I'm currently within 10 days of finishing the Fall Semester, and that means exams are right around the corner. Given the amount of time and work that is required to study for my tests, KDHQ will be moving to an intermittent publishing schedule until December 16. This is only temporary, and you can expect posting to resume as normal after we get through next week.
If you're currently in school, good luck on any exams or tests you may have coming up, and be sure to check out some of my tips for keeping productive despite a heavy workload. Happy studying.
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Kyle Lambert, a talented visual artist, recently completed, what he's calling, "The world's most realistic finger-painting":
I recently discovered that it was possible to create incredibly high resolution (4k) paintings using only my iPad, and I wanted to see just how far I could push digital artwork and paint a true photorealistic portrait. [...]
The finished painting is made up of around 285,000 brush strokes and took more than 200 hours to complete. The entire process was captured as a time-lapse video by Procreate, allowing you to watch over 200 hours of painting in just 3 minutes.
I could say that the iPad is incredible for having a touchscreen accuracy that allows for such detail to be achieved.
I could say that iOS is incredible for having so many high-quality applications that facilitate this type of artistic output.
But what I'm going to say is that people are incredible, and, given good tools, they can create amazing things. This painting also serves as a box of nails in the coffin of the iPad-isn't-for-content-creation argument.
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Yesterday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sat down with Charlie Rose and unveiled Amazon's next big step for their fulfillment centers: delivery by drone in under 30 minutes.
Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. [...] This is…this is all an R&D project.
Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.
Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give 'em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.
The whole process is really fascinating and the video is even more convincing that this isn't just an R&D project; Bezos wants this to be a real system of delivery within the next five years.
Imagine you're at home on a Friday night and order a Pizza Hut deep dish and that new Xbox game you've been wanting to try from Amazon. Within 30 minutes of ordering, they'll both be at your door. This is cool.
However, there are a lot of situations where an autonomous drone just can't get to places that a person can. Furthermore, there is a whole list of things that could be problematic for drone delivery:
- Delivery for apartments
- Delivery in the city
- Delivery in the rain / wind / snow
- Theft of delivery items and / or drones
- Legally, what do I have to agree to for a drone to land on my property?
- Drone malfunction
- Numerous safety issues
Now, I assume Amazon won't show you the Prime Air option if your delivery address is outside their drones' radius of reach, however will it also be hidden for cases of bad weather and apartment deliveries? Bezos doesn't answer these questions. He does say that the Prime Air project is in an early stage, and that actual delivery-by-drone is still a couple of years away:
I’m an optimist [...] I know it can’t be before 2015, because that’s the earliest we could get the rules from the FAA. My guess is that’s, that’s probably a little optimistic. But could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
Fun or failure? Time will have to tell. I have no doubt that the shipping industry will be disrupted within the next ten years, but I don't know if drones can physically replace the agile and versatile abilities of a person on the scale that Amazon needs for this to be a viable option to most of their customers.
Later on in the interview, Bezos and Rose get into a more introspective discussion about Amazon as a business. Surprisingly, despite Amazon's behemoth presence, Bezos doesn't at all believe that Amazon is invincible.
Jeff Bezos: Companies have short life spans Charlie. And Amazon will be disrupted one day.
Charlie Rose: And you worry about that?
Jeff Bezos: I don’t worry about it 'cause I know it’s inevitable. Companies come and go. And the companies that are, you know, the shiniest and most important of any era, you wait a few decades and they’re gone.
Charlie Rose: And your job is to make sure that you delay that date?
Jeff Bezos: I would love for it to be after I’m dead.
Delaying the date to inevitable disruption. This is exactly why I'm not sold on companies like Snapchat and the next "hot" startup being worth billions upon billions of dollars: if Amazon, a company that moves millions of physical goods, needs to have a delivery-by-drone R&D project to "delay" the inevitable disruption, how much less than will it take to disrupt an app that sends pictures to your friends?
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Over the past two months, I've been linking to various articles, apps, and items that I've thought my readers would enjoy. However I've noticed that the amount of commentary I've been adding to each linked item has been dropping — this is not something I want.
To counter this trend, the linked items will be taking a different form over the coming weeks. Firstly, I'll be renaming the linked items to "excerpts" — something I've unashamedly borrowed from Michael Lopp of Rands in Repose. Secondly, I'm going to try and make each excerpt follow along these guidelines (also borrowed from Lopp):
- Be short.
- Add original commentary – don't be simple links or quotes to other articles.
- Appear more frequent than the long form posts.
Although this adds a new level of writing to my current load, I think it will be manageable by dropping my post-per-day goal down to just a single entry a day.
Hopefully this change keeps fresh stories on the site and allows me to keep the quality of each item high. It will be interesting to see how this experiment goes given the impending exam week, but I feel confident that this will be a long-term change for the best.
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My Thanksgiving break begins today after classes finish at 5 p.m. Given that the next few days will be filled with food, family, and traveling, KDHQ will be happily shutting down our web browsers until next week.
I hope each of you have a blessed and safe holiday, and I ask everyone to be careful while traveling as Winter Storm "Boreas" looks to drop plenty of snow and ice in the Eastern United States. Might be time to unleash those hoodies if you haven't already.
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The Diff (presumably named for the programming notion of viewing changes in code) is a fascinating little device from the Times that monitors their online headlines and prints out a visual representation of any changes that occur. Noah Feehan, writing for the NYT Labs blog:
Diff is a small device that monitors the internal events stream of The New York Times and prints out a summary each time an active headline is changed. As it runs, it generates a long stream of changes printed on thermal paper: text that was removed from a headline is rendered as inverted, while additions to a headline are underlined.
The end result is really quite cool, and it seems they took inspiration from NewsDiffs.com, a site that does the same thing as Diff, but also tracks changes to the articles themselves.
As someone who loves the intersection of technology and writing, I love this type of stuff.
Hat tip to Nick Heer for originally linking to Diff.
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Nicholas Feltron, the guy behind those incredibly-detailed self analysis reports, is getting ready to release Reporter for iPhone, a data-collecting tool that helps you track the quantifiable data in your life. From the pre-launch page:
Reporter is a new application for tracking the things you care about. With a few randomly timed surveys each day, Reporter can illuminate aspects of your life that might be otherwise unmeasurable.
Sign me up.
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American football logos redesigned for European football clubs. Easily one of the best sites I've seen this month — I particularly love the Browns's badge.
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Wow. Even though this post from Chanpory Rith dates back to 2006, his advice is still incredibly practical for the job seekers of today. A must read for anyone who's looking to create their own resume.
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There's nothing quite like tearing apart your own work,1 and that's exactly what I did after looking at the usability of kyledreger.com.
Most of the changes I made came from the feedback I've gotten from readers and from my own observation of people using the site. Although this design is quite different from the previous version, I feel that I've addressed a number of usability issues that make the site more enjoyable to visit.
Layout and Typography Size
One of the problems with the two-column layout I implemented was that it forced me to use a smaller font size for my content in order to keep the overall page width down. However, after watching some of my readers squint while navigating the site, my own fiancee needing her glasses at times, I decided that legibility superseded the need for two columns.
Originally, the base font size was set to 13px. Now the smallest font size you'll see here is 16px. Although just a 3px difference, I now have little doubt that most readers can comfortably read my content. I also adjusted the font weight and size of several other elements, and the current typography styles are as follows (Note: "em" is the size relative to the base copy):
- Body copy: 16px
- Article headings: 2.5em, bold
- Page titles: 2.5em, normal weight (the lack of bolding allows for visual recognition that you are currently on a page not an article.
- Headers within an article: 1.25em, bold, uppercase, 1px letter spacing
Renaming for Clarity
My original navigation was named like this (navigation text: "page title"):
- Archive: "The Archives"
- Colophon: "Colophon"
- Contact: "Contact"
- RSS Feed: "Syndicate Feeds"
- Twitter Feed: "n/a." — link to @kyledregercom
This posed several problems. Most of my readers didn't know that "colophon" is a publishing term for "about this publication." In addition, I had the link to my Twitter account on both the RSS Feed page and the navigation — did I really need both? Finally, the title of "RSS Feed" was misleading: clicking it wouldn't take you to the actual feed, rather it presented you with ways to subscribe to the site.
Since clarity was one of my goals for the site, I made the following changes:
- Rename the navigation text for "Colophon" to "About" and make it the first link in the list. Also change the page title to "About This Site" (clear purpose).
- Remove the navigation link pointing to Twitter.
- Rename "RSS Feed" to "Subscribe" and change the page title from "Syndicate Feeds" (too fancy) to "Ways to Subscribe" (simple, actionable).
What is kyledreger.com?
For a while, I tried to get away with the tagline "Written before a live audience" underneath my site title. Although this sounded clever, it was also a lie. I wasn't really inviting a bunch of people into my dorm room to watch me write, so the saying was, at best, a nostalgic nod to an old quote used by television studios.
However, I still needed some way to let readers know what type of content they could expect and who was writing it. To my embarrassment, nowhere on the site did I say what topics I would be writing about. This left my new readers to infer this on their own, based on my latest few posts.
Still forgoing a tagline, I wrote a brand new introduction to this site and myself on the About page. I styled the text in the form of a dictionary definition, but that was just for fun:
kyledreger.com n. A small webcolumn featuring long-form articles and short commentary on the world of technology, design, and liberal arts. Readers of this site tend to have an interest in new technologies, typography, web design, Apple Inc., and cool apps. All content is written and produced by Kyle Dreger.
The result is a clear message as to what I write about and who I try to write for. It does a 100x better managing reader expectations than the previous tagline, and it positions kyledreger.com as a simple and honest publication.
I found that performing a usability audit on my own site to be very rewarding, and I feel that it leaves kyledreger.com in a better place than when I began. This is a good first step, but I'm always open to hearing your feedback on the changes. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments, and, as always, thanks for reading.
- Thanks for the help, Dr. Schwartz.
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