Trail Fire

I came across Trailfire recently. I am not usually taken in by these social bookmarking things, but I have to admit I am finding this incarnation of 2.0 widgetty goodness quite compelling. All the other social bookmarking tools out there promote the individual webpage as the most important aspect of a good find. They don’t celebrate the trail to get there.

Trailfire celebrates the trail.

Invoking this quick to use plug-in for Firefox or IE I can blaze a trail through the Internet (they call them ‘marks’, but ‘blazes’ is more accurate in trail building lingo and has an energy that ‘marks’ and ‘marking’ just doesn’t–I’m calling their marketing guys), at each stop recording my thoughts on a particular page–why I blazed it. Find a page, blaze it; find the next page, blaze it; then a few more pages till I have an entire saved and named trail for others to follow. I send you the URL that tracks the path I just created or link to it in a post. This new trail guides you through a particular argument I might be trying to make or just a series of related topics I have strung together for your pleasure. And if you happen to think that I have a knack for trails that suit your tastes you can find them here.

My first reaction is that this tool will be a great way for teachers to organize a guided Internet curriculum for students, but the truth is that it’s great for anyone who wants to give context to their content or just to highlight more than one interesting page at a time. Sure, you could blaze an extended brainfart of unrelated topics and pages, but why would you? Out here in the real world trails go somewhere or at the very least by something interesting. I think the natural inclination of electronic trailblazers will be to do the same thing: catalogue a series of pages into a contextual setting like an argument or a tour or a lesson.

Per the web 2.0 rules, it’s in beta. But this feels like a true beta not just a moniker add-on for trendiness. I am looking for:

  • java script, so you can find my latest or most popular trails on my blog
  • voting for trails
  • blaze caching
  • trail tagging or categorization of some kind
  • RSS feeds for my trails; they have RSS for the individual trails, but how often would I update those?
  • pre-made buttons or images for embedding with links and more importantly branding

In true beta, they are soliciting feedback on features from users. Not openly mind you, but via reply emails. I sent a note about the first and last items on my list and got a personal note back asking me to describe what I wanted. This post will be my reply, so let’s see how that goes–I think it will go well.

Here are my ideas:

Embed Script
I like the simple stuff. Just a list of the Top 5 Trails I created. With options on most recent, most popular, or by category so I can create trails to match my blog content. For the folks that like a bit more flare in their widgets I would think that something that rotates or scrolls or displays the screenshots of the blazes would be fun.

I hope I don’t have to elaborate that.

Blaze Caching
Basically a FURL like feature so that if your domain dries up my trail won’t.

I don’t much use categories, but I do like their more flexible cousin tagging. But it seems like its easy enough to have both. Searching the trails currently is a bit hit and miss without a better sense of where you might be headed.

RSS for Trails
You can get a feed for updates to an existing trail, but not as far as I can tell for a particular user’s list of trails. This seems like a great thing to have because if I find that someone has the same tastes as I do, I want to know what new trails they are blazing.

Good God don’t make me start having to do the branding. Get me a standard button I can throw into a post with a link the the apposite trail so that users can get used to seeing them. This is the most bang for the buck marketing-wise.

One A few I whipped up:

trailfire plain

My trails so far:

Update to my wish list
The ability for followers to comment on the original comments rather than on the page itself (if it even offers such).

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Resistance is Futile

They say that your post title ought to be indicative of the content of your post. And not in an obscurely apposite way.

Today I seem to be the bitch of internet spammers spoofing addresses from my domain and pounding the innocent and unsuspecting into submission with grammatically challenged billing information and cobbled ‘invoices’. Thankfully, tens of them are being returned to me daily from dutiful mail servers around the world letting me know that either the recipient does not exist or that my email exceeds their limitations on spam flags.

If you’re reading this, cause I am sure you take the time to personally gank your domains, could you move on down the line to the next patsy already? Thanks.

I keeping with my inability to deflect silliness, here is some in the more pleasant form of a tag meme…

Get book, open book to page 123, reproduce lines 6, 7, and 8:

Autumn Bridge by Takashi Matsuoka (which I haven’t read yet, but should)

“You have an idea about who it is. Are you going to tell me, or am I supposed to guess?”
Wu shrugged his shoulders.

I hope that makes you laugh Amanda.

The Five Must Read Publishing Blogs

Instead of wasting my time writing and becoming a highly underpaid professional author, I have been investing my time in a bit of research, planning, preparation… you can never read too much about how to write I say.

To that end, I present to you my four favorite blogs for elucidating the culture of publishing and a fifth that I am expecting to become so. There are a couple notable runners up, and hundreds I haven’t found yet. Analogous of my count of five, think of this as my ‘fistful of publishers’ post. Expect ‘for a few publishers more’ down the road. In aggregate, these blogs form a triumvirate of publishing experience (except for the part where five isn’t exactly three, but I didn’t think pentumvirate was a word). They encompass agenting, editing, copy editing, self-publishing, and cover art. If I knew more, I’d know I left something out.

Miss Snark – is not nice. I think she claims somewhere to tell it like it is without any sugar coating, but I am pretty sure she goes a step further and splashes a little vinegar on it. Miss Snark is an agent.

Trusty poodle by her side, Miss Snark, fields reader questions about the relationship between would be author and actual agent. What should be in a query letter, how many pages 5 is, what to do when the post office ups the price of a stamp and your SASE is now defunct, what to do during the 90 day wait, the slush pile process, and why you need an agent all make it to her doorstep in the 212. Throw in a pail of gin and Clooney to round out the daily or daily plus postings.

I don’t know that she has a passion for skewering nitwits, but she sure has a knack. I advise educating yourself or lurking for a significant period of time before becoming one. Eventually someone else will ask the dumbass question you we thinking of sending.

Bottom line for snarklings: write well.

Evil Editor – is not nice either, but he’s wry. Or one of those words that people use when they can tell a smart person is trying to be funny and just don’t get it themselves. Evil fields many of the same wannabees as does Miss Snark, but with a comical tack.

Send him a query letter and he will revise it for you–the exception that proves the rule for GIGO. This guy works in volume as well and you should figure on reading more than one post a day. Recently he added ‘New Beginnings‘, an outrageous plan to re-write the first ~150 words of your novel. No matter what you send his way, expect it to be shorter and tighter than it was sitting on your keyboard.

I find myself skipping to the Notes section at the bottom of each post for his explanations even though he peppers the original submissions with hilarious comments that force me to put down the coffee.

Bottom line for minions: Less is more.

Deanna Hoak – is a hot copy editor. I mean a SF/F copy editor. She has a little less topic focus than Snark or Evil, but mainly shares stories of copy editing that are more interesting than you might imagine. If they aren’t interesting, then they are at least useful.

Deanna also does a great job of helping would be and be authors understand there are many people involved in making a book. Her enthusiasm and devotion to what most of us probably consider the literary grunt work is astounding. Her post on the stylistic reasons an author might choose ‘jeez’ over ‘geez’ and how she decides which word they meant to use when there is contention reminds me of telegraph operators that could read the ‘hand’ of compatriots in another town and know who was transmitting and who was on lunch break.

Bottom line: likes words and she’s hot.

POD-dy Mouth – sifts through the crap so you don’t have to (sift through the crap).

Bottom line: 2006 still all crap.

The Art Department – wraps up all the above. This is the newest publishing related blog I have added to my list thanks to Scalzi. I am enjoying it so far, but it is a little early to make much of a summary.

Targeted at artists, it covers how to get your work in front of the art director. So far there have been a number of artist profiles and shout outs.

Bottom line: Don’t judge a cover by its book.

Use Bloglines to subscribe to all of the above blogs.

trail fire

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Why Backpack Continues to Rock

I shared several month’s ago that I had signed on to Backpack and was loving it.  I have since that time bought in at the first paid rung and been using it daily.  Today it got better.  Not because of anything 37 Signals did, but because of what they allow others to do.

I don’t do anything special with Backpack I suppose–there are others more creative and dedicated than I.  But today I got a little alert telling me about a programmer that has used the Backpack API to let  folks to send mp3’s of phone calls to their Backpack.


For many years I have been just calling my answering machine to leave messages for myself: "Don’t forget you want to tape Friends.",  "That song you heard just now is by Nora Jones.", or "Drink water before you go to bed so you’re not as hung over tomorrow.".

Now I can leave and save those on the Internet instead.  And I can listen to them where ever and when ever I need–maybe not the drunk one.

Anyhow, my thanks to celltell for such a great mash-up.

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Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate

Izenda: Agile Reporting

I’ve been doing reporting for many many years.  It’s a niche skill I picked up back when the IT world would hire anyone with a heartbeat.  It’s a skill I have taught to many others in the time since.  I just came across Izenda (EYE-zenda) earlier today.

There is cool stuff in here that I wouldn’t have expected to see in such nicely priced reporting tool–from free to just under $10k.  Surprisingly from the comparison chart not a huge differences in features between the high and low end.  Mostly the more expensive version was for unlimited users and all the bells and whistles.

Most of you’ll want to dive right into the sign-up free demo of the product, but I watched the short video before getting my feet wet.

Izenda Ad Hoc will do all the things you’d expect of a reporting tool: add and join your tables for you, allow you to add fields, sort and group those fields, filter out unneeded data, and create charts.  But where it exceeds other tools I have used is in it’s array of filtering logic available data and  you get an optional drop down of the values in the field you’d be filtering on.  Other tools I have seen you basically have to guess what might be in a field before hand.

Did I mention it’s online!  The above would be cool if it was an installed client application, but on top of all that it’s online.  Tres Web 2.0.

I am going to check out the 8 different export file types later on.  Well, maybe not all 8.

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