Macromedia Contribute

After seeing Macromedia’s Contribute application, I’m glad they finally created a product they created a market for years ago. Back in 1998, I built several websites for departments at UCLA, and I was using Dreamweaver 1.2 at the time, which retailed for somewhere around $300. When I handed the sites off to the departments, they had no easy way of doing edits and either came back to me to ask that I update text by hand, or they would botch up the layouts by loading them into Frontpage (or worse, Word), doing edits, then saving. Since I used all the templating functions in Dreamweaver, I requested that departments buy a copy, and I’d set them up to have editing capabilities without messing with any of the template code, but many balked at the price. If I remember correctly, only one group I built sites for bought dreamweaver and kept their site up that way. All the other sites I built have long since been redesigned to Frontpage-generated sites.

Not to sound pompous or be an ass, but I submitted wishlist requests to Macromedia back then, asking them to make a stripped down version of Dreamweaver that I could ask clients to use as just an edit interface. People I talked to seemed to want it for $50, though Macromedia is pricing it at $99. My argument then holds true today: a cheap “lite” version would allow more designers to deploy Dreamweaver-built sites, selling more copies of Dreamweaver, even though Macromedia wouldn’t make much on their sales of lite copies. In the years since they launched Dreamweaver, and now this, I’ve instead taken to creating web applications that provide a web-based edit interface, but this Dreamweaver/Contribute combo looks like a workable solution that is a lot less work to deploy.

Reading Is Fundamental

I finished You Shall Know Our Velocity the other day, and while not as good as the other stuff I’ve read from Eggers, it was a fun roadtrip/buddy story. It also happened to be the first book I’ve read in months, as I’ve been busy with several projects and hadn’t picked one up in a while.

When I finished the book, I knew I just learned a new Life Lesson. I’ve got a handful of rules I’ve collected over my three decades on earth that I follow in order to maintain my sanity. The lesson learned from this is “Never allow yourself to get so busy that you don’t have time to read.” If you want insight into other rules I live my life by, “Never have a job that requires the daily use of an alarm clock” is something I learned during college and has held true throughout my life — every job I’ve ever had that required getting up very early in order to travel or to clock in sapped my happiness and wasn’t worth keeping.

My stack of books has grown pretty high during these past months, either from freebies sent by publishing companies, or bookstore trips to stock up on things I should have already read. Next up is Smart Mobs, then Lullaby by Palahniuk, Gonzo Marketing by Locke, Susan Orlean’s Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, Neal Pollack’s Anthology of American Literature, and the second halves of books I started but didn’t finish including Linked and Small Pieces Loosely Joined.

Sizzo-Xizzo-Sizzo-Wizzo

While March 2003 sounds like a long ways away, it’s never too early to start thinking (and talking) about SXSW. I threw together a new design (anyone from Austin or that’s ever been there should be familiar with it) and pb did all the work to get SXSWblog online again this year. In addition to notes on panels and shared photos, we’re planning to try some new things this year, starting with some trackback blogs.

Cost 50% more than a laptop, with 100% less keys!

After seeing a demo of a Microsoft tablet pc, I’m convinced it will fail with über geeks.

I’ve never had good handwriting as far back as I can remember (no matter how many A’s I earned in grade school, every report card included a C in penmanship, and every progress report mentioned that I should work on it), but ever since college it has steadily atrophied. What once was dubbed “chicken scratch” by my student lab partners has devolved into the quality of a slow pre-schooler’s work, and I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.

For me, almost every sort of note taking or doodling has moved over to a PC, and the occasions where I write something on paper are getter rarer. A couple years ago I realized that I went several months without writing anything down by hand, nothing at all save for writing a handful of checks once a month. With the advent of electronic billing, I’ve got that reduced to just a couple now. It seems dangerous to hinge an operating system on its handwriting recognition (*cough* Newton *cough*) when the amount of handwriting one must do these days is very little.

But then again, I doubt I’m the target audience, as it seems they’re going for business types that sit in meetings most days, scribbling notes into legal pads that will end up as word documents anyway. I can see how the form factor makes for more natural interactions in meetings (especially formal business ones), how awkward some folks feel when you end up hiding behind a monitor clickity-clacking notes instead looking at them eye-to-eye, but I can’t ever see me going back to scribbling out chicken scratch and expecting an operating system to recognize it.

TiVo, why hath thou forsaken me?

After using a TiVo for the past two years, I’ve recently discovered the first downside to using one. When you own a TiVo, the typical usage is to simply watch taped shows whenever you have time. Ever since my last TiVo hard drive upgrade, and moving to Directv, there is so much stuff recorded that I’ve ceased watching live tv altogether. The problem when you no longer surf live tv is that you’ll never discover new shows. For the past few months commercials for other shows during taped episodes was enough to find new things, but once in a while I hear about something via word of mouth that I would have only discovered by randomly channel surfing.

Rough Science is just such a show I only found out from a friend. The premise is pretty simple, put a bunch of scientists on an island and give them challenges to build, create, and fabricate modern instruments and chemicals from the random bits you find on an island. While it may sound a lot like every other reality show like Junkyard Wars or Monster Garage or even like Gilligan’s island, the quality of output, lessons to be learned, and scale of challenges just seem a good deal better. Each episode involves a team of scientists combining classic lessons from engineering, chemistry, and biology, and they end up doing amazing things.

I have the same problem with music that I have with a TiVo. A couple years ago I found myself listening to CDs in the car and at work, and eventually mp3s, and stopped listening to live radio altogether. I only find out about new bands via word of mouth among friends, things I hear on movie soundtracks, and from reading websites. While TiVo’s suggestion recommendations have historically been helpful, and their showcases section aims to advertise new shows, there are so few good shows on TV that I’m surprised to be missing the few I am.

TiVo’s collaborative filtering worked ok when I had 30-40 channels with cable, but given 300, it falls short. I think the solution lies in the community realm. The problem could be solved with buddy lists, where I tell my TiVo to make my season passes readable by friends I trust, and I can read theirs, using the power of a few friends with similar tastes to figure out what I should be watching but am not.

Impressive folk

There are inspiring people and then there are really inspiring people. A couple have done the following:

– Started the California Coastline project to photograph in fine detail every inch of the California coastline, from Mexico to Oregon, for use by civic and conservation groups.

“Part of the reason for this is to make it available to the public so your average person can see what is being done to the coast and can appreciate it,” [Ken] Adelman said. “People won’t conserve what they don’t love.”

– Owns the state’s largest residential solar array, and after winning a multi-year battle with PG&E, the system can now interconnect with the grid.

– Owns three electric cars including a t-zero prototype, an electric car that rivals a sports car in terms of performance.

– They puts their jet and piloting skills at the disposal of medical rescue missions.

Granted, he’s a dot-com millionaire and can afford to do lots of things mere mortals can’t, it looks like they’re using their power for good instead of evil (all on solar-powered webservers, no less).