Christian Ross

I have thoughts on Lance too…

Everybody seems to have an opinion on Lance Armstrong this week so I figured I’d throw mine around as well. Here are the following random thoughts I’ve had in the last week or so surrounding the news of his confession. Nothing ground-breaking and in no particular order:

We’re currently a society obsessed with a man who rode a bike for a living. Let that sink in for a second. Now take a step back and remember where it should rank in the grand scheme of things.

We should know this by now but we are a society who loves to build up, tear down, and then build up again [see: Woods, Tiger]. Currently Lance is in tear down mode and after the interview is posted on Thursday, we will begin the process of allowing him to climb to darling-status once again.

Lance was a dummy for taking performance enhancing drugs. Lance was not alone in this endeavor; we turned a blind eye to this fact throughout the entire heyday of this sport. The lives of those who took them will probably be shortened because of it, and if they’re not, there’s a good chance they end up in a situation where they wish it would have been.

You are a dummy if you allowed yourself or your kids to idolize a guy because he could ride a bike really fast for really long distances. Enjoying sports and rooting for athletes is all good & fun but make sure you teach them to value better things.

If Lance has lost any money in this whole banana parade*, it won’t be long until he makes it back. He will write a tell all book and sadly many of you will buy it.

So there you have it, a brain dump of five things that have gone through my head most likely while I was showering. That’s potentially creepy and unnecessary knowledge but at least you know I’m back to showering.

*I just coined and trademarked the term banana parade. I have no idea what it means but it makes me giggle when I think about what it would actually look like. Feel free to use as needed.

Want mediocre work? Ask for it.

Excerpted from Seth, circa 2006.

If you want average (mediocre) work, ask for it. Be really clear up front that you want something beyond reproach, that’s in the middle of the road, that will cause no controversy and will echo your competition. It’ll save everyone a lot of time.

On the other hand, if you want great work, you’ll need to embrace some simple facts:

It’s going to offend someone. If it doesn’t offend them, then it will make them nervous. The Vietnam Vets memorial offended a lot of people. The design of Google made plenty of people nervous. Great work from a design team means new work, refreshing and remarkable and bit scary.

You can’t tell me you’ll know it when you see it. First, you won’t. Second, it wastes too much time. Instead, you’ll need to have the patience to invest twenty minutes in accurately describing the strategy.

It’s not my intention to soapbox anything on the subject matter of design-based client work. I appreciate all of my clients even when we disagree or they leave me feeling discouraged about a project or some small portion of it.

The above though did catch my attention enough to stop and ponder – in general, do we really want what we often ask for? How often do I ask for ‘top of the line’ or ‘cutting edge’ when all I’m really willing to receive is on par with or just a little better than the next guy. (more…)

What does SOPA mean for you?

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it’s sister bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), are both making headway in their respective houses of Congress right now and are hard to miss if you spend much time at all watching the news or trolling your favorite social network. I’m not necessarily here to persuade you one direction or another regarding in how you should view the bills but I would encourage you to take a few minutes to learn a bit more about the bill and how it might affect you going forward.

The bill(s) essentially are going up for discussion and voting once the houses reconvene in a week or two and if you want to have any say in how they are voted upon, you might want to take a moment to call/email your representatives.

Highlight arguments for the bill include the ambitious goal of stopping piracy and copyright infringement on the Internet; a noble goal indeed. The proponents of the bill say that content creators will ultimately make more money since you would have to go directly to the source to buy/obtain whatever material you’re trying to consume.

Opponents against the bill are quick to point out that it’s pretty vague language that fails to drive home the point that they’re willing to shut down sites (along with judicial-related punishment for site owners) like YouTube, Google, Twitter, Facebook and millions of others in attempt to eradicate the small minority of offenders.

Groups like the MPAA, RIAA [read: big money lawyers backed by the movie and music industries], NBC, Ford, NBA and associations like the National Chamber of Commerce are all backers of the bill, and as you can probably guess, have a significant amount of money on their side to push this type of legislature through.

Interested in seeing how much? Mike Ciarlo was too. He put a [very well-done] presentation together of the 25 highest “backed” representatives by proponents of SOPA/PIPA that you might want to check out.

There’s plenty of research out there for you to take some time to form your own opinions off of, as an Internet user, I’d encourage you to at least get informed on your own. If nothing else, take ten minutes to run through this Wiki of SOPA/PIPA and educate yourself a little on this Friday. It may not end up affecting you one way or another but I’d hate for you to be uninformed about such a significant legislature that might just alter the way you consume content on the Internet for the foreseeable future.

After learning the facts, you might just want to do something about it. If you’re an American, lucky you, you have the right to do so.

Doing your due diligence

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty bad about flying by the seat of my pants. I make plenty of decisions based on feelings and intuition without exploring the ramifications or the consequences. It can range from simple slip-of-the-tongue type stuff all the way to business decisions. Knowing this is only half the battle, overcoming it is another story. There’s a good chance I write this whole article without thinking of the consequences it will bring. Danger’s my middle name.

Recently, I’ve done a decent job of the classic “pot calling the kettle black” by noticing and possibly pointing out others in what looks like their failed attempts at doing due diligence in their decision making. Of course I am an expert when it comes to second guessing others’ decision making, so potentially they did do some research and pre-planning and I am just not seeing it. Then again, maybe not.

The Brownstones at Town Square

I live in the suburbs and to be honest, the section of town I live in is quite affluent. One of the neighboring towns is above all the rest in terms of socioeconomic standards in the area and they really don’t take any steps to hide it. Just the opposite, actually. It’s your typical keeping up with the Jones’ but on a pretty high scale. There are no multi-unit rental facilities (truly, none) in said town and there is no city transportation system to help people get from one place to another. (more…)

Overcoming the block

I’ve been struggling with this whole communication device (my blog) for a while and I wasn’t exactly sure why. Thanks to a text-to-audio-to-video-to-audio chat from @foundationsix this afternoon, I think I’ve narrowed it down.

I’ve been populating this .net with content since 2006. While three years isn’t that long relatively speaking, in terms of blogging I would estimate it falls in the top percentage of longevity of personal blogging. Most weblogs get started and published for only short amounts of time, those that produce content on a consistent basis more than a few months are becoming rare.

For the last six months or so, I’ve had trouble defining what this is all for. I had no original intentions when I started collecting my thoughts online, it was probably an experiment that had a 50/50 chance of ever making it two months. (Note: Though she doesn’t write often enough, she is still inspiring and I did help her to get a real domain:

Some time in the last 6 months I did a redesign. It was an experimentation and as of today, I’m pretty sure it failed. Most designers dislike their stuff just a few days after it hits the shelf but this is a little more than that. Right away there were things that bugged me about the look I decided upon for the current version. I originally wanted a wider content area but by framing it, I made it harder to get things to look the way I wanted when I published them. Videos and images were the worst. I drew the original frames up at 600px but somewhere in transition from slicing to programming I ended up with an area that looked best when objects were exactly 597px wide. That, my friend, is a pain.

I also had visions of minimizing everything around the content itself – navigation, titles, sidebar – thinking that the content itself would stand out and be the ultimate focus. Don’t get me wrong, it should be, but I went about it the wrong way. In the process of building it up, I alienated anything older than the five most recent posts. Shame on me.

Other issues that spring to mind include the issues with difficulty subscribing to my blog and the inability to find related or content that I am proud of. Just to name a few.

With all of the flaws built in to this design, I think I ultimately tied my own hands. It may sound silly but I forced myself into this (these) boxes and ended up restricting my thoughts and ability to publish them. From there, I just forced it. I forced myself to produce and/or find content to supplement. I ended up turning this whole thing into what I could best describe today as a tumblog.

To explain, Tumblr is a hosted blogging platform built to eliminate almost any possible technical barriers into blogging. You can set up a blog in seconds, pick a template and get to blogging within 3 minutes. I know, I’ve set one up recently. Its ease of use and quality UI make it a popular and useful tool. But what I have seen it become more often than not for most people is the ability to rapidly reproduce (read: republish and/or plagiarize) content by other tumblr’s. In one click you can “reblog” any content across the tumblr platform to your own blog without having to really lift a finger.

Tumblr is great, for what it is. I am sad to say though that my attempts to just produce something, have left me producing something mediocre. What I have turned my personal soundboard into is just a tumblog. Publishing anything I found slightly amusing through my main feed became a habit. I became your email forward buddy. For all of this, I apologize.

With all of that out now, my hope is to go back to the drawing board to find a balance in both form and function. Good content is what I want this to be about. Right now there is some good content there, but it is hidden.

All of this said, I enjoy sharing the goodness of the Internet: stupid videos, funny websites, random quotes and hot topics of the day. My goal is to provide a way that I can still do that but not in a way that allows me to hide behind it all. I know of some who run separate blogs or tumblr accounts for things just like I’m mentioning but my hope is to tie it all in together in a one-stop shop. We’ll see.

It’s time for another experiment. Here’s to hoping I get a little better result.