Ads and content

The web has had a luxury since its existence: free content. As a society, we gave up on the $4 per magazine model in favor of free content where we were the product being sold. It’s neither good, nor bad. It’s the way it is. I read an article that I didn’t pay anything for. This goes beyond walking into a Barnes and Noble and skimming articles for free. This happens billions of times a day. I read an article, and I’m tracked for the next day, month, year.

It’s a chicken or egg problem. Did I expect free content without caveats before publishing companies were willing to give their content away? Whether we want to admit it or not, we all created this environment. Publishers, Advertisers, Consumers.

It wasn’t too long ago where pop-up ads were the norm. What is now a default feature of every web browser in existence, was once the same battle we are fighting today; advertising annoyances. And thus, here we are again. The users are starting to fight back. Except, it’s not just pop-up ads this time. It’s javascript and valuable tracking data. The internet will no longer know I sent my wife a link to some manties.

Picture a world where you walk into a store to look at a product, you walk out and carry on your way. What you don’t realize until later is that an employee of that store has followed you around while grocery shopping to tell you go back and buy that product. This is the world we’re living in.

What’s frustrating for me (and a lot of people) is that there is no solution yet. I love certain sites, but I don’t get the choice to opt-out of having my internet history tracked. Would I pay top dollar for the sites I love? Probably, but that’s not an option right now. That’s just the way it is. I don’t have the luxury of saying, “Here’s my $4 a month, please stop following me.” Even paywall sites like WSJ and New York Time still track you after subscription fees. Users are starting to fight back (again) and it will be interesting to see what happens next. Maybe we’re asking for even worse ads that are even more poorly implemented, but we all have to do something. The current model is broken.

Apple Watch Thoughts : Week 2

If you don’t want to exercise, don’t buy an Apple Watch.

From a pure utility stand point, there’s very little the watch can do that your phone can’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you think about it, everything your phone can do, a laptop can do as well. That doesn’t make either of those gadgets less important.

It’s amazing how conscious I’ve become over my sedentary lifestyle. Sarah made a joke the other day, “Do you need to take your watch for a walk?” In a lot of ways, that’s an accurate portrayal of how the watch has changed my behaviors. I now go for much longer walks and try to elevate my heart rate as much as possible. Running to my car in the parking lot. A jog around the block. They are all just the tiniest attempts at completing my three activity rings. Thus far, the watch’s gamification has worked in ways my original fitbit never really did. 10,000 steps is a very linear, and somewhat arbitrary, goal. Elevate your heart rate for 30 minutes, walk a bunch, and stand up once every hour at least twelve times a day. That’s the watch’s goal for me… and I’m trying to stick to it.

If you’re looking for another place to have apps, keep looking. The Apple Watch isn’t a compelling app platform. I would argue that it doesn’t need to be. The Apple Watch isn’t a smaller iPhone in the way that the iPad is a bigger iPhone. It’s much different. It’s a secondary device. Secondary in that it’s not essential in almost every regard. Is paying for groceries with your watch more useful than pulling out your phone? Marginally so. When I read about people struggling with the watch, it almost seems it’s because they view it as another place to play with apps. I think that is so incredibly short sighted. The watch sucks at apps, and I almost never use the app screen.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, there are novel ideas within the watch. Using it as a boarding pass for my most recent trip to California was one. Where my phone is usually right inside my pocket, I could put it in a bag and completely forget about it. That kind of liberation is oddly refreshing. I get a buzz, move my wrist up, glance, and put it back down. I’m not fumbling with getting my phone out of my pocket while carrying my luggage through the terminal. There are other little ideas that are perfectly executed and suited for the watch. World clocks and timers are two other great examples. It’s the other concepts that seem, well, stupid. Maps on a watch? Viewing Instagram? None of those ideas seem remotely appealing to me.

I think that’s why I like the Apple Watch so much. It does what I need and nothing more. It’s the most elegant activity tracker that doubles as a watch and notification screen for my phone. As a person who absolutely loathes notifications on an iPhone, that’s a huge accomplishment. I never swipe down on my phone because all of that information, everything from the weather to sports scores, is all on my wrist.

Time will only tell if these newly found habits stick, but I’m optimistic they will. It’s been fun and enlightening having something keep me a little more honest about how lazy I am. Everything else has been a bonus.

Day One

Despite my initial reservations, I got an Apple Watch. The majority of those reservations have largely been addressed. I almost never use the home screen. I don’t get deluged with notifications on all my devices when the watch is on my wrist. I don’t use maps because they just seems stupid on a watch. Ok, I got the dick pic thing wrong. It turns out that’s super fun… for the first time you do it.

When I stepped back and looked at the watch as a cool watch that can help me be more fit, its use case slowly started to fit into my life. You throw in a balanced amount of notifications and you start to have a really compelling story. That’s what the watch is to me. A really nice watch with fitbit capabilities that go WAY beyond what my fitbit could ever do. All the other stuff seems… tertiary.

Today was my first day with it. I didn’t need the watch to tell me I exercised more than usual, but it did help motivate me. Which was kind of scary because I know today’s exercise was on the low end, and it’s way more than I’ve done in months. For some reason, I felt like something was keeping me honest with more than just, “steps.”

I desperately want this to turn into a trend. A quiet little thing on my wrist that helps me be more fit, on time, and looking at my iPhone less. Whether or not this little device helps me keep those goals; time will only tell.


My Dad

As most know, I became a father last year. If you’re not one, it’s hard to understand how rewarding and challenging it is. What I learned very early on in this crazy journey is that my Dad was an exceptional father. I knew he was great, but I didn’t know how great until Franny came along.

My dad was never too tired for baseball practice or teaching my brother and I something new after long days laying telephone lines. He was always fair and gave 100% when it came to us. Seeing him with Franny has brought about this new chapter in learning from him. I’ll never forget our most recent trip to Idaho… Franny was being fussy and without being prompted, he picked her up and took her out to the garden. She quieted down immediately. He has always been a master at understanding people’s needs and now that extends to Franny. I couldn’t be more overjoyed.

My dad laid the blueprint for how I raise Franny. It’s by far, the greatest gift he’s ever given me, and I’ve only been able to appreciate it recently. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Dad Jokes

Great read

Many of the characteristics that make someone good at being a parent — frugality, responsibility, selflessness — have become punchlines for an entire generation when it comes to talking about dad.

Third Eye Blind…

…Is probably my favorite band. It’s not something I advertise too much. They’ve always had this special place in my heart since high school. Back then, I wasn’t listening to much beyond punk rock and The Cure. All of a sudden, I fell in love with a song called Motorcycle Drive By. It changed my perspective on music completely. Just because a band was popular, didn’t mean that had to suck.

Over the years, they’ve released new albums to little fan-fare. They’re always well crafted, if not well executed. I don’t follow them too closely, but I do know their next album is likely their last. In a promotional / we do whatever the fuck we want / piece for the new album, they covered Beyoncé’s song “mine.” Just like Motorcycle Drive By, it hits all the right chords at all the right moments. It makes me think about Sarah in ways that remind me how much I love her. In case you’re wondering, I love thinking about how much I love Sarah.

Oh yeah, Stephan Jenkins is still one of the best rappers around. Love this cover so so much.

How to Make the Perfect Egg McMuffin

The perfect Egg McMuffin is not something that is created overnight. It is slowly refined over countless hours in the kitchen. It’s polished, smoothed out, streamlined. In a way, building the perfect Egg McMuffin is like the polishing a river rock sees from the current of water it lives in. It takes an immense amount of time to craft something of wonder.

You need four ingredients to begin your journey:

  1. Olive oil
  2. Free range hippy eggs
  3. Whole Wheat English Muffins
  4. Extra Sharp Cheddar


Step 1 : The Pan, Oil, and Heat

Take a small pan, put a healthy amount of olive oil in it, and turn the heat up to maximum.

Step 2 – Start the Egg

Once the pan is thoroughly hot, turn it down to low and open the egg into the olive oil. Let it cook for a few seconds and scoop the egg into a perfect circle. The olive oil adds volume and fluff to the egg. You can see this in the photo.


Step 3 – Start Your Muffin

Put your muffin in the toaster immediately after getting your egg into shape. You’re aiming for a perfect toast with a medium dark brown.

Step 4 – Cut the Cheese

With the egg and muffin cooking, cut two thin slices of cheese.


Step 5 – Flip the Egg, Place the Cheese

Your egg is probably ready to be flipped. The whites are fluffy and the yolk is still not very cooked through. Place the cheese on top of your flipped egg.


Step 6 – Pull the Muffin

Pull your muffin from the toaster. Find the bottom half and place the second slice of cheese on it. If your egg still needs more cooking, place both halves of the muffin together to help the slice of cheese melt.


Step 7 – Pull the Egg

You now should be ready to place the egg on the bottom half of the muffin. Don’t forget to turn your oven off.

Step 8 – Admire Your Egg McMuffin

You just assembled the perfect Egg McMuffin. I’m vegetarian, but if you want meat, you may want to check out The Bacon Method for ways to cook bacon. I’d also recommend avocado, but these instructions are beyond the scope of this tutorial.


Step 9 – Eat It

There you go. I like my egg slightly runny. You should definitely cook to suit your wife’s needs.


Edge For Mac

Dear Microsoft,

If you want to be serious about web development, please release Edge for the Mac. You will never get broad adoption of your browser if you do not release it for the Mac.

No sane web developer wants to download a VM to test on your browsers. Stop making Mac web developer’s lives more difficult. You have an awesome new web browser, and we should be able to use it on our platform of choice.

Chris Millar
Web Developer



Ramblings on Metro and the future of Windows Phone

I think what a lot of people loved about Metro was that it was a defensible design language. It combined rules, structure, typography and physics in a cohesive way that you could follow. I was a huge Mac guy, and Metro blew me away. So much so that I abandoned popular mobile platforms for Windows Phone. Overnight I became a Windows Phone fan boy.

I think what’s happening with Windows 10 is probably a needed step, but it’s not quite hitting the mark. Microsoft is right in thinking that most people found Windows Phone confusing, but they seem to be missing the reasons why. They also seem to be lacking the unified design model. As a person that wants Microsoft to succeed, that makes me sad.

Windows Phone didn’t fail because pivot navigation models were a bad idea. It didn’t fail because menu items were tucked in an app bar instead of a hamburger. If anything, App Bars were ahead of the times. App Bars are so 4+ inch screen friendly. Every time I have to move my thumb to the top of a screen on my iPhone (yup, I had to give up on WP) I want to punch a wall. The same can be said about going “back” in the app stack.

As Windows Phone users, we have all been there before; you want to show someone something on your phone and you hand it to them. POOF, that cute photo of your dog is gone. They accidentally hit hardware back or search. If a person’s very first interaction with the phone is this, how likely do you think they will want to try that phone as their own? From a UX standpoint, these are the things that helped sink Windows Phone.

But I don’t think these are what sunk Windows Phone, and it seems MS is hell bent on trying to solve the wrong problems. I do think Microsoft is in a tough spot. Sit and do nothing and your platform doesn’t grow. Change things and lose your most loyal fanbase.

Moving to a unified development model (again) is a great step in the right direction. In fact, it’s probably the one of the only things they can do at this point. They tried to build a better platform and devs didn’t show up. They tried to pay devs and they didn’t stick around. Now they are coming at devs with another pitch of Universal apps. But this time the apps also work on desktop, for real this time. But what else can they do? That helps entice devs, but what about users?

If Apple has proven anything, it’s that mindshare happens in the US. Sex appeal happens in the US. Apple has also proven that if you go after the 80% person, you are far more likely to move product. Say what you want about the 1530, the 1020, and even the Icon, but they were all niche devices. Going after niche markets doesn’t seem like the brightest idea when you are struggling to find market share. That’s why devices like the 920 and even 900 did so well… they were more of a 80% device. If you want a great every day phone that can fit in your pocket, you’re kind of screwed if you want Windows Phone.

One week with iPhone

I’ve had my iPhone for a week. I’ll start with the bad and get into the good…

The bad

  • I hate iOS as an OS. As an App launcher, it is OK.
  • Not having Cortana or “My Day” with a button press is beyond frustrating. The “Today” screen gets close, but not without apps putting ads in it. ESPN does this.
  • Google Maps interface is not intuitive. But I have finally gotten used to it.
  • So many 1st party apps are bad on iOS. Maps, Mail, Podcasts, Calendar.
  • iOS has spam apps you cannot remove… Apple Watch, iBooks.
  • Lots of iOS doesn’t have a consistent interaction model. Sometimes you swipe to get to content, sometimes swipe means going back.
  • Notifications suck. If you don’t turn on lock screen notifications for mail, you don’t really get push notifications. That red dot is disgusting, too.

The good

  • If you want to do something on mobile, chances are, you can do it on iOS.
  • Let me repeat that, you can do anything you want on iOS. Every mobile site has been tested on an iPhone. If a product has an app, it works on iOS. This is what it was like to be a Windows user in the late 90s.
  • The camera is wonderful. They are doing some clever things with HDR and white balance to give you really good looking pictures. If you get into the detail, the photos fall down a bit compared to a Lumia, but in 90% of use cases, the camera produces better photos than my Icon did. Especially without tweaking.
  • FaceTime Audio is amazing. FaceTime in general is amazing.
  • iMessage is amazing.
  • ApplePay is revolutionary. I live in a market that was a test case for ISIS / SoftCard. This means the majority of the places I go support contact-less payments. I now feel like a savage every time I pull out a debit card now. Over two years after MS promised contact-less payments, I now have them… on my iPhone.
  • Gapless playback of audio.
  • Did I mention apps?