Do people like, still blog?

Tag Archives: webgeek

I started my lifestream over four years ago as an evolution of my blog. At that time, there started being many more avenues where I was putting content on the web than my blog – it was easier to put links on Digg, photos on Flickr and even my Xbox360 was blogging! It made sense to combine all of the content I was creating and output it on my blog.

Now, four years later, there’s still a lot of ways that I share content – although most of it is centered around my phone. Some platforms are still the same: Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, Youtube, & my blog. But others have withered or died (such as Digg and Flickr). I’m using a couple of new services like Instagram, Mlkshk, and Reddit but never got around to integrating them together. Even though I think there is still a need for a lifestream, I think what is finally killing it is the downfall of Google Reader and by proxy, RSS.

Instead of people using one source (RSS) to read content, it is now spread out into separate platforms that don’t inter-operate with each other well, unless you consider importing the content into Facebook as the medium. I don’t like using Facebook as “my blog” because you don’t have control over your content, and your feed is combined with 100s of other people.

From a personal point of view, the software I’m using has problems. It flakes out sometimes (or my RSS feeds do) and posts content from a long time ago. Or it will just post a lot of errors. Plus if anything breaks, I’m too lazy to fix it. Combined with the fact that a lifestream doesn’t even make much sense anymore, I’m inclined to just point to my blog again and simplify my life.

I’ve been backing up all my music online for a long time. I guess one excuse for doing this is so that I can stream it from wherever I am, which sounds good in theory; but I’ve never actually had an opportunity to do that.

Along comes Amazon Cloud Drive this week which gives you a free 5GB and the ability to stream any music you upload to your Cloud Drive to your Android device. Cool, sounds interesting but I’ll probably use up all my data rather quickly. Plus, when I tried it, I can’t actually download the player or use the (web-)streaming capability in Canada. Not so cool.

It might be a game changer because of the free 5GB, but what I like the most about it is if you buy MP3s from Amazon, they’ll automatically be available on your Cloud Drive (and won’t count towards your storage limit). Let’s see how iTunes does this – if you buy a song you’ll be able to download it twice; once initially and once in case you lose it. That’s it. If your HD goes or for some other reason you lose your songs, then you’ll have to buy everything again.

That’s a horrible and outdated method of selling online. Even Microsoft does better – if you buy anything from XBOX, you are free to download it as many times as you like, anywhere you like!

I’ve been getting a lot of reading done recently, in fact my Instapaper queue is currently empty:

  • Why Wesabe lost to Mint
    One of the cofounders of personal money management startup Wesabe talks about what his company did wrong and how fellow competitor beat them in the market and eventually caused them to shut down.
  • A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years
    I started reading this and thought it would be useless, but there are some genuinely insightful points in this list. It’s authored by Douglas Copeland, author of Microserfs.
  • Confessions of a former NFL agent, Josh Luchs
    An inside look on how the NFL agent industry works. Hint: lots of payola.
  • I am Banksy
    The story of an Esquire reporter’s quest to find Banksy in London. I’ve “heard” of Banksy a lot, but I don’t know a lot about him. This article didn’t help too much.
  • The Long Nose of Innovation
    An argument that innovation also takes a long time to develop.

    Innovation is not about alchemy. In fact, innovation is not about invention. An idea may well start with an invention, but the bulk of the work and creativity is in that idea’s augmentation and refinement. The newer the idea, the coarser the granularity of most analysis, and the more likely people are to say, “oh, that’s just like X” or “that’s been done before,” without any appreciation for how much work and innovation is involved in taking an idea from concept to wide practice.

    I’ve been guilty of this knee-jerk reaction.

  • What will future generations condemn us for?
    Interesting not so much about the future, but the survey of what we’ve condemned in the past.
  • The Gentle Art of Poverty
    This is a story about a ~60 y/o American living in San Diego and how he can survive on an astonishing low income every year. Of course, it’s not entirely moral.
  • The case of the vanishing blonde
    The story of how a private detective resolved a rape when local enforcement nor insurance adjustment investigators made no headway.

When I made my gas site last year, I put the simplest possible design up there. One reason was because I wanted the design simple for mobile phones, but also because I was kind of lazy in making up a nice design for the site. Well I finally spent some time drawing and fixed it up so it looks a bit more presentable.

The drawback of making it look prettier is that it is not as usable on mobile phones. I hope everyone viewing my site is using a screen that is greater than 320 pixels wide!

I’m especially proud of my favicon (the little icon for the site in the tab). I drew everything pixel by pixel and it actually looks like an oil drop and a dollar sign.

The only real change in functionality is that I enabled a couple of other Canadian cities which I have data for. So if you’re really interested in the Waterloo gas prices, now you know!

As I am obsessed with Foursquare lately, I’ve been looking at how to do more stuff with it beyond just checking in (when I’m fortunate enough to have a data connection). I looked at the feeds available and was a bit underwhelmed because the data was quite limiting. The best part about Foursquares were the badges, and you had to work with the API in order to get that data. And that was intimidating.

On this lazy Sunday, I decided to finally take a crack at it. I had an idea, and a quick search on Facebook showed that no one had done this before. I wanted to take the badges that I’ve received on Foursquare and display them on my Facebook profile. This little project used a lot of new technologies that I haven’t really played with before: the Facebook API, the Foursquare API, OAuth, and JSON (or XML parsing but I decided I might as well try something new here too). Surprisingly, it was quite easy.

Using a Foursquare API library and some sample code, I was able to setup the authentication using OAuth in an hour. It was quite simple, and just works! Setting up the Facebook App was a bit more confusing but they weren’t really technical challenges but just understanding the terminology. In fact that, and coding the various possible user scenarios took the largest amount of time.

I finished my Foursquare Badges Facebook application in one day (and even had time to write this blog). I was surprised that the APIs and interfaces worked so smoothly together, I guess the maturity of web applications and mashups is quite far along. Maybe I should spend more time playing in this space again.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with foursquare. People are saying that 4sq will be the next Twitter and it’s catching on pretty quickly. The premise is that you check-in where ever you are at, and you can see whether any of your friends are there or what cool things there are to do there. There’s also a game aspect, which is the most appealing to me, where you can earn badges based on your check-ins.

Now invariably when I mention 4sq, someone will mention Please Rob Me and how sharing your location online gives thieves an easy opportunity to identify when you’re not at home and rob you. Frankly I think this is bull.

If you get robbed, it’s either because a thief randomly picked your home to rob or someone you know knew you were out and robbed you. If it’s the former, then sharing your information online doesn’t hurt you. If it’s someone you know, then only in a small percentage of the case will sharing your location help them. I think it’s a small percent because usually your home is empty when you’re at work so if someone wanted to rob you, they should just wait until you’re at work! And that’s assuming that whoever is stalking you knows where you live IRL.

Sure sharing your location information is a risk, but I’m tired of people saying that it gives an opportunity for someone to rob you. If someone wants to rob you, this would only help them marginally. Actually I think a bigger problem is having people you don’t like show up where you are.

I always mean to, but usually end up forgetting, to try and take some panoramas. On this trip to Europe, I remembered for once (or twice)! I think the catalyst was that there Belgium had a large number of public squares where there was a lot of open space surrounded by intricate buildings. Each building by themselves is not noteworthy to take a picture of, but the environment that they contribute to is memorable. I ended up doing two panoramas. One in Brugge and one in Brussels, and I put together a little page to view the panoramas (and any future ones I put together).

On two occasions in the past two months, I had search for a video of Kanye’s infamous diss of Taylor Swift. Naturally, I went to YouTube to do the search, and that ended up being completely useless.

I find that there is a huge amount of garbage on YouTube nowadays. If I want to look for a video of a popular event, it becomes almost impossible to find. Instead, I find countless videos where it is one guy video blogging their opinion on the event, or a teaser video asking me to ‘click this link’ to see the actual video (of course the real video is nowhere on the site). It seems like every highly ranked result is just a front for advertising or traffic. Another case in point: try finding Crosby’s golden goal.

This reminds me of a time on the old frontier days of the Web, you know when Google hadn’t gained supremacy, or you had to do research on arbitrary sites because Wikipedia wasn’t around yet or when blogging was recognized as journalism. Enough with the ‘and Imma let you finish with your day but you have to hear this celeb news’ videos already. I just want some way to find real videos. Someone figure this problem out…

After some hilarity, I finally booked our hotel for London. I had my eye on a place listed for $79USD/night on Hotwire because it was relatively cheap. Plus, I was fairly confident that based on the amenities and information on Hotwire, that it would be the HIE in Southwark. That would be a great location for the price, right beside the Tate Modern and near Waterloo tube station.

With that information in mind, I set off to Priceline hoping to get the same location for cheaper. I started my bidding at $50 and ended up bidding $50, $55, $57, $60 using the same credit card on the same day! Why did I get so many chances? Because there are so many regions in the London area! I didn’t get any biters at $60 so I wait till the next day.

Then I tried $60, $62, $65, $70, $74, and finally $78 on the same credit card on the same day! I was able to get free rebids for star class and region (started with City/London Bridge, then added Westminster, Soho, Marble Arch, and Kensington). That’s five free re-bids! But in the end, I still didn’t get anything and had to book on Hotwire.

I find that Twitter is almost useless to me because everyone I follow basically falls into two groups: 1) they never update, or 2) they mirror all their updates onto Facebook. But Twitter is still really attractive to me because of its ability to push little bits of information to your cell phone.

Because of this, I’m always on the lookout for interesting Twitter feeds that I can subscribe to on my phone. The only one that I’m following so far is @WiredResearch. But that got me thinking, what interesting things do I want pushed to my phone? My email – sure though that didn’t work so well. And then I figured that I want to know the result of Leaf games. Yes, I’m usually not so interested, but the recent acquisition of Phaneuf has piqued my interest again. I did a search and there weren’t any Twitter feeds for this! Sure, there were lots of feeds with hockey/Maple Leaf news or feeds that updated every time someone got a penalty or scored, but I just wanted, at most, one tweet a day with the final score.

Of course, since such a thing didn’t exist – I set forth to build my own. It turns out that the toughest part was to find a reliable feed for scores. I wanted a RSS feed but, like the Twitter feed, such a thing doesn’t exist! Eventually I found a good source to parse and create my own feed, and then socialized it to my brand spanking new Twitter account @DidTheLeafsWin. This feed should update within 30 minutes after the final buzzer and send the result to your Twitter feed or your phone! I only wish that I could test it more often than twice a week.

When I used SweetCron as my “main page” in place of my blog, it was in a hurried state-of-mind. I was excited to make my lifestream accessible outside of a RSS feed so I wanted to make the change quickly. But I didn’t want one of the generic themes so I mopped up something quickly and changed my main page.

I wasn’t happy with the design though; it looked a bit dated, like it was from the early 2000s or something.

I finally got around to theme-ing it a bit better now so that it is more modern. It has more stylistic rounded rectangles and transparencies (unless you are using Internet Explorer where you don’t get all the new luxuries). It should also dynamically adjust to the width of the browser, although if things get too thin then the content starts overlapping.

I’m still not entirely happy with it, most notably because there is a lack of images to break up monotony of text. I think it’s a bit hard to put pictures in since the feed itself doesn’t have pictures but maybe I can put some more profile pictures or something in.

I also added a Reddit feed to my lifestream. I finally joined Reddit because I was frustrated with Digg not having stories about some of the cool links I found; but Reddit seems to have the same problem. I am really trying to avoid using because I don’t want to type in a description text for my bookmarks.

From my sites-I-should-make-but-won’t (really this time!) mind, here’s an idea: there should be a site, a wiki really, which lists when things really go bad. For example, I know there is a “best before” date on my milk and my bread, but I *know* I can drink and eat it until the milk curdles or the bread gets moldy.

There’s a “best before” date on almost everything now; but I suspect it very rarely means that you actually HAVE to consume it before that date. Do vitamins really expire? I’d wager the dates are more so the companies can guarantee an acceptable level of quality in their product and so they don’t get complaints and returns.

Instead of listening to corporations, I’d really like to know the truth. Like, can I eat these spongy potatoes? they still look white when you peel them…

I have an irrational obsession with gas economy. Both the improve-gas-mileage and the save-money variety. For the latter, I’ve spent the last few years watching oil futures and other sources to attempt to predict when is the best time to fuel up.

Truth be told, even if the gas prices goes up by 1¢/L, you’re only paying 40¢-50¢ more per tank. As of November 16, I’ve pumped exactly 3888L of gas into our car in a little over two years. All this time tracking gas prices and I’ve only made $38.88 difference. I told you I was OCD about it.

In recent times, the best source for the next day’s price was MP Dan McTeague‘s webpage. He has taken it upon himself to be a watchdog on the gasoline industry, and through his knowledge is able to predict with 100% accuracy what the next day’s gas price will be. The only drawback is that this number is not updated until in the evening (i.e., after 5PM).

But this week, there was a second drawback introduced – their site redesign. The gas prices went from a single, bookmarkable page to an entire site which serves as a platform for gas industry issues and advertisement. I’m all for increasing awareness about the issue but they made the site unusable for me; I’m not able to directly find out the price of gas in Toronto, nor is the site easily accessible from my cellphone.

Instead of ranting about it on my blog, I made my own site for displaying gas prices in Toronto. It’s a simple, tells you the price of gas, and most importantly – convenient.

Now that I have a web-enabled cellphone, I’ve been bookmarking all sorts of useful mobile websites. One website that I was disappointed to not find was one which can tell me what the traffic conditions are. The government already provides a great system in COMPASS, which covers the 401 and QEW for large stretches (it’s the same system that provides the status on the boards when you’re driving on the highway); but it takes awhile to load up the entire web page and the Google map, let alone navigate to the proper option that I want to see.

So I put together a small mobile webpage to provide traffic details in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) based off of the COMPASS data. It refreshes the data every 5 minutes so the information should be as up to date as the full web site. Although it is a bit unfortunate that lately, COMPASS isn’t providing data for the parts of the 401 under construction across Toronto.

Ever since I moved my blog to WordPress, I’ve had a plan to change what you see when you go to Right now, you see my blog, but what I wanted is to have you see my lifestream when you first visit my page.

I installed Sweetcron awhile ago. You can use it to import feeds from a bunch of websites into a single feed. It’s like the Facebook news feed, you can have photos, videos, blogs, etc. It was exactly what I wanted, except that I didn’t like the themes available for it.

It’s been a few months since I installed it but I’ve finally gotten around to fixing it up and I’m ready to make it my front page. I think it’s an improvement, even though you have to click-through to my blog posts. But, my (online) life isn’t just my blog, it’s all the things I do on the web, and I think this is a better representation of me. Besides my RSS has been like this for like forever!

I thought I found the perfect Firefox extension for my netbook when I heard about It lets me put a couple of controls on the status bar of my Firefox which can look up radio stations for particular artists are users; so I can stream music with a click of a button.

Unfortunately, soon after I found out about it (and not even had I used it away from home), announced that it was making its radio stations subscriber only. If I want to be able stream radio (because I’m not in US, UK or Germany), I have to pay $3 a month! That’s more than I pay for my phone service each month!

Recently, members of 4chan organized a hack on the Time 100 poll to vote moot (the person who started 4chan) as the world’s most influential person, and to order the remaining people into a message: marblecake also the game.

They managed to do it because Time didn’t secure their voting system, and entered several million votes before Time caught on. Time finally responded by putting reCAPTCHA onto their form, which is what I would do too. But the interesting thing is that the /b/tards were single-minded in their goal, and continued their mission by trying to hack the captcha! It’s interesting to read how a mass effort to beat the system would work.

What I don’t understand is why this year’s vote was not even that weird. Who the heck is Rain, and why were they the most influential in 2006??

I’ve blogged in the past about DQ, and for those who were wondering why I was blogging about Dairy Queen, try and shift each of the letters by one; it’s actually about Coop Rankings!

I don’t really remember why I wanted to anonymously blog about CR. I’ve put my real name all over to CR but I guess I didn’t want anyone to link it back to my main blog. Well now with Facebook being the intermediary, I can’t hide anything anymore. But then, I haven’t been blogging about CR because there hasn’t been any new news. It’s been chugging along, being used by students looking for coop jobs even without much input from me.

But now there is news. In fact, it’s big news – big enough that we got on TechCrunch (although for some reason they thought we were and not Coop Rankings). Earlier this year, I was contacted by the people behind InternSHARE who also built a site to rate internships/coops and we started talks into merging the two sites. They had better integration with the rest of the web (Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc) but we had more content submitted by users. It’s a good match, particularly because working on Coop Rankings has not been my primary priority for awhile.

On Friday evening, we finally did all the integration work and now Coop Rankings is a part of InternSHARE!

One of the fun aspects of Rock Band is the ability to customize your band. You can create your character, deck him or her out in genre specific clothes and create some stand-in characters if you don’t have enough (virtual or IRL) friends to form a real band.

There is a neat bit of integration between Rock Band 2 and the site in that you can sync your profile in the game up with the online site. Your bands, characters and stats are then visible online (although it’s a shame they didn’t flesh out the stats aspect, you can only see total score and fans). There’s also an ability to “take pictures” of your band or characters by posing them with various expressions behind several preset backgrounds. This takes “your band” out of your Xbox360 or PS3 and into the real world! For example, here’s my character in an official band picture (if you print it out and bring it to me, I will autograph it for you): takes it a step further and allows you to create merchandise (i.e., t-shirts) featuring your band and even models of your characters. I won’t fall into that trap but the ability to bring your gaming experience into the real world is cool.

Awhile ago, I read a quote from Obama saying how Americans can improve their fuel efficiency and save gas by doing regular maintenance on their cars. Although, I have been taking our car in for the schedule maintenance. I never knew that it could improve gas mileage.

I’ve been using Fuelly to track my fuel consumption the last few months. I started using it in October, which was just around when I last took the car in. My mileage was oscillating around 6.5L/100km, before gradually getting worse and worse 7.8L/100km at the bottom end. Then, I went for an oil change and expected it to be a miracle cure (Obama wasn’t lying was he?) and was a bit disappointed at the result. Although maybe half a litre better, I’m still averaging over 7L/100km.

(this is in MPG not L/100km)

Car maintenance wasn’t the miracle cure, although I have been changing my driving habits lately – faster, less drafting and the heater’s on. Maybe those are the other contributing factors.

Reading this news about a TV tuner adapter for the iPhone in Japan reminded me to blog some observations about Japan culture and cellphones. I have been lacking in my Japan blogs lately haven’t I? Too many Xbox blogs I guess.

Japan, being all super-high-tech; I would have expected there to be some crazy cellphone technology going on. Remember, these were the people that had 3G while we were still using horse and buggies. But aside from the prototype phones I saw at the KDDI Design Studio, I was not impressed! Their phones worked pretty much like ours, except every phone had a rotating thingy which let them view their screen horizontally. Why did they want to do that? So they can watch TV! On the subway, there are as many people watching TV on their cellphones as there are people listening to their MP3 players here in North America. Mobile TV never took off here, but apparently it’s very popular in Japan.

The Japanese were also not as obtrusive in their cellphone use. You would never be able to hear all the intimate details of a person’s life by being in the same subway car as them. Although I guess that’s typical of being Japanese, and if it’s not, it’s somewhat enforced by the by-laws (no cellphone use in certain areas). I saw a lot of people texting away though; that seems to be the communication method of choice.

One cool thing that I’ve never seen anywhere else were these bar code type things. Apparently they’re called QR Codes (thanks Wikipedia!). Here’s a picture of one from one of our hotel’s mirrors:

These were everywhere, and act like URLs. In fact, everywhere there would have been an URL, you just had one of these icons. What you’re supposed to do is take a picture of the code, and it would tell your cellphone to go to a specific (mobile) page. It’s much more convenient than typing into your 9-button keyboard. That’s something that we can adopt here in Canada.

I signed up awhile ago to FriendFeed, although I never really used it (I had to get my username before someone else took it you see). FriendFeed is kind of like the Facebook newsfeed in that it aggregates everything you’re doing into one stream, except it’s not limited to Facebook, but the entire web (although you lose granularity of course). The trick is that it scrapes your RSS feed from various sites, and aggregates them into one single feed.

I’ve been thinking of replacing the main orangefever RSS feed with FriendFeed, but FriendFeed isn’t exactly what I wanted. FriendFeed’s RSS feed of me just lists the headline of each item in my aggregated feed, but I would rather have a “lifefeed” that contains the content of all of my feeds. Instead, I slapped together something in Yahoo! Pipes, and now I proudly present my LifeFeed*.

My LifeFeed contains my old “everything” feed (blogs, links and comments) and now replaces it. You’ll also get my Facebook status feed, YouTube feed, new Flickr pictures (Flickr’s no longer in my doghouse), Digg history (I should Digg more…), my public Picasa web albums, and my Xbox blog. Have fun stalking me!

* Internet life only

Goozex is a game trading site where you send the games you’re not playing to other people in Canada, the US and Bermuda for points. You then take these points and request games from other people, who send them out to you. I originally joined because you get 1 free request and 100 free points (good enough for a crappy game on almost any system). If you’re going to join, please use my referral link so we can both benefit with some free points.

The whole system runs on trust. You have to trust that the person you’re sending the game to is honest in saying that they’ve received your game. And you have to trust that people will send you games you request. Because you get 100 points free upon signup, I suspect a lot of one-time users will request 100 point games and never use the site again. In any case, I sent away a 100 point game, Metroid Prime and hopefully will get the credit for it.

If I don’t get credit for it, I do feel kind of ripped off for giving away my game for free. Maybe I could’ve gotten $5 or $10 from it on Craigslist. On the other hand; I don’t want these games around, and better than throwing them away, I can send it off to some kid who wants it. The bonus for my charity is that I might get some free games in return.

I’ve had a Flickr account for-ever. I got mine pretty early – at least early enough to secure the three letter username k3v. For awhile, it was the biggest photo sharing site in the world, now I think Facebook has taken over that title. I used to upload photos on there but I haven’t done so since January of this year – 7 months ago. Why has Flickr fallen out of favour?

The simple argument is that Facebook, and its ability to tag photos against your social network took over. That’s one innovation Facebook has given us, and it surely is a reason; but it’s only an argument for “social” pictures. The Art of Photography doesn’t have a place on Facebook.

Perhaps Flickr is still going strong, and it’s just my perception of it that has faltered. Indeed, it never took off with you guys; my friends on the web. And I had only used it as a source to link my blog entry pictures against. Now that I’ve shifted to a banner-type approach for my pictures, I don’t have much use for Flickr.

But my dark horse in this argument is that I never really liked the way Flickr handled a photo collection. The navigation is clumsy when I want a quick thumbnail view of all the photographs I took – rather than a means to share and discuss photography. I was on the Flickr bandwagon because it was popular and hip – not because it was better. Now that it’s lost its cool, it’s also lost my attention.

Although it’s still my site of choice to catch up on NHL news, I’m no longer a big fan of TSN. I might be biased because their brand colours are red and white like another company I don’t enjoy working with, but I think the reason I no longer like TSN is because of their website. They recently redesigned their site to add more live (i.e., video) content (and probably some other mechanisms). I don’t care about the video, but they have a huge drawback in that it makes the page incredibly slow. There is a delay when I click on a link to open it in a new window, and infact I usually end up releasing CTRL before the action has completed, and so it ends up in my curent window.

Speaking of hockey, you know you’re getting old when the players that you grew up watching: Gretzky, Brett Hull, Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, Tony Granato, Rick Tocchet, and now Joe Nieuwendyk are on various coaching staff or GM positions.