Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Interlude, Read Better

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

Make Your Blog Read Better, at Blog World Expo 2009 -- Transmedia and Social Change, at Henry Jenkins' JOUR499

This Friday, I will be speaking at Blog World Expo 2009 on How To Make Your Blog Read Better. You’ve probably seen an earlier version of this presentation at Portland’s Beer And Blog, presented a year and-four-days ago—the weekend after my bike was stolen. This one will view practical steps to better legibility and readability of website text in light of what developments have occurred this past year.

Next Wednesday, I will be lecturing at Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment class at USC on the topic of Transmedia and Social Change. I’ll talk about principles we can learn from disparate fields of study—specifically: video game, user interface design and architecture—to craft, design and built spaces that encourage players, users and inhabitants to do the right and ethical thing.

I will let you know if any of these two events will be made available via a live streaming channel or video recording.

Good night.

Advertisements
Standard
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.

Standard
Etc., Interlude, Links, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

So, You Want To Grow A Community? Plan Your Event By Writing A Goal Statement That Demonstrates Depth and Details

This is the second of a five (or six) part series of a guide that gives you the tools to plan, manage and measure a great technology or creative event—then demonstrate that it can not only impact your community, but also the industry sector surrounding that community, and ultimately, the city-at-large.

This guide is primarily written in the context of my experience living through Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, and is organized in five sections:

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details (you are here)
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives

In the end, I’ll have a downloadable, nicely designed PDF for you to look at.

(Note that the title and content of the chapter is in a constant state of revision, and so may change between now and the final version.)

Part two, here we go.


Plan Your Event By Writing A Goal Statement That Demonstrates Depth and Details

Unless you decide to host an event because you have nothing else to do that month, every event you plan must have a goal and objective in mind.

For example, I like planning events that share the same spirit with Legion of Tech’s: free, volunteer run and community oriented. But I also know that my time and resource is limited. My partner’s, sponsor’s and attendee’s time and resource also are.

To respect them, I must make sure that the event have clear enough of a value proposition so everyone knows if it is right to help out with, give money to, or spend time with, respectively. This is where the importance of a clear goal statement becomes clear.

A goal statement is exactly what the name implies: a short document contains the things you want to see happen with your event. It can be general or detailed (the latter is generally better, though not always.)

For example, here is a short, informal goal statement from Refreshing Cities:

Refresh is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in their areas. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards.

The Refresh Manifesto

  • Let’s Gather Great Minds
  • Let’s Share All Of Our Knowledge
  • Let’s All Grow And Learn
  • Let’s Promote Local Talent
  • Let’s Be More Than We Think Can Be
  • Let’s Make Our Cities Better

(Source: http://refreshingcities.org)

This statement is succinct, memorable, and provides an idea of the people behind and attending the event, but does not answer the question that should come before all else: what is the event about? With this said, this statement is vague for a reason. ‘Refreshing Cities’ is a name that can be used anywhere freely to indicate the organizer’s participation in the loosely connected collective.

A more specific goal statement may look like this:

We are advocates, developers, and Portlanders making the world better with open source technology.

Open Source Bridge will bring together the diverse tech communities of the greater Portland area and showcase our unique and thriving open source environment. We will show how well Portland does open source and share our best practices for development, community and connectedness with the rest of the world.

We’re setting out to change the structure of conference planning: asking interested people to come together at a Town Hall meeting, and share their collective experience and wisdom. Following the lead of the Linux Plumbers Conference, we’re enlisting curators for our conference sessions, planning mini-confs for critical topics and including unconference sessions. The focus will always be on increasing interaction between participants and engaging everyone in the content.

(Source: http://bridgepdx.org/about)

Note how this statement explains exactly the nature of the event itself as well as its planning process. It identifies not only the planners, but also their goal for planning. These things will help potential sponsors and volunteers identify whether the event is right for them.

The answer to the question “what is the event about” is implied because the idea, while minted carefully, is still open to interpretation at the micro level (ie. The conference name and intent were established, but the timeline and details were not.)

BarCamp, an ‘unconference’ concept that had been adopted internationally many times, took an even more detailed approach:

BarCamp: What’s this all about?

COMMUNITY AND INFORMATION
BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees.

Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.

When you come, be prepared to share with barcampers.
When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.

NO SPECTATORS, ONLY PARTICIPANTS
Attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one, or otherwise volunteer / contribute in some way to support the event. All presentations are scheduled the day they happen. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the wall. The people present at the event will select the demos or presentations they want to see.

Presenters are responsible for making sure that notes/slides/audio/video of their presentations are published on the web for the benefit of all and those who can’t be present.

BARCAMP FOR EVERYONE
Contact us if you have any questions or want to participate. Let us know if you’re hosting your own. BarCamp is about support as much as it is about information.

(Source: http://barcamp.org/TheRulesOfBarCamp)

Note how the BarCamp goal statement:

  • Answers the question “what is the event about” right away (“BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference”) then move to the ground rules (“All presentations are scheduled the day they happen”)
  • Explains in specific terms what will happen in the event (“discussions, demos and interaction”)
  • Identifies the audience (“anyone with something to contribute”), then establishes a social contract by asking them to contribute something (“Attendees must give a demo”)
  • Lays out the benefits of the event, rather than the features (“share and learn in an open environment”)

Two subjects missing from the statement are information about the planners and their intents. This is understandable, since, much like Refreshing Cities, BarCamp is a name that one can take, modify, and establish a chapter of anywhere for free, as long as the structure remain the same.

Let’s sum up. A good goal statement:

1. Is specific

It says what exactly will happen in the event and leaves no room for guesswork.
For example, if you’re planning a networking lunch for interactive designers from advertising agencies and software development studio around Portland, so they can plan on working on a collaborative project together, don’t skimp and say “let’s get together and code something.” Be specific, so you know that the people who are going to be there are the right people (otherwise, they will save their time by not attending in the first place.)

2. Establishes social contract

In addition to laying out details, you must also ask your attendee to bring something to the table, and promise to provide something back.

For example, they may bring current projects they worked on, questions they may have, curiosities, commitment to learn from each others, food, an open mind, anything. You may provide the space, food, centralized work table, wireless network, speakers, and so on. The kinds of things you expect and commit does not matter. What matters is that you set an agreement and clearly say, “If we’ll have this, you’ll bring those.” A social contract, even an informal one, helps set everyone’s expectation to the same level and could save you the trouble of dealing with group loafers.

3. Lays out benefits

It is very easy for an organizer to write out all the features of her event. For instance:

  • World renowned speakers
  • Invite to beta applications
  • Strong wifi signals.

The problem is, any event you plan will only matter if it benefits you, your audience and the sponsors. Switching gears from describing features to describing benefits can help. Think in terms of their needs. Change your language from saying “here’s what we have” to “here’s what you’ll get out of this”; then start writing.

For example:

  • Learn the principles of identity design from Jeff Fisher, a longtime, award-winning Portland designer who has been recognized by StartupNation as one of the nation’s top businesses in its annual Home-Based 100 competition in the category of Most Slacker-Friendly.
  • Make your software work faster with a free update
  • Broadcast fearlessly with a high-band wireless connectivity

A clear goal statement will not only provide a good base for your entire planning process, it will also help you manage your sponsors wisely and measure your event engagement online more easily.

Standard
Bram Pitoyo, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

Adam Gallardo at Cre8Con: An Event Review (Part 8 of 8)

Adam Gallardo

Dark Horse Comics

I’m going to be talking about my creative process, then switch gear.

This gives me sheer of terror because, first of all, I haven’t talked to the public for 20 years. The second feeling, I’m not a very self-reflexive guy who doesn’t think about this stuff.

“Where do you get your idea?” I get asked this question a lot. I feel that this has an underlying assumption. Because people feel that if they know where I got my idea, then they would be able to go to that place and get their own. The right question is not “why” but “how.”

And, sad to say, there’s no secret to this. I either get my idea through hard work, or flashes of “religious” inspirations.

As a kid, I wasn’t really into comic. Comic was something that I got at a road trip, or when you stay at home sick. I didn’t understand that there are people who created these things, or that there are series in comic. So while I was aware of comics, I was never aware into how they figure into my creative process.

So by the time I was old enough, all these media got these hooks into me.

For me, the creative process has always been a problem solving one. The first comic I ever wrote for was Star Wars: Infinities – Return of the Jedi. The idea behind the series is: you take one element of a story arc, change it, and focus on how that change impacts the story.

Back then at Dark Horse, I was working to answer reader’s email. The question I get asked the most was “where’s Infinities – Return of The Jedi”? So I went and talked to the editor and he said “as soon as we have a good story, we’ll move forward with it.”

Well, I had been thinking about writing comics, but never expressed it to anyone. I’ve been submitting short stories to magazines and was interested in becoming this Raymond Carver-type of author. But one of the benefits of working at Dark Horse was that I get to read all these comic script drafts.

And I read them and thought “Hey, I can do that, too.”

So one night, I went home, sat on the couch, and started thinking about it. That’s part of the hard work of being a creative. I was playing the movie (Return of The Jedi) back and forth, trying to find the perfect moment to break the story and go on a tangent. And I found it. But I didn’t write anything down.

So, the next day, I went in and pitched in the idea to the second guy at Dark Horse. He said “fire away.” The point of departure was when the scene with Leia in Jabba’s Palace went wrong. He stared at me with that resilient stare, and finally said “write a one page, and we’ll give it to Lucas.”

So my problem was finding the perfect moment to break from the Star Wars movie.

And then many months passed. Until one day, he passed by my office and said “Hey, Gallardo, when are you going to write that script?”

A lot of people asked me if I ever got a hard time from Lucasfilms. Any time they asked me to change, I view that as a problem to solve, too. So by that means, you move along with story by moving from problem to problem.

Admittedly, it’s rather unglamorous. It involves sitting down and writing. But that’s how I did it.

My favorite question to ask is to look at the market and say “what is out there and what would I like to be reading right now?” then solve that.

The good ideas will make it out of the notebook. The ideas that are no good will just sit and fester. Another lesson is, don’t ever throw out an idea. You may be able to repurpose it another day.

Another question: how do you write an idea that is a paragraph, then make it into a pitch that the editor will like and give money to.

Here comes the switching gears part.

I talked about hard work. The other way I get ideas is “flashes of inspiration.” These are instances where ideas pop out to your head out of nowhere. I know it’s a cliche, but taking a shower? It works.

You can’t force these moments, all you can do is record them before you forget. But while you can’t force it, you can cultivate it. So my tips is: read everything. I try to not limit myself in one particular genre. I read everything, watch everything, listen to new music.

As a creator of fiction, I don’t feel like I have a primary document. A curious astronomer can look at tables of planetary motion, etc. But a fiction writer has no text—so in a way, everything is a text. So that was why my advice was read everything.

I mentioned that my storytelling sense has been set by these other media. I hope that I can bring this experience into a comic. As creative people, the worst appraisal we can get is: it’s unoriginal.

So my tips are three:

  • I read what I can
  • I put endless hours in my notebook
  • I wait for flashes of inspirations

Other than that, I’m just waiting for the next problem to solve.

Standard
Bram Pitoyo, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

Jay Meschter at Cre8Con (Part 7 of 8)

Jay Meschter

Nike Digital Kitchen, Flywire

Work with people who get it. If you look at Nike and thought “how did you get a culture like that?” Well, Nike’s founder was never satisfied as a coach, he was always looking for a way to improve his athlete. He even learnt to make shoes. This was how he met Phil Knight. It was him who said “let’s try something together.” He’s out there making track to fit the “Oregon Sunshine” condition (which really means “rain.”)He literally went to his backyard, mixing various substances that will make the best track.

A lot of people credit him for igniting the “jogging” movement that swept all across the US. He took his wife’s waffle iron and poured rubber over it to create the first “waffle trainer.” He was also obsessed with weight. He was interested in stripping away whatever is unnecessary in a shoes.

In large companies, you realize that you want to improve the efficiency of process from cradle to cradle. So all things that you improve was supposed to be tuned for this perfectly running machine.

Well, that’s not very good for innovation.

It’s the equivalent of growing plants in a field vs. greenhouse. One is arranged so tightly that it impaired innovation. One is a house of experimentation and non-linear openness.

The Innovation Kitchen is very couterproductive to business principles. The charter of the kitchen is quite interesting. In the industry, there’s a lot of remixing of popular culture. This is terrific, but you can only do it for so long.

This is not what we’re interested in the kitchen.

Instead, we’re interested in making the new classic. You think you’re going to run out of ideas, but you never do. When the SR-71 Blackbird airplane was designed, the designer had no interest in its form. Instead, by designing for function, the form then took shape. The other designer is Charles Eames. What he did was playing with new forms and opportunities for the design of chairs. He didn’t invented plywood, but he used it in a new way.

The project we were taking on was to take a new model for footwork construction: design efficiency. I can tell you for a fact that a bridge built with stone can only handle so much—until steel comes along in the 1950’s and you’re able to do spans and scales that you can never do before.

At Nike, we’ve always used a layered approach in constructing shoes: where you would cut materials out, and then when you need more strength you would stuff and patch it. There’s a fundamental problem with this, because when you’re trying to make something lighter, you need to take materials off. But the shoes are built in layers—so strength and stability went away with the weight! We felt that gold shoes that we made was the limit of the function of this old approach. We feel that this is the end of the line without rethinking the process.

The idea for this new construction model was initially very expensive to construct. But years later, we went to our material room, and in the room was an embroidery machine. This machine was designed mostly for decoration, but we realized that it can also print fiber. It doesn’t print very well, though, so we had to hack and then custom-made it. The idea of this new construction model was, really, akin to putting a muscle to your feet. This changes everything for us. Instead of thinking of a shoes that you have to design in a program prior to production, this model, by the manner in which it’s constructed, allows you to tune it like an instrument.

Usually:

  • Ultra-lightweight sacrifices strength
  • Stability compromises mobility
  • Exceptional control sacrifices comfort

This new construction model gets both.

To test this model, we talked to five Olympic athletes and let them try it out—not expecting anything. Well, the next day, the camera was rolling and we saw these five guys running with these prototypes on the field! Thankfully, one of them won the first place.

Standard
Bram Pitoyo, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

Jelly Helm at Cre8Con: An Event Review (Part 5 of 8)

Jelly Helm

Wieden+Kennedy

Obama, Facebook, The Iphone And The Characteristics Of Emergent 21St Century Brands

I have a friend who is a client of mine named Mark Ritchie. He’s an activist. What I know from him: speak only what you know to be true.

What turned me on about working at W+K is storytelling. I love storytelling. I think connection is the power of it for me. And I think that brand is really a story.

I think that a brand is a story that expands our-self story.

We’ve been facing an existentialist problem since the dawn of mankind. For example: what is the meaning of our extremely short, individualistic existence on planet earth—itself a very small planet who orbits around a star—itself a very small star compared to everything else in the universe? So we use stories to make sense of all these bewildering events, and to help give meaning to our experiences.

Brands are stories that you pull in to expand our own story. When you choose a brand, you choose one that expands your own self-story. Not the one that conflicts with it.

Our self-story expands like crazy [pictures of 2 candidates.] For example, in 2004, either an African American or a woman is going to be a President. That’s a sign of change.

In advertising, there are also signs of change. First, there was TiVO. Then there was the media consumption habit that increasingly moves toward the non-traditional. Then there was the long tail culture that’s really thin and long. Then there was this idea that advertisers don’t take control of the brand—the public do. And then there was this “interactive” thing. We don’t know how it works yet, but we pretend that it really works.

In short, It’s a new world. It’s a different kind of world, and advertisers are really shocked, because they’re not sure how they’re going to make money anymore.

So what does it take to create a successful 21st century brand? It reminded me of the tale of the 6 blinds monk that were asked to identify the elephant. These are like how different disciplines view a 21st century brand. The interactive guys may say that the web is the key to winning. The traditional art directors may say “keep making something creative, and hopefully they’ll notice.” The social media people may say that all traditional marketing is dead.

The problem is: they’re all correct, but they all failed to recognize the bigger pattern.

Obama, Facebook and Apple are 21st century brands. The first thing that I noticed that they have in common is that none of them were created by an ad agency. And people choose these brand not because they’re seduced by it.

21st century brands are not built through advertising, but through direct experiences. Sure, interactive is a part of that, but it’s not about interactive, but about participating in a story.

And yet for all this help of head and brand
How happily instinctive we remain
Our best guide upward further to the light
Passionate preference such as love as sight

I like it this poem because it encourages the idea that we, despite trying to figure out what to do with our lives, are attracted to things that make us grow. Things that lift us up.

We are growth-seeking creatures. I just think that’s our nature. I think there’s an upward thrust. This happens culturally, too.

A group of scientists created a map of how growth works through the human culture. They took all models of human development, put them on top of each others and find similarities. This spiral is the map. It’s called Spirodynamics.

[picture of multi-leveled spiral with various colors, from tan to yellow]

Starting from the bottom:

  • Tan: I exist. This is the dawn of consciousness
  • Purple: I and you exist, if we cooperate, something will happen
  • Red: I and you exist. Other groups also exist, and if we defeat them, something will happen
  • Blue: law introduced
  • Orange: Technology, science and progress
  • Green: “hippie-dippie,” science and all that is good, but let’s also hold hands. Communitarian value
  • Yellow: Finally, this is where we’re at today. Yellow is about a holistic view that we are headed towards, where we accept all the good things that came before us. Nothing is rejected. Everything is embraced and encouraged.

21st century brands will embrace and encourage humanity. All aspects of human being. Not just sustainability, knowledge, or technology, but all of it.

But will will a growth-minded, non-stuff-babsed economy look like?

I got no idea, but I’ve got a surfboard and I’m ready to go.

Standard
Bram Pitoyo, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

Brian Van’t Hul at Cre8Con (Part 4 of 8)

Brian Van’t Hul

Laika

Besides working with the design and effects work, I also get to look at the show-at-hand as a whole, and look at the timeline and money that we have, and try to fit that into the day-to-day operations.

I’ve always been a fan of stop motion as a kid. But at some point, I was watching these films, and one of the adults mentioned that these things don’t magically appear on TV, and there are people whose job is to do this everyday. I was about 8 years old when this idea clicked to my brain.

It’s about combining engineering, chemistry and artistry. Whatever it is that you’re interested in, if you don’t have a passion to keep you forward. Some people get into this business, there’s a certain element of glamour to it.

What’s really great is to see the result the next morning, pick the good footages and hand them over. A lot of the question that I aksed during the day: there’s this whole thing now where people buy DVD. Today, we’re more educated about how they make these things.

A lot of times when I show up on set, people know what those boxes show up, and people expect me to do certain things with that. So when stuff broke, people just asked me “you can always fix this later, right?”

Except that you don’t have “later.”

So we’re trying to talk them through alternate techniques or ways that they want. Sometimes, people are seduced by creating a shot that’s really flamboyant, and seduced by it—often stopping the movie production before it started back up again. Those are the kinds of dialogues I have with directors.

Then people with the money starts getting “creative” [laughs.]

My creative process is really aboout getting a good brief. Then you can move around inside that brief.

For me, a lot of the reward isn’t actually seeing the final product. A big part of it is actually seeing the day-to-day ethic. Trying to have the energy to problem solve. Trying to find the extra time to not only study what’s happening right now, but also how they do it fifty years ago. If you’re too reliant on technology, you’re probably not doing your best.

Part of my job is to go down and talk with the camera crew and art director to save us money. When you’re working on a big budget film, it’s best to approach it as if “this is my film, this is my money, and I’m composing it in my garage.” You don’t need to always need to use the fanciest technology. If you’re going to notice any of that stuff, why pay for it? It’s a balance between using tradition and incorporating technology.

You know, Mike. All of this wouln’t be possible without the Cocktail Napkin technology.

Then you would also have physical objects in front of the camera. In a miniature set, things do change, expand and contract depending on weather. It’s little things like that. And there are times when it doesn’t fix itself and you have to reconstruct it.

If people ask me what my advice would be: you have to be really reckless. Break whatever rules whenever you can, or you’d disappear into generalities.

Standard