Posts about 'Web'

Serendeputy 2 update for March

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

I’m making good progress on this (increasingly) large project.

The production environment is sketched and spiked, using Amazon Web Services. I think I’ve solved the SSL issues with a combination of CloudFlare and elastic load balancer.

The crawler is up and running — I’d even say reasonably solid. It’s well-behaved, working with robots.txt files and following all the crawler best practices. Once it’s running on the AWS servers, I’ll get a better idea for how many sites just block traffic from the Amazon IPs on general principles. I have a feeling that I’ll be paying for other people’s sins.

The personalization math is done and the code is prototyped. As I’m using it, I’m tweaking the coefficients for the gestures to balance how much they can influence the profiles.

The front end is not egregiously ugly! No one would ever claim that I’m a designer, but I’m going to have that alpha in front of people to get feedback, and then bring in a real design person/team/agency for the beta version.

March is going to be an insane month in pretty much every corner of my life, but I’m still hoping to have an alpha version that I (and maybe you!) can use in the beginning of April.

Serendeputy 2 update for February

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

I’m still working diligently towards my rock-solid deadline of “Launch this thing at some point in the indeterminate future.”

I finished the gesture engine this week. Now that that’s solid, I’m spending most of my time over the next month working on the profile balancer and its complement, the homepage builder.

I’m looking at these like a chef composing a recipe: how can I balance the flavors just right? I’m working to strike the balance among recency, relevance (how it maps to your interest profile), and reputation (how important the page is on the worldwide Internet).

My AWS infrastructure is set up, and I’m running parts of the application on it right now. Making progress.

I should be able to get into alpha Real. Soon. Now. (I’m shooting for by Opening Day, but we’ll see…)

Thanks for staying tuned.

Still Alive

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Hi everyone!

I am, in fact, still alive — not that you'd know it from my writing here. I've been heads-down on the next version of my news engine, which is scheduled to launch at some point Real. Soon. Now.

My "linky goodness" posts that used to live here are now mostly going through my account on Twitter. You can follow them (in nicely consolidated form) here on TweetDeputy. It's a quick way to keep up with what I'm finding interesting on the web.

More soon…

Serendeputy 2 notes

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

The children go back to school tomorrow, and the transition from Dad-mode to launch-mode begins.

After I took a week or two off to adjust to an abrupt transition, this has been an insanely productive summer. (Obviously not the “writing the blog” front, though.) I’m in the middle of rewriting Serendeputy, my personal news application, from the ground up, and I’m pretty excited by the direction it’s taken. A lot has changed since I wrote the first version in 2008-2009, and it’s been so much fun to be able to update it to match the world we’re in now.

It’s currently in private “pre-alpha” i.e., running on my laptop. I should have a thrill-seeker version available for early testing by the end of September. If you’re interested in playing with it, please drop me a line.

Tech notes for those who are interested in that sort of stuff:

  • It’s still a Rails (4.0) front end, but that’s almost entirely a thin wrapper over a series of services.
  • I’m playing with Clojure for the personalization engine. I’ve written the original logic in Ruby to make sure it works; I’m going to see if I can port it over to Clojure to get a performance and memory boost.
  • I’m pretty much all in on AWS. Serendeputy currently runs on a few Rackspace (formerly Slicehost) servers; the new version is entirely AWS-based.
  • I’m about to fire up RubyMotion to write the iOS client. I’d really rather have a native client, and I’m hoping that my using a Ruby-based environment can make that happen. If it works, then I should be able to contract out an Android version. If not, then I’ll fall back to the mobile-optimized site through the browser.

We’ve launched

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy new year!

I started a few weeks ago as the VP of Product and Technology at a startup called Compass Aging. And today, we just pushed live the first public beta of the product!

We’re building a tool that will help adult children of aging parents take control of all the challenges and opportunities that come along with that stage of life. The vision is big, and this first public beta represents about 20% of the functionality. (So, yes, things are likely to be pretty dark in these parts over the next few months…)

What’s most interesting in this first version:

- The Care Plan tool. What we’ve done here is to build out the first version of a tool that takes the concerns you have for your loved one and builds a plan customized to those concerns, with additional information and suggestions on how to take control.

- The Care Safe. This might be my favorite piece. We’ve built out the first version of a centralized place where you (and your siblings and other concerned folks) can keep track of everything that’s happening with your parents, including to-dos, notes, important documents, etc. Just keeping everyone on the same page and bought in to the plan is going to be a major win for folks.

- Housing Search. Choosing a senior-living option is one of the most important (and expensive) decisions you’re going to have to make. We want to be best in the world at helping you make that decision.

We’ve started in Newton, Needham and Wellesley. As we figure out what information is most useful for the consumers, we’re going to build this out nationwide. The IA geek in me is very excited about this project.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

p.s., Big visions require great teams. I’m hiring for about a dozen positions right now. Check them out here: Jobs at Compass Aging.

Launch mode

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

So, it’s been a little dark around these parts lately. Sorry ’bout that.

I’m in launch mode.

I’ll be back up for air in early January.

Kickstarter in the real world

Friday, October 12th, 2012

So, this is really interesting. First Root Farm, our CSA here in Concord, is doing a Kickstarter project to buy a fancy new tractor.

This is the first time I’ve seen Kickstarter used in the world outside of media and technology products. Outstanding data point.

Here’s their Kickstarter video:

And this is how you kill an ecosystem

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Wow, Twitter is (in my humble opinion) committing a massive strategic blunder. If you want a thriving ecosystem, let your partners feel confident and make money.

Today. Literally, today. I’m sitting down and writing the product plan for a suite of new products. They’re knowledge products, but not specifically communications products. Twitter integration was a given. Now it’s unlikely.

Classic mistakes are classic for a reason — they’re highly seductive. Still, it’s sad to see.

Fun with machine learning

Monday, August 13th, 2012

I spend a lot of time working with machine learning — exciting, I know. That said, this is a really interesting use of it to determine “what makes Paris look like Paris”?

Take four minutes to watch this. It’s really interesting.

How long would humanity last in a robot apocalypse?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Randall Munroe, author of our favorite web comic, xkcd, is writing a weekly series exploring the scientific underpinnings of interesting questions. This week? How long would humanity last in a robot apocalypse?

The good news: probably a lot longer than we’d expect.

What people don’t appreciate, when they picture Terminator-style automatons striding triumphantly across a mountain of human skulls, is how hard it is to keep your footing on something as unstable as a mountain of human skulls.

Your personal API

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

This is geeky, but supremely interesting if you’re into that sort of thing: the Cambrian explosion of everything.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few months about personal APIs, personal deputies and Freenon’s forkable nuggets of knowledge. Within a few years (maybe sooner), everything will have an API, and most of your personal interactions with the world will be API-mediated. I’m thinking through how Serendeputy fits into this model. Right now, it’s your personal intermediary for news, and your profile is its API. How does this extend beyond this one use case?

Mostly, I want to see what I can do to make sure that this future bends towards open, with individuals controlling their data and their life. (See the previous post on dystopian futures…)

Anyway, this is the type of stuff I’m thinking about. I want this to exist; now it’s just the small matter of implementation, distribution and paying the bills in the meantime :-)

Launching a site is like driving in a snowstorm

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

At this point, I’ve launched a dozen or more sites to the world. (including one for female sports fans yesterday.) It’s old hat at this point, but it’s still always stressful.

I think I’ve come up with my favorite comparison for it:

Launching a site is like driving in the snow. Even if you have your snowtires and a full tank of gas, even if you totally know what you’re doing, random things can happen. You need to be continually monitoring the conditions and you probably have a death grip on the steering wheel. Several hours later, you can probably breathe again.

Sports site for women

Monday, July 16th, 2012

I’ve been working on a site called She’s Game Sports for the past few months and it just went live this morning. You should check it out and let me know what you think!

Building things does not require moving to California

Monday, June 18th, 2012

CNET has an excellent writeup of the Boston technology scene.

It’s inside baseball, but a really interesting read.

How to get cron to use the rbenv ruby

Friday, June 1st, 2012

With any luck, this will save people my hours of aggravation.

My problem:

I’m using .rbenv to manage the Ruby processes. When I run everything manually and through the tests, it all works great. Unfortunately, when I put it into cron, it fails.

My solution:

Step One: Find the rbenv binary:

jason:~$ which ruby
/home/jason/.rbenv/shims/ruby

Step Two: Update the cronfile:

In my cronfile, I changed from:

* * * * * cd /home/jason/program-dir ; ruby program.rb

to

* * * * * cd /home/jason/program-dir ; /home/jason/.rbenv/versions/1.9.3-p194/bin/ruby program.rb

Voila.

There’s probably a more Linux-fu method, but this worked. If you have a more elegant solution, please drop me a line so that I can update this post.

What is live TV?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

How many people still watch TV live? Fewer and fewer I’ll guess. Certainly not us. Other than Red Sox and Patriots games, we don’t watch anything live.

Even if we’re in front of the TV tonight to watch the hour-long How I Met Your Mother finale, we’re going to spend the first fifteen minutes of it watching something else. At 8:15, I’ll turn on the recording that started at 8:00, and we’ll fast-forward through the commercials and end up finishing it at the same time as the live show.

I can’t imagine this bodes well for the companies buying those commercials or the ones selling them.

The risks of being a small investor in a private company

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

I’m all in favor of the recently-passed JOBS act, which loosens restrictions and regulations on investing in small companies. But, the downsides are obvious.

Human nature dictates that a lot of people are going to get conned. Some of my older readers may remember grifts from the sixties, seventies and eighties — the details change, but the story doesn’t.

Entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon gives a good run-down of some of the risks. It’s worth a read.

The story is a sad one, told many times

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

I guess this is the inevitable path of any well-respected company, as described by a former executive.

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

A much better direction

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

This is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time, from a New York Magazine cover story on the New Wall Street:

“If you’re a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you’d never go to Wall Street now,” says a hedge-fund executive. “You’d go to Silicon Valley. There’s at least a prospect for a huge gain. You’d have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. It looks like he has a lot more fun.”

Hallelujah. If we can get the best and the brightest building stuff instead of pushing money around, I think we’ll all be better off.

Tracking my recipes

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

One of my other projects for 2012 is to get all my recipes digitized. My goal is to code up two recipes a day, so that by the end of the year, I should have them fully digitized and cross-referenced.

You can follow along if you like, by going to Jason Butler’s recipes. I have six up now, and I’ll add a dozen or so a week.

Of course, being a geek, I ended up writing my own custom recipe publishing engine. Of course!