Month: June 2016

Mitch Hedberg – Rest in Peace

Mitch Hedberg has died. The news is just now percolating across the web and details are tough to find, but this is extremely sad news to all who have ever listened to or met Mitch. Mitch was only 37 years old and the cause of death appears to be a heart attack.

Rather than write an unsolicited eulogy or anything like that, I’ll just say that Mitch was and is my favorite comedian ever, and I’ll leave you with these two clips from his two albums:

From “Strategic Grill Locations”

From “Mitch Alltogether”

If You Love Something Give It Away

I want to give away some iPod Shuffles. I’d like to give away at least one a month and possibly one every two weeks for the rest of 2005 if that’s okay with everybody. This isn’t some network marketing dealio… I just really want to give some Shuffles away.

The only problem is, I can’t think of a really inventive way to give them away right now. Earlier this year, I gave Isaac Lin and Jay Robinson an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and a Wireless Mouse in a haiku contest that turned out great, so I may go that route again, but I’m thinking there might be a better way.

In light of my lack of creativity at the moment, I’ve decided that the very first iPod Shuffle will go to the person who comes up with the best way for me to give the rest of them away. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when coming up with your pitch:

  1. Each iPod Shuffle will essentially be purchased by me online and shipped as a gift to the winner, so the contest cannot involve me personally doing anything with the iPod such as looking at a serial number and making people guess it.
  2. Entries should be relatively quick to complete. A haiku is a perfect example. I don’t mind if they take a few hours or a few days to do, but nothing ridiculous please.
  3. Entries shouldn’t involve performing any illegal acts.
  4. Entries can involve the written word, photography, natural media, or any other creative outlet.
  5. I am open to this contest changing slightly with each round, so the entry criteria don’t need to be exactly the same every month or week.
  6. If your idea for this giveaway involves a novel use of the internet that I hadn’t thought of before, it is likely to win.
  7. If no idea turns out to be better than the haiku contest, I will stick with the haiku contest and award myself the first iPod Shuffle. Woohoo!
UPDATE: Tons of tons of great suggestions so far! I think I’m going to have to pick 9 of them and do a different one each month. The people who came up with the ones I use will get iPod Shuffles, and the people who win the associated contests will get them as well.

sIFR 2.0 Is Almost Ready… Please Test

UPDATE: Version 2.0 is now available. See article here.

Alright, sIFR 2.0 is finally ready for release! Before Mark and I release it, however, we’d like sIFR developers to run through a short set of testcases over on the sIFR Wiki.

The testcases represent some of the more complicated things that are happening under the hood of sIFR and can be found here.

Since we’ve only added two small things (a tiny Opera tweak and the ability to show browser text while the sIFR text is loading), we don’t anticipate any problems, but these testcases are meant to insure nothing was overlooked.

If you have a free minute, please run through the tests and let Mark or I know if you experience anything out of the ordinary. The whole suite should only take a minute. If every seems to work ok, please also feel free to post a comment on this page saying something like “Win XP/Flash 7 — Firefox 1.0, IE 6, all tests passed.”

Many thanks, and sIFR 2.0 will follow within days.

The Saltine Challenge

While on business at our New York offices a couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to a peculiar competition known as “The Saltine Challenge”. Apparently this has been around for quite awhile but I’d never heard of it. In a nutshell, one must ingest 6 Saltine crackers in 60 seconds without the help of water or any other digestive lubricants. The crackers must also be of the salted variety. Seems quite easy… that’s what I thought.

With a small crowd of onlookers, I tried and failed badly on the first attempt. The second attempt was a failure as well. Not even close. I managed to get all 6 decently chewed, but there were still two full crackers worth of dough when the minute mark passed.

So I went back to Seattle thinking, as I was told, that less than 1 in 10 people can accomplish this. Not wanting to give up, however, I sent out an all-office e-mail summoning Saltines from all corners of the building for use in further testing. I administered the Challenge to four more people, and sure enough, everyone failed. Before giving up, I decided to give it one more try using a special chunking strategy that my co-worker in New York Phil Berberian had mentioned in passing, and lo and behold, I did it! Six down the hatch!

Just to see if this feat was repeatable, I tried three more times over the next three days and lowered my time in each trial. Could seven be next? Absolutely. After all, if six Saltines was a great bar trick in itself, seven would bring the house down. Sure enough, I did seven on my first try yesterday.

And now a day later, I’ve officially reached the addiction stage.

I’ve already tried eight twice today and although I failed both times, 70 seconds was all it took to get everything down. It’s definitely within reach and I’m not stopping until I achieve this dietary milestone.

Has anybody else tried this? Care to post your results?

UPDATE: Chunking strategy revealed!

UPDATE #2: 8 Saltines accomplished!

Implicit Personalization on

I followed a link from PhotoMatt this morning over to and noticed a very cool feature they have over there: Upon visiting the front page, the site immediately redirected me to “” and showed me information local to the Seattle area (where I live) even though I had never been there before and never entered any geographic information.

How cool.

A quick glance at the address bar told me exactly what what going on. The complete url is listed below:

“Guess=true”. Very nice. So what’s happening is that Tribe is looking up my IP address in a table and mapping it to the Seattle area. We use IP lookup tables at Disney all the time for targeted advertising purposes, but I’d never seen someone actually use them to redirect you to a localized version of their site. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’d just never seen it.

One of the hardest things to do in the web business is to get users to actually use personalization options (as counterintuitive as that sounds), and by performing this first personalization step implicitly and automatically, Tribe provides users better information without forcing them to ask for it. Smart.

Ten Things I Learned in Texas

I just got back from the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin and here is what I learned:

  1. Austin might as well be its own state. I haven’t traveled around Texas much but I can’t imagine the rest of it is anything like Austin. In order to preserve the overwhelmingly positive opinion I have of Texas right now, I don’t plan on going anywhere else in the state.
  2. You don’t know Joe Clark until you’ve met Joe Clark. Joe’s communication style is full of nuance and levity, but when it takes the form of typed words you’ve never put a voice to, the subtlety can get lost. Now that I’ve met Joe and seen how nice a person he is, I have that much more respect for what he does. Joe is also a human captioning machine… see next point for more on this.
  3. The interest in web typography is even greater than I figured. Joshua Darden, Shaun Inman, and I hosted the Typography for the Screen panel and it couldn’t have been at a worse time: 10am on the last day of the conference and opposite Jon Hicks, Doug Bowman, Dave Shea, Jon Allsopp, and Eris Free talking about The Web in 2010. I joked all week with people that I’d rather go to that panel than my own. Lo and behold, our panel packed the house. It was standing room only and people were sitting on the floor as well. I won’t pretend to know how well we did, but the crowd was engaged in the discussion, and we did manage to get an unsolicited ringing endorsement from Joe Clark on sIFR. Joe was also nice enough to blog the hell out of the session with a comprehensive account of our panel. He must have been a court stenographer in a past life because I’ve never seen anyone type that fast.
  4. The whole world is going to Macs. SXSW was not a particularly designcentric conference and yet probably about 8 out of every 10 laptops there was a Mac. In fact, out of all the speakers I saw on stage during the four day conference, only one, Jason Calacanis, had a PC. Calacanis went on a silly rant against Apple and its lawyers, urging people to buy PCs instead, but from the looks of the crowd, I don’t think anyone was listening.
  5. 2005 is indeed the next 1997. The amount of energy and entrepreneurial spirit around SXSW reminded me a lot of when I worked for an upstart young dotcom in the late ’90s. Everyone is doing new things. Photo sharing, podcasting, blogging, social networking… it doesn’t matter. There is a sense of newness and optimism on the web right now and you can see it all over people’s faces.
  6. Derek Featherstone knows some very entertaining drinking tricks. I’d never seen someone stick a half-full pint glass to their chin before. I’d also never seen anyone create water vapor in their lungs and release it through their nose. Very impressive stuff. Derek represents.
  7. Slip-ons are here to stay. Prompted by Dan Cederholm’s post several months ago, I bought a pair of slip-on Eccos earlier this year and am pretty sure I won’t be going back to shoelaces anytime soon. I’m usually not one to notice shoes on people, but there certainly were a ton of slip-ons and sandals at SXSW. Are laces becoming obsolete? I think they might be.
  8. The web community gets along remarkably well in person. It’s easy to get lost in all the long distance pedantic web disputes sometimes (divs vs. tables, strict validation vs. best practices, XHTML vs. HTML) but put everyone in the same room and the mutual respect quickly bubbles to the surface. We talked a lot of shop, even at the bars, but it was less about my method vs. your method, and more about what we’re all doing to move the web forward.
  9. is the best way to run your linkblog. I flew back to Seattle with Matt May of the W3C who showed me how to use a cron job to pull the last 10 bookmarks into my linkblog automatically. It’s a nice little trick and it was just the impetus I needed to get on the train already.
  10. SXSW is the most well-rounded interactive conference around. I’ve spoken at several other conferences around the country but one thing that has always bugged me about them is that it’s generally one type of person who shows up. It’s either mostly designers, most coders, mostly video people, or what have you. SXSW was filled with designers, coders, writers, marketers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and all sorts of people from other professions. This diversity of attendees made for a great social atmosphere and it’s the primary reason why I think I’ll be going back to Austin every single year from now on.

You’re on Google News

I’m sure this will be all over the net tomorrow, but Google News just launched customization about 5 minutes ago. I saw it flicker on about an hour ago and then disappear so it’s possible there was a quick bug that cropped up, but it’s back on now.

Very very interesting. I like Google News quite a bit, but the one thing that’s always been severely missing is customization. With the launch of this new feature today, you can add, remove, rearrange, or even create your own topic for inclusion as a standard news module on the front page. Go ahead, add yourself as a topic. See what happens. The system doesn’t seem to support phrases yet, but my article from Monday on expired domain snatching showed up number one in the “Mike Davidson” section.

Not bad.

The ability to create and track your own news topics isn’t anything Google invented, as you can do the same with customized RSS feeds on PubSub and Technorati but the way Google presents it is a bit novel. By giving user-generated topics equal treatment on the front page as most of the mainstream news, Google News is fully appreciating the individuality of its users. Most news sites, if they offer customization at all, will program at least 80% of the page themselves while offering a tiny customized module somewhere off to the side, but Google knows it’s not in the business of editorializing content, so it merely steps aside and lets you do the producing. I like that.

I don’t think this new feature makes Google News anywhere close to the perfect news site yet, but it’s a step in the right direction, and perhaps a good way to get people who don’t use newsreaders to better appreciate the power of customization.

On an unrelated note: I didn’t want to dedicate an entire post to this but I’m going to be down in Austin this Friday through Tuesday for SXSW. If anyone is interested in typography, Joshua Darden, The Wolf, and I will be speaking on the “Typography for the Screen” panel at 10am on Tuesday morning. If you’re not still passed out from the night before, come on down. The first 100 people in the door get a free copy of Arial (includes Arial Bold).

How to Snatch an Expiring Domain

I recently found myself in the position of wanting to register a domain which was owned by someone else. The domain was set to expire in a week, and I figured there was a decent chance that the person who owned it wouldn’t be renewing it. Upon consulting the WhoIs registry on the current owner, I discovered the guy was a bit of a domain shark and didn’t seem to be around anymore.

So I placed a backorder through GoDaddy for $18.95 thinking that was all I needed to do. During the week that followed, I learned a lot about the domain expiration process. Two and a half months and $369 later, I am the proud owner of a shiny new domain. A really really good one.

This article will explain the domain expiration process and what you need to do in order to use it to your advantage.
Read more…

Windows Task Automator Anyone?

I use my Windows machine for one thing and one thing only these days: snapping one photo from my digital camera every 4 minutes and uploading it to this site for use as the live header. Unfortunately it seems that Windows XP can’t even handle this simple function correctly for more than a day or so without crashing Canon’s DLL.

I tried contacting the author of the remote capture software I’m using and he has no idea what the problem is, so the only solution I’ve come up with so far is the most ghetto solution imaginable: Using AutoMate, I watch for a particular application crash in the Windows error log and then manually relaunch the application using a series of automated mouse movements and clicks. It’s pretty silly watching it in progress. It’s almost liked I’ve hired an intern to just sit there all day and night and manually recover from crashes.

The solution works fine. However, the AutoMate 15-day trial is over now and I’m faced with the prospect of paying the outrageous $600 fee for the software, or finding another solution. Since the work AutoMate is performing is essentially that of an intern — and since I don’t pay my interns — I’ve decided to fire AutoMate and look for a suitable replacement. Preferably some young up-and-comer whose head isn’t so big that they think they are worth $600.

Anybody have any recommendations? I don’t need 99% of the functions AutoMate offers. Just the ability to monitor the system’s event log and then perform a series of recorded mouse movements and clicks.

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