January 15, 2009

Gallery of flash preloaders

preloader screenshot

When Macromedia Flash burst on the scene last century it ushered in a new world of online interactivity. It also introduced us all to the preloader...those little mini-animations that helped keep us entertained as we waited percentage point by percentage point for the flash movie to finish loading.

The vast majority of preloaders were non-descript and boring, but once in a while a preloader was above the pale.

The design firm Big Spaceship has paid homage to the preloader with their online gallery titled Pretty Loaded. Check it out and see how many different ways people came up with to count to 100%


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November 16, 2008

Flickr and collective mapping

a flick image of the US, assembled by geotagging info

Right now there are almost 90-million geotagged photos on Flickr. (Geotagged photos are images with information such as the latitude and longitude where the photograph was taken). Since a huge number of those images also have some sort of geographically related descriptive information associated with them ("Me and Nancy at Independence Hall in Philadelphia", "Sundown at Malibu", "New York City", etc.) it should be theoretically possible to look at all of that data and learn where geographic boundaries are.

Which is exactly what some programmers at Flickr have done. They've generated the shapes of over 150,000 geographic areas. Now these Flickr shapes aren't always perfectly accurate (for instance, look at their shape info for the United States, pictured above) but they will get better as more and more geotagged photos are collected (and given that more and more cameras (particularly cellphone cameras) geo-tag images the number is sure to explode).

They also have shapes for more amorphous geo-designations, such as neighborhoods. (Just where *does* Beverly Hills begin and end, anyway).

Flickr (and their corporate overlords, Yahoo) are making the shapes available. They're also providing APIs to let people generate their own map shapes from image tags or descriptions. I wonder what the map based on the word "butterfly" looks like? Or"party", or "bikini", or "sleepy".

(Thanks to a tweet from mattb for the pointer.)


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August 10, 2007

Bank trouble in Second Life

screen shot of Second Life residents at ATM machine

Interesting article on the Technology Review website about some financial turmoil in Second Life. Second Life has a large and complex economy, with in-world banks and stock exchanges, and millions of Linden dollars (the official currency of Second Life) changing hands daily. According to the article, some SL banks charge interest that would be considered insanely high in the real world, and are proving to be too high even in Second Life. As a result, there's been a bit of a run on some Second Life banks and a call for more (or even some) banking regulation.

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February 18, 2007


screenshot from the Washington Post's onBeing feature

The Washington Post has rolled out a beautiful new feature called onBeing. In it. people from all walks of life talk about their lives, their hopes and their dreams. It's well worth a visit.

onBeing is the first new feature rolled out at the Washington Post website since Rob Curley took over as head of the web team there. Curley is a bit of a legend in the world of newspaper websites, having been responsible for some of the most innovative websites around. He's also a great speaker. For instance, check out the podcast of Curley recounting the work he did at the Lawrence Journal.

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November 28, 2006

Adobe's kuler color picker

Adobe kuler screenshot

Adobe has created a very elegant free online tool designed to help you create color themes. There's a full set of easy to use controls that let you create themes based on standard color rules (triad, analogous, etc.) or completely free-form. Once you've created a color theme you can download it as an Adobe swatch, save them online, and email them to friends. Play with it at kuler.adobe.com.


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November 01, 2006

Mozes mob and the rise of intelligence augmentation

Mozes mob logo

Artificial intelligence... the real, hard-core type of artificial intelligence that was supposed to lead to super smart computers like HAL in 2001 or KITT on the 80s TV show Knight Rider...never quite happened the way we all thought itt would back in the 60s when A.I. was lauded as the next big thing.

A.I. may have been a dud, but I.A. is going great guns. I.A. stands for intelligence augmentation, a catch-all term for a wide variety of techniques that use actual human beings, with actual human brains, as part of computer programs. The idea is that by having a human deal with the specific parts of a problem that are difficult or impossible for a computer, but trivial for you or me, you can have a program that seems to possess real artificial intelligence.

A great example is Mozes Mob, a cell-phone based service that lets you pose free-form questions. Try it yourself! Text message a question that a human could answer easily but an autonomous computer program would have a hard time figuring out (such as "Is the weather nicer in Miami or Buffalo?" or "What was Carlton Fisk's most famous home run?&uqot;) to 66937. Behind the scenes your question is sent to a swarm of Mozes mob volunteers. One of them answers, and their response is bounced back to your cell phone, usually all in a just a few seconds.

I. A. has a lot in common with what publisher Tim O’Reilly calls the "architecture of participation". Examples of that include thousands of people coming together to create the Wikipedia, or the popular trend of tagging online articles and photos. But I.A. takes things one step further. Here the human knowledge isn’t front and center the way it is in Wikipedia, it’s automated away behind the face of the computer program... a tiny human cog, deep inside the machine.

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October 18, 2006

Reuters assigns a reporter to Second Life

image from Reuters Second Life page

There's been a reporter covering Second Life for a while now, but now the big boys have stepped into the field. Yesterday Reuters announced that they've assigned reporter Adam Pasick to the Second Life beat. Within Second Life, Pasick goes by the name Adam Reuters, and he'll be keeping regular hours within the SL world. (Here's his schedule).

Pasick's reports, and other Reuters reports about Second Life, are all online at secondlife.reuters.com. They're also providing an RSS feed of their Second Life stories, and they've set up a virtual Reuters HQ within Second Life (SL users can jump to the site here).

Of course, all of this is indicative of the growing importance of Second Life and other online worlds.

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September 21, 2006

Time lapse of Second Life's hotel

image from the time lapse film of the construction of the Starwood Hotel in Second Life

In the last couple of months there's been a real explosion of commercial promotion and advertising in the online world Second Life... things like American Apparel opening a store in Second Life and Toyota seeding Second Life with virtual Scion automobiles.

Now add the new upscale Aloft Hotel chain to that list. Aloft is building a full size model of one of their hotels in Second Life, and they've just posted a cool time-lapse movie of the hotel's construction. It's interesting to see the similarities and differences of virtual vs. real construction (even in a virtual world ya gotta grade the land first, but you don't have to worry about walls collapsing, so it's OK to build the walls of a five story building without any trusses or bracing, something that would be impossible in the physical world).

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September 09, 2006

I bed jump, and I vote!

bed jumping still image

You've almost certainly never trashed a hotel room like a rock star. And sad to say, there's a good chance you may never have had a delicious illicit affair in a hotel room in an exotic foreign locale. But there's one bit of hotel-based indulgence open to you... the bed jump.

bedjump.com captures men and women (and kids too) in mid-flight, as they leap onto their hotel beds. Check out the photos... better yet, take a photo of yourself making the leap!


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September 01, 2006

"Honk if Pluto is still a planet." recap

Honk if Pluto is still a planet bumper sticker

Well, it's been an interesting seven days, being a minor internet meme. A number of folks have asked me for a recap:

Last Thursday, 6 AM (PT):
The International Astronomical Union announces that Pluto is no longer a planet.

Last Thursday, 7 AM:
I design a bumper sticker and make it available on cafepress.

Last Thursday, 11 AM:
BoingBoing puts the bumper sticker on their blog. Zillions of people see it.

Last Thursday, 2 PM:
The BBC runs a story of the Pluto controversy, mentioning the bumper sticker.

Last Friday morning:
I get interviewed by the Associated Press. They also send a photographer named Nick Ut to take some photos of me. It's only after he leaves that a friend points out some of the other photos Nick Ut has taken.

Last weekend:
The AP story shows up in hundreds of newspapers.

Tuesday morning:
I get interviewed by Europe 1 in France.

Things seem to have died down. Checking the sales figures, I see that several hundred bumper stickers have been purchased, so I get to send a nice little chunk of change to The Planetary Society. Woo Hoo!

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August 24, 2006

Blogging with Google Earth

screen shot of Gombe Chimpanzee Blog

The Jane Goodall Institute has been studying African chimps for decades. They've recently started blogging about life at their Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania. The blog makes clever use of Google Earth, projecting each blog entry onto the spot on the Earth where the entry takes place. Clever!

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August 01, 2006

Steven Johnson's new son sets sights on taking over Google

photograph of Steven Johnson and his new son, Dean

Steven Johnson, the author of several really great books (among them Everything Bad is Good For You and Emergence) became a father for the third time late last month, with the birth of his son, Dean. And now he's using his son's arrival on Earth as the basis for a bit of experimentation with Google.

Johnson has asked bloggers to link to the page announcing his son's birth, in the hopes that if enough people do it a search for "Dean" on Google will return his son's page as the first result. (Click here to see if he's made it yet). I'm happy to take part in the experiment by adding the link in this article. And would also like to say, on behalf of the entire species, thanks for increasing the genetic diversity of the planet!

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July 22, 2006

Meet Second Life's top reporter

photo of W. James Au, and image of his SL avatar, Hamlet Au

The We Make Money Not Art website has an interview with someone who works one of the oddest beats in all of journalism... W. James Au (in the guise of his online persona Hamlet Au) covers the mean streets of the virtual world Second Life. First hired by Second Life creators Linden Labs to chronicle what they rightly predicted would be a groundbreaking online phenomenon, Au now files his reports for his blog, New World Notes. Here's a quick snippet from the interview:

How much can people cheat, pretend and lie to others in virtual life? is there any limit? When does it get back to you?

There's quite a bit of that, especially for those looking for love or at least a night of sexual gameplay, and much of it is not necessarily unethical, part of the roleplaying experience. (Is it lying if your avatar is a gorgeous babe in her 20s, when you're really a heavy-set dude in his 40s? What's the standard for truthfulness when the world is *defined* as a second life?) What's interesting is that people in Second Life, unlike traditional MMOs, are generally attached to their avatars as an extension of their real life selves, so there's a tendency to self-regulate. Of course, you could always burn people and create an alternate persona afterward, but then, you lose any reputation value that comes with having a long-term presence in the world. "Griefing", for this reason, is usually a one-shot phenomenon.

The full interview is here.

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July 21, 2006

Yet more proof of how cool flickr is

screenshot of flickr contest

Flickr is consistently held up as a web application that does everything right. The latest example came just the other day, when the site experienced a brief outage. Flickr posted a message (see it above) apologizing for the inconvenience, and turned the outage into a contest. So far, more than 1,000 people have submitted entries!

(Thanks to Cool Hunting for grabbing the screenshot of the contest).

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July 20, 2006

Spore in BusinessWeek

screen shot from Spore

The countdown to Spore, Will Wright's astonishing new video game, is in full swing. The release date may be as much as a full year away (no official release date has been given, but various statements put it anywhere from fall 2006 to June 2007), but whenever it appears, the consensus is that you've never seen anything like it. The current issue of BusinessWeek magazine has an article about the game and what it's like to play it...

In many ways, the next phase – creature design – will be the core element of the game. And we were able to dive into the editor, design a creature, and send it out into the wild. The Creature Editor is astonishingly easy to use and powerful. You start by picking a backbone, which you can stretch by pulling the ends, and deform by grabbing and pulling (Maxis calls it a metaball). It comes with a standard thickness of flesh around it, which again, you can adjust, creating a body which could resemble your favorite animal or something never before seen in nature.

I can't wait.

P.S. Last month Spore creator Will Wright and musician Brian Eno shared a stage for one of the mind-expanding Long Now Seminars. They had a wonderful discussion about the nature and process of creativity. The audio of their discussion is available.

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July 17, 2006

You sunk my battleship!

image from Julian Bleeker's battleship game

I've run into Julian Bleeker, the director of the mobile and pervasive lab at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division a few times, and he always seems to be creating some sort of crazy cool game. This time he's using Google Earth to turn the city of Los Angeles into a giant version of Battleship. To make a move, players go to a specific physical location and then enter their location via a GPS equipped cell phone. (Now if only giant red and white pegs would descend from the clouds).

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June 26, 2006

Al Gore takes on Bender

image of Al Gore and Bender

Hopefully by now you've all seen An Inconvenient Truth, the film version of Al Gore's presentation about the terrible consequences of global warming. (If not, get to it).

If the film has left you in need of a little levity, check out this great trailer made by Rough Draft Studios, the folks who draw Futurama.

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June 24, 2006

Hitler cats!

photo of Adolf Hitler photo of cat that looks like Hitler

This is the type of thing the Internet was born for...a blog devoted to cats that look like Adolph Hitler.

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Craigslist adds another 100 cities

According to a post over on steveouting.com, craigslist has added another 100 cities to its service, upping the total to 300. As Steve points out, this gives a whole new group of newspapers reason to be very worried about the future of their classified sections.

Bonus for any geographers or demographers out there: Based on the U.S. cities listed on craigslist here, what percentage of the U.S. population is now covered?

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June 20, 2006

American Apparel opens a store in Second Life

image of American Apparel store inside of Second Life

If you're looking for further evidence of the growing influence and importance of Second Life, check this out -- L.A. based clothing manufacturer American Apparel has now opened a store in Second Life. Second Life citizens can buy American Apparel clothing for themselves in the "real world" as well as for their avatars in Second Life. FutureLab's blog has a posting about it.

(P.S. I've bitten the bullet and got myself a Second Life account. Look for me as the suavely-named "Ralph Beeper").

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June 10, 2006

Eternal sunset

sunset in Antarctica

There's nothing more lovely than a sunset, so why not have sunset all the time? That's the idea behind Eternal Sunset, a website that automatically switches among dozens of webcams scattered around the world, to provide you with a never-ending gallery of images of the setting sun, such as this cool shot of a German communication antenna near the South Pole.


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May 28, 2006

Spare a moment for gapingvoid

gapingvoid image

gapingvoid features the (approximately) daily drawings of Hugh MacLeod, a web guy who lives near the England/Scotland border. Macleod draws cartoons on the backs of business cards. They're often about the 'net/blogging/web world, but they are also often about life in general or are just random doodlings. They're well worth a few seconds of your time. And if you print one out and put it up in your cubicle, think how much cooler you'll be than all of those Dilbert clippers.


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May 10, 2006

Google Trends launches

google trends logo

Google labs have rolled out their latest invention, Google Trends, and it's completely addictive. Enter one or more search terms and get back charts showing how often Google's performed searches for those terms, where the search was most popular, all sorts of cool stuff. For example, here's the Google Trends report for the search term podcasts


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March 25, 2006

Frogs critique homedepot.com

the frogs from Frog Review

The web's best-known usability amphibians are back! Check out the Frog Review frogs tearing apart Home Depot's website.

Link to Frog Review


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March 21, 2006

Hack: Sudoku helper

If you are one of the zillion people who've become obsessed with the number puzzle sudoku, I've got just the thing for you. Check out my free Sudoku Helper...

Sudoku helper screen shot

It won't solve the puzzle for you (that would be too easy) but it makes it easy to see what possible numbers remain for each row, column, and 3x3 sub-area. Check it out!

Comments and suggestions welcome.

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