A return to long form posts

While I won’t go so far as to say I will be blogging again like the old days, I can say I will be writing again. And I plan on using this old site to do it. There will only be a few posts per month, I would wager, but they will be good posts. That is my promise to you, good (non-existent) reader.

I am also going through the 1400 or so past posts to this site and revisiting the ones that are more timeless, say something about me, or I find amusing. Some of these have already been made public again (see below), while others will be re-published over time, as I can find it. I may call these posts out here when I do so, and I may not. In any event, Thanks for visiting, again. It has been too long.

What has Ben been up to?

Not that anyone was really asking, but I want to tell the few of you who aren’t search engines and spiders, what I have been up to recently (and hey if the spiders are amused, all the better). It has been a very busy year so far for me and I have realized that too many of the posts on Alt Text recently, have been links to other sites, posts, and videos and a lot less of me. I’m not contending that people think I am all that interesting, but a side-effect of not talking about myself is that I have not been talking about things I am doing and things I care about, and this is perhaps effecting how much passion I have had for blogging. How can I ask you, the reader, to care about what I am writing here, if I have been less than passionate? The answer is, I can’t. So I am hoping to start some more off-the-cuff style posts – perhaps putting less research into some topics, but also adding more of my own personality.

So what have I been up to? As I was saying it has been a very busy, but also a very fulfilling and, in many ways, extraordinary year so far. The first thing to note is that I co-founded a company with my friends, Scott and Jesse. My work as part of Refactr has been rewarding and fun. We have developed a product that we plan on releasing soon and we are working with a medical startup company to help them develop their flagship product. In addition to working in a very agile way we are leading the way in the Groovy/Grails development community by building a large application using this new language/framework.

To help foster community here at home in Minnesota, we have started the Groovy(and Grails) Users of Minnesota. Meetings are the 2nd Tuesday of each month. In late April, minnebar, the (un)conference I help to put on was a huge success with over 330 people spending a Saturday indoors geeking out. By all accounts, it was the second largest barcamp event in the world and the largest outside of India.

In addition to work and community related stuff, I have been playing volleyball and kickball this winter and spring. Jena and I threw a Cinco de Mayo party with her sister and husband that was quite fun and then my loving wife gt me a Wii for my birthday so I have been busy playing Wii sports like golf, tennis and bowling, as well as trying my luck with Super Paper Mario, Zelda, and Call of Duty 3.

Late night ramblings

Tonight was the 2nd meeting of what some* are terming the Twin Cities Social Capital Collective (SCC) and I want to give props to Jake Saba for getting this ball rolling. Between minnebar, SCC, and minnedemo, in September my little web and business communities in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are alive and brimming with excitement.

*Ok I was brainstorming ideas, and this was one of the ideas that came out of my brain but it was one of many :)

I have a feeling many good things are going to be coming out of these events and opportunities and am glad to see them growing. If you are interested in any of these events let me know in the comments and I will post more and/or write privately.

A couple housekeeping notes to clear up:

1) I temporarily launched a new version of Alt Text but then rolled it back when there was some bad mojo with IE. Stupid IE!

2) Some colleagues and I have put up refactr.com – a site devoted to the discussion and encouragement of the Agile method. That’s a good little Agile method. Yes you are! I hope to start actively promoting the site soon, as soon, that is, as we fux some broke ass shit that’s still there.

3) We have our fence up now at the house and are looking to get a 2nd dog any day now. Just trying to find the right pup on PetFinder.com. My preference would be a dog that is mid-to-large sized, scruffy and doesn’t shed much.

Signing Statement: As producer of this weblog, I reserve the right to make shit up, ignore your requests for features and reports of bugs, treat you like children, make an ass of myself, and basically do any damn thing I please. I also reserve the right to drink while posting up in this bitch.

Agile design

At the MinneBar conference in May I presented a session titled Agile Design and a great discussion ensued. The talk centered around the concepts and ideas of the Agile Method, but, you guessed it, as it related to information and visual design. I have had a great opportunity in my current role to help to define and evolve our process and practices surrounding software design and development. I love the team I work with and hope to continue breaking new ground with them.

I also wanted to post a bit about some ongoing and upcoming projects I am involved in so you know what I have been up to and what to expect.

First, I am planning to launch a new site with some peers of mine that will be focused on the agile method and particularly how it pertains to the development of “web 2.0” apps. You might think of it as a Signal vs. Noise type blog with less of a marketing spin.

I am also helping to plan OpenBar for the fall of 2006. OpenBar will pick up where MinneBar left off but its entire focus will be on open source software, using open source in your business, and is aimed at developing, enriching, and bringing together Minnesota’s large but disjointed open source community.

I also have a Minnesota blog aggregation site brewing slowly, but my decision to write in Ruby and on the Rails framework (as my first foray into such technologies) is retarding my progress. Hopefully, I will post more on this soon.

Lastly, this site is on the verge of another facelift. I really like the new visual design a lot, but am more excited by some of the ways the new site will be organized as well as some of the additional features and content I will be adding. Not sure when this will happen, but I am hoping for a June launch.

Prefab housing still intriguing to homebuilders

Prefab homes are still garnering a lot of interest, especially amongst designers and like-minded folks. In fact, a designer friend of mine, Pete is building a home using Hive Modular (not to be confused with Hive Designs). The Flat Pak House is another firm I have covered here before but alas I cannot link to them because their site sucks and tries to control my browser and make it display full screen. Perhaps that is why “flat pak” is currently the largest search term leading people to Alt Text and why the Alt Text page is Google’s first result as well. And there are several more variations that bring in a lot of traffic to my site (flat+pack+house+minneapolis and flat+pak+house). Not surprisingly, I think that the chronicling of my home building experience [posts and photo gallery] is giving me more credibility to Google and other search engines.

Aside

1001 post on Alt Text

I had meant to announce (with much fanfare) my 1000th post here on Alt Text, however due to the great number of draft posts I have under the hood, I lost track. So here it is….the 1001st post since I have been keeping track (1999).

Alt Text to music

A theme song for Alt Text? That’s right. This bit of music was generated by looking at the URL for Alt Text. Go to this site and see for yourself; or go here for many more ways to play with music and computers. [Hiromi]

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Just when you write off the folks at Sakebomb they go and add content to their site. In between their own hijinks they stop and take time to work on the upcoming Jackass: The Movie website

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A memorial service will be held for Paul Wellstone tomorrow night at 6:30.

What: Official Memorial Service
When: Tuesday, October 29, 6:30 PM
Where: Williams Arena
University of MN
(Minneapolis Campus)
1925 University Ave SE
Minneapolis

You can check here for more info and updates.