Boston will win!

Rarely do I take current events personally.  Rarely am I concerned for my own welfare when I hear about things that happen thousands of miles away.  Boston is different.   Though I wasn’t anywhere near there, I could have been.  It could have been me.

Multiple times a year, you can find me at the finish line of a marathon, a 1/2 marathon, a 5K, or a bicycle race, cheering friends, cheering strangers along the course, cheering loved ones while the push themselves further or harder than I could push myself physically.  Multiple times of year, I’m there.  At a recent marathon, I circumvented the route by bike in order to bring a friend that was running the race food along the way. And I was there to meet her at the finish line too. So I could have been there… at the finish. It could have been me.  I’ve brought my son with me to cheer on my friends.  He’s now eight years old, the same age as one of the victims.

I enjoy cheering my friends on during marathons. Why? Because running 26.2 miles is a crazy thing to do. It’s an impressive feat to accomplish. Even more impressive when you do it multiple times.  And the people that I cheer on, some have several marathons under their belt.  My muscles aren’t fond of distance, but I’m happy to lend my support to my friends that train for months just to have the opportunity to run for 3 or 4 hours and complete a marathon.

Boston

I’ve spent a good bit of time in Boston.  My son’s mom is from there.  I have plenty of friends that are either from there, live there, or have gone to school there. I have a love / hate relationship with Boston, partially because I grew up in L.A. in the 80s. And the Lakers v. Celtics traded NBA Championships throughout my childhood.  So my initial distaste for the city was formed at a very young age in sports. After visiting Boston for the first time in my late 20s, I quickly understood how seriously they take sports. And why their teams have to be competitive. Boston has the most devoted, no rabid,  of all sports fans in the country.  Their teams are their lives!  And it’s a city where tough people come from.

So setting off bombs at a Boston marathon is no mistake.  If you want to attack a city at the very heart of what makes that city tick, for Boston, it’s sports.  But the one thing I know about Boston and the people from Boston is that they have heart.  A whole lot of heart.  And they will beat you.  They don’t forget when someone crosses them. Even if it takes 86 years to exact revenge, they will.

The race will continue.  And next year, it will be bigger.  And if any of my friends qualify, I’ll be at the finish line to cheer them on.

To the person(s) that committed this act of terror, you picked the wrong city to mess with. You clearly didn’t understand what makes the city of Boston tick, and how long they will wait to celebrate the win.  And trust me, Boston will win!  Even if it takes another 86 years.

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TheSocialGeeks: Ep. 45… Creepy!

During SXSWi we came together to do a live video recording of TheSocialGeeks. This happens once a year. We had an interesting discussion on ambient location services.

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Explosions in Austin

I raced home from the taco trailer on the east side, in hopes of beating my friend Michael Cummings to that night’s bar of choice for cocktails. I ran inside, dropped off my bike, and rushed back out the door on foot. The bar is about 4 blocks from my place.

About 1/2 way into my walk, I’m stopped in my tracks by a loud explosion across the street from where I was walking. I turned, and within seconds there was smoke billowing out of the side of the building.  So I ran around to try and get a closer view of what was going on. I thought it was a bomb. As I got closer, I see my friend Michael helping someone get clear of the vehicle that was engulfed in flames. The man was almost naked, and covered in the anti-retardant coming from the overhead extinguishers. His clothes were blown off by the power of the blast.

Almost immediately, I started shooting video with my iPhone. What resulted was about 5 minutes of video of the scene unfolding.

Yesterday, I was returning to the office from lunch with a co-worker. We were rehashing our weekends to each other. There was a lady walking slightly infront of us. When I pulled out my phone to show him the video of the explosion, she interjected and made it known that she was a reporter for a local TV station. Three hours later, I was being interviewed by another reporter, along with Michael.  I passed on the video that was shot over to the reporter as well. The result was this report about the events.

Since the report aired, we’re been contacted by the victim’s family about his conditions. Apparently, he was moving scuba equipment, when one of the tanks exploded.  He received 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body. The doctors say he is going to have a recovery time of 5-7 months.

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Recently, in conjunction with what.it.is, we launched the official app for Ballet Austin.  The native app, which includes a completely custom interface, details information about the 2011/2012 season. Integrated into the app are feeds from Ballet Austin’s twitter feed, blog, and youtube videos. We also produced a custom API for this native app.

Get the app from the App Store.

Ballet Austin - Landing ScreenBallet Austin - Additional InfoBallet Austin - BlogBallet Austin - Photo GalleryBallet Austin - Videos

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TheSocialGeeks: Ep. 44… Pimpin’ Pinner

Appeared on another episode of The Social Geeks with Michael Cummings, Jeff Smith, and Chris Miller. On this episode, we talk about Path‘s troubles, Pinterest‘s explosion, and few other hot social topics.

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Racism circa 2012

We were on our way to dinner.  A few blocks from my apartment.  It was chilly out.  My date, a beautiful, tall, white woman, was in lockstep beside me, grasping at my right bicep with both hands.  There were a lot of pedestrians in the area. An unusual amount for a typical night, but not for a Saturday night.  There was a show going on at the concert hall we walked past five minutes prior.  I was telling a story, in mid-sentence when three young white men approached us on sidewalk.  They appeared to be college-aged, and somewhat inebriated.  It was just after 9PM.

As they were passing, the one closest to me punched me in my left shoulder, the way you would punch someone you know.  At the same moment he said, “What’s up my nigger.”  

And with that statement, my mind was placed in an immediate state of shock.  I couldn’t continue to walk.  The sentence that I was just in the middle of was wiped from my tongue.  As my head swiveled my body around in his direction, pulling my date around with me,  I said, “Oh, hell no!”

Hundreds of thoughts passed through my mind in that instant. These where the most dominant thoughts:

  1. How was I going to kick all three of their asses?
  2. What’s my date going to think of me if I suddenly go into a rage?
  3. Are the police going to be called? What should I tell them when they find this guy knocked out, me standing over him untouched, and his friends either laid out next to him, or nowhere to be found?
  4. Can this be handled in a tactful manor?
  5. I’m in Texas, right?
  6. Damn, I haven’t eaten yet.
  7. Exactly how many milliseconds is it going to take me to get into striking distance?

While those thoughts were cycling through my head, a fourth young white man walking in the same direction that I was now facing approached me from behind and said, “Dude, I’m so sorry.  He’s an idiot.”  It was obvious that he knew the offender.  It was also obvious that he was being genuinely apologetic.

I reassessed the situation:

  1. Can I kick four guys asses at the same time?
  2. What is my date going to think?
  3. How many milliseconds will it take now?
  4. Exactly, how hungry am I?
  5. He did hit me first, right?
  6. Could this be considered a hate crime?

I squared up the apologetic friend, grabbed his shoulders, looked him in the eyes and replied, “Smack him for me, before I do it myself.”

I turned back around and took a few steps.  Taking a moment to breathe and shake off all the toxic energy that this situation just threw on me.  I then turned to look for my date.  She was beside me, visibly in shock.  We rehashed the situation briefly, then continued on to dinner, returning to our previous conversation.

For the remainder of the evening, I tried to not let the incident bother me, but it kept seeping back into my consciousness.  What followed was a day filled with subconscious processing, which in turn, led to this post.

Why I feel guilty

He was a jerk. There is not doubt about that. But I certainly missed an opportunity to teach him a lesson.  The trick is, how do I accomplish that in a way that is more thought provoking than aggressive?  I’m at odds with myself about that.

My initial thought goes like this:

If I kick his ass, and potentially the ass of his friends that try to defend him, he will think twice before doing something like that again.  But would it prevent him? Probably not. It would more than likely fuel what ever beliefs he has internally that brought him to the point where he thought that this could be acceptable behavior.  And then I’ve just initiated a bunch of guys into some white supremacy organization, unintentionally.

If I stop him be being mildly aggressive, and go all Jules Winnfield and start reciting Ezekiel 25:17 to him, I’m not sure I would have gotten my point across.  That approach, however, would have been both dramatic and beautiful.  It would have been thought provoking for the assailant and his friends. It would have left them confused and forced them to process.

There is also the thread in the back of my head that goes like this:

 

  • He hit me first, albeit, not very hard. 
  • I could claim self-defense. 
  • This could certainly be considered a hate crime. Isn’t that federal? 
  • Can I really kick is ass and get a pat on the back from the cops? 

How I disappointed my ancestors.

This is the hard part for me, and why I’m upset at myself.

I’m not convinced that being non-confrontational accomplished anything other than saving myself the opportunity to explain to the police why this guy is bloody and I’m not.  But worse is the realization that it’s likely that this guy is going to do this again, to someone else.  I gave him no incentive not to.

Unintentionally, I supported his false notion that it’s ok to treat people this way.  I reinforced his notion of what the social power structure should look like.  I unintentionally, granted him power over me.  Power he most certainly doesn’t deserve. This is what kept me from sleeping last night. Which is also notable, because I actually lost sleep over this idiot, and if you know me, you know how much I love my sleep.

One thing I know, if the same thing were to happen to me again today, or tomorrow, my reaction would be different.  Though I don’t know exactly how.

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My favourite uncle Steve: RIP 1955-2011

My favourite uncle Steve Jobs

Losing Steve Jobs to me is like losing my favourite uncle. You know what uncle that you get an encouraging call from every once in a while? The one that will listen to what’s going on in your life and then nudge you in the right direction by saying something simple, yet profound, that you don’t begin to understand until days later? That’s how I view the impact of Steve Jobs in my life.

My world would not be what it is, without his passion and drive.  He has helped shape the way I view design and technology, and the nexus in between.  As I sit here writing this from a MacBook Pro, with my iPhone at my side, I recollect the first sites that I built back in the mid-90′s, they were built on my first Mac. When OS X came out, I convinced a client (DJ Irie) to pay me with a new PowerBook 17. It had just come out. The day when I received it, I turned off a windows desktop, and a linux desktop, both of which I used daily, the windows for design, the linux for development. I never turned them back on.  I never looked back.

My son, who will turn 7 next week, has only had experienced the world of computers with an Apple. A day I bought my iPad, I put a few games on it, and handed it to him. His initial reaction was, “Sooo, that’s your iPhone and this is my giant iPhone?” His world has never been the same.

There are few moments that I can recollect when my relationship with technology has been reshaped the way it was that day. Most of the moments since have involved an Apple product.  It is how I, and several of my friends make our livelihoods. Without Steve Jobs, the ecosystem that we thrive under wouldn’t exist. So I am grateful, eternally. My family is grateful.

Thank you Steve. Thank you!

Today, I’ll call my actual favourite uncle to remind him how much he means to me (and get that nudge).

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Developer’s Review: Tweetbot

Custom Interfaces

What makes this app better than most is the developers at tapbots have basically reengineered many of the standard UI elements that ships with the SDK. They have made small adjustments to the design, created new interactions, and thrown in a few tricks and surprises in mix. Three features jumped out of me when I initially used the app. Two of the three were elements that were built to mimic elements in the UI elements.

 

 

 

 

The navigation bar used on Tweetbot is a custom item. Even the back button is a slightly sleeker design than the automatic Apple version. The functionality of being able to tap on the title in the navigation bar and switch from you main timeline to one of your lists, is a nice trick feature.

This little tooltip while writing a tweet is also a nice little touch. It’s something that could have been left out completely, but adds something for the user that makes finding the right people to mention in your tweet a much friendlier experience. Technically, it’s fairly easy to add this feature. It’s just a custom UIButton that’s placed inline. There are probably a couple trick calculations built into placing it correctly, but nothing any good programmer and a little trial and error shouldn’t be able to handle.

Usability Features

 

Little features make all the difference. Tweetbot offers quite a few of these little design tweaks that indicate various things to the user, like who a tweet is retweeted by. This is most-likely achieved by having an extra UIView attached at the bottom of the tweet’s UITableViewCell.

 

This element, however, is likely to be achieved a different way. My guess is that this indicator of how many new tweets just loaded is achieved by adding an extra UITableViewCell in the middle of the UITableView. The difference to the user between these two are minimal because they both fit inline visually. But since they serve a very different purpose, it’s likely that they are implemented very differently.

The sounds are a nice touch to the app. It gives the app some personality.

The Tricky Stuff

 

 

 

This is where Tweetbot gets a little tricky. And where they did something that I haven’t seen in another twitter app to date. When you’re viewing a tweet, you have a ton of options at hand. You can tap once which expands the tweet (seen below), double tap which shows you the details from the tweet on another view, triple tap which gives you RT and quote options, or swipe left or right which show you conversation details if they exist.

This is the piece that kinda blew my mind. Not because it’s terribly difficult, but because it’s really trick.  This took a lot of work to get just right. What you should know if you’re not an iOS developer is that how the tweet is displayed above is more than likely a UILabel.  That would mean that links are not part of the mix. That UITableViewCell is converted to what we see below. My guess is that it includes a UIWebView or some kind of UILabel subclass for the text to provide us with links. If it’s the former, getting everything to line up visually was not easy. If it’s the latter, there is a lot going on in that subclass. It’s quality work.

The drawer that opens below the cell is a nice visual element, and time consuming to get right, but not terribly complex. Functionally, it provides a basic way to get to all the functionality that is provided by all the tapping and double tapping you can do with the cell.

The Cons

This may not be the right app for a new twitter user, or even a new iPhone user. There is a lot going on in this app, and it’s really not for the novice user.  This isn’t the right twitter app for my mother.  At times it was confusing for me to use initially, so I couldn’t imagine trying to instruct a novice user to use it.

Obviously, there are some options missing with the implementation of the twitter API and possible other tricks that are planned, like landscape mode. These upcoming features are discussed in a blog post on tapbots.com

Conclusions

This app is a game changer. It raises the expectations of users and, in turn, raises the bar for developers. If you want your app to succeed in the app store now, it has to be special. It HAS to be better than all it’s competing apps. And better takes time to build.

Tweetbot also reaffirms the work that Apple has done with the SDK. The basic navigation options and UI built into the SDK is a well thought out model for mobile, and there isn’t a need to dramatically restructure it.

Should you pay for it? Yes. They went much further than they had to go to create something compelling.

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Going Android…

I’m going Android. Well, not really. But I will be making the shift to doing some Android development along with the iOS development I do. Here are some reasons why I’m making this shift.

Market Share

Well, I just can’t ignore the platform anymore. Android’s market share is definitely something that you can’t ignore if you’re going to be doing anything serious in mobile. At the rate which Android adoption is growing, the platform is going to be a major player for the next few years. If you’re releasing free apps, it makes sense to release them on at least these two platforms. I think in the near future, it will also make sense to release free apps on WP7 as well. Pay apps I think fall into a different category. Android users are less likely to pay for apps than iOS users, so as a result, if you’re building a pay app, iOS still makes sense as a primary/only strategy.

The Lengthy Apple Approval Process

As fast as everything moves in technology, waiting a week for an app to be approved by Apple is an incredibly long period of time. Though I understand Apple’s desire to maintain a level of quality when it comes to apps, there are definitely times when time to market trumps quality concerns. In contrast to Apple’s approval process, your Android can hit the market the same day you publish.

App Updates

On the Android OS, app updates are pushed to the device. So if you have a bug in your app, and you provide a fix to that bug, you can be assured that your users are very likely to have the updated version of the app once it hits the Android Market. iOS users have to intentionally check for updates. In time-sensitive situations, this becomes a less than effective delivery mechanism.

Fun to Learn

I like new challenges. And I’m always up for learning a new language. Somehow, all this time, I’ve avoided learning java. This gives me a perfect excuse to jump into the java pool.

Now the question remains, which Android device do I get to use as a development device?

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The Fate of the Blackberry

Let me start off by saying that I’m somewhat biased on this topic since I’m an iOS developer. I also would like to note that it’s very unusual for me to make predictions. But I will in this case.

Strategic Mistakes

In my opinion, there have been a number of strategic mistakes at RIM since the introduction of the iPhone. Though no single mistake is a deathblow to the company, I feel that the combination of mistakes is very telling of the position of the company and their inability to innovate and compete in this space in the longterm. Let me go over a few of these mistakes.

Blackberry Storm

The BB Storm was released shortly after the 2nd generation iPhone was introduced. Soon after it was released I got my hands on one. I had been using an iPhone over a year at this point, so I was quite comfortable with my touchscreen experience. Two features stood out to me immediately as I attempted to use this device: 1) it was not multi-touch. You would only make one touch gesture at a time, and 2) you had to press down on the screen to record your typing. The combination of these two mistakes amounted to a failure in my mind and the mind of anyone who had used an iPhone at this point. There was no way I was going to give up my iPhone experience and go back to this. Even most of the BB users I knew that tried it just went back to their previous model.

What stood out to me at this point was that RIM had over a year to innovate since getting their hands on an iPhone and they chose to release a device that way below the newly set standard. They have since failed to compete with Apple in this respect.

The Playbook and Android Apps

When RIM released the Playbook, I was somewhat excited. I even signed up for the Developer’s program. Recently, RIM has announced that they have been working to bring Android apps to the Playbook. This is see as a MONUMENTAL strategic mistake. The reason why this is a mistake is that this sends a very strong signal that 1) the apps that are developed specifically for the Playbook aren’t as good as their Android counterparts, and 2) that there are more Android apps than native ones (which is true).

My immediate reaction when hearing is was… “why would I buy a Playbook then, when I could just buy an Android tablet?” I do believe the average consumer will reach this very same question and chose the later when purchasing a tablet. Or just buy an iPad 2.

BB Messenger on iOS / Android / Windows Phone 7

Of late their have been rumours that suggest that RIM plans on introducing their popular BBM as a service on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7. For many years, BBM has been the flagship service which has not been duplicated well on any of the other competing devices. Sure there have been apps like kik and others, but RIM has not hesitated to drop lawsuits in the laps of those companies to defend their patents of BBM. In my opinion, if RIM drops BBM on the rest of the smartphone world, this will mark a dramatic shift in the company from a hardware/software company to a software only company. This will also be a telling sign of the internal state of RIM as a competitor in the space. Though I think RIM can survive in the space as a smaller player in the coming years, their market share will definitely be affected if this product is released. I know many BB users that would switch to an Android or iOS device the day BBM was available on one of these platforms. BBM is the last innovation that RIM has left to offer that general public. Once this is handed off, even at a premium, the effect would be to stifle the production of their handsets and potential split off BBM as a separate software company. If this is the plan, I wish them luck.

With all this said, I don’t expect RIM to be a major player in the smartphone space in 2 years. Their market share will fade into the teens by the summer of 2012 and then into the single digits. by the following summer. Baring a dramatic shift in their corporate makeup, I don’t believe RIM as a company has the corporate culture to reinvent itself as an innovator in the space.

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