Phantom Limbs

It’s been a hard winter and spring with the new baby. I wouldn’t change anything for the world but just having a newborn in the house takes a lot out of everyone. Over the course of the last week I’ve felt a well of energy refilling and now I’m bursting to do a number of things. Although I’m a lifelong pac krat, I’ve started cleaning junk out of my office and have found myself throwing away things I have kept for 20 or more years. The people at the Best Buy electronics recycling area are getting used to seeing me daily.

I have a number of projects that have been treading water and now I have a new wave of enthusiasm to tackle them. I’m more or less done with the transition of AmigoFish to its new owner (and it’s on a new server box that is way better than I had it on, go check it out!) Clearing that out of my backlog feels really good and now I just want to get cracking on all the myriad of things that have been in suspended animation. My creative side feels like your foot does when the blood rushes back in after it has been asleep. That tingling pain means that life is returning to it.

If things go well, I’ll be blogging more, writing more, organizing the things that need it, even getting back into drawing a little more. A lot of this stuff won’t be visible for a long time but I’m very excited to get into this new phase in my creative life. Wish me luck, or better yet wish me “ass in chair.”

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for January 9, 2011 – “Doubling Down on Communities”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for January 9, 2011. I play a holiday song from Jill Sobule that is actually almost an anti-holiday song; I talk about the various communities that I’ve been in over my lifetime and how I’m retreating somewhat from the frenzy of social media into some of my oldest surviving online communities; I talk abut getting jealous with my time and withdrawing from projects and sites that aren’t doing it for me; I play a song from Alejandro Escovedo; I talk about loving the new Love and Rockets comic; I talk about my blog post about Colleen Doran vs. digital piracy; I discuss Dave Sim, Cerebus TV and Locus Magazine; I play a song by Jaill and call it good.

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.

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New Years Means Nothing

I’ve drifted away from the Merlin Mann hero worship, but today I saw a really good post from him about changing habits and making resolutions. This is one of the reasons I stopped making resolutions years ago. Creating a change you want to see in yourself and then tying it to a resolution is a kiss of death for it. It’s an admission that you will perform the puppet show of pretending you care and then forgetting all about it. Independently the other day I started assembling the list of projects large and small in my life that I want to make progress on. It was a shockingly long list which also explains why I don’t make progress. It occurred to me days after I started that I was leaving off projects for which I have web sites up and running. I registered domains for these things, set them up on my Hostgator account and even so it took a few days to remember I even had them. This signifies that I have too many projects in my life.

The sad thing is that I’d love to move on all of these projects. It’s true about me as about most people that I love starting projects and concluding them but I’m far less interested in executing on them. Although New Years and resolutions is not a triggering event for me to re-evaluate, the imminent birth of my daughter is. I can pretty much guarantee for the early part of 2011 we will barely be holding it together. We will be old parents dealing with a newborn at first, then trying to integrate working my day job with being the dad of a young baby. I know I will barely have any time, so I have to jealously guard whatever little bits of time come my way. This requires thinking through that list and making the hard decisions.

I want to work on all these projects. That’s why they are on the list. I just physically can’t work on them all so now it becomes the Sophie’s Choice model. If I could take one and only one project and work it all the way to successful completion this year, which one would it be? I think I know (although I’m keeping it to myself.) Now the question is how in the next week or three to do all the groundwork necessary so that I can decompose this into something I can achieve in bursts of 15 minutes of time stolen away from my life. It will be hard to put most of these things I care about into cryonic suspension as if they were going on an interstellar voyage. However, they will all still be there later if and when I ever get back to them.

I am already in the process of divesting myself of AmigoFish. Originally I was planning to shut it down but a white knight has emerged to keep it alive. The transition is under way and around the time my daughter arrives I should have only the minor role we specificied contractually in providing emergency system administration help. That’s painful because I’d loved to have made this more of a success but making the hard choice to no longer pursue it feels good. I can’t adequately time slice between 20 different things, so I’m keeping active the one or two that I care most about and everything else goes on hiatus. With luck 2012 will be a great time of refreshed enthusiasm and reinvigorated process. Possibly, it could also be a time of purging my metaphorical project pantry of the cans of beets I know I’ll never eat. Either way, I feel good about it.

May all of you have a successful year of making the hard choices and moving your individual ball down the field of your lives.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for March 21, 2010 – “New Media Gut Check”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for March 21, 2010. I play a song by Chris Yale; I discuss the uproar in the podcast world following JC Hutchins’ recent post and my own shifting feelings about new media; I play a song by Paul Westerberg and pull the rip cord.

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:

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for January 10, 2009 – “Ringing in a New Year”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for January 10, 2010. I take a moment of silence for the loss of Natalie Morris; I play the promo George Hrab did for the JREF; I play a song by Retribution Gospel Choir; I talk about what I hope for 2010 and what I did wrong and right in 2009; I play a song by Fleet Foxes; I talk about using Calibre with my Kindle and also how I both succeeded and failed simultaneously in NaNoWriMo; I play a song by AFCGT and get on with my year.

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:

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: “”.

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 One Wordle I’ll Ever Create

Wordle: I Want To Be Sedated

I’m familiar with cloud type graphics. I have a tag cloud in the sidebar of this blog and I even implemented a tag cloud for AmigoFish. It’s not like the basic idea is unfamiliar to me, but I hadn’t previously used Wordle for doing it with arbitrary chunks of text. Recently it captured the attention of both my friends Nicola and Kelley, which they both turned to their own works. Literally, after 2 seconds of thought there was only one thing that I wanted put into it, and so I did. Nothing against it, but I think this one says it all so I’m probably done now. Here it is, so enjoy!

Around the Podosphere 10/22

On Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment from a few weeks ago, he interviewed Clark Gregg. He’s one of those character actors that I like every single time I see him on screen. I like him almost enough to watch “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Almost. I did not know until hearing this that he wrote and directed the film adaption of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Choke . Wow, I should try to see that in the theater before it disappears.

I spent many years as a Java developer but at this point I have not touched the language in several years. An episode of the Java Posse came down my prediction feed from AmigoFish. I listened today and quite liked it. I might just subscribe to this one permanently. They spent a lot of time talking about the Android G1 phone, and I’ll have to say that it really sounds good to me. Keeping up to date on Java may not be a bad thing. What the hell, I just subscribed.

Networks and Podcasts

Because I’ve been busy with umpty-zillion projects lately, I haven’t been doing as much data gardening as I should over at AmigoFish. I just ran into a case this morning that is a classic pattern I’ve seen over and over. When existing old media networks of any kind – TV, radio, cable, even newspapers – get involved in podcasting they always make the same mistake. There RSS feeds never point their link back to a page specific to that show, but one for the network. This screws up a basic assumption of RSS, that the link element defined in the channel is where you go to get more information about this feed. I can only presume that for all networks, they assume that they the network are more important than any individual program.

In AmigoFish, I have it set up so that two or more RSS feeds with the same channel link are alternate feeds for the same show. This holds 99+% of the time, but where it breaks is generally with networks, who don’t use this pattern properly. I just ran across it this morning with the Discovery Channel. All of their different shows point back to their central page listing shows. This means that I’ll have to go in by hand and separate out the different programs into their own shows. It’s a big drag, but that’s the sort of thing I bought myself when I started this project.

I’ve been searching for some sort of larger truth I can abstract out of this pattern about networks and their view of themselves. In my less charitable moments (like the first paragraph), I impute this to an institutional moral failing – that they consider themselves as the parent organization more important and definitive than any program they offer. It really makes no sense to me. If you have an RSS feed for Mythbusters and you follow a link for more information do you want to go to the Mythbusters site or to their parent channel? I’d think almost always it would be the Mythbusters site. If anyone has some more insight they can give me into how these organizations think, I’d love to hear it.

AmigoFish Back Up

AmigoFish has returned from the dead as of this morning. I checked it out and it seemed to be fine but let me know if you use it and see any issues. I have my issues with The Planet but being able to recover within 36 hours from having a building in their hosting facility explode is pretty impressive.

I apologize for the downtime.

AmigoFish Down

AmigoFish blipped off the net last evening. That sort of thing always gives one a sinking feeling, but this did seem different from an average box outage because the name didn’t even resolve DNS. By fooling around a little, I was able to figure out that it wasn’t just my box but a big chunk of the hosting company. Their nameservers were down, and even the management console for the account gave a “Host not found” error. Uh oh.

Later in the evening I got an email from The Planet that included this information:

This evening at 4:55 in our H1 data center, electrical gear shorted, creating an explosion and fire that knocked down three walls surrounding our electrical equipment room Thankfully, no one was injured. In addition, no customer servers were damaged or lost.

We have just been allowed into the building to physically inspect the damage. Early indications are that the short was in a high-volume wire conduit. We were not allowed to activate our backup generator plan based on instructions from the fire department. This is a significant outage, impacting approximately 9,000 servers and 7,500 customers.

My apologies for anyone that tried or tries to use AmigoFish while this outage is occurring. As soon as The Planet gets their stuff resolved, I’ll get AmigoFish back up. This sucks big time but I’ll get it resolved as soon as I can after the hosting company gets service restored.

New Media and Journalism, Round 127

Here’s an interesting post from Dan Conover in which he riffs on some Tweets of mine about new media and the press. My original impetus for writing those tweets was my cynicism and disbelief of any “received wisdom” about our election and primary. When any talking head on TV makes a statement about something that isn’t verifiable, such as “event X will hurt candidate Y” I just don’t believe it. I think most (not all) of those people believe what they are saying to be true but most of them believe it because they have been gamed in one way or another. That was my point about blogs, not that they are wonderful intrinsically or impossible to be gamed but that it is cost and time prohibitive to buy the opinions of a million or even a thousand bloggers.

Interestingly, on the same day I listened to the episode of The Gang where Mike Arrington came on and was talking shit with Dan Farber. Most of it was pro-wrestling style theatrics but there were some actual substantive bits that showed the difference in their approaches. I have to say that Arrington has hit the point where his motives and goals for himself and his empire horrify me. I might be a special case in that I really don’t care at all about Tech Crunch. I talked to Arrington about AmigoFish back in November 2005 and I subscribed to Tech Crunch around that time. By February I had dropped it because I just didn’t care about 98% of the things and companies they post about. The only reason I stuck around was to see if they posted about my site, and when it never happened I got bored and left. As a property, Tech Crunch holds no interest for me. When Arrington talks about rolling up “A-list blogs” and making a network out of it, I don’t see what value it holds for anyone on my side of the feed reader. It makes him money, but why should I care?

I do know the guy I talked to the day after Thanksgiving in 2005 seemed awfully different from the guy on the Gang. It seems like success has gone to his head, and he’s gotten high off his own tailpipe fumes for some time. When he talks about the value Tech Crunch brings vs Cnet, he sounds like a CEO talking about the value of outsourcing to some country with lax labor and environmental policies. What he is selling as his advantage the fact that he gets to do the same thing and even try to sell to the same advertisers but without playing by the standard rules of big j Journalism.

For me, there is no difference between Tech Crunch and Valleywag. They are both Silicon Alley porn of one form or another, and that’s a subject that holds no sex appeal to me. Even if I cared about the subject matter, the presentation and drama around it would reduce the value to nil for me. Most of the promise of new media melts away when it becomes yet another mechanism to disseminate and reinforce cults of personality. “Bob” save us all from blog celebrities.

EGC Clambake For April 30, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for April 30, 2006.

I play a song from Jonathan Coulton that is ripped from my life; I talk about the tragedies and triumphs of AmigoFish and about the Uplifter meeting in Charleston; I play a song from the Dresden Dolls and then head out.

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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.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Change of Address

Whoa, I’ve been on this same cable modem system for almost two years, and today I got a different IP address. Previously, I’d had the same one for the entire life of this service. Freaky. If I weren’t spasticly taking a glance at AmigoFish server logs, I’d not have known it and then tomorrow if I tried to SSH into my home box from the Uplifter meeting I’d have been screwed. Time-Warner is just trying to screw with me and my populist media agenda!

EGC Clambake For April 24, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for April 24, 2006.

I play a song by Mutandina; I let slip a hidden secret about “streaming only” URLs; I tell the story of the worst days I have experienced with the AmigoFish project; I play a song I lifted from Bob’s Slacktime Funhouse which is by Evolution Control Committee; it’s dead, Jim.

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This episode is sponsored in part by AmigoFish. 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.

Links mentioned in this episode:


AmigoFish Upgrades

Over the weekend I made some upgrades to AmigoFish. Well, to be technically correct I rolled into production a bunch of stuff from the last month. The site should be faster and more stable as I’m using a different webserver now, one that is better than Apache for running Ruby on Rails sites. Also, the searching has been improved and simplified. Your searches should be faster, and now search across the title and description and url simultaneously and return the whole list via relevance order and paged. It beats that weird 3 tiered thing I used to have going on.

Try it out and let me know what you think. If you haven’t been back in a while, there’s a lot of new functionality in. If you haven’t ever signed up, what are you waiting for? Life is short, sign up, subscribe to a prediction feed with your podcatcher and Find New Stuff You Will Like! People talk a lot about how hard it is to manage the enormity of possible podcasts and vlogs to experience. This is my crack at the solution. Seriously, try it.

EGC Clambake for February 26, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for February 26, 2006.

I play the last interview with John Mark King and last two songs from the upcoming Rocket City Riot album; I talk about the idea of big companies “validating the space” by sponsoring podcasts; I air the long delayed AmigoFish audio promo; I play a song by Diana Obscura and Damon Young; hey hey hey, goodbye.

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This episode is sponsored in part by iPod Juice. If you enter the phrase “Evil Genius” in the comments section while you are placing your iPod Juice order, you’ll get free USPS shipping, so that ain’t bad. Thanks iPod Juice, for making this an even better deal. 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.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Let’s Talk About Me

Let me table my barely existent humility and point to some stuff referencing me.

I did a few interviews last weekend, and hope to do some more soon. Several are posted now. Eddie Dickey interviewed me about AmigoFish, and Chad at Unedited interviewed me about Uplifter (sorry, can’t figure out a way to link to that individual episode notes).

Over at FalconTwin, Brendan talks about how he hates podcast directories and then has nice things to say about AmigoFish. I’m not sure that he likes it, but he seems to think it sucks less than baseline. I actually took his input to heart and have made a technical change that might give him (and everyone) more predictions. I’ll talk about this over at the AmigoFish blog. Brendan linked to me last month and I thought his online graphic novel looks interesting. I’ve been too busy to start from the beginning, but when things lighten up I think I will. I just can’t take the “new web comic productivity hit” right now.

I’m still in the market to do interviews with other podcasters, so if you are interested drop me a line. Help me help you.