Another Coffee, West Coast

“I told him we were going to have coffee and asked him if it was a good idea.”

“What did he say?”

“He said yes it was a good idea, absolutely, but that you might write a tumblr about it.”

I blushed, but in the bright sunshine there on the bay’s edge, it was impossible to see any change in the color of my cheeks.

“I’m mortified.”

“No no! He didn’t mean anything bad by it.”

“Still, I’m mortified. Truly.”


There is something mischievous about him. I noticed it the moment he bounced off the median toward me, as I waited in front of the Ferry Plaza. If there had been a light post — not the fascist one he described sitting to the right of, but an actual light post — he’d have swung off it, Singing In The Rain-style. The bounce was charming and unexpected, and if I’d been at all nervous he’d have disarmed me then and there.

If anyone was a little nervous, my money was on him. Not terribly nervous, but I could see a touch of it around the edge of our initial conversation. It dissipated quickly. The coffee helped, but sitting and talking about love helped more.

We sat in the sun, the Bay Bridge stretching out before us. His face lit up when he talked about her. His eyes were blue with touch of green in them, hidden behind glasses, but when he spoke about her they widened a little, became bluer and greener. We talked a long time about how it had come about, the situation. About feelings and reality and what could and couldn’t happen. I listened and asked. We talked on. He never once looked at his watch.

At first he seemed to want to talk more than to listen, but as the conversation continued we went back and forth. We talked a little about me and what I was going to do, about decisions I had to make. About plans I had. About interactions I ought to see a little differently. He was right. We drank a bottle of rosé from Washington state. Midway through the bottle I saw things about me I’d never understood, looking as I did through his blue eyes. Then I laughed as he paused, eyeing me up and down, enjoying the way I ate a sweet potato french fry dipped in sauce.

He was shorter and more handsome than you might have imagined, with broader and stronger hands. He smelled wonderful.

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The U.S. Government Shutdown vs Canada’s Past, Present, and Future

closure of rideau hall / photo: robin spry — national film board of canada

closure of rideau hall / photo: robin spry — national film board of canada

A difficult explanation with an easy solution

I’ve been reading a great deal of tweets from friends (political science majors, no less) simplifying the shutdown to prorogation or non-confidence votes that won’t affect Canada. They’re wrong. Absolutely wrong. God (or whatever) help you if you’re missing the parallels between the Republican members of Congress and Democrats, especially in the White House.

A Reform Party Wet Dream

Shutting down operations at a cost of $300 million ($310,526,449.11 CAD) per day isn’t hurting the lazy bureaucrats the right wing ideologues pretend it does. It hurts the janitor working two jobs just to make it in an expensive city with a high crime rate, hoping his children come home alive each night and that he might be able to put them through college. It’s Congressional staffers that only make $30K per year or less with substantial law school debt. It’s contractors putting their kids through school with responsible mortgages and car payments to make it through the shitty traffic each day. Museums close. The national capital turns into an embarrassment. People die.

Would Canada do this to its own government? To its own people? Yes. It already is. It’s the raison d’être of the Reform Wing of the Conservative Party of Canada. A major split is coming between the Reformers and the old Progressive Conservatives. They won’t air their dirty laundry in public (unless someone uncovers it), but the last cabinet shuffle was a major clue as to the direction of the government into the next election. They’ll recruit more Reform-minded Conservatives to stand for Parliament by 2015. While that’s going on, seats in the Senate that open up will go to loyal, über-conservative allies to rubber stamp atrocious social and criminal legislation. The fun-loving, universally-loved Canada of the past is gone. They’ve shunned the international community (except Israel) and the United Nations, only dispatching the Foreign Minister, who spoke to a mostly empty Secretariat. (The Prime Minister is busy trying to build leaky petroleum pipelines through national parks and U.S. farm land.)

The Housing Bubble No One Shall Speak Of

Real estate is expensive if you live in one of the major cities, especially Toronto and Vancouver. It’s been building a bubble the past few years, but in the past two quarters prices and demand have dropped dramatically. The middle class is being squeezed out of new, sustainable communities — the kinds of neighborhoods every young hipster dreams of living and raising a family in. According to Canadian bankers and brokers, everything is just fine, just sign on the dotted line. According to analysts in virtually every other modern country, they’re advising clients to get out of the market in Canada as fast as possible. Jim Flaherty keeps nervously assuring everyone that the economy, especially in real estate is JUST FINE OKAY GUYS? The Governor of the Bank of Canada jumped ship and is now running the Bank of England with slightly more success (and rumors of books being cooked before he moved). The next Prime Minister will have a mess to clean up, similar to a certain president elected in 2008…

Montreal is still relatively cheap, but corrupt, so go for it.


Québec is corrupt. Toronto is corrupt. Vancouver moves drug money with impunity.

It’s no coincidence that virtually all Canadian banks have many branches and bankers in countries that wash and store dirty money, to keep it away from election disclosures and tax agencies. Forget Swiss (or even European) bank accounts. If you want to move unclean money out of North America, Europe, South America, or Asia, go through a Canadian bank. It’s a stable currency almost pegged to the U.S. dollar. It can be moved anywhere in a cloud-like atmosphere in fractions of a second, without any questions asked. Remember the friendly, non-judging Canadian of years past? They got jobs in finance as personal bankers and won’t judge you if you bring them $150 million dollars in cocaine or marijuana proceeds to stash in the Caymans. Neither will the Caymans, for that matter. Meanwhile, Canada’s suffering from a massive deficit and mysterious undisclosed campaign donations appear on disclosure forms that elections regulators don’t have the time or resources to investigate. Given enough time, there are others that can track down the movements of the money — its source, its location, its amount, and who’s ripping off the average citizen and helping their Parliamentary buddies.

Take a drive outside of the wealthy suburbs and you’ll find third-world conditions on First Nations, with high unemployment, addiction, alcoholism, and a health minister that sent body bags in response to a flu epidemic.

Maintenant ou jamais/Now or never

The current régime in Ottawa is either the most incompetent in decades, or they’re working through a deliberate agenda to turn Canada into an ungovernable mess. Honestly, I can’t tell.

Worse, they’re running scared and responding to crises irrationally. Minority government? Prorogue Parliament. Multiple fundraising and electoral scandals? Prorogue Parliament. Questions from the press? Repeat incoherent talking points. See an approaching financial disaster that will set off multiple large fires and severely damage the country for the next decade? At least? Prorogue Parliament until the day before it’s destined to occur instead of publicly putting contingency plans into place. To paraphrase a famous Liberal, every night the Tories fall asleep next to an economic elephant, then take a few Ambien tablets to ignore the twitches.

The New Democrats can’t be trusted to hold the government to account for its moral and economic mistakes — over two years into a majority government, they don’t have a track record for doing either. The NDP is either a party for Québec and unelectable in the Rest of Canada, or they’ll lose their Québec MPs (also known as the New Democratic Party) and save a few seats in the prairies and in the West.

Canada needs an open tent, centrist party. A diverse party, one that can win in every region with a simple, coherent message — tell us your plan and stick to logic and reason. Tell the vox populi how you’re no longer a party of scandal, infighting, and that only one party can unite a Canada that’s been divided too long. The leader must stand firm against meaningless attacks on his character or youth — when the ad hominems come out, you’ve already won. This is not the time for childish political games, so finies les folies. Campaign like you’ve already won; campaign like you’re already running the country. Show Canada that you’re ready to take charge on day one, that you can restore the light of freedom from the dark ages of the past few years, that we can all work together, that we can all prosper. The primary business of the Liberal Party of Canada is peace, order, and good government. The primary customers of the Liberal Party of Canada are the citizens of Canada.

The alternative is a place we’ve never been before, and certainly don’t want to imagine, much less wander through blind.

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iOS 7 Went Too Far In The Other Direction

I just watched the 2013 WWDC Keynote where iOS 7 was unveiled and these are my raw, first opinions.

  1. If there is a gamut of interface design execution and symbolism where rich, detailed, skeuomorphic design is on the left and flat, robotic, sparse design is on the right, iOS 7 is solidly planted on the right. It’s the anti-iOS 6 and everything before it. Hell, it’s anti-Apple and everything before it.
  2. Pure text-based buttons with no visual indication of buttonness, that is, no shape around them, really don’t look right to me. They look unfinished, naked, unclear and raw. And what makes a text label look different from a tappable label? Just color? Well I hope no one is using color in their interfaces unless everything that’s not black-and-white is tappable.
  3. The proportions of symbols within their boundaries (either in a tab bar or in an icon) look wrong, and big things look smushed into small visual containers.
  4. Gradients are no longer used to suggest the type of realism that a 90° light source would indicate, rather they’re used in icons haphazardly, sometimes shifting between two wholly different hues.
  5. There are no text shadows or box shadows that I could see. There are no subtle indications of curvature in user interface elements. Everything is black, white, or some vibrant, eye-popping hue.
  6. I really wonder what the Apple designers who worked tirelessly on iOS 6 think. Did they think that everything they were designing looked awful before starting to work on iOS 7? Or were they nudged in the “flat design” direction by Jony Ive and then drank the Kool-Aid only after being prodded for awhile? Are they tremendously proud of their work, which is essentially completely different from all their previous work? Do they think that it’s fundamentally better, or just fundamentally different?
  7. I really like some of the interactions and transitions which appear to be more physics-based. Blurring out the previous screen when displaying an overlay looks awesome and has been very difficult to do in the past in iOS without diving close to the bare metal of graphics processing frameworks.
  8. I expected iOS 7 to be much flatter than iOS 6, but still with subtle curvatures, inset highlights and shadows to indicate subtlety and realism and that the interface was emulating some physical materials. I was very wrong. iOS 7 is as flat as a board.

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  • I’m a designer who has been coding his entire life. I try to make software that people love.

    Published June 10, 2013

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how’s the health of your digital business?

How do you judge or measure the health of your digital business today?

Does it truly bring to life your brand, your customers perception of your brand; the sense of inclusion, loyalty and WOW factor? No matter what industry you are in, or who your customers are, in business, you need to be always thinking about your customers and their perception of you. Those first impressions certainly do last, (and I always like to go under the assumption of only one touch away from your competition) but what if their first impression is on their mobile device (well, it is the primary device for most people (probably your customers) now).

How does your brand experience live up to the anticipation now? Have you just won over a potential new customer as your site is responsive to their device, delivers the latest thinking in UX design & creative use of this smaller form factor, and not how you would prefer (or hope) them to view it. Remember those days of being told “for optimum experience please use…” and of course the Web1.0 fixed height/width and let’s not forget the style of the buttons or links that were designed for the click of a sharpened arrow from the comfort of a mouse, not the subtle touch from a finger tip.

Depending on who you speak to within your organization, from Marketing to IT to Operations or Creative — or whomever in your business, each will have their own take on what is successful and what is NOT with the digital health of the business.

From digital ad campaigns that lead nowhere due to the landing pages not being responsive or fluid, through to the site being slow and cumbersome to load or a site that is overloaded with content, links, buttons — in essence a “throw everything on the page” in a hope that something will stick or work for the customer.

brilliant basics: tetra pak packaging — then add some magic touches: make it look like a banana

The reality comes down to truly understanding your customers, (your prospective customers and let’s not forget your competitions customers) and their wants, needs, desires and experience that they are looking for — to understand this vital part of the puzzle will simply the rest of the process, but never forget that simple is sometimes best — get those brilliant basics right, then add those magic touches that epitomize your brand.

so, let’s begin

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Why The Wolf of Wall Street is an awesome movie

Prostitutes, flying midgets (short people?), exotic drugs (queludes), not so exotic drugs (cocaine) and endless stacks of money. One thing is obvious to any one: Martin Scorsese’s latest movie portrays abundance in abundance.

The thing people seem to disagree on, however, is the exact function of this portrayal of abundance. Is it satire? Or is it actually a celebration of abundance? Are we supposed to loathe Leonardo Dicaprio’s character, or are we actually supposed to symphatize with him?

We’re supposed to do whatever we like, of course. But presumably, we felt a bit of both while watching the film.

In one way, we liked Dicaprio’s character. His humble background, his relentless work ethic, his natural charm: the character just didn’t seem naturally evil. But in another way, we thought his greed, his manipulative behaviour and his singlemindedness was despicable.

Presumably, we felt conflicted. Right? Right?

We did, and that’s exactly why The Wolf of Wallstreet manages to elevate itself from the monotome dreck Hollywood seems to produce about 80% of the time. As a satire, the movie manages to play with our emotions.

Here’s how:

First, Leonardo Dicaprio’s character reels us in by playing into our perceptions of freedom and individuality. I m from the working class, he tells us. I m just trying to fulfill my dreams. Aren’t we all trying to fulfill our dreams?

Yes, we say, in a way we all are. So we decide to go along. We identify with the character. In a way, we fall for one of the many impeccable sales pitches the character delivers.

And every time we start to get a little disgusted with all the drugs, hookers and midgets the character throws at our face, we get another one of those pitches, reeling us in even further.

Without realizing it, we sort of fall in love with the character. We know we re not supposed to, and we won’t hapilly admit it, but we do. Leonardo Dicaprio’s excellent acting (yes! It’s acting!) doesn’t hurt the film, in this respect. But mainly it’s because we live in the same society as Dicaprio’s character, and sometimes we think the same thoughts.

But then our emotions make a u-turn.

In a key scene, Dicaprio’s character interrogates one of his employees while speaking to a crowd. ‘Didn’t you have a sick child, and didn’t you ask me for 5.000 dollars when you first started working for me? And what did I do? Didn’t I sign you a 25.000 dollar cheque? he asks the employee.

See, we say to ourselves. Dicaprio’s character does good, as well. He’s a philantrope. He helps people in need.

Yes, you did, the woman says. That’s why I m now wearing this Chanel suit. Then, she starts crying.

And boom, that’s where the movie smacks us in the face. It’s the expensive Chanel suit that makes the woman cry — not her child. That’s what it’s all about, for her: the money, the glamour, the surface.

Suddenly, we feel ashamed of ourselves. The crying woman, who invokes laughter, not pity, makes us realize we’ve been fooled. For a second, we felt sympathy for her. Now, we just want to laugh at her, ridiculous as she comes across.

And as we re standing on the edge of reality, ready to fall in, we see Dicaprio’s character, high and/or drunk out of his mind, attempt to kidnap his own child.

Now, all we feel is disgust. With the woman in the Chanel suit, with Dicaprio’s character, but with ourselves as well.

Why did we like these characters? Why did we even laugh when we saw their slapstick antics?

Suddenly, it’s not so funny any more. And suddenly, we no longer want to identify with Dicaprio’s character, or the others. We’re now sure we re different, because a Chanel suit would never move us to tears.

Indeed, The Wolf of Wallstreet makes us sit still and think about ourselves for a second. In this film, the satire is subtle — even though it looks very much in your face at first. The Wolf of Wallstreet satires you and me as much as its characters and subject. It just has you chasing a thread like a jumpy cat before it lets you know it.

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Facebook Drops $16 Billion To Snatch Up WhatsApp

Original Article URL:

The world’s biggest social network really, really wanted to own the world’s biggest independent messaging app.

February 19, 2014

Facebook, which has long been on the prowl for the “next Instagram,” appears to have found it. The social network will shell out roughly $16 billion to acquire WhatsApp, the giant global messaging app, in a deal that puts the world’s largest social network together with its biggest independent person-to-person messaging system.

In a press release, Facebook said WhatsApp will continue to operate independently, much the way Instagram—the photo-sharing service Facebook acquired for $1 billion almost two years ago—does.

Go Mobile, Social Network

The acquisition is clearly intended to further bolster Facebook’s relevance in mobile. While the social network has successfully retooled itself into a mobile powerhouse over the past year, its attempts to jump into the burgeoning global messaging market have never really taken off.

Facebook Home, its attempt to turn Android phones into Facebook phones, appears to have mostly died a gruesome death. Facebook Messenger, the social network’s attempt to compete directly with WhatsApp and its rivals with a standalone app, hasn’t exactly been a standout.

WhatsApp, by contrast, has been on a long hot streak. According to the release, more than 450 million people use the service each month, 70% of whom are active on any given day. WhatsApp is adding more than a million registered users every day.

Continued below…

… continued from above

In April, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said the company was processing 20 billion messages a day—eight billion inbound and 12 billion outbound. That’s more than double what analysts believed Facebook’s message volume at the time to be. In the release, Facebook said WhatsApp is almost as popular as all carrier-based texting services combined; its message volume, Facebook said, is “approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume.”

Another Mobile Arrow In Facebook’s Quiver

By joining Facebook as as an independently run service, WhatsApp may fit easily with the social network’s current strategy of breaking out many of its services into standalone apps—some of them duplicative. After all, Facebook offers both Instagram and its own Facebook Camera as photo apps, so it can’t do much harm to have multiple messaging apps as well.

Over time, it’s entirely possible that Facebook will make WhatsApp work more readily with Messenger, such as by letting the apps access users’ contact lists on both services. In a blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that because Messenger and WhatsApp service “serve such different and important uses,” the company will continue investing in and improving both services.

A bigger question is whether Facebook will try to bring ads to WhatsApp, as it’s done recently with Instagram. WhatsApp has long defiantly resisted advertising, instead charging users 99 cents a year to user its service (Android users get a free year up front). CEO Koum issued this promise in a blog post:

Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.

WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently. You can continue to enjoy the service for a nominal fee. You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using. And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.

Facebook and Google have both reportedly taken passes at WhatsApp in the past. Just over a year ago, in fact, WhatsApp took the unusual step of denying a report that it was then in discussions with Facebook.

Why Facebook Dropped $19B On WhatsApp: Reach Into Europe, Emerging Markets

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With 450 million monthly users and a million more signing up each day, WhatsApp was just too far ahead in the international mobile messaging race for Facebook to catch up, as you can see in the chart above we made last year. Facebook either had to surrender the linchpin to mobile social networking abroad, or pony up and acquire WhatsApp before it got any bigger. It chose the latter.

Facebook recently said on its earnings call a few weeks ago that its November relaunch of Messenger led to a 70% increase in usage, with many more messages being sent. But much of that was likely in the United States and Canada where the standalone messaging app war is still to be won.

Internationally, Facebook was late to the Messenger party. It didn’t launch until 2011 after Facebook bought Beluga, and at the time it was centered around group messaging where SMS was especially weak.

WhatsApp launched in 2009 with the right focus on a lean, clean, and fast mobile messaging app. And while the international messaging market is incredibly fragmented, it was able to gain a major presence where Messenger didn’t as you can see in this chart above that we made about a year ago.

Unlike PC-based social networking, there is no outstanding market leader in mobile messaging. Still, WhatsApp absolutely dominates in markets outside of the U.S. like Europe and India. It’s also impossible for Facebook to acquire certain other Asian competitors like WeChat, which is the one hope of Chinese mega-giant Tencent to have a global consumer product.

So it’s clear that WhatsApp had strategic interest to Facebook, and we know that the two talked from time to time.

The map above is from a little more than a year ago. We made that map using data from Onavo, another Israeli-based company that Facebook acquired for — ahem — competitive intelligence. Because Facebook scooped up Onavo for more than $100 million in October, we don’t have access to active usage data anymore. The only thing outsiders can see are app store rankings, which imply download rates and not current usage.

So what happened in the last year? WhatsApp looks to have pulled so far ahead of Facebook in developing markets that there was no way to catch up. As Mark Zuckerberg said in a post today that the app was on its way to reaching 1 billion users.

We’ve heard Facebook has been interested in buying WhatsApp for two to three years. But over the past year, it became clear that Facebook couldn’t afford not to pay whatever it would take to get WhatsApp on its team.

So the answer to Facebook’s problem ended up being $19 billion.

Apparently, that’s what it took to take Jan Koum and his backers at Sequoia Capital (the fund that Zuck originally spited) out of the market. If it waited any longer, that number probably would have just gotten bigger.