• This is the digital site of paul shen, a #hacker whose formal titles are computer scientist and interaction designer. I live for opportunities to create elegance, whether in code, in interactions, with visuals, with music, with hardware; the list continues. Visit my personal space at hackandsleep.

I’ve been in Orlando, Florida the last several days with my family. One of our go-to spots for vacations, Orlando rarely disappoints. And as always, we visited the Disney World and Universal Studios parks.

Designing theme parks is different from designing interfaces. This is an obvious statement, but it’s interesting to ponder how so. With software, metrics focus on utility and usability first. However, people visit theme parks for the experience; the metric of success is happiness.

Disney and Universal do a heck of a job. These parks create surroundings that capture the audience. They are usually divided into sections, each with a different theme. The buildings reflect the themes as well as all the music, rides, and personnel. The staff are dressed appropriately for their roles, whether it be a merchant, waiter, or ride operator. This attention to detail and focus on atmosphere differentiate Disney and Universal from parks such as Six Flags.

The theme park experience

Three of my friends and I took a road trip to Mont Tremblant in Quebec, a ski resort 80 miles from Montreal.

The Culture

Quebec is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking identity [ Wikipedia ]. It’s interesting how everyone is bilingual in both French and English. It’s additionally meaningful for me, having studied five years of French before college. Copy is usually in French often accompanied by English and people usually greet with «bonjour, ça va bien?»

Mont Tremblant

This site is currently running a WordPress backend and a heavily modified Sandbox theme.

Why I didn’t write my own CMS

For my previous blogs and personal sites, I’ve gone back and forth with using WordPress and writing my own thing, often with the help of a framework like Rails or CakePHP. With MVC frameworks, whipping up a simple blog is trivial and gives you ownership of all the code. However, while doing so you can’t help but feel that you’re reinventing the wheel. WordPress handles many of the nuances and edge cases that take time, such as RSS, categories, and pagination. Also, many of WordPress’s features acknowledge its usage as a CMS. The custom fields and custom template pages are definitely useful for deviating from the pure blog-post structure.

WordPress as a Content Management System

Today is the 7,650th day of my life. It is also the date of the first post on this blog. Oh, that sounds just a little too familiar.

The night before my last final (at 8:30am the next morning) of my senior fall semester, I got a grande caramel latte when my friend asked if we could pass by Starbucks. One coffee couldn’t hurt, right?