'Prototyping for Tiny Fingers' by Marc Rettig (1994)

A short overview of paper prototyping, in theory and practice, from 1994. Full of insights. Reading through this makes it clear to me that using Keynote as a prototyping tool is really much closer to paper prototyping in spirit than to the software prototypes he compares them against.

“Construct models, not illustrations.” (p1)

“[With a paper prototype] interface designers spend 95% of their time thinking about the design and only 5% thinking about the mechanics of the tool. Software-based tools, no matter how well executed, reverse this ratio.” (p2)

“Spend enough time crafting something and you are likely to fall in love with it. Knowing this, team members may feel reluctant to suggest that their colleague should make drastic changes to the lovely looking, weeks-in-the-making software prototype. They would be less hesitant to suggest redrawing a sketch that took an hour to create.” (p3)

“… no matter how hard you think about it, you aren’t going to start getting it right until you put something in front of actual users and start refining your idea based on their experience with your design.” (p5)

“It can be terribly difficult to keep still while the user spends 10 minutes using all the wrong controls for all the wrong reasons. You will feel a compelling urge to explain the design to your users. Don’t give in.” (p9)


A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander

Atomic startups

These are my quick notes from Tom’s talk, ‘Atomic Startups: the boring bits’, at Thingmonk 2013. Bear in mind that anything might be a (purely accidental) misquote.


  • A talk about some of the things that aren’t sexy: customer service, logistics, shipping, lawyers.
  • Would like to encourage people share their lessons and stories around these areas.

On experts

  • Newspaper Club haven’t ever really touched a newspaper during the 4.3M papers they have printed. Instead, their job is coordinate the different players.
  • They thought they could treat the different players (e.g. printers, shippers) as “APIs” that they could use and swap out whenever they needed to. This turned out not to be the case.
  • They actually needed to know experts in the areas that they didn’t know about to guide them through.
  • Working with a small friendly firm was invaluable because these companies could walk them through learning about these new areas.
  • If you have had a pint with the founder of the company that does your shipping then it’s easier to call him up and ask him to help out when things go wrong.
  • You can scale up to using big firms later if you need to.
  • “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.” – Systemantics, John Gall

On customer service

  • At launch, they printed 20 newspapers for friends. These were “the sarcasm months: we weren’t very good at customer service back then.”
  • They solved their customer service problems by getting someone (Anne Ward) who was good at it to help them do it.
  • Anne practiced “paranoia driven customer support”:

    • Assume that everything is going to go wrong
    • Work to prevent those things from happening before they do
    • When something happens, go and fix the thing so it doesn’t happen again (this is hard because it usually seems like there’s something more urgent to do)
    • Under promise, over deliver
  • Newspaper Club have a policy document about what to do in lots of different customer scenarios. Makes it easier when dealing with a complaint, and also is helpful for not taking complaints too personally – just check the policy.
  • Respect that the issues people are having are genuine issues.
  • If all fails: ‘fess up and move on.

On physical objects

  • Physical failure modes are different: you can’t just push an update to a newspaper.
  • Physical failures will upset your customers and are expensive to fix.
  • Newspaper Club surface the fact that there is big, dirty machinery involved in your order, showing off the processes and people involved so that customers understand that this is a complicated process with failure points that can be out of Newspaper Club’s control.

On being digital first

  • The companies now working in physical things that were originally working on the web are different: they do things like testing in live, with constant iterations.
  • Newspaper Club didn’t know anything about managing the physical world, but they learned as they went along.
  • Manufacturing is 200 years old and there’s a lot of knowledge already in place that can be learned from.


We had to be told how scrolling worked, once.

How to use scroll bars

From the Macintosh System 6 user guide (1988).

Hosting websites on S3

Noting for myself here because I have to do this about once a month.

  1. Create a new domain on your DNS server (e.g. static.yourdomain.com)
  2. CNAME this domain to static.yourdomain.com.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com (this is for buckets in Ireland, see this list for other locations)
  3. On the AWS console, create a bucket with the same name (e.g. static.yourdomain.com)
  4. Edit the bucket policy as below, replacing the URL at the end
  5. In the ‘static website hosting’ option on the AWS console for the bucket, select ‘enable’ and provide an index document to serve by default (probably index.html)

Bucket policy

  "Version": "2008-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Sid": "AddPerm",
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Principal": {
      "AWS": "*"
      "Action": "s3:GetObject",
      "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::static.yourdomain.com/*"

Markov Guybrush

Greg tweeted ‘Markov Guybrush Threepwood’ the other week. I thought that was a good idea so I spent a bit of Sunday making Markov Guybrush. It’s a Twitter bot that generates random Guybrush-ish Tweets.

All the important bits are taken from the code for Tom’s lovely Markov Chocolates and have been made worse. (I asked nicely first.) His blog post has more information on how it all works.

The dialogue was taken from this play-through of The Secret of Monkey Island and then hit with the Vim-hammer until it looked like this. It’s not everything he says in the game, but it seems to be enough for some randomly generated quips.

That’s it. Here’s the code, and here’s the bot. As Guybrush might say: