Really, I’m no longer here

July 1, 2008

New blog at scottru.com. Here’s the new RSS feed. This is a dead parrot. The live parrot has all sorts of things. Go there.

Out with the old

June 23, 2008

In short:scottru.wordpress.com is dead, long live scottru.com: here’s a new RSS feed. I’ve already started blogging there and you’re missing it!

WordPress.com has been great to me – easy to use, a good intro to WordPress, and no work. But I knew I was never going to update the theme here and I really wanted more control over the sidebar, so I ponied up some cash to InMotion Hosting (who I’ve used happily with other services) and moved the scottru.com redirect to there.

I haven’t figured out if I can or should move the content without having real SEO problems, so it may or may not migrate.

On on!

Woot.com disclaimer: thank heavens they told us

June 19, 2008

As a fan of woot.com (and the creator of an accused imitator), I noticed tonight a new disclaimer:

do not taunt happy fun ball

If you can’t read my screenshot (because I still haven’t upgraded this theme), the first sentence says

Product narratives are for entertainment purposes and frequently employ literary point of view: the narratives do not express Woot’s editorial opinion.

I don’t know when this came along – it’s super-new and the google hasn’t been of any help.

Was this legitimately confusing anybody, or angering particular vendors who couldn’t overlook the silliness while the cash came in? The words “editorial opinion” seem specifically chosen.

(Random note: I’m listening to the new Girl Talk mashup album and “Whoomp! There It Is” just played. Woot was a better name than Whoomp.)

Snapvine, stockbrokers, and voice posting

June 6, 2008

One of the many real-life intrusions lately has been the recently-announced planned WhitePages.com acquisition of Snapvine, which I wrote about on the WhitePages Developer Blog on Wednesday morning. We’ve been working on this for quite a while, and I’m very excited about the energy I’ve seen from both teams as we start to meet each other and think about what we’ll build together.

The entire adventure reminds me of the first startup I thought about creating, which I discussed with Victor in 1999 when we were both working on NetDocs. Streaming audio was just starting to be embedded in websites, but there was no such thing as combining audio with personal publishing (and not much personal publishing, unless you count Diaryland – and I did).

My father has been an investment advisor since I can remember, and when I was a pre-teen, he ran a large office of Prudential Bache in Penn Station. One of my strongest memories was the broadcast conference calls he would lead or listen to each day – with clients, brokers, etc. – sharing what was going on in the market, learnings, etc.

So I got excited about building a set of online tools for this kind of person – someone who wanted to publish pure audio to a set of interested parties. I thought about simple web pages and simple audio controls, designed some very basic pieces, etc.

Then Shoutcast came along, and for some reason I decided that was the end of it – someone had beaten me to it. I can’t explain why I thought they were the same thing – maybe it was just that I saw Shoutcast as a demonstration that I was already behind the curve. Anyway, Victor and I worked on our doomed corporate project and played a lot of Run & Gun, and nothing came of it.

Fast-forward almost a decade later, and now I’m working with a company that’s come as close to building that toolset as anyone else out there, and I’m going to get to work on combining those kinds of tools with the most comprehensive people search website on the planet. It’s an exciting road ahead.

Oh, and I still listen to Shoutcast on my Chumby. (And I do owe Victor a call.)

Crowdsourcing bicycle commuting routes

May 31, 2008

I met someone last night (I think it’s badhill but didn’t get a last name) who described himself as a transit hacker, and we talked for a while about bike commuting (I bike to work almost-daily).

We talked about one of the problems for new bike commuters, which I’ve seen over and over again – getting started is hard because you don’t know how to get there. Especially if you haven’t bike commuted before and so are going to be nervous, you want a route that’s safe, has no unexpected obstacles or hills, and is easy to remember.

Automated online driving directions don’t cut it, even if you can skip highways, because while you might be ok taking a chance on online directions when you’re driving, biking is a bigger commitment and mistakes loom larger (especially for new cyclists).

In Seattle, you can ask for help on the Cascade message boards, but you first have to know they exist. Of course you can talk to friends, but that’s still not perfect.

The City of Seattle distributes a beautiful Seattle bicycling guide map, but it’s job is to tell you what you can do, not what you should do. They take input from commuters, but it generally comes from public forums, which are really just an excuse for people to yell at each other.

This is a perfect opportunity for crowdsourcing, though: thousands of people bike commute every day in Puget Sound, and wherever you’re going, probably dozens of others are doing the same. What if you could just follow their routes, even if you didn’t know them?

The more fun way to do this is to give thousands of cyclists tiny GPS devices that unobtrusively tracked their routes and then reported back to a server, like Dash‘s outbound features for cyclists. This would work, could update as construction impacts routing, etc. It’s also very cool. The more practical way to do this (which Brandon suggested) is to have an online map tool where you encourage cyclists to post their commute routes.

Then you overlay all of the paths heat map-style so that people planning their own route can find the most-often-trekked streets (and directions) and routes. Ideally you could follow individual routes as well, so that you could see why people pick one route over the other based on their final destination.

There’s obviously some way to save out the coordinates that somebody uses to create a path on an online map – Gmap Pedometer creates permalinks, for example – so it certainly seems possible to build this sort of thing. And as being a transit hacker sounds fun, maybe I’ll do it sometime. Or maybe you will. I’m already behind on other projects…


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