Monday, December 31, 2007

Get Live Firefox Chat Support from Mozilla over at LifeHacker

I was reading Get Live Firefox Chat Support from Mozilla over at LifeHacker and it reminded me of one of my application ideas from my notebook.

They are offering live Firefox chat support now using an all volunteer support staff. They are just passionate Firefox users willing to lend a hand.

I had made this recommendation for a client back a few months ago to offer this in the venture capital and business planning industries.

Live chat support for any product or product line seems like a good solution that could be offered in many industries in a sort of open source kind of way.

Would take the right company to be open enough to partner with their "prosumers" or other heavy players that way. But definitely a cheap way to run a real clean, honest support program.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Large Companies Using Social Media Marketing

Just saw a commercial from Mountain Dew about their new soda creation web site,

It was another interesting usage of Social Media Marketing that utilizes its pro-users or audience to facilitate research and development (R&D). They are encouraging customers to go to the web site and help decide certain characteristics of a new Mountain Dew soda.

It is a pretty simple web site surrounding a kind of game / soda creation application. The site is built in .NET, the application looks like Silverlight, but I am not sure.

Not really impressed with the campaign overall but it is an interesting usage of these new methods.

Shows that the big co's are embracing these principles, now we need to see more of it in the smaller business arena.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Learning Objects and Web 2.0 Applications

I have been spending a great deal of time learning about "learning objects" from a site called Merlot.

Wikepedia defines a learning object as:
  • "Any entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education or training"
  • "Any digital resource that can be reused to support learning"
  • "Web-based interactive chunks of e-learning designed to explain a stand-alone learning objective"
  • "A digitized entity which can be used, reused or referenced during technology supported learning"
  • "A digital, self-contained, reusable entity with a clear learning aim that contains at least three internal changing and editable components: content, instructional activities (learning activities), and context elements. As a complement, the learning object should have an external component of information which helps its identification, storage, and recovery: the metadata."
I would like to see any web 2.0 application have a learning object defined for it just like we reference an RSS feed or other media link for a site today.

If it is a web application that is fairly complex or even simple it should have at least a basic set of learning objects for it that the average user can use to learn more about the application or a teacher can use to integrate into their classroom curriculum.

This is something I would like to work more on as part of the Social Media Squad and meeting its mission of Translating 2.0 to the Real World.

My Profile Organization

In a few of my last posts I talk about organizing myself and developing a routine. One thing I am working on is creating a platform and routine that I work on everyday to help organize my world both internally and externally.

I have started by creating an outline in Google Docs that I keep updated. This has all the elements of my world. It is pretty large so I won't list here. But it outlines everything about myself and what I am working on.

I run down this outline at least once per day and and see what has changed and what needs maintenance.

I am using Blogger to keep track of a lot of this and using it as part of the platform for tracking the data. It is one piece of how I use Google as a Content Platform.

I will keep refining this and posting my perspective of this.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Google Data API Integration

I was syncing up some of my OWS Network systems with the complementing Google systems today. Such as when you post a blog entry to your blog it will post to Blogger, and when you post an calendar entry to your web site it automatically publishes to Google Calendar.

So I started working with the Google Data API, and I noticed when you click on code samples and references it just sends to directly to Zend Framework. They have created Zend GData which gives you read / write access to the Google Data API's.

It is a very nice set of PHP classes that allow you to work with Calendar, Spreadsheets, Blogger, CodeSearch, and Base.

It saved me a lot of time and energy and gave me nice set of tools to get my systems integrated with Google right away.

Having a daily routine...

Was just reading a post by Ian Forrester called, Is having a Routine good, bad or indifferent?.

It is nice to see other technology professionals struggling with the same problem. I am always working to have a balance between routine and "following the wind".

I would say I lean more toward "following the wind" and less on routine. I always have to work harder to inject more routine into my day.

Part of it is the amount of work I have, and my routine tends to get dictated by the loudest clients. Which is unfair to the rest of my world.

I am sure my Mom would like to see me have more routine that included communicating with her. I think that will definitely be an item I work into my routine more in 2008.

Thanks Ian.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Online Information Storage

I was just thinking how much information I am putting on the Internet. I pretty much migrated to a web-existence completely.

Only think I store locally are temporary files and my music.

I store all my thoughts in my Google Notebook, all my docs on Google Docs. This is a lot of trust. What happens if my Google Account just goes away?

What would make me feel better about the storage of all my information not from a privacy point of view, but from a backup perspective.

I have thought about using another Google Account and the Google API to move the data from my primary account to a secondary or backup Google Account. Would take some time but could be done.

Now I am also thinking about storing at Amazon S3 or Amazon SimpleDB when ready.

I will let everyone know when I make a move on this.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Storefront 2.0

I was playing around with the Paypal Storefront Widgets today and getting my head wrapped around what they offer. They are a flashed based widget that are pretty slick.

You can manage your storefront look and theme and all the details about your products. You can change your settings on whether your storefront is open or closed as well as manage yourproduct inventory and how many are available for saPublish Postle.

It got me thinking about how the storefront is continuing its migration from the home web site. It has the potential to exist beyond the affiliate storefront as well.

You can publish your products and allow people to purchase individual or multiple products anywhere.

Lots of potential here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Google Spreadsheets as a Data Store

I just finished BETA testing the DocSyncer tool which will keep mycomputer synced with my Google Docs account.

At first I had settings turned on to upload .html pages, which was a huge mistake....instantly it started publishing thousands of files of my local workstation, be careful.

Once I did get my 800+ word and excel documents published synced up without any effort I started looking through them and searching on topics. It was very interesting to find some items I don't even remember I have.

The I pulled out a simple JavaScript for pulling a JSON feed from a Google Spreadsheet and connected it to a list of businesses I had for the Portland area. Instantly I had published these business listings on the web using my Google Spreadsheet as a data store.

Very cool stuff, think it will be a while before everyone realizes the potential here.

Amazon Web Services - Simple DB

So I jumped the gun and blogged about the new Amazon DevPay web service and realized I hadn't even mentioned the other latest release from Amazon, the SimpleDB.

This is something I have been waiting for. I was already utilizing Amazon S3 for heavy storage of files, images, and large text blobs. I use MySQL or Microsoft SQL Server for most back-end databases, however 90% of the time I am using only about 10% of the capabilities available to me.

I am looking to add, update, and delete text and numeric data is very small amounts most of the time.

SimpleDB is perfect for this type of small to medium size web site and application deployment.

I am excited about playing around with it more and see if it can become the perfect scalable database platform that I have been looking for.

Another Sweet Amazon Web Services - DevPay

Amazon just added another quality web service to their killer lineup. They released Amazon DevPay in Limited Beta, which is a simple-to-use billing and account service that assists developers in getting paid for applications they build using Amazon Web Services.

Its a layer built on their Flexible Payment Services and allows me to integrate it into applications I build and allows me to create and manage the billing system for the application.

I allows me to take advantage of various payment setups such as recurring and usage-based pricing models.

Interesting addition....I still haven't completely grasped how SimpleDB is going to be worked into my architecture. Lots to do!

Information Architecture

I am working on a web site / web application for Roseburg Forest Products right now. Most projects we do have some level of frustration in getting the information you need to get the project rolling and built to the clients expectations.

I have been going back and forth on the information architecture behind the products. It is pretty complicated and getting past the visual display to the customer is tough.

There are 3 tiers Product Type, Product Category, and Product. However at each level there are many types of PDF files, tech specs, related products, links, etc.

Helping a client sort through this and make sense of it so I can:

1) Create a dynamic database driven system to manage all this data.
2) Have that system build out a public web site.
3) Make the information make sense to the user.
4) Make it all available for download and / or adding to a cart.

This is not easy and especially when the client has existing "non-normalized" ways of organizing their data that makes sense to them, and they are hung up on the visual presentation of it.

Anyways just had to dump some thoughts on Information Architecture and how you really have to get to know your products and company before you can really build a dynamic web application or site for a client.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Facebook Application Development

Been spending more time lately thinking about Facebook Application Development for small businesses.

Was reading Andrew McAfee talking about The Impact of Information Technology (IT) on Businesses and their Leaders and talking about Facebook AS the Intranet.

Was also talking with another acquaintance about the usage of Facebook as a learning platform for K-12.

I really feel Facebook as a big role to play in the next generation of business and learning. The youth have adopted it and I think it will grow from there.

Has a lot of potential because you can still retain some level of control over your application and leverage the Facebook community to reach your audience.

More to come...