February 28, 2009

Windows live writer for blog postings

Filed under: blogging — kirk @ 11:59 pm

I’m writing this post as a way to test Windows live writer for blog posting. It’s part of Windows live.

I’m not typically a fan of Microsoft products because they’re frankly never the best of breed……but simply ok or barely good enough. However, I’m quite impressed with live writer thus far. If MS had more products like this….well, I guess they’d be Apple.

I didn’t install any of the other stuff or sign up for a Windows Live ID. I just skipped all that stuff and went straight to the writer.

BlogPost_thumb1Things I like about it.

Allows for offline work, but allows you to see a preview of how your post will look.

Easy to add photos or maps….tags as well. Photo addition is frankly great. I just drag and drop a local photo and it puts it right into the blog post…interfaces with Wordpress perfectly to upload the image.

Category settings are integrated and easy. It knows what my blog post categories are.

In short, I think I’ll be using this critter alot to post to common-nature….and you should probably check it out too.

Scouting for food

Filed under: Community — kirk @ 6:33 pm

Spent the morning in 20 degree F. weather walking several blocks with my son to hang flyers on doors here in Columbia. The reason: Scouting for food.
Scouting for Food” is Scouting’s community stewardship project aimed at addressing the problem of hunger in the community in which we live and work.

When I was a kid, we lived in rural Missouri. You knew everyone. Meet a car on the road and don’t wave hello, and you’d be considered rude or at least as having a bad day.

My kids, however, live in a world where we’re lucky to know who lives next door. That’s why I’m happy to be involved in things like this scouting project. It may be one of the few ways to get kids involved in community support.

February 24, 2009

Portland’s Twisitor center

Filed under: Government, social networking, twitter — kirk @ 8:30 am has a great article on Portland Oregon’s use of Twitter.
Portland is the first U.S. city to launch an official “Twisitor Center.” This Twitter channel connects travelers with those who can answer their questions and help plan their trips.

Yet another example of how government is using Twitter.

Show on map

February 23, 2009

Great video tutorials for woodworking and Sketchup

Filed under: woodworking, 3d — kirk @ 8:25 pm

I’ve been learning how to use Google’s Sketchup as a modeler for woodworking. While Sketchup (the free version) is a great tool, it was a little bit of learning curve (as do all 3D tools).

Then I came across Wood magazine’s article on Sketchup. The article did a great job of showing that, yes, Sketchup can be a great tool for woodworking. Now they even have wood materials for making your models look more realistic.
Finally, I  came across the Sketchup for Woodworkers site. This site has some awesome, information packed videos on how to use the features in Sketchup for woodworking. One video I watched covered all the major types of joints you’d want to have in a woodworking plan.

These videos should get me off to a great start.

Sigh….now if someone would just build a nice plugin in for Sketchup that would import models and/or rendered textures into Second Life.

February 22, 2009

Government and education in Second life.

Filed under: Government, Second Life — kirk @ 12:59 pm

Unpacking at the lab.I’ve been doing some work in Second Life for a number of years at this point. Missouri state government has also gotten into the game. Check out this news article in Converge magazine.
I figured that, while I was helping with that project, I could post some of my work here.

You’ll find the lab.of my alter ego (Marcus Variscan) in Second Life. I’m still unpacking so you won’t see much at this point.
If you have Second Life installed on your machine you can go directly to the lab. by clicking here. Second Life uses spatial links called SLurls. You can find out more about them at

June 8, 2008

Twitter and government (or…something else on the Web we’re not doing)

Filed under: Government, Collaboration, social networking — kirk @ 9:30 am

By ‘we’ I mean government in general. What the heck is twitter?

It’s ‘micro-blogging’ and it’s getting traction. Check out this short post by Joshua Bullock at sumtingnu. You can also see what he’s up to during the day (via Twitter) here:
Want to start? Go to

So how can it help government? Some ideas are:

  • Getting a person to twitter about their workday for education (e.g., what is a fireman’s day like?)
  • Fast collaboration (e.g., what are the members of my team doing today?)
  • Digging people out of the woodwork to help you do your job (In Joshua’s experience, he’s already run into several new Web tools and resources from people responding to his ‘tweets’ (a Twitter post…yeah, I know…).
  • Jeff Davis suggests epetitions.

So are any government agencies tweeting? The Free Government Information blog lists several — including the FBI and Nasa….oh, and the British government (man, they kick our butts with social media).

Hmm..odd sidenote….who actually wrote this article? I’ve got two people claiming credit for it I think:

[Note: the folks at FGI cleared up for…same person..just cross posted…see the comments]

June 5, 2008

Government: less Web pages; more Web services

Filed under: Government, Missouri Mapping Project, social networking — kirk @ 8:40 am

Check out the recent article on ars technica. It discusses a new paper from researchers at Princeton University. David Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, and Ed Felten, all of Princeton’s Information Technology Policy Center, suggest that government officials focus less (much less) on developing usable web sites, and instead focus (much more) on providing raw public data such as regulatory decisions.


A number of reasons. The public sector has many developers and resources to develop innovative Web sites. While a government committee may spend weeks debating on what color icons to put on Web page, an individual can build a googlemap everyone can use in an evening. But individuals can only do this if they have access to the data.

We already know that good Web development means splitting out presentation, business logic and data access. We build applications that call Web services to access data. Then we post that information in xhtml pages that are styled with CSS. Why not build the Web services so they are exposed to the public? Then, anyone can access them.

‘Wait!’ You may say. ‘Our Web services are behind a firewall. We don’t want to punch a hole in our firewall.’ Fair enough..and you don’t have to. Consider this:

Many of us want to use AJAX in our Web pages. These AJAX pages must sit on a public accessible server (or else the public can’t get to them). AJAX pages require javascript to grab data for dynamic updates. Javascript cannot make calls to data services that are not on the same server as the javascript. This means that if you want AJAX in your application, you’ll need to have some sort of public Web service. In MDC development, we’re calling it a ‘proxy service’ (following the lead of Jeremy Keith of ‘Bulletproof AJAX‘ fame). This proxy service is a public accessible application that turns around and calls your real Web service that is behind the firewall. If you want to use AJAX for the public, this is how you’ll have to do it.

But if you’re doing this, anyone in the public can call that same application (because it’s on the public facing server). Poof! You’ve got a public facing Web service.

In short, building public facing Web services is something you’ll have to do to build AJAX pages. So why not develop a strategy now for figuring out how to make your data available to the public?

And why stop there? Why not have Missouri government foster an environment that encourages the public to access and mashup our data? I mean, what good is public facing data if no one knows it’s there?

In the United Kingdom, a non-profit group has joined forces with government to create the Ideal Government prize competition. To win the prize, individuals or groups in the public hacked government data with a free online map, and sent a short description and a link to Ideal Government contest. Entrants showed what’s possible in terms of locating public-sector data (schools, crimes, hazardous waste dumps, high-spending councils, whatever) on maps as easy to use as Google. All this was done by simply having government release access to its data. This group is even going further by actively engaging the public in government with
Missouri could encourage such use of it’s data if it simply listed all agency data feeds. In fact, if Missouri government knew of all its existing data feeds, we could probably improve our own state and agency Web sites (by accessing feeds of other agencies). For more on this idea, see my posts on the Missouri Mapping Project.

In the next fiscal year, our development team here at MDC are going to be piloting these sorts of public Web services to expose information on our public conservation areas, job openings, area regulations, and available publications (we’re already releasing RSS feeds of our news in coordination with several other state agencies to present news on the Missouri state portal.)

For all this to work, then government needs to do the following:

  1. Build public facing Web services
  2. Make the URL to these services a permalink (i.e., a URL that will never change)
  3. Make the public aware of this service (and encourage it)

So…how can we make this happen in Missouri?
As a final note, see what Utah government is already doing in this area by checking out David Fletcher’s blog.

April 24, 2008

MAGIC (GIS) conference today April 24th

Filed under: Government, Collaboration, Missouri Mapping Project — kirk @ 8:35 am

Today I’m helping Mark Brunner of the Missouri Department of Conservation do a workshop on using Google maps at the MAGIC 2008 Symposium.

Here are some links I’m going to use during the presentation. Feel free to follow along :-)

A place we’ve all been to, but did you realize you can pull kmz or georss feeds into it? Go there and type in the following kmz or georss urls.

    (from the postings related to wildlife disease issues)
  • (georss from my blog)
  • /feeds/geo/?id=8753840@N06&lang=en-us&format=rss_200
    (a rather lame photo album of mine on Flickr…pulled via georss feed from Flickr)
    (by the way, get rid of the space after ’services’ when copying and pasting..had to do that to get the link to fit across two lines)

My links on cool Google map apps. and developer links on my account.

So where am I presenting? See the link below.

Show on map

April 22, 2008

Power Up 2008 Conference: notes

Filed under: blogging, accessibility, social networking — kirk @ 9:43 am

RSS feed readers: What they are and how you can use em.
Josh is doing a great job presenting and I’m busy writing this post via my Blackberry while he’s finishing up the presentation. Turn out is great. We’ve got about 40 here.

Some links to help you get blogging or using other social media:
Before you blog checklist

DMD presentation: The case for social media in government

I also came across Kevin O’keefe’s do’s and don’ts on company blogging, which provides a nice checklist to those getting ready to create a policy.

when to begin

April 21, 2008

Social media and accessibility

Filed under: Uncategorized, Government, accessibility, social networking — kirk @ 9:49 am

The Power Up conference logoYes, I’m back after a long spell away from the blog. Today I and Joshua Bullock are polishing off a presentation we’re going to be doing at the Power Up 2008 conference and expo: A conference on Missouri assistive technology.

I will be presenting on why organizations should even be interested in social media. I’ve pulled out the old presentation I did back in June 0f 2007 and realize just how far everything has come in the past year. I’ve changed many references about how people may be using social media to definite statements (e.g., your employees are using social media now)

Joshua Bullock is a great Web designer I work with at the Missouri Dept. of Conservation. He’s one of the best Web designers I’ve worked with when it comes to CSS, XHTML and all things related.

Joshua is going to be covering the accessibility side of things when it comes to using social media tools like Wordpress, and Drupal. He’s come across an interesting observation. While these new Web 2.0 tools are great at presenting XHTML strict and 508 compliant pages to the people who read the pages these tools produce, they aren’t as great when it comes to compliant backend pages. Josh has more on his blog.

The conclusion? I’m thinking here again we have a situation where developers are so busy thinking of how the public uses their tools that they forget that employees or internal content developers may also need assistive technology.

Look for another post on the presentation as well as links relevant to the presentation.

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