Do or Do Not.

Archive for the ‘Web’ Category

Managing Inputs

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I’m now eighteen hours into an experiment I’m going to be trying for the next week, until 11:59 pm on April 3, 2012: I’m not going to read any comic book news sites or sports news sites. This might not sound like a huge deal to you, but I have several comics and sports sites I visit many, many times each day entirely out of habit. My brain gets bored with whatever I’m working on and my fingers will just sort of automatically Control-D to my browser’s address bar and start typing in the address of one of these sites out of muscle memory. Rarely do I have any truly compelling reason to go check these sites.

Yet check them I do. Way, way, way too often.

Comic book sites are to me as this guy's boogers obviously are to him.

This is the thing about those far-too-frequent visits to Newsarama and and wherever else — I don’t think I actually enjoy those topics anymore. I rarely read comics (which is almost a shame, given that I now own an iPad) and I rarely watch football except during the playoffs. Yet I read about them constantly. I know tons about what’s going on with mainstream comics and tons about what’s going on in the NFL… but I don’t really care. I have gained this knowledge because I feel like I’m supposed to, because doing so is part of the definition of being Me. These are Things Allens Do — or have always done, but maybe shouldn’tdo anymore (or should do much less of, anyway).

If all I’m getting out of visiting these sites is a few minutes of distraction and not any real satisfaction or edification, then I’d rather get that distraction from somewhere that’s going to let me learn something new or let me productive in some (probably creative, possibly professional) way. At the very worst, I obviously need to up the number of sources from which I’m getting input. If I take that time each day that I spend keeping up with topics that don’t really matter to me anymore and instead devote that time to something I’m more interested in now — learning another language or writing or photography or design or music theory or or film criticism or what-have-you — then maybe I’ll actually make some traction at getting better or more knowledgeable at these other things, and become generally more awesome.

This is the hope anyway.

So what do y’all do when you’re needing a little brain-break and want to keep up with your varied interests? I’m on the lookout for new inputs — educate me. :)

Written by Allen

March 28th, 2012 at 2:03 pm


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My impressions after less than twenty-four hours of playing with the newly-launched (and still thus far fairly sparesly populated) Google Plus:

  • It’s not Facebook. I know that sounds simple and snarky, but I’m serious. I really, really don’t like Facebook, but I can’t deny how useful it’s been for keeping in touch with people, especially people who haven’t been an everyday part of my life for a long time. I don’t trust Facebook and I don’t like what they stand for. I’m on far friendlier terms with Google, and (whether I should or not), I trust them way more.

  • The interface is dead easy. Assigning people to your Circles is almost (gasp) fun. It’s so easy to create different Circles for the different types of people in your life that I’m actually having trouble deciding on the best strategy for partitioning my friends. Uploading and sharing pics? Easy, especially from my brand-new Android phone with the Google Plus app installed.

  • I love that Google Plus is not one website — it’s a combination of tools readily available throughtout the apps you already use. You can post from Gmail, from Google Calendar, from the main Google search results themselves, almost from wherever you’re already using Google. And most people, I’d wager, already use Google a lot. That sort of no-brainer accessibility might be the thing to really make this catch on.

  • I’m looking forward to getting more friends from more parts of my life onboard. Right now, most of the people I have on there are local friends, which isn’t surprising giving how geeky that batch of friends is. But one of Facebook’s big draws is that everybody is on there, and I can’t wait for the Google Plus population to explode. I think it’s coming; I don’t think they’re going to wait long before opening it up to everybody.

  • So far, It feels more conversational and interactive than Facebook does to me. And this might just be my particular group of friends using it, I’ll admit. I’m curious to see if that continues. I certainly hope it does.

If you’re in the “field test” already, what do you think of Google Plus? And if we’re not already connected on there, please feel free to add me to one of your Circles.

Written by Allen

June 30th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

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My New Twitter Handle Is No Less Terrific

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Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably I noticed I changed my name there yesterday from @HMXMrTerrific to the simpler and easier-to-type @AllenHolt. I don’t want to alarm anyone with the change — sorry if I made you nervous, @MrPope — so I figured you deserved an explanation. (Yes, I’m going to manage to be wordy about something as relatively inconsequential as a Twitter handle.)

@AllenHoltFirst off, no, I am most definitely not leaving Harmonix. I love it here way way too much. I’m giving up the “HMX” tag in front of my name mainly because I don’t really do anything to represent Harmonix on my feed, so it doesn’t feel quite right to use it. I’m not exactly the face of the company, y’know? While I do indeed quite happily promote Harmonix whenever I can via Twitter (or anywhere else), it’s not explicitly part of my job. The people on our fantastic Community team, the ones who actually deal with the public as part of their day-to-day jobs and represent Harmonix at massive public events… they’re completely justified in prefixing their handles with “HMX.” And we have several other people who have become something like “faces of HMX” who also benefit the company by using the tag.

Honestly, though? I only had the “HMX” tag in there because I was showing off the fact that I work at Harmonix and wanted people to think I’m cool. I still want people to think I’m cool, of course, even if I’m really not — but now I want them to have that mistaken notion based on my own merits and not those of the awesome awesome company for which I work.

So why did I change it? Well, as mentioned above, “AllenHolt” is a helluva lot easier to type and spell (and even read) than “HMXMrTerrific.” More importantly, though: I want to build the “brand” of my name. And oh em gee, bee tee dubs, do I hate thinking of what I’ve done as “brand building” because that thought has the stink of synergistic revenue-enhacing marketing douchebaggery all over it… but, really, that’s exactly what I’m doing, so if the stinky shoe fits, I’ve gotta wear it.

Someday, probably in the not-that-far-off future, I’m going to want to do something where having my name established is going to be important. I’m not completely sure what just yet, but I wanted to put another stake in the virtual ground to say “Hey, this is me.” My full, real name was available on Twitter, so I wanted to take it now before some other Allen Holt decides to try to build his online brand with it.

I’ve always been loathe to self-promote because it’s always felt like Not Me. In fact, people who constantly pimp themselves have historically tended to rub me the wrong way (not in a personal way, just in an “ew” way). But I get it now. See, this is the thing: if I don’t promote myself, no one else is gonna. I can’t wait to be “discovered” like aspiring Hollywood starlets in the ’40s. It’s not anyone else’s job to tell people to read my stuff or to look at what I’m doing. If I want to build a name for myself, I have do A) do Cool Things and Good Work and B) tell people about it. A) must come before B) in this scenario, but there’s no reason I can’t get B) set up while I’m still developing A).

So that’s what I’m now working on. I’m still not doing enough Cool Things just yet, but I’m thinking and trying and planning, and Ideas are hovering about the hazy horizon in my brain. Basically, changing my Twitter handle was just an early step in a long and still vague plan for eventual World Domination. Or at least World, um, Networking and/or Self-Promotion. Nothing to be worried about!

(And hey! You should be following me on Twitter if you’re not already!)

Written by Allen

June 2nd, 2010 at 10:00 am

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Pardon Our Dust

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OK, yes. The site has done gone ugly. Not that it was necessarily beautiful before, but it’s even uglier now. Really, it’s not you — it’s me.

I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week at An Event Apart in Boston, a conference for web developers. Several luminaries in the web design and development field — people whose blogs I’ve been reading for years — presented talks, and the conference did exactly what it was supposed to do, what I’d hoped it would do: it got me re-energized about web development. I realized that I really do enjoy building websites, even if I’ve been more than a bit bored with the specifics of what I’ve been doing lately.

I hope to have more to say on this topic soon, but for now know that my site’s uglification is part of a project. One of the concepts I took away from the speakers at the conference was rooted in the Japanese term kaizen, or “progressive and continual enhancement.” That means…well, okay it means sort of the exact opposite of what I’m doing, but bear with me for a minute. Kaizen means I don’t have to pull down an entire design and start from scratch: I can make small, subtle changes over time. I’ve already begun doing this to Moviegeekz and Mother Mirth, Terry’s site.

For this site, though, of all my sites…I need to have my own design here rather than use a stock theme, which is what I was doing. So I scrapped that theme and I’m starting with nothing. I currently have no style or design on this site. And over time, I’m going to make progressive changes and build it up into something which hopefully won’t suck. I’m designing in the public eye, to some degree: I’ll put up here whatever I have whenever I’m done working on any particular bit. It won’t always look good — it sure doesn’t right now — but hopefully when I’m done it’ll be something I can be proud of. And I plan to document some of what I’m doing.

I have no idea how long this’ll take to do, especially since it’s not really my main focus. I won’t be offended if you read what I write here in an RSS reader for awhile. But I hope that the project will be interesting and that you’ll check in from time to time to see how it’s going.

Written by Allen

June 25th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Web Development

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Quick Bits for April 10

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  • Congratulations to my buddy Jeff Newberry on the birth of his new son, Ben. Ben entered this world on April 9 and immediately rolled off an impassioned version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s cover of “Little Wing” on the miniature Stratocaster Jeff paid dearly to have the doctors insert into his wife’s womb. I hear tell she was not happy about that procedure, and less happy to have to birth the guitar as well as her son, but obviously all worked out well in the end. Congrats, Jeff and Heather, and welcome to the world, Ben!
  • Superhappy 38th to Tim “Timmy B.” Bishop, who carries in his head the entirety of the info what can be found at and then some. Only 731 more days until we get into whatever debauchery you decide is appropriate for your 40th, homes. You’d best get to plannin’.
  • Want some help reading your way through the interwebs more quickly? Check out Spreeder, a handy little tool which scrolls chunks of text by your eyes at whatever size and speed feels comfortable to you. They’ve also got a handy bookmarklet so you can select a hunk of text, click the link and go straight to reading said hunk at speeds heretofore undreamed of by man. Or at, like, 500 words per minute, anyway.
  • Next time I need a lawyer, I know exactly who I’m hiring to represent me: Lawyerbear.  Let’s just see the judge try to haul me off for contempt of court next time!  Ha!  Not with Lawyerbear on my side!
  • I’m not sure I have much to add to the Kathy Sierra conversation that hasn’t been said to death already, but there’s one big question that’s been bugging me: why her? What about Kathy’s site — one which existed only to help its readers, to inspire them and help them create products that would work better for their users — could inspire the hatred and death threats that ended up directed toward her? She doesn’t seem to be a particularly controversial figure and didn’t put forth the kinds of vitriolic political screeds which engender flame wars, even modest ones — especially not when compared with so many other prominent bloggers toward whom these hateful people could have targeted their bile. I haven’t read enough on the topic yet, and I’ll admit that I don’t know all sides of the story (though the pro-death-threat side would have to work awfully hard to convince me of their rightness), so please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here. But from what I know of the situation, the answer seems to be: these people essentially destroyed a meaningful chunk of Kathy Sierra’s life because she’s a woman, and because they could. That sickens me. (I’m feeling a larger First Amendment post brewing. Stay tuned.)
  • On a directly related note: The Blogger’s Code of Conduct? Yeah, good luck with that.  Getting more than a couple of bloggers to agree on anything is like counting grains of sand in the Sahara — practically impossible and ultimately futile.
  • Also, this seems like a great time to link to one of the most insightful and profound Penny Arcade strips ever.

Written by Allen

April 10th, 2007 at 10:18 pm

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