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The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter, Issue #1


In Doing Monetization Well I promised to start a periodical modeled after Scott Hanselman’s Newsletter of Wonderful Things and Brett Terpstra’s Web Excursions series if I could increase my traffic to twenty visitors a day. That article went on to attract 1,780 unique visitors and 2,794 pageviews in less than twenty-four hours. This incredible surge of traffic put me well on my way to meeting a number of my goals, so I set about fulfilling the appropriate promises, beginning with my first: a newsletter of neat sites, projects, and articles I found that would not fit on my website because they exist outside of its intended scope. Beginning today, I will send this out on the second and fourth Sunday of every month. Welcome to The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter. 
Sendicate, like MailChimp, allows anyone to build and send email newsletters. After becoming confused and mildly frustrated with the former, I switched to the latter in search of a good way to publish this twice-monthly newsletter. Although as a whole not as polished as MailChimp, Sendicate does have a number of helpful features, not least of which is incredible simplicity when compared to MailChimp's process for creating a newsletter. So while I did eventually return and ultimately create this newsletter using MailChimp, I would recommend Sendicate to anyone unsure of whether they need the (occasionally) overwhelming control this platform affords. If nothing else Sendicate will, like it did for me, give you a better understanding of this medium and enable you to truly appreciate the extensive feature set MailChimp offers.


Although I talked about this project in A Complete Redesign in Twelve Hours, it deserves another mention. After I started revamping my site the other day, as I searched for a good way to trigger the newly-implemented dark mode on a mobile device, I had a great idea: what if I could shake my phone to toggle the color scheme? Shortly thereafter, I had a beta version publicly available thanks to the jQuery iOS Shake Detector plugin. Relatively easy to implement, you can also choose a more advanced method of instantiation which exposes a number of settings providing for custom thresholds describing what counts as an actionable shake. Given that I intended to target both small and large mobile devices, I opted for the latter and used different parameters to ensure a consistently positive user experience across all form factors. So far, the feedback has been universally positive.

jQuery iOS Shake Detector

Speaking of cool Javascript tricks and things I have already covered in past articles, any website with large content areas ought to implement 60FPS scrolling. Three lines of CSS, a few of Javascript, bada-bing bada-boom you have high-speed scrolling on both desktop computers and mobile devices as well. Very useful and unfortunately widely underused.

60fps scrolling using pointer-events: none, via The CSS Ninja

In other news, not that any of the last three paragraphs counted as such, last week Netflix released the trailer for the second season of House of Cards. My go-to movie and TV show site Film School Rejects posted an article on the topic, but I disagree with Scott Beggs's opinion that Kevin Spacey speaking directly into the camera as Frank Underwood took away from the show in any way. Rather, I feel it made the show: right from the start, it told audiences that this was not a normal television show; that it would not conform to the norm, but in fact eschew it altogether. As to whether that made it better or worse, apparently that is up for debate. However, I would say it unequivocally made it better: it gave us a window into Frank's mind that we would have otherwise had to surmise from his actions, which brings with it a whole host of other problems. For example, why doesn't anyone else notice blank behavior? It's plain as day to me! Netflix's writers would have had to strike a delicate balance between exposition and subtlety few shows manage to attain, and none with only one main character. With two leads showing parallel story lines from different perspectives is easy; with one, it becomes impossible to do well. Thankfully, Netflix realized this and combatted it by breaking down the fourth wall. I, for one, cannot wait for February fourteenth.

‘House of Cards’ Season 2 Trailer: Democracy is Overrated

On the topic of media, yet another new podcasting app launched recently, to somewhat underwhelming fanfare: John Moltz wrote a mini review of it, which John Gruber linked to later the same day. Perhaps with a name like "Network" no one could find the app to talk about it, although that's nothing more than pure conjecture. Previously, Castro launched to a similar reception a few weeks ago.

Rather than the traditional table views and playback screens, both clients sought to differentiate themselves from the incumbents with radically different user interfaces. Network took this philosophy even farther than Castro in eschewing the traditional playback screen entirely and replacing it with three controls, a slider, and a dash of text at the bottom. Relying heavily on a spatial, gesture-based interface, Network goes too far in its quest to distinguish itself from the competition, though. In the brief amount of time I spent with it, I used most of it pawing at the screen trying to figure out what dance I had to do in order to navigate through this conundrum of an app. Choosing to go so far as to not even display podcast artwork was a bold move, one that I think Network's developer should be lauded for; however, Andrew Conlan made altogether too many assumptions and took too many risks to replace my go-to, Instacast. There are other decisions related to the presentation of data that would cause me to side against Network, but my dislike almost wholly stems from the app's inscrutable interface. 

> Network

Since I am already on the topic of new apps, Command-C also launched within the last week. Unsurprisingly, Federico Viticci posted an excellent, in-depth article reviewing it. Hopeful, I shelled out the requisite $3.99; I should not have been so optimistic: like Pastebot, Command-C requires that you launch the app in order to transmit anything from one iOS device to another despite supposedly having been built specifically for iOS 7. Until that transfer process becomes seamless, until everything I copy on my computer automatically and instantaneously appears on my iPhone and vice-versa, this entire genre will remain useless to me. 

> Command-C on the App Store and the Mac App Store


Thus begins The Neat and Out of Scope Newsletter: a relatively disjointed collection of topics I did not write (much) about on my website, yet had enough thoughts on to merit a mention here. I hope you enjoyed this. If not, please feel free to give me either positive or negative feedback on Twitter. This is the first time I have ever done something like this, so I most certainly have room for improvement. 

In the future I hope to spend less time wrestling with my chosen distribution platform and more time actually crafting the content I plan to send out using it. Expect my next issue to feature more code projects, more media discussion, and more links in general: this installment was relatively light in each area, a shortcoming I will remedy in two weeks.
If you like what you see here, have yet to subscribe to my website, and did not know I occasionally say interesting things on Twitter, consider visiting my blog and following me on Twitter.
Copyright © 2014 Zac J. Szewczyk, All rights reserved.
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