Archive for February, 2011

IBM: Why We’re No Google or Bing

28 Feb
While IBM could probably use Watson technology to power a public search engine, it seems they have no interest in unseating Google.

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Typography Deconstructed Poster

28 Feb

Ready to pump up your type vocab and sound smart next time you bump into Matthew Carter? Well then, this beauty of a poster designed by Drew Binkley at 38pages is just for you. They have a nifty site called with great typographic anatomy content. This poster is for sale there too – ready to release the inner type freak in all of us.  Get yours with promo code SOFMARCH2011 for good for $10 off all of March.

We letterpress printed this poster on our Heidelberg 21 x 28 cylinder. You can see in the photo details, the polymer plate is positioned in the press on a custom made full size 21 x 28 inch Boxcar Base. The poster is printed with extra tight register (no trapping) on 100% cotton Crane Lettra Fluorescent White 110lbC and trimmed to a final size of 16 x 24 inches.

_0000_Typography_poster_letterpress_drew_binkley _0001_Typography_poster_letterpress_title_detail _0002_Typography_poster_letterpress_comprehensive_guide _0003_Typography_poster_letterpress_anatomy_of_type _0004_Typography_poster_letterpress_detail4 _0005_Typography_poster_letterpress_detail3 _0006_Typography_poster_letterpress_detail2 _0007_Typography_poster_letterpress_detail1 _0008_Typography_poster_letterpress_credits _0009_Typography_poster_letterpress_boxcar_base_21x28 _0010_Typography_poster_letterpress_heidelberg_feed_pile _0011_Typography_poster_letterpress_heidelberg_delivery StumbleUpon Technorati TwitThis Digg Tumblr Facebook


Best Rare-Bird Pictures of 2010 Named

28 Feb
From the marvellous spatuletail to a flightless parrot, see 12 award-winning pictures of birds most in danger of extinction.

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WordPress 3.1 Is Big Leap Into CMS

28 Feb

WordPress 3.1 Is Big Leap Into CMS

This content from: Duct Tape Marketing

Regular readers to this blog know that I’m a WordPress fan. You may have noticed that I updated the look of the blog with a new theme. At that time I also converted the entire site to WordPress – a feat that I think shows off the power and flexibility of this publishing tool to be a singular content management tool for small business.

The most recent update to WordPress includes some significant feature upgrades and in my opinion moves the tool even farther into the ability to serve as the tool of choice for any web site.

Key feature additions include:

Quick overview of the Internal Linking function

Internal link – This has to be my favorite new feature and reason enough to upgrade if you’re stalling. A very common practice in blogging is to link to other relevant content from past blog posts. In the past this was accomplished by finding the other post and copying the URL to embed in a link. No big deal unless you’ve got over 2,000 posts. Now, when you are editing a post (only when using the visual editor :( ) you have the ability add a link from any page or blog post, including searching through all posts, right from the link editing tool.

Post formats – The new style of WordPress theme takes advantage of multiple page templates in order to accomplish things like I’ve done on thhis site (my home page is a WordPress page template using the Builder Theme from iThemes) With the advancement of WordPress 3.1 comes something called Post Formats. Post Formats allow theme designers to create multiple views of blog post so that sites can have different post layouts inside the same theme for different content.

Theme designers now have the ability to create post formats that include:

  • Aside – Typically short pieces of content, published without a title.
  • Image Gallery – A collection of pictures in a gallery format.
  • Link – A single link.
  • Image – A single image.
  • Quote – An inspirational or noteworthy quote with a citation.
  • Status – Status updates, similar to Facebook and Twitter updates.
  • Video – A single video.
  • Audio – A single audio clip, like a song or a podcast.
  • Chat – An instant message transcript.

The ability to create custom post formats (post types) has been around for some time, but now designers have an ordained set of format names that will allow for standardization across themes. For a tutorial on how to get started with Post Formats visit this Wordcast Tutorial:Add Tumblr Style Features To Your Blog with WordPress 3.1

You might also want to check out this online seminar from my friends at iThemes – WordPress Advanced Custom Post Formats – Wed March 2nd 11 am CT

Admin bar – Next up is a new editing bar that appears above posts for admins when viewing live content. The idea behind this feature is that it offers easy editing and navigation directly from any blog page. I kind of like this as I tend to edit some things this way, but a lot of admins are complaining that it’s in the way and needlessly adds more clutter. (Top nav bars like the Hello Bar are getting popular as well and this may cause some conflicts with these kinds of scripts.) The top nav is turned on by default, but you can switch it off by visiting your account settings.

This nav bar appears by default for admins


All of Facebook’s Like Buttons on Third-Party Sites Now Publish a Full News Feed Story

27 Feb

When users click the Like or Recommend button on a third-party website or within a Facebook app, it now publishes a full news feed story instead of just a one-line Recent Activity story. Previously, full stories with headlines, thumbnail images, and captions were only published if the website chose to implement the “Like with Comment” version of the button and users chose to add this additional context.

As the Like button now encompasses the functionality of the Share button, which Facebook has removed from its documentation, Facebook may phase out the Share button entirely. The change gives more prominence to outbound links in the news feed and on a user’s wall, and so will increase referral traffic and draw more sites to add the Like button.

Full stories appear larger, more compelling since they often include an image, and are ranked better in the news feed than Recent Activity stories. Therefore, the stories generated from clicks of the Like / Recommend button will been seen by more of a user’s friends and drive more traffic to third-party websites and apps than before.

Since Facebook launched its social plugins including the Like button at last year’s f8 conference, over 2.5 million websites have integrated them. In July, Facebook introduced Like with Comment, allowing some implementation to publish full feed stories.

By August, 350,000 sites had Like buttons, and that count is probably much higher now. Facebook has since allowed developers to integrate Like buttons with social games and other Facebook apps, and is trying to increase third-party awareness of their ability to publish news feed stories to those who click their buttons.

Up until now, Facebook had supported three different ways to share third-party content to the news feed:

  • The Share button –  When clicked, users see a Facebook Publisher dialog pop up allowing them to add a comment. It publishes a full feed story, similar to if the user had copied the link into the Publisher on The Share button doesn’t subscribe users to future updates from the owner of the button.
  • The Like / Recommend button without comment – When third-parties use the standard iframe Like button with a width less than 400 pixels, the button_count, or  box_count version of the Like / Recommend button, users aren’t given the option to comment. A simple, one-line story linking to the content is published to the Recent Activity feed of the user’s wall, and the story is less frequently displayed in the news feeds of friends. Users are subscribed to future updates from the button’s owner.
  • The Like / Recommend button with comment – When third-parties implement the XFBML version or the standard iframe version with a width of 400 pixels or more, users are always given the option to comment. If they comment, a full story is published. If they don’t comment, a simple story is published. Users are subscribed to future updates from the button’s owner.

Now, all versions of the Like / Recommend button publish a full feed story, whether a comment is added or not. The change has been applied retroactively, so old Recent Activity feed simple stories from Likes now appear as full stories.

Likes allow third-parties to publish future updates to a user, and therefore drive more traffic and create more lifetime value than Shares. This value lures additional third parties to implement Facebook’s social plugins, so it’s in Facebook’s interest to shift everyone from Share buttons to Like buttons.

The Share button is often displayed amongst a set of other buttons for Twitter, Digg, bookmarking, and email, but Facebook would rather have its own real estate opposed to being lost amongst the competition. Now that Facebook has given the Like button almost a year to prove its worth, third-parties would probably implement a Like button if they could no longer use the Share button, granting Facebook this improved placement.

The phase out of the Share button is evident in Facebook’s documentation. The “Facebook Share” typeahead result  shown when searching for “Share” on the developers site directs to the Like button documentation page.

One potential downside for users is if they participate in contests run by sites or apps that use Like buttons to tabulate votes. Some users might not want to publish a full feed story for each vote, and would have to delete the posts one by one after they’re published.

Overall, the change will benefit users, third-parties, and Facebook. Compelling Liked content from around the web will appear in the news feed more frequently, initiating discussions between friends. Third-parties will gain traffic from new users, inspiring more to implement Facebook’s social plugins.

This increased presence across the internet will spread awareness of Facebook, raise barriers for its competitors, and seed a client base for a potentially monetizable plugin, such as an Open Graph ad unit.

[Thanks to Amit Lavi and Paula Ford for the tips]


How to get WebSphere Portal 7 and WCM up and running quickly

27 Feb

If you haven’t heard, IBM offers a cloud-based service for WebSphere Portal  7.0 via their Smart Business Cloud offering.  In this article Paul Kelsey provides step-by-step instructions to implement your Portal 7.0 in the cloud.

Some highlights of IBM’s Smart Business Cloud for WebSphere Portal include the following features that always seem to cause initial problems in deploying your first portal:

  • Security is already enabled on the server
  • Light start up mode is already enabled, saving you time in starting the server
  • HTTP Server is already setup and enabled – no more plugin configuring
  • DB2 is installed and configured in a separate server
  • Portlet Factory is installed and ready to go

Creating your own Portal instance is done through a wizard interface, so it couldn’t be any easier.  If you want to test out Portal 7.0 or get an application out the door fast, consider the IBM Smart Business Cloud.




Secrets of Thunderbolt and Lion

26 Feb

You can read a thousand articles about the new Thunderbolt input/output technology in Apple’s latest revision to MacBook Pro laptops, and the new revelations from Apple about Mac OS X Lion. But via Twitter, I discovered that many people are unaware of or concerned about certain features close to their hearts. From online sources and a briefing with Apple last week, I can provide some reassurance and additional details.

These seem to be among the least well understood and documented items about Thunderbolt and Lion.

Thunderbolt’s Blasts -- Thunderbolt is a fascinating mix of old and new:

  • Despite what the tech spec pages say, Thunderbolt actually has up to 20 Gbps available in each direction (full duplex), not 10 Gbps. While the Thunderbolt specification talks about 10 Gbps to and from a host, there are actually two channels over the same cable: one dedicated to DisplayPort for video, and the other for PCI Express data. Apple and Intel are likely sticking with the 10 Gbps rating because if you measured the throughput to a hard drive, for example, it would never go over 10 Gbps thanks to using only the PCI Express channel.

  • This dual-channel approach would let you run two high-resolution displays (which require bandwidth in the gigabits-per-second range) and a super-fast RAID drive (demonstrated by Promise Technology) or multiple drives that can work at full speed. On the new MacBook Pros, Thunderbolt manages both the internal screen and an optional external display, which is why you can’t drive two external displays. On a future Mac Pro or Mac mini that wouldn’t be an issue, nor would it be a limitation on a future iMac, as long as the iMac provided multiple Thunderbolt ports.

  • Because Thunderbolt provides two channels on the same cable, a display or hard drive can be in the middle of the daisy-chain without interrupting the flow of the other channel.

  • Target Disk Mode is supported under Thunderbolt. Until now, this mode worked only over FireWire connections. When a Mac is booted in Target Disk Mode, it acts as a hard drive for another connected Mac.

  • You won’t be able to boot a Mac from a Thunderbolt-connected drive for now, unlike with USB and FireWire. Andy Ihnatko has this factoid, and I tend to trust him. I will be surprised if this isn’t added later. We need a way to boot from external drives, and if Thunderbolt eventually takes over from FireWire, then it has to boot Macs, too.

  • If all you’re connecting to a Thunderbolt port is a display, you can using an existing DisplayPort cable. The Thunderbolt controller automatically adjusts the signal output to be correct for DisplayPort-native ports on the other end. Thunderbolt data devices, such as hard drives, need to be connected with Thunderbolt cables. This means you can’t put any Thunderbolt data devices downstream from a display connected via a DisplayPort cable; such displays would have to go at the end of the Thunderbolt daisy-chain.

  • The Thunderbolt port carries 10 watts of power, a significant amount for powering drives and other peripherals (though nowhere near enough to drive a large external display). Apple’s hardware with a single FireWire 400 or 800 port (or one of each) can deliver 7 watts to the bus. USB 2.0 can push out a maximum of 2.5 watts, while USB 3.0 can hit 4.5 watts. Apple’s high-power USB 2.0 can generate 5.5 watts, which is enough to charge an iPad while it’s plugged in and in use. Thunderbolt devices can also boost power downstream: an AC-powered display could push 10 watts out the port on the “far” side from the computer in the daisy-chain. (Apple’s external iPad USB-to-AC charger is rated at 10 watts, but it’s just a USB plug connected to power, not a data connection.)

  • Thunderbolt will allow splitters and other baroque configurations of adapters, Apple told me. For instance, you could have a DisplayPort adapter with two Thunderbolt ports for daisy-chaining. Apple has no plans to discuss here, but there’s clearly room for a robust market of cables, hubs, adapters, and other elements to make it easier to use legacy video standards.

  • It should be possible to build Thunderbolt-to-eSATA and Thunderbolt-to-FireWire adapters that enable connectivity with older gear that you already own. It’s also possible that we’ll see Thunderbolt-to-USB 3.0 adapters, though it probably doesn’t make much sense to convert between Thunderbolt and USB 2.0 given the low cost and ubiquity of USB 2.0 parts. A company could create a dock-like device that would plug into a Mac via Thunderbolt and provide a slew of USB, FireWire, eSATA, and other ports.

Lion’s Roars -- We have to keep mum on many Lion details, as many of us at TidBITS are enrolled in the developer program that gives us access to non-public preview details. However, on the public side:

  • Lion’s AirDrop will let you exchange files between two Macs (and, one expects, iOS 5) using Wi-Fi. But it’s not a variant on Bonjour: the two Macs do not need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi base station or larger Wi-Fi network. Rather, they only need to be within Wi-Fi range of one another. AirDrop uses a peer-to-peer ad hoc connection, though one that’s instant to set up and secure. A Mac using AirDrop doesn’t drop a Wi-Fi network connection if it has one; it can communicate to another Mac and maintain its network connection, too. This requires newer hardware. I suspect nearly all machines shipped since 2007 or 2008 will have the right Wi-Fi gear, but Apple will need to provide more details as Lion’s release date gets closer.

  • Lion’s FileVault is an entirely new bit of technology labeled with the old name. FileVault before Lion encrypted only the user’s Home directory and was awkward in everyday use. The new FileVault is a full-disk encryption method: everything on the hard drive (and it seems, external drives, if you wish) is completely secured. Apple didn’t explain whether you will need to enter a password at boot, as is the case with many existing full-disk encryption products for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. You may also be able to wipe a FileVault-protected Lion system remotely. Apple told me that the new MacBook Pro models will use accelerated encryption processing in the i5 and i7 processors to eliminate any performance loss due to handling encryption.

  • Mac OS X Server is built into Lion, although it apparently will not be active when you upgrade or boot a new machine. Apple declined to provide details, but said that reports that you had to make a choice during installation of Lion, or reinstall Lion to use server features, were inaccurate. You will have to activate something within Lion, though what form that will take, or if it will be available for free remains unknown. I wouldn’t be surprised if you would pay for the upgrade in the Mac App Store in some way.

Keep the questions coming.


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Crawl Bank Accounts with the Ghost of Wesabe

25 Feb

safehandle.jpgThe personal finance startup Wesabe may be dead, but its code lives on. Former team member Brian Donovan recently open sourced the framework used to connect with bank websites and download statements in a machine-readable form. This might not sound impressive, but with thousands of banks just in the U.S., all with different website setups, entire companies like Yodlee have been built around solving this problem.

By open sourcing the code, Wesabe makes it possible for hobbyists, researchers and starving startup founders to build new and innovative personal finance tools. The code itself is pretty bare bones; Brian admits he'd hoped to spruce it up before release but his new job didn't leave much time for a labor of love. What's crucial though is that it's a battle-tested system with broad coverage, and has a simple system for adding support for new institutions.


This makes it a strong potential competitor to Yodlee, if it can gather enough support from a community of developers to stay on top of the constantly changing bank websites. The forum posts ask for the code to be open sourced and now tips for running it show that there are enthusiasts interested in keeping it alive. This is a hopeful sign for innovation, but Yodlee may not be so happy. The loss of revenue from Mint after it was acquired by Intuit must have been painful for the company, and the emergence of an open-source alternative will be another headache.

So, what are the possibilities for end users? The simplest thing you can do with the code is set it up on your own machine and pull down all your own financial information automatically. Personal data lovers can create custom instrumentation for their own spending, saving and income patterns, building dashboards showing the measurements they care about. Getting a bit fancier, you could run something in the background on a private server. Want to send yourself an SMS when you approach your overdraft limit, or when there's an unusually large transaction? Having this "Automatic Uploader" code makes it easy to build your own system to handle those requirements.

Hopefully this will also inspire a new generation of startups to build personal finance tools. As founder Marc Hedlund says in his insight-packed post-mortem on Wesabe, in the financial world "the help consumers have is absolutely abysmal", so there are worlds of opportunity to create better solutions.

Photo by Todd Ehlers



Wikipedia’s Goal: 1 Billion Monthly Visitors by 2015

25 Feb

The Wikimedia Foundation, the parent organization of Wikipedia and nearly a dozen other wiki-based projects, announced its five-year strategic plan today. The plan is the product of a collaborative effort that began in 2009 and involved more than 1,000 participants from around the world. In it, the organization lays out a number of goals it hopes to reach by 2015, including increasing the number of editors, articles, users and more.

After more than a year in the making, Wikimedia released the final version today, saying that it is "energized and enthusiastic about where Wikimedia is heading."


The plan itself is an impressive oeuvre in its own right and showcases the potential of the Wikimedia community. Not only is it the product of more than 1,000 contributors, but it was birthed from more than 50 languages, 900 separate proposals, and hundreds of discussions, "both face-to-face in cities around the world, and via IRC, Skype, mailing lists and wiki pages." In the process, the team of collaborators created 1,470 content pages which have been summarized and condensed into this final strategic plan (.pdf).

According to the announcement, there are a number of metrics Wikimedia will go by to determine success.

  • Increase the total number of people served to 1 billion
  • Increase the amount of information we offer to 50 million Wikipedia articles
  • Ensure information is high quality by increasing the percentage of material  reviewed to be of high or very high quality by 25 percent
  • Encourage readers to become contributors by increasing the number of total editors per month who made >5 edits to 200,000
  • Support healthy diversity in the editing community by doubling the percentage of female editors to 25 percent and increasing the number of Global South editors to 37 percent

So how far does it have to go? Currently, Wikipedia serves just over 400 million unique visitors monthly (it had 414 million in January) and contains just under 18 million articles across all languages. In December, there were nearly 80,000 "active editors," which are defined as editors who make five or more edits a month. That means that Wikipedia is looking to more than double both its traffic and its active editors over the next five years.

What will it take to reach these goals? The first step to serving a billion people monthly is creating the infrastructure to handle this sort of traffic. To do that, Wikipedia will create new data centers and deploy caching centers in a number of locations. In order to increase participation and editor retention, the organization also plans on a number of outreach initiatives, as well as developing tools like a rich-text editor to simplify the editing process.

Most importantly, Wikimedia will need money and lots of it. How much? More than 3 times the $16 million the foundation raised at the end of 2010.


Remember that banner ad featuring Jimmy Wales' pleading mug? You're likely to see that a lot more over years to come.



Finally out of Watson material!

25 Feb

I imagine public interest in the idea of IBM software winning a quiz show is starting to wane–and remember, I taped these shows a month in advance, so I’m thirty days ahead of the attention-waning curve. Here, while anybody might still care, are six Watson stories I never told.

1. IBM research labs have no dressing rooms for some reason! As a result, Brad Rutter and I took over two HR conference rooms to change clothes, get made up, etc. I’ve already emailed the HR department a little chart showing which parts of their desks I sat on naked. Sorry guys! Hope the basket of muffins made up for it. Also, the whole place was designed by superstar midcentury architect Eero Saarinen…but it’s got like two men’s rooms in it. What, in Finland nobody needs to pee? Because Brad and I were supposed to be strictly sequestered from the Watson team, keeping IBMers out of “our” men’s room became a full-time job for the contestant coordinators. One guy who got yelled for trying to use his own restroom turned out to be senior vice president John E. Kelly III. “I don’t think anyone’s said no to him in years!” said one white-faced IBM employee.

2. Watson is mostly written in Java. After one of the practice games wound up, I sat down in the auditorium behind Watson’s operators, hoping to sneak a peek at what they were up to. The first thing I saw was a whomping Java error trace someone was trying to debug. As a Java programmer for many years, this was both exciting and horrifying: my own tools had turned on me! Luckily, like any good craftsman, I choose not to blame my Yogi Berra.

3. Garry Kasparov didn’t make the cut. In the first game, Watson nailed a clue about Garry Kasparov’s defeat at the “hands” of Deep Blue, eliciting a burst of applause from the deeply-in-the-tank studio audience. Unfortunately, home viewers never got to see this IBM bloodlust in action. The Kasparov clue, like maybe half a dozen others over the course of the taping, had to be tossed out for technical reasons. The Jeopardy! crew’s 26 years of experience doing their show means they normally run a pretty tight ship, but the added complications of (a) doing the show on the road, and (b) connecting to a computer opponent for the first time meant endless glitches. I think Brad and I both wonder if I we could have eased into a better buzzer rhythm if we hadn’t had to stop tape every category or two.

4. Jerome Vered was pissed. I wrote in Slate that I was the first human made obsolete by Watson, but that’s not strictly true. Jerome Vered has that honor. You may recall that the last time Brad and I played Jeopardy! was the finals of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, in which the third man was L.A. gadabout and quiz show veteran Jerome Vered. One of the Jeopardy! contestant coordinators said that, just hours after the lineup for the Watson match was announced, she got an email from Jerome: “So you replaced me with a computer?!?” For some reason I like to imagine him saying this with gloomy equanimity, like Eeyore.

5. Alex Trebek was pissed. Between the practice rounds and the televised game, Watson switched up its strategy dramatically–most notably, it started hunting for Daily Doubles instead of marching down the categories in order. The reason was simple: Watson comes with a practice mode and a game mode, and it wasn’t playing in game mode yet. I don’t think Brad or I felt like this was unfair–after all, we could have concealed strategy from Watson in the practice rounds as well–but some of the Jeopardy! powers-that-be felt the change-up was a bit of a hustle, since presumably one of the reasons for the practice rounds was to let us see Watson’s gameplay in action. “Alex is pissed,” Stephen Baker told me the weekend after the taping, right after he got off the phone with a still-hot-under-the-collar Trebek.

6. Alex Trebek was messing with my head! Jeopardy! “Clue Crew” stalwart Jimmy McGuire stood in for Alex as host of the practice rounds, so that audiences seeing clips wouldn’t assume they were watching the actual match. Alex, though, was so interested in watching Watson in action that he drifted into the crowd in his shirtsleeves and watched the practice rounds from the front row. This was oddly disconcerting! “Alex, I can’t play with you watching!” I shouted to him. “You’re in the wrong spot.” It was, I thought, exactly like trying to pee at a urinal with someone watching you. Or with a Jeopardy! contestant coordinator kicking you out of the men’s room, I suppose.

(Watson likeness by Matt “Matsby” Page.)