Log Date

Pete Forde selected ruby, pinball and film photography as his weapons of choice

  1. Link post


    That was the subject line of the emails I sent to the various programming courses available in Portland just 4 days ago, after being introduced to the idea of entering the tech industry on Monday. I’m now set to begin my first class this Tuesday!

    Notes: 7 notes

    Reblogged from: grumancik

  2. Notes: 657 notes

    Reblogged from: paulftompkins

  3. Text post

    Dear Roseanne Barr: Thanks

    Hi Roseanne,

    I grew up watching your show. I recently re-watched the last scene of the last episode. Honestly, it had a really profound impact on me.

    First, I’d completely blocked out how the show ended from my memory, because I think it upset me at the time. As an adult I am blown away at how you managed to create such a painfully authentic and decidedly un-Hollywood ending. I know that you had to fight every day to do “Roseanne” on your own terms, and that you likely got a lot of pushback. And Jackie was gay! Of course she was.

    Second, I was struck by an obvious-in-hindsite realization about how significant a role you played in me establishing progressive values. My family wasn’t so different from your “family”, and you really were the ultimate strong female role-model. There’s no question that I’m a better person for your influence on my development.

    Thanks for being so damn awesome, alright?

    Pete from Toronto


    [Yes, I sent this. I hope @TheRealRoseanne gets it!]

    Tags: thanks

  4. Text post

    Growing By Shrinking

    Most of my friends and clients are growing their companies while I am determined to reduce my own. This is the true story of my experience with building a successful shrinking empire.


    There is no empirical evidence to prove that a large company is inherently more successful than a small company. Even though 37signals is no longer small by their own standards, Jason and David have long championed the upside of slow, considered growth.

    CyberPlex was one of the three cool web consultancies in Toronto during the DotCom era. Big enough to be taken seriously — still an order of magnitude smaller than the big players — CyberPlex in the early days felt organic and home-grown. They were the hip, “agile” choice.

    When I first moved to Toronto, I was employee number 42 at CyberPlex. It was 1999 and they swelled to almost 200 people within months through a combination of aggressive hiring and acquisitions.

    I was immensely excited to be hired there, which made the fraternal environment I discovered a crushing disappointment. The constant feeling of growth was fun to be a part of, but I had no connection with most of the people I worked with.

    After six months of office politics and falling asleep under my desk, I was fired for having a bad attitude. Humiliated, it was hard to see that my ejection from such a toxic environment was the best thing that could have happened to me.

    I told people that I would start a new team of my own. A handful of elite talent working closely on interesting projects could run circles around a company like CyberPlex. We would inoculate what became Unspace against bullshit by staying small forever, like a Ruby on Rails A-Team.

    Even idealistic companies grow. It’s the entrepreneurial ego at work.

    Hampton Catlin came to the first Rails Pub Nite in March of 2005, and he was such a mess. A confused student, transplanted from Florida by way of Manhattan — he was cocky and broke. He also was so obviously brilliant that we realized it would be crazy not to hire him.

    Hiring Hampton was nerve wracking, mostly because we had no intention of growing beyond the founding partners. Unspace was a convenient umbrella; an excuse for three friends with complimentary skill sets to share a small office. To begin hiring was to vastly expand the potential ways that we could fail, and we knew that it was a one-way trip: once you start adding team members, there’s always a clear route to adding more.

    We couldn’t get the image of a hungry baby bird constantly crying for worms out of our minds.

    Win a client, grow the team. Entrepreneurs are constantly told that managing growth is what successful companies do. We congratulate ourselves on our restraint when we hold out as long as possible before organic growth becomes necessary.

    Hampton met Nathan and together they created Haml, Sass and planted the cognitive seed for CoffeeScript. Later he was instrumental in helping build Wikipedia’s mobile engine. It’s clear that hiring Hampton was a singular opportunity.

    A players hire A players and B players hire C players. Hampton’s involvement led to us recruiting Jeffrey Hardy (now at 37signals) and Shawn Allison. What a powerhouse team that was! We made a few questionable personality fits along the way, but we never compromised on the quality of our people. The is the thing I am perhaps most proud of from my time at Unspace, which has never been larger than 13-14 people.

    I’m looking out of the window of my new office now. I am seeing the snow-covered trees of the Rocky Mountains fly past. Soon the conductor will signal that we should make our way towards the dining car for lunch.


    These days I’m flying solo, and it feels great.

    I made three significant decisions in 2012:

    1. If I don’t become more healthy, I’m going to die… so it’s time to shrink — literally. So far, I have lost roughly 60lbs. I cook most of my own meals, I work out six times a week, and I try to sleep like a normal human.
    2. I love to code, but I’m tired of being a whore. From now on, the only code I write will be for my personal projects. I’m done with writing code for other people. It’s just not fun, and I refuse to let something I love make me sad.
    3. I’m not likely to ever take a traditional desk job ever again. I’m not going to participate in the 9-5 grind. Me sitting at a desk doesn’t help anyone.

    It’s doubtful that I could have short-tracked this 15-year process of self-discovery. I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to experience working at every scale. Perspective is valuable because it allows us to appreciate where we’ve been and gives us the courage to make intimidating decisions about the future. What I am doing now would have seemed scary even two years ago, but it would have been impossible when I started.

    Thankfully, I’ve managed to make more friends than enemies. I will always live in tech but my interests in music, photography, travel and even pinball have opened many doors. All of my work comes by referral now, and I have an agent: Ted Pearlman — a fellow who seems to vibrate on a higher plane when he makes a connection between interesting people.

    The theme here, in case you missed it, is that the more I shrink from society’s path to growth, the happier I’ve become. And each time I optimize for happiness instead of money, I have accidentally increased my financial returns as well. I’m happy to have some money because it allows me to work from sleeper trains, but it’s not at the top of my mind. I suspect that I’ll be comfortable when I’m old, but right now I’ve never felt younger.

    Some of this might sound awkwardly familiar to you. Perhaps it’s time for you to shrink, too.

  5. Text post

    Ghosts With Shit Jobs

    My friends Jim Munroe and Sean Lerner made a great sci-fi satire called “Ghosts With Shit Jobs" last year. It’s really, genuinely great. You can click on the poster below to watch the trailer:


    I backed it on Kickstarter so that they could tour the world with their movie. My reward level allowed me to have a call with the director — kind of weird to call someone I know — or I could could have Anton (my favourite character from the movie) come to my home and remove all of the dangerous spider silk hiding around my property.

    Obviously, I opted for spider silk removal:








    As of today, Ghosts is available via the cloud… which is ironic, because Anton and his brother lost everything when the cloud got re-possessed. I guess the future really is doomed to repeat history; at least the parts that Oscar doesn’t have to digitally blur out.

    Notes: 3 notes

  6. Photo post

    With all credit to The Verge and the BBC, I can’t possibly be the only person to see this.

    With all credit to The Verge and the BBC, I can’t possibly be the only person to see this.

  7. Text post

    Democracy is hard.

    I’m currently sitting on a train in Ottawa on my way home to Toronto.

    Literally sitting; the train hasn’t moved in four hours. There’s a blockade of the tracks which is part of a much larger solidarity protest across Canada. Native Canadians are demanding action in the form of access to the basic needs of life such as shelter, food, education and health care in Attawapiskat, an extremely remote First Nation in Northern Ontario.

    There’s no question that #idlenomore is a reaction to complex, nuanced issues. The problems are compounded not just by racist ignorance but a general lack of awareness amongst non-Native Canadians. Until these past few weeks and the #idlenomore movement’s mobilization, Native issues were simply not on the minds of most Canadians. It’s no Arab Spring (yet?) but it’s a level of activism that we don’t see often in Canada.

    And our Federal leaders? They are being real dicks about it. Our Prime Minister is refusing to meet with Chief Theresa Spence, who is 19 days into a hunger strike.

    As for me, I am still holding out hope that my train rolls tonight. In my gut, I think it will. Right now I couldn’t be more comfortable, since I somehow managed to social engineer the VIA Rail folks into letting me into 1st class. There’s one table on this train, and I told them that I didn’t mind the wait but I’d really appreciate using the table to get some work done on my laptop. I’ve been fed and there’s as much wine as I can stomach.

    There’s wifi on my train, in addition to things like heat, running water, power outlets and fucking servants. The people blocking my train are standing in sub-zero temperatures in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Attawapiskat.

    Not only am I completely fine waiting as long as it takes, I am ashamed to be crossing what is essentially a picket line. What’s going on dishonours my country, and until these people get the support we promised them I consider myself personally on the hook for this “misunderstanding”. It’s not guilt that I feel — I didn’t choose this outcome. What I feel is disgust at how this could have happened just hours from where I live, while I enjoy the full privilege of my Colonial lineage.

    Democracy is hard, and I hope it’s there for us all when we’re the ones standing in the cold.


  8. Text post

    How would I get started?


    Last night on Hacker News, someone asked a simple question with a complicated answer: “I want to build a cable company. How would I get started?

    I’m really disappointed in the universally pessimistic and generally unhelpful answers this question received. Some people pitched some interesting ideas and helpful analysis, but most of the replies reinforced the notion that Hacker News readers are predominantly male know-it-alls and on the average, a bunch of snarky dicks.

    And yet Hacker News folk must be drawn at least somewhat by Paul Graham, who applauds frighteningly ambitious startup ideas.

    I for one would love to see a site where all it does is break down what would actually be involved in trying to disrupt major industries. What a fascinating series that could be:

    • I want to start a new airline. How would I get started?
    • I want to launch a new courier service. How would I get started?
    • I want to create a fair insurance company. How would I get started?
    • I want to colonize Mars. How would I get started?
    • I want to be a mercenary for hire. How would I get started?
    • I want to start a cult/religion. How would I get started?
    • I want to become a cyborg and upload my consciousness. How would I get started?
    • I want to be a porn star. How would I get started?

    Obviously the chances are stacked against a newcomer to any entrenched market. However, why does everyone assume that the inquiring mind is an idiot?

    Let’s use a simple example: Elon Musk.

    • I want to drop out of Stanford after two days to start a company that provides online content publishing software to news organizations. How would I get started?
    • I want to launch an online payment system, even though a half-dozen virtual wallet startups have failed. How would I get started?
    • I want to be the first private company to launch a rocket into space, legitimize private space travel as an industry, become a primary vendor to NASA and ultimately colonize other planets. How would I get started?
    • I want to start a company that makes economically and logically viable electric cars that can be recharged in half an hour for free at solar charging stations around the world, even though electric cars have failed to make an impact since the 1890s and the entire gamut of politics and finance will probably try to screw me out of existence. How would I get started?

    Shame on any of you that wouldn’t see this question for what it is: an amazing opportunity for some very smart minds to brainstorm around a puzzle that everyone else considers unanswerable.


    We owe it to ourselves to treat an interesting question with more respect. Patronizing replies that assume something frighteningly ambitious is impossible lowers the civility of our discourse and limits its value to something far below what we say we aspire to.

    Remember: after Friendster, Orkut and MySpace… does anyone really want to find their friends on another social network?

    "The popular image of the visionary is someone with a clear view of the future, but empirically it may be better to have a blurry one."

    Paul Graham

    Images are of Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. If you haven’t seen Man on Wire, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

  9. Text post

    Is The Worst better than The Best?

    I am a long-time reader of Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools. Contributions from folks like Bruce Sterling and Adam Savage have helped me come to appreciate how awesome it is when someone cares enough about their tools to really nerd out on a domain, find the best solution and then share it with the world. You can feel the pride these people emit after discovering something that is demonstrably, repeatably better than other options. These folks are not afraid of expensive things, even though their picks are often the cheapest available.

    I read Dustin Curtis’ post "The Best", which was about his decision to put effort into buying the things he uses. For better or worse, he used Yanagi flatware as an illustrating example. Dustin’s got a lot of geek cred and a post like this exposes him to potential criticism, which arrived in the form of a rebuttal entitled "The Worst". It was written by some guy I’ve never heard of and whose name I can’t take seriously, so I’ll affectionally refer to him as White Dreads from here on.

    Dreads’ post manages to be more pompous and elitist than Curtis’ original post was never trying to be. It hides the author’s implicit assertion that his value system trumps Dustin’s by referencing consumerism, environmentalism and embracing simplicity. This is somewhat ironic given that Dustin Curtis is a talented interface designer who is known for kicking back against corporatism and advocating for uncluttered design.

    It’s amusing to read comments from people competing on how little their knives and forks cost — pennies per item! — and how little they would care if friends came over and broke everything in the cupboards. Personally, I chose to ensure that my own flatware is statistically average and instead of participating in capitalist consumption I prostituted my body to acquire everything through barter. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, right?

    White Dreads is politically enlightened. He projects his righteous, ascetic radical lifestyle as the solution to the problem of bourgie celebrity hackers. They flaunt their success by surrounding themselves with objects that burden their soul and torture the planet. Curtis orders bottle service while Dreads is out dumpster diving for dinner.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just such bullshit.

    Yanagi flatware is functional art, dipshits. It is sold by MoMA where it resides in their permanent collection. Sori Yanagi was a legitimately famous Japanese product designer, known best for his Butterfly Stool (1954):

    So let me break this down for you: all Dustin Curtis did was buy some art — in this case, flatware that is cool to him regardless of whether anyone else agrees. He researched thoroughly and took the time to appreciate what he was getting before parting with his money. His sin: sharing something that he was excited about with people who can’t see past their own likes and wants. Never mind that the journey of deciding on the outcome is a process of artistic expression in itself, Dustin is a rich, planet-hating sell-out.

    Have you ever bought art? Did you take the time to learn about the creator of the art, why they made it and how it would integrate with your life? Congratulations, that’s a legitimate reason to buy art.

    Have you ever bought art because you think it looks nice and compliments your space? Congratulations, that’s a legitimate reason to buy art.

    Have you ever bought art because you want to support an artist or make a speculative investment? Congratulations, even this is a legitimate reason to buy art.

    The fact is, you don’t need to justify why you like something, or whether it qualifies as art to you or White Dreads. Frankly, if you collect anything or even just like to have the latest smart phone, you don’t have a leg to stand on in this debate.

    The fact is, you don’t know what you don’t know about flatware.

    As it happens, designing flatware is just as legitimate a creative pursuit as writing code. We argue over which languages and frameworks are “better” even though most people would insist that it just doesn’t matter. Of course, if you told flatware designers that a bunch of programmers were trashing the pinacle of their trade, they would be justified in laughing at you, writing smug comments on your MacBook Air. Where the hell do you think Jony Ive draws his inspiration from?

    The first night I met my girlfriend, I asked her what she was passionate about. Her reply was that she was really excited to design her own flatware. I thought that was really fucking cool. With encouragement, she soon accepted a contract as a designer at Ikea, and while she’s not made her flatware quite yet, I challenge you to find a creative domain where people take attention to detail as seriously. We web types talk the talk but they actually craft iteration after iteration with their bare hands and simple, proven tools.

    I wish more people would put in the time to research the things that they buy. Where stuff comes from and where stuff goes. It’s okay to get nice things once in a while. What Dustin Curtis buys is his business, and ultimately is less interesting than why he buys it. I forgive White Dreads in advance if he ever finds himself wanting something nice.

    Check out this short documentary: The Knife Maker

    Notes: 1 note