Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read: A giveaway!

image from blankbaby.typepad.comI've mentioned by new TypePad book on the blog before, but why not mention it again?

As you probably know, when you've authored a book your publisher gives you a bunch of copies of said book to do with as you will. I'm going to keep one for myself (since I still think it is cool to see my name printed on the cover of an actual book, despite my well documented love of all things Kindle). That still leaves me with a number of copies of Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read. I owe a few copies to various folks in my life, but without this blog I would never have written the book so it only seems fair to give some copies away on the blog.

Taking a page from my lovely wife (check out her blog called Food in Jars) I've decided to give five (5) copies of my book away to five people that comment on this post. However, I'm going to randomly pick five commenters from this post.

You have until midnight of Wednesday, August 4th to leave a comment and enter to win a copy of my book. Just leave a comment and tell me why you should get one!

I'll mail you the book, and all I ask in return is that you review the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble after you've read it (your review should be honest, of course!).


I DO want to go into the Donut Business!

donutbiz.jpgSometimes I think I spend too much time on the internet, and then I come across blog post like this and I know that all those hours are time well spent.

Peter Harrington, a purveyor of rare books and manuscripts in London, has a great blog called The Cataloguer's Desk. They share pictures of their interesting recent acquisitions, and I have to agree that this donut business pamphlet is fantastic. I'm almost tempted to find out how much they want for it.

I love the pictures of the giant donut factory, and the look into what donut shops used to look like. It is amazing to think that Krispy Kreme's entire business is pretty much based on the same principles laid out in this pamphlet.


Apple changes press release boiler plate, the revolution is now mobile

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Mac fans are nothing if not obsessive (much like the company they love), and so I've been reading Apple press releases for years.

For as long as I can remember they have all included a boiler plate paragraph at the end that starts with, "Apple ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, then reinvented the personal computer with the Macintosh." The sentences after that vary from release to release but they always started with that sentence. Take, for example, the press release announcing the iPhone 4. Here's the boiler plate:

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, then reinvented the personal computer with the Macintosh. Apple continues to lead the industry with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system, and iLife, iWork and professional applications. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

I noticed today, while reading the press release about the new 27-inch LED Cinema Display, that Apple has nixed the computer revolution. Here's the new closer:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple is reinventing the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

The first press release to use this boiler plate trumpeted iPhone 4 sales in late June.

Since I work in corporate communications, I know changes like these are never done lightly. It is interesting that the revolution has shifted from the computer to the mobile space, even within Apple's PR boiler plate, no?


Buy my book: Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read edition

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Just a couple years ago I had never written a book, fast forward to the present and my third book is winging its way to a finer bookstore near you. The world is a crazy place, I tells ya.

My first book was all about WordPress, to which many a wag said, "If you love WordPress so much why is Blankbaby hosted on TypePad?" This was often accompanied with a sneer, as if the questioner had caught me doing something particularly nasty. I would calmly explain that one man can love more than one blogging platform (I'm like a blogging Mormon).

The truth is, I'm a big fan of both WordPress and TypePad. This clearly explains why my second book was all about, you guessed it: Amazon's Kindle. When no one bought that book I was fairly certain my writing career was at an end.

I wouldn't let something like a career ending book stop me from pitching my editor a third book about TypePad (OMG!). Shockingly my editor, Cliff, thought about it for a little while, checked with some business-type folks, and in a matter of a few weeks I had a contract in hand. That just left it up to me to write the thing (An aside: I find the process of getting the contract signed and receiving the first advance check to be quite exciting. Starting the writing process is something I find quite vexing [just ask anyone who has worked with me on one of my books. I'm slow to start], but once I get going I'm like a writing train barreling down the paragraph rails... or something).

The kind people at Peachpit sent me 25 copies of my new book, called Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read, and I did what any normal person would do: laid them all out on our dining room table and took a picture of me making a face in front of them:

Scott with a tableful of books

Here's the real point of this post: buy a darned copy of the book. I know you'll like it.

Oh, and if anyone out there works for TypePad (or SixApart), contact me! I'd be happy to have a little contest/promotion with ya. I need to do something with all these books, so I might as well give some away!


Tweet tweet, here's your password

twitterpassword.jpgOne of the many reasons I love OS X is because it includes a tiny little program called "Keychain Access," which does more than one might assume. It is sort of a central place where OS X stores passwords, credentials, and the like.

I use Keychain Access fairly frequently to come up with random passwords for various things. Today, I needed to create a blog account for someone, so I turned to Keychain Access to create a memorable, but complex, password. See that third password option? Twitter!

When the Twitter obession crosses over into password utilities it is clear to me that all the cool kids are using some new, and little known, service. I wonder what it is.


You don't see Bloomberg News and Gawker mentioned in the same sentence that often

Here's an interesting note from the In Online Journalism, Burnout Starts Younger article in the Times:


"Some media outlets, including Bloomberg News and Gawker Media, now pay writers based in part on how many readers click on their articles."


I've long thought that rewarding pageviews like this leads to worse reporting rather than better. It rewards people who are willing to state a ridiculous opinion, or post a silly rumor, rather than cultivate the trust and respect of the reader.

If I were in charge of Bloomberg News I'd wonder how we ended up being lumped in with Gawker.


New Kindle DX, as compared to the old Kindle DX

I'm sort of an eReader junkie. I love 'em, for some odd reason. I have seven of the suckers, and the newest member of the McNulty eReader family is the Kindle DX, second gen.

What makes the new DX different than the old DX? It is cheaper (hurrah!), the case is graphite, and Amazon claims that the eInk (that's the screen technology used in the Kindle) has 50% better contrast.

Is it true? What better way to find out than taking some pictures that compare and contrast (I'm so funny) the two. Check out the whole Flickr set, and read on for the highlights.

At first glance, the new DX is much crisper. I'll write a full review after spending a little more time with the DX.

The new Kindle DX is on the left, the old on the right:

The Kindle DX family

Here both Kindles are displaying the first page of John Scalzi's The God Engines. As labelled the new DX is on the left, the old on the right:

Side by Side Kindle DXs

A chapter heading, new DX on left and the old on the right:

Side by Side Kindle DXs

Amazon also change the labels on the Kindle DX buttons. The fonts are smaller and the Prev/Next buttons are now labelled with arrows which make the Kindle a little more international:

Amazon changed the buttons on the second gen Kindle DX

Higher Education Web Symposium - July 21 & 22, 2010

I don't know about you, but I love me some good conference. And if you're interested in improving user experiences, then have I got a conference for you. My friends at Penn are throwing their third Higher Education Web Symposium on July 21st and 22nd in good old Philadelphia.

Don't let the name fool you, though. Even if you aren't a Higher Ed worker I'm sure you'll get something out of the conference if you're a developer or IT project manager. Just check out the speakers and the agenda and I'm sure you'll find something that piques your interest.


Scott Explains - This time with feeling

I mentioned back in April that I was starting a new blog called Scott Explains. And then I didn't really post to it. I was in the midst of putting the final touches on my new book (which I will blog about once it is available), so I neglected my new baby.

Now I'm once again posting to Scott Explains, so you should check out how to delete email from your Gmail account using iOS 4 and how to add a folder of apps to your iPhone's Dock (I even shot a quick video for that last one).


Memorial Day 2010: A Lancaster County weekend in pictures

This was our third time spending Memorial Day in Lancaster County (check out the 2009 version of this post) and it is official: it is now a tradition! Huzzah.

This time we spent the majority of the weekend in the Churchtown Inn's lovely Covered Bridge Cottage. I will admit that I was a little worried about the cottage based on some online reviews, but I don't know what cottage these people stayed at. The Covered Bridge Cottage was fantastic. Well appointed, very cozy, and fast wireless Internet? Who can ask for anything more?

This year I decided to leave my fancy-pants DSLR at home and see if I could take some nice pictures with my little point and shoot camera (I have a Canon PowerShot S90 , which is a great little camera).

All the pictures below were taken with it, and to tell you the truth I didn't miss having my DSLR at all.

We started off with a quick trip to the Lancaster Central Market where Fiesta Sunshine Mix is always in season:

Fiesta Sunshine mix

Then we were off to the lovely town of Lititz, PA to meet Becky and Eric (this is a picture I took of myself waving at them through the cafe window):

Waving Scott

I think it is a state regulation that while you're in Lititz you must visit Wilbur chocolate:

Wilbur sign

Becky and Marisa talking about lady things:

Becky and Marisa

Becky grew up in Lititz, and I grew up in Yonkers, NY. Imagine my surprise to find a little bit of Yonkers in Lititz:

Yonkers

This was the first of many antique malls we stopped at during the weekend. This floor was a little sparse:

Marisa in an empty antique store

The first of many yard sales we stopped at. Marisa found these boxes of old jars in under 5 seconds:

Marisa finds old jar

One of Marisa's favorite places is this junk store in Columbia, PA. I think it is a little gross, but she loves it (and they've really cleaned it up since last year). Here are a bunch of nails using good old Bethlehem Steel:

NAILS

I've taken this same picture every year for three years (2008 version and 2009 version). Here's the 2010 version:

Year 3

Here's the view of the front of the store:

The shop

The happy couple in front of a bridge:

Us

Marisa's newest obsession is Pyrex. She found lots of it:

Marisa grabs as much Pyrex as she can, moments before she makes a break for it.

Marisa is ready to fight that fire with a tiny spatula:

Marisa will show that fire

You kids can keep your iPads, the Kindle DX is my faithful companion (though I did bring my iPad along with me as well):

Kindle DX - because I'm super cool

Baby goat:

A couple of baby goats were escaping

Marisa can find the nearest Goodwill no matter where you place her in this great country of ours. This is the rather unusual Goodwill Discount Center we found in our travels. It was attached to a normal Goodwill that we spent some time in. After about 30 minutes I said to Marisa, "Don't you want to check out the discount center? It is right down this hall." She said, "No, we should go." I knew she was trying to make me happy but I couldn't conceive of stopping and NOT going to the discount center. I'm glad we did because this is what it looked like (and Marisa found a rare Pyrex bowl):

Odd Goodwill

For all your Amish Stuff needs:

Amish Stuff!

AT&T touts new smartphone data plans

Last night AT&T published a release that re-jiggers their data plans for smartphones (which on AT&T basically means: iPhones) and iPads. The new plans replace some existing unlimited plans (the unlimited iPhone data plan actually has a limit of 5 gigs a month, while the unlimited iPad plan was truly unlimited). The new plans are:

  • DataPlus: 200 MB of data a month for $15
  • DataPro: 2 GB of data a month for $25

Existing customers can keep their old unlimited plans, but new customers will have to choose one of these two new plans starting on June 7th. Oh, and AT&T will also finally offer tethering (starting on the 7th as well) for an extra $20 a month above and beyond any data plans you might have.

For iPad users this is a little bit of a raw deal, if you ask me. The truly unlimited data plan that AT&T offered was a fantastic deal, and now not so much. However, for iPhone users I think these new plans will work out quite nicely.

I have an iPhone unlimited data plan for which I pay $30 a month. That got me to thinking, can I switch to one of the new plans and save a little money? Here's my data usage on my iPhone for the last few months:


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I have no idea what I was doing in February, which is the shortest month of the year, but clearly I required LOTS of data. But even than I didn't even break a gig.

Looks like I'll be switching to the DataPro plan to save a couple bucks.

Now, what I'd really like to see is a lower voice plan. At the moment I pay $39.99 a month for which gives me 450 anytime minutes and 5000 night and weekend minutes. That's the cheapest plan I can get and 16 days into the month I've used 23 out of 450 anytime minutes and 27 out of 5000 night and weekend minutes. Plus I have 4,162 rollover minutes to use.

I'd love to pay $20 for half the talk minutes. How about that, AT&T?