Thursday, March 06, 2014

How to Create a Mood Board

I've worked on website redesigns where the brand had a mood board -- a collection of colors, textures, imagery, photography and a few key phrases that describe the look and feel of a website. I've found mood boards to be a helpful nonverbal tool for communicating this information, especially to creative teams.

Below is a short, informative video by hibu on how to create your own mood board.

hibu says that it is a website creation service that enables you to create well-designed mobilized sites easily and for free. I haven't tried it out so can't comment on it. But since I spent 10 weeks worth of blood, sweat and tears (OK, no blood) in a front-end web development class at General Assembly, I should probably create a website from scratch. Not that I've started...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Insights from San Francisco OpenCo 2013

One month ago, I hopped around San Francisco to visit some of the 135 tech companies participating in OpenCo San Francisco. Just like artists invite art lovers into their studios, OpenCo companies opened their doors – some grand some humble – to share their work and vision with more than 3600 tech enthusiasts.

The event infused me with some much-need optimism about San Francisco. With skyrocketing real-estate prices, Twitter IPO millionaires, and petitions against $4 toast – it’s easy to resent and even fear the tech economy. But OpenCo reminded me why I still love it. It’s vibrant. It has a culture of sharing. And at its best, it has the potential to improve the way we live.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Distributed management sounds cooler than regular management.
Github takes its open-source approach to development and applies it to management. Teams of people iterate and develop lots of ideas -- leading to good ideas. Leadership comes organically rather than hierarchically. I’m sure it’s not this rosy and simple, but it sounds refreshing compared to a traditional corporate structure.

2. Green tech can't just be about green tech.
The Cleantech Group helps clean-energy tech startups with business development. To a group of about 20 sustainability advocates, they frankly acknowledged that the industry too long focused on technology and an environmental message at the expense of business opportunity and scale. At Cradle to Cradle, I heard a similar need for green to scale.

3. Water needs techies
What’s more scary than zombies or the apocalypse? It’s the potential devastation from a shortage of drinkable water. And yet according to the nonprofit accelerator Imagine H20, less than 1 percent of venture capital goes to fund innovation that conserves, purifies, reuses, and creates energy from water. Imagine H20 aims to change that.  I hope they are successful.

4. Publishers are agencies.
As a former editorial type, I couldn't resist visiting the offices of, one of the first online magazines. While it maintains its semi-intellectual, semi-tabloid approach to news, politics, and lifestyle topics – they’ve added tech and sustainability sections, I’m guessing, as a result of advertising interest. Like a lot of publishers, they are also creating ads and sponsored content for advertisers. It’s the new business model for publishing. Hopefully, it works to fund independent editorial and not muddy it.

OpenCo gave me a peek into the tech renaissance blooming again in San Francisco, both in haute eco-designed expanses with top-shelf bars and shared studios crowded with Ikea desks. May the best ideas win.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Who Knew Big Data Could Look So Cool?

I'm not writing much these days (too busy with the digital and content marketing), but data visualizations fascinate me. So, I decided to write a story on them. TechHive published it last Wednesday. It's called The art of numbers: Who knew Big Data could look so cool?

I was able to talk to a "who's who" in the data visualization world and understand how streams of numbers and facts are turned into pieces of art. We are collecting so much data, and visualizations help us comprehend -- with our heads and hearts -- what all that data means. The impact is truly amazing. Visualizations are helping doctors better understand the brain, geologists look at Mars, environmentalists monitor global warming, and the public become more savvy about our interconnected world.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Best Digital Video Infographic Ever

Everyone knows that digital video is a rapidly growing digital information medium. In fact, here are some stats that prove it.
  • Over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube. (source: YouTube)
  • In 2012, online video saw a 46.5% growth rate. (source: eMarketer)
Bored yet?

That's why infographics were invented. They use artwork and analogies to make statistics meaningful to people.

A friend recently shared with me an infographic that used YouTube video and audio to explain the severe state of income equality in the United States and how it's really much worse than the straight statistics appear. The video is based on 2011 Harvard Business School research by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely. The video itself is created by someone named Politizane, who no one on the Internet seems to know much about.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Learning Spanish for Free

I just went to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico for a week, and I fell in love not only with the clear aqua waters of the Caribbean but also with the language of its people. I came home resolved to learn Spanish, and planned to buy Rosetta Stone language learning software to get started.

Then, I remembered all the articles on MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) that I've been reading. Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy, and edX are the major platforms of online courses. They are collaborations of major universities, venture capitalists, and developers looking to offer the world's best learning to everyone -- for free.

When I searched these sites, there wasn't a Spanish class on them, but further Google searching yielded two other options. The first is Spanish MOOC, which is run by a language educator named Scott Rapp. It simulates a traditional class structure. Run over 12 weeks, it includes lectures, conversation, homework, and even tests. It uses digital tools like Google Hangout for interaction. Also like a traditional class, it has a start and end date, and I had missed my window to join.

So I kept searching, and I found duoLingo.

Using duoLingo is easy. You create an account and walk through the short simple lessons, a combination of phrases, vocabulary and grammar. You read, write, and with your PC's microphone, practice pronunciation. The experience is lightly gamified for fun, and you have the option of repeating areas of the lesson where you need more practice.

Why would a website offer free language classes? It's a bit of a quid pro quo. It teaches you Spanish. You join its crowdsourced project to translate the Internet.

The project is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Luis Von Ahn. According to the Motley Fool, it's a well-funded brainchild with $18 million in backing from venture capital firms, as well as Ashton Kutcher, and Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week.

We'll see how much Spanish I'll learn in this manner, and whether I'll ever get good enough to contribute to the translation of tomes of content on the Internet. I'm a little skeptical on that part.

Either way, it's amazing that some learning has been freed from its gatekeepers and is providing competition to paid education. Rosetta Stone lost at least one customer for now. It's not enough to charge for learning just cause you can. I'll pay for Rosetta Stone if I end up needing it. But I'll need some proof of that first.

As Thomas Friedman recently reported, "Institutions of higher learning must move, as the historian Walter Russell Mead puts it, from a model of 'time served' to a model of 'stuff learned.'"  If base education is free, then paid education will need to offer more than the promise of 12 weeks or four years to park ourselves in class. They'll need to show us it works.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Airport Serenity Part II -- Long Beach

My family never understands why I want to be at the airport two hours before my flight from Long Beach when it's likely not necessary. The airport is small and usually not too crowded.
There are two reasons.
Number one: Sometimes it is necessary because of unusually long lines. So it's good to be safe.
Number two: I like to read, check email, or catch up on work at the new crop of upscale cafes, wine bars, and restaurants that fill airport gate areas.
Like right now I'm at 4th Street Vine wine bar at the recently revamped Long Beach Airport, a $45 million affair (according to the NY Times) that includes a patio, two bars, burgeoning garden, and food court.
Apparently, I'm part of a trend. Here's the full New York Times article.
May you be reading it outdoors in January, sitting in a red and black wicker chair, with a California Chardonnay (the dry one) in one hand, watching the sun fall behind Jet Blue A320s. Like I am.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Serenity at the Airport

For as many times as the airport causes my pulse rate to rise, I have experienced moments of serenity.
Like right now.
I arrived early for a short hop to Long Beach from San Francisco. My early-morning flight leaves from the modern, minimalist International Terminal at SFO. My chai latte and view of the rising sun made only more enjoyable by finding a table near a power outlet so I can charge my iPad.