Archive for November 2004

The Big Three Oh

Tonight, I am 29, and tomorrow morning, December 1st, I will turn 30. Hot damn! That decade just flew by! The whole decade thing is not that big of a deal to me because I feel like we count things by tens only for neurological convenience… not to mention that no other animal gives a damn about the number ten.

But still…

When you reach a decade mark in your life, you can’t help but reflect on previous decades and measure expectations for the coming one. Rather than write a sappy, rambling essay about life and what my place in it is, I just wanted to sum up my three decades so far with one (run-on) sentence each and then spell out some goals on the record with the hopes that I might actually follow through on them:

Age 0-9: I was a standout wiseass in school, got in trouble quite a bit, and eventually learned to treat formalized education like a beneficial experience.

Age 10-19: My family moved from Pacific Palisades, CA to Seattle, WA, I grew to love the Northwest, and I drank my way through high school and into the University of Washington School of Business.

Age 20-29: My career focus landed decisively in advertising, design, and the creative arts, at one point I was one signature away from a nice early retirement, and now I have a great job that I love.

And that’s that.

I don’t really have any spectacular promises to make for the next ten years, but I have a few things I want to do:

  • Buy a house in the South of France. Nice would be nice. A buddy and I decided in college that we’d go in on a summer home there. My target age was 34. Time to make good.
  • Get married. (Note to self: requires girlfriend)
  • Start thinking in seven figures. We’re on the verge of another, slightly more sane, tech boom, and I plan on doing a good amount of the booming.
  • Make various unspecified health improvements. I treat my body like a temple, but only the sort of temple you’re allowed to throw concerts in occasionally.
  • Drink a lot more water. That’s an easy one. Anyone know if this is really worth it? I’ve always thought the whole “8 tall glasses of water per day” campaign was a bit of a scam.
  • Dive the top ten dives in the world. I’ve already done one in Kona, Hawaii and it was the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen — television, movies, and all other things included. I’ll take nine more of those please.

And finally, I hope that the next time one of these decade marks passes, my country will be a bit more popular around the world again. Or else, I’ll be writing you from Cascadia. :)

ESPN Wants Your Thoughts

One of my co-worker homies at ESPN headquarters, Kareem Mayan, runs his own blog over at Reemer.com and he would like your suggestions regarding subscription content on ESPN.com. Kareem was one of the driving forces behind ESPN Fantasy Football League Manager, and his excellent work is one of the main reasons the product is doing so well this year. Also, can I just mention really quick how much butt I’m kicking in the blogger league?

Copious amounts.

Anyway, if you’re an ESPN.com user and you have some suggestions for us, head on over to Reemer’s place and post your thoughts. With Kareem working on ESPN Insider now, expect a lot of great stuff coming down the pipe in short order.

Blog of the Moment: AdFreak


There’s a new blog on the block, and if you’re interested in the advertising industry, it’s worth adding to your blogroll. AdFreak, a product of AdWeek Magazine, is a collaborative effort by AdWeek staffers to chronicle all the latest and greatest campaigns in the ad world. Unlike the straightforward style of AdWeek Magazine, AdFreak presents its contents in a comical, sarcastic manner mildly reminiscent of the great Defamer.

Since I only have one TV and one Mac, I can’t be expected to keep up on all the latest ad campaigns myself, and that is where AdFreak excels. Check out this piece on Virgin Atlantic’s new online campaign. Brilliant stuff. I already wanted to fly on Virgin, but now I REALLY want to. Try out the dream interpreter… it actually works pretty well for most of the basic dreams (viz. “I came to work naked”, “I was falling off a cliff”, etc).

Online ad campaigns like the Virgin Atlantic dream interpreter and the new CNN Under your Command video piece are a good indication that the dawn of internet advertising is finally upon us. We’ve always known that garish, cheaply produced banner ads never did a whole lot for branding or sales, but now that we have things like Flash video and smart interactivity in our arsenal, the internet may soon overtake TV as the most immersive and effective advertising medium.

Before I worked at Disney/ESPN, I worked for a pretty major ad agency here in Seattle, and the attitude towards internet advertising back then was that it was sort of a “necessary evil” in the business. Everyone knew that being a full-service agency they had to provide it, but no one was particularly interested in it. After all, who wants to design banner ads for a few thousand dollars when you can direct cinematic television spots for hundreds of thousands of dollars? I see all that beginning to change though now that we have stellar examples like the Virgin Atlantic and CNN pieces. As soon as agency creative directors see what we’re able to do online these days, I feel like a lot more attention will be paid to the space. And once that happens, look out… we’re in for some great campaigns.

Anybody have any other examples of great online campaigns they’ve seen recently?

Bosworth on the Tragedy of the Commons

My nomination for Technical Opinion Piece of the Year goes to Adam Bosworth’s recent talk at the ICSOC04. Adam’s speech is enlightening on a great many levels and reminds us that above all else, the success of any technology is directly related to how forgiving it is to the human condition.

The next time you find yourself arguing about something like XHTML vs. HTML, validation, or the semantic web, give this article a read. It really brings the focus back to what matters. It’s not about who can follow what rules. It’s about who can solve what problems.

* Also see Sriram Krishnan’s excellent follow-up post here.

Jonesin' for Some 8-Ball

As many people know, the next version of Flash — codenamed “8-Ball” — is currently in beta and has been previewed at Macromedia conferences in the last several weeks. I have beta-tested versions of Flash in the past, but unfortunately, I neglected to register for this one. I am the worst kind of beta tester. I download the new builds and never end up providing much feedback to the development team. I’ll be the first to admit, I beta-test mainly to plan future content releases as opposed to actually helping fix bugs. I suppose it would be better to help out with the bugs and all, but as a major content provider, I figure just helping to push the technology is my contribution to Macromedia’s success.

Anyway… after seeing what’s in store with 8-Ball, I’m regretting more and more that I never signed up for the beta. It looks like the most exciting update to Flash since Flash 4 and the introduction of ActionScript. Here is what I’m really excited about so far:

  • Live Photoshop-like effects such as drop shadows, glows, and strokes
  • MUCH faster rendering and better processor management on both Macs and PCs
  • A better anti-aliasing engine for text (codenamed Saffron)… sIFR will benefit greatly from this
  • Fully alpha-maskable video, with much better compression as well
  • Much much more…

There are two videos I’ve seen which demo various parts of 8-Ball. Have a look:

Firefox and the Back Button

Yes, I know… this is hardly worth dedicating an entire post to, but has anyone figured out how to use the backspace button as a way to move backward through browser history in Mac Firefox? This shortcut exists in IE, Safari, and I believe possibly even PC Firefox, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to make it work on a Mac. There doesn’t seem to be a preference item for it, and I haven’t heard of any extensions to enable it either.

The backspace key is by far my most used web browsing shortcut, and I simply cannot switch to Firefox without it. I will say that I am thoroughly impressed with the 1.0 release and at least for me, it is much much faster than both RC1 and the latest version of Safari (which was already quite fast). I am simply amazed at how quickly all sites load now, but without this crucial bit of seemingly trivial functionality, I just cannot make the switch.

Ideas anyone? I’m hoping there is something very simple that I have overlooked.

UPDATE: Big ups to Patrick H. Lauke for bringing up the KeyConfig Extension. It seems to work perfectly for remapping the Back button. It even correctly ignores the shortcut when a text field is in focus!

Can We Speed Up Browser Evolution?

So I just read the statement from the Mozilla Foundation which predicts 10% of the world’s web browsers will be Mozilla-based by the end of 2005. While some people seem pretty excited about this development, I can’t help but wonder if we are settling for too little here. 15 months? 10%? By comparison, every time a new version of the Flash plug-in is released, we get a predictable 80-90% penetration rate at the 15 month mark. Why can’t we expect this sort of development pace with browsers? Several reasons… some perhaps solvable and some perhaps not. This article will discuss several of the issues involved and recommend possible solutions.
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How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
The iPhone and Disruption: Five Years In:

Take your pick of about 20 great quotes from this Daring Fireball article. My personal favorite:

The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.

sirmitchell:

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

The precision and innovation that is required for space exploration just blows my mind. I did not realize that Curiosity will have to basically land on Mars completely unaided by man, but it’s so much more complicated than that.