Tag - design

SwitchCube Coworking

And it’s out in the wild!

SwitchCube is the name that Matt and I have chosen for our coworking space in Abbotsford BC.

We’re touring a few spaces tomorrow, and look like we’ll be ready to start making some offers on places as soon as next week. At the meetup we held last week, a lot of people were eager to get going soon 🙂

We also settled on our corporate color: purple. (Or some shade thereof …) Thanks to Kuler, we have a palette as well:

Would you buy an Apple HDTV? Perhaps this will help you make up your mind …

We keep hearing rumours about an Apple HDTV that is not just yet another set-top box. That is more than the “hobby” that is AppleTV. And that embodies the awesomeness that a dying Steve Jobs promised biographer Walter Isaacson when saying “I’ve finally cracked it!”

In other words, a full-on flatscreen TV with Apple technology built-in. Theoretically, an Apple HDTV will be available later this year in time for the Christmas shopping season, or early next. This will be the biggest new hardware product for Apple since the iPad – and probably the most expensive.

Where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire. And there’s been a LOT of smoke about an Apple-branded HDTV. The 64-bit question is: would you buy it?

If this future product follows the pattern of the past, an Apple TV will be an interesting animal, with innovations others have introduced but Apple will have refined. And … a few features that other TV manufacturers don’t – and maybe can’t – have.

In the spirit of informed guessing, here’s what I think an Apple TV would include …


The hardware will be spectacular in appearance but not in specifications. Apple will have what is widely recognized as close to best-in class performance and hardware, but you will be able to find HDTVs with better specs.

In other words, don’t expect a retina display for your new 50″ Apple flatscreen.

That said, it will be simple, beautiful, and functional. Think glass and aluminum, not tacky black plastic. Yes, there will be a iSight-style camera, a very simple remote (maybe your iPhone, iPod Touch, or similar), and not too many ports (more on that later).


Here’s where it will get interesting. This is what will separate Apple TV from the pack, for good or bad.

  1. Visual interface
    Stunning, elegant, simple. Like the current AppleTV set-top box user interface, but further refined.
  2. Siri, Siri, Siri
    Say it, and Apple TV will find it, schedule it, record it, play it, buy it, tweet it, share it, send it. And that’s just the shows. Siri will also help you connect and configure and use all the other features and functionality. And manage your life, while taking dictation. Siri probably won’t make dinner, but it will order your pizza.
  3. PVR/DVR
    This is almost too simple and obvious to mention – nowhere near the level of Siri – but yes, Apple TV will be able to record, pause, rewind, and replay visual content. However, the PVR/DVR functionality will be not simply be based on the local recording of shows … it will integrate seamlessly and invisibly with iCloud (see below) so you never again run out of space on your TiVo.
  4. iOS … and apps
    The new Apple TV will almost certainly run iOS … ensuring that the 600,000 apps in the app store (one of Apple’s huge competitive advantages) can also run here. Think digital kids books on the big screen, Twitter running side-by-side with Jersey Shore, Facebook open while you co-watch the big game with your buddy deployed in Iran (oops, loose lips sink ships). And 550,000 other things that smart app designers dream up.


The content will be near enough complete to not make choosing Apple TV a hardship.

Won't need this ...

  1. TV
    The major networks will be players, plus many of the movie studios. Giving away ad-supported TV will be like the loss leader for networks: people who like a show can immediately purchase complete and anytime access, including perhaps priority availability of new episodes.
  2. Movies
    Eventually this will enable new models. Imagine watching a movie for free … for the first 30 minutes. Access to the final 60 is available for a small fee of $4.99.
  3. Netflix, etc.
    Via the apps mentioned above you’ll also have access to content networks such as Netflix, but they’ll be less easy to access and less integrated than Apple’s own TV and movie service.
TV content in the Apple TV world starts to undergo a revolutionary shift: it becomes more internet-like. While there still is a place for live shows, most content is stored and accessible on-demand. We see this happening already in places, but Apple TV will accelerate the trend and force the major entertainment companies to buy in or become irrelevant.


Apple TV will connect some dots. But it won’t connect everything, especially not dozens of legacy devices.

  1. Hardware
    Apple has never shied away from bold hardware decisions. No floppy in the first iMac, no Ethernet in the MacBook Air, no million options for component connectivity in the Apple TV. Forget component, forget 5 HDMI ports, forget a USB stick or card reader. Think a couple of HDMI ports to connect your home theatre system, if you insist on being so gauche as to connect such an unwieldy mass of componentry. But expect a preference to wireless connections and fewer ports.
  2. Your devices
    Speaking of wireless connections, AirPlay and other innovations to tie your small screens and your big screens together will be extended. You’ll send your videos to the big screen from your phone without having to make sure your set-top box is on, configured, the active source in your TV setup.
  3. Your content
    Your content on your Mac will be accessible here, but not so much because you’re connection your Mac to your TV as both are connected to the cloud (yeah, see below). That doesn’t just mean your photos and videos, as the current AppleTV set-top box does somewhat clunkily today … that means all your content. Your documents, your mail, your web bookmarks, if you still use those. In short: everything.
  4. Your communications
    Want to phone? Why not use FaceTime on your Apple TV? Want to email? Why not shoot a quick email while you’re watching Seinfeld reruns? Want to chat on Facebook? Pull up the app next to your content.


And finally, the biggest innovation, perhaps, besides Siri … which of course is empowered to do all it does via the capabilities of the cloud. Your Apple TV will be connected to iCloud. The cloud is the centre, and the attendant devices are simply peripherals, including your TV

And that, of course, is what will enable and undergird all the software and content and connectivity mentioned above.

So … the question remains … would you?

Image credits: Paz.ca, Biscuit SMLP

New Moo Cards!

It’s always exciting to get new Moo cards. New business cards are cool, but new Moo cards are awesome.

Moo cards are personalized business cards. I’ve loaded mine up with my own photography, which is easily imported from Flickr. This time I decided to get full-size cards – here’s a quick peek:

Notice the nicely curved edges? And, of course, the stunning images 🙂

It’s always fun to give out a card with some personality. And to ask someone to choose which one they want … and then tell them the story of the photograph: where it was taken, when, why, what it is. That makes the act of handing over a business card so much more personal, so much more meaningful, so much more fun, and so much more creative.

And here’s the back:

There’s a pic of me on the back, which matches up with my profile pic around the web. So it should be easy to remember who I am. Notice, however that I messed up and instead of intelligently cropping, there’s only a piece of my left eye showing. I should have either cropped it out entirely, or included it entirely.

Ah well, perfection will have to wait.

Need a logo for sparkplug 9 …

Sparkplug9 has been happily logo-less for 8 years. 8 years!

However, since I’ve been consulting more intensely in the past 3 months, I’ve decided that Sparkplug9 MUST HAVE A LOGO. I mean, with a logo, even a solopreneur looks pro, right?

So, I’ve been playing with Photoshop (bad idea) and searching the web for inspiration (better idea). All I can say is: creative commons is a great thing.

So, with a little help from Abdullah Najeeb Photography, who are very gracious to post their photos to Flickr under a Creative Commons license, and a little help from Photoshop, I’ve built a logo. Well, actually, I made a few … all based around a flame from Abdullah’s photography.

Unfortunately, they suck

Next step: find an actual designer 🙂

[ update ]

I’ve posted a project on Guru.com. Three designers have already submitted their proposals, so I hope to be happily logo-fied shortly!

Meetup: this is how NOT to treat paying clients

Earlier this week I set up a Meetup group for coworkers in BC’s Fraser Valley. It contained some information about coworking, some hints on the kinds of people who might enjoy coworking, and a link to our current landing page for coworking in Abbotsford.

Today I was informed that the meetup group had been terminated:

Needless to say, I was totally flabbergasted. Our meetup group was for people who wanted to help start a coworking community in the valley. It wasn’t about porn, and we weren’t selling anything. So why were we being closed? How were we not in compliance?

Well, the answer was simple.

For more information you can review the Terms of Service

This is one of those cases where something that is simple is not easy. Here are the Meetup’s terms of service – to the right. As you can tell … there are a lot of terms. And a lot of words. And a long, long, long web page full of reasons why we were not in compliance.

But which one was applicable?

After a lot of reading, I think it was this one: 5.3(b)(vii). Yeah, that’s number 5, section 3, subsection (b), sub-subsection (vii). Which reads under a heading titled “Grounds for removal, sanction, and/or suspension:”

[Posting any material] that uses the Platform primarily as a lead generator or listing service for another website;

Well. Perhaps the link to our coworking signup page violates that stipulation.

Here’s how you should treat that scenario, Meetup
Here’s a wild, crazy idea. I know it’s out of left field, so brace yourself. Be seated. Hold on to your hat.

How about: you send me an email, explain that stipulation, and ask me to remove it?

I know it’s ground-breaking and earth-shattering … but do you think that might be better than arbitrarily booting a paying customer with no reasonable explanation?

No, I didn’t read your terms of service
I’m sorry, but there are 14 pages of TOS, totalling 8319 words. And I have a life.

So no, I didn’t read your TOS. And I don’t think your TOS is reasonable or customer-friendly.

So please …
So I’m asking … please reinstate the group. I’ll remove the offending link (if indeed that is the problem).

How to cancel recurring Paypal payments and subscriptions

Noticed a drain on your Paypal account lately? Wondering why there’s always money missing?

I recently checked my Paypal account and noticed a subscription and recurring payment for a service that I no longer needed. But cancelling is not terribly simple in the Paypal interface. In fact, you’d almost assume they’ve built the user interface to discourage discovery and awareness of all your recurring payments. Or, at least, made it hard to find and stop subscriptions.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to finding and cancelling Paypal subscriptions:

  1. Log into Paypal
    Then click on the History link in your account overview:
    Find all your recent transactions
    Select the first radio button and pick Last Three Months, which will show you enough history to know for sure which payments are recurring.

  2. Select Subscriptions
    Select the Subscriptions link above the activity listings. Now you should see all your subscriptions and recurring charges in Paypal.

  3. Click the Active button
    While you might reasonably be expecting and looking for a cancel button (!!!) click the Active button:

  4. Scroll down and click Cancel Subscription
    Yes, it’s right at the very bottom of the page …

  5. One more step … confirm the click
    No, you’re not quite finished, now confirm that you want to cancel the Paypal subscription and stop all recurring charges by clicking the Cancel Subscription button on the confirmation page …

Now you’re finished – cancelling your Paypal recurring charges in six easy steps 🙂

Theoretically this should be a lot simpler: Paypal should simply provide a link right on your account for all recurring charges so you don’t have to search for them. And … providing a clear “Cancel” link instead of a somewhat cryptic “Active” button.

Gizmodo: this is just dumb

If you’re clicking to see photos in an embedded gallery on a page, you should still be able to see the story, right?

Wrong, according to Gizmodo:

Not only does clicking the gallery links obscure the story, you can’t get back to it via your browser’s Back button … because with the miracles of AJAX, you haven’t really left the page. Which makes on wonder: why can’t they still show you the post?


They must be angling for more comments …

10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps

Everyone who builds or designs for the web should read Fred Wilson’s 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps. Fred is a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures in New York, and writes the not-very-creatively-named A VC blog.

Check the full article for all the details … but here are the main points:

  • Speed
  • Instant utility
  • Software is media
  • Less is more
  • Make it programmable
  • Make it personal
  • RESTful (this one is geeky … superficially: everything has a home, and anything/anyone can see it)
  • Discoverability
  • Clean
  • Playful

What really is the iPhone?

There’s a great column at Strominator that explains exactly what it is:

The iPhone is not a phone, its the first generation of a new type of computing device. One that will change how we view computing. One that will make our lives simpler. We won’t have to learn how to use applications, we’ll just use them. We won’t worry about launching applications, saving files, quitting — just using. Every other smartphone is still based on an archaic, cumbersome, paradigm taken straight from desktop computers. Drop-down/pop-up menus, programs, files — ugh. Look how bad Windows Mobile is, and most of us are used to the real Windows on our desktops. Why should a phone take minutes to just turn on? The alternatives are not much better. Mobile OSX, what runs inside the iPhone however, is a whole new beast. Intuitive, responsive, and an extension of the beautiful hardware that it runs on.

Which is not to say there aren’t issues … as the article also talks discusses.

MacSurfer update: grand old dame gets a facelift

Count me shocked.

MacSurfer, the grand-daddy and still king of Mac news sites, has unveiled a new look, now in beta. Times have changed, mullets have gone out of fashion, Michael is no longer the king of pop, and tie-dye is out … but MacSurfer, the essense of web 1.0, has stubbornly remained completely and utterly static. So any update is a bonus.

Major changes:

  1. 1-column to 3-column
  2. Font size for article titles is smaller
  3. Tabbed navigation (as opposed to no navigation at all)
  4. More add space (in the afore-mentioned 2 extra columns)
  5. Integrated search (not just a link)
  6. Archives
  7. Archives!
  8. Let’s say it one more time: finally, finally, archives! Now that great article you saw on MacSurfer but forgot where it was is findable.
  9. Translations (don’t get too excited, they’re via Google … “El Maco updating system blue muy excellent sofa” is a likely translation)
  10. Times when articles added

That’s a lot of change for a grand old dame … but there could be more.

Social features like commenting, submissions, and voting might make MacSurfer less of a jumping-off site and more of a social hub … which I think would translate into significant value for its owners. At any rate: wow – great to see the change.

WordPress admin panel: why is Akismet not under Comments?

wpI guess the title says it all … Akismet, which is a comment spam identification and deletion tool, is under the active menu, Manage, not under Comments.Odd.On a related note, I’m getting something like 5000 comment spam attempts a week, of which about 1 makes it through onto the site.Two things that implies:

  1. Akismet is stunningly amazingly incredibly good. There are no words.
  2. A huge amount of web traffic is spambots looking for places to implant their evil input. I wonder what percentage? 1%? 3%?
  3. Bonus implication: the success rate for comment spam is approaching zero … for blog/forum owners who know about Akismet.

Scobleizer down to 5 posts

Just noticed tonight while checking Scoble’s take on the new Apple products that he’s only got 5 posts on his home page now.

Not enough, Scoble – you run more posts than that that in a single day sometimes. Having to click to a new page just to see what else was posted today is not optimal.. . .. . .I just went recently went down to 10 posts/page from 20, and it really sped up load times. But I don’t think I’ve ever done 10 posts in one day.

How to blow one balloon inside another

Ethan’s instructions:

1. Blow both balloons up first (to stretch the balloons)
2. Let the air out of both
3. Blow up the balloon that’s supposed to be bigger (on the outside)
4. While holding the outside balloon put the other balloon inside it
5. Blow up the inside balloon6. Blow up the outside balloon just a bit more
7. Tie them both


Buzzword is the full meal deal: online word processing

I was skeptical when I saw the Wired blog post praising Buzzword, the latest entrant into the online office world.

Buzzword beats current Ajax-based offerings like Google Docs and Zoho Writer in both usability and aesthetic impact. And in a few months, when a desktop version is released, Buzzword will pose a serious challenge to Microsoft Word, the current king of document editing on the desktop.

But Wired is right: this is an amazing product. I managed to snag an early invite to check out the beta, and it already feels polished and more than usable. It uses Adobe’s Flex to achieve near-desktop feel on the web, and eventually is intended to use AIR to run on the desktop as well.Uploading and placing an image, working with tables, saving and undoing with key commands instead of having to use the menus all the time, plus all the word processing basics … it all seems to be there.buzzword screenshotVery cool.I’ll play with it a little more and post something a bit more detailed …

How to get a genuine Moleskine notebook

Sometimes I can’t believe the lengths people will go to in order to save money. Michael Shannon has about 2500 words and perhaps 25 illustrations on 5 pages teaching you how to create your own Moleskine-like notebook.I think I can do it simpler and cheaper.Here’s his steps:

Page 1.

  • Materials Needed
  • Tools Needed
  • Step 1. Cut paper
  • Step 2. Fold paper
  • Step 3. Collate folios
  • Step 4. Mark spine
  • Step 5. Punch holes

Page 2.

  • Step 6. Sew signatures

Page 3.

  • Step 7. Glue signatures

Page 4.

  • Step 8. Glue endpapers & cover

Page 5.

  • Enhancements

Here’s my steps:

  1. Go to Amazon
  2. Buy Moleskine notebook
  3. Wait a couple of days

My way: $9 plus a couple of bucks shipping. His way: hours of effort, some money for materials, massive PITA factor.I rest my case.

Now will they get the zen of Apple?

Sometimes it’s hard to convince PC users of the benefits of Apple computers and Mac OS X.

Since their computers are hardly personal, and just tools, and essentially lacking style and personality, they don’t understand, can’t grasp, cannot fit in their brains the concept of an interface that has been obsessively designed to fit, to function, to form an environment that accepts and welcomes people.

Maybe the iPhone will solve this problem. Check out what this Time reviewer says:

The user interface is crammed with smart little touches — every moment of user interaction has been quietly stage-managed and orchestrated, with such overwhelming attention to detail that when the history of digital interface design is written, whoever managed this project at Apple will be hailed as a Michelangelo, and the iPhone his or her Sistine Chapel (Steve Jobs can be Pope in this scenario). If you’re not a reviewer, chances are you won’t even bother to look at the manual. Translucent, jewel-like, artfully phrased dialogue boxes come and go on cue. Window borders bounce and flex just slightly to cue the user where and how you’re supposed to drop and drag and scroll them. When you switch the phone to “airplane mode” (no electronic transmissions, for use on planes) a tasteful little orange airplane slides into the menu bar, then zooms away when you switch out again. (This was so pleasurable that I repeatedly entered airplane mode while using the iPhone, even though I wasn’t actually on an airplane.) As soon as my phone realized it belonged to someone with a nonsense-name like Lev, it started correcting typos like “Leb” and “Lec” to match.

That’s the zen of Apple taken to a whole new level.

Possible is not probable

Every time I see something like this in the mainstream press I think: clueless.

There’s little question the iPhone pulls a lot of great wireless functions and applications into a very cool package. But most of those features aren’t exactly new. Google Maps for mobile? Practically any smartphone user can download the application to his or her device.

It’s not about: is it possible. It’s about: is it elegant, simple, natural, obvious, easy, beautiful, friendly. Most importantly: is it normal. Does it just feel normal to surf the web on your phone, locate and listen to music on your phone, to make make phone calls even.

(In case you’re wondering why Linux isn’t mainstream, that’s why. The answers are no.)

That’s Apple’s primary genius. Not always to be first – but almost always to make wizardry easy, even commonplace … while still being elegant and sexy.

The genius of the iPhone’s keyboard

One of the most interesting parts of the Stevenote a couple of days ago was when the VP of something or other for the iPhone division messed up hand-typing something into his iPhone.

I don’t read a ton into that – I’d be a little nervous too, in front of 5000 people and, most particularly, my incredibly demanding, incredibly perfectionist, incredibly seuccessful boss.

But it did start an interesting chain reaction of thoughts in my brain: what if the iPhone keyboard is pure genius not for it’s ease of data entry … but for it’s difficulty?

Let me give some context:

  1. I hardly ever text people on my phone
  2. I egocentrically think that most over-25 people are like me
  3. But when I do, it’s amazingly tedious
  4. I’d like an easier way to do it
  5. But I don’t want a mostly-useless keyboard cluttering up my phone all the time

I think the iPhone will not be nearly as fast at text-entry as most hard-button smartphones. You won’t be able to type by feel – you’ll have to be looking all the time. Your fingers won’t develop nearly as much of a kinesthetic knowledge of the letter positioning. Your speed will be way down.

Whoa. Hold up. Not your speed … Jessica’s speed.

Jessica is 17. Jessica texts every hour of every day. Jessica has thumb calluses from texting. Jessica has 50 friends her age who all text. Jessica runs her social life through her phone’s little keys.

iPhone is not for Jessica.

However, if you’re like me … I’d like to do a little more texting, if the user interface didn’t suck big brass monkey balls. But the effort curve is too steep for the small amount of texting that I would do, to get good at it, to do it regularly. So I don’t text. And when I do, it takes forever. iPhone is going to radically speed up the limited amount of texting I do.

iPhone is for me – and for you. (If you’re like me.)

Despair, Inc.

Do you have one of those cheesy motivational posters on your wall? In your company, somewhere? It’s probably something about teamwork, or hard work, or persistence, or excellence, or …

Boring! Old hat! Cheap! Manipulative!

Welcome Demotivators from Despair, Inc. Now these are fun. Their customer (dis)service page says “We’re not satisfied until you’re not satisfied.”

I like the one on consistency … “it’s only a virtue if you’re not a screw-up.” Or the one on consulting: “If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

At least they make you laugh. And that might be the best motivator of all.

[tags] funny, motivation, demotivator, despair, joke, john koetsier [/tags]

jeroen.ca: art | life

My brother-in-law Jeroen Vermeulen is an amazing artist … one of his 8′ x 5′ paintings hangs in my dining room. Here’s a site that I recently put up for him:


More content to come, as per usual. We’ve only got his recent paintings up … nothing before January of this year. That’ll come with time, however. It was important to get this up as soon as possible as Jeroen just had a show in the Netherlands, and some of his paintings are going up for public display and sale here in Vancouver next week.


. . .
. . .

PS: Jeroen is pronounced yer-roon. It’s a Dutch name (as is mine, sort of) and Jeroen is originally from the Netherlands.

[tags] jeroen vermeulen, art, website, john koetsier [/tags]

VentureThree: best self-branding site ever?

Text Link Ads just informed me that (yay!) they’ve sold another ad for me. (You can see ’em down near the bottom of the right column under, appropriately, text link ads.)

This is cool, because it pays the hosting bills and because I make more from TLA than I ever did from Google AdWords. It’s even more cool because text link ads are incredibly aesthetically better than AdWords. But it’s uber-cool because the latest one is for VentureThree.

Naturally, when someone wants to market themselves on my blog, I check them out. And VentureThree has the coolest interim site I’ve ever seen.

The title at the top says Branding | Brand Consultants | Strategic Identity Consulting Design, and the page looks like this:


Simple. Direct. Powerful. Intriguing. Bold. Clean. Smart. Beautiful.

I love it. I want to work for a company with that kind of strategic aesthetic vision.

. . .
. . .

In case you’re wondering, I haven’t posted anything about any of the other advertisers on this site … so it’s not like you buy an ad, you get a puff piece. Just so you know!


[tags] venturethree, branding, consulting, brands, john koetsier, adwords, text link ads [/tags]

This website hates people

hater.pngCheck out this screen from Seeking Alpha.

Here’s what I see when I read this:

  1. You don’t belong to the club
  2. If you do but you’re a bit of a doze, go log in now
  3. If you want to belong to the club, you have to do this first
  4. Here’s why you should care

Sorry, I already don’t care because the way you put your message together is rude. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Have a comments form that anyone can type into
  2. Accept the comment, with email address and optional URL, and if the commenter does not have an account, ask if he/she wants to create one … with the email address and URL already provided
  3. If yes, send and email to that address
  4. When the commenter clicks on a link in that email …
    • create an account
    • publish the comment

Simple, friendly, easy, natural, and quick.

[tags] usability, forms, comments, john koetsier, seeking alpha [/tags]