Tags: conference, defrag, innovation, social, technology November 28, 2009 Experiencing Defrag 2009
The past year I've been speaking at several both large and small conferences in Norway, but this month I also went abroad to speak at the Defrag social technology conference in Denver, Colorado. This conference is one of the most interesting I have attended, so to share my experience I've written this piece about the experiences and insights that I got out of Defrag.
Now if you'd like to start off by getting an impression of what went on during the conference before I get into my analysis, then go have a look at the Defrag 2009 liveblog that Graeme Thickins did throughout the event. Another good starting point is to look at the twitter-talk that took place with the #defrag and #defragcon hash-tags, which is all documented at Defrag's EventVue page. Finally there is a guerilla video stream covering most of the conference that were being created and put online by ReussDesign. My talk on open data was also filmed by Reuss and can be found about 12 minutes into the recording titled "Defrag Conference Clip 4".
Defrag Conference Day 1
Next up on the agenda were presentations of four current problems, as well as the afternoon topical explorations, neither of which I found very interesting as many were nothing but poorly disguised marketing pitches for a company or product. Due to this I found the largest value of this conference to be the small-group interactions and networking with all the amazing attendants, something that came especially well to light in the very high quality open space discussion session held just before lunch. This was unfortunately the only such session in the program, and something the conference could only gain from adding more of next year!
Crowding back into the main hall after the topical explorations we were greeted by a series of very interesting 10min "fragments", of which the presentation on Atlassians use of 20% time were especially inspiring. Then to sum everything up at the end there was a lively panel discussion with Chris Sacca and Chris Shipley, the two 'douchebags' :-) doing a great job of setting the mood and giving everyone a bunch of laughs before the evening reception with the sponsors. Unlike some other conferences I've been to there was no organized dinner in the evening of day one, so during the reception people clumped together in groups more or less at random to go out for dinner separately at various restaurants around central Denver. Afterwards those most eager to network randomly reconvened back at the hotel bars to squeeze the final bits of action out of the day, which let me have some great chats with amongst others Robert Scoble and Eric Knipp.
Defrag Conference Day 2
Day two was also when I did my own talk in the topical exploration session called 'Leveraging the Open Web'. In brief the session started out by an introduction to the industrialization of content creation Peter Sweeney, after which I covered the basics of Open Data from where I handed over to Paul Miller to talk about Linked Data. After the talks the session was then rounded off with a short debate facilitated by Ben Kepes. I must say that I rather liked the format of the session that began with four lightening talks around a central topic leading into a catalysed group discussion where both the speakers and the audience got engaged, however I believe that it could have been made even better by setting aside more time for both the speakers and the facilitated discussion, as the constraints forced the exploration of the topics to be cut a bit short. For a more detailed summary of the discussons in this session see the coverage by CMSWire, where you can also find writeups of the other topical explorations at Defrag.
After these sessions the conference wrapped up with a keynote discussion that looked back on the 10 years that have passed since the publication of the Cluetrain manifesto. It was a very interesting summary of the thoughts that have shaped the American internet economy, but it didn't feel very relevant to me due to the limited influence this book has had on the IT business in Norway thus far. Hopefully this will change a bit over the next couple of years.
The digital back-channels
Not only did the back-channels provide a very interesting set of insights and commentary that you otherwise wouldn't get, but through these channels the conference itself can even be influenced directly by those only following the online streams, as described in this post about twitter and the ricochet effect. Such live coverage as this not only gives the attendants an extra level of insight and connectedness at the conference, but it also provides a lasting reflection of the event through all the tweets, blogs and videos that are published online for posterity. This is especially valuable for those that didn't attend, as the insights gathered can be found in the many blogs that has been written about the conference. For those interested in more on Defrag, these posts provide a good overview:
Last but not least an overview of more Defrag posts can be found at Lou Pagilas Defragging the Defrag Coverage.
Posted by Svein-Magnus Sørensen at 22:20
Tags: browsers, hack, preferences, social media, twitter October 6, 2009 Getting around the real name length limit in Twitter
Since I started using Twitter last year I've been especially annoyed with one thing, and that is the arbitrary length limit on the real name field in settings. The field is limited to 20 characters, but my full name unfortunately is 21 characters including spaces. This means that I've had to either truncate part of my name or remove the spacing between my first and last names, neither of which are good solutions when considering one of the main reason for having the real name field at all, namely search engine findability.
I got the idea for this work-around when I was once again checking up on the name-issue in the Get Satisfaction forums to see if there had been any new developments. As usual there were no news from Twitter officials, but I noticed a post from @McoreD who claim to have spoken with the Twitter developer who implemented the change that limited full names to 20 characters. That this limit was a late addition is the key bit of information that put me on track to finding a work-around.
This info was significant for two reasons: First of all it meant that the backend database would likely still be able to support longer names than 20 characters, and second it made it a possibility that all of the validation code wasn't properly updated to match the new limit, which is a common programming error when modifying field limits. As it happened both of these assumptions turned out to be correct with the consequence that it should be possible to input a longer real name by simply removing the field length limitation in the browser, which is something you can easily control yourself. As I had hoped this worked perfectly, and I am now enjoying my 21 character real name on Twitter!
Please note that while the fix appear to work perfectly for me with my single extra letter, it might not work with longer names or this could cause weird problems with Twitter or especially with third party clients or services, so use the method below only at your own risk!
Now onto the details of the workaround, which is actually a bit of a hack. There are many possible ways of unlocking a form-field in your browser, but this is the easy way I did it:
UPDATE: It appears that while the long username-change seem to work for a while just after-being applied, it is reverted back to the old name within a day or so. This has now happened to me twice, so the hack unfortunately isn't very permanent. Sorry :-(
Tags: avatar, hacking, site, troubleshooting December 2, 2008 Updated Gravatar plugin for Movable Type 3.x
However I still wanted users to get neat avatars next to their comments, and the easiest way I found to do this was to add support for the Gravatar user-pic service and Favicons to my comment-listings. Adding them was very straightforward as there are ready made Movable Type plugins for both, except of course that neither of the Gravatar-plugins worked. *Sigh*
That leaves the option of hacking the plugin! Yay! With no plugin-documentation to be found and me never having toyed with MT-plugins before, the task naturally stumped me a bit at first. However I figured out soon enough how to get it working, so for anyone else having the same problem I hereby present you with the updated Movable Type 3.3 Gravatar plugin! Enjoy :-)
And now all that remains is for my readers to get their own Gravatars. Go fetch!
Posted by Svein-Magnus Sørensen at 10:33
Tags: performance, troubleshooting, windows November 21, 2008 Fixes for slow browsing in Windows Explorer
After a recent defrag of my harddrive it suddenly became excruciatingly slow to browse 'My Computer' and other folders with Windows Explorer (explorer.exe) in Windows XP. Sometimes just opening a regular folder with a few files in it would take more than 5 minutes, as well as having explorer.exe hang and be not responding. As none of my other applications were noticeably affected it really had me stumped as to why a regular defrag would cause such a slowdown for folder-browsing, until I discovered that browsing was still near instantaneous when using other file-explorers like Total Commander. Relieved that it wasn't a problem with my drive but likely just a bug in Windows Explorer I set out to find a fix that would bring it back to its old self, but that was easier said than done, and I spent several days searching and experimenting with various fixes.
Apparently many people are having problems with Windows Explorer being slow, and for a host of different reasons too. Most commonly I found the obvious suggestions to run windows update, antivirus, antispyware, defrag and chkdisk, as this will commonly fix the performance and many common issues that crop up on computers that are not kept and maintained by professionals. The next step is to improve performance by adjusting the Folder Options in Explorer. Good tips here are to disable the automatic search for network folders and printers, as well as using simple folder view and to not cache thumbnails. But it didn't make any difference and explorer was still just as slow afterwards. Then I downloaded and ran CCleaner to do a full systems checkup and registry cleaning, and I also removed all recent network paths from my "Network Neighbourhoood" as these things also appear to cause many slowdowns too. Still none of these suggestions made any difference. A thread at Google Answers hinted to NeroVision Express as a possible culprit, but I didn't have that installed of course.
Finally I stumbled across a Techspot thread describing how you by logging in as a different administrator user and deleting the folder "c:\documents and settings\<username>\local settings\application data\microsoft\windows", can fix the problem of extremely slow browsing in Explorer, and this actually worked!