What? Fortuitous is back?

Everything I've learned about casual podcasting:
An exhaustive how-to guide on getting starting thinking about and recording, editing, and publishing your first podcast.

via fortuito.us

For the last few years, I've regretted letting my long essay/business tips blog Fortuitous go fallow, and I've been thinking of bringing it back many times whenever I feel the urge to write more. The other day I was helping a friend with his new podcast and I realized there wasn't a single resource online that contained everything I'd learned, so I decided to write it myself.

This essay is pretty much everything you need to know to get started podcasting with a Mac. I plan to do more of these, the next one will be on everything I learned after personally printing, selling, and shipping over 500 t-shirts in the past two years.

Maybe in a few weeks I'll return to more business-y topics too.

Happy Birthday Twitter

Twitter turns five years old officially today. I remember when it came out and that I hated it from the start, due to the precious name (it had the groan-inducing title "twttr" originally) and that I rarely used SMS on my clunky t-9 keypad phone. I recall that eventually I gave in sometime in October, and my experience with the still mostly-SMS service was so annoying (my phone woke me up buzzing at 2am when a friend went to Whole Foods and told everyone about it on Twitter) that I couldn't figure out a way to stop the SMS updates and eventually I had to email Biz personally to get it to stop. I found this fun email exchange with Biz and Jack in my Gmail archives:

Screen shot 2011-03-21 at 9.15.56 AM

My friend Eric had put my phone number in as someone to follow even before I signed up so the moment I did, I started getting his replies without any way to shut them off. The texts stopped after this email exchange with Biz, but the experience soured me on the service so much that I didn't return to redo my account until February of 2007.

It's weird that it started off so badly since I've been using it happily ever since. I'm glad they were in it for the long haul, because it wasn't until I got a iPhone in 2007 and custom iPhone apps came around in 2008 that the service really started to shine for me personally.

SXSW 2011

Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky, with sponsors

It’s hard to believe I started going to SXSW eleven years ago, but for my ninth trip to Austin, I decided to do it up like an adult with a family and kids and only stay a few days instead of doing a 6-7 day drunken bender like years past. I landed Friday afternoon and headed home Sunday afternoon, so as a result I didn’t get to take in as many panels as I had hoped, but overall it was a fun time. Some memories from this year in no particular order:

  • The Old Timers Ball (“Web 2.Old!” — Rex) was a great success. It was everything I wanted in a gathering: low-key, had the bar to ourselves, could hear ourselves talk, and I got to catch up with about three dozen people I never saw again in the masses. Huge, huge thanks goes out to Kevin Smokler for the idea and Kevin Newsum for organizing it, getting the bar ok, and basically doing everything (all I did was blog about it and enjoyed it). I hope this is a tradition, especially given the size of the event.
  • BIG BIG BIG. Rumors were the total attendees were getting up to the 20,000 mark. There were over 1,000 talks over five days by 2k speakers. It seemed like any time slot had about 20-30 panels going on at once, in locations all over downtown Austin. In years past, it has felt too big and I’ve felt too anonymous but this year felt like it was twice the size of last year. Holy shitballs was it a big event. I might instead go to smaller conferences in leiu of SXSW next year. I wish the 100 people I know from SXSW that I like to hang out with would choose a smaller conference with me so we could actually see each other and interact. I honestly missed seeing at least two dozen close friends completely, since the whole event was so spread out and there were just so many people around.
  • Last year I said Foursquare was a killer app for finding friends and finding my way around at nights, but this year it was all about Lanyrd (and their SXSW specific subsite). They started off by building the killer app I wanted last year, a way to see where/when all my Twitter friends were speaking, so right off the bat I could see a list of everyone I knew and what they were going to talk about, and build a schedule from it. Then using my friend network on Twitter, they could show me every panel that my friends marked off as interesting enough to track and/or attend. This whittled down the insane 1000+ options to about 2 or 3 cool options for every time slot (instead of 20-30). Thanks Leonard Lin and Andy Baio for marking off so many panels, I just filtered through their lists to find the diamonds in the rough.

    Lanyrd was also amazing because it required no setup, you just authorized Twitter and it was completely customized instantly for you. I also enjoyed their Chrome plugin to show SXSW schedules in user profiles. For the week leading up to SXSW, I could see many people’s plans and talks and it helped filter out good stuff even more. I also was amazed with Simon and co’s active development of the site at SXSW. By my second day I noticed a new mobile version of the site had a feature showing you every panel going on right now and how far away from each you were, as well as everything coming up next (if your current choice was boring you to tears). Lanyrd made this gigantic conference manageable and gave me the ability to navigate through the nonsense thanks to a couple clicks and the power of my Twitter friends.

  • I stayed at Ben and Katie’s house instead of a hotel and it was great. We got to have quiet slow mornings away from the hubub, and enjoy fine coffee and breakfast tacos without any crowds.
  • Food was pretty great this year. I got to have a huge meal at my favorite Austin restaurant Parkside, and I got to eat a ton of tacos. The truck-based food world that hit LA and Portland was in full swing in Austin and gave lots of quick simple options. Sadly, I didn’t get to hit my favorite Polvo’s and sample their amazing salsa. Oh well.
  • Bubble. Everywhere you looked around the convention center was a massive sponsored logo. You couldn’t walk ten feet without noticing several people in matching t-shirts trying to give some free shit away. There was enough free food from companies that I know people went days without having to pay to eat. It was kind of crazy, and felt more like a NASCAR event than a technology conference.
  • Pop-up shops were awesome. I love the idea of temporary storefronts and I’ve enjoyed seeing them in NYC before. I got both a Glennz tshirt and a new iPad from their respective pop-up shops. There’s something cool about taking a traditional brick-and-mortar business model and making it agile and fun and light like the Internet. I hope future SXSW events have as many pop-up shops as food trucks.

Ben Brown

That was about it. I had fun, I liked coming home before it was over, I ate well, and I enjoyed my talk. I also liked recording it and posting it and I hope more speakers at massive conferences record theirs at home so those that wanted to see it but missed it while trying to see 34 other panels at once can see what you worked on that was worth flying across the country to present. Overall I wished I got to see more talks, but I also got to sleep a bunch, but in the end the lasting memory really is missing seeing a lot of people I know because it’s a bit too big. Sorry Shawn and Hugh, I know you work hard at it and it shows in being a great event everyone wants to attend, but I think we may have a case of too much success, especially for an old-timer like me.

Apple Keynote feature request: easy recording of your talks

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 10.12.26 AM
Summary: It should be easier to film your talks when practicing at home. Not everyone can make it to a conference or meeting where you present, but it's really easy to share a video of your talk with the entire world on Vimeo or YouTube. Sal Khan has shown how one guy can change the world with some screencasts, and I'd like to see the power of that fall into the hands of anyone with a Mac. I wish Keynote made it easier, and hopefully the next version does. 


My last post linked to my SXSW talk that I recorded at home. A lot of people asked me how I did it, and it required the following steps:

– get two macs running ichat that can talk to each other (one computer was using my AIM screenname, the other my .Mac screenname). Disable all audio in/out on the second computer you don't present on.

– Start a video chat between the computers, then drag your keynote file into the lower half of the video chat window to start "iChat Theater" on the computer you will present from.

– Resize the video chat window to something around 1024×768 in size, then start screencasting software (I use ScreenFlow) to record the entire desktop and make sure to capture the computer's audio.

– Walk back to your presenting computer, give your talk.

– Walk over to your screencasting computer, hit stop. Edit out the beginning and end of walking between computers, zoom the video so only your presentation shows in the viewport, then save.

– Export video out (I used the 960×540 AppleTV size, and it took about an hour to render) then upload to Vimeo.


You can currently rehearse your talks in Keynote, but it creates a slides-only video with your recorded audio. Most macs all have iSight cameras in them, so I'd really like to see a single mac option to record a video exactly like the screenshot above, without the need for a second mac or complicated screencasting software. 

About the only change that would be necessary and is currently lacking is that I can't see my presenter notes when using iChat Theater. The presenter sees something like this:

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 10.12.59 AM

You can collapse the small image of your current slide and just have the forward/back controls, but I really wish notes were in that panel, like so:


Overall, I think this would make a killer addition to the next version of Keynote, and let people share their knowledge much easier and to wider audiences.

My SXSW 2011 talk on lessons from 11 years of community

Lessons from 11 years of community (my SXSW 2011 talk) from Matt Haughey on Vimeo.


This past Saturday, I gave a talk at SXSW Interactive on some lessons in moderation and growing a community that was sparsely attended (I was half a mile away in one of the outlying hotels, no biggie — it happens). People liked the talk and plenty of people that missed it asked for my slides but I use minimal text in my slides. 

So this is me doing my presentation in my home office. I miss the benefit of an engaged audience so I might sound kind of low-energy doing it alone and I do miss the live Q&A afterwards I’d get at a real conference, but if you have any questions feel free to ask them on Vimeo in the comment thread.

Here are all the tweets archived from the live talk, marked with #RWModeration:


North America – Western Europe equivalent latitude maps

When I first moved to Oregon I often heard local Pinot Noir wineries proclaim "we're at the same latitude as the best wine regions in France! That's why our wine is great here too!" Every weekend in the Fall, I get muddy in local bike races then go home to watch similar races taking place around Belgium, with similar weather and I've often wondered how my latitude compared with theirs.

Now I know that latitude determines length of daylight pretty consistently but isn't a great comparison to weather — The west coast of the US has a cold ocean current and a jet stream to match while the Atlantic that makes up the west coasts of the European continent has a warmer ocean current and different weather to match. Still, it's interesting when making rough comparisions to know if Los Angeles is really like the south of France/Italy (it's actually in Northern Africa, latitude-wise), and I've wondered ever since a friend moved to Helsinki if that was as far north as our Alaskan cities (it is).

Today I asked on Ask MetaFilter and a GIS expert member whipped up exactly the maps I envisioned.

Here are major European cities overlaid on North America, corrected for the identical latitude (click to view full sized):

image from i1107.photobucket.com
Here are North American cities, overlaid on Western Europe and Northern Africa at the identical latitude:

image from i1107.photobucket.com
Pretty cool stuff. I never knew Paris, France was at a latitude farther north than Fargo, North Dakota, or that so much of Western Europe was farther north than the US-Canadian border.

Targeted Email Attacks

A MetaFilter member has told some wild stories in the past about the presence of malware attacks at their place of work, and is now compiling them all on a new blog called Targeted Email Attacks.

Screen shot 2011-03-01 at 2.21.14 PM

Before you click away, I want to explain how crazy this story is. The person that runs the blog works at a small non-profit that examines US-Asia policies and it’s in the Washington DC area. In terms of government targets, they’re pretty small potatoes, but if you browse the blog entries know that some group is not only targeting this small NGO by sending them virus-laden attachments but they often impersonate coworkers when attempting to get people to install malicious software (that would likely contain things like keyloggers and various methods of reporting home and giving attackers a way to get into this NGO’s network and download data).

This isn’t your garden variety windows virus junk going out to your entire address book on an infected system, this is straight-up spy-type shit, but the shocking thing to me is that someone is specifically targeting a tiny little non-profit and repeatedly doing some really crazy stuff like sending fake meeting minutes from the blog author’s own boss, and if you get an email like that right after a real meeting at work, I think even I would fall for such a thing.

The crazy part is when you realize it is someone’s (or many someones) job to know everything about a tiny group in Washington and to try again and again to trick them into exploiting their computers. Now imagine if you worked at somewhere like the Pentagon or a larger, more visible NGO that was in charge of lots more data and had lots more employees. I can’t imagine the amount of training required to show people how not to fall for these very believable tricks.

If you thought the world of spying was over when the Cold War ended, it certainly looks like it changed gears a bit and simply moved more to the online world.