I wish @flickr set pages featured larger photos. So much untapped potential to wow.— Rion Nakaya (@riondotnu) May 1, 2013
Rion totally nails something that has been sticking in my craw for the last six months or so. Ever since the rollouts of features that vastly improved the Flickr experience, the old design of the pages for holding sets of photos is really underwhelming. Here's what an epic set of photos taken by Jon Armstrong looks like as a set:
Kind of boring right? It doesn't reveal too much about the incredible photography contained within when you click through one of the shots:
I think they can do a lot more with the page for showing off a set, they could obviously go for larger photos, they could change the layout to be more like the "photos from contacts" page where images automatically expand to fill the available width and get to dominate the screen. Perhaps they could also change the sizing so that amazing small sets like Jon's above could be much larger, where a set of maybe 100 images are still larger, but not quite as large as a small set.
If I know anything about Flickr, it's that I would bet $1,000 someone has not only redesigned the set page eons ago, but it has been through testing and is being tweaked behind the scenes and will see the light of day someday soon. I also have another idea.
Flickr should start supporting blogging
How much more impressive would Jon's photos from Utah be if his photo set looked more like the following mockup? (click for a larger version)
Write a title, a few short summary sentences, and then fill out the story between each photo. Yes, I know it looks a little like Medium, that's obviously a similar kind of layout. Yahoo, post-Marrisa Mayer has been doing some interesting things and Flickr seems newly rejuvenated. I love the service to death and wish it had uptake among my friends like it once did. I really think it's time to try some new wacky ideas on Flickr and perhaps doing something closer to something that looks like blogging, that lets people showcase their work and their prose is a way this could go.
Since Flickr doesn't currently support this, I tend to post these sorts of things on my own blog. Last summer I took an amazing family trip across Italy and came back with loads of great photos, but here's how they look as a Flickr set:
I would have no qualms about publishing that same story of taking trains across Italy on Flickr instead of my own site, and in the context of the whole set's images, it might make better sense there.
Anyway, I'd love to see more courageous moves coming out of Flickr, and one small place to start could be the sets pages.
So I'm in the new WIRED issue! It was a little weird to see myself listed alongside industry giants, but I've been working on MetaFilter for 14 years now, so it probably aligned nicely with a 20th anniversary look back.
A quick note about the short interview: we talked for 20-30min but it was edited down to a pretty small space. Most of the questions I was answering were about Ask MetaFilter (the Q&A section) so they sound a bit weird when applied to MetaFilter in general. When they asked me what internet things I hated, I couldn't actually think of any at first, and only later on in the interview I mentioned that Buzzfeed is sometimes annoying in that "stories" are often just a list of animated GIFs when I really wanted to read an article, and they might use that list of GIF as a comedy device a bit too much. But I'm not as down on Buzzfeed as the article would suggest. There are things I like at Buzzfeed, the FWD technology blog has been one of my favorites of the genre since it launched. They also do some impressive longform journalism, so they're not all bad.
It should be in stores now and I was honored to be a part of it. Oh, and that hot tub pulled by bike for a bike-based midwife was a real suggestion on BikePortland.org.
Pulling off a surprise birthday party in this day and age isn't as easy as it seems, especially when the subject of a surprise (Andy Baio in this case) is totally plugged in with the technology world. Every movement and moment in our digital lives can leave a trace. Think about all the status updates, phone photos, and check-ins that 25 people can produce, and now think about how hard it is to hide all that from someone that is connected to all those 25 people. It's not easy, but it is possible. Here are some things that made one party a success:
- I live outside of Portland and once every month or two I meet up with Andy when I head into town. Andy's wife came up with the idea I could lure him pretty much anywhere if I just said "oh hey, I'm nearby, want to meet up at this nearby location?"
- She created a private event Facebook group of everyone but Andy, and it actually worked. No accidental leaks into his friend timeline, everyone got status updates, calendar reminders, and could see the guest list. I'm kind of surprised this part worked, about the only hard part was stealth inviting everyone we could think of (did our Facebook friends overlap with enough/all of his?)
- When he asked about throwing a party for his birthday, Andy's wife lied to him saying she was too busy this weekend and maybe they could plan something a week after.
- A couple hours before the party I faked a Foursquare check-in at the OMSI museum (I was actually driving into Portland at the time), knowing Andy might see it and think I was nearby (at the party Andy said yeah, he saw it and completely believed it).
- At a precise time in the afternoon I sent a text that I was leaving the museum with my family, we were thinking of grabbing a beer at a pub by his house, and if he wasn't doing anything, to drop by.
- Andy's wife was stalling him all day, he was dying to go out and get some fresh air and said yes immediately, and they showed up 15min later.
- He didn't realize it was a huge surprise until the last possible second when he walked in and saw everyone waiting for him. We even had the proverbial out-of-state friend to seal the deal and make it a really great surprise party.
I bought a Mexican Coke at a gas station yesterday, and as I was driving away I remembered that they don't have twist-offs caps.
As I looked around my car's interior for something to pry it open with, I thought with all seriousness "Why isn't there a bottle opener hidden somewhere in the lower part of a car's dashboard?!" before realizing that's actually a terrible idea in other contexts.
I've been meaning to write a post for the past few months on the select group of things I actually enjoy over email. I still go through 100 or so messages every day and most of them are either things I ignore or things that require attention and work from me, leaving very few that I look forward to and enjoy. I put this post off for so long that Jason Kottke already wrote about one of those beloved emails, the weekly Quora email.
Just to build on what Jason already wrote, by a fluke of weird Facebook integration, I have two separate accounts at Quora (I asked, but they can't be merged) listed as Matt Haughey and Matthew Haughey, one of those having more of my personal hobbies in the profile. I get two weekly emails instead of one and as a result, I can kind of see what is happening behind the scenes. At least half of the email contents are identical. I suspect they are plucking questions from their popular pile and they're almost always intriguing. The rest stick to personal subjects and here's where I am continually impressed. One of my accounts has "cycling" attached to it and I get really niche questions about bike racing, training, and equipment, sometimes with only 1-2 answers and they are fascinating and I'm amazed at how well they are at digging up niche content I want to read about. My other account skews more towards technical web development questions and those are often quite good as well. I'm kind of in awe about how they do so well with an automated message each week, I'd be curious to know what kind of technology and workflow they've built to make the weekly emails so good.
The other email I look forward to is a daily digest of links culled from my Twitter followers by Percolate. Here's what a typical day's email looks like. I follow about 500 people on Twitter, and this site automatically figures out not just what links my friends talked about the most, but also the most interesting links that only 1 or 2 people linked to from Twitter. I don't know how they're doing this on the backend, but since most days I don't have time to read an entire 24hrs of my timeline at Twitter, this is a nice fall back of interesting links shared by my friends.
Lastly, I like getting Dave Pell's NextDraft each afternoon. It's basically a general interest blog (that doesn't exist as a blog online) delivered by email and it's a good overview of what the internet is currently interested in and/or freaking out about. There's also a dose of pop culture stuff I would completely miss otherwise.
This is a pretty niche trick, but I recently figured out how to finally upload activities to Strava wirelessly using the latest Garmin Edge 510.
The newest Garmin Edge computers offer bluetooth sync to your phone, which is then used for real-time mapping of your rides, weather alerts, and when you're done with a ride, automatic uploads of data to the Garmin Connect site. It's very handy to just press "Save" at the end of your ride and have your data uploaded to their site but the only problem is the Garmin Connect site pales in comparison to the fitness site Strava, which offers more tools for analysis as well as a ton of social features. The problem with getting data to Strava is you have to sync your Edge bike computer with a USB cable after every ride, even though you can go a week or two without needing a charge.
Ever since I got the Edge 510, I've wondered how to easily transfer ride files from Garmin Connect to Strava so I could skip the cable-required-sync, and after a bunch of research I found a fairly odd little hack is available at GarminSync.com. The downside is that Strava doesn't currently offer an API, so you have to store your username/password at GarminSync, but once linked up, it does exactly what I wanted. You hit "Save" on your bike computer, it uploads to Garmin Connect, and a few minutes later that ride is also posted to your Strava account. It's great and does exactly what I wanted.
I suspect Garmin's running watches will soon share smartphone features as well, so this auto-upload-to-Strava thing may come in handy there too someday.
I've got a previous generation iMac, the first that came with a 256Gb SSD drive as an option, and I also had a 2Tb hard drive added to it, for longer term storage of things like photos, music, and movies that didn't fit on the first drive. It has worked well since I bought it a couple summers ago, the OS and applications reside on the SSD and are lightning fast, totally worth the expense of adding SSD as an option, while archived stuff and media still work well on the larger hard drive.
The downside to this setup was that it required lots of hacks to do things like symlink home folders to the larger drive and I had to tell every app to store data in a custom location on the bigger hard drive (apps always defaulted to storage on the SSD). It was a pain to manage and when my storage needs exceeded the 256Gb+2Tb capacity, I recently bought a new iMac featuring a 3Tb Fusion drive.
Last Fall, the newest iMac debuted with a Fusion drive, based on a combination SSD/HD setup that puts most frequently used files on the SSD to speed up operations while automatically moving larger files and seldom used files to the hard drive. It "cloaks" the two disks into appearing as a single disk, making file management among your apps and OS much easier.
As I recently found out, if you have the dual SSD/HD setup in a mac, you can also create a Fusion drive, combining the two. I found loads of conflicting information about this online but wanted to write up what worked for me.
1. This will require erasing your drives eventually, so it works best when you're setting things up from scratch or when you're ready to start over. Be sure to backup all your old data to external disks before proceeding. I suggest Carbon Copy Cloner to backup both existing drives in your iMac to a single external large drive.
2. Download the OS X Recovery tool and install it onto a USB key. This lets you boot to a USB thumb drive and run a minimal set of tools like disk utility and the terminal, both necessary for the operation. You must do this on the machine you intend to turn into a Fusion drive.
3. Boot up your mac with the option key held down to boot to your recovery drive. Select the orange USB drive option and it should say "Recovery Disk" on it.
4. Follow the instructions here at cnet. It starts with making new single partitions on each drive, both your SSD and your hard drive. Then you close Disk Utility and go to the menu bar to run Terminal. Do the set of commands listed at cnet. My commands to create the combined drive used disk0 and disk1s2.
5. When complete, quit Terminal and the main utilities menu will pop up again. You can double-check your work by seeing only one physical disk in the Disk Utility app, and when you're done simply run the "Reinstall OS X" option and let it do its thing.
First off, I'm sad to see Google Reader is closing up soon (why so soon when other Google apps came with 12-18 months of notice?). I know some people that developed and worked on the product and to this day I use it several times a day to keep up on a few hundred blogs I follow (as well as weirder feed things like like recent comments in specific posts I'm interested in, obscure search results at ebay for items I'm tracking, and of course, mentions of my name or sites across blogs). I use the service almost as much as I use Twitter and it wasn't easy news to take, since I thought it'd always be around like water or electricity, run by the largest technology company on earth. Now I'm left second guessing using any Google product that doesn't clearly carry advertising on it, knowing the plug can be pulled at any time. I thought I'd write up some thoughts below and some quick reviews of alternates in the hopes others in the same boat can figure out what to do next.
Why is RSS interesting?
I admit the world of RSS is a pretty geeky circle to run in (if you know what RSS stands for, you're officially in the club). You've got a mix of web technologists, nerds, and news junkies that are all so busy that they no longer want to browse the web, they'd rather check a stream of updates that were fetched for them. RSS is basically TiVo for the web, and like TiVo in say, the year 1999, only the hardest core nerds are interested in it. Most web users love it and find it useful once you explain how it works (sites publish a file that gets periodically checked and fetched, to be reposted in your client of choice for reading updates) but like TiVo, it's a huge hurdle to get over, to explain to people why this technology is worth it and saves so much time.
Why should anyone care about Google Reader?
Google Reader was the best of breed. It started around 2005 and became one of the first few web-based services for reading RSS. Up until then most people used a desktop app to read RSS feeds from sites, but I personally liked the flexibility of using a web browser on any computer to stay up to date on what I'd read (it's a lot like the old days of POP email, if your unread counts get out of sync across devices, email was harder to use). Around 2007, Google Reader started adding more features and getting easier to use, by 2010 Google Reader was getting fairly amazing, notifying you of new posts within seconds of them going up (relying on the global network of Googlebots scouring the web) and being able to provide feeds for pages without RSS.
My favorite time is around mid-2011, by then Google Reader was fast, easy to use, reliable, available on my mobile devices natively in a browser or also in a client like Reeder, and there was also a hidden social network of other news junkies and nerds. You could share items to the public or just your friends, you could comment on articles just among friends you'd connected with. I used to follow random people I didn't know in any other context but knew them through their amazing shared items. Most all the social stuff was stripped in late 2011 to make way for Google+ share buttons, but they didn't work the same and took your shared items away from Reader into an entirely other site so few people used them.
Google Reader announcing they are going away soon is a huge problem. It means the loss of a beloved app for a lot of nerds and news junkies, including a great number of journalists, not only those working in the technology field. It means a lot of tiny blogs won't get noticed as easily if we won't be able to easily monitor infrequently updated blogs written by experts. I'm convinced we'll see some effects of this closure on journalism, until writers scramble to find alternate ways to monitor thousands of contacts and researchers writing online.
While Google was innovating on Reader from 2005-2013, pretty much every competitor slipped away. Desktop clients were waning, web-based locally hosted readers gave up development as Google surpassed what a few small developers worth of resources could create and eventually many apps simply tied into a centralized Feed API Google launched so you could basically use Google Reader in different clients and interfaces, always keeping your sync/read numbers correct. Recently I noticed quite of lot of filtering has found its way into Google Reader, where I'm only presented with new posts from my most favorite sources at the top when my unread counts are high, which is a nice touch and points to some interesting AI happening in the background to figure those out for me.
The thorny problems of writing your own
Everyone I know is scrambling for alternative services and there are a handful around and many more being built. Seeing these new smaller outfits with their servers being slammed by a few thousand new users indicates just how big and reliable the Google infrastructure behind Reader is. There are a lot of thorny issues to solve for anyone planning to make a successor to Google Reader:
1. The update bot - Google had the advantage of having not only thousands of server farms across the world but many thousands of bots running constantly across millions of sites every day checking for updates. Building a bot isn't the hardest thing in the world, but building one that can quickly scan through hundreds of thousands of sites a day is non-trivial and is a major endeavor. Keeping one running is more than a full time job.
2. Feed APIs - The central brain of any RSS reading app is often available via programming interfaces so your UI can stay in sync with your website view and mobile apps. A lot of current RSS readers rely on the Google Feed API that is likely going away, so it'll be a fairly big project for anyone to rebuild this for their app. I have heard talk of people trying to share resources here, attempting to make a centralized service others can use, but I don't have high hopes of that coming together in the very short time frame we have.
3. Search - I recall someone formerly at Google once telling me that providing custom search across all your feeds was a huge undertaking that basically requires a service to keep a copy of every blog post in every blog ever tracked in the entire system, and provide that indefinitely. I don't use search much in Google Reader but I hear that's a killer feature for many others. The feature obviously ramps up your storage needs for any project.
4. Economics - The toughest problem to solve is in the end, how many people would pay for building and maintaining a service? How many users did Google Reader ever have, and what small number would pay someone else to try and make something as good? This is the tough part and beyond a few thousand nerds, I'm not sure if you can convince a larger casual web audience that your product is worth paying for. A lot of outfits are trying to create magazine-like applications that suggest interesting articles from their system and that may be the way to lure the "normals" to a news reading service, but it's tough to say even after building the immense hardware and software required to run a reader-type app, if it's possible to support more than a tiny team of 2-3 programmers on the revenue from users. That said, I'm actually wary of RSS reading apps that don't charge. I want anything replacing Google Reader to stick around.
Quick reviews of existing readers
Since the announcement, I've been playing with alternatives to Google Reader. I didn't try out any desktop or self-installed applications since I move from computer to computer fairly often and need everything to be centralized and web-based. Here's some quick thoughts on each service currently out there:
Feedbin: This is a nice simple reader interface, clean and doesn't get in the way. I'd describe it as feeling like 2007-era Google Reader before they added social features to the app. It costs $12/yr which is good to hear, but so far I've found myself having to click every headline to see a post, as it doesn't seem to offer the low-friction "river of news" showing all new posts from all the blogs you follow in a single stream that automatically marks themselves as read as you scroll. This also required an uploaded backup of my Google Reader blog list, causing it to think every single blog I follow had all new items. This meant I had to hit "mark as read" for all and start over.
Newsblur: A popular suggested service to me was this one, which is normally free up until I think 100 feeds then it is $24/yr and I saw a $36/yr option for the heaviest users. This service is slammed and took me a day to even sign up, but once on their development server, I was really happy with this. I could import my blogs directly from Google Reader and it maintained read/unread status for me. The feature set is really close to maybe 2010-era Google Reader, with a social component including sharing and comments from friends, but I also noticed comments on posts from random readers which could be kind of annoying. There are some attempts to filter items towards stuff you like most, but so far this one is the big champ for a reader replacement.
Feedly: Feedly is slick looking, but annoying in ways. It requires the use of a Chrome extension in my browser that also inserts a little ghosted share icon/feature into the lower right corner of every web page you view, which bugged me. The default views are trying to look like the Flipboard iPad app, but you can get a Reader-like view if you jump deeper into it. I gave up on this shortly after I imported my blogs from Google Reader as it seemed the service was also built on the Google Feed API and would need to transition off that soon. The service seems free so I'd be wary of jumping on board long-term as a replacement.
The Old Reader: This is something I dabbled with last year and coming back to it again I noticed it's pretty close to the way Google Reader looked and worked in 2010-11. They built it to bring back the sharing and commenting aspects, but the service is fairly slow since the Google Reader announcement and I didn't notice a way to pay for an account, so I'm not sure what the future prospects are for it.
There are a lot more options out there and since I tweeted what was essentially meant as a "I volunteer as Tribute to help build a new RSS reader" I've heard from another half-dozen or so developers and companies working on a Google Reader replacement, so expect to see many more options soon in the coming months.
I've never watched an episode of Veronica Mars, but I can already tell this Kickstarter is going to be huge, wildly surpass their goals, and become a film fans will love. How do I know? Because: Hit and Run.
This was a little movie written, directed, and starring Kristen Bell's husband Dax Shepard. It's a goofy little movie, part road-trip, part who-done-it, but very funny with smart dialogue. I rented it a few weeks ago on AppleTV not expecting much and was surprised by how much I liked this goofy little film. It has a look of a film that says "anyone can do this, you too can make an entertaining little picture."
I did a little research (read the IMDB page) and realized why I loved it so much: it only cost $2M to make. Comic book movie blockbusters are now costing in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars, and this little two million dollar movie has done over fourteen million dollars in business, I'm sure making it quite the successful project for everyone involved. There was something about the movie that reminded me of the first time I went online in the mid-1990s and saw the web as one giant "anyone can do this, you too can make a great website" message.
So I have a feeling Kristen Bell can make a wonderful little $2M movie that people will love since she already did it last summer.
With three clicks, I (accidentally) asked 1138 people to connect on LinkedIn using their import feature. Goddammit, I hate you LinkedIn.— Matt Haughey (@mathowie) March 6, 2013
And I feel like I should explain how this went down, because the event and the aftermath have been interesting.
It started when I was responding to a friend asking me to connect on LinkedIn, via the automated emails. I get about 4-5 a week and I usually ignore 90% of them since I don't recognize the name of the person asking me, but this one was different. I clicked the "connect" button in the HTML email, and got a page saying we were connected and by the way, do you want to import your address book to find more people?
I'd known the person that asked me to connect for about 8 years, so I figured I should try their Gmail connection tool to see who else I've known for years that I've missed. I clicked a button, it started importing, then it gave me a page showing six people with check boxes by each (everyone auto-checked) with a button to send an invite. I didn't recognize 5 of the 6 people so I unchecked those, and hit the big connect button, not knowing that it was auto-selecting 1,138 other names I had to scroll down to see. I realized this mistake soon after clicking, and closed my browser tab hoping that would halt the process.
The aftermath has been annoying, fun, interesting, and illuminating. Responses started coming back in at the rate of about 10-12 per minute for the first 15 minutes. A few people wrote personal notes back, which was nice. Two people called me, both people I barely exchanged email with for business reasons years ago.
After they started slowing down, I began reading them all and realized a few things:
- There are a lot of social media manager type jobs
- A heck of a lot of people work at Facebook now
- Gmail treats subject lines as duplicates on first names and the clear winner of most responed-to LinkedIn requests are from other people named Matt and Matthew. There must be a reason for this.
- People work at a lot of weird startups I've never heard of
- It emailed every person I've ever interacted with over Gmail, I got one response from someone that works at a trucking company, probably because I fixed a typo of theirs on MetaFilter years ago
It's unfortunate that LinkedIn works the way it does and that this happened, most people that responded to me with messages thought I was making a concerted gesture and trying to reconnect, and/or about to look for a job. I think of business contacts as a pretty serious thing, I don't hand out business cards readily unless I really want to be called up by someone, and yet, LinkedIn just pushed out connections to over a thousand people on my behalf without me knowing what it was really doing.
Just think: if a million Google Glasses go out into the world and start storing audio and video of the world around them, the scope of Google search suddenly gets much, much bigger, and that search index will include you.
Mark Hurst paints a fairly scary picture of Google indexing everything, everywhere, as we all become the Googlebot, indexing every conversation and taking photos and video of every building, person, and place around us.
In 2002, Paul Ford penned a famous jokey piece about the Googlebot in his shower but it seems with Google Glass, we've actually gotten there and I'm not sure that's what you'd call progress.
I wanted to like This is 40 more than I did. I'd heard positive reviews from friends and heard Judd Apatow give a great interview on Jesse's Bullseye (embeded below).
The thing I heard in many reviews was how this comedy struck a common thread with people turning 40, and as a guy that is barely a couple months past that milestone, I looked forward to a personal and brilliantly funny comedy about the things I've had to deal with in the past year.
Opening night of this film I saw a friend tweet about how This is 40 was basically just "rich white people problems" and I thought that was a cynical take until I watched it. Ultimately, I think this was the downfall of the film. Sure, the script does feel very personal and I'd say it's a safe bet that three quarters of what happens on screen happened in Apatow's real life, but the film lost me by not being the common-man-turns-40 comedy I was expecting it to be.
They live in Santa Monica, one of the most posh neighborhoods in West LA. Judging from the minimum of 3 bedrooms and the huge backyard I'd say their house is worth around $2mil. Rudd's character drives a $80k 7-series BMW and Leslie Mann's (Apatow's real-life wife) character is in a $50k Lexus. Rudd runs his own record label, and Mann runs a clothing storefront, both in Santa Monica (where rents would be astronomical). They both have enough time and flexibility to exercise for an hour or two each morning and their only obligation seems to be getting up early enough to drop the kids off at school before exercising and eventually showing up to their workplace. One of the core conflicts in the movie is they are having money problems, but when you look at their lives, that conflict felt weak given their amazing circumstances.
They also lie constantly, a personal pet peeve that made it hard for me to love the main characters or root for them. I have no patience for dishonestly in my personal life and one of the worst scenes in the film was one where the parents both flat out lie to Melissa McCarthy, whose character gets so frustrated she flips out and looks like the crazy one in a scene that ends up with everyone laughing at the stereotypical fat "hysterical" woman that left me kind of sad that a good movie had to stoop that low.
It's not all bad, the movie is funny and cracked me up endlessly in parts and yes, that included a few scenes from my own life that went in a similar way. Judd Apatow is amazingly good at packing a comedy with honest moments from life and there are plenty in this. One of the best was when the 13 year old daughter flips out at her parents and drops the f-bomb repeatedly. It was such a perfect capturing of the moment where you are thirteen and have hormones coursing through your body and you're completely frustrated by a lack of control in how the world is going at that age and you can't do anything but rage into the abyss about how everything sucks. There were lots more moments that rang both funny and poignant: dad sitting on the toilet for 30min playing iPad games, siblings hating each other and making up later, dad farting in bed while discussing their lack of sex life, etc. Still, in the end, it fell flat of being as good as the title "the sequel to Knocked Up" lead it to be.
Weird stuff I couldn't help but notice: Almost all the street scenes are shot on a single stretch of San Vincente Boulevard in Santa Monica. They ride bikes down it, drive their cars down it, and work out in the median near the end. I wouldn't be surprised if Apatow lives nearby, but it gave the film a funny 70s TV show vibe by constantly filming on the same stretch. Judd Apatow's wife plays the wife in the film, but the two kids are also their real two kids (and they do a great job). Are they both actors or did Apatow cast his family to save money/time and get a good chemistry going? Is it weird to act with your family when you have to act like jerks to each other? Do the kids get paid by the studio in a trust fund that could pay for their college someday? Was that Apatow's actual house used in production? Were those his personal cars? I have a funny feeling they might have been.
[The Social Network's] great, but there's an interesting omission: None of the main characters is shown using Facebook to improve their social lives in any meaningful way.
Interesting observation from Rogers Cadenhead.
Oh, and I wrote something about my relationship with Twitter vs. Facebook on Medium a couple weeks ago.
For the past few years, there's been a site called huffduffer (started by Jeremy Keith) that lets you link to bits of audio you find online and it shows you popular items across the service. I've always thought of it as Instapaper or delicious for audio, but I never found myself considering it a useful tool that met any of my own audio needs.
Last year I found Instacast, an iPhone app that fully replaced my podcast listening through iTunes. It works around Apple's previous limitations that require you to sync your phone to a computer and requring wifi to download episodes. It's a great app and keeps you up to date on everything you love, even when you're on 3G.
What's weird is in the years since podcasting came out, the world has changed and there are lots of different podcasts producing infrequent content. You also hear about one-off events or shows, or single stellar episodes in an otherwise established series. I finally found a personal use for huffduffer recently as a way to collect all the single podcast episodes I want to hear without the committment of subscribing to a podcast and having to download every one of its 100s of episodes.
Take for example the Marc Maron show. He's at 339 episodes, many of which go beyond a couple hours, and though it's an incredible comedy interview show you're talking a pretty significant chunk of time if you subscribe to the show. On the other hand, I've had friends that listen to the show say there are 4 or 5 episodes you shouldn't miss, and I've been happy to listen to those but I simply don't have the time to follow 2hrs of new content a week from the podcast forever. Another example is friends doing a guest spot on a show I've never heard of, it's a great way to just pluck out that single episode and save it to huffduffer. This also works the other way. If I hear three good single episodes of a podcast chances are I'll subscribe to the full feed.
The final step in the puzzle is wiring your huffduffer feed to instacast. It's easy, but I couldn't find any instructions for this online so I'll post them here. Sign up for huffduffer, use the bookmarklet to add single episodes to your account, then look for your personal podcast feed, which takes the form of:
Next, go to your Instacast client, hit the + button to add a new podcast, then click the link button in the upper left. Put your huffduffer podcast URL listed above and save.
That's all there is to it, whenever you hear about an amazing episode of a podcast or someone you follow on twitter guest stars somewhere, add it to huffduffer, pop open your phone and enjoy.
I showed him a few basic lightning adapter designs on Thingaverse, which he printed, but then we realized in testing them out they all had drawbacks. The fit wasn't perfect in any of them, one was great at holding a cord but you could push the cord out of the device when connecting it on a table top. None of them dealt with the bend of a new Apple lightning cable very well.
Buffington tweaked some things and made a new second part that holds the cable down while also forcing the hard bend. Photos of the dock with the parts mounted are here in a Flickr slideshow:
and here is video of the dock being used on my desk:
It's just two pieces of printed plastic and a couple off-the-shelf nuts and bolts going into existing holes to put it all together. Buffington's design is now on Thingaverse, my hope is anyone else with a Elevation dock can upgrade it to allow for iPhone 5 charging.
As always, 3D printing your own parts in real-time is totally awesome and I can't wait until everyone has a desktop 3D printer at home.
This is fascinating, someone has made a 3d printed insert for the Elevation Dock to hold a new lightning cable. In August, I received a few Elevation Docks after funding it earlier this year, and I loved using it each day as my phone finally had a nice bedside charger. Since I replaced my iPhone I've missed using it and disassembled an Elevation Dock the other day to see if I could wedge one of the new iPhone cables into it. Unfortunately, the plastic trim that holds the 30-pin connector in place is too narrow to squeeze/hold the lightning adapter high enough for charging in the dock.
I was considering cutting some of the plastic and trying to get it to work but found out Mike Hellers already solved this by putting up a design on Thingaverse which you can get printed/shipped for about $10 from Shapeways.
This is great for owners of a new iPhone that backed the Elevation Dock. I'm impressed at how quickly this 3d model was conceived and printed and is now available. As I was disassembling my dock, I looked at the electronics that Casey, the designer behind the Elevation Dock created and realized it was mostly unnecessary if you could just bend/hold an existing iPhone charger cable. Casey told me at the XOXO conference he was working on a new connector for the lightning connector, but rumors are there's a chip in the cable that would make 3rd party cables impossible.
The most interesting aspect is how 3d printing disrupts things. Casey built these heavy, beautiful docks and spent months creating a circuit board to support charging that is now incompatible and likely impossible to replicate for the new connector. In some industries, I could see a company/creator going after someone making rogue parts like this printed cable holder, but I really hope in this case Casey partners with Mike and figures out a way to print/ship these to existing Elevation Dock owners. It would reduce the Elevation Dock to basically a hunk of heavy aluminum that simply holds a cable inside, but from the outside the existing dock isn't much more than that. (via jdd)
With the recent news of a new version of the smart thermostat Nest coming out, I figured I should finally write up what it has been like living with the first version of the product since last November, when mine arrived.
Overall, it's been a great little tool, smart in lots of smart ways and dumb in just a very few and eons ahead of similar products I've used. Back in the early 2000s, I spent some time in my first house trying to automate everything. I used x10 to control my lights and set up schedules to turn lights on and off at certain times and I bought a programmable thermostat in the hopes of not only saving energy but also allowing me to wake up to a pre-warmed house in the winter.
I recall how quickly my adoration with home automation faded when I decided to stay up 15 minutes later than normal only to have the entire downstairs lighting shut off to pitch black per the schedule I created. I also remember spending hours programming the thermostat with complicated weekday versus weekend programs, and how after a couple months I just gave up and used it like a normal thermostat that sat at fixed temperatures.
When I heard about the Nest, I immediately ordered one and patiently waited the months until it arrived. It came with a free professional installation that would be scheduled a couple weeks later, but I decided to try it myself and like my last house it was pretty easy to do and 20 minutes after I started, everything was running and it was downloading software updates from wifi (pictured above).
After about a week of using the thermostat to adjust temps (fun bonus: cranking up the heat on a cold December morning from the comfort of your bed, using the Nest iPhone app), it started to realize our patterns and follow them (I rarely have to run the iPhone app these days). It was a nice change from the hours of programming I did in the past and it just seemed to work for my family, realizing that we woke up around 7am most days, went to sleep around 11pm, and started shutting itself off whenever we were gone for the day. After about a month, I went onto the Nest.com website to check the schedule and it only required a minor amount of tweaking to follow a perfect pattern.
Let me say straight up that the motion sensor in it is pretty amazing. It realizes when no one has been home for a couple hours and sets your thermostat to auto-away mode, saving energy by going to prescribed temp extremes (colder than normal in winter, warmer than normal in summer). I've never had it go to auto-away while I was home working even though it's in a different room. I should also say that if I had a normal office job, the Nest would be doing an even better job. I'm at home about five days a week so it doesn't get tripped into away mode as often as typical houses where most people are gone during the daytime weekday hours.
It's hard to say what the bottom line is on energy savings for me. I don't watch our electric bills super closely and our bill includes charges for water too (which usage fluctuates wildly), making quantifying the post-Nest world a bit tougher, but I do know the system goes into auto-away mode reliably several times a week and it's been great to set the whole system to away mode when we've been on vacation. Having a vacant house heated and air conditioned is a lot like running your lawn sprinklers during a rainstorm, a total waste of money. It's also great to have the iPhone/web connections to control it even though I don't need it very often. I remember bringing up the phone app and taking the house out of away mode at the airport when we landed from a vacation, and arriving to a cool house in the summer an hour later.
About the only downsides are how it sometimes acts a bit too eager to please. You might have a dinner party and turn on the air conditioning a few degrees cooler than normal to keep guests comfortable, and the thermostat is supposed to ignore one-off moments like this, but I found it slightly adjusting itself at odd times that reflected short term changes. This also happened when I left the country for a week while the rest of my family stayed behind, introducing a new schedule where I wasn't home all week in my home office that had to be adjusted later when I went back to my old schedule.
Apart from those minor schedule nits, the Nest has been great, warming the house on winter mornings, shutting down each night about an hour before we typically go to sleep, following our coming and going patterns appropriately and being completely controllable in real time from either the web or our phones (and also by the nice weighty dial on the unit itself) if we need to change things. I won't be buying a new one (for the same reasons Marco states here the software updates make getting a new one unnecessary) but I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all my friends as a neat way to save a bit of energy and turn a dumb appliance like your heating and air conditioning into an automatically configured smart object that works with your own patterns of behavior.
Up until recently, my favorite text editor was TextMate, and I not only used it to write code for websites, I also used to write blog posts in it. It had this hard-to-find feature that would let you highlight a word, and turn it into a link that lead to whatever was in your clipboard (copy/pasted URLs). I started using Coda 2 more and more and missed this feature. When I asked the Panic guys about it, they explained it in a couple tweets and I made a little video to show you how to do it too:
- Make sure the sidebar is visible in your main window (check the View menu if it is not)
- Click the Home icon, then Clips
- Right-click to make a new Clip
- Type out the code for a link
- Click between the quote marks and put in the option for "Clipboard Contents"
- Click the area between the tags and select "Text Selection"
- Set a keystroke for it, I selected Control-Shift-a.
- Save it, and start blogging up a storm in Coda 2
As silly as this one feature is, I've found it has saved me gobs of time when writing long blog posts that have tons of links in them. You just switch to your browser tabs, hit copy, then add them as links in your text, and repeat. I end up using this feature 20x a day it seems so I wanted to make sure other people know how to do it too.
(you might want to view the video full screen to see it more clearly)