Umamiblog

written by john lewis

Life Category Archive


Stats matter

Stephen Franks on a book review of The City That Became Safe:

One year I noticed a peak in the Central Police district homicide figures (Wanganui, Manawatu, Hawkes Bay) and had a statistician friend check for me – that district did indeed have a higher murder rate than New York.

While purely subjective, I often feel safer in London than I did in NZ. Heather Mac Donald’s book review here.

Posted in: Crime, Life, NZ

Lloyd Morrison on the NZ flag

Self-determination for New Zealand is not a choice, it’s a reality. No one is going to look after us.

- Lloyd Morrison. RIP.

Posted in: NZ, Wellington

A Blunt or a Senz?

It has been quite a while, but rain has returned to London. I forgot to take my umbrella with me when I left OTHERmedia in March and it was only today, well over two months later, that I had to buy another one.

Umbrellas came up in conversation with Ari a couple of nights ago. For anyone who’s lived in Wellington, actually getting to use an umbrella is a novelty. It’s a novelty I do enjoy, sometimes.

It’s certainly an excuse to geek out over brollies. There are two umbrellas I’ve seen lately that may be up to some of Wellington’s weather.

The Blunt

Blunt Umbrellas

The first is Kiwi-company Blunt Umbrellas. These things look precision engineered compared to your average brolly. As soon as the Blunt Lite becomes available I am getting one. I don’t care how much it costs.

The Senz

Senz Umbrellas

The second is the Senz. Designed to withstand 100 km/h wind, the only problem I have with it is that you’ll look like a right bell-end carrying it about.

Posted in: Life, Wishlist

Just curious

It has been 641 days since I last posted.

All of 2010 sailed by without a mention, while 2009 fared slightly better with 5 posts. In fact, the last 979 days have produced a total of 10 posts.

Given statistics like that, is anyone still subscribed?

Posted in: Blogging, Life

Saw war and tried to stop it

With the passing of Ted Kennedy, I think it is worth remembering what I think are three of the best delivered lines of spoken word of the 20th century. From his eulogy for Bobby Kennedy:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life;
to be remembered simply as a good and decent man,
who saw wrong and tried to right it,
saw suffering and tried to heal it,
saw war and tried to stop it
.

Video:

Posted in: Life

Introducing AcornHq

A couple of months ago I left my position at Ponoko, handing over to the highly capable Josh (aka Mr Judkins). It was quite emotional leaving Ponoko, *sniff*. We were in Argentina at the time and Sarah suggested it would be a good idea to take a couple of months off once we got to London.

“And do what exactly?” I said.

“Whatever you want!” came the rather apt reply…

I got to chew on that chestnut while we continued traveling around Argie. The two big reaffirmations for were: 1) I love the web, still… and 2) I love to create. Then I had an idea I knew I wanted to work on followed by another and another.

So here’s the first, AcornHq:

acornhq-s.jpg

AcornHq is, in a sentence, a carbon offset site for iPod and iPhone users.

At the very core the idea was to promote more environmentally responsible gadget ownership. To start with this means we provide an easy way for people to offset the carbon associated with their iPod or iPhone.

We all love our iPods and iPhones but they do have a very real cost to the environment. Carbon is emitted when your iPod is manufactured, when your iPod is transported from the factory to you, and when you use power to recharge your iPod. How that power is generated to recharge your iPod also has a huge impact. Think hydro vs. coal…

So you come to AcornHq and join a tree by purchasing a leaf, for US$3.50. Once all the leaves on that tree have been taken, we plant a tree in the South Island to offset those iPods. Trees being most excellent at extracting and absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

You can then place your tree on your website and watch it fill up with leaves as more people join it. Also, when the trees we plant reach the end of their life, the plan is for any timber produced by the trees to go into community housing projects.

This is just the start and I’m quite excited about everything else to follow but do have a look and let me know what you think!

A big public thank you to my lovely wifey for helping me wrap my brain around this idea and asking the hard but essential questions. Thanks to Olmec Sinclair too for his hard work which has ultimately allowed me to realise this idea.

This is the first of (what I hope will be) three or four wee projects you’ll see from me in the next couple of months.

P.S. Argentina has to be one of the most insanely great countries in the world, you really should go visit. It’s a total Lovemark for me – hope to go back to live one day.

Posted in: Apple, Environment, Web, Work

Being a community manager

A few months ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Simon Young for his iJumpTV podcast. A few weeks ago Simon put the interview up:

This was my first interview and it was a lot of fun to do. Watching it was quite a bit tougher – I think some media training wouldn’t go amiss…

If you haven’t checked out the iJump podcast you really should. It going to be a great record of online Kiwi’s years down the track. And if you need help making sense of social media talk to Simon and Marie!

Update: this is the quote/slide from Heather Champ I referred to. (Hattip Sue)

Posted in: Life, Presentations, Work

E noho rā Wellington… thanks for the coffee

Sarah and I are leaving Wellington today. Yay!

We’re flying to Santiago today, then onto Buenos Aires in a few days and I can’t wait. After that we’re then going up to Sao Paulo where we’re going to be spending the next few months – and I’m still working for Ponoko.

If you’re over that way look us up. Otherwise see you in San Fran or London later in 2009!

I’m going to miss Wellington. Bye!

Posted in: Life

Abwesenheitsnotiz

agave.jpg As a community manager one thing you never have a shortage of is email. It forms a huge part of my average day.

So by extension I get to see a lot of away/out-of-office messages. This one I received just this week and it’s my absolute favorite:

Subject: He’s gone, real gone

Body: Hi! I’m on a humanitarian mission to rid the vacation resorts in and around Tulum, Mexico of cell phones and Tequila.

I should be returning to the world of the working somewhere around September 19th.

If you need to get in touch with me, I suggest carrier pigeons or a hand-written note in a bottle, dropped in the gulf of Mexico. I will likely not be responsive to anyone who is not offering me some sort of appropriate beverage in person until I return.

Cheers, and safe travels to all.

Totally going to plaigarise that the next time I need an away message…

Posted in: Life, Work

Death of a sign up form

Sign up forms really do need to die. And yet its such an ingrained part of our thinking and practice with websites, both as users and as webbies. This certainly isn’t a new topic but it’s a great one to think about because it can have such a huge impact on our users’ experience.

One of the better articles you can read on this subject is an excerpt posted on A List Apart from LukeW’s semi-recent book: Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks. I have to quote the opening paragraph:

I’ll just come out and say this: sign-up forms must die. [You've] stumbled upon or been recommended to a web service. You arrive eager to dive in and start engaging and what’s the first thing that greets you? A form.

The simple question is why does your service need to know information like your birthday or last name to allow you to post a video or start a blog or to play a game or whatever? Why not allow your users to get stuck in, see the value of using your service, and only ask for the info when it is needed to advance the task or experience?

One of the best examples I’ve seen of this recently was Posterous. Consider their homepage:

posterous-grab.jpg

I love the: “Skip it! No setup or signup”. Posterous is seriously cool – it can even tie in with your blog to make it super simple to email anything to your blog. Give it a go now, just email: post@posterous.com

As soon as you start thinking about how gradual engagement could work for your service you’ll start to feel like you’ve been freed from some kind of web-oppressor. We’re working on something really neat at Ponoko (launch is very close) following these rules. I can’t wait.

A big thanks to Jeffrey for helping make me passionate about the use and abuse of forms.

Posted in: Design, Web, Work

Lifting your laptop in style

laptop-stand.jpg

I was surprised and chuffed to see my groovy Stiletto Laptop Stand get a quick review on CNet by Michelle Thatcher:

It’s bad enough that my vacation’s over, but the sudden withdrawal of natural materials is really bringing me down. Which is why the wooden Stiletto laptop stand spoke to me…

The basic design idea, or brief, came from my father who wanted some laptop stands for his mobile computer suite. We spent the better part of a weekend designing and cutting out prototypes (5 in total) before we arrived at the finished and perfected result.

It’s another great example of what’s possible with Ponoko. Not only can we help you create a truly original and personal piece but we can help expose it to the rest of the world. Brilliant.

I can’t work without mine now and I’m slowly converting the others in the office. If anyone would like one of these stands, let me know, I’ll give you a special Umamiblog discount. :)

Update:  And another quick review on PopGadget – “The Stiletto is a laptop stand with style”

Posted in: Design, Web, Work

Mandibular third molars

xray.jpg

Tomorrow I’m faced with the joy of having all four of my wisdom teeth (or mandibular third molars) removed. Given the option of being knocked out with a general anaesthetic or having a local + sedative I opted for the (much) cheaper option. So sedative it is!

Apparently I’ll “be very calm, you might not even remember it”. Perfect.

So for those who’ve already had it done. What’s it actually like? As bad as they say it is? Any tips on slushy foods for afterwards? Luckily, nurse Sarah is free these days to take care of me.

Posted in: Life