Monthly Archives: December 2013

Killing or selling the product

Nick Bradbury on selling Glassboard to Second Gear:

“When finding a new owner was first discussed, I was very unsure of the idea. We wouldn’t be just handing over our software to someone else – we’d also be handing over our customers and their data. That was such a concern of mine that I suggested we simply kill the product.”

A few times this year I’ve thought about whether I should sell Tweet Marker, but it usually comes back to a similar concern as what Nick says above. I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling it to most companies that would actually want to acquire it. So I’ve made a change or two, and we’ll see how 2014 goes.

As for Glassboard, I’m excited to see what Justin Williams does with it. We use it for Core Intuition questions and feedback (invite code “coreint”), and I’m sure I’ll be using the 3.0 version around conferences next year.

The Blue Umbrella holiday calendar

In the 90s I bought a LaserDisc player because it was the best way to get bonus features like director’s commentary and “making of” shorts on some of my favorite movies, before DVDs took off. But I’ve resisted getting a Blu-ray player, even though studios seem to have completely shut out DVDs from the behind-the-scenes material we’re used to. Luckily artists can still share their work directly via the web.

I love this new site from Pixar artists, just in time for the holidays, on the making of their short film The Blue Umbrella. It’s presented as a holiday calendar with a new page revealed each day. From day 3:

“The second test I had made after having just been to a concert of Sarah Jaffe. I fell in love with her music and voice and desperately wanted to pitch her an idea for a music video. But I needed a concept for it. While walking through the city and listing to her songs I suddenly got this idea for a music video where a whole city would sing one of her songs.”

It’s one of those rare sites that is so wonderful that I make an exception to not following it if there’s no RSS feed. Added to my bookmarks.

Apple’s misunderstood ad

Apple has produced some amazing ads over the years. 1984, introducing the original Mac; the Think Different campaign; and one of my favorite this year, about photos.

Their new ad “Misunderstood” is also great. Federico Viticci has a rundown of the details and how brilliantly it unfolds. I first noticed the video via Neven Mrgan, who had this to say on

“Apple’s new ad (‘Misunderstood’) is technically perfect: …but I have to say it doesn’t quite ring true to me. Kids use iPhones to shut out the family and hang out within their own social circle (and that’s ok).”

He’s right. My daughters will likely escape to Instagram and various chat apps to connect with their friends through the holidays. But also I think ads like this work so well not because they represent reality, not because they’re true, but because we want them to be.

200 MB free

I wrote a draft of this post a couple weeks ago while on the road, then gave a summary on Core Intuition 115. But I still wanted to publish it and give a little more detail about my experience with cellular on the iPad.

I ordered my retina iPad Mini with T-Mobile, hoping to take advantage of their free 200 MB of data per month. Since most of the time I’m at home on wi-fi, I figured the savings for all the months that I don’t need even 200 MB would more than offset the extra $130 cost of buying the cellular version of iPad.

I had three primary use cases in mind: the occasional commute on the train to work at coffee shops downtown, when it’s nice to be connected but the train wi-fi doesn’t cut it; swim meets and other kid activities with very long downtime, again without need for a laptop but it might be nice to catch up on some writing or RSS feeds; and road trips, lonely stretches of the highway where I’m technically on vacation but still need to check in on email, chat, or

I got home from the Apple Store, excitedly opened the box, restored my iPad from iCloud, tapped to set up a new T-Mobile plan, and… immediately wished I had chosen Verizon instead. Because the first thing I saw was an error that the web site wasn’t working. T-Mobile is smallest of the big carriers, and the error made me doubt that T-Mobile had the coverage or competence to make this work.

I followed up the poor first impression by searching the internet for similar problems that other T-Mobile customers might have run into. Sure enough, it was common weeks earlier during the iPad Air rollout, and T-Mobile still hadn’t fixed it. The workaround was simply to disable wi-fi during setup, forcing the connection to go through T-Mobile’s network.

A week later I gave the network its first real test on the road. Checking email, looking up maps and directions, writing, even a little streaming video for the kids.

The coverage between major cities wasn’t good. The iPad Mini was often on Edge where my iPhone 4S on AT&T had 4G. It worked, but would frequently drop and reconnect. Sometimes I’d get lucky and find a spot of LTE for a little while, and it was a beautiful thing, while it lasted. Other times it was all but unusable.

The good news is that “200 MB free” is not a marketing gimmick. No strings attached, no credit card required, and no phone plan needed; it really is free cell data. The cost is dealing with a company that wants desperately to “get” iOS but isn’t quite there, and poor connectivity between cities compared to AT&T. But after a rough start, I have no regrets. I’m typing this on my iPad along I-10 somewhere between Austin and Orlando, and that’s priceless indeed.

Your name

Found via Shawn Blanc, CJ Chilvers writes about the reputation of photographers:

“I look at their blogs and the consideration given to advertisers over readers. I look at their Twitter feeds that have become broadcasts, rather than conversations. I look at their Instagram feeds and see a stream of consciousness, instead of considered examples of the work that makes them proud.”

It reminds me of one of my favorite parts of Christina Warren’s talk at this year’s Çingleton, where she told the story of turning down work she wouldn’t be proud of, even though she was still struggling as a professional writer. That your reputation will outlast your current job or project:

“If I give up my name — which I’m starting to build and people are starting to respect — by doing stuff like this, what does that mean? I can’t ever live this down. All I have is my name.”

Christina Warren at Cingleton 3

Daniel Jalkut and I talked more about the general themes of Çingleton a couple months ago, on Core Intuition episode 110.

No way to live

Two great blog posts yesterday from Brent Simmons that I think are related, though I read one early in the day and the other catching up on RSS feeds late at night. First, on quitting his job to work full-time on Vesper:

“A year ago I was a designer for an enterprise app I didn’t care about — or even like in the least tiny bit — and which you’ve never seen or heard of. That’s no way to live.”

It reminds me, of course, of the famous Steve Jobs quote:

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

And then, Brent says about Twitter:

“The 140-character stream is where things not worth saying, and not worth reading, thrive. It’s where things actually worth saying get over-simplified and then get lost, if they get said at all.”

In other words, do something you care about, write something lasting. The older I get, the more both of these resonate with me. And even though I haven’t posted to Twitter in over a year, I think I needed to read that post to focus back on this blog, where my writing should live.