Entries for October, 2012

This year has been an insane year for traveling. 

I rang in the New Years in Vegas. What a start.

I was up in San Francisco in February, then headed to Vegas in March before I left for Spain for two months. The Spain trip was: Madrid, Andalusia, San Sebastian, Barcelona, and Menorca.

Came back, then drove to the Grand Canyons and then the Salton Sea (a great day trip).

Went up to San Francisco again in July, then followed that up with an East Coast swing (NYC, Boston, and NC) for a friend's wedding. August and September were relatively quiet (a few day trips up to LA), until this Europe trip (Brussels and Munich) for a wedding and Oktoberfest. 

I have to count my lucky stars that I get to travel for fun so much, but to be honest, it's starting to wear on me a bit. I don't plan on traveling for the rest of October or November, but I'm starting to think about going back to Brussels for winter. I've never experienced the *cold* winter in a big city, and I've been hearing lovely things about how nice Brussels is around Christmas. 

I've already booked Vegas for NYE (becoming something of a tradition), but the big question is whether I should make it out to Brussels for December... would be nice to head out there after Thanksgiving and come back before NYE...

. . .

While I've really enjoyed the traveling this year, I wonder if my stubbornness in staying single is a symptom or the root cause of this need to travel. It's easy to tell yourself that you *can't* have a relationship while you're traveling around - but I wonder if I simply keep traveling to avoid having any meaningful relationships. 

It struck me today how true this was with all the recent people I've been socializing with. I feel like I've gotten incredibly good at making a good first impression with people - hitting it off with strangers for a single night and getting to know them and having a great conversation... then never following up with those people again in my life. It happens a lot with dudes ("one night bromances" - when you meet some random dude who doesn't know anybody else at the wedding, and you end up connecting and talking like old friends all night - but never seeing them again), but I've noticed an uptick on this happening with girls lately. I'll flirt, we'll have great conversations, we'll have a connection, and then ... I'll never follow up with them. 

This doesn't sound very healthy - just sounds incredibly nomadic. 

. . .

One of the things I realized about the wedding I just went to - it's time I do one of two things: stop being nomadic, or stop using traveling as an excuse to not connect. Invest in people, invest in a personal relationship... I feel like I'm starting to get over the pain of last year's relationships. 

. . .

It's been a while since I've had a fun crush.

Back in the day, I used to crush on girls I could never actually date, to use them as my muses (something my therapist was not healthy - WHATEVS).

Somewhere along the way, I started crushing on girls I had a chance with, and that was not good. Screw that!

I found a wonderful crush at the wedding in Belgium (and no, that has nothing to do with my decision to want to come back to Brussels), so if you suddenly start seeing a ton of motivated work coming out of me, you'll know where it's coming from (funny how that works for me). 

Posted by roy on October 2, 2012 at 06:38 PM in Personal | 1 Comments

Where's the fun in forever?
Swimming in a sea of time
If we owned a new beginning
No end in sight to feel, Oh no
Hey! Where's the fun in forever?
Would you love so hard?
Would you strive to be better?
Could we have gone this far?
Have you ever stopped to think
About how it will be, anyway?

Tomorrow's just a day away
& tomorrow isn't promised
Where's the fun in forever?

Where's the meaning in tomorrow?
Where's the rush?
Where's the aches?
Never feel like time is borrowed
Cause it's all the same
It's kind of sad to think about
The way that it would be
Thank goodness that

Tomorrow's just a day away
& tomorrow isn't promised
Where's the fun in forever?

Wheres the fun in forever?
Gotta live it like your last day
(Like your last, baby)
Can't miss those for the moments
(For the moments)
Celebrate, celebrate
Music break

Now, it's a crazy thought to think
About how it will be
Thank goodness that

Tomorrow's just a day away
& tomorrow isn't promised
Where's the fun in forever?

- Miguel "Where's the fun in forever"

Posted by roy on October 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM in Music | Add a comment

Facebook recently changed their photo feature, and the evolution to their UI has been interesting. 

In the beginning, you could only upload images into albums - there was no way of avoiding the mental process of classifying your images. Since then, they've simplified the mental model for uploading images - for mobile, they get classified into the mobile folder. There's no way to reclassify images. 

It's interesting - it's as if Facebook doesn't even want the concept of albums to exist. This does make sense from the mobile perspective, since you rarely upload many images from your phone at once (which would require an album-based classification mechanism). 

I'll be honest - the flat images (no albums) is really appealing in terms of its development. Creating hierarchical albums is a pain in the ass to code for, especially when you take into account permissioning (albums in Tabulas do not inherit, so problem slightly averted). 

I would be interested in removing albums altogether from Tabulas, except some are classified by users already. So I'll have to keep them. 

But it's interesting what FB has done - albums are essentially hard to discover on their own. From the new profiles, the default photo view is photos you're tagged with. After that - it's photos - all of them. Then you have albums. Furthermore, albums aren't very visually distinguished from photos, which confuses me all the time. 

I'm not sure what implifications this has for Tabulas quite yet - I can't abandon albums altogether, but I might move more towards a stream-based view of photos. Albums are only really useful for (1) permissioning or (2) presenting a story around photos. And in the case of (2), I feel strongly that the storytelling experience around photos should be done through entries. 

Which lead me to a nice 10-hour hacking fest on the plane ride over where I played around with cleaning up the image uploading experience for Tabulas through the new editor. The new editor will support multiple-file uploads as well as drag-and-drop. The next hard step is figuring out how those images get embedded into the editor. 

And Narzack - already took your notes into account. Multiple usericons will be supported in the new editor. It actually looks better with it - instead of the dropdown, we use the usericons themselves (I was too lazy to use different usericons - but each of those icons in the 2nd row should be different):

Other features TBD. 

Posted by roy on October 6, 2012 at 02:07 AM in Tabulas | 1 Comments

explains a lot about my past relationships. i'd say #relationship 1 was most likely companionate love, #2 was definitely friendship, and #3 probably fell under romantic love. 

Posted by roy on October 7, 2012 at 02:56 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

Automatics are really such an American thing - to the point that it's really hard to find automatics in Europe. I was in Belgium for a wedding two weeks ago, and me and my friends needed a way to get down to the wedding site (~2 hours south). So I rented an automatic from Sixt. 

The day I went to pick up the car, the Sixt people told me that two of their automatics had been wrecked in the last week and they had a shortage of automatics. After ensuring I could absolutely not drive a stick, they tried to stick me with a BMW cabriolet. Unfortunately, that was a two-seater, which made it pretty impractical since I had to get 4 people to the wedding site. 

The agent went into the back, and after about 10 minutes she came back and said they would give me their top of the line car at no extra charge (yay!). At that point, I thought they were just saying that to make it seem like I got a great deal. I figured at best they bumped me up to the next level. 

Hoo boy. I went down and picked up a Mercedes Benz E220 CDI - convertible. Kind of impractical in a cold weather city, but whatever. I had 4 seats to take people, and that's all I cared about. 

So here's my review of the car. WOW, it's nice. BUT, here are my thoughts:

  • The engine isn't as peppy as I expected. I dropped it into sports mode, and it still had trouble with pick-up. The acceleration was incredibly smooth - it was impossible to feel the gears shifting. I floored it on the freeway and it just smoothly went up. I'm too used to my car, which is incredibly peppy - you floor my car, and you'll feel it. Not so much with the MB E220 (which can be a good thing)... but just not what I expected 
  • BOY are there a ton of features. It took me about 20 minutes to figure out what all the buttons on the car did. Way too complicated for me. I've always hated on BMWs (and Jettas to a certain degree) cause they are so blah inside, but MB goes overboard with the classy buttons. I could seriously see tons of people driving this car without knowing what half of the features do. That's why I'm an Audi boy!
  • It drives smoother than any car I've ever driven. You could barely feel the drive on the way down - by comparison, my car's sport suspension makes you feel every.pothole.in.the.street. 
  • I was too lazy to do the math, but this thing must get some amazing mileage. I drove it about 450km, and it only used half a tank (diesel cost was about 65€). 
  • The engine would idle if you stopped it - almost as if it stalled out. A very odd feeling to hear the car go completely silent when you're stopped, but maybe that's how it squeezed the mileage. 
  • Driving with the top down in Belgium on the nice wedding day = priceless
  • The Bluetooth feature was awesome - once I had it paired to my phone, it turned on and off my music whenever I entered/exited the car. Of course, this led to a few embarassing moments when the last song I listened to (K-Ci & Jojo) came on in a car full of people. 

All in all, MB is definitey the highest class car out there. It definitely felt like a luxury car, but I'm not sure I'd own it - the interior is really nice and the car drives nice, but it's just too complicated. I also was a little annoyed that the rearview mirror didn't rotate all the way - I think the Bluetooth unit prevented it from really rotating very much. 

On the day we were supposed to return the car, we were running late. I checked to see what it would cost to extend the reservation. €250/day. Forget THAT - we raced back to drop it off - 10 minutes before it was due :)

Note: Based on research, this was about a $80,000 car we drove around for the weekend. NICE! 

Posted by roy on October 8, 2012 at 04:25 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

I do love photography - and because I don't consider myself very good, I do like it when I get some external validation that the stuff I do is good. 

Just the past two days, two people on Facebook (one a friend, other not) made photos I took their profile photos. Yay! 

Posted by roy on October 10, 2012 at 07:10 AM in Photography | Add a comment

I was doing some client work this weekend, when this new feature I added had the weirdest behavior: images from a particular folder simply would not load. 

If I uploaded them to a separate folder, they would work fine. But not in one folder. 

When I debugged it in Chrome Toolbar, the image would just show as "Pending." When sniffing the request even further, it seemed that the Apache server wasn't serving up full headers. What was kililng me was it was working fine in Firefox, and when I loaded the image directly. It simply would not load when embedded. 

I spent a solid hour looking at the server, .htaccess files, even CodeIgnitier to see what was causing the image to suppress showing. 

Then, it struck me. The name of the folder? "offers_adverts"

Yeah, AdBlock in Chrome was blocking the image. 


Posted by roy on October 14, 2012 at 10:56 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

It was about 9 years ago when I started Lightbox7, a very early photo-sharing site. I sold it so I could get more cash, but it's always been on my list of "projects to start again when I have time."

Of course, for a long time, Flickr dominated photo sharing, so there was really no reason to kick start another project. Then, FB, Smugmug, (and now Google+) have done a "good-enough" job of photo sharing (actually, G+ is pretty good). But I feel we're at a crossroads again with photo sharing, where a really useful product can be built and supported. 

Here's my idea: an anti-social photo sharing site. Here's the specific use case: 

People who go to shared events (like weddings or Vegas parties) oftentimes want to share photos with other people there. Now, with FB's advanced privacy controls, it's actually pretty hard to do this effectively without friending every person you met. 

This site would allow an event creator to create a shared album. He can either make it a "shared-link album," which grants access to the album to everybody who has the private URL, or will explicitly invite users to the album (via FB friends list). Every album can only be access by registered users (be it via FB or G+ or local registration) and has a max number of users (150 users).  

Every user who can see the album can contribute to it by adding photos, adding comments, or creating a "collection." A collection simply would be a curated view of the album (since it would conceivably hold a lot of photos from lots of users). 

Why do I think this would work?

Try to answer this question right now: "How do I share my photos to somebody w/o FB or Google+ easily?" 

You'd be surprised at the answer: besides SmugMug (which doesn't really approach the social aspect of photos), it's hard to find a solid answer. Everybody requires social logins lately. And a lot of people (like my parents) don't have G+ or FB accounts. 

I've noticed anecdotally that the number of friends who have been sharing photos on FB have been dropping - I actually think FB has gotten ubiquitous enough that it actually feels like a really public space. With this project, you wouldn't worry about figuring out permissions based on your friends - you make the decision on an event-by-event basis. You would have to opt-in every person to your albums. 

The anti-social photosharing site. 

Random Technological/Implementation ideas: 

I really like G+'s approach to a mixed-grid view of images; I definitely think the "unfiltered" view of each album would look like that, and users would create collections by simply clicking images. 

Also, one way to get a leg-up? A Retina-friendly site. Actually, could that be a marketing push all to itself? We'll have to find out. 

There'd be no import features (and exporting only for archival purposes - I'm thinking it'd integrate to Dropbox so you could just select an album to be exported into your Dropbox account). 

Costs are a big problem - Amazon S3 is not very cost effective. I'd imagine at some point I'd end up running my own DC (once I get into a few terabytes, I guess). Glacier looks promising to store the original uploads, and then I'd keep lighter versions on S3 and on the servers as well. 


In keeping with my recent motto to only build for-pay products, I think $49.99/year is a solid price point (or $4.99/month). This would give you a quota of 10,000 images (by my math, each image is about 3MB, so on S3 pricing, that's about $38/year in costs). 

And to solve the "how do you make it social if everybody has to pay?" problem - your usage would be calculated based on the albums you created, so other users would also eat your quota. That also means that not every participating user needs to be a paid member.

In my experience with Tabulas, there were a few members who would actually pay for other members - I think this phenomenom would extend well here - not everybody would want to pay, but those who feel comfortable might end up "paying" for their whole families by being the sole album creator for each event. 

When creating an event/album, you'd set a "target size" for your album (in # of images) - and everybody can upload until that image quota is hit. Other users can donate their # of images to make the album size bigger. 


In honor of Pinboard.in, my favorite anti-social bookmarketing site, I also adopted the .in domain name extension. When picking a name, I wanted to pick something vague but with some cultural pulls - so I picked miyaki.in. I'm not sure what it means - to me, it sounds like a cool chick who is "over" Facebook but is super artsy with photographs, and thus wants to share them. I don't know. It sounds recognizable and full of character without meaning anything. Just my type of name. 

Unfortunately, my workload is rather full this month, so I'll have to start tackling this slowly (maybe only 1 or 2 hours a day). Fortunately, it's a pretty easy product to build, and most of the UIs are built in my head already (I've been ruminating on a photo sharing site for a while now). 

Posted by roy on October 15, 2012 at 03:34 AM in Miyaki, Ramblings, Web Development | 1 Comments

I was slammed with client work today, but I had some time at dinner to sketch out some ideas for miyaki. I had the basic wireframe sketched out with how feature flow would look. 

The goal of the chrome is to minimize draw from the images - long-time followers of my projects shouldn't be surprised. I also want to minimize the amount of texture on the site (gradients, shadows). I won't go completely flat, but I have definitely felt I've been overpushing gradients and shadows lately in some projects. 

So my first pass followed FB's layout and created square thumbnails of images to create a very grid-y feel:

Looks not so bad. But it seemed so uniform. 

A thought - what if I used the golden ratio for thumbnails? After doing some quick math on spacing and image sizes in a 1000 pixel viewport, I came together with this: 

I really dig the spacing a lot more. Of course, I cheated on these thumbnails by creating the focal points. But I think I can build a quick tool that will let people set the correct thumbnail (ala FB) which will really make the thumbnails pop. 

The next step? Well, captioning is certainly nice: (click image to view larger)

Feeling pretty good about these mockups so far. Only about 3 hours of work! 

Posted by roy on October 16, 2012 at 02:49 AM in Miyaki, Ramblings | Add a comment

Added some more details to the main listing view, including dropdown views. 

And here's the individual image listing view:

Instead of doing a specific style for the name/description, it's treated as just another comment. This does two things: (1) it reduces a UI element I have to implement, and (2) it makes the comment area always seem populated (well, unless no image is uploaded). The white background comment is the one input by the image uploader. 

Next step will be figuring out the DB schema, which should be trivial since I've already designed like 3 databases for image hosting sites. But when to actually build it? Will need to squeeze in time, I really want to get the Tabulas editor done first (as I'm blogging more, I'm finding this old interface maddening). 

. . .

Besides that, I went in for my Global Entry interview today - I should get my card in the next 7 - 10 business days. This will let me bypass the passport control lines when entering the US in favor of a passport/biometric scanner. Yippee! 

. . .

Also, somebody slashed the top of my car. That's like a $500 replacement - looks like I'm going to find some glue and try to fix it myself. Sigh. Can't complain, overall. Everything is going pretty great lately. 

Posted by roy on October 17, 2012 at 11:57 PM in Projects, Miyaki | Add a comment

It's amazing how quickly you can bootstrap projects. I remember when I first build Lightbox7, it took weeks to get it into a testable stage. 

With the toolsets that are available to me, I might have a demoable product within a week. 

Over the past two days, I got individual image views (with easy arrow navigation) as well as the workflow for user login/registrations to view private albums done. 

I started working on the comments data model tonight, but I need to sleep. 

Originally, I wanted collections (curated albums within an album) to be in the v1, but I think I'm going to punt that to a v2. Tomorrow, I'm going to wrap up commenting (editing, deleting), and do a quick blog post on the status for the features I want in a v1 beta test. 

. . .

This project is great, cause it's also giving me ideas on how to revamp Tabulas' featureset. What I may end up doing is just bringing in a simpler version of this codebase into Tabulas! Yay! 

. . .

Been playing around with pricing - I originally was thinking $50/year for 10,000 images... but that seems really expensive. I'm actually leaning towards offering a monthly plan - $4.99/month for 5,000 images after reading this post

And to those of you who help me beta test, free 10,000 image accounts for life! 

Posted by roy on October 25, 2012 at 03:43 AM in Miyaki, Web Development | 1 Comments

been a while, old friend. 

Posted by roy on October 29, 2012 at 04:29 AM in Personal | Add a comment

Couldn't sleep, so started the first pass on the Tabulas code clean-up, which involves code and feature deletion. 

If Tabulas is an ecosystem that just grew organically with as many features as could be devised, then tonight was the first wildfire to clear out the low-hanging brush so I can focus on growing the important features of Tabulas. 

The features that hit the cutting board today:

  • Crossposting to Xanga, LJ, WP - honestly, nobody was really using them, and philosophically, I'm against data propagation into other services as a core value proposition of Tabulas. UI has come a long way - other sites do it better. 
  • Pinging - the weblogs pinging notification was a long time coming - this serves absolutely no purpose, at all. The days of Technorati are long gone, and discoverability of new blogs is a different game now than what it used to be. 

I also started a lot of DB clean-up work; dropping old columns and fixing up database names. The perfectionist in me wants to completely clean up the DB layer by standardizing the naming of things. It means nothing to the end user, but will mean a lot to me - knowing everything underneath is well-named makes me happy. 

So if you see some DB errors over the coming days, you'll know why. 

Posted by roy on October 29, 2012 at 05:40 AM in Tabulas | 9 Comments
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