Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Artist's humble hands
Guide camera's cold workings
So her soul shines through
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Patterns help introduce patterns (or any new idea)
Through the 1990s, a new movement in software development called patterns gained momentum. Inspired by the thinking of the building architect Christopher Alexander, a group of smart guys authored 23 patterns for software design as "a way to analyze solutions to recurring problems, make them reusable and communicate them." Patterns collected together form a working language that help systems architects and programmers cope with the complexity of software systems.
Over the weekend, while revisiting some citations on patterns, I landed on Mary Lynn Manns' and Linda Rising's Introducing New Ideas into Organizations, which is a web page of papers and resources on the patterns of practice they and many others used over several years to introduce the concept of patterns for software design in organizations. As you might imagine, any radically new way of thinking is a tough sell, and their collection of patterns (123 page PDF) for introducing patterns is really a comprehensive cookbook of tactics that can be used to sell any new technology-related ideas in an organization.
Reading through some of the patterns, I recognized many of the tricks I've stumbled upon over the last few years to sell information architecture, usability, accessibility, and user-centered design to my employers and their clients. Some example patterns for introducing new ideas:
- Adopt a Skeptic - Pair those who have accepted your new idea with those who have not.
- Big Jolt - To provide more visibility for the change effort, invite a well-known person to do a presentation about the new idea.
- Corridor Politics - Informally work on decision makers and key influencers before an important vote, to make sure they fully understand the consequences of the decision.
- Group Identity - Give the change effort an identity to help people recognize that it exists.
- Hometown Story - To help people see the usefulness of your new idea, encourage those who have had success with it to share their stories.
- In Your Space - Keep the new idea visible by placing reminders throughout your organization.
- Just Say Thanks - To make people feel appreciated, say "thanks" in the most sincere way you can to everyone who helps you.
- Personal Touch - To convince people of the value of your new idea, show how it can be personally useful and valuable to them.
- Shoulder to Cry On - To avoid becoming too discouraged when the going gets tough, find opportunities to talk with others who are also struggling.
- Whisper in the General's Ear - Managers are sometimes hard to convince in a group setting, so set up a short one-on-one meeting to address their concerns and to offer them the opportunity to announce your new idea as their own.
Each pattern is explained in detail, related to key roles and illustrated with a real world scenario. The patterns collection has also been expanded to book form and is scheduled to be published next year by Addison Wesley. I'm saving a space on my nightstand.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Mars looms large and bright
Amy, dog and I cruised westward on Ohio Route 502 tonight to find a suitable spot to view and photograph Mars, which is closer to Earth than it's been in nearly 60,000 years. At magnitude -2.9, the planet is second only to Venus in brightness.
Just a few hundred feet into Indiana, we made a right turn into a tomato patch so I could set up for a time exposure. The best image out of many attempts is offered here. In this fisheye lens view, I composed the rising Mars over our PT Cruiser, and used an LED flashlight to lightpaint the foreground during a 30 second exposure.
The Milky Way stretched across the entire sky, but while very clear to our naked eyes, was too faint for the Coolpix camera to capture. I only get to see the deep sky a few times a year, so it was a treat to stare at the star-encrusted sky while I waited for my long exposures.
And how fitting that we observed Mars in a tomato patch. 2003 is the 25th anniversary of the release of the cult film classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Update: I composited my memory of the appearance of the Milky Way into the photo above.
Friday, August 22, 2003
My mother-in-law the backyard archeologist
Recently, my mother-in-law Kathy has been eagerly recovering various bits of detritous from around her house, while gardening and scanning the grounds with her new Bounty Hunter Pioneer 505 metal detector. The house was constructed in 1850 on farm land on which American Indians once roamed. Her interesting finds, of which a few are pictured here, are neatly spread out on a paper towel in the kitchen. There aren't any outstanding pieces so far. The quarter dollar from 1910 is common and book valued at $7.00. The doll torso looked interesting, but when you filp it over, you see it's made in Hong Kong and copyright 1979, which places it as one of Amy's teenage toys. Kathy notes that most of the material is from recent decades, and concludes that her family hasn't been very careful to avoid dropping things in the yard. I think there will certainly be some nice finds to come since she's just started exploring the acre of land they own.
Earlier today, we made a pilgrimages to Maid-Rite Burgers and The Great Darke County Fair. Tomorrow, we relax some more, and in the evening, come upon another reason for this trip: the 20th anniversary reunion of Amy's high school graduating class. You know I'll be moblogging live from the Elks Club tomorrow night.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
recentLee on hiptop Nation
I still love posting to the hiptop Nation communal moblog via my Sidekick, and lately, I've been sorting through the options for syndicating content from that blog into this one. I suspect that the TypePad folks will eventually offer content syndication for the sidebars here. Meantime, here are some annotated direct links to some of my recent hN moblog entries:
Headmapping Jodi (screenshot shown above) is the latest in my series of photo mosaics created and posted wirelessly from my Sidekick. The mosaics exploit hiptop Nation's four-photo-wide layout and some composing tricks I've discovered in my many hours of moblogging. The technique is inspired by David Hockney's famous Polaroid SX-70 photo mosaics from the early 80s. My original desire was simply to capture a larger view with the Sidekick's tiny low resolution images, and I settled on the 4 x 3 grid as a managable size. In the latest mosaic, I'm starting to investigate warping spacein this case unwrapping the surface of Jodi's head. There's also a little bit of the experimental spirit of Andrew Davidhazy happening here. My previous mobile mosaics were:
- The Sphere of The Hayden Planetarium in New York City (and caption)
- The Great Hall of The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
- Old Smithsonian - The central rotunda of The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building in Washington, D.C.
- Homage to Hockney - my first mobile mosaic was of Amy eating dinner at the Donna's Restaurant near our home in Baltimore.
Posted today, Photos of photo books I'm coveting (at Borders in Towson, MD):
- Robert Frank: Hold Still_Keep Going
- Photography's Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes
- Sheila Metzner: Form and Fashion
Puppy! - an 8-week-old (correct age) Sheba Enu puppy that lives around the corner from our house.
Bellies Bump - I compare my belly to my wife's pregnant one (week 25 at the time).
Moblogging ChicagoLand Soon - putting out the word that I'll be roaming around Chicago for a few days in early September. Tim W: we're on for lunch Sunday if you're game.
Yan - screenshots taken from my laptop as I edited the images from a portrait session with friend Yan.
A gathering of friends of information architecture - there's more coverage of the night in Brooklyn in Michael's and Tanya's blogs.
Insanely Cool Cutting - friend and former student Adam gave me a demo of his new computer-driven VersaLaser laser cutter recently. I have a small photo essay in the works on the visit, and am seriously trying not to go back for a couple weeks because I've got a backlog of possible projects for the machine distracting my brain.
Big organizations and buildings - some photos of AARP Headquarters, where I'll start working in November.
If you haven't had enough, here is the previous summary of mobile posts.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Mac news bits interesting to me and maybe you
Now that I've got some time off from work (but not away from housework), I've been able to get back to some Mac system maintenance and installing apps I've bought such as the Apple iLife bundle. I've also been paying closer attention to the Mac news feeds in NetNewsWire and note the following:
- CNET News reports on an analyst comment that Photoshop 8 is probably just four months away from release. One of these years, a new release of Photoshop will enable distortion filters as a dynamic layer process, but probably not this year.
- Cinematize 1.0, a $49.95 utility for OS X, easily extracts arbitrary segments from DVDs and saves them as MPEG2 or QuickTime movie clips. Copyright issues notwithstanding, there have been so many times I've wanted to extract a clip from a DVD to use in a class lecture. This looks like a tidy solution that eliminates messing with complicated freeware utilities.
- Mail servers I've used in the past have relay restrictions limiting the number or size of outbound e-mails, so for the technically adept, a solution is to activate Sendmail, which is already installed in OS X. Sendmail Enabler greatly simplifies configuring the local Sendmail process on your laptop so that e-mail can originate directly from your computer without going through your ISP or corporate mail host.
- MacResQ is offering an install-it-yourself Superdrive for the Titanium PowerBook. I got my 867mhz a few months before the laptop Superdrives were offered, so this is a temptingand now more attainableupgrade at $299 (down from $499 elsewhere). With the PowerBook, iSight camera, firewire camcorder and built-in DVD writing capability, I feel like I should be close to cobbling together a light-duty usability testing station.
- Partiview, which is a free desktop data visualization application from The Hayden Planetarium and NCSA that lets you interactively fly through the Milky Way Galaxy, is finally available for Mac OS X. I've been recklessly flying through the galaxy on our Windows XP machine, and I can't wait to get this running on my PowerBook so I can take the show on the road. I'll have to report back on my progress as the installation for OS X didn't work right away, and I'm not sure why. For some more background, there's a good article at Wired on Partiview and the Virtual Universe project.
An era is ending at the Lee Household with the last tube-type Mac monitor leaving last week. We have one more 15" generic VGA monitor to get rid of, and then all our computing equipment will be flat panel. Turning to our tube-type TVs, I dream of one of these.
Friday, August 15, 2003
The Big (Blacked-out) Apple
My first view of yesterday's big blackout was on the video wall at my old office, which displayed aerial video of New York Waterway's 38th Street commuter pier. One report said there were as many as 20,000 people surrounding the entrance waiting to board the boats. I've walked that pier countless times and am very glad I wasn't there yesterday.
I opened my laptop while watching the coverage and checked some of the New York blogs, and not surprisingly, no one was able to post. I had hoped some of the mobloggers would have gotten messages or photos out, but apparently, various cell networks were overloaded with call traffic. The silence of the blogs was eerie.
But not to worry, Cameron Barrett is back online and has compiled an excellent report with his own photos and links to other local blogs with coverage. Be sure to read Paul Ford's As Brooklyn Slowly Drunkened.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
PowerPoints as art
My new Wired Magazine arrived late last week via post with the names David Byrne and Edward Tufte on the cover. Inside I found a couple spreads from Byrne's newly-released book Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (E.E.E.I.) paired with an illustrated excerpt from Tufte's essay/pamphlet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. The Tufte piece gives you the gist of his $7 pamphlet, so if you've been meaning to order that, you might want to grab this issue of Wired from the library or newsstand first. In contrast to Tufte's somewhat dry dissection of PowerPoint's many information design horrors, the Byrne article describes the musician's exploratory exercises using the program as a tool for creating and delivering conceptual art (snippet shown above with the book and DVD). I'll likely add E.E.E.I. to my library to serve as an artful companion to my collection of Tufte.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Photo session two with Yan
Last Tuesday, just before the IA Salon in Brooklyn, I was hoping to do a photo shoot with Yan on a pier on the Jersey City waterfront. The view of the Manhattan skyline from there in late evening light makes an incredible backdrop. Of course, just as we met in the lobby of her office, a rain squall rolled overhead and held steady. So as a fallback, we went into a conference room to make some portraits. Despite sub-optimal shooting circumstances, I'm happy with some of the images, and our favorite is the one shown here. Truthfully, Yan looks great in any light on any backdrop.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Pain-free news feed redirection
I realized today that a heap of aggregators and blogerators, not to mention my favorite desktop news reader, are still pointed to my defunct RSS/XML syndication file. For example, Syndic8 smartly notes that my feed is "Awaiting Repair." I was thinking, aiyaa! I'm going to have to go into the shell of my host at Pair and set up a redirect for the path to the old Blogger-generated XML file. But then I thought many others must have had to deal with moving an RSS feed, and sure enough, a search on Google turned up Dave Winer's Bootstrap: How to redirect an RSS feed. A couple minutes of coding and an upload to the old curiousLee site enabled the redirect. Now I'm seeing the new curiousLee news feed in NetNewsWire.
Damn, these people are smart.
Update: Well this solution is apparently not pain-free because discussion of this issue (among other things) precipitated a battle over the RSS core standard. Looks like I will have to revisit server-side configuration hacking to effect HTTP error code 301 or 302. Oy.