My Digital Life @ Marlin Digital

A Warning - Mind Warp ahead This blog serves as in intermediary blog - a place where my ideas go to stew and mature (and sometimes die). For a more distilled reading of business and technical content please visit my company blog at http://marlindigitalagency.com

Monday, January 4, 2010

Too much fun not to share



I can appreciate how frustrating it can be to find a social media partner - and wondering why it can be so expensive to use free services. But then again think back to signs - there is a reason Wal-Mart doesn't let their kids just make their store signage. There are professionals out there that make that signage more effective. The same reason you don't let your nephew build your website, they are more effective if you find a true professional. Also remember that many of the tools used to build websites today are free (the software anyway) Much of the technology we use at the Marlin Digital Agency is free. HTML is free, PHP is free, MySQL is Free, Drupal is Free, Linux is free, Apache is free. Still even with all this "free" stuff most of us can appreciate that there is still more to it than handing a "Websites for Dummies" book to your secretary and let her build your company's website.

The same follows with an effective social media strategy. Finding the right partner can be challenging. Finding companies that have been doing it for 5 years don't even exist! Many of the tools being used, the technology that's been adopted so rapidly has only been around for a few years at best.

We've been building websites for a long time, and have been developing for these tools since their beta-launch (sometimes even earlier than that). We don't do magic formlas - we sell solutions, products designed to handle specific needs. Proundly I can say we eat our own dog food here :)

Don't become cynical of social media as one component of your company's marketing strategy, and while you can go it alone - you'll do better with a little guidance. There are a lot of things that are free that can be done more effectively with a good coach.

Happy New Years everyone and have a prosperous 2010!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Taking time out for some fun is required :)

I took some time this Christmas Break to take my kids back to my folks house where I grew up - being that they are 6 & 7 I thought we should indulge one of my favorite past times at that age. Sledding at my old elementary school! I can in fact remember the Apple IIe computers and where I fell in love with tech in the first place. But tech is meaningless if it actually fails to add meaning to our lives. I love that I am able to record these memories with my phone and post them to face-book or here so my grandparents can participate in a way in the memories me and my dad made with my kids today.


video


My Old Man braves the hill :)

video

Friday, January 1, 2010

Is Technorati Ready?

In fairness they are in beta - but I am trying to evaluate tattler (a Drupal distribution that allows you to track brand sentiment among many other cool sounding features) and tattler uses an api key from technorati - but their api key isn't ready yet, and their old keys stopped working in October. At least I was able to register my blog - sigh here's the key I needed to put in to let them know that I do indeed own this blog: BMN736ADPNHE - :) I'll keep you posted when we have a work-around for the Tattler install.

Happy New Year!

Wow - what a wrap up! 2009 to me seemed to be there year when open source went mainstream. Drupal in particular shined, not because it is the most popular CMS out there, but it's adoption by numerous government agencies - most notably the White House.

I know that it is customary to make goals this time of year - so I thought I would share some of mine....

1. For Starters I would like to continue my work in Open-source software for web-development.

2. I would like to better evangelize how important an Open-source and Social media strategy is to the success of any organization today - be it educational, health care, retail or non-profit. I hope to do this by publishing a book in the area to be released sometime in 2011. I will post a website shortly to help promote the book and you will be able to have a hand in its creation.

3. I would like to shatter the "programmers are nerds and out of shape" stereotype - lol, personally I need to start with myself, being a slightly overweight nerdy programmer...If anyone has any good ideas let me know. I am currently using the Couch to 5K, 100 Pushups and 200 situps apps - you can encourage me by following me on facebook www.facebook.com/roberttwobears

4. For many of us in software our work becomes less of a job and more of a lifestyle, which is great, it means many of us love our jobs. The downside is we are "always on" and sometimes our families and loved one pay the price. The effect of this is twofold, creating the feeling of when you are working you should be spending time with your family and when you are with you family you should be at work - this doesn't even get into the time you need as an individual to work on yourself so you have something left to give in the first place. This can be even compounded more by the fact that a larger percentage of us developers have the opportunity to work remotely than other fields. I've heard that women are better multitaskers than men somewhere ;) but I even think female developers would be more effective if they were able to work on only one thing at a time. So what's an aspiring CTO to do?

Some compartmentalization I think is necessary, but the nature of our work makes a hard division near impossible. You can't control inspiration. Part of my answer is to go back to my military roots and (enter dramatic music here) get up earlier. A 4am wake up gives me the time I need to take care of myself in the morning - to work out, prepare for the day and keep my house in order. It also gives me some quiet time in the morning to do some important self development work. By the time work starts I have all MY stuff done and have my work day organized and prepped. Work, though it tend to spill out, is to be done between the hours of 8 and 5 - more may be required if there are deadlines looming or some big deal to close, however if this becomes the norm it is time to examine my processes in order to eliminate deficiencies in my best practices. Time after 5 then is open for family and recreation.

If anyone has ideas on how to accomplish them four things - Expert, Author, Fitness, Balance let me know ;) Thanks for reading

Robert

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Warning - Mind Warp ahead

This blog serves as in intermediary blog - a place where my ideas go to stew and mature (and sometimes die). The the brave of heart it is a look into my mind before all the polish that will take place in creating a single blog entry worthy of posting on my company website. For a more distilled and polished read I would visit my blog at Marlin Digital Agency. We just launched the site and it is out there for the world to see.

If you curious to see how a Social Digital Media Agency startup works this and the company blog are going to be blogs you don't want to miss.

:) Like I said though, you are more than welcome here - but I will be posting distilled thought on the company blog - but don't worry, I will let you know when I do!

Thanks for reading!

The Quest for a Thank You Message from Drupal's Webform Module

There is a way to send out a thank you message using the advanced php processing that drupal forms currently has:


$to = $form['submitted']['email']['#value'];
$from = variable_get('site_mail', '');
$body = drupal_html_to_text($node->webform['confirmation']);
$message = drupal_mail('webform_extra', 'reply', $to, language_default(), array('body' => $body), $from, TRUE);

function webform_extra_mail($key, &$message, $params) {
$message['subject'] = "Thanks for your interest.";
$message['body'] = $params['body'];

This is all well and good - however it is not very user friendly - here is what I propose:

Add an Auto-responder or Thank you Message in the Web-mail settings.
We need to collect the following data:
  • The field that will be used when sending the thank you message
  • The email Subject
  • The email Body
We will also need the remaining fields to be tokenized as well as having the other site information available.

All I want to accomplish here is when a user fills out a form they receive a thank you message

My approach is to build a custom module called 'webform_autoresponder'

____________________________________________________
My info file:

webform_autoresponder.info
***********************************************************************
; $Id: $
name = Webform AutoResonder
description = Enables Webforms to have a configurable Email Autoresponder field
core = 6.x

Right now I my schema will look something like this

____________________________________
NID / From / Subject / Message /
____________________________________

For the module itself I am using hook form alter to insert my fields where I would like them in the already existing webform edit form:


/**
* Implementation of hook_form_alter().
* Change the way an existing form is rendered
*/
function webform_autoresponder_form_webform_node_form_alter(&$form, &$form_state){
$form['webform']['mail_settings']['ar_from'] = array(
'#type' => 'textfield',
'#title' => t('From'),
'#description' => t('If you create a conditional email recipient based off a field this is the address that it will be emailed from'),
'#default_value' => 'confemail',
);
$form['webform']['mail_settings']['ar_subject'] = array(
'#type' => 'textfield',
'#title' => t('Subject'),
'#description' => t('If you create a conditional email recipient based off a field this is the subject that will be in the email to them'),
);
$form['webform']['mail_settings']['ar_confemail'] = array(
'#type' => 'textarea',
'#title' => t('Confirmation Email message'),
'#description' => t('If you create a conditional email recipient based off a field this is the body that will be emailed to them'),
'#default_value' => 'confemail',
'#cols' => 40,
'#rows' => 10,
);
}
Naturally as this module becomes more mature I will post more code and eventually commit it to the Drupal repository. Please leave any advise or suggestions

-Robert

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Brave New World - Far more social than I ever imagined

One of the most interesting things about the times I live in is watching our media change from simple one way communication from a handful of sources to a complex array of networks generated not only by traditional content distributers, but by our friends and family as well. A flashy ad in a newspaper fails to sell you something because of a passing negative comment by your uncle on Facebook. Part of my job is to make sure companies have the tools they need to analyze this new medium and provide real time "just in time" marketing to their products and services.

A big part of why I like the work I do is because of it's tendency to foster better transparency and communications between companies and individuals. In order for trust to be restored communication between customers and companies must flow unhindered in both directions. I believe that the customer's ability to share their experiences with other companies cheaply and easily will result in a more honest marketplace.

I would love to hear your ideas as we explore this Brave New World together - I plan to be covering a wide variety of topics from open source software to social media platforms and all the other tools we use at Marlin Digital to help companies compete in a new Marketscape.

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About Me

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I help people relate to other people better :) Preferring harmony over conflict I have been helping people relate better with one another since I was a kiddo.