Guns and People

On Friday December 14th a 20 year old male went to an Elementary School and killed 20 children and 6 adults.  This isn’t the first time there’s been a mass shooting at a school, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

As a father this hit me hard. I have actively been avoiding its coverage as there has been a lot of, in my mind, morbid sensationalism  in the press to serve & fill the 27/7 news cycle about this incident. There’s also a lot of public outcry, here in America, about gun control as well as the treatment of mental health. Facebook and Twitter are flooded with opinions.

Growing up in a country without an inherent “gun culture” has given me a certain view of the world. Now, don’t get me wrong. Britain has never been a wholly “safe” place – We have gangs, serial killers, rapists, armed robbery, and as I child/young adult I had to navigate the continual threat of being blown-up by the IRA.

Over the past few days I’ve had some thoughts running through my head and needed to get them down somewhere:


  • The sole purpose of a gun is to kill something – Nothing else
  • There is absolutely no need for anyone to own a semi or fully automatic gun
  • There is absolutely no need for anyone to own more than one “live” gun (I don’t count replica’s or decommissioned historical guns)
  • There is absolutely no need for anyone to own hollow-point, armor-piercing, or any other kind of specialized ordnance


  • We are a mess of emotions & chemicals that constantly effect our thinking and behavior
  • Some just have a hard time coping with life
  • Some are intolerant and self-serving, and we’re all pretty crap at empathy
  • No one has the right to take another’s life

Adding taxes, increasing the age of ownership, or tightening existing laws aren’t going to change anything.  If this type of carnage is to stop you have to get rid of these types gun, and stop the media glorifying the reporting of instances where it happens.  Period.

And that won’t happen until a certain section of the American population can stop acting like spoiled children and come to terms with the fact that they don’t live in the rural 1700’s, under threat of a Redcoat invasion (believe me, we don’t care about re-capturing “The Colonies”) , and join the rest of us in the 21st Century.

FYI – I’ve closed comments on this post, and I’m not looking to engage in conversation about this here, on any other platform.


I just found the notifications part of the tumblr app. Now i can start following those people back 🙂

Perception, location, proximity

So the more we sat through a day of usability sessions, the more this came to me and I just wanted to jot down some quick notes here.

Perception, location, proximity.

I had some new screen designs to run through, but instead of the normal usability session of getting the participant to try the design on a specific device, we tried something new.

We’d already pre-screened for iOS and Android smartphone users. But instead of diving straight in we talked to each one as they arrived, asking questions about their usage of any device they had:

  • What devices do you have in the home? (including desktop/laptop and land-line telephones)
  • Which ones move around with you and which pretty much stay where they are?
  • What’s your primary email checking device?

Only after 10 or so of these conversational probes did we ask them to read the first scenario, tell us which of their devices would they use to perform it, and tell us why.  Then we gave them that device and watched them run through the screens, gathering feedback as we went.

Afterwards we repeated the conversation, reading the next scenario, and then choosing a device to try it on. It didn’t have to be the same one.

Over & over I noticed that the first choice for one task was not to use any of their ‘electronic’ devices. I felt this was to do with perception, location, proximity.

Does it sound hard/complicated? Previous experiences?

Where am I when looking to complete the task?

What device do I have to hand? Is it the “right device” based on Perception & Location?

The screens were all designed ‘mobile first‘, built using ‘responsive design‘, and we gave the participants the ability to use (near enough) the same devices they had at home.

I have more notes to go through, and maybe everybody already “sees” this and it took me these sessions to figure it out, but it’s certainly coloured the way I’m approaching creating experiences across devices now.

Love to hear anyone else’s thoughts.


What happened to comics for kids?

First things first – I’m old. Over 40. That said, I’m not writing this as a grumpy “gerrof-my-lawn-kids-today-with-that-hippity-hop-music” kinda way. It’s more of a legitimate question, because I worry my son won’t have the great comic reading experiences that I had.

My son is eight, and a voracious reader. He’s been dipping his toe deeper in the comics pool for the past year. Recent movies such as The Avengers (brilliant) and The Amazing Spiderman (meh) have whetted his appetite, but he’s also interested in Manga since I introduced him to My Neighbor Totoro, and other Miyazaki films. But there’s a problem.

The problem is, a lot of the stuff out there seems either just too adult or young for him. My opinion, not  always his.

A little history

I grew up in the UK during the 70’s & 80’s. Looking back it seemed a great time to be young and read comics.  I used to pick up titles such as The Dandy, Beano, Whizzer & Chips, Jackpot and Monster Fun on my way to school – Weekly collections of characters having silly fun. Growing older I had my pick of superhero comics from Marvel & DC (Spiderman vs. Morbius is one I remember vividly), as well as home-grown ones like Captain Britain. Battle and Warrior were good, but when 2000AD launched, it had a huge impact on me. I was the age Josh is now, and reading exciting, futuristic, and truth-be-told sightly violent stories every week was fantastic, even if I didn’t fully understand every concept or social reference.

As we look for something to get into now our choices seem to be either Archie, limited run tie-ins to a TV show, or wading through the plethora of fragmented DC/Marvel properties. I mean, really, how many Batman do you need?

We got our wish

I’m starting to feel that my son is now losing out because we got what what we wanted as kids. And what we wanted was for the characters and situations to grow up with us. To be more reflective of what we imagined was going on between the panels.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that more adult comics such as The Walking Dead or Transmetropolitan exist. But these are new, “creator-controlled” comics, with a specific view and story to relate.  We seem to have lost those transition comics which could be silly or serious, viewed the world through a child’s (but not childish) eye and were written for them in mind.

I don’t read as many comics as I used to, so maybe what I’m looking for is out there for Josh. If it is, let me know in the comments.


Cleveland Give Camp 2012

This past weekend I took part in this year’s Cleveland Give Camp. 3 days of helping out local charities and non-profits with their web presences.

Lean Dog opened their office (a converted boat) and we also had the run of Burke Lakefront Airport too. Though hot, it was great catching up with some local web folk I hadn’t seen in a little while, as well as meeting the new people on my team; Roger, Joe, and Joann.

We helped out Long Term Care Ombudsman, an interesting and vital service, with their website. Where some teams could do a new website, LTCO had to stick with the current hosted solution.

While it did offer them some useful tools, it limited the amount of “design” we could do for them.

  • We had to use one of the stock templates
  • We couldn’t change any of that templates CSS or HTML
  • We couldn’t add “style” or “code snippets” to that template

We decided early on to focus on two objectives:

  1. Write new content to help educate visitors, and to improve search engine results
  2. Change the site architecture to make it easier to navigate

Joe Zitt did a great job, working with the client and writing new content to explain what the LTCO does and how volunteers can help.

My challenge was to put that content onto the site. My nemesis for three days was the CMS (deserves a separate post).


I worked in the HTML view, marking up the content semantically, but I had to remember that our client would not be comfortable using that view. In fact they had been frustrated that the formatting was not consistent and hard to implement using this. So I created a <style> block that I pasted in the HTML view at the top of every page. This way they could just use the “normal” view to enter content and choose they type of tag (<h1>, <p>, etc.) and not have to use the color picker and text size options.  Using these results in a ton of <span> wrapping around everything.

Though not a wholly new site, at the end of the weekend they had new, topic-specific content, semantically marked-up & styled, with a better site structure. We also gave them some documentation for a strategy including blogging & social media, as well as instructions on how to paste in and use the <style> block and address using hCard.

Our clients, Susan & Lauri, were great to work with, happy with the work done and excited to start using their site again.

All the volunteers kept us fed, LeanDog kept 200 people on WiFi, and it was well-run 3 days. I’d recommend anyone who works on the web, and is interested in helping out local charities, to check out the next Cleveland Give Camp (or find one in your area).