is Patrick Crowley

Marketplace report on unconferences

February 29, 2008

I’m a huge fan of Marketplace, but I was terribly disappointed by today’s report about unconferences.

Your report entirely missed the point of *why* people have unconferences in the first place… to share their passions with other, like-minded people in an open forum.

Along with several friends, I’ve organized BarCamp San Diego… which is an unconference that has broad support among San Diego tech community (with sponsors like Microsoft, Opera, DivX, Stage 6, etc.)

Our BarCamps have featured talks on topics like yoga, knitting, how to screenprint your own t-shirts, and the San Diego fires; not to mention many great technical talks (on topics from web design to video games.)

At the two BarCamps we’ve hosted thus far, the attendees spanned a broad demographic, from college students to professionals. None of them were like the goofy nerds you portrayed in your piece.

Oh, and… we had working wifi too.

Perhaps you can do a follow up story about BarCamp? BarCamp is a global unconference movement… and it’s spawned tons of related conferences such as the one your reporter visited.

Sincerely,
Patrick Crowley

[Note: I suck at blogging. I promise to blog more soon.]

BarCamp San Diego

May 31, 2007

BarCamp San Diego

This weekend will mark the first BarCamp conference in San Diego. With over 70 speakers already signed up, it’s looking to be a blast.

I’ve never organized a conference before, but I’ve had a lot of fun putting this together.

(You can see one of our t-shirt screens above. We’ll be screenprinting custom BarCamp t-shirts during the event.)

Rude world

April 29, 2007

One of my Flickr photos just got published.

Rude World (cover)

Rude World (inside)

Rude World is a collection of roadsigns with suggestive language.

About a year ago, someone asked me if they could use this image of a roadsign. To be honest, I’d forgotten about it completely… until this cool book showed up.

High five!

April 19, 2007

I propose a new emoticon for the high five:

:5

While there is an existing high five emoticon (^5), it doesn’t truly capture the crazy, raise your hands in the air goodness of a true high five.

Viva la National High Five Day!

I’ve cut the cable cord

January 18, 2007

I've cut the cable cord

On Monday, I disconnected my cable service.

While the cable-box-is-your-DVR paradigm has served me well over the past five years, it just seems a bit silly now. I’m paying a pretty high premium for time-shifting (either in the near term: to pause live television, or in the long term: to record shows I’d like to watch later.)

Let’s look at the math for a second.

Cable is expensive

My cable bill is $130/month. That breaks down to $70 month for the cheapest digital cable/DVR combo, and another $60 for the high speed internet connection.

I’d love to ditch the internet connection. But all the other options suck. Dialup: are you fucking kidding me? DSL: too slow. Verizon FiOS: not available in San Diego yet.

Ok, so I’m stuck with internet. What about cable? How much am I spending per year? Well, math fans, $70 x 12 is $840. Ouch. I have to say this number was a bit shocking. Does cable really provide that much value to my life?

My high school economics professor used to always talk about opportunity cost (i.e. if you spent money on something else, what would it buy?)

So what could I buy with an extra $840 in my pocket?

  • 42 DVDs (at $20 per DVD)
  • 120 paperback books (at $7 per book)
  • 420 television episodes from iTunes (at $2 per show)
  • 840 songs from iTunes (at $1 per track)

Starting to make sense? Yeah? So let’s keep going!

The point of this exercise — the reason I cut the cord — is that I want to save money, so the more of that $840 I can keep, the better.

iTunes is now a real alternative

Here’s what I figured out. I watch 5 shows regularly. You know, the ones I can’t miss. They are… LOST, Battlestar Galactica, Studio 60, Heroes, and Dr. Who.

With the “season pass” feature from iTunes, I can subscribe to an entire season of episodes from a show for approximately $35. Too, they’re widescreen, near HD quality, and commercial free. (Another plus: if I’m traveling, I can take my shows with me or download them on the road.)

I don’t have one of the new AppleTV units, but that’s ok. My office is also my living room, and I’ve got a clear view of my 23in Cinema Display from the couch.

Now, of course, nothing is perfect. For me, the main drawbacks to this plan are not being able to watch live television or content that isn’t available on iTunes yet. But I can live with that.

So, five shows at $35 per season. That’s $175. I’d save $665 a year.

Not bad. But can we do better?

And it’s really cheap

I typically watch LOST and BSG with friends, so I probably don’t need a season pass for these. But I’ll probably still want to buy my favorite episodes, so let’s say that works out to $10 per show.

And it turns out Dr. Who isn’t available on iTunes yet (cheeky Brits!), so I’ll have to watch that with friends or maybe grab a torrent.

That cuts down the cost quite a bit.

  • BSG: $10
  • LOST: $10
  • Heroes: $42
  • Studio 60: $35
  • Dr Who: ~

Total cost: $97. (About $743 less than I had planned to pay.)

The future is unbundled

A year of television for under 100 bucks. Not only is that it’s an awesome price, it really makes the business model of companies like TiVo seem tenuous.

DVR was magic five years ago, but we’re living in the future now.

New Askville logo

November 15, 2006

Updated Askville logo

Less than 24 hours after my blog post, Amazon changes the Askville logo. ‘Nuf said?

(Thanks to the Askville guys. I owe you a beer!)

Amazon rips off Eventful logo?

November 14, 2006

Logo comparison

During my last full-time gig, I designed the Eventful logo.

So, I was amused to see that Amazon “borrowed” my design for Askville, their new question and answer service that intends to compete with Google Answers.

What’s similar?

  • Arial Rounded MT Bold? Check.
  • Tighter font-spacing? Check.
  • Lowercase type? Check.
  • Use logo on plain-white background? Check.
  • Switch colors for each morpheme? Check.
  • Use only two colors? Check.
  • Blue on left? Check.
  • Green on right? Check.

What’s different?

  • The Eventful logo uses more compact letterforms (86% of normal width).
  • Eventful uses a brighter blue and darker green than Askville.

Is Web 2.0 running out of logo gas?

I freely admit my design wasn’t the world’s most original logo. And a year plus later, it’s hard to remember my exact influences, but I certainly was inspired by Flickr, MySpace, SimplyHired, and Apple’s penchant for tweaked-out versions of public fonts.

Now, of course, great design is always influenced by that which came before, but the Eventful logo is fairly well known. It pops up on all Web 2.0 logo lists and was featured in Font Shop’s Web 2.0 logo roundup as an example of “the softies” (described as text-heavy logos with a human feel).

Sure, the similarity is probably is just a coindence. But I’m surprised to see a company of Amazon’s caliber making this sort of mistake.

Final thoughts

So, if anyone from Amazon is listening, I suggest creating a more compelling brand for Askville, regardless of the logo similarities. But, hey, no hard feelings… you’re still my number one.

Congrats, btw, to Jeff Bezos on today’s Blue Origin rocket launch!

(Oddly enough, Amazon isn’t the first. PodcastReady.com has a similar logo, though they used a slightly different typeface and added an earbud-inspired mark.)

I voted. :)

November 7, 2006

Voted

New York Post 2.0

September 28, 2006

Whoa…. looks like the New York Post just launched a redesign. Sneaky bastards.

New York Post

If you ever used the old Post site, then you know how much of a miracle this really is. It was a big stinking pile of crap. Blinking font tags, insane numbers of banner tags (sometimes, they’d even prevent pages from loading fully), and a tacky design that smelled like 1996.

Google maps

But here’s my favorite new feature. The Page Six Star Map. It’s got Google Maps integration so now you can see exactly where your favorite celebrities were spotted. Our first victims… I mean celebrities: Bill and Melinda Gates!

What I like

  • Layout optimized for 1024 x 768
  • Improved branding — the website design is now almost identical to the print version of the paper. Big fonts and images. They even add faux scuff marks on the edges of the layout. I love it.
  • Better ad placement — advertisements are now tastefully presented and no longer overwhelm site content
  • The site isn’t valid HTML 4.01 yet, but the markup is reasonably well-formed. Believe it or not, the Post (126 errors) is more valid than the New York Times (479 errors). Do conservatives write better markup?

What I don’t like

  • News articles are broken into “pages”. Can you say “we need more pageviews”?
  • The main stylesheet is bloated with lots of repetitive declarations
  • Some of the Flash content has classic bad UI design, like tiny unmarked paginators. (Are next and previous buttons really so bad?)
  • Do we really need a weather bug in the header? Cute, but unnecessary. Removing it would let the other elements in the header breathe a bit.
  • The search “Go” button in the site header is too small and illegible.
  • The Opinion section could use a more contextualized layout, with more prominent placement of editorial headlines and bylines
  • The Post is still a shill for the Bush administration

Final word: it’s not quite as good as the new Vinh Khoi powered New York Times, but this is a solid redesign.

How to Vader-ize your JBL speakers

September 22, 2006

Everybody says how much the JBL Creature II speakers look like Darth Vader.

So here’s how to do it for real.

MATERIALS

  • Vader mask image (I used this one.)
  • Printer
  • Scissors
  • Roll of tape

INSTRUCTIONS

Print out the Vader image and then follow the diagram below.

Print Vader out
Cut Vader out
Face mask
Put tape on Vader
Apply face

RECOMMEND USAGE

  • Don’t own these speakers? Try pranking a friend or office buddy.
  • Try playing Star Wars music or Vader sound clips — Vader on Vader!
  • Print out “little Vaders” for the satellite speakers

CREDITS

  • Thanks to Eric Miller for being my first victim
  • The Vader image is from an auction on eBay.

The RubyConf Express

September 8, 2006

RubyConf Express

In the spirit of the Argon Express, I’m taking the train to this year’s RubyConf.

I know a couple of other sd.rb people are going, so if you live near L.A. or one of the other stops on the route, hop on board!

WHEN:
October 18 - October 19.

Total trip time is about 1.5 days. We’re leaving from San Diego at 3pm. If you’re leaving from Los Angeles, you want to catch the 6:45pm Southwest Chief. We’ll arrive in Denver around 10:25pm the next day.

WHERE:
The Southwest Chief on Amtrak, heading from Los Angeles to Denver.

COST:
Using Amtrak discount code ‘H571′, one-way tickets from LA to Denver are $80. And roundtrip tickets are $160. (Airfare runs about $250 - $400, so this is a sweet bargain.)

HIGHLIGHTS:

• Hack out with other Rubyists before the main conference. (I’m planning to build a new Rails app from scratch during the trip.)

• Stay online with EVDO-enabled WIFI (where coverage allows)

• Check out the scenery from the observation car

Observation car by Sheila Ellen

RIDERS:

Patrick Crowley
Nick Zadrozny
Kevin Clark

FAQ:

Are you taking rail the whole way? Sadly, the last four hours of the trip is a bus ride from Raton, NM to Denver — but it’s a direct route with only two stops. (Hey, we didn’t build the rail system… there some places they just don’t go.)

Are one-wayers welcome? Absolutely. I’m going roundtrip, but one way is cool too. Take the train out to RubyConf, then fly home in style!

Call of Duty fun

August 1, 2006

Call of Duty

4X Trilinear filtering option + my Mac = crazy colors

sd.rb podcast features Summer of Rails

July 18, 2006

sd.rb podcast

At the last sd.rb meeting, I gave a talk on the Summer of Rails and my experience developing Graffletopia (my first SoR app).

Thanks to Chris Abad, my presentation is now online and is available as the first episode of the official sd.rb podcast.

I gotta say… it’s kinda weird seeing yourself in iTunes.

sd.rb podcast: Episode 001: Summer of Rails

Graffletopia

July 17, 2006

Since returning from RailsConf, I’ve been working like mad on my first Rails app and Summer of Rails project.

So, today, I’m very happy to announce I’ve just launched Graffletopia, a website that makes it easy to share OmniGraffle stencil files. (For those who don’t know, OmniGraffle is essentially Visio for Mac… but way better, of course. And stencils are just clip art files that can be easily shared.)

Graffletopia

Stencils are a cool part of OmniGraffle, but the list on the Omnigroup website always seemed a bit buried. Hopefully, by having a separate site for sharing stencils, it will be easier to find and share cool stencils.

I don’t think Graffletopia will ever be a huge website, but I’m willing to bet many other Mac-based web designers will find it useful.

http://graffletopia.com

Summer of Rails

June 23, 2006

Summer of Rails

Today, I’m excited to be launching Summer of Rails, a new website for the Rails community.

Like a lot of people, I’m pretty stoked about developing applications in Ruby in Rails. I’ve gotten the books, built a shopping cart, all that stuff. But I still haven’t launched my first Rails site. And I’m guessing I’m not alone.

So, here’s the Summer of Rails challenge.

  • Learn Rails
  • Make something useful
  • Badge it

Easy, right? So let’s see how many Rails apps we can launch by the end of summer!

RailsConf

June 22, 2006

RailsConf

I’m in Chicago for RailsConf. The conference doesn’t start until tomorrow, but the Rails Guidebook and hackfest are happening for those who arrive early.

I’ll probably be at the hackfest today… maybe I’ll see you there?

moko.cards

June 19, 2006

mokolabs business cards

My business cards finally arrived. (Still not perfect, but way better than the first batch.)

CNN goes tabloid

June 17, 2006

I always surf CNN.com reluctantly. It’s not a great website (even post-redesign), but sometimes it can be useful.

So, check out yesterday’s “Top Stories” on the homepage:

CNN.com

A wife killing her therapist hubby, men leaving towns without husbands, two separate death plunges, a scary dog, a deer beating up a woman, a dead whale, and where Britney Spears might give birth next.

Definitely entertaining. But it’s not really news, is it?

Galacticaa returns

June 16, 2006

After a long hiatus, Galacticaa.net is back. (For those who don’t know, Galacticaa is my part-time fan site for the new Battlestar Galactica show.)

Last Sunday, I went up to LA for the BSG Season 2 CD release party. Pretty cool event. Got to hear a live performance of the score, with Bear McCreary and many of the other musicians who work on the show. If you’re a fan of the show, read the full blog post.

While BSG is off the air until October, I’ll be blogging about the show over the summer.

Welcome back

June 1, 2006

Today, I’m launching a new version of moko.labs.

While the original website, launched in early 2000, wasn’t bad; it was sorely outdated.
Six years later, I’ve changed and the web has changed, so moko.labs needed to evolve.

What’s new?

  • A brand new look-and-feel
  • A new blog — I’ve been blogging for years, but this is the first time I’ve gone solo
  • Full web-standards support, including XHTML, CSS, Atom 1.0, and Microformats
  • Web page with a list of my contributions to the web
  • Photo page with sample photographs, FAQ, and recent photos
  • Film page explaining my interest in film and directing
  • About page with contact info and personal facts

What to expect

  • Fresh content. Probably something new every few days.
  • Agility. Expect the content and design to change often.
  • Interesting things.

About the new look

For those who are curious, the header was inspired by a sunset I saw at 30,000 feet.

Sunset

It was so stunning that I attempted to replicate what I saw while I was still in mid-air.
When it was done, I couldn’t leave it alone and eventually I decided to use it for the new moko.labs.

Rounded corners, gradients, and big type were added to round out the look. (Yeah, they’re pretty standard for Web 2.0 these days, but there’s a reason for that… they’re cool.)

But the biggest part of this design is simplicity. I’m hoping I really can do more with less.

I’m Patrick Crowley. MORE

I make web applications. I'm also into photography and film.

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