fox@fury
Self-flagellation
Friday, Jan 27, 2006
In the past few months this site has become like that thing in the back of the fridge that you neglected for a while and now so much unknown alien life is growing on it that you keep putting off pinching your nose, donning the gloves, reaching in and clearing it out.

Commmentspam runs rampant and, like ants following the trail created by a single scout, neglecting the problem makes it so very much worse.

I'm going to do a rather drastic redesign soon, which may not have comments, or which may use a very different system for protecting the commenting privilege.

Anyhow, I'd like to thank you for still being around to read these words. So much of my energies for the past several months have been directed on the work side of things that there hasn't been a great deal left for Fury.

I have a project list as long as my arm in 9px type, but I'm looking for inspiration or motivation to kick one into gear. I'd love to hear why you're still here, and what keeps you around. I hope to make your diligence worthwhile soon.

But comment soon, before the ants and the mold have their way with this post as well...

Gmail adds delete button. World rejoices.
Thursday, Jan 19, 2006
For all the features that have been added to Gmail since its launch 18 months ago, none has received as wide and joyous a reception as adding the delete button.
Wonderful Thanksgiving
Monday, Nov 28, 2005
This year was the first year I've ever (co-)hosted Thanksgiving since being an adult. After a run of 7 years, each with Thanksgiving in a different place (ranging from Los Angeles to Rochester to Kilauea to Pittsburgh) Rachel and I invited my mom and sister up from LA, Paul, two of my oldest friends Ali and Mark, and eternal friends of the family Jan and Nadine, to our home for an evening of conversation, eating, conversation, eating, and game-playing.

As much as Thanksgiving is traditionally about family, to my mind it's also about bringing together people from different parts of your life. When people you care about meet other people you care about and get along great, it ties your (and by 'your' I mean 'my') psyche together in warm and cozy ways.

It's interesting to think that in earlier times when more of the country was rural Thanksgiving was probably much more than just a family affair. While nowadays Thanksgiving is customarily spent with family, I wonder if that's an exigent property of our social networks.

Think about it: If you have a social network of hundreds of millions of people with several billion connections, and you have to find a way to divide them up into dinner-sized groups with single-inclusion (since most people only have one Thanksgiving dinner a year), it would be an impossible task to try and determine groups that maximize the within-group social ties for each member of the set. If you were to go to Friendster or Orkut, for example, and try and place each member into a single 'primary' community you'd find people separated from others they care about. It would be arbitrary, political, and a hundred times worse than the binary 'my family or yours' quandary that faces most couples each year. (This, by the way, is why I believe Thanksgiving has prospered so much in the last 300 years: It provides a second holiday near Christmas so couples can spend time with both families).

When towns were smaller and social networks were more bounded by geography it wasn't so much of a problem. A town-wide Oktoberfest or similar gathering gives everyone in town the opportunity to celebrate, rejoice, and be thankful with nearly everyone else they know and value (everyone else in the town). As towns grew larger and telecommunications threw social networks across towns, states, and even continents, it became nearly impossible to have a generalized method for efficiently clustering social networks.

What we have left, when everyone has to pick a single place, is to go back home. Family bonds are probably the only forces universally strong enough to get most of us to uproot and travel long distances for a celebration on the same day, and nobody feels slighted if their invitation is turned down in favor of spending time with family. Most people have a family, and in a social networking sense they're the closest thing we have to the limited-size, single-inclusion structure of villages and towns.

That said, I'm happy that we were able to, for a day, create a new family of Thanksgiving-day orphans and wrap them together in the bonds of turkey, wine, and pie.

Infinite at what price?
Tuesday, Nov 08, 2005
How much would you pay for a lifetime supply of M'n'Ms? Assume that you could not hoard M'n'Ms, that there was some sort of habitrail candy dispenser that would never empty, but assume also that you could only get them for yourself, and that any that you gave to others would be charged to your account at the going M'n'M rate.

How much would you pay? What if it was a lifetime supply of cold filtered water? Pizza? Gas?

Nightmare on Treat Street
Monday, Nov 07, 2005
If there's one holiday Rachel and I are about, it's Halloween. Last year we decided to make a haunted yard for the trick-or-treaters and this year we built on that experience and added a bunch more. From a witch composed of a mannequin, paper mache and a retooled cauldron to a 7-foot spider and an array of 10 light, three sets of speakers and two fog machines, we gave our neighborhood kids a treat.

After the night was done we went through on a photo shoot and put together a Haunted Gallery to share it with you and document a benchmark for next year's haunt. At the end of the gallery there is also a video walkthrough. I hope you enjoy them!

Yahoo breaks Godwin's Law
Saturday, Nov 05, 2005
In a few previous posts I've written about the nature of competition between rival dotcom companies, and how I'm surprised when other people fighting the good fight display a decidedly different outlook on the game. I'm not really surprised by this, since everything in the social plane lives on a bell curve and there will always be outliers, whether it's in the form of a Fortune 500 CEO saying "I'm going to fucking kill Google" or a friend whose opinion of Google changed drastically when their job hunt led them to work for another company.

I've been meaning to make a list of the ways Yahoo and Google are similar (not enough parking, central campuses consisting of four large buildings around a sand volleyball court with scattered buildings growing beyond it like little mushrooms, company-centric vanity plates in plastic rah-rah holders) and the ways they're different (single cubes vs bullpens (though I hear this is changing), the levels of physical and organizational hierarchy between the newest employee and the CEO, the comparative roles of user experience and sales). It's hard to keep these lists up to date though, since it's been nearly three and a half years since I left Yahoo to go to grad school, and the landscape -- both inside and outside of the purple walls -- has changed a great deal since that time.

Keeping the above in mind, I've been surprised lately by how different the focus has become at Google and Yahoo. Friends of mine who have interviewed at both Google and Yahoo have commented that Google's interviews focus on how to make better products and better experiences, while Yahoo's interviews are much more tightly focused on 'how to beat Google'.

"Sure," I think. "This has got to be hyperbole." After all, the Yahoo I knew was, while primarily focused on how to turn a profit during the online advertising slowdown of 2001, still generally interested in improving its products and making new products for the sake of increasing reach. There wasn't an enemy to crush (unless it was myway, which suddenly appeared in 2001, sporting Yahoo's layout sans-ads for several properties). Crushing enemies wasn't the point of the exercise.

Maybe it's a startup thing. Maybe a company's point on the scale between idealism and antagonism is proportional to their integral of their success. When you're a young start-up you don't call yourselves a 'Google-killer' or 'Microsoft-killer' even if the press sticks that button to your chest, but somewhere along the way, when the dominant force feels its pedestal may not be as high or as stable as it once was, it starts talking about 'crushing' competitors, be it Microsoft 'crushing' Sun (or Unix, or Google, or any number of legal systems) or Khrushchev 'burying' the United States.

Coming slowly back around to my original point though, while I knew that some Yahoos foam at the mouth to bury the competition I thought this was more a personal thing than a company-driven tactical strategy. Hence my surprise to find that Yahoo has erected a statue in honor of the Yahoo Mail team (that is to say, the Oddpost team) complete with a plaque that reads:

Presented to the Yahoo! Mail Team by the good people of Yahoo! in recognition of tremendous intellectual efforts put forth in order to defeat Gmail.

Not since the code breakers in Britain's Bletchley Park deciphered Germany's Enigma code during World War II has so much brainpower been focused on kicking an enemy's ass.

The Yahoo! Mail Team's bravery, courage, and cumulative intelligence will not soon be forgotten. (At least not until the next version of Yahoo! Mail is released.)

I only wish I were making this up. Yahoo Corporate is rewarding teams by directly comparing their struggle to defeating the Nazis. By the spirit of Godwin's Law, any chance of rational discourse has just gone poof, and Yahoo lost.

Do you think this is going too far? If you're a Yahoo employee interested in rejoining a culture that's honestly more enthused by improving user experience than in trying to bury the competition, drop me a line.*

[* In this, as in all things on this site, I naturally speak for myself and not for Google.]

Headline of the Week
Friday, Oct 28, 2005
Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers. [NYT registration req'd, sorry]
I saw the UFO last night
Thursday, Oct 27, 2005
I saw the lights last night. Did you?
Beautiful Kinetic Typography on an Apple ][c
Thursday, Oct 27, 2005
Following up on my post about the very moving SF Bouncy Ball video* I wanted to share Stew's equally stunning (though completely different) minivid of Granddaddy's song 'Jed' composed entirely on a vintage Apple ][c.

Maybe I'm just turning to mush, but I love the micro-genre of short videos set to music, complimenting each other to make something new. Do you have any other favorites of this genre? If so, please share in the comments!
[*no pun intended]

A storm after Google's own heart
Thursday, Oct 27, 2005
Tropical Storm Beta. I hope they're accepting feedback on how to improve the tropical storm experience.
  
aboutme

Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at Fury.com since 1998.
I can be reached at .

I also have a resume.

electricimp

I'm co-founder in
a fantastic startup fulfilling the promise of the Internet of Things.

The Imp is a computer and wi-fi connection smaller and cheaper than a memory card.

Find out more.

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I post most frequently on Twitter as @kfury and on Google Plus.

pastwork

I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

©2012 Kevin Fox