Monthly Archives: August 2010

Arcade Fire & HTML 5

A truly stunning interactive video from the Arcade Fire and Chris Milk. Using all the jiggery-pokery involved in HTML 5, and, in particular, its video embedding capability. Enter a postcode, or area, and the video becomes tailored around a distinct place, with video segments popping up all over your screen. Ground-breaking stuff. [Best viewed in a Chrome browser]

Choreographed windows, interactive flocking, custom rendered maps, real-time compositing, procedural drawing, 3D canvas rendering… this Chrome Experiment has them all. “The Wilderness Downtown” is an interactive interpretation of Arcade Fire’s song “We Used To Wait” and was built entirely with the latest open web technologies, including HTML5 video, audio, and canvas. Link

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On A-Levels, and Jane Austen

Image: sashamd / some rights reserved

Today I experienced my first bout of Paywall Annoyance. I read some things in the Times that I wanted to blog about, but couldn’t link to, or even cut and paste from. Instead I had to rip the segments out of the newspaper and store it in a top pocket until I was reunited with my computer. In a small, microcosmic way, it summed up the anti-collaborative nature of paywalls. That said, the bits I wanted to blog about were good enough for me to rip out and store. And type up. Rupert would say that this demonstrates the quality of the product, and, therefore, its inherent cost. Paradoxically, I think it demonstrates both: the quality, and the frustrating insularity.

Anyway, on a day of mass academic hysteria, an excellent snippet from an editorial:

Yes, in the educational world, an A-level result haul of AAA beats ABB, which is better than BCE. But in the real world nobody recites Beowolf, and the only people who use fractions professionally are drug dealers and racecourse bookmakers.

Your grades fall short of your university offer? It’s not the end of the world. Churchill never went to university. Nor did John Lennon. Or Tom Stoppard. Or Shakespeare. Or John Major. Or John Humphrys. Or P.D. James. Or Frank Sinatra.

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Google Maps: The Agnostic Cartographer?

A fascinating article in Washington Monthly on the role of Google Maps in geo-political disputes, including China vs. India (over Arunachal Pradesh), Cambodia vs. Thailand (over Preah Vihear Province), Israel vs. the Palestinians (over Kiryat Yam), and Iran vs. the Arab world over the Arab Gulf (or Persian Gulf). Here’s an extract:

Just five years since the release of Google Maps and Google Earth, the corporation may well be the world’s most important mapmaker. More than 600 million people around the world have downloaded Google Earth. As a testament to ambition, that number alone would be remarkable. But Google is also intent on upending our very notion of what a map is. Rather than produce one definitive map of the world, Google offers multiple interpretations of the earth’s geography. Sometimes, this takes the form of customized maps that cater to the beliefs of one nation or another. More often, though, Google is simply an agnostic cartographer—a peddler of “place browsers” that contain a multitude of views instead of univocal, authoritative, traditional maps. “We work to provide as much discoverable information as possible so that users can make their own judgments about geopolitical disputes,” writes Robert Boorstin, the director of Google’s public policy team.

Ironically, it is that very approach to mapping, one that is indecisive rather than domineering, that has embroiled Google in some of the globe’s hottest geopolitical conflicts. Thanks to the logic of its software and business interests, Google has inadvertently waded into disputes from Israel to Cambodia to Iran. It is said that every map is a political statement. But Google, by trying to subvert that truth, may just be intensifying the politics even more. Read more…

***UPDATE: Now Costa Rica and Nicaragua are at it.***

Coffee & business: Is death by good taste a noble death?

Last week I posted about the dilemma of anonymity for businesses, citing the example of Julian Assange at WikiLeaks. And this week, I’ve been thinking about another business dilemma, albeit on a more micro scale. And, lordy, it’s a frightfully middle class one. Anyway, darlings…

Whenever I cycle or drive home from my girlfriend’s flat in the morning, I pass a very nice little coffee shop. The staff always seem lovely, and they open earlier than anyone else in the area. The coffee is very tasty, too. However, on a few occasions I’ve asked them to make my coffee slightly hotter than they usually make it, as I like my throat to be scorched first thing in the morning. In a fairly polite way, they refused.

You see, if the milk is too hot when added to the coffee, it burns it. For a coffee purist, this is sacrilege – equivalent to cooking a £20 fillet mignon well done. And they would rather not give you anything than give you a ruined product. At this coffee shop, the same applies for decaf and iced coffee: they simply don’t do it.

One one hand, I understand them.  They believe passionately in what they do, and in doing it right. But their principles imply that the customer is not always right, and this is a bold furrow to plough. It’s also potential business suicide – if you don’t give customers what they want, you can certainly expect them to go elsewhere, especially when there are a number of other great coffee shops in the area.

Again, I’m eager to know what you think. Should a business only supply products it fully believes in, and risk a slow death by good taste? Or should they give their customers what they want?

ReelDirector: Video editing on the iPhone

Last week I made a video. It’s fairly crappy. However, considering it was filmed, edited, and uploaded solely using an iPhone, and took 10 minutes to cut, it’s not as crappy as it could be. I used an app called ReelDirector, which at £2.39 is a mighty fine deal. Indeed, the new iPhone 4 has in-built video editing. Point is, mobile video editing could be a superb tool for on-the-go journalists, and, sometime soon, I expect to see some pretty powerful stuff being produced from a phone alone. Which isn’t to say my buddy Ian grilling steaks isn’t powerful.

Vodpod videos no longer available.