social media Web/Tech

The rise of the geek class

Photo by Chantal Foster via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Last Sunday, I was asked to pray in church for those of us in the tech industry, that we would use our skills as a means to Christ’s mission on earth. I opened my prayer by getting rid of the polite language. “Lord Jesus, be with the geeks and nerds among us. We were once made fun of but now are seen as the hope and solution for our companies. Let us use our new found influence for your glory and not our own. Let us point others to the Solution.

The nerds and geeks have come to rule our nation logistically. We might not hold a lot of political offices but it is headline news when leaders change companies, retire, or even get sick.

Long gone are the days when the rest of the room snickered when I said, “I run websites.” Now they wait for the meeting to end and then ask for my card so they can pitch their project to me.

Becoming geek

What makes a person a geek is that they have thrown away all semblance of generality and become hyper-knowledgeable in their sphere of knowledge.

In some regard we are all geeks. It’s how you become a professional in a field. Last year, I was at a man’s house repairing his PC that had gotten clogged up with Spyware. About every 25 minutes he would come by and look at what I was doing and say, “Man, I’m glad you know how to do that. I wouldn’t have a clue.” After a few rounds of that I stopped him. “You know– this is just my skill. If my toilet blew up or my washing machine got clogged… I’d call you. The world needs both computer nerds and plumbers.” It was an aha moment for both of us.

Geek isn’t just limited to tech. Geek is how you become an expert. And the world ceases to spin without experts.

Lack of balance

As a geek, I am perplexed at how some people judge me. They say it in subtle ways like, “I limit my use of the internet to just at work.” Or “I put up some boundaries so I don’t do that stuff while I’m home.” What they are really saying is that the thing they geek out in, say preparing for 25 hours to preach a 35 minute sermon, is somehow more noble than my task. They judge my expertise through the lens of their life and call for balance.

At the same time becoming a geek at something brings joy and satisfaction far beyond a paycheck or acclaim.

That’s the difference.

Being a geek at something is the absence of balance. It’s really an acknowledgement of letting go of a desire to maintain balance as a generalist and completely go after one thing.

Becoming a geek is making something others view as ignoble, noble.

Some say I waste a lot of time observing and participating in all sorts of things. At the same time, I don’t waste a lot of time reading books or watching mindless television.

No shame in geek

That’s the nature of geek. Going after one thing in a completely unbalanced fashion. Geeking out for hours trying to figure out how something works, how you can improve it, how others worldwide have taken it to new heights, and trying to predict when your geek-subject will go in the future.

May we stop judging and start embracing and supporting the complete lack of balance of the geek class. Stop trying to change them because, in the end, they will change you.

social media Web/Tech

Two quick updates from McLane Creative

A fun outlet for me is building WordPress sites, consulting, and social media campaigns at McLane Creative. Since it’s a creative outlet I tend to be pretty picky with who I work with. Here are three quick slogans I use to describe my work there:

  • Guaranteed to be on budget and past deadline.
  • I tend to chose you more than you chose me.
  • I pick projects that matter to me, regardless of budget.

Interestingly, this tiny business has continued to grow through 2009-2010. And with marketing slogans like that… how could it not?

I’ve fallen into a pace where 7-8 projects per years is just about right. Any more or less and it’s just not worth it.

Two quick structural updates:

  1. I’ve moved all of my hosting from Bluehost to 6sync. More importantly, I’ve moved from a shared hosting environment which lead to some unexplained downtime and nasty malware, to a VPS environment where I’m much more in control. More on this move.
  2. I installed a client collaboration tool. The way MC works is that I build a custom team of freelancers for each project. This is an ultra efficient model of web development for the client… but the pitfall is that it requires that I manage a bunch of people working together for the first time over and over again. The new client area (powered by Collabtive) centralizes the teams communication with the client. More on this move.

Under the hood of

For the last month I’ve had my head under the hood on a brand new event for YS called, “YSpalooza.

Over at the YS blog I’ll talk a little more about what the event is and why we are excited about it.

But here I wanted to take readers behind the scenes to show off some of the nerd-factor I added to the website.

  • The site is fully HTML5 compliant. (No flash or plug-ins required to view the site, it looks great on mobile phones. All the hover overs and what-not works the same on a computer which it does on a phone.)
  • Since Internet Explorer isn’t HTML5 compliant, we had to learn a lot of hacks and workarounds for the world’s least functional browser.
  • This is our first big event to use Eventbrite for registration. I’ve used Eventbrite for a number of things and I totally love it. I especially love how it integrates with Mailchimp.
  • This is the first site in FOREVER (like maybe ever) that I build just in HTML/CSS without a content management system. It was like learning to ride a bike all over again. I love the customization level I was able to achieve by going this direction… but when it comes to managing content, there’s a reason you go with a CMS!
  • Building a site in this way has an aesthetic to it all it’s own. It’s a slow and methodical method. But I have a much more intimate connection to the site than I typically would. I have spent a ton of time on each of the 50+ pages.
  • Dave Luke was a freaking wizard. I’m not very good with coding websites and fortunately for me… Dave is formally trained. I broke stuff and he fixed it.
  • With no SQL databases or feeds or anything like that, the site loads super fast. Really, what you see is what you get.

This was a fun project to work on. For one thing, it’s a brand new event. So we were creating a lot. Typically, I manage a group of freelancers who all do 1-2 pieces of the pie. For this one it was a blast to do it in-house, with coding help from Dave.

social media Web/Tech

How to adjust privacy settings for Facebook Places

What is it?

Facebook describes it this way:

Places is a Facebook feature that allows you to see where your friends are and share your location in the real world. When you use Places, you’ll be able to see if any of your friends are currently checked in nearby and connect with them easily. You can check into nearby Places to tell your friends where you are, tag your friends in the Places you visit, and view comments your friends have made about the Places you visit. Use Places to experience connecting with people on Facebook in a completely new way. link

In other words, its a bigger and instantly more popular version of Fourquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. With 97 million American teenagers owning a mobile phone, this has the potential to be huge.

Facebook has a very well done FAQ are for Places, I’d recommend checking it out and educating yourself.

How to Adjust Privacy Settings

For most people, your default settings are going to be fine. By default, you can use a mobile device to tell your friends where you are at. Additionally, by default you are allowing Facebook to point you to other people who are checked in at the same place.

For people into social networking, this is fine. I actually like that if I check-in at Starbucks I can know who else is there because I might actually like to have a conversation with them. It doesn’t creep me out that I could check-in at Ikea and 20 other people in Ikea who aren’t my friends could know I’m there.

But a good majority of people don’t use Facebook for social networking. They use it for existing friend connections. In other words, while Facebook is designed to help you expand your network by meeting new people, there are tons of people who want to “protect their privacy” and not network with anyone outside of people they know if real life.

That’s a personal choice and Facebook allows for that. (Even though its outside of the original design of Facebook, they’ve made concessions.)

Now, let’s adjust those settings!

Step one: Go to the Privacy Settings tab in your account settings. Here’s the link. This is an overview of all of your general settings.

Step two: Click on “Customize Settings.

Step three: Scroll down to “Places I Check In To” and click “Customize.” This will bring up a box where you can select exactly who you want to see where you check in at. If you just want to play with it to get used to it, but don’t want other people to see it, change it to “Only Me.” Changing it to “Only Me” is as private as it gets if you want to check in places. You’ll notice you can also block specific people from seeing where you check in at. Think about who you want to block specifically and list them there. When you are done click “Save Setting” and you are done with this step.

Step four: Enable or disable the “Here Now” feature. If this whole thing creeps you out, I’d suggest disabling this setting. But also keep in mind that if you want any of the cool freebies that retailers/restaurants may come up with for checking it, you’ll need to keep this enabled. (I’ve gotten plenty of free stuff by checking in via Yelp and even Twitter.)

Step five: Scroll down to “Friends can check me in to Places.This is probably the feature that will get the most people in trouble and will make people the most angry. Say you sit down for lunch at work with a co-worker. You check in and you tag that person as being with you. Now, if you didn’t have that persons permission, all of their friends know that they have checked in at a place because that check in posts to their wall. Also, if they haven’t adjusted their settings in step four, now anyone on Facebook at that location can know they are there. On the other hand, if you feel good about your selections on step three than this is no big deal.

Done. You can go back to your profile, having adjusted your Places privacy settings to your liking.

What does Adam recommend?

Bear in mind that I’m a pretty open person. But I still value some levels of privacy, particularly because I’m a husband and father. Truth is, I don’t even anticipate using this feature unless I’m somewhere cool and want to brag that I am there.

Here’s my selections for the steps above:

Step three: I’ve selected “friends only.” I do wish I could select by groups of people. Because I have a friend group labeled “People I Haven’t Met Yet” and I’d prefer that they couldn’t see my location. But until Facebook fixes that, I’m going with “friends only. UPDATE: If you have a friend group you’d like to exclude from your check-ins, you can just type them in the field “Hide this from these people:Here’s what it looks like on my privacy settings page.  I’d recommend NOT choosing “friends of friends” because that basically opens up your location to anyone in the world.

Step four: I’m a big fan of getting free stuff. So I’m keeping this enabled because it doesn’t bug me and I’ve enjoyed many a free meal. There will soon be lots of iPhone applications that call to this so I want to see where it goes.

Step five: I feel pretty good about step three. And I also feel pretty good about the places I go and the people I go to them with. So I’m going to keep this enabled for now. Let me tell you though, if someone false checks me in somewhere shady and we’re going to talk. This little feature is going to land a whole heap of people in a whole heap of mess. So, if you aren’t sure about all of your friends, I’d recommend disabling this one.

Some Places Etiquette

  1. Never, ever, EVER check-in at home. I want to hit people in the shins with a hammer when I see that. Not only are you broadcasting to people where you live, complete with Google Maps directions, you are also telling people that you are home… and when you check-in someplace else, you are tell them YOU AREN’T HOME! Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
  2. Only check-in at public places. Just like it’s dumb to check-in at your house, it’s really rude to check in at your friends houses. Checking in at a private residence is rude, even if the person says they don’t care. Just don’t do it.
  3. Always ask before checking in your friends. It’s just polite. Maybe they don’t want their friends knowing they had a latte while at work? Just ask.
  4. Check-in sparingly. I know it feels like a game. And games are meant to be won, right? But if you check-in to places 20 times a day you look really, really lonely. My rule is that I only want to check-in places that I think are cool. Sea World? Cool. The local gas station? Not cool. Since I like tiny, family-run businesses… I’m going to check-in at a lot of those because I know it helps them out. I think mom and pops are cool.
  5. Be weary of promotions. With 500 million users and integration into Google Maps retailers are going to go nuts trying to get you to check-in. (As a Google Adwords user, let me tell you… Google is going after us to do promotions!) Don’t be surprised to see deals popping up everywhere. A check-in deal is fine to me. But if I have to tag a bunch of people or write a specific status update to save $5… that’s too far. Don’t subject your friends to that.
  6. Never check-in anywhere after 10:00 PM. Remember when mom said that nothing good happens after 10 PM? If you are out with your friends, it is just better to not check-in. Nothing good is going to come of it.
  7. Remember: Everything you post online is public! All check-ins, all that GPS data, all those tags, all those status updates… they are ultimately public information. You parents can see it. Your boss can see it. The college admissions office can see it. Your significant other can see it. Your future mates can see it. Your children will be able to see it. Even if you’ve made all of your settings private, that data all ultimately belongs to Facebook and they can do with it whatever they want. (And it could always get stolen from them!) If you don’t want those people to see it… don’t post it.

WordPress 3.0

Any time any type of software goes from one version number to the next, it is significant. WordPress 3.0 brings a few interesting highlights.

  • Theme improvements. (You’ll get better themes as a result)
  • Menu improvements. (Made it easier to add dropdowns)
  • Multi-user, multi-blog administration built in
  • Some cool dashboard improvements, highlighted in the video. Now I can make WordPress act more like a CMS.
  • Even easier to update WordPress software and plug-ins
  • McLane Creative customers: You shouldn’t have any problems with the upgrade. All of the templates/sites I have out there are compliant and should upgrade just fine. To upgrade, open up your dashboard and click the “Upgrade to WordPress 3.0” link at the top of the screen.

    If there are any problems, let me know.

    If you have a WordPress stand-alone blog, I highly suggest upgrading immediately. With more than 1200 bug fixes, there is bound to be a security issue in there you’ll want cleaned up.


    The internet & privacy

    Photo by Will Lion via Flickr (creative commons)

    Lately there has been a lot of angst about internet privacy. This came to a head when Facebook changed some privacy settings which angered some users who believed that they had a right to privacy with stuff they shared on the site. Some folks ever started a movement called over it.

    As a person who does internet development, a long time blogger, and someone who “gets the internet,” I just wanted to give you a reality check.

    You don’t have privacy, anywhere. If you think you do– you have never read those little contracts you sign, user agreements that you click “yes” to in order to use sites or software, nor read a single privacy policy on nearly every commercial website on the planet.

    I don’t want to scare you, but here is a snapshot of the data “we the internet people” collect from you every single day. We don’t do much with this… but we collect this information:

    • Every time you Google something, Google logs that. They know what you search, what you clicked on– Google is, by far, the largest repository of user data anywhere.
    • Every time you make a phone call, your cell phone company knows who you called, where you called from, and how long you talked.
    • If you have a GPS enabled smart phone, your cell phone company knows your exact location any time its turned on whether you are actively using it or not.
    • Your IP and MAC addresses are logged by every website you’ve ever visited. The sites servers know how many times you’ve been there, how long you stayed, and what you looked at. Even free Google Analytics tools can show any website owner this information.
    • Everything you post on Twitter or Facebook (or WordPress or Blogger) belongs to them, not you. Since it is their property they can do whatever they want with it. Every message, every picture, everything you like, everything you direct message.
    • Any time you purchase something from an online retailer, they collect even more information. They know that other stuff about your browsing history, plus they know what you buy, how often you buy, your shipping and billing address, what category of stuff you like to look at, on and on. The only part of the transaction that they can’t really do anything with is your credit card number.
    • If you store documents online, an administrator could access that information, if they wanted or needed to.

    If you don’t see https: (the “s” means that the area of the site is certified as secure by someone like VeriSign. Of course, certified and verified as such are two different things.) in the address bar, you shouldn’t have any perception of privacy.

    Whatever you do online is somehow public

    What is interesting to me about the privacy concerns is that the stuff that people are worried about– is typically happening in real life! Don’t want future employers to see you dancing on a table while intoxicated? Sheesh, don’t blame Facebook for that, blame your drunk self! Don’t want one group of people to know something about you? Don’t talk about it on Twitter!

    The irony of the privacy concerns is that people have willingly agreed to the terms of service and have willingly posted content to websites that they now don’t want put in the public.

    It makes me gigle. No one ever told you this was private, you just thought it was.

    There is no such thing as “internet privacy.

    It’s about ethics

    As a web developer, you need to know how much value that 99% of website owners put on this data. If a sites privacy policy says they won’t share that information– 99% of organizations won’t. Their reputation is on the line. And there are plenty of watchdogs and lawyers all to happy to create legal grief for those who violate their privacy policies.

    Companies may (and most do) use it for their own purposes as outlined in the privacy policy. The funny part is that collecting and learning from this information makes you love most sites instead of loathe them. Most people like it that iTunes or “gets to know their preferences” and make recommendations to you. Statistics show you are much more likely to click on, and buy from, advertisers who target their ads to your preferences. If you are called to appear in court, you’d be happy to know that your cell phone can provide an alibi.

    The opposite of compartmentalism

    When I was a high school student, youth pastors preached about the ills of compartmentalism all the time. The irony is that todays privacy-free society has those same people crying for just a little compartmentalization!

    Fair Warning

    My recommendation is not to flee. It’s to live an honest and transparent life. If you live in a way where you have nothing to hide than your level of privacy is rather innocuous.

    But the opposite is also true, as well. If you are going places you ought not go or doing things you know are naughty… you are just building up the evidence against yourself. Somewhere someone already knows. And everything you are doing leaves a breadcrumb to your future embarrassment.


    RSS Fixed

    Thanks to Andrea and a few others who mentioned to me that my RSS was messed up on my blog.

    It took a little messing around but I found the problem. Yes, it was tied to the hack that occurred earlier in May.

    Literally, three characters in a line of code. Story of my life!

    If you’d like to subscribe to my blog via RSS please click here.

    I also heard that some users may have problems leaving a comment. (Something about creating an account at Yahoo! Trust me, I’m a Google guy, I’d never make you do that.)

    If you are on a Windows computer or a Mac Firefox user, please press F5 to clear the cache on your computer/browser for this site. If that doesn’t clear it up, please send me an email at so I can help.


    Google TV: Who is it good for?

    Hmm… bringing all the video you can find on Google, which isn’t already on Hulu or YouTube or Netflix? Sounds like Google TV was made for the porn industry.

    Dear Lord, let this thing come with a very strong filter for the sake of our children. (And college students)

    What am I missing? What’s worth watching that isn’t already able to be streamed to my TV via a device?


    Quick Malware Fix

    Photo by yahnyinlondon via Flickr (Creative Commons)

    Is your PC acting funky?

    Like– when you turn it on you start getting pop-ups that tell you to install a new virus protection software? And when you try to turn it off your computer does more weird things? Like downloading crap you don’t want?

    If your PC is doing that there is a good chance you have malware (short for malicious software) and need to remove it.

    Where did it come from? You visited an infected site. A site owner would never intentionally put malware on his site, but sometimes sites get hacked with the intent on causing havoc.

    How do I get rid of it for free?

    Step One: Reboot your PC in safe mode. (Press the power button, count to three, then hold down the F8 key on your keyboard. Select “Safe mode with networking” option.)

    Step two: Download and install the latest Malwarebytes free version from this link.

    Step three: Run Malwarebytes. This is going to take a while. Get a cup of coffee or go see a movie.

    Step four: When it’s done, it will tell you it wants to delete a bunch of files and reboot. Do that.

    Step five: That should remove it. But just to be safe I like to download, install, and run Combofix. (Watch another movie)

    Step six: This should remove any virus or malware you have on your computer.

    Step seven: Do one more reboot. I actually would suggest turning the computer off all the way, counting to twenty, then turning it back on.

    Step eight: Since you’re at it lets speed up your computer a bit. Go to add/remove programs in the control panel and remove anything you don’t use. If there are programs there you don’t recognize– Google the name of the program and the results will tell you if it is something legitimate or if it is spyware. If it’s legitimate, keep it. If it is Spyware, uninstall it. I like to remove all the junk that Dell or HP or Sony installs on a PC that I don’t use. That stuff takes up a lot of space and resources and you probably will never use it.

    Step nine: Make sure your virus protection software is up-to-date.

    That’s it! Typically, you can do this yourself in about 2 hours.

    What if I don’t want to do this? Who can I hire and  trust?

    If you’re still having problems or just don’t want to deal with this– I’d suggest contacting a local computer repair person. (I don’t trust the people at Best Buy or some of the other big chains, find someone local and support your economy.)

    If you’re in the San Diego area, I recommend Todd Tolson’s Wired Community.


    5 Things I Love about Mailchimp

    I’ve been a Mailchimp customer since July 2007. And unlike most web apps, my love for them is growing over time! I joined them because I loved their user interface and fun loving attitude.

    Here are 5 quick things I love about Mailchimp.

    1. Easter Eggs. Today was the perfect example. The picture above is their login screen. I wasn’t expecting it and it made me giggle. There’s also some funny stuff built into the site that will keep you laughing. I use Mailchimp several hours per week… it never gets old.
    2. Geo-location emails. Lemme tell you. As a guy who manages some big email lists I adore this new feature. If I’m doing a meet-up or an event, I can very easily send to users within 50, 100, 0r 150 miles. No more zip code segmentation!
    3. Easy autoresponders and mail merge tags. One of the reasons why people hate getting email marketing is that it feels so canned and impersonal. Mailchimp makes personalization and follow-up, even in an automated way, super simple. So I can set-up autoresponders to go to people who just signed up for my mailing list, have an upcoming birthday, or even haven’t opened emails recently. Love. Love. LOVE IT!
    4. Templates galore. When I first started using Mailchimp I was impressed that they had 30-40 templates to chose from. This is now basically infinite. They have tons of free stuff to use as well as the ability to easily import custom designs… or even turn ANY webpage into an email template. The chimp that came up with that needs an extra banana.
    5. Customer service. I’m a royal pain-in-the-neck customer. I’m always pushing the envelop and trying to use their service to its fullest. These folks are amazing. They take it all in stride. They bend over backwards to help. And they have a philosophy of educating their customer as opposed to just fixing stuff for you. For a bunch of chimps, they are really friendly. When we were doing NYWC in Atlanta last fall they were even polite enough to open up their offices to let me walk around and be a fan for a while.

    I didn’t even mention the price. If you have a list under 500 subscribers, they are free. Even for bigger lists (like my Youth Specialties stuff) they are super cost-effective.

    And since I am on a roll. There are some incredible power-user features. They seamlessly integrate with Google docs, Eventbrite, Salesforce, Highrise… and a few other things I haven’t even explored yet.