Colin Devroe from above

Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Co-founder of Plain.
JW. Kayaker. Photog.

Twitter, Instagram, Email, Github

Blog posts

IFTTT tries to strong arm Pinboard

29 March 2016

Maciej Cegłowski on Pinboard’s blog:

It's entirely IFTTT's decision to drop support for Pinboard (along with a bunch of other sites). They are the ones who are going to flip the switch on working code on April 4, and they could just as easily flip the switch back on (or even write an IFTTT recipe that does it for them). Weigh their claims about Pinboard being a beloved service accordingly.

Platforms mature and will, inevitably, have more requirements as they get more features. Apple News, as an example, demands that content be provided in a specific format — much akin to RSS — so that publications will be shown in the best light in the app. If Apple News had, say, 15 users, I’m sure Apple News would be doing all the work to get content from Time Magazine, The New York Times, etc. into the app. However, that isn’t the case. It is up to the publisher to provide all of the content in a digestible format.

Facebook Instant Articles are similar. A homegrown HTML/XML/JSON spec to help publishers have their content provided instantly to Facebook users. Facebook doesn’t write your code for you. You do.

The IFTTT platform is not only maturing but so is their business and that means more rules around what it is they own, don’t own, want to be liable for, do not want to be liable for, etc. Have you ever wondered why the Terms of Service of your favorite apps are updated every year or more? It is because as they raise more capital, get more lawyers, and move into broader markets, they have to protect themselves.

So both the IFTTT platform requirements and the business terms maturing is a totally normal thing. This sort of thing happens all the time. It is just unfortunate how IFTTT has chosen to use language that looks a lot like strong arming. I think they picked the wrong guy to strong arm.

A photo adventure in Callicoon, NY

28 March 2016

Two friends (Matt, Ben) and I have been trying to plan an afternoon just to go out, explore, and shoot photos. Finally we were able to on Saturday afternoon.

Ben Wagner, Matt Robison, Colin Devroe at Callicoon Brewing Company

Left: Ben, me, Matt at Callicoon Brewing Company.

We chose Callicoon on a whim but I’m glad we did. The weather was perfect to get out and walk around the small town and along the Delaware river. We managed to get shots of a few of the local buildings and shops, do some random SnapChatting, and see a few bridges.

Getting a shot of the Job Corp. ended up causing a bit of a kerfuffle. We sort of knew we shouldn’t have been on the property but we didn’t think that within 30-seconds of stepping foot onto it that we’d be getting our IDs checked and escorted off the premises. Overall the security personnel was nice enough to know we were just out to get a shot of their incredible building.

Oh, I also attempted to get to a rock in the middle of the Delaware but was quickly up to my neck and chickened out. The Delaware is a bit nippy in March.

Overall I’m really happy with the outing and glad with a few of the shots I managed to capture. I’ll be sharing them as I have a chance to process them.

We’ll be getting together again in a month for another adventure.

The outdoor reward

23 March 2016

Sarah Pressler, our Project Manager at Plain, wrote the latest Links From Last Week post (a series we publish on the Plain blog) and shared a bunch of stuff Kyle and I have been doing elsewhere on the web. I liked this bit:

After long days of solving problems and writing the code that goes with those solutions, Colin heads outdoors. And, honestly, sometimes in the middle of the day he will take off and go for a paddle.

That is precisely what I end up doing. Yesterday, in fact, I tackled an Ops issue that was a lot of brain work (for me, since I had never done it) and when I was successful I instantly signed off and went for a walk with Eliza.

Getting outside in the sun is how I reward myself.

Becoming cameras

22 March 2016

Matt Hackett, CTO/Co-founder of Beme, on Ev’s blog*:

We are approaching a world in which visual and auditory presence at a distance—seeing as another, instantly—is not a rare luxury good, but a basic assumption of society and industry. The superpower of unbounded remote vision is becoming mundane.

Periscope, Beme, YouTube, SnapChat. These services were not on my phone 1 year ago. Now I use them every single day. We live in a world where we can be, see, and hear anywhere we want in the world at any time. As Matt put it, we are becoming cameras. Click through to read the entire piece.

*totally stolen from Jeremy Keith.

Auto-link hashtags with jQuery and JavaScript

22 March 2016

We had a need for a bit of JavaScript that would look for hashtags (like #this) in content and auto-link them to search results.

So I popped over to CodePen and scrawled out some messy jQuery to make that happen.

This morning I woke up and thought… “it has been a little while since I wrote JavaScript without the need for a library of cruft like jQuery, I wonder what this same incredibly simple task would look like without it?” So I scrawled out some messy JavaScript for it on CodePen too.

I think jQuery is a great library but I do believe that I’ve come to rely on it too much. Perhaps I’ll write more pure JavaScript for simple things to see if I get a little more mileage out of them. And to keep my JavaScript muscles firing.

Subscribing to my audio bits

22 March 2016

Tickle your earlobes by subscribing to my audio bits via Huffduffer. Here are some links to do so:

Personally, I adore Huffduffer so I’d totally understand if you’d prefer to cherry-pick specific “episodes” to listen to. For that there is a “huffduff it” link on each post.

Riversport Rapids

18 March 2016

Wow, this place looks incredible. Eugene Buchanan at Canoe & Kayak:

Riversport Rapids, Oklahoma City’s new $45.2 million whitewater rafting and kayaking center, is holding its grand opening celebration May 7-8 after nearly 10 years of planning and building. Included in the amenities: the world’s highest-volume, fully adjustable pumped freestyle feature, at 1,200 to 1,400 cfs.

$45,000,000 complex, $4 website?

Riversport Rapids! Please! Call us!

Open source retreats

18 March 2016

Krithika Muthukumar on the Stripe blog:

This January, we invited three developers to come work on open-source projects full-time at Stripe. We specifically chose projects for this Open-Source Retreat that we felt would have deep impact in a variety of different areas.

Stripe has done this for several years. I’m very jealous of it. If our company was thriving it is something I’d love for Plain to be able to facilitate.

It forces me reconsider whether or not we need to be thriving in order to have a yearly impact on this. Perhaps we may not be able to pay multiple developers thousands-of-dollars and their travel expenses, etc. But, perhaps we can make our own contributions to the source code and smaller donations. Or, provide a free Barley web site.

One thing we’ve always done is double donations. We make a donation to any open source plugins or frameworks that we use in a client project and ask our clients to make one as well. I wish I kept track of the monies we’ve paid out. It isn’t very high, but it is something.

An algorithmic Instagram

16 March 2016

Instagram is jumping on the algorithmic feed bandwagon. But, they say they have a reason:

You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

I believe them. Anecdotally I think that number is about right. I miss tons of photos on Instagram because I only check it once or twice a day at most. I’ve also found the reverse chronological order of the photos and videos in my Instagram feed to be slightly unreliable.

I’ll give you an example; if someone is in a different timezone, and they post a photo to Instagram, it may very well be placed above or below a photo I’ve already seen. Because of this, using a single photo as a visual marker to remember what you’ve already seen isn’t a reliable way to ensure you’ll see all photos posted by those you follow.

The problem stated by Instagram could be tackled in a variety of ways. Accounts could be marked as important or as family. Google+, Twitter, and Facebook all have features that allow you to add accounts to “Lists” (Google called them Circles). So if I am a junky, and follow hundreds of accounts, I can put them in buckets like “Entertainment” or “Friends” or “People I’ve seen Speak at Conferences”. I used to employ a lot Twitter Lists. But I’ve since slimmed way down.

Instagram could have gone in this direction. And I think I would have been happy with that. At present, I’d love to have feeds for family, friends, kayakers, and local.

Gruber says “I trust Instagram to get this right”. And so far Instagram has taken a very thoughtful approach to every feature their product has. So if anyone will tread lightly here it’ll be them.

Around the Isle of Corsica

15 March 2016

Great video of three women kayakers circumnavigating Corsica:

Unknown by most sea kayakers, the French island of Corsica is a stunning gem of caves, sea stacks, beaches and cliffs set in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Last year, filmmaker Erin Bastian recruited her friends, Georgian Maxwell and Beck Hancock, to circumnavigate the island’s 400-mile perimeter.

Erin Bastian has made a bunch of interesting adventure videos.

I have yet to do any multi-day kayaking adventures. I hope to change that sometime soon.

A fun first week at “home”

14 March 2016

It has been a fun week. Kyle and I started working from our home offices and I’ve made dozens of tweaks to my personal site and my IFTTT recipes for cross-posting so that I can share from my site first.

I’m pretty happy with where this is going. Let’s start with a few questions and answers, followed by some observations, and then finish up with what I’d like to do next.

  • Do I reply on Twitter? This is a question I asked both Manton and Jeremy. I’m going to do what Manton does for now and reply to tweets on Twitter.
  • Will I bring replies onto my site? I don’t know yet. They’d likely need to be a wholly different thing, like comments, and I’m not sure I want that.
  • Same for Facebook? Yes.
  • Will I share my photos to Instagram? For now I’m posting photos on my site separately from Instagram. No cross-posting. There is and will always be overlap. But I hope after many months that my site will have a much stronger representation of my photography than Instagram has. And, in fact, I hope it influences my photography. Instagram certainly has. I want to start thinking “How would this look on my site?” rather than “How would this look on Instagram?”

A few random observations:

  • My view of Twitter this past week has been more like a feed reader than a social network. I like it. I get caught up on the last few hundred posts at a time.
  • I’m really enjoying that everything I make can now be searched in one spot. Rather than all over the place. Also, Twitter’s search is abysmal so it is effectively useless. Eventually, having years worth of status updates will be fun to search through.
  • Since I’ve begun working from home this past week too it all makes sense that I’m posting on my own site. It feels like a homecoming or something.

A few things I’d like to do next:

  • Finish Barley 2.0 - Barley 1.0 isn’t great on mobile making status updates on-the-go a bit rough. It works. But far from “good”. I could build something custom but I’d prefer to finish Barley 2.0. It is one of the reasons I’m doing this homesteading. It will leverage WordPress as the application framework and so we’ll get a lot of things we don’t have as a result.
  • I plan to leave IFTTT behind for something a bit more custom. Example: People get confused by the trailing URL on my status updates. They click expecting to see something more when there is nothing more. I’d prefer the URL not there on statuses that are shorter than 140 characters but IFTTT doesn’t offer options like that. Once Barley 2.0 is finished I can tweak cross-posting rules.
  • The layout and design of my site leaves a lot to be desired. But I don’t want to focus on that until I have all the bits in place. Content comes first. So once I feel fairly settled on what the content should be, look like, and how it should be found I can begin to think about design.
  • Eventually I’d like to have a “pick-and-choose” interface for cross-posting. Some blog posts might work pretty well on LinkedIn, others on Medium, and others via Facebook and Twitter as links. Etc. I think it’d be cool to have a default setting but be able to customize that with every single post.

Week one was fun. Week two should be less tweaks and more use.

Evernote’s days are numbered

11 March 2016

Remember a few months ago when I wrote, several times, that many Evernote loyalists were leaving it behind for something else? I believe we’re about to see a watershed moment for Evernote.

Back then I wrote that Simplenote should have an import tool and they’d be able to clean up. So far we haven’t seen that. However, Apple has created an import tool in the next version of Notes. And now Microsoft released an app for OneNote that imports from Evernote.

It won’t be long now. Who will acquire Evernote?

Photo stats and observations

11 March 2016

As I’ve been moving my photos from Picturelife into Photos for OS X over the passed two weeks I’ve run across some interesting observations so I thought I’d jot them down.

Here are some statistics in no particular order:

  • We take a lot of photos in October, August, and June. This is because we generally vacation during those months.
  • You’ll notice October 2011 was a boon for our photo library — this was the month we went to Ireland.
  • Our monthly average of photos has crept slowly up and to the right as the cameras in our phones have improved. We’ve gone from 228 photos per month (ppm) in 2007 to 826ppm in 2015.
  • Two years out of these 10 we spiked passed 10,000 photos for the year. I feel like we’ll break 10,000 photos each year from here on out.
  • In June 2007, when the iPhone debuted, the number of photos we took per month multiplied by 4 (and we got our iPhones on the 29th of the month).
  • The size of our library on Picturelife was 185GB. In Photos it weighs in at nearly 230GB. I’m assuming this has something to do with the thumbnails that Photos creates.
  • In 2007 an average month’s worth of photos weighed around 35MB. In 2015, 3.5GB (including videos).

And now some observations about Photos for OS X (keep in mind, I’m running Photos off of an USB3 external HD):

  • The app started slowing down when I hit 30,000 photos or so. But it never got too much slower in use. Just in start up time.
  • From a cold start the app takes 25 full seconds to launch. But once open it is fairly usable.
  • I feel like the only way for me to get any performance back my next computer will need to have at least 1TB internal SSD.
  • After using Photos for OS X and realizing you can maintain multiple libraries with it… it would likely make a great application for designers to store design resources in a separate file.
  • The app handles video far, far better than iPhoto ever did.
  • The Photos for OS X Keyword Manager is like a relic from a bygone era. But pretty useful.
  • Oddly the app can’t search GoPro photos or videos by date from the main search field. If I search “October 2015” I’ll see all photos/videos except the ones shot by GoPro. However, if I create a Smart Album by the same date range they all appear. This is super frustrating and I haven’t found a fix yet.
  • I’d like a feature that would help me find possible duplicates based on filename, date taken, and the contents of the file. Photos does a great job preventing duplicates but I was able to find a few using my 2010 technique.
  • I’d also like a way to search the entire library for blurry photos.
  • My solution for finding all photos created by Instagram was a Smart Album that searched both the Text and Description for the word Instagram. It found 2,600+ photos. It seems pretty close. Apple seems to be cheating by providing a “Panoramas” Smart Album based on aspect ratio and yet does not offer that as an option to us users. If I had that I’d likely be able to make it even more accurate.
  • I’m still trying to find a way to create a Panoselfie Smart Album. But so far I’ve been unsuccessful. It should be easy, two rules; 1. Is panorama. 2. Face contains Colin Devroe.
  • Photos has something called a “System Photo Library (SPL)” and that is kept on my local computer. I could make the one on my external HD the SPL but it is used by applications like Pages, Keynote, etc. and I do not always have this external drive with me. It contains things like My Photostream and a few thousand other photos. I don’t know what to do with it. I cannot import from it to the other library without losing all EXIF. This is mind boggling. Even Picturelife retained the EXIF information. Why wouldn’t one Photos for OS X library be able to be imported into another?
  • The “Selfies” Smart Album provided aren’t photos of you but are rather photos people took with the front-facing camera and have a face in them. To create a true “selfies” smart album you’ll need a ton of rules; 1. Face contains Your Name. 2. Lens equals ANY of the front-facing camera models you’ve ever had. That will get you close. But it is far from perfect because you’ve likely taken selfies with the back camera too or with GoPro or point-and-shoots.

I’m just getting started with Photos. I plan on really digging in and making the best of this large library that I have. I haven’t even scratched the surface of photo editing since all of my editing over the last few years has been on my iPad or iPhone.

Scoble goes virtual

10 March 2016

Big news for Robert Scoble:

Today I’m announcing that I’m leaving Rackspace to join Upload VR — a new media site covering virtual and augmented reality — as its entrepreneur in residence, where I’ll be developing new shows, events, and working with other entrepreneurs in the Upload Collective, a coworking space for virtual reality-focused startups.

Ignore the no

10 March 2016

Mike Vial:

Better to be the musician who gets a no today, than the one who never asks and is always wondering; and even better to be the musician to takes a no and creatively makes it a yes on their own terms.

This fits just about anyone. Never take no for an answer. I love his suggestion to try the same thing again the next year with evidence that your idea worked out the previous one.

Manton’s photos

8 March 2016

Manton Reece is posting photos to his site now too. Regarding not doing so prior:

I need to change that. I do like the Instagram app, though, so I’m going to keep using it. I’ll just copy the photos over to my site as well, and I’ll use Workflow on iOS to help automate it.

I too like Instagram.

I have not automated the posting of Instagram photos to my blog. And I don’t know if I ever will. I’m hoping my photos section becomes a more curated selection of photos than even what I post to Instagram. But I am going to figure it out as I go along.

However, I am cross-posting the photos to Twitter and Facebook using IFTTT and so far it is working fine.

A few wishes for Photos for OS X

8 March 2016

I’ve just crested 40,000 photos in my Photos for OS X library with about 20,000 more to import from Picturelife. After using the app for a few days I have a few things I’d love to see in future updates.

  • Speed - My 60-some-odd-thousand photos is far from abnormal. I would think that Photos for OS X should be built to handle hundreds-of-thousands of photographs. Speed is a big deal.
  • External storage of originals only - I’d like to have my library’s thumbnails and metadata on my local storage and keep the originals on an external drive. This would make Photos significantly faster and allow me to edit metadata even when away from my desk.
  • Better Smart Album options - Smart Albums are nice but there aren’t a lot of options to create them with. I’d like to see aspect ratio, exact pixels, color, and several other options added.
  • Object detection - I have no idea what these should be called but Google Photos can detect things in photos and make albums automatically. Google Photos finds cats, cars, lakes, the sky, people, etc. I hope Photos for OS X gets something similar.
  • Better automatic face detection - Photos is very good at detecting faces but I have to manually confirm thousands of positives. I feel like I’m just smashing my mouse button. It would be nice if Photos was a little more liberal with its auto-face-tagging.
  • See photos on a map - Nearly every photo in my library is geotagged. Searching for photos becomes a bit easier sometimes when I can start narrowing the results by location. And sometimes I don’t have the exact name of a place to type in.

So far I’m happy that I’m moving to Photos. I haven’t had my photo library local on my computer in at least two years and I’m almost there. I’m worried mostly about the performance of Photos. Everything else on this list would simply be nice to have.

Fits and starts and homesteading

6 March 2016

I annoy myself. I want to post content to my own personal site and not through closed social networks — because I want to keep control of everything I create forever. But the networks are so easy to use and work everywhere and more people read them than read this site.

Over the years I’ve said that I will post everything through my site. In 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2013 (and other years), for a little while each time, I did.

However, over the last few months I’ve been working on Barley 2.0. This release will bring a lot more capability to the content management system I use for this site and as a result the desire to bring everything together once more is rising.

I’ve been incredibly inspired by Jeremy Keith and Manton Reece. Both of them are doing a remarkable job sharing everything through their own web sites and then onto social networks and they are figuring it all out as they go.

So, starting tonight that is what I’m going to try again to do with a goal of sticking with it in perpetuity. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be posting to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, but that everything that I post there will originate here on my site. I may still craft those messages manually (since each network is so nuanced) but like Jeremy and Manton I will have to figure that out as I go too.

I hope this will have a few positive side effects. First, I’ll have control of my own content’s destiny. Second, I’ll have greater control of my content’s presentation. Third, this will force Barley to get very good at posting from mobile devices and at sharing with social networks — two features Barley should have anyway.

Expect my site to change dramatically over coming weeks as I figure all of this out.

First paddle of 2016

3 March 2016

The call of the wild is strong.

I’ve been working from home this week as we’ve decided to close our shared office space in Scranton.

Nice weather pulls me outdoors. When I’m working downtown, and the weather is above freezing, I am pulled towards going for a short jaunt to shoot photos of local buildings. But when I’m home and the sun is shining I’m pulled towards taking a short paddle.

On Tuesday, the sun was shining directly into my home office window and I was so distracted by it I threw a kayak on my roof and went for a short paddle at the nearest lake for about an hour.

The shape of this piece of ice reminds me of the shape of Ireland.

The ice floats on the lake were between an inch and five inches thick. As the ice floats were blown around the lake by the wind I ended up becoming an icebreaker at some points to get to where I was going. I felt like I was sailing the Fram.

How do I decide which kayak to take, you ask?

The Oru Kayak keeps me much warmer than the above Old Town because I can wear a skirt with it, it is far more narrow, and I sit lower in it. So typically when it is cold outside I’d take the Oru. However, I took the Old Town because it is much more stable and sturdy. The water temperature was just above freezing and I had no desire to tip in. I couldn’t tip the Old Town into the lake if I tried.

Each time my kayak would hit an ice float I thought of the Titanic. If only they hadn’t made that last second attempt to turn they would have likely lived.

What a great way to spend some time in the middle of the week! I was able to take two calls while I was paddling and I was away from my desk a total of two hours.

I plan on doing this a lot more this year than I did last year.

NEPA WordPress Meetup February 2016

24 February 2016

Last night was the NEPA WordPress Meetup for February 2016. The weather got a bit crazy yesterday and so the organizers, Phil & Joe, decided to take the meetup online rather than at Coalwork.

So that’s what we did. We chatted using Google Hangouts and answered questions presented to us via Slack. It seemed to work pretty well.

Here are some links:

It was a geeky, fun evening.


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