Friday, March 17, 2017


Alexandra Suhner Isenberg has serious fashion cred: When she was 19, the Vancouver-born designer went to Paris to study at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, then went to Central Saint Martins in London, where she completed the MA program under the tutelage of Louise Wilson. She's also worked for Sonia Rykiel and Burberry. But when it came time to strike out on her own, instead of staying in the world of high fashion, she turned her attention to sleepwear.

Specifically, sleep shirts. It all began when Suhner Isenberg spotted a vintage nightshirt in London's Spitalfields Market. She bought it and wore it constantly. "You know when you find something really nice and you panic and you’re like, 'Oh God, what happens when I wear it out?' I started thinking about that with the nightshirt, so I decided to start making my own." She tweaked the shape and collar a bit to make it look more contemporary and turned The Sleep Shirt into a business, producing everything in Canada, where she was based at the time.

It's exactly the type of thing you don't know you want until you see it. Despite being such a niche product, it's available in many of the world's top retailers, including Barneys, Selfridges, Le Bon Marché, Net-a-Porter and The Line.

Of course that list of stockists took some time to build. Like any designer just starting out, Suhner Isenberg bootstrapped in the beginning, doing sales on her own using contacts she had from her former job at "a website that is like the equivalent of Daily Candy in Canada." She got picked up by several stores in Vancouver, but her wholesale business really accelerated when she partnered with Rainbowwave, a respected sales and PR firm based in London that's known for bringing emerging brands to market. Under their guidance, she expanded the collection to include a wider variety of styles. "That’s when we started to get the more serious retailers like Barneys and Bon Marché."

Of course, The Sleep Shirt does come in at a luxury retail-level price point, ranging from $110 for a lounge pant to $290 for a long sleep shirt. While not outrageous, that can be a lot for some to justify spending on pajamas. "It’s just about educating people," insists Suhner Isenberg. "People spend so much money on their bedrooms and sheets and it seems kind of weird not to buy some decent nightwear." She also points out that they're something you can just buy one or two of and wear every day, depending on how often you do laundry — the nightshirts can be machine or hand-washed depending on the fabric and, according to the designer, they get softer and better with age. She envisions her customer as "someone who likes to be around the house and have breakfast on Sundays and read the paper and keep [her] nightie on."

Suhner Isenberg is now based in Sweden with her family, but still produces everything in Vancouver, while her business partner Megan McEwan lives in Montreal. "We’re not like womenswear where you have to do fittings once a week; our product range is quite small," she explained of the arrangement. "So we’re able to do a lot by Skype, email and traveling."

As for what's next, Suhner Isenberg wants to build on the theme of creating a more beautiful, comfy bedroom situation — slippers and some simple knits and jersey pieces her customers can pair with the higher quality pajama pants and shorts she also sells. The brand also recently began selling handmade Amish quilts on its e-commerce site.

"One thing we try and talk about is that sleep is good and we love it and it’s nice to have nice things to sleep in," the designer said at the end of our conversation. We couldn't agree more.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The 94-year-old inventor of lithium ion batteries just announced a battery that can’t catch on fire

Here are three links worth your time:
University of Texas professor John Goodenough (an ironic name for an inventor) lead a team to develop the next generation of batteries that charge 3 times faster and won’t catch on fire no matter how badly you abuse them (3 minute read)
How much should you charge for your Software-as-a-Service tool? I analyzed prices from 1,530 products to find out (4 minute read)
Before you bury yourself in packages, learn the Node.js runtime itself (9 minute read)

Bonus: Beau explains how you can get your web app to show your users desktop notifications using JavaScript (4 minute watch)
Thought of the day:
“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.” — Stephen Hawking

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Client-side vs. server-side rendering: why it’s not all black and white

Since the dawn of time, the conventional method for getting your HTML up onto a screen was by using server-side rendering. It was the only way. You loaded up your .html pages on your server, then your server went and turned them into useful documents on your users’ browsers.

Server-side rendering worked great at the time too, since most webpages were mostly just for displaying static images and text, with little in the way of interactivity.

Fast-forward to today and that’s no longer the case. You could argue that websites these days are more like applications pretending to be websites. You can use them to send messages, update online information, shop, and so much more. The web is just a whole lot more advanced than it used to be.

So it makes sense that server-side rendering is slowly beginning to take a backseat to the ever-growing method of rendering webpages on the client side.

So which method is the better option? As with most things in development, it really depends on what you’re planning on doing with your website. You need to understand the pros and cons, then decide for yourself which route is best for you.
How server-side rendering works

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I analyzed every book ever mentioned on Stack Overflow. Here are the most popular ones.

hen asked to head Facebook’s Applied Machine Learning group — to supercharge the world’s biggest social network with an AI makeover — Joaquin Quiñonero Candela hesitated.

It was not that the Spanish-born scientist, a self-described “machine learning (ML) person,” hadn’t already witnessed how AI could help Facebook. Since joining the company in 2012, he had overseen a transformation of the company’s ad operation, using an ML approach to make sponsored posts more relevant and effective. Significantly, he did this in a way that empowered engineers in his group to use AI even if they weren’t trained to do so, making the ad division richer overall in machine learning skills. But he wasn’t sure the same magic would take hold in the larger arena of Facebook, where billions of people-to-people connections depend on fuzzier values than the hard data that measures ads. “I wanted to be convinced that there was going to be value in it,” he says of the promotion.

Despite his doubts, Candela took the post. And now, after barely two years, his hesitation seems almost absurd.

How absurd? Last month, Candela addressed an audience of engineers at a New York City conference. “I’m going to make a strong statement,” he warned them. “Facebook today cannot exist without AI. Every time you use Facebook or Instagram or Messenger, you may not realize it, but your experiences are being powered by AI.”
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Last November I went to Facebook’s mammoth headquarters in Menlo Park to interview Candela and some of his team, so that I could see how AI suddenly became Facebook’s oxygen. To date, much of the attention around Facebook’s presence in the field has been focused on its world-class Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research group (FAIR), led by renowned neural net expert Yann LeCun. FAIR, along with competitors at Google, Microsoft, Baidu, Amazon, and Apple (now that the secretive company is allowing its scientists to publish), is one of the preferred destinations for coveted grads of elite AI programs. It’s one of the top producers of breakthroughs in the brain-inspired digital neural networks behind recent improvements in the way computers see, hear, and even converse. But Candela’s Applied Machine Learning group (AML) is charged with integrating the research of FAIR and other outposts into Facebook’s actual products—and, perhaps more importantly, empowering all of the company’s engineers to integrate machine learning into their work.