Monthly Archives: February 2009

Three days, three tweetups

I wonder how many consecutive days I’d have to go to tweetups before it became a Guinness world record. I’m on day two of a three-day tweetup tour (perhaps I should make T-shirts). Last night Lowcountry bloggers met up at The Glass Onion on Highway 17 in West Ashley. (Check out the Brightkite stream.) The food at this self-described “soulful restaurant” was fantastic and enjoyable. The staff were among the best we’ve had for a meetup and the beer selection was great, too. I’ll definitely be back. Eugene and Heather have photos and recaps.

Tonight, Lowcountry BBQ takes its tour of BBQ joints to JB’s Smokeshack on Johns Island. I really, really enjoy the BBQ “meatups” for obvious reasons. :) Tomorrow night, bloggers and tweeters will be at a Stingrays hockey game (in some incredible seats, if I do say so myself). The ice will be pink for that game to support cancer research — that’ll be a first for me. :)

I definitely enjoy these local events — it’s always fun to hang out with online friends offline, and if you’re local and haven’t been to any of our meetups yet, I really recommend it. We’ve got really cool people in the Charleston Twitter/blogosphere. :)

New beginnings for charlestonwx.com

One of my focus areas in the early parts of this year has been to extract some of my side projects, such as Serious Business and Charleston Weather, out from under jaredwsmith.com so that I could give them some room to breathe and take on lives of their own. This process has largely been completed for Serious Business, as I was able to move it to a Tumblr site (which has worked well so far). Establishing Serious Business with its own branded site and Twitter account have been useful in forming a stable audience.

Now that Serious Business is done, it’s time to give my weather efforts the same treatment. The work on that started very, very early this morning, culminating in a somewhat buggy rough draft of the beginnings of a brand new Charleston Weather site at charlestonwx.com. Continue reading

Facebook Reverts TOS (Temporarily)

Saw this on top of my Facebook homepage this morning:

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of good feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

It’s the prudent thing for Facebook to do while they weigh the ramifications of the terms. Kudos to them for recognizing a mistake and taking steps to fix it.

WCBD’s Social Media Push

WCBD, Charleston’s NBC affiliate, is launching a huge push into social media today by getting a majority of its news staff on Twitter. This is huge — I can’t say I’ve seen too many news agencies place a majority of their staff out into the wild amongst the Twitter-using public. Everybody from the anchors to the photogs is on and listening. Just today I was having a converation with morning anchor Brad Franko during the A-Rod (A-Roid?) press conference. WCBD’s had a presence on Twitter for a while, starting with producer Raymond Owens. Raymond was the first of the television journalists — and among the first of the journalists in Charleston in general — to make news a conversation over Twitter. That struck me. I was particularly pleased when chief meteorologist Rob Fowler joined up later, and gradually more and more folks at the channel started to tweet. I still think one of the marvels of Twitter is how it brings the people together with the media; with media listening in on what people are talking about over Twitter, it helps them serve our interests that much more effectively.

So, with that in mind, I’ve put together a few things that WCBD — and other news organizations tempted to take the social media plunge — should give a shot. Continue reading

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

It’d been a while since there was a good Facebook controversy, but there was plenty of chatter on the Twitters in response to a Consumerist article that brought a revision to the Facebook TOS to the forefront. I’m not going to rehash the intimate details here, but here’s the gist: When you upload something to Facebook, you give them a license to use it in a lot of different ways. Previously, the license would expire if you terminate your account; this revision removes that expiration-upon-termination provision. So, there’s uproar. Mark Zuckerberg once again plays firefighter and says that the TOS change was due to the way Facebook stores data; he likens it to e-mail. I personally think that their licensing provisions are way over-reaching and do need some narrowing and further clarification. This point I will not dispute. There are legitimate concerns for anybody who uses Facebook for anything resembling serious business; lots of businesses with Facebook Fan Pages definitely have reason to be skeptical. Even folks like myself who use Facebook as more of an aggregator should still be troubled by these changes, according to Jacobson Attorneys.

Certainly, it’s another round of Facebook Fail because these changes simply need to be communicated more clearly. This is a company that routinely finds itself in damage control mode about once every four months, whether it be design changes, Beacon, or now this TOS change. Certainly we’ve seen that Facebook has not completely learned its lesson in good communications with its user base; this in turn leads to a reputation of being kind of shady (which was really cemented with the Beacon incident). Facebook’s also the poster child for “walled garden” — thus, something like this will (rightfully) raise the ire of folks who care deeply about the ownership over their own data.

So, content creators are left with a tough call: Spend time and money on self-hosting — including the technical requirements, promotional materials, and the time getting content into their own system, or use a platform like Facebook to publish faster, with all the technical handiwork in place, but with the understanding that in return for these services that the content creator is likely to surrender some of their rights and have to play by the service’s rules. The best strategy for a content creator is a hybrid: Use Facebook to draw people to their content hosted off-site.

Why would anybody do anything resembling serious business besides promotion on Facebook directly, anyway? If one is serious about content creation, they always host the good stuff within their own domain, knowing full well that the copyright statement on the bottom reads “Facebook” and not their name. Facebook has been so clear that they use the data submitted to their site in a variety of ways. For example, have you seen Lexicon? It searches an index of Facebook walls to track the frequency of a term throughout the social network. Here’s a hint: They weren’t really interested in investing a lot of time in building a tool that could track how many times someone said “thunder” on a Facebook wall simply for an engineer’s pleasure and amusement. Really, this should come as a surprise to nobody who’s serious about the ownership of their content. Call it a case of blind idealism, but I’d like to think that people who are dead serious about their content do due diligence before they start spreading it in new locations. And if they don’t, maybe this is a call to bring some of that practice back? Tough to say. There’s a lesson to be learned here, though: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s all give and take; for the convenience and access to the vast Facebook network, there’s a sacrifice involved. Do I like the level of sacrifice? I’m not a fan of it, and I suspect most businesses won’t be, either. But that’s how it is on any service, not just Facebook. These issues have to be considered carefully in this cloud computing boom time.

To their credit, Facebook is taking feedback about the changes. They don’t have to do this, but they are, and that’s a sign that they’re at the very least trying to listen and allay concerns. It’s a good PR move — now, the question is, will they follow through? On issues of privacy and openness, history’s shown that they have been extremely attentive to concerns and acted on them. I have a feeling the TOS will see another tweak before it’s over — stay tuned.

Update: Here’s an absolutely damning comparison of Facebook’s TOS versus Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. (Hat tip to @mashable.)

Anatomy of a WordPress Hack

So I’ll set the scene for you:

Disgruntled College of Charleston fan, home after witnessing a loss to Elon of all teams, wants to sit down, sip on some Gatorade, and work on his Facebook “25 Random Things” meme post because seven of his friends have now tagged him and he just wants to END IT (and terrorize additional people with said meme).

So, he sits down and begins writing his post, when he wants to refer to a post on his blog for some of the answers. He finds a strange white space in his layout that makes zero sense whatsoever. He goes and checks the source code…and OMG. Keywords. Lots and lots of keywords. Viagra, tablets, medicine — you name it, it was there. Site: Compromised.

Oh, and that guy? That was me. Continue reading

Shakeup

Update: I completed the move last night (as you probably guessed by how much faster the site’s running). You shouldn’t find any breakages but if you do, let me know.

Access to jaredwsmith.com will be intermittent through the weekend as I’m transitioning over to MediaTemple for this and a couple other projects. I’ll discuss the whys of it at a later date (if you follow me on Twitter, you know why). The move will make things a bit hiccupy here as the transition is made, but once it’s done, performance should be a LOT better.

Thanks for reading, as always. :)

Super Bowl XLIII: Close, but no cigar

My Super Bowl prediction:

I think I take Arizona in a colossal upset, which means the Steelers will likely win because I haven’t given them a chance all postseason.

Boy, was I close. Super Bowl XLIII was a great one. And while the Cardinals were a Santonio Holmes tiptoe short of what would have ranked among the most shocking upsets in Super Bowl history, they gave the Steelers one hell of a ride, especially in the second half. Arizona has nothing to be ashamed about in their performance, and they definitely played as if they belonged there. But in the end, Pittsburgh carried the day. Was great to see Ben Roethlisberger play well in this SB this time — I bet he feels a lot better about this ring than he did his first one.

Congratulations to Mike Tomlin — the youngest coach to ever win a Super Bowl — and the Steelers. And now, on to baseball season!

Super Bowl Sunday

For the 43rd time, America is celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, an unofficial holiday of junk food, television marketing excess, the existence of Roman numerals, and football (or is it handegg?). And, for the 22nd time in my life, I have very little emotional investment in the game. Oh, sure, I’ve faked it before: I was rooting hard for the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, but that never worked out. The Super Bowl was first serious business in The Smith Household when Stan-The-Man Humphries sent the San Diego Super Chargers up against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX, during which Steve Young and Jerry Rice made history by turning an NFL team into meatwaffles for the first time. The other time, of course, is when the Carolina Panthers had their hearts broken by Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, which was also a historic Super Bowl because no other game so far has had as many letters in its Roman numeral.

So today we get the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers are looking to start blinging out their other hand, while the Cardinals are benefiting from Kurt Warner’s innate ability to somehow will really bad franchises to victory. Of course, when I think of the Cardinals, I’m always reminded of Denny Green:

So who wins? The smart money says the Steelers, but the Cardinals have beaten the smart money three games in a row now. The stage has gotten bigger and the Cardinals have proven that the stage is not bigger than they are so far. Both teams are playing their best football right now, too — I suspect this game has the potential to be much better than most people expect. Prediction? I’m really on the fence here. I think I take Arizona in a colossal upset, which means the Steelers will likely win because I haven’t given them a chance all postseason. (One does have to wonder what the week off does to Arizona’s momentum, after all.) Enjoy the game, folks!