A quick lick of paint

I've given dankarran.com a quick lick of paint, basically changing the orange highlights to blue ones.

This week I've been out in Germany at the DrupalCon Munich 2012 conference, finding out what's going on in the Drupal community, learning some better practices and seeing what is going to be coming in the next big version, Drupal 8 (hint: big things, nice things!). When you see all the great things being built by the community, for the community, you can't help but feel a bit guilty that you haven't even updated your personal site to the latest release. So, this update wasn't just a change of colour, but also an upgrade of Drupal - the free software that runs this site - to the latest version, Drupal 7. There may still be some rough edges, so mind where you step.

Birthday boy piñata funAt the end of the Drupal Trivia event last night (my team got a score somewhere in the middle of the crowd) the question was asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday that day. Nobody was, but with about half an hour to go before my 30th, I was next to do so, and was invited to try and break the Drupalicon Piñata. Stuffed with t-shirts, stickers, sweets and balloons, I think it was a great idea, though I did wonder if I was ever going to manage to actually break it open.

Thanks for helping me celebrate my birthday, DrupalCon! See you at DrupalCon Prague next year...

The year the tweets took over

I used to blog.

I started posting short news updates to this site back in 2002, before I knew it as blogging. Some time later - around early 2007 I think - I signed up to Twitter (@dankarran). That was probably the point my blogging frequency started to slow down. Twitter just made it so much easier to post short updates or retweet interesting things that other people have posted.

Why sit down and write a whole post when you can just tweet 140 characters while you're on the go? In some ways it makes sense, but having a blog that hasn't been posted to in over a year does seem a bit of a shame.

2012 is the year in which I set up my own company (Geobits), switched to being my own boss, and started discovering the life of a freelancer. That in itself has introduced me to many topics that I could write about, and perhaps will at some point. There's also the technology, from using Drupal 7 and Drupal Commerce on most of my recent projects, to trying out some personal tracking gadgets like the Fitbit and starting to explore the possibilities of the tiny, cheap Raspberry Pi computer.

In August I'm looking forward to going to DrupalCon Munich (my first DrupalCon since Washington DC in 2009) which should give me some good topics to explore as well.

Let's see how this works out. If I've not posted again for a while, come and find me on Twitter.

QR code treasure trails

QR code trail sticker in-situI've been working with QR codes since the tail end of last year and have seen an impressive growth in interest from marketers and consumers, with QR codes appearing in all sorts of different places, from the Metro newspaper to estate agents' windows. Doing social media work with the Tag Street twitter account @tag_st, I get to keep an eye on how these codes are being adopted around the world.

Whenever you're working for any length of time with a technology that's new to you, it's quite common to try and think up other uses for it, testing things out in new ways to see if they'll work.

So, a month or so back, I had the idea of creating a QR code trail using little stickers that could lead people from one point to the next. I asked on Twitter to see if any of my followers would scan a random QR code they found on the street. Some seemed curious, others unsure, or even concerned, and others definitely wouldn't. A good cross-section, I thought, and enough to convince me to get some stickers printed up (Moo stickers were perfect for this) and give it a shot.

On 1st June I tweeted the start point of the trail, on the northern part of Tower Bridge and it was soon picked up and retweeted by the London SE1 hyperlocal site.

The same day, the first tag got scanned by a couple of people, but nobody made it to the second tag, or any further than that. Nobody has scanned any of the tags since, despite all (but one, the final tag) still being in place*.

Chairs in Potters Fields parkSo, what does this leave me thinking about QR codes? Actually, not much differently than I did already... For QR codes to work, and prove useful to to the people they're there to help, they must:

  • be clear about the content they'll deliver, and their value
  • provide alternative ways to access their content - a short URL
  • be easy to see, and invite people passing by who could gain value

These tags had their own unique website address printed on them (at QRtrail.co.uk/something) but that was about it. They didn't provide a clear way that a person could benefit from scanning the code. In fact, the last tag - the treasure if you will - was simply a nice relaxing place to sit, with a nice view of City Hall, Tower Bridge, and Potters Fields park.

If I'm going to try this again, it'll need some rethinking, probably some better publicity, and a prize at the end to encourage people to try it out. Meanwhile, if you'd like to try out a sheet of 6 stickers wherever you are, let me know and I'll sort you out with a set of tags that you can edit at qrtrail.co.uk.

If you'd like to try the SE1 trail, visit QRtrail.co.uk/trail/se1 and let me know how you get on.

* I'll take the stickers down before too long so they don't stay as litter in the city

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