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Where content meets technology

Jan 07, 2015

Back to Blogger

In case you noticed something different, I moved this blog back onto the Blogger platform. Actually, Blogger is where Content Here started back in 2004 (Wow! A little over 11 years ago!). Over the intervening years, I converted the site to Wordpress and hosted it on a number of different providers. Some of the formatting shows that the posts are a little worse for wear.  And I need to do some theming work.  If you notice any other major problems, let me know.

Data ownership and control were the primary reasons for moving off of Blogger. When my website was a core part of my consulting business, $20.00 per month seemed worth it. Now that blogging is back to being a hobby and Google has a "Data Liberation Policy," Blogger makes more sense. 

Moving from WordPress to Blogger definitely feels like going against the grain but this article "How to Move Your Blog from WordPress to Blogger" gave excellent instructions plus a good explanation of why you would want to do it.

In addition to great utilities for both Blogger and Wordpress, one of the things that made migration easier was that I hosted all of my images and files on Flickr and other sites.  That means that there was less to move.

My experience so far is that Blogger seems like a less cared for part of the Google ecosystem.  It's clunky when compared to Wordpress or other web content management systems that I have used. I am sure that Google+ (and before that Google Wave) have consumed most of the attention.  I can't imagine that Google would kill blogger, but if they do, there is always Google Takeout.  

Sep 02, 2014

Radio Silence

You might have noticed that I haven't been posting here much over the last year. More likely, you haven't noticed at all. Blogs are often like that. They come and go depending on the whims of the blogger.

The reason for my silence is that my focus has shifted from pure content management to lean product development, web application development, and cloud-base architecture. At Lionbridge, I have been helping to build a business called Lionbridge onDemand. It has been a little over a year since our first sale and I am in a constant state of amazement about how things are growing. Like most of my projects, we followed a lean product development model of launching a minimum viable product and continually improving it to support the needs of our growing customer base. In this case, we started with a tiny website to translate videos. Since then we have grown to the point where:

  • We now have a wide array of services that support nearly 40 different content types. We even have services that do not involve translation at all such as proof reading and CRM data cleanup.

  • There are enterprise sites for many name-brand clients. It turns out that large organizations are full of individuals who prefer a simple consumer style eCommerce experience. With onDemand Enterprise, we can quickly create a custom site for a corporate account. These enterprise sites have the same simple "consumer" feel but they also have the ability to offer custom services and can tap into corporate payment channels.

  • We have a Public API with a developer program. We started with an API for eCommerce systems to translate product catalogs; but then we grew into a full featured translation API that can handle our full complement of content types. While there are other translation APIs out there, ours is unique because it exposes different translation services ranging from pure machine translation to professional translation by subject matter specialists.

  • We are now a global team working around the clock to deliver projects with industry leading quality. We have operations specialists in North America, Europe, and Asia. Managing a service like this requires a special mix of problem solving skills. This is content management at a level of complexity that I have not seen before. The process requires the constant attention of highly skilled and conscientious individuals.

The last point is my favorite. I am currently en route from Warsaw, Poland where I have spent the last five weeks working with the operations core team. It was an incredible experience to meet the people that I had only known through email and conference calls. From the start, I was impressed by their dedication and can do spirit. Now they feel like family.

So, back to this blog. What has made Content Here a worthy endeavor so far was that it provided a useful place for me to explore observations and concepts that I encountered as a content management professional. If I learned something, I would flesh out my knowledge by writing it here. If I did a decent job of explaining something to someone, I would reproduce that explanation here. If that was all blogging did for me, it would have been enough. But blogging provided so many more benefits. In particular, it was a way to connect with other people. I made many business connections and friendships with this blog.

I am hoping that I can continue experiencing these benefits by shifting the focus of this blog to be more aligned with my day to day work. It won't be a total departure from my older posts. My involvement in web development and open source software has stayed the same. But I will probably write a lot less about content management software, product selection, taxonomy, workflow, and other pure content management concepts. To be honest, I feel like there is not much more for me to write on those topics. There will be more posts about my experiences from growing a web business. Topics will include things like working with distributed teams, lean product development, customer support, web application development, and web operations.

Hopefully, along the way, I will meet new people who are struggling with these same topics. The web is a pretty big place so I think that chances are good.

Dec 13, 2012

Mobile App Stores

As I have mentioned before, Apple has done some things to shaken my loyalty. I am at the point where my next phone will not be an automatic iPhone purchase. I have friends and colleagues pitching alternatives pretty hard. Out of curiosity, I looked up the availability of my favorite mobile apps on the Windows and Google App Stores. Here is what I found.

App Android Windows Phone
Any Password Manager
(like 1Password)
Yes: LastPass Yes: LastPass
Evernote Yes Yes
Google+ Yes (duh) No (duh)
Kindle Yes Yes
Any Exercise GPS
(like Garmen)
Yes: RunKeeper Yes: Mobifit
Mint Yes No
(by Flixster)
Yes Yes
(or InstaPaper)
Yes Yes: MetroPaper
RememberTheMilk Yes Yes: Milkman
RSS Reader
(with Google Reader Support)
Yes: Google Reader Yes: nextgen Reader
ServerDensity Yes No
Any SSH Client Yes: lots Yes: Token2Shell
Tripit Yes Yes
Twitter Yes Yes
Yelp Yes Yes
YouTube Yes (duh) Yes

Overall, I was surprised by the number of apps on the Windows Phone store. The screen shots looked really nice too. However, I think that the combination of Mac + Windows Phone would be challenging. If I was a Windows user, the Windows Phone would be a pretty attractive option.

One thing that I find limiting on the iPhone is that Safari is locked down and doesn't accept plugins. I assume that Android doesn't have this issue because it gives you different browser options. Does Windows allow you to install mobile IE plugins/extensions?

Sep 27, 2012

Apple, you might be losing me

I am a huge Apple fan. I have a MacBook, an iPhone, and an iPad.  I love the aesthetic of Apple's hardware and the software. I update software religiously.  I don't mind paying the Apple premium because I believe in the superior quality.  I suffer at work for eschewing the corporate standard platform and using my own machine. I get goaded into arguments by Apple haters.

Apple probably shouldn't have any reason to worry about losing me as a customer. Yet, I feel my own loyalty diminishing. Not because I lust after some other products; but because Apple has been doing many things to annoy me recently.  I regularly toy with the idea of leaving Apple for what I think are inferior products. That feels like a big deal to me. I know that I am just one insignificant customer and Apple is a huge and insanely profitable company. But if a customer like me is starting to lose his loyalty, perhaps Apple's dominating position may be at risk.

Here are the reasons why I could see myself jumping off the fanboy bandwagon.

  • Patents

    Apple's litigious behavior is getting downright embarrassing. Instead of being great, it looks like Apple is trying to milk profit out of prior greatness. Apple customers get so excited about what Apple is going to do next. How long can that enthusiasm last when Apple stops innovating?

  • Environment

    They changed their decision after public outcry, but I question the values of a company that decides to pull out of EPEAT to save money when they are already wildly profitable. I also don't like how they make all of their products disposable by making the batteries non-replaceable. The battery is always the first to go on any piece of well built mobile gadgetry.

  • Authoritarianism

    Apple has been steadily closing their ecosystem. At first, we were told that it was for our own good. But now it is clear that the primary reason is competition and those moves are at our expense. For me, the biggest frustration is Apple's childish attacks on Google like pulling Maps and YouTube. The latest releases have been trying to get me to use Facebook and I hate Facebook. Apple makes it really hard for me to use the services that I like like Google+, ReadItLater/Pocket, etc.

  • Low Wages

    I know that Apple can get away with paying ridiculously low wages to Chinese factory workers and American retail associates, but that doesn't mean they should. Again, corporate values matter to me.

Apple is a brand company. They are able to charge a premium from the brand affinity they have built over the years. But their recent behavior is really pushing me away. My strategy now is to make this Mac last until a good enough alternative emerges. Obviously Apple isn't worried. But maybe they should be.

Sep 20, 2010

Calendar Feature Request: Meeting Buffers

A while back I wrote a post about how I use Google Calendar sharing to help my clients schedule me for meetings. Recently, I have started to experiment with a service called Tungle Me that essentially does the same thing but allows people to create meeting requests too. Calendar sharing is a great help but something is missing and I am surprised nobody has done anything about it.

There is a big difference between my meeting schedule and my availability. You can't assume that my availability equals all the gaps between my meetings because often I need to travel to and from a meeting and that makes time when I am not available. My hack-ish work-around is to schedule two overlapping meetings: one to block off my travel time, and another for the actual meeting. My colleague who is viewing my free/busy time calendar sees the two meetings as one block of time when I am unavailable. I guess instead I could create events for my travel time before and after. Both options are clumsy but they work.

I was thinking a really useful feature for a calendaring system would be to add a "buffer time" field when you mark an event to "show as busy." Buffer time would simply the number of minutes (before and after) to expand the event on your free/busy calendar. It could be a text input with a syntax of "30" (for adding 30 minutes before and after the event) or "30,15" (for 30 minutes before and 15 minutes after). Buffer time could also be useful on your personal, full-calendar view because it would tell you when you need to leave for your meeting. I imagine this may pose a problem for calendaring systems that share a single meeting object between all of the attendees because each attendee will have different buffer times. But this is not a problem that some good data modeling can't solve.

Hopefully the collaboration vendors will start to build this capability into their products soon. In the meantime, does anyone have a better work around than what I have been doing?

Jun 24, 2010

Kindle needs a "lend" button

Whenever Amazon announces news about it's Kindle product, like with the recent Kindle price drop, I find myself referring to my reasons for not buying a Kindle. So far they are working out pretty well for me. The strongest argument has been the inability to share (first on the list). When I buy a physical book, which is usually not much more expensive than the digital version, I don't just buy the ability read the book myself. I am also buying something that I can share with others. Frequently I mention a book to someone and grab my copy to lend. And roughly half of the books that I read are on loan from others. You don't get this experience from a digital book and I would miss it.

Personally, I would reconsider my decision not to buy a Kindle if it had a "lend" feature. Here is how it would work. If I owned a digital copy of a book, I could click a "lend" button that would bring up a list of my friends. I would be able to set the length of the loan. During that period, the lendee would have access to the book but I would not. As the owner of the book, I could retrieve the book and, in doing so, remove it from the lendee's library. This feature could also be enabled for public and academic libraries.

This move would be great for Amazon (or a competitor that did it first). It would encourage people to buy the reader device when their friends buy one. It makes the reader more valuable and viral. It would alleviate feature/function competition. You would buy the reader your friends have, not the flashiest product with the best C|Net review. Publisher's would probably not be so keen on the idea. They would see fewer eBook sales. I think this issue could be addressed by Amazon increasing the digital copy price and sharing more revenue with the publisher. For reference books and classics, the publisher could see sales to people who borrowed the book but wanted their own copy.

This reminds me of Kevin Kelly's classic post "Better than Free," where he lists characteristics of content that make it worth paying for. One of the characteristics is "Embodiment," which digital content lacks. Making a digital edition virtually transferable (and not copyable) would certainly add embodiment because it would make it behave more like a physical asset.

Amazon (or any other digital reader maker): please steal this idea (if you haven't already thought of it yourself). I would really like to see lending digital content happen.