Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Jan 30, 2008 10:32am

immaculate heart college art department rules

This (by Sister Corita Kent) was worth retyping:

  1. Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.
  2. General duties of a student: pull everything out of your teacher, pull everything out of your fellow students.
  3. General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students.
  4. Consider everything an experiment.
  5. Be self-disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
  6. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.
  7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.
  8. Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes.
  9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
  10. “We’re breaking all of the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” - John Cage.

Helpful hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything always. Go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully often. Save everything, it might come in handy later.

There should be new rules next week.

Jan 28, 2008 11:10pm

what vs. how

An AIGA post from last summer (The Amazing Visual Language of Processing) has got me thinking about the tension in the relationship between design and technology, especially in a firm like Stamen.

One of the ways in which we describe our work to ourselves is a balance between Divergence and Convergence, words that my dad explained to me a while back in a design context. Divergence means sketching, exploring, playing, choosing the right metaphors to use. Convergence means you have a goal in sight, and you're problem-solving to attain it within known constraints. We shift from one mode to another over the course of a client engagement, and we're starting to get better at self-awareness in this process. There's a perpendicular division/dialogue as well, between what and how, and I think it operates above the project level, maybe even above the company and industry level in some cases.

Our What is the content you see in a Hindsight or Swarm, the visual presentation of an information source like home construction or popular news stories. This is the obvious bread and butter of what we do, and generates a lot of phone calls, e.g: "we saw Digg Labs, and we have this new website idea that we can't talk about, but we'd like a Labs of our own, please, for when we launch." I think a lot of traditional design (for an ever-changing definition of "traditional") happens here: if you already know how to do CMYK or HTML, you can focus on the communication, the content, and finally the finesse.

Our How is the way we get things done, and is the sum total of all the data, web, presentation, shaping, protocol, publishing, processing, algorithmic, and other domain knowledge we've built up over the years. I think about this a lot. In addition to being a partner/owner, my official role is Director of Technology. This means that much of my time is spent with a machete in the jungle of new stuff that might be interesting to us at some point in the future: new technology, new sources of interesting data, and new ways of cramming it all through the thin straw of the web for viewing in a browser.

The thing that keeps me going is that all this How work is really fascinating. A lot of it happens in the early phases of a project, and not all of it sees the light of day, but I like to think that one of our competitive advantages as a company is having a deep well of technique to draw from, and the ability to keep a dialogue going between the two poles. The reason I say above that this dialogue frequently seems to span companies is because in many cases, it is obstructed by force of habit. If you already know how to do something, there's no need to learn to do it another way. Dialogue keeps novelty flowing up and back to the visible work, and inspiration and movement down and towards the coalface where all the dicking around happens. Groups that lack this line of communication seem to either get stuck in techno-noodling/experimentation on one hand or cul-de-sacs of process fervor on the other.

Some of the most interesting people I know are adept at shuttling back and forth along the line between the two poles. Matt Biddulph seems to spend 75% of his time running Dopplr, and the other 75% of his time exploring hardware, Erlang, Second Life, and Jabber. My friend Bryan is a builder and carpenter, and talking to him about his new house show a similarly expansive scope: I'm fascinated by the idea of pointing to doors and windows and being able to assert that they should be moved this way or that, holes for new doors punched in existing walls, and entire new spaces carved out of basements and foundations. Eric Sink had a great way of explaining this constant peering-into-things in a 2003 blog post where he talks about constant learning ("Don't work for a manager who is actively hindering your practice of constant learning. Just don't do it."). I also enjoyed Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma and its examples drawn from the disk drive industry (the mayflies of computing) for an extended explanation of the ways in which an existing What can block the view to a new How, to the point that entire companies and even industries are plowed under. For whatever reason, technology (as much a moving target as "traditional") freaks people out, e.g. Miko's extensive comments on the GiveWell fiasco from last month: "Though the 'elders' were universally extremely bright and accomplished people, I was struck by what I can only call a sort of fundamental insecurity.... As soon as technology is mentioned, many of them seem to forget what they already know, and fail to ask the basic questions they have been asking all their lives."

Back to the convergence/divergence thing, I think the what/how conversation spins on a different axis, more slowly than individual projects. Just as an example, the granularity of Stamen's mapping work exploded this past year when we started the Modest Maps project and introduced a city-scale level of detail to our work and served as the backdrop to a series of efforts at representing time. The previous year, our work with Digg (designing their API, the Labs work) led to a multi-client exploration of liveness. This year, we've identified responsiveness as a seam to mine, looking at ways in which new and old projects might incorporate user feedback to change the underlying systems.

Jan 23, 2008 6:16pm

everyblock launches

Adrian's baby EveryBlock launched today, offering locative neighborhood information for San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. They include things like alcohol permits, restaurant inspection reports, craigslist missed connections, filming permits, police and fire activity. No SF crime yet, but that's something we may be able to help with.

I love a site that has the gumption to roll their own maps:

A challenge for EveryBlock: make a write API for other towns.

Jan 19, 2008 4:57am

on the design of future things

Chris makes some excellent comments on Don Norman's new book, The Design of Future Things.

On smugness:

I'd posit that these smug systems may have resulted from use cases, and traditional user-centred design. We've been taught to design systems for a purpose - preferably one purpose - collected through use cases and designed against them. Use case collection never really includes crazy ideas or tries to foretell unexpected and unplanned uses. Good design, in my mind, is designing enablers or tools that include the use cases given, but have breathing room, rather than designing strictly to the use cases. It could be said that this reduces usability, and it often does, but with the flipside of user value.

On digital marks of wear and tear:

Argh. No. This isn't digital art. And again, it's unnatural given the situation. If we have wear marks, we should really use the metaphor of real paper, and real books. The natural marks of electronic text are the links to, the referrers, the views, the links out: the hypertext, the associations, and the metadata. These can be visualised to provide implicit signals.

On IDEO and design science:

Any attempt at providing the "science bit" only works if you have great designers who know when to break the rules (this is the sleight-of-hand that IDEO play - provide a seemingly rigourous process to pacify management, then use designers who don't need to follow the process to produce good results).

Jan 12, 2008 12:41pm

blog all dog-eared pages: the unfolding of language

Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding Of Language was just returned to me after an extended loan, where it was apparently passed on to half a dozen more people or so.

Unfolding is a pop-linguistics book that describes the forces that shape language evolution, illustrates them with copious examples, and finishes up with a lengthy narrative showing how modern language (not necessarily English) might evolve from simple conceptual building blocks. Much of the content would be familiar to anyone in an introductory university linguistics class or one of George Lakoff's frumpy lectures on conceptual metaphor. The book is written in a chatty, at times grating tone, but it neatly presents a picture of linguistic evolution as a whole.

Deutscher shows how changes in language might be viewed from within as a form of decay or destruction, while the deeper currents of creative evolution and expansion remain hidden from view. He recounts familiar worries about degenerate forms like "gonna" or "hella", showing the phonetic drifts that erode longer forms into shorter, more economic ones. At the same time, he describes the expressive changes that get you a verb phrase like "going to go" in the first place, explaining how the mundane conversational furniture of linking verbs and tense markers all around us evolved from concrete analogies to physical space and time.

The examples are classic comparative linguistics. Words and phrases from early written history are compared to modern usage, and metaphors from across languages are showed to have a common conceptual origin. I've chosen a few of the more forceful paragraphs here, but the book is a goldmine of familiar examples and their counterintuitive origins.

Pages 61-62, on how language evolves:

The point is that no one in particular created this footpath, and no one in particular even intended to. The path did not emerge from some project of landscape design, but from the accumulated spontaneous actions of the short-cutters, who were each following their own selfish motives in taking the easiest and quickest route.
Changes in language come about in a rather similar fashion, thghout the accumulation of unintended actionse. These actions must stem from entirely selfish motives, bot from any conscious design to transform language. But what could these motives be? This is a rather more involved question, and doing justice to it will occupy us in the next few chapters. But in essence, the motives for changes can be encapsulated in the triad economy, expressiveness, and analogy.
Economy refers to the tendency to save effort, and is behind the shortcuts speakers often take in pronunciation. ... Expressiveness relates to speakers' attempts to achieve greater effect for their utterances and extend their range of meaning.

Page 62, on analogy which wants its own section:

The third motive for change, analogy, is shorthand for the mind's craving for order, the instinctive need of speakers to find regularity in language. The effects of analogy are most conspicuous in the errors of young children, such as "I goed" or "two foots", which are simply attempts to introduce regularity into areas of the language that happen to be quite disorganized. Many such "errors" are corrected as children grow up, but some innovations do catch on. In the past, for example, there were many more irregular plural nouns in English: on boc (book), many bec; one hand, two hend; one eye, two eyn; one cow, many kine. But gradually, "errors" like "hands" crept in by analogy on the regular -s plural pattern. So bec was replaced by the "incorrect" bokes (books) during the thirteenth century, eyn was replaces by eyes in the fourteenth century, kine by cows in the sixteenth.

Pages 76-77, on decay:

Taking it from the authorities, then, it seems a miracle that language did not degenerate into the grunts of apes long ago. ... There must be some very strong reasons why so many intelligent people should believe something that is so patently irrational: that language is always changing for the worse, and that it is even teetering on the brink of collapse. But what is it exactly that dazzles these scholars and makes them see only decay? Of course, one could write it all off as merely the consequence of some deep-rooted conservatism, a general harking back to bygone better days. "The longer, the worse", as Archbishop Wulfstan so pithily put it - just as people were more polite in one's youth, the weather was nicer, and the apples tasted better, so was language more refined and less abused.
But it would be rather unfair to blame it all on irrational nostalgia, since there is a much more serious reason why so many people think that language is constantly decaying. The reason is quite simply that decay is indeed a pervasive type of change in language, and what is more, it is the aspect of change that is by far the most easily observable to the naked eye. The forces of destruction almost seem to leap out of the pages of practically any language's history, but the contrary processes, the productive forces of renewal and creation, are much more difficult to spot - so difficult, in fact, that it is only in the last few decades that linguists have fully grasped their significance and have made real headway in understanding them.

Pages 112-113, on historical illusions:

The first of these two problems, the alleged perfection of prehistoric languages, was much easier to tackle, since on closer inspection the Golden Age of perfection turned out to be an optical illusion caused by one small but critical oversight. Recall that the idea of a past age of perfection stemmed from simple but apparently compelling logic: the attested languages are riddled with irregularities (such as flos-floris), but when such irregularities are pursued into the past, they can usually be traced or at least reconstructed to a more regular pattern from which they sprang (flos-flosis). The clear implication, then, is that the further back in time one goes, the more regular languages should become. Unassailable logic, surely? Well, there is one snag in this line of reasoning, and to identify it, let's consider another simple example, this time from English. Take a look at the final consonant in the following two forms of the verb "choose": I chose-they chose. But what is there to note here? Both forms have exactly the same consonant, and so there is no irregularity to be accounted for.
And that's precisely the point. One would never feel the need to justify the sound here, or look for any explanation for it, let alone dream up an irregularity behind this well-behaved pair. But as it happens, there are records from earlier stage of English which reveal that in the past "choose" was not quite the pillar of uprightness it is today. In fact, "choose" has quite a doubtful history, since the corresponding two forms in Old English were ceas ("I chose") but curon ("they chose"). It turns out the English "choose" was rather riotous in its youth, and only acquired a mantle of respectability in later stage of English, when the irregularity in ceas-curon was ironed out. But we only know about this juvenile delinquency because we happen to have records from the right period. If the written history of English happened to start at 1200, rather than around 800, there would never be any reason to suspect that "choose" had such a chequered history.

Page 127, on metaphor and its origins in the physical world:

At first, the ubiquity of metaphors even in the plainest of speech may seem perplexing, and their persistent one-way course even more so. Why is it that when one scratches a bit, most abstract words tend to have concrete origins? Why should the surge of metaphors always flow from concrete to abstract, and so rarely in the other direction? Why do we say about legislation that it is "tough", but not about a steak that it is "severe"?
The answer to these questions is quite straightforward. Imagine for a moment that the metaphor "tough" was not at our disposal, and that some alternatives for describing "tough legislation" had to be found. Except "severe", what options are there? We could say that the legislation was "inflexible", "strict", "repressive", "oppressive", "firm", "stern", "stringent", "unyielding", "unbending", "harsh", and so on. But there's the rub - none of these alternatives would help dodge a metaphor, since, just like "tough", all these tough-talking terms originally derive from the physical world. They all set out in life in the domain of materials. Some, like "unbending", "firm", "unyielding" or "inflexible", still betray traces of their old selves - thing of "flexing your muscles", for instance. But even the other options, those that are no longer recognizable, are skeletons of what once were full-blooded metaphors in the world of materials. "Oppressive", for instance, comes from "press against" (opprimere in Latin); "stringent" is derived from "bind tight" (stringere), while "harsh" (from Middle English harsk) originally meant "hard and rough to the touch".

Page 132, more on physical origins:

The images here are simple: what one holds or carries or seizes is used to convey what one "has". And in fact, English does the same thing with the verb "get" in sentences like "the man's got a car", which means the same as "the man has a car". So like Waata and Nama, English takes a verb of taking, and uses it as a metaphor for possession: "what one has got, one has". And if you are still unpersuaded, and are inclined to discount the expression "he's got" as just a sloppy substitute for the more respectable "have", then you might like to know that the origin of "have" itself is as grasping as the rest. "Have" ultimately derives from a Proto-Indo-European root *kap, which meant "seize". The original sense of *kap survives in the Latin root cap "seize", which found its way into English in the borrowed words "capture" (as well as in "captive", "caption", "capable", "recipe", "occupy", and even "catch"). The reason why the English homegrown "have" looks so different from its forebear *kap is simply Grimm's law, the series of sound changes in Germanic mentioned in the previous chapter, in which k was weakened to h, and p to f, thus turning *kap into *haf. So while "capture" and "have" look rather un-identical, they are in fact a pair of separated twins, deriving from the same source, *kap "seize".

Pages 154-155, on the forces of creation as rendered in a hypothetical conference dialogue and the word "gonna":

DE TROY: But seriously, there's nothing especially mysterious about this "particular combination" of metaphor and erosion. What happens to the "going" verbs in all these languages is the result of two common motives that are always behind the scenes: the desire to enhance our expressive range on the one hand, and laziness on the other. The flow towards abstraction is a consequence of this expressive urge: even if a language already has a future marker, speakers will always seek fresher ways of emphasizing that something is really going to happen. For example, they may want to stress that something will happen very soon indeed. Just think of the promise "I'm going to do it right away" - doesn't it sound much more promising than a mere "I'll do it"?
CHAIRMAN: But how does the erosion of language know when to start?
DE TROY: It doesn't. It carries on regardless, and keeps trying to hack away at everything all the time. But some constructions are more susceptible to it, while others are more resistant. So what happened to "going to" was really just a consequence of its hackneyed use in its new domain. As long as "going to" retained its independent meaning, it had a much stronger resistance and this is why no one says "I'm gonna bed". But once "going to" lost its independent content, it became much more exposed, because it was now used more often, in more predictable circumstances, and with far less stress. So naturally the temptation to take shortcuts in pronunciation grew, and the risk of misunderstanding decreased. In such conditions, the phrase was more prone to erosion than ever before, and so it's not surprising that the bleached future sense was shortened to "gonna".

Page 213, the introduction to an extended example showing how language can evolve from a defined starting point:

Now it is all very well to say that the starting point should already have some words to go on - but which? I suggest that just three groups are sufficient as the raw materials: words for physical things (such as body parts, animals, objects, kinship terms like "father"), words for simple actions (like "throw", "run", "eat", "fall"), and a third group small group consisting of the pointing words "this" and "that". We do not need to include at the starting point words for any abstract concepts, now do we require any grammatical words and elements (prepositions, conjunctions, articles, endings, prefixes, and the like). All these can subsequently develop from the raw materials in the three groups above.
Another point about this initial setup which one might want to take issue is the division of words into things and actions. Why should such a distinction be built into the system at the starting point? Shouldn't our evolutionary scenario actually account for it in some way? But it would be unreasonable to require our scenario to explain the emergence of the distinction between things and actions, since the conceptual basis for this distinction runs much deeper than language, and must have crystallized long before language was around.

Jan 7, 2008 1:05am

napkin vs. towel

This is the post where I say pessimistic things about sustainability and sustainable design, Bruce Mau be damned.

Design blogs (incl. Inhabitat, Yanko Design, and Core77, among others) frequently feature student projects where sustainability has clearly been considered in the design process. These seem to fall into two rough camps. On one side, there are projects like the Napkin PC by Avery Holleman, a note-taking computer in a square, flat form that you can write on. On the other, there's NIIMI's Towel With Further Options, a towel.

Both of these designs are lovely, but the Napkin PC wears its environmental claims like a fig leaf: it "replaces" printers, and the layers of material (plastic, circuits) can be pulled apart for separate recycling. This is sustainability as an expectation of future dividends, active only at the end of the product's life cycle in a specific set of circumstances. Don't forget to peel the layers apart, and send each to its proper recycling destination!

The towel has a complete lifecycle embedded in its construction:

Towels take every day dirt and gradually become damaged. In accordance with such changes, you can downsize the towel with "further options" from a bath towel to a bath mat, and then to a floor cloth and dust cloth. The towel has a vertical and horizontal textured surface that does not produce pile-fabric waste when cut with scissors.

It's hard to exaggerate how happy this makes me. It's a beautiful answer to the variety of wiping cloths we use day-to-day, and the place each occupies on a "dirt gradient" from snowy white bath towels to the pile of old rags under the kitchen sink. No more difficult to manufacture than a regular towel, modifiable with just a pair of scissors, and addresses a mundane, universal situation.

The Napkin PC, on the other hand, is an expression of the technoutopian approach to sustainability, an attitude I see in many areas beyond design. I'm ignoring the questionable choice of a form factor that aims to replace ubiquitous, cheap napkins and post-its in favor of a mini table PC. 15 years ago, Saturday Night Live considered an equivalent idea funny enough for a commercial spoof, the Macintosh Post-it, but now it's seeing serious consideration.

The hallmarks of technoutopianism are faith in technological advances and the assumption that it's possible to black-box environmental considerations. Sustainability becomes a product feature that the designer put there, instead of a heightened awareness of everyday actions and their environmental consequences. There's a mismatch here between a need for conscious practice and a desire to make it disappear behind a curtain of curbside recycling, carbon offsets, and hybrid cars. An example of this tension lives in the difference between "green" building and "natural" building. My girlfriend Gem explains that the difference lies in the "green" focus on consuming new products that save resources in some way (e.g. efficient appliances, high-tech windows) vs. the "natural" focus on modifying plans to fit available resources (e.g. re-use of old materials, responding to local conditions). Both are good, I suppose, but "green" is less-good: you get situations like the City of Berkeley stipulating that new building permits require energy efficient appliances, nevermind the upfront environmental cost of ditching a washer that works in favor of buying a replacement.

I'm interested in sustainable solutions that refuse to black-box the problems they seek to address. NIIMI's towel has a patterned grid whose presence is a constant reminder of its purpose. Carbon offsets leave no such imprint on your awareness: your plane flies just as quickly and burns just as much fuel as it did before you paid for the indulgence, and it's unclear where your money went: did you pay for someone else to take a train or stay home? Check out CheatNeutral for a hilarious send-up of the offset-trading concept. Bruno Latour highlighted the weakness of the black box in Science In Action: it "moves in space and becomes durable in time only through the actions of many people; if there is no one to take it up, it stops and falls apart however many people may have taken it up for however long before." Resource and energy use is one concern that gets harder to lock up the more it's ignored, and at some point the daily consequences will make themselves felt. I don't expect it to be tragic, Jared Diamond notwithstanding: people once crossed oceans in sailing ships, and the internet is making it increasingly easier to not have to travel around so damn much.

I do believe that there's going to be a shrinking of our horizons that will need to occur over the next century in the form of increasingly expensive energy and all its implications for agriculture, travel, and the choices reified in our environmental infrastructure. The current sub-prime mortgage fiasco is an early warning shot, and I'm burning with curiosity to see how it plays out. Will the suburbs around places like Sacramento, CA or Phoenix, AZ shrink back to reflect changing realities, or will they simply be abandoned and left to decay? If they are dismantled, can the land they currently occupy be returned to food production, or is it effectively dead from prolonged concrete encasement? How long does it take for a formerly built-up area to return to a state of productive nature?

These are the kinds of ghoulish, unpleasant questions that I would be interested in seeing addressed more effectively. I'm unimpressed by a big-D Design community with a tabula rasa mindset that solves problems by replacement rather than repurposement. Like the NIIMI towel, there are ways for designers to make conscious re-use desirable and interesting in our day-to-day lives, in favor of the silly, useless, or misguided.

Jan 3, 2008 1:02pm

happy 2008

Well, a Happy New Year to you!

I'm sitting here looking back on a full year of blog posts (warning, big) trying to make sense of 2007. Here's what I've been up to, in chronological order and ultracondensed form:

Oakland Crime

I hurt my back at the end of 2006, and by winter I found myself in full-on convalescent mode. It was bad: I slept on the hard floor for almost two months, could barely walk, etc. etc. To take my mind off the pain and give myself something to do, I started poking at the City of Oakland's CrimeWatch website, a classically-user-hostile government "service" displaying up-to-date, mapped crime reports. I found I was able to dissect the site, extracting details of individual crime reports for use in an improved map services. In August, we took the initial collecting and organizing work I had done in my spare time, and turned it into an actual Stamen research project called Oakland Crimespotting. Our site had a number of interface improvements to the original, and I think we raised some eyebrows in City Hall, because it took barely a week or two for them to start blocking our data collection. We got a lot of mumbly excuses about imposing too much of a load on their server (despite having just spent 8+ months happily collecting away, unnoticed), and after a month or two of wildgoosechasen, we were forced to shutter the site.

More on this below.


My one prediction for the year was that "design" and "math" were going to move a lot closer this year, and I feel confident saying that it's been borne out. We hosted a weekly Math Club at Stamen with friends from O'Reilly in the winter and spring, I threw myself on the rocky shores of recommendation engineering for a few weeks, and we've started to see a lot of algorithmic, procedural branding and design work from folks like Moving Brands.


In February and again in March, I posted twice about OpenID and why I'm not a fan. It's been a year, there's been a bunch of noise, and I'm still not seeing this silly standard get any traction beyond its inner geek circles. I have, however, been a close observer of the OAuth standard development process, and I think this second thing stands a much better chance of seeing some real-world adoption due to its inherent nerd-focus.

Standing Up

My good friend Bryan made me a beautiful desk, at which I work standing up 100% of the time. At first, this was a back-pain thing, but has since become a habit at home and at the office. It just feels better, and I have no intention of retiring it.


My other good friend Boris invited me to visit Tokyo for a week, which I did with great pleasure. We ate well, touristed around a lot, and ultimately made good on the excuse for my trip, new sidebar maps for Global Voices Online. These were produced with an early draft of...

Modest Maps

So much of Stamen's work focuses on geographical maps, and the only official Flash-based component out there is Yahoo's miserable Flash API. As part of the Oakland Crime effort, I started the Modest Maps project with my good friend Darren. Since March, we've used Modest Maps in a number of projects such as Trulia Hindsight, and we're on our way to a final 1.0 release of the mapping library Real Soon Now.


Digg is one of Stamen's banner clients, and as part of our Labs work in 2006, we designed a RESTful web API with them. This chugged along in an unofficial form for a while, then finally saw a public, official release in April. I'm still proud of the result and I'm happy to have worked on it.

I was also part of the process that resulted in Digg Arc, and posted a collection of in-progress screenshots here and more on Stamen's blog.

Blog All Dog-Eared Pages

Also in April, I posted a few excerpts from Marc Levinson's The Box, which transmogrified over time into a longer series of posts featuring my non-fiction reading. The format has been lightly picked up by Chris, Ryan, and adapted by Adam for what I hope represents a new twist on public reading.


In June, our rabbit, Bean, died due to something called "bloat".


I wrote a fan letter to the London 2012 logo, the controversial branding of the forthcoming Olympic games. I continue to stand by my opinion, and I was especially happy to re-find the brand video after it was pulled from YouTube. Sadly, the Saved By The Rave Olympic Remix is gone for good. If YouTube is going to operate anything like a repository of cultural, moving-image memory, Google is going to need to step up a little and show some testicular fortitude when dealing with copyright takedowns. I'm interested in building an automagic YouTube backup system that mirrors videos to a service like Amazon's S3 and packages a simple Flash player, but where will I find the time?

API Authentication

I took a load of notes on authentication for web APIs that got OAuth on my radar.

Design Camp and Ffffound!

I also posted a bunch of notes on the idea of "design camps", in the mold of unconferences like BarCamp. A bunch of interesting commentary and answers there for sure. Oddly, this was followed the next month by my discovery (thanks Lydia) of Ffffound!, an image bookmarking service for designers. Almost wordless, almost community-free, in some ways this was the proper response to the design camp question. I still use Ffffound! constantly, but they've not responded to my e-mails.


"Beauty vs. Utility" was definitely a theme that I expect will be explored in greater depth by Tom at E-Tech.


In mid-2006, Adam put the fixed-gear bug in my ear, and I bought a new bike. This past summer, I found a crusty old Univega road bike in the trash across the street, and used it to build a second bike that I very much enjoy riding.


My brother and I both hit milestones this year: I'm 30, he's 18. Holy hell.

Crime Again

Now, it's Christmas break, my back doesn't hurt, I'm back from spending a lovely few days up in Sonoma County with friends both good and new for New Years Eve, and I'm hacking on the Oakland CrimeWatch website again seeing if I can't get this guy re-launched in the new year. Stay tuned!

April 2014
Su M Tu W Th F Sa

Recent Entries

  1. the hard part
  2. end the age of gotham-everywhere
  3. on this day
  4. write code
  5. managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team
  6. bike seven: french parts
  7. being a client
  8. bike seven: building a cargo bike
  9. blog all video timecodes: how buildings learn, part 3
  10. talk notes, urban airship speaker series
  11. john mcphee on structure
  12. blog all oft-played tracks V
  13. tiled vectors update, with math
  14. disposable development boxes: linux containers on virtualbox
  15. week 1,851: week one
  16. tilestache 0.7% better
  17. south end of lake merritt construction
  18. network time machine backups
  19. week 1,846: ladders
  20. documentation for tiled vectors in mapnik