Jan

9th

Vim: the Swiss Army Knife of Programming and Website Development Tools

Software | Website Development


Paraphrasing the Peter Allen song, ‘Everything Old is New Again’ would be the perfect way to describe using the recent editions of Vim in its role as a premier tool in the arsenal of well-equipped web developers and programmers. Vim supports contextual intelligence and support for HTML, C, C++, CSS, PHP, Python, Javascript, Ruby and many other languages, with the ability to add others as they gain favor!   This powerful free and open source program which has been a mainstay of the Unix/Linux community for decades is now available in versions for Windows and Mac machines.  I recently revisited this marvelous software after first seeing it several decades ago, and was impressed enough after spending a few days getting re-acquainted to adopt it as a mainstay in my programming arsenal.  This is an excellent and powerful tool which will provide much of the ammunition any data infomancer or development guru will need to create and maintain a thoroughly professional product! Read the rest of this entry »

Mar

18th

Mashups: A Web2.0 Technique to Harness Outside Content to Work for You!

Blogging | Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Summary: This article is one more in a series explaining and advocating for web2.0 technology, and how that technology is helpful in interacting meaningfully with customers and clients over the web. This article is the latest in a series of essays about the various facets of web2.0 technology, including Programming Web Content with Web2.0 and XML: A Key Powerful Software Technology to Grow Your Business and Engage Your Customers. As professional designers and providers of web services we know that our clients have a much higher and better quality of response from sites which strive to offer a better caliber of interaction with their customers. Web2.0 is an essential technology and component of that effort.

There are several distinct types of mashups – consumer and enterprise. Enterprise mashups usually occur over secure networks, and are processed on a server, while consumer mashups are more forgiving, and accomplished on the users’ desktops. Web-based mashups usually use the clients web-browser to do the combining and reformatting of data. The various data streams must be sent to the client device as individual data streams so that they can be processed. Server-based mashups will do the analysis and reformatting of the data on the server side and send the data to the client as a single data stream.

Early mashups were created manually by programmers. As with many programming break-throughs, they were first done by enthusiastic programmers just to see if it could be done. As mashups became more popular, there arose a market for tools to simplify and speed up the creation of mashups. Software companies responded by creating tools that allow designers to construct mashups in a visual environment. All the potential components of a mashup are presented in this visual environment and can be connected to create the desired mashup. While mashup editors have made the process of creating mashups much simpler, they have not done a lot to create new ways of accessing the data to be combined. Mashup Enablers address this problem by adding new types of data that can be added to a mashup. A mashup enabler is defined as “the service and tool providers that make mashups possible”.

This type of technology was impossible until recently because of the speed of the average consumer internet communication. The number of http requests needed to ‘feed’ one page of data necessitates a high speed connection to the internet. And the very nature of the requests makes pre-made dataset presentations unfeasible. Associated technologies such as XML, SOAP, JSON and evolutions in Javascript capabilities have also facilitated adoption of slick representations of this and other Web2.0 applications.

Here’s a mashup created using Yahoo pipes. Yahoo pipes is a graphic interface which allows querying, filtering, sorting manipulating and formatting output from sources across the internet. This particular one taps several RSS feeds using technology from Yahoo and Delicious. The combines them into a single feed which is sorted by dates so that the most recent articles appear at the head of the list. If left to its own devices, the pipe would return hundreds of thousands of articles! But for our purposes, we limited it to the 15 most current articles.
(add references to other Paladin articles above)

However, with the advent of readily available high speed processing on the desktop and high speed communications, this mashup technology is beginning now to come into its own. Web pages that before were static and ‘dusty’ and were outmoded before they were published are now beginning to give way to dynamic conversations between the provider and user. Mashups are one way of delivering custom tailored content to a hungry consumer with an ever shortening attention span and an ever expanding demand for information.

For the business owner, it is also a boon. Here is an excellent way to provide up to the minute content which can be tailored to the needs and desires of an interested customer – kind of like an MIRV missile (multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicle). This is very powerful magic from a marketing and business development point of view. And even more exciting is that after the relatively small initial setup cost, the business owner can have his website updated and fresh, targeted to any individual customer or prospect by piggybacking on the technology of someone else!

Here’s a mashup using Flickr.com and Flickriver.com. Flickr is the repository of data containing the photographs, and Flickriver provides the technology that produces a randomly ordered list of up to 500 separate images from a pool of Flickr files. The list is different every day, so this blog article will show a different crop of images every day -automatically!

No, this is not plagiarism. It is perfectly legal and respectable. The providing companies expose their API (application programming interface) to the public exactly for that reason: they are anxious for other sites to share their technology because it establishes themselves as an industry standard, and makes it more likely that they will get a larger share of the business generated by the downstream customers .

If you feel that your company might benefit from such an enhancement to your web site and marketing program, please feel free to contact us. Additionally, we welcome comments on our articles in the space provided below.

Mar

3rd

Programming Web Content with Web2.0

Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Summary: Recent advances in telecommunications, net technology and consumer expectations have brought about concomitant advances in the demand for more rich and sophisticated languages, content, and interaction on the web between the providers and users of the web.  These new abilities are loosely referred to as web2.0 technology.  Web2.0 allows a more engaging interaction between the producer and consumer, and allow a new depth of communication and interaction that even just a few years ago was impossible.  Sophisticated techniques and languages such as javascript, AJAX, embedded video, and other technologies make this possible.  This article provides an introduction to those technologies, which are affordable, elegant, and becoming more and more of a requirement in the web competition of today. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec

10th

Panning for Gold in the Twitterstream

Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Just about everybody has used their website and blog to promote their businesses, and, in the past few years, have supplemented those efforts with the use of other social media outlets such as Facebook, and Twitter.  In the case of the blog and website, these efforts may be categorized as passive in the sense that the business owner sits back and waits until clients are attracted through his website, and make contact, and ultimately, business.

SalahibidenFacebook and Twitter were innovative at the time, and helped businesses form a relationship with clients with a more personal approach, allowing a subtle transition from a purely passive approach to their prospective clients to a more pro-active and personal one.  A lot of folks missed the point of Twitter and Twitter and came late to the party.  The same can be said for the late adopters of Facebook, who didn’t understand their kids’ fascination with the social aspects of Facebook.  College kids live on facebook.  Andif you had any doubt about the centrality of Facebook to the zeitgheist of our society, one need look no further than Michaele and Tarek Salahi’s crashing the Whitehouse state dinner late last month.  Pictures of them and Obama and them and Biden were on their Facebook page before dawn.

I wish I had a nickle for everyone who commented on my embracing the Twitter idiom with a snide comment like, ‘What do I care what people had for breakfast.’  A lot of folks are missing the point of both of these social sites:  they provide a way to form quasi social relationships, and so called weak friendships.  Their point is that people are more apt to do business with people with whom they have some sort of connection.  If you’re looking for someone to re-do your kitchen, you’re much more likely to choose someone from your church, or even someone who is friendly with the butcher whom you lilke.  I am not a big Facebook user because it is too time intensive, but I have met quite a few friends, professional colleagues, and business partners on Twitter.

But Twitter is still a quasi passive platform, though the lines are blurry.  I do know that the easiest way to turn someone off on Twitter is to come onto him with a hard sell:  ‘I’ve made $15,000 this month on Twitter, and I can show you how to do it, too!!!!!’

But thee are now on the horizon two very important developments which promise to significantly enhance the power of using Twitter.

But first a small diversion.  Earlier this year, an enterprising your Australian named Chris Duell developed a site called Twitterhawk.  Now the idea of Twitterhawk is that the site sifts through the Twitterstream looking for key words that you set that occur near a geographic location that you specify.  So if you were a carpenter in Peoria, you might set up a search that looks for kitchen remodeling in Peoria.  Twitterhawk would return to you a list of those tweets,  And, for a few cents a tweet, Twitterhawk would send a series of rotating tweets to those whose tweets you designated as appropriate targets.

Back to those new Twitter innovations.  The first was the implemenjtation of lists on Twitter.  Now you can create lists of folks on Twitter that you follow.  And you can categorize them with common traits, for example software architects (like Paladin Consultants, LLC ), or economists, or photographers.  It helps you keep track of people, especially when you have lots of followers.  You can see the Twitterstreams of these lists, and even get an RSS feed of them.  Better still, in most cases everyone has access to virtually all of everybody else’s lists!

And where can you find and mine these lists?  Listorius is one of the first resources dedicated to managing the new feature.  Mashable also has a growing arsenal of Twitter Lists.  Unless I miss my guess, new sites dedicated to this new tool will be popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain!

The second innovation comes from a site called Listimonkey, a site designed by a very clever young Belgian expatriate named Xavier Damman, now living in the Bay Area.  He has also managed to secure a domain name in his own name!  Anyway, his wrinkle on Twitter is that if you send Listimonkey the name of a twitter list, a key word or phrase, and your email, Listimonkey will email you with a set periodicity the tweets from members of that list contain your key word or phrase!  Now, although there is some SEO juice and pride in having a large list, this is not necessary to work with Listimonkey.  In fact, you can use anybody’s public list!  (Most lists are public.)

Now think about that.  If you are a real estate agent in Chicago, you might watch somebody’s Chicago list for the key word ‘moving’.  If you were a photographer in Atlanta, you’d watch somebody’s Atlanta list for the keyword ‘wedding’ or ‘getting married’.  And, Listimonkey allows you to create as many of these list/keyword combinations as you like!  Very powerful, and a dimensional abstract improvment on Twitterhawk’s idea!

But Listimonkey is good not only for finding new customers and clients.  It’s great for finding out about new products, techniques, people, trends- wealth of information from one site that harnesses the communal information it mines from the Twitterstream!

I’m afraid Xavier’s innovation will spell bad news for Chris Duell and Twitterhawk.  It’s a shame, but the market marches on.  One can only wish Chris Duell luck, and hope that he has another great idea.  But with talent like he’s shown, I am sure that his next idea is right around the corner.

But getting back to Listimonkey, as those emails come rolling in from Listimonkey, it would be pretty easy for a good software developer to come up with a program which would parse those emails as they came in, and then tweet appropriate messages to the originators of those tweets mentioning the keyword(s).  Xavier has such a good idea, that I predict will soon overrun his mailserver.  But that will be an happy problem for him to solve!

Please leave a comment, so we know whether or not we are on target!  It helps us find out what our readers think.

Apr

20th

OneNote Part2

Software


    This is the second article in a series about the usefulness of Microsoft’s excellent OneNote software. In this article, we discuss using OneNote as a companion tool in our main business of developing custom software and designing websites and web services.

    Read the rest of this entry »