Archive for August 2007

Adding a "Subscribe" Bar to Your Blog

It makes me uneasy that such a huge number of people still visit blogs the old fashioned way: by checking them manually every now and then. This, of course, is in opposition to subscribing via RSS and then only clicking over when there is new content.

I am guilty of keeping an extremely unpredictable publishing schedule at Mike Industries, sometimes posting multiple times per week, and other times going almost a month without any new entries. For this reason, I wish all readers were subscribers. That way, no one would ever be greeting with old content.

In an effort to convert more casual readers to subscribers, and hopefully convert people onto RSS in general, I’ve developed a PHP-powered module which prompts users to subscribe to my feed if they aren’t already. Here’s how it works:

  1. If you come to Mike Industries and don’t have at least one of two cookies, you see a bar encouraging you to subscribe via RSS or e-mail. One cookie is the “subscriber” cookie while the other one is the “promptclosed” cookie.
  2. If a user clicks over to Mike Industries from my feed, I set the “subscriber” cookie. If a user manually clicks the “close this message” link in the module, I set the “promptclosed” cookie. Both cookies last for three months.

In order to accomplish this, you need to do a few things:

  1. Write some simple HTML to display your prompt message. Include it at the top of every page of your blog, hopefully using something like PHP so you only have to do it once. Using PHP, or your dynamic language of choice, set the message to only render if neither the “subscriber” nor the “promptclosed” cookies are set. Here’s what mine looks like:

  2. Modify the URLs in your feeds such that they pass a variable at the end like “how-to-make-a-margarita?subscribed=true”.
  3. Using PHP, or your dynamic language of choice, insert code right above the code in step 1 which checks for the presence of “subscribed=true” in the query string and sets the “subscribed” cookie accordingly.

* Note: If you are using Mint w/ BirdFeeder like I am, you can skip steps 2 and 3 and just add the following to Birdfeeder’s class.php right above the line that says header("Location:{$_GET['seed']}");:

Voila. That’s it. An unobtrusive message encouraging you to subscribe which goes away after you either subscribe or decide to close the message.

Interestingly, I got this idea while experimenting with Google AdSense several months ago. I only wanted to show the ads to casual passers-by (perhaps coming in through search engines) and not to Mike Industries subscribers. Now that we have the ability to set cookies and identify who is a subscriber, we can do all sorts of things. I can imagine a small subset of features on the site which are perhaps only made available to subscribers. Who knows. I like the possibilities though.

I just lost any respect I had for Nokia

If you can't beat them, copy the hell out of them.

Some great .htaccess and mod_rewrite examples

If Web Commenters Attended Business Meetings

Funniest video I've seen in awhile.

“It will completely change the look of the American highway, but not so much that anyone will notice.”

A great writeup about the evolution of the Clearview typeface.

Fantasy Football Spot Up For Grabs

Once again, the blogosphere’s trashtalkingest and most reprehensible fantasy football league, the IKNFL, is increasing its roster. We’re expanding to two leagues of 14 teams each this year, and there is an extra spot up for grabs. Past champions include D. Keith Robinson (2004), Jeff Croft (2005), and Wilson Miner (2006).

Personal transformations have been known to occur in winners, as can be witnessed by Keith’s opening of the highly successful Blue Flavor design and development studio, Jeff’s relocation from a rural chicken farm in Kansas to the city of Seattle, and Wilson’s remarkable metamorphosis from early Swiffer mop prototype to ladykilling heartthrob (see below).

Before IKNFL Championship:

After IKNFL Championship:

The IKNFL is $80 to join but the payouts are equally rich. We include individual defensive players and use a normalized scoring system that ensures every position on the field can score big. There’s a lot of trash talk so make sure you can take the heat before applying.

SO… if you’d like to join, all you have to do is leave a comment below requesting membership. As a simple test of your football knowledge, name who should be the #2 pick of the draft and why.

Gnomedex: No Stinkin' Badges

Chris Pirillo’s Gnomedex conference kicked off last night in Seattle and the turnout looked fantastic. Lots of people from out of town, and a great venue to boot. The thing that pleased me more than anything else at the pre-conference party though was the design of the conference badges. Gnomedex badges are big and bold, with visual real estate doled out in almost perfect proportions. I wrote about the issue of carelessly designed conference badges a few months ago, and upon congratulating Chris on his conference last night, he informed me that the Gnomedex badge design was inspired by that article. Hooray for design evangelism!

Below is a photo of the badges snapped by Laughing Squid:

Positives:

  • Attendee name is huge and readable from far away — set in Univers Helvetica Neue Condensed Black, an extremely legibile, yet space-efficient typeface.
  • Attendee’s blog URL (instead of company) is listed below name. A nice touch considering the subject matter of Gnomedex.
  • Title of conference and all other non-essential information is minimized.
  • Sponsor (Polar Rose) is all over the lanyard instead of mucking up half the badge.
  • Badge is two-sided.

Potential Negatives (Not many!):

  • http:// could theoretically be lopped off the blog URL to increase the size and readability of the URL, but one could argue the prefix adds geek appeal.
  • A commenter on my previous entry suggested perhaps emphasizing the person’s *given* name so you know what to call them. This is more important in other countries though where names don’t always follow the “call me by the first name you see on my badge” rule. Not really fair to call this a negative, but it would be a nice potential issue to solve.

Oh, and there’s another big positive too. This has got to be the coolest badge ever. Party only! –

Hacking the iPhone on an Intel Mac

The Wolf is a crazy man.

XRAY tool for web developers

Possibly the second coolest bookmarklet ever (behind Seed Newsvine)

Shared
How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
The iPhone and Disruption: Five Years In:

Take your pick of about 20 great quotes from this Daring Fireball article. My personal favorite:

The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.

sirmitchell:

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

The precision and innovation that is required for space exploration just blows my mind. I did not realize that Curiosity will have to basically land on Mars completely unaided by man, but it’s so much more complicated than that.