Tumblr

July 11, 2008

Initially, I got interested in Tumblr as a fun way to absorb a plethora of interesting media in those brief moments of “downtime” at work. But Tumblr is useful beyond its simple “distraction at work” element. To quote Wikipedia:

A tumblelog (also known as a tlog or tumblog) is a variation of a blog that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumblelogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video. Unlike blogs, tumblelogs are frequently used to share the author’s creations, discoveries, or experiences while providing little or no commentary.

I dig it. I don’t need commentary, I just need to know what’s up. And multiple forms of media make this geek happy (remember, this geek is a creative writer/web geek/music & art enthusiast) – making Tumblr a pretty perfect fit, even if it took me a while to warm up to it. Tumblr keeps me up to date with current trends in media – and what’s not to love in that?

Plus, I find that Tumblr is a great way to share that YouTube video you think is hilarious without being the obnoxious co-worker who emails it to everyone in the department. No one wants to be that guy.

Did I mention that Tumblr is ridiculously simple to use? The only thing I found complicated was learning the reblog function (after I discovered, sadly, that there are no comments on Tumblr. Though, if I had read the Wikipedia article on tumblelogging sooner, I would have known that commentary is discouraged in tlogging). Your options for posts are simple: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, Video. That means everyone can find something to share. Sharing is so easy, even my parents could use Tumblr! (And I wish they would – I’m sure their posts would be hilarious).  You simply select the form of media you wish to share, upload the file from your computer (or paste the URL from your browser), and post away! Reblogging, once you find the button (hint: mouse over a post) takes one click.  Instant gratification is then yours.

Until my geeky but deliberately un-hip(ster) parents decide to sign up for Tumblr, you’ll have to be content with my updates – http://neongolden.tumblr.com

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Yelp!

May 2, 2008

I like Yelp more than I like myspace. Maybe even more than facebook. Why? Because Yelp has more of an impact on my daily life – in fact, it’s based around my daily life (and that of others in my metropolitan area.)

The idea is simple: you review the good, the bad, and the decidedly mediocre of what your town has to offer. Got an amazing haircut? Yelp about it. Need to know where to take your date for dinner? Check Yelp and see which restaurants have high reviews, look at their price range, read descriptions of the service and ambiance–in short Yelp will help you get to know your city and get to know the places you’ve been wanting to go but perhaps hadn’t yet found on your own.

But it’s not just about the knowledge! Like any good social networking site, Yelp brings its members together. You’re constantly encouraged to write more by compliments left by other users. Adding pictures to your profile will bring you closer to “elite” status (read on), and your reviews are reviewed (ooh, meta!) and awarded points by other members based on how cool, funny, or useful they are. If enough members think your review is relevant, you might be featured on the home page as the review of the day – and then the adulations will pour in. (Having recently been the ROTD myself, I must say – it’s actually quite thrilling!)

What’s even better is that Yelp constantly brings its communities together in real life, too. I’ve attended many an Unofficial Yelp Event – generally a happy hour gathering arranged by fellow yelpers, ordinary users with day jobs like me. Even better are the VIP events for “elite” members (my roommate is a member of the Elite squad) where entire restaurants are reserved and many freebies are given away–everything from henna tattoos to hoodies.

Knowing that Yelp exists, I don’t think I’ll ever be afraid to move somewhere new. I can just look up the metro and see what the locals are up to – I can always find a cool new place to visit, and even if I have a bad time, it’ll make for an interesting review.

You can find me at http://emilyp.yelp.com

ETA (10/9/2008): This post was written when I was new to Yelp and reflects my views as a novice yelper. I have since been awarded Elite status and have worked with Philadelphia’s Community Manager, Carrie Estok, to promote Yelp in that region. This post was meant to express the impressions I had of Yelp at that time, and is not meant to be used as a resource outlining how Yelp actually works.

I have received (and subsequently deleted) several comments from dissatisfied business owners; I urge these persons to discuss their concerns with their local Yelp Community Manager, rather than airing them in the comments section of this blog.

Muxtape

May 1, 2008

You may wonder why it’s been so long since my last post. Well, friends, I knew as soon as I made my last post that I wanted to talk about Muxtape. Muxtape is the new darling among web 2.0 hipsters, and for good reason – it takes all the ease of creating an iPod playlist and combines it with the fun of sharing a real mixtape.

Not quite. Muxtape’s got a lot of issues. The first is its “mp3 only” stipulation. I don’t know about you, but most of my mp3s have been converted to AAC thanks to built-in features of iTunes that control what happens to music I import from CD. This was a major headache for me. Three weeks ago, as I’d painstakingly crafted a flawless playlist – with perfect transitions and everything! – I found I could only upload half the songs to muxtape because the rest were in the wrong format. What do you mean you don’t like OGG files, muxtape? We all know they have the highest sound quality–come on.

So I went back to the drawing board. I hunted down mp3 files of the songs that didn’t make it on the first upload. I checked their file sizes, I uploaded their mp3 versions–only to get an error/timeout message every time. (Error: The file you uploaded either wasn’t an mp3 or the upload was interrupted. Try it one more time, if it fails again (but plays on your computer) Muxtape can’t handle it yet.) What’s the deal, Muxtape? I’m trying so hard for you. I spent hours trying to give you what you asked for, but you still won’t take it. If I had been trying to upload an mp3 of Phantom Planet, I’d understand why you kept rejecting it – but Broken Social Scene? You really can’t handle them? Spoon, either? I’m crushed.

And here we are four weeks later – I still haven’t completed my muxtape. This is in part because of my difficulty uploading files, and in part because my street cred is on the line and I can’t just upload any random assortment of songs.

My personal struggles with muxtape are only the tip of the iceberg. But, in its defense, I think it’s great that people have a quick way to share mixes – muxtape fills a void in my soul that was created when I completed college (thus severing ties with the college radio station) and could no longer broadcast a set of songs to the world every week. If I could get muxtape to take my songs, I’d start sharing again and you could subscribe via RSS to always get the newest updates on what I’ve posted. Like a real mixtape, you can pause and play at will. Unlike a real mixtape, you cannot fast-forward or rewind, though you can skip songs by clicking on a new one. The fact that it’s streaming is nice–your friends can hear your music without having it eat up space on their hard drives. It’s good for you, too – you can share your music without having to pay to host it on a server.

In the age of flash-drive mixes, muxtape is an odd mutt. I think it exists more for the people who enjoy listening to mixes than for those who make them. Anyone who’s ever made a mixtape knows that half the fun is struggling with obselete technology, knowing you have to time the pauses just right, knowing that it must work as a cohesive whole because you can’t just “skip songs.” Overall, I love the concept, but am less than pleased with its execution. When muxtape starts accepting more file types, you can find me at http://neongolden.muxtape.com/