Yearly Archives: 2013


It’s almost Christmas!

Favorite Apps
Google Now
I’m most delighted by Moves and Now — they’re passive and collect / present relevant information. I don’t have to push any buttons…a UX miracle.

Google Keep
Google Keep syncs my lists between computer and phone. I think of it for throwaway notes and info: grocery lists, daily to-do, thoughts, etc.

I’m currently on the search for a tagging / file system for links, text and pics. First it was delicious, then I migrated to gimmebar … which I like, but doesn’t always work like it should. I just don’t know. People swear by Evernote, it seems bloated and I don’t have the patience to figure it out. I just do not know.

Best Mobile Game
Badland $3.99
I was looking for something “atmospheric” and kind of weird. This was it, and I played the whole game. When I’d play for an hour before sleeping, I’d feel dizzy when I closed my eyes.

The game thing got started when I installed Candy Crush after seeing so many ppl playing it on the subway. I uninstalled because I couldn’t stop playing it. It was so dumb and frustrating.

After seeing kids dressed up in pixelated costumes at halloween, and overhearing more than a few kids (and geeky adults) talk about Minecraft, I checked out a documentary about it. The movie is about building a business, and kind of about the background of the game. They make a lot of money. Seems like they’ve merged SaaS and gaming? I installed the game and it made my computer run hot. Which worried me — is the game more powerful than all the fancy graphic software I run?

I’m not into gaming any more.

Based on a recc from Bob Odenkirk I watched The Royle Family. I suspect it’s an acquired taste. Tasted good to me.

We’re watching The Wire again! It’s my third time, and Esha’s first.


We gave out $60 worth of candy in two hours. One piece at a time.

“Say trick or treat” … “say thank you.” — said practically every parent that shuffled their kids to our doorstep. Parents: brief your kids before they go out. It makes no sense to go through this process over and over.

The costumes were lame, tossed-on, store-bought things. Most common were Disney princess (Ariel?) and some grey and red superhero. Very few kids w/ face paint. I didn’t see even one paper bag head. A lot of the parents had excellent costumes though.

I was more annoyed at parents collecting candy on behalf of infants than I was at uncostumed teens with shopping bags.

    Parent presents me w/ open bag, “trick or treat”
    Me: “Who’s that for?”
    Bag holder: “The baby.”
    Me: Looks at sleeping baby in stroller, “The baby has to ask for it.”

A funny thing (that I probably did as a kid) was the candy analysis while walking away. “Yes, Nerds!” or “sort of look at the generic lollipop and dump it back in the sack w/o comment.” A neighbor appeared to be giving out bags of Doritos.

Favorite Jokes:

  • Asking a dog if it was dressed up as a dog.
  • Calling kids a similar costume Hey Tiger (giraffe), Hey Spiderman (Superman), Hey Chewbacca (werewolf)…
  • Giving the Angry Bird kids Swedish Fish. Nerds for the geeky kids.

No Reward

I spent a few days helping Jenn get her Kickstarter campaign ready to launch. I pitched in with project management and light tasks —

  • Setting daily goals
  • Logistics for the launch party
  • Copywriting and building the page
  • Outreach strategies
  • Tracking tools
  • Writing targeted boilerplate emails

The campaign features lotsa rewards and styling on the page — we were very weary of losing our data. Occasionally I saved a PDF as a backup. Below is my wireframe sketch of what the backend / page builder could look like. I am sure much of this is already in the pipeline.


Week one has been a success. Early backers had backed other projects, so getting people to create an account is the first barrier. About half came on board for the campaign. I’m curious to learn more about the how and why people decide to give. I am also surprised / bummed out at the # of close friends who haven’t pledged. I’ve been reading up on links from the search “kickstarter psychology” and haven’t yet cracked the code. This Freakonomics podcast offers some good insight:

…what you tend to find is that people are more driven out of pure self-interest. And what I mean by that is that people give because it gives them a warm feeling …  if you want to induce people to give more money, you should really now be appealing to “hey here’s what this can do for you,” or “if you don’t give today this will actually be taken away and you will no longer be able to use it,” rather than appeal to, say “you know what, you can help this poor person over there.” I think fundraisers for years have gotten it wrong, that they need to appeal more to the actual donor rather than the recipient of those dollars.

SOMA (I backed them!) did a good post-mortem and shared a lot of their resources.

The problem I wished I’d been able to sort out earlier was estimating the cost of producing the rewards. My “pledge policy” is to choose a non-material reward or no reward. I would rather my money go towards the project than producing chotchkies. I started mocking up a rewards calculator, then found this one.

Weekend at Yogi’s

Last weekend the gang rented a big house upstate for a sort of FEAST reunion / send-off. The spot was a friend of a friend’s yoga retreat home we dubbed the hippie house.

I liked the spirit of the place — not fussy, cobbled together, shelves and storage and built out of what’s laying around. Someone said there’s lots of photo ops and that got me looking at all the weirdo stuff as “props” … a funny way to look at the things in your house.

We had a good time, laughed, ate, drank, bonfired, speculated on country life and so on.

Manage the World

Just home from Massive Attack V. Adam Curtis at the Park Ave Armory.

Impressive setup. I am weary of standing-in-one-place-for-too-long rock shows … but a film / rock show. I love it! Screens lined the room and the band was occasionally illuminated behind three screens in the front. You could look wherever you wanted and see the same images. Most people still faced forward (and one particular fellow near me took lots of photos for some reason. After the film was over his first comment was about the licensing of the music. I think he “lost the plot” as the British would say).

Tonight’s Themes:

    In lieu of dreaming of the future, we’re presented with a two-dimensional representations of reality.

    Feedback loop — we imagine the fears and fear the imaginary.

    Politicians, leaders, countries no longer want to change the world, the want to manage it, keep it balanced, and predict the future through algorithms analyzing data.

Quite a bit to absorb, including the usual sense of “ok, now what am I supposed to do?” when I watch a powerful film that raises a lot of questions.

Adam Curtis’s films are great. Century of the Self, Power of Nightmares, and All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace are posted on the various internets (some have 3 parts).

Hey Chief

Tonight I went to a design event called Designer’s Debate Club. The topic was: should designers lead companies, or do designers make good CEOs?

—image via DDC

Everyone wants to be a CEO now that people wearing hoodies and jeans have become billionaires. Remember when people wanted to be design ninjas and pirates and shit like that? While that was kinda silly, at least it’s not trying to emulate corporate structure. Thoughtful leadership is necessary, however the CEO title (and even Designer) are too loaded with preconceived notions. I’d rather be on a team focused on meaningful work versus worrying about who has a say and who doesn’t.

Besides, I remember someone once telling me that “chief” is Boston-speak for “asshole.”

No Need to Respond

The web’s worst neighborhood is the comment section. It fuels a belief that you’re involved in someone else’s efforts, that you have some valuable expertise — with in an inverse ratio of knowledge to input. Tolerated because the web is supposed to be a social experience measured on clicks and comments.

With every project ventured, artwork created, idea attempted, year grown older — I’ve become less critical of makers. Initiating takes effort. Knee-jerk reactions require none. My perspective has shifted from “I could do that better (if I tried)” to “I have no idea how hard this must have been.”

The ‘The Unconsulted’ segment of Paul Ford’s The Web Is a Customer Service Medium essay comes to mind with every new project with a social component:

If you tap into the human need to be consulted you can get some interesting reactions. Here are a few: Wikipedia, Stack Overflow, Hunch, Reddit, MetaFilter, YouTube, Twitter, StumbleUpon, About, Quora, Ebay, Yelp, Flickr, IMDB,, Craigslist, GitHub, SourceForge, every messageboard or site with comments, 4Chan, Encyclopedia Dramatica. Plus the entire Open Source movement. If you spend more time on sites like those listed here than you do reading books, watching TV, or visiting sites like or, then, like me, the web is now your native medium.

Then there’s YouTube. It was created so that anyone could upload and distribute videos. So that’s one level of Why Wasn’t I Consulted? — to hell with TV, people should look at me! The site has comments, so people can discuss the videos — a second level of WWIC. But there are now also thumbs-up/thumbs-down icons so that you can rank the comments and the video, a third level of WWIC.

Once you see that third level, a website is complete. You’re down to the bedrock. A boolean or integer value is the digital equivalent of a grunt. You can’t get any more basic than a like, or a thumbs-up, or a favorite.

(I recommend listening to the audio version at the beginning of this very good episode.)

When we share, what do we expect? Ford says we’ve boiled it down to grunts — likes, +1s, stars, favs, thumb up, RTs, etc. Does the grunt have any real value? Does the grunt deserve our attention? How many grunts is enough grunts? Harumph!

I wonder about the best possible outcome of someone’s gut-reaction commentary?

    “I hate you.”

    “Ok, I will change.”

Do people want failure?

—Amazing. Via I Am An Object Of Internet Ridicule, Ask Me Anything comment section.

My point: Be aware of the impulse to spend your time consuming, consulting and editing the work of others. It eats entire days, so much so that you never make your own marks. I catch myself at it too often.

“Everybody loves to think of the title, not a lot of people are willing to write the book.”
—Via a Humans of New York caption

Peeking Under the Hood

Last week I went to visit Shawn, Danny, and Matthew at Harvest.

Harvest is a web-based time tracking and invoicing application relied on by creative businesses in over 100 countries. Shawn interviewed Sam and I back in 2007 for their former studio’s blog.

I was genuinely excited to visit the office (and confused when others didn’t share my enthusiasm … looking back, time-tracking might not seem like the sexiest thing in the world). What is impressive is that they’ve built a thriving business that actually solves a problem — and they charge money for it! I follow startup news, and I do not understand the buzz around those that have no explicit purpose and get crazy evaluations. The office was beautiful and quiet — I love a quiet office. We talked for 1.5 hours (…I wonder if they tracked it?) about their work culture and the tech industry. Many similar topics came up during my visit to 37signals. Very thoughtful, progressive, and free of typical office structure bullshit. Most importantly they value a design process as the foundation of their work.

I showed them some of my work and they asked me why I wanted to transition to digital. I need to work on my answer, I haven’t fully formed my thoughts around that … more on that soon.

Original Artworks

I set up an etsy shop the other day. Several motivations led to this:

  • Very satisfied after buying a drawing off instagram.
  • To make some money. (Goal is $1000.)
  • To take the idea of selling my art more seriously.

I picked my best drawings from the last several years and priced them accordingly. My criteria were time and quality. I’ve been monitoring the stats. Etsy has their own engine, and I assigned different bitly links to my social media pushes.

A facebook post got 105 clicks. Then I ‘promoted’ it for $7, and it has gotten 2 more clicks since then. I hit the ceiling on views w/o promoting.

A twitter post got 1 click. I’m done with twitter. Took it off my home screen and bookmarks.

An instagram post got 1 click. There’s not an easy way to click links in instagram, it’d be a tough conversion to make a sale on mobile for a drawing.

A post I made in the comments of a popular blog got 9 clicks. I need to find other appropriate places to get listed. esty is so crowded.

So far I’ve sold 5 of the lowest-priced drawings to my friends. My next goal is to sell to a stranger. Getting people to spend a little money is hard! It’s funny how we don’t blink an eye at dropping $40 on pizza and beer, then wrestle over buying something lasting like art or a book.