“Linux? Hahaha. Can’t you afford a real operating system (Mac OS X) and professional software (Photoshop)?”
Fellow designers smirked and shook their heads a couple of years back. They were making jokes about me trying to create decent artwork and assets with open source software. My motivation of using FOSS software on a FOSS operating system didn't align with their definition of quality work. I don’t mind if the joke’s on me every once in a while, but being called unprofessional simply due to my choice of software was painful.
Fast-forward to today: if we consider its broader scale, Linux is now powering the most widespread mobile OS, has broken crowdfunding records and is gearing up to take over living room entertainment. Now, people yet unfamiliar with the OS ask questions out of curiosity rather than waiting for an opportunity to deliver the next punchline.
The same thing happened with Android, but on a much more dramatic scale. Having been the underdog for its first two years, hardly anybody in the professional industry cared about the OS. Apple’s iPhone was the cool thing to have and every business guy or designer was treating their Blackberries in for one. So, here too, users started fighting over acceptance and dominance of their favorite OS.
It was to become quite a long battle. Every iteration of Android lagged behind the elegance of its iOS counterpart. The implementation felt slow, most of the hardware was underpowered — the whole system seemed to follow no clear, recognizable direction for most people outside of Google. Every little step of the community was countered by cynical media coverage and pointing fingers by the self-proclaimed “professionals”.
With the introduction of Android 4.0, things changed. Suddenly, there was a unique look and feel to the OS, coupled with a forward-looking vision, and backed up by a solid set of hardware. Press and fans hailed the progress, and even infamous enemies became supporters of the green robot. In merely a year, the underdog became a major player in the industry — even the driving force depending on the numbers you compare.
While technology changes extremely fast, human emotions need a lot of time to adapt. One year the Android fans were bullied by the iOS crowd, desperately trying to fight back with hardly a valid argument. The next year they were the kings of the playground, but still as angry as ever. There will be no love lost between Android and iOS, but you'll have to admit: The war is over.
A look back in history helps to understand the connections, to account for what has happened, and what's to be learned for the future — nothing more, nothing less. While I have to admit I’m quite satisfied with believing in the underdog and my vision for FOSS turning out favorably, it’s time to smoke the peace pipe and move on. Because the next squabbles are bubbling up. I’m not even talking about Android against Windows Phone, nor iOS versus Ubuntu Touch.
Put on your armor: the arguments between native development and the web are heating up. And yes, sometimes we have to voice strong opinions and fight to even find out what’s going on.
Ready to pick sides? Me neither — for now.
“Conversation must be preferred to anything.”
So said my neighbor, the old man, sipping on a good single malt late at night. It sounded like nostalgia. As he continued, I realized that this was not a reference to a story past, but his way of participating in the society he grew up with.
Conversation was the intention when we built our very first weblog, one year ago to the day: We wanted to talk to people. We wanted to hear their opinions and ideas to support and grow our own. We wanted them to throw us off balance, so we’d have to get up and get better. We wanted to talk to the world, learn and mature. As a communication company, after all, we wanted to communicate.
While there wasn't a clear audience to target, we knew that we wanted to focus on readability, accessibility, and quality content. This was supposed to become the publication we would enjoy ourselves, regularly. Responsive optimization, hero graphics and quality typography were our technical swords, but wielding the feather was yet to be learned. And boy, was this hard to learn. Creating crisp icons, quality HTML or clean databases had been the tools we were versed with. Putting an idea on the screen with words alone turned out to be much harder than expected, taking in consideration that most of us aren’t native English-speakers.
Lucky us, we got some help. Lucas Rocha, Marie Schweiz and The Brothers Chapman have been amazing guests on Squirrel Park. They added their unique personality to the conversation and helped us to further define the rhythm of the format.
Certainly, the collection of Android tips, language explorations, and wallpapers sets seems like a chaotic variety of thoughts. In fact, we were tempted more than once to add a stronger thematic focus to the blog, to draw a key audience and build a solid marketing channel upon the output. Ultimately, we decided against it. We wanted to keep this conversation casual, experimental and human; after all, each writing represents a thought, an experience or a story of the people behind the company. This is what Opoloo initially set out to become: a small electric space within the industry that favors humanity over profit and growth.
Now if you're still reading, you might be one of the people who has been following us over the last 12 months and 62 blog posts. Thank you for this. We want to hear from you, we want to talk to you. We even want to see you write on this blog and participate in the society that is the web.
Cheers to the next year. Let’s keep the conversation going.
This edition of the Hook centers around Content Strategy. Though still a very young discipline, it's nevertheless profoundly changing the way we think about the web. This is why I'm convinced that anyone working with the internet should have at least rudimentary insights into this field. The following links may therefore be equally relevant to designers, copywriters, developers, web psychologists, SEO people, and whoever else running around the digital space, shaping it with all their creative substance.
Unless you've been uniquely disciplined and passionate about keeping your product simple, you'll find that the vast majority of your users are using a tiny minority of your features. [...] The best engineering usually isn't showy or intense-looking. Given the same result, the simpler code is more valuable to your organization.
Believe it or not, many engineering decisions are also questions of solid content strategy established up front. It's a lesson to be learned that much of the overhead and analysis can be taken care of by practices of CS.
Many thanks to Lucas Rocha for sharing this link.
Just because someone articulates a problem well does not mean someone knows the solution. That’s when we’re susceptible to a false solution.
This article by Colleen Jones is two years old, but it hasn't lost a bit of relevance over time. It's a useful resource for Content Strategy pros, newbies, and curious people alike.
While we’re certainly churning out a lot of content, we’re not focusing on things like purpose, process, intended use, and the needs of our audience. Nor our workflow, systems, architecture, and processes.
A very astute analysis of what is wrong with the content we're constantly churning out and how it can be made better. You can learn a lot from the slides Colman provides, too.
by Devin Asaro / iAcquire
Copywriting is granular. Content Strategy is holistic. Copywriting is the execution of ideas — content strategy is their organization and measurement.
Many content strategists are fortunate to work in small company that was smart enough to hire them. But that often means they have to tackle two (or more) related, but structurally opposed tasks. This article explains how you can manage to do great work in both CS and copywriting.
by Erin Kissane / A List Apart
In content strategy, there is no playbook of generic strategies you can pick from to assemble a plan for your client or project. Instead, our discipline rests on a series of core principles about what makes content effective—what makes it work, what makes it good.
Apart from her very readable publication The Elements of Content Strategy, this article by Erin Kissane belongs to the essentials of useful CS resources. I find myself returning to this, time and time again.
by Rian van der Merwe / Elezea
Writing is a simple transaction between you and your readers. They have time and attention — which is more valuable than ever — and you have to provide content that is worthy of that time and attention.
Generating high-quality content is not easy. Publishing is a whole different thing. Reaching the right people is even harder. But if you see these aspects as being interconnected, you start with a different perspective. That's where Content Strategy comes in — from analysis, to audit, to architecture — to save your time and nerves.
If the visitor can’t rely on their previous experience, they’re not thinking about how innovative your site is. They’re just left wondering why things aren’t where it’s “supposed to be.”
There's a lot buzz about simplicity, in design, code, and thinking. This article breaks simplicity down to "scientific facts". It's a case for strategy also, specifically strategy for user identification and conversion, which is not the worst thing to consider. Keep in mind that a strategy aiming for simplicity might actually have to be very elaborate.
The dash is a neglected species of punctuation marks — funnily so, not because it's just an obsolete sign without purpose, and not because it's not used. It can be spotted everywhere, in all kinds of writing. People use it, the dash fulfills a need. Rather, it's neglected because only few people seem to care about using it correctly. By correctly, I mean: according to function.
A small line that simply varies in length? Why waste thoughts on sign that is typographically as challenging as the dot or the slash, that is about as sexy as the mole rat, and that makes your life — which is probably already filled with enough stuff you have to keep up with — even harder?
It's about purpose
The dash is a simple line that can be applied very effectively. There is meaning in a dash. The dash introduces versatility to writing and takes it to another level — the level of consciousness, of elegance. It allows for variation in style, it changes the tone and voice of your writing. It's a tool that can be very powerful if it's applied for the right job. Yes, you can drive that nail into the wall with the back of a wrench, but you could also just use a hammer.
Along the same lines, you wouldn't replace a period with a comma, a colon with an interpunct, a slash with a stroke or backslash.
Admittedly, I'm using the dash in an inflationary manner in this post — if only to make a point. But it's much more about what in German is termed "fingerspitzengefühl", the subtle touch that can make something go a long way.
No matter who you are, whether hitting a keyboard is what you make a living on or not: if you care about your writing, you should make sure to use the dash correctly.
Types of Dashes
Let's make sure we get the terminology straight, so we know what we're talking about.
(Yes, each of the following is usually represented in any well-designed font.)
(Yes, it matters on the web, too.)
Each font applies slightly different measurements and styles. The one above is Garamond.
The hyphen is often referred to as a dash, although that's not entirely correct. The hyphen is used to connect words or prefixes and to sepa-rate words in justified text. That's about it. So use it if you want to say "three-year-old banana", "orang-utan", "love-letter", "soul-wrenching", "arm-wrestler", or in names (such as Mary-Anne Clumsberg-Finkelstein).
The HTML entity for the hyphen is
Longer than the hyphen. Use it in mathematical equations. Not for anything else. Never.
The HTML entity for the minus sign is
Longer than the minus, about the size of an "n" in most fonts. Use it to indicate closed ranges of values, such as a time frame, temperature ranges, and from … to relationships or connections of any kind; especially if one part is to receive more weight than the other.
This dash lets you aim for accuracy and disambiguation. The classic example is from Strunk & White: The Chattanooga News and the Free Press merged, resulting in the Chattanooga News-Free Press. If you're smiling, my congratulations: you have understood the use of the en-dash.
The en-dash is also the only appropriate sign for a bullet mark.
You may use the en-dash to introduce a segment — a thought — into your sentence by including a space before and after the en-dash. This is common practice in German or French, and the internet's lingua franca — a watered-down version of English — seems to have generally adopted it. The die-hard dash-police officer would certainly disagree with this use in English. She wouldn't be entirely incorrect: you may also use the em-dash, which might be more apt for your purpose.
The HTML entity for the en-dash is
Usually about twice the size of the n-dash, approximately the width of an "m" in most fonts.
Some writers use a double hyphen (- -) to indicate the purpose of an m-dash. That's a relic from typewriter times. Are you writing on a typewriter? Do you want to pretend you're writing on a typewriter? In that case, please go all the way and imitate that terribly obnoxious hammering noise, including the CA-CHING!!! sound at the end of each line. If not, don't use double hyphens. Welcome to the 21st century. (Sometimes, however, you will not get around using double hyphens to indicate an em-dash, especially in some text editors and social media platforms. Most of them let you type an en-dash, though, which you should then space to create a similar semantic effect as the em-dash.)
The em-dash is one of the most beautiful punctuation marks. Not because of its visual concept, but because of the semantics it introduces. I'd like to refer you to some masters.
Apt use of the em-dash induces dynamics, rhythm, sprightliness, or reluctance and prudence. Its purposeful application implies a humbleness before the sign, before the craft of writing, and also indicates that you know about and care for what you are doing.
The em-dash can be used to insert a thought, or break of thought, a specification of a concept. In contrast to parentheses (also commonly used to set apart sections of sentences) the dash has the effect of highlighting the interpolation (which is meant to be read, rather than giving us cause to skip it as unimportant). If you feel that ending a sentence with a period and then introducing that thought with a new sentence would disconnect the thoughts, whereas a connection with comma would not separate them enough, use an em-dash.
The em-dash is also a versatile tool in creative (or let's say "fictional") writing, for example as an ellipsis or interrup—
You may also find it useful if you want to disjoint sentence parts, as in "So how's the wife and — dammit Justin, how many times have I told you not to lick the dead rabbits! — anyway, what I meant to say …"
It's fine to also space the em-dash (unless it's particularly long and looks iffy with spaces).
The HTML entity for the em-dash is
No matter what you do: be consistent
Back-pedaling a bit, it needs to be stated that uses of the dashes, even the "official" or "authoritative" ones, tend to vary. But — as with most aspects of writing — consistence is key. Never, though, is it acceptable to just replace a dash with a hyphen or a minus, unless you aim to build a reputation as a bad stylist. Rather, experiment with them until you get a good feel for the dynamics. Awareness and a little practice will improve your writing skills.
You could be the em-dash of contemporary writers.
About a month ago, Rockstar Games released GTA V, which is actually the 15th part of the GTA series. It was titled “Best Selling Game”, “Most Expensive Game In Production” and so on. It also broke records like “Most Mini Games Within A Game”. But the most impressive part is something different.
GTA 5 had a total production value of about $137.000.000. Compared to the most expensive movie, “Avatar”, with a production value of $237.000.000, this may sound “cheap”. But Rockstar made about $800.000.000 only by the pre-orders in one day. Avatar, in comparison, made $233.000.000 during the first three days of the movie release—not even covering the production value. Rockstar gained almost 600% of GTA’s production cost. That is much more than Avatar made after a couple of days. It’s absolutely impressive how much money they made in such a short time.
I was pretty excited before the release, so I got myself a copy as soon as possible. The first reviews of others where amazing and gave me a deep look inside the gameplay. I took a short vacation from Opoloo, stocked up on fastfood and snacks and locked myself in for the full experience.
You start with a couple of easy missions to get familiar with the controls. After the first mission, it’s up to you to continue with completing the story or start exploring the world on your own. To get in touch with the whole game, I started to complete all the main missions before exploring other activities like skydiving, all kinds of races, rampages, driving around the world map, or playing mini games like golf, tennis and more.
In GTA 5, you can switch between 3 main characters. A ghetto thug boy, a rich family father in retirement, and a total redneck psychopath. This is the most epic combination ever! It’s so much fun because of the completely different personalities you get to play with, and it gets even funnier during heist missions where they come in conflict with one another. You need to switch between them to cover your buddies and make your way through.
The main story has 69 individual parts, some of them more extensive than others—the heist missions. You can even choose between different plans for the heists. The normal missions are usually shorter, but you can still choose different interactive solutions to pass them.
In heist missions, you gather with other characters and plan different ways to complete the heist. One of the characters is “the brain” of your team and he shows you ways to get the job done. After his short presentation you can choose between A, B and C and also select some additional accomplices, like a driver, a gun man, and hackers. This is amazing for the experience, because you can customize your team and really plot the mission.
The accomplices you can choose have different abilities. Depending on their skills, they also get more or less of the cake once the heist is finished.
If you don’t want to do missions, no problem. You can do a lot of things instead, like sports (skydiving, tennis, etc…), mini games, pissing off the police, or go to a strip club and get a private dance. There are so many opportunities to have fun, you wouldn’t believe it.
Some of my friends told me “The story is boring and pretty short”. 69 missions aren’t that long, but the missions themselves are amazing in their variety: Short, long, easy and difficult missions. Everyone will be satisfied. Completing the story took me at least 4 days of playing, which is totally okay. I’m not disappointed by the story like some of my friends. I can also see that I have a lot of days left to finish the rest of the game, so I can clearly not understand what my friends told me about the story and gameplay.
While finishing the main story, I also completed some side missions and came up with a game completion of 75% in about 4 days (8-12 hours playing each day).
The online mode
After finishing the story, I spent some hours in the online mode. I was curious, because I had experienced the unofficial online mode for GTA San Andreas, which was already pretty good. But the online mode for GTA 5 has blown my mind, it’s a very good online game, where you can do whatever you want, together with your own friends.
First of all you need to create your character. This part is very interesting because you don’t only create your character, you also create 4 grandparents and 2 parents which automatically leads to your character. It’s not that easy to make your character look like you want, but it’s fun. First I had some trouble, but I came up with some redneck-looking grandparents, which led to the same appearance of the parents and led me to my character. He’s looking a little bit Southern, but is clothed and styled like a young business man. Once you’re done, you can join the online mode.
Starting with the initial missions to learn some things about the online mode. After that, you can do whatever you want. Kill other players, race them, or create your own crew with your friends to do the heists.
You can increase your rank with several methods, deposit or withdraw your money at ATMs, or put money on someone else head. In case other players are pissing you off and you’re not able to drive to your ATM, you can activate the passive mode in the settings (you’ll be charged $100 to activate it). In the passive mode, you’re not able to kill players or get killed.
I haven’t played that much online but it’s already a lot of fun and slightly different to the single player mode.
GTA 5 is absolutely worth giving a try. The story, graphics and online mode are awesome and full of fun. It’s an expensive game, but still worth buying it.
I’ve spent only one week’s time with the game before I started writing this article but I had a lot of fun and I’ll definitely go on playing. I hope you’ll have as much fun as I have with GTA 5.
This Hook is a little heavier on the reading side than previous editions, but we took great care to provide you with articles that should matter to you and make you think, regardless of your business background. They roughly circle around the themes of business, work, capitalism, and revolutions. An odd combination?
Make yourself comfortable and feed your brain.
The law of capitalism which says "you should pay your employees as little as possible" is a myth that has been around since the industrialization. Henry Blodget dispels that myth, and very appealingly so, with rhetoric and real data.
by Casey Newton / The Verge
How even great companies and ideas can fail, and why this should still not discourage you: the story of everpix.
"Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul."
Anthropologist David Graeber explores the current phenomenon of us working. Or, more precisely, working too much in jobs nearly completely devoid of value, meaning, and sense.
by John Lax
Teehan+Lax always had a slightly unusual philosophy; one that didn't exactly match traditional business structures. John Lax gives us some insights into a company that make some of the coolest products around today, with a different approach.
by Naomi Klein / New Statesman
"There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules."
Naomi Klein on the question of "Is Earth F*cked?", and if it is — which seems to be "more or less" the case — what we can do about it.
A story about courage in an environment of repression and scaremongering.
Everyone who takes photos knows the difficulty: deciding about the perfect focus for an image and getting it just right before pulling the trigger of the camera.
Last week, I went to a photo store to have a medium format film processed. I spotted a poster of the new Lytro camera which promised to ultimately solve that focus problem.
Founded in 2006, the company Lytro Inc. developed a light field camera, which records the entire light field of an image instead of a 2D image. The first model was introduced in the USA in the summer of 2012. The light field measurement is made possible by a grid of multiple microlenses in front of the image sensor. Thus, with a software, subsequent editing is possible: you can refocus, change perspective, and add filters to the image.
Inspired by the poster, I looked for a salesperson to consult me personally. When I held the camera in my hand, the first thing that caught my eyes was the design. It’s very handy, lightweight, and available in many bright colors. The design is a bit unusual for a camera, but the body looks very beautiful nonetheless. At the rear of the camera, there is a very pixelated display that makes interacting with the small screen a delicate matter of precision. The cubical camera has only 2 buttons and 1 slider: the shutter button & slider for zooming sit at the top and the power button at the bottom.
At first, I was puzzled about how to hold the body correctly because of the unusual design. Holding it like a telescope seems to work best. First up, I tried out the zoom. The handling of the buttons is very easy, but finding a good image detail with the display, which has a really bad resolution, is troublesome. Moreover, it’s very small with a size of 1.5”. After a few shots, I noticed I needed to arrange the objects in the image. That is, the object must have a minimum distance to the background to get a good depth of focus to play with.
In addition to the optical 8x zoom the lens has an aperture of 2.0 throughout and a focal length of 43-340mm. This is important for shooting high-quality photos in in darker settings. Even when you have to zoom, no luminosity gets lost.
Videos are not possible with the first version of the camera, but are planned for the next one. The camera has a non-expandable memory of 16GB, so 700 shots are possible. The exported photos have a resolution of 540x540px and a size of about 120MB.
For me, the camera is just a simple and nifty gadget with easy focus control. The technology is definitely still expandable. I am very disappointed with the image quality, the display, and especially the price: in the U.S, you can get the camera for 399$, whereas the price starts at 480€ here in Germany. I think I’ll rather spend that money on a new lens for my actual camera Canon 60D.
If you’re still curious, go try out a living picture yourself.
Sitting at my desk, I put aside my digital pen and launch a basic text editor. The small window pops up and the blinking cursor draws my attention, urging me to answer its purpose. I obey. While listening to the rhythmic sound of the key strokes, letters appear in front of me. Dark pixels in a sea of white.
A less-than sign starts the journey to love & power.
Not clearly understanding what I’m doing here, I hit more keys, their plastic groaning under my fingers:
Slightly confused, I want to break off this endeavor. This is not satisfying at all. I look away, expecting to find clarity elsewhere. The desk with my laptop. Both placed with a geometric precision, their rectangles aligned. On the other side of the room, a door sits within the wall, sharing the same replicable pattern. The shapes of my surroundings are clean, geometric, recognizable — differentiation through perfect symmetry. That’s it. Shifting back to the tiny, white window, I can finalize the picture and infuse harmony and visual aesthetic. All I need is a
Leaning back, I try to get better view of my work. 6 black signs have populated my screen and thoughts.
I want to get up, grab coffee, move on, but the blinking cursor wants more. What are those letters without meaning, anyway? This is surreal. I want to connect more deeply with the signs, with the machine. I want to give her a face. By quickly typing
she starts to take shape. Hitting more and more keys, my mind attentively wanders down from her brow to her chin,
to her elegant shoulders.
I can’t help but smile, recognizing how beautiful she turns out.
Staring at her feet I flick back up. I shake my head in apology, trying to regain some trust. While I have shamelessly examined her from tip to toe, I hadn't even asked for her name.
She blinks, smiles back and replies
Connect? What a strange and interesting name. I want to know more. Careful now. She must feel very vulnerable. After all, she just revealed herself to me and the whole world.
I step closer to comfort her, listening to her voice, to her breath, to her heart. There, in the center of her body it beats with a constant rhythm. After a while, the rhythms seems to become a pattern. Slowly, from that pattern, words emerge.
“Hello world”? Seriously? This is so lame. It can’t be right. I created something that complex and beautiful and all I get in return is “Hello world”? How about my feelings, my dreams? Does she even care about me? Hoping this was just a misconception, I tilt my head slightly and listen, focused. More words appear.
This is your idea, your opinion, your message.
It slowly starts to sink in. This is a lesson in communication. A single word can take a country to war or bring instant peace. It can start a revolution or fix a crisis. It can be power for some and love for others. The right word at the right time and place can change everything. That’s what she’s been telling me all along. I could be nothing without her and everything with her. It’s up to me.
Grateful for the lesson learned, I step back. As her image slowly fades from my inner eye, everything becomes white. Black spots appear in this sea of white, forming characters, framed by the pixels of my screen. I hit save, close my laptop and leave you with a link:
Two weeks ago, we open sourced our blog platform LINES — the one you’re looking at right now — for everyone to try out, customize, and collaborate. We also went the extra mile and created a set of fallback hero images, for the extra lazy bloggers out there. Since those turned out to be pretty nice, we scaled those up a little for your desktop and device wallpaper pleasures.
Set them directly from the previews or download the ZIP below.
by Jonas Downey / 37signals' Signal vs Noise
To all you great designers: you could be even greater if you made an effort to write. To write well, that is. This involves editing. True, it's hard and you need practice. But you'll never get the practice if you don't start.
A very nice responsive HTML5 template, made with the skelJS framework. What's even better: you can download it for free.
This is just ridiculous. (Ridiculously cool, that is. "The synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping onto moving surfaces." Yeah.)
04 Ironic Serif
by Keith Houston / via Maria Popova's Brain Pickings
It's said as an advice to every writer that the reader won't get if you're ironic (which is not true, I believe). With all our history of type and iconography, why is there still no symbol for irony? A fantastic book review on Brainpickings.
"The secret history of punctuation, spanning from antiquity to the digital age, from the asterisk to the @-symbol, chronicling the strange and scintillating lives of the characters, glyphs, and marks that populate the nooks and crannies of human communication. Though many of them are familiar staples of everyday life, the most fascinating story is one of punctuational peril — the failed quest for a symbol to denote irony."
A French studio with a pretty nifty, original website that includes huge HTML videos and sound as part of the experience. For all the freaky effects, it's a nice example of storytelling and letting your portfolio speak for itself.
by Manil Suri / The New York Times
I've always hated math. I still do. It's part of my horrible "I-don't-get-it-it's-the-devil-leavemealone" attitude. This guy made the first step to change my mind.
"As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall."