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Boise, ID.

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One generous act of kindness from an absolute stranger can do wonders to a weary traveling soul.

I’m laying on a bed in a random host home somewhere on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho; taking a hot shower for the first time in days, drinking hot beverages by candlelight and watching movies with one of my closest friends on the biggest seventy-three inch plasma you’ve ever seen. I don’t even remember the name of the lady who opened up her home to us. I think it’s Annette. She loves animals. She has a black lab, a pit bull, five cats, a couple horses, and a countless number of fish. She works in a call center troubleshooting people’s DSL problems. Yesterday she taught a celebrity how to find the colon key on their keyboard in order to type “http://” into Internet Explorer. If she takes the freeway, she can get from her home to her office, park, walk three blocks, and be at her desk within fifteen minutes. Her husband works at Ford. The car she drives shares the same name as my company. And it has seat-heated cushions. Mhmm, seat-heated cushions.. my favorite.

She has Thin Mint Girl Scouts™-flavored ice cream. And premium hot cocoa. And those giant mug things that the dwarves from the Lord of the Rings use. And hash browns and pancakes and bacon in the morning.

And did I mention hot showers?

This generosity is overwhelming.

Thank You.

Breaking the Silence

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No, I’m not dead. But if you follow me on Twitter, you already know that.

I just graduated high school, that’s all. I wrote my last final and made a beeline for Texas three days later where I’ll be spending the next two years doing a film & media internship. So now I actually get to make things instead of simply talking about other people making things. Hence the lack of words here.

The last four months have been the most physically, emotionally, and professionally demanding months of my — admittedly short — life. I’m learning more than I ever have and have more things than ever to talk and write about. Not every teenager gets the opportunity to shoot music videos in Mexico or travel to stadiums and arenas across the US putting on Christian youth conferences.

I think what I’m trying to say is that now that I have somewhat of an interesting life, the things I’m discovering and learning might actually be of value to some people. Or someone.

That’s my hope at least.

So yeah, just wanted to get that whole awkward “breaking the silence” moment out of the way. Thank you to everyone who emailed in their condolences or DM’d me to say that they stopped by my site to clear out the virtual cobwebs. Your loyalty has been duly noted.

Ahhh, feels good to be back.

PhotoForge: Photoshop for the iPhone

I never realized how useful a simple “curves” adjustment on an iPhone would be until now. Some of the features are a little gimmicky (how many times are you going to use the clone stamp tool on your phone?), but it completely changes the way you use your iPhone as a camera.

While it typically retails for $4.99, it’s on sale for a limited time for $1.99.

Seth Godin on “Gotchas”

There are lots of things you can do to make the sale. They often are precisely the opposite of what you should do to generate word of mouth. I know, you can’t have word of mouth unless you have a sale, but a sale that leads to pain is hardly worth it.

My rule of thumb is this: every person you turn away because your product or service isn’t right for them turns into three great customers down the road. Every bad sale costs you five.

I couldn’t agree more.

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Working at Fusion, I’m often amazed at the number of great products and services out there that aren’t being talked about. After booking a Fusion ad with us, the good folks at Hello Canvas offered to send me a free print of one of my photos so that I could try out the service.

The canvas came in the mail the other day and I have been blown away by the sheer awesomeness of the print. It’s HUGE, feels solid, and looks absolutely stunning on the wall.

I can’t quite explain what it’s like to see one of your photos in larger-than-life form. It’s exhilarating, emotional — almost hypnotizing. In fact, I find that I prefer canvas-bound prints to framed photos more often than not. (For once my tastes side on the cheaper end of the metaphorical scale. Huzzah!) If you’re a photographer, art appreciating enthusiast, or parent for that matter, Hello Canvas deserves a serious look.

(Pssst: I believe the coupon code “FUSION” still saves you 10% upon checkout. You didn’t hear it from me.)

From Fusion, to Shawn. With Love.

There’s five different ‘birthday’ graphics — see if you can collect them all. Major props, kudos, and every other form of public praise to Judson Collier for coming up with the brilliant ad designs.

UPDATE: The ads are off the site now, but you can still find them archived on Flickr.

Strangely Addictive Pringles Banner Ad

The banner ad that you just can’t stop clicking. Possibly the only good use of Flash on the web. Possibly.

Blurb’s ‘PDF-to-Book’

My favourite online photo book publisher now accepts books via PDF, allowing you to creative a custom design outside of their clumsy and limiting BookSmart app. Previously you had to choose between a better end result and the ability to sell your book online versus the more flexible and intuitive interfaces of iPhoto and Aperture. Now you can have the best of both worlds.

Find My iPhone Works, and It’s Awesome

Now, put yourself in the shoes of the iPhone thiever who will momentarily be entering the story. You might have told yourself, “Hey, free iPhone!” the night before. You might have seen the gently-threatening messages and ignored them, maybe even scoffed. Then the phone told you it was on Medill St. It talked to you in Spanish. And you saw three skinny white guys prowling in the street with a laptop computer open.

So you take off down the road, and to your shock and horror, the honkeys follow you. You stand at your local bus stop, expecting to lose them. And they converge on your location from across the intersection, the bald one with the laptop yelling and pointing at you. You probably think the angels of death have found you.

Coming soon to a theatre near you.

Catch the Fever

Fever launched today to much fanfare, and it’s hot. Red hot.

The problem with traditional feed readers is that they treat RSS like an inbox, assuming that you want to go through and read every post, one by one.

This leads to one of two scenarios:

  • People subscribe to an infinite number of blogs so they “don’t miss a thing” and become overwhelmed by the RSS backlog, eventually declaring feed reader bankruptcy.
  • People — most often the ones that have already fallen victim to scenario one — decide to carefully examine every site they add to their feed reader, only adding the ones they know they’ll read religiously.

RSS today is not what it was four years ago. There are tumblogs and linked lists and reblogs and retweets and everyone and their pet dog is linking to everyone else’s content. RSS has become more of a notification system than a distribution system.

Many have tried to grasp onto this new form of “word-of-mouth” linking, with the most notable example being Tumblr. And while Tumblr has done an excellent job at making it easy for people to republish content to their own audience, I can’t help but feel that they’ve neglected the creation of original content.

I love original content and I love reblogged content and I wish some genius would find a way to stick them into one neat little package with a cherry on top.

Someone did, and that someone is Shaun Inman.

Feed a Fever

Fever treats both original and regurgitated content as first-class citizens, cleverly labeling them as Kindling and Sparks respectively.

Shaun Inman explains:

Fever asks you to make a simple distinction between essential and supplemental feeds. Essential, must-read feeds are Kindling. Supplemental, low signal-to-noise feeds are Sparks. Sparks ignite Kindling raising the temperature of items and links that should not be missed.

Fever then acts as a self-contained recommendation engine of sorts for the content that you’re already subscribed to. It finds which links are popular among your Fever “ecosystem” and pushes them to the top of your “Hot” list. You can check in, skim the latest buzz, and check out — all without sacrificing the Kindling that you actively subscribe to and read religiously.

It really is a marvelous concept that allows you to go wild with feed subscriptions. You can toss all your new feeds into the Sparks group risk-free and reap the benefit of an improved Fever algorithm. As Shawn Blanc points out, contrary to the traditional wisdom of feed readers, the more feeds you throw at it, the better Fever actually functions.

Web App Hotness

As my partner in crime will tell you, I am not a fan of web apps that try to replicate, much less replace native desktop applications. While Fever isn’t perfect, it’s as close to a desktop app as you’re going to get in a browser. Fever has better keyboard shortcuts than most native applications — it’s entire user interface can be navigated from the ‘board.

Even better, if you have one of the newer MacBook Pros with a multitouch trackpad and do a little MultiClutch and Fluid tweaking, you trigger Fever’s “arrowing out” to an article by simply swiping three fingers across your trackpad. Pretty nifty, huh?

The real reason I decided to switch from a native feed reader to a web-based client is its ubiquity. All your RSS feeds can be accessed from any modern web browser and from your iPhone or iPod Touch without dealing with the cumbersome, frustrating, and unreliable process of syncing.

Not to mention that the iPhone web app is downright gorgeous, albeit a bit laggy:

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The Blob of Awesomeness

After a day of use, it’s clear that Sparks are the key to Fever’s magic algorithm. Although it turns out that finding link feeds to cram into Fever’s blob of awesomeness is much harder than I previously thought.

When I saw Fever’s “saved posts” feature (which involves tapping the ‘s’ key on any item you wish to save for later), I couldn’t help but ponder a better way to not only find content, but to share it.

What if Fever had the ability to not only “save” but “star” a post or link that one thought was particularly interesting. Fever could easily make this custom “starred” list into a public RSS feed that other Fever users could throw into their blobs of awesomeness to create an even bigger blob of awesomeness.

It would be a drop-dead simple recommendation engine that anyone could customize, tweak, or opt into or out of at any moment, while at the same time ensuring that users are not bombarded by information overload — skimming here and there to find the occasional meat among the bones.

Cause after all, the biggest forest fires are the ones that spread.

Subsidized

While you can buy an iPhone for $199, iPhones have never actually been that cheap.

When you sign a two or three contract with a cell phone carrier, you agree to put up with frustrating service, ambiguous legalese, and a metric ton of hidden fees in exchange for a $200 subsidy on your phone.

Is the $200 worth two years of dealing with a company that just wants to get more money out of you? Probably not — but it sure helps sell iPhones like hotcakes.

So the iPhone 3GS is announced at WWDC and you’re happily heading over to Apple.com to dish out a couple hundred bucks for a new phone. Then the fine print stabs you through the heart:

For non-qualified customers, including existing AT&T customers who want to upgrade from another phone or replace an iPhone 3G, the price with a new two-year agreement is $499 (8GB), $599 (16GB), or $699 (32GB). Visit www.wireless.att.com for eligibility information.

No matter which way you try and spin it, $700 is a lot for a new phone. Logically, it makes sense. You’re paying $299 for the iPhone 3GS, $200 for the subsidy that AT&T would have paid, and $200 that was subsidized from your previous iPhone 3G.

The inherent problem with this is that you’re still under a new two year contract even after paying the full price for the new iPhone — essentially signing a contract with no new subsidy (akin to the original iPhone).

How to Work Around AT&T’s Cash Grab

For those that know how to navigate the cell carrier’s convoluted system, there is a workaround that, while still pricey, is significantly cheaper than going down the default upgrade path.

Last year, AT&T came out with an Early Termination Fee option that enables you to cancel your contract at any time for a flat fee of $175. Additionally, if you are more than 12 months into your contract, that $175 fee decreases by $5 every month.

In effect, it’s cheaper to cancel your current AT&T contract for $175 and purchase a brand new iPhone 3G subsidized for either $199 or $299 respectively. For the 32GB model, that’s a total of $474 instead of the $699 of going down the upgrade route.

UPDATE: Most 3G iPhone’s are available for special pricing until they become “upgrade eligible”. These upgrade prices vary depending on the length remaining on your contract. Most users are seeing $399 and $499, while some are seeing $499 and $599. This is an epic mess.

Even better, you get to keep a contract-free iPhone 3G which can be sold for a pretty penny online (read: $500+), making the total cost of upgrading to the new iPhone next to free.


And for all you complaining about AT&T, Rogers (the exclusive iPhone carrier in Canada) charges $500 to cancel your contract early. Then again, we get tethering first. So count your blessings.