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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Condron Media podcasting audio test (audio)

Tucker Hottes and I are setting up new equipment for a forthcoming podcast from Condron Media. We’re looking for feedback in the comments on how the audio sounds. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

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What’s new in WSL in Windows 10

Tara Raj for Microsoft:

We’ve been documenting many of these new features and improvements on this blog over the last few months, but we’ve often been asked for a single document listing all the new improvements, and with FCU (version 1709, build 16299.15) shipping on October 17th 2017, we thought it was time to publish a list these improvements!

We’re coming up on our first year of using Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) at Condron Media. I mentioned in January of this year that we’ve been using it pretty extensively. Since then Tucker Hottes has been getting the insider updates (or, beta updates) of Windows 10 and has enjoyed the incredibly fast pace that Microsoft’s teams are on. If you look at the linked blog post you’ll see the improvements are myriad.

A request: If you’re a developer using Windows 10 and know about WSL do Microsoft a favor and let other Windows-using developers know. Tucker and I are always amazed at the number of developers that have no idea about WSL still. In fact, just yesterday we met one and made sure to tell them about it.

To put this in perspective; Tucker is on Windows 10 and I’m on macOS. Yet, we use nearly the same development environment, configuration, tools, etc. This allows us to collaborate in a way that was previously much more difficult. Microsoft is doing great work on WSL and more developers need to know.

A unique color for every address in the world

A recent, yet-to-be-announced client project had me designing a mobile app interface that dealt a lot with showing locations and events that are happening at certain locations (how is that for vague? sorry).

While I utilized the brand’s colors to represent certain sections of the app I wanted the app to have tons of colors in order to portray a sense of fun throughout the app. But how could I incorporate pinks and yellows and bright greens without the overall brand disappearing?

After toying with a few design ideas I had an idea to create a unique color for every address in the world. This would result in two benefits; first, each location was then branded as a color, and second, every user would see that location as the same color. If I were a user of the app here in the US and I flew to Spain and looked at a location for an event  there, I would see the same exact colors representing that address as the person that lived in Spain and created that event.

Since I wasn’t to be the developer of the mobile application I wanted to avoid the possible pushback this idea might receive from that team. I didn’t want to add burden to the other people on the project by showing a design mockup and a set of requirements and then walking away. I wanted it to have zero overhead for the developers.

One of the solutions I discarded was generating a random color each time an event location was added to the service and then store the color for that address in a database. While this solution is relatively simple to implement it was no good. It adds more work for the developers and they have to maintain the datastore indefinitely. Several other ideas with the same caveats came to mind and I quickly tossed them into the bin.

Once I eliminated all of the ways I didn’t want to solve this problem – the solution came pretty quickly.

Since every address is already unique, I just needed to find a way to represent an address that could be turned into a color. In other words, I wanted the address itself to represent a unique color. And I wanted to do it in realtime as the application’s UI loaded.

So I jumped into JavaScript and began working it out. Here is what I settled on:

This solution allows for just over 16.5 million colors. Far more than this app will likely require during its lifespan.

Here is a demo of the process and if you view the source you can see the code at work. It is fairly simple to follow.

Oh, there was an issue that I ran into with this solution that was fun to solve. If the background color that was generated was too dark the text became hard to read. So digging around I found a way to determine the luminosity of the background color and thus change the text to something a bit lighter in those instances. That too is shown in the demo.

I was then able to repurpose this demo code and give production-ready code to the developer that is going to ship in the app. When that ships I’ll write more about it.

Presenting at the July NEPA.js Meetup

Earlier this week my Condron Media cohort Tucker Hottes and I presented at the July NEPA.js Meetup. Our presentation was about automation and all of the things we can automate in our lives personally and professionally. And also how we employ automation in our workflows for creating applications and web sites using our own task management suite.

Here are just a few examples of reproducible tasks that you can automate that perhaps you haven’t thought about:

  • Your home’s temperature
  • Applying filters to multiple photos at once
  • Social media posts
  • Combining many files together into one
  • Deleting unused files
  • Calendar events

There are countless others. Perhaps you’re doing some of these things now. You might set a reminder for yourself to clean the bathroom every Tuesday. Or, your using a Nest to control your home’s temperature based on your preferences.

But there may be others that you’re not doing. Posting regularly to social media can seem daunting to some. But automating those posts can make it much easier to set aside time to schedule the posts and then go about your day. Or editing photos or video may never happen because you don’t have time to go through them all and edit each one individually. But these are tasks that can be automated.

We showed a quick demonstration of automating the combining of multiple text files using Grunt. There are a lot of ways something like this can be useful. Combining multiple comma-separated value (CSV) files that are reports from many retail locations, web development, and others.

Then Tucker provided a list of all the tasks we do when we get a new client at Condron Media. The full list can take a person up to 1.5 hours to “start” working on that customer’s project. So we’ve begun working whittling away at that list of tasks by using another task manager called Gulp. We call this suite of automation tasks Bebop – after one of the thugs from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebop is separated into the smallest tasks possible so that we can combine those tasks into procedures. Creating new folders, adding Slack channels, sending Slack messages, spinning up an instance of WordPress, adding virtual hosts to local development environments, etc. etc. Bebop can then combine these tasks in any order and do them much quicker than a human can clicking with a mouse. We estimate it will take 1 minute to do what took 1.5 hours once Bebop is complete.

Another benefit of automating these types of tasks is that you can nearly eliminate human error. What if someone types in the wrong client name or forgets a step in the process? Bebop doesn’t get things wrong. Which saves us a lot of headaches.

Here is the example Gulp task that we created to demo Bebop to the NEPA.js group.

We then asked the group to take 5 minutes and write down what they would like to automate in their lives. The answers ranged from making dog food to laundry to simple development and environmental tasks. Every one in attendance shared at least one thing they’d like to automate.

Tucker and I had a blast presenting but we enjoyed this final session the most. Similar to my event suggestions to Karla Porter earlier this year, I find that the more a group interacts with one another the more I personally get out of a meetup or conference. Presentations can be eye opening but personal connections and calm discussions yield much fruit for thought.

Thanks to everyone that showed up. I think we had 14 or 15 people. The NEPA.js community is active, engaged, and I’m very happy that it is happening in Scranton.

Attending Small Agency Idea Lab (SAIL) in Walt Disney World, Florida

Last week I attended SAIL, Second Wind’s Small Agency Idea Lab, at the Boardwalk Resort in Walt Disney World, Florida. This is the first marketing and advertising agency event that I’ve been to (usually attending technology or internet related events) and I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

SAIL is pitched as a lab and at times it really felt like one. The attendees were engaged, asked questions, provided answers, and steered the conversations and presentations as much as the presenters did.

Being that I was representing Condron Media for this event I did my best to jot down a myriad of notes and bring back what I thought was applicable for our business. I figured I’d take a moment during this week’s Homebrew Website Club to share a few of those notes so that perhaps you can benefit too.

  • “the only thing to continue will be the pace of change” – Brian Olson of inQuest said this during his presentation and it reverberated through the entirety of the two-day event. Most business sectors have already, or are in the process of, coming to grips with this fact already – change, or die. My boss, Phil Condron, laid that out great during our rebrand.
  • Profit sharing as a strategy – This is nothing new, in any industry, but the way Ross Toohey of 2e Creative and his CFO created a program that helps their team do their best work and service the customer better was inspiring.
  • workamajig – I’ve been online since 1994 and I had never heard of workamajig before I attended SAIL. I’ve used tons of project management software so I plan on looking into it and seeing if it may be right for our team or not.
  • Using IP to generate revenue – I tell this same concept to every single company I advise. I call it “sawdust”. Which I believe was inspired by Jason Fried in 2009. Turn your sawdust into revenue. Sharon Toerek ran a great presentation to show the myriad of ways that creative agencies can do this.

There were many other takeaways from SAIL that I plan on expounding on in future posts.

I get asked sometimes if the fees associated with these types of events are worth it. Yes. Without question. I am a strong advocate of attending as many events as you possible can. If you only come away with one tool, one contact, one new idea, one new process – nearly any price tag is worth it.

Plus, in this case, I managed to get a little bit of sun in March.

Interviewed on tecBRIDGE Radio Episode 5

Phil Condron and I were recently interviewed on tecBRIDGE Radio – a radio show cum podcast about business, entrepreneurship and the knowledge economy in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Topics included marketing for small businesses, who should learn to code, and the history of Condron Media.

Full disclosure: Condron Media is a reoccurring sponsor of tecBRIDGE Radio as we, like tecBRIDGE, believe that right now and right here in NEPA it is the best time and place to start and grow a business.

You can subscribe to tecBRIDGE Radio on iTunes, Google Play.

You can also listen to this episode right here:

Scranton’s first Homebrew Website Club

Next Wednesday I’ll be hosting the first Scranton-based Homebrew Website Club at Condron Media‘s headquarters on Penn Avenue. There are other locations HWC will be happening on that day too. If you have your own site and I you care to work on it in anyway at all please do stop by.

Homebrew Website Club is not a typical meetup, like say a WordPress meetup, in that you stop by to learn a particular topic (although I have no doubt you will learn if you attend one). It is more a reoccurring time that is set aside to allow you to work on your personal web site. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to finish up a blog post that has been in draft for weeks, or you need to fix a theme issue, or you want to do something more complex – whatever it is, HWC is your opportunity to do that while sitting next to other people that are trying to do the same.

I’ll be using the this time, each meeting, to fit more Indieweb building blocks into my personal site. I’ve recently added Backfeed, POSSE, Webmention, and others. And I plan on continuing to tweak them to get them just the way I’d prefer. Also, I plan on pushing my code and work back out into the world through this blog, my Github account, and #indieweb on IRC.

So, if this is something you’re into. Drop by.

Looking beyond launch

Jeremy Keith regarding Clearleft’s upcoming rebrand:

I think it’s good to remember that this is the web. I keep telling myself that we’re not unveiling something carved in stone. Even after the launch we can keep making the site better. In fact, if we wait until everything is perfect before we launch, we’ll probably never launch at all.

This is precisely what we thought when we redid Condron Media’s site this week. It is no where near complete. It works. It works on all screen sizes. And it was enough to get started. We plan on releasing new content, updates to the messaging, and even new page layouts each week for many weeks.

Joining Condron Media

I see huge opportunity in digital marketing over the next decade.

We’re now reaching the point where billions of people are using social platforms to share information every single day, where the vast majority of a person’s attention is on an internet-based platform rather than a broadcast one, and, where the tools are in-place to allow businesses to measure where every dollar is spent.

Marketing wasn’t always transparent. It was nearly impossible to know exactly how well, or how poorly, a particular campaign was working. Billboards, print, radio, and TV are incredibly difficult to measure – and impossible to measure accurately. As internet marketing has matured – from banner ads to boosted posts and stickers and filters – it has actually gotten more transparent. Marketing campaigns can be laser focused to reach only the people and business that you want to see your message. Each impression can be measured and tracked to be certain how the campaign is working. And, the campaign can be adjusted ad nauseam to ensure no impressions are wasted. It is an incredible time to invest in digital marketing.

This is why I’ve decided to join Condron Media as Senior Vice President.

How did I get here? By fooling around and applying the lessons I learned as practical business strategies.

When I was 14 fooling around with HTML in my bedroom I never thought it would turn into a career. It did. And I helped build some of the most trafficked and award-winning web sites of the early 2000s.

When I was 18 and decided to jump from IT to programming for the web I never thought it would lead me to build something that would be used by thousands of people. I did that several times. In fact, a few of the projects I worked on ranked very highly in Alexa ratings with millions of impressions daily.

When I was 22 and lost my job due to the September 11th attacks I never thought that I’d be able to start my own business using my experience to help other companies. I did and immediately found a client that would catapult my career.

When I was 27 and serving on the board of a technology company I never thought I’d be able to use that experience to help dozens of entrepreneurs to get their start. I’ve been super happy to have helped many and am looking forward to continuing that for the rest of my life.

And, since joining Twitter in 2006 and Facebook in 2007, I never thought that messing around with social networks would give me the skills I needed to help the next wave of marketing trends where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually – but I firmly believe that is exactly the doorstep I’m on right now. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few steps look like.

If you would like to up your marketing game give us a call.

Being on the “Ask the Web Marketing Experts” panel

Yesterday I was privileged to represent Condron & Cosgrove (more on this in January) at the NEPA Defense Transition Partnership panel discussion, through the Scranton Small Business Development Center, called Ask the Web Marketing Experts. I was flanked by other experts in the area including Jack Reager of Black Out Design, Gerard Durling of Coal Creative, and Ben Giordano of Freshy Sites.

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Left to right: Jack, Gerard, myself, Ben.

The panel discussion lasted a few hours and ranged topics from the elements of an effective web site to how to find your voice with social media for your business. It was a great discussion and it was recorded. If the video is made public I’ll be sure to share it.

There were a few overarching takeaways from the panel. Here’s mine; Don’t write-off a new social platform simply because you do not use it or understand it. Don’t get stuck using the same marketing techniques for your business year-after-year. Just because you did one thing one year, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying something different the next.

Every social network that we use today was, at one point, written off by those that didn’t think they’d ever make a difference. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest – all of these got their fair share of shrugged shoulders in the beginning. Don’t be that person. Be willing to move and adjust as the market does. You’ll be able to do better marketing for your business.