Monthly Archive for May, 2006

ValleySchwag 2: Yay, I scored a rare T-shirt (1:1500)

Valleyschwag #2 is here!Valleyschwag #2 is here!

Valleyschwag #2 is here and I know I’m not making this up because I now taste burlap while eating Pockey. Truthfully, everything in this shipment seemed less interesting compared to the first issue, with the exception of the Movabletype Cap and Keychain. After flickr-ing about how I didn’t get any letter or packing list this time, Thor from Valleyschwag promptly emailed me a PDF of the missing document which you can see here. Impressive.

The green t-shirt on the right picture is the weirdest thing in the package… second being the Slide condom. At first I was wondering if there were some mistake packing this in when I realized it’s actually the name of an actual design agency called One & Co.. It just looked Christmas-y, complete with golden reindeers and pixelated snow.

Fortunately, Valleschwag’s Jonathan Grubb explained it to me this way:
“Dude, that’s the rarest piece of schwag in the whole shipment!”

Apparently they were only given to people who were actually at this agency’s christmas party. A friend grabbed an extra one (and had never used it) so he added it to the mix. My tip to Jonathan: Maybe you guys could add a rarity count in the packing list, just like those on collectors cards sold at comic book stores. For example, this t-shirt would be 1:1500?

But that’s not all. Jonathan also mentioned that “you can always trade it on the upcoming Valleyschwag trading area”.

Hmm, first Valleyschwag grows from 60 to 1500+ subscribers, then Valleyschwaggers get early peeks through ValleyBeta (special beta access to new Web 2.0 services), and now there’s a trading area for us? What’s there not to love?

If you’re interested, you can watch a behind-the-scenes video of ValleySchwag on their blog. As usual, everyone gets something different as seen on Flickr.

BestBlogForward: Look who’s talking now…

Talking about BestBlogForward

Argh, it’s time for me to practice what I preach. Judging from my late submission, you should be able to tell that I’m pretty apprehensive about joining my own meme…

Why?
Peanut Butter Jelly Time isn’t going to save the world anytime soon.

The BackStory
It all started after I saw a strange scene in Family Guy where Brian the dog dances to cheer Peter up. He sings the tune “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” and wears a banana outfit to go with it. At that point I was baffled enough to do some research, and lo behold, a quick post that soon became my most referenced Google seach item ever. This now begs the question: Why is it still the most popular post? Perhaps a topic for a future investigation.

You can easily tell the rest of my popular posts from the “Top Ten Posts” widget on my sidebar. As aggregated from the “click-thru” readership count at the bottom of each post, the Top Ten plugin (downloadable here) simply shows posts with the highest number of views. This popularity is determined entirely by readers and is a part of my blogging workflow which I have no control over. It’s my lazy way of getting readers to generate meta-content for additional reading.

Do Popular Blog Posts reflect Identity or Utility?
As some of you have already experienced, your most popular posts might not represent you as well as you might hope. Having my top ten posts completely in the hands of my readers turns out to be both a boon and a bane. For instance, you can tell how I love gadgets and web oddities, but what you might not realize are some of my perspectives on politics, academia, as well as life in Singapore and America.

On a similar note, notice how we can spend hours writing solid content, only to get less viewership than a five minute quick post you wrote previously? Popularity may seem to have an accidental nature to it, but it’s something which prolific bloggers have been trying to bring it down to a science. That’s where this meme gets its existence…

While my professor Alex Halavais and blogger Julie Meloni noted the flimsy metrics I suggested for finding your popular blog posts, it really doesn’t matter. The results might differ according to methodology, but they shouldn’t stray off the same cluster of thought unless you have a tendency to write eclectically.

The driving force behind this meme lies in my ultra-secret-yet-altruistic motive of having you create your own “Greatest Hits” album blog post roundup for your readers. Combine this with the fact that this is a meme, means that everyone has a fair share at redeeming refreshing themselves and giving attention to those posts which you feel are like diamonds in the rough.

So what do popular posts tell us?
A lot, but it mostly gives us a chance to reflect and rethink our writing habits. A little marketing sense gets you readership, but too much tactical blogging and your blog will start to sound cheesy. As a guide, your popular posts have shown me a few interesting trends:

1. Blogging at the Right Place, at the Right Time
RamblingLibrarian and Jennimi are both librarians but in different parts of the world. Interestingly, both of them cited specific library related events as their most popular posts, which goes to show how blogging at the right place, at the right time matters. If you read some of the other meme submissions, you’ll also realize that blogging reviews about the latest movies also brings good results.

2. Connecting with Real People
Nadnut’s popular post was a reader rollcall, where she discovered how a primary and secondary school friend had been reading her since her 1st year blogging. Leisa Reichelt also noted how you need the network to make anything you write widely read. I practice this simply by reading other blogs and leaving comments. It’s a tit for tat routine that pays off for everyone.

3. Adding Numbers in Titles
Leisa also shares how numbers play a big part in getting readership. We’re talking about those posts that go something like “Five ways to speed up your Mac” or “Ten Tips to getting more chicks”. I’m guilty of some of them only because it’s a nice way of saying “this article is going to be short and sharp”. People like that, especially busy ones.

4. “How-to” write popular posts
Alec over at the8thsign wrote a semi-how-to by mapping existing PC apps with equivalent Mac apps, which is great for the rise in Mac switchers. NoFancyName shows us the power of her “How-To for making expandable blog posts in Blogger”, which alone accounted for a full 26% of her blog traffic. It’s also Topic 21 in Chapter 3, “All About Posting,” in her book on Blogger called “Sams Teach Yourself: Blogging in a Snap”. Being a good netizen, she kept the how-to online even though the book went to print. Smart move since that makes for really good marketing. I must add that combining a how-to with something blog related gets you tons of traffic as seen in my writeup, “From Del.icio.us to WordPress: How to automatically post daily links“. Not only is it a how-to, but being meta means you get tons of trackbacks. I still get one or two every single day!

5. On eternally popular conversations
Leisa couldn’t let us go without sharing with us another killer tip she realized. In her own words, “Some conversations never die and seem to be eternally popular. In my case, my brushes with the “Ugly Design debate” and the “Where are the Women Bloggers” debate were a lot more high impact than I’d expected. At the time of writing, I wasn’t really aware that these discussions had been going on in the blogosphere for years already, and since I’ve written them I’ve seen them bubble up from time to time.” While most people tend to stay away from old issues, it’s a good idea to refresh it sometimes by giving it a new perspective and adding your valuable two-cents to it.

6. Joining memes works
Chuck of Chutry scored big with his book meme. Joining this meme means you are practicing the actual. Nuff said.

7. Can you Digg it?
Social bookmarking sites are a trendy way of getting your blog posts heard. Digg and Del.icio.us both have popularity rankings mechanisms which promotes your article accordingly. With their popularity with everyone else, it won’t remain effective unless you have good content to begin with.

The Conclusion
There are bound to be more tips out there, but these are just a few I’ve glanced from some of your popular posts. Ultimately, I’m aligned with CrappyCrap’s philosophy, where blogging should be all about writing for yourself, not others. Still, understanding how readership works and adapting it to your writing routine might help us extract more joy from our work. Though popularity shouldn’t be the main motivator for blogging, it does help add validity your blog’s existence. After blogging for a while, I find it important to get into your comfort zone and not feel pressured to gain a wide readership. Instead, try to focus on making a few good friends and remember that contentment comes best from within.

Remember to read all the BestBlogForward meme submissions via technorati and see what others have shared so far!

NOTE: For those of you doing this for the $25 Amazon Gift Card or Flickr Pro account, do note that the closing date for the contest is at 11.59pm (Eastern Standard Time) or 11.59am (Singapore Time) on Wednesday, 31st May 2006. You are welcomed to continue blogging the meme, but just remember that you’ll only be getting the consolation prize… i.e. some traffic to your blog. :P

My 1000th Post Special // “BestBlogForward” meme contest

BestBlogForward meme

UPDATE: MEME CONTEST NOW EXTENDED TO WEDNESDAY, 31ST MAY 2006!
Keep your entries coming and do check out the wonderful stories others have already shared! :)

Believe it or not, this is my 1000th blog post! To commemorate this special occasion, I’d like to thank fellow bloggers by holding a unique meme contest. Yes, we wouldn’t have a blogosphere if not for one another, so here’s my nifty idea: I’m going to help you discover how bloggers like yourselves gain popularity.

THE INSTRUCTIONS

1. Find the most popular post on your blog
You can discover this either by checking your web statistics service, most number of comments, or simply googling yourself and finding what tops the rankings. Suggestions on using blog trackers like BlogPulse and Technorati are welcomed. If all this sounds too complicated, just go wth your instinct!

2. Blog the story behind it!
Blog the story behind your most popular post by giving the permalink, what it’s about, how it became popular and how you came to write about it. It’s a great way to see our different blogging strategies. I’ll post mine as an example soon but get started if you get the picture.

3. Tag “BestBlogForward”
Once you’re done writing, make sure to title and tag it “BestBlogForward”. Link your post back here if you wish to qualify for the contest. Everyone will also be able to see your post over at Technorati if you use the following HTML code: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/bestblogforward" rel="tag">bestblogforward</a>

THE DEADLINE
DUE TO THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND, THIS CONTEST IS NOW EXTENDED TO 11.59PM ON WEDNESDAY, 31st MAY 2006 MEMORIAL DAY, MAY 29th 2006. After that, you can continue adding to the meme, but you won’t be getting a prize (it’s self-gratifying already right?). I’ll pick out the most interesting blog story and announce the winner next week.

THE PRIZES
Since I’m not exactly rich, I’m emailing the first place winner a $25 Amazon gift certificate. Alec over at the8thsign.com loves the idea so much, he kindly sponsors a Flickr Pro account for the runner-up. I’m currently approaching some Web 2.0 sponsors for more prizes in case this gets widespread. If anyone’s interested to sponsor, let me know and I’ll plug you. I’ll have the final say as to how things go, but rest assured, I’m hoping to make this experience as enjoyable as possible.

THE FAVOR
Before you go, help me pass the word about this meme contest by telling your friends, by submitting it to your favorite social-bookmarking service (e.g. Digg, Del.icio.us) or simply adding me to your blogroll. If you haven’t done so, you can subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed here.

X-Men III: Let the credits roll for a secret…

x-men-the-last-stand
Photo source: IGN FilmForce Gallery

I used to be a big comic collector (e.g. X-men, Wildcats, Spawn), the extent of which I would spend all my lunch money on these popular works of art. One thing though: I was never fond of the X-men movie adaptations. The whole production just seems very contrived to me, satifying more of a commercial urge than the true passion of story-telling. Alas, that is the nature of movie adaptations… it is hard to stray from this assumed intent.

Still, I do take solice in the special effects crew for really stretching the human imagination. Even Penny says she wants to watch it because it’s simply fun seeing colorful characters with their amazing powers. I just hope this third X-men installment delivers on the action.

Needless to say, this is definitely a film that everyone will be watching. That being the case, IGN FilmForce shares with us an important tip…

This weekend, when the credits roll, when the audiences begins to filter out of the exits… keep your seat. And then, perhaps, share this little secret with a few of your friends: the movie isn’t over. We don’t want to spoil anything for you, but we want you to know that the scene that follows isn’t your typical post-credits tack-on. It’s a coda for one of the main characters. The scene is maybe 30 seconds in length, but it’s enough. And it will surely be one of the more talked moments in the fan community.

We’re entitled to make guesses, so I think it’s going to be about Wolverine. What do you think?

UPDATE: I’ve added the much requested spoiler in the comments. See comment #11 below…

How about a physical health microformat?

Creating a physical health microformat
Original background diagram from microformats.org

From the Nike+iPod article, Oyvind and I were chatting about creating a fitness training microformat, one whereby various body monitoring gadgets (e.g. Nike+iPod, Polar watches) could talk to one another and share data. If these devices could communicate like how MIDI does for music, we could easily get a more holistic picture on whether we’re in the pink of health.

There are lots of applications and standards out there for monitoring the “health” of blogs and web sites, so how about one that recommends and even alerts us to our physical health?

He’s written a comprehensive article detailing this training microformat idea on his BrilliantDays blog. If you want to learn more about microformats, see microformats.org

Today’s Links: Useful goodies for bloggers

kSolo: Online Social Karaoke
kSolo screenshot by Mashable!

Nike+iPod: Why it’s more than just a pedometer

nike+ipod

At first I thought, “Wow, a really expensive pedometer…”

Reading a few blogs later, I discovered a video for this new runner’s toy and was literally quite blown away. Seriously, the pictures don’t do justice once you see how it augments your running capability. Some little known facts I’ve dug up include:

1. Voice-guided runs
Upon command, a soothing voice informs you on your distance travelled, current pace and miles to go over your iPod headphones. Since runners might have trouble reading LCDs while running, the voice acts like an auditory version of headsup display (similar to how vehicular GPS systems work).

2. “Power Boost” button
It might sound like a gimmicky idea, but I love it! When you’re in running mode, the center round button on your iPod turns into an “adrenaline booster”, playing the most driving track on your iPod to give you a stimulant for your final sprint. The Prodigy would easily fit well for this purpose. Way simple, way smart!

3. Share your running progress
The runner’s progress is stored in the iPod and synced via iTunes 6.0.5 (coming soon) to a server. Once you log into the Nike community site, you can chart your progress, join virtual running groups and see who’s leading in specific areas. Running becomes both objective-driven and a socially-oriented. Certainly makes geeks like me want to run!

While the Nike+iPod Sports Kit costs $29, let’s not forget to factor in the specialized Nike shoes which costs $100+.

In any case, watch the Nike+iPod video here.

Sprint’s sour but healthy…

myfoodphone

For those of you who are on Sprint, they seem to have rolled out a pretty interesting new “healthy” service which catches onto the “food porn” craze. You know what I’m talking about… those of us who just love snapping photos of food, especially well-decorated ones at fine dining restaurants. According to Sprint’s email today:

Sprint Picture Mail recently launched a new application called “MyFoodPhone“. Just take pictures or videos of your meals and a Nutritional Advisor will review the photos in your food journal and provide personalized feedback on your diet and eating habits. Nutrition video content is then selected to meet your specific health-and-fitness goals and presented in a simple, bi-weekly video message.

All these telcos are really try hard to cash in through mobile applications by coming up with new ways to make you spend on data charges. I haven’t really seen anything I really need and a lot of it seem purely for entertainment. While I do think that this health-related service is a step in the right direction, I really wonder how many nutritional advisors Sprint will be hiring just for this. I mean, we’re living in the age of image recognition (e.g. Riya, MyHeritage), so perhaps a more automated way of tracking the number of shrimps you’ve been eating might be a better solution. Anyway, see Sprint’s MyFoodPhone here

Aside: Why’s Sprint sour but healthy? For the sour part, read my thoughts in the comments…

MrBig’s “Tur Kua” Birthday Card…

If you’re wondering what this is about, it’s a birthday card I made from the “Tur Kua wallpaper”, originally for the MrBrown podcast. Made it for a friend named MrBig here in Buffalo. It’s amazing how many Singaporeans abroad haven’t heard of MrBrown’s & MrMiyagi’s “Tur Kua” podcast episode. I think it should be the duty of every Singaporean to spread the word about such non-infantile humor. :P

If you want, you can look inside the card here…

How to use Box.net just like Apple’s iDisk

The

The UneasySilence crew shared a pretty neat tip for Mac users looking for a cheaper (Free!) alternative to Apple’s iDisk.

In my earlier post, I explained how Box.net makes allowed you to easily store files online just by using your web browser. You get 1gb of online storage free, but you can score more space either by getting referrals or by paying for it.

Just today, Box.net upped the ante by allowing Mac users to access Box.net within Mac OS X, requiring no additional software or special configurations! It works just like Apple’s iDisk by mounting a network drive on your Mac desktop.

Here’s how you do it:
1. In the Finder desktop, select the “Go” menu
2. Choose “Connect to Server” (Command-K)
3. Enter the address: https://www.box.net/dav (secured connection)
4. When the login screen appears, enter your Box.net email address as username and your Box.net password as password
5. You’ll see a mounted drive on your desktop named “dav”

Now you have a network drive to easily store files online!

BTW: Sign up here if you haven’t!