codecademy vs. scroll kit
This past week, Kate and I demoed scroll kit to the NYTM. We’ve kept development of scroll kit pretty quiet so it was both frightening and thrilling to finally show the site to 1,000 + nerds at the same time. We had three minutes to pull off the demo and I was happy to see that much of the response was exactly what we hoped it would be and also surprised to see that some, who were particularly enthusiastic, cast us as a competitor to an entirely different product—codecademy.
I found these tweets amusing and RTed them, zach sims (the founder of codecademy) and chris dixon, did not as much.
I agree that the products are entirely different but I do see why others make the connection. Interest in coding has surged in the past few years but the concepts required to write even basic html/css are as alien as they’ve ever been. The difference between a div class and a div id or relative positioning vs. absolute positioning are the kind of brutal lessons that first timers slog through and few master (and that’s the simple stuff). It has become a lot easier to learn to code on the internet but it still takes a significant investment of time and patience. Many try, then get frustrated with it, then look for a way out.
So one way to help them is to make learning how to code accessible and another is to take coding out of the website building process. There are natural limitations to each approach and for that reason, they will never cancel each other out, but the technology that supports each will vastly improve over the next few years. So two predictions that may seem at odds with each other initially but actually are not:
In three years…
1.) More people will know advanced programming languages and the skill will be as rewarded as it is today.
2.) More people will build and maintain websites on their own without writing a line of the code that powers them.
At scroll kit, we’re focused on making the latter a reality. The web has had ‘website builder’ websites for most of its existence but they’ve always been template based and that often just doesn’t work for people who want a unique website. Developments in frontend technologies have made it possible to build a website builder in a new way. A central tenet of our design is that templates aren’t required. With scroll kit, you can start with a blank page then build the entire site in the browser.
Our beta is public and you can check out a live preview of the editing interface if you have chrome.
We’re also looking to bring on the third member of our team. Send me an email ( codyvbrown ‘at’ gmail.com )
Watch our 3 minute demo to NYTM here: http://bit.ly/zsHNWK
11:42 am • 20 February 2012 • 5 notes • View comments
An Open Letter to Jay Maisel Who Just Deleted his Facebook Fan Page
This was originally written for Jay Maisel’s facebook page. It was one of many responses on the page but while I was writing, the page was deleted and all the other responses are now gone.
Dear Jay Maisel,
I read a pretty disheartening post this morning about what seemed like a copyright troll who sued another artist for modifying his work. I googled and found out that it was you Jay—Jay Maisel—the ‘artist’ who lives in the Germania Bank Building.
I walk by this building frequently and like most others—it’s clear that it could easily be sold for tens of millions of dollars. I was sad to hear that this is what you’re doing in the twilight of your career. A friend of mine interviewed you and made a documentary about your work and life in the building a couple years ago—I remember being intrigued and impressed. You seemed to have an old school NYC ebullience and artistic integrity that I appreciated and aspired to. I would often mention your work and life in the building to friends when I would walk by your home—I loved the story. There was something inventive and soulful about it that seemed to capture a lot of what was great about working as an artist in NYC.
I no longer have an ability to tell that story. I’d now consider it a neighborhood improvement if the Germania Bank Building was demolished and replaced by Scarano Luxury Condos and a Shake Shack. Either that or new tenants who understand that this is not what artists do. You deleted your facebook page so it’s clear that these comments are having an effect on you and I hope you can, at the very least, address them publicly. You are disappointing so many people by doing this and you don’t need to. Make amends. Give back the money. This isn’t worth 32k.
A new york neighbor and admirer of your work.
5:34 pm • 23 June 2011 • 3 notes • View comments
5 Suggestions for Nieman Lab’s Encyclopedia Project
Posted originally at Nerd Collider.
This morning Nieman Lab announced a new encyclopedia project. I’ve heard a lot of people talk over the past few years about building a “CrunchBase for News” and this is certainly the farthest I’ve seen anyone come. Saying that though, if Nieman is serious about pulling this off there are some big crimson flags.
5 Immediate Suggestions
1.) Inline Edits
The first thing I did when I clicked on the encyclopedia was try to edit. I was pretty surprised to find that there wasn’t an edit button on each article and then I face palmed when I found this: http://bit.ly/iRgVyu
You’re telling your users that in order to contribute to an encyclopedia on ‘The Future of News’ they need to drop their thoughts into a magic suggestion box? Really? It’s fine to want to have more control over entires but this is the kind of feedback system usually reserved for an airline.
b.) A waste of time for the editor.
TechCrunch has developed and updated CrunchBase for many years now. One of the reasons they have inline editing is because it significantly speeds the process of approving small edits and new entries.
2.) Make All Edits and Suggested Edits Visible
Right now the site feels like a loose collection of Mark Coddington articles where all the comments are hidden and it’s not clear why (or how many times) an article has been updated. Displaying pending inline edits will generate more trust.
3.) Embrace Less Complete Entries
I asked Mark on twitter how they decide what becomes a new entry and he said it’s the lab’s editorial decision—this resulted in another face palm. Do not make having an entry prestigious, it is not worth the time. Let a thousand flowers bloom and create a system that lets you mark entries that are less complete as so. You’re putting together an industry database not an invite list for News Foo.
4.) Design the site as a platform not an advertisement for Nieman Lab
It’s clear that work went into making the site look pleasant but the look is awkward for an encyclopedia. The branding on the page is over 300 pixels and dominates each entry, you could easily pull it off in a single row and dedicate the rest of attention to content.
5.) Tags over Categories
Online, Magazines, Tech Companies, and Newspapers are unhelpful distinctions for organizing the database as a company like The New York Times fits into literally every single one of those categories. Tags will give you more flexibility in sorting and will make it easier to add new entries.
5:38 pm • 18 May 2011 • 1 note • View comments
They know everything that everybody else already knows and they’re probably going to come up with the same thoughts. When you go deep on anything, you start to find nuances that other people don’t know. And it’s those nuances that really start to help you open black boxes and say, “Wait a second, can we think about it this way?”
For example, it turns out that if you use material other than silicon crystals you can completely change the behavior of a computer chip, but we don’t open that black box anymore because we’re so stuck on the engineering of chips. Or have you ever thought about connecting tissue specialists with prosthetics robotics? There’s a kind of alchemy that goes on.
- Joi Ito via Wired
Joi is the new director of MIT Media Lab. I thought this was an elegant way to describe the Strength of Weak Ties.
1:29 am • 27 April 2011 • View comments
“Journalism is already a field so stuffed with awards it is sometimes hard to imagine where the judges and recipients find time for anything other than judging, attending and receiving awards. The Pulitzers have the advantage of being a long narrative arc through which one can see the development and the garlanding of the best in American journalism, and the disadvantage that, by virtue of being the most recognised and prestigious awards, they attract disproprotionate discontent.”
- emily bell via Nerd Collider
Director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia
12:20 am • 27 April 2011 • 2 notes • View comments
The Story of NYU Local’s First Day
This saturday I experienced ‘Young Media Weekend’ and I’m still processing how surreal the event felt. For those that haven’t heard about it, Young Media Weekend (#YMW) is a panel/party organized by NYU Local designed to bring aspiring media kids from around the east coast to NYC for a few days to talk to each other and network with people who could hire them. The panel Annie Werner and Charlie Eisenhood were able to line up was outstanding, Reuters, Gawker, NYMag Vulture, Think Progress, Jezebel, Salon, and The New York Observer were all represented. The marketing for the event was awesome, they packed a lecture hall. The party was at a swanky overpriced hotel bar but they even managed to pull off a sponsorship so beer was not atrociously priced.
In between talking to excited freshman about how to angle their Tumblr’s and watching the national section throw beers back with Matt Yglesias on a hotel terrace, I couldn’t help but think about the beginning of NYU Local and how the culture around blogging has matured in the past three years. So, for the sake of a.) imparting historic knowledge to freshman NYU Local staff and b.) illustrating just how long it takes to get things right, I did some introspective googling and pulled up a few articles.
NYU Local Ancient History 101 - First Day
Remember this puppy? Lily Q, Ned Resnikoff and Joe Coscarelli know about this puppy.
The day we launched Gawker accused NYU Local of plagiarism. They eventually retracted the word ‘plagiarism’ (it was due to CMS formatting) but the damage was done and our entrance to NYU was to the tune of these awesome comments:
"Look, I’m an NYU alum (Grad school from the MK and Ashley Daze), and all I have to say is there is nothing worse than a bunch of trust-fundy, navel-gazing, legacy NYU students writing about “issues”. Can we please get a DNS attack on this waste of bandwidth and memonry, like pronto?”
"I go to a school with twice the enrollment of NYU (and a better journalism school), and I know that WE don’t have enough news to even attempt to fill a 24-hour news blog, so I have no idea how these idiots think they do.”
"I doubt there’s enough news about NYU to sustain a 24-hour cycle, and I don’t see what this is doing that the WSN isn’t. Also, hardly anyone at NYU actually reads the WSN, I don’t see who’s going to read this. But it’s good resume padding, right?”
Even our peers wanted to stab us. Jessica Roy (who was recruited by Ned in the comment section and went on to become EIC) posted the following:
A self-important team of NYU journalism students is launching NYU Local, a “snarky” alternative to the never-read Washington Square News. The site will keep up-to-date on happenings around campus, and seeks to “make the NYU voice heard and recognized in the city for what it is: smart, witty, and even snarky.”
Say it with me now: LOL!
Reaction from the school newspaper was consistent.
“Adam Playford (who was WSN’s editor at the time) never seemed to truly acknowledge NYU Local as legitimate competition, and none of the rest of us really saw it that way, either. We just figured this Crazy, Gawker Wannabe, NYU Blog Experiment would never fully gain traction and fail.”
So it was painful and over the past few years a number of people have poured ungodly amounts of work into the site but as the kids say now… #swag:
12:20 am • 11 April 2011 • 32 notes • View comments
Announcing Nerd Collider
In preparation for his book Where Do Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson spent five years studying the environments that lead to unusual rates of innovation. He ended up detailing seven attributes in his book, but if there was a prevailing theme through his research, it was that good ideas don’t…
6:21 pm • 28 March 2011 • 9 notes • View comments
'Color' is Primal and Kind of Brilliant
I really wanted to hate Color. I really did. A pre-launch startup raising 41 million dollars for a consumer web iPhone picture app (not a satellite manufacturer) makes me want to vomit. But after a night of using Color—I’m intrigued. In the context of them raising 41 million dollars, Color is one of the most ingenious and ambitious iPhone apps I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a lot I could go into and I lot I’m waiting to see but I want to talk about one use case.
I’ve been living in a Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment building for about 6 months and my contact with almost all of my neighbors has been essentially a head nod now and then when we’re walking up the staircase. I opened up ‘Color’ late tonight after already playing on it with my roommates and I notice that there are other pictures there. At first I thought, oh funny, my roommates are already using it then I realize that it’s actually my neighbor posting a picture. This is hilarious because a.) I didn’t think any of my neighbors in Bushwick read TechCrunch b.) this is a weird chance to say hello to someone nearby who I’ve always meant to be more friendly too (everyone wants to be on good terms with their neighbors). So I did. This is what it looked like:
So that was awesome. This dinky little app effectively brokered an introduction that was 6 months in the making. And more so, I realized that because all of the pictures are public, my neighbor was able to see this:
He gets a very weird peek into our apartment and what we’re like. This is creepy and could actually lend itself to some really fucked up situations but it’s also kind of amazing. There’s a lot of ways this could go wrong and there is a lot of awkwardness in the fundamentals of their product but this applied to a global scale is fascinating. I’d like to know a lot more about their leadership and the vision for the platform.
4:08 am • 24 March 2011 • 14 notes • View comments