Northern Voice 2011 Lightning Talk - Why and how anybody can use flickr + HTML5 to quickly and easily write compelling mashups

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-04-13 11:32

HTML+CSS+JavaScript+flickr=awesome mashups for everyone aka it's the golden age of computing for everybody not just computer science majors so let's go for it!

Got ideas on a Northern Voice related flickr mashup I can do as part of my NV 2011 Moosecamp lightning talk (or in general, love to collaborate HTML5ish and flickrish for good  on something during the conference and after the conference as well) ? Leave 'em here as a comment or tweet @rtanglao or send me smoke signals :-). See you at Northern Voice 2011 in May!

Symbian Anna is the kind of revision that we needed to see about 1.5 years ago.

Submitted by Roland on Tue, 2011-04-12 08:39

I agree with Ewan. Symbian Anna is the kind of revision that we needed to see about 1.5 years ago. We'll see when we get the N8 firmware update (late this quarter or next quarter, too late!) to Symbian Anna if the browser is really modern and supports HTML5 and all the other browser goodies that Android, Maemo and iPhone browsers do; I think it does. Symbian Anna is a great update for those who live in a bubble and don't know about the move to Windows Phone 7 or Android or iPhone or if the phones that have Symbian Anna were priced really low e.g. under $200. Unfortunately the X7 is almost 400 Euro and doesn't have a decent camera instead it's the 8 megapixel EDoF camera (but perhaps normal people will be happy with a non auto-focus camera, call me crazy but in 2011 I don't think people will be happy with that camera)

Mozilla happenings: Firefox 4 + Spaces party on April 15th + Thunderbird team now part of Mozilla Corp

Submitted by Roland on Mon, 2011-04-11 07:59

Come join us for our big Firefox 4 party + Spaces party (how should we re-design our space to make it friendly for Open web compatible folks? We need your help figuring this out!). April 15, 5:30p.m. at 163 West Hastings 2nd Floor, RSVP on meetup, please! Free snacks, free drinks, free swag!

And I and the the rest of Mozilla Messaging have been integrated back into Mozilla corporation which means that after 2 Thunderbird releases  where we established our ability to deliver and assembled a fine team, we'll have better access to Firefox folks and resources (David's Future of Messaging Blog post explains it better).


Android is everything Nokia phones could have been

Submitted by Roland on Fri, 2011-04-08 09:42

Geeky, hard to use, but continually updated and getting better and tied to compelling services like Google Maps and gmail. That's my summary of Android after playing with my Nexus S. This could have been Symbian or Meego or Maemo in an alternate Nokia universe. Oh well. Hopefully Nokia survives Windows Phone 7 long enough to launch something that's a truly useful and compelling total mobile experience and that allows them once again to be master of their own destiny.

Real-time business critical metrics graphing for everybody

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-04-06 09:48

The cult of real-time metrics (in addition to big data) in Silicon Valley-style (Silicon Valley is now a state of mind and no longer just a place) startups now. Graph crucial and key metrics all the time and all in real-time ! I jest but it is valuable! Heretofore real-time metrics graphing has just been too hard unless you have the talent and experience of firms like Etsy to put the necessary infrastructure (graphing software, metrics collecting software, etc) in place.

However that difficulty is an opportunity that will be rapidly addressed (because real-time graphing is an itch that can be rapidly scratched by developers and it's helpful to companies' bottom line) and you can start to see this being addressed in projects like Simulchart.

In 1 hour I was able to get SimulChart graphing every 10 minutes the number of new Get Satisfaction Thunderbird  topics using some node.js code (this is not a business critical real-time metric; i have plans for other real-time Thunderbird metrics, stay tuned :-) !). That's the future! 1 hour to get a business critical metric graphed in real time without having to stand up home grown infrastructure like Etsy and flickr did.

If anybody knows of any other real time open source and/or free graphing toolkits or services, let me know!


MongoDB is my current persistent data structure store of choice aka "how to slurp your Get Satisfaction data into MongoDB"

Submitted by Roland on Mon, 2011-04-04 00:01

Got some data that you want to persist and manipulate but you are not sure what to do with it i.e. you are in exploratory or "side project" mode? Then MongoDB is a fine choice in 2011. Easy to get the data in and out and then when you have figured out what you want to do when you grow up :-) you can store it in a "real" database as well e.g. PostgreSQL. e.g. If you want to get your data out of Get Satisfaction or any other system with an API for backup and other purposes, check out my "hacked in an hour or two but I think it works", mongoUpdateSlurpGS ruby script. I used it to slurp in 20000 Get Satisfaction Thunderbird Topics and their associated replies and tags. If you want to do the same for your Get Satisfaction community, it's trivial to do: all you need is about 1 hour of a ruby (or other language,the code is pretty elementary) developer's time and some time to run the script.

Our French immersion kid hilariously calls the N8, l'iPhone de Nokia

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2011-04-03 08:17

And doesn't understand why the UI is not as responsive in general e.g when playing Angry Birds on the N8
or why the N8 Angry Birds sometimes displays black blotches instead of the correct graphics.

Ah the current sad state of computer software, hardware and experience where only a few companies like Apple can make a compelling, complete experience. (i.e. beyond the Fisher Price iPhone experience; I love Fisher Price Ewan, I also love computer power tools like Ubuntu and Emacs) . I am looking forward to trying out Android in depth but it feels like Linux before Ubuntu rather than a compelling experience that can compete with Apple's.

It's time for real total mobile experience innovation. One that isn't tethered to a PC. One that helps me manage my life without drowning in a sea of overlapping and confusing apps or "ad driven where my data is sold to the highest bidder" web apps.

Perhaps I'll just give in to my geeky nature and run my own powerful but hard to use server for services for my mobile like I run this blog on my own server.

We need to be honest with ourselves about traditional publishing & our entire society

Submitted by Roland on Sat, 2011-04-02 09:09

It's not just about digital publishing; it's about our entire society based on oil and motordom. And no, I don't have any easy answers :-) !

QUOTE from

I go through cycles of belief about the future of writing, of publishing, of the written word. But too much is broken to continue to pretend that the models we have become used to, the models of sales and distribution, of composition and recompense, of form and style, of reading and attention, can stagger on much longer.

This is the world we are living in and we can either lie to ourselves about it or we can dive headlong into the new forms and effects that it produces.


Hilarious bonus graphic about "Traditional Publishing":
The Traditional Publishing Bingo Card

My Quantified Bicycling Life

Submitted by Roland on Fri, 2011-04-01 08:02

dailymile bicycling stats feb-march 2011
I don't believe in the Quantified Self fad but I do believe in tracking how far I go bicycling. And the Cyclemeter iPhone App / Daily Mile social "workout" community does a great job as you can see in the screenshot above. I have turned off the CycleMeter feature which tells you if you are are "worse" or "better" than median or average because I don't believe in "racing" especially when commuting to work by bicycling; better to enjoy your bike ride rather than yak shaving about a few seconds here and there. Sure would be nice if there was a standard to share data among bicycling tracking apps so I could see all of my bicycling which is spread across Sports Tracker (700+ "workouts"), RunKeeper (176 "workouts") and now Cyclemeter (86 "workouts").

Next up in April or May: try the new iPhone or Android version of SportsTracker

N8's camera continues to amaze me - especially macro mode

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2011-03-31 08:01

Purple flower of Cedar Cottage - 032720114585
The N8 camera software is awkward and it pains me that the iPhone has become the social camera instead of the N8 or other much better cameraphones but I still am in love with the photos it takes like this macro photo of a flower in Cedar Cottage.

Color's idea for co-locative co-temporal automatic social network is great but Color's execution merits a D

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-03-30 07:55

After 6 days with Color here are some musings:

  • To me, the idea of a co-locative co-temporal automatically created without passwords and users social network aka "co-created photo and video commons" is great; not sure if that's mainstream, perhaps it will be
  • The App is flawed: no obvious way to browse by users, no help information, no tutorial (there is one on the website, but since this app-centric, there should be a tutorial accessible from the app!)
  • The App is flawed: no way to unfollow a user or at least delete a user's photos.
  • The App is flawed: no way to "unPost". Would be great to be able to delete your photo or video within 10 minutes of posting it.
  • There is no web presence. Why have a website if it doesn't have proper permanent links for each user? (is this unfriendly link my permanent link:
  • 10 second videos are cool, but 1 minute or ideally 1:30 like flickr would be great
  • Color is yet another social media ghetto where you can't get your stuff out with full metadata. Please follow flickr's example and provide an API that allows full metadata to be extracted along with the photos and video.

No obvious utility even to digital hipsters as evidenced by its lack of takeup; not everybody is an environment of iPhone and Android users who will try and both use this app. Color needs to promote themselves at conferences or events where lots of folks use the app (e.g. a geek conference with lots of iPhone & Android users; perhaps Northern Voice but probably not because it isn't iPhone and Android-centric) and thereby bootstrap their network. I think with the improvements above and heavy promotion at events with heavy Android and iPhone usage, it could be big, but there's no evidence that this will happen so far.

Conclusion: Great idea, D for execution. Color will not succeed but somebody else who's hungrier will take this idea and do it right eventually. A "co-locative co-temporal automatic social network" aka "co-created photo and video commons" will happen with or without Color.

Upgraded to Drupal 7 courtesy of the super skilled Richard Eriksson

Submitted by Roland on Mon, 2011-03-28 20:36

Now running Drupal 7 courtesy of Richard (thanks!), who I had the privilege to work with at Bryght and Raincity Studios. Richard, like myself, has been working with Drupal since 2004 (wow, has it been that long?) and he has a deep technical knowledge of both working with, and administering Drupal sites as well as debugging and writing Drupal code and modules. And Richard is a gifted trainer & educator as I've experienced first hand watching him working with social media newbies at Northern Voice and at Drupal events helping out Drupal novices.

We are the network: Local, live video, curation, aggregation - How I would have covered the Vancouver 2010 Olympics

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-03-09 19:34

tl;dr:Hindsight is 2020 :-) Funding + bandwidth + curation + live streaming with anchors & field correspondents using mobile streaming = a true dynamic people's network which goes beyond merely static text, photo & video blogging that we had in 2004 and 2006

I loved the grassroots coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics from the folks at the True North Media House. But as always :-) I wanted more. If I had the time, energy, and budget (I am looking at you CBC, UBC, and the educational institutions and organizations with money and staff !) here's what I would have done:

  1. Found the funds to provide massive bandwidth to True North Media House to truly make it a place for the rest of us to get our stories out on the Internet
  2. We are the network; we don't need to kowtow or reference the official VANOC sanctioned networks.
  3. With adequate massive bandwidth the people can provide their own network. By network, I don't mean some text blogs with some photos and videos posted hours or minutes later. I mean, wouldn't it have been excellent to have:
    1. Implemented a real live video network up 4-24 hours a day with rotating anchors from all the communities of the host cities (e.g. GBLTQ, Filipinos :-), East Van, South Van, every group in Metro Vancouver who has a voice!) merged (e.g. using CamTwist like software) with live mobile streaming video from mobile phones using Qik to get the local stories live as they happen on the ground) i.e. we don't need CNN, CBC etc.! With a studio with massive bandwidth and a few mobile phones with data plans and live streaming we can make a better grassroots, organic network !
    2. Implemented some modern aggregation technology like Managing News to aggregate social media and then getting local folks to curate and surface the local stories that others were missing or don't care about.

Nokia execs believed it couldn't do 21st century mobile phone experience hence Nokmsft & the move to Windows Phone 7

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2011-02-13 21:03

We will never know for sure. But that's my theory and if you look at the failures of Nokia Software [Symbian, Meego, Qt (sure Qt has made compelling apps like Skype and VLC but nothing mobile and when has anything cross-platform beside HTML, CSS and JS produced compelling experiences? and QML had potential but was beta), etc. ; only Ovi Maps is great, IMHO all other Ovi services and software were failures] it makes sense to believe that.

I choose to believe that there were and are Nokia folks who can do 21st century mobile experiences but they were let down by upper management and leaders (all leaders who were involved in the total Nokia mobile experience prior to February 11  should go in my armchair CEO opinion).

Perhaps Nokia with this WP7 aliance can pull it off. But just like Nortel whose leadership never really moved from their circuit switched and transmission mentality to the Internet mentality, I don't think the Nokia leaders can pull this one off. Love to be proven wrong by a resurgent "non RF, non embedded software" mindset Nokia that somehow manages (after a dark "interregnum" of WP7) to surge forward with something that is truly a compelling and unique mobile experience that I would pay my own money for.

Until then my money will go to other platforms like iPhone, Android and in the future hopefully WebOS.

February 11, 2011 shall henceforth be known as #Nokia #Microsoft Co-Dependence Day :-)

Submitted by Roland on Fri, 2011-02-11 00:13

My Blink Reactions to the Nokia Microsoft Windows Phone 7 announcement today:


N8 Review - Nice Camera, Shame about the Total Experience which hasn't progressed since the N80 of April 2006

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2011-02-10 23:25

N93 video camera app screen of death - Roland in Vancouver 054

tl;dr If you are the 1% who value a cameraphone with fantastic photos above total experience (user experience, dev experience, apps experience, etc), then the N8 is for you. For others who only require a decent camera and are  not cameraphone camera obsessed like I am, there are plenty of  alternatives in 2011 with better user, dev and apps experiences which I won't bother to name!

On the eve of Nokia's February 11, 2011 announcements, it seems appropriate to review the Nokia N8. For those who don't know I have taken over 50,000 photos with Nokia cameraphones (7610,N70,N80,N73,N93,N85,N82,N900 and now the N8) since I first bought my first Nokia cameraphone back in 2004, the Nokia 7610 a 1 megapixel cameraphone.

What I love about the camera:

  • The photos the photos the photos. Can't believe how great they are! Thanks!
  • Fastest shot to shot of any cameraphone I have ever used. faster than our Canon point and shoot.
  • Fastest auto-focus. Until the N8 I almost never used Nokia cameraphone focus, because it was too slow.
  • Best Sensor

In other words the hardware and the sensor and the embedded software of the N8 camera are unparalleled. Thanks to those at Nokia responsible for the hardware and the sensor and the embedded software. A+ !!!!

What is substandard about the camera is the software i.e. the Nokia camera application:

  • basically unchanged since the N80 in 2006.  Menus and user experience hasn't changed much since the N80 and N95 days back in 2006 and 2007. Over 5 years of wasted user experience improvement potential
  • Sometimes the camera app appears to crash and gives you a deceptive error message very similar to the one pictured above i.e. implying you need to restart the N8 to get the camera app working. This is deceptive and broken because you don't have to restart the N8; you simply have to quit and restart the camera app. Unacceptable that this has been appearing in Nokia camera apps since 2006

Substandard experiences of the current N8 pre PR 1.1  (I still haven't been able to upgrade to the newly released PR1.1):

  • Dev experience: doesn't work on a Mac or Linux as smoothly as Windows and there is no grassroots, innovative developer energy going forward with Qt. Get rid of the Mac and Linux versions or get them working properly and as smoothly as Windows. Qt is confusing and old school C++ without any of the refinement of other platforms. QML has great potential but is still not mature enough.
  • User Experience - Symbian^3 is much better than any previous Symbian on a touchscreen phone but it is still feels cobbled together and like a wart on a wart (power management and voice quality and true multitasking are the only exceptions which like awesome cameraphones nobody really cares about unfortunately!). And the primitive out of date web browser built-in to the N8 (I am aware that for PR 2.0 in March or April there will be an up to date browser, but "real artists ship" :-) !)  is an embarassment and very frustrating for users.
  • Apps Experience - I could go on and on about this but here is one example close to my heart: given Nokia's ridiculously large lead in cameraphones (at one point, Nokia was at least 3 years ahead of Apple and Android in cameraphone technology and software), it would stand to reason that there would be lots of great camera apps but there are none. It's really hard to use the OVI store and it's not built into the pre PR 1.1 firmware!


This is the golden age of computing, not the 1970s

Submitted by Roland on Fri, 2010-11-19 10:55

1977 - Love at First Sight - The PC That I used first - A Commodore Pet at Family friends somewhere in PA

As I said in my interesting Vancouver 2010 talk, this is the golden age of computing NOT the 70s and 80s like lots of folks seem to think. Write an awesome Javascript app (or just a fun proof of concept like my flickr Average Geo Tagged real time photos from 18 cities hack) and it works on millions of desktops and mobiles e.g.:Android, iPhone, Meego, Maemo, Mac, Windows and soon Symbian once Symbian gets a modern web browser. Share the code on github and make a video on YouTube and you can get recognition you could never get in the Internet less days of Creative Computing and Byte in the 1970s. Sure there are compatibility problems but nothing like the differences between Applesoft Basic, Commodore Pet Basic, Basic on the IBM PC (what was it called)?

DemoCampVancouver 12 was fab but my N900 Qik Videos weren't :-)

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2010-11-04 23:29

Really Enjoyed DemoCamp Vancouver 12 yesterday. Great Venue. Great energy from some great pitches and some great looking companies and ideas. Best yet. The only thing that could be improved is lighting for videos :-). Can we shine a light on the presenters next time? Just kidding! Some sample videos (I was able to stream about 16 or 17 including happy birthday to Justin of 49 pixels and all the pitches) after the jump of The Perfect Song and QuikPiq (randomly selected!).

I was disappointed by my N900 live-streamed Qik Videos:

  • The videos are too dark! But what can you expect from a cameraphone :-) Hope the N8 is better in low light. Or perhaps I should think of a portable light. Anybody know of a portable lighting solution?
  • I was also disappointed by the Qik application itself which seems to have lost (or maybe it's an N900 or Maemo bug) the 6 presentations that were buffered in the N900 Qik application but Windmobile couldn't stream fast enough in real time (probably because of Wind's nascent, un-tuned un-optimized 3G network and lack of base stations).


pitch from Quikpiq

pitch from The Perfect Song

The Revolution is not YET geo-tagged camera blogged aka In search of Das Blinkenlights

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2010-11-03 00:49

tl;dr: Surprised by the paucity of real-time geotagged photos on flickr. People seem to upload in batches many hours after the fact. Still looking for a cool real-time geotagged picture feed so I can do some Blinkenlights info visualizations in a web browser near you!

Real Time Average Colour of Geotagged photos of 18 cities after a few minutes

12:43am 27Oct2010 Snapshot of 18 Cities Real Time Average Color of Geotagged flickr

Real Time Average Colour Geotagged photos of 18 cities after a few hours

8:16am 27Oct2010 Snapshot of 18 Cities Real Time Average Color of Geotagged flickr

Since 2007, I have over 50000 21000 (29000 non geotagged) geotagged photos uploaded on flickr from cameras most in real-time or near real time (a few minutes to a few hours after they were taken). I expected in 2010 that there would be many real-time geo tagged obsessive :-) photo uploaders like me. Enough to power a cool Blinkenlights info visualization.

Well I was wrong :-) Based on the info viz (geoTaggedAvg18.html ; github source - tested Firefox 4, Chrome, iPhone 4, Android 2.1 - each dot is the average colour of a geotagged photo uploaded to 1 of 18 cities, there are 24 dots per row and then it wraps around after over 24) that I did in Javascript and HTML5 even in geo-tagging mad cities like New York and San Francisco and Vancouver, people don't upload geotagged photos in real-time to flickr (and I doubt elsewhere but love to be proven wrong, if anybody has a real-time updated photo stream with lat/long and an API that has more photos than flickr, please let me know:roland AT twitter:@rtanglao). They do it after the fact and they don't do many.

Probably because:

  • people are concerned about loss of privacy
  • uploading with GPS coordinates is too hard
  • GPSes are unreliable but getting more reliable every day
  • most people upload to social media ghettos like Facebook and Twitpic where most of their metadata including latitude and longitude is lost and/or not available via API instead of "full photos as social object with full-meta-data-preservation-and-APIs-to-get-the-meta-data" services like flickr

HD size with Street Chrome Version of 2010 Men's Gold Medal Hockey Day Geotagged Pics from Flickr

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2010-10-17 17:12

HD size with Street Chrome Version of 2010 Men's Gold Medal Hockey Day Geotagged Pics from Flickr

Each red, yellow or orange dot represents 1 geotagged cameraphone photo from folks on Flickr taken between 00:00 Feb 28 2010 PST to 11:59PM Feb 28 2010 PST. Over 2000 photos! generated by: 

(Works on Firefox 4, Safari 5, Chrome, Safari iOS 4 but not Firefox 3., github source)


  1. Granville and Robson truly were the epicentre of action that day!
  2. No photos uploaded from Granville Island
  3. No photos uploaded from The Drive - East Van was almost totally unaffected by the Olympics which corresponds with my experience. East of Gastown there was no Olympic visitors and not nearly as much buzz.


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