The original front-door to MLKSHK when we were in pre-launch mode. You had to click and drag-out a circle to get inside. The error page you see is also a joke because we use Nginx.

Two years ago I wrote a post with the subtitle “Complain about the way other people make software by making software.” It was then quoted in a book by Austin Kleon and every once in a while someone reaches out to me to tell me they liked the quote. The post was about empathy, making things, and thinking about the people who make things for you to use; but that subtitle is about making things work the way you think they should work because it’s a way to share your point of view.

I am not into tricks to get users like faking engagement or sucking names out of your contact list. I hear this is a really good way to get lots of users. I am sure investors love stuff like this and high-five your bro-hand in pitch meetings when you bring up shit like this.

Related to those tricks are dark patterns where developers purposely make things confusing or challenging for users so they can bill one more month or hope the user doesn’t notice they’ve sent out a few thousand friend requests to their landlord, mother, and people who bought a stereo off of them six years ago.

I believe people who do these things can go jump in a lake.

The only only only thing I think about when building things for people is creating delight. That is all. My job is to create a place that delights people. Whether I am making a bank or a chat room or a place to pay a DMV fee, my site’s #1 job is to delight the user.

This might include doing things like Willy Wonka-style buttons to get into secret areas, but it also includes creating clear, lighted paths, free of dark patterns and privacy shenanigans. It means giving your users stuff that feels good to use. It means giving your users nothing to think about.

Delight also means people don’t feel threatened by other users and the creators of the site are available as often as possible to help clear things up and keep an eye on problems. Delight means making your site fast, secure, and responsive to their needs and browsers.

Shit needs to work! Delight means testing your code like an adult rather than moving fast and breaking things like an energetic, baby hippo. Baby hippos are cute but you don’t want one holding your credit card is what I am saying.

So yeah, make delightful things. Be good to your users. (Refer to your users as users because that’s what they do, they use the stuff you make!) User is such a great word. I love to use it.

These are the things I believe and this is how I build things. Thanks for listening.

—Andre “Pretty Fucking Delightful” Torrez

This actually started as a blog post for the weblog at work. It ended up having too many swear words and veered off into non-work related thoughts so I figured it should live over here. My job right now is giving people the freedom to keep their focus on making delightful stuff. We’re called Tugboat Yards and we’re taking the hassle out of taking online payments and managing the relationship with your users. We also have some news next week that I can’t wait to share!Amber joined us at Tugboat!

navigation

I may have mentioned it a few times but in case you follow me on @rdio and was wondering why all I listen to is old music it’s because I decided this year only to listen to music released in 1987. Yup.

For a little history: in 2010 I only listened to music released in that year. It was incredibly fun and I actually discovered some amazing bands I never would have heard. I took a break in 2011 but then did it again in 2012. I loved it all over again.

For 2013 I thought I would do something a little different and ran a poll on my old weblog that @mat encouraged his followers to enter “1987”. I don’t know why he chose 1987 but everyone loves Mat and so 1987 it was.

So far: it sucks. I hate it. There is rarely anything surprising. After the first couple of months the novelty wore off. There are a few safe albums I can jump to in my day—currently listening to The Lemonheads’ “Hate Your Friends” on repeat. I might listen to some Dinosaur Jr. later. (Did you know J Mascis played on GG Allin’s “Hated In The Nation”? It’s true!)

Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times” is probably the most surprisingly good thing I discovered. I remember hearing it when it was released, but back then I was a skater punk and had no time for what I considered pop music.

The C86 bands that released something that year are interesting but forgettable. The birth of Industrial was worth a couple of weeks. But now we are into the second half of the year and I am finding it harder to keep going.

Anyway, that’s why I am listening to so much old music and messing up your heavy rotation page.

navigation

@mijustin asked me via Twitter what the incentive (beyond just being a patron of stuff you like) would be for people to sign up inthe first place to my idea I posted about a week ago.

It’s a good question and I do have another idea that would fit well within Readerkit so I am going to tell it to you now.

On MLKSHK, the site my wife and I created a few years back, there is a little banner that shows up between posts where you last started reading:

It is created when you first view your incoming stream and displays the timesince it was created:

You can use it to “jump” back to where you previously started and work yourway forward.

It is an automatically generated bookmark that is inserted in between posts so you can determine where you last left off reading so you can be sure to catch up with every post.

I could see the initial sell to readers would be: “sign-up and get this handy bookmark generated for you”.

Readerkit could also send out a monthly “Here are posts you might not haveseen” along with the bill described in my last post.

The only requirement would be the site’s publisher would have to insert a special DIV and JavaScript into their template so Readerkit could render thebanners and links.

So there are two ideas for you.

navigation

I have had this idea bouncing around in my head for a few years. It really came into focus after Readabilty introduced the first iteration of theirproduct which was met with a lot of unhappiness from publishers. I thought itwas a good idea that needed to be tweaked a bit to be something I would wantto use.

I think the idea of collecting money as a function of usage is a good one butI don’t think anyone has gotten it right. The Flattr model is uninteresting to me. I will not remember to press a button.

So here is my idea. I have wanted to do it for a while. I have domain names andhave made half-hearted attempts at building it. It is exactly how I want to payfor reading my favorite weblogs:

Rather than a pay wall this is more like a pay meter. A porous sort of wall that really just identifies you as a reader after you become a site’s subscriber. If you are already signed into the application then you can subscribe directly on a publisher’s site with one click via a widget. You don’t have to subscribe to access the site. You can keep reading any participating site as you normally do. The only difference is this application (let’s call it readerkit.com because that was a domain I bought for it) tracks every time a subscriber views a page on the site and develops an inventory of content you have read.

At the end of the month you are sent a bill that you do not have to pay.

For example, let us say John at Daringfireball has signed up and determines he would like 25¢ for all pages viewed in a session. A session being some amountof time where a reader checks the index page and reads some posts.

Let’s say the reader does this twenty times a month. At the end of the montha bill is sent, detailing the use, and displaying a total for Daringfireball(20 x 25¢ = $5) as well as any other site the reader is a subscriber of in that time period.

The email has two buttons: pay now and modify bill.

Clicking “pay now” will take the reader to a page to verify they want to pay the whole bill. Payment is made to Readerkit and then immediately dispersed to the publishers.

Clicking “modify bill” will take the reader to page where they can edit the bill. They can remove some sessions. They can directly edit the total amount going to the publisher—that is increase or decrease what they are paying. It is completely up to the reader, this is just a way to prepare a bill for themand establish their opinion of the value for the content during the month.

Here is the cool part: readers who consistently pay their bills will contributetoward a confidence number that publishers can look at and get a sense of howmuch money will be coming in at the end of the month. In addition, a publisher’s biggest supporters can be identified and viewed along with their support history.

There are lots of things you could do with a supporter list: better tech support, a view into your most loyal readership, but what this isreally about is putting an engine in place to calculate a value on the content that the market agrees with.

I wish I could build it but since I can’t I hope someone out there can becauseI want to use it.

Ever since I helped start Federated Media (8 years ago??) I think a lot about how to support independent publishers looking to diversify their income fromjust advertising. While FM lost the plot at some point, I still believe in theoriginal mission John laid out. That’s why I joined Tugboat. I still believe in independent publishing and I think there are still a lot of opportunities to build support structures to keep them going.

navigation

  • I once sat in a meeting around 2002 where someone tried to talk UBISOFT out of putting Tom Clancy’s name on the games.
  • I was once asked to leave the set of a Sugar Ray video.
  • I once interviewed a guy for a job and he told me he had a “brilliant” idea and if I hired him he would tell me the idea. I still think about that one.
  • I had a boss try to get me to register a domain name with a space in it. He was the sort of guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Well in a few years everyone will have spaces in their domain names.”

navigation

navigation

The Origin of Tweet is a well researched post from the creator of Twitterrific.

It’s not everyday that a word you helped create gets added to this prestigious publication, so I thought I’d share a bit of the early history of the word “tweet.”

navigation

Andy posted a summary of how the application process of XOXO worked.

XOXO 2012 was one of the best conferences I have ever been to. It ranks right up there with my first SXSW in 2001. Other than conferences I can’t think of too many other events I’ve been to in my life where I knew I was witnessing something so special.

Since we all came back from XOXO and said as much on our weblogs and Twitter, I think Andy and Andy had an almost impossible task for 2013. It still remains to be seen if they succeeded. We’ll only know once the conference is over and we’ve all returned to our weblogs and Twitter to sum up our experiences.

But the thing I think they did accomplish is they reminded everyone that there is value in being someone who actually makes things.

navigation

As you know Google Reader is going away on July 1st. Here are a few links you should know about before it does.

  • http://readerisdead.com/ — To pull all your information out of Google Reader. This includes much more than Google Takeout or just exporting your OPML.
  • http://www.goread.io/ — A new day, a new reader. Here’s a clean, open-source one. I haven’t spent enough time with it to figure out the keyboard commands but it sure is pretty and fast.
  • http://allyourfeed.ludios.org:8080/ — Be sure and throw your subscriptions.xml OPML file from Google Reader in there so they can build an archive of the feeds we’re losing.

navigation

navigation

I wish LinkedIn had a feature where I could pick a year, say 2008, and see where all the people I worked with at the time have moved on (or not) to. A sort of “Where are they now?” for my co-workers. What I really want is a LinkedIn for my actual work history and the people I have worked with, not people I am networking with or hope to work with. Where is the LinkedIn that restricts my contacts only to people I have or do work with?

navigation

For a long time I have been unhappy with TypePad’s lack of updates. While hosted Wordpress and sites like Medium and Svbtle were innovating and adding tons of great features, TypePad did almost nothing I could see in my daily use. It’s still a pain to use the template editor. It is still a pain to manage my files. I was going to dive into Jekyll—but then I got a crazy idea…

navigation

As I backed out I raised my hand to push the button on the garage door remote. The homeless man who had been laying next to our garage thought I was waving at him and he gave a small wave back. Instinctively my hand, still raised after pushing the button, gave him a wave. It was a long wave. Longer than was called for and with a familiarity I would reserve for a friend. And he, looking uncomfortable with the realization of what was happening, gave a second wave back to me. By then I had backed out as far as I needed and turned my attention to the road.

navigation

We were on a road trip a few weeks ago and I had an idea for an educational app I would build if I had time.

You start the app before you take your trip and set your current location. As you drive the app updates your location on a map so it is drawing a travel line.

The app contains a database of distances of things and short summaries about them.

  • Length of the longest bridge in the world
  • Width of Rhode Island
  • Length of Panama Canal
  • Distance between the Hawaiian island and Maui
  • Length of the San Francisco Bay
  • Length of dollar bills, laid end-to-end printed in the US every year
  • Diameter of the largest fungus in the world

As the app notices you pass these distances the phone would receive a notification to open the app and read the info about length reached. You could continue to receive notifications on your trip back as well.

navigation

For the past few months I have been using a time management method called The Pomodoro Technique. Despite the name it is a simple way to manage your work time. To follow it you:

  1. decide on the task to be done
  2. set the timer to 25 minutes
  3. work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
  4. take a short break (3-5 minutes)
  5. every four work cycles take a longer break (15–30 minutes)

The story (you can read it here) is the inventor was studying at university and came up on the idea of partitioning time between breaks to motivate himself to work continuously for short periods. He happened to use a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) and a pad and pencil to record his progress.

You don’t really need to read any more than that to get started, but there is a book and certification and courses and a plastic tomato timer because this is what people do when they can’t leave well enough alone.

You can try it if you want. I don’t care. The reason I am mentioning it is I finally found a good timer to use. Up until now I had been using a Pomodoro specific iPhone app that I would set next to my computer. This was fine most of the time, but sometimes I found myself away from my phone or would forget to reset it. I had tried OS X apps but they all had obtrusive windows that would get in the way.

Timebar costs $2.99 on the App Store and is almost the perfect Pomodoro timer. Rather than barking a growl notification at you or having to manage a full window, Timebar uses a transparent color over your actual menubar to show the countdown. You use the menu bar item to interact with it and the alert window is very small.

Screen Shot 2013 04 09 at 11 48 45 AM

The only thing I wish it had was a “ding” noise so I could know when my 5 minute breaks were up, but other than that it is just what I needed.

Timebar: $2.99

navigation

I posted this to Flickr earlier this evening, but some people wanted to know how I did it so here you go:

Burger

If you are on a Mac the command you want to run to put a burger in your Bash shell prompt like mine is:

export PS1="\w 🍔  "

(which will eventually end up looking like
export PS1="\w <U+1F354>  ")

That string is \w for “current working directory”, a space, an emoji burger, and two more spaces for padding.

If you want it to be permanent put that line in your .profile or .bash_profile.

For my prompt I removed my system user name and host. People use those to know which computer they’re on and which user they are, but I know I am me and I am on the burger computer so I removed them. Here are some other options.

  • \d – Current date
  • \t – Current time
  • \h – Host name
  • # – Command number
  • \u – User name
  • \W – Current working directory (ie: Desktop/)
  • \w – Current working directory, full path (ie: /Users/Admin/Desktop)

You can learn more here and there are even more examples here.

navigation

There is a quote you are probably familiar with from William Gibson:

“The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.”

I like it for what it means, but I also like it because it is from our generation. It was spoken when my friends and I were just starting to get the feeling something big was happening and we were seeing it unfold.

Jason Kottke linked to a post today by David Bauer about traveling to the year 2000 and being shocked at the absence of, well, everything.

After Jason quotes a few paragraphs he wrote a response:

I turned 27 in 2000, lived in San Francisco, worked as a web designer, and had been using the web since 1994...and most of the people I knew were similar. We were a bunch of outliers, people with lots of knowledge about and access to technology and the internet. So a lot of what he writes doesn't ring true to me, especially the bit above, and extra especially the newspaper providing "the better news fix".

David makes a lot of fun points in his post about what was missing, and it is fun to read, but I feel the way Jason described in his post.

Connecting with friends, finding a community, tracking weblogs, sharing photos, and reading news all existed in some form for us. Yeah, you had to work at it. Yeah, you had to read man-pages last touched in the 80s. But we were doing it and we knew it was just going to get better.

If I traveled back to the year 2000 my day wouldn’t be that different than it is today. Yes the tools are remarkably better, but there isn’t anything I would feel unable to do. I could still read kottke.org. I could still mail Jason. I could pull him up on IM and chat. I had been on the internet almost a decade by 2000 and was fairly proficient at finding information and connecting with people who were like-minded.


Here is a quote from Chris Dixon that I also like:

What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years

I think that was us back in 2000 and the late 90’s as we wrestled with those man-pages. I think that is what describes people who are dabbling with Arduino and fabrication technologies right now.

Nearly ten years ago I built a crowd funding site called Dropcash because I needed a way to raise money for a fledgling site I had built and managed in my spare time. There were a few of us at the time doing these little communities on the weekends. Matt Haughey ran Metafilter. Joshua Schachter ran Memepool and then Delicious. They weren’t conceived as businesses because there was no business in it. We did them because they were fun to make and people liked to use them.

I don’t exactly consider myself “smart” for doing these things ten years ago. I think of myself as a deeply curious person who likes to think about how to solve problems. I live in constant state of thinking about problems and thinking about solutions. This is fun for me.

What is also fun is being aware of technology as it emerges. Because if you are going to solve problems you should be aware of what other people are doing and what is possible.


For the past week I took a break from Twitter because I was feeling like rather than consuming Twitter it was consuming me. Whenever it was time to put my phone down there were ten more tweets to read. Feeling like I was a bit addicted to the service I decided to set it aside for a week and look into other stuff I’d been missing out on while locked onto my phone.

After spending a week away I had time to think about what I wanted out of Twitter and what I could change to get the most out of it. Rather than ditch it entirely I dropped my following count by almost 300 accounts and I have a few ideas for some lists to make.

The exercise of cutting out Twitter has taught me that Twitter is how I stay aware of that future that is being “unevenly distributed.” I just can’t give that up.

navigation

It’s been a couple days now since I took a break from Twitter. Here is a list of things I use to keep up with what is going on:

What am I missing? What source of information should I be checking daily? Mail me here

or @torrez.

(Thanks to @guylschmidt)

navigation

Just over ten years ago I quit smoking. I had tried for many years but the thing I realized is that you can only quit when you know it is time to quit. Like a lot of smokers I had tried to quit with the aid of nicotine gum or patches, but it never really took until one day I thought: I really don’t want to be a smoker anymore.

Of course it was still hard. I had to figure out some things to do that worked for me to help me quit (eating, eating, eating). It was a lot of work but I finally managed to quit for good sometime in October of 2002.

On Friday morning I was making my son’s lunch for school. Something that usually takes me no more than 10 minutes had taken almost 20. I realized I was taking breaks and following an interesting conversation on Twitter instead of doing what I needed to be doing.

When I snapped out of it and went back to getting my son ready for school I thought it’d be a fun experiment to skip Twitter the rest of the day. That night I shared with some friends what I had done and some said they had thought about doing this too. It felt good finding other things to do that day so I thought of extending it through the weekend.

The weekend was a little tougher. I ended up getting stuck indoors with a bad case of pollen allergies and every time I reached for my phone to check in on Twitter I was able to catch myself. A few times I actually loaded the app only to realize what I was doing and close it. It’s not as destructive as smoking, but it sure feels a lot like the same sort of addiction.

I would call myself a very heavy user of Twitter. I just looked and I’ve marked 33,621 tweets as “favorites”. I have only tweeted 9,252 times (in seven years that’s 3.9 tweets per day) and I would bet a full 80% of those are actually replies/mentions. I read Twitter a lot, but I don’t tweet nearly as much as some heavy users. I just love to read it and converse with people. I have been doing this since November of 2006 so taking a break meant I had some extra time on my hands I haven’t had in a while.

This weekend didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I found other things to do. I watched Down By Law and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai which lead to my reading Rashōmon. I spent a couple hours on Sunday just drawing. A few hours with Ridiculous Fishing and an hour or so with The Cave.

Back in 2002 after I’d quit smoking a funny thing happened: I got a terrible case of tendonitis in my hands and wrists. I knew people who had it and I figured it was just something that happens to people who type for a living until my doctor suggested it might have to do with quitting smoking. I used to take breaks pretty regularly to go smoke which gave myself a rest. But now I would work straight through. Four hour stretches without a break was just too much for my wrists and fingers.

So on Sunday night when some friends were talking about new games they were playing and looking forward to, I realized I’d cut out out my way of keeping track of new releases, news of the world, and news of tech. I wasn’t just missing out on what my friends are doing, I’d cut myself off from many other things I am interested in.

So this morning I bought a digital subscription to the NY Times. I added a couple more feeds to my newsreader for tech and game news. I still have to figure out what to do about missing out hearing what my friends are doing. I might look into some kind of Twitter summary service. Perhaps a very small Twitter list.

I don’t know if I am off Twitter for good. I still haven’t read it though I did tweet a link to something this weekend and replied to some people who replied to me. I might pare down who I follow to just friends and only check-in when I actually have free time and there isn’t anything else to do. I don’t know.

In the end it’s just fun to break shit every once in a while and see what happens. Cutting Twitter out for an extended period is definitely going to break some shit. I can’t wait to see what happens.

navigation

A few months ago I was contemplating buying a subscription to a service when I was shown a screen that reminded me I could cancel at any time. I figured I could try it for a month and then cancel if it really wasn’t worth it.

I filled out the required fields and made the purchase. Only when I got to the post-payment page I realized my card had been charged the full year. Sure, I could cancel at any time, but that would only stop payment for the following year.

I was a little annoyed. I could have called someone and canceled right then, but I really wanted to try out the service so I stayed a customer.

Months later, through some bit of luck, I ended up hanging out with a group of people and one of them worked at this company. I didn’t mention I was a paid subscriber but I did express interest in how they do things because I am always interested in how people do things.

“We A/B test everything!” they said excitedly. “We have a team dedicated to rolling these tests out and making decisions.”

At the time of the conversation I thought this was pretty cool. A/B testing is something I have never really done. The most we did was A/B test banner ads and some post-purchase upselling.

But this morning I was thinking about how I’d implement some A/B testing of my own when I realized: that’s what happened to me. The language on the page of the service I had signed up for was written (or honed) to maximize purchases. And I would imagine it does a very good job if it is still in use.

I can imagine the success of this particular path converts many paid subscriptions but probably affects re-subscriptions a year out. Now having used the product for a few months I know I won’t be renewing. Partly because the service didn‘t do everything I wanted, but also because I felt tricked into paying that much for it.

I assume the tests don’t account for that.

navigation

navigation

Less than two weeks ago I whittled my 2,000 feeds to about 100. I had to do this in the piece of trash that Google Reader had become and it spurred that blog post about how to deal with its limitations for others who might run into the same problem.

The reason I still use Google Reader is that I absolutely adore Reeder for Mac (and iPhone and iPad). Reeder uses Google Reader as the engine for its display and synchronization. To me nothing beats a native app when it comes to reading RSS and Reeder was worth paying for on each of my devices.

So although I am annoyed to find out that Google is killing Reader on July 1, I am hopeful someone (Newsblur?) can work with Reeder to keep the app going.

I don’t think this “kills RSS” as some people on Twitter have said, if anything it is good news for people who actually care about RSS and are building a business on it.

Now RSS is going to have someone spending their time delivering the best service they can, rather than spending their time trying to figure out what ads it could inject in between posts.

navigation

“But as the smiling face of the fastest-growing company in history, Mason was also a shield, a barrier between the press and Eric Lefkofsky, the co-founder and investor behind Groupon, and a man with a track record of creating hypergrowth companies that have crashed and burned... after he cashed out.”

The Verge, “Andrew Mason’s Deal with the Devil”

Here is an example of how tech writing can be better. Yeah, Andrew wrote a funny resignation letter and everyone covered it and tweeted about it. But there was a better story there just waiting to be looked into.

Anil has mentioned this to me often in chat and I think on his weblog: if you look at the history of the people involved in any tech story you can find patterns that tell a much better one.

navigation

Because I just figured this out after unsubscribing from over 2,000 sites I wanted to share how to do this.

Going into Manage Subscriptions, selecting all, and then clicking unsubscribe does not work. You get an error “Oops. ..an error occurred. Try again in a few seconds.” which is bad advice because it will always reply with that. It seems the limit is somewhere just below 200 subscriptions.

The trick turned out to be the filter/search box. You can use that to filter to something more manageable, like a 50 or so subscriptions, then selecting them all and unsubscribing.

I didn’t figure out to do this until I was at the M’s. I just typed “M” and the list was truncated to all feeds whose name began with the letter “M”.

navigation

“One day, I went to work — I live in SF and I have to commute to Mountain View and there are these shuttles — I went to the shuttle stop and I saw a line of not 10 people but 15 people standing in a row like this,” she puts her head down and mimics someone poking at a smartphone. “I don’t want to do that, you know? I don’t want to be that person.”

Glass 300 use

On using it: First you have to touch the side of the device (which is actually a touchpad), or tilt your head upward slowly, a gesture which tells Glass to wake up. Once you’ve done that, you start issuing commands by speaking "ok glass" first, or scroll through the options using your finger along the side of the device. You can scroll items by moving your finger backwards or forward along the strip, you select by tapping, and move "back" by swiping down. Most of the big interaction is done by voice, however.

via “I used Google Glass: the future, with monthly updates”

The difference is, of course, I can put the phone in my pocket the second you start talking to me. It is not part of our conversation and there is no screen alerting me to a new message or enticing me with some video. Putting the phone in my pocket is a way to say, “Okay it’s just you and me talking now.” But wearing that computer on your face is a reminder that, well, you have a damn computer on your face.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I would love to play with a Google Glass! I would love to put it on and walk around the city. I would LOVE to write software for it. I just think it’s claiming to be a replacement for something it is not.

All that said:

navigation

I am shuffling some ideas around in my head but I wanted to put down all the elements before I forget about it. I might revisit when I can form a better post. You might find some of these links interesting.

  1. A very good conversation is starting here on this Branch about how to design your projects. It was interesting because the first two respondents are his investors and advisors who also have a lot of experience with the questions. (Unrelatedly there are neat things going on in the UI with Branch.)
  2. I tweeted a quote and link to @jbouie’s post about tech writing. But I think the sentence I quoted: “An implicit network, not overt racism, keeps tech writing dominated by white men” goes beyond tech writing and beyond “white men”. There is a lot in there.
  3. This story from AVC where Fred misses the point of Airbnb because they can’t identify with the need for sleeping on people’s floors.
  4. Did you know Path was hit with an $800,000 fine for collecting people’s address books without their consent?
  5. The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show

navigation

  1. A small service that collects a set of vetted RSS feeds and looks for Twitter style @mentions. I noticed Jason credited me today and I didn’t notice until I saw it in my RSS reader. It would have been nice to get an @mention from a bot that was watching a large amount of weblogs.
  2. An iOS app that would let me create an event (like a conference) and then I can input all the addresses I will need during the event. When I was at XOXO I kept looking up the same locations when getting a cab or setting out to walk places. The distributed nature of XOXO meant that I really needed a list of about 5 places I could quickly call up and map directions to.
  3. Kickstarter with a $1,000 limit and a one month delivery date.
  4. A CRM that gives the support staff (or individual) a support and turn-around time rating. These stats can be used to determine if my support ticket is going to be answered quickly and if I will be happy with the response. Also if the manager of the CRM rarely answers messages on Sundays and Mondays then I would like to know that they will likely get back to me on Tuesday. I would also like to pay $5 to jump ahead in line.

navigation

Last night I did some research on static blog publishing. The winner for me was easily Pelican because:

1. it is built with Python.
2. it supports plugins.
3. it uses a sensible template engine I can tweak.
4. it allows me to write in the text editor of my choice.

Give or take a few bullet points this essentially is what every recently built static blog publishing engine looks like. I was ready to take the plunge when I realized: I think I am happy about these features because I am a programmer who likes to tweak things. As a keeper of a simple weblog (this one) what I really want is an OS X app that

1. stores my posts in iCloud.
2. can therefore sync between computers (and phone).
3. publishes locally to a directory or to S3.
4. light generation of an index and archives.
5. markdown formatting.

It doesn’t even need to have an editor, though it’d be fine if it did, but I generally write in Markdown.

After using Medium, I realized my needs for writing are just text-area, light formatting with Markdown, and the ability to drag in images. I don’t need tags. I don’t need comments. And I definitely need a service (S3 or Dropbox) that will just be up without any tweaking or maintenance on my part.

What I think is cool (Pelican) is not what I really want to use every day (mystery OS X app).

navigation

Having a conversation with DantsyPants I had an idea .

A giant storage place like you see on TV and by the freeway, but every thing I check-in is scanned and I can affix a price to it if I want. The whole catalog is put online for people to buy things and the storage place will handle shipping or you can come in and pick it up.

THE BEST part about this is I could clean out my closets. THE SECOND best part about this is I can buy some more things! They could even just move the thing I bought into my pile of stuff. I need to get rid of this stuff.

(I know there are eBay drop off companies but I haven‘t been able to figure out what happens if it doesn’t sell. And what if I don’t want to sell?)

navigation

How did your Code Year go? I hope well. But if you have unsubscribed from that mailing list or haven’t caught up to the lessons, I would like to share an idea I have for people who want to learn how to create things.

A lot of engineers have spent decades coding and building foundations for generations of engineers who follow them. Those new engineers stand upon the shoulders of those giants and build tools and frameworks for people who will follow them.

But because the tools have gotten so comparatively good to previous tools, especially for web and game development, many people have become interested in making applications themselves. And truthfully I think you can. I think anyone can, really. It’s not that hard. You just have to invest a lot of time learning how to hook one thing up to another, how services should work in the backend, and what design patterns you should follow to save time and complexity.

(Real serious computer science is something a bit different. I think when people use the word “coding” they mean “scripting.” But that‘s another blog post.)

Much to the chagrin of engineers it is as if they have been working for years to build flying cars and when they are finally here everyone is like: “Great! I want to build a flying car too!”

I think there’s an alternative and I would hope that you give this a chance. Instead of learning how to code, learn how to create with code. Learn how to make things with the abundance of tools out there available to you.

Twine is a desktop application (Windows or OS X) that gives you the ability to write interactive fiction. You can construct a story and lead a reader down a path based on their decisions.

Here’s an example of a story.

If you want to get deeper into interactive fiction, with more coding concepts like variables and control flow, you can move on to Inform. Inform is the “Microsoft Word” for interactive fiction, giving you an array of tools to tell complex stories and bring in much more game-like interaction with your readers and players.

Maybe you don’t really want to tell a story, but are interested in making games for people to play. The first thing people do when presented with this is dive into a gaming framework like Unity3d or Corona.

Here is a better idea: there are a few iOS games out there that include level editors. Here’s one called King Rupert.

Another is called Robot Wants Kitty.

Making a game is more than just writing graphics handlers, it’s also working on the thing that makes something fun and enjoyable to keep playing. Level editors are a great way to immediately dive in and produce something other people can play with and give you feedback on. Here’s a massive list of them on Wikipedia.

And if you really want to build web sites, I say think about what it is you want to build and accept that there are a plethora of services that have worked out the hard parts and can probably provide all the work for you. Squarespace for portfolios or weblogs, Shopify for an online store, and for the more adventurous: If This Then That for any sort of “I wish x did y when z happened.”

Knowing how to program has been one of the most fulfilling skills I have acquired in my life, but I believe having the ability to ship something into the world for people to use is much more important.

navigation

For Christmas I put Snap Circuits on my wish list so that my son and I could start putting together circuits. He doesn't get most of it, but the little bits he does get (what certain components do, how things change when you disconnect certain wires) is enough for us to talk about things we want to build.

We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Board

This past weekend was the first time he began reading and comprehending sentences. It sort of just happened. First he recognized the name of a cat in a book, and then the dog’s name, and then he learned “and” and various “oh”s and “go”s, and after that it just quickly built on itself. Watching this unfold over the span of an hour was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life.

navigation

This year I will be listening to music from 1987. It looks like a good year. My wife and I went down that list talking about the bands that we loved and others we didn’t yet know.

1987

After clearing off my whole collection on Rdio I downloaded Guns N' Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”, Prince’s “Sign ‘☮’ the Times”, and Dinosaur Jr.’s “You’re Living All Over Me”.

In 1987 I was VERY aware of Guns N' Roses and Prince due to MTV, but I wouldn’t discover Dinosaur Jr. until I got to college a few years later. “You’re Living All Over Me” is very likely one of my 20 favorite albums of all time. The other two I haven’t heard since they were popular. I am curious how the stuff I continued to listen to (Dinosaur, Sonic Youth, The Jesus and Mary Chain) compares to the stuff I left back in 1987 (U2, REM, Depeche Mode).

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized how fun this project is going to be. Just flip through that list above: Public Enemy’s “Yo! Bum Rush the Show”, Big Black “Songs About Fucking”, The Replacements, the whole very underground Industrial genre I never really paid attention to…

I am pretty excited. Let’s see if I still am December 2013.

navigation