Saturday, April 30, 2005

Basecode firefox extension for Basecamp project management

Spoiltchild Design has put together Basecode, a Firefox extension for use with 37 signals Basecamp project management site that I reviewed a while back. It looks like it gives you some cool functionality. via [37 signals]

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Steven Levitt on his Daily Show Appearance

Dr. Steven Levitt (co-author of the interesting book Freakonomics and economist of note at University of Chicago), talks about his appearance on the Daily Show over on his blog. Having watched the appearance I have to agree with his assessment of the show and the format. The appearance was way too short to adequately discuss the ramifications of his studies and/or the depth of his research and how to factor out personal bias from the data.

Having said all of that, I think he did a great job. He did come-off a little bookish, and nervous, but in an endearing kind of way. I think it actually helped sell the idea that he didn't have a political agenda of any sort and was just interested in his work because it often led to surprising conclusions. Good job, Dr. Levitt!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Skype Communities on LiveJournal and Google

For all of you folks, like me, who are having a hard time convincing friends and family to give Skype a chance, check out this Skype Journal entry talking about Skype Communities on LiveJournal and Google. Now you can find yourself users based on your interests and locales.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, April 29, 2005


Thursday, April 28, 2005

John Wiley banned from Apple stores because of Jobs biography

Ok Apple fan(atics), explain to me how this is somehow a more egalitarian, bohemian hippy company that "understands" my needs and desires more than these guys?

Is it just me or is Apple just trying to piss off their fan base? What I find more amazing is the way the core Apple fans just let this stuff pass by when the same actions from Microsoft would have them in an uproar.

I was all set to invest in a Powerbook (for the first time), but between this, the bait-and-switch tactics on iTunes upgrades, the lawsuits against their own users, and just a general sense of encroaching evil-ness, I think I'll sit on the sidelines for now. I've already got about $40 worth of iTunes mp3s I legititmately purchased that I've been locked out of thanks to their DRM. No sense in going further down the rabbit hole.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Evan battles Vonage

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

iSee iTunes

For those of you with a Tivo (not me) and an Airport Express (again, not me *sigh*) you should check out iSee iTunes. It allows you to use your Tivo as a remote control for your iTunes. If you combine it with the Airport Express you've got a quick and dirty stereo system you can port to pretty much anywhere in the house. Pretty cool.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, April 25, 2005


The Official Pennywise site is currently undergoing a redesign. In the meantime, a whole host of news is on the site. The most important however, is that the new album hits stores in July and is titled The Fuse.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Saturday, April 23, 2005


The blogger redirect issue is back! I can't see my site anymore!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, April 22, 2005

Johnny Depp laments his sad career since 21 Jump Street

I should be hauled out and flogged for linking to the Onion (who doesn't read it now?), but this editorial by "Johnny Depp" is just to awesome to pass up.

Aw, Who'm I Kidding... I'll Never Top 21 Jump Street

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Site problems

Well, I can finally get to my site again. Blogger's been having serious problems for me over the last few days. All my attempts to read my site redirected me to the blogger homepage for some reason. Problem appears to be fixed now.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

basecamp review

I became interested in basecamp since it seemed to "scratch an itch" that I've had for simple project management for everyday group activities. Since the majority of my friends are non-technical by trade I can never get them to sign-on to services, download software, or any of the myriad things that would allow me to simplify my life. So, I've got Skype installed on my PC ready for VoIP chatting with nobody to chat with (except Cote), Shinkuro for secure IM and file transfer, and a whole bunch of other things with no network to interact with.

So when Basecamp came along I set out to find projects to use it for. Coincidentally, I was planning a camping trip with my friends, the majority located in different cities, so we decided to try it out to organize the trip. What follows is a review of my impressions of using Basecamp with non-technical users on a non-technical project.

First, I had to set up our group site. No problem there, I simply went to the Basecamp website and selected the free, one project plan. The one thing that wasn't clear to me was that you set up a "company" that can have multiple projects within it. I named my "company," northpadrecampingcrew, which I regretted the instant I logged on to our website and saw that I had to create a project. The company is used to set up the virtual domain for your project site, which means that this site can't be reused for other things now that the camping trip (our project) is over. Basecamp allows you to delete the project and start a new one under the free membership plan, but the domain name is so specific it's too much of a hassle to explain it to people for other projects. While not a big deal (I can create another free account and just delete this one), some sort of explanation of the project/company relationship during the setup process might be helpful, though it might the setup process a little slower.

Once I logged onto our site, I created our project "Camping Trip," and began adding people to the project. Once again, the project vs. company issue reared its ugly head because I invited some people from the company page, and others from the project page, which meant that some members didn't have default access to the "camping trip" project. Despite what seems like criticism, I will say that once you realize you've made a mistake with Basecamp, it becomes relatively easy to identify what is going on and how to fix it.

Editing categories, developing to-dos and milestones are all pretty easy to do and comprehend, so I began putting in initial items and assigning them to various people (who brings food, what camping gear we needed, etc.) Once members started logging in and giving their thoughts I realized that the concept of Project Management is a little foreign to non-technical users. First, the delineation between messages and todos are fuzzy (intentionally flexible by design), but this led to some people posting todo items in response to other todo items. For example, there might be a todo item "bring 5 gallons of water - assigned to Paul created by Ed" and beneath that you would see a todo item "I'll bring the water, no prob - assigned to Ed created by Paul." The concept of moving the dialogue to another screen in the webapp was a little unintuitive to a lot of people.

Second, the Dashboard is your default screen when you log-in. The Dashboard gives a running log of recent activity since your last log-in in reverse chronological order . This means you will see comments to messages, messages, recent todo items, etc. all in a big giant list. While not a problem once the user gets familiar with the site, it's a little intimidating to the non-techie jumping into a project mid-stream once activity has been started. The most common complaint I heard, after, "why are we using a website to plan a weekend camping trip?" was, "I logged on to the site, it made no sense, so just tell me what I need to do so I can do it." I think a lot of this confusion would've been avoided if the Dashboard wasn't the first page these people saw. Maybe a default action of going straight to the todos or messages when a member logs in for the first time would be helpful.

Finally, I didn't like the way the interface seemed to default to emailing todo items to people. At one point I decided to just make a todo list for gear with each item being an item we needed to bring so people could just check off if they had something. I didn't realize that the email default was set, so everybody involved in the project got emails like, "Tent" or "50' nylon rope" that didn't make much sense to them.

On the plus side, I have to say that the more that people used the site, the smoother things seemed to flow. Once people got over the initial "culture shock" of the site, they seemed to use it pretty well. I found that using my administrator powers to move erroneous todos and post messages with the deleted information seemed to help people understand what each aspect of the site was used for. We posted directions to the campgrounds, got equipment needs divvied up, and placed member contact info in one easy to lookup place. The comments sections were soon used for in-jokes, conversations, and generally made the group planning easier and more fun.

All in all, I would recommend Basecamp for use for personal, social projects. It was worthwhile and the price is right. However, I would advise people that they should ignore the Dashboard when they first log-in and just poke around the site (starting in the Milestones, Todos, and Messages) and just post a message or comment or two to get acclimated.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

blogger's been losing posts...

blogger's been spotty over the last few days and has lost two really meaty posts that I had. So, if you're one of the two loyal readers out there who have been wondering over my lack of content, that explains it.

The other reason for the spotty posting is that we just got back from a long weekend of camping on Malaquite Beach over at North Padre with my close friends from college. We took the dogs with us, of course. Unfortunately, though there were many Kodak-worthy moments, the constant wind and sand convinced us to keep the digital cameras at home, so we didn't get any pictures. I need to remember to start bringing disposal cameras in situations like that. We had a great time and it was seriously one of the more relaxing vacations I've taken in a long time.

Lots of stuff has been happening lately, but unfortunately most of it is stuff that I don't feel comfortable blogging about (yet), so I'm going to have to stay relatively silent for the time being.

One thing that I can tell you is that Audrey's finishing up her MBA this May. Only three more weeks left and she'll be done! We're really looking forward to kissing a portion of our household tuition payments goodbye! It seems like University of Houston's been taking most of our income for the better part of 2 years now, so this'll be a nice change of pace. Now, I just have to buckle down for another year and get through and then we'll be home-free.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,