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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Suffering from chronic idiocy since 1977


Sidebar Creative: Collective Realignment

Sidebar Creative logo
Two years ago in Austin, Texas, at SXSW Inter­ac­tive 2006, an idea was con­ceived by 4 friends, and nine months later Side­bar Cre­ative was born. That was a lit­tle over a year ago, and now that our fledg­ling design col­lec­tive has had a chance to stretch its limbs, open its eyes, and all the other lovely things that new­borns do, it’s time for some changes (no, not the dia­per kind; and yes, all pos­i­tive). But first, a mini-retrospective of “Year One: The Awakening.”

Let’s go back

Over the course of the first year, Bryan, Jon, Steve and I have learned more about each other and our­selves than any of us expected — and more about what Side­bar means to each of us, and how dif­fer­ent that is from what we all expected at the begin­ning. We expected that join­ing forces would be a good way to attract larger projects and clients (which it was, and con­tin­ues to be), but none of us antic­i­pated the attrac­tion of bring­ing our own ideas to the table and using our com­bined expe­ri­ence to bring them to life.

Has any­one seen my shoes?

Though the prospect of more client work was a key incen­tive at the start, our indi­vid­ual con­sult­ing busi­nesses saw increases around the same time Side­bar launched (either a coin­ci­dence or poten­tial clients hop­ing to get a lower price by con­tact­ing one of us indi­vid­u­ally — false logic for what it’s worth), and though we received RFPs for large, lucra­tive projects from day one (the stream of requests has remained steady since Jan­u­ary 2007), sched­ul­ing and avail­abil­ity became a bar­rier to accept­ing many of them. The projects we have been able to work on, how­ever, have been lots of fun, in one case even allow­ing us to stretch beyond the com­puter screen to design for pix­els of another sort (more on that when we’re allowed to talk about it ;)

Hav­ing more than enough client work has served us two-fold: on one hand, we’ve become even more selec­tive about the clients we choose to work with than we were before (being selec­tive is the key to stay­ing inter­ested and engaged: only accept projects you can be pas­sion­ate about for clients you’ll enjoy work­ing with), but it’s also afforded us the time to indulge our own interests.

Dude, I hear a car

And indulge we have: the Side­bar Net­work is home to four projects so far, with more on the way (use the net­work navbar at the top of any of the sites in the net­work to bounce between them).

MyMileMarker promotional image

My Mile Marker

Known within our ranks as “M3”, MyMile­Marker tracks your vehicle’s mileage, MPG, and pro­vides pro­jec­tions so you can judge just how much gas you’re really guz­zling. The orig­i­nal idea was Steve’s, and we all chipped in dur­ing our spare time to make it hap­pen, from brain­storm­ing to IA to design (with Steve tak­ing on all the Ruby on Rails pro­gram­ming duties), includ­ing a handy mobile site that fea­tures a lick-able cus­tom stylesheet for iPhone/Mobile Safari users.

SMS via Twit­ter and Edward Scherf’s beau­ti­ful cus­tom icons are the icing on the cake for this lovely lit­tle app that already has almost 10,000 users, spread­ing purely by word of mouth (thanks in large part to the Twit­ter community).

Snitter promotional image


What do you get when you put Snook and Twit­ter together? Why, you get Snit­ter, of course. What started as an exper­i­ment of Jon’s to become famil­iar with Adobe AIR has turned into one of the most pop­u­lar 3rd party Twit­ter clients on OS X and Win­dows. The pro­gram­ming (includ­ing loads of cool fil­ter­ing options) is all Jon’s — the rest of us chipped in fea­ture sug­ges­tions and improve­ments, with Steve and I pro­vid­ing designs for the default set of themes. If you haven’t tried it yet, what are you wait­ing for? Get Snit­ter and start Twittering!

Overheard.it promotional image


With Twit­ter clearly play­ing a large part in our online lives, it was only log­i­cal for our minds to wan­der in its direc­tion. After inte­grat­ing MyMile­Marker with Twit­ter, and see­ing Dan Cederholm’s Foamee intro­duce the con­cept of a “bar­na­cle app”, we decided to fol­low the most pop­u­lar word on Twit­ter (“over­heard”) and see what peo­ple were talk­ing about. After a few nights worth of sketch­ing, design, devel­op­ment (by Jon, using CakePHP) and test­ing, Overheard.it was released upon the world (the domain itself makes it a site worth visiting ;)

Future plans for Overheard.it include event-specific fil­ters (for those great con­fer­ence quotes we all love), vot­ing, and all man­ner of other poten­tial silliness.

Django Plugables promotional image

Django Plu­gables

Bryan is quickly becom­ing a Django savant (and has been toil­ing away at var­i­ous projects for a year or so), and in addi­tion to doing his best to con­vert the rest of us to Django-ites, he likes to find prob­lems that need solv­ing — a few days ago (this past Fri­day, to be exact) he decided the Django com­mu­nity needed an eas­ier way to access the grow­ing library of 3rd party “plug­gable” appli­ca­tions with­out hav­ing to dig around Google Code for hours hop­ing to find the dia­mond in the rough.

Three days later, he had designed, built and launched Django Plu­gables, and if you have any inter­est in Django, you should check it out. Speak­ing of Django, you should also dig around Bryan’s recently relaunched Aval­on­star, which, in addi­tion to sport­ing a ter­rific design, is all Django, baby.

It’s a mir­a­cle in a bowl

The design com­mu­nity uses the term “realign” to describe an adjust­ment of direc­tion rather than a bottom-up trans­for­ma­tion, and that’s a good way to describe what has been hap­pen­ing within Side­bar since last sum­mer (the course-correction was already evi­dent in our Dig­i­tal Web inter­view with Matthew Pen­nell back in Sep­tem­ber). It was clear that we needed to reflect our realign­ment on the site, while also tak­ing the oppor­tu­nity to realign the site itself, show­ing more of what makes us who we are as indi­vid­u­als, and with more empha­sis on con­sult­ing, train­ing and edu­ca­tion — areas we all intend to spend more time focus­ing on in the com­ing year, includ­ing a series of full-day work­shops we’re plan­ning to bring to cities nor­mally over­looked by larger conferences.

There are a ton of amaz­ing ideas bounc­ing around the Side­bar Camp­fire, and I’m more excited than ever to be a part of this group. So go check out our lit­tle realign, and stay tuned: the best is yet to come.

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.


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9 comments on “Sidebar Creative: Collective Realignment”

  1. Posted by Nick Whitmoyer on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.

    Kudos to Side­bar Cre­ative! Snit­ter is a great prod­uct and these oth­ers look just as good too.

    You guys would be warmly wel­comed if you held a full-day work­shop in DC.

  2. Posted by Sean Murphy on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.

    Great job on the realigned Side­bar site! I love it.

    I’m look­ing for­ward to what new things might come out of your collective.

  3. Posted by Norm Orstad on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.

    keep on truck­ing! Glad to see the best still want to be the best!

  4. Posted by Jason Beaird on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.

    One sub­tle aspect of the design that I’m sure a lot of peo­ple will look over (but I think is cool) is your use of back­ground noise. I’m guess­ing that’s a Steve touch, but it all looks awe­some. Congrats!

  5. Posted by Mark Eagleton on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.

    Con­grats! I am a HUGE M3 fan. The per­fect iPhone acces­sory. Thank you.

  6. Posted by Dan Rubin on Thursday, April 10th, 2008.

    @Nick: Thanks man, D.C. is one of the first on our list for later this year, and we’re very excited to get up there :) Con­grats, btw, on mak­ing the move to the solo world!

    @Sean/Norm: Thanks, we’re all very happy with where things are going, and can’t wait to release a few more things upon the world :)

    @Jason: Thanks for pick­ing up on that, but it’s all my doing :) I’ve been sneak­ing noise into back­grounds for the last few years on var­i­ous client projects, and try­ing to get the other guys to use it too (Bryan’s use on the new Aval­on­star is thanks to my con­stant prodding :)

    I had the pri­mary design respon­si­bil­ity on both ver­sions of the Side­bar site so far, so I’m even more excited that this realign is finally live (I started work­ing on it back in June, but we had so many other things to fig­ure out and work on that it just wasn’t the right time until now).

    @Mark: Thanks! :D The iPhone stylesheet was my pet project, part of a quiet push I’m mak­ing to get peo­ple to make their device-specific UIs as “native” as pos­si­ble to each device, while not using device detec­tion or mod­i­fy­ing the markup at all, and I’m really happy with how it’s worked out so far.

  7. Posted by Eric Stewart on Friday, April 11th, 2008.

    I love the Side­bar site, looks great, if you don’t mind me ask­ing what font did you guys use for the white text: “We design and build…” at the top of the page?

  8. Posted by Dan Rubin on Monday, April 14th, 2008.

    @Eric: Thanks Eric :) The type­face used for the bitmap text through­out the site is Trade Gothic (also used in the Side­bar logo in its extended ver­sion). It’s the same type­face that cur­rently adorns this site (logo, bitmap head­ings and sIFR entry titles).

  9. Posted by Daniel on Friday, April 18th, 2008.

    I think the Side­bar very nice :)