of '06, and they really crank-out great articles, resources, how-to's, fonts, tools and all sorts of stuff that really does "make your life easier" if you work on the web (or if you geek-out just for fun, huh?).

In March I was so inspired by the amazing artwork that I took on a personal challenge to try and see if I could get Smashed too at some point — and I set out to try and make some decent desktop wallpapers whenever I had time. Finally, in November I submitted a wallpaper just to see if my stuff would rank, but that set wasn't chosen (the calendar was too difficult to see). No biggie I figured, and I churned-out another set for December just for chuckles, submitted them and went about my boring routine just as I always do and thought nothing of it...

Feelin' Pretty Good Now
I returned from a rare, and invigorating brief traveling jaunt and checked my email and deleted my typical SPAM messages (sorry: it's actually large enough, I don't need a mortgage or a mail-order bride, and I don't need an expensive watch, etc.) and then did my typical web surfing and feed reading. Then, I remembered I had submitted my wallpaper, and went to see if the fine folks at Smashing had posted for December with my fingers crossed and there I was, SLAM I got Smashed and it was a great feeling. Nice.

Check out the December '08 Desktop Wallpaper Calendars at Smashing Magazine »One Ant and One Giant Rubber Tree
Here's what made the grade, and I called it "Violet Night" because it sorta sounded good and seemed to make sense at the time. I dressed it up in some fancy phrases to make it seem like I actually had a concept when in fact I was really just messing around with Photoshop.

I think I can, I think I can!
I think I'll try to do something again next month since it's really kinda fun and I like rubbing pixels with some of the best on the web — makes me feel like I am somebody, really. Maybe I'll actually get some traffic and a few ad clicks on this stupid blog after all these years. That's another long-winded long-term goal, but I've stopped holding my breath waiting for a check from Google.

Check out all the fantastic stuff they've got at Smashing Magazine, and add them to your feeds — heck, why not try and submit your stuff? It's good for you and 100% natural without all the weird side effects, fast talk and fine print...
:-D

Blue Beanie Day 2008

Blue Beanie DayStandards make sense.
Get your blue toque or beanie on and support Web Standards — it's good for you, your browsers and surfers and it's good for the web... face it, Web Standards just make sense.

Huh, what's up with that?
Visit A List Apart to get more info on Web Standards or get the skinny right from Zeldman. ALA has lots of articles on Web Standards. You can also visit The Web Standards Project which is "a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all."

Show solidarity with the Standardistas on Friday, November 28th, 2008.

Show your support for web standards and accessibility. Wear a blue beanie, or blue hat (but mostly blue beanies) snap a photo and join the bluebeanieday2008 Flickr group to show your support.
Also known as a Watchman's Cap. Some people call these head coverings a stocking cap, and in some parts of Canada they call it a tuuk, or tuque. In Detroit, a beanie is sometimes called skully, and if you are really a cool hip hop artist (or rap star), you wear a DooRag under your Blue Beanie.
:-D

Cool Tool: MeetInBetween.Us

Give it a try » MeetInBetween.Us
"Okay, I'll meet you half-way there..."
Simple problem, simple (yet sophisticated) solution. I was doing my morning surfing and reading tweets on my Twitter [Follow me @ptamaro] and I saw a tweet by @kyleplacy with the URL for MeetInBetween.Us and decided to check it out. I'm really glad I did because this is a really helpful app that takes two locations and finds a central location to meet, and presents you with places to meet by category.
Find a place to meet
How does it work?
For example, I want to meet my friend from Providence, RI for coffee next week so I type that location in and then type Boston, MA as my second location. I'm presented with Sharon, MA as the central location and categories like food, coffee, bar, hotel, mall, etc. and then it gives you places to meet based on the topic you choose. Simple, huh? It also gives you directions on how to get there from each starting location. In addition. it gives you a a nice short link to the map and location so you can share it with the other person.

Results, plain and simple.
How about coffee at the Starbucks at 5 Post Office Sq #5 in Sharon, MA on Wednesday evening around eight? Let me know if that works for you, either way... I'll have a Triple Espresso with one sugar please! :-D

Substance with style -or- substance and style?

Medium + message
Here's a quick and rambling post on the topic of style and substance. I just read a somewhat nasty comment on a blog that I frequent and it got me thinking about style. The flagrant comment focussed solely on the writers style, and in my opinion, missed much of the points the writer was trying to present.

Form, function? Whatever...
When I think of form vs. function issue (or is it function vs. form?), I tend to lean towards function as being the more important of the two for me. This is because so many things don't hold up to the test of time these days, and it bothers me when things just don't work or function well and do the very thing they are meant to do in the first place. If something looks great and is aesthetically pleasing and all that stuff but doesn't work, what's the point? I like dependable products and I don't mind fixing them when they fail to deliver because of normal use. When I'm constantly fixing things to just get 'em to work, it bothers me. It's about efficiency. It's about design.

Form = Style, delivery, medium

Function = Substance, purpose, message

So what's the 'dilly'?
Obviously, it's really nice when something functions well and has a great design in terms of it's look and feel, or aesthetic. I love the phrase, "we can deliver it with quality, on time, or on budget: but you can only pick two of the three." Like many people, I need to pay attention to the cost when buying things, but oftentimes I don't mind having to spend more for a better product. I like it when things last. I don't care for cheap products and many times I wait to buy an item when I can afford to pay for the superior product because it's more likely to do what it's designed to do and be dependable, and also stand the test of time with proper use.

Benefit of doubt
Folks are busy. It seems people are less willing to give others the "benefit of the doubt" these days. We live in a "heated" era where every word is often scrutinized and the point is frequently overlooked. This is an example of style over substance. The scrutiny is focused on the style rather than the substance – it's when you can't get past the delivery to see the underlying substance. Presentation and delivery (form) is important.

The concepts and ideas are what draw me to certain blogs, twitter tweets, and other web stuff on a regular basis. The writer's "voice" is much like adding some salt & pepper to a well made dish – it adds flavor. A writer's style helps distinguish the work from others. It can be playful and fun. It can draw the reader in to deeper aspects of the message. It makes things more memorable as well.

Mix it up
I like when a writer uses a colloquial or "tongue in cheek" style. It's even better when a command of language is demonstrated as well, and the two are mixed together, much like a good ballet. It's a sprinkling of style among the substance. I'm even willing to overlook a few typos and errors here and there... I try not to let the style get in the way of the purpose.

Maybe I'm getting older (or seasoned), but I prefer to take things in stride. I try to enjoy the ride, even when it's a bumpy one. I keep it "slow and steady" with the hope of going farther. I'd rather be a little forgiving than not. Go ahead, mix it in...

Posted by email from ptamaro's posterous

Smashing Magazine: Nov '08 Calendar

My November 2008 Calendar(full-size image links below)I finally set aside some time to make an effort to submit something to Smashing Magazine for their monthly roundup of stunning desktop wallpapers. I haven't had a lot of spare time lately, but then who really has any idle time these days right? That said, I was able to churn this set out, and I hope they select it for inclusion in their November, 2008 collection. Earlier today they already had 53 submissions and I'm sure they're all really juicy and beautiful. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Anyway, the basic concept is:
Falling forward...
The cold North Wind blows
Remaining leaves of frozen bitter branches
Carry the old towards the new.



All of the ones in this set have a calendar. I wanted the color palette to be monochromatic: dull, dark and dreary like a cold November night. I figured I'd start with something simple and see if they include it, then make more time next month and do it again if they do. I have a bunch of my other desktop wallpapers available on my flickr account if you are interested in some of my other stuff.

My First Posterous Post

I don't have a lot of time at the moment (I'm actually eating my lunch), but I figured I should really give Posterous a post and get an idea of how it works since it's been a few days since I first signed-up. I got the link from Graham in a tweet (follow imjustcreative, you'll learn stuff).

Wow! Posterous is really awesome. What a brilliant idea...
Posterous — The place to post everything. Just email us. Dead simple blog by email.

The user interface is really simple yet sophisticated and intuitive — this app begs to be used, I just wish I had something worthwhile to post and more time to mess around with it. Post Videos, MP3s, photos, random ramblings you want to get out of your head — no setup or signup — whatever you send 'em they'll just gobble it up and post it for you.

I'm just minutes into it, and I love it already! This is a good example of a great User Experience. It's just that simple. :-)

» Get yours at www.posterous.com

Posted by email from ptamaro's posterous

Review: MeeID - An Online Business Card

MeeID.com »A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this neat little nugget web application called MeeID which is kinda like an online business card (for lack of a better description). It's so simple to use, it's free, and it's design is really lovable.

MeeID Create AccountThis is an extremely brief review because the application is just so simple and straightforward — and the design is very clean and intuitive. There's just not much to it, but it does what it does very well. MeeID Create Your MeeIDAll you need to do is sign-up for a free account, add your avatar or a photo, and then add some links... You can also add "favorites" or search for people and even get a random MeeID from the 1284 people who currently have a MeeID. It's cool...

There are lots of things that you can do with MeeID if you let your imagination flow. If you need some ideas to get your imagination going, the application's author Bronson Taylor has put a list of some ideas of what you can do with MeeID together for you.

MeeID » ptamaroHere's my MeeID in case you want to see another example.

Top 10 Benefits of an Online Life

Photo 40Squeezin' spare time into a busy life
With three very active kids, a full-time job and a few side projects, two cars and a house that are in constant need of repair and maintenance – my spare time is extremely limited, and lately it seems like it's even tougher than ever to find even a few minutes to do things I enjoy doing like blogging and reading blogs or trying to develop my artistic skills by doing purely creative stuff....

Enter the social space
Using online tools like Twitter, Flickr, Social|Median, FriendFeed, etc. etc. etc., and my favorite RSS feed reader is the only way for me to actually keep-up with the virtual onslaught of new and interesting products and services on the web. If you're a dog, you should be eating your own dog food AND the dog food others are cookin' up. That said, I've been using all sorts of services for years because I feel really strongly that:

  • "You need to use it to design it effectively..."

  • it's an easy and enjoyable way to stay on top of trends and try to become (or hopefully remain) hip...

  • it helps you develop, respect, and maintain a healthy "user-centered" design and development approach...

  • you meet some very interesting people, and learn a lot along the way...

  • it feels good to help others to learn, and spread the love...

  • create an online persona and personal brand to extend the "real you" and you might even learn things about yourself you may not have known before...

  • gain experience and grow your design & technical capabilities and stay competitive...

  • find yourself getting involved in really interesting projects...

  • eliminate any possibility of becoming bored...

  • it's a LOT of fun!


Props to some of "my peeps"
With these things in mind I want to just spread the love for some of the folks that have had a positive impact on my online experience(s). These folks are riding the latest waves and definitely on top of the latest trends. They've also got great insight, they're interesting people, have an active online life, and they will help you keep the creative juices flowing if you're stuck in a creative rut. I especially like the funny tweets, and interesting links. Twitter is and has always been lots of fun as well as one of my favorite services and sources of inspiration, so I'll start there. Here are some folks* you should really consider paying attention to and following:

*I do plan on adding to this list when I get more time — it's not everyone so sorry if I have not mentioned you yet. Also, If you want me to follow you just follow me and feed us some juicy tweets. If you are on this list and you'd rather not be, just let me know.

More to come soon I hope
Okay , that's all I have time for rite now, but I'll try to add to this soon... I'm off to the library to see if we can find some Babar books at the Library and drop the big girls off in the center.

Office Jargon v3.1

I'm trying to make time to read blogs again. Here's a recent post from Lyndonology that really made me actually LOL, and got me thinking about how great it is to be "working in the interactive Web 2.0 space" these days. His post is a derivative from BBC News Magazine's Article, 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate.

I've heard a bunch of the office phrases he lists in the post, but I haven't heard all of them before... there's a few really juicy ones in there. These days, I try use phrases like this in meetings and stuff just to see if I can get others to use them, and because they're generally empty phrases that lack any real useful substance. It's kinda fun in a twisted sort of way. Give it a try, just make sure you use these phrases with conviction, and never ever back-down or break into laughter if you're pressed into a situation where you'll need to actually explain what you mean. Just think quickly and make up another one, look at your watch and let that person know you have a meeting to get to!

Perk up those dull meetings
I used to work with a guy (he's hilarious) who made the greatest sounding "tech phrases" up and then use 'em in meetings to see how long it took to have his own phony phrases come back to him. It's just great to hear a CEO talk about the "creamy goodness" of a "web product's UI" or functionality.

In the beginning...
What about the early days? Remember when people used to want to make their web sites "sticky"? Kinda like fly paper, or maybe something you might find in a public restroom stall? Yeah, right... great. That'll make me want to bookmark you. I'm not sure you're "grokking it" though.1 And here's a great old-style umbrella phrase that was used to describe everything but your microwave oven, "multimedia" ...it still has a certain zest to it, doesn't it?

Here's a recent one I've been hearing more frequently: "socialize". This one is really kinda growing on me — it's so upbeat and snappy! Doesn't it sound just groovy? Like we might get to dance or have drinks, and possibly even snuggle-up?

I think these phrases are great if you're just getting into the "high tech industry" or have a tough time putting several consecutive substantive and meaningful sentences together. They're great for making that flashy first impression too. They're also great to whip out in interviews, parties and even holiday get-togethers with old friends or your extended family. Go ahead, give them a whirl. Cousin Jed will think you're a real "rocket surgeon" who works on that "internet thing." Folks will think you're, "on the ball."

Here are a few more gems coupled with the reason(s) I find them interesting:

  • Ah, let's revisit that again later"

    No, let's have a visit with it right now -- isn't that the reason we're having this forever-long meeting in the first place?


  • [insert product or website name here] is getting a lot of buzz lately

    Dude, we're in a boardroom, you can't smoke that in here!


  • Can you take that offline?

    We're in the parking lot, so technically we're not really "online" per se. Which leads me to this one...


  • Technically speaking, blah, blah, blah...

    This one's very popular with engineers, folks who your frinds jobs have been outsourced to, and consultants.


  • Let's continue to press on

    Very lively and invigorating! Um, yeah that's gonna make me type faster.


...and here's a few I hope to start circulating soon: "Yeah, I'm clickin' it..." or "ok you've got my bookmark" but maybe they need a little more post-processing?
:-|

Google Shines On With Chrome

Google just released their new "One box for everything" browser called Chrome. The name is a direct reference to the term used to describe a desktop software application's interface elements. The name also implies "shiny and new" which it definitely is. The current beta is only available for Windows users, and unfortunately the Mac and Linux versions are not out yet and it's not clear when they'll hit the street.

Do We Need Another Browser, But Why?
Google's goal and concept for Chrome was that, "spend much of our time working inside a browser" and the "web gets better with more options and innovation." They also wanted to "completely rethink the browser" and create "a modern platform for web pages and applications." Let's see what develops in the near future, but so far things are impressive.

It's Got That Creamy Goodness
All the code is open source, and they've "used components from Apple's WebKit and Mozilla's Firefox" and under the hood they built V8, a more powerful JavaScript engine which should keep even extremely complex web apps in control. That said, Chrome is blazing FAST! It's also CSS3 capable, so users will have a better overall experience. The interface is kinda Microsoft Vista looking and very simple which makes it easy to use since there are only a limited number of features so far. Some of the features are: DNS pre-fetching, gears, phishing & malware protection, dynamic tabs, and "incognito mode" (ala Safari?). There's also a cool little feature called "Task Manager" where you type about:memory in the location bar to see the current memory usage for your browsers... Looks like Firefox is a RAM hog with all my Add-ons, extensions and plugins installed. You can see the full list of features and video explanations on their features page.

Give Google Chrome a try...
Download Google Chrome »

View the Chrome Inspector...Geeky Stuff &mdash Get Your Geek On
Here are some fun things you can do already, remember this is just an initial beta release! I'm sure the folks at Google have lots of cool stuff on the way.

  • Highlight some text or page elements and right-mouse-click and choose "Inspect element" to see a developer inspector (Firebug-like) which allows you to see the DOM and mess with it, and you can dock/un-dock to the window or view it in a tab, and do some other nifty things... [This is an awesome feature]

  • Type about:memory in the location bar to see your memory use.

  • Find more helpful info on GChrome here or get more GChrome developer info here.

  • Type about:version in the location to get your current installed version of GChrome.

  • Or, check the version "About Google Chrome" from the wrench menu, and it'll even tell you if your installed version is up to date.


Or make your Firefox new and shiny with this:
Chromifox 1.0rc2 Theme
...another blatant rip-off of another default theme from another great open source web browser! This time, the target is Google Chrome, or more specifically Chromium, the open source project behind it. The clean lines, slick layout, and compact style of Chromium were the points of inspiration for this theme. Chromifox offers a coat of Chrome for Firefox.

Free TV For Your High-Speed Connection

Remember "Hawaii Five-O", "The Twilight Zone", "Adam 12", "The Addams Family", and "Lou Grant"? I've been a huge fan of Hawaii Five-O for years and I only have about 27 episodes taped on VHS (yes, they're less-than-optimal but still worthy of watching — no commercials). I remember staying-up late to catch the re-runs at 3-AM whenever I could. Well, with more TV and media being offered online and cheaper high-speed connections, it's getting easier to get your "TV Mojo on" and soak up that video-goodness whenever you want.

Fancast.com »I was really pumped when I clicked a Google advertisement and found FanCast (owned by Comcast Interactive) which has lots of really juicy old TV gems available online for free. I'm a happy Verizon customer so the site is new to me....

It's really cool to be able to re-watch stuff from way back in my childhood, catch-up on shows I've never seen before, and save favorites and share 'em with others. The only downside so far is that you are forced to watch commercials before and during the shows.

Go to Hulu.com »It's like Hulu and they get some content from Hulu. Fancast's got lots of the old stuff all in one place, but Hulu's interface is slick and intuitive. Also, Hulu's got great features like subscriptions, a queue, and the privacy settings are really nice. Another cool thing about Hulu is that there's much more than just old TV shows. Hulu also has really nice HD content if you're got the hardware to support it. The Nature and Documentary content is really captivating if you have a large display.

Re-cast from the past
My all-time favorite broadcast from the past is Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980). I really love the twisted plot lines, strong character development and cast, visual style — everything about the show. I'm going to start watching the episodes I've never seen before first. Here's a little taste from one of the best television "Cop shows" of all time...

Hawaii Five-O
Some Day We Shall Be Strangers in Our Own Land
A native's love of his unspoiled homeland, a mysterious woman with a camera, a man with a briefcase, and a millionaire industrialist are pieces of the strange puzzle confronting McGarrett - 51:13 minutes

I took the Survey—did you?

I took it, and so should you »Last year, A List Apart created their Web Design Survey for people who work on and develop the web. When the results are in, they present their findings, analyze them and then publish the data (excluding personal information).

I took the survey last year, and I finally had a few minutes to take it again this year. Last year's 37 questions were reduced and refined into just 18, and it took me about five to 10 minutes to get through it this year. Last years Survey yielded responses from 33,000 web professionals from the United States, and all over the world.

If you work on the web building web sites, or web applications why not take a few minutes to take the survey? It's good for the profession, and good for you. Last year they even awarded some prizes to a lucky few who participated...

Boost traffic: Claim your blog in Technorati...

Add my RSS feed »Here's a simple tip if you're looking for something to do with a few idle minutes, and it can help you boost traffic and return readership.

Claiming your blog in Technorati is simple and very quick, just log into your Technorati account and follow these four easy steps...
  1. Enter your blog's URL
  2. Choose your claim method, I just chose the standard default method this time
  3. Activate the claim (so their spiders can crawl your site or blog)
  4. Customize the blog information

That's it — your done! You can also follow my posts using Technorati by clicking either one of the button links below...

Add to Technorati Favorites
Keep in mind that it takes a lot of traffic and bunch of fans to create a decent rank (mine is still a pathetic rank at: 1,940,128) so don't get disheartened and give it time to percolate and bubble-up. Organic traffic takes effort and time, but it's free and if you like to blog it's fun — and it's a lot better than chewing rocks...

Add to Technorati Favorites

Search better than Google?

www_cuil_com raquo;If you're looking for something cool on the internet these days, you'll probably use a search engine. You've also probably used all the big well-known search engines out there, but now there's another player in the space, cuil (pronounced "cool"). Developed by former Google engineers, and self described as "the world's biggest search engine", cuil boasts an index that spans over 120 Billion pages (Search 121,617,892,992 web pages).

Cuil's results are neatly presented in columns, very relevant to your search terms, and based on actual content not popularity. At the moment, there are no ads to get in your way either. If you value your privacy, cuil believes "that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach" so they "don’t collect data about you and your habits" which is very refreshing.

Its features include relevant drill-down suggestions, roll-over definitions for additional information, tabbed choices, and logical search suggestions.

Its name is an old Irish word for knowledge, and if you still haven't found what you're looking for — then give cuil a try »

Quick Review: Adobe Photoshop Express

Screen snap of Photoshop Express, Go there » Birth of The Cool, Again.
Adobe recently launched their Photoshop Express Beta [Px]. It's a Flash-based photo manipulation and online photo album application – and it definitely has the "wow" factor and several "cool tool" aspects to it. The best thing is, it's FREE, and you get 2Gb of free storage!

The interface is logical and intuitive and looks a lot like Lightroom, and in terms of interaction, things generally work the way you anticipate them to. Overall, it's a very impressive tool, but it certainly isn't "Photoshop on the web" as many rumors had purported. The rumors set our expectations way too high, even though we all knew it wouldn't be the case. In general, the user experience is reasonable-to-good but it falls short on a few points. Oh, and it's got that "Web 2.0" cool too...

Chicken or egg(s)?
I've used a good handful of the web-based photo tweaking tools that are out there, and things are definitely getting better with the latest stuff I've seen. Picnik, Go there raquo; I think that Picnik has been the best (and the only full featured one for a time) in my opinion, but now Express poses a bit of competition. I'm a HUGE fan of Picnik [http://picnik.com] and its extensive array of features make a lot of sense for most of the basic photo manipulation stuff I need and use regularly. I plan to do a posting on Picnik soon for comparison. Obviously, the thing that makes Picnik so awesome and one of the things that sets it apart from all of the other tools, is that it works seamlessly in conjunction with Flickr (and MySpace, FaceBook, PhotoBucket, and Picassa) or you can upload photos directly from your computer. This is one of the best things about Picnik.

The first thing I noticed about Express [Px] is that it won't save my login credentials so I have to type 'em in every time I log in (Firefox 2.x) and this just really gets to me. Unfortunately, this is more common than it should be. It's a Flash/Flex or Firefox thing I think, and Blogger used to do that too but it's since been fixed (EntreCard still doesn't work correctly, and this limits my drops because of the sheer "frustration factor").

This kinda bugs me because I have to add my photos to yet another service. Bummer. One thing that sets Express apart from other online photo editing tools is the capability to make a Photo Album from photos you've uploaded to your account, and then it's really easy to share them.
Example [Px] Albums:



Screen shots & Features...

AdobePhotoshopExpressUpload
AdobePhtoshopExpressUpload2
AdobePhotoshopExpressSketch
AdobePhotoshopExpressBulge
AdobePhotoshopExpressB+W

Photoshop Express got some very cool editing features, and a bit of the "goofiness" as well. Simple stuff like rotate appear when you rollover an image, and you're brought into editing mode to do other tweaks.

Some of the obvious features are: crop, auto-correct, red-eye removal, exposure, touch-up, and saturation. You can tune the white balance, highlight, sharpen or add soft focus.

You can also use effects like "pop-color", hue, tint, black & white, or have some fun with "sketch" (this is very rudimentary compared to some Photoshop actions), or "distort" which is kinda goofy and I haven't found a real use for it just yet. It reminds me of the old Macromedia tool (I think it was "Goo", but I can't remember the name at the moment).

Overall, Adobe Photoshop Express is a very cool online tool, but there's room for improvement. It's definitely one to add to your arsenal, and I'm interested to see what they have planned next.

icon_16_Px Give Photoshop Express [Px] a shot, and share an album or two and let us know what you think...

Your Flicks on Flickr

Flicks on Flickr » If you haven't noticed yet, Flickr rolled out their video functionality on Monday and it's flickrliscious.

You can now upload and share your videos on Flickr in much the same way you share your photos. This makes total sense since "slices of life" aren't always captured in a single photo, and because just about everyone has a digital camera these days — and video is becoming far more ubiquitous than it was years ago.

Your videos can be an AVI, MPEG or MOV format and they are limited to 90 seconds and/or a maximum file size of 150 Mb. So far, you can add comments to the videos, captions, geotags, and set privacy restrictions. The Flickr blog also mentions the ability to add "video" as a content type and additional moderation "safety levels" to your pool contributions. Here's the Flickr video FAQ with all the basic info in case you still have questions.

But wait, there's more...

Explore Flickr » At the end of Heather's post, she mentions that "...we’re doubling the size of photos that can be uploaded — 20MB per photo for pro members and 10MB per photo for members with free accounts" which is great for those folks with mondo mega-pixel cameras. If you haven't "gone Pro" then you really ought to and I strongly recommend it (It's still just US$24 bucks per year)!

Here's more info...
» Flickr Help: Free Accounts, Upgrading & Gifts

MMA Fight Science on NatGeo, don't miss it!

The technology and science behind the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is amazing and National Geographic has done an amazing job -- it's a "must see"... don't miss it. They discuss in detail all of the different types of martial arts and how it's all incorporated into MMA -- you'll dig the technology and science of it for sure.

+ More info and schedule on NatGeo »

+ More MMA can be found at MMA Mania »

+ And of course the UFC has a lot more on the sport

Here's a taste (trailer)...


First Impressions: AdWords is...

We had an interesting challenge at work recently. We were asked to run a campaign using Google AdWords and generate as much traffic, and conversions as we could in two weeks. Most of this stuff was new to me, and there is definitely an art, and a lot of science to it. My first impression of Google AdWords is very good -- it's powerful, easy to use (after you get used to some of it's features), fun and cool like most Google Apps.

I took a fairly unscientific approach, and really just tried to absorb and learn what I could. My budget was next to nothing, and I wanted to see what I could do on a really tight budget. I got a reasonable amount of traffic but unfortunately, I don't think I got any product conversions (purchases). My completely unscientific approach and limited budget was a bit of a let-down -- and I really didn't spend as much time as I wanted on it. We were asked to spend about an hour a day on "the challenge" in between our regular stuff.

There's a tremendous amount of really good help and documentation, and a lot of time can be spent just reading -- which was one of my main goals -- there's a lot more to it than just knowing what the acronyms mean. It's probably a good idea to plan for that before starting a campaign.

I think the trick is to come up with a plan of action, and metrics to help you evaluate your success/failure and progress. An obviously critical aspect is to get the right keywords and creative that makes sense for the keyword sets you want or need to use. Then bid-up, burn-in, track, and quickly peel out the stuff that isn't working.

I ran two pretty basic campaigns:

1) Starter Campaign - Budget Optimizer enabled [ $20.00 / 30 days ]

2) Campaign #2 - Price focussed adverts [ $5.00 / day ]

Here are some numbers...
Clicks   Impr.   CTR    Avg. CPC   Cost
11 24,627 0.04% $0.24 $2.63
63 99,620 0.06% $0.79 $49.96
74 124,247 0.05% $0.71 $52.59 (Totals)

Writing really good creative is imperative. Ad position is also another key factor in terms of getting good results. In terms of generating traffic, you can judge for yourself. I was also able to get some purely organic traffic as well, but I don't have those numbers handy. That said, I was able to easily get more than double that traffic on my blog without spending a penny -- so I'm definitely still a strong believer in organic traffic generation.

I didn't get to spend much time on this area but the coolest feature for me was Google Analytics. Lots of data to look at -- graphs, maps, charts, and numbers galore -- and it helps you figure out what's going on and think about ways to handle your campaign.

Granted, there are puny numbers and it feels a little "Mickey Mouse" to me, but it was really interesting and I learned a bunch. I'm not sure of exactly how well others did, but there were a good handful of conversion purchases -- just not from my campaigns. I think my lack of conversions (and the same for other participants) is partly due to the nature of the product, and I think we could probably make some improvements to the product creation and the check-out process as well.

Ultimately, two conversions would have paid for my entire campaign, but as I mentioned before it was my first foray into AdWords and SEM, and there's definitely a LOT to it. I've had an AdSense account for a while (obviously), and I had an AdSense but never really used it until now, so I probably could have done the reading without spending anything but I think you really learn a lot more just by messing around with it.

I learned a lot for $52.59, why not give it a try? Hint: There's an AdWords link conveniently placed in the column on the right »

Seven Things you probably didn't know...

Well, here goes nothing...

View my photos on Flickr »Lots of bloggers post their "Seven Things you probably didn't know about me" and other cool memes and lists, so I took a few minutes (about 27 minutes actually) and thought of a few of my own. After thinking of a few things about me, I realized that my life is a little more exciting than I originally thought it was, so I figured I'd share these little-known facts about me with all of you folks out there.

1) My avatar actually looks like me and I made it myself when I was supposed to be working (for a previous employer) but decided to do something "productive" instead.

2) I have two size 11 feet, but I can squeeze into a size 10-1/2 if I'm in a bind.

3) I used to read voraciously. I've read letters "B" through "S", and "U" through "Z" of Webster's Dictionary and much of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yes, I have.

4) I have worn contact lenses for more than 30 years, rarely clean them or even take them out and I've only had a problem once.

5) I'm not great with math but I really love to count things, and I used to be a fantastic spellar.

6) There is a very high probability that I will be late for work tomorrow even though I value punctuality.

Hmmn. I could only think of six things about me, sorry.

UPDATE: Monday, January 7, 2008 - 7:13 AM
7) Ok, here is one more which makes seven: Elmo is my favorite Sesame Street character.

UPDATE: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 7:31 AM
* Bonus Item: I just thought of another one... I can read upside-down and backwards! ;-)

Cool Site: FreeRice.com

FreeRice.com » Help feed a hungry person...If you have a few minutes, point your browser to FreeRice.com but you'd better bring your brain! I just spent just a few minutes and helped them donate over 1000 grains -- and you can too, just give it a try.

You are given a vocabulary word, and all you need to do is, "click on the answer that best defines the word." For each word you get right, they will donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

This is really innovative and a brilliant idea: create a vocabulary game to help folks learn English vocabulary (and test their wits), and donate all the advertising proceeds to a worthy cause. Simple, huh? The site launched in October, 2007 and they have already donated more than 12,369,264,510 grains of rice. That seems like a lot of rice!

It's easy to play and it feels good to do something good for someone... Why not give it a try?