The Pierzanthification of Fury
Monday, Apr 21, 2003
So there's this thing that happens to some writers, probably best typified by Piers Anthony, when writing the Xanth series.

The author sets out creating an original work from the soul, exploring ideas and delving deep into their own creative well. The work meets success and they do it again. Then they start to find out, in the case of Xanth, that most of the readers are in the 'young adult' demographic, and then he starts writing to that demographic. Happily for both him and his publisher, sales shoot up in that demographic, but what the sales figures won't show, nor would the publisher care, is that it's not the same young adults. The young adults who were enraptured by A Spell for Chameleon and the Gift of Magic are, by and large, repulsed by Heaven Cent, and The Color of Her Panties.

Piers provides another, even clearer line in the 'Apprentice Adept' series, the first three of which are great and inventive, and the second three lowered their sights to the Scholastic Magazine crowd again.

What's my point? I didn't write tonight to bash Piers Anthony, but instead to bash myself.

When I started writing regularly on Fury, I didn't know what I was 'supposed' to write about. I didn't know who I was writing to, and so I just wrote from my heart to the void. Wherever there was passion there were words, and from words came the blog. Before there were comments there was just the void when I peered out from Fury. I knew there were eyeballs, but I didn't know whose they were.

Now I know my audience, perhaps too well. I feel like I'm writing to a specific group of people, even if most readers never leave comments. I've been slacking off on the more inaccessible UI criticisms and insights, and therein lies the problem. They're not inaccessable, but I've taken on the role of a TV producer who want's everyone to get every joke, even if they're less funny on average.

I want to write about love, but i don't, because I know my audience.

I want to write about the interviews I'll be going on in the next month, but I don't, because I know my audience.

I want to write about stupid things that don't matter, but I don't, because I've come to respect my audience, and I have this stupid idea that I shouldn't waste their time.

I know what you're thinking: "Clearly, you don't know us that well."

Ahh, but you can see now that I do. I can read your mind.

And no, I won't do it again. I'm not going to tell you what you're thinking now.


Almost every blogger has that time when they go on hiatus, but I refuse to. Maybe it's an aversion to the melodrama of throwing up my hands and saying 'fuck the blog' only to crawl back to my computer master within a few days, weeks, or months, as everyone does eventually.

So instead I slack off.

For every post you read on Fury there are five interesting things I wanted to share, but don't because I feel it's not the right venue, or because I need to make it perfect and extracurricular perfection is the first sacrificial lamb of grad school.


So what's the point? I suppose I am saying fuck it, in a fashion. As was the case with all those temporary abandoners of blogs, in all likelihood you won't notice a difference after a few months, and things will be back to usual, but perhaps not.


So I'm going to forget my audience. I'm going to close my eyes and divest myself of the compulsion to write posts that will garner the most feedback (this self-serving distraction from schoolwork notwithstanding).

The steady dribble of posts is, at least for the time being, a thing of the past.

In its place, I'll be posting whenever and however I please. Out with the style guide, expectations, continuity, self-censorship to a point, anyhow [shhh!]

No, I'm not going anywhere. In a sense, perhaps, I'm coming back.

I'm so fucking melodramatic.

Replacement iPod Batteries
Saturday, Apr 19, 2003
Looks like you can now buy replacement iPod batteries along with installation instruction. Just the thing for a year-old iPod with waning battery capacity.

Very cool. Damn them for making a $50 product that may be a viable alternative to purchasing one of the new iPods to be released in a week.

Now that this nut has been cracked though, I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone comes out with higher-capacity batteries, possibly with a new backplate, so a 10-gig iPod could have a 30-hour battery that's slightly thicker, with a 20-gig iPod's backplate to accomodate the additional thickness. Triple battery life would be far more useful to me than double the song capacity...

The Old One-Two
Friday, Apr 18, 2003

When you go both 1 and 2,
do you go 1 first, and then make 2?
Perhaps 2-then-1 is right for you?

Or maybe you go 2, 1, 2:
Starting and stopping before you're through?

Is 1, 2, 1 the way you do?
Or both at once? Have you no queue?

Does this make any sense to you?
or do I stir a murky brew?

For those of you who are confused,
the question that I pose to you
for unknown reason to construe:

Do you pee before you poo?

Government and Interface
Friday, Apr 18, 2003
Trust the government to spearhead waterfall design at the expense of usability. They're trying to make governmental data easier for ordinary citizens to find, but their 'three clicks or less' mantra leaves a lot to be desired.

"Three clicks or less" sounds great in meetings and when pitching to corporate schmoes, but it has absolutely nothing to do with usability, beyond ensuring that the final product will have been crippled by a false constraint at the outset.

The joining of several databases into a few unified search databases is laudable, but search has so much to do with how search requests are understood by the system, how different results are given levels of significance, and how those levels are indicated to the user, that the most unified search engine can end up being the worst, unless these factorsare taken into account.

Case in point: Go to 4 out of 5 consumer electroncs sites and search for a product name or part number and you'll receive 23 press releases that mention the product name, and you have to drag through two or three pages of search results before actually getting to the product page. This is a particularly lamentable example because it's clear that users desire product pages over press releases, and they could easily be grouped first, or the result set could even be gathered into piles from different categories so the user can say 'ooh, press releases!' and dive into that subset of the results.

Hopefully, government info is just as structured and easily clustered. They also have the benefit of being able to enforce metadata inclusion, to allow better sorting and grouping of result sets based on meta tags.

Of course, my grousing is based on the PR-speak coming from the project, and I'm assuming that the design will follow the propaganda they're spouting to the press. I just hope the actual designers don't accept the 'three click' mandate as the backbone of design, because just because you can get anywhere in three clicks, if each of those clicks are from a palette of a hundred or a thousand, then usability was gone before click one.

Thursday, Apr 17, 2003
Okay, now that we're rid of those people who haven't lifted Buffy off their TiVo or VCR yet, let me just say:

Oh my freakin' god: Malcolm Reynolds as the Ultimate Agent of the Ultimate Evil???

That, and: "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Then it's just the apocalypse."

Who is the Largest of Them All?
Monday, Apr 14, 2003
Who has the biggest starship? Now you can compare!

The work that went in to this is truly impressive, as are the ships themselves. The only craft I looked for but wasn't there was the RingWorld. That would be a very cool addition, and a 'space craft' in the truest sense...

Oh spellcheck my spellcheck
Monday, Apr 14, 2003
A couple years ago I had a third-party spellchecker in Fury as part of the posting process. Then they started charging, with a minimum $100 buy-in, and I never ponied up, so the quality suffered.

All that's changed today, now that Apple released Safari Beta 2. Finally I'm likely to switch over from IE, and one of the features of Safari is now integrated spellchecking in text fields. Yay indeed.

If I were a Dungeons and Dragons Character
Monday, Apr 14, 2003
If the real-life me were a character in dungeons and Dragons, I would be:

Str: 9
Int: 12
Wis: 13
Dex: 17
Con: 10
Chr: 15

I don't know what it takes to have an 18 intelligence, but I know they're not using the Stanford-Binet test as their scale. In D&D land, IQs go up to 250+...

Numeralize yourself

Firefly coming to DVD
Sunday, Apr 13, 2003
Soo happy.
CMU HCII vs Berkeley SIMS: The Hogwarts Factor
Sunday, Apr 13, 2003
I just had a phone conversation with someone who was accepted to both the HCII and SIMS programs, just as I was two years ago. He's agonizing over whether to leave Berkeley (where he owns his home) and move with his wife to Pittsburgh for a year, or study at Berkeley SIMS for two years.

I don't envy him his decision. I know how hard a decision it was for me. In fact, the relocatioon factor was probably in no small part responsible for my decision to defer from CMU for a year to work at Yahoo. I remember that a year later, when I again had to choose, this time between Yahoo and CMU, the fact that I'd have to move either way (the 50 mile commute from Berkeley to Sunnyvale was just too much) made the idea of moving to Pittsburgh a little bit easier.

In the end, what made my decision was the Hogwarts factor: HCII is the best place to learn HCI. SIMS excels at information systems, and would teach me perhaps 70% of what I wanted to learn in HCI, but the idea of being limited only by my own bandwidth was just too attractive.

It's really a kind of risk aversion: I worried about spending two years at SIMS and leaving thinking that I could have learned more about my own focus somewhere else. On the other hand, unless the HCII underdelivered, Carnegie Mellon offered me exactly what I was looking for, with people who shared my focus and passion.

Other pennyweights on the scale were the idea of spending a 'year abroad' in the East, to experience something other than 'California seasons' (and last Winter didn't disappoint on that cold front), and getting an advanced degree from a different school than my undergrad. Having TA'ed Marti Hearst's UI prototyping and evaluation class (after taking James Landay's version of the class) I felt that I already experienced the single SIMS class closest to my interest.

In the end, I just needed a big change. 12 years in a city can build up a lot of plaque, expecially when the reason for not leaving is fear of change. This last year is a yo-yo on a string. Ship out, gather experiences, and come back the wiser. All in all, (and I'm a little surprised) the experience has been gratifying in many of the ways I theorised when fretting about the decision to come out here. (By the way, the post I just linked to has become one of my all-time favorites; a real turning point.)

A year ago last January I was living in the middle and now I'm not. I'm headed down a certain path with a few forks to navigate, but I'm moving fast and with definite purpose.

Everything's just moving so fast. How fast? Next month I have two days of interviews with Google, I may be flying to Seattle to talk with Amazon, and there's still Yahoo and eBay to think seriously about.

I've never really had so many parts of my life change at the same time, as they will in August. I don't know when Rachel's leaving (neither does she), be it late May, after I go in August, or any time in between. I'm blessed to have found such a great person to share the second half of my year here with. Every time I carry something up the two flights of stairs to my apartment, I think about having to carry it back down in a few months, or daydream about hiring movers.

I'm starting to yearn for the open road again. The week with Ammy last August, gunning across the top of the country was amazing, and we're deciding between taking the Canadian high road or the deep South on the way back. I'm working on so many projects right now I have scant time to think, let alone dream, but the future is pretty well packed with options. We'll see how it all pans out.

And now I've taken this post down three or four different paths, with little cohesion. Funny how there's an inverse relation between the directedness of my life and the directedness of my writing. Well, I'm sure that's enough for now.


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

I also have a resume.


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.

We're also hiring.


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


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