Capn Design

July 2013

This month I posted 8 entries, listened to 328 songs and bookmarked 1428 sites.

A (Ridiculous?) Acquisition Idea for Twitter

Posted July 29, 2013

Before I explain why, I’m going to say the company: Shazam.

Now, take a moment to think about why this is a good or crazy idea. Sweet, now I’ll tell you what I think.

Like millions of others, I watch television shows with Twitter open, tweeting about what’s hilarious or ridiculous. This is particularly fun when I’m watching a show as it is broadcast live; it truly (and literally, I suppose) brings a new dimension to television. Unfortunately, I only watch about 5% of my television live. In fact, Netflix is producing new and exciting programs that are never broadcast “live”, which presents a problem, nay, opportunity!

I would like to experience my non-live programs like I experience my live ones. Give me an app that shows me tweets about the program I’m watching from any of my friends AND have them appear in my timeline at the same relative time they were tweeted. In other words, if my friend Karen watched the first episode of Orange is the New Black last week and tweeted about an early scene 6 minutes into the episode, I should see this tweet come up when I am watching the same episode and am 6 minutes in.

And now, the reason Twitter would acquire Shazam. If you don’t know, Shazam can listen to an audio sample and determine the song. Lately, they’ve been using the same technology to help advertisers and television networks show you supplemental material on your phone.

Imagine if the Twitter app listened to the noise around you while you tweeted and determined what, if any, program you were watching (something Shazam can do) and recorded the relative timestamp. Then, if a friend watched the same program hours or months later, they’d be able to enjoy the experience as if it was live. It would just mean opening up the Twitter app and letting it determine what show you’re watching. Then tweets could stream in, seemingly real-time. Pretty awesome, no?

Obviously, there are a host of reasons this would fail. Here are two:

  1. Bootstrapping: It’s going to take a long time for enough of your friends to watch that obscure BBC show you love. Of course, this could be solved by only allowing tags for popular shows or augmenting your friends tweets with popular ones. You could also try and filter these time-shifted tweets into your regular stream.

  2. Technology: You’d need the user to be tweeting from an app and not the web to capture the audio. This would mean more fragmentation, but maybe it’d be another way for Twitter to push users toward their app.

Again, this idea is a little ridiculous and I realize that. Still, I want it to exist very badly. If it got good enough, watching awards shows or sports would be just as exciting on a time-shift as it would be live. It could be truly awesome.

Toyota Donates Efficiency, Not Money

I want to do this for a living.

At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.

Sneak peek of Macaw

Macaw is next in line to try and unseat Photoshop as the web designers tool of choice and it looks promising. This 20 minute demo shows both how it works to produce designs and its seemingly good ability to generate HTML and CSS code.

Macaw’s design tools seem worthy of evaluation alone, but the ability to produce working code with zero additional effort makes this a potential game-changer.

Why to Kickstart

Posted July 22, 2013

Today, Spike Lee became the third celebrity to fund a film on Kickstarter and it’s highly likely people are already complaining. “Spike Lee is rich! He doesn’t need my money.” Actually, he does! Art isn’t free and that’s okay!

In two parts, I’m going to try and explain why it’s okay for celebrities to ask for your money and why you’ll be happier giving it to them over TMZ or MGM.

Art and Business

When you see that Dark Knight Rises cost $230 million to make, it’s easy to think that $1 or $2 million is not a lot of money. Why can’t Spike just finance it all himself? He could, but he didn’t get this far without learning a little bit about balancing art and business.

When making a movie, you’ve historically had to sacrifice creative control in order to get the damn thing made. Sometimes the balance of a big studio budget and a director with vision goes swimmingly (see: The Avengers); fans love the movie and it makes a huge pile of money. But most of the time, you end up with a cookie-cutter movie that might turn a profit or a creative mess that loses a ton.

And yet, even if it often results in a watered-down mess, successfully pitching a movie to a studio provides validation. It’s no longer just a good idea, but an idea that experienced studio executives think will be well-liked. If Spike Lee were to just throw his money at this idea, he’d have no idea if people thought it was any good until the money was spent. That’s either shitty risk management or insane hubris, but it would definitely be a bad idea.

With Kickstarter, filmmakers have a newfound option of retaining complete creative control while raising enough capital to finance a low-budget film. In an ideal world, the fans get a Spike-Lee-ier Spike Lee joint and Spike Lee gets the validation he needs.

Sooner or later, a celebrity’s $1 million+ project will fail and it will be a good thing. Either the size of support won’t match up with the required budget or someone who drank their own kool-aid will be knocked down a peg, but the system will work.

Why You Should Back

It’s really simple—back a project because you want it to exist.

It could be because you think it’s the best idea ever or because you want to support someone you like/trust/share DNA with; but it really doesn’t matter why. If you don’t want the thing to exist, don’t put any money towards it.

When you do support a project, you get to give your money directly to the artist. I really enjoyed Garden State and watched Scrubs for years, so I was happy to back Wish I Were Here. I’m a huge Spike Lee fan and want to see him make this movie. Even if these films flame out and never see the light of day, I’ll be okay with it.

Of course, I hope they get made and are fantastic, but I know that any failure would be their own. There’s no middle-manager in marketing who cut a misleading trailer or sold a heinous product placement spot. If these movies suck, I’ll feel better about “wasting” my $25 contribution than I would spending $25 on a ticket and a soda at the theater.

But here’s another good reason to back one of these big budget movies: you can get some really awesome shit! Fandom varies in size, but I elected for the behind-the-scenes-posting level of support for Wish I Was Here and it’s great. I’m essentially getting the DVD extras before the movie comes out. It’s icing on the cake, but I already feel like I made the right choice in supporting the project.

The Loop is Tightening

Kickstarter isn’t a silver bullet for the movie industry, but it provides a new way for supporters to give a greater percentage of the rewards to the people who are making things. Fans get direct access to the makers and the makers get pure validation. As the loop tightens and capitalism does its thing, we should have less drek and more gold, which is something I’m looking forward to.

UX GIFS: Ebony's Masthead

Posted July 19, 2013

Masthead Change

We’ve lived through several years of publications working out what to do with their giant masthead and navigation bars. There’s been plenty of success, but Ebony Magazine has the most elegant I’ve seen. It took a recent inelegant solution (you can ignore the article, obvs) to remind me that this is still a tough thing to do well. Thanks, Ebony!

Hyperloop Hype

Posted July 16, 2013

If you’re new to this, like me, here’s the amazing thing we’re talking about:

ET3’s Hyperloop-like project already has a number of schematics and plans already in place. They claim an automobile-sized, six-passenger capsule constructed for “outer space” travel conditions could easily reach speeds of 4,000 miles per hour on longer journeys across the country or across continents. In theory, this elevated tube system could be built for a tenth of the cost of high-speed rail and a quarter the cost of a freeway. The projected cost for a passenger to travel from Los Angeles to New York is $100.

This means 45 minutes from NY to LA or 2 hours to Beijing. It’s insane. Granted, there are a lot of bureaucratic hurdles before this can happen, but it seems way more awesome than high speed trains.

Now the actual Hyperloop project is being spearheaded by Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame. He’s planning to release his open-source plans on 8/12. Expect to hear more about it from me.

UX GIFS: Making FiftyThree

Posted July 9, 2013

Hero image at large scale

Hero image at medium scale

Hero image at small scale

FiftyThree, creaters of the sketching app Paper, recently started a blog devoted to the making of their products. The hero section has a great CSS-powered animation when you first load the page. What’s more impressive is that it works well at several breakpoints. Beautiful stuff.

UX GIFS: Instagram's Hover State

Posted July 8, 2013

hover state for instagram's web view

This is the first in what I intend to be a regular series. I frequently come across well-designed interfaces and want to share them. A lot of these will be animated gifs and I’m still fiddling with settings. If you have tips, I’m all ears.

The best thing about Instagram’s iPhone app is the way it focuses almost entirely on the content. A single image (or, now, video) takes up nearly the entire viewport. Sure, there are comments and metadata, but the focus on huge imagery makes it easy to browse and gives no doubt that the service is about engaging photography.

Even on their user profiles—which show a grid of images and have a very different success metric—they let the images speak for themselves.

A few months back, Instagram launched a web version for logged-in users. With new technology (I know, nutty that desktop browsers are new for many products these days) comes new opportunities for interaction design. With their web version, they’ve unlocked the mystical hover state on user profiles.

As you can see above, they’ve continued the trend of letting the images speak for themselves. By adding a hover state, they can provide more data to show the engagement for each photo. If the goal is to help you find the interesting people, they’ve added another quantifiable data point for you to consider.

Also, rolling over a bunch of them in a row looks awesome.

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