This past weekend, I went to see Pixar's WALL•E in DLP. No, this is not a post about how wonderful the movie was (though it was really well done, and artfully stayed away from giving actual speech capabilities to the robots while still making the characters endearing in their story of robot love) but rather a post about DLP technology.
DLP stands for "Digital Light Processing" (not "Digital Laser Projection," as the man sitting behind me tried explaining to his wife who thought it had something to do with Dolby sound). DLP uses a different sort of projector that allows for a crisp, bright digital image that can be projected at various sizes with the same image quality. DLP technology was originally developed in 1987, and started being used in movie theatres in 1999. Still, few theatres are equipped with DLP projectors, and those that are generally only have one projector so far.
When viewing a DLP movie, the image looks almost as bright as a television screen. It also looks like the quality of one, without little defects that come from scratches on film since the DLP movies are stored on hard drives. The movie watching experience with DLP is really a treat, and at least in the theatres near me, it doesn't cost any extra. Few movies that come out are available in DLP though, and it can be found only in some theatres. You can see what's showing as well as look up theatres at the DLP website. Fandango will list whether or not the movie is in DLP in their listings as well.
At the very least, if you haven't seen WALL•E yet, try it in DLP. It most likely won't cost you any more money than a regular showing, and it'll be a great experience.
This past weekend, I went to see Pixar's WALL•E in DLP. No, this is not a post about how wonderful the movie was (though it was really well done, and artfully stayed away from giving actual speech capabilities to the robots while still making the characters endearing in their story of robot love) but rather a post about DLP technology.
Adrienne So from Slate wrote an article investigating the possibility of creating a bra to use the kinetic energy of breasts to generate energy.
In her research, she conversed with a former exercise science professor who now specialized in designing sport bras. In the professor's studies, they measured the bounce of breasts of various cup sizes in both high-support and low-support bras. The only results of this data revealed in the article mention that a B-cup breast in a high-support bra travels about an inch vertically, while a D-cup breast in a low-support bra can travel as much as 35 inches during exercise.
She then consulted a professor from Georgia Tech currently developing cloth material made out of woven nanowires. The nanowires are "about 1/1,000th the width of a human hair" and when woven together, they rub against each other to "convert the mechanical energy from the friction into an electric charge". So proposes that a bra made out of this material can power an iPod.
Finally, she also investigated the possibilities of harnessing energy from the vertical displacement of the bra strap caused by the weight of breasts. After consulting a biology professor at UPenn, she determined that using a rotary generator, an additional 7 watts of energy could be produced, though "he warned it 'probably wouldn't be very comfortable.'"
My thoughts on the article? I can't imagine this product ever being comfortable enough for anyone to use. It sounds like it would mostly only be feasible for D-cup breasts or larger, however breasts that large need a lot of support when jogging or doing another form of exercise, or it can be very uncomfortable. The "35-inch" number is very misleading because a) it was a high value, not an average, so could easily be an anomaly and b) because it would hurt any woman to have their breasts bounce that much PLUS be chaffing against fabric. As for the bra strap, the researcher proposing the rotary generators said himself that it wouldn't be possible to attach it to the bra strap in a comfortable way.
The only promising possibility in this article is the nanowire fabric. "According to [the professor from Georgia Tech], the fabric is cheap to produce and surprisingly efficient; his team hopes to use it to create energy-generating T-shirts and other articles of clothing. A square meter of fiber produces about 80 milliwatts of power, which is enough to run a small device like a cell phone. [They expect] to have a shirt available for purchase within five years."
Particularly if you read my blog from my website (as opposed to through a subscription), you probably noticed that I gave it a small1 makeover, of which, my favorite is my new favicon. A favicon is the little icons you see by the website URL in the address bar, tab, and bookmark list on your browser.
Favicons are 16 pixels by 16 pixels. If you don't have good software on your computer to be able to draw a little image that small, you can use one of several online tools to draw it. After creating the favicon, upload it to your server and simply add this line of code between the
</HEAD> sections of your HTML:
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://(website)/favicon.ico">
If you user Blogger or another site that doesn't let you upload files, then ICONJ will happily host your favicon.
In my first iteration, I made this icon: , which was too feminine. I envision "Robo" to be mechanical and precise which "Jenny" to be feminine, so I wanted something that represents more of the dichotomy of the name. I wanted a gear in the middle instead of the yellow section so I ended up with: . True, I'm not the best graphic artist in the world and it doesn't look much like a gear, but it was an easy way to customize my website! If you think you can make a better gear flower than me in 16x16, feel free to try and I just might replace my current favicon with your creation!
1Though from the start I wanted a feminine look, I had always thought the template was too pink, so I toned it down a little. I also added a photo to the banner, which I purchased the rights too off iStockphoto, a great place for for photographers to sell their images and for users to purchase the right to use photos royalty-free. I had also noticed that I was getting a large influx of hits from CNN, and found out it was because CNN uses Sphere. Sphere provides links to related blog posts or articles to the page the link is found on. While it won't redirect more traffic to your website for including it, it does give your readers an easy way to look for more information on your topics. I added a link to Sphere myself, below the tags of each post.
After twelve years of being together and five years of being married, Ian Usher was "blindsided" by a divorce from "the best girl in the world". Ian saw no reason to go on living what was a great life... so he's selling it on eBay.
Usher's life comes with a three bedroom house (valued at $400-420k AUD) in beautiful Perth, Australia along with everything in it including his car (Mazda 929), his crotch-rocket (Kawasaki ZX600R), his jet-ski (Kawasaki SX650), his computers, his projector, his jacuzzi, his cameras, his furniture, and more, an offer for a two-week trial at his job at a rug store that could be extended to 3 months or permanently, and introductions to all his friends in Perth. He says his boss and his friends were all very supportive and agreed to being part of the auction. His friends even wrote a (misspelled) letter to bidders. At the end of the auction, Usher plans to "walk out of [his] front door with [his] wallet n one pocket and [his] passport in the other, nothing else at all."
The auction started yesterday and will go on for a week. Already, there are more than a hundred bids with the highest bid at above $2 million USD. Bidders must first register at Usher's website to be put on a list to be allowed to bid on eBay. His website and the eBay listing also includes pictures and videos of him giving a tour of his belongings. Usher also provides information on his FAQ about immigration laws, foreign investment laws in Australia, and other useful information. He insists that he is not "selling his friends", nor will the buyer obtain his identity.
Edit: Looks like since the time of my post, most of the bids were retracted or canceled since the bids were made before eBay could resolve pre-registration issues.
Today, it was in the news that Prosecutors Build Bear Stearns Case on E-Mails. I have heard that litigators like joke that "e-mail" stands for "evidence-mail". A few years ago, there was a lot of hype when a judge subpoenaed Google to turn over the complete contents of a Gmail account including deleted e-mails that were still stored on the servers. In this new case, the accounts used were not Gmail accounts; e-mails can be received no matter what service you use.
The e-mail exchanges in question discussed the clear signs of their largest hedge funds being in trouble, yet admitted to conning more people to invest in them. As a result, Ralph R. Cioffi and Matthew M. Tannin may suffer jail time in a federal prison.
Of course, the issue here isn't that they were saying it over e-mail. The problem is that they knowingly misled people; the e-mail simply is the proof of it. It doesn't mean you should be paranoid of using your e-amil though. This proof can also help you in a positive way. You can use e-mail as an easy way to document conversations with clients or a boss. After a face-to-face meeting, it can be a good idea to write a summary and e-mail it to all involved to get them to sign off on the notes of what happened.
On the other side, the Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center recommends that in a separation with a spouse, to always remain courteous in your e-mails to your spouse and write them as if a judge would read them. E-mails in these situations have been known to be "used to show your ex's unwillingness to cooperate, [his or] her disregard of court orders or personal agreements, [his or] her inability to collaborate on behalf or the child, and other relevant issues."
In general, you don't have to feel like Big Brother is constantly reading over your shoulder and overlooking your e-mails, but know that if a situation comes up, they do count as evidence either for or against you.
Firefox 3 Download Day Download Day officially began at 11:16 am PDT/6:16 pm GMT yesterday, but it goes on for 24 hours. Firefox is setting the record for the most downloads in 24 hours, so there are still more than 12 hours left (from the time of this post)! Note that I say definitively that they are setting the record. That is because with these 24 hours, they are inventing the record. They applied to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records for this new category, and are recording and submitting the number they get from this day.
Maybe you don't care about setting a new record or by the time you read this, the 24 hours was over. Then don't do it for the world record... do it so you can have a better browser. Here are some reasons that make Firefox 3 better than other browsers:
- better security
- warnings about sites that install viruses
- warnings about sites that are forgeries of real sites
- anti-virus integration
- ...and more
- easier to use
- easier password management that will replace successful passwords with unsuccessful ones
- resumable downloading for when your download gets interrupted partway
- tab scrolling and tab quick menu
- multiple text selection
- full page zoom
- a better bookmark organizer
- ...and other features
- improved performance
- better memory usage (Firefox 2 was an annoying memory hog for me)
- improved platform for developers
Want to help out? Want a better browser? Well I hope I convinced you to get ! If you already have it, then good for you! You can also .
For updates on how the record, Firefox has set up their own Twitter account that will be micro-blogging with the updates.
Sorry for the lack of post today, but last night I found myself in an ambulance and then the emergency room. I dropped the lid to the tank of the toilet on myself, and created a deep gash in my shin, needing stitches. No, not a toilet lid, but a toilet tank lid.
I'll be back on Wednesday. Until then, watch a video on the Intuitive Surgical da Vinci System Robot folding a paper crane. Wait until the end of the video to decide whether or not it's impressive.
Now that you got your first job, you are probably finding that even though you're making a lot more money than in college, the bills have also increased, canceling out the money you've earned. Here are some tricks I've learned that will help keep more of your money without changing your spending habits.
Open an Account with ING
Having an account with ING will help earn you little bits of money between the time it direct deposits into your account and when you spend it. ING has a good online interface for moving money between your checkings and savings accounts, and both accounts earn interest. Also, there are no overdraft fees; if you withdraw too much, you will be charged interest on the money, but no additional fees. If you have a friend who already has an account, have them refer you by logging in online and clicking the "Refer a Friend" link at the bottom of the page. That way, if you deposit at least $250 when you open your account, you will get an additional $25 and your friend will get $10. Don't know anyone with an account? E-mail me and I'll give you a referral! Compared to a normal checking account, this account will help you gain bits of money that will add up, and save you on overdraft fees when you get in a crunch. By the end of the year, this may be enough to pay off that unexpected speeding ticket, or some other expense you did not plan on having.
Apply for a Chase Freedom Card
Applying for a Chase Freedom card will give you back 3% on your purchases in your top 3 "categories" (which includes your bills), and 1% back on all other purchases. Unlike many other credit cards, this one gives you back straight cash instead of different prize awards. Whenever you can, charge whatever you buy with this credit card instead of using cash. Make sure you pay your bill back 100% when it comes, but it won't come until a month later so during that month, your money will sit in your ING account earning interest. Another way you can capitalize on your rewards, is when you go out to dinner with a group of friends, offer to charge the full amount on your card if everyone else is paying cash. They can pay the cash directly to you, and you can earn money back on the money they paid as well. Chase also has a good online interface, so log on a few times a week to check how much you have been spending that month to make sure you aren't spending more than you can pay at the end of the month. Also, you can let your rewards get to $200 before you withdraw them and get an additional $50. You will also get $50 awarded to your account immediately after your first purchase. No referral necessary for this one!
So to review:
- Set-up your direct deposit to go into your ING account.
- Charge everything on your credit card, and let your money earn interest before your bill comes.
- Check your credit card statement online regularly, to make sure you aren't charging more than you can pay off.
- When the bill arrives, schedule your bill payment online through Chase to pull from your ING account on the day that the bill is due.
- Let your rewards balance get up to $200 before requesting the check, to get the $50 bonus.
I was introduced to Erin of RobotGrrl.com through my favorite tech news site, robots.net. She is the creator of Styrobots, and Robbie the Robot, a downloadable program capable of having a conversation with you. Erin, an eleventh grade student from Canada, has received the great honor and privilege of being accepted into Stanford's EPGY Artificial Intelligence Program. To raise money for the $3700 USD program, Erin has been selling her homemade Styrobots. After being referenced by robots.net, Stanford awarded her a $1500 scholarship and her fundraising efforts yielded about $1000 more. Her deadline has since been extended to June 13th, 2008, which is fast approaching. I fully support her enthusiasm in robotics and her go-getter attitude towards it. I decided to interview her, to find out more details about how she became so interested in robotics and learn about her dreams and goals for the future.
Video of Erin making her Styrobots
RoboJenny: Let me first say that I am very impressed that you are raising the money to fund your enrollment into the Stanford program through making and selling your Styrobots. How did you first come up with the idea of Styrobot?
Erin: I always had it in the back of my mind after I made a BristleBot. It would be as easy as building a BristleBot, more fun and genuinely hand-made!
RoboJenny: Very fun! To you, what's the definition of a robot?
Erin: Mine is a little different than all the other definitions, but it is: "An ethical machine that can fulfill a purpose automatically". This is why my Styrobots are robots, they are ethical and fulfill a purpose at the touch of a switch. Of course, Styrobot's purpose is to only 'look cool and move', it still fulfills it. As long as the robot obeys the three laws of robotics in equal strength, I believe that it is ethical.
RoboJenny: What sparked your interest in robotics in the first place?
Erin: My first encounter with robotics was when I was around 2. I had a Snoopy 'doll' that could 'sing' when a tape was put into his back. I was always interested in the mouth motor and what controlled it. One day, I took the tape out and pulled all of the tape out of it and told my mom! 'Look, I fixed it!'.
RoboJenny: After that, what made you decide to go into robotics?
Erin: I'm always interested in how things work and why. Believe it or not, my first interest in robotics was ignited after seeing a TV show that toured CSAIL (at MIT). I had no idea that any place existed! There were computers and robots galore, all inside of a cool looking building (that was before it got all oozy and leaky). I began taking robotics more seriously after that, as my goal is to research robots.
RoboJenny: Do you think that girls are less interested in robotics? And why if so?
Erin: I think that many girls, compared to guys, are not interested in robotics primarily because of the stereotypes surrounding it. Generally, if you enjoy making robots or "geeky" things, you're tagged as an isolated person with no friends and no life. This of course, is definitely not true. Girls are interested in robotics as they can see the potential, and they can also see things that the guys can't. For example, girls in general care about the wires being covered up on a robot. Most guys don't, and some even think it's cool to have wires hanging out! (Blech!) To put it short, girls like to stylize. We know sociable robotics better than anyone else, as we're natural socializers. :) We can also see how humans interact better than guys. Grrrrl powerrrrr!
RoboJenny: What can be done to encourage people into the field?
Erin: For girls, I would suggest a robotics kit that has pretty colours, no sharp edges or soldering required, that comes with free beanie babys. Off the top of my head, a potential kit that I can think of is a "Convertible Beanie-Mobile", where you could program the car to avoid the walls, observe lighting conditions to turn on the lights, do wheelies or figure eights. The wheels could be taken off and swapped for new ones, same with the shell of the car. The seats would be perfectly fitted for a beanie baby, and have seat belts. The programmer would be a top-down GUI design. Sort of like the Robotics Invention System 2.0! I think that would catch my eye if I was 6-8 years old! For guys, I would make more of a variety of pieces available for the LEGO Mindstorms NXT. I believe that, in general, guys are satisfied with LEGO Robotics!
RoboJenny: Great ideas. How did you personally learn about robotics?
Erin: Wow, what a giant question! The short of it is that I learned bits and pieces everywhere. I started out by playing neopets. You collect items, feed your pet, play games. However, you can also sell items in a shop. This shop can also be decorated, but only by HTML. This is where I independently learned HTML and CSS. After creating a few websites, my grandma purchased a LEGO RCX 2.0 Robotics kit for me for the summer! It was really fun. I had trouble understanding it at first, but it was really easy. School began, and I was in the robotics option. We used LEGO RCX 1's, and invented lots of stuff with it. That same year I was presented with an amazing internship opportunity with an online chatroom/role-playing game. I created a lot of media, like podcasts, videos, ezines, with that opportunity. After that year, I was in a 1-on-1 Advanced Robotics class, where I learned Java and php/mySQL. That was really fun! That same year I created a robot that could count skittles and compare the difference between a light sensor and a touch/ weight sensor. It was a team science fair project, and we won gold at both the school fair and the regional fair. I programmed the LEGO RCX in NQC, as the GUI was becoming more and more unbearable. Half-way into the next year, I was in a 1-on-1 computer class again. I was able to work on my various projects, help with other projects around, and get feedback. I was creating Robbie the Robot the first half of that year too, which was a human-machine vocal conversation program for Mac OS 10.5. I also learned about Arduino, and learned how to solder! During the class, which was the 2nd half of the year, I worked on Arduino and Processing a lot. I also tried to get Arduino working via the command line on Ubuntu. All in all, I learned from experience!
RoboJenny: Sounds great that your school offers robotics courses!
Erin: Yes! I actually believe that my high-school has one of the most in depth computer science/robotics courses of them all.
RoboJenny: Do you have a mentor or someone who helps advise you in your robotics work?
Erin: Yes and no. I had a mentor from McGill for my Robbie the Robot project. She helped break down what I wanted to do into sizable chunks! I also had a mentor from California to help me with learning Objective-C and all the crazy syntax errors. My computer science teacher would always provide input on any of my projects. Also, my Dad helps me not make too many 'blonde mistakes' in my projects. Additionally, my Mom helps me make sure that normal people can understand what I'm doing!
RoboJenny: What do you see for yourself in terms of college and jobs in the future?
Erin: In college I see myself studying everything that I enjoy, then eventually funneling down into a precise topic. I like Robotics a lot, but I also enjoy Physics. I want to do research and development of AI and Robotics, practically living at a university! It would be really cool to pass on my knowledge to other people, while building robots. If that goal doesn't work out, I'd want to work at the JPL designing Martian robots. If that didn't work out, I'd want to be an animator for Pixar. Or, I could design robots of the characters in their movies for the Disney themeparks, which would sort of make me an Imagineer. There are lots of possibilities and opportunities! One of my goals, though, is to make a panel that deems a robot ethical or unethical. This thought is very futuristic though, but it would be easy to implement now, instead of worrying about it later. We need solid rules about what a robot can and cannot do. I also want to make a high-school that is #1 for innovation and robotics named 'Robotics Academy'. It would be 50% males and 50% females, with small class sizes and every student has a Linux laptop. The course would be 25% humanities and English, 25% math, 25% computers/robotics and 25% independent studies. There would also be 3 recess breaks to promote activity, instead of always studying!
RoboJenny: Well good luck on your plans! I hope to be blogging about your great accomplishments in a few years. Thanks for letting me interview you.
Erin: Thanks a bunch for the interview!
You can make a donation to Erin through her website for her program, or support her by buying her Styrobots!
Update: Congrats to Erin for raising enough money for her AI Program! Thank you everyone who joined in to support the young female roboticist!!
Graduation season just ended. It may be you, your daughter, or your nephew who needs the advice, but someone you know is in a dilemma: all the major college recruiting program application cycles started last fall and you still haven't started job hunting. Here is some advice on how to find and land your first tech job.
Finding a Job
Major Job Sites
Monster, CareerBuilder, and Dice are great sites with a lot of companies sure to give you responses, but be very careful what information you give them. You may want to set-up an e-mail account just for job searching, and leave out your phone number; many people who post their phone number along with their resume on these sites will still get phone calls two years after they have already found a new job. Many of the phone calls you will receive in response to your resume will be headhunters. Finding a good headhunter to work with can work out well, but be sure it's a headhunter who has a good reputation with good companies. You want a headhunter who repeatedly places people at the same few quality companies, and the people they place are able to grow their careers within that company.
Personally, I think the current best site for job searching is actually craigslist. On craigslist, you can search for jobs, and only submit your resume to the companies you are interested in; you do not post your resume publicly.
How to Find the Right Jobs on Craigslist
- Go to the craigslist for your city/region.
- Click on the heading "jobs"
- In the search box, try "entry" first. In the dropdown, choose "engineering jobs", "software jobs", "internet engineering jobs", or "systems/networking jobs" depending on which you think you are qualified for. You can try them one at a time if you are interested in more than one of these.
- Browse through the jobs. At this stage in your career, you probably don't want to look for a consultancy. For someone in a technical field, you will learn less at a consultancy as an entry level employee.
- Compose an e-mail to each individual company you are interested in. Give a brief description of yourself, stating where you just graduated from and what degree you have. Attach a resume and contact information. Feel free to use your real e-mail address and phone number here.
- If you don't think you found enough jobs, try using the search term "junior" as well. Often times, junior jobs will ask for 1-2 years of experience, but depending on your internship work during college, you may still be able to get these jobs. Some junior positions may not require experience at all.
How to Interview for Your First Tech Job
I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but most of those projects you did in university don't really count in the work world. You will find that employers are more interested in how smart you are and how quickly you will probably pick up things over what projects you've done in school.
Here are some ways to stand out in your interview:
- If you've done projects on your own time and not for a class, definitely mention them and emphasize that this was something you did for fun.
- Employers understand you are unlikely to know specifically what you're interested in. But show interest and enthusiasm in something technology-related (preferably non-work-specific, since it'll be more genuine). Maybe rocketry is one of your hobbies, or robotic kits, or flying small airplanes, or maybe you're an audiophile, etc.
- Show that you want to learn. Ask about mentorship. Ask if they have a feedback process (i.e. code or design reviews) so you can know how you can improve.
- If you've done any research projects or had any internships during college, mention specific projects from those as well as your role in them.
- If you talk about a team project (either from school or work experience), find ways to make sentences that use the word "I" and not "we". Talk specifically about your role and what you did on the project.
- Emphasize your communication skills, and good feedback loops between you and a team leader or boss or client
- Just relax and talk about yourself, your hobbies, and what you really enjoy. Personally, partway into the interview, I try to get them to go on a tangent with me about one of my hobbies I'm super interested in. If I can get them to follow me on the tangent, I feel like I'm doing well on the interview. It means they don't feel like it's urgent enough to bring me back to their prepared questions, so they probably feel like they know enough about me. Meanwhile, I am showing that I can get really enthusiastic in something and put a lot of effort into it.
In Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, he recommends that you always send a handwritten "thank you" note. This is good advice, though it will probably only help if they're really having trouble deciding and delay the decision; most companies will get all your interviewers together to discuss you immediately after you leave so no one forgets their impressions of you. E-mail thank you notes may be nice, but as far as I've seen, they don't affect the decision. In any case, if you do write a "thank you" note, be sure to spell their name correctly (as well as the company's name!).
How Do You Choose which Job
Choosing a job should not just be who offers you the most money; you want your first job to be somewhere that will teach you a lot so you will have a large set of skills and a good depth of knowledge to either quickly move from junior to mid-level (and get a nice raise as well as respect out of the promotion), or to become more marketable for your next job search. The career development offered by the company as well as the technologies that you will be learning should be high on your consideration list. Also, you may know whether or not you'd rather work at a small, mid-sized, or large company. It is harder to get noticed at a larger company if you want to be really ambitious; putting in an extraordinary amount of effort may not get far enough up the long chain of command for you to get the recognition you deserve. Working at a smaller company though might mean a huge variance in types of tasks, and the greater likelihood of long tasklists leading to guaranteed long hours before deadlines.
One warning for computer science majors: if you feel confident in your ability to write code, you should not take a QA/testing position. At the same level, these jobs tend to pay less than a programming job, and it is very difficult to switch from being a QA/tester to being a software developer, whereas the reverse is common for those who end up deciding they don't like coding. If you can write code but you enjoy testing, don't worry. Just because you have a testing team does not mean that you do not test your own code. It is part of good software practices to write your own unit codes and run them, making sure you think your code is bug-free before sending it to the testing team.
Starting at Your New Job
Congrats! You're starting at your new job. Make sure you ask a ton of questions when you first start; do not sit and struggle trying to understand something. Then, show them that time they spend explaining stuff to you is not wasted. You do this by applying what they told you and making sure you complete the tasks given to you on time, or preferably quicker than expected. After you are finished with a task, make sure you ask for a new task. In fact, when you are nearing the end of a task, warn your boss so that s/he can have some time to make sure to have a new task ready for you when you do complete your task. If you find yourself lagging behind on a task, let your boss know and tell him/her what problems you have been facing. This can be done with a simple e-mail if you want. It is important to update them on the speed of your work before it's becomes a problem, so it's not unexpected when you don't make a deadline or so something can be done about lightening your task or reassigning resources to help you out. Good communication will go a long way in your career.
Good luck on your job search, grads!
You may be one of the few people specially selected to receive a message in my sidebar, inviting you to take a survey to help me understand more about my visitors. I recently signed up to the beta of Crowd Science, which I learned about through my Twitter friend, mashcrunch, who led me to an article on the new blogging tool. Crowd Science uses its own algorithm to decide which users to offer the survey to. It asks demographic questions, and delivers the stats (keeping the survey takers' information anonymous) to the website owner.
Unfortunately, I have no review of the application yet, since (as of the time of the post) no one of the ten users who have been offered the survey have accepted to take it. As with all voluntary surveys though, I have a feeling that stats will be skewed since it'll only show the demographics of the type of people who would be willing to answer a survey, and not of the full population. Even so though, it's an interesting and possibly useful analytics tool for websites.
If you would like to try it for yourself, sign-up and enter BETAFRIENDS as the invitation code.
This week, I had the opportunity to interview fellow female blogger, e. e is the blogger behind Geek's Dream Girl. Her blogging mission is to help geeks find love. A self-proclaimed geek, e loves geeks and is very experienced in finding love online, including finding her current long-term boyfriend. Her articles fall under the categories of Geek Love and Geek Life , answering questions like writing a good photoless profile and how to talk about your good features without sounding like you have a bloated ego. She also provides Dating Profile Help for geeks of all genders and orientations. She'll even prove to you that geek girls exist in your zipcode so that you can be assured there will be an audience for your newly improved Match.com profile. For examples of her work, check out the before and after posts from her monthly free personal ad makeover contest.
RoboJenny: You say you want to help geeks find love. Why do you think they need help?
Geek's Dream Girl: A lot of geeks are sweethearts, but they don't necessarily have the social know-how to market themselves in the online dating world. They're great catches - they just need a little help convincing girls to give them a chance.
RoboJenny: What do you think is the biggest mistake they make in marketing themselves?
Geek's Dream Girl: Selling themselves short. They don't want to look cocky, so instead they look boring.
RoboJenny: So, how many geeks have you successfully found love for so far?
Geek's Dream Girl: I'm not sure of the numbers, but the guys I've done makeovers for have all told me they've gotten more attention and dates!
RoboJenny: What is the approximate age range of the geeks have you worked with?
Geek's Dream Girl: Most of my clients are between the ages of 21-40, but there are some older geeks out there who read my blog regularly.
RoboJenny: Now with your clients, you only deal with the online dating world. What are the advantages to online dating?
Geek's Dream Girl: You can meet people that you wouldn't normally bump into on the street. It's like going shopping for a date!
RoboJenny: Can't online dating be risky though?
Geek's Dream Girl: Regular dating is risky! There are plenty of ways to safeguard yourself from weirdos. As long as you do those things and follow your gut feelings, you will be able to avoid all of the risky situations.
RoboJenny: You are someone who loves geeks yourself... What is the biggest advantage to dating a geek?
Geek's Dream Girl: Fixing my computer? Hahhahahha, my boyfriend is going to kill me. Nah, really the best thing about dating a geek is that they are generally total sweethearts and treat women well.
RoboJenny: Certainly true. And these girls that you help them find... What qualities do you think a "Geek's Dream Girl" must possess?
Geek's Dream Girl: She's a geek herself! Only a geek can truly appreciate and understand another geek.
RoboJenny: Can a geek girl be "girly"?
Geek's Dream Girl: Yes! There's no rules against playing D&D in a dress.
RoboJenny: Ok, back to the online dating... Do you think physical distance matters for online dating?
Geek's Dream Girl: I think distance is something that can be overcome. However, I am highly against folks having an "online relationship" and not meeting in person until months later. That sets people up for unrealistic expectations and most often failure. I call it pixel bonding - it's dangerous stuff!
RoboJenny: So what should a geek wear on the first date when they finally meet up?
Geek's Dream Girl: It all depends on where you're going. I say a guy can never go wrong with a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. It's casual but dressy and works pretty much anywhere.
RoboJenny: What about for geeks who start feeling like they're spending too much time at home on the computer and actually want to go out and meet people, but feel uncomfortable with the typical crowded bar scene. What do you suggest for them?
Geek's Dream Girl: Meetup.com is a great resource. There are groups for every sort of interest, including general "activity" or "singles" groups. You can sign up for an event and just show up and meet people and make friends. They do things like have group dinners, parties, go to museums, comedy clubs, trivia nights, all sorts of things. Many of the other people are in the same boat - they are looking for friends.
Thanks so much e, for letting me interview you.
Other links you may be interested in:
There are many reasons why you may want to start a blog. Personal blogs are a great way to let friends and family know what's up with your life without having to retell the same little anecdotes over and over a few dozen times. Public blogs are a nice public forum to speak your mind or share information or hobbies. There are a lot of tools out there for both types of blogging.
For personal blogs, it seemed for a while that everyone had one on Xanga, but personally I think LiveJournal is the best for this purpose. Both of these sites allow you to choose whether you want a post to be public (anyone on the web can read it), private (only you can read it, good for an online diary), or protected (only people on your friends list can read it, or some subset of your friends list that you decide). These settings can be chosen for each individual post. Both sites also support RSS feeds of your blog. Both sites put all your friends' latest blog entries onto a single page so you only have to check them in one place. LiveJournal also allows you to add syndicated accounts (ones for other RSS feeds) as your friends, and have them show up on this page. (RoboJenny can be found by adding http://syndicated.livejournal.com/robojenny/profile as a friend.) Therefore, a LiveJournal account can receive feeds from Xanga accounts, but as far as I know it doesn't work the other way around. Also, LiveJournal has communities for people with common interests.
There are a lot more tools out there that are better for public blogging. Many sites claim that you can make a lot of money blogging. And people like ProBlogger and John Cow do and claim they can help you do the same, but I wouldn't guarantee it. This is simply about how to start a blog and tools you can use to monitor your blog.
First of all, you need a blogging site. The easiest of all to use is probably Blogger by Google. It is easy to set-up, post, and you can even use it to get a domain name. In fact, this is what I use myself. The better option, though more technical, is to use WordPress. WordPress is a publishing platform, but it does not host a site for you like Blogger does, so you need to find your own hosting site. Many hosting sites will have WordPress already installed for you with a default configuration, but if you know what you're doing, it is better to configure it yourself.
If you want to add commenting, ratings, and trackbacks, I suggest using HaloScan. It is easy to use and easy to add to your site. Many people prefer to import the RSS feed of your blog into their own reader. FeedBurner is most commonly used for creating feeds, even for people using blogging software that has its own feed creator. FeedBurner has many attractive options, like sending a ping to search engines to let them know you updated your blog, adding links to allow people to mark your post in one of the public bookmarking sites, offer e-mail subscriptions, keep data on your subscribers, etc.
As for using data to track your blog, I have found these to be the most useful. Google Analytics allows you to see where you get your blog traffic from, whether it's from a search engine result, if someone followed a link on another page to get to your site, or if they directly came to your site. It also lists some browser information on your visitors, so you can make sure you test the way your blog works in the various browsers, and the average number of pages each visitor viewed as well as the average time spent in a session. Google's other tool, Google Webmasters helps you see what search results your webpage shows up in, as well as crawl statistics, and other things, but so far I find only the "upload sitemap" and "remove dead link" features to be useful. Instead, I like to use Webmaster Tools by Audit My PC. Its sitemap builder allows you to find broken links easily and give a full crawl of your blog for free. Then you can upload this sitemap to Google Webmasters as well as remove the dead links.
Finally, if you just want to write small updates, micro-blogging has become very popular. For this, I suggest Twitter, as I have suggested before.
For whatever reason you choose to start blogging, I hope these tools help you in your journey, and feel free to post a link to your blog in my comments! I promise to check it out.