The greatest iPod case ever made. EVER.
We waste 26 million on robots no one uses.
dammit, Fiona's too big for this now. A shame.
Ted's band from Scrubs has a CD out.
I've been a longtime user of Craigslist. I got my San Francisco Apartment using it, bought a few things, and eventually I met Craig and we've talked at conferences together about what it takes to run a community. At the recent SXSW fest, a panel redesigned Craigslist. It's a definite improvement and it looks fantastic (they redesigned the listing pages as well). Other designers took a crack at a craigslist redo that was closer to the original.
The one thing I really didn't like about the SXSW Craigslist redo is that the top bar is all wrong. The dark color pushes it back for me, in a banner-blindness sort of way. I didn't notice it at all for the first minute I looked at the new site. Then I thought about how I use Craigslist, and I'm a big searcher. I either search from the front page, or I dive into the appropriate Sale/Wanted section and search there. I know the tech behind Craigslist is pretty simple and they're not much of a search/IT company, but I would love it if they surfaced search in such a way.
So I redid it. Here is the full size version. I took a screenshot of the redesign and moved stuff around in Photoshop to my liking. It's obviously a very Google-like redesign, but then that's how I use Craigslist. I could picture the Craigslist subpages carrying the search at the top just like a Google result page (just the top 100px or so), so this theme could be continued throughout the site.
I'd heard a bunch of buzz about the show Deal or No Deal on the Freakonomics blog so when I tuned into catch my first show I was slightly disappointed. I loved the 80s because there were three hours of game shows on three networks every morning (a highlight of staying home sick from school) and my favorite shows always had an element of quiz show in them. So I was surprised to find Deal or No Deal getting all this buzz and being on several nights a week when there's no skill or knowledge in the game at all -- it's purely luck. I might as well be watching lottery balls drop. I suppose that's why it's on so much and advertised heavily -- the show is not long for this world, so they have to milk it while they can.
I saw a couple contestants perform well. The goal of the show seems to be: guess on cases until you get a bank offer near $100k, then quit. But I saw one guy turn down a $91,000 offer and keep pressing on, until at the end he had almost nothing. He stayed in the luck game too long, let his greed surpass common sense and came away with almost nothing.
As I was reading danah's post about Friendster and MySpace I was reminded that Friendster was exactly like that bad contestant. Friendster had something that was hot and now and was fielding buyout offers left and right, but decided to press on. They made a few missteps along the way (danah covers them well) and now Friendster's like a lone case with $75 in it, not really worth anything to anyone.
someone Jason Kottke a few years ago posting a call to arms for developers to post screenshots of their apps, because it was hard to judge what an application looked like or how it worked from a text description alone. Thankfully, in the years that have passed, most every developer has done this and it's rare to see an application download site that doesn't prominently feature multiple screenshots of it in action.
That's all well and good, but last week I realized how screencasts or live demos are many times more useful.
The thing that is great about them is you not only see the application work in real time, but you also get to see how the application developer uses the product. I love nothing more than seeing an expert use a product I might take up, or even one I've used for years. I used to love working at a big university because I got to meet other people that used Photoshop for several years and I always picked something new up looking over their shoulders. I still recall a seminar in 1999 where an expert developer spent an hour showing exactly how he setup his IDE for coding (it was Homesite, back then) before diving into a three day tutorial on some server software. I remember immediately going home and picking up homesite, and setting up all the special keystrokes and shortcuts he taught me. I was a much faster coder after that.
Last week I watched the reBlog guys use their app in a demo and it totally changed my opinion of the application. I thought it was one thing that only did one thing (republish feeds) and it turns out it's something completely different (an amazingly efficient feed reader). I realized then that you can get so much more out of a screencast than a simple screenshot.
I wrote a tutorial on installing and using reBlog for Lifehacker today, and in it, I did a quick demo of how I use the app, by recording an area of my screen while talking into the mic. It's not a great screencast, but I hope it demonstrates the beauty of a nicely designed application much better than a few static screenshots (by the way, snapz pro x has a dumb name but it's a great piece of software for this).
Today I noticed that I quit using an email client and I probably won't be going back any time soon. I spent the past week using Gmail directly in a web browser instead of my Apple Mail client, because I've moved to a desktop iMac and I was traveling with my old laptop. Gmail doesn't honor the "read" flag on stuff you've seen online, so it would mean if I open Mail now that I'm home, I'll have about a thousand unread messages, but in my web browser, I'm all caught up. Aside from that, being forced to use browser-based Gmail, I've noticed the search is really good. I can search for the last name of someone I got an email from once and a single word they probably used and I can find that message instantly. I've kvetched about Apple Mail's terrible search before, but the online search was perfect. So I'm sticking with Gmail online from here on out.
Another data point: a few years ago, at SXSW I put on some tight jeans, realized my overstuffed wallet that I've carried for ten years wasn't going to fit, so I grabbed just the essentials: my atm card, my drivers license, and wrapped a few bills around it. When I got back home, I threw my wallet away, and to this day I still walk around with 2 or 3 cards wrapped with a bit of cash.
When I go off for a week somewhere, I am forced to change my daily routines. By the time I get back I realize whatever random change I made is actually better. I should force myself to change my routine more often (there's probably a life lesson in there somewhere).
The last time I did it, I went a bit nuts writing a ton. For some reason I was motivated to get as many big posts in as possible. This time around, I'm busy with a thousand other things but I'm spending every available moment scouring the web for interesting things to mention and I'm also working on a long how-to about a web app I'm really excited about. So check it out this week, it'll be me expending about double the effort I waste here on any given day.
I just got back from etech, exhausted a bit more than usual considering I didn't partake in any sort of debauchery. Everything is still fresh in my mind, so I better jot my thoughts down before they escape me.
My favorite talks from the event were George Dyson's, danah boyd's, and Scott Berkun's. They were fun, interesting, and filled with good ideas. There were a lot of product demos (more in a bit) but two stuck out as fun to watch and I couldn't wait to use reblog and (someday in the distant future) a multi-touch interface (which is absolutely incredible). It was fun to drive around in a hydrogen powered car. The food was better this year, and having three nights of free open bars was very generous for the sponsoring companies, though I never had more than one drink. This year's etech also had a futuristic streak -- where topics of what computing and life would be like 30 years from now was heavily discussed and while that may have no bearing on my own work I found it refreshing and stimulating. More talk of robots, more crazy art student hacks, and more discussions of future RFID universes of things, please.
It was great to see everyone and I came away with lots of good ideas for things to build into my own projects (mostly from conversations, not presentations though).
The conference was sold out, so it was crowded everywhere, which is to be expected. But it did suck to miss talks because the rooms were overfilled. Once a day I couldn't get into a talk I wanted to see and couldn't get into alternate talks either and had to sit in the hallways instead. On the last day, talks were moved to smaller rooms with almost the same number of people so it was very difficult to see all the talks you wanted to see that day. I showed up ten minutes early to the ones I got into and still barely got a seat. I don't know how to solve this problem when a conference is popular, but it would have been nice if the last day still maintained the larger rooms (that still filled up the previous two days).
Oh, as a result of the crowds, the wifi was borderline unusable. When you could get a connection and load a page, it was like a slower-than-normal dialup, frequently taking a minute to load a web page with lots of timeouts. It was a tech conference and everyone had a laptop, so I know it's a tough crowd to manage bandwidth for, but I would have been a lot happier this week if I could check email and my sites during down times. Maybe Cisco or Verizon can sponsor it next year and wow us with fiber speeds in the many multi-megabit per second range.
There were a lot of product pitches thinly disguised as talks this year. A handful were interesting. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, the Root Markets talk and even Ray Ozzie's copy/paste demo were fun to watch and showed how a product could save you time. The rest of these demos felt out of place. It was especially clear during the morning keynotes. You'd have one or two interesting talks and there would be some momentum between the audience and presenters but then... bam! a boring shill from some company demoing their latest patch that added ajax to a product I didn't care about before and won't care about in the future. A boring product demo or two combined with a slow internet connection meant an otherwise fine morning of talks was often soured by the 20 minute infomercial I couldn't escape from. Don't get me wrong, some demos are cool but so many of them this year fell flat on their face -- were the presenters oblivious to the audience? It sure seemed like a few companies had no grasp on what the conference was about when they gave their talks. I'd say the Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe/Macromedia demos felt the most off-kilter with the audience.
Sponsorship of conferences and product launches/demos aren't going away and aren't categorically bad things, so I hope future etechs can strike a balance between companies wanting to get the word out and audience expectation of compelling talks and information. It'd be great if all the demos could be put into a big morning slot where everyone gets ten minutes to show their latest product. It'd be a great incentive for startups to launch big new ideas at etech and I bet the demos would feel less like an infomercial and more like something I'd be excited to attend and see for the first time.
The theme of the conference was about attention economy -- how to conserve what time we have and maximize our output amidst the information avalanche that hits our desktops daily. I wasn't convinced talks and demos were working towards that. Everyone seemed to mention the word "attention" and tweak their introductions to fit the theme, but I saw very few mentions of practical advice, approaches, or tools to help me get through the glut of email, rss, and the web. I wasn't expecting a GTD seminar or anything, but it would have been nice if presenters dropped tips or let the audience look over their shoulder as they worked, metaphorically speaking.
Overall, I had a good time, ate some good food, talked to and met a lot of great people. It was a fun trip but not a perfect conference (etech has been the perfect conference in the past).
I like Malcolm Gladwell. A lot. But I had no idea he felt the same way I do about Vegas. From the ESPN interview:
Simmons: Second question: Can you explain in one paragraph why you're against Vegas?
Gladwell: Where to start? You get there. You can't get a cab. Last time I waited 30 minutes in line at the airport. You get to your hotel, you wait another 45 minutes to check in. It's 120 degrees outside, and inside it's 45 degrees and all you can think about is there's about to be a epidemic of Legionnaires Disease. The food is terrible. Everyone loses money -- everyone. The amount of plastic surgery is terrifying. There are large packs of enormous, glassy-eyed people in stretch pants, pulling the levers on slot machines. (By the way, greatest and most under-appreciated gambling story ever: William Bennett, he of one best seller after another lecturing Americans on moral values and virtue and the bankruptcy of our culture, turns out not only to be a degenerate gambler, but a gambler who only played the slots. The slots! Had he been a great poker player -- even a decent poker player -- I'm in his corner. But the slots?) I digress. Back to Vegas: Why would I want to see Celine Dion, ever (and I'm Canadian)? Or white mutant tigers? Or the Village People? Or Tony Orlando and Dawn? I have more fun walking to the laundromat from my apartment in New York than I do in Vegas.
Of course, you don't get the sweet remote control the Sonos has, but there are hacks for that too. I always thought the Sonos was a cool product (that was ridiculously expensive), but figured it would be a matter of time before Apple could match it, and it looks like that has happened.
(update: d'oh, I forgot the hifi speaker does come with the apple IR remote. Sweet!)