On hipsters

Consider the trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.

In defense of devices

There’s a rising backlash against the preponderance of mobile devices in our lives. The argument goes something like this:

We’re all glued to our devices, oblivious to the exciting swirl of humanity around us. We’re focused on tiny glowing screens instead of each other’s faces.

Even smartphone manufacturers — the people fueling the adoption of mobile devices — got in on the game:

There’s an undercurrent of nostalgia for a time before all this technology.

A time when we walked down the street and smiled at each other, waving hello. At bars, we chatted with our barstool neighbors. Our children always had our undivided attention. Our dog’s ears were always scratched.

Continue reading

Write like Papa with Hemingway Editor

When I was an undergraduate student, a new listing popped up in course catalogs across the country: Writing for the Web. At the dawn of the internet age, these classes appealed to forward-looking marketers and tech-savvy English majors (like me) who understood that the way we communicate was about to change.

Today, these classes have all but disappeared. Writing for the web has become, simply, writing.

What does it mean to write for the web?

It means writing for perpetually shrinking attention spans. It means writing in a way that it is visually appealing as well as verbally appealing. It means writing what you mean to say in 140 characters or less — which is much harder than merely writing what’s on your mind in 140 characters or less.

It means writing clearly, concisely and compellingly. (It also means avoiding adverbs.)

Pre-internet Papa

One master of this writing style died before the web was even a glimmer on the horizon. His keyboard of choice was a sturdy Remington typewriter, and when his hands weren’t wrapped around it, they were likely wrapped around a bottle, a woman or a gun.

Or so the legend goes.

Continue reading

First person POV + Time lapse + Stabilization = Hyperlapse

Microsoft Research shares news of the new video stabilization technology, Hyperlapse:

We present a method for converting first-person videos, for example, captured with a helmet camera during activities such as rock climbing or bicycling, into hyper-lapse videos, i.e., time-lapse videos with a smoothly moving camera.

The results are impressive. This is what it must feel like to be Superman on his way home from picking up milk at the corner store.

So when will it be available?

We are working hard on making our Hyperlapse algorithm available as a Windows app. Stay tuned!

Great.

Cross-posted on Motionographer.

4 tips for working with Trello

What is Trello?

Think of Trello as an endless bulletin board where tasks, ideas and notes can be organized in columns.

Okay, I’ll admit: not so sexy. But Trello has the power to change the way you think about your projects. Promise.

I’ve been using Trello for about a year to manage a variety of projects: websites, events, new business ideas and — fittingly enough — blog posts. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way to help you get more from this amazing tool.

(Oh, and it’s free.)

To share or not to share

Trello can be used collaboratively or alone, privately or publicly. It’s up to you, and there are no cheesy pricing schemes attached to your choice.

Continue reading

A year with Simple: An honest appraisal

I’m a chronic early adopter. I sign up for betas without really understanding why I’m signing up. I throw myself at new software like a zealot, prostrate before the gods of technology.

So when I heard about an online-only bank that promised to put user experience (UX) at the center of their business model, I couldn’t resist. I signed up to be one of Simple’s earliest customers back in May of 2011. I finally got my invite in August of 2012. I’ve been a Simple customer ever since.

What follows is my experience using Simple as my primary bank over the past year. It’s critical and honest, and I hope it’ll be useful if you’re thinking of making the leap.

The Basics

Simple is not budget software or a financial service. Simple is a bank.  Their hope is that Simple replaces your current bank completely.

Continue reading

Keeping users interested is a matter of flow

At the recommendation of a co-worker, I recently read Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses.

Like most good writers, Schell is a master of synthesis. He elegantly weaves insights from a broad range of disciplines, including psychology, anthropology, economics, creative writing, filmmaking and of course the newest kid on the academic block, game design.

The Flow Channel, an elegant model for player (and user) interest

In chapter 9, “The Experience is in the Player’s Mind,” Schell introduces one of my favorite concepts in the book, which he borrows from psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHEEK-sent-mə-HY-ee).

Czikszentmihalyi is famous for defining something he calls “flow,” about which he has written several influential books. If you’ve ever been so engrossed in a task that the world seems to fall away and you lose track of time entirely, you’ve experienced flow.

Continue reading