Diaspora vs Facebook


If the idea of keeping in touch with long lost protagonists from the historical back alleys of your life has led you to join Facebook you are in good company. 400 million people in fact which is rather a lot of company. The question is if Facebook itself is putting the ‘good’ in good company or if it is primarily concerned about the company half of the equation? I can only speculate as to Facebook’s motives but their privacy policy has always given me pause. Recent changes in that policy will increase the exposure of your personal information to forces beyond your control. If Facebook feels like a reasonable trade-off to you then by all means go for it. If not then an alternative open-source social network called Diaspora* is currently germinating and could use your help. If you are the type that makes early adopters feel late to the party now is the moment to check it out and spread the word.

You can also read more about the creators of Diaspora* in this New York Times article.

On Earthday Remember to Water


Earthday is the perfect day to launch a new site for Minnesota Waters, an organization dedicated to helping citizens protect and preserve the abundant lakes and rivers in Minnesota. in partnership with Creed Interactive we’ve created a site that includes an events calendar, publications, trainings and a forum, as well as, providing a template and hosting so each lake or river group can have its own website. If a group already has a site they can be linked to from Minnesota Waters as the organization pursues its goal of being the most comprehensive directory of lake and river advocacy.

If you live near a body of water (and if you live in Minnesota chances are that you live by several) check out the directory and see if you can volunteer a little of your time or talent to help. If you’re an interactive designer and don’t see your favorite body of water listed that may be the perfect chance to have a large impact while you live the Earthday goal which (as I’m sure you are aware) is to make everyday Earthday.

Welcome to MNimal


If you love elegantly restrained interface design AND believe that to describe Minnesota as “fly-over country” is to seriously overlook the first rate creative work forged in the heartland then do I have a site for you! is an impressive and growing gallery of websites that attain that elusive minimalistic clarity. Thanks to curator Joshua Serbus and coordinator Andrew Hafferman for including BrainstormOverload in the collection. We’re delighted to be in such impressive company.

Frontline On Our Digital Nation


PBS (which is arguably the only reason to own a television) hosts a plethora of quality programing including a fantastic, in depth, news program called Frontline. On Tuesday, February 2nd at 9:00 p.m. (In the Twin Cities) Frontline is airing “Digital Nation”. If you are reading this blog there is a good chance you work in a digital design field. But, whatever you do you are deeply immersed in the changes interactive media is having on our culture. Changes with far reaching consequences for everything from socialization to attention span, entertainment to warfare. Spending an hour pondering these consequences will likely be tremendously informing (and empowering if it is your job to create whatever comes next). You can see a preview on the website.

Frontline has also been running a digital nation website about these issues where you can learn more, share your own story and take a quiz – while you email, txt, instant message and listen to music….

In a related vein NPR recently ran an interesting story about research that suggests many who think they are great at multitasking… aren’t.

It’s Refreshing To Be Noticed


The recent (and long overdue) restyle of my portfolio BrainstormOverload has been recognized by the good folks over at Hopefully you recognize it there in the bottom-left corner. Who’s behind this collection of “refreshingly stylish web design” you ask? In a word – Canadians. While those of you living below the Mason-Dixon Line may be challenged by this notion I can assure you that Canadians love design just like you do. But don’t take my word for it – check out 350 Designs (the makers of RefreshStyle) for yourself. It’s fun to see sites for brands you aren’t familiar with. Oh, and if web design isn’t your thing you’re in luck. There is actually a suite of sites including:, and If you don’t love any of those things seek immediate medical attention.



As you are no-doubt well aware the internet currently resembles the imagined offspring of a mad love affair between your attic and your garage. We all know whatever we are looking for is in there somewhere we’re just not sure where. Hence the current explosion of sites like and that simply aggregate cool stuff. They don’t editorialize much – if at all. They don’t even provide much context beyond the central organizational theme. As such they are like a dresser – simultaneously no big deal and amazingly useful.

For those of us in creative fields there are many excellent portfolio sites like and that provide lots of organization along with tools, community, rating systems and the works. However, there has been an open niche for a super simple mechanism for simply finding cool stuff when “cool stuff” equals portfolios and “finding” means in a specific city. In another stroke of minimalistic brilliance 37Signals has come to the rescue by launching a new tool called

Here you can browse for web designers and companies by city and budget range. There are larger, paid modules followed by smaller, free modules. I am digging the way new modules automatically load as you scroll down the page. Check it out and get yourself listed so the wide world can find you without having to go through all that stuff they’re saving for when Antiques Roadshow comes to town.

Captcha-ing the Potential

I found this video on Twisted Sifter and while it may not be the most exciting eleven minutes you ever spend it’s a pretty cool example of the synergy that can happen when you think outside of the box. The basic story is how the time spent typing a captcha (the distorted type used as an online security device) has been turned to a productive purpose and will in less than twelve months completely digitize the analog archives (all isses between 1851 and the mid 1980’s) of the New York Times one word at a time. That’s 130 years worth of newspapers. Facebook, Ticketmaster, Craigslist, and Twitter are among the sites using the new re-captcha technology so you and 400 million other people have already helped.

Update: Thanks to Bill Skellenger I can share with you that if 11 minutes of insight into human computing was not enough Luis von Ahn is featured in a full 50 minute Google TechTalk that is full of all kinds of interesting stuff. Put on your thinking cap before pressing play.

Turning on the Pattern Tap


The navigation design for the new BrainstormOverload portfolio site has been accepted into the jurried collection at Pattern Tap. There are many sites that agrigate beautiful designs but Pattern Tap takes a more utilitarian approach that is actually quite useful. Well designed user experience components (headers, forms, login functionality, etc.) can be browsed as collections and serve as inspiration to help overcome your own design challenges. It has proven to be a valuable resource so I’m excited to have contributed something in return. Thanks again for Jeff Zerger and Colin Petit for the development on the bsol site.

3 Z’s… as in Zebra


There’s something special about having a name that clings to the very last letter of the alphabet. Something daring about the idea that every other letter was somehow not quite a bold enough choice and that you caught hold of the “Z” just in the nick of time before you were forced to start your name with a number or a favorite piece of punctuation. Last in line. Always having to say “…as in Zebra” to the unimaginative drone working behind the counter with a name tag that reads “Anderson” as if proclaiming his compulsive surrender of vision at having jumped at the first letter available. Those of us who share the letter Z also share a sense of solidarity born of these experiences.

So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Zara Gonzalez. Three Z’s bolder than most, and fully aware that there is no “Z” in surrender. She has recently launched a bevy of websites in service of her varied creative exploits including interactive projects, illustrations, posters and and unending stream of mindless monsters on post-it notes. One of my favorite things is her recent post on her blog seven color days about how her efforts to share her work led her to greater insight about herself (something that is much harder than it sounds). Give it a read, check out all the fantastic work and links to inspirations and enjoy all the interesting stuff that happens at the end of the line.

Now You Too Can Be Cyclopathic



At last there is a tool that enables cyclists to map their route from point A to point B while preferentially factoring in bike paths and bike lanes – Cyclopath. Now I’ve been to point B quite a few times and know the way but I’ve never gotten there from point C. Cyclopath allows me to map the route, adjust it, get a sense of what I’ll be in for and print directions. You can use any address in the Twin Cities and surrounding region the map covers and even map to points of interest like parks.

Maps can be viewed as street layer or aerial photos and the system indicates distance, allows you to make and save changes to maps, share them and even lets you interpret your route using several filters of special interest to cyclists like “byway type”, rating and even by slope so you can embark on the pleasantly futile task of trying to plan a route that’s down hill both ways.

There are many more features and it seems like a pretty powerful new tool but one with a little bit of a learning curve. Fortunately the folks at Cyclopath have taken this into account as well and are offering a lecture about how to use the system. Not only are the tool and the lecture free they’ll feed you breakfast so stop by as you ride your bike in to work tomorrow (weather should be pretty nice). The lecture is Thursday, November 12 from 8:30 – 9:30 at the UofM. More info available here. Can’t make it to the breakfast? View it live online at 8:40 am.

Who would take on this heroic and altruistic effort you ask? Well that is the beauty of having a large land-grant, research oriented, university in your town. The University of Minnesota’s Institute for New Media Studies did all the heavy lifting. Now all you have to do is enjoy the ride.

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