Friends, Chicagoans, Countrymen. On June 6-7 I’m doing something that would have been unthinkable 5 years ago. I know you’ve probably become accustomed to my Ragnar posts over the last few years and it’s likely that you know longer find the notion of a 200 mile running race as shocking as you once might have.

Well, this year I’m taking it up a notch. Actually, 6 notches. For 2014, I’ve decided that running 200 miles with 12 teammates isn’t challenging enough and have instead opted to run this year’s Ragnar team with a 6 man ultra team.

Each of us will run approximately 3 half marathons in less than 36 hours and because we will only have a single van instead of two their will be no opportunity for napping, no showers, no breaks for dinner. We’ll start at 6AM on Friday and will keep going until we cross the finish line on Saturday.

At this point, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Holy shit! That’s fucking crazy! These guys must me total badasses!” and you are absolutely right to believe all of that. You’re probably also asking yourself what you can possibly do to assist us in our effort to firmly establish ourselves as the coolest people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing.

Well, I’m glad you’re asking. One of the requirements for Ragnar teams is that we provide 3 volunteers to help keep things running smoothly. Volunteers do not have to run 39 miles, nor do they need to spend 36 hours in a van with sweaty sweaty men. You just need to yell some number, write some numbers down on paper and make sure that people don’t be parking where they shouldn’t be or running people over with their vans.

Also, I will buy you booze. So, whaddya say? Wanna be a part of this historic effort?

unroll.me provides a service to help users manage subscription e-mail. I signed up over the weekend and was able to take over 270 subscriptions and assign them to three categories; unsubscribe, keep as is and add to my “rollup”. For the rollup, unroll.me takes all your opt-in subscriptions and compiles them into a newsletter format that arrives in your inbox at whatever time you schedule.

I unsubscribed from a bunch of high volume lists and left things like my bank balance alerts and utility bills untouched.

In just a few days it’s been very effective in reducing the volume of mail I get in my Gmail account. I get the rollup email in the morning. It’s really nice to have all the promotions mails, magazine subs and other non-essential email come in as a single message instead of a pile of unread messages.

Adoption of unroll.me is growing. To highlight their accomplishments for 2013, unroll.me created an awards list the compiles data from the unroll.me user base for Most Unsubscribed, Most Rolled Up and Most Popular subscriptions.

The biggest losers are;
1800 Flowers — 52.50% unsubscribe rate
Ticketweb — 47.50% unsubscribe rate
Pro Flowers — 45.10% unsubscribe rate
Expedia — 45.00% unsubscribe rate
Active.com — 44.70% unsubscribe rate

Might be instructive (or perhaps a new biz opportunity?) to have a look at how those companies are handling email marketing.

Check out the full list here:
https://unroll.me/awards

I had a great Ragnar overall this year. Despite being a bit undertrained, I ran well. The team was great. My vanmates were awesome. I had the pleasure of sharing the ride in Van 2 with Jeff Wallichs, Ken Novak, Hilary Klein, Greg Battoglia, Pat Egan and Beth Folkmann. Our Van 1 was April Lasker, Anna Debush, Megan Finkelman and the three amigos Doug Schenkelberg, Rob Breymaier and David Kahlow. We had a bunch of veterans this year, but also expanded our South Oak Park Ragnar gang with some first timers. All of the newbies and veterans were already making noise about running again next year and the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Wallichs was advocating for an ultra team pretty hard.

This year saw some tweaks to the van which were pretty sweet. After seeing some teams with shelving units in the back cargo space last year, I knew I had the answer to the issue of things getting buried and lost. In years past, the back of the van turns into an unmanageable pile as the rush from exchange to exchange goes on. I have typically had to unpack and repack the van at each major exchange. Not so in 2013. The little modular shelving we used allowed us to keep the sleeping gear, coolers and group supplies (first aid, snacks, etc.) separated from everyone’s personal gear. They worked like a charm.

We had great weather and great team spirit. Our only negative was a couple of lost runners. I missed a turn in Racine, WI during the middle of the night which was really unfortunate because in the cool evening air I was a few minutes ahead of my projected time and felt great. In the end, I went a good 1/2 mile out of my way, but only finished a couple minutes late.

The finish line was awesome as always. I nabbed the runner 12 spot this year so I got to run the final leg. Next year, I’m hoping to be runner 1. After three years in van 2, I’d like to see the start in Madison for once.

Hi folks. I’ve made links for getting directions from Google Maps Navigation using the GPS coordinates of each exchange. My site is responsive designed so this list should be nice and readable on any screen size.

The links will give you directions from your current position (assuming you have a GPS signal) or from exchange to exchange. Under each exchange, “Start:” is the exchange you are leaving from, and “End:” is the exchange that is listed. So the start for Exchange 3 Runner 4 Start is Exchange 2 and the end is Exchange 3 and so on and so forth. I put the runner start in because even after 3 Ragnars that whole exchange minus 1 equals runner thing still kills my brain at 2 in the morning. I’ve checked these as best I can, but if something seems fishy, you’d best double check it.

Have fun! See yez on the course. Honk if you see a bald guy with a red Camel Bak.

Start Line Runner 1
Olin/Turville Park
1156 Olin-Turville Court, Madison, WI 53715

Exchange 1 Runner 2 Start
Olbrich Park 3527 Atwood Ave. Madison, WI 53174
Start: 43.057 -89.383 End: 43.089 -89.330
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 2 Runner 3 Start
New Life Church 7564 Cottage Grove Road
Start: 43.089 -89.330 End: 43.088 -89.247
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 3 Runner 4 Start
Fireman’s Park 4116 Villas Rd. Cottage Grove, WI 53257
Start: 43.088 -89.247 End: 43.074 -89.208
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 4 Runner 5 Start
Deerfield Lutheran Church 206 Main St, Deerfield WI 53531
Start: 43.074 -89.208 End: 43.051 -89.076
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 5 Runner 6 Start
Cambridge High 403 Blue Jay Way, Cambridge, WI 53523
Start: 43.051 -89.076 End: 43.006 -89.008
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 6 Runner 7 Start
Lake Mills High School
615 Caitlin Dr, Lake Mills, WI 53551
Start: 43.006 -89.008 End: 43.070 -88.911
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 7 Runner 8 Start
Jefferson County Fairgrounds 503 N Jackson Ave, Jefferson, WI 53549
Start: 43.070 -88.911 End: 43.017 -88.820
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 8 Runner 9 Start
Vetro Winery
1414 Vino Lane, Jefferson, WI. 53549
Start: 43.017 -88.820 End: 43.003 -88.779
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 9 Runner 10 Start
Helenville Bike Trail Depot Helenville, WI 53137
Start: 43.003 -88.779 End: 43.019 -88.695
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 10 Runner 11 Start
Sullivan Trailhead Palmyra St and Front St, Sullivan, WI 53178
Start: 43.019 -88.695 End: 43.012 -88.586
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 11 Runner 12 Start
Cory Municipal Park 140 S Main St, Dousman, WI 53118
Start: 43.012 -88.586 End: 43.014 -88.473
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 12 Runner 1 Start
Wales Community Park
420 Brandybrook Rd, Wales, WI 53183
Start: 43.014 -88.473 End: 42.998 -88.377
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 13 Runner 2 Start
Sunset Park S30 W28452 Sunset Dr, Wales, WI 53189
Start: 42.998 -88.377 End: 42.990 -88.310
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 14 Runner 3 Start
Carroll University
100 N East Ave, Waukesha, WI 53186
Start: 42.990 -88.310 End: 43.004 -88.229
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 15 Runner 4 Start
Poplar Creek Church 17770 West Cleveland, New Berlin WI 53146
Start: 43.004 -88.229 End: 42.992 -88.135
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 16 Runner 5 Start
Greenfield Park Greenfield WI 53227
Start: 42.992 -88.135 End: 43.009 -88.064
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 17 Runner 6 Start
Alan Kulwicki Park 10701 Coldspring, Greenfield, WI 53228
Start: 43.009 -88.064 End: 42.966 -88.046
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 18 Runner 7 Start
Martin Luther High School
5201 S 76th St, Greendale, WI 53129
Start: 42.996 -88.046 End: 42.949 -88.009
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 19 Runner 8 Start
Franklin High School 8222 S 51st St, Franklin WI 53132
Start: 42.949 -88.009 End: 42.896 -87.980
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 20 Runner 9 Start
Oak Creek High School 340 E Puetz Dr, Oak Creek, WI 53154
Start: 42.896 -87.980 End: 42.887 -87.908
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 21 Runner 10 Start
Parkway Apostolic Church 10940 S Nicholson Rd, Oak Creek WI 53154
Start: 42.887 -87.908 End: 42.846 -87.894
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 22 Runner 11 Start
Greater Racine Kennel Club 6320 6 Mile Rd, Racine WI 53402
Start: 42.846 -87.894 End: 42.814 -87.857
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 23 Runner 12 Start
The Prairie School 4050 Lighthouse Dr, Racine WI 53402
Start: 42.814 -87.857 End: 42.775 -87.775
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 24 Runner 1 Start
John Pershing Park 500 Pershing Dr, Racine, WI 53403
Start: 42.775 -87.775 End: 42.725 -87.779
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 25 Runner 2 Start
Jones Elementary School 3300 Chicory Rd, Racine WI 53403
Start: 42.725 -87.779 End: 42.684 -87.817
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 26 Runner 3 Start
Pennoyer Park, 3601 7th Ave, Kenosha WI 53140
Start: 42.684 -87.817 End: 42.605 -87.820
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 27 Runner 4 Start
Anderson Park 8730 22nd Ave, Kenosha WI 53143
Start: 42.605 -87.820 End: 42.547 -87.835
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 28 Runner 5 Start
Christ Community Church 2500 Dowie Memorial Ave, Zion, IL 60099
Start: 42.547 -87.835 End: 42.450 -87.836
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 29 Runner 6 Start
Lake County Community Action 1200 W Glen Flora Ave Waukegan, IL 60085
Start: 42.450 -87.836 End: 42.380 -87.846
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 30 Runner 7 Start
North Chicago High School 1717 17th St, North Chicago, IL 60064
Start: 42.380 -87.846 End: 42.327 -87.853
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 31 Runner 8 Start
Gorton Community Center 400 East Illinois Rd Lake Forest, IL 60045
Start: 42.327 -87.853 End: 42.251 -87.839
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 32 Runner 9 Start
Highland Park High School 433 Vine Ave, Highland Park IL 60035
Start: 42.251 -87.839 End: 42.192 -87.801
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 33 Runner 10 Start
Henry J Kalk Park 298 Park Ave, Glencoe IL 60022
Start: 42.192 -87.801 End: 42.135 -87.757
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 34 Runner 11 Start
Elder Lane Park 239 Sheridan Rd, Winnetka IL 60093
Start: 42.135 -87.757 End: 42.098 -87.717
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 35 Runner 12 Start
Northwestern Campus 2311 Campus Dr Evanston IL 60208
Start: 42.098 -87.717 End: 42.060 -87.674
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Montrose Beach, Lincoln Park
Approx. 200 Montrose Harbor Dr, Chicago, IL 60640

My dad and I are both avid sci-fi readers. Over the years we’ve had many conversations about future tech, including medicine. This video below brings to mind a particular conversation we had probably 15 years ago. We both had recently read a futurist article with the premise that (at the time) if you could manage to live another 25 years, chances are pretty good you’re going to live another 100 or more. Watching this video pulled that conversation straight up out of my long term mental storage, sent a chill up my spine and choked me up more than a little (even before the doc at the end). I’ve grown up on futurist thinking. A LOT of futurist thinking. I love space opera and the premise of an enlightened humanity spreading across the Milky Way, but more and more I find myself attaching credibility to the dystopian stuff. The dark ages, end of the world stuff.

When I was a kid, I was all about Star Trek and any storytelling where we as human beings can build tools to solve any problem including but not limited to immortality. All that space age stuff. Now, I’m weary and pessimistic. Maybe this touched me today because I’ve been absolutely gutted by the news of Iain Banks’ impending demise. Maybe watching this makes that seem like all the more of a complete travesty of universal justice. It pains me that a man with such an amazing view of the technological future of humanity is mere months away from being so utterly failed by our present.

But I gotta say. All the sadness I can muster can’t diminish this. Buckle up folks. Whether we can manage to look up from our mundane squabbling and notice or not, I think shit is about to get real interesting.

Fire With Fire | Ross Kauffman from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

The General Motors infotainment team is in town this month. As part of their activities for the Chicago Auto Show, they were kind enough to host the Chicago HTML5 Meetup at the Skyline Loft in Bridgeport, giving the attendees an opportunity for a close up look at an Alpha release of GM’s in dash hardware. It’s early days for the automobile as an application platform, so the event was a unique opportunity to speak with the product managers, engineer and customer support leaders.

GM announced the app framework at CES earlier this year and are working toward completing a release version of the hardware, software and APIs for model year 2014. For the folks that braved a particularly harsh Chicago winter evening, our hosts provided some insight into what it taken to get the new platform ready for launch.

It’s great to see another platform for HTML based applications. I’m not sure that the HTML5 technologies will be the right fit long term, but as we’ve seen on iOS, Android and now the new Blackberry OS, HTML5 web apps can provide a means of transitioning an existing application to a new platform and can allow developers to build and test a market with new functionality. I find this pattern really interesting. Mostly, be cause it allows a broader base of developers to bring ideas to market with a lower cost of entry. Certainly, that is was GM is banking on.

I wonder what other platforms we might see for HTML5 in the near future and I’m curious to see how Responsive Web Design will fit into this as we begin to develop a single application with UI that adapts not just to multiple screen sizes but to multiple contexts as well.

I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, http://developer.gm.com is worth a look.

With the release of the new Blackberry phones and BB OS 10, there has been plenty of news, reviews and speculation. The hardware specs, software improvements and Blackberry’s viability as a business have been covered in plenty of detail.

As a developer, I’ve found it especially interesting to see the specific attention paid to the Blackberry web browser’s HTML5 compatibility and rendering speed. I think most developers developers are going to welcome any new competition in the mobile browser market as a good thing for feature and performance innovation.

I’m not likely to rush out to pick up the new Blackberry (or Windows) devices based on their browser performance marketing, but I will admit that they have my attention. For a mobile device brand that myself and many of my peers have written off, Blackberry’s effort to get out ahead of the pack with a fast standards-compliant browser seems like a step in the right direction.

Beyond the browser, I’m also pleased to see the effort that the Blackberry team has put into supporting mobile and front-end developers with many of the familiar tools that we use for Android and iOS development today. Blackberry’s GitHub (http://blackberry.github.com/) and the documentation for the Blackberry HTML5 WebWorks platform (https://developer.blackberry.com/html5/) demonstrate the possibilities for developing HTML5-based applications for the Blackberry using open source tools like Appcelerator and Cordova.

This is great to see, because it means near zero investment is necessary for curious developers to try their hand at creating applications for the Blackberry. I would have laughed at the suggestion a few months ago, but looking around the documentation and some of the code in the GitHub, I’m feeling a willingness to give it a try myself. I can’t imagine that I’m the only developer with that sentiment, which probably bodes well for Blackberry.

This week, I had my first knowledge sharing session with my digital teammates at HY Connect. I presented a high-level overview of all the things I like to pay attention to during the course of a project.  I was gathering a list of resources to email to the team and figured  it might be worthwhile to share here on the blog as well. This is by no means comprehensive, but represents what I feel is a good spread of the various aspects of a build where the development team can help drive quality.

TOOLS I LOVE

XScope App

Measuring pixels, checking folds and testing common visual impairments

iconfactory.com/software/xscope

ImageAlpha

Shrinks PNG files with magic!

pngmini.com

ImageOptim

Shrink images by removing meta data and other software and OS file cruft
imageoptim.com

Litmus

Screenshots for quick crossbrowser testing of pages and emails
litmus.com

ACCESSIBILITY

These are the standards. They are deep, but worth getting to know. In 2012, the Justice Department began planning for incorporating UI accessibility into the ADA.

WCAG 2.0: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/glance/

ARIA 1.0: Accessible Rich Internet Applications
www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria.php

The list of litigation is growing, so I would expect to continue to see a growing interest in accessibility compliance.

Target Settles Accessibility Lawsuit for $6 Million
www.sitepoint.com/target-settles-accessibility-lawsuit-for-6-million/

Accessibility Lawsuit Filed Against JetBlue Airways
lflegal.com/2010/10/jet-blue/

List of several cases
www.karlgroves.com/2011/11/15/list-of-web-accessibility-related-litigation-and-settlements/

PERFORMANCE

Google Speed Labs

developers.google.com/speed

Yahoo YSlow!

Great browser plugin for grading site performance and best practices documentation

developer.yahoo.com/performance/
developer.yahoo.com/yslow/

Performance thought leaders

Tom Hughes-Croucher
@sh1mmer
kid666.com

His presentations are great. I would jump at the chance to be in any conference session he is presenting.

Steve Souders
stevesouders.com
@souders

A bit more technical, but worth following for insight into tools, evidence and interesting real world testing.

SEARCH

SEOmoz

@SEOmoz
seomoz.org

Probably the single best resource on the web.

Search Engine Land

@sengineland
searchengineland.com

SEO thought leaders

Eric Enge
@ericenge

Stephan Spencer
@sspencer

Rand Fishkin
@randfish

Jessie Stricchiola
@Itstricchi

Matt Cutts
mattcutts.com
@mattcutts

Semantic Microformatting

microformats.org

SOCIAL

These are documentation of the Open Graph meta data to turn content into social objects

ogp.me
developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraphprotocol

At this moment, I’m less that 6 hours away from leaving a gang of some of the most brilliant, creative, collaborative and hardworking people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. My 13 year tenure at VSA has been a hugely formative experience for me, and it has been really difficult to articulate why I’m leaving. I think I’ve probably generated one of the largest Pros vs Cons lists ever in making the decision to leave.

I’ve never been a grass is greener kind of guy. Over the course of my stay at VSA, I’ve looked at things my peers have been doing out in the world at large and have seen many interesting, inspiring things, as well as, many, many scary things that I would never want any part of. Where I’ve seen good stuff, I’ve worked to bring things into the fold at VSA.

Most recently, that has been in the form of responsive and adaptive design paradigms along with the workflow and processes to support these new practices. Historically, it has been an unrelenting drive to adopt best practices and standards for web development for our corporate clients ahead of anyone else in the marketplace. It has been the act of making sure that developers are more than just the production labor at the end of a waterfall process, and are taken seriously as creative contributors, collaborators and thinkers.

I’ve been able to work on a staggering amount of high profile work for clients including IBM, BP, Caterpillar, First Data Corporation, Shure, Avery Dennison, AOL, Netscape, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Electric, GE Healthcare, GE Energy, Harley-Davidson, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, USAA, Segway, Wilson Sporting Goods, Western Union, Time Warner, MeadWestVaco and others small, medium and large. With only a few exceptions, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with all of these clients. Every new engagement has brought new and interesting technical and design challenges which VSA has solved by partnering with our clients in thoughtful collaborative ways.

The reality is, I’ve spent some really happy and rewarding years here at VSA and if I were to stay here, I’d likely be in for finishing out my career here in a very happy, very comfortable place enjoying the fruits of the labor I’ve put in along side my VSA peeps over the last decade. And that’s the rub. I’ve realized that I’m tremendously uncomfortable with this whole comfort thing. So, I’ve chosen to make the leap away from a hugely successful digital practice at VSA Partners that I have helped to grow over the last decade to a nascent digital offering at HY Connect.

Am I diving into some uncertainty? Yeah. Am I confident in my decision? Absolutely. Those that know me, know that I’m nothing if not pragmatic, but sometimes you gotta look over the edge and step on the crank. When I gave my notice to Pat Heick, the leader of the digital practice here at VSA and my friend and partner of 13 years, I told him that this isn’t about me being unhappy here at VSA, it’s about realizing that at 41 years, I’m not too old to charge once more into the breach for glory and honor.

I suppose that it’s my running that has brought that out in me and racing especially. There’s nothing like looking through race results and realizing how many of those folks that were breezing past you on the course are 10 or 15 or even 20 years your senior. Point being, if you have your health and the wherewithal to chase a dream there is plenty of time to try new things, to face new challenges and to try to do something awesome (again).

Be driven. Don’t be afraid to give up something great to go after something even better. There is so much opportunity here in Chicago right now to build a really great digital marketing community and revitalize the advertising community here. I’m hoping that by joining HY Connect, I can play a big role in that.

Here’s to the future. Cheers!

What a day. I could not have asked for better weather. Maybe just a wee bit of cloud cover, but whatever. 39 degrees at the start for me. My training plan worked. I managed to crush my previous 5h18m personal record with a 4h33m finish. That’s a gain, I’m thoroughly satisfied with, considering I was running only twice a week on average. I made up the training difference with 3-4 days a week of 11 mile bike commutes and two days of weight training. With a strong September half marathon best of just under two hours, I had hoped to finish in under 4h15m but the weather got the best of me because it was just too perfect. In 2010, I ran my first marathon in 5h22m, suffering through temperatures over 85 degrees. My 2011 run was 5h18m with a mildly sprained ankle and 40 mph gusting headwinds.

So, when I saw the forecast Saturday, I decided I was going to go for it and try to stick with the 3h55m pace group. Lesson learned. Stick with the plan. I went out too fast and paid for it later on with a couple 11 minute splits. But still, my walking breaks were limited to taking just enough time to pour a cup of liquid into my mouth without getting all sticky and my legs didn’t bother me much at all. Compared to 2010 and 2011, my recovery is going much faster.

Thanks be to GU, nuun, REI, Camelbak and my trusty Nike Air Triax Structure 16s for helping me get to the finish line.

I’m looking forward to training for the Disney Goofy Challenge where I hope to set a new half PR and a new marathon PR both in the same weekend. After that I’m gonna spend 2013 working on my half marathon speed and hopefully will run some extra speedy Ragnar Relay legs in Chicago and Minneapolis.