The personal website of Chris Coyier

Archive for May, 2011

Referral Conundrum

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Very regular occurrence:

Somebody: Hey we have this project and we need a freelancer, what are your rates?

Me: Sorry I don’t freelance.

Somebody: Can you please recommend somebody?

Me: No, because I don’t know you. You could suck to work with, and then I’d be the asshole. I like to help people, but my relationship with people I refer to is more important than my non-existant relationship to you.

Except for that I usually don’t say that last part because I have yet to find a way to say it that isn’t kinda rude. What I usually do is tell them to post the job on Authentic Jobs, which I think is fine solution. It’s just not what people want to hear. Doing it that way means freelancers come to you, which means you have choice and can vet them. Isn’t that better anyway?

Endeavor’s Last Launch

Monday, May 16th, 2011

The Endeavor launched this morning for the last time from the NASA Kennedy Space Center Press Site off Pad 39A for the STS-134 mission. It was majestic even from the low quality live streaming video.

Frank Fairfield and the Uncanny Valley

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

There is a musician by the name of Frank Fairfield. I can’t say exactly but I’d say he’s about in his mid 30’s. He plays what is commonly referred to these days as “Old Time” music. This style of music pre-dates bluegrass. It’s typically banjos (played frailing style), fiddles and sometimes simple guitar. Frank is one dude, so he plays one instrument at a time on records and when he performs.

Here’s a video of Frank playing:

What is interesting about Frank, is that it doesn’t just reference old time music, pay homage to it, or sorta just sound like it. It sounds exactly like it. If you made a mix tape of actual old-timers playing old-time like Dan Gellert, Fred Cockerham, Charlie Bowman, Oscar Jenkins, Tommy Jarrell… and mixed in some Frank Fairfield even an old time enthusiast probably wouldn’t even notice when the song recorded in 2011 came on.

So that’s Frank, now lets’ talk about robots.

There is a theory in Robot engineering called Uncanny Valley.

The theory is that people love robots. And the more and more human-like they get, the more they love them.

UNTIL — they start looking TOO MUCH like humans. Like when you can barely tell they are robots anymore. Then something crazy happens. Humans HATE them. We totally reject them as strange and unnatural.

Don’t tell me you don’t want to stab that thing in the eye and run for the hills.

Then as they approach 100% perfect similarity, we love them again (like prosthetic hands). That “dip” from love to hate to love again is called the Uncanny Valley.

And back to Frank.

His voice has the shakey-yet-confident tone of an old working man going weak. His fiddling has the timing mistakes and off-centered over-emphasis of phrases that sound like someone who’s only musical training was on country porches. That’s the good stuff. That’s what makes old time sound like old time. He does it perfectly.

And so I’m having that Uncanny Valley reaction to Frank Fairfield and his music. It’s SO MUCH like old time music that my ears think it’s strange and weird and want to reject it.

But I think the more I listen I have a feeling he’ll come out the other side. He’ll be so perfectly close to old time (from time past) that I’ll love him again. And I want to, because he seems like a darn cool guy who plays the same kind of music I like to play and says smart things that I wish I said.

How To Write An Email To Someone For The First Time

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Hey [person’s name not mispelled],

This is a quick paragraph to explain 1) who I am 2) what I want 3) that I understand who you are. This gets to the point quickly and serves as proof that I’m a real human being who knows how to communicate well.

This is an optional additional paragraph that expounds upon what I want. It includes links so that I can learn more about the topic of this email without needing to clutter it. These links serve as further proof that the topic of this email is a Real Thing™.

This paragraph doesn’t exist because three paragraphs is too long for a first-time email.

Appropriate Signoff,
– Your Full Name
Optional personal weblink or phone number

[ No ridiculous 50-line disclaimer ]