Jun 29, 2009

Google Street View Just Blew My Mind

Download now or watch on posterous
Google_Street_View.m4v (6788 KB)

I noticed this new feature a couple weeks ago on Google Maps but I really didn't appreciate it until I actually used it. Trying to locate the PF Chang's in downtown Portland, I was able to zoom around the Pearl District like a super hero. Simply amazing. I took some video of it just to show how cool it is. 

Like I said, it has been out a while, but it is new to me.

Posted via email from David's posterous

Trying Posterous

An old picture I found in the National Archives. They're copyright free and very cool.

Posted via email from David's posterous

Apr 27, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Adobe has NOT fixed the Fireworks Text Bug

In no apparent order:
  1. Fireworks Developers too busy integrating Fireworks features in to Photoshop.
  2. Fireworks developers too busy fixing new Photoshop bugs they have created.
  3. Not aware of any issues with text.
  4. Nobody uses Fireworks, so it seems kind of pointless. Fixing it their spare time just because Mom uses it.
  5. Too busy hating Steve Jobs. Still mad about PostScript.
  6. Text bug has become self-aware, plotting to take over the world by driving designers insane.
  7. After months of work, Indian developers unveil amazing fireworks display application. Very excited to get it done in time for American Independence celebration they have read about.
  8. Spending all their time modifying their Myspace pages. It's going to be the next big thing.
  9. Hand rendering each character in every font ever made in Fireworks' proprietary font rendering engine. Being sued by Adobe Type for piracy.
  10. Two words: Bangkok Dangerous.

Apr 15, 2009

My Mini-Saga

He worked all summer at a pizza joint and bought a 1964 Skylark. Went to the drive in with my best friend since fourth grade, Tony and threw rocks at a girl named Amy. She laughed and threw some back.

Made two baby girls by the age of 21 and a boy at age 32. He constantly yearned for more and he almost missed it. Almost.




Apr 14, 2009

Milwaukee 1985 B&W

Milwaukee 1985 B&W, originally uploaded by David D. Levine.

This is my good friend David Levine. I met him some time after this picture was taken, like 20 years later.

David is one of the finest men I know and can see Kate and David's love in this picture.

Mar 26, 2009

Skimmer from Fallon is a slick new Social Media app I am trying out. It is extremely beta but very cool.

Mar 24, 2009

Twitter Birds

Today I watched Josh Klein's TED Talk at WebTrends TED Tuesday. It was a great talk about the intelligence of crows and Josh's study of them points to a more balanced way of interacting with nature. We watch TED talks every Tuesday and this is one of the best.

I loved the talk so much I shared it on Twitter. The next part is what I'm blogging about. Twitter. I've notice many times after I tweet something I'll get an upsurge in followers. Usually the new followers is made up of spammers who latch on to a keyword in my tweet. I judicially block them with great joy. I'm protective of my little world and I don't like what spam can do to online communities.

This time it was different. @seattlecrows started following me and I checked out the profile fully expecting the old 25 Following, 1,234 Following, and -20 Updates (usually about some free PC deal). But when I looked at the links I was pleasantly surprised to find some very compelling research on crows and very much in line with the research Josh Klein is doing.

Very cool Twitter. This is what it is all about.

Feb 24, 2009

Long but satisfying day

Had a long day today (didn't get home until 9PM) but it was satisfying. Worked hard but got stuff done.

Feb 23, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again: Today's Run

I forced my self to brave the 45 degree weather and rain and go for a run today. Definitely my best run, but it was great to get out after more than a week of getting my ass kicked by the flu.

Feb 4, 2009

Now I am Going to Convince You to Believe in God

Holy crap. It's 3:40AM. I've gone through the battery in the MacBook Pro and now I'm on the MacBook Air. I might as well be on crack. I might not want to publish this post when I am done. But I just can't stop. I need to say this, to anybody, myself, whatever. My last post:

Design is When True Understanding is Self-Evident.

Yes! Makes sense to my sleep deprived mind. Now I am going to take a step over the line. Don't worry, if I am wrong I'll jump back really quick.

I want you to believe in God. But DON'T WORRY. If you read this, and you still don't believe, I'm not going to pray for you or come to your house with some literature. That is why a blog is a perfect venue for this discussion. God should have a blog.

So how can my recent epiphany about design be proof there is a God? How indeed. One of my favorite things to talk to atheists about is computers on Mars.

I don't think I've had this conversation more than twice, but it goes something like this:

Suppose we traveled to Mars and when we got there we discovered the ancient remains of a complex computer. One would assume that someone on Mars MADE that computer, right?

Right (with a sideways glance).

Okay, so the human brain, body, and the world we live in is like, a million times more complicated than even the most advanced computer, right?

Right (eying the door).

So why wouldn't you assume somebody MADE US??

But... (Blank stare).

It hasn't worked once. I don't expect it ever will. I don't expect this to work. But I suppose it is a bit like trying to get people to buy a Mac. You can debate and sell them on it but in the end you just have to keep doing cool things with your Mac and eventually one of your friends calls you up and has gone Mac Fanboy on you.

So the whole computers on Mars thing isn't cutting it. For one, it doesn't really capture what it really means to believe in God. I mean, somebody made me... big whoop. Believing that God made you and then took off is almost worse than not believing at all. Talk about abandonment issues.

This is where this whole "design is when true understanding is self-evident" thing fits in. If you're on board with that, then stick with me. Let's imagine that those Martians didn't just make that computer. Let's say they designed it. Let's even say it's a MacBook Pro. Sweet.

And let's think of this world we live in and these bodies we inhabit were designed. Not just made, designed. And designed like MacBook Pros. If design is when true understanding is self-evident then that means God understands us. He truly understands what it is to be human and he empathizes with the human condition.

He isn't this clockmaker who set everything up and then left. He does exist. It is self-evident. If you look at the world around us, all the joy and even the sorrow, you can see evidence of His existence. When I look at my son and daughters. When I think of the love I have for Amy, I can see that this has been designed. Someone had to know what this feeling is in order to create it. That someone was God.

Simple, eh? It is now FOUR IN THE MORNING. I don't know if I am coherent but I have to keep going. So here is the final point I will make:

Imagine there is no God. If life with God is like a MacBook Pro, what is life without a God?

Design is When True Understanding is Self-Evident

It's 2AM and I can't sleep. There are a million thoughts rolling through my head and the one that looms largest is this repeating phrase:

Design is when true understanding is self-evident

It just keeps rolling up in to my head and I can't get past it without putting it all down "on paper." It has been a slow-burning theme in several conversations over the last few days. What makes certain products so good? How come some interactions are just incredible and some are horrible? This phrase is the culmination of my thoughts on this.

Why does my iPhone rock so hard? Why does this laptop feel so good to type on. Why is the sign up form on Twitter such a wonderful extension of the brand? Conversely, why is it so hard for me to remember whether the doors to our building are push or pull? Or why do we hate Microsoft so much?

True understanding. Empathy. Or lack thereof. When my wife says something to me about planning for my daughter's birthday and I reply with a comment about the new Mercedes GLK, it is obvious I haven't been listening and I don't understand.

Today we got a new MacBook for the team to use for presentations and travel. It is a slick little machine but there was one thing in particular that added to my notion that Apple has implanted a thought-reading device in my brain:

The DisplayPort VGA adaptor.

I've had a couple (4 actually) MacBook Pros/PowerBooks and they all have had the same DVI to VGA adaptor. It is a pretty nice piece of design work, especially when compared to what comes with your average Dell. However, one thing that has bugged me is the sound. The rattling of the little screws has always given the adaptor a cheap feel and led to absent-minded shaking back and forth. It was never something I would have complained about, until now.

The new version has no rattling screws. Someone at Apple hated this sound (Steve?). They realized that you're never going to plug this thing directly in to your display and that you'd alays plug it in to a display cable which has it's own screws. This is what I mean by TRUE understanding. They truly understand what it means to own and use a laptop.

The person who designed the doors to our lobby obviously didn't really understand what it meant to walk in and our of our building 5 or 6 times a day and have to make up a "pull in, push out" song in order to keep from looking like an idiot. A true understanding of this is not evident in the design of the doors.

The design of the doors say, "push me, pull me... whatever, I look cool." And then I look like a dumbass when I push instead of pull. They say, "I don't really understand the basic act of walking in and out of a building."

The best interactions are those we don't have to think about. They just work. They have been created with understanding and empathy. They have been designed by someone who deeply understands our point of view and that understanding is evident in the design.

I'm reminded of the story of the file menu in Bill Moggridge's book Designing Interactions. There is an interview with Larry Tesler about how the file menu as we know it was created. It demonstrates what is needed to gain true understanding. Basically Bill Atkinson and Larry Tesler worked as a team in 12 hour shifts. Larry would spend the day performing usability tests with people in the office. When Tim came in he would spend an hour sharing what he'd learned and Bill would set off coding the interface for the next day.

One night Bill came in and basically invented the file menu system as we know it. Some would say he had an epiphany or a stroke of genius but I would argue that it was the pattern of prototyping and testing and the insight he had in to how people actually used computers that gave him the inspiration. He had true understanding of what it was to use the product he was creating.

This immersion is what stands in the way of truly understanding the people who use our products. We take shortcuts, develop shorthand, create mythical "expert users," and are impatient with how long it takes to really understand our own user experiences.

So I'm kind of petering out here. It's 3AM and I am supposed to get up at 6AM. This concept will certainly keep rolling around in my head and drive me in the future.

The other idea that is bugging me is to tear down my entire portfolio web site and rebuild it using css, jquery, and web standards. I don't know the first thing about how to do it but I need to learn. Sounds like a good way to get in to it.

Jan 30, 2009

Found Images: Typography in NYC

Found these images on The Journal of Urban Typography. I love the texture and variation of light and color. The patina is incredible on some of them. I added some of them to my iPhone Wallpaper gallery too.

Jan 29, 2009

Patience, Resolve, and Vigor: Three Ingredients for Innovation

I've learned some more things lately and a couple of conversations with some good friends made me want to write them down... to share but mostly so I can articulate them to myself.

I am an impatient man. A very impatient man. I want my life to play like a TV cooking show. You know, they spend a few minutes chopping and mixing and chatting. When all the ingredients are ready they pop it in the oven. Two seconds later they pull a freshly baked version out of the other oven and all the guests enjoy a slice of pie.

Unfortunately, this isn't how it works. Yeah, yeah... I know. Some of you are saying thank God he finally got it!! The other half stopped reading because you've heard it all before (probably shortly after I stopped working with or for you). However, I'm not going to say I wish I had figured this out a long time ago.

Some lessons have to be learned the hard way. I have had the honor to work with some amazing people and I have learned from all of them. Even when I quit, I learned from them.

So what did I learn? Innovation doesn't work like a cooking show. There isn't a spare oven we can put our pie in before the show. Hell, we don't even know what we're baking and our producer is polling the audience for ideas.

We're bright, intelligent, and inspired. We demand a higher standard. We're raising the bar. We're going to change the world. But how do we get there? The theory I've been operating on has led me to jump from company to company following the promise of innovation. It isn't working.

So that is why I am quitting my job... no, not that. I had you there for a second though, didn't I? No, that is why I am going to do the opposite. Design is such a fast paced, revolutionary field that we tend to focus on agility and speed but I think we need to focus on something a little less exciting.

Patience to wait for things to cook. Wait for things to fall in to place. Our ideas and passion outpace our organizations. Without major layoffs or the apocalypse this isn't going to change. The only way to get what we need build the foundation for innovation and that takes time.

Resolve to stay true to our ideals and passion. It is easy to fall in to step with the rest of the organization. It is easy to be distracted by small slights and bureaucratic BS. We need to be resolute in our passion for user experience and stay focused.

Vigor. We need to be vigorous in our work. I find myself using shorthand when I find myself up against a wall. I find myself investing less time in projects I don't believe in. I find myself unwilling to "waste" my time on projects when I have been "betrayed" by my leaders. We need to keep going even when faced with adversity. We have to take the time to tell our story and get people to really understand what we're talking about. We need to execute the fundamentals and deliver the tactical solutions our companies need while waiting for long term strategic plans to come to fruition.

I haven't got it all figured it out. And I thank all the people in my life who have done nothing of short of tell me this stuff directly. I just had to see it for myself.

Jan 28, 2009

Run Record 1 - Portland? Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

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4.55 miles in 40 minutes. 8:45 minute per mile average.

My run today was awesome. I rediscovered some areas of Portland I haven't been to in a while. The city as a whole, from broken sidewalk and homeless shelter to highrise and posh bar, is a beautiful patchwork of culture and history. And I'm not even talking about the East side!

Since my Nike+ sportband is out of commission until the new version comes out I decided I would record my runs via Google Maps. Hopefully I can find some way to port it to an iPhone app, data vis, or my own app. Souns like a project!

Jan 27, 2009

Finding Out What Users Want

Justin Garrity put on an amazing TED Tuesday today here at WebTrends. This talk sums up and articulates a lot of what I hold to be true in the business of making products for people:


We also talked about Apple and the great example of iMovie 06 vs. iMovie 08 and the new version for 09. As consumers we're happy to live in the world put before us, we use the product and find issues and work around them. As designers we so many times forget to actually use our products. When we do use them we discover issues and ways to improve the product beyond just working around them. This is our gift and our mandate.

Services are a commodity and experience is the new measure of success. As we move from solving old problems to solving new problems we need to think about new interface paradigms. The way to do that is to hold on to that original user experience that we all have. We're in this business because we love great experiences and hate it when things aren't designed well. Sometimes it seems overwhelming but the best way to do it might be just to simply use our products. By using them we can see what people really want from our products and find new ways to not just fix bugs and make incremental feature enhancements, but really change the way people interact with our brands.

Jan 26, 2009

Desktops and Wallpapers

I created some mobileme galleries of desktops and iPhone wallpapers I've gathered from the web. Enjoy and feel free to upload your own:



iPhone Wallpaper: