Starbucks – Compatibility matters

In a not such a far away galaxy, everyone in the interactive and web universe was obsessed with backwards compatibility and legacy browsers – namely IE 6 aka as the doomsday device.

ie6_tombstone-200x200Although development for legacy devices was a complicated and cumbersome task – mainly because of how buggy and unique those workarounds were, but in general, due to the requirement of a separate website – It had to be done, so a big chunk of the web audience could access your content (R.I.P. IE 6).
There is a lot to be said about comprehensive accessible content (the abandonment of flash as a safe reliable technology and many others) but in general, this golden rule should prevail over most of the work we do: Cutting edge technology doesn’t work for everyone.

As designers, reaching out to our audience should be our ultimate goal. Despite this, we encounter situations were segments of that audience’s accessibility is jeopardized by its current technology limitations. Due to this, our message might not reach its goal and, because of this, it will perish; marooning its longevity and the communication efforts.

Starbucks compatibility mattersStarbucks has been an innovator in many areas. From its failed purchase of Hear Music, to the addition of free content to its subscriber audience. Now, as you can see on the post’s picture above, the “Pick of the week” card relies on the Itunes universe platform to deliver this content to the user.
We can assume that, without providing an alternative way of access for Starbucks’s clients to its free audiovisual selected content, the company is only interested in half of the smartphone users in the US, and thus defining itself as a Iphone, Mac friendly store, while conscientiously ignoring the rest of the smartphone eco-system.

I doubt this is the case, but it’s the reality.

Android users represent about 76 million unique smartphones in the United States alone against 63 million iphone users . Both numbers represent the overall spectrum of the smartphone US universe for 2014, according to Statista website.

Still, Android represent over half of all smartphone users…

As a declared Android user, and as an occasional Starbucks coffee drinker, the lack of alternatives represent a disconnect between what the offer is trying to accomplish and what’s really out there on more than half people’s purses and pockets.
Heck, I’d love to discover their new recommendations by simply scanning a QR code on my device. Unfortunately this is not possible since Itunes doesn’t exist on the Android system.
We are not talking about legacy here, only parallel universes under the same set of rules.

Accessibility can make it happen.

Not until 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act that the United States adopted a proper framework for millions of disabled individuals. It’s strange that such a basic, no brainier legislation took so long to exist.
Among many things, It provided the necessary muscle for the public and private spaces to comply with standardized accessibility installations for all disabled individuals, making access as consistent as Starbuck’s coffee across the country.

Any private company that is trying to connect with its users while providing them with content and services, should adjust to what they can access and how are able to do it.

Timing and opportunity – Tyrants of reality

Jodorowsky's DuneJodorowsky’s Dune (2013), a documentary directed by Frank Pavich, tells the epic pre-production process of Jodorowsky’s failed attempt at adapting Dune, Frank’s Herbert famous novel. The documentary is very enjoyable and a fantastic journey.

Alejandro Jodorowksy work has always been very interesting to me, either because of his surrealistic background in the theater and as the director of cult films such as El Topo (1970) or The Holy Mountain (1973), or due to his introspection and analysis of society and the condition of men. He creates art as a way to communicate a spiritual and surrealistic messages beyond the frontiers of comic, science fiction and poetry.

On Jodorowsky’s Dune we witness the journey that started as a monumental project, only to be stopped two full years into pre-production. According to special effect expert Dan O’Bannon, who moved to France for the project, all the pre-production work was completed on those two years, but failure to secure financing, prevented the project from ever being shot. Dan would later be the responsible creator and screenplay of Alien and Total Recall.
Sadly for all the amazing team of people involved on the project early stages (Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Chriss Foss, etc) the lack of vision and fear at Jodorowsky’s treatment made Hollywood studios uneasy.

What a lost opportunity. If you look at it from our twenty first century perspective, science fiction has proven to be a very successful money producing genre for studios around the world. During the 1970s, not only the special effects technology was ‘just’ coming to age, but nobody before George Lucas’s Star Wars was able to produce a very successful and profitable science-fiction movie in such a large scale.

Jodorowsky’s approach called for a lengthy film which, except for the epic tales such as Ben-Hur (1959) or The Ten Commandments (1956), were and are still not common during the 60s and 70s. We can even claim that less and less people sit through out a two hour film in the Youtube era.
Note from author: Please take a minute to swallow that. Done? Good. Streaming a movie to your tablet and stopping a movie to take a phone call is soooo twenty first century. Spending a whole 2:30 HS on a dark theater with other strangers for entertainment alone, without bathroom brakes was a skill developed though many movie functions, but hard to replicate with a 3 HS feature of epic proportions. Let’s also remember that film distribution called for extra leg-work for such a lengthy release – not to mention changing reels after each projector (no, I’m not excusing Hollywood executives of the 1970s, there’s a cultural shift that might be difficult to see in near sight and if you have never experienced what it took to use and experience that technology)

The nay sayers of the 70s allowed a different type of cinema to exist – we can call it the birth of the second wave of great new American directors and that era requires a lengthy post on itself – but the studios were not able to capitalize, as the do today, on great, complicated and lengthy novels, by marketing them up in almost mini (bites) series installments (think Harry Potter saga, Hunger Games, Twilight Saga, etc).

As with Jodorowksy’s Dune, perhaps his vision, opportunity and timing were still too ahead for its time.


Linguistic relativity – and why it matters

Regardless of where you are, the boundaries defined by your culture make certain things normal, possible as well as unlikely and impossible. These impossibilities are sometimes achieve by cross-culture intervention, but most often than not, they are the anomaly inside the standard.

Language is a slave of culture.
A culture by definition needs a language to impose its ideas and values over chaos, therefore, you should be wary of the words and ideas you select to employ. Culture is organized, and although it’s in constant flux, there has to be an acceptance for its swings and alterations over time (think class, technology, revolution/politics)

Miguel Ruiz has made a career with The Four Agreements, which he claims were taught to him by the Toltect – even though there’s little to no evidence of their existence – yet this, his most famous work, still holds important and interesting concepts related to the construction of reality (let’s also have in mind that these concepts can be found in many Buddhist ॐ and Taoist ☯ teaching which were recorded much sooner in history than the Toltecs)
The Four Agreements makes a foundation around the powerful influence of language, the spoken word and how it can change our ways while transforming everything around us.
This is a fascinating topic since any language is a reflection of many factors over the course of time. The etymology of words tells the hidden tales of conquest, commerce, technology and politics around the globe (nuke, ordinateur, almohada just to name a few)

Linguistic relativity then is an attempt to explain this same concept. How the words were taught to us and how we employ and transform them. They hold the meaning to our world and are actually influencing and shaping the reality around us. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, the creation of a framework as to explain or group an identity or culture self reflected on everything, tells a lot about the interlocutor and the powers at be on that specific culture.
Although there has been  wide homogenization of western culture and values across other cultures around the globe, there are still many obvious differences that technology and distance don’t seem able to erase. Cultivation by mass media can be seen as the most immediate homogenization in a large scale scenario, but centuries of tradition and transformation can’t be wiped out immediately by an external force.

There’s an example in Spanish that helps to translate a conflicting topic and with it, an array of pre-set values of that culture. Most specifically I’m referring to commonly used slang in Argentina and in many other latin-american countries that were firstly colonized by the Spanish empire and still have, up to this day, many of the cultural traces intertwined with their local culture:

The word ‘Puta’ translates simply as female whore or prostitute. It’s commonly used as an insult with a combination of other nasty word yet, its immediate male counterpart ‘Puto’ has a completely different connotation and doesn’t represent a male prostitute but of a queer or homosexual.

The cultural connotations are evident in a masochistic and somewhat homophobic society that can be misogynistic at times. Examples like these can be found all over the Spanish language which tell the history of a culture still ruled and controlled by men were gender boundaries are fundamentally reconstructed as it was Spain after the 711 Moor invasion.

Is the Camera part of the story ? Sundance Filmmakers

A lot has changed in the last decades. Image acquisition and film-making have gone through major light-year leaps. I have to confess a little jealousy for the availability and easy access to the stupendous image quality and versatility that nowadays cameras are capable of achieving. Take it from me. As someone that watched 8 mm movies in the living room and couldn’t make any senseof a 4.5 minute version of Ben-hur and Cat Ballou.
It’s not only the equipment that has changed – while the process is still the same many things are much simpler than before – but the audience has changed as well…
We will leave that idea behind for another post.

Is the Camera part of the story ?

Here’s some interesting equipment choices by the award winner filmmakers of the 2015 Sundance. It might be amusing for some to read the rationale behind why each camera was selected. The tool should serve its purpose, even if that purpose is a very personal one. There’s always a reason behind it. A camera is like a perfume, It servers you as an expression of yourself, but also as an invisible part of the story, a intangible sensorial scent.  Even if it’s a director’s preference, the justification is just a logical step,  an extension of the story telling.

Camera Gear

We have the Black-Magic cameras – although there’s no mention of the URSA or the 2.5 or 4k.

The black magic camera


Some people did shoot on 16mm – God bless them!

The C300 by the undeserving Canon, as well as the Red in all its glory and closed workflow architecture.

Full article link below:

A strange thing happen on my way to BH

Indeed, I recently sold a lot of my video and audio gear at Ebay (Lots of unexpected expenses needed to be paid!) I parted ways with my Azden SGM-2X shotgun microphone. This means that I had no way of recording in camera good and reliable sound.

rode_videomic_pro_compact_shotgun_997376It just happens that I bumped into a review for the Rode VideoMic Pro vs Shure VP83 (Link provided if you’re interested) provided by Mr. Dougdale and I decided to look the models up on BH website:
I like both brands, and for professional video mics I personally might lean toward Rode instead of Shure, but to my surprise I discovered a very interesting thing at the BH store:

The Rode VideoMic Pro “Compact” shotgun is retailing at their site for $220:

Yet, a slightly equal microphone – Rode VideoMic Pro Shotgun – retails at $208 with the addition of a “dead cat” or wind buster kit:

This is definitely a nice deal if you’re interested in an on camera shotgun for your set-up. It’ll be interesting to test both models to see if there are actually any differences between the audio quality of them both.


Happy 2015

A quick note to wish everyone a very happy 2015.
It’s my intention to start to prep concepts and ideas for an upcoming documentary. I’ve been toying with the idea in the past, and at this early stage, the little time available can be used for research and organization. It most definitively will be related to some aspect of culture/social science/interaction and rights. There are many stories that deserve to be told, but might not fit the format well.

On a side note, I’ve been listing a lot of gear on Ebay if anybody is interested since there are many bills that need to get paid.

Right now, I’m listing a Canon EF-S 60 mm f/2.8 lense for half of its retail price in pristine condition. (Yeah, a bidder!)

Best of success for your 2015 projects!

New Google webmaster video series

Last night I saw the new entry: Google webmasters produced a few interesting videos regarding their most asked question: “How do I get my business online ?
It’s interesting that Google, a search company, tries to answer this infamous question.

Since its inception, Google has grown as a force beyond its original denomination as a search player. Their algorithms and technology has consolidate them into a enormous player as we know it today. With the later incorporation of all of their parallel services (Gmail, Drive, G+, etc) there’s has been more to Google than simply search.

Their philosophy is simple, attract more eyeballs to their search, provide more ads and thus better conversion to its advertisers (Think Android OS and mobile app users, Gmail ads, Google Maps ads, etc).
The new Webmaster videos series is very useful; they also shed some light into what Google sees as the future of search and how to capture more business. It’s not strange that there hasn’t been a Page Rank update in over 11 months. Google keeps saying that we, web designers and SEO people, shouldn’t really worry about it.

As designer I understand why is important for Google to want you to include and maintain your online presence on their network. After all you’re saving them a lot of time. Eliminate the guess work out of search and validate content directly from the horse’s mouth… It’s a win win situation, right ? Well, … maybe…

Spiders will be spiders

It sad to say, but crawling text will result in exactly that, a replication of content. As an example, Google places ( As well as My Business) can cross reference information to confirm an address or phone number and that can be completely and utterly wrong.
About three years ago, I had a new phone number installed at work. That phone number used to belong to a Diabetes research facility and even though I tried to correct the mistake on Google places I was unable to do so. Contacting the research facility didn’t help. Re-directioning all the callers and pharmacies to the right place was taking lots of time everyday, as well as some very serious HIPPA violations,  and all this because of old spider data gathered unchecked from Google.

No Silver Bullet

In the first place, adding, maintaining and validating content on multiple social networks is very time consuming (as well as cumbersome for most independent and small business professionals.
Second, and foremost, none of that content can be completely controlled by owner since it’s has been uploaded to a third party service, which in many instances, claims the ownership of all content as an exchange for its service.
Third, customer review validation is important, but a smear campaign by a competitor can definitively sink your business overnight. Many sites such as Yelp! might not abide by a logical rationale  if infringes into their privacy and rules and regulations. Even when a fake reviewer can be behind of a destructive campaign.

I don’t think that a website is simply the most important thing for an online presence; its the combination of social media, maps, local and website representation that can trigger more leads. It’s about having a conversation and not completing a form on the current survey or trend.


What do you think ?


Miami-Dade Metro Rail’s Complicated “EASY” Card

EASY-Card-productsLast week I had no choice but to call the customer department of the “EASY” card system from Miami-Dade’s metro rail. I thought I followed all their cumbersome and complicated system, but still, I was not able to see my account’s REAL balance.
-“Once you add value to your card online,  you should wait between 24 to 48 hs…” -What? did I hear right ? The system doesn’t allow you to use YOUR credit instantly as with the station’s kiosk. You have to wait a casual day or two in order to use.
-“If you don’t use your new credit in the next two weeks it might become voided” Add insult to injury. So, if you’re adding value to your card it should be ready whenever you need it, voiding it for limited usage is a mistake.
-“If you don’t use your credit in 30 days, it might expire” This is awful for occasional users. If you take the metro-rail orange line to the airport and return 45 days later, lets say at 6 PM, you would not be able to use your “EASY” card credit unless you call customer support. The friendly folks at customer support only operate during business hours. So there you have it.

This are just some of the many issues I mentioned on my lengthy email to the “EASY” dept people (No pun intended)
Next August I’m going to be commuting from Medical to Main campus.

I’ve discovered not only that my original “EASY” card had expired without me knowing, but that I had also expired credit inside it that I couldn’t transfer between cards by myself.

Did I also mentioned the lack of online support to solve this and all the other issues ?
Adding this and other simple online functionality can do wonders for the service and make it more accessible to riders.

There are many things that can be improved, a lot of great ideas come to mind; let’s hope the “EASY” card system can utilize them and expand their ridership.

Autodesk 3D studio Max French Patio Door

patio_french_doorWe’re doing some small renovations at home and to illustrate the project I did a quick render of the final doors and wall.
Nowadays I’m extremely busy and, although I consider myself to be a very fast 3d modeler, I tried to get a free model online to simply render it to my needs. I was a little shocked to see how much such a simple object cost on some sites – up to $30 and $50 depending the database.
I decided to waste no more time and do it myself (I still needed some accurate proportions anyway…)
The Result has been uploaded here to the blog for anybody to use as a freeware 3d model of a patio french door. You might be in  a similar situation and have very little time to make it.

This is your chance to become the instant owner of a free virtual french patio door.

It came out alright, no fancy bells and whistles. Let me know if it helps you on your 3d project.

Model is 3ds MAX 2013 and 3ds

3ds_max_file French door Patio Window 3d Model 3ds Studio Max 2013

or as 3ds Flavor:

3ds_max_file French door Patio Window 3d Model 3ds


Why is Retro always in fashion ?


Retro is never out of fashion

Retro is always coolI’ve always been a big fan of retro-futurism or modernism. I’ve been fascinated by the great deal of courage of some thinkers and inventors to make bold statement about the future from their present time. Since we live in such an ethnocentric society as ours, all these predictions and expectations are biased mostly in the technology language and vision of its era. Some predictions have come true after decades of their conception, others have come and gone.
We can now thank pop-culture for planting these concepts and ideas of our personal and community’s future and aspirations into our cerebral cortex. Which takes me to ask this question regarding our need to re-invent the past:
Why is Retro always in fashion ?
Perhaps to not just re-invent it but re-imagine it.
Objects, icons and ideas from the past chase us like our shadows, projecting its spectrum of that concept we were mere instants ago. There’s a fascination with re-exploring and bringing back the good, the bad and the ugly of ideas and design concepts.
Plato and its cavern knew a thing or two about what’s cool.