Quiet Loudly and the awesome customer experience

Today I bring you an exam­ple of an inde­pen­dent band that seems to be Doing Things Right.™

The band is Brooklyn’s Qui­et Loud­ly.

I first became aware of the band from the mostly‐excellent, but not often released, Cac­tus Killer Radio pod­cast. While the stuff CKR plays is var­ied, the com­mon thread that ties it all togeth­er is that, for the most part, it makes an excel­lent driving‐at‐night sound­track. I would often wait months to lis­ten to an episode, until find­ing myself alone in the car at night with a long dri­ve ahead of me.

When I lis­ten to an episode of CKR, I almost with­out fail need to make one or two men­tal notes to find out more about a band, or at the very least, find an MP3 of the song that caught my ear. (Oth­er bands I’ve found this way include My Teenage Stride, Spike, and Sing‐Sing.) Episode 52, which fea­tured Qui­et Loudly’s “Over the Bal­cony,” had me rewind­ing to hear it again, mul­ti­ple times. I ulti­mate­ly shut off my MP3 play­er at the point in the pod­cast where the song began, so I could hear it again the next day.

I tracked the band down to their MySpace page, where I came across a blog entry promis­ing a copy of their never‐to‐be‐released debut album Destroy All Mon­sters to “any­one that asks nice enough.” I went ahead and did that, and before long found a CD‐R and nice hand­writ­ten note in my mail­box. The disc had unfor­tu­nate­ly cracked in tran­sit, but on the strength of “Over the Bal­cony” and the kind ges­ture, I made a men­tal note to buy their soon‐to‐be‐released (sec­ond) debut album, Soul­gaz­er.

The release date must have slipped a bit, because I checked their MySpace a few times in mid‐2009 and found no sign of the album. Then it slipped my mind for a num­ber of months before, lo and behold, I checked in and found Soul­gaz­er had been released!

I knew I want­ed it on CD (I like mak­ing my own MP3s, and when disk space gets even cheap­er, FLACs), but the disc was only avail­able from this not‐very‐reassuring page. I bought it there any­way. I didn’t get any e‐mails acknowl­edg­ing my pur­chase (aside from the usu­al Pay­Pal receipt), so I was a lit­tle wor­ried, and made a men­tal note to try to find some­one to con­tact if a few days passed with­out word.

What I end­ed up get­ting instead, seem­ing­ly out of the blue, was a ‘fol­low’ noti­fi­ca­tion from qui­et­loud­ly on Twit­ter! I didn’t real­ize that I had pur­chased the album direct­ly from them. That they take the time to stalk track down their fans online is, well, com­plete­ly fuck­ing awe­some. While it’s typ­i­cal­ly my pol­i­cy to use social net­work­ing ser­vices for only keep­ing up with peo­ple I know, I was glad to make an excep­tion for them (even if most every tweet they tweet is about shows they’re play­ing in New York).

I took the ‘fol­low’ as my receipt and eager­ly await­ed the album’s arrival. It came a week lat­er, but I hadn’t tak­en into account that my only CD play­er was the one in my car, so I spun the disc for the next few dri­ves, wait­ing until I found a com­put­er with an opti­cal dri­ve, on which I could LAME up some MP3s.

I guess I didn’t give the enve­lope a thor­ough enough look‐through at first — and it’s a good thing I didn’t throw it out — because I had missed some­thing else inside.

See right.

Seri­ous­ly. How awe­some are these guys?

I hope there’s some New York in my future, because I must see Qui­et Loud­ly live, per­haps many times.

What’s all the PubSubHubBub hubbub?

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, I’m a fan of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and stuff like that. I just don’t always get it right off the bat.

I first heard of RSS/Atom in 2002 or 2003,  when­ev­er Live­Jour­nal start­ed active­ly push­ing syn­di­ca­tion, mak­ing feeds on jour­nals dis­cov­er­able. I looked upon these alien terms with inter­est, but some con­fu­sion. Wait, I can sub­scribe to a blog? Why would I want to do that?

I know what I prob­a­bly sound­ed like back then. Per­haps in a cou­ple of years, I’ll be laugh­ing at myself, won­der­ing what I’d do with­out Pub­Sub­Hub­Bub. Just per­haps.

For now, though, I’m not quite sure I get it. Since Google Read­er now sup­ports the for­mat, I went ahead and found a Word­Press plu­g­in to enable it here on writegeek. I under­stand that to an RSS sub­scriber, it means faster or near‐instantaneous updates. And to a pub­lish­er, it mean not only faster updates for one’s read­ers, but less load on the serv­er, since mil­lions of desk­top feed‐readers won’t be reg­u­lar­ly request­ing one’s RSS file. (Not that that applies to me… yet.)

Yeah, I’m a bit intrigued at the instant pub­lish­ing, but have a bunch of unan­swered ques­tions. Which servers should I be ping­ing? What moti­vates one to run a serv­er? What are their busi­ness mod­els? A cou­ple of years down the road, when they real­ize that they’re run­ning the most pop­u­lar servers but still aren’t mak­ing mon­ey, will they be putting ads in my feed? And I think I read some­thing about servers talk­ing to each oth­er; how does that work?

There seems to be noth­ing to lose, no lock‐in or sin­gle bas­kets in which to place all of my prover­bial eggs,  so I’ll try it out. (That was basi­cal­ly the point of this post.)

Time to click Pub­lish and start jab­bing my F5 key…

I basically have the mobile phone I want, and that is awesome

My G1, in its rooted gloryI just real­ized that I, basi­cal­ly, have the mobile phone I want. I use a T‐Mobile G1 (HTC Dream), root­ed, SIM‐unlocked, and run­ning the great Cyanogen­MOD.

I could not real­ly say this about my pre­vi­ous phone, a Palm OS Treo. Though it had its strengths (read: the orga­niz­er fea­tures), I bought it pret­ty much right before the first iPhone was announced, which, for bet­ter or worse, rede­fined what a smart­phone would be.1

My affin­i­ty for the G1 re‐occurred to me as I opened the Ter­mi­nal app to check some­thing. I slid the screen open with a sat­is­fy­ing click, typed su and checked that some­thing. I want­ed to go back a bit through my shell’s com­mand his­to­ry, and a quick flip of the track­ball made easy work of that.

Sure, I have my gripes… it’s a lit­tle slug­gish some­times, com­plete­ly short on app stor­age space (root­ing fixed that) and takes the crap­pi­est videos I’ve ever seen (worse than my circa‐2001 Nikon CoolPix). And now that new­er Android devices are out, I com­plete­ly have 1 GHz CPU‐envy, high‐res screen‐envy, and Android 2.1-envy (Google Earth, want!).

But for the fore­see­able future, my G1 and I are cool. Its form fac­tor is per­fect. Its phys­i­cal key­board is unmatched by new­er devices with cramped lay­outs. It’s clear­ly no svelte iPhone, but it’s not too chunky either.

My sat­is­fac­tion is matched only by my antic­i­pa­tion for what­ev­er could mate­ri­al­ize in the future and top this. Bring it, future!

  1. By this, I most­ly mean “have a real web brows­er,” not “have no native app sup­port and a charis­mat­ic CEO try to con­vince you that you don’t real­ly want apps on your smart­phone, any­way.”

Corporate logos, visual puns and the juvenile brain that just didn’t get it

When I was young, I just didn’t get it.

See, I was locat­ed square­ly in Piaget’s pre‐operational stage of devel­op­ment, and some­thing fun­ny seems to hap­pen there: you’re only able to take things at face val­ue, miss­ing out on sub­tle­ty, double‐meanings, sar­casm… and all that good stuff that isn’t stat­ed blunt­ly. Once you’re a ful­ly cog­nizant indi­vid­ual, you can appre­ci­ate all of that.

As a teen, or per­haps slight­ly ear­li­er, I was sud­den­ly able to see these sorts of things for what they real­ly were. Well, most things. But for a cer­tain class of things that I first expe­ri­enced dur­ing my pre‐op stage, I con­tin­ued hav­ing trou­ble see­ing them for what they tru­ly rep­re­sent­ed. Here’s an exam­ple:

the classic Burger King logoWhen I was grow­ing up, this was the Burg­er King logo. (I also walked uphill to school in the South Flori­da snow, both ways. Kids these days.) It’s pret­ty sim­ple, right? The words rep­re­sent­ed the meat, between a cou­ple of buns. To whom was that not abun­dant­ly clear that the logo is a burg­er?

To me.

I didn’t real­ize that until I was a bit old­er (high school, maybe), at which point it just hit me. It was not for lack of expo­sure; I had been eat­ing at Burg­er King prac­ti­cal­ly since birth. I had a birth­day par­ty there in ele­men­tary school. I was in the god­damn Burg­er King Kids Club!

The fact that I was exposed to this logo so ear­ly in life is pre­cise­ly why I took it for grant­ed. I missed the visu­al pun; as far as I was con­cerned, the logo looked the way it did because that was just what the Burg­er King logo looked like. I sim­ply couldn’t imag­ine it any oth­er way, or hav­ing any oth­er pur­pose than telling peo­ple who see it on the side of a build­ing that they’re look­ing at a Burg­er King loca­tion.

I had no such dif­fi­cul­ty with the stupid‐simple McDonald’s arch­es. It’s just a big “M.”

old-school Milwaukee Brewers logoHere’s anoth­er exam­ple of a logo I didn’t ful­ly under­stand or appre­ci­ate. For the record, I wasn’t a Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers fan, but at the age of four or five (and thanks to a friend’s father) I found myself with a huge col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary base­ball cards. Again, until I was much old­er, all I saw in this logo was a styl­ized base­ball and glove… which to a child, seems a per­fect­ly appro­pri­ate logo for a base­ball team. And your aver­age sports‐team logo is on the lit­er­al side.

I believe it was at some point in col­lege that I noticed the sub­tle let­ter­ing in the Brew­ers’ logo. What a bril­liant design!

There’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent class of logos that are more sub­tle, with some­thing inten­tion­al­ly hid­den with­in. You don’t need to be a young­ster to miss it.

These tend to be great:

the Goodwill logothe FedEx logoAmazon.com logo

The FedEx logo is wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed, its pun mas­ter­ful­ly sub­tle. It only occurred to me it a few years ago, while dri­ving to work one day. I was behind a FedEx truck. Then it hit me. (Thank you, I will be here all week.)

As for the Good­will logo, this blog com­ment made me see the light, or rather, the huge “g” in neg­a­tive space. I had always just seen it as a face.

The day I real­ized that the Ama­zon logo wasn’t mean to be a smirk was the day I saw the A -> Z.

Can you think of any oth­er good exam­ples?

The right way to eat a Reese’s

Per­haps as a copy­writer, but more like­ly as a con­sumer of media, ads tend to stick in my head, and the tagline that claimed there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s has stuck bet­ter than most. I’m sur­prised to find that, at least accord­ing to the Wikipedia arti­cle, the tagline hasn’t been in use for some time now!

I’d still like to chal­lenge the claim… or at least pro­pose that one method may be supe­ri­or to oth­ers, if you val­ue chocolate‐free fin­gers. I under­stand that there is some­times enough over­hang from the paper lin­ing so that it’s pos­si­ble to remove it with­out get­ting choco­late on one’s fin­gers, but this is hard­ly a sure bet.

(This… erm, life­hack, is sug­gest­ed for use with Reese’s Minis. The same prin­ci­ple could be applied to full‐size Reese’s, but as we will see in step four, these are miss­ing some­thing impor­tant!)

step one

1. Place can­dy on a flat sur­face and admire it. (Option­al­ly pho­to­graph it, if unwrap­ping for the pur­pose of a how‐to blog.)

step two

2. Unwrap foil as nor­mal.

step three

3. Fold two oppo­site cor­ners of foil inwards.

step four

4. (The impor­tant step) Grip the two fold­ed cor­ners with thumbs, with the fold­ed cor­ners ser­vice as a buffer between your thumbs and the choco­late. Apply force with thumbs and fore­fin­gers to sep­a­rate paper lin­ing from choco­late.

step five

5. Admire, but only for a moment. There’s can­dy wait­ing to be enjoyed!

step six

6. Enjoy (assum­ing you enjoy this sort of thing)!

Happy Valentine’s Day

To my small in size, but large in stature, read­er­ship, I would like to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to remind you that I love all of you. <3

(n.b. This offer of one (1) unit of pla­ton­ic love applies to cur­rent read­er­ship only, as of the moment of pub­lish­ing. Whether this offer will be extend­ed to future read­ers remains to be seen, and is express­ly not guar­an­teed. While exten­sion to future read­ers is decid­ed on a reader‐by‐reader basis, sub­scrib­ing to my RSS feed would not hurt your chances, and almost cer­tain­ly puts you on the fast track to my heart. Offer not avail­able where pro­hib­it­ed. Your mileage may vary.)

The case of the disappearing, reappearing dictionary

I was a vora­cious read­er from a rather ear­ly age. I recall hav­ing had my read­ing lev­el, in first or sec­ond grade, assessed at that of an eighth‐grader.

My read­ing prowess could be attrib­uted to a few things, like my par­ents read­ing to me from a young age, and often encour­ag­ing me to read to them. More impor­tant­ly, if I came across a word I didn’t know and asked them what it meant, they almost always made me go look it up in the dic­tio­nary. I had a children’s dic­tio­nary that I adored, but for words that didn’t appear in there, I’d use their musty col­le­giate dic­tio­nary. This fos­tered an envi­ron­ment where lit­er­al­ly no word was beyond my com­pre­hen­sion, an empow­er­ing feel­ing for a pre‐geek with a single‐digit age!

As I grew up, I didn’t always man­age to keep read­ing with such vol­ume and tenac­i­ty, and today, while I read tons of bits and blogs from the Web, long‐form con­tent isn’t some­thing I take in a lot of. When I do, it tends to be an e‐book. (I read these, in epub for­mat, on my Android phone using the excel­lent open‐source FBRead­er. Yes, read­ing off of a small back­lit screen sucks, but this is mit­i­gat­ed by a nice serif font and the knowl­edge that, as I’m often read­ing in the dark, I wouldn’t real­ly be able to read any oth­er way.)

As I read, still I come across the occa­sion­al word I don’t know. These days, my main dic­tio­nary (either Free Dic­tio­nary Org or Lex­i­con Lite) also lives inside of my phone. FBRead­er doesn’t have its own built‐in, and to switch to anoth­er app is kind of a pain, so I’ve late­ly been find­ing myself shrug­ging off unknown terms. I have become the sort of per­son who stopped learn­ing new words.

This both­ered me, so I decid­ed that, damn the incon­ve­nience, I would start look­ing up words again. Once I tried, I learned that it actu­al­ly wasn’t so hard, after all.

The secret (if you could call it that) was to long‐hold my phone’s Home but­ton. This is the equiv­a­lent to the Alt+Tab key com­bi­na­tion in Lin­ux and Win­dows, which allows you to flip through open apps (only, in Android, it’s a list of the six most recent­ly used apps, open or oth­er­wise). As long as the dic­tio­nary is among the last six, it’ll appear in that list… as does FBRead­er, when it’s time to switch back. This is much more enjoy­able than going back to the home screen, flip­ping open the apps draw­er, etc.

I guess that’s a pass­able not‐so‐new‐anymore year’s res­o­lu­tion: to leave no word un‐lexicized.