Hyperlapse: Creating Assets

Have you seen Google Street View Hyperlapse? It’s the latest project from the minds at Teehan+Lax. To be more precise, it’s from the Teehan+Lax Labs, an offshoot within this top-tier creative/design agency where people explore new ways to use technology to communicate.
https://player.vimeo.com/video/63653873
If you want to see how Hyperlapse works, the source code is available on GitHub. Teehan+Lax is a company that really likes to share. They share source code, tools,  ideas, design strategies, business philosophy. They follow this principle: ‘create more value than you capture.’  That’s a powerful idea championed by open source crusader and tech book publisher Tim O’Reilly. It’s an idea that you’ll find embodied on many of the best sites on the web.

When I was playing with Hyperspace yesterday, I was reminded of a 2010 post (that I happened to read only a few weeks ago) by Robert Niles, former editor of USC Annenberg’s Online Journalism Review. It’s an article about the need for journalists to think in terms of creating assets instead of stories. Here’s the crux of it:

To me, that’s the word [“assets”] that should replace “stories” in your vocabulary as a journalist. Too many of the journalists I’ve seen try to make the transition to running their own blogs and websites remain mired in the “story” mindset, endlessly creating newspaper-style “stories” or even brief-length snippets for their blogs. But they fail to create assets of enduring value that ultimately provide the income that they need to remain viable businesses online.

This is as true for online publishing as it is for any other online content. Assets that have enduring value keep people coming back. But I’d add that creating a good story, or narrative, to support your assets is just as important. Teehan+Lax is a great example of how this is done. Read their ‘behind-the-scene’ story about how they designed Medium to see what I mean.

Xyle scope now free

Xyle scope for free. Not sure when this happened. Used to cost $20. I’m guessing this choice has a lot to do with the great success of Things. I wrote about Xyle scope in Jan. 2008. My conclusion then:

I almost bought this application but, in the end, I decided to stick with two free tools that perform most of the same feats as Xyle, even though I think they are much less elegant. I use Firefox when I’m working on websites, and have grown to rely on Chris Pederick’s Web Developer and Joe Hewitt’s Firebug.

I’m definitely adding Xyle scope to my toolbox now.

MacRabbit Espresso

EspressoGrab a cup of coffee. We already have Bean, the excellent and free rich text editor. Soon, we will have Espresso from MacRabbit, creator of the best-in-class CSS editor, CSSEdit.

Reading through the features, it looks like Espresso will be a hybrid application that combines many of the coding-friendly features of BBEdit or TextMate with the great UI and navigation of CSSEdit (to include CSSEdit’s live preview functionality). It also offers built-in publishing tools. It is geared towards web development, so it will surely be a strong Panic Coda alternative as well. Can’t wait to test it out.

I’ve signed up for the beta.

Quantity vs. Quality? The old Mac/PC debate

Mac or PC?I’ve convinced many people to buy a Mac over the years, but there’s one person I cannot convert. My mother refuses to go Mac. To put this in proper context, you should know that she is not a computer novice. She has no problem fixing driver problems or troubleshooting a PC. She runs several web sites. You should also know that she is not hostile to the idea of using a Mac.

So, she’s computer-saavy and open minded about trying the Mac OS. So why doesn’t she buy one?

I have to admit that I was disappointed when she recently purchased an HP Pavilion DV740US laptop for $1149. This model came with a 1.67GHz Centrino Core Duo processor, 3GB DDR2 RAM, Windows Vista Premium, a DVD±RW/CD-RW drive with Blu-Ray read support, a 5-in-1 digital media reader, a 320GB hard drive, a TV tuner and a 17-inch screen. It has a built-in camera and wireless capability. In short, it’s designed to be an full-featured entertainment center. It weights in at 7.7 pounds.

She did take a look at the Mac options, but only considered the MacBook Pro — the 17-inch screen was a minimum requirement. But at a starting price of $1,999, the MacBook Pro was just too expensive. It also didn’t have as many features. For her, the HP model was the obvious choice. The primary user of this machine, my father, is happy with it. What’s he doing with it? Primarily surfing the web and checking emails. While he might not use a lot of the power and features of the HP, he gets a zippy machine with a big keyboard and large screen. And when he’s not using it, my mother has access to a powerful second computer in the house (her primary is a Gateway desktop).

I’ve tried to convince her to buy a Mac for years. My main points on why I feel the Mac is the best choice will be familiar to most readers of this site:

You may pay more upfront for a Mac but it’ll generally last longer. I think that most low-cost PCs are designed to be disposable, and they are generally made with cheap components. My second generation iBook G3, though, is seven years old and still going strong. Macs are generally well-crafted machines. Also note that Windows may be much more expensive than the Mac OS in the long run.

I also believe that the Mac user experience is superior thanks to the OS and the aesthetics of the hardware design (and apparently just thinking about Apple makes one more creative, which is kind of scary).

Next, I say that the extra bells and whistles of entertainment machines like the HP DV740US don’t add up to much. I think the Mac excels at honing in on the essentials that people need while steadfastly avoiding feature bloat. This is just my personal choice, but I’m wary of everything-and-the-kitchen sink PCs. In my experience, the base capabilities may appear to be great, but in reality they just don’t work that well. And they generally don’t work well together. We Mac users like to say that our machines ‘just work.’ Well, that’s because Macs just work.

Security is generally considered to be much stronger on the Mac. The main counter-argument I hear on this point is ‘Sure, but just wait until the Mac gets more popular.’ Actually, I think that’s a valid point. We shouldn’t take our relative security for granted. The Mac OS is fairly secure, but it’s far from perfect. It is, however, vastly more secure than a machine on Windows. I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

I also think that Mac software (both Apple and third-party software) is vastly superior in terms of quality, user experience, and OS integration to what you can get on a PC. This is subjective, I know. But it’s true!

Finally, the Mac is the only platform today that can (legally) run the Mac OS along with Windows and most other operating systems. And Macs Run Windows Vista Better Than PCs according to just-released Popular Mechanics test.

In the end, my arguments lost out. Here were the main points behind her HP decision:

1. She would love to try out the Mac OS, but she is quite content with Vista
2. The 17-inch screen is a must — and the Mac only offers costly options in this category
3. The HP offers many more features for much less money

I have to say that I understand the decision to go with HP, but I think the cost benefit of the cheaper HP will decline over time. I think you get what you pay for. However, I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to back this up. Perhaps the HP will stand the test of time just as well as a Mac, or perhaps it doesn’t matter because it’s cheap enough to be replaced without much concern in two or three years.

Despite the fact that I still haven’t persuaded her to switch, she remains very interested in the Mac OS. She noted that she would like the option to install the Mac OS on a Windows machine so she could test it out. She’s not the only one. This happens to be a current hot topic in the Mac community. For more on this, see the April 17 Macworld article, Frankenmac! What’s in a Mac clone?.

Personally, I would love to have the option to legally install Mac OS X on a PC. In fact, I would be tempted to build my own PC tower if I could run Mac OS X on it. Will Apple ever license the Mac OS to run on non-Apple computers? I doubt it, but then again I never thought I’d see Apple switch to Intel. While I’m interested in installing Mac OS X on non-Apple machines, I fear what this might do to the the OS over time. Apple’s decision to lock the Mac OS to Apple computers no doubt helps to maintain control, security and compatibility.

Of course, Apple could also add more products to their line to compete with low and mid-range PC desktops and laptops. While this would surely increase market share, would this be the beginning of the end of Apple’s distinctive quality? I think it might: these cheaper machines would logically need to integrate cheaper components to get the price down, right?

At any rate, Macs today cost a bit more. And they are not as fully-loaded as many PC offerings out on the market. For your money, you get higher-quality, well-integrated components. You get the only machine that (legally) runs the Mac OS. You get more security. You get better software. And, most importantly, you get the Mac user experience — it’s hard to explain this to PC users, but it’s an experience that is worth the price of admission.

Quantity vs Quality. The old Mac/PC debate

I’ve convinced many people to buy a Mac over the years, but there’s one person I cannot convert. My mother refuses to go Mac. To put this in proper context, you should know that she is not a computer novice. She has no problem fixing driver problems or troubleshooting a PC. She runs several web sites. You should also know that she is not hostile to the idea of using a Mac.

So, she’s computer-saavy and open minded about trying the Mac OS. So why doesn’t she buy one?

I have to admit that I was disappointed when she recently purchased an HP Pavilion DV740US laptop for $1149. This model came with a 1.67GHz Centrino Core Duo processor, 3GB DDR2 RAM, Windows Vista Premium, a DVD±RW/CD-RW drive with Blu-Ray read support, a 5-in-1 digital media reader, a 320GB hard drive, a TV tuner and a 17-inch screen. It has a built-in camera and wireless capability. In short, it’s designed to be an full-featured entertainment center. It weights in at 7.7 pounds.

She did take a look at the Mac options, but only considered the MacBook Pro — the 17-inch screen was a minimum requirement. But at a starting price of $1,999, the MacBook Pro was just too expensive. It also didn’t have as many features. For her, the HP model was the obvious choice. The primary user of this machine, my father, is happy with it. What’s he doing with it? Primarily surfing the web and checking emails. While he might not use a lot of the power and features of the HP, he gets a zippy machine with a big keyboard and large screen. And when he’s not using it, my mother has access to a powerful second computer in the house (her primary is a Gateway desktop).

I’ve tried to convince her to buy a Mac for years. My main points on why I feel the Mac is the best choice will be familiar to most readers of this site:

You may pay more upfront for a Mac but it’ll generally last longer. I think that most low-cost PCs are designed to be disposable, and they are generally made with cheap components. My second generation iBook G3, though, is seven years old and still going strong. Macs are generally well-crafted machines. Also note that Windows may be much more expensive than the Mac OS in the long run.

I also believe that the Mac user experience is superior thanks to the OS and the aesthetics of the hardware design (and apparently just thinking about Apple makes one more creative, which is kind of scary).

Next, I say that the extra bells and whistles of entertainment machines like the HP DV740US don’t add up to much. I think the Mac excels at honing in on the essentials that people need while steadfastly avoiding feature bloat. This is just my personal choice, but I’m wary of everything-and-the-kitchen sink PCs. In my experience, the base capabilities may appear to be great, but in reality they just don’t work that well. And they generally don’t work well together. We Mac users like to say that our machines ‘just work.’ Well, that’s because Macs just work.

Security is generally considered to be much stronger on the Mac. The main counter-argument I hear on this point is ‘Sure, but just wait until the Mac gets more popular.’ Actually, I think that’s a valid point. We shouldn’t take our relative security for granted. The Mac OS is fairly secure, but it’s far from perfect. It is, however, vastly more secure than a machine on Windows. I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

I also think that Mac software (both Apple and third-party software) is vastly superior in terms of quality, user experience, and OS integration to what you can get on a PC. This is subjective, I know. But it’s true!

Finally, the Mac is the only platform today that can (legally) run the Mac OS along with Windows and most other operating systems. And Macs Run Windows Vista Better Than PCs according to just-released Popular Mechanics test.

In the end, my arguments lost out. Here were the main points behind her HP decision:

1. She would love to try out the Mac OS, but she is quite content with Vista
2. The 17-inch screen is a must — and the Mac only offers costly options in this category
3. The HP offers many more features for much less money

I have to say that I understand the decision to go with HP, but I think the cost benefit of the cheaper HP will decline over time. I think you get what you pay for. However, I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to back this up. Perhaps the HP will stand the test of time just as well as a Mac, or perhaps it doesn’t matter because it’s cheap enough to be replaced without much concern in two or three years.

Despite the fact that I still haven’t persuaded her to switch, she remains very interested in the Mac OS. She noted that she would like the option to install the Mac OS on a Windows machine so she could test it out. She’s not the only one. This happens to be a current hot topic in the Mac community. For more on this, see the April 17 Macworld article, Frankenmac! What’s in a Mac clone?.

Personally, I would love to have the option to legally install Mac OS X on a PC. In fact, I would be tempted to build my own PC tower if I could run Mac OS X on it. Will Apple ever license the Mac OS to run on non-Apple computers? I doubt it, but then again I never thought I’d see Apple switch to Intel. While I’m interested in installing Mac OS X on non-Apple machines, I fear what this might do to the the OS over time. Apple’s decision to lock the Mac OS to Apple computers no doubt helps to maintain control, security and compatibility.

Of course, Apple could also add more products to their line to compete with low and mid-range PC desktops and laptops. While this would surely increase market share, would this be the beginning of the end of Apple’s distinctive quality? I think it might: these cheaper machines would logically need to integrate cheaper components to get the price down, right?

At any rate, Macs today cost a bit more. And they are not as fully-loaded as many PC offerings out on the market. For your money, you get higher-quality, well-integrated components. You get the only machine that (legally) runs the Mac OS. You get more security. You get better software. And, most importantly, you get the Mac user experience — it’s hard to explain this to PC users, but it’s an experience that is worth the price of admission.

My final new WordPress site design…really

So, I freshened up the site a bit this weekend. Why? The previous design just felt too heavy, dense and modular for my taste. I think the new design is much lighter and more aesthetically pleasing. I thinned some fonts, balanced out the colors, and added some organic shapes. It’s not perfect, but I think it looks and feels better. I also toned down some of the overt Apple imagery and dropped the Apple Dock metaphor. I created what I feel is a subtler logo, with subtler supporting art. The design still sports an Apple logo, but it’s a warped and blended into the clouds. I like it. I had fun.

I hope to keep this basic design, even if I decide to drop WordPress. And I am planning to drop WordPress. Next week, I’m turning back to a long-neglected topic promised in a previous post: the long-awaited WordPress vs RapidWeaver comparison. They are both wonderful tools. I’ve come to know them both well (in addition to this WordPress site, I’ve developed several RapidWeaver sites for friends and clients).

Still, I’ve concluded to go with neither WordPress or RapidWeaver when I next update this site. I’ve decided to turn to a new CMS on the block called ModX. I see it as a nice hybrid of the two that is full of promise and potential. It offers the flexibility I seek.

That’s not to say that I don’t like WordPress or RapidWeaver. Each has strengths. And each has weaknesses. I’m going to explore my view on both of these tools in the upcoming week. After that, I plan to steer towards a wider discussion about Content Management Systems, leading to my current infatuation with ModX.

Back in November, I said that I’d create a WordPress and RapidWeaver mock up of this site and offer it to anyone who wants it. I still intend to do this. The WordPress version is just about ready. I’m now tweaking it to ensure the CSS and XHTML validates. I also intend to develop a RapidWeaver template, simply because I really like this application and want to create a RW template!

Stay tuned.

Cultured Code comments

A friend emailed me last night to ask if I had tried ‘Things‘ from Cultured Code. I have — this is one of the GTD-based task management applications I will review in the coming weeks. So far, I’ve written about iGTD and OmniFocus, both excellent applications. The View from the Dock ‘Getting Things Done’ task manager series is taking more time than I anticipated, mainly because it takes a while to understand and fully evaluate each application.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about. In this same email, I was also asked if I had tried Cultured Code’s other product, Xyle scope. I thought I’d post a few thoughts on this.

I tried out the full-featured trial of Xyle scope this past summer. I think it’s is a really great application, especially if you’re learning HTML and CSS. What is it? I think of it as an all-in-one tool to dissect a web page. It offers a quick, clean and tidy way to view underlying code, which is very handy if you’re trying to figure out ‘how’d they do that?’ for a particular website that you like. It’s also great if you’re trying to match selectors with elements on a really complex page, or if you’re trying to locate a bug.

I really like how Xyle scope displays HTML in a hierarchical view (a tree structure). It’s much easier to grasp the structure of a page with this handy view. And if you click on any element on the page, you can readily see the code for just that element in the HTML pane. It’s a very well-ordered, visual way to present code. The CSS views built into this tool are also very well designed, easy to navigate and powerful.

What strikes me most about Xyle scope is how attractively it’s designed. I really like how it combines the ‘what you see’ on a given web page with the ‘what’s behind what you see’ in the code. It’s a real pleasure to use.

I almost bought this application but, in the end, I decided to stick with two free tools that perform most of the same feats as Xyle, even though I think they are much less elegant. I use Firefox when I’m working on websites, and have grown to rely on Chris Pederick’s Web Developer and Joe Hewitt’s Firebug.

Given that these two tools perform similar functions for free, I decided to stick with them. I also found that I preferred Firefox integration to opening up a separate stand-alone application when I want or need to quickly dissect a web page. It’s just easier, and I’m lazy.

What would convince me to reconsider? First, I should make it clear that I want Xyle scope in my toolbox for web development. I love it, I really do. Yet, I’m held back. It’s not really the price ($19.95). I think, rather, it’s that Xyle scope stops short of what could be a great all-in-one application. In other words, I want to use it to edit XHTML and CSS, too.

I would like to be able to use Xyle as an analysis tool with tight browser integration: I want all of Xyle’s power available within Firefox. Then, when I’m ready to edit, I’d like to flip a switch and start editing in a companion stand-alone application that integrates seamlessly with the analysis tools. Given the great design and sense of style of Xyle scope, I would love to see what Cultured Code could do if they took it to the next level. I would consider buying that — and I’d be willing to pay a higher price for it.