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Tyler Craft

Meta, Please

Oct18

I don’t know about most web developers, but for the life of me I can never remember all the necessary meta tags that should go on a site. I remember which ones, but never the exact syntax. From standard ones, to the new iPhone/Mobile, as well as geo based meta tags, I typically grab them off the last site I did or will do a search for a “meta generator.” I always end up going to 3 or 4 different sites to grab all the tags I need.

Well, last weekend I decided to change this. I want to go to just one place to generate my meta tags. So, I created Meta, Please. I researched and tried to dig through and locate the most common and still relevant meta tags. I believe that this site covers them. That said, meta tags, like HTML, are ever changing. So I anticipate this site changing over time. If there are any tags that you feel should be included, please let me know, I’d be more than happy to add them. I also created a GitHub repository for the site, so that other developers may contribute as they’d like.

Posted on October 18, 2011 in Web Development

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PhotoSeed & Two Awards

Oct15

PhotoSeed, a site I recently developed was just named webpick of the week for Communication Arts. I’m very happy to see this get the recognition that I believe it deserves. Spencer has an amazing collection, and I worked hard with him to ensure that the CMS offered him the flexibility that he needed for all of the different types of content, while still allowing him the possibility to easily create relationships between that content. The collection on the site is truly unique and can’t be found anywhere else on the web. It’s an amazing resource for researchers as well as people who are new to photography. I often lose track of time just refreshing the home page. Jay David, as he usually does, designed a beautiful site.



 

In addition to the CommArts award, another photo based site I worked on, DART St. Louis (which I wrote about here), was an Awwwards site of the day.



Posted on October 15, 2011 in Web Development

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Should I use Spotify?

Aug25

If you’ve perused this blog at all, you’ll noticed I’ve had a couple ‘Best of…’ lists that featured my favorite albums from a particular year. I love music. In college I hosted a show on the college radio station, and a good deal of my income has always gone to buying cds, and now mp3s.

In case you haven’t heard, Spotify seems to be all the rage. People are blogging about how great it is and friends on Facebook are handing out invites. I caved to the peer pressure, signed up, and gave it a try. It’s truly a nice service. Granted, it doesn’t have nearly as much music as it claims. For instance, it didn’t have Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Jens Lekman Oh You’re So Silent Jens, any Black Lips albums…etc. 

The lack of these albums isn’t what dissuaded me from using the service. That’s bound to happen. What bothers me is that I’m afraid of what a service like this will do to the music industry. I know that if I paid $10/month for a service like Spotify, I’d be much less inclined to buy more music. And therefore, my music taste will be shaped completely by what is available on Spotify. If an artist isn’t on Spotify, I won’t hear them. I’m afraid that if a service like this becomes popular enough, then labels and bands will have to bend over backwards to play ball with them. Creating music isn’t the most profitable venture one can sign up for. And something like this could make it even harder.

For example, check out this infographic by InformationIsBeautiful.net:

sellingout550For the sake of music, please keep buying music. Preferably from the artist themselves.

Posted on August 25, 2011 in Random

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eBooks

Jul25

Over the past couple years I’ve had a bit of an about face regarding eBooks. When they first started becoming popular, I loathed them. I was an active participant in the group of people talking about how much they “loved the feel of a book” and how they “loved their bookshelves”…etc.

Fast forward to right now… and I LOVE eBooks. I absolutely love them. And I will tell you why.

I recently got back from a long vacation and loved being able to bring as many books as I want. I read two books in their entirety and dabbled in 3 others. Before eBooks this wasn’t possible. Well, it would be, but my back would be killing me!

I also love taking notes while I read; with eBooks (at least with the iBooks app on the iPad, I don’t know about other platforms) I can do just this without having to decipher my chicken scratch at a later point in time and all my notes, along with the text of the book itself, is instantly searchable. I’m horrible with remembering little details or fabulous quotes. Being able to instantly search for them is a godsend.

I love that I can read in bed late at night with the lights off so that I don’t keep my wife awake.

And the wanna-be eco friendly human inside me is happy that a tree doesn’t have to be cut down just for me to read a book. As lovely as my bookshelf is, I think I can get past that vanity.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love physical books. In fact, I collect old books. I really do love how they feel, as well as the type treatments, illustrations, and most importantly, that smell. And I will continue buying them. In my mind, though, there is a clear difference between old books made by hand and modern books made by a machine in a factory. I’ve purchased too many books where chapters were upside down, or completely missing. These books aren’t, in my opinion, an object that I need to hold onto and pass down to kids or have take up space in my apartment. And after moving to a new city this year, I think I’m ready to ditch almost all of them so that there will be fewer boxes to move next time.

Now, though there are a lot of things I love about eBooks, there is one big elephant still in the room that I haven’t talked about - DRM, or Digital Rights Management. For some reason the publishers didn’t learn a thing from the Apple/Record Label discussions 5 years prior. People do not want DRM. It’s akin to buying a DVD on Amazon and you then have to play it on an Amazon branded DVD player. It’s ridiculous that they want to control what I can do with a product after I’ve purchased it. And this isn’t just Amazon, it’s everyone, including Apple. The publishers (big and small) demand it. This means that I have to have an app for each group selling their book. This is outrageous and completely unusable. I don’t want to have to learn 4-5 different eReading apps.

Now, there are some publishers who sell DRM free eBooks, but they are few and far between and they aren’t offering many New York Times bestsellers.

DRM was one of the leading issues of why I originally disliked eBooks and was the primary reason I never bought a song off of iTunes. So what changed my mind? This article by Wired. I don’t want to post the instructions here due to legal issues, but if you want to start buying eBooks - and you don’t want the hassle of DRM - then this article is for you. It will give instructions to help you strip out the DRM.

And since I’d like to end this on a good note, a new eBook was just announced by a former Pixar designer. This is, in my opinion, the future of eBooks…and it looks pretty amazing.

Posted on July 25, 2011 in Random

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DART St. Louis

Jun27

Over the past couple months, I’ve been working with Curt von Diest and Jay David to build a website for DART St. Louis. DART St. Louis is a participatory photography challenge. In April 2011, over 250 creative St. Louisans threw darts at a huge map of St. Louis City. Over the following month, participants visited the area where their dart landed and took a photograph.

Sadly, since I now live in Indianapolis I wasn’t able to participate as I have done in the past. In fact, I wasn’t even in the country when the site launched! Thankfully everything went off without a problem and the site launched with a final party at FK Studios.

Check out the actual site at http://2011.dartstlouis.com/. You can also learn more about how it was developed in my portfolio.



Posted on June 27, 2011 in Web Development

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Blogging from The Venice Biennale

Jun9

Every two years, Venice hosts a biennale. It takes place in the Giardini, a beautiful park on the southern tip of the island. Thirty countries have permanent pavilions (dictated by international politics during the 1930′s and Cold War) in the park, and within each pavilion is a curated exhibition to present contemporary art from that country. More countries are added each year, with galleries sprinkled throughout the city.

This year, the US Pavilion is curated by the Indianapolis Musem of Art. My wife started working for the IMA last January, and is part of the team that the IMA has sent to Venice. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to tag along for the week and see what the Biennial is all about.

I’ve been to many, many museums and exhibition openings. However, I’ve never been to an opening quite like the Venice Biennale. It’s a great experience to see the best that the art world has to offer right now. There’s so much one can see. In particular, I loved the political photographs at the Danish Pavilion, as well as Mike Nelson’s work in the British Pavilion.  I will admit, however, that my favorite was the U.S. Pavilion, the three performance pieces and one interactive piece in particular. I’m not usually a fan of performance art. In fact, I usually despise it. So it takes a lot for me to really love it. The artists behind these pieces are Allora and Calzadilla.

The main performance piece, called Track and Field, is outside the entry of the Pavilion. It features an upside-down tank with a treadmill mounted over one of the treads. Throughout the day a runner gets on the treadmill and runs for 20 minutes. The tank and the treadmill have been synced to go the same speed.

Venice Biennale, Track & Field

Just inside the pavilion are the other two performance pieces, Body in Flight (Delta) and Body in Flight (American). They feature old American Delta plane seats. During the day, a gymnast from USA Gymnastics performs an 18-minute routine on the chairs. With the background of the stark white room, it is amazing to watch these gymnasts flip themselves around these chairs with such grace and beauty.



Another piece was called Algorithm. It featured a custom-made pipe organ that had a Diebold ATM built into it. Anyone can insert their bank card and withdraw money (no fees, even!). The pipe organ then produces a custom score based on the keys the user has pressed on the ATM. It’s an extremely clever, interactive work. The artists collaborated with composer Jonathan Bailey.

venice-algorithm

I’ve been to Venice once before, a couple years ago, and it was for only 48 hours. I’m quite glad I was able to be here for a full week. It really allowed me to explore and absorb the city, from Tintoretto’s at Scuola Grande di San Rocco to the seafood on Burano (another island in the lagoon).

The Biennale opens to the public on Saturday, June 4 through November 27. If you are planning any trips abroad, I highly recommend stopping in Venice during these dates!

Please note!: I am a programmer, I am not an artist or a designer… let alone an art critic. If you’d like a thorough review, please check out the The Daily Beast review.

This post was cross blogged at the TOKY news blog.

Posted on June 9, 2011 in Random

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Modern Traveler

May28

For the past week, I’ve been preparing for a trip to Italy. I’ll be going with my wife to Venice for the Bienalle. Afterwards, we will drive up to Castelrotto for some hiking in the Dolomites.

As I’ve been preparing I took stock of all the amazing tools available to travelers today. It’s crazy how different travel preparation is today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, let alone 40 or 50.

Every trip, for me, starts with TripAdvisor. I can’t imagine staying at a Holiday Inn while in Europe. I want to get off the beaten path and try a local bed and breakfast. TripAdvisor, along with other online resources, help me find those places. In addition, we can get live satellite weather feeds, along with weather history to get average temperatures - always useful when figuring out dates.

Then it all comes back to Google, as it often does when talking about things online. Google Maps. Satellite View, Street View as well as the Google Earth browser plugin. I’m in no way planning every moment of my trip. However, it’s nice to know that I can preview something before hand. I’ll then create a custom map, add about 40 markers of potential interest and then use an iPhone app like Cartographer to download it for offline use.

Then of course, there is the wonderful iPad. Travel companion extraordinaire! From playing movies, to loading up a couple This American Life podcasts as well as downloading 4 or 5 different books for the flight. No longer will I choose my reading material based on size and weight! And I can also include all my music as opposed to my disc man and binder of 25 CDs.

And last but not least, which really isn’t a ‘new’ tool. It’s just my favorite so I thought I’d include it here. A robot headphone splitter so Rachel and I can listen to podcasts or watch movies together!

Robot Headphone Splitter

I know these things won’t work for everyone. Some will probably feel that this takes the ‘adventure’ out of it. However, I’m too OCD in that I like to have things planned. I’m unable to simply get off a train, wander around and find a place. I’d be stressed every minute prior to settling on a place. All these resources let me find places I never imagined. And, therefore, make my trip a lot less stressful and more enjoyable.

Posted on May 28, 2011 in Random

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A New Site!

May22

What do you know, it’s a blog post talking about launching a new site after a year of inactivity. This is probably the 6th or 7th time I’ve done this. It’s a habit I hope to actually break myself of. To launch a site, and to stick to it! Not that I have many faithful readers or anything, but more so for my own sense of self discipline! I can do this! And I will! (i hope).

It’s a new year, and a new town. For those that don’t know, I now live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I still work for TOKY in St. Louis. My wife is now the Director of Publishing and Media at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

So…. fellow readers. I shall start again!

Posted on May 22, 2011 in Random

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HTPC

May5

About every 5 years or so I get an itch to build a computer. Well, with great after holiday flat screen sales, I decided to get a TV for the bedroom and to build a custom home theater pc (HTPC). Building computers has always been fun, even if it can get a little stressful.

In my opinion, building computers is the best way to learn about computers. As a web developer, I don’t have to worry about the hardware that goes into a computer. However, I have a  better idea of how servers work and how certain things can go wrong or cause problems.

This time around I went with the Antec NSK2480 case. It’s a little bigger than the average micro ATX case, but it was made to run cool and quite. A lot of detail and thought went into wire organization (great for my OCD tendancies) as well as padding between hard drives and the top panel to minimize any vibrations.

The rest of the hardware:

  • Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 HDMI
  • Intel Celeron E3200 Wolfdale
  • Crucial RAM
  • Scythe Mini Ninja

I also purchased a wireless logitech joystick and a Cideko Air Keyboard. So the only wires are to the tv and to the power.

HTPC

Posted on May 5, 2010 in Random

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Thoughts on iPhone and iPad apps

Apr29

Today, Steve Jobs published his thoughts on flash. You can view it on the Apple site here:
http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/

Two paragraphs in particular caught my eye:

“Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

“Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.”

Steve’s got a great point with this. It’s very similar to my thoughts on iPhone and iPad apps:

The iPhone and iPad are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Apple, and Apple has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Apple’s products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Apple and available only from Apple. By almost any definition, the iPad and iPhone are closed systems.

Rather than develop iPad/iPhone apps, I choose to use HTML5, CSS and javaScript – all open standards.

Posted on April 29, 2010 in Web Development

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