Easy Business Idea: Professional Commuter

Via Digg.com

Who says all the good ideas for a start-up business have been taken?

At least one fellow clears a few hundred dollars a day by riding in other people’s cars so that they can use the commuter lanes.

This fellow will be made obsolete in many cities (including Denver, my local metropolis) that have instituted the option to pay a toll in order to drive in the commuter (or High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes.

Still, it’ll be a good business while it lasts.

Written on June 23, 2006

Visor: Terminal anywhere

Visor, the new application from Blacktree, creates a half-screen terminal window that pops up with the press of a hot key. This terminal is persistent, so when it’s in the background, it just keeps on going and going and going.

Very clever little hack, and extremely useful if you’re prone to bouncing between the terminal and your desktop.

The only problem I’ve had with it is that it’s only one window. So I invoke screen as soon as it starts up, and that pretty much takes care of it.

Thanks, Blacktree!

Written on June 20, 2006

Nik's Pick: Google Browser Sync for Firefox

Google has just released a terriffic plug-in for Firefox, Google Browser Sync.

In a nutshell, this extension lets you keep your bookmarks, history, cookies and passwords in sync across multiple copies of Firefox. It’s completely configurable (in case you don’t want to give Google access to some of that information, or you just don’t want Doubleclick to track you between multiple browsers), and provides encryption as well. (Unclear whether the encryption keeps Google from data mining my bookmarks.)

Ultimately, I can only give it 5 out of a possible 7 stars because it’s not quite as easy to use as it should be. It relies on a live connection to the server while you browse, so you will get notified if you have one computer connected and fire up Firefox in another. For people (like me) who have multiple computers on their desktop, this can get a bit irritating.

That aside, once you do connect the disconnected Firefox to the sync server, it seems to pick up changes during the interim.

I’ve also had some strange bugs with seriously old cookies replacing the latest versions on my computer. Those seem to have been a one-time problem after my initial sync on all three computers, though.

Written on June 9, 2006

Uploads work now

Thanks to a diligent reader, Luke, I found out that the Disk Node module I use to host downloads wasn’t working. As a result, only site administrators could download files. Don’t I feel stupid!

So, I ditched Disk Node and just added the files as attachments. I don’t get a download count anymore, but at least you can get the files.

Sorry about that!

Written on June 5, 2006

The Network is the Message

Robert Young graces us with a very interesting dissection of what the trend of social networking means to today’s communicators and web entrepreneurs.

As I watch Penton shift from a one-way publishing company (we are the experts!) to a social network/community (we bring experts and users together!), this seems especially apropos.

>To some extent, self-expression should be viewed as a new industry, one that will co-exist alongside other traditional media industries like movies, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. But in this new industry, the raw materials for the “products” are the people… or as Marshall McLuhan might say, “the people are the message” when it comes to social networks. So for any player who seeks to enter this industry and become the next social networking phenom, the key is to look at self-expression and social networks as a new medium and to view the audience itself as a new generation of “cultural products”.

What Robert is discussing is the continued democratization of the means of production. From the printing press to desktop publishing to blogging, the means of sharing personal expression cheaply and effectively continue to grow. Individuals can become authorities based solely on the value of their ideas (or more likely by their penchant for self promotion).

As consumers of information, we have our own areas of expertise. So the job of the “publishers” is to draw this scattered expertise, sort it, organize it, and make it available for everyone.

And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Google has already cornered this market. Providing context is just as important as aggregating information.

Written on May 31, 2006

Lotus Notes: A Proud Member of the Interface Hall of Shame

I was pleased to see that Lotus Notes’ abhorrent interface has been not only recognized, but celebrated.

>We wish we found IBM’s Lotus Notes a long time ago. This single application could have formed the basis for the entire site. The interface is so problematic… [Lotus Notes] contains almost every example of inefficient design illustrated thoughout the entire Hall of Shame site.

The Hall of Shame and Hall of Fame on the same site, while out of date, are an entertaining read. (Especially if you’re an interface/design nerd.)

Written on May 18, 2006

Inquisitor X: Insta-search

Inquisitor X is a nifty little web app which provides nearly instant searches of major search engines while you type.

Think of it as Spotlight but for the web. No, better yet, don’t, because Spotlight is fairly annoying…

Anyhow, it’s a nifty bit of code. I just wish that clicked links opened in the main window as in a normal search engine rather than in a frame. As it is, if you type or delete a single character in the search field, you lose whatever page you were looking at! Oops!

Maybe I’d be happier using Inquisitor as a plug-in for Safari or Camino.

Written on May 17, 2006

CEOs: Stop Acting Like A**holes!

Pam Slim’s open letter to CxOs of all types couldn’t be more dead-on.

She calls for honesty, respect, profit sharing, and cooperation between the executives and the rank and file. Hardly revolutionary, but it’s all true.

I have the luck of working at a company with a (relatively new) CEO who takes his employees seriously. It wasn’t always the case. The original management team once told an employee who was worried about a salary freeze that he “wasn’t here to coddle employees.” Not that he didn’t take home a nice bonus check after helping us lose a few hundred million dollars.

This same letter could be read to anyone in a management or leadership position of any organization. Respect the people working with you. You serve them as much as they serve you. A leader is nothing without his followers. Keep that in mind.

Written on May 10, 2006