Category Archives: Technology

Thoughts on Steve

On April 1st, 2011, I walked out the doors of The North Michigan Avenue Apple store as an employee for the last time.

My fellow employees were lined up from the glass staircase to the doorway leaving me no choice but to walk down the middle between them. As I approached they began to clap and cheer at full intensity. I had been a part of this ritual countless times in my six and a half years with the company so I knew it was coming. Still it took every fiber of my being to stay composed. I bolted for the door and when I finally got there I turned around, looked back at my friends and threw my arms in the air to wave goodbye one last time.

Seconds later I turned the corner. Once I knew I was out of the view of my colleagues I let loose and full on wept.

I couldn’t hold it back. Working for Apple was more than job, Apple was a family. Apple still is my family. I have met some of the most important people in my life through Apple. Mentors, friends, lovers… you name it.

Apple allowed me to put my creative energies to use. It enabled me to move halfway across the country to start over; and it inspired me to strike out on my own.

I learned more working for Apple than I did through all of college and high school combined. I grew more as a person than I could have possibly imagined. Apple filled me with memories and experiences that I will cherish until I die. All of that, those people and memories are a part of me, many of them mean more than anything else ever will. I wouldn’t trade any of it, the good or the bad, for anything.

This morning I woke up in a hostel in Bruges and heard the news. I looked at Twitter and it was filled with loving, thoughtful comments and not a single one in poor taste. I then looked through Instagram and it was flooded with photo tributes. Every news site was filled with articles and comments regarding his passing.

And I wept.

I never met the man, I never even saw him in person (though I apparently stood right next to him and didn’t know it), and yet there I was standing on a picturesque bridge in the middle of Bruges on a dreary, cold day openly weeping.

My friend Nick today posted on his Facebook regarding Steve’s death. He mused on how people feel like they know someone in the public eye when really they don’t know their internal person and said that he hopes Jobs was as good in person as we all like to think he was. I would like to counter that point.

That one man who Nick claims I didn’t know, whom I never met and who probably didn’t even know I existed, profoundly changed my life for the better. For that I am eternally grateful.

When I heard of his retirement I did something that I swore as an employee I’d never do.

I emailed him.

It was just a simple thank you, basically saying a lot of the things I’m saying here. I have no idea if he read it and I never will. And thats okay. I didn’t need anything from him. I didn’t need to know him personally. The Steve I knew… the Apple I knew gave me more than enough.

Thank you Steve.

London Part 2

On Sept 15th, 2011, I began the lifestyle that will define me for the next few months; that of a backpacker. My goal is to explore the world, learn about other cultures and meet new people all through the aid of digital tools and social media. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes I am making my way based on recommendations of friends and followers.


I got up Monday morning and Blair was determined to show me what she claimed was “the best place to get bagels” in Europe. A claim I was instantly skeptical of, having grown up in New York, I’ve been spoiled for much of my life with great bagels.

It turned out that the place Blair wanted to take me to was somewhere that Lis Rock had already suggested via Twitter from her travel experiences and interestingly there is a competing bagel shop right next door as well so we decided to try both and decide which I preferred.

In the end I preferred the second place’s butter better and they did have poppy seeds which the other did not. These bagels had little in common with the American style bagels I’ve been used to. They were smaller, softer, typically plain (as opposed to seeded or spiced) and near as I could tell neither place offered the option to have them toasted, so my preference was far from a conclusive decision.

After breakfast Blair and I wandered off through the city to the flower market where we listened to street musicians and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of people around us. We then took off exploring through the city checking out the architecture of the financial district and St. Paul’s Cathedral and explored the shopping areas of Covent Garden before taking the advice of Jim Binder once again and checking out a pub called the Nag’s Head. The Nag’s Head was an irish style pub with an extremely short bar and a variety of Adnam’s beers on tap. Blair and I rest there with a pint and some snacks before moving on to meet her husband Patrick for dinner at a pub around the corner from their flat when he returned that evening.

The next day Blair and I went out again and head over to The Victoria and Albert Museum on the suggestion of my aunt. where we found “The Power of Making” exhibit which explores the ways people are creating things of beauty or function out of other things one would not expect. An example of which would include an awesome Crochetdermy bear.

We explored some more from there before getting dinner at The Albion with Patrick and catching some friends of his for a drink nearby and soon calling it a night as the next morning I was off to Paris via the Eurostar.

My time in London was quiet and laid back as I would have expected… from here on out the real trip was set to kick off.

Full London photo set.

London Part 1

Heading to London from Brighton seemed like it would be easy enough, however when I arrived at the train station I soon found that service to London had been cancelled due to some sort of security issue. All was not lost however as one of the friendly train attendants was able to help me figure out a route into the city that required a variety of transfers.

Eventually I made my way to east London and specifically to Cheshire Street where my friend Blair and her husband Patrick live. Although she’s originally from South Carolina, I know Blair from Chicago where she attended the School of the Art Institute’s graduate program as a painter. At some point Blair left to study abroad for a semester and met Patrick, fast forward a few years and they are married and living together in London.

Coincidentally my visit to London coincided with the Bermondsey Street Festivalin which Blair was showing some of her artwork. Unfortunately though it also coincided with Patrick being out of town for a friend’s bachelor weekend.

After resting a bit at Blair’s flat we made our way over to the gallery for an opening cocktail reception. There I met several of her friends and other artists participating in the show. I had thrilling discussion with one gentleman, Alex, on the artistic merits of digital tools for artwork and the case for and against, as well the brilliant Japanese animation film Akira.

The next day Blair and I set out with several of her friends to the actual Street Festival but after an hour or two I decided to split off from the group to venture out and explore London. I figured I would take the time to get to know Gowalla‘s newly revised iPhone app and it’s Gowalla Guides feature. For those unfamiliar with Gowalla, it’s a location based social networking service that previously was built around “checking-in” to a venue similar to Foursquare, which I wrote about when it debuted at SXSW ’09.

Recently Gowalla decided to concede the check-in war and revamp their app in a different direction that features city guides and recommendations of things to do. I plan on discussing this in greater depth in a separate entry eventually seeing as I was a big fan of the old app I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give the new one a go.

First things first I head off to find the Apple Store Regent Street. Yes, I’m a nerd, I know but in all seriousness Apple stores are a godsend to travelers. Free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms, water fountains and usually (but not always) a place to sit down. Apple is also very particular about where they build their stores and the architectural designs of them, so if you can find a city’s local Apple store you can usually assure that you’ll not only see a beautiful structure but you’ll also find a lively shopping district with good (but likely expensive) places to eat.

Once I felt I had caught up with everything I needed at the store I popped open the Gowalla guide to take a look at what was nearby. When I saw that London’s famous Picadilly Circus was a short walk away I head off in that direction, from there made my way to Green Park and eventually Buckingham Palace.

The Palace is a sight to behold that unfortunately was closed by 6pm when I arrived, but I was still able to see the guards from the gate, talk to some of the assigned police officers and get a bunch of great shots from the monument across from it.

I wandered on further through the Palace parks and noticed I was able to see the famous “London Eye” from the park and decided to walk towards it, eventually discovering Big Ben and the bridge between them. The area around Big Ben was very alive with street performers and tourists and I got a good laugh from them before I decided to take the advice of Jim Binder via Twitter and caught a cab over to The Old Red Cow for a bite and a drink. Sure enough Jim’s suggestion was spot on and The Old Red Cow was a cozy bar with a great atmosphere, a friendly bartender and a heck of a burger. Shortly after that I head back via the Underground and called it a night.

Photo set now posted here.

Grid Meets Road – World Travel in the Digital Age

On the 19th of September I will embark on an adventure that will almost certainly change my life. I am heading overseas to Europe to travel full time until February of next year.

Along my way I will use digital devices and social media tools to explore and find what to do in each respective city. I will document my experience on this blog, Flickr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, FourSquare, GowallaTumblr & and maybe even YouTube. I will attempt to find places to say either with friends from these services or using sites like CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

The idea is to “crowd source” my adventure, asking for you, the reader, to supply me with input as to where to go, what to see etc.

My end goal will be not just to explore the world but to really test the limits of our global communications network, the so-called “global community”. Can we, “the internet”, actually supply what one person needs to know on such an adventure? How connected are we really through these services and how easy (or hard) is it to maintain the relationships with your loved ones while traveling full time?

I have also submit a panel to next year’s SXSW Interactive Festival and hope to be able to share the results of my trip with you there as well as eventually publish a book on the experience.

I will share more details about the trip as we get closer to leaving but for now I could use your help.

Please do me a favor and vote for my panel to be accepted to SXSW… the voting period ends tonight Friday the 2nd at midnight. You can do that here.

And if you’re so interested you can donate to my experiment as well here.

Anyone who donates me any money (doesn’t matter how much or little) will have their name on a slide at our SXSW presentation should it be accepted. Thanks!

SEO Food For Thought: Critical Mass Chicago

In Chicago there are two prominent “brands” that operate under the name “Critical Mass.”

One is a digital PR agency.

The other is a monthly gathering of cyclists who flood the streets with bikes on the last Friday of every month.

One represents brands such as Clorox, Nissan, AT&T, and Rolex on the internet. Including brand monitoring and campaign management.

The other has no branding and no official leaders and a very loose digital presence.

Guess which one has better SEO?

Excuse me, I’ve got a bike to go ride.