Colin Devroe

Blog Posts

Thursday Scrapple 5

26 February 2015

Scrapple 1, Scrapple 2, Scrapple 3, Scrapple 4.

  • Write Space Bits isn’t easy but incredibly rewarding for me personally. I’d love to write more.
  • This has been an incredibly cold February. With March right around the corner I know the cold weather is about to break and I’m sort of thinking that Spring is going to happen far too quickly. I wish time slowed down and sped up at will.
  • We’re simplifying so many things at Plain and I’m really starting to enjoy what we’re doing.
  • Things are in a constant state of flux. People, work, life. It is best to have a long term vision and, even if every piece changes before a goal is met, at least you kept the goal.
  • Something I will not miss when winter is over — dirty floors, cars, shoes.
  • I didn’t see many of the movies, performances, or work that were up for Oscars this year but I did see Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and I’m glad he was recognized for the role.

Designal Tap - A design critique meetup in Scranton, PA

24 February 2015

My boy Kyle Ruane, who cofounded Plain and Coalwork with me, is putting together his own reoccurring design critique meetup for people in and near Scranton, PA.

Designal Tap is an informal meetup of local designers, sharing what we‘re working on. A lot of people in the area work on small teams or by themselves, which can be both lonely and challenging. Sometimes it‘s nice to have a second set of eyeballs look over a layout or a few people to bounce a branding concept off of. The goal here is to fill that void, to get feedback, offer opinions, share advice and ultimately become better designers.

If you’re a designer or a developer that would like to learn more about design principles I recommend seeking this out.

The what is more interesting than the how

23 February 2015

Recently I read Charlotte Spencer’s blog post about being a new developer. The entire post is worth a read but this bit jumped out at me:

As a new developer, I don’t care what you are programming in, I just want to know what you’re building. A programming language is just a programming language to me. You’ve got your JavaScripts and your Rubies and Pythons and they all do cool things. I don’t care about semicolons, or tabs over spaces, or why you think npm is the best package manager of all time 2K14. I see these arguments all the time and am perplexed by them.

I am not a new developer and I still don’t care what you’re programming in. I’ve lived through so many changes on the web. I survived the move from tables to CSS. From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to whatever the heck we have now. I’ve had to listen to so many pub discussions about “Rails doesn’t scale” when, indeed, Twitter and other large platforms were crashing hourly. And these days I see a new way to “build” HTML, CSS, and JS pop up ever single day.

I don’t care. I do like that I have options for doing my work. Different tools and methods and frameworks to help me accomplish my goals quicker. That’s just fine. However, the ferocity of some of the discussions about how one language or framework or process is better than another seems counterproductive. I almost never take part.

I don’t care if your app is written in Obj-C or Swift, PHP or Ruby, Node or Angular. I take little notice in the latest framework-name-here-dot-jay-ess that is currently at the top of the list on Hacker News. What I do care about is what you’re making! What is it? How will it help me or anyone else? Why does it exist?

I believe the what is more interesting than the how.

The Eye of Sauron is in the Fomalhaut system

19 February 2015

I wrote a Spacebit about the Fomalhaut system:

Imagine a bulbous ball of ice, rock, and metal that stretches at least 6 miles across moving at 85,000 miles an hour smashing into another bulbous ball of ice, rock and metal traveling at similar speeds. It would create an explosion that, if it were to happen in our atmosphere, would do some serious damage to our planet. Now, imagine this happening 2,000 times a day every day for millennia.

I had a lot of fun researching this piece.

Bill Gates on The Verge

18 February 2015

The Verge:

For the month of February, Bill Gates will be guest-editing The Verge. Over the course of four weeks, Gates will be guiding us as we explore how technology will transform the lives of those in the developing world through advancements in banking, healthcare, farming, and education technology.

Bill Gates and his work the last decade or so has been far more fascinating to me than his work while at Microsoft.

Wednesday Scrapple 4

18 February 2015

Scrapple 3.

A shorter scrapple post today. Not sure why but perhaps I’m too busy to be thinking of little nuggets of scrapple lately.

  • I find myself using the default Twitter clients. Partly because they’ve put a chokehold on what developers are able to do with their APIs. You win Twitter. For now.
  • Things work more often than they don’t. Which is why when things do not work it seems to hurt so much more. If they rarely worked we’d expect it. So we should stop complaining so much because generally things work just fine.
  • When I was younger the adults made fun of us kids for “chatting online”. Little did they know they’d all be doing it 20 years later. These days it is called iMessage, Facebook, Instagram. There is very little difference. But now it is mainstream.
  • I refreshed my site slightly by eliminating some elements from the Juniper theme for Barley CMS. I like it.

A case for modernizing blogs

17 February 2015

Marco Arment:

If we want it to get better, we need to start pushing back against the trend, modernizing blogs, and building what we want to come next.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I agree with him. And I also don’t pretend to know the answers. Here is what I wrote about the blog format being ready to be “disrupted” back in the spring of 2011:

I believe the blog format is ready for disruption. Perhaps there doesn‘t need to be “the next“ WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger for this to happen. Maybe all we really need is a few pioneers to spearhead an effort to change the way blogs are laid-out on the screen. There are still so many problems to solve; how new readers and also long-time subscribers consume the stream of posts, how people identify with the content of the blog on the home page, how to see what the blog is all about, how to make money, how to share, and how interact and provide feedback on the content.

This is far from the first time this topic has come up in the blogosphere. In 2013 a discussion sprang up about the blog being dead. At that time, I wrote:

A set of protocols or standards will need to come along to help connect all publishing platforms together. The incredibly useful features we find inside of networks like Twitter will need to find their way out onto the world wide web. This means bringing actions like following or subscribing, mentioning, citing, link previewing, etc. to the independent web and have them be completely separate from any single service.

I then pointed towards IndieWebCamp. Since that time the IndieWeb movement has made a considerable number of strides towards making these connective innovations a reality.

What Marco means by “modernizing blogs” I do not know. I hope he expounds on this idea a bit because his blog has been a bit of a trumpet lately for getting things moving. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if some innovation in the blogging space happened again.

One last note; I consider Barley an “innovation” in the way people write content for any type of site — blog or otherwise. Inline editing is beginning to show up just about everywhere now. However, it isn’t what the web needs to make blogs “live” again. No publishing platform is. It is more about how blogs are consumed, interacted with, subscribed to (for the lack of a better term) and shared, and less about how they are built or how content gets onto them. The blog needs to be rethought as if someone were to build it anew here in 2015.

More on Flipboard for the Web

16 February 2015

Last week I warned that we’d be hearing more about how Flipboard pulled off their new web app and how some would agree and disagree with how they went about it.

Well, my boy Faruk Ateş weighed in

Flipboard is a product focused heavily around text-based content, which is why it’s so deeply regretting that Accessibility was thrown completely out the window by the engineering team.

As has John “my site isn’t even responsive” Gruber:

You may disagree that 60 FPS animation and scrolling is important. That’s a perfectly valid opinion — but it’s an opinion that is falling into antiquity. iOS raised the bar. We expect not just smooth scrolling and animation, but perfect animation and scrolling.

This won’t be the last link from my site to discussions about this. I’m really hoping that by discussing it on the web at large there is a middle-ground that can be reached. A middle-ground where a “web app” produced for desktop and mobile browsers can actually be, at least from a speed, animation, and scrolling perspective, a first class citizen on a phone. We need to get there. The web absolutely needs to run better on phones and tablets than it does now. We shouldn’t always have to default to building an application for these platforms.

This whole thing with Flipboard will shake out one way or another but my biggest gripe with the Flipboard team was the terrible video promoting it.

See also a recent discussion I was part of on Twitter with a few fine folks.

Side note: I only make fun of John because I like him. Also, this.

Enrique Dans on RSS

13 February 2015

Enrique Dans, in a bit on Medium about Feedly, on RSS:

I simply cannot understand why RSS readers are not used by everybody. I think that any user, from the professional to the casual, can benefit from having a series of information sources, pages, and alerts set up in an orderly manner in a feeds reader. Each time I explain the concept to a class, my students seem very interested, but I then notice that they very few of them bother to adopt the habit.

I’m with you Enrique. Every single person should take advantage of RSS. And many do without knowing it. Flipboard, Facebook Paper, and so much more use RSS under-the-hood and people have no idea.

I use, and pay for, Feedly. It isn’t the best reader I’ve ever used however it is getting better all the time. And the premium features are worth paying for.

A Manager’s Manifesto

12 February 2015

Julie Zhou, on Medium, lists out her manager’s manifesto:

5) Figure out which people rely on you and how you can help them be self-sufficient. You may feel important having a monopoly on salmon provisions, but if the whole village learns how to fish, it‘ll free you up to do something else. Like figuring out how to grow wheat. Or how to domesticate those cute wolf-pups.

Great list.

Building Flipboard for the web

12 February 2015

Michael Johnston for the Flipboard Engineering blog:

Most modern mobile devices have hardware-accelerated canvas, so why couldn’t we take advantage of this? HTML5 games certainly do. But could we really develop an application user interface in canvas?

Expect to read a lot about this over the next several months as the pros and cons are hashed out all over the place.

Photos for OS X questions

12 February 2015

Jason Snell is on a roll this week blogging about Photos for OS X.

This latest post answers people’s questions. I recommend looking through them if you’re interested in how this is going to play out.

Gary Vaynerchuk on Hashtags

11 February 2015

My friend Gary Vaynerchuk, on Medium:

I’m just going to come out and say it: hashtags are not ownable. Period.

He’s right. Anyone at any time can post anything they’d like to your hashtag. So, simply be mindful of that if you try to use hashtags as part of your marketing campaigns.

Casabona Scrapple

11 February 2015

This scrapple thing is catching on. Fellow Coalworker Joe Casabona just published his first edition of scrapple. I liked his last bit:

I’ve been using Unmark for bookmarks lately. You should give it a try. I really dig it.

Thanks for that Joe.

I hope to see more bloggers pick up the scrapple baton. It is a remarkably good way to turn tweets into a blog post or to turn some of your thoughts that would never become a post on their own into something useful for others.

Remember, it all started with Andy Palumbo.

The names of Apple products

11 February 2015

So, Apple may be looking into building a car. With approaching 200 billion in cash, and yesterday CEO Tim Cook saying that their biggest asset is innovation, and that they plan to continue to invest very heavily into R&D, I would say you can bet that Apple is “looking into” a wide variety of possibilities.

Some may think that Apple will never build a car or a TV or a this or a that. Never say never about anything. To build Apple’s foremost products; iPhone, iPad, Macintoshes, and now their “spaceship” campus — they need to be able to manufacturer some pretty amazing and off-the-wall things on their own already. And they do amazingly well at it.

Apple makes their own CPUs, displays, batteries. With a partner they are building an enormous solar power plant. They’ve built huge data centers and are building a new data-center from their now defunct sapphire plant. Sapphire plant!

So, never say never. Let’s say they do build a car. What would they call it? What should they call it? What should they call any new thing they make? It seems to me that Apple should consider a much more simple naming convention for their products. They’ve always been better at naming things than their competitors, but I think they could do better still. They are arguably the most well-known brand and the richest company in the world. They can afford to use simple names.

They are already thinking this way, presumably, with Apple Watch.

Also, as an example, a new iTunes that is forthcoming which combines their recently acquired Beats services into the mix; why not simply call it Apple Music? A lot of people dislike iTunes these days. May be a good opportunity to have a clean slate.

Imagine the following names for current and future Apple products, software, and services:

  • Apple Phone
  • Apple Phone Pro
  • Apple Phone Mini
  • Apple Pad
  • Apple Pad Pro
  • Apple Pad Mini
  • Apple Desktop
  • Apple Desktop Pro
  • Apple Desktop Mini
  • Apple Laptop
  • Apple Laptop Pro
  • Apple Laptop Mini
  • Apple Watch
  • Apple TV
  • Apple Car
  • Apple Music
  • Apple Browser
  • Apple Stores
  • Apple Care
  • Apple Campus
  • Apple Cloud
  • Apple Work
  • Apple App Store

The iPhone and iPad brands are enormous. Making this change would not be a fly-by-night decision and would likely cause a tornado of issues for Apple but I really do think they could pull it off. And I’d love to see them do it.

Snell on Photos for OS X Beta

10 February 2015

Snell, of Six Colors, writing for TidBITS on the feature in Photos for OS X Beta that allows you to store your original photos and videos in iCloud and only keeping smaller versions locally on your Macintosh to save space:

It remains to be seen exactly how Photos determines whether you have enough space, and whether it’s just caching photos or if it truly makes a judgment about how much free space you have before deciding to hold onto your files. As someone with approximately 700 GB of family photos and a bunch of Macs with small flash-storage drives, I’m excited by the possibility that I can have access to my entire photo library on all of my Macs and iOS devices, even though they don’t have enough space to hold the entire library.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a paragraph like this over the last 13 years of using a Mac as my primary means of managing my photo library. And every time I get the feeling it could be true only to be disappointed for some reason. Either the apps are bad, or slow, or the Internet connection simply hasn’t been there yet.

This time it feels different, though. The “cloud” has finally matured to a point where it isn’t just a pipe dream that we can store a bunch of files on a bunch of servers out on the web and have all of our devices read from those libraries of data. Many cloud-based services have solved so many issues over the years that we now all take for granted how much of our data truly is in the cloud. All while our devices have slowly become smaller, thinner, lighter, and have become simple “Internet terminals”.

I’m looking forward to giving OS X Photos a shot this spring.

Uber hits Scranton

6 February 2015

Uber, today:

Good news! Uber is launching in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area at 5:00pm today!

For an area that seems to be the last to get anything new this is a welcome change. And the company founder’s antics aside, this will end up being a good thing for the area.

Wednesday Scrapple 3

4 February 2015

The last two scrapples were on Tuesday; you can find them here and here.

  • I’m finally getting the hang of Evernote. The key, for me at least, is managing multiple notebooks. It’d be nice if I could password protect a notebook. A way to have a notebook be a bit extra secure.
  • Holding the original iPhone in my hand makes me realize that I’d prefer a much smaller phone than the iPhone 6 I have.
  • Mexico didn’t feel nearly as dangerous or scammy as I was told by so many before we left. In fact, it was pleasantly safe, clean, and the people were nice.
  • Being cut off from communication for an entire week really helps you gauge the importance of each type of communication you employ.
  • I need to learn more Spanish. Mucho más.
  • We’ve reached the point where there are more “to do” applications than there are people on the planet.
  • I think Facebook Paper needs to be marketed by Facebook more.
  • The “blizzard” in NYC had us worried that we wouldn’t get back into the US when we had scheduled to. But, I think what ended up happening underscores that the best handle meteorologists have on the weather is only a few hours before it actually happens. They have an incredibly tough job and are only as good as the software/services they can afford that crunches the numbers for them.
  • Origins for things are important. Too many people simply do not care of what they say — even if the origins of what they are saying they would likely not agree with or want to promote. A few really small examples; deuce (see second definition), the word panic, Christmas. 

Designing Twitter Video

4 February 2015

My boy Stammy wrote a really nice, in-depth blog post on how he and his team at Twitter designed the new Twitter Video feature. Absolutely a must-read:

It irks me when designers talk about making specs and handing them over to engineering. The process of “making specs“ implies that there is no conversation with your engineering counterparts when developing. While I have a technical background, I‘m nowhere near the caliber of the engineers at Twitter, so I use this as an opportunity work closely with them to learn more about our iOS and Android codebases, how things are built and determine what‘s feasible.

The smaller the gap between design and the final product the more likely you are to having a product would exactly as you intended it to.

Unfollowing everyone

3 February 2015

Helena Price on Medium:

What if we made more active decisions about how we spent our Internet time? If we weren’t bogged down maintaining our inboxes and social networks, who would we set out to meet or get to know better? If we weren’t so busy clicking links or browsing photos in our feeds, what would we choose to study or learn more about? If we spent these hours differently, what would happen?

As many of you reading this likely know, I do this all the time. Probably once every two or three months. I delete everything on Twitter and Feedly and start new. It has led me to finding more and more great people, places, and things than just about anything else I’ve done online. I highly recommend it.

/via Shawn Blanc.

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