Friday, May 30, 2008

Holistic Fan Club Feeds Tacoma Shopping Experience

I am happy to report on two major Tacoma related online tasks I have completed over the past week: A successful purchase of a product offered through the FeedTacoma shops and entry into the Offical HFW Fan Club.

Whenever something is introduced to me via the web, I will often go through the full process of checking it out to gain a better insight into its workings. After the launch of the FeedTacoma shops I was intrigued, but it was not until the virtual storefront appeared again in the media (or rather it's NOT appearing in the media) I was signaled to take action and fully engage the shopping experience.

Having purchased some of the first books available through Amazon, I knew my way around an online storefront and was looking forward to trying out this free South Sound service to the community. Once in the shops the question became "what do I purchase?".

Sure, I could have entered into any of the alphabetized storefronts, shopped by category, or even sorted items by their tags, but instead I chose to continually refresh the page as if I were merely browsing through the 275 (as of May 30, 2008) items.

It felt a bit like window shopping. Look at a few items, refresh the page, look at a few items, refresh the page and in this manner lazily take-in the wares being offered. I would click on an item, as if taking it from a shelf and turning it over in my hand, before placing it (hitting the) back (button on my browser). “Nice, but not my style”, or “wow I like this, but when would I wear it?” and even an occasional “WTF?”.

And then I saw it. The Official Holistic Forge Works Fan Club Membership (w/bonus membership kit). Having been a fan of RR Anderson’s work (with some exceptions) ((one in particular)) (((it was simply in poor taste))) ((((I am now officially up to four sets of parentheticals)))) (((((a new personal record))))), I was thrilled to find a fan club with which I could join.

With it I would receive:

1. Secret HFW Member ID Badge
2. Personally hand typed Secret Message from Tacoma's only cartoonist RR Anderson
3. Information on where to send even more money
4. GREAT FISH Idol, Autographed Cardboard Cutout
5. Media Mail Envelope
6. Compact disc of every Tacomic available at the time of membership

There was also a secret bonus item. I was taught the secret hand signal!

Oh, yes, the bonus membership kit was AWESOME!!!

And so I purchased it.

No, there may be no fancy-schmanzie, take you money now, track your packages technology on the back end, but my order was taken and an email went out to the store’s proprietor at the push of a button. An automatic response came through my gmail account which included an order number, shop information, email contact and order information.

After arranging a mutually agreed upon delivery method through correspondence, my purchase was assembled and made available, in this case for pick up in person.

Heading over to the chalk challenge today was doubly exciting as I was not only able to make my membership official, but I picked up my kit from the man himself. Even when in full chalk battle mode he was able to multitask and make the transaction complete.

Thank you FEEDTACOMA shops.

P.S. If you hit the “add to cart” button it sends the order out. Be prepared. In writing this blog entry up, and referring back to the shop, I may have inadvertently ordered two more kits. oops.

P.P.S. From the site:
“What is FeedTacoma Shops?
FeedTacoma Shops is an online marketplace that brings locally sold goods, gifts, and more to a local audience all in one place. Since most retailers or sellers don't have space in a mall this is a way they can band together to show patrons that otherwise may not get to their shop what they have to offer.
Aside from selling items online, FeedTacoma Shops strives to encourage visitors to get to know what's available locally so they'll be more likely to stop into a shop knowing better what lies inside. Activity for the area's various retailers and service providers is good for them and for the success of Tacoma and our community as a whole.”

RR was kind enough to forgive any additional and unintentional purchases made.

I don’t believe I have ever written a post script to the fourth power before.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Phoenix Looking to Stretch its Arm

I was happy to see that after some initial set backs that the first of the two days needed to set up Mars Lander’s robotic arm ended successfully. The radio system used to communicate with the Lander had gone into a standby mode on Tuesday which had prevented commands from being sent to Phoenix.

Without the arm, they can’t dig up the soil, without the soil, they can’t analyze for possible signs of life.

There are a number of great places to find more information about the Phoenix mission to Mars.

Start with the NASA site of course. They even have a blog repository under the Multimedia drop down on the main menu. Go there and you will find a shortened lifespan blog that covered the landing process.

There is also a podcast section and access to pictures from the craft.

CNN has been good at covering the ongoing activity and has one great entry calling out the first “money shot” of the trip.

In particular I like the tone of the narrative they provide in their “about us” information.

As we reach out to learn more about the universe, we're all coming to terms with our relationship to our home planet: Pollution, solutions, and challenges in the way we live - and what we may leave behind. New Gadgets, and new discoveries, from the lab to the edges of the Galaxy; and the crossroad where science, religion, money and politics collide.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Shall We Play A Game" With GWAP?

In 1983 Matthew Broderick (and Ally Sheedy) starred in a movie about a computer whiz kid who, while looking to hack into computers containing the latest games coming out, stumbles onto a military computer and almost launches WWIII.


Spoiler warnings crack me up.

Called War Games, the only way Matthew is able to stop the nuclear strikes is to teach the computer that the only way to win a game you can’t win, (examples including Thermonuclear War and Tic Tac Toe), is to not play the game at all.

The funny thing is that if he hadn’t played the games anyway, the computer would never have learned that lesson. Plus, this computer enjoyed playing games so much that he kept stalking poor Mathew by dialing him up and issuing the ominous challenge, “Shall We Play a Game?” in that great 1980’s computer font and synthetic voice.

End spoiler

Well, if you want to play games and teach computers you now have your chance.

Last week Carnegie Mellons School of Computer Science launched a new site called GWAP. GWAP, which stands for Games With A Purpose, are using the results from game play to improve image and audio searches, teach computers to see and enhance the artificial intelligence structures and algorithms that decision making is based on. In a nutshell you play simple games and the computer gets smarter.

I have taken the opportunity, research wise I assure you, to play these games and they are quite fun.

For example, in ESP, they match you with another random and anonymous person and you engage in a guessing game. They show you a picture and then you type in what you see. If it matches what the other person types as what they see, then you move on to the next image. A’la the game Taboo, there are some words you cannot use.

Other games include:

Matchin (A Question of Taste) in which you judge which of two images is more appealing.

Tag a Tune (Hear Here) searching for music without using the title but based on the qualities of the song

Verbosity (It’s Common Sense) which tests your common sense and amasses information.

Squigl (Ready Set Trace) in which players trace the outlines of objects and in turn help computers recognize them by shape.

Some information from the GWAP website:

The Team. The person who made this site possible is our chief engineer, Mike Crawford. He agreed to move from Australia to Pittsburgh to work on this project -- ha! In addition, Michael Brotzman, Severin Hacker (yes, his last name really is Hacker), Edith Law, Bryant Lee, and Edison Tan all spent countless hours architecting the games and the site. Ryan Staake was our ninja graphic designer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CommonCraft in Plain English

Every other Monday a small group of us try to get together and talk about writing. It started around the idea of screenplays but has broadened a bit. Unfortunately I missed yesterdays get together as I was in another meeting at the time. Yet I still benefited from a bit of information from the groups discussion.

Mary Lloyd, who completed her book “Bold Retirement” last year, has been looking at ways to support the book and develop her website. Erik Hanberg (who did make it to the meeting) wanted to help her understand in simple terms what RSS was, and presented her with a YouTube video which explained it. Because we copy each other in our correspondence I received the link as well to a video titled "RSS in Plain English".

Simple and to the point, the video uses a low tech format the producers call Paperworks to present technology concepts. It was both informative and funny. As it turns out, it is only one of many videos available through Common Craft, whose tag line is “Our Product is Explanation”.

The company has been around since 2003 and is operated by Sachi and Lee LeFever out of their home in Seattle, Washington. Since 2007 they have been producing short videos, many of which can be viewed from the leelefever channel on YouTube. Companies also hire them to do videos for their corporate we sites and they have opened the Common Craft Store.

If you are interested in straightforward explanations of how Wikis work, what Social Networks are or how to use Twitter, then you will find what you are looking for within these videos.

My favorite however, is the decidedly non technical “Zombies in Plain English”.

Thanks for passing this on Erik.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Exploring SearchEngineLand

I feel like an internet explorer! No, not the browser, but a curious scout who by moving about in a vast continent of content discovers something heretofore unknown (to the scout that is). Today I stumbled upon SearchEngineLand, where algorithms frolic and link bombs myths are exploded.

How did I get there? Why, in my usual haphazard fashion of following bread crumbs of information and articles that interest me. First I tripped over an article on Stephen Colbert winning person of the year at the Webby Awards.

Which I thought might be interesting to comment on, but the news is a bit old and I wanted to know more about why he was selected. As I pushed through the information I found out that among his many web based accomplishments, he managed to become the designation “Greatest Living American”. (At least according to Google). This was more up my alley for a post. How did he do it and what does that say about information searches. He turned to has fans and set out to capture the accolade by comments and links which contained both his name and the aforementioned phrase.

Except that, as it turns out, he is no longer the “Greatest Living American” (according to Google). As I always recheck my coordinates to not only see where I am heading and where I have been, I took a side expedition over to Google and entered the phrase. Colbert had been relegated to number two.

But why? Because Google does not like to be influenced by link bombing, and adjusted it’s search algorithms to counter the invasion, that is why.

I know this because, as I wandered from link to link on the subject, I found a clearing and it was explained to me in SearchEngineLand. A mystical place which though associated with Third Door Media, does not give out much more information about itself other than it is “a must read hub” for all things search.

I look forward to exploring it further, and even heading off to Googleland, Marketingland and Columnland as time, and links provided by SearchEngineLand permit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

YouTube, Crime and Real Reality

“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

I used to watch “Cops”, one of reality TVs first entries and one of the longest running television shows in the United States. I was fascinated to see real police officers on duty catching criminals. Sad but true, it was always more fun when they were doing so right in my own town. “Cops” in Portland or Denver, OK. But “Cops” in Lakewood or Pierce County? Sweet. Not only did it tell stories of criminal justice, but you could also play spot the landmark.

“Check it out, they’re right by the Shipwreck Tavern.”

Always edited for action and careful to obscure the criminals identifying features (unless that individual signed a release ((Mom, I’m on TV!!!)), they pointed out where crimes occurred and gave us a closer peek into the real world.

Now it is in our hands as well.

Scott Fontaine, The News Tribune's mobile journalist, has posted a submitted video in an attempt to start a dialog around the subject of citizens who record the actions of other citizens involved in criminal activity and then make the images available to the public. He also made an accompanying comment requesting others thoughts.

In this case downtown resident Laura Hanan sent a video of a group of young men drinking what looks like a fifth of tequila (my guess, could be vodka) out by a parked car in front of a downtown nightclub. At one point it appears that one of them urinates on the wall.

This is not the first time locally that someone has recorded a video to point out problems they would like to have addressed. Scott weighed in on the topic last November in this post.

Not just in Tacoma either, Katherine Sather in a post this week on Citizen Rain writes about a Belltown resident who wanted to draw attention to drug problems in her neighborhood and created a YouTube page called Belltown Crime.

As Katherine notes, “Video titles include "crackheads playing football in my alley" and "crackhead makes pipe out of a can while wearing sombrero."

The videos on the site appear to have gone private again. As the poster explains, “sorry. I only took the videos for two weeks, and it was never my intention to keep shooting videos or to leave the videos on for a long time, just wanted light to be shed on the problem,…”

Which, it apparently helped to do.

Certainly the surveillance video of the criminal dubbed “Captain Jack Sparrow Burglar” once posted convinced the not too bright, unsuccessful break in artist to turn himself in.

At least one police department is considering making it part of their policing process according to the Washington Post. The Arlington County Police Department has turned to YouTube in its quest to get the bad guys by posting surveillance video from crime scenes in hope of generating leads and identifying suspects.

As I commented on Scotts blog, cameras and cell phones record video now, and posting is easy to do. I imagine that we will be seeing more of this type of citizen reporting. As for COPS, I think it is still airing, and the makers have a new show called Street Patrol.

I also believe that at some point laws will be needed or tested having to do with privacy and defamation issues for online posting of videos.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Gig Harbor Healthcare Marketing Conference

I am looking forward to speaking at a small health care marketing conference tomorrow in Gig Harbor.

Called ThinkLAB, it is an education and networking event put on by JayRay, a communications consultancy off of Dock Street in Tacoma. The event is an opportunity to mix and mingle with a group of professionals focused on a specific topic of interest to the health care industry.

My topic is pretty darn broad, but should make for an interesting presentation and hopefully engaging discussion period. It is the use of YouTube, MySpace and the Blogoshere and how to incorporate social media into a health care provider's marketing plan.

Truthfully I didn't find much evidence to support YouTube examples. Mostly hospital advertisements repurposed for a secondary audience. There are also a lot of expose' type videos showing conditions that a filmmaker found offensive, and then there were many, many political advertisements regarding health care programs offered by the current slate of candidates.

Charitable giving organizations have found a home on MySpace (HealingMusic), as well as FaceBook, evidenced by the Great Ormond Street Hospital page..

But the current raft of community driven, marketing minded and self promotional online communications ventures are prevalent in the blogosphere.

One of the strongest I found has been around since October of 1993 and is called One of the most interesting is from an emergency room Doc from Seattle called "Movin' Meat" at It is a self described "accidental blog of a semi-accidental ER doc living in the Pacific Northwest." My favorite entry is about how a homeless man managed to live in the wall of the waiting room for three months.

Of course I have mentioned here previously about CaringBridge and the free web site services they provide to families of children who are ill.

Also on the docket is Brian Forth from SiteCrafting, home of many of the South Sounds blogging community. He will be presenting on web site innovation. I look forward to his presentation as well.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tacoma and the Biometric Identification Solution

There is a great technology company in the South Sound that many have not heard of. Additionally, if you looked for it online based on its location and solution, you may get a surprise instead. Nevertheless, it has been part of the city of Tacoma, (and has representation on the Institute of Technology’s advisory board) for many years.

The company is Sagem Morpho and they are an “industry leader in multi-biometric solutions, develops, manufactures, and integrates multiple biometric technologies that includes fingerprint, iris and facial recognition products and services.”

They are a wholly owned subsidiary of the European firm Sagem Securite, which is part of an international technology consortium who go by the SAFRAN Group. As a fixture in the downtown Tacoma business district they have also seen a number of student interns and hires come from the Institute of Technology here at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

Founded in 1985, they have seen their product line grow from fingerprint systems to multi biometric identification systems including facial and iris recognition. One of the recent solution deliveries to Florida was reported by the Biz Buzz blog. (say that three times fast)

So it is interesting to me that when you search for “Tacoma Technology” you end up in the city of Taiwan. More surprising, that first entry coming back from a Google search is a company that provides (wait for it)......biometric identification and recognition systems, called (wait for it again)........Tacoma Technology. Makes you wonder about the conversation that occurred before naming the company in 1993.

“What should we name the company?”

“Well, there is an established fingerprint and biometric identification system with an established US clientele in the city of Tacoma.”

Slams flat hand on table and points with enthusiasm “Bingo!, we’ll call it Tacoma Technology and create immediate association with an established solution.”

The above exchange translated from the fictional Chinese that was imagined for the purposes of this fictional account.

For more translated information of above company follow this link.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...