Why I don’t like flying

At 7:30 I was at the lobby of the hotel in Savannah. I checked out and asked them to call me a cab.

They called Yellow. By 8:05 the cab had not arrived. They called a second cab company, Big Mike’s, who picked me up. Two blocks on the trip, we saw two Yellow Cabs parked, their drivers talking on their cell phones. It’s a 25-minute drive to the airport, so I got there less than the recommended two hours before departure time of 10:10, but it’s a small town and the airport wasn’t that busy.

Boarded the plane at 9:55. At 10:40 we were still on the runway.

And at 11:10.

And at 11:40. We’d had something called a “bird hit” which left a 1/10 inch dent in the side of the plane, and required repair.

At 11:50 we finally got going. We taxi’d to the runway, then had to wait 15 more minutes because ground control in Atlanta didn’t think we were coming and had to reschedule us into the flow.

We arrived at 12:45. Needless to say, I missed my 12:35 connection. Delta re-booked me on a 2:35 flight. I was pleased to see that I’d been upgraded to first class. I ate a Whopper at Burger King and waited.

Oops, it wasn’t really a confirmed seat. It was a first-class seat on standby. So I had to wait while all the other passengers boarded, not knowing if I was getting on or getting bumped to the 4:35 flight. Fortunately Delta’s shitty record getting other planes to Atlanta on time paid off. Someone missed their connection to the 2:35 plane and I got the first-class seat. At least I got a couple of free Coronas for my troubles. Wish they’d had lime slices.

The plane landed at 3:25, only 25 minutes after the scheduled arrival time, which for Delta is an outstanding performance. I got my luggage, hopped a cab, and was home.

7:30 to 3:50. No, wait. 7:30 to 4:50 Eastern Time. 9 hours 20 minutes.  I could’ve driven from Savannah in 10. It would’ve taken slightly longer, but I’d have been in control. No waiting, I could leave whenever I want, stop wherever I want. I’ve long had a rule that any destination within a 6-hour drive, I’ll drive rather than fly. May extend that rule a few more hours.

I am never, ever flying any connection involving Atlanta Hartsfield Airport again. That place is an air traffic control nightmare. I don’t care what I have to do. Hopefully Southwest will be here in a couple of years, taking over the AirTran spots, and air travel from Memphis as we know it will change forever.

I need a beer.


Just got home. Since I live on Main Street which is a pedestrian mall, I can’t have cabs pull right up to the front door. I always tell them, “Madison and Main, just find anyplace to drop me off near there that you can.”

So today, the closest place my cab driver could find was outside the Madison Hotel. The valet started to unload my bags and I said, “No worries, I’ll get it, I’m not a guest. I live in the apartments around the corner.”

He unloaded them anyway and said, “Now you know what kind of service you get at the Madison.”

Nice move.

Geekend’s over: Random thoughts and info I learned today

Geekend 2010 has wrapped up. Well, the after-party is happening right now, a block party outside SEED Eco Lounge. However, it’s 42 outside, dropping into the mid-thirties later. I hate cold weather and the Arkansas-South Carolina game is on. My flight is not until 10:18, but that means I need to be at the airport by 8:18, which means I need to get a cab out of here by 7:48 (the airport is far from the city), which means I need to be up no later than 7. I think I’ll stay in. Here’s a recap of things I learned today and random thoughts.

If you want your audience to retain text you show them, attach an image to it. Studies show 65% retention with an image.

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug was recommended as a good book on Web usability.

Be careful if you use public Wi-Fi networks. There’s a tool that can be used to steal your cookies, and therefore your identity on social networks. The scary thing is, this thing has been out three years, and Facebook has known about it and has not bothered to secure their system. Gmail has secured theirs.

If you want to get into smartphone app development, this book is a good place to start: Pro Smartphone Cross-Platform Development: iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Android Development and Distribution

I attended a really good seminar about testing for the Web. I honestly expected to be bored out of my mind in this one, but found it very interesting and useful. The presenter discussed a language called Cucumber that can be used to make sure developers and customers are on the same page, and to verify that web applications do what they’re supposed to during both the testing and production phases. Go to cukes.info for more information. Examples are written in Ruby but could easily be applied to PHP or other languages.

Keynote on TwitPic was good as well. The guy founded it while holding a full-time job in January ’08, but retained his job until February ’09. He still only has four employees, two of whom are his parents. He’s only 26. The Hudson River plane crash in early ’09 was the first event that really spiked the use of TwitPic, as well as the Iranian protests several months later.

Organizers did little things all weekend to keep the event fun. They kicked it off Thursday with a marching band. People were tweeting stuff like, “Holy sweet mother of moses they have a marching band!” I have to admit, having seen so many of them at parades and festivals in Downtown Memphis, I was like, “Meh, it’s a marching band, no big deal.” They did their job of getting people fired up though. Throughout the weekend, prizes were hidden around the conference center – MailChimp hats, T-shirts, and games. If you found a MailChimp hat, the deal was that you had to wear it for the rest of the day. The hats were knit caps that looked like monkeys. I have to admit, I didn’t try very hard to find those hats. I wish I’d found a T-shirt though.

A lot of my fellow Geekend attendees followed me on Twitter – I think I gained something like 30 followers in 3 days. I wonder what they’re going to think when I get back to Memphis and my tweets revert to their usual crappy material. “Wow he sure does spend a lot of time in bars,” they’ll be thinking. “And what’s the deal with tube tops? Who is this Nuh-Uh person who eats all the time?” I bet I get a lot of unfollows over the next 7 days once my fellow attendees get a sense of my crap-to-quality ratio on Twitter.

Aw, that’s nice… someone just checked in at the Saucer and shouted that the place is not the same without me. Good to be missed. I’ll be back there tomorrow, although a couple of hours late to Sunday Fun Day (probably more than a couple, since I’m flying Delta which seems completely incapable of ever arriving on time).

Arkansas is whooping South Carolina. The Gamecocks will likely drop out of the top 25 after this. Hopefully we’ll move up to at least 15.

All right, laptop battery is running down, time to hit Publish. Memphis, see you tomorrow.

Using social media to job hunt

If you’re hunting for a job, you’ll want to read this. Quite by accident, I stumbled across a number of good job hunting tips at the Geekend conference this morning.

I say “quite by accident” because I didn’t even mean to attend that presentation. I went to the one called “Using the Desktop Database to Simply Your Creative Life,” which I thought would be the one most relevant for work. Turns out it was about Access and similar, stuff I already know. Not that it wasn’t a fine presentation, but I could see I wasn’t going to get anything relevant out of it that I could use at my job. So after about 15 minutes, I snuck out and popped in the room next door to see what was going on. It was a panel discussion with people from Monster.com, BFG Communications, and Memorial University Medical Center. They offered a lot of job hunting tips using social media, and while I’m not looking for a job, I took notes for the benefit of my blog readers who are. Here’s what I got:

– What are the best networks for job hunting? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. You need to find out which networks the recruiters in your industry use, and join those.

– Example of building a relationship: You find out that a hiring manager is on Twitter. You follow her. She tweets that she likes Diet Coke. Later she tweets that she’ll be at a conference. You attend that conference and bring her a Diet Coke.

– Have profiles that are COMPLETELY filled out. Especially on LinkedIn. Recruiters often say, “Well, this person looks like they might be a fit, but we can’t tell because their profile is only 20% filled out.” Then they discard that person as a prospect.

– Make sure your contact info is 100% up to date on all networks you use to job search, whether social networks like LinkedIn or job search sites like Monster or CareerBuilder. You wouldn’t believe how many people seem to be qualified but the recruiters can’t reach them because their info is out of date.

– Update your profile on job search sites and LinkedIn every 30 days. If nothing else, delete your resume and re-upload, even if it’s unchanged. Recruiters will often limit searches to those with activity in the last 30 days, to avoid getting a lot of people who have already found jobs but have not deleted their profile.

– Search Twitter for conversations about your industry using the keywords that are a best fit for you, then follow and join in the conversations.

– To get the attention of people at the company you want to work for, be creative.

One guy bought Google AdWords the company would see when they searched.

Another sent teaser postcards to Disney saying “It’s coming…” and after several of those sent a paint can. Inside the can was her resume, in paper and electronic format.

– It’s all about standing out in that search.

– Absolute most wrong thing to do: Have one resume that you send out for all positions you apply for, without any customizing.

– The new generation of recruiting software scans your resume and creates a word cloud. Then it searches for you on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to develop a more complete picture of who you are. Therefore, get a consistent image of who you are, your goals, etc. on all these sites.

– Ask yourself: What’s the kind of job that I REALLY want? Not the job you need, to pay the bills. Look for specific companies, even if there’s no current opening. Leave comments on their company blogs. Follow them on Twitter. See what they’re interested in. Educate yourself.

– Start a blog. The great thing is, with blogs anyone can have a platform to talk about what’s going on in their industry. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 reader or 10,000. The point is, when you find a job and interview for it, there’s proof that you’re genuinely interested in what’s happening in your industry, because by then you will have been blogging for a while. It will prove that you’re not just saying the right things on your resume and in the interview; you really have a passion for what you do.

– Look for conferences to attend. Can’t attend them? Follow presenters and attendees on Twitter. For example, if you couldn’t make it to Geekend, search for the #Geekend hashtag and follow everyone who is using it. It’s not as good as being there but you’ll get some feeling for what’s going on, and you’ll have people you can contact and ask questions.

– Take an hour a day to read blogs and tweets in your industry.

– Question: Are introverts just screwed job-hunting with the advent of social media? Answer: Not at all. In fact, introverts have an advantage because they think carefully before they say anything.

– Recommended strategy for the “big three” of social media:

LinkedIn – connect with everyone you meet professionally. Think of it as your Rolodex full of business cards.

Twitter – follow people of interest in your industry. Talk to them. If they become uninteresting, you can always unfollow.

Facebook – think of it as “third base” – not everyone gets to go there on the first date. Keep it more private, only let people in you trust. One of the presenters follows 700 people on Twitter but only has 89 Facebook friends.

– Someone asked about having multiple accounts, and I (me, Paul, not one of the presenters) want to chime in. It’s fine on Twitter if you want to tailor accounts to particular interests, or if you want to separate “Professional You” from “Personal You.” On Facebook – don’t do it. This violates their terms of service, to have multiple accounts, and Facebook can suspend both of them. Trying to get an account reinstated on Facebook is like trying to herd cats. They are completely unprofessional and customer service-unfriendly about reinstatements.

On lunch break right now. They served us a catered lunch of chicken fingers and club sandwiches, and punched our badges to make sure that no one pulled The Nuh-Uh Move and tried to go through the food line twice. Back this afternoon for three more small conferences, the TwitPic keynote, and the after-party at SEED.

(Sorry if this contains any typos – on a tight schedule, don’t have time to proofread as thoroughly as usual)

Interesting stuff I learned yesterday

Yesterday was day two of the Geekend conference in Savannah. Having been to five small presentations and heard two keynote speeches, I can tell you it has absolutely been worth the money. Just two marketing tips I got from one of the event’s sponsors – not even an official presenter – may turn out to be worth what my company paid to send me.

I won’t bore you by recapping all the techie details, but I’ll share a few interesting things I heard yesterday.

I got to hear a presentation by a representative of Change.org, a site where people can band together online to take social action. He told a story of an author who got censored by his publisher, Scholastic, after he submitted a story about a fourth-grader who has two mommies. They refused to publish the book, saying that’s not the image they want to project of their company. People got on Change.org and created such a protest that not only did Scholastic apologize and publish the book, but they also promised never to censor an author again.

The same presenter told us about trying to make an overseas long-distance relationship with his girlfriend work using Skype and a site called “YouPorn.” To avoid this blog being blocked by a lot of online content filters, I’m not going to link to YouPorn, but you can look it up if it sounds interesting to you.

I learned that while unloading a truck for a charity event, Paula Deen got hit with a ham in the face. “It was a ham-tastrophe,” she Facebooked.

Cell carriers are looking for creative ways to hide their towers. AT&T paid a church $12,000 a year to install a cell tower in its steeple. They also paid the church’s electric bill.

I attended a panel comparing Drupal, WordPress, and a commercial CMS called ExpressionEngine. Dammit, I forgot to brag to people that WordPress.com and Matt Mullenweg sponsored my BBQ team. That’s some serious geek cred right there, and I failed to capitalize on it.

Our keynote speaker was the Chief Digital Architect for NBC Universal. He told us the story of how their current Fan It site came into being. I had no idea TV had become so interactive. Fans of The Office can become “employees” of Dunder Mifflin and complete tasks for the company. Fans of The Biggest Loser can take the same challenges as the contestants, and keep an online food journal and weight loss blog. Fans can earn points which can be cashed in for real-life goodies like T-shirts. Very cool. NBC recognized in 2006 that the Web was evolving, and they better evolve with it.

I decided to skip last night’s official after party, and tour Downtown Savannah on my own. I had dinner at an Irish pub, where the guy sitting next to me at the bar called me “ma’am” by mistake because of my long hair, then bought me a beer to apologize. Long hair pays off sometimes. Then I walked south to a dive bar called Pinkie Master’s, where I had several cans of PBR and ended up chatting with a cute nurse. I meant to walk back north to check out a dance club I found on Google Maps, but I was having such a good time at Pinkie’s that I decided to stay there. Pinkie’s is about the size of my living room and kitchen combined. Apparently a lot of politicians go there. They have an autographed photo of Jimmy Carter. If you go there, bring cash, because they don’t take credit cards.

About to head back for day three. Tonight’s keynote speaker is the founder of TwitPic, the site that lets you post photos to Twitter. He’ll discuss how it started as a weekend project that he never expected to amount to much. When he exceeded his wildest expectations, he quickly had to learn how to run and scale a rapidly growing company. After the keynote, there’s an after-party at SEED Eco Lounge, an environmentally friendly nightclub. (I’d link to them but I’m getting a “Warning: this site may harm your computer” message from Google.) The club seats about 27 and there are 600 Geekenders, so they’re blocking off Montgomery Street for a huge block party.

Heading out… as always, you can follow @paulryburn on Twitter to keep up with my activities today.

An iPhone case that’s actually useful

So this morning between presentations at Geekend, I was talking to one of the other attendees. I do so much note-taking and Facebooking and tweeting during the seminar that I had to bring my charger. I knew the iPhone battery wouldn’t last half a day.

The guy I was speaking to then showed me something very cool – his iPhone case, which he bought from Mophie, is a backup battery. It looks like just your average black metal case, but when you switch it on, it powers the phone. He said he’s dropped his phone numerous times too, and not a scratch on it.

I hate cases. They make the phone more bulky. I’ve survived 18 months without a case, but I gotta tell you, I like that one. It’s something I would consider buying.

Time to get back to the conference. We’re on lunch break until 1:30 and they’re offering free Segway rides.

SMA meeting at the new Muse location Tuesday

The South Main Association will hold its monthly meeting Tuesday, November 9 in the new Muse location just south of the Arcade on South Main. This month there won’t be a speaker as usual; rather, the proposed board for 2011 will be presented. Social at 6, meeting at 6:30. There will be a cash bar, and Marcy Siebert will provide complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

Free food? Wonder if the Nuh-Uh Girl will show up.

Center for Southern Folklore to hold open house

The Center for Southern Folklore will hold an open house Saturday, November 20 from 1 to 5 PM. If you’ve never been to the Center, it is one of Memphis’ treasures. It’s a place to learn about and buy regional art and music. On the 20th they’ll have arts and gifts for sale, and there may be surprise appearances by our regional artists. 2010 Memphis Music & Heritage Fest T-shirts, featuring Jim Dickinson, will be on sale at the open house. There will be light snacks and beverages too.

Free food? Wonder if the Nuh-Uh Girl will show up.


The Geekend conference kicked off last night with a presentation by Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. The main point of his talk was that everything you do is marketing – every interaction involving any person or thing that represents your brand. He had a lot of good ideas about engaging your audience in conversation. I furiously tried to keep up with him on the Notes app on my iPhone. Today I’m bringing pen and paper.

He said one thing at the end that I’ve found to be true. Once he was done talking about engaging people, even people who constructively disagree with you, he talked about trolls. He showed the Twitter comment below.

The tweet reads, “Am I the only one who finds @unmarketing to be an annoying, blabber mouthed, self prophetic ass?” Now, this is not a constructive comment. This is a troll. How do you respond to them?

The answer, Stratten said, is that you don’t, and I couldn’t agree more. Who wins if Stratten were to reply to this? The troll does. Stratten has 44,000 followers; this troll had 37. By responding, Stratten wouldn’t gain anything, and the troll would pick up a bunch of new followers. Sometimes you just have to let things that are said about you go, to avoid wasting mental and psychic energy and being dragged down to the troll’s level.

So anyway, after the keynote speech there was an after-party at The Distillery, a bar with 100 different beers near the conference:

They had an extensive list of beers they serve – 21 on tap and another 80 in bottles – but there are some beers they refuse to serve. See pic below.

We don't sell Bud, Coors, Miller, Yuengling, Mich, Corona, Stella, Blue Moon, Heineken, Killian's

However, they do sell this:

PBR can

My kind of bar.

Here’s one more pic, me posing with the robots which are Geekend’s mascots. I’m determined to be the person at the conference who wears the loudest shirts.

And here’s what I’ll be doing today:

Friday schedule

Keynote speaker tonight should be really good – the chief digital architect from NBC Universal. This conference is just loaded with talent.

About time to get down there. For the first time in a long time, I actually ate breakfast this morning. I had two turkey sausage patties, a banana, and three cups of orange juice. Now I’m drinking a Mountain Dew as I type this.

Possibly more posts later today, if I find time.