Categories
Personal

Resolutions

The new year is upon us and now is the time people make resolutions for things they what to change. Generally I totally ignore this process but this year I decided to give it a try but in a Zen like way.

The first resolution is to allow myself to make mistakes and fail more. Second is to explore more. The third and final is to learn to relax and not try to do everything.

They aren’t the S.M.A.R.T. goals that I have to set up for my day job. Rather they are things I want to keep in mind while going about my day. Things to influence my decisions rather then goals to target, attain then move on.

Categories
Apps Entertainment

Retro Geek for a New Year

Video Terminal Sample

It’s New Year’s Day 2009, and people are busy making and breaking their resolutions for a better future. Others are already saying 2008 is passé. Well to counter all this futurism I instead offer you this look back to a time when computers lacked all the visual power of today. Back when screens were all black and green. When images were either all blocky or made up of keyboard characters. For some this is a past that you’ve never had a chance to enjoy…

…well now you can with Video Terminal, a little app created by Arpit and myself that lets you watch video in three old school styles: Mosaic, ASCII and ASCII in color. Directions and additional info available at CIM Labs.

Note: you may need to install Adobe AIR to run the video terminal app.

Links:
CIM Labs
Video Terminal
Arpit’s Blog

Categories
Events

Geeks Who Give is in the can

Tonight was the first GeeksWhoGive event, a food drive for Philabundance.  National Mechanics had a full house and each attendee brought at least 6 non-perishable items.  All this resulted in about 900 pounds of food collected for Philabundance.  Though the event officially ended a 9pm it won’t be the last you hear from the GeeksWhoGive.

Links:
GeeksWhoGive
Philabundance

Categories
Events

Refresh Philly & The Geeks Who Give

This past Monday was the inaugural meeting of Refresh Philly. This first meeting was more of a brainstorming session between the twenty attendees. What came out of that meeting was a desire to promote Philadelphia.  The group would work in conjunction with many of pre-existing groups here in Philly. Meeting the first Monday of the month, with meetings featuring two speakers covering different topics. This is to promote a cross pollination of people and ideas, as well as increasing the potential audience beyond that of any particular discipline.

To find out more, check out RefreshPhilly.org or the Refresh Philly’s group on Google.  If you’re in Philly on January 12th, come join us. You’ll need to RSVP as it takes place on the 45th floor on the Comcast Center, where the view alone is worth a visit.

Another Philly based event is the GeekWhoGive Food drive and Tweetup next Tuesday (Dec 9) from 6-9pm, at National Mechanics in Old City. The food drive is collecting non-perishable food for Philabundance the areas largest food bank.  As an added incentive local food podcasters Fork You will lead a cooking demo at 7pm, along with drink specials and raffle prizes.  Cover charge is 5 non-perishable food items (welcome to bring more).  Check the site for updates and additional info.

Links:
RefreshPhilly.org
RefreshPhilly on Google
GeekWhoGive
Philabundance
Fork You

Categories
Events

MAX 2008: a recap

It’s now been two weeks since MAX 2008 opened, as it ran from Nov. 17 – Nov. 19, with some pre-opening events on Sunday.  In those 3-days, there is so much information coming at you that it can be overwhelming at times.  Overall, it was solid showing of what can be done (using Adobe apps) without being a three day sales pitch.  Since the majority of attendees were already using the apps, there was a bit of preaching to the choir, but I digress.

A view of the audience and the presentation displays for MAX 2008 Opening General Session

Day One:
Started with breakfast and opening ceremonies. Here they just spoke briefly about CS4 and some of the work that was done using the suite.  One of the showcased pieces was for the Remarkable Women Trail, as part of California Museum’s legacy trail series.  They brought out Maria Shriver (Gov. Arnold’s wife) to introduce and talk about the project’s goals.  Then it was time for the first official round of sessions, lunch and then more sessions.

My big take away for the first day was from the “Designer/Developer Deep Dive,” here Doug Winnie talked about how these two disciplines are not as separate as one would assume.  Even a quick show of hands demonstrated the overlapping of skill sets.  He used a simple polar grid to map one’s skills and suggested knowing where you overlap with others on the team could aid in team dynamics.  He has posted the concepts from the session along with grid templates on his blog.

Day Two:
Tuesday was a long day, with the first session starting at 8:30am and continuing non-stop into the night with the Customer Appreciation Event.  Also wrapped into this day was a second general session, award showcase and sneak peaks into Adobe’s R&D projects, that may or may not make it to production.  These last two had the geeks gasping at one point or another.  All this wow factor to easily be out done by the night’s main event, the appreciation party.  Everyone boarded coach buses and were chauffeured over to Golden Gate Park’s Art and Natural History Museums.  Here we were greeted with an endless assortment of bite size foods and a great environment to roam at will for the next few hours.

I had a number of good sessions on day two. One session that I think everyone could have benefitted by attending was covering usability errors.  Errors that are caused by confusion created (unintentionally) by the designer/developer of the site and how we can improve the situation.  For humor and effect they showed a number of similar usability confusions that occur in the real world (example: doors with both push and pull facing the same way, here’s an example on Flickr ).  One session that I wish my Photoshop only co-workers could of all been at showed off Firework’s design strengths in working with both bitmaps and vectors.

Day Three:
After the big event the night before they kindly started the first session an hour later.  They closed out the conference with a full day of sessions.  Everything seemed a bit calmer on Wednesday.  Not sure if this was due to everyone taking it easy from a late night or that some some of the attendees starting to head back to where they came.

For me, the day started with a session talking about the benefits of bringing play into the design/development process.  They first showed off the biological reasons for this, but also covered the more humanistic benefits and provided some suggestions on how to effectively use play to a productive end. Another session should have been called “The Pimping of Dreamweaver CS4”.  They wowed the audience with some of the new AJAX focused features in DW-CS4.  It’s clear that Adobe is looking to make even the least JavaScript savvy developer be able to take advantage of AJAX with ease.

Overall:
I’m glad I was able to attend, there was much learned (some forgotten already :P) and I look forward to getting all these learnings together and present them to my teammates that didn’t attend (especially the stuff on Fireworks).  I also had a good time, which is just as important in getting people to return year after year. Till next year…I hope.

Links:
Remarkable Women Trail
Doug Winnie’s Twitter
Doug Winnie’s blog
Push/Pull on Flickr

Categories
Events

BarCampPhilly2008

BarCamp noun
A non-conference where the the participants are also the presenters.

This weekend was Philly’s first BarCamp.  Before going I had heard so much hype by other (barcamp) virgins, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect.  It all kicked off at 8am on Saturday and continued on till 6pm, in-between was where the magic happened.  The day’s schedule was full of sessions posted by the attendees themselves via hand written postcards thumb-tacked to the boards.  All this low-fi goodness was complemented by a Twitter account with official hash tags for those wanting to tweeting about the event and the full schedule being transposed into a iPhone friendly format.

I attended a number of sessions through out the day, some hosted by fellow CIMians (people that work at CIM).  The first session for me was Aaron (@iamaaronheld) explaining what went into bringing the current Comcast.net to life and all the back-end magic that goes into serving it’s 40 million users.  Followed by a round table on User Experience.  Here there seemed to be a general consensus that if you’re audience is the general public, UI elements should follow the established standards leaving the more experimental functionality to be vetted via Beta and a more selective/targeted user base. Closing out the morning sessions was a session on group blogging co-hosted by Mavisn McClellan and Scott McNulty with the entertaining title “Group blogging is like group sex…”.

My afternoon kicked off with a round table discussion around innovation within a corporate environment, which had many of the attendees voicing their thoughts on the subject. To set off the discussion was the dichotomy between developer and management, as demonstrated by CIMians Arpit (@arpit) and Aaron respectively. Arpit then discussed some of the reasons for using Flash over AJAX beyond it’s command of animation and video. One important strength was data handling and the raw processing power of Flash. The last of the CIM hosted sessions I went to was a round table talking about the importance of sharing your ideas and how sharing helps bring your idea to the next level, hosted by Kevin (@kfitzpatrick).  Alex (@alexknowshtml) stated the core concept of the session “there are a minimal number of negative reasons to not share, but there is an unlimited number of positive possibilities when you share” (not word for word).

These weren’t the only sessions available, just the ones I made it to, some of the others include: “the Internet sux,” a legal guide for small/independent businesses, staying creative under stress, Information Architecture (“the Jedi Mind Tick” by Livia, @livlab), Jango, jQuery and plenty of others.  Overall there was something for just about everyone attending and if there wasn’t you could have hosted a session yourself to fill that void.

The open social vibe continued after the official gathering ended with an after party. Held down in Old City at the techie favorite, National Mechanics (@nationalmechanics). I would say a good time was had by all, for both the conference and the post-conference RockBand with libations.  Great concept and actually worked well in reality.  This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of everyone attending, of course the volunteers and the two that led the organization of it all, Roz Duffy and JP Toto (@stellargirl and @jtoto respectively).

Links:
BarCampPhilly.org
@iamaaronheld
@arpit
@kfitzpatrick
@alexknowshtml
@livlab
@nationalmechanics
@stellargirl
@jtoto

Categories
Thoughts

Change is in the air

America welcomes the first Africa-American president, more importantly the first non-Anglo president. America is no longer only refugies from Western Europe. It truly is a menlting pot of the world. Barack, with his background & upbringing is a symbol of this integration of people and cultures.

Still, that’s not the biggest result of Barack Obama’s winning the Presidential race. It was the mobilization of America’s youth (GenX & GenY), whether for him or against, to participate in the political and election process. He motivated the cynical and disconnected to act, to care, to join in the conversation that will shape the future.

Personally, I choose Obama for a future based on hope rather then fear. On unity over division and the failures caused by it. I know there are many obsticles that can keep some these ideals from materializing, but the mental sea change in those that supported him is a step in seeing a world less divided.

Countries all over the world are excited by the end of an era. An era where the US arogantly ignored allies and the will of it’s people. Where the US played bully and police in the same motion. This era is over, replaced with a president that shows diplomacy, honesty and an understanding that we are but one country in this world, regardless of our place in it.

I look forward to see how this man, his ideals and a nation recharged will take on the issues of tomorrow. My cynisism taking a backseat for hope to take its place.

Welcome back America.

Categories
Personal

Nearly 10 years in the making…sorry Mike

It’s been a long time.  Nine years and then some.  In Internet years that’s nearly forever.  Before the Dark Ages when the bubble burst. What am I speaking of…this site, of course.  What did you think I meant, Chinese Democracy?

RobertFrancis.com - Old home page
RobertFrancis.com - Old home page

Designed in the time when 800×600 was considered high-res, and 1024×768 was for the special people.  DSL and Cable connections a rarity, and 56K modems were the norm.  It’s an Internet that many never experienced and the ones that did try to forget.  Since then the Internet has expanded into every facet of modern living.  The most obvious are entertainment, communications and hell, dating.  Who would have though that dating online would something one no longer denies doing.  Now one can even watch their favorite TV shows the next day online as something bigger then a postage stamp (ie Fancast).  Even the mobile web experience is richer then anything available back in 1999.

What was available was this site, as it looks today (well not today as I’ve finally replaced it) with only the barest of changes.  It stood as a testament to what once was.  There were attempts to replace it with bigger better fast more.  These replacements never made it through all the production needed to give it life.  They got close, never all the way and then forgotten.

So what happened?
Well back in 1999, I started working at an Internet start up out in Wayne, PA.  There we attempted to connect entertainment and commerce.  Allowing fans to purchase the very items that the stars were wearing in the photo.  We did this for some big names too of the time (Everclear, Korn, Blair Witch Project, Stewart Little, and Radiohead to name a few). This was the start of the band microsites featuring viral opportunities (“send to a friend” and “add this to my site”) and dynamic content.  The big money said forget entertainment and provide all this dynamic content and tracking to the Fortune 100.  And so we did, till the whole bubble bursting thing happened.

I took this opportunity to go solo and provide my skillz to the highest bidder.  Except I realized I’m not such a good pimp.  Slowly I gravitated back to the 9:30-5:30 world.  Finally re-joined the full time workforce at an interactive agency here in town called iFrontier…then AvenueA|Razorfish, now just Razorfish (a Microsoft Company).  Regardless of the name they created websites, web campaigns and all sorts of web based analytics and media buys.  I was there for the creative side of their business, designing and building Flash based thing-a-majigs. This led me to CIM, where I am today, doing more of these Flash thing-a-majigs as part of their internal creative department. Work with a good crew, bringing this Web two thing to Comcast.net.

As the Interweb is changing I thought it was about time change RobertFrancis.com as well.  This time there will be changes to the content, as the backlog has grown deep and I keep moving forward.  Welcome back world.

Links:
Fancast
CIM