Hacking Crowd Fusion

I haven’t had my fingers in Crowd Fusion templates since I built out ck4.us and Bosh and Bill back in the day. Now I’m working on prototyping an idea of mine in Crowd Fusion and while I’m working on it, I’m also taking notes and adding bits to Crowd Fusion to try to get something together that would be representative of a good Open Source Crowd Fusion starter kit for anyone interested in using it.

The problem working against this is that Crowd Fusion has always been engineered to be an extremely flexible platform and CMS capable of powering absolutely any type of site you can think up. If you look at the customer base we had during our 3 strong years as a client-facing services business, you’ll see a large disparity in the type of implementations we offered them:

  • TMZ is a breaking gossip news blog-based site that has multiple distribution channels, including iPad, TV, email distro lists, etc.
  • MySpace used Crowd Fusion as a integration engine that pulled in original content from MySpace editorial staff, metadata and content from Daylife, VideoSurf, and various other platforms, and output a JSON structure that was ingested by their huge .NET infrastructure to power their content based Movie, Celebrity, and Fashion pages.
  • Tecca was powered by Crowd Fusion and used the platform both for content creation, distribution to web and their phone app, but most impressively to pull in and manage a huge database of tech products and prices from multiple different databases that were normalized in Crowd Fusion.
  • The Daily. Walled-garden, subscription only, iPad only to begin, publication that used Crowd Fusion for wire and feed gathering, as a DAM, a CMS, a layout tool, APNS / Newsstand / C2DM messaging system, subscription management system, and distribution to iPad / Android / Facebook / Kindle / iPhone, etc.

All those experiences are insanely different. So it’s difficult to build a starter-kit schema + theme-able front end design that can be plugged into that flexibility. Anyway, that’s what I’m tinkering with currently. I’m using http://fluidbaselinegrid.com/ as the basic beginning front end for this. Then I’m going to create my own plugin that does all the things you need from a basic blog, heavily comment that, and have that and the theme and a set of instructions ready to go for when we actually move to Open Source Crowd Fusion. I also need to tinker with the WordPress import script and see how that works. Stay tuned.

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Out on my own, considering opportunities, Crowd Fusion, and blogging again

I tweeted this a while back and updated my LinkedIn multiple times since then, but for the most part it’s been something that people keep discovering as they chat with me and they’re all surprised by it: I’m no longer with Ceros (formerly Crowd Fusion). The parting was amicable, and I’m still a huge fan of Ceros (and thanks to stock options for my 5 years of service to the company, I own a nice little chunk of Ceros that I’m hopeful will someday return to me in a much larger chunk of money).

Since I left, I’ve been doing some consulting and talking to various companies about possibly coming to work with them. It’s amazing how much things have changed since last time I was on the market. A simple tweet and LinkedIn update and suddenly I had multiple conversations happening with very little traditional “job search” effort on my part. I suppose it’s also a testament to the varied bit of experiences that I’ve accrued over the past 5 years. It’s flattering, but it’s also difficult to know what’s the right road to take for myself professionally and for my family. I was pleased to see this the other day that I’ve been trying to apply to my current set of options:

There has also been an opportunity to turn Crowd Fusion, the Platform and CMS that we built for years to power large at-scale brands like TMZ, The Daily, MySpace, Tecca, and multiple Telepictures properties, into a new business. As a going away gift, the Ceros team gave me a license to Crowd Fusion to use as a I see fit going forward. I set up a little offshoot placeholder page here on my blog as the temporary home of Sample The Web Labs (which I’m thinking of renaming) but for all intents and purposes could potentially become a little consultancy shop to help people build cool online products with Crowd Fusion. I’d like to take some of the profits from that consultancy shop and funnel it into a business account of funds that I can use as an incubator to begin working in earnest on prototyping a few product ideas I’ve had in mind for some time now. Of course, to begin doing that I’d need to land my first client.

In order to make that even more plausible, I’d like to open source Crowd Fusion in earnest (in the past we open sourced the core of the platform in a closed beta after TechCrunch 50, but we didn’t have the time or resources to properly support an open source project as our paying clients took off). Right now, Ceros is no longer focused on the CMS business and are using an advanced & more focused version of the platform to power their amazing product, and my early discussions with them seem positive towards this initiative. However, to be clear, open sourcing Crowd Fusion in earnest would be a side-job / hobby for myself and multiple former Crowd Fusion developers, and we’d really need people who were interested to jump in and participate and help us flesh out our documentation etc. Sound interesting to you? Then please email me at ck+crowdfusion@sampletheweb.com and I’ll put you on a list of people for us to contact should things move forward with this initiative.

Finally, I’ve decided to start blogging again. I had already said I was going to start around the New Year, but now I actually plan on doing it. There’s no reason not to and I have the time and interest in doing so. There’s lots of things to talk about, so stay tuned…

UPDATE: Here’s an example of a site built on Crowd Fusion.

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Jackson, Year 3 in pictures

This is by far the longest photo project I have ever done. I have at least one photo for every day of Jackson’s life. Today is the last day of his 3rd year, as tomorrow is his 3rd birthday. Here’s the album of all the pictures of Jackson from his 3rd year:

Here’s the full collection of Jackson photos in case you’re feeling nostalgic.

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Branch & The Wheel of Time

my birthday gift to myself just arrived! #wheeloftime
I popped over to Branch this morning to check it out and posted this. I’m embedding it here with the embed code that Branch provides, but it doesn’t seem to be working:

I’m waiting to see if anyone else just naturally responds to it based on me tweeting it and posting here without having to invite someone specifically to the conversation.

In any case, I pre-ordered the hardback of A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time (Tor Hardcover)), the 14th and final book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and now by Brandon Sanderson who has been concluding the series after the author’s death). I had sort of stopped ordering any paper books for the past year or so, going all digital all the time (at least for all non-art books), but with my birthday happening on Friday, I thought I should go ahead and indulge in this book. Every book in the series has been close to 1000 pages and I’ve read all of them. This is the 14th and final. I started reading them back when I was in high school, I believe (or maybe it was early college). I was a different person back then than I am now. The book is different too and I thought it would make a good topic to discuss on Branch and get feedback from others who have been reading these books for more than a decade. We’ll see.

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Once upon a Facebook…

I finally shut down my Facebook account. For years, I’ve said, “I hate Facebook. I love Twitter. I only use Facebook because I have to because I work on the Internet and it’s one of those things that you just have to do.” Well, you know what: No, you don’t. If I have a client who needs to know something about Facebook, or needs to set up a Facebook page, or needs me to set up an app for them on Facebook, I can easily set up a temporary account that has absolutely nothing to do with me to do so. If people want to find me and connect with me online, they can still do it through this site, my Twitter, my Flickr, and my Google+. Or they can always shoot me an email at ck at sampletheweb dot com or call me on my cell. All this information is public for a reason. I’m reachable.

Facebook was something that was getting between me and my effectiveness. It was a full on distraction. Every time I looked at my phone, there was another Facebook notification that I had no interest in seeing, but which I needed to go see in order to get it to go away. I changed my settings multiple times and this kept happening. Not only that, but the same messages were waiting for me on Facebook in the browser and Facebook on my iPad mini the next time I went to those devices.

The one thing that I ever enjoyed on Facebook were the pictures that my brother and his wife post of my nephew Emmett, but Kristin can show me those whenever I want to see them.

So after a multitude of years being enslaved to Facebook, I’m free. I was able to download all my data before killing my account and it all now lives here:


It’s much cleaner than actual Facebook for anyone interested in taking a walk down memory lane.

For my part, I’m more interested in the now and the future than the past. Facebook is the past. Onward.

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