My Favorite Technology Blogs and Podcasts

People often ask about my favorite technology blogs and podcasts, and I was inspired by the recent ReadWriteWeb post on a similar topic to do a post with a few of my favorites. These are in no particular order.

10 Favorite Tech Blogs:

10 Favorite Tech Podcasts:

Wow, it was hard to pick my favorites. Limiting to technology helped, since I could leave all of the NPR podcasts (love Science Friday), NYT, etc. The blogs were really hard, since I could choose from the 250 feeds in my reader.

What are your favorites?

Community Manager / Social Media Jobs are Still Hot

ReadWriteWeb’s Jobwire site has been keeping up with who is being hired, while many other sites are focused on layoffs and the downturn. It’s exciting to see them publish their numbers showing that people are still hiring community managers and social media specialists.

I’ve been seeing a similar trend anecdotaly, and so far at least, I’m still getting clients who want me to consult with them to help build online communities, new blogs, or improve their social media presence.

They have some other data available in their full post, which you should take the time to read. It’s just nice to see a little good news about people getting jobs now and then.

Using The Debugger: 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Video Demo

The debugger serves a couple of functions in Yahoo Pipes. The first one is pretty obvious – debugging. It allows you to see exactly what is happening in each component of your Yahoo Pipe to help with the debugging process when something isn’t working quite right.

The debugger also serves a less obvious purpose. You can use it to learn more about the elements of the rss feeds that you are using as input. For most blogs, the rss feeds are fairly standard, but other services store all kinds of useful information in their rss feeds in addition to standard elements like link, title, and date. The debugger can help you find this additional information in the feed.

More Details

  • The Demo Pipe. A copy of the Yahoo Pipes Debugger Demo Pipe. Click “View Source” to see the modules.
  • Fetch Feed Module. Contains 1 feed from Shizzow, which contains a wealth of location information within the feed.
  • Filter Module. Filters posts with a certain keyword out of the feed to demonstrate the debugger.
  • Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.
  • The demo also spends time using the debugger to explore various elements of the feed.

I’ve created many Yahoo Pipes, and most of them have been published on my Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks page where you can also learn more about my Yahoo Pipes Training courses.

Previous videos in the series:

Recent Links on Ma.gnolia

A few interesting things this week …

Twitter StreamGraphs

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TweetVolume : Home

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Great seeing @marshallK @cyborgcamp. U look so different w/o … on TwitPic

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Rick Turoczy on Studio on the Square | | News for Portland Oregon and SW Washington

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Online Community Building Manifesto

If you don’t already read Rich Millington’s blog, FeverBee, you should. He recently published an Online Community Building Manifesto (PDF link). He says:

There aren’t any answers in this manifesto. Instead it’s something better, it’s a call to change how we approach online communities.

It’s a short manifesto, and I encourage you to read it. What resonated the most with me was the focus on the social aspects of online communities. In my experience with community building, both within companies and with clients, companies find the software / technology to be the easy part. Installing a piece of software and getting it up and running is something companies do every day. Where they get tripped up is in the people portion of the online community equation: psychology, sociology, motivation, and other more social concerns.

Take a look at the manifesto, and send your comments to Rich. He’d love to have your feedback.

Trust and Corporate Blogging

I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking on this blog and in other places about what to do and what not to do with a corporate blog. Here’s a short summary:

  • Don’t regurgitate press releases. Do focus on content relevant to your industry
  • It’s not all about you. It is a conversation.
  • Don’t focus on marketing messages. Have a personal tone.
  • Make sure the blog doesn’t get stale. A content roadmap can help you stay on track.

This morning I read Josh Bernoff’s Forrester Report, Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas, which focused on whether or not people trust corporate blogs. I was not surprised by the finding that only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs trust them. I don’t usually trust press releases, which tend to tell one side of the story (the company’s side) always in the best possible light and sometimes with so much spin you can’t find the meat of the announcement. Too many corporate blogs seem like a series of press releases, and I don’t trust those blogs. However, there are also many excellent corporate blogs written by people that I do trust.

I tend to agree with Richard MacManus on ReadWriteWeb:

To the larger point of whether corporate blogs are trustworthy, it depends on so many things that it’s difficult to make a sweeping judgement. For example, I trust some Microsoft blogs more than others – depending on the person blogging and perhaps even the department they work for. It depends on the style of blogging, the content that’s published, the way the blog is promoted, and so on. (Quoted from ReadWriteWeb)

Based on the recommendations in the report, I suspect that Josh agrees with us:

Like any other marketing channel, blogging can work. But it’s not about you; it’s about your customer. Our rule of thumb is that if the person reading the blog says, “Sure I don’t trust corporate blogs, but I don’t think of your blog that way,” then you’re on the right track. (Quoted from Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas)

Josh includes a few tips for improving the trust on your blog (his article has a few more tips and a paragraph with more explanation on each one):

  • Blog about the customer’s problem.
  • Blog to your hordes of fans.
  • Blog about issues at the core of a community.
  • For B2B companies, get your employees in on the act.

(Quoted from Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas)

The real message here is that trust has to be earned. Trust has to be earned for each new corporate blog and each individual blogger. Jeremiah Owyang put together an informal checklist to help you evaluate your current company blog. A great corporate blog can be a trusted source of information, but it takes real work and diligence to get to that point.

How’s your corporate blog performing?

User Input: 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Video Demo

This video shows how to request a user input and use the keyword from the user as the filter in a Yahoo Pipe. If you haven’t already watched the 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Introductory Demo, I strongly suggest that you watch it. The user input demo starts with the simple pipe created in the introductory demo and changes the filters from keywords hardcoded in the introductory pipe to the keyword from the user input.

Podcast Feed and iTunes

More Details

  • The Demo Pipe. A copy of the User Input Demo Pipe click “View Source” to see the modules.
  • Fetch Feed Module. Contains 2 feeds: ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM.
  • Text Input Module. Leave Name and Position as the defaults. Prompt: “enter a keyword” or other instructions for the user. Default and Debug: “apple” in this example. You can generally use the same term for default and debug, but make sure that you use a word commonly found in your feeds that will generate enough volume for testing and will generate default results for your users to view.
  • Filter Module. Filter by the keyword entered in the user input module by connecting the text input to the filter module as seen in the demo.
  • Sort Module. Sort by date in descending order to make sure things are sorted in a logical manner.
  • Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.

I’ve created many Yahoo Pipes, and most of them have been published on my Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks page where you can also learn more about my Yahoo Pipes Training courses.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts

The Great Portland Interview Experiment: Lawduck Edition

I had the pleasure of interviewing J-P Voilleque aka @lawduck for the Great Portland Interview Experiment. In this version, I asked the questions, and JPV provided the answers. I was also interviewed for this experiment by Grant Kruger if you are interested.

The Lawduck Interview

Dawn: What is one thing about you that most of us don’t already know?

JPV: I’m an out of practice, but still quite decent, juggler. At one point I could juggle five balls – nowadays I’m lucky to get enough practice to be proficient with three. I also do a fair amount of balancing weird things on toe/finger/chin. Circus arts rule. JuggleCamp ’09 is now my dearest wish.

Dawn: I see you at quite a few tech events around town, which is a little unusual for Lawyer-types. What is it about the Portland tech scene or technology in general that has you so involved in the technology scene?

JPV: By pure dumb luck I stumbled across Twitter, the Silicon Florist blog, and the inaugural Ignite Portland call for talk submissions all at once. I had left my job in litigation (because being a traditional attorney sucks) and was looking for new stuff to do. And I had a bee in my bonnet about law firm data management practices (still do), so I submitted that idea as an Ignite talk. Didn’t make it but attended the event and had an amazing evening.

That combination of convivial spirit mixed with deep geekiness was pretty much it for me. I love the energy, the entrepreneurship, and the open spirit of this group of people. Also, now that I’m doing web shenanigans and product development for EASCI, I have tangible reasons to hang out with people who are smarter than me.

Dawn: I saw this tweet from you on 11/13: “Torn between being happy that I was there to witness the 10,000th shout (@neophiliac) and being pissed that I didn’t shout before him.” How do you really feel about being a witness to the 10,000th shout on Shizzow?

JPV: That pretty much sums it up. :) I think it’s great that Shizzow is gaining that kind of traction. Kurt and I both expected someone to show up with flowers and biscuits, though. So I guess you could add “irritated that I didn’t get a free biscuit for being near @neophiliac at the time.”

Alex H Williams and I were discussing today the awesomeness that is geolocation, and I also recently told Marshall K that we all need to be leveraging Shizzow, IceCondor, whatever, to urban letterbox and/or ARG-ify Portland haunts. Because hot damn, that would be nifty.

Dawn: I hear that you are doing Nanowrimo this year. How is the novel coming along, and what can you tell us about it?

JPV: Nanowrimo ate lots of turkey and went to bed at about 43,000 words. The book, however, is totally going to get completed as I have time over the next few months. It was intensely liberating to realize that I could get that much production out of the time I was already awake. It killed my efforts to complete Etrian Odyssey II on the Nintendo DS, but I consider writing a freaking book to be a fair trade-off. I expect it’ll take about 80K words to get to the end of the story, so next year I might need to pick a slightly less involved storyline.

The book is about a first year law student who goes to work for a solo practitioner, only to discover that he is actually a lawyer for mythical creatures, largely within the jurisdiction of Faerie. It’s a bit Harvey Birdman, a bit Terry Pratchett, and a bunch of other stuff. N.B. – the plural noun for “dragons” is “a rage.”

Dawn: If you could be any kitchen appliance, which one would you be and why?

JPV: The Braun Multimix is the single most profoundly useful kitchen gadget in the universe. It has a small (mini-prep sized) food processer attachment, an immersion blender, dough screws, and regular old mixer beaters. I like it because it can do a lot of stuff reasonably well, but still fit into a small space. Because I like to style myself as something of a jack of all trades, I think I’d take the Multimix.

Dawn: In early October, you mentioned that you were going to make the move to WordPress at the urging of @camikaos, but I’m still seeing a Blogger blog. Have you made any progress and are there any hurdles that our blog readers could help you get through?

JPV: I stalled long enough on these questions that this is no longer a problem :) is up and running on WP, although now that it’s installed I’ve yet to tinker with all the gobsmackingly awesome stuff that can be added in. I really like the agregado theme, though – it’s one of Smashing Magazine’s free themes and is optimized to incorporate microformat and other social media updates (flickr, goodreads, all the usual suspects) in a lifestreaming sidebar.

Dawn: Can you tell us more about the breakfast tweetups? I would also like to selfishly know when you plan to bring the Tweetup to the Cup & Saucer on Hawthorne (hint, hint).

The breakfast tweetups are the brainchild of Don Park, Amber Case, Bram Pitoyo, and others, and I barged my way in and formalized things because I love me some breakfast. It is my absolute favorite meal. The current plan is to hold them twice a month, alternating sides of the river. The breakfast survey got some great recommendations for restaurants, as well as a lot of good feedback on what people wanted out of a breakfast tweetup. Basically, we the people want loose, enjoyable, egg-filled mornings. The conversations thus far have been really cool and intriguing.

Cup and Saucer is definitely on the list. The thing about breakfast places is that they are rare and sacred jewels in the landscape of restaurants. Ostensibly good ones (I’m looking at you, bijou) usually have nothing on the neighborhood secrets like Cup and Saucer, or (before they stopped serving breakfast) the Leaky Roof. In San Francisco there’s this place in SoMa called Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery. They have the best scones on the planet, and amazing other stuff. If I had one chance to visit a restaurant in San Francisco, it would be there. Not J’ardiniere or Fifth Floor or Gary Danko or any of the new ones that have undoubtedly sprung up, not Chapeau or Firecracker or Slanted Door or any of the other amazing niche cuisine places. Town’s End. And then I’d barge into LookSmart and ask them what the hell happened to my Weapons Proliferation categories.

Dawn: What is it about coconut milk that makes it so good for soup?

JPV: That was actually my first stab at coconut milk, for a spicy curry broth with poached fish and all kinds of good stuff. The coconut milk made a great, rich contrast to the heat of the soup, and also helped mitigate the fishiness of some of the other stock ingredients. Clam juice is great and all, but requires supervision. Coconut milk fits the bill.

I recently learned that water from young coconuts (I guess it’s not officially milk until the coconut is ripe?) kicks the crap out of gatorade and other hydration technologies. It certainly tastes great. An ideal mixer for something mojito-esque. Will publish results.

Dawn: What are your all time favorite books?

JPV: Oh, snap. This is an unfair question at the best of times, but I’ve recently been reading some amazing works, so it’s just that extra bit harder to answer. In no particular order, things that come to mind:

The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Harmonium by Wallace Stevens
The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
Tribes by Seth Godin
The Chet Gecko, Private Eye series (children’s books, reading w/ Claire)
The Zurich 1953 International Tournament by David Bronstein (chess)
The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Generally, authors I will always read include:

Neil Gaiman, Simon Green, Jim Butcher, China Miéville, Kage Baker, Laurie R. King, Neal Stephenson, Jeff Vandermeer, Michael Hoeye (local!), Tom Robbins, Will Thomas, probably others I’m forgetting

Malcolm Gladwell, Henry Giroux, Cornell West, bell hooks, Paul Ricouer, Delmore Schwarz, Helen Vendler, Marcus Buckingham, Jamie Oliver, anything from former U of O debate team members, and probably another metric ton of people I’m forgetting

Dawn: Let’s end with a few fun facts about @lawduck. What makes you a fun guy to hang out with, and not just another stuffy lawyer dude?

JPV: For starters, I think the practice of law is a racket and that firms need to be pushed off the cliff. Law school needs to be cut down to two years with a subsequent “third year” of practicum in public service positions or in partnership with firms willing to commit to mentorship and high standards of work assigned to apprentices. No one should ever be allowed to challenge a bar, and we need to attract more policy wonks into western mid-range schools so that we actually have state senators and representatives that know what the heck they’re talking about. None of these are fun facts, but they do effectively eliminate “stuffy lawyer dude.”

Others: I play guitar and (to a lesser extent) drums, ukulele and harmonica. I have strong opinions about practically everything but tend to mock myself for having them. I designed a t-shirt that made Amber Case simultaneously laugh and recoil in terror. Extreme Arts and Sciences does awesome and cool things and I’m increasingly getting to play mad scientist, so hanging out with me could generate interesting interactivity moments. I absolutely love tabletop gaming of all types. I *think* I know the difference between seeking the funny and trying to be funny.

It’s not too late for you to participate in the Great Portland Interview Project!

Online Community Culture Research

Yet another great research report coming from Bill Johnston of ForumOne. The topic of his latest report is Online Community Culture. 75 people participated in the study, so the sample size is fairly small, but is what you would expect from a niche survey of people managing online communities.

The study found that the most important factors in establishing and maintaining a community’s culture include:

  • Quality, up-to-date content
  • Clear objective / value statement
  • Strong moderation / facilitation

My past experience managing communities leads me to agree wholeheartedly with the findings that these three factors are critical for having a healthy community culture.

  • Communities without great, relevant content tend to wither away as participants decide to spend their valuable time in communities with higher quality content. The culture gradually disintegrates as key people leave. When I have spent some extra time creating content and encouraging other people to create great content, the community activity levels and culture seemed to show improvement.
  • A clear objective / value statement for the community keeps everyone working toward the same goal. My worst experience managing communities came from an environment where there was disagreement among the top management at the company about the value and objectives for the community. It was impossible to build a community culture without a clear objective / value statement.
  • Strong moderation / facilitation helps keep the community clean and on track. Members don’t want a community full of spam or other worthless content.

I encourage you to read the entire blog post about the Online Community Culture report (or the entire report if you are one of the lucky people with a subscription). The blog contains additional data points, quotes from the survey comments, and a great analysis near the end of the post.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Yahoo Pipes Video: 2 Minute Quick Vanity Feed Demo

If you haven’t already watched my 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Introductory Demo, you might want to back up and start by watching it. This quick vanity feed demo builds on the concepts learned in the introduction with a practical example of how to create a quick and dirty vanity feed using Yahoo Pipes. Let me start by saying that this is a quick and easy way to create a vanity feed, but it isn’t the most elegant solution, since it has limited configuration options. However, that would be a much longer demo, and I wanted to have something that you can get started with quickly.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a vanity feed is where you search for mentions of your name, your company’s name, your products, your website and other mentions related to what people are saying about you online. In this example, we are using Gartner Research and assuming that the person building this pipe works at Gartner and wants to better understand what people are saying about the company online.

More Details

  • The Demo Pipe. A copy of the Quick Vanity Feed Demo pipe.
  • Example. We are using Gartner Research as our example company throughout this demo.
  • Fetch Feed Module. Contains 3 preconfigured searches using various sites. You can enter your search on any search engine that allows RSS feed output. Grab the RSS feed from your search and place it in the Fetch Feed module.
  • Unique Module. Use this to prevent duplicate results when multiple search engines return the same articles by filtering on
  • Filter Module. Filter out any unwanted results based on item links, keywords, or any other criteria. After watching your feed for a few days, you will start to see things you want to filter out even if you can’t think of any now.
  • Sort Module. Sort by date in descending order to make sure things are sorted in a logical manner.
  • Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.

I’ve created many Yahoo Pipes, and most of them have been published on my Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks page where you can also learn more about my Yahoo Pipes Training courses.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts