Announcing Kidpost

For parents of young kids, like my wife and me, photos have become an inextricable part of how we think about our family, both within our household and amongst all of our relatives. Photo documentation for the benefit of all of our loved ones — grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends of all kinds — is now a part of raising kids in a way that it never was before the advent of the digital camera.

In some ways, it’s easier than ever for us to get images of our kids to those who care about them most, but in other ways it’s still much harder than it should be, too. I know for a fact that the sheer number of venues for sharing has made it difficult for my parents and in-laws to keep up with the images that Laura and I post to Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and other services. And truth be told, even I frequently miss some of the photos that Laura posts, too.

I started thinking about this problem last fall; why shouldn’t it be possible to knit these services together via email, the most universally accessible channel that we have? All we’d really need to solve this problem would be an automated service that rounds up all of the kid-related content that Laura and I post each week and then sends it out in a summary email. It wouldn’t require either of us to post to any new services or change our current sharing behaviors, and it would only ask our relatives to do something they’re already doing: check their email. It seemed like something that really ought to exist.

After talking this problem through with my friends Matt and Mike and finding that everyone we asked thought it was a good idea, we decided to go ahead and build it for real. Today we’re pre-announcing Kidpost, a service which bundles up your kid-related content from your social network accounts into a private, weekly email that gets sent to family members and friends of your choosing.

Sign up today for early access and a discount.

We’re deep in development for it right now, but our ambition for Kidpost is to build something incredibly simple and lightweight. Once you authorize Kidpost to access your various accounts, it will simply watch for posts that you tag appropriately, and will aggregate them automatically. That’s all you have to do. As the account holders, parents control the content of the emails and who receives them — you can add as many people as you like to your email group, and the recipients don’t need to sign up for new accounts or download apps or visit a new service of any kind.

Kidpost will be ready this spring, but as we build it we want to solicit feedback from interested parents and relatives. If you sign up on our home page now, we’ll give you early access, and we’ll also give you a discount on the paid plan when it launches. Just head on over to Kidpost.net. And watch this space for future updates!

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Things That Happened to Me in 2013

A quick rundown of last year’s big events in my life: on 9 Jan, Laura gave birth to our twin boys Lafayette and Thiebaud, and all of a sudden we became a family of five. That really changed up the calculus of daily living for me, but it also made life so much sweeter. We were more exhausted and more frenzied than ever before in 2013, but now we have three amazing kids and, well, when it comes to parental pride, all the standard clichés apply.

If it was only that much change that the year had in store for us, it would have been enough. But it was just the beginning; within the first twenty-four hours after the boys were born, while we were still in the recovery room, I found myself signing deal papers for Etsy, Inc.’s acquisition of my company Mixel — on my phone, no less. By the end of January, I was a full-time employee at Etsy.

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2013 Expansion Plans

When Mister President passed away in December, it made for a very rough end to the year. But one thing that got me through it all was remembering how much I still have to be grateful for. For instance, Laura has been pregnant since late spring — with twins. Twins! Pure craziness.

For various reasons, I haven’t talked about it publicly yet, but the time to do so is now. With twins, doctors tend to want them to come out before they reach the full nine-month mark, so in just a little while we’re going into the hospital where her doctors will induce labor. If everything goes well, sometime in the next day or two we’ll add an ‘identical’ pair of baby boys to our family.

Baby A

Here’s a picture of one of them — “Baby A” — from just a few days ago. “Baby B” was camera shy that day, and they couldn’t get a good shot of him — but they’re twins, so you can imagine what he looks like, right?

That’s all for now. Wish us luck.

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Corporations Are People Too

To those uninitiated in the vagaries of medical care for pets, suffice it to say that veterinarians’ bills can get pretty expensive pretty quickly. So for years I’ve paid for a pet medical insurance policy for my dog, Mister President. It sounds a little silly, I know, but it’s been worth the money.

After my dog, Mister President, passed away last month, and after I picked myself up off the floor, I somehow found the wherewithal to submit insurance claims for all of the bills we incurred in diagnosing and treating his cancer, and for the euthanasia and cremation processes too.

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A Grown Man, Crying

Just about anything that takes me back to Mister President has been bringing me to tears. This is true whether it’s something as pronounced as recounting for friends and family how he came to pass so quickly, or something as mundane as reaching for a scarf on the coatrack and, through muscle memory, picking up the old boy’s leash and collar by mistake. When I looked down and saw it in my hands, all my composure crumbled right off me, and the tears started pouring.

For men, crying is a complicated thing. I don’t claim to be John Wayne, but I do have a nontrivial amount of my identity invested in being emotionally anchored and resistant to dramatic mood shifts. I think of myself as “manly” or at least aspire to “manliness,” and gaps in that veneer are uncomfortable, something to be avoided, hidden, and left unspoken. The corollary to that is I also harbor a dread of weakness, or even the appearance of weakness; few things seem as unmanly or as weak as crying.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny that I have been crying. On the subway, at the grocery store, walking down the street, talking to strangers, on the phone, at dinner, and many more places besides. It’s awkward for me, and awkward for the people before whom I’ve been sobbing like a helpless child. No matter how enlightened most people claim to be, the reality of a grown man in tears ignites immediate discomfort.

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Mister President, Rest in Peace

It was my birthday yesterday, and I had to lay down Mister President, my dog of ten years, to rest forever. All things considered, my family and I were fortunate in that we were able to say goodbye to him in the home we shared with him, where he could be comfortable and unafraid; his veterinarian came to us in the afternoon, counseled us, administered the sedative and then the euthanasia drug, consoled us, and took away his body to be cremated.

Afterwards I took a walk to Ft. Greene Park, about a mile away. Mister President and I used to walk there several mornings each week, during off-leash hours. I sat down near the trees where I used to chase him for fun; it was one of his favorite games. The weather was uncharacteristically mild for late autumn; clear and with bright golden hues from a warm, low-slung sun.

Still, I had already begun to feel a chill in his absence, like a draft coming in through an open window at the other end of a room. Beyond the window feels like emptiness, a void. I miss my dog.

Throughout Mister President’s shockingly fast decline, I’ve been struggling to express exactly why he meant so much to me, why I loved him so dearly. In some ways this is something that can go unsaid, because when you tell people you’re losing your dog, they instinctually seem to understand what’s at stake. Dogs are dogs, and they are designed to be loved.

But I think it’s important, at least for me, to articulate it more fully, and I’m only now starting to be able to do that.

This is what I’ve come up with: Mister President came to me at the height of my selfishness, during a time of my life when, fundamentally, I was interested only in myself, despite all the relationships I’d had up until that point. And when he came to me, he taught me how to care for someone else, to devote myself to someone else, to really love someone else — unreservedly and unconditionally .

When I look back, I had never learned to do that before, at least not as an adult. I have always loved my parents and my sister in that way, but I’d never been able to muster what it takes to truly love someone new — until I brought home that furry, awkward mutt.

In this way, he saved me. Without him, I don’t know if I would have been ready to fall in love with Laura when I met her, and more importantly, I don’t know if I would have known how to sustain that love. And without Mister President, I don’t know if I would have been equipped to care for and truly love our wonderful daughter.

In and of themselves, those are two enormous gifts that he gave me. This is what dogs do, I guess. You think you’re doing all the giving. But they give you more than you know in return.

I really loved that dog.

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A Decade with My Dog

When you’re young ten years seems like a long time, but as you get older you come to realize it can go by in a flash. A decade ago today, I walked out of the Humane Society in Newark, New Jersey with a black, labrador-mix mutt on a leash. I took him home to my ridiculously tiny studio apartment in Manhattan’s East Village, and named him Mister President.

He was less than a year old then, and already fairly large. He had, at the end of each of his long, lanky legs, an almost comically oversized paw, suggesting that though he was no longer really a puppy, neither was he quite a grown dog yet. The folks at the shelter told me that he was seven months old, but I never really knew whether to believe that or not. Like a lot of dog pounds, they were doing their best with too many dogs and too few staff, and had little to offer in the way of prior history or other vital information, so I’ve never known his actual birthday.

That first week, he was frightened and cagey, and I was too, truth be told. I was single and I valued my then relatively carefree lifestyle, so the idea of raising a dog — being responsible for another living being — was more like a suit of clothes I was trying on with idle curiosity than a mantle I was accepting with a full awareness of all its implications.

In the back of my mind, I almost expected to chicken out and take him back to the shelter within a week or so. But I hung in there and so did Mister President, and at some point there was no going back. He had become Man’s Best Friend.

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Mixel Day One

Mixel, our social collage app for iPad, debuted at around midnight Wednesday, and so I barely got any sleep last night. I spent a long, tiring, exhilarating day today watching new users pour into the network, as well as responding to tweets and emails and generally trying to keep tabs on everything Mixel-related. We got some really terrific, very generous press coverage from lots of different outlets, and I’ll try and gather those in one place soon for those interested.

At about 6:00 I went home, read a few stories to my daughter and gave her a long hug before putting her to bed. Laura and I had a nice dinner together and then we sat down to watch some television. Just before we went to turn on the set we both checked into Mixel — and suddenly it was an hour later.

I’m just stunned and flabbergasted and deeply, deeply humbled by all the activity on Mixel during this, its first day. There was a constant stream of likes, comments, new mixels and remixes flooding in, and it kept me completely transfixed. I should really be sleeping right now, but I couldn’t turn in without acknowledging what this means to me.

Many of you may know that developers cannot freely send out pre-release versions of native iOS apps to alpha and beta testers — Apple imposes distribution limitations — so for the past eight months my co-founder Scott and I have been using Mixel with just a few dozen other (awesome) people. To now see thousands of people join in, many of them doing amazing and beautiful work, and many of them apparently having a great time, is very much like a waking dream for me. In fact, I think I’m avoiding sleep because I’m secretly afraid that will put an end to it.

In short, I’m touched by the enthusiasm and the experimentation and the feedback and even the criticism. We’re very proud of what we built but we’re also very cognizant of the fact that not everything we did was perfect, not by a long shot. There are many things that we did right, many others that we executed in less-than-ideal ways, and even some things that we got just plain wrong, and there’s even an already pretty healthy debate over which ones are which. I’m going to address some of these in the coming days and weeks, and we’re going to fix everything we can as soon as we can — maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction, but we are listening closely to what is being said about Mixel, I can assure you of that.

Right now though I just want to say thank you to everyone who gave even a tiny fraction of their waking hours to Mixel during its debut day. It means a lot to me.

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