Monthly Archives: January 2016

Watch “The Entire History of You”

If you care about the ways ubiquitous photography, life logging, and sharing are changing our memories & relationships, I think you’d really enjoy the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History Of You,” available on YouTube (below) and Netflix. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say watch.

Beyond the story & subject, I’ll note that I love the entirely matter-of-fact way that technology is handled here. Despite its life-changing impact, it’s never fetishized by the characters, never held up in some ooh-aah light. It’s the opposite of everything I’ve hated about one-note movies like Gattaca & In Time. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and with constant exposure, any magic becomes unremarkable pretty fast. Its effects, however, are anything but.


Fake Bob Ross demos Adobe Sketch

“Creative Cloud is a happy little cloud.” 🙂

My 7yo son Finn is proving to be a huge fan of Adobe Photoshop Sketch (“Tell your friend Will [the PM] that Adobe Sketch is awesome!!”), particularly of the guides & French curves, which are proving great for drawing Ed Emberly-style animals (example). I enjoyed this weird little demo & learned a few things I’ll be sharing with the budding artist.

[Update: Check out all four episodes & the backstory.]

Oh, and how much do I love that the falcon is named “Brad”? Right up my bizarre alley. [YouTube]

Google’s working on mobile vision hardware

Analyzing images in the cloud can be rad, but it’s DOA if connectivity is so spotty & expensive—as it is in much of the world—that people can’t schlep their images up there in the first place. Thus I’m happy to see news like this: Google partners with Project Tango chipmaker to bring vision to mobile devices.

The object is to get Google’s neural computation algorithms to run locally on a device and therefore not have to rely on an internet connection. Current day approaches to photo recognition, like in Google Photos, are done by first uploading and analyzing everything in Google’s cloud. Movidius hopes that by being able to quickly analyze images and audio future devices can be more personalized and contextualized. The latter part fits in with Google’s goal of making virtual assistants that are more aware of what you’re doing and what you need.


Teachers: Sign up for Google Expeditions VR

Test new experiences with your class & help improve VR storytelling by signing up here.


Wired writes,

Using cheap cardboard headsets, Android phones, and a teacher-operated tablet, Google Expeditions lets students experience 360-degree views of places like Machu Picchu, outer space, and caves in Slovakia. […] Google announced today that the Expeditions Program will be opening up beyond its current “sign up and wait for us to visit” status. Google will release a beta version of the Google Expeditions app for Android.

The team writes,

We’re looking to you to provide feedback about Expeditions while also spreading the word and teaching other educators about the product. If you’re selected, you will receive an email confirmation and instructions for how to download the app. We’re hoping you’ll help by providing feedback on what you like and on areas we need to improve!

Apply for Adobe’s Creative Residency 2016-2017

Hmm—sounds interesting:

The Creative Residency offers you a year to work on your creative passion project without distractions. As a Resident, you’ll receive a full salary and health benefits along with access to tools and mentorship to guide you along the way.

In 2-4 pages, tell us what you have in mind, and how you would bring it to life during your year in residency… We’ll be accepting submissions through February 29.

[Via Bryan O’Neil Hughes]

Use YouTube to raise money for charity

Check out something really cool from my teammates:

BuzzFeed writes,

The feature, called “Donation Cards,” works like normal YouTube pop-up cards, but instead of suggesting you subscribe to a particular channel, these cards prompt you to do something more high-minded. They offer viewers the option to donate to a charitable organizations in $5, $10, $20, or fill-in-the-blank increments. If your bank account is already linked to your YouTube account via YouTube Red, the process is simple and close to instantaneous.

Charities will receive 100% of the money donated to them, with YouTube covering any associated fees. They must be US-based with an IRS 501©3 validation to participate.


Passion means suffering

Mark Danielewski:

Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.

(as quoted by seemingly tortured animator Phil Tippett in the doc mentioned the other day) Meanwhile stress can be an advantage.

I’ve long been fond of quoting Cake’s The Distance with regard to my career & sometimes quixotic commitment to thankless missions.

The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
And long ago somebody left with the cup
But he’s driving and striving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

He’s going the distance…

Computer vision demo: What can your phone see?

Helping the blind see? Sounds amazing, though we’re in awkwardly early days:

However, in turn, BlindTool can be wrong. A lot. Walking around my apartment, it called my Christmas tree a feather boa, an ornament a bubble, a door an armoire. Sometimes the results were close, sometimes they were absurdly off. And that’s because the neural net was trained on what Cohen calls an “almost randomly chosen” collection of images—a hodgepodge of opensource work that’s not necessarily catered to the things you or any person would most commonly want identified in their home, commute, or place of work.


How to: Moving your Flickr images into Google Photos

I’ve enjoyed Flickr for 10+ years & plan to keep doing so. A friend recently asked me how I’d gotten my images from Flickr into Google Photos, so I jotted down the simple process:

  1. Download & launch the Google Photos desktop uploader.
  2. Go to the Flickr Camera Roll & sort by date taken.
  3. Select the first image.
  4. Scroll to the bottom, or click the first date listed at left, then shift-click the last image.
  5. Click “Download” at bottom.
  6. Open the resulting ZIP file(s) and drag image folder(s) to your desktop.
  7. Netflix & chill. 🙂 (optional)

Adobe photography lecture today at 4pm Pacific

This talk from MIT’s Michael Hawley sounds interesting. You’ll be able to watch it live & ask questions here, or listen by calling (855) 870-5454 & using meeting ID 1005302015.

This talk is more history than future—more about picture hacking from the last 150 years than the last 15 or the next 100. But if you’re at all interested in photography and its futures, I can guarantee you will find something fun, interesting and new from the past.

Bio: Michael Hawley is an educator, artist, and researcher active in many facets of digital media. His research career includes pioneering work at Bell Labs in Murray Hill (computer systems), IRCAM in Paris (computer music), Lucasfilm in San Rafael (digital cinema), nearly two decades at MIT in Cambridge (at the Media Lab and Lab for Computer Science). He directs the EG conference (, has been active as founder/advisor to numerous startup companies, and as an amateur pianist, won the Van Cliburn competition in 2002. Pertinent to this talk, he also served on the Board of Directors of Eastman Kodak during their demise (!); and as a researcher with interests in photography, invented GPS photography and produced the world’s largest published book (5×7′, 150lbs, on BHUTAN).

What is wabi-sabi?

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
— Leonard Cohen

Despite having heard the term, I didn’t know much about wabi-sabi until watching this short, nicely produced explanation.

At the heart of Japanese philosophy and wisdom lies a concept called ‘wabi-sabi’; a term which denotes a commitment to the everyday, the melancholic, the somewhat broken and the imperfect. It’s a term we need a lot more of in our lives. 

Leonard Koren writes, in Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers:

1. All things are impermanent.
2. All things are imperfect.
3. All things are incomplete.

Blessed are the cracked
For they shall let in the light.
— Groucho Marx

[YouTube] [Via]

The NYT reviews the laptop market… in 1985

These “gas-plasma displays” sound kinda rad!

“But the real future of the laptop computer will remain in the specialized niche markets. Because no matter how inexpensive the machines become, and no matter how sophisticated their software, I still can’t imagine the average user taking one along when going fishing…

Good stuff. The first portable Mac (all 16lbs. & $7,500 of it) was still four years in the future. Some 17 years after that, the iPhone arrived. Pretty sure people take them fishing. [Via Ross Hobbie]

Photography: Frozen soap bubbles

Enjoy 90 seconds of totally unexpected beauty.

The creator writes,

An inspiration for this session was a conversation with my 3year old daughter while dressing up to go out:
– Daddy, I don’t want to put this jacket on. – she moaned
– Me too, darling but it is very cold outside. – I explained
– How cold?
and I had to figure out an interesting answer which would satisfy a preschooler’s curiosity, so I told her:
– It is so cold that even soap bubbles freeze and it looks really beautiful, you know?
I saw a sparkle in her eye so I promised to make a film to show her that. She was so excited about this idea that of course she forgot that she didn’t want to put her jacket on. It wasn’t easy to capture those bubbles because only around 5-10% of them didn’t break instantly and as you can imagine it was a challenge to be patient at -15 Celsius 😉 but it was worth it because now that my daughter has seen it, winter is magic for her.

[Vimeo] [Via]

R&D: How thin can a camera be?

No lens, no cry—at least for certain applications:

FlatCam, invented by the Rice labs of electrical and computer engineers Richard Baraniuk and Ashok Veeraraghavan, is little more than a thin sensor chip with a mask that replaces lenses in a traditional camera. […]

“We can make curved cameras, or wallpaper that’s actually a camera. You can have a camera on your credit card or a camera in an ultrathin tablet computer.”

[YouTube] [Via John Peterson]

A whole mess of interesting new cams: 360, VR, and more

When it rains, it pours:

  • Nikon has announced the 360º KeyMission. Check out the sample vids.
  • GoPro has confirmed that it’s working on something similar. Looks like it’ll be able to capture stuff like this.
  • Movi lets you put a camera on a stick, then direct its focus in realtime (while streaming live) via an iPhone. Neat, but I’m not entirely clear on what problem it’s solving.
  • In a slightly similar vein, Kiba purports to let you just put the camera in a fixed place, then let it shoot & edit your family videos.
  • The Vuze VR camera purports to shoot not only 360º coverage, but depth as well.

Google Photos throwbacks make me sweat less, enjoy more

I often let the perfect be the enemy of the good, failing to share a lot of good photos because I haven’t gotten enough time to winnow down a set & perfect them Lightroom. (If it weren’t for my wife’s fast, pitiless curation, I’d fail even more.) I don’t expect this to change vis-à-vis sharing as I go: I’m just not willing to dump out everything I shoot, and to do it in the buff.

What I’m finding, though, thanks to my single favorite feature in Google Photos—namely, daily throwbacks to memories from the same date—is that I’m not stressing about finding, sharing, and perfecting the “right” photos. Rather, I’ll get a little collage of moments (generally showing our kids as tots), then send the entire photo set from that day to my wife, my mom, and occasionally other friends. It’s actually more interesting to see all the in-between, throwaway moments than just the super-curated highlights.

So, what does this mean to you?

  • Back up all your stuff from all your devices. (It’s free & unlimited!)
  • Delete only the total crap.
  • Make sure you check your Assistant for these throwback cards.
  • Share more, worry less, get on with life. 🙂


Happy 10th birthday, Lightroom!

Ten years ago today, Adobe released the first public preview of “Project Lightroom.” It was Mac-only, ultra lightweight, wildly incomplete, and very promising. Dizzy after blazing all over Europe previewing the app to journalists, here’s how I blogged it:

First, the product isn’t finished, and that’s a good thing. Letting a preview version into the wild now lets us engage the broad photography community in a new way. It’s the nature of the beast that just about any 1.0 product will have some shortcomings and rough edges. The thing is, we’re not going to start charging for ours until you’ve had plenty of time to kick the tires & help shape the feature set.

Amazingly, the demo video from that first post is still available, so I’ve stuck it onto YouTube for the occasion:

Looking back, my antipathy towards Apple (which had just released Aperture for $499 (!) at PhotoPlus in late October) was so clear. Your 1.0 is incomplete, too, I was saying, and we’re going to contrast your chutzpah with our humility.

Yet the best thing ever to happen to Lightroom was Aperture. It got us out of our heads & got the app into users’ hands. Before Aperture shipped, Adobe had spent three+ years running in circles on a great idea, not sure how to explain it to users, establish its value, and still protect Photoshop. Then Apple wrapped the Javitz Center in a 40-foot-high banner that said, “Everything you need after the shoot.” Bang, it was game on: a matter of weeks later, Lightroom had transformed from a pile of greasy parts on the garage floor to a useful, impressive beta. We never looked back, and over the following years, I loved writing about LR kicking Aperture’s ass among pros.

Now, let’s see what the next decade brings. 🙂 [YouTube]

Snapchat = “Who gives an F?”

Admirably punchy summary from Twitch founder Justin Kan of why people (especially kids) find Snapchat so liberating from the horrible competitive anxiety they feel using Instagram—what he calls “the 9th circle of hell where everyone feels inadequate”:

There’s no combined feed. If someone wants to look at your s***, they have to click on you. There’s no public view count, follower count, likes count, or any other social dick-measuring contest. You can just put whatever you’re doing on Snapchat; if people don’t like it, who gives a f***, you’ll never know.

Also, everyone sucks together:

The content doesn’t have to be that good, because “it’s going to disappear anyways, and everyone else’s content isn’t that great either.”

The genius of Instagram was in helping regular people be better.
The genius of Snapchat was in making people not care

CNN: “Google Cardboard saves baby’s life”

Days of miracles & wonder, man.

From the CNN story:

Google Cardboard looks like a set of big square goggles. Stick your iPhone inside and with the right app, you can see images in three-dimensional virtual reality.

Doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used the device to map out an operation they say they couldn’t have envisioned otherwise. […]

That’s where Google Cardboard proved advantageous over 3-D printing. The printer would have given Burke just her heart — but to access her heart surgically, he needed to be able to visualize it in context with her ribcage and other structures.


[YouTube] [Via Larry Fine]

“‘Maybe’ is addictive like nothing else out there”

“Dopamine,” says Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, “is not about pleasure; it’s about the anticipation of pleasure. It’s about the pursuit of happiness, rather than about happiness itself.”

From monkeys pressing buttons, to humans pulling slot machine levers, to careerism & belief in the afterlife, variable rewards & delayed gratification drive goal-directed behavior like mad. As Vincent Hanna would say, “All I am is what I’m going after.”

Spend five really interesting minutes with Professor Sapolsky, and if you’re interested in how to build addictive products based on these ideas, check out Nir Eyal’s Hooked.


Mo’ #sadtrombone re: social media fame

Following on yesterday’s post about lobster traps:

The awkward part was that Ashley wasn’t there to celebrate with Buzzfeed. She was there to serve them. Not realizing that her handful of weekly waitressing shifts at Eveleigh paid most of her bills, a coworker from the video production site asked Ashley if her serving tray was “a bit.” It was not.

So, carry on, then. :-p

PS—Being on something of a bumout roll: Big IPO, Tiny Payout for Many Startup Workers.

The Instagram lobster trap

We’re all just a bunch of apes lekking around the water hole, aren’t we? “Facebook,” it’s been said, “is basically designed like a lobster trap with your friends as bait,” and the same holds for Instagram. You know it’s empty, often stressful calories—but you can’t get away.

I’m reminded of this hearing teenage girls tell This American Life about their Instagram habits. Points that stuck out for me:

  • Time is a big factor. Reactions are expected within minutes. (You can hear relief in the girls’ voices as the first likes roll in.)
  • Getting 150 likes on a selfie is normal. Nighttime is when you get the most.
  • Each person posts just a few times per week.
  • They reflexively like nearly everything in their feeds.
  • Commenting is more intimate than liking & carries more expectation of reciprocation.
  • Language choice is super important. There’s tons of repetition of “Gorgeous, Pretty, OMG, etc.,” though never “Sexy.”
  • Comments are a way to map & judge others’ relationships (who’s commenting, who isn’t).
  • “If I didn’t have it, I’d feel like I’m missing so much.” It’s a diagram of where people stand socially. Parsing this is where the most time goes.
  • The girls will preflight photos (sending them to close friends for review) before posting.
  • They know it’s shallow, but “It’s like free candy, so why not?”
  • “I’m a brand… Relevance is a big term right now. In middle school we were so relevant!”

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve enjoyed Instagram for 5+ years & would miss it deeply, even if I’m guiltier than I’d like of these pathologies. And still my mind turns endlessly to thinking about ways to foster more genuine, personal, enriching communications. Nobody said would be easy, but the desire is there.

Delightful little animated loops

  • James Curran created a New York City-inspired GIF every day while he was visiting the city. The recursive pizza below is just one. Trust me, the whole set is worth a look.
  • Guillaume Kurkdjian makes crazy-charming bits like the drawers below. See more via his Dribble page.
  • Non-animated bonus: Chris Bishop’s Declaration of Independence Project aims to draw all 56 signers in both regular mode & ridiculous alternates inspired by pop culture (Star Wars, X-Men, etc.). He’s fun to follow on Instagram.

Pizza inception