Colin Devroe

Blog Posts

Zeldman on Medium

20 April 2015

Jeffery Zeldman on whether or not Medium is a death knell of the open web:

You may think I exaggerate, but I’ve heard more than one respected colleague opine that publishing in Medium invalidates everything we independent content producers care about and represent; that it destroys all our good works with but one stroke of the Enter button.
I’ve even had that thought myself.
But isn’t the arrival of a new-model web publication like Medium proof that the web is alive and healthy, and spawning new forms of creativity and success?

I have no issue with people publishing on Medium. I am skeptical of it as a business. I’m also scared that one day it could be acquired and/or disappear entirely — making it, perhaps, not the best place to put your content if you want it around for years and years. However, if you publish something on Medium (or any other publication) that’s fine. Just know there are consequences.

The primary downside to publishing on any site other than your own is your control over whether or not it will be where you put it a year from now. Second, perhaps, is that any attention received by what you publish may well benefit the site you’ve published on far more than you.

Just one example of this is when Dave Pell published something on Medium rather than his own site and it got pretty popular. And he regretted it.

Two needs for deep linking

15 April 2015

What are Deep Links? Scott Rosenberg recently wrote a piece on Backchannel on Medium about Deep Links. He wrote:

Deep linking means to bore a wormhole-tunnel that hops you directly from a specific spot in one app to a spot in another, no side trip to a browser or a home screen needed.

You get it. If you have Swarm and Foursquare or Facebook and Messenger installed you get pushed from one application to another all the time. Facebook forces you to send private messages via Messenger and Foursquare forces you to check-in via Swarm. So, if you’re in one app and need to do one of those tasks it “deep links” you from one application to another.

Sort of like a hyperlink on the web goes from one web page to another.

Rosenberg goes on to state why he thinks they’ve failed (so far). But I have just two reasons;

  • they need a new name
  • they aren’t discoverable

Deep Links? Terrible name. What about App Links? I’ll leave the naming to someone else but I do not think the links are all that deep so please let’s ditch that word. They are, in my opinion, as deep as a web link. Hyperlinks are one, two, three clicks into a web site if you were to start from a site’s home page. A “deep link” is one, two, three taps into an app. So why is one any deeper than the other?

The second problem is that they aren’t discoverable. They can’t easily be found, written, and shared. You may see one from time-to-time. For example, if you click on a Periscope link on Twitter, while on your iOS device, you will be asked to open Periscope to view the live video stream. This is a “deep link”. And, the “URL” for the deep link looks sort of familiar but also foreign and weird. It is typically something like pscp://broadcast/2034390

To me that reads; open Periscope to this broadcast. 

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hand-write some Periscope links to send people to one of my broadcasts? A friend’s broadcast? Or my profile? I asked Periscope about this 3 days ago on Twitter. No response from them. Boo.

I think if “deep links” had a new name and were easily written and sharable we’d see a huge increase in their usage.

Note: I found Rosenberg’s Medium piece via Jeremy Keith.

The full-stack employee

15 April 2015

Chris Messina, inventor of #hashtags, on Medium:

The conventional seams between disciplines are fraying, and the set of skills necessary to succeed are broader and more nebulous than they’ve been before.

He waxes on about how the lines between nearly every single area inside a company are blurring more and more. His piece reminded me of what I just wrote in The pull towards design.

The pull towards design

15 April 2015

For the past several years our industry, the tech industry, has been pulling designers that work within it down the stack — so to speak — towards engineering. They’ve drilled into their heads that they need to learn to code or, at the very least, to be able to create functional prototypes of their designs so that they can demonstrably visualize interactions, animations, transitions, and more.

I think this pull has been good for everyone; designers, engineers, and end users of the products they build. I believe that designers are now able, perhaps more than ever, to fully realize their visions for a product or feature. I believe that engineers are now able to focus more on core pieces of an application or service and are less frustrated by the friction between the design and engineering teams. And the consumer is, presumably, getting a much more refined and purposed end product. Good. Good. Good.

My friend Paul Stamatiou is a designer at Twitter working on Twitter Video & Photos. He recently published a great blog post explaining how he and his team were able to prototype their designs for Twitter for iOS’s video feature in a way that allowed their vision for the feature to be fully realized within the application. He noted: 

Prototypes are partly for me to get a sense for what something could feel like and validate the interactions of the concept. However, they are very much also for communicating intended designs with all stakeholders. I would often show early prototypes to my manager Brendan Donohoe for his thoughts along with others at design critiques, in addition to emailing screencasts to the video team.

As a programmer I’ve always wanted what Paul now has. The ability to take an idea and see it through from beginning to end. You see, for years I’ve worked with great designers and that has somewhat stunted my ability to bring my ideas fully to life on my own. I’ve been so spoiled from working with Mike Rundle, Larry Angel, and Kyle Ruane that whenever I would try to design something on my own I simply couldn’t. I “needed” them. Lately, I’ve had this nagging feeling that I need to change what I’m doing, how I do it, and start walking towards design in order to get what I want. I may never be a great designer, but I know I can be a better designer than I am now.

Last month at Designal Tap, Kyle Ruane’s monthly design critique, I voiced that opinion to a little over a dozen local designers. My point that night, whether I made it or not I do not know, was that our industry has been pulling designers towards engineering and I think it is time for it to pull engineers more towards design. Why should designers have all the fun? Many in attendance were nodding so perhaps I am not alone.

As engineers let’s stop thinking the only way to pull designers towards us is for them to move on their own. Perhaps we can pull our way towards them and meet them halfway.


8 April 2015

Marco Arment on DuckDuckGo:

In my experience so far, DuckDuckGo’s search is good enough the vast majority of the time. Sometimes, its results are even better than Google’s, and they’re rarely much worse.

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine on all of my devices for several months. I’ve had some speed issues with it (and still do from time-to-time) but the CEO of DuckDuckGo attempted to help me personally on Twitter when it happened.

DDG is vastly different than Google. Aside from DDG being completely private, one big difference is being able to build on top of DDG using DuckDuckHack.

Google, however, has a deal with Twitter so if you’re searching for tweets you still need to use Google. As I did for finding the tweet I linked to above.

I’d suggest giving DDG a try if you haven’t.


7 April 2015

Noah Read on music:

When I became a teenager this music fell by the wayside as my tastes followed those of most teenagers trying to be cool while not popular. Some of what I liked then has stood the test of time, but much of it has proven itself culturally and emotionally bankrupt. In recent months I have found myself returning to the classical music of my childhood when I need to think, meditate, and focus. I have been drawn back to Beethoven particularly.

I’ve always enjoyed the classics far more than anything pop. Classical, jazz, folk, rock.

git turns 10

7 April 2015

Linus Torvalds, creator of git:

You can actually see how it all took shape in the git source code repository, except for the very first day or so. It took about a day to get to be “self-hosting“ so that I could start committing things into git using git itself, so the first day or so is hidden, but everything else is there.

You can see all of the commits on GitHub. Here is the first page (as of today) and the first commit.

A whale of a distraction

7 April 2015

Photographer Eric Smith in Going Viral on Medium:

When I reviewed the pictures two weeks ago I was astounded by the juxtaposition of the young man immersed in his phone while this creature is feet away. Over the course of six shots showing the whale emerging and vanishing, he never looked up, even while the three other people on his boat were all excitedly looking right at it.

Follow the link to see the images.

By the way, the exact same thing could happen if he was wearing a watch.

Also, this post would have been a great opportunity to launch a blog on his own site rather than publishing on Medium. Oh well.

/via The Loop.

You don’t need a watch to be distraction free

6 April 2015

In March 2013 I turned off all notifications on my phone, tablet, and computer. In May of that year I went one step further and closed most applications that would keep me distracted and only opened them when I wanted to.

To this day the only notifications I get on my devices are for SMS and calendar events. I do not allow any other applications to send notifications.

Jeremy Keith recently wrote “My phone is a tool that I control, not the other way around.”

Many are saying that the Apple Watch was made, in part, to help us be less distracted but in reality it will make it easier for us to be distracted.

It is true that with an Apple Watch you’ll see notifications that you receive much quicker than needing to fumble around with your phone. A quick glance at your watch and you’ll know who is calling you, as an example. Responding to notifications should be easier too. However, if there was any feeling or desire not to be rude that held you back from checking your phone while you were talking to your friend, that feeling or desire may be lessened or altogether removed with the Apple Watch because it will be so quick and easy to check it.

The issue is that any notification, for any reason, will pull your mind and attention away from whomever you’re talking to no matter what device you read it on.

Let’s say you’re talking with a friend and they are pouring their heart out to you about a personal issue. You’re trying to empathize with them and maybe even provide a bit of advice. Suddenly your watch taps you on the wrist and the message on the face is from your significant other and it reads “I can’t believe you.” Whether you pulled out your phone or read that message on your wrist — how much attention will your friend really be getting after reading that message? Your mind will be swirling, you won’t be able to focus.

While I think the Apple Watch is a really cool and useful device I do not see it cutting down on distractions at all. Turning off all notifications does though. I know that for a fact.

Blanton tries Twitter blogging

3 April 2015

Justin Blanton decides to muddy the waters on the definition of the word blogging even more by using textshots on Twitter to “blog”:

With the advent of “textshots”—screenshots of text linked within tweets (and viewed inline on many Twitter clients)—I’ve decided to try something new with Twitter: “blogging”.

Blanton is a blogging veteran so we’ll allow him his experimentation. But I’m very glad he put “blogging” in quotes.

Related: This, this, this, this, this, this, this. Oh, and a million other posts.

Bird nests

3 April 2015

We have a number of bird nests throughout our 3 acre property. Some I’ve seen, most I haven’t laid eyes on yet. Last year we had a Woodcock (weird bird alert) nest under our spruce trees in the backyard. See blurry photo. Each morning we have turkeys roosting throughout the forest. I love it.

Here are a few related photos from me on Instagram: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Though, there are many many more.

Here is a robin’s nest that was built last year but I didn’t see until this year. It was built in a small tree in our front yard and I find it fascinating.

How industrious are the birds? Bits of hay, straw, and grass clippings — no doubt the very bits I failed to rake — used to create a place to rear their young. And it somehow stood the test of winter.

There is definitely much to learn from this single nest.

What about SnapChat?

1 April 2015

You already read my thoughts on the Meerkat vs. Periscope debate. It is still way too early to tell. Let’s see what the next 12 months give us.

Gary Vaynerchuk… a friend and business partner of mine, and investor in Meerkat, wrote on LinkedIn:

I do it for my brand over my investments. So my voice and my statement is this: it’s way too early to call this footrace. I would even argue that the biggest challenger is still on the sidelines: Snapchat. What if Snapchat offers live video tomorrow?

Great point. Periscope and Meerkat are dust on the scales compared to SnapChat.

What is Dawn doing?

1 April 2015

Earlier this month I was aglow with anticipation as Dawn reached orbit around Ceres. At Coalwork we even had it marked on the public calendar thinking it’d be a historic event.

I expected a live stream. There was none. I expected a live audio stream. There was none. There wasn’t so much as a blog post on the Dawn blog. Just a tweet or two.

This doesn’t make this mission reaching its goal any less historic… though a bit anticlimactic. Anyway, the mission is far from over. It turns out Dawn is just getting into position and that first arrival was just the beginning of a series of maneuvers:

For now, however, Dawn is not taking pictures. Even after it entered orbit, its momentum carried it to a higher altitude, from which it is now descending. From March 2 to April 9, so much of the ground beneath it is cloaked in darkness that the spacecraft is not even peering at it. Instead, it is steadfastly looking ahead to the rewards of the view it will have when its long, leisurely, elliptical orbit loops far enough around to glimpse the sunlit surface again.

So, don’t expect any pictures until mid-April.

You need your own site

30 March 2015

Charlotte Jackson, experimenting on her own site:

I‘ve been super excited to see what all the fuss is about, so I have added flexbox to the simple header on this website. This also gave me a nice introduction to how it all works.

If you do anything at all on the web and you do not have your own web site to play around with you’re crazy. If you need one, I know of a platform that would love to have you.

/via Jeremy Keith.

The next generation of live video streaming

30 March 2015

Kaboom! That is the sound of the live video streaming market over the last few weeks. Why? Why has it “suddenly” exploded with interest when live video streaming, even the one-to-many applications like we’re seeing with Meerkat and Periscope, has been around for years?

I’m not sure there is a single answer. I believe it is a bit more composite. Bandwidth, mobile device saturation, video quality, networking making word-of-mouth faster than ever, and the App Store. All of these are likely factors in how both of these applications have seemingly gotten more attention than their predecessors.

I saw a tweet from Dave Pell that seemed to also be a factor in why people are watching these completely random non-professional video streams: “Live TV is dead. You’re lonely.” — he wrote.

Lonely? Maybe. Bored? Most likely.

On Saturday morning while sitting on the couch I found myself thumbing through the list of live streams on Periscope. I tuned into an NYC tour bus, watched a few cats chase some lasers, learned how to make corn dogs, and saw a whale off the coast of Hawaii all in a matter of a few moments. Relative to just 20 years ago this was an amazing feat. But valuable?

I did so because I had nothing else to do and had no desire to turn the TV on. Will this passive time-wasting entertainment portion of Periscope’s usage be its path to being on every person’s mobile device? Doubtful. No doubt it will have huge moments during elections, tragedies as we saw in New York City, sporting events, etc. but what I’m waiting to see is how both Meerkat and Periscope craft their applications to steer usage.

Should be an interesting next 12 months.

Personal blogs

28 March 2015

Bijan Sabet, on his personal blog:

My favorite blogs are the simple ones. The ones that are honest, direct and authentic. The ones that allow for self expression and vulnerability.

There sure seems to be a lot of chatter about blogging lately. We are seeing the format, medium, style, definition, layout, and tools all change so quickly right in front of our eyes. The dust on this topic may not settle for many years but there is now a clear distinction between what blogging used to be and how the word is used today.

Good Old-Fashioned Marketing

26 March 2015

Joe Cieplinski, on his blog, writing about the press surrounding the launch of Fantastical 2 for Mac — which I recommend you grab a copy of:

It’s brilliant. And it obviously works. But only because it’s genuine. And only because he’s willing to put in that time. That incredible amount of time. Not coding. Not designing. (That’s all getting done, too.) But good old-fashioned marketing.

His remarks are about Michael Simmons’ hustle in getting press for his new product. I’ve been complimented similarly in the past. And I can back up Joe’s words here… launching a product is a lot of work that starts way before launch day.

Perhaps this is a good time to link up my post about how we launched Barley for WordPress. Give that a read again and also the tips I included on the bottom of the post.

Filters for iPhone by Mike Rundle

25 March 2015

I worked with Mike Rundle for a few years on 9rules and a few client projects. One of the best designers I ever worked with as he bridged the gap between design and engineering really, really well.

Today he released Filters, an app for iPhone that boasts 800+ photo filters for $0.99. The app is really well done and I really like it. Here is the first photo I edited with it.

Here is the same photo on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Flickr.

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