October 7th, 2008


On the day's flickr stats

I check my Flickr stats every day (and both wish and am glad that the stats dont get updated more often than that).

For months, my most popular picture each day has been Chain Mail Dress, but in the last couple of days it has been passed by Hall Costume, Turanga Leela. My working theory is that, with Halloween approaching, searches on the word "costume" are increasing.

Also, for some reason, one of my Rockclimbing at Juniper Point has been getting a number of views per day, all referred from here, but when I go there, I can't figure out why it's referring back to my picture. Maybe their ajax stuff doesnt work right in my browser.

A local TV news company that just might survive the Internet

One of my gigs in the past few months was a company that own a number of TV stations in a certain regional market. (No, not ClearChannel.)

My job was teaching them how to scale out a website that was very popular, and getting more so. It looks like several dozens of sites, each with a different URL, different branding, different style sheet, and superficially different structure. But under the hood, they were all the same site, and about to be coming even more so.

What this site does is interesting. It's the morgue and archive of all their news stations, exposed to the public. Each station's local news stations video content, with transcripts and metadata, along with user contributed videos, and user comments. The only real difference under the hood between "official" content and the user content was the byline. Basically, they are running their own YouTube, and letting the viewers participate.

This working model is very shocking to this industry, and was hard to swallow even by some of the technical people I was meeting with.

All of this is interesting, but is only leadup to what I really impressed me.

They realized that "the competition" wasn't other TV stations. In fact, in some markets they directly and indirectly controlled both halves of the legally mandated duopoly. The competition was YouTube and local news blogs.

And they learned that their least popular video content were not the glossy edited "news program segments", filled with "journalistic" "context" voiced in by their "reporters". The most popular content was the raw footage, unedited, and often without sound. Second place was the user videos, and in a distant third was the edited "news program segments", filled full of edits and "journalistic" "context" voiced in by their "reporters".

Another interesting bit was that the site was starting to feed back to the stations. If something newsworthy happens, and some local bystander happens to catch it on their camera or phone, and uploads it to the site, they may use that video on the broadcast, instead of sending out a "professional" news crew.

Randoms from the air

Finally, after months of not, I'm on an aircraft with in-seat power. I can use my laptop to do power draining tasks, like compile Drizzle. SUN is really doing itself no favors by using United as it's "in-policy" default airline. United has no in-flight power.

I screwed my travel up for this trip. My own fault too, tho I may partially blame aspects of the UI of the company's travel webapp. I found out this afternoon, when AA.com refused to let me check-in. Come to think of it, that was stupid on the part of AA.com as well. It just kept looping me around, by saying it cant check me in because I havn't picked a seat, please pick a seat, you cannot pick a seat, please pick a seat to check in.... So I called up AA's 800 number, adn the agent very politely told me that I couldn't check in for my flight this evening because my flight was tomorrow evening.


Suddenly all the words "Wednesday" popped out on my itinerary, blinking red letters in my imagination. So I had to quickly have AA and AmEx travel fix it for me. There will be a few bumps, but not too bad. At least I didn't find out while I was standing in front of the checkin counter. That would have been embarrassing and harder to fix.

I noticed this the last time I was in Dallas, and it has happened again. Traces of my childhood accent have returned to my voice. If I ever spend a full week on a gig in Alabama, I may very well have my entire accent back. I'm sure that my friends in Seattle will find it amusing until it fades.

The gig I am on my way to is the first one for me that is being originated by SUN Services, not by MySQL PS. There have apparently been some real pain points experienced by the client and by SUN because of this in games of telephone garbling stuff. Someone at the client who runs the project talks to someone their that talks to outside contractors talks to the SUN services rep who talks to someone else inside SUN who talks to someone inside MySQL PS who talks to my scheduler who talks to me, and then back again. This has made locking it down onto the calendar somewhat... unstable.

Plus some of the processes pointed at me are different. Instead of a note from my scheduler and an entry in the calendar and in Eventum, I got some very formal and legalistic machine generated emails that talk about how "You are authorized to perform N hours of on-site consulting for BigCo, no overtime is authorized..." bla bla bla, with links to some unfamiliar to me systems inside the SWAN intranet. I'm going to ignore them. Talking to my boss about it, he is doing the same thing. I'll use my own processes, and let the impedance mismatches sort themselves out.

My inflight reading is the evolving deliverable document for this gig. Most of the text so far has been a (paraphrased title) "competitive landscape analysis and action proposal report". How much bla bla written in corpspeak does it take to say "do this obvious and smart thing to do, and if you don't do it, you're going to be crushed"? Then again, maybe it's just smart and obvious to me. I hope I don't have to help champion this thing, I'd much rather just help design it.

I sold another couple of copies of High Performance MySQL, Second Edition at this last gig. Usually what happens is people in the meeting will pull it up on Amazon, look at it while I talk some more, check with whatever executive is there, and then just buy it out discretionary training money.

The hotel in Dallas was cheap. It didn't cost much more per day then having a lease on a decent apt in my home neighborhood. Tho it was pushing the edges of "acceptable" on two points. The "broadband internet" was spotty wifi with a html login screen (username "guest" password "guest". Why did they even bother?) And the "free breakfast" was a tray of bagels, a bowl of bananas, and pitcher of orange juice.

The travel industry needs to be better about feeding back quality of service metrics into the travel planning apps. When I tell my travel app I want breakfast and internet, I want a filling breakfast and good network connection.

At the gig in Philly (the one were the hotel lost my good pants), I ended up eating only stuff with heavy cheap meat, starting with the cheesesteak the first night in the hotel bar, and not improving from there. When I got to Mpls, I just vicerally rebelled at eating more like it, and mostly stopped eating meat. But now it's turned into an interesting experiment, and now I'm kinda sorta mostly veggie. I'm not trying to avoid meatstock in rice, and I'm still eating fish, eggs, and dairy, but chunks-o-flesh, not so much.

I'm not going to be religious about it, and I'm sure that when gifted with opportunities to eat some really good high quality dead animal flesh, I will dig in and enjoy. But in the meantime, this will be an interesting experiment.

I got my first ping back from ScanCafe.com a few days ago. They have received the box of negatives and pictures I sent them. The next step is they reship them to India for scanning and correction. I hope this works well. If it does, I may try to get my parents to send all their accumulated negatives to them to get digitized as well. One thing that concerns me, while I was going thru the Big Box Of Stuff that contains things like my negatives, I didn't find the ones from my years in Alaska. I really hope I find them, or that they are safe at my parents' house.