Google Hangouts: the jury is out

Yesterday I had a virtual meeting scheduled with a client and a designer – we we’re going to look at some concepts, make some changes and generally talk our way through the process. There are an array of collaboration tools out there that allow small groups of people to share files, screens, audio, video, and generally reproduce the feeling of being in the same room. Having used Google Hangouts for a few meetings of this kind in the past, I thought it would be perfect for this meeting – it’s simple to use, and fairly powerful.

So … for reasons that we’ll never be able to understand, it failed. Not a complete catastrophe, but screen-sharing didn’t work, so it wasted out time and set the project back a couple of days.

The question is: what is a screen/doc-sharing collaboration service that is easy to use, and affordable?

My new Macbook: cute, but stupid?

Needing a new laptop, I did some research, talked with friends, and purchased a Macbook Air on Saturday. It’s gorgeous, and makes me feel more hip just being near it. The problem is: its network speed is very, very slow. Whereas the other machines on my home network reliably get 15mb/s, the Macbook stumbles along at 500kb/s – that’s 1/30th of the normal speed. This is apparently a known issue at Apple, which is causing some frustration on the support forums. There was a time in the early years of my nerdy career when I didn’t mind spending hours troubleshooting network stacks and bursting bitrates, but I don’t have that luxury now. Computers are supposed to work, right out of the box – especially when they are aesthetically designed so thoughtfully. I’m sure I can work-through this hiccup, but it’s worth noting that Apple’s $600 share price does not translate into universally quality products…

Jason Mogus’ and Jon Stahl’s take on Kony 2012

There has been a healthy and predictable amount of chatter about the Kony 2012 viral campaign. They’ve nearly hit an astonishing 100M views of the video. The question remains: is their strategy effective (ie: will he get captured), and if so, are the campaign’s tactics reproducible for other purposes?

Online-strategy ace, Jason Mogus, does a good job at unpacking the problems with Kony 2012.  Jon Stahl sharpens the point in a recent post:

I think one of the biggest challenges the social change+tech sector (or whatever we’re calling it nowadays) faces is our collective tendency to over-celebrate tactical execution without considering the strategic/political context of a campaign.

Clearly IC has executed a viral video tactic extremely well.  Some people with in-depth knowledge of the issue think their underlying strategic assumptions are deeply flawed.  Others disagree.  (Full disclosure: my gut instinct is with “deeply flawed” for many reasons previously mentioned.)  However I know that I lack the issue expertise to really evaluate their strategy fully.  For that reason alone, I’m not rushing to prematurely celebrate their communications tactics, no matter how many YouTube views they’re getting.

What I do believe with all my heart is that you can be great at communications tactics without having a sound political organizing strategy, and vice versa.  Truly successful social campaigns need to be solid on both fronts, and I thus believe that campaigns should be evaluated holistically.

It’s fascinating to watch, and may be an indicator of how outreach campaigns are done in the coming years.

WordPress = Good

Over the last 15 years I’ve worked with a lot of websites, and lots of content management systems (CMSs). I’ve done a few projects recently with Drupal, and found it very powerful.

Putting this site together with WordPress was unbelievably easy. The administrative interface is solid, the number of extensions/plugins is huge, and most importantly, the time to assemble/populate a good-looking site is a fraction of what it takes on more complicated CMSs.

I’m sold.

Do I Need a Mac Laptop?

I’m busy, and while I like the idea of roaming amongst the beautiful people at the Apple Store, I just can’t do it right now.

I’m finding that my consulting is requiring more presentations, or “showing” of technology, design, reports, etc. My mobile computer is a version-1 iPad (with a keyboard, and while I love it,  it’s not the tool for the job. My old laptop has be completely consumed by my children.

My needs aren’t radical – I use the cloud for almost everything I do. Even a small, solid-state hard drive is fine, as my music is all external.

As you know, I’m more than happy to give other people my (often unsolicited!) technical advice, but now I’m looking for your wisdom. So go ahead, tell me what to get:

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I’ll let you know what I end-up getting. Thanks.