Cooking 2.0

posted in College, Projects on November 23rd, 2007

Back in September, when my junior year in college kicked off, I took a class called “Backend Development”, which basically came down to building a clone of a popular video upload / sharing site.

Now, before we start - let me get the technical talk out of the way: the task comprised a number of technologies such as PHP, mySQL, XML, KML (XML used in Google Mapping applications) as well as SOAP, AMFPHP and ActionScript and was basically to be carried out in a two or three man team.

Right from the start, Kevin and me knew that we wanted to build a “real” application, in the sense of setting up a framework for a (possible) huge portal and even though we did not have the right resources to develop a strong brand identity, we like to think that we managed quite well.

We kept pondering a handful of different themes for our video site and whenever something sounded just good enough to actually be usable, we decided to can it, up until to the point where we nearly ran out of ideas - that is, until I discovered “a recipe for success” (pun intended).

Cooking has long been something I enjoyed and even though I am no real chef and probably never will be, we, that is, Kevin and me, agreed that cooking would be a great theme, so we started developing a site that would later turn into is cooking 2.0, basically enabling you to share and experience different culinary dishes from around the world, all thanks to the power of Flash video.

In the end, from the nine weeks we had available for building the application, we spent most of the time developing a design / conventions document that outlined just about every part of our codebase and associated assets and in the end, I found that a great thing to work with.

If there is one thing that I learned from building this application, it is most probably that good documentation goes a long way and apart from making it easier to identify various parts of the code, it also makes it very easy to extend the application without losing oversight and in the end, our hard work was rewarded with a couple of great grades.

And as always, kudos go out to Kevin Pilasky of Qlu New Media for developing a great looking logo. Thanks!

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The Next Web 2007 - Afternoon Recap

posted in Events on June 7th, 2007

After a short break and some, very healthy, lunch, Boris kicked off the afternoon sessions with a Video chat with Kevin Rose of digg fame. Like last year, Rose promised to be attending in person and as a speaker, but once again, other issues seemed to be of higher importance. His absence notwithstanding, Rose probably gave the talk that garnered the most (international) attention in the web world.

Rose announced that digg would have product reviews and other new interesting features in the next six to twelve months. More on that can be found here, here and of course here.

Next up was the one reason that made me not want to miss “The Next Web 2007”: Dick Hardt, CEO of Sxip, a company that focuses on creating a working platform around (online) identities.

Hardt is well known in the web community for his numerous contributions, such as porting Perl to Windows (which led to the forming of ActiveState) but he is also known for his very refreshing presentation style.

First shown at OSCON 2005, Hardt manages to cram I-don’t-know-how-many-slides into a 30 minute presentation and still make the information stick. Just about everyone I talked to liked Hardt’s presentation the most. Not only because of the style, but rather because the topic he choose to discuss really hits home with most of us and proves to be a major annoyance for most internet users.

As far as the content goes, the presentation was basically an extended version of the OSCON 2005 talk, spiced up with new information, two funny product placements (with total disclosure) and some additional thoughts as to what Hardt hopes to achieve with his product and how he wants to achieve it.

The speaker sessions were concluded with Rod Beckstrom author of “The Starfish and the Spider” who offered his own point of view on how old, web 1.0 businesses work and how, according to him, web 2.0 businesses should work.

For his talk, he makes use of an interesting analogy which includes starfish and spiders. In essence, Beckstrom told the audience that centralized command structures are bad. They were the downfall of such “great” businesses as Napster, because all that needed to be killed off was one main point and all the satellite locations would die too.

This is not unlike a spider, if you remove one leg (satellite location), you’d still have a working system, but if you’d remove the head (headquarters), your system would collapse.

With new businesses and organizations (Beckstrom referenced the Taliban which was refreshing, to say the least) the command structure more and more starts to resemble starfish. If you remove one leg (satellite location), you’d still have a working system, if you were to remove all five legs, something incredible would happen.

Due to the nature of the body of the starfish, all five legs would start to grow on their own and form into five starfish. The central part of the body would die off, but the satellite locations would continue to function. Naturally, this process can not be repeated indefinitely, because eventually resources (human, financial in the case of a business) would wear thin and new satellites would have too little material to start with, but at least the whole system wouldn’t collapse right from the start.

It’s interesting to see how an analogy to one of the most talked about organizations in the world can be considered the basis of the new way a business should be set up. Distburbing? No. Inspiring? Heck yes.

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RSS killed the TV (news channel)

posted in Media on February 8th, 2007

While reading my news feeds this week, I came across an interesting article posted on the Dutch blog called Marketing Facts.

According to recently published research, more and more YUPs and above-average-educated teenagers switch their TV sets for news from sites such as YouTube, Google Video and regional, web-based, streaming content providers.

I don’t plan on copying the whole article, there’s one thing that grabbed my attention. Koen van Tongeren, visibile in this picture stopped watching (traditional) TV and switched to a Mac and watches digital TV on his wall by means of a beamer. Not the cheapest solution I guess, but certainly interesting.

If you look at the picture, you’ll see that van Tongeren is watching at least three shows at the same time, probably more in the background. Of course, TV sets that are able to display more than one channel at the same time have been available for some time, but I like van Tongeren’s setup a lot more. He’s grabbing the news he wants to read, perfect content personalization.

Marco Derksen, the author of the original post, also asks the question as to how long his readers plan to keep using TV sets in the living room. Thinking about it, I believe that we’ll have a TV set around for some time to come. Granted, I don’t use it to watch anything anymore, other than CNN, but it’s good to have a fallback in case something happens.

Other’s also appreciate it that we still use a TV; while I personally don’t mind watching a show on my Laptop, I know that it’s no fun at all to watch a good DVD on a 14″ screen. However, this wasn’t really the question Derksen asked, after all, if you only use your TV to screen a DVD, it’s little more than a display device.

Derksen, albeit using the wrong words, is curious about how “we“, the current generation, consumes news:

It’s obvious that everyone has his or her own way of getting the latest news, but I think, most people are using RSS to keep up with it. I certainly do and I do it alot. In the past month, I’ve read close to 9,000 items - that’s 300 new items every day, on average.

Information overload? No, because most sites only provide you with a short teaser of the actual article, so you can decide on the spot if you want to keep reading or if you’d rather move on to the next item. From all the items, I probably end up reading 40% which is still a lot but this way, I can keep up with the game and keep myself informed. Naturally, sites like also help out a lot with getting the latest news.

All in all, I see two changes here - the way we consume news has changed to a more personalized format and I don’t believe that TV broadcasting can continue like it is now without offering at least one third of the personalization options the web offers. People don’t care for news that have no value to them, so why alienate your consumer base?

Second, the amount of news has increased by at least ten times. While people still remain somewhat loyal to their favourite channel, thanks to the myriad of sources out there, viewers have a lot more choice and what is considered a criminal on one channel, could be a patriot on another. Every channel has their own way of “spicing up” the news, it’s up to the viewer to pick the one that “tastes” best.

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micro relationships

posted in personal stuff on December 14th, 2006

Twenty years ago when people referenced their friends, they generally talked about people they knew for a very long time. Relationships lasted long, friendships lasted even longer. Basically, most friends you made back then were going to stick around till the bitter end and you’d meet up with them on various occasions.

I’m no researcher, but I think that the above concept of relationships and friendships is outdated. Don’t get me wrong, I value people who stick around for a long time, stand by you during the good and the bad times and help you overcome obstacles, but I personally don’t see it happening for many people I know.

Let me elaborate, during the last decades, our mobility increased by 500%, going shopping in London in the weekend (no matter where you live) is easily accomplished. Participating in a relationship with someone who’s living some 2,000 miles away is doable. Making acquaintances all over the globe and meeting them at some point is daily life for some people.

With all the added mobility however, comes another feat: priority and prioritizing. Many people have various levels of friendship – there are the close friends, the very close friends, the good friends, the normal friends, the friends –friends, the yeah-I-heard-his-name-kind-of-guys (and gals). Two decades ago you had best friends, friends and people you knew. Now, with all these added layers, people are prioritizing, some on a conscious level, most on a subconscious level.

Friends are like information in today’s world. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has one quirk or another and we have to remember each and every one of them, or at least a great deal. One might note all this information in a notebook, another might use digital technology to track the attributes of their friends and someone else might just remember most stuff. Either way, people have to cope with loads of extra information that wasn’t available (because of the lack of different layers) twenty years ago.

Naturally, it’s important to remember many attributes of your friends; after all, that is what partially makes you a good friend. Supporting each other, no matter if romance is involved or not is still as important as it was two decades ago, but today you have a lot more choices. Do you want to talk to your best friend or your partner? To which one are you going to talk to? The one you are romantically involved with or the one you’ve been dating a year ago?

Added layers mean lower intensity. At least, they do for me. I have a certain amount of time I’m willing and am able to spend on friends every day, week, month and the more friends you have, the more you need to spread that time out in a fair way. If you have loads of friends, you’re probably not spending half as much time as you should (and would like to) with them, if you have few friends, you can focus a lot more on the individual, but you lack the added information; information that can be turned into knowledge to improve yourself, your character or your creations, in the most broad sense possible.

All in all, I personally experience micro relationships as very positive. I believe that these relationships are a lot more flexible and they don’t have a clearly defined beginning (or end). You meet ad-hoc, whenever it suits both persons, you have fewer expectations to meet, yet you can still contribute a lot to such friendship, it’s all up to you.

Naturally the concept of micro relationships doesn’t apply to people in a marriage, but then again, some might argue that marriages are a form of the past too …

I wonder what others are thinking - feel free to contribute.

BRIGHTLive - recap

posted in Events on December 4th, 2006

Three days ago, I attended BRIGHTLive with some friends of mine and considering the price we paid, we certainly got our money’s worth. The whole venue was a lot more commercial than I’d have liked it to be, but that’s to be expected really. It’s the same for CeBIT and other, similar events.

I’ll cut the guys from BRIGHT some slack though, since this was the first incarnation and I’m quite certain that the next BRIGHTLives will be a lot bigger.

When I first read BRIGHT, at the Web 2.0 conference “The Next Web“, I was immediately sold. The content of this mag links up nicely with my topics of interest and it’s generally stuff that isn’t available 6 weeks up front via the internet (to be honest, it probably is, but I’m too lazy to spend time on looking for it).

So, back then, I signed up for a trial of three issues and read thru the day I received each one; I wanted to prolong my subscription, but decided to wait a little bit, till after BRIGHTLive, to see if they’d come up with a really good reason.

Turns out I don’t have to wait that long: I managed to talk Dion, a BRIGHTLive staffer, into handing me over one of the official BRIGHTLive tee’s for nada. In return, I signed up for another three issues of their mag. Quite the win-win situation for both of us, especially considering that the official price for those tees was EUR 25. Thanks Dion!

All in all, BRIGHTLive was certainly worth the time, especially if you consider that we got to see an improv-performance from BOOM Chicago new show “Me, MySpace and iPod”. I even managed to record one of their songs, albeit the visual result turned out quite bad. Turns out that BOOM Chicago isn’t for everyone. While I loved their show and couldn’t stop laughing, the other guys attending the show didn’t appreciate it as much.

Naturally, I’ve uploaded a “few” shots from BRIGHTLive to my gallery too. Enjoy.

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