Scripting News for 7/9/2006

Joanne Colan confirmed 

Andrew Baron confirmed via email this evening that the new interim host of RocketBoom is former MTV vj Joanne Colan.

He says that today (a weekend day on which RB doesn’t run new content) there were 1,390,661 successful page requests.

Google reports 16,200 hits for “Joanne Colan.” Let’s measure that again in a week and a month.

Why I support Rocketboom 

It’s pretty simple.

Rocketboom is bigger than two people.

It plays the role this weblog played in the early days of blogging. It distributes attention to all kinds of creative people doing coooool stuff. Lots of chuckles and lots of bings!

Rocketboom adopted the principle of sending them away to get them to come back, and it did it with style and panache, and the nerdy little things Amanda did so awkwardly that it made us fall in love with her. The goyisha chick who gets it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

But without Rocketboom we are less.

So why should we deliberately try to be less? I don’t think we should.

I love Ze Frank. He cracks me up. I dig his politics. I see things the same way. Ze plays an important role. But guess how I found out about Ze. Yeah, you guessed it — through Rocketboom.

So the unenlightened folk who say Amanda takes it all with her, well they don’t get what Rocketboom is. Amanda’s heart is in the right place, she got it and she did it, but she isn’t it. And neither is Andrew, but he’s sticking with it, so I’m sticking with him. If Amanda, in her new gig, does the sending them away thing, then she will have my support too.

But right now on Monday Andrew is my main man. He’s trying to thread the needle, and I’m right there with him, helping in any way I can. Why — cause it’s the right thing to do.

Firefox & friends 

I’ve been learning a lot about Firefox in the last week, stuff that isn’t immediately apparent to a user. I’ve had some expert guides, but I’m not sure how they feel about me saying who they are, so I’ll err on the side of caution. One this is for sure, Firefox doesn’t move very much, from a UI perspective. So while it’s a nice cross-platform browser and it doesn’t have the malware problems that Microsoft’s browser has, we still haven’t got much in the way of forward motion from a user’s perspective. This user’s review of Firefox 2.0 preview confirms. “The new version looks like the old and feels like the old. Changes have been introduced in the background mainly.” Of course it’s good that the boat isn’t rocking, but we could have some new features, every decade or so. :-)

Ben Goodger is the lead engineer for Firefox.

Something really cool just worked 

Imagine a lovely mountaintop where you’d like to build a ski chalet, a restaurant, ski shop, a nice place to relax while enjoying the view of the snowy valley below. If you’re a skier, you know how nice it can be to stop at such a place, loosen up the boots, sit down, take a deep breath or two.

Someone had to go there before there was a lovely chalet, someone had to hike up the mountain in the middle of the summer, carrying tools and rope and stuff. There was a thrill of a different kind for that bloke. He could relax and have a smoke (back when he used to smoke) and imagine what it would be like for the skiers, in the winter, to have their burgers and cokes, cocoas and stuff.

Well, that’s a long-winded way of saying that I just got part of a chalet working.

It’s a nice little folder on my desktop called Amazon S3. When I drag a file into the folder, it goes to the proper place in Amazon’s cloud. When I create a sub-folder and put a file into it, it also goes to the right place. Open a picture in Graphic Converter or Photoshop, save it into the Amazon S3 folder, and it goes up to the cloud. Edit it, the changed version goes up.

There’s still a lot more work to do, and then come the applications of this nice little thing, and ideas that other developers want to try out that work the same way, those are the cokes and cocoas and burgers and hot dogs. Ski wax and sharpened edges come later too. :-)

Count-the-steps 

Talking with one of my Firefox friends on Friday, I explained how I make software easier to use. The first thing is to use it long enough so that a clear pattern develops. This is important, because a persistent user will often figure out a workaround that makes something utterly efficient, and then it’s just amatter of moving that (short) sequence of steps up the UI tree, so it’s more visible to less experienced users. Paving the cow path is a good analogy.

But sometimes after enough time you realize that the user model is too inefficient, and that calls for some new technology. Then what I do is carefully write down the steps in all their boring detail and then look for ways to get rid of steps. That’s where Edit This Page came from in 1999, a feature that most web content management systems don’t have, to this day (if they did they’d be a lot easier).

So here’s the steps I go through to get the Meet The Press podcast onto my MP3 player in time for my Sunday afternoon walk. (Without waiting for my nightly podcatcher run.)

1. Connect the player to my computer via USB.

2. Visit Meet the Press site.

3. Click on “Click here to download the MTP podcast.”

4. Click on the white on orange POD button. (Hmmm.)

5. Visually scan the XML looking for the enclosure element.

6. Select the url. Copy to clipboard.

7. Go to Gmail.

8. Create an email message to myself. Paste the url.

9. Check email. (Refresh the page.)

10. Right click on the url.

11. Choose Save Link As from the popup menu.

12. Navigate to my Downloads folder on my desktop.

13. Save it. Wait while it download. (Their server is realllly fast!)

14. Click on the icon of the folder in the Firefox Downloads window. (Nice touch.)

15. Open it.

16. Sort by Date Modified.

17. Open another Finder window, navigate to the MP3 player Music folder.

18. Copy the file across.

19. Delete already-listened-to podcasts.

20. Empty the trash.

21. Unplug the MP3 player.

22. Leave the building.

It sounds ridiculously long, but it actually takes about a minute to do. But it took me about 6 months to settle on this method. Now, of course, I see how to make this ridiculously easy, there’s a 3-step process that I could program in my desktop scripting environment. Now that I have the formula, I’ll pick that up hopefully before next Sunday. :-)

7 responses to this post.

  1. Dave:

    In case you’re interested, there’s a video clip up of Andrew explaining things a bit at Casecamp in Toronto (a clip Bryce Johnson put up). Link is in this post:
    http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2006/07/08/more-from-andrew-baron-of-rocketboom/

    Reply

  2. Dave, have you tried Flock? It has evolved a great deal since the original alpha and is actually quite usable in the current release. Oh, and of course a huge step further from Firefox with social media integration.There’s a great Screencast (German, but should be self-explaining). http://www.pixelgraphix.de/log/2006-06/flock-screencast-flock-beta1-im-livetest.php

    Reply

  3. Dave, In your “count the steps” post what we really need is the ability for Firefox to treat a piece of selected text (i.e., from the XML file) as a Link with ability to download and save it. That would eliminate having to email it to yourself just to convert it into a link. I know a few note taking programs (i.e. OneNote) that converted pasted text into a link if it detects it’s a properly formed URL. I’m not sure if you would be able to save the contents of the link or only execute it

    Tom

    Reply

  4. Dave,
    I’m really *not* trying to make this a Apple fanboy post, but I also listen to MTP and some other podcasts (including yours) regularly.
    In this regard, I find it at least a bit amusing that you dumped the iPod, yet complain about “making software easier to use”. In my case, I just right-clicked on “update iPod” in iTunes this morning, and all was done. 1 step. Same result.
    That probably just was a bad example, then…? ;)

    Reply

  5. Frank…

    1. Not sure what makes you think I “dumped the iPod.” I still use the iPod, even though the way iTunes works is still a mystery to me. Sorry if I’m not as smart as you think I should be, but it’s still true.

    2. Update iPod would not be as fast as this method if I understnad what it does. I have the equivalent in my podcatcher (which predates iTunes, btw, by a few years). The problem is that a full scan takes about 1/2 hour (sometimes more) because I’m subscribed to dozens of feeds many of which have new podcasts that have to be downloaded. Somehow I’d have to tell it to only update Meet The Press. I expect I’ll find a way to do exactly that in my podcatcher.

    Reply

  6. Dave,

    I wasn’t suggesting you’re not smart enough, not at all. You can right-click on the MTP feed and update only that feed, and then update the iPod. Definitely should work faster than what you’re doing now…

    I know very well that your podcatcher predates iTunes, I was just trying to hint at a method that works fast and well for me. I’m completely un-ideologic, I just happen to like stuff that makes life easier ;)

    Also, iTunes cleaning up stuff that I’ve already listened to helps me manage my listening quite well.

    Reply

  7. Dave…

    There is a great firefox extension that lets you click on plain text URI’s and open them in a new tab. I use it constantly…

    http://ted.mielczarek.org/code/mozilla/textlink/

    Highlight the uri, right click, “Open in new browser”. Depending on your default actions for mp3’s, it may work out for you…

    Reply

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