• "I’ve just released a little Mac app I’ve been working on for a while. It’s called Satellite Eyes. It’s pretty simple. It just sits in your menu tray, and changes your desktop wallpaper to the satellite image or map view from overhead." I've had a preview build for a while, and this is just lovely. Well done, Tom.
  • Stanford's iPhone development course.
  • "Is writing ever NOT collaboration? Doesn’t one collaborate with oneself, in a sense? Don’t we access different aspects of ourselves, different characters and attitudes and then, when they’ve had their say, switch hats and take a more distanced and critical view — editing and structuring our other half’s outpourings? Isn’t the end product sort of the result of two sides collaborating? Surely I’m not the only one who does this?" Something else that's been on the pile (to link) for a while now.
  • "The craftsman as hero is a consistent motif in Ruskin’s artistic and social theories. To him, mechanisation and division of labour dehumanise workers, enslaving them to execute exactly the specifications of others. The only way to recapture the humanity in labour is to put the designer back in touch with the tools of the craft and to unleash the creativity of the maker." A lovely metaphorical piece from Matt Edgar, reminding me of how much I need to brush up on my knowledge of the Arts and Crafts movement, if only because of how much I appreciate their sentiments.
  • "At some point, I begin to feel that I am carrying entire Latin American forests home with me. Also, I am afflicted with a terrible need to stop and write things down, at almost every corner, slowing my passage through the city and impeding motion. I am locked in this ridiculous two-step, unable to travel more than half a block before sitting down and writing out more, papering over the last thirty feet, dripping more ink onto the street: this absurd project, this incomprehensible, incompletable urge, this terror of forgetting and compulsion to record." Beautiful writing from James, which has been sitting on the "to link" pile for far too long.
  • "Here is an extraordinary piece of film. It is a live outside broadcast of a British army simulation of an attack on a train in Britain. It went out at prime time on a BBC programme called Saturday Night Out. And it happened in 1956."
  • "Maps are having their F-64 moment, right now, which is important and wonderful but I don't think anyone really wants to live in a world with an infinite depth of field. It's an appealing idea but then something like the Hipstamatic comes along and we all get irrationally weak in the knees, all over again." As usual with Aaron, I could quote most of the article, but in this case, I'll pick my favourite piece of writing, rather than perhaps the most succint quotation; just read the whole thing. (And: I wish I could code or even write like this).
  • "Die Hard asks naive but powerful questions: If you have to get from A to B—that is, from the 31st floor to the lobby, or from the 26th floor to the roof—why not blast, carve, shoot, lockpick, and climb your way there, hitchhiking rides atop elevator cars and meandering through the labyrinthine, previously unexposed back-corridors of the built environment?" Marvellous, marvellous article, citing that Weizman piece I always end up citing, and looking how John McClane traverses the Nakatomi Plaza tower not through its corridors and elevators, but by literally infesting it.
  • "As computer technology has evolved to make artificial images look ever more real – so that the latest generation of shooter and war games will look as realistic as possible – ajpeg is intended to go the opposite way: Instead of creating an image artificially with the intent of making it look as photo-realistic as possible, it takes an image captured from life and transforms it into something that looks real and not real at the same time." Beautiful.


28 August 2009

One of my challenges to myself for 2009 was to make a game.

I bang on about them enough on here, and in the real world, but I’ve never actually made a game – at least, not one anyone else has ever played. I decided that needed to change. And now it has.

Noticings is live. What’s Noticings? Well, the about page explains it pretty well:

Noticings is a game about learning to look at the world around you.

Cities are wonderful places, and everybody finds different things in them. Some of us like to take pictures of interesting, unusual, or beautiful things we see, but many of use are moving so fast through the urban landscape we don’t take in the things around us.

Noticings is a game you play by going a bit slower, and having a look around you. It doesn’t require you change your behaviour significantly, or interrupt your routine: you just take photographs of things that you think are interesting, or things you see. You’ll get points for just noticing things, and you might get bonuses for interesting coincidences.

You play Noticings with a camera, Flickr, a single tag, and making sure your photographs are geotagged. That’s it. There are no points for value judgments or aesthetic opinion; there’s no win-condition (though you might temporarily be top of a leaderboard for the past seven days, or for a neighbourhood, or for a city).

Tom and I had batted around the idea of some kind of game like this for quite a while, and it went through several different phases of complexity and big-design-up-front, showing it to select friends who had smart ideas, and thinking about how to Get It Done and perhaps get paid for it.

And then we threw most of that out of the window (for now) and just made the damn thing work. It went live with one simple rule: you get ten points for a noticing. Then we invited some friends – many of whom have been playing this game for years without knowing it – and waited to see what would happen.

There’s some elegant engineering that means it’s dead easy to roll out new rules, which we’re doing, slowly, along with changes to the code and the site. Some of the forthcoming rules will be obvious; some might be curveballs. We might not tell you about everything up front. You might have to challenge yourself a little to get the more interesting bonuses. We might change everything in a bit.

It’s fun working on a game whilst people play it, and for now, we make no apologies for the work-in-progress state.

And it’s fun to start seeing the world with a slightly different lens; seeing something that might be a good noticing, or recognising something you’ve seen in the game that you want the bonus points for re-noticing. I’m getting much more diligent about uploading cameraphone pictures; I’m getting much less precious about my photostream; I’m taking more pictures as a result. It’s interesting to see a game that encourages you to see patterns and collect the world in photographs, much as Martin Parr or Tom Phillips have done. It’s fun to see more of the city around you.

So, a work in progress. And: it now needs more people to join in. We took the temporary password off this morning, and now, anyone can join in. You can play anywhere in the world – we’ll be doing some interesting stuff around places, I hope, to make it easier to see stuff that’s near you (rather than just all over the place) – and we’ll see how it goes. You might also want to follow the Noticings blog, where we’ll keep people updated with new rules as they happen, and changes to the game.

It’s 2009, and I’m working on a game, and it’s already making me very happy. Let’s see what happens next.