Pet Adoption, Debt Clock WordPress Plugins

I recently released two simple WordPress plugins:

This creates a simple pet adoption search form in a widget on your WordPress site. Once you enter a postal/zip code, you're taken to results on Adopt-a-Pet.com where you can look for a homeless dog, cat or other animal waiting for your love. (Yes, I've worked a lot in the past with Adopt-a-Pet.com, but this plugin is not affiliated with or endorsed by them, I just created it for fun and to promote pet adoption.) Pull requests welcome.

This creates a simple widget display of the current U.S. national debt, based on the latest data available from the U.S. Treasury. If you want you can animate the number so that it is increasing/decreasing on the page according to recent changes in the actual debt. Pull requests welcome.

 

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I'm joining Automattic

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbOne of the main reasons I get excited about Internet technologies is that they amplify the power of the written word and other kinds of creative publishing. Modern online tools enable bloggers, software developers, poets, journalists, novelists, chefs, filmmakers, marketers, photographers, artists, scientists, organizers and many other kinds of people to bring their creations to the world, at a constantly decreasing cost. And even through all of the cultural transformations we've seen spurred on by the Internet, the power of the written word remains - publishing can still change minds, start movements, spark connections, capture beauty, reshape lives.

Next week I'm joining Automattic, Inc., the company that makes WordPress, runs WordPress.com, and provides a bunch of other publishing-related tools and services. I'm joining the WordPress.com VIP team as a full-time VIP Wrangler, where I'll be helping to provide support, hosting, training, and other services to some of the biggest and best WordPress sites on the web (NY Times, TED, CNN, Time and more).

There are many reasons I'm excited about this, including:

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Getting specific about local government transparency

Magnify Glass and MoneyThe idea that we need more transparency in conversations about the future of the city of Richmond, Indiana, especially from government entities and other influential community building organizations, seems to be gaining traction. That's a good thing!  I wrote just a few months ago during Sunshine Week about how important this is.

At the same time, I'm seeing the word "transparency" used in a lot of different ways, some of which skew the meaning in unhelpfully, possibly harmfully.  I've also had a few people ask me for specific ideas of what more transparency might look like in this community.

So, while I've no illusion that any definition I suggest here will be broadly accepted, I think it's worth trying to clear away some of the fog about what kinds of transparency we (those whose futures are intertwined with that of the city) could expect and ask for from our leaders.  I also think it's worth taking stock of how well Richmond leaders are doing at being transparent.
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Local opportunities to benefit from technology alternatives

Lest we not forget the times when using expensive proprietary hardware and software without exploring more open alternatives comes back around to bite us in the rear, I thought I'd highlight two issues currently being mentioned in the local press.

1) The Pal-Item reports on a meeting happening today about technology in schools:

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My VOIP home phone setup using trixbox

004 1I've generally been content not having a physical phone line at home and using my cell phone instead. I'm not much of a phone person anyway, my back yard looked a lot nicer when Verizon cut down the unsightly cable, and it's certainly a cost savings. But sometimes, I still long to have a regular old phone sitting on my desk that I can pick up and make a call on. Recently, for various reasons, I've been playing with having just that setup, but with a twist: my new home phone setup is run on open source software, and the conversations are carried over my broadband Internet connection.

Here's my configuration (perhaps mostly for geeks, but hopefully also for anyone who's interested):

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Switchers Everywhere

There's a whole lot o' switchin' going on. I spent some time last night helping one of my recently-moved-in housemates, Damon, set up his new PowerMac G4, which is his first real experience with Mac and OS X, coming from the world of Windows. I was able to re-live my own excitement of that first switching boot-up a few years ago, and as I took him on a tour and showed him New Ways of doing things (including the Firefox browser) our session was filled with Damon exclaiming things like, "you mean, that just works?" and "oh my gosh that's pretty" and "I'll never use another f#@$@! PC again". Okay, so maybe I said some of those things too. 🙂 And then this morning as I was listening to NPR, the 7:50 story was about the increasing popularity of Apple, Macs, and the rumors that bubble up around the forthcoming Macworld Expo. The 7:56 story was about Firefox, the browser that I use exclusively these days because it is faster, better, and helps me browse ad-free...it really does everything I want it to (a surprisingly recent development in the world of browsers from my standpoint). The NPR story used the key phrases: "open source movement" and "eating away at Microsoft's market share". It's fun to see smarter/faster/better at work and taking hold in a world that often prefers mainstream-but-broken.