Category: Web

December 20th, 2012

When I first started taking pictures, I did so because I loved the process. I loved capturing images and, as a ridiculously nostalgic person, I loved paging through them. Reliving history. Basking in a sense of pride that I made something, even if the something I made wasn’t that great.

I didn’t just take pictures for me, though. I did it for my family and my friends. I took pictures so they could be seen. And there was a service that handled my pictures perfectly: Flickr.

I paid for the Pro account. I became involved in the community. I posted things to groups and commented on pictures from people I knew and people I didn’t know and will never know. I was a full out Flickr supporter – there was no site I used more.

And then things went mobile.

Things went mobile at the same time that, for our family, life became cluttered. I took fewer pictures with the Canon, but, as luck would have it, the cameras on my phone improved to the point that I could socially share at closer to the same quality as I was posting on Flickr. Photo editing fell behind, and quick snaps picked up. Eventually, posting to Flickr became an every-three-months exercise in marathon editing, ending in a glut of pictures that no one had time to look at.

I never used Flickr to be social, at least not in the way social media works these days. I never used Flickr to take quick picks and save them for use across Facebook or Twitter – to me, Flickr was a walled garden.

I didn’t neglect Flickr because I wanted to be more mobile. It’s just that my life had changed to the detriment of the service. I didn’t need Flickr as much as I used to. Instead, I turned to Instagram as a placeholder. A place to post the pictures I still longed to take, compressed and filtered and fast.

So when the Instagram terms of service update came down, I wasn’t as upset as others. I didn’t swear off the service and threaten to delete everything if they didn’t change. I hated their response to the outcry, but it wasn’t enough for me to cut ship and row away. I’m not dumb. I know that if we’re not paying for a service, that service is getting something from us in return – our data, our rights, our likeness, our implicit word.

Mostly, it was just bad timing for Instagram.

Flickr had released a new app a few days earlier. It was everything they should have done years ago. It had the same power and sharing capabilities as Instagram – a little more cluttered, but a lot better at showing the full scope of a set in one glance instead of an endless line of one-off images.

But it came with something else: my history. My past images, all in one place. My Flickr friends – many who also had never gone away. We had all returned. Some of us had never left.

There’s no need for two image apps on my phone. So I went with the one I loved the most.

I didn’t leave Instagram because of the new terms of use. I didn’t leave because they had suggested they were going to sell my stuff. I didn’t leave because they talked down to me in a response, and I’m not that concerned about their policy rollback. I technically haven’t left at all.

When it comes down to it, I abandoned Instagram. And I did so because I missed Flickr.

Category: Photography, Web

April 10th, 2012

I popped up from the ground and ran. I was bleeding. A lot. My face was a mess, mashed into god knows what. But I couldn’t think about that. I was only half a block from my house, so I ran. I just ran.

Behind me lay my bike, left behind in an awkward angle, its front wheel released from the frame and its front fork jammed into the grass. The reflector lay strewn across the parking lot. My friend, who shifted from laughing to not laughing to genuine concern, ran behind me, trying to catch up.

I would later recount the scene to my father, my mother, an admitting nurse and a reconstructive surgeon: I was a half block from my house when my wheel had come off my bike. I was riding down a hill. The fork of my bike came down first, and I went up and over. My face went into the concrete. Where I slid. Where I spent just fractions of a second, jarred, confused. Then: alive.

I was alive. But I wasn’t hurting. I wasn’t in pain.

I was scared shitless.

Not Knowing Enough To Know What You Don’t Know

The web moves quickly, and we struggle to run along with it. I was reminded of this at the recent IA Summit in New Orleans, where I found myself hanging out with a group of the weekend’s speakers. As we laughed and ate and drank and talked about anything but information architecture, I realized that these people knew each other from way back. I was lagging in both familiarity and experience.

And, as the weekend rolled on, I realized just how much I was lagging in knowledge. The people I had spend the weekend getting to know were all accomplished speakers who could engage in hour-long discussions on IA, while all I could do is sit back and soak it in. I walked into the conference expecting to learn more about information architecture. I never expected to leave learning just how much I didn’t know about the field.

Turns out, this isn’t rare. This shit happens all the time.

Here’s some dude walking into a meeting with his first big client. Here’s a new author who’s signed an agreement for her first book. Here’s a small-time strategist who’s been asked to speak intelligently with much smarter people about things that may or may not be over his head.

These situations are common. They are called “New Situations”,” as in “This is something you’ve never done before.” They are situations in which we are required to be on point, knowledgable and charming, lying through our teeth about our experience. At all times, we’re scared to be found out, which means we’re scared of being discovered as an amateur.

As if we didn’t all start as amateurs. As if we weren’t all scared when we started something new. The difference is whether we took that fear and used it to our advantage.

My Little Black Book

I collect fears like some collect phone numbers, storing them away for future correspondance. Each one is categorized by relationship, given its own avatar and recalled as the mood fits.

Here’s a section I like to call “Professional Disembowelment.” It’s filled with doubts. I met them all when I started writing, and they still threaten to tear me apart. There’s the Fear of Being Found Out. There’s the Fear of Hackitude. There’s the Fear of Speaking and Not Knowing What I’m Talking About. The gang’s all here, folks, and they’re ready to party.

Sometimes, I steal fears: “Will My Child Be Okay?” and “Am I As Big Of An Asshole As I Sometimes Seem?” are things I’ve seen manifest in close friends. “Will I Be Overweight Forever” was borrowed from the Mass Media Television Complex. “Am I A Good Husband/Father/Friend” was lifted from everyone, everywhere, ever.

We all have these little black books, where fears and anxieties collect and pool and begin choking on our ability to work and create and live. They stop circulation. As the pools become muddy and still, they continue to coalesce until we do something about them.

We can ignore them and watch as they silently take over. We can accept them and stay stagnant. We can confront them and learn from them.

I never delete a fear. I never know when I’ll need it again.

Here’s a Moral, I Guess

Without fear, I am nothing.

Without the fear of being left behind, not accepted by my peers, forced to live in the nerd I’ve imagined myself to be, I’d have never met any of my best friends. What’s more, I’d have never met Kerrie. I’d have never captured her heart. I’d have never learned to feed off of her strength.

Without being thrown into a new industry, forced to write by the seat of my patched-together pants, scared to death that a client was going to come back and ask why they had hired such a damned hack, I’d have never pushed myself to become better.

Without the fear that I’d be left out of something wonderful, I’d have never moved toward the web.

Without the fear that I’d be discovered as a fraud – scared shitless that I’d open a drawer and find a litter’s worth of rabbit feet, proving that everything from the past five years was an extended exercise in luck management – I wouldn’t keep fighting to learn more.

Where there’s fear, there’s consciousness. We don’t fear things we don’t care about. I am who I am because I’ve stopped fighting the uncomfortable. I’ve accepted fear as a necessary part of progress, separating it from anxiety, using it for good instead of for ulcers. I haven’t done anything special – nothing that we all can’t do. I just bucked up and accepted life. Accepted fear. Accepted progress.

Without the fear, I stand still. We all do. Fear is the next killer productivity app.

We Move On

It only took a few minutes to get to the emergency room. My mother arrived shortly after. I was bandaged, gauzed and cosmetically altered, my chin sewn together and swaddled in gauze.

I usually forget about the accident, but I’m often reminded of the scars. I can still feel the lump where my tooth punctured my lip. I can still see the white line on my chin that refuses to beard over.

I can still feel the impact. Every time I get on a bike. Every time I ride down a hill. Every time I wobble, my tire sticking in a curb or against a railroad track.

What’s more, I feel it every time Sierra gets on a bike in the backyard and starts riding in circles. I feel it every time Isaac, unaware of his own mortality, speeds down the sidewalk head first, feet dragging, full speed. It was my accident – my blood, and my shock – but I’ve saddled them with the repercussions. I hover over them, I coddle them, and I sometimes block the warm rays of carefree childhood.

When I was a kid, I was scared of people. I’ve never gotten over that; struggling against the undertow of introversion has become one of my pastimes. I hope that my kids will learn from my mistakes – that being scared is okay, that you SHOULD be scared, that you can’t progress without the fear of failure and the fear of mistakes and the fear of being discovered.

But they probably won’t. They can’t. They have to make their own mistakes. They will develop their own fears.

They will learn from them. They will become stronger. On their own. In time. With or without my help. Which means all I can do is hug them and comfort them and hope they learn their lesson long before I did.

July 20th, 2011

It always strikes me how the most active people from the old 9rules community – and I’m thinking about the community from 2005-2007, when I was a new member and the Triad was still around and everything felt awesome – have all ended up skewing toward what I like to think of as the New Creative Industries: web development and strategy, digital design, digital photography, etc. This from a group that wasn’t necessarily a tech- or web-related bunch: people in 9rules did not blog exclusively about technology, development or digital design at all.

For those who don’t remember, 9rules was a blog community. A pretty great one, for a while. Backed by Scrivs and Tyme and Mike, 9rules collected the best of unrepresented blogs, aggregating content and helping others discover good writing and design. It was an honor to be selected.

I was a late bloomer – I came in on round 5 of acceptances in 2006, a few years before the Triad sold off and the site became a shell – but I remember the thrill in finding like-minded blog nuts, all blogging about random things.

Many of these people I still keep track of. I still follow Kyle Neath and Alex Morse and Scrivs, and I’d consider myself Internet Friends with even more – Nils Geylan and Abi Jones come to mind. Even Deane is a former 9rules alumnus.

There are more. More talented former 9rules bloggers. More still awesome people. I can’t list them all.

And, outside of the 9rules connection, they all have one thing in common: They all work on the web. Or, they are keenly interested in the web. Or they use the web to their advantage.

By collecting high quality blogs, was 9rules also – in some way – collecting a new generation of curators and web creatives and future people of note? Was I lucky enough to be included in something larger than I even realize – larger than the site itself was even able to realize?

Was the underlying theme of 9rules this sense of discovery? That people who were willing to stay current and keep posting content and be vigilant about quality were already pre-determined to forge forward into the increasingly stable and viable web world?

Did we all become web professionals because we were in 9rules? Or did 9rules work because we were all deeply interested in creating great things for the web?

Or is just a blatantly obvious connection that I’ve been too dull to notice until recently?

Category: Blogging, Web

June 24th, 2011

There are two distinct ways of dealing with cross-company industry collaboration – specifically, the collaboration of ideas. You either accept it with open arms, gleefully sharing insights and blog posts and other industry-furthering information, or you hold it to your chest, using it as intellectual leverage.

When I worked in the traditional advertising agency world, we held everything to our chest. We couldn’t post extensive portfolios because we didn’t want our competitors to discover the companies we worked with. We were vague in our methodologies because we didn’t want to give up our tricks. We treated industry colleagues with a measure of wariness.

That’s the old way.

The new way is one of collaboration, understanding that as others make breakthroughs and discover new tricks, we are allowed to follow those breakthroughs and discover our own.

I recently threw an email out to content strategists around the nation. Some of them are big-time. Some of them have written books. And I asked for an important chunk of their time in the form of a deep question about one of the discipline’s core tasks.

I asked for a lot and expected a few terse one-line responses.

On the contrary. Nearly everyone responded within hours, each with an intense, thoughtful and impassioned response. Lots of words. Lots of wonderful nuggets of information. Lots of awesome.

There was no shielding of competitive knowledge, no insistence upon vetting the question, no ego, no NOTHING; just great information from great people who want to further the field.

It’s not just in content strategy, either. You see it in small design shops. You see it at un-conferences. Web is an industry fueled by constant change, which makes the ability to share ideas and use those ideas to make cool things one of the most important skills a professional can have.

I’m still amazed at how open things are. The egos are smaller. The ideas are fresher. The cross-pollination is natural and welcome.

We all stand on the backs of those who came before us. The real difference is whether we use this height to pull others up, or if we’re content with kicking them back down.

June 17th, 2011

So I read this six paragraph review from Kill Screen on Infinity Blade, and it was good, and I liked it, and I thought “what an interesting way to position an iOS game,” and then I clicked the button: Begin Bloodline 2.

And then, I gasped.

Because here it is. The power and the potential of online content, pulling you in, tweaking your imagination. Changing. Right there. Changing as you watch.

Even more than the tech mumbo jumbo, though: this is the first time I’ve seen an article tackle the most important part of the writing process: the process ITSELF. Much as the game provides an opportunity to grow and learn from your mistakes, the article slowly grows through revisions, insight and experience, becoming more refined RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU AS YOU WATCH.

That’s pretty great, you guys. Pretty f’n great.

Category: Web, Writing

June 7th, 2011

If there’s any doubt as to IMDB.com’s dedication to it’s users, it should be erased by this entry for This is Spinal Tap.

Because those stars? They go to ELEVEN.

This is Spinal Tap on IMDB

Certain films foster a certain level of fanaticism: Monty Python, Star Wars, Spinal Tap, among hundreds. IMDB not only acknowledges this fanaticism, but also takes part in it, and that is beyond awesome.

Via @gadgetopia.

Category: Movies, Web

May 9th, 2011

On Friday night, Kerrie and I talked about how great it would be to have a service that compiled your recipes, instinctively reading and separating the ingredients and organizing them through some tagging structure. Because as fantastic as Epicurious is, it’s limited to its recipe box, and we have a lot of recipes that aren’t in that box.

“That would be great,” we said. “I can’t wait for someone to figure that out,” we said.

Today during her presentation at Confab, Mandy Brown of Typekit/A Book Apart mentioned, offhandedly, that she would love – and would totally pay for – a Pinboard-like service for recipes. Like whoa, I was just talking about that, and, like whoa, I am thrilled someone else is looking for that type of service. Like whoa.

And then I ran into Daniel Eizans, and mentioned how funny it was that the “recipe compiling service need” was brought up, because, OMG LIKE ME TOO, and Daniel says, “OH HAI YOU MEAN LIKE THIS?”

Like this = Pepperplate.

And yes. I do mean like this.

The Internet, you guys. You say “I wish this was a thing” and it responds by saying “Dude, it already is.”

Category: Food, Web