By Michael Mulvey on December 30, 2011 11:26 AM
Over at GigaOM, Michael Wolf says 2012 will be the year the artist-entrepreneur.
Headlines look great with declaratives in them, but the truth is artist-entrepreneurs have been doing quite well for a whille now. In 2007 Radiohead circumvented the middle men and told people to pay what they want for their album, In Rainbows, directly from their site. Prince made a similar move in 2007 with his album Planet Earth and again in 2010 with the album 20Ten. In both these cases though, he gave away his album for free in national newspapers in the UK.
You might say Radiohead and Prince are big names so they can get away with bold moves like this. And this is true. You could also say this about the recent
experiment Louis C.K. did by selling his latest stand-up special, DRM-free on his website for $5, grossing him over one million dollars in a few weeks.
But what about the artist-entrepreneur nobody knows? The guy or girl with an idea, who executes the idea and then gets people interesting in backing it and ends up raising thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars?
Wolf doesn't address this group and it's unfortunate, because I think it's one of the most exciting areas on said topic. How he managed to not at least mention Kickstarter in his article boggles my mind.
I'm happy Michael Wolf wrote his piece. It's important to see prominent individuals taking this DIY approach, I just wish he showed this approach can work all the way down the spectrum.
What must it be like for a suicide coming down from a high ledge? I'm sure it must be a very sane feeling. That's probably why they scream all the way down.
I love as more and more details and clues are leaked regarding Apple's future product plans, things become so obvious to these brilliant, insightful analysts.
Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee talks about Apple's (supposed) entry into the television market (via paidContent.org):
Frankly, we are not surprised and believe AAPL should enter the TV space as this is arguably the only major end market the company is not currently participating in a bigger way.
"Moreover, we have picked up several data points indicating activity from component makers to manufacturing partners as well as AAPL's own patent filings from at least 2005.
"We believe it makes sense for AAPL to produce Apple TV in both a set-top box as well as an integrated all-in-one version to give users choice.
Wu wasn't surprised at all. Wonder if he was expecting this 6 months ago, or a year? I'm sure that part in Walter Isaacson's bio of Steve Jobs where Jobs talks about cracking the TV market didn't help you at all either.
Analysts are about as reliable as weather people. It's only when they see the clouds on the horizon can they predict the rain.
Newsflash - I can do that too.
Despite the thoughtful and elegant design of the new Windows Phone OS, it seems Microsoft is having trouble getting developers to design and build quality applications.
In response to this, Microsoft Canada has launched the Developer Movement, which gives away prizes for each quality application a developer makes.
I don't think Apple ever had to pay developers to ensure their applications were well-designed.
Where's that Ballmer chant when you need it?
Over the holiday weekend, we were talking with my dad about his army days, and he busted out his Signal Corps ID card. He was an electronics instructor (at age 17) and the back of the card listed the 'Instructor's Motto':
I will always realize that everything
I say and do influences other soldiers.
I will instill in each student a deep
sense of loyalty to his fellow soldiers,
the Army, and our country.
By my own example I will inspire him
to the highest standards of personal con-
duct, integrity, and professional skill.
Seems like a good rule of thumb for any profession.
David Pogue imagines a world where car companies operated like tech companies:
Here at the annual Consumer Electronic Automotive Show, the largest trade show in the world, the carheads have again made their annual pilgrimage to see what new breakthrough vehicles will be finding their way into American garages in the new year.
Axxle, the Cupertino, Calif., automaker, is again notable by its absence. But even though its perfectionist founder, Steve Hubs, recently died, the company's impact was everywhere at the show.
When Axxle announced its sleek, simple-to-drive iCar last year, automotive blogs like Gizmoto and Engearjet savaged it for its lack of a windshield, doors, roof and body. "Only the fanboys would want to drive a flat glass surfboard," went a typical remark.
Google products are machine-driven. They're created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That's what makes our products great.
This kind of quote is to be expected from a company run by engineers. The problem isn't that Google's products are made by machines. Everyone's products are made by machines. But it is't why you should be proud of your products. And it's not what makes your products great.
What engineers and companies run by engineers need to get past is thinking the general public cares about the same things they do. Like how (supposedly) open their platform is. Or how precise their algorithms are. Or how fast their processors are.
Engineers are very gifted individuals. I know, because my father is one.
Engineers have the uncanny ability to talk to machines. Write code. Fix car engines. Rewire houses. Help their son install a stereo into their car, explaining which wire is connected to the ignition, which one is connected to the battery and which one is grounded (I believe the black wire is ground). Oh yeah, and check to see if your speakers are in phase.
Where engineers need help is converting their brilliance into something a regular person can use and enjoy.
Designers convert brilliance. They connect dots.
This doesn't make designers better than engineers.
They need each other to create anything meaningful or useful.
Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post has compiled a slideshow of charts made by economists that illustrate the economic woes facing the country. These charts are ugly as hell, from a strictly aesthetic standpoint, but they are beautiful in the concise way they present information. Unfortunately, the content of the information is quite frightening. Below is a selection from the original posting.
This chart illustrates the changing nature of work for men in the United States. As women continue to enter and equalize the workforce, competition for jobs becomes stiffer. In addition, men have been steadily performing worse in schools and colleges for decades, leaving many ill-prepared and ill-trained for steady employment.
The author of this chart put in a little gallows humor to emphasize the growing disparity between corporate profits and compensation to those that generate the profits. This is a powerful chart in that it brings to mind a fundamental flaw in our economy. As it now operates, the American economy is a powerful engine of revenue creation, but not job creation. In fact, in many instances, obliterating jobs can generate more profits than adding jobs. This is an economy caught in the throes of entropy, and a question must be asked: What is the point of economic growth if the majority of Americans see no benefit from said growth, or even find themselves slipping backwards?
Finally, this chart has a great title. "The Toil Index." This shows the ever-increasing amount of hours an American has to work in a month to be able to afford rent. From just over 40 hours a month in 1950 to over a hundred this past decade, it's heartbreaking to see just how much of our labor goes to an essential need of human existence. The reality of our economy is that we are still far better off than our ancestors, but the promise of a better life has taken a huge hit.
So, these charts are ugly, beautiful, frightening, and fascinating.
Susan Kare created this image, but I needed a bigger version to post, so I made one.
It's crazy, because it does look like the post-hippie Steve.
I want this.
Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Corp. in recent months flirted with the idea of making a joint bid for Research In Motion Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter.
Really? Microsoft and Nokia flirted with RIM? This RIM?
Like the way Vinny, Pauly and the Situation flirt with grenades to bring home at the end of the night?
I think we need a grenade whistle any time a company gets close to RIM.
Do Microsoft and Nokia have technology beer goggles on that make RIM appear like a valuable acquisition?
My mother recently sent me a link to TJS Labs Gallery of Graphic Design. It is a treasure trove of vintage ads from the 30's through to the 60's. Thanks mom!
Brian S Hall tells us Blackberry ($RIMM) is worth less than the Apple App Store. Just the App Store.
Just the App Store.
Related: John Gruber called it back in 2008.
via Chris Glass
This is from one of my favorite photography sites. Chris Glass is a hell of a picture taker. Rollover his pics, and he even shows you what the image looked like before he put it through photoshop.
Wow, how quickly did this go on my Christmas list?
The first digital object dedicated to the automobile, Road Inc. comes with 50 iconic models to unveil. Having dominated racetracks, revolutionized industry, reinvented luxury or simply gained huge popular recognition, they are the landmarks of Road Inc.!
Sometimes a person leaves the scene who was such an articulate contrarian, such an elegant arguer, that their death leaves a hole. Such is the case with Christopher Hitchens. He was a provocateur who used his wit to inflame, but most of all to challenge. He made part of his living by gleefully appearing in hostile forums, whether it be on Fox News or religious radio, and spouting off one-liners in the face of unshakable opinions. This was mere theater. Nothing serious can come out of arguing with Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity. In those arenas, it's all about the soundbite. Fox loved him because he would willingly throw bombs on their shows. The hosts loved him because they had someone to yell at. I imagine Hitchens loved it because he loved to argue, and the only way that could be better was by getting paid for the privilege.
Hitchens was at his best as a speaker and a writer. In long form, with the floor to himself, or with the space afforded by his columns and his books, over a lifetime he stitched together a philosophy that could convince, but also be maddening to those who thought Hitchens agreed with them.
Is a reader an atheist? That reader will find a ready companion in Hitchens.
Anti-war? Look elsewhere. There hasn't been a war this century that Hitchens didn't support.
Liberal? After Ronald Reagan's death Hitchens wrote an article for Slate in which he referred to Reagan as a "cruel and stupid lizard." This year, he followed that up with a wonderful article arguing that the country would have been better off had Reagan never taken the oath of office. But before a liberal could get comfortable, Hitchens would point out how mistaken the left had been in putting all of its hopes into Barack Obama.
The genius of Hitchens was that he didn't pigeonhole his beliefs into one political ideology or another. He found no contradiction at all in having beliefs which straddled a wide range, because he came to his beliefs by using reason. In his mind, that was the first condition which had to be met. Not whether view A was a commonly held belief among people who subscribed to view B. Such simplicity in forming beliefs would be in direct contradiction to reason. Hitchens could not, would not, allow his intellect to descend into such laziness, and he was intolerant of people and institutions that took such an easy route to thinking.
It was this dedication to reason that led Hitchens to form what will probably be his most lasting legacy, his opposition to organized religion and to the idea of God itself. Since his book God Is Not Great was published, Hitchens spent an ever-increasing amount of his public life in defense of his stand against religion, and in attacking the ignorance of people and ideologies that rely on the sureties of faith over questioning and then investigating the world around us.
He found no greater enemy in this world than ignorance, be it willful or imposed. The world would be better off if he were still alive.
As of Today, we've sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.
I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked.
Probably the best Flash site ever made.
The Editorial Board of the Washington Post has weighed in on ICANN's upcoming push to create more top-level domains. The Post is wondering what, exactly, is the point?
"A potential disaster," declared Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz during a congressional hearing last week. An invitation to extortion, cried a coalition of businesses. A crippling blow, warned a group of nonprofits.
Who knows? It will definitely be a change, and it's going to cost some coin. But for regular people, not corporations (although some consider them people, apparently), it remains to be seen whether it will matter all that much.
I don't think Kickstarter is a great service because my project is up there. There's some amazing projects up there. Lots of them.
I've already backed PenMoto, which is magnetic ring to hold your Wacom pen. If you use a Wacom tablet and pen, you need this. Just watch the video if you don't believe me. The project successfully ended, but I have feeling they won't turn you down if you try to buy one.
This morning I also backed Typestache Playing Cards. Some of the nicest playing cards I've seen. The creators claim these cards are being made to help promote their Typestache iPhone app. It's ironic because I think the cards are the real product. While I know I'll use playing cards over and over, I'm not sure how many times I'll put typographic mustaches on people with my iPhone.
Twine also looks super cool. They say, "Twine is the simplest possible way to get the objects in your life texting, tweeting or emailing." And they're already over 800% funded. Insane.
I wrote about Kickstarter around this time last year and I'm just as excited about it now.
I think about Kickstarter like I think about iOS. They're both strong, well-designed platforms that attract the best talent. There aren't just a few great applications on iOS and there aren't just a few great projects on Kickstarter. There's great work in every category on each platform.
Welcome to the new economy.
Instagram is one of the most used applications on my iPhone. So I was happy to see Apple pick them as iPhone App Of The Year for 2011.
"I think the advertising experience is going to be extremely engaging," Systrom said. "It's much harder with text," but Instagram offers photos, and brand names such as Audi, Kate Spade, and Burberry have joined Instagram.
The optimistic and delusional side of my brain read the CNet article in the context of the Android version of Instagram they're working on. Having advertisements on Android is a natural thing - it's how Google pays the bills. And it's how Google encourages developers to pay their bills. But there's other ways to pay the bills.
Right now Instagram is free. Maybe hindsight tells us even just charging $.99 would have been better than giving it away. Maybe charging for Instagram would have also prevented it's rise in popularity. Maybe not.
My hope is that Instagram will figure out a classy way to integrate advertising that doesn't disrupt the experience. Even better, offer a premium, ad-free version. I'd be willing to pay and I bet many others would be too.
My Kickstarter poster project is now live, and I've explained the idea behind it, so now I thought I would share why the design is structured the way it is.
The Golden Spiral is created from the Fibonacci number sequence - 1, 1, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ...
You've probably seen it before:
My friend and fellow Daily Exhaust contributor, Jory, was the one who suggested I use it. Like any tool, the golden ratio is only useful if you know how to use it. I knew how to use it, but initially I didn't know where I should use it.
It also brought to mind an image I came across this past year of the Apple logo:
I thought it only fitting I use sacred geometry for someone like Steve Jobs. So I just laid the Golden Spiral graphic above over my original design and started experimenting with shapes. Eventually I ended up with this:
And if you flip the grid horizontally, you can see how I positioned the other elements:
Aside from the silhouette of Steve Jobs, every shape with the brain/gears group is positioned and sized according to this ratio. Every circle diameter corresponds to the size of each box within the grid:
Even without seeing the spiral grid laid on top of the design, the elements just feel balanced. In no way does it guarantee a beautiful design, but if it's used right, it can make all the difference.
John Paczkowski at AllThingsD reveals Acer CEO J.T. Wang has a plan:
"We will shift our strategy to improving profitability from pursuing market share blindly with cheap and unprofitable products," Wang told Dow Jones. "Ultrabooks will become our key growth driver next year as customers want a lighter, thinner notebook with longer battery life. Selling more ultrabooks will also help improve our profit margins as they command higher prices."
So you were (still are) shipping cheap, unprofitable products?
I'm proud of you, Wang. Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.
I still find this whole 'ultrabook' category hilarious. Once 'netbook' became a bad word, PC makers needed a new word for the (supposedly) new category, when in reality it only came into being when they realized the MacBook Air was a serious threat to their laptop businesses.
This whole process to stop shipping crap could have been started years ago, but it seems PC makers are only interested in improving the quality of their products after they've bottomed out and their back is up against a wall.
Did I mention I'm tired of writing about Apple?
Recently I had a sit down chat with Dominic Coballe, the co-owner of the Canadian-based company N-Product. This is the company that has brought us the Deckster Timepiece—the natural companion to your iPod Nano.
Thirty-nine. That's the number of bits and pieces that make up one Deckster, packaging, inserts and all. In our tiny workshop, each one is hand-assembled. Once packaged, after a hug and a kiss (we wipe it afterwards), it's sent into the world ready to love and to be loved.
What struck me the most when talking with Dominic was his overall passion and determination in making the best possible product. Deckster is 100% North American made and is packed with ethically sourced materials in its construction. The Leather straps are made by a Montréal-based company known for supplying brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cole Haan, Armani Exchange and Alexander Wang.
Recently the Re:Class line of Decksters were released. This line was created in partnership with Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op and utilizes discarded bicycle tires, inner tubes and backpacks for their watch bands. It is bringing new life to things that would normally end up in a landfill.
In purchasing a Deckster this holiday season, you are breathing new life into your iPod Nano, reducing environmental impact and ultimately supporting the growth of a company that will go on to produce many more quality products.
Influencer: HOPE 2008 by Shepard Fairey
Influenced: HOPE 2011 by Shepard Fairey
"December 7, 1941a date which will live in infamythe United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." Franklin D. Roosevelt
And so the United States entered World War II as a combatant. But, the war was also being fought on the homefront. Below are a few examples of how design worked its way into the propaganda machine.
The tubes are full of this stuff. Go explore.
If you want to take an electric car on a long drive, you need a gas-powered generator, like the one in the Chevrolet Volt, to extend its range. The problem is that when it's running on the generator, it's no more efficient than a conventional car. In fact, it's even less efficient, because it has a heavy battery pack to lug around.
Now researchers at the University of Maryland have made a fuel cell that could provide a far more efficient alternative to a gasoline generator. Like all fuel cells, it generates electricity through a chemical reaction, rather than by burning fuel, and can be twice as efficient at generating electricity as a generator that uses combustion.
Burning fuel, lol.
The sketches of Susan Kare, the designer of the original Macintosh icons.
This morning I launched a Kickstarter project, Bicycles For The Mind. It's a poster series inspired by Steve Jobs' belief that "the computer is like a bicycle for our minds."
I've spent a lot of time on the poster as well as putting together everything on Kickstarter. Go check it out.
I have a handful of amazing screen printers I plan to pick from if the project gets funding. I really want these posters to look amazing.
If you dig it, donate. No matter what tier you choose, you'll get something in return for your support.
Philip Elmer-DeWitt for Fortune.com on how many Kindle Fire tablets are being returned based on Amazon reviews:
There were 3,678 write-ups in all, nearly half of them (47%) glowing five-star reviews that basically said the same thing (Typical headline: "Outstanding value at $199").
What interested us, however, were the 491 (13.3%) one-star reviews. They are relevant because the number of Kindle Fires being returned to the store is likely to be an undisclosed material factor in Amazon's results this quarter
Amazon got the media ecosystem aspect right with the Fire, but as I mentioned in my brief review, everything else was a big letdown for me. But I'm also someone used to the smooth, well-thought out user interface found on iOS.
Which leads me to speculate if many of the negative reviews of the Fire are from iPad owners who have higher expectations than from people who are buying their first tablets.
YouTube launched it's new design for all users on Thursday afternoon. The reviews are in, and the majority of sites commenting on the changes have chosen to focus entirely on the new features, ignoring the new look and feel. I don't know how I feel about this. Design is an important part of my life, yet I understand that it's a peripheral concern for most people. It's a function over form nation we live in, which makes sense, considering good design is something that has to be learned to be appreciated. That doesn't mean it's right.
When I checked out the new design on YouTube, what struck me first was not the increased number of features or Google's attempts at increasing social networking presence and integrating channels. Rather, it was the numerous little ways the design could be tweaked to make it vastly better. A margin here, a font there, another margin over there, a color here. I'm a developer, not a designer, but even I could recognize the litany of freshman design mistakes the folks over at YouTube made. I could run through a complete list of the issues I found, but instead I'm going to focus on one area of website design that doesn't get as much consideration as it should, and is also where I feel the new YouTube site is lacking. Specifically, background color.
Before writing this, I did a search on Google for "background color is important." Most of the links on the first page had to do with CSS, that is, real background colors, not the idea that choosing the right color is important. One link had the promising headline, "Importance of Colors in Web Site Design." From 2008, the article focuses on the various moods a color could put the user in, and what color choices say about the company that deploys them. It's some real hippie shit. Besides recommending that designers stick to web-safe colors (HA!), one of the highlights reads, "red : Red is the most emotionally vivid color and may cause a [sic] faster breathing. It symbolizes energy, action, confidence and passion."
Changing the wording of the search query doesn't improve things, either. Clearly, background color is something that has gotten short shrift when it comes to design theory.
On YouTube, the change in background color, from white to a very light grey, struck me as bizarre. The old design was never all that good, either, but it was immediately recognizable. YouTube had a look. A cluttered, unwieldy look (worse now), but one a user had burned into their brain. After seeing the new design, I realized that a big part of that was due to the stark white of the background. As important as the little tv screen in the logo, the white of the background had come to be a part of YouTube's brand.
It's odd to think that a background color on a web page could be considered within a brand's color palette, but think about it just a little bit and it begins to make total sense. In print, the majority of the time designers work with, and readers are exposed to, white paper. It becomes something we expect, something we ignore, something we take for granted. On the web, however, a background color can be changed without going through the expense of using a special paper stock or even covering the page with ink. It's as simple as changing a few characters in the style sheet. As such, there's a lot more variety out there on the web when it comes to the surface upon which the content lives.
YouTube's white, then, was just as important to the site's look and feel as is ESPN's red to grey gradient, or facebook's blue header, or Daring Fireball's dark grey, etc. Change any of those, and the sites would feel a little alien. In some cases drastically different, even without rearranging all the pieces on the screen.
"It is simply a tool." —David Hockney
Microsoft has built a Windows Phone 7 simulator in HTML5. It lets you get a feel for it on iPhones and Android phones.
I tried it out, and yes, it would be better if the iOS chrome went away to give you the full experience, but it's still pretty cool.
I don't find myself saying this often, but Microsoft did a nice job with WP7.
Jonathan Zitttrain for Havard Law School:
The PC is dead. Rising numbers of mobile, lightweight, cloud-centric devices don't merely represent a change in form factor. Rather, we're seeing an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers on the one hand, to operating system vendors on the other--and even those who keep their PCs are being swept along. This is a little for the better, and much for the worse.
Hey mister bigtime Harvard guy, being a bit hyperbolic with our title, aren't we? It's link bait and I bit, big deal.
I love how the article is just a recap of every step Apple has made in the last 5 years.
And the truck metaphor is more accurate.