Author Archive | Julie Gomoll

#BlogathonATX – This could be the start of something big

BlogathonATX logoI’m blogging from BlogathonATX, being held at Conjunctured Coworking here in Austin. It’s pretty clear already that this event is a big hit :) I’m in the Talkathon room at the moment, one of the two rooms people can go to for expert advice (the other is Techathon). The conversation is lively, there’s lots of laughter, and people are making all sorts of new contacts. The two Writeathon rooms are quietish, with writers hunched over their laptops blogging away.

people working in the writeathon roomClearly there’s a demand for this type of event. It’s not quite a BarCamp — there are no presentations — yet, like BarCamps, it’s a free event and plenty of opportunities for attendees to bring up their own topics.

I’m a roving expert, wandering back and forth between Techathon and Talkathon, but one of the really cool things happening here is that pretty much everybody is an expert in something. An official Social Marketing Expert might need tech help, and a Tech Expert might need Social Marketing help. I ended up offering some advice as a Travel Expert, which I sure wasn’t anticipating, but kind of the nature of this event. Conversations are all over the place.

Ilene Haddad is our Ringleader. This is her brainchild, and I’m quite certain she’s astonished at what it’s become. She has done an absolutely fantastic job putting it together. It’s been a blast being part of it — I can’t wait for the next one :)

neatorama

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Moodboards: my profile/guest post on the Evernote blog

Evernote logoI’ve been using Evernote for over 2 years (I checked. I thought it was longer, actually, since it’s such a regular part of my work process). I only recently started using it for moodboards. A tweet from @Evernote asking if anyone used it this way caught my eye, I responded, we emailed, and voila! My thoughts are right there on the Evernote blog as part of their Creative Series. Nice!

screenshot of my interview on the evernote blogIf you’re a designer and are unfamiliar with moodboards, definitely give this a read. They’re a powerful tool to add to your presentation/process arsenal.

If you haven’t tried Evernote, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s web-based, but there are also desktop, iPhone, and iPad apps that sync to it, and of course bookmarklets that make it easy to clip and save stuff to your notebooks. I’ve used it not only for moodboards, but for market research, read-it-later types of things, recipe collections, shopping research, wishlists, idea lists… the possibilities are endless.

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Rework: Short Attention Span Business Wisdom

ReworkCover of Rework falls into a genre of business books I call Short Attention Span Business Wisdom. Hugh McCloud’s Ignore Everybody, which came out shortly after Rework, falls into the same category.

There’s a lot to like in Rework. Certainly Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 Signals, have learned a ton of valuable lessons on the road to building their successful company. Their lessons are — like their software — simple, to the point, and easy to consume.

One of my favorite lessons is “Why grow?” It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking bigger is better. Most VCs demand it, and many entrepreneurs presume it. It’s refreshing to know a successful software company recognizes where their own sweet spot is, and is proud to have only 16 employees. Money quote: “Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself.”

And I really like “Out-teach your competition”. I love the abundant-universe approach. Knowledge is not a scarce resource. Sharing your knowledge makes everyone stronger. And in the case of product companies, that sharing makes for better informed, loyal customers.

There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in these pages, and plenty of common sense, too.

Do you sense there’s a big BUT coming?

There is.

BUT I take issue — enormous issue — with the essay entitled “Learning from mistakes is overrated.” HUH?

Another common misconception: You need to learn from your mistakes. What do you really learn from mistakes? You might learn what not to do again, but how valuable is that? You still don’t know what you should do next.

Wow. This is a remarkably arrogant attitude. In fact, it’s complete bullshit.

Mistakes are a part of every business. Mistakes don’t just teach you what not to do. They teach you better ways to move forward in other areas. Mistakes can open entirely new pathways of thought. And they can teach you a whole lot about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and where your ego gets in the way.

I’ll be curious to know if Jason and David feel the same way after they have a few good mistakes under their belts.

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Should I take the money?

MrburnsWhat’s an ethical businessperson to do?

Following the announcement that the 8 Gig iPhone price would drop by $200, Apple announced in an open letter that they would give a $100 rebate per phone to early adopters. They bowed to pressure by a bunch of whiners (read the comments) who seem to think that, as loyal fans, we should have some kind of magic insulation from the economic realities rapidly-changing technology. I can certain understand someone buying an iPhone very recently and being miffed about the drop, but such is life. Would any of you very early buyers have passed on an iPhone if you knew for sure that if you waited 2 1/2 months, you could get it for $200 less? I doubt it.

The exact same DLP projector I bought a few years ago for $10K now retails for $2,500. I’m not expecting a refund. I bought bleeding edge technology. I paid a premium *knowing* if I were a little patient I’d save a bunch of money.

Why did Apple cave? I own Apple stock. I think this was a stupid, unnecessary move on their part. This online reaction is not comparable to a campaign by a bunch of rabid fans so save a quality TV show from the death grip of network execs. This was a bunch of rabid fans who mistook their voluntary participation in a media frenzy for some kind of entitlement to immunity from reality. And Apple bit. It’s not a good precedent to set.

That said, I bought 2 iPhones on June 29. Do I have an ethical obligation not to take the rebate? It’s not like forgoing the cash would have one iota of effect on the program, the stock, or anything else. I  think it’s stupid, not wrong. Still, there’s all that ranting I do about hypocrites and personal accountability… Randy Cohen, are you listening?

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Days of Future Past

Roofedcity_3I thoroughly enjoyed Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future. I just love seeing what people imagined our todays would look like. So I was thrilled to stumble upon Paleo-Future: a look into the future that never was. Is that a great name for a blog or what? My introduction to the blog was this post, which highlights a lovely collection of 100-year-old postcards depicting the year 2000. There is, of course, the obligatory personal flying machine. The “Summer at the North Pole” and “Police X-Ray Surveillance Machine” cards are almost disturbing in their innocence. Shown: The Roofed City. I wonder what’s providing all that light… Be sure to read some of the comments to this post – some quite clever.

I can’t wait to waste some serious time on this site. And I see there’s a Paleo-Future Google Group, too. Great! I need more distractions!

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When technology bites back

PanicSo there I sat Friday morning, an hour away from an online meeting, surrounded by 5 robust computers, unable to do anything I needed, ready to tear my hair out. Some of the problems I brought on myself, some were beyond my control.

My first mistake was trying to do a shortcut installation of a CD full of fonts the night before. On my MacBook Pro, I was gradually, painstakingly installing them in Fontbook one at a time. But on my desktop Mac I tried to take a shortcut and copy a ton of folders directly into the Font folder. The fonts seemed to work fine in Fireworks and Dreamweaver, but when I tried to open Word, I got a popup window telling me about a corrupt font. I clicked “Ok” (the only option) and up popped another one. When I realized this was going to happen for each of the thousands of fonts I had copied, I forced Word to quit. “Crap, gotta deal with that soon,” I thought, and used a different word processor.

The next morning, an hour before my meeting, I went to open the Powerpoint presentation I’d need to reference in the meeting. The same thing happened — I wasn’t going to be opening the presentation on my iMac. Unfortunately, I don’t have Office on my laptop Mac, so I was going to have to turn to one of the PCs. I booted up the nearest one, and turned back to my iMac to see if I could solve the font problem. After several minutes I realized the PC wasn’t booting. It was trying — over, and over, and over. The reset button was stuck, and it was booting over and over, never quite making it. No time to mess with that — I moved onto the next PC. It booted fine, but the wireless keyboard batteries were apparently dead. I ran downstairs to scrounge for batteries. Couldn’t find any. Did I think to grab a wired keyboard from a different PC and plug it in? No I did not. OK, one computer left, and it’s the old PC laptop.

When I said earlier I was surrounded by 5 robust computers, I lied. I was surrounded by 4 robust computers and one rather slow machine. It’s a decent PC —  a newish X41 Tablet — but it’s only got 256k RAM, so it’s dead slow. I knew it would be 15 minutes or so before the thing booted, updated, and finally downloaded the 11MB file, so I decided to tackle the font problem. I decided to simply delete all the fonts in folders. Bad idea. Suddenly the IM conversation I was having with Susan turned to gibberish. My keyboard was responding to my typing, but not with the correct letters. My email and stickies no longer displayed correctly. I had broken my Mac.

I watched my PC laptop struggle to get the file open. I tried to launch YM on it, but it was too busy struggling with Powerpoint to respond.

So there I sat, with all this technology around me, unable to do a damn thing.

Just my luck: the meeting got moved out an hour.

I was able to fix the font thing. To do so I accessed the Library via the Macintosh HD (as opposed to from my home). The font folder there contains the default set (or the right set, at any rate). I copied them, and pasted them into Home > Library and I was good to go. It was that simple. I loved my Mac again.

The meeting went fine, although there was no speakerphone on the other end, so my “call in” was a cell phone sitting on the table — I had to ping them via IM if I wanted to talk.

We had a good laugh about having bad technology karma for the morning, but man was it frustrating. I’m still not back 100%. My Windows installation on my main Mac is hosed, and I don’t know yet if it’s a Parallels issue, a Windows CD issue, or a CD Drive issue. But I’m up and running again anyway. But I’m really ready for technology to get another order of magnitude simpler and more reliable.

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Pencil and crayon carvings

CarvedcrayonsI first saw Pete Goldlust’s (is that a great name or what?) carved crayons several months ago. Some of these are really intricate. He must use heated implements of some kind to get them so smooth. I’d love to see him sculpt one some time. I’ve kept his site bookmarked for a while, knowing I’d post about his carvings eventually.

Carvedpencil1_3

Then I ran across these great carved pencils. The photos are from a 1990’s Japanese exhibition by Kato Jado and Mizuta Tasogare, titled “The JAD Project”. Even though it’s by far the simplest of the pencils, I think my favorite is this pencil inside the pencil.

I wonder if either artist was inspired by the other.

Carvedpencil2

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Setting free the bees

BeekeeperThis is the second hive of bees that has chosen to make my yard their home. The first had been living in an enormous fallen Live Oak tree (although it wasn’t fallen when they moved in…). I was able to have that hive relocated. They guy who moved it said they were, in fact, Africanized bees.

I noticed this second hive in another Live Oak several months ago, while there was a small, wiry, brave man crawling up my steeply-pitched roof to get at another tree that needed attention. He pissed off the bees when he was using the branch for leverage. I could hear the buzzing all the way from the porch. I called the same bee guy, who told me we couldn’t move this hive without losing most of the Live Oak. Lose a 300-year-old (at least) Live Oak or kill the bees? Not a hard decision. The bees would have to go.

So Blake came out and give me an education in bees. These were not Africanized bees, nor were the previous denizens. How did he know? Apparently the fact that I had not been swarmed when slamming the door/mowing the lawn/yelling for the dogs was enough to convince him. These were run of the mill honey bees.

I also learned what happened one morning a couple of years ago, amidst several meetings with the first bee guy regarding my hive. I had assumed this event was related to the bees in my yard.

I walked out to my car one morning to find it carpeted with bees. My car is off-white. There was barely a hint of white showing anywhere on the top or the hood — the bees were solidly packed. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on. Had these bees come to die on my car for some reason? Then, as I got closer, I realized they were moving. Barely, but they were moving. So I stood there staring at the 1000s of lethargic bees covering my vehicle, wondering what to do. I needed to leave. I had a brief twinge of guilt at the idea that I may kill them by taking them on the road, but it didn’t last long. I left. They scattered.

Blake filled me in. Apparently swarms of bees stop en masse to sleep. It happened not long ago to some guy downtown – he came out to find his parked car covered with sluggish bees, and called the cops. The cars surrounding his were clean. Again, it was a sleeping hive.

Is Blake pulling my leg? I did a very quick search, and found this brief description of sleeping bees, but found nothing about resting swarms. I’d think if sleeping swarms were a common occurrence, we’d hear of this more often. Anybody have any info?

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Be nice.