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September 2007 Archives

September 6, 2007

A Procedure and a Promise (to Myself, mostly)

I'm up just a little late tonight, but I've got a couple of things to accomplish before bed. Some laundry, necessitated by our lack of towels, and a blog entry, necessitated by another blog entry: a pattern that I contributed to Yahoo's open pattern library was released into the wild earlier tonight. Christian graciously included a link to here, Soldier Ant which—of course—features nothing more compelling than a weeks-old dick joke. Groan.

So, to give something just a little nicer to greet any of the curious folks coming over from the YUI Blog, I'm going to write up some quick thoughts on the Vote to Promote pattern. That'll be the next post.

But I did want to note, to anyone that cares, tomorrow I'll be going in for a LASIK procedure (long overdue—I've been intending to do this at least since we left San Francisco, almost 6 years ago.) While I'm looking forward to life without glasses (at least for the next 10 years, until I'll probably need some form of cheap reading glasses,) what I'm really looking forward to is the doctor-prescribed four-hour nap that I'll be taking tomorrow afternoon. My mother-in-law is even coming down to help out with the baby, god bless her.

And I also want to note that I've really been feeling the itch to update the site. I've got a whole slew of things I'd like to do (move over to Wordpress—and akismet—so I can ditch the Typekey authentication and finally start receiving comments again, amongst other things.) And a real design. For real. No—for really real this time. I mean it. Really. (As brain-dead simple as it is, I kinda like the background design I added to my Twitter page. I'm thinking of something similarly bold, colorful and playful for this site.)

And… for whatever reason, I think that once I roll these changes out, the focus of the site will shift a bit for awhile. I've never really used this blog to cover work-related things (okay, occasionally) but I've got some things on my mind lately (related to social design patterns, reputation systems, gaming, telecommuting, coworking and the intersection between all of them) that beg to be discussed. So I think I'll shift to those subjects for a while. And dogs. And dick jokes. Okay, maybe nothing's gonna change after all…

Vote to Promote, and the Yahoo! Open Pattern Library

If you've arrived here at Soldier Ant from the Yahoo! User Interface Blog, Welcome! This is (mostly), a blog about nothing. Kinda like Seinfeld, only... um... not funny.

Anyway, as Christian notes, today he pushed a pattern to the Open Pattern Library that I've had the pleasure of helping marshall: Vote to Promote. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that “voting for articles” (á la Digg, Reddit and others) is all the rage these days. Across the vast Yahoo! network, of course, there are more than a couple examples of this interaction style popping up here and there. Some of these implementations have been more successful than others (ahem... 0 votes?! Really?!) but interest remains high and we've got at least one V2P-style design coming down the pike that I'm really excited about, so watch this space.

The pattern, of course, just attempts to cut across some of the variables and variations and establish a good, common-sense approach to providing a voting-ranked content pool. To be honest, it probably favors the Digg approach (especially with the emphasis on voting things up, and keeping the 'bury' action as a secondary feature.) But why argue with success?

We've chosen to purposefully keep this pattern as a high-level one: not getting too deep into any specific design—either interaction or visual—but opting instead to describe the system in general terms, give some general recommendations, and… generally… leave the details to iron themselves out. You can see the opportunities here for some followup, deeper-dive patterns that explain exactly how elements of the interface should work: the voting mechanism itself; perhaps details on the popularity algorithm and some of its less-than-obvious inputs; burying or vetoing submissions; etc. etc. Like I said—watch this space.

Christian and I joked about the inevitability of someone submitting the pattern to Digg (hopefully with some totally inflammatory and accusational title like YAHOO! TAKES CREDIT for DIGG's SUCCESS!!!) Of course, it would be wrong for me to pimp our own pattern, right? But I'd certainly Digg it if someone else did so... heh.

September 10, 2007

Not So Cool in Columbus: The Great Jedi Purge

A while back, I made a promise that I'd try to showcase some cool things taking shape in and around Columbus. Well, here we are, only 2 entries deep into this “irregular feature” and already I'm gonna complain. I guess I can't help it—it's in my nature.

A bit of background information is probably called-for (for those of you who aren't from Columbus, which is probably the majority of you.) The city of Columbus—like many other cities across this fair nation—has, of late, been much-concerned with the issue of retaining and attracting cool, smart, young and preferably attractive people to live and work here. Yes, the fabled Creative Class of effete hipsters and home-improving gays.

The city cares about it so much, in fact, that they hired a consultant, Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting. Incidentally, NGC is based in Madison, Wisconsin, a city that's not exactly noted for its cool-crowd quotient. (Besting Racine in the “Coolest in Wisconsin” race? Not so impressive.) Of course, I'm not the first person to point this out, but I still find it kinda.. defeatist, I guess. Isn't this like Potsy Weber turning to Ralph Malph for advice on how the Fonz keeps scoring all those chicks?! You'll never keep the Hooper Triplets happy with that attitude, bucko!

But I digress. I'm actually not here to write about NGC's findings. They've been doing a decent job of that over on Columbuser or ColumbusING, so if you're curious, I'd recommend a tiptoe through their archives. No, I'm here to put a slightly more personal face on this problem.

I first 'met' (online—we've never actually spoken face-to-face) Suzi Smith while browsing the columbusblogger tag collection on del.icio.us (which was much smaller at the time—like, 6 or 7 blogs, tops.) Her blog is fun, and ranges from subjects nerdy (ahem.. here's Suzi in a Jayne Hat from Firefly) to girly (I usually skip over her 'Revlon update' moments) to DOGGY. Suzi has what is quite possibly the cutest chug you will ever lay eyes on: Brodie. (Who, like our little Polly, was adopted from the Franklin County Animal Shelter.) Oh, and Comics, too. See, Suzi loves comics, even Hellboy. So her site has been on my RSS feedreader for at least a couple years now.

And through Suzi, I've learned about her boyfriend Justin, proprietor of World Famous Comics and an accomplished illustrator and Internet bon-vivant: colleague to Kevin Smith; regular Convention draw; inspiration for Kai Justiss, who survived Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge.

Read that again.

Yes, Columbus has its own fucking Jedi Knight! Now, how cool is that? (In your face, Louisville!)

Or rather.. “had.” Columbus had its own Jedi Knight. Because Justin is soon following Suzi out of our fair city. Suzi, you see, packed up Brodie and moved to San Francisco a couple months back, in pursuit of a great job opportunity and a desire to live in one of the most beautiful cities in North America. (I say with the authority of someone who's made the sometimes-regrettable reverse of this action.)

Now... aren't these exactly the people, and pugs, that Columbus is so desperately trying to attract? I'm sure that the decision to move wasn't an easy or a light one for Suzi and Justin (2,000 mile relo? Never an 'easy' option.) And I'm sure that they'll love life by the Ocean and the Bay. But a small part of Columbus just withered and died and our city gets just that much closer to irrelevance. Like I said, I won't say much about Rebecca Ryan's recommendations to the city, but I've gotta think that—in any plan for retaining and attracting the best and brightest—Rule Number 1 would be… “Don't lose any more god-damn Jedi Knights!!”

Cool in Columbus: Free Wi-Fi at the Airport

Okay, this is to make amends for the bitter tone of my last Cool In entry. Here's something that actually is cool here. Free Wi-Fi at the airport. For those (for me, apparently) inescapable times when you've badly miscalculated and find yourself with an hour or two to kill, nothing beats sipping at CMH's free and easy teat. I huh-HAte the way that most airports these days (I'm looking at you, Denver) try to monetize me at every turn and want to ding me 10, 12 15 bucks for the 23 minutes of airtime I need to check my email, post a "look how haggard I look from my flight" picture to Flickr, or whatever.

So.. Columbus Aiport: Good on ya. You're keepin' it Cool in Columbus.

September 16, 2007

Micro-trend alert: Michael Westen Glasses

A couple weeks back, I posted a teensy-tiny review of Burn Notice, a show that my wife and I have been enjoying immensely this summer. Ever since, on Thursday night and Fridays, my search referral logs show little spikes for 'Michael Westen' (the series' lead character) and 'Jeffrey Donovan' (the actor who plays him.) Lately? The searches all focus on the sun glasses Westen sports. They feature prominently in the opening credits, and last Thursday's episode ended with them prominently displayed above Westen's grinning mug. Anybody seen these bad boys? I'd love to finally give all those desperate fashion-seekers the answer that they crave. (Yes, I realize the show's site has an Ask the Spy feature, but they usually don't choose questions so prosaic as 'where'dya get them sunglasses?')

Update, 5 minutes later: Well, that didn't take long. They're Oliver People's Victory. Rosewood Gradient, polarized. Retail price: 400 bucks(!) And my wife just got mad at me for dropping $120 on some sunglasses after the LASIK fried my eyeballs...

I've eaten a river of liver, and an ocean of fish!

Yes, as Christian points out, Mash is in public beta. And... I gotta say... it's kinda fun! (Although I can't wait until someone publishes a friendlier CSS module w/finer-grained controls.) My profile is here and if you'd like an invite to join in the fun, just... um, what do the kids say? Challah!

Coworking Intrigues Me

I've been following this whole coworking thing for a while now. My interest took a brief hiatus earlier this year due to the birth of our son, but—in past weeks—it's creeping back. As you may or may not know, I telecommute as part of my job, and have done so for more than three years, first with Sun Microsystems and—since July of last year—with Yahoo! Inc.

In that time, I've learned a lot about distance working (some of which I hope to start sharing here: no deep insight, just some tips, tricks and maybe bullet-lists.) And I've learned that—for me—one of the hardest parts of working from home is staying motivated day in and day out.

When I first started with Sun, I thought that avoiding distractions would be the hard part. It is but it's not the hardest part: I've had some very distraction-filled days that managed to be incredibly productive ones. And I've had wide-open, quiet, distraction-free days where I couldn't manage to get anything done.

I think what I really miss on those days is the energy and 'mental white noise' that comes from putting on the headphones, putting your head down, and engaging in prolonged work in the midst of a group of folks who are doing the same thing.

I love being at home with my dogs, the wife and new arrival Edison, but the kind of energy that emanates off of them is very different than that other, productive, creative and motivating energy that I'm thinking of. My infrequent trips to the Yahoo campus are a good way to recharge those batteries I do pay a steep fine in the form of travel-time, jetlag, and physical exhaustion. (Plus, of course, time away from my family.)

It'd be nice to get a regular dosing of that energy, maybe 2 or 3 days a week outside the home. Without the overhead of a round-trip flight to California every week.

This is what intrigues me about the idea of coworking. And what seems to intrigue a whole lot of folks.

So, I think, in coming weeks I'm going to get a little more serious about investigating options for coworking in the Columbus area. If that means creating some opportunities, then so be it.

My first order of business will be to visit some existing coworking facilities. Fortunately, I've got some travel coming up that will put me in close proximity to a couple different coworking spaces (which is ideal—I really want to get a sense for a couple of different spaces: how they're laid out; who runs them; cultural differences and similarities.)

I was excited to hear that Yahoo! University Hack Days will have a couple different locations close to me this year (well... if you call a 4-hour drive "close.") I'll be helping out at the CMU stop in Pittsburgh, and in Champaign-Urbana at UIUC. I've had the pleasure of participating in one internal Hackday (yeah, only one—I've been lame, and... that 'new baby' thing again.)

So I think the campus days will be a blast, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the outcome of all that youthful creativity. Should be fun!

The Pittsburgh trip may also put a visit to the Thinktank on my agenda. It seems like the best way to really get a feel for a coworking space would probably be to put in a good solid day of work from the space. So I may be doing that, or I may just try to arrange a walkthrough with the space owner, Tom.

There seems to be interest, but no action in the Champaign-Urbana area, but, of course, I also visit the San Francisco Bay Area frequently, home to a buncha buncha coworking spaces. So I'll probably make a longer-than-usual visit out there later in the year and try to spend a half-day or two working out of Citizen Space or The Hat Factory.

So that's all for now: I'm investigating the idea of starting a coworking space here in Columbus; I'm going to visit a few to get some ideas and inspiration; I'll probably coordinate and publicize a meetup in the next couple months, possibly early December. If you're a Columbus local and think you'd be interested in helping out (in any capacity, or even if you'd just like to use a coworking space, not necessarily organize one) then please leave a comment, or go over to the Columbus Coworking page and leave an edit there.

September 17, 2007

Seasonal movements and an old, new friend

Photo by Lady Lepere.

Ohio is getting its first cold-snap, signaling the end of summer and the onset of fall. The deer tend to move around a lot this time of year; soon, men with guns will be pursuing them and booming loud sounds will echo across the hills of Southeast Ohio. Lady Lepere has a handful of beautiful shots.

Lady Lepere, on Flickr, is actually Stacie, a wonderful photographer that I graduated high-school with! Sadly, Stacie and I barely spoke back then. But I truly do enjoy watching her photo-stream. Her outdoor and wildlife shots always take me back to my younger days in Zanesville and the surrounding countryside. And her kids are real characters.

About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Soldier Ant in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2007 is the previous archive.

October 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


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