Category Archives: Knoxbloggers

Hello, Knoxville.

Yes, it’s me and I’m back in town … for the moment anyway.  New Mexico welcome sign

The contract I was managing in New Mexico ended on May first and I got back in town on the 15th.  I’ve been shuffling the junk around my condo into meaningful groupings in what passes for my idea of a “decorating scheme.”  I’ve begun printing some of my pictures from New Mexico to display around the house and I have a plan about what to do in the coming year that I’ll say more about as I go along.

Today I’ll be going to visit my ex-wife Carole in Georgia.  Mike and his children are there (Kaitlin is at least) and of course Jeff lives across the street from her.  During my time there I’ll be out of regular and consistent contact with the Internet so updates, though infrequent in the next few days will be a lot more frequent than during 2008.

I purchased a new HP Mini computer, a so-called netbook, to replace the company laptop that I had.  So far I give it mixed reviews.  It’s like having a new puppy.  Everybody stops by because they think it is cute, so it’s a great way to meet “chicks” as some would say.  That’s provided your idea of a “chick” is a geek, master’s degree candidate desk clerk named Shiva from India in Oklahoma City.  At any rate, the “cute” computer attracts attention.

I’m sure I’ll wax eloquent at great length over the next year about how I felt about my experience there, but I’ll sum it up for now by saying this. I spent a year out there being a Tennessean in New Mexico, but when I got into the U-Haul truck to drive it back to Tennessee, I knew in my heart that I was New Mexican headed back to Tennessee … temporarily!

The bottom line is I have returned.  I will be posting again as the spirit moves me and as I have something I want to say.  Stay tuned.

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An interesting evening

Tonight I attended a gathering of a number of bloggers from here in Knoxville and the surrounding area at Calhoun’s on Kingston Pike. Glenn Reynolds was kind enough to post links to the blogs of those in attendance. The affair was surprisingly well-attended as we overran the table set aside for the fifteen that the instigator, Rich Hailey, had told them to expect, so I’d guess there were at least 25 or more folks there. It was a very civil gathering, I thought, despite the fact that a group of that size represented almost every variation of political, social and cultural perspective imaginable. I’m pleased to have met them, and I’ve added each of their blogs to my bookmarks so that I can read them periodically and learn more about them and their respective points of view as time goes on.

I had the pleasure of dining between Dr. Helen Smith, a.k.a. Mrs. Glenn Reynolds, on the one side and Ms. Lissa Kay, with whom I worked at ClientLogic a while back, on the other. In the two hours and forty-five minutes the group spent together we made cultured conversation and behaved quite respectably. Quite an achievement, if you ask me, for a group of such potentially disruptive forces in the community. Blogging, it seems, is alive and thriving well in Knoxville. Who would have imagined?

Update: Cathy McCaughan posted pictures of the event here.

New wrinkles for KnoxBloggers

Yesterday in a series of email exchanges, Mike and Daryl and I discussed how we might modify what we are doing with the KnoxBloggers group so as to encourage more people to participate and at the same time place less demands on those with busy schedules. We came up with some ideas that we think might achieve those goals.

We’ve created a new Google group called, not-surprisingly, KnoxBloggers, and we sent out invitations to those of you who’ve either joined the KnoxBloggers group that met at Mike’s house last year or expressed an interest in it in the past. This new Google group is restricted, meaning that only members can post messages to it. So it isn’t quite like joining a Usenet group used to be in the past. Once you’ve joined it, you can set the options for your account to reflect how you want to receive messages that are posted there, including not receiving them at all if that’s what you want.

In any event, this Google group gives us a permanent repository of our exchanges with each other and opens up the discussions to all the members. One topic of discussion that I’ve been advocating for some time is one related to which subjects you want to cover in our meetings. This Google group will give us a way to have that discussion more openly and easily so all can have input and have their opinion heard. So if you haven’t yet accepted the invitation we sent you, please do so as soon as possible if you want to be included.

A second change we agreed to experiment with was to change the frequency of our meeting together physically. And I stress physically here because we’ve combined this change with a plan to meet together monthly in a Skypecast, which is something you can do from the comfort of your home. Please follow that link and learn about using it for Skypecasting.

Skype is a free multi-platform (Windows, OSX, and Linux) program for making calls through the Internet from computer to computer which I have used quite successfully for a couple of years now to make almost daily calls to my friend Paul who lives in Berlin. It costs nothing to make such calls. And with the Skypecasting ability of this program, we can all be on the same call at the same time (sort of like a moderated conference call with up to 100 other people) and have a presenter and then engage in an orderly discussion with others commenting or posing questions for the presenter or the group. Once you’ve used Skype, I think you’ll find it quite handy, and we’ll learn together about Skypecasting.

Unrelated to our changes for KnoxBloggers but on the subject of Skype, I want to alert you to the fact that you have until January 31st to avail yourself of a discounted offer to purchase a year’s worth of calls to any land line or cell phone in the U.S. or Canada for $14.95. See this description of that offer. If you miss the deadline, you can still purchase that ability, but the cost will be $29.95 — for a whole year, not per month — which is still a terrific bargain. I’ve used this ability many times to manage my cell phone minutes so that I didn’t go over my allotted allowance and I find it quite useful and the quality of the connection to be excellent.

Because we still value meeting face-to-face, though we find that doing that monthly has caused some conflict with family obligations, we’ve decided to experiment with a quarterly schedule for our face-to-face gatherings, perhaps to include a lunch or dinner with the presentation and discussion. That way, we’ll still have a chance to interact with each other in the flesh occasionally, but because it isn’t so frequent, we are hopeful that more people will be able to arrange their schedules so that they can attend.

We’ve chosen to use Skypecasting and Google Groups rather than recreating all the infrastructure on the KnoxBloggers website, just because we saw no need to reinvent the wheel and because our group, almost by definition, is already comfortable with interacting with the world over the Internet. It is still our hope to enlist others into our group, so if you know of anyone who might like to join us, tell them about our plans and invite them please.

As soon as we’ve gotten everything set up, we’ll announce the date and time of the first Skypecast on the Google group and at KnoxBloggers.com.

An excellent meeting with a disappointing outcome

Victor Agreda did a fantastic job of sharing his experiences in monetizing his blog at tonight’s meeting of the Knoxbloggers group.  And he gave us several useful tips about how we might follow his lead and do the same with our blogs.  It was, to me, a very interesting meeting. 

A number of people expressed an interest in attending, but for some, prior commitments stood in the way.  This meeting generated a lot of interest, as you might imagine.  Perhaps second only to a topic like “sex” or the offer of free beer, few things capture people’s attention quite like the mention of making money.  If you missed this event folks, you really missed a worthwhile meeting. 

Because we had previously considered capturing the audio content of some of these meetings and because we had a specific request to do that for this meeting, Mike and I pooled our audio resources and set up our motley collection of equipment to capture tonight’s session for a podcast, or an audio blog post as I am calling them now.  I arrived at around 6:30 PM and conducted some preliminary tests so that we’d be assured that we could capture the audio adequately.  We had the room mic’ed very well, and the playback of our tests sounded quite good really.  If we needed to run the resulting audio, once captured, through a noise reduction filter or an expander to make sure the sound was loud enough or that there were no irritating extraneous noises, that would be no problem.  Post-processing for sound quality wouldn’t be half the problem that editing the almost 2 hours of material might prove to be.

We used Mike’s older, personal laptop and the trial copy of GoldWave to record the audio, and it performed beautifully in our tests.  We conducted three or four trials to make sure the recording levels were satisfactory.  And they were. 

But unfortunately, Murphy was also in attendance at tonight’s meeting. 

I asked for an intermission after about an hour or so, and saved the file in MP3 format.  That save took almost 15 minutes and resulted in an 82 Mb file, which was about one-tenth of what it would have been if I had saved it in *.wav format.  That intermission was a little longer than I had intended it to be, but everyone was understanding and eventually we got back to recording for another 50 or so minutes.  The second file proved to be 62 Mb once it was saved in MP3 format. 

Mike burned the two files to a CD so that I could bring them home with me and devote most of tomorrow to editing them down to the essence of what was said.  But after doing so, he decided to play one of them back.  What he heard was an audio file that sounded like it was a 78 rpm record played at 33 rpm speed, a slowed down version of the actual audio.  I was hopeful that when I got back home, I would be able to increase the speed so that it might actually be rescued.  Alas, it was not.  I could increase the speed and make it sound almost like the appropriate pitch, but there were gaps that made the content unintelligible. 

The problem, I realized after it was too late to do anything about it, was that I had failed to install the lame encoder in the GoldWave folder.  So when I saved the file as an MP3 file, the audio was distorted beyond recognition.  The error I made was that I failed to save one of our audio tests to see whether the saved file sounded as good as the playback of our tests when we listened to them. 

So once again, I am wiser as a result of this experience, but I am very disappointed that we did NOT capture the audio from tonight’s meeting, and therefore I am unable to share it with you in an audio blog post.  My apologies to all concerned, and especially to those of you who were depending upon being able to hear this recording.

“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” — Vernon Sanders Law

The best blog in the world

One of the websites that I follow through it’s RSS feed is Mediashift by Mark Glaser.  In yesterday’s entry, he reports that last Friday in Berlin he participated in the jury that selected the 15 Best Weblogs in the World for 2006, or “the BOBs” (Best of the Blogs), from among the 5,500 that had been nominated from all over the world.  His entry explains the various categories from which the winners were chosen and the difficulties attendant with doing so. The competition is sponsored by the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

The weblog that won the first place overall was Sunlight Foundation that was founded as a 501 (c)(3) educational organization in January of 2006.  This quote from their “about page” summarizes the essence of their mission:

The Sunlight Foundation was founded in January 2006 with the goal of using the revolutionary power of the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing, and thus help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy. We are unique in that technology and the power of the Internet are at the core of every one of our efforts.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the top blog was more than a one-person review of technology, a recounting of the events of someone’s daily life, a biased political rant with an idealogical ax to grind, or just a digital version of a vanity press for someone’s purple prose.  The top blog, it turns out, has a purpose that is actually worth achieving. 

Naturally, I have added Sunlight Foundation’s RSS feed to the list of feeds that I monitor daily.  Perhaps I’ll learn something about blogging from reading it.  And if not, perhaps I’ll just end up being a better-informed citizen.  Either way, I think I’ll benefit.

Bloglines

When I began using Firefox 2.0 as my browser the other day, I needed to replace Flock’s “My News” to keep track of the RSS feeds that I monitor.  I chose to subscribe to Bloglines.  It is “a FREE online service that helps you subscribe to and manage lots of web information, such as news feeds, weblogs and audio.  Bloglines tracks the information you’re interested in, retrieves new stuff as it happens, and organizes everything for you on your own personal web news page.”  (That quote is from their help file.)

This morning I’ve taken advantage of another of its features and created an additional blog called, “My reading list,” to which I post the links, and my comments about them, to the articles that I read each day and find worth posting. I would invite you, if you wish, to visit that link and see the things that in the past (say in the 1990’s) I might have sent out in an email to 100 or so of my closest friends with a recommendation that they “check it out.”  Now I don’t have to burden them with the extra email in their inbox, but if they are really interested, they can visit this page and see the things I find interesting.  In fact, they can even “subscribe” to the feed for that page so that they don’t even have to visit the page.

I would encourage you to check out Bloglines, as I’ve encouraged you before to check out RSS feeds.  It makes it much easier to keep track of what’s going on online using this strategy than it is to remember to visit 20 to 100 web pages each day.