Recently in Zoomshare Category

The Old Switcheroo

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Back in May I outlined a number of changes we here at Zoomshare had planned for everybody's photo albums including a new mid-size view of an image, embed codes for sharing the image on the web and more. One feature we've been developing, that I left out of that initial list, was the capturing of photo uploads for promotion on Zoomshare.com.

Well now after a few weeks of development, testing, customer feedback and reprioritizing we've pulled a little switcheroo. The latest feature for Zoomies being the promotion of their smiling faces, pets, group pictures, favorite art and more (naturally, to be considered, the images must be family friendly) while we tweak and adjust, based in part on user feedback, the master list of new album features.

How do you get an image considered for Zoomshare.com? It is as simple as simple can be, just upload one or more photos to a photo album on your website and tune into Zoomshare.com for daily updates.

Why should you care? Well getting an image with a link to your site on Zoomshare.com, which is currently averaging just over 3,000 visitors per day, will help get your site noticed and bring new visitors to you. It also helps spruce up our home page, allowing us to showcase our terrific online community to potential new users.

It's Win - Win, so Join In!

Up and Coming Album Upgrade

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Deep within the Zoomshare office resides a collection of servers running a duplicate copy of our application for development and testing. Within this damp lab the mad hacker/programmers, including yours truly, slave over every line of code, looking to improve performance and reliability.

About once a week a service bell rings summoning us from our dungeon to "The Meeting Place" where that week's directive is read to all within ear shot. For the past few weeks the directive has repeated, exactly the same, like a drum beat, over and over "Improve Photo Albums, Improve Photo Albums". Then with little warning we are pushed back down the stairs to our lab, deprived of sunlight and all but bread and water, until one day at the Sacred Council of Fogg the Stone of Wine declares "It is done!"

Eh, ok, maybe not quite like that. Yet, we do indeed work everyday on improving Zoomshare and indeed for the past few weeks within our lab environment we have been focusing on enchantments to photo albums and soon those changes will be seeing the light of day. That of course brings us to the big question: What in Photo Albums will be changing?

Album Changes: Navigation
First and foremost the biggest change to Zoomshare sites for visitors will be a new navigation scheme, designed to allow a visitor to easily move between individual images and removal of the awkward "pop-up window".

At first, navigating images within album looks the same; first a list of albums in alphabetical order, followed by a collection of thumbnail images representing the various sorted images within an album.

Thumbnail Album VIew
Thumbnail View

However, everything changes after the next mouse click. Previously when a visitor clicked on a thumbnail image a pop-up window would open with a full-size view of the image. Within the upcoming change upon mouse click the thumbnail view will disappear and be replaced with a new "mid-size" view of the image.

The new mid-size view has the following enchantments:

  • Mid-size view of image
  • Embed Codes for the image <-- More on this in a bit
  • Previous & Next navigation to view album images at the mid-size "level"
  • If a free site, a new ad space

Mid-size Album VIew
Mid-size View

To view a full or originally uploaded size, a simple mouse clink on the mid-size image will do the trick. However instead of a pop-up window, which most web browsers restrict these days, a "lightbox" effect is in place in which the image opens in a "modal dialog box". Simply put everything within the browser window is "grayed out" to draw focus to the image "on top of" everything else.

Full-size Album VIew
Full-size View

Album Changes: Embed Codes
With the addition of the mid-size view to photo albums another element the "Share" or "embed codes" have been added alongside each image to enable sharing of your images among visitors to your site and the web in general. Depending on the size of the image each image will either have a collection of Small & Original or Small, Medium and Large code for embedding the image into a web page or bulletin board.

In addition each image will include a URL to use in instant messages or emails as well as the embed code for the Zoomshare Flipbook Widget containing the whole album in which the individual image is a part of.

Use of these embed codes is similar to other codes found on the web today; the visitor simply uses their ever handy copy and paste abilities to select and copy the embed code they wish to use, then paste that code into the desired location as needed.

Selecting Embed Codes
Selecting Share Code for Embedding

Album Changes: Console
Don't want your images to be "shareable" by your site visitors? No problem, within console a new album setting allows a Zoomshare user to control which, if any, albums are "shareable". By default all albums are, so if you wish to limit which albums provide share information one simply needs to disable the feature as desired.

Enabling Embed Codes
Console Disable/Enable Share Information

Even if a Zoomshare user wishes to disable Share information for the outside world, within console the embed codes for any image can still be found for use within Zoomshare pages or elsewhere.

To access this new Share information within console two new features have been added to the Add & Sort Photos section of the photo album console. A "Share" link above each new image provides for that image's embed codes when desired. Simply click on the Share link to reveal the necessary information.

In addition to the Share link, the embed codes for each image are also provided in the Info section of each image, just in case.

Selecting Embed Codes within Console
Share Information within Console

Back to the Pit of Despair
As with all change it will take a little bit of time for the dust to settle. If anything seems amiss or if you have a suggestion, comment or feedback, please do send them our way at: customerservice at zoomshare dot com. But with any luck the Shared Wizards of Zoom will declare "It is Good."

Part IV: All Really is Well

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Previously on pdw @ zoomshare:

Recently we moved zoomshare into a new home.

We scheduled an overnight maintenance window to move the necessary zoomshare equipment.

Each new home has its own little quirks and idiosyncrasies to them. But as time goes by one learns how to navigate the little quirks in a new home. They can become reassuring where originally they were unsettling.

As I closed in on being awake for 24 hours I knew I didn't have a taxing day ahead of me, I had planned my schedule accordingly at least. However, I still had some work to do and tops on that list was a check-in with zoomshare in a few hours, so I set my alarm for 9 am and closed my eyes.

I don't remember the alarm going off.

10 am. I could have used some more sleep, but that could wait just a few minutes. A quick check-in on how zoomshare was handling the morning traffic and then a few more hours of shuteye.

I don't think I even got in my chair, let alone logged into my computer.

I had voicemail. In fact I had a voicemail from kree10 that was just a few minutes old.

Not good news.

Not good news at all, in fact. He was on his way back to the colocation facility. No one from the office was able to connect to any zoomshare site, verifying in turn that everything was in working order. Moreover, it was looking like a good percentage of our users were having issues as well, which meant it wasn't localized to just one network connection or path.

In the case of zoomshare one of the connecting pipe's had a pin-size leak. When the "water pressure", network traffic, was low some droplets of water, network packets, escaped via the leak. Annoying, but manageable. However, when the pressure was turned up the leak started to turn into a flood, more than half of the network packets never made it to their destination.


And Now The Conclusion...
Troubleshooting computing issues can be difficult, more so when systems and services are divided up by different providers. Consider for example the problem most users have with their own system. A user encounters an error while using a specific piece of software, they call up the software provider's support number, navigate their overly complicated phone system only to be told, once they've gotten hold of a real person, described the problem and tried restarting the system that the problem is not with their software package and is obviously a hardware issue and recommend calling the hardware company.

A second call later, this time to the hardware company and the user is nowhere closer to a resolution since the hardware company's tech support blames the issue on the software provider. All long the user of course doesn't care about who's fault it is but simply wants the problem fixed so can get on with their task.

Alas, even us tech folks have to navigate the labyrinth of voicemail hell and deal with providers and support technicians who can be less than forthcoming with assistance when "its not our problem/fault".


The Root of the Matter
Zoomshare moved into a new co-location facility in which a company provided space and power. Another the network connectivity to the Internet. Three parties had entered the dance.

Our network connection was experiencing a "leak" and we had to pinpoint that leak in our new home for zoomshare. After two days of testing our equipment we suspected the issue was elsewhere. But our new "landlord", who tested their own setup suspected the issue was elsewhere and our Internet Service Provider (ISP) at first couldn't even confirm any network issue, let alone the "leak" we witnessed every time we turned up the "water pressure."

We had run ourselves ragged trying everything we could, different equipment, different configurations. No one knew find the location of the leak, but eventually everyone was able to acknowledge a leak did exist. By the morning of the third day it was time to call a meeting of the brain trust with all three dancers together.

During the course of this third crunch day - as if all the other days hadn't been crunch time - we retested all the integrated systems. First our networking equipment and wiring. Next, with the landlord the wiring leading up to our cage. Lastly, some testing with the ISP. The different this time? Instead of playing he said, she said, we all had repersentitives present physically all talking with each other, not at each other.

Eventually Holmes' maxim - "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth" did lead us to the source of the network leak. We eliminated the possible points by testing each segment of the pipe, from "water main" to "faucet". Alas we had an added complication, navigating and coordinating support procedures of various service providers, something it seems Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson never had to concern themselves with.

By the end of the third day for our Zoomshare users at least, all really was well again.

Part III: The Analogy

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This is the continuation of a story begun in "The Move" and "On Two Hours Sleep" in which our heroes battle nefarious network gremlins in order to save zoomshare from imploding under its own weight.

The analogy has become a cliché in a certain genres of television. It is usually found in the second or third act of a Science Fiction or Police Procedural episode. In the scene the wickedly smart boy genius engineer or weird but likable lab technician explains to our hero some important, albeit technically laced, piece of information on which the plot moves on.

Yet, for some unexplained reason the knowledge and experience of 20+ years of service has momentarily escaped the ship's caption or police detective. Seeing that their technobabble explanation has dazed and confused our hero, the boy genius launches into an analogy, to explain, in a non-technically way, what they just said, which of course in turn clues in the story's audience. The dialog usually goes something like this:

Boy Genius: "Sir, if we change the matter - antimatter mix ratio in our flux capacitor we might be able to generate enough energy to create a wormhole in the space/time continuum which will get us home in 10 minutes instead of 10,000 years."

Ship's Caption: Puzzled Look

Boy Genius: "Sir, if you think of this apple as space/time" picks up an apple from the Caption's desk and continues "and we are here on the surface" points to near side of apple "and home is here" points to far side of apple "normally we would have to travel the curvature of space/time, the surface of this apple, a long distance to travel at less that light speed, to get home. But, if we can safely overload our engines we might be able to create a hole in space/time, like a worm creating a hole in this apple, and burrow our way, cutting the distance we have to travel by a factor of several billion."

Ship's Caption: Contemplates the situation and his options, then rises from his desk to take action "Make it so!"

Our Analogy
The Internet is like a highway, a large bi-directional superhighway. Hmm, that imagery hasn't been used in a few years. Ok, um, the Internet is like a series of tubes. Wait no that isn't right, it's like a pipe. Yeah, an internet connection is like a pipe, a broadband connection is like a big fat pipe, like the water main into one's home feeding water into smaller pipes that deliver it unto the proper appliance within one's home.

But in the case of zoomshare one of connecting pipe's had a pin-size leak. When the "water pressure", network traffic, was low some droplets of water, network packets, escaped via the leak. Annoying, but manageable. However, when the pressure was turned up the leak started to turn into a flood, more than half of the network packets never made it to their destination.

Alas, analogies eventually breakdown since the logical inferences between the two items is never 100% exact. For example our water main to broadband connection analogy; unlike a water main a network connection is bi-directional. More importantly, dropped network packets, in small or large quantities don't leave virtual puddles like water can. If you have a pipe dripping water you might not notice or care. But if you have a pipe leaking a large quantity of water, you will notice; in lack of water pressure as well as a large amount of water and water damage that will need taking care of.

So, if we cannot hope to look for a puddle of network packets, then the question becomes can we measure our "water pressure" at different points along the way to our servers to determine where the drop in pressure, the leak might be?

Don't Miss the Exciting Conclusion in: "All Really is Well"

Managing Update Notifications

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Ok, so you enjoy knowing when a zoomshare friend updates their site via Message Notifications, but, well let's be honest, you have a lot of friends and if you spend one more day clearing out yet one more inbox your going to scream!

If only there was a way to switch off the default setting and select which friends you wish to receive update notifications from ...

Well now you can! Zoomshare users can now control which friends they receive update notifications from within their Friend List. For each friend a new option titled 'Edit Preferences' has been added to the right-hand side of the friend's screename. To toggle the setting off or on simple click on the 'Edit Preferences' to reveal the 'Receive Update Notifications' checkbox.

Zoomshare Edit Friend Update Notification Preferences
Editing Update Notification Preferences

By default this setting is 'on' so the checkbox will be 'checked'. To toggle the setting 'off' click on the checkbox to uncheck it, then click on 'Save Preference'.

Experienced zoomshare users may notice that the 'Edit Preferences' feature expands the previous 'Add Description' feature in which a user could leave a personal description or note to themselves about each friend. This option still exists under the 'Edit Preferences' feature and behaves in a similar manner as the 'Add Description' feature.

To add a personal note or description about a friend, simply replace the "Add Description" text with one's personal comment and select 'Save Preferences' after first clicking on 'Edit Preferences.

Enjoy!

Part II: On Two Hours Sleep

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This is the continuation of a story begun in "The Move" in which our heroes battle nefarious network gremlins in order to save zoomshare from imploding under its own weight.

By 7am, when everyone else was waking, I was getting into bed. Other than a need for a good long nap, all seemed well. The move from colocation to colocation took a little longer than planned, but judging by the performance we saw before leaving the building zoomshare was running better than ever.

As I closed in on being awake for 24 hours I knew I didn't have a taxing day ahead of me, I had planned my schedule accordingly at least. However, I still had some work to do and tops on that list was a check-in with zoomshare in a few hours, so I set my alarm for 9 am and closed my eyes.

I don't remember the alarm going off.

10 am. I could have used some more sleep, but that could wait just a few minutes. A quick check-in on how zoomshare was handling the morning traffic and then a few more hours of shuteye.

I don't think I even got in my chair, let alone logged into my computer.

I had voicemail. In fact I had a voicemail from kree10 that was just a few minutes old.

Not good news.

Not good news at all, in fact. He was on his way back to the colocation facility. No one from the office was able to connect to any zoomshare site, verifying in turn that everything was in working order. Moreover, it was looking like a good percentage of our users were having issues as well, which meant it wasn't localized to just one network connection or path.

I gave kree10 a call, He asked me to meet him and to bring any spare any network switches I might have with me. He was bring one as well, just I case. So much for getting more shuteye.

I dressed, I disassembled part of my home network, unplugged my network switch, picked up my laptop and headed out the door.

The Odd Couple
Why bring along a network switch? I believe by the time I was on the road back from which I had come peenworm had determined that about 60% of the network packets from our office were being dropped on their way to the zoomshare servers in their new home. Most of the equipment was the same equipment that had been humming along at the old location just a day before. Most, but not all.

Some of the new equipment already in place before the move included a new network switch for managing network traffic between the various servers. When all is working correctly network switches properly inspect network data packets as they are received, determine their source and destination and forward the traffic appropriately. When things go wrong, well...things sure didn't seem to be going right.

The funny thing was peenworm had seen something like this within the past few months at the old facility as well. It wasn't caused by new equipment so much as by an uptake in network traffic. It was a network communication issue, a duplex mismatch to be exact.

Ok, see a network connection can be unidirectional or bidirectional. In either case this is known as duplexing. Our networking equipment, our switch helps determine if there is either a bidirectional "two-way path" between the two connected parties or a unidirectional "reverse path". Just as it manages the who, what and where of the network traffic the switch helps manage the how. But if any of the equipment on the network is misconfigured, then boom, a network collision and network data disappears, literately into the ether.

In any case the quickest way to straighten out the issue was going to be swapping out the new network switch with another model. Traffic on the network would right itself, packets would stop getting lost and after a little rest we could property reconfigured the newer network switch and place it back online when ready.

If only.

After meeting up with kree10 we tried our switches. One network switch replacement later and no improvement. Two networks switches later and still, no improvement. Something else was causing the network loss. But what?

I Dare Say Mr. Holmes
In "The Move" I mentioned feeling out of place as a software engineer in a network engineer's world. In the world of computing there are hardware and software "layers" that allow engineers to develop ever more powerful tools. Each "layer of abstraction" removes a level of complexity out of one's hands such that other problems can be tackled. As a web developer, for example, on any given day I don't have to worry about programming networking protocols to mange duplexing issues, as that's all been taking care for me by someone else.

A third wheel I said I felt like, sort of like Dr. Watson tagging along as Sherlock Holmes probes his client's inner thoughts in search for clues ... and an answer.

And yet in Arthur Conan Doyle's tales Dr. Watson was a medical man, a practitioner of science. He too could put his analytical problem solving skills to the test, even in unfamiliar waters. After all Holmes' axiom rings true in just about any logical situation, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

If its not the network switch it must be some other piece of equipment. Alas, logic has a way of escaping one's sense after 36 hours and just a few hours of sleep. Frustration starts to set in, and that sure was the case for all three of us after a few more hours of troubleshooting. The office was having issues connecting, but at the facility where we plugged into the net everything worked better than fine.

We had tried everything we could. It sure seemed like it wasn't a problem with any of our equipment. Therefore, as Mr. Holmes would correctly point out, it must be a problem elsewhere. When the floodgates were opened and all of the traffic trying to get to zoomshare came rushing in, something starting acting up.

But we couldn't think straight; perhaps our logic was escaping us. We must have missed something. It couldn't be a problem with the colocation facility could it? We didn't see any network issues.

Could it be with our new Internet service provider? The tech we talked to sure didn't see any issues from his workstation.

Any yet ... To be continued in "The Analogy"

Part I: The Move

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Recently we moved zoomshare into a new home. Alas, the move didn't go quite as planned. What follows is an "insider's" story of the move, what went wrong and how, ultimately, zoomshare came back to life.

On any given day the traffic zoomshare generates is significantly less during the early morning hours compared to peak hours during the afternoon in the United States. Early morning zoomshare's over 750,000 sites receive approximately 125,000 visits in total between Midnight and 5am Central Time. Peak hours, between Noon and 5pm, zoomshare sees about 4 to 5 times as many visitors, some 550,000.

Obviously, we scheduled an overnight maintenance window to move the necessary zoomshare equipment. Given that, I left the office early Tuesday to rest up. My plan was to skip dinner, roll into bed and get a quick nap in before meeting up with kree10 and peenworm.

It Begins
As time marched toward Midnight with nary a sheep in sight to count, I rolled out of bed and started to get dressed. I should have known then something was up. After watching semis whoosh by at a highway oasis while eating a burger, soda and America's favorite french fries I meet up with kree10 and peenworm to start.

What exactly is involved in moving servers from one colocation facility to another? Well since a computer, server or otherwise, requires a connection to the Internet, the first step before moving is to setup service at the new location. In the case of servers this also means getting and assigned new static IP Address so the computers making up the system can be found. More importantly, the new IP Addresses need to be associated with the existing domain name, zoomshare.com. Therefore, from a technical point of view this means configuring servers to route traffic on their new home network by assigned them their new IP Addresses as well as configuring DNS to associate the new addresses with the existing zoomshare domain(s).

In the physical world, this means mounting and unmounting computers and network equipment in a server cabinet, running network and power cables and of course lifting and shuttling equipment between locations.

It sounds simple, but one has to realize that the "application" that is zoomshare is a complex system of hardware and software. In hardware zoomshare currently accounts of at least half a dozen pieces of equipment; servers, switches, routers and firewall, on two different networks, one public and one private. In software, the zoomshare application code is dependent on several instances of web server software, a database engine, email transfer agent, operating system and a heck of a lot of custom code that's distributed between the various servers and of course must be able to communicate between each other at different network layers.

Minor Troubles and Tribulations
Alas, colocation facilities tend to be very utilitarian since the business model for providers of these facilities is to maximize space, power and bandwidth for housing computers. This means they tend to be cold, noisy and cramped. Moreover since my main job on zoomshare is as a software engineer and not as a system administrator, it didn't take long after meeting up with kree10 and peenworm to feel like the proverbial third wheel, not much to do and nowhere to be but in the way. Soon however peenworm had the servers we needed to take with us offline and with kree10's van loaded up we moved on up and started reconfiguring servers for their new home.

Each new home has its own little quirks and idiosyncrasies to them. The same goes with colocation facilities. Each facility has its own take on how things should work and run, procedures and rules to follow and work by. For example, the new home of zoomshare has a loading dock that can be used to deliver equipment, be it delivered by hand or freight.

As time goes by one learns how to navigate the little quirks in a new home. They can become reassuring where originally they were unsettling. For a colocation facility, this might mean the different between how a procedure is written and how it is actually followed. Alas, it doesn't help, it's not reassuring, when you are just beginning to learn how to navigate the facility's procedures and something goes amiss. In the case of the loading dock, it was a new security guard on staff that threw me off as I tried to get access to the loading dock from the inside while kree10, van and equipment waited in the freezing subzero cold outside.

After a bit of wangling for access to the dock and a handcart to load the equipment on kree10 and I met up with peenworm who had already started preparing the new server cabinet for zoomshare.

The End?
To me it seemed down hill from here on out. Sure, nothing as complex as this goes quite as planned, but we seemed to have been able to navigate the bumps in the road without going bust. Moreover, most of the physical work and for the most part my helpfulness started to come to an end as each server was added to the cabinet, secured as much as possible, wired and powered up.

We had already prepared the new facility a week before hand as much as possible and now that we had the remaining servers mounted and wired all that was left was for peenworm to reconfiguring and verify everything was online. With that zoomshare would be back to life.

In all it took us a bit longer than planned to get all the equipment up and running. All should have been running by 5am, just as traffic to zoomshare for the day would start to increase. We had figured it would take us until 3 for the actual move, 5 in case anything went amiss. By 6 we had everything wrapped up and the "little problems" solved. Judging by the wireless network public network access to zoomshare was snappy and running faster then ever. All was done with only a handful of issues too minor to mention. What's a little misunderstanding about a handcart between friends? After all, all's well that ends well.

Or was it? Find out in "On Two Hours Sleep"

Heads Up

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sare notes in a recent Forums posting that we have updated the look of the console landing page. The new Dashboard provides a simplified, heads up view of activity on zoomshare.

With the new Dashboard users can better track their friends list, send and receive invites and update their profile and directory information. Of course users can still edit their website or upload photos to their photo album by using the navigation tabs at the very top of the console screen.

How does the new Dashboard help users better track what's going on? Well when a user has a new Message or Invite the Dashboard lets the user know of the new item by highlighting the console as shown in this screen shot:

Moreover, we now send out notifications of certain updates to you when your friends have made changes to their zoomshare sites. Which also makes it easier for users to keep track of what's happening on zoomshare:

What kind up update triggers a notification? If a friend edits a web page, adds a blog post, adds an image to a photo album or adds an item to their shopping cart then a notification will be on its way to you.

When does the notification get sent? Well currently we process our update logs every 24 hours at 3 am Central Time. That means most users will have a notification of a friend's update the following morning. Over the course of the next few weeks will will be adjusting the timing of this process to find the right balance between timely notification and information overload.

In the meantime, enjoy the latest set of updates and let me know what you think

...

Impressive, Very Impressive.

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This afternoon I was checking out zoomshare's new digs, helping prepare for an up-and-coming move of our servers from one colocation (colo) facility to another. I have to say that while this is by far not my first trip to a colo they still impresses me to no end.

What exactly is a colo facility? Well it is a data center where multiple customers (companies usually) locate network, server and storage equipment and interconnect to a telecommunication service provider to the virtual world at large. In other words it's the high tech center in the physical world where the virtual world of zoomshare resides and is accessed.

How high tech? Well that can vary from colo facility to colo facility, but to give you an idea of our new space (and why I'm always impressed) here's a quick run down:

  • 10.4 Megawatts (MW) provided by two different electrical sources. For reference household incandescent light bulbs rate between 40 and 100 watts, a modern diesel-train engine can top out a 3 to 5 MW. If fact, as a backup power source, this new facility will have 12 (it currently has 8) - 2.5 MW diesel engines that will be able to provide 30 MW if needed in pinch.
  • A cooling plant that not only cools 135,000 square feet overall but can provide 13,652 British Thermal Units per Hour to a space about the size of 7' x 1' x 2'. That relates to the ability to deliver the cooling power of a window mounted AC unit to cool the space of a utility closet.
  • Multilayered physical security setup that includes security guards, "man trap" entry, closed circuit TV, infrared motion detection and "hand geometry" scanners.
  • The ability to deal with fire, wind, flooding or earthquake.

Ok, but I bet that laundry list doesn't quite impress (or maybe it does I don't know). They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what does this facility actually look like? Well I'm pretty sure photos are a no-no for privacy reasons. As I mentioned colos provide space, power and bandwidth to multiple companies, companies that can be competitors in any given market space. Hence my assumption that pulling out the camera phone is probably a bad idea. In fact, in this facility we are moving into most of the actual colo floor space is lights-out - of course the whole building isn't lights-out, just the more sensitive spaces. So with the exception of a few well placed guiding lights such that one can find one's assigned space and not trip over one's own two feet there is not much one can see, let alone picture.

Having said that here's a little marketing vid, take of it what you will, I'm still impressed.

Location, Location, Location

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Last week Justin Davies, whom I have had the pleasure of working with virtually on a few technical publication projects in the past, wrote up an interesting personal review of the social networking space.

On a whole, I agree with most of his thoughts [1], the main one being at this point in time, just being a social networking site one is not going to make it big. To be of any success one needs to bring meaning into the social network, such as in Justin's example relating to his work on BuddyPing in the UK. With BuddyPing where the person's given location provides context to the importance/mean of the individual's social network.

What's interesting is we here at Zoomshare are working on folding in location as a key part our community. On the money side of things location provides a method to focus marketing and advertising programs, as Justin notes, "we could post an ad to a user whose age and location we know, as well as the time of day." This is nothing new, considering this is the main advantage of web marketing programs; targeting specific content, user types and/or location.

For Zoomshare this also helps bring the community a bit closer together physically. 'Hey, look here's a person not that far from me with the same interest/job/age...' In this example the context of location means Zoomshare becomes something more along the lines of a old-fashion community bulletin board, be it for selling, hooking up, dating, hanging out or whatever.

But Zoomshare is mainly about sharing one's own content; photos, blogs, calendar events, items for sale. The interesting aspect about location context here is what if one can tag their content based on not just what it is about or when it was created/posted but also from where it was posted. Then your photos not only know when the image was taken but also where. Or your blog entry can note where you wrote that story about Paris from. As GPS devices migrate into more and more electronic devices such as camcorders and cell phones this type of 'social sharing' based in context of one's location or past locations is going to grow.

Moreover that's just a couple of extremely powerful and obvious examples of "Context Networks" using Zoomshare's existing tools. Just imagine what other networks can be built using other pieces of information a user is willing to share which can then be used to provide 'context' to one's social network!


[1] If I had to disagree on anything I would nitpick about his naming of Open Social Networks. Justin uses MySpace as an example of a social network that promotes "openness [of one's social network] through the user experience" which is a mean unto itself, "sometimes used for vanity purposes (Look how many friends I have!)" I don't disagree with the assessment of MySpace, but with the name, to me an "Open Social Network" is one in which one's profile and social network are portable, open to other social networks via a well documented (and supported) API.

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About the Author

Paul is a technologist and all around nice guy for technology oriented organizations and parties. Besides maintaining this blog and website you can follow Paul's particular pontifications on the Life Universe and Everything on Twitter.

   
   


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