Dustin Curtis

Designer, hacker, investor, nomad.

Page 2

Andrew Johnson’s Obituary

The New York Times obituary for President Andrew Johnson, published on August 1, 1875:

The history this man leaves is a rare one. His career was remarkable, even in this country; it would have been quite impossible in any other. It presents the spectacle of a man who never went to school a day in his life rising from a humble beginning as a tailor’s apprentice through a long succession of posts of civil responsibility to the highest office in the land, and evincing his continued hold upon the popular heart by a subsequent election to the Senate in the teeth of a bitter personal and political opposition….

Whatever else may be said of him, his integrity and courage have been seldom questioned though often proved. He was by nature and temperament squarely disposed toward justice and the right, and was a determined warrior for his convictions. He erred from limitation of grasp and...

Continue reading →

How Evolution Really Works

Most people are taught that biological evolution is a linear, slow, and gradual process which leads to change only after incalculably long periods of time. This is mostly inaccurate. While gradual evolution does occur, it is relatively rare. As it turns out, the way evolution really tends to work is through a phenomenon called punctuated equilibrium1 .

The basic idea is this: most of the time, organisms and ecosystems remain in stasis–that is, a state of harmony and balance–with very limited evolutionary change. However, every once in a while, something dramatic will happen to the environment, throwing things out of alignment–say, a new predator will arrive, or maybe there will be a natural disaster that changes selective pressures. As organisms adjust to the change, rapid evolutionary adaptation occurs. It is often swift and brutal. Eventually, a state of equilibrium is reached once...

Continue reading →

Bourdain on People

I quickly came to understand that there are two types of people in this world: There are the type of people who are going to live up to what they said they were going to do yesterday, and then there are people who are full of shit. And that’s all you really need to know.


View →

When to Stop

Many years ago, I published an article titled The Gap, which was about the enormous chasm between what I consider good enough quality to ship and what I am actually capable of producing. I was going to write something on that topic today, but, as it turns out, The Gap expresses almost exactly what I wanted to say. So here it is, resurrected, with a few edits.

For a couple of years, I have been paralyzed. When I sit down to write, nothing comes out. When I start to design, I stare at a blank canvas. My ability to create things does not meet my own ridiculously high standards of quality, so I get stuck in an endless loop of making decent things, throwing them away, and then starting over from scratch. I’ve been floating around in despair, a creativity limbo, which has nearly destroyed me. I stopped working. I became depressed. In a last ditch effort to restart my brain, I left; I bought...

Continue reading →

Using ‘cryptopasswords’ to discover data breaches

Grant Miller on a method for discovering data breaches instantly, before they are made public:

Recently, in a conversation with Rob Witoff (formerly on the security team at Coinbase, now at Google) we discussed the idea of replacing passwords with private keys that control public cryptocurrency wallets:

[…] The bottom line is, if someone steals your cryptocurrency, you know. If someone steals your password, your SSN or any other PII for that matter, you are at the mercy of the custodial party to discover and disclose that to you.

Making passwords literally money is a genius idea and an elegant solution to a major trust problem.

Continue reading →

Something’s Transmitted

During the opening of today’s Apple Special Event, there was a clip from Steve Jobs that I hadn’t heard before, about showing appreciation for life:

THERE’S LOTS OF WAYS TO BE, as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.

You never meet the people, you never shake their hands, you never hear their story or tell them yours, but somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something’s transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation.

We need to be true to who we are, and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what’s going to keep Apple, Apple–is if we keep us, us.

Steve Jobs

At the highest levels, you can tell a lot...

Continue reading →


A friend recently sent me this quote from Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive who was killed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake. For some reason, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

While climbing Carstenz Pyramid, the tallest mountain in Oceania, a fellow climber fell, lost a lot of her blood, and nearly died of hypothermia. Had we returned on the 6 day trek through the jungle that we used on the way in, she would have certainly died. To rescue her, I smuggled her through Grasberg Mine, the largest gold mine in the world. Along the way, we risked being shot by mercenaries, had our friends kidnapped and held hostage, and then were ultimately arrested and imprisoned inside a jail inside the gold mine. And I was on Mt Everest this year when an ice serac fell into the icefall and killed all but my team on the mountain. Afterwards we executed body recovery and then climbed back down...

Continue reading →

The Moment of Awe

One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life occurred on the morning of January 9th, 2007 as I was watching Steve Jobs introduce the original iPhone. The moment fundamentally changed the way I think about technology, and I still often think about it when putting new things into perspective. No, it wasn’t the moment Jobs introduced the phone itself. It wasn’t when he revealed what it looked like. It wasn’t even when he initially showed off the software. The moment of awe occurred when he placed his finger on the screen and flicked it upward:

The content on the screen moved up, as you’d expect, but then it continued to move after he lifted his finger off the screen! It was like magic. It feels ridiculous to think about this today, because touch-scrolling with momentum has become so ingrained in our use of mobile devices, but true kinetic scrolling was a revolutionary innovation...

Continue reading →

What happened to Apple’s industrial design team?

It seems as though every major division at Apple has been running at full-power for the past couple of years–the raw technology coming out of the company has been truly remarkable: its A-series chips are the fastest and most secure smartphone SOCs in the world, the iPhone has the best smartphone camera in the world, the iPad has one of best computer displays ever shipped, and iOS 10 is a huge improvement over its predecessor. For most of Apple, the slow march of technological progress continues on unrelenting. But one team hasn’t been pulling its weight, at least publicly: industrial design.

The first time I held an iPhone 4, I knew it was something magical. A group of people had clearly spent an incredible amount of time obsessing over its design and construction. The iPhone 4/5 series felt less like a piece of obsoletable technology and more like a well-made tool that should last...

Continue reading →

The Svbtle Promise

Today, we’re launching a new feature for Svbtle members: it’s a promise that the Svbtle service and your published content will remain available on the web forever. You can read the details here: Svbtle Promise →

One of the biggest downsides of investing time and energy into using a new startup’s service is the nearly inevitable fact that, at some point, that startup will likely be acquired and shut down, transitioned into something entirely different, or even completely fail. The data from millions of users ends up being either lost entirely or the users themselves are forced to waste countless hours transitioning to a new service with similarly questionable longevity. I’ve always considered this one of my top hesitations for trying cool, innovative new services. As it turns out, that’s a major concern of many potential customers of Svbtle, too.

Hopefully, with the Svbtle Promise, we...

Continue reading →