The New Look

New and ImprovedAs some of you may have noticed by now, my blog has a new look to it.  Under the covers, there is a new hosting facility for Dad the Single Guy as well.

(Don’t forget Dad the Single Guy’s book The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning now available for download) 

There are many reasons for all of the changes.

I changed hosting from Network Solutions to Blue Host largely because NS hosting became unsteady for me over the two years I was using it, and frankly I do not have the time or desire to become an expert in network configurations.

So, with the migration came the opportunity to update the look and feel of my blog.  I hope you all like it, it will be a work in progress for the next few weeks…yeah, I know I have a lot sharing buttons and some other stuff to clean up. I want to see what works best and get rid of what doesn’t.

As always, I hope to hear from you and I’ll keep tinkering around.

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Spending Away A Problem

This year in school 9.5’s fifth grade teacher uses several websites for homework and class planning.  I am a parent who applauds this in teaching.  There is nothing wrong with getting kids comfortable with working on the computer, it’s where they will spend a lot of their time.

Along with the class planning, 9.5’s teacher uses a site for spelling, a site for math and a site for vocabulary.  The students finish their work and the teacher can log in via an educator’s portal to check the work.  And this is where 9.5 got caught.

For the first couple of days of school she did the work, but then stopped doing the work, largely because the four-year old computer I was going to replace over the summer was choking on the site.  There were issues with the java plug-in and the flash engine.  After spending more than two hours messing with updates (on Windows no less) I surrendered.  Friday I went and picked up the iMac I did not get over the summer.

Part of the delayed iMac project was installing an in-house network and NAS (network attached storage).  To do this, required a bunch of re-wiring of the network infrastructure that I use to feed the house.  We live in a pretty connected home-inlcuding televisions, computers, lap tops and hand-held devices.

The downside to all of this, was spending more than $1000 this month that I was not planning to spend.  Over the summer with food costs down and the sitter off the books, the expense makes more sense.  The issue was over the summer, because of my knee surgery I could not do the wiring I wanted to do-so the price for waiting.

Now if only 9.5 would do something other than play Roblox on the new computer.

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Chopping Away

Venturing to where no relationship (of mine) has gone in the past (although it’s a relatively small sample size), Health Club Girl and I did a meeting of our children a few days ago.  In not so unusual circumstance for me, I tried to read up on best practices and get some insight from others who had trodden down this path.

Unfortunately, most of the advice out there was pretty bad.  So, HCG and I went with heart and tried to make it fun and easy for the kids.  The upside is we had success.

First off, timing wise, HCG and I seemed based on blog reading and family pundit “experts” to be doing this early.  It felt like the right time though, so we decided to head down the path.

Rather than simply putting the kids together to play or sit down to dinner, we made it interactive and were able to include a shared passion we have and involve all four of our kids.

Since we both like to cook and are both self-proclaimed foodies, HCG and I staged a modified episode of the Food Network show Chopped with our kids.  First the four girls descended upon a local food store to buy four ingredients that would be in our “Chopped basket.”  She and I would then have 10 minutes to pick up staples we would use along with other pantry items already in her kitchen.

HCG and I sat down in a market cafe while the girls shopped with my credit card.  They came back with 1.5 pounds of scallops for each of us to cook.  Two jars each of apple-banana baby food, two artichokes and a box of oyster crackers.

After HCG and I did some quick shopping we hit the kitchen with our older girls (hers 13.5 and mine 12) as our sous chefs.  The younger girls decided to play together and relax-which was fine, no pressure.

At the end of the night, HCG won with a scallop and pasta dish, edging out my pan-fried scallops and bacon.  The side dishes I think is what won it for her-but in the end, the awkward part of our girls knowing one another was finished.  The night ended sitting around a table at a local ice cream place with all the girls deep into bowls of ice cream and toppings.

Win all the way around.

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My Non-Golden Silence

It’s been nearly two-weeks since I’ve had the chance to update my blog, and I have to tell you the issue was more about technical limitations that time crunch or just not having anything to say.  And as you’ll see, this blog was going to be far different than it turned out-at the end of the day the company I use to host this blog (Network Solutions) kind of out of nowhere decided to practice really good customer service and I have to say thank you.

So, all of this goes back to the start of the month, when I realized I could not log into the tool that lets me update the blog, add pictures etcetera.  Now, this has happened in the past and I kind of knew where to look for the issue and trouble shoot.  So, last week I spent the better part of three hours doing just that.  Guess what?  It was an all new problem.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a true guy, and never call for help. But I had to.  So into the queue for Network Solutions Customer service.  That was about an hour on hold and another 40 minutes with a customer service rep (CSR).  So now I am about five hours into trouble shooting and the CSR the night I called told me the host had applied a PHP security patch and there was something I could do on WordPress to update settings.  Email would be arriving with the information.

No email.

I spent some time going back and forth with Network Solutions on Twitter while I was at work-and despite not really being able to directly help me with much, they were very responsive.  When I got home that night, it was back on the phone with Network Solutions.  This time I was very annoyed and asked for a supervisor.  What I found out on this call was the information about the security patch was all wrong and the fix involved making a change to my hosted account and updating the PHP via FTP.

Since it was Tuesday night when I got this information, and I don’t actually write PHP code I figured this would all wait until today-and this blog post would be first out of the blocks but with a different tone.

Then came a surprise.  This morning I got a call from John at Network Solutions and he fixed the problem-and he explained it as they applied a PHP patch and it reset to default settings a bunch of accounts (including mine) PHP memory.

Now, I dabble in these types of areas professionally, and for the first time I felt like I was actually getting a straight answer from Network Solutions.

The night I made my second call, and the CSR supervisor was telling me that the patch had nothing to do with the outage, I was outraged.  I know in my job had I done something that caused entire sites to go down, I would be fired.  The supervisor tried to up sell me a site monitoring package-which I don’t need except for when Network Solutions applies rogue patches without determining the result.

So, thank you to the Twitter team at Network Solutions and thank you to John to made a change this morning.   My contract with Network Solutions runs until February and I can say this.  While this does not mean I am not changing my host, I will certainly look around.

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Technical Difficulties Please Stand-By

So, a quick update-and despite the fact that I have run digital platforms for some of the biggest publishers in the country I still can’t fully explain this.

Apparently, the company that hosts this blog-Network Solutions-unilatteraly lowered the memory allotment to my site. And they did this without telling me about it, or warning me it was going to happen.

To get the site back up and running and to be able to post updates, I needed to change a PHP file. Very much a CF.

And I still don’t know why Network Solutions messed with the site’s memory. But it looks like things are back up and running properly-so we will resume regular programming.

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Follow Me On the Yellow Brick (Road)

This is cross-posted from my Dad-O-Matic blog:

One of the interesting things about being a 40+ tech nerd is that I have what I think is a unique and different view of devices and apps than the usual 20-something.  So when I go to a Tweetup (a meeting of Twitter users), I am usually the oldest or among the oldest.  When I am part of a FourSquare swarm (20+ FourSquare check ins at a single location) again I am usually among the oldest there.  And frankly, I am pretty comfortable with it, I can hold my own.

Now, if you are reading this and do not know what FourSquare and Twitter are, it may be a little rough, but hang in and who knows maybe you can unleash your inner tech-nerd.

(If you are on Twitter and don’t yet, please do follow me @esd714)

For the last couple of weeks-at the urging of the CEO of a company called Yellow Brck I have been testing and using a location based social app geared to parent called Yellow Brick.  Its a free app for iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) available via iTunes.

Basically, the app allows you to mix location based checkins (FourSquare) with activity based checkins (Get Glue) and share them with your (limited right now) Facebook network.  When you dig a little deeper into the app, there are some good couponing features that are location based.

Right now, while the user base for the app is small, it seems most of the couponing is NYC based.  I would be interested in hearing from anyone not in the NYC area who tries this app if they have a different couponing experience.

To check in on the app, after opening it, select check in, and then drill down first through activities (and remember this is a parents and kids app).  The list includes movies, birthday parties, parks and nap time.  Once the activity is selected, you have the option of including a location.

Location services appear to be driven from the device’s LBS-so you have to agree to allow the app to know where you are and its a pretty extensive list.  One thing I would like to see going forward is a way to read review on locations-either via Yelp or home grown within the app.

Right now the app draws friends and shares information only with Facebook.  This is a calculated decision based on engagement on Facebook.  Twitter networks tend to be broader, but less engaged.  I would want to see this option (especially for friending) extended to Twitter.  In many cases I have friends who are mobile on Twitter but not on Facebook-but that may be a fringe use-case.

The other nice part about the network sharing, is the ability to not share location information with your network.  I have written about this extensively on my social media blog.  Its a best practice, and one that I practice dillegently to only share location information with people I actually know.

The flip-side is being able to connect with others (on FourSquare I have had many productive andinpromtu business meetings) based on check ins and knowing where key people in my network are.  The same with parenting (and Single Dadd’ing).  Its always great to hook up with friends and kids friends and a few fewer calls and texts to make it happen is not so bad.

For now, Yellow Brick is only available for iOS.  The CEO says an Android version is in the works.

Give it a shot, and friend me up.

 

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The Right Network for the Right Message

My recent brush with semi-unemployment taught me an interesting lesson about social networks (which I admittedly belong to far more than any one per should).  Each one has a unique place and when leveraged in a meaningful can drive results.

So among other places, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and right here on WordPress (which for the sake of this argument I will position as a social network).

Before I left my office at CBS News for the last time (this was late in October) I updated my Facebook status and put out a tweet.  Both were intentionally misleading, as people who knew my situation at work knew what was up–and those who didn’t had questions–but I really did not want to deal with it.

By the time I made my way to Penn Station (admittedly I stopped at a couple of bars) I had job interviews lined up one via a friend (who to this day I have never met in person) through Twitter and one through a good friend (who I actually know) via Facebook.

As the days rolled on, I came to realize that I could make connections to people or reconnect to people across the expanse of my social networks.

  • On LinkedIn I found some folks whose contact information I did not save to my file as I left my CBS office.
  • On Twitter I was getting @ messages and DM’s with links to posted jobs.
  • On Facebook came support and a few laughs.
  • On WordPress I found some tips for better presenting my skills and background.

I have always been a believer in karma when it comes to things professional–I help people (including employees) jobs.  Former employees always have a reference from me. Part of me wants to believe the great support I got was Karma coming back to me–because I will keep on doing what I do.

Beyond the notion of karma though is the reality that we can all be connected–and be there to support one another.  Knowing where to go and how to tap into that resource is part of the emerging field.

My quick takeaways–as I am not sure I have all of the answers on this–and the reality is the place I landed was born more from hard work than working the systems is something like this:

  1. Don’t try to solve all of your problems in an hour or a day.  It’s a process, treat finding a job as a job and make it part of your day-to-day.
  2. Accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be afraid to ask.  None of us have all the answer-but together we are a pretty good knowledge base.
  3. Make sure all of your networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) are presentable to anyone who does a Google search.
  4. Be an active contributor to the communities you want to work in.
  5. Be proactive.  This blog was born out of uncertainty about my job at CBS more than 2 years ago.  I wanted to have a place to send people to see my expertise.  Become and expert and have a place to share that expertise.

Let me know if you have any additions to my list–I am happy to add them on–and I always give credit.

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The Front Door to the Information Superhighway

I am willing to admit to being old enough to remember the promise of “the internet” as promoted by AOL

Or even before that Prodigy

Those early “web” services provided access to a vast array of information–some of it cataloged, most of it untapped.  Along came independent browsers and broadband at that pretty much all but killed the relative beauty of the dial-up service provider:

For those who did it–who can forget that pleasure of surfing looking for dial-up ports that would work, the second number and more….

As what one of those companies promised “the information superhighway” evolved–along game our friends first at Yahoo then at Google who were able to bring order to the relative chaos.  (Yes, I am leaving out the likes of AltaVista, Lycos etc)–you know the search engine.

Open up the page, type in some keywords and you have a menu of options to choose from.

But as technology improved, so did the capabilities of the information providers.  No longer was having a lane on the great information superhighway enough–we needed attention.  So came the skill of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). In essence rigging the system–making my content the top of the search returns, after all we all know no one scrolls.

But alas, internet time waits for no one.  The AOL commercial at the top of this post is from 1995.  A mere 15 years later, and that front door to content has once again morphed.

Think about the way you discover things on-line (if you are even still using a computer or laptop).  Yes, search engines still have their place.  And yes you still have that Yahoo email, but how do you find things?

My bet is more than 70% of the time its through your social networks.  An interesting link on your friends Facebook wall like this one?  Maybe something from your Twitter stream that looks like this?

The reality is we are so connected to our networks, that search engines are a secondary source.  Case in point, over the weekend when Fox Networks and Cablevision settled the two-week imbroglio (it’s the NY Post headline writer in me-sorry) about retransmission, it was on Facebook I found out.  My confirmation was from Twitter, before I hit Google to find out the details.

{Couple of interesting asides here:  1-nornally I get this information first from Twitter, but on an early Saturday evening, my Facebook network was right on it.  2-the email from Cablevision came 5 hours later (a comment on email as a point of dissemination)}.

Our social networks are the touch point we use between information and our day-to-day–and its possible that the front door to the vast reaches of the information superhighway have changed again–from 256k dial-up–to 140 characters.

Where we get and share information is an evolving point of contact, and very individualistic–because it has to serve our needs.  I know 90% of my Twitter is mobile, and less than 5% of my computer based Twitter is on twitter.com.

Think about where and how you get information–and see if perhaps its time for a tune up, or realignment.

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From Film at 11 to We are Here Right Now

I don’t consider myself to be old, however, my daughters (the older one especially) likes to remind me that I am creeping up there in years.  So it’s with that backdrop perhaps that I got a little nostalgic as I was watching the live video of the miners being pulled safely from their underground home of more than two months.

I am old enough to remember the tag line “Film at 11.”  Now I don’t remember it in my professional experience–but growing up I can remember Chuck Scarborough on WNBC (Channel 4 in NYC) or the late Bill Beutel on WABC (channel 7 in NYC) saying that line during what I later learned was the :57:30 cut-in.  You know it as a tease for the late news that comes during primetime viewing.

For those without the reference–here is a one time ABC News colleague of mine Christina Lund with the familiar tagline (this one delivered on KABC-Los Angeles in 1976)

And that’s what happened.  If you wanted to see the story you waited for the news to come on.  In talking to some of the long-timers at places I work or have worked, by 1976 the conversion to videotape was well underway-but the myth of film at 11 lived on for years beyond that.

Fast forward to Tuesday night into Wednesday and the miners.  Gone was the quaint notion of video.  Obsolete the idea of waiting 10 minutes, much less until 11.  This (like so many events) played out in real-time in bits and bites transferred in real-time around the world–with instant commentary from Twitter, blogs and news organizations like CBS (where I work) CNN, NBC etc.

And as all of this was going on — generally in that lull when the rescue capsule was being sent back down to the miners and being reloaded and resurfacing — I was able to think about the change I have seen in the news model both as a consumer and a professional.

I did wait for film (or video) at 11.  I can remember when a reporter going live was a big deal.  I’ve sprinted across snow-covered fields in New Hampshire to a feed point to make slot.

I’ve also pulled out an air-card or MiFi and upload a video file, used QIK to send breaking news video back and updated a story via Twitter using my smart phone camera.

I am not sure I know the “tipping” point in all of this-when the idea of waiting became quaint, but its a good thing.  News  is a commodity as is information.

While I truly do not think “back in the day” that information was being hoarded and doled out–there was a certain eloquence to it.  I also would not have been subjected to Ali Velshi on CNN cramming himself into a model of the rescue capsule.

And that’s not to pick on Mr. Velshi (whom I do not know). It’s the rest of the story.  Because we demand to see these things unfold in real-time and unedited, the ability to package and present may be a victim.

Flashback to January of 2010 and the Miracle on the Hudson.  Gripping pictures, a story with a happy ending–and miles of instant analysis.

Even when the news is bleakest–9/11 is the moment that leaps to mind the need to “fill the void” was evident.  I can even think back to the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island–and the long night I spent on a boat listening to coverage that did not equate with what I was seeing (my Nextel died so I was on my own until the boat came in)–but it’s not all bad, it really is not.

Because all of those sources, all of that information–gives us the power to be the packager.  Yes, news organizations need to be the gatekeeper.  But I can be my own editor and decide what makes sense.

So turn to Twitter, see what your social network is sharing via Facebook–check the blogs watch the video–its part of the human experience and its the job of my colleagues and me to make sure its there for you with context.

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Would You Believe?

It was one of those days when through varied implied and implicit connections I managed to have conversations I had a seven in the morning ring true by four in the afternoon–without having any knowledge that one would lead to the other.  It’s a true Maxwell Smart, “Would you believe?” moment.

In the morning I was talking to a commuting buddy of mine about how blogs and social network can drive the news cycle.  The example we were discussing was the issue reported in the iPhone 4 device.  Here’s a good write through on that if you need the background.

The upshot of the discussion though was how a few bloggers can grab hold of something–and drive via Twitter, Facebook and comments a story until the “main stream” media picks up on it.

So today–what would happen if the BP capping of the well spewing oil in the Gulf was staged.

Step away for a moment.  How easy would it be for them to design a set similar to the one we’ve seen for more than 80 days from the bottom of the Gulf of oil spewing.  But this time–with no oil and this cap in place?  Switch the video source–and what do you know, it’s a capped well, right?

A few conspiracy theorists blog about this.  Spread it via Twitter.  A few Facebook shares–and you have a rumor ready to rumble along.

The final connection to all of this was an email today that CBS News was going to support the News Literacy Project.  One of the goals of this project is to help primarily students differentiate fact and fiction in this connected world.

Play it out–in Dallas in November of 1963.  Imagine a wired world, with instant mobile images and video.  Twitter to share the news far and wide and the second gunman theory? What would that look like today?

Would you believe we have the power to make things happen–to make people listen.  I guess it’s equally important to have something to say.

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