Big Mischief

Founder at Moonbase. Previously UberConference. Read my process posts here

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Anything but CLEAR

Flying home to DC, I encountered the CLEAR podium once again at SFO. I was once a member, but canceled almost immediately, overcome by the awkwardness of the process.

If you haven’t heard of CLEAR, it’s a service that prescreens you and allows you to “skip the line” at airport security. The point of the prescreening is unclear, as the membership only affects your placement in the security line. You still pass through all the same security checks as the unscreened masses, but you skip the line.

What they don’t mention is that you don’t really skip the line, you cut it. There is a difference between skipping and cutting. Skipping means bypassing. Cutting involves being placed in front of already wary and annoyed travelers – most of whom have no idea what CLEAR is, let alone any respect for its rules.

The process is annoying for everyone. CLEAR participants have a new and highly...

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How to Make a Promo Video without any $$$

I’ve seen a few topics on Quora recently, asking how expensive it is to make a promo video. The answers vary, but all involve using an outsourced shop and range between $10-$150K.


One skill I have developed while working at Firespotter is making promo videos really fast, cheap, and effective, without the help of an outsourced shop, usually with a crew of 1-5 people. Cost varies, but is always between $0-$2K. The most successful ones having been the cheapest.

Having just burnt the jets to get this video done in a weekend, the process is fresh in my head. Here are some tips for executing a solid video on a short timeframe, without spending a lot of money:

Concept First

If you don’t have a concept to shoot around, you’re dead in the water. I never start working on a video unless the general outline has solidified in my head. Most of these tips will assume that you have an...

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Launch Videos

Today we’re launching our iPhone and Android apps for ÜberConference. I think you’ll enjoy them, they both make conference calling easier than it has ever been.

We also made the video above to promote the launch. I’ve gotten a little burnt out on the typical app walkthrough style: shallow depth of field, over-the-shoulder app shots, precious indie music, happy hipsters hanging in Dolores Park, etc. We wanted to try something completely different.

I like our QVC-spoof because it’s weird as hell for an app launch video. Who knows if it will “succeed” in getting the word out, but it sure was fun to make.

A weekend well spent.

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The Great Discontent

I was interviewed on one of my favorite blogs yesterday: The Great Discontent. It’s a long interview and covers all sorts of topics, including how I got into design, why I dropped out of my grad program, and what I do at 1:14am. See the interview here.

I love TGD for many reasons, but let me list a few:

First, they don’t shy away from long-form content. Interviews are as long as they need to be, unedited and full of a variety of topics. Tina does a remarkable job transcribing the hour long (in my case) conversation. I’ve done transcription before, and it’s no easy task. I like this because it’s rare; you just don’t see really long interviews on the web very often.

Second, from a design perspective, the blog is fantastic. The responsive design keeps everything looking good across platforms – it’s one of the best implementations of it I’ve seen. The typography and layout are also both...

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Faking Hollywood: The Bourne Culmination

0. the bourne culmination.jpg

My friends and I are big fans of the Bourne series. My friend Phil looks a lot like a young Matt Damon. The combination of these two things led us to decide to make a fake trailer for the hypothetical finale to the Bourne series. As we all have jobs, the project was completed over two (very very busy) weekends. We had no agenda other than to make something awesome.

Promo Website, Teaser Trailer, Full Trailer.


Having never made a trailer before, the first step was the watch as many as I possibly could to acclimate myself to the pacing and stylistic tendencies of typical action trailers. The previous Bourne trailers provided some great tips (no clips longer than 2 seconds, 60+ shots, etc), but the archetype for me was the trailer for Safe House. This is a great trailer. It’s got an effective trajectory and has the perfect mix of suspense and action to keep the viewer...

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X Marks the Spot


Treasure Island is exactly as magical as it sounds. While it may not appear so to the passerbys on the Bay Bridge, there is much to be discovered. From above, it resembles a territory map of Hyrule from the Legend of Zelda. Clearly, worth exploring.

The Island’s CV is an interesting one: the completely man-made landmass was previously host to the 1939 World’s Fair, a training center for nuclear decontamination, and built-out for an airport. Once owned by the Navy, it was eventually purchased by the city of San Francisco for $108 million. It’s probably one of the worst places to be during a major earthquake as the entire island is landfill and susceptible to liquefaction. The island is set to receive $1.5 billion for new residences, hotels and parks. Perhaps destined to become our own Star Island, for better for worse.

My interest in the island began during a location scouting...

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The Silver Chair


Silver represents the fusion of our studies and many years of knowledge. It was our aim to make the technical complexity in Silver invisible and reach the poetic plateau of perfection in seating.

I love this chair. It sits firmly outside the financial grasp of any reasonable person, but I love it. Recently I’ve been sourcing furniture and thinking a lot about the interior design of our new office space in San Francisco. Had we unlimited resources, this would be our task chair.

The Silver Chair is made by Interstuhl, a 50-year old seating company based in Germany. Interestingly, they’ve been the official “chair supplier” on the last couple Bond films. Can’t imagine there are many cooler accomplishments in seating.

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Learning How To Think

Raise your quality standards as high as you can live with, avoid wasting your time on routine problems, and always try to work as closely as possible at the boundary of your abilities. Do this, because it is the only way of discovering how that boundary should be moved forward.

This rule tells us that the obviously possible should be shunned as well as the obviously impossible: the first would not be instructive, the second would be hopeless, and both in their own way are barren.

As I wrote last week, I’m fascinated by how people determine how to allocate their mental resources. A friend sent me the paper from which the above quote is pulled, in which Professor Edsger Dijkstra describes his three rules for successful scientific research. I am not a scientist, but Dijkstra’s sentiments can readily be applied to other fields.

My friend also sent along another article relevant to this...

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Purple 5


The redesigned five dollar bill was announced in early 2008. It looks like money. Green, complex borders, some words here and there…and a GIANT PURPLE FIVE. Fuck yeah America.

The Purple 5 is awesome. I’m amazed it exists. I’m thrilled it exists. There is even a little cloud of yellow numbers floating around. It’s kind of like catching a glimpse of the Country’s socks and seeing it wears Paul Smith.

Further investigation reveals an predictably boring explanation for its existence:

The numeral 5 in the lower right corner on the back of the bill was enlarged for the redesigned $5 bill and printed in high-contrast purple ink to help those with visual impairments distinguish the denomination.

OK fine, take all the fun out of it. Richard Lawrence Poe really pops my balloon:

The redesign of our currency has nothing to do with fighting counterfeiters or helping people with weak...

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Debates = NASCAR

Presidential Debates are like NASCAR: boring, predictable, and circular – people just watch to see if someone will mess up and crash.

It’s actually quite amazing how calculated the Presidential Debates are, given the variables in play. You would think that, given there are two living, breathing humans on stage, something unusual might happen at least once. The only other time you can guarantee the outcome of a conversation with such certainty, would be between two actors onstage at a theater.

What allows candidates in a Presidential Debate to stay so remarkably “on script” as it were, is the fact that they are permitted to lie, ramble and hedge. Mercilessly. If they don’t have an instant rebuttable to something, the tactic is to just keep speaking at all costs, truth be damned. I wish a moment’s pause was looked at as an acceptable way to begin a response during a debate. I consider a...

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