Random Etc. Notes to self. Work, play, and the rest.


Things that came from Blogger.


Nicholas Street, a recent MEng Computer Science graduate from Imperial College London, posted last week to the mysociety maps mailing list about his final year project work, TimeContours: Using isochrone visualisation to describe transport network travel cost.

His work includes a comparison with my own maps, which he says are "effective prototype implementations, but the unfamiliar unlabelled layout makes it difficult to relate to the underground". Touché! To his credit, Nicholas addresses almost all the deficiencies of my tube maps with his own software and goes significantly further in implementing the same kind of analysis for other transport networks (even including an example of using street data from my friends at OpenStreetMap).

His approach and background reading are covered in detail so the final paper will be a great resource for people working in this area in the future. I do hope he finds time to release the software for us all to use too. As well as the more traditional academic and print references, it's nice to see a hat tip to people putting their thoughts and experiments online such as myself, Rod and Oskar. Whilst a blog is no substitute for peer review and academic rigour, I strongly believe that the more of these ideas we share then the better all our work will become.

Reboot 8 and Pecha Kucha

I went to Reboot 8 at the beginning of the month. It was really stimulating, but a few bits of it fell flat for me (this post sums it up best). The impromptu Pecha Kucha session (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide) has made a lasting impression though (they're all up on youtube now, but be sure to check the reboot8 wiki page for context - most were unrehearsed).

I find the idea of constrained presentation formats quite infectious (see also Kawasaki, Takahashi, etc.) and I'm really pleased to see Pecha Kucha is already well established in London. I went to the World's Largest Pecha Kucha on Sunday, where I learned a little bit about lots of things, was introduced to talents of the fabulous beat-boxing of Beardyman, and found that Pecha Kucha is actually pronounced more like p'chack-cha. Who knew?

The Month Ahead and The Weekend Past

Last weekend, I attended day two of dorkbot Ghent's dorkfest. Due to a few people over-running and a later than expected start, I didn't actually speak for anywhere near as long as I had planned. I even missed out my tube maps in the rush which was disappointing. I hope to return and give a better presentation another day because I definitely liked Ghent and lots of things caught my eye.

Many thanks to Lieven and friends for inviting me, and to all the participants for showing their excellent and interesting projects. Highlights for me were Sven Koenig's sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ!, Heiko Hansen's overview of HEHE's work and the increasingly impressive NodeBox - think Processing meets Python plus lots more, sadly Mac OS-only right now but work on porting it is in progress.

This weekend, I hope to catch the end of the RCA Summer Show (particularly Interaction Design as covered by Tom at plasticbag) and the Bartlett Summer Show (alas I missed the MSc AAC show last weekend due to the clash with dorkbot Ghent). With luck, I'll also make it to Future City at the Barbican.

Looking further ahead, I'll be in Manchester for Futuresonic from 20th-22nd July. I'm taking part in a panel for the Social Technologies Summit with Stanislav Roudavski and Matt Webb entitled Iterative Architecture (Built On An Internet Of Things). The rest of the festival is shaping up nicely, I'm pretty excited about seeing Battles again on the Friday night.

One of my fellow EngD students at the Bartlett, Karen Martin, is helping to organise Why Wait? (a workshop on place, time and future technologies) to be held on the 27th and 28th July. You might also like Karen's blog, Mr. Watson. I'll be at the first day of the workshop before I leave London on the 28th for two weeks in Chicago, New York and Boston. If you've read this far and you live in any of those cities, let me know - we should probably meet!


Hype alone is usually enough to make me go "meh" and ignore something until it's part of the furniture. Something finally made me look at Flock though, and I'm glad I did.

Flickr integration alone means that if you're already a Firefox/Flickr user it's worth checking out the latest beta. I'm still working out how it interfaces with del.icio.us and multiple blogs, but it's found all my Blogger blogs already. If you're reading this then the blog editor works!

It seemed a little laggy in the interface, but I think that was whilst it was indexing my history in the background - it's better now. We'll see if I'm still with it in a week or two, but for now I'm using it as my primary browser. I even uninstalled Firefox... imagine!

AI library for Processing

Over on the Processing.org forum, Aaron Steed is putting together some of the AI code he's written into a library, starting with examples of A* pathfinding, genetic algorithms and neural networks.

I did my own implementation of A* based on the same tutorial recently. I've put it online here since our coding styles are quite different and it might be useful to have an alternative example to work with.

1D textures for quick contours

You can generate simple contour maps from 1-dimensional textures. I think it's a trick I picked up from one of the editions of the OpenGL Red Book, but it works with Processing's 3D and OpenGL renderers too.

This example uses the Arcball and Triangulate libraries I put together for Processing Hacks, and I'll document it fully there in the next few days. In the meantime, here's the applet for safe keeping.

MySociety Travel Time maps of the UK

MySociety's Travel Time maps of the UK take a more rigourous and comprehensive look at the same kind of ideas I was exploring with my Travel Time Tube Map (and contours). Lovely results!

Reboot 8.0

I'll be attending Reboot 8.0 in Copenhagen next month. Currently looking for a place to stay - let me know if you have any recommendations, or even a spare couch.


I'll be at this. And then at this. Say hi.

Free The Sweek

Lots of stuff is free this week. New-ish blog from Steve; nice simple idea.

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