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I link to this tweet and photo not to make fun of her, but only to point out the absurdity of filters. I do hope she had the option set that saves the original version of her photo. That would have made for a great picture with no filter at all.

Do you remember Airtime? I like to think of it as the thing Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, and Jim Carrey use daily. These days Airtime is still working out their business but here’s an idea about how I would like an Airtime-like service to work.

I would like to be able to look at a directory of stuff. Things. A live-view of Niagra Falls. An original Star Wars movie poster. A 1976 Gibson Bicentennial Thunderbird. A living WWII Veteran. A demo of an OP-1.

Hell, I’d even love to connect to a Best Buy representative who could demonstrate the latests TiVos.

All these people or owners of these things could register with the site specifically for these things. I could call up the 1976 Gibson owner and have a look at it. Not necessarily to buy anything, though that would be nice, but just to chat about or get a review.

Currently Airtime let’s you designate interests (cooking), but beyond interests I would like to find experts or informed owners of gadgets and collectibles who have put themselves on the service because they want to take calls and talk about a life experience (WWII) or fanatic interest.

Two new services showed up last week that captured the tech web’s attention. Branch, an invite-only hosted conversation app, and Medium, a next generation publishing app.

I think both are fine apps and I think they will do quite well with the tech world. Outside of it I can’t really say, I think I am too in the Valley to see out of it. But the things that caught my attention last week were:

  1. The pre-order for Little Printer
  2. The release of

Let me take a step back: I am trying to use my computer less. That is, I work on computers every day as that is what our business does, but outside of my time at the office I want to be on the computer less.

I have started learning about circuitry and playing my guitar more. I also pick my kid up after school and we go to a tumbling class (for him) or a park. I love my computers, but I love the rest of the world more.

Berg’s Little Printer

Shop 01

At first glance Berg’s Little Printer looks like it came from some alternative 1990’s universe where the Macintosh SE was not only wildly successful, it destroyed every other computer manufacturer on the planet. I have to admit 50% of why I care about this device so much is in the design of the product and the design of the site. The API documentation is also quite pleasing. I cannot wait to hook something up to their service and watch it go.

The other 50% is about what the printer does. Yes, it does use a thermal printer to print to rolls of paper you can find at your local office supply store. But that part is not really even core to what this is about. This is not about printing, it’s about BergCloud.

If you make things for people on the web and you take some time to read the API documentation the little gears in your head will start turning. This isn’t just a printer you print documents with. It is a content delivery service that doesn’t require a computer.

When you see the future you want you buy it; so I did. I hope to be submitting an app for acceptance to their service before they launch.

When smart people balk at the $260 price tag I don’t think they fully understand that part of that price goes towards access to the BergCloud service. I think if Chris wasn’t so focused on hardware entrepreneurs bootstrapping companies he’d be able to see the larger picture. There’s more than just cheap hardware here.

While it might be off-putting to know that there are some pretty steep walls around the BergCloud garden, I find the opportunities within service they built pretty exciting. There are so many reasons we dig our phone out of our pocket in a day that it’s fun to think we could cut some of those reasons out with a small disposable newspaper. And knowing that there will be a small well-vetted collection of apps that feed into that newspaper fits with the decluttering process I have been undertaking outside of work.

And it is cute. is a different sort of thing. It is an iPhone app that provides an interface to people. Developers write “micro-applications” that can present questions or request work from people. Some have called it an “IFTTT for people” and I think that is somewhat true, but there is a lot more there that hasn’t been fully brought out.

Clients is made by Tasty Labs, makers of Jig. I think they have a similar problem that IFTTT in that this sort of human->computer/computer->computer software requires a lot of good documentation and plain English examples. IFTTT managed it with a really clear site that still took a few months for people to fully grok*.

I think is a bit more Mechanical Turk than IFTTT. The thing that MT was missing was what provides: a very simple way to construct micro-apps to present elements that extract work from humans.

I can’t even write about in a language that doesn’t end up sounding too geeky. It’s a hard thing to do and I wish them luck. It’s a very exciting service I just wish I had an idea to build on it. Every time I sit down to do it I come up completely empty and frustrated. The problem is I don’t have a need yet so I have to keep it in mind when I do.

Why I like it is that it creates an ecosystem for quickly gathering data from humans that can be statistically analyzed and used for larger purposes. Weathermob is an app that crowd sources not only the weather but your friends’ moods. This is a step up from something like that. You could build Weathermob on top of

But you could also build a service to classify a set of images. Or you can geo-target interview questions. (I do wish they had a drawing UI element that let me ask people to draw things.)

Again, it’s hard to exactly classify but that’s what is so exciting to me. There is possibility there rather than more conversations on web pages. If you like conversations on web pages I think Branch is great for you.

I don’t want to sit at a computer and read conversations on web pages. I want to get out and do stuff. I feel like Little Printer and are going to help people do that.

* I don’t use the word “grok” often. It is apt here.

The not telling people “I am busy” plan.

I’ve been working on this plan for a while now. I just added it to my daily Lift habits so I thought I would write about it.

When I first started working in tech I regularly worked 10 to 14 hour days. I’d be home by midnight, sleep, get up, shower, and drive back into work. I had the energy to do it, and it seemed like a good use of my time, even though I was being paid for the same number of hours of the day as my friends in HR or accounting.

It felt like I was doing critical, valuable work. I had been made to feel like it was critical, valuable work.

Everything was an emergency. I had a high-strung boss who would alternate between panic that everything was going wrong and panic that something was about to go wrong. We’d set unrealistic deadlines for ourselves. We would congratulate ourselves on shipping 90% of the product only a week or so late. Go us.

But the truth is: nothing we did was all that important. Had we really been doing critical work we would have taken more breaks, spent more time sleeping, resting, and thinking. Instead we burned ourselves out because everyone else was burning themselves out. We “heroically” pulled all-nighters and then spent the next couple of days recovering physically and dealing with whatever dumb decisions we made at 2am while hopped up on Coke.

When I left Federated Media and started my own company I decided I wanted to try working a bit slower and with more focus. Since I could control the number of meetings I would have in a day (zero) and I could (mostly) control the flow of work, I decided on doing a few things differently.

I work until 6pm. I leave my work computer locked up in my office and make time to walk to work (with just my keys, phone, and wallet). We often take an hour for lunch and we talk and think a lot about what we’re building rather than just building.

During the six months we were making MLKSHK we shipped like crazy. When I look at the code now it makes me smile to see all the many things it does. That three four people were able to very quickly and thoughtfully get that much stuff out the door in such a short time makes me really happy.

So the final piece I have been working on is never telling people I am busy. Because no, I am not busy. Yes, I have a lot of stuff to do, but I leave it at the office after work and on the weekends. I have many things I am interested in, but I can always make room for something if it is worth doing.

Rather than say: “I am too busy, I don’t have any time for X.” I realize I can be honest and say I am not interested enough in X to do it.

EVERYONE has a lot of stuff to do because there IS a lot of stuff to do. Some of it is work. Some of it is hanging out with your family. Some of it is just laying on the couch reading a book.

About 13 years ago I wrote an application called XuMouse.

This is what it looked like on Windows 98.


And here is what it looks like now.


Damn thing still works. Looks the same. Still doing what it does. FOR THIRTEEN YEARS. (Thank you, Microsoft Windows backward compatibility team.)

Every couple of months I get an email or phone call asking for a new copy. It seems that a lot of people run applications from their desktop or from the original archived file rather than installing it, so I point them to the correct URL or mail them the file. I keep meaning to make a new landing page for it but even when I did have one the email and calls still arrived.

Most, if not all, of the people who contact me are elderly. I believe many of them use the application to play games like online slot machines. It’s why I originally wrote the thing, there was a web site that gave you credits for pulling a slot machine lever and I thought it’d be funny to get a million credits. (I did. They were useless.)

The zip file, which you can download here, contained a README that asked for an email to tell me you were using it and say thank you. Many of the emails I receive are just to say thanks.

The app was free. I never considered charging for it because it literally took one night and maybe 10 lines of code. The zipped file is 7k and relied heavily on Microsoft’s MFC framework.

Something I barely remember doing 13 years ago for free still manages to cheer me up when I someone comes asking about it. That’s sort of all I really wanted out of that project.

Many years ago I was sitting in my apartment watching television when my home phone rang.

“Hi, Mr. Torrez, this is your Visa card provider.” (Flashing red light.)
“Could you help me by providing your credit card number to verify this is you?“ (Clanging alarms.)
I read the number to the caller.
“Thank you. In addition I also need your social security number to update our records.” (Explosions. Gunfire. Rocket powered grenades screeching over head.)

I still remember carefully relaying each digit as I walked around my apartment; eager to get this over with so I could get back to my show.

This was a very dumb thing. I was just a dumb person doing a dumb thing. Right now I can picture myself pacing around that living room, being my helpful self, while my identity was being stolen and I was the accomplice. I want to yell at myself every time I think about it.

The thing is: I knew this scam. I mean, I knew how these social engineering scams worked. As an even younger idiot I used to read about these scams in online message boards and think about how stupid people are.

I’ve been out of the hack/crack scene for many, many years, but in those days for every system actually subverted, many more were simply handed access by an employee just trying to get through their day.

If you knew the lingo and could speak with confidence you could get access to so many systems. For all the money invested in security and encryption, the weakest link was always the humans. Always go for the humans.

My friend Mat just suffered through the repercussions of a social engineering hack. Bravely recounting the possible loss of all his photos from the past year he had to also endure the mocking and finger wagging from people wondering why he didn’t have backups.

It is true: you should not only make regular backups of every machine, you should test your backups by regularly restoring your system. The only thing slightly less depressing than losing all your data is finding out your backups had stopped working months ago.

Mat knew full well he was going to endure that kind of scrutiny. He’s taken the hit for people who might have grown lazy over the past few years thinking their data was safe if it was in the hands of billion dollar corporations.

So thanks to Mat we are now talking about steps you should be taking to secure your data:

  1. Turn on Google’s two-step verification. It now works for hosted domains if you use a custom domain with Google.
  2. Buy some local storage for backups. This is great roundup by my favorite gadget review site.
  3. You might want to also use different credit cards for Amazon and Apple since this played a role in how Mat’s account was compromised. This is pretty much a bullshit fix you shouldn’t have to do. Thankfully Amazon closed that hack today. But who knows which other services will continue to provide this option?
  4. Use a password management application like Lastpass or 1Password. There is a little bit of complexity in setting it up and it is almost unbearable without the browser plugins/extensions.

And by all means, if someone calls your house claiming to be from your credit card company, give them all the info they need. Their jobs are really tough and they just want to help you!