The Evolution of the Swimsuit | Q Ideas →

August 14, 2014 |

The evolution of the women’s swimsuit is one place where there has been a visible shift away from modesty. In the current world of swimwear, small is often beautiful and less is considered more desirable. But designer and actress Jessica Rey asks, “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?” Rey argues that within the construct of modesty, there is a freedom—that modesty isnt about covering up whats bad, but about revealing dignity.

I found this to be an excellent, thought-provoking talk.

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The burden of originality

August 13, 2014

There’s a human impulse I’ve always found fascinating. You’ve probably experienced it first-hand because it happens all the time around us, especially on the Internet: you see someone doing an awesome thing and suddenly you get the urge to do awesome things yourself. We call this “being inspired” and for the most part, it’s great. It means more awesome things are being done and how could that not be great?

The problem is, “awesome things” is an awfully abstract concept, and finding your own awesome thing to do is a lot harder than it looks. Sure, you’ve always had that little voice in the back of your head saying that this idea of yours could indeed be awesome, but that’s not enough to get you into “doing” territory. Your lizard brain is trained to avoid situations where you could get hurt, and whenever you consider putting yourself out there you feel completely exposed, as if the whole world is out to get you. So naturally, you do nothing, and the years go by.

Then of course, along comes somebody else who decided not to listen to her lizard brain (or maybe she’s just a little hard of hearing) and does precisely what you wanted to do all along. It turns out, the thing is awesome and you know what? It actually works and people seem to genuinely appreciate it. At this point there are probably two conflicting emotions inside your head. First is the excited impulse to go and finally do the damn thing yourself, now that someone else has removed the uncertainty for you, proving that there’s value in it and that it can work. But then a very different feeling creeps in: now that someone else is doing it, what you hold so dear is no longer truly original, so how can you possibly do it without being perceived as little more than a copycat?

It can be even worse. What if you had no original idea to begin with? What if you didn’t know you loved something until you saw it for the first time? What if seeing what someone else did is enough to finally spur you into action, even if it’s just to try your hand at the same thing? Is it fundamentally wrong to say “I want to do that, too”? Does it diminish the value of what you could accomplish? Would it be better if everybody just stopped trying? These are great mysteries.

There are many theories out there that try to address the issue. Some say that everything’s fair game because there’s nothing truly original out there anyway, while others are quick to condemn such actions. I’m going to go ahead and say that at the end of the day, what matters most is that you do something instead of just thinking about doing it. Even if it’s by following someone else’s lead, the very fact that you got started doing something potentially great has merit. It has to have it. Clearly we all want to be as original as we possibly can, but how realistic is that? If fear of being unoriginal is keeping you from doing what you love, I say you’re looking at it the wrong way. At some point you just have to focus on your own work and pay less attention to what others are doing (or saying). Sure, you probably won’t come up with anything revolutionary right out of the gate, but if you keep at it in the end your voice will come through and the work will become truly yours.1

Think about that, for a second. If everyone got discouraged at the first sign of trouble, there would only be one instance of everything. Microsoft never would have created Windows because what was the point when the Macintosh was already there?2 Google wouldn’t even exist today, because Yahoo! was dominating search long before Google Search came into the scene. Apple never would have created the iPod because the market was already flooded with a bazillion different MP3 players at the time. None of those products were truly original and yet, they ended up taking the world by storm and leaving their predecessors far behind. And guess what: that’s just how competition works. It breeds diversity. It’s how we move forward, how we get better. In the end, the best products tend to succeed, even if they weren’t there first. And we’re all better off for it.

If there’s a lesson in here I believe it’s this: be respectful of the creations of others, but don’t let that respect keep you from doing what you love. It’s a lesson I’m struggling to apply myself, I admit. My lizard brain keeps shouting at me that the work I’m doing here is really nothing special, but you know what? I’ve decided I’m not going to listen to it any more. Sometimes I feel discouraged, but I refuse to give up. It won’t be easy, but I’m determined to pull through and I hope you do, too, because I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next.

One thing I know, though. It’s going to be awesome.

  1. To be clear, I’m not talking about shamelessly ripping off other people’s work. Nor am I saying that you shouldn’t acknowledge the source of your inspiration. In fact, quite the contrary. I’m a firm believer in respecting your heroes and praising their hard work. Credit must be given where credit is due, it’s as simple as that.

  2. You could argue that Microsoft actually did in fact shamelessly rip off the Macintosh’s Graphical User Interface, but for all their similarities, both operating systems are profoundly different interpretations of the same idea. At the same time, you could argue that Windows forced the Mac OS to get better, and now we’re once again seeing it happen the other way around.

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Guy English On Opinionated Software →

August 13, 2014 |

Being opinionated and shipping the truest form of your vision of software doesn’t assure success. I understand the amount of heart, soul, concentration and perseverance it takes to ship a piece of software that really makes you proud and hits all of the marks you’d set for yourself and your team. It can be a really great piece of software. That doesn’t mean it deserves to be a hit.

Smart words. The debate over whether it’s still possible for indie developers to thrive in today’s App Store is fascinating to read.

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Ben Brooks On Hacking →

August 12, 2014 |

The point of all this is that you should never be afraid to hack away at things. I still hack away at the CSS on this site, and while the site is live I save the change and see what happens. Maybe the entire site dies because of that, or maybe it doesn’t — I don’t care. I don’t care because I am working at learning and those few minutes of a broken site won’t really matter to anyone in the long run, but it _will_ help me immensely.

Ben’s right on the money here. Which reminds me, there’s a bit of Wordpress hacking I need to do on this site myself.1

  1. I’m not entirely happy with how the link-formatted posts are being handled by the Wordpress engine. Right now, I need to manually add an “external-link” tag to the title of each post in order for it to be styled appropriately. I’m trying to find a way to automate the process, so that it’s easier for me to publish these posts.

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Jean-Louis Gassée asks for better App Store curation in an open letter to Tim Cook →

August 12, 2014 |

Jean-Louis Gassée, on this week’s Monday Note:

With one million titles and no human guides, the Apple App Store has become incomprehensible for mere mortals. A simple solution exists: curation by humans instead of algorithms.

I couldn’t agree more. Human curation and an editorial selection of apps are becoming indispensable in today’s extremely crowded App Store. If Apple wants high-quality apps to thrive and independent developers to keep making great apps, this is the way forward.

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Nobody needs to buy tablets any more, says Ars Technica →

August 08, 2014 |

Peter Bright makes an interesting case:

It turns out that tablets aren’t the new smartphone and they’re not going to provide regular sales at high price points. They’re the new PC; if you’ve already got one, there’s not much reason to buy a new one. Their makers are all out of ideas and they can’t make them better. They can only make them cheaper.

That’s a bold thing to say when we are less than a couple of months removed from a new generation of iPads. We shall see.

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So a thief tried to steal this guy's bicycle... →

July 30, 2014 |

After a long day at work in Times Square, I find my bike locked with a mysterious Kryptonite U-lock. It’s an old trick. The thief will come back in the dead of night, release their lock, and pop my chain with a bolt-cutter. But I ain’t givin up that easy.

This is awesome on so many levels.

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What's in a name?

July 28, 2014

The other day I read a very interesting article by C.A. Pinkham: The Gratuitous Injustice of American Tipping Culture. It was originally linked to by The Loop.

It starts with these words by William Scott:

“Unless a waiter can be a gentleman, democracy is a failure. If any form of service is menial, democracy is a failure. Those Americans who dislike self-respect in servants are undesirable citizens; they belong in an aristocracy.”

There are few things in this world that upset me more than seeing someone being a jerk to a waiter, or a hotel concierge. Unfortunately, on some occasions the American tipping system actually reinforces this behavior.

Less than 100 years ago, people genuinely believed that there was no such thing as “menial service” to an American, that waiters could be gentlemen, and that service didn’t mean servitude. They believed the idea of tipping was a fundamentally demeaning and classist notion of which they wanted no part. Since then, we appear to have come a long way down a road paved with good intentions.

What the hell went wrong?

I’ve always found the act of tipping to be inherently disrespectful. A culture that perpetuates this practice, in my opinion, is one lacking empathy at the most basic of levels. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with similar thoughts on the matter.

The entire article is well worth reading, but to me it brought up a different thought.

It’s no secret that in Spain we love the outdoor life: we regularly go out for drinks, eat out… heck, whatever it is, if it can be done out of the house, chances are that’s how we do it. This is particularly true when the weather is nice, which is to say most of the time. We spend more of our waking time in bars and restaurants that practically anywhere else, including our own homes. It’s a well-established part of our culture, and one that I appreciate immensely.

As a result, most people here are used to dealing with servers every day.1 There are no mandatory tips in Spain; instead they’re given out only occasionally. They’re meant as a token of appreciation for exceptionally good service, but they’re hardly a significant part of a server’s wage. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean servers aren’t sometimes treated poorly by customers. That’s something that happens in most developed countries, and fixing it requires more than replacing the tipping culture or making sure every server is paid a fair, dignified wage. That’s evidently a great place to start, but it’s only the beginning.

To me, it really starts with knowing their names. In my day-to-day life I probably interact with more than 20 or 30 servers on a regular basis. I know many of them by name, and some of them I call friends. I always try to make it a point to ask the name of every waiter (or waitress) I talk to. In my mind it’s just a basic show of respect, to acknowledge the other person as a human being and not just a nameless entity that’s there to produce whatever I need at that particular moment. It’s a little thing, sure, but in my experience it’s really appreciated and it goes a long way.

Yesterday, for example, we went to a nice Italian place for a late-afternoon cup of coffee. It was a quaint little restaurant owned by Marco, a young italian man with a full beard and an infectious smile. I started taking to him and he turned out to be an exceptionally charming man, so much so that what was supposed to be a 20-minute coffee turned into a two-hour conversation and a few new friends made along the way. This is the sort of present that anyone willing to set their prejudices aside can get every day, if they only take a chance.

The truth is, some of the most interesting people I’ve ever known work behind a bar. I’ve always believed it takes a certain character to do that job well, and I deeply admire them. Perhaps it’s a romantic notion carried over from a different era, back when a waiter, a taxi driver or a hotel concierge often represented your best bet to fix almost any pressing matter. Got hungry at 4 a.m.? No problem. Need to find the only place in the city that stocks a particular brand of whisky? Easy. Want to find out the name of the beautiful woman you saw on the elevator that morning? You got it. This uncanny ability to problem-solve beyond their job description often earned them high praise and respect from their patrons. Ironically, their appreciation was often expressed by means of a generous tip, but this tip was a different animal entirely: a gesture of respect through and through.

Unfortunately, that era is long gone, and those well-intentioned tips have evolved into the demeaning practice we see today. The good news is, the true professionals are still there, if you know where to look. I always find refuge in these characters when I’m far from home; a knowing smile and a nod from a bartender is all it takes to bring me right back to a happier place. Luckily I have a keen eye for spotting them, and I can never resist the temptation to approach them and share in a bit of their story.

To come back full circle, we would all be better off if tips didn’t exist. It’s an embarrassing system, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. It’s also just part of a bigger problem so if, like me, you feel like a complete jerk every time you tip, the only advice I can give you is this: try to connect with the person, and respect the job; theirs is a profession bearing a long tradition of excellence and discretion. Ask them what their name is. Shake their hand. You’ll be surprised to see what a difference it makes. Talk to them like actual human beings, and stop thinking for a second about what you want. Then, when it’s time to tip, do it generously, and don’t forget to thank them. It’ll take a bit of practice, but eventually you’ll stop feeling like a jerk.

  1. I was hesitant to use the word “servers” because in my head it’s already tainted. However, I refuse to concede this point and hereby reclaim the right to use this word with all the respect and appreciation it deserves.

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Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system →

July 23, 2014 |

Rich McCormick, The Verge:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has confirmed that his company will amalgamate all major versions of Windows into one operating system. Speaking on the company’s quarterly earnings call today, Nadella told analysts Microsoft will “streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system.” Describing the implications of the change, Nadella said ”this means one operating system that covers all screen sizes.”

Sounds great.

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