Colin Devroe on a kayak

Everything Colin

A collection of the things that I write, share, make and dream.

FrenchGirls hits 1M installs, raises $500k

Our friends at Appek, a company just a few miles south from Plain in Scranton, recently hit 1,000,000 installs for their selfie-drawing app FrenchGirls.

The concept is pretty simple; take a selfie, submit it, the community sketches something in return. What you get in return isn’t always a sketch of your selfie. Sometimes it is a message, sometimes it is a work of art. Either way, its pretty fun.

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Pinboard turns 5

Pinboard, the excellent bookmarking service, recently turned five. Here is Maciej Cegłowski on the Pinboard blog:

Now back to some beard-stroking: 
I see my role much like a small-town praire banker in the 1880‘s. My job is to project an aura of calm, solvency, and permanence in an industry where none of those adjectives applies. People are justifiably risk-averse when it comes to their bookmarks, and they are looking for stability.

What a great service Pinboard has been these last five years. I’m a paying customer and I recommend that you consider being one too.

Many have asked how I use Pinboard and Unmark. I see Pinboard as a place for me to store bookmarks not use bookmarks. Bookmarks that I’ve put into Pinboard are easier to find later on than they are to find in Unmark. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong or whatever but that’s how I use it. (More on how I use Unmark here)

Urllib3 and Stripe’s Open-Source Retreat

In April Stripe announced an Open-Source Retreat. A little over a month later they had chosen three grantees.

Though unannounced on the company blog, Andrey Petrov wrote about his experience working on Urllib3 at Stripe for two weeks over on Medium:

Last week completes my two week grant from Stripe to work on urllib3 full time, and I’d like to declare that these weeks were a huge success.

I recommend you read his entire post. What a great thing Stripe did. I hope we see more of it and I hope, in some small way, our company can take part in the future.

What Matt Krizan learned paddling the California coast

Matt Krizan paddled the California coast in a 36-day expedition. Dave Shivley wrote about what Krizan learned for Canoe & Kayak. Here is what happened on day two:

Four miles offshore, the zip-tie linking his left steering pedal to the rudder snaps. Krizan must act. He spots a channel through 8-foot faces breaking on what looks like beach, so he cautiously follows a wave in. Then he’s upside down. He rolls, but can’t reach shore before the next wave picks up his 18.5-foot Current Designs Nomad—60 pounds of reinforced fiberglass loaded with 140 pounds of gear, plus another 200 pounds draped over Krizan’s lean 6-foot-7 frame—and pitch-poles the full weight into the froth. Half an hour later, as the sun goes down, Krizan finally wrestles the flooded kayak to shore. He’s soaked and shivering, his hull is cracked, cockpit day-gear long gone, plus the deck compass and the maps on which he’d planned out his entire 840-mile transit of the California coast, the labor of eight months spent planning, cutting and laminating each chart with listed mileage and landings. Gone.

I’m still in my first season of kayaking but I plan to one day take on multiple day expeditions on lakes, rivers, and the ocean. I love these stories.

The future of blogging

I don’t know what the future of blogging is. I go back and forth between feeling that the glory days are long over to feeling that the best is yet to come.

Some think that today’s social web, while it has stifled blogging tremendously, will still end up providing some value to independent blogs in the future.

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Aperture shut

Jim Dalrymple, on The Loop:

Apple introduced a new Photos app during its Worldwide Developers Conference that will become the new platform for the company. As part of the transition, Apple told me today that they will no longer be developing its professional photography application, Aperture.

I have a hard time caring anymore. Photo storage, categorization, etc. are pretty much broken for today’s consumer. Yes, I can go out and buy a massive amount of storage and use something like Aperture/Lightroom to keep everything straight — but it is still tedious and expensive. My expectations are at an all-time low.

Out of the box Macintoshes do not come with near enough storage to back up even a slightly trigger happy cat owner’s iPhone photos. Regardless of the software.

Marco Arment:

Apple discontinuing a mediocre, neglected, poorly competing pro app to focus on a much better consumer app is a clear win for everyone.

I agree. Aperture was great but was quickly falling behind Lightroom. But a pro app isn’t something all of us need. We simply need to A) be able to store all of our photos and B) be able to find them again. Maybe new software will help with B but something has to change to help with A.

I hope Photos for iOS and Photos for OS X helps do exactly that. But I’m not holding my breathe. I think we’ll be in the age of deletion (wherein people have to delete much of what they photograph or record) for at least another five years.

Agency or Product?

Richard Banfield, on Medium, in a piece titled The Myth of the Design Studio Turned Product Company relates how he feels it got started by 37Signals:

I’ll just state, flat out, that not everyone is cut out for product work. Nor is everyone cut out for agency work. But, as my friend Jonathan Christopher points out in his reply — the two shouldn’t be posited against each other as one being better than the other. And, that you should really ask what your motivation for switching to product work really is.

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Wolfram and the World Cup

Speaking of Wolfram Alpha (I mentioned them yesterday). Wolfram Alpha was used to try to predict the outcome of the World Cup.

Again, Brazil is the favorite, but with a 32% chance to win now. After its impressive victory against Spain, the Netherlands’ odds jumped to 23.5%: it is now the second favorite. Germany (21.6%) and Argentina (8.6%) are following. There is thus, according to our model, an 86% chance that one of these four teams will be champion.

It has Brazil vs. Netherlands in the final with Brazil coming out on top. Looks like I have to disagree with Alpha on this. Go Netherlands!

Google I/O Keynote 2014

I do not think it is fair to compare Apple’s WWDC keynote with Google’s I/O keynote. It should be fair. But the two simply do not compare.

It should be fair because WWDC and I/O are both developer conferences. WWDC and I/O both begin by largely attended, well rehearsed, staged keynotes by top executives at each company. It should be fair because Apple and Google both have incredibly talented employees, great products, deep pockets and the incentive to do great presentations for both developers and the tech media.

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The myth of the cool office

This piece on The Wire is over a year old but this morning Unmark reminded me that I had read it last year around this time. I think it still rings very true today.

In general it speaks to how the perks of the modern-day tech company are really a waving-of-the-hands to entice people to work there — when in reality the perks don’t really add up to perks at all.

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Vox Media acquires Editorially

The team behind my favorite, yet now defunct, service for collaborating on the written word — Editorially — is joining Vox Media to work on Product.

From the outside this seems like an excellent fit for both teams. But, also important, it will work out for those of us that loved Editorially in two key ways. One: 

In addition to bringing the three of us into the fold, Vox Media is also acquiring the technology behind Editorially. We know many people have asked what we have planned for the Editorially codebase; happily, we can now report that we and the Vox Media team agree that the best thing for everyone is to share as much as we can. Together, we’re going to identify the most sensible way to release parts of the code via an open source license, so that others can learn from and build on our work.

And, happily, two:

Absolutely no user data — no names, email addresses, documents, or any other user data — will be transferred to Vox Media.

This is an important distinction. This rarely happens. However, since Vox Media is not a company that is looking to “buy users”, the Editorially team ends up being able to close this chapter of the story in a great way for customers.

All the best to Jason, Mandy, and David.

The great unbundling continues

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, recently did a small AMA on Product Hunt. He pointed out this article on Wired about Path breaking apart its mobile apps into other applications. Something I wrote about recently as well. Here is some interesting bits from the article.

It is hard to argue with this thinking. Just about every week “the masses” switch from one app to the next. Not just in social networking but also camera apps, messaging, etc. So if Path is repeatedly a source of new apps, rather than simply a single app, then perhaps they can be a choice.

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Have you ever wondered when would be a good time to go pee during a movie? Or, whether or not you should wait through the end credits? RunPee will tell you these things.

The design of the app leaves much to be desired but if it works it is an excellent idea for an application.

Frank Chimero AMA

Frank Chimero did a wonderful “Ask Me Anything” session on Designer News earlier this week. I loved this bit about the window of approval on your own work:

Writing and publishing a book is hard. Here‘s the tough part: you have a window of approval on your own work. For me, I typically only like the last 2000 words I‘ve written. This is hard if you‘re writing a 30,000 word book—you‘re constantly tempted to go back and “fix“ the previous mistakes to improve it. Doing the work makes you better, but also makes you dissatisfied with the work you‘ve already done. I suppose any big project is like that.

We all know what he says is true but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it described so well. On every project I’ve worked on for more than a month or two I see this same phenomena… the temptation to go back and fix things.

Writing a book must be incredibly challenging from this perspective.


Tom Taylor, the maker of Satellite Eyes (among other things), has been working on a way for people to receive print versions of the things they’d like to read online. It is called PaperLater.

He writes:

PaperLater lets you save the good bits of the web to print, so you can enjoy them away from the screen. If you’ve used something like Instapaper, Pocket or Readability before, it’s a bit like that, but in print.

Or Unmark, Tom, but who’s counting?

The Verge has a great piece on PaperLater today.

Each newspaper comes neatly formatted with an Andy Gilmore-esque front cover, complete with a note on the number of articles, word count, and a whimsical fact on the rarest words included.

I find this service intriguing. I can only think of two instances where I might want to use this service — 1) while I’m on vacation and, 2) if there was an article I’d want to frame like one about Barley or Unmark or our business in a publication.


In an effort to further confuse us as to which of their apps to use for what purpose… Facebook introduces Slingshot.

The app isn’t yet available but there is more detail on TechCrunch. The “reply to receive” is interesting and has been sort of present in other apps like Rando.

A small herb garden

A small herb garden

Eliza and I planted a few herbs this past weekend.

Great World Cup Goals by Richard Swarbrick

So cool.

You can see more great stuff from Swarbrick on his site.

/via Devour.

Tesla sort of opens up its patents

Tony Stark, I mean, Elon Musk on the Tesla company blog:

He also writes that “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

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