kgiff.com
Please excuse the mess. I'm in the process of moving to a new server and new blogging software. It'll be a while before this place gets to be looking like normal again.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
techrandom

There have been a lot of complaints about the new look of facebook.

As with any kind of change with any website people use on a routine basis, there is an outcry against the new changes. That's to be expected as people generally don't deal well with change. Typically we all get used to the changes and learn to accept and maybe even find that the new design works better. I don't think this is going to happen with the new Facebook design. The only thing this design did was make it harder to find the information I find relevant.

In the old design, I was very fond of the live feed tab, which provided a real time stream of what your friends were doing. This stream was updated automatically, without having to refresh the page. I wasn't too concerned when the rumblings about the redesign started because I assumed this was more of what was going to be surfaced in new layout. Instead it's not much more than a status update feed that may just as well be twitter.

The things I miss most are seeing when my friends are attending events (I may want to go too), friending new people (I may know them too), joining groups (it was hard enough to find updates about groups in the old layout, now it's pretty near impossible), and when my friends comment on other people's photos and videos (lots of times conversations happen around photos). The "highlights" area on the side in the new layout rarely provides information that I find relevant. For now the iPhone Facebook app still offers these features (although it doesn't allow you to click through to events).

Maybe I'll eventually get used to the new more limited stream of information, but as for now, it makes me feel like I'm missing information along with reading about applications updates I don't care to see.

Kelly • 09:30 PM • (0) Comments
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
techphotographytravel
Mom and Dad at the Folklife Festival

Last weekend I went with my parents to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. For those of you not familiar with the festival it's a yearly festival downtown on the mall that celebrates the living culture of states and nations. Every year a different nation, state, region or theme is picked. This year is all about Texas (the state), Bhutan (a country in the eastern Himalayas, bordered by China and India), and NASA (who is celebrating 50 years).

I think my mom was a little surprised when I asked if they were going to go this year and if they were, if I could come along. Admittedly it was not one of my favorite things to be dragged to growing up -- I remember it being hot and humid and crowded and boring. The heat, humidity, and the crowds were all the same, but I had more patience for listening and learning than I did growing up and it wasn't nearly as boring as I remember -- they had a ton of activities for kids this year (I don't know if they had the same thing when I was growing up or if I was too shy to want to participate). We had some interesting conversations with monks from Bhutan and engineers from NASA.

Steady Hand Bhutan

This year as part of the festival, the smithsonian has started the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Documentation Project group on flickr for people to share their photos taken at the festival.

The 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Photo Sharing Project strives to strengthen both the mission of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to promote cultural democracy, visitor participation, and cross-cultural conversation and the Smithsonian Photography Initiative's mission to document how photography plays an integral role in our lives and throughout the Smithsonian.

If you have a chance, check out some of the great pictures being posted to the group on flickr. It's really neat being able to see the festival from so many points of views and perspectives.

The Smithsonian has also joined The Commons project on Flickr. The commons got a brief mention in my blog in my tagging post but deserves a greater mention. As stated on flickr:

The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.

If you haven't taken some time to explore the commons, you should. There are some great photos reflecting our nation's and our world's past. So much of this content was hidden away or only viewable from a single location. Now it's available to everyone. How great is that?

Kelly • 09:15 PM • (2) Comments
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
techblog

It's naked day!

To know more about why styles are disabled on this website visit the Annual CSS Naked Day website for more information.

Kelly • 01:06 AM • (0) Comments
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
tech

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Thomas Vander Wal speak. Thomas coined the term "folksonomy" which describes the collaborative tagging and organizing of content on the web. Thomas' presentation was very inspiring and got me thinking about a lot of things. One of which was how I (and my friends) use tags.

Moose Up Close

Tagging is a way or organizing information in a way that's meaningful to the user and others. It's a way of helping people find and re-find information. For example, if you look at my photo library on flickr. There are close to 3,000 photos I have uploaded so far. Let's say I'm looking for a picture of a moose I took in alaska. Looking through nearly 3000 pictures to find a moose, doesn't sound like a lot of fun. I tagged all the pictures I took in Alaska with the tag alaska. That bring the total down to 600. Getting better. But searching for the tags alaska and moose gets me 14 results. From there it's pretty easy to find the shot I was looking for.

Tag it

Another use for tagging is to group together like information. For instance, last summer at BarCamp DC, signs were hung up to tag asking participants to tag blog posts, photos, etc with barcamp, barcampdc and barcampwashingtondc. Searching for these tags provides a set of results that gives you a pretty comprehensive overview of the day's events from many different perspectives.

I tag for my own find-ability first -- names of people or animals, the event, and anything else there is a chance I might want to find later (a particular toy the dogs are playing with, the quarters Cisco unwrapped one morning, etc.). I usually add some generic tags ("golden retriever" for Cisco) for the benefit of others looking for something. A lot of my research for things is coming from non-traditional sources, videos and photos of products uploaded by average people have weighed into decisions for a few purchases I've made.

If you're not tagging your online content: photos, blog posts, videos, etc., I highly recommend it. If you are, I'm interested to hear how you choose to tag things (and if you ever have the impulse to tag other people's content).

As a somewhat related note. If you haven't seen the Library of Congress photos on flickr, you should check them out. It's neat to be able to view these photos that they've made public. And they are encouraging the public to help with the metadata on the images, making them that much more valuable.

Kelly • 11:06 PM • (2) Comments
Thursday, March 20, 2008
tech

On my new MacBook I've noticed that quite frequently Safari stops executing the JavaScript on a page. So many Web 2.0 websites rely heavily on JavaScript for functionality that this results in many buttons and links on a webpage doing nothing when clicked. In GMail this results in not being able to read or delete anymore messages; in Flickr, the drop down menus stop working; for twitter, the update button no longer sends and update. I can't say for certain, but it seems like this usually coincides with use of a google website (gmail or google analytics).

While searching for what could possibly be going on here, I ran into this blog post suggesting a possible fix to JavaScript not working in Safari. Like me, the author has the debug menu enabled in Safari. The suggested fix of clearing out the log messages in the console did not work for me. (Which by the way, I had over 300K JavaScript error messages on a computer that's less than a month old and not used that often.) What seems to have worked is turning off Enable Runaway JavaScript Timer (also located in the debug menu).

For those not familiar with Safari's debug menu, it provides access to a lot of features for developers -- changing user agents, inspecting the DOM, getting access to JavaScript error messages, etc. In order to enable it, quit safari, open a terminal window and type % defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu 1 chnging the 1 to 0 will disable the menu.

Kelly • 05:51 AM • (1) Comments
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
tech

Saturday was spent with a bunch of the coolest geeks in the DC area (and a few from out of town too). Jason Garber, Justin Thorpe, and Jackson Wilkinson along with others put on one awesome event this weekend. Congratulations to them for a job well done.

BarCamp as I've mentioned before is an unconference. If you ever have a chance to participate in one, take it. Here is hopefully a brief re-cap of the fantastic event.

Youngest BarCamper

My day started running into my co-worker Kevin and his son Max at the metro station. Max was by far the youngest attendee, but I have no doubt he'll be running the show in a few years. Max was really excited about spending the day with his dad and attending BarCamp. He, like a lot of us, can't wait for the next one.

The conference started out with people signing up to talk or hold discussions about a topic and then all the participants went through indicating which topics they'd be most interested in attending. The sessions were held in three rooms that varied greatly in size so this helped put topics in rooms that best fit with the interest level.

I started the day attending Kevin's Intro to Rails talk. I followed that with a discussion led by Samantha Warren on User Interface design. This session wasn't what I was expecting, but was pleasantly surprised by the engaging conversation on what exactly user interface design means. This is part of the beauty of unconferences, since everyone participates you're never sure what you're going to get. Usually, the conversation is very enlightening even if not what was planned or expected.

Next I went to a session on Web Typography that was run by Nathan Herald. This is a topic I'd like to see addressed more frequently as typography is a large part of web design (as Nathan says, it's 95% of web design), and I find good typography on the web to be challenging. I finished up the morning attending a session on Portable Identity — a topic that is becoming more and more valuable as people are required to or want to sign up for more and more sites on the web.

BarCamp DC - photo by Jason GarberPhoto by Jason Garber

Next up was lunch, sponsored by the AOL Developer Network. Mike had the opportunity to address the attendees during lunch about all the cool things AOL is doing these days. I even managed to speak somewhat coherently (I think) about CircaVie when called upon. And I didn't even turn red — a huge accomplishment considering my fear of public speaking (I really need to get over that).

The afternoon flew by. I started the afternoon in Productivity Tips, but ditched Bill and landed in the mobile web session. I had seen Jackson speak on the mobile web previously at Refresh DC and enjoyed the presentation and discussion in this session. Next up was a very informative session on Google Analytics. Anyone go to that session and not implement it on a site if you weren't already using it?

I finished up the afternoon with The Future of Television — there is a whole world of video content beyond that box sitting in your living room (I think I need to watch more tv, or less), the Facebook Platform, and an open rails session run by Bill and Joe.

Bill's First Sushi

Next came the after party at Cafe Asia where I spent a few hours hanging out with some current and former co-workers and a few other cool people.

There a lots of really cool, smart, creative people in the dc web community and without them, BarCamp would not have been nearly as cool. Overall this was an awesome experience and I can't wait to do it again! My only regret is there were some sessions I didn't have the opportunity to attend and I didn't talk to as many people as I should have. Thanks to Fleishman-Hillard for providing the space, Justin, Jason, Jackson and the rest of the organizers, the sponsors, and the participants for making this event great.

Kelly • 02:11 AM • (0) Comments
Thursday, August 02, 2007
tech

BarCamp is coming to DC! I'm going to hang out with some of the area's web and other new media professionals for BarCampDC.

BarCamp is an un-conference. (And no, I'm not going to be learning how to mix the latest drinks and practicing my flair skills.) An un-conference is a conference with no scheduled speakers, panels, or topics. At the start of the conference, the attendees propose topics they either want to present on, or even just hold a casual discussion on. From there a schedule is made and off you go.

Kelly • 10:45 PM • (0) Comments
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
tech
What is it you ask? CircaVie is an exciting new way to recored a series of events. It allows you to attach photos and videos associated with these events creating a visual allowing for easy navigation through time.

I'm actually blogging about something I worked on! Over the last month or so, I joined a very small team of developers working on an exciting new product circaVie.

What is it you ask? CircaVie is an exciting new way to recored a series of events. It allows you to attach photos and videos associated with these events creating a visual that allows for easy navigation through time.

There are so many things you could add to a timeline on circaVie. One of my very talented colleagues has a collection of all the portraiture work he has done. You could document a vacation, a baby's first year, your entire life, the possibilities are endless.

My first timeline is naturally about my dogs and is displayed below. (That's another cool thing about it. We provide the code so you can easily embed your time line on your blog, MySpace page, or other online profile.)

Check out the link to the slide show in Maine Vacation (August 2006) and the video in TAG's fall trial (October 2005).

CircaVie uses the same signon mechanisms as Ficlets where you can either sign-in with your AOL/AIM screenname or you can sign-in with Open ID. I joined the project late in development but helped with the implementations of comments and a few UI clean-up items. This was a fun little project to be a part of and I had the opportunity to dip my toes in the Ruby on Rails pond. Of course, this is a beta product and any and all feedback is welcome and encouraged.

So what are you waiting for? Go create your timeline today!

Kelly • 11:22 PM • (1) Comments
Monday, July 09, 2007
tech

You may have heard Digg founder Kevin Rose has a new thing called Pownce. It's another "micro-blogging" service like Twitter or Jaiku.

First impressions, I still like Twitter better. Yes, I can be somewhat resistant to change, but despite Twitter's issues, I still prefer it. Of course everyone is trying out Pownce and none of these things are much fun without your friends.

I can see how Pownce will appeal to more of the masses. It is a little less geeky and a bit more polished. It's got some neat features -- like choosing whether messages are sent just to your friends or the public; being able to group your friends; and sending links, files and events.

Pownce doesn't have a mobile component. This is one of the things that sold me on twitter -- the ability to update or receive updates on a mobile device away from the computer. With twitter the updates come to me, I don't have to remember to go check a website. At this time, there are no feeds from Pownce. I'm sure it won't be long before Pownce mash-ups start appearing.

For now, I'll continue updating Twitter and playing on Pownce. If you feel like checking out any of these services, I can be found as kgiff on all three.

Kelly • 08:01 PM • (1) Comments
Sunday, June 10, 2007
tech

I probably should have blogged about this a few months ago when everyone else was doing it but as usual, I'm behind.

Let me introduce the few readers I have to Ficlets which was written by two guys I am fortunate enough to work with.

What is a ficlet? It's short story written in 1024 characters or less. It's a great site for anyone who enjoys writing or wants to improve their writing. The site offers inspiration in the form of pictures or words -- or you can use someone else's ficlet as a source of inspiration and write a prequel or sequel to it. If you're not a writer, I encourage you to go and read what people are writing. Some of the stories are really good.

Not convinced? You can listen to Kevin talk about. Kevin's passion and enthusiasm is contagious.

Kelly • 12:15 PM • (1) Comments
Saturday, March 17, 2007
techlife

So there is this thing called Twitter. What you ask is it? I'm still trying to figure that out.

I first heard about twitter from Jason during the Novermber Mash-up week at work. A couple weeks later I signed up to see what all the fuss was about. I still don't get it. I'm told that once you have friends and your own twitter network it starts to make more sense.

Yesterday we had this freak late winter rain/sleet/snow storm. One of the guys in my group said it was getting bad outside, so I decided to leave early. The road to get home was closed due to an accident. My attempt at a detour didn't work out either. Of course what do I think while I'm waiting in a line of non-moving traffic? That I shoud have set up my phone so I could twitter from it.

So before the twitter thing dies, I figure I might as well jump on the band wagon. You can catch my twitters right here on my blog or subscribe to my twitter feed or better yet subscribe to my buddy feed (another little known neat thing AOL offers).

Oh by the way, I did eventually make it home yesterday. The next way I tried, the road was also closed. I ended up practically back at work before I found a route home. Two hours later I made it home to two hungry pups.

Kelly • 07:52 PM • (1) Comments
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
tech

Now you can send me an IM right from this page!

How cool is that?

Web AIM is now available and with just a few pieces of code, you can add IM to any website anywhere.

When I found it, I had to drop it on here just to see how it works. I need to spend some more time playing with it. I should be able to add visitors buddy lists too.

If you have an AIM/AOL screen name, you should be able to click IM me and send me an IM. (Right now the box appears lower on the page so you'll have to scroll down to find it. I'll have to fix it.)

Kelly • 09:29 PM • (1) Comments
Monday, May 29, 2006
tech

Trying to embed a movie. If it doesn't work, click here.

Kelly • 10:31 AM • (2) Comments
Saturday, May 27, 2006
tech

Yesterday we took a trip to Best Buy over lunch. I came out with a new internal 250GB hard drive (I probably needed to do that anyway as I had about 10% free on the old one) and a 500GB external drive.

By the time I got home, Chris had installed Tiger on the new hard drive, had done all the updates, and had moved the old hard drive down.

I was able to copy all the preferences and files over from my other hard drive, so now it's just a matter of re-installing fresh copies of all the applications.

Kelly • 08:38 AM • (1) Comments
Friday, May 26, 2006
tech

I had hoped to have posted pictures from last weekends wedding by now, but instead I've been trying to save the pictures from last weekend. And the weekend before, and well, for the last 6 years.

After a routine security update and other patches were downloaded and installed, I rebooted, launched a few applications and began replying to an e-mail message. After the first word was typed, nothing else could be typed as an error message stating the dictionary could not be accessed would pop up. Okay, this seems a little odd. So I quit Mail and tried to relaunch, it wouldn't relaunch, hmmm, time to re-boot. Only problem, it wouldn't reboot!

So as it's sitting there at the start-up screen for minutes on end, the fan getting louder and louder, I call in the husband (aka: the man who can fix all computer problems). We pull the plug and try it again. Same thing. He deduces I might have had a hard drive failure. Panic sets in. So 2000-2005 have been archived to CD or DVD, but what about 2006? All my zoo pictures (see below) gone? The wedding pictures, gone? Why oh why do I delete the card upon downloading the pictures to the computer.

We found this nifty little thing on Apple's website, if you enter the serial number, it lets you see how much longer your warranty is good for. July 2006, phew, we're still covered under warranty. So I call Apple tech support. Hmmm, you only get 90 days free tech support unless you buy the extended Apple Care warranty. Hardware is covered for a year, but only 90 days of support. The guy I spoke to was nice enough to help me locate the support articles on the website that would walk me (us) through a few trouble shooting steps without paying him $50 to solve the problem. I seriously thought about buying the apple care. I still might as I'm not planning on getting rid of the computer any time soon.

So we did the basic running disk utility type things, then we figured out how to see the boot-up log instead of the spinning rainbow disk. Which is how we found that it was hanging on not being able to find the root user. Chris tried to work some magic, but was unable to fix it.

Since it looks like the easiest, best thing to do at this point is to rebuild the drive from scratch, the next step was figuring out how to get the data off. After some brainstorming, I said too bad it wasn't a laptop and we could boot it into target disk mode. Well, we decided to try it, and sure enough target disk mode worked.

Copying 120 GB of data is a daunting process. The current set up is my G5 desktop in target disk mode connected to my G4 iBook via firewire. And Chris' external USB 2.0 hard drive also connected to my iBook. Little by little I've been copying parts of the G5 hard drive to the external hard drive through my iBook. A relief. As long as I copy the pertinent files, I won't loose any data. However, both my macs have been tied up for 2 days in the copying process (start one set in the morning as I'm leaving for work and one in the evening and then I forget about it).

This weekend's project: making sure all my data is off the G5 hard drive and rebuilding the G5. Fun!

Moral of the story: Make sure your data is backed up!

Kelly • 09:30 AM • (1) Comments

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