Category Archives: Utah

Learn more about WordPress at WordCamp Utah

WordCamp Utah is a 1-day conference all about WordPress, to be held in Provo, Utah, on September 27, 2008. Speakers will include WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, WordPress guru Alex King, both visiting from out of town, and several local personalities including Cameron Moll, Thom Allen, Ash Buckles, and yours truly.

I’ll speak on using WordPress as a Content Management System, demonstrating that you can use WordPress software to power your website even if it’s not a blog. At our nonprofit foundation, we use WordPress to power over 40 non-blog websites.

This should be a great conference for any blogger, Web developer, or Web publisher. I’m excited to hear each of the talks.

More information: WordCamp Utah (signup)

Skype + Applescript = poor man’s voice web services

Skype is one of my favorite applications. I recently used Skype to call someone in Russia and it only cost a few cents. I’ve also been studying the Skype API, which opens some interesting possibilities.

On a Mac, you can combine simple Applescript commands with simple Skype commands to open a lot of possibilities. For example, this Applescript opens Skype and calls the best taco shop in Provo, UT:

tell application “Skype”
send command “CALL +18013774710″ script name “Call the best taco shop in Provo, UT”
end tell

Skype can be scripted to automatically make phone calls, chat by video or text, or send text messages. You can also pipe in any audio or record the phone call.

This has interesting implications for companies like MacMiniColo.net that use Macs as servers (disclosure: I’m a friend of its owner and staff, and I’ve done contract work for them in the past.) Combining Applescript, Skype, shell scripting, and the say command, your server could be configured to call your cell phone when there’s an outage and tell you what the problem is.

Jon Udell’s podcast about communications-enabled business processes discusses the integration of voice calls into computer processes. They discuss examples where a business process may need approval from a supervisor. With voice integration, the computer could call a manager with a “press 1 to approve, press 2 to disapprove” message.

Skype + Applescript is sort of the poor man’s version of VOIP web services, but it’s exciting that you could actually do something interesting with it today.

Make more phone calls and meet more often

A couple of weeks ago I grabbed lunch with Blake Snow. Lots of good conversation, time went by fast, and I was reminded of the importance of getting together in person. Blake has an excellent blog on tech and business at Smoothharold.com. His pro blogging experience has brought a slightly “critical” bent (in his words) to his writing, but getting together reminded me that he’s no less a nice guy for it.

That same week I telephoned a business associate in Salt Lake who I usually email. I was impressed how quickly and effectively a phone call builds rapport. Something about hearing each other’s voices (and just shooting the breeze a bit!) builds the relationship in a way that email can’t.

I don’t see email disappearing any time soon, but note to self: make more phone calls and meet more often.

Seven ways the Internet is changing politics

1. Last week I attended the opening event of Phil Burns’s new company Politic2.0, a platform for communication between politicians and citizens. When I first heard about the event, I was skeptical that it would be anything more than the buzz-word-ification of another niche, but by the end of the event I was really impressed with what had happened.

Utah Congressman Chris Cannon was the guest of honor, and there were about 25 attendees. The website allowed us to post and vote on questions, Digg style, and then the MC addressed the most popular questions to Mr. Cannon. Participation wasn’t limited to people in the room; anybody online could submit questions, vote, and leave comments on the website. Live video was streamed to the website.

It was a Darwinian press conference. The most popular questions were asked; no one person could dominate the conversation with his own agenda. Mr. Cannon said he felt a disconnect because most of our heads were down while we typed and clicked, but because I was able to influence the conversation, I felt very connected. I liked it so much I contacted a couple friends so they could hop on the website during the event.

The process still needs polishing, but Mr. Cannon’s participation was commendable and it was a good first draft for Politic2.0. I hope other politicians will participate.

Pete Ashdown

2. The Politic2.0 platform allowed us to collaborate on our questions, but not on the answers. When Pete Ashdown ran for U.S. Senate last year, he used a wiki to allow citizens to collaborate on policy solutions. I personally edited a page or two and found it refreshing that the ideas were being debated on their own merits and that someone (Pete) cared to listen. It’s humbling and realistic for politicians to realize they don’t have all the answers. Maybe together we do.

3. IT Conversations is my favorite source for podcasts. This week its founder, Doug Kaye, launched PodCorps (via), which aims to “record and publish important spoken-word events anywhere in the world.” PodCorps will call on an army of volunteers to record lectures, political events, and talks in their local communities. These amateur recordings by you and me will be posted online for all to hear. What would otherwise be some inconsequential talk on an obscure topic in a far away place will find far more listeners. Politicians can’t pander to local interests if everyone is “watching.” The transparency will encourage consistency.

4. C-Span, the nonprofit cable network that records Senate and House proceedings (and for most people is the fastest way to fall asleep), keeps ownership of over 85% of its video — video that should be in the public domain. Carl Malamud, the creator of the first Internet radio station, recently wrote a letter to C-Span petitioning that all its video be released into the public domain and explaining how the Internet makes their mission of promoting open government even easier.

5. Phil Windley has blogged repeatedly about the Utah Senate Majority’s website, senatesite.com. At the site Utahns will find a group blog and podcast where local politicians explain and debate policy.

6. Mitt Romney and other presidential candidates are using YouTube to engage with citizens. Mitt Romney on Youtube In a YouTube video, Mitt asked people “What is America’s single greatest challenge?” Seventy-one people responded with short videos of their own.

7. Candidates are using Facebook and MySpace to stay connected with supporters. Because of Facebook, I know Mitt is in Iowa today.

Anything else?

As our world becomes more complex and the job of politician more difficult, it’s increasingly important that we be closely connected with the people that represent us.