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Erin Jo Richey


1 min read

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Albert Einstein

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

My Top 5 Books from 2015

4 min read

As 2015 was winding down, I went back through all of the books I'd read during the year. Most were non-fiction, many related - at least tangentially - to my work. I don't usually read much, but I actually managed to get through quite a bit (for me) in 2015. These are the top 5 things I read over the year. They are the books that I'm mostly likely to recommend or gift to someone. (Some I actually have given as gifts over the year.)

5. Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It
Marc Goodman (2015)

This is a BIG book. If you already work in technology or follow it closely, many of the stories here are not new. If you only loosely follow tech news coverage, this is more than just an overview, it's a textbook. If you've ever wondered casually, "I wonder if hackers could...", the answer is probably "yes". They can, they have, and there's a story about it here. Terrifying and fascinating at the same time; it's sci-fi in reality. This is what is possible and what is happening with the technologies that surround us every day.

4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Marie Kondo (2014)

A darling on Pinterest and Instagram, the KonMari method of folding and cleaning was everywhere in 2015. I first came across the book and author after reading a NYTimes article at the end of 2014. Am I really recommending a book on tidying up? Yes. It's precious, but also sweet, inspiring, and a motivating reminder to surround yourself with fewer, more meaningful things. Her next book, "Spark Joy," comes out tomorrow.

3. Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Edwin Catmull with Amy Wallace (2014)

This book is partially an insider's look at the history of Pixar and also a case study on leadership, innovation, and problem solving for creative companies. I found both valuable. Most of the stories and anecdotes are centered around the entertainment and movie industry. However, Pixar - with its roots here in the Bay Area and its ties to Steve Jobs - was its own, different kind of tech startup. The problems, challenges, and growing pains that Edwin Catmull recounts are the same struggles that growing tech companys face, and it felt good to see them from a slightly different angle. I would read this once for the stories and inspiration, then return to it for the practical wisdom and methods spelled out around leadership, decision making, and company growth.

2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Atul Gawande (2014)

I've liked other things that Atul Gawande has written, and this was no disappointment. "Being Mortal" is a look at what it means to die: care facilities, advanced directives, palliative care. When so many of us shy away from discussing - or even thinking about - death, Gawande makes the case for confronting the end of life experience head on. We should understand what medical and care treatments are available as we age and consider decisions that support quality over quantity. Recommended for anyone who is planning for their - or a loved one's - end of life experience, no matter how old or young.

1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Greg McKeown (2014)

There are poignant moments in this book that felt relevant to me in a number of areas. Starting a startup or new business? Work in technology or a creative field? Trying to be more productive? More passionate? More focused? Trying to do the right thing? This book wins for sheer relevance to so many elements of my life in the last few years.

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

My Top Longreads of 2015

5 min read

As 2015 wraps up, I thought it would be nice to reflect back on the best things I read this year. I skim a lot of things every day online, but to actually sit down and read a longer article - that is a greater feat.

Going back through my memory - and my Pocket account - these articles struck me as both interesting at the time and memorable later on. They are the articles that I might want to remember that I actually read, some time in the future.

If I knew you, I might have even shared one or two of them with you.

In no particular order, they are…

“The Lonely Death of George Bell”

N. R. Kleinfield - New York Times - Oct 17, 2015

A fascinating look at what happens when a man dies alone in New York: who tracks down his heirs, where does his body go, what happens to his estate.

“The Price of Nice Nails”

Sarah Maslin Nir - New York Times - May 7, 2015

This investigation into the dark side of the nail salon industry sparked New York’s governor to issue new measures to help protect salon workers. The multi-part story covers the health risks and economic hardships faced by the people who give you that cheap mani-pedi.

“A Whole New Being: How Kricket Nimmons Seized the Transgender Moment”

Deborah Sontag - New York Times - Dec 12, 2015

The journey of one woman who went through gender reassignment surgery.

“Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism: April Sniper Attack Knocked Out Substation, Raises Concern for Country’s Power Grid”

Rebecca Smith - The Wall Street J - Feb 5, 2014

I missed this when it originally was published, but I heard about it through ongoing discussions of the US power grid and terrorist targets. As a PG&E customer, it piqued my interest.

“Religion for the Nonreligious”

Tim Urban - Wait But Why - Oct 2014

Tim from Wait But Why goes deep and explains his believes on spirituality, consciousness, and connectedness.

“Tech nerds are smart. But they can’t seem to get their heads around politics.”

David Roberts - Vox - Aug 27, 2015

One of the best articles I’ve read about politics in a long time.

“What ISIS Really Wants”

Graeme Wood - The Atlantic - March 2015

This long article brings together politics, religion, and history to explain where ISIS came from and what motivates the Islamic State.

“A survivor’s life”

Eli Saslow - The Washington Post - December, 5, 2015

My parents are from Roseburg, Oregon and both have spent time at Umpqua Community College, so the shooting there this past October hit close to home. This is a story that we don’t often hear about after a mass shooting, what is it like to be a survivor?


Adrian Chen - New Yorker - Nov 23, 2015

I wasn’t familiar with Westboro Baptist Church or Megan Phelps-Roper before this, but I am familiar with Twitter arguments, trolls, and what often seem like idiotic attacks online.

“Blood Ties”

Nathan Heller - New Yorker - Nov 9, 2015

I like true crime. This one follows the lives of a young murderous couple.

“Troll Detective: Who set Jessica Chambers on fire? The internet is trying to find out.”

Katie J.M. Baker - Buzzfeed - June 24, 2015

More true crime, in a sense. A woman from a small town was killed, and the internet has come together to try and piece together who did it.

“Online Dating Made This Woman a Pawn in a Global Crime Plot”

Brendan I. Koerner - Wired - October, 5, 2015

I’ve heard a number of stories this year involving older women getting scammed and emotionally manipulated when trying to date online. This is one more.

“Living and Dying on Airbnb”

Zak Stone - Matter - Nov 9, 2015

Zak’s dad died while the family was vacationing in an Airbnb rental. As the sharing economy explodes, who's to blame?

“The Murders at the Lake”

Michael Hall - Texas Monthly - April 2014

More true crime. I picked this one up because I was missing Serial.

“Autism’s Microbiome”

Nicholette Zeliadt - The Atlantic - Nov 19, 2015

I’ve been following a lot of fascinating and disgusting stories about gut bacteria and fecal transplants this year. This one has an autism tie-in.

And finally, one that I didn’t read, but I probably should have. According to everyone who shared this article, we’re all going to die. Being from the Pacific Northwest, you can imagine my delight at hearing it’s really a matter of when, not if, the West Coast will end in disaster in a big earthquake.

“The Really Big One”

Kathryn Schulz - New Yorker - July 20, 2015

Erin Jo Richey

Choreographer Dohee Lee demos music creation from her hand sensors at The Real Future Fair.

1 min read

At Fusion's Real Future Fair on November 6th, technologist Donald Swearingen and choreographer and performance artist Dohee Lee talked about the collaboration of art and technology during the Future of Art session. The duo are working with Counterpulse on a new piece that will premier in 2016. 

Dohee wears a microphone and custom motion sensors on her hands to generate music from her voice and movements. Her output is sent via wifi to the computer in the back that Donald monitors.


Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Ocean Beach on Saturday

1 min read

Ocean BeachBeach ShotsBeach ShotsStretch of Ocean Beach at sunset

San Franciscans were enjoying the sun at Ocean Beach on Saturday. 


Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA ~ Saturday January 31st, 2015

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

♫ Ghost Symbol ~ Zero 7 ♪

1 min read

Today smells like coffee and sounds like popping rain.

Erin Jo Richey

Murals of San Francisco

1 min read

Today I meandered down Irving Street through the Sunset.  

These lovely neighborhood murals covered two facing walls at a side street intersection.  I particularly like the Haight Ashbury neighborhood view, since it's so close to my own home.  The street, the legs, the N Judah - those are all part of my neighborhood.  

Our office in SOMA is also very close to AT&T Park and the Bay Bridge.

Here's to Sunday strolls.

Erin Jo Richey

Erin Jo Richey

♫ The Keeper (Banks Remix) ~ Bonobo ♪

1 min read

As heard in Continuum, Season 3 episode 2

Erin Jo Richey

♫ Simple Science ~ Zero 7 ♪

1 min read

It's a rainy day in San Francisco, and the office ceiling started leaking (!). It's colder today, but it's hard to believe that it's December already. Time to power through some wireframes.

Erin Jo Richey

Visualize your Known check-ins

6 min read

I've had my Known site for over a year, and I like to use it to record places that I've visited on travels. I also like having a record of my favorite shops, restaurants, and activities. Recently, I spent some time looking at visualization options for my location data saved from check-ins.

Get your data out

You probably already knew that you can get an RSS feed of your data from Known. All of your locations live at and you can get a feed of your check-ins at (If you need help getting here, filter your content by check-ins, then view source on that page and search for RSS.

Ben just added a KML option, so now you can get a KML option for your locations as well. KML is Keyhole Markup Language and was developed to use with mapping platforms like Google Earth.

For my location data, I wanted to grab a big file with a lot of history. I went into my site configuration and set "Items per page" to 500. This means that 500 updates are going to show up on each page. Then I went to a filtered view of my location check-ins and grabbed the RSS feed. (If you're grabbing a lot of data, some of the pages and files might take awhile to load).

To get the KML data, replace RSS in your feed URL with KML, so you want With this URL, your browser will then download your KML file. Once my file was downloaded, I added .kml as an extension to make it open. So I ended up with download.kml. I opened the file in Coda to view the data and make sure everything looked alright. By setting the feed to display 500 check-ins, I got over a year's worth of data in my file.

I wanted to split some of my data up, so I left the master file as-is and then created several other files that contained my location data for specific data ranges. My data went back to July 2013, and from that I created 5 files with my check-ins by quarter for July 2013 - September 2013, October 2013 - December 2013, January 2014 - March 2014, April 2014 - June 2014, July 2014 - September 2014, and October 2014 to date.

See your data in Google Maps

You can get a quick view of your data by importing the KML file into Google Maps' My Maps.

Go to My Maps and choose Create a new map. Under Untitled layer choose Import. Then under Upload, browse for your KML file. Once the uploading is down, you should have a map with all of your locations as red map points. This will give you some idea of what location points are in your file. If you click on a point, you can see the date, the permalink to the check-in on your site, and any notes if you added a comment with your location.

Map your data with Fusion Tables

Originally, I started looking into the geodata visualization options for my Known data after reading this post from Sean Daniel on mapping Foursquare data. Following similar steps in his post, here's how to create maps with Fusion Tables.

Log into your Google Drive account. Choose the Settings gear icon in the upper right and choose "Manage apps." Unless you've already done something with Fusion, it won't be listed so you'll want to click the link for "Connect more apps." Search for "fusion" to find Fusion Tables and add it. Once Fusion Tables has been added as an app, you can go to Create in Google Drive and then select Fusion Table. In the import window, browse and select your KML file. (I'm still using my master file with all of the data here.)

Once the file has imported, you'll get a modal window with the data in a table. Ignore this and hit Next. Then add in a useful title to your map (and a description if you'd like). Once you hit Finish, it will spend a little time updating, and then you'll be dropped on a rows screen.

If you go to the "Map of geometry" tab, you'll find options for a heat map and a feature map. My heat map isn't very interesting because I've been spending most of my time in San Francisco during the last year. Even the city view of my San Francisco check-ins isn't very dense.

Under the feature map option, you can change the data markers to dots or map points and adjust the color.

Map your data in Mapbox

I hadn't played with Mapbox before this. It looks like a nice platform if you want to customize the map tiles and the look of your map. I didn't spend much time playing with it, but I'd like to come back to it later and focus more on the customizations.

With a free account, you can upload your location file (or files) under the data option. When you upload a file, you can choose the appropriate field for your data's title and description, and you can set color and symbol for your points. For Mapbox, I uploaded each of my different KML files to the same map, and I set a unique color for the map marker for the different data sets. You can also tweak some of the color settings for the base map.

Map your data with CartoDB

I finished off playing around with CartoDB. You can also create a free CartDB account to use with one map. Choose the "Create your first table" option to import your KML data for a map. When you have a map, you can change the tiles from a number of different options. CartoDB has basemap options from Stamen, Nokia, and CartoDB, as well as options to add your own tiles.

I started out adding different layers to my map, using one layer per time period KML file, but I was only able to add four layers of data. I assigned a different color to each time period.

Then I went back and built a different table with my master KML file. I chose a CartoDB basemap and then fiddled with the visualization wizard. I ended up setting my location data with the hexagons in the density option.

I like CartoDB because I can take the resulting map and embed it into a post on Known. To do this, save it as a visualization, then click the "share" option and choose the code to embed it. You can then embed the iframe in the code view of your post on Known. (I did this above for this post.)

That's it for my initial dive into map visualization today. Thanks go to Ben for adding the KML options in. Next time I travel or go on vacation, I'm interested in tracking the locations for all of the sights I visit and setting up a little interactive journey map to accompany the story of my trip.