Welcome to the Web Directions South 2011 Big Stonking Post™, my rough notes hammered out on a laptop (to aid my own recall) and posted here for your enjoyment.

The usual notes: These are very raw notes - excuse typos, and if you need an exact quote please check the podcast as some of my quotes end up more like paraphrases (I can only type so fast...). Anything marked "Aside:" is my own thought and not something the speaker said.

Since it's so big I've gone old school and added a jump menu.

Day one.

A 21st Century Bestiary - Anne Galloway

The concept of a bestiary is ultimately about how we relate to the world, allegories for life.

We use pets as a way to understand who we are, understand our place in the world. Pets are good to think with because so many of us choose to have them. We can take lessons from pets in terms of how humans relate to non-animals. Remember pets and computers both fall into this category!

HOVERCAT: monorail cat now obsolete

LOLcats demonstrate our shared understanding – we understand cats, we understand the idea that monorail cat could “become obsolete” because we also understand technology.

We can look at how we treat pets for an idea how we might treat people in future.

If we have an etag on a cat door to stop the wrong cats getting in, we might well do the same thing to people.

(Aside: we already do, really – think swipe cards to get into your office or carpark.)

We try ideas out on animals before we would do it to people – having tracking devices on them, implanting locator chips and so on. Over time we try them on people too.

Poultry Internet – remote care device for looking after a chicken. The idea could be extended to having your cat wear a jacket that lets you pat it by remote.

Comparison: Cow Clicker vs a real national farm “game” where people had a say about the running of a real farm. She learned far more about farming from the real game.

“Why not an internet of cows?” If we can have an internet of things, why not an internet of cows? Or is that the Internet Fridge of today?

The best way to think of it is looking at cases with real data, like Teat Tweet which gives people some level of real insight into life on a farm.

Screenshot of cow tweeting about giving 12kg of milk

“The cow gave 12kg of milk? That's a lot of milk! I didn't know...”

Across the world lots of data is being collected, including things like a company called Spark that tracks cows and their health. Each cow generates around 200megs of data per year... but then the question comes up about jurisdiction over that data. Who has the right to it? Who owns it? Do animal rights laws get involved?

Technology enables connections to things, to people, to other locations. There is a system (wheresyoursfrom.com) which prints a number on eggs so you can look it up and see where it came from, even see a photo of the farmer.

Icebreaker added “baacodes” to their products so you could look up the story of the sheep. Although it's a bit spurious, since any one item of clothing will probably use wool from half a dozen sheep. But people don't really mind since they just wanted to match back to a farm. Since Icebreaker trade somewhat on the idea that they are ethical from beginning to end, letting people check in gives that message some credibility. This is not technology doing the tracing, it's really marketing giving a view into the process to reinforce the brand. There is no real way to actually check up on it.

Sidenote from Anne: Why do we insist on bad puns and general infantilisation of anything to do with animals and farming? Although they are fun, it's unclear why we don't treat farmers like adults.

Moving further from humans... pets, to livestock, to wildlife... everyone uses this spectrum.

People love watching wild animals – we have heaps of webcams in zoos, they popped up really fast as the web took off.

The ability to watch and follow animals runs the risk of us reading human ideas and values into it, rather than observing what the animals are really doing. We tend to use animals as a reflection of humans and human values.

Pigeonblog – people are collecting air quality data from homing pigeons. Notion of “citizen science”, where people can get data in creative new ways.

CYBORGS.... looping back, imagining new ways to think about people, animals and technology. This is the beastiary's role in challenging our understanding of who we are.

Mouse Match – dating site for people who breed mice. Talk about a niche!

Luka, The Wifi Dog – a much friendlier way to explore the ideas presented in Minority Report. Notions of freedom, privacy and so on are easier to discuss around a dog than a human.

The military – especially the US military – is big on the idea of cyborg animals. The US have robotic beetles they can quite literally control by remote.

“While I would love to have a cyborg beetle, what I don't like is the US military having them” (rough quote)

Corrupted C#N#M# (angelo vermeulen) used hissing cockroaches to disrupt video signals – what if the next denial of service is done by roaches?

Project: Respiratory Dog. Explored the idea that ex-racing greyhounds could power respirators for humans. Both the dog and the human get to keep living!

Even freakier: Dialysis Sheep, a combined-DNA sheep that could replace dialysis machines. The human and sheep DNA are recombined in a way that makes them compatible; so the sheep processes the human's blood overnight, instead of a dialysis machine.

Technology is enabling significant new ways to connect humans and animals. Who do we become if we avail ourselves of these new connections?

@annegalloway, designculturelab.org


Designing for change - Simon Wright, Scott Bryant

News.com.au does about 5m unique browsers per month for 130m page impressions... so fairly intimidating numbers.

With their relaunch they added features they expected people to find as they explored – to surprise and delight them.

They needed to give editorial staff lots of ways to present the content; and to let the writers express more personality through the design.

Typography was a big deal, which is why they used an embedded font – to make type a hero of the page.

In the presso: sharing some feedback as they go... negative stuff tends to be quite funny because people rant. The positive stuff tends to be quite straightforward.

Classic feedback: suggestions the design was done by schoolkids or people with crayons.

So what do we really mean by disruption? CHANGE. Not just to users but to internal processes.

Si: hates it when supermarkets move things around, it's really frustrating and stressful. It disrupts your flow, distracts you from achieving your goals. Frustration taps into our emotions – anxiety, surprise, anger, delight...

We may not be changing entire industries – most of us will not launch an iPhone – but we're still disrupting our users.

Don't redesign, realign – make small changes rather than blow everything up at once. Although blowing it up is fun for designers it's not great for users.

However when realign just isn't enough... you still do have to blow things up.

They started with wireframing but it wasn't stretching things enough and it wasn't resonating with users in testing sessions. Realised the big picture had changed – realign wasn't enough.

There's still an obsession with getting things above the fold – but because it's so prevalent users tend to expect it on news sites. But elsewhere people scroll and this should eventually come across.

One key thing to remember is ads push design trends because people have to accommodate the same three primary ad sizes. This is why news sites in australia look so “same-y”. The three-col design is prevalent because it accommodates the ads.

Change vs Innovation. Stakeholders constantly say “we need to be innovative!” but you don't automatically have to do that. You need to balance that desire for innovation against the users' desire for stability and familiarity.

There are really innovative designs out there for displaying news – but could you really whack your banner at the top and give them to users? They'd freak out!

In a previous redesign they'd introduced drag and drop, and the ability to move content modules around and expand the ones you're interested in reading. What emerged is people loved the idea, but only a really small number of people actually did it. Ultimately you have to decide if the cost of maintaining that feature is truly worth it.

Decided to explore realigning with the younger 18-39 age group that is news.com.au's prime audience. Looked at the way users were getting news through facebook or twitter – found people thought it was valuable to have their friends' input and curation.

Having decided to redesign, take a moment to ask... what are we actually designing? Check your requirements and user stories (although it's hard to say “as a user I want to see advertising!”). Get the big first list then simplify that list. They worked with key stakeholders that could determine the list of five measures that would give the definition of “done”.

Key things: differentiate from competitors, engage users who tune out sections, more opportunities for top stories traffic, appeal more to target market, address the gender imbalance (avoid the usual male focus of australian news websites).

People tune out sections on quite blunt demographic lines (eg. males ignore entertainment) – but then they miss stories that they would actually find interesting, just because they're categorised a certain way.

So what does success look like for design/ux? What were the design objectives, in design language, rather than business goals.

Si was quoted: “It should feel like a website today interacts. You shouldn't be able to print it out. Made for the medium, made for the web.” ….this quote was kept through the whole process afterwards, even when Si tried to throw out that piece of butcher's paper.

Content, not design, is the hero. How can we elevate content and retain a good user experience? That's how they ended up with what is really a quite simple and minimalist design (particularly in the News Ltd stable).

Photo of meeting room bedecked with sketches and printouts

Photo by Simon Wright

Black Ops... or stakeholder hide and seek. For several weeks, they snuck around the building and stole meeting rooms. Every second day they'd arrange a stakeholder catch up to see progress, answer questions and give feedback. Constant iterative process. The earlier investment in requirements made the stakeholders feel happy that things were on track, so they were largely “left alone”.

Sidenote: the Daily Mail is simply a massive website, printout went from ceiling to floor and still had to be rolled up.

They did a lot of sketching through the process – right through to the end, not just something that was done at the start. But they didn't just sit in photoshop the whole time.

Kept the rolling set of iterative printouts on the wall – last four or five printouts in a row, so stakeholders could see the progression of ideas and the response to feedback.

After every stakeholder meeting, they'd pack up and move to another meeting room – it became a really fun part of the process. People would start scouting to find them ahead of the meeting. Also kept Si happy as he got to see all the different chairs in the building (chair afficionado in an office full of different chairs..).

However the moves also helped them reset and refocus every other day, to help keep the process going. It also stopped anything becoming a blind spot – printouts that sit on the wall start fading out, but moving around stopped that happening.

Simply sketching things BIG on butcher's paper helped people think about it; and adding post it notes to simulate interactions. They kept the huge roll of discarded paper (even though it's taped shut at this point) as an artefact of the creation process and a reminder that “building websites kills a lot of trees”.

It was important to give confidence to the stakeholders; so they decided to do some focus groups to try out some real interactions. Got some internal, non-developer users to try things out so they could give some cross-checking and reassurance to stakeholders. It also meant they could get people back to try things again later.

Tools: sketching, Photoshop, Axure, HTML/CSS (especially to do rapid prototyping with CSS transitions).

Noting that the major information architecture didn't really change. Also there were no CMS changes, the entire change was done by the awesome frontend dev team.

When it gets big, having those big goals helps keep things on track. Being flexible is important as you must respond to changes in requirements and environment – eg. Not getting stressed as they had to swap things around in the top right corner.

Feedback – remember that getting any feedback in the first place is a measure of success, because people are noticing and engaging with it. The craziest, nastiest feedback happens in the first 36 hours during the shock of the new; then it changes. Some people even come back and comment that they're getting used to it.

Feedback from lots of sources – keep track of where it's coming from. Twitter gives you very quick, but cryptic feedback; so take it as a rough gauge. Facebook gives more details but is by far the angriest (the theory is those users feel very close to the site, but did not feel close to the redesign process); email gives even more detailed and long feedback. Internal feedback cuts through all your filters.

Naturally there was a “bring the old news.com.au back” facebook group – Si: “I kind of feel like we've made it now we have a 'put it back' facebook group”.

Big part of the feedback process was having a blog post - “Honey, we blew up the website”. One suggestion is to try putting that up ahead of time to prepare users for the change, rather than putting it up at the same time.

When you get the feedback storm – take a deep breath. Keep it in perspective, you will get negative feedback. Is it actually coming from your target market? Use the medium to ask follow-up questions and explore the problems? They instinctively used personal twitter accounts, but it did make it more human. Also, you do just need to let things go sometimes. You don't know what is going on in their world and sometimes you just won't make sense of their reaction.

Know where you fit into their lives. For news.com.au it's 9am starting the day - “don't mess with routine” rule.

Best bit of feedback ever comes from the 2008 relaunch:

User: When I saw your new layout, I literally vomited. My $400 monitor was sprayed with a mist of chicken risotto and chardonnay. I was so repulsed that I also soiled my pants. Thanks a lot, News Limited. Editor: Chardonnay’s probably a bit heavy for risotto, next time try a sauvignon blanc or maybe even a viognier.

Best rule of website feedback: it's just a website, don't take it too seriously!

@diversionary @ScotTheLot


Scalable JS Design Patterns - Addy Osmani

Most empires start out quite small, then grow (imagine adding ships to a fleet). Each of the pieces need to talk to each other, which is easier when things are small.

You can solve this issue by introducing a central control – a Death Star in the middle. Everyone talks to the single entity which communicates back out.

Also you want the fleet to keep working even if one ship is lost or swapped out. However you also want the flexibility to move to a whole new death star if you need to, in case IT blows up.

Part I: Patterns, a New Hope

Design Patterns, JS, Scalable Application Architecture.

We all do things differently and we try to address scalability differently. Small differences in syntax and approach. But that doesn't work when you scale, it leads to problems.

“We search for some kind of harmony between two intangibles....” - Christopher Alexander – father of design patterns.

These patterns are solid and reliable, they've proved themselves in the past. Some of the patterns which emerged 20 years ago still apply now to JS!

Patterns are reusable, they give us a vocabulary for expressing solutions elegantly. It's easier than describing deep details – they are problem agnostic. They ultimately prevent minor problems which turn into big problems down the line.

Part II: JS Strikes Back

Common pattern is the anonymous self- and immediately-executing function. It has problems with privacy, so you use modules to make things private within the module.

It's very flexible, it's a very old pattern. You can apply this to jQuery, YUI, Dojo, ExtJS.

Better pattern: Asych Module Definition (AMD). It's a stepping stone from the module system. Has define() and require() methods, conventions for declaring dependencies and so on.

An alternative is CommonJS, does similar things.

ES Harmony Modules: a module format proposed for EcmaScript Harmony.

“There are people who do things right, there are people who do things wrong, then there are people who write Google Dart.”

Facade Pattern – gives a limited, readable API and doesn't directly expose the underlying code. The exposed API can differ greatly from the underlying modules.

Mediator Pattern – the death star from earlier. It acts as a mediator to handle disparate things. It's the air traffic control – the planes don't talk to each other, they talk to the tower. Modules broadcast or listen, without being too tied to specifics. Pub/sub on a central mediator.

Scalable Application Architecture: strategies for decoupling and future-proofing large apps.

Possible problems: how much is reusable? Can a single module exist on its own? Can a single module be tested independently? How much do modules depend on each other? If one part fails, will the whole thing still function?

Think long term. You may decide to switch libraries somewhere down the track.

The secret to building large apps is never build large apps, build small pieces that fit together.

Acknowledge from the start that you don't know how it's going to grow, so you design defensively.

Putting it together.

Components communicate with the facade, which communicates with the mediator. Components do not communicate directly with the mediator.

Some people call the facade a “sandbox controller”. Same concept.

Application core manages the module lifecycle – when is it safe to start, when should it stop, when they should be restarted. Modules should execute automatically when started.

Modules should inform the app when something interesting happens – publish events. This includes errors, when something goes wrong it should publish a useful error.

Useful example is the Gmail chat widget can restart and recover without stopping you checking your email.

Aura preview – a framework he's building at AOL to provide a boilerplate for one way to approach implementing this architecture. It will be open source.

gituhub: addyosmani – todomvc, a “to do” list example shown in a variety of libraries.



A Dao of the Web - John Allsopp

Aside: John's original Dao of the web article on A List Apart is one of the most influential posts ever written about modern web development. I can not immediately think of any other post I still reference more than a decade later. It is required reading! If you have not read the article, you should.

Photo: John on stage

Photo by Web Directions

John has been thinking back over the past ten years and what he has learnt since writing the original Dao article.

Quoting from Tao Te Ching (“It's not religious, don't worry! Give it a go!”)

The power of the web is not complacency, it's from the tremendous efforts of individuals. There is also something profound about the web itself and the way it's built.

If you'd told John in 2000 people would still be talking about the Dao article ten years later, he'd have thought you were crazy.

In 2000, most designers were coming from a print background – a context of control, which brought the expectation of fine-grain control (colour, fonts, etc). They thought the web was broken because they didn't have the same control. The new way was to consider that “bug” a feature – John called it adaptability. Users could change things so the web would work better from them.

The web was a user-centric medium, possibly for the first time.

But there's a risk of replacing old dogmatic approaches with new ones.


John asks himself now... do the ideas still hold up? The web has changed amazingly in the past ten years.

Now we have people talking about having control when you use the web, but losing control when we move into building native apps. (Brian Fling example quote)

But we have Joe Hewitt talking about how native apps have the “right” kind of scrolling; and how it's hard to do on the web.

Hewitt, Wired and others suggests we might stop using the web in favour of apps. John notes “There's a cottage industry in declaring that the web is dead.”

John: “I love the web for what it has done for our world. We have wonderful careers as developers and a lot of what we do makes peoples' lives better.”

The web is hard to master – but John feels this is a feature, not a bug. "When people say they want it be more native, they mean 'iOS'. Let's be honest.”

Developing for iOS is like designing for paper – there are basically four screen sizes: phone or tablet, in portrait or landscape. There is one way to input – just touch. We can presume people with these devices have a reasonable network for connectivity. There are a small number of interaction design patterns. Then Apple puts huge energy into making things nice (online, to make things work brilliantly we need to do the work ourselves).

Yin and Yang comes from the Tao Te Ching. Things define their opposites, things are defined in response to what's around them and what they are not.

So the constraints of iOS are features because it's nice to build and nice to use. But the other side of that is censorship and control over what you can publish, how you can publish it, how much money Apple will take. Innovation is a function of the people who own the platform – you have to wait for Apple to add new things to the system.

The matrix of possibilities we create for on the web is more complex than iOS, but it is not constrained in the same way.

In absolute numbers, the takeup of the web is much higher than that of iOS. It has huge reach.

Universality is not a bug of the web, it's a feature.

The fundamental approach to innovation on the web is to be open – people create things like jQuery and Coffeescript, build a collaborative web. There's nobody at the gate stopping them putting it online, the way Apple can stop you putting things in the app store if they don't like the way you built it. That's the great power of what we are doing. That's why it's better than a closed platform – no matter how wonderful that platform may be, how much fun it is to build and use.

As professionals, stopping progress would in fact make our lives easier – even if things are limited, they're not a moving target. This is probably why platforms have such appeal – it's like working in a simpler time, with less divergence, less variables to handle.

Everything is fragmenting, everything is diverging, but this creates new times and ways to use devces. There is no way John would ever go jogging with a laptop, but his iPhone can track miles and upload data later.

Divergence is still a problem. It is hard to do what we do. It is a problem, but it is OUR problem as developers and designers to solve it for users.

Scott Jensen describes the current focus on apps as “jurassic”. That it's ultimately a myopic view and something we will move past in time. So if we live in the jurassic age of apps, what will the cretaceous look like?

One of the web's great powers is to remove friction and flatten hierarchies. In 25 years we've gone from air mail letters taking a week, to having email and social networks to talk easily and immediately with absent friends.

Cam's “play” app had no friction: we went to a URL and started playing. Had that been done with apps we'd have had to go into app stores, seach for things, provide credentials, give money, wait out the bandwidth......

“App stores and platforms sound like paper in 1999. We have gone backwards in time, to a past that's really kind of over – certainly for the user.” (paraphrase)

John thinks the web needs custodians, not owners. People who will nurture it, grow it, engage with it, people who love it.

The success with the web is due to the people who have been building with it.

The strength of native apps is regaining control, but the strength of the web is building to cope with the lack of control.

We should nurture and enable the web, not try to own it or control it. Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter's place – when you handle their tools, chances are you will cut yourself.

We should nurture the web's adaptability, the thing which makes it universal. It's taken us on a long and amazing journey so far, and hopefully that journey is actually the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.



Using the world as a canvas - Martin Tomitsch

What happens when you integrate digital displays into a neighbourhood? They tried using blackboards as a rapid prototype – neighbourhoodscoreboards.com

Focus for today... “Ubiquitous computing”

Years ago the idea that we would have multiple computing devices on and around us at all times seemed unlikely, but we have that now – phones, tablets, etc and public devices like screens showing information in public spaces.

In 1991 Mark Weiser suggested ubiquitous computing would “help overcome information overload”.

[U]biquitous computers will help overcome the problem of information overload. There is more information available at our fingertips during a walk in the woods than in any computer system, yet people find a walk among trees relaxing and computers frustrating. Machines that fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs, will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods.

Putting information into the periphery may allow us to focus more on what's in front of us. Ambient display of remote information can connect people – ambient intimacy, similar to twitter. (example of one table having a projection of what's on another, so you can tell someone at the other end is having their morning coffee)

If you have objects that don't look like computers, would you incorporate it differently into your life? eg. Small glowing ball that indicates data with colour, it could sit in places like the bedroom that you wouldn't have a computer display - because it doesn't look like a computer, even though it accesses data.

With the drop in cost of screens, people are deploying them in an incredible amount of new places – on buildings, on buses, on hand dryers! ...although sadly, often just for advertising.

Smartphones can be quite isolating – people get immersed in a small screen experience and ignore what's happening around them. Augmented Reality may combat this by merging the two – make the device more aware and immersed in the reality of the place you're in.

Personal projectors and AR devices open up a new avenue for personal broadcasting and expression. Early examples are projections over buildings – mapping the phyiscal so you can project over the top of it. Lots of examples on youtube.



Long after the thrill - Stephen P. Anderson

Photo: Stephen on stage

Photo by Web Directions

How do we get people to fall in love with our applications? ...leads to the next question: How do we get people to stay in love with our applications?

Can we do this by making things more gamelike? ...with the caveat that Stephen thinks it's not really about game mechanics, it's about psychology and what motivates people. Motivation is a better place to start the conversation.

Humans have an inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and push themselves. It's wired into us.

Three attitudes to teaching:

  1. The “apply yourself” approach: This stuff is boring. I'll make the best of it but you'll have to work and apply yourself.
  2. The “sugar coating” approach: This isn't all that interesting, but I've added some activities to make this more fun for everyone.
  3. The “finding the joy” approach: This stuff is really quite interesting! I'll show you why it's important, but first I've got a challenge for you...

games and challenges + goals and rewards = game

Note if you just add the rewards, it's not a game. That's badgification, not gamification. There's a difference between making things fun and finding the joy in the topic itself.

Exercise with the audience:

  1. Think of a game
  2. Why does it work?
  3. How could you apply that to a web project - how would a time tracking application look/work if it shared the characteristics that made the game successful?

I thought of a game which unlocks items and features in the game based on challeneges; then when you're done you can do the challenges again on another play-through (armed with your experience).

This gives continual progression and mastery. Each time you “win” and hit the top level, you unlock a whole new level to work through (and it gets harder each time).

So what would a time tracking application look like if it shared these characteristics?

Completing time faster and more accurately earns points, you can level up as a time tracker. Unlock abilities to block out larger groups of time, at first you can only enter time at the end of one day and not do multiple days, get badges or mods for accruing certain amounts of time against a project.

The exercise is good to see a design from a different perspective; and move beyond simple points and badges games.

  • Farmville + time tracking = entering time several times during the day keeps your farm going.
  • Bubble wrap + time tracking = pop bubbles to enter time.

...spot the problem though? Adding game mechanics tends to fall into the “sugar coating” category and they add only a short term layer of fun. They don't keep you interested long term.

Instead, how do we find the joy? Figure out what really makes games work. Figure out why it's important in the first place. Try using intrinsic motivations instead of extrinsic rewards.

Do the “five whys”/laddering. Ask “why?” five times. Eg “why do I even want to track my time?”

The “aha” moment was that Stephen wanted to get better at estimating time to have a more balanced life. He started doing an estimate of the time that would be used that day; then compare against the reality and work out an accuracy rating.

Motivators: challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, competition, cooperation, recognition, self expression...

The bad news about games: they eventually end. Even World of Warcraft had to be blown up and started over. So if you make things more game-like, they will eventually lose novelty. The honeymoon phase ends.

“Delight, unfortunately, doesn't last.” - Ralph Koster, game designer

Stephen put out a question on Quora – what web apps have you used more than three years, and why? The answers: apps like twitter, facebook; reasons for continued use were things like “it does a decent job”, “it works and they improve it”, etc. But there was no love.

He asked a question about which services continue to delight them? Response: crickets.

So ultimately you can get people to stick around by providing a service that is trustworthy and valuable.

Kano Model – comes from industrial design. Two axes: low to high satisfaction; and not implemented to fully implemented. You have basic needs – features you simply have to build to be in the space. Then you have delighters – things that are not required, but when added they bring value (however over time they stop delighting people).

Social Proof - “all my friends use Facebook”. People go where there friends are, even if there's a better tool somewhere else.

Personal Narratives – stories. People have stories in their head that inform what they are doing.




Day Two.

Design [in|for|and] the age of ubiquitous computing - Mike Kuniavsky

Photo: mike on stage Talk based on Mike's experience designing experiences for things other than computers – gasp!

Looking at the history of technology... papyrus was disruptive: it changed society in ancient Egypt because writing suddenly became orders of magnitude easier... then more people wrote, the scribes gained a huge amount of power, people started having ideas and asking questions like “why is it only the pharoah that goes to heaven?”

To protect power, the pharoah made scribes into a higher role in order to control them – they reported only to the pharaoh. Control was re-established. There was no clear intention from the people who created papyrus that they were trying to threaten the order of their society... it just happened.

The lesson from this is that technology always has unintended consequences. We may feel like we can predict it but we are mostly looking at the small pieces that make up the whole.

We're on the upslope of a change now – that of ubiquitous computing.

In 1989 a 486 chip cost $1500, in 2011 it's fifty cents. The cost has plummeted and the power has gone vastly up. (Moore's law)

Saying the cloud is good for having your data and processing done elsewhere (thin clients) is like saying steam engines are good for pumping water out of mines. Sure, steam engines were good for that – but they were also good for creating the industrial revolution.

We are getting used to the idea of “information as a material” - we are comfortable putting chips and connectivity into everyday things. It no longer seems crazy. BlendTec have – for a long time – had a programmable blender. The blender can have knowledge about making things programmed in. This means it can have buttons that reproduce a series of blending actions determined in a food lab – smoothie chains don't have to teach their staff all the finer points.

Modern small aircraft controls now look rather like a flight simulator... that flies. But more importantly small computers have replaced mechanical parts, which means they can act in more sophisticated ways – they can react to data.

Connecting the real world and the information world has been hard – we have restaurants, we have ratings services. But we end up with stickers on the door telling people they can make use of the rating service. To put it another way, the sticker is telling people their current location has an information shadow.

Having access to services on our devices breaks down the online/offline view. We don't think online or offline, we think “use YouTube”... on pc, phone, tablet. Mike names this a move to devices being avatars for services. Your phone becomes a convenient way to take your Flickr photos with you.

Kindle has the “buy once, read anywhere” approach – they don't care what device you use, because they know you're simply accessing their service. The Kindle Fire can be considered a physical representation of Amazon's entire digital inventory – it's incidentally an iPad competitor.

This all makes the service design a key challenge. Designing a service that works across all these service avatars – all the devices/ways/places people will access the core service.

Mike suggests ubiquitous computing really “started” in 2005 (updated roombas, elmos, etc). This makes the movement really young, it's really early days. So we can barely understand even the shape of the elephant in the room.

We don't have a good mental model for how we relate to things linked from virtual to physical. Examples:

  • Germany's “call a bike” service where you ring a bike to book it, and when you're done and lock it up the time spent is billed to the bike. You don't own a bike, you own the possibility of using a bike when you want to.
  • Fashion rental/subscription services (eg. Bag, Borrow or Steal) operate on the idea of paying for the possibility space of “whatever the fashionable bag is right now” instead of owning any one bag. Maybe in the future we'll simply subscribe to brands and access whatever's suitable for where you are at the time, even across cities and climates.

Perhaps the most profound effect is our increasing reliance on embedded logic and services. We are generally happy for Google Maps to give us a route to get somewhere – allowing for the odd time it gets it hilariously wrong. San Francisco has implemented sfpark.org which senses the presence of a car in a space. The data is then used to locate open parking spaces; it pays for itself by telling parking rangers where there's a car parked by an expired meter; but it also has a self-updating pricing algorithm to charge more in high-demand areas.

“Quantified self movement” - using devices to monitor themselves and their lives, so you can optimise your body and your life. Fit Bit monitor, body meters, sleep sensor by Zeo... devices to monitor your life at a very personal level. The devices are all built with the assumption of being connected to things – they are not useful on their own. They introduce extrinsic rewards for doing things, but they're based on algorithms rather than what we consciously want. Critically though we have to trust the objectivity of the devices.

Water Pebble – a little device that times your showers, then slowly reduces the time it allows. The idea is to reduce water uses. However it reduced beyond what Mike could keep up with, so in the end it stopped helping change behaviour and simply “sat there blinking red, mocking my inability to change”.

We end up negotiating with devices – we want to reason with them, to explain we can't shower in that short amount of time after all and give us a break.

Things have unintentional consequences. Social media and mobile phones provided a disruptive technology that led to massive social change in Egypt – this year! Any technology which can be used to share cute cat pictures can also be used to overthrow a government.

While we have a responsibility to keep working and designing new things, we must not forget things have unintended consequences.



All the small things - Relly Annett-Baker

Little details are important but often get ignored.

A caveat: this talk should not need to exist! In a perfect world all projects would have dedicated copywriters (“ha ha ha!”).

Another caveat: Relly does not code or design, so if she says something dumb please excuse it! She's made a career of asking stupid questions from smart people – it lets her take on that wisdom.

(I cannot match the way Relly tells the story of a man trying buy a drink at a bar and being bounced around with lack of instructions – forced to extract every last painful detail, then told to go buy the same gin in another room... much like “paypal will handle your transaction...over there...good luck...”)

People who are trying to use the web and buy things want things to be easy and understandable. This is essentially why music piracy took off in the early days – it was just so much easier. Itunes had a lot of success by being easy to use.

“Even the internet wants to get paid on fucking Fridays” - Dave McClure

Although the internet started out with a few geeks connecting some computers... someone said “I know, let's connect a BANK to this and we can SELL shit!” Now it's developers' jobs to build things, but it's often devs who end up writing instructional copy.

We can learn a lot from game design when we approach interaction copy. Games teach you to play: Super Mario Brothers, level one, teaches you need to dodge the mushroom-esque Goombas, or you'll die – in fact most of us died this way at least once:

Screenshot of Mario dying at the very first Goomba

But you also need to get the actual mushrooms for power-ups. So the power up mushroom is almost impossible to dodge, so you get hit by it... and discover it's a power up.

You didn't feel like you were learning, you felt like you'd succeeded. Then when you killed the goombas a little score number popped up inline – which was revolutionary at the time. You learned you were building a score.

Example: the Huffduffer signup form, which is done in “madlibs” style rather than a big form. Everyone can fill out this form, it's conversational and understandable.

To explain instructional copy, look at text games – get lamp, light lamp, etc. Whole games were based on text instructions and four-line descriptions of places... and this sparseness has persisted to the modern web: “make it shorter, clip it, put a picture there instead...”

Text adventures have now evolved into “interactive fiction”. eg. “Violet” by Jeremy Freese. Also “The Big Orb” which is quite silly but shows how to write instructions, you know how to use it “...which is more than you can say about most websites”.

404 pages: “Welcome to the abyss, only the back button can save you now!” Hitting errors is like death – and the more you die, the less you want to keep trying.

People don't like explaining things – they think it's boring, doesn't look good, etc... but actually explaining things increases trust in your site and your brand. Trust is hugely important. People will keep using businesses they trust, even if things go wrong – we trust them to fix it.

Example where a bank released an iphone app, but staff in local branches couldn't confirm if it was a legitimate application. One staff member said "oh, well it must be ours it has our logo on it..."

The bank should have been prepared for enquiries – they had only done part of the job. “You want inbox zero, not inbox shit-ton”... doing a half-arsed job of fixing something is only a short term fix, it's a bad shortcut. It results in emails because things go wrong.

Try buying things out of your comfort zone – see what the experience is like. It's mostly terrible! ...and the users hate you for it! Businesses like Amazon only have to be marginally better than others to be successful.

Surely we can shoot for something more than Marginally Better.

Start with forms...

Book recommendation: “Forms That Work”

Helper text is good - “Enter Your Billing Address” is a bit obscure, but adding “Where is your credit card information sent?” explains the form field in a simple, understandable way. People don't say “billing address” but they know where they live.

“Use text that describes the user's goal.” - (source missed...) eg. If the button sends the form, simply say “Send” don't mess about with icons and pictures of letters.

Also be audience specific, eg. a UK site with an older average age has “I wish to make my purchase” buttons instead of “check out”... this is language that makes sense to the user. UK shoppers don't "check out".

Save users time by pre-filling fields if you can do it – ask “have you purchased through this site before” rather than telling them “go log in”.

“Don't make me bugger about!” - Relly

Give people good feedback on failed form submission – do it inline, contextual help is better than a big list way back up at the top.

Back to 404s... Smashing Magazine held a competition to design a 404 page and the winning entries were mostly terrible, in fact some were less useful than the default apache error message which at least attempts to explain what 404 even means.

“It's not enough for your website to be usable. That's like saying a meal should be edible.” - Cennydd Bowles

404 pages should give people options to proceed – show people the prime content they are probably looking for anyway, explain what to do next. Don't make it a dead end.

Site recommendations: Abtests.com, bokardo

Best slide: “When all else fails, crowbar the fucker”

When all else fails, crowbar the fucker

Don't try to ram inappropriate copy into places it doesn't fit! Write it properly.

Error messages... don't give cryptic messages with no hints on how to correct the problem. You can use some friendlier language, you can provide pathways to help right where things have hit a problem.

Passwords and logins... try to remember your users aren't like you, have some empathy for your users. Relly changed an error message from “oh no something has gone wrong!” to “oh dear, we have a problem. Let's fix it.” Being alarmist will make users stressed, being friendly helps them get on with fixing the situation.

Terrible example: “passwords with the letter I in the third position are not supported” ….WTF?!

Take away:

  1. State the error
  2. Explain the error
  3. Create a path to resolution


Legalese and Ts and Cs... iTunes has 90 pages of T&Cs, this is terrible, people don't read that.

If you don't have a content strategy you need one. Get a copy of “Content Strategy” by Kristina Halvorsen.


  • Good placeholder copy. It might end up online...
  • Have a style guide – how should things sound? What tone should it have?

Take the time to test and the time to write. You can absolutely ruin your site with a bad form at the end. You need to be less annoying than Barney the dinosaur – surely you can manage that!



Interaction Design Bauhaus - Rahul Sen

What history can teach us,
While designing our digital futures
For people

Rahul's background is about interaction design with products, rather than the web. His thoughts about this talk began when he was using Spotify on Windows Phone... he fell in love with the Windows Phone "Metro" design language. It made him question the ideas of what we consider “beautiful”.

As a designer it made Rahul challenge and question the user experiences he was working with.

Metro recap:

  • clean, light, open and fast.
  • Celebrate typography.
  • Alive in motion.
  • Content, not chrome.
  • Emphasises “authentically digital”.

Specifically avoids skeuomorphism, eg. from the guidelines:

Favor Practical Operation over Realism.

Generally speaking, applications should not have custom controls that seek to mimic real life. For example, the FM Radio feature in the preloaded Zune application does not use a dial, knob, or series of buttons to control the choice of station.

Example of design taken from Metro documentation - clean, flat, no fake buttons or dials

(Implementing Windows Phone Application Design)

Difference between evolution and revolution... think of revolution as a circle, disrupted. Something that sends things onto a different trajectory. Evolution becomes revolution at a point when a conscious choice and effort is made to do something different.

We don't just have known revolutionaries, history is full of faceless revolutionaries and people who were recognised after their time. Look back from Apple to Dieter Rams, what happened in the past informs what happens now and next.

Comparison of Braun and Apple products which shows clear inspiration

Aside: interesting how people have to put huge disclaimers ahead of critiquing anything about Apple. We should not make it so hard to discuss things that are just products.

iOS5: why did they put embossed leather design in? Isn't interaction design rebelling against this? Aren't we trying to design authentically digital experiences?

Idea of Shiva as an agent of “proactive destruction” - clearing the old to make way for the new.

Let pixels BE pixels. Let's not make pixels look like leather!

We also still inhabit physical places, although the physical and digital aspects of our lives are converging. We live in Sydney, but also on Facebook. They're not perfect but we stay there.

We inhabit built spaces which have scripts. Things like facebook are simply objects.

Book: What Technology Wants – Kevin Kelly

Technology is an extension for ourselves, new forms of containers and shelters. Our devices connect us to people. But we are still nostalgic when we design for these devices, as though we are still envious of the physical objects and need to pretend to be physical even though we are working in the digital.

Very similar to the industrial Bahaus before, we are in an IxD Bauhaus.

Rewind to the 1800s...

Photo: heavily ornamented art nouveau staircase In that time, there was a great deal of nature envy – buildings mimicked nature, cathedrals mimicked forests. This climaxed with art nouveau – everything was flowy, floral, nature inspired. There was an envy of nature apparent in design of spaces.

Enter Mies van der Rohe - “less is more”. This led to exploration of what an “honest space” should be... example: Barcelona Pavilion. It was fresh and clean; celebrated light and openness; had plain walls. This challenged the notion of “what is architecture”. Then the Internation Style emerged, celebrating structure – there is no “makeup” on features, they are simply and cleanly what they are - unadorned.

The Bauhaus freed people from history and started a clean slate. Reduction, purity, production, order.

Some people did react negatively to it – some felt it didn't resonate, it was too clinical and they didn't feel comfortable there. Movie “Playtime”, 1967... critique of Bauhaus and how uncomfortable people felt in these new, neat, clean spaces.

Still from Play Time

Criticisms of Bahaus were that it was monotonous, inhuman, sterile, elitist.

The next movement was Post-Modernism, which attempted to look back and include history as well as move forward. Wit, reference, deconstruction, ornament.

Aside: I never ever like to write down any thought or idea about Post-Modernism. It's too bloody hard to avoid arguments about what “is” postmodern(ist)(ism)...

Progress from 1800 to 2000: Nature envy → functionalism → wit, ornament, reference.

History is rhyming: Mondrian placed next to Windows Phone – clean lines and boxes!

Realism Envy: desktop UI with “notebooks”, fake bookshelves on book readers... physical mimicry, skeuomorphism. Web progress since the 70s: Early GUI → real world desktop metaphors → “the web look” → skeuomorphism....

Rahul observes the IXD Bahaus as a way to move past skeuomorphism. A return to purity and honesty in visual interaction experiences. (full quote too long to transcribe)

We should embrace the new opportunities offered by technology in addition to the old. A networked, digital, interactive copy of a book is in some ways more than the book on paper alone. So why don't interfaces reflect this?

“I say that flat is the new black; that 2D is the new avant-garde; that a surface doesn't have to be ashamed of being a surface.”

Stephen Poole

We get carried away by “material resolution”. Plastic, concrete, paint, pixels... whenever we have been given a new tool, the first works or iterative uses are always over-the-top. Things are initially used to the absolute limit, before we pull back...

But we start by mimicking things:

  • plastic → wood
  • concrete → nature
  • paint → realism
  • pixels → objects

Drivers for construction: modular, prefab, abstraction... for pixels, what will it be?

Moving forward requires re-learning, like learning escalators after stairs. Staircases are an international standard... and yet no two staircases are the same. They have their own context, they can be different but remain functional.

Fundamental difference between the build and digital architecture: built architecture decays with time, digital architecture grows with time. (Aside: arguable, see the concern that we are in a period that will be a Digital Dark Age.)

The fact we are dealing with time and content suggests an inevitable growth.

Pyramid of user experience: three layers. Physical, Cognitive, Emotional (at the top). Start with simple functionality, move up to things which are usable and convenient, finally reaching things which are meaningful and pleasurable to use.

“Let's rid ourselves of this excessive baggage of skeuomorphism.”

Five principles:

  • Think lateral.
  • Avoid literal.
  • Be true to material.
  • Let content speak.
  • “Brutally reduce”.

Q: how do you think this relates to children using devices? Will Metro struggle bridging that gap?

A: When we worked with architecture, Bauhaus architecture specifically, the parapets were simple frames of steel. People asked what would happen when children came to the building? They'd walk right through and fall! But treat minimalism and the bauhaus as a beginning and work out which user groups which need to be brought back into a different frame. We need to go through this phase of putting down the rucksack, remove the burden, then put back what we really need into that rucksack. Find what needs to go back and put it back, rightly so.


See also: Rahul has blogged about this topic on Johnny Holland magazine.


The origins of magic - Dmitry Baranovskiy

“This is my first non-technical talk, so it's probably going to suck. I don't know why you came.”

The internet is awesome, it's amazing. But what's more amazing is us – the developers, who create the web. To people outside, we look like magicians already.

It's a magical process: start with nothing → end with something.

People grumbling about it is the same as grumbling about long haul flights... when YOU'RE FLYING!

Dmitry's favourite magician is Einstein.

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein

To Dmitry what Einstein did is magic, none of it makes sense to him but it works.

Would break web devs into two big groups: there are the tradesmen, the plumbers, who turn up and do thing and go away. Then there are people who are passionately curious, they are trying to make things that other people think are impossible... and when they achieve, we are all richer.

Three parts to a magic trick: the pledge, the turn, then the prestige.

  1. The pledge: take something ordinary. HTML, CSS, JS...
  2. The turn: make something people don't expect.
  3. The prestige: view source. Show how it's done, unlike magic tricks.

The more tricks we reveal, the more we expand what's possible, we push the boundaries. That's how the web evolves.

What does it take to be a magician? Skills? Bullshit! Skills are good, they help, but it's not skills that make people magicians – it's curiosity.

Most people say that is is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: is is the character.

Albert Einstein

What do you have to do to become a magician?

Fight demons. You fight them, you win, you can make magic. What demons?

  • “All those guys are way smarter than me...” But how do you know? You don't know, so why do you think they're smarter? Fuck it, just do it! Don't compare yourself with anybody.

  • “Will it bring me money?” Most success is an accident. A planned, prepared accident. They prepared but it could just as easily fail as succeed. Dmitry didn't expect anything from Raphael – first day he put it on his blog, he got 8000 hits and it killed his hosting. Secret to success is to do the right thing all the time, until the right time comes along – that match is success. That's hard, but it's worth it.

  • “What if I fail?” Web dev you do for yourself is cheap – it really only loses you time. But you still gained experience. Maybe you didn't become successful, famous, whatever. But it's not a reason to no try. If you don't try, you are losing by default. If you are trying, you have a chance to win. So wouldn't you take the change?

  • “I am too old for this.” Younger people have no kids, no responsibility, lots of time... when Dmitry created Raphael he was thirty, had a wife, kid, full time job. He created Raphael on the train on a laptop. "There is all this time. There's all this excuses... fuck them!"

These are demons inside, you have to fight them. When you fight them you become free and you find there is a source of energy you didn't know about. Magic happens. You make something.

Then you release it and you will encounter a new demon: trolls. They will tell you that you suck. This is really hard. They want to kill you, kill your magic – because they are not magicians and they suck. You have to fight them. Either don't reply, or hit back so hard they simply don't come back.

And don't be a troll yourself. Don't stop others' magic, create your own. Old russian proverb: some people raise by growing up above others, other people raise by pushing others down. We do it sometimes, Dmitry points out even he does it sometimes, but we should not.

Most of the time we suck at something it's not because we are bad. It's because we are looking for excuses not to do things.

Everyone wants to be fit, but we don't do the work. Everyone can do 100 pushups in a year, but very few people actually do it.

"Enough excuses. Excuses, excuses, excuses, excuses, excuses, stop it! Stop sucking."

Don't worry about how big an impact you make. The internet means you can broadcast to anyone. You tweet something 100 people read, it's more people than in this room.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

People tend to forgive your failures and celebrate your successes.

You can help people in many ways and you receive positive energy back... which helps you make more magic.

Normal things are magic for people who don't know how they work. It's fun to do magic for people who already think you're a wizard, but it's more fun to do magic for magicians.

(Showed the hilarious movie clip from Your Highness, finishing with “magic, motherfucker”)

Nothing prevents you doing this, except you. So go and do magic... motherfucker.



CSS3 Transforms - Greg “Wickedly Cool” Rewis


What are transforms? The same thing as scale, rotate, skew in Photoshop! Plus there's another called translate, which wasn't as immediately familiar.

Transforms... can be applied to anything, they are applied immediately at the time the page is rendered, they apply to all children of the transformed element (pars in a rotated div will also be rotated), you can apply them to generated content and pseudo selectors.

So, you can get things to scale on load, or you can get things to scale on :hover.

Remember to put vendor specific prefixes first and non-prefixed version last. If you aren't sure about prefixes, use a service like CSS3 Prefixer.

Scale, skew, rotate – does what they say. Note some things need units of measure and other don't. Translate: means move. You give it x and y and move things.

Example for syntax:

.foo {
transform: scale(2) rotate(45deg);

This example will happen together, instantaneously.

By default all transforms occur around the centre of the object, which is the origin. You override this with...

transform-origin: 100% 100%;

(100% on both x and y. You can also use keywords like top, left, etc)

Note the CSS3 tranform property does not affect the box model, even if it appears to change the stacking order.

Remember... if you can, you should! (actually no, he's kidding!). So you can go crazy! ...but you want to be sure things are going to render. Do feature testing.

Start with a simple check, where you remove no-js with Javascript:

<html class=”no-js”>

...add Modernizr to check what's working. You can then style according to what's available. You can also add filters for IE, but really only feed the dinosaur if you really have to – filters are slow, sluggish, bad to use.


“IE10 is a modern browser, IE9 is just a wannabe... at least in terms of transitions.”

What are transitions? Basically a smoother version of the old way of changing colours and states eg. background colour on hover.

Only “animatable CSS properties” can have transitions. While that means almost everything, a notable gap is background images. They don't work.

Anatomy of a transition: start keyframe, end keyframe, with tweens rendered by the browser between the two. Familiar ground for Flash developers.

This translates to the style for the initial element design, then a second style for the transitioned result. You specify which properties you will transition, with transition-property. Note if you do a transition on something which affects the box model (eg. padding), other elements will be affected.

You can set a duruation:

transition-duration: 2s;


transition-duration: 500ms;

...note these are not precise, the actual elapsed time will vary across browsers.

Don't just think about transitions being about hovers – you can trigger them with things like media queries. (example with the page changing from morning, afternoon, evening in response to window width)

Transition speed is linear by default, but you can modify that with transition-timing-function, which adds easing options like ease, ease-out, etc. Try using Ceasar (easing tool) to try out the properties to see how they look (plus it gives you the code).

By default transitions play immediately. You can override with transition-delay, with a seconds or miliseconds delay.

“...oh by the way, don't ever do that to your navigation!”

You can rack up multiple durations, delays etc. Tranforms accept multiple comma-separated values and they map between properties. You can also write it all into one huge shorthand transition:.

“Raise your right hand and repeat after me, I will never do the following...” (crazy example)

You can apply this to ::before and ::after, :focus etc.


“Like transitions on steroids!” Not hugely supported yet, but quite cool... but remember many mobiles are using webkit so that adds some possibilities.

With animations you set an iteration count (number or infinite) and direction (normal or alternate). Remember that backwards moves count as iterations. Three iterations won't finish where you started!

The full animation has a name, duration, timing, iteration-count, direciont, delay, fill mode. You can also specify keyframes.

"Animation fill mode...... what?" This tells the browser what to do before and after the animation. Setting backwards means “show the first keyframe”, forwards means the last keyframe, both means show first one if you haven't played it and the last if you have played it.

Cool example: solar system diagram, particularly useful to show the effect of moving the origin outside the element.

Neat tool: animate.css – sets up common animations so you just add a class.

Note animations are a processor hog. There is a trick to accelerate them...

-webkit-transform: translateZ(0)


-webkit-transform: translate3d(0,0,0)

...which will pass the animation to the GPU. But please be careful, you can really thrash the battery of your mobile users!

3D transforms – more like 2.5D – adds a Z axis to use for transforms. A positive number moves towards the user, negative moves away.

Perspective... by default all children of a transformed element are flattened into the parent element. However using -webkit-transform-style lets you do separate things to the child elements - “the children can live in their own world, just like our real kids...”

Great blog post: Natural Object-Rotation with CSS3 3D

(Finished with examples of CSS shaders, a proposal being given to the W3C)



Waving at the machines - James Bridle

(an aspect of the robot-readable world, aka “it's 2011 and I have no idea what anything is or what it does any more” - Tom Taylor)

Introduced the "render ghosts" – those people who live in the rendered world that hasn't been built yet. They live in imaginary places, like renderings of proposed buildings. If you look closely enough, these places they live in are pixelated because our vision of the future is digital.

But now we are getting curious crossovers – a pixelated cushion, which has come out of the digital and entered the real world. Once you notice this style, you start seeing it everywhere. Things that might have been gingham in the past might be pixelated now.

We are creating a new aesthetic, creating digital things in the real world.

When you create things in the real world that made sense in a game world, you question the rules of both; the ethics of a strawberry milk cow that comes from Farmville open questions about genetic engineering.

Telehouse West “is to blame for this talk”... it's a data centre, but not the usually anonymous building:

Photo of Telehouse West, which has a pixelated effect build onto its facade

Data centres usually don't get built to stand out – “The cloud is a lie, the cloud looks like sheds.” This is what the network looks like in the real world.

(on strange pixellated art effect) “It started out as something weird... now you get it in Beyonce videos.”

Our understanding of the border between the digital and the physical has changed.

Computers allow us to see through time – satellites recorded data even when people weren't paying attention, we can go back and look at what was there. Similarly before and after photos showing the effect of disasters... people did not take the “before” photos with the intention of showing the effect of disaster.

Meanwhile we've decided computers are better at making decisions about sporting results than the humans who are actually doing it – Hawkeye in cricket, which means the entire crowd stops watching the people and starts watching a computer-game-esque reconstruction of what just happened, and the computer essentially decides what just really happened. “….....what?!”

Computers are now looking at us, trying to work out what we're thinking. Cameras recognise faces, try to recognise blinking. Security cameras in airports read moods of people as they go through security checks.

James created a book: “Where the f**k was I?” using the stored location data on his iPhone.

It was basically a reminder to himself, to remind him where he'd been. However he discovered what I had really mapped was his position on the network, not actual locations. This is not where the fuck was I, it's where the fuck the phone thought I was!

We start using real systems to view fake things. There is a whole city from Grand Theft Auto set up in google street view... Maps have “trap streets” - fake streets added by cartographers to catch people pirating their work. “the sky above trap street” finds satellite photos of those locations.

Google street view is weird – it's the view from a multi-lensed machine 6 feet above the street. We're looking through the robots' eyes.

Then there are gaps – places in google earth that are blacked out, places in street view blurred out or removed with the Photoshop mosaic filter.

Urban Camouflage.... ghillie suits for Ikea!

Photo: person hiding in IKEA with a suit of IKEA carry bags

Splinter camouflage for planes – it turns out that pixellated camouflage works for hiding things, because nothing “really looks like that”. It's also great for hiding things in other spectra – there is IR-resistant cammo! Tanks can use active heat signature cammo to look like a car to IR.

Tagmenot.info → a way to stop things going into google street view. "QR codes are awful... we should make pretty things, not ugly things."

CAPTCHAs are forcing us to continually prove to systems that we are humans.

Calibration pose illustration - silhouette of a person, with lines drawn on it

The Kinect calibration pose is us waving at the machines. It's a way for us to identify ourselves to computers, to the machines. This is increasingly the world we live in.

Technology wants to be like us, and we want to be more like it. We are going through a period now of incredible uncertaintly. But the essence is that we now live in a world we share with the render ghosts. We want this. We want to live together with these new beings.

The message is that some of this is awesome, we should go out with some willingness to engage, while understanding how they change our behaviours.

It's going to be exciting, please make it exciting.




Once again, the conference seemed to be over just a few seconds after it started. Two days can fly past so quickly you can barely believe it happened.

It's likely that speakers will release slides and other materials in coming days, over at http://south11.webdirections.org/