Colin Devroe

Blog Posts

An Einstein Cross

6 March 2015

Or, gravitational lensing. It is when a distant object in space has so much gravity that it bends light around it allowing for us to observe what is behind the object. Blackholes, quasars and galaxies being the primary sources of gravitational lensing.

Sometimes this effect helps us to see distant objects even clearer because it magnifies that which is behind it. Recently astronomers were able to see a supernova replay over and over as this light reached us from the same event many times over several years. Weird.

Here is a fairly good explanation:

The New York Times has more.

MacSparky on Word 2016

6 March 2015

Last night I quipped, on Twitter (I know, I know): 

Office for Mac 2016 Preview. AKA Toolbars McGee.

The screenshots of this Office for Mac 2016 preview that have been floating around are laughable. But David Sparks (MacSparky) brings me back to Earth:

I think complaining about the menus in office and the massive number of features is pointless. Office exists to satisfy IT checklists and every obscure feature has its group of advocates out there … somewhere. Put simply, Microsoft Word is going to be big and ponderous just like the scorpion will always sting the frog.

Office has never been for me. It does way too much. Even Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are generally overkill (though great applications). I actually enjoy using Google Drive applications like Sheets, Slides, and Docs.

Hashtag Angels

5 March 2015

Looks like a pretty stellar group of women coming out of Twitter to form an investment group called #Angels. Excellent reasoning too:

Technology is no longer an industry category. As has been well-chronicled, it has become a foundation to every business, ranging from healthcare to transportation to finance to education and beyond. Every company will be a technology company. And the lessons learned from building a company like Twitter are relevant to an increasingly wide range of products, businesses, and industries.

Every single client we have that “builds an app” as their business I tell the same thing; “You’re building a software company”. It doesn’t matter which industry the company works within. Perhaps I should change what I say to “You’re building a technology company”.

Haughey hangs it up at MetaFilter

4 March 2015

Matt Haughey, matthowie, had an incredible 16 year run with Metafilter. And, in true Mefi fashion… the post about his departure drips with just the right amount of MetaFilter-isms:

LobsterMitten is returning as a full-time moderator

All yours LobsterMitten.

Adding tens-of-thousands of photos to a Flickr Group can be tedious

4 March 2015

On Kyle’s suggestion I’m using a private Flickr Group for Eliza and I to share our entire photo collection with one another. (related) Pretty simple. This is all we need to do:

  • Upload every photo we’ve ever taken with the Mac uploadr
  • Use the Flickr mobile app to automatically add any new photos to Flickr
  • Move all private photos to the private group

It turns out, that last one is a bit tedious out of the box. The Organize tool that Flickr has is nice… but it doesn’t want you to close it while it does its work. So moving “just” 7,500 images into the private group appears that it will take around 15 minutes. I have around 75,000 images to move. Oy.

Perhaps there is a better way? @cdevroe me.

Going all-in on Flickr

4 March 2015

Full of Hot Air

It is settled. I’m going with Flickr. (related)

Why? Flickr has been around for a decade. It is owned by a public company that hasn’t shown signs it wants to kill Flickr (on the contrary they’ve given people more space than ever). And, I believe Flickr may just be too big to fail at this point.

So, as I speak, thousands of photographs are being uploaded to Flickr. Let’s see how this goes.

Photo: A pre-Instragram photo of a hot air balloon. Remember when images weren’t just square?

Don’t Follow Your Heroes

4 March 2015

Justin Jackson:

As creators, there’s a temptation to seek out our heroes and ask them how they achieved their success. We think if we follow their instructions, we’ll be able to reproduce their winning magic. But it doesn’t work that way.

Tips, tricks, advice… these should all be used to help you mold your own thoughts, opinions, processes, and workflows. But blindly copying them is never a good idea.

The Web’s Grain

4 March 2015

Another instant classic from Frank Chimero where in he describes the essence of designing for the web:

an edgeless surface of unknown proportions comprised of small, individual, and variable elements from multiple vantages assembled into a readable whole that documents a moment

Fascinating read and I’m sure it was even better as a presentation in person. I can give it no higher praise than to say that I wish I had written it.

March Experiment

3 March 2015

Matt Cutts does 30 day challenges. He’s famous for it. And I’ve done small things before like #travelfeet, 30 days of blogging, and other things.

Similar to things I’ve tried to do in the past, for the rest of March — not quite 30 days left in it but who cares — I’ll be posting only to my blog.

If I want to share a photo, video, tweet-sized-quip, or anything else I have to share it here. I’m allowed to link to it from elsewhere but not allowed to add any context on any other platform. Just a link.

It should be fun.

Update: @replies too. ;-)

Update March 4: I’m going back on my word about no context. I just remembered how much I hate vague tweets that seem like linkbait. So I will add a bit of context to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. when I decide to share there.


3 March 2015

New music podcast from Jon Hicks. The first episode is ready for your earlobes:

This first edition of Troika is about ambient music. Not the bleepy,beaty, dancy kind, but the more soothing ‘neo-classical’ or drone style of Ambient. Music for watching the stars (amongst other things).

Music for watching the stars. Or, perhaps reading a few Space Bits.

/via Jeremy Keith.

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.

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