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News

2010 – 2019: Decade in Review

As the decade comes to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the past 10 years. So, rather than posting my regular year in review, here’s an abbreviated trip through the past 10 years of my life, both personal and professional.

2010

In the control room at the IBC, February 2010

The decade started for me in an almost poetic way with the end of one life and the beginning of another. I’d been working in live TV production from 2004, but my last job as the one-man production crew for one of those talk-radio-on-TV shows had abruptly been terminated as the result of a corporate takeover of the radio station in November 2009. Left on my TV plate was One Last Job: The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

For three weeks, while the city reveled in endless parties, mild weather, and the discovery that the rest of the world care more about cross country skiing than hockey, I sat in a production studio in the International Broadcasting Center (now Vancouver Convention Center) doing graphics for sliding sports and biathlon. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the last time I found myself behind the graphics desk in a TV studio. Some of the most important lessons in life involve figuring out that something is not for you.

Nick Brazzi and Morten on set at lynda.com in Ventura, California.

In September, the work that would come to define the decade for me began. I found myself in Ventura, California recording a course called “WordPress Essential Training” for lynda.com. It was an experiment to see if video training was a better fit than writing books, and at the time everyone figured it would be a one-off thing. That all changed a month after the course went live when it climbed to the top of the most viewed list and the content manager called me asking if I’d like to make some more courses.

2011

The suede soles of old and new dancing shoes.

One of the defining elements of the 2010s for me was dancing. Angela and I went to a ballroom dancing class on a whim some years earlier, and by 2011 it had pretty much become our “thing.” As I settled into my new career as a self-employed web developer and sometimes (quite often actually) lynda.com instructor, dancing was a thing that filled much of our lives. We danced two or three nights a week, and rapidly expanded our repertoire. Our dance instructor Elaine said to me at one point “If you’re always learning new things, you’ll always be a student, never a dancer,” and we took that to heart by bringing dance outside the studio and into any space where music was playing. Toward the end of the year I successfully danced my first pair of shoes to destruction and had to buy a new pair, which to me was a major milestone.

2012

While our business grew and my course production with Lynda.com really started to ramp up, Angela and I realized we could no longer stay in our small apartment. We needed to invest in either a small house and a separate office or a larger house with room for an office. We’d been hunting for a house for 4 years but kept getting squeezed out of the red-hot market by builders willing to buy anything, tear it down, and build a crappy duplex on top of it.

The horror show of a kitchen that met us when the old owners moved out. It looks unrecognizable today.

We’d all but given up when chance had us crashing a private showing of a house in our area. Two days later and we were suddenly homeowners! The house needed extensive renovations and much of the latter half of 2012 was spent first going through the various stages of “we’ve made a HUGE mistake” followed by “all these contractors are trying to scam us” followed by “hey, at least we got one that isn’t half bad” to “OMG they opened up all the walls and we have no plumbing or electricity” all the way to “Can you believe this is the same house we bought?!?”

2013

The first recording setup in my home office. This didn’t work and we ended up installing a proper soundproof booth in the next room.

Between 2012 and the first half of 2013 I found myself flying back and forth between Vancouver, Canada and Caprinteria, California pretty much on a monthly basis to produce courses for lynda.com. At one point a Starbucks barista at LAX called me over as I walked past on my way out of the terminal. “Morten! I have your drink for you!” I had no idea what she was talking about. Turns out I was so regular in my flying – always flying on a Sunday morning, always the third week of the month, etc – that she had taken down my regular order and decided to make one on the assumption I’d arrive as usual. A big tip was in order, followed by a conversation with my content manager.

Little beknown to me my content manager also had some thoughts, and one day I found myself discussing salary and benefits for a new job as a Staff Author at Lynda.com. And just like that the experiment from 2010 had turned into a full-time job!

2014

A large bonfire the night before my brother’s wedding.

To find proof the world has become more multicultural and borders and distances mean less and less, look no further than my extended family. I, a Norwegian, live in Canada with my Tawianese wife. In 2014 we traveled to Romania to attend the wedding of my youngest brother and his wife. If anyone had told us this would be our future when we grew up on Nesodden, nobody would have believed us. How much things change.

The wedding comprised three ceremonies: A Viking ceremony (pictured), a secular ceremony, and an orthodox ceremony in a very small church with beautiful singing, cake, wine, and a lot of laughter as Romanian priests tried to pronounce Norwegian names.

2015

A Wisakedjak diving off a branch.

My father’s aunt always said “life comes in lumps.” 2015 was for me yet another example of this being the truth.

The year started with the passing of my paternal grandmother and a sudden trip to Denmark and Norway for her funeral. It was a somber but wonderful time of reacquaintances with family and friends and the celebration of a long and eventful life.

In April I was woken at 6am by my phone ringing non-stop. It was friends from the east coast telling me LinkedIn had bought Lynda.com, so now I suddenly worked for one of the largest social media companies in the world.

In May, Angela and I embarked on a trip criss-crossing the United States to attend and speak at conferences in Boston, New York City, Carpinteria, and Miami. By the end of the month-long trek I had acquired what my doctor described as “stress-induced shingles.” All I’ll say is the Norwegian word for this disease, helvetesild or “hell’s fire” is an accurate description.

My official enrollment as a LinkedIn employee happened on the 30th of August, and life went on as normal.

2016

Baby Leo, in his incubator, wearing protective goggles because of the UV light.

I don’t think anything changes a person as much as having a child. In 2016 our son Leo arrived, 6 weeks prematurely, and the first three weeks of his life were spent at the hospital neonatal intensive care unit. Angela and I had been on an extended trip to Vienna, Austria for a conference just weeks earlier and after an extremely stressful day involving two different car accidents caused by first a careless driver and then a careless bicyclist, her water broke. The next week was spent at the hospital before Leo arrived screaming out in objection to the lack of “fast music” in the birthing suite on a sunny Saturday morning. We were lucky: The Canadian health care system is impeccable when it comes to treating mothers and babies, and our every need in this difficult time was met and exceeded. We lived in a cocoon as our son gathered strength and checked more and more of the boxes for early release, and after 3 weeks, still 3 weeks before his due date, we suddenly had him in our car and were driving home.

To say it was the most intense time of our lives is a gross understatement. But everything worked the way it should and moments ago I played penguin with Leo while we waited for Angela to rush him through the rain, into the car, and off to preschool which he loves.

2017

A set prop from the recording of JavaScript Essential Training.

“How do you feel about taking on JavaScript Essential Training?” This was the challenge handed to me by my former content manager, now boss’ boss Shira at the beginning of 2017. What followed was three months of intensive research on how JavaScript is taught and how to do it better. It was the most complex and intense course I had done to date, and we had an absolute blast putting it together. On my plan for 2020 is a complete reworking of the course to bring it up to current standards, and I am very excited.

Workshop room at WebCamp Zagreb.

2017 was also the first time I was approached by an international conference to come speak. Which is how I found myself in a cave in Zagreb, Croatia, in October as part of the speaker tour / dinner for WebCamp Zagreb. It was an amazing conference for an amazing community, and I hope I’ll be able to return at some point in the future.

2018

Graffiti on a wall in Freiburg, Germany.

Back in 2015 the same Shira had asked me to define what success looked like and what I strived for professionally. I stated two main goals: Get published in a recognized online magazine like Smashing Magazine or A List Apart, and eventually speak at their respective conferences Smashing Conf and An Event Apart.

I got two articles published in Smashing Magazine in 2016 and 2017, and in 2018 Vitaly Friedman invited me to come speak at Smashing Conf Freiburg. This was the first time I got to bring my tech and design ethics talk to the main stage at a web conference and I am eternally grateful to Vitaly and his team for taking a chance on me. Side note: If you find yourself in Germany, I recommend visiting Freiburg. What an amazing town!

2019

Morten on the set of Technology and Design Ethics.

Back in 2011, right after the recording of my 2nd course for Lynda.com, I told my then content manager Cynthia Scott that I eventually wanted to do a full-on philosophy course. “I’ll somehow camouflage it as a tech course, but it will really just be philosophy” I said, and she nodded and with a knowing smile responded “I’m sure you’ll make that happen.” And it did.

This summer my two content managers Simon St. Laurent and Stephanie Evans granted me the extraordinary opportunity to develop what would become “Technology and Design Ethics.” The course is the culmination and condensation of my academic work from two decades ago, my 17 years in the web industry, and my 10 years as an instructor with Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning. If I may say so myself it both the best and most important work I have done, and I am eternally grateful to everyone who helped me along the way and made this course possible.

The future

People always ask me what’s next, and I can go on in great detail about what I think my murky crystal ball is showing for the web community. As for myself, I am far less certain. So far, my 2020 calendar tells me I have major plans for courses at LinkedIn Learning, and I am speaking about design and tech ethics at An Event Apart in Washington D.C. and in Orlando. I’m hoping to get some more conferences booked, and I am working on three new talks to make that happen.

Personally, I’ve committed myself to spending more time playing guitar, honing my craft at table tennis, and Angela and I have high hopes of getting Leo settled in a sleeping routine which makes it possible for us to go back to dancing 2 days a week. Without lofty goals, you have nothing to strive for.

The past decade has been a trip, with huge changes, huger obstacles, and tremendous personal and professional successes. Looking back on it all, I realize how important it is to celebrate and document your achievements and I’m committing myself to doing a better job at it so my 2029 decade in review is a little less complicated to research.

That was a small peek into my chaotic life, and if you’ve read this far, I thank you for indulging me in this introspective exploration. I also encourage you to do your own review, in private or in public, and find highlights worth looking back on. Remember the good things and let them drive you forward as we start writing 2020 everywhere.

Hope is a catalyst.

Categories
News

#Mor10isAnOld – the 40th Birthday Fundraiser

To celebrate my 40th year on this planet, I’m doing a fundraiser for the Norwegian Refugee Council and a month-long AMA in video format, and I invite you to take part! Each day from today until my birthday on October 17th, I’ll make a video where I answer one question from you. It can be about anything, but I suspect it’ll mostly be centered around web design and development and the internet and how it shapes us. So, if you have a burning question you’d like me to answer, send it my way and it may end up in a video!


Somehow I made it to 40. On October 17, I break that imaginary temporal threshold that puts me squarely in what Norwegians refer to as the “middle age”. In the eyes of my younger self I guess that makes me, officially, “an old”. The path leading here has been long and complex, with twists and turns and loops and seemingly unmountable obstacles. Yet I am here, in my office, writing this. And for that I am grateful.

Some 20 years ago, while riding the subway from downtown Oslo to Blindern station on my way to a philosophy lecture at the University of Oslo, I ripped a page out of my notebook and scribbled down a question:

“If you knew this was your last day on earth, what would you do to leave the world better than you found it?”

Such are the dark ruminations of an immature mind deeply immersed in the impossible task of understanding life, the universe, and everything.

I folded the slip of paper, wrote “read me” on the front, and placed it on an empty seat across the aisle. At the next station a group of students entered and one of them picked up the paper and read it. Then he read it out loud and they all started laughing. What a ridiculous question. Yet minutes later they were deep in conversation about what they had accomplished in life, and more importantly what they wanted to accomplish.

I repeated this experiment for weeks, spending an unreasonable volume of time leaving notes and listening to the conversations that followed on the subway. Looking back on it now, it is clear what I was really doing was attempting to crowdsource an answer to the hardest problem: the meaning of life.

As I round this arbitrary milestone of my life, I am no closer to answering that question I left on a subway seat on the other side of the world all those years ago. Maybe the meaning of life will only reveal itself two years from now? As my search continues, I am putting forward an interim answer, and for that I need your help.

Looking at the world today, and back at the world I grew up in, I see an endless succession of refugee crisis, observed from afar and from which my life and the lives of those around me have rarely been impacted. And I’ve come to realize that there, but for the grace of privilege and luck and geography and geopolitical machinations over which I had no impact or involvement, go I. My life so far has been one of opportunity and open doors, one in which the fear of bombs and bullets and terror has been in the abstract. And that is not because I made the right choices or because I did the right things or because I worked hard or believed in the right powers. It is because I happened to be born to a middle class family in Norway. During peacetime. That’s all.

Somehow I made it to 40, and I think it’s high time I gave that snarky kid on the subway in Oslo got a concrete answer:

For the next 30 days, I am running a fundraiser for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a non-profit organization helping refugees all over the world, and I invite you to join me. Our family (my wife Angela, our son Leo, and I) are donating $1000 CAD and will match donations up to another $1000 CAD. My employer LinkedIn will match my $1000 donation through the LinkedIn Gives program. And I’m asking my family, relatives, and friends, to make a donation to the NRC in lieu of presents for my birthday.

That’s where you come in. I also hope to convince you to donate if you have the means. If you have a dollar or two, follow the link and add your contribution. If you don’t, just help spread the word using the #Mor10isanOld hashtag and maybe someone else in your circle will. And if you don’t want to donate to this organization, or even this cause, find something else you care about to contribute to. Or take the time today to tell someone in your life how important they are to you. Do your small part to leave the world a better place than you found it, in whatever way you see fit.

Somehow I made it to 40, and I plan on sticking around for many years to come. For as long as I’m here, I’ll do my part, and use my privilege, to leave the world a better place than I found it. Starting right here, right now, with this article. I invite you to join me.

Categories
News Web Standards

Semaphore: A 10k Apart entry powered by SVG, CSS, and JavaScript

A couple of months ago A List Apart announced the 10k Apart contest. The premise is simple:

Build a compelling web experience that can be delivered in 10kB and works without JavaScript.

Over the past year I’ve been exploring the edges of what is possible with SVG and this seemed a perfect challenge to really see how far this new graphics format is able to take us.

The result is Semaphore, a flag semaphore simulator you can control with your mouse, touch, or keyboard.

Side note: Go vote for Semaphore, and don’t forget to check out the many other excellent entries.

Now that it’s up, I urge you to check out the final product and the Github repo to see how it all fits together. Here’s the full breakdown:

What is this?

Semaphore is a simple web app providing a straight-forward method for generating flag semaphore symbols. A visitor triggers the semaphore figure using the on-screen keyboard with either touch, a mouse or other pointing device, by tabbing through the options, or via the letters and numbers on their keyboard. Using a screen reader the visitor will hear the arm positions read out based on a clock face.

The 10K Apart challenge stipulates you must build a functional and “compelling” web experience that transfers no more than 10kB to the browser during first load. I chose to take this challenge as literally as possible, creating a web app that only consists of the bare-bones necessary to make it work: a HTML file, a CSS file, and a JavaScript file, providing a complete experience at just shy of 10kB. There is no lazy loading or external elements, and the app is entirely self-contained meaning once it’s in the browser, the visitor can unplug the internet and still have the same experience as someone on a broadband connection.

How does it work?

Semaphore utilizes modern web technologies to provide a responsive, accessible, high-resolution experience in a tiny package. The flat semaphore figure is an SVG split into three components:

  • the body (loaded as the SVG loads)
  • the two arms (loaded as separate symbols)

When a letter is selected, the JavaScript applies a class to the left and right arms that in turn brings in CSS rules that position the arms using CSS transform: rotate();. In some cases the arms are simply rotated along the plane of the page (much like a clock face), in others they are also rotated in 3D space to allow the flag to “react” to gravity. To make the figure more lifelike, the transition property is used to create an animation. The end result is a graphic figure that appears to be alive. The effect is especially striking when typing on your keyboard.

NoJS Fallback

In the original submission, I had left out the JavaScript fallback. This has now been remedied. If the browser does not support JavaScript, an SVG mapping all the semaphore positions is presented in its place. The graphic also has a long description appended describing the flag positions in plain text for screen readers.

Challenges

When I originally put this project together, I used a much simpler SVG without symbols and applied the transforms to IDs within the SVG. However, early testing showed CSS transforms are not honored when applied to elements or presentational attributes within an SVG in Internet Explorer 11 and Edge. To get around this problem, I split each of the arms into a symbol within the SVG and called them in separately. As individual elements in the DOM, they accept CSS transforms with no issues.

That settled, I ran into another browser hurdle: While the arms behaved as expected in Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Opera, they were literally all over the place in Firefox. This is because Firefox does not respect percentage values fortransform-origin. There was also the nontrivial issue of positioning the arms in the correct location relative to the body. There are several complex ways around this problem, but because I had already broken the arms out into separate symbols, the easiest workaround was to make each symbol containing an arm the size of the entire SVG. That way they could be absolutely positioned on top of one another, and the shoulder joints (transform-origin points) could be targeted with simplified CSS. Sometimes practical solutions are just way easier.

Flag semaphore? Really? Where did that idea come from?

I’m fascinated by how technology has changed the way we think about information. Only a couple of decades ago, information (and in particular the communication of information) was a highly valued commodity that required means, expertise, and access. Flag semaphore, and its siblings the semaphore line and Morse code, are maybe the most archetypal representations of this reality: time consuming, cumbersome, and requiring rote recall of complex symbols, they allowed letter-by-letter communication across sight-lines and beyond, forcing the communicators to be vigilant, accurate, and most importantly frugal in their communications. In sharp contrast to today’s plethora of always-on internet-enabled communication methods, with flag semaphore every message needed to be concise, accurate, and without ambiguity – properties our modern world is often in dire need of.

Categories
News

mor10.com – Design is Philosophy has a new name

mor10.com - the home of Morten Rand-Hendriksen

It has been a long time coming and now it’s finally happened: My blog, like most of my other online entities, now carries my moniker. I have to admit it is scary – the Design is Philosophy brand is well established and I’ve had a lot of success with it – but in the end I feel consolidating my “brand” if you will makes more sense. I’ve sat on the mor10.com and mor10.ca domains for years with the intention of doing something cool with them. Then I realized most of the stuff I do is right here, and this is where people should be able to find me. QED.

This will be the third URL for my blog. The first – blog.pinkandyellow.com – was as uninspired as it could get and never really made any sense at all. This is not a blog for my company but more of an online notebook and idea exchange for me personally. Which brings us to the name the blog has carried for the last 7 years: Design is Philosophy. Many have asked, and I’ve never really answered, where that name came from. Now that it’s been deprecated for something simpler, allow me to explain:

By education and trade I am a philosopher. I make a point of telling people that, not because I am a pretentious ass (though some will say that’s a fair description) but because it is the truth and knowing this will help people I encounter understand why I think the way I do.

When I finished high school back in 1997 the teacher handed the probably bizarre job of school career counselor sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do. This was due to the fact that I hadn’t filled in anything sensible on my university / polytechnic applications during my senior year. My dad is a doctor so that was the first suggestion. Which as anyone who knows me (and my dad will attest to) is a preposterous notion. Think Dr. House except not funny and without a job and you get the idea. Then came the other obvious options: Math? Biology? Chemistry? How about physics? Maybe kinetic cybernetics? Or Informatics? I hear these computer things are going to take over the world one day! None of this appealed to me in the least little bit. Well, I have to admit Theoretical Astrophysics and Particle Mechanics seemed interesting until I realized they both required three years of core math and physics first. No deal.

As I sat in this incredibly patient teacher’s office I leafed through the Book of Courses from the University of Oslo discarding one option after the other. Then the teacher asked: “OK, what do you want to do?” and I answered “Think”. Which somehow got me onto the right track. Flash forward 5 years and I walked out of the University of Oslo with a Cand. Mag. (basically a small Master) in philosophy with deep dives into philosophy of science, language, metaphysics, and epistemology.

What my years of study taught me, what has coloured my life ever since, was how to think. More specifically how to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and turn the situation around. It’s hard to do, and once you figure it out it changes your life in a way that can’t be undone. Philosophy has made me the perpetual fence-sitter, the constant devil’s advocate, the proverbial flip-flopper. Ask me my opinion and I’ll give you my view and a thousand reasons why it might be wrong. Show me a problem and I’ll ask you why you want to solve it in the first place. Ask me for input and I’ll turn your project on its head and make you rethink everything from the ground up. Philosophy also made me a developer, designer, and teacher. I could go into details, but that’s a story for a different day.

When 7 years ago it came time to name my blog I wanted to include the word “Philosophy” to reflect my approach to everything I do. My initial thought was to name it “Philosophy of Design” but that would be wrong for many reasons, most notably that my blog is not about the Philosophy of Design. Then after a lot of back and forth with myself I realized that at its core design is about philosophy (I realize this begs a question, and I intend to explain at some point in the future). Thus the name “Design is Philosophy”.

I still think it is a great name which is why the URL will still point here and will still work. I have however realized that though this connection is obvious to me it is somewhat obscure for the rest of the world. And as I’ve traveled the world and the web my other more easily remembered and very direct moniker has taken over as my main identity. The change simply had to happen. And now it has.

Let me introduce myself: My name is Morten. You can find me on the web under the moniker “mor10” – because that’s my name. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

Categories
News

The eventvwr phone scam

I just had an … interesting … conversation with a phone scammer who wanted to hack my computer. Here’s the gist of it so you’ll recognize it when it happens to you. Bottom line is this:

If someone calls from “Windows Service Center” asking you to hit Windows+R and type in “eventvwr” they are trying to hijack your computer.

Strong language ahead. You have been warned.

Guy with a thick accent says he’s calling from “Windows Service Center” claiming my computer is distributing malware and hacked software. He asks for me by full name and says he will show me how I have been hacked and how to fix it. For reference the number he called is a new number that has never been made public and was never registered with Microsoft or any software.

I ask him if he works for Microsoft. No, he works for “Windows Service Center” or something similar. He explains it’s a 3rd party responsible for monitoring Windows software on behalf of Microsoft. Knowing that Microsoft does not have contracts with this type of company I already knew it was a scam, but I wanted to see what he was up to.

He asks me to turn on my computer and hit Windows+R which opens the Run window. From there he wanted me to type in “eventvwr”. Of course I didn’t but I let him trail on for a bit pretending I had done what he told me to. It became apparent what he wanted was for me to enable Remote Desktop so he could take control of my computer. Being unsuccessful (because I didn’t activate anything on my end) he kept saying my Software Defender software which comes with Windows (it does not) was buggy and needed to be fixed.

After a lot of back and forth I had had enough and I asked him where he got my number from, explaining that my number is not listed with Microsoft. Boy that got him going:

Mr. Scam: “Sir, you are a software novice and you clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Your computer is infected and I need to fix it. We have security experts standing by.”

Me: “I’m just asking you where you got my name and number from. I never registered this number with Microsoft.”

Mr. Scam: “I am trying to do you a favour. Microsoft has asked us to fix your computer.”

Me: “But Microsoft doesn’t have my number.”

Mr. Scam: “Listen to me you asshole. You are not computer savvy. You are a novice and you don’t know anything about computers.”

Me: “Actually I am a beta tester for Microsoft and a leading technology expert. You are trying to scam the wrong person.”

Mr. Scam: “You work for Microsoft?!!?!? Fuck you motherfucker asshole.”

Me: “And that’s all the proof I need you don’t work for Microsoft.”

All I heard from that point on was beeping so I assume he was trying to figure out how to hang up his computer.

Having a hunch this wasn’t the first time the guy had tried this scam I did a quick search on the interwebs. And look what I found: A YouTube video of someone having a conversation with the exact same guy trying to do the exact same thing!

More information about Microsoft phone scams:

http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/security/online-privacy/msname.aspx

Categories
Internet My Opinion News

What the Instagram advertising model could look like

As a follow up to my previous piece on the hyperbole surrounding the Instagram Terms of Service I thought I’d put forward a suggestion on how an advertising model for Instagram might theoretically work. This is purely speculative and designed to work within the TOS as published on Monday and with the intent to a) make money for Instagram, b) use your name, likeness, and photos for advertising purposes for a 3rd party, and c) be of value to you as the photographer even without you receiving compensation for the use of your photos.

In other words, if I were in charge of the Instagram Advertising Scheme, this is how it would work.

Consider the following hypothetical:

Julie, a 21 year old Instagram user in Oslo, goes to a local cafe called Kaffekakao to hang out with friends over a warm cup of cocoa on a particularly snowy December evening. She takes a somewhat artistic photo of her cocoa, applies a filter and posts it to Instagram alongside a remark “Cocoa with friends at Kaffekakao”.

Meanwhile the marketing department at Kaffekakao wants to get their name on the map for potential tourists visiting the city. Locals know that this is the place to be if you want a good cup of cocoa but tourists may not be aware. They approach Instagram asking if the service has any advertising opportunities.

Instagram picks Julie’s photo of the cocoa as a great candidate and proposes to use it for a flash promotion for Kaffekakao, targeted at english speaking people in and around Oslo.

The cafe says yes and the promotion kicks in.

Hours later Instagram users in Oslo start seeing Julie’s picture in their Instagram feeds. There is no blatant advertising or call to action, just the picture along with Julie’s comment, the name of the cafe hyperlinked. Because it’s a good photo, a nice comment, and Julie is a well trusted trend setter in the community, people feel inclined to go get a cup of cocoa at Kaffekakao. If the cool kids hang there, so should we!

From this several things happen: Instagram gets paid for the promotion, Kaffekakao gets some much deserved exposure for their excellent cocoa, and Julie gets a lot of new followers. Everybody wins.

Like I said this is pure speculation on my part, but as you can see it is not hard to come up with an advertising model for Instagram that doesn’t involve ripping you off and throwing you to the wolves.

Instagram should totally pay me for this.

Categories
News

Join Morten for a Live Q&A on Facebook this Wednesday

I’m doing a live Q&A session with lynda.com on Facebook this coming Wednesday December 12 from 11am to 1pm Pacific Time. It’ll be an Ask Me Anything of sorts (as long as it’s vaguely related to WordPress) and it is a bit of an experiment so we’ll see how it goes. You can either submit your questions ahead of time through the lynda.com Facebook page or through Twitter @lyndadotcom or you can show up on the day and partake in the festivities.

Categories
My Opinion News Politics

#Occupy posters for Canadian issues

#occupycanadaThe #Occupy movement is spreading, and with good reason. In the western world, and North America in particular, inequality is slowly becoming the norm. And nowhere more so than in the USA.

In my view the #Occupy movement is at its core about one thing: Democracy. And though the issues focused on may and should differ from country to country, the one persistent message is clear: Every man, woman and child has a voice and has an equal right to speak, be heard, and be part of society. The problem is that right now, especially in North America, only the rich and powerful get heard while the vast majority get overlooked or ignored.

Occupy Canada – issues for Canadians

One of the dangers of the #Occupy movement is that it may try to transplant issues from one country to another. This will not only erode the cause itself but make the movement seem ill informed. This is especially important as #Occupy events are ramping up in Canada. So if you plan on taking part in the events starting on October 15th in Canada, take up the cause of democratic issues we all face in Canada.

To help with this I’ve created three posters focusing on three important Canadian democratic issues: Electoral reform, control of telecommunications and cross-media ownership. I’ve also attached a short blurb about each of the issues so you can see why they matter and why you should make one of them (or all) your slogan as you #Occupy your city.

Proportional Representation Now!

Proportional representation nowCanada has an electoral system that has been referred to as a “sham democracy”. The first-past-the-post system does not reflect the popular vote but stacks parliament based on artificial electoral districts and simple majority rules. The result is that parliamentary composition rarely reflects the popular vote.

Case in point, the current Harper government. Whereas the Conservatives have a Parliamentary majority of 54.2% they only got 39.6% of the popular vote. In other words, based on popular vote the Canadian government would be a coalition of the NDP, Liberals and the Bloc with the Conservatives as official opposition. So when Harper claims he has a “strong majority mandate” he is really talking about an artificially inflated mandate based on an antiquated and undemocratic electoral system. Needless to say something must be done about this.

The solution is some form of proportional representation, employed by most western nations in the world. This would ensure that the popular vote is represented in parliament.

Download the poster in PDF format. JPEG version on Flickr.

Reform the CRTC

Reform the CRTCThe CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ) is the government watchdog and regulatory body for all radio, television and telecommunications in Canada. In other words they are the ones that decide who and what can be aired or sent over the internet and by whom this information is carried. The CRTC regulates the four big Canadian telecoms (Shaw, Telus, Bell and Rogers) who collectively stand for nearly 100% of all broadcasting and telecommunications.

The problem with the CRTC is that unlike in other western countries (the USA excluded) their mandate does not include the Canadian people nor consumer rights. The job of the CRTC is to protect the big telecoms from each other. This becomes problematic when you learn that the board of the CRTC is stacked with former heads of the four big telecoms.

Because of the weird mandate of the CRTC the four big telecoms can agree among each other to ramp up prices, cut services and lock competition out as long as all of them agree. As a result you, the consumer, gets screwed ever time. Ever wonder why your cell phone bill or cable bill is so high or why you don’t have the same streaming video services they have in other countries? The CRTC is to blame.

To solve this and make the telecoms act fairly and treat consumers with respect the mandate of the CRTC must be reformed to include consumer rights.

Download the poster in PDF format. JPEG version on Flickr.

Cross Media Ownership Kills the Free Word

Cross-media ownership kills the free wordOn the topic of the four big telecoms, did you know that almost all Canadian broadcasters are owned by the same telecoms that provide the cable signal in your house? Or that most Canadian news outlets are owned by the same big corporations? In Vancouver, both the major news papers The Vancouver Sun and The Vancouver Province are owned by the same company.

The result of such cross-media ownership is that the free word is quashed in favour of corporate interests. When one or a few corporations control the media entirely, the corporate philosophies and political views become the predominant voice in the media landscape. This is further complicated when the broadcasters are owned by the same companies that bring the broadcast signal to your home.

The bottom line is that cross-media ownership results in censorship of opinion and the free word. You see the result in the USA, especially with FOX News, but also in general with the media blackout over the #Occupy movement. And Canada is just inches away from being in that same situation unless the Government starts cracking down on cross-media ownership and passes legislation to prevent it from spreading.

Download the poster in PDF format. JPEG version on Flickr.

Final words

If you’re going to one of the #Occupy protests keep this in mind: If you want someone to change their mind you have to make them understand your case first. If you just shout at them, or try to force them, you will get nowhere. Communication is the key to everything.

Categories
News

Oslo Love – Vote for my first ever Threadless submission

I’m a big t-shirt fanatic and I’ve often wished I could get a t-shirt design printed by Threadless. This month the opportunity arose when they started the Threadless Loves Your City contest. So I created a design to honour my favourite city, the one where I spent my formative years; Oslo, Norway.

The design is simple: Emblazoned on the silhouette of the iconic Oslo City Hall are the names of all the sections (bydeler) in Oslo. The design is red and white and is printed on a blue shirt to correspond with the colours in the Norwegian flag.

To get the shirt printed it has to be voted through. So now it’s up to you, dear followers, to go to Threadless and vote for my Oslo design.

I believe you need an account to vote. Luckily accounts are free and do not require you to buy anything. Of course once my shirt does get approved you will want to buy it because it will be your doing, but that’s down the road. For now, just vote!

Categories
News

Code Your Art Out and Dev:Unplugged: Two dev contests to cut your teeth on

There are a lot of exciting things happening in the online development space right now and there are some great opportunities for designers, developers and people with great ideas for online applications to get recognition, cut their teeth on bleeding edge technologies and maybe even win some stuff or a big wad of cash.

Code Your Art OutCode Your Art Out – Doing some good with your code

In conjunction with the Open Source conference Make Web Not War put on by Microsoft in Vancouver on May 6th and 7th this year the team has also launched a contest named Code Your Art Out. The contest is an extension and maturing of last year’s FTW (For The Web) contest which focussed on using oData in applications. This year the main focus is on using the web to do good – more specifically helping charitable organizations and non-profits reach out to their communities in new ways. From the website:

“Code Your Art Out” is about helping non-profits harness the power of technology in order to better serve its communities and members. It’s also about blending Microsoft technologies with other technologies to create applications that connect people, data, and diverse systems in new ways; bringing it all together in one ground breaking application.

Code Your Art Out brings to light an interesting conundrum in today’s rapidly evolving online environment: There are data sets, applications, solutions and technologies out there that can be of great benefit to individuals, organizations and companies, but the know-how and understanding necessary to utilize these often lie beyond the grasp of those who need it the most. The contest serves to build a bridge between those who would benefit from these technologies and those who understand and can build on these technologies. And for that alone I think it’s well worth it to take an active approach and submit an entry.

Not to mention that there are some serious prizes to be had including a trip to Toronto in June and some serious cash ($10,000 for the winner and $5,000 for the runner up).

Code Your Art Out runs from March 1st to June 1st. For all the details visit the site and get coding!

Dev:UnpluggedDev:Unplugged – release the power of the web

We are entering a new era where web code is concerned. The introduction of HTML5, CSS3, SVG and other related technologies are opening new and previously uncharted teritories for designers, developers and everyone else playing around on the web. The IE9 team is heavily invested in furthering this technology and is doing what it can to encourage early adoption and ground breaking work on the code front.

Enter Dev:Unplugged, a contest built on the premise of pushing the new HTML5 standard to its limits and create web apps that are “unplugged” as in not reliant on plug-ins. From the website:

We believe that HTML5 and related technologies, in conjunction with faster and faster browsers, finally give developers the tools they need to create experiences that are just as vivid, interactive and high-fidelity as what you have come to expect from native applications without the need for plug-ins. We want to see what you can do unplugged.

What is truly interesting about Dev:Unplugged is that even though it’s a contest put on by Microsoft and the IE9 team this is not a contest centered around Microsoft technologies – it’s centered around the new common markup languages of the web. To accentuate this the rules state, and I quote: “The submission has to work across IE9 RC, Chrome Beta and Firefox Beta.” For Microsoft haters this might come as a bit of a suprise, but it’s part of the new “we’re all in this together” approach adopted by the company over the last few years. After all, the web doesn’t care what platform you’re on or what browser you use, so why should coders?

The Dev:Unplugged contest itself is split into two main categories: Games and Music. Entrants are asked to build innovative gaming and music applications using only HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript centered around material provided by the contest. You can read a full breakdown of how all this fits together over at the Internet Explorer blog and at the Dev:Unplugged website. Entering the contest you’ll be working with material from the animated series HellBoy and bands Awolnation and Ra Ra Riot.

As with Code Your Art Out there are some awesome prizes to be had including a trip to the Future of Web Apps conference in Las Vegas in June, cash, computers and other cool stuff.

All entries for Dev:Unplugged must be submitted through the website by May 8th, 2011 so get crackin!

Categories
Internet My Opinion News

Capping the Net – You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Till It’s Gone

If you don’t want to read all my ramblings, here is what I want you to do to help protect and preserve the free and clear open web:

  1. Go to http://stopthemeter.ca and sign the petition
  2. Send all your friends, family, frenemies, school aquaintences and your neighbour’s cat to the same site and get them to sign the petition (well, maybe not the cat)
  3. Share the link on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else you think someone may see it
  4. Go to OpenMedia.ca and educate yourself on this very important issue.
  5. Contact your local and government representatives and demand that the CRTC start protecting the rights of consumers, not just the rights of corporations
  6. Call your Internet Service Provider and tell them point blank you are not happy with what they are doing and that you want your internet to remain free, clear and uncapped
  7. Tell your friends about this issue and get them involved

And here’s why:

You may have heard some of your geeky friends talk about the major internet service providers in Canada pushing for new legislation to allow them to cap internet use and demand pay for “overages”. And you may have heard the CRTC – the decision making body put in place to ensure fair trade and practice in the communications space – has made some decisions in this regard that in no way favour consumers. What you may not know is that this move is the first step in what could become a stifling of the internet, a blockage of services and you ending up with a web that just isn’t what it used to be.

Why it matters to you

The crux of the situation is this: Up until the last few weeks your cable internet connection has been open meaning you pay the same if you download 5kb or 300 GB per month. The Internet Service Providers (Bell, Rogers, Telus and Shaw) don’t like this. They want to charge you a base fee for a capped service (say 20GB per month) and then charge you overages (say $1 per GB) when you exceed that cap. That may sound fair but in reality it’s not. And what’s worse, it may just be the first step in an attempt to stifle the web and force you to use paid services rather than the free ones that are currently available.

Although it might not seem like such a big deal right now, capping the web will become a very big deal very soon. New services like Netflix and other streaming media are popping up everywhere, and with them come new ways of using the web. No longer can you only surf web sites. You can download or stream movies and TV when you want where you want, you can use Skype to have video conversations with multiple people at the same time, you can stream music from a myriad of services. And as quality and compression improves these services put more and more loads on your connection. As a result, whereas right now you may only use 5GB per month and get your movies at the local video rental shop, a year from now you may use 60GB per month and watch your favourite TV shows and movies from a streaming service like Netflix, XBOX Live or iTunes. And if you do, your Internet Service Provider will stuff it’s big hands deep into your pockets and pull out all your cash.

Here’s Strombo explaining it:

But isn’t that fair? Shouldn’t we pay for what we use?

This may sound fair, but in reality it’s not. As Netflix points out the actual cost of a GB of data transfer over wired lines is about 1 cent, not $1 like they want to charge. And there is no real reason to cap downloads because the capacity is there. This is just a good old fashioned moneygrab. But there may also be a more sinister reason behind it, and it relates to the Net Neutrality debate that has been raging in the US.

The Internet Service Providers have a not-so-hidden agenda – to force you to keep using their services. It’s simple really: All the major Canadian ISPs also offer TV and video-on-demand services through their cable boxes. But now companies like Netflix infringe on this market. Why watch a pay-per-view movie on Shaw for $3.99 when you can watch all the movies you want on Netflix for $8.99 per month? The trick here is to make Netflix unavailable, or too expensive, so that people are forced to stick with the old content providers. It’s as simple as that.

Net Neutrality at risk

But there’s more to it than simply trying to force people to stick with their old cable plan. This move may be the first step in an all out attack on Net Neutrality. And that’s worrysome to say the least. Net Neutrality simply means that you pay the same price regardless of what type of content you download. So reading your email, checking updates on Facebook, downloading documents from work and watching videos on YouTube and Netflix are all bundled into your internet package. In short you pay for the use of the web, not its services. In the world ISPs wants you pay based on what services you use. So if you want to use just email and facebook you pay one fee, but if you want to watch streaming video on YouTube or use your internet connection for gaming you have to pay an extra fee. And when it comes to music, TV and video the many services out there are simply blocked and you are forced to use the services authorized by the cable providers.

Sounds insane, right? Well, it’s excatly what the ISPs in the US tried to do. And it’s exactly what the ISPs here in Canada will try to do if they get the chance. The bottom line is they want to make money, and the free and open internet is preventing them from doing so so they want to shut it down. Disturbing, right? Well, it gets worse!

(To see a great exlanation of Net Neutrality go to www.theopeninter.net)

The CRTC is not here to help you (!?!?)

Last year I reported Shaw Cablesystems to the CRTC for willfully crippling HD broadcasts on their regular cable. My argument was simple: You can get CBC, CTV, Global, CityTV and Omni in HD for free if you attach a clothes hanger to a cable and hang it out your windiw. But if you have Shaw cable you get a cropped SD version of these same channels and you have to pay for an expensive HD box to get access to the free HD signal. Furthermore this was around the same time the cable companies were trying to force these same over-the-air channels to pay for the privilege of being broadcast on the cable systems. You may remember it as the “Save Local” campaign and it was one ugly piece of corporate greed, willful misinformation and outright lies on both sides.

Anyway, I contacted the CRTC and after a lot of back and forth I got one of their representatives on the phone. What he told me was truly mindboggling: When I asked him why the CRTC was not acting in the best interest of the consumers he told me point blank “That’s not our job.” He went on to tell me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the job of the CRTC is to ensure that the cable providers follow Canadian law and act in a fair way in the market. In other words that they don’t enter into price gouging and undercutting against each other. “So you’re saying if they all just agree to raise prices to an insane level, stifle service and generally screw over the consumers, the CRTC is OK with that?” I asked. And his reply? “Yes”.

The reality is that unless I was misinformed by this CRTC employee and I’m unaware of some other government entity that has oversight over this, the Canadian consumers are not being protected from price fixing by four companies who are basically allowed to run the show on their own. It’s kind of like the mafia really. And taking this into account things really start to make sense: Why our cell phone services are crappy and more expensive than anywhere else on the planet, why we pay more for cable than our neighbours to the south, why we can’t get Netflix, Zune Marketplace, Hulu and a whole pile of other services in Canada and why we, the consumers, are being screwed over again and again without anyone standing up and saying something about it.

Time for action

Not to be blunt or anything, but this bullshit has got to stop. Canadians are far too polite when it comes to issues like this, and the big corporations take advantage of that compliance. This is one of those cases where unless you stand up, let your voice be heard and tell your elected officials they are screwing things up for everyone, we are all going to pay for it down the road. Unfortunately I’m a mere resident of this country and I have no right to vote so I’m at the mercy of those with the power of citizenship in the matter. So here’s what you should do, right now:

  1. Go to http://stopthemeter.ca and sign the petition
  2. Send all your friends, family, frenemies, school aquaintences and your neighbour’s cat to the same site and get them to sign the petition (well, maybe not the cat)
  3. Share the link on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else you think someone may see it
  4. Go to OpenMedia.ca and educate yourself on this very important issue.
  5. Contact your local and government representatives and demand that the CRTC start protecting the rights of consumers, not just the rights of corporations
  6. Call your Internet Service Provider and tell them point blank you are not happy with what they are doing and that you want your internet to remain free, clear and uncapped
  7. Tell your friends about this issue and get them involved

We are at a turning point in time. Up until now the internet has been free, clear and uncapped and as a result we have seen a massive emergence of new companies, new services and new ways of communicating, sharing and enjoying content. If the ISPs get their way, those days will soon be over and we’ll be moving backwards. That’s not acceptable. Stand up for your rights and take action!

Categories
Expression Web My Book News

Breaking the silence: What I’ve been doing over the summer

If you follow this site and my Tweets you will surely have noticed my relative silence over the summer. Well, there is a reason… more precicely 3 reasons. I’ve been colossally busy dealing with three major projects that as of now are either nearing completion or at a point where I can start focusing on other stuff (like long neglected clients) again. So, to stave off the criticism for my falling off the face of the internet here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on:

Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression 4 in 24 Hours

Earlier this summer Microsoft released version 4 of Expression Studio. The new version brough major upgrades to Expression Web and as a result my hugely popular book Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 4 in 24 Hours had to be updated. That meant I had to go through every nook and cranny of the new version to find all the new goodies, come up with new examples to show them off and then rewrite whole chapters to reflect these changes. It may come as a surprise, but revising a book like this is almost as much work as writing it from scratch. Which means once v5 comes out I am likely to do a complete rewrite. But that’s a different story.

The new book, scheduled to be released end of October, features updated and extended examples, new features, removal of deprecated features. New content worth noting is an extended chapter on the new and improved Expression Web SuperPreview which now includes full support for IE6, 7, 8 (compatibility mode) and 8 as well as a new feature called Remote Browser Testing that allows for testing on external browsers like Safari for Mac and an entire chapter on the new Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Checker tool.

Expression Studio 4 and Expression Web 4 comes as a free upgrade if you already own version 3. That means if you have version 3 you should upgrade right away. And if you alredy have my version 3 book you should get the new version once it comes out. I’m not saying this because I want to sell more books but because there are some new features in there that are important to understand and get the full use out of.

Microsoft Expression Web 4 LiveLessons (Video Training)

In addition to the book I’ve also created a colossal 27 lesson video series clocking in at around 5 hourscalled Microsoft Expression Web 4 LiveLessons (Video Training) for those of you who either don’t want to read a book or who want more hands-on training using Expression Web. The LiveLessons series features an entirely new example project based on the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon website and provides a best-practice model for how to create professional, rock solid and stylish websites using standards-based HTML and CSS. The LiveLessons series is complementary to the Sams book so there are things that are covered in the videos that are not covered in the book and vice versa. Thus even though you’ll get a lot out of each item alone you’ll get a much better and more in-depth understanding by getting them both. Again, this is not a sales pitch – I’m being honest here. The combo really is the better deal.

The video series will be available on DVD early October and I believe it will also be available for download or online viewing on InformIT’s website (tba).

12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon 2010

Because I don’t already have way too much on my plate I decided to start a huge photography event/contest last year called the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon. In a nutshell it’s a contest where 60 photographers show up on a set date, pick up a 12 exposure 35mm film and then at the top of every hour for 12 hours are given one theme to interpret in one photo. At the end of 12 hours the films are returned, developed, judged and finally put up in a huge exhibit. In the end we end up with 720 photos divided into 60 sequences of 12 consecutive themes. The 2009 event was a massive success with over 300 people showing up for the gallery exhibit and we expect this year’s event to get even bigger.

In the runup to the even (and to kill two birds with one stone) I developed a new site for the marathon and used this site as the demo project for the Expression Web 4 LiveLessons series. As a result the site features some pretty fancy elements like a transparent CSS-only drop-down menu with multiple in-button styles, CSS3 drop-shadows and rounded corners and tons of other fancy schmancy style elements.

The 2010 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon takes place on Sunday September 12 from 8am to 8pm in downtown Vancouver with a home base at Blenz Coffee in Yaletown. Tickets for participation (60 in all) are $24 per person and cover all expenses. Tickets go for sale Thursday, August 12 at 8pm and are expected to sell out fast. The following art exhibit will be held at Vancouver Photo Workshops on the 16th of October.