Maeda lines

river of orchids
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maeda wave port
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Shots of SVG Experiments Past
So, since my little SVG experiments of yore only work with the antiquated Adobe SVG Player plugin and I'm currently too lazy to rewrite them to behave with new, standardish SVG, I'm going to post some screen shots and reminisce about the good ol' days, when transparency and real time 2d graphics were new.

And after getting all the screen shots, I do think it's high time I ported these to something a little more standard, like processing.js.

In no particular order:

River of Orchids
Named after a weird minimalist/maximalist? XTC song. It gave me the same feeling, with very simple elements smoothly intertwining. It definitely looks more interesting when it's in motion.

and also, it (like a lot of these SVG experiments, had a color palette that was randomized on page load).


Kinda self-explanatory. Dead simple and kinda useless, but lots of fun to play with. Which is how I like my experiments. In retrospect, they remind me a little of the minimalist movie poster designs, which were floating around in the blogosphere not too long ago.

Crosstown Traffic

Simple, but also fun to play with (notice a trend here?)... all of the circles animate into place, while the structure builds itself. I like how several of the nodes are opaque and highly saturated. Contrast is good for the kids, you know.


A series of n-sided polygons composed of triangles, sliding together at different times.

Maeda Wave

This is a port of one of Jared Tarbell's earlier Flash experiments. I like the color palettes.

posted on 4/29/2010 11:41:00 AM

Back from the dead, so much to say...
So, I think the time has come for AverageJackal to be brought back to life again.

As always, there are lots of topics I want to cover; for example,
Art games/toys - I've been inspired by the works of a few people in various media, and it has made me want to see what's possible with tech in its current form, as well as playing a bit with some of the more perhaps-not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-but-still-really-interesting stuff (like WebGL, WebKit's hardware-accelerated transforms). This field has so much potential and as far as I can tell, it's largely unexplored.

I think that maybe instead of going into much depth on any particular topic, I'm just going to list some of the other topics I'm hoping to touch on soonish:
  • New forms of/channels for narrative
  • Storytelling
  • Kids (and specifically, girls) and tech
  • Multitouch, multitouch, multitouch
  • Processing.js
  • Openframeworks
  • Coding conventions of successful software teams
  • Ways IDEs can help programmers understand code
  • Ways IDEs can help programmers test code
  • Cost-effective developer testing (testing code, not developers)
  • How we can make use of what's been learned from cognitive experiments to 'right-size' the task of programming (i.e., how to make programming more natural for humans)
  • Lots of GUI-specific stuff.
et cetera, et cetera.

I'm going to try to be slightly more disciplined about it than I've been in the past, so I can get to some of the topics at hand.

I'm also going to play with getting comments really working (providing, of course, that I can make this happen without too much of a burden on me to keep them spam-free).

So there you go. More to come soon!

Cheers, y'all!

posted on 3/10/2010 12:12:00 AM

Go look at this. Now.
Do yourself a favor and point your browser to this amazing video by Erik Natzke (who is another one of my heroes in this genre). I believe it's called Atmospherik, and this video I think is part of a larger piece (28 minutes). (I can't tell for sure, as I found this link from some stills on Flickr.)

I still can't effectively describe how this piece made me feel. There were times when it felt as if I was watching the creation of a universe. Other times it was like seeing some really wonderful abstract paintings come to life.

Well done, Mr. Natzke.
posted on 11/11/2007 11:32:00 PM

And now, with comments!
I am giving Disqus a try for a comments solution for this here blog. I was a little loathe to use blogger's comments, as they're a bigger target for spammers. So give me a shout, won't you?
posted on 11/02/2007 02:01:00 AM

Why can't source code look like this?

and this

are the future of source code. Well, I suppose technically they're the present of source code, as HTML could be considered code and these screenshots are from a shipping application, not a tech demo.

However I think more benefit could be derived from this approach if it were applied to turing-complete programming languages like Java, Ruby, and possibly domain-specific languages (DSLs). These screenshots are from an OS X application called Xyle Scope, by a software house called Cultured Code. Highly recommended. Good stuff.

Anyway, I think the thing that makes this presentation so slick is that it shows how you can judiciously use typography and graphic design to substitute for what I consider the dumber elements of programming language syntax (like parentheses, dots, brackets, etc.).

I think I might take a stab at presenting Java source code using this sort of scheme, just to see if it would be more readable (which, in the end, is really what this exercise is all about).

If anyone has any ideas about this, please drop me a line: mark (at symbol) figuresix (dot) com.
posted on 10/22/2007 10:26:00 PM

More processing sketches on the way
Pending the resolution of a few technical issues (openGL applet deployment) to work out, I have 5 new (well, new for you) sketches to put online. All of them involve OpenGL with Processing, since I'm very much in love with the hardware-accelerated smooooothness that it enables.

More than just being eye candy, the smoothness afforded by hardware acceleration makes a whole new class of interactions feasible. For example, take the iPhone (or better yet, buy one for me); the touch-screen interaction really only works because the display is able to seem (*feel*) responsive. If the tracking of the touch inputs were slower or the display couldn't quite keep up, it would become an incredibly frustrating UI experience. As it is, however, the interface is responsive enough to make it feel like you're manipulating something that is fairly close to being real.

Contrast this experience with most other touchscreen kiosks/ATMs/ticketing terminals and you'll see (*feel*) what I mean.

Anyway, here are a few screenshots to whet your appetite while I work out getting these things to run correctly as applets on OS X. Failing that, I will probably force myself to learn about creating quicktime output, a la Flight 404. On the other hand, the bar has been raised considerably (thanks to Flight 404, et al) with respect to Processing and offline-rendered content. The sketches were written to be simple enough that they could be executed in real time on a fairly cheap piece of hardware. Moving to offline makes me think I'd have to up the production value if I can hang with the rest of the processing bunch.

So here are a few screenshots for the sake of screenshots.

n.b. - The photos in the last screenshot are not mine.
posted on 9/05/2007 10:52:00 PM

Hero Worship
I am really happy that interesting work continues to be done with the Processing language, a really nifty graphics-oriented language that makes it possible to do some very cool things with rather small amounts of code.

My Processing heros of the moment are (and right now I'm too lazy to track down their actual names):

- Flight 404
- Quasimondo
- Toxi

Great stuff abounds here. Do go check them out.
posted on 5/02/2007 09:31:00 PM

Haunting Piece of Flash Art
In the realm of flash/processing/etc visual goofery, the term 'art' is often thrown around, but not often deserved.


This piece by the guy at is the first piece I've seen that really made me feel something.

Essentially it's something that grabs photos from flickr, adds effects, animates and loops while playing a generated soundtrack.

But it's way more than that, or at least it feels that way. It feels like memory. Or seeing someone else's memory, and the way they think about them, coming back again and again to one image or another. The soundtrack adds another layer, but for some reason, it's not an added dimension of warmth. I liked it better playing against the background of something spacious, minimal, and comtemplative, like the band Explosions In the Sky.

I don't really have a great definition for art, but I think the thing that gives this piece its spark is that all of the photos are a piece of human intent. But what do I know.

Anyway, go check it out. Great stuff.
posted on 4/20/2007 10:14:00 PM

Post-Unix Command Lines
Two really wonderful "Command-Line-For-The-21st-Century" products I've had the pleasure to work with recently are, Quicksilver (for OS X)

and Enso (for Win XP).

I call these post-unix CLIs for a few reasons:

  • They are instantly accessible via keyboard shortcuts (no alt-tabbing through the plethora of open applications to get to it)

  • They are modeless in that there's no cd-ing around to get to wherever you want to execute a certain command

  • They provide fast, pre-indexed searches (i.e., fast searches) of their cataloged material (generally executables, bookmarks, mp3s, documents)

  • They go beyond the 80-character monospaced font presentation that has been the rule for command line implementations

Deep vs. Wide Interaction

I'm really glad that folks have pursued this avenue of UI because it provides the really wide interaction available via keystrokes versus the deep interaction of mouse or other pointer/gestural interfaces.

For example, within a few keystrokes you can specify one out of hundreds of thousands of commands, names, etc. However, more nuanced spacial/visual interaction, like sketching, selection of an unnamed image, etc., is better done via a mouse or pen interface.

With the advent of WIMP (window/icon/mouse/pointer) interfaces, it looked like the command line might disappear from most desktops forever. But with these two products it looks like CLI power might continue, without much of the baggage of the traditional command prompt.

You can get things done lightning-quick with both of these, though Quicksilver is by far the more mature of the pair, with a bit more polish and more of a plugin community built up around it. However, Enso looks like they have some interesting expansions planned; also, I'm really interested in how they move forward, flying the usability flag high for all to see. (I can't help it; I like reading books about interaction, and when they drop names like Jef Raskin I get excited to see how some of those ideas turn out in practical application.
posted on 4/18/2007 10:54:00 PM

One more step forward
So here's a nice little step forward for webapp-kind: Live Clipboard, a somewhat small bit of technological innovation, but a firm step forward in actually delivering the promises that were made about computers decades ago (easy sharing of information). I say this not to belittle the effort at all; on the contrary, interoperability between different pieces of software is a huge thing, but something that you would totally take for granted if you weren't aware of the inner workings of software. Image and text copy and paste has been here for a while, but more semantically rich copy and paste is even more exciting (if you actually get worked up about these things like I do).

Someone (not me) said... "Imagine what it will be like, the first time somebody reaches for Right-Click/Copy in a Web app and it does exactly what they expect."
posted on 3/16/2006 10:20:00 PM

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