Family

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a little hard for me — my Mom passed away two years ago this February. So when this day comes around, it reminds that I can no longer call her up and make her laugh, send her flowers, whatever, something… anything. And it makes me think about the past Mother’s Days I “wasted” — by missing them entirely or just leaving a message on her answering machine. I wish I could call her now, but I can’t.

So call your Mom, if you can. Tell her you love her. Make her laugh.

Still, I am lucky to have some wonderful women in my life, that are mothers or like mothers to me. So to Colleen, my wife; my step-mom Pat; my Grandma-Kaye; and my mother-in-law Sharon — today is your day — enjoy it. I love you all very much.

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Blogging

Google, the fallback for trackback?

Sometime yesterday or early this morning, flowdelic was added to the Google index. It’s official — I’m now “in the book” as it were. Yeah.

As I expected, my site is in the top spot (easy to do with an invented word I guess), but I also found some sites that that pointed here that I didn’t see previously. Thanks and thanks.

It’s great to see those other links — but I wonder, why did I have to wait on Google to find them? Having been a reader of blogs for some time (okay a really, really long time), but not an author, I had thought that trackback links were more automated than they appear to be. I found the very helpful How TrackBack Works — but it really just confirmed what I’d recently discovered — trackback is a very manual, error-prone process. (BTW — I’m also using MoveableType)

That’s not what I expected. My expectation was that if I linked to another blog’s post in my blog entry, that link would be extracted when I posted the entry, and a trackback “ping” would be sent to the referenced article automatically. I understand that trackback URLs are different than permalinks — but shouldn’t the remote blog system be able to map permalinks to postings?

Why do I, the user, need to go track down a special URL? Is this how all blogging systems work — or is this something specific to MoveableType?

Before I got the hang of this I was entering permalinks into the “URLs to ping” box in my editing interface. (Why should I need to type these in at all?) MT gladly accepted these and dutifully “pinged” the incorrect URLs I had given it without a hiccup. I would have expected to see some kind of error message if the ping wasn’t accepted. At least then I would have know I was “doing it wrong” and could have learned faster how to do it right.

I see trackback as a crucial feature of the blogsphere. It enables readers to follow a conversation from blog to blog. Wouldn’t it be cool if RSS readers could organize posts by thread as well as by blog? Without that I feel like I’m missing part of the conversation (and I probably am). Why should the burden fall on users to discover and follow cross-blog threads? If any RSS readers do threading, I’d like to know, I just haven’t seen it yet.

It seems obvious to me that trackback is a useful feature of blogging — but to be really useful, it has got to be reliable. And if the reliability is based on trusting blog authors everywhere to track down and correctly use trackback URLs, well we’re going to have to continue to rely on Google to piece together strands of conversations for us for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: I found “A Beginner’s Guide to Trackback” on the MoveableType site. There, I found that there is an auto-discovery feature that works how I would expect it to work. Nice. But — if that’s how it works, why didn’t I get trackback pings from all the sites that linked to my posts? It still seems that trackback reliability leaves something to be desired.

Also, I wish I could use the bookmarklets too, but they don’t work in Safari. (My laptop at work is Windows XP, but at home I have a G4 PowerBook with Mac OS X.)

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About Me

A little late to the party, but happy to be here

Today I had the honor of being Scobleized. Given my measly two posts and the plain vanilla look of this blog, Robert has been most generous to point his readers in my direction. Thank you. I’ve just joined this party, and I feel welcome already.

First, I should apologize for the lack of personal information available on this site. I will fix that. I’m glad Robert was able to dig up a press release to introduce me — but it’s a shame that it is more than 6 years old.

So who is Mason Hale?

I am Chief Technologist at frog design, a highly-regarded design firm that has been consistently churning out great products and customer experiences for some 34 years now. I founded and manage frog’s digital technology consulting practice. We design, prototype and build websites and software for clients including Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, General Electric, and T-Mobile. We specialize in creating rich, intuitive user interfaces using technologies such as Flash, Dynamic HTML, ASP.NET/C#, and Java.

However, this site is my personal site, and the views expressed here are my own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer. In addition, because the work we do is highly-confidential — I am generally not at liberty to to discuss the projects or clients I might be working with at any given time. So don’t expect this to be the “inside frog” blog.

That said, I am very lucky to work with some really smart, creative people on challenging, thought-provoking projects. That is bound to influence my thinking, and by extension this blog.

I am a husband and father of three — two boys, one girl. I live in Austin, Texas — and love it here. My undergraduate degree is in film production (radio-television-film) from the University of Texas at Austin, where I was a classmate of Robert Rodriguez and Matthew McConaughey. I went to high school in Fort Worth. Before that I moved around a bit, with stops in Breckenridge, Colorado; Casper, Wyoming; and Houston.

Some of you may remember me from my early involvement with Userland Frontier — the predecessor of today’s Manila and Radio Userland products. With Dave Winer, I spearheaded the development of the Frontier CGI Framework — a popular toolkit (at the time) for creating web-based applications on Mac OS web servers. I learned an amazing amount during that period of my life, and I’m very grateful to Dave and the rest of the early-Frontier community for that.

Today, I am in the final throes of completing my master’s degree in engineering management. I’ve completed all the coursework and am working on my thesis now. You can be sure I’ll be floating some of my ideas here.

That’s a brief, but more current and well-rounded introduction. I look forward to connecting with old friends and making new ones. Sorry I didn’t get here sooner.

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Blogging

Blogs: The Other Half of Customer Relationship

I’ve been reading with great interest recent posts by Robert Scoble and Tim Bray about blogging in a corporate context.

As Scoble and others have shown, blogs are a powerful way to quickly react to negative publicity, to establish real credibility, and build lasting bonds with customers and the community. For all the millions upon millions of dollars that companies have poured into customer relationship management (CRM) systems, it is surprising more haven’t encouraged their employees to blog. Companies seem to willing to talk the one-to-one talk, but when it comes to empowering, and trusting, their employees to connect directly to customers on a mass scale, the commitment usually whithers away.

Isn’t it ironic that companies will spend big bucks to build “relationships” by compiling and cross-indexing information about their customers, without realizing that a relationship, by definition, is inheritently reciprocal? Does having a website greet me by name make me feel like I have a closer relationship with that company? No it doesn’t—in fact it kinda spooks me out. Why? Because it lays bare the fact that my “relationship” with said company is out of balance—they know a lot more about me than I know about them.

While CRM systems may help you know more about your customers — they don’t build relationships because they don’t help your customers know more about you.

And that is the beautiful thing about employee blogs. It is one way to bring some much-needed parity to the customer relationship. All companies are ultimately organized collections of people. And by getting to know some of those people a little better, we (the customers) get to know the company better.

I can think of no better example of this than the Channel 9 site at the Microsoft Developer Network. I feel like I know infinitely more about Microsoft now because of this site. Getting to listen in on interesting conversations between people who have built and are buliding tools I use everyday is very valuable to me. I am so glad Microsoft decided to do that instead of making sure I see a “Welcome, Mason Hale” message everytime I visit their website.

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