Categories
Family Main Programming Tech

FamilyLink.com + Kynetx: How websites could be better with your family

I’ve been playing around with Kynetx.com technology. I think it has a lot of cool potential for helping FamilyLink.com users see who their relatives are across multiple websites.

For example,

  • What if you could see your FamilyLink.com relatives directly in Facebook?
  • If you knew which LinkedIn users were your relatives, would you be more likely to do business?
  • If you knew which Twitter users were your relatives, would you be more likely to follow them?
  • If you discovered that a comment on a political news story with which you strongly disagreed was from a relative, would you be more careful how you responded?

Here’s a demo video:

Categories
Business Entrepreneurship Main Programming Tech

Reminiscing about Provo411.com and Scraping the Course Catalog

One of my first web development projects and biz partnerships with Brian Stucki was Provo411.com. We were roommates at BYU and conceived of a website where students could share events — parties, concerts, football games, etc. We were already in our beds for the night when the idea came, but we couldn’t go to sleep before buying the domain. I think it was the first domain I ever bought. It was September 2002.

I developed a calendar in PHP and wrote a few scripts to scrape byucougars.com and retrieve the sports schedules. I also developed a WML app so Brian and I could add events to the calendar from our pre-iPhone mobile phones. I recall being at a party in south Provo, in a former dental office, and using my Nextel phone to add the party to Provo411. If you go back far enough, you can see events on the calendar. My brother Alan did the artwork.

I always wanted Provo411.com to have a course schedule alert system. Perhaps students would pay $3 to receive an email or SMS alert when hard-to-get classes had an opening. It shouldn’t have been hard technically, but the publicly available course catalog isn’t updated in real-time. I could have scraped the authenticated course catalog on Route Y, but BYU might have objected and it’d be a fragile business model.

My brother Michael recently came home from his mission and started school at CSN. The business classes he wanted were full, so I put the old “course schedule alert” idea to the test with some new tools — Ruby and Mac OS X’s speech. Here’s what I came up with:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

# a list of course call numbers to check
call_numbers = %w{ 46405 46407 46409 46411 46415 46413 53252 53254 53256 53258 53260 53262 53268 53270 53272 53274 46423 46435 53276 46443 }

# auth_token obtained via Firefox+TamperData while my brother logged into CSN
auth_token = "123456789012345"

say "Checking"

call_numbers.uniq.sort.each do |call_number|
    c = `curl -si -d CONVTOKEN=#{auth_token} -d AUDITT=N -d CALLT=#{call_number} -d CONTINUE=Continue "https://bighorn.nevada.edu/sis_csn/XSMBWEBM/SIVRE04.STR"`
    print "Call number #{call_number}: "
    if (c =~ /<p class="p5">([^< &#93;+)<br\/>/m)
        if $1.strip.empty?
            puts "May have openings\n"
            3.times {say "Michael, class number #{call_number} may be open!"}
        else
            puts "#{$1.strip}\n"
        end
    else
        puts "could not find message"
        say "Help. I cannot access the C S N website."
        return
    end
    sleep 5
end

# Ouput an audible message via Mac OS X's speech function
def say(message)
    `say "#{message}"`
end

We set this to run every 15 minutes on the living room iMac, and we turned up the volume. Every 15 minutes we could hear “Checking” from the computer. A few hours later we heard the script announce that a class had opened up. Michael, I’m still waiting for my $3.

Categories
Government Main Morals Pornography Speech

Can pornography be made unpopular?

My friend Cam has started a cause called Fight the New Drug (FTND). That “New Drug” is pornography, and their approach parallels the fight against tobacco.

This is about changing the messaging. For example, if smoking is a way to rebel against authority, then parents and medical experts saying Don’t smoke! only reinforces the rebellion. But if smoking is succumbing to executives at Big Tobacco, then smoking isn’t a form of rebellion at all, it’s a form of conformity. What rebellious kid wants to conform to Big Tobacco executives? That’s the message of The Truth campaign.

Become a Fighter - Fight the New Drug
Fight the New Drug

Imagine a similar change of messaging around pornography: Pornography isn’t glamorous, it isn’t sexy. Love and romance without pornography is glamorous and sexy. By making the negative externalities of pornography more visible, it would become less appealing. While organizations like CP80 and Lighted Candle Society fight the supply-side of pornography, FTND fights the demand-side.

I’m very excited about this approach.

Mary Eberstadt at Stanford’s Hoover Institution calls pornography the “new tobacco” and said:

Yesterday, smoking was considered unremarkable in a moral sense, whereas pornography was widely considered disgusting and wrong — including even by people who consumed it. Today, as a general rule, just the reverse is true. Now it is pornography that is widely (though not universally) said to be value-free, whereas smoking is widely considered disgusting and wrong — including even by many smokers.

Can we change minds again?

Columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez said:

…I’ve been flashing back to something Traci Lords once said: “I have to thank Ed Meese for saving my life.” At 18, her career as a porn star ended in a federal raid. How many Tracis are on a computer near you today? And who else is porn harming? It’s a question that our society — which in its rhetoric and culture says it cares about women and children and lives and love — needs to grapple with. If Eberstadt’s comparison is right, the time [is] coming. The shrugs will cease. Yet I hope the turnaround comes, not because the government has made porn highly inconvenient, but because we have decided we want something better. (Smoking Is Out, Porn Is In.)

Seth Godin said you can’t fight an ideavirus (“pornography is okay”) by “challenging the medium in which it spreads.” Instead, you must counter “one ideavirus with another one.”

You don’t counter racism by making the act of uttering racist statements against the law. You do it by spreading an idea (racism is hateful, wrong and stupid) that keeps the racist from expressing his ideas because all his friends will shun him if he does. (“Thinking about this war”.)

Here is some of the FTND messaging, paraphrased:

1. Educate people about the negative effects of pornography and let them choose their pornography involvement for themselves. We do not contest the legality to produce pornographic material.

2. Just because it’s legal to smoke cigarettes, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Similarly, porn can have devastating effects on you and your loved ones.

3. Although pornography consumption can lead to powerful addictive behaviors, we don’t contest people’s right to view it.

4. People need to be educated about the negative effects of pornography on individuals, families and businesses.

5. We fight against the demand for pornography. Through education, we believe people will no longer want to use porn and those with addictive behavior will seek help from professionals.

6. People addicted to porn often feel they have no options. We’re letting people know that they have a choice.

7. We want to infuse more sexiness into the world. Two committed people together — that is sexy. A lonely, addicted person sitting in front of a computer is not sexy.

Please make a $10 donation to FTND to become a “fighter”. Ten dollars from 1,000 people is better than $10,000 from 1 person. The money will be used to develop messaging campaigns to fight the demand for pornography. This will be a grass-roots movement to make pornography unpopular.

I’ve put in my $10 and I’m hoping many, many more friends will as well.

Categories
Apple Getting Things Done How To Mac Main Tech Tips

iPhone tip: Use a Silent Ringtone to Screen Calls in Your Sleep

Have you ever wished your iPhone would ring only when certain people call? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Download the “Silence” ringtone here: silence.m4r
  2. Copy this file into the Ringtones section of your iTunes. (Click to enlarge.)

    adding_ringtone_to_itunes
  3. Sync your iPhone with iTunes to load the ringtone.
  4. On your iPhone, change your ringtone to “Silence” (under Settings -> Sounds -> Ringtone). You’ll no longer hear your phone calls.

    2_iphone_silence_ringtone
  5. For each person whose calls you still want to hear, change his or her Custom Ringtone to something audible: Click the name in your contact list, choose Ringtone, then choose something besides Default

    3_iphone_important_caller 4_iphone_audible_ringtone

Now you can screen calls in your sleep. Because Sunday afternoons are for napping.

Categories
Apple Getting Things Done Mac Main Tech Tips

3 Uses for iPhone Screenshots

For all the iPhone users out there: You probably know you can take a snapshot of whatever you see on your screen:

  1. Briefly press the top and front buttons at the same time.
  2. The screen will flash white and you’ll hear a “snapshot” sound.
  3. A picture of your screen is now in your iPhone “Photos”.

I’ve found it extremely helpful to make screenshots, and I do it all the time. Here are a few reasons:

Remember an Interesting Part of a Podcast

If I’m driving and hear something I like in a podcast, I make a quick screenshot of the playback screen. When I get back to my computer, I can return to that spot in the podcast and take notes.

iphone_screenshot_podcast

Save a Point on a Map

Sometimes I want to “bookmark” a location on the map before looking up something else. A screenshot is a fast way to do this.

iphone_screenshot_map

Save a Website Address Without Interrupting Your Reading

Sometimes when I’m reading in Google Reader, I want to save the location of an article to read later. (I don’t want to leave Google Reader immediately because it has to entirely reload when I return.)

If you hold your finger on a link for a few seconds, a menu will popup with the address of the link. Sometimes I simply save a screenshot of the link, then hit Cancel and go back to my reading. Later I read the items I saved in my screenshots.

iphone_screenshot_opened_link

Screenshots can help you practice “ubiquitous capture” — capturing all notes, thoughts, and ideas, as they come to you, so you don’t have to keep them in your head.