Posts tagged 'Rant'

Bland Revisions For

New Design

Kevin Rose’s Internet video startup,, unveiled its new look today. The homepage has been simplified providing an immediate focus with a large feature box that rotates through different site promotions. Each show now has it’s own section which is easily accessible from the “Shows” drop down menu along the top of every page. Streaming video flash players on each episode page have been bumped up to 555×337 which really draws viewers in. Each show has a plethora of different subscription formats which are only a tab away from the recent episode list. The overall restructuring is a welcome improvement, but unfortunately it came at the expense of visual design.

The new color scheme is drab and bland with a “corporate” feeling that first comes to mind. I suppose this is to appeal to advertisers that Revision3 is trying to attract to buy ad inventory but it feels like something from early 2000. The old design (pictured below) felt slick and cutting edge just like the network itself. But the worst offender of this new look is the typography. For one, it is a light gray (hex code #666666) and could stand to be darker (like #333333) for increased contrast and thus increased readability. The line-height is also not set leaving lines scrunched together making it harder to read. In short, the new design is missing the final polish which used to set it apart from other media websites on the net.

Old Design

Daniel Burka has been the lead designer on most of Kevin Rose’s web projects but it looks like he didn’t have a hand in the new He must be too busy working on Digg and Pownce, two sites I really admire from a design perspective. Luckily I have no reason to visit the Revision3 site on a regular basis except to subscribe to new shows. I hope they take a second look at things and update the style to match the new functionality.

How To Raise A Helpless Brat

If you want to raise a kid that can’t become a functioning member of society then follow these simple steps:

  1. Wait on them all the time
  2. Never say no to them
  3. Keep a Christmas tree up year ’round because you need to give them gifts every day
  4. Do their homework and shelter them from any kind of work

Now those points might sound absolutely ridiculous to normal people like you and me, but these two parents in the clip below actual follow these guidelines.

I’m speechless.

(via Huffington Post)

Advertising-Supported Gift Packaging

As the days inch towards Christmas people around the nation will be frantically finishing up their shopping and wrapping gifts. I’m not a big fan of wrapping gifts. For one, it is an extra step before hoisting the gift off to it’s recipient. All the work and energy, physical as well as creative, that goes into the presentation is quickly shredded to a pulp as it is ripped off and tossed aside for the main attraction below the surface. That precious wrapping paper, tape, and pretty bow will make their way to the trash where they will rot away in a landfill.

But my biggest gripe is the price for all of that frilly paper, which only provides only a moment of glee. And while I would like to see the 2007 Christmas season be the one that ditches the idea of wrapping up gifts (after all, being green is in vogue) there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that is going to happen. Companies that make wrapping paper and related products must be raking it in as the busiest shopping season heads into full insane-o-mode. I couldn’t find any statistics about wrapping paper revenue, but I am sure that it is such a large chunk of company profits that the last thing they would want to do is stop the frivolous holiday tradition.

How could I get out of wrapping gifts without disappointing my family and friends while not spending a dime? Why not turn to the one thing that has helped give consumers the things they want without charging them a thing, advertising-supported goods! I would gladly accept gift-wrapping materials that have been plastered in logos if it were free and saved me time. It seems to make sense in helping companies spread brand awareness as the giftee would be exposed with a happy and joyous moment of opening a gift which creates a positive psychological effect and brand association. Companies could ship it to people for free or give it out at stores with every purchase. Boxes already pre-wrapped and decorated using a Christmas variation of the corporate colors and branded tissue paper inside would be the perfect ad vehicle to their next potential customer. And with the cost of buying everything in bulk, the company wouldn’t be spending more than the usual barrage of printed material such as full-page magazine ads, billboards, or direct mailing fliers. Wrapping paper would be unusual in the fact that it is actually useful! That’s a valuable exchange in my book.

Corporate Wrapping Paper

I’m surprised I haven’t seen this idea more widespread. Lots of stores offer gift wrapping though it is usually offered as an extra service for a price. Why not offset that cost with advertising? Everything else seems to work that way. And it’s not like Christmas isn’t already over-marketed, over-hyped, and over-crowded with the consumerism mentality of BUY, BUY, BUY! Why not just a little bit more with free wrapping paper?

Time To Say Adios To

Washington DC had it’s first Startup Weekend event two weeks ago drawing a crowd of about 70 techies. The idea behind startup weekend is for a group of people to get together, conceive, build, and launch an Internet business in under 72 hours. The only thing more stressful than executing a new idea in such a short period of time is managing such a large group of random people. I didn’t have the pleasure of attending but I did follow along via the official blog and twitter posts from friends that attended.

The group settled on an idea about a social network for communities, later dubbed The site is meant to help people plan events, share important information, meet the neighbors, and generally be a better member of the local community. It has been more than a week since the site launched and it is still far from even a proof of concept. Logo

So far Helo Neighbor is a Google Maps mashup. You can search for communities by zip code which displays the location on a Google map with an exclamation point as a marker. Clicking on the marker lets you check out the community which only includes a list of members and three crude options: name of founder, public or private, and invite or open. There is also the capability to upload photos though there is nothing taking advantage of this feature yet.

The idea is half baked at best. I imagine there must have been way more ideas during the pitch of this business proposition to keep the team excited about this. I don’t see any advantage of launching HelloNeighbor as a standalone site. In hindsight it would have made much more sense to build on top of an existing social network like Facebook. By making this product a Facebook app the team could spend more time working on the features instead of building up the basic infrastructure like the sign up process and user management. As the site stands now, users are better off creating a group on Facebook to keep in touch with local events.

I hope the gang had fun, because the end result certainly falls flat.

Britney Spears Not A Saver

A recent story appearing on CNN examines Britney’s spending habits revealed by court documents released November 1st. According to the papers Ms. Spears brings in $737,000 a month. Spears’ monthly expenses include $49,267 in mortgage for two houses, $16,000 for clothes and $102,000 on entertainment, gifts and vacation, according to her financial declaration.

Britney Spears WOW!

Meanwhile, she spends zero on education, savings and investments and gives $500 a month in charitable contributions. With such an enormous income, if she saved just 1% a month she would have $88,440 at the end of a full year. This would be more than enough to ensure her children get through college. For the rest of her life she could take that $7,370 monthly contribution and dump it in an investment vehicle that returned 5% annually for a cool $8,387,324.38 by the time she turns 60. Of course what fun would that be? I guess we’ll keep seeing Britney albums and related schwag until she finally gets a clue or drives herself crazy into the ground. Hey, nobody said saving for retirement was glamorous.

Inspiration: Srown Design Group Screenshot is the home of the stylish Srown Design Group. If you are a design group you most certainly have to look good and the team has pulled it off with this slick black and pink website. I like how the background draws the attention to the middle of the page where all of the content is as well as use of the upper corners for the most important navigation: Home and Contact. Srown has even used a bit of pizazz by fading up new content after you click a link.

Looks aside though, and this site has two big problems. For one, the site doesn’t use separate web pages for each section, instead everything is loaded up front and using JavaScript, Srown replaces the middle container with the content. This is bad design as it prevents linking to specific content. There are ways to incorporate a bookmarkable history of pages using JavaScript like the jQuery history plugin. Also, users with scripting disabled will be limited to the first screen of content since the navigation relies entirely on JavaScript.

Ultimately Srown used the wrong technology for the job. Instead, the team should have used Flash which would be more flexible in developing visual effects. There is also a higher chance of a user having Flash installed compared to having JavaScript enabled since the Adobe plugin is installed in 99% of computers worldwide. Instead, Srown settled for the middle of usability (and the middle is the worst) without taking advantage of the extra benefits Flash had to offer.

As you can see a site can be visually stellar but utter crap in usability. Before ever starting a project it is important to sit down and think things through from a technical stand point to see what different technologies have to offer. So while Srown looks awesome it suffers in usability which brings up the important point that substance beats style out any day.

Behold The All-Knowing Fortune Cookie

My roommates bought Chinese the other night and I like to just eat the fortune cookies. Ironically this was my fortune…

Culture and customs of China attract you.

What can I say? I eat Chinese food and buy lots of products made in China. Fortune cookies are so mystical and all-knowing.

Being In The Middle Of The Pack Is The Worst

Shortly after I started college, a man by the name of Hy Kaplan contacted me. Mr. Kaplan wanted to pick my brain about video equipment for a new business he wanted to startup recording valuable personal belongings that the client could keep for record insurance purposes. He found me through the forums at where I would frequently help answer people’s video-related questions. It was the first time someone sought me out for my specific knowledge.

We met at a local restaurant where he treated me to breakfast. I gave him my honest advice about video gear and gave me some nuggets of wisdom. The one that stuck with me the most was about how being in the middle of competition, no matter what the activity, is just as good as being invisible. Let me break it down further.

Being In The Middle Sucks

There are only three levels of expertise: the best, the worst, and somewhere in the middle. Being the best has it’s obvious benefits. The perks of being better than the competition provides leverage to charge more for goods or services. Our culture is groomed to value the best the world has to offer through the way we worship celebrities to the stock price of the most successful companies; capitalism is built around being the best.

The worst has several non-obvious benefits. There is no point in doing something if you can’t be the best at it. By being the worst, you can easily quit with little to nothing to lose. Being the worst means you can only go up and get better without fear of getting any worse. Life at the bottom offers a broader view of possibilities and paths in your quest to be the best including the option to dump the idea and focus on something else entirely. When you are the worst, the flexibility to move on with no penalty is the greatest asset you have.

Being in the middle is where you get stuck; it’s the toughest spot to shake free from. The middle leaves you the tough choice of pressing on or giving it all up which results in the waste of the time and energy it took to get you were you are. By concentrating on getting out of the middle you pay an opportunity cost to exploring other ideas that might may give you your next big break. But most importantly, being in the middle makes you average, and being average is like being invisible. Which team came in 5th place in the football playoffs last year? What college is ranked 23rd in the nation according to USNews? What is your favorite mediocre blog? All of these questions are hard to answer because they don’t stick out; they are average.

The iPhone Is Not The Only Mobile Web Device

Bi-weekly web magazine A List Apart (ALA) launched two fresh new articles. Unfortunately I was saddened that Erin Kissane, editor at ALA, approved an entire article about designing specifically for the iPhone. I know the iPhone is amazing to many geeks out there but it is no where near as prevalent as the number of web enabled mobile devices.

According to market researcher iSuppli, the number of mobile phone subscribers topped 2.6 billion globally last year. Since I couldn’t find any statistics on mobile web devices, let us assume only a quarter of those can access the web on their phone. That works out to 650 million potential mobile web users. Apple reported it sold 270,000 iPhones over it’s launch weekend but let’s assume they sold 30,000 more shiny devices between now and then. Using the above statistics, the iPhone accounts for only 0.046% of all web-accessible mobile devices; a drop in the proverbial bucket. And I am supposed to be excited to specifically tweak my site for it?

iPhone Vs Mobile Web

The web design world has standards with the goal of being able to code once and access the content in any browser or on any device. Standards arose because in the late 90’s and early 2000 websites were often designed for one browser at a certain resolution. You may remember seeing such terms as “Best viewed in Internet Explorer 5+ with a resolution of 1024×768.” One of the founders of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, even expressed his displeasure of the trend in Technology Review (July 1996):

“Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.”

By designing for a single device, you are essentially jumping back to the dark ages of the web while cutting out a large chunk of the global audience. I agree that mobile web standards leave a lot to be desired but by essentially ignoring the rest of the world (remember iPhones are U.S. only for now) you are only making things worse.

Web technologies like Apple’s mobile Safari and Microsoft’s Deepfish show great promise in fulfilling the web standard utopia. These tools don’t require separate coding for mobile devices which in turn will speed up the adoption of the Internet on-the-go. But it will be several more years before they are in a majority of devices and until then we have to remember that there are other phones out there other than Apple’s precious iPhone.

Digg Has Had A Picture Section All Along

Many grumbling tech nerds complain that should really implement a picture section judging from the number of submissions with [pic] in the title. But what they don’t know is that Digg already has a picture section! Don’t believe me, look for yourself. Here is the most popular pictures of the day and here are the upcoming ones. So why is everyone so up in a huff?

Angry At Digg For Lack Of Picture Section

I kind of like the mixture of stories which I will never see much of if they create a new section similar to what they have done for videos. What they really need is an “All” section so videos and news stories can mingle together for the benefit of nerd kind. Oh and while we are wishing, Digg might as well throw in a “Digg” category for all of the self-absorbed Digg news that seems to make it to the front page. That is a section I would not include in my filter.

Update: I wrote this last night before Kevin Rose published this entry on the Digg blog. Apparently an “All” section is coming in the near future and a true picture section will hit the scene sometimes around October. My psychic diggness has been off the charts recently.