Archive for June 2008

Enterprise CMSes vs. Blog CMSes

True or false: Most major news organizations (e.g. The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, ESPN, etc) would be better off running their entire online publishing operations through a modified blogging platform (e.g. WordPress, Movable Type, Newsvine, or a home-grown solution) than through an enterprise CMS.

In other words, in five years, will mainstream news sites essentially be collections of individual writer blogs tied together mainly with section indexes and cross-linking?

Woohoo! I am the most heterosexual web designer in the world, according to Joe Clark. Bam!

Marco Polo Makes your Laptop Smarter

I have this problem. When I bring my laptop from home to work or to any other location, my computing needs change. At home, I have an unrestrictive wireless connection that I can do anything I want on. At work, I have an 802.11x protected connection which runs through a proxy and doesn’t let me do things like download IMAP mail freely or run a multi-protocol IM client. Additionally, I have a different printer at home than at work. And on and on and on.

It’s really not that big of a deal to manually “change locations” via the Apple Menu, but I’ve always wanted a way for my laptop to just sense where I’m at and do the right thing automatically. A few days ago, a colleague at work, Paul Oremland, told me about a utility called Marco Polo which does just that. It’s really great. Now when I walk into the office and open my laptop, my location is switched automatically, certain applications are magically launched, and my printer is set to the correct device.

The application is great in that you can have it trigger off a whole host of conditions, such as wireless networks in the area, USB devices that may be attached, and even ambient light! You can even use fuzzy logic to combine these conditions and take action when they are all present.

The folks that developed Marco Polo call it “context aware computing”. I like it.

You can download Marco Polo for free here (oh and it’s open source). Happy location switching!

Process Type Foundry

Nice typefaces. Candidates for Mike Industries redesign.


I was standing in the NBC Nightly News studio on a cold Thursday night last January when Brian Williams’ on-air guest sat down for a quick chat with Brian, and the rest of the country. It was Tim Russert, talking with his trademark animation about how the fate of country depended on the results of the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries.

I positioned myself by the swinging glass door such that I could intercept Russert as he left the set during the commercial break. Sure enough, a minute later, he came bounding towards me, smiling like a kid who’d just aced his final exam.

“Hi Mr. Russert. My name’s Mike. I run Newsvine.”, I said, stepping in front of him to shake his hand.

He scanned my face against the hundreds of thousands he’d seen before in his life, trying to decide if he should recognize me, and then raised his hand to meet mine.

“What an election!” he shouted with a big smile, and then continued through the studio at full speed.

That is one of my many lasting memories — and my only personal one — of Tim Russert, who died of a heart attack yesterday at age 58. He was a man who made politics an interesting subject to follow, even for someone like me who is generally put off by the subject. He was known as the most prepared, incisive interviewer in the business, and he will be missed. Best wishes to the Russert family, his closest friends, and everyone else affected by his passing.

In Case Anybody Was Wondering What The Best Flavor Of Ice Cream In The World Is...

… the answer is: Haagen Dazs Caramel Cone.

As you were…

Super-useful Photoshop command I’ve always wanted and never knew about: Copy Merged (Shift-Command-C).

Apple Just Killed The Market for Phones

We’ll never see another Steve Jobs event like MacWorld 2007, when the original iPhone was unveiled, but boy did today’s announcements turn up the heat in the mobile space.

$199 for a better version of what has been almost unanimously hailed as the greatest mobile phone ever built.


And a year from now, it’ll be $99. That’s like an iPod Shuffle.

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy of the highest order, how on *earth* could the average customer justify purchasing any other mobile device at this point? If you can still get a free phone somewhere and that suits you, then great. But for the person thinking of spending between $99 and $799 on a Nokia, Motorola, Palm, or Sony, how can you even think about those alternatives given where the iPhone just went? The quality/feature/usability gap is so large that even a hatred for AT&T can’t keep people away now.

This sounds overly simplistic, but I really do think Apple just split the mobile world into two choices: settle for a free phone or buy an iPhone. There just aren’t many reasons to do anything else.

Even our Director of Technology and our CTO (both PC people) are both getting iPhones on July 11th… both having previously harangued the rest of the Newsvine staff for our incessant iPhone claqueury. When Apple critics turn that quickly, and without any prodding, you know a very important inflection point has been hit.

As for MobileMe, I was six months early in my call here, but most of the details are on target. Concurrent Exchange/Non-Exchange workflows, over-the-air syncing of everything that’s important to you, and finally a legitimate reason to pay a $99 subscription fee. I’m ecstatic to begin using this. It looks fantastic. Although the one thing I’m still not clear on is whether or not Apple Mail on my laptop will also be an Exchange client.

As a developer and designer, I’ve always hated “the mobile space” because I just viewed it as a really uninteresting transitional phase between regular cell phones and full-immersion goggles; but seeing how the form factor, UI, and engineering of the iPhone has transformed and freed the mobile experience is nothing short of astounding. Even more unbelievable is that Apple did it on their very first model.

Thousands of Nokias. Thousands of Motorolas. Hundreds of Sonys. And a single Apple buries them all.

Font Burner: A nice, big, free collection of sIFR-ized fonts

Overheard from random MSFT employee in restaurant: “My team has more devs than we have users of our product. We have 11 users I think.”
The Ocean in 185 Lines of Javascript:

Mesmerizing. Try tweaking some of the variables in the “sea” section of the code.

“"Design had been a vertical stripe in the chain of events in a product’s delivery; at Apple, it became a long horizontal stripe, where design is part of every conversation.””
Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away:

A great essay about how toxic everyday distractions can be.

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.


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.