Archive for September 2005

The New Digs

As I was running after work the other day, I happened to jog by a young couple just as they were getting engaged. I mean, I was about 5 feet away right when the girl said yes. It was pretty cool and made me realize how lucky I am to have found an office in such a great area, and near such a beautiful running route.

A few months ago, when my co-founders and I started this new company, we looked long and hard before finding this space. Several other office buildings would have worked just fine, but this one was perfect. Like Goldilocks perfect. It’s not too small, not too big, and seems to fit just right with what we’re doing. It’s right on the water, near plenty of great restaurants, and is only a six-minute walk from my condo uptown.

Since moving in here several weeks ago, the team has accomplished an inordinate amount of work in a very small amount of time. So much so that we think a launch before the end of the year is highly probable.

But it’s not all work and no play around here. On a sunny day a couple of weeks ago, the crew went out parasailing in front of the office, and we have photos to prove it! Below are some shots of the new digs:

September Randoms

Some items of interest from this month:

  • Keith, Matt, Nick, and Brian just launched BlueFlavor tonight. Head on over and check out their new shop.
  • Andy, Richard, and Jeremy launched ClearLeft last week. Very check-out-worthy as well.
  • I just won my fantasy football match against Scrivs tonight and am quite happy about it. In all fairness, my linebacker injured his wide receiver on Monday Night Football so it should have been closer. In other news, the NeinRüLz network continues to grow impressively.
  • Finkbuilt is having a ketchup label design contest. Enter and win yourself some two-dollar bills.
  • The 6th Monthly iPod Giveaway doesn’t have a ton of entries yet but has raised over $1600 so far for the Red Cross in the first week.
  • I’m at the end of my rope with this Comcast HD PVR, and let me just tell you once again how badly it sucks. If you want to start watching way less TV, this is your device. If you like watching TV, however, definitely stick with your Tivo or another alternative.
  • Speaking of annoying TV-related things, Rita Cosby, MSNBC’s new correspondent has a very annoying way about her. Am I the only one who is totally creeped out by her voice?
  • Stan pointed me to the Leo Burnett site recently. It’s one of the most creatively designed and produced sites I’ve seen in a very long time.
  • If anyone wants to create something really useful, develop an RSS-delivered web service which lets you know about every concert coming to your town before tickets even go on sale. I just found out the Black Keys played in Seattle last week. Slipped right past me, as these things sometimes do. I know there’s Upcoming.org, but for some reason they seem to miss a lot of stuff and aren’t very timely either. Is there anything better out there right now?
  • I am liking Flash 8 quite a bit so far. The built-in components are still bloated as all hell though. I needed to make a simple MP3 player the other day and using the built-in media controller, it was 80k. I ended up hand-rolling a player instead and got it down to 3k including the skin. Hand-built components are still apparently the best way to deploy media in Flash… for audio at least. Also, with regards to Flash 8, we’ll be releasing a new version of sIFR pretty soon which takes advantage of the new Saffron text-rendering engine. I wouldn’t call this a mandatory upgrade at all, but it will provide crisper text — especially at small sizes — for people who have Flash 8 installed.
  • One of the best articles I’ve ever read on electronic media evolution is Seth Goldstein’s Media Futures. It’s a five part piece with the fifth part itself being five parts, so make sure to read the whole thing when you get a chance. I first read Seth’s essay a few months ago but have re-read it a couple of times since. Great stuff. Seth also led an interesting discussion at Foo Camp on Attention Trust.
  • Bananas Foster ice cream from Haagen Dazs is very, very good.
  • Trimming your blogroll can be quite therapeutic.
  • Crest Vanilla Mint toothpaste tastes a lot like a Captain & Coke.

Google AdWords just might be evil

Cringely discusses an interesting experiment which suggests a Machiavellian side of AdWords.

Jet Blue's Masterful Approach

Photo by Lori Shepler (LA Times)At about 6pm yesterday I got a call from my friend Calvin.

“Are you watching the Jet Blue plane drama right now???”, he asked.

The first thought that went through my head, of course, was 9/11 and the chance that something terrible was happening again.

“Uhhh, what Jet Blue plane drama?”, I responded uneasily.

“A plane took off from Burbank and its landing gear turned 90 degrees after takeoff. It’s been circling above LAX for three hours trying to land. Turn on your TV!”

The first thing I did was check the major news sites. MSNBC.com, to their credit, was showing live video of the plane circling around. To their extreme discredit though, the video wasn’t viewable on a Mac. This is off-topic, but now is as good of a time to bring it up as any: MSNBC, get your shit together. Seriously. I know what it takes to deploy cross-platform video on a major news site. I’ve done it at ABCNews and ESPN. It’s not hard. Even if you use Windows Media as your format. Step it up already and support cross-platform video. CNN is kicking your ass in this department.

Anyway, end MSNBC rant.

Luckily, my new office is a six-minute walk from my place so I jammed home and turned on the TV. The jet was just beginning its final approach onto the runway and the tension was intense. Ordinarily, this would be when viewers might start thinking bad thoughts about Jet Blue. Instead though, here are some of the snippets heard from the TV commentators during the next few minutes:
→ Read the rest of this entry

iPod Giveaway #6: Renew Orleans

Political, philosophical, and logistical questions aside, one thing appears clear about the recent disaster in New Orleans: the city is about to undergo the largest rebuilding effort in the history of the U.S.

No one knows how the new Orleans will compare to the old Orleans, but clearly a lot of interesting changes are in order. What new technologies will solve the geological challenges of the area? How many natives will return? How will a new population mix affect the culture of the city? Will the tourism and shipping industries be stronger in the long term due to this disaster and recovery?

Nobody knows for sure the answers to these questions, but the purpose of the 6th monthly Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition is to try and find out; to explore what the rebuilt New Orleans might look like. Using your medium of mastery (web, video, audio, print, etc.), create a short marketing or educational piece for the new city. This could be a poster advertising the new Riverwalk, a narrative audio of the history of the city, or anything else which might be useful in attracting people to the New Easy. Humor is perfectly ok for this project but let’s please keep everything in good taste.

The barrier to entry for this 6th competition is admittedly a bit high considering the skills required to put such a piece together, but the topic is important and I anticipate a few really great entries… albeit not 500 of them.

Given the increased challenge of this month’s competition, I am upping the prize from an iPod Shuffle to an iPod Nano. Thanks also to my friend Loren Schwartz who, over dinner last week, suggested this contest and as a consequence won himself a Nano as well. And of course, iLounge will also be chipping into the prize pool as usual with a pair of $150 Etymolic earbuds.

There are only three rules which must be followed:

  1. The competition will be open for exactly two weeks… ending at midnight on Tuesday, October 4th.
  2. Please post the link to your entry in the comments below.
  3. Keep it clean. Questionable Mardi Gras photos are obviously fair game, but censor when appropriate. :)

Good luck!

Note: All proceeds from Dreamhost signups which occur during this competition will be donated by me to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Additionally, Dreamhost will match that donation. If you’re thinking about switching hosting providers, now’s kind of a decent time to do it.

Total raised so far: $2304

10 Reasons Clients Don't Care About Accessibility

Great article that really hits home for commercial site publishers. Accessibility will never be sexy. Get used to it.

Gillette's Five Blade Folly

What you see to the right is the latest in shaving ridiculousness from the fine folks at Gillette: the five blade “Fusion” razor. That’s right. Five blades. Six if you count the built-in trimming blade. In the battle to out-blade the competition, Gillette’s latest creation leapfrogs the Schick Quattro by one blade and aims to provide an even closer shave to the millions of men who apparently are having trouble with only three or four blades.

Gillette’s previous flagship razor, the Mach 3, has three blades while the Schick Quattro has four, but Gillette president James Kilts insists this latest “innovation” has nothing to do with the competition:

“The Schick launch has nothing to do with this, it’s like comparing a Ferrari to a Volkswagen as far as we’re concerned… There was never a plan to go to four.” — James Kilts.

Mike Industries Poll

What razor do you use and does the concept of 5-blades appeal to you?


Now I’m no Schick fan, but I am a Volkswagen fan, so this comparison of Schicks to Volkswagens troubles me on an automotive level. What troubles me even more though is the outright lie that going to five blades had nothing to do with Schick’s four-blade model. So we’re supposed to believe that studies in Gillette’s labs showed that a 1, 2, 3, or 5 blade razor is great but a 4 blade razor isn’t? This launch has everything to do with Schick, and I think at 5 blades we’ve officially reached the point of imperceptible returns in the razor blade industry. Seriously. If you can’t get a close enough shave with 2 or 3 blades, maybe God is telling you to grow a beard.

I am no authority on close shaves since I currently sport a beard, but I have definitely gone through my paces with razors. I started with the Gillette Atra Plus in high school and never found anything easier on my face. I’ve never liked Schicks, thought the Mach 3 was pretty good, and absolutely hated the Sensor. Can’t do the electrics either… don’t have the right sort of face for it. So anyway, that’s my razor preference: What’s yours? And would you try a 5 blade model?

*Note: This is not part of an organized effort to hype the Gillette Fusion razor within the blade-enthusiast community. I do, however, recommend trying out some Mint-flavored shaving cream.

Originality in Logo Design

“Never waste a stroke.”

That’s the best piece of advice you’ll ever get in logo design. However, it’s also advice that can inadvertently get you in trouble. Draw a blue circle on the screen and you’ve just stolen the Blaupunkt logo. Draw a yellow line and you’re copying Visa. Draw a black swoosh and you’re ripping off Nike. The less intricacies involved in creating your masterpiece, the more likely it is that someone has already created it.

This subject has resurfaced in my head this week because of a couple of questionable logo unveilings, and I think it deserves some discussion. First, let’s go over the three categories of what might be considered “logo theft”:
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What To Do About New Orleans

I took this shot in downtown New Orleans two years ago.The bill to resurrect New Orleans is now estimated at $200 billion. Best guesses are that it will take between 5 and 15 years to regain any sort of normalcy in the area.

There are about 484,000 people who live(d) there, or 1.3 million people if you include the greater New Orleans territory. Some quick math tells us this:

If $200 billion were distributed to all New Orleans residents, that’s $413,000 per person. For a family of six on welfare, that’s $2.4 million. If we include the greater New Orleans area, it’s $154,000 per person and $923,000 for a family of six.

And all this assumes the bill stays at $200 billion. Many think the real number will be well north of this. $300 billion or more.

I’m not saying government payouts like this are a better way to help remedy the situation in New Orleans, but it sure makes you wonder if this town, so prone to very frequent disasters like this should be the subject of reinvestment and rebuilding. I’ve been to New Orleans, and I love it, but what I love about it is its old-country feel, its historical character, and its rich culture. Considering that tourism is really the only industry in New Orleans (besides freight), will the rebuilt New Orleans be a place anyone will even want to go? Maybe, maybe not. You can’t tear down old Spanish architecture and replace it with old Spanish architecture. It also remains to be seen if all of the displaced people who made the city was it is will ever be able to come back under anything close to normal conditions. It is also debatable exactly how much of the popular French Quarter is actually damaged. Some say not really at all.

Anyway, I have no answers. And I guess my main question is, what exactly are we trying to save with our $200 billion? If it’s the people, there are probably better ways. If it’s an important port town, there are probably other safer alternatives nearby. And if it’s the culture, that’s a big gamble that it will ever be back. There does exist a price-tag which makes resurrecting New Orleans not worth it… I just don’t think anyone knows what that threshold is. And then there’s the inverse argument that billions of dollars of government spending equals billions of dollars of new jobs… a much better use of cash than a failed war.

So what’s the best way out of this situation? Your opinions please…

Note: Collin Yeadon, a reader of this site, has helped design the web presence of an organization called Katrina’s Angels which provides shelter and jobs for the hurricane’s victims. If you’re inclined to help, it’s worth a visit.

UPDATE: My friend Mark Haubner pointed me to a New York Times article about some of the more recent innovations in seawater protection. Good stuff. I’m getting more optimistic now.

Mint Not Considered Harmful

I’ve always wanted to write one of those “considered harmful” essays, but then I remembered Eric Meyer’s “Considered Harmful Essays Considered Harmful”, so I’m writing a “Not Considered Harmful” essay instead.

The subject for the day is Mint… something I find to be extraordinarily harmless. Beneficial, actually… the polar opposite of harmful. Yes, I know I’ve already written about my love for Mint last week, but a few things have developed since Mint’s release that I feel require comment. Here are a few of those things:

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< ?php $mikePoll = new Poll('2005-09-09-mint'); $mikePoll->render(); ?>
  1. Lots and lots of people have purchased and downloaded Mint, and as far as I know, there’s only been one request for a refund. Yay!
  2. Shaun is completely bogged down helping people one-on-one (even over IM!) work through various intricacies of their server setup and how it relates to Mint installation. He is also simultaneously adding improvements here and there to the install process as well as fostering the development of the Mint Forums. In short, the man is slammed.
  3. Although the lion’s share of comments and blog posts I’ve read around the net are positive, I did see two isolated negative posts which went all the way from questioning whether or not people deserve to be compensated for software they develop to whether or not the group of Mint beta testers was somehow in the wrong for posting about Mint.

→ Read the rest of this entry

Shared
Humanity's deep future:

A group of researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute talk about where our race may be going and how artificial intelligence could save or kill us all.

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)