Welcome! Warpspire is a collection of links, reviews, and opinions focused on product design and its effects on our world. Published by Kyle Neath.
September 4, 2014
I remember the first time Bitbucket straight up stole one of my designs. The layout. The borders. The shadows. The exact information on the page!
I was angry.
August 23, 2014
As I sit in my apartment right now, I'm assuming what is effectively the entirety of the technology industry is managing the task rabbits packing their art cars, private chefs, fusion reactors, and backup iPads into their U-Hauls for the long journey to the Black Rock Desert. Oh — and drugs — lots, and lots of drugs.
Merlin Mann in 2011:
It’s now become unavoidably clear to me that I’ve been doing each of these things poorly. The job, the making, the pleasing, and, yeah, the being at home. And I can’t live with that for another day. So, I’ve chosen which one has to go. At least in the way it’s worked to date. Which is to say not working.
But, that part’s gone missing for just a little too long now. Certainly not missing from my handsome and very practical rhetoric–it’s been missing from my actual life and living. In a quest to make something that has increasingly not felt like my own, I’ve unintentionally ignored my own counsel to never let your hard work fuck up the good things. Including those regular people. Including, ironically, the real work. Including any good thing the crank is supposed to be attached to.
So, I’m done fucking that up. I’m done cranking. And, I’m ready to make a change.
I just found this old article from Merlin, and having recently made some pretty big changes in my own life, it sure hit pretty hard. For me? I’m done cranking for a while, too. I don’t really know what that looks like, but I’m excited to find out.
Daniel J. Levitin for the Sunday Review:
Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network. The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.
I love this explanation. I often find myself arguing for the power of not (as in, spending time purposefully not accomplishing tasks). American culture does not like this. It wants us to go faster, do more, always be on (why aren’t you responding to my text message???). As a creative professional, this pressure can be suffocating and damaging, especially as an organization grows. The worst part? I don’t think any of us really want to be this way.
If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.
I’d also add a vacation from social media. Take a break from your text messages, your Facebook feed, your Twitter feed, and your Instagram feed. Phone vacations are a real thing, and something we’re all going to have to master in our ever-connected world.
August 6, 2014
Secret's champions claim the service will overcome the darker side of human behavior and won't become a tool for bullying and defamation. I'm not so sure, so I have a favor to ask.
Isaac Asimov on his writing style:
I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be ‘clear’. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—Well, they can do whatever they wish.
Last year, I watched Boyan Slat give a TEDx talk on the subject of plastics in our ocean: How the oceans can clean themselves. The idea was super interesting to me (I love simple solutions), but I had no idea how feasible it would be. On June 3rd, his newly formed foundation The Ocean Cleanup claimed they’ve proven it is indeed feasible.
They’re raising $2,000,000 to deploy a large-scale pilot in the next few years. And maybe it won’t work — but it sure feels like a no-brainer to donate some money and give them the chance to try.
Maciej Cegłowski, creator of pinboard.in:
I’ve come to believe that a lot of what’s wrong with the Internet has to do with memory. The Internet somehow contrives to remember too much and too little at the same time, and it maps poorly on our concepts of how memory should work.
I can’t begin to explain how insightful and important this phrase is. We’ve been lazy. We haven’t treated backups, privacy, security, and data portability seriously enough as creators of software. It’s time we do.
If you build software for the web, you need to read the whole presentation.
Claude Shannon, inventor of information theory:
I don’t know how history is taught here in Japan, but in the United States in my college days, most of the time was spent on the study of political leaders and wars—Caesars, Napoleons, and Hitlers. I think this is totally wrong. The important people and events of history are the thinkers and innovators, the Darwins, Newtons, Beethovens whose work continues to grow in influence in a positive fashion.
The more I learn of Claude Shannon, the more I like this guy. This is the future I want to build. The entire speech is worth a read.
Kottke, commenting on Steven Frank’s Dragon Lair story
The web has since been overrun by marketers, money, and big business, but for a brief time, the nerds of the world had millions of people gathered around them, boggling at their skill with this seemingly infinite medium. That time has come and gone, my friend.
And with two sentences, Kottke summarizes the feelings that have been welling up in me for the past four years. It’s a new world.
Some great thoughts regarding the history of Formspring and purposefully designing an anonymous experience. I love this bit:
Investors will pass on your company, peers will criticize you, parents will yell at you. Maybe they’re right. And maybe not.
It’s so true. I’ve always considered people who visit GitHub in a logged out state to be a different type of customer — but a customer all the same. Every time I’ve brought up this idea to people outside of GitHub, it’s been met with a strange astonishment and a scolding for not sending them through the signup flow meat grinder ASAP.
Anonymous can be a part of your product. Design it.
A couple of years ago I listened to Werner Vogels talk a bit about treating large computing systems like biological systems. We shouldn’t try and stop the virus — the predator — instead, we should design systems that can provide self-correcting forces against contaminated systems. Preventing failures and bugs was futile.
You may gather from my surprise that I’m not a distributed systems engineer — but the idea of accepting that you will purposefully allow bugs that will cause failure was kind of mind blowing. Before then, my mindset had always been to prevent bugs to prevent failure. I had a similar feeling when I first watched Dietrich Featherston talk about Radiology + Distributed Systems — a similarly alternate perspective on monitoring and measurement.
And so it made me incredibly happy to read this bit from Google’s post-mortem of Gmail’s outage:
Engineers were still debugging 12 minutes later when the same system, having automatically cleared the original error, generated a new correct configuration at 11:14 a.m. and began sending it; errors subsided rapidly starting at this time.
The system was able to fix the bug faster than the engineers. This isn’t anything revolutionary or mind blowing. But it’s kind of awesome to see it succeed in the real world.
Brad Frost with some real talk:
I’m sure they’re effective.
And I could get people on the street to take my survey by threatening them with a claw hammer. That would be pretty effective too.
If you use an overlay, you’re an asshole. Stop.
It’s hard to admit you’ve made a massive strategic mistake in your company. Kudos to Evernote for facing quality issue head on.
Here’s to brighter, higher-quality future.
January 3, 2014
Product is the reason that I build software. I want to create things that bring people joy. I want to build things I can be proud of. Things that makes the world a better place.
My friend Theresa recently launched a new project — Omakase. The premise is pretty awesome: they pick excellent well-deserving charities, you subscribe at $10, $25, or $50 a month.
Simple subscription-based giving. My kinda joint.
The fine folks from Elepath recently launched their newest venture, Exposure. I don’t really tend to pimp services too much, but I really like Exposure. Here’s a story I published from a recent hike through Marin.
The combination of words + photo groups is perfect for telling a story. I’m looking forward to seeing where they take this.
January 28, 2013
There's plenty of discrimination and intolerance in our world, but never forget that pixels don't care.
January 4, 2013
In which the entire situation is just fucked. Let's make it better.
On the subject of repair scheduling:
Repairs scheduling is fundamentally flawed. Maintenance companies try to shoehorn irregular shaped jobs into nice, standardised boxes and it leads to appointments being missed and repairs left unfinished. The company wants its’ customers to be compliant and flexible, but customers need the opposite to be true. So how do we fix the system?
Great article on systems design. The system is more efficient and it makes customers happier. The end result is even simpler than it started:
We ask the customer when they want us to turn up and we give operatives all the time and materials they need to complete the right fix.
December 3, 2012
An ode to dumb software, my favorite kind.
August 2, 2012
I want to spend more time conscious of the pace of my life.
I sat down for a while with the excellent PeepCode folks and recorded a Play by Play — a real time video of me solving a design problem. A bit terrifying, a bit fun. Check it out if you’d like to see me bumble around.
Slides from my presentation I gave at Úll - Choose Your Adventure!
December 5, 2011
Documentation for any flavor of CSS that you’ll love to write.
November 7, 2011
A better way to hire people.
October 17, 2011
The best of mustache, all in ERB.
A wonderfully simple site dedicated to the art and style of creating fine coffee. Learn how to use that Chemex properly!
The Ruby on Ales folks got around to publishing the video of my Design Hacks talk. The audio is a little weird in the begining, but hang on — it clears up a few minutes in.
August 25, 2011
Musings on a culture of relentless quality.
August 2, 2011
Of deploying a major feature on a stage and my love for Hubot.
June 28, 2011
An analysis of my process.
I was playing around with Twitter’s new Follow Button and I couldn’t help but notice that the embedding markup is some of the best I’ve ever seen.
<a href="http://twitter.com/kneath" class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false">Follow @kneath</a>
I love the idea of using regular HTML with feature-flags in
data attributes combined with a common script. Can’t wait to play around with this style on Gist.
Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while — here’s a little experiment using the HTML5 History API and infinite scrolling to kill off “next page” links and still maintain real URLs that persist across page views.
In my perfect world, this is how Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr’s infinite scrolling would work.
March 30, 2011
An inspection into the product design process we've carved out.
Slides and references links from my presentation I gave at Ruby on Ales - Design hacks for the pragmatic minded.
Slides and references links from my presentation I gave at Magic Ruby - Documentation is freaking awesome. Check it out if you’re curious.
I’ll be giving a talk about documentation (no, not just code comments and RDoc) at Magic Ruby February 4th-5th. Oh, did I mention it’s in Disneyworld? And it’s free?
December 28, 2010
A pragmatic approach to designing the glue of the web.
A while ago I put up a collection of some of my handcrafted TextMate snippets. mostly focused on front-end stuff: HTML shortcuts, CSS gradients, jQuery plugin bases, commenting helpers, etc.
A quick interview I did over at The Geek Talk. Mostly covering my daily routine and whatnot.
I was going to try and fix some bugs in GitHub Pages (that’s how this site is hosted) — but I think I’m going to give up that fight. If you’d like to subscribe to Warpspire, you can find the feeds at http://feeds.feedburner.com/warpspire
I wrote up a pretty lengthy post over at the GitHub blog explaining how we do asset bundling and serving. Well worth the read for anyone who’s interested in front end performance and works on ruby apps.
January 13, 2006
I thought it might be fun to say where I think the web, technology, and music are going in the next few years.