Monday, 31 December 2007

RE: Starbucks Might Be Helping, Not Hurting, Independent Coffee Shops

“‘Anyone who complains about having a Starbucks put in next to you is crazy. You want to welcome the manager, give them flowers. It should be the best news that any local coffeehouse ever had.'” – Martin Diedrich, coffeehouse owner in Orange County, CA.

Competition increases demand and you can succeed by outsourcing your marketing to your competition?

What a wonderful world we live in.

The War That Wasn’t

In addition to the the BBC’s editorial policy promoting using terms more accurate and less loaded than ‘terrorist’ the UK government has declare the “War on Terror” non-existant.1

“‘The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,’ Sir Ken Macdonald, Director of Public Prosecutions, said. ‘They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.'”

Another great high note to end the year.

Who else is declaring war on fear?

1. via boingboing. Thanks to the collaborative nature of, I’m reading and enjoying Boing Boing again. Yes, I’m just as surprised. Still can’t read slashdot though.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Drive Vague

There’s something appealing about removing complexity – and the costs to maintain that complexity – to more effectively improve the behavior of a complex system.

“The assumption is that drivers are accustomed to owning the road and rarely pay attention to speed limits or caution signs anyway. Removing traffic lights and erasing lane markers, the thinking goes, will cause drivers to get nervous and slow down.”

“‘Generally speaking, what we want is for people to be confused,’ said Willi Ladner, a deputy mayor in Bohmte. ‘When they’re confused, they’ll be more alert and drive more carefully.'” – Craig Whitlock,

Looking Up

“…the number of people in households that bring in more than $100,000 also rose from 12 percent to 24 percent. There was no increase in the percentage of people in households making less than $30,000. So the entire ‘decline’ of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder. For married couples, median incomes have grown in inflation-adjusted dollars by 25 percent since 1979.” – Stephen Rose,

Another gem:

“…54 percent of households had no credit card debt after paying their monthly bill and that the average household credit card debt was just over $2,300.”

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Sharing is Caring

Like yourself, I travel in a number of personal and professional circles; dad’s open gym night, neighbors, this project team, that project team, peers via podcasting, peers through information architecture, peers through visual design, etc. Each circle has different values and finds different things relevant. The chances of something I find interesting being relevant to more than one of these circles in almost zero.

Preschools and potty-training schedules are off-topic in a project meeting.

Separate but equal.

Overarching tools with a ‘share’ gesture but lacking a notion of these distinct circles is simply rude. A privacy concern? Maybe – in the same way sharing anything on a publicly accessible URL is a privacy concern.

A complete disregard for how real people live multi-faceted lives? Absolutely.

A Christmas to Remember

I just finished shoveling the last couple inches of the light, fluffly snow that’s been steadily falling this past week. A perfect end to the best Christmas I’ve had in two decades.

Some highlights:

  • Having my immediate family all in the same room at the same time on Christmas day. This in itself made the day. To my mom, dad, sister, and Bob: Thank you for making the drive, for spending the time, for being together on Christmas. Let’s not wait 15 years to do it again.
  • Teknikal Diffikulties Advent Calendar Day 22: Happy Solstice[mp3]. While each piece of Cayenne’s Advent Calendar is enjoyable, this installment felt so perfect and comforting I stopped shoveling to appreciate the significance of the shortest day of the year.
  • Taking a day-long break from 5 months of heavy programming (in addition to podcasts, email, and the internet as a whole).
  • Jeremy’s fantastic home-made butternut squash ravioli on Christmas Eve dinner
  • Cooper making a bee line for the simple wooden train under the tree on Christmas Day.
  • Assembling Cooper’s new trike.
  • Cracking open a Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout from Athens, GA’s Terrapin Beer Co. last night after the day was done. A tasty, frothy brew, paired well with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Thanks Pat.
  • Only a single holiday-related dramatic incident that sorted itself out quite neatly once the moment passed.
  • As I write this, Cooper is sitting in the tallest snow bank in the yard. Content as can be.
  • The entryway shelf overflowing with holiday greetings, cards, photos, and letters.
  • Me: “Cooper, What does Christmas mean?”
    C: “Um…People come over.”

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Ask Not What Twitter Can Do For You

After playing around with Twitter for nearly a year, I’ve come to an understanding with it.

The less Twitter does, the better.

In reviewing Jeremiah Owyang’s Twitter Wish List, I only agree with #2, a white-labeled Twitter for workgroup/company use. If Twitter doesn’t want that market, that’s cool. I know of at least 1 company that does.

The rest feel like they’ll turn Twitter into something it isn’t;

  • Supporting non-private groups is an easy hack – create a ‘fake user’, have everyone in the group direct messages via the ‘@’. (Twitter isn’t Jaiku)
  • ‘filtering’ for ‘fake users’. What does that even mean? (Twitter isn’t YFly)
  • Weather? – my tweople are great at giving the weather and traffic conditions already. They’re also great at pointing me to stuff to buy, things to do, and places to go. All without a formal structure for doing so. (Twitter isn’t Facebook)
  • Threaded replies implies rigidly staying on topic. Something that isn’t guaranteed in the messaging systems that have threading today (Twitter isn’t email or forums)

I’m a little surprised not to see ‘remove 140 character limit’ on the list. :p

My Twitter Wish list:

  1. Improved stability and API.
  2. Block search bots (Google, etc) from indexing.
  3. Become invisible.

In addition to that, there’s plenty of work to be done that keeps Twitter.

For example, I wanted a Twitter client that auto-expanded shortened urls and did something smart with the resulting file, so I baked it into

Here’s an example:

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Building My Religion.xml

“Religions are the longest-lived human institutions. They are more likely to survive war, disasters, epidemics and climate change than corporations or governments.” – Phil Wolff


All the religions I’ve been exposed to are “monetized” via “because of” not “with”. That is, it’s free to attend a service, but the paraphernalia cost. Throw in extra special gear around annual traditions, some cool songs, and a passionate community and we’re talking a self-sustaining ecosystem.

Eternal life.

Historically, this was only within the reach of a few chosen individuals. Perhaps another realm the internet will democratize?

But if my documents (saved in proprietary formats) from a just few years ago won’t open on today’s technology, what are the chances they’ll open in next century’s technology?

This is why unsexy plain text and XML are the most valuable formats in the long view.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Everywhere You Want To Be

From a development standpoint, there’s huge benefit to developing applications in for HTML – if simply because the barrier to entry is much lower than other development platforms.

In addition, there’s no vendor behind HTML. In front of – yes. Behind – No. This means a website written a decade ago still loads in today’s browsers on today’s hardware. The same isn’t true of stack of desktop apps from the same time period.

From a maintenance standpoint – a developer today could crack open yesterday’s HTML page and figure out what’s going on. Or more importantly – vice versa.

Until fairly recently, browsers were limited to general use computer (desktops, laptops, handhelds). Now, TiVo, XBox, Playstation, any device with any kind of network connection has a browser.

Each one of those devices is a different context, each still has it’s own unique capabilities. Why wouldn’t I want a readable – if not writable – calendar, mail client, etc on each of them?

The differences between Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari are irrelevant once we start talking about having a productive, cohesive experience across all the devices I touch during the day.

Yes, this my sound like a 180° from my earlier positions. But it’s more of a clarification.

HTML as a presentation layer holds the promise of easy, write once, run everywhere development. Desktop applications with HTML at their core are very compelling from a number of angles (maintenance, development) but they’re still Desktop apps. That means they’re expected to be keyboard controllable, accessible offline, and dare I say – integrate with other Desktop applications in addition to the cloud.