Posts tagged Making
It’s convenient to believe that the only thing that matters in open source development is code. But communicating about that code is just as important, if not more so.
Small wonder, then, that New Relic’s Andy Lester puts “strong writing ability” at the top of his list of “8 essential traits of a great open source contributor.” It’s not merely a matter of marketing a project to would-be contributor. It’s primarily about getting along and inviting the right kind of contributions.
Speaking Clearly About Code
While I’ve pointed out the importance of hiring exceptional writers to help craft and articulate meaningful stories about why a product matters, the reality is that strong writing skills matter just as much for developers as for marketers. In part this is a matter of developers doing a better job of marketing their projects to rally contributors, but it’s actually much more fundamental.
As Martin Fowler declares, “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.”
But it’s not just the code that needs to be clear. The conversations around the code need to be even clearer, as Lester writes:
Almost everything done in open source is done through the written word. Documentation, bug reports, discussion of implementation—everything is written out and your message must be easily understood. Lots of people can code, not as many of them can clearly communicate what they’ve done. No one contributes only code to a project. Code must be documented, and patches contributed to the project should include a summary description of what’s been done. Without clear explanations of your actions and their intent, the chances of your code being accepted into the project are greatly diminished.
Apache Storm creator Nathan Marz echoes this, stressing the importance of well-written documentation:
[After announcing the project,] I spent the majority of my time writing documentation for Storm. This is the single most important thing I did for the project. I wrote about 12,000 words of carefully thought out documentation—tutorials, references, API docs, and so on. A lot of open source developers don’t realize how crucial docs are: people cannot use your software if they don’t understand it. Writing good documentation is painful and time-consuming, but absolutely essential.
That is an amazing statement. Many developers would think their job was done once they’d written the code. But it’s not. Not even close. The real work begins with documentation and continues with all the chatter on mailing lists and elsewhere that helps elucidate the how and why of an open-source project, something that Facebook’s open source chief James Pearce also calls out.
Speaking Kindly About Code
On the Internet, no one knows if you’re a dog, but everyone knows if you’re a jerk. This is especially true in tight-knit open-source communities, where collaboration is critical.
Of course there are plenty of examples of project leads that flame would-be contributors for half-baked or merely different ideas as to the right approach to an engineering problem. Linus Torvalds, for example, admits to a “metric s—load of [mistakes he'd] like to fix” related to “alienating users or developers” through “strong language” and abusive behavior.
But part of coding well is writing kindly, as Lester goes on to note:
The best contributors understand that the people at the other end of an email thread, or talking in IRC, or discussing a bug in a GitHub issue ticket, are also human beings who may not always have a lot of confidence in their skills and value. Great contributors nurture and bring forth the best work from others by being encouraging and helpful.
This isn’t about mollycoddling newbies. It’s about nurturing newbies to help them become full-fledged contributors. Flaming someone is never the right response to bad code or even bad behavior.
Not if you want your code to get used, that is. Stack Overflow co-founder Joel Spolsky puts it this way:
The difference between a tolerable programmer and a great programmer is not how many programming languages they know, and it’s not whether they prefer Python or Java. It’s whether they can communicate their ideas. By persuading other people, they get leverage. By writing clear comments and technical specs, they let other programmers understand their code, which means other programmers can use and work with their code instead of rewriting it. Absent this, their code is worthless.
Pretty bold. Also true.
Get Used To Writing
It continues to surprise me how essential good writing is to developers, but also to other professionals. Astrophysicist Kirk Borne, for example, suggests that strong communication is critical to data science. It’s not enough to understand data and talk to machines; at some point you need to interact with humans.
As the world moves online, strong writing ability will become ever more important. So as much as we rightly worry about a decline in science and mathematics skills in education, we should be equally concerned by our ability to communicate about these topics.
Just as business schools increasingly teach ethics, maybe computer science degrees should be awarded only after wading through a fair amount of Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath and a creative writing class. Or five.
Lead photo of The Bell Jar by kristina
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ReadWriteBuilders is a series of interviews with developers, designers and other architects of the programmable future.
Entrepreneur, designer and artist Caterina Fake was one of the early pioneers of the Web. She was one of the first online graphic designers and a blogger before people thought it was normal to post personal information online.
Fake has spent her career creating services that change the way we use the Web—photo-sharing service Flickr, acquired by Yahoo; decision-making website Hunch, acquired by eBay; and now Findery, an app for discovering art, history and notable destinations all around you.
Findery, available on the Web, iOS and Android, is for storytelling. People can add “notes” about certain locations—for instance, detailing some history of a particular building. That lets others who are traveling or just exploring their surroundings learn things that might not be in a guidebook.
“Notemaps,” or a string of notes on a similar topic, are also a way for users to share their journeys through photos, words, and location information. One notemap called “In Love” is a collection of stories about romantic journeys contributed by Findery users.
Fake said that all her businesses have something in common—they combine technology with art and community, and put the people first. And while there are now screens almost everywhere we look, Fake doesn’t want people to become lost in their technology, rather use the tools and devices to amplify the present world around them.
Now with notes in 196 countries and a recently launched Android app, Findery is hoping to become a new way for people to discover the community around them through photos, community and shared stories.
Making Things Beautiful And Useful
RW: Can you talk more about how you’ve been developing for the intersection of arts and technology? What inspires you to make that connection?
CF: I’m a liberal arts major. I studied art and I studied English. I almost went to grad school to study Renaissance literature. I was trained as an artist. I was trained as an oil painter. I’ve always had an affinity for it.
I came out here as a recent college graduate. I had always had an interest in computers, and I’ve always been online—that was before 1994, before there was much activity online. I had been working as a painter in NYC as a fine artist, then I moved out here [to San Francisco] and I felt myself to be unemployable. But I had this skill in aesthetics that I could translate into Web design. I got into it really by accident.
I carried forward these tendencies I already have. I carried it into this new realm of technology and the Internet, and it became a career. I was a very early blogger also. I started in 1998, really early on, and that was a thriving community.
I always felt that was a very important part of the Internet, that people tell their stories, that there be a multiplicity of voices online and be an avenue for people to connect themselves. That’s really been something that we’ve focused on throughout all of my career. It’s been very effective for companies who build these types of communities that are arts related, and about storytelling.
Sketching Out An Online Vision
RW: Flickr was your first company, right? Can you talk about how you went from being a painter and designer to being a technical entrepreneur?
CF: In many ways it was being in the right place at the right time.
I started doing CD-ROM educational title design. This was back in the days of CD-ROMs, before the Web really took off. I got really lucky because I was living in New York and had gotten a job as a temp in the IT department at Columbia University in early 1990s. And somebody showed me a Mosaic browser, right when it came out.
I had been online already and been very active in the bulletin-board days of the Internet. I was very attracted to and interested in all of this blooming technology. So I was in a good place at a good time. There was such a small community—there were so few people working in the industry at the time. It kind of felt like there were 300 people working in Web design at the time. I had spent time in online communities like The Well, and it just kind of evolved naturally from that.
I did Web design, I taught myself HTML and to write basic code, I published zines, I published a blog, and put up my own website. I was on Geocities. There were a lot of really wonderful, early online communities like that.
It was in ’95 that I joined Organic, one of the very first Web development shops. I took it from there. It wasn’t an obvious path. It was one of those things that if you just keep your mind open, you can look for opportunities around you.
But I don’t think my parents were very optimistic about my post-college opportunities.
RW: Did you set out to build an image sharing platform that just happened to become one of the most popular photo-sharing sites on the Web?
CF: We were hoping it would be successful, but we didn’t really have any idea how successful it would be. There’s a lot of work that went into it, a lot of luck that went into it, a lot of things happening with just the general forces of the Internet at the time. This was 10 years ago now, and the timing was just right.
It was kind of like, blogging was seen as this weird fringe behavior. “Why would you want to put a picture of yourself online? That’s so weird.” That was changing. Friendster had a lot to do with it. In the early days, getting people getting over that hump of having a profile of yourself online. It was kind of a new idea.
The year that we launched Flickr [in 2004]—it was the first year that the majority of smartphones were equipped with a digital camera. It was also the year that more than 50% percent of all households had broadband Internet, so you could actually download a photo. So that was a huge thing.
A lot of things happened around that time. Another thing is that the cost of storage had been falling year after year. It used to be very expensive to operate a server, and that was dropping. It was a perfect storm of different factors … that made it the perfect time for Flickr.
Looking at the current landscape, there are screens in everyone’s cars, in dashboards, on planes, the apple watch, google Glass, you can kind of see what’s going on is that people are no longer connected to, we still have all our phones, but we’re going to be liberated from our phones. And you know the sense of traveling with you is where things are going next.
RW: Do you think that perfect storm of factors helped with the virality of Flickr? Do you think it’s harder to go viral on the Internet now, 10 years later?
CF: In some ways, going viral is no longer the same kind of challenge it was. In some ways it’s harder, and in some ways it’s easier.
There are all these different devices you have, and all these different contacts. The challenge has always been tapping your social network, those challenges have been made easier.
But then, there are many social networks, there are a lot more developments going on. There’s more noise—in that aspect, it’s harder.
RW: Can you talk a little bit about why Findery is so unique and how you’re hoping people use the app?
CF: We’ve really tried to do a couple things: We thought that location-based services were really centered around ratings, reviews and recommendations. So really about “Where should I have dinner?” or “Show me what to do here.”
We wanted to get away from that sense of place.
The thing we really want to try to do is bring out the meaning and history of a place. All other aspects of the place that don’t have to do with business transactions. Bringing a travel mindset local.
You know that famous slide with Steve Jobs, at the end of one of this last presentations, he was standing in front of a sign that said “Technology and Liberal Arts.” That’s kind of where we feel we are. Here’s the history of a place, here’s the sociology of a place, here’s what people are saying about this place. Here are people’s contributions.
That’s what we feel we’re really good at. If you look at the companies over the years that I have been either a founder or on a board or an investor in, like Flickr, Etsy, or Kickstarter, the great common thread in them is about creativity and telling stories.
Those are some of our particular strengths and what make us different from Yelp or other things.
What’s really interesting about technology in general, when we started this company, it was very clear that things were going to be on mobile, and that mobile was what we should be developing for. Now wearables are becoming a reality. Screens are now going to be in the dashboard of your car. Screens not even confined to your handheld device anymore.
We have this space that is really expanding to include all of these screens in places that are moving, in the back of a cab, or in front of you on the airplane. As you’re flying over Greenland, wouldn’t it be interesting to see, what’s this place like now? We are designing for all of these products that are just rolling out. So I’m super excited for us. We’re in a good position to be on all of these mobile screens.
Where Technology Meets Liberal Arts
RW: What were some of the most important lessons that you’ve learned after founding multiple startups? How are you applying them to Findery?
Things change constantly. I don’t think that any entrepreneur can keep doing the same thing over and over. You have to know what experience to carry forward, and what experience to leave behind.
I think one of the big challenges is actually cultivating beginners minds and making sure you’re still open to the world and continue to see new things. You can actually get jaded. You can stop seeing things that are new. You can start fearing failure. Those are the things an entrepreneur needs—an open mind and the ability to see the world with new eyes.
That’s the challenge of being an entrepreneur.
RW: How do you think Yahoo is running Flickr? Did you ever anticipate its current form?
CF: It’s funny. It’s like when your company has been acquired by another company, you can care for it for a certain amount of time, then you have to let go. You can compare it to NASA and the space shuttle. You can care for it as much as you can, then the rocket ship goes into outer space, and there it is.
I know exactly what I would do with Flickr right now, but I’m not running it anymore. So from my perspective, I’ve launched a rocket. You just have to hope that all of the stuff you put into it before it launched, works.
The thing that’s always been the strongest thing about Flickr is the community. So long as the people continue to be supported, that’s the important part.
RW: My editor Owen Thomas pointed to me about a blog post you wrote, the concept of Biz Dev 2.0. Is that something that’s translated over the years? Companies opening up their API and allowing other companies to build off it?
CF: Earlier in the conversation I was mentioning that being present on all these different platforms, being on dashboards or wearables, none of that would really be possible without an API.
That still holds true now more than ever. When we were developing products when I wrote that back in 2006, there were even fewer places that your data could appear. They’ve just multiplied. When we started Flickr, it was a pretty simple process.
Since we’ve developed Findery, we started on the Web and mobile Web, and we had an iOS version, and now an Android version. It’s just multiplied. We were pretty much developing for a single platform 10 years ago, and you can’t do that anymore.
You can’t just be constrained to one. I think that that’s even more true than ever.
Being Present In The World
RW: So what’s next for Findery? What will success look like?
CF: One of the things that was really great is that we have an intern that said Findery changed her experience of the world. When she was walking, instead of looking down at her phone, she was being present to the world. Technology can remove us from the people and places around us—you can be going into some Internet world in the sky instead of being present where you’re standing.
If we’re successful, it seems like an irony for a technology company, but it would be to make people present in places where they are and the places around them
The people on the bus, or people walking down the street, the lines in the pavement and the weather, all the stuff that’s around you. Not be so involved in the virtual world. Which sounds very old-world now. That’s a term circa 1999.
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Mobile SEO differs from desktop and its importance its growing rapidly.
The post Up Close @ SMX: Making Mobile SEO Perform For You – Design, Approach & Speed appeared first on Search Engine Land.
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Up Close @ SMX: Making Mobile SEO Perform For You – Design, Approach …
Search Engine Land
up-close-at-smx-east-2014. Mobile SEO is very different from desktop SEO; therefore, ensuring you take the right approach to implementation is critical to success. This was the overarching mobile message at SMX East in New York this past week. I was …
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Dear Content Marketers, Have I told you (lately) that I love you? Seriously! Content marketing has taken the elusive concept of “thought leadership” and transformed it into a prescriptive, clear-cut process. You equip prospects with the helpful information they need and, at the same…
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B2B Content Marketers: Are You Making These 5 Common SEO Mistakes?
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can we be content marketers who are also savvy about our SEO? Can we squeeze a few more delicious drops out of all our content efforts? Can we be brave enough to look back and honestly ask, “Did I get all of the possible SEO benefit out of my content?”.
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Mark this moment: Watching people play video games has become a big business, with Amazon, Google, Disney, and others vying for a piece of the action.
Call it livestream gaming: Top players record themselves playing popular titles and delivering commentary—or compete against each other in big, live, arena-style events.
By turning video games from a solitary living-room obsession into shared events, livestream gaming is letting advertisers tap into a hard-to-reach demographic of mostly young men.
The Game Is Afoot
That means a huge influx of money into the video-game world: It’s changing from a hardware-and-software business into a Hollywood-like media operation, complete with its own celebrities, agents, studios, and networks.
The big event in livestream gaming was Amazon.com’s announcement that it will acquire Twitch, a site which specializes in livestream gaming videos, for a cool $970 million, after rumors that Google’s YouTube might be interested in buying it, too.
Gaming as a spectator sport has already attracted audiences of millions of online users, most of whom watch it on gaming-dedicated YouTube channels or on Twitch. It’s no longer an online subculture: For many teens, it is their mass media.
And the wars to capitalize on livestream gaming and its personalities is underway. Maker Studios, a Disney-owned Web network that operates like a talent agency for popular YouTube stars, has just partnered with one of YouTube’s top gaming channels, The Diamond Minecart.
The Diamond Minecart joins two other Maker-represented gaming channels, PewDiePie and Stampylonghead. That means Maker Studios now has the top three most-subscribed gaming channels on YouTube. And it means Disney and Google have partnered up against Amazon and Twitch. It’s on like Donkey Kong!
Livestream gaming grew along with YouTube. Video-game streams were just one more genre of YouTube’s early bedroom-webcam confessionals. What else would teens talk into the camera about?
While Twitch specializes in gaming, the topic is no stranger to YouTube. PewDiePie, YouTube’s most-subscribed channel, is the online-video home of Felix Kjellberg, a 24-year-old Swede. He has 19 million subscribers, but he’s just at the apex of a community of gamers on YouTube who garner massive fan followings by uploading videos of themselves playing games.
Some advertisers are already tapping into their popularity.
Kjellberg recently agreed to appear in a promotion for Hollywood horror movie As Above, So Below. The film’s marketers sent Kjellberg to Paris to record himself looking for missing keys within a haunted catacomb, complete with zombies and live cockroaches. It works particularly well because of the similarities to the horror-themed video games he often plays.
Video-game publisher Ubisoft partnered with popular YouTube comedy duo Smosh to create a song in 2012 for the release of Assassin’s Creed 3. The accompanying music video now has a total of 54 million views.
In 2012, first person shooter video game Halo released Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, a science fiction action show, on YouTube channel Machinima Prime. The show has since been added onto Netflix’s roster of content.
Entering The Arena
Livestream gaming was born on the Internet—but it’s jumping into the physical world.
Where livestream gaming involves posting videos, esports—short for “electronic sports”—involves quasi-athletic video-game competitions, often staged in big venues before live audiences and, increasingly, broadcast on television.
In October 2013, video-game publisher Riot Games held its League of Legends World Championships at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The arena was sold out, and 32 million gaming fans watched the competition online.
In July, ESPN, the Disney-owned cable network, broadcast The International, a tournament which featured an online battle-arena-style game called DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) 2, with an $11 million prize.
So what can we expect for the future of livestream gaming? We’re already seeing Disney, Google, and Amazon getting into the mix, putting down eye-popping amounts of money into acquisitions and poaching top YouTube gamers.
Google and Disney’s interests are obvious, since they are big sellers of advertising with a keen interest in teenage audiences. Amazon’s interest in Twitch came as a surprise to many—but it, too, has an increasing interest in video games, thanks to its Kindle tablets and its in-house game studios, as well as in online advertising, where it hopes to challenge Google.
Others are likely to pile into the market now. The big winners may be anyone who loves video games. Heck, you don’t even have to play them anymore. You can just lean back and watch.
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Business 2 Community
Making Better SEO Reports For Your Clients
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Ah, the SEO report. Sometimes the bane of our existence. Some agencies spend the majority of their time creating monthly detailed monstrosities, while others might send quick, white-labeled exports. Meanwhile, smart companies (like Seer) look for ways …
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Don’t just assume why your content is or isn’t working – to really understand what’s working and what’s not, marketers need to dig in, get their hands dirty, and ask the right questions.
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