Entries in category "Ramblings"

Posted by roy on November 4, 2012 at 01:05 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

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

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 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

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
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