We’ve Reached “Peak Messaging”

As the quintessential early adopter and a propoent of creative disruption, I never thought I’d find myself saying this: when it comes to messaging, I’m old school.

Sure, email has it’s problems, but it works. The same goes for SMS. Both are ubiquitous - it doesn’t matter what mail client you have or what phone you use, it just works. For everyone.

Planning for #Sandy (Or, “What to do when you can’t find a generator”)

Almost exactly a year ago, we were without power (And heat. And fresh water.) for almost five days.

My wife and I vowed that we would never go through that again if we could help it, so we planned to buy a generator and transfer switch for this year's storm season so that we could power our home's basic necessities (heat, hot water, sump pump, fridges).

Long story short, we didn't. The money we budgeted for a generator went toward replacing our broken hot water heater, but we vowed to get a generator as soon as it made sense for our budget.

Then we started tracking Hurricane Sandy.

Thursday night, my wife said, "We should get a generator tomorrow." 

Powering our sump pump is critical for us, especially after installing a new hot water and heater and, six months earlier, replacing a broken washing machine - both of which are located in our relatively wet basement.

At 7 AM on Friday I began calling around, looking for generators. Most retailers laughed at my request while others were sympathetic to my search - but they still couldn't help me as there weren't generators in stock, anywhere.

So I started to do some research to find a creative solution. Here's what I came up with.

Wingstand Portable Tablet and Smartphone Stand

If you're like me, you use a variety of gear to remain productive.

The mainstay of my workflow is my MacBook Air, with my iPhone being second in line, followed by my iPad.

In my opinion, any real work on an iPad requres a keyboard. Perhaps, if you grow up using an on-screen software keyboard, you might feel differently, but I get frustrated by the lack of tactile feedback that a real keyboard provides.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I frequently live-tweet some of the professional events that I attend. I don't always have a net connection for my MacBook or iPad, so the iPhone is my fallback device. It's these times that I wish my iPhone also had a full-size keyboard.

While this has been possible as of iOS 4, using Bluetooth, the remaining problem is about placement and orientation: what do you do with the iPhone while you're using an external keyboard?

This is where the Wingstand comes in.

Amazon Adjusts to New App Store Rules with Clever Marketing

Apple has been asserting control of its App Store rules by asking app developer to remove the "purchase" buttons for third-party stores in certain apps. The most obvious ones impacted by this have been the Google Books and Kindle apps.

Last night, I discovered a bit of clever marketing on Amazon's part in response to this change.

QR Codes Provide Quick and Easy Access to Facebook Likes On-The-Go

Recently, Optify shared some research inferring that social signals (Facebook "Likes") correlate with search engine results. Given this fact, it's a no wonder that so many web sites and businesses are asking you to hit the Like button.

I advised a client that he could use a number of incentives to get people to Like his Facebook page, including using a Like as an entry in a drawing. He took the advice and decided to giveaway an iPad to people who like his page.

What he didn't tell me was that he wanted people to Like his page and perform the giveaway at a professional conference made up of less-than-tech-savvy attendees.

This was a bit of challenge. Access to social networks are, by design, very personal. Most people engage with them on their computers or smartphones - neither of which would be on-hand by many folks at this event.

The fallback method I suggested for acquiring Likes and entering people into the drawing was SMS. Simply send a text to

32665

with the text 

like yourpagenamehere

The only problem with this approach was the name of the page. Instead of being something quick and easy to type like facebook.com/YPN he had chosen a long, search engine-friendly version such as facebook.com/thisismyreallygreatsuperduperpage

It's enough of a challenge to get someone to opt-in so the last thing you want is for him to feel foolish when he can't type the long name on his flip phone or his touchscreen smartphone.

The solution - which I didn't deduce until after the fact - is a QR code. Yes, there still aren't too many people who have QR code scanners installed on their phones either, but it does solve the text-entry challenge.

New iOS Podcasting Workflow

Since I began podcasting in 2006, I've been using a variety of methods to record audio, both in the studio and remotely.

I use Macs exclusively and my experiments have included full simultaneous multi-track recording in Garageband using a Firewire mixer, to simply using a conference phone and a pocket recorder to capture phone interviews.

I finally settled upon Audio HiJack Pro for both local and remote recording as the software enables me to capture both sides of a Skype conversation in a single audio file.

This setup worked great for years with only minor hiccups. Finally, a few weeks ago, I had some weirdness occur in this setup and I lost an entire 90-minute episode.

For whatever reason, the Skype connection dropped. We immediately reconnected and everything sounded fine during recording. However, when I played the file back, the audio coming from the studio mics from that point forward was completely garbled. (My caller sounded fine, which was even more strange.)

Sure, we had a good conversation - in fact, it would have been a great episode -  but I wasted everyone's time by not having a better solution for monitoring the audio.

Fixing It

To say that I have a few gadgets in my studio would be a gross understatement so I decided to take stock of my gear and pull together a simple, reliable method for capturing local and remote audio.

Here's the result.

Bigger Video, Not Broken Video

This scenario has bugged me for some time and I'm surprised that no one has thought to fix it:

You're watching an embedded video in a web page. It's small because it has to fit within the width of the page element in which it's placed. To make it larger, your only other option is to maximize it to full screen.

However, unless it's Full HD, what you gain by enlarging the screen you lose in resolution - everything becomes blurred or pixelated.

Why isn't there an option for "Native Resolution"?