Shared posts

18 Apr 15:35

VRM, The Intention Economy, and The Thank You Economy

by Darren

It’s not uncommon for me to get the questions, what looks interesting to you these days? … or where are you focused?  Since joining Mozilla, I’ve filtered pretty much all of my knowledge and history with “user empowerment” and the area I keep coming back to is the quiet but growing VRM space.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s Vendor Relationship Management, the opposite and complimentary tool of CRM:  Customer Relationship Management.


The VRM conversation is being championed by Doc Searls of Harvard Berkman Center but at this point, the ecosystem is growing larger than the one individual.  You might recognize Doc’s name as he was one of the authors of the book, Cluetrain Manifesto and followed it up with The Intention Economy.

In the beginning of The Intention Economy, Doc posits that soon, customers will be able to:

  • Control the flow and use of personal data
  • Build their own loyalty programs
  • Dictate their own terms of service
  • Tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it, and how much it should cost

When you think about these four points, they empower the customer/user and play nicely into the idea of VRM.   Joe Mandese, a VRM list subscriber and all around amazing MediaPost Editor-in-Chief wrote a piece recently titled:  Acronymity:  The Three Most Important Letters You’ve Never Heard Of.  In this piece, Mandese writes about the shift from brands at center to users at center of the value equation.

Per the above points and Mandese’s piece, you’ll start to see some consistency around empowering the user.

On Madison Avenue, there is a lot of talk about empowering the user but the funny thing is, it’s done completely opaque, without user permission (or with permission under a ton of legalese), and the user has been given no access to their data…. among many other things.

Social media has pushed us a little closer to a world of VRM….incrementally- but at least in the right direction.  In social channels, users have a voice – one that can be exponentially radiated.   If I have a bad experience on Delta, a simple 140 character tweet can help solve the problem where not-so-long-ago, it took a penned letter and weeks of waiting to hear back from them.

In The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuck writes, now customers’ demands for authenticity, originality, creativity, honesty, and good intent have made it necessary for companies and brands to revert to a level of customer service rarely seen since our great-grandparents’ day, when business owners often knew their customers personally, and gave them individual attention.


The power of social media (individual voices) and VRM (individuals being empowered, commercially or otherwise) will put us ahead in the next decade.  It’s a bigger opportunity than search (SEM*).  So, this is where I’m focused for now and hiring people and meeting people who want to experiment here.   If you do, please contact me.

* SEM:  probably one of the purest forms of intentcasting which plays into the VRM space but is not entirely the VRM space.


19 Apr 19:12

Today’s tabs

by Doc Searls

Market intelligence that flows both ways. It’s about the real Internet of Things. Not the Compuserve+Prodigy+AOL variety in development today. Unless we build on open source and standards, the IoT won’t be near as big as Business Insider says it will be.

What I’ll be doing this coming Wednesday.

Marketing in the age of VRM and customer engagement.

Liking “your favorite brand” might mean you can’t sue them.

Nice props from Darren Herman of Mozilla for VRM and The Intention Economy.

Many friends and colleagues made the latest Knight News Challenge cut.

A Dutch guy’s soul sells for 350 euros.

Surveillance marketing pays.

Which passwords to change for Heartbleed. Bonus link.

How the cloud should work.

Crypticide I: Thirteen Years of Crack. “Because I want that password algorithm — the traditional, 8-character Unix password-hashing algorithm —  ”dead.”

Defending Bitcoin.

U.S. No longer a democracy. From a Princeton and Northwestern study. Mostly reported, for brand-name reasons I suppose, as a “Princeton study.”

The Open Data 500.

Birth and death of Javascript.

Past, present and future of music streaming.

The problem of attention.

Problems with bid data ethics.

How goods flow in Europe.

We live in an oligarchy now.

What happens to the ebook market inside Amazon’s monopoly.

Designing conversations with algorithms. From the NYTimes Lab blog. Creeps me a little, but I like stuff like this: “The second principle here is agency, meaning that a system’s design should empower users to not only accomplish tasks, but should also convey a sense that they are in control of their participation with a system at any moment. And I want to be clear that agency is different from absolute and granular control.”

One of the best weeks for New Yorker cartoons.

19 Apr 20:02

Geos print

by Emily Chang

A series of elegant and simple geometric studies

via geos Digital Print BW 11 x 17 by onomatopoeic on Etsy.

18 Apr 15:01

Adventures in Street Food

by agavin

Restaurant: Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant

Location: Hoi An

Date: March 25, 2014

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Rating: Super Yum


Everyone always talks about how great the street food is in Vietnam.

Things like crab fritters that have been sitting out for hours in the heat and humidity.

Or miscellaneous stuff waiting to assemble.

Our tasty maggot air dried meats.

Well, those of us who aren’t quite THAT adventurous (or don’t fancy a reasonable chance at several days glued to the toilet) might consider stepping up to $10-15 a person and the glory that is Morning Glory Street Food, a more “upscale” rendering of the classics.

The local beer. They don’t really like to sell you anything else. You can ask, but you’ll earn a snarl.

White Rose Dumplings. Famous soft steamed rice flour dumplings filled with ground shrimp. As promised, these are lighter than the traditional Chinese (Har Gow) variety.

Barbecued Pork with Rice Paper. Marinated BBQ pork with peanut sauce, fresh herbs, star fruit, and green banana.

As usual with these dishes, you roll up a spring roll.

Cao Lau noodles with marinated pork. The “classic” Hoi An dish with Japanese, Chinese, and French influences. Thick, homemade rice noodles with tender marinated pork, fresh herbs, and croutons in a light brother.

Not quite as good as the version we had the night before, but still delicious.

Banh Mi with Hoi An Sausage and marinated pork. A local version of the classic Vietnamese sandwich.

Fresh Mackerel in Banana Leaf. Cubes of marinated fresh mackerel with chopped wood-ear mushrooms, mung bean vermicelli, fresh turmeric and spices wrapped in banana leaves and chargrilled.

Very interesting AND tasty.

Chicken with ginger sauce. Stir fried chicken with ginger, onions and celery. Sort of like a Chinese American dish.

Papaya Salad with Sesame Beef. Shredded green papaya and fresh herbs topped with crispy dried roasted sesame beef. These “salads” the Vietnamese make are amazing.

Roast Duck Leg served with five space and shallot dressing and sticky rice. Yum!

Smoky eggplant with minced pork. I’m not usually a big fan of this kind of “mushy” eggplant, but this was great.

Prawn Curry. Five elements: sweet, sour, hot, bitter, and salty. Prawns, eggplant, poatoes, onions, lime leaves, lemongrass, and coconut milk.

Overall, this might have been the best meal we had in Vietnam, certainly in the top 2-3. While the cuisine isn’t “fancy” the combination of ingredients and fresh flavors came together in a spectacular way.

For more Vietnam dining reviews, click here.

18 Apr 15:28

LaCie security breach exposed customer personal info

by Erica Ogg

If you’ve ever bought anything directly from LaCie, you should know that their website had a serious security breach from March 2013 through March 2014. Customer names, addresses, and credit card info were exposed, and usernames and passwords may have been too. LaCie’s site has details on what action you should take if your personal info was stolen.

18 Apr 15:05

bcndn63: Vancouver Trolley Bus 1954 by OAChris on Flickr.

by illustratedvancouver
17 Apr 15:07

Twitter Favorites: [izs] The "10x" idea is lazy ableist talent-fixated mythology that leads to lazy entitled douchebag programmers. Work hard, be nice, listen.

the isaacs @izs
The "10x" idea is lazy ableist talent-fixated mythology that leads to lazy entitled douchebag programmers. Work hard, be nice, listen.
17 Apr 15:55

Twitter Favorites: [atsmath] I didn't love Acquia to begin with, but after what they just did to @hadsie I'm pretty disgusted #drupal #wtf

Samantha Marx @atsmath
I didn't love Acquia to begin with, but after what they just did to @hadsie I'm pretty disgusted… #drupal #wtf
17 Apr 17:46

Twitter Favorites: [DenimAndSteel] Our research into the Vancouver startup community for @weareyvr is now online for all to see:

Denim & Steel @DenimAndSteel
Our research into the Vancouver startup community for @weareyvr is now online for all to see:
18 Apr 16:28

1999 Broadway Corridor transit study found LRT most expensive, predicted bus service would be at capacity . . . now

by Geoff

As the Translink Mayors Council works to create a regional transportation investment plan to put before voters, the findings of a 1999 study on Broadway Corridor transit options seem eerily prescient.

As those long-ago planners predicted, bus rapid transit on the corridor is bursting at the seams, well ahead of their 2021 estimate,  and light rail options won’t do the job. That left a Skytrain tunnel option at least to Arbutus (combined with rapid bus to UBC) as the best option, because it’s faster, less disruptive and cheaper overall than LRT.

The $200,000 joint study by Translink, Vancouver and the province predicted that rapid bus service from Commercial to UBC would have “its capacity tested in 15 to 20 years.”

Fifteen years later and the 99 B-Line carries more riders than the Millennium Line, despite help from a range of new crosstown routes introduced in the meantime.

(A more recent Translink study has confirmed that it’s time for rail on the corridor.)

The favoured solution in 1999? The report did not make recommendations, but it is striking to see light rail transit was beaten by Skytrain for overall cost and operating cost, not to mention impacts on the nighbourhoods west of Commercial.

As the 1999 report concluded,

“LRT from Commercial to UBC (Alternative 2) has the highest capital cost and annual operating cost. It is also by far the most expensive way of attracting new riders to transit. Rapid Bus (Alternative 1) has the lowest capital cost and is the cheapest way to attract new transit riders.

“SkyTrain to Arbutus (plus Rapid Bus to UBC (Alternative 6) has an intermediate capital cost and an operating cost comparable to Rapid Bus. It has the highest number of new riders and is between Rapid Bus and LRT in terms of cost per new rider. SkyTrain alone is the most expensive technology on a per km basis; however, when combined with Rapid Bus to UBC, the combination costs less than LRT.

“Overall, the study finds that while LRT is high in ridership, if it is designed for competitive operating speed it introduces the greatest impacts by displacing traffic, parking,access and pedestrians. LRT also has the greatest construction impact.

“Rapid Bus may be viewed as an effective interim solution; however, over time it could evolve to a more ‘separated’ operation and resemble LRT in terms of its impact on traffic, parking and other uses of the corridor. Further, its capacity will be tested in 15-20 years.”

18 Apr 17:34

Node + MongoDB + iOS

A two-part tutorial from Michael Katz is a good place to get started writing services. Node makes a great API server. And it’s fun.

How To Write A Simple Node.js/MongoDB Web Service for an iOS App

How to Write An iOS App that Uses a Node.js/MongoDB Web Service

The tutorials use MongoDB. I haven’t had a good reason for a NoSQL database myself lately — but my early career, back in the ’90s, was all about schema-less databases, and I have a major soft spot for them.

(I’m digressing now.)

Frontier’s database was a hierarchy of tables. Each table could contain anything, including other tables — including even your scripts.

To run a script named myScript inside the bar table which was inside the foo table, you’d write

If that script took a string as a parameter, say, you could use a local variable or reference any string anywhere in the database:, for example. This was all presented with a user interface, navigable and editable.

I haven’t seen a database like that anywhere else since then. So easy and intuitive. Great for productivity. (It was within this laboratory that such things as templated and scripted websites, blogs, RSS, OPML, and XML-RPC were invented and/or fleshed-out.)

18 Apr 18:09

I’m going to do this in the MozYVR office in June. Shh. If...

I’m going to do this in the MozYVR office in June. Shh. If you work at Mozilla in Vancouver you’re not going to remember this by then. Mwa ha ha.

18 Apr 18:11

khymeira: narcodigitalhedonist: Akiba by fushiana on...



Akiba by fushiana on Flickr.

An aggressive breed of electro-transmission

18 Apr 18:15

"You once referred to computing as pop culture. It is. Complete pop culture. I’m not against pop..."

You once referred to computing as pop culture.

It is. Complete pop culture. I’m not against pop culture. Developed music, for instance, needs a pop culture. There’s a tendency to over-develop. Brahms and Dvorak needed gypsy music badly by the end of the 19th century. The big problem with our culture is that it’s being dominated, because the electronic media we have is so much better suited for transmitting pop-culture content than it is for high-culture content. I consider jazz to be a developed part of high culture. Anything that’s been worked on and developed and you [can] go to the next couple levels.

One thing about jazz aficionados is that they take deep pleasure in knowing the history of jazz.

Yes! Classical music is like that, too. But pop culture holds a disdain for history. Pop culture is all about identity and feeling like you’re participating. It has nothing to do with cooperation, the past or the future — it’s living in the present. I think the same is true of most people who write code for money. They have no idea where [their culture came from] — and the Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.

- From Interview with Alan Kay, the second grumpiest programmer in the world. (The first is Ted Nelson). (via programmingisterrible)
18 Apr 18:19

"In all honesty, having Amazon (or any e-commerce site) send me marketing emails which draw my..."

“In all honesty, having Amazon (or any e-commerce site) send me marketing emails which draw my attention back to items I’ve already viewed to coax me to buy feels invasive and voyeuristic, and will make me less likely to purchase as a result. It’s a good technique, don’t get me wrong, and I can’t deny its effectiveness. But I’m the kind of customer who will steadfastly spend money when I decide to, and will respond to marketing techniques like the ones here by clamping down and withholding when I would otherwise make a purchase.”

- Actual comment I just included in the unsubscribe form for Amazon marketing emails (via anoemi)
18 Apr 18:28

southern-feminism: Inclusive children go far.


Inclusive children go far.

18 Apr 21:07

Why So Blue?

by Kelly
I don't know if you've noticed, but I love blue.

In the olden days, before the internet and according to my son, when I lived in a cave and cooked over a pit with the newly discovered fire, we did all our charts in shades of grey.  Because only the execs had color printers.   As a result, people were so excited to create some colorful reports for the big giant heads that things got a little out of control. Some of the reports were so horrific in color, that I think they may have caused color blindness.

As a result, when I was asked to use color, I used blue.  Blue is a reasonable choice - almost everyone likes blue - both men and women, and it's associated with calm and clarity. It doesn't conflict with other colors or make a statement. Also, if someone chooses to print your blueful report on a black and white printer, you can pretty much trust the shades of grey that will come out.

Then there's color combining.  I'm not very good at that and find it especially difficult when I'm to use brand colors. Things can quickly get out of control when you are trying to use color to imply significance or range and then have to add 2 or 3 other colors that have are not responsible for anything other than making the brand recognizable. Somehow, you have to let the reader know that one color means good or bad, but the orange chart over here is orange because we like orange, even though both charts represent the measure sales. Same goes for the pink trend chart - we like pink too.

I'd suggest that if you do use a lot of colors - then use one dark color (blue or black) as your indicator/highlight/alert throughout the whole dashboard and stay away from diverging colors on the rest of the dash. That is, unless you are good at color and enjoy the challenge.

Click to read Smithsonian post (image on right is color blind simulated)
I'm fascinated by color blind people - I can't image the world that they see. I recently read this post regarding the possibility that Van Gogh was color blind. The image on the right is what they think he might have been seeing.

Isn't that amazing? I find the original deeper and richer and wondered if his other pieces would look so different.

Can you imagine this sunlit harvest without red? It twists my brain trying to figure out what someone would be seeing that would translate into this.

Someone needs to invent color blindness glasses.

You can load images into this color blindness checker by Kazunori Asada that was used to produce the image above. This is incredibly handy for dashboarding. You can take an image of your dashboard and test if it still makes logical sense to a color blind person.

I decided to look at some map options for diverging colors, to see how they might look to color blind people.  Here's some standard diverging pallets and what they would look like to a person with color blindness. Note: the most common types are protanopia and deuteropia (approx. 5-8% men).

For the most common types of color blindness, red and green result in golden greeny browns and yellows. For me, the most disappointing is the temperature (blue/green/yellow/red) color palette. It really loses it's effectiveness under all lenses. I like what happens under the tritanopia lens, but the red is a bit startling. I don't dislike any of thse color combo's but they aren't what I would have expected if I was using the these combos.

Here's what happens with blues (sequential and diverging):

Notice I left out the red? It seems that there's not much point if it just turns into the same color as green and red has such a strong association with 'bad' or 'look out' that I rarely use it. And I'll probably never use it to make something stand out again after seeing this. I do like what happens with the gold/blue and green/blue diverging and will consider using those in the future.

What makes me blue?  When my work gets dismissed as 'pretty'.

I once had a badboss who regularly commented in meetings that once the dashboard was finished (in 6-8 months because this was a stack BI department), "...we'll give it to Kelly to make it pretty." My passive-aggressive response?  "Just make it blue."

18 Apr 18:54

I am the New Flickr. I am an Ass.

Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, April 21, 2014

Alan Levine is not too pleased with the new Flickr interface. Neither, for that matter, am I. It's getting increasingly difficult to do the things with photos that give them meaning, like adding notes and comments. The 'sets' have been renamed 'albums' and are basically invisible now. I'm not sure how people can view my photos, if at all, other than through the photostream.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Apr 06:00

You Don't Read Code, You Explore It

by James Hague
(I wrote this in 2012 and rediscovered it in January of this year. I didn't feel comfortable posting it so close to Peter Seibel's excellent Code is Not Literature, so I held off for a few months.)

I used to study the program listings in magazines like Dr. Dobb's, back when they printed the source code to substantial programs. While I learned a few isolated tricks and techniques, I never felt like I was able to comprehend the entirety of how the code worked, even after putting in significant effort.

It wasn't anything like sitting down and reading a book for enjoyment; it took work. I marked up the listings and kept notes as I went. I re-read sections multiple times, uncovering missed details. But it was easy to build-up incorrect assumptions in my head, and without any way of proving them right or wrong I'd keep seeing what I wanted to instead of the true purpose of one particular section. Even if the code was readable in the software engineering sense, boundary cases and implicit knowledge lived between the lines. I'd understand 90% of this function and 90% of that function and all those extra ten percents would keep accumulating until I was fooling myself if I thought I had the true meaning in my grasp.

That experience made me realize that read isn't a good verb to apply to a program.

It's fine for hunting down particular details ("let's see how many buffers are allocated when a file is loaded"), but not for understanding the architecture and flow of a non-trivial code base.

I've worked through tutorials in the J language--called "labs" in the J world--where the material would have been opaque and frustrating had it not been interactive. The presentation style was unnervingly minimal: here's a concept with some sentences of high-level explanation, and here are some lines of code that demonstrate it. Through experimentation and trial and error, and simply because I typed new statements myself, I learned about the topic at hand.

Of particular note are Ken Iverson's interactive texts on what sound like dry, mathematical subjects, but they take on new life when presented in exploratory snippets. That's even though they are reliant on J, the most mind-melting and nothing-at-all-like-C language in existence.

I think that's the only way to truly understand arbitrary source code. To load it up, to experiment, to interactively see how weird cases are handled, then keep expanding that knowledge until it encompasses the entire program. I know, that's harder to do with C++ than with Erlang and Haskell (and more specifically, it's harder to do with languages where functions can have wide-ranging side effects that can change the state of the system in hidden ways), and that's part of why interactive, mostly-functional languages can be more pleasant than C++ or Java.

(If you liked this, you might enjoy, Don't Be Distracted by Superior Technology.)
18 Apr 22:07

“Blogs are the Vinyl Records of the Internet”


Clarence Fisher, Remote Access, April 21, 2014

I don't think this metaphor works. I accept that "personal blogging is retreating in favour of corporate social media sites such as Facebook, twitter, and tumblr." But it isn't clear to me that "Just as vinyl records are still listened to, and considered better than the digital format, they exist without having a real impact on the music industry." I think that the internet would be very different without blogs. There has to be more to life than Upworthy and Huffington Post.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Apr 20:23

Bike the Blossoms in Vancouver, 26 April

by Joe Goodwill

The annual Bike the Blossoms Ride in Vancouver is just around the corner!

It is presented this year by Velopalooza and the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Bike the Blossoms Ride offers the opportunity to cycle along a well-marked route, enjoying the new cherry blossoms, in the company of many other relaxed and happy cyclists. It starts from 11 a.m., with the departure point at China Creek South Park, which is at the corner of East Broadway and Clarke Drive.

Note that Bike the Blossoms is not a bike race. You can start when you want and stop when you want. Participation is free. When we do it we love to stop along the way for lunch and coffee.
Bike the Blossoms Ride in Vancouver - Average Joe Cyclist

Bear in mind that the date is subject to change by Nature – so keep an eye on Velapalooza’s web site.

Also, VanCycle Mobile Bike Shop will be there to help with any bike problems. All kinds of people and bikes show up for the ride – below are two of them.

Bike the Blossoms Ride in Vancouver - Average Joe Cyclist

Bike the Blossoms Ride in Vancouver - Average Joe CyclistAnd all kinds of interesting people stop for coffee along the way – here are three women who did the ride in fancy dress. We met them at a Terra Breads coffee shop.

Hope to see you there on Saturday!

18 Apr 19:05

The episode in which I cause the sky to fall on journalism as we know it

by yelvington

I was part of a panel discussion of metrics and analytics in the newsroom a couple of weeks ago at the Journalism Interactive conference at the University of Maryland. I approached the subject with some trepidation. Some journalists are resistant to the very idea of measurement, often downright innumerate, and sometimes hostile to any idea that doesn't lead us all back into the honey and clover of the 1980s, before the Internet came along and turned it all into snakes and bees.

But I was heartened to find that the room was full of people who were clearly very interested in the subject and asking very good questions.

The panel was covered by the American Journalism Review, which produced a main story about the panel discussion and a short sidebar noting that we are awarding small spiffs to reporters whose bylined stories contribute to traffic growth goals.

Without getting bogged down in detail: Each reporter has a stretch goal equivalent to a 5% monthly traffic increase. The goals are individual -- each beat is different. The program, which also is in place at the Amarillo Globe-News and probably some other Morris Publishing Group sites, is intended to reward staffers for paying attention to the metrics and learning how to increase reader engagement. Storytelling techniques, SEO, social media engagement and choice of subject all play into generating results, but it should be noted that each reporter still has an assigned beat. This isn't a case where people are being encouraged to write about Honey Boo-Boo and Paula Deen -- except, of course when they are here and do something newsworthy. And "here" being Savannah, there are ample opportunities.

As I told the group, the program has been helpful in leading our staff to execute better on our goals of continuous news coverage and social engagement.

But it didn't take long until the knees jerked:

Don't know Steve @Yelvington but as former SMNer who cares about this paper, I feel he's crossing an ethical line:

— Sean Harder (@SeanHarder) April 12, 2014

and ...

Not sure dangling $100 in front of ravaged newsroom, emphasizing viral appeal over real news is way to go @yelvington

— Sean Harder (@SeanHarder) April 12, 2014

and ...

And I'm sorry, but when small town journalism goes the way of Gawker and click-bait, our society is doomed

— Sean Harder (@SeanHarder) April 12, 2014

... and so on, for a total of nine tweets over two days.

Let me be clear: This is bullshit.

None of it comes as a surprise; in my 20+ years of trying to get print-oriented people to play the digital game, I've been accused of being unethical for giving away content for free, charging for content, holding stories to coordinate with print, running stories online before print subscribers could read them first, allowing people to comment under pseudonyms, not allowing people to comment under pseudonyms, "censoring" racists and trolls, running news photos that the "family newspaper" found objectionable, running photos without full captions and IDs of everyone pictured ... it goes on and on. We do face legitimate ethical challenges in this business, but all too often I see journalists using a claim of "ethics" as a lazy defense against change that they see as somehow threatening.

But here is what I actually told the audience in College Park:

  • Metrics matter because this is a business, and you can't manage what you can't measure.
  • The very act of counting creates a scoreboard. All scoreboards are incentive systems. It is in our nature to be competitive.
  • We have to be very careful about how we talk about our numbers. Context matters. Numbers without context can be dangerous. A scoreboard that leads people to behave in ways counter to your strategic objectives will damage you.

Journalism requires an audience. So does the business that supports journalism. We can not put journalism on a sustainable path by ignoring the signals that tell us how well we are doing with our audiences. Pageviews are an imperfect measure, but they are an easily understandable metric and one that from a business perspective maps directly to the generation of advertising inventory.

We have to grow our online audience engagement. It is not optional. It is not unethical to measure our success, and it is not unethical to reward people who learn to better contribute to that success. I really don't think there is much danger of turning into Gawker or Jan Skutch turning into Nick Denton. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that -- we're just playing different roles. We all know who we are and what we're trying to do, and a night on the town as a reward for hitting a growth goal isn't going to change that.

19 Apr 00:27

Mossbrook Fire: 10 Days After Update

by bbum
Car Windshield After Fire

Lots of people are asking about various events related to the fire. This is a summary of the first 10 days of our adventure broken down as a series of short comments. A bit of a ramble in no particular order, I suspect, but here it is.

I chose the photo at left as a reminder of all the things we didn’t lose — no humans were hurt and all of the pets except one parakeet made it through unscathed — and that even such a destructive force as a fire can yield surprising beauty.

In the days that followed the event, the San Jose Fire Department sent crews around fairly often. Not just to ensure no hot spots remained, but also to use the event as a means of learning to fight such firees more effectively in the future. It was very interesting to be a part of the conversations as to how they’ll modify strategy in the future and what worked for this event. I’ll continue to collect photo streams and other information on the Photo Dump post (in fact, there will be a new stream on that post shortly after this is posted).

It was kind of funny how apologetic the fire fighters were about the destruction they caused in the house (which was quite minor compared to the destruction caused by the actual fire). I finally stopped the two that were walking me through after the fire, pointed out my kitchen window at the utter devastation of the house next door, and told them that saving my house was repayment 100 times over vs. any damage they may have caused.

Now that the laundry room — the inside portion of the house most severely impacted — has been cleared, it has become very clear just how close we were to losing most or all of the house. The roof is beyond charred. Take a log from your fireplace after a roaring fire? Yeah, that’s our laundry room ceiling.

While the wall burned through on the outside, it didn’t burn through the drywall. If we had the original thin wooden wall paneling in that room, it would be a very different picture. Drywall makes a good fire break.

Everything in the laundry room is a total loss save for any metal or ceramic pieces. The washer, dryer, and utility sink all partially melted.

The sliding door is gone, and the frame melted through. There is a pool of aluminum on the floor.

Water got into some of the slate floor tiles and caused them to explode as the water boiled. Not enough to need to replace the tiles, though.

We had California Closets based shelving/storage in the laundry room. It was OK, but sub-optimal. We are going to pay the difference between replacing that and fixing it properly and use this as an opportunity to fix it the way we want it. This also means we can fix the dryer vent and all the plumbing, both of which are… stupid.

Our foam roof likely also contributed to the preservation of the house. The straight tar/gravel original roof melts in a fire and drips, basically, raw fuel onto the fire below. While the covering on the foam is pretty toasty, and entirely gone in some spots, the closed cell foam underneath is fine. In fact, our roof should still be watertight. Apparently, that’ll be tested next week as there is rain in the forecast.

While the foam is intact, it won’t be for long. Because the cantilevered eaves are completely toasted, they have to be replaced. That means replacing at least 3x the length of the overhang on the other side to support the cantilever.

But they can’t simply be cut back to the first beam because that creates a hinge effect that weakens the structural integrity of the roof.

Thus, they roof decking will have to be cut back to the first, second, and possibly the peak on that slope of the house. Likely, it’ll be a mix of cut backs to try and preserve some of the wood.

Bottom line: The foam roof on that slope of our roof is coming entirely off.

Electrical Panel & Laundry Wall

The electrical infrastructure on the house is completely toasted. More likely than not, there will have to be channels cut through the foam on the roof all over the house to run new wiring pretty much everywhere needed.

Same goes for the water and gas, but that is much much simpler infrastructure than the spider web that is the electrical wiring throughout the house.

At least we’ll be able to fix our thermostat! And add an outlet here and there!

A temporary power pole has been installed in the back yard. But the City won’t grant a permit for hooking it up until some other bit of paperwork is completed. This is, apparently, a new requirement and our contractors are trying to figure out why.

We should have power on site in the next week. At the moment, we have extension cords running to two neighbor’s houses to power the various filters needed for the fish and to power the gigantic air filtration unit brought in by the cleaning company.

Yes, the neighbors will be able to bill us for power used and insurance will cover it. More importantly, by doing this we don’t have a generator in the neighborhood running 24/7.

The vultures and ambulance chasers have finally gone away. Within hours of the event and for days after, we had a stream of contractors and public insurance policy adjusters show up trying to convince us to hire them and sell us on the notion that our insurance company is The Enemy.

It was bad enough that I told two of them that stepping foot on my property would be considered trespassing as they were no longer welcome and they could take it up with the local police.

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t be willing to use a policy adjuster, if it were really necessary. But, no, that isn’t happening unless there is some issue with the insurance company (so far, no signs at all that there will be). And I’m sure as hell not going to use one that showed up on my property after chasing down the news copters.

The insurance company (State Farm) has been, thus far, great to work with. Their general approach is to offer full solutions, never push any given provider, and allow us to hire whomever we want to do any particular bit of work.

So far, the recovery efforts involve the following providers:

    Jon R Crase Construction
    We were introduced to Crase on the evening of the fire. They are on the short list of companies that the fire department uses to secure a site once the flames are out. As well, Crase is used by State Farm to double-check whatever contractors one might hire. And, most importantly, they have Eichler experience. Representatives from Crase have been on site and have consistently gone well above and beyond any contractually expected services. And they have that Eichler experience.
    ServPro is doing a pack out cleaning & storage. That is, they are packing out everything in the house that was affected by smoke/fire, inventorying everything, cleaning anything that needs to be cleaned, and then storing it until the house is ready to be moved back into.

    For all intents and purposes, it is as if we are moving out and in to our own house.

    This includes everything in the garage. All those nuts, bolts, screws, nails, and hardware that Roger and I have been collecting over the years? Yeah. Packed. Inventoried. Cleaned. And eventually returned.

    Custom Craft Urethane
    Keith Nokes of Custom Craft, who did our roof after the last remodel, was on site with ladder up before we had even started to consider how to pursue reconstruction. He wanted to see what’s what and offer any information he could. He immediately volunteered that he would want to be present for any roof work regardless of who we hired (some insurance companies would insist on particular people to do certain tasks). Yeah… no… Keith / Custom Craft will be doing our roof. Period. End of story. There is no one else we would remotely consider.
    Horizon Energy Systems
    While the solar wasn’t damaged, it is going to have to come off the roof for the reconstruction as the roof under it will be mostly replaced. Horizon installed it in the first place and did great work (the linked post has some insight into the madness of an Eichler roof). Yes, there were some significant challenges to the original installation, but Horizon has since modified their installation procedures because of the mis-adventures on our roof. Out of pocket, we’ll be adding additional rails for mounting more panels (but will hold on adding panels until we have electricity again).

What’s next?

Unlike a remodel, half of the demolition was unplanned and performed by a the monster that is an uncontrolled fire.

Thus, none of the planning that would normally have taken place prior to applying the first SawzAll has occurred.

The immediate next steps — now that the clean up is largely done to the point that doesn’t require demolition — is to secure the various permits with the City of San Jose. To that end, the City sent out an inspector to assess damage, write a report and put it on file. With that in place, pulling the needed permits should be relatively straightforward. Should be.

We also need full design documents drawn up for the floor plan of the house. On these will go the schematics for any work to be done. Because the spiderweb that is the electrical is destroyed at the panel, it is likely that the work will reach all corners of the house.

Given that the roof will be torn up, the walls redone, the laundry room rebuilt, etc… we’ll likely also use this as an opportunity to fix a few things here and there.

18 Apr 01:42

Twitter Favorites: [lifewinning] So Sneakers is about the NSA contracting to a lean startup to perform domestic surveillance baaaaasically?

Ingrid Burrington @lifewinning
So Sneakers is about the NSA contracting to a lean startup to perform domestic surveillance baaaaasically?
18 Apr 04:33

Twitter Favorites: [mig14] PJ Stock hates stats because he can't do math or think critically.

Megan Fowler @mig14
PJ Stock hates stats because he can't do math or think critically.
19 Apr 04:29

Why ‘just’? That’s a way more awesome...

Why ‘just’? That’s a way more awesome superpower than most. I want that superpower.

19 Apr 04:46

The Quality of Space

by (Melissa Bruntlett)
This weekend, after over a year and a half of waiting, the Velo Family has returned to one of our favourite Cascadian cities, Portland, Oregon. Making the trip down via rental car, thanks to some driving credit left over from our car trouble on our West Coast trip at Christmas, we got into Portland in the wee hours Friday morning. Excitement of course meant our children were up bright and early, despite Chris and I getting a mere six hours of sleep, so a slow paced day was in the cards for our first day in Portlandia.

We started and ended our day in the lovely square
A slow paced, easy day for us still meant lots of walking, doing the loop from our apartment near Pioneer Square, through to the Pearl District, down to the Waterfront and then back home. As night came, we sat down in Director Park, a lovely open square at SW 9th and Yamhill, to enjoy some hot chocolate and let our kids run around and burn off the last of their energy. Watching them laugh and play in such an inviting space made me recall that this is how we spent most of our day - sitting in public squares enjoying the scenery while our children ran around, chasing water in the fountains and just enjoying a well built public space.

Quality public spaces are something that I've come to really appreciate during our travels. It seems we always manage to find them, and they end up becoming a central part of our visits. It's actually something we miss in our own hometown of Vancouver, where green parks off the beaten path are common but a good public gathering place in the city centre is hard to find. 

Our kids messing around in Jamison Square just 
before lunch
The importance of a great gathering space cannot be undervalued. A central place, near cafes and restaurants and with tables and chairs provide people of all ages a place to sit outdoors and enjoy a a midday snack, meet up with friends, or, in our case, relax while doing a little sightseeing. They are also very welcoming for families, many times creating an environment where kids from all over the city and beyond join together in the freedom of play, and possibly even make a new friend. Of course, water features are always a welcome addition, meaning endless hours of fun for children, and a refreshing place to cool tired feet for the older "kids". Most importantly, though, is that these quality public spaces are free to anyone regardless of age, race, or economic means, which is what truly brings a city and it's people together.

Tomorrow we set off on more crazy adventures, likely of the two-wheeled variety, and I am certain that we will find even more spaces to relax as a family, if the weather cooperates. Our travels in the nearly eight years of being a family have taken us to some fantastic cities, all of whom seem to understand the value of building gathering places for their citizens and visitors. I am thankful to be afforded the opportunity to enjoy these open, welcoming spaces with my family, and for the fond memories created each and every time
A midday run at the Tom McCall Park along the riverfront
14 Apr 06:23

Google – Turn of the screw

by windsorr

RFM AvatarSmall






  • Google is the only winner in the Android ecosystem.
  • June is becoming one of the most important months of the year for the mobile ecosystem with both Apple and Google holding developer events.
  • Hardware is pretty much commoditised meaning that the features which are increasingly going to make the difference for users are being revealed at these sorts of events.
  • Microsoft’s BUILD conference (see here) last month was exactly the same.
  • Apple is likely to launch iOS 8 with a range of new features (see here) while it looks like Google will be taking more and more control of Android.
  • Hence I suspect that Google I/O will showcase substantial improvements being made to Google applications and services.
  • Tw in particular that I am looking for are a substantial improvement in the Google Calendar application and functionality enhancements to the Google Camera App.
  • While these improvements are good for users, it is turning the screw even tighter on the long suffering handset makers.
  • Google is slowly but surely taking control of Android by moving functionality out of the open source Android Open Source Platform (AOSP) and into Google Mobile Services (GMS).
  • AOSP is open source but GMS is not, meaning that handset makers must comply with Google’s standards or be cut-off from all of its applications.
  • In emerging markets this is less important but in the West, Google Play is critical to the user experience meaning that neither operators nor handset makers can afford to be cut off.
  • This effectively means that Google is taking over the user experience in Android and any hope that the operators vendors may have had in differentiating their offerings has now evaporated.
  • This will ensure that brutal competition continues in Android devices meaning cheaper devices with better hardware specification in the hands of users.
  • Better devices with Google services will mean higher usage and more traffic for Google to monetise.
  • It also means commodity margins (if any) for the Android vendors and a bit pipe future for the operators.
  • Samsung is the only Android vendor making any money at the moment but its recent decision to back off from developing its own services looks set to push its margins towards those of its peers.
  • There is only one company in the Android ecosystem worth taking a serious look at the moment and that is Google.
  • Yahoo! and Microsoft are the other two ecosystem players which I think have potential that everyone is currently ignoring.
17 Apr 19:34

Loom, Dropbox, And Space Travel

Loom CEO Jan Senderek, on the news that Dropbox has acquired his company:

We know this is a big deal. This decision was made with great care. We have worked hard on our product and feel that our vision aligns perfectly with Dropbox’s vision for Carousel. Dropbox has invested the past seven years focusing on building a secure home for your files. And now with Carousel comes a home for your photos and videos as well. We share the common goal of crafting a high quality product, always putting users’ needs first. After spending some serious time investigating if this was the right move for us, we realized that Dropbox has solved many problems around scaling infrastructure and at Dropbox the Loom team will be able to focus entirely on building great features with a fantastic user experience. We are enthusiastic about being able to contribute our ground level perspective to help craft a beautiful experience for our users. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to us.

It always reads like bullshit when an investor says that a deal is a great fit. But I’m gonna say it anyway. From their shared Y Combinator DNA to a shared product vision with the just-launched Carousel, Dropbox and Loom seem perfectly aligned. It’s always a bit bittersweet to see a startup sell before fulfilling the original vision they pitched, but in this case, Dropbox really will help them achieve that vision so much faster. 

Now for the (perhaps) strained analogy: the ultimate goal is to reach a planet. You set out to build a spacecraft to do so. And then you see an already-assembled rocket ship speeding by en route to the exact same planet. Sometimes it’s folly not to hitch a ride — especially when you carry some fuel to propel that rocket ship even faster. That’s Loom + Dropbox.

And be sure to read their bit about the Loom data transition for users:

So what does this mean for Loom? As of today, we are no longer enrolling new users. Existing Loom users can continue to use our service until May 16, 2014. And don’t worry, we want to do whatever it takes to make any transition as smooth as possible.  You can export your data directly to Dropbox with no interruption in service. You will receive a follow-up email with more details and instructions. And if you switch to Carousel, you will receive the same amount of free space that you had on Loom on Dropbox, forever. If you were a paid user, you will receive the same quota on Carousel/Dropbox for free, for an entire year!

Alternatively, you will be able to request a copy of your entire library, including all your albums, and original untouched photos/videos inside a zip file.

Pretty great way to handle something that is obviously pretty complicated, in my biased opinion. Congrats to Jan and team!

17 Apr 18:40

#mynerdstory—Linda Czinner, Tech Lead

by Prezi Blog

In our sixth post inspired by Crystal Beasley's nerd story, Linda, a software engineer at Prezi, describes her journey from medical student to tech lead on our desktop application team. Over the past several weeks, we have been giving space for some of the amazing women who work at Prezi to share the journeys that brought them here—we hope that by sharing our stories, we can increase the number of female role models in tech and inspire women to follow their passion wherever it may lead.