Aug 13

6 things to learn from the internet this week. Also, a gratuitous dog photo.



  1. From Jane McGonigal’s (unsurprisingly) brilliant convocation speech at Miami University, a counter-intuitive proposal: make problems harder to make them more interesting, engaging, and solve-able (yeah, I made that up):”Games remind us that we actually have more fun when things are more difficult. [...] Because I know that I am happier and stronger when I’m tackling a tough challenge, I have a really bizarre approach to solving my real-life problems. I like to take whatever problem I have and make it harder before I try to solve it. It’s true! I intentionally make a stubborn obstacle even MORE difficult to overcome, because then I’ll have to use even more creativity to solve it. I’ll be less bored, and more engaged. And maybe, because the challenge is now so much more interesting and unusual, I’ll be able to get other people more excited about helping me solve it.”
  2. For each single person you worry about, deduct 1% in quality from your writing. Everyone has deductions. I have to deduct about 10% right off the top. Maybe there’s 10 people I’m worried about. Some of them are evil people. Some of them are people I just don’t want to offend. So my writing is only about 90% of what it could be. But I think most people write at about 20% of what it could be.”This is one of James Altrucher’s 33 tips to become a better writer. It will probably end up taped somewhere visible. Probably many visible places.


  3. “Back up your position with data. You don’t win arguments by saying ‘I think.’ You win by saying ‘Let me show you.’” And more delicious wisdom from Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s SVP of Products.One of the great boons of the internet is making the fascinating talks that occur at universities available to the rest of us. That this one has been chopped up into 44 bite-sized pieces as link bait is even better.
  4. The best way to take photos of dogs … is to get on their level. Check out this amazing photographer. Her site is in Dutch, but you can translate the text or marvel at the universality of dogs dogs dogs.
  5. We are still discovering the world. Hiding under Greenland is one of the largest canyons in the world. No human has ever seen it; it’s been hanging out (down? around? what is the right proposition?) there long before we were sentient.
  6. The treasure trove of 52 Weeks of UXI can’t believe I’ve never seen this before. The cost of in-flight wifi (almost) seems worth it if this is what I could devour.

Aug 13

HITS Culpeper in 13 photos and 3 one-liners about storytelling

The photographers I most admire don’t take photos. They tell a story using photos. It’s part art, part science, part empathy, and part storytelling — all in different ratios depending on the day.

As for me, a superbly new photographer, I was attracted to the logic of compounding one might-as-well-set-your-money-on-fire-because-it’s-gone-anyway hobby (horses) with another (photography). So that’s what I do every weekend. Totally normal, amirite?

The “perfect” shot is horse and rider centered over the jump, suspended in the air, aligned and balanced. But after 45 minutes outside the jumper ring at HITS Culpeper trying to capture said perfect moments, I was bored, far more intrigued by the misbehaving horses, and possibly creeping out the pro photographer, who’d been there for the previous three weeks of the show.


Happily, when I turned around, I discovered the rest of the show behind me: a groom applying a last coat of hoof polish (yes, it’s a thing), a trainer on her cell phone with her student waiting in pajamas on her pony, and a floppy-eared gelding giving me a baleful look. So. Over. It. Dude.

I watched a rider pat her horse after a good round, another one collapse into a hug, and a little girl sneaking her pony a treat so he’d prick his ears forward and look cuter. And the venue itself — cornfields and woods — was a stunning backdrop.


Because I spent a lot of time alone in the car, I reflected on the parallels between my favorite photos and the best stories from The Moth I listened to on the, uh, 130-mile round trip. (Like I said, totally normal.)

To wit:

1. If everyone looks the same, you haven’t actually looked.

My favorite part of The Moth is it’s normal-ish people (if you call such hilarious, well-spoken, and talented humans normal) taking the stage to tell a true story. Some share tales that are incredibly sad or incredibly unexpected or incredibly sweet.

But all of them rely on common themes with not-too-out-of-the-usual lives … and in 10 minutes produce an impression so personal you’d swear you’ve never met (yes, met) someone like ‘em before or again.

A show is a mass of crazy, a jumble of horses and people waiting outside rings, and when all the riders are wearing dark coats and all the horses sport perfectly spaced, tiny braids and gleaming coats, it can look the same.

But the last horse I photographed? He’s the most generic horse you could find at a show. Yet he’s hilarious. Seriously. Don’t leave me hanging calling a horse hilarious.

2. The moment of triumph is less interesting than the moments right before and after.

That moment of sweet, sweet hang-time over a fence with the rider smiling and the horse perking its ears forward? Happy to have taken it, but I much more love the moments after: horse and rider a second from touchdown on the ground, another horse wringing his tail and about to throw a buck, a third horse who did buck and half unseated his rider.

In a story, the triumph is the end. The beginning is when things are going bad — really, really bad usually, if the story ends up being really, really good. (Like this one: A Dish Best Served Cold.)

People who only elaborate on triumphs aren’t storytellers. They are appalling first dates.

3. The moments behind the scenes are the most intriguing part.

No Moth stories necessary for this one.

Think: everything ever written about Steve Jobs’ unrelenting vision. The crazy stories about Michael Phelps’ practicing with busted goggles so he’d be ready for any hardship. The recent quasi-hagiography of Marissa Mayer in Business Insider.

Even the Romans gave their gods struggles and personal foibles. (Thanks for letting me use my totally-applicable-to-daily-life classics degree right there.)

The times of hard work show grit. The times of hardship show strength. The ancedotes gleaned from personal lives show the real, relateable people underneath…which makes them people we can root for.

In the horse show ring it’s unexpected moments that show emotion. Inside the ring, it’s a buttoned down sport; although, if you win a ton of money, you can probably do a triumphant fist pump in the victory gallop.

But at HITS Culpeper, there were several riders who hugged their horses. In a totally non-weird (too late?), completely emotionally balanced way, I loved them.

Even across the ring, virtually indistinguishable from everyone else in their classes before or after, they seemed kind and grateful and, for a moment, like the horse crazy kids they must have been — for a moment, people like me.

You better believe I was rooting for them.