Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Social Networking... Is Okay

The all-knowing Wikipedia suggests that the first ever modern social networking site was in 1997. I tried looking that up, but all I got was this:

Every time someone tells me to join a social networking site I resist. First it was MySpace. Didn't want to do it. I guess I thought it was stupid. Then I started to miss out on important social things, and my favourite bands were releasing 'MySpace only' songs. I begrudgingly joined and I've more-or-less hated it ever since. It's a real pain in the arse to use, it's ugly and who thought it was a good idea to give people with no web design skills the ability to infinitely customise their pages?

I don't use MySpace anymore. I'm totally over it.

It took me a long time to be convinced of the merits of Facebook, but eventually I got there. Facebook actually fixes all the problems I've got with MySpace, so I like it much better. Pages are pretty standard across the board, but you can add personal applications.

Allow me a moment of self-indulgence as I show you my flair board:

Thankyou. I do love it so.

Social networks are handy, because it saves room in my mobile phone. If I want to keep in contact with someone but don't particularly need to talk to the all the time then I can maintain the contact online. Also if I were to lose my mobile, my social network can act as a really handy backup.

The problem is that if everyone moves to a new social network (like they did with MySpace to Facebook) I'll have to move and remake all those old contacts again.

Another issue is privacy. Who is my 'friend' exactly? That girl from the grade above me who always flirted really innapropriately - to everybody. Do I want her knowing my email address? NO! Did she try and add me as a friend? Yes. Unfortunately.

Okay, so that example was a bit obvious, but what about your workmate from that job you had at the supermarket? Do you want him to know your mobile number? Or that friend-of-a-friend that you often see at parties?

Additionally, Facebook relies on people using their real names. If I'm trying to keep my real name a secret this can pose a problem, especially when I add friends I've made over the internet and I show up on stranger's "people you might know" lists.

Sometimes I resent being pestered by notifications that that guy from highschool has posted more party photos, but ultimately I feel like it's worth it. I've rediscovered some really good friends from as far back as Primary School. Also when I need to leave someone a note a social network is a better place than most to do it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Internet in 10 Years

When people ask each other what the internet is going to look like in 10 years you actually get pretty same-y sorts of answers. It's all immersive virtual reality environments that heavily resemble 1980s Cyberpunk. Certainly with the recent popularity of MMORPGs like WoW this isn't an unreasonable prediction to make, but I think it's missing the point entirely.

I think it helps if you look at the question, "Where will the internet be in five years" or even "Where will it be in two years". It also helps to ask "How far has the internet come in the past five years/two years?" These questions are much, much easier to answer, and from those answers we can draw conclusions about the far flung future of the internet and how we use it.

Five years ago it was 2003. In 2003 I had not yet started blogging and social media hadn't become the curiosity it now definitely is. I wasn't exactly on the cutting edge in 2003 - the internet was primarily a research tool and that's all. It wasn't reactive. I couldn't talk back. I mean, I'm a bit biased, but I think it's true. Back in 2003 we were never threatened with failure if we cited Wikipedia in an essay - I'm not even sure if I knew it existed!

Today the internet is an interactive experience. Commenting on other people's work has become an expected feature, as has easy distribution methods like embedding. It has also become freer - Creative Commons licenses and open source software have become common. Also it has become much more mobile. Currently in developing countries the primary mode of access to the internet is the mobile phone. It's getting that way in the West as well - internet enabled phones are gradually getting cheaper.

If these trends continue we can expect the internet to be incorporated into our daily lives. Seeing as we'll always have access via our mobiles, short-form communication tools like Twitter will become more important that long-form modes like Blogger because people will be checking and updating more often.

People always talk about the internet-enabled fridge, but I'm not sure I believe them. Instead I think our TVs and sound systems will morph into home media centres where you can access online video as well as digital television (assuming they ever make the switch).

Finally, the net will be faster - so the files we send will get bigger. High quality video anyone?

I look forward to the day I could be writing this entry from the bus on my phone. Because, you know, none of us will have cars in five years time. Who will be able to afford petrol?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's been a long time...

Apologies for all the terrible jokes in this post. It's how I get when it's 1:16am.

Gracious me it's been a long time. But never fear! I've been diligently saving up my blog topics to do all at the last minute like the outstanding student I am. HDs please.

But for now, tonight - or should I say this morning - I'm just going to do a bit of an update on what I've been doing in the subject, and what I plan to do for my final assignment.

That's my BenRobot assignment. I got 80% for that one. I was very very pleased. It was a big, big slog to do though. It worries me for this upcoming monstrosity due in three weeks' time.

What genius do I plan to unleash on the internets this time around you ask? Well considering it needs to be "more-or-less ten pages" I was thinking I should pull the vanity site card. I don't have one you see, and because I'm incredibly full of myself I feel like I need one. It's like, the law.

Vanity sites suck. They really, really suck. They're full of pictures of cats and out-of-date stories about what these people do for a living. It's genuinely depressing. Fortunately for you, I don't own a cat and I don't have a job. Smiles all 'round.

Instead my vanity site will be awesome. I'll be making a gallery of the pictures I draw. I also used to take artsy-type photos. I've still got some kicking around from last year, but I don't have any recent work. Still, it all needs to get put on the internet somewhere or else my ego will srivel and die like a leech in a salt-shaker.

I also make videos for the internet and I have another blog that I write in. I'd like to integrate that blog and those videos (dynamically) into my site if I could - although I've got no idea how. Imagine that - Rohan with his own url. People would literally flock there in their dozens.

In terms of style, it would be red, or more accurately maroon. It's the colour that most of my online presences present themselves in, mostly because it's more exciting than blue. Also the site would be heavily populated with chickens and ducks. It's a bit of an in-joke of mine. I covered the chicken and the duck in a previous post back when I was musing on the abortive Assignment #2 GIF image.

I'm envisioning a gallery for comics (with a number of pages), a gallery for photos (with a number of pages), a bio page, a page to host the blog in (if that can work?) and a page to act as a gateway to my other artworks (the Google Mosaic and BenRobot). I have no idea how I could incorporate my YouTube videos without manually cutting and pasting the HTML code each time I make a new one.

I don't want to do that. That's a sure-fire way to make sure I never, ever, update it. Ever.

In other words - if it doesn't dynamically update, I don't want to know about it.

And... the end.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


It's been too long! Rest assured I've been working my busy mind at the task of Assignment #2. My GIF image will be a room, and in that room there will be a television and a couch and a door and some other things too.

I'm thinking of having a lightbulb hanging in the middle of the room, and to have that lightbulb flicker on and off. Each time it flickers, something in the room changes. I'm predicting that this will be relatively easy to accomplish with the layers function in Photoshop, so I should be able to make a relatively complex GIF image (fingers crossed!)

Now! On to Jason's challenge from the last lecture.

It's terribly outdated, but I'm not really here to critique the site. (It is really really outdated though)

I can honestly say, after reading through all sorts of stuff about how you should be considerate of users with 8bit displays (ha!), that I had never properly considered the text I put in my titles. The style guide says:
Always consider what your page title will look like in a long list of bookmarks. Will the title remind the reader of what he or she found interesting about your pages?
I'll be keeping that in mind, for sure. I never really thought about bookmarks, but in actual fact a great number of a website's users find the site via a bookmark (except for those users who just use Google each and every time).

And so that's what I learned!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Imagine if YouTube looked like this:

If You Have a Soul - Kill Me

Other things kept me from starting sooner: lame I know. But this is my progress so far.

The purple represents white. I'm doing a find->replace after I'm done.

I am not going to bed until this logo is done. It's doable. Totally doable. But really, really fiddly.

I'm hoping a series of Google-owned logos will emerge tomorrow.

EDIT: Hour and a half later

Well it looks pretty good so far. What sucks about doing it the CSS way (I couldn't resize the cells in a table) is that you can't just up and move the 'Google' bit to another part of the page. If you wanted to move it you'd have to start all over again. Not fun.

Thus I'm thinking I might just make this a really, really big mosaic of logos owned by Google. They'll be scattered here and there across the screen. It looks like I can make one of these in just under two hours, so I might be able to do... four more? Five?

I'm wondering if white is the best background to have this against. You can't see all the hard work I've put into the many white squares in the logo. Then again if it stays white it looks closer to the Google homepage. I might experiment near the end.

But for now; bed! Good grief!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Next Artwork - GIFstyle!

Confession: I've been avoiding this blog. Animated GIFs, for some reason do not inspire me at all. I took notes in that class and everything and the best I could come up with was drawing my own cartoons in Photoshop.

I sometimes draw my own cartoons in Photoshop, did you know that? Well I do. They are pretty good even if I do say so myself, but to animate them would take oodles of hours worth. I think I could only do one, and the thought of it being unimpressive after all the work that would go into it makes me feel slightly uneasy.

Although... the thought of Random Chicken and Black Duck having a faceoff warms my little heart. Just, like, a little bit.

Although drawing in their wings and angry faces is a daunting prospect. Perhaps I'll animate something else - like the giant green ant?

The possibilities are endless, limited only by my technical incompetence.

I'll figure something out surely. Maybe I'll just animate a whole little scene of a flashing TV sitting in a livingroom which makes the room change colour with every flash? Is that enough work for a good enough mark? I guess it depends on the time involved.

Yes. I'll work something out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Web Artwork Idea

Ever since the boom there have been all sorts of companies that have only ever existed online. They are nebulous entities which buy and sell and provide services, but they do not have a 'storefront' that the general public can walk into in the traditional sense.

Also, companies which previously only existed in 'real life' have now moved to digital format, either to compliment their real life formats (such as online news services) or to completely replace them.

One of the most important things online is site branding, so that the user can tell 'where they are'. One of the best ways to achieve good site branding is to have a logo. Usually logos reside in the top lefthand side of the page (on pages where script is read left to right).

How much of the information in the logo is important? Could, say, Blogger still be recognised as Blogger if it were reduced to dozens of equally-sized squares?

My idea is to take logos found online and try to roughly recreate them using HTML tables full of hexadecimal colours. The example I have here isn't very good, but it displays my idea. I couldn't recreate the "Blogger" text because I couldn't easily make an equally-sized grid in photoshop that I could fill in. Also in this example you can probably see that the 'squares' I used weren't exactly square. The brush I used didn't neatly fill the canvas so I had to fudge it a bit. But like I said, it displays my idea.

Also, what would happen if I combined a pixelised blogger logo with other pixelised logos of online services owned by Google - like YouTube? I can imagine mosaics of bright colours, spattered with black and white squares. The Google mosaic would be rather eclectic, considering its habit of buying out small startups but keeping their old branding. Microsoft's mosaic would be rather more uniform, considering they start up their own services and brand them all the same way (the "Live" brand).

Microsoft are acquiring Yahoo! and all its services (such as Flickr) - how would that affect the Microsoft mosaic?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rocking the Rock Rockers 2 - Gettin' an Educashun

The next two sites I want to cover are places that you go for learning about stuff. It's a fairly general subgrouping I know - that's what the internet is for isn't it?

Firstly, the W3Schools site has saved me from certain doom many, many times in the past. If you want to know anything about HTML code or all the other, more complicated, stuff that works with HTML code, then this is basically the only site you need to go to.

It's basically a site of tutorials on how to do stuff. All sorts of stuff. I'm not so hot at HTML, so I've used this site off and on for a while now - mostly to brush up when I've gotten rusty.There are step-by-step tutorials on how to do all sorts of things though. Things I've never even heard of before. It's a really well designed site too - easy to use.

The other site I'm going to talk about I've never actually used before Jason sent it to me in an email. MetaCritic is basically a reviews site that reviews everything - books, music, movies, DVDs, everything! Looking over their 'MetaScore' FAQ it looks like they don't actually have reviewers of their own, but that the site acts like a review-collector - compiling reviews from a number of sources. The only other site that I can think of which does a similar thing is, but Rottentomatoes only reviews movies.

(EDIT 18/Mar/08: Fancy that, Wikipedia actually compares MetaCritic with Rottentomates as well. According to Wikipedia, MetaCritic mostly sources American critics, whereas Rottentomatoes mostly sources critics from the UK. This is an important difference because it often colours the reviews.)

Personally though, I don't think I'll use this site for my review needs. If you didn't have a good source for reviews, I think the multi-review aspect would be a great bonus. However I think that it could never be as good as one or two review sources that you personally find you really trust. For movies I use good ol' Margaret and David. They're not as snobby as you might think. With Margaret and David you don't just get the star rating (anything above 3/5 is worth seeing) but you also get their thought on why they thought it was good or not. That way I can still figure out if I'll hate a movie they said they loved, because of the reasons they give. I don't think you can ever get that with a huge multi-review site like MetaCritic.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rocking the Rock Rockers - Web Resources

Covering two web resources today. Both are social-networking type sites.

Ever heard of Twitter? Someone invited me to join it today and for some reason I did. I honestly don't know why because I told myself I wouldn't be joining any more networking things. It's kind of good though I have to say. It's like Facebook and MySpcace without all the dangly crap.

The entire network is based around the question "What are you doing?" I think you're supposed to answer the question at least once a day to get the full experience out of the site. Of course, I quickly learned that if no one you know uses Twitter, its usefulness is incredibly diminished (much like any other social network).

What is cool about it though is that you can post what you are doing via SMS on your mobile phone. I did this today to test it out and it works fine, although I don't think I'll be doing it terribly often because it's so expensive (international SMS rates if you do not live in the United States).

Perhaps more useful to the casual user (who doesn't have a swarm of e-friends they need to keep track of) is Flickr. I've actually been signed up to Flickr for a while now, although I don't use it in its social capacity.

At its heart, Flickr is image storage. All I really use it for is to host the occasional image that I might need to link to for some reason. It works perfectly fine for all of that. However, much like YouTube you can get notifications of when other users add new content, and you can leave messages and comments for your 'contacts.'

What is great about Flickr is that almost every picture uploaded there is under a Creative Commons license, meaning you are free to use the images that appear on Flickr without fear of someone getting pissed at you (subject to conditions that are clearly represented below each image). This makes Flickr an image library which is incredibly easy to search and draw from.
Très handy for web developers and bloggers alike. The quality of some of the photos is amazing!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cute With Chris - Beep It

I'm supposed to go and look at some sites that Jason sent me, use them and then talk about my experience. I'll do that no worries, but I was up all last night worrying that I didn't convey the greatness of Cute With Chris enough last post. You may have been wondering "What is all this talk about a three-minute episode when the site linked to is clearly a blog?"

This is true. It's difficult to find the episodes via the website I linked you to.

In order to show you the episode and to prove I was at the lecture today (even though I was late - sorry Jason!), here is me embedding a YouTube video in a blog post:

I think this episode proves my point about the website quite nicely.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Four Unusual Sites - The Real Deal

So I didn't do it the day I said I would. I was out sailing. Then I went to go drinking but was unsuccessful. True story. But I'm here now and... NO MORE WRITING ABOUT THESE THINGS! WRITING IS FOR IMPORTANT THINGS LIKE TALKING ABOUT WEBSITES!

Website #1 -

I think you will find, if you look in the archives, that this woman is possibly the cleverest woman ever in the history of the world. Cleverer than Boudica even. The genius of her content sneaks up on you over a period of days and then pounces! leaving you stuck checking back to her site semi-obsessively because as far as I can tell it doesn't work in my RSS reader.

The site itself isn't so genius I suppose. It's just meant to be user-friendly so that the user can get to the content easily. On the front page it has today's comic as well as easy links to the archives sorted by month. It also has at the top a clear site banner as well as three buttons leading to the current month's archive, the nataliedee t-shirt store and the nataliedee blog.

What I find most appealing about this site though, is the colours and 'feel'. I think they compliment the comics beautifully. The sunny pastel yellow fits right into the nataliedee 'feel' without overpowering the comics. Also the buttons have the same sorts of characters she tends to use in her comics - so it fits in really well.

The content itself gets my special seal of approval. It's just really out there. I don't really know anything like it except her husband's comics, and their collaborative comic.

Website #2 - Cute With Chris

What are you looking at? Don't judge me this show is wicked in all meanings of that word. There are ten of them, according to Technically, the content I really love about this show I actually get from YouTube, considering Chris also posts his weekly episode on there, although they are available through the site too. Essentially the content of the blog (not including the weekly show) is made up of pictures viewers send in of their pets. Then Chris will respond to these pictures with a long series of in-jokes. "All your dreams are dead", "NO PICTURES!" and that sort of thing.

Normally I would not care too much for a site that just contained pictures of cute animals. The thing that makes this site unique from all the other billions of sites featuring pictures of cats is that it has the most twisted idea of the word 'cute' I've ever seen. Sure there are kittens, but there are also rabbits with elephantiasis eyes, chihuahuas with only their hind legs and cats that apparently like to stare at naked people's bums. Each week there is usually a 'cutedown' where viewers vote on which pet out of three is the cutest, and the weird pets almost always win.

Again, the site is nothing to look at - just a standard two-column setup, and actually the 'feel' could be improved a lot (it's very plain). It's the unique mix of content provided by Chris and his viewers that makes this site so enjoyable. The weekly three-minute video just backs it all up.

Website #3 - Postsecret

Notice a theme here? This site is ugly. I think it's just some kind of basic Blogger template. Ugh. All right, all right, I use a basic Blogger template as well, but at least mine has style. I think it's so the site itself doesn't detract from what the site is actually about - its content. The dude who runs this site receives people's secrets written on postcards in the mail. He scans them and posts them on the site. The secrets are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes haunting. Sometimes I'll read a secret and realise that is my secret too and I never even realised I was keeping it from people.

The content of this site is so engaging. It just draws you in and makes you empathise/sympathise with the people who send them in. It makes other people around seem less like obstacles sent to try us and more like real people who we have to care about.

Website #4 - David Crowder*Band Website

I don't come here often - there are a lot of things about this site which rock, and a lot that suck. It doesn't fill up my whole screen for one, but if you bear with it, it can reveal some wonderful secrets.

At the time of writing the site is set up to resemble the packaging of their latest album, Remedy. The last time I looked at it, it wasn't green but yellow - to look like their album A Collision or (3+4=7). Yes, I'm not kidding you, that was the title of their album before Remedy. The most interesting thing here is the box near the bottom of the screen with the circles and the cross. It's a little hard to tell but these are the band's biographies. Obviously someone has given the individual band members free reign to do with the space what they want. For some this means a blog that hasn't been updated since September of 2006. For others however...

Click on circle 4 (on the lefthand side of the cross). This is the lead singer's biography. Now explore the graphic that pops up. I spent a long time trawling though the bits and pieces that are found there. Games, facts, reflections on scripture (DC*B are a Christian band) - even entire song-by-song descriptions of previous albums.

Additionally the site has secret pages that you only find out about if you buy the albums and read the thankyou notes in the booklet that comes with them. But because I'm such a nice guy here is the latest secret page.

So what do you reckon? Feedback please ^_^

Friday, March 7, 2008

Four Unusual Sites - Coming soon

My lecturer, Jason, says we are to find four unusual sites and write 100 words on each, which is a task that on the surface sounds very boring (sorry Jason, but do read on, I'm not this sad the whole way through). I understand that as a lecturer he has a mandate to be fairly specific about how many words we have to write, because I know that most uni students are trying to do as little work as possible. I know because there are times that I am one of them. I'm like "no way am I gonna write a bazillion words on some weird-arse websites - the writers have stopped striking and Lost is back on again."

For me, however, telling me to blog is like telling a child to eat lollies. I love to communicate with people I don't know... which even I'll admit is super-weird. I think that gets reflected in what I appreciate about a website, and so that will colour my observations and the websites I choose. I love blogs and YouTube. A lot. Unfortunately these kinds of websites tend to be very standard-looking. You know, the good ol' two-or-three column structure with the fat column in the middle(ish) and a heading at the top.

The thing is, what draws me to a site is never the site itself, but rather the content that the site contains. I even use an RSS reader which strips the content from the site completely. It'll just show up as ugly, bare text and pictures. I'm sure site designers just hate the guts out of me. I love it though because it lets me keep tabs of a multitude of blogs at a time without having to do anything more than sign into my Google account.

Actually, while I'm sure Jason knows all the tricks, if he hasn't set up a Google Reader to keep track of his classes' blogs it would probably be a good idea if he was really into the "I MUST KNOW EVERYTHING MY STUDENTS ARE SAYING ALL THE TIME AS SOON AS THEY SAY IT" kind of thing. I'm just saying you know...

And so because I've gotten off on a tangent and not actually done the set work, I'll talk about the sites tomorrow. I think I can get away with using mostly - mostly! - the sites I've already linked to even though they are fairly standard in how they are set up as sites. I have it written down: 100 words on content, look and feel of each site. I should find at least one freaky Heliozoa-esque site though, but not actually Heliozoa, because using your lecturer's site is just plain sucking up.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Welcome to Neobabbage

This is my blog for "Writing for the Web." It will focus mainly on discussion about the internet, following weekly tasks set for us in class.

Charles Babbage was the inventor of the Analytical Engine - the world's first programmable computer. "Neobabbage" is my way of referring to how the internet - a network of programmable computers - has grown into something new and bigger than what Babbage could have possibly imagined when he originally designed his mechanical contraption.

Follow up posts will be coming very soon.