Archive for September 2006

Jesus Christ Has Registered For Newsvine

Ok, maybe not that Jesus, but who knows (e-mail exchange on the right).

Some good stuff has been happening around here lately though. Certainly not the second coming, but enough to warrant a post:

  • We just released August’s earnings and the top Newsvine earner netted $414.27 for the month! Certainly beats AdSense! Hey, maybe letting users earn their own revenue might actually work.
  • Newsvine made the front page of the Seattle Times today, paper and electronic editions. It’s an article by Kim Peterson about emerging forms of journalism and it’s worth a read.
  • We also made Scrivs’ list of the Top 10 Web 2.0 Winners, so we’re obviously quite thankful for that praise.
  • The summer has been great to us, which is rare for news sites. While most news sites experience seasonal downturns when the weather turns nice and people are out of school, we did almost a half million unique users in August and have been up month-over-month for the entire summer.
  • If anyone’s going to be in Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks, I’ll be speaking on a Washington Post moderated panel with Jeff Jarvis, Mike Arrington, and Herndon Graddick at the Online News Association Conference… apparently the largest journalism conference ever produced. I’m psyched.
  • Newsvine user Zaki is now reporting from Kabul. Good stuff.
  • We have some really good stuff to release in the next few weeks. Biggest release since the customizable user columns.

</shameless promotion>

Eric Meyer Says "Free the W3C"!

Eric's great plan for a more independent faux-governing body for the world wide web.

Advanced JavaScript Focusing Library

Robert's new script to do all sorts of focus effects on web pages. Very functional.

Thinking About LASIK

I’ve worn contacts or glasses since I was in high school and have been passively following the laser eye surgery arena ever since. The idea of a permanent solution to my moderate nearsightedness has always been appealing but as I watch new procedures come into fashion every few years, I’ve always told myself that the longer I wait, the safer and better the procedures will be. For instance, can you imagine getting radial kerototomy ten years ago only to find that more modern procedures such as LASIK can give you better vision with fewer side effects? When is the procedure that causes zero side effects and gives you 20/10 vision going to come out? Next year? In 20 years? Who knows.

Although much of it could very well be marketing, it does seem like laser surgery may have reached a point where it’s accurate and safe enough to really be worth it now. They’ve got the procedure down to about 15 seconds per eye, zero pain, and a healing period of less than a week. Additionally (again, could be marketing), they are able to map your eyes much more exactly than ever before, resulting in a much better chance of 20/20 or better vision after surgery.

Following is a list of considerations that I’m personally weighing:

Positive

  • Surgery seems safer and more accurate than ever before.
  • I’ve heard that when done well, surgery can actually give you better eyesight than you’ve ever had in your life.
  • From a marginal benefit standpoint, the longer in your life you wait, the less the total benefit will be.
  • My vision is one step away from where my current contacts can no longer be used. I wear CIBA Night & Days and keep them in for a month at a time. They are great, but they do not correct for astigmatism.
  • Every time I keep my contacts in extensively, I feel like I am somehow doing damage to my eyes, even if slightly.
  • When giving my eyes a rest from contacts, wearing glasses can be a pain. Also, I need new ones.

Negative

  • Surgery is still not 100% safe and it likely never will be.
  • My buddy Smadden said his surgery went perfectly but as a result of his super clear vision, he now sees floaters. Apparently, most people get floaters at some time in their life, but the clearer your vision is, the more noticeable they can be. That sounds weird.
  • Wearing glasses can be a benefit sometimes… like on first dates or job interviews/meetings.
  • You have to wonder if this field will keep progressing and when the next big breakthrough will be. If the next big breakthrough is great and it’s very soon, better to keep waiting.

I’m curious to hear if any readers have had refractive eye surgery performed and what their experiences have been like. What specific procedure did you have and what’s your vision like now? Any side effects like halos, floaters, etc?

Or did you decide not to get surgery for a specific reason? I’m looking for both positive and negative information here.

Airplane Seat Etiquette

Mike Industries Poll

What is your policy towards reclining your seat on airplanes?

You know the feeling. The plane has just reached cruising altitude, you're about to whip out your laptop, and bam... the person in front of you reclines their seat all the way back and effectively reduces your personal space by about 20%. I'd estimate it only happens to me on maybe one out of every five flights, but when it does, it can really ruin the chance to get any work done. This weekend, on an Alaska Airlines flight back from the Future of Web Apps conference, I found myself in an extremely tight row and the guy in front of me reclined his seat all the way back before the plane had even finished its climb. Great. This was a sub two-hour flight and it wasn't even at night so why the need to assume the position like this? I lowered my tray and placed my compact 12-inch Powerbook on it thinking I could at least get some work done, but upon opening the lid, I found that it was physically impossible to place the laptop in any open position and type on it at the same time. This is a tiny laptop and it was hanging halfway off the front of the tray and into my abdomen. Unbelievable. I know I've been in a similar situation before and it wasn't this bad so I assume Alaska has eliminated some legroom or I was just in a really bad row. The distance from the front of my headrest to the back of the other person's headrest was only about 20 inches. The situation continued to irritate me throughout the flight. The guy in front of me was even leaning forward for most of the flight! His only saving grace was that he looked a little bit like Stan. I actually pretended he was Stan for the duration of the flight in order to reduce my anger towards him. Other things I did during the flight:
  • Used my tray as a drumset for a minute
  • Issued random kneejerks into the seatback just to interrupt his train of thought, whatever it was
  • Whipped out my camera and took a few pictures (with the autofocus assist light on "high") from right above his head
(Update: Yes, yes, I know this doesn't really help the situation.) All in all, I'm not sure any of this had much effect, but it really got me thinking about proper airplane seat etiquette. I personally only recline my seat under two circumstances:
  1. If the flight is over 5 or 6 hours and the person behind me isn't Jeff Veen or Tom Watson size
  2. If there is nobody or a small child behind me

Old guy (right): leaning back with the seat upright... good. Jason Santa Maria lookalike (left): leaning forward with the seat reclined... bad.In other words, I only recline my seat if it does me a material amount of good and it doesn't do anyone else a material amount of bad. I had a debate in the office with someone else about this and he felt the opposite. He said "when someone in front of me reclines, I recline also". To me, this is like child abuse. Someone else does it to you so you just continue the cycle of abuse. Bad.

I suppose the ideal thing to do would be to just ask the person in front of you to kindly move their seat back upright, but as average sized 5' 11" guy, what are my grounds for expecting this courtesy? In the midst of my ruminations, I remembered a product I'd heard about several years ago which actually prevents airplane seats from reclining: The Knee Defender. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed like kind of an inconsiderate device to use, but I'm changing my attitude about that now. I'm buying one, although I will only use it on appropriately short flights and only if I'm in a tight row. There are really only two drawbacks to the device as I see it:
  1. They must be applied with the tray down and before any reclining takes place (wouldn't have worked on my flight because the Stan lookalike was so trigger happy with his recline button).
  2. They are kind of conspicuous so the flight attendants might notice and the people next to you might give you weird looks and/or think you're a jerk.
What is everyone else's policy towards seat reclining? Am I alone in my conscious restraint of the recline button? Interesting note: On the Knee Defender page, there is a quote from the Washington Post that says "If the guy won't compromise, whip out your Knee Defender." I don't see how this would work since the attempted "compromise" would appear to occur after the seat is already reclined and thus not subject to the Knee Defender. C'mon Washington Post... do some actual reporting! :)

The Volkswagen Eos: What Took So Long?!

I’ve wondered for at least ten years now why Volkswagen never made a Jetta-like car with a retractable or convertible top. I owned a 1999 Jetta VR6 once which I loved but ended up moving up to a Saab 9-3 because I just love convertibles. I really only had five requirements which led me to the Saab:

  1. Manual transmission
  2. Usable back seats
  3. Under $40,000
  4. Probably not American
  5. At least *reasonably* masculine

Volkswagen seemed like the perfect company to build a car like this but the only ragtops they had in production at the time violated the last requirement: The Cabriolet and The Beetle.

A few days ago, I happened to be driving by a VW dealer and saw what looked a little like some sort of Jetta convertible. Holy crap! A quick check online revealed that this new car is the Volkswagen Eos. And it’s not just a convertible! It’s a retractable hardtop!

Starting at $28,000, this is the car I would be buying right now if I drove more than 30 miles a week and was in the market for a car. It’s fast but not too fast. High-end but not so expensive that you’d worry about a door ding here and there. And how can you not love the retractable hard top? I haven’t even driven one yet but if it drives like a typical Volkswagen, it’s probably money on the road.

UPDATE: Apparently, this thing has a power sunroof too. I’ve never seen that in a convertible or retractable hardtop before. It’s also reportedly the top-selling convertible in Europe right now.

Surviving color management in Photoshop CS2

Ethan is a funny, funny cat.

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)