Ecosystems in Software: The Pencil Project and Winamp

Lately at work I’ve been writing specifications for our client projects, so when I saw the Pencil Project I was quite excited. What could be better for doing what I’m already doing than a Visio-like program built on Firefox. After installing it, I realised that this project had a heap of potential but was limited by it’s default stencil set. I’m certainly not the only person with the same problem. This problem seems to have been sorted out with the intention that users develop their own stencils. Great.

But not actually so great, the problem is that it is nigh on impossible to find any downloadable stencils. Now I’m not suggesting that they don’t exist just that any search on Google for pencil project stencil gives me a whole heap of people talking about how cool it is, and not actually providing me with any stencils. (Yes I know this is a conceited example but nevertheless searching for anything related doesn’t provide me with any third party stencils) I’ve got a simple solution, take a leaf out of Winamp’s book.

Winamp had amazing forums (probably still does) while they were developing Winamp 3 (which didn’t last long, it was quickly replaced with Winamp 5). These forums had a thriving community of theme and plug-in authors all working on the project, even before it was ever released. Obviously the Pioneers of the Inevitable (some of whom started Winamp) have got a good handle on this community building cause there’s a good . It is what Dave Winer would call a corral reef – a place for ecosystems to grow.

Anyway, after all that rambling all I want is a forum on the Pencil Project website, a place where I can find new stencils without people trying to sell me actual pencils and actual stencils.

Google Analytics: Feature request

I’ve been working with Google Analytics a fair bit recently, setting up goals and investigating the use of the Events API on a few sites. There isn’t much about Analytics I don’t like, it works as expected and has features you didn’t even know you wanted. I have 2 things I would love to see implemented, first of all, testing of goals. Currently the recommended way of testing if your goal is configured correctly is by using the Top Content report. This works fine, by it is pretty annoying you can’t test this right there on the configure goals page.

Second, I would love to see functionality wherein you could set milestones on the timeline of Google Analytics. This could mark when a new feature was implemented or when a style change was made, this would really let you visualise changes in browsing behaviour and how they relate to site modifications. In my work’s case, we would also be able to show clients really well the results of optimisations we have made. The display should work in a really similar manner as the news articles on Google Finance.

My Aching Head

I’ve long had the idea in my head to write a book about drinking, eating and waking up with a hangover, and not to mention trying to cure it. I can’t actually see that happening in the next 12-200 months so I’ve decided to start writing a blog. If it so happens that I do end up writing the aformentioned book (it might be a good chance to put a longbet in) I will probably just source the content from the blog. So anyway, the whole plan is to write up cocktails and drinks, share food recipes, maybe review pubs and if I’m really keen interview bar tenders and what ever else I come with.

The site is My Aching Head, I designed it myself which in and of itself is amazing (as far as I’m concerned) cause I think it doesn’t look too bad. Anyway, please subscribe/keep up with the site, I think you’ll enjoy it.