Monday, August 29, 2005

Venue Flexibility

Last Saturday I doorknocked with my city council person and afterward we headed to my patio for a few cold ones. It was great! These kinds of sessions really help me cement relationships as well as get the kind of insights I would never get elsewhere. It was just me and Sandy, a few Schell's, a clear afternoon and a picnic table. We talked about a number of things - like about how to incorporate the young and restless, while making sure that wisdom travels with passion.

Just before she parted I brought up Zanby and our local DFL meetups. In October our DFL Senate District (which supports DFL Meetups here in southeast Minneapolis) will begin a new "Focus on the Precinct" program. Our precinct is actually a ways from our meetup venue. So she was puzzled why we would would showcase our precinct, but hold the meetup in the usual spot. She convinced me that we need venue flexibility - not just in the way we build Zanby to let members easily browse and select meeting places, but in the way we present the idea of the "venue". We'll select a location that's convenient to our precinct focus.

But in Zanby, we'll be defining a venue very broadly. It is simply a place where people gather (hence our name). It can be under a shade tree or at a coffee shop. And it can be one place one meeting and another place some other time. In fact, we'll be pursuing two other venue concepts - the virutal venue, where the meetings can be held online with a conference ware, and the instant venue, or the MOB equivalent of meetup. So three cheers for Sandy and the usefulness of having another's perspective on our Zanby design!

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hardware part 1

The servers have been spec'd and the parts ordered, the firewall / load balancer gear is here, and so today is Cable Making Day! (yeah, I know. Ugh.)

Mike's tips for making good cables --

1) don't skimp on the crimper. I learned this many years ago back at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and have been reminded over and over in the intervening years -- your cables are only as good as your connectors, and your connectors are only as good as your crimp. The secret to a good crimp is a **good** crimping tool. (Sorry, no radio shack el-cheapos here) Go for mass, go for heft.

2) no caffiene. You need a steady hand when dealing with tiny wires and small spaces over and over. Yes, I know this is a tough one (it's why we don't let Chris anywhere near the hardware). As soon as you're done, fire up the espresso!

3) good light. I didn't think my eyes were getting that bad, until I started building 25 cables....

4) be consistent. There are industry standard color patterns (white-green / green / white-orange / blue / white-blue / orange / white-brown / brown -- anybody remember if this is the "A" pattern or the "B" pattern?). Even if you don't follow the industry standard patterns, pick a pattern and use it in everything you do. That way, when someone runs a sawzall thru your cable (don't ask...) you can repair without having to repull...

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Group Profiles in my dreams

I've been living in storyboard land recently. I am the lead information architect on Gatheroo. That means I am designing all of its navigation and workflows - the user experience, really.

Though we are focusing tightly on what we believe to be our primary audience - people in groups - we want to weave a sense of fun through Gatheroo in a way not unlike Myspace, only with a vastly superior UI. That is, users will be able to talk to eachother via private messages, message boards, comments and list entries, upload photos, keep a friends list and of course, tag everything on the site.

The more I think of the term "online community" the more I believe it should incorporate tools for people to contact eachother directly, like Myspace, while providing ways to manage public and private calendars, events and ways to confer on venue selection. Yahoo is attempting to do this via the incorporation of Yahoo 360, Flickr, and Yahoo Groups, but for my money, it is still difficult to love the user experience there. It just isn't easy to meet people online, and then meet them in person. Or meet people offline, and then use the tool to organize and expand the group.

I am seeing plenty of sites that tackle a piece of the puzzle - the amazon funded, 43 Things and its sister site 43 Places, Linked In, Dinner Buzz, and of course Delicious, but none of them really take a stab at connecting the users through a powerul set of shared tools. Enter Gatheroo. We hope are attempting to cultivate the best features of all of the above and then some...while building in some fun. Hmmmm....

It's easily the most challenging IA work I have done. When we reach our projected beta release in mid-november, I hope you will be pleased with what we have come up with. In the meantime, all user requirements are welcome.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tech issue: MySQL clusters versus replication

I'm in the process of designing the server farm, and am looking for MySQL High Availability experience. Traditionally, I have run the database engine on a big, mostly-hot-swappable box (read: expensive) and backed everything up periodically. This is fine when your application's usage periods allow slow / downtime (e.g. most SAP installations -- companies aren't doing a lot of transactional business at 4AM on a Sunday...)

I'm debating using MySQL Clustering this time around. The primary advantage I see is it's built for high availability. The disadvantages are two: 1:memory requirements for the data store side (2x database size plus overhead spread across the total number of data store machines); and 2: no support of blobs yet (at least as of the 4.x series, I haven't seen if they've added blobs to v5) -- update -- I see blobs are now supported -- at least, out on the development branch... RTFM....

Anyone out there running MySQL Clustering who would be willing to chat for a few minutes? Email me at my firstname at gatheroo.com or just reply here.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

a9 is cool

I gotta say - I do like the interface on A9. Be sure to play with the check boxes when you search.

I am not sure it works on dial up, but it's pretty sweet on broadband.

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A rock concert, a play, a tour - anywhere where people gather

I was talking via my friend and co-blogger Chuck Olsen, who runs a really cool site called MNSpeak with Rex. MNSpeak is a massive blog and event/blog aggregator. Zanby promises to be one of the world's finest works of organizational and social software based on the principles of folksonomy.

Though the impetus for Zanby was political, that is we wanted to provide a free platform for grassroots organizing, the outcome is much larger. There is probably a lot of room to provide the ability to schedule, tag, list, and form online and online affiliations in a community like MNSpeak or City Pages for that matter, which took note of Zanby yesterday.

Barring the day we actually plug an RSS feed directly into our brains, managing our ever expanding circles of community through filters like Zanby will be as common as sending an email is today.
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Friday, August 05, 2005

Zanby at Web of Change

I am attending the 2005 Web Of Change Conference. One of the reasons we are creating Zanby is to faciliate the speed with which movements are created and become effective. It will be interesting to spend a few days hearing how other technology leaders see technology working in this process.
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