Posts Tagged 'Social Media'

June 24, 2010

HTML 5 Video

If you haven't heard the buzz about HTML5, you should check out the many features and improvements. It has support for cool stuff like SVG and MathML, but one of the most impressive things it can accomplish is embedding streaming videos with no required flash player or java applet. The old way of video streaming usually involves first converting your video into the proprietary flash ".flv" format. Then you add many lines of ugly code, filled with frequently redundant information, like this example courtesy of YouTube:

<object width="480" height="385">
<param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/mPpUiXDUASk&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;"></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param>
<embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/mPpUiXDUASk&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed>
</object>

In HTML5, all this can be replaced by something as clean and simple as the tag. Here is an example of what it looks like in action:

<video width="640"  height="360" src="./movies/movie1.mp4"  controls autobuffer>

Much cleaner, right?

Sadly, this is not without its caveats. First of all HTML5 is not yet a finalized standard, so the various browsers will handle it differently. Secondly, Internet Explorer does not yet support HTML5 (surprise, surprise!), although the upcoming IE9 will provide support for it. This brings me to the first major hurdle:

Currently, there is no universal codec/container combination that will satisfy all HTML5 browsers.

This means that if you desire to use HTML5 video, you will need to encode your video at least twice. The two "official" combinations are Ogg/Theora/Vorbis and MP4/H.264/AAC. The Ogg combo works on Firefox and Opera, whereas the MP4 combo works with Safari, iPhone, Android, and the upcoming IE9.

Check out http://diveintohtml5.org/video.html for more detailed information.

Once you have your videos encoded and uploaded, you'll need to set it up in your code. The diveintohtml5.org guide recommends having 3 codecs (with webm, which is a soon-to-be standard) and Flash fallback, but in the future various browsers should have a more uniform codec support:

<video id="movie" width="320" height="240" preload controls>
<source src="pr6.mp4" type='video/mp4; codecs="avc1.42E01E, mp4a.40.2"' />
<source src="pr6.webm" type='video/webm; codecs="vp8, vorbis"' />
<source src="pr6.ogv" type='video/ogg; codecs="theora, vorbis"' />
<object width="320" height="240" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"
data="flowplayer-3.2.1.swf">
<param name="movie" value="flowplayer-3.2.1.swf" />
<param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" />
<param name="flashvars" value='config={"clip": {"url": "http://wearehugh.com/dih5/good/bbb_480p.mp4", "autoPlay":false, "autoBuffering":true}}' />
<p>Download video as <a href="pr6.mp4">MP4</a>, <a href="pr6.webm">WebM</a>, or <a href="pr6.ogv">Ogg</a>.</p>
</object>
</video>

You'll notice the optional mime types and codecs as additional attributes. This is really just error proofing your code. It will make sure that it will have browser interoperability, and browsers won't have to download the videos to tell what codecs they are using (which saves you bandwidth—and when you are serving up videos, your bandwidth is a precious commodity!).

So much for the clean and simple solution, eh? So what is the upshot here? Well, first and foremost, it's an open standard. You no longer have to rely on the proprietary Flash plugin to do something that the browser should be able to natively support. Secondly, Flash is not universally supported, and with the growing prominence of iPhone video streaming, you'll be missing out on a huge demographic. Thirdly, HTML5 video is friendlier with overhead resources. So while it's not perfectly simple yet, it's still worthwhile to start adopting.

-Mark

June 3, 2010

Skinman's Guide to Social Media

1. Can your company benefit from Social Media?
Yes! I think all companies can. From a point of branding or brand awareness the social media outlets can really give you some value. It can be additional website traffic, company transparency, or actual specials and sales but let’s face it the more people that see your name on the internet the better.

2. What is considered Social Media Spam?
To Spam you could use these tactics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking_spam but don’t. You should be personable in sending your messages and don’t overdo it. Sure you can send a special or an interesting fact a few times especially if you have customers worldwide. You can always use the time zone excuse because most social media posts aren’t sticky and will be easily overlooked. The key is not using scripts to do your work for you.

3. What are some good tools to help?
I live on Hootsuite. www.hootsuite.com . This allows you to queue up tweets, Facebook status posts, and linked in conversations and I am sure there are more options on the way. Am I contradicting myself? No, because you still have to type in your updates and then schedule them according to your time zone needs. There are other great tools within Hootsuite for link clickthrough metrics and savable searches so you can keep track of what people are saying about you and also what your competitors are up to and what people think of them as well. It has a built in URL shrinking and photo uploading option also. You can have multiple users and granular security for those users. All in all, Hootsuite is a very valuable free tool for corporate social media.

4. If you get some bad feedback what should you do?
Take a deep breath, put on your big kid pants, layer on some thick skin and then think about your response and what you might say. Then take another deep breath, re-read your response 3 or 4 times and then try to make contact privately if possible. See if there is something you could have done better as sometimes constructive criticism can really help your company. If your attempts to make contact privately fail then you have to decide if a public response is necessary. Sometimes this can be a good idea and sometimes it is better to just let it fade. You have to use a little common sense on this one. If there are multiple posters on the same issue then a public response can be a great thing. If it is a single angry poster and the private requests fail then it is probably just better to let it go away on its own.

5. To support or not support?
I firmly believe that social media and social support/customer service are two very different things. The twitter account for SoftLayer is www.twitter.com/softlayer and I try to have a little fun, show a little transparency to our fans and customers, offer a special occasionally, but mainly try to get some traffic to our corporate website. I try to stay far away from customer support and only do light customer service. We have many other traditional ways to get support and service that our customers need to continue to use. In my book, if a customer has to resort to social media to get some attention from our sales or customer service teams, then we have already failed.

6. Have a little fun, have a personality
Now that you have the tools and know what to do and what not to do, have a little fun. Have a scavenger hunt, send out some swag, make a few friends get some followers and get to tweeting. Personality can go a long way in getting people interested in what you and your company are up to. Once you get it going it just becomes more and more fun. Look at the bright side there are much worse jobs you could have in the world.

-Skinman

June 1, 2010

I bought an iPad. Now what?

I purchased the iPad on a Friday and gave the iPad a nice reviewing over the weekend. I purchased the 64GB Wi-Fi-only edition. I couldn’t justify the cost of the 3G edition in addition to the monthly 3G cost from AT&T.

My initial impression of the iPad was, “Ok, so this is basically a computer with a touch interface with a few wow factors thrown in there for good measure. I understand they need to sell the product, right?”

I watched multiple Netflix movies, a few episodes of LOST, played several games of Chopper, Pinball, Final Fantasy (epic win, btw), quite a bit of shuffleboard, ordered pizza, continued reading “The Hobbit” on the Kindle app, surfed the web and sent email. All these activities were pleasant experiences with the iPad except for maybe sending email. Typing, of course, was a painful experience. As well as attempting to find a comfortable position to hold the device. It seems that laying down and propping it up against my leg worked best.

I visited my parents on Saturday and decided to give the iPad a first-time user’s experience. My father absolutely loved the device. Well, at least he loved the shuffleboard game. My mother complained about the fact that she couldn’t read any of the web pages until I showed her how to zoom and that was an instant win for her. The more I use this device the more I feel like it was built specifically for older people.

The big complaint I usually hear is that the iPad is just a giant iPod Touch. Sort of… The larger screen truly makes a difference, particularly to web surfing. My only problem was typing long emails. You can’t help but feel frustrated and wishing a physical keyboard would simply drop out of the bottom of the iPad, but alas, no such luck. I definitely type faster on my iPhone’s keyboard.

Would I recommend this product? If you can get past the keyboard handicap, yes. It’s a fantastic consumption device, but don’t expect to produce much with it.

April 22, 2010

32K

I know this is old news, but this GoGo inflight wireless is pretty cool. I am 32,000 feet up right now and connected to all my fun, social media toys. I have been tweeting, facebooking, and now I decided to hammer out a blog about it. The really cool thing to me is that I am RDP’d to my desktop at the office and am able to do my email in my native client and have access to all of my different instant messaging networks. I am even going to message our web guys and see if we can have this blog published before I land. I have my power adapter, my seat has a power port and they are serving me a diet coke right now. Man, if I could get this kind of service at the office I might stop traveling because this is the life. No walk up chatting to interrupt my hard working ways, no blenders to tempt me to waste time and blend something, and also no temptation to leave for lunch and go to Rafain’s to eat 6000 calories of fantastic, spicy beef. The snacks on the plane are a bit expensive, so I might even lose a few pounds.

I am in flight back from Cloud Expo in New York and it was amazing how many more people understand the cloud this year than last year. All in all it was a good show. We met a few more of our customers, and once again, we had many compliments. We really like to hear them, so if we end up at a show close to you, please come see us. We will even let you complain if you need to, but we are confident you won’t have to. You can always walk away with a little piece of SoftLayer swag, ranging from a shirt or a cup, to a Frisbee or maybe even a little free computing power.

The next show on my agenda is GDC in Vancouver and then Citrix Synergy in San Francisco. Come by and see me in person! I don’t bite, but I do growl a little. Look out for the upcoming tweets with booth numbers and show times, and as always we might have something special to hand you.

While you are at it - come check us out on Facebook, flickr, twitter and the rest!

March 24, 2010

Location, Location, Location

South by Southwest (“SXSW”) Interactive wrapped up last week, and one of the recurring themes was how location-based services (LBS) are changing the landscape of social media. When you port social media apps to the mobile phone, a world of LBSs are opened to you.

There are many use cases for LBS, many for social media, and the intersection of the two are even more interesting.

As seen with foursquare and Gowalla, bringing in LBS into a social application that lets you add tips/comments to restaurants, bars, etc. instantly turns it into a quick way to see where the “hot” places are currently in your area. Adding game mechanics (like badges) only makes foursquare even more addictive.

This is the new hotness.

The New Hotness

The intersect between Location-based services and social media.

Is it any surprise that twitter started supporting location-based tweets this week? They’re simply keeping up with the trend. I expect to see location-appropriate contextual ads in applications on mobile phones more now. If you’re walking down 5th street, and you’ve given your application access to GPS information, advertisers would love to be able to tell you to drop by their shop on your way to wherever you’re headed.

ShopSavvy, for instance, could push notifications to customers using that app letting them know where deals are in their proximity.

There are detractors. Plenty of people still want to keep their location private. If you’re an at-risk person (in an abusive relationship, for instance) you should think twice before turning on location-based services. More and more websites/applications these days are starting to set very “open” defaults rather than restrictive defaults. As Danah Boyd recently said, we were once a people who kept information private and decided what to make public. Now we are more and more making data about ourselves public by default, and take more effort to decide what to make private.

Edit: A day after I posted this, I found an article by Kevin Nakao which provides more detail on location-based services. It is a great reader and can be found here.

February 8, 2010

Droid Power!

After purchasing my new Droid phone, I started to dive further into its uses. I initially liked the open source operating system (Google’s Android OS) and the features available. Now I have found that I can do almost anything with this ‘pocket computer’, from work to play.

I’m sure the iPhone fans are saying ‘yeah my phone does that’, but I didn’t buy an iPhone for a reason. I can do all the regular stuff, find a restaurant or movie without even opening Google. I can play games, update facebook, take pictures and post them online or email, etc. etc. etc.

Can you talk to your phone? Let’s say I need to find a product for my home computer:

Me: Droid, locate ‘firewire card Dallas’.

Droid: Micro Warehouse, Phone Number, Address – Would you like to call? Do you need driving directions with GPS tracking?

Me: Dial for me please. ‘Do you guys carry firewire cards for…..blahblah.’

When I get into the store, the guy doesn’t know if the firewire card has windows 7 drivers. Hmm… Droid scans the barcode and takes me to the manufacturer’s product page where I can see that drivers are downloadable. Thanks Droid!

I can connect to a VPN, RDP to my workstation or SSH to my server! I can write text messages with my voice, read emails while talking on the phone, even translate by voice into other languages (never getting lost in Spain again)! I still have so much to learn about the abilities of this device, but it does point to our ‘futuristic’ intentions in having a computer in our palm that allows us to interact with the world.

Oops, did I forget to turn off the coffee pot at home? ‘Droid….?’ I don’t think they are on speaking terms yet. I’ll have to get the coffee maker control application. Droid says no results…

Categories: 
January 12, 2010

SLXXXXX Twitter Log

8/24/2009 1:00PM – Just ordered 3 more servers from SL. Man I love how easy it is to order, and the provisioning time is incredible.

8/24/2009 11:45PM – Got the new servers setup; now I have redundancy for my app. G’nite.

9/04/2009 8:00AM – Suhweet, just passed 50K users for my app. Hitting the pool.

9/21/2009 6:42PM – Oops, app crashed too many users. Recovering now. Thank goodness for monitoring alerts.

9.21/2009 8:13PM – Sorry all, app back up. SL CloudLayer really helped. Their portal makes it all easy.

9/22/2009 3:13AM – Ok stayed up late tonight and added new functionality to the app and added a new app server, geographic load balancing baby!

10/6/2009 2:45PM – Thanks for all the support on the app, keep the new ideas coming. 450K users and growing.

10/31/2009 5:50PM – Happy Halloween! 627K users. Thank you!!

11/14/2009 6:02AM – Getting close 989K users. Party at 1 Million. Just added 2 new front end servers in each DC, adding cloud storage now for Data replication/protection.

11/21/2009 7:31AM– It’s finally here 1 Mil. Party time! Isn’t ad revenue the greatest. The in game pay to play money is fun too. Thanks all!

12/10/2009 4:42PM – Still growing. I was alerted that one server crashed. No users affected. Technology is cool.

12/18/2009 9:16PM– ‘Bout to go silent for the Holidays. Hope you all have good ones. See you at 1.5 million when I return.

12/19/2009 7:00AM – Decided to add a couple more cloud instances for good measure. App is smoking fast.

12/31/2009 10:45PM – Monitoring just hit my phone, at party will check asap.

12/31/2009 11:00PM – Found a netbook at the party. App is crashed. Looking.

12/31/2009 11:07 PM – WT? All servers down, hard down. SL up and friend app good on SL network. Investigating, sorry for outage.

12/31/2009 11:10 PM – Hackers? Not sure all servers affected. Ping only. Had very secure. No problem before.

12/31/2009 11:29PM – Portal password got hacked. Intruders OS reloaded every server with RedHat, turned off all CCI.

1/04/2009 6:00AM – Happy New Year, mine sucked – app back – 5000 daily users. Sad day.

While the above is completely fictional, it could happen to just about anyone. Don’t let it happen to you. No matter how long and how secure you think your password is, there is someone out there who can crack it. It is one thing keeping a server secure and most technical geniuses are very adept at doing just that. With all the time and effort it takes to keep your servers secure, you might find that you have slipped in other areas. SoftLayer is here to help in VIP Style.

The cutting edge SoftLayer portal now has optional Two Factor Authentication support using VeriSign’s Identity Protection. First, what is Two Factor Authentication? It is defined as, “something you know (password) and something you HAVE (pin number of sorts).” Here is how it works:

You buy a physical device in the form of a keychain token or a credit card token; or in the cool age of technology, you can simply get one of the free phone apps that do the same thing for you without the extra piece of equipment to carry. Once you get the device/app you would go to the portal and register the token’s unique ID and attach it to a username on the account. The master user gets this FREE and then if you want other users on your account to have this functionality it is $3 per user per month. If the master user does turn on this functionality no one else will be allowed into the system without using two factor authentication. Once this is setup, the user will login using their “known” password and then they will also have to enter the “code” (the thing you have) on the token device or phone app to gain access. The code changes on a fast schedule so this is extremely secure. This would have made the New Year’s celebration for the person above much more fun.

One last thing, since we partnered with VeriSign you can use the token device or phone app for different sites that use the VeriSign product. PayPal is one example. Here is a complete list.

Now that you know about it, and now that we offer it, don’t be the guy that doesn’t keep the portal secure and misses out on a Happy New Year!

January 11, 2010

Stop Using Internet Explorer 6!

Let me start by saying this… I hate Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). I really do.

Internet Explorer 6 was born on August 27, 2001. The browser was released in conjunction (well, a little after) with Windows XP as a major upgrade from Internet Explorer 5.5. From those humble beginnings in 2001, IE6 has continued to stay alive mostly because of the continued support/use of Windows XP and web-based applications built specifically for IE6.

Here are a few reasons IE6 is a big pile of junk:

  • Numerous security issues.
  • The inability to support CSS version 2 fully.
  • No support for alpha transparency in PNG images.
  • Quirks Mode, which emulates IE5.5.
  • No tabbed browsing.
  • It’s OLD!

So what makes a good browser!?

  • Full CSS 2+ support.
  • HTML/JavaScript W3C standards compliancy.
  • HTML/JavaScript performance improvements.
  • All new browsers utilize tabbed browsing.
  • Some new browsers (such as Google Chrome) have “Task Managers” that can allow you to destroy certain tabs that may have become unresponsive by a web site.
  • Support for HTML 5.

If you’re still using IE 6, consider upgrading to a new browser such as Mozilla FireFox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or a newer version of Microsoft Internet Explorer. You’ll make yourself and web developers around the world so happy!

Categories: 
November 13, 2009

Buenos Dias

Growing up I would consider myself an average kid. I played football and basketball outside with my brothers; we’d come home every day from school and turn on cartoons. Depending on the day it may have been power rangers or the animaniacs, rarely would we ever dare tune into PBS for entertainment. I started thinking about this as my son of 17 months is beginning to use single words and overall starting to communicate more with me, and consequently starting to want to repeat everything he hears. We were watching cartoons last Saturday morning and I noticed something strange, every cartoon appeared to be teaching him way more then I remember the cartoons of my time teaching me.

Sure there were a few of the ones I expected, but the vast majority had a lot of learning. Even the commercials had learning games and exercises mixed in. With the amount of information younger generations have these days it makes me wonder just how much my son is picking up. Is it crazy to think by four or five he will know at least one hundred words of Chinese (Ni Hao, Kai Lan), and one hundred words of Spanish (Dora the Explorer), at this rate I don’t think that’s too crazy an accomplishment as he’s learning all of this while having fun in his eyes.

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if your child came up to you and spoke a sentence in Chinese, and you had to tell him to hold on while you “googled” what he was trying to say. Before I had a child I always said, “I am not letting my child watch cartoons, that stuff will just make him less likely to enjoy learning and other activities.” Now I not only love the idea, but it’s fun and exciting for me too since I get to learn as well. My dad was always breaking and building computers when I was a kid so naturally I picked up on that and made it into what I do today. I’m not sure what effect if any these educational shows will have on him career or otherwise but I think overall shows today are making great progress in spurring children’s hunger to learn , which is great as I will be trying to teach him his ABC’s in the coming months. I just hope he doesn’t expect me to wear a funny hat and dance with stuffed animals in the process.

Categories: 
October 30, 2009

Powered By the Internet

I recently engaged in an interesting conversation with my significant other. It went something like this:

Her: "The company made us take our facebook page down, because it wasn't official"
Me: "Really? I figured that'd be an awesome way to market your company... Create a group, invite all of your customers to join you, and advertise via facebook"
Her: ...

While the actual conversation did last a lot longer, she later made a valid point. Being well versed in the web hosting industry (as she has to deal with my barrage of nerdery on a daily basis), she mentioned that it made complete sense that a company such as SoftLayer should use the Internet, and social networking to connect the employees, customers, and fans together, pushing that envelope just a little bit further. Our whole operation, after all, is in fact powered by the internet.

We have all avenues open for social networking to help us power our business. You can look at what's going on in SoftLayer at any given moment via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The InnerLayer... the list goes on, and surely continues to grow. It's only a matter of time until the next best thing comes around (does anyone remember MySpace, or Friendster?), I'll bet a paycheck* that we'll be quick** to jump on board.

After all, when all is said and done, there's no wrong way to market yourself. People do it all the time in their social networking profiles. They may present themselves as a party animal, a scholar, or a hard worker, but regardless, they're putting their image out for the world to see... and while it seems like a large paradigm shift for businesses, when one stops to think about it, it makes perfect sense; it's a free outlet to market yourself!

So while some companies are stuck in low gear, SoftLayer has hit the throttle, and speeding ahead, continuously braving ahead into new and interesting ideas. We'll continue to push the limits of what's acceptable to most, and use every tool to get our name on the streets.

* Comment made in jest. I will NOT bet an entire paycheck.
** I make no guarantees as to exactly how "quick" quick will be

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