Entries Tagged as 'Culture'

The 5 people you need to worry about seeing your portfolio

I am constantly amazed at how many designers and would-be-designers I meet who stare at me blankly when I ask the simple question, “Can you send me the link to your design portfolio?”

I often get the halting response, “Uh, I have my resumé.” A little secret here: I don’t really care about your resumé. I don’t want to read about your work, I want to see it for myself. Kick the tyres, if you will. Take it for a test drive. And I’m not alone.

Your portfolio may have many different and varied audiences looking at it. While it would be nice to think that everyone in the world is interested in who you are and what you are doing, in all likelihood, you can break down the primary audiences for your portfolio into one of five distinct categories.

01. Employers

Andrew McWatters’ portfolio (http://andrewmcwatters.com)

If you are looking to get a design job in an agency or in-house design shop, then you are looking to appeal to people who want to hire you for a job. Your first hurdle is getting past the HR apparatus of the company, which can be problematic.

HR managers often have little or no design experience, and may only look at the resume, checking off a few boxes on their list (MS Word: check, Adobe Photoshop: check… hmmm, no mention of Windows NT experience? REJECTED!) and never go beyond that.

Once past that formidable barrier, though, the hiring manager is usually a creative director or similar design manager. They generally assume that you made it this far because you met all of the low-hanging fruit requirements and all they want to know is one thing: can you design great user experiences?

For potential employers, your portfolio mission is simple: show them your work, explain your process including any deliverables used in the creation, and don’t take credit for more than what you did on a project. Nothing turns off a prospective employer faster than sensing that the designer in question is overstating their role in a project.

02. Clients

Jay Moore’s portfolio (http://www.thirstyinteractive.com)

If you are looking to pick up freelance work, you need to target potential clients. Like hiring managers, clients are going to be more interested in seeing what you offer, but unlike a hiring manager, clients will often have little or no design training themselves. So, your portfolio will need to do more than sell the quality of your work, but also the value of the services you can provide.

We live in an increasingly competitive industry, where websites are being designed by AI or cobbled from a template more cost effectively than hiring a real human designer. Your job is to show them why the human touch will give them the biggest bang for their buck.

For clients, the mission of your portfolio is to delight them with the possibilities of what you can give them. But be careful not to over-promise: It’s easy to lead clients to believe that they can get a Maserati website, which can be a huge problem if they only have a Yugo budget. Most likely clients will not know the efforts or cost involved.

03. Other designers

Nicolas Tarier’s portfolio (http://nicolastarier.com)

We all like to be appreciated by our peers and your portfolio is your chance to strut your stuff. These might just be other interested designers looking for some inspiration, but they also might be designers wanting to consider highlighting your work in an article, book, or even considering your work for an award.

For other designers, your mission is to allow them to see the breadth of your work as quickly as possible.

04. Your boss

While we often don’t think of having to apply for a job with our current company, it’s still important to keep up a current portfolio when it comes to yearly reviews. Often the enterprise applications used to evaluate performance are pretty awful, and do not allow creatives the opportunity to really shine. You need to create your own platform to show off what you are capable of in order to get that big promotion and raise.

With this version of your portfolio, your boss should already know what you did and how you did it. Your job is to remind them of the highlights, the successes, and the struggles you overcame while working.

05. Your organization

Sara M Beaver’s portfolio (http://smbeaver.com)

If you are an in-house designer — increasingly common these days — then your portfolio may need to be able to sell your capabilities internally. Although I often see design team portfolios created, your personal portfolio might have to serve to keep others in your organization impressed with what you are capable.

For internal portfolios, like with client portfolios, the emphasis is on delighting them with the possibilities without over-promising. You want to manage and expand their expectations and get them to start thinking progressively.

Jason Cranford Teague is the co-founder and CXO of The CranfordTeague Group, specialists in Temporal Design Thinking.

Originally published at www.creativebloq.com on May 26, 2015.

5 things your design portfolio must have

When I’m thinking about hiring you for a web design or development job, I don’t care where you went to school, what your GPA was, or even what skills you say you have. I don’t even really care that much about where you have been working the past few years. What I care about is seeing what you have done, i.e. your portfolio.

Whether it’s a resume sent to me by HR, an email from a friend, or a business card handed to me at a conference, I immediately look for that URL which will show me your body of work.

Oh, I may go back and glance at those other things after looking through your portfolio, but if you don’t grab me with your portfolio, then I’ll move on to the next candidate without so much as a backwards glance.

The kitchen sink approach will not work with your portfolio. You have to carefully consider what goes into your portfolio and the message you are giving. Your portfolio is susceptible to all of the same design considerations as any information based website, and you need to consider your content strategy very carefully.

01. Only the best will do

Bring your A-game material only. You want the viewer to come away as impressed as possible with everything you show them. This means dropping any projects that are not presenting your skills in the best light possible.

It takes less than a second for people to make up their minds about whether they like what they are experiencing, and that’s how long you have to grab your viewer. This means that you want show the best parts of what you do immediately. If what you are showing is an extensive user interface, focus on the visually interesting pieces up front, slowly revealing the bits that are possibly more technically difficult after you have their attention.

02. Less is more

Along with #1, quality beats quantity every time. In fact, even if you have fifty A-level projects, focus on the top five to eight, with the others being included only as back-up. Overwhelming your audience with too many choices can turn them off more quickly than too little work (TL;DR = Too Long; Didn’t Read).

Whoever is looking at your portfolio is likely looking at many other portfolios; try to respect their time and show them the important stuff up front to get their attention. If they want to delve deeper into your oeuvre, give them access, but let them make the choice rather than forcing them to weed through everything.

Kendra Scaefer keeps it simple and straightforward in her portfolio (www.kendrascheafer.com)

03. It’s Alive, ALIVE!

Several of the best projects I have created were “blue sky” ideas that never got built. They were cool. They were innovative. They are not in my portfolio. Saying, “We did this cool thing and it never saw the light of day,” always sounds really lame no matter how you phrase it.

You can include projects that have been subsequently replaced by newer work, but these should come further down in your list, and are best if you can at least show a working demo version.

04. Explain your work, but don’t embellish

It’s not enough just to show your pretty work, you need to explain your role in the project. Unless you are a UX team of one, it’s likely that you worked on some of the samples in your portfolio with others. Take the time to explain your role in the project, what you contributed, and how you made things better.

Don’t embellish, because you will probably have to elaborate later during the interview. If the person interviewing you detects hyperbole, they’ll drop you like a hot potato. Just be honest, and you’ll be fine.

Jay Moore wows us with visuals first, and then takes time to explain how he did it (www.thirstyinteractive.com)

05. Tell Your Story

It’s easy enough to put together a lot of unrelated work samples with explanations and let them go, but the most effective portfolios will tell your story, how you have developed, what you have learned, and how you are a better designer today than yesterday. This is not an easy task.

Telling your story requires you to think carefully about numbers one, two and three to get the right balance and explanations in place. The best portfolios, in fact, will weave the presented work into an overall narrative, using each piece to support larger points, inverting the typical project based portfolio structure.

This means you will have to think a bit more about the structure of your portfolio site, but it will be worth it.

Jesse Willmon tells a compelling story with a bit of personality thrown in (www.jessewillmon.com/new_portfolio)

Why you must get the presentation of your portfolio right

Your portfolio is the key to any design job. If you don’t have one, then you need not bother to apply. You can have all of the fancy schooling, you can know the entire Adobe Creative Cloud product line like your own family, and you may have worked at Ogilvy while moonlighting at Frog, but if you do not show me your design thinking process, you might as well go into chartered accountancy.

When I was a young design student in art school, I got my first lesson in how important portfolio presentation is for winning the day. I had been taking classes in 2D design, and getting mostly As with the occasional B+, but I was looking at an A for the semester. It all hinged on my final portfolio grade. But, since I thought that this was just a matter of me turning my work from the previous few months in a case, I was sure that my grade was in the bag. Boy, was I wrong.

I went to check out the final grade posting and was gobsmacked to see a B− next to my name. How could this be, I’d never even gotten a grade below B+ the whole semester. In shock, I went to my teacher – who I was on friendly terms with–and asked what had happened. She told me that, yes, the work had all been A-level, but my portfolio was sloppy. It was unorganized with dog-eared pages that were difficult to flip through. Many of the sketches in pastel had not been spray fixed and nothing was mounted. For this, she had knocked me down an entire grade level for the semester.

This was the most important design lesson in my life. Showing up is not enough. You also have to look good.

For web designers, we no longer have to worry about spray mounting and dog eared pages, but we do have to show our work in a compelling manner that not only represents the work we have done, but the work we are capable of.

01. Be the master of your own domain

Martin Wright (http://mynameismartin.com) controls his domain and cn show off his considerable UX skills

I am almost immediately suspicious of any designer without their own unique URL. Call it snobbishness or call it high-standards, a designer without their own unique URL seems less professional to me. Not that I won’t look at someone’s site if they are only using a portfolio service (see below), they just go down a bit in my estimation.

And having your own domain name is not that difficult or expensive. You can easily register with a domain service, or even, more conveniently, through WordPress. And if you are not a developer, then you can choose a theme to customize with your own design aesthetic.

02. Keep it fresh

Once you have your own domain and have set up a presence on portfolio web sites sites, don’t let them go stale. I’ve passed over more than one perspective employee because their portfolio was more than 3 years out of date.

Plan to check in at least once a year on portfolio web sites to keep everything up-to-date. For your own domain, you should update as often as you can to add new and better projects.

03. Be everywhere you need to be

Bēhance (http://behance.net) from Adobe is one of the most popular portfolio sites on the web. It’s also a place where employers go to shop

Although I highly recommend keeping a customized web site that shows off your skills as an interactive designer, you also need to maintain a presence on the most trafficked portfolio Web sites like Bēhance, Dribble, and even LinkedIn. LinkedIn may not be a true portfolio site, but it is a place a lot of people begin looking, and you can include things like videos and slide presentations.

The fact is, a lot of employers troll these sites looking for their future Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons. Your personal domain alone may not be so easy to find. You need to maintain some kind of presence in these places to make sure you are seen. But always make sure to have a prominent link on these sites back to your main portfolio.

04. Sweet Sweat the details

As my little parable of a good class gone wrong illustrates, people notice the little things. I am dysgraphic, a condition that means I have a really hard time spotting typos and spelling mistakes. I always have an editor (often my wife) look over my work, so that I can avoid errors which would make me look bad.

Even if you don’t have a learning disability like me, it never hurts to have a second (or even third or fourth) pair of eyes look over your portfolio for mistakes or point out problems. They’ll be forgiving and tell you what to fix. An employer will just move on to the next portfolio.


Originally Presented in Creative Bloq as Why you must get the presentation of your portfolio right 

20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving at SXSW: 2016 Edition

‘Tis the season for SXSW.

I will be there this year to read from my forthcoming book The NEW Web Typography. I’ll be talking about how “good” typography is NOT what a lot of designers think it is. If you can attend, I’ll be giving out tickets to receive a copy of the book when it comes out in June, and signing copies of some of my current books.

I’ll also be there to support my wife, Tara, who will be leading an amazing meet-up on how to raise digital native children. This session is not to be missed by any parent with kids under 22.

SXSW is not for the feint of heart, and despite the fact that it gets bigger every year, it just seams to keep getting bigger. This event is not like any other conference I go to. Even Comicon seems a little tame in comparison.

So, how do you survive and thrive at SXSW in 2016? I’ve updated my list of 20 tips to give you a head start.

  1. Get the apps — Although they have their quirks, the mobile SXSW apps can prove indispensable for keeping track of your schedule and helping to track old friends and make new ones.
  2. Check off everything you want to see — Whether you are using one of the apps on a screen or those massively convenient bundles of pressed wood pulp, check off everysession that piques your fancy. Some people try to carefully schedule a single session for every time slot during the day, agonizing over their choices. Don’t do that. Don’t even look at the times. Just look for titles that interest you and put them on your list. Then you can choose the best sessions that interest you as the conference unfolds. You may choose one because of the topic or because it happens to be close by and you are tired, but it’s best to have options.
  3. Get there early — One fact of life about SXSW is that you will spend a lot of time waiting in line. Whether it’s for registration, a keynote speech or that session you just can’t miss—the earlier you arrive, the less time you spend waiting in line. Plus, for really popular events, getting there late (or even on-time) may mean that the venue is full and you are left out in the cold. That’s not a problem, of course, if you followed my advice in #2, because you have back-up options. Just head to the next session on your list.
  4. See it with a friend — While you are standing in line, it’s nice to have a friend to talk to and share a conversation or debate about the session afterward. If it’s a choice between a session you are mildly interested in by yourself or one your buddy is interested in but you are not, choose the one with your friend.
  5. Talk to the people standing/sitting next to you — Whether you have a friend along or not, take the time to interface with the people around you before the speaker starts speaking (it’s rude to do it after they start speaking). If the people around you don’t seem into communicating, don’t push it—some people are just anti-social or maybe they don’t like you. However, I’ve made more than a few friends in lines at SXSW.
  6. See President Obama speak — Love him or hate him, he is the President of the United States, and the most technically Savvy one to date. He’s also a big GEEK, possibly the first since Teddy Roosevelt. Obama is giving the Friday Keynote at 2:30p. The bad news is that he you have to enter a raffle for tickets. If you did an won, you better be there by 12:30p to get in!
  7. Buy a book at the SXSW bookstore and get it signed — There is something about owning a signed edition that adds an extra sparkle to any book. If you see a session, and the speaker has written a book, then that book is likely on sale at the SXSW bookstore and it’s likely that the author will be doing a signing during the conference. Having the book can also come in handy if you are standing in line for a session with no friends and no one wants to talk.
  8. Take sketchnotes in a Moleskin — Mike Rohde introduced me to the concept of sketch notes (a form of visual note taking) at SXSW last year, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Even when I am armed with an iPad or other electronic note taking device, I find that nothing can replace the versatility of paper and pen for quick note taking, and you won’t believe the speed of its instant-on feature. Although any smallish notebook will do, the reason you will see more Moleskin notebooks than others is their high quality at a reasonable price.

    Mike's Sketchnotes From My SXSW 2010 Presentation On Web Typography

    Mike’s Sketchnotes From My SXSW 2010 Presentation On Web Typography

  9. Leave a session if you aren’t getting anything out of it — Some people think that it’s rude to walk out on a speaker. That’s because it is rude to walk out on a speaker. Trust me, short of actual booing, there is nothing more disheartening to a speaker than seeing a bunch of people walk out on them. That said, you paid a lot of money to be at SXSW and you don’t have time to listen to someone you are not interested in hearing. The session as described in the program guide may not be what you were expecting or the speaker may just not work for you. Whatever your reason, if you want to leave try to be considerate. If you are not sure about a session going in, sit towards the back, but regardless of where you are sitting, leave as quietly as you can.
  10. Ask questions, but don’t hog the mic — Don’t be afraid. Get up there and ask what’s on your mind. Speakers love good questions. Some will even take questions through Twitter, although I always find the live questions to be more interesting. But please ask an actual question; don’t stand up to give your own speech. No one is there to hear how clever or smart you are. People who try to upstage the speaker end up looking like an ass. Also, only ask one question and at most one follow up. Other people deserve a chance to ask stuff too.
  11. Try new things — SXSW is where a lot of new concepts are tested, ideas are launched, and cutting edges are sliced. A couple of years ago, it was Twitter that hit the big time at SXSW. Last year, Foursquare and Gowalla went head to head — the rumor was that anyone checking in at the SXSW Gowalla party using Foursquare instantly lost all mayorships. Try out different products and apps, even if they take the place of some beloved product or app you are already using. You should also go to a session dealing with a topic you know nothing about or…
  12. See someone speak whom you completely disagree with — You came to SXSW to get new ideas, right? There’s no place better to do that than while listening to someone whom you don’t agree with. You probably won’t end up agreeing with them any more than you did going in (although you just might), but it forces you to reconsider your own assumptions, usually leading to some new insights and ways of thinking. Finding someone you disagree with may not be as easy as it sounds, since the crowd at SXSW tends to be birds of a feather. However, the good people who choose the speakers like to toss a few bombs throwers like Andrew Keene into the mix to keep things lively.
  13. Recharge your devices wherever you get the opportunity — There’s something about being in the Austin Convention Center that seems to suck the life out of batteries faster than Charlie Sheen can suck down a speed ball. But there are lots of recharge stations around the conference center. If you are just chilling before your next session, seek these out and grab some juice.
  14. Get all of the free drinks and snacks you can — SXSW is full of places to get free snack bars or drinks from event sponsors like Monster Energy Drinks, Pepsi and McDonalds. In fact there are people just walking around the conference center handing the stuff out. When offered, take it. Even if you are not thirsty or hungry right now, take stuff every chance you get and save it for later. Even if you don’t like the thing, take it and give it to a friend. I’ve survived for an entire day at SXSW on nothing but a diet of free meals and snacks, allowing me to save my money to do more important things like…
  15. Have a drink at the Red Eyed Fly — the Red Eyed Fly (or REF) defines the term “hole in the wall,” but the beer is cold and they serve a straight shot of whisky. It’s a few blocks from the main strip, yet still convenient to the conference so a lot of speakers and conference regulars end up hanging out there.
  16. Change your plans as often as possible — If there is one thing I’ve learned about SXSW it’s that no matter how well you plan, your plans will change. You may discover a new session, run into an old friend or make a new one, so don’t be afraid to turn on a dime. Some of the most useful sessions I attended were on the spur of the moment and some of the best parties I went to I didn’t know about until I got there.
  17. Don’t plan on getting anything else done — Some people come with grandiose plans of staying in touch with the office, calling into meetings or getting other work done. Forget about it. Either focus on the conference and get the most out of it or go home.
  18. Don’t publicly tweet things at one in the morning that might be easily misunderstood by your significant other — One night, a friend who saw I was at SXSW tweeted me that I should meet another friend of his while there. I absentmindedly tweeted back “I’ll try to hook up with her.” My wife — at home and up late checking her Twitter feed — was not amused.
  19. See Bruce Sterling speak — There’s a reason that Bruce has spoken at almost every SXSW: he’s both highly entertaining and highly enlightening. Even if you haven’t read any of his books, if you want a hopeful but pragmatic peek into our future, then he’s who you need to go see. Bruce is giving the closing keynote this year Tuesday at 5 PM. Alas, I’ll have to miss it due to client commitments, so if you make it, I would appreciate it if you would let me know what you think. I still highly recommend that you see it, but whatever you do, if you see him on the conference floor, don’t bug him. He gets a bit cranky.
  20. If you miss a keynote session you wanted to see, watch it on YouTube — Ok, this isn’t something you do at SXSW — although you can watch last year’s sessions if you want — but I like going back to re-watch to the sessions that I attended as well as the ones I wanted to make but couldn’t. The last 4 years of keynotes are available through YouTube.

6 frustrations developers have with designers

Unless you are designing just for the joy of it – or you are one of the fabled ‘unicorns’ who can do EVERYTHING – at some point you will encounter (and probably lock horns with) someone tasked with taking your pretty little pictures and turning them into a real world product. Like cats and dogs, these relationships are historically known for being… strained.

Of course not all designer/developer relationships are contentious or based on mutual distrust. In fact, increasingly designers and developers are working closer together in agile environments, where the walls have to come down out of necessity.

Still, some of the ill will persists. In order to help alleviate that stress, I’m presenting the most common frustrations I find that developers have with designers and how you can work to avoid them.

01. Fifty shades of gray!

Image via Creative Commons license: Chris Metcalf https://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/

The Problem: The deliverable is Photoshop/Illustrator/Sketch file with 53,002 layers that the developer has to wade through and every gray has a slightly different value.

The Solution: Simply stated, you need a style guide. Rather than relying on all of the values in a visual comp to be ‘pixel perfect’, record the important standard values (colors, margins, padding, borders, etc…) in one common reference. This greatly cuts down on the guessing and interpretation the developer has to perform and can drastically reduce their development time. You get bonus points if you do that using CSS and ultra-bonus points using SASS or LESS to capture variable values like color.

02. Did you even look at the content that was going into this thing?

Image via Creative Commons license: Erin Crouse https://www.flickr.com/photos/eddellyn

The Problem: The design is delivered using placeholder Lorem Ipsum text, but when the rubber hits the road, that isn’t anything like what the actual content going into the product.

The Solution: Content is king! The designs need to fit the content, not the other way around. Developers, since they are at the front line of where the content hits the designs are the ones left holding the bag when you do not design with content in mind first. Designers, for their part need to make sure they have a full content inventory before finalizing designs.

03. Your job is just to make it pretty, not tell me how it works

Image via Creative Commons license: Thomas Claveirole https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasclaveirole/

The Problem: The designer creates a carefully crafted interactive/temporal prototype that works the way they want it to, but it’s all ‘throwaway’ code.

The Solution: Developers are used to getting a stack of static diagrams and then trying to figure out how to make them work. Moving towards interactive prototyping often intrudes on what they think is their territory. Design isn’t just what it looks like anymore, it’s also how it works.

However, the landscape for how to communicate this is shifting, and not all developers have learned how to effectively communicate. So, the designers job is to talk to them. Let them know that you are not trying to take away their jobs, just trying to find better ways to make it clear what your ideas are. And if the developer uses the old ‘throw away code’ argument, just ask them, ‘what you think you do with the static diagrams?’

04. We’ll do usability testing when it goes live

Image via Creative Commons license: Andy Bardill https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdxinteractiondesign/

The Problem: In the agile world, user testing is something of a luxury, one that for developers may seem like an unnecessary distraction from getting the Job done. But designers know that user testing is only effective if it informs decisions before launch.

The Solution: While planning sprints, designers need to build in user testing spikes that will allow them to test and iterate back into the development phase. As long as developers plan for these refinements, they are usually accepting of their necessity.

05. I can’t do that

Image via Creative Commons license: Peter Kaminski https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterkaminski/

The Problem: The designs been signed-off on by the powers that be, but the developer does not see them until they are told to ‘make it so.’ The only problem is that the designer was thinking about what they wanted to do, not what was possible.

The Solution: First, designers need to be grounded in the capabilities of the platform they are designing for. Whether that’s web, iOS, Android or something else, know your medium. Second, you can never bring the developer in early enough in the design phase. At the minimum, include developers in review sessions so that you can head off potential issues before they grow out of hand.

06. You want it when?

Image via Creative Commons license: Jon Hathaway https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonhathaway/

The Problem: Since it comes at the end of product creation, the development phase often gets short changed if the other phases go longer especially if there is a delivery deadline. If you are still working in a waterfall or even ‘hybrid-agile’ process, this problem is compounded.

The Solution: If you can’t be agile with lean-UX, at the very least include developers at every stage and let them start work on what they can even if you haven’t finished the entire design.

I used to be very stubborn about releasing designs before I finished the final screens, because I was worried that I would need to change something on earlier screens due to decisions made down stream. This caused developers no end of heartache, and I quickly learned that if I prepped them in advance for iteration, I could get my changes made and still feed them work as I completed sections.


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Yes, Twitter is broken, but you can fix it!

There’s a lot of talk going around these days about the death of Twitter, but I think the stories of its demise are greatly exaggerated. I’ve been a Twitter user since 2007, and my use ebbs and flows. Like many, I have noticed some alarming trends in the tones of tweets that have come across my feed over the last few years.

To some, the matter is cut and dried: abuse. Not people abusing Twitter, but abusing each other on Twitter. To be sure, this is a huge problem, but I don’t think it’s why people have stopped using Twitter.

From my observation, it comes down what is actually a much larger problem on the web, one that allows the abuse to happen in the first place: trust. We find it increasingly difficult to trust each other online.

In order to trust each other, though, we have to take responsibility for our own use of the internet: in this case Twitter. To help, here are six simple rules I follow to help make Twitter a nicer place to visit.

01. Don’t use autobots


Twitter increasingly seems to be made up of autobots talking to autobots. People set up systems to automatically tweet and re-tweet and re-re-tweet but no actual human is there to see them. It reminds me of the scene in True Genius where students increasingly leave tape recorders to record the class lecture, to the point where the professor simply starts playing a tape rather then delivering the lecture in person.

If you haven’t read it, seen it, or heard it, don’t post it. Autobots can seem like a good idea for repetitive tasks – like saying, “Thanks of following me” or posting the astronomy picture of the day – but are really a disservice since these posts become nothing more than noise. Whenever you post, always add value, either by giving your opinion or just a few words on why you think what you are posting is important.

02. Make your avatar you

Twitter Avatar

Not only does it help people to know what you actually look like to help them trust you, remember that your Twitter avatar gets around. If you ever use Twitter to sign on to other services, they generally default to your Twitter photo.

If you are anonymous in the real world, you have to wear a mask or stand in the shadows. Everyone knows that you are protecting your actual identity. Online, however, you can appear to a known entity, but actually be hiding your true identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the right to be anonymous. It’s important to be able to say certain things without worrying about reprisals. But if you want to be anonymous be anonymous! Don’t pretend to be something or someone you are not.

03. Don’t RT… QT

If I wanted to see tweets from the person you are retweeting, I would probably follow them. I want to read what you have to say: your take on what the person tweeted.

The ‘quote tweet’ allows you to not only post the original tweet, but add your commentary to it, making the information even that much richer.

04. Use lists

One problem that contributes the signal to noise issue on Twitter is following too many people. I try to keep the number of people I follow down to around 500-600. Lists allow you to create personalised sub-sets of your main Twitter feed, meaning that you better better filter who you see in a particular feed on a particular topic.

I’ve created lists for my friends, scientific sources, news sources, design sources, political sources, and a few others. Some of these I look at constantly (friends), others only occasionally, but it drastically cuts down the signal to noise ratio for me. Of all the things I’m proposing here that will make Twitter useful to you personally.

05. Don’t use the Twitter app

Don't use the Twitter App

A big part of the problem with Twitter is the Twitter app. Regardless of the device, the Twitter app is nothing but the basic – yet incomplete – functionality of the website. It’s just not very good, and seems mostly designed to get you to look at Twitter ads and follow more people. Over the years, Twitter has done a ‘good’ job of killing any unofficial Twitter apps, but there are still a few official and unofficial apps that do a damn site better job.

For my computer, I keep Tweetdeck running most of the time. Tweetdeck allows me to monitor my whole feed, individual lists, searches, messages, and mentions in an easy to navigate interface. With my mobile and tablet devices, there is no Tweetdeck, but there is a close competitor: Hootsuite. While not quite as refined as Tweetdeck, it still fulfills most of the key features, such as allowing me view individual Twitter lists.

06. If you can’t tweet anything nice (or at least constructive), don’t tweet anything at all

This gets into the abuse thing. Yes, I occasionally make snarky comments, but never with the intent to harm anyone. There’s also a difference between abusive language and constructive comments. If I need to explain that difference to you, then I’m afraid it maybe too late… but maybe not.

When I was young, we had a word called ‘tact’, which does not seem to be in common usage anymore. Apparently in the 21st century someone who is tactful and expects others to be tactful is referred to as ‘politically correct’. But tact is something Twitter desperately needs more of.

Before you post any tweet, just ask yourself one simple questions: What do I want the person’s response to be when reading my comment? If you are simply trying to upset them, scare them, antagonize them or are in any other way being tactless, then you are being abusive. If you want to be abusive, then that’s your own look-out, but don’t expect others to treat you with tact if you are not willing to do the same.

What are Trusted Filters?

There is just too much information in the universe—too much to know, too much to see, too much to do—for one person to experience even a small fraction of it it all first hand. We have always turned to the people around us to help sift through and synthesize data (turning information into knowledge) and to help us learn what’s going on (turn knowledge into understanding). We have always relied on our trusted filters.

At every major shift in the way technology is used to transmit information, we see a parallel shift in not only who our trusted filters are, but also the very nature of what it means to be a trusted filter.

With the rise of the Internet, and the shift away from the one-to-many paradigm of trusted filters to a many-to-many paradigm, some alarmists are sounding the fall of civilization as we know it. However, we must view the period we are in now as one of transition—a transition that may last several decades—and consider it against the background of other significant historical shifts in culture and technology. Doing so, you’ll realize that the future of communication, knowledge, and understanding our children will know will be nothing like what we know today, even for the so-called digital natives.

Trusted Filters is where I will explore the shifts in culture and technology we are currently experiencing have developed from, the implications they have on how we gather and process information, and where these changes may be leading us. Neither reactionary nor Pollyanna, Trusted Filters will acknowledge the downsides of the “New” media, but will equally acknowledge that the devaluation of “Traditional” media is not necessarily a bad thing.

Original posted on Medium as What are Trusted Filters?

Wonder Woman Will Always Be a Feminist

Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Vice-President of a major financial institution. I was doing design work for the bank, and she and I had spent the day testing a new call center intranet with its users. She was in her late twenties, yet was already highly successful and on her way up.

At one point, the conversation came around to women in the workforce, and she casually confided in me “I am not a feminist.”

I was stunned by the audacity of her statement.

How could she not be a feminist? How could she sit there and act as if, without the feminist movement of the past 100+ years, she would have ever been able to rise in importance in a major bank past teller, receptionist, or coffee girl? If she wasn’t a feminist, who is? It was like hearing a successful African-American say “the Civil-Rights movement really didn’t do anything for me.”

I am a feminist, and have been since childhood. My mother—the first female stockbroker in North Carolina—had raised me at ERA rallies and conventions to know that men and women are equal. That has always seemed perfectly logical to me. So when I encountered men who thought women were inferior to men, or worse, women who thought women were inferior to men, I didn’t seek their friendship.

The problem is that I have heard similar statements from a lot of the successful women: “I am not a feminist.”

I think I finally understand why they say this. It’s because they fundamentally do not understand what the word means. They think of Feminism as akin to a political party that one affiliates oneself with, like being a Republican or a Democrat. The members of these parties have loosely defined common core beliefs that they can adhere to or not, and which evolve greatly over time—just compare the two parties to their counterparts 150 years ago to see what I mean.

If you think that feminism is an organization that you associate yourself with, then you also think that you associate yourself with all of the figures in that party as well, and the excesses of those people. So, many woman (and men) who don’t like the Betty Friedan, bra burning, “womyn need a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” militant, “feminazi,” style of feminists assume that’s all it means. Actually, for the most part, these are all perceptions that were painted on a movement by men who think women are inferior to men.

This lead to the word feminist becoming a “dirty word” to many, stigmatized and distorted.

Unfortunately, that perception persists and is growing steadily. This, I believe, is what led to the unfortunate comment in a recent interview in CBR by David Finch — the new artist on DC Comic’s Wonder Woman — that:

We want [Wonder Woman] to be a strong — I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.

Why don’t you want to say “feminist?” In the sentence before, David says of the Amazon:

…we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost…

That is what a feminist is! Someone who treats women as human beings.

In a recent tweet, Caitlin Moran, the author How to be a Woman and the forthcoming How to Be a Girl, clearly spelled out the simple rules of Feminism:

Do you try to follow these rules? Then you are a feminist. My VP colleague was a feminist. Anyone who believes that all people should be evaluated based on their individual abilities—not by primary and secondary sexual characteristics—is a feminist. You don’t have to hate men, grow leg and armpit hair, or scream about the injustices of the glass ceiling to be a feminist. You just have to try to treat men and women as human beings, follow Wheaton’s Law, and you, my friend, are a feminist.

Wonder Woman is a feminist. She is a feminist (or at least a fictional character who is a feminist), not because she self identifies with that label, but because that it is how she acts and how she thinks. Unfortunately, David, like so many others, is afraid to apply the supposed stigma of feminism, out of, I assume, a fear that he will scare off readers who think they are “not feminists.”

To his credit, David tried to clarify and apologize, saying on Twitter:

However, this still betrays a fundamental lack of understanding as to what a feminist is. Women are fallible. Men are fallible. Saying Wonder Woman is a feminist does not negate that in any way.

Why is this a problem? After all, he is only the artist, not the writer. However, if you know anything about comics, you know that the artist is as much the story-teller as the writer, and the writer also happens to be his wife. I think they will closely collaborate and they are now the team responsible for the feminist icon. That is a powerful position.

The good news is that I actually believe that David is a feminist. By the rules Ms. Moran so eloquently outlined, he falls within the definition, whether he realizes it or not.

Unfortunately, he also seems to be someone who perpetuates stereotype that feminists are not humans.

I hope that good will come from this uproar, and David will do some introspection and realize that feminist is not a dirty word to run away from, but a beautiful core belief that only serves to make Wonder Woman (and all of us) that much more human.

QuickPanel: Dyslexia from UX Magazine

Fonts like Dyslexie and OpenDeyslexic claim to have been designed with dyslexics in mind, mostly by weighting the bottom of glyphs heavier than the top. It’s thought that by constantly drawing the eye toward the baseline, dyslexic readers won’t wander or get distracted.

However, there is no evidence that these fonts improve readability for dyslexics. In fact, one study conducted by researchers at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra showed no improvement in readability at all for dyslexics using these fonts. Instead sans-serif fonts like Arial, Courier, Verdana, and Helvetica were most effective, although there is some question as to whether this was just due to familiarity.

There is more to typography than fonts, though. My suspicion is that better typography for dyslexia is also better typography for everybody. We see a general trend in web typography toward designs that focus the reader’s attention on the text. Consider sites such as Medium, which remove visual noise (sidebars, navigation) and use larger type sizes, contrasting type styles, and more white space—especially line height—all of which help dyslexics and the general reading population alike.

Read more: QuickPanel: Dyslexia | UX Magazine.

He put his passwords online, and he doesn’t care

This is an incredible interview with my new hero, Y. Woodman Brown, the “idiot” who posted his passwords as a comment on the Washington Post. Predictably he got hacked, but not the way you might think.

He’s interviewed on the podcast TLDR, and explains why he did it, and I have to admire him for what he has to say.

I feel similarly, but have to admit that I’m not ready to follow in his foot steps.

Top 10 Fictional Geek Dads

I think we can all agree: The best dads are geek dads. After all, we generally share a lot of interests in common with our kids—like, reading comic books, playing video games, and building Lego— and we are far more likely to want to play a game of D&D with our kids on a Saturday morning than, say, go play a round of golf with “the guys.” So, why are there so few geek dads in fiction? When I first proposed a list of fictional geek dads, there were many here in the slave pits at Geek Dad who didn’t think I could find 10 fictional dads geeky enough to make the list. “Pshaw,” I said, “stand back.” It turned out to be tougher than I thought.

The problem with being a fictional dad (especially a fictional geek dad) is that, to make a compelling story, there has to be some element of danger. Someone’s life has to be on the line. Some tragedy has to be hanging over everybody’s heads. The protagonist (often the kid) has be risking certain death, or the story is just not going to be very interesting. Yet, one of the primary goals of being a dad (or at least a good dad) is to keep your kids out of danger. So, when looking for fictional geek dads, my criteria included how much time they spent with their children, how cool a geek they are and finally how often they place their children’s lives in mortal danger.

10. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Gear Head

Kids: Luke and Leia

Grade: F/A+

Ok, I concede that his list of villainous crimes is lengthy: killing billions of people, torturing his own daughter, and cutting the careers of many a promising Imperial officer tragically short, to name just a very few. He may have even killed his own wife (of a “broken heart,” really?!) and tries at various times to kill his own children. But Anakin Skywalker comes through in the end, saving his boy from the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. That’s got to be worth at least a few thousand points. And, yes, Anakin is a total gear-head geek: Even as Darth Vader, he loved his tricked out TIE Fighters.

9. The Doctor, Doctor Who

Marital Status: It’s complicated

Geek Type: It’s complicated (Varies depending on regeneration)

Kid(s): It’s complicated

Grade: N/A

We know he had a granddaughter, Susan, but her mother and father are never mentioned. At least she called him “Grandfather.” But, “Grandfather” might have been more an honorific rather than indicative of their actual relationship. And recently when asked if he had any children the Doctor said “no.” But, then there’s that episode called “The Doctor’s Daughter.” But she was actually a clone. But clones are people, too. As I say, it’s complicated.

8. Arthur Dent, Mostly Harmless

Marital Status: Single

Geek Type: Hitchhiker

Kid: Random (no, not random children. Her name is Random — Random Frequent Flier Dent).

Grade: D

Arthur Dent may be the worst father this side of a father who is actively trying to kill his own children (see above). More than neglectful, he seems incapable of anything close to a paternal feeling.

7. Wayne Szalinski, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Inventor

Kids: Amy and Nick

Grade: C

Wayne is trying to create a shrink ray, which, of course, is best left in an attic where your nosey kids can easily find it. Talk about not kid-proofing your house!

6. Kevin Flynn, Tron: Legacy

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Hacker

Kid: Sam

Grade: B−

Kevin may be the ultimate absentee father, but he does sacrifice himself to save his son. Plus, it’s not like he wanted to be trapped on the Grid for all of those years. Just the line “We’re always on the same team” chokes me up every time I hear it.

5. George McFly, Back to the Future

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Nerd/Sci-fi Author

Kids: Marty, Dave, Linda

Grade: B

George is hard to nail down as a dad. He starts out as a nerdy dad who loves his kids, but is basically ineffectual at every level (Grade: C−). However, through the magic of time travel, he ends up being the cool sci-fi author dad who buys his kids jeeps (Grade: A+). Averaging things out, we’ll call that a B.

Dr. Benton Quest

Image © TBS

4. Dr. Benton Quest, Johnny Quest

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Scientist

Kid: Jonny

Grade: B+

Benton is really smart, loves his son, and takes him to some cool out of the way places. We shouldn’t hold it against him too much that those places generally have giant lizards, flying saucers, and frog men trying to kill Jonny. But we will a little.

3. Caractacus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Inventor

Kids: Jeremy and Jemima

Grade: A−

Caractacus (no relationship to Galacticus) is an inventor, and, although his kids sometimes feel a bit neglected, he has a flying car to take them on picnics and tell them cool stories. His stories involve the children being abducted by a creepy child catchers, imprisoned in dungeons and then saved by Benny Hill. Minus a few points for that.

2. Gomez Addams, The Addams Family

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Goth

Kids: Wednesday and Pugsley

Grade: A

Gomez loves his wife (a lot!), stays at home with the kids, and is always available for fun and games. The games generally involve sharp objects, explosives, or predatory flora and fauna, but do you really think that Child Services is going to be stopping by to ask any questions? I don’t think so.

Rick Castle: #1 Geek Dad

Rick Castle – Image © ABC Studios

1. Richard Castle, Castle

Marital Status: Divorced

Geek Type: Literary & Secret Fanboy

Kid: Alexis

Grade: A+

Rick is always there with the father-knows-best advice, yet still finds time to listen to his daughter’s own words of wisdom. He has a cool Manhattan apartment, sends his daughter to the best schools, and only occasionally gets paranoid about her boyfriends. What’s not to love? Okay, so he needlessly endangers his own life fighting crime with the New York City Police Department, thus risking leaving his daughter fatherless. Nobody’s perfect.

OK, I’m sure I left some great geek dads out (what about Arthur Weasley?) and maybe you disagree with my ratings (Anakin got an A+?!). Let me know in the comments.

The Doctor Looks Great in Anime

The Doctor is no stranger to animation. Even before the current reboot, for the 40th anniversary of the show the BBC released a six part animated series in 2003 called Scream of the Shelka, using a Ninth Doctor who is not a part of the official continuity. More recently, the Tenth Doctor has appeared in his own animated episodes — although the CGI animation is a bit stiff. There are also some fan attempts to animate all of the missing episodes of Doctor Who that were destroyed by the BBC.

One project in particular that has been getting attention over the past few years as short clips have been released is this Japanese Anime-inspired fan created movie. It was created by UK amateur animator Paul “Oatking” Johnson, who (according to his YouTube bio)…

…lives, breathes and sleeps classic 80s and 90s anime, back when it was still good. He also sings, animates, translates and writes about himself in the third person.

I’ve been watching the development of this video over the four years it has taken Paul to complete his twelve minute and thirty second masterpiece. There are Cybermen and Daleks and Sontarins (oh my!) going up against the Third Doctor (“The Dandy”, played in the original live action series by the late Jon Pertwee). Most of the voices are a pastiche of clips from previous episodes, with Paul and a few friends providing additional voices.

Although it’s a bit rough and the story is somewhat disjointed, if the BBC is smart, they’ll hire this guy and start an animated adventures series.

Okay, enough words. Enjoy the movie:


The video will not play anymore, because the creator is now under contract to do work for the BBC (WOOT!) Here’s the explination from his Deviant Art page:

I am now contracted to work with Theta-Sigma, in partnership with Big Finish, on some secret BBC animation projects for 2entertain. This is very exciting news and, though I can’t say anything about it, there is an absolutely top class team assembled, and the recreation of some extremely long awaited lost stories is now going to become a reality for a very large number of people who’ve been waiting for them for many, many years.

Originally Published on GeekDad»

Doctor Who Recap: The Almost People

When last we left The Doctor, he had just discovered that he had a Flesh dopplegänger, or gänger. Let’s call him DoctorG, to try and avoid confusion, because the only other way anyone has of telling them apart is by their shoes. The DoctorG has original shoes, while The Doctor has a pair of barrowed boots he got after his own shoes were eaten by acid. With me so far?

The DoctorG seems every bit as charming as The Doctor, but almost immediately goes into convulsions as he tries to integrate his past regenerations. Imagine going through 9 regenerations all at the same time. He starts spouting out catch phrases from the past, and I’m pretty sure we even hear Tom Baker’s voice at one point (the Fourth Doctor).

DoctorG: Reverse the jelly-baby of the neutron flow.

There’s also an interesting bit where The Doctor quizzes The DoctorG on various aspects of their life—including a brief discussion of cybermats—to confirm that he (The DoctorG) is in fact him (The Doctor). Still with me?

However, The Doctors and Company—including Amy (no Rory) along with the human staff of the factory (Foreman Cleavas, Jimmy, Buzzer, and Dicken)—have a bigger problem: their gängers are at the door and out for blood. The gängers tried breaking the door down, to no avail. So they began to use acid to try and melt the door (remember this is an acid factory). The Doctor and The DoctorG are seen plotting something, while being highly complementary of their own intelligences, and work to find an escape route, eventually landing upon a rather convenient air vent.

Doctor: Yowza… An Escape Route.
Amy: (Mouths “Yowza” with quizzical look)
Doctor: You know I’m starting to get a sense of just how impressive it is to hang out with me.
DoctorG: Do we tend to say “Yowza”?
Doctor: That’s enough, let it go, OK. We’re under stress.

The Doctor suddenly yells “Breathe” at Amy. No particular reason. He just does.

The gängers enter the room at last, only to find the birds have flown the coop.

JenG is still skulking about the castle—Drawing strange circles on the walls with Flesh—and Rory is shadowing her. The acid is still pouring out, interacting with the stone walls to create a noxious gas.

This gas forces the humans to head to the evac tower to get above the gas and contact the mainland to be evacuated. As it turns midnight, Jimmy thinks of his son, Adam, and the little dance he does when he gets excited. Once at the evac tower, first they have to restore power to the systems. Queue The Doctors behind a bank of machinery repairing away. The problem is we can’t tell which is which as they pop-up like a whack-a-Doctor game. We’ll call them DoctorX on the left and DoctorY on the right.

Amy: Look but hang on. You said the TARDIS is stuck in acid, so won’t she be damaged.
DoctorX: Nahh, she’s a tuff ol’ thing
DoctorY: Tuff… old… sexy
DoctorX: Tuff, dependable, sexy

After bringing the power back on line, the humans are able to send a message asking for a rescue. Foreman Cleaves sets up the rescue and then sends a typed codeword to make sure any changes can’t be made by the gängers. She also asks that the gängers be wiped out after the humans are safely away. The gängers are listening in, though, and begin their own plans.

Meanwhile, JenG has become obsessed with revenge on the humans, all humans, for what they have done to The Flesh who are decommissioned, or “executed” as she puts it. She has a plan to destroy them all. We next see Jen as she tries to do something at the thermostatic override control panel, but apparently it can only be used by a real human. Are her plans thwarted. I think not.

The Doctor is making mysterious phone call, as Amy suddenly sees a wall slide away and our mysterious eyepatch woman appears startling her. Amy tells The Doctor, but he reassures her that it was probably nothing.

Amy is still distrustful of The DoctorG, who says something about something being in his head and leaves, stepping outside. Amy follows to apologize and confesses that she’s seen moment of Doctor’s death. Could it have been The DoctorG not The Doctor she saw? The DoctorG suddenly turns violent, and throws Amy against wall apparently distressed over dying gängers. Amy is now completely freaked by The DoctorG and hurries back to the others.

Rory hears Jen in distress. He finds both Jen and JenG but can’t tell which is which. One Jen is limping from a previous wound. The two Jens fight and one is pushed in acid and decomposes into the Flesh. The remaining Jen has the limp. I guess that settles that.

Back in the evac tower, the crew see Rory on the monitors and decide to go after him. At first Amy wants to go, but The Doctor hands over the sonic screwdriver to The DoctorG to go find Rory. Amy balks at going with him, so Buzzer goes instead.

Foreman Cleavas: You can’t let him go… are you crazy.
Doctor: Am I crazy Doctor.
DoctorG: Well you did once plug your brain into the core of an entire planet just to halt it’s orbit and win a bet.

Foreman Cleavas is not looking so good. The Doctor does a quick scan and tells her that she has an inoperable blood clot causing her headaches. The evac tower becomes unstable and they have to evac the evac and head to another evac position. Foreman Cleaves tries to radio where they are headed to the rescue ship, but gets cut off before she can send the codeword. Foreman CleavasG intercepts and sends her own message for new a new rendezvous location and guesses the code word, “bad boy”. They are the same person after all.

Jen leads Rory to the thermostatic override that she says will restart the oxygen and prevent an explosion. She asks big strong Rory to turn wheel to open it, but first needs to activate with hand pad which responds “Human source recognized” The thermostatic override is engaged and the temperature immediately begins to rise. On their way to find the others, Jen shows Rory pile of discarded Flesh that has been left to rot in full conscience. Rory is and indeignant, but it’s clear that Jen is playing on Rory, asking him to trust her.

The DoctorG, using the sonic screwdriver, finds Dead Jen (the real one; the other one with Rory is Flesh), but Buzzer knocks The DoctorG out, muttering that it was the Foreman’s orders.

Buzzer: I should have been a postman like my dad.

Buzzer comes across Jen soothing the pile of discarded Flesh, angry that she killed the real Jen. JenG shows her ability to change her body as she rushes Buzzer and we hear him scream (off screen).

The Doctor and Co. are walking down hallway where there are huge eyeballs sticking out of the stone work—remember the circles created by JenG. They make it to thermostatic override, but it’s too late. Everything will explode. They head off to find Rory.

The DoctorG is found by other gängers, and revives an old name.

Foreman CleavasG: You’re on of us doctor.
DoctorG: Call me Smith. John Smith.

Rory and Jen lead Doctor & Co into acid room and Jen locks the door as Rory realizes he has been tricked. The gängers have set the room to overheat, killing everyone inside. Rory confronts JenG, and The DoctorG seems unconcerned about humans, even physically stopping Rory from going to help them. The gängers, led by Jen, want to head to mainland and start the revolution.

And then the phone rings. The DoctorG answers holo call and it’s Adam, Jimmy’s son. JimmyG is moved and dashes out to save his human self.

JenG: You tricked him into an act of weakness.
DoctorG: No, I’ve helped him into an act of humanity.

Foreman CleavasG orders the acid be pumped out to save the humans. She’s tired of the war and what they are becoming, but JenG will have her revenge

DoctorG: It doesn’t have to be about revenge. It can be so much better than that.

JimmyG is too late. Jimmy is hit with acid and lies dying on the floor, but makes JimmyG promise to be a dad to Adam and “remember her” as he hands JimmyG the gold ring he had on a chain around his neck.

With everyone reunited — Amy and Rory have a big hug — JimmyG talks to Adam and adam does his little dance of excitement. But the reunion is short lived as JenG transforms into a true monster, chasing everybody throughout the tunnels. It appears that they are trapped with the mad JenG at the door, when suddenly the TARDIS breaks through roof.

Doctor?: Ohhhh, she does like to make an entrance.

Someone has to hold JenG back while the others escape, and also prevent her from reaching the mainland. Amy, in a moment of revelation decides she wants to save both Doctors, but they come clean and admit DoctorG is actually the Doctor. The Doctors had swapped shoes almost from the very beginning. Only one can be saved as they leave The DoctorG and Foreman CleavasG behind to deal with JenG using the sonic screwdriver to send a pulse that will disrupt the Flesh, unfortunately it will disrupt them as well.

Doctor: Your molecular memory can survive this, you know. It may be that this is not be the end.
DoctorG: Well, If I turn up and knick all of your biscuits, then you’ll know you’re right.

As the TARDIS dematerializes, The DoctorG opens the door, pulls the trigger and all three flesh forms disintegrate. Let’s just hope they don’t come back as some kind of hybrid.

After escaping, it’s only JimmyG, DickenG, and Foreman Cleavas left, but the gängers are stabilized and fully human. After reuniting JimmyG with his son, The Doctor drops off Foreman Cleavas and DickenG at a press conference to expose how the Flesh is being treated.

Doctor: Dicken, remember, people are good, in their bones truly good. Don’t hate them, will you.
Dicken: How can I hate them… I’m one of them now.

Now for the season arc story. The Doctor turns to Amy and tells her to breathe, something he has been repeating inexplicably for a while now. Amy doubles over in pain as they take her to the TARDIS, The Doctor explains she’s in labour. That’s right, she’s having a baby. Right now. And this isn’t the real Amy, but a Flesh construct and has been for a while. The Doctor suspected this, which is why he needed to visit an early version of the Flesh to find the frequency that would disrupt it.

Doctor: I was going to drop you off for fish and chips, but things happened, and there was stuff… and shenanigans. Beautiful word… shenanigans.

The Doctor points the sonic screwdriver at Amy and her Flesh construct dissolves…

…Amy wakes up in small white room. The wall across from her opens to show our one eyed matron who tells Amy that’s she’s about ready to pop. Amy is pregnant and delivering the baby right now. “Here it comes.”

Memorable Quotes:

DoctorX: And we both wear the same bow-tie, which is cool. As bow ties are…
DoctorY: …And always will be.

Doctor: If you have a better plan I’m all ears. In fact. if you have a better plan, I’ll take you to a planet where everyone is all ears.

DoctorG: Well my death arrives I suppose…
Doctor: But this one we we’re not invited to.

Next Time: Some answers as a good man goes to war

Doctor Who Recap: “The Day of the Moon”

Originally published in Wired’s GeekDad»

Doctor Who: The Day of the Moon

Doctor Who: "The Day of the Moon"

Spoiler alert: While we will discuss what happened in last Saturday’s episode, we’ll avoid talking about any future plot details.

Despite giving us a good-old fashioned cliff hanger at the end of “The Impossible Astronaut” — Amy taking a shot at the little girl in the big astronaut suite — the follow-up episode does not pick up directly where it left off. Instead, we jump several months ahead with Amy, Rory, and River on the lam while the Doctor has been imprisoned — in Area 51, naturally — and then jump back and forth with flash back to fill in the pieces. The team’s new “ally,” secret agent Canton — ably played by Battlestar Galactica actor Mark Sheppard — is hunting them down across the US. Their mission is to see how extensive is the infestation of the Silence. The answer: they are everywhere and have been her for millennia.
So, how do you defeat an enemy who is everywhere but you can’t remember as soon as you look away? (First Steven Moffat gave us the Weeping Angels who turn to stone when you are looking at them; now Moffat gives us the Silence who, essentially, cease to exist as soon as you look away. It seems as if Moffat has been reading a lot of the french philosopher Michel Foucault, who also had a thing about the power of the gaze.) According to the Doctor “We’re not fighting an alien invasion, we’re leading a revolution.” The Doctor’s solution turns out to be ingenious and direct: feed all of humanity a subliminal message to rise up against their oppressors, played at a moment that almost all of humanity will be watching: Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

River: Apollo 11’s your secret weapon?
Doctor: No, no, it’s not Apollo 11. That would be silly. It’s Neil Armstrong’s foot.

But that all happens later in the episode. After rescuing the Doctor from a cell made of Zero Balanced Dwarf Star alloy (that’s right up there with “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow!”), the team has to split up again to track down leads while the Doctor goes on a secret mission to “NASA” (i.e. Cape Canaveral) to place something in Apollo 11 capsule that will allow them to broadcast their alien subversion message.
Oh, and Amy’s not pregnant. Or, well maybe she is. Or she’s not. We can’t be too sure, but that’s what happens with the timey wimey wibbly wobbly… stuff. This entire episode is told in flash-forwards, flashbacks, and I think there are even a few flash-sideways.

Amy from the Day of the Moon

Pond or Scully? You decide.

…which is I think how Amy and Canton arrive at Graystalk Hall Orphanage, looking for the small girl in the space suite. The caretaker for this orphanage, a Mr. Refrew, is obviously unhinged, and the entire house is filled with graffiti, saying things like “Get Out,” and… OK, this whole part of the episode is incredibly X-Files — with Amy looking particularly Scully-eque — and loads of seeming non-sequiturs like an unknown woman with an artificial eye at a door saying “No I think she’s just dreaming.”
This is one episode you will have to watch a few times through to make complete sense of.
Unlike most Doctor Who episodes, this story does not tie together very neatly at the end. Although it looks as if the Silence has been defeated, it’s clear that there is a lot more to this story. The end of this episode leaves us with seemingly more questions than it actually answered:

  • How and why were The Silence manipulating events last season?
  • Why does The Silence need the girl?
  • Why is the girl in the space suite and how does she get out?
  • Why does The Silence need a space suite?
  • Did the person in the space suit (we’ll assume it’s the girl) really kill the Doctor?
  • According to the life support software, the girl is human, but incredibly strong. But she’s regenerating at the end of the episode, so she must be a Time Lord, right?
  • Is Amy pregnant? If so, is the little girl her child? If so, The Doctor her father? If not, is Rory? If he is, does that mean that Rory is not an Auton? Earth girls may be easy but I don’t think a lump of plastic could get one pregnant.
  • If the girl is a Time Lord, which one is she? The Doctor’s daughter with Amy? The Doctor’s female clone from the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”? Could it even be Romanadvoratrelundar, last seen stranded in eSpace? I can hope, can’t I?

Obviously “To Be Continued.”
Great lines from this episode:

Amy: Is this very important flirting, because I feel I should be higher on the list right now.

River: What are you doing?!?
Doctor: Helping!
River: You have a screwdriver. Go Build a cabinet!
Doctor: That’s really rude!

Rory: So, what kind of doctor are you?
River: Archeology… love a tomb.

Doctor: You could let me fly it…
River: …or we could go where we’re supposed to.

Next time: Pirates and Mermaids!

Doctor Who Recap: “The Impossible Astronaut”

Originally Published in GeekDad»

Doctor Who ©BBC

Doctor Who ©BBC

The sixth season of the new Doctor Who Series premiered Saturday night in both the UK and the USA, with only a few hours difference to take account of the time zones. This was a first in the show’s 50-year history, meaning that American fans only had to put up with spoilers from across the pond for a few hours before joining the fray.

Last season began with The Doctor regenerating for the 10th time (his 11th body) and ended with him confronting all of his worst enemies at the same time and the destruction of the entire Universe. Although the Universe was restored, a new enemy was revealed — although not shown — called The Silence. The last we saw The Doctor was during the Christmas Special where his current companions, the recently wed Rory and Amy, were honeymooning on an apparently doomed spaceship.

Spoiler alert: while we will discuss what happened in last night’s episode, we’ll avoid talking about any future plot details.

Season six opens with the Ponds (Amy and Rory) living a domestic life back on earth and River Song still in jail, when they all receive an invitation to — inexplicably — meet in the middle of the American Southwest. It’s unclear if the reason for this location will become apparent or whether this was just an excuse to film in some beautiful American scenery, but it makes for some pleasant locales for reunions.

Then The Doctor is killed. Dead. No, really. Stone cold dead. They cremate his body and everything. Of course The Doctor has been through worse. I mean, last season he ceased to exist altogether, and didn’t seem to slow him down, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when the companions run into him again a bit later at a truck stop restaurant. They soon discover, though, that this is a much younger Doctor, ignorant of the machinations of his future self.

This leads us to wonder “what could possibly happen next?” The Doctor will die in the future, that’s pretty much inescapable, but has Steven Moffat (the executive producer and author of this episode) written this series into a corner in the first fifteen minutes of the season by showing how it happens? Or will history be rewritten… again? But those are questions for a later date, as this episode quickly drops us into the middle of the mystery of aliens on earth in 1969, haunting President Nixon. The thing is, these aliens (Roswell aliens dressed in Men in Black suits) are instantly forgotten as soon as you look away.

Oh, and Amy is pregnant. Surprise!

Moffat is a master of the twist and surprise in plot that come together in the long run. But what he does best is great dialog and character development. What was best about this episode was the growing relationship — not to mention the sexy, clever banter — between The Doctor and River. There’s a great exchange between The Doctor and River about Nixon where River is commenting on Nixon’s record:

River: Vietnam, Watergate… There’s some good stuff too.
Doctor: Not enough.
River: Hippie!
Doctor: Archeologist.

Or my favorite line of the night when The Doctor tells River to shout if she gets in trouble, to which she quips “Don’t worry. I’m quite the screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you.” And that’s not all we learn about their relationship and the hardship of living it “back-to-front.”

“The Impossible Astronaut” was an impressive beginning to what looks to be an impressive season. If you haven’t been watching Doctor Who, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The Doctor is a free agent who uses his wits and intelligence and will do anything to save a life. He’s not a part of a military or government agency, he’s just a good guy going around doing good things. “The Impossible Astronaut” is the first episode of a two part story, leaving us with a cliffhanger, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for next week.

Note: The episode was dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen (1948 – 2011) who died earlier this week.

The Doctor Can Travel Through Space and Time, But What About in America?

Doctor Who will be returning to our screens in a little less than a week (23 April) with the season 6 premiere “The Impossible Astronaut”, and it’s clear that while the Doctor may be chasing aliens, the BBC is chasing the Colonies. Although the less than lustrous Doctor Who: The Movie was set in the States, the Doctor seems drawn like a Dalek to Davros to that tiny little island off the cost of France known as Britain.

If the season 6 trailer is any indication, Doctor Who will be getting even bigger and better.

A few observations about the trailer (no real spoilers here):

  • We will be hearing “Hello, sweetie” a lot this season as River Song will be a major player. We may even find out about her mysterious past.
  • The overarching story will be about a new menace called “The Silence” who are responsible for the events of last season.
  • There will be one or more episodes not just set, but actually filmed in the United States.

Make no mistake, the Doctor will still be spending plenty of time in Blighty, but there will be at least a few episodes set in North America. It’s not just a change in scenery, though. In addition to episodes set in my country ’tis of thee, BBC America is doing a full court press with their marketing of the show, running two page front cover ads in magazines like Spin. My feeling is this a good bet on their part. The Doctor’s popularity seems to have only been growing in the US over the last few years, and this season looks like it just may be a home run for them (I thought about continuing the sports metaphors here by making a joke here about bowling a century, but came to my senses in time. You are welcome.)

To get you ready, The Beeb have released a prequel to the first episode of the new season — a little taste of things to come — featuring Richard Nixon in the Oval office having his own Empty Child moment. Now we know what was on those missing tapes!



Celebrate 50 Years of Human Space Flight on Yuri’s Night

Yuri's Night 50th Anniversary

Yuri’s Night 50th Anniversary

This April will see the 50th anniversary of the most important event in all of human history: the first time any of us left the planet. On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin pierced Earth’s thin shell of atmosphere to (literally) boldly go where no one had gone before. Yuri orbited the earth once in the Vostok 1, taking 108 minutes. Admittedly, this is a bit like dipping the tip of your toe into the ocean and considering yourself a great mariner, but many of us hope this event will be remembered as the first day of the migration of humanity to the stars.

That day should be commemorated.

In 2001, for the 40th anniversary of Yuri’s epic flight, the team of Trish Garner, George Whitesides and Loretta Hidalgo established April 12th as Yuri’s Night and began to sponsor a night of parties celebrating human space flight. The idea was simple: establish a Web site where anyone could register their party, letting the rest of the world know that they were celebrating. The Web site also provides some basic information on how to throw a party and where to find parties that are open to the public. Parties can be private or public, sedate or wild, scientific or hedonistic. It’s up to you.

Yuri's Night: San Francisco 2009

Yuri’s Night: San Francisco 2009

Over the decade since it was first established, Yuri’s Night has grown from a few dozen parties a year to over two hundred parties all around the world. Parties range in size from a few dozen people to a few thousand and have been staged on every continent (including Antarctica) and the International Space Station and in Second Life. The largest parties are generally in San Francisco and Washington, DC, but there are always some great events in almost every major city on the planet. Some parties are still on the 12th, but some opt to celebrate on the closest Saturday (this year, the 9th).

The important thing is to celebrate, and now is the time to start planning. Here’s how you can get involved:

20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving SXSWi

SXSW 2011

South By Southwest (SXSW) is a little less than a week away, so time to get packing. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is the “techy” portion of SXSW—the others are Film and Music—and is one of the geekiest popular culture events this side of San Diego Comic-con. While there isn’t any cosplay and no one is likely to spit in your face if you tell them that Janeway was the greatest Star Fleet Captain of all time, SXSWi does attract the likes of Felicia Day, Devo and Bruce Sterling as regulars. It’s a mixture of art nerds, drama nerds and computer nerds, who are almost all focused on technology and culture.

This will be my 3rd year attending SXSW but my first as a non-speaker. In previous years I’ve given sessions on web typography and online comic books. This year I will be attending as a representative of my company, Forum One, and I will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the sessions without the specter of an hour long speech hanging over my head.

While I’m by no means an old pro—this is the conference’s 25th anniversary—I have picked up a few nuggets of wisdom over the years that I would like to share with you.

NOTE: If you’re going to be at SXSW let me know and maybe we can get a GeekDad meet-up together.

Continue Reading “20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving SXSWi” on GeekDad »

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Doctor Who Inforgraphic © All rights reserved by bob canada

© All rights reserved by bob canada

The next season of Doctor Who is still a few months away, but there’s no time like the present to catch up on the good Doctor and his time traveling adventures with this handy-dandy Doctor Who infographic by noted illustrator Bob Canada. He did the layout and the illustration for the TARDIS all using Adobe InDesign, but ran into the same issue generations of Doctor Who illustrators have discovered:

I think this is the first time in my life I’ve ever drawn the TARDIS. It was surprisingly hard! It seems like it would be simple; after all it’s just a blue box with some windows. But there are tons of little details and recessed panels and whatnot, and it took forever to get it all straight.

You can download a hi-res version of the poster (1800 × 2700) on Flickr.

Top 10 Things Science Fiction Promised Us That DID Happen in 2010

Total Recall

Total Recall

Earlier this week I published a list of top 10 things science fiction promised us that didn’t happen in 2010. So, lest you think I’m completely negative, let’s take a look at a few things that did happen in 2010 that were predicted in science fiction. The funny thing about progress is that it’s rarely confined to just one year. This list collects some of the important stuff that either happened or reached a tipping point in 2010. They are my favorites, but feel free to share yours in the comments below.

  1. Walk through X-ray airport scanners — Who can forget the classic scene in Total Recall where Ahnuld walks through the scanner at the space port and we get a full x-ray of his body? Well, for some reason, people didn’t think this technology was quite as cool when it was brought to an airport security line near them this year. Maybe it was the the thought that someone in a dark room is looking at virtual nudie pictures of us. Maybe it was the increase in radiation bombarding our bodies. Whatever it was, many want to leave this advance behind in 2010.

  2. Video phones — This one has been possible for a long time, but just never seemed to catch on. Maybe it was the expense or the fact that to use it the other person needed the same equipment, but both of those issues were solved when the personal computer entered into the equation. With the growing popularity of Skype, Google Chat, and the new Apple FaceTime protocol, we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of each other in 2011.
  3. Alien Life — Admittedly it was not extra-terrestrial alien life, but a complex life form completely unlike our own was discovered this year. Rather than being carbon-based like us (and every other form of life we’ve known so far) this small microbial life form thrives on arsenic. This is a far cry from pointy eared Vulcans or acid drooling bugs, but it means that life seems to have developed twice on one planet greatly increasing the likelihood of ETs. [UPDATE: This one has since been shown to be slightly different than initially thought. The lifeforms thrive in arsenic and use arsenic instead of phosphorus in their DNA but are still carbon based.]

  4. 3D TVs — Well, it’s here. 3D TV. Yippee. And for a mere 4000 or so dollars and another $800 for goggles for the family you too can watch any of the 50 videos Amazon has in 3D. This one still has a ways to go. Of course this catalog will grow over time, and some TV shows may even make the switch, but I still see this as more of a gimmick than a real technological break through. I think a more ground breaking technology is Sharp’s Aquos TV that adds a fourth color (yellow) to the standard red, green, and blue, vastly increasing the color gamut (possible colors that can be displayed) for your screen, meaning sharper and more realistic images.
  5. Big Brother — I remember as a young lad reading George Orwell’s masterwork, 1984, with great fear, but being highly skeptical of the entire concept that the government could spy on all of the people all of the time. That would take an awful lot of people watching. The answer, of course, is to have everybody watching everybody. It may not be exactly what Mr. Orwell predicted, but we are all watching each other these days using the Internet. Whether it’s an old lady in the UK throwing cats into trashcans or the broken condoms of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, we are all now up in each others’ business to an unprecedented degree. And these people are all publicly taken to their own virtual Room 101 to repent their actions.

  6. Telepathy — Got a mobile phone and Bluetooth headset? Then you’re a telepath. Stay with me on this one. Telepathy is the ability to broadcast your thoughts across small or great distances to another persons mind instantaneously, seemingly without using your normal senses. With a wireless headset you can send thoughts (through speech) to anyone in the world almost instantaneously. Implant the headset behind your ears and mic at your throat, learn how to sub-vocalize (speaking with only your throat) and no one around you would hear. For all intents and purposes, telepathy. It makes me wonder if all of the crazy people wondering the streets muttering to themselves aren’t just early adopters.
  7. A Permanent Space Station — Although started in 1998 and not slated for final completion until 2011, 2010 was the first year in which the International Space Station (ISS) was fully crewed with 14 occupants. It may not be the double ringed floating Hilton envisioned in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it still counts.

  8. Tablet Computers — Kirk had them in the 23rd century. Picard had them in the 24th century. Now you can have them in the 21st century. The iPad and other tablet devices are changing the way we will be consuming and creating content. How do I know? I’m typing this article on one.
  9. The Web — Yes, the Web has been around for 20 years now, but 2010 has seen the widespread deployment of some important new technologies that will fundamentally change the way you view the Internet’s most popular offspring. “Web 2.0″ was really just a marketing ploy compared to how HTML5, CSS3, and the new web typography are shaking things up. If you are using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS devices or other tablet devices to view the Web, then you are getting a taste of things to come. Expect the static pages you are viewing now to come alive, transforming The New York Times into something more akin to the The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.
  10. Cyber Wars — 2010 has already been labeled the Year the Internet Went to War and I can go along with that. The information warfare started by Wiki-leaks blossomed into a fully formed conflict, as sides began DNS attacks both for and against the embattled secret-spilling Web site. These conflicts will only grow in size, but may avoid public attention for a long time, since there is no obvious collateral damage. We’ll probably only find out the true size of these wars when someone brings down a bank or a national power grid. Strange days indeed.