Monday, August 28

What I've been doing while not posting

Chasing this one all over Bethany Beach:

Thursday, August 3

Social Commerce - Part 2 - Stylehive

In my second look at social shopping sites, I tried out Stylehive, which seems to target fashion as its name suggests. I really liked the layout and found it very easy to use. It has all the web 2.0 goodness you'd expect from a social site (i.e. profiles, tagging, RSS feeds, widgets, etc).

As far as social sites go, it's more in the vein of a social bookmarking site like del.icio.us than social networking like MySpace. The big limitation that I saw is that there's no concept of adding other users as friends. They have a page called "My Hive," but it's really just a place to manage your profile and import contacts.

Using the site is very easy though. The site provides a quick step-by-step tutorial for getting started. After creating a profile (see mine here) and adding a bookmarklet to your Favorites, you can add items you find on the internet to your account. Unlike Gifttagging (which I write about here), Stylehive grabs pictures, prices, and text from the page, making it easy for you to select which image to use, add tags from their automatically generated keywords, and post the item to your account.

You can also browse items on Stylehive by criteria like recently posted, featured users, most popular bookmarks, and most popular tags. Any items you like are easily added to your account by simply clicking the “quick copy” button next to any bookmark.

Aside from not having a friends capability, I don't like the fact that when you click on the bookmarklet, it renavigates your browser window. I would think popping a separate small browser would be better. For instance, Stylehive grabs every dollar figure on the page in its list of suggested prices. Not being able to reference the original page when adding a bookmark is an unnecessary obstacle in what otherwise is a pretty straightforward process.

Stylehive is still in alpha stage, so there are few users (the highest bookmark I saw had 19 users who had bookmarked it). I read that Stylehive was trying a "Calacanis-like" approach and offering to pay certain bloggers to post original items on their site to attract users and increase content. While I have some credibility issues with pay-for-post models, it also suggests to me that maybe they lack a viable business model. But I do like the site, so hopefully it works for them.

Lastly, another reason that I find Stylehive interesting and think they have some innovative ideas is that they recently hosted a virtual fashion show in Second Life. If you're not familiar with Second Life, it is a virtual world that has been getting a lot of press lately. It has its own economy and has spawned some interesting ideas with regard to commerce. But that's for another post.

Saturday, July 29

My unforgettable dancing queen

Memory is a funny thing. It can be fleeting at times. Things that just go in one ear and out the other. I have my share. Just ask Kerry, my wife. I've also had my share of experiences that no matter how much you try to forget, you just can't shake them. I remember the night of my father's suicide almost 19 years ago so vividly; it's as if it took place yesterday. I remember the knot in my stomach as I got down on my knee in front of Kerry over nine years ago and pulled the ring out of my pocket. I remember the excitement and anxiety as I sat in the delivery room waiting--for what seemed like an eternity--to hear Ethan's first cry while trying to keep Kerry calm. While some of the details get fuzzy over time, the big events, they stay with you.

But other times, little everyday moments occur, and just something about them--something I can't quite put my finger on--tells me with every bone in my body, I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life.

I had one of those moments tonight with Sophia.

She had just had her tubby time with Kerry, and I was getting her dry and into her pajamas. I had the High School Musical Soundtrack playing for Ethan. Sophia was getting a little fussy, so I just started dancing with her in my arms. And she was giving me some great big belly laughs. So I kept on dancing with her, and after about 15 minutes of me doing the white-man's overbite with her, she put her head on my shoulder. A few more songs played, and she just faded off to sleep as I danced away. She gave a couple of soft moans and nuzzled into my neck a few times. And as I lay her in her crib, she gave a soft dreamy giggle.

Now I've danced with her a hundred times, and she's even fallen asleep on my shoulder a bunch of times, but this...this time I'll remember forever.

Monday, July 24

Liar, liar, transformers are on fire!

We were driving home from Kerry's Aunt's house on Saturday night when a big thunder and lightning storm hit. Well, OK, when I say storm, I mean maelstrom. My six-year-old, Ethan, was getting scared in the back of the minivan. OK, when I say scared, I mean just a basket case.

On a good day, he's frightened of thunder and lightning when well within the confines of our house. On Saturday, he was beside himself in shear terror and no amount of soothing voices or reassurances would calm him.

Thankfully, the storm started to slow down, and we were able to calm Ethan's nerves by explaining to him that the storm was moving away. We were doing the whole counting off between the lightning and thunder thing. Well, the words hadn't even completely escaped my mouth when the biggest, brightest, most vivid bolt of lightning hit a transformer on a pole less than 40 yards from our car.

I jumped. Kerry gasped. Ethan squealed. Sophia (log that she is) snored. Hell, the minivan even shook. I had never seen anything like it. And definitely not so close.

And as we drove by the pole and sparks were showering down onto the ground, a hurt little voice from the back said, "You said the storm was moving away, Daddy."

Thanks, Mother Nature.

Thursday, July 20

Social Commerce - Part 1

While I've written about shopping- and product recommendation-related sites and applications that are attempting to leverage social networking and bookmarking here and here, several new ones have recently launched that I thought I'd share.

It should be no surprise that most "shopping" on the internet is really just research or window shopping and either leads to a purchase made offline at a retail site or never leads to one at all. Some of the sites in this new wave leverage this fact by helping users with product research and recommendations. Others just attempt to provide simple tools that address one aspect of the shopping experience.

Gifttagging attempts to address one simple need--the universal wishlist--and while it's fairly straightforward, it just doesn't seem to do it that well.

Gifttagging basically allows you to manage and share lists of items that you would like and those that you already have. After adding a link to your bookmarks bar (only seems to work in Firefox), you can add items you find while browser-window shopping to your gifttagging lists with a simple click. You still have to manually enter the item's name, price, and description unlike other sites like Baggle (which I write about here).

You can tag the items with keywords, search other people's lists based on similar tags, and then share your lists either by emailing a link to it or by adding a Linkroll onto your website. Although it looks like the code they provide includes JavaScript, so don't expect it to work with social networking sites like MySpace which strip JavaScript out.

All in all, I'm not particularly impressed with this website. When I tried to add items to my "Things I Have" list, they ended up on my "Things I Would Like" list. Roughly 40% of the time I tried to add something to one of my lists, I'd get a blank window stating "Application Error." The fact that it doesn't seem to integrate well with Internet Explorer is a big strike against its chances for catching on with the mainstream. The site is in Beta, so I hope for their sake it improves.

Regardless, there's no apparent business model here. How this site is going to make money is a mystery. And if it's not obvious that it's the least bit sustainable, why should you invest the time to build a wishlist or add Linkrolls to your sites? Simple, you shouldn't.

Stay tuned for upcoming write ups on other sites such as MyPickList, Stylehive, Wists, Kaboodle, Nabbr, and Yub.

Wednesday, July 19

Social Browsing

I spend so much of my time trying to stay plugged into what the latest websites are that you'd think I'd get bored with it.

Well, I don't. In fact, I love discovering new sites, and it never ceases to amaze me that there are so many innovative, creative, and useful ones out there. On the flip side, I come across a lot of crap. Well, StumbleUpon is a fun application that I have used for random discovery.


StumbleUpon is a downloadable browser-extension that allows you to discover new sites based on categories you choose and rate them. Once installed, you can access StumbleUpon through a toolbar in your browser. Your ratings--a simple thumbs up or thumbs down--then help determine future sites you see as well as how often sites you've rated are shown to other StumbleUpon users.

In addition, StumbleUpon also has the typical Web 2.0 features that most every site touting social networking offers. You can set up a profile, add or make friends, share the sites you like, and tag different pages.

Until just this week, StumbleUpon has only been available to Firefox users, yet they've been able to reach the one million user mark. Well, it's about to hit the mainstream because they've just released a version for Internet Explorer. Check it out, explore, have fun, and let me know if you stumble upon anything interesting.

Tuesday, July 18

10 Cool Websites You Want to Share

Figured I'd try a meme for today's post. I got this one at Yanowhatimean by way of The Daily Meme.

My 10 sites (not in any particular order):
Lifehacker - great tips for getting the most out of the Interweb
Pandora - create your own web radio station, great for discovering new music and bands
YouTube - it's becoming cliche, but can be great fun when you have some time to kill
Listible - good lists for almost any topic
Wikipedia - while I would never swear by it, it's a quick source to learn about almost any subject
Bloglines - great web-based RSS reader to manage all your feeds
Springwise - new business ideas for entrepreneurial people
FatWallet - decent deals and coupon codes, got me a better discount on a PC than I could get through my employer
Streamload - 25GB of FREE online file storage
Technorati - great for searching the blogosphere

Please share your sites in the comments.

Monday, July 17

Dry spells

I hate dry spells, and I've had a long one. I know.

It's not that I haven't had much to write about. I have.

And it's not as if I don't want to share. I do.

I was back home in the Roch over the long 4th of July weekend and not one relative, but two, asked why I haven't blogged in so long. Good answers? I had none.

It's just...well, I'm tired.

But leave it to family to kick your butt into gear. So here goes...

I'm actually terrified of dry spells. Whether they come in the form writer's block, lack of creativity, or losing streaks or if they occur at work, home, on the field, or in the bedroom, dry spells basically suck.

Those who know me, know that I am a HUGE consumer of media. All types. Each day, I skim at least a dozen blogs via my Bloglines feed and listen to three podcasts and watch a half a dozen video podcasts during my train commute. And any given week, I watch way too many hours of TV, play far too many hours of PC and/or Xbox games, and try to keep up with about five monthly magazine subscriptions. All this, to stay current, to be "in the know," to keep the creative juices flowing...to ward off obsolescence.

So one of my biggest challenges--besides making time to sleep--is how to organize all that "knowledge" into something I can work with, how to use it all to make my personal and professional life, well, better.

Well, I just re-read a post I found a few months ago via 43 Folders that has helped, and I thought it would be good to share since it's pretty appropriate. While we don't always have or make time for big brainstorm sessions, there's always time for a little "brain rain" to get you out of life's dry spells. Stay wet.

Monday, May 22

Phony article on MediaPost

I saw this article this morning and thought it was funny. It announces the IPO of Rejects.com a completely fictitious website that supposedly posts all of the pics deemed too crude by social networking sites like MySpace. Love the name of the founder and ad director.

If the article is gone for some reason. Here's a screenshot.

Wednesday, April 26

Can you spare some change for iTunes?

Coinstar kioskCoinstar, the company that puts change collection kiosks in various supermarkets, has recently announced that they have added iTunes to their Coin to Card Program. It's been a while since I've used one of these kiosks, and I wasn't even aware of the program. Basically, rather than taking the 8.9% hit when cashing in your change, you can opt for a gift card or eCertificate at FULL value. How sweet is that?

About twice a year for the last couple of years, I've been emptying Ethan's piggy banks and taking him to the local Stop 'n Shop to use one of these machines. He knows that half goes into his savings account and half can be used to buy a toy or books. Now that I know about this, it seems like a no brainer. In addition to iTunes, you can get gift cards for vendors such as Amazon, Borders, Starbucks, and Pier 1.

Find a Coinstar kiosk by you here.

Tuesday, April 25

Get stuff for fuh-ree

Lifehacker had a post a few weeks ago about FreebieFinder. The site aggregates FREE offers from around the web. It even has an RSS feed you can subscribe to. It's a pretty neat ideam but there's not much good stuff on there right now, unless you really like coffee.

Wednesday, April 19

Easter Egg Hunt


Sophia, 17 months

JibJab's JokeBox

From the folks who brought us "This Land" (featured on Jay Leno's Tonight Show before the 2004 election), comes JokeBox. JokeBox just launched and is being described as "MySpace meets Comedy Central." Basically, it's a social community for sharing jokes and humorous, user-created content. And it's a place to send all those inbox cluttering email forwards you get from Internet novice friends and family. Check it out.

2006 Bloggies Awarded

In a post a few months ago (Where to find good blogs), I wrote about the Bloggies. The awards were given last month and you can see the results here.

There's some really great and informative reads amongst the winners as well as nominees. Take a look.

Wednesday, April 12

Name that tune

TuneFind.com LogoI don't know why, but I seem to really, really like the songs I've been hearing in the TV shows I watch lately. But unlike movies, they don't always list the songs or artists in the closing credits. And none of the networks have gotten customer-focused or smart enough to include that type of information on their web sites. So I was excited to read about a new site called TuneFind.com (via Lifehacker) whose sole purpose is to be THE index of songs appearing in TV shows and movies. It even provides links to the songs/artists in iTunes.

Tuesday, April 4

Speaking of over-achievers...

Pondering my little ninja-wannabe, it made me think of this story I saw on Boing Boing a while back about a kid who is using $100,000 that he earned himself to spend a year at Disney before he goes to college.

Talk about over-achievers.

Link to Boing Boing post.

Ralph Macchio's got nothing on my five-year-old

I missed Ethan's Karate test for his first stripe on his white belt. I felt bad, but I knew he was prepared. Kerry and I had both practiced with him. Confidence was high. When the time came, Ethan passed with flying colors.

This past weekend was the actual award ceremony. Ethan was one of the first called up. I was making an ass of myself in the front corner, digicam in one hand and video cam in the other. When Sensei Frank got to Ethan, he made an announcement that they occasionally have students who excel and in those cases they sometimes test on additional material (having missed it, I didn't know that they had tested Ethan on additional moves).

The smile on this kid's face tells the story. Yep, he received not one, but two stripes on his belt. I'm the proud daddy of a 3rd Degree White Belt.


Best Free Online Games

1up.com has compiled a list of The 101 Best Free Games on its site. If you're into FREE online games, then check it out. It ranges from quick casual games to in depth strategy and RPG games.

Wednesday, March 29

Coulda' used these for the draft

I had my fantasy baseball draft this past weekend with all my buddies from high school. There are some of us who view the weekend as a way to put the vast amounts of time spent pouring over baseball stats to good use. They do the homework, crunch the numbers, and come ready to formulate a team. I was NOT prepared.

Nevertheless, I'll be the first to admit - the real reason we trek back to our high school stomping grounds for a day long draft is so that we can act like we did when we were in high school. It's an annual ritual. An opportunity to relive pseudo glory days, regale with old stories, and laugh like we hadn't heard them 100 times before. The only difference is we have larger waists, less hair, higher tolerances, and better taste in beer.

My friend, Bill, graciously hosts us every year. His wife, Kelly, is understandably less than thrilled, especially since this year, they have a NEW house. Fortunately, their place is big enough (10 times the size of mine, double the price) that come bedtime, it's unlikely they could hear even the loudest of the group. At least, I hope.

So, as the draft progressed and those of us who hadn't memorized Johnny Damon's OBP or Chris Capuano's WHIP began more frequent visits to the keg.

Well, it just happened. Someone (read: me) bounced a quarter off Bill's stealth-bomber shaped island kitchen counter. The familiar tink had a Pavlov's dog effect, and heads instantly turned. Game on!

After the ensuing three hours of speed quarters came to an end, I looked around and couldn't help but think of high school and surveying friend's homes after parties. Pizza boxes, open chip bags, and the quintessential red plastic Solo cups strewn everywhere. There had been 12 of us. Looking at Bill's place, you'd think at least 50.

Yesterday, still a dull thud in my head (what can I say? I'm no spring chicken), I ran across this post about Hello Pint Glasses on Lifehacker. These would have been great for keeping the mess at Bill's and our drunken attempt at cleaning to a minimum and probably would have helped in preventing us from catching the same cold.

More importantly, they would have been perfect height for our speed quarters game's Super-Challenge shots. Which If I'd made, I wouldn't have had to lap Bill's neighbor's houses in 38 degree weather.

Cheers.

Tuesday, March 28

Find local groups and clubs at Meetup

I read about Meetup on this Lifehacker post and thought it was interesting. Basically, it allows you to create/join clubs and social groups with common interests. You can either search based on city or interest.

They've been mentioned in Time, Fox News, and The Economist.
Take a look.

Tuesday, March 7

The Harlem Globe-er, um, Wizards

About a week ago, Kerry asked me if I would take Ethan to a fundraising event at one of the local high schools. Apparently, the student body government was doing a fundraiser by having the Harlem Globetrotters play against a team of teachers and students. I thought, "Sure, I'll take him." (OK, so I was really like, "Hot diggity!! That'll be suh-weet!!")

All day yesterday I caught myself whistling their jingle. I was genuinely looking forward to it. I mean, come on. Basketball tricks and slapstick comedy? Two fun things. Put them together and ka-blamo, you got yourself an evening full of family-fun hijinks. Buckets full of confetti and the opposing team getting pantsed to the point of indecent exposure. Ahh, the nostalgia was palpable. Nevermind that I had the nagging thought that the Globies must be having some rough times to be booking such soup-line-esque gigs.

Ethan and I were walking up to the school and there it was by the entrance, the tour "trailer." Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I saw the words on the side, The Harlem Wizards - Trick Hoops and Alley Oops.

Who the hell are these posers?

It turns out that Kerry wasn't exactly wrong. A couple of the guys are former Globies (or, ahem, have been loosely affiliated with the team at some point in time). The rest of them seem to be NCAA-flunkies who thought they were going to The Show, and therefore, never bothered getting an education. Sorry, that's too harsh. I'm sure the Wizards do a good job and probably help lots of organizations raise hundreds of dollars. Good on ya', Wizards!

But I still couldn't help but think that we were watching a really bad copy, like in that Michael Keaton movie, Multiplicity. Remember, Doug #4. Yeah, I like pizza, too, Wizards.

The whole surreal experience made me curious. So I went to their website, and you'll be happy to know that the Harlem Globetrotters are still around and doing well. "Curly" Neal has long since hung up his Chuck Taylors, but they're still entertaining families across the globe on their 2006 "Unstoppable" World Tour.

Wednesday, March 1

Happy March 1st

So, Kerry's at church on Sunday with the kids and our seven-year old niece, Caroline. The priest usually invites the children of the congregation to join him up front during the homily, and Ethan and Caroline go up.

The priest begins by explaining to the kids that Wednesday is a very important day for the Church.

Priest: Do any of you children know what the special day is?

Boy: (blurt) March 1st!!

Congregation: (bursts out in laughter)

Priest: Well, you're right it is March 1st. Does anyone know what the special day is for the Church?

Children: (blank stares)

Anyhow, the priest goes on to explain Ash Wednesday and how it's the beginning of Lent. At the end of the homily, he asks the kids to return to their seats. Ethan and Caroline come back to the pew.

Caroline: (to Kerry) Wasn't it funny when Ethan made the whole church laugh?

My father-in-law: (sitting in the pew in front of them, bursts out in laughter)

So, happy March 1st!

Tuesday, February 28

Tough love or just plain love?

I did an awful thing to my five-year old son, Ethan, this weekend. Well, I mean, it's not "smack your kid in public" awful, but still, I feel bad.

Well, sort of.

On the one hand, I cherish the time I get to spend with him and just have fun. And I want to do whatever I can to make sure that he's challenged and develops into a thoughtful, confident, polite, loving, and happy kid. But on the other hand, I also want him to learn and accept that fun (and life) isn't always about winning.

I'm squarely in the "you win some, you lose some" camp. And as I've said before, I think children, even at his age, shouldn't be shielded from a little competition. So long as you have fun, give it your best effort, and learn something along the way, it's all good.

So, Ethan and I were at the food court arcade at the local mall on Saturday, heads swimming in a McDonald's-induced glycogen high. The bass of the Dance Dance Revolution thumping in my belly (or maybe that was the quarter pounder). Our game is tied at 6-6. Ethan had just caught up from a three-point deficit without a lick of "hey, my shoe's untied" help from Daddy. The scoreboard warning lights are starting to flash letting us know that time's almost up.

And there I was...at a crossroad. Do I nudge it down and give him the last shot? Or do I capitalize on his obvious height disadvantage and bank one in past his reach? I take the shot. His paddle misses its mark, and I hear the sweet "PLINK" of glory. The scoreboard timer buzzes.

I beat my five-year-old son 7-6 at air hockey.

A brief glint of disappointment flashes in Ethan's eyes, and even though it's gone as we high-five and head over to the counter to cash in our skee-ball winnings, I couldn't help but think that maybe I had made a mistake. Did my competitive side get the best of me?

But now that a day or so has passed, I think maybe I'm being a little hard on myself. It was a good afternoon. Fifteen dollars well spent for some QT with the E-man with the added bonus of dishing out a little air hockey smackdown life lesson. Don't feel too bad for him, he made out like a bandit at the arcade ticket counter--two army paratroopers, two superballs, and two foamy smiley face rings. Plus, he's already talking smack about the next time we go.

At least, I think that's how "You're silly, Daddy!" translates.

Tuesday, February 21

Putting the Bill back into Billwildered

In case you haven't noticed, dear reader (for the sake of accuracysimplicity, I'll admitassume that you are singular), there's been a shortage of Billwildered posts lately. (I'm not counting the coupon bone I just threw.)

No excuses really. I guess I've just been struggling a little with what Billwildered is all about. And frankly, I'm a little unenthusiastic about this whole bloggity-blog thing since I'm just not feeling the love.

Sure, you like Billwildered. You may even really, really like it. But love it? Umm, not so much.

And what's worse, I'm not loving it either.

So, I thought back on why I started Billwildered and realized something--call it a billpiphany.

I haven't begun to accomplish the goals I originally had in mind.

So, bear with me as I review.

The one I thing I've done alright on--share useful, funny, or bizarre sites, products, and services with family and friends. Of course, I'm basing that assumption on the three or four of you who, rather than just trolling, have actually given me any feedback.

What I need to do more of:

  • share everyday events with family and friends
  • share who I am with family and friends
  • find my voice, and
  • build my confidence to share beyond the comfy "we love you anyway" confines of family and friends
So, like it, love it, can't live without it, gauge your eyeballs out to avoid it...whatever. It boils down to this--while you may not want anything more from Billwildered, I do (not "more better," more like, uh, "more biller").

It may not be pretty. It may not even be readworthy. But it'll be chock full 'o Bill.

Oh, who am I kidding? It's going to be fu--ing AWESOME!! Get ready to be billwildered!

Printable Retail Coupons

I read about Wow Coupons, a site that aggregates retail coupons for both in-store and online use, at this Consumerist post.

Like Consumerist says, if you can get over the annoying sound effects, there's some definite good deals here. For the retail section (the only one I really took a look at), the site links directly to coupons on the retailers' websites. Although I did see a few that expired a few days ago, most seem up to date.

Next time you're headed to the mall or before you click "checkout," be sure to take a look
here.

Sunday, February 12

Best of Bootie 2005 CD

A while back, I posted about mash-ups (What do you get when you mix...). Well, I recently saw this post on Boing Boing about a "best of" CD that's available for download of the 20 best mash-ups from a San Fran club called Bootie. Apparently, Bootie is dedicated to mash-ups and has monthly mash-up parties.

I got them on my iPod, and my favs are:
Beatles vs. Black-Eyed Peas vs. Ludacris vs. Kelis (Black Beatles)
Franz Ferdinand vs. Run-DMC vs. The Knack (Do You Wanna Cuz It's Tricky)
Rob Base vs. Prince (It Takes Two To Kiss)

To get the tracks, visit Best of Bootie 2005 CD.

Wanna jump back 25 years?

If you do, then visit Neave Games for a little bit of nostalgia.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7

The must-have item you've been waiting for

They're finally available. No, it's not the Xbox 360. Or even the new 1GB iPod Nano. No, it's WAY better--your very own Billwildered shirt. Come on...you know you want one.

Seriously, you better get one.

Sherioushly, there's this really cool site I learned about on Lifehacker last week called
SnapShirts that will analyze your blog/website and create a word cloud (similar to a tag cloud) based on the most used words on your main page. Then you can have them put the word cloud on shirts, mouse pads, clocks, and other items.

Get 'em here while they're hot.

Wednesday, February 1

Where to find good blogs

So now that you've been a "loyal" Billwildered reader for the past three months, I'm sure my razor-sharp wit, dramatic storytelling, and integrity-oozing pseudo-journalistic voice (oh, and don't forget my modesty) have completely sold you on the rich universe of the blogosphere (if you weren't there already).

You've probably even said to yourself, "Hey, this bloggity-blog stuff is the bees knees. I wonder where I can find other good bloo-bloggy thingies, even though I seriously doubt that I can find one as refreshing and thought-provoking [read: trivial and forgetful] as Billwildered."

Well, stop. You're making me blush.

Seriously, if you're interested in finding new blogs, here are just a couple of places that I would suggest:

  1. The nominees for the Sixth Annual Weblog Awards - These are considered the "cream of the crop." The nominees for the 2006 Bloggies includes some great stuff, many of which I have on my blogroll (I'll get to that later). Like most awards, the Bloggies are categorized by topics like Technology, Food, Travel, Fashion, Entertainment, and Politics. You can even look at past year's winners and nominees.

  2. Technorati - This site is great for finding blog postings based on topic, keywords, tags, or popularity. By creating a free account, you can also set up watchlists that will pull together posts based on whatever criteria you define.

  3. Google Blog Search - In it's never-ending drive toward world domination, Google is offering a beta product for searching blogs. It's similar to a regular Google search, but you'll just be "googling" the blogosphere.

  4. Blogrolls - many blogs you visit will include lists of links to other blogs called a blogroll. Typically, it's because the author(s) may reference them on a regular basis, read there posts often, or just want to give other sites added visibility (the number of sites that link to yours is a determining factor in most organic search engine results). Any time I'm reading a blog and like it, I'll usually look at their blogroll to see if I find anything else that I like. Most aggregators give you the ability to create a blogroll. I recently posted my blogroll on Billwildered (lower right sidebar). I use Bloglines.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: They've closed the nominations for the 2006 Bloggies, and for some reason, they're no longer showing the list of nominees on the page. So, you'll have to wait till around March 13 to see this year's. However, you can still see past winners and nominees.

Monday, January 30

Reader Zen

I love to read. I read on the train. I read on the couch. I read in bed. I read on the can.

If you're a fellow consumer of the written word, then you'll definitely be interested in these two products I ran across in recent Boing Boing posts (
Product #1 and Product #2).

The first is the Slanket. It's dubiously dubbed as "The best blanket ever." It is a cozy, fleece blanket that has built-in arms. So you can channel surf, read, type on a laptop, etc. etc.--all while staying nice and warm. (It looks like they're currently backordered on all colors though. Sorry).


The second is the Thumb Thing. It's a plastic doohickey that you slip on your thumb like a ring. It fits snugly in your book to keep the pages spread open. Perfect to use with your Slanket.

Picture it now. A chilly winter night, sitting wrapped in your Slanket. Thumb Thing on your thumb and wedged into the latest Dan Brown page-turner. What to do with that free hand? The possibilities are endless--drink your cocktail, hold the remote, write notes, dial the phone, practice one-handed origami, pick nose, scratch my b-- You get the picture.

Tuesday, January 24

Trade CDs for an iPod

I know I've already professed my love for my iPod. Well, if you're itchin' to get one but are having a tough time justifying the cost, I saw this alternative on a Boing Boing post.

Apparently, there's a used CD shop in Charleston called Millenium Music that's promoting an iPod trade. So, comb through your collection and burn CDs, rip them to your computers, or event get rid of the duds and one-hit wonders. You know they're in there.

45 CDs = 512 MB iPod Shuffle
65 CDs = 1 GB iPod Shuffle
85 CDs = 2 GB iPod Nano
110 CDs = 4 GB Nano
130 CDs = 30 GB iPod
175 CDs = 60 GB iPod
The only catch is that unless you'll be in Charleston any time soon, you'll need to mail them on your dime and the CDs need to be in good condition.

Check it out at
Millennium Music iPod Trade.

Wednesday, January 18

The every-man's stunt man

I saw this site that shows this new ad campaign for Bud Light - Ted Ferguson - Bud Light Daredevil. This campaign is a perfect example of the trend of TV ads beginning to mirror the look and feel of the DIY videos that have been propagating the net on many of the video file-sharing sites like YouTube and ClipShack (see previous post - Online video-sharing services). Funny stuff and pretty much right on target with the 21-45 male demographic.

Sunday, January 15

Cheerios Idol?

I saw an ad for this promotion that Cheerios is running and instantly thought of one of my very good friends at work who loves karaoke. Basically, to promote their new Yogurt Burst Cheerios cereal, Cheerios has launched a viral marketing website called Cheerioke.com. When you visit the site, you are prompted to create a custom avatar that will lip sync to your voice and then choose one of three songs to sing along to. When you're finished, you can email your Cheerioke recording to your friends, family, or--depending on your singing--worst enemies. I'm assuming that the email will also include some sort of promotion about the new cereal, and I'm not really sure what Yogurt Burst Cheerios have to do with a Japanese pastime. But what the heck? It still sounds like good clean fun. Check it out.

Thursday, January 12

I love Channel Frederator

I got an iPod Nano for Christmas. How psyched was I? But my bubble burst soon after when I realized it had a faulty battery. To make things worse, the only Apple Store within a 50 mile radius was sold out. All is well though, as I was able to upgrade to the Video iPod. And I must say, I LOVE IT!!

It's not even the cool factor (while Apple's design is undoubtedly slick), or even the fact that I'm allowed to sit at the cool table at the office lunchroom again. It is the vast amounts of free and fresh content that it's opened me up to, mainly Podcasts. And what's more, Video Podcasts.

My absolute favorite so far is
Channel Frederator. They do a weekly episode of ultra-hip animated shorts submitted by animation artists from all over the world. The toons are funny, cool, sometimes raunchy, and other times downright disturbing. And the writing is hilarious--a bit of schoolyard bravado blended with a "we're witty and we know it" attitude. (BTW - if you're interested in this space, read this recent article from FastCompany magazine, Attack of the Baby Pixars).

Why should you care fine readers? The great thing is that you don't even need a Video iPod to enjoy them (only if you want to be cool like me). You can view and download each episode on their site. Even better, you can subscribe to their RSS feed.

So, thank you iPod. Thank you Channel Frederator. And most of all, thank you Barb and Buz for the great gift that lets me enjoy my tunes AND my toons.

Wednesday, January 11

Maybe next year Giants fans

Too bad about Sunday, but if you're thinking the Giants have a shot next year and are willing to put a little money where your heart is, you should check out The Ticket Reserve.

I read about this site in Wired (Link: The Ticket Option Market). It basically lets you buy, bid, sell, and trade "options," or Fan Forwards, for tickets to championship games on any team. The company has struck partnerships with all the leagues and teams and guarantees ticket availability. It's professional sports meets the futures market while sticking it to the scalpers.

So, how much faith do you have in your team? I don't know about you Giants fans, but as a Bills fan, I think I'll be holding onto my greenbacks (and breath) for a few seasons.

Tuesday, January 10

Why are gamers so fun to laugh at?

I read about this online comic strip in Wired magazine this month. I had heard about it a few years ago. It pokes fun at video games and the gamer geeks who play them. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik have been writing it since 1998 and have just published a book of the first two years called Penny Arcade Volume 1: Attack of the Bacon Robots!

Take a look at the site
Penny Arcade! I didn't know, but apparently, the site is the most visited online comic strip and gets over 45 million pageviews a month. Just click on the Comic link to see the strip.

If that's not enough for you, take a look at this machinima clip that's been getting around. It kills two birds with one stone by making fun of both video gamers and traditional role-playing gamers. You can see it on Heavy.com (Link:
Geeked Out Machinima). Just be forewarned that there's some racy stuff on the site if you're going to nose around.

In any case, I thought it was hilarious, but I can't laugh too hard since it kinda hits close to home. Ah, those carefree D&D days circa 1982. Umm, any negative comments, and I'll sick my Level 17 Wizard on you!

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 8

Looking for an alternate reality?

There's a unique take on an alternate reality game (ARG) that has launched this month. I read about it in Wired a few months ago (Link: Hey! What's That On Your Shirt?). Basically, to promote their clothing line, Edoc Laundry has created a fictitious band called Poor Richard. The band has lost its manager, and the clues to solve the mystery are hidden in the clothes. Pretty neat idea. No word yet whether it's been successful for them.

If you're unfamiliar with ARGs, they are mostly used as a form of viral or buzz marketing. The basic gist of these campaigns is that people talk about them, forward emails, share links, etc.

Many examples can be found in the video game world. Halo 2 had its ARG that started when at the end of its trailer, viewers saw an obscure website address (
www.ilovebees.com) come onto the screen as if there were a problem with the ad. Gamespot had a good story on the ARG when it launched (Link: Halo 2 hype hoax).

A recent ARG for the Xbox 360 title,
Perfect Dark Zero, also integrated the mobile world. Basically, you could have Joanna Dark, the central character of the game, "whack" a friend by putting out a "hit" on them. The target would receive an email with a link to a video that ends with them seeing their name on the toe tag of a deceased patient. When the job is done, you get a call on your mobile phone with a message saying so. Here's an article on that campaign - (Send Joanna After Your Friends).

Another form of buzz marketing comes in the form of viral email campaigns such as Burger King's
Subservient Chicken campaign. While quite bizarre, it was strangely effective.

If you know of others, let me know.

Friday, January 6

What do you get when you mix

I saw this Boing Boing post - Best mashups of 2005 - about a top 10 list of mashups on a blog called Culture Bully. If you aren't familiar with mashups (also referred to as bastard pop or cutups), these are great examples of what's being done with digital audio by amateurs and professionals.

You can listen to or download them by following the link at the bottom of the Boing Boing post. I like #1 (Flaming Lips vs Snoop Dogg vs Will Farrell), #3 (Rolling Stones vs Biz Markie) , and #10 (The Who vs Beastie Boys) myself.

I know. I know. Sampling has been around for decades, and DJs have been mixing since the days of disco. NPR even did a story on mashups back in 2002 on All Things Considered. You can listen to it by clicking here and then clicking the "Listen" button.

Regardless, never has it been so easy for anyone to experiment or distribute their creations. And that's really what's at the root of this Web 2.0 thing - the advent of community-created content.
So, while not a really new trend, the availability of more advanced--often free--digital audio editing software and P2P networks has really made this stuff catch on.

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 5

Steve Martin now contributing to a blog

If you're a Steve Martin fan, as am I, you might like to know that he is now contributing to the HuffingtonPost.com. Check out his first blog post -- titled Leap Second Lovers Are Traitors Says Bill O'Reilly.

Wednesday, January 4

What is your dangerous idea?

That's the world question of 2006. "Huh?," you ask. Well, apparently John Brockman at Edge.org asks some of the world's biggest smartypants to answer just one very thought-provoking question each year. For 2006: What is your dangerous idea?
"The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?"
Contributor's include Kevin Kelly from Wired and J. Craig Venter, the genomics pioneer who mapped the human genome (as an aside - I met his wife who's also a genome researcher a few years back - nice lady).

Past questions have included questions such as "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" and "What questions have disappeared?"

Check out the answers to this year's question at The World Question Center 2006.

Cool video of the seasons in Norway

I saw this and just thought it was really cool. Erik Solheim from Norway took multiple still photos outside his window over the course of a year and then made them into this video.

You can check out his original blog post at
The video of the seasons in Norway.

Monday, January 2

2005: The year in review

What a year for the Billwildered clan! This year had lots of change for us. As a year-end bonus for you loyal readers, I asked none other than Baba Wawa to guest interview the fam to cover 2005's highlights.

Baba: Hewwo, Biww. Thank you for asking me to join you in your walk down memowy wane. It's a reaw pweasure to be here. What do you say we get started? So, what makes the Biwwwiwdewed cwan tick?

Bill: Well, Babs, that's a tough one. Do we really tick or is it more like a sputter? We take it day by day. I mean, let's face it we all know who rules the roost.

Baba: Kewwy?

Bill: No, dummy. The kids.

Baba: Ahh, yes. The kids. Ethan who is five and Sophia now one. And how is it that they ruwe?

Bill: Like most parents we know, Kerry and I have little control over our schedule. Neither of the kids are very good sleepers. Ethan has gotten better recently after taking a step back last year when Sophia was born. But he still has the occasional 3-4am nightmare or deadarm "pins & needles" alarm.

Baba: And Sophia?

Bill: Well, Sophia hasn't really mastered the whole "sleeping through the night" thing yet. She's teased us a few times this year. She once slept through the night three nights in a row back in September, but then she got sick and just hasn't gotten back on track. She still wakes up sometime between 1-3am almost every night. We're hoping the four teeth she'll be cutting in the next few weeks will help her get through the night. Oh, and the Nyquil we've been mixing with her soy milk.

Baba: Ugh, that must be tough.

Bill: Well, Babs, it's a killer on the energy level, but we get by. Since Kerry left her job before Thanksgiving, she's taken the vast majority of the wake-up calls, God bless her.

Baba: So, you bewieve in God?

Bill: Hey now, ask me something easier like, "Am I gay?" or something.

Baba: Are you?

Bill: Am I what?

Baba: Gay.

Bill: No. Are you? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Baba: Let's stick to me asking the questions, shall we? OK. I don't want to make you cwy, which they used to think was my speciawty, but what was the worst time in 2005 and what's the best?

Bill: Well, the worst wasn't anything too terrible. But was easily those first few weeks when Kerry returned to work from maternity leave. Both of us sleep deprived. We couldn't get Sophia into the daycare center that Ethan was in. So, our sister-in-law was watching her along with her youngest. So we had two separate drop-offs. Kerry was returning to a job she wasn't thrilled with. I was in a job that I was growing increasingly unhappy with. And between formula, diapers, and daycare, money was tight. Just a big adjustment for us.

Baba: Anything else?


Bill: Well, with the sleep deprivation, new schedules, new job, etc., I haven't been able to exercise or workout consistently. I was right in the middle of working on "Buff Bill" when Sophia was born. It's not like I had a six-pack or anything. More like a four-pack really. But now, while I've still been able to maintain my weight, I can see and feel it moving away from the places I want it.

Baba: And the best?

Bill: That's harder. Lot's of great things happened this year. The best was just seeing the kids grow. Ethan graduating from pre-school, learning to read, and going to kindergarten. Sophia taking her first steps and knowing to laugh when she farts.

Baba: Excuse me?

Bill: Oh, did you toot, too?

Baba: No [blushes], I just wasn't sure I heard you wight.

Bill: Yeah, well about a month ago. Sophia just started laughing every time she rips one. I mean, how do kids know that it's funny?

Baba: Well, I don't think it's funny.

Bill: Lighten up, Babs. The country needs to be able to laugh at a few farts and not feel ashamed. Do you smell something?

Baba: What?

Bill: Nevermind.

Baba: Back to the question. You said there are many "bests" this year. What else?

Bill: Well, the new job I started at the end of August kicks ass. I love it. Love the people, the company, and the work. The only downside is the commute--hour on the train in the morning and an hour and a half at night. What else? My cousin is doing a brief stint here in Po-town on a co-op at IBM, so I get to see some of my family. Still not as much as I'd like, but more than I would otherwise. Umm, let's see. Oh, got an Xbox in March. I love that thing! And of course, the launch of Billwildered.

Baba: Ahh, yes. Your bwog. What made you decide to start your own bwog?

Bill: Well, I started it just as a way to share some of the things I see at work and at play with my friends and family. While many are online, some aren't the most tech savvy and most aren't what would be considered "early adopters." And I guess I kinda look at myself that way. I'm a techie nerd at heart. I like to learn about new technologies and envision how they might impact or help us ordinary people in our everyday lives. It's a curiosity thing. And it occurred to me at a family gathering this summer that no one really knew what I did. At the time, I had been at my last employer for almost four years. That no one knew what I did just didn't sit well with me, and I figured a blog was the easiest way for me to share what I'm doing, seeing, learning, and thinking about.


Baba: And how is it working out?

Bill: Well, it's hard to say. I'm not sure how many have embraced Billwildered. I've put up over 50 posts and yet have had only about four or five people comment on any of them. And two of those were on the very first post and another was by a racist half-wit. I guess what I'm saying is that some feedback would be greatly appreciated. Even if it were offline.

Baba: Are you weawwy bewiwdewed though?

Bill: You bet your ass I am, Babs. Not bewildered at what's happening or how the internet and my life are evolving, but bewildered by the possibilities.


Baba: When you put on your bwogging hat, who is your gweatest inspiration?

Bill: I'd have to say the "Other brother, Darryl." That guy was a comical genius. He really taught me to know when to shut the hell up. Or was it how to channel a lack of hygiene into the creative process? I forget.

Baba: Well, thank you, Bill. It's been a pleasure. Since we have a few moments, I'd like to ask Kerry and the kids a few questions.

Bill: Sure, umm, but what happened to your speech impediment?

Baba: What impediment?

Bill: Nevewmind.

Baba: So, Kerry. I understand you've stopped working outside the home. How's that going?

Kerry: It's great, so far. To be honest, I had some doubts about my decision the first few weeks, but I think we're getting into a routine now. And I definitely see improvements in the kid. Ethan and Sophia, too. Ethan is happier when he gets home from school since he can play with Mommy, and Sophia is beginning to really open up to people. And I love just being able to be there for them and not have work in the back of my mind. I just wish I could get Bill to get off the damn Xbox and computer to, I don't know, maybe wash the dishes or do a load of laundry once in a while.

Baba: And Ethan, how was youw yeaw?

Ethan: You talk funny.

Kerry: [through gritted teeth] Answer the question, honey.

Ethan: Good. Wanna see my Lightsabre Battle game?

Baba: Umm, not right now, dear. Maybe after the interview. What was your favorite part of the year, Ethan?

Ethan: Umm, when Daddy got the Xbox and when I saw Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Wanna play LEGO Star Wars on the Xbox?

Baba: You like Star Wars, huh, Ethan?

Ethan: Uh huh, and Teen Titans and Pokemon and LEGOs and...

Baba: Whoa, whoa, whoa. OK, I get it. Here, have some Skittles. Now skidaddle so I can talk to your sister. Sophia, sweetie, what was the best part of your 2005?

Sophia: [red-faced] pffffffffff-fluh-fluh-ffffftt. Tee hee hee hee.

Happy New Year!!