Results tagged “2007”

Blogs of the Year: Some Bits - Nelson's Weblog and rc3.org

December 12, 2007

Today's Blog of the Year Picks: Some Bits: Nelson's Weblog and RC3.org.

nelsons-weblog.png

These two are just for me, some real old-school-blogging nerd picks. Some Bits: Nelson's Weblog is the work of Nelson Minar. Formerly of Google (where he helped pioneer their API work), and lately assisting with Twitter, Nelson is a geek's geek, reveling in coding and gaming and exploring the edges of web culture. But honestly, there are lots of blogs that try to cover that territory. What I love is that there's a real humanity to the way Nelson presents his posts, and he frequently veers from the technical to the political or even the worlds of food and travel while retaining that characteristic warmth. Frankly, if you've been reading or writing blogs long enough, you can remember how blogging used to be, and Nelson's Weblog is old-fashioned in a great way, not least because he still calls it a "weblog". That the sidebar linkblog is so incredibly well-curated and consistently good is the icing on the cake.

In a similar vein, Rafe Colburn's rc3.org is a blog for people who appreciate code, sure. But it's also a rich discussion of politics, community, and culture. For those of you who are newcomers to the blogosphere (that means you showed up in this century), this is what most blogs used to be like. Now, neither Rafe nor I is posting 100 links a month like we used to 8 years ago, but the evolution into a more considered set of brief essays interspersed with interesting links is still satisfying to see done so well, and so consistently, for so long.

Pick of the Posts:

If you like these, try: Hack the Planet. A full 30% of the time, I have no idea what the hell Wes Felter is talking about. Another 20% of the time he's either wrong or just infuriating. These are just two of the best things about his blog if you're a geek.


This is one in a series of posts about Blogs of the Year for 2007. They're my subjective picks about blogs that inspired or influenced me this year, and you can check out my introductory post to find more.

Blogs of the Year: Serious Eats

December 11, 2007

Today's Blog of the Year Pick: Serious Eats.

Serious East

I love food, but I could never quite put my finger on what was wrong with the food blogs I'd tried to read until Serious Eats came along. As it turns out, I like cooking and I like learning about restaurants, but what it turns out I really love is simple: Eating.

Ed Levine's assembled a team of extraordinarily talented food lovers (which, it should be noted, includes my wife), and they stay true to the site's mantra of being passionate, discerning and inclusive. I feel like an old-timer in the way I look at blogs, because I still think of them as being fairly static affairs consisting largely of text. But Serious Eats features a formidable video section with original programming from Mario Batali, a burgeoning recipe section and a guide to eating out that all complement the site's own editorial blog posts. Wrap it all up in an incredibly well-designed, beautiful aesthetic that combines elegant details with frequent fun illustrations, and it's an unquestionable winner.

Pick of the Posts:

  • Talk: This Q&A section is the heart of the Eats, for me. I'm mostly a lurker here, but I never cease to be amazed how often I'm saying, "I wish I'd asked that!"
  • Serious Eats Thanksgiving: Sure, the holiday's passed, but if you want a look at how the site does well-trod topics in a unique way, this is it.
  • Extended Meatloaf Coverage: From recipes to National Meatloaf Appreciation Day to photos of dozens of loaves, I discovered this staple of mashed meat this year thanks to the site.

If you like this, try: Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes gets me every time -- not because of the recipes, though they're great. It's the photography, which is simply beautiful.

Blogs of the Year: Ill Doctrine

December 10, 2007

Today's Blog of the Year Pick: Ill Doctrine.

Ill Doctrine

Put simply, Jay Smooth's Ill Doctrine is the best video blog on the web. (At least the best one that's in English.) As you'd expect from the founder of hiphopmusic.com, Ill Doc starts from a base of reporting on hip hop music and culture. But from that starting point, Jay branches into ruminations on celebrity, culture, politics, and art with real feeling. I don't think anybody else could make me both roll my eyes at and empathize with Amy Winehouse in the space of just a few minutes, let alone turn "Chocolate Rain" into a non-ironic jam. And for casual viewers, nobody does a better job of breaking down complex topics like the bust of DJ Drama by the RIAA than Ill Doctrine.

The editing's tight, the videos frequently feature original music and interviews, and there's a bracing honesty to much of the conversation that really connected for me.
Pick of the Posts:

If you like this, try: Catching up on Ze Frank's archives for The Show. I wasn't kidding when I said he was our I Love Lucy.


This is one in a series of posts about Blogs of the Year for 2007. They're my subjective picks about blogs that inspired or influenced me this year, and you can check out my introductory post to find more.

Blogs of the Year: 2007

December 9, 2007

This week, I'll be highlighting the sites that I think stood out this year. July marked the 8th anniversary of my blog, and over these past eight and a half years, my appreciation of what it takes to run a successful blog has really grown and changed. As a result, many of these picks are admittedly subjective, and are based on the fact that I think the best blogging is an art, a skill, and a craft like any other form of creative expression.

That's not to say blogging can't also be a business, or just an outlet for venting, or all of the above -- some of the best sites alternate through these different modes of communication. But these are the ones that moved me or inspired me or just entertained me this year. Each is accompanied by a brief description, a screenshot, some sample posts, and some suggestions of related or similar or complementary blogs you should check out.

As always, your recommendations of other sites, especially more obscure ones, are very welcome. Astoundingly, it's been five years since the last time I recommended some blogs. I think there may be a few more blogs around now. (Last time I did say that Gizmodo was a promising newcomer, so lookit me, I'm a geeenius!)

The Picks:

Office 2007 is the Bravest Upgrade Ever

June 19, 2006

Office 2007 Short and sweet, the Ribbon and new UI in Microsoft Office 2007 is the ballsiest new feature in the history of computer software. I've been using Office 12 for about six months, and not only has it made me more productive, I'm struck by the sheer ambition of the changes in this version.

To clarify the point: Microsoft Office is a bigger business than most of us probably realize. Office generated $11.5 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2005, and it'll exceed that in the current calendar year. But conservatively, you're talking about a billion dollars a month.

Now, most of us who like to prognosticate and pontificate about software like to say things like "It'd be easy to just..." or "It's trivial to add..." but the thing is, most of us aren't betting our entire careers on the little tweaks and changes we'd like to make to our productivity applications. Try making a mistake that jeopardizes a business that makes $250 million a week. I'd figure a 2% error, on the order of $5 million, gets you very, very fired. Maybe they're forgiving and you can make a 10% error, costing $25 million a week. I doubt it. Most of us would lose our nerve about suggesting radical changes if betting wrong meant betting lots of jobs on making the right call. (Nobody ever got fired for making incremental improvements to Office.)

Now, that being said, there have been really gutsy software improvements before. The leap to OS X from the classic Mac OS was huge, but revenues were much lower for Apple then, and the risk was mitigated by Apple's tight control over hardware and software integration. So, the change was radical but less gutsy. Windows 95 was a huge change, but it was before most consumers recognized that Microsoft had them by the short hairs, so it didn't feel quite so overbearing, and there was pretty great backwards compatibility. Honestly, Windows 95 was more of a Microsoft necessity than it was a risk -- Windows 3.1 had serious competition for people's future upgrade path.

Microsoft Word 6 (yep, on Windows, not on the Mac) was another software milestone; Getting out of the features war, declaring victory in the desktop applications battle, and starting to focus on usability, discoverability and user tasks marked a huge leap forward for productivity applications. Plus we got that little wavy red underline. But this, again, wasn't that risky. Back then, some number of people were going to upgrade their word processor just to see what was new. Netscape 4 was seen as pretty risky at the time, but um... yeah.

So there have been very few bet-the-company style risks, and certainly none from companies as large as Microsoft. What's more, the market for third-party applications on top of Office (er, the 2007 Microsoft Office system application platform) is bigger than most standalone software companies. There's a real risk of jeopardizing those line-of-business customizations that most large organizations use alongside Office. And of course, the 500 stodgy Fortune 500 CIOs who make the purchasing decisions about upgrading Office aren't going to be happy they lost their "File" menu.

Word 2007 has the wacky ribbon But Microsoft did it anyway. They killed the File menu, along with all the other menus. They added a giant, weird circular target up in the corner. They actually use part of the title bar as a menu sometimes. They even changed the default font in all the apps. What's amazing is not just that it works, but that it works so well.

My experience has been the same as most of those who I know that are using the new version: Word went from being frustrating and confusing to fairly straightforward to use. PowerPoint went, in a single upgrade, from being the worst widely-available presentation software to being the best. Excel is a fundamentally different kind of spreadsheet application, focused on presenting information usefully instead of optimizing for the creation of complex formulas.

I used to make a big part of my living doing customizations on top of Office, so I still know it pretty well. It also means I can be a harsh critic of their decisions around the platform. But this time I've got to give it up: By radically changing the user interface in Office 2007, Microsoft made the riskiest bet in the history of commercial software. And I think they're going to win the bet.

Some related links:

The Best Microsoft Blog

June 14, 2006

Congrats to Robert Scoble on his new gig, and no disrespect intended to great MS bloggers like Dare Obasanjo and Niall Kennedy, but for my blogging dollar, the best blog ever published by a Microsoftie is Jensen Harris' Office UI blog. I'm not the first to note it, but I wanted to chime in with my vote there. Honorable mention goes to Ray Ozzie, who's infrequent, but then some of the very best bloggers are.

It helps that Jensen's working on Office 2007. (If they paid me, I might call it The 2007 Microsoft Office System, but they don't. Speaking of branding nazis, there's only one "e" in "Movable".) Office 2007 is the single most impressive and ballsy effort that Microsoft's put into anything since Word 6, which I think was the best desktop software application ever created.

I'll hopefully expand on these thoughts more when I've got a few minutes, but I wanted to throw that out there while I'm thinking of it. Commence flames... now!

(More evidence of Jensen's greatness: The phrase "Install the Send a Smile tool" appears in a post. Really, shouldn't we all install the "Send a Smile tool"?)

1