Archive for August 2005

Gig Posters

A great site on which to browse for and purchase concert posters. How did I not know about this until now?

Ross Mayfield's 14 Stages of A Startup

A nice stepthrough of the early lifecycle of startup companies. AKA, how to build a company.

Movable Type 3.2 Impressions

I just upgraded to Movable Type 3.2 a few days ago, and as predicted, it has just enough nice new additions to keep me, once again, from switching to WordPress (sorry Matt!). If I were starting from scratch, WordPress might be my chosen platform, but MT gives me enough to keep me happy, and it’s still arguably better than WordPress in several important categories.

Some observations:

  • I’ll start with perhaps the only major disappointment in MT 3.2 because that is what I would like the community’s help on: search. Since the beginning of time, Movable Type’s search function has been a severely limited raw CGI query which outputs ugly search results incapable (without serious hacking) of displaying themselves on a PHP, ASP, JSP, or other dynamic page. If you wanted the search results page to look nice, you had to either hack some design love into the cgi output or do what I currently do: set your CGI search results as a PHP variable and output the results with PHP. It’s a horrible hack and the worst part about it is that it doesn’t even return results 100% of the time. If the CGI query doesn’t return in time or gets throttled by MT’s search throttler, you get an empty record set. Anywayyyyyyyyyy, I am sick of this. Really, I am. So I got to thinking… why hasn’t someone just written a simple PHP function to query MT’s database and return a record set? Am I missing something here? Why would that be a hard/bad thing to do? If anyone is willing and able to do this, I, and plenty of other Movable Type users would be eternally thankful. The function would just need to take in search terms and return an unordered list showing a linked entry title, entry date, and either the MTExcerpt field or the first X number of words in the entry. Anybody see any problems with this? Seems like something a PHP/mySQL expert could do in like an hour, no?
  • Movable Type has vastly improved the cleanliness of their URLs. You no longer need a mountain of hacks to produce custom, extensionless, search-engine-friendly URLs. This is a huge improvement and I am very thankful for it. However, it’s still missing one bit of flexibility I’d like to see, hopefully in the core, but perhaps in a plug-in: I like to save my files out with .php extensions for easier identification and editing, but on the web, I want to refer to them as extensionless. Movable Type will let you refer to them as extensionless, but only if you save them out as extensionless. What’s really needed in this case is the ability for MTPermalink (and any other tag which returns a URL) to automatically strip the extension off the end. Right now, I’m stuck using a regex in all of my MT templates to accomplish this.
  • The Movable Type interface has been tidied up and beautified quite nicely with this latest addition. One of the main reasons I chose MT over WordPress from the beginning was the nicer interface, and MT has widened their lead in this department with 3.2. Matt showed me the new Aqua-like WordPress admin skin in San Francisco last week, and it looks nice, but I’m pretty happy with what MT 3.2 has done (besides using 10px Trebuchet all over the place… had to switch that to Lucida Grande, ASAP).
  • The new trackback moderation is nice. I’ve already pretty much licked comment spam on my own, but illegitimate trackbacks have always bothered me. With MT 3.2, you can keep trackbacks from being posted immediately without applying this moderation rule to your comments as well. I want comments posted immediately. However, with trackbacks, immediacy is not as important… so this new feature is great.
  • The new plug-in framework sounds great, and I like the name: BigPAPI. Good times.
  • My favorite plug-in, MT Notifier, has been updated to work with MT 3.2 and it functions even better than before.
  • Still no live preview, Six Apart??? C’mon! I need the ability to publish a new entry directly to a non-publicized URL (without it pinging anyone or adding it to my feed) to check visually intricate entries for design completeness and general visual quality. The only way to (kind of) do this right now is to publish your entry with a date long in the past and turn off pinging temporarily. That way, it’s live, but nobody knows about it. Horrible solution. Please fix.

Anyway, my overall opinion of this new version of Movable Type is a positive one, and I do recommend all MT users install this upgrade… but we’re still not quite there yet. I’ve been bugging Anil on IM a lot over the last couple of weeks, and both he and the Six Apart team are aware of these little nagging issues. They are dealing with them as time allows, but I of course, must continue pushing…

ESPN.com Seeks Creative Director

This just in: ESPN is looking to fill a very high-profile web position — Creative Director, ESPN.com. You heard it here first. Yes, that’s right… a chance to set the design standards for the largest sports site on the web and continue to blaze the trails ESPN has been blazing since the original days of ESPNet SportsZone back in the mid ’90s.

I’m not going to post a long description of the job since the position more or less sells itself, but I will say that this is a great opportunity to work with some very talented people on some very exciting projects. The position is out of the main ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut and is only suitable for a candidate with a wealth of experience managing design teams as well as a killer portfolio. Experience managing the design of high-traffic web properties is a huge plus as well.

Anyway, I don’t work at ESPN anymore but I’ve volunteered to post the position on this site in hopes that either a Mike Industries reader or a friend of a Mike Industries reader might be the right person for the job. If you (or someone you know) think you might have the right stuff, drop me a line through the contact form and I’ll see what I can do. I can’t answer many specific questions about the job but I can help shepherd the process along a bit. Any e-mails should include at the very least a URL where some of your work can be viewed.

Baseball's Latest Scandal: Milk Suspensions

ESPN has word of the latest scandal to hit baseball: milk consumption contests. Much like The Saltine Challenge, these competitions test the human body’s ability to ingest an uncomfortable amount of food over a very short period of time.

The Milk Challenge has been around for a long time and is, in my opinion, much tougher than the Saltine Challenge. The idea is to consume an entire gallon of the white stuff in less than an hour without throwing up. I’m not even sure I could do that with water, but with milk? Certainly not. Too much lactose makes the stomach very, very angry.

So you’d think that if someone could actually defeat the Milk Challenge, he’d be showered in glory and valuable prizes, right? Well, not in baseball. Brad Penny, former pitcher for the Florida Marlins (now with the Dodgers), challenged a batboy to complete the challenge with $500 in cash as an incentive. The poor kid ended up drinking the gallon, held it down, but didn’t come in under the one hour mark so he never got the payout. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Marlins then suspended him for six games! 10 games for steroid abuse and 6 games for milk abuse. Good times.

I only hope Penny ended up giving the kid his $500.

UPDATE: Looks like the ballboy is fielding multiple publicity offers now. Alright!

A List Apart Redesigns, Makes Me Weep

A List Apart, the venerable online periodical for web people, has quite possibly just pulled off the perfect redesign.

Everything is great. Nothing is bad. Click here to see the wickedness.

Favorite design touch: The hover underlines which disappear in the middle of the center-stacked text.

Favorite new feature: Adjustable color palettes for different issues.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria, Eric Meyer, Dan Benjamin, Kevin Cornell, Erin Kissane, and team on a great piece of work.

Meatspace Stan has more here.

*Prediction: A center-stacked headline mini-boom begins today.

Fantasy Football Cameo Opportunity

I run a 20 person fantasy football league of industry bloggers. We have an extra spot available. The entry fee is $25 (goes straight to prize pool) and the online draft is this Sunday at 6:30pm Pacific.

If you’d like the spot, simply send me an email with your picks for last year’s fantasy MVP in the QB, RB, and WR positions. Need to weed out the crazies. :)

UPDATE: Filled, by the talented Paul Mayne.

I Camp. You Camp. Foo Camp.

This weekend I was psyched and honored to attend Tim O’Reilly’s third annual Foo Camp in Sebastopol, California. Aside from being one of the best professional/academic gatherings I’ve been to, it reminded me exactly how little I know. Ever sit in a room full of 20 people laughing at a joke you don’t even begin to understand? Multiple times? It’s humbling.

I experienced a little of that this weekend, not to mention breaking bread (or keg) with the some of the people I most respect in this industry. To try and remember every conversation would be futile, but the most surreal moment for me was at a dinner table with Esther Dyson and Jeff Bezos when I relayed to Jeff that we used his original attorney at Amazon to incorporate our own company. Apparently this attorney was also instrumental in talking Jeff out of Amazon’s original name “Cadabra” (sounded too much like “Cadaver”).

*Note: 2nd most surreal moment — riding an off-road Segway for the first time. Fun!

This weekend wasn’t about networking though, and that’s what made it so different and so much better than any conference I’ve been to. Nobody pitched their product, nobody talked about how great their company was, and nobody tried to appear better than anyone else. In essence, the political and competitive aspects were completely absent, and replacing them was genuine altruistic discourse. People demoed concepts and expressed opinions they’d never do in an open forum with the simple caveat “Please don’t blog about this.” In other words, there was no agenda other than the exploration of ideas.

I was also struck by how little millions of dollars seem to change great technologists. Brewster Kahle sold his company to Amazon for $250 million several years ago and the cat is still hard at work and walking around in 10 year old New Balances. Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake are freshly minted from their $35 million sale of Flickr to Yahoo and not only have they continued their great work at Flickr, but their pace of innovation seems to have actually increased.

There were only a few other designers at Foo Camp so perhaps that led a bit to my fish-out-of-water feeling, but in the end, that could have been the best thing about the event. I’d rather stand around a campfire with an engineer, a CEO, a video producer, and a sociologist and talk about mass transportation than talk about Gaussian Blurs with a bunch of people who are already like me. This phenomenon was actually the subject of many conversations around tagging and communities; do you really want your online information so tuned to your current tastes that you are never exposed to anything new?

Anyway, it was a great weekend and I sincerely hope a new crop of people are able to enjoy it next year. I’d certainly go again, but I much agree with Scoble on the issue:

“I’d far prefer that someone else had a chance at it… Let’s put it this way… I was dragging down the IQ scale.”

You and me both.

Gruber on OS X Interface Issues - Interview

Daring Fireballer John Gruber gives a comprehensive interview about the good and bad of OS X and Aqua.

Google Redesign or Stealthy Affiliate Program?

So I’m at the Blog Business Summit right now, courtesy of Byron, and in my A.D.D. 2.0 haze, I’m getting a really weird version of Google right now.

Here is what I’m getting.

My first reaction was that Google had been redesigned… rather poorly in fact. I asked Mike Rundle if he was getting the same page. He said yes. Then, I instant messaged a few people who weren’t in the conference. They were all getting the regular page.

So then I thought maybe Google was testing a new design on a small percentage of the population. Companies like Amazon have been known to do this. As I queried more people, it seemed that everyone in the conference (all connected via the same wifi network) was getting the weird version and all people outside were getting the normal version.

So I suppose two things are possible:

  1. Google is indeed running this test and they are doing it by IP address. Hence, everyone in the conference is getting the weird page.
  2. The wifi provider (AnchorFree), is doing some funky proxy stuff and essentially routing all Google searches to an “affiliate” search page powered by Google… and collecting click fees. What’s weird though is that people on the outside get the same IP address when they ping google.com as I do.

Anyone have any insight into this? If the first scenario is happening, oh my god, change it back. If the second scenario is happening (which seems more likely), is this even kosher with Google? And furthermore, if it *is* kosher, are we going to see more of this? Why wouldn’t Comcast or any other huge ISP do this? Is this part of the future plan for Google?

Anyone have any insight?

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Steve Jobs speaks about the future at the International Design Conference in 1983:

31 years later, it’s safe to say this is one of the most prescient speeches about technology ever delivered. Jobs covers wireless networking, tablets, Google StreetView, Siri, and the App Store (among other things) many years before their proliferation. A fantastic listen.

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.