Category Archives: General

A Great Story of Free Speech @ UW-Stout

It’s unfortunate that a ‘climate of sensitivity’ was enforced so heavy-handedly. It’s unfortunate so many other players had to get involved to re-establish common sense. Especially at a campus that – at least when I was there – had gun lockers in the dorms for students. I trust the administration and police will be more sensitive in the future.

how to install fontforge on os x lion

After losing the fight with a native build-from-source multiple times, my currently recommended method of installing fontforge on the Mac OS X Lion is:

brew install fontforge
sudo brew link fontforge

Update: 23 January 2012
Austin Sabel emailed, “I was having trouble getting an old cairo font document working in Lion. This saved me. However I ran into a few problems that it looks like some other users had too. The default compiler causes an error while installing fontforge on os x Lion 10.7.2. If you change the install command to the following command it will installed without throwing an error.”
brew install fontforge --use-gcc

What Color is Your Couch?

There are 2 couches in my house.

One is a dark chocolate brown and the other is a light beige-y/tan.

So, I found it interesting that I bumped into these 2 logos today.

Not that there’s any confusion between these two services. More an observation on the popularity of red couches.

Now I Don't Need To Write This Myself.

Generation X is beyond all that bullshit now. It quit smoking and doing coke a long time ago. It has blood pressure issues and is heavier than it would like to be. It might still take some ecstasy, if it knew where to get some. But probably not. Generation X has to be up really early tomorrow morning.- Mat Honan

This my response to OccupyWallStreet.

I’ve got three kids. A house in the burbs. Working for myself.

And not that long ago, society, and my student loan provider said, “we don’t believe in you.”

Even then I had no idea what that meant.

Today, I don’t have time to camp out in a public park – I’ve got work to do.

For the Win?

Back at the beginning of my career, my then creative director decided the best way to bring in new business to our nascent agency was to win design awards.

Not knowing any better – we all cheered and put our collective nose to the grindstone. Developing the concept, the interactions, the flow, all for a award-winning, self-promotion piece. I was responsible for programming the Director-based CD-ROM (yes, that’s how long ago it was). Once we all sufficiently tested the CD-ROM, it was duplicated and entered.

And, to all but our creative director’s surprise – the piece was included in the design annual (‘bronze’ or ‘notable mention’ or something like that). Yet – the phones didn’t start ringing and the desperately-needed new business didn’t materialize. I left about 6 months later. Then the creative director left. The shop itself folded by year’s end.

Remembering that project brings a stale and empty taste to my mouth. Like finding out a joke you’ve been retelling was offensive. It changed how I measure winning and the types of projects I take on.

To this day – it pains me to see so many professionals distracting themselves with contests rather than the hard work of making something meaningful that lasts.

Extracting iCalendar feeds from embedded Google calendars

This is an update to John Utell’s 2009 post with the same title.

If the Google embedded Calendar URL something like:….

The iCal feed is

Now you know.

(It should be – – If only Google cared about good URL design)

Tracking you like it's going out of style

“This means that Twitter has the ability to even track surfing habits (on Tweet button enabled websites) of users that have no Twitter account and have never visited a Twitter website before. When using the same browser to create an account at Twitter afterwards this collected data of the past can theoretically be linked to the freshly created profile then.” – Christian Schneider

  1. Read the whole thing.
  2. Delete your cookies
  3. Tell your browser to refuse cookies
  4. Tell your favorite website publishers you resent being opt-ed into multiple third-party behavior tracking programs without a way to opt-out.

For that Impulse Nap (and so much more)

Now at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.

First off – sleep pods were part of the dystopian future I was promised so I’m super excited they’re a reality.

Airports are a great first deployment for these – lots of people with hours of unexpected time on their hands – but the potential deployments are fascinating.

  • Create a cluster of them on corporate campus (Google, Apple, YCombinator) for summer interns
  • Install one next to each rental storage space for instant apartment complex
  • Put a bedroom in your spare closet
  • Slightly more upscale accommodations at summer festivals, state fairs, etc
  • Start a drop-in-sleep franchise like SnapFitness/Curves/etc for out of town travelers
  • Create a cluster of them on a Google or Apple campus for summer interns
  • Have the smallest cabin on the lake
  • Combine with shipping containers (and a little plumbing) for an instant house

Yes, All Software Should Have a Philosophy.txt File

As you may know – I’m working on an email-based project that’s sending me into the bowels of email.

In my research tonight, I discovered ‘Sup’ – an email client that is clear and explicit about it’s point of view.

“Should an email client have a philosophy? For many people, email is one of our primary means of communication, and email archives are an integral part of our long-term memory. Something so important ought to warrant a little thought.”

Makes me want all projects included a Philosophy.txt file along with the README.txt and License.txt. It’s far more useful and people-oriented than humans.txt

Nearly Un-Obsolete

15 or 20 years ago, when you needed to trade stocks or fly somewhere – you contacted an agent. Most likely over a landline phone.

Those agents existed because they had access.

They’re nearly extinct now because access is ubiquitous.

So ubiquitous that it’s nearly impossible navigate the options without being paralyzed by choice.

I don’t have the desire to be an expert in the nuances of global airline pricing and scheduling – I just want a cost-effective, worry-free, family vacation in Europe.

There’s not a checkbox for that in any of the travel sites.

And to really understand what that means to me – requires at least an email, but most likely a phone call. The value is no longer in the access. It’s in the expertise and the ability to more effectively navigate the choice architecture. The need isn’t just in travel.

It’s in all significant purchases.

Real Estate agents still exist. Their value was always in navigating the selection and purchase processes. There’s even a word for this type of purchaser-oriented representation: Buyers Agent.

A few venues where a domain-specific buyers agent isn’t yet obvious; healthcare, auto sales, travel.

Now, roll in an evolving notion that the more important/busy/valuable/highly-paid you are – the less direct interaction with technology you’ll have and the more direct interaction with people you’ll have. And the further down that scale you go – the more direct interaction with technology, less with people.

Put these 2 notions together and I foresee an increased demand for what looks an awful lot like the yesterday’s secretaries.

Qwikster is to Netflix as AWS is to Amazon

Seems to me, if you name your company ‘Netflix’ and it’s not a streaming movie service – then the company is horribly misnamed.

On the flip side, Netflix has taken years to build a highly efficient distribution pipeline optimized for USPS. And they’ve trained their customers to have high expectations for and quickly report any disruptions in that distribution channel. That’s still an asset, there’s still value there – even if it’s no longer applicable to the core business.

There’s only one other internet-based company so experienced in optimizing the delivery of physical goods: Amazon. But Netflix has done Amazon better – they’ve optimized both the delivery and the return.

When Amazon realized they had excess capacity – they created a new product offering: Amazon Web Services – web hosting, data storage, etc, etc.

Netflix spun off their excess capacity and their physical distribution/return expertise into a new company: Qwikster. There’s nothing specific about movies, entertainment, the internet, in the name. There’s nothing really – except some vague suggestion of ‘quick’ and an even more vague reference to a social network.

Which means – there’s no expectation of just movies. In fact, the Qwikster site suggests a video game rental offering, a product Netflix never provided. And without a concrete expectation in their name – Qwikster could send anything through their channel they think will fit.

Netflix optimized the physical distribution channel for hard-to-find, items generally used infrequently. The real question is – what will Qwikster do w/ Netflix’s unused capacity?

Finding that space between your local library and

Office/Home Decor?
Need some non-offensive (or offensive) artwork for the walls in your office or a home you’re trying to sell? Just visit the ‘Decor’ tab in

Moving Trucks?
Qwikster acquires U-Haul?

Sitting in a room different from the one you are in now

Today, Patrick Rhone and I challenged each other to imagine our respective projects as rooms in our homes.

What color are the walls?

Is there furniture?

Are you sitting? Standing?

How does the room make you feel?

What do you do (an not do) in this room?

I found it a quite interesting and insightful exercise and was reminded of two other projects that came out of sitting in a room different than the one your are in now.

“Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but he wrote later, ‘I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation.’ Cage had gone to a place where he expected total silence, and yet heard sound. ‘Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.’”

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any sem- blance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.” [15:23 (1969, original recording @]

Wait, I thought there was significant business value in my "social graph"?

1. Twitter adds ‘Promoted Tweets’ to everyone’s ‘stream’

“Twitter is expanding its promoted-tweets program and is now including paid tweets from companies that people don’t already follow in their timelines.”

2. Facebook introduces the ‘Subscribe’ button

“Hear from people, even if you’re not friends
Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends”

What’s missing in both these product announcements?
Any mention of the social graph. Any notion of bi-directional digital relationships.

In fact – both of these announcement are completely counter to the interaction model that allowed both of these companies to gain the trust of their account holders.

The giant sucking sound you hear is the ‘social’ being removed from ‘social media’.