A Look Back at 2013

The end of the year is typically a time to look back on the past 365 days (366 during a leap year) and review what has happened.  What big events have occurred?  What memories have been made?  What new friends have you met?  How is your life different today than it was on January first?

For my blog, this retrospective usually takes the form of looking through a year’s worth of photos, culling them down into a few hundred, and then somehow trying to shoehorn as many of them as possible into a post.  I think I’m going to take a different route this year.  A more analytics and social media driven route.

I started off with a tool by Vizify which lets you generate a quick Year In Review:

With that done, I wondered if I could improve on it.  Especially in the photos area.  Since many of my photos weren’t posted to my blog, but to Instagram, I decided to make a video of my top Instagram photos of 2013.

Using instaport.me, I downloaded all of my Instagram photos from January 1, 2013 to December 29, 2013.  I went through these and picked out a bunch that stood out to me and then put them into a video.  (The background music is "New Year’s Eve (Instrumental)" by Silence Is Sexy and is available from FreeMusicArchive.org.)

Now, on to the Analytics.  I fired up Google Analytics and asked it to look from January 1, 2013 to the present.  Then, I picked a few analytics from the huge number available.

First, let’s look at general audience analytics.

How did mobile devices do in 2013 versus desktops and tablets?


Clearly, 2013 was the year that mobile took off on TechyDad.com.  I went from virtually no mobile users to nearly 20% of my users on mobile.  Tablet use increased as well.  Desktop use, meanwhile, dropped down drastically.  It should be noted that I’m talking about percentages.  In raw numbers, all segments made increases.  Desktop alone rose by over 30% from its previous year’s total.  Mobile and Tablet increased much more than Desktop did, however, so Desktop’s percentage wound up decreasing.

So mobile and tablet grew fast, but what mobile/tablet operating systems were people using on TechyDad.com in 2013?


Clearly, iOS maintains a significant lead, but Android is holding a sizeable chunk as well.

As far as browser usage went, Chrome was king in 2013 with Safari close on its heals.  Firefox took third place and IE came in fourth.


All this is nice, but I still believe in the old saying "Content Is King" so what was the most popular content on TechyDad in 2013?  Well, we can look at that two ways.  We can only count posts made in 2013 or we can count all posts.

Top 10 Most Popular 2013 Posts:

  1. The Facebook-McAfee Lockout – B got locked out of Facebook and I turned my investigation into a post.  A ton of traffic from Reddit made this post’s traffic skyrocket.
  2. Designing a Car on Disney’s Test Track – After a trip to Disney World, I wrote about being able to try out the new Test Track and how incredible the design options were.  I still look forward to introducing this to my kids.
  3. It’s Time To Meet The Muppets in My Muppets Show – I love trying out new games for my phone or for the boys’ tablets.  Mix in a love of the Muppets and this game was virtually assured to be an instant win.  They’ve kept it fresh by adding in new stages which means we still play it to this day.
  4. Paid App Do’s and Don’ts – After being frustrated by a couple of apps which made gameplay near-impossible unless you paid them money or bothered your friends on social media, I wrote this guide showing how some apps did it right and others didn’t.
  5. Like Bow Ties, Doctor Who Legacy Is Cool – I love Doctor Who.  So does the rest of my family.  A game where you help the Doctor battle his enemies is very nice, but the graphics and gameplay take this from "very nice" to "excellent."
  6. How I Did NOT Give My Son Autism (And How I Did) – After reading an article online where a mother blamed her child’s autism on every single action she took while pregnant, I felt the need to write a rebuttal.  Spoiler alert: The only way I "gave" my son Autism is via genetics.
  7. Prepping a Tablet For Children – My boys used some saved up money to purchase tablets for themselves.  (Well, one tablet they shared the cost of and one that B got as part of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers.)  Obviously, we weren’t going to just let them use the tablets fresh out of the box.  Instead, I found apps to help lock them out of certain areas and protect the tablets from what could have been innocent, but destructive behaviors.
  8. Vine vs. GIFBoom – Before Instagram came out with their video solution, I was tempted by the lure of Vine.  I tried it out but was underwhelmed.  I found another option at the time in an app called GIFBoom that lets you make animated GIFs.  Since that post, though, Instagram’s video option has been released and I’ve grown to like it.
  9. The Playground Dalek – Run for your life!  The Daleks have invaded my kids’ playground!  Since this post, my boys have fallen in love with Doctor Who and now see the Dalek on the playground as well.
  10. Asperger’s and the Emotional Cage – Here I talked about how neurotypicals can sometimes mistake an Aspie’s inability to fit words to their emotions for a lack of emotions.  I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to express emotion via writing (where I can edit and rewrite) than via speech (where the words must flow in real-time).

And now including all posts.  (Obviously, I won’t add comments to the posts that appears in the previous list.)

The Most Popular Posts in 2013 (Counting All Posts):

  1. The Facebook-McAfee Lockout
  2. Freeware Review: Shape Collage – This one surprised me.  A freeware review that I wrote over thee years ago took the number 2 spot.  I guess it just goes to show that content doesn’t necessarily go bad just because it is older.
  3. Designing a Car on Disney’s Test Track
  4. Gimme Free Stuff: A Guide For Review Bloggers Just Starting Out – Another case of older content holding up.  This post from 2010 was targeted towards new bloggers who seemed to think that they could just demand "free stuff" from companies by virtue of the fact that they opened a blog.  I tried to give some advice on how to get review opportunities and how to properly pitch companies.
  5. It’s Time To Meet The Muppets in My Muppets Show
  6. Paid App Do’s and Don’ts
  7. My Most Controversial Post Ever: Nutella vs Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter – I pitted Nutella and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter in a winner take all battle royale.  We still keep a good stock of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter but haven’t bought Nutella in awhile.
  8. Like Bow Ties, Doctor Who Legacy Is Cool
  9. How I Did NOT Give My Son Autism (And How I Did)
  10. Duncan Hines Apple Carmel Decadent Cake Mix and Vanilla Glaze Review – This was a review I did of Duncan Hines cake mixes and glazes from 2010.  It’s amazing sometimes what posts keep bringing in the traffic.

What were my favorite posts of 2013?  From a quick look over my archives list, I’d have to say some of my Asperger’s posts like Asperger’s Syndrome Resources, The Challenges of Asperger’s Parenting, Obsessions and Asperger’s Syndrome, The Upside of Asperger’s, An Open Letter About Asperger’s Syndrome, and How I Did NOT Give My Son Autism (And How I Did).  I’d also include Rotten To The Common Core – my first post on Common Core, Doctor Who Geeklings Are Born – my first posting of my kids becoming Whovians, and Doctor Who? Doctor TechyDad! – where I revealed the Doctor Who costume that I made.  Finally, I’d include a pairing of posts where I discussed the self doubt that I face nearly every day, how Wil Wheaton’s book – Just A Geek – helped me realize this, and how I’ve been trying to turn that voice on its head: The Voice Of Self Doubt and Self-Doubt and Self-Achievement.

It’s been a very exciting year and I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store.

The Intellectual Property of Tweets

Last week, GaltsGirl tweeted a question to her followers.  She asked "Are tweets entitled the same intellectual property courtesies as blog posts?"  My answer was "If I’m using someone’s tweet for something I usually ask first. That said, I don’t see it as the same as a blog post IP-wise."  Unfortunately, thanks to the limited nature of Twitter comments and my assumption that credit would always be given, this led to a bit of confusion.  While I cleared up that confusion on Twitter (or, at least, I hope I did).  The interaction did inspire me to write about it at length.

Tweets versus Blog Posts

Part of the problem stemmed from my use of the phrase "I don’t see it as the same as a blog post IP-wise."  By this I meant that blog posts can be quoted without using the entire post.  If you quoted this article in a blog post of your own, you could say that I wrote:

Unfortunately, thanks to the limited nature of Twitter comments and my assumption that credit would always be given, this led to a bit of confusion.

However, if you "quoted" me by copying my entire article word-for-word, that would be copyright infringement.  Furthermore, while you should properly credit this quote, there would be no need to compensate me or even ask for my permission to use this quote.  After all, while this entire post is my intellectual property, a quote falls under fair use.  So copying this entire post to your blog could result in DMCA takedown requests, legal threats if those were ignored, and even large fines if the entire affair proceeded to the courts.

A tweet, on the other hand, is usually too small to quote part of effectively.  To quote someone’s tweet, one usually has to use the entire thing.  This begs the question: If using an entire blog post without permission is copyright infringement, is using an entire tweet infringement as well?

RTs and Inviting Infringements

On the Twitter platform itself, I’d say that quoting someone’s tweets isn’t copyright infringement.  After all, Twitter itself gives a method for doing this: Retweets.  What about off of Twitter, though?  Is using someone’s tweet in a blog post, a book, or some other medium copyright infringement if explicit permission isn’t granted?

Let’ remove two obvious "fair use" cases immediately.  If the quote is used for news reporting purposes ("Lady Gaga tweeted to her followers…") or parody, then permission isn’t required.  It is good form to ask permission, of course, but it isn’t a requirement.

Let’s also assume that credit is given.  If credit isn’t given, then I might be willing call it as infringement.  If someone tweeted something so interesting, insightful, foolish, or otherwise useful to your larger project, it’s only fair that they should get credit for your words.  You wouldn’t quote a passage in a book without stating what book that passage came from.  Similarly, one should never quote a tweet without naming the user who tweeted it.

Beyond those cases, I have to admit that I’m torn.  I’ve blogged about how you just can’t take an image off of Google Images and use it however you like.  Grabbing someone’s tweet and sticking it in your post, at first glance, appears to be like grabbing a picture from Google Images and putting it in your post.  However, the effort invested in a single tweet hardly seems to compare to the effort invested in making an image.

More Flexible Copyright Law

I think this example highlights the need to reform copyright law (something I’ve written about before).  If copying a five hundred page book leads to a $750 fine, why would copying a one hundred forty character tweet hold the same potential fine?  If copying an MP3 – which has a market value of $0.99 – leads to a $80,000 per song verdict, why would copying a tweet (market value of $0) lead to a similar fine?

In addition, profit motive should be considered when potential fines are calculated.  If the quoted tweet is used in a non-profit manner (say, in a blog post such as this one), then any "infringement" fees should be minimal.  If the quoted tweet was used in a for profit manner (say, a book titled "250 Great Tweets"), then infringement fees would be higher.

Protection of Public Statements

In the end, I consider tweets to be short public statements.  One can’t stand in front of a big crowd of people, say something, and assume that *NOBODY* is going to quote them.  Taking words out of context or not crediting them is unacceptable as is making money off of the tweet (in a non-news reporting, non-parody manner) without compensating the person.  However, on the scale of copyright infringement, using someone’s tweet without permission isn’t anywhere near as bad as taking an entire blog post without permission.


During my Googling for this blog post, I ran into an article about a similar issue.  In this case, there was a lawsuit not over a tweet, but over a short quote from WIlliam Faulkner’s Requiem For A Nun.  Sony Pictures used a nine word (97 character) quote from it ("The past is never dead. It’s not even past.") in the movie Midnight in Paris.  The Faulkner estate worried that the use of the quote in the movie might confuse people into thinking there was a relationship between the estate and Sony Pictures.  Sony Pictures, meanwhile, decried the lawsuit as frivolous.   On the day that GaltsGirl posed her question, July 19th 2013, a ruling was handed down stating that such a short quote didn’t constitute copyright infringement.

A little closer to the topic at hand, I found a TechDirt story about a journalist who claimed her tweets were "off the record" and thus weren’t allowed to be repeated by anyone.  When someone questioned her on this, she threatened a lawsuit.  It doesn’t look like she ever went through with it, but she did see the inside of a courtroom when she was convicted of harassing a former boyfriend’s daughter by posting her private journals online.  (Apparently she thought "off the record" tweets couldn’t be reposted, but private journals could be.)

This, in turn, led to more articles, including a 2009 blog post by Mark Cuban, all questioning just how copyrightable tweets are.

The Wall Street Journal Insults Moms and Dads

Two days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article which portrayed moms heading off to conferences as deserting their families to party with other moms.  To listen to Katherine Rosman, moms run off to these "so-called-conferences" to party with other moms, get drunk, eat lots of bad-for-you food, and tweet what companies ask them to tweet.  The article even included an oh-so-helpful graphic showing how moms attend these events to sleep in, party, and raid the mini-bar while laying on the floor.

Now I’m not sure what blogging conferences this author is talking about, but the ones I’ve gone to haven’t been like this.  Granted, I haven’t been to a lot.  Mainly just BlogHer 2010 and the Disney Social Media Moms events.  Still, I’ve heard from plenty of other people who have gone to a lot of other events and they all tell similar tales.

Is there partying?  Sure, but that comes at the end of a long day of learning and networking.  Are there company reps there and sponsorships?  At many events, yes, but nobody is obligated to meet with them or to tweet/blog about their products.  In many ways, this is no different than just about any other conference involving travel.

Years back, the company I was working for sent me to a computer expo.  I was there to learn about new technologies that were coming out.  There was plenty of company information to collect, but there was also a lot of swag.  (People crowded the Iomega booth to get their great buttons… buttons which I still have.)  In addition, there were parties at night designed to wine and dine various attendees.  I didn’t attend it, but I was invited to one party where I was assured that there’d be a hot tub and that I’d "have a good time."

Just like the expo I attended way back when, you could go to a blogging event like BlogHer and just party and collect free swag, but you’d be missing the entire point of the event.  Or you could attend just the seminars, avoid the company reps and parties, and come away having learned a lot.  Most people take a middle of the road approach and do a little of each.

Of course, many bloggers have already written many responses.  The main woman who was interviewed, Katherine Stone, aka Something Fierce, even posted an apology for how her words were twisted and misused.  (For the record, she doesn’t have anything to apologize for.)

The Wall Street Journal didn’t just insult moms with their article though.  As a dad, I found it highly insulting as well.  First of all, they insinuate that moms go to these conferences to lie around in a hotel room and let someone else clean up for once.  As if dad never cleans up at home and mom is the only one who ever tidies the house up.  The helpful graphic also insinuates that dad hogs the remote and doesn’t help get the kids ready for school either.  The old stereotype of "dad the idiot who does nothing in the house while mom wears herself out doing everything" was quite clear.

Congratulations, Wall Street Journal and Katherine Rosman for insulting both moms and dads in one article.

Oh, and that graphic showing the mom eating from the mini-bar while laying on the floor?  Have you SEEN some of those hotel room floors?  I don’t walk on them barefoot much less lay down and eat off of them!

NOTE: The photo at the top of this post was taken at BlogHer 2010.  Pictured are Christina (aka WELLInThisHouse), Jenn (aka KissMyKitty), B, and myself.

Superheroes, The Sun, and (Because) Saturn!

I had three things I wanted to post about, but none of them seemed long enough for a post on their own.  So here they are together in a mish mash of superheroes, science, space, and social media!

Beware of Geek Kid

First comes a bit of Geek Fail on my part.  Recently, Cartoon Network released a large amount of their library on Netflix.  As I drooled over the shows that I could share with my boys, I saw "The Powerpuff Girls."  I laughed at it and, on a lark, decided to show them the show so we could laugh at it together.  Never underestimate a geek’s love of superheroes, though.  While I couldn’t take the show seriously enough to enjoy it, my kids loved it!  Now NHL is determined to watch every episode.  Geek Fail?  Or perhaps Geek Win in that NHL loves superheroes so much that he even likes PowerPuff Girls.

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Incandescent Plasma

Next up comes a little video that NASA put together.  You see, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory three years ago.  Since then, it’s been regularly taking photos of the Sun.  One photo every twelve seconds.  For three years.  It’s given scientists tons of data to prove and disprove theories about our favorite star.  NASA has taken those photos and strung them together into an amazing four minute video showing some amazing details.

Thanks to NASA images and videos being public domain for the most part (about the only ones that aren’t are items with the NASA logo or with people in the shot), you can download high resolution movies or still shots from this movie.

Why? Because, Saturn!

A couple of days ago, Phil Plait (aka BadAstronomer) and Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) started conversing on Twitter.  Phil was tweeting a drive to press Congress not to cut planetary science at NASA.  This is a very good cause on its own.

Then, Jenny pointed out how "Because, Saturn!" was a good answer to anything.

"Why do I have to eat my broccoli?"   "Because, Saturn!"

"Why can’t I watch TV?"   "Because, Saturn!"

"Why can’t I stay up late?"   "Because… Saturn!"

Jenny mentioned putting this on a shirt.  While I haven’t done that, I did come up with this nice looking graphic.


That image comes from NASA via the Cassini space probe.  They stitched together 126 individual photos to come up with this 40 megapixel beauty.  Of course, you can and should go to NASA’s website to look up some of their other wonderful photos.

NASA makes getting great science and amazing images from millions of miles away look easy.  So please click the link above to press Congress to give NASA funding for planetary science efforts.  Why? Because, Saturn!

FollowerHQ Launch and Mobile App

FollowerHQ Icon Large_250x250Back in November of 2011, after many months of development, I launched FollowerHQ.  This was my first major Twitter application.  For those who haven’t used FollowerHQ, it’s goal is to help you manage your Twitter followers.  Other tools will let you automatically follow everyone who follows you, but I didn’t want to do that.  If I did, companies that I’m not interested in might follow me only for the automatic follow back.  They could then pollute my Twitter stream with tweets that I don’t care about.

FollowerHQ shows you who is following you that you aren’t following back.  It lists detailed information such as how many followers they have and when their last tweet was.  You can use this information to determine whether or not you want to follow them back.  Perhaps you might ignore some followers because they haven’t tweeted in a long time.  Maybe you might pass over some others because they don’t have any followers or seem like spammers.  Or, perhaps, you will choose to follow some users who tweet about subjects that you find intriguing.

In addition, FollowerHQ will show you who isn’t following you back.  As with people you aren’t following back, you can decide to ignore this situation, or you can decide to unfollow the accounts.  Finally, FollowerHQ will track your followers and will show you who you have unfollowed.  This is useful for the seemingly all-too-frequent times when Twitter decides to automatically make you unfollow someone when you didn’t want to.

Major Upgrade

The previous version of FollowerHQ was good, but it had one major flaw.  It needed to work while the user was waiting.  The user would open the page and FollowerHQ would start pulling information from Twitter’s API.  Since Twitter limits how much data you can pull at once, this meant that the application could be slow at times.  If the person running FollowerHQ only had a thousand followers, it might not be too bad.  If they had a hundred thousand, however, it was unusable.  Even worse, if the browser crashed, you would lose all of your progress and would need to start from scratch.  Needless to say, this limited FollowerHQ’s usefulness.

For the new version of FollowerHQ, I ditched the "real time load" and went with a report request.  Once you request a FollowerHQ report, it will queue up in the system.  FollowerHQ will then process these report requests behind the scenes, completely separate from the users’ browsers.  You can close your browser and even shut down your computer because FollowerHQ is running on my server.

When FollowerHQ is done, it will e-mail the user to notify them.  They can then log in to view the report.  Since the report information is pulled from my database and not from Twitter, the report comes up nearly instantly.  (I also used Google’s PageSpeed analysis to speed up the site.)

Now Available as an Android App

I’m also testing out ways of packaging FollowerHQ as a mobile application.  The first of these attempts utilized AppsGeyser.  I’m very happy with this approach so far.  AppsGeyser: 1) packages a special web browser that has no controls of its own and points to my site by default, 2) bundles said browser into an Android app, and 3) gives it all of the usual app characteristics such as being able to put an icon on the device’s home screen.  As a bonus, there are no ads (unless I want to include some which would give me some revenue) and I can submit my app to the Google Play store.

I’ve wanted to get into app development for awhile so this is highly intriguing.  I might make a "mobile.FollowerHQ.com" version of my Twitter application for the app to launch, however.  I also want to find similar tools to utilize to create an iOS app.

With all of the changes I’ve made to FollowerHQ, I’ve love to hear what you think.  Head on over to http://www.FollowerHQ.com/ and give it a try.  Post what you think about it here.

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