Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blog schism

I have a blog schism on my hands.

Unlike some other famous schisms, the East-West schism and the Western Schism, my schism is generally a good thing. People aren't getting burned or poisoned as a result.

So what's the schism?

Moving forward, Home Culinaire will be my personal food blog. No rants or advice about technology and social media. Those posts will now be housed at Social Enchilada.

I encourage you to give Social Enchilada a visit. The design kicks ass and the content is getting better. Hang out, leave some comments, and please, add me to your reader.

On the Home Culinaire front, I'm aiming to do a redesign soon and plan on publishing some instructional videos.

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Twitter support, your problems are far and wide

I recently posted about the lack of response from Twitter Support. I am unhappy to say that my issue has not been resolved yet. And as I've gone deeper and deeper down the Twitter support hole, I've learned just how broken the support department at Twitter actually is.

Most everyone is aware of the Twitter hack that happened earlier this month. My understanding is that it was due to security flaws in their support queue. Happily they fixed the issue by replacing their support queue with a new system called Zendesk ( they blog about this change at Twitter Blog: The Zen of Twitter Support ) and more recently rolled out Get Satisfaction for support as well.

I applaud the team for making changes in response to a problem, but, in my opinion, they really made a mess of things. Let me explain how.

First off, by removing the old support system, my existing tickets were deleted. I've been waiting over two months for a response and had to resubmit my ticket. Thanks Twitter.

Secondly, the new Zendesk support system has a MAJOR flaw. Your login for the system is your Twitter login. When you submit a support request via the web interface, it attaches the ticket to your Twitter account. That's fine and dandy, however Twitter recommends that people with a Terms of Service matter (that would be me) submit their request to

Do you see the fatal flaw yet?

The flaw is that tickets submitted via email don't attach to an account. As a result, you are unable to view responses from Twitter to that ticket.

Try it yourself. Logout of Twitter. Submit an email to You'll receive a confirmation email with a link to view the ticket. Click the link. You're taken to a page that says - "You do not have access to request #[ticket number]. It may have been deleted".


Did anyone at Twitter actually go through the process that you created? Because, it appears as if you didn't.

And finally, the rolling out of Get Satisfaction for support. Again, I applaud you for the effort, however, you now have two separate support systems! For a company that is already spread thin when it comes to support, does it make sense to add complexity?

This entire experience has led me to giving this advice to anyone looking to implement support for their customers.

  1. Respond to your tickets. Use a simple method of categorizing tickets by priority and assigning SLA's to each category. Assign someone the job of monitoring SLA's. If you are constantly missing them, maybe it's time to hire more people, or better yet review and improve your current process (Hint Hint Twitter).
  2. Experience your own support. This is unbelievably easy to do, but can give you invaluable insight. Submit a ticket as an end user, see what happens. Click on links, make sure they work. See how long it takes to get help. Again, simple, but really really effective.
  3. Use a central support system. Managing multiple systems is too much overhead and causes confusion for your customers. Besides, not all systems are created equal and they require varied methods for managing. Pick the right solution, and stick with it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm now the community manager for doterati!

doterati, Central Florida's interactive marketing, media and technology association, recently held their 2009 board elections.

I'm happy to say that I was elected community director! This is a very exciting position for me as it is inline with some career goals that I have at MindComet.

You can read the MindComet press release here.

My new favorite side dish

I'm a mashed potato freak. They once were my favorite side dish. But I've branched out, and am experimenting with other sides.

Lately, I've been replacing mashed potatoes with pureed parsnips. Related to the carrot, they are wonderfully sweet and packed with serious amounts of flavor.

Here's how I make em.

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

Slice the parsnips into 1/4 inch slices. When you're working with more mature (larger) parsnips, you might need to cut out the middle, as they can become woody. The center will have a distinct visual difference from the outer parsnip. See if they are woody by eating the center part raw.

Toss your sliced parsnips in olive oil and salt, then put into the oven to roast. Roast until they start to caramelize. About 20-25 minutes. If you hit 25 minutes, and they aren't a deep golden color, with some browning, LEAVE THEM IN LONGER. The secret to the amazing flavor of this dish is the roasting process. Once done, remove from the oven.

Place your parsnips in a food processor and add a tablespoon or two of butter. Start the processor. Add a steady stream of heavy whipping cream until a good consistency is acquired. You don't want your parsnip puree to be too watery. I would compare the desired consistency to that of hummus.

Salt and pepper (preferably white pepper) to taste.

This side goes really well with pork, chicken or beef.

BTW, I'm thinking about creating some how to videos. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TweetBacks by Dan Zarrella is flawed

Dan Zarrella has been hard at work with a service called TweetBacks. Essentially, it searches the Twitter public timeline for the URL of the page that it is installed on. Based on the amount of chatter on the web, this product has proved to be very popular.

There are currently two ways that you can use his implementation; One is a hosted version and the other is a non-hosted version as a word-press plugin.

Both versions are flawed.

Hosted version - I'll be blunt. I don't see the logic in making this a hosted service. For one, his infrastructure costs escalate as the popularity of the tool increases. However, if he wants to spend the money, more power to him. But this is not where the issue lies. The real issue with this, is that Dan has created a single point that can be a bottle neck to hundreds, and as the service grows, thousands of blogs. And as I write this, users of the hosted version are reporting that it significantly slows down page loads on their blogs. Apparently demand for the service is growing faster than he can scale his hosting infrastructure. Coming from a strong systems engineering background, it is my opinion, that unless you must absolutely keep something central, then you should always look at methods for distributing application load.

Now, there has been alot of chatter about the page load issues on Dan's blog, and Dan has responded with a second version that users can self-host. Kudos to Dan for listening to his readers and responding. However, I think he missed the mark in his response. His new version doesn't use any javascript in implementation. It is a pure PHP solution.

What's the problem with that?

Well, the problem lies with rate limiting on the Twitter API. According to the Twitter API docs, requests are limited to "100 requests per 60 sixty minute time period, starting from their first request". This is tracked by IP for unauthenticated requests. So basically, if you use his PHP solution to display TweetBacks on your blog, all requests to the API will come from your server IP. This could be a problem for blogs with high traffic.

Enter Quak Bak.

Based on the two major flaws with TweetBacks, I've released my own version called Quak Bak (formerly known as TweetBackRedux).

My implementation is self-hosted and all requests to the Twitter API are done from the clients browser via AJAX. As of version 0.2, it installs in three easy steps. All you need is a Unix server with PHP4 or greater and cURL.

Monday, January 5, 2009

RECIPE: Peanut Butter Noodles

By request.

We served these at our holiday party. They were a huge hit.


  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons hot chile paste (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces Udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until tender according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, combine chicken broth, ginger, soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, chili paste, and garlic in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until peanut butter melts and is heated through. Add noodles, and toss to coat. Garnish with green onions and peanuts.