Twitter, Facebook and Viral Traffic

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On the evening of the House health care reform vote, I built didtheypasshealthcarereform.com, a single serve site, to report the status of the bill. Prior to the vote it read “no.” After the bill’s passage it read “yes!,” and celebrated the occasion with randomly-placed animated unicorns (courtesy of Cornify).

I posted links to the site on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. As soon as the bill passed, traffic skyrocketed. 48 hours later, the dust settled.

The Follower Myth

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There is a widely held belief that you can tell how interesting a Twitter user is by the number of followers that he or she has. This is a flawed line of thinking.

It’s All About the Users

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What I love most about working at a startup is how close I am to the people I’m serving. Almost every task I work on directly benefits our customers. And working at a web startup means I can deliver that benefit as soon as it’s built.

Things Amazon Could Do Better

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I’m a big fan of Amazon.com. It is far and away my online retailer of choice. I’ve been a Prime member since they launched the program in 2005. Books, computers, videogames, RAM, speakers, … you name it, I’ve probably bought it at Amazon.

But it’s time for some tough love. Amazon, your web site is in dire need of improvements. Here’s how you can make it better.

Wake Machine

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Wake Machine enables Time Machine to backup to a target that is sleeping. Without Wake Machine, such backups will fail because the remote disk won’t mount.

Use Time Machine With Wake on LAN to Enable Network Backups to Sleeping Devices

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**Update Sept 6, 2009: **I’ve created a project at github to simplify this process. More details here.

Task: You want to use Time Machine wirelessly to backup your Mac to a drive on another Mac on your network.

Problem: If the target machine is in “sleep” mode, your backup will fail.

Solution: Send a “magic packet” to the target machine to wake it up if it’s sleeping.

‘Tis the Season

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Friends & Family,

I hope you’re all enjoying happy holidays, and I wish you the best of luck in the coming new year.

Rather than leave this as a template holiday note, I thought I would take the moment to bring attention to an important cause that is, unfortunately, very ineffectively lobbied for. This is admittedly a bit long-winded; if you’d like the condensed version, just read the last three paragraphs.

As somebody with several gay friends, the issue of equal rights for homosexuals has struck me more forcefully than I suspect it strikes many straight people. It’s an issue I’ve been forced to confront time and again, if not directly in conversation then indirectly in passing thoughts. Not everybody has a gay friend (though I suspect there are many who do and don’t know it), and I fear that those who don’t wind up examining the issue through the mainstream media’s portrayal of it, rather than through first hand experience and interaction. I hope that this note can speak to everybody, but I’m especially reaching out to the latter category of people.

Keep Your Play Counts and Statistics When Moving Your iTunes Library

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If you’re an iTunes user who doesn’t let iTunes manage your music collection, you’ll find that iTunes isn’t very cooperative when it comes to moving your music around. For example, if you decide you want to move your music from your internal drive to an external drive, you’ll find that you have to re-import your music, costing you all of your playcounts, playlists and library statistics.

There’s a better, easier way.

Where I Was on 9/11.

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It was my junior year of high school. I was in the library when the first plane hit, about to run to Ms. Najman’s classroom for Chemistry or Advanced Physics (she taught both; I don’t know which class it was, my gut recalls the former). We spent the next fifty minutes on her computer trying to find out more, but were blocked by the first and only global internet malfunction of my lifetime. I don’t think we got through to a single news site.

Terrorism was my gut response. The act was inescapably intentional, I thought, but the idea of domestic terrorism to this extreme was so far removed from my day to day life, that such an event would put me in a surreality. But that’s what 9/11 turned out to be. Things were suddenly different. My perception of the world matured more on that day than it did in all of my sixteen years preceding it.

Greetings From My New MacBook (a Convert’s Tale)

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It came as no surprise that I found myself in need of a new laptop. My Compaq Presario M2000, purchased in 2005, was becoming less sufficient by the day. What was adequate for web development three years ago is no longer usable for such light tasks as web browsing or document writing. I stalled and I stalled, but this past week I found myself blessed with a hard drive crash, and by syllogism, a new laptop.

The surprise was that I chose a MacBook.

Thoughts on Ted Kennedy

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Sad, disappointing, heartbreaking. Such adjectives don’t do justice to the Liberal Lion. I have to defer to Michael Long of the National Review, whose story speaks louder than any words I can summon:

Jon Brion at the Harris Theater

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I’ve never been one to question Jon Brion’s musical prowess. In addition to completing a self-released solo CD, he’s produced such artists as Elliott Smith, Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and Rufus Wainwright, all of whom asked Jon to make the most of their songs. And if you haven’t heard any of those artists’ work, you’ve likely still heard Brion–at the movie theater. He’s done the soundtracks for Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I Heart Huckabees. Hip Hop star Kanye West was so impressed by Jon’s soundtrack work that he sought Jon to produce part of his latest album. And when Jon’s not making music, he’s talking about it. To me it seems as though Jon has always been in a musical bubble, floating high above the pedestals of the other musicians I admire, far, far away from me.

But last night I saw him up close and personal, and with a personality aimed to entertain and a humbleness as if he were one of the audience members, too. When he wasn’t banging on drums or striking keys or programming a synthesizer or strumming a guitar or plucking bass notes or singing, he was cracking jokes, telling stories, impersonating Bruce Springsteen or inviting audience members up on stage–either to sing, play an instrument or request a song. There were moments in which the show seemed a small step away from Open Mic Night with Jon Brion.

Get Gmail Email on Your Palm TX

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I was disappointed when Google released a mobile Gmail client for PalmOS 5, but did not provide support for Palm TX devices. The TX, after all, is Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled, and thus an ideal candidate for any mobile application that takes advantage of wireless internet.

It turns out that getting Google’s Gmail client up and running on the Palm TX is both quick and easy.

Hacking Verizon: Free Mobile Web on the LG VX 8600

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Any Verizon customer can tell you the company mantra: if the customer wants it, make them pay for it. Verizon’s mobile web is no exception: by disallowing the user to change certain settings on the LG VX8600 phone, they effectively force him to use Verizon’s mobile web service, or none at all. Long story short: users cannot take advantage of free WAP services (such as that of Google) because Verizon wants you to pay to use theirs.

However, by making a minor firmware update, you can enable your phone to use free WAP providers, giving you full access to the mobile web without paying Verizon a dime (aside from airtime minutes, of course). Here’s how I did it.