Welcome back, Woopra!

At BlogWorldExpo a few years back I was blown away by one of the tracking / analytics packages on display called Woopra. A few months later I invited Lorelle to WordCamp Las Vegas where she did a demo of the software and gave out private-beta invites out to everybody in attendance. The demo was amazing and I could not wait to get it running on my site. I rushed home and installed it. For as awesome as the demo was, I just wasn’t that impressed with the product as I started using it myself. The desktop software constantly gave me trouble and combined with the fact that I wasn’t getting a heck of a lot of traffic to my site anyway, Woopra just wasn’t something I needed.

Yesterday, a client was asking for a way to track how people were interacting with his site, what pages they were going to, where they were coming from, etc. I remembered Woopra and had him set it up. Assuming he may need a little guidance, I added Woopra to a couple of my sites as well and downloaded the latest version of the desktop app.

Getting Started
Adding sites to be tracked is really simple; type in the URL, select a time zone and which pricing plan you need for the site and click Add Website! You are then given a chunk of javascript code that you need to add to the footer of your websites. Once that’s added, you’re done.

The Software
What a difference 14 months makes. The latest version of the software is so much quicker than I remember. Clicking between reports is virtually instant. The dashboard gives you a quick overview of your site’s activity for the day. Top pages, referrers, latest search queries, keywords and countries. While somebody is actively looking at your site, clicking the ‘Live’ button will show you a bunch of information about that visitor. Where they are viewing from, what pages they are looking at, what browser/OS they use, etc.

The Reports
When you first click the analytics page it shows you information about your visitors. The default page is a day by day view of unique visitors, visits, page views and average time spent per page. From there you can click to see countries, cities, bounce rate, visit duration. The top row of buttons lets you switch between types of information like Visitors, Systems, Pages, Referrers, Searches and a tab that lets you create a custom analysis (which I haven’t played with yet). Each of these main tabs has several sub-tabs that let you slice and dice your data and really helps you learn more than you may ever have wanted to know about your website.

There is also a calendar view that provides a month to date total, breakdowns by week, by day of week and by day all on one screen without the data feeling cluttered. Each of the boxes on the screen also shows you a bar graph of the traffic on a per-hour basis. It’s not something I’d use for any in-depth analysis, but it’s pretty interesting.

The Bells and Whistles
The first thing I noticed was that when I was visiting my own site, it was recording my stats. I immediately went looking for the way to block my IP from being recorded. I didn’t have to look too far. Under the Manage tab is a link called Exclude Visits. From the dropdown you choose Visitor IP, type in your IP and click Exclude. No more traffic from your IP will be recorded in the stats. This is really helpful so you don’t skew your data. Especially if you, like me, visit your site on a pretty regular basis. (if you don’t know how to find your own IP, head over to WhatIsMyIP.com and it will tell you.)

There is also a notifications engine that is really easy to get set up. Click the Create a new Event Notification button and you are presented with a wizard that will walk you through adding a notification for just about anything you could think of having to do with your site. You can base it on specific country, referrer, page title contains, downloaded a file, clicked an external link, browser, screen res, etc, etc, etc… You can have it play a sound or a pop up notification when your criteria is met. I’m not using this at the moment, but I could see it being pretty handy for people who want to know when somebody downloads an ebook or makes a purchase or something like that.

In Conclusion
If you are looking for an easy way to learn a boatload about your site’s visitors, Woopra is a great place to start! The free version is going to be sufficient for most sites tracking up to 30,000 page views per month. The free version of Woopra has a skyscraper banner ad along the right hand side. The flashing banner I find distracting. Come to think of it, this is a brilliant sale’s tool on their part as I’ll probably move up to the lowest tier pay service just to get rid of the ad!

I’ve heard there’s an iPhone app in the works for Woopra. Hopefully an iPad version will be right on it’s heels. Being able to check stats from anywhere would be awesome.

I’m glad I ended up trying Woopra again. I’m big fan of stats and love seeing how people find my site. There is a ton of information to be had. With a little effort, you could use the information in Woopra to better target your ads. If you aren’t looking to drive traffic through ads, just knowing what people are looking at on your blog can help you decide what topics you should be writing more about.

Try out Woopra and then come back and let me know what you thought.

[update] I just found a Woopra WordPress plugin. If you aren’t comfortable adding the javascript yourself, this would be a really easy way of getting going!

Some thoughts on Google Wave

Last year when I first saw the Google Wave developer’s preview video from Google I/O, I was absolutely blown away. I could not wait to get myself an invite so I could get in there and start mucking about. Finally, I got my invite, signed up and logged on in. This is going to be awesome!!

When I first logged in I made a couple of new Waves to share some information with the handful of people I knew who also had Wave accounts. But really, none of these were all that useful. We were just testing it out and trying to figure out what we could do with it. In those early days, the answer was “Not Much”, but that was partially due to the lack of other people already on there using it. Once again, the curse of being an early adopter.

I wasn’t ready to write of Wave just yet. I remember when Gmail first came out, it definitely wasn’t feature-rich. I saw no real reason to dump my other email accounts or email clients in order to use Gmail. But, it didn’t take very long for that to change. I was fully expecting Wave to follow the same sort of curve.

Fast forward a year. Tons of people have Wave accounts now. My contact list in Wave has grown substantially. And still, I only have about 20 waves in my account. Let me break down the content of those Waves:
– “How does this work / Testing” – 6 Waves
– “Let’s get this wave started” – 2 Waves with a combined total of 5 messages
– “groups of friends talking about a specific topic/event” – 3 Waves
– “Client projects” – 7 Waves, 5 of which have 1 or 2 messages only
– The rest of the them are completely random or empty Waves that I haven’t bothered deleting.

Only the groups of friends and client projects Waves have any value at all, so let’s break those down.

Groups of friends talking about a specific topic/event
When I was thinking how Wave would be used outside of a business setting, it seemed to me that if you were planning an event with a group of friends, Wave would be a great place to do it. Everybody could add their thoughts on locations, activities, travel arrangements, etc. Then, when it was all said and done, the Wave would be great for adding your photos to share with the group. In theory, this plan rocks! In practice, not so much.

Here is how those 3 waves break down:
Wave #1
7 members, 1 message, zero replies

Wave #2
9 members, 10 messages
Of those 10 messages, half pertain to the actual planning of the event. The other half are completely random.

Wave #3
22 members, 38 messages (covering roughly 2 months)
When I saw this one in the list and was ready to review it I thought, “Sweet, 38 messages! Now we’re talking!” But, again roughly half the messages pertain to the topic. However, the messages that were on topic had some real value. One post included an embedded Map showing the location for an event, and another had an embedded menu from a potential event location. This Wave has potential for being pretty useful. Unfortunately it hasn’t been touched in nearly 5 months.

What I’ve noticed most with non-business Waves is that people tend to leave messages as if they were chatting on Instant Messenger. Posts that just say “Nice” or “Yay” make for a cluttered Wave. The other issue being, Wave isn’t exactly a household product yet. And, even if your friends have an account, it’s unlikely that they are logging in to Wave on a regular basis so it’s very easy for a Wave to go stale.

In my opinion, all 3 of these Waves would have been better served as Facebook groups or events. Obviously there are a lot more people using Facebook on a daily basis than using Wave, so the chance that people would see updates and be reminded to update would be that much greater. For this type of Wave, out of sight = out of mind and that is bad news for Wave.

Client Projects
I think this is where the bread and butter is for Google Wave. The ability to post and track project information, updates, examples, progress, thoughts and whatever else about a client’s project, it would seem the perfect fit. But from my (albeit limited) experience, once again, not so much.

Of the 7 Waves dealing with client projects, 5 are from the same guy. He is really trying to make Wave work. I’d really be interested in seeing a post from him on his view of Google Wave, and if he does, I’ll be sure to link it here.

The client related Waves fall in to two categories; Initial information only and active projects.

In the initial information only Waves, they start off with a description of the project and sometimes they include an attached file containing assets for the project. The idea being, if/when the project gets kicked off, there’s one location to go and locate what you need. Again, in theory, this is brilliant. Unfortunately, what I’m finding is that more often than not, finding the information for this project is taking me twice as long because when I need the information, I follow my normal course of action; open my email client and search, not find what I’m looking for, remember that it’s in Wave, go get the info.

My experience with an active project is a little different. By the time I got involved with the project, there were already 50+ messages in the Wave. A large number of those are already taken care of and are completely irrelevant to me. So, to find what I’m looking for I either need to re-watch the entire Wave (the playback option is really a cool feature), or, I need to have somebody create a “current status” post inside the Wave. So, I either need to spend time sifting through historical data, or, I need somebody familiar with the project write me a “current status” update. If that’s the case, how is that more useful than having somebody just send me that data via email?

Google Wave, as a project manager, suffers from the same “Garbage in/Garbage out” issue. If you don’t have people who are actively updating the project management tool (be that Wave or BaseCamp or even a simple email), then it just isn’t going to be useful anyway.

With Wave, all the information was basically one long page. This made finding specific information in the project time consuming. Looking through Wave I seed that there is a Task Tracking Wave type. This wasn’t used for the project I’m dealing with, so this is likely a big part of the frustration I’m having with Wave. Using the tool the right way would probably help out a bunch. But, when you are joining something that’s already in progress, that’s not exactly an option. Not exactly Wave’s fault there, but does point out that people aren’t familiar enough with Wave to know how to use it correctly for the type of Wave they are starting.

My overall take on Google Wave is that it just hasn’t reached a maturity level and saturation level sufficient to make it a really useful tool. Of course, for it to reach that level it’s going to take using it on a regular basis. I’m not a big fan of the interface and none of my experiences with Wave to this point have been positive. Add this up and it makes it unlikely that I’ll use it often enough to get over that hurdle.

Sorry Google, I’m going to just have to take a pass on Google Wave. For now, anyway.

ipad

One month with the iPad

ipad In the month leading up to the iPad release, I was on the fence about picking one up. There was no question that I wanted one. A friend pointed out that since the iPad wouldn’t support Flash, the ability to watch videos on sites like hulu.com and more importantly, Netflix, well, that was a bit of a showstopper for me. That all changed when Netflix announced they had developed an iPad app. Game On!

I picked up my iPad the second day they were out. I had already made the decision that I wasn’t going to get the 3G version since I believe that I’ll use it mainly around the house. Plus, I already have a Clear wireless account, so picking up a Clear Spot would give me wireless access anywhere around town.

So, after a month of owning it, here are my thoughts on the iPad.

Initial Setup

When I first got the device home I immediately plugged it in and told it to sync everything; contacts, music, videos, photos… I have over 16GB of music, so the initial setup took quite a while. Actually, from what I recall, it took roughly twice as long as when I set up my iPhone syncing roughly the same amount of data. Now, that could just be a perception thing because while it was syncing, I was dying to play with it.

Since I have been an iPhone user for a few years now, it takes zero time to get used to the controls. I found the settings app, turned on the WiFi and connected to my home network in a matter of seconds. I heard that some people had issues with their WiFi, but not me. As soon as I was connected I loaded up Safari and checked out my sites to see how they displayed on the iPad. The pages loaded fast and they looked great.

Initial Reaction

Damn, that’s a good looking screen! Seriously, you have to hand it to Apple, they make gorgeous displays! The screen is big, bright and beautiful.

iPhone Apps on the iPad

During my initial sync I included all my iPhone apps. I’m not 100% certain that they ALL worked on the iPad, but during the first week I tried using several and there wasn’t any technical issues that I ran in to. However, apps designed for the iPhone would load up in an iPhone sized box in the middle of the iPad. There is an “X2” button on the window that would resize the app to take up more of the iPad screen. The result was usually a pixilated version of the app. The iPhone apps lasted 3 days on my iPad before deleting them all. I’d rather wait for for an iPad version of the app to come out.

iPad Apps

The first thing I noticed when searching for iPad apps, there just aren’t that many of them (yet). This is just an Early Adopter’s Tax. There are more apps being released every day, so it’s just a matter of time before that issue is taken care of. I also noticed that iPad apps are a tad bit more expensive.

Here are some of the apps that I’m loving so far:

Netflix – Search, click, wait 30 seconds, watch. This app is awesome. Since this was the app that caused me to buy the iPad, I’m happy to report that I LOVE this app.

Kindle – I’ve already completed 1 book and am half way through a second. Buying books through Amazon and having them delivered to the Kindle app is dead simple! Something really cool happened earlier this week, I had pre-ordered a book in Kindle format. It had automatically synced to my account the day it came out. Brilliant.

Twitterific – I was initially bummed to find that there isn’t a Tweetie app for the iPad (yet), Twitterific is a pretty solid substitute in the interim. Holding the iPad sideways you get a nice menu down the left that lets you get to your DMs, Replies, searches and lists really easily.

ABC Player – Much like the Netflix app, being able to instantly watch shows (like LOST) is awesome.

Penultimate – This is a pretty handy little app for scribbling notes at a conference, eliminating the need for pen/paper. Though, I think I need to find a stylus if I plan on taking a bunch of notes.

… and finally, the games: Words with Friends, Angry Birds, Pinball and Plants vs Zombies. The first three are games I was addicted to on the iPhone. The iPad versions of each are all just visually stunning. P vs Z is something I hadn’t played before, but am now HOOKED! There’s no question that the iPad is going to be an amazing gaming device for years to come!

The Keyboard

At no time do I ever see myself being able to “touch type” with the iPad. First off, I use a Dvorak keyboard, but second, there just isn’t any tactile response to it. I’m fairly proficient using my own version of a hunt-and-peck, and I assume that will just get better over time. I just picked up a Logitech diNovo Mini wireless Bluetooth keyboard. My initial tests using that are very promising.

What Can’t It Do?

So far there have only been two times where I wasn’t able to do something I wanted to do using the iPad. Both times it was related to using Flash in a browser. While it was a tad-bit annoying, honestly it’s not something I’m going to lose sleep over. It won’t be long before site developers are looking at their Flash elements and seeing what they can do to provide an iPad compatible version in it’s place.

Summary

The iPad isn’t for everybody. The naysayers like to point out that it’s an overgrown iPhone with no camera or phone. That’s fine. It’s going to take some time before the Killer Apps start showing up that really separate the iPad from the iPhone, but in time you’ll see. These really are two different devices with two different functions.

There hasn’t been a day since purchasing the iPad that I haven’t used it at least once. It’s nice to be able to read in bed without needing a light on. Watching a movie on an airplane or sitting on the couch and browsing the web or answering emails or Twitter or playing Plants vs Zombies… In short, I love it!

What I want from the iPad

ipad Yesterday I had lunch with a friend and we got in to a discussion about the upcoming Apple iPad. He considers it to be an expensive toy while I see it as something that could become the command center for your entire house. He was quick to point out that as great as my idea may sound, that’s not the types of applications that are currently being developed. While I can’t entirely disagree with him, I’d like to point out that when gMail first hit the street, there was plenty of talk about how little functionality it had.

I won’t lie, I’m strongly considering getting an iPad. But before I do, I think it’s smart to consider a few questions before dropping the cash;

  • Is it just a fancy toy?
  • Am I just an Apple FanBoy who has to have the new shiny gadget?
  • What do I expect to use it for?

I can pretty easily answer ‘no’ to the first two questions, but it’s that third question that gets me. What DO I expect to use it for? Well, let’s see…

The Ultimate Universal Remote
Remember the Logitech Harmony remote control? You plug it in to your computer, set up a profile with all the electronics you own, download the codes to your remote and you now had buttons for “Watch TV”, “Watch a DVD”, “Play XBox Games”, etc. Well, let’s take that to the next level. Imagine a central online database of all electronic devices with an IR receiver. Menu driven selections for picking your TV brand, then model, type in the first couple letters of the model number and an auto-complete list of matches shows up for you to select from. Once all your devices are stored, control them through a simple graphic interface. TV, Stereo, lights, disco ball… anything with a remote should be in there.

Yeah, I know this isn’t going to happen immediately. But tell me that wouldn’t be a kick-ass app.

Mobile Movies
I am currently loving my Netflix subscription and the ability to stream movies directly to my TV through my xBox. But there are definitely times when being able to watch a movie away from the house would be freakin’ sweet. For example, my recent 7 hour layover at an airport in Dallas. iPad + headphones + internet connection = a way less stressed traveler. Of course it would also be nice to download movies to it for watching in spots with no internet access.

Yeah, I know I could watch movies on my iPhone. But tell me it wouldn’t be nicer to watch them on a decent sized screen without having to lug around a laptop.

Web Browsing on the Couch
My Google Reader account usually hovers at about 500 articles to read. Kicking back on the couch and scrolling through some of the many RSS feeds and getting caught up on news and blogs sounds pretty great to me. “You could do that on your iPhone”, you say. I could, but honestly, the screen size on the iPhone keeps me from using it for reading any more than I absolutely have to.

Writing/Reading Emails
This could really fall in to the previous category, I know. But, when listing activities I would use it for, this one is a biggie. I read a fair amount of emails from my iPhone already. I think the extra screen real estate on the iPad would be very helpful. Plus, I’ve heard that the iPad will support the Dvorak keyboard layout. This would make me a very happy camper.

Of course, with the good, there is also the bad… Huffington Post had an article a while back talking about the 13 things you NEED to know about the iPad. Some of the things they pointed out are definitely issues. Some, however, I think people are complaining just for the sake of complaining. I agree 100% that the lack of multitasking functionality is tragic. If there is a single deal-breaker to be found, that’s likely the one. But the fact that there is no camera or GPS, to me, I don’t really see that as an issue. I don’t usually leave the house without my iPhone which has both of those features, so not having them in this device certainly won’t stop me from buying.

I would love to tell you that I’ll be waiting for the second generation of iPads to hit the market before I dive in. But I likely won’t. I’ll probably hold out for a couple months… but then it’ll happen. Somebody will have one and let me test it out. My eyes will glaze over, my credit card will fall out of my wallet and before you know it my order will be placed.

How about you? You planning on getting an iPad? Leave a comment and tell me why… or why not.

Blog World Expo 09 wrapup

Blog World Expo 2009 is in the books. The parties have all ended and most people in attendance are either home already or heading in that direction. I’m one of the lucky ones who lives right here in Las Vegas, so my trip home is quite a bit shorter (20 minutes) than most. I do not envy those that have to spend today or tomorrow traveling back to your families. While it great to be at events like Blog World, no matter how you slice it, traveling sucks. I wish you all a quick & safe trip home with no delayed flights!

As for the show itself, I’m going to need to write two different posts to cover it all. This one will focus more on Blog World as a whole. I’ll write a follow-up chronicling my experience as the organizer and track leader for WordCamp Las Vegas.

I have now been to all 3 of the Blog World events, and I had attended one of the New Media Expo event a while back. I seem to remember there being at least one or two more aisles of vendor booths at last year’s event. This is not really a surprise as all conventions in Las Vegas have seen a drastic reduction in vendors and attendees as the economy has been in the crapper. Even still, there was a decent collection of booths and I enjoyed walking the aisles and checking out their wares.

Since I started recording the Weekly WordPress Podcast a couple months back, I was really looking forward to checking out some of the hardware and software vendors in that space. I was really hoping to find a company that had mixing boards on hand that I could get an idea how they may solve some of my technical issues I’m having. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one to be had. I think the podcasting community has such great potential and I would like to see more involvement in that community at Blog World.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a WordPress junkie. So it should be no surprise that I was quite bummed to hear that the Automattic team, as a whole, would not be on hand for the event. I understand that they have a yearly retreat where the entire company works together from one location for a week, but, the timing of it is pretty darn incredible. I can’t help but feel that there is some sort of “office politics” that kept them from being on hand this weekend. The biggest problem I have with them not being there is that it robs the Blog World attendees of the opportunity to walk up and say hello to Matt and thank him for the amazing contributions they have made to the blogging world. I know it means a lot to Matt to hear a heart-felt story of appreciation for the product that he loves and I also know, from experience, how nice it is to say thanks, in person, to one of the people who makes it all possible.

OK, that’s enough complaining. With those two negatives aside, I really did have a great time at the event. A huge part of that is getting to speak face-to-face with people that I’ve met over the past 3 years of Blog World and all the WordCamp events I’ve been to this year. The networking opportunities this weekend were abundant! Before the start of the day, between sessions and at the after parties on Thursday, Friday and Saturday… Although it makes for a very tired set of feet and vocal cords when it’s all over, it is absolutely 100% worth it and I’d do it again next weekend if I could!

Since I was running the WordCamp event, most of the show content that I was able to hear was from those presentations. I think I can safely say that I took more notes and got more actionable items out of this weekend than I did at last year’s Blog World or any of the WordCamps I’ve been to this year. Not taking ANYTHING away from those other events, it’s more a function of being able to actually sit and listen! Since the Blog World team was in charge of all stage, lighting, projector, etc…, it meant I could introduce the speakers and, for the most part, have a seat and listen. It was a great experience!

It has been an extremely fun and informative weekend (can you call Wednesday afternoon through Sunday at 1am a ‘weekend’) and I am already looking forward to next year’s event. Big thanks to the organizers who spent countless hours putting this together! Rest up. You get to start planning again in a few weeks. 😉

WordCamp LA recap

This past weekend I hit the road and traveled to Los Angeles to attend and be a presenter at the first ever WordCamp LA. It was held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University which was a great place to visit, and the room we were using was well equipped to handle the nearly 200 people in attendance plus all the electronic equipment needed for the presenters at the podium.

The event had two tracks, but Me, Todd and Abbie set up shop in the back corner of the room where Track 1 was being held and we didn’t move all day. So my recap is only going to cover those speakers on track 1.

First up Austin made a couple morning announcements welcoming us to WordCamp.

The first presenter was Beau Lebens from Automattic. He gave an overview of several of the products built by the Automattic team. Most of this was review except for when he talked about a new project called BackPress. This will be a set of functions that you can include in any PHP codebase that will give you much of the WordPress functionality inside your non-WordPress project. As a developer, this was very exciting news and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

Next was Shayne Sanderson talking about using the WP e-commerce plugin with a WordPress MU install. If you have ever wanted to run a network of sites and give all your users the ability to sell products from their own site, this is a match made in heaven. I know I have some ideas for how to use this on some future projects.

Following Shayne was Ben Huh from the Cheezeburger network. If you don’t know who Ben is (like the lady sitting in the 2nd row), let me just point you to FailBlog, some LOL Cats or one of my new faves, Hawtness. Ben talked about how his company uses as many free services as they can to run their company. Why pay for it if somebody offers it for free? That’s a good question! Plus, you have to love their company’s mission statement: Make people happy for 5 minutes a day.

After a break for lunch Micah Baldwin took the stage. He spoke about how failing is not an end point, but just another step in the process of succeeding. If you continue to try and succeed, you may find a few hundred ways that don’t work before you finally hit that magic mix. If you stop trying, you’ll never get there.

Next was Jim Turner who talks about blogging for a living. Jim knows what he’s talking about here as he’s been making money blogging for several years now and he shows what skills you need to do it yourself. This is always a popular session with the WordCamp audience as making money is a really hot topic. Especially these days.

Following Jim was Andrew Warner. This was my favorite presentation of the day. Andrew did a real-time hands-on demonstration of how to record video from your computer and add it to your site. My description isn’t doing justice to his awesome presentation. You’ll have to trust me here, he was excellent.

After Andrew finished up, I took the stage as the last presenter of the day. I gave a demonstration on how easy it is to create a plugin for WordPress. I was pretty happy with my presentation and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it, so that was very exciting. I had a lady come up to me right before my presentation and tell me that she had been looking forward to hearing my presentation the most. I have to tell you, that absolutely made my day. Giving such a technical presentation at the end of the day is difficult because people are already starting to get tired. That was evident by the lady in the front row catching a few ZZZs during my talk. I didn’t mind. Heck, I’d have probably been doing the same. 😉

Austin and the crew from InMotionHosting did a fantastic job organizing the event and after party. I felt very honored to have been invited to have been a part of it and I look forward to attending next year’s event in LA when they do it all again.

Has #FollowFriday on Twitter jumped the shark?

FollowFriday Jumped the SharkFor the uninitiated, #FollowFriday is an Internet meme that goes on every Friday on Twitter. The concept is simple, each Friday you pick a person (or group of people) who you think is interesting, informative, funny, or in any other way remarkable. Then you construct tweet telling people why they should follow this person. At it’s core, the concept is very cool if you think about it; somebody who you respect enough to follow on Twitter is now suggesting somebody that THEY follow and respect. That is a pretty powerful endorsement, right?

I’m not so sure anymore.

Since first learning about the #FollowFriday concept, I have personally tried to remain true to it’s original intention. When I send out a #FollowFriday message, I select only 1 or 2 people to include in the message and I explain a reason WHY you should follow this person. My biggest gripe about #FollowFriday these days are the people who send tweets that start with the #FollowFriday hashtag and then they fill the rest of the space with as many Twitter user names as will possibly fit. They give no reason why to follow them, just the demand to follow them. This makes no sense. You are telling me to do something but giving me no reason as to why I should. Without a reason, I promise you, I’m not going to start following.

So, the question is, has #FollowFriday jumped the shark? For me personally, the answer is an emphatic YES!

To me, the #FollowFriday tweets have become white noise. They are filler between the rest of the filler on Twitter. Have a look at the current search stream on Twitter for #FollowFriday. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

If you think I should follow somebody because they have solid information to share, please, don’t wait until Friday to tell me about it. Send a tweet telling my why I may be interested to follow this person and chances are I’ll check them out and I’ll follow them if I’m interested.

Let me ask you this, when was the last time you followed somebody new on Twitter simply because of a #FollowFriday recommendation? Leave a comment a comment below and let me know what YOU think.

WireTap Anywhere and GarageBand

For the past three weeks I have been gearing up for a new podcast that I’m starting up with my buddy Shayne. My goal has been to find a combo of hardware and software that I could use on my Mac so that I could easily port the setup around and record my podcast from virtually anywhere. On the hardware side, I’m starting out pretty basic with a Blue Snowball microphone (which is awesome, BTW) connected directly to the Mac. At this point there’s no mixing board or anything like that. Since Shayne is in Texas, he’ll be calling in via Skype.

After spending 3 hours trying to get some other software solution to work, I contacted my buddy Doug. He pointed me towards WireTap Anywhere and GarageBand, which is included free on the Mac. I downloaded the trial and proceeded to bounce my head against the wall. Then, just as I was ready to give up, I made one last attempt. Amazingly, it worked. It didn’t just work, it worked exactly as I wanted it to.

Since I wasn’t able to find a suitable step-by-step tutorial on how to make it work, I decided to write one myself.

Here is the scenario I was shooting for. I will be talking on a USB mic and will have a caller on Skype. I want to record both of our audio on individual tracks in GarageBand so I can modify sound levels independently as needed. I’ll wear headphones to hear the caller so the system audio doesn’t bleed in to my USB mic.

This tutorial assumes already that you have a USB mic plugged in, Skype and WireTap Anywhere should both be installed.

Step 1 – Create a new audio device that contains your mic and Skype.
This was the initial cause of my confusion. I had it in my mind that I needed to create 1 device for Skype and 1 device for my microphone. But, GarageBand will only take one input, so you use WireTap Anywhere to create a single device that contains both input sources.
WireTap Anywhere - Add Device

Step 2. Set “Mix Sources To:” to “Off”
Since we want both of our audio streams to be recorded on separate tracks, we do not want WireTap Anywhere to mix them together for us.
WireTap Anywhere - Settings

Step 3. Set “Audio Input:” to your new WireTap device
In the GarageBand -> Preferences menu select the Audio/MIDI tab. Then, in the dropdown for Audio Input you should see a device named WireTap: [your device name]. Select it and close the menu.
GarageBand - Audio settings

Note, you may get the following warning message. Click Yes.
Change Audio Driver

Step 4: Set the Input Sources
In GarageBand set up two tracks. One will be for you, one will be for the caller on Skype. Select the first track and in the bottom right corner you should see a settings box that looks like this:
GarageBand - Input Source
After that’s set, select the second audio track and select the input settings like this:
GarageBand - Input Settings track 2

Notice that on the first track I’ve selected Stereo 1/2 and on the second track I’ve selected Stereo 3/4. If I had added more input devices as part of my custom device in WireTap Anywhere, they would have shown up as Stereo 5/6, Stereo 7/8, etc.

That’s all there is too it. Have your caller call in on Skype, click the record button in GarageBand and you are all set!

If you have any questions, definitely leave me a comment!

Sceen Shot

Get rid of what's stopping you

Hey don’t look now, but this is my 3rd blog post in 3 days. No, I didn’t crawl out from under a rock. No, I wasn’t in a coma. What was stopping me from blogging, you ask? Well, it was my blog.

At the beginning of August we had a group of friends over, including Mr 4th Place himself, Craig. Craig and Ashley were in town from North Carolina where they moved for some crazy reason. But, I digress. Apparently one of the ways that Craig keeps up with what is going on in Vegas is by reading the blogs of his buddies in Sin City. He made it quite clear that I have not been much help lately as my updates have been fewer and far between. I looked back and sure enough, Craig was right. Being right did NOT help him finish higher than 4th place in our poker tournament this time around, but again, I digress.

Sceen ShotI really enjoy the process of blogging. I love writing, I love researching topics when needed, I love telling silly stories. One other thing I love is messing with my site. Before the last time I updated my site template, I searched for quite a while to find a theme that I liked. I had settled on one of the themes from Woo Themes called Busy Bee. I loved the graphics that went along with each story. I felt they were an exciting part of the post and enhanced the visitors overall experience. But, over time, I found that those images had a totally different effect on me. They were stopping me from blogging. So as much as I loved the layout, it was time to say goodbye to Busy Bee.

In the past I have been known to take my laptop to lunch with me and type out a blog post over a burger and fries. But, what I recently realized was that since I needed to also create a header graphic, which usually requires poking around Flickr or Google, I wasn’t always able to complete a post. Instead I would put off writing the post until after work. But, by the time I’d get home, I’d have dinner, maybe watch a little TV and the momentum I had for writing the post had left me. If I sat down and tried to write it the next day, the story just wasn’t there. The moment had passed and that post was lost forever. And yet somehow, I didn’t immediately realize how it was impacting my blog. That is, until Craig pointed it out.

Here we are with a new theme. I still have the ability to add graphics to my posts, but, they aren’t required. The hurdle has been removed and hopefully I can get back to writing on a regular basis. So far, so good.

Take some time and figure out what is getting in the way of your productivity. Spend a little time removing the obstacle in your way. You’ll be glad you did.

The 5 Phases of Twitter

The other night at our weekly Beer and Blog meetup, we had a pretty interesting discussion about Twitter. It all started because one of our friend who is a promoter recently had his Twitter account suspended. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. His tweet-stream had a mix of conversation, random tweets and information about things going on in and around Las Vegas. For some reason he managed to trip the suspension switch and down his account went. We decided to rally on Friday and see if we could help convince the powers that be to give him back his account. I’m quite pleased to see that they took notice, reviewed his account and then reversed the suspension.

The conversation went on to cover how we each use Twitter and for what purpose. Communicating with friends, physical in-person friends, being the main reason. This brought to light something that I have been noticing for a while; the way I have been using twitter has changed several times over the past 2 years. That lead to this post.

Here is how I’ve used Twitter since I opened my account in July of 2007.

What the hell is this?
I’m not sure how I heard about Twitter that first time, but I signed up and I probably tried to talk a group of friends in to signing up, too. I got the basic idea right away, but without a group of friends also on the service, it wasn’t all that useful to me. I would spent the next several months ignoring Twitter for the most part. Picking it up and putting it down without much regularity.

Oh, cool. follow follow follow.
In early 2008 I started planning a trip to Alaska. At that time I bought a digital SLR camera and started trying to learn as much as I could. Then, it all clicked. I found several photographers online who already had twitter accounts. I immediately started following them and anybody that they followed, I followed, too. It was like being spoon-fed free information. These guys would throw out tips or links to tutorials and a ton of other helpful information. If you were the least bit interesting, I started following you… and likely anybody that you followed.

Hey, I’m semi-popular.
As I was getting all sorts of free information from Twitter, I started to return the favor. I started using desktop software like TweetDeck to search for “wordpress.” I would then read the messages that came in and would respond immediately to anybody who was having trouble. I’d either answer their question directly if it fit in 140 characters, or, I’d have them contact me for assistance. The more I helped out, the more followers I would gain. Of all the phases of my Twitter history, this was by far my favorite.

Stop spamming me.
at some point along the way, I was introduced to a service that absolutely must have been conceived by the Devil himself. This service would update your Twitter account to automatically follow anybody on twitter who would follow me. At first I thought this was a brilliant idea. Wow, what a time saver. At the time I was basically following anybody who didn’t look like an out-and-out spammer if they followed me first. Not to mention, I was still going out and finding tons of new people to follow on my own. So, the amount of people I was following was getting to be crazy. The amount of TwitterSpam I was getting started to be too much. I shut down the auto-follow service and spent an entire afternoon going through and removing anybody I was following who was even the slightest bit spammy.

What did you say? I missed it.
Recently I’ve had something annoying happen several times. I’ll either be at lunch with a group of friends, or at our weekly meetup and somebody will mention an upcoming gathering or maybe a cool new iPhone app or website and when I ask about it somebody will respond, “I sent the link out on Twitter yesterday, didn’t you see it?” No, as a matter of fact I didn’t see it. And here’s why…

I do a lot of my Twitter activity from my iPhone. The software I use will load up the last 100 tweets from the people I follow when I first start it up. Way back when, that would cover a few days of activity. The other night while we were having our Twitter conversation I loaded up the software and saw that 100 tweets covered 14 minutes. (I double checked, that is NOT a typo.) So this means that if you did not send the tweet directly to me (like an @reply), or if I didn’t happen to check Twitter in the 15 minute window following your tweet, I missed it. This seems to defeat the purpose of Twitter, doesn’t it? I want to know what my FRIENDS are up to. I want to hear their recommendations. It’s not that the rest of the Twitterverse isn’t interesting, because it is. But, if it means missing what my friends are up to, then I’m just not that interested.

I’m going through a major Twitter purge right now. My goal is to be able to see at least the last 4 hours worth of tweets when I load up my iPhone app. That may be ambitious, but a boy can dream, right? Do I expect to lose a lot of followers because of it? Yeah. But, if I plan to continue to use Twitter, I have to use it in a way that makes it useful to me. The benefits far outweigh the consequences.

So, what about you? Does your Twitter history sound anything like mine?