What do you call yourself?

A week ago I was listening to the live version of  “Lets Make Mistakes” podcast from Muleradio.net and a woman emailed in to say she needed some design experience so she could do more in-house. It was more of how to I get started question and where do I look for training.  It got me thinking a lot so I sent in a question to Mike and Katie in the hopes it would get answered.

My question was this:

What do you call a person – who asks the correct questions for problem solving, can do wire frames and flows of how something should work, knows how to make sure you are not complicating things when trying to solve a design problem but perhaps is not the the person doing the Photoshop, InDesign, PHP programming or any other hands on aspect of the job?

Are they a designer? creative? or something else?

The episode is apply titled “Abandonment Issues and Identity Crisis“. This is something I have struggled with for years as to how to place a moniker on some of the work I do, and to do it in a fashion that will not anger other “hands on creative people”.

According to Mike using the term Designer is fine.  And he goes on to provide nice examples and definitions of how and why that is the case. The question comes in at 17:05 in the podcast.  You can listen to Episode #50 here.

Dieter Rams on Good Design as an Advantage

Fast Company’s CoDesign newsletter featured a piece on “Dieter Rams On Good Design As A Key Business Advantage“.  If you are a fan of design and believe in how it can make a difference to your company this is one article you should read.

It also features his Ten principles of good design that I think are still amazing today. He has designed so many products that have stood the test of time.  Definitely one of my top 10 favorite designers.

Streaming new music from iTunes

I am a music fan. There was a time not too long ago that I was buying 2–3 albums (digital downloads) a week. Before that it was CD and cassettes. Over the last couple of years my buying habits have tapered off a little. A song here and there but nothing crazy. It has nothing to do with money – it has to do more with being uninspired by the music that is being put out. Lackluster, unoriginal, uninspiring are words that come to mind to me.

I still look at iTunes on Tuesdays to see what if there is any new music that might be interesting in some way. Admittedly I have an eclectic listening list so I hope I can find something. Last night while browsing I noticed a pre-order options for the new John Mayer album. His music varies in tone and popularity but I have always respected him as a guitar player.

The one thing that was different that I have never seen before was the ability to stream the album in whole before purchasing. You could always listen to the preview tracks of an album but there were always the .30 second to 1:30 minute samples depending on the length of the song. Click on the stream now allows you to listen to the album in entirety. Perphaps this has been there before and I never saw it. My other thought is this could be a small response to applications like NPR music which do something similar. Its availble for streaming for a linited time so if youa re interested check it out.

Inconsistent Experience

Advertising is a part of our everyday life. TV, newspapers, magazines and websites all have some type of advertising. For the most part I am ok with it as long is it is not over the top and intrusive. Fortunately there are several apps that help you read articles without ads like Instapaper.

I use a Reeder on my Mac to subscribe to a number of blogs. Some RSS feeds have ads within them. Its not my favorite thing but it is certainly something that does not bother me.

Recently I was going through some feeds and came across an article from Cult of Mac that really interested me. Cult of Mac does not have ads within their feeds which makes it even better.

I clicked on the preview in Reeder and the full page came up.The few normal static ads are there and I was expecting them.  So far so good.

Wanting more information I clicked on the link that allows you top open the full page in Safari.

This is where I got shocked. When I opened the page I was greeted with a video ad that is in the middle of the page. During the 30 seconds that ad is playing you can not scroll on the page, read the page at all or bounce out of the ad altogether (there is no option to skip this ad). I found this to be a horrible and jarring experience. If you go directly to the website you do not see the video at all so why it was forced for users coming from RSS Readers makes no sense at all and puts a bad taste in my mouth.  If you are going to advertise, you should try and do it in the most thoughtful and consistent manner possible.  This fails.

Turning a negative into a positive

I received an email from This Week on TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) that contained links to a few new videos. One of the ones that caught my attention right away was Renny Gleasons 4 minute talk about 404 pages. Renny is a Global Digital Strategies Director for Wieden+Kennedy

Click below to see Renny Gleason talk about the story of the 404 page. The take away is that you can take a negative experience into a positive brand building one.

 

Reading on the iPhone

I have said it before I am a big reader now. There are many reasons I love the iPad. I can write, surf the web but reading if a key feature of its use. This can come in the form of RSS feeds through Reeder or more commonly books purchased through iBooks ( the Amazons Kindle app is nice to but I prefer iBooks). Reading on the current iPad with the Retina display is fantastic.

I love the iPhone as well. It is the probably my second favorite Apple device ever after my MacBook Air. It is a personal computing device in my pocket. But I have relegated it to email, texts, music, podcasts etc. I have never thought of it as a reading device.

I just finished “Insanely Simple” by Ken Segall. I purchased the book on my iPad through the iBookstore. I quickly got engaged in the book on my iPad. for me it was one of those books I could not put down. but whipping the iPad out at the Drs.. office or while sitting in the coffee shop did not always work. But I was really hooked on this book. So I turned on iBook synching and I had a few books download to my iPhone.

The first time I opened the book it immediately went to the last page I had booked marked on the iPad. I figured what the hell I had a few minutes so I thought I would give it a shot. As soon as I started reading the header and footer of the book disappeared giving a larger viewing area. [1]

iPhone Bookmark iPhone Full Screen

I started reading and found I really enjoyed it. I was completely surprised. The retina display makes the text look gorgeous and the reading experience was very nice. I found over the course of reading this book I was finding myself using this method more and more. The other night I went to bed and forgot my iPad but had my iPhone on the bedside table so I picked it up and continued reading. Reading on the iPhone is certainly not for everyone. I don’t think the current magazine subscriptions would lend themselves well to the small screen but I think it is perfectly acceptable for a book and I recommend everyone give this a try at least once.


  1. larger is a relative term here.  ↩

Text file nerdery

I hate Word. I hate that we have to use it in the corporate environment. I love Markdown and use it more and more everyday. I have even started sending it to users in my company and let them deal with it. My preference today is Byword. I love the simple interface and the speed. I hate the term “distraction free writing environment” but that is truly what it is. [1]

I looked at all my documents and noticed the large discrepancy in file size.
I decided I would run a few unofficial tests to compare writing tools on my mac.

For the tests I used a 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro with 4 GB of ram.


About this Mac

To create the test I used a TextExpander snippet from Brett Terpstra to generate the 3 paragraphs of Lorem Ipsum text for consistency. [2] Each document had 318 words and 2159 characters. The applications I tested included Word for Mac, Pages, Byword, TextEdit included with Lion and Mou[3]. There are many more that I could have tried but these were all available on my machine.

Versions

  • Pages: 4.1 Pages ’09
  • Word: 14.2.1 Word for Mac
  • Byword: 1.5.1
  • TextEdit: 1.7.1
  • Mou: 0.7.1 beta

After running the TextExpander snippet I saved each item out to my desktop only using the name of the application as a reference. Nothing else changed. Below are the sizes for each application.

File Size

  • Pages (.pages): 114,330 – 115 KB
  • Word (.docx): 112,184 bytes – 115KB on disk
  • Byword (.md) : 2,159 bytes – 4KB on disk
  • TextEdit (.rtf): 2,466 bytes – 4KB on disk
  • Mou (.md): 2,159 bytes – 4KB on disk

Then I was curious what the overall time was for each to start up from not running to a blank page. For my unofficial startup time test I loaded up the application in Alfred and hit the return key at the same time as the stopwatch. This is far from scientific but wanted to get a general idea fast things were.


Alfred screen shot

Startup Time in seconds

  • Pages: 4.1
  • Word: 7.5
  • Byword: .5
  • TextEdit:. 5
  • Mou: .5

I was not surprised at the startup time of the applications. Word and Pages are much larger applications that allow some sophisticated layout options.  The reality is we almost never use them. For example I never use any of the math functions included in Word. I am sure there are a few people who may need this, but I am willing to bet it is about .01 percent of the population. What I was more surprised was the actual file sizes. I knew the big programs would be larger but I did not expect them to be almost 29 times larger. I would imagine most people don’t care about the size of their files, but with today’s smaller SSD drives depending how how many documents you create it could add up to a significant difference.

This very basic test just proves to me what I already knew which is using these other editors can have a huge difference in the overall experience.


  1. Another huge benefit of Byword are the versions on IOS devices  ↩
  2. Sample Text:
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.  ↩

    Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

    At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint occaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. Et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. Nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio cumque nihil impedit quo minus id quod maxime placeat facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus. Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet ut et voluptates repudiandae sint et molestiae non recusandae. Itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat.

  3. Mou is an integrated Markdown editor which shows you a preview as you type. It is in Beta now. I used this frequently before I found Brett’s Marked App.  ↩

How to make money online

If you didn’t see this post from Seth Godin check it out here.  Below are Seth’s 21 steps for making money online. So many good points here but #5 and #6 are so important.  

How to make money online:

  1. The first step is to stop Googling things like, “how to make money online.” Not because you shouldn’t want to make money online, but because the stuff you’re going to find by doing that is going to help you lose money online. Sort of like asking a casino owner how to make money in Vegas…
  2. Don’t pay anyone for simple and proven instructions on how to achieve this goal. In particular, don’t pay anyone to teach you how to write or sell manuals or ebooks about how to make money online.
  3. Get rich slow.
  4. Focus on the scarce resource online: attention. If you try to invent a way to take cheap attention and turn it into cash, you will fail. The attention you want isn’t cheap, it’s difficult to get via SEO and it rarely scales. Instead, figure out how to earn expensive attention.
  5. In addition to attention, focus on trust. Trust is even more scarce than attention.
  6. Don’t worry so much about the ‘online’ part. Instead, figure out how to create value. The online part will take care of itself.
  7. Don’t quit your day job. Start evenings and weekends and figure it out with small failures.
  8. Build a public reputation. A good one, and be sure that you deserve it, and that it will hold up to scrutiny.
  9. Obsessively specialize. No niche is too small if it’s yours.
  10. Connect the disconnected.
  11. Lead.
  12. Build an online legacy that increases in value daily.
  13. Make money offline. If you can figure out how to create value face to face, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to do the same digitally. The web isn’t magic, it’s merely efficient.
  14. Become the best in the world at something that people value. Easier said than done, worth more than you might think.
  15. Hang out with people who aren’t looking for shortcuts. Learn from them.
  16. Fail. Fail often and fail cheaply. This is the very best gift the web has given to people who want to bootstrap their way into a new business.
  17. Make money in the small and then relentlessly scale.
  18. Don’t chase yesterday’s online fad.
  19. Think big, act with intention and don’t get bogged down in personalities. If it’s not on your agenda, why are you wasting time on it?
  20. Learn. Ceaselessly. Learn to code, to write persuasively, to understand new technologies, to bring out the best in your team, to find underused resources and to spot patterns.
  21. This is not a zero sum game. The more you add to your community, the bigger your piece gets.

A few years ago I put my book The Bootstrapper’s Bible online for free. You can find it here.

(Via Seth’s Blog)

Insanely great read

I just finished reading Ken Segall’s “Insanely Simple” book that came out about two weeks ago. I have to say this has been one of my favorite books in a long time. Ken worked for Chiat Day who was part of the team responsible for some of Apple’s best advertising.

For anyone who thinks this book is just another book about Apple – you are couldn’t be more incorrect. This is a book about marketing and design, and how Apple uses it to make a better expereince. There are some great personal stories of Ken’s interactions with Steve included as well that really give you more of an insight into how he thought and his rational behind his decitions.

Ken also provides examples for comparision from Dell and Intel. He was a team member on those accounts as well. Some of the comparisons are brutal. While Apple could make a decision on the spot in a meeting one of the other companies might have to send it to committe and test it and get user feedback before there was any movement forward.

The premise that surrounds the whole books is this :

“People prefer Simplicity”

One of the things that I think confuses people is that because something is simple it should be easier. This is not the case at all. In fact it is usually quite the opposite.

Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains. – Steve Jobs

If you are interested in marketing, Apple, design or simplicity this is a must read book.

 Each chapter breaks down a concept into the smallest form. Think Brutal, Think Small, Think Minimal for example. The last chapter give a great summary of all guiding pricinples throughout the book. I highly recommend this its a fantastic read.