Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for November 27, 2008 – “Thankful For You”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 27, 2008. I play a song from Camper Van Beethoven; I discuss what I’m thankful for; I talk about the fragile first few minutes of a podcast and how you can lose me in them; I talk about trying and failing to get organized with GTD and how Google and Android phones work into this; I play a breaking story from the Onion Radio News; I talk about how Twitter could have failed to screw up the I Want Sandy acquisition if they thought about it for 3 minutes; I talk about comic books and how they make the nerd in me really happy; I play a Siderunners song and then put myself in the oven for 3 to 5 hours.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Spare Me From Black Friday

I’m making a blog post of a recent FriendFeed message of mine:

god help me if getting up at 4 AM to go to a store and do shopping ever seems like a good idea. Whatever the day and store and the product and the deal, until the breadlines get really long my self respect still commands a higher price than 30% off a toaster.

What more is there to say than that?

Free Services are Not Free

As my post about hating Twitter gets traction, the main thrust of pushback to my stance seems to be this: “Hey dude, it was a service they provided to you for free, get over it.” That is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. You don’t get to play that card. I Want Sandy didn’t have a pay option, so it’s not like we were freeloading when they were trying to get us to pony up. IWS deliberately pursued the public to make it a part of their life and work flow, to be an essential bit of their day and to help them get work done. People did, which created the value that Rael has now monetized by being acquired (almost literally, he was acquired if the reports are true). They worked to anthropomorphize the service in the persona of “Sandy” and to create a personal connection. To now blame people for being connected and personally invested is disgustingly disingenuous.

But really, any of these services are not free if they take any significant amount of my time setting them up and using them. I can’t overstate this point: I care more about my time than my money. Time is more limited and precious to me, so making me waste my time is worse than wasting my money when they are anywhere near, like within an order of magnitude. The switching cost of putting in a new service and getting used to it is non-trivial and I and every other user of Sandy or any other Web 2.0 service have every right to be pissed when you successfully convince us to insinuate your service into our lives and then pull the plug.

I’m willing to use my time to check out your service and if I like it, I’ll use it. I’m begging you, don’t betray me. Don’t sell me out, and if I get mad when you do, don’t you dare push it back on me. I did what you asked of me, I cared about what you built. You are the one that failed to hold up your end of that contract, so don’t tell me the failure is mine. That karma burden will not work out well for you.

Why did I move this workflow from Sandy to Google? Google may be becoming the Borg and they may scare the hell out of me, but I trust them not to shut down Gmail and Google Docs and Calender on or before December 8th, so that puts them ahead of I Want Sandy and Twitter.

Update: Here is a very similar take to mine on this subject from Devan at Cloud Ave.

I Hate Twitter

I went for a long time resisting Twitter, then I joined and liked it for a good while. Eventually I grew weary about Twitter’s downtime and disingenuity and their rolling back of the feature set. Meanwhile, I liked FriendFeed from the first time I used it and the value of it has consistently gone up to me. At this point, I love FriendFeed and hate Twitter. In the course of two years, I have gone with Twitter from brand apathy to brand loyalty to brand contempt.

Now comes the news that Twitter has acquired Values of N – the company that built I Want Sandy – and will be shutting down their services on December 8th. I used Sandy and l liked it a lot. In fact, the main reason I stopped using it on a daily basis and started using Google Calendar and documents for that kind of work is when Twitter took IM access away. I’m highly pissed about this. It makes no sense to me why even if Twitter acquired Value of N they can’t leave the services up and running with a skeleton crew. This just reinforces the idea that you should be careful what services you commit your time and energy to, because Web 2.0 companies will screw you and make you waste your time building value that they cash out and leave you holding the bag.

I now loathe Twitter as a company and a service. I wish them the worst and hope they disappear, sooner rather than later. I’m happy that my Twitter network has pretty much migrated over to FriendFeed. I have the Twitter integration turned on but would gladly switch it off in a heartbeat. I don’t originate tweets there, FriendFeed is the central location for me. Nothing about Twitter makes me happy anymore. Not the service, not the company and not the way they do business.

Update: I kept building a slow burn on this until I decided I’m done. I had been pushing my FriendFeed updates to Twitter since they added that functionality but now I’m turning it off. I don’t want to do anything to that builds value for Twitter. I’m withdrawing my participation from them.

Update 2: Mark at Mashable has picked up on this post. Even though my goal is to “love loud and hate quiet”, it’s always the hating that gets any traction. Love isn’t as good a story. It should be noted that the only thing I’ve used Twitter for in the last 24 hours was to ask Twitter users to join FriendFeed – successfully at that. That’s the only thing Twitter is good for to me anymore.

Update 3: The people who are pushing back to my stance have only one shaky leg to stand on, and I address that in a new post – Free Services are Not Free.

Update 4: The term I should have injected into this debate earlier is “stewardship.” I Want Sandy asked to handle information that was important to us, and asked for our trust. By getting acquired and shutting down the service, they have betrayed themselves as poor stewards of that trust.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for November 23, 2008 – “Indie Band Survival Guide – Part 2”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 23, 2008. I play songs by Beatnik Turtle and present the second half of an interview I recorded at Dragon*Con with Jason Feehan and Randy Chertkow about their book the Indie Band Survival Guide. “I Don’t Want to Work Today” is my favorite Beatnik Turtle song!

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Slow Time in Blogville

Wow, I’ve only posted twice in the last nine days and both of those were about the Gentle Readers show. I just haven’t had a lot of urgency to blog. No doubt that posting to my FriendFeed account is part of that. I’m already posting 20 times a day, just not here.

Compounding it, there was a grotesque burst of activity at the day job earlier this month that sucked most of the energy out of my life. Things have returned back to a busy but non-crushing baseline. I’m looking forward to the short holiday week to catch back up on social media, do some podcasts, read some comic books and continue getting my collection organized.

I wish I had more of substance to say. It’s always a close call – post something trivial or don’t post at all. Such are the dilemmas of being an average guide with a gloriously boring life.

The Gentle Readers Rocked

We went to Atlanta last weekend and I got to see the Gentle Readers play. It’s an increasingly rare occurrence that they perform a show and I never know when it will be the last time, so I really wanted to go and catch them one more time. It was great, although I was probably the person most into in the room. Most people were there for the Susi French Connection, who were also great. It’s hard to have a bad time during a bunch of 70s covers. I gamely played along, although when they did “The Hustle” I got the hell out of the way. I didn’t want to cause a 13 disco pileup.

All in all it was a fun weekend, although with a high ratio of ass hauling. We did a little shopping in Atlanta. There was one moment where some sort of reality show came through the TJ Maxx we were in. Reality my ass, there is an unavoidable field of contrivance an unreality that surrounds these affairs and I could not wait to get out of the room with it.

I hope it isn’t five more years before the next Gentle Readers show. Even if it is, I hope I can make it to that one too. I need me some Lee Cuthbert guitars. As the song goes, “When the amplifiers hum, that’s where I belong.”

I’m Going To See the Gentle Readers

It is true, dear friends. This weekend we will be going to Eddie’s Attic in Decatur GA to see the beloved band of the EGC theme song, the Gentle Readers. They’ll be “opening up” for the Susi French Connection. I quote the word because basically almost all of the members of the Gentle Readers are in the Susi French Connection, so where one band ends and the other begins is fuzzy.

Nonetheless, we are looking forward to an evening of wonderful music, both the fantastic Gentle Readers originals composed by my close personal acquaintance Lee Cuthbert, and also the cheezy and rocking 70’s covers of the Susi French Connection. It was at a previous SFC show that I realized that although I hadn’t heard the song in at least a decade, I still remembered every word – chorus and verses – of ABBA’s “Waterloo.”

It is guaranteed to be a good time. We’re going to the late show on Saturday night. If you are around the 404/678/770 area and you need to soft rock out, come hang. There is an early show and a late show. I can’t wait.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for November 11, 2008 – “Indie Band Survival Guide – Part 1”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 11, 2008. I play songs by Beatnik Turtle and present the first half of an interview I recorded at Dragon*Con with Jason Feehan and Randy Chertkow about their book the Indie Band Survival Guide.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

First Pass of Comics Done

I’ve entered everything I could on my printout into ComicBookDB. The next pass involves adding issues and/or titles to the database that don’t already exist in it. I’ve been pulling out copies of those issue and also ones that exist but need a scanned cover. I’ve uploaded around 10 covers so far. There are 90 more that are in my collection but have no cover, so over the next few weeks I should get all of those in there. I’m in this for the long game, so there is no particular hurry.

One of the things I’ve always notices about hobbies – be it comics or gaming or crafting – that you can tell you really love a hobby when you enjoy doing the most menial, routine things about it. I have no problem doing sorting and alphabetizing and filing work with my comic collection that I would hate to do for a living as a Harvey Pekar style file clerk (see what I did there?) It’s kind of mind-numbing work to pull file copies of comics, unbag them, scan them, save them to two files 100 pixels and 500 pixels wide, and then upload them. And yet, I am having fun. If only I could harness this to make every routine task in my life enjoyable, I would make a billion dollars. Which I then could spend on more comics.

What You Don’t Know About Obama

The Republican campaign spent six months trying to work up a sense of fear about “what we don’t know about Obama.” Well, here now is a list of 50 facts you may not have known about Obama. As someone just going back and (re) computerizing his comic book collection, I liked that the number one fact was:

He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics

Also for geekish correctness:

He has read every Harry Potter book

That puts him up on me, I haven’t read any. I did buy some of the new Conan series at Xcon last week though. You go, president-elect fanboy! We’re all nerds on this bus.

Cataloging Comic Books

Every so often for the past few years, I’ve been looking for a good solution for computerizing my comic book collection. As I tentatively get back into collecting them, I’ve got a good solid mess of things that were once cataloged, added since, and just loose in unorganized boxes and piles. I wanted to get organized and find a tool for that.

I considered various client applications, including Books, Comic Collector and Delicious Monster. I didn’t really like any of them too much. I tried Comic Collector under Crossover but it didn’t run correctly and I didn’t want to have to fire up a VMWare instance every time I wanted to deal with my collection.

After some looking around, I ran across a few online services. I tried Stash My Comics but didn’t like it too much. I finally settled on ComicBookDB as my new home. I did a little bit of data entry to test it out, and it is surprisingly easy. I really like that you have 2 concurrent sets in the same database, your collection and your wish list. Since in most ways lately, I’m using my inventory as a way to figure out what I’m lacking so I know what to look for, it is nice to be able to set up that wish list explicitly. Even better, if you add an issue to your collection that had been on your wish list, it is automatically removed. There is an even cooler feature of wish lists that I’ll get to later.

Looking at any individual issue you can easily add it to either your collection or your wish list. You also have the ability to do bulk addition to either. I have a printout with a lot of data in this kind of notation: 1,2,6-10, 14,15 etc. Well guess what, you can type that exact string in and the system will parse it out and enter those issues. I’ve been entering in the issues from my old printout via that method, and have gotten almost 4000 issues entered in a few days of not very focused effort. As I’m entering in what I have, if it is a title I want to complete my collection or fill in gaps, I also enter those issues in the wish list at the same time. Currently I have 3668 issues cataloged, and a wish list of another 517.

My experience has been that the database is pretty well populated, but not universally for my collection. About 98% of the issues in my collection were already submitted. For those not in, there are some where the title exists but not my issue and some where the title or even the publisher is not in the database. Users are allowed to add data. I have opted to skip all of those things and come back to them at the end, after I catalog all the rest of my issues. At this point, there are 55 issues in my collection that have no cover scan submitted so I guess I’ll be a good citizen of ComicBookDB and submit those.

I have opted to make both my collection and wish list public, although you have an option to keep them private. For some reason I don’t understand, you can see collections when not logged in but have to be logged in to see wish lists so if you are dying to see my wish list you’ll have to create an account. To be honest, I’d like to encourage anyone with an interest in comics to sign up and use it. That’s because of the network effects of the super cool feature I alluded to above. You can mark issues in your collection as being available for trade and/or sale, known as “the marketplace.” You can then take your wish list and compare it with the marketplace, so you have an easy view of every issue you want that someone is offering. I find that highly cool. The service is several years old, but even so I don’t have a huge overlap between what I want and what others have. The more people that get on the site, the better that gets so encourage your friends! I have a wish list to fill.

Overall, I’m very happy with ComicBookDB in under a week of using it. For my needs of maintaining my collection and manage what I’m looking for, it works great. You can enter many issues easily. It remains to be seen whether the value of the marketplace is mostly theoretical or if I can actually use it to find things I’m looking for. As I get back into the comics world, I think this tool will make it better. All my duplicates will soon be up on the marketplace, all my wishlists filled out, and I’ll be ready for the future. Somewhere in here, I need to read some of these funnybooks, right?

Update: I forgot to mention a feature, that you can export your collection and wish list as CSV. When I’m done, I’m going to export a copy of my wish list, put it in Google Docs and have a copy of my list out in the cloud. If I ever get an Android phone then I’ll be able to access it nearly anywhere.

Update 2: I was so excited to get back to cataloging that I forgot another thing – this Greasemonkey script actually makes the site significantly more usable. It makes the search box default to “Title” search, which is relatively fast. WIthout it, the default is “Entire Site” which is slow and I’m almost always searching on the title anyway. It also adds a few quick links and fills in a few deficiencies. I’d love to see the main site roll in these enhancements and make the Greasemonkey script unnecessary.

Hyperlocal coverage of Conway SC Mayoral Elections

Over on the Grand Strand Bloggers site I have begun covering the Conway mayoral election. It’s kind of an experiment for me. I was hyped up by Ruby Sinreich’s presention at Converge South about the work she does with Orange Politics and decided I’d like to try my hand at this. If you live in Conway and want to know the most about your mayoral candidates, please follow along and above all, come out and vote on December 9th. Just because we elected a president, that doesn’t mean democracy gets time off. It’s always working, for you and through you, so let’s get to it, friends and neighbors.

Congratulations President-Elect Obama

I feel good about the election. Even though I have remained at arms length with Obama because of his failure to embrace true progressive positions, he ran an extraordinarily well organized and remarkably clean campaign. Where McCain/Palin tried to throw in fud about his associations and emphasize his otherness and use lots of code words that all boiled down to “don’t forget he’s black and we’re white”, Obama did not reciprocate the descent into the mud.

Honestly, for all the rhetoric and the talk about the historic nature of this race, here is what matters to me. I want a President who believes in government and will appoint the officials of the executive branch based on their competence, not their personal and party loyalty. I want to see a President in there who is competent and can make the wheels of government and wants to. Bush has done exactly what he wanted to and based on his own agenda may be the most successful President in history. His stance is that government doesn’t work and in eight years of effort he has made that true. I look forward to seeing President Obama reverse that decay of our civic structures and restore our government to an institution making a good faith effort to govern ethically and responsibly.

He may not achieve every bit of the rhetoric of his acceptance speech, at least not quickly, but I do believe that Obama wants the American government to work and will set about making that happen. I am most excited to see him doing the most boring aspects of this job. I want him to appoint heads of FEMA and Treasury and cabinet members whose loyalty is to the American people, not looting the public coffers into corporate hands as quickly as possible. I do believe his agenda is to improve things and I do believe he will get there. How far and how well and how quickly is an open question, but I have every belief that we are now awaking from a long, ugly, unpleasant dream that we will spend the next four years shaking out of. My friends and neighbors, it truly is morning in America. Let’s make this a great day.

I Voted

I cast a vote today for a black man for President of the United States. Sure, there have been black candidates for the last 36 years. I strongly considered voting for Lenora Fulani in 1988, the first black person to be on the ballot in all 50 states. It is a historic day, and although I wish Obama were more progressive at least he and Biden are smart and reasonable, learned and willing to learn. That puts them above the McCain/Palin ticket and waaay above Bush/Cheney. I still have this core of fear in the pit of my stomach that scumbags with crooked voting machines will still try to steal this election but unlike 2000 and 2004 I think the margin is so big that it can’t be done with impunity. I’m not assuming anything until I see the guy sworn in this January, but for the first election day in many years I feel good about it.

North Carolina TV

I’m in a hotel room in North Carolina. During the 11 PM news I believe 3/4 of all ads were campaign ads. I thought it was hard to take in South Carolina, but this is bad. One commercial break was a succession of alternating Kay Hagan and Elizabeth Dole ads. I don’t know how you folks take it. I suspect that by Tuesday it will feel like sweet relief.

“Dave Slusher, Local Comic Book Fan”

I can live with the label in the title. I was interviewed by Roger Yale for this weeks cover article in the Weekly Surge (the Surge is weird about permalinks, follow that link quick if you want to see the actual article) about the XCon in Myrtle Beach. I was highly worried when I talked to Roger that I wasn’t giving him anything useful. It turned out alright, which is more a testament to Roger than me.

I won’t get to attend the second day of the convention but the first was surprisingly good, especially being a kind of odd 3 PM to 6 PM deal. My main hope was that the thing made enough money (or lost little enough) that they’d do another one and make this an annual event. That appears to be a realistic outcome based on what I saw yesterday and what I read in the article. It certainly wasn’t huge but I was there for a few hours and had a great time. It’s going on today until 7 PM. If you can get yourself there, I’d urge you to do it.

My only problem was that as I get older, digging through long boxes of comics located underneath folding tables for 15 minutes at a time while kneeling on cement floors has become an arduous physical task. There has got to be a better way.