Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Getting Into Austin

A few weeks have gone by as me and Rach have settled into living out by Lake Travis in Austin. Moving down here has been our plan for some time, but once we arrived, it felt as though it was the craziest whim ever. We felt dependent on others to get rides (to get anywhere), and owing the people around us that hosted us. Since this week, however, things are looking up, and it all started with us saying "damn this apathy! we will not sit and whine about being stuck in the woods! we will make the best of it!"

So Rachael got inspired to start making soap again, and went googling for providers of lie and essential oils in the area. She found one that had exactly what she needed, and more (herbs and dietary supplements of all kinds), just down the street from us! She emailed them, asking if they needed help, and they replied that they indeed had posted a job ad the same day, and were thrilled get Rach's note (since it was sent out of pure interest in natural products, not in the job itself). The next day, she had the job.

Two weekends ago, we were at the Oxblood Masquerade in Lytton Springs outside of Austin. Being a music & art festival, you could find painters with easels in the pastures, and there was a tent, brightly lit, where anyone could come up and make stop-motion animation using play-doh, chalk, and other materials. This turned out to be the highlight of the festival for us. Put on by filmmaker Anlo Sepulveda, the workshop featured four easy-to use stations with digital still cameras on tripods. There was clay in different colors (and with different smells!), and string, rubber bands, and other accessories. Me and Rach put together this funny story, and the clip with everyone's creations of the night can be seen here.

We started talking to Anlo, and a project he's working on came up: Otis under sky. It turns out they need a programmer/physical computing guy, and I'm just the sort. Last night we met up at his house, everyone was excited, and I now have a creative project to get started on in Austin!

Then, today, I got an email from a local game development company where I have applied for work. They said they'd like to interview me over the phone, and two hours later I was conversing with a very nice senior front end developer. I would love to work for them, but of course I will have to see how it pans out.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Video Sniffin' - Guerilla Video Production using CCTV

Mediashed has a free-media video toolkit online called Gearbox. It's a collection of techniques for low-budget video production (starbucks spycam, Movieset on a dime). They describe one of the coolest guerilla hacks I've heard of lately: video sniffin', or using a video RF receiver to hijack and repurpose video imagery from wireless CCTV cameras.

You didn't think in the good ol' days were over, did you? There's a lot of interesting stuff floating around the ethereal realm, for the taking of anyone who cares to look. Here's a "commercial" for the technique created in conjunction with MediaShed. (direct link to video)

Via wmmna.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mobile Phone Usage Patterns in Public Spaces

This morning I went to one of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle's Capitol Hill area, Caffé Vita. I really enjoy working in coffee shops, as the buzz and energy of other people conversing and thinking really seems to motivate me. I went to the upstairs area, which this at this early hour only had two other patrons. I like this early morning quietness as well, before the coffe has started working on my sleepy system.

I opened up a book to do some reading (A Designer's Research Manual by Jenn and Ken Visocky O'Grady), as the silence was broken by a harsh voice on the other side of the room. He must have come up right after me, and he was sitting facing the wall, clad in a blue fall jacket and beanie, speaking quite loudly on his cellphone.

Why is it, that face-to-face conversations help me focus, while cellphone conversations where only one party can be heard, pierces my wall of work-privacy and leaves me unable to concentrate on anything other than the others' conversation?

1. People speak louder than needed into handsets.
- This may be due to an affordance of the cellphone, remote communication, that reminds us of speaking to someone on the other side of a wide gorge.
- People are not suited to relate to two contexts at the same time. Speaking into a cellphone puts you in a certain headspace, an imagined privacy where there exists only two people. The environment around you fades away into the periphery. You lose track of which speaking volume is appropriate in the context you're actually in.

2. Conversation naturally happens between at least two people.
- Hearing someone talk when their conversation partner isn't visible, highlights their presence. Traditionally and stereotypically, only mad people speaks "to themselves".

Cell phones doesn't do anything to help tie physical, communal community bands, but reinforces the distant, networked, virtual community that exists within individuals. If we are to re-design community into our neighborhoods, we have to consider the usage patterns of cell phones in public spaces.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

WordPress and Flash Video files, effortlessly!

I've been setting up a WordPress installation for an Arduino course website, and wanted to put up Flash Video content. I came upon the Simply Working WP plugin "flv-embed", and it saved my day.

By the way, WordPress has been a good experience so far. This is the largest installation I've ever made (meaning I only ever played with it before), but it does just what we want and not much more (unless you make it).

flv-embed has simple configuration, and is implemented using a very simple wp template tag: [/path/to/video width height]

Sometimes I just feel like pluggin :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Experience Design - "Awesomeness"

Andrew Crow of Adaptive Path spoke at this month's talk at Vancouver User Experience group. The theme of the talk was "awesomeness", and how design is a powerful force that can evoke emotion and awe. The following is a paraphrase-analysis of the talk.

To evoke desire in consumers, and keep them coming, designers have to consider how the product they are designing is part of a larger system. Experience design can be thought of as design carried out with attention to the entire context that affects the designed product, its' users and dependent systems. The iconic image for successful design right now, of course, is the iPhone:

As a designer you are not designing a product. You are in fact designing an experience that may (no, should) change how people live their lives.

The example that Mr. Crow gave is a classic one, but one that bears to be repeated: How Eastman-Kodak transformed the complicated and mysterious technology of photography, and made it into an accessible, and, in the long run, indespensible part of people's lives. The users of Kodak no longer had to mess with dangerous chemicals and handle sensitive photographic film. The philosophy?
"You press the button, we do the rest."

And that is an offer you cannot resist as a consumer. If the product (the system) is providing a desirable service, and on top of that is offering to minimize the consumer's effort in obtaining that service, you're hitting gold.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Don't use the Javascript loop for arrays!

Like most web developers, I use several languages, and sometimes I get them mixed up. I recently took a deep dive into Ruby, and during the summer I took a break from code work. Getting back to it now, I started on a project involving some simple Javascript, and I ran across some source code containing a for construct that looped much like php's foreach or Ruby's object.each. I welcomed a break from writing tedious for loops with counters and tried to use the construct to iterate over an array. It went great! I.e.

abc = [1, 2, 3];
for (letter in abc) {

However, when I grabbed a collection of elements using Prototype's document.getElementsByClassName() function, and tried to iterate over it using the same technique, I ran into big problems. It turns out:
A loop iterates over the properties of an object in an arbitrary order. [...] Although it may be tempting to use this as a way to iterate over an Array, this is a bad idea. The statement iterates over user-defined properties in addition to the array elements, so if you modify the array's non-integer or non-positive properties (e.g. by adding a "foo" property to it or even by adding a method or property to Array.prototype), the statement will return the name of your user-defined properties in addition to the numeric indexes. Also, because order of iteration is arbitrary, iterating over an array may not visit elements in numeric order. Thus it is better to use a traditional for loop with a numeric index when iterating over arrays.

(Source: MozDev JS reference)

Lesson learned: RTFM.

Edit: it's amazing how easy you can find information, once you know what you're looking for. Here's a blog post that explains the problem and its reasons clearly.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


så forskare världen över verkar nu ha bestämt sig för att världen utan tvivel blir varmare. sverige blir turistparadis.[]

vi går mot en framtid som blir annorlunda än vad vi hittills sett.