Friday, January 30, 2009

Tails from a Dying Town: Things are not always what they seem

Although our small town is heavily dependent on the automotive sector, there are a few other employers in town who are not in the service sector. One of those is the local Coca Cola Bottler. The Coca Cola company not only employs local folks, it is a very good supporter of the community and works with many organizations locally. One of the services Coca Cola provides are these advertising banners. Local organizations who are customers of Coca Cola can get them for free. Everyone else can get one for 30$. For a three line custom printed large vinyl sign, that is a deal.

But if you were just casually cruising through our town and saw these signs, you would be convinced we were already dead. Look closely. Yes, the dates on this sign say September. I took this picture in January of 2009. The signs hang there to this day. Are there really no new events? Is the town so dead that no one can afford fundraisers, plays or musical concerts? There is no doubt that the signs give that impression. But things are not always what they appear. Perhaps Coca Cola is struggling and can no0t sponsor the signs any more? Tht would be very bad news as well. I am glad to say that is not the case and if an organization called the Coca Cola company today, they can get a sign for their event. But they can not hang the sign over Washington Street downtown like signs have been for many years. The real truth is much more tragic. Last September, a street worker was hit by a semi while working on street lights and was killed. Although the accident had nothing to do with the street signs, the city has decided to not let anyone hang them across the street. It makes sense, until you consider that the old signs are still there.. hanging despondently...making us look like a dead dead town. If signs are a traffic violation, the old signs should be taken down. If traffic is not an issue, new signs should be put up to show that there is still a lot of life under the stress and pain in this town.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

GS Cookie Time

My eldest daughter is a senior GS and it is cookie time again. Unfortunately, the seniors ( gawking big High Schoolers) have to compete with those cute little brownies who come door to door or stand outside of the grocery store hawking wares. So, I told her we could do a little experiment and try to leverage our online network to get some orders. If you live reasonably close to either Kokomo or Purdue and would like to order cookies ( 3.50/box) you can either leave a comment here, email me directly (put COOKIE ORDER) in the subject line or DM me the info on Twitter. I need to know how many of each kind and your email address. I will email you to follow up and get a phone number/street address to confirm and be able to get them to you at delivery time. I can accept Paypal for the payments if you will not see me in person over the next couple of weeks. ( paypal adds a 2.9% +.30 fee, so please include that)

You also have the option to purchase cookies that will be donated instead of you consuming them. For her troop, all the donated cookies will be delivered to men and women serving in the military. You can not choose which kind to donate, just a number of boxes to donate. You do not have to live anywhere near us to purchase donations, just let us know how many you want to donate and an email where we can contact you to work out payment info.

Below you can find the list of the cookies that her troop is selling this year, and you can see all of the GS Cookies on the GS website. If you do not live in our area, there is a nifty gadget on the same page to assist you. You can enter your zipcode and they will direct you to the right troop. If you buy from someone else, comment here so she can at least know that you were inspired to buy by this post.

Her troop is offering:

Lemon Chalet Cremes
Dulce de Leche
Sugar Free Chocolate Chips
Thin Mints

Twitter Adventure Tails

Nearly two weeks ago, @dailyTwitter and I started some innocent repartee that has grown into a global adventure tail being spun across the Twitterverse. We thought it would be fun to pull it together in a single post so that you can get caught up on the story ( far...) and give us some feedback.

It all started 13 days ago at the tail end of a discussion of the future of mobile. I was trying to say that I thought dinners should be less mobile, but he playfully took it as an offer of dinner:

roguepuppet: @dailytwitter I would contend that mobile is the future of information, but some things should move away from mobile. ( dinner?)
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet dinner? sure, you fancy thai or cantonese ;)
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter mmm.. either? you bringing it over? I have the fire going..
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet yeah sure dm your address i'll get the next available flight ;) dinner might get cold... but fire sounds fab. dt
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet real fire?
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter real fire. in the fireplace. absolutely...
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet real fire idyllic, just stuck in customs, bringing a thai from london has its difficulties ;) might be be stone cold!
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter It is ok, I have a microwave, also ;-) f you get stuck long in customs, eat the thai, we will make due.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet I wont eat the thai that would be rude, especially the king prawn i managed to get - they so yummy. open the wine ;) dt
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet i had to eat the thai :)
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter ok, I will go ahead and cook the chicken for taquitos then. No fire built today yet, been too busy.should be fire by 2pm
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet thats cool, i bought some guacamole in customs and three cookies. dont worry about the fire have a scarf long enough for 2 :)
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet i got waylaid, got into a taxi cab they took me around the block, am somewhere between 5th and 241st have no idea = lost :)
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter gps in your phone? tweet your location. You can come out with us to hear the band tonight.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet ok taxi driver took me across the state, ended up at pier 39 - looks like i have a long walk back, remnants of thai in a bag :)
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter sigh. the growth of cheap gps has resulted in a plethora of taxi drivers who get lost. Can I send a limo for you, save walk?
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet a limo would be fine and dandy, make sure they have some water in the thing, as i am parched - the chillies from the thai... :)
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter chilled fresh spring water of course, only the best in our limos. ;-)
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet limo arrived, thanks for water, life saver. currently partying with a few new found friends in the stretch, might be delayed...
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter wait wait.. those limo babes were for us to share ...
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet ah ok, you didn't say that. ok, then we are leaving now - wont be long, promise not to take any detours ;) dt
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet to share? there are three.. so who gets lucky with 2 then? hmmm i think we need to agree a deal. oh oh not far now. dt
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter why do we need to divide and conquer? all for one.. and one for all....
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet :) ah sounds a much better idea. ok am not far now, sugggest getting fire ready, any candles and chocolate ice cream too?
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet we are parked outside what i think is ur place, although not sure. do u have gnomes in ur front garden? like 100's of them?
dailytwitter: is stuck in a @roguepuppet limo with a few friends partying in what i think is Indiana. waiting for a phone call.

Then we started to drag a few other people into the mix. Some played along... some got a little confused ;-)

thedridge: @dailytwitter haha now I know who to ask for advice on my next garden gnome purchase ( @roguepuppet )
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter oooh wrong house. our gnomes all migrated south for the winter. I think you are at @mmwine 's place in the sun
mmWine: @roguepuppet No Gnomes here! I punt them
roguepuppet: @mmWine hey.. those are my gnomes you are punting... which direction did you send them? Do gnomes have a good sense of direction??
mmWine: @roguepuppet I'm Horde (WoW) .. .GNomes are for eating.
roguepuppet: @mmWine lol..You ATE my gnomes!! I should never have trusted that sunny smile ;-) (I have to admit, we have snacked as well..Ogre and all)
roguepuppet: @bikerbar speaking of hospitality, that reminds me @dailytwitter is lost in a limo with 3 hot babes, looking for my house. Seen him? ;-)
bikerbar: @roguepuppet : no limo ... no lost 3 hot babes... LOL
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet hey turns out the babes are from rio! we chartered a plane down to brazil, i maybe sometime, but will be back for fireside fun
dailytwitter: @thedridge ah i think if you need gnomes @roguepuppet delegated it to @mmwine appears hers migrated south :) dt
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet be back from rio in a few days, keep that fire in mind, oh i saw some gnomes down here, they are in bikini though, weird!
dailytwitter: @rasga mehico well i told @roguepuppet i was in brazil... might go north :)
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet ok slight issue, the limo babes stole the limo, am stranded in Rio airport with $3, a toothbrush, copy of vanity fair. help! dt
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter check page 237 of Vanity Fair, small print ad has a phone number you can call for print. Be sure to brush. Plaque kills
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet page 247 is missing! called ad on 249 got rickshaw pickup in 2hours. spent my $3 on cheap disposable cam, will send pics soon
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter after I spent all that time and money to perfect time travel and get the info into the correct vanity fair edition for you?
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter hope the pics make the wait worthwhile... Rio should be interesting content..
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet i have suspicion that i travelled back in time and tore it out on purpose, for a reason - am trying to figure out why...
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet (expand) airport Rio, boring picture - camera isnt bad though for $3 - more fun pics as i take them. dt
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter oh no.. like you, this pic is 404
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet found page 237! down the back of the ricksaw - spooky. dialed number i spoke to 'Mr. Chan' - he said you have the answers...
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet in mehico, lounging with border guards and jamieson! have a bicycle to hand, locals nice. lost camera. still have toothbrush.
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter requesting some fine tequila when you get done with your siesta. Careful, the border guards are shifty.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet tequila bagged. guards alseep. tip toe across the border seems easy now. torch strapped to my head. heading north, get fire on.
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter it is stripper friday, better get here fast...
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet down in florida, need to catch small plane across the keys - who was your contact in the area? Mr Chan said you had feelers out
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet you need to pull a full 'strings' to get me to indiana in time - managed to acquire local thai takeaway, so still on track(ish)
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet ok found highway 27 north bound, am in the back of a truck - don't ask!?
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet been running for 4 hours, bicycle broke in Carmel just running down route 31 past kempton, cold thai in carry out. you hungry?
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter oh my... no joke. Daughter just cooked thai for dinner tonight... stuffed.. bu we can heat yours and have it for late night
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet got hoodwinked by some hoods. on a fast boat to china, thai and fire may have to wait. can bring back some prezzies for you. dt
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter interesting.. thought all boats to china were slow... watch out for the brd flu. will wire you ransom money, please bring silk
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet just awoke in chinese takeaway, they had speedboat! eating noodles with 'Mr Chan' - turns out its a she! Need cash wiretransfer
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet need $10 dolla. stop. send charlies limo babes. stop. Mr. Chan is kingpin silk smuggler. stop. have chinese....................
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet did u wire the $10 dolla? currently hanging by legs over a crocodile pit in burma. locals hospitable :) all watching opra! WTF?
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter wired 20$ to Mr Chan ( accounted for wire operator skimming ) tell them you ingested poison that will kill crocs if they eat u
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet ok poison ploy worked. now am being married to tribal chiefs daughter. OMG this can't be happening! Need a plan... quick :-O
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet got the $2000 dolla, obviously wire service got cross wires :) downside tribal chief bought engagement ring!! this is not good.
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter tell them poison also renders you infertile... End of line for tribe. You need to consult village elder and teach poison.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet holy shmoke, guy in a fedora hat carrying a whip just pulled me outa there! Did u send him? in tiger moth flying east, phew!
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter I did not send fedora hat guy. Make sure he is not going to charge you. I hear he hates snakes, you can use that if needed.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet tiger moth crash landed vietnam. fedora guy gone. currently in paddy field hiding from locals. found copy of GQ, page 6 missing
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet sat in rice field, smoking strange cigarette, feeling very chilled. reading the GQ i found - 1967 edition. need to find a bike
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet page 76 GQ had a number to call. i dialed with loose change i had. limo turned up!! driving back to bangkok. you want a thai?
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter I never turn down good thai. So glad that time machine is paying off. The ad charges are getting expensive, arrive soon
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet traversing a rope bridge across valley rift, tad wobbly, am not sure i will make it acroooooooooooooooooooooooooooo............
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter grab for that rope above your head... helicopter rescue. hang in there.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet gadzukes! sat in bay of special forces blackhawk chopper, these friends of yours?! being taken to a secret locale, will advise
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter yes, those are the guys. shh... special favor as a result of blow out weekend party I helped them with. Buzz me when you land
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet yeah the guys are telling me about your antics. landed in Bikini Atoll, or rather dumped. have small wooden boat. hmm paddle?!
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet Bikini Atoll AWESOME! dropped thai, whoops. got old Scuba gear, have 2 swim cross shark infested lagoon. found a key n cigar?!
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet discovered key fits a Harley Davidson found hidden in bushes - understand cigar now. cruising on open road, heading west.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet harley stolen outside diner in india. cigar intact. have 100 rupee. locals helpful. taking an elephant 2 airport. help, need $
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter watch for yogi in a purple robe. He has a package for you. The rubies need to come here. Dont lose whatever you do.
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet found yogi. handed me a brown package. familiar shape. has the words amazon stamped on the side. maybe this is a clue? opening
roguepuppet: @dailytwitter was the ruby in the package? should be some extra spending money and a plane ticket as well
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet package is book of ancient hindu temples. inside map to Shiva temple. map shows location of ruby. no ticket only $301. on way
dailytwitter: @Hedgewytch ah playing an adventure game with @roguepuppet, started few weeks back. its quite random and fun :) you want to start one???
dailytwitter: @roguepuppet inside Shiva temple. awesome! ruby is sitting at top of statue. page 49 of book has riddle in Hindi, seeking translator. hungry

How will we get @dailytwitter out of the temple? Will @roguepuppet ever get her takeout Thai delivered? To find out, you will have to follow us both to track the story as it develops. We both think that it would be fun if other people joined in the story. What interesting twists can you throw in? Will you meet @dailytwitter in person along his route, or will you send him aid? Perhaps you will be an obstacle to his progression? I will post an update here once a week with the condensed versions, for those of you not on Twitter, or who do not like the volume of our combined Twitterstreams. If you are going to play along, please be sure to tag your post with a #tt hashtag, so I can find it and include it in the ongoing saga.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It doesn't take as long as you think

Feeling bogged down by a ToDo list that seems endless?
Housework starting to pile up, and you are certain you will never get caught up?
Too tired at the end of the day to even think about tackling what feels like hours of housework and paperwork?
Here is a secret that might make life a little brighter for you.
It doesn't take as long as you think.
Most of those items? Take less than 15 minutes each. Lots of them? Take less than 5 minutes. You would be amazed by how many can be done in less than 2.
Yep, 2 Minutes.
I was even surprised by that one.
I recently pulled a muscle in my groin, and in trying to heal it I have been using a re-usable heat pack that you stick in the microwave for 2 minutes. I stick it in, hit 2 minutes and go work on something until it dings. At first, my thought was " will start this and finish it later". But I found that there are lots of tasks I can complete before the timer dings at all. Here are just a few of the things that I can do before 2 minutes are up:

Fold a basket of towels
Rotate laundry (take it out of dryer,move from washer to dryer, new load in washer)
Scoop a cat box
Wash all the breakfast dishes
Dust the living room
Vacuum the living room
Clean a toilet
Clean a sink/counter
Dump the ice in the bin and refill all the trays

Honestly, I knew those were not long tasks, but I never would have predicted that they could be done in 2 minutes or less. How many unused little 2 minute slots are in you day that you could be using to cross items off of your todo list and making your life a little simpler?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Twitter is not a Party

In a previous post, I was using the analogy of a party to describe different social media sites. But Twitter(and FriendFeed)is no party.
That does not meant that they are work. The difference is that where most social media sites are defined by the content shared by the people who gather there and the way(s) in which they interact, Twitter (and FriendFeed ( last time in parenthesis.. just imply it from now on, ok??)) is a framework for interaction.
Twitter has thousands of little (and big) parties all happening at once, with just a enough of a dimensional shift to keep them from colliding, but not adverse to the occasional inter dimensional tesseract. On Twitter, at any one point in time, you will find business meetings, creative collaborations, Q&A, games, help sessions, therapy, networking,old friends, new friends and flirtations. You can participate in as many ( or as few) of those interaction types as you like. There is NO "right way" to behave on Twitter.
Yes, there are business deals on Facebook and yes, there are even some old friends hooking up on LinkedIn. But those are the outliers, the people bucking the unspoken social consensus of why those sites exist.
On Twitter? There is no consensus for the raison d'etre for the twitterverse. Stop worrying about if you are using it right or wrong, find your way, create something new and make it fit your needs. The only caution I will give you is to know your audience and expect some push back and resistance to some of the things you try. That is fine. We all have personal tastes and preferences. That is part of what makes Twitter an interesting place. Personally? I am not in favor of inline advertising tweets like Magpie. My choice. I am not going to tell you are you not allowed, or you are "doing Twitter wrong" if you choose to participate. Maybe you have a group of people who really like it. I can un-follow those whose tweets I do not enjoy. I can not keep them off of Twitter.
People will try to tell you there is a "right ratio" of following to followers, or that if you follow too many people, you are "not true to the spirit of Twitter". Balderdash, I say. Use the ratios that work for you, choose compatriots who agree. Feel free to express an opinion about how you like it and why, but don't try to tell everyone else they are wrong if they are different or try to insist that they be like you.
My current pet peeve is tweeple who insist that you can not be friends with more than 25 ( or 50, or 100, or 501...) people. Thus, if you are following "too many" people, you are breaking "the rules". I say they are right, everyone has a limit to how many real friends they can maintain. But they are wrong about following on Twitter and they just don't get it. Not everyone I am following is my friend. Some of the "people" I am following are news feeds. I don't interact (much, I do occasionally correct a news feed)with those tweeps. Some of the tweeps I am following just amuse me. They are not friends, I hardly ever respond.. but they make me smile. Some of the folks I follow are those with interests or hobbies that overlap mine. I do not interact with all of their posts and I have no idea how many kids they have, or what they had for dinner. I read through for the references to the interest we share and exchange information with them on that one topic. Sometimes the relationships grown from there, but not always. Some of the amazing people I follow have become friends. We chat, we DM, we interact off and on all day long. None of those are the right or the wrong way to use Twitter. You probably have three others that I did not list. Those are all OK, as well.
Tweet as much as you like about "correct following ratios", it is a free twitterverse. It will gain you like minded followers, and others who disagree will drift away and congregate elsewhere. This is the freedom that the Twitter infrastructure provides.
As recently as this past summer, there were no games on Twitter. Now I see several per day. Maybe you like them, maybe you hate them. Choose the folks you follow accordingly. Maybe you have the next great idea for the evolution of the Twitter game show.
How will you innovate Twitter to help it evolve to the next undreamed application?

Looking for design that drives intelligent behavior

I am tired of software that is trying to be "intuitive" or "friendly", but instead forces its users into behaviors that make it impossible to feel like an intelligent adult.

Let me given you an example. The company I work for recently switched to Interwise for Web-based conferencing. Interwise has this nifty "raise hand" feature. If you are a participant in a session, you can click the raise hand button to let the leader/speaker know that you have a question. Polite, helps discussion flow, would seem to make sense. The problem comes when you actually click the button. Your hand is raised as seen by the leader, but nothing in the interface changes for the participant. There is no obvious way to "lower" your hand. The correct answer is "click 'raisehand' a second time to lower it", but this is FAR from intuitive. I have been in a number of meetings just this week where I had to listen to intelligent, creative adults reduced to saying things like "can you lower my hand for me?" or "I am sorry, you have to lower your own hands".

This might make you smile reading this, but situations like that do not foster continued intelligent conversation. Taking architects/designers or executives into a situation where they have to feel like they are sitting in the small desks in a classroom again does not assist with the collaborative process.

I am waiting for the software designers who really 'get' what online collaboration should feel like to be most effective. Do you have suggestions or experiences?
Do you have other examples of design that forces "awkward" behavior? Help me feel like I am not the only one frustrated and comment below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Social Media Party Line

I was recently explaining to someone on Twitter that to me, social media sites are like parties. And like parties, they all have Dress codes, behavioral expectations and unwritten rules. Since every social media site is a gathering of people, this seemed like the world's most natural analogy. I was shocked when a Google search turned up analogies to sports, ice cream flavors and shopping malls- but very few to parties. Since this does not seem to be the millionth shot at explained what to expect on other social media sites, here is my personal take on social media sites you might encounter.

Facebook: Facebook is the neighborhood block party/summer barbecue. Dress is informal, interactions are casual and it is perfectly fine to walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself. Just like in any neighborhood, this behavior might get you ignored in some cases, but in most cases it is a great way to meet new people. It is fine to have a couple of drinks, but don't get stupidly drunk and don't hit on your neighbor's wife. Remember that this is a family friendly gathering, and there will be games. You are not required to play the games, but if you hang out here, expect to get invited and don't get all annoyed about it. If you don't want to get invited to play, don't come to the party.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an after hours business cocktail party. Dress is still coat and tie, Business casual at the very least. Come, exchange business cards, make deals but don't relentlessly cruise the room or you will be blackballed from future events. Don't walk in with get rich quick schemes and scams. Come to the party with something to offer, contributions to make and have on your professional face. Carry a drink with you, but sip- don't drink and don't get all silly. This is not the office Christmas party and people are not going to forgive you for getting drunk, climbing on the Xerox and making copies of your unmentionables as gifts for your friends.

MySpace: My space is the after concert backstage blowout bash. The energy is screaming high, music and alcohol and antics flow fast and furious. Glitz and noise are the attention getters and it is perfectly acceptable for you to walk up to stranger with a bottle of bourbon in one hand and give them a little goose with the other. You will meet tons of people, but they may not remember you in the morning. Unfortunately, people are taking pictures and you might not want them to remember you that way tomorrow. MySpace is sometimes most useful from a slight distance, where you can still share and experience the music without getting caught up in the drama.

Tribe: Tribe is the party put together by that odd lady around the corner who makes glass ornaments, your aunt Alice, who is sure she was abducted by aliens and your second cousin Todd who builds way cool robots. You are never sure what to expect, or who is going to show up- but you are sure the people you meet will either be interesting or completely whacked. Unfortunately, the music and food here are not what they used to be and the annual event seems to be shrinking. Because the party sponsors are open minded and free spirited, there are some odd forward types who will hit on you, but if you ask nicely they go away and are harmless. That killer robot in the corner keeps the scary ones away.

Vox: Vox is a local poetry reading party. The levels of interaction are low, but the quality of entertainment is generally high. You will find intellectuals, inner thinkers and lascivious lovers of all kinds here. Come, soak it up and hopefully come back next time with a poem or two of your own.

LiveJournal: LJ is like a weekly book club, a bi weekly coffee clatch or whatever other party brings to mind a group of intimate friends who get together frequently. The support and love is great, people speak their mind confidently on many subject, but the drama levels can get high.

Last.Fm: This is the monthly "new music find" party for the college music lovers club. Come, share what you are listening to and listen to what others bring to the party. Make friends with folks who share interests, but understand these are going to be music club friends, they are unlikely to morph into the friends you go shopping with or walk in the mountains with. When the party is over, everyone packs up and goes home to their "real friends".

Bebo: Bebo is a gathering of friends at your local corner pub. A bit of gossip, a lot of music and sharing, very reserved and not obnoxious at all. In an understated way, it is a comfortable place to hang out, even if you don't know anyone at all.

iMeem: iMeem is a local Battle of the Bands party. You never know who is going to randomly bump into you or talk to you and the music ranges from amazing to "who let them in here". Getting silly and flirting isn't the point. If you did not come for the music, you should not have come.

Amiestreet: Amiestreet is the musical equivalent of the opening party of the SunDance Film Festival. You come here to talk and find music, not dates. But the mood is light and friendly. You will find winning small independent artists as well as famous folks showing off their creative efforts. But while at the party, they are all just folks and you can walk up to and converse with the artists, even if you do not know them personally at all.

And then there are Twitter, Friendfeed, and Jaiku. I was going to not mention them at all, but figured the comment storm would overwhelm.. so suffice it to say, I am saving them for the next post.

What other social media sites do you frequent? What sort of party will someone find at your favorite site?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tales from a Dying Town: an Intro

I live in Kokomo, IN. This is a blog post I have resisted writing for over a month, but the truth is there is a story unfolding here that needs to be told. Until December 9, 2008, most of the world had never heard of Kokomo, and Kokomo was fairly content for that to be true. On December 9, 2008 published their list of the "Fastest Dying Cities and Towns" and Kokomo made number 3 on the list of Dying Towns. Enter instant worldwide infamy. How could a small city, once renowned for its innovations ( it is known as the City of Firsts), have become the place expected to be the most impacted by the failure of the Big 3 automakers? The outlook for Kokomo's future is not bright. Unemployment continues to climb, and the number of jobs continues to decline.

One of the points of failures is the fact that the town enjoyed incredible amounts of easy prosperity for many years. My neighbors may hate me for pointing it out, but as a unified city, they got a little lazy. The two major employers in town are Chrysler and Delphi ( historically, Delco Electronics). Both of these companies have been in the town for more than 70 years ( at least 3 generations) and in the last census, were responsible for employing almost a quarter of the town directly. If you are a teenager with long family local family history living here, Chrysler and Delco (as Delphi is still lovingly referred to) have always existed. There is a reasonable probability that at least one of your parents worked there, likely that one of your grandparents did and almost impossible to imagine that one of your great grandparents didn't. Those two companies are intertwined into the roots of the community so deeply that most people can not imagine the city without them. Imagining the city without Chrysler is almost as impossible as imagining the new skyline before the Gas Tower was imploded in 2003.

Although the two companies have been here for a long time, they did not always employ such a high percentage of the city's citizens. From the late 1890's until 1960, there were many other local companies cranking out innovations. As Chrysler and Delco expanded their operations, it became easier and easier for the local residents to just go to work for the big employers rather than continue their educations, continue innovating, or start their own business. There were not many other towns in the 1980s and 1990s where you could get a high school diploma and go to work and make over $50,000/yr. People became complacent and rode the wave high.

But now the wave has bottomed out and many folks have been caught with their bellies grinding onto the sand. It could be a complete disaster, the end of an era. But amongst the depression and anger and feelings of betrayal, there are signs that give me hope that Kokomo might not die after all. The entrepreneurial spirit is making a come back and I see many interesting businesses and ideas starting to gel. Although times are hard and desperate, it is possible that Kokomo could make it through this dark tunnel and come out a stronger, more diverse town. It will be highly dependent on the individual spirits and the drive to succeed that I hope has not been bred out of the inhabitants of this town I call home.

It is my intent to do a post at least once a month following the trials, tribulations, failures and successes of my friends and neighbors as they struggle to survive this tidal wave of economic failure. I welcome your thoughts, feedback and caring commentary.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Death of Apple TV?

Say it right and you are listening to the first nail in the coffin of AppleTV and iTunes Movies.

As a Roku owner, I just got a very interesting email in my inbox, telling me that Amazon Video on Demand is coming soon to the Roku. The content of it is also covered on Roku's FAQ site. So now, not only can I watch HD Netflix movies but soon I will be able to sit on my couch and order and play content from Amazon Video on Demand. I like the Amazon downloadable video content selections, the only real thing that has kept me from making good use of it is that it requires a special player on my PC. If you have not checked out the Amazon content range, spend few minutes browsing through their digital movies and TV episodes. They also have a lot of free content available every week.

Even better, Roku informs us that they have opened up their platform and we will see other content providers and channels on the Roku throughout 2009. From their email: "Amazon is just the start. More announcements of new things to watch and enjoy on your Roku player are in the pipeline for 2009." The worst part? We have to wait a few more weeks for the Amazon rollout.

The possibilities have me excited. YouTube? Hulu? Joost? Who is your favorite content provider? What would you lke to see pop up on your Roku box this year?

Depending on how this content rolls out, I could easily imagine downloading my IPTV service to a lower level. No wonder Cable and DSL providers are dreaming of bandwidth caps.