You know you've gone and fell into something good when you leave work on your first day and you see a deer walking across the street. And so you wait for the deer to cross the road, and the person coming the other direction, who has undoubtedly seen this sort of thing many times, calmly looks down at his cell phone or latte and waits for the deer to decide what the deer is going to do.

John just published a list of FM's values that make me feel pretty good about what we're going to be doing here. I'm proud to work somewhere that not only understands what weblogging is about, but understands how important it is to keep those conversations authentic or else it'll all just fall apart.

Like I said, I sure fell into something good.

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My friend Mat and I talked a bit this morning about the Minor Threat / Major Threat ruckus going on right now. He called me cynical for equating it with some t-shirt vendor selling a shirt with "McPothead" written on it in a McDonald's font.

I'm not going to get into any debates about what punk is or isn't, that's for whoever to decide on their own. I just think that caring about imagery so much as to create a lifestyle around it is falling in the same trap so many people rebelled against a few years ago. Treating your beliefs like a pair of Jordache jeans is what they want you to do.

I love the remix culture, and I will try to consistently support it when I see it.

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I'm in Marin this week living in a hotel where the only Internet access, described cheerfully by the woman at the front desk turned out to be "a data-port in the side of your room's phone."

After a few hours hacking away with incorrect information given to me by the Cingular rep (who chuckled when I said I was using a Macintosh) I finally figured out how to connect at a whopping 56kbps. I even made a phone call while connected!

Anyway, this guy's mobile phone modem scripts saved me from going insane. Everything you need to know is on his site.

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Let's Get This Party Started
Originally uploaded by torrez.

I’ve become very sensitive to points and the idea of using a point system to incentivize repeated use.

FilePile is purely a status thing, though sometimes I wish I would have used them for something more tangible. Status works for most of the people on the site, but a few seem to go out of their way to earn negative points.

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I quit my job yesterday. After nearly six years of doing web development at a marketing company I decided to take the leap into something I've become really excited about.

The day I gave notice coincided with the company's monthly all-staff meeting. As usual there were lots of jokes, cheering, silliness (I won a Belding-like award for setting up Bugzilla for a company project--it was an aluminum foil bowl filled with candy), there was a show-and-tell of some great print work we did for Newegg, a Yahoo Games E3 video they shot in our office which was a riot, more silliness, clapping, the announcement of the new hires with photos so we could keep track of all the new faces in our 100+ person office...

It was hardly the company I joined six years ago. Back then the 15 of us could comfortably fit around a medium sized desk and we were far too small a group to clap at anything. In December 1999 I was coming off a year of running a company with a friend and discovering that I wasn't cut out for the business side of things. I hated dealing with clients and found that most of my time was spent trying to get paid or trying to snag new business so in five months I could be calling them trying to get paid. So I came in from the cold and joined Ignited Minds--previously the very small marketing arm of Activision (where I had worked a couple years before) that had left, silly flaming logo in hand, to "market to people who played".

Of course then the bubble went "pop" and our little company just dropped a gear and kept going, doing anything and everything for clients to get the job done. I made Flash banners with little racing games inside them when we didn't have an actionscripter. I learned how to manage Linux boxes, MySQL servers, Apache servers, PHP, Perl, Python, ASP, I wrote COM objects that accepted file uploads (which through late-night testing lead to the creation of FilePile). We strung together content management systems and built all sorts of tracking devices and log analyzation tools that ran on machines that would reboot themselves if you looked at them funny. Looking back it was all a little punk rock.

Skip ahead a few years and I find myself the Director of Interactive Technology (Jeez, the more middle the manager the more flowery the title, I guess) at a very robust company in a nicer economic climate. I have a small team of developers who are some of the smartest most pro-active guys on the planet. My job is mainly taking as much credit for their hard work as I possibly can (har har, kidding). But really, I was just settling into the new job when I got a very interesting email from John Battelle about a project he was thinking about doing.

I had added the news feed for FMPub after seeing it mentioned on someone's site a few days before his email. I vaguely remember him saying it was going to be a transparent attempt at blogging about his new startup and I thought that it was probably going to be something worth reading so I added it.

Our first conversation happened while I was about to go to Italy for two weeks, and so my brain was probably already out the door. I didn't put his new company weblog and the phone call together, so I didn't think much of it at the time. We talked for a bit, I went to Italy, came back, didn't hear from him for a while and figured that might be the end of it.

The next time we talked he gave me the full run-down and everything clicked. Looking back on what I've done, the Droploads, the Dropcashes, the tools I built for Ignited Minds, the playground I built for the people of FilePile, it's always been about making web technologies more accessible to people with needs. Dropcash is my favorite example of this, as it places some powerful functionality into the hands of non-technical people with a specific need to show the progress of a fundraiser--with just a few lines of code. Dropload is just the use of a simple PHP feature and some database calls, yet over 100,000 people have needed it and used it. I like making those connections for people who can't do it for themselves. It's why I love to program so much.

I quit my job on Monday because FMPub lets me make these connections on a larger scale. It makes connections between passionate people with needs for a support structure and people who need that authenticity for their marketing efforts. As someone who has been an honorary marketer for six years, I know how difficult it is to get a message in front of people. FMPub is going to offer a remarkable dialog between the two camps and I couldn't be happier to know I will be helping that dialog happen.

 

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I run Dropcash. We just surpassed the $73,000 (wow) mark for people using us to track their PayPal fundraisers, and we are looking to clear $100,000 by the end of the year.

A lot of people email me because Dropcash does almost what they want to do but they need it to do some other thing that is specific to their project. I think on a weekly basis someone asks me to code them up some PayPal function that any programmer could do if they saw the API. It's terrifyingly simple, and I think there are still a million ideas out there that could be offered up in the way Dropcash is.

This makes me think two things: 1. PayPal needs to do more with their API and tools. The fact that people email me asking how to do something that PayPal could already do for them in a couple hours of work is remarkable. 2. Someone could make a good amount of money providing PayPal solutions all day. And, I guess 3. Someone who wanted to be a PayPal API developer should just buy Dropcash off me to use as a calling card.

For whatever reason PayPal does what they think is best for their company and maybe $73,000 or $100,000 of pass-through is not a big deal to them. I just feel like there are a lot of opportunities out there for people to get money moving faster and easier, and nobody is taking advantage of it.

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Matt's suggestions for enjoying audiobooks are dead on. I am partial to non-fiction as I don't trust the tone or timing of most people with fiction. But iTunes usually gives me a pretty good idea on what to expect.

I have two more links for audiobooks you might enjoy. Free and nearly free ones. First, there's the Project Gutenberg audiobooks read by computers or people. I'm not so sure I want Zarvox reading my Mark Twain, but I do like the concept.

Next there's the Telltale Weekly that is very close to free (starting at 25¢ a book).

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People who might be getting this error in their new Ruby On Rails setup who have just edited their database.yml with their password that starts with an exclamation point might want to know that the exclamation point causes the error.

I found out the hard way; suspecting it was an FCGI problem, which it wasn't.

This is on a debian system. I haven't tried it on anything else so I'm hesitant to add it to the Rails Wiki.

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Blame Seth Godin, but I've become enamored with the idea of writing short, concise books on the subject of programming. (Maybe not me writing them, but somebody writing them.) Along the lines of The Pragmatic Programmer or Code Complete but with the goal of examining a single concept.

As an employee of a marketing company I've picked up a couple of Seth's books and have been able to apply some of the concepts to our discussions. Since I didn't go to any sort of marketing school, finding myself in the middle of a medium-sized marketing company compelled me to do some digging into marketing concepts.

I like that Seth's books are piecemeal and stick to one subject rather than trying to tackle a ton of concepts at once. The books are, by no coincidence I'm sure, small and easy to handle. I never find myself wanting to skip chapters like so many programmer focused books (the above books included) and I never feel left out of the conversation--meaning so many books end up focusing on the languages rather than concepts, and when those languages are Microsoft-centric I get turned off by them.

Taking a cue from Seth I think there's a group of programmers with a world-view that their programming process, though good, can do with some small insight on how to make it better. That every programmer has certain areas of their process which could use some modification and would like to work on those specific areas rather than do a complete overhaul.

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While walking in The Castro we come upon the words
G E T O
B O Y S
somewhat randomly drawn on the ground in chalk.

Me: That's weird. This doesn't seem like the sort of neighborhood where people would be into the Geto Boys.

Her: It says
G E T
B O Y S

Me: Ahhh, that's different then.

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