The Balloon

Hey Guys,

So I’m going to reveal another project I’m working on, as you might guess, it’s called ‘The Balloon’. 

So, the reason I didn’t include this project in my blog the other day is because, well, in truth I didn’t have it figured out yet. Now, I feel I do. The Balloon was initially a web-comic idea to follow up my mildly successful first outing into the field: Pancakes and Apples – Diary of a Boy at Sea (Please check it out!). However after a few drafts and working with the idea I just couldn’t get it to work; I felt the project could only work well if the visuals were up to what I imagined, and sadly my drawing is not up to what I see in my head. So I scrapped the project, but it stayed in my mind. Sadly, I don’t feel I can disclose fully what the story actually is, in case this project takes off in the way I hope it does; but I will say this: The Balloon is a story about optimism, and primarily, about looking up.

After a phone call with my (eternally wise) mother, we agreed that the story could work in a children’s book format; I know an illustrator through my part-time job and should I finish drafting the book, I will approach her and ask her to do the illustrations. Right now, I am two pages in and do not know entirely know many pages there will be in total; but it’s something I will continue with and aim to finish by the end of summer. I will keep you guys updated via this blog as I am always excited to start something new!

I’ve attached below two of my first (very rough) first drafts, I am not sure if I will submit them to the artist as they are very crude,  but equally they give away so little that I feel I can post them here without ruining the story!

Man, I’m making this sound like something out of Mission: Impossible!

 But anyway, that’s what I am up to at the moment, for more updates subscribe to this blog, or follow me on twitter.

Take it easy,

Matt  :)

Draft Page 1

Draft Page 2

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5 Beautiful + Interactive Web Toys

You could have seen these sites earlier if you were subscribed to my twitter, I post daily about photography, web design and creative things in general :)

Hey Guys,

I hope you are all keeping well; I think todays post is really neat. What you will find below is a collection of my favorite web-based interactive toys/gadgets. These are highly creative and blend the boundaries between art, gaming and music. They will help you mellow out or maybe just make you smile, either way, these are pretty damn cool-Just click the name or image to visit the sites.

1. Sinuous

I’m going to go through this list starting with my favorites descending through the list, and this is by far my favorite. Sinuous is a beautiful flash game, that in its simplicity achieves great beauty. The ‘synthy’ electronic music in the canvas for a visually soothing experience. The game itself is simple enough, move your mouse (The blue dot) and dodge the red dots, there are a few scattered power-ups but this game isn’t about high-scores, it’s about a relaxing and beautiful experience which has stuck in my head for some time.

2. Scrbtle

Now this is a cool one, though it has changed a bit from my first experiences with it. Scrbtle is essentially a drawing tablet with a mirror effect built in; when first released the mirrors met int he middle, with each quarter of the screen a perfect mirror of the other quarters (if that makes sense). However now the programme has changed slightly to create these circles as seen above, that’s not really an issue for me though, the tool still works great and now you can add your own basic lines of code to create completely unique works of art with minimal effort. Scrbtle also smooths out your mouse strokes so they never appear too jagged which is a really big bonus. Trust me, if you click the link, you will lose many hours of your life!

3. Matrix

Third on the list is ‘Matrix’, this is a really impressive tool that creates music based on which squares of the grid you’ve clicked. It sounds simple but the music this can make is genuinely complex and pleasant to listen too; I assume it’s based around timing in regards to distance to other squares and how you’ve clicked, but that shouldn’t really concern you. What you should focus on is the interesting ways you can create melody with this tool, and even though I’ve been playing with this that last few days, I’m still not bored of it. It narrowly misses out on the number two spot, only because I feel ultimately there are more creative opportunities with Scrbtle; that said it’s still a really fun piece of kit that can kill a lot of time.

4. Sketch of Voronoi

Do you remember looking at cells through microscopes in science class? No? Well I do, just about. Number 4 is a neat little interactive animation that, I suppose doesn’t really do that much, it beats number 5 though just because I don’t fully get it. That’s what I like about this entry though, it’s a constantly evolving piece of art that you can interactive with, maybe it does have meaning, maybe not, either way you gotta admit, it still looks pretty cool.

5. Liquid Particles

So, you’ve probably got the jist of this post by now; number 5 is much in the same vein as the posts preceding it, another interactive tool that creates a wonderful visual image, though sadly no audio for this one. The Light Particles in mention track your mouse, but also get repelled with a mouse click; by combining movement and clicks you can create a vivid image indicative of movement. It may only last a second but the instances of art this tool creates are really cool, so it’s definatley worth a look.

UPDATE: Just my luck, as soon as I post an article about web toys, I find a new one the next day that I could have used for the post! Click here for an amazing a versatile tool that lets you paint beautiful ‘fire’.

Peace,

Matt  :)

5 Reasons Why You Should Sign Up to 500px

Hey guys,

So I recently signed up to this great site called 500px and if I’m being honest, I’ve turned into a bit of a fanboy! Regardless of that though, it’s a genuinely great site with the functions and implementation to really rank highly in your social networking resources. 500px is best described by the creators as ‘a photographic community powered by creative people from all over the world that lets you share and discover inspiring photographs’. Except that may perhaps be an understatement; with comprehensive blogging tools, social networking updates and a friend based community 500px may just be your new internet homepage. So here are 5 reasons you should sign up, starting with…

1) It works.

Now, this may sound like a stupid reason; but it’s completely relevant. If a site doesn’t work, people can’t use it, they can’t become users. I would best describe 500px’s user page [Example is my page] as a blend between Facebook and twitter, featuring all the elements you could want from a social networking hub, but laying it out in a cleaner way than Facebook by using a tab based system, which keeps all of your other main directions open. If you want to follow someone, just click the appropriate box and you follow them. Keeping tabs on what you and other people are doing is so easy, because the information is just there; Ian and  Oleg (The sites founders) have somehow seemed to strip away all that is unimportant and leave only that which matters without making anything seem cluttered. Click where you want to go, and go there. Simple, elegant, functional. However, if you are having problems, why don’t you look to the next reason…

2) The Staff Are Great.

Ok, now I may have gotten a bit carried away, referring to the sites founders on a first name basis, something that I cannot justify-but it’s sad to say just how much they feel like your friends. It is one of my most commendable points in this article, to highlight just how impressed I have been by the sites customer service so far. After encountering a little befuddlement with the interface, I decided to make use of the blogging feature built into the site. After a short post expressing some concern, I got a reply and a string of tweet mentions via Oleg, Ian and the 500px official twitter [Click to follow]. It was great to engage with the staff on such a personal level, and you can see from their tweets just how eager the team at 500px are to communicate with their users, with a lot of retweet and @mentions to other users. I cannot pretend that should the site take off on the scale of  Facebook or twitter that this personability may fade, but the site is already servicing tens of thousands of members and it is really nice to see this level of effort.

3) Portfolios.

Can’t afford to a run a portfolio site, showing off your work? Well 500px accommodates users with an online portfolio for FREE. It’s a simple enough slide show generator, but the feature provides you with a personal URL and shows off your photography in a clean, sleek and stylish way; saving technophobes the world over. People checking out your portfolio are also provided with contact details and a brief ‘About’ section based on the information you submitted when signing up to the 500px main site. It’s a simple feature that works really well; have a look at mine to see how it looks.

4) It’s Classy.

Have you ever heard of a site called 1x? If not, you really should check that out too; I say this because like 500px-it’s classy. Class is something that’s hard to pin down but I would summarise it in this context as something that represents quality and design on an industry level. You can’t submit any old tat to 500px; I mean, do your best and upload only your best (as requested by the site admins), but this isn’t a place for your party snaps or your upload tests. 500px stands for a community of quality, not a photo sharing network; the difference being that 500px functions on a more objective level than the happy snappers on Facebook photos. However, if you’ve tried submitting to 1x and been rejected, don’t worry, 500px as far as I know don’t scrub apparently ‘amateur’ photographs, they just ask you to do your best. Couple this with usability far superior to 1x’s interface, and you can start to see why people are claiming 500px is to flickr, what vimeo is to youtube.

5) It’s Young.

One of my favorite things about 500px is its tender age, or perhaps instead I should refer to its tender size. The site started out in 2003 but refers to their 2.0 version being completed in 2009; in that time 500px has won over a few thousand users but I saw a tweet earlier today speculating to the size increase that they estimate for the end of the month. This is what I really think should push readers of this article to sign up, it’s a fantastic experience getting involved in something that has the potential to grow exponentially and since my sign up, I have been rating, commenting and of course posting to try to become a truly active member of this community (Even if I’m not going to be the best photographer on the site!). Because that’s what it’s all about, being sociable, kind and sharing your mutual interests with people in a way that only the internet can accommodate.

Go on, just sign up already.

Peace,

Matt  :)

 

#Trending

‘It’s not trendy to say trendy anymore.’ ‘ Was it ever, in fact, I don’t think words can be trendy can they?’ ‘Sure they can, like at the moment it’s words banter, hero and lad.’ ‘Oh yeah, I see what you mean, they are all trendy words’ ‘But the point is, they aren’t’.

‘WOAH.’

Hey Guys,

So recently I had a conversation with my housemate about the word ‘trendy‘ and though that doesn’t sound like a conversation topic, see the extract above to get an idea of what ‘m talking about.  I said that something was particularly trendy, then subsequently got told off for using said word; she told me that ‘the word trendy is not in itself trendy’ and upon reflection I have come to notice a worrying lack in the use of this particular word.

A google search of trendy gives us a selection of time-stamped articles with the newest being 2008, but is in fact a tutorial for a ‘retro’ effect; which is exactly the problem with this word. It reflects its time of conception; the word trendy makes you think of the demographic of its time, you say trendy you think of the 80’s, flares, and neon. As our culture has evolved over time the word trendy has tried desperately to keep up, trying to shed its big hair and tennis sweat bands. But the services of this particular instance of vocabulary need to come to an end and be replaced with more contemporary wordplay along with such other greying words like, ‘super’, ‘crikey’ and ‘top-notch’.

I put it to you that the word trendy is actually very important; otherwise how can we define what is currently in fashion? It would be too long-winded to explain how something said by your friend is being communicated across a variety of formats by a range of demographics in a specific location. Instead we need a word to summarise all of the above to perform the services of the now ageing ‘trendy’.

Though we see bold efforts by net-giants such as twitter to boldly showcase the decaying combination of letters, we can only parallel the word trendy to the old cashier in the supermarket. You feel like you want to use them as hardly anyone else is, but you know that they’ll probably take longer than the other cashiers at which point, you start doubting whether they should be there at all.

Please leave a comment with suggestions with what words you think should replace trendy; the best words will  be mentioned in this article.

Peace,

Matt  :)

Website Comparitive Analysis: BBC News vs Ekklesia

Websites vary in their scope, design and functions, I was tasked at looking at two competing websites and break them down into a comparative essay; here’s a slightly more casual edit of my final piece…


When comparing websites it is imperative to understand the effectiveness of their tags and keywords, the relevance and usability of their design and whether the site reads well or not; I’m going to look at two ‘Journalism’ websites, both aiming to serve its audience by updating them with current affairs stories around the world. The first website we’ll look at is the BBC news website, an offshoot off of the public-service broadcaster television channel(s), the other is a website called Ekklesia-another news website that seems to have some key elements of its structure and design flawed.

The BBC site has a very current and relevant feel, users can clearly see when the site was last updated and as per standard with most news blogs all articles are time (and sometimes location) stamped; furthermore users can be linked throughout the site guided by a related article list (specific seemingly only to sport stories though) and a popular article generator next to the article being currently read.  Noticeably there are no hyperlinks within the articles themselves, limiting user exploration not only about key topics, I think the benefits of hyperlinks such as reader gratification and pingbacks outweighs any graphical choices and should have been included. Jakob Nielson (2009) highlighted how the BBC news site has some of the best titles on the web due to how they are concise, loaded with keywords and inform readers of the content whom may not know have known anything of the article beforehand. The BBC homepage also offers excellent navigation towards its multimedia content as well, with a video box at the top right corner within which readers can scroll through several video reports; readers can also easily find live radio news content in the same area of the page, helping to keep the BBC’s large multimedia content concise and manageable.  Though this is also acknowledged as a luxury, as Barnhurst (2009) highlights that it is not the creative mediums available to websites that draws in readers but instead the same content as print journalism, just now available on a more relative medium that attracts modern day audiences.

In terms of design and layout the BBC news page does very well, the page’s main colour themes mirror those of the BBC (1) channel, a red on white banner that is a key signifier of the websites ownership. Beyond the basic colour scheme other colours in the BBC’s palette include ‘off’ blues and yellows, these are set against a clear white background that still creates a good amount of contrast which is key for the readership as contrast equals clearness (Flanders 2010). In tandem with the graphical choices is the designs ‘usability’, the BBC does very well in gratifying the objective needs of (online) news readers, readers who want to read about politics go to the ‘politics’ category etc; furthermore users are linked to similar category stories from the article pages and always have an ever present graphic that can link them back to the sites main page. Readers also have the opportunity to comment and share articles with a range of sharing options found at the top of the articles and a comment section below; seemingly a lot of the BBCs community contribute to the website which suggests a lot of consumer loyalty and implies less ‘one off’ viewers/hits. The BBC news site also cleverly uses html very subtly to combat any ‘mystery meat’ navigation issues-all linkable images (and videos) have an inserted text link on their bottom quarter explain where the image link will take you, so as to avoid users having to hover over the graphic and read the page destination.

A search term of “Student Protests” in Google finds the BBC covering the top two uncategorised links (not compiled by Google within ‘news’ or ‘video’), then a search term of “Student Protests BBC”  through Google finds the BBC populating the top ten hits. Using the Bing search engine, the search term “Student Protests” again finds the BBC near the top with the second and third hits and with “BBC” added to the term, it again does well with the top four hits linking back to it.  The BBC owes the success of its search engine optimisation (SEO) to its near-perfect use of keywords and search terms within its content and tags and probably to a degree, its already established success.

Within SEO, the other website up for comparison does not fare so well: the Ekklesia news blog does not place highly in online searches; the exact same search term “Student Protests” in both Google and Bing do not link back to Ekklesia within their first five pages of suggestions, maybe they appear beyond these but it seems counterproductive to search until they were (potentially) found. Furthermore Ekklesia does not fare well in too many other elements of its web design; visually though not lacking in contrast the colour scheme of the pages is reminiscent of ‘404’ navigation pages with default plain blues and dark text. Also images from the sidebar overlap content, appear stretched and distorted and some also have a large white box around the central image, leading to unintentional clicks.

Articles are not categorised or even time stamped (until selected) and the main navigation for the site is splayed across the top banner with significant categories and some drop-down sub-categories. Ekklesia uses vague category terms such as ‘Books’ or ‘UK News’ forcing readers to trawl through large sections of the site which objective readers, will just not do. Furthermore a significant amount of page space is invaded with advertisements, links through Google, image and text all impeding the balance of the page; however among these links are also opportunities for the readers to share the articles via Twitter, StumbleUpon but the site does not support a comment function which significantly limits interaction; readers are invited to subscribe to the blog but this is the only interactive option available to them.

Ekklesia’s content though is on par with the BBCs as its content is very well research, sourced and written, the site clearly acknowledges the webs unprejudiced potential to disclose freely of governmental or economic ties (Himelboim 2009)and it’s incredibly surprising to read such rich content within such a poorly conceived site. Furthermore, once readers find their way to an article they are not invited to read other similar posts, instead readers can click on similar search terms within a Google advert banner which only directs traffic away from the site, an unbelievable design flaw.

The weaknesses of Ekklesia lies not in its content, but in its implementation-though finding the site is hard, finding content within it is harder. The layout and design seem to have been put together very quickly and un-moderated since, the sloppiness of the some of the layout is inexcusable and the site would benefit greatly from some simple tweaks here and there.

References

Barnhurst, K., 2009. The Internet and News: Changes in Content on Newspaper Websites. Conference Papers — International Communication Association. 1, 1-15.

Himelboim, I., 2009. The International Network Structure of News Media: An Analysis of Hyperlinks Usage in News Websites Worldwide. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1, 1-36.

Nielson, J., 2009. World’s Best Headlines: BBC News. USA: Nielson Norman Group. Available from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/headlines-bbc.html [Assessed 7th December 2010].

Flanders, V., 2010. Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015. Washington: Flanders Enterprises. Available from: http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/biggest-mistakes-in-web-design-1995-2015.html#6 [Assessed 5th December 2010].

World of Warcraft Password Crisis

Click for Full Sized Image

Hey Guys,

So today Blizzard, the entertainment company behind the hugely succesful online game World of Warcraft, called for some of their game users to reset their passwords after an attack on the Gawker databases. This message is prompted by the hack on Gawker servers by an organisation calling itself ‘Gnosis’. The call to web users has been issued because Gawker runs one of the most popular blog networks and fears have spread across multiple networks leading to companies from Blizzard to Yahoo, Twitter and LinkedIn all calling for users to reset their passwords. (You can view the Battle.net login page here.)

Gnosis has published the details of over 1.3 million Gawker users online including their passwords which has led to this outcry for password resetting; the attack was inspired by Gawkers perceived arrogance, though nothing else has been stated. The reason this message has spread among other organisations though is, Sophos a software protection company has found that 33% of people use the same password for every site they use. The most common password since the hack has been discovered as ‘123456’ followed by ‘password’ and now that Gnosis has this information they are expected to attack the largest user populated servers, which is why among others, Warcraft users have been warned.

Warcraft users should use an authenticator at all times and uses good password originality as opposed the generic coding becoming seen in more and more passwords. You can read Blizzards full statement on the attack here.

If you have been affected by the attack or have a perspective on password security please leave a comment below.

Peace,

Matt  :)