Today, Duncan Davidson open-sourced his really well-done IO Theme on Github. As you can see, I already have it running here. There are a few issues to be worked out, so in the spirit of open source, I would encourage you to set it up on your tumblr and report any issues you encounter. Better yet, submit a pull request with a fix! Thanks for the great work Duncan.
Today I had the pleasure of being a guest at the DETAILS Tech & Tastemaker Summit. There was a thought provoking panel which featured Megan Collins (Style Girlfriend), Nick Wooster, Sean Sullivan (The Impossible Cool), Lawrence Schlossman and Tommy Ton.
Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean, who moderated, mentioned reading an article about a kid named Johnny, whose biggest aspiration was being a “sports blogger”. This sparked some back and forth about people aspiring to be bloggers and whether their goals should be higher.
As the panel concluded, I kept thinking about Johnny the aspiring sports blogger. Johnny is most likely from a generation that has never read a physical newspaper, nor does he make a distinction between someone who writes for the web vs. print. What I hear when Johnny says he wants to be a sports blogger, is that he wants to be a sports writer.
When I looked to the stage, I didn’t see great bloggers, I saw great content creators. While the medium of our message isn’t something we should ignore, we are too focused on how the content is being delivered as opposed to the content itself. Once we do that, we will move beyond the blog.
Photo by FICODOFICIAL.
Kevin Spacey has a very unique view on content distribution. His hit series, House of Cards, is distributed to viewers not on a traditional network but directly by Netflix, a network in the newest sense of the word. He recently spoke at the Edinburgh Television Festival, urging television networks to give their viewers greater control. While watching House of Cards on Netflix, viewers can choose to watch one episode a week or binge watch the entire season in one sitting. The key is, the viewer gets to choose. Spacey concludes:
The audience wants the control. They want the freedom. If they want to binge … we should let them binge.
This is in stark contrast to the traditional media model of scheduling our consumption for us. Whether it is one new television episode per week, or one magazine per month, the publisher decided when the consumer could consume. Now that consumers, especially the younger generation, are so accustomed to getting their content on demand, publishers trying to cling to a more traditional model risk being left behind.
From A Publishing Perspective
These issues are not confined to the medium of television and film. Publishing has been dealing with the very same subject. I asked Laura Ongaro, Deputy Editorial Director of Rodale International (though these views are her own), what she thought about the publishing industry in this transitional moment.
MD: On one end, we see Netflix releasing an entire series like House of Cards as a batch, and on the other, news being published as it happens and “old” by the time the daily paper hits newstands. Where do you think magazines, publishing an issue once a month, fit in?
LO: A lot of magazines are doing a great job when it comes to the “now”— the daily publishing and breaking news. The success of digital-only brands like Buzzfeed, Refinery29 or DailyCandy means more and more “magazine” sites are focusing on creating new, original, time-sensitive content rather than recreating the leisurely magazine experience online.
But what magazines are really known for is that leisure. What are our options when we want to sit back, relax and read for a few hours? Currently, we can choose from the print magazine or the digital edition, both of which are published once a month, and were written and edited three months before they landed on our laps. That experience feels outdated, at least to me.
The beauty of technology is it can help us get past these hurdles. From a consumer perspective, I see no reason a great piece of journalism should be tied to a print product’s production cycle, when I could be downloading it on the brand’s app at my convenience. The NY Times app is great for that reason: it updates when the story is ready, not when the paper hits your doorstep.
So yes, the entire industry has a ways to go. Somebody has to take the risk and build the technology, reconfigure their staffs, convince the advertising community, get the audience to buy in, and still make a profit (because after all, it is a business). I think we’ll see it sooner than later.
MD: Traditionally, many publishers have paid a great deal of attention to the distribution medium when creating content, even going so far as to have teams dedicated to digital, print etc. Do you think it continues to make sense to operate in this way, or should they silo those concerns into how do we create the best possible content, and how do we most effectively get this content to our readers?
LO: I’ve seen things on this front really evolve recently, to where editors really are creating content for all the mediums. As editors and experts in our “beats,” we are now not only required to know how to write for print, but also how to write for the web, optimize for search engines, write a great tweet to promote the article, conceptualize a video component, host a sponsored Google Hangout, and a long list of digital add-ons. We are a generation of journalists that went to school to learn how to write for print, and are learning the rest every day in our jobs.
Building the technology, reconfiguring staffs, convincing advertisers; these are not insignificant issues that need to be resolved, yet I believe we are already well on our way. Just the fact that we have the option to spend our entire weekend binging on House of Cards shows that we are moving in the right direction. Now, when does Season 2 premiere?
Often times, I inadvertantly leave Adium running at home and when I get to the office, there are two of me connected. The best case scenario is that I am just nervous that I might miss a message, but at worst I may be missing something important. Either way, it would be ideal if Adium was no longer running in the other location.
To quit Adium on a remote machine, first SSH to the box, and then run the following script from the command line:
osascript -e 'tell application "adium" to quit'
I have spent a lot of time working to get content structured semantically. I would like to think that I practice what I preach, and one benefit of maintaing the data that supports the schedule features in GameCal is that since it is structured data, I can syndicate the content in many different formats. Today I am publishing an iCal calendar feed for the Gator Football schedule. You can subscribe to this feed from your calendar of choice including Apple’s or Google’s. It’s time to get excited for football season. Go Gators!
More on Content Strategy: Preparing Your Content for Today
If you are interested in my assistance with your content strategy needs, please contact me at arkic.
In the past, I have spoken about configuring Varnish with your Drupal site.
Varnish stores web pages in memory so the web servers don’t have to create the same web page over and over again. The web server only recreate a page when it is changed. Additionally Varnish can serve web pages much faster then any application server is capable of - giving the website a significant speed up.
Another caching technology that is often used as a compliment to Varnish is Memcached:
Memcached is an in-memory key-value store for small chunks of arbitrary data (strings, objects) from results of database calls, API calls, or page rendering.
In the world of Drupal, Memcache is most often used as a more efficient replacement for database caching. Redis, which is an advanced key-value store, can be thought of in this context as a drop-in replacement for Memcache.
Is It Time to Ditch Memcache for Redis?
Memcache has served us well, but recently, I have begun to replace it with Redis on the sites that I manage. It offers what I see as two big benefits over Memcache:
- Persistence. Redis offers a wide range of persistence options that can be configured to meet the needs of your site.
- Powerful data types (strings, lists, sets, hashes, and sorted sets).
Either one of these could be the killer feature for you, but in my experience, for sites with large amounts of editorial data and not-insignificant caching concerns, the possibility of persisting that cached data is what gets people excited. If you restart Memcache, the data store is going to be empty when it starts back up since all of the data is stored in volatile memory. While this can sometimes be convenient when troubleshooting, in the real world this could bring your site to a crawl. The ability to restart your Redis server, whether it’s voluntary or otherwise, and not worry about having an empty cache is worth the price of admission on its own.
Implementing Redis with Drupal
So how do we get this going? Here’s a secret, it’s even easier then setting up Memcache.
- Install Redis on your server.
To install Redis on Ubuntu run the following commands:
apt-get install redis-serverAlso: Instructions for installing Redis on CentOS.
Configure Redis. Below is an example redis.conf configuration. For more detailed instructions on configuring Redis, Linode has a great guide.
- Download and install the Redis Drupal module. If you are running Drupal 6, you will also need to install the Cache backport module.
- Install one of the PHP Redis libraries. The two recommended options here are Predis and PhpRedis. The Drupal Redis module contains specific installation instructions for each of these libraries but the next step contains instructions for Predis.
Configure your Drupal site to use Redis/Predis for caching instead of the Drupal cache database tables.
$conf['cache_backends'] = 'sites/all/modules/redis_cache/predis.inc';
$conf['cache_class_cache'] = 'RedisPredisCache';
$conf['cache_class_cache_menu'] = 'RedisPredisCache';
$conf['cache_class_cache_bootstrap'] = 'RedisPredisCache';
You can also configure any other bins you deem necessary. Predis will attempt to connect to localhost by default, but if you have set up Redis on its own server, point it there:
$conf['redis_cache_uri'] = 'tcp://22.214.171.124:1234';
Between its powerful features and its simple setup, Redis can be an attractive alternative to Memcache for Drupal caching. Feel free to jump on in the deep-end with Redis for the next site you build or run it in parallel with Memcache for an existing site. You can switch between the two with just some small changes to your settings file until you are comfortable moving to Redis completely.
If you are interested in my services to help you build or scale your Drupal site, please contact me at arkic.
After three memorable years, today is my last day at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. I am leaving to take on new adventures; read: self-employed.
What I Will Miss
The people; never have I been surrounded by a more dedicated, passionate group. Whether it was those I had the pleasure of leading, working beside or reporting to, it was a great thrill working next to them every day and I will miss this group tremendously. In technology, there is always more to do, but I believe that the team is in much better shape now then when I joined it in 2009, and I hope I can claim some small part of that transformation.
Not to mention, working at Martha Stewart was always a good conversation starter. It made a tech conversation approachable to those whose eyes would glaze over when anyone would otherwise say, “I’m a software developer,” and would of course always lead to interesting questions about the boss. If we have a beer together I will share some stories, of course, that’s just like any job.
Say You Don’t Know, And Then You Learn Everything
I’ve always said that I would not be fulfilled in my work if I wasn’t learning something new every day, and I have learned plenty during my time at MSLO. Most of all, I think I have learned a great deal about myself; how to lead, how to manage, how to plan, how to succeed, and how to fail. Most of all, I have learned that I have a lot more to learn. When I was weighing the pros and cons of striking out on my own, the biggest reason I had not to go was that I was afraid to fail. I decided, that would be a terrible reason to stay.
I will focus on some personal projects including City Notes, which I founded in 2012 with writer Dan Frommer, as well as taking on some challenging client work. If you are interested in my services, please do reach out to me at arkic.
Karen McGrane Keynote - Drupalcon Portland
Karen McGrane gave a fantastic keynote at Drupalcon Portland this week titled, Thriving in a World of Change: Future-Friendly Content with Drupal. Unsurprisingly, Karen was able to boil down some of the most salient issues that publishers are struggling with, whether they realize it yet or not.
It’s Not Just About Responsive
— Mark Dorison (@markdorison)
Many of us have jumped on the bandwagon of responsive design (for good reason!), but this is just where the battle starts, not where it ends. Determining how to correctly structure our content is not a particularly hard problem to solve; however, it will take a concerted effort from all parties who have a seat at the table. The details are going to be different with every content library and it will take some work, but what’s much harder is the willingness to set out on this journey. Which brings us to…
Team Blob vs. Team Chunk
— Mark Dorison (@markdorison)
When we talk about blobs vs. chunks, we are referring to the differences between giant blobs of WYSIWYG formatted HTML as opposed to individual fields for different parts of a piece content complete with metadata. Editors love blobs (of course they do)! All those chunked fields are confusing and there is always something that they want to accomplish that it restricts them from doing.
— Mark Dorison (@markdorison)
Many editors prefer one giant blob field as they can just drop their content in one field and be done with it. This may even accomplish their immediate goal of marking up the content for what it will look like on the desktop version of their web site. Nevertheless, they are doing themselves a huge disservice. If they don’t realize this yet, they will the moment they have the have an opportunity to syndicate or distribute their content to another site, application or service, and all the data is in one giant blob. The fact of the matter is, if they wait to chunk the data, someone is going to have to go back and clean it up, most likely at a high cost. We need to inspire and educate our partners in (content) crime about the rewards that this work will reap.
Future-friendly & Accessible
— Larry Garfield (@Crell)
Another compelling reason to be on “Team Chunk” is how accessible it will make your content. Screen readers and devices such as the iPhone do an amazing job enabling content for visually impaired users. If your content is structured semantically and without unnecessary markup, this gives you the best chance at delivering your content to clients’ devices in the most accessible way possible.
Why the WYSIWYG Needs to Go
President of the WYSIWYG haters club, @karenmcgrane says “The web is not a laser printer.”— John Albin Wilkins (@JohnAlbin)
If graphic designers can give up pixel-perfect design, content managers can give up WYSIWYG. #DrupalCon— Avi Schwab (@ajschwab)
The battle against pixel-perfect expectations from our design colleagues has come a long way in the past few years, but we also need to be having this dialog with our content managers. It is our job to help our editors understand the great benefits in disconnecting what they see in the CMS from what is presented on a rendered web page. Most of these content workers are working on desktop computers, so it is important to reinforce the idea that the desktop HTML rendering of their site is but one of many potential destinations for the content they manage in the CMS. If you work with content managers that don’t show an interest in how their content is going to be presented beyond a desktop web page, you may have a serious problem.
The Part Where We Get Excited
This discussion is no longer theoretical. We have quickly moved from a world where we may have known strategically that it was a good idea to structure our content well without tactical use cases; now, we can’t escape them. As we go about our days encountering screens from the small (smartphones and tablets) to the large (connected televisions, all the way to billboards), we see first-hand all of the destinations that our content needs to travel to. The sooner we get our content structured cleanly and discretely, the sooner we can put it to work. Karen put quite a bow on it with this:
The web isn’t print. We’ve got millennia of history creating print documents where there’s no distinction between content and form, and only about 20 years of web publishing experience. This is a Gutenberg level transition we’re going through here.
What are you doing to help affect this change? I’d love to hear about it on Twitter.
- Thriving in a World of Change: Future-Friendly Content with Drupal – Keynote video, slides and transcript.
- Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane. (Amazon, iBooks)
- Deblobbing your chunks: Building a flexible content model by Jeff Eaton.
Photos x Brookelyn Photography. More on her site.
On May 4th, 2013, I married the love of my life, Nic Screws. It took a lot of help from some amazing people to pull it all together. Thank you all for being a part of our very special day!