Daniel Genser

Geographic Arbitrage

An irrational hatred of San Francisco has been simmering in me for some time. Not for the city itself, but for the idea of San Francisco (and by extension, Silicon Valley). In the age of the Internet, with all the remote collaboration tools we have at our disposal, why must a tech company be based in the tech bubble of San Francisco/Silicon Valley to be taken seriously?

This tweet says it better than I can:

A decade ago, I fully expected a generation of tech workers taking advantage of geographic arbitrage to ‘re-settle’ struggling towns spread out throughout the country. Why not move to a small town with cheap housing and still have your Internet career?

Hasn’t really turned out like that. Unfortunately.



How I Sketch: An Introduction

Jakub Linowski put together a nice video introduction to his method of combining sketching, wireframing, and diagramming into a single deliverable.

I can see how this approach would indeed be speedy, allow for and even encourage exploration of variants of a particular screen at any stage in the process, and help to keep everything in sync.


Open source, Medium-like writing interface.

Some observations after a typeface hunt

Riccardo Mori writes about his typeface search.

Selecting Based on the Partial Contents of an HTML Attribute Value

A good reminder that we have a whole range of selection capabilities in CSS, including full and partial HTML attributes.

How designers can create interactive prototypes with Illustrator

This article explains how you can use Illustrator, exported SVG, and light jQuery to create an interactive clickable prototype in the browser without writing HTML, in about 10 minutes.


Day 1 of Windows Phone

Brand new Nokia Lumia 1020

Today was the first day of my self-imposed ‘immersion therapy’ on Windows platforms – starting with Windows Phone.

As I began to familiarize myself with the phone and the OS, I noted down things that stood out, for good or bad.

I don't expect to have a relevant opinion on the phone until after at least a few weeks of use, but I thought it would be valuable to record how I feel each day as I adapt from iOS to Windows Phone, and compare it to how I feel a couple months in.

Here it goes for day 1:

The “story” around People Centric is that you don’t think “go to twitter and tweet my friend” or “go to Skype and call my friend,” instead you click a picture of your friend and then contact them in any possible way using any enlisted app from there.


A New Beginning

It’s a new beginning, of sorts, for me. I'm very excited to say that I’ve taken a position with a new company, starting March 1.

Now is also a great time for a new beginning on my blog. What is the purpose of blogging? The primary reasons I can think of are as follows:

Helps me think
The need to write and organize my thoughts necessarily helps me to refine them.

Keeps a record of what I'm learning
Regularly posting is a great way to keep track of what I've learned. It highlights my growth in a public, archival, and accessible way.

Share what I learn
The natural result of blogging is that others can be helped by what I'm learning. I'm also very interested in starting conversations that can be the basis of additional learning opportunities for me. To that end, I'm excited to add Alex Kessinger's Comet, a Disqus-like blog comment system built on top of App.net.

What kind of posts can you expect? I'm not 100% sure yet. I can tell you that I really admire Dave Winer's approach to blogging. I really respect his style of public learning. He’s not afraid to publicly share his journey when learning something new. I don’t get the feeling that he unduly worries that something he writes will be perceived as silly, amateur, or even incorrect. His public journey of learning is inspirational and I hope to approach this with the same sort of natural curiousity and intellectual honesty.


Using the X and Y Axis in Filtering UI

Sketch of one potential way to show selected filters in a tabular format, with a complex, horizontal

I'm working on the 'desktop' views of a web-app project that has a very complex set of potential filter criteria – it has upwards of 15 different filter groups or types of data that can be filtered on, with little available knowledge as to which filters are more or less important in each scenario.

To make things more interesting, each filter group has the potential to have multiple selections. We are also locked in to showing the filtering UI in a primarily horizontal format above the results table – using a sidebar was ruled out for other reasons.

Today, we tried to tackle the problem of how to display the selected filters.

There are a ton of ideas, however a quick sketch of the one that I ended up favoring is pictured above. We plot the filter group in a horizontal list. When the user clicks on a filter and makes a selection (these are dropdown/selects), the selected criteria is vertically listed below the criteria and is removed from the list.

The benefit is the user can see at a glance which filter criteria are affecting search results without having to add any further UI to draw the connection between the selected filter criteria and the filter group/category it belongs to. The connection is made spatially using the Y axis.

One weakness is the potential vertical height this will introduce, however there are many ways to address this, as well. Perhaps a 'show [x] more' link after a preset number of criteria.

Overall, I would prefer to use a more traditional faceted search/filter UI in a columnar sidebar format, but I thought this was a nice way to solve the problem, within the given constraints.


What could be more native to a smartphone than a piece of content the size and shape of a smartphone screen, that can be sent anywhere? action

First the article from the guys at Intercom, now this from Benedict Evans.

I'm working on a responsive web app project myself, where I'm thinking a lot about atomized content being expressed in the card UI metaphor throughout the app. It seems very useful and promising for cross-device use.


Designing for Tablets action

Although a tablet seems big compared to a phone, it’s still a small screen and typically shouldn’t be subdivided into smaller frames or split views, except when users really need to access two types of information simultaneously. Every time you split off part of the screen, less remains to show content.

Jakob Nielsen recently published the above linked report on tablet usability1, and the linked summary presents its conclusions without having to pay for the full thing.

Nielsen's thoughts on tablets as small screens remind me how tempting it is, as a web designer, to view tablet screens as peers of typical laptop/desktop screens. After all most tablets have at least a 1024x768 resolution, and designers who think in terms of viewport sizes, commonly consider 960px or so as a typical 'desktop' viewport width.

However, what's missing with that logic is taking into consideration the physical size of the device. Tablets usually sacrifice several inches of physical screen real estate in comparison with laptops. This usually makes the tablet display sharper, but it also means that things appear smaller to a reader on a tablet than they would at the same resolution on a larger device.

This is beginner stuff, but it's often forgotten, especially when dealing with responsive websites. Often we are more concerned with the UI change from 'desktop' to 'mobile' (I like the term 'handheld' a little more). While really small screens often need more drastic changes, let's not forget about also optimizing for tablet readers.

  1. I think Nielsen tends to be somewhat dogmatic and in this case, I think it truly depends on the content in question as to whether a subdivided or split view might be appropriate. Generally, though, doing one thing well is more and more important the smaller the screen gets. 


The Most Important Product Design Work is Usually the Ugliest

In an essay entitled "The Dribbblisation of Design", Paul Adams writes:

Designing static, linked web pages is a dying profession. The incredible rise of mobile technologies, APIs, SDKs, and open partnerships between platforms and products paints a crystal clear picture of a future where we will all design systems.

As I read this essay, I kept thinking – finally someone has crystallized why I feel like something 'other' in relation to some of my visual design friends. The rush to focus on pixels first in a new project is a symptom that the system design has not been properly considered.

How does this affect the tools and deliverables we should embrace?

PDFs full of wireframes are a dying deliverable, Photoshop is a dying product design tool. Designers moving our craft forward are moving between sketches, whiteboards and prototyping tools (Quartz Composer, After Effects, Keynote, CSS/HTML).

Being a designer encompasses a lot more than pushing pixels.



Screenshot of my menubar

Jumpcut is a little menubar/hotkey OS X app that expands your clipboard to up to 50 items. Extremely simple, eminently useful.

Download it here.


What's in my Menubar?

Screenshot of my menubar

Starting from the left…
The primary mail app I use on both my Mac and on my iPhone.

It's my digital Roomba! Automatically cleans folders (such as your overstuffed Desktop and Downloads folders) based on rules you choose. Tons of hooks to customize exactly what you need.

Awesome little app that gives me pretty a full-featured Calendar complement right from the menubar. It uses natural language input and does a fair job at parsing values into fields such as even location, start and end dates, start and end times and invitees. I've had minor quibbles at times with how it works with Exchange mail, but overall it's quite solid.

If you're a front-end web developer who uses CSS preprocessors such as SASS or LESS, this is for you. Set watch folders to automatically compile your LESS files, minify your JS and optimize images, as well as a range of other automagical stuff.

I must use this app about 30 times a day. Here's what it does: Click the menubar icon, choose Capture Screenshot, then draw out a rectangle on your desktop. It automatically saves the screenshot as a PNG, saves it to a preset destination in Dropbox (or Imgur, up to you) and populates your clipboard with the publicly sharable link. Yes, a ton of other apps do almost the same thing, but this one does it the best, as far as I'm concerned.

Essential. Enough said. I pretty much use this as my cloud drive for all my documents.

This one is similar to Dropbox and Slingshot, except it works slightly differently. With CloudApp, I can drag a file or group of files to the menubar icon, at which point it starts uploading the files to the service. The cloud icon acts as a progress indicator and a bell rings when the upload is done. At that point, you again get a publicly sharable link that populate your clipboard. CloudApp also has a companion iOS app to access uploaded files. It's the easiest way to quickly share a file with someone that's NOT a screenshot.

My FTP editor of choice, by the fine folks at Panic. Despite minor quibbles, I wholeheartedly recommend it over any other OS X FTP client.

I frequently need to use a VPN, and Tunnelblick is the best OpenVPN GUI I've found for OS X.


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