Monday, 31 August 2009

Culld.Us – URL Shortening Reimagined

We don’t shorten URLs just to shorten them.

We shorten them for the same reason big box retailers sell flat-pack furniture – greater confidence during transport.

With that in mind, I’ve completely rebuilt Cullect’s URL Shortener1

It’s still custom brand-able. In a way I’m much happier with than in the previous version – just point your domain at your subdomain.

The part I’m very excited about – it flips shortening on it’s ear.

Sure – you can shorten a URL in and share it with a comment in Twitter or email or wherever…or you can just leave it in

Think microblogging + url shortening.

1. This is the first step in a complete rebuild of Cullect as a whole.

A CraigsList Re-Design Challenge

Many in the web design community re-designing since it launched [1, 2].

Each one of these efforts feels like missing the part that makes CraigsList special to me – it’s the simplest thing that could possibly work.

Anything more – while perhaps adding value – absolutely adds overhead.

If only in the number of decisions that need to be made, communicated, and maintained.

“If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves. Any additional features are almost certainly superfluous and could even be damaging.” – Craig Newmark

Seems to me if a designer wanted to get their CraigsList re-design recommendation implemented – they’d find a couple superfluous things in the existing site and kill them.

Who’s up for the challenge?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Rails Cookie Settings for Cross-Subdomain Sessions

For the past day, I’ve been tracking down a hair-pulling-ly frustrating bug in Rails ( with Authlogic on Passenger).

My sessions weren’t sticking in production

Cross-domain or otherwise (doubly frustrating because a) Authlogic has been so rock solid for me otherwise, b) worked as expected in development).

Turns out, I wasn’t setting the session domain correctly in environments/production.rb.

config.action_controller.session[:domain] = '.YOURDOMAIN.COM'

Note the dot (it’s there for subdomains). Oh, and be sure to correctly spell your domain name…or sessions won’t work at all. 😉

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Countdown to Dow 10k

Yesterday, I was asked if I’m still holding my Dow 10k by Labor Day prediction – considering it now means at least a 60 point gain for the next 11 trading days.

Yes, for 2 reasons.

First, my original prediction factored in a 75-point daily shift.

Second, Conference Board’s Aug 20 Leading Economic Indicator report came out today [pdf] citing a 0.6% increase (oh sure, I called 0.7% a couple weeks back).

“the six-month growth rate in the index has accelerated to its highest rate since the middle of 2004”

“the 3.78% four-month increase in the Leading Index from March (97.9) to July (101.6) 2009 is the largest percentage increase in the LEI for a four-month period since the 4.15% increase from October 2001 to February 2002 at the tail end of the 2001 recession. ” – Mark J Perry

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Kernest as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

“We Make Shitty Software… With Bugs!…We know our software sucks. But it’s shipping! Next time we’ll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only software that’s perfect is one you’re dreaming about. ” – Dave Winer

Kernest, my web fonts service, has been publicly available for just under a month. In that time – it’s earned 400+ users, 200+ websites, and the became the first font service to sell a commercial web font license. An early success in my book.

This afternoon I had a fantastic hour-long phone conversation with a new user of Kernest. They had lots of questions about how it worked and we bumped into a number of bugs. Some I knew how to resolve easily, others require some more thought.


There’s lots there.

Ben pointed me to Kent Beck’s recent ‘Approaching a Minimum Viable Product’ post.

“By far the dominant reason for not releasing sooner was a reluctance to trade the dream of success for the reality of feedback.” – Kent Beck

The current state of Kernest validates 3 of my potentially-fatal assumptions:

  1. a font service can resolve browser-compatibilities and provide basic asset protections with a simple, standards-compliant URL. (YES!, better than I hoped)
  2. There are enough liberally licensed fonts of reasonable-quality that a reasonably-sized directory could be boot-strapped. (YES, 300 and counting!)
  3. Some commercial type designers will be happy to test out a web use license. (YES!)

Now that I’ve got those answers, it’s easier to iterate atop them.


“Cut it down to the bare minimum for you to do something with it, and ship it. Dog food doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s going to be 75% wrong. That’s the point. Who cares if it’s shit. Eat that dog shit and make it better. The sooner you actually put it up live, eat it, and invite some friends to eat it, the faster you will improve it.” – Jason Goldberg

Dow 10K By Labor Day

Over on the Twitter I’ve been predicting the Dow will hit 10K by Labor Day, with the deadline approaching, I thought I’d show you where my prediction comes from.


The light blue is the DJIA from August 2008 – March 2009 (left to right).
The dark blue is March 2009 – Today (right to left).
The green is where I think we’re going over the next 4 weeks.

As you can see – the Dow has been steadily re-tracing its steps all summer. We are now as far away from the March low as when the Dow fell off a cliff in Oct 2008.

We’re not going to see a huge jump (reversing the fall), it’s going to be hard, steady work – notice how much less volatile the market is from last year.

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators also hit bottom in March, then turned 90 degrees and have been steadily climbing [pdf]. 1% up in April, 1% up in May, .7% up in June. Next week, I expect the Conference Board to announce another .7% rise for July.

Plus, unlike last October – there’s much less uncertainty lurking in the zeitgeist.

No, I don’t think we’ll be approaching the overheated 14k for at least another year, but I think it’s undervalued at anything below 12k.

Good work everyone.

Talking Short URLs with Zack from Nieman Lab

Zack Seward from Harvard’s Neiman Journalism Lab and I talked about URL shorteners yesterday – and the responsibility of publishers to shorten themselves

“The really, really big benefit in that case is that it’s no longer a redirect…”

…and the additional opportunity for a focused, curated, short URL service….

“he raised an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head since I hung up the phone: What if a short URL were static, but the page it pointed to wasn’t?

You could change the redirect to whatever is catching your interest at the moment or, say, randomly selected links from Andy Baio.

There’d be elements of mystery and serendipity, like flipping the pages of a great magazine, and devotion might center around the URL itself..”

Big thanks to Karl at MinnPost for connecting us.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Shortly Over

“No business we approached wanted to purchase for even a minor amount.”

I appreciate’s honesty.

From what I understand,’s business model was similar to’s and – what increasingly feels like – Twitter’s business model: aggregate and sell statistics on how information is being shared on real-time basis.

Measuring word-of-mouse if you will.

Given how fleeting and how nascent the real-time stream is, it feels like trying to measure string pushing.

Sure there’s a result, but if value = effect - effort then the real value (relevance, importance, and significance) – doesn’t unfold until the pushing stops.

To that end – I don’t see’s (or any other URL shortener’s) breaking the internet for more than 5 minutes.

If anything this shutdown is a reminder that URL shorteners are cheap hacks apologizing for poor content-management-systems, network security risks, and that publishers should be shortening themselves.

Elsewhere, related:

“And when I return to the United States every three months or so and pick up a newspaper, I find I haven’t missed much at all.” – Pico Iyer

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Rise of the Overextended Class

” I delegate, work all the time, hardly sleep, totally ignore politics, sports and pop culture, neglect my family too much and probably don’t do any of my jobs as well as I could. But these are exciting days, and if ever these was a time to be overextended this is it.” – Chris Anderson, Wired Editor

“Our parents and grandparents spent their Cognitive Surplus watching television. That’s a thing of the past… a historical accident of the old factory-worker age meeting the modern mass-media age. Of course it wouldn’t last forever. We humans as a species were designed to compete, not to sit around on our asses.”

“Welcome to the Overextended Class, People…” – Hugh McLeod

I did a quick project inventory and hit a baker’s dozen without missing a beat.
Sure helps explain my 18-hours a day for most of the summer – and unexpectedly – a new steadfast calm.