Sunspots: The cattle prod edition 37signals 21 Mar 2006

26 comments Latest by Nathaniel Bibler

Found Magazine editor's response to "What's the best thing you've ever found?" A: Laporte, Indiana photos in the back of a diner
Photographer Frank Pease shot portraits of the residents of Laporte, Indiana back in the 50s and 60s. Recently, Found magazine editor Jason Bitner discovered 18,000 of the photos in in the back of a small Midwestern diner. The top shots are now a book.
Craigslist's plan to fend off Microsft? Underdo them
Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist: "We can't match them resource for resource, even if we were so inclined. But we don't try to match them in technology bells and whistles, since that's not the kind of thing our users request."
Indie art products @ Iron-On Resistance
SvN commenter DMR created this site, an outlet for independent artists to sell art products and clothing.
Khoi thinks Jim Coudal rocks
"I was most impressed by Jim's easy, unforced graciousness, general good humor, and worldly knowledge...A good role model for a designer, and a great role model for a person." (btw, 37signals corroborates)
CD Baby rewrites legal terms to make them readable/minimal
Wouldn't it be nice if more sites did this? "We rewrote it from scratch, avoiding all un-necessary legalese. Then we went back and removed every sentence we could. What's left now is what we believe to be as simple and readable as it can be..."
Tiny publication Virginia Quarterly Review gets six nominations for the 2006 National Magazine Awards
VQR garnered six nominations from the magazine world's equivalent to the Pulitzers. You can read the nominated stories at its site.
New York Magazine calls Basecamp "brilliantly useful"
"Seriously, it's an elegant, powerful, revolutionary thing."
Light field photography lets you change depth of field after a shot is taken
A PhD candidate at Stanford designed a camera that captures the entire visual field and stores the data so you can change the focus after the fact.
scanR: scan, copy and fax with your camera phone or digital camera
Convert photos into legible, searchable PDF files.
"3 Myths of Ajax and Accessibility"
1) Accessibility is a single issue. 2) All accessibility issues must be fixed. 3) Javascript won't work with screen readers. (according to Joe Walker)
Anatomy of a Joke
Comic Demetri Martin explains how he came up with this: "I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, 'Damn. I am less nurturing than a desert.'"
Try this if your Apple Mighty Mouse scroll ball stops working
"You can clean it with Q-tips by pushing down on the button and rolling it all around, or, what I've found more effective is putting it upside down on a soft surface (like my jeans) and rolling it all around."
Funny video mocking indie rock snobs
Comedians Aziz Ansari and Andy Blitz as indie record store clerks.
UI showdown: Yahoo Mail vs. Gmail
"There is increasingly a blurring between the vocabulary of webpages and the vocabulary of desktop applications."
Craigslist makeover
SXSW panel executes a Craigslist makeover. (Thankfully this did not involve Ty Pennington, a megaphone, or anyone yelling "move that bus.") Greg Storey participated in was at the panel and thinks Craig needs a little bit of prodding: "What the hell is Craig Newmarks problem?...his dead-pan-non-reaction to the excellent work the boys did for his baby had me wishing I had brought a cattle prod to SXSW."
McSweeney's Open Letters
Open letters to people/things who are unlikely to respond (e.g. letters to My Ability to Lose Interest in Things Easily, the Squirrel Trying to Chew Its Way Through My Roof, the Man Wearing a T-Shirt That Says "It Isn't Going to Suck Itself," etc.)

26 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Anonymous Coward 21 Mar 06

“…the Man Wearing a T-Shirt That Says “It Isn’t Going to Suck Itself…”

Jason, that letter I wrote to you about your favorite shirt was supposed to be private.

Rabbit 21 Mar 06

Hehe… Nice shirt. Let’s f*ck. =D

I dig the CL redesign - though I think the cities area needs to be made more prominent.

(I’m liking these kinds of posts — esp. the screens around town.)

Morten 21 Mar 06

All companies should simplify legal terms and all “term speak” in general.

Even when concentrating hard, I often have problems figuring out insurance papers and the likes. And I’m thinking “Don’t make me think!!” - but I do and I still get it wrong and have to go through a couple of iterations with the insurance business to get it right.

Someone should start a business helping them simplify the stuff they send to people, they would save money and I would save time.

Sam 21 Mar 06

All companies should simplify legal terms and all �term speak� in general.

I totally agree, unfortunately, legal terms are exactly that, legal. You can only simplify a legal document so much, especially when the whole point is cover your ass completely.

That being said, nobody reads those. and has the validity of a ToS ever really been tested in court?? that’s a real question, I would love to know…

micah 21 Mar 06

mcsweeney’s! god i love those guys/gals. they are everything that’s right in the current literary world.

Greg 21 Mar 06

Sam, while I’d love to share the limelight with the DE ‘06 crew I was there to watch like everyone else in the audience.

nursegirl 21 Mar 06

I think that the Gmail/Yahoo article is interesting because I prefer both Gmail and Netvibes over Yahoo and Protopages. Could the desktop metaphor be dying?

I’m presently considering forwarding all of my work email through Gmail because the user experience is so much more intuitive than Thunderbird (multiple labels, archiving, and high quality search).

What do other people prefer?

Tony 21 Mar 06

I totally agree, unfortunately, legal terms are exactly that, legal. You can only simplify a legal document so much, especially when the whole point is cover your ass completely.

That’s a myth. People write that way to make passages cumbersome to comprehend. Kind of like security by obscurity. “If they can’t understand it, they can’t say we are wrong.”

pwb 21 Mar 06

Kudos to CD Baby. Does anyone even know if its agreement will hold up any worse in court? Maybe it’ll hold up better because humans can actually understand it.

Sam 21 Mar 06

That�s a myth. People write that way to make passages cumbersome to comprehend. Kind of like security by obscurity. �If they can�t understand it, they can�t say we are wrong.�

That’s true for a lot of companies, unfortuantely, but that doesn’t negate my point. That a Terms of Use that is purposefully all-encomassing is enherinitely complex. And I like the idea of less (of course, it’s why I read this blog), but as JF says all the time, sometimes it doesn’t work. Go read the CD Baby Terms, they are still utterly ‘legal-speak’, just not as bad.

(spelling errors and all)

Geoff B 21 Mar 06

I clicked on the CD Baby link to see what a simplified, easy to read legal document looks like.

First line… “The following, when accepted by you (whether as an individual, or if applicable, acting as the authorized legal representative for an artist, band, group, company or corporation) and us (i.e. CD Baby, Inc. and collectively with our licensees and assignees referred to in this Agreement as “us” and “we”) shall constitute our Agreement.”

So we kick off the document with a 50 word sentence where “you” is defined as “authorized legal representative”, along with five different examples in case “you” don’t get it . Next, the word “us” needs to be clarified with 4 different examples, followed by a redefinition of “us” and “we” (“you” was defined so wonderfully in the beginning that I guess it doesn’t need to be revisited in the second half of the sentence).

If that’s clarity, I’d hate to see obscurity ;)

--Josh 21 Mar 06

Hey Guys,

Thanks for the link to the Laporte, IN book. My entire family is from La Porte. I bet my parents will know a lot of the people in the book and some of my family members might be in it as well. I had never heard of FOUND magazine either - it looks awesome.

Thanks for the head’s up.

Tony 21 Mar 06

Geoff B,
I just spent 3 years working as an editor at a legal publishing company, and though I mostly dealt with federal regulations in my time there, I have definitely seen many examples that are far, far worse than that. While that first line could surely be polished, at least it isn’t filled with arcane language. Also, you only need to read the parenthetical phrases if you are unsure of the meaning of the words in question. In reality, it pretty much reads “[t]he following, when accepted by you and us shall constitute our Agreement.”

busse 21 Mar 06

@nursegirl: I setup all my work email to forward through gmail about a month ago. I was able to readily incorporate the labels/archiving into my workflow.

The only problem is that some email clients (and I haven’t looked into exactly which ones), translate the the “Send mail as:” that you can set to a non-gmail account from what you set it to into your gmail address.

They will show it as something like sent “on behalf of [email protected]”, so if you email someone, and they reply, that also gets spelled out into the body of the email.

Ex: Sent by me from gmail as “[email protected]” turns into this in the quoted body of the reply when it comes back

From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]] On Behalf Of User Name
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2006 3:05 PM
To: Recipient Name
Subject: Re: Whatever

I was ok with that until some clients started emailing back to my gmail account instead of my main email address.

They are coming out with “gmail for domains” though, but that will probably require modifying MX records — a bit much for the casual user.

David 21 Mar 06

�[t]he following, when accepted by you and us shall constitute our Agreement.�

Isin’t whole sentence redundant?

I completely agree that tax, insurance, legal, technical and even blogosphere jargon should not be used if you can avoid it.

Crap, I just used the word blogosphere!

Rabbit 21 Mar 06

Ah… now regarding Richard’s comments… I think there’s a fairly visible line between “ugly and usable” and “ugly and not usable.”

You can have an ugly site that’s usable. Just like you have have a pretty web site that’s unusable.

I think the CL mockup is fair bit more usable than the existing. Most notably the current city I’m in and the different sections are more apparent.

The mock doesn’t add much fluff over the original — it’s like JF said: let the content be the interface. I think they kept to that principle fairly well.

Waldo Jaquith 21 Mar 06

Thanks for the shout-out to Virginia Quarterly Review. Funny that we have fans at 37signals. :)

Ben 21 Mar 06

As I was catching up on my reading from recent Lifehacker posts, I ran across the following article featuring none other that the new 37signals ebook.

Thought someone would want to know, if you didn’t already. Pretty slick, and a nice presentation when complete.

Eric 21 Mar 06

I think CL has the perception of being simple and having low overhead, and adopting the redesign, while it is still simple has a refinement that smacks of having money to throw around. While it was probably a business decision to make a lo-fi site initially, sticking with it now is probably also a business decision. I understand it would be more usable, but CL may not want to risk alienating people with change.

nate 21 Mar 06

The bit about CD Baby is very telling, and applies to many different things. The fact is, a major part of the learning curve of just about any industry is the jargon, and techies like me are the worst offenders.

If we could all simplify/cut down on industry-specific jargon, we could all make the world a better place.

Darrel 22 Mar 06

I’m not convinced the craigslist redesign is any better. Yea, maybe the type is better, but the overall ‘vibe’ has certainly changed and that ‘vibe’ is very much a part of Craiglists’s brand.

I’m also not sure why Craig is getting picked on for not ‘reacting’ more to the redesign. Seems kind of arrogant to randomly redesign someone else’s product and then expect them to gush all over it.

sam 22 Mar 06

Seems kind of arrogant to randomly redesign someone else�s product and then expect them to gush all over it.

They weren’t asking him to gush over it, they were asking for any feedback. like, more than a nod. Even “omg its teh suxxors roflwafl” would have been sufficient.

Rabbit 22 Mar 06

LOL Sam that was classic!

“roflwafl” ?? I’ve never seen that. I shall have to start doing that… =)

And yes, I agree with your point. I’ve redesigned other people’s web sites without asking them and when I get a lackluster response (whether positive or negative) I flip.

Nathaniel Bibler 23 Mar 06

For an almost enjoyable to read Terms page, check out the “”: Terms and Conditions popup on their signup page:

Terms and Conditions in a nutshell

* The entry of any personal data on this site is completely optional.
* We do not require an email address during sign up.
* We will not email you crap or pass on your email address to anyone, not even Lars Ulrich at gunpoint.
* Your pseudonymous listening habit data will be available to the public for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.
* We reserve the right to sell or license pseudonymous listening data for commercial use, however we will never sell your personal data.
* You you will always have the opportunity to remove from the system any personal information you’ve entered.

The long version:
… legal stuff …