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Quote: Dave Wiskus on Design Criticism

April 25th, 2011

Great design is tricky. It’s easy to pick apart decisions after an app ships and second-guess its creators. What’s harder — as anyone who has ever created something knows — is being the guy in the room who has to fashion those decisions from whole cloth. Sure, everyone likes to think they have good taste. But the smart ones still hire a designer.

(from his article “Cheap Magic” on Better Elevation)

Quote: Antoine de Saint Exupéry on Motivation

September 13th, 2010

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Quote: Albert Einstein on Formal Education

July 21st, 2010

“It is almost a miracle that modern teaching methods have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom.”

Quote: Marco Arment on Overdoing the Interface Metaphor

July 19th, 2010

“DVD players don’t make fake whirring noises for five minutes before letting you eject a disc to simulate rewinding. Similarly, nobody should need to perform a full-width swipe gesture and wait two seconds for their fake page to turn in their fake book, and nobody should need to click the fake Clear button and start their calculation over because their fake calculator only has a one-line, non-editable fake LCD.”

(from his post “Overdoing the interface metaphor” on

Quote: Jason Fried on Conflict

July 13th, 2010

“When people dig in and defend their positions, a deeper understanding of a problem is possible. As long as people are defending a genuine idea and not just their pride, much can be learned.”

(from his Inc Magazine article, “Managing Conflict“)

The Image Distillery is Moving to Downtown Green Bay!

July 8th, 2010

The Image Distillery is moving!  The suite in the historic Bellin Building is going to be renovated over the next few weeks… here is a before shot:

The renovation to-do list includes:

  • Tear up carpet
  • Remove vinyl trim
  • Remove cheap built-in shelving
  • Replace doors with frosted-glass originals (if they can be found…)
  • Sand & refinish the underlying (original!) hardwood floors
  • Build & install new hardwood shelving
  • Finish & install hardwood base & door trim
  • Patch dings for a consistent plaster coat
  • Fresh paint throughout

It’s an ambitious schedule for the next few weeks (move-in is slated for August 1st), but the hands-on work will be a welcome change of pace (my tools from my carpenter days have been collecting the wrong kind of dust for far too long).

Also welcome will be an activity-filled downtown environment.  Downtown Green Bay Inc. (who, coincidentally, also moved their offices to the Belling Building a few weeks ago) have been doing a great job of keeping the area bustling with concerts, dining, art displays and general human friendliness.

Being just an elevator ride away from The Daily Buzz will be a constant temptation, but the occasional latte run never hurt anyone, right?!

I look forward to getting to know all my new neighbors, and to the shortened home-to-work commute (just a quick jaunt from one end of the City Deck to the other).

The new address will be 130 E. Walnut Street, Suite 415. If you find yourself in the area, do stop by and say “Hi!”

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Quote: Steven Johnson on Measurement and Discovery

July 1st, 2010

“This is a standard pattern in the history of science: when tools for measuring increase in their precision by orders of magnitude, new paradigms often emerge, because the newfound accuracy reveals anomalies that had gone undetected.”

(from his book The Invention of Air: A story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of America)

Quote: Mike Lazaridis on Continued Relevance

June 22nd, 2010

“In business, no matter how good the process is, no matter how much you’ve got it down pat, no matter how much money you’re making, how efficient, you have to always go back and say ‘Is there something fundamentally wrong with the way we’re seeing the market?  Are we dealing with incomplete information?’  Because that’s what’s going to get you: it’s not necessarily that some young whippersnapper’s going to come up with some better idea than you.  They’re going to start from a different premise and they’re going to come to a different conclusion that makes you irrelevant.”

(Talking about RIM’s “Design Thinking” approach to beating the analog pager with the digital Blackberry, via Roger Martin’s “The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage“)

Quote: Arthur C. Clarke on Technology

June 17th, 2010

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Reining in the Web, Loosing the Local

June 14th, 2010

Over the past two decades of the web, the working mental model we’ve formed to understand it has been a confluence of trend lines running toward infinity: data stored, data transferred, websites, user accounts, dollars spent online, number of articles available, et cetera. Almost every metric has been shooting up steeply, seemingly without limit.

Entire companies are rising up to handle super-specific roles in the the abstraction of an expanding web.  Think of them as single-purpose “objects” (to borrow a programming term of similar meaning).  These objects exist to handle one type of task, billions of times, from thousands (maybe millions) of sources.  Their value to the overall system is in the freedom they give to developers of more-broadly-focused apps to spend time on the things that make their app unique, instead of re-inventing the proverbial wheel every time a developer wants to, for example, make use of geodata.

There are thousands of examples of this across the web, but I’ll give one that’s particularly relevant to this discussion: SimpleGeo.

SimpleGeo’s single professed purpose is to make location-aware programming simpler by providing a top notch, pre-packaged geodata infrastructure (and an application programming interface to go with it).  It’s a result (a conscious move on the part of its founders, but a result nonetheless) of a refactoring of the web.  Resources that exist in a smaller but similar fashion across many applications are, through market forces and programmers’ constant drive for efficiency, reallocated as centralized resources and made available for collective use.

In layman’s terms, this means a programmer doesn’t have to burn time and money developing their own infrastructure for geodata (which would undoubtedly consume more system resources, be less reliable than SimpleGeo’s, and be very similar to every other programmer’s individual effort).  Instead, they can focus on building and refining the higher-level (more specialized) functions of their application while SimpleGeo whirrs on reliably in the background.

Think of SimpleGeo (and other programmer-friendly web services like it) as super-specialized, but highly-efficient nodes in a web awash with aggregators and general-purpose applications… as a coalesced foundation on which a further-abstracted, hyper-efficient, data behemoth of a web is being built.

[and... breathe... *phew*]

At the same time that the web trends toward a sublime infinity (perhaps, even, as a result), real-world interactions have been growing in appeal. I’m thinking, for instance, of the increase of farmers’ markets and desire to know where our food is coming from (i.e. “buy local” movement); of a backlash against malls and chain stores in favor of more locally-authentic mom & pop shops. It seems “users” like to be reminded that they are, in fact, “people”.

Recognizing this, many real-world chain stores are subtly rebranding themselves and their products to reflect a more localized aesthetic. Starbucks has been particularly adept at this, and has even gone so far as to open “undercover” locations, one of which was given the handle “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea“.  It broke with corporate style conventions to appear to be a one-off shop.

(Just by chance, the company that prompted me to write this was also Starbucks, but for a different reason, which I’ll get back to in a second…)

So we have these two trends: the ever-abstracting web and an increasing awareness of the real-world “local”.  How do they co-exist?

One can do an insane number of things on the web, and any one given thing (website, application, et cetera) can be “done” by an unmanageable number of people.  This leads to scaling headaches for programmers, erratic traffic spikes, a host of factors that need to be taken into account to serve either tens or millions, depending on the day.

More publicly, this leads to the free (in most every sense) dissemination of information (articles, music, movies, etc.) across the web, much to the chagrin of content producers accustomed to earning money via the delivery of that content (articles via newspapers, music and movies via discs…).  Scarcity, it seemed, was dead in the digital age.

Which lead some content producers to construct pay walls, metering access to their content and requiring some form of payment (be it dollars or marketing-relevant personal data).  They didn’t require payment because that mode of delivery was costing them (the marginal cost of delivering a web page is super close to $0.00); they required payment because there was no longer a perception of scarcity around that now-digital content, so their delivery-system cash machines were losing customers.

Enter Starbucks (told you I’d get back to them), and their new in-store WiFi initiative (described on the personal blog of one of its leaders here).  As told by Stephen Gillett, the new digital network– accessible only via in-store WiFi –will:

“source the best paid-wall content on the internet but available ad-free and a no-cost to our customers.”

Wow.  Do you see what just happened there?  The Starbucks store just became that source of scarcity for online publishing giants. Their pay wall is down, but only for as many individuals as can be in-store Starbucks patrons at a given time.

The web just used the real world as a filter.  And the real-world just capitalized on the near-zero delivery cost of a near-infinite amount of web content.  The web and location, acting symbiotically on the shared edge of two business models.

In this particular case, it appears that the definition of “location-based, therefore hooked up to the free content pipleline” is provided by the WiFi networks themselves… you have to be connected to the Starbucks network in order to get the goods.

But it’s not hard to imagine, especially with the growing prevalence of location-aware devices and applications (which will only become more numerous thanks to services like SimpleGeo), that location can be defined as specifically or as broadly as suits the situation.

Maybe, for instance, a web-based service with ties to the physical wants to limit use of their web app to a “deliverable region” (think of a web or mobile-device-based ordering app for any non-ubiquitous pizza delivery shop).  That locally-defined business could make use of all the “programmability” of the web (highly efficient, super fast, replicable, leaves a data trail, instantly verifiable), while simultaneously designing experiences with the knowledge that the user (we’re talking web again) is located within a defined region.

What’s happening, in essence, is a reining-in of the web (re-introducing limits and scarcity) as the local is given more leash (processing power, access to the digital domain).

I can’t even fully grasp the near-time implications of this, but I’m certain these functions will begin to reveal themselves over the next few years, much as a web/location game like Foursquare– which was hard to conceive of even 5 years ago –has risen and thrived in the past few months.

The question that remains is not “Will companies thrive in this developing digital/local sweet spot?”, but “Doing what?”

Quote: Walt Disney on Purpose

June 12th, 2010

“We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.”

Quote: Clay Shirky on Human Behavior and Motivation

June 1st, 2010

“Behavior is motivation filtered through opportunity.”

(from the Wired Magazine article: Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution)

Am I Crazy for Loving Downtown Green Bay?

May 28th, 2010

I feel like this is the opposite of what comes to mind for most people when they think of Green Bay, WI:

My family and I have been living in Downtown Green Bay, WI for the past 7-8 months (pictures and video are from my balcony), and the riverside development has changed dramatically over that short time.

When we first moved in, this City Deck project was just getting started, and the riverside was largely a mess of construction mud and chain-link fences. Now it’s a beautiful pedestrian way / entertainment venue.

The lineup of summer activities put together by organizations like Downtown Green Bay, Inc. and On Broadway Inc. should do wonders for the riverside district of Downtown Green Bay.

The Farmers’ Market starts next week, and that will be held on Broadway, just on the other side of the river. Almost every Friday evening this summer features a different performer on City Deck. The Tall Ships Festival is even returning this year, and that’s typically held in Leicht Memorial Park, just north of the Main Street Bridge.

As a young entrepreneur with a budding family, I’m excited to see how how this downtown area continues to develop, both architecturally and socially!

Video: Sir Ken Robinson on a Revolution in Education

May 26th, 2010

“The great problem for reform or transformation is the tyranny of common sense.”

Quote: Antoine de Saint-Exuper on Perfection

May 24th, 2010

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

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What is tID?

The Image Distillery is a clarity-focused creative shop which specializes in website design and consulting for small businesses.

We've operated out of Green Bay, Wisconsin since 2006, crafting and maintaining websites for small businesses, typically those with 50 or fewer employees.

Favorite Entries

Reining in the Web, Loosing the Local


Limit Options, Make Decisions, Maintain Sanity (an anecdote)

The Importance of Asking "Why?"