Five Years Ago Today...

Five years ago today, I left my job as CTO at and founded MessageCast - in my spare bedroom.


The concept was to create an environment that allowed Publishers to utilize IM as a delivery mechanism in the same way as SMTP and SMS. I went about creating a prototype using Jabber, Java and MySQL. The first few months were solitary and enabled some of the best personal growth I have ever had. I read and read and read some more. I gained deep experience in agile concepts including TDD, design patterns, automation and many other areas that would bear significant fruit down the road. The risk was astronomical and the whole thing seemed like it might fail a half-dozen times. I highly encourage you to try it at least once :-)


Eventually, I convinced Royal and then Mike to come on-board and we got rolling - ending in an acquisition by Microsoft. Looking back, there are things I wish we'd done differently, but overall, we created a business with solid technology. So solid that we made it through the technical due diligence process Microsoft puts acquisition targets through - no easy task.


While Mike and I are currently at Microsoft, Royal has moved on to a new gig. Fingers crossed that we all have Messagecast type success in our future endeavors.


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Alerts/Spaces - Live!

While I don't usually blog about my day job as the Dev Manager for Windows Live RSS/Alerts, this has to be mentioned.


Last Thursday, the Windows Live Spaces team propped a release to production that enable seamless integration with Windows Live Alerts. The rollout is limited to English language Spaces first, with more to follow. From the post:



Be instantly notified of changes to your favorite Spaces!



It’s now even easier to find out who updated what on their Space and when…and you can be one of the first to find out! You can now sign-up to receive updates in real time for blogs, photos, lists and comments in your favorite Spaces. Simply click on the “Sign up for alerts” link in the Visitor tools module of your favorite Spaces and start receiving your updates right away. We want you to try it out and tell us what you think of alert, so we’ve limited this new functionality to English Spaces first.



We wrote quite a bit of the code when we were MessageCast - it is great for it to finally see the light of day!


As you might imagine there are a number of technical challenges working with a service as large as Spaces. Kudos to a lot of people for making it happen.

If you are interested in integrating with Windows Live Alerts, check out the SDK.


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Media Metrics: Wallstrip Episode recently posted an interview they did with’s James Altucher.

The number of times the episode was viewed on YouTube since 1/18/2007 looks like this:


The number of times the episode was viewed on Revver since 1/18/2007 looks like this:

The data shows that Wallstrip has a larger audience on Revver, which has a much smaller user base than YouTube.

There are a number of other interesting metrics to compare (number of ratings for example), however Revver is not currently populating this info in their API results.


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Media Metrics: Chart Feed GUID/Title Fix

I just pushed a fix for Chart feeds - the GUIDs were missing the U part (unique) so several aggregators decided to only show the items one time. Additionally, the title of each item was constant so aggregators that create a hash from the title also were only showing the feed once.

Both issues have been fixed so Chart feeds should work properly.

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Media Metrics - RSS Feeds Now Available

A new build is up and running - it features quite a few changes (thanks for the feedback). The biggest feature enhancement is the addition of RSS feeds for both comments and charts. Why create a YouTube comment feed you ask? YouTube and Grouper don't offer one themselves (Revver doesn't support comments at the moment). Adding both the Chart and Comment feeds to your aggregator makes tracking your media posts easy and straightforward. (In case you missed the previous entries on media metrics: Part One and Part Two)


1. Chart feed - provides all five charts in a single feed. To add the feed to your aggregator, use the following URL:[URL]

where [URL] is the full URL of the media. For example, the RSS Chart feed for "Home" would look like this:

This will redirect to the actual feed - simply add this feed to your aggregator (One click for me with Bloglines and Firefox)


2. Comment feed - provides a true comment feed. To add the feed to your aggregator, point to the following URL:[URL]

For example, the RSS Comment feed for "Home" would look like this:

This will redirect to the actual feed - add it to your aggregator.



Here's a quick rundown of what is available for each service.



Number of
Number of
Number of



Suggestions and/or feedback? Feel free to email or comment below.



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Gremlins and fstab

A little blond haired gremlin struck yesterday (repeatedly power-cycling the machine) , wiping out /etc/fstab on my Fedora Core box.

When attempting to boot the machine, a cryptic error message appeared, along the lines of "your /etc/fstab file is hosed". I entered the root pw and went to the #repair prompt and did indeed find /etc/fstab to be corrupt. Additionally, it was not writable as I somehow didn't have perms.

After bit of Googling, I started digging around for the installation CDs to try "rescue mode". The gremlin apparently hid them, so I decided to burn a new one. I grabbed the ISO image and inserted a fresh disc in my r/w drive. Unfortunately, Google Earth and CD Creator no longer play nice - CD Creator (and other apps I subsequently tried) refused to burn an ISO image.

After firing off a few desperate emails in search of help, I decided to try to remount the device (instead of the logical directory). Voila! It worked - I then had to hack at /etc/fstab to try to get it to mount. After a few attempts, I got a bootable system again, with no data loss. Phew.

The steps I took were as follows:

  1. Boot machine
  2. Enter root pw and go to #repair prompt
  3. Remount with "mount -o rw,remount /dev/sda /"
  4. Edit fstab, using this as a model. Note there is a bug with "LABEL=", so I had to use this workaround
  5. Reboot
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 until drives mount properly

Next step - get something equivalent to JungleDisk on my Linux box and send it all to S3.

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Media Metrics - Part Two

Part Two on capturing media metrics (Part one and some examples)

Taking advantage of the APIs is easy; they are all HTTP-based.


1. Adding a new item to track - after you have uploaded a new media file (e.g. video) to either YouTube, Revver and/or Grouper, simply point your browser to the following URL:[URL]

where [URL] is the full URL of the video. For example, adding a YouTube's "Happy New Year" video would look like this:


Once the item has been added, the system will begin tracking the available metrics.


2. Number of views - produces a chart showing the number of times the media was viewed. To view the chart, use the following URL:[size]/?URL=[URL]

where [size] is the size of the image (see "Size" below). For example, the page views for "Home" would look like this




3. Number of comments - produces a chart showing the number of comments posted about the media. To view, use the following URL:[size]/?URL=[URL]

For example, the page comments with a size of medium for "Home" would look like this



4. Number of times favorited - shows the number of times the media was marked as a "favorite" (currently only supported by YouTube). To view, use the following URL:[size]/?URL=[URL]

For example, the number of times the media was marked as favorite with a size of small for "Home" would look like this




5. Number of ratings - details the number of times the media was rated by viewers. To view, use the following URL:[size]/?URL=[URL]

For example, the number of times the media was rated with a size of small for "Home" would look like this



6. Average Rating - shows the average rating for the media. To view, use the following URL:[size]/?URL=[URL]

For example, the average rating for the media was rated with a size of large for "Tornado Chasers Get Chased" would look like this


7. Combination - if you want to produce a chart that combines different metrics (#2-6 above), use the following URL:[size]/?URL=[URL][&numviews=1][&numcomments=1][&numratings=1][&avgrating=1][&numfavorited=1]

For example, a combination of ratings and comments with a size of large for "Home" would look like this



Size - You can create 3 different sized charts:

Large: 300 x 600, includes a legend detailing each metric

Medium: 150 x 300, includes a legend

Small: 100 x 200

Duration - currently, all charts will show the last 30 days of data, if it is available. For example, if you added media to track on 12/1/2006, the chart produced for 1/3/2007 would include data from 12/2/2006 to 1/2/2007.


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Metric APIs - Part One

More than a few people have emailed regarding my recent metrics post, asking how they can make use of the platform and track their own stats.

Currently, I track usage on the following services:

  • YouTube
  • Revver
  • Grouper

The current APIs allow you to track the following attributes:

  • Number of views
  • Number of comments
  • Number of times favorited
  • Number of ratings
  • Average rating value


As shown in the table below, some services (e.g. Revver) only provide a subset of the above attributes


Number of
Number of
Number of


The plan is to add additional services (MetaCafe, Google Video) - if you have a favorite, let me know.

Part Two of this post will detail the APIs and how to use them. Also, I'll probably do a future post looking at the APIs (or lack thereof) for each service that is incorporated. What I've seen so far is wide-ranging, from great to not-so-great.

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Media Metrics - A Few Examples

I've spent my free time over the last 4 months on various projects - some will never see the light of day and others might be interesting to a broader population. Each of the issues I've dug into came from personal need - I wanted to be able to do something but couldn't find an available service/website.

One of the areas I dug into was media - I've been interested in podcasts for quite a while and after having way too many YouTube links sent my way, I've become very interested in the video space. Based on a personal wish to be able to track certain media across properties, I created a platform to aggregate metrics for media. The platform has a solid set of APIs and currently collects data from YouTube, Grouper and Revver (more on the way). A few sample charts are shown below:


1. A chart comparing the number of views of "Home" on YouTube and Revver, from 12/21 to 1/1, in large format.




2. A chart for "Home", in large format, showing the number of comments and the number of times the video was rated on YouTube over the same period.



3. "Tornado Chasers Get Chased", in medium and small formats, from Grouper

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