Social Networking – We’re missing the point.

Social networking as it stands is missing a very essential component – some type of social contract. Right now, there isn’t a good way in digital communication/interaction/networking to know whether someone got the message. Sure, you can see if they reply, ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or otherwise indicate they got it – and email has read receipts which call back in the background. Even at that, though, someone can open or glance at a message without actually reading or paying attention to it.

From real life, the allegory for Facebook is a huge dorm of people (gigantic, really). Everyone has a door into their room, and the door can have pictures, news articles, amusing comics, etc. as well as a white board where visitors can leave notes. In real life, you can tell when someone is there and generally see why. When someone looks at something and you’re there, you can comment back, open up a channel of communication, and actually interact. (“Oh yeah, that’s when I went to Costa Rica for J-term and we hiked in the Cloud Forest” or “you think that’s good, check this one out” –> pulls up xkcd for today).

Right now, our doors are all shut, and we have towels along the bottom so they’re soundproof. This means we only interact with the world when we step outside. When we do, everything happened in the past and it hits us all at once – more of a chore than fun experience. Everything’s tape delayed. We already have discovery (news feed, activity feed, messages, email notifications) but there’s no way to jump into someone’s stream as it happens.

Examples:

  • I see a few friends checking out the Spotify track I’m listening to and we start up a Turntable room
  • I see my friend’s pictures from the 5k, he notices I’m there and gloats about his time
  • I glance through a college classmate’s wedding photos and they strike up a conversation

Ultimately, there’s no way to hang a sign on your door indicating that you’re open for engagement and interested. Everyone dumps everything they can out on their door but then shuts it again without seeing what the response is. I’m not talking about a violation of privacy or anything like that – you can make it entirely optional on both sides. If you don’t want the spam of knowing when people are digesting your social timeline, that’s fine. If you’re snooping on someone’s page and don’t want to reveal yourself, you can hide your actions too. But I imagine most of the time people won’t care that so-and-so knows they’re there – and most of the time it will be a good thing.

Right now, we’re missing the point. We’re all linked up. Some of us are even talking – but the words are all surface-level and it could be so much better.

Digital era – Things every brick and mortar business needs to do

I’m amazed every time I do a Google search for some local business and don’t find a website.  Sometimes they have a Facebook page, and sometimes they have barebones information on Yelp, but that’s not enough.  Even when I do find a company’s website, it’s pretty rare that it’s populated with enough of the right information.

Brick and mortar businesses may not think they need a web presence – but the internet is changing more and more of our culture, and they can’t afford to ignore these things:

1. At least a basic WordPress site with:
  • Address
  • Map
  • Phone number
  • Menu/Products – avoid a PDF if you can help it
  • About us – short paragraph
  • Hours

2. Facebook page

3. Google Analytics account set up to gather info about visitors

4. Yelp info up to date

5. Respond to negative reviews on Yelp

This post has some good tips on doing this properly: How companies should respond to negative reviews

6. Company profile on Google Maps

7. If you’re a service company – list your services on Thumbtack.com

Many of these things can be done by someone with very little web savvy.  With a few hours of web design/development help, you can make your mark online and get a leg up on any competition in the area.

A wealth of inspiration in the Royal Society archives

The Royal Society has made its archives available for free online and it’s an incredible trove.  Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle introduced me to the early days of the organization and those like Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren who were there in the very beginning.  The release of these 60,000 documents got me thinking again about that time period of free discovery and how exciting it must have been – an entirely uncharted world of science, begging for exploration.

Still, no one says it has to stop now that we’ve made such huge strides during the centuries since it was founded.  I can’t imagine we’ll ever understand everything or conquer every troubling problem.  To some, that might be troubling – but I can’t help but feel a bit of the same excitement that they probably felt.  There is a sense of empowerment stemming from the notion that there’s so much to learn and so much that we can still accomplish.

That craving drive to explore and expand knowledge is the real legacy of the Royal Society.

Philosophical Transactions Issue Archives

BBC article: Strange tales from the Royal Society

Vegas Casino Maps

This is one of those apps that you see and wish you’d thought of.  Since moving to Vegas, I’ve realized it’s impossible to really know your way around the strip without being here for years.  Combine that with a lack of internet or cellular coverage in a lot of casinos and deliberately unnavigable layouts, this is a perfect app.

Vegas Casino Maps fills the need perfectly and is absolutely worth the download.  It’s great for tourists with only a few days to get used to the city, and still great for locals that need to play tour guide.


Vegas Casino Maps (App Store)


My own personal brain cache

When I’m programming, emailing, or even just browse the web, I use copy and paste a lot to save things in the short term.  Things like logins, account numbers, serial codes, dates, etc.  Unfortunately, each of those notes wipes out the previous one.

I just discovered ClipX which is a really nice, lightweight tool which sits on your Start Menu Notification area.  It simply keeps a history of everything you toss onto the clipboard.  On top of grabbing text, it holds onto copied images as well, making it a great tool for holding onto screenshots.

Ultimately, there are a lot of things to think about – this little tool reduces that by one and can be a big help when tracking things back.  It’s not new, but it’s definitely worth having.


Update:

Depending on your settings, ClipX can have a pretty large memory footprint and use a decent portion of your CPU on load.  Just be careful..

Kynetx

I’ve been playing around with a new web tool called Kynetx. Some people I worked with down in Utah are pretty heavily involved so I couldn’t help but try it out. Rather than generating content in a standard load-this-website format, Kynetx apps sit on top of existing websites, many of which the developer may not own or control (Google Docs, Twitter, Amazon, etc.).

Kynetx apps can add a layer on top of the site to provide additional details and views. They can also manipulate the DOM structure of the site to provide extra details. Imagine adding geolocation info to search results, integrating twitter results where they wouldn’t otherwise be available or doing custom filtering on the output.

The coolest thing about Kynetx is that it goes beyond Javascript tweaks by running in the cloud and providing dynamic lookup. This gives it incredible power from a mashup and API-driven perspective since it can tie in parts of a distinct platform like Twitter with search results, location-based context, etc. from anywhere.

They are quickly building up a collection of pretty useful apps that are all available to try out – and developer accounts are free!

Kynetx

Butternut Squash Ravioli

We had some delicious butternut squash ravioli at Biaggi’s awhile ago and we decided to give it a shot. It turned out amazing so I thought I’d share it here:

(the real reason I’m writing it down is so I don’t forget – I hate learning a good thing and then losing it by the time I want to give it another try).

Components:

1 Butternut squash (medium size makes 4-5 servings)
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
20 fresh sage leaves
10 tbsp butter
1 cup parmesan
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp nutmeg
4 oz heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp minced shallots

The best directions ever:

Pasta:

Add 2 1/4 cup flour to a medium mixing bowl, leaving a small depression in the center for the eggs.  Mix up the three eggs in a separate bowl and pour them into the flour.  Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the egg until you get a dough-like substance (it’s dough).  Knead the dough until it is fully mixed together.  Wrap in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.


Filling:

Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and stringy matter.  Lay skin-side down on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for ~45 minutes at 350.  It helps to poke holes with a fork for particularly dense parts.  You might also want to soften some butter and coat the outer surface.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter in a saute pan.  Mince the shallots and saute them and set them to the side.  When the squash is  cooked, use a spoon to scrape out the good stuff and whip it up to get it nice and smooth.  Add the nutmeg, cheese and sauted shallots to the mixture.  The filling is done!

Sauce:

Heat up a large saute pan with 6 tbsp butter.  Add the sage leaves (15-20) and saute until the butter is nicely browned and the leaves have released their flavor.  Add the heavy whipping cream to your sauce and mix it all together.  Sauce is done – check that off the list.

Putting it together:

Take out the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin (if you have a pasta maker, that makes this part really easy).  You want the dough about 1/2 mm thick or it will get too thick and chewy.  Add flour to your surface if it’s getting sticky.  Use a cup with an opening roughly 3 in as a tracing tool to cut circles in the flattened pasta dough.


Add about 1 Tbsp of the filling mixture to the center of each circle.  Crack another egg into a bowl and use the egg whites as a glue to hold your ravioli together.  You’ll want to put a thin coat all the way around the edge of each circle.  When this is done, fold it over in half and press the edges together so they don’t leak.  Drop the ravioli into a pot of boiling water and cook them for 3-4 minutes.


When the ravioli is cooked, you should have the sauce ready to add them.  Toss the ravioli in your large pan of sauce so they get a good coating.  Serve with grated parmesan and a spoonful of the sauce, making sure to include a few sage leaves.


References from foodnetwork.com: Butternut Squash Ravioli and Butternut Squash Puree

The economy’s okay, it just needs some time…

We’ve been working through our ups and downs for a few years now but I think we’re headed the right direction.

As a country, we’ve spent too much and saved too little over time and that made this situation much worse than it might’ve been. Putting our intelligence to use, we as individuals and companies have learned a lesson. Don’t spend more than you have and don’t buy things you can’t afford.

However short-lived the lesson is, it’s good for us in the long-term but really bad for getting the ball rolling. Companies put money away instead of hiring new people. People with jobs are playing it safe while those who don’t watch every dollar. With everyone being safe, there’s not enough steady volume in the stock markets to keep things consistent and this leads to huge swings and volatility any time there’s any bit of financial news. That in and of itself serves as another factor to scare people from investing in any of that garbage.

Eventually, though, a group of people is going to start stepping up. Companies that are profitable and well managed to the very core will look at the landscape and decide they want a bigger piece of the pie. They’ll start hiring and their ongoing success will prove to everyone else that it’s okay to reach for an extra few inches of growth. They’ll begin hiring again which puts money in peoples’ pockets. They’ll start spending and the whole thing starts to move.

My bet is that we’ll start to see this in third quarter earnings and it will really start to cement itself through the end of the year. International hiccups may slow it down by a few months but the general move will be upwards. General economic sentiment will take another 6 months to a year from then to really recover. I’m look for the smaller and more agile companies to drive the first moves.