Louis Simoneau

Ruby, OOP, TDD, Remote Work, Miscellany

Joell Ortiz — Farewell to Summer EP

Joell Ortiz’s new free EP Farewell Summer is fire.

I’m so hot, I could stand still and pour sweat In the North Pole, fully naked with my balls wet

Damn.

Check out this track, So Wrong, featuring Talib Kweli, Brother Ali, and Jean Grae (talk about an all-star lineup):

CBC Radio’s Ideas Bats One Out the Park

A great program all-round, Ideas, from CBC Radio, recently ran a two part round-table discussion on secularism in modern democracies that was just fantastic. A reasoned, in-depth, and principled discussion that steered clear of all the usual empty rhetoric on the topic. If you’ve got two hours of listening time at any point in the next few weeks, this is most definitely how I’d recommend you spend them.

Webby Award Winners for Design, Flashblock Edition

Last week the winners of the 2010 Webby awards were announced. Jennifer Farley, one of the staff bloggers at SitePoint (where I work), recently posted a breakdown of five of the winners in design-related categories, along with her impressions of the sites in question. I think that’s a great idea, so I’m going to write my own version of that post, examining the same five winning sites.

Best Homepage/Welcome page

This category was won by Male Copywriter. Here’s what that site looks like:

I like the understated aesthetic and the use of black to convey authority.

Best Structure/Navigation

The winner in this category was HBO/Imagine. Here’s a screenshot of that site:

Again, a simple, clean design that really speaks to the modern web audience. I love it.

Best Use Of Animation/Motion Graphics

The winner in this category is The Pop Shoppe. A very interesting design, shown here:

Best Use Of Photography

This category was won by The Economist: Thinking Space, with a stark design that really lets the photos speak for themselves:

The Best Visual Design – Aesthetic

Finally, this coveted category went to Nike’s Jordan: History of Flight site:

Again, a minimalist style makes this website a clear winner.

Conclusion

I think the Webby awards have done a fantastic job highlighting the best of web design in 2010, across the full range of available technologies and adhering to the open principles that give the Web its true strength.

Free Wireframe Kit for Google Drawings

I’m a big fan of Mockingbird for creating quick mockups and wireframes. It’s free, it’s online, and it does just about everything you want it to do.

That said, a bit of choice never hurt anyone, so it’s interesting to see that Google Drawings, the recent addition to the Google Docs family, can be used quite effectively as a wireframing tool.

Morten Just wrote a blog post describing how he uses it for that purpose, but even more awesomely he’s shared a drawing with an extensive selection of shapes, stencils, and widgets sitting in the margin ready for use. With the help of this “wireframe kit,” Google Drawings really does stack up quite well against dedicated wireframing tools.

Just open the document, select File –> Make a copy, and you’re off to the races with a fantastic toolkit containing text input boxes, icons, check boxes, flowchart boxes, tabs, buttons, you name it.

Huge props to Morten for sharing this toolkit with the public.

NUMMI | This American Life

Episode 403 of This American Life has a fascinating story about the US auto industry and how GM missed a golden opportunity to correct its course and save itself.

There’s a lot of interesting business theory in there, but even if that’s not your thing it’s great to have a window into this aspect of the history of the 20th and early 21st century.

Highly recommended.

NUMMI | This American Life.

Trust Agents Review

On the recommendation of our marketing guy, I’ve recently been listening to the audiobook version of Trust Agents, by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

The book aims to teach the reader how to become a “trust agent,” an expression the authors use to describe someone who leverages the power of trust in the online word. It’s a far cry from my usual reading material, but since my job requires some level of interaction with an online community, I figured the topic would be worth trying to learn more about.

I’m into the book’s last chapter now, so I feel like I can give my thoughts on it. My initial impression was a bad one, though that’s at least partly because I felt like I already knew everything it was trying to teach, and it didn’t seem like a point was being made. The first chapter is an outline of the current state of social media and how it relates to the concept of trust. The second chapter is an odd one, basically saying “Make your own game!” (as in, don’t try to win by the rules of the existing system) over and over again without ever giving you an idea of what that means in practical terms. And the third chapter essentially teaches you that you should behave in social media the same way you behave in real life, i.e. don’t spam your Facebook friends with messages about your new product. Nothing terribly exciting so far.

The writing is a little dull at times, and a lot of the sentences feel awkward, so I was just about ready to give up at this point. I figured I’d press ahead since the book had been recommended to me, and to my surprise it managed to redeem itself in the second half. It’s given me some good ideas about networking and contact management that I can directly put into practice in my work, and that alone makes it worth the time invested.

So, on the whole, I’d recommend Trust Agents. Even if you only get one good idea about how to improve your online presence from it, it’s still probably worth the read. And all the advice it gives is good, and sorely needed if what we see on the Web every day is any indication.

That said, I can’t recommend the audio version. I love audiobooks in general because they let me get reading done in otherwise “dead” time, but for this title I’d much rather have bought the print version. The central problem is that it’s read by the authors (no offense, guys, but voice actors you ain’t). One of them seems to move his mouth away from the microphone at the end of sentences, leading to missing words. Both of them tend to fall into a very unnatural rhythm of speech, which leads to a repetitious pattern that seems like it’s trying too hard not to be monotonous. Compared with other audiobooks I’ve listened to, which are generally extremely professional and high-quality, this one feels like it was knocked out in one take on a Friday afternoon. Stick to dead trees if you’re planning on picking it up.

As a sort of post-script, I have one more nitpick, which I’m only including here on the off chance that either of the authors (or the editor) reads this: at the end of chapter six, when talking about appearing confident when approaching “web celebrities,” the author says “This also works when approaching an attractive member of the opposite sex.” Now, I understand that’s the kind of sentence that’s easy to write without even thinking about. But if you’re writing (or publishing) a book, assuming that all your readers are going to be heterosexual is a little dickish. Just sayin’

Jason Fried on Why You Can’t Work at Work

This video, from Jason Fried (@jasonfried) of 37signals, really hit home with me. I’m often guilty of being a little quick on the trigger to interrupt people when I have a question or want their input on something. I’m going to try to put some of this theory into application in my work at SitePoint and see if it helps both me and the rest of the publishing team to focus on getting things done.

What I take away from this, as a practical message, is the following: rely on the asynchronous nature of digital communication media to communicate with co-workers without interrupting their workflow. Simple, but it’s easy to forget when the person is working right next to you and it’s so easy to turn around and get their attention.

I Love the Internet: Simple Font Stack Tester

I blogged about testing font stacks earlier this week at SitePoint, and pointed out a very early-days project on GitHub that seemed to be a first stab at developing a tool to simplify this kind of testing. Today I received an email from a reader, who apparently registered http://fontstacktester.com and set up a web-based interface for doing just that in the intervening time. The tool is an adaptation of the script I had found on GitHub, except that you can just plug your website address into a box and you’ll be transported there, except with an overlay at the top that lets you switch off every font on your site individually to see if it breaks anything.

Here’s what it looks like running against this site:

Kudos to Chris for getting this thing up and running so quickly!