A Culture of Open Sharing

I’ve been using open source software for over 10 years now, and I’ve been publishing for over 20 years. I tend to be one that likes to share what I create with the world, and also appreciates when others share what they have created. To me, this is much of the basis of open source software – the creation and sharing of not just code, but ideas and ideals. When I say I’ve been using open source software for many years, I don’t do so begrudgingly, I do it because I believe in it.

Open for Business
(Photo by Janet Towbin)

When Creative Commons came along, I immediately saw a benefit to it. again, I’m not just a consumer of things, I am a creator of things, and I’ve published music, and created videos, and images and words, that I’ve carefully chosen a license for. I want others to be able to properly use my work, as I want to be able to use theirs.

BarCamp is a great example of open culture, and I’m proud of being one of the people who brought BarCamps to Wisconsin. Our local group, Web414 is modeled very much on the way a BarCamp works, ad-hoc and open. (In fact, we even declare our meetings a “Creative Commons Zone” and request that media created at the meetings use a Creative Commons license when published.)

YES WE'RE OPEN - from lwr
(Photo by Leo Reynolds)

Almost all of the feedback on things like BarCamp and DrupalCamp and Web414 has been positive. Now, I did say almost, because there exists this small group of people who seem to exist to take and not give, to do nothing but shoot things down instead of lift things up. They’re similar to trolls, but really, they are like leeches in that they tend to suck things out, and give nothing in return. They don’t share, they aren’t open, and they are negative to those who do, yet… they are more than happy to take what they can (for free) while never seeing the contradiction in their actions. Even those who make a living on the net, which was largely built on the ideas of openly sharing, don’t get it.

I Assure You We're Open - from radven
(Photo by Chris Dunphy)

And that’s where I’m done. I don’t want to deal with these people. They won’t change their minds, and I waste my time trying to get through to them. What’s the point? I’m more interested in positive and creative people who are doing interesting things, making the future happen, and willing to share that with the world. People who get excited about the work they are doing, whether they get paid for it or not. The people who care only about creating things in exchange for the almighty dollar, I have no time for you. Leave me be…

I’ll continue my pursuit of people and ideas and cultures that are open. That’s where the future is, or at least the future I want to be a part of.


Shooting Photos

I did a photoshoot with the kids over the weekend. The folks at Z2 Marketing were kind enough to let me use the studio. Here’s a few of the shots, and you can see more in the Flickr set.

Maddy slates

Maddy loves to have her picture taken, so it was pretty easy to get her in the mood.

Emma on chair

Emma is not as much an “in front of the camera” person, and like me, likes to be behind the camera.

Reflector in Black and White

I pretty much let them do what they wanted, and didn’t direct things too much. Next time I might push a little further and see how well they can follow directions, as long as they still have fun with it.


MilwaukeeDevHouse1 Wrap-up

We held a little event called “MilwaukeeDevHouse1” on March 14, 2008 at Bucketworks, where people came together to “party with laptops” as it were. The event was modeled after SuperHappyDevHouse which originated in the Bay Area.

Jason, Kevin, and 4braham

So what happened at our little DevHouse? People hung out and worked on… well, whatever they wanted to. At one point Jon Thoms, Master of Flash, asked me what we were going to work on, and we somehow managed to hook him up with two guys with a startup that needed some Flash component. Matt Pickard taught Jeramey about clipping paths. Tracy did some crazy photo manipulation project. Nikol did… I’m not sure, but she was there… 4braham planned out some crazy Twitter mashup idea. Mike and his son Nathan scanned in drawings and made a book. KeVroN discussed when not to use Drupal, and I strung a guitar.


Things were in full swing from about 7PM on, with about 30+ people at the high point. We had food and drinks (mostly provided by Web414 folks) and ended up ordering pizza and wings later in the night. There were many photos taken, and I even made a video.

(Jeramey is already planning MilwaukeeDevHouse2, so I guess we’ll call MilwaukeeDevHouse1 a success.)


The Blogging Effect

I’ve been thinking about the effects of blogging, specifically on business. There’s a reason for this…

Last year we went camping at Bark River Campground. It sucked. I wanted to let people know this, because I didn’t want other people to have the experience I did, so I did what any self respecting blogger would do… I blogged about it.

The result was: Bark River Campground: Worst Campground Ever, which described my experience. I sort of knew where things were headed. Their site sucks and within a few days, my post was the second result in a search for “Bark River Campground” I was slightly pleased.

Fast forward 9 months, and I get a phone call. It took me a number of “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” to get to the part where I heard “internet” and “post” and “worst campground ever” and I then realized who I was talking to. Yup, they called.

I talked to the folks at Bark River Campgrounds. The man I talked to said he understood that I had the right to say what I wanted, but he also said they try very hard to make things nice at the campground. I wasn’t convinced of that, but I did thank him for opening a dialog about the issue. I did get the idea that he didn’t actually read the post because he asked me questions that would have been answered if he had read it. But then again, bloggers tend to think everyone reads their posts…

So, what is the responsibility of a blogger? What is the effect of what we write? On businesses? On people? Like I said, I knew what I was doing, and I had some clue what the effect would be. I honestly did not expect to hear from them, but was pleasantly surprised by them saying that I had every right to say it, and they didn’t expect me to take it down.


RPM Challenge: Lessons Learned

I did it. I completed the 2008 RPM Challenge. I created an entire album in one month. 10 songs, written, recorded, and released in February 2008. And I had fun doing it!

But it wasn’t all fun. It was hard at times, and there was frustration, and while I always knew I could easily record 10 songs, I wasn’t entirely sure the quality would be where I wanted it.

RPM Challenge First, the frustration. I use a USB adapter to plug my guitar and bass into my Mac. GarageBand recognizes it. Usually. In the first or second day into the process, GarageBand went nuts and stopped working. I spent like 3 hours fixing it, including a re-install, and creating a new user and copying files between accounts. Eventually it all worked, but through the month GarageBand dumped on me a few other times in various ways. It’s frustrating when your equipment won’t even work right.

Then there was the creative frustration. Last year when I started recording on my own, I would just plug in the guitar when I felt like it and bang something out. For this album, there was the pressure of must record a song on an almost daily basis. Luckily since I only needed 10 songs in 29 days, I didn’t have to record every single day, I skipped some, like the day I worked for 14 hours, or the Sunday I did a video shoot on location for 12 hours. Yeah, it was a busy month.

Typically it would take me about 3 hours to do a song. When I say “3 hours” that is me sitting down with the instruments, playing a bit, recording, and then assembling the song. I didn’t write anything ahead of time, it was all done as I was recording. I don’t know how many people do it this way, but it worked for me. In the future I’d like to spend a lot more time on songs. Mainly because I think I can make them better. So even though I had 29 days to do this, I probably spent less than 30 hours total actually recording music.

Speaking of quality… am I happy with the quality of the album? Yes and no. There are some songs I actually really like. But then, there are bits and pieces I know I could have done much better, and some songs I really don’t like at all now. I think spending more than a few hours in the evening on a song would be worthwhile to get a better perspective on it.

I followed the same workflow I usually do with songs, once I record them and mix them (and yeah, I need to improve my audio engineering skills) I bounce to an MP3 and upload it right away. This is good because I get it out there immediately, but bad because I should spend more time tweaking the little things until is it just right. Release Early isn’t always the best idea. Also, I put everything up on Ourmedia and the Internet Archive right away, which again, is good and bad. SpinXpress totally broke for me at one point and I could not upload anything. I then started putting everything on as well for good measure. Next time I might wait until I am actually happy with a song before I upload to a permanent place the the archive.

Snowbound album by Pete Prodoehl

Even the whole packaging and cover art, I liked, but was not 100% pleased with. I had other ideas of how it would look, but I hit a time crunch, and finished it up on February 29th, just in time. The photos were taken by me in January. I really wanted to do a shoot in February, and I had a great idea, but could not execute it in time. I just thought it would be cool if the photos as well as the songs, were all produced in the month of February.

There was only one song I recorded in Logic. I was hoping to do more, but again, time constraints prevented it. Not a huge deal I guess. Oh, as far as collaboration, I wanted to do more… I did get to work with Emma and Maddy a little bit, but no one else really. Next year, Milt and I might work together though. And drum sequencing is not easy! I have no problem playing guitar and bass, but I can’t really record my own drums easily with the recording equipment I have, and I have not found good, cheap, drum sequencing software yet.

Wow, this post is way longer than I expected, so I’ll cut it here, but not before giving you direct download links to all the songs:

  1. Stress Test
  2. Attention
  3. Nashotah Falls
  4. Pressure Cooker
  5. Watertown
  6. Small Hands
  7. Shipwrecked Crew
  8. FAIL!
  9. Empty Pockets
  10. Mother Sink

All of these songs are released under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which means you can use them in many ways without even asking me, as long as you credit me as the creator. If you need some other license, let me know.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think…