Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Technobiography ...Part 2

The last 4 weeks have brought with them fresh and new insights into a field that I had always felt I was quite familiar with. With much of this new knowledge has come a greater knowledge of a world yet unexplored. In other worlds, a lot of what I learned was that there is a lot that I still don't know and in some cases didn't even know existed. Take for example, the one piece that amazed me most -Maya. This 3D scene and rendering program does things that I never thought could be done by artists rather than programmers and mathematicians. I knew little about the interface created to allow the artists depict the expression, the animators animate it and the programmers make it respond to certain logical but complex set of rules. At the end of the module, I was amazed as I was humbled. But that if there was one thing that I wouldn't be trying to incorporate into my two-week project was this powerful beast.
This occasion acted as a reminder that I couldn't know everything there was, even for a newly emerging area such as new media technology.

One very interesting perspective was looking at social software and asking the question, What makes certain technogies click while others fail? We had an interesting session on software but this is actually not where I thought about that. The moment happened when I was enjoying my dinner and Sarah asked about the facebook. Techologically speaking, there is nothing new about the facebook. All the techologies that make up the facebook are almost as old as the Internet itself. Yet the facebook phenomenon has spread like a wild fire across our campuses (typically small & medium sized liberal arts colleges) just within the last year or so.

This is not a question I had ever asked myself when thinking about technological advancements. My idea of technological revolution would involve moving from a vacumn tube to a transistor or from a command line DOS to a mouse-driven graphical user interface.

I will likely be needing to incorporate some of the answers to these questions into my open snippets project. At the end of the day, even with the best wiki code snippets repository, the ultimate success of the project involves getting people to actually use it as a resource for the codely needs.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Google Chief's Privacy googled

According to this nytimes article, it looks like Google wasn't too happy about some cnet editor googled the Google's boss private information and wrote an article about it. This reminded me of the conversation we had two Fridays ago about the issues of privacy and gathering of information by companies like Google.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

more project

To do List

  1. Make a “skin for the site” using mostly CSS and a bit of PHP. Things to consider will include.

    • Appropriate images & colors for both text & background.

    • Some sort of logo that will be at the left corner of the page that will also fit into the background colors.

  2. Create a navigation system similar to the left side menus of wikis but with pull-down lists for subtopics.

  3. I need to decide if I will use Java script/PHP & CSS or something else –Flash? for this part.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Next Steps on the project

The last 24 hours haven't very eventful with actual progress in my work. But I've had time to sketch down in my mind where I want to look inorder to get the necessary material essential for making the big decisions on my goals. First of all, there seems to be an overwhelming number of free wikis. Clearly I'll need to choose one or two and focus on that. I think I will choose a very simple and lean one as well as a more advanced wiki with lots of features and customizations. The reason for doing this is as follows. I will need to look at a very lean site in order to understand the bare basic code needed to run a wiki site. But then I will need to look at an advanced wiki with both the basic elements as well as many features. There will be no need to reinvent the wheel in this regard.

At the end of this week, I will spend a significant amount of time just looking at PHP & MySQL code that is made for wikis. I will make a more solid decision on what I want to do do regarding code and by extension decide where I will incorporate Flash into my project.

My estimate is that by Monday, I will be ready to start working on making a drawing board for the content of my project and lay out my scope. My planning phase should be complete by Monday mid-afternoon at which point I will attack the content part.
I will also use Friday's session of Flash to decide how much I can realistically set out to do in the next two weeks with the experience that I gain.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Fly Guy

What is the heck is fly guy? That was the very first thing I asked myself when I say the title of the page that Bryan sent me to. After looking through it, I believe that part of the beauty of this site is not knowing what it's all about so I will trace through some of my thoughts as I went through. You'll have to read more of this blog to find out. All I will say for now is that it is an interactive, purely flash made site.

The page itself is very non-descriptive. The title at the top says "Fly guy" and besides that, the only thing on the page is the flash presentation that says "click anywhere to start." Soon, you will be led through what appears to be a game where you move the arrow keys to move your character and interact with other moving objects and people. Not all objects interact so you have to move close to them to see if they do anything to you. You could find yourself, dancing, having a cup of tea, listening to a wise man or getting burped at. To add to the mystery, not all objects do good things to you. Some bouncer will punch you back to your starting point, you could get electrocuted etc. Clearly, this part of the Flash presentation has the makings of a game. But what's the objective? My personal conclusion is that the objective of the game is to find one.

Once you fly up past the clouds, space and the ocean, you get to an Island where some dancing Islanders welcome you in in song and dance as the screen gives you the words "Seasons Greeting" -yes, that's what its really about! The sliding credits forming a top strip on the screen bear testament to your accomplishment of reaching the end of the mystery.

Obviously, the narrative given here has been told in a rather unique style. First, there is a combination of two seemingly different forms of media -electronic greetings cards and online flash games. The motion graphics are simple but sufficient to allowing on to move in all 4 directions and get close to objects & people. The background sound is typical of video game - a repeated loop mixed with the specific sounds of interacting objects -e.g. the flying crow. The use of interactive sound gives a sense of orientation to immediate surrounding. Unfortunately and probably intentionally, there is effort to orient the 'player' with the greater enviroment. One of the big themes here is mystery and giving the user and a sense of ignorance is beneficial.

This form of narrative is smart and artistic to the users who get to the end of it. However, the very idea of not letting users know what they're supposed to do carries with it a potential for having impatient users abandon the quest out of ignorance & frustration. Overall, I think it is a nice form of narrative that we could all draw ideas from.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Got project?

I've been wrestling with two conceptual ideas. One is to a project in something that I'm already quite confortable with - PHP & Mysql. The other is to try something I know nothing about -like Flash. That way, I'll will have learned a ton of new stuff by the end of this month. I have given a lot more thought to what the PHP project would look like. It would be a variant of a simple wiki that would be exclusively for computer code snippets -both functions and procedures. But then it would allow for interactive viewing of code, validifying and editing in ways that are rather uniquely beneficial to coders.

I haven't given much specific thought to a project that would involve Flash, film or other technologies that I know little about. I know I won't be doing anything with Maya & 3D coz it would take me an incredible amount of time to get a tiny working chunk of ...anything. I also think that after the next two days I'll have a grasp of Final Cut Pro -enough to decide whether I want a project incorporating video.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Of all websites, that I've been to, I think has some of the most specifically targeted audience. True to its name, the website post rumors and tipoffs about upcoming mac products. Because of the kind of community targetted, the website uses a blog format where a story is posted by one of the administrators and the fans can post comments on it. Unlike traditional news sites, every story is interactive.
The content is both the rumor and comments the around it. The advertisements are also targeting an audience deeply and religiously mac-oriented.

Monday, July 18, 2005

my technobiography

I don't know how far I should look back when looking at my technology background. I did not have the privilege of owning some of the very first PC that ran at 30Mhz and saved to 14 inch floppy drives. In fact, I kind of just leaped into it in August 2000 -three years after it went mainstream in countries like the US and still way too expensive in my home country -Kenya. Ironically, my very first Internet connection was with my high-school's high speed Internet. I quickly had to learn how to use the Web browser, set up my email account, search for things and somehow make sense of results. I never regretted the learning curve. I was a lot more curious than I was initimidated.

Until my college years though, I remained a consumer of such technogies. I was happy to know to use Ms Word, use the Internet -(as if using it was a qualification in of itself). The internet remained a magical wonderland where information simply existed and people with more authority than I did controlled it.

I think my quest to delve deeper actually came in my first year of college when I decided I wanted more from these technologies. I changed my major from Biochemistry to computer science. I wanted to be some sort of inventor - but most of all -I just wanted the magic trick out of the box. So I delved into some of my own projects, working with such little knowledge that I did not know to create a line break without new paragraphs. My first website was for a club on campus and was so cryptic (even to me) that I was unable to edit some of my own work. Almost two years since, I have come a long way. I have learned from friends, from self-taught books and from standing on the shoulders of giants (copy, paste and edit a little). My driving force however has remained the same since I started -the quest for demystification. I don't really know where I'm headed either in the short term -this summer or in the long term with the rest of my earthly life. Time will tell. In the mean time, I just want to know more. I want to see the trick behind the magic -so that I can do one too.

my first post

So I'm just going to let my fingers roll on this Keyboard and come up with a sentence or two that will let me see how this blog looks like.