Edward Tufte descibes a form of word-sized, inline infoburst he calls a “sparkline”:


A hyperlinked Sparkline would make webpages like superdense, fractal, layered, zoomable resources, and make the top-level of each topic look vital and organic like a terrarium of squirming data.

The next step would be to see Sparklines in the street, not just delivering data, but harvesting it – being it.

Crawling up lamposts as electricity consumption spikes during the ad-break of Coronation Street. Or infesting the wounds of a pigeon flattened by a delivery truck, updating the national epidemiological database and the air pollution record for that borough based upon trace metal readings in the carcass.

Tufte’s aiming to create bumps in the visual texture of the page that we can run our eyes over and just know. Lowering the load on our understanding not in reductive manner of many usability methodologies but trying to transform ways in which information is transferred to create a richer substrate for understanding.

» Ask E.T.: Sparklines [via Scoble]

The film Peter Greenaway never made

The architect, the philosopher*, the physicist and the robotics engineer.

Our merry band investigating the future of user-experience for Nokia is growing by one, with the addition of Chris “Antimega” Heathcote.

Tervetuloa Chris!

* We had two philosophers, but Petri has gone and got himself awarded an incredibly prestigious scholarship for 5 years, so we have to make do with just the one now. Congrats to Petri!


Demetri Martin:

“Lately I’ve been waking up at 8:32. The weird thing is that I don’t have an alarm clock. I just open my eyes when I’m done sleeping. It doesn’t matter when I go to sleep, when I wake up and look at my watch it almost always says “8:32.” I’ve been trying to switch up my wake-up style (to get a different time) by waiting a few minutes before I look at my watch. But it’s still 8:32. So, I guess it’s not that I’m necessarily waking up at 8:32. It’s more that I look at my watch for the first time every morning at 8:32. (When I say “almost always” above, I mean 19 out of the last 23 times I’ve woken up in my bed my watch has said “8:32.”) I’m not showing off, I’m just saying that there is something precise about me in the morning.”

The Hallmark moment of every universe

This animation of the Breedster universe mapped onto a toroid is fantastic.

Around 1 minute and 2 seconds into the animation of the expanding insect cosmos, a pattern emerges of a heart, described by hundreds of individual breedsters acting in concert. It takes about 2 seconds in the animation to form, corresponding to and remains there, more or less inviolate for the remaining 40 seconds, like some sentimental insect Arcosanti, or the Burning Man playa as sponsored by Hallmark.

The animation was compiled:

“of hourly Grid snapshots taken from 2004-04-09 02:00 until 2004-05-22 12:00, at 10 fps.”

Therefore (and correct me if i’m wrong) every second is 10 hours in real time, meaning the heart emerged in 20 hours, and remained for 400 hours or nearly 17 days.

I guess my next questions would be

  • how did the heart get started?
  • how did the idea spread?
  • how was it’s construction coordinated, if at all?
  • how long, in subjective time, would this structure have ‘lasted’ from the breedster insect-avatar point-of-view?

Hopefully, Breedster will have some longevity, and so will these pattern plotting exercises – perhaps through this playful format somethings we think we know about how cities and societies form and grow can be explored.

From the delightfully-irreverent “symposium”* “On Fornication And Genetics in The Breedster Age”

“How to write a manifesto in an age disgusted with them? The fatal weakness of manifestos is their inherent lack of evidence. Breedster’s problem is the opposite: it is a mountain range of evidence without manifesto.”

Conversation with Foe in IM:

FOE: “see I told you breedster was about more than just copulating with strangers”

FOE: “it’s pretty much dead now since they started giving us diseases though”

ME: “well, life’s like that”

ME: “you just see the civilisation and great works of art in the historical view, but not all the copulation and diseases that people were really caring about at the time…”

Move over, Simon Schama! Ach. Lunchtime.

It’ll be useful one day.

I’m a terrible hoarder.

I have boxes of cables, some that will only connect obsolete things to other obsolete things. A drawer of widgets – dongles for copyprotected software that can only run on PCs from 12 years ago. Drawing pins and rubber bands too. Rubber bands have become a bit of an obsessive-compulsive fixation. If I see one in the street these days, I will pick it up; and in testament to my maturity, not flick it at Foe.

Useless ideas too. I have a shelf of sketchbooks, approximately 30% full of notes from meetings that bored me enough to fill the other 70% with drawings of giant robot squirrels or stupid ideas.

It doesn’t matter what I hoard, the same mantra goes through my mind each time:

I might need it.

Somebody else might need it.

It’ll be useful one day.

It’s not even a conscious thought any more. It’s an engram. It’s baked-in. It’s just a surface my behaviour runs down like water on a windscreen.

Which is why the web is my salvation, or at least a salve. It’s an infinite shelf I can leave this stuff on, because I might need it, somebody else might need it, it’ll be useful one day. Which I guess leads me to one of the stupid ideas next to the giant robot squirrels, that Ben turned into the LazyWeb, and it’s final justification to me, in an entry at 0xDefcafbad.

“I plan to work on small- to mid-sized projects, presented in a periodic column format with entries around 2500-5000 words each. One of my first challenges is to brainstorm a list of topics; I’ve already got a handful of things I could work on, but I might need to troll the lazyweb to find a few more inspirations.”

It’ll be useful one day, see.

» 0xDecafbad: I was a pre-teen Transactor author wannabe (and still am!)

Hume truths

Two from Tom Hume:

On how creativity is often shaped by ones tools:

“When I first moved my weblog over to MovableType from Radio Userland, I wondered what difference a new tool would make. Nearly 6 months on, I think I know.”

And a great post on mobile application design:

“Interaction design for mobiles is IMHO more like appliance design than web, or even application, design. Focus on core tasks, simplicity, and elegance… try to avoid forcing the end-user to think more about interfaces than getting the job done.”

Danny wins!

Danny Brown has won the Design Museum’s “Designer of the year” award. From The FT’s report on the awards:

“A 27-year-old multimedia designer who first started creating images from his home computer at the age of five was yesterday named Designer of the Year.

Liverpool-born Daniel Brown received the £25,000 award at London’s Design Museum. It was presented by Jonathan Ive, head of design at Apple and winner of the inaugural prize in 2003, who said Mr Brown’s work ‘changes the way we look at and engage with digital imagery.

It is technically innovative and emotionally engaging, but also gives us an extraordinary amount of freedom in the way we experience it’.”

I could launch into a giant rant about the nature of design vs applied art, art itself, and the generally crappy job the Design Museum* does both at distinguishing between them and promoting that beyond the industry. But, after all, Danny’s stuff is at it’s best just breathtaking, and deserves this recognition.

Well done, Mr. Brown…

* Their near-useless Flashtastrophy of a site is here. Hey, Ms. Rawsthorn! 1998 called, and they want their UI designs back!

Digital cocooning

P17 of the June issue of Wired (with Pixar’s “The Incredibles” on the cover) has an advert for a joint promotion between Wired, W Hotels and Apple:

Plug in and play along to your own digital soundscape from W Hotels and iTunes®, the world’s best digital jukebox.

Your W Wired Package includes:

  • High Speed Internet Access
  • Wi-Fi Access in Living Room*
  • 3 iTunes music downloads
  • 3-month WIRED magazine subscription
  • Unlimited local and toll-free calls
  • Plus, Wonderful accommodations you’ll love

I’ve stayed in a W twice (before the taxman gets excited: one night only each time, as a once-a-year treat!) and they are wonderful little coccoons of unreal, luxurious space. More cosy than a Schrager, with just enough ‘ponce-factor’ to let you pretend you are a rockstar, or a secret agent posing as a rockstar, for one night.

As broadband and wifi become as much as a free, expected part of a satisfying hotel stay as a good shower – the next step has to be stuff like this – creating personal, luxurious, digital media cocoon.