December 13th, 2010 by Mike Fulton

I first got the podcast-viewing bug about two and a half years ago.  I was at the NVISION show that NVIDIA put on in San Jose.  This was something of a cross between a trade show, a technology fair, and a LAN gaming party, with the main theme being, as one might expect, all the various ways in which NVIDIA graphics cards can be used.

At that show, Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht were doing a live show of their Diggnation podcast.  I had never seen Diggnation before but I knew about Digg.com so I figured it was worth a look. It turned out to be a great deal of fun and when I got home that night, the very first thing I did was download several back episodes and watch them.

In one of those first few episodes I watched, someone mentioned another podcast called “Geekbrief” that sounded interesting, so I went to check that out.  It turned out to be a not-quite-daily podcast where the host, Cali Lewis, would present news about the latest techno gadgets and other geek-friendly topics.  Each episode was fairly short, say 4 minutes to a maximum of 10 minutes, and there was almost always something of interest in each episode.  It soon became one of my favorite podcasts.

Cali’s podcast is where I first heard about Twitter, just before it started to explode onto everybody’s radar screen.  On an average day, she sends out several tweets about what’s coming up on future shows.  I was a noob with a new account when I first sent her a tweet asking about something she’d said in one of her own.  I was trying to get into the spirit of things, but I really didn’t expect an answer.  After all, she had thousands of people following her.  So I was quite surprised when she actually sent back a reply! 

Recently, Cali and her show became part of the Revision 3 family.  Revision 3 is perhaps the closest thing out there to being a podcast “network” with a variety of popular shows such as Diggnation, Tekzilla, AppJudgment and many more.   The good news is that Cali’s show has made the transition pretty seamlessly.  It has a new name “Geekbeat.tv” and of course a new title sequence and credits, but otherwise it’s the same show that we’ve come to love.

img_0292-small

Recently, Cali was in the SF Bay Area for a visit to Apple and took time from her busy schedule to have a meetup at the Old Pro Bar & Grill in Palo Alto.  Having missed a few previous chances to meet Cali, I was quite pleased at how the meetup lined up with a trip down to the south bay that I was doing anyway.

At the meetup I also got to meet Cali’s producer, John Pozadzides, and play around a little bit with the Canon 1D Mk 4 that he’d brought with him.  It was a bit noisy at the place we met, because it overlapped Monday Night Football, but it was a pleasure to meet Cali and John and the other local fans who showed up.

, , , , , , ,

April 11th, 2009 by Mike Fulton

Having heard so much about Squarespace from watching Tekzilla & Diggnation, and from seeing it briefly at the Web 2.0 Expo. I thought I’d take advantage of their trial setup to see how it all works.

In case you haven’t heard of Squarespace yet,  basically it’s a combination of a hosting service and website building software.  But instead of a downloadable website editing application such as Dreamweaver or Expression Web, you create a Squarespace-based website directly through their site. Once you’ve signed up, you’re presented with a web-based application for creating and maintaining your website design.  They have a variety of starter templates for you to start from, but you can later customize most aspects of the design.

The target user for Squarespace seems to be someone who might be thinking about doing a WordPress site.  The kind where WordPress hosts it for you, that is, rather than the kind where you download their software and install it on your own web hosting package.  The main difference for these users will be the fact that Squarespace offers a real GUI for creating and editing your layout.  For a regular, non-gearhead user, this is quite a bit more friendly and accessible than the WordPress method of manually editing the PHP code and CSS stylesheets for your selected theme.

WordPress offers a lot of options for customizing a site in ways other than the basic page layout.  Using plug-ins, you can give a WordPress site a wide variety of additional functions that the original authors never envisioned.  Squarespace, not so much.  Their customization is pretty much limited to changing font sizes, colors, and so forth.  On the one hand, their GUI makes it fairly easy to come up with a unique layout.  On the other hand, even if you don’t want to customize a WordPress theme yourself, there are THOUSANDS of WordPress themes out in the wild web for you to choose from.  Many users never customize their sites beyond selecting a theme and maybe uploading a new graphic banner or two.

One thing about Squarespace that I definitely do not care for is something that I see on other websites all the time.  They give you a little tiny piddly-ass space to edit your text, instead of a decent sized window, and then they give you no option to make it any bigger.  This isn’t simply a matter of personal reference for large editing windows… it can be very difficult to manipulate things in a small window when you’re doing something like inserting a graphic and trying to position it relative to a particular piece of text.  The Squarespace text editor is not going to accommodate any but fairly small graphics.

Perhaps the editor size is something one can change, but if so I’ve not yet figured out how to do it.

This is, thankfully, not an issue with the editor in WordPress.  You can easily adjust the height of the WordPress editor simply by dragging around the bottom right corner of the window, and the width adjusts automatically when you change the size of the browser window.

Editing the layout of your Squarespace site is something that ranges from very easy to somewhat frustrating.  Most individual aspects of the layout are fairly easy to change… you want a different font, different colors, or a different banner graphic?  All easily changed.  But the higher up you go in the page structure, the more difficult things get to change.  You want to adjust the width of the content area?  Uh… not quite so easy.  I could change the width of  the separate sections within, but never did get the width of the whole content area to change.  Either the option is not there at all, or else it’s hard enough to find that other people will also have trouble finding it.

Squarespace seemed to be not quite finished to me… there were a number of  places where I’d click on something expecting a result, but nothing happened.   I also note that there is an absense of things like popup info, or “tool tips” when you hover the mouse over something.  Other times, I’d make a change to the template and nothing would happen… I’d click to make the same change again and the original setting would still be there.  It turns out that your changes didn’t changed unless you clicked somewhere that was outside of the edit field, but not on a button that would change the page.  Bad Javascript Mojo there, mon!

One could argue that no application is ever really quite “finished”, but the fact that Squarespace is 100% web-based means they can roll out updates several times a day if needed.  They’ll never have to worry about what version the user has installed, because they will always be using the most recent version.  This is perhaps the most significant advantage of “cloud” applications.

Ultimately, Squarespace is not something I expect to continue using once my free trial expires.  That’s not a reflection on the company or their product, however.  More than anything else, it really just points out that I’m not really the sort of user they’re targetting.  Squarespace’s target audience isn’t the web designer like myself who is currently using Dreamweaver and Flash.  They’re looking for regular users who just want to get something going easily and quickly.  Their software is designed to provide a complete solution to people who don’t have the desire, knowledge, and/or time to become a “real” web designer.  If that describes you, then perhaps you need to have a look at Squarespace.

, , ,