How Kubb Saved My Life

In the summer of 2011, my third child had just turned a year old. I was just beginning to feel reconnected with the world and something approximating normal. My business was having one of its best years, in no small part to my part-time assistant. Yet, despite the optimistic signs all around me – I was still selling and working as if the world would end tomorrow. Projects I wanted to forget for clients I wanted to ignore. My regular exercise routine was pacing between my 30″ monitor and the coffee pot. I wouldn’t leave my house for days at a time. I couldn’t hide it behind my computer any more – I had lost count of Days Since I Last Shaved. My temper was getting short. The slightest inconvenience would set me off. I was making my life and my family’s life worse. Not better. I didn’t know how to stop. I was convinced that if I just worked a little harder, a little faster, held my breath just a little bit longer…everything would magically stabilize and I could exhale.

In early August, two of my favorite people in the world came to visit and set up this strange game in my backyard. A simple game of 11 square wooden blocks and 6 wooden sticks. They were a little unsure of the rules – though they knew that 5 of the wooden blocks were placed on opposing sides, the larger king – placed in middle, and each side took turns throwing the sticks at the opposing sides blocks. The other parts of game play weren’t as clear. – It didn’t matter, we played game after game for was seemed like hours. The futility of throwing wooden sticks at wooden blocks 20 feet away was rewarded by the timeless, satisfying ‘thwak’ when they met.

Kubb – they called it.

Days later, my friends continued on their journey and took their Kubb with them. Kubbless, I returned to my unhealthy downward spiral. Yet, Kubb kept whispering in my ear. A few weeks later I purchased my first Kubb set. It sat mostly unplayed, whispering to me, until my 37th birthday. Where in the middle of a mild, Minnesota winter, I invited a bunch of friends over to play. And we did.

We joked about taking this silly wooden game seriously.
We joked about playing competitively.
We joked about making team shirts.

Then, I found out City of Lakes Loppets hosts a Kubb winter tournament that’s considered the start of the competitive Kubb season. Outside in February – in Minnesota. I pulled together two friends and we entered. Walking into the tournament I remember saying to Jim, “there’s this one part of the gameplay I don’t quite understand.” He shrugged and we waited for our first game.

That first game lasted no more than 5 minutes. Same as the second. In those 2 short games – Jim, Jamie and I got just a faint whiff of the strategy permeating the game and the bowling-esque short game it can create. We tried to apply what we were learning as quickly as we could, clawing our way into the championship bracket.

After that tournament, I set up that pitch in my backyard and practiced. The long game, the short game, everything. The 3 of us would play at lunchtime downtown. It quickly became clear that we needed to hone our game for the U.S. Nationals in July. And we did.

This past summer, when I had a hard problem on a client project – I’d step outside and throw some wood. Sometimes I’d play against myself, other times I’d practice one or two aspects of the game. I found that, in pure Buddhist tradition, a successful practice required no thoughts in my head. A clear, focused mind brought a hit every time. Any single thought guaranteed a miss. It would feel like hours melted away. Yet the clock would say only 30 minutes. Sometimes 45. I was always refreshed.

I started sleeping better. I stopped drinking 2 pounds of coffee a week. My inlaws started commenting on how much color was in my complexion.

At U.S. Nationals – we thought we were ready. We weren’t. We were ice cold. Couldn’t hit anything. But we could hold on. If we didn’t lose immediately, we could drag the game on for a hour. A slow painful slog only relieved by the tournament organizer calling time. Again we clawed our way into the Championship bracket. Again we lost immediately. Two long days in the heat of the midwestern sun. I felt we should have done better. I went home – and didn’t touch my set for a week.

When I set it back up, I found a comfortable throwing style and some new delightful aspects of the game I overlooked before; there’s no technology in Kubb, no internet, no inbox, but it does have lots of friends.

But most importantly – it’s just throwing wood across the lawn. A simple game. A simple game that saved my life.

Know Where Your Towel Is

Perhaps like me, your high school years were some of your most trying. Perhaps like me, your parent’s divorce only compounded the instability and uncertainty of growing up. In the midst of this, I was introduced to The Fountainhead. As a teenager watching the world of my childhood crumble The Fountainhead promised stability. Stability based on deliberate, individual effort.

The Fountainhead led me to Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s non-fiction work, Rand’s earlier work, her biography, and The Fountainhead movie starring Gary Cooper. Filling my bookshelf with the belief that deliberate, individual effort was the path to long-term stability and prosperity.

Yet, once I stepped out of the overly-melodramatic, highly idealized world of Rand’s fiction – I noticing cracks in Rand’s foundation. Cracks exposing banal human weaknesses. Some patched over multiple times with a salve labeled ‘Self-Interest’, others open to winter air. Others simply crumbling away.

After eighteen years of dust collected on my Rand library, I picked up a copy of The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes. The Forgotten Man retells the history of The Great Depression as much from a policy standpoint as a cultural standpoint. From The Forgotten Man I began to appreciate why communism was a threat to America, why the space race, why the Cold War, and why Ayn Rand’s work resonated with so many. For much the same reason George Orwell’s work resonated with so many. The same reason Aldus Huxley’s work resonated with so many. The same reason Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers resonated.

The Red Menace.

Unfortunately, by the time I completed my Rand library, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the fall of communism was well underway. Culminating in the dissolution of the Soviet Union just before my 17th birthday. As the Soviet Union dissolved so did the threat of a centralized committee controlling every aspect of every individual’s life dissolved as well.

Though I was enveloped in the warnings for a time gone by, I count myself lucky.

During the most challenging time of my life, while my peers turned to alcohol, drugs, and other self-destructive behavior, I found solace in a 45 year-old novel encouraging me to ruthlessly pursue my vision, to create, to celebrate my individual preferences, and to grow my capabilities.

Today, I group Rand’s fiction work into the same category as all other fiction – a compelling, engaging, entertaining, idealized world to visit.

If I were running for office and was to base my policy decisions on a life-changing, perspective-changing, fiction work I was obsessed with as a teenager, hands-down it would be Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

At least then we’ll have a space program interested in sending our expertise in telephone sanitization across the universe

Apple is no longer a premium brand

For decades, Apple was perceived a premium brand with premium products. Products that just worked – with price tags fanatics aspired to. Ironically, Apple’s most successful products – the iPhone and iPad – have completely removed the brand cache.

At a glance – I can tell if a laptop is the latest MacBook Air. There’s still some value – if only in status – of having a the latest Apple laptop. Over the years Apple’s product designers have done a fantastic job of differentiating each generation from the next. Switching up curves and edges, black with silver, sparse with sparser. With each change, wallets were joyfully opened.

Unfortunately, all the iOS products look nearly identical. So nearly exactly alike that the significant only difference between the new and the old iPad is weight and thickness. Apple as status symbol is gone.

If a $117 iPhone 4 from WalMart can be mistaken for a $399 iPhone 4S at a glance – there’s little reason social reason to pay an additional $300. Conversely, everyone will have a $117 iPhone 4.

All children are above average.

The existence Android only makes it worse. Android, like Microsoft Windows never was a premium product. Without a great deal of spit and polish – it will never be a premium product – no matter the sexy hardware around it.

This means there’s a significant void in the status symbol gadget market.

Today, I only see one thing likely to fill that void:

The absence of a gadgets.

We may have quickly reached the point we signal our status by our realtime dis-connection.

Additional point: Cricket offers pre-paid, unlimited iPhone for $55/mn

The Runway Extends Beyond the Horizon

Once or twice a semester, I’m invited to speak to a group of students at one of the many universities in this area. Sometimes I’m asked to talk about a project like Kernest, sometimes I’m asked about web design / information architecture / etc. Tonight, I was asked to talk about my business – not the work. A refreshing distinction.

One of the most insightful questions asked by a student was: Why don’t I have more employees…why am I not focused on growing my business bigger and faster?

It comes down to question of horizon and longevity.

  • Give another listen to my conversation with David Crossland about the OpenFontLibrary, he talks about the OpenFontLibrary being a 10 year project.
  • Wal-mart is nearly 50 years old. It was 25 years old when I first stepped into one. Same for Target and Best Buy. My top-of-the-head calculations, it takes 20 years to build a retail business of any lasting significance.
  • People smarter at urban planning than myself have described public transit as a ‘100 year problem’.
  • The United States of America is only 234 years old.
  • The Japanese construction company Kongo Gumi Co., Ltd was liquidated in 2006 after 1,400 years in business.

Based on my lineage, I can count on another 4 decades – and with even modest advances in quality of life technologies – 2 more decades on top of that. That’s a lot of time to build and grow something to improve lots of people lives and persists beyond my direct involvement.

garrickvanburen_goofysideproject

Elsewhere:

“Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators today than they were a century ago.…This productivity drop is particularly acute if innovators raw ability is greatest when young.” – Age and Great Invention, Benjamin Jones [pdf]

“Everything you know me for I’ve done since I was 50.” – Doc Searls

“A point on the curve. I’m confident RSS wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t stuck with it. And I was 42 when I *started* work on RSS.” – Dave Winer

“A company with $200K per year revenue with a single person and no plans to “exit” would be a failure in [YCombinator], but a huge success for a single founder like me.” – Amber Shah

Stan Lee: 43
Jack Kirby: 44
Julia Child: 40

Mental Exercise: Price Free Retail Stores

This past summer, I entertained the idea of purchasing a couple tables at the community garage sale and loading them up with my basement full of stuff-in-need-of-a-better-home.

And price everything at $0.

Primarily, because I can’t imagine spending the time determining a price for each and every thing, labeling it, handling money, and risk justifying the price to sophisticated hagglers. None of which sounds attractive. All of which keeps me from the goal of unloading unwanted inventory.

For what? Just a couple of greenbacks. Definitely not enough to cover my time managing the inventory, renting the space, even writing this post.

So, why does Wal-Mart, TJ Maxx, Target, Goodwill, and your resale shop put price tags on their inventory?

What if they didn’t?

What if we could walk into one of those stores and walk out with whatever we wanted, free and clear?

That’s very similar to what we do at Google, Craigslist, Kernest, and Facebook every day. We visit the sites, get the answers and resources we came for – and paying in our time, effort, and return visits.

Back to our imaginary price-free store.

Without prices – there’s little need to have a checkout area. So, the costs of pricing items, handling money (cash, credit) and the costs associated with fraudulent transactions are all eliminated. As is the costs of security to watch the employees, customers, and inventory.

Without prices – I doubt we’ll have carts or baskets – or even product packaging (little need for UPC codes – and it deters ‘re-sale’). All of those things would make moving lots of things easy. A freetail store will probably be structured to make moving more-things-than-you-can-carry very difficult; narrow aisles, narrow doors, etc.

Inventory would probably be more volatile – runs on bottled water and toilet paper during severe storms would be more pronounced. A similar problem exists at TJ Maxx, Costco, et al, today. Sometimes when something out of stock – it’s never coming back. Probably wasn’t in my size anyway.

But how are the shelves stocked in the first place?

Perhaps this freetail store is 100% financed with market development funds – like broadcast television being 100% financed by advertising. Manufacturers use it to quickly get their newest, most innovative products in front of potential customers – without the barrier of a price. Or like TJ Maxx and all the stuff in my basement – these things are obsolete just need to be unloaded fast.

Think of a product like your free mobile phone or your XBox 360. Without network connectivity – these products are far less useful, and those service plans heavily subsidize the device cost already. Why not completely?

I’ve only just started Chris Anderson’s Free. I’ll update this post with any A-HAs I pull from it.

Have you heard of any retailers that have experimented with rolling back the price to $0 – or sci-fi novels describing how a freetail world might work?

Elsewhere:

“Also, freeing yourself (pun intended) of paying customers early on would seem to allow you to make more radical moves (pivots), since you don’t have to worry about angering anyone that has given you money and expects you to deliver on their expectations in return.” – Michael Harry Scepaniak

“A new economy. Nobodies pay, but important people are paid to use your brand cell phone/mobile device. I’m sure that’s the future.” – Dave Winer

“People were in there getting groceries and just leaving money at the register because there was nobody to take the money.” – resident Leanna Havens on a Roseville, CA Safeway store left unlocked on Christmas Eve

UPDATE: Listening to Chris Anderson’s ‘Free’ audiobook – I heard about Sample Lab, a franchise retail environment very close to the model I describe above.

Web Fonts – Identifying a New Species

“…the design of typefaces had existed for centuries as an exclusive discipline reserved for specialists, who had access to proprietary tools. Today the personal computer provides the opportunity to create custom type designs with an increased potential for personalization and expression…Our design of custom fonts for Emigre magazine grew out of our need for unique and more effective fonts…” – Zuzana Licko, Emigre Fonts, 2000.

Emigre Fonts was the first type foundry to embrace and exploit an inflection point in graphic design technology – Apple’s Macintosh and the laser printer.

Unlike Helvetica, Courier, Times New Roman, Emigre’s early fonts: Modula, Matrix, Citizen, and Triplex didn’t start as wood cut, hot-metal, or typewriter type. Emigre’s fonts are native to the digital world. And Emigres’ chunky, angular, low stroke contrast fonts defined the high-concept design aesthetic of the early 1990s.

Today, we’re at a similar inflection point of graphic design technology – @font-face adoption by all the major web browsers. Just as the introduction of the Macintosh brought with it Emigre’s digitally native fonts – the Web will bring forth a new species of fonts. Web native fonts.

At its core – the Web is about openness and speed of communication. Web Native fonts will have these 2 attributes visible in their letterforms and their licensing.

Web Native Letterforms
Openness in letterforms means larger x-heights with open counters and more visually comfortable at wider letter-spacings. Additionally, screen resolutions are still lower resolution than paper so, the thin and thick parts of the letterforms in web native fonts should be close.

These 4 factors increase the scannability of on-screen text decreasing the overall communication time.

Web Native Licensing
A web native font is licensed to support redistribution, reproduction, derivative works, and attribution within commercial or non-commercial use. The OpenFontLibrary recognizes 3 licenses with these characteristics; MIT, GPLv3 + Font-Exception, and Open Font License.

The MIT and GPL are well understood throughout the web, and many popular, successful (both commercially and non-commercially) projects are protected under those licenses. Three projects that come to mind immediately; Ruby on Rails (MIT), Drupal (GPL), WordPress (GPL), Linux (GPL).

The high profile nature of these projects and the eco-system of smaller, complementary projects similarly licensed means web designers and developers quickly know a font’s intended uses.

Additionally, like all software development – font design is a collaborative, iterative effort. Overtime, individual characters, weights, and styles may be added and revised by font designers with a specific need. Incorporating those modification into the original font or releasing them as a separate project – increases the value of the font in both the web and type communities. The Open Baskerville project is an example of this open, collaborative font design.

Who’s designing and releasing Web Native fonts today?
The League of Moveable Type comes to mind immediately. I’ve also started a Web Native font tag at Kernest, feel free to apply it as you find fonts fitting these criteria.

What characteristics of Web Native fonts have I overlooked?

Verizon Droid Hands-On Review

Motorola_Droid

The Verizon / Motorola / Google Droid, released later this week, is a solid, tactilely satisfying handset. I suspect it’ll be Motorola’s most well-received handset since the RAZR.

Verizon’s marketing is correct – the Droid is the first real peer to the iPhone. More importantly – the Droid is the first significant competitor to the Blackberry in the corporate environment – since the iPhone.

The 4 buttons (‘Back’, ‘Menu’, ‘Home’, ‘Search’) below the Droid’s touch screen remind me of the 4 similar buttons on my long obsolete and much loved Palm Treo 650 and Handspring Visor. The level of UI customization and promise of easy app development of the Droid also recall my love of the PalmOS. These things make me happy and want to see the Droid succeed.

In an earlier post – I criticized Verizon’s Droid TV ad for being the anti-1984 – for bringing the sense of an oppressive, non-descript, technical figure. Unfortunately, this notion is also in the device itself….the Droid starts up with a HAL 9000-esque glowing red eye.

Ominous. Foreboding. Completely out of place.

Nothing else in the Android v2.0 interface is red, threating, or sci-fi-y Everything is clear, polished, crisp, and at no point did I feel the device wanted me dead.

Slightly annoyed in parts, sure, but not dead.

For example:

  • There’s no affordance on which direction the screen slides to expose the keyboard. Once I figured it out (left-to-right), both the smooth slide and the quietly, confident click-into-place confirmed a very high build quality.
  • To type numbers or punctuation – the ‘ALT’ key needs to be pressed simultaneously as the desired key – just like on a regular 2-hand desktop or laptop keyboard. But, this is mobile phone, so I expected ‘ALT’ to be sticky.
  • The continuously blinking green (not red) light is very distracting. There’s no need for it. And it doesn’t look like it can be turned off.
  • The multiple search buttons in a single view confused me a couple times. For example, if you’re searching the Droid Marketplace – with the soft keyboard display – there are 3 search buttons presented; on next to the search form, one in the soft keyboard, the one below the touch screen. In my tests – they’re not all contextually smart.

I made a few calls with the device and found the telephony app enjoyable and again reminiscent of the Treo (again making me happy). Though, as the iPhone showed us, telephony in these devices isn’t really that interesting.

Smart phones are about pocket-sized mobile messaging, mobile maps, and mobile internet access in general. To that end, the Droid is very small, very fast computer with a telephony app and a persistent data connection.

With the keyboard slid out, the Droid looks like a mico-laptop and I started wondering about the differences between this device and a netbook with a VOIP client & mobile broadband service. Depending how much the camera is used – and how cramped the keyboard feels…they could competing with each other. Mobile phones (handheld computers) and netbooks (lap-sized phones) at the same price point? Such an interesting world we live in.

This mobile computing angle is where Droid Marketplace comes in. Finding and installing apps in the Marketplace was on par with Apple’s App Store. Installing an app is clear and effortless – with the added benefit of clearly stating which Droid functionality is used (data call, location, etc) prior to download.

Though, I had the same problem I have with Apple’s App Store has – I don’t know why I’m there or what’s worth using. Usefulness is difficult to gauge from ratings or reviews.

I grabbed a few of the usual suspects; Pandora, Skype, Twitter, Facebook (Facebook conveniently imported all my friends into the Contacts app). Though, even then, after installing them, I didn’t use all of them. Primarily because I didn’t feel like going to my desktop, opening up Keychain.app and re-entering my name/passwords for each 3rd party app.

While my laziness is partly due to knowing I only had the Droid for a few days, it’s also a larger usability problem I have with the iPhone. The Droid’s integration with Google’s apps (and the underlying Google Authentication APIs) has the potential to minimize the multiple-credential problem (as would Apple putting Keychain.app on the iPhone).

Like my Samsung flip phone – the Droid has little interest in talking to my MacBook Pro. It refused to receive files via Bluetooth. When plugged into a USB cable, OS X didn’t mount Droid’s SD card or its internal storage by default. Turns out, it’s a 4 step process:

  1. Touch the status bar at the top of the Droid screen
  2. Drag it down (again, there’s no affordance indicating this is a possible action)
  3. Click “USB connected”
  4. Click “Mount”

Once mounted, iPhoto automatically launched and was “Ready for Import” and images imported as expected.

The photos were in a directory marked ‘DCIM’ and both the Droid’s file structure and Motorola’s Droid customer service page were less clear about where I put audio and video files. For example, the support topic for to ‘downloading music files:

“Click Amazon MP3, Find a song, Click ‘Buy'”

Not exactly the answer I was expecting. So, I just dumped some MP3s in the root directory of the SD card.

Worked perfectly. The Music app automatically found them and played them. SimpleHelp.net has a nice tutorial on copying music from Mac to Android

For contacts and calendars syncing with the Mac there are 3 options:

  1. Have everything in Google (it’ll be on the phone after you sign in)
  2. Review Todd Ogasawara’s tutorial on syncing Macs & T-Mobile G1s
  3. MarkSpace’s Missing Sync for Droid. Since Missing Sync was responsible for all my unhappy Treo memories- that’s not my preferred option.

The Droid handset and Android 2.0 UI is a significant improvement over the initial version. If Windows was my primary OS, if the bulk of my stuff in Google, or if I was a Verizon customer – I’ve have one on pre-order already. Easy.

Thanks to Albert Maruggi at Provident Partners for providing the review unit.

Elsewhere:
Graeme Thickin’s review of the Verizon Droid
“Again the feeling I got from this was ominous and forbidding.” – from David Newberger’s Droid review.
Justin Grammen’s covers the marketing confusion I’m seeing in his Droid Review

“And my main conclusion after three days of Droid use, it’s still lovable, but it needs a solid human factors going-over. ” – Dave Winer

(reminds me of what I wrote earlier, “Yes, the iPhone does have weaknesses – humanity isn’t one of them“).

“Something that Motorola got right here was that they actually made a phone, not just an internet communication device.” – Christopher Smith

For the Future of Radio – Tune to 802.11

Yesterday, at the Village gym, tired of my normal workout playlist, I brought up JungleTrain on the iPod Touch.

My favorite, niche internet radio station, streaming from somewhere in Europe, picked up by a device in my pocket, on a random treadmill in Minnesota.

Exactly the audio I was looking for. No ads, no data charge. Just the price of the gym membership.

This is another reason1 why the iPod Touch is more of a game changer to me than the iPhone.

Strangely, the latest iPod Nano and Zune ship with broadcast radio receivers (FM and HD respectively).

Elsewhere in radio land, SiriusXM is trading at $0.55/share and has until March 2010 to trade above $1 or be delisted off the NASDAQ

1. Earlier this year I mentioned how the iPod Touch made re-think my mobile phone service. Both of these experiences are rolled into the larger idea that:

“if I’m not within a wifi network, I’m probably driving or otherwise not able to talk.”

.

More Usable URLs: Twitter.com

URLs are consistently the least usable aspect of our interaction with web-based information services – which is terribly unfortunate considering their prominence in how we access, share, and interact with these services.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Twitter’s URLs could be more usable – by either being more logical, more readable, more share-able, or a combination of all 3.

Here’s a standard Twitter URL:
http://twitter.com/garrickvanburen/status/161277022

Let’s break this apart:
/garrickvanburen
The person’s Twitter account we’re interested in – very clear1.

/status
I’m not sure what ‘status’ is – seems like a very system-centric term. For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume it’s a synonym for ‘note’, ‘message’, ‘news’, ‘memo’, or the collection of things I publish at Twitter.

/161277022
This is the individual ‘status’ identifier. Presumably, it’s the primary key ID of this ‘status’ within all the ‘statuses’ in Twitter’s database – making this ‘status’ ID global – not nested within ‘garrickvanburen’. Again, very system-centric and kind of backwards – if we assume URLs should go from largest logical entity to smallest nested entity.

A RESTful URL structure would dictate the following:
/Plural Version of Resource Name
/Individual Resource Identifier
/Plural Version of Sub-Resource Name
/Individual Sub-Resource Identifier
/(et. al.)

If we mapped Twitter’s existing structure against this model we’d have:
http://twitter.com/people/garrickvanburen/statuses/161277022

We can see, Twitter’s URLS aren’t exactly RESTful, and since they’re not – let’s look at some ways to make them more logical.

Proposal 1: Logically Long
http://twitter.com/garrickvanburen/twitter-suggestion-put-the text-of-the-tweet-in-the-tweets-permalink.
This is the most usable and readable for both people and machines. It has the huge benefit of having the entire message in the URL (the mind reels with possibilities). WordPress does a great of making legal URL strings out of a weblog post’s title.
Benefits: Highly-readable, logical nested structure, great for search engines
Detriments: Long (though Twitter’s built-in limits provide a maximum length)

Proposal 2: Globally Short
http://twitter.com/1612770222
This is akin to my WordPress URL Shortening Hack
Benefits: Short
Detriments: Almost no information provided makes this the least usable and equivalent to the shortened URLs you find throughout Twitter.

Proposal 3: Personally Short
http://twitter.com/garrickvanburen/5954
Where 5954 is the number of the individual message in the pool of all my messages.
Benefits: Short, encourages numerically navigating through a person’s messages.
Detriments: Numbers are always less usable than words.

The great thing about these proposals is they’re not mutually exclusive. In fact – different URL structures bias different usages and contexts. In the same way different formats (HTML, RSS, XML, Text-only, etc) providing different presentations of the same webpage to different devices are more usable – different URL strings pointing to the same webpage are as well.


1. Identi.ca’s URL structure doesn’t include the person’s name [example]- making the number less confusing, but the URL itself less usable.

A Proposal for Shorter Google Maps URLs

I was adding a link to a Google map into my iCal and noticed Google is encouraging me to share the the map URLs in email and IM.

google_share_map_url

But there’s a problem with the Google Maps URLs.

They’re +/- 155 characters.

Here’s the full URL:
http://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&q=the+red+pepper,+plymouth,+mn&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&cid=1854680882426337660&li=lmd&z=14&iwloc=A

This URL is neither short, nor easily memorable, nor easily guessable. Which means it’s a completely un-usable – and barely shareable URL. Plus, something tells me this breaks both email and Twitter’s box.

CampaignMonitor says we don’t even get to the geocode.
google_map_url_campaignmonitor

Really Google!?

Even something like this is more share-able (in that it’s short).
http://maps.google.com/1854680882426337660

For the exact same character count, we can make it more guessable and more memorable (therefore more usable).
http://maps.google.com/RedPepperPlymouthMN

Yes, this is the exact same complaint Dave Winer had 5 weeks ago in Solving the TinyUrl centralization problem. Hell, if I’m only 5 weeks behind Winer, I’m cool with that.