Beer Advent

Dec. 2nd, 2012 06:44 pm
boutell: (shave)
My coworker is one of those wonderfully nutty people who undertake big projects for the betterment and inebriation of all. Once a year he organizes something called "beer advent." He buys 24 cases of different, excellent beers, then distributes them to participants as mix cases with 24 different beers in each case. 24 beers = 24 days of advent = beer advent.

Great concept, except that between that and the tasty beer on tap in the office, good luck maintaining your energy level, hydration, and oh yeah, boyish/girlish figure.

Next year I plan to offer to help arrange the website so that you get to open a little door in the calendar each day. None of this seeing all the beer info at once stuff. That ain't no advent calendar I remember!
boutell: (Default)
Holy crap, we are hiring up a storm at work:

Customer Service / Office Manager --> Front line support for our client projects. Da Boss needs more mental CPU cycles to devote to new business development.

Front End Developer --> Lots of jquery and modern CSS and templates and light frontend PHP, with ample growth opportunities in backend stuff.

Designer / Front End Developer --> Less code, more concept, but still some hands-on ability with CSS and HTML5 expected.

Back End Developer --> PHP MVC framework stuff (Symfony 1, Symfony 2); MVC frameworks in general; node.js; MySQL, MongoDB; Linux sysadmin skills a nice plus.

Basically we are hiring in just about every role, except for project management and new business development.

There's more information about some of these gigs on our blog, but they all exist, so don't let it slow you down at all if you don't see a listing for one of them (yet).

Get in touch if you are one of these people. Must be stoked about working face to face with a cool bunch of designers and developers and designopers in South Philly.
boutell: (Default)

Hey guys,

I just launched, an autobiographical blog about node.js development. It's written in Node and all the source code is on github.

"Whuzza node?" node.js is a very cool thing that lets you build websites in JavaScript. Not just the part that runs in the browser, but also the part that runs on the server.

"But why?" Since Google, Firefox and Microsoft have put so much effort into competing to make JavaScript faster, the v8 engine – the open source JavaScript engine that Google built for Chrome – is now faster than just about any other pleasant-to-use programming language in the world. And it's baked into both Node and the MongoDB database. So there is basically no reason to constantly switch from language to language in your head as you move between PHP (or Ruby), JavaScript, and SQL. Instead you can now write JavaScript everywhere. Which I really, really like, even though JavaScript isn't perfect.

You can follow the blog here. (There's an RSS feed as well.)

Looking forward to your thoughts!
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Hey Etsy peeps, we made a thing for you!

I love it when a simple change lets people do so much.

A few weeks since the public launch of Apostrophe, the website builder for people with better things to do than learn obscure shit, we've learned some major lessons about what works, what doesn't work, and what people really want versus what they say they need. We're endeavoring to be a good boyfriend, listen well, impress your mom, clean up nice and deliver the goods.
boutell: (Default)

Apostrophe: It's just easy.

Coming out of beta next week! Hit me up for a last-minute beta test invite.

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I've been yapping for years about our (*) open source content management system, which is all very well and good for those of us who are programmers and willing to spend time getting up to speed with it, and no darn use to the rest of you. And I've shared links to a demo site, which is tantalizing, but you don't get to keep it.

Finally we're rolling out our hosted service. No installation necessary. Walk up, make a web site, share access with your collaborators. Edit the stylesheet if that's your bag or choose from a selection of snazzy themes. Add video, crop photos, build slideshows, feature blog posts and upcoming events anywhere in the site. It's the same shockingly friendly user experience we give our clients. It's the reason we win those clients (and liberate those clients from the pain of Drupal forever).

Now I've got beta invites. And I want to send you one. Drop me a line at and I will fire off an invite toot sweet.

"You are all beautiful dudes and dudesses and I love you from the bottom of my baby blue boxer shorts." -Zippy the Pinhead

(*) "Our" being P'unk Avenue, of course. Best. Day. Job. Ever.
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Little Mars Attacks joke there.

These kids today heart animated gifs. And despite my involvement in creating png, there is something charmingly lo-fi and super-eightish about them. Now that computers and networks are so much faster, people even share them on dedicated gif macro blogs. And this is where figgif comes in.

Want to make an animated gif? Pick up your iPhone and film one, or convert an existing video. Figgif hosts it for you; you can share it any way you like. 99 cents for the app. Such a deal.

Version 1.0.1 is already in Apple's approval pipeline with robust retries for those dicey 3G uploads. Other improvements are soon forthcoming.

And my next app is already on the way! Feels good to be turning out new craziness.

figgif: your new gifcycle
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Google changed their algorithm in early April, and traffic to almost all pages on Boutell.Com dropped by nearly half. Wow.

I'm too goddam busy to be secretive, everybody knows it's not my day job anymore and I could really use some insight. So I shared the intriguing details with the Google Webmaster Support Forum. You may as well chime in too! Gee I'd sure like my traffic (and my ad revenue) back.

(Zero points, however, for "I think your website should be prettier / less this / more that" if it doesn't have relevance to what's been covered already, and to the abrupt 50% drop. I know it's not the prettiest website in the world and ads make you cry. But that's not where I need help today, except insofar as you can convince me that Google cares (: )
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Here's my skimpy-ass schedule for SxSW Interactive so far.

When I attended two years ago, SxSW Interactive was already beginning to focus heavily on social networking, but there was plenty of content relating to other types of web development. There wasn't a lot of back end stuff, but it wasn't completely absent.

This year the majority of the panels concern gaming. Almost no technical panels were accepted on any topic. Few of those that were accepted relate to web development, especially not back-end stuff (and yes, the parts you can't see do matter, as anyone who has bought a car can tell you).

Something has definitely changed here. From my perspective, very much for the worse.

Full disclosure: I did submit a technical, web-related panel, and it was not accepted. Had they accepted dozens of technical panels by people smarter than me, I would have no complaint (or at least the sense not to utter it). But the all-but-complete disappearance of web tech from SxSW Interactive is bad news.

Don't get me wrong here, it looks like a pretty great conference for game project managers. But if that's not you... ouch.

Anyway, this year the tickets are booked and I'm on board. Austin is a cool town and a lot of other smart people are apparently going to be bored and looking for trouble. Who's up for counterprogramming an unconference? I'm told there is often a barcamp in Austin at the same time but I see no hint of its existence since two years ago. I'm aware of the coworking unconference, which is cool but not something I do very much. (Ironically this is because I have a great job working for the cofounder of a coworking space. You could say I cowork with my coworkers. You could also say that a tautology is a tautology.)

If nothing else evolves I'll get a metric shit-ton of work done by the pool with that awesome "SOUL" sign next to it. I'll be like James Joyce in "The Moderns," writing furiously in the corner, building the app that next year's conference is furiously redesigned to chase fruitlessly after (*). I'm down with it.

(*) Hey, I'm going to be among fucking awesome social media gurus. If I don't puff out my chest and blow my ego up to size I'll go entirely unnoticed

P.S. Hey, much more important, I plan to go salsa dancing while I'm in Austin. I'm sure I'm far from the only social dancer planning to attend. I did some research and got solid leads from a friendly Austinite (thank you Santos). Here they are:

Dallas Night Club on Burnet Road
Copa Bar and grill on Congress b/w 2nd and 3rd

Maria Maria
Copa Bar and grill
On Occasion UPTown Dance Studio has a salsa social

Gloria' at the Domain
Austin Sports Tavern
Copa Bar and Grill

On Occasion Ruta Maya, every other Sunday
On Occasion Go Dance Studio has a salsa social

(TODO: closer to the event, find out whether these "on occasion" things are happening and update this post for y'all)
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Dear Super Badrats,

I launched a new website yesterday. What Shall We... is an insanely simple way to plan dinner, drinks, a movie party, or pretty much anything that isn't formal with people that you place at least a little trust in. I'm gunning for a level of simple that just doesn't happen with tools that require accounts (who wants another account anywhere ever?) and limit the amount of input that your peers are allowed to give in the decision. I'm also shooting for realtime here - you can watch people vote and suggest stuff on the fly. Which hopefully encourages folks to stay involved and come to consensus on the decision.

Please give it a look-see and let me know what you think!

What Shall We...

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WRONG: "look at all these old business records and bits of office junk! How can I punish myself by disposing of them in a labor-intensive way?"

RIGHT: "I am the owner of a still-profitable business that has grossed $GOSHALOT dollars over the years under increasingly difficult circumstances, and a few hundred bucks in haulage and shredding fees is chump change. Pro-rate it in your head, dummy, and write that check with a smile. Next problem."
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I've been spoiled rotten with chocolate this winter.

Industrial-strength, not-for-amateurs, died-and-gone-to-heaven christmas cookies from mom...

A healthy portion of a Lore assortment courtesy of Roberta...

Francois Pralous 100% from [ profile] solestria...

And now this incredible thing:

(Keep clicking, zoom in, the detail is somethin')

Aesthetically amazing, almost too beautiful to eat. Fortunately I overcame my reluctance. There are asian flavors in these, subtle but unmistakable. Crazy.

(Many thanks to a friend of the office who sent these. If you ever get the chance to teach someone to fish, do it. With any luck they'll barter fish for chocolate. Or something.)
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Hi folks,

I've provided web hosting for some of you over the years.

As I notified everyone in an email a few minutes ago, I am exiting the web hosting business effective March 1st.

I've enjoyed providing web hosting, but it doesn't make economic sense for me anymore, nor do I have the time to provide the high quality hosting I think everyone deserves.

Of course (and Boutell.Com, Inc.) aren't going anywhere, but the site will be migrating to a managed virtual private server provider, and it will not be hosting other people's pages, email, or websites.

I recommend ServerGrove to anyone who is looking for hosting, whether you are moving from or not. They provide VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting for $19/month, and their VPSes come preconfigured for seriously great PHP work. You really can't beat that price in combination with professional support. I'll likely be moving to one of their bigger VPS packages.

If you know someone who uses my hosting service, please do us both a favor by tapping them on the shoulder and saying "hey did you read Tom's email? You know you need to move your website by March 1st or else, right?"

It's been a blast, and I'll miss playing host and sysadmin for many. But I've moved on to other challenges and, well, it's time. Many thanks to the hosting customers who have stood by me through the years!
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I've been yapping about our new content management system (that's funny talk for "super-easy-to-edit web site") for quite a while.

Finally you can play with a pretty demo!

Apostrophe Now

Check it out, let me know your thoughts!
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The Symfony plugins site has implemented a clever scheme of "I Use It" buttons. These let you share the fact that you're actually using a plugin, as long as you have a developer account, which anybody who's created or contributed to a plugin does.

If you're using any of my Symfony plugins, kindly vote for them. Thanks!
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I did more digging and enabled the google webmaster tools.

robots.txt isn't blocking anything (an empty Disallow: with no / does not block anything; the webmaster tools confirm nothing is being blocked by robots.txt).

It turns out our individual articles are being indexed, they just rank very low unfortunately. I never see them come up for When I do a "blah blah blah" search, I do get them. It looks like some of my earlier tests didn't verify this properly because I was looking for exact strings that were too long.

Good suggestions were made, notably setting up a sitemap and avoiding the "Permanent Link" prefix in titles. Removing dates from permalink URLs might also be a win. Right now we're saying "this stuff is deep, deep deep in a subdir and not as cool as the tags pages." But the tags pages aren't that great for search results because they change so much.

Thanks for the second and third and fifteenth set of eyes, guys.
boutell: (Default)
Actually Google loves this blog.

But Google hates and I can't figure out why. We don't have any nofollow attributes or similar, and our articles have permalinks. Yet Google bitterly resists delivering our actual articles as search results. It will deliver category pages or our home page as an (often out of date) search result, but not the articles themselves.

If you search for (with the quotes):

"frosted lucky tags: they're magically persistent"

You get pages linking TO my article, and you get one variation on our blog's home page, but you never get the article itself. Even though I linked to the article itself from this blog. Which, as I mentioned, Google likes just fine.

I thought perhaps Google was penalizing all individual blog entries in all blogs as too ephemeral to store, but nope. If I google for:

"Beijing is a bad place to be a cat"

(With the quotes), I get back the permalink to my LiveJournal posting of that title just fine.

What's the story, morning glory? (Mmm, Morning Glory. Now I want a buttermilk biscuit.)
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We're doing a lot of groovy stuff lately.

Two big things and one little thing:

1. pkContextCMSPlugin is a content management system written as a Symfony plugin. It emphasizes editor-friendly context-sensitive features. Double-click on content to edit, create and rename pages via controls in the breadcrumb trail, reorder pages by dragging them in the side navigation... as a general rule, we don't believe in dumb, ugly, modal admin pages.

2. pkMediaPlugin is a repository for images, and a meta-repository for video. (The video is actually hosted by YouTube. We plan to add support for more back ends, since they pretty much all have sexy APIs now.) pkMediaPlugin isn't just for Symfony developers; you can set it up in a Symfony project and then utilize the media repository you've created from other sites. You can easily create an interface to allow users to select media, put them in a particular order, and return to your application with that information. Then talk to our JSON-based API to find out everything there is to know about those images and videos. Then request them in any size and cropping style... and if you request that same version again, automatically get it delivered instantly by Apache as a static file.

3. We use a Campfire chatroom to keep up with what's going on during the day, and we use lots of Subversion version control repositories. So I wrote svncampfire, which provides updates in the chatroom when commits are made to folders we are about. Across several repositories, not all of which we control. If you have similar needs, check it out.

Is all this stuff in PHP? Yes. Does that mean you can't use it if you're not a PHP person? Well, you certainly don't need to be a PHP expert to benefit from svncampfire. pkMediaPlugin has a documented, RESTful API that responds with simple JSON objects, so you can use that too provided you're willing to set up a symfony PHP project to host it. pkContextCMSPlugin is for PHP developers (and their lucky clients) right now, but we're in the process of working out some exciting strategies to bring it directly to front end developers, and even directly to folks who don't know HTML and CSS.
boutell: (Default)
Hey guys, vote for me to sing at SxSW!

... Okay, I'd be singing in a karaoke contest at SxSW interactive.

But still! Please please please please take a moment to click the linky and vote for me! Only the top 20 vote-getters will actually get to sing.

Thank you!

(P.S. The wackiest part is that they invite you to vote as many times as you want...)

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