Noah’s on a tear

Lately I haven’t had much time to think about anything outside of work aside from my favourite Chelsea coffe place, street art and tagging. What’s unfortunate is that I haven’t had the quality time to spend reading the last four posts from Noah Brier. If you find yourself with more than five minutes, read and comment about Creating an Innovative Environment, Attention-casting, Fear of Efficiency, and Blog Everything

Spam Karma

Wobbly Text Spam, originally uploaded by Michael Surtees.

Everyone gets spam, but if you blog you’ll also get spam entries for your blog. From time to time I’ll get some comments that are spam, but I wonder if I should let them get posted b/c they’re just so nice. It’s funny how the bots think that if they give a complementary gesture, the odds of getting posted are better. Some of the more recent posts that I’ve sadly had to deny include:

First time here on your site. I am delighted to find your wonderful website online.

Your post is on target. Keep it up….

Thank you, I could not have sead it better my self….

Very good web site

Hi! Very Good Site! Keep Doing That!

Very well! Your site is neat!

Like what you have to say. Your blog makes good since to me….

Exelent! Good work!

You have a great page!

One of the best locations I’ve come across lately!!! Definately a permanent bookmark!

I’m glad I found your site! It’s nice!

Amazing artwork! This is spectacularly done!

Good site, nice design!

Hi people! Great job!

I mean, how could you really argue with these comments? Sadly there’s more text that corresponds with the entry that aren’t exactly appropriate.

If you’re still reading this post, and are interested in spam behaviour, go visit Spamosphere. It’s got a great collection of the strange things that are going on. The categories are quite funny too: SPAM STOCK SUMMARY, animated URL type-in, camouflage fax , confetti fax, content blabber, ending blabber, ending cut & paste, filter test, filter word misspell, fireworks fax, mortgage request, name dropping, pharmaceutical, porn, replica retail, scribble fax, stock tips, table colors, wobbly text…

A pattern

A pattern

I’m not sure what it takes for you to consider something a pattern, but for me it only takes two other people. If something has caught my attention and then over a period of time two other people I know mention something similar to what I’ve filed in the back of my mind – I know I should investigate it more. With that philosophy in mind I present this good link about John Maeda and the new shuffle that I’ve been playing with. Click on at Presentations and the “Laws of Simplicity” at

Loser Singletons

“Having spent decades deriding singletons as losers with all the social skills of a rock, advertisers now want to make friends with those of us with just the one toothbrush in our bathroom. And it’s not just because, with no family to support, single people are wont to fill their empty lives with pointless new purchases. Being on your own is now, apparently, an aspiration.”

Read the whole blogpost Only The Lonely at

Profanity at the book fair

I'm such a loser to be taking photos of things like this

I was tipped off about Dexter Sinister some time ago from my friend Ray. However when I was walking around the NY Art Book Fair I felt a little lost until I reached their table upstairs. Walking around the main floor I really thought perhaps this fair was for people with a lot more knowledge about books than me. I did eventually find a couple books (Designing Interactions and The Laws of Simplicity) that interested me at M.I.T. Press.

But I still wasn’t that happy until I saw the Dot Dot Dot stuff on the table by the far wall. I forgot where I was when I blurted “holly shit“! I mean how often do you see a groups of those journals and the book from Norman Potter. I ended up picking up a collection of essays titled “The Uncertain States of the America Reader”, and hopefully a great read, “Models & Constructs” from Norman Potter. That made the fifteen minute walk from my apartment worth it…

Reading all those Blogs…


How do you read all those blogs out there? RSS feed, open up sites one at a time? Me, I have just under a 100 sites bookmarked in their own folder, every morning I open them all up in tabs and browse for something interesting.

I’ve got a lot more to say about this, but I have to run to work now!

November 19th, 2006
I wasn’t expecting much feedback from this post so I feel kind of bad to be getting back to the conversation a couple days after the fact. When I open bloglines from time to time I don’t get the same interest that I do from actually reading it from the blog site. I haven’t explored netvibes yet, but I suspect I’ll keep up with tabs. The biggest reason is that I’m not so much interested in the newest blog entry as I’m in to coming back to stuff that I want to read that I discovered a couple days previous. Yes I know there’s the option in bloglines to save an article but I find it to be a pain. I also find that when I’m in bloglines it’s way to easy to keep adding links. After a while there’s just too many sites. So tabs allows me to see the sites I want to read in an unfiltered way.

It’s not perfect but I’m actually surprised that I’m one of the only people that I know doing this. With the comments associated with this post I wonder if there’s any real point in redesigning my blog? If all of you are reading this through a feed, why bother with a revised design? More questions to think about…

magCulture Blog

magCulture Blog

When it comes to publishing, the only thing I luv more than books is magazines and newspapers. Recently I was happy to discover magCulture, a blog about magazines and yes, newspapers. Be sure to check it out – you’ll discover something new. For instance on a recent trip to NYC, the editor of the blog (Jeremy Leslie) talks about some of the magazine related things he saw – like Visionaire. I didn’t even know such a place existed…

Visit magCulture at

All those 0101010111100010101’s

Ok, I thought today was going to be a non blogging day – that lasted all of twenty minutes. I caught a great comment from the post titled Binary Code and Ambiguity. I’m copying + pasting the entire comment for my own notes. Hopefully it will make as much sense to you as it did for me…

Candice writes “Binary is what makes it all work, by its sheer simplicity. If you break anything down far enough, you can record it. And from there copy and move and on and on.

Take for example, ballet. All of ballet works within a very strict framework of positions and movements, which when combined together can create something as grand as Giselle. Every step has a simple name, in French, which is the same in Moscow or Paris as it is in London or New York. (Method differences on specific steps excepted – usually those are just details.) An advanced ballet class usually consists of a teacher giving directions without examples: just words and corrections.

wikiality by Stephan Colbert

wikiality by Stephen Colbert

Quoting from the landing page:

Welcome to Wikiality, the Wiki dedicated to upholding and documenting truthiness.
Wikiality isn’t about what “factonistas” might sneeringly deride using phrases like:

“statistical trends”, or the “objective truth”, or, “For the last time, President Bush doesn’t have a 102% approval rating!”

There’s a level of truth and meaning beyond (and, really, having little or nothing to do with) what’s “demonstrably true”, and that’s what we’re dedicated to keeping track of.

If you feel something strongly in your gut, or would like to help us keep track of the strong gut feelings of our dear friend Stephen Colbert, feel free to jump in and help out.

So, if you can handle the truthiness, take a gander at the articles we’ve created so far as a good place to start, or maybe just create your own.

And remember, when writing, don’t use your brain; use your gut.

Just make sure your gut knows how to spell, punctuate, use proper grammar, and use correct formatting.

Good Read?

I’m not a huge fan of design magazines, but I do have to say that it was nice to see the image from 37 Signals this morning. While I haven’t bought this issue of How Magazine yet, I will once it comes out. I’m looking forward to reading about design + business working hand in hand in a practical way. They’ve also created some great software and published a pretty influential pdf. To say that they’ve got a lot of “stuff” going for them is an understatement.

Looking Down: how the volume/channel rockers moved up

Oldtivouse Newtivouse

After years about hearing about TiVo in Canada where the cable monopoly kept the recording device out, it’s nice to finally have the capability to start recording shows now that I’m living in NYC. I don’t have a TiVo but a HD package from Time Warner. I could go on and on about the poor user interface that has (and probably will at a future date), but today the review is all about remotes and how TiVo recently updated theirs. Over at the PVR Blog, there’s a review of what an adjustment to the location of volume/channel rockers. This person knows TiVo’s, they’ve even interviewed the head of user experience at TiVo. The biggest issue it seems with the new design is that the hand is having a hard time finding the buttons without looking down. You can read the full reviews and comments that both praise and negate the new design at

Friday three for free

Going Up, originally uploaded by Delay Tactics.

Accessibility for blind people:
Direct Quote: Write meaningful links. Making links understandable out of context helps users who might not have read the whole sentence, or are scanning the page for links. So instead of an ambiguous “To see my birthday photos, click here”, try “Have a look at my birthday photos”. You can also add a “title” attribute to the link to provide more information when the user hovers over (or focuses on) it.
via Noah’s brain

alec soth – blog:
Direct Quote: I don’t come close to shooting every day. For better or worse, I don’t carry a camera with me everywhere I go. I liken my process to that of filmmaking. First I conceive of the idea. Then I do pre-production and fundraising. Then shooting. Then editing. Then distribution (books and galleries). As with most filmmakers, the shooting takes just a fraction of my time.
via personism

Antonelli at Stanford Review:
Direct quote: She made a provocative statement “design needs good narrators” – even though there were some questions about it, it seemed like a comment that was open to a variety of interpretations.


Steve Portigal, a fellow Canadian and instructor at CCA passed me on to Katie, a student wondering about bloggers and blogging for a future project she’s doing. Here’s how the intereview has progressed so far. It kind of gives insight into why I do what I do here.

Kate Bailey: What is the name of your blog?

Michael Surtees: The name has evolved at bit. First it was d*notes, then it became design*notes, then I switched it to SidewalkPressed and now I’m back to design*notes.

KB: When are you bogging?

MS: Usually in the morning before ll am, once in a while it will be later in the evening after 10 pm.

KB: How often do you post?

MS: I try to post at least once a day, though I tend to try to take a break on the weekends.

KB: How does a post start, where does that impetus come from?

MS: Usually it comes from me thinking about something that has caught my attention, though sometimes I feel the need to just get something off my chest. Essentially it’s something that I feel is important to mention and I haven’t seen it floating around the blogosphere.

KB: How did you start blogging?

MS: There were two reasons. I didn’t really have any expectations about blogging in the beginning, so I just wanted to try it out and see where it would lead. I also wanted to create an archive of links that I found interesting and was looking for a method to remember them. I thought a blog might help.

KB: Who’s your blog for?

MS: First and foremost it’s for me, having the opportunity to publish what ever I want is something that I think is really cool. The wider audience is people interested in the idea of design, though they might not be designers themselves. I wanted to get away from the traditional design blog that talks about what sucks. I wanted to explore the notion that design as an idea is much broader than what the design media (ie. magazines) tell people it is. It’s not just about fake fame, expensive products or awards. But with that said I will post stuff that isn’t even close to being related to design. It is for me after all.

KB: What did you imagine that you’d accomplish by blogging?

MS: When I first started I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’ve been blogging since February of 2005 and a number of cool things have happened. I got my design job in NYC b/c of it, I’ve been interviewed in a Canadian design magazine, meet some really cool people and it’s helping me just think about things better.

KB: What do you post? Photos, text, podcasts?

MS: I’m at the point where I try to post an image from Flickr that I’ve shot to illustrate the post, though once in a while I’ll grab an image from the site that I’m talking about. In the beginning I was relying heavily on other people’s images. I’ll talk about podcast’s and video’s once in a while, but it isn’t my primary focus. I also helped organize a number of design lectures and had them filmed. Those are viewable from my blog.

KB: Do you always post form one computer, or from wherever you are?

MS: I typically post from my laptop (MacBook Pro), whether at work or home. Before my laptop I would either blog on my home computer (iMac) or at work (Mac G5 Tower). With my laptop I rarely post outside or in a coffee shop. I don’t find it comfortable to think and type in public. I also get a lot of ideas reacting to what I’ve just read, or recognized a pattern. Those type of things come together when I’m at home.

KB: Do you use a blogging client or a web interface?

MS: I use a template from Word Press, but I’m in the process of redesigning my blog. My first blog came from blogger, but graduated to something a little bit stronger.

KB: What tools do you use to blog? Digital camera, scanner, recording device, pen and paper?

MS: I have a couple camera’s I use: Nikon D70s, a Canon PowerShot SD550, even the camera on my Treo cell phone. I’ve never used a scanner. Once in a while pen and paper and then I’ll take a picture of it. I haven’t really used sound or video yet. Word Press and YouTube don’t seem to play well, so I don’t post a lot of those videos. I also use tracking software to understand how many people are coming to my site, from what location and what they are looking at.

KB: What inspired your blog?

MS: The chance to self publish for myself. No editor’s to hold me back, the freedom to write and post about anything that I feel like. Now it’s more about meeting others that are interested in similar things, hopefully learning from them and just doing the social thing.

Writing it down

“Maybe ads/brands/whatever work more like velcro than like a bullet or a tennis ball. It’s not about one big, simple hook, but thousands of little ones. If some of them fail it doesn’t matter. Some of them are verbal. many of them aren’t. They’re mostly the things that happen in execution, not in strategy. They’re to do with tone, manner, character, attitude, look, feel. Orr to be more specific, they’re to do with design, font, colour, photography, music, casting, copy, typesize. All that.

and further down in the comments: The best communications always leave room for the audience to do something. In their head or in the world. That’s why simplification and reductionism is often so stifling.”

Russell Davies on his schtick

Two degrees of Hi, a likemind success story


There’s probably an infinite number of way to start this post, so I’ll just pick the one that first comes to mind. A number of weeks ago I was sitting at my computer at Renegade wondering why a person that I had e-mailed a couple days previously hadn’t bothered to get back to me. After having my coffee I turned the cup around to see this quote. It seemed right to take the pic and shoot that person one more e-mail. Though not entirely ironic, they never really got back to me, but in turn the photo introduced me to at least two new people that I didn’t know.

Back to the photo at hand, I started noticing it getting a lot of hits. Not a ton in terms of flickr popularity, but more than I usually get. A number of days later I get this interesting e-mail from Jack Chen:

– I first saw your Starbucks cup on chris glass’ website.
– I was then reading someone’s blog and noticed that she quoted the cup
– I sent her a link to your flickr page for the photo, and we started exchanging emails and IMs
– Then she brought up and I was like, oh yeah! I’ve heard of it… I’ve worked with Piers in the past
– I was going through Piers’ photostream and came across your name and wondered why it looked familiar
– And lastly, at my current job, one of the guys there (he’s not there anymore) used to work at Renegade!

When things like that happen (ok, this really is the first time this has happened) you tend to sit up and take notice. Through his own connections and Johanna’s connections we met up near the end of Likeminds. Before meeting them there, I suspected I might see John, but didn’t know of johanna until the introductions.

So the moral of this story is that even if someone blows you off, the wind might take you to a better destination.

I would highly recommend reading Jack’s account of things on his blog at and then johanna at

happy blogging and be sure to say hi! to someone today.

Likemind III

Likemind III

If you haven’t heard of Likemind and are in NYC, check out the site at Today was the third gathering and the second that I’ve been lucky enough to attend. Here’s a couple sites from people that were there today. I’m sure you’ll get out as much as I did from them.

cellar door:

Jack Chen:


Charles Gallant:


1938 Media:


and of course Noah Brier:

and… The Blgging Times: Tags

Have you ever studied your tags? What does it say about your interests? Here’s all of my tags for

10, 37signals, accessibility, activism, adobe, ads, advertising, agency, aggregator, airfare, airline, Airlines, airplane, AJAX, animation, anthropology, aol, apartment, api, Apple, arabic, Architects, architecture, art, artist, artists, audio, author, Awards, awesometown, b&w, bands, bats, bbc, beer, berkeley, bike, billing, blackmail, bloat, blog, blogging, blogs, book, books, bookstore, Bookstores, brand, Branding, brands, brooklyn, Browser, bush, business, businessweek, button, buy, buzz, cafe, camera, canada, Canadian, cartoons, CBC, celebrity, cell, charts, chocolate, claimid, Clothes, clothing, CMS, coffee, colbert, collage, comedy, comic, comics, comments, commercial, commercials, communication, community, computer, conceptual, conference, content, cooking, cool, coolhunting, corporate, coudal, counter, courses, cover, creative, creativity, crocs, CSS, culture, customer, dab, daily, dance, design, design-firm, designer, development, diagram, digital, Diseño, diy, django, dns, dogs, download, DS, dutch, Earphones, eboy, economics, economists, education, electronics, Email, employment, emusic, English, entertainment, eps, espresso, evangelism, events, experience, experimental, fashion, feed, feeds, feminism, firm, Firms, flash, flickr, flights, font, fonts, food, foodblog, foosball, football, footwear, framework, free, freeform, Fun, funny, furniture, gadget, gadgets, gallery, game, Games, gdc, geek, gel, generator, geography, ghostbusters, girl, google, googlemaps, gossip, government, graffiti, graph, graphic, graphicdesign, graphics, hack, hacks, hardware, headphones, healthclub, history, hockey, hotel, howto, html, humor, humour, ia, ibc, icons, id, idea, ideas, identity, ideo, illustration, images, immigration, indie, information, innovation, inspiration, interesting, interface, internet, internetradio, interviews, invoices, IP, iPod, itunes, japan, japanese, java, javascript, job, jobs, Kawasaki, Kitchen, language, laptop, law, lectures, LED, left, letter, liberal, libertarian, lifehacks, lighting, links, literature, logo, logos, london, mac, macosx, magazine, magazines, Management, mantra, manual, manuals, map, mapping, maps, marketing, mashup, media, mediacenter, missing, mobile, mod, moleskine, montreal, movies, mp3, music, muzak, myspace, NAFTA, name, names, netherlands, network, networking, news, newsletter, newyork, newyorker, nike, Nintendo, NintendoDS, ny, nyc, nyt, NYTimes, ocad, odeo, OpenSource, Opera, origami, osx, painting, papercraft, paris, people, personal, philosophy, photo, photoblog, photography, photojournalism, Photos, photoshop, php, pinhole, pixel, pixelart, planning, podcast, Podcasting, political, politics, pool, portfolio, poster, posters, pr, pr2.0, presentation, Presentations, print, product, productivity, programming, promo, public_relations, publisher, python, radio, recipes, recruiting, Reference, research, resources, restaurants, retro, reviews, Royksopp, rss, Ruby, ,running, saw, school, Science, screenprinting, screensaver, search, seating, secret, secrets, security, seo, ,,servicedesign, shoes, shop, shopping, skate, skateboarding, sneaker, sneakers, soccer, social, socialmedia, socialrank, software, sound, space, spec, speech, spore, stanford, staple, statistics, stats, stencil, Stockholm, store, strategy, streaming, streetart, studio, studios, Studios.Netherlands, subway, sushi, syndication, tags, target, tattoo, tech, technique, Technology, ted, teens, television, tennessee, text, theonion, theory, throwingmuses, tips, TN, todo, tools, tourism, tracking, translation, translator, travel, trend, trends, tshirts, tutorial, tutorials, tv, typography, uk, UN, university, urban, urls, usability, usb, useful, userexperience, UX, video, Visa, visualization, vlog, watch, wayfinding, Web, web2.0, webdesign, webdev, weblogs, webradio, weimaraner, weird, whois, widget, wifi, wiki, williamsburg, wine, wireless, wordpress, work, world, writing, wtf, yahoo, youtube, yugop

make it cult-flick, before it’s actually cult

I probably shouldn’t do this, but I can’t really expand on how the movie industry is marketing films. So I quote in it’s entirety from mircea over at Werkernet. I think you could make the case that this is happening in other industries as well.

“* make a myspace page about the movie
* blog about the production
* make an entry of the movie in Wikipedia
* put all trailers / film-extracts on YouTube
* tag some of the contents with Technorati etc.

In brief: make it cult-flick, before it’s actually cult.”

Today’s Inspiration

Walking Around

As I watched the video clip from PSFK asking the question of “Where Do You Get Inspiration?” it got me to think about my first real full time week in NYC. As much of a cliché as it is, NYC would be where I’m getting my inspiration from. But maybe not for the same reasons as you think. For me, there are so many talented people here that you have to always be striving to get better. No matter how good yesterday was, today you have to be smarter, faster, more observant, and listen better than you ever have before. Then there are the people on the street. 99% of the people are wearing interesting clothes, they’re not always nice looking but in their choice of clothing it tells a story or pattern of action of where they’re at in life. There’s also the visual culture out there too that makes you rethink concept, typography and execution constantly, but I can talk about that design inspiration another day.

Something to think about today

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s/women’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized.”
Daniel Burnham, the great visionary architect of Chicago

I found that quote from the 37signals Newsletter talking about a minority private equity investment in 37signals. The quote seems fiting for today and every other day that you’re about to have.

We’re Here

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Tamara and I made it to NYC from Edmonton in 5 days and drove about 2,500 miles. We’ve got a pretty nice place in Chelsea at the Caroline and are really looking forward to meeting up with old and new friends. Once I buy a new usb cable I’ll start posting pics from the trip. After I decompress I’ll have lots more to share with regards to what is on the sidewalk.

Best, Michael

No More

While Tamara, Maddie and I hit the road (today Saskatoon, tomorrow Winnipeg, some where in the USA after that), I’ll hold off on the soapbox crits for a little while. However in my absence you should check out Fort Drastic. In their own words they “are writers, artists, musicians, sketch comedians and Monday morning coaches. We also occasionally sit backwards on toilets. We are here for one reason: to entertain you.” How can that be a bad thing? Even if it’s not Monday it’s worth checking out.

The Question

The Question

It had to happen sooner or later, that just dumping a link on my blog and mentioning “it’s interesting” wouldn’t be enough. Now that I’m in the final countdown (for instance this is the last Tuesday that I’ll be working in Edmonton) in moving to NYC, I’m just about ready to move on with my blog. It started as an experiment, not really sure what to expect. Last Christmas I had a lot of time to think of where I wanted to take things, both with my career and my blog. I felt that it was time to move on from Blogger and perhaps with the name design*notes. I changed blogging platforms to WordPress and if you noticed the url of this blog it doesn’t say design*notes but sidewalkpressed. It was one of those small reminders of where I wanted to get to. When I finally moved to NYC the name of my blog would change.

I walk a lot, it’s one of those things that give me a chance to clear my mind and just think. During one of my long walks over Christmas time I wanted to come up with a name for my blog that didn’t have the word design in it, and something that would allow me to grow outside of publishing digitally. When you have the means and skills to communicate in an infinite number of ways, why should you hold yourself back? I liked the word “press”, but it wasn’t enough, I didn’t want it to be locked down in the world of publishing. As I bounced a lot of ideas around, I decided to keep things simple. Like I mentioned I walk, and that’s usually on a sidewalk – nothing too deep, but it gives things a bit of context. In the end I felt sidewalkpressed put a lot of the elements that mean something to me through the expression of ideas. In a long winded manner, design*notes the name is coming to an end. As a heads up I will be putting it to bed once I start walking in NYC. This blog will be known as sidewalkpressed in less than ten days.

The content isn’t going to change that much. I’m not a big fan of reading stuff from people when it gives tips about rules on designing or web interaction or whatever. I’m not going to go “I’m the expert and this is the way it should be” type of attitude. But I will try to put more time into writing about thoughtful experiences that were memorable to me. As my philosophy goes “see to think, think to design, and design to live” it won’t be like I’m not talking about design, but the life that makes up design.

On a side note I have to share one of the funnier e-mails I got from Vancouver about me moving to NYC. I’ve paraphrased a bit, and taken out some stuff, but you’ll get the idea. All I can say is that some people sure know how to write…


That’s fantastic. You talented little fucker. I’m jealous. Take me with you!!!

No, seriously. I hate you. I’m going to go kill a kitten in an evil ritual to put a design voodoo curse on you. The moment you arrive in NYC you’ll get creative block until you invite me there. You’re screwed. 🙂

Alright, alright, alright…congratulations. You’re a talent mofo and deserve a break like this…

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