Homemade Peanut Butter

Unless you’re extremely online, you may not know how easy it is to make your own dang bespoke GIFs from video using Giphy.

Say you lost your mind laughing when Chidi Anagonye freak-out-shouted, “I SAW THE TIME KNIFE!?” and you want that feeling preserved in low-fi, looping digital amber. If you can find that moment on YouTube, for example, you’re halfway there!

Giphy makes it super easy to grab just what you want and take it the rest of the way to meme-ready reaction GIF land. You can hit up their GIF Maker page, and as soon as you paste the YouTube URL into the text field, you’re taken through a super simple, step-by-step (and not too many steps) process to adjust start time, loop length, and any overlaid text and graphics. Some of the adjustment sliders are a bit fidly, but in no time, you’ll be ready to drop a fine non-sequitor GIF into any conversation:

Songwhip

I’m pleased as punch that a pal of mine introduced me to Songwhip – a super convenient website that’ll ingest music links from a wide variety of services and websites, and provide a centralized URL for sharing. Friends sharing links from Apple Music, but you’re a Spotify user? No problem.

Just take this lil’ linky-link to Mark Ronson’s cover of Just, by Radiohead:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/just/259214420?i=259214652

Paste that into Songwhip’s search field, and get a slick little page and URL in return:

From there you can hit Spotify, Amazon, or wherever you might find the track/album/whatever. It’s not perfect, and there are some quirks, but I’ve found it to be a great way to share music with friends across a broad specturm of streaming services.

Where this has really shined, in my personal experience, has been integration with Slack. One of my (too many) Slack teams has a music channel, and the Songwhip integration will echo out their URL whenever a song/album link from a compatible service is detected. Coupled with disabling autoexpansion of previews for services like Spotify, you get a nice neat sharing experience:

Heating Up

Somebody posited a great idea on one of my Slack teams today:

I need to fix my notification settings so I’m not late to the party all the time, but there’s nothing between “everything” and “mentions only” and what I really want is “hey this channel’s blowing up.”

There is something kind of in-between. You can be notified based on a list of keywords, so every time a person posts a message including “photo”, for example, I get notified. But I’m using Slack (and I suspect an increasing number of folks are, too) for social purposes. This means that keyword-based notifications have a more limited use in practice. One of my teams has a “Camera Talk” channel, so why do I need to be notified every time somebody uses the word “camera” or “photo”? I don’t want to be notified for EVERYTHING in that channel, do I?

So I’m thinking of something more specific now, and here’s what I have in mind – whether implemented as a bot or some other custom integration to each team that I’m part of:

Hot Channel

Using Slack’s API, you can retrieve up to 100 messages in an array. Each message entity includes a Unix time stamp. My thought is to determine some sweet spot here – like, 10+ messages posted in 10 minutes or less means the conversation is moving, and might be worth watching. Unix time stamps are in seconds, so you could collect the latest 10 messages and subtract the oldest time stamp from the newest. If the difference is less than or equal to 600, then take some action. If all this is handled by some kinda bot integration, then every 5 or 10 minutes it would poll the channel and post a message to the channel. Slack lets you choose a phrase to trigger a notification, so perhaps this bot posts “The channel is heating up!” or something. You get the picture.

There are ways to make this more sophisticated, like allowing individuals to have their own preferences. Maybe a friend only cares if there are 30+ messages in 10 minutes, for example. I dunno.

I want to try building this myself, but I’m not developer, so it could take me a while. If anybody thinks this is a useful idea, please run with it, or point me to existing work if it’s out there.

Tag, You’re Almost It

I’ve been blogging for a long time. Not a Kottke long time (and certainly not a Roker long time). But I’ve done a pretty poor job of keeping my content organized.

When I was running things on WordPress back in the day, I tried using categories, but with little consistency. Every new topic meant a new category, and a hierarchy developed that confused rather than clarified. Eventually tags became a thing, but by then I’d already developed a bad habit of posting without that helpful metadata.

Earlier this year I read an article about how folks find pages and navigate through websites, and while I’m not rebuilding my site, I do want to make it easier to click around and find related posts. So I’ve slooooooowly started digging through my archives updating posts with appropriate tags. It’s a trip down memory lane at least, if a lot of insane work for a site with a small readership.

Google’s Analytics Academy

I’ve wanted to spend some time getting more familiar with Google Analytics for a while now, but never knew where I should start. Tonight I discovered that, apparently, Google produces their own public training courses. Have any of my readers ever done this? Does anybody know whether it’s helpful for more than just marketing types? I’d love to use analytics to help make better cases for design and architecture decisions, basically.

Location, Location, Location

Today I deleted Swarm from my phone. I’d been using it frequently since Foursquare decided to split its functionality between two different apps, and it was fun for a while. Competing with your friends in categories was a neat twist on the old Mayor game, and Plans are a pretty cool idea if you have a large enough network. But I noticed that I had slowly decreased my usage, forgetting (and caring less) to check in at every single location. I haven’t deleted my account or anything, but I suspect I’ll leave it unattended if I make it a week without re-downloading.

I’m not against location-centric social networks. I’m not worried about internet boogeymen like the elusive “burglar who sees that you’re not at home on social media” (but seriously, though – I’m super interested if there are real stories about this that don’t involve stalkers/creepy exes who’d be watching your every move anyway). But I’ve always struggled with the point. I used Gowalla (rest in peace) when it hit the scene because it was fun to keep a log of where I’d been. When that folded, I made my way – late to the party as usual – to a Foursquare that had already seen mass account stagnation even amidst claims of continued, rapid user sign-ups. Most of the people in my social graph hadn’t used Foursquare in months. But I still had a lot of fun. Mayor of both (at the time) Lamplighter coffee shops? You know it.

Earlier this year, Foursquare split its service between two apps. Swarm came first, focusing on friend-spotting and the personal side of location awareness. In August, Foursquare’s main app relaunched primarily as a discovery service. They had reasons for this, but it completely disrupted the way many old-school users worked with the service. There were complaints (as always with these sort of changes), but folks still using Foursquare at that point stuck around with Swarm as well. And really, did you need Foursquare to recommend a taco joint for you? Don’t most people just check that God-forsaken Sarlacc Pit they call Yelp these days anyway?

I think I left mostly because Swarm hit that “what next?” moment for me. I joined. I added friends. Friends added me. I checked in and built a sizable lead at coffee shops. In the end it was just another clicky-pen to click. I show up, I open my phone, I check in. My friend checks in somewhere “nearby” and I get a notification. I don’t need that. If I want coffee or lunch with my friend Sam, we can text each other. My wife doesn’t need to see a notification that I check in at Kroger to know that I’m really at the grocery store. If I want to post a geotagged photo, I’m probably going to put that on Instagram anyway.

If you need me, you know where to find me.

How to lose weight and face!

So I frequent the website Engadget, all about the latest nerdy tech stuff, and they have an article on the site today about this rediculous new weight loss device which uses a vacuum pump to do something or other. The greatest part about this article?

“…Or you could walk outside in this thing and get punched in the gut a few times for looking like a dork. Either way the point is to get your blood moving, so go for the pressure chamber gut hickey if you must.”