Posts from Bling

The Smart Watch

Last week, at an event I attended, I was at the bar after dinner and a few people sat down wearing the latest Android Smartwatch from Samsung.

There were a bunch of oohs and aahs.

I mentioned that I’ve never worn a watch and can’t imagine ever wearing one, no matter what is on it. I just have never gotten used to wearing something on my wrist, though I have tried many times.

I don’t think the ability to see notifications and calls coming in on my wrist instead of my phone will change that.

This reporter from New York Magazine suggests that nobody other than tech moguls and geeks are interested in smartwatches.

I don’t really have an opinion on whether the smart watch is going to be a hit or not.

But I do know that pulling my phone out of my pocket will remain the primary way I connect to the world when I am out and about.

I am not bearish on wearables in general however.

I really like wearing a “necklace” which I blogged about a few weeks ago. I like the vibration on my neck when a call comes in. I like being able to easily connect to the audio services on my phone without taking out the phone.

I can imagine there will be a plethora of wearables in the market in a few years and some of us will tend toward the watches, others will tend toward the necklaces, others will adopt the rings, and some will go for the glasses.

It will be fun to watch this market evolve.

This Blog Is AnswerTips Enabled

With the dustup over Snap Preview fresh in my mind, I have taken the step of adding more popup bling to this blog.

Answertips

The new bling is called AnswerTips and comes from Answers.com, a former portfolio company of ours at Flatiron Partners. AnswerTips has been part of the company’s bag of tricks since before we invested in them (called Gurunet at the time) back in early 2000. You double click on any word that you don’t understand, and you get a popup that explains what that word means. Try double clicking on Arcade Fire in the previous post (or this one). You get a nice summary of the band, the band members, and their discography.

Probably the best thing about AnswerTips is that you won’t get a popup unless you really want one. Mousing over a the word doesn’t do anything. But the challenge with this model is that the only people who will know that this blog is AnswerTips enabled will be those of you who read this post.

I’ve added an AnswerTips logo on my right sidebar, but I doubt that’s going to mean much to anyone.

In any case, I like the feature. It’s non-obtrusive. And for those who know about it, I think it adds some nice functionality. I hope you agree.

Placeblogging With Flare

Frequent readers of this blog may have noticed a new flare underneath my posts over the past week.

Outside

The flare I am talking about is the one on the right, the outside.in flare. I took this screenshot from the bottom of my Wincing The Night Away post. The show was at the Virgin Records store in Union Square, so I tagged the post with 10003, the zipcode of that location. Now when you click on the outside.in flare you’ll see that post and other posts that have been geotagged with that location.

If you look at the bottom of this post, you’ll see that the flare looks differently.

Outside_no_tag_2

That’s because this post has not been geotagged in outside.in. It’s not a "placepost". If you want, you can click on that outside.in flare and geotag it, but I wouldn’t suggest it. The purpose of outside.in is to collect geo-relevant posts (placeposts).

So if you are a placeblogger like Curbed or Eater or Gothamist, you should absolutely add the outside.in flare so your posts can get tagged and entered into outside.in. And when they do get tagged, you’ll be doing your readers a favor by giving them a quick link out to more posts about the same neighborhood. Even if you only do a few placeposts now and then (like me), I think the outside.in flare is a great addition to a blog. I hope you agree.

The outside.in flare is one of the "official" flares at FeedBurner, so if you have a flare set up, its a snap to add it. Even if you don’t have a flare, setting one up is simple and I talked about how to do that in this post.

So start placeblogging with flare. Everyone benefits when you do that.

Widget Removal – Which Ones Made The Cut?

Thanks for all the comments/votes on my Widget Removal post.

At 54 comments, it may be the most commented on post in the history of this blog.

As many of you commented, the widgets that run on this blog should be my choice and nobody else’s.

I agree, but I also realize that many of them have been running for a while and may have gotten stale.

What I really need to do is put in a widget service that will cache, serve, and rotate all my widgets. I know that Sniperoo does something like that. I am sure there are others. Please leave a comment to this post if you have a service that does this. I may someday get around to implementing that.

But at this point, I am still doing all of this manually. And this morning I manually removed a bunch of widgets and moved some around too.

I am not going to list all the widgets that got cut. I don’t want to offend anyone.

I will list the ones that made the cut and why.

First, here is the "off limits" list that I provided in my initial widget removal post.

1) In Heavy Rotation – Sonos sponsors this widget which generates money to charity. It stays.
2) Ads – They aren’t technically widgets, but they generate money to charity. They stay.
3)
Portfolio company widgets; Sitepal, Etsy, Indeed, and Delicious (for
old times sake). My portfolio companies are how I make money. They stay.

There were two widgets that are extremely popular and got mentioned by a bunch of commenters.

4) MyBlogLog – my personal favorite widget. Sure wish it was a USV portfolio company but that’s a story for another day.
5) Flickr – the audience’s favorite. and the grandaddy of widgets. and still one of the best.

And these got enough votes to keep them:

6) Wallstrip – Howard and crew are working on a better Wallstrip widget and it’s needed according to some of the comments.
7) The Music Widgets – I kept only last.fm and Streampad. More on this later.

And I kept the House Ads. They are my ads. They stay.

Everything else either became a link or is gone. Honestly I don’t notice the difference. The blog page is still butt ugly (or shabby chic depending on your taste). And I don’t think it loads any faster.

The only widgets I really miss are the music widgets. But I don’t want to have ten music widgets. What I want is one music widget that I can program to go fetch data on the various music services I use and present it in one place. When is someone going to build that?

I hope you all found this useful. I certainly did. There are a few big takeaways for me. First, widgets are loved and hated. Purists like Nick think that they violate the purity of the page. And Nick is clearly not alone in that camp. Others think they provide needed social/emotional/informational context. That’s the camp I am in.

Also, there are problems with the way widgets have been implemented to date. We need infrastructure to manage them. That starts with caching, serving, rotating, etc. And I am sure there is a lot more that can and will be done to improve widgets.

But one thing is for sure. Widgets are here to stay. This blog is proof of that. There’s no way I would remove all of my widgets. And more are on the way.

Widget Removal – Please Vote

Well my post on Widgets today generated some good comments. My favorite was the constant refrain that widgets are about self expression. Indeed.

But I also recognize that my blog has possibly gone a bit overboard.  So I am going to remove a bunch of widgets next week. You get to vote for which ones should stay.

Here are the ones that are going to stay, no matter how you vote:

1) In Heavy Rotation – Sonos sponsors this widget which generates money to charity. It stays.
2) Ads – They aren’t technically widgets, but they generate money to charity. They stay.
3) Portfolio company widgets; Sitepal, Etsy, Indeed, and Delicious (for old times sake). My portfolio companies are how I make money. They stay.

Everything else is subject to removal. Please vote for the ones you want to stay.

Nick Is Against Widgets

Nick Denton has come out against widgets and listed five reasons for that stance on Valleywag.

And he lists this blog as an example for one of his reasons:


2. A sluggish page is a bad page. A page only loads
as fast as the slowest widget. All those annoyingly flickering messages
in the status bar of the browser — Read, Connecting to, Waiting for. I
blame widgets. Fred Wilson’s blog is a laboratory for these web
modules: the venture capitalist’s site is said by Alexa to be among the slowest on the web, with a load time of 11 seconds.

Well, you can read this blog in a feed reader and avoid the widgets entirely. And now that I load the center column first, you can read the blog on the web and be off to another page before all the widgets load (and Alexa is wrong, it takes a lot longer than 11 seconds for that to happen).

But Nick is missing the point of widgets entirely. You can’t build a business on widgets alone. But if you have a business; YouTube, Flickr, Delicious, MyBlogLog, Digg, etc, etc, you can get distribution on other’s pages with widgets. It’s a content and brand distribution strategy.

Maybe Gawker blogs will never carry widgets because Nick is a purist and believes that widgets are "a violation of blog principles". I’d like to see where those prinicipals are written down, because I missed them and want to know what other principals I am violating.

Snap Preview (continued)

Last week there was a bit of a "dustup" on this blog because I added Snap Preview popups to it.

I was leaning toward removing it but I decided to wait until they did a new release late last week.

In the end I agree with the majority of the commenters that Snap Preview takes away more from the experience than it adds. So I’ve removed Snap Preview from this blog, sort of.

The "sort of" means that the Snap Preview javascript is still in my template and when I want to offer a preview of a specific link, I’ll add a call to Snap Preview in that link.

This page shows how to do that (about 2/3 of the way down).

Adding Some Flare

Have you heard about "social media optimization"? It’s the thing that people who game DIgg are doing. It’s a pretty well known fact that getting picked up in Digg or Delicious popular can result in big increases in traffic.

But you don’t have to game Digg in order to benefit from social media. I’ve been benefitting from social media optimization for several years on this blog. My posts get posted regularly to delicious, digg, sphere, and reddit. They get picked up by TechMeme, Buzztracker, TailRank, etc. And I’d like to encourage more of that.

That’s where adding some flare to the blog comes in. At the end of every post on my blog or in my feed you’ll see this block of links.

Flare_2
This is called a "Flare" in FeedBurner nomenclature. And FeedBurner is the provider of my flare and most of the flares out there on the Internet.

How do you get a flare? Well first you need to burn your feed and become a FeedBurner user. Once you’ve done that, you can simply visit the tab in the FeedBurner interface called Optimize and then chose the FeedFlare section and you’ll be taken to the page where you can set up your flare.

That’s all you have to do to get a flare in your feed. If you want the same flare on your blog (and you should want that), you simply tell FeedBurner (using that same page) what blogging tool you use and you’ll get some HTML code to put in your blog’s template. If you have another FeedBurner service running on your blog already (like FeedBurner Ad Network or Site Stats), then you don’t need to do anything more.

I’ve had my flare on my feed and blog for a while now. But today I finally took the time to move some things around and add a few new flares. It took all of a couple minutes. But now I have dynamic Digg, Delicious, and Sphere flares to match the dynamic Technorati and Comments links. By "dynamic" I mean that the link to add something to any one of these services also contains a count of the number of people who’ve already done that. That is going to most certainly encourage others to do it and that’s social media optimization in action (the right way).