Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Links, Presentation

Learn How The Sans Serif Letterforms Came To Be In 3 Minutes

Presented by yours truly at Interesting Portland.

If this bores you to tears, see videos from all presenter that night.

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Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Interlude, Links, Presentation

If You Spent Most Of Your Workday Staring At The Terminal Window

—then it’s probably worth to make the letters you see in that window more legible, and the text more readable.

I’ll be doing a bring-your-own-laptop workshop at Open Source Bridge about this subject.

(And the best thing is, if this session sounds boring, there are seventy-some more interesting ones.)

Open Source Bridge is the first ever volunteer run, open source technology conference—based in the lovely Portland, Oregon. I am proud to have been a supporter (and helper at times) to this exciting initiative. You can be a supporter as well, by registering and/or booking a room, and donating (you can’t lose with a $2 minimum, in my opinion)

Buck back to the font business. What do you mean by making letters and text read better? you ask. You can read more about it here, but I’d rather give you more explanation here.

Legibility and readability is two different, but interrelated subjects. One concerns itself with how easy it is to distinguish individual letter. What makes an ‘a’ an ‘a,’ for instance? We claim that our eyes will instinctively know it when we see it, and know it when something looks wrong, but, really, what’s in an ‘a’ that makes it look like a proper ‘a’?

This will be addressed with many pretty pictures of alphabets and history.

Readability concerns the character set as a whole. For instance, a font that may possess legible characters—where every alphabet looks proper and distinguishable—may not be as readable because the reader can’t read it well, or fast enough. What’s the problem, then? Reductivist beware: it turns out that our eyes don’t read individual letters, but scan over the 1) letter’s top half, and 2) space between and inside the letters. This means that things like line length, work spacing, letterspacing (tracking), leading (line-height) and color all plays a role in deciding how effective you can read a piece of code.

This will be addressed with slightly less pretty pictures.

Finally, now that you know the principles behind what makes something read better, I will introduce you to tools to experiment and make your own. But making a whole font from scratch is tricky, you said, and I don’t really mind the current type that I’m using, except for a few characters. Not to worry, there is a trick to easily do this.

Oh, did you say that you want to make an entire pixel-based programming monospace font from scratch? That’s possible, too. This type of font is a good place to start designing from.

And we’re going to use open source software and free tools to do this. Bring your laptop. I’ll see you there.

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Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Links, Side Project Spotlight

Side Project Spotlight: Weeeble

UPDATE: this afternoon, Brennan sent me a refreshed Weeeble page that contains ideas closer to the vision presented in this article. A screenshot of this can be found on the bottom of this page. Check your Weeeble status at http://weeeble.com/YourTwitterName.

Brennan Novak’s avatar of him dressed in fake moustache may be the first good indicator as to exactly when and where I first met him: at a Makerlab Sunday Hack Session at the IGLOO gallery; so when he tweeted me several weeks ago and said to test a side project of his out, I was sure that it’s going to be something delightfully unexpected.

Weeeble

This was exactly what Weeeble, now in development, had demonstrated. The app was born out of a series of observations: Twitter user uses speech pattern to speak to one another (for example: feel good, drinking green tea, eating portobello sandwich, listening to The Police.) Weeeble sought to look for these keywords, parse them, store them, then display them as part of your profile.

But isn’t this an old idea, you ask? You’re right. Role Playing Games have been using such concepts from its inception in the form of status screen.

Final Fantasy 4 Status Screen

If you’re not familiar with this concept, a status screen shows you the current standing of the character you’re currently playing with: her strength, defense, equipped weapon, and so on. Sounds a little bit like a social network’s profile page, doesn’t it?

Google Profile of Bram Pitoyo

Except that informations on a profile page are classically thought of, and are usually designed to be static. This isn’t wrong. After all, static information helps determine credibility.

But another metric of the same that we often forget is the dynamics of information. We all know, for instance, that blogs that are updated very often (ie. not Link En Fuego) tends to be more reputable than those that are not.

Of course, there’s also a problem with consuming dynamic information: they don’t have a universal standard. Well, duh, you said, isn’t that exactly the point of having a dynamic information? You’re right. But this means that consuming dynamic information is going to require significantly more effort on your end.

For example: on a profile page, you would have constantly recurring fields like username, full name, bio, email address and telephone number. On a blog, you’re free to have whatever tags and categories you want. All the feed going to give your RSS reader is the post title, content, categories and publication date.

Now, wouldn’t it would be nifty if we could combine the recurring fields of one, and the dynamic contents of the other?

Profile Page Is Static, Blog Entry Is Dynamic. An RPG Status Screen Is Both.

You know, just like a game’s status screen, where the value of items change all the time (ie. strength +2, dexterity +4.) but the properties of the value itself doesn’t?

This is where Weeeble comes in:

Weeeble […] parses your Twitter feed and looks for the usage of certain keywords […] then saves all your Tweets into nice categories…

Weeeble currently indexes things like feeling, music, food, drink, location and Twitter users you’re currently with:

Weeeble Speak: Keywords From Tweets That It Currently Indexes

But I Don’t See All The Features You’re Talking About Yet!

Weeeble is still in a very early stage of development, and this article looks more like a dissection and feature wishlist for it rather than a proper review (Weeble-Shizzow integration, anyone?) I hope that its developer could benefit from early exposure, use and suggestion that I and others will provide.

Here’s how it looks like at the moment.

Weeeble pre-alpha status screen

Want Your Side Project Covered?

I believe that Portland’s abundance of little side projects that developers do because they love it, is part of what makes our creative/tech scene unique. To this end, I’m always on the lookout for your ideas. Bother me at brampitoyo@gmail.com, and let’s set something up.

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Bram Pitoyo, Links, Side Project Spotlight

Side Project Spotlight: ComboTweet

I first met John Nastos, jazz saxophonist and developer extraordinaire, to talk about his then-recent side project of his: the now much praised Twitter hashtag definition engine, Tagalus, at Urban Grind NW many months ago. I remembered reviewing the alpha, praising its usefulness and suggesting the front-and-center highlight of the phrase “@tagalus define __________ as __________.”

But right after we finished talking about this, he went on and asked if I wanted to see another side project of his called “Tagalus MultiTweet,”

ComboTweet Screenshot

Tagalus MultiTweet has since changed name to ComboTweet, but what I saw then didn’t dissapoint.

What Makes ComboTweet Unique

ComboTweet Tabs and Multi User

Tabs and multi-user capability. ComboTweet is “an AJAX Twitter client that lets you use multiple accounts simultaneously.” If there is one thing that kept me from adopting a Twitter client for a very long time, it’s probably because of the lack of these two features. Sure, clients like Tweetdeck supports multiple panels, and Twhirl multiple instances, but I have yet to see one that adopts tabbed tweeting, and adopt it well. But what about Destroy Twitter, you ask? It has the best implementation of this idea so far, but it also lacks the ability to tweet from multiple accounts.

Little dependencies, runs locally. Another feature that I increasingly demand from a web application is the ability to own the data and do whatever I want with it. A great first step to do this is to have the said application run and store data in a place that you own, whether it’s your laptop, desktop or hosting server.

This is great and all, you say, but Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight already does the same thing. Yes, but not only are they proprietary standards, they also require a piece of software to be installed in order for the software to run properly. ComboTweet solves this problem nicely by being built entirely using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other technologies used as standards on the web today. The result is a software that you can run at whatever place you own.

Freely available. In fact, you can download and run its latest version right now by going to its GitHub project page.

But waitaminute. Is that a ‘Shizzow’ tab I see up there? You’re right. ComboTweet can also shout from Shizzow, a Portland-built location-based social service (that coincidentally was born as a side project.) Now, I don’t know about you, but I like my Tweets and location check-in be in one convenient place.

More Features

ComboTweet's Tabbed Browsing Preference

Don’t like the whole tabbed tweeting deal? ComboTweet’s default is to use multiple panels, TweetDeck-style.

ComboTweet Filtered Panel

Like making groups that contain people from the same categories? Check.

ComboTweet Twitter Search Integration

The ability to create a new panel/tab and populate it with any Twitter search query? Done.

ComboTweet: Follow With Multiple Twitter Accounts

Want to follow a user on multiple account all at the same time? Check that one, too.

The Future

By now, you’d think that there’s enough feature on ComboTweet to make it a powerful, usable and lightweight Twitter client. But John Nastos seem to like thinking in the manner of most other side project creators’: big and fast. When I talked to him last time and commended the app’s integration of Shizzow, I also asked him one question. I wondered, I said, if there will be an ability to have ComboTweet be a client for virtually any social network application out there? Because, you know, it was designed to be modular, right?

Well, if it has an API— he said, half-smirking, half-hesitating to continue and spoil all the fun.

By that point, I knew that ComboTweet isn’t just another side project.

Want Your Side Project Covered?

I believe that Portland’s abundance of little side projects that developers do because they love it, is part of what makes our creative/tech scene unique. To this end, I’m always on the lookout for your ideas. Bother me at brampitoyo@gmail.com, and let’s set something up.

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Blogroll, Etc., Links, Side Project Spotlight

Side Project Spotlight: Not Your Garden Variety Software Review

Truism: Portland has a bustling creative and technology scene. Another truism: all of us seem to have a few (or, bless your heart, many) side projects that hangs around our hard drives and sketchbooks—the one that we work steadily on every afterhours. These are things we do for fun—not necessarily because we’re going to get rich out of it, but because we love it.

I have been very fortunate to take part in the ideation and development of some of these projects, so I thought, why not start another side project of my own to chronicle and spotlight all the side project that everyone is doing?

The reviews are going to be small, swift, and filled with feedbacks and conceptual suggestions—just like your side project.

Want your side project covered?

I believe that, no matter how little or insignificant it may seem, your side project always makes an amazing contribution to Portland—even if you’re not signed up for Silicon Florist’s $250,000 Geek Bat Signal Call (and you really should.)

In summary, I’m always on the lookout for your ideas, concepts and roughs. I want to get your side project whatever exposure and feedback it deserves to get. Bother me at brampitoyo@gmail.com, and let’s set something up.

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