Archive for the 'Creativity' Category

Will today’s innovations stop future innovations?

Monday, July 20th, 2009

This excellent piece by Jonathan Zittrain explains very nicely the potential downsides of how cloud computing is developing these days. (“Cloud” here refers to having all our data reside out there on others’ machines instead of on our own devices.)

A few quotes, but as we like to say, read the whole thing.

The crucial legacy of the personal computer is that anyone can write code for it and give or sell that code to you — and the vendors of the PC and its operating system have no more to say about it than your phone company does about which answering machine you decide to buy. Microsoft might want you to run Word and Internet Explorer, but those had better be good products or you’ll switch with a few mouse clicks to OpenOffice or Firefox.

[..]

The iPhone’s outside apps act much more as if they’re in the cloud than on your phone: Apple can decide who gets to write code for your phone and which of those offerings will be allowed to run. The company has used this power in ways that Bill Gates never dreamed of when he was the king of Windows: Apple is reported to have censored e-book apps that contain controversial content, eliminated games with political overtones, and blocked uses for the phone that compete with the company’s products.

[..]

When we vest our activities and identities in one place in the cloud, it takes a lot of dissatisfaction for us to move. And many software developers who once would have been writing whatever they wanted for PCs are simply developing less adventurous, less subversive, less game-changing code under the watchful eyes of Facebook and Apple.

On a related note, this post seems like an appropriate occasion to link to this great cartoon, which the artist created over 10 months ago.

xkcd rocks

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I don’t always get xkcd although often enough I think it’s quite funny and on occasion I think it’s just brilliant. Here’s one I’m surprised my students haven’t put on a T-shirt for me yet. And you might recall our CT discussion of this one. Today, Randall Munroe has added another to my collection of favorites, check it out. (I even forgive him for a slight misspelling at the end. I won’t get into specifics, because it would be a spoiler. See the first comment below for more. UPDATE an hour later: the typo has been fixed.)

You and Elijah are now friends

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

In case the various existing modern-version Haggadahs out there are not modern enough for you, try this. Thanks to Carl Elkin for CC-licensing this, see his page for the rest of the story.

Facebook Haggadah

Promoting Creative Commons through a tweaked Facebook meme

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Facebook Album Cover meme resultIf you’re on Facebook then it’s unlikely that you haven’t been sucked into the meme phenomenon. It tends to involve writing something, mainly about yourself, and then tagging other people with a request to do the same. Most recently it got very popular with the “25 random things” meme (yeah, yeah, I don’t think you need to be a certified sociologist to know that those things are never truly random), that first circulated as 7 things then 16 things, but not surprisingly really went viral when it involved tagging 20+ people.

The most recent one I noticed concerns something much more random as you’re requested to create an album cover based on randomly-generated phrases for the band name and album title, and a randomly displayed “interesting” image from the photo-sharing site Flickr (details below). That last bit about the image bothered me a bit though, because the photos people were grabbing and editing were not necessarily posted under a Creative Commons license. I didn’t like the idea of people grabbing images that their creators didn’t necessarily want reused by others thus my interest in finding those shared under a CC license.

I went searching for a way to browse CC-licensed photos from Flickr’s Explore pool (photos deemed especially “interesting” by the system), but found no such option on the site (the closest to it I saw was to browse popular tags of photos shared under CC). I posted a note on Twitter about this, but the best people could do was point me to the CC option on Flickr’s advanced search page, which doesn’t address this issue since you can’t restrict a search to photos in Explore nor is searching for something specific the same as random browsing. Finally, I posted a comment on a Facebook friend’s photo lamenting the fact that I had not managed to find such an option when one of his friend’s replied with a link to a page that Mike Lietz kindly put together to generate CC-licensed Flickr photos from Explore randomly! A note to Flickr though: I think this is an option they should offer on the site.

So now I present to you the updated meme (italics are my additions) promoting Creative Commons as well as free photo-editing software. If you’re going to participate in this meme, I invite you to do so using the tweaked instructions below so as to help spread CC love.

CREATE YOUR BAND NAME & ALBUM COVER:

To Do This

1 – Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 – Go to Quotations Page and select “random quotations”
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 – Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
Grab the photo randomly generated from Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr here:
http://mikelietz.org/code/flickr-ccgettr.php

4 – Use Photoshop the free Paint.Net or Gimp or similar to put it all together.

5 – Post it to FB with this text in the “caption” or “comment” and TAG the friends you want to join in.

Photo credit: Thanks to zedzap‘s CC-licensed photo, which is what I used to create the image above.

Book cover contest submissions

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Following up on my post from a couple of weeks ago about the book cover contest, I thought I’d post a link to the resulting 24 submissions (by now listed in order ranked by people voting on the Worth1000 site). I’m happy with the outcome, there are some really great ideas in there. (The final cover will say “Edited by” since it’s an edited volume.) Fonts, colors, various details can be changed so the idea is not necessarily to look for the perfect design. I like a friend’s reaction to all this: “I’d say my median favorite one is better than 99% of book covers I see in the bookstores.”

Book cover contest (including $$ prize)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I invite you to put on your creative thinking caps and participate in the book cover contest now running over at Worth1000 for my methods edited volume called Research Confidential. The winner receives $150 and the chance to have the design show up as the book cover.

You may recall the thread here and over at Crooked Timber a while back regarding the book’s title. I received many great suggestions. In the end, an idea I got from Jonathan Zittrain won out. The subtitle “Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have” came from a suggestion on the CT thread submitted by reader Vivian. Many thanks to both! (In fact, many thanks to all who participated in those helpful threads and convinced me to abandon my original idea.)

The title is not the only idea for which I owe JZ thanks. I’m following in his footsteps by running a contest for the cover design. His book on The Future of the Internet – And How To Stop It ended up with its cool cover this way.

The contest page gives a brief summary of the book and some ideas I have for a cover design although I’m very eager to see all sorts of other suggestions. The site also lists technical specifications for submissions. The contest runs for a week. If you can think of friends who are good at this sort of thing, please pass the word along. And thanks to my publisher, The University of Michigan Press, for supporting this idea.

Digital Media and Learning Competition

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

As some of you know, much of my recent work has been funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through their Digital Media and Learning Initiative. Last week came the announcement about a new competition for projects on participatory learning. Compared to last year’s competition, it’s an expanded initiative thanks to a new Young Innovator’s Award for those ages 18-25 with grants up to $30,000. The Innovation grants will be up to $250,000. The Web site lists last year’s winners, a fascinating mix of projects by academics and non-academics alike. This year, institutions and organizations from some countries other than the U.S. are also eligible (Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, UK).

While it is obviously great to get funding for work one wants to pursue, being a MacArthur grantee has come with other benefits. First, the people at the Foundation are very knowledgeable about the areas they fund so they are an important source of information about the substantive questions of interest to one’s work. Additionally, they do a remarkable job of connecting people. Thanks to the folks at MacArthur, I’ve not only made numerous important professional connections, I’ve also developed some wonderful friendships over the years.

Note that MacArthur isn’t administering this competition directly, it’s an initiative of HASTAC. See details here.

How to print a large map from Google Maps

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Neat idea, very helpful video.


Google Maps Hack: How To Save Large MapsClick here for this week’s top video clips

Thanks to Blog on the Side for the pointer.

Photos as notes

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

While I realize not everyone is as obsessed with photography as I am, many phones now have cameras and I wonder if people remember to use them for the logistics of everyday life. So this post is just a reminder that all those things you often forget (I certainly forget all sorts of details that would be helpful to remember later) can be captured easily with your pocket-sized camera.

Cheese A recurring theme when I go shopping is trying to remember the name of that wonderful cheese I purchased earlier. Good cheese can be expensive so it’s a pity to buy the type that doesn’t work out. Last week after buying some cheese that turned out to be very tasty, I decided to take a picture of its label. Yesterday when I returned to the store I started looking for it. I couldn’t find it, but then I showed the image to the person behind the counter and immediately she had an answer. Although they were out of that particular item, she pointed me to another one that, upon sampling it, reminded me sufficiently of the earlier one that I was happy to find it. The woman mentioned that she wished more people would think to take photos as it’s usually difficult to guess what they want from their descriptions.

Princeton-Stanford intersectionThis method can work with all sorts of details that are easy to forget: book titles and authors, wines, where you parked your car, what you ordered off of a restaurant menu, bus & train schedules, maps (yup, I’ll just take a quick snapshot of a map instead of printing it out), and lots more. For some of these (like maps) a higher resolution photo where you can zoom in is helpful, but for others a simple camera phone should work just as well.

Art through geek-colored glasses

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Some of these images are excellent. The level of geek quotient required to understand/appreciate them varies.

[Thanks to Ethan.]

Is there a fire truck gene?

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Thanks to Tina over at the new Scatterplot, I just found a fantastic blog: outside the (toy) box. Here is an excellent post about gender socialization through toys. Plus the author maintains a helpful list of anti-sexist/anti-consumerist children’s books. Additions to that list here or there are welcomed.

My costume for next year

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

I didn’t mention Halloween here this year as I was just wrapping up a two-week four-stop trip, but I’ve come across something that I’ll link to regardless of the date: an awesome costume that I may just have to replicate next year. For additional Halloween geeky goodness, check out this Death Star pumpkin.

Now for something different…

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Wow.

Try it here.

I should probably add this:
Time sink!

Paint some music

Monday, January 1st, 2007

Cool Web site: Visual Acoustics.

Careful, the site resizes your browser, which has always been annoying, but is especially annoying in the age of browser tabs. You can get your window back in its original size, the site still works just fine.

[thanks]

Which superhero are you?

Monday, January 1st, 2007

A new year, an old trend: taking somewhat meaningless yet nonetheless amusing online “quizes”. Scott is Superman, but would prefer to be Batman. I came out as Spider-Man. I don’t even know half of the characters on that list so I can’t say I have a preference (but yes, I felt compelled to take the quiz regardless).

More importantly, is there a quiz about which of the X-Men/Women you are or which X-Men/Women powers you might have? NBC could do a bit of PR for its Heroes series with a quiz of that sort.

My results:
You are Spider-Man

Spider-Man
70%
Hulk
55%
Wonder Woman
53%
Green Lantern
50%
The Flash
50%
Iron Man
50%
Supergirl
48%
Superman
45%
Robin
42%
Catwoman
30%
Batman
20%
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Where’s Waldo, 21st century edition

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Wow. These images are amazing. Viewing these may benefit considerably from a high-speed connection and definitely from a large screen.

In case you can’t get to it, it may be that the site is being blocked by your school/workplace, because years ago it was an “adult site” and it got banned by a bunch of filters. That raises an interesting point about buying domain names. It’s worth looking into their past. In this case, a quick check on the Wayback Machine would’ve helped.

In any case, the images are amazing, enjoy if you can get to them.

Gift guide: supporting the long tail

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

In the spirit of supporting the long tail, I thought I’d link to a few nifty items you likely won’t find in stores, but that are just as worthy as many of the items that are backed by big marketing budgets.

I found the booklet “Why Mommy is a Democrat” one day by clicking on a sponsored link in GMail (the line just above the message area). I liked the idea of communicating a message of this sort to little kids so I ordered a copy. I like the way the author and illustrator approached the topic. The idea of self-publishing something of this sort is also interesting. I purposefully use the word booklet instead of book despite the information on the site. The “book” feels more like a booklet. That doesn’t detract from its value. I mention it in the interest of realistic expectations. Cost: $10 including shipping in North America (with some possible savings for bulk orders).

On a different note, I highly recommend the California Soups and Salads 2006-07 Academic Calendar by Susan Beach. It covers September, 2006-December, 2007. Each month comes with a very inviting photo of a wonderful soup or salad dish plus its recipe on the side. Susan is our resident chef here at the Center and is an amazing cook. This could be a great gift for a myriad of people. Cost: $10 including shipping.

Moving on, I found the jams and jellies maker McKenzie’s Own at a summer fair last year and thought their products were divine. I bought two spreads: Mom’s Horseradish Spread and the White Chocolate Raspberry Spread. Both were great. Cost: $6.50 each plus $6.00 shipping.

I only have experience with online ordering regarding the first product, the others I bought in person. Full disclosure: I have no financial interest in promoting these products, I bought them and liked them, that’s all there is to it. I do know Susan personally though.

The site Etsy hosts lots of independent sellers although some of the products there tend to be on the expensive side. Of course, one can also find independents on ebay and on various corners of the Web. But what are those corners? Do share your favorites, I’m always curious to find the hidden gems.

This is second in the Gift guide series. Next week: giving through donations.

geek.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

GOOGLEYI had lunch at the Googleplex yesterday and as a result got to add several geeky license plates to my photo collection. I wasn’t even trying hard to look for these, I was just glancing at the plates I passed walking to and from my car.

In unrelated geekiness, if you prefer to unleash your inner geek with the help of a bit more text then I recommend the quotes on this page. A couple of my favorites:

There are only two kinds of programming languages: those people always bitch about and those nobody uses. (Bjarne Stroustrup)

[The BLINK tag in HTML] was a joke, okay? If we thought it would actually be used, we wouldn’t have written it! (Mark Andreessen)

If none of that made sense then you could go watch some Jay Leno Headlines where it is by design that many of the featured items don’t make sense.

From colonies to terrorists

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Ooh, this is cool. You can view a tag cloud of the most common words in U.S. presidential speeches, declarations and letters since 1776. Slide the arrows on the bar to move from the representation of one document to another. The bottom of the page has a detailed description of how the tag clouds were generated, it looks like a careful approach. What a neat idea. [thanks]

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Happy Halloween!

I was curious to see how – if at all – the top search engines decided to celebrate Halloween. The above collage collects the holiday logos. Don’t look too hard in the bottom right corner, there’s nothing there to see. To be sure, MSN did have Halloween content on its homepage, but no special logo design that I could notice. The others all had something fun to greet users.

Tonight I look forward to greeting trick-or-treaters. I don’t usually get to do that, but my impression is that there are plenty of little kids in my current neighborhood so hopefully they will be stopping by.