Capn Design

The Art of Queue Jumping

Posted August 10, 2015

A couple weeks ago, my friend Alaina was telling me about the uniquely Chinese features that are going into Shanghai Disneyland. The she sent me the Bloomberg article, which is worth a read. It detailed the need for extra seating to account for the 4:1 ratio of adults to kids in a party (due to the one-child policy) and accommodating huge crowds on national holidays since paid vacation is very uncommon.

Since I am a nerd, the part that jumped out was the complete lack of order in Chinese queues and their reference of a 2010 article from InPark Magazine (PDF, page 14) detailing common queue-jumping techniques they observed at Expo 2010 Shanghai. Here are two of my favorites.

Screaming Old Man - The technique is used by elderly men and women to advance to the front of the line, so if you’re older than 75 listen up! How it works: Go to the front of the pavilion queue or the pavilion exit and begin yelling. As the staff and supervisors gather, crank up the volume and begin waving your arms like you’re trying to flag down a passing jetliner. This instantly creates a commotion in the queue line. In order to maintain order and as a sign of respect, the younger staff members or supervisors will usually reward you by letting you enter the pavilion with no further wait.

Jumping the Kid - The technique uses your kid as an “advance man”. How it works: Your small child “accidentally” wanders away, snaking his/her way through the queue advancing just far enough so that you can see him/her. You begin yelling at your child, “you’re a very bad boy or girl.” As you yell, your entire family pushes its way through the queue line to retrieve the child, inserting yourselves as far forward as possible. Once you reach the child, repeat.

InPark and another source for the Bloomberg article suggest barricading the line into a funnel shape so you don’t have to scold park-goers, you just make it impossible to do wrong.

I think I’d love going. My favorite part of traveling is seeing how everyday activities change to accommodate local preferences. I went to see Gladiator in a mall movie theater in Egypt during college and they randomly stopped the move in the middle for a smoke break.

I Have a Son and Kidpost is Open to Everybody

Posted June 5, 2014

I figured it would be a mistake to just write about how Kidpost is now open to everybody (go sign up if you have kids, please), so I’ll start things off by introducing you to my son, Jackson.


Jackson was born on March 22nd, which makes him 10½ weeks old. It’s likely you’ve already met him — I post a photo on Facebook or Instagram almost every day — which makes it seem unnecessary to tell you that I love him with the fire of a thousand charcoal grills. It’s amazing I’ve gone this long without a tiny human in my life.

I’ve been writing little journal entries about him, which I’ll occasionally post here, but this is what I posted on Facebook after he hit the two month mark.

Today, Jackson is two months old! He’s now got a few tricks up his sleeve. He’s smiling a lot and grunt-laughing, which is really cute. His back and neck are quite strong as he’s able to keep his head up with a little support. He’s also “standing” — we hold him around his chest and he pushes up with his legs. He LOVES doing it.

He’s also been a pretty good sleeper, so we’re going to try getting him to sleep through the night in month three. In fact, last night was his first night in the crib and he got more consecutive hours than I care to admit, lest I jinx it.

Here’s hoping month three is as awesome as month two. A+++++ WOULD HAVE JACKSON AGAIN

BTW, he is sleeping through the night and yes we realize how lucky we are and that I should not have mentioned this publicly because now we are jinxed forever.

Sharing Jackson’s adventures and Kidpost

As I mentioned, I’ve been sharing Jackson’s adventures over the last two months and it turns out people on Facebook like babies — who knew! It also turns out that Kidpost, the product I’ve been building with Khoi and Mike, is incredibly useful.

Whenever my wife Jori or I post something to Facebook or Instagram, we tag it with #kidpost. Then, once a day, Kidpost looks for any tagged posts, packages them up in a really awesome email, and sends them to my friends and family. It’s been a huge hit; my mother-in-law — who isn’t on Facebook — responds daily with comments.

I’ve also seen a handful of friends use the product and get great comments from their families. It keeps them from having to email a Dropbox link to 100 photos every month and helps with any family members who eschew the modern web. Getting smaller-dose updates in an easy-to-digest package seems to be easier on parents and more enjoyable for their families.

It’s great hearing this from friends, but we’re ready to hear from everybody. Kidpost is free today and through the end of the open beta, because we want to make sure it isn’t just useful to us. We’ll charge a very reasonable fee once we’re sure, because we, and our families, want this to exist for years to come.

Relatedly, I’ve loved working on Kidpost. Not only does it solve a real problem, but it solves a real problem for me. It’s also satisfying to work on a small product from end-to-end; you think of an idea that makes it better and you build it.

Give Kidpost a Whirl

We’ve worked hard to make the product fun and easy-to-use, but we want to know now if it needs work. If you’ve got kids and you’re sharing photos of them on Facebook or Instagram (more services are coming soon), it’d be great if you signed up and gave Kidpost a shot. If not, please tell your friends.

At the very least, go visit our homepage — it has some amazing illustrations by Keenan Cummings.




Posted January 21, 2014

It’s been a few months since Facebox, which means it’s time to announce a new project! Khoi and I are working together1 again to build Kidpost, a product designed to help parents get photos of their children into the metaphorical hands of their loved ones. Khoi explains the genesis of the concept quite well, but here’s the crux of why we’re building this:

In some ways, it’s easier than ever for us to get images of our kids to those who care about them most, but in other ways it’s still much harder than it should be, too. I know for a fact that the sheer number of venues for sharing has made it difficult for my parents and in-laws to keep up with the images that Laura and I post to Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and other services. And truth be told, even I frequently miss some of the photos that Laura posts, too.

In other words, it’s easier than ever for modern parents to post content, but it remains difficult to get everything in the hands of those who care. Our solution to this problem is email. There are 3 basic steps:

  1. Sign into Kidpost and link your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever accounts.
  2. Kidpost watches your accounts for properly tagged posts and pulls them in.
  3. Periodically, it sends an email filled with photos to an email list you create.

It’s a simple solution to an annoying problem and I can’t wait to use it when my first child arrives.

We’ll be launching in the spring, but you can get on the mailing list now for early access. We’re looking for eager beavers to give us feedback on the product, but I’ll be sure to post updates periodically to the blog.

  1. I’m also really excited we’ve brought Mike in on this project to handle back-end tasks. We just met, but he seems awesome.
Just the Two of Us: Photos of Cosplayers in Their Homes

Photographer Klaus Pichler has put together a striking photo series of 50 people who love dressing up in costumes doing mundane things in their home. There is something special about seeing people who want to escape their everyday life sitting quietly in their living space. Even behind the mask, many of them seem really uncomfortable.

Holiday Consumption Guides

Posted December 5, 2013

I am wary of purchasing unnecessary objects for myself or others, but there are several really good gift guides making the rounds that have objects I desire. Also, they are really well made! If you’re going to buy things for people this year, I suggest you refer to these:

The Gifts We Want to Give in 2013 by the Wirecutter

While they typically focus on tech, this has a lot of other great stuff for walls, your person, and your brain. My favorite items were the Kaufman keychain set and a lovely National Parks Print.

NPR’s Book Concierge

NPR has collected 200 books and filed them under 20+ categories that you can cross-reference. For instance, here are short books for art lovers.

The NY Times Gift Guide 2013

There are hundreds of options here and a great source of inspiration for holiday gifts. It’s also by far my favorite browsing experience. I want these Pop-out and Play Safari for the nursery we’re putting together (yep, baby on the way in March).

The 25 Best Films of 2013: A Video Countdown by

This is really pretty and a great way to browse some of the better films to come out this year. If you don’t have 11 minutes to kill right now, there is a list of the films on Letterboxd. (via kottke)

A Short Story, "Feature Development for Social Networking"

I’m not that into zombies, but I’m really into believable portrayals of apocalyptic futures. Benjamin Rosenbaum has written a great short story that shows a zombie outbreak through both sides of social media — its users and developers.

Buster Day I know I’m an asshole for saying this, Emily, but she just got bit and you are going to SEE her? Is that smart?

Roland Wu Yes, Buster, you are an asshole for saying that.

Jesus Palanquin Roland, it is an AVERAGE of 24 hours, but cases have been observed with incub pd of as short as 6 hours. Read the FAQ you linked to. Marsh, how long ago?

Marsha Shirksy Like an hour ago! Emily are you serious? Maybe Buster is right. But I’m really scared.

Emily Carter np honey sit tight. I am on my way, taser in hand. You can stay at arms’ length :-) :-)

Amazon Source and the Future of Bookstores

Amazon has introduced a new program for booksellers which lets them purchase Kindles at a 6% discount and earn 10% on any ebook purchased over the next 2 years. If you put the numbers aside, this appears to be Amazon’s attempt at letting booksellers focus on what they do best: recommend books and create a space for book lovers.

Imagine a bookstore that only sold beautiful objects, coffee, and advice. I’m sure they’d host book clubs and have author events. Amazon can’t replicate any of these things very well over the internet—they try hard to do advice, but recommendation software is still an unsolved problem—so they leave it to independents.

If there was a way for a bookstore to make enough money selling these things, then everyone wins. It seems like Source is just a point in a long conversation; it’s imperfect but it’s pushing us closer to an answer.

[via kottke]

Macklemore, 1 Year In

Their album, The Heist, was an amazing commercial success with millions of records sold and several hit singles. And yet, almost everything about the band is independent. They decided against signing with a label, despite offers, because they wanted to control their art and future.

This post looks back at the last year, their rise to fame, and some of the decisions that came with it. I really respect what they’ve done, musically and more. This bit was my favorite.

He said, “Basically, if you sign this deal there is a potential that you will turn into a super star. Your life will change drastically. And once that happens, there is no going back. If we don’t go this direction, there is a ceiling to your career. You can continue to play the same rooms you’ve been playing and have a strong run as an underground rapper. But taking it to the next level will not be attainable. I see positives and negatives to both sides, and will support you either way. What do you want to do”?

I knew immediately that this a decision that would alter my life forever. I knew that getting played on the radio would alienate a core group of fans; that I’d be labeled a sell-out, maybe even a “one hit wonder” if the song got big. But despite those risks, I knew at the core what I wanted.

My logic was simple. If “Thrift Shop” blew up, the floodgates would open. People beyond even the core group of supporters would learn about our music and buy the album. The masses would not only hear a song about saving money and bargain shopping, but would discover songs about marriage equality and homophobia, consumerism, addiction, sobriety, relapse. My story would be told. That is what mattered to me.

Top 10 Digital Car Dashboards

Jalopnik rounded up up what they believe to be the best (most interesting?) car dashboards. It’s a mix of super-fancy, adaptive new ones and some relics.

Though I appreciate the new-fangled fancy screens, I’m sharing this because my dad used to have that late 80’s Buick Riviera with a touchscreen console computer and it felt like magic. I couldn’t believe they were able to have a responsive screen in the car and now I’m wondering just how big the computer behind it had to be. Here’s a video of it in action.

Mental Illness and the NFL

This weekend, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall wore green shoes to promote Mental Health Awareness week. Marshall suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and has been very public about how much treatment has helped him. While much of the NFL was wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, Marshall was fined ~$5,000 for promoting an issue that doesn’t help the NFL’s bottom line.

Jeff Hughes, writer of Da Bears Blog, does an amazing job breaking down the NFL’s disgraceful treatment of mental illness and lack of priorities. I couldn’t recommend this article enough. It’s a great piece of sports journalism.

Don't Divert the Train

Luke Wroblewski has some good advice on getting users to do what you want without driving them nuts. In any successful app, users develop muscle memory around common tasks. This means it’s difficult to push users to complete secondary tasks — like adding a user photo or connecting with friends — that will improve their experience but are rarely the reason you open the app.

His solution is to style these tasks like other items in a user’s feed and insert them seamlessly. He didn’t give numbers, but said the “use of the Find Friends feature shot up dramatically” after implementing this change.

It’s a simple observation, but a powerful one for me. Changing someone’s behavior is difficult and there’s no reason to take on this task when it’s unnecessary. I would just be careful to respect the user’s intentions and avoid polluting a stream with too much unexpected content.

Introducing Facebox

Posted September 17, 2013

facebox-share-icon.pngKhoi and I made something! We’ve created a set of 50 stock user photos for UI design and presentations. These are photos of real people that we really found while walking the streets of New York City. What’s more exciting is that it’s awesome, available today, and called Facebox.

Facebox was built with a simple problem in mind — it’s hard or expensive to find good photos to use in design mockups. Personally, I often spend half an hour pulling together photos of friends (which aren’t rights-cleared) or I drop $100 on stock photography (and still spend half an hour wading through garbage). Our goal was to provide an affordable product that has the natural look of your friends’ photos with the professional polish and legal clearance of stock photography. If you look at what we’ve produced, I think you’ll agree we’ve succeeded. For just $25 at launch, it’s something I’d buy in a heartbeat.

What’s in the (Face)Box

As you might imagine, we’ve included all 50 photos as JPGs (at 640px x 640px, big enough to fill the portrait view of an iPhone 5). We’ve also included sets at the same size with rounded rectangle and circle masks as 24-bit PNGs.

Since the tools you buy should make your life easier, we’ve bundled in several files that remove a step or two in your process. In the download you’ll find a Photoshop file with all 50 photos that makes it easy to export versions with custom masks (we include some options) and sizes; PowerPoint, Keynote, and Sketch files with the images placed on the canvas; and an OmniGraffle stencil.

If there’s something you think is missing, I’d love to hear it. We want this purchase to feel like a no-brainer.

This project made me happy. We pried ourselves out from behind our Cinema Displays and spent 7 days outside taking photos. Even better, we produced something we believe solves a simple, but real, problem in a graceful way. It’s something I’m proud of and I hope it solves a problem for you, too.

Check out Facebox, or send it to a friend. Cheap, legal, and totally awesome.

Dizzee Rascal's "I Don't Need A Reason"

This song is good. This video is better. As I’ve seen others say, it’s more or less made to be turned into animated GIFs.

I Forgot My Phone

Charlene deGuzman has a way of being funny and depressing at the same time. Her tweets certainly reflect this, but I Forgot My Phone, a (very) short film, is a great encapsulation of her viewpoint.

It’s just as easy to laugh at this as it is to cry.

A (Ridiculous?) Acquisition Idea for Twitter

Posted July 29, 2013

Before I explain why, I’m going to say the company: Shazam.

Now, take a moment to think about why this is a good or crazy idea. Sweet, now I’ll tell you what I think.

Like millions of others, I watch television shows with Twitter open, tweeting about what’s hilarious or ridiculous. This is particularly fun when I’m watching a show as it is broadcast live; it truly (and literally, I suppose) brings a new dimension to television. Unfortunately, I only watch about 5% of my television live. In fact, Netflix is producing new and exciting programs that are never broadcast “live”, which presents a problem, nay, opportunity!

I would like to experience my non-live programs like I experience my live ones. Give me an app that shows me tweets about the program I’m watching from any of my friends AND have them appear in my timeline at the same relative time they were tweeted. In other words, if my friend Karen watched the first episode of Orange is the New Black last week and tweeted about an early scene 6 minutes into the episode, I should see this tweet come up when I am watching the same episode and am 6 minutes in.

And now, the reason Twitter would acquire Shazam. If you don’t know, Shazam can listen to an audio sample and determine the song. Lately, they’ve been using the same technology to help advertisers and television networks show you supplemental material on your phone.

Imagine if the Twitter app listened to the noise around you while you tweeted and determined what, if any, program you were watching (something Shazam can do) and recorded the relative timestamp. Then, if a friend watched the same program hours or months later, they’d be able to enjoy the experience as if it was live. It would just mean opening up the Twitter app and letting it determine what show you’re watching. Then tweets could stream in, seemingly real-time. Pretty awesome, no?

Obviously, there are a host of reasons this would fail. Here are two:

  1. Bootstrapping: It’s going to take a long time for enough of your friends to watch that obscure BBC show you love. Of course, this could be solved by only allowing tags for popular shows or augmenting your friends tweets with popular ones. You could also try and filter these time-shifted tweets into your regular stream.

  2. Technology: You’d need the user to be tweeting from an app and not the web to capture the audio. This would mean more fragmentation, but maybe it’d be another way for Twitter to push users toward their app.

Again, this idea is a little ridiculous and I realize that. Still, I want it to exist very badly. If it got good enough, watching awards shows or sports would be just as exciting on a time-shift as it would be live. It could be truly awesome.

Toyota Donates Efficiency, Not Money

I want to do this for a living.

At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.

Sneak peek of Macaw

Macaw is next in line to try and unseat Photoshop as the web designers tool of choice and it looks promising. This 20 minute demo shows both how it works to produce designs and its seemingly good ability to generate HTML and CSS code.

Macaw’s design tools seem worthy of evaluation alone, but the ability to produce working code with zero additional effort makes this a potential game-changer.

Why to Kickstart

Posted July 22, 2013

Today, Spike Lee became the third celebrity to fund a film on Kickstarter and it’s highly likely people are already complaining. “Spike Lee is rich! He doesn’t need my money.” Actually, he does! Art isn’t free and that’s okay!

In two parts, I’m going to try and explain why it’s okay for celebrities to ask for your money and why you’ll be happier giving it to them over TMZ or MGM.

Art and Business

When you see that Dark Knight Rises cost $230 million to make, it’s easy to think that $1 or $2 million is not a lot of money. Why can’t Spike just finance it all himself? He could, but he didn’t get this far without learning a little bit about balancing art and business.

When making a movie, you’ve historically had to sacrifice creative control in order to get the damn thing made. Sometimes the balance of a big studio budget and a director with vision goes swimmingly (see: The Avengers); fans love the movie and it makes a huge pile of money. But most of the time, you end up with a cookie-cutter movie that might turn a profit or a creative mess that loses a ton.

And yet, even if it often results in a watered-down mess, successfully pitching a movie to a studio provides validation. It’s no longer just a good idea, but an idea that experienced studio executives think will be well-liked. If Spike Lee were to just throw his money at this idea, he’d have no idea if people thought it was any good until the money was spent. That’s either shitty risk management or insane hubris, but it would definitely be a bad idea.

With Kickstarter, filmmakers have a newfound option of retaining complete creative control while raising enough capital to finance a low-budget film. In an ideal world, the fans get a Spike-Lee-ier Spike Lee joint and Spike Lee gets the validation he needs.

Sooner or later, a celebrity’s $1 million+ project will fail and it will be a good thing. Either the size of support won’t match up with the required budget or someone who drank their own kool-aid will be knocked down a peg, but the system will work.

Why You Should Back

It’s really simple—back a project because you want it to exist.

It could be because you think it’s the best idea ever or because you want to support someone you like/trust/share DNA with; but it really doesn’t matter why. If you don’t want the thing to exist, don’t put any money towards it.

When you do support a project, you get to give your money directly to the artist. I really enjoyed Garden State and watched Scrubs for years, so I was happy to back Wish I Were Here. I’m a huge Spike Lee fan and want to see him make this movie. Even if these films flame out and never see the light of day, I’ll be okay with it.

Of course, I hope they get made and are fantastic, but I know that any failure would be their own. There’s no middle-manager in marketing who cut a misleading trailer or sold a heinous product placement spot. If these movies suck, I’ll feel better about “wasting” my $25 contribution than I would spending $25 on a ticket and a soda at the theater.

But here’s another good reason to back one of these big budget movies: you can get some really awesome shit! Fandom varies in size, but I elected for the behind-the-scenes-posting level of support for Wish I Was Here and it’s great. I’m essentially getting the DVD extras before the movie comes out. It’s icing on the cake, but I already feel like I made the right choice in supporting the project.

The Loop is Tightening

Kickstarter isn’t a silver bullet for the movie industry, but it provides a new way for supporters to give a greater percentage of the rewards to the people who are making things. Fans get direct access to the makers and the makers get pure validation. As the loop tightens and capitalism does its thing, we should have less drek and more gold, which is something I’m looking forward to.

UX GIFS: Ebony's Masthead

Posted July 19, 2013

Masthead Change

We’ve lived through several years of publications working out what to do with their giant masthead and navigation bars. There’s been plenty of success, but Ebony Magazine has the most elegant I’ve seen. It took a recent inelegant solution (you can ignore the article, obvs) to remind me that this is still a tough thing to do well. Thanks, Ebony!

Hyperloop Hype

Posted July 16, 2013

If you’re new to this, like me, here’s the amazing thing we’re talking about:

ET3’s Hyperloop-like project already has a number of schematics and plans already in place. They claim an automobile-sized, six-passenger capsule constructed for “outer space” travel conditions could easily reach speeds of 4,000 miles per hour on longer journeys across the country or across continents. In theory, this elevated tube system could be built for a tenth of the cost of high-speed rail and a quarter the cost of a freeway. The projected cost for a passenger to travel from Los Angeles to New York is $100.

This means 45 minutes from NY to LA or 2 hours to Beijing. It’s insane. Granted, there are a lot of bureaucratic hurdles before this can happen, but it seems way more awesome than high speed trains.

Now the actual Hyperloop project is being spearheaded by Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame. He’s planning to release his open-source plans on 8/12. Expect to hear more about it from me.


A photo of me!

Welcome to Capn Design! I am Matt Jacobs and this is my blog. Some basics: I make websites and I live in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

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