Today marks the the one year anniversary of my move to northern California, my first day at Facebook and the first step in a journey that so far has never been dull.
In that time I passed quickly through orientation and hit the ground running on two projects which shipped within my first six months on the job, visited Seattle for An Event Apart, moved from my initial home base at the Sheraton in Palo Alto to a short-term apartment, walked a lot (note: cities along the California peninsula are not really designed to make walking all that easy), bought myself a new bike from Mission Bikes and started riding to and from the office 4 or 5 times a week (approx. 20 miles roundtrip), and after a difficult and tiring search, found a fabulous house in San Carlos and moved again at the beginning of May.
After getting settled (meaning: a new bed, couch, and setting up internet access and other utilities for the house), I started researching and preparing a talk I gave at Typecon in Wisconsin on Quentin Fiore’s design work with Marshall McLuhan and Buckminister Fuller and slowly getting ready for the family and all our stuff to arrive.
Immediately after returning to California, my family finally arrived and we adjusted to our new surroundings including Gillian starting first grade and turning 6. Thankfully we found a new groove without too many tears.
In September, I spent a weekend with my friend Naz at New Bohemia Signs in San Francisco learning the basics of sign painting. I haven’t had as much time to practice as I would have liked since then, but am gearing up to do more very soon.
September, October and November saw us venturing out more to explore San Francisco and the surrounding bay area — including a stop at the San Francisco Center for the Book for their annual Roadworks Steamroller Print Festival, a visit to Muir Woods, canoeing down the Russian River, a long weekend away to visit Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz. Oh, and more work for me.
By the end of the year, I had shipped a considerable number of projects across a diverse set of cross-functional teams, learned a lot, and even performed with pals Greg and Everett at the Facebook Design holiday party.
The end of the year also saw a number of departures from the team. While in pretty rapid succession, these changes and the challenges that have come with them have brought the team closer together and made us more resilient. The transition into the new year definitely hasn’t been easy but it’s definitely not been dull.
While I’m thankful for all of the fun, excitement and opportunity the last 365 days has offered, I’m honestly looking forward to a few uneventful moments in a pool with a tasty beverage real soon. Oh, and maybe soon being able to properly talk about the release of the thing I’ve been pushing for over the last couple years and which finally got greenlighted at the end of last year. Soon. I think. Then maybe I’ll even finish one of the 10 or 12 failed redesigns of this site.
On Thursday, we (Facebook) announced that we’ve reached the incredibly significant milestone of a billion monthly active users. That’s one and nine zeros. That’s one seventh of the population of the world. That’s a lot of people.
To celebrate, and in a way, say thank you to those first billion people, we produced an ad. My suspicion is that a lot of people won’t get it. It’s a little opaque. It’s definitely not safe, but wants to be quiet and humble. It’s also probably not what anyone would expect.
The magic of an ad like this, like Apple’s famous 1984 ad, is that it’s completely open to interpretation and it’s impact most likely won’t be truly appreciated until much later. Until then — this journey is 14% complete.
I was hopeful that Yahoo! selling off Delicious to the former founders of YouTube would be a smooth transition and that whatever they had planned to reinvigorate the service would pay off (reasonably) quickly. Now that the initial switch is complete — I’m not so sure.
Perhaps it was just a matter of time before I came to my senses, but I have, and last night I quickly (and painlessly) made the jump over to Pinboard.
While I plan on keep my old Delicious account active, it’s reached the end of the line and I need to find a way to flag it as inactive. In the meantime though, the Elsewhere links that either linked out to Delicious or pulled data from there have already been transitioned over to use Pinboard instead. Easy peasy. You did know that’s what all that was about right?
And of course that just reminded me of the one thing I did forget to switch. Be right back…
The devastating earthquakes and tsunami that recently ravaged Japan ushered a call to arms for designers to contribute to worldwide relief efforts, and for the fifth time, the Society of Typography Aficionados (SOTA) leapt into action to launch Font Aid V: Made for Japan — to collaboratively create a font whose sales proceeds will go directly to the relief efforts in Japan.
The money raised through the sale of this font will be distributed to organizations such as AMDA International and is being facilitated by SOGO Japan, led by type designer Neil Summerour who has a long, personal connection with the country.
More than 300 designers from 44 countries submitted the over 500 glyphs which will comprise the font, now dutifully being assembled in FontLab by Neil Summerour and Grant Hutchinson. Once completed, the OpenType font will be for sale through several distributors for a mere $20. SOTA also hopes to produce a printed specimen booklet which could accompany the font and which will include additional information about each participating designer and their glyph(s).
As was the case last year, it was an honor to design a glyph (in red above) for inclusion among such illustrious company. And while Ligature, Loop & Stem is working out what we’re able to donate in addition to supporting SOTA, I whole heartedly ask that you share this with your friends, co-workers and fellow designers. Buy a license for yourself, buy one for a friend, and encourage others to do the same as soon as it’s available.
There’s a lot I could say about SXSW, but others have alreadywritten pieces that echo my own sentiments about the conference this year.
Simply put, SXSW has arguably outgrown it’s effectiveness as a design and technology conference in spite of itself. It’s too big, too uneven, and perhaps, even too corporate. On the other hand, because it’s size, it’s helped foster something else entirely — what you might almost call a resistance.
The last two years have seen a growing group forsaking the official conference almost entirely, instead travelling to Austin during that same period to join friends and peers in small, usually informal gatherings, frequently at many of Austin’s popular coffee houses, pubs or restaurants to share knowledge, ideas, have a laugh, or just to catch up with each other and discuss the future.
There’s reasons why I think this is important, though Josh nails it:
I love meeting new people and connecting with old friends. I love talking about all the crazy stuff we do and what it means and why we do it and how we can do it better and how we can actually make the lives of others better by sharing our ideas and making things and being genuine and opening up to one another and buying rounds of beer for people we don’t know and getting to know them and coming up with crazy, goofy ideas that just might work and practicing a whole new type of alchemy: converting bytes and bits of virtual connectedness into actual, physical relationships that mean something.
Although I love Austin as a city, it’s those relationships and that open sharing of ideas that keeps me going back every year. Strengthening existing connections and making new ones. It’s what the web is made of. It’s what life in the real world is made of.
Kickstarter, launched in 2009, has proven to be a goldmine of interestingprojects, and has introduced what I consider a great way to assist passionate people do and create the things that fuel that passion; to help them produce things that might otherwise be out of the realm of possibility, mostly for financial reasons.
This morning saw one of those great projects, The Manual, achieve it’s funding goal. The same day it launched and without hesitation, I backed the project, knowing Andy McMillian, the fine chap at the helm would be producing something wonderful and of lasting value. And while the project has now achieved it’s initial funding goal, there’s still time to get on board yourself.
Don’t already know what the project is about? Andy and his crack production team (editor, good friend, and LL&S co-conspiritor, Carolyn Wood along with designer/illustrator Jez Burrows) have this to say:
The Manual is a new limited-run print magazine that takes a fresh look at design on the web. Published three times a year — with the first issue due this summer — each issue will have six substantial, beautifully illustrated feature articles, along with several additional pages of rich material.
The thing is — it won’t be just another design magazine. My sense is that it will feel like something different altogether. That’s exciting in itself. That each curated issue will be produced as a hardcover book, intended to deliberately look good and belong on your bookshelf is another. It’ll be something you’ll want to show off.
2010 was a year that included more meetings than I ever could have imagined. Many lacked clear agendas, required far too many participants to be productive or were simply directionless and resulted in countless hours of lost productivity and much head scratching, and so Jason Fried’s TED Talk on interruptions and productivity is timely and echos most of my feelings about being at the office.
A significant issue Fried doesn’t address directly is the problem of context shifting. For example — you’re interrupted at work while head down on a tough problem by a co-worker who has a question about another unrelated project. Like opening a computer program, it requires you to clear the first project information from memory (or push it aside) and load everything you know about the second one, even if it’s only for a minute. Try doing that a few times a day and your head will be spinning. It may already be. But it happens all the time and ties directly into why people are often mentally exhausted at the end of the day, don’t feel like they accomplished much, or worse yet, might be on the road to burning out.
In my post queue, unfinished, for several weeks has been a bit of commentary from my father-in-law, Eric McLuhan on Match 4 from this past season’s edition of Layer Tennis.
A day or so after the match, I shared volley 5 by Scott Thomas with him as it contained both a quote from his father, Marshall McLuhan and a particular comment from match commentator John Gruber that caught my attention:
I like to think that McLuhan would have enjoyed Layer Tennis. His quote here is an apt description of the game.
So, who better to ask whether that might be true than someone close to the man’s work, arguably one of the few living experts — his eldest son and frequent co-collaborator. Here’s what Eric had to say:
The commentator is a third-party actor. Satire on the sports announcer. His function (it IS a male voice) is to do our thinking for us—to tell us what we know and can observe.
(It is important to identify the voice: where have you heard it before? What sport or game? A dog show? Cricket? Baseball? Then the actor emerges. That’s the beginning of Practical Criticism, by the way.)
In volley 6, McLuhan flips from (private voice) commentator (as he was in 5) to co-author (stage voice). This promotion occurs via the amount of play: the large block of quote, in that colour, in that spot, that strong. It had been a much smaller voice.
I found the progression enjoyable to watch. The tennis metaphor is quite apt. I have had that kind of fun with ideas with two or three people in my life. I know that a great number of people have also had it, that some do it for a living. It is very like improv theatre, with ideas, where Tennis was with images. But not the commentator. He is scripted, that is, he writes his essay and edits it. Presumably, the tennis players do not edit themselves; they return the volley with equal gusto and dispatch. Their responses tell the story in the styles, one as riposte to the other.
Although Eric didn’t explicitly answer my original question to him, I believe it’s safe to say that, based on his commentary, Marshall would have indeed enjoyed the match.
It’s been a little over a year since I decided Wishingline, the little company I started had gone in one direction and I was moving in another. It was headed east and I was moving west. I’m only sort of being facetious in saying that.
Since then I’ve hummed and hawed about what to do about the website — the one that became a true testament to the state of the shoes of the cobbler’s children.
Until recently it was still getting a fair amount of organic search engine traffic as well as new and repeat referrals, but this whole time it’s pretty much been left out in the cold.
Despite neglecting it, there were a few parts of the ‘ol site that felt important and I’ve had tasks in Things since last year to do something about them. As it would happen though, I either haven’t had time or enough interest to actually do anything about it. Until last night at least.
Late last night I decided that traffic, and more importantly (to me at least) my interest had dropped off enough to just redirect the domain entirely and be done with it. And so after a couple minutes of changing DNS settings and updating a virtual host configuration, wishingline.com was essentially gone.
I’d say there’s a tear in my beer but that was long ago. I’m much older than that now.
I don’t know exactly where the days have gone since last year but SXSW 2010 starts today and as much as I’m excited to see old friends and connect with new ones, I’m feeling largely unprepared — even if I’m really not. I’m definitely a tad sleep deprived though, so I apologize in advance for being potentially incoherent while in Austin.
As much as I and others have been a bit blasé about it since ‘09, Southby is still something I think most of us look forward to every year — it’s that one big opportunity to catch up and exchange ideas with the web/interactive world as a whole. It’s more than a simple conference or “geek spring break”. The last couple days have had me thinking that this year is going to be a little different, maybe a little special somehow. I’m not yet sure what that means exactly but we’ll see.
Based on conversations via Twitter, it definitely feels like more people attending this year will be in Austin even less for the conference sessions than for the bits that happen in the hallways, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. I’d say that’s largely true for me even though after finally looking through the panels and talks, there are certainly some potentially good ones. Potentially.
Butter Me Up
Part of the excitement might just be around some of the changes that have been underway for me over the last few months, one of which being my working more with Luke on ButterLabel projects and planning what’s next with Ligature, Loop and Stem.
Luke and I have all kinds of schwag to hand out — some lovely foil stamped business cards, stickers, buttons (ButterLabel and LL&S), and even a few ButterLabel tees. I think we’ll be pretty selective about who those go to. All are definitely first-come, first-serve though.
On top of that I’ve got a few copies of Life in the Dead of Winter, my band’s 2009 EP with me (on 180g vinyl no less) for any vinyl enthusiasts out there. For anyone interested in a digital download, let me know and I’ll arrange to get you a special download code.
Information is available on the Flickr group page, the awesome Sitby.us app by Weightshift, and Eventbrite through which you can RSVP to attend — there’s no cost and it’s always a good time. I believe Grant even has a little treat for those that do… Just sayin’.
For those in attendance — see you around Austin over the next five or so days. Who’s buying the first round?
Although the feedback was all extremely positive and validated that we were on to something interesting, I tend to guage expectations with at least one foot in reality. In the end though, the response completely blew my expecations out of the water with that first collection of products selling out in under 3 days.
When we finished shipping everything I gave myself a little project — to map the orders. The reason was simply to put a little visual context around what we just did. The end result looks something like the preview below.
Due to other committments and even though this has been sitting on the server for a few weeks I just haven’t had the time or energy to talk about it, not that there’s really that much that’s not self-explanatory… For me it was a fun little diversion and a good chance to tinker with version 3 of the Google Maps API. If it’s interesting to anyone else, that’s a nice bonus.
For those wondering what’s next — I’ll have a bit more to say about LL&S and some other things soon.
It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.
In a roundabout way I think that passage perfectly sums up the state of the web industry for me in 2009 and is a perfect lead-in to mention issue number 284 of A List Apart which features an article on the topic of Burnout by yours truly.
It was a challenging article to write simply because it was so deeply rooted in my own personal experiences and I hope readers take note and are interested in continuing the discussion further because, obvious or not, the web and design industries are intrinsically ripe for extreme cases of burnout.
My thanks to Carolyn Wood, Krista Stevens, Erin Kissane, Zeldman et al.
Last year when I originally moved the Wishingline site and a handful of others over a shiny new slice at Slicehst one of the issues I ran into was handling outgoing mail from contact forms, Movable Type, etc. I’m no server admin and despite knowing enough to be dangerous, setting up a secure mail server that can handle multiple domains was definitely outside my comfort zone.
Thanks to Ethan, I discovered a gem of an open source project called MSMTP which was just what I needed; the exception being that I couldn’t figure out how to use it with multiple domains. Until last week that is.
Of course it’s really easy.
Installing and Configuring for Multiple Domains
MSMTP provides two ways you can configure the software using a simple and well-documented configuration file format. It’s all plain text so it’s easy to create, edit and back up.
Installing the Software
Installing MSMSTP requires the following packages which can be installed using the aptitude tool on Ubuntu. Installation on other *nixes may vary.
Once you have everything installed, you need to create a configuration file either in /etc/msmtprc or by creating a user-specific one in your user’s home directory. If you need mail services for more than one domain, I suggest using the global configuration option.
I’m going to assume you’re reasonably comfortable working in a Unix environment from here on out though if you know what you’re doing you can do all of this just as easily using ExpanDrive and TextMate without having to touch the Terminal.
$ sudo nano /etc/msmtprc
Once the nano editor has opened a new blank file for you, enter the following and replace the example configuration as needed. I’m including examples for two domains so you get the idea.
# Account: domain1.com
# Set a default account to use
account default : domain1
# Account: domain2.com
Repeat as necessary to add more domains. Save your changes by typing Control-O and pressing Enter. Then type Control-X to exit the editor.
Virtual Host Configuration
Assuming you’re using PHP with Apache as your web server, you can add the last two lines in the example below to each virtual host to specify which configuration account you’d like to use to send mail.
DirectoryIndex index.html index.php
# MSMTP configuration for this domain
php_admin_value sendmail_path "/usr/bin/msmtp -a domain1 -t"
Replace domain1 with the correct domain obviously. This should correspond to the account names specified in the /etc/msmtprc file.
Alternatively you need to instruct your middleware or framework to use MSMTP instead of Sendmail/Postfix to send mail and pass the same account parameter whenever called. Most have some form of configuration option to allow this.
With everything that’s been goingon lately, my third trip down to Austin for SXSW couldn’t have come at a better time. I definitely needed a break and some time to decompress.
In every sense: mission accomplished.
I was largely offline while in Austin. I didn’t bring my MacBook and it was often challenging to get connected on my iPhone since roaming data rates are insane (thanks again Rogers and AT&T). The often spotty wifi access didn’t help either. Despite that, being somewhat disconnected much of the time was refreshing — I think we’d all benefit from doing it more often.
Bigger, yes. Better?
Although I didn’t expect it to be bigger this year given the current economic climate, SXSW Interactive indeed was. Whether the conference itself was better than previous years though is still largely up for debate. Reports seem to indicate some good, a little bit of awesome and a whole lot of “meh” which isn’t really any different from previous years.
I honestly spent more time connecting with friends, both old and new than I did going to panels. I can count the number of panels I attended on one hand, but the ones I did were all enjoyable. Not mind blowing but enjoyable nonetheless.
It’s Made of People
SXSW has definitely become much more important to me (and many others) for the things that happen outside the conference sessions than in them. So much so for some that they didn’t bother to even get a conference pass this year, something that I would hazzard a guess will increase a bit more next year.
Now that the 2010 dates have been announced (March 12th—16th), if you’re thinking of attending, you mind want to consider skipping the conference pass and just hang out in the hallways or at Halcyon or Gingerman. I know I am. That’s where you’ll likely find a lot of us anyway.
More photographic evidence of my time in Austin at SXSW is available for your viewing pleasure at Flickr. On a side note — if you didn’t get a chance to see Gary Hustwit’s new film Objectified, do yourself a favour and make a point to.
Now that I’ve been back for about a week, caught up on work, the big iPhone OS 3.0 announcement and everything else going on in the web/design world, I’ve started to dedicate some time to reconnecting with a few of the things I’ve had sitting on the backburner or that will help me build up the momentum I need in planning what’s next.
First up: writing more and getting back on my book reading bandwagon. Two blog entries this week alone so I think I’m off to a good start.
Nearly a year ago I started working on a simple iPhone-optimized version of the notebook. I was tinkering with this for a few days in-between other projects or late at night until I accidentally wiped out the stylesheet. Oops. It wasn’t under version control because, well, I was tinkering.
It’s taken me until this past weekend to get back to doing something about that though my approach ended up being a bit different this time around.
On the server, mod_rewrite takes care of the magic of automatically redirecting requests to the mobile site — there’s no need to visit a different URL when browsing from either an iPhone or iPod touch. I believe this will also work on an Android device though I don’t have one and have not actually seen one so I can’t confirm that.
To some degree this is a stop-gap solution, particularly since not everything that should be there is available in the mobile site yet (eg. no commenting), but it makes for a good prototype and gives us somewhere to start making improvements.
Recently there’s been some chatter from other folks about amalgamating various bits and pieces of content from other sites such as Twitter, Flickr, delicious, etc into their blogs.
While the idea itself is not entirely new — I think we all like the idea of our own sites being something of a central hub where people can go to get an overview of what we’re up to wherever we happen to be at any particular point in time, this formerly supplementary content has over the last couple years grown to comprise a larger percentage of our content publishing lives.
To that end, a little while ago I quietly updated the less than prominent Elsewhere section to periodically update/cache the latest from our delicious feed along with making the Flickr photo feed refresh automatically instead of us having to manually publish changes.
The long-term plan is to eventually integrate this content into the notebook itself, giving it the same level of prominence; but we’re not there yet. We’ve got other fish to fry first.
Although not a meme (that I’m aware of), maybe it should be — here’s a look at my workspace at Wishingline HQ. I’m a notorious neat-freak, but I also like gadgets, figures and other trinkets to keep me interested, inspired and hopefully productive.
On my desk is:
Apple iPhone 2g
Tim Hortons coffee and chocolate dip donut
Powell & Hyde Cable Car candy holder used for business cards
Robot pencil sharpener
Wacom Bamboo tablet with mouse and stylus
Stack of in-progress project folders
Field Notes notebook from AEA Boston
Set of Simpsons miniature figures
Simpsons trivia card game
Three sets of Tim Burton “Oyster Boy” figures
Bills, receipts and other miscellaneous paperwork
A copy of “Designers are Wankers” by Lee McCormack
Veer’s “I draw pictures all day” sketchbook which is used to house our crazy ideas (just out of frame)
What’s on your desk? Feel free to share if you’re so inclined by posting either a photo or a link in the comments. Photos should be sized to 523px wide by (ideally) a multiple of 9 or 18.
Whenever there’s been a few spare moments since we first released our Webkit CSS bundle for for TextMate, we’ve been diligently making progress at adding the handful of missing Webkit CSS properties and making minor adjustments to the organization of the bundle contents.
More than that though, we’ve been working on implementing the ability for the bundle to be easily updated from within “TextMate”: textmate itself without having to restart the application. Today, we feel confident to say that it’s working properly although with a couple minor caveats.
In order to support auto-updating, and to get an initial build of the bundle itself, you’ll need to have Subversion installed somewhere on your system. The easiest way to get this is to install Apple’s Xcode developer tools or the iPhone SDK. Both are free downloads (and available on your Tiger/Leopard install DVDs).
The updater will do its best to locate the svn binary in order to perform updates, but if not found, will output a short error message.
The other caveat (we hope to eliminate or make easier to manage soon) is that the updater expects the bundle to be installed in the Library/Application Support/TextMate/Bundles/ folder your home directory, though technically you should be able to install bundles for all users on your computer in the Library folder at the root of your drive.
Updater Usage Notes
Updating the bundle periodically is simple. Select ‘Webkit’ from the Bundles menu, and then the ‘Self-update bundle’ command which will do the rest.
We’ve done a bit of testing in the wild on our own, but we’re of course interested to know if you’re using the bundle and run into any problems with the updater. Feel free to drop a note in the comments or file a bug on the project’s Google Code page.
Recently we’ve found ourselves working on a few projects that lended themselves to either allowing, or requiring us to use some newer Safari/Webkit-specific CSS3 features, and in the time since we’ve started to put together a bundle of language snippets for TextMate (our preferred editor) to make us more efficient, and to make remembering this stuff a bit easier.
The bundle, which currently contains nearly every new -webkit-prefixed property currently listed in Apple’s Safari/Webkit documentation along with a few snippets of code related to creating and using offline SQLite databases in Webkit is available via the project’s Google Code repository at:
In the spirit of open source, we’re releasing this software under the MIT license (which we hope is a suitable option), meaning you’re free to download, use, modify and redistribute it. Of course rather than distributing it yourself, we’d appreciate it if you’d instead simply refer folks to the project’s repository. No specific ownership or warranty is implied (YMMV) in the included language snippets.
Although Subversion access to the project is currently restricted, if you’re interested in contributing to improve and enhance this bundle, please get in touch with us and we can discuss providing access to the project. Errors and omissions should be reported via Google Code. Any general comments and feedback is welcome here in the comments though.
And no, we’re not dead. Busy. A bit dozy in the mornings, but starting to come up for air.
It almost slipped past without us noticing, but we were reminded this morning by our accountant that yesterday, June 19th, marked the official one year anniversary of Wishingline moving from being a sole proprietorship to its current incorporated form (four years all around), now with employees, a proper office, and a wider outlook on where we are and where we’re headed.
Our sincere thanks to our clients, friends, peers and families for getting us this far. We look forward to many more exciting years ahead!
Join the Wishingline crew (Scott, Anna and Dale) for Toronto’s second Lunch 2.0 event which will be happening on Friday, May 30th, from noon until 1:30 at the still kinda-sort new Wishingline studio in Toronto.
Come out and meet like-minded people from Toronto’s design and tech communities and help us inaugurate our new studio space, rock out on the finger drums, and check out the comings and goings of our strange neighbours across the street all while enjoying yummy pizza and fizzy or otherwise bubbly beverages.
The event is totally free, but space is extremely limited and once the tickets are gone, they’re gone. Full details including location, time, tickets and anything else you might need to know are available at Eventbrite.
For the scoop on what Lunch 2.0 is all about and who’s behind it in Canada, check the official Lunch 2.0 website. Hope to see you on the 30th!
SXSW Interactive 2008 is almost upon us - only a couple days left before a large part of the population of design/web and interactive geeks from around the world descend into Austin for a 4 days of panels, parties, and socializing.
The new (yay!) Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office will be closed while I’m away for the conference and to spend some time with clients, but I’ll do my best to stay on top of e-mail and voicemail.
And if you happen to be in Austin for SXSW, please do say “hello”. Ask nice and I might have a button or two for you as well.
I really have no aversion to big prizes, adulation or going home with a nice trophy, so I’d appreciate your vote. You can toss one vote this way every day until March 9th when the awards are handed out. Make my mom proud!
Yesterday, SXSW announced the finalists for their annual Web Awards and guess what? The Wishingline designed and developed site for FiveRuns has made the short list under the CSS category! Needless to say I’m excited and frankly, just honored to be nominated.
The FiveRuns site (the one nominated) has undergone many changes since it’s inception back in 2006 — from a tiny pre-beta release site developed prior to the launch of FiveRuns’ flagship Manage product to the much more fully realized site that exists now. Of course there’s more to come in 2008.
Even though I don’t really expect to win (that’s the politically correct thing to say right?), I suppose I should write an acceptance speech just in case… :)
The Interactive Web Awards will be handed out by emcee Eugene Mirman on Sunday, March 9th at the Hilton Austin Downtown.
Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.
I find these comments fascinating due to the proliferation of book stores here in Toronto and around the world — the big chains and small independents over the last 10 years. It’s completely contrary to my own experience. If I had to guess, I would say my local and extended (interweb-related) social circles read more, not less. Based on my book spending and reading habits over the last few years, I certainly wouldn’t fall into that 40%.
Whether there is any direct connection between Jobs’ feelings on the matter of reading and the amount of text content on the Apple website is not for me to say with any absolute certainty since I do not work for Apple, nor do I have any information on the inner workings of Apple’s web design/content teams, but it does strike me that such a connection could be drawn to explain what happened to all the content.
Though nearly two months from kickoff, 2008 conference fever is already ramping up with two big ones currently marked on the calendar, tickets purchased and hotels arranged with more surely to be added as the year goes on.
First, one of too few relevant and topical Canadian-based web/design-related conferences — Web Directions North. Unfortunately due to other commitments I missed the inaugural event last year, but after speaking with both Derek Featherstone and Dave Shea during SXSW, which only shortly followed WDN, I realized I couldn’t afford to miss it a second time.
Given the great lineup of speakers, can you afford to miss it? I’m excited — new faces, old friends, and no dobut spectacularly organized! Plus I haven’t been to Vancouver in over 10 years which is a treat in itself.
And then there’s old reliable — South By Southwest down in lovely Austin, Texas. Last year, oddly my first year attending, was a blast and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends, hopefully generally more interesting talks and panels than last year and just an all-around good time. I’ll be at the Hampton and staying a couple extra days at the end of the Interactive portion of the conference to visit with clients and hopefully putter around Austin a bit with anyone staying for the week of music mayhem that starts when Interactive ends.
Hope to see you there at one or both conferences. Do say “hello” — I promise I don’t bite.
In July I bought an iPhone while down in Austin on a business trip with the understanding that although I would be able to activate it, allowing me to use it as an iPod with WiFi functionality, the phone-related features would not be functional until someone figured out how to un-tether the device from AT&T so that it could be used on the networks of other, non-US carriers such as Rogers in Canada.
In late August, the iPhone was unlocked by a group of industrious hackers. The unlock process wasn’t that simple, but certainly nothing insurmountable for those with a bit of technical knowledge, and made easier shortly after by the release of GUI tools to accomplish the task.
The various tools developed by those interested in the iPhone as a new platform, and otherwise unsatisfied with Apple’s web-oriented SDK, allowed the installation of additional applications on the device — both commonly used open-source applications and software designed just for the iPhone thus making the device even more appealing to many. Games, servers, ringtones, theme customizations and more.
Everything was golden until last week when Apple released a new version of the firmware software for the iPhone which would, in essence, cripple hacked phones. Although this was not unexpected, it essentially sent that group of hackers back to the drawing board to find new methods to activate and unlock the device.
The reason I can live with my iPhone as-is for now is simple: there’s no official word on a Canadian launch of the device. Unless a new method of activating and unlocking the device are developed, I will not be upgrading my iPhone to version 1.1.1 or newer.
My speculation is that by the time Apple and Rogers, the only carrier in Canada with the network capabilities to handle the iPhone (can you say lack of competition?) come to any licensing and marketing agreements, a second generation device will be on the market or near ready for release.
At that point or whenever there is an official release in Canada, moving to an un-hacked, official device will (should) be as simple as purchasing a new iPhone and inserting my existing SIM card from Rogers or getting them to switch the SIM associated with my account. This should mirror the process existing AT&T customers went through when they switched to an iPhone. I do not expect that an existing device purchased in the US will function, even with a valid SIM card.
At least I hope it will be that simple.
The real problem as I see it, ultimately, is two things: Rogers and Apple. There’s no cellular competition in Canada. There’s Bell, Rogers, and Telus. Rogers owns Fido, so they don’t count. Neither Bell nor Telus support GSM so they’re immediately ruled out, leaving only Rogers as a possible carrier. To some extent I think this puts Rogers on the high ground in negotiations, not Apple.
As most Canadians using any kind of smart-phone, mobile carrier data pricing is off the charts, something a lack of competition does not help. $20 a month for 5MB of EDGE data is shameful and unrealistic.
This presents a problem for Apple because they need to force a sea change in how data plans are priced on the chosen carrier here in order to make the iPhone appealing to both existing and new customers. I don’t expect people would stand for an iPhone-only data plan that is miles better than those offered for other devices.
Time will tell how this will all play out in Canada but for now I will continue to happily chirp away on a 1.0.2 firmware version of the iPhone. Oh — and yes, the phone part is actually good. I’m considerably happier with it than the Sony Ericcson device my SIM card came from.
It’s been around two weeks now since I implemented a technique suggested by Sean Sperte and I have to say it’s working brilliantly. I’ve gone from around a hundred (on most days) spam messages passing through my mailbox down to zero. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Gmail has worked almost flawlessly at catching spam and forwarding legitimate messages with only 2 or 3 false-positives, none of which were urgent messages, so if you’re looking for a fairly simple solution to battling spam, I suggest you go read Sean’s blog entry.
I’ve been meaning to rework my visual identity over the last little while after talking to a number of friends in the industry who told me the name and logo just didn’t “click” with them. So I took up the challenge the other day and hammered out something new that I think really nails it.
I mean really — all those bike racks in cities throughout Canada and the US that look just like the old logo — it just wasn’t good enough! I saw them and they didn’t even make me think “Wishingline”.
The identity needed a little something extra. That slowly evolved into the decision to change the company name too. And so a new company was born. Long live WishingBits! I’m confident the new logo and wordmark will turn things around and be a solid first step in worldwide brand recognition!
By the way, anyone need a cheap logo? $189 and it’s all yours!
SXSWi 2007 is now over and I’m back home in Toronto. What a week away! I’m sure I’m still a bit out of it after being awake for over 24 hours (8:30 AM Thursday though 9:30 PM Friday) so hopefully I’m somewhat coherent.
My 6AM Friday flight back to Toronto left me feeling particularly paranoid about sleeping through an alarm, so I stayed up chillin’ at my bud Rob Jones’ place in Austin until it was time to leave. I had to gas up the rental car, drop it off and then do all the usual stuff at the airport. Luckily, no problems with my connecting flights and I actually made it home a few minutes earlier than expected.
March 9th through the 16th was a crazy week and I’m flat out exhausted. SXSW was a great time and a nice break from work, allowing me to finally put faces and personalities to the names I mostly knew only online via Flickr, Twitter or other social networking sites.
The web standards/design community has a lot of great people in it; folks I admire and look to for advice, encouragement and inspiration. People from the Canada, the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere - all of whom came together to what is truly an international conference like no other.
Based on what I heard from numerous people who’ve attended previous South By conferences, this one, in terms of the actual conference panels was a bit of a let-down. The talks were often less interesting, less focused and poorly prepared.
In some ways, looking at the names of panellists, it stuck me as a bit of a changing of the guard in some respects. A lot of names I didn’t know with only a handful that I did. As such, I found myself spending more time socializing with my peers outside the panels, at various restaurants or bars around the 6th Street area rather than actually attending the panels. The handful that I did attend in general were good or at least passable.
Given that this was my first South By I find it hard to judge fairly aside from saying that these panels were generally much less well prepared than those at Apple’s WWDC conference, RailsConf or other conferences I’ve attended in the past. I think some of the panels touched briefly on topics that overall would have been more interesting than what the panellists actually spoke about.
Unfortunately, I think I missed just about all of the really good panels such as Richard Rutter and Mark Boulton’s panel on Web Typography, Khoi Vihn and Mark Boulton’s grid design panel. Luckily there are podcasts to make up for that in the same way Apple provides WWDC attendees video/audio and PDFs of the sessions each year.
THE Social Conference
Aside from the panels, and as I hinted at earlier, SXSW is really a massive social experience, even more so than I expected. Meeting the people and personalities I’ve almost exclusively known online and having them all turn out to be really cool, fun, and down to earth was the icing on the cake. Although I didn’t get to meet everyone I would have liked or had enough time to chat with the ones I did, I can’t complain.
I was fortunate enough to get to meet and/or hang out with folks like Dan and Alex Rubin, the entirely awesome Blue Flavor posse, Tiff Fehr, Matthew Pennell, Derek Featherstone, Veerle and Geert, Andy Budd, Paul Boag, Robert Scales, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, Steve Smith, Patrick Haney, Jina Bolton, my homie Mike Stickle, Dave Shea, Jason Santa Maria and his lovely wife Liz (your mugs are in transit), Shaun Inman, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlai, Jon Snook, Faruk and his Apple Web Store cohorts, Anton Peck, Greg Storey, Bryan Veloso, Scott Raymond, Garrett Dimon, the Veer gang (Grant, Brock, Aaron, Issa and Yuval), Sean from frogdesign and undoubtedly many more who I’m blanking on right now.
I also finally got to meet the business partner of Theresa Neil with whom I’ve been working on the FiveRuns application for the last year - Rob Jones, a former frogdesign(er) and who’s just the best. Rob rocks, and along with his girlfriend Shara, was kind enough to put me up for my last couple nights in Austin while I was takin’ care of business.
The Year Of The Button
2007 was the year of the button. I’m nearly positive I’m heading home with more 1” buttons than business cards. I can think of a few folks though who I just realized I never snagged a card from and a few who just didn’t have any at all. But the buttons seemed to really be a big hit all around. They’re fun and it’s just something a little different.
I’m still adamant that the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. popsicle buttons were the only ones that were hand-made (by my lovely wife). I think they turned out fantastically given the fact they weren’t printed and assembled until just hours before I left to come down to Austin.
There’s still a small handful of those buttons left for anyone who didn’t get one that wants one. Just send me an e-mail or IM me with you deets and I’ll get something in the mail for you.
About SXSW’s Idiotic Registration Process
As I said to Bryan Veloso when we briefly chatted during his and Dan Rubin’s Live from the 101 podcast, my biggest complaint about SXSW, aside from some bad or uninteresting panels and poor scheduling was the absolutely ridiculous registration process and just some generally bad conference structuring problems in terms of the location of things, including the panels.
Assuming you pay $300 to go to the conference, I think there’s a pretty darn good chance you’ll actually go.
Taking that into consideration, badges should have all been pre-printed for registrants like at every other conference in the world so that when you go to register, everything is just waiting for you. Having to wait in line, fill out a card with info they already have, possibly get your photo taken, then wait around for someone to print out your badge and yell out your name before you can actually finally get your badge. That’s just inefficient and stupid if you ask me.
For a conference with as much history as SXSW, that seems like a lesson they perhaps should already have learned. The same goes for putting the registration area right in the middle of a major throughway of people going to and from panels. Apparently much of this was worse last year which is a scary thought.
A Few Fun Moments
Other random fun moments — the Trailer Park Boys wandering around the convention centre, some dude dressed as Superman though with a cellphone and Blackberry case attached to his bright yellow belt, and apparently missing Paul Rudd as we left the trade show area. I’m also still convinced I saw Tarantino a few times on Saturday or Sunday night too when we were all out partying.
In terms of parties, I had a great time at just about all of the ones I made it out to - definitely the Blue Flavor party being my fave and MediaTemple one being possibly the most pretentious and possibly dull (hence my early exit) even though I made it into the “VIP” area.
The fact that Monday’s events were on my birthday made them particularly memorable and the most fun. Thanks to all for the birthday wishes and Twitters and to Mark Bixby and Brian Warren for filling me full of beer and assorted alcohol.
Monday the 12th was also made special by the Veer gang for taking me out for a big birthday steak dinner at Fleming’s. I know everyone loves Veer — but those guys really are the coolest, and if I didn’t enjoy working for myself, I could see having a lot of fun working with them. Right, Grant?
It was nice to get away for a week though I missed Emily and Gillian and was very happy to get home. Talking with them on the phone or via IM just isn’t the same. I’m still filtering through pics to upload to Flickr, but should have the ones I want to post all up soon enough.
Thanks again to all my South By peeps, it was a blast. See you next year!
In the earlier post we ran the svnserve daemon manually. While this is fine as a one-off event, if you ever need to restart your system, we shouldn’t have to worry about remembering to start the process manually. Instead you’ll want to automate it. Thanks to the powerful launch facilities built into Mac OS X, this is a simple process and I’ll make it even easier for you.
The preferred way of launching background processes in Mac OS X means using launchd by creating LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents which are simple plist (Property List) files which instruct launchd on how to start or stop these processes. The important difference in the two is that LaunchDaemons are intended for processes which should remain running even with no users logged into the system; perfect for Subversion.
Download this LaunchDaemon plist file and copy it to the LaunchDaemons folder in the Library folder on your system. Open the file in your preferred text editor and look at line 16. If you followed the earlier post on setting up Subversion, then you don’t need to do anything. If you created your repository in another location, you’ll need to edit the path to the repository on that line. When you’re done, save the file.
We’re now ready to make sure it will work. If you’ve got the svnserve daemon running, open up the Activity Monitor and locate the svnserve process. Select it and press the Quit Process button in the Activity Monitor toolbar. You should be asked for your administrator password. When the process exits it will disappear from the list.
After the process has closed, switch back to the Terminal. We’re ready to test our LaunchDaemon to start it up again. In the Terminal, type the following:
Enter your administrator password. You should be returned to a new prompt in the shell if everything goes well.
To verify that our process is registered with launchd, we can print out a list of all the processes run with launchctl by running:
sudo launchctl list
You should see the org.tigris.Subversion item in the list. You can further test that the LaunchDaemon works by simply restarting your system and again checking the Activity Monitor to verify that the svnserve process is running.
Source control is something thought to be geared more towards developers and those doing more traditional computer science-type programming, especially when working in a team environment. Source control is also an invaluable tool for web designers and developers alike.
Source control comes in many flavours — the two most popular and widely used systems being CVS (Concurrent Versions System) and Subversion, a successor to CVS which significantly improves on the major gripes most people have with the CVS source control system.
The problem with both is mostly from the aspect of approachability. Once you get the hang of them, it becomes natural and there will be times when you wonder how you ever survived without it, but until then, using, and more so, setting up your own source control system is a daunting task.
First steps: pick one. Your best bet is Subversion as it has been gaining in popularity and is under active development in the open-source world. Ask anyone doing serious development in Ruby on Rails for example and I’d bet 10 out of 10 times they’ll say they’re using Subversion.
If you’re a lucky developer working on Mac OS X, getting up and running with Subversion is trivial provided you have a handle on a few basic Unix commands. In this mini tutorial, I’ll walk you through installing Subversion, creating a new repository and importing a project. Ready to get started?
Step 1: Installing Subversion
We can cheat here and go the quick route using an installer package created by Martin Ott of The Coding Monkeys, the fine folks behind SubEthaEdit. Once you’ve downloaded and un-zipped the .pkg installer file, double-click the installer and run through the setup screens. Subversion will be installed into /usr/local which is where you want it since it won’t mess with anything in the core Mac OS X install.
The Subversion binaries are installed in /usr/local/bin. Of interest are svn, svnadmin and svnserve. The first two are your administrative tools for interacting with Subversion, the the svnserve binary (application) will allow you to run your own Subversion server that you can work from.
At this point you should have Subversion installed.
Step 2: Customize Your $PATH
To make working in the Terminal easier, we should tell your shell of choice (typically Bash), where to look for executable programs such as the Subversion binaries. To do this, you need to create a file in your home directory (eg. /Users/your-user-name named one of bash_login, bash_profile or bashrc.
In order for the file to be recognized by the shell as a configuration file it needs to be saved with a period (.) at the beginning of the file name. To create the file, open up your text editor (TextMate or BBEdit will do fine) and add the following:
When you’re done, save the file. Remember to prefix the file name with a period: .bash_profile, for example. You’ll need to open a new Terminal window for the change to be loaded. You can test that things are working by typing sv and press Tab. If the name auto-completes, you’re good to go.
Step 3: Setting Up A Repository
We’re now ready to create a new repository. This is where our files will be stored. This is not where we directly interact with and modify files though, but where data is pulled from and committed to when we make changes. If it’s not all clear, it hopefully will be shortly.
Open a new Terminal window (you can find the Terminal application in the Applications/Utilities folder on your computer). Type the following command:
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/svn
This will create a new folder named ‘svn’ in /usr/local after you’ve entered your administrative password which you will be asked for. This will be our Subversion repository. If you’d rather use a different location, feel free to change the path. For example, an external drive or in your Home directory.
Assuming you followed the above, you’ll need to change the group ownership on the ‘svn’ directory in order to be able to write to it. To do this, type the following at a new prompt in the Terminal:
sudo chgrp -R admin /usr/local/svn
This changes the group associated with the main folder and recursively down into the folder to the admin group in Mac OS X. As long as you belong to that group, then you should be able to write to that folder.
Step 4: Create a New Project in Subversion
We’re now ready to create our first project in Subversion. This will get us our initial setup from which to work from. As an example, let’s say we’re creating a new blog for a client named “Metropolis & Co.”. We might name the project metropolis_blog. To create the new project, back in the Terminal, enter the following:
If all is successful, you should be returned to a new prompt in the Terminal.
Step 5: Securing Our Project
The next thing you might want to do is secure access to your project, especially if you’re working in a team environment with different people on different machines or in different places. There’s a bunch of different things you could do here and I’m going to keep it simple for now. Just the basics — controlling read/write access and adding usernames and passwords.
In order for multiple people to interact with your new Subversion repository, you need to run svnserve on the system you ran through the previous steps on. So, before we start up the server, we need to configure the access details which can be done on a per-project level. So in our case, we want to edit the settings for our ‘metropolis_blog’ project.
In the Terminal, switch to the project directory by going to:
In that folder you should find a series of directories and files. Right now we’re only interested in the conf directory’s contents.
In the conf folder you will find three files: authz, passwd and svnserve.conf. We won’t look at the authz file now, and instead start by editing the passwd file:
sudo pico svnserve.conf
You can read through the usage notes in the file, but the basics of what we want to do here is enable read-only access anonymously and make write-access require a username/password which we will specify next. To do this simply change the matching lines in the svnserve.conf file by removing the preceding hash mark (thereby uncommenting the lines).
If you wanted, you could create a new password file in a different location and point to it in the file, but in this case, we’ll just use the defaults. Save the file by pressing Control-O and then Control-X to quit the pico editor. If you have TextMate installed you could alternatively edit these files with it.
Next, let’s create two user accounts for which we’ll grant write access to the repository. In the Terminal, type:
sudo pico passwd
Using the examples already present in the passwd file, add a couple new username/password combinations. For example:
user1 = password1
user2 = password2
These are obviously crummy account credentials. I trust you to come up with something a bit tougher to figure out. When you’re done, press Control-O and then Control-X to save and quit.
We’re now ready to start up our Subversion server and import some files into our project.
Step 6: Start the Subversion Server Daemon
Starting the background daemon process for Subversion built-in server is as simple as running:
Here we’re telling the daemon to run as the root user on the system, run as a daemon (background process) and use our repository (the —root here indicates the root of the repository, not the root user in Mac OS X which is simply implied by executing the command with sudo).
If you check in the Activity Monitor application on Mac OS X, you should see the svnserve process listed. If so, you’re set to go to the next step.
Step 7: Importing Files into our Project
Now let’s create a fictitious project structure which we can import into our project. On your Desktop, create a new folder called import. Inside that folder create three subdirectories named trunk, branches and tags. We’ll use this as the base for our import.
Once those folders have all been created, in the Terminal, type:
Assuming all goes well, you should see some output in the Terminal indicating that your folders were added along with a revision number. Now is where the fun starts. Now we need to test that we actually, really did commit something to Subversion.
Step 8: Sanity Check
To verify that we did in fact commit something into our repository, the best way to do a sanity check is to check it back out somewhere. So let’s do that, make a quick change and commit the change back to Subversion.
To check out your project into a working directory (often called a ‘sandbox’), do the following in the Terminal:
svn co svn://localhost/metropolis_blog ~/Desktop/my_checkout
This should checkout the contents of the project into a new folder called my_checkout on the Desktop. If it worked you should see a nice confirmation message in the Terminal and find a new folder on your Desktop named my_checkout with the previously imported folders inside. Cool, eh?
Now we want to create a new file, add it to our repository and then commit the file into the repository. You can add and remove files to your hearts content with Subversion, but until you commit the changes you don’t actually affect the repository, only your local working sandbox.
So create a new file in your favourite text editor. In this case, let’s create a file called readme.txt inside the trunk subfolder. Now back in the Terminal we’re going to add the file and then commit it to Subversion (press Return after each line).
As usual, Subversion should provide you with some feedback indicating whether your new file was added or not. If so, you’ll see a new revision number. At this point you’ve got a nice little development environment setup for source control for your projects. And now that we’ve done our sanity check, you can safely delete the import folder you started with.
If this was helpful or if you have any comments or corrections, please feel free to leave them. I do have another small piece to add to this tutorial but which will be included separately in the next day or so.
*Updated on March 4, 2007 to add details for customizing your $PATH variable in the Terminal.
Like many others in the design, web, film, music and related industries, in March I’ll be making the trek down to Austin, Texas for SXSW. This will be my first time attending (finally) and I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends, finally putting some proper faces to names, shaking hands and kissing babies.
Seriously though, I’ve heard SXSW is a good time (lots of parties), and it looks like there’s a solid speaker/panel lineup, I just hope I can deal with all the people… WWDC is around 4000 — 4500 which is a lot. SXSW I’m guessing based on hotel availability will be quite a bit more.
And for anyone interested, I’ll probably bring a few mugs and CDs with me.
The winter holidays are fast approaching and this year Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is sending out some fancy holiday cards. They look like this:
If you want one, you’ll need to act quickly as supplies are very limited. Clients and certain other individuals get first dibs, but otherwise, all you need to do is shoot an e-mail over to hohoho at this domain dot com with your postal address and our elves will take care of the rest.
A home renovations company flyer came through the mail slot the other day. In and of itself, this is not unusual. But the statement included near the end of the flyer stood out and is a good general business statement that I can’t say I’ve seen anyone really talk about, at least in terms of web design.
The quote is simply:
If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will
In the web design/programming world this is very true. Designers and programmers are a dime-a-dozen. Face it, it’s true. Whether the majority of these people are true schooled or accredited designers/programmers is another matter, but there is always someone else waiting in the wings to pick-up a new client the moment you falter.
With this in mind, take a bit of time and think about how you can serve your client better; at least say thank you — keep them happy and keep them coming back.
It’s amazing how quickly time has flown by since the last time I posted anything. I took a quick glance this morning before getting into the thick of things and noticed that it’s been nearly two weeks. That seems like a rather long time.
It’s not that I haven’t done any writing for this part of the site, it’s just all sitting in the editing bin waiting to be finished while I tackle ongoing work, new business, rehearsing and trying to find a few precious moments to spend with the incredibly patient and understanding wife first. Having your priorities in place can be a good thing you know.
In the brief moments where I’ve had a chance to breathe (and sleep), my mind still ponders all the things that haven’t had the attention they deserve and the things that haven’t even been started yet.
I did manage to cross one small item off the list today — Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is now an official Executive Producer of ‘Copy Goes Here’, a new movie being produced by those fun and smart peeps at Coudal Partners.
Film is a great thing — sure I hate being on film or having my picture taken for that matter, but getting a chance to somehow, even indirectly be involved in the making of a movie sounded like a great idea. Considering I didn’t really want to direct (or act) — being a suit seemed like a welcome alternative.