Fly on the wall: “Go down to a coastal village and all of a sudden you are in a Talking Heads video directed by Michel Gondry.” Matt 21 Aug 2006

34 comments Latest by ~bc

Kiko missing a revenue plan
Jason noted the demise of Kiko. The TechCrunch writeup says, “It looks like they just weren’t able to monetize their free consumer subscriptions and never actualized the enterprise solution they sought.” Jason said, “and therein lies the problem…gotta have a revenue plan from day 1.” Btw, one of Kiko’s founders posted lessons to learn from the demise of Kiko.

Interesting sidenote: The title of the TechCrunch post is “Kiko Flatlines.” Yet the URL is “ajax-calendar-kikocom-goes-on-ebay-offers-to-delete-accounts/”. Getting Ajax and calendar in there gives the page more Google juice. Clever.

Less parsing
We’re eliminating some of the options for entering dates at the Backpack calendar. Used to be “tomorrow” or “morning/afternoon/evening/night” would be parsed. That’s a problem when you want to use one of those words as part of your event instead of as the actual time you want it inserted (e.g. you don’t want “rent good morning vietnam” to automatically show up as a morning event). As Ryan said, “The more options there are, the more ambiguous the results of typing are.” So we’re going to keep the syntax to the documented examples…just months, dates, numbers, all super clear stuff. It makes explaining the syntax easier and sets clearer expectations.

Web 2.0 spam
Ryan got a very web 2.0 spam:


Rapidly aging code
A code paste from Marcel…

<%= link_to_remote "Send page via email",
:url => { :action => "email", :id => },
:before => "$('email_page_link').innerHTML = 'Sending page...'",
:complete => "setTimeout('new Effect.Fade(\\'email_page_link\\')', 1700)",
:update => "email_page_link" %>

He writes: “Man, that looks so old school now…and it’s only a year and a half old…ANCIENT!”

Foam finger UI
turkey_harborMarcel enjoyed this photo I took years ago of the “harbor master” of a small fishing village in Turkey guiding a boat with giant foam fingers. Marcel: “Awesome. Go down to a coastal village and all of a sudden you are in a talking heads video directed by michel gondry.” Ryan thought it could be the cover of something UI related. Jason suggested we use a huge foam finger icon as our drag icon in Sunrise.

Dragon shirts and gym shorts
A proposed edition was nixed from our System Administrator job ad

Marcel M.
“People who own reptiles, live in under UV sun lamps, prefer to be bare foot, are bearded and wear airbrushed shirts depicting dragons and gym shorts exclusively, need not apply”
Jamis B.
Ryan S.
“unless you are REALLY HAPPY about those things and kick ass”

Simple not always enough
This Basecamp writeup (“So far, it feels incredibly robust, and a little bit overwhelming.”) was a reminder that even our brand of simple isn’t simple enough sometimes.

Writeboard data
This graph shows how often people edit Writeboards. Number of Writeboards on one axis, number of versions per Writeboard on other axis. Click image for larger version:

wb chart

We’re using that data to decide how we can improve the way links to previous versions are displayed.

Drum notation
Marcel’s taking drum lessons which led to a discussion on how drums are notated. Here’s how they look in iDrum:


…compare that to standard musical notation:


Marcel noted it’s interesting how the same writing system for music is applied to very different instruments. Marcel: “So, for example, violin and drums use the same writing system…even though drums don’t have the notion of, for example, sustaining a note.”

Related: Here’s how chords look inside Logic:


Wireless mighty mouse
Sam got a wireless mighty mouse and said, “So far, very nice.” Jamis isn’t convinced: “I love the scroll button on it, but other than that, I’ve not been too impressed :(…I esp. don’t like how the whole chassis is the button…sometimes I’ll be holding down, trying to drag something, and run out of space, so I’ll pick up the mouse to reposition….which unclicks :(“

FedEx TV ads
Jason likes FedEx tv ads. Ryan thinks the pirate one features “the best arrrrrrgh ever.”

Jamis: “Nalley Banquet Baby Dills are some of the best dill pickle’s I’ve had.”

34 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Jeff Croft 21 Aug 06

As a former music major who took drum set lessons for several years, I can say that this statement is patently false:

“…even though drums don�t have the notion of, for example, sustaining a note.”

There absolutely is a difference between, say, a whole note and an eighth note — even on a snare drum. The distinction may not be as obvious as it is for a violin, but there’s a distinction nonetheless.

And keep in mind that many (most?) drums and percussion instruments do have the concept of pitch, which makes regular staff-based musical notation ideal: it displays rhythm, pitch, articulation, measures, timbre, and more in a simple-to-read format without taking up much space. The same can not be said of the iDrum and Logic representations shown here.

Musical notation has been developed over the past 500 years, and it’s one of the most amazing examples of information design you can find. Why more digital devices don’t use it has always baffled me.

Ana Nelson 21 Aug 06

Try plotting that Writeboard data in log-log coordinates.

gwg 21 Aug 06

Drums and percussion certainly do have the notion of sustained notes.

The real topic seems to be reading and writing trap set music. The main issue with trap music is that the writer must accomodate a large number of instruments on one sheet. Violin never has this problem

If you were to pick up an orchestral arrangement with a snare drum or bass drum part, typically, the entire musical staff would not be present since different musicians would be playing different parts. For a snare part the notes would appear on a single line. If one player is expected to play multiple instruments over the course of the piece, the composer would typically add an inline note “To Gong” and the notes would continue on the same single line with the gong part. Or if the musician is expected to play the gong and snare at the same time, two lines might appear.

I argue that using standard musical notation for trap set is incredibly information rich and valuable by displaying 9-12 insruments at all times while preserving the most important information, the composite rhythm.

Jeff Croft 21 Aug 06



Scott Teger 21 Aug 06

That Web 2.0 Spam is hilarious. If all spam looked like that, at least it would be easy on the eyes! Good to see a semi-talented designer is wasting their time promoting the sale of ED drugs.

Chris 21 Aug 06

I get that “Web 2.0 spam” all the time… along with many other Cialis/Viagara offerings. Lots of fun..

Ben 21 Aug 06

” I don’t wanna work. I just wanna bang on me drum all day!”

MM 21 Aug 06

Thanks Jeff and gwg for the corrections. It seems like I certainly mispoke. What I was trying to get at was how versatile music notation was. That, for example, when playing a piano you can hold a note down or just tap it and that there are provisions in the musical notation to specify that and yet with a trap set, as far as I had gathered, you either hit, e.g., the snare drum or you don’t.

My understanding of the difference between, e.g. an eigth note versus a sixteenth note, at least as far as playing the drums goes, was not the duration of the note itself, but the number of notes that fit into a measure. If in drums there are indeed differences of duration (not the duration of the rests between notes but the notes themselves—-the part you *hear*), then I need to revise my understanding.

Great to have some music majors on hand to keep me in check.

James Head 21 Aug 06

So regarding the ‘old’ code:

Can we have an example of how you would write this now? :)

Aaron 21 Aug 06

Rolls are represented as sustained notes.

Also, even in wind instruments, stuccato notes are not usually marked with the division of time that the note is to be heard.

Aaron 21 Aug 06


MM 21 Aug 06

So regarding the “old” code:

Can we have an example of how you would write this now? :)

The link_to_remote would be trimmed down considerably, just specifying the url, using a named route. So something like:

link_to_remote "Send page via email", :url => email_page_url(:id => @page)

The before callback would display a spinner using conventions that give us that kind of stuff for free.

All the other UI concerns would then be expressed via RJS, without any custom javascript.

gwg 21 Aug 06


Thanks for the clarification; I misunderstood your post to be that you considered the notation inappropriate and limiting and the other ways somehow better.

On a snare drum, it’s true to say that if you were to hit your snare drum one time, I would have no idea if you were playing a 32nd note or a dotted whole note. There is much more to it than that though. It’s not entirely binary. :) Cheers for the open mind and cheers to the drums. Keep it up; you should really enjoy percussion.

cj 21 Aug 06

regarding the date parsing in backpack, what kind of algorithm/implementation technique do you use?

Dan 21 Aug 06

The FedEx commercial are pretty good, but I still think this is the best commercial coming from a shipping company.

Rick 21 Aug 06

If the potential candidate has a shirt with dragons wearing gym shorts, I say hire him on the spot.

Nismoto 21 Aug 06


Especially if the gym shorts are extra-short and his nads frequently “flop out”.

Joe Ruby 21 Aug 06

This bearded guy looks like he’s wearing an air-brushed shirt!

Phil Dokas 21 Aug 06

Regarding picking up Apple’s mice and suffering accidental clicks, that point was actually raised in 2000 when that mouse body was released at Macworld alongside new iMacs and the Cube. People criticized the whole-surface-as-button design saying “But how can I pick it up while clicking?” Apple’s response was “We provided areas on both sides where you can pick it up and still be able to hold your click down.” Nowadays, if you pick it up and squeeze too hard you’ll activate the new squeeze-click in the Mighty Mouse. Perhaps this is a moot point given how hard one must squeeze to activate that click, but all the same, that such a conflict exists is silly.

Andrew 21 Aug 06

The “problem” with traditional music notation, at least from a composer’s point of view, is that a lot is tied up in interpretation. Witness the “period performance” movement - there’s a whole subset of musicology just trying to figure out *how* exactly music sounded in the 15th, 16th and 17th C’s. For a ritardando, is that eighth note *really* an eighth note, or is it more like a quarter note. Do you play that run of 16ths straight, or with a bit of a lilt? And just try to figure out how exactly that trill is supposed to be performed!

With a system like MIDI, however, you get a much richer representation of exactly how the composer intended (if the composer has taken the time to lay it down in electronic form.) The amount of data, however, necessitates a computer’s assistance to perform it - there’s no way a human could deliniate between 127 different variations of attack, or time that sustain a couple microseconds over the beat.

I agree that the traditional system is a great system, but in many ways it’s kinda like a webpage without a stylesheet - heavy on content, but not so good at telling you how to present it.

Tony 21 Aug 06

Wait. Did someone just say that MIDI is better than music played by live musicians from standard notation?

Oh, and with the drums and note lengths, don’t forget about rolls. Also, If I picked up my trumpet and played a very short note, you’d have no way of knowing if it was a eighth, sixteenth, thirtysecond, or even a stacatto quarter note. And, even if you thought you did know, at what point in that one note did I establish the meter and tempo? Maybe it was a quarter note, but the the piece is in 4/4 with a whole note equal to 120 beats a minute. The notation is not a computer script, it requires the input of the performer.

Thomas 21 Aug 06

He writes: �Man, that looks so old school now�and it�s only a year and a half old�ANCIENT!�

Does anyone else find this statement to be one of the last things you want to hear with regards to a framework.

Do people really want a framework (Rails) where after 1 year … everything you just coded is now deprecated and potentially might not work in future release of the framework?

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I’m alone on this one.

Joe Ruby 21 Aug 06

It’s not deprecated…there’s just an easier way to do it. And, yes, I do like to hear those sorts of things.

Jeff Croft 21 Aug 06


I do think you make a good and interesting point about traditional music leaving a lot up to interpretation — but I also think that’s the intended result of the notation, in most cases. The performer, at least most of the time, should own some of the interpretation. Your trill example is a perfect case of “it’s up to the performer.” yes, there are ways to perform a trill that mimic the common method used in a particular period (baroque, for example) — but why were they common? Because the performers in those days interpreted them that way.

And let’s not forget that musical notation allows for simple text to be inserted as instructions to the performer. As someone who studied mostly jazz, I’ve seen such things as “Straight 8ths”, “SWING HARD!”, and even “A la Miles” written above the staff before.

Thomas 22 Aug 06

He writes: �Man, that looks so old school now�and it�s only a year and a half old�ANCIENT!�

Not to start a flame war but this is why I enjoy Django. They are making fundamental changes NOW to the framework before releasing it as 1.0 so that they won’t have to make such significant changes later.

Whereas, Rails jumped the gun to 1.0 and now with what seems like every point release - things break and we lose compatibility.

What a shame :(

Joe Ruby 22 Aug 06

Thomas - um, right… You’re just trolling, not to mention speaking out of your *ss.

MM 22 Aug 06

Whereas, Rails jumped the gun to 1.0 and now with what seems like every point release - things break and we lose compatibility.

The code I called ancient is still supported. It works. We’ve just come up with better ways of doing the same thing. So much better, in fact, that though the code is only a year and some months old it *feels* a lot older because of how much nicer the way to do it now is. Which was my point.

random8r 22 Aug 06

Yeah I’ve often thought that Basecamp is hella complex. I never know where I am, or what on earth is on the page!

random8r 22 Aug 06

Actually drums *DO* have the notion of sustaining a note… drums is part of percussion - and percussion is basically hitting stuff to make a sound… thus a piano is a percussive instrument from the point of view of some… also - cymbals are part of percussion… and they DEFINITELY have a sustain… and when (in logic for example) you REALLY get into electronic music, you will get drum patches (a drum patch is the design equivalent of a font - a set of sounds which are mapped to “types” of “drums”) which definitely have not only sustain, but even pitch control, and the ability to modify them in vairous other ways.

random8r 22 Aug 06

For the dates thing, which not have a separate field which the date info goes in..?

when [field] what [field]…

then you go oh yeah: “when?”… tomorrow at 8.30… “what?” dinner with jake about next year.


~bc 24 Aug 06

�So, for example, violin and drums use the same writing system�even though drums don�t have the notion of, for example, sustaining a note.�

I’m very glad that several people wrote in to refute this (I had been on vacation and am just getting to the post today). And then i asked myself why this upset me so much… and I’m not sure why.

I noted your pic of musical notation was from drumset music, and not, say, percussion in a symphonic context. There are few times in set music (my main instrument) where one would play things like rolls, but in the symphonic context (most of my formal training came in this context), these are a staple, esp when it comes to the Tympani, were the sustain to every note makes the differences between a whole not and a half note *very* important, but we also, of course find the music notes of the bass clef mixing with the traditional techniques of striking a drum…

PS- what happened to comment preview? I’d prefer to catch my errors before making them live…