It’s been an eventful few months. The next few promise to be no different.
On April 17th, I married the love of my life. The ceremony and reception were an absolute blast. I wouldn’t wish planning a wedding on my worst enemy, but I do wish that night could have lasted forever.
About a month later, I turned in the final assignment of my MBA at UT, Austin. It was an incredible two years. I learned a ton and made some great friends. But, I’m ready for the next big thing.
So, what is next?
First on the agenda is the honeymoon. The Mrs. and I are headed to SE Asia with stops in Singapore, Bali and Malaysia. I’ve never been to that part of the world and can’t wait to experience the sites, sounds and flavors. If anyone’s interested, I plan to post pics and stories during the trip over on tumblr.efliv.com.
After the honeymoon, we’re moving to San Francisco where I’ll be joining Zynga as a Product Manager. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. My major motivation for graduate school was to transition from a career in financial technology to one in consumer technology. Zynga sits squarely within the latter and the PM role is a great fit for where I’ve been and where I’m going. To me, it’s a home run.
Since signing the offer letter, I’ve already experienced a bit of the roller-coaster ride that comes with life in a start-up.
I can’t wait for more.
Images stitched together with Aviary.
A lot has been said about the current struggle to standardize the HTML5 video element and the implications for Flash and Adobe. Yet, there’s another element within HTML5 that excites me even more, the canvas element.
The canvas element promises to allow an open, rich-media experience similar to that of interactive Flash. For examples of what’s possible, check out Canvas Demos, especially my favorite blast from the past, Another World. Note that this is written entirely in open standards and available across all modern browsers without a proprietary plug-in. Not only does this cut out the hassle and cost of a proprietary middle-man, but it allows for true cross-platform development with the caveat of universal browser support. (We’re looking at you IE.)
In order to gage the benefits of the canvas element, let’s consider its possible impact on one of hottest areas of the web: social gaming. Companies like Zynga, Playfish and Playdom have unlocked massive value by creating addictive, casual experiences that leverage the interpersonal incentives and virility of social networks. These companies also consider game development an ongoing process. Using sophisticated A/B testing, they are constantly validating improvements on a subset of their large user base before rolling out successful changes to the full audience.
The majority of these games are written in Flash. Let’s take Zynga for example. Their mega-hit Farmville, is written entirely in Flash. Even Mafia Wars, which was originally penned in PHP, has started rolling out features coded in Flash, such as the new “Properties” section.
While this has worked phenomenally well in the desktop environment, rapid iteration and the use of Flash have limited growth in the mobile space, especially on the iPhone. The iPhone’s lack of Flash and time-delayed App Store approval process has forced Zynga to bifurcate the development of some titles spanning social networks and the iPhone. For instance, Mafia Wars is a separate experience on Facebook and the iPhone that require users develop entirely new networks of mafia members. In other words, you can’t play with your Facebook mafia on the iPhone. Other titles like Farmville, which are entirely Flash experiences, are not even available on the iPhone. (Note that this is not true of Zynga’s Live Poker, which does allow iPhone users to interact with Facebook and MySpace users, presumably due to a longer development cycle that is less constricted by App Store approvals.)
HTML5, however, allows for a single gaming interface that is available across social network platforms and the iPhone while also allowing for rapid feature iteration. Rewriting these games in HTML5 is not a trivial exercise. But, in the same way securities analysts see untapped potential in Apple’s stock once the iPhone gains greater distributiong by breaking free of AT&T, Zynga can unlock similar value by making their games truly platform agnostic and fully accessible in the mobile environment.
True, HTML5 is not without its problems. The standard is relatively immature. Browser compatibility is far from universal. Functionalities like hover are not present in most mobile interfaces. And awareness and promotion of web-based apps remains inferior to that of native applications on most mobile OSes.
But the benefits of HTML5 and the canvas element are clear and the incentives are real and valuable for both companies and customers. Social gaming is merely one example.
Image by Cara B Anderson on Flickr.
I’ve been getting to know my temporary neighborhood of Potrero Hill for about a month now. Overall, it ain’t bad.
Having grown up in flat swampland, this “hill” is no joke. It’s almost a workout getting up and over to 18th street and back. The climb has its advantages, though, like fantastic views of downtown San Francisco and the bay. If the 3GS lives up to its claim of better photos, I’ll share a few.
I’ve found a few decent spots for someone looking for a meal and/or a television during the NBA Finals. I figure I’d pass them along if anyone in a similar situation stumbles upon this post. Ganim’s Market will keep any burger lover satisfied. Connecticut Yankee is a lively place to catch a game if you can stomach serious, New England sports fans. Goat Hill Pizza makes a surprisingly nice pie. And Thinkers and Farley’s will not fail to perk you up.
Image my own.
At this past E3, Microsoft announced plans to integrate both Twitter and Facebook into the Xbox 360′s New Xbox Experience (NXE) dashboard.
Preceded by the computer and the mobile phone, the living room TV is quickly becoming the “third screen” to the web and the 360 has become a popular method of getting TVs online. So it’s only natural for Microsoft to look to integrate with the fastest growing social networks.
But does this decision create a strategic dilemma for Microsoft?
The 360 is, without a doubt, a terrific platform. It is also decidedly closed. Conversely, Twitter is an open, organic web experience that derives an increasing amount of value from the distribution of passed links. Fred Wilson, an investor in Twitter at Union Square Ventures, recently confirmed this. Facebook, as it methodically opens, is also becoming a conduit for passed links. In short, these services are dependent on the browser and an open web.
Therefore, the very addition of Twitter and Facebook leads me to believe that a 360 browser is imminent. After all, the alternative is crippled Twitter and Facebook experiences that would only highlight the limitations of Microsoft’s closed platform.
Yet, adding a browser is a difficult move for Microsoft, as it brings a host of unwanted issues. Do they block alternative videos sources like Hulu and YouTube to protect their own video marketplace? What about the increased competition to their Xbox live casual game library from free, browser-based alternatives? And (I can’t believe I’m writing this) what about putting a conduit to porn on a device marketed to children?
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft balances the demand for openness introduced by these services with the lucrative nature of platform control. However, this much is true; the Xbox will soon have an open browser or a severely limited social network experience.
Image by Clickr Bee on Flickr.
As of today, I’m no longer importing all of my Twitter activity to my Tumblog. I made the change after realizing that, through a haphazard spaghetti of crisscrossing RSS feeds, I had configured my Tumblr and Twitter content to match almost 1:1. While I liked the visually appealing, life-stream effect it created on Tumblr, I realized that my tweets were dominating my Tumblog despite the setup making me a very reluctant and infrequent Twitterer. I’d like to change that.
Yet, it was a tough call. I spent a good deal of time integrating Twitter into Tumblr just so, specifically removing duplicate posts from sites I fed into both services (mainly my blog and flickr account). I did this through a Yahoo! Pipe I created and call SlimTwitter. Today, I reworked SlimTwitter to only pass music tweets that come from The Hype Machine and We Are Hunted and those that I mark with an asterik (*), which SlimTwitter rightly removes en route. It ain’t perfect, but it’ll work for now.
I think it will make for a cleaner Tumblog and, maybe, make a more active Twitterer.
Image by poluz on Flickr.
In my recent redesign, I struggled with the decision of which publishing platform to run, Tumblr or WordPress. In the end, I punted and chose to run both; Tumblr for short, life-stream posts and WordPress for longer pieces. They both sit under the efliv.com domain, organized by tabs.
It’s clunky but, while I never felt comfortable using Tumblr as my sole platform, I also couldn’t let it go. Tumblr just has so much going for it and I think Marco and David are on to something. So here are my thoughts on what attracts me to, and bugs me about, Tumblr.
I love Tumblr’s…
- Simplicity: Posting on Tumblr is easy as pie. You simply head to the dashboard, select the post type, enter the info and presto! You have a post perfectly suited the type of media you’re blogging about. Even better, the bookmarklet allows you to post directly from the browser when you run across something you want to blog about.
- Versatility: For those comfortable with basic web design, Tumblr gives you full access to your site’s HTML and CSS. This is a big departure from other hosted solutions like Blogger. This results in incredibly beautiful and original Tumblogs.
- Social Networking: The Tumblr dashboard allows you to follow other Tumblogs and receive alerts when others start following you or reblog or like your posts. It’s a minor pain having yet another network to check, but I like it for some reason. And the iPhone app makes it easy to check on the go.
- Easy Importing: Tumblr allows you to import feeds from other services automatically. My Tumblog includes pics from flickr, links to my blog posts, and my tweets, which I’ve filtered through Yahoo! Pipes to remove duplicate flickr and blog postings (a major pet peeve of mine).
However, I couldn’t get over Tumblr’s…
- Ownership: Tumblr is a hosted solution, so they own all your content. I trust Marco and the technical team, but I just wasn’t comfortable leaving all my content on someone else’s servers with (as far as I can tell) no simple export option.
- Lack of comments: Tumblr lacks a native comment system. Sure they have the ‘answers’ feature (end any post with a ? to allow people to leave a short response) and you can always add Disqus or IntenseDebate comment systems. However, answers are pretty limited and the average user may not grok the use or advantages of third-party comment systems.
- Limited RSS output: This is a big one for me. I’m dying to get an RSS feed of only the Tumblr posts I create through the site, i.e. a feed that strips out all imported posts from my blog, flickr, and twitter. I’m a big fan of syndication and would push this feed to a number of other sites (Facebook, FriendFeed, etc.). That’s a good thing for Tumblr as it increases the “virality” of their service. However, using the current RSS feed would create numerous duplicate posts on sites where I already import those services. I’ve emailed Tumblr support and Marco directly about this. Hopefully they get the hint. As far as I know, there isn’t enough info in the current RSS feed to parse this out with Pipes. Maybe you can via the API, but I haven’t gotten that far.
- Lack of source info: This is another pain for me. With Tumblr, you can alter the appearance of your posts by type, i.e. video posts look different than text posts. However, you can not alter the appearance of a post by source. For instance, both my imported twitter messages and my reblogs and text posts fall into the “text” category. Ideally, I’d be able to differentiate the formatting of my tweets from my other text posts, adding a twitter logo for instance. This has to be on their to-do list, and I hope they add it soon.
- Direction: Tumblr clearly has big plans for the future, which are likely to include paid services and, possibly, changes to their current services. I simply don’t feel comfortable putting all my digital eggs in their undefined basket.
That about sums up my love/hate relationship with Tumblr. Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments!
Image taken from: TravelByPhotos.com
Ever since I bought the efliv.com domain, I’ve been planning to unify the appearance of that site with its sub-domains (blog.efliv.com & tumblr.efliv.com), where most of my content lives. Now that I’ve taken care of a few things, I’ve had a chance to figure all that out.
The design is based off the Depo Skinny Theme by Derek Powazek. It’s a clean theme and I really like the flickr integration at the top. The CSS was easy enough to integrate with Tumblr and my biggest addition is the tabs at the top for better navigation.
I was wrestling with the idea of managing both a Worpress blog and a Tumblr blog but, with the redesign, the sites now act as different sections of the overall efliv.com site. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m planning another post on my love/hate relationship with Tumblr and why I decided to keep using the service but, for now, consider the Tumblog to be my “lifestream” of sorts with small posts (tweets, links, quotes, images, reblogs, etc.), while the blog will be used for long-form thoughts on whatever I’m currently chewing on.
Now that the redesign is complete, I’m left with the harder task of posting something worth reading. Let’s see how I do.
Over the weekend, I noticed that a few of my tweets on Twitter weren’t saving to my profile. They’d stick around initially but disappear some period of time later. I know that they were once on Twitter, as I route that feed into my Tumblr page and Tumblr has all of the missing tweets.
If you search Twitter right now for “losing tweets,” it looks like a lot of people are experiencing the same problem. The Twitter Status blog has a minor note on this topic from last Thursday, but says that it only occurred for about an hour. This is clearly not the case.
I’m not going to rag on Twitter. I love the service and will continue to use it as they sort this thing out, but a little more transparency on the issue would be nice.
Update: Twitter has acknowledged the issue.
Update 2: Looks like my missing tweets are back in my history. Thanks Twitter!
One of my favorite features of Tumblr is the site’s layout flexibility thanks to custom HTML and CSS files. This, combined with Tumblr’s dead-simple scripting language, makes it easy to whip up unique and engaging Tumblr pages. The design aspect is also a key differentiator from other social networks and publishing platforms. Yet, editing these files through the browser-based editor is unnecessarily clunky.
Instead, why not allow users to FTP into Tumblr with their existing log-ins and edit the two files directly with Coda, Textmate, or whatever editing software they prefer?
Not only would this make it easier for newbies to develop their HTML and CSS chops, but it would also be a god-send for experienced developers already used to traditional code editing and FTP software.
I, for one, would much prefer this method and suspect that many others would too.
If you agree, please head to my Tumblr page (tumblr.efliv.com) and reblog.
Note: If you’re reading this on blog.efliv.com first, you may have to wait for Tumblr to pick up the post from the RSS feed. Sorry for the inconvenience. [Update] Tumblr picked up the post. Reblog it here: http://bit.ly/tumblrFTP.
So, I finally subscribed to Netflix last week. Cable TV has just gotten so bad and I’ve been missing out on a lot of the movies my friends are talking about.
I also joined because you can now stream movies directly from Netflix to the Xbox 360. Sweet, streaming content in living room rules!
My only issue was that, previous to yesterday, my Xbox has been offline since I moved to Texas, as the router now lives in the office instead of the entertainment center. There are options to fix this. A good, though incomplete, primer is this article from Gizmodo. The options they list are:
- The Microsoft solution, a $99 usb antenna, is the simplest but also the most expensive.
- Third party gaming adapters, which are essentially wireless bridges, and bottom out at $65.
- The original Xbox adapter that is only $50 but hard to find.
- Ethernet sharing with an PC or Mac.
- Finally, hacking a cheap router with new firmware to convert it into a wireless client.
However, for owners of the Apple AirPort Express, there’s another FREE option that works great. By configuring the AirPort Express as a Wireless Distribution System (WDS) remote base station, you can connect by simply plugging the Xbox into the ethernet port on the AirPort Express. Better yet, I’ve read (but not confirmed) that you can even connect multiple devices to the Airport Express via an ethernet hub or switch!
The solution centers on how you attach your AirPort Express to your existing wireless network. You have two options:
- Join as a client – This allows you to only stream music via AirTunes and connect a printer to the network.
- Extend the wireless network – This allows you to stream music and share a printer but also connects the Airport Express as a second wireless access point (extending the range and signal strength of your network) and allows you to connect other devices via ethernet just as if they were plugged directly into the main router.
Extending the network via WDS is supposedly simple and automatic if you have the Apple made Airport Extreme. I, however, have an old Linksys WRT54G, a great b/g router that has become the darling of the hacker community (more on this in a minute).
WDS is not a stated option on the WRT54G. However, depending on who you believe, WDS is available by either upgrading to the latest official Linksys firmware or by installing free, third party firmware like DD-WRT. (I chose to switch to DD-WRT and can not comment on the effectiveness of the Linksys firmware.)
Rather than provide a detailed outline of the procedure that will quickly be deprecated by future firmware and software revisions, I submit the two most useful links I found:
I found the first article to be the most accurate but again, due to firmware and software revisions, it can not be followed word-for-word when using current firmware and software versions. My best advice is to read both articles carefully so that you understand all of the configuration options. A few notes… I had to configure the AirPort Express set-up manually as the Apple AirPort Utility’s automated setup could not see the WRT54G router as a WDS base station. Also, when configuring manually, be sure to use the WIRELESS MAC address for your WRT54G and not the LAN or WAN MAC addresses. That was the biggest hold-up in my installation. Finally, while I downgraded my wireless security from WPA Personal to 128 bit WEP as suggested by the tutorials, comments on the rbgdream post indicate that you can, in fact, use WPA in a WDS setup. I’ll check this out later and update the post. [Update #1: I believe I also placed the $ in front of the WEP key as described in the rgbdream post.]
Frankly, I’m shocked that neither Linksys nor Apple tout this feature very heavily (if at all). It’s made my AirPort Express infinitely more useful. A device that was once used solely for streaming music to the stereo has now also extended my broadband connection to wired devices in the living room, strengthened my wireless network, and allowed me to get greater value out of my Xbox 360, Xbox Live and Netflix investments.