Simply open up your internet browser of choice, go to Aviary, then press the Turkey launch button to open up your internet browser right there in your browser!
At Aviary, we’re always looking to break new ground and shatter what the world’s preconceived notions of what can be accomplished online. And we believe we’re doing just that with Turkey, the Internet’s first browser-based web browser.
And with popular features now necessary in web browsing such as tabbed browsing, surfing your favorite web pages has never been easier or more efficient!
With Aviary’s Turkey, anyone with a browser and an internet connection can now browse the internet.
Just one of the wonderful things we’re working on, here at Aviary!
Editor’s Note: This was actually an April Fool’s joke concept that made the cutting room floor originally, but looking back on it we laughed and had to share it, so why not around Thanksgiving? For early access to the more useful (and real) Aviary tools, head on over to the Aviary main site.
Edit: April 1st is actually celebrated during Thanksgiving in Canada, so this is a perfectly acceptable blog post, thank you very much.]]>
I’ve talked about my lack of ability to draw horses to many of my artist friends and peers. To my surprise, many of them recounted me their own secret, shameful inabilities to draw all sorts of subjects including hands, proportions, machinery etc…
I then realized I was not alone in this. We all have our Achille’s heel, and I wanted to help all of us.
So a while back, I asked users here to email me illustrations they just could not finish due to their own personal weaknesses, or to send me any illustrations for general critique on areas that could use improvement. So that maybe I could find a common thread in all of our inabilities.
And it dawned on me. All of our problems could be solved with one simple technique:
How To Draw Anything in One Step
You may be asking, “How could you possibly learn how to draw anything and everything in just one step? Are you a moron?” And if you are, there is no need for childish name-calling. Let’s be civilized adults here.
Follow along as I teach you how to draw everything, in this tutorial.
Step 1. Draw a dog covering the thing you can’t draw.
Don’t believe this works?
Remember how I asked users to send me their problem illustrations? Well, let’s test it out firsthand, shall we?
Brandon Kobayashi from Burnaby, Canada sent me this email and his illustration of a woman sitting on a tree stump:
“I often find myself having difficulties drawing human feet. Do you have any tips on how to improve my ability (or lack thereof) in that department?”
Sure there is, Brandon. Just follow my tutorial and you will be set.
Step 1. When finding you can’t draw feet, conveniently enough, a dog decided to rest at the woman’s feet the day the portrait was painted.
Melanie Goode of Auburn, WA, wrote me asking for help on this particular image:
“I don’t seem to have problems drawing bodies, but I am mystified when it comes to getting the proportions of a human face just right.”
Well, Melanie, I see you’re off to the conventional start by adding in the guidelines for the facial features. Most art instructors teach this very method. But I find it’s a lot easier if you follow my tutorial.
Step 1. Pretend a dog ran across the woman’s face the day she decided to lay in the grass.
At this point you’re probably wondering, “Wow, this is great! But will this technique work in different illustrative styles, as well?” Why, thank you for the compliment! And yes, it will work in all illustration styles.
For example, Ken Tanaka from San Diego, CA sent me a cartoon image of a solider he wanted depicting an M-16 machine gun.
Step 1. I have never personally been interested in drawing weaponry, but even with my lack of experience I was able to use my own tutorial to complete the image of a soldier holding an M-16 machine gun. (Who just happened to be walking along the direct path of a leaping golden retriever.)
And people of all ages can do it, too.
Wendy Lee of (address undisclosed) sent me a drawing by her 6 year old son and told me how he loved to draw dinosaurs and wants to learn to draw them more realistically.
Well, first off, dinosaurs do not talk, smile, nor has there ever been (in any official documented report) a dinosaur that existed labeled a Kevinsaurus.
So how will my system work on a 6 year olds drawing? Very well, actually!
Step 1. As we can add multiple dogs to cover the child’s numerous, major technical flaws.
So, there you have it: The be-all, end-all of illustration tutorials.
With my method, I guarantee you’ll find yourself with a newfound ability to draw anything and everything you can imagine on this big, round Earth. Including the Earth.
Q: “What if my weakness IS drawing dogs?”
A: It’s time to change hobbies.]]>
Image courtesy of PhillipC
A few months ago, after complaining about how I never have the energy to do anything, friend of mine who had been going through a similar predicament told me that she had just joined a gym and was paying only $5 a month. Whaaa? $5 a month in the city? How can that be? Apparently her health insurance offered a gym reimbursement plan.
For every 6 month period, they’d reimburse her $200 if she attended a gym with cardiovascular equipment 50 times. (That comes out to slightly more than 2 times a week). “I can do that!” I thought, and off I went to determine if I too was entitled to such a reimbursement. Indeed I was, and after another 2 weeks of procrastination, I got off my lazy bum, waddled to the nearest gym and signed up on the spot.
Inspirational video courtesy of OK Go
For a while, the only motivation I had to keep going was the desire to burn off the pounds earned from 9 hours in front of a computer screen with only a 15 minute interruption in the middle of the day for a pizza break. That and the fact that if I wanted that $200 reimbursement, I’d have to earn it. After 2 weeks of this I noticed that the effort required to get off my couch and work out had lessened. In fact, if I missed a day, I’d start to feel antsy. For the first time in a long time, I had too much energy. That’s when I realized that I had somehow formed a health “inducing” habit. Wierd.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with tech, or even productivity in general. Well, in short, nothing. Not directly anyway. Indirectly, it’s done a heck of a lot. The simple act of injecting something new and productive into my daily schedule has a positive impact on my daily routine.
I now tend to look at new things in a more positive light. I overcame one adversity (laziness), and other life challenges seem more manageable because of it. When I go to the gym in the morning I find myself with a lot more energy earlier in the day. Instead of stumbling into work in the morning and staring blankly at my monitor for 20 minutes waiting for my brain to boot up, I spring into the office ready for action.
I know it’s a common theme because people have been offering me similar advice all my life. I’ve only just set out on my path to an ordered existence, but clearly it’s important enough to reiterate some of the tricks I’ve used to help keep me on track. More to come.
Editor’s Note:Here are some helpful links for you to save money on gym memberships, depending on your insurance provider. Check with your specific provider for exact details on what you’re entitled to:
- Oxford Health Plans Up to $200 off, every 6 months for attending a gym with cardiovascular 50 times. Spouses can receive $100 off.
- BlueCross BlueShield $20 off your bill, per month. This varies from state to state (this particular link was for Minnesota). You’ll need to call the number on the back of your insurance card to find your local policy on reimbursements.
- Aetna (see page 23) They offer 30%-60% off discounts on some gym memberships.
- United Healthcare (see page 6) Save 10-60% on gym memberships.
- Tufts Save 20-60% on gym memberships.
- Cigna Up to 62% discounts on gym memberships.
- On a somewhat related note, if you are 55 or older, you may be eligible for a separate reimbursement program called Silver Sneakers. Check your state for eligible health plans.
For all the talk about how good communication is key for a team’s success, I have a counter idea: Avoid having to communicate in the first place. Communication is not the ideal to a team’s success; less team members to communicate with is.
The closer a team size moves to one, the more efficient its productivity.
Jeff Bezos likes to refer to the ideal team size as “two-pizza teams:” any team that is small enough that they can be fed by a couple of pizza pies, is a model of efficiency and accomplishment. Anything larger is not.
Image courtesy of Randy son of Robert
The medium is the mess
Communication is actually bad. It inherently involves a loss of information. The more communication that is needed, the less of the product plan will be efficiently implemented according to the original vision.
Consider the impossibility of trying to tell a friend about a wierd dream you had the previous night. Can you convey every single detail of the dream before it fades? Of course not. You have constraints (like time and memory), so you cut out anything which is “insignificant.”
The same holds true for any project plan. The larger the amount of people to convey information to, the less efficient you can be at it. Explaining to one person every detail of the plan is tedious enough. Imagine having to do the same for multiple people. Daisy chaining the information so that it is passed on from executives to managers to smaller groups has its own problems: Information loss and corruption at multiple points. It’s the age-old game of “operator,” only with results that are not nearly so funny.
When there is one person both running and operating the entire show, you have 0% communication efficiency loss. The vision is designed and implemented exactly as it was originally conceived. Add a second teammate and you automatically introduce inefficiency into the equation. With each new person added to a team, the potential for communication efficiency loss gets worse as each person creates failure points with every other person. Once you start getting beyond 8 team members, the efficiency loss becomes so great that it can only be made up by throwing additional resources at the problem. In other words, you are not going to see double the output from a team of 15 people as you will with a team of 8 (even though you’d expect it on paper). In fact, you’d be lucky to see even a 25% increase in output, even though your team size has doubled.
Keeping your team small
So what’s the overarching lesson? You don’t need a huge team to successfully launch a start up. In fact, your chances of succeeding are better, the smaller your team size. You cut out as many communication points of failure as possible and keep your startup costs down.
So how do you keep your team small?
* Choose a project that is simple to implement. Don’t try to create a complex suite of applications. (Yeah, I’m a hypocrite). Focus on solving a single problem. Philip Kaplan made email more efficient to use by stalling it instead of managing it. Dead simple approach and a great idea.Take the easier approach when possible.
* Choose people that can wear multiple hats. Can your designer code? Can your programmer manage a community? Can your marketing guru fund raise? Can one guy do it all?
Image courtesy of Mike Burns
* Document everything. It’s obvious that you will need a business plan. What’s not so obvious is that you should also document the seemingly mundane; methods used for team communication, methods used for integrating with potential partners, methods used for keeping a company blog up-to-date and interesting. All documentation should be available via a central location. A wiki can work really well for this purpose. Good documentation lessens the loss from communication failures.
* Arrange your workspace in common areas. Segregating your team in different offices is a recipe for lost communication data and with it, a need for additional people. You’d be surprised at how many roles can be shared by multiple people, so long as they have the ability to communicate instantly and unimpeded with each other. Put people between walls, and those shared tasks will need to be managed by additional team members.
The following are examples of two-pizza teams that generated some of the most popular community content sites online:
Know any others?]]>
Aviary in the New Yorker
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to engage in a witty riposte with the infamous New Yorker magazine. Barak Obama may hate us now, but at least my mom is proud.
If you’d like to help alpha test the new Aviary Firefox extension that opens up a whole range of functionality into the Aviary suite that isn’t available by default in Flash, please indicate so in the comments below.
- screenshot grabbing (full and partial)
- right-click image copying and editing from any website
- access to the binary data on your computer clipboard
- quick searching Aviary and stock photo databases
- tablet pressure sensitivity
- quick launching applications
- and more!
Aviary at SXSW in Texas
Michael Galpert, Mario Klingemann and myself (Avi Muchnick) have the opportunity to speak about Aviary at panels in the upcoming SXSW conference. The only catch is that we have to be nominated by visitors to the SXSW website. So, Please vote for us!]]>
Image courtesy of Vincent Maher
I love starting new jobs. The promise and potential of a new role is exciting. There’s something that makes me feel good when I sit down at my new desk and the surface is still visible. I actually get a little turned on using a new computer with a clean desktop before all of these random files and folders named “New Requirements Version 1a – old.doc”, “New Folder 2″ and “Do Not Delete” clutter it up.
Joining as a new team member in the middle of a large project can be difficult. It would be great if on day one you could show up and start doing your thing. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Especially at a company like Aviary where the company strategy and website concepts are so complex and unique, seemingly there is so much you need to know before you can start being a productive team member.
But there are some contributions you can make *only* as a new team member.
On your first day you are a perfect focus group. You are in a unique position in that you don’t really know how things are supposed to work. So take out a notebook and be a first time user – without documentation, FAQ’s or anyone doing a demo for you. Can you easily navigate the functionality? A well designed and implemented interface should not require explanation. If you have trouble, so will other first time users. This needs to be addressed, and you are in a unique position to notice the problem.
On your first day, you are not jaded by how things already work. The people who have been working on the product for a while are already in a certain mindset about how the application looks and behaves. They have been programmed to expect the result of action A is behavior B. But does that make sense? Not fully understanding the application can help you give the group a fresh perspective on expected behavior.
I’d love to hear any of your thoughts or experiences as a new team member.]]>
We’ll be discussing all the changes over the next few blog posts.
The terrain generator node gives you control over everything from the shadow and light intensity, angle and height of the light source, and even the 3D angle the terrain is viewed from. In short, Peacock just got a hell of a lot more powerful!
Here is a quick tutorial file showing how terrain can be generated in Peacock (just open the file in Peacock to view the tutorial).
Tip: To pan through the document, hold down spacebar and mouse button at the same time, as you move your mouse.
The terrain generator is very simple: You pass in a black and white height texture map and a skin texture map that overlays the 3D terrain. The white areas in the height map represent peaks, the dark areas represent valleys. By adjusting the height map, you can make all different types of 3D terrain (and even non-terrain objects).
Because the computer does all the work for you in the background, you can create very realistic effects just by adjusting options as in the randomized terrain shown above. You can personally replicate this effect by adjusting the random seed option of the top Perlin Noise node in this tutorial file.
Here are some example images showing the terrain generator put to great use: Click on the images, then open them up in the Peacock editor to get a sense for how they were made!
Icebergs under the Aurora by a handsome devil
Simulated micro-photography of trees in the fall by Mpeutz
Windows XP inspired wallpaper by Robotguy4, bassp and yours truly.
Abstract 3D boxes using the terrain generator and new autopainter node (more on that later) by Mpeutz
Landscape with clouds by Mpeutz
Space Invaders by Mpeutz and Mario
Alien Fossil by davidjensen
Folded Fabric by Redstar
Repeating waves patterns by Mario
Earth-like land mass generator by Mpeutz
Between the Sheets by Mario]]>
Let’s start this off with some new feature enhancements to our image editor, Phoenix! In our next post we’ll touch on some of the amazing new features added to Peacock, our visual laboratory (for creating complex patterns and filters).
Right-Clicking on the canvas to choose a specific layer
Now you can find and select any layer automatically by rightclicking anywhere on the canvas. A list of the layers directly below your mouse will appear. Clicking on the name in that list will select the corresponding layer in the Layers panel on the right hand side and allow you to immediately begin working on it.
Layer can be converted to a selection
If you have a layer with transparencies in it, you can now automatically trace the solid areas and turn it into a selection. To use this feature just go to the menu bar at the top and choose Select > Selection from Layer.
Rulers and Guides!
One of the most requested features to date is the addition of rulers and guides. Now users can get pixel-level accuracy as they draw. To create a new guide, just click and hold on the ruler (horizontal or vertical) and drag onto the canvas. A guide will automatically appear. To move a guide once it’s created, click on the Move/Transform tool, then click and drag the guide to the desired location.
As you work with the selection and move tools, your cursor will snap to the guides (see the picture below). We’ll be adding more support for other tools in upcoming releases.
Dodge and Burn tool
Another highly requested feature. We’ve added a Dodge/Burn tool which allows you to selectively lighten and darken different areas of a picture. We’ll be splitting these into two separate tools in a future release, but for now they are available as functions within the same tool.
Saving now includes tags, permissions and description
Now you can automatically save your changes directly from within the interface. Previously you needed to first save your work, then adjust your permissions, tags and description on the website. You can still use the website to adjust your changes in these areas as well.
Brushes and fonts are now larger
This was an easy, but important one. Brushes can now be up to 300 pixels in size (from 100). Fonts can be up to 288 pixels in size (from 72).
Input level control over zoom
You can now type in the zoom level you’d like to go to. Spacebar control over panning is coming in the next release.
New & improved Color Picker panel
The colorpicker is now reorganized and a lot quicker. The same interface is also available in all Aviary applications (including Toucan and Peacock). Additionally, you can now adjust alpha transparency directly in the interface. In upcoming releases we’ll be adding additional color settings (like CMYK) which are currently only available in Toucan.
Gradient now has some new methods (pad, reflect and repeat), which lead to greater control over what types of patterns the tool can be used to create.
Access to Flickr, Picasa and Facebook images
You can now access your Flickr, Picasa and Facebook images from within the Resource Browser (within all tools). One note is that this currently doesn’t work if you have a Popup blocker installed (which is used when authenticating at these sites. We’ll be addressing that problem and adding additional sites in upcoming releases.
Every single bug is now fixed and the software is flawless
Just kidding. But we’ve made pretty good headway. We have solved countless bugs, too numerous to list. Thank you so much to all our beta testers for helping us to make our tools that much better by reporting every thing.
Are there any features you’d like to see in Phoenix? Please comment below. Highest on my wishlist? Paths.]]>
I’ll get some pics up as soon as I get a spare second. Please forgive any lack of responsiveness on my part over the next few days as we get mommy and baby settled in.
Any name suggestions?]]>
Today’s CNN top story put me over the edge.
Here’s the title and article summary for those of you without images in their feed readers:
6-year-olds forced into sex for food, group finds
A poor Haitian girl could get $2.80 and some chocolate, she told a European charity. All she had to do was perform a sex act on a humanitarian worker. She refused. Her impoverished friends did not. Her story is one of many in a report titled “No One To Turn To” — which chronicles allegations of charity and U.N. workers abusing children.
But if you read the actual article you see not a story about a 6-year-old being raped (it’s a mere footnote in the article), but the following:
In the report, “No One To Turn To” a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: “My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises.
“They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, ‘No,’ but some of the girls did it and got the money.”
This bait-and-switch is so misrepresentative as to be grotesque. The story changes from “Humanitarian workers pay teenagers for sex” to the more sensationalist “6-year-olds forced into sex for food.”
The biggest problem with news being disseminated online is that there is no geographic isolation (as is the case with both print and tv), which means that every local news network is in competition with every other news site on the planet. Ratings are driven by attracting as large an audience as possible… and most people care more about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s married life than how many people vanished from a Darfur town this week (hint: all 30,000).
Blue = Angelina Jolie, Red = Darfur.
Newspapers can’t help but take notice.
Accurate facts used to be the hallmark of professionalism in newspapers. Editors would strive for it. Now even the most respected newspapers on the planet are feeling the creep of ratings greed and with it, an end to an era of accurate, informative news.
I’m not the first to make this complaint and I have no connection to the journalism world except for some past memories of running my university newspaper. More important people than I have used larger podiums to disseminate the same message (and gotten flak for it).
I understand newspapers are a business to run and profits are driven by advertising. I also understand that newspapers are the fourth estate, keeping world governments in check through the power of disseminating information. With every sensationalist article they run, every inaccurate headline, every news story that breaks the papers’ traditional format because of a previous story’s high Digg count: they are relinquishing that power in the name of profit. There has to be a balance.
As maddening as watching reputable brands peddle sensationalism might be, I actually have a bigger worry: Newspapers are clearly noticing how much Digg traffic certain articles are receiving; a fact that is certain to play a role in influencing the editorial direction of future stories (or at least their headlines).
I predict a future in which USAToday announces America’s next president with the formulaic made-for-Digg headline, “The #1 Most Elected President Ever, in the 2008 Election.”]]>