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What the heck is going on in DC's "New 52?"

Sep. 24th, 2011 | 10:34 am

If you follow comic books at all, you're probably aware that DC Comics, publishers of such famous heroes as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, started a "reboot" of their comics continuity this month. We're three weeks in, and I'm confused.

For those of you not familiar with the crazy world of comics continuity, one of the industry's problems is that people love the iconic versions of the characters so there's a drive to keep them young and healthy enough to fight crime instead of the grey-haired cripples they'd probably be by now. That's why Batman/Bruce Wayne still looks like a thirty-to-fortysomething despite the fact that he's technically been fighting crime for several decades.

This gets compounded by the fact that the creative teams working on a comic book typically only work on a title for a few issues before they shift over to work on another book. I suppose it helps keep things fresh and it gives the creative people variety. The side effect of this, though, is that the plotlines get so twisted into spaghetti-like knots that it makes the outline for a soap opera look linear.

When you combine these two factors you get one great, big mess. DC Comics has traditionally solved this problem every few years by hitting the reset button: some universal crisis causes a reality wave to sweep across space and time that magically unties the spaghetti. All the heroes' and villains' lives get all the wrinkles flattened out on some great cosmic ironing board. The writers get to start over again, ignoring lots of the crazy old continuity problems and telling new, complicated stories. And thus the great cycle repeats again and again: every decade of so when the continuity gets too complex for anyone to handle  the slate gets wiped clean again.

DC's latest reboot is caled "The New 52" because the company is taking 52 of their published books and starting them all over again with issue #1. So in one month we've got 52 new comics supposedly affected by the latest reality wave, and everything's supposed to be simpler. At San Diego Comic-Con, the DC execs billed this as a younger, simpler version of the DC Universe (aka the DCU) which would keep in the important beats from the characters' pasts (like Batman getting his back broken by Bane or Superman's "death") but would put a modern spin on these events. Also, the public emergence of superpowered beings only happened a few years prior to this reboot, so superheroes and supervillains in the public eye would be a recent phenomenon post-reboot.

Things got off to a great start in Justice League #1, a special story line which takes place approximately 5 years before the "current date" in the reboot, which told the story of Batman and Green Lantern meeting for the first time. Green Lantern exclaimed "Batman? You're real?!?" It felt fresh and young. Things were looking good!

The problem, for me, has been that the reboot is getting applied unevenly. It's like the writers aren't consulting with each other, and the editors aren't making much effort to ensure the rules of this reboot are applied to all the titles. I'm super-confused in this brave new super-world and I want DC's editors to draw me a map. In short, some stuff is clearly 100% rebooted, and in other stuff nothing has changed, and these two states don't work well together. For example:

- The Batman titles: It doesn't look like anything has changed. There are still 4 Robins (3 of whom have moved on, 1 currently wearing the red tights), Batman still recently "died" and then came back to form Batman Inc. Clearly this Batman has been on the job for years and years if he's gone through 4 Robins.

- Supergirl: Obviously a reboot. It's a fresh retelling of Supergirl's arrival on Earth and completely changes a lot of the origin story.

- Green Lantern: Absolutely zero change from the previous continuity. Hal Jordan still just got kicked out of the Corp. Sinestro clearly just got a ring and is the Green Lantern for Earth's sector and he doesn't want it, he wants to go back to being a villain. It's so in-line with the previous continuity that I don't know why they even bothered renumbering this one. Worse, there's practically no way that this jives with the Batman/Green Lantern meeting in Justice League #1 I described above.

- Superman: Clearly a reboot. He's younger, less experienced, and less powerful. His marriage to Lois Lane has been undone. He's only been a hero for a few years.

- Static Shock: He's a college intern now so apparently his life is moving along. Not obviously a reboot, merely fast forwarding his life a bit.

- Blue Beetle: A reboot because he gets his powers in the first issue, so they've got to be resetting this character.

The summaries I'm reading of the issues I haven't picked up seem to have this same problem. So which is it DC? Are you rebooting or not? At Comic-Con you promised us you were all in, but it feels like you're only halfway there. Go big or go home. Please.

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My time with the Google+ Project

Jun. 28th, 2011 | 12:17 pm

You may have seen an announcement today from Google about some new social functionality. I'm proud to say I was involved with the Google+ Project.

Between my time working on iGoogle and my current work on Google Mobile & Android, there was a period of time where I wasn't telling my friends what I was working on. Well, this is it: the Google+ Project. I was closely involved with the Circles team, and did a lot of behind the scenes work with other teams on preparing to support this effort.

Today's press coverage on the announcement is fun to read. My favorite article so far is the coverage from Wired. It's a great look inside the development of the project. I've never worked in a start up before, but I imagine it feels a lot like working on Google+ did: crazy, scrappy, and speed-of-light changes.

I'm really happy to see this out in public now, and I can't wait for my friends and family to start playing with it. Right now it's only available to a limited group of people and I can't send invites at this time. A few of my friends should get invites later today, and the rest of you should hopefully make it in soon.

I'll be spending the next few days helping gather feedback about Google+ on mobile platforms, a perfect combination of my recent Google experience. :-)

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My journal comments are friends-only now

Jun. 28th, 2011 | 09:20 am

Due to the fact that I'm currently getting ~1 spam comment per week I've switched this journal's comments to friends-only. Sorry non-friends for the inconvenience. Spammers: die die die.

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Good House Hunting

May. 25th, 2011 | 01:45 pm

In case some of you haven't heard Karen, Crystal, and I are buying a house together. We'd expected to be searching for weeks, but came across the perfect home after only a couple of weekends out house hunting. We just signed all the paperwork and should have the keys in a few days. There's tons of work to do to get out of our old places and into the new house, but we're really excited about this new home together. The whole process has been amazingly fast.
 
As part of the loan approval process we had to write a letter to the bank explaining why the three of us wanted to do this. I'm really proud of what we came up with and thought it would serve as a good explanation to all of our friends. And so, without further ado...

Motivation Letter, May 13, 2011
Paul, Karen, and Crystal are purchasing a house because they want to live together in a home that is big enough for three adults and close to work, friends, family, and amenities.

Over the past eleven years, Karen and Crystal have made a life together. As best friends, we decided years ago that we wanted to travel the world, cook, sew costumes while watching historical and sci-fi movies, drink fabulous wine, and grow old together while living the good life. To that end, we rented an apartment together for three years, then purchased our townhouse where we have been for almost eight years.

About nine years ago, Paul and Karen started seeing each other. We met during Irish dancing lessons, but quickly learned we shared not only a love of dance but of science fiction movies, fantasy novels, technology, travel, fine dining, wine tasting, and more. Our relationship blossomed quickly, and we’ve been a solid couple for years. We also work at the same company, having both acquired jobs at Google before the company went public.

Paul and Crystal became great friends independent of Karen, and all three of us spend a great deal of time together. Paul quickly realized that one of the most beautiful things about Karen is the special bond that she shares with Crystal. This presented a unique challenge: how to grow the romantic relationship without disturbing Karen and Crystal’s friendship? We decided we wanted to explore how we all could live together.

We’ve been working toward this goal for a few years. We needed to save up the money and Google stock needed for the down payment. We needed a favorable market so that we could afford the house we wanted (3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, a living room and a family room) in the neighborhood that we wanted. Most importantly, we had time to be sure that living together would work out - we went on several long trips together to test our compatibility in close quarters and under trying circumstances.

When we saw the property at [redacted], we fell in love with the house instantly. The layout is perfect for us, with spaces for the activities we enjoy together as well as room for us each to have our own space when needed. The location is great as well: it means a much shorter commute for Karen, possibly a quicker one for Paul as he and Karen will carpool, and an easier one for Crystal as she will cover the same distance but without crossing a bridge and paying a toll every day. Additionally, we will be located only ten to fifteen minutes drive from most of our friends as well as Paul’s mother’s house, and easy walking distance to shops and restaurants which we enjoy.

For all of these reasons, we’re ready to buy this house and move our family to the next stage of our lives, finally sharing a home that matches all of our needs and life goals.

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I'm changing my role at Google

Feb. 6th, 2011 | 12:28 pm

Short form: I'm going to be a Community Manager for Google's mobile products!

Long form: read on...

For the last several years, my job in Google's Consumer Operations department has been a sort of user-focused product specialist. Basically I sat at the point midway between Google's users and the people who develop and maintain Google's products. I gathered feedback from the public and digested that into insights the developers could use. And when users needed to understand what the developers were up to -- because the product had a new feature or there was a bug that needed explaining -- I translated that back out to the world.

The skills to do this required a generalist. Over the years I've answered email, written and edited help center content, blueprinted help centers, designed contact flows, built troubleshooters, posted in forums, scoured third-party websites for customer insights, coordinated with the Public Relations and Marketing departments, analyzed products for potential abuse vectors, consulted with lawyers, implemented surveys, policed for content that violates the Terms of Service, written reports, given input into product design, and a gazillion other tasks. When I sat in product meetings, I'd be the guy the room would turn to ask, "What would our users think of this?"

During my several years with the company, I've done this for enough products that I'm starting to loose track. My first and longest love was Google Web Search, but I've also worked on a lot of others including Orkut, Google Finance, Google Reader, Google Video, iGoogle, the Nexus One launch, Chrome OS, and most recently some things that haven't been announced yet.

Our team is building out some new specializations, and I'm taking advantage of this to totally change things up. My process of arriving at that decision wasn't easy. As this specialization process started unfolding my manager asked me which roles I was interested in, and I of course mentioned the Product Specialist gig that I'm already doing. But I also mentioned that I'm interested in the new Community Manager role. My manager passed this on to the rest of our managerial team, and immediately got some very interested pings back. It's nice to be wanted!

When I came into work a couple of Mondays ago, it immediately became apparent that our timeline for rolling out these specializations had been accelerated and I basically needed to make a decision immediately. Further, our managers really thought I'd be great in the Community Manager role and were advising me to switch. This had me scrambling for a couple of days learning what the new job would entail, what my career path would be over the short, medium, and long term, what my place would be in the teams that were interested in me, and basically soul-searching about what I wanted to do with myself.

What would I be getting myself into? After all, Google's been participating in conversations with the community for years and years, and my own department has been a big part of that for a long time now. What I would get to do is a lot more of that than's currently possible. Spend hours each day in our own forums as well as out in the great fan sites, possibly blogging and tweeting, maybe running live events, etc. Talking to people, listening to people, evangelizing, communicating.

Ordinarily I'd take weeks to agonize over a major decision like this as I became familiar with all of the facts and had time to let it all sink in. I didn't have weeks, only days, but I did get all the facts. Once I recognized that, and had weighed all the pros and cons of staying on the path I was on vs. switching, I realized that I could make the decision immediately and then let it all sink in later. Ultimately it's why I took this job in the first place years ago: because I love communicating with people about technology. So I took the plunge.

And what a plunge it is! I'll be a Community Manager for Google's mobile product suite. I'm diving into the universe of Google's mobile products, and I'm going to put myself out there in the world to participate in the global conversation about the massive effect mobile computing is having on lives. The Android operating system is obviously a big part of that conversation, but so are other great products like the iPhone and iPad, as well as the services that run on mobile devices like mapping, email, SMS, and entertainment. I can't wait to get started!

Why am I joining the mobile team? Well I stood in line on launch day for the first iPhone, and quickly realized what a game-changer smartphones are. I stood in line on launch day again for the iPhone 3G. When the Nexus One came out I fully switched over to Android as my phone OS of choice. As much as I've lusted after a tablet I haven't picked up an iPad yet because I knew Android-based tablets were on the horizon, and I'm absolutely salivating at integrating the Motorola Xoom into my life when it comes out in a few weeks.

So mobile world, I look forward to joining the conversation soon!

PS - We're hiring! All departments at Google, including my own, are expanding. If you're interested check out our jobs page. If you're reading this and you're a friend of mine, DON'T submit your resume on your own. Go through me or another Googler you're friends with and we'll be happy to help -- it makes a difference.

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Happy birthday wishes

Nov. 7th, 2010 | 08:15 am

Happy birthday fresne! May the day be filled with debauchery and the year be filled with joy.

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Happiest of birthdays!

Oct. 5th, 2010 | 04:07 pm

Happy birthday to my dear [info]capricious_k !

I've certainly enjoyed having you around for the last year  -- and I'm looking forward to the next one! ;-)

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My netbook quest endeth

Jun. 24th, 2010 | 02:02 pm

My old laptop is old -- it's a Sony VAIO that I've had for at least a decade (a light purple color, and therefor named Cortana). It came with a partitioned hard disk, and I kept Windows XP on the smaller C: partition. The problem is that Microsoft has patched Windows XP so many times the C: partition is actually out of space. I think there's less than 100 megs open and the OS has a hell of a time just caching stuff.

And so I began a quest: a quest for a netbook. Why a netbook? Well they're small and portable and cheap, and they often have batteries that last all day. I'll pretty much be using it for casual web surfing and email. As fresne told me, netbooks are so cheap that they're practically disposable; if you take one on vacation and it gets stolen, $300-ish isn't too big a loss to absorb on my budget.

Why not an iPad? They're great, but I want Flash and I don't want a portable device that's ultimately tethered to a computer, I want it to be an independent system. Such devices will probably be available in a year or so when Apple's true competitors start getting quality devices out. In the meantime, a netbook would hold me over quite well.

As I learned about netbooks I concluded that there were 3 main factors I wanted to consider:
1. Price of $400 or less
2. Battery life 7 hours or more
3. Good screen resolution

Weeks and weeks I spend pouring over review after review, spec sheet after spec sheet, and I came to an unfortunate conclusion. Essentially, #2 and #3 are mutually exclusive. In the current generation as soon as you kick the screen resolution up a notch (in almost all cases by increasing the screen size from 10 inches to 11 inches) you halve the battery life. The only exceptions to this I could find, a Dell and an HP, were butt-ugly with severe physical design flaws.

So I did a bit of soul-searching and decided that battery life was ultimately more important to me than screen resolution. With that decision behind me, the pool of qualifying netbooks opened up considerably. As of last night, I'm the owner of a pretty blue Toshiba NB305. I've named it Johnny Johnny.

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Italy photos

Jun. 2nd, 2010 | 05:07 pm

I know it's been forever since I've posted on LJ, I've fallen victim to the demon microblogging. But deirdremoon was bugging me about my lack of LJing a couple of weeks ago and I realized I hadn't posted my photos from Italy here yet. There's a little more than 300 of 'em, and they should provide a good narrative of our trip. We had such a good time, I'd love to go back again!


You can find larger versions of the photos in my album.

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A very happy birthday wish

Oct. 5th, 2009 | 04:05 pm
location: US, Oregon

Happy birthday cheer today for my dear capricious_k -- may the coming year be even more fabulous than the last!

And congrats on keeping up the tradition of spending your birthday away on vacation. I'm writing this as we've just finished our exploration of the old Columbia Gorge highway including several waterfalls, good hiking, great company (waves to miss_emelia. And of course the Browcoat Ball in Portland has been a great time, as well as visiting with Portland friends and relatives.

Cheers to Portland and cheers to your birthday, capricious_k!!

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

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