YouTube – Post-it portrait of Biff Henderson

Back in March of ’06, my friend Charles was on Letterman, showing off his Post-it skillz (yeah, that’s right skillz). Charles is the brains behind the operation, not the guy that keeps hogging the limelight.

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Memo to myself…

Memo to self: Avoid horrifying compound words if I’m ever brainstorming on a product name.

Illustrating With Comics: Pixton

Back in ’07, I saw an interesting presentation by Rebekah Sedaca that advocated using comics to help clients better understand a process/design/etc. Comics can help serialize interactions in a way that’s clearer than the output of interaction-mapping tools like Visio. With comics, you can also detail the responses that a visitor/user might have – something that’s not always easy to do with a wireframe. Scott McCloud’s Google Chrome Comic is an often-cited example of using comics to communicate complex ideas in a simple, narrative way.

One difficulty discussed at Rebekah’s presentation was the problem of creating quality comics. Even if you’re lucky enough to have illustrators on-staff, you’re probably not eager to spend budget on creating comics that may only be seen by your client.

Pixton, one of the sites I discovered while judging entries for the SXSW 2009 Interactive Web Awards, provides a fine set of tools to help you quickly generate and share comics. Check out their “trailer” demo movie for an example of how quickly you can build a nice looking comic. Pixton also makes it easy to embed the comics you create into blogs, web sites, etc. I also think it’s great that Pixton offers a variant that is specifically aimed at schools, allowing students to work in a “safe and secure” learning environment.


Call me a geek, but I think it’s awesome that validates. Has the site always had an accessibility statememt?

And while I’m thinking of it, three cheers for the jQuery image slideshow on the homepage.

Chris Johnson Featured on Campaign Monitor

Pretty cool: My colleague Chris Johnson was featured on Campaign Monitor’s blog yesterday. Campaign Monitor is a great tool for managing email marketing campaigns. Their blog features designs that they find innovative and interesting. Kudos, Chris.

So You Spilled Water on your Laptop…

Yesterday, I was cleaning some junk off my desk and knocked over a just-filled 20oz cup of water directly into my ThinkPad T43. I’m posting this from that same laptop thanks to info I found online and got from a good friend that is familiar with ThinkPads and works for Lenovo.

Here are some tips to consider if find yourself in the same… er… boat:

  • Unplug your laptop, take out the battery.
    Be careful here – this is water+electricity we’re talking about. Notice I didn’t say “turn off your laptop”. If your experience is like mine, that’ll be taken care of for you. My T43 turned off within about 2 seconds of the incident. I found some folks online that advised keeping your laptop as flat as possible when you do this. I didn’t. You probably wouldn’t in the same situation as panic takes over. Basically you should try to make sure water flows OUT.
  • Drain.
    I tipped my laptop forward away from the display and onto some towels on the floor of my office and let it drain while I sopped up the rest of the water from my desk.
  • Field Strip.
    Flip the laptop over and remove the screws that hold it together. On my T43, that meant any screw that was labeled with a number. An aside here: IBM/Lenovo is very thoughtful – the holes are well-labled and there’s a legend showing you the actual scale/size of each screw by it’s number. Once you’ve removed the screws, open the machine up. For my ThinkPad, that meant popping off the plastic bezel and removing the top/keyboard. The ribbon cables that connect the keyboard and trackpad to the motherboard on a T43 are designed to release easily – there aren’t any clips to worry about. Remove everything that looks removable. The internal WiFi, memory, hard drive and optical drive were easy to remove.
  • Dry and Wait.
    The thing that’s going to ruin your chances of coming out of this ordeal with a functioning laptop is plugging the thing back in before it has fully dried. I turned my T43 upside down on top of some towels on the kitchen table in an inverted V, thinking that any remaining moisture would drip away from the display/hinge. I turned the ceiling fan above the kitchen table on full-blast. I left everything alone for about 6 hours. When I checked back, I couldn’t detect any moisture.
  • Cross fingers/toes/legs/arms/eyes and turn it on.
    When my T43 turned back on, it was a little confused. I had to OK my way through a couple of BIOS errors and reset the time. The errors were harmless “hey – things have changed” messages. Nothing too scary.

The only wierdish thing that I’m experiencing now is that my laptop seems to want to display on my connected external monitor on boot. Since I’ve got a boot password, it looks like it has died when it sits there with a blank screen. Type the password blind and hit enter to pass this, then wait a bit for your OS to load. Fn-F7 (switch display modes) doesn’t appear to work until the OS is booting.

And that’s it… My ThinkPad has been functioning normally for about 20 hours since turning it back on. I feel lucky. I love my ThinkPad and am even more impressed with it now. Hope your ordeal goes as well.

Oh yeah… some other water-related info: I’ve washed 2 iPods. “Washed” like all the way through the cycle and figured it out when I heard it bouncing around in the dryer. I got both of these working with an inexpensive battery replacement. Wow.

We Tell Stories

I’m helping to judge sites for the 2009 SXSW Interactive Web Awards. It’s been pretty fun so far. Today I came across a cool site that combines 2 things I love — literature and technology. Penguin Books’ We Tell Stories re-imagines 6 classic stories as modern mashups. The 21 Steps tells its narrative across Google Maps. Fairy Tales is part Madlib, part Choose Your Own Adventure. Each story makes clever use of technology in its own clever and appropriate way.  Good stuff.

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