Monthly Archives: August 2005

Trains podcast

This is my first podcast, called Trains. If you subscribe to the main RSS feed using a podcast-aware newsreader like NetNewsWire 2.0, you may already have the MP3 in your copy of iTunes. If not, here it is for download:

» Trains (MP3, 10MB)

There is not a separate podcast feed, but you should be able to drag the main RSS feed URL onto the Podcasts icon in iTunes 4.9 or later to subscribe as well.

Related links for topics in this podcast:

Frank and Ollie DVD

The Iron Giant Special Edition DVD

Dumbo DVD

The Incredibles DVD secret menu (Jim Hull)

Animators and Railroads (Jan-Eric Nystrom)

The Caboose Who Got Loose (Bill Peet)

South Side (Moby and Gwen Stefani)

Trainfare (Toni Price)

City of Blinding Lights (U2)

Podcast coming

There is a place for text, and a place for sound. If you are like me, you read and write text all day. Whether it’s email, chat, html, code. For those times, music is all the sound you can take — it fits your mood and fades into the background. You don’t want to necessarily listen to someone speaking — it’s hard to concentrate on reading text and listening to someone else read text at the same time, and most people can read faster than they can listen anyway.

But for the times when we are away from our desk, sound can play a different role. Taking a walk or in the car your mind is free to either wander, or pay attention. I believe podcasts are for those times.

Tomorrow I will post my first podcast. If it is well received (or even if it’s not — this is blogging after all) I hope to create a podcast every few months. Because it will be so infrequent, there probably won’t be a separate RSS feed for podcasts. The MP3 files will be included directly in the main feed for this weblog. Feedback of course is welcome at manton@manton.org. Thanks!

Perfection

I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. In fact, I can often be downright lazy. I write sloppy code sometimes. I am hasty with my artwork instead of thorough. I am always impatient to see the end result, regardless of what I am doing. (Oh, and my office is usually a mess.)

But when it comes to things that really matter, I have pretty high standards. When focused I can solve problems well and my attention to detail usually pays off. I am self-critical, which means I can improve.

I attended a Tufte talk earlier this year, and one thing that struck me was how dedicated he is to perfection. He phrases it in a different way, though, less assuming. “Do no harm.”

When creating something — art, code, prose — there is an immediate personal attachment to that thing. Not only is it difficult to see mistakes in it, it seems almost impossible to throw it out and start again. But you have to. The trick is to see the investment in time not as wasted, but as a necessary first step in getting to the final place.

Write half the novel and then rip it apart, let go of the parts that you know aren’t working and try again. Refactor, redesign, redraw.

One of the revolutions at Disney in the 30s and 40s wasn’t just incredible talent, it was things like paying the extra money to film pencil tests, so that animators could see their work as it would appear on screen and fix mistakes instead of shipping it off blindly to the distributor. No one else was doing that because it didn’t seem to make business sense. That is, until you saw the improved results. (Software usability testing is a lot like that, too.)

In a recent interview with Animated News, Andreas Deja talks about Walt and his high standards:

“It’s good to inspired by Walt and what he did, and his standards. He just had these high standards, he would just give the audience something that they didn’t expect, that was beyond what they thought they would get, always aiming higher. And that’s one of his traits, that’s something to really shoot for, to go the extra mile, do even better than people would expect of you. I think it goes along with being a good artist, you’re never satisfied. It’s never good enough. That’s just the way it is. I think with that attitude you learn.”

And with that, I’m off to create something instead of sleeping.

VitalSource Store

One of our big projects at work just launched: the VitalSource Store. James Duncan Davidson and Mike Clark have posted about what it was like working on this project. My favorite posts include this one about the Rails development sandbox, and this one about RESTful web services.

Ryan also chimed in earlier this week about the project. It feels good to write about work in this space for me too, something I have rarely done but will likely do more as our company becomes well known.

Although the software is now freely available like iTunes, we’ve all been hard at work on this stuff for a while now. In fact the current Mac and Windows clients started life over 4 years ago, and there is a bunch of shared code in there from our internal tools that is older still. We’ve been shipping product to customers the whole time, but it feels good to now open things up to anyone.

If you look below the surface, there is a pretty incredible foundation that we can build good stuff on top of. Comments like this one from Anarchogeek hit on exactly what we are trying to do:

“What’s amazing to me is how the vital bookshelf is a slick mix of a web / desktop application. It uses html, javascript, and css, but it also uses native windows and interface elements. It’s very nicely done.”

Thanks to everyone who is posting their thoughts. You can see more by searching Technorati for VitalSource.