Code Expanded ideas

Your target feature

Many a moon ago I twittered:

Just had the surreal idea of a “Celebrity Fit Club” for little projects. “Your target feature for next week is tagging.”

Courtney’s affection for VH1’s celeb-sploitation isn’t without its perks. Before Celebrity Fit Club went all sensational, it had some really optimistic moments. Seeing a person, celebrity or not, start to conquer their struggles with exercise and/or eating is really inspirational.

After each person weighs in to see how much they lost in a given week, the panel of judges gives them a weight-loss goal. Usually they are pretty small numbers, fairly easily achieved. Every once in a while they stretch it and challenge the contestant. Its never an unhealthy goal.

I think every project could benefit from this sort of goal setting. In particular, the part about stringing together some small achievable goals and bridging them with larger, riskier goals sounds particularly helpful. See also what the WuFoo guys said about The Importance of Deadlines:

We’ve recently gone back to a system with long-term and short-term deadlines, and we’ve already seen improvements in both focus and productivity.

I’ve yet to intentionally practice this. But, looking back at what I’ve accomplished over the past few months, I think some of the times I felt “in the groove” were after putting together a few small releases following a much bigger one. Any pithy phrase that gets me closer to said groove is one I’m willing to take to heart.


Rejiggering meets build versus buy

You’re here! That means I’ve managed to convert my site (back) over to WordPress. In the interest of making progress, I had to cut some corners. Currently, that manifests itself as taking my old weblogs Man vs. Machine and Punchline Labs offline while I figure out how to rejigger the content into WordPress. But if I’ve broken something, please tell me!

Wait, don’t stop reading! This isn’t “Yet Another Boy-Have-I-Been-Busy But Now I Promise To Post More” post!

The decision to switch (back) to WordPress is a somewhat bittersweet one. I’d originally switched away to Typo, but that didn’t work out too well. On the one hand, Typo went a little sideways on me, requiring me to poke the database a little before I could post. On the other hand, running a big Rails app like Typo on shared hosting like TextDrive isn’t a recipe for reliability. So a change was necessary.


Application Design with Garrett Dimon

Did you see Garrett Dimon’s slides from WebJam Session ’07? ZOMG you should!

What impresses me most is how much Garrett’s accomplished in designing his issue tracker without much use of intense graphics. He’s got a few icons here and there, but most of his design is based on color and typography. As someone who is horrible at drawing, it gives me hope that I could some day build cool UIs.


My 'hood, then and now

Check out Oak Cliff before and after by Justin Cozart:


Oak Cliff (my neighborhood of residence), is one of Dallas’ most interesting neighborhoods and definitely the least idiomatically Dallas. Do check out the fine imagery.

(I mixed that image up all by my big self, aren’t you proud?)


"Rap" the white guy can "dance" to

The Top 10 Rap Songs White People Love |

When these songs come on, White People look at each other and say “Awwww yeah” or “Hell yeah” and are compelled to sing along. Sometimes there’s also a corresponding stupid dance move.

Well I have to admit, at number 9, “The Humpty Dance” is one of my favorites (and a karaoke staple). The author is right too — Humpty Hump/Shock G is a great MC and its too bad people don’t get into the _whole_ album. Number one on the list is “Baby Got Back”, which I will again plead guilty to. I can’t extend as much love to the entire album on which it resides, though.

Further down there’s a write in vote for DJ Kool’s “Let me clear my throat”. Definitely seems to be a favorite of your average Dallas frat boy, though I have to say its really a quite good cut on a not-horrible album. “Getting Jiggy Wit It” is also a write-in, which I feel totally guilty for owning. I keep it on my iPod as penance.


This memory isn't going to manage itself

On a whim, I took a shallow dive into the world of C this weekend. Its been a long time since I delved into C. I ended up spending nearly as much time tweaking a build script with the ever-amusing Rake as I did remembering my C skillz[1]. In the end, my goal was to write a simple program that just reads a file and writes it back out. Nothing @cat@ couldn’t handle, sure, but you gotta start somewhere.


Alex the cognitive parrot

Best obituary ever:

A shame, then, that he is now, in the words of Monty Python, an ex-parrot.

If you’re not familiar, Alex The Parrot is a parrot who was adopted by a scientist who wasn’t, at the time, involved in linguistics. But, in teaching Alex to speak, she ended up teaching him things like counting and basic recognition of objects. Over the years, this evolved into all manners of experiments on what kind of cognition Alex was capable of.


By the end, said Dr Pepperberg, Alex had the intelligence of a five-year-old child and had not reached his full potential. He had a vocabulary of 150 words. He knew the names of 50 objects and could, in addition, describe their colours, shapes and the materials they were made from. He could answer questions about objects’ properties, even when he had not seen that particular combination of properties before. He could ask for things – and would reject a proffered item and ask again if it was not what he wanted. He understood, and could discuss, the concepts of “bigger”, “smaller”, “same” and “different”. And he could count up to six, including the number zero (and was grappling with the concept of “seven” when he died). He even knew when and how to apologise if he annoyed Dr Pepperberg or her collaborators.

Its just amazing.

Dogs, cats, et cetera

"Business" lunch

I had a very important lunch appointment today:


Fred’s action items following our discussion were 1) hunt more fat pigeons and 2) figure out how to get more human food. Sounds good to me!


Making the simple complex

Newton’s Third Law of Physics: _All forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction._

Newton’s Third Law, applied to software: To make something generic is to make the simple things complex.


Making sense of Fitts' Law

Particle Tree has an excellent article on Fitts’ Law. That’s the one that, amongst other thing, leads to putting the Dock and Start Menu buttons on the edges of the screen. You definitely want to check it out, if only for the terrific images used as demonstration, like this one:


Of course, if you’re more about the math[1] you could just read up on ye olde’ Wikipedia.

fn1. There’s math in UI design?