June 01 - June 09, 2001
May 01 - May 31, 2001
April 01 - April 30, 2001
March 01 - March 31, 2001
February 01 - February 28, 2001
January 01 - January 31, 2001
December 01 - December 31, 2000
November 01 - November 30, 2000
October 01 - October 31, 2000
September 01 - September 30, 2000
August 01 - August 30, 2000
July 01 - July 27, 2000
June 01 - June 30, 2000
May 24 - May 31, 2000
May 1 - May 23, 2000
April 1 - April 30, 2000
March 1 - March 31, 2000
February 1 - February 29, 2000
January 1 - January 31, 2000
December 1 - December 31, 1999
November 1 - November 30, 1999
October 16 - October 31, 1999
October 1 - October 15, 1999
September 8 - September 30, 1999
August 29 - September 7, 1999
August 13 - August 27, 1999
August 6 - August 12, 1999
July 25 - August 5, 1999
July 17 - July 24, 1999
July 11 - July 16, 1999
July 01 - July 10 1999
June 09 - June 30 1999
June 01 - June 08 1999
All of 1998
||June 30, 1999
Cool new stupid web trick. Ask the
8-ball. Not a simulated, virtual 8-ball, but a real 8-ball shaken by a
Lego Mindstorms robot. Technology, working for you! Unless you have IE--It uses server push, which is a Netscape-only
Wow. It's been a while. Here are some goodies.
Whizzy. less rain is a London interactive design shop with a wicked Shockwave web site.
If you need a bit more culture in your Web surfing experience, may I suggest perusing the net.art stylings
Don't fret--it's quite funny.
June 26, 1999
On salience and schemas. Don Norman's enlightening response to the tested notion of
"I can survive nuclear fallout, but, dang, I have to pee a lot."
June 25, 1999
Todd Levin, that funny
guy at Smug, has a funny and dead-on review of the documentary Home Page,
which I reviewed (not nearly as scathingly) a while back.
Why I hate French critical theory bullshit. If I were back at Cal (alma mater), and printed out this essay, and turned it in, I'd likely get a
good grade. The trick? Hit Reload/Refresh.
I feel your pain.
June 24, 1999
Guh. If you are going to be in SF for Web99 (or any other occasion in the near future) you must must must
go to SFMOMA to see the Bill
Viola retrospective [linked to out of its frameset]. This man's work is
amazing. Spiritual. Haunting. Exhausting. Totally utterly super brilliant. His ability to control space is unrivalled.
I've seen the show twice now (once in L.A., and again in N.Y.), and I'll be seeing it again.
Whoa. Go here now. Great goofing off material. Requires shockwave. Some of it is amazing.
(for Fashion Architecture Taste) is a collective of architects, artists, and graphic designers making cool shit
in London. Loving this novelist's
house (a delirious shrine to books!), and the brilliantly conceived anti-oedipal house.
Blogrolling. I've been labelled "something of an inspiration" by Joe Clark, though he disapproves of my typographic
stylings. His site is worth poking around, as you'll find links and essays on graphic design, industrial
design, film, and radicchio.
June 23, 1999
This kind man
has offered up The Great Train Robbery with the RealPlayer G2's "Sure Stream," so it will scale up to the speed of
Hollywood Pitch: "It's voice meets ICQ." Firetalk is a new Windows application for audibly communicating with people over the net. It's
a snap to set-up, and its interface is pretty straightforward. I'm user 12131. And it took my friend showing me
this to learn that my laptop had a mic, and that pretty much all laptops do. That's a good installed base!
Can You Fight City Hall? This well-plotted, somewhat lengthy chronicle of Rescue Muni suggests that yes, yes
you can. Heartening to see that a few active citizens can make worthwhile political change. Though, there goes
my liberal angst alarm, seeing as how unions are made into something of a bad guy in the piece.
pointed to this Salon
article, with this passage on game designer extraordinaire Brian Moriarty
at the Game Developers Conference:
Last year, Moriarty's speech was on the subject of violence in games.
As he spoke, two short clips appeared on a screen behind him, repeating hypnotically. One was a clip from "The
Great Train Robbery," a silent film historians call the first real movie hit, showing a mustachioed Westerner
shooting a gun directly toward the camera; the other, a short sequence from Quake, showed a guard being shot.
Two threads here:
1. Brian Moriarty. Back at Infocom, he wrote what is my favorite text adventure of all time, Trinity. The writing is rich and detailed, the
puzzles are tantalizingly complex, the environment is playfully bizarre. The man is a brilliant, and it's good
to hear he's staying current in the industry, and respected by his peers.
2. Violence in "The Great
Train Robbery." The 1903 film is considered the first substantial
narrative film, it's lauded as a hallmark of American cinema, with its stylistic and formal innovations, and its
9-minute-length is just dripping with violence. Along with various shooting deaths, there's a scene where a man
gets pummelled in the head, and then thrown off a train. A couple years ago, when Janet Reno and others were beating
drums against "violence on television," what no one seemed to realize, or care to understand, is that
brutal violence has been essential to American film from the beginning.
Many people haven't had the opportunity of seeing the film, so what I've done is RealVideo-ed the version that
comes on Voyager's "Who
Built America?" CD-ROM. (For my money, the best CD-ROM ever produced,
the finest expression of its form.) People with faster pipes, or with incompatibility problems, can download the
movie in QuickTime or MPEG format from the Library of Congress Web site.
Great Train Robbery, RealVideo (might
require G2). The quality is piss-poor so as to stream at 56k. It's
just to demonstrate the violence. I encourage viewing a crisper version
when you can.
The Great Train Robbery at Library of Congress
June 22, 1999
Messing with pictures. A doubtlessly beautiful reader pointed me to Photomontage, a sculpted exhibit of works in the
image-manipulation medium. It got me thinking of my favorite such artist, John Heartfield. (That site kinda sucks,
but provides a bit of a background.) Here are the best sites for his work that I found:
Heartfield Versus Hitler
of Photography, Slide 14
For me, Heartfield best exemplifies the truism that design is about
the idea. At the Edgewise conference in May, superbrilliant poly-media designer (in the mold of Tibor Kalman,
if I may be so bold) Stefan
Sagemeister (he doesn't have his own site) discussed his design
philosophy, which is that his work isn't about form nor function, style nor substance, but about the Idea, the
Concept. His anatomical analogy is that good form is the beautiful skin, and thoughtful function is the active
brain, but without the idea, the heart, the design is dead.
Interactive trinkets. I've been playing with the Shockwave doodads
here at kirkshouse.com.
I was originally pointed to this
you can't get to from the home page. "Kim [an
unfair portrait]" proves
most memorable to me.
The name "kirkshouse" dredges up some thoughts I've
had on how we label web spaces. I suppose this continues the metaphor
drum I've been beating lately. When implored to go to a site, the
request typically takes one of two forms--"Visit my website"
or "Check out my web site." The former suggests attending
a space, a place, the latter suggests observing an object, something
you can pick up in your hand and turn over and around. And both reveal
conceptual models for the approaching the web.
June 21, 1999 - Happy Solstice!
Part of the problem. This meandering L.A. Times
article sloppily discusses
the gentrification of San Francisco's Mission district. Last March
I moved my lily-white well-paid-by-new-media self into a not-so-gentrified
region of the neighborhood, where I'm surrounded by Latino working-class
family residences. Sure, this triggers some liberal angst, but what
am I to do? I like it here. I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg
for rent (I'm only having to give the arm). The location is prime
for where I often work. It's low and flat, ideal for my bicycling
lifestyle. It's proximal to great bars, restaurants, and clubs.
If you extend the philosophy of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project further, you end up with the notion that
neighborhoods should be zoned for race and income. Which would provide no better mechanism for stasis, and then
What's going on here is what happened to Manhattan, and it seems to be an inevitable process, particularly in a
healthy economy. Not that this doesn't disturb me. London, too, is an extremely expensive, and essentially wholly
gentrified city. Something about turning the world's great cities into playgrounds for the affluent doesn't seem
right. But who am I to talk?
June 20, 1999
Fun. Those wacky type-designing LettError kids seem to have recently updated their website. (Well, it had been a while since I'd
visited.) I love the PalmPilot animations.
My ramblings about metaphor (see June 18) brought forth some interesting responses. I was pointed to this thoughtful
piece on Metaphors
and Schemas in Design, which in turn links to a study out of Claris (like,
research with data and everything) on Do
Metaphors Make Web Browsers Easier to Use?
Scrumptious. Jessamyn, responding to my June 7 lament about no good Musee Mechanique web pages, pointed me here.
This site exhibits snapshots taken from all over San Francisco (and some in New York), and captures many of my
favorite places--Farley's, Anchor
Brewery, The Castro Theater. Spend some time there.
Cliff Stoll, author of the brilliant The Cuckoo's Egg (I devoured it in a single
all-nighter my junior year of college), has found himself a new topologically-challenged money-making endeavor. And hey, you can order
the goods from the man himself!
June 19, 1999
What do you get when you match the visual genius of John
Maeda and the collaborative power of massively networked computing? One-line.com.
It turns out that Don basically agrees. Partly, what we have here is
a failure of imprecision with language.
June 18, 1999
The Metaphor Bugaboo. I just sent this to the CHI-Web mailing list. I thought it would be worth writing here:
So, I've just read much of Don Norman's The Invisible Computer, and
there's a passage on "Why Metaphors Should Be Avoided" and in it he discusses the now somewhat hoary
notion of why designers shouldn't look for "the metaphor" to help users understand this device. (Yes
yes, the "desktop" metaphor never really worked, the VCR and audio CD metaphors have always been problematic,
the "world" metaphors of eWorld and MagicCap proved encumbering, etc. etc.)
And Don concludes, "Forget the term 'metaphor'". And I wonder if we're throwing the baby out with the
See, I've become quite entranced by the possibilities of tapping into metaphors, not extended metaphors like "desktop"
or "world", but the more conceptual metaphors from cognitive science,
the work that's come from George
Lakoff out of UC Berkeley, the notion that damn near everything
is metaphor, and if you tap into how people metaphor-ize their world, you can better understand it.
An example: If you have a widget that controls volume, how should it be oriented: Left-right? Up-down? Knob? In
the physical world, knobs proved best because they allow for the most precise user control; sliders are clumsy
objects to manipulate.
But what is the "metaphor" for volume? The metaphor is high-low. We imagine louder volumes to be "higher"
than quieter volumes. "Crank it up" means make it louder, while "turn that down" means make
it quieter. (Admittedly, "crank" and "turn" suggest knobs, but I believe the operational terms
are "up" and "down.")
Knobs don't have an up and down. (Which, I think, is sometimes why I don't turn them the right way off the bat.)
Nor do left-right sliders, though I've seen a lot of volume widgets that are left-right oriented, with right for
loud, left for quiet (WinAmp is one example). What the metaphor suggests is that a vertical slider is best, where
volume increases as the slider goes up. And my experience suggests vertical sliders are ideal, too.
Anyway, I think there's a whole lot of room to explore truly conceptual metaphors and how they can work with interaction
design, and so I get a little nervous when a noted Guru<tm> like Don tells folks to ignore them all together.
Thoughts? Is there research on conceptual metaphors in interface design? Studies as to whether or not directly
utilizing the notions from conceptual metaphor increases usability?
(One notion this raises is that the left-right orientation for temporal media is flawed. Our conceptual model of
time is that we move *through* it. The future is ahead of us, the past behind us. I'd love to see a video-playing
interface that somehow reflected *that*).
Reverie. Rodney Greenblat is exhibiting a gallery of new artwork, all befitting the man
who began the Center for Advanced
Whimsy. Much of the work is brilliantly delightful--I clicked through
to see every piece. I want this
one. (And hey, hey Web designers--dig how he preloads the entire next
image as a thumbnail on the current page. That's some smart HTML!)
I became aware of Rodney's work when I toiled at Voyager. He created Dazzeloids, among the best children's titles ever
put on CD-ROM, which Voyager published. Rodney is that extremely rare talent who can do it all and do it well--he
wrote the script, created and performed the music, drew all the artwork, voiced many of the characters, and did
much of the Director authoring. Dazzeloids is a treat in the Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style, great for kids and great
for adults. You can order it online here, or Rodney himself seems to have some copies he's clearing out (for "CASH MONEY").
Dazzeloids was never the selling success it should have been, and as a fan, it was frustrating that Rodney wasn't
getting a wider audience. Though word was that he was "Big In Japan" (which is the wry title of one of
my favorite tracks on Tom Waits' new album. Um, if you haven't bought the album,
you should.) Then PaRappa
The Rapper happened, and the world learned the Rodney aesthetic (though
only the visuals--the music and story was done by his co-creator Masaya Matsuura).
With his latest online gallery, it's interesting to see Rodney put computers behind him (they've been essential
to both his fine and commercial art for quite a while now), to create in a freer flowing style, one that shows
I think it's time to throw down some old-school 'blogging at you kids. Keepin' it real...
After my post about London potentially leapfrogging the States, I got a response that perhaps folks across Scandinavia
have already done so, at least design-wise:
- loving those animated icons
- head straight for "resources"
is a poll/quiz generator for websites. It overcomes my main frustration with Ars Digita's Vox Populi, in that it
returns results in a pop-up window. We here at peterme industries love pop-up windows. I haven't actually tried
making a poll with it, so I don't know if it's really a pain in the ass.
Reviews of the movies Cube and Happiness have been added to the sorely undertended movie reviews section.
16 June 1999
So, last night I got pissed with the good folks at Amaze. I attended their party to launch Navihedra.com,
their site devoted to promoting their non-hierarchical nodal navigation widget [which hasn't seemed to gone quite
live yet, but will any moment now.] I also had the pleasure of chatting with Danny "Noodlebox" Brown, a fiery-haired 22-year-old
roustabout with some very intriguing ideas for where to take the Noodlebox experience.
Earlier I met with the really good folks at Deepend, one of London's leading independent interactive shops, with a taste for fun design. And
whose company philosophy is people and projects before profit--they're not in it for making a killing, they're
in it for having a good time. So refreshing.
A couple days ago I attended the awesome Cities on the Move exhibit at the Hayward Gallery. A sensory-assaulting look at
art, architecture, and society in the exploding metropolises of Asia.
Oh. And I've been doing a lot of thinking. When I'm not paying by-the-minute for access, I'll put up some ideas
about The Interactive Form, inspired by some notions from lemonyellow and Sergei Eisenstein's Film Form.
13 June 1999
Cor' blimey there's a lot to say. London is a very interesting place right
now, new media-wise. While acknowledging being a year or two behind the States, it feels primed for some rapid
advancement, and quite a few that I've spoken to feel that the UK has a chance to leapfrog the US. Two interesting
analogies were made to made to me on this point.
David King, managing director of Icon
MediaLab in London, made the more mundane, but still telling, analogy
with the spread of new television technologies in the 80s. While cable television rapidly spread throughout
the US, it was a total flop in London for a simple physical reason--unlike the miles-long straight roads in The
States, laying cable in this city's 2000-year-old twisty street infrastructure is well nigh impossible. A new solution
was necessary, and personal satellite dishes were developed--a technology by many accounts superior to cable, and
which is slowly making inroads in the US.
Robin Hunt of arehaus made
the second, and more formalist, analogy with French cinema in the late 1950s. The movies made in France
at the time were abominable, and the young turks looked to Hollywood for inspiration. The nouvelle vague was very influenced by American
cinema, but through a kind of deconstruction took it further and developed presentational structures that advanced
the form of cinema beyond where Hollywood was at (and which Hollywood wouldn't catch up to until the late 60s and
David and Robin separately expressed the same point, that new media in London is gearing up to respond to the work
done in The States with a movement that could likely surpass it. This is further bolstered by the freeserve model of internet access--do you know
that ISPs are free in the UK? This is because calls are charged by the minute, the ISPs get a teeny percentage
of that charge from the phone company. Freeserve signed on 1 million subscribers within its first 90 days.
Access is spreading at a phenomenal rate here, and since the phone cost model is identicaly throughout the EC,
such rapid penetration is likely to follow throughout Europe.
Interesting times indeed.
Last night I went to a showing of work that had been aired on Protein TV, a site devoted to presenting contemporary
short film to a global audience. The two stand-outs were centre of gravity, a delirious exercise in sensory
and information overload (are you listening, LemonYellow?), and The Wolf Man, a delightful computer-generated
I'm paying by the quarter-hour for this access, so I'll be heading off now. You know, though, we travellers *love*