Month: June 2016 Still Confusing After All These Years

I’ve been a critic of Nike’s online presence since the first time I tried to find out about a shoe seven years ago and was greeted instead with a confusing Flash movie having nothing to do with shoes and leading me around in circles until I had to go to Google. “Design vomit” is what I call that stuff, and most things Nike did back then reeked of it.

Over the last few years, the company seems to have gotten more web-savvy and now produces a good mix of design-driven and utilitarian interfaces depending on what the marketing goals are for any particular sub-site.

Wanting to give them another shot, and needing a pair of running shoes now that I actually have time to run, I checked out and found this really cool shoe that you can custom design for yourself online.


I spent the next 10 minutes choosing the colors of every single element of the shoe, right down to the lace eyelets, through a very slickly done Flash interface. I went to the University of Washington for my undergrad degree so the shoe I created was black, purple, and gold. The process couldn’t have been any easier… kudos to the Flash team on configurator:

Then came the breakdown.

There was no “add to cart” button anywhere. There was a “store locator” button so I assumed they wanted me to go down to Niketown or something and try it on first and then maybe order it from the store. Luckily, I have a Niketown about a 15 minute bike ride from my place so I pedaled down there and tried on a non-configured version of the shoe. Size 11, great. I asked the guy how to go about ordering the customized version and he told me to go online.

I said “You mean you actually do the ordering online?”

He said “Yep.”

I said “Ok, I’ll look again, but I didn’t see that option.”

He said “Yep, that’s how you do it.”

So I ride home and reconfigure my shoe from scratch again. I hit the “Review” button and up pops this error:

Eh? A non-specific error message? According to the message, the item is either unreleased (which I know is not true since I just saw it in person) or, whoa, they “reached their made-to-order limit for the day”???


I don’t even know what that means. Why wouldn’t you just put my order in queue and manufacture it as soon as you can find the requisite child-laborers to build it?

So instead of putting my order through and shipping it to me when it’s ready, Nike instead gives me three options:

1. Try again tomorrow when they’ve “reset their capacity”?

2. Email the design to someone… presumably with the accompanying note “Hey, look at what I can’t order from Nike!”

3. Print the design out so I can hang it on my wall and be reminded of how much I want it.

I just don’t get it. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of exactly why Nike would put such an error message up and I can really only think of one possibility: whoever designed the database and backend for this system built it so that it can literally only store X number of orders per day. This just seems ridiculous to me though as databases should theoretically hold an unlimited amount of data.

Any ideas?

The Accessibility Chronicles

Dean Kamen’s self-elevating wheelchair: not just assistive, but liberating.So everyone’s all of a sudden talking about accessibility again. Just as you thought 2005 was going to be the year of folksonomies, APIs, and Ajax, the discussion over the last two weeks seems to have centered on a “new” aspect of accessibility:

Whether we really know what we think we know.

Ever since the original movement towards web standards led by the WaSP and many others, we’ve had similar messages sent to us:

“Valid code makes for accessible websites.”

“Use proper semantics to help screenreaders interpret your pages.”

“Use lists for navigation and any other list-like content to improve accessibility.”

And so, for several years designers and coders took these rules of thumb to heart, tried in earnest to follow best practices, and went about thinking their websites were “accessible”.

Why would they think that? Not because they physically observed it, but because they were told it. And who could blame them? You’re a web worker with a million things on your plate. Which is easier to do: hire an accessibility consultant to physically test your sites with disabled people or simply believe what you’ve heard? 99% of us, including me, chose the easier route.
Read more…

On MouseOut…

In an amusing twist of irony, my nameplate (pictured above) arrived last week, 4.5 years after I first ordered it.It is with both sadness and anticipation that I announce my departure from The Walt Disney Internet Group after four and a half years of employment. It’s been a great half-decade here and I can’t thank The Walt Disney Company enough for giving me the opportunity to work on such high-profile projects with such high-caliber people. In my time here, I’ve helped lead the standards-based redesigns of,, and many other Disney-owned properties, as well as play a hands-on role in the design and development of all-new technologies like ESPN Motion, and countless unannounced products still in the pipeline. I owe all pride from working on said projects to the incredible teams of people across the company in Seattle, North Hollywood, New York, Connecticut, Orlando, England, and Japan who continue to make it all possible.

That said, I’m moving on.

So why would someone give up a six-figure job that they love, working for a company that they love, in a city that they love?

Two words: Opportunity Cost.

There’s something big I want to build, and now is the time to build it. I’m not going to say any more because I’m leery of getting caught in the hype machine, but you can expect a launch later this year. Watch this space for details as they become available.

As for blogging on Mike Industries, it’ll be business as usual for now. The iPod contests will continue (of course!), and my posting frequency should remain steady at several posts per month. Additionally, if I’ve turned you down for an interview or speaking engagement in the past, feel free to ask again as I no longer have a PR department to deal with. Disney’s policy required me to refuse almost all such requests in the past, so it’s nice not to have that restriction anymore.

And so with that, I begin anew on something I’m very excited about. If all goes well, it’ll grow like a Vine.

MouseOver. MouseOut.

iPod Giveaway #3: alt.shuffle

An iPod is many things. A music player, an audiobook reader, a status symbol. Through creative advertising and exceptional product design, Apple has turned this little plastic brick of engineering into a cultural phenomenon. What Apple hasn’t told you, however, is that before they settled on “personal music player” as the official function of an iPod, the Apple team considered thousands of alternative brand concepts ranging contemporary shaving device to table-leg evener. The aim of this third monthly Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition is to submit the most creative alternative use of an iPod.

Entries may be submitted as text, video, audio, a web site, or a 418×418 GIF/JPEG image. As usual, there aren’t any hard rules except to stay away from overtly offensive material. The contest will end at midnight Pacific Time July 1st.

Once again, Dennis Lloyd and have volunteered to add a pair of $150 Etymotic ER-6i earbuds and a sport case to the original Mike Industries prize of one iPod Shuffle. Thanks again iPodLounge!

And a big thanks as well to Josh Armstrong who came up with the idea for this contest. I will be shipping Josh his Shuffle shortly. Don’t forget that the submission pool is open until the end of the year.

Good luck to all entrants. The official name for this contest is “Best Alternative, Unintended Use of iPod”.

Important note: All images must be submitted as 418×418 GIFs or JPEGs and must remain under about 80k in size. Any image that is not precisely 418×418 and under 80k will be deleted. Use a standard <img src="http://yourserver/yourimage.jpg" /> tag to enter any images into the comments section below.

Is Gold Really Worth Anything?

Mark Cuban is full of a lot of things. Lots of great ideas, lots of money, lots of love for NBA officials. Just lots of “stuff”. A veritable box of inspiration, really. The other day, he wrote a post about something I’ve thought about for quite some time: the present day value of gold.

Hundreds of years ago, gold was treated as a global currency because it was relatively rare and it helped produce items which indicated social status (viz. jewelry). If your family had a lot of gold, it was considered rich. If your country had a lot of gold, it was considered rich. Eventually, when everyone moved to paper currency, the idea was that each unit of paper was “backed” by one unit of gold in the treasury. The concept being that if the entire global economic system were to break down, we’d still have the gold to trade with.

This concept, however, is almost completely obsolete in today’s society. In the case of a global economic meltdown, who is going to care about collecting bars of gold? These days, it’s things like oil, enriched uranium, and natural gas that become the real currency of survival in such dire times.

Cuban takes things a step further though and brings up something I hadn’t thought about: given that gold has little substantive value anymore (it’s not even close to the most precious element), why not take our entire supply and sell it off at $420 per troy ounce while it’s still worth something? Maybe pay down the national debt a little?

It’s been many years since I took my last macroeconomics class so I’m sure Cuban is probably missing something here that would throw the world into a tailspin, but it really doesn’t seem like a terrible idea to me… in theory at least. The toughest part about it, and possibly the deal-killer, seems like the process of unloading it. The U.S. obviously couldn’t just announce one day that all of their gold was for sale. Perhaps in steady chunks over a long period of time though, it might work.

Anyway, I’m way out of my “element” here… just wanted to mention this interesting idea.

7.2 Megapixels In Your Pocket

When I think of Casio, I think mainly of the dorky calculator watches which kept all women a safe distance from me during my teenage years. “Kryptomack” watches are what we call them now.

So when I first heard about the Casio EX-Z750 digital camera, I naturally assumed it was some low-end throwaway device trying to fill the void between the VGA cameraphone and the high-end digital SLR.

Oh my was I wrong. Casio is back, baby. In a big way.

I picked up one of these babies for $379 about a week ago after reading reviews here, here, and here, and I have to say that in my opinion, this is the best all-around camera on the market. I won’t go over every single aspect of the camera since the reviews above are quite comprehensive in that regard, but allow me to spell out my top five raves:

  1. There is no perceptible shutter lag whatsoever. Official tests have it rated anywhere from 0.0017 seconds to 0.18 seconds, but in reality, it feels like zero. One of the major reasons a lot of people shy away from digital ultracompacts is that they can’t stand pushing the shutter button and having the camera take a second or so to actually take the shot, but this Casio is the first device to completely eliminate that issue. Other new cameras like the Canon SD500 are getting faster now too, but the Casio is the fastest.
  2. This camera is the size of an Altoids tin. My previous camera, the Pentax Optio S4, actually fit snugly inside of an Altoids tin, which was nice, but this one isn’t much bigger. Taking great photos these days is all about having a camera in the right place at the right time, and at this size, you really have no excuse not to have it with you at all times.
  3. Unlike most ultracompacts, the EX-Z750 allows you to enter shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, or full manual mode. Want to keep the shutter open for 60 seconds? No problem. Although the F-stop range obviously isn’t quite as wide as a huge DSLR, it certainly offers almost as much overall configurability.
  4. This camera amazingly takes crystal-clear 640×480 MPEG4 video. At the highest quality setting, I can take 34 minutes of full-frame 29.97 fps video. At the next setting, about an hour. And at the lowest setting, over 3 hours! The quality is really quite shocking, as you’ll see from the sample video below. One of the coolest things about the video capabilities, however, is what people have been calling “Tivo-mode”. In this mode, I can keep pointing the camera for however long I wish and when I hit the shutter button, the camera begins recording from 5 seconds in the past. You can imagine how useful this is when you’re at an event and you want to catch the action but you’re not sure exactly when that may be. Why waste recording time when nothing is happening? Probably the only downside of the Casio’s movie recording capabilities is that the files come out as .avi files which you must then convert to QuickTime with something like ffmpegx. Or if you use a PC, you probably don’t care.
  5. Interface, interface, interface. This is the easiest-to-use camera I’ve ever operated.

Talk is cheap, so I’ll close with a photo sample and a video sample, taken yesterday on a bike ride to Pike Place Market. Pardon the shaky hands on the video please… I just had a mocha and was holding the camera with one hand.

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View Quicktime (10MB)
View AVI (21MB)

UPDATE: The AVI video codec which allows for native playback in Quicktime is now out! Download it here and throw it into your /Library/Quicktime/ folder.

iPod Giveaway #2: We Have a Winner

Did you know Bigfoot carried an iPod Shuffle? I didn’t. But thanks to Craig “Trailhead” Grunemeyer of Sparta, New Jersey, we now have video evidence to the contrary. Craig’s Bigfoot video is the winner of the Mike Industries “Great iPods in History” competition, overtaking the rest of the field with a combination of original concept and fitting execution. I will be shipping Craig his iPod Shuffle this week, and thanks to the generosity of Dennis Lloyd and, Craig will also receive a pair of top-of-the-line $150 Etymotic ER-6i earbuds and a sport case for his new Shuffle.

With almost 300 entries in this month’s competition, judging was particularly difficult, but in the end, the combination of Craig’s Bigfoot video along with his Iwo Jima photo (pictured below as the first piece in the honor roll slideshow) was enough to set him above the rest. The Iwo Jima photo itself was arguably the best photo entry submitted as well.

If I could award multiple Shuffles, I would, but I can’t, so the best I can do for everyone else is include what I believe to be the top 75 entries in the honor roll slideshow below. The first 15 are my top 15, ranked accordingly, and the last 60 appear in order of submission.

Sweet slideshow component made with SlideShowPro

I also want to give special mention to a few of the entries that I think deserve special praise:

For the better part of the contest (and before Craig’s entries came in), I had almost already decided who the winner would be. Entry #111, submitted by Tommy Perez, hung on my screen for days. It was a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but the subtle introduction of an iPod Shuffle into the scene in a non-obvious location transformed it from a statement about the way things were 2000 years ago to the way things are today. Here Jesus is, bleeding to death in one of the most important events in world history while detached warrior guy just sits there on the steps listening to Styx. If that’s not a statement about the effect iPods are having on our society, I don’t know what is. * Note: I’m not at all religious, so please no comments about how I’m belittling the plight of Jesus.

The second bit of kudos goes to Tomasz “Jarv” Dobrowolski of Poland who gets the award for best Photoshop skills. Tomasz’s Beethoven, Einstein, and JFK entries were all top-of-class in terms of execution and deserve special praise for their composition.

And finally, the “outside the box” award goes to Matthew Joiner for his “iPod Shuffleography” featuring the likes of Norman Rockwell, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry David Thoreau. Matthew’s mini site, created especially for this competition, is an exercise in creativity and deserves a heaping portion of compliments for its originality.

So anyway, enjoy the slideshow, and stay tuned for the next competition which will begin around the middle of this month (and every month until the end of the year). And remember, of course, that the submission pool for iPod Giveaway ideas is also open until the end of the year. If your idea is chosen, you win an iPod Shuffle.

And last but not least, thanks to Victor Paru of Intel for coming up with this month’s competition.

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