It’s always interesting to see a person talk whom I have interviewed via e-mail before (I’ll post my interview with Jon in my interviews archive soon). It’s also fascinating to see all those notebooks of his – clearly he’s someone who is totally absorbed with cataloguing and arranging information, combined with a deep-felt philosophy about the interconnectedness of us all.
Two posts in one, what a bargain.
Karl sent me a link to Craig’s Flip Flop Flying blog because of his post about Google Maps anomalies. Basically as Google stitches together maps the aerial perspective gets mashed up. So you end up with these weird M.C. Escher maps. What’s amazing is how seamless they are. I wonder if any of these tile overlaps are done by hand or whether it’s all automated?
And as if that wasn’t enough Google Maps goodness for you, Yacco posted about Twitter Vision, a Google Maps mash-up showing the location of people’s Twitters in real-time. It’s inane (as Twittering is) but fascinating too to see the interweb working in real time – I’m always amazed to see how much activity is going on with these things.
In keeping with my re-release of prior interviews and articles I have written, here is the one with the good folks at 37Signals. It’s a little out of date in terms of some of the content and applications they refer to, but the wisdom is still there and worth a read.
37signals – Less is more
Back in the late 90s most web companies were busy grinding new features and technologies against the constraints of poorly designed browsers and a lack of standards. Then, in 1999, a four-person web design company called 37signals put their manifesto online and links to it started appearing everywhere. The manifesto espoused the virtues of simplicity, elegance and standards-based design as well as remaining small and focused on what they did best. “Less is more” wasn’t cool back then, but they stuck to their principles and now the rest of the web is catching up.
We all have inner thoughts, secrets and dreams that we fail to manifest and carry around with us like shiny gems hidden in our pockets. After a while they weigh you down, so why not reveal them? You might find someone else feels exactly the same.
Justin McMurray has just put the finishing touches to Hidden Lives, an online space that allows you to do just that. You can unveil your hidden life (anonymously if you want) and peek into the lives of others. It’s often fascinating and, at the very least, pruriently voyeuristic.
But I like to think it’s more honourable than that – CG Jung wrote about the shadow, a part of ourselves which contains all the things we suppress in our conscious lives. Often these can be destructive, but they can often be a positive influence giving us important primal energy as well as containing our hidden desires. Jung believed it was important to acknowledge the shadow for it not to be a destructive force in our lives – perhaps Hidden Lives might do the job. Shame Jung didn’t have the web – I wonder what he would have made of all the self-revelation?
I’ve written a few times about the work of Jonathan Harris and We Feel Fine remains one of my favourite combinations of data visualisation combined with a brilliant interface that gives an insight into that data’s meaning.
His new project is called Universe, a piece he has created for the interconnected news service, Daylife, where he is Design Director. Once again it explores the interconnected nature of all our lives:
In Universe, as in reality, everything is connected. No event happens in isolation. No company exists in a vacuum. No person lives alone. Whereas news is often presented as a series of unrelated static events, Universe strives to show the broader narrative that contains those events. The only way to begin to see the mythic nature of today’s world is to surface its connections, patterns, and themes. When this happens, we begin to see common threads â€” myths, really â€” twisting through the stream of information.
It is also another work of Processing art and he combines a wonderful interface with an insights into the morass of data that we usually become overwhelmed with. He seems to be going from strength to strength and recently showed Universe at the prestigious 2007 TED conference.
I’ve only just noticed that he has a computer science background – so it just goes to show that not all computer scientists are awful designers. Whatever he learned needs at Princeton to be spread around the other CompSci courses in the world.
If you’ve been wondering what it’s all about and why it might be interesting to take part, then have a read.
Thanks to Regine for writing it too.
p.s. If you haven’t bought the WorldChanging book, go and do it right now. It has everything you need to live with a smaller environmental footprint. It’s the stiletto heel of life.
It’s not been an easy year for deaths in the family.
Although I rarely post personal things on my blog, for some reason – at least to me – it feels like way of honouring someone passing away. My Grandma, Lilian Dines, made it to 97 – which is an amazing age for anyone to manage – but died this afternoon.
Goodbye Grandma and thanks for all the coconut pyramids. You were loved dearly and were the perfect Gran.
Information Week’s story about Xcerion, a Swedish software company building what is pretty much a browser-based (read: XML) operating system is interesting. As the article suggests, if it actually works and they can get it out there it has the potential to radically alter the dynamics of the operating system/application landscape, but they are essentially pitting themselves against Microsoft and Google – that’s a formidable challenge.
On the plus side it does sound like it is relatively easy to code applications for it and you can use the thing offline, which means you could basically carry around your OS (it’s only 2MB), a copy of Firefox and your files on a USB stick and make any host computer your computer.
I ranted a long while back (thankfully before this blog was started) about how I wished browsers would die. This was in the the days (it was 2000/2001) when supporting a range of browsers was a nightmare and everyone had started to pop full-screen Flash windows and do everything in Flash. The browser, at that point, had already become irrelevant. Yet CSS and the newer generation of browsers has pretty much turned that around (except for IE of course which is as lame as ever – though I haven’t tried the new Vista jobbie). I was completely wrong in one sense – browsers are even more part of our working lives – but on the other hand this kind of browser-based OS does away with them again.
From an interface point of view, rather than a free software/portability point of view, I wonder how much value there is in simply re-creating Powerpoint in your browser via Xcerion. Or indeed what happens when you get so much clutter in your browser-based virtual OS (what does one call it?) again. It would be an opportunity to really re-think application integration given the fundamental XML base. Maybe one of you out there has a much better idea of this?
Just to be obtuse I guess I could run it in Parallels in IE so I could have an operating system inside a browser inside an operating system inside another operating system.
One last thing. In Xcerion’s (how do pronounce that) website blurb is this paragraph:
We see ourselves as an Internet Service with a greater goal – Empowering the world with free, yet rich and collaborative software. Making virtually every computer my computer.
My computer? What, making every computer your computer? Hands off! Or is that me as in Time Magazine’s you. It’s all so confusing.
(via Lot 49)
It’s been interesting (in that way that your mum says your clothes are ‘interesting’) to see all the
hype excitement about Second Life build over the last year. Andrew Crow over at Adaptive Path is doing some research on it with his Second Life Project.
<img src=’http://www.polaine.com/playpen/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/sl_header_andrew.jpg’ width=’400′ height=’80’ alt=’Adaptive Path’s Second Life Project’ />
Obviously it make sense for Adaptive Path to do so as they’re in the business of understanding digital experiences and clearly Second Life is a much broader environment and more heavily penetrated into popular culture than previous efforts have been. But am I missing something here when I say that there has been masses of research and writings about this stuff for 15 years or more? There seems to be a lot of re-invention of the wheel here – especially considering the art and cultural theory brigade have been banging on about this for some time.
I know SL is an online world “imagined, created and owned by its residents” (except, they don’t own it apparently). So is it the presence of real money and companies that make it more interesting than AlphaWorld was? Is it simply the fact that so many people are in it? I found the interface really irritating and the graphics not that much improved on AlphaWorld’s, which is 12 years old now.
So, tell me, what am I missing? I clearly got frustrated with it before the threshold of engagement was reached.