September 2011 Archives

It's both thrilling and frightening.

By Michael Mulvey on September 30, 2011 11:22 AM

Randy Murray gets poetically hyperbolic on Steve Jobs and the future of Apple:

Isaac Asimov wrote a very interesting series of novels called "The Foundation." In them, his character, Hari Seldon, developed a science called psychohistory, with which he was able to accurately predict the large scale course of human events. It's a great series, and was added to by some other popular science fiction writers over the years.

This idea, that one man could both predict and influence human events, is both fascinating and incredible.

And yet we have our own Hari Seldon. It's Steve Jobs.

Joshua Davis

By Michael Mulvey on September 29, 2011 12:09 PM

It's great to see Joshua Davis is not only still creating great designs, but also using Flash, a technology we keep hearing is no longer relevant in today's mobile world.

As you can see from the Voice Visualizer application Davis created, Flash is an extremely powerful instrument in the right hands, capable of outputting immersive work that HTML5 and Javascript (still) can't even come close to.

(Hat tip Analogue)




Remember punch cards? I don't.

By Michael Mulvey on September 28, 2011 11:49 AM

If you're like me and dig retro graphics, things from the 50's & 60's and computers, you'll have to check out the Computer History Museum (via cirox). They have large PDF versions for all sorts of old computer brochures.





By Michael Mulvey on September 28, 2011 10:29 AM

Influencer: Steve Jobs announces the iPhone, January 2007


Influenced: Jeff Bezos announces the Kindle Touch, September 2011


A New Set of Beliefs

By Michael Mulvey on September 28, 2011 8:58 AM

Raymond V. Gilmartin over at Harvard Business Review says CEOs need a new set of beliefs:

In my experience, these beliefs have led managers and boards to take actions that have had unintended, destructive consequences. When observing the behavior of management and corporate boards, when reading the management literature and the business press, and when assessing the outcomes of management behavior, it seems as though CEOs are recognized and rewarded handsomely for downsizing and outsourcing, acquiring or merging, and making the quarter -- all justified by the responsibility to maximize shareholder value.

Any of these actions can be necessary in certain circumstances; most of us have taken one or another. My concern is that these actions have become the standard by which CEOs are expected to manage. Furthermore, these actions are taken seemingly without regard to the consequences for the community, the employees, the survival of the company as an institution, or the creation of long-term firm value.

The Problem is the Problem

By Michael Mulvey on September 27, 2011 10:45 AM

Aza Raskin recounts the story of Henry Kremer and the competition for the first plane powered by human and how Paul MacCready approached it in a much different way than everyone else:

A decade went by. Dozens of teams tried and failed to build an airplane that could meet the requirements. It looked impossible. Another decade threatened to go by before our hero, MacCready, decided to get involved. He looked at the problem, how the existing solutions failed, and how people iterated their airplanes. He came to the startling realization that people were solving the wrong problem. "The problem is," he said, "that we don't understand the problem."

The problem was the problem. Paul realized that what we needed to be solved was not, in fact, human powered flight. That was a red-herring. The problem was the process itself, and along with it the blind pursuit of a goal without a deeper understanding how to tackle deeply difficult challenges. He came up with a new problem that he set out to solve: how can you build a plane that could be rebuilt in hours not months. And he did. He built a plane with Mylar, aluminum tubing, and wire.

Gone In 60 Seconds

By Michael Mulvey on September 27, 2011 9:31 AM

Carscoop on how technology is making our cars more vulnerable to attack:

The modern automobile is a microcosm for our networked society. Everything from the brakes to the dual-zone climate control and from the windscreen wipers to the CD player is connected through a Controller-Area-Network (CAN) bus.

Like the nerves in our bodies, this network passes information from one component to another. It allows the anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control to work in unison, disconnects the cruise control when you step on the accelerator and allows the headlights to switch themselves on in low light conditions.

Like all networks, however, the ones in our cars are vulnerable to attack from hackers. Last year, researchers with the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security (CAESS) at the University of California San Diego and the University of Washington demonstrated how a car could be hacked through its ODB-II port.

Totally important and valid point.

The counterpoint to this is that cars have always been vulnerable to attack. Screwdrivers in tumblers, hotwiring, slim jims. Those are yesterday's tools.

Today's have gotten more sophisticated is all.

Morning Haze

By Michael Mulvey on September 27, 2011 9:03 AM


Wiesmann Roadster MF5

By Michael Mulvey on September 26, 2011 5:41 PM





People don't poke anymore.

By Michael Mulvey on September 26, 2011 3:04 PM

Ellis Hamburger over at Business Insider says Facebook is losing it's identity because they're hiding the 'Poke' button.

This is bullshit.

Facebook isn't losing it's identity, it's growing up. It's no longer the site requiring a college email address to sign up for. It's a multi-billion dollar company.

You don't see me driving across lawns or joining hacky sack circles like I did in high school. Doesn't mean I'm losing my identity.

Moving on......

Wikipedia Logo

By Michael Mulvey on September 26, 2011 2:16 PM

Continuing the in new tradition of morphing, modular logos (see MIT, AOL, OCAD U) comes the redesign of the logo for Wikipedia by Moving Brands.




via FastCoDesign

You can't get rid of wealth.

By Michael Mulvey on September 26, 2011 11:31 AM

Malcolm Gladwell on The Nets and NBA Economics:

One of the great forgotten facts about the United States is that not very long ago the wealthy weren't all that wealthy. Up until the 1960s, the gap between rich and poor in the United States was relatively narrow. In fact, in that era marginal tax rates in the highest income bracket were in excess of 90 percent. For every dollar you made above $250,000, you gave the government 90 cents. Today -- with good reason -- we regard tax rates that high as punitive and economically self-defeating. It is worth noting, though, that in the social and political commentary of the 1950s and 1960s there is scant evidence of wealthy people complaining about their situation. They paid their taxes and went about their business. Perhaps they saw the logic of the government's policy: There was a huge debt from World War II to be paid off, and interstates, public universities, and other public infrastructure projects to be built for the children of the baby boom. Or perhaps they were simply bashful. Wealth, after all, is as often the gift of good fortune as it is of design.

via Missile Test


By Michael Mulvey on September 26, 2011 10:08 AM




Marvel Minimalist Posters

They coined it.

By Michael Mulvey on September 25, 2011 7:43 PM


via TWOV

Create original, relevant content repeatedly.

By Michael Mulvey on September 25, 2011 4:31 PM

Matt Legend Gemmell gives us SEO for Non-dicks:

The key thing to understand is that the rules of SEO aren't magic or arbitrary. They're based on the goals of a search engine, which is to find relevant results. Relevance implies genuineness, and genuineness implies trust. So, shockingly, you should try to make your site's content trustworthy, genuine and relevant. All of the rules have come about due to their utility in detecting those three positive metrics. Good SEO is a by-product of not being a dick on the internet.

via daringfireball

Deeply, profoundly profound.

By Michael Mulvey on September 25, 2011 4:20 PM

Dan Lyons has been hit and miss since retiring his Fake Steve Jobs shtick (ok, mostly miss), but I liked his reaction to Facebook's F8 Conference:

And now suddenly we are living in that future. That future which only yesterday was the future now today is the present. Just like we mark eras using BC and AD, now we will have BF811 and AF811. Where were you on Sept. 22, 2011, when the world changed? I, unfortunately, was holed up in my grubby little office in a small town in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, I will never forget this day. Never. Ever. How could I? This is the day when Timelines was introduced. Timelines! It is, in a word, profound. Deeply, profoundly profound, in fact. "Facebook Just Schooled the Internet. Again" is how MG Siegler put it on TechCrunch. Which is a pretty amazing feat, coming as it does just a year and a half after "Facebook Just Seized Control of the Internet" as MG Siegler wrote in April 2010. It is pretty amazing, after all, to seize control of the Internet. That was bad-ass enough. But to then school the Internet that you've seized control of? Who but Facebook could do that? Good Lord I have to sit down and just think for a minute because my mind is reeling ...

Yes, he lays it on extra thick, but it made me laugh. Probably because I'm a wise-ass too.

Nice Ligatures, Baby

By Michael Mulvey on September 23, 2011 9:28 AM


The lovely new Magnolia typeface by Eimantas Paškonis.

via @khoi

There's one more big piece to this puzzle.

By Michael Mulvey on September 23, 2011 9:00 AM

Neven Mrgan has a great idea for a movie:

So, fun-lovin', irresponsible manchild, still searching for his true character, blah blah blah, inexplicably hot girlfriend, she gets fed up and dumps him, he now has to clean his stuff out of their shared storage unit. Ok, I'll give you one scene for free. (The rest are $90,000 per day, haha haha ha.) Gosling - yeah, I'm thinking Ryan Gosling; he's like the new John Cusack, or will be when we're done with him. Oh it's an 80s movie, I'll get back to that - so Gosling, looking like crap after the breakup, pulls up to this storage unit in his crappy old Hyundai, super-sunny day, storage-unit door opens, dust, cobwebs, maybe a random cat meow in the back Big exaggerated sigh, a box tumbles down. That's how the trailer opens right there, there you go.

Read the whole thing. I love it.

You're In For A Rude Awakening

By Michael Mulvey on September 22, 2011 8:48 AM

Electronista: Dell CEO claims post-PC era is 'complete nonsense'

Michael Dell in an interview Sunday [free reg. required] took a stance that there was no such thing as a post-PC era. In spite of struggling PC sales, he argued to the FT that the PC industry was still growing, particularly in developing countries like China. Smartphones and tablets weren't "necessarily" replacing PCs, and long-term forecasts suggested that would stay the case for years to come, he said.

"There are a billion and a half PCs in the world and while Gartner change their estimates here and there, they also estimate there will be two billion PCs in the world by 2014," Dell said. "So when I look at that, I think the idea that the PC is no longer here is complete nonsense."

Isn't this the same douchebag who said Apple should shut down and give the money back to the shareholders?

Michael Dell doesn't seem to understand that "post-PC" doesn't mean "no PC". As Jobs said on stage at D8 in 2010, PCs will still be around and provide a lot of value in the post-PC era, but they're not going to be the primary machine people will be using to check email, read, look at pictures and browser the Internet.


By Michael Mulvey on September 21, 2011 4:24 PM


Trucks and motorcycles are both vehicles, but not every motorcycle is a truck.

By Michael Mulvey on September 19, 2011 12:14 PM

As I've been listening to people from Microsoft in the news over the last couple months I've noticed a recurring theme - they like playing games with semantics. Sometimes I think they get cutesy but sometimes I think what they say aligns with their business philosophy.

The first time I noticed this was when Steve Jobs described us as being in the 'post-PC era' at the D8 Conference in 2010:

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that's what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn't care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars.

PCs are going to be like trucks. They're still going to be around, they're still going to have a lot of value, but they're going to be used by one out of X people.

I think that we're embarked on that. Is [the next step] the iPad? Who knows? Will it happen next year or five years from now or seven years from now? Who knows? But I think we're headed in that direction.

The next day at the conference, Ballmer responded:

I think people are going to be using PCs in a greater and greater numbers for many years to come. I think PCs are going to continue to shift in form factor. PCs will look different next year, the year after, the year after that... I think the PC as we know it will continue to morph form factor... Windows machines are not going to be 'trucks.' They will continue to be the mass popularizer of a variety of things that people want to do with information... I think there's a fundamental difference between small-enough-to-be-in-your-pocket and not-small-enough-to-be-in-your-pocket. There will be some distinct differences in usage patterns between those two devices.

So here we have Ballmer getting all philosophical. What is a PC? What is PC-ness? If we were to remap Jobs' truck analogy for Ballmer, Ballmer would have probably said everything is a truck. Scooters? They're just trucks without the flatbed and only 2 tires. Sedans? Sedans are trucks that are lower to the ground and have a trunk instead of a flatbed.

Fast-forward to Microsoft's BUILD Conference that happened last week and we can see that Microsoft's leadership is truly aiming for a PC experience everywhere with Windows 8. If you want to work within the Metro UI, go for it, but if you need that nasty, overly-complicated experience of the 'traditional' Windows, you can always jump back to it.

According to Steven Sinofsky, you never have to compromise:

Why not just start over from scratch? Why not just remove all of the desktop features and only ship the Metro experience? Why not "convert" everything to Metro? The arguments for a "clean slate" are well known, both for and against. We chose to take the approach of building a design without compromise. A design that truly affords you the best of the two worlds we see today. Our perspective rests on the foundation of the open PC architecture that has proven flexible and adaptable over many significant changes in hardware capabilities and software paradigms. This is the flexibility that has served as a cornerstone through transitions in user interface, connectivity, programming models, and hardware capabilities (to name a few).

And this leads me to the other big area I see Microsoft getting creative with semantics - their use of the word compromise.

A compromise is something created to appease people with opposing views on a topic. Each side has given up certain demands in order to come to an agreement. In my mind, when you compromise each side usually end up with something less than ideal.

John Gruber wrote a great post in response to this 'compromise' a few weeks ago:

Like I wrote yesterday, Microsoft and Apple are going in two very different directions, especially when you compare iOS to Windows 8. Apple has embraced compromise. The compromises in iOS are, for many people in many contexts, what makes the iPad better than a Mac. The compromises enforce simplicity and obviousness in design, and at a technical level they lead to iOS's excellent battery life.

Now I don't disagree with Gruber's core argument, again I disagree on the use of 'compromise'. If Apple's goal is to create the best tablet experience in the world, compromises can't be made, because compromising implies negotiating down from some ideal vision. If desktop-level applications aren't needed or appropriate for a tablet, then not supporting them is not compromising.

Giving a motorcycle two wheels instead of four doesn't mean you're compromising. What you're doing is giving a motorcycle the thing that makes it great.

Microsoft wants to have it's cake and eat it too by creating the Metro UI while holding on to the Windows (desktop) legacy UI. It's appeasing both sides of Windows. It's like driving a truck around with with a scooter attached to the side like an escape pod. Microsoft is compromising.

I think the big reason for this all-in-one approach to Windows 8 lies both in Microsoft's dependance on the Windows/Office franchise for the bulk of their revenue as well as their late entrance into the tablet race. It's too late to capitalize on the newness of the tablet market (they're 2 years late already) and they're afraid to put all their chips in on a Metro-only mobile UI. What they do have is the largest install base for PCs so they're backpedaling into the tablet market by way of the desktop PC.

Notice during the demos at the BUILD conference, how it's been a macro focus at the Metro UI on all devices, rather than a micro focus at just one form factor, the tablet. I think Microsoft feels that a Windows tablet can't stand strong on it's own, because, by extension, Windows Phone has not been able to stand strong on it's own.

Apple can do the iPad without their desktop business because it has an ecosystem grown from the iPhone. Conversely, as Windows Phone hasn't really taken off, their biggest ecosystem is on the desktop. So we end up in fun game of semantics where "everything is PC" and you can have "Windows everywhere" and compromising on your operating system becomes not compomising.

But let's be clear - not everything is PC, just as not every motorcycle is an automobile.

And when you're making concessions on the mobile side and desktop side when developing your next operating system, you're comprimising. You're not not compromising.

This Is Personal

By Michael Mulvey on September 14, 2011 12:13 PM


via TWOV

You had me at incoherent.

By Michael Mulvey on September 14, 2011 9:02 AM

This Is My Next on Windows 8:

If we're going to be totally honest though, we'd describe Windows 8 right now as incoherent and contradictory. Touch response in the Metro UI is stellar, Contracts sound seriously useful, and snapping apps can make you more productive on a tablet, but whenever you want to get down and dirty with a traditional program, it's back to the traditional desktop interface. There are two Control Panels, two versions of IE, and core apps are nowhere to be found (i.e. Mail, a camera app, etc.) Meanwhile, if you want to do anything with the desktop interface (save things you've actually planted on your desktop) you'll probably find yourself thrown back to Metro since the traditional Start menu is gone. The whole Human Experience feels schizophrenic, with users having to jump back and forth between the two paradigms, each of which seem like they might be better off on their own.

Incoherent, contradictory, schizophrenic. You didn't let me down, Microsoft.

Well done.

Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

By Michael Mulvey on September 13, 2011 9:10 AM

It seems artificial intelligence is gaining some serious momentum.

NYTimes: In Case You Wondered, a Real Human Wrote This Column

"WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver's seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 ... . "

Those words began a news brief written within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the Wisconsin-U.N.L.V. football game earlier this month. They may not seem like much -- but they were written by a computer.

And over at IBM Watson is offering medical advice to doctors:

IBM has inked a deal with health insurer WellPoint that will let the latter use the technology behind "Jeopardy"-playing computer Watson to suggest patient diagnoses and treatments.

IBM claims the Watson technology can process about 200 million pages of content in less than three seconds, which no doubt makes the system intriguing when it comes to reviewing various medical literature. The WellPoint system will display excerpts that identify the data sources behind the particular suggestions the Watson technology offers up, the Journal reports.

Where are we headed?

All About The Past

By Michael Mulvey on September 12, 2011 1:00 PM

Harvard Business Review: You Can't Analyze Your Way to Growth

Roger Martin on why analysis sucks:

The fundamental reason is that analysis of data is all about the past. Data analysis crunches the past and extrapolates it into the future. And the past does not include opportunities that exist but have not yet happened. So, analysis conspicuously excludes ways to serve customers that have not been tried or imagined or ways to turn non-customers into customers.

Why not focus on appreciation:

If instead, the core tool is not analysis but rather appreciation --deep appreciation of the consumer's life -- what makes it hard or easy; what makes her (in this category) happy or sad -- there is the opportunity to imagine possibilities that do not exist.

For instance, suppose your consumers have to clean floors. It's easy enough to appreciate that mopping a floor is a fairly miserable task. Think about what it involves: getting out and filling a bucket, dragging the bucket around and repeatedly jamming the mop in and out of it, and then dumping out and cleaning the bucket. If you appreciate your floor-cleaning customers, you'll be looking to help them avoid having to go through this experience every time they have to clean a floor -- because not every floor will need such a heavy-duty approach. It was out of this appreciation-triggered insight that the electrostatic Swiffer anti-mop was born and produced massive top-line growth, approaching $1 billion in sales in a decade.

This why analysts are completely useless gamblers. Betting on what could be based on the past. Analysis has no room for the curve ball that is innovation. Innovations are what come out of appreciation. Henry Ford said if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

Analysis can only imagine faster horses, they can never imagine cars.

via Clayton Christensen

That Dress

By Michael Mulvey on September 12, 2011 8:10 AM


(possible?) Banksy piece on Spring Street near Mercer, NYC.

New York, You've Changed

By Michael Mulvey on September 9, 2011 2:37 PM



A new feature at Scouting NY, called 'New York, You've Changed':

"New York, You've Changed" is a new Scouting NY site feature in which the New York depicted in movies is compared with the city of today. This is not the usual list of shooting locations and addresses to visit next time you tour the city. Instead, this is a full shot-by-shot dissection to see what New York once was and what it has become, for better or worse. I've tried to recreate the angles and framing as best as possible, and have presented the shots (more or less) in the order they appear in the film.


via Michael Surtees


By Michael Mulvey on September 8, 2011 8:56 AM

Back in June, Andy Baio of shared his tale of being sued over the pixel art album cover for Kind of Bloop.

Long story short, everything is a remix.

If you're a creator like me, you already know this.

In the spirit of remixing and stealing, I've come across some beautiful Mona Lisas:

via fubiz

via kottke

via Le Container

A Look Back

By Michael Mulvey on September 1, 2011 1:53 PM

How's that world-ruling going these days, Nokia?

*I originally posted this cover on 22 Oct 2009. Funny how even back then this cover was ridiculous.

A Big, Fat Unicorn

By Michael Mulvey on September 1, 2011 10:00 AM

So Ben Brooks imagines an alternate universe for Microsoft:

What if Microsoft bought HP's PC division to start producing their own hardware: the higher quality PC?

So you're imaging Microsoft turning into Apple.

Microsoft has begun building Microsoft stores, they would have a nice, existing, retail presence. They have deals with all major retailers. They likely have more brand trust than any current PC maker.

Ok, sure. I agree these retail stores could come in handy if they ever figured out how to make money from them.

In this scenario Microsoft wouldn't become another me-too PC maker -- they would be setting the standard. The standard for: price, quality, design, and speed.

Quality, design, speed. Microsoft. Right.

This is not out of the realm of possibility -- though it would be a risky move.

That's exactly what this scenario is - out of the realm of possibility. What Mister Brooks is proposing implies a complete change in business strategy for Microsoft. Microsoft started with the mission statement: "a computer on every desk and in every home". From day one they've always been about quantity over quality.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'd love to be proven so. Windows Phone was so refreshing when it came out and I was genuinely excited to see another strong contender enter the mobile OS arena, but then they started showing their plans for Windows 8, where some aspects would be in a traditional-Windows UI and other aspects would be in their new Metro UI. Nope. Still the same old Microsoft. Trying to be everything to everyone. Decent at some things, great at nothing.

This is also the company who recently got all excited about their revamped Windows Explorer.

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