My CREATE South Recap

I have posted my wrapup of Saturday over at the official CREATE South blog. It took an amazing long time to put that together, basically all evening yesterday. I think it was pretty thorough and covers a lot of it, but there is always more you can put in. It was impressive how many really good photos were available for embedding in there. If you go over to the CREATE South 2009 Flickr photo pool you can see these for yourself.

Dave Slusher, Tee Morris

I don’t know if I have that much more to add here beyond that post. The picture I’m embedding here is one of my favorites of the day, because it looks exactly like it felt from my perspective. There was a point in the morning where the adrenaline rush had worn off but all the same stuff still need to be handled and I felt about like I was about to fall over.

When I was standing in front of the crowd introducing Tee Morris and desperately trying to figure out what to say when I came up with a line I really liked. I was talking about how pleasant it is to have him involved and interested in helping because he can talk knowledgeably about so many subjects in such an animated fashion. How it came out was “Tee Morris is like the human version of an ideal gas. He’ll expand to fill whatever volume you give him.”

Thanks again to all the people who helped organize CREATE South 2009, who presented, who videotaped things and everyone who showed up and participated. We are bucking tradition by starting to organize 2010 right now. Let’s keep that excitement going, friends!

It’s Like a Dream

I’m in that dreamlike state, following the success of CREATE South. I’m still kind of tired in that way you don’t get in a single day or two, but that long term existential tired of having thought about and stressed about an even for months, and then the event is past. On top of that, I’m still buzzing with the enthusiasm of having spent a day with people – mostly Carolinians but a few notable distant travelers – who cared enough to spend a beautiful April Saturday in a building talking about passion and what drives us and what we can make and create and build with that energy.

What I haven’t done is turn much of that into the tangible, which really is what the whole day was about. In my opening remarks I discussed the gap between intention and execution and how whatever it is that you think it is between there and whatever you think is preventing you from moving forward, it is almost certainly a smaller problem and more easily overcome than you think. The trick is just to plow into it and be willing to hit those problems headlong.

I have writeups to write up, a few details to handle in the mopping up from the event. However for the moment I’m in a pleasant daze having been stunned by the fellowship and generosity of a hundred or so friends and strangers and peers. It was a great time and I’m sure it will build into something even more productive in the future. For now, I’m in a holding pattern. I feel like that brief moment in a stationary bungee jump where you’ve been shot in the air but haven’t yet started falling back. I’m enjoying this moment of freefall.

CREATE South is Done

The day of CREATE South went off generally pretty well. There were some hitches but all in all, people seemed to get value out of the day. I was inspired and edified by how everyone took to it. My partner Andre Pope cooked for two days to feed everyone, the students of Horry-Georgetown Technical College stepped up and participated. Thanks to everyone who presented and everyone who attended. I’ll talk more about this later. For now I’m still fried.

CREATE South happening about … um … now

We’re in the middle of CREATE South right now. The sad truth about organizing a blogging/podcasting conference is that it makes you stop doing it. I’m getting that good “Come to Jesus” moment from the whole thing. I’m looking forward to taking this new found second wind of enthusiasm and putting it in to practice. Next week. After some sleep.

Thanks everyone for coming!

CREATE South in 48 Hours

The 2009 edition of CREATE South will be happening on Saturday, just over 48 hours from now. We’ve crossed that freeing point where a lot of the plans for things that would nice but not crucial have been jettisoned. All the good ideas that just didn’t come together, those are out the window. Now it is down to executing on the things we absolutely have to have to make the day turn out.

We have over 130 people registered, which puts us very close to 3 times the 2008 registration. We’re past the point where getting folks to come out is our problem, now it’s making sure those people have a valuable day. We’ve done a lot to get a programming track that should provide something of use to practically anyone. I’m thrilled, nervous and once again completely questioning my own sanity for getting involved. I’m sure in 2010, I’l be at exactly the same point two days out.

Hope to see you, hope to meet you. Creatives, technology lovers, social media junkies of the Carolinas and beyond, let’s throw ourselves one hell of a party!

Say Hi to Tony (Kahn) for Me

I’m lucky enough to have made the acquaintance of Mr. Tony Kahn in the podcast era. I first met him as far back as Bloggercon 3 in Palo Alto, way back in the wild days of 2004 when many of us had only been podcasting a few months. Tony did a lot for podcasting in the early days with his Morning Stories podcast for WGBH in Boston. He told me back then that he wanted WGBH to take a lead in podcasting from public radio as a way of lending whatever credibility they could to the validity of our new medium.

Morning Stories is no more but Tony has taken his body of work over to his new site, Hi Tony. He continues doing his fine work of conversing with people and publishing to us the results. Hi Tony is up for a Webby Award, and I recommend you go here and vote for it. Those familiar with me know my take on these awards and know that I don’t generally care about such things. For Tony, I make an exception. The man wants me to vote, I don’t mess around, I vote.

I invited Tony to be a keynote speaker at our CREATE South conference, now happening this coming Saturday. He wanted to do it but thought he might have a scheduling conflict. Then in the most drastic good new/bad news mail I’ve ever seen he said basically “The good news is I don’t have a scheduling conflict. The bad news is I have cancer and will be getting chemotherapy then.” Holy jumping cats, that’s some bad news. I’d have much rather he had the scheduling conflict. As Tony does, he’s documenting his process on the site with his Chemo Chronicle.

Just today I listened to an archived interview with the late great Studs Terkel. It occurred to me that what Tony does is a direct spiritual descendant of that fine man’s work and I am deeply smitten with both of them and their work. Getting the fascinating stories from ordinary citizens is valuable work and we owe both men a debt of gratitude for using their time and energy to do it.

Tony has been a good friend to me, to podcasting in general, to our conference and to the world. Please do me a favor and repay a tiny pit of that karma. Check out his work on Hi Tony, drop him a note of encouragement, and vote for him in the Webby awards.

RIP, JG Ballard

I see that JG Ballard has died at the age of 78. He is one of my favorite writers. Those who listened to my Reality Break interviews know that one of my tics is to always work Ballard into every interview if I can. When I talked to Kim Stanley Robinson about Red Mars, we talked about how you could interpret the terraforming as a Ballardian disaster novel. This is a common pattern across many of my interviews. Even today, as the climate change debate rages a large portion of the way I feel about it was formed from reading The Drowned World 20 years ago.

I was a young man in my early 20s when I read Crash and that was the book that really knocked the legs out from under me. There are a handful of books that upon reading them, my worldview was irrevocably different, and Crash was one of those books. A few days after I finished reading it, I was driving home from work on my motorcycle. I was at a red light, the first one in the line so I had a very clear view of the whole intersection. A woman coming the opposite way did not notice the light had changed and ran the light. I watched a man come out of the industrial park to my left, plow into the woman’s car and slide them across this intersection. I could see both faces of the drivers the whole time, watching as the shock settled in. It was a moment straight out of the novel and the way I felt for watching this was different post Crash than it ever could have been before. My reaction was tangible and disturbing and different. The book had changed the way I viewed the world around me.

Goodbye, James. With you around to warp my worldview what will I do, have an unwarped worldview? That’s the most unthinkable outcome of all.

A Little CREATE South and AmigoFish Love

I was just listening to the first episode of 2 People Talking from the Comic Book Noise podcast network. It’s the relaunch of what used to be called “Indie Comic Book Noise.” At the end of the show, not only does Derek throw out a little promo for CREATE South but also talks about AmigoFish for a few minutes. He points out one of the upsides of AmigoFish that is becoming more and more important as the podcast era moves on, which is that I remove things from the directory and also mark them inactive when they don’t have shows for a certain time. When shows go inactive, they don’t show up in predictions and lists and such, only if you go directly to them or search for them. It was nice to hear that someone appreciates these efforts I have put into the site.

Thanks Derek! Thanks Angie!

See the Institutional Biases of Media Companies in their XML

Here and there over the last few months I’ve been doing some data cleanup over at my podcast directory site AmigoFish. For all of 2008 and some of 2007 the site was left pretty much on autopilot. It worked and continues to work, but there are things that need to be done to clean up data cruft over time.

One of the heuristics I always built in was a little judgment call. In every RSS feed, there is a definition of a link element of the channel. This is the place to go to get more information about the feed at hand. My heuristic is that two different feeds with the same link URL are two different feeds for the same thing. For example, all the Revision 3 shows have umpty-zillion feeds based on whether you get large quicktime or small xvid or medium theora and all permutations of size and format. If those feeds were all submitted, I want one logical show, not 15. By and large this assumption holds pretty well and works across the site.

There are times where this assumption breaks and what is interested is what is in common amongst the kinds of organizations that break it. Just now I’m going through the process of breaking apart shows where feeds have clumped together that aren’t really the same show. This is almost always driven by the podcast efforts of some kind of incumbent media, old school large organization. Broadcast networks, large radio stations, newspapers, etc are by orders of magnitudes the worst offenders. This is not even the first time I’ve blogged about this phenomenon, but today is the first time I thought through on a deeper level why this might be.

I described technically why this occurs – all the disparate RSS feeds have the same URL. But why? The one I was just working on was the AmigoFish listing of the Tony Kornheiser Show on Washington Post Radio. (Note, chances are by the time you read this some of the AmigoFish listing will be changed by my cleanup.) I’m looking and there are six different feeds conglomerated in there, their Book World podcast, their P3: Post Politics program. Every one of these feeds has the same link URL: “http://www.washingtonpost.com”.

That reflects to me an old media institutional bias you don’t see in new media. If you want more information about Tony Kornheiser, go to the main Washington Post page. If you want more information about their tech podcast, do to the front page of the Washington Post. In other words, they think the institution is more noteworthy and important than the individual show. This is an old school branding mindset, and possibly an institutional mindset but it is not a mindset with a future in the audience. I’ll be honest, I don’t give a fart in the wind about the Washington Post as an institution. I don’t care about NPR or NBC or HBO or even Mevio. I care about Burn Notice as a program, about Late Night with David Letterman, about The Rock and Roll Geek Show and Tiki Bar TV.

There is no instance where my interest in a program is superseded by my interest in their parent organization, old media or new, online or off. If I’m looking for more information about Burn Notice, I don’t want to be sent to the main USA Network sites any more than I want to be sent to the Warner Brothers site for Watchmen movie information.

The fact that media companies set up their RSS feeds the way they do betrays a little bit about their mindset right there in XML tags. The Washington Post is the destination to them, even when it’s Kornheiser you are interested in. Here’s a quick bit of fun, go to the front page of the Post site and try to navigate to Tony Kornheiser’s podcast (Which is now called Talking Points Podcast) from there without using the text search function. Put a clock on it for a bit of fun.

I’ve observed this as a technical phenomenon for years but this is the first time I thought through to the end why this might be and the cultural conditions inside these companies that lead this way. It’s a mismatch between the power of the media company brand of the past and the realities of the networked future. Media companies are becoming more like common carriers and less like trusted brands. I’m sure they don’t like that but it’s the truth, and the truth hurts.

The CBC Exaggerates

While doing some data pruning and cleaning up on AmigoFish, I ran across this CBC podcast listing. What I found interesting was this claim from the info about their show. It’s in their RSS feed, which is how the AmigoFish tools found it to import as the description:

CBC Radio 3 Podcast with Grant Lawrence

It launched in June 2005 as one of the world’s first music podcasts and continues to be one of its most popular, with over 4 million episodes downloaded to date. This weekly one-hour show is hosted by Grant Lawrence and features the best in new Canadian rock, pop, hip-hop, singer-songwriters, alt-country, and electronica. If you’re looking for a source of amazing new music, look no further.

There are two big problems with those statements. I’ll try to be polite because we are dealing with Canadians, after all. First, if the show started in June 2005, there is zero chance it was one of the first music podcasts. At that point in time, it could maybe have been the 1000th, if it would be that low. Seriously folks, I was there at the beginning and I know that claim is ridiculous.

Second, if this program has had 200 episodes and an aggregate 4 million downloads (although who knows when that number was inserted as the description), we’re talking about an average per episode of 20K downloads. Even it was at episode 100 that they wrote that copy, we are talking 40k. That is not at all shabby but I don’t think that is reasonable as a claim for one of the “world’s most popular music podcasts.” I haven’t listened to the show, for all I know it is the best thing I’d ever put on my MP3 player. However, the claims made in this description are by inspection not reasonable. Tighten it up, CBC! It’s fine to talk yourself up but you should do it in a more defensibly factual matter.

Nate Powell Insight

I’m listening to Nate Powell getting interviewed on Inkstuds. I’m not that familiar with him, but I might be converted to his fan by this interview. He just had an insight so profound that it might have just sold me Swallow Me Whole.

On why he chose to settle in Bloomington, IN instead of other places, he talked about having friends there and it being cheap and then he said:

I decided it was time to stop moving away from things, and that I should only move toward things.

Right on, brother. I dig it.

What to do about amazonfail




I have a post I will author soon with my take on the whole “amazonfail” brouhaha. Very short take – I don’t think I’ve seen anyone involved on any side of the question with whom I much agree. However this post will take time to write, and with CREATE South planning and extra day job work well into the evening, time is the one thing I don’t have.

I do have just enough time to note the absence of something from the Amazon detractors. I’ve seen a lot of hostility towards the company in the last few days, but very little in workable alternative building. To the various amazonfail warriors, don’t boycott. Instead, become evangelists for alternatives. My suggestion would be Powell’s Books. It’s a fine chain of brick and mortar stores (oh sweet “Bob” do I miss the days I could walk there for my coffee break) and a really fine online store. Go there, create an associate account (they pay 7.5% referral fees) and push the living hell out of that. Switch all your Amazon links to Powells. I think it would be good for the online retailing ecosystem for Amazon to have some stiffer competition, so build it. You’ll feel good that you did.

PS – follow my associate links and buy some stuff. That will really stick it to Amazon!

CREATE South, April 25th in Myrtle Beach


View CREATE South 2009 in a larger map

One of the things consuming a lot of my evenings lately is planning for CREATE South 2009. It will be held Saturday April 25th, and will be in Myrtle Beach at the Grand Strand campus of Horry-Georgetown Technical College. This is a few blocks from Market Commons and about half a mile from the beach. Registration is free, lunch is free. We only ask that you sign up ahead of time so that we know how many people we need to feed.

Our goal is to get together people interested in the intersection of technology and creativity, to meet each other and network, to hang out and teach and learn. We did this last year and it was great, and we’re doing it again but with a significantly more ambitious agenda. We’ll have tracks on art, writing creating community and making rich media. Our keynote speakers are Tiffany Trent and Tee Morris, talking about everyday creativity and social media, respectively. There is a full slate of activities in the afternoon covering the above topics. I think HGTC students might even be able to videotape the whole thing, so it is not impossible we release the whole thing as a video podcast – making the message the medium.

If you are at all able to travel in, we’d love to have you. Considering we have one attendee driving down from Minneapolis, the definition of “driving distance” has been pretty radically expanded here. I guarantee there will be bbq and chicken bog and other South Carolina delicacies available, as well as a full day of information and fellowship and mutual edification with like-minded individuals. Even if you can’t make it, please do us the favor of tweeting or blogging or otherwise posting to what we are doing. Let the word spread far and wide, and I hope to see you there.

What Do I Do Next?

This morning I listened to episode #98 of Skepticality which was a follow-on discussion to the whole “Where Do We Go From Here?” talk of a few years ago. They referenced a PDF document with 100 points of action that people can take as a skeptic. I don’t really identify as a skeptic even though my sentiments are pretty much aligned with theirs. I took the PDF of “What Do I Do Next?” and ran it through the converter and put it on my Kindle. I’ll give it a read and see how I feel after that. I may yet tick over to the skeptic (TM) camp in full force one day.

Savory on the Kindle

My friend Rob sent me a link to Jesse Vincent’s Massively Parallel Procrastination blog, where the author is doing a lot of cool Kindle hacking. He’s created software called Savory that will do on the fly conversion of PDFs to Kindle’s AZW format on the device itself. I think that’s really an interesting and useful thing to do, but I’m not going to install it any time soon, if it all. I don’t have a huge need for PDF conversions and it isn’t worth the small risk of bricking my brand new device at this point.

I think I might explore what he’s doing. I’d much rather do the same conversions on my MacBook and move the files over myself. I don’t mind the overhead and would prefer to lower my risk. It’s really rare for me to buy a device like this at this point in its lifecycle. Translation: I’m usually too cheap a bastard to pay full price for optional gizmos. It’s cool that someone is doing it and I hope people are getting use from it. I’ll hang back on this one, though.

However, one interesting fact that I was not previously aware of was just an aside in one of Jesse’s posts. The Kindle natively supports the .cbz format that the comics digitizing folks use? That was a “holy crap!” type revelation to me. Now I have to find some just to see it work.

Kindle Edition of Fans, Friends and Followers

It’s “credit where credit is due” time. A few days I blogged about what seemed odd to me, that Scott Kirsner’s book Fans, Friends and Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age was not available in a Kindle edition. I emailed him and asked in so many words “What’s with this, bro?” We had an exchange to the effect that he would work on it. Well, he emailed me today to let me know that the book is now available in a Kindle edition. Even sweeter, that version is only $7.99, a few bucks cheaper than even the direct download from him.

In order to be as good as my word, I bought it immediately. It’s the second book I bought and for this I decided to try out purchasing from the device itself. It was a very easy and satisfying process. It only took a few seconds to find it (the unique last name didn’t hurt), a few seconds to make the purchase and the book was already downloaded as soon as I went to look for it in my shelf. All good. Now I’m looking forward to reading the thing. Thanks, Scott Kirsner and thanks Dave Kellett for originally bringing this to my attention.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for April 6, 2009 – “Starting is Easy, Finishing is Hard”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for April 6, 2009. I play a song from Glass Eye; I talk about CREATE South and Balticon and Dragon*Con, about organizing a conference and what we are trying to do with CREATE South in Myrtle Beach; I play a solo song by Kathy McCarty, talk about my Kindle and my social media timeout; I close out with another Glass Eye 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:

EGC Live, 4/6

Here we go, EGC episode #235 is getting recorded right now.

Update: I think I’ll be removing the embeds after I’m done with them from now on.

EGC Podcast Schedule to Record 8:30 PM EDT, April 6

Once again, I’m going to continue the experiment of recording my podcast and streaming. Tonight at 8:30 PM EDT I’ll be recording and streaming it live via Ustream. If you want to see a Kindle demonstrated, you can see it here. I’ll also once again try the experiment of posting with a ustream window embedded in it a few minutes before I start streaming.

You can always find out about things like this by subscribing to my FriendFeed account. That’s where the timely stuff lives.

How I Manage My Podcast MP3s

For years now, I’ve been using whatever cheapo MP3 player I can find as my podcast player. Currently that’s a 4 Gb Insignia Sport that I got on clearance for around $50. Given my directory that holds all of my downloaded MP3s, I still need to get them from my MacBook on my player.

Over the last year, I’ve tweaked these scripts until I really have them in a state that I like. I invoke a single bash shell that does everything else. The bash shell is the one that contains all the directory names that are specific to my system. If you take my scripts and modify the bash scripts, these things should be usable by about anyone.

There is a bit of unix specificity in the copy script, in that I call the df function to determine how much space remains on the device. I’m not sure the way one would do that in Windows ruby script.

First, the outer script that I have called “sync_insignia.sh”:

#!/bin/sh

mkdir -p /Volumes/Insignia_SP/JuiceFiles
~/copy_mp3s.rb '/Users/dave/Downloads/JuiceFiles/*/*.{mp3,ogg}' '/Volumes/Insignia_SP/JuiceFiles/'
ls -rt /Volumes/Insignia_SP/JuiceFiles/*/*.{mp3,ogg} | ~/create_m3u.rb > /Volumes/Insignia_SP/podcast.m3u

Next, the copy_mp3s.rb script that does the bulk of this work. Note that the first parameter to it is a glob specification that gets the files you want to move.

#!/usr/bin/ruby

file_pattern = ARGV[0]
destination = ARGV[1]
files = Dir.glob(file_pattern)
files.sort! {|a,b| File.mtime(a) <=> File.mtime(b)}

files.each { |path|
#print "Path is #{path} \n\n"
directory = path.match('\/([^\/]+)\/[^\/]+$')[1]

system('mkdir','-p', destination + '/' + directory)

remaining=`df '#{destination}'`.split(' ')[10].to_i * 512
stat = File::Stat.new(path)
if (stat.size > remaining)
print "File #{path} is #{stat.size} bytes and only #{remaining} bytes are available. Exiting\n\n"
exit
else
print "File #{path} is #{stat.size} bytes and #{remaining} bytes are available. Copying\n\n"
end

system('cp','-p', path, destination + '/' + directory) }

Finally, the script that creates the m3u file, which my player uses to put the files in the order I want to hear them.

print "#EXTM3U\r\n"

while ((line= gets) != nil)
line.chomp!
line.gsub!('/', '\\')
print "#EXTINF: 1,#{line}\r\n#{line}\r\n"

end

This may not be perfect, but it works for me. I listen to the shows in oldest to newest order, and now these scripts copy them in that order as well. When I was occasionally getting problem when the scripts filled up every available byte, I added in a check so that the first file it encounters that is bigger than the remaining space will exit the script. At this point, it really works for me well.