Why I’ve Started Using an Ad Blocker (and why you should too)

I want to start this post out by saying how hard this decision was for me, and how much I hated doing it.

For the better part of a decade I worked for a large Canadian media company. In my division, all of our revenue was generated by Advertising, so ad dollars paid my salary.  I have watched as ads went from a scarce commodity to something so common place that they are worth literally pennies.

I understand how hard it is to build an online business, and how integral advertising is to online business.

In the last year however, ads have become so incredibly horrible that I had to start using an ad blocker. I installed it on Friday August 19th.

Why?  What prompted me to do such a thing?


Why I Love Kickstarter

One of the sources of frustration for my lovely wife Charlene and a source of great amusement for my friends and co-workers is my seeming obsession and addiction to Kickstarter.

For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding tool that allows artists, entrepreneurs, and makers to get their ideas funded before they are produced.

To date I have backed 17 different projects, some big, some small.  I have backed projects for as little as $3.00, and as much as $500.

I have backed real, physical things, and virtual goods as well.

So why do I do it?  There’s a few different reasons, and they speak to different parts of my nature.


Designing Fun

Waaay back in May, my team and I designed a new T-Shirt for our most recent Info-Tech co-op class. I usually help brainstorm these, but this time I had a solid concept in my head that I really wanted to do myself – and how often do I get to use my super-power as part of my job?

It took a good solid 8 hours to come up with this, composite it, and put it all together, but in the end I’m really happy with the outcome.  I had some great assists from my team too, with help from Randall, Sean and Aaron with little finishing touches.

Here’s the process.

We started out with a brainstorming session, my kids are pretty obsessed with Adventure Time right now, and I thought that an Adventure Time inspired T-Shirt would be fun, and relatively easy to pull off.

Adventure Time - The Comic

Up next was to figure out a good composition, I threw together a few thumbnails and settled on one I liked.

Adventure Tee Rough

Since I wanted everyone to have decent likenesses, I created a little composite with the actual faces of the people I’d be “Adventuring”.

Info-Tech Time Rough (with photos)


Since I knew I was going to assemble it all in Photoshop, and I wanted to work fairly quickly, I did all of the drawing with pen and ink, scanned the composites in, and composed them into one image.

Up first, the composites.

Composite Images


While I was working on this, Sean put together an awesome Adventure Time inspired logo.


After that, I put everything together, and I ended up moving people around, added an Ice King for some tension, and gave it more of a comic book cover feel.  When all that was done I passed it over to Randall, who refined it more, and sent it off to Aaron to get it to the printer.

Info-Tech Time Final


A pretty fun little project, and an awesome T-Shirt.




Why you shouldn’t mess with people who have Photoshop SuperPowers

UPDATE – July 5th.  Disclaimer added to top of post.  Two new images added to the bottom of the post.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post features incidents that are based on real events.  All characters appearing in this work are ficticious, and emails have been edited for humour and grammar.  Any resemblence between the incidences and persons in this blog post, real or inferred, are purely coincidental.

We just relaunched our site at work.  The new site is awesome, and has a very cool info-graphic style front page.

So far the response has been great, sales people love it, our internal users love it, and our customers love it.

Of course, someone’s always gotta find something to complain about.  It tends to be the same core group of people who like to see things done differently.

So this time, I decided to play with them.  I know they’re not intentionally being jerks, it’s just their way.  What they fail to realize is my design team and I are ALL equipped with Photoshop.

From: A Sales Person:

Hi Brian,

Just a quick follow up-I liked the new web site very much. I think it has a lot of new and useful features.

On the other hand, I was wondering if there is a way to “Photoshop” the picture for the guy below? If you pay attention to his pants, you will notice they are extremely wrinkled, and since this picture is on the very 1st page of our web site, I think it should look a little better.

Is this possible please? Thanks for your help

Ole Wrinkly Pants

After some Photoshop Magic courtesy of Randall, I emailed the original requester back:

From Brian:
Problem solved! Thanks for the suggestion!

No Pants!
This apparently wasn’t quite what he was looking for.  Luckily he provided some helpful guidance!


Are his legs going to be put back in with no wrinkles ? It looks funny now , unless you remove the legs of the girl too?

Two floating torsos didn’t seem quite what we were looking for, so I suggested that maybe we should add some legs to the body.

Here’s how Randall won at Photoshop.  (Apologies to Mike B).

New Pants



Randall then proceeded after I posted this to continue winning at Photoshop, in two more images.Spongebob Battista Pants


Hammer Time


I make websites

I make websites. What I do is art and science. I don’t do it with a brush, a calculator, a pen, beakers, a keyboard, or even code anymore, I do it with my brain.

I collaborate with others to realize a fully formed vision. This thing is in my brain, I can spin it, turn it, see how people use it, understand where they will go, how they will flow and why they will do things.

I know these things because I read…a lot. I read about usability, user experiences, how people do things, why they do them, and how they do them. I know these things because I have, for decades, observed what people do on my sites, and I can extrapolate that into the future.

I take the ember of a great experience, I gently blow on it to make it hotter, I feed it to build it bigger, and then I hold it tight to my chest where I keep it secure against the elements, against the forces and people all around it that want to snuff its life.

I consider every detail, I agonize over the big picture and how it all comes together. I sweat the small details, the extra four pixels of line height, and exactly how large the headline is. The whitespace is intentional, that large picture has a purpose, I know to the pixel how much space your eye needs to breathe, I understand innately how through repetition,

I know these things because I have done this for a LONG time. I can explain this to you with words, but my words do not impart upon you my wisdom, I can show you, but you will not “know” simply because I say.

These are the things I do. I don’t know why I know that one thing will work while another won’t any more than I know why my heart pumps blood through my veins. I just do.

I respect that you have opinions, I understand that what I do doesn’t look hard. I know I am not a doctor, a scientist, or even an artist. Nevertheless, I assure you, what I do is hard.

I make websites.


Ruby Newbies: My Ruby on Rails Recipe

Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails

I’ve been using Ruby on Rails for about five years now, and I can’t actually remember my life before it at this point.  As much as I love Ruby on Rails, I hate setting it up.  Okay, HATE is a pretty stiff word…let’s say “really, really, REALLY dislike”.

However, the last couple of times that I’ve had to configure machines, I’ve kept a really good running log of what I did, and I feel pretty confident that this little recipe will let me keep the rest of my hair.


Why I left Rogers

The Rogers WarningOn Friday I cancelled the last two things I had with Rogers. Home Phone and Internet.

Why did I leave Rogers? I’ve never had a significant outage, I’m mostly happy with the bandwidth speed. My phone has never given me an issue. It can really be boiled down to one reason.

Bandwidth caps aren’t keeping up


Anatomy of a Redesign – A List Apart

A List Apart 5.0A List Apart – For people who make websites, is one of my favourite resources on the internerds for web usability stuff.  I own all of the A Book Apart books, and I’ve always loved their websites.

They just did a total redesign, and posted a great summary of the process.  I always love reading these because redesigning is a fun process to me, and it’s cool to see how other people do it.

Check out A List Apart 5.0  The little walk down memory lane is awesome, it’s cool to see the different versions of the site so far, and seeing that they went ahead and launched without fixing all of the finicky little things.

To launch on time, we have knowingly held off on finessing certain details and (like you do) decided to suppress a few niceties until after the relaunch. If you spot a quirk in the UX logic, an inconsistency in the design hierarchy, or a curious flaw in the CSS, we are probably working on it.

Nice work Mr. Zeldman and friends!


My DIG 2011 Web Stream Overview

Jeffery Zeldman at DIG
Jeffery Zeldman at DIG

The DIG (Digital Interactive Gaming) conference in London Ontario added a Web Development stream this year to compliment the gaming streams. With an opening keynote by Jeffery Zeldman’ and a closing one by Derek Featherstone, there was world class content being offered in my own home town. These are my slightly edited notes which I took during the talks. There’s some great insight in here, and some really cool links for reference later.


A beautiful life – The passing of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

Today the world is a little less beautiful, because yesterday, Steve Jobs died.

I have no profound story of how I met Mr. jobs, or how I’ve used his products for decades, the truth is I hated every experience with a Mac I’d ever had until a couple of years ago (except for editing…Macs always rocked at editing, and Final Cut Pro was a joy to work with).

I was a late convert, it took a long time, and it all started with an MP3 player.

We were all given iPod Mini’s at TSN as an annual gift, it was a nice little device, and I used the hell out of it, discovering podcasts, and remembering my love for non-mainstream talk radio.  Suddenly I could listen to two hours of tech news every week, or a weekly video games show.  I was given an iPod video, and loved seeing how video could suddenly be in your pocket (plus 30 gigs was enough to keep my entire music library with me).

My habits changed and soon I was no longer buying CD’s, why bother when in 3 minutes I could have excellent quality audio files on my iPod?

I strayed a little and experimented with a Microsoft Zune (still ahead of its time doing things like wireless sync and social media connections 3 years before anyone else) , but soon moved to an iPod touch and then an iPhone.

I haven’t looked back, the iPhone is the most amazing, ubiquitous device I’ve ever touched.  It is always with me, and is everything from my camera to my diary.

We bought a 27″ iMac at work, and I fell in love with it.  Editing was a breeze, and I had to admit that OSX had come a long way.  Shortly after, I bought my first Mac, a used white MacBook.  I’ve never looked back, and while I own a couple of PC’s in the house still, Apple has a prominent place in my home.

When the iPad came out, I immediately coveted it, but I swore to wait until the v2 came out. In the mean time I bought an Apple TV, and got Char an iPod touch.

In the spring I bought an aluminum 13″ Macbook Pro, I’m not one to “love” my computer, it’s a tool, but I actually love my MacBook Pro.  I had always heard Apple converts say “it just works”, and that’s the case for me.  Every now and then I have to log into a Windows box, and I dread it.  Things are slower for no reason, and you can tell that there’s always a ton of overhead going on.  When a window stops responding on my Mac for some reason it’s totally isolated and never takes down the system.

The iPad has been a revolution to me.  I answer 90% of my email on it, read all of my news on it, and consume most other media through it.  Plus I do weird things like take notes, manage my server, and do a little drawing.

It truly is magical, and what Mr. Jobs made his company understand was that technology is an enabler, and the best technology moves out of the user’s way.

Steve Jobs has made beautiful products, and he has challenged the rest of us to not settle for good enough.  I think it’s fair to say that a lot of my desire to deliver awesomeness and never settle for “okay” or “mediocre” is because of the inspiration of Steve Jobs.

Without a doubt Apple’s products command a premium, but they should, I sat for five hours with my laptop on battery power last night, and my iPad regularly gets 8-10 hours of solid use.  They don’t overheat, they don’t crash randomly, and the touch experience is so simple that Maks has been using an iOS device since he was one and a half! Both he and Kaylin can navigate around on an iPod, iPhone, or iPad easily.

The fact that he had the vision to create these products has allowed others to iterate on them and create new versions, which has inspired Apple to continue to be better. They were catalyst products that boosted us forward decades in innovation to the point where science fiction and science fact are the same.

He may not have hewn the brushed aluminum, or coded the interfaces that make everything Apple touches awesome, but all indications are that he micro-managed the CRAP out of the organization to get them to where they are. He built a company that will go on and do amazing things because of people like Jony Ive, and Tim Cook.

Apple will survive and thrive long after Steve is gone, and the world is better because of it.