Back in 2006, I was an avid user of Flickr and was asked to help test a new camera card that was going to offer uploading via WiFi. At the time, this meant you could conceivably skip the step of connecting your camera/card to your computer via USB. It was a bit buggy, but eventually worked, but I didn’t find it super useful since you had to be near your home WiFi for it to work.
Since the iPhone came out in 2007, it’s become my primary camera due to ease of use, flexibility in apps, and ability to share photos easily from anywhere. All my other cameras became “dumb” cameras once that smart phone came out. I was curious if a Eye-Fi card could bridge the gap so a few years ago that I tried out the final production versions of Eye-Fi’s cards in point and shoot cameras. On home WiFi, with many camera models building in native support for Eye-Fi cards, the process was much smoother than that initial beta, though connecting away from your home WiFi to your phone was very buggy, clumsy, and was such a time-consuming and tedious process I rarely used the Eye-Fi cards with my phone and mostly gave up on the devices.
I was skeptical of the new Eye-Fi mobi cards recently released, but when I bought a new compact full-frame camera for an upcoming bike tour, I decided to try it out after hearing the smartphone integration was much better than previous models.
After having used a 32Gb mobi card for a couple weeks, I have to say I’m totally impressed and amazed. This is everything Eye-Fi was likely going for over the company’s history, but it never quite hit the mark until now. You start by installing a custom profile to your phone which stores the WiFi password on your card and auto-connects your phone to your camera whenever you power up your camera. You run a mobi app on your phone, and it quickly transfers images (even 26 megapixel RAW images) to your phone. From there, you can selectively choose which images to save to your phone’s native Camera Roll, then share them any way you see fit. The whole process is fast and automatic in a way none of their previous cards were, since you never need to touch your phone’s WiFi settings.
In essence, the card turns any dumb camera into an outboard lens for your phone. Last week on a trip to NYC I took my new compact camera with me and could easily upload photos to Instagram and Twitter within seconds of taking the photos. I mean that literally: I can take a photo with my camera, open up my phone, touch the mobi app icon and about ten seconds later I can be saving that image to my phone’s camera roll. I could also manipulate and tweak the images in a plethora of iPhone apps like VSCOcam, Photoshop Express, etc. directly on the phone before sharing it out to the world.
There’s also a web service to the mobi card, where all your originals will be uploaded to Eye-Fi (when your phone is on a full WiFi connection) with unlimited storage for $50/yr, which seems like a perfectly good deal.
I can’t get over how well the mobi card works. The connection between my phone and my camera is now almost instant, transfers are fast, and sharing is easy. The mobi line of cards are worth every penny and I’d strongly suggest anyone that misses walking around and shooting with a “real” camera to try them out.
I haven’t been blogging here nearly as much as I wish, but a few months ago one of the developers of Barley sent me a copy of their plugin, and I’ve been using it since then and I have to say it’s pretty incredible. It greatly reduces the friction of having to go to your WP admin area, find the link to make a new post, then fill out the forms (which totally sounds like work and not play) to make a post. Instead, you just hit a button to make a new post, then start typing in your blog, in your browser. It’s like Medium’s editor in that way, but on your own blog and it’s kind of amazing.
I’m finding I rarely blog on my own site here, but I’m writing more than ever, it’s just that short thoughts end up on Twitter, longer things end up on Medium, photos I take end up on Exposure or Instagram. Thanks to all these wonderful easy-to-use tools, I have a harder time coming up with an idea and having “oh, I should put that up on my blog” be the result of the thought, so I blog very rarely these days here. But do give Barley a shot, it’s pretty impressive stuff, worth the cost, and will make your blogging life much easier.
A few weeks ago I started keeping track of a list of things I’ve fallen in love with over the last year or so, in hopes of putting them all together, and this is the result. In no particular order, these are all items that I’ve used and have impressed me, hopefully they’ll give you some gift ideas for other nerdy bike loving kickstarter backing people like me.
If you’ve used Foursquare extensively in NYC, SF, Chicago, or Portland, Etch will prepare a custom map of all your check-in history for those cities, letting you choose one spot to highlight, and print it all up on fine art poster paper. It requires a heavy 4sq user, probably more than 100 check-ins if not 200 or more before you get a cool map, but I was really impressed with the nice colors and art quality of the print when I bought one last summer. It’s a beautiful work of art based on casual use of a social app.
I’m a huge bike nerd and storage of the whole family’s bikes has always been an issue in my garage. Before I found out about the Dero Racks on Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools, my garage was a mess, but everything is grand now. This bike rack basically turns your quiver of rides into a rack of clothing. As long as you stagger your bikes (handlebars up, then down, then up) you can fit 13 bicycles in a 8 foot wide space (ideally having 10-12 feet of height lets you store stuff below this too), and you just push bikes on the rolling hooks out of the way to remove one bike. Ordering this rack is a little weird since the company mostly works with building firms and city governments, but a quick phone call got a rack shipped to me in a week for about $350. Above is a shot of 8 bikes and two sets of wheels fitting in a space that used to hold just four or five bikes in my garage.
20×200 returned after nearly a year offline to offer up fine art at affordable prices. I’ve bought several items over the past few years and every one I’ve given as a gift is highly prized and prominently displayed by their new owners. Great stuff here that should appeal to anyone on your list.
I backed this on Kickstarter and it’s now being sold in bike shops by Nite Ize. This fantastically useful removable iPhone mount for your bike stem is a perfect addition to any city bike. In unfamiliar terrain, I use Google Maps bike directions and this puts your phone where you can see and use it without being distracting. Even while riding around my house, I find it handy to track short trips on Strava and get texts and alerts from friends I might be riding to meet. This would be a killer addition to Citibikes in NYC, where I found it awkward to hold my phone while trying to find my way to stations and destinations in Manhattan.
Another Kickstarter I backed that is now selling to the public, these “adventure pants” really live up to the goals the designers set out. I have worn these pants in business meetings with a belt, shirt, and tie and also stood in a foot of mud mixed with snow in the same pants. They look really sharp, fit incredibly well, and are made of tough-as-nails fabric. My only wish is that they were warmer but I can just barely fit a thin layer of REI tights below them in Winter.
I own half a dozen things from Nau and I love every item I wear from them. They’re a tad pricy but they are built to last, fit really great, and look swell. I hate ordering expensive clothes online sight unseen but if you can find them in any local retailers I would suggest going that route to make sure the fit is just right for you.
Last year I tried out half a dozen or so high end underwear brands trying to find something I liked (even kickstarter backed a few). The stuff they sell at Me Undies fits great, is made some of the softest fabric I’ve ever worn, and came as close to perfect as anything I tested. They sell underwear in a weird way — you buy a first pair and then you “subscribe” to monthly deliveries of the same cut/size. I kept this up for about six months, getting 3 pairs a month in all sorts of wacky colors until I pretty much replaced all my old uncomfortable underwear before halting the subscription.
Another cool looking, well performing, but a tad expensive item I love is my Grove iPhone case. Made of softer bamboo wood, my case has taken a dozen tumbles to concrete floors without cracking, splitting, or shattering my phone screen. My plaid case was a conversation starter at almost any retail establishment I used my phone in — it was kind of amazing how often people asked where I got it.
I’ve read the site since it existed, bought loads of stuff mentioned in the past, but I still got a huge kick out of pouring through the pages of Kevin Kelly’s book version of his site. It’s mostly just a reprint of the best reviews from the last ten years of the site, but the huge format and layout reminds me of old 1980s Sears catalogs I’d obsess over for months leading up the Holidays as a young kid. There are loads of great things and tips inside you might have missed even if you’re an avid follower of the site.
Note: This is a guide aimed at getting a fast, semi-cheap, data/voice/text plan for Americans with unlocked phones traveling in Canada and information is up-to-date as of November 2013.
Whenever I travel to another country, about a week before the trip I hit up the prepaid SIM travel wikia page for info on cheap options with the most bandwidth for my phone. Having a data connection is vital when traveling, especially for parents. It’s not just about getting Instagram sunsets at the beach, I need to be able to find my way back to the hotel with my daughter and connect with my wife whenever we are apart in a different country. Maps, Yelp, and Google have been indispensable while traveling and I can’t imagine being in a strange place without their help.
My Verizion phone plan in the US charges way too much for bandwidth in other countries, even when you pay the extra rates (which, last I checked start at $20/mo extra and bandwidth costs extra on top of that, sometimes totalling hundreds of dollars for less than 1Gb of data). Other countries often have “pay as you go” and “prepaid” SIM card options that are ridiculously cheap compared to almost anything in America (a Gb of data can cost as little as $10). The problem with public wikis is the information gets out of date (some pages of that wikia site haven’t been updated in years) and even recent round-ups like this one on iMore are already more than a year old with pricing that doesn’t reflect current rates. I’m going to describe the exact steps I took to get online.
First step: unlocked?
First you’ll need an unlocked American phone, so that means either a Android Nexus phone purchased from Google or a iPhone 5, 5c, or 5s on Verizon (earlier 4 and 4s models can be unlocked by Verizon but it’s a pain as I found out in early 2012). I’m not sure if Sprint or AT&T iPhones can be unlocked. I had a iPhone 5s for my trip to Toronto, and I also had my wife’s unlocked 4s.
Find a Koodo kiosk or shop
I browsed a bunch of information online and decided that Koodo (a Telus subsidiary) offered the most bang for the buck because 1Gb of data was only $30. They won’t ship SIMs, MicroSIMs, or NanoSIMs to the US, so as soon as I landed, I only had free WiFi at airports or hotels until I could find a shop. Luckily, there was a Koodo kiosk in a mall close to my hotel, which I walked to soon after arriving.
You’ll want to ask for a prepaid SIM, and you can take it home and set it all up yourself on a laptop, tablet, or even your phone, and you might even save some money (there was a $20 credit when I was setting things up). Instead, I got my necessary SIM cards (NanoSIM for the iPhone 5 and up, MicroSIMs for earlier models) and paid for the cheapest unlimited text plan ($15), 100 minutes of talk ($10), and 1Gb of data ($30). With tax, each SIM cost me about $60 Canadian and I was given a special code to apply to the cards during sign up. If I could have gotten the SIMs for free and finished setup at home, it would have been $20 cheaper for each phone.
Activate the SIMs
I fired up my laptop and pointed it at https://activateprepaid.koodomobile.com/. You go through a signup process, and I was sure to pick the same options I already paid for. I applied my PIN from the sales receipt, and everything was complete. Armed with a paperclip from the hotel’s front desk, I opened the SIM door on my phone and slid the Koodo card in. In a few moments it was on the network and a quick test with WiFi turned off revealed that everything was working, and I had a new strange temporary Canadian phone number, which I stored on my wife’s phone (and vice versa) so we could contact each other. iMessage still uses the network, so texting between other iPhone users (including my wife) worked just as it used to.
The bandwidth was impressive for my short trip. In downtown Toronto, I found speeds of 10-15Mb downloads (and even uploads sometimes), faster than my hotel’s WiFi connection. You should monitor your bandwidth use at https://prepaidselfserve.koodomobile.com/ as I found myself using a couple hundred Mb of data each day (mostly Google Maps or looking up operating hours of museums and restaurants while uploading lots of photos along the way). For my short five day visit, a $60 1Gb plan worked out great and was much cheaper than the alternatives. I only ended up using 781Mb of data and made just one test phone call throughout my stay.
I published a little photo gallery of the entire trip on the new Exposure site, featuring photos I took all on my iPhone while out and about.
A few months ago, I picked up a GoPro Hero 3 camera and I recorded a few bike races on it. While playing with the integrated iPhone app, I noticed there was a time-lapse option so I decided to play around with it. After an hour of testing on a couple short drives, I tried it on two long ~9 hour drives going from Oregon to California and back. Here are the results:
A lot of people asked me how it was done, and what settings I used, so here’s a list of tips:
- You’ll need a Hero 3 camera, and then for mounting on a windshield you also need the suction mount, the Frame mount, a mini-USB cable and a USB car charger to keep the camera powered up for as many hours as you need (the built-in battery only runs for 1-3hrs). The whole setup looks like this.
- Put as big of a storage card as you can into it. I have a 64Gb microSD card
- Pick your resolution carefully, the default is 12 megapixel, which become ~6mb images for every shot. There are also 7 megapixel and 5 megapixel options. 1080p video barely requires 1 megapixel images so you can go down in quality to get smaller photo file sizes (my time-lapses were shot with 7 megapixel Wide settings)
- Pick a duration between shots. For me, I picked once every 5 seconds because that would require about 7,000 images for the whole trip and I could only fit about 10,000 images on the 64Gb card. If I went down to 1 second or 2 second increments, it would have looked smoother but required lower resolution images or a bigger storage card (also the resulting movie would have been 2-5x longer in the end)
- Before you start driving, check the mounting angle and view through the iPhone preview of what the camera sees (don’t forget to “flip” the image since the camera is upside down). When you’re ready to drive, start the time-lapse with the your chosen settings (you’ll lose the live video preview at this point).
- Periodically check the GoPro using the iPhone app every hour or two. Make sure it’s still got power, and enough storage space, etc.
- When you’re done, stop the time lapse and connect the GoPro to a computer.
- I used GoPro Studio 2.0 to process/create video. You import the shots from the GoPro’s card and it will build a movie. I went into advanced settings to reduce the resolution to 1080p at 24 frames per second. Convert your videos to this format and they will be smaller than the full resolution movies.
- GoPro Studio has editing features on the next pane of the app but I found it buggy. Instead I simply imported the outputed movies into iMovie, added music and put titles over sections to point out things happening.
- WISHLIST: I really wish there was an easy way to grab the timestamp from each shot and put it in the corner of the video, but in hours of research I can’t figure out any way to display a real-time clock of the time-lapse (every second of video equals 2 minutes of time passing) using either GoPro Studio or iMovie.
That’s about it, get to time-lapsing!
I always wanted to attend the original Maker Faire in the Bay Area and the annual shows that followed, but they started soon after I moved to Oregon and they never overlapped with my travel down there. I recently noticed they were touring around Mini Maker Faires to different cities and I was delighted when my local science museum (OMSI) mentioned it was coming up this weekend. I bought tickets for my family and figured it’d be a lot like the parking lot at O’Reilly conferences I’ve attended: mostly nerds with their hobby gadgets, stuff like robots and rockets and a car converted to run on coffee grinds. My daughter is 8 now and we’re always trying to push her towards having the best STEM education she can get and I figured this might be good for a few science demos. I planned to go on Sunday and looked at random Twitter/Flickr photos from the opening day on Saturday and saw only somewhat interesting looking robots and rockets and figured it’d probably take an hour to see it all and honestly I just hoped my daughter wouldn’t be bored by the dry presentation of it.
I got it all hopelessly, completely wrong, and it kind of blew my mind a bit.
First off, my estimate of spending an hour with a bored child turned out to be showing up soon after it opened followed by forcing ourselves to leave about 90min before closing. It was incredible, they had a huge variety of demonstrations that covered not only all aspects of science, but also art, anthropology, cooking, and even some swords and archery. The demos were well-tailored to a young audience but were also fun for adults (I got to make my own pewter coin!). Another aspect I thought was handled well was the mixture of commerce and education. Many of the demos were done by local businesses and they sometimes offered stuff you could buy to do more of the same thing at home. This could have gone very wrong and seemed really crass if vendors only showed up in an effort to sell their junk disguised as a science demo, but it worked out well where if you really liked making a bit of fresh cheese in a booth, you could buy a cheesemaking kit for doing larger batches in your own kitchen.
Lastly, the thing that really blew my mind was seeing my daughter learn how to solder and assemble basic electronics by building what was a essentially a LED throwie. The LED Throwie is a small battery, a magnet, and a few LED lights that experimental graffiti artists came up with at Eyebeam and plans on how to make them launched on the early Instructables website. I recall Throwies pissed off a lot of major cities as random blinking lights started appearing on their public metal sculptures. I remember watching Throwies blow up in popularity while Jonah Peretti was at Eyebeam, who likely used those lessons to help push content viral when he started Buzzfeed and Huffington Post later on. Then I thought about Tim O’Reilly always watching the alpha geeks at the edges, knowing those people are 3-5 years ahead of the curve and that we could look to what they were interested in as what the mainstream would someday be into, and how today’s Mini Maker Faire was a lot like the Emerging Technology conferences I attended 5+ years ago. I also thought about Dale Dougherty & Mark Frauenfelder launching Make Magazine that turned into this.
It was amazing to see what was once an experimental graffiti project loved and hated around the world morph into a simple teaching tool for kids that could expose them to science, art, and fun by letting them create a small blinking object they could pin on their clothes. This all grew from geek hobbyists in a parking lot much like the one I stood in today, and the magazine that launched from that. The Mini Maker Faire quite literally was helping pass along the wonder and knowledge I saw over the last decade to a new generation of Makers.
Needless to say, if you’re a parent and one of the Mini Maker Faires is in your town, by all means do everything you can to attend one; you’ll have a great time.
Lanyrd blew me away from the day it launched. It’s a way to track speakers and attendees of upcoming conferences, but it’s also a social web application. It was the first site/app I used that didn’t require yet another login (it used the then-new Twitter auth). It was the first Twitter-powered app that was instantly useful the moment I connected my accounts. Being a tech nerd that speaks/goes to conferences and follows lots of other tech nerds that speak at/attend conferences, my first post-login screen at Lanyrd was filled with information about dozens of conferences my friends were speaking at & attending that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
Frankly, I was amazed. I went from hitting the homepage of a new app I’d never heard of to having screens full of useful information about my friends and the industry I work in, in about 30 seconds. I immediately dashed off a message to Simon Willison (one of the co-founders) saying Lanyrd was really impressive and if they ever opened up a round of funding to keep me in mind. Simon and Nat got back to me soon after and there were lots of Skype calls and documents sent to lawyers and in the end I got to become the very first investor in Simon and Nat while also being an early advisor to Lanyrd.
Recently they sent out an email announcing an acquisition by Eventbrite and I was surprised to get the news out of the blue but also happy to hear who was doing the acquiring. If you haven’t used it lately, Eventbrite is a great site for arranging/selling/buying tickets for events. As Eventbrite has grown over the last few years, I’ve realized it plays a larger role in my life. In the beginning, it was just a small events site, like a more formal version of Evite and I would attend local industry events for maybe 20 people. Lately, I’ve used it to pay for $1,000+ conference tickets, woke up early to get tickets for high demand small events that sell out within minutes, while still using it for beer bar meetups for a couple dozen friends. I find the biggest problem with Eventbrite these days is discovery; that unless I happened to catch a single tweet from a friend at 11pm one night announcing an event, I wouldn’t know that event existed.
Usually startup acquisitions are bumpy affairs, where a new owner tacks on a new vision for a product, morphs it into their existing infrastructure and inevitably shuts the old site down. I was happy to hear about an Eventbrite/Lanyrd deal because it’ll be a great addition to both properties. My Lanyrd page will extend from technology conferences to every local event on Eventbrite that friends are throwing and attending. The ginormous list of local events offered to me at Eventbrite will filter into things my friends are organizing and/or attending, through my Lanyrd-powered friends. It’s going to be win-win for both companies.
Over the last few years, I’ve put some energy, effort, and money into companies I like and want to see do good in the world. To date, I’ve invested in four things: Kickstarter, Lanyrd, Little Bird, and Original. Mostly, I’m investing in friends, people I’ve known for a while that I believe in and have good ideas that can become big. Part of this also comes from working in the Bay Area during the 2000-era tech boom, and watching my friends build amazing things in the aftermath of the bust. I remember seeing the first Flickr shoebox/chat app and asking Stewart if I could invest a couple thousand bucks I had in savings because I thought this could revolutionize the photography world. There were complicating issues at the time (they’d already taken larger rounds of funding) but I told myself if I ever got a chance to see a new app really early on that I felt had greatness and a great team behind it, I’d do whatever I could to help it along.
So far, it’s been a real waiting game. You see demos from friends, you talk over small friends & family style funding, you exchange lots of paperwork with lawyers, and eventually you help the founders meet other people for larger funding rounds while you often get to help steer the product as an early user/advisor. In four years of investing, this is the first acquisition I’ve been through, so I can see why VC firms place lots of bets on lots of companies, since they probably like to see more action than one sale every four years.
I’ve neglected to mention it on my blog or Twitter until now, but last Fall, Paul and I sold Fuelly.com to a guy named Andy that runs a bunch of car sites. He had been following us for years, had run similar sites, and had a much larger community of car enthusiasts that could really push Fuelly to new heights. We quietly announced it on Fuelly recently and Andy has the time/energy (that we didn’t) to tackle loads of new features for the site. They recently bought and integrated a popular iPhone app for Fuelly and the upcoming APIs will accomplish a lot of the ideas we hoped to get to someday.
Not all acquisitions end with horror stories from “our incredible journey“, sometimes a person or company comes along that is doing something similar to what you’re doing and offers to take over and build up all the things you dreamed about, without losing the original purpose for the site and service. I think that’s the case for both Lanyrd and Fuelly today.
I spent the last week of my daughter’s summer vacation taking her to San Francisco to have fun for a few days. What follows is a summary of things I liked, tips, and a few photos from the vacation.
- The California Academy of Science is pretty amazing, combining an aquarium, a natural history museum, a bit of a zoo, and a science museum into one. It’s expensive but worth it. Also expensive but worth it, the restaurant in the basement called The Moss Room, run by the chef behind SF’s Sliding Door restaurant.
- Ghirardelli Square was a bit of a letdown in that there’s no real chocolate factory to tour, it’s basically just a mall and you can buy chocolate and ice cream there as well as other shops. I never went here at a resident of the city and now I know I didn’t miss anything.
- The cable car system is still a tourist novelty that was down/broken half of our stay and that trains were few and far between making the whole thing feel overpriced and slow.
- The Clipper Card system was incredible! After living in the Bay Area for several years, I used to be annoyed by having BART tickets, cash for Muni, and separate Caltrain tickets. One clipper card for each of us worked on every system we used (Muni, BART, Caltrain, AC buses) and was easy to refill at any station. It finally felt like SF caught up to what every other major world city offered nearly a decade ago.
- Visiting Pixar was a treat, but so much of the campus is restricted to outsiders that we basically just got to see how much energy they put into storyboarding movies before they’re ever made. I always knew they spent years on each film, but it didn’t sink in until I was there that storyboarding and tweaking a story is about 80% of the effort going into their movies.
- About two years ago I stopped renting cars when visiting the Bay Area and this trip felt like the first time that could be permanent for future trips. We went all over San Francisco, down to San Carlos, over to Emeryville, and back to the airport all on quick, easy trains. Mass transit was also possible due to a bunch of handy apps, like Embark, which can tell you down to the minute where the nearest bus or train is heading.
- The Exploratorium was fun and I love the new location and building they’re in. There are many more exhibits than I recall in the old space, it’s about a 10 minute walk from the Ferry Building, and there are tons of cool demos to entertain and inform kids.
- Being briefly a single parent during this trip wasn’t as hard as I thought. Plane rides are much easier with iPads, and as someone told me when you’re the only parent around, every parenting decision you make is the correct one.
Last month, I took a family car trip over to Glacier National Park in Montana. I’d never been to Montana before, but since it was within 12 hours of driving from Oregon, I figured it’d be a nice experience for my 8 year-old daughter that mirrored all the mini vacations I took with my parents on long car trips. Below is a selection of photos from the trip, and a quick recap after.
The quick summary is that it was an amazing place. Though 2 million people visit the enormous park annually it didn’t feel at all crowded. The lodging within the park was sold out nearly a year in advance so we ended up at a small B&B just outside the west side entrance called The Great Bear Inn (the included nightly dinner was ah-maze-ing). The park’s season is pretty short, from roughly late-May to late-September, depending on snow melt. The park was really big, we mostly just explored various hikes and stops along the Going To The Sun road (including a day trip white water rafting which I would recommend highly). In four days we didn’t even have time for the northern end of the park (we only saw glaciers from a distance). The animal life was pretty great, we saw bald eagles, mountain goats with baby goats, and lots of other little critters. We didn’t get to see any of the bears we were warned about but that was fine. The scenery was beyond beautiful, with lush green glacier-carved valleys giving way to high peaks that make up the continental divide. Rising temps are melting the glaciers that give the park its namesake — they are now just a couple dozen small glaciers left with estimates that they’ll be gone in 10-15 years.
Overall, it was an extraordinary place and we had a great time. I can’t wait to revisit the place, only this time I’ll try the more northern sections of the park (it extends into Canada as well). On the way there, we spent a night in Spokane, Washington and that was a lot of fun as well.
I was a backer of 1,000 free ice cream cones, a Kickstarter launched by Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris to fly to Denver to give away 1,000 ice cream cones to the public for free. Today, Jesse posted the video from the event and it’s a wonderful little 4 minutes of silly fun giving away ice cream. After watching it, I had a few questions for Jesse so I fired off a quick email and he sent me some responses, the Q&A is below:
How long did it take to give away all 1,000 cones from start to finish?
We started giving away cones when Sweet Action opened at one, and we gave away the thousandth cone around 6:45 or 7:00. And we worked straight through, powered only by ice cream.
The project went together really fast, was that the plan from the start?(I still have a film project from 2009 I backed on Kickstarter that hasn’t delivered the final cut of the film, so I was amazed.)
Jordan and I are headed to the UK this week to do a couple shows in London and Edinburgh, and so we wanted to do everything before then. And I’ve got a pregnant wife and a two-year-old, so I needed to do it now before I had a two-year-old and a newborn. So we pretty much just… did it. We made the Kickstarter video with an old phone, and posted it the day we made it, with a really tight window. One thing we did this time was to raise enough money for a real, pro crew, and having great footage and a professional editor who’s getting paid to hit deadlines helped us get it finished. So we launched today… and Jordan and I are getting on a plane in a couple hours, so we just made it.
Was there ever a moment you thought maybe not a 1,000 people were going to show up?
I was terrified less than 1000 people showed up until at least four PM. And I mean starting from when we raised the money until then. Then my worry switched: that we would have the thousandth person during the dinner lull, and there would be like four people in the store for the big “WE MADE IT!” moment. Luckily it happened just as the families who’d gone to an early dinner were filtering in.
Who traveled the furthest to get a cone (or was it just all Denver folks)?
Our goal was to give away cones to people who weren’t expecting them, so while there were certainly a few JJGo fans who’d heard about it and came from elsewhere, mostly it was just people on the sidewalk walking past. We wanted it to be serendipitous.
If you did this project again, what would you change about it?
Honestly, it was a pretty magical experience. Everything sort of went right. I might remember that when you submit a Kickstarter project, it takes a couple days for it to be approved – I had it all timed out to finish middle-of-the-day on a Friday, and then after the approvals it ended up ending on a weekend morning, when no one is on the internet. That gave me some heartburn. But mostly I just got to ride this wave of happy people for six hours. It was tremendous.
This video demo of a mocked-up airline website of the future is stunning. A lot of people are focusing on this as a way of airlines to play travel agent, since there are city guides and hotel information, but the essence of what makes this demo great is the simple ease of use of planning air travel. I’ve gone from round-trip to one-way tickets in searches and lost all my data, having to start over from scratch (in the demo it’s a single click to change). The way multi-city searches are built is also slick and way easier. Of all the parts of this demo I think are worth building, I’d say just the basic new flight search being quick and easy would be a game changer for the industry.
There aren’t enough bike theft deterrents out there in the world and bike locks are almost literally a band-aid solution so I was glad to be a Kickstarter backer of this project. I didn’t know about this video ad for the product until today, it’s kind of awesome.
I had the weirdest dream last night. Apropos of nothing, I was meeting with Ev Williams, cofounder of both Twitter and Blogger, in his office to talk about something I can’t recall. It’s weird because in real life I haven’t talked to Ev in six months, and I don’t know why he wandered into a dream, but I’m getting off track. Long ago, Ev had some trouble with password cracking, and as I walked into his office, we exchanged hellos and he turned to his computer to show me something, and before he could do anything, he had to login.
After tapping the keyboard to bring the operating system to life, his screen filled with a weird scan of a magazine page, and he tapped with his finger in several key places which lit up in red, in a specific sequence, then we saw his desktop (my quick finger-on-iPad mockups shown below). I stopped him and asked what exactly did I just see?
He said to thwart break-ins to his computer and accounts, every week he would grab a random page from a magazine, hold it up to his front-facing camera to take a shot of it, then would select a “password” by choosing a sequence and locations of things to tap on. I then asked if it could work for website logins too and he said yeah, the new WebRTC functionality would allow for such a thing. Then we moved on to talking about something else and I soon woke up.
It was an oddly specific dream, and I don’t normally remember this much detail, but I guess I knew at the time I was experiencing this that it might be a good idea in the real world and solve some problems people have with passwords. I’m no cryptography expert, so I don’t know if picking out features on a page is more random than coming up with strings of digits and letters. It would seem like on the surface, you could try and crack visual login systems like this with simple OCR and photo recognition, and simply make guesses to the bits that stand out the most. Another thing that came to mind in thinking about the security of this idea is how many possible tap points are there on a scanned page? Is it obviously much less than the number of possible keystrokes in a typical password? Finally, this would add an obvious problem to anyone with impaired vision, which current passwords don’t cause.
Anyway, in the spirit of sharing wacky ideas in my head in case someone else finds it useful, I present my goofy dream about image-based password security systems. Let me know if anyone builds such a thing someday.
update: Whoa, looks like Windows 8 has a sort of similar option called Picture Passwords, I imagine it could use a more complex image than a simple photo of a dog or a person and instead you could use something like a scan of a newspaper or magazine.
Last month, Google’s Gmail team introduced a new auto-organized inbox feature to little fanfare among my friends. I saw a handful of tweets about it, didn’t get notified on my own account that it was available and promptly forgot about it. After a week or so I wanted to try it out and had to dig to find the feature (you have to enable it in your gmail settings). In the week or two that I’ve had it, it has completely changed my relationship with email, and it has been 100% for the better.
I probably get more email than most, but about average for someone running a sizable web site and company. I get lots of what I’d call “machine messages” where a server is telling me it is up or down, someone made a new post, or someone used paypal to sign up for the site. As much as I try to unsubscribe from everything I can, I still get numerous newsletters, offers, and coupons from businesses I like. In total, each day I probably get 4 to 5 really important emails out of 100-150 total.
Late last year I had some major life stresses that wreaked havoc on my life and my sanity. For the first time in my life, I started seeing a psychologist and we worked through some significant anxiety issues I was having. One source of stress (among many) was my bulging inbox and how every morning, I’d wake my phone and see a little red icon on the Gmail app that read something in the neighborhood of 37. Every single morning started with a combination of dread and stress over having to process a few dozen unread messages, any of which could be a bombshell (but most were innocuous, yet still take time and attention).
Working through my anxiety, I was taught a bunch of coping mechanisms that have worked wonders. When I was at my darkest early on in the process, I had to make a bunch of filters to automatically siphon off all the automated messages away from the inbox to bring my daily number down. This was a double-edged sword in that I got to wake to more sensible inbox messages like 8 or 9, but I’d know my labelled automated updates would be 20-30 more messages I couldn’t ignore and needed to look at for fears of missing something important.
Last year, Gmail tried a feature where they put everything in your inbox in two piles: Priority or normal, and it didn’t work that great for me. It didn’t properly guess which things were important with any accuracy, and if I only looked at Priority messages, I’d miss lots in my regular full email view.
Gmail’s new feature tries to guess what kind of email has come in and now splits it into up to 5 piles: Primary (first priority), Social (automated messages from Twitter, LinkedIn, etc), Promotions (e-commerce store offers), Updates (machine messages, merchant updates, order receipts, etc), and Forums (mailing lists). The shocking part of this rough 5-bucket system of guessing on the part of Gmail is it works pretty damn well.
Seriously, it would seem on paper this is a recipe for disaster in trying to guess message priority for random users with the potential for hiding an urgent message but my inbox must mimic the average Google employee’s pretty well because it’s absolutely fantastic, probably running a greater than 90% accuracy on putting the unimportant things in the other inboxes. The result of this is that I’m only alerted on my desktop or iPhone Gmail clients with the numbers of messages in my Primary inbox and it hasn’t missed one of those 4-5 really important emails each day. I get to wake up to a sane number like 8 new things, and your inbox has a pointer on mobile to the counts for the other boxes. On the desktop, you see a brief flash of numbers in other boxes, but (and this is the absolutely genius part) those numbers fade away. This is brilliant because it de-emphasizes those other inboxes appropriately so you never feel like you are spinning 5 plates at once, trying to keep them all at zero. With a click or a swipe I can take a quick glance at the other boxes and ignore them if nothing urgent has fallen into them.
The big bonus was an update to the Gmail phone clients as well, and they work just like the desktop, meshing the exact same experience into your mobile device. A simple swipe on the iPhone lets you jump from inbox to inbox in a flash and it’s not a drag on how I normally use the app. The screenshot at right shows my phone running Gmail, checking for new mail after being offline for a few hours and I only have one new important message (instead of 15), which is absolutely spot-on and totally gives me my sanity and life back.
This new feature is pretty simple but works amazingly well for my type of email and with this feature I’m basically wed to Gmail and the Gmail clients for life, as nothing else I’ve tried (Mailbox, Boxer, etc) does as good a job as this new Gmail feature. It quite literally lowers my anxiety, lowers my blood pressure, and lets me wake up each morning feeling less overwhelmed and I’ve noticed I’m just a bit happier all the time now that I’ve used this feature a bunch.
The most incredible part of it for me is that Google’s first crack at this is nearly perfect, as-is, out of the box. Few app features work that well on their initial release, but this one just plain works.
So thanks Google for releasing this and honestly making my life better. Everyone else with loads of stressful automated messages, give it a try, you’ll be glad you did.