'9 of the Most Beautiful Buildings We Ever Tore Down'

Gizmodo:

“The years between 1880 and 1920 changed American cities completely: From elevators to air conditioning to electricity, the monumental buildings born during this period seemed like living things, humming with life. But as quickly as they rose, many of them were torn down—victims of the same progress that pushed them up.”

Such a shame about these buildings, particularly the Chicago Federal Building. I wonder what architecture we will be mourning in 2050.

(Also: did you know I wrote a beginner's guide to urban design a year ago?)

Basecamp is Now Free for Teachers

Following the company's recent name change, popular project-management app Basecamp is now allowing free access for teachers:

“Over the years, Basecamp has proven to be very popular with teachers, classrooms, and students. We want to take it to the next level by absorbing the cost and offering it free for teachers to use with their students.

We know budgets are tight these days, so hopefully this can help reduce the strain and improve school projects at the same time.”

Such a great idea. Kudos to Basecamp for realizing that there are things far more important than making money.

The company's founder and CEO, Jason Fried, spoke more about this philosophy (and about fajitas, of course) with John Gruber on the latest episode of The Talk Show. Definitely an episode worth listening to.

Diet Coda 1.5

Diet Coda is the code-editing app to get if you have to maintain websites from your iPad, and it just updated with some great new features. Files can now be stored locally and synced with Dropbox, and the app now supports a slew of new syntaxes, including Markdown. It's a $20 app, so only serious coders need apply.

The Best Pinboard App for iOS

Shawn Blanc invited me to write about iOS Pinboard apps for The Sweet Setup. It's a pretty crowded market these days, but after thoroughly testing the various Pinboard apps out there, we selected Pushpin as our top pick in the end. A very close second went to Pinswift.

Anyway, go check out the article and hit me up on Twitter to let me know what you think!

RealMac Wants to Make Things Right

Remember when RealMac came out with a new, separate version of Clear a while back, and it caused a bunch of confusion and frustration with their customers?

Well, now they want to clear the air (see what I did there?) once and for all, by going back to a single, universal version of the app and making it temporarily free so that everyone can easily migrate over:

“As Apple doesn’t offer a way to migrate users between copies of an app, we’re going to make Clear free for 24 hours so owners of Clear+ can move to the correct version free of charge.

To make sure as many people as possible can move to Clear, we’re going to do this twice in the next few weeks. We know this is risky - we rely on the income from Clear to run our small, independent company - and so whilst this was by no means an easy decision for us to make, we simply want to do the right thing for you, our customers.”

"The Truest Expression of Us"

Ryan and Tina Essmaker of The Great Discontent share a little backstory behind the formation of the site and how it led to them deciding to go full-time:

“There’s been a ton of support, but along with that, there is also scrutiny. It’s easy to criticize others, but it changes things when it’s your ass and livelihood on the line.”

There are 19 days left for their Kickstarter campaign. I highly recommend supporting these guys, they do fantastic work and I want to see them succeed.

Numerical

My buddy Andrew J. Clark (of The Menu Bar fame) just released his gorgeous, first-ever iPhone app, Numerical.

The tagline for the app is "A Calculator Without Equal", which is not only clever from a marketing perspective, but also true because the app does not have an 'equals' button. It simply calculates answers on-the-fly, and lets you use swipe gestures to undo, redo, or archive an answer for later reference.

The app also has a certain charm to it, with helpful animations and pleasant sound effects throughout (you can see it in action here). It will even give useful error messages, like if you try to divide by zero.

Andrew obviously spent a lot of time considering the little details, and Numerical has now replaced the stock iOS calculator app for me. The app is only $3, so go get it and support a brilliant guy.

'Why Indie Developers Go Insane'

Jeff Vogel has a great take on the recent Flappy Bird saga (or rather, the public response to it):

“Suppose one day I get one insult too many, I go nuts and quit or freak out. Here's what people will say about me: What a weakling. What a wimp. What an idiot. Why does he care? Why doesn't he just turn the social media off? Why can't he be tough and awesome like me? Screw that guy.

All this, of course, from people who have never experienced being in even remotely the same position.”

I've already vented enough about this topic on Twitter and elsewhere, but suffice it to say that I've been disgusted by the way people decided to lash out against a stranger on the internet about a silly little iPhone game. The media certainly didn't handle it any better.

Is it any wonder that the game's developer wanted to get away from it all?

Artifacts: Patrick Rhone

Artifacts is a series that explores the items carried by some of my favorite creative people. It's not just about the what but also the why.

Patrick Rhone has kindly taken some time to tell me about all the items he keeps in his pocket and bag. I really dig the fact that most of them writing supplies. If you'd like to learn more about the man behind the artifacts, check out this interview I conducted with him a while back.

Enter Patrick:


Here is what I carry most days. Most days I only leave with what is in my pockets. It is enough. That said, I bring the bag on the days I need to (like for a client appointment or such).

Pocket:

Patrick Rhone - Pocket

  1. Hellbrand Leatherworks Field Notes Cover — This is my main "on the go" notebook. I also keep a nice stash of 3x5 cards in here too. Also, some postage stamps and a couple of small envelopes.

  2. Uni-ball 207 Retractable Micro Point Gel Pen — My fave "don't mind if I lose it" pen. Never leave the house without paper and a pen.

  3. Jim Whittle Slim Wallet — Love this thing. Can hold ten cards and a few bills folded in thirds.

  4. iPhone 5 — This is my principle writing device. About 95% of my blog posts these days are written on this using the onscreen keyboard. I have fast thumbs.

Bag:

Patrick Rhone - Bag

  1. GORUCK GR Echo Rucksack — Just enough to hold what I need and a bit more when needed. I even have packed a change of clothes along with the gear in here for an overnight trip. Can carry my MacBook Air 11" in the laptop pocket but I rarely bring along it unless really needed. Rock solid. Built to last. GORUCK Tough like me.

  2. A bunch of pens (various colors and sizes) — Can never have too many pens either.

  3. Victorinox Swiss Army CyberTool 34 — Extremely handy for a technical consultant like myself.

  4. MAGLITE Flashlight, Blue — Flashlights are handy to have around too.

  5. Hobonichi Planner 2014 — My journal. I love it. I really, really, adore it. Use it for a daily log and journal. It is in a cover from another notebook given to me years ago by a friend.

  6. Earnest Eats Energy Bars — I'm hypoglycemic so I always try to keep an energy bar or two around in case I get snacky.

  7. RHA MA750i Noise-Isolating In-Ear Headphones with Mic and Remote) — Fantastic earphones that I've been meaning to review. I'm no audiophile but these make everything sound better and do a great job of blocking out the rest of the world.

  8. Pelle Journal — No longer made or available. Maker seems to have just disapeared from the face of the planet. I love mine but have no idea what I'm going to do when the current refill inside is used up.

  9. Midori Traveler's Notebook Journal — Passport Size — Similar idea as the Pelle but in a much smaller size. Don't use this one as much but you can never have too many notebooks (at least that's what I tell myself).

  10. WaterField Designs Case — I use this for cables and small accessories. They don't make this specific case anymore but I have linked to something similar. Been using their stuff for years. Had this for about 10. Looks brand new.

  11. iPad mini — First generation. Black with grey Smart Cover.

Chicago Avenue Moon

Chicago Avenue Moon

Thanks to my buddy Nate Boateng, I discovered an awesome new app called Chicago Avenue Moon. As the developer describes it:

“Chicago Avenue Moon is a responsive, generative music app that gathers a set of variables including date, time, phase of the moon, and GPS location, and uses that data to determine how its music unfolds, in real-time. The piece is intended for a listener in motion, whose route and speed affect the composition. Composer Joshua Dumas wrote 1000 brief musical phrases which the app manipulates, sequences, and layers to create trillions and trillions of variations, a unique experience with every listen.

He imagines the piece as a personalized soundtrack for strangers’ mundanities—an effort to help re-enchant a person’s daily commute, trip to the laundromat, or evening jog.”

As I just wrote about on Tools & Toys, the music this app generates is very akin to the Journey game soundtrack, which I love it for.

Chicago Avenue Moon is only $1 right now, and will go up to $2 after Feb 11th. I highly recommend checking it out. If nothing else, it will totally change the way you experience a nighttime walk.

'Designing Unread'

Speaking of Unread, Jared Sinclair wrote a post detailing his decisions behind the app's design:

“I decided that best way to make Unread a comfortable app was to let the reader directly manipulate each screen anywhere her thumb might land. This freed me to remove interface chrome and focus on the text. It’s now a trite idea for design to focus on “content,” but in Unread’s case it really was an essential goal. I wanted readers to get their minds out of the email rut that has trapped their expectations of what RSS can be.”

I think he nailed the comfort aspect. The gestures in Unread feel so natural that I'm finding myself swiping around and exploring every corner of the app just because I enjoy the sensation of flicking things on- and off-screen.

Unread for iPhone

Unread, a new RSS app developed by Jared Sinclair (who also developed the excellent Riposte for App.net), has just been unveiled to the world. I'm apparently one of the few people on Earth who didn't get into the beta, so I don't have an official review written like my friends Federico Viticci, Shawn Blanc, and Stephen Hackett do. (I'm not bitter or anything.)

Even so, I'm already enjoying my experience with Unread in the short amount of time I've had to play with it, and I look forward to testing it a lot more.

The special launch price is only $2.99, so get it while it's hot.

FiftyThree: "Facebook should stop using our brand name."

Facebook just released an app called Paper today, which turns your Facebook feed into something that resembles Flipboard. This came as an upsetting surprise to FiftyThree, the studio behind one of my favorite iPad apps, also called Paper.

“There’s a simple fix here. We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story. Facebook should stop using our brand name.”

I absolutely adore FiftyThree's app, and I certainly don't have any love for Facebook these days, but they should've seen this coming. 'Paper' is too generic a title to have any reasonable expectation that other developers wouldn't use it. Facebook isn't the only other iOS developer to do this, either (examples: 1, 2).

I'm not trying to be a jerk about this, but trying to claim such a generic word as yours, and ONLY yours, seems pretty indefensible to me. That's just my opinion though—I'm not a copyright lawyer.

'The Far Future of our Solar System'

Ethan Siegel wrote a fascinating piece on Medium that uses our existing understanding of physics to extrapolate what the far (and I mean far) future of our solar system might look like:

“But neither the accelerated expansion of the Universe nor our impending great galactic smashup will, in all likelihood, affect our Solar System. (In fact, you know how many stars are likely to undergo a collision with another star due to the entire merger process between our local group’s two largest galaxies? Just six, out of around a trillion stars!) Instead, let’s focus on our little corner of space in the Solar System, and look at exactly when certain spectacular events are likely to occur!”

It's a slightly different perspective of the future than the one portrayed in one of my favorite book series, but I'll let it go this time.

Artifacts: Jamelle Bouie

Artifacts is a series that explores the items carried by some of my favorite creative people. It's not just about the what but also the why.

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer for The Daily Beast, where he writes primarily about politics and race (with a little pop culture thrown in for good measure). Some of his work has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The Magazine.

He's also a phenomenal photographer and has an excellent sense of style, which is why I wanted to invite him to talk about his artifacts.

Enter Jamelle:


Artifacts - Jamelle Bouie

  1. Timbuk2 Messenger (Medium): My everyday bag. I also use a camera insert, both for—you know— a camera, and to carry other stuff. On weekends, when I don't have lunches or electronics to carry, I have a smaller shoulder bag.

  2. Pentax K-5 II DSLR Camera I almost always carry this. I don't always use it—especially on days when I'm commuting by bike—but it's nice to have when I see something that catches my eye, like racist protests or creepy birds. This particular camera was a Christmas gift, and replaces my much-loved Pentax K-x. I also carry three lenses, all part of Pentax's "Limited" series of primes: A 15mm, a 40mm, and a 70mm.

  3. Olloclip iPhone Lens: Or at least, the fish-eye and macro lenses. I lost the wide-angle lens while having a picnic with my partner last year. I only use the macro anyway, so it's not a big deal.

  4. USB SD card reader: Because the MacBook Air doesn't have a separate slot for it, and I don't feel like bringing a USB cable along with me, everywhere.

  5. Small bottle of lotion: Because I have dry skin. You know how it is—life is hard out here on those streets.

  6. Field Notes and Pilot G-2 .38mm pens: For note-taking and such.

  7. Sol Republic Tracks Headphones: These aren't the greatest in the world, but for my purposes—listening to bass-heavy music and podcasts—they're more than adequate.

  8. iPad mini with Retina Display

  9. iPhone 5s

  10. 2012 11-inch MacBook Air


You can follow Jamelle in lots of places at the handle 'jbouie': Twitter, App.net, Flickr, and Instagram.

Marco Arment on Long-Form Articles

“Too many people now ask for (and produce) “long-form” when they really want substantial. It’s entirely possible to be substantial without being long, and good editors have helped writers strike that balance for centuries. Emphasizing and rewarding length over quality results in worse writing and more reader abandonment.”

Anecdotally, I actually have saved articles to Instapaper simply because they were too long to finish in the allotted time, but otherwise I agree with Marco here. I've noticed a lot of fetishizing of word-counts in recent years, as if writing more words about a topic earns the author bonus points. It doesn't.

On the contrary, I prefer when a writer gets to the point in as few words as possible. There's a subtle sort of power and beauty to that. My work may not always live up to that goal, but I do my best to keep it in my sights.

Shawn Blanc's New Podcast: The Weekly Briefly

I've been listening to Shawn Blanc's daily, members-only podcast, Shawn Today, for a little over a year now. It's one of the few podcasts that I try to listen to every episode of, because Shawn and I share similar interests and I value his thoughts on those topics.

And now, he's branching out from Shawn Today and releasing one of the episodes to the public each week, under a different podcast name: The Weekly Briefly. The first episode—"Indie Life"—was just released in the last half-hour and I encourage you to go listen.

On Squarespace's New 'Logo' Feature

Earlier today, Squarespace announced a new feature called Squarespace Logo that allows users to create simple logos with some text, a tagline, and an icon. Pretty innocuous, right? Might even help a few people add a little personal touch to their site that they might not be able to create for themselves (or can't afford to have made by a professional).

But to a bunch of designers out there, this was a personal affront, a direct attack on their livelihoods. Do a simple Twitter search for 'squarespace logo' and you'll see this sort of thing:

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

The problem I see here is that these designers think that Squarespace is now in direct competition with them for their client base. On the contrary, I highly doubt this tool will affect the livelihood of any designer worth their salt.

If a person or company decides to make a logo with this tool and is happy with the result, then you can bet they were never going to hire you anyway. Maybe they're not interested in Building a Brand™, or maybe they just don't have the means to pay for a professional logo. Whatever the reason, the fact that they have tools to make this process easier for themselves is a good thing. Only a completely selfish person would think otherwise.

It's also pretty silly to say that these sorts of tools "devalue a profession". Professional photographers have been moaning for years about the rise of portable cameras and layman editing tools, but there's still a vibrant and necessary market for pro photographers. In the same vein, the advent of home video-editing tools hasn't done away with movie studios.

Maybe photographers and videographers and designers (and even writers!) will be made obsolete someday. Maybe. But I think that day is very far off in the future, and a designer scared of a tool that produces nothing more than a basic shape with some text is perhaps a designer not worth hiring to begin with.

So no, I don't think there's any cause for concern. Squarespace didn't kill the web designer market, and Squarespace Logo is not going to kill the field of icon design.

'Sad YouTube: The Lost Treasures Of The Internet’s Greatest Cesspool'

Mark Slutsky has been archiving YouTube comments, but not the ones you might think:

“...I discovered that, secretly, the YouTube comment box had become the strangest and most wonderful place on the internet. A place that was fascinating, endlessly moving, and heartbreakingly human.”

I almost decided against linking to this article because, well, BuzzFeed—but it's so good I couldn't help myself. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Harry Marks on the Editing Process

“Adverbs are almost always unnecessary. I don’t eliminate them with wild abandon the way some writers do, but after the second or third reading I start to see where they present a problem. The context of the sentence should dictate how the line is supposed to sound to the reader. The adverb is a lazy way of screaming, “This is how the character feels right now.””

Lots of great advice in this article. All writers—authors and bloggers alike—should have a rigorous editing process, no matter their experience level.

I particularly agree with the point about reading your work in a variety of mediums while editing. I can't exactly figure out why, but no matter how many times I've read over a draft in Editorial, I almost always catch something that needs fixing as soon as I've published it to the web.