Monthly Archives: July 2006

My report of the Flock Meetup

Daryl and Mike and I met back on March 22 for the first Flock Meetup here in Knoxville.  Last night we were joined at the second Meetup by Dave and Gabriel, so our numbers are growing. For about 2 hours we discussed where Flock is now and where it is headed.  The new direction seems to be one that leads back to Flock’s roots.  As Daryl explained it, originally there was a focus on correlating what you and your friends were doing online, what sites you were finding interesting and sharing links and news with each other.  The metaphor, apparently, was that as people aggregated their interests, they would all “flock” to the same areas of interest.  I’ve posted a picture of the group on my Flickr site.  As an aside, I might point out that I was with four young men who ranged in age from one half to almost one third my age, but despite that I didn’t feel out of place at all. 

As has been the practice at these meetups, we rambled widely across a number of topics.  Mike continued to play the role of the skeptic about Flock, saying he’ll begin using it full time when it meets some of his needs more specifically.  Gabriel was quiet and contributed a few comments but mostly observed.  Dave, who says he isn’t a blogger, contributed a number of comments and asked some useful questions.  Daryl, in something of a Scoblesque stance, honestly admitted that there were things (the blog editor and the collections manager) that he didn’t like about the way Flock was constructed, and I, in my usual “fan mode,” continue to be a staunch supporter of the browser, illustrating I suppose my gullibility. 

All of us learned something, I think, which made the evening worthwhile.  Daryl got the benefit of the feedback that we all gave about our experience of using Flock.  Dave and Mike learned that in Flock (as in Firefox) if you have multiple pages open when you go to Tools > Options > General and click “Use Current pages” that you can have more than one home page that opens each time you open your browser.  Both Mike and Dave were delighted to learn this because in Mike’s case he discovered that he could open his two standard always-opened first web sites (Bloglines and Gmail), and Dave because he had been perplexed because Flock kept opening four pages when it started and he couldn’t figure out why.  I learned that you can drag a URL from the address bar and drop it on top of the Home page button and that doing so will set that URL as your home page.  Because he didn’t say much, I can’t say for sure what Gabriel learned, but I imagine he picked up something he could use. Oh, and I think Dave began to appreciate that you don’t have to be a blogger to benefit from using del.icio.us

I really appreciate opportunities such as this to sit around with some knowledgeable geeks because I enjoy learning how other people approach using the tools available to access information on the Internet and make use of it.  While I don’t always adopt their practices, I think it is valuable to expand my horizons and learn.  No matter how comfortable I am with my own way of doing things, there are always more ways to interact with the Internet than I know and being in a group like this helps to remind me of that.  One of the benefits of this kind of group is that it is small enough that you can ask your questions and share your knowledge with others without getting lost in the mass of humanity that is so common in PC Users Groups.

It was a very pleasant evening, and I’m sure that if there is a third Knoxville Flock Meetup I’ll be there.

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Flock meetup time and place

Daryl has finalized the plans for next week’s Flock Meetup.  Unless some unforeseen circumstance prevents it, we will meet at Barnes and Noble at 7:00 PM on Thursday, July 27, 2006.  There is a Starbuck’s in the bookstore that has coffee and things to eat, so if you are hungry and/or thirsty bring money.  Otherwise, it won’t cost you anything to attend.  I plan to be there and I’d like to invite you to come too.  If you have a laptop, you are welcome to bring it along because wifi is available.  And if you are also lucky enough to have a friend too, you are welcome to bring him or her with you.  You can get the most recent version (0.7.3) of the Flock beta at the Flock download site.  The whole event will be informal so it should be fun as well as educational.  I hope to see you there.

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Nice new feature at Google Videos

The day before yesterday, Google Videos added a feature that I like a lot. They’ve now made it possible for you to specify an exact location inside a video that you’d like to reference if you send a link to the video. By adding a time marker that points to the spot in the video that you want your friend to see when they follow the link, the video will start at that point. They say …

All you have to do is add the time you’d like to share to the end of a video’s URL. We support hours (h), minutes (m), and seconds (s).

Official Google Video Blog

Here is one example that they use to illustrate it, and I might add I found it to be an interesting example as well. To illustrate the idea, I’ll leave the entire url so you can see the format but also make it a link so you can click it to watch the video.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1267626298712917200#35m24s

The part I found particularly interesting actually begins at 39 minutes and 0 seconds. Here is how you’d change the URL to specify that location.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1267626298712917200#39m00s

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Another Flock users meetup

Today Daryl announced his tentative plans for the next Knoxville area Flock users meetup one night next week when he said:

If you happen to be in the Knoxville area and are interested in meeting some other Flock users or just want to find out more, please let me know by email (daryl at flock dot com), and I’ll fill you in on the details as I firm up plans. Tentatively, I’m looking at finding a book store or coffee shop with wifi on Wednesday or Thursday evening next week.

Daryl’s Flock Blog » Knoxville Meetup

I would add that you don’t have to be a current Flock user or fan to sit in on this get together.  In fact, doing so would be a good way to find out what Flock is and see it in action.  Drop him or me a message to announce your intentions if you’d like to join us.  Obviously there is no admission and the only expense would be the time you spend and the cost of anything you choose to eat or drink while in attendance.

Hope to see you there.

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Television

On May 9, 1961, Newton Minnow, John F Kennedy’s appointee to the Chairmanship of the Federal Communications Commission, delivered his now-famous “Vast Wasteland” speech to the National Association of Broadcasters and described the state of television at that time thusly …

When television is good, nothing–not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers–nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you–and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

Newton Minnow’s “Vast Wasteland” speech

I would encourage you to read the entire edited version of that speech at the link cited above. It isn’t long and it is, in my view, well worth the effort. Then ask yourself whether in the ensuing 45 years the Broadcasters have taken his advice to heart.

My answer is that the deplorable situation he described back then has deteriorated … considerably. As bad as he thought things were at the time, those days can only be seen as the Golden Age of television in light of what has happened since then. The landscape has become vaster, now sporting hundreds of channels where there were previously only a few, and the wasteland of that time now seems almost like the Garden of Eden.  Compare what existed then to today’s mix of so-called reality shows, inane family shouting matches, and what Fox news calls “fair and balanced” reporting but is nothing more than a one-sided propaganda machine that merely serves to exacerbate the division of these once-United States into red and blue camps that can no longer talk sanely to each other or focus on the common good.  We’re making great progress alright … along the road to Hell.

Yet, I think Minnow’s basic statement is still true.  When television is good, there is nothing better and when it’s bad, nothing is worse.  So to turn this rant in a somewhat more positive direction, I’ll report that I recently caught a one-hour presentation on PBS (what else?) about PopTech and was fascinated. They (PopTech) have a web site and a blog that I’ll be monitoring.  Though I’d love to attend one of their annual conferences, the price ($2,295.00) for a three-day conference is a bit steep for my budget.  In addition to the consistently worthwhile offerings of PBS, I find that the group of channels that Discovery offers are worth the time spent watching them.  So it is possible to find things on television that improve the mind rather than rotting it.

As with anything else in life, a great deal of how you see things depends on the choices you make.  What you attend to determines your outlook and consequently what you think about reality.  I just shudder at the choices some people make, particularly when they wish to vent their feelings about how the world is because I know their point of view is based on “data” from sources that I consider suspect.  Of course, I suppose they may feel the same way about me and my choices too.

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A wise use of time

This past weekend, I rode with Mike and Cheryl, Kaitlin and Connor, down to Georgia to visit Carole. The trip takes about 4 hours, and on the way down, after Cheryl and Mike got off from work on Friday, things were a bit stressful because everyone was tired and hungry. However, when we came home on Sunday, we left at 2:00 P.M. after having eaten a nice lunch with Carole before we left. As we rode, both of the children drifted off to sleep, giving us adults a nice opportunity to talk without interruption. I am very pleased we took that opportunity and made good use of it, apparently without any pre-planning on anyone’s part to do so.

Cheryl had experienced the death of her grandfather, Eugene Doyle, a month or so ago. She realized that they had never had a conversation about such things as what he wanted done at his funeral or how he felt about end-of-life issues, such as whether he would want his family to “pull the plug” under the circumstance that he lapsed into a vegetative state. Such topics are never easy to bring up because the moment never seems to be quite right for the conversation, even though it is important for families to have it. Of course, the time for such discussions is before a crisis exists, but when you are in good health discussing them seems morbid to many people. So typically, we avoid it.

On our ride back to Knoxville, we had that conversation about my own thoughts about the end-of-life questions. Both Cheryl and Mike did a very nice job of asking the questions and listening attentively while I told them how I felt, without their interrupting what I had to say. It was an excellent use of what would have otherwise been dead time, easily wasted with idle conversation or passed in silence.

I’m making this note on my blog so that other members of my family, Jeff and Deanna and Carole, any of whom may be around when I am facing those issues at some unknown future time, will know that I communicated my wishes to Cheryl and Mike that afternoon. Of course, it would surely be better to document those wishes in writing in a living will, but since making one of those is another easy thing to put off, this blog record at least acknowledges that we had the conversation on July 2, 2006 while coming home to Knoxville.

Long rides with loved ones while traveling provide a chance to talk. It’s a good idea to make wise use of the time.

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