Books, Red iPods, and RSS/RDF

The past few days have been pretty busy in the Bay Area. I have been doing some extensive plumbing work on tow.com. Like Scotty did to the Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, I’ve got tow.com running so that a “chimpanzee and two trainees could run her.”

In the past, updates to the site were a laborious and manual process. I speeded things up in July when I started using a custom PHP script to help me automate the image gallery and photojournal generation, but it still could get time-consuming. In addition to the photojournal files themselves, I had to modify three other files on the site to reflect the new entry.

RSS and Content Syndication

Over the past week, I’ve extended my scripts so that all I need to do is to create the photojournal folder and upload it. The new scripts take care of listing the latest photojournals on the home page and in the Photo Gallery page. In addition, I’ve published an RSS 1.0 summary of my photojournals for web-based syndicators such as my.userland.com or News Is Free to pick up. One of the goals of using RSS is to improve web site traffic by syndicating your content to multiple news feeds and aggregators.

RSS-enabled sites are often referenced using the following graphic: tow.com rss file. Click on the image to see my current RSS file for my photojournals. Over time, I could conceivably extend this to power my musings and video sections. As Chris Alan was fond of saying, “What would happen if everyone could have their own cable tv station?”

Now the big time sink with these photojournals is processing the images and writing the text. Since there’s no magical Microsoft Photojournal Wizard, I figure my next project is to increase my image processing efficiency. The drop-shadows, while visually appealing, do take some time to generate in Photoshop, especially if there are a lot of images to process.

Books

In other news, I was at the Stanford Bookstore the other day when I came across the book whose foreword I wrote. I mentioned the Palm OS Web Application Developer’s Guide in an earlier photojournal, but until Tuesday, I had never seen the book in a real bookstore. How cool is that to see your name in print on the store shelves?

iPod

Finally, I picked up an iPod. My online order was “backordered” for 24 days and counting when I ultimately cancelled it. On the other hand, there were dozens of iPods on the Apple Store shelves in Palo Alto. The iPod’s interface lends itself well to functions other than MP3 searching. I can definitely see a firmware update in the coming months that will turn the iPod into an address book or even an electronic eBook. I’m still surprised at how quickly they were able to pump out the product. I hear that development was begun at the beginning of the year. That’s fast compared with some companies that I know.

Of course, I colored my iPod red, just as my phone and PowerBook have a crimson shade to them. I only covered up the shiny, silver part of the iPod, since that had an affinity for fingerprints and scratches. You can find the vinyl sticker that I used at your nearest TAP Plastic or poster/signage store.