Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lies and untruth


Okay, not directly, but I mentioned that I wouldn't be posting to this site until it was moved to my new domain. So I suppose I was merely misguided. Regardless, here I am with a pretty minor update....

I just thought I should make a post regarding perception. It's interesting to me how I see myself versus anyone else that I know. For instance, I've never considered myself to be "government," but I'm sure that everyone else would sit in the polar opposite category. What I mean is, any time that I refer to government I always use it in the third person: "The Department should do this..." "Government needs to do that..." "People in .gov need to consider the following..." Every single time. I've never once used the terms, "we," "us," "our," when referring to our department as a whole. I just don't like considering myself to be part of the system.

I don't know if this revelation changes anything, more than likely not.

I doubt that most people I know will ever consider me as not being "the government," until I actually leave for other employ. And I doubt that I'll ever change my thinking regarding government: What I love is the awesome opportunities for change; what I absolutely abhor and can not stand is the utter and complete unwillingness to embrace that change.

I think in the end that I'm happier keeping myself outside and above the system, if nowhere else but in my mind. ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Shift + move

I did mention that I would be posting some thoughts on the industry's movement towards specialization rather than wearing many hats. What I hadn't planned on, at the time, was my primary domain coming up for renewal. Bad timing on my part. That's my bad and I am working on those posts so bear with me.

With that said, over the next couple of weeks I will be moving this blog to a hosted Word Press solution...which I'd originally had slated for May. Delays make baby Jesus cry, or so I've been told. I do have my new domain up and running (yay for Media Temple's wicked sick hosting!) Most of the domain kinks have been worked out and I am just trying to find a sliver of time to dedicate to Word Press theming of my fresh installation, along with the melding of my old personal site and this blog content. Basically just comes down to me not being as familiar with Word Press as I probably should be.

I'm going to be working on posts over there so this will probably be the last post to this location and future updates will happen at my new home. I'll be sure to work out the redirects from this space to my new domain so stay tuned!.. all...two...of you. :P

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

...Oh how I love thee

The one thing I love about working in government is there is so much opportunity for progressive change.

What I hate about working in government is so much astounding and dramatic resistance to said change.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finding a path

Two months? Has it really been that long since I've posted? I suppose time flies when you're having fun but wow...

Well I'm happy to say that despite the "iron curtain of creativity" that I've been subjected to at the state, I've been slowly digging myself out of my design uncertainty. I've begun drawing again which has helped immeasurably, we're getting closer to launching ver. 3 of the Legitreviews.com site in Drupal, and I've recently initiated what I hope will be new collaboration amongst the designers at MDC.

One of my big questions with regard to web development now ends up being: specialization or broad range of experience. It seems as if there are two paths in web design currently, that of a very niche specialization in a particular technology or wearing many hats and being able to diversify and draw from several fields. I'm fortunate in that I could function in either role but the question is which direction will be the ultimate winner? And is the other destined to become part of internet history? I suppose there are still people out there with the "webmaster" title, but that doesn't seem to be as popular as it once was.

I'm going to try and break up the next couple of posts disussing what I belive to be happening in web development. Hopefully there can be a bit of discussion from the couple of people following my blog because I'd love to know what others think about careers in our industry are where they're headed. ;)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In the wilderness

So there were a couple of raging debates over at 37signals recently, first about skipping Photoshop for design comps then expecting web designers to know not only user-centric design, but also CSS/XHTML. Those conversations, posts plus commentary, have brought me to a really interesting dilemma .

Are my designs hindered by the fact that I'm always thinking of how they'll be implemented online (even though I have a fair working knowledge of CSS intricacies)?

I recently applied for a position in California because I always think it's a great idea to keep one's resume and personal site/portfolio up-to-date and interviewing skills are good to keep fresh. But it occurred to me that my designs might not be diverse or compelling enough for the company. With my current full-time work, the site designs I create will always be in a bit of a box to fit that constituency. That's just the nature of the beast doing commercial work I think.

It doesn't really push me to expand my artistic abilities or expression, however. So I'm left pondering, what do other artists do? I've always looked at the term design "inspiration" being more in the camp of influence: I see something in a magazine and I want to create a similar effect in say Photoshop or Illustrator, but that doesn't speak to what the subject matter should be. Where does that direction come from?

I just wish I had a bit wider readership so I could toss these questions out to see what the broader consensus is. ;)

Monday, June 9, 2008

The state of the e-state?

So recently, there was a paper published by the Princeton's Information Technology Policy Center (will appear in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology, Fall 2008), basically stating that government should abandon costly individual sites in favor of raw, public information in structured, XML feeds, such as RSS. This idea has brought about a good amount of discussion among state web developers that I've had conversations with and I heartily approve of the idea in theory.

The basis of any site or service that government offers should have a foundation based on well-formed, XML data that is valid and properly structured. That data should be made available to the public, as well as used for internal and publicly available applications and agency sites. Kirk Keller talks about this over on Common Nature.org, along with some of the advantages that are gained from such an approach.

But what about programs that the private sector might deem unimportant and chooses to not promote?

For instance, within the Missouri Department of Conservation there is a program promoting the importance of the various ecosystems and diverse habitat across the state. This project considers both the importance of the wildlife, as well as the habitats that such wildlife lives in. Excellent goals regardless of whether you're engaged in consumptive or non-consumptive activities.

What if the Department of Conservation simply made available the information regarding the habitats in the state, the various "Opportunity Areas" that the public can get involved with, as well as the wildlife that these areas affect? All of these various pieces of information are great in and of themselves. The problem is, there is no guarantee that a public interest will magically spring up and tie these elements together from their disparate systems.

I don't believe that we can just turn off public facing web sites for .gov, but I do think we should expect more from our e-government efforts in the form of valid, well-formed XML data that's publicly available. What do you think? Should we simply expect government to be the providers of raw information or should they also be expected to provide an accessible and usable, forward-facing sites to the public?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Twitter on the job

I have to thank nonprofit_tech (and Twitter!), for turning me on to this article:

Shara Karasic over at Work.com has put together some great tips for using Twitter in the enterprise. Some really great information and good ideas for maintaining your brand and message. Although my agency doesn't yet use Twitter, and may never, I do know of several individuals internally that get great use out of the service.

Definitely worth checking out!

Marketing .gov

I think that I've mentioned before that I work in state government. Which generally causes me no end to frustration to be perfectly honest.

Jeffrey Zeldman posted a great example of areas that should change in government. So often in government, it's such a monolithic institution, changes feel akin to glacial movements... um... before current climate change. I think that a big part of that is the culture of government. There are many government services that people simply can't go to another source to achieve. Permits, licensing, taxes, etc., etc., ad nauseam all come from .gov agencies. This tends to breed a certain lethargy and a sort of, "They'll come to us," mentality that usually drives me nuts. That isn't to say that no change is taking place inside government, nor is there complete and utter unwillingness to change. Change just takes time, and sometimes vast amounts of it.

I've said on several occasions to my good friend Kirk Keller: "I don't need changes made on a weekly or monthly basis (although there are areas where we could/should probably do that), but when we have a good idea and direction to go, can't we just decide to go there? It might take us 5, 8, 10 years or more to actually get there, but at least we know we're headed in a direction!" What I don't like about the 10-year-plan is that if you finally find out that you're headed the wrong place, it's all in writing from on high and virtually impossible to change. That's both sad and unfortunate.

One place where I believe that government could affect some positive change is in the area of marketing. Most government entities that I come in contact with simply don't think it is in their interest to market themselves. It's not that they lack staff with marketing on the brain, the culture simply isn't there with management. Which drives those of us with marketing on the brain utterly insane!

My background is heavily steeped in sales so I tend to follow the line of reasoning that says, "Everyone, everywhere is selling something to someone. A-B-C." Doesn't matter who you are. If you're applying for a job, you're selling yourself. If you're hiring, you're selling your organization. If you're launching a new product or service, even internally, you're selling the benefits of that new thing...or at least you should be. A-Always B-Be C-Closing. This is oftentimes not the case in the G-O-V. Jeffrey Veen, when he was back at Adaptive Path, wrote a great article about the failure of content management. CMS generally fails due to resistance to changes in internal workflows. Government needs to get better at communication, and why not start with internal comm? Most of us at least have email and inter-office memos and an Intranet. That seems like a pretty low barrier to entry.

I'm going to sandwich a shameless plug to the MO Digital Media Developers (DMD) Group in the middle of this post. The DMD has been meeting monthly for the past I don't know how many years... at least as long as I've been an employee with the state (which is 8 years for those who are counting :P). It's been an incredibly positive influence and a great resource for any Missouri state web developer. So this is my little chance to market that resource. If you're a state developer and can spare a couple of hours once a month (come'on, who can't find two hours really?), I'd implore you to attend. You won't regret it!

As far as the bigger picture of government is concerned, the biggest challenge that I see will be a willingness to change the internal culture. Moving from a seat on the throne where unwilling subjects come to us, to a more open model where we embrace sharing of our information and we go to meet people where they are, that is going to take some effort. Tapping social media as a tool for this is a fantastic opportunity for us to move our messages and services out to the public and change our model of communication.

I'm going to remain hopefully optimistic that government can see this as an opportunity rather than a difficulty; the only real obstacle in this battle is ourself.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fireworks, have at thee!

Adobe Fireworks logoSo! Fireworks CS3 is decidedly the suck. Actually, I should rephrase that. The entire CS3 Web Suite is the suck, in my humble opinion. Those might be bold words so let me clarify:

I'm admittedly a Macromedia fan boi. There. Now that is out of the way, I can go on in an absolutely biased way to completely and utterly trash Adobe.

When Adobe bought Macromedia, they did so for reasons that were so deep into Flash's market penetration that it wasn't even funny. Sadly, the remainder of Macro's apps were mostly dismissed. Dreamweaver was essentially the Web design standard in the HTML editing space so GoLive was out, and Contribute was a slick little tool for managing small to mid-size business' web authors so that's still in. Director ended up being the big-brother whipping boy for Flash, and Freehand was completely cut loose due to the elephant in the room known as Illustrator. That all plays out well, with the exception of Fireworks. It doesn't compete directly with Photoshop so what to do, what to do?

Fireworks is my Web UI development application of choice. It's got decent vector-based editing tools, and acceptable bitmap editing capability. It's nothing like Illustrator or Photoshop for their dedicated tasks, but with it's live effects and excellent file export options, Fireworks turns out to be a awesome tool for a web designers arsenal. It's only natural that this would move to replace Adobe Image Ready. Image Ready and Fireworks could do a ton of the same things, but Fireworks really could do them all better - and Adobe agreed with me.

As for the new MacromediAdobe products, the CS3 Suite has been an utter and complete disaster as far as our in-house design shop is concerned. Disclaimer:: We're all running Macs around here and we're all too aware of Adobe's current Windows-bias. Our print designers have run into a variety of issues regarding product updates and migrating files to the newest versions of the Adobe tools, and our entire Web team has downgraded to Macromedia Studio 8 on our Intel-based MacBookPros. We manage a handful of Contribute users and the rendering of our table-less, CSS layout just falls apart when users go to edit pages. Font management is abysmal to non-existent for the newest version of Fireworks, and last night I experienced a complete and utter disaster.

I decided to move files to a different directory while they were still open - okay, that's admittedly my bad. Of course, I kept on working on the open files and when I hit "Save" the system happily looked like it was saving all of my changes. Apparently that wasn't the case and when I opened the file back up - I was back at version 1.0 of the project. Why wasn't there some kind of error? Why did Fireworks act like everything was fine and the little, tell-tale red button at the top of the window signal everything was a go? It's because the CS3 products are the suck that's why.

In Adobe's defense, I can't leave them solely on the table without leveling some hate at the media's current darling Apple and Mac OS X. Something was asleep at the wheel in my system last night when I was working. I'd expect either Fireworks or OS X to calmly and politely let me know, "Hey moron, you're dicking up your design because you moved the original files and I can't actually save your progress - stop now!" Just give me some kind of sign! I'd love to blame user error and just bend over, but if I click CTRL/CMD+S and warning bells don't go off, I assume everything is fine and keep on trucking. The Mac OS could be just as much, if not more so, at fault as opposed to my graphics app so to be fair, it's either completely to blame, or an unwitting accomplice.

Either way someone should be slapped then shot over my lack of sleep. </rant>

The problem is that the Fireworks development team doesn't have the resources given to it that say Photoshop or Flash does. And that's just sad. There really aren't many options, if any, for graphics tools that cater specifically to UI-authoring for web design. Web design images and CSS are built and tweaked to be trim and fast-loading, and in this designer's opinion, so should my web design application(s).

Photoshop has become extremely bloated over the years and it's subsequent releases. Jason Santa Maria wrote about this exact issue in January and I think he's spot on. Currently, the amount of Photoshop that I would use for my UI-development would total up to around 10% of what that software can do. I don't need the ability to import via TWAIN drivers for 800 different scanners, and I don't need the ability to read/edit RAW image formats. I know some people do, but for them, Photoshop can still be there in all its bloated glory. I don't need a heavy-photo-lifting application that can do all that and cook a steak, I need a tool that can help me design for the low-res Internet. Fireworks fills that void to an acceptable degree, but the amount of new functionality that application has seen since version 3 of the app is atrocious.

Give me the ability to create document defined grid layouts. Give me the ability to specify type based on pixels, or ems, or any number of other sizes that are web-ready. Group my fonts in sub-sets that are Web approved according to browser/OS penetration. Give me CSS export of my background colors and baseline fonts. Or better yet, allow me the ability of a CSS-editing/rendering engine just like Dreamweaver within my graphics application.

Photoshop is a great tool for what it was originally designed for. It's just that somewhere along the way, the internet was born, and with that the needs for a different designer's toolbox. Just hoping that someone can step up and fill the void and I'd be happy and pie if that someone were Adobe. It just seems like Fireworks could be that tool...if only...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Migrations

I'm currently working on an upgrade to my personal site and moving over to using Word Press. I use the word "upgrade" because "redesign" doesn't really do it justice.

It's a total overhaul actually: new design, new brand, new company, new software....new domain! Crazy amount of detail to keep up with because I have to make sure nothing goes awry with the domain changeover from Columbia cLAN. That was a great experience and experiment with the local gaming community and many times I miss those gaming sessions with the peeps.

I'm also still trying to get my work integrated into my Basecamp site and working on a redesign for the Legit Reviews site. Redesign and potential rebranding there, not even counting that he's moving the entire site over to Drupal so that's going to be fun to work with. Busy, busy, busy, busy, BUSY!!...but it's still a good time. If you haven't checked out the great work that 37signals is doing for online project management, get thee over there and have a look. ;)

One of the great things about working in web development is that I may not particularly enjoy the organization that I work for (mostly office politics and what-not), but I still absolutely love the work that I do. I find it awesome and very fulfilling to work with such new technology and in an industry that's constantly changing. So many new tools are introduced all the time and it's still a great field to be involved in.

Just wanted to post a heads-up that the blog will be moving over to the new domain soon. I still have the project on-deck in Basecamp. Sadly, my timefram has moved to May rather than April. The flu really knocked our entire family around and pushed my deadlines around a bit and the LegitReviews projects got my freelance attention for the time being.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

7 Useful Tools

This site came my way via a co-worker. Not sure where he stumbled across it, either via Digg or TechRepublic, one of those two.

Six Revisions gives a rundown of 7 Incredibly Useful Tools for Evaluating a Web Design. Several tools are listed, from the open source Click Heat link mapping, which we've just started evaluating at MDC for some of our more popular destinations, to the popular Google Analytics; these tools can help to see where users are going and assist in usability and navigation concerns.

Great resource!

Lunch?

This made me LOL...enjoy! ;)

Me to co-worker: so we're hitting the chili's for lunchings...the wife and i - checking with chris...you in?
Co-worker: I wish I could, I'm on a bit of a financial lockdown till payday
I appreciate the invitation

Me: gah!!...omg - being snubbed over good lunch makes bebe Jesus cry
Co-worker: baby Jesus can send some cash money my way then

Monday, April 21, 2008

Presenting Social Media

Kirk Keller and I will be giving a presentation at the PowerUp 2008 conference on accessibility at the Tan-Tara resort in Osage Beach, MO, on Tuesday, April 22nd. Kirk runs the "Common Nature" blog and I've had the pleasure of working alongside Kirk for almost eight year. I've never worked with anyone possessing as much insight into emerging technologies and how they're applicable to government as Kirk has - take a quick stroll around his blog if you have a chance.

Our presentation, entitled "Social Media - Open Source Software for Connecting with Consumers," basically pitches the idea of expanding your social network online, and details a handful of tools from the Open Source community ranging from simple blogging software up to several fully-featured content management solutions. I wanted to make a post not only to let people know what our presentation is about (and that we'd be out of the office for the day :P), but also to give a list of pertinent links and resources we're using in the presentation. The following list is a meager starting point that can be used to get involved in Social Media, from hosted solutions to installable software that you can run from your personal or business site:

Hosted solutions ::
Content Management Systems ::
Blogging solutions ::
There are literally a BOAT-LOAD (that's a technical term), of other applications out there that excel for social media and networking. Everything from tracking your travel, to mobile blogging, to comprehensive solutions to tie up all the social networking loose ends. The list above represents CMS and blogging solutions that have put their best accessibility feet forward, as well as more popular social media sites that still need to work on improving their accessibility (I'm looking at you Facebook!).

CMS and blogging accessibility resources::
Social media presentation ::

The genius of Twitter

Read an absolutely brilliant blog post about Twitter this weekend: apparently Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch lost his Comcast internet service, so couldn't blog, email, surf...anything. So what's a guy to do? Call customer service - only they were feeding him empty promises. So he hops over to Twitter about his woes. And several bloggers picked those messages up and re-broadcast. "Within 20 minutes of my first Twitter message I got a call from a Comcast executive in Philadelphia...[who] said he monitors Twitter and blogs to get an understanding of what people are saying about Comcast."

The power of a distributed network...powered by Twitter, in this case at least.

I remember reading a ton about how useless Twitter was back when it first launched. How it was a service for the narcissistic and it just wasn't useful at all. This story is a first-hand recount of how valuable Twitter can be. I also know that my supervisor recently signed up for Twitter just to track his day-to-day dealings. We have both discovered that a To-Do list tracks what you want/should be doing, but Twitter enables you to track what you are doing. Sadly, those two things end up being mutually exclusive more often than not. Twitter can help to keep tabs on all that daily minutiae that chews up more time that we'd all care to admit.

This story should really serve two purposes:
  1. Serve as a wake up call to organizations that they should be keeping tabs on what people are saying about them via social media, including Twitter.
  2. Hopefully it can shake some sense into existing administration about the usage of these kinds of tools on the job.
Twitter can be exceptionally useful in the enterprise space, especially if you have employees who are in a telework environment and you're curious just what might be going on during their day. I try not to think of it so much as micro-management, but rather a digital way of looking into the office while on the way to the water-cooler.

Either way, Twitter is still gaining traction as a valuable tool and can play a positive role in your online space.

The true power of the internet

So today I witnessed what I find to be absolutely and completely staggering display of the true power of the internet. TED talks is a site that features relatively short video broadcasts of discussions by big movers and shakers in the science and technology fields. Many times people can't make it to large conferences, but the information is still very valid and the folks over at TED.com work to bridge that divide.

Amazingly, the most recent TED talk that I received notification of was by a researcher named Johnny Lee. I found out about Mr. Lee about 2 months or so ago via YouTube. A co-worker had come across a link via Digg about a story of this guy who'd taken a Nintendo Wii Remote and rigged it to do some pretty cool demonstrations via the InfraRed camera inside a small, $40 handheld device. Very slick stuff and relatively inexpensive.

What completely stunned me about Mr. Lee today was that he was sharing a venue with the likes of Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, or award-winning theoretical physicist Stephven Hawking. Heck, he gave his presentation preceding former Vice President Al Gore giving an update on the climate crisis. This seemingly no-name researcher stumbled across a great little discovery and, harnessing the power of the internet for distributing his message, now has a platform to tell the world about it. And he's being recognized alongside worldwide political and scientific personalities. It's simply amazing and that is when it hit me. The internet's true power isn't anonymity for users, it isn't free speech, or 24-7 access to information. Those are all great things.

The true power of the world wide web is in distribution.

Distribution of a message, an idea, products or even workforce. The reason that the RIAA and MPAA are so vehemently opposed to digital downloads is not really that they're losing a CD-sale. They're losing the distribution method that they've had tied up from the radio stations all the way down to the retailer for decades.

The iTunes Music Store and Amazon.com both cut out the sales channel, while solutions such as digital radio and Muxtape.com cuts out the frontman. The marketing VPs and music execs that used to be able to spoon-feed Brittney Spears to a bazillion hungry teens have just lost their ace in the hole and they're scared pant-less.

I guess the thing is, as a web developer, it's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of new HTML specs, or CSS, or browser versions, or new developments, techniques, and designs. But we should all stay mindful of the real reasons people are online and work toward making those better. Easier distribution, easier access, faster experiences... Simple. Elegant. Brilliant.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

4-hour workweeks and the Fight Club

So I've been reading the 4-hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.

I first have to be up-front and admit to not having finished the read. Second, I have to admit that even though I'm not that far into the book, I'm already inspired. Not due to ground-breaking revelations per se. But the guy has charisma. I also have to give him props for portraying said charisma via the written word. That's good juju in my book and something I've always been amazed by. How simple text can evoke a vibe with other people so they think you're a "cool" person...or "you suck" and you're not someone they would want to hang with.

I first ran into this while playing video games with people online; forging deep friendships with those I'd never even met. Since then, I've also experienced this same situation via Instant Messaging and Twitter. If you haven't experienced it, it is a truly mesmerizing phenomenon. One I'd think could make an amazing research topic, but I digress.

Anyhoo...back to Mr. Ferriss. The real hook to his sage wisdom (if we can even call it that), is his uncanny knack of sounding a lot like Tyler Durden. And I do mean a LOT like him and I mention this as a compliment. Tyler certainly had charisma and was able to sway people to follow his lead. Pay no mind to the fact that Tyler Durden doesn't actually exist outside of the silver screen. My impression of what he was getting at in Fight Club: once you've beaten your fear, you're free to live your life. Ferriss eludes to the same concepts and it makes me wonder two things.
  1. What in my life is really so important as to be unrecoverable in the event of catastrophe...or worse, failure?
  2. Am I just as messed up as those poor saps blindly following a crazy-man in Fight Club?
In answer to the latter, I sincerely hope not. :P But to the former, the only things that really fall into that category are my wife and my fatherhood. The rest is just gravy. In the end I do feel that the whole exercise I think is healthy.

Imagine the worst possible outcome if you try something completely over-the-top and you fail.

Once you've faced that possibility and rationalized a way out of that dark place, it's really not that dark at all. Excellent and thought-provoking in all the right ways.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In "reverse"...

I will openly admit to being fairly new to the blogosphere and it's accompanying tools. I haven't done much other than commenting to various blogs and a savage amount of blog-reading. I use Google Reader as my aggregator for RSS-based content so I can have a consistent user experience whether I'm on my Mac at work or my Windows system at home. Again, being a blog-newb I'm not privy to all the small nuances of the different tools available.

I just happened to stumble across an interesting user experience juggle for lack of a better term, while perusing some feeds. Normally, when a user taps the space bar while viewing a web page, the browser will scroll down a portion of the page, while holding down the shift key along with the space bar will move the page in reverse. Not so in the Google Reader product. When hitting the key combination shift + space bar, the reader hops back up to the top of each blog/news entry in the page. Neat!

This isn't some kind of ground-breaking change and I'd assume that there are plenty of UI experts who would staunchly oppose this change due to breaking user expected patterns of behavior. But I applaud the Google team for their focus on the user experience. It doesn't hurt me at all that I might need to scroll back down to a particular section of a post if I happen to be keyboard navigating the page. How much more valuable is it for me (and perhaps time-saving), for the Google Reader to hop back to the top each entry? I thought this a great example of putting the user, and their current task, first in the experience - kudos to the Google Reader team.

The Palm OS tends to really get this right, at least in my mind. Rather than having to save my progress, a Palm device automatically does so because I'm moving to a new task. Just got me thinking about how we, as developers, could sincerely focus on the user experience and the particular task they might be involved with at different points within an application...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I need to find my digital voice.

So after posting to a solid handful of blogs I've realized I need to make a more significant effort to build my social net. Of course, my life isn't exactly some kind of enormous void - I work in state government and it functions excruciatingly slow for my tastes, but I am gainfully employed, happily married, and I have a career in a field I really enjoy. Everyone should be so lucky. ;)

I've had an awesome time at the South By Southwest festival here in Austin, TX. Even though I wasn't able to find time to meet up with the parental units (Dallas to Austin is still a 3-hour drive - kind of rough for them), was just an awesome freaking time. Met several new people, not only in-person, but had some great discussions with other attendees via the Meebo chat rooms. There's something awe-inspiring about live conversation with others who are sitting in the same room about the presentation - all concurrently. This type of dynamic interaction is great and I really hope that the presenters/panelists are able to plug into that kind of feedback on-demand next year. Hell, sooner than that if possible... We shouldn't have to wait a year - there are some other great conferences coming up!

I also started throwing myself headlong into Twitter and I think it's got phenomenal potential. Messages are short and sweet and it's awesome to be able to follow someone via mobile phone updates. Chris and I had options for nightlife in a town neither of us had been to in years. I'm in love with the ability to seamlessly move from my computer (even though it's wireless), to my mobile phone (which I always have with me). Now I just need to delve a bit deeper and make sure that I'm using it's features and functions.

...and I need to get my ass in gear and re-skin this blog if I'm going to finally break down and use it. :P