• 2019

  • Heuristics to Generate Startup Ideas

  • Initially came across this fun list via Twitter:

    His actual post, is embedded in his Tweet, but you can visit the list here. But in particular I enjoyed #8:

    Turn open source projects in to SAAS businesses — Find open source projects that are very popular and turn these in to out of the box services for enterprises, e.g. PagerDuty is like Nagios.

    Great entrepreneurial advice, and easily serves as a fun jumping-off point for any viable hack-a-thon. Any hacker or eager founder can find some amazing open-source projects and inspiration on Github.

    My personal favorite startup adage, for any would-be-founder is, be the arms dealer.

  • Finally, it’s 2019

  • Looking back on 2018, I haven’t been this happy, or this productive in a very long time. It feels good to reflect on this past year. By comparison, when 2017 drew to a close, I came to the conclusion that it was a difficult year. It ended with mixed feelings of nostalgia, regret, and a lot of uncertainty.

    2018 was a totally different ballgame though. I began the year with two very simple goals in mind:

    • Skill building
    • Health

    That’s it. Underpromise and over-deliver 😁

    I busted my ass at work (at the time, I was working for an ad agency). I learned lot’s of things there, (and re-learned even more outside of work hours). Let me tell you right now, there are merits to skipping happy hour with your co-workers and going home to work on side-projects (or just going home to relax).

    I finally picked up React (and Typescript for that matter). Spent a lot of time with Shopify’s tools (for a side-project), went back to Ruby for a bit and spent a considerable amount of time with tried-and-true PHP.

    While on the subject of PHP — I joined Vimeo full-time, as a Front-end Developer. Thanks to amazing and open environment here, I learned even more regarding React, Git best practices, and how to write good PRs. As a bonus, I became a better Designer — mainly via feedback and collaboration. The tried-and-true iterative design process has been missing from my work-life since college, and it feels good to be part of a team that treats design as a first-class citizen. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about Vimeo as time goes on.

    I focused most of my energies on mental health, which I recommend to anyone and everyone for the year 2019. Taking time to relax more did wonders (although leaving the “Ad World” really did most of the leg work here, I do not miss the hours or the pressure). Exercising more self-control with screen-time when I’m off work was a big one for me too. I tried cutting back on video games as well (even if I wasn’t entirely successful with that, it is for the better).

    I’ve also begun to switch gears in my morning/evening commute routine too. Listening to more audiobooks than news or podcasts has been a mostly positive thing. Mainly because when commuting home in the evening, it can be really stressful. Nothing is more dreadful than a packed, hot, humid subway car, full of hundreds of sighs and negativity as millions of New Yorkers head home after a long day in the office. For whatever reason, there’s something very soothing about audiobooks, even at the height of the evening rush-hour.

    Which leads me to my running routine. However irregular the days may have been, I ran more in 2018 than the year before, which is good I suppose. On the days I did decide to run, I wouldn’t run further than 2 miles at the most. My regret for 2018 is that I probably should be doing more than just running. Perhaps a more varied selection of cardio that involves my other limbs like swimming, rowing, or something.

    So yeah, 2018 was a pretty good year for my personal goals. But I have so much more in my life than just myself.

    My girlfriend, and best friend, Leah Constantine (@dumbcurator) joined The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a highly prestigious institution of art and history. But a week before that, in May of 2018 she graduated from The Pratt Institute School of Information’s Master of Science in Library and Information Science. Simply put, Leah’s amazing. Here’s her website.

    In 2018, we didn’t travel as much as we would have liked. And that’s okay. For the most part, we stayed in NYC all year. I travelled to Texas for my step-father’s birthday and I was happy I did, because we skipped Thanksgiving with our families to save money. It panned out well for us, because for one, we did another road-trip to Texas for Christmas. And for two, we wanted to begin saving money for trips elsewhere for 2019. 

    Also, there was a lot of really good movies I watched in 2018!

    All in all, 2018 was a fantastic year of growth for my girlfriend and I — honestly can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this year. For 2019, I’m going to focus on several things:

    • Focus on fitness and continue to monitor my health
    • Eat better (less meat, more greens)
    • Travel when possible
    • Make a dent in my student loans
    • Maintain one side-project at a time (instead of say 3 or 4, just keep it simple for goodness sake)
    • Read more books

    See you next year!

  • 2018

  • On Mediocrity and Having Hobbies

  • Contributing New York Times opinion writer, Tim Wu:

    I’m a little surprised by how many people tell me they have no hobbies. It may seem a small thing, but — at the risk of sounding grandiose — I see it as a sign of a civilization in decline. The idea of leisure, after all, is a hard-won achievement; it presupposes that we have overcome the exigencies of brute survival. Yet here in the United States, the wealthiest country in history, we seem to have forgotten the importance of doing things solely because we enjoy them.


    But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.

    While hyperbolic at first, I think Tim is onto something here. Having a hobby is hard. There’s certainly a deep social expectation that one must be an expert to satisfy the appearance of a hobbyist. I’ve felt it. What once was leisure, is now subject to the intensity and bombardment of excellence.

    There’s nothing’s wrong with maintaining mediocrity — and there’s certainly nothing wrong with amateur hobbies either. Be it painting, drawing, yoga, reading, jogging, or even playing video games (or golf, for  a different generation). Skill shouldn’t matter in the arena of hobbyists. That’s the whole point. It’s just a hobby.

    I’m not saying hobbies have no room for improvement. I’m sure many will seek out means to hone their craft. Others will not. Some will become frustrated and move onto other hobbies. That’s how it should work. Probably best to ignore societal pressures to pro-actively level-up your hobby too. Let’s say you enjoy gardening. You’ve’re under no obligation to study up on heredity, and follow the footsteps of Gregor Mendel in breeding varieties of pea plants. Because, well that would no longer make it a hobby wouldn’t it?

    The entire concept of having a hobby at all is because we enjoy leisure and relaxation. Focus on yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • A man holding a dollar bill

    The Case Against Bitcoin

  • From Emily Atkin at The New Republic:

    No one may be using Bitcoin, but we’re all paying for them. Bitcoin analyst Alex de Vries, otherwise known as the Digiconomistreports that the coin’s surge caused its estimated annual energy consumption to increase from 25 terawatt hours in early November to 30 TWh last week—a figure, wrote Vox’s Umair Irfan, “on par with the energy use of the entire country of Morocco, more than 19 European countries, and roughly 0.7 percent of total energy demand in the United States, equal to 2.8 million U.S. households.” (As of Monday, the figure had reached nearly 32 TWh.) Just one transaction can use as much energy as an entire household does in a week, and there are about 300,000 transactions every day.

    A single Bitcoin transaction…can use as much electricity as an entire household uses in a fucking week. As the value of Bitcoin and mining difficulty soars, the plummeting efficiency is only going to get worst. Sure the returns are insane, but is it worth it? Hell no. Surely there's got to be a ceiling to this madness?

    More recently, Paul Ford contributed his thoughts on Bitcoin to Bloomberg:

    It’s not that I want Bitcoin holders to suffer, really. As a technologist and entrepreneur, I’m sympathetic to and admiring of risk takers. But as a writer, I enjoy the sheer human-condition-revealing sport. I’m happy to watch other people play video games without playing myself. I’ll watch poker, but I’ve never bought a deck of cards—and when I watch football, I keep the official NFL rulebook open on my phone. For whatever reason, I tend to like the rules more than the game. Bitcoin is at some level just a set of rules, defined by software, that has become one of the world’s weirdest games. And people who invest in an unmanageable abstraction, then panic when it underperforms, are very entertaining.


    The people tossed around by the cryptocurrency tempest—their only sin is belief. (Well, and greed.) But here I can only smile warmly and sigh. I know what it’s like to believe.

    Pure greed. All at the expense of our pale blue dot.

    Bitcoin has become the litmus test strip for all cryptocurrencies. As they continue to become more and more tightly bound (more and more trading pairs are cropping up everyday), we are setting ourselves up for a world of hurt. This won't end well. When Bitcoin moves, all alts move.

    There's a lot of other really great, efficient cryptocurrencies out there. Litecoin, Ripple, and even Ethereum are decent contenders. There's also no shortage of shitty alt-coins too, don't get me wrong. 

    I'm no soothsayer, but Bitcoin wasn't designed to scale. It wasn't designed to be efficient. It wasn't designed to last forever. It has limits. Other cryptocurrencies have had time to adapt and evolve to meet demands that Bitcoin can't. Bitcoin will bequeath its throne in my lifetime. 

  • A photo of a macbook showing the source code of a website

    The Fight for Net Neutrality Edges Onward

  • Yesterday, on paper — #NetNeutrality died. But there is a glimmer of hope. As it turns out, the new reclassification and bullshit order won't go into effect until May or June. The order passed in December, merely gave the FCC power to begin steps to reclassify on the "effective date" of April 23rd. Now, Ajit Pai can begin his crusade to disassembling our internet rights.

    Tom McKay:

    As CNET noted, once the Office of Management and Budget approves the move, that will start a new waiting and public comment period before the new rules go into effect. This new system likely won’t go into effect until at least late May or June, per the Register. 

    Among other things, the new rules would reclassify internet provision as a Title I instead of Title II information service, which would allow ISPs to implement paid prioritization programs, as well as block or throttle content from competitors or just about anyone they wager is using too much bandwidth. Broadband providers will mostly cease to be regulated by the FCC, and thereby be bound only by their own promises (the FCC cleverly passed most of its authority to penalize ISPs that lie to customers to the Federal Trade Commission, a separate agency ill-equipped to handle telecom issues).

    If you're confused as to why #NetNeutrality matters, take a look at what happens when ISPs force their subscribers to pay for "premium" bandwidth "packages" in Portugal. It's a nightmare, and completely disgusting.

    Join the battle for Net Neutrality here.

  • What is a Tag Anyways?

  • Seriously. What the hell is a <div> tag? When I first got into web design, I had no idea how a web page worked. I had no concept of HTML elements, let alone the <div> tag. Unbeknownst to me at the time, developers were pushing the limits of CSS and Flash to make compelling, thrilling websites. 

    After sometime, it became clear that the web is made up of hyperlinked text files (and very clearly not Flash). That’s it. Plain and simple. Even to this day. At a fundamental level, servers powered by PHP, Ruby, JavaScript or whatever — all pump out text documents (encoded by a markup language called HTML) that browsers can understand and parse (despite minor rendering differences it’s amazing that it all works). These linked text documents or hypertext, are plainly speaking webpages.

    Just some <div>s hanging around.

    Learning how to write a valid HTML document took a lot of trial and error, considerable patience from my mentors, and fixing my mistakes along the way. So, if you have any hypertext mysteries let me know — I’ll pay it forward, leave me a note in the comments. ☺️ Onward!

    HTML Content Categories

    I never really was given an answer for such a seemingly simple question: what exactly is a <div> anyways? I mean there are some very obvious elements at our disposal:

    • The <p> is a paragraph tag.
    • The <blockquote> is a blockquote tag.
    • The <ul> is an unordered list tag.

    All HTML elements have inherent uses, and belong to certain content categories. The <div> belongs to the flow content category. Here’s some other HTML content categories:

    • Metadata content (out-of-band information and meta)
    • Flow content (typically contains text or embedded content such as the <div>)
    • Sectioning content (headers, footers, or sections — organizational structure is important)
    • Heading content (heading levels, sub-headings, etc.)
    • Phrasing content (these define the text and the mark-up inside paragraphs such as <em>, <strong>, or things like <span>s)
    • Embedded content (these are typically external resources such as <iframe>, <canvas> or even <svg>s)
    • Interactive content (these are your <button>, <textarea> or <label>s)
    • Palpable content (this one is a bit abstract, but these are elements who are neither empty nor hidden, important for script manipulated content) 
    • Form-associated content (these are typically children nodes of the <form> element, or children of the form attribute)

    This brings us just about up to speed to talk about the the Content Division Element, or the <div>.

    The Content Division Element, or The <div> Tag

    While some elements have a more obvious progeny, the <div> is a bit different. It’s something of a marriage between a generic container and an inline-container, but somehow… it’s neither.

    From the <div> Mozilla HTML Reference:

    The HTML Content Division element (<div>) is the generic container for flow content. It has no effect on the content or layout until styled using CSS. As a “pure” container, the <div> element does not inherently represent anything. Instead, it’s used to group content so it can be easily styled using the class or id attributes, marking a section of a document as being written in a different language (using the lang attribute), and so on.

    There you have it. While the <div> has no stylistic weight, but it can turn some heads with a litter bit of CSS love. But it’s true purpose is one of organization. Take for example, the typical and highly sought after Holy Grail Layout:

    A basic Holy Grail setup with proper sectioning content

    Simple and empty for now, we can further sub-divide our sectioning content areas (<header>, <nav>, <main>, etc.). We’ll use <div>s to contain and organize the inner content:

    The same sectioning content, with further divisions using <div>s

    And violá! Inside your <div>s you put your heading, phrasing, or embedded content (or anything else for that matter). It’s all about organization. 👌

    The <div> Soup Problem

    It’s important we use sectioning content and flow content properly. Otherwise we’ll end up with <div> soup like Google:


    Look at that mess!

    While it’s not the end of the world, div soup presents a readability and productivity challegne for humans. Let’s say you inherit a project built like the figure above. There will be a considerable amount of technical debt, learning the organizational structure, and possibly re-factoring the div soup for efficiency. Web Components may be a future solution, but I don’t think it’s a winner.

    Anyways, thanks for joining me on this journey to the center of the <div>. The web’s most prolific flow container.

    Further watching:

    Professor Brailsford makes a guest appearance on Brady Haran’s Computerphile, and has some hot takes about HTML and programming. Brilliant fun.

  • Valve has Acquired Campo Santo

  • In a seemingly odd turn of events, Valve has acquired Campo Santo. The creative brains behind the insanely popular and wildly fun game, Firewatch clearly have caught the eye of Valve. While I’m happy for everyone involved — as a gamer, I’m very concerned.

    Firewatch is a fucking fantastic game. It was co-produced by Panic (creator of Transmit, among other software). As of writing, Cabel Sasser has been quiet on Twitter in regards to the news of Valve’s acquisition. Which, also concerns me.

    It should also be noted that the Firewatch website is really rad too. Check it out here.

    Valve hasn’t produced a single game title since 2013. The software company has clearly been far more concerned about Steam and hardware (or lack thereof?) since their last release, Dota 2.

    Parsing the press release from Campo Santo is bittersweet:

    The twelve of us at Campo Santo have agreed to join Valve, where we will maintain our jobs as video game developers and continue production on our current project, In the Valley of Gods.


    Yes, we’re still making In the Valley of Gods (as a Valve game!); yes, we’ll still support Firewatch; and yes, we’ll still produce The Quarterly Review and our regular blog content. Thanks so much for your interest in our games and we’ll see you in Washington. Cheers.

    On one hand, it’s great to see Valve making serious creative moves, and poaching some amazing talent. Valve has historically made some of the best games I’ve ever played. No doubt, they’ll produce more games that fall into the same echelon. With cart blanche from Valve, they can produce some insane titles in coming years for Valve. I mean, Valve now has some of the lead developers from the award-winning The Walking Dead S1 title.

    But on the other hand, Campo Santo really has some real grit. And, honestly, the gaming community could use more independent studios. As larger studios gobble up talent, everything (from creative, to platform choice) can become a bit incestuous. Which is bad for gamers.

    I’m hopeful… but skeptical about this acquisition. Turns out, I’m not alone.

    Further Reading:

  • Revisiting Card UIs

  • Who doesn't love going down the rabbit-hole on Wikipedia? Easily one of the most beloved treasure troves of information.

    Well, a couple of days ago, Nirvar Pangarkar (@nirzardp), Designer at the Wikimedia Foundation documented his process for rolling out a new feature at Wikipedia. This new feature, isn't particularly groundbreaking. But, I do suspect it will become the norm for Card UI components on the web.

    It's called, Page Previews. Something of a marriage between alt-text and a card. Check it out:

    Graphic by Nirzar Pangarkar/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0. Text and images from the indicated Wikipedia articles in various languages.

    This looks pretty cool. It's also live by the way! This was literally rolled out 48 hours ago. Visit any random Wikipedia article to see it for yourself.

    An example of a page preview while hovering over the hypertext "home computer" in the Apple II article.

    It's definitely not a new idea, but it's an effective use of card UIs nonetheless. It's an even better example of design solving a problem. To be brief, Wikipedia was having a problem with users rabbit-holing maybe a little too much or in other words, a lot of random pageviews ≠ learning:

    This is one of the most iconic and popular user patterns we see on Wikipedia. People start on one article, and then head somewhere else, and then somewhere else, learning about lots of different topics along the way.

    We design for these readers, optimizing not for page views or engagement — but for learning. And it turns out that context is a key part of learning.

    Nirzar goes on saying that it's possible this preview card UI language could be extended to the wikipedia editor tools and other content types (think audio playback, pronunciations, or quotations). Neat!

    While we're on the subject of context, I want to share this tid-bit from Dave Rupert's, Pitfalls of Card UIs:

    I’m of the opinion that all cards in a Card UI are destined to become baby webpages. Just like modals. Baby hero units with baby titles and baby body text and baby dropdown menu of actions and baby call to action bars, etc.

    The desire to reduce clicks increases complexity and raises the cognitive load. Depends on your situation, but I honestly think the workaround here is to go back to having a strong detail view pages. Scope cards in your UI to truly being previews or –to borrow a term from the watchOS Human Interface Guidelines– a “glance”.

    Dave's note about cognitive load  is important for Wikipedia. A page preview card potentially disrupts a users desire to bounce. Allowing Wiki-users to consume as much contextually relevant content possible before bouncing. Looks like a win for Wikipedia, and a win for staying on topic the next time you're researching anything on Wikipedia.

    I guess cards are destined to become little baby webpages! 👶

    Note: if you don't see page previews while on Wikipedia, you may need to login first and enable it under Preferences > Appearance.

  • Tide NYC

  • It’s no secret that I love DigitalOcean. I host this site on a DO Droplet. Hell, I host most of my web projects with DigitalOcean. Pretty much ever since 2012. They have a great product, that has never really disappointed me.

    Another reason I love DigitalOcean? They host events for all walks of life. They host Hacktoberfest, an annual hack-a-thon. They get everyone amped about closing open issues, unit testing and it’s a nice way to get a bunch of nice people together to support open-source.

    On April 24th, DigitalOcean is hosting an afternoon of tech talks. I would say this event is aimed at the backend/founders audience. You’ver software engineers, development team leads, dev-ops, co-founders, and CTOs. If that’s not your jam, hang tight for the summer, or better yet Hacktoberfest!

    Here’s the lineup for Tide NYC so far:

    • Ben Uretsky – Co-Founder & CEO, DigitalOcean
    • Shiven Ramji – VP Product, DigitalOcean
    • Anshul Pandey – Co-Founder & CTO, Accern
    • Reynold Harbin – Director, Product Marketing, DigitalOcean
    • Russell Bierschbach – Managing Partner, RouteTrust
    • Yvan De Boeck – VP of Software, Bevi
    • Nic Jackson – Developer Advocate, HashiCorp
    • Bryan Liles – Staff Engineer, Heptio
    • DigitalOcean Hatch Founders
    • Tammy Butow – Principal SRE, Gremlin
    • Ariel Jatib – Founder, StackPointCloud
    • Dan Kohn – Executive Director, Cloud Native Computing Foundation
    • Manju Ramanathpura – Senior Director, Product Management, DigitalOcean
    • Mike Roberts – Partner, Symphonia
    • Shiven Ramji – VP Product, DigitalOcean

    This looks really cool. Jam-packed with insights from executives, and co-founders. If you run a web product, you should RSVP. Maybe I’ll see you there 👀

  • A book with a large title: "The Internet - DNS"

    Link: Announcing

  • Cloudflare has a lot to offer. They provide DDoS protection, site reliability products, SSL certificates, CDNs and a whole host of other web-related services. Today, they announced (with help from APNIC), they want to provide a privacy-first, blazing-fast DNS service.

    You might be wondering, what is DNS? Well, every single click, HTTP request and Google search begins with a directory lookup. When you click on a link, your device is actually asking the directory to figure our “where is this domain or site?” Since most ISPs are snooping your web traffic, and are becoming increasingly slow to even resolve these requests to your requested destination — changing your DNS can positively improve your browsing experience.

    DNS performance chart from: DNSperf

    This is seriously great news for the web. Even better news for privacy. Cloudflare promises to never sell your traffic information to anyone. Also, remember when Turkey was blocking Twitter traffic? Yeah, this is a solution to state-sponsored DNS meddling. Privacy-first DNS services are very important to the health of the web, and openness. So happy to see this news, especially since Cloudflare’s recent banning customers for publishing hate speech sites. I think CloudFlare is making all the right moves.

    If you want to change your DNS provider on Android, macOS, Windows (or any digital device for that matter), CloudFlare put together a microsite to help you get started. It takes 2 minutes, if that.

    You can read more about this awesome announcement from Cloudflare, here on their blog.

  • An illustrated image o fa healthy network. Multiple nodes connected together. Unity and strength.

    Death by a Thousand Likes

  • I’m hitting the rant-wheel again. Facebook’s potential data breach (nearly 5 million accounts affected) illustrates just how frail and weak the web has become.

    It’s of our own doing too. We all jumped aboard the Facebook train and did so willingly. Well now, we’re paying the price. Almost two-thirds of all internet traffic are siphoned through the what has been dubbed, The Trinet. To be brief, Facebook and Google now control over 70% of the worlds internet traffic. That my friend, is not good. Good perhaps, for cat GIFs or dog memes. But, not so much for the health of the web.

    The web, exists as a series of connected nodes. I link to something, you link to something… we all link to something! That’s the idea behind hypertext. Documents connected by hyperlinks. It’s a beautiful idea, and it’s what makes Wikipedia, blogs, and even “liking” things — so much fun.

    An illustrated image o fa healthy network. Multiple nodes connected together. Unity and strength.
    A healthy network. Connected, strong hyperlinks.

    The problem, is when large networks (like Facebook) contain hyperlinks behind closed doors. For example, if I don’t have a Facebook account, I can’t see a lot of the content, events, or posts behind the blue gates of Facebook. Mainly, that’s because some people prefer private accounts, so a lot of that content is hidden for good reason. No judgement there. I get it. But, what private users might not realize, is that their interests and activity (regardless of your privacy settings) are publicly sold to the highest bidder. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Advertising is the crucible that has forged hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of online businesses and creators. Social media, newspapers, and bloggers all depend on that sweet sweet nectar: ad revenue. I’ve even taken a piece of that pie. Some ad networks spread web page bloat. Sending dreadfully large ad assets to otherwise small webpages, causing painfully long load times. Which, sucks. Or worse, cookie tracking. Not all ad networks are shitty though. Point is, it’s not all bad out there. But, ad networks need to get their shit together too. That will probably be something I rant about another day.

    An illustrated example of a dying network. Unconnected, weak and dying.
    A weak network, such as Facebook. Closed off, weak hyperlinks.

    Alas, to make matters worse, last year several really terrible senators sponsored a bill that would allow ISPs to sell your browsing history to advertisers. Without consent from subscribers, mind you. Um, no thank you. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal with consent, but that’s not the point. It’s the shear amount of power and the continuing lack of responsibility from ISPs, and Silicon Valley has been the problem and will continue to be the problem…

    Unless, we the people — setup government oversight. Which sadly, doesn’t seem like something this Whitehouse administration is keen on doing. This week, Paul Ford —  legendary hypertext crusader and author called for the US to create a Digital Protection Agency. I 100% agree. It’s in our best interest to keep our data safe and protected. We have consumer protections, environmental protections, safety boards, air traffic controllers, bank regulators, and financial comptrollers. Where’s the Sheriff of the Wild Wild Web?

    I do have hope. The web is a resilient, transient, amorphous thing. It’s changed a lot in the past 30+ years. Hell, it’s changed me, for the better. If you too want to see a healthy web again, live extramurally. Dump Facebook. Buy your domain. Own a piece of the web, and fight the good fight. Don’t forget to vote others into office that feel the same way.

  • Our Patch of Dirt

  • In cosmological terms, we exist as an exception to the rule. The rule (as far as we know as I’m writing this at least), is their is no life beyond Earth. But somehow, billions of years ago, by shear dumb luck, soupy primordial proteins assembled amidst the backdrop of chaos. They wiggled themselves into a fortressed heap of snot and somehow managed to morph into complex multi-cellular systems. All of this, happening slowly over epochs of time, across an ever-changing and unfamiliar landscape — on a patch of dirt and water whirling through icy-cold space.

    It’s amazing stuff. We take it for granted so often. We really are lucky to be here. This morning as I was commuting to work, I was reminded of just how crazy it is we’re here — like doing things, working and living under one roof on this humid lump of soil. Needless to say, I went down the rabbit-hole on the web and found some great reading about Abiogenesis, life on Earth and other topics I wanted to share:

    Even further reading:

    • A Nihilists Guide to Meaning [Melting Asphalt]
    • Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet. [The Guardian]
  • 2017

  • The Future of the iPhone

  • I came across an interesting piece from Owen Williams. It was written on just after Apple’s 2017 Keynote announcing the iPhone X and the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE capability:

    But while I was watching the event, all I could think about was that this phone might be the last smartphone to matter at all. That it marks the beginning of the end of phones as we know it, and we’re at the precipice of them just becoming tools.


    What triggered this response wasn’t so much that the iPhone X was amazing — it’s that Apple figured out how to put cellular into a Watch.


    Smartphones, as a category, are racing to the bottom. Each other year a trend sets the stage for what phone makers will try to cram in to help market yet another phone in various different ways.

    Williams (@ow on Twitter) is a fantastic writer, developer and entrepreneur. He really got me thinking about the future of the iOS ecosystem.

    Under the current paradigm, Apple’s ecosystem has three components. The Mac, iOS device(s) and (to public dismay) Entertainment Services (iTunes, Apple Music, iCloud). They mesh together well, and others have certainly taken notice. The ecosystem isn’t unique to Apple, but it laid the foundation of Apple’s stellar success as far back as the introduction of the iPod back in 2001.

    Anyone who says Apple’s ecosystem isn’t working is a fool. The Services category alone brought in $7.2B dollars in revenue. The Macintosh line brings in about $5B per quarter.

    That being said, iPhone revenue is insane. On average, Apple nets somewhere between $35B–$55B per quarter in the iPhone category. The real question is, is Apple willing to nose-dive their revenue pipeline and the product ecosystem by retiring their most successful product?

    Probably not. It’s unclear how many Apple Watches are being sold each quarter, and furthermore we know demand is much higher for the iPhone.

    What we do know is that iPad sales have cannibalized some of the Mac sales each quarter (albeit a small figure), which is a figure Apple watches closely. The iPad and Mac product relationship is undergoing a transformation. Which is probably why we will never see LTE in a Mac (a huge fucking bummer). Keeping them on separate hemispheres of innovation is critical to shifting users around.

    Shifting users from iOS Power Users to Apple Watch Power Users is no easy task. So surely, there will be iPhones in the longterm foreseeable future. Make no mistake, Apple is clearly making serious moves into wearables. But I don’t think retiring iPhones will make sense. I’d love to ditch the iPhone for an Apple Watch, Mac and a pair of Air Pods. Because let’s face it — communication has changed. People make calls less now. Between texting, messaging and emails, I place maybe less than 20 calls per month.

    If Apple continues to move innovations from the iPhone to the Apple Watch — one can expect the iPhone to go the way of the iPod. But I don’t that is the case. It’s more probable to say that the iPhone X may just be the last iPhone that matters.

  • The Time is Now

    The Time is Now

  • Recently, I came across a great Tweet from Paul Graham (@paulg) that is worth mentioning:

    I started working on web startups 3 months after Netscape shipped, and it felt almost too late.

    — Paul Graham (@paulg) October 13, 2017

    For perspective, Netscape launched in January of 2004. Since then, the web has had explosive growth. It’s a viable component of society now. Even online dating has had measurable effects on the nature of our society.

    The best time to launch your web startup was yesterday. Don’t waste your time pondering, “if only we got this out the door sooner.” It’s wasted energy. Time is the enemy.

    I would also recommend Paul’s essay, Ideas for Startups. Amazing insights for those who may have a nugget of an idea. Great notes for startups.

  • San Fransisco's Golden Gate Bridge

    How Tiny Might Make The Web A Better Place

  • It’s the year 2000 and The Dot-com Bubble has just arrived. I was 11 years old at the time. I don’t remember it. What I do remember is playing Chess on Yahoo! Games or chatting with friends on AIM. Those were the good ol days.

    However, researching The Dot-com Bubble has been eye-opening. Two major factors catalyzed the conflagration of sell-offs, bankruptcy and failure of so many e-companies (as they were called then). Those startups (as we call them now), were plagued with:

    1. A crazy amount of over-spending. [1]
    2. The stock market crash that followed the 9/11 attacks.

    9/11 was unavoidable for those businesses. But overspending, or burning cash was a very serious problem then — and remains a serious problem now. Snapchat lost almost half a billion dollars in 2016. Uber spent $2.6 billion in 2016 alone. Apple, the prodigal son spent $10 billion on R&D in 2016. The tide is pulling back for some of these VC-backed companies, and there may be a tsunami looming around the corner.

    Enter, the holding company.

    Holding companies reduce the risk for owners. If a financial hardship comes for one of the holdings, it’s unlikely the business will disappear as the corporate group as a whole owns a stake. This is a healthy relationship, and strengthens the bonds between business and consumers.

    Tiny's Homepage

    Recently I came across Tiny. Tiny invests in internet startups, but it also buys businesses into their holdings. If you’re a bootstrapped company, struggling to grow under your own weight, or can scale to level that your VC’s want — Tiny will make you an offer (within 7 days no less).

    Their portfolio is very impressive.

    Dribbble, Crew, Designer News, Need/Want, and Buffer are just a few of their holdings. Tiny won’t flip the business, and they won’t come in and micro-manage team culture. These internet businesses are thriving — each one isn’t an Uber-sized goliath, but they come together in harmony. Each one working as hard as the next, producing a quality cluster of nodes for the web. Each one producing jobs, solving problems and existing through lean years and fat years. Even The Walt Disney Company has an immense amount of holdings and assets, which to say the least… is smart.

    If another (VC catalyzed) bubble is coming, and it most certainly will… I believe most of the businesses (if not all) within Tiny will survive. As overspending becomes more and more entrenched, it’s going to get rough out there. Minimizing the next bubble fallout means taking action.

    Holding companies can make the web a healthier place. Less link rot. Less bullshitery like what happened to Vine. No more dead projects like FFFFOUND, RIP.

    Maybe I’m paranoid, buy if you’re not standing underneath the umbrella of a holding company, I’d be worried about survival.

  • What Does the iPhone X Mean for Web Browsing?

  • This is fine right?

    iPhone X renders webpages with literal white bars on the sides pic.twitter.com/ztcWetrLPo

    — Thomas Fuchs (@thomasfuchs) September 13, 2017


    "The notch was a good idea" —Apple fanboys, 2017

    I present to you Exhibit A pic.twitter.com/HzQLwBrbDC

    — @jedmund (@jedmund) September 12, 2017

    I mean as hilarious as these hot-takes are, just how serious is Apple taking this heat? Well, in their documentation they have clearly defined safe-areas to lock-in content in our familiar-yet-safe rectangle we're fond of.

    A safe-area example and Auto Layout grid columns.

    I think designers are going to have to get creative to deal with this. Thankfully app designers can look to web design for inspiration. Lots of wonderful solutions are just waiting to be discovered.

    Apple apparently has some yet-to-be-released Safari documentation about how to handle full-width designs as their Apple TV 4K seems to take advantage of this. Check it out:

    Apparently there is a way to set the background color, e.g. the Apple TV 4K page does it. pic.twitter.com/Am3xn6wjRp

    — Thomas Fuchs (@thomasfuchs) September 13, 2017

    I have a feeling that it's just the background-color of the document body, but we'll find out sooner than later. I think this is a real challenge, but in the beginning it's going to be a bit rough out there. I'm going to do a deep-dive into the Human Interface Guidelines and documentation next.

  • There’s More Daily Active Users on Giphy than Snapchat

  • From Scott Galloway, founder of L2 Inc:

    The 4-year old Gif Search Engine has 200m daily active users who watch over 4 million hours of GIFs every day. To put that in perspective, Snapchat has 173 million daily active users. [Giphy] has raised $150 million and is valued at $600 million but it is not yet profitable although they are trying to change that by rolling out sponsored GIFs. Giphy seems to be doing a lot right — not just creating a huge repository of content, but also executing an effective search strategy, forging impressive partnerships and engaging a massive network of users.

  • Web Design and The Z-Layout

  • Introduction

    The state of Web Design continues to evolve every single day. It has always been in a constant state of flux — pretty much since the iPhone was released in 2007. The iPhone was a doozy, because it forced developers and designers to find workarounds with Flash. Steve and Apple were not intent on bringing flash to mobile users. However, the web really became an exciting place when Google Chrome overtook Internet Explorer sometime in between 2011-2012. It signaled a shift in usage, technology and design thinking — and that just about brings us to now.


    When designing a layout, it’s important to keep an objective in mind. For example, Stripe is a product for developers and web-stores so their main objective is to completely wow developers from all walks of life (Stripe.com has some insanely cool cutting edge Front-end CSS). Another example is Lyft, whose primary goal is to convert visitors into users. What it really comes down to, what is this layout supposed to do for us and for visitors?

    Even though we all know above-the-fold is kind of bullshit, it’s still important. Just so we’re all on the same page, we’ll call anything above-the-fold, The Hero. Designing a Hero component of a webpage can be really fun!

    First, we figure out an objective: e.g. convert visitors into customers, signup users for a newsletter, or maybe there is no objective at all. Second, we need to figure out a design strategy. This is where the Z-Layout comes in.

    Z-Layout Design Variations

    Let’s take a look at some classic examples. If you are the head of product for an app, or wish to drive visitors to a specific page elsewhere on the website — chances are you want to go with a Z-Layout optimized to move customers around. Let’s look at some variations on this theme.

    Slack – The E-mail replacement app has a lighthearted design, and aims to convert visitors into users.

    Lyft – No paragraphs of copy, just high contrast, a simple form to become a driver and that’s it. If half of your visitors just want to become a driver, or a customer — make it easy for them.

    Asana – Project management can be a hard sell, but communicating a simple product can be more effective than talking about bells-and-whistles.

    Southwest – This airline gets an honorable mention. It’s not very sexy, and booking a flight itself is not fun here. But it is important to note that a vast majority of visitors here probably go straight to the booking form — so at the risk of being annoying to repeat users, it seems Southwest values their reward program over actual ticket sales. In fairness, this Hero area above the form likely changes all the time for various promotions and deals.

    Coinbase, Caviar, Medium and Blue Bottle Coffee – more examples of Z-Layouts (yeah yeah some are stretching it) that promote engagement (e.g. interacting with a form or scrolling down). A single input on the form is key here. If there’s more than one, such as First Name and Last Name… forget about it. Medium is the exception because the product is reading. If you’re not into scrolling and reading, you’re probably not an ideal user for the platform.

    Various – Above are some examples of heroes that are designed to convert visitors into customers. Key takeaways here on these, high contrast, elements along a “Z” path for eyeball scanning, and a button. The button is very important to driving engagement. It is 100x easier to just click a button than fill out a form.


    Before I get destroyed in the comments, a layout is not a blueprint. If you’re a product designer looking to spice up your homepage or wish to drive customers to a sale happening at your webstore — look to the examples above for inspiration. The basic rule of this layout is this: simply align elements along a Z-shaped path above-the-fold. The secondary objective is: keep it simple. The less copy, the better. High contrast helps a lot. Make sure to check your colors for accessibility’s sake. And lastly, add your objective last along the Z-path (e.g. a button, form, or link). I hope this helps anyone in need of inspiration or direction!

    If you have any questions, feedback or comments drop me a line below 🙂

  • 2016

  • Apple’s Strategy to Remove the Keyboard

  • Last Updated: September 17, 2018

    1. MacBook with a mechanical Keyboard and a multi touch Trackpad
    2. MacBook with Touch Bar and mechanical Keyboard, and a multi-touch Trackpad 
    3. MacBook with Touch Bar and solid state Keyboard Keys (not unlike the iPhone 7 home button), and a multi-touch Trackpad
    4. MacBook with a full-screen transmutable touchscreen Keyboard (you heard me), and multi-touch Trackpad
    5. And, finally a MacBook that spiritually resembles the Nintendo DS with no mechanical buttons whatsoever.
  • Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself

  • Recently I was asked, “Stephen are you a web designer, or a web developer?”

    Wait a minute. I have to choose? I can’t do a little bit of both? What are you implying?

    There was a lot of questions. The problem in corporate workspaces is mainly flexibility. And by flexibility I mean transmutability. Older, deep-rooted conservative organizations prefer pigeonholing their employees into neatly organized genres like this:

    He’s a dev…

    She’s an accountant…

    She’s the copywriter….

    Instead of organizing people into cookie-cutter shapes, organizations should be putting people into larger teams of well-rounded doers:

    He’s on the web team….

    She’s on the marketing team….

    She’s on the web and email team…

    I’ve always wanted to be part of that kind of culture in an organization. I want to be able to transmute from one task into the other. I would prefer to be where I’m needed as opposed to being pushed through a cookie-cutter.

    Food for thought I guess.


    The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

    –F. Scott Fitzgerald


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  • 10 Tips to Survive a Long-Distance Relationship

  • First off, these are personal suggestions that have worked for me. But honestly none of these will help you if your significant other is not motivated to make it work. A relationship is a two-way street and these tips operate on that premise. 👏

    1. Make lots of plans together. Future plans, way-way-out-in-the-future plans, virtual plans, travel plans, holiday plans, hypothetical plans. Basically just plan stuff together. Give each other a thread to hold on to.
    2. It takes a lot of work to keep each other informed. You’ver weekend plans, what’s going on in your town, their city, their job stuff or your job drama, what you had for lunch, what your plans are for dinner, etc. It can quickly drain you. Especially in the beginning of it all. I try to do all my informing verbally, and reserver texting for changes to the plan or spur of the moment plans. This keeps the line of communication less congested with back-and-forth texting which can really take it out of you.
    3. Social inclusion is pretty much physically impossible. Digital inclusion, on the other hand is possible. If you made plans to go out on a Friday night, while your SO decided to stay in — keep you phone nearby and keep an open line of communication via texting. Nobody likes feeling left out.
    4. Digital dates can be fun too. Between apps like Skype, Rabbit and FaceTime couples can get food together, talk over some coffee, or Netflix together again!
    5. Surprise each other! Realistically, surprise flights take lots of time, planning and can cost a boat-load. Apps like AmazonUrbanStems, and UberEats offer a cheaper alternative to the surprise visit.
    6. Writing to each other is fun, but mailing things is even better. I also highly recommend not sending each other things over USPS. UPS or FedEx only. I’ve had nothing but terrible experience with the US Postal Service. Use them as a last resort.
    7. Pick up a new hobby. People like to make things. It’s good for the soul I think. I chose videography. I spend an enormous amount of time making things for the web. So I chose a hobby that sits just outside of that realm and decided to start a You’veTube channel. Hobbies keep us busy, preoccupied, and challenge the brain, and your partner will be proud no matter what you create or pickup as a hobby.
    8. Cook more. Depression and sadness can creep in at any moment during a long-distance relationship. Mitigate that by eating better and exploring new food groups!
    9. Doing new things can be really exhausting, but since you’ve both transitioned into a long-distance relationship, it means you’re both willing to explore something new. Each of you should try out new things, meet new people, and make sure to share that experience with your SO. Sharing the experience will help eachother grow closer over storytelling. This will give each of you something to talk about on the late night phone calls.
    10. Lastly, go run. Running gets your heartrate up, great for your heart, it’s cathartic, and can improve your mood. If you start feeling down, and miss each other badly, nothing will get your mind off of things like a brisk run. I find it to be very meditative to go run and clear my mind after a long day at the office.


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  • The Best, Worst Mistake I Ever Made

  • Several years ago, I made the mistake of snoozing my alarm clock one too many times. I was running late for my 8:00am Typography II class. I didn’t know it yet, but it was the last time I’d ever be late to a class. I was in a rut. I was rude and callused in my critiques. I pretended to fit into the classes, and I thought I was a fraud. I would join the chorus of students who groaned at the idea of doing more than 100 thumbnails of sketches. I was quietly becoming one of the pessimists and didn’t even know it.

    I ultimately landed a ‘D’ in the Type course and was told that if was to remain in the program, I was to re-take Typography II next year. With no promise of even making the senior cut of the highly competitive Communication Design program at the University of North Texas (and bills mounting), I decided to say to hell with it and left the program. A world of sorrow and pessimism left me, I shed my sophist skin and bootstrapped my life back together.

    I began pursuing my other interests in life. I began reading more about science and film, and began entrepreneurial pursuits and even began freelancing design and illustration work in my free-time. While doing all this, I also reviewed a lot of sites and here are some of the Top Ten reviews site. All in all it was a great change. I decided to finish college in a less-rigid program in the visual arts, and began to focus on computer sciences. Ultimately, I got extremely interested in web development and built a few websites.

    Looking back, I’m a happier person and better for choosing my own adventure. I tend to recall that year of my life as the best, worst thing that ever happened to me. I owe so much to my friends, mentors and co-workers who believed in my ideas, work and words. Even in the face of such an embarrassing failure, all was well. I don’t have to tell you twice about how much failures suck. But they happen. The next time you mess up, consider finding the silver-lining before you tear yourself apart.

    I was inspired to share my story after I read Linda Eliasen’s post on why she quit her job at Dropbox. Our time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life.