Week 223

Monday I did some support and then went off to the UvA to present on data journalism together with Stef.
Kijk de datajournalism boys shinen

Tuesday I was in Utrecht to work on the Code 4 presentation for CHI Sparks. Working at the garden again was a very enjoyable experience made more so by the unexpected visit of Christine who’s making forays into game design herself.

A lot of the rest of the week was occupied with testing and preparing Statlas for a launch this week, which it did, so you can check it out and read more about that in next week’s notes.

Mr. Morozov visited the Netherlands which made for an interesting night out along with a very unexpected meetup with Babak and Ulla.
Evgeny Morozov about the internet and freedom

My takeaway from Evgeny Morozov can be summarized in this tweet:

Conclusion of a night with @evgenymorozov: government meddling on the internet doesn’t do us any good and can only hurt us in the long run.

Government control of the internet’s technologies seldom nets anything and is usually implemented on the back of scare tactics about terrorism or child pornography. When things turn sour, the systems that were deployed can be used to a very great effect against the entire population without much effort. This means it is imperative to maintain a free and open internet to safeguard freedom.

Thursday it was off to Arnhem to present at the CHI Sparks conference. The place where all seriously academic HCI people get together to present their findings. I presented on a serious game we made with Hubbub in the Games and Play track. Thanks to the organization for giving us the stage and thanks for the kind support from friends in the audience. I hope our presentation was worth your while.

And that was that, like I said, this week is even more exciting and with the return of Kars from the Land of the Rising Sun, it promises to become a hot Summer.

Statlas, bèta versie

We zijn al een tijdje bezig met Statlas en het is de hoogste tijd dat een eerste versie het daglicht ziet om te laten zien wat voor iets tofs we hebben gemaakt en te horen wat jullie ervan vinden. Dus voor jullie ogen: Statlas

Statlas is een gereedschap voor iedereen die makkelijk kaarten wil kunnen maken, en verspreiden. Voor een verzameling regio’s kun je waarden invullen (cijfers, kleuren, labels) en er wordt dan een kaart gemaakt die je vervolgens kunt delen, embedden en afdrukken. Een persoonlijk kartografisch platform waar er al meerdere van zijn maar volgens ons nog niet één die zo makkelijk is in het gebruik als deze.


We hebben Statlas gemaakt naar aanleiding van experimenten vorig jaar om geografische gegevens op het internet weer te geven. Die ideeën maar dan generieker en simpeler (en bedoeld als gereedschap) hebben geculmineerd in Statlas. Dit past tegelijkertijd ook in de NoGIS trend om traditioneel moeilijke technologie zoals GIS te ontsluiten via het internet.

Verder praten we met Hack de Overheid geregeld over data-journalistiek, maar waar we steeds tegenaan lopen is dat er niet genoeg gereedschappen zijn waarmee journalisten en andere niet-techneuten uit de voeten kunnen. Wij zeggen dan telkens dat die gereedschappen er gaan komen maar de beste manier om dat voor elkaar te krijgen is uiteraard om ze zelf te bouwen.

Statlas is gebouwd met financiering van het Stimuleringsfonds voor de Pers, in samenwerking met Fluxility en Alexander Zeh en is uiteraard open source. Voor volledige credits, zie het colofon.

En verder

Deze versie voldoet aan alles wat je zou willen hebben van een simpel stuk gereedschap. We hebben natuurlijk allerlei ideeën om dit technisch voortreffelijker en functioneel spectaculairder te maken maar dit is het fundament. Laten we eerst maar zien welke van onze ideeën het contact met de werkelijkheid overleven en dan wordt vanzelf de richting voor verdere ontwikkeling duidelijk.

Wat er in ieder geval aan toegevoegd gaat worden zijn meer regio’s. Er zitten er nu een handjevol in en meer staan er gepland. Verzoeken voor nieuwe gebieden (het liefst met een idee ook waar we de geometrie kunnen vinden) maar ook andere ideeën, bugs enz. zijn welkom bij ons op Monster Swell.

Week 222

The week was mostly spent doing stuff for either Statlas or for another project on the essence of architecture.

We also submitted the final version of the paper that we are presenting on Chi Sparks next week in the Games and play track.

Friday a brief review I wrote the week before of Inside a Star-filled Sky was published in nrc.next. This may become a more regular fixture.

The afternoon was spent together with Lex at the Waag concepting the tentatively titled ‘Apps on the Beach’ event.

Soli Deo Gloria (Only Glory Through God)

Week 221

Belayed notes for the week before last but right now I’m bored out of my skull so it’s as good a time as any other.

Hack de Overheid made an overwhelming presence at the Spring Break of the Stimuleringsfonds voor de Pers to promote the cause of data-journalism in the Netherlands.

Added the NY Boroughs

Real estate-wise we arranged to add two adjacent rooms in the Volkskrantgebouw. One of the rooms will be occupied by the lovely chaps of Bottlenose and the other one will be used as a meeting/project room.

Adding additional region sets to Statlas was succesful with some extra work. Projection conversion for Shapefiles is a rather difficult affair even with the EPSG Registry and the Spatial Reference.

Also visited the Djangocon EU, home of the faithful Django programmes. Django is still a venerable workhorse for many many of our projects.
Django/Python people know where the programming sugar is at

Attended a lecture by Alain de Botton and his new book has a stance of using the cognitive psychology inherent in religion to improve secular life. Something which also the most ambitious design pieces do.

Alain de Botton

Friday was an interesting day and it was closed off by us having drinks at Ouroffice:
Fat Friday

A new vision of the public domain

Lifting choice quotes from the proceedings of the Berkman Hyperpublic event graciously compiled by Ethan Zuckerman.

Here about privacy and how it should be a forward thinking discipline instead of a reactionary one:

“I don’t like privacy. It tends to be too closely associated with fear, and it always seems like a rear-guard action against technology.” Instead, we should work on the architecture of the public space and ensuring we architect for private space. —Charlie Nesson and a new vision of the public domain

Throwing my chips in with the reality based crowd

Seeing this presentation in Amsterdam as the culmination of Mobile Monday, was something great. The far reaching vision and reality based optimism Kevin Slavin lays down (his comments) are something we should aspire to. It is worth watching and watching again.

Some choice quotes, though we should just hope that he finishes that essay:

Reality is augmented not when it looks different but when it feels different.

Maybe the aspiration to 3D optical AR starts to feel a little bit like pornography. Like a thin veneer of the actual experience that is flattened for the eye, that’s rendered for the eye which is the one sense most easily fooled to begin with.

Nobody knew better than me and the other people in that room that this was just computer code but it felt like a spirit had moved through the room and knocked all these phones off the table.

For pilots there is no reality except the one right in front of them.

Singular focus in which the eye is looking at rather than around. It diminishes reality. It closes it down. Because as it turns out for the driver as for most everybody here, reality is understood to be the whole world around us, not just that thing in front of us.

They’re inventing new ways to see, rather than new things to look at. And rather than inventing new places to go, they are inventing kind of new ways to travel. Because the whole thing is there’s no shortage of stuff in the world and things to see and enjoy. Reality is plenty, thanks.

Notes about Thoughts on Interaction Design by John Kolko

We read Thoughts on Interaction Design 2nd edition as the fifth book for the UX Book Club Amsterdam and reviewed it yesterday. Here are my noteworthy passages from the book, which is not without its issues, but it does give a credible philosophical foundation for our practice.

p.34 A mature designer respects and embraces the often ill-structured nature of the process and —because he knows to expect messiness during the act of creation— he promptly forgets about it completely. Process becomes innate, and the phenomenon of design intuition takes over.

p.37 This view might be informed by an understanding of culture, or an intricate care and love of society.

p.55 When viewed under the guise of language, these products become the fabric of society and allow people to express themselves, to communicate with others, and tho shape their environment in unique ways.

p.57 designers must both realize and control the rhetoric of their designs.

p.72 Some have become wise to the farce, and no amount of decoration can lure these consumers into the trap. They select only handcrafted objects of beauty, and they’ve learned to judge good design and honest labor.

p.73 Consider, then, that designers can focus on supporting authentic human experiences with their work in a less forceful, controlling manner. Rather than striving to control every aspect of a time-based set of interactions, and rather tan attempting to shepherd people through a contrived set of experience gates, designers can support the authenticity that occurs naturally in life by producing incomplete or partially produced design artifacts.

p.77 A poetic interaction can generally be characterized as having or encouraging, three main elements: honesty, mindfulness, and a vivid refined attention to sensory detail.

p.83 Yet if designers focus only on the low-hanging fruit of functionalism or usability, the human experience with designed objects is destined to a level of banality.

p.88 The pursuit of a creative solution is not an easy activity, yet the difficulty —the sense of accomplishment that occurs when completing a difficult task— can be thought of as one of the main attractors to participants in the design process.

p.88 There is more to life than usability.