Monday, November 1, 2004

Playground Blues

Zeldman is fond of the design of Nathan Paul Borror's weblog, Playground Blues.

Sure, it looks like a weblog. It is a weblog. And the color scheme sort of shouts "I am naive", until you notice the detailing. The design is holystoned, and then buffed, and then polished some more.

Cindy really likes the mouseovers, though do they really need to track mouse movement? Does the moving popup help us in some way, or is this just showing off?

Monday, November 1, 2004


My name is Stuart, I've got a daughter, I don't know who she is, and I'm trying to find her.

It's strange to see my whole life reduced to one sentence.

I know you've seen those movies where people are looking for somebody, and they can plaster up signs that say Jane Doe, age 25, blonde hair, blue eyes, last seen on the road to Billings.

I can't do that.

I don't know her name, what she looks like, or exactly how old she is. I don't know if she knows I exist at all. The only reason I know she's here at all is, I've been told.

The Griffin -- that's what I'll call that wise old man here -- he says I've got to find her. Says that's the path I've got to follow now, to get where I'm supposed to go. Griffin pulled me through before -- and back then, I thought he was asking crazy stuff, too.

Maybe this will make sense someday, too.

I've been looking for a while now, back in the world. No luck.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

99 Rooms

From Berlin, 99 Rooms has some stunning photo montage work and an unusually good sound track.

At eNarrative one year, video curator George Fifield made an interesting observation. "If you're video footage isn't quite right, there's lots of things you can do. But bad sound is just bad sound: you can't fix it."

10 days online and over a quarter million visits

99ROOMS.COM has already earned the Schumann Combo a fan-base. And if you like the PS2 survival-horror Silent Hill, 99ROOMS is where you need to go right now. The Schumann-guys have taken 99 + a few photos of a derilict factory, photoshopped graffiti to the walls and then dumped everything into Flash, adding spooky and hauting mouse-over effects. The result is a bit artwork and a bit point-and-click adventure and indeed, the entries in the guestbook are divided between "woah, guys, spooky" and "woah, guys, great art". If you look closely, however, 99ROOMS is simply this: great marketing. You click through 99 screens, propelled forward by haunting sounds, creaking machinery and the sometimes quirky, sometimes gruesome figures, creatures and strangely organis shapes on the wall. Propelled, also, by your own curiosity and your desire to know: what's in Room 99?

There's nothing in Room 99, it's basically a long hall. But *behind* Room 99 - and behind the 99ROOMS - are the Schumann Combo, the makers of this piece of Flash that has just taken an hour-sized bite out of your day.

Beyond this, there's nothing much: the designs and mouseovers are pretty repetitive and there's no narrative motive that might add and ounce of deeper meaning, some story-quality to the progression. If you've enjoyed the 99ROOMS, take a look at The Hospital. The Hospital uses a similar technique, heavily photoshopped photographs of a cumbling ex-infirmary. But the progressiosn is less directed, the visitor is allowed to click freely within a ground-plan and enter and re-enter rooms at will. And the interior design is more diverse, different musing, terrifying or humorous in tone, on the themes suggested by different utility rooms. There's no tension in The Hospital, but then there's also no disappointment about an ending that does not terminate this tension. And the lack of story-structure leaves the visitor room to people with rooms with stories and histories of her own.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Modest Needs

When I bailed out of the commune and headed for Asia, I thought village life would be idyllic. It turns out it's a lot like the commune turned out after it all went bad: you just know too much about everyone, you can't get away, and eventually it all turns into Opera.

But one good thing about the village is that everyone knows everyone's troubles. If something does a little bit wrong, someone's bound to help out. In the city, though, who knows? I'm reminded of that heat wave in Paris, with old people trapped in their walkups and nobody thinking to look in on them.

That's why Modest Needs seems so sensible. They ask people who need help to ask for it -- people who need a small, one-time boost that will make a lasting difference. People who were living right at the edge, barely able to keep up -- and then their car breaks down, or their kid gets sick. You can't get to work, you lose your job. Pretty soon, you're homeless. Or worse.

You can't always fix everything, but sometimes if you get the radiator hose on the car fixed or pay the daycare, everything sorts itself out.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

MSN Spaces

With MSN spaces, Microsoft have caught onto blogging for real. I have been following their employee bloggers (Hi Scobelizer! ) with interest - they seem to have been granted a license to do pretty much to do and say what they want on their blogs. Last week, I discovered that even some of their recruiters keep blogs - Heather has a very interesting post about why recruiters don't blog - and Gretchen and Zoe 's blog Technical Careers @ Microsoft contributes to giving Microsoft a fun, warm image. Looks like they love their jobs!

You've got to wonder though... how much time of their work days do they spend on blogging?! Heather mentions that "A blogger that is committed to not only post regularly, but also to read other blogs, write comments, track links and respond to people that contact you (for me, I estimated this as 30 min to 2 hours a day)."

Wow. Wish I'd get paid to blog my job, too..

Anyway - I was interested in seeing how their spaces for people like you and me was designed. MSN Spaces offer a lot - except control over your templates! Power to the user here translates to publishing power - not design power... Check out the screen shoot - their templates are pretty cheesy. Microsoft isn't known for pretty, but they didn't need to compensate for this with what seems to be aimed for color hungry teenagers... I took a test drive and here is what my MSN blog ended up looking like.

... .perhaps I should keep this blog, and post anonymously so I can set Madison up for a joke? Come to think of it, she'd love these happy looking templates - just her style.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Comment Spam

Why must the World Wide Web, a beautiful and noble thing, be f..... .. by spammers and the businesses and peddlers who pay them?

Poor Jessey. My comments were completely ruined, too, in the end I had to cut them off my blog. I guess that is just how it goes, sometimes. Can blogs be interesting even without comments? Here is an article in the BBC news (from 2003) - explaining comment spam.

Some people think comments are all wrong, anyway. Mark Bernstein writes about the Moveable Type designers:

"The full-day delay of traditional weblogs is a good thing; the mistake the Trott's made was not in raising their prices but in popularizing comments.

Weblog comments incite duels. Duels are bad for society. We should all forego comments and return to carefully blogging responses -- including responses we disagree with, but excluding responses we cannot tolerate."

Sunday, November 7, 2004


This morning, enjoying a coffee at a cafe, a father with two kids sat down at the table next to me. The boys began running around with much ado and sound, fetching coffee bags from the shelves to "buy", chatting loudly and tripping in people's computer wires. At one point, a student with an expensive laptop politely asked the father if he would mind swopping tables with him, so that his wire would be out of the way for the kids. "Well! I am not sure if having wires around here with the kids is a very smart thing to do," the father said, not wanting to swop tables, adding that the student could just unplug instead. Or pack away the computer entirely.

The student stared at him with his mouth open and people turned their heads to see what was happening. One of the kids seized the opportunity of his father being distracted and ran out the door. "HEY!" the father screamed, running after to catch this little body of mischief, but now kid #2 saw his opportunity, climbing up the barrista's desk, helping himself to 5 paper cups. Someone next to me leaned over and whispered: "Don't you feel as if you're watching an episode from the Simpsons, too?"

The kids were cute and innocent enough, but it occurred to me, having spent some time away from this country, that parents here have become very liberal in their child rearing. Were kids this wild in the past? I read a very interesting article, written by a "liberal parent" on this.

We good liberal parents have brought up a generation whose members think of themselves as outside or beyond the social fabric. They have never had to worry about anyone other than themselves, and Voilà! they don't.

Now, this has me worried. What about my own daughter. How was she raised? What was she like at this age? What would I have been like as a father? Would I have enjoyed being a parent?

This feeling of being something I have never experienced is incredibly confusing.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Simple Bits

Mike Cederholm's new book, Web Standards Solutions, has arrived in bookstores. Check out Cederholm's weblog, Simple Bits -- especially the nifty, tiny icons.

Icons are a favorite topic over at Widgetopia, too. For example, here's a comparative study of 300 images from 1800 sites, And here are 50 ideograms from AIGA.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Game blogs

Neat idea - a collection of links to game blogs - some are reviewed, too. I wonder if this is how people get to these blogs though - these lists seems to be popular at first and then nobody updates and... suddenly, it is not that interesting anymore.

I find blogs via friend's blogrolls... blogrolls are as infinite as the universe. The next links has another blogroll, which has another, which has another.... you can surf up your entire day this way. Fun to do when work is slow.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Where to start?

I have been doing searches online on how to track down a person. I am completely at loss at how to best do this.

Some of the sites I've found give good advice on how to start. Some say that you can find a person with as little as their first name. How can that be! Just a name... I don't even know my daughter's name. At one site, they listed reasons a person can't be found. I guess I never considered the possibility I might not find her... the reasons were criminal activity, or, the person could be indigent, homeless... what if she is? What if something terrible has happened to her?

I found a great site at PBS, History Detectives, listing the first necessary steps:

Read about genealogy at your library, and search birth records. There is a register you can search online.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Professional Blogging

Professional Blogging: a strange concept. But let's be real: work is money. Blogging is work. Why not? I'm new to this but I don't find this idea strange.

One hole in the system is obvious: if you can make a little money with your blog while you're living in Kalamazoo, you can probably make a LOT if you live in, say, Bantaeng or Kitale. As I understand it, the advertisers will pay you as much for blog ads, wherever you happen to live.

(The statistics on this particular site are fanciful -- 20% monthly readership growth, 5% CTR, it's not going to happen.)

But think: $10 of ad income per month is nothing in Kalamazoo, but there are plenty of places where $10 per month would be useful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Since I graduated last spring and was hired in August - I can't enter the student contests anymore. That doesn't mean I'm not watching them, though. You can learn so much about new trends by paying attention to how students design. But sometimes, the contests drop off the face of the earth.... for instance, what happened to Macromedia Student Contest Design?

"Our first student design contest brought in more than 1,500 entries and was an amazing success," said Pat Brogan, vice president, solutions, Macromedia. "Macromedia wants to take an active role in providing software and support to the next generation of Web developers as they learn their craft, and the Student Resource Center and contests are one way to accomplish that mission."

What would this guy say today.. If you browse Macromedia's Innovation Program now, you won't find open contests nor any recent contest. What happened?

Anyway - there are still some interesting galleries to browse. My favorite is Arthur Roper-Newman, who writes:

"The site was originally inspired by the way ant colonies work, where orders derive from the base up. The many stories I had written became the basis for events within the colony, and it just grew from there. I hope this ongoing environment inspires people or makes them think when they view it."

Sunday, November 7, 2004


I was just reading the latest fiction on when I came across Fireworks by John Pnim. The author of this story writes with a disturbing intensity about the war in Iraq. The characters include: a paramedic student, a woman who has just attempted suicide (her husband was killed in combat two months earlier), and a nurse who has a husband still fighting in Iraq.

The nurse, who believes that the war is just, tries to comfort the suicidal woman by telling her that her husband died doing "good work, fighting for freedom." The woman is livid when the nurse says this because she hates the war and President Bush who she blames for the death of her husband. She spits on the nurse. The nurse sees the patient as "imbalanced" and the patient sees the nurse as naïve.

Meanwhile, the paramedic stands by, letting all of this all happen, paralyzed into silence by helplessness and a fear of adding to the conflict between the nurse and the patient. He thinks that the nurse is wrong, but he knows that no amount of convincing is going to sway either woman's viewpoint.

This story could really be an analogy for my relationship with my parents. Aside from short, awkward phone calls on holidays and birthdays, I haven't spoken to them in years. I think that just like the paramedic, our past has been so filled with conflict that it's easier for us to not talk than to talk because we are afraid of opening up those old wounds that just never heal.

The other day, I was at Starbucks with my friend Madison, drinking a white mocha latté when these two guys came into the coffee shop. One of them was tall with dark hair. His eyes and nose gave him a rooster-like appearance. The other was more handsome, well-built, rugged, and blonde. They ordered their drinks and sat down at the table right next to us. I guess that one of them recognized her from the bookstore and immediately, both of them started to flirt with her. I could tell that she was really enjoying the attention.

Since the conversation evolved mostly around Madison and the bookstore, my eyes and my mind started to wander a bit. I noticed two young parents with a tiny baby girl sitting in the corner. They were goo-goo-ing and goo-gah-ing over her. It made me think back to my own parents—I wonder if they were ever excited to have me around.