Blogs Media Lab

WebWalker 2.2

I have a thing for “ugly”, 1996-esque sites (I think they’re awesome). Here are some of my recent finds: The Best Webs.net Jim Jacobson’s Home Page Killer Japanese Seizure Robots! (seriously, you might get a seizure) American Beauty Equipment The Daily Mole has a good op-ed about the problems with accessible web video for hearing […]

uglysite.jpg Closed Captioning slmovie.jpg drop.jpg shirt.jpg

Hat tip to Paul Schmelzer for some links.

WebWalker 2.2

I have a thing for “ugly”, 1996-esque sites (I think they’re awesome). Here are some of my recent finds: The Best Webs.net Jim Jacobson’s Home Page Killer Japanese Seizure Robots! (seriously, you might get a seizure) American Beauty Equipment The Daily Mole has a good op-ed about the problems with accessible web video for hearing […]

uglysite.jpg Closed Captioning slmovie.jpg drop.jpg shirt.jpg

Hat tip to Paul Schmelzer for some links.

Frida Kahlo multimedia guide update

Visitors to the Walker’s Frida Kahlo exhibition have the option of renting a multimedia guide ($6, $5 Walker members). The tour was produced by Antenna Audio whose staff are providing bi-weekly reports on usage. Here’s what we know so far: Take-up rate varies widely depending on attendance with the average being 9%. Thursdays are our […]

Visitors to the Walker’s Frida Kahlo exhibition have the option of renting a multimedia guide ($6, $5 Walker members). The tour was produced by Antenna Audio whose staff are providing bi-weekly reports on usage. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Take-up rate varies widely depending on attendance with the average being 9%. Thursdays are our big day with typically around 22% (Walker admission is free on Thursday nights). Saturdays are also a big day but the take up ratio (.05%) is diluted by Free First Saturday (FFS) attendance. FFS is the Walker family day; we had 4,800 visitors on November 3rd, a large percentage of which were 12 and under.
  • The numbers show far more non-members purchase the tour versus members (approximately 20:1). However, once members purchase the tour, they’ve come back multiple times, often with friends and family.
  • The 50+ crowd are the folks purchasing the tour. Teens and 20-somethings think they know it all and tend to dismiss it. I wonder how much this demographic might change if the tour was free and/or offered on personal technology.
  • Antenna’s new hardware appears to be holding up to public use. By the end of a 6-hour day, the players can get a bit sluggish but they brought in additional units so they can rotate more frequently.
  • The comments from visitors continue to be overwhelmingly positive. Some of the quotes we’ve gotten:”Fantastic…indispensable for understanding the heavy symbolism of her work.””…loved additional visuals on touch screen…” \r\n\r\n”…would have been lost without it…”

    “…numbers next to paintings should be larger…” (Sigh. The labels, always the labels.)

    “Excellent to have optional perspectives on the artist and contextual background on her life and times.”

    “…the order of paintings didn’t jive with the audio and I had to skip all over the place to find where I was supposed to be.” (The tour is random access and some visitors still prefer a more linear tour.)

    “Every exhibit should have these!”

Quartz Composer in Leopard

Most techies probably know that Leopard has been out for a while now. Aside from all the goodness that is Time Machine, the thing that has me most excited is the new version of Quartz Composer. Create Digital Motion did a great post about what’s new, and you should read their post for the exhaustive […]

Most techies probably know that Leopard has been out for a while now. Aside from all the goodness that is Time Machine, the thing that has me most excited is the new version of Quartz Composer. Create Digital Motion did a great post about what’s new, and you should read their post for the exhaustive info.

Aside from many useful things (closed loops!), there are two things that stick out to me as exceedingly useful for creating dynamic digital signage:

  • Data crunching: Quartz Composer can now load, and download XML files, which makes it much easier to move large chunks of data in and out of your composition.
  • Multiple screens — or multiple projectors: There is now support for running Quartz compositions across multiple screens, and also a cluster.

Being able to use XML data rather than just an RSS feed could be extremely useful for specifying things beyond text and images. Color values, timing, or any number of things could be included here in XML. The way we generate most of our pages here at the walker, our output is XML, so piping something like the Walker Calendar into a Quartz Composition just got much easier.

The second thing on that list is the really exciting part. As part of the Developer Tools, apple added a new application called Quartz Composer Visualizer, aka QCV. It does a couple of things. It lets you play a single quartz composition across multiple screens, which you could not do with Quartz Composer in Tiger. I’m not sure yet how this works across multiple video cards. It also adds a network mode, where a host and clients share the same composition and synchronize via the network. Here’s a movie I made of a modified version of our Vineland Lobby Kiosk Screensaver:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baVKPNsNWyY[/youtube]

This is running on two different computers, my laptop and my desktop (with two displays). For the most part, the displays are in perfect sync. There is a little blip, but I think that’s probably because my Desktop is struggling to keep up, due to an older video card. There is also the option to run a second composition as an “optional processing composition”. What this means is that you can create another composition that has the logic for processing the data and settings, which gets passed along to the display compositions. Basically, this allows you to use a MVC way of doing things. Here’s a screenshot of the app in use:

Quartz Composer Visualizer

Finding clients is done via bonjour, so it is limited to the local network, but all you have to do is fire it up on each machine and they find each other. Depending on how well separate video cards are supported, it could be quite easy to run a multiple screen setup from one high-end Mac Pro, since most of QC processing happens on the video card(s). Mac minis could also work as well, though due to the underwhelming onboard video, might not have enough horsepower to do any fancy core image effects.

QCV isn’t an industrial level application; you couldn’t ship this off to a client as a complete solution for a digital signage project. But for use in house, or a situation where it could be monitored more closely, it could be extremely useful. The complete source code to QCV is also included in the developer tools, and it’s meant as a template and example for people. An enterprising objective-c developer (which I am not) could create such an industrial level application. But as a template application, it is surprisingly useful. QC and QCV are the things in leopard that excite me the most.

WebWalker 2.1

Two blogs that I’ve recently stumbled upon are the Open Blog at the New York Times and Alpha Channel on MSNBC. Both are blogs from the developers behind the NYT and MSNBC, respectively. The entry on how TimeSelect was eliminated, partially powered by Amazon S3 is pretty interesting (if you like grid computing and the […]

Open @ NYT Alpha Channel Twitter @ Brooklyn Musuem FFFFound!

  • Two blogs that I’ve recently stumbled upon are the Open Blog at the New York Times and Alpha Channel on MSNBC. Both are blogs from the developers behind the NYT and MSNBC, respectively. The entry on how TimeSelect was eliminated, partially powered by Amazon S3 is pretty interesting (if you like grid computing and the word terabyte), as is the entries on the redesign of MSNBC. It’s interesting to note that MSNBC and NYT have had blogs for a while, but not developer blogs. Welcome to the party, guys.
  • The Brooklyn Museum has been doing some experimenting with Twitter and it turns into a bit of a mixed bag. Is there a phone-based opportunity here? Certainly so, but Twitter doesn’t quite seem to be the right vector. Something we’ve discussed before, bluejacking the phone number of Art on Call, might be another approach.
  • Jason Kottke has an interesting post up about FFFFOUND!, which, thanks to him, is my new daily RSS post-count king. FFFFOUND! is a social image bookmarking site that has amazingly good content. Jason thinks that perhaps our curators should be looking over their shoulder:

    Among the many things that the internet has democratized is curating, a task once more or less exclusive to editors (magazine, book, and newspaper), art gallery owners, media executives (music, TV, and film), and museum curators. They choose the art you see on a museum’s wall, the shows you see on TV, the movies that get made, and the stories you read in the newspaper. The ease and low cost of publishing on the web coupled with the abundance of sample-ready media has made the curating process available to many more people.

    I don’t think curators have to worry quite yet, but it isn’t unreasonable to say that the internet has and will continue to exert influence. It also works in the other direction. Jason points out a few bloggers that have crossed over into curating gallery shows. To that list I would also add I Heart Photograph.

WebWalker 2.1

Two blogs that I’ve recently stumbled upon are the Open Blog at the New York Times and Alpha Channel on MSNBC. Both are blogs from the developers behind the NYT and MSNBC, respectively. The entry on how TimeSelect was eliminated, partially powered by Amazon S3 is pretty interesting (if you like grid computing and the […]

Open @ NYT Alpha Channel Twitter @ Brooklyn Musuem FFFFound!

  • Two blogs that I’ve recently stumbled upon are the Open Blog at the New York Times and Alpha Channel on MSNBC. Both are blogs from the developers behind the NYT and MSNBC, respectively. The entry on how TimeSelect was eliminated, partially powered by Amazon S3 is pretty interesting (if you like grid computing and the word terabyte), as is the entries on the redesign of MSNBC. It’s interesting to note that MSNBC and NYT have had blogs for a while, but not developer blogs. Welcome to the party, guys.
  • The Brooklyn Museum has been doing some experimenting with Twitter and it turns into a bit of a mixed bag. Is there a phone-based opportunity here? Certainly so, but Twitter doesn’t quite seem to be the right vector. Something we’ve discussed before, bluejacking the phone number of Art on Call, might be another approach.
  • Jason Kottke has an interesting post up about FFFFOUND!, which, thanks to him, is my new daily RSS post-count king. FFFFOUND! is a social image bookmarking site that has amazingly good content. Jason thinks that perhaps our curators should be looking over their shoulder:

    Among the many things that the internet has democratized is curating, a task once more or less exclusive to editors (magazine, book, and newspaper), art gallery owners, media executives (music, TV, and film), and museum curators. They choose the art you see on a museum’s wall, the shows you see on TV, the movies that get made, and the stories you read in the newspaper. The ease and low cost of publishing on the web coupled with the abundance of sample-ready media has made the curating process available to many more people.

    I don’t think curators have to worry quite yet, but it isn’t unreasonable to say that the internet has and will continue to exert influence. It also works in the other direction. Jason points out a few bloggers that have crossed over into curating gallery shows. To that list I would also add I Heart Photograph.

Opening up the social network

Building on the success of Google Gadgets (which allow developers to make small web “applets” suitable for embedding on any webpage), Google has just launched their OpenSocial API. Basically they’ve extended the functionality of Gadgets to include code that can “talk to” participating social networks — that is, a developer now has access to the […]

opensocial.pngBuilding on the success of Google Gadgets (which allow developers to make small web “applets” suitable for embedding on any webpage), Google has just launched their OpenSocial API. Basically they’ve extended the functionality of Gadgets to include code that can “talk to” participating social networks — that is, a developer now has access to the user’s profile, friend list, and much more.

This is important because it means application developers no longer have to choose which social networks they want to target. They just write their application using the JavaScript APIs provided by Google, and it will “just work” for everyone on a participating network. And it’s a big and growing list: MySpace, Orkut, LinkIn, Friendster, and – importantly – the create-your-own-social-network Ning, just to name a few. Cool stuff.

There are currently 23000 gadgets listed in the directory. After today I wonder how many of those are now in line to have some social features added and massively increase their exposure?

The Walker doesn’t have any social network apps just yet, but when we do I guarantee they will be built using this API. Maybe a Hot Or Not of contemporary art? Hmm. Or see what your friends thought of the Frida show! Or mnartists.org should copy this great idea… Could be huge!

Design department is now blogging

I’m very happy to announce that the Walker Design Department now has a blog. The designers have been working in stealth mode for a short while preparing posts and putting in a little content so that the site wouldn’t launch empty. In true design style, they’ve thought the format out very cleanly. Emmet lays it […]

Design has a blog. I’m very happy to announce that the Walker Design Department now has a blog. The designers have been working in stealth mode for a short while preparing posts and putting in a little content so that the site wouldn’t launch empty. In true design style, they’ve thought the format out very cleanly. Emmet lays it out in the first post:

Bulletin Board: These posts will alert you to upcoming design programming at the Walker such as the Drawn Here architecture lecture series, the Insights design lecture series, and design exhibitions like Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes. And you will respond en masse resulting in many ticket sales.

Flat Files: There are boxes and boxes full of postcards, flyers, brochures, posters, gallery guides, and other Walker ephemera that we would love to properly document and archive. Since we don’t have the time to do that, we’ll just pull out a few pieces each month and tell you who designed them, what the project brief was, and why we love them even after all this time.

Memos: Here we will call your attention to the history of our department, how our studio operates today, and design issues that we address on a daily basis. Like fonts and stuff.

Interviews: . . . with designers. Sample question: “ If you were stranded on a desert island, which 10 typefaces would you take with you?”

Junk Drawer: A catchall category for link dumps.

Additionally, many of the recent design fellows will be (and have already been) blogging:

We’ve invited a whole slew of former Walker designers to contribute whenever and whatever they feel like–reporting from places as far as England, Holland, and Korea, as well as places more close to home like MCAD. We want to hear what they’re working on now, what is interesting to them, who they think is stroking it, seriously downloading the uploader. Who knows what they’ll write about. Not we.

There are already ten posts in the blog, so interested readers will have some insightful catching up to do. Here’s the URL: http://blogs.walkerart.org/design.

New Teens website

Last week, after quite a bit of work, the re-designed teens site went live: (larger screenshot) In discussing what a new site might be like with Witt, Christi and WACTAC, we came to the conclusion that the types of content we wanted to be on the site didn’t have a very clear relationship to each […]

Last week, after quite a bit of work, the re-designed teens site went live:

new_teens_thumb.jpg

(larger screenshot)

In discussing what a new site might be like with Witt, Christi and WACTAC, we came to the conclusion that the types of content we wanted to be on the site didn’t have a very clear relationship to each other, and that the audiences for each are different. There is, in effect, a “business audience”, which is visiting the site looking for information on what Teen Programs is, what they do, how to apply, etc. This audience most likely consists of parents, other museum professionals, and Teens looking to apply to WACTAC. The other audience are other teens, or others interested in what the teens are interested in. The new site literally divides the page in half for each of these audiences.

“The business side of things” is a simple information based site, loosely based on the look and feel artistic program sites. The layout was adapted somewhat to fit better into the dynamic space of the Teens site, but the style is the same. “The play side of things” is where the teens make their mark by posting blog entries, artwork, links and events. There are several different ways that WACTAC makes this page theirs:

  • Blogging: the site’s back-end is WordPress, so blogging is built-in. Every teen in WACTAC now has an account, and Witt is working with the council to cultivate ideas that can be formed into posts.
  • Links, for when the teens find something that isn’t quite worthy of an entirely new blog post, but maybe deserves a short note and a link, we’ve got that covered too. The links are culled from del.icio.us via RSS feed. Right now we use a shared wactac account, but in the future, and should any of the teens want to have their own del.icio.us account, a network can be set up and we can pull a combined feed.
  • Events are highly important to the site as well, and these are pulled via RSS from a shared account on Upcoming.org. We wanted the teens to be able to not only highlight their events at the Walker, but non-WACTAC Walker events as well as non-Walker events. I looked into several systems to essentially create a group calendar, and using Upcoming in this way seemed the easiest. It is essentially a social bookmarking service like del.icio.us, except it deals with the temporal and location based data that an event has. The time and location is in the RSS feed, which makes it a cinch to pull and display.
  • Art from the teens and other people that have influenced them will also be on the site. For the time being, this section is a category within the blog that gets special treatment. Images posted here are displayed in a larger size using a lightbox clone. Down the road, depending on how much this is used, we might consider replacing this with flickr. We’re using yahoo services for everything else, so why not make it complete?
  • Customizing the interface is one of the features of the site that I think makes this page really the teen’s space. Much like myspace, the teens can customize the colors, text, and background of this side of the site. Unlike myspace, they don’t edit the CSS themselves. Instead, the theme includes an admin panel that allows the teens to pick the colors for the boxes and text, as well as change the header and background images. I’m using a handy color picker based on mootools to make it easy to use.

This is the most “dynamic” site I’ve built so far, and I re-learned a lot about using javascript, especially with the Mootools framework. The hyper-object-oriented nature of JS + moo is both confusing and extremely powerful. For a javascript framework, mootools is quite compact and does a lot. There are also quite a few classes and user-contributed scripts out there based on it. In addition to the color picker mentioned above, the business side of things uses a heavily modified version of SmoothGallery. This article on “The Hows and Whys of Degradable Ajax” was also helpful in figuring out how to do the ajax loading on the business side of things in a semi-accessible fashion.

There are other things in the works for the site, including a Facebook app and perhaps a MySpace widget. That is the subject for another day, however.

If you’re looking for the old site, it still exists in archived form: Arhived Walker teens website.

Counting People in Galleries with iPod Touch

Here’s an interesting problem that came across my desk several weeks ago. Lets say you want to know exactly how many people are in a gallery at any given time. How do you do it? There are expensive people counters available, with all sorts of technology, right down to thermal imaging. There are also cheap […]

Here’s an interesting problem that came across my desk several weeks ago. Lets say you want to know exactly how many people are in a gallery at any given time. How do you do it?

There are expensive people counters available, with all sorts of technology, right down to thermal imaging. There are also cheap hand held counters, with plus and minus buttons to add and subtract people as they come and go to keep a consistent count of people in a gallery.

These cheap hand held versions are great…if you only have one entrance and exit point. What if you have multiple entrances and exits? Suddenly the hand held version falls apart, and putting cameras all over is way too expensive.

This is the issue that was put forth to me. We have an upcoming exhibition for Frida Kahlo. The gallery that the exhibition is in can only support 200 visitors at any one time. We expect more than that, especially on busy days. The kicker of course is that the gallery it’s in has two entrances, so we needed to find a way to accurately count how many people are in the gallery at any given time, and if that number goes over 200, the gallery guards would have to hold people from entering until the number dropped below 200.

I thought for sure something like this must have been made before. Surely we aren’t the only people who have ever had this problem? But in looking online I couldn’t find anything that was cost effective and would “just work”. We kept saying “if we only had two clickers that could talk to each other”.

Something interesting happened the same day I was presented with this problem. Apple announced the iPod Touch. As soon as I saw the Touch, my first thought was Art on Call and the Walker Channel. I could see all sorts of uses for both in the galleries. But after a couple hours wrestling with this given problem it hit me, why not use the iPod Touch?

The iPod Touch is handheld, has touch input, and a browser with wifi built in. All we had to do was make a simple web app for it that counted up or down. Two people could have the Touch’s, check off how many people are entering and leaving, and both be up to date on exactly how many people are in the gallery. So that’s what we did.

Here are some screen grabs of what I built. The left image is the typical display of the app. Options are simply to add or subtract a certain amount of people as they enter or leave. You’re able to reset the counter to zero in the upper right (it has a confirmation before doing so). The right image shows what happens when you go over the gallery maximum. The app also auto updates the number every 10 seconds, so the guard who has people waiting will know when the the number drops below the max value right away without needing to manually refresh.

Walker Counter Walker Counter Maxed

iPod Touch CounterMaking a web app specifically for the iPod Touch (or iPhone) turns out to be really easy. It’s just a webpage. You pretty much can do anything that is available in Safari (though there are a few inconstancies to watch out for), and there are also several special meta tags you can add specifically for these apps (for example, I turned off scaling for our web app). Apple has written up a very nice development doc on their website that I used when making this app. It includes things like screen size, font size, color, meta tags, basically everything you need to make something look nice and stylish on these devices. I’d recommend it to anyone working on apps like this. The screenshot to the left is how the iPod Touch looks with the rest of the UI around it, to give you an idea.

As far as the iPod Touch/iPhone goes, I’m very impressed. I really do think these devices are the future of museum audio tours. Well, not just audio, but video as well! There are things that need to be fixed (like the fact that you can’t get podcasts on them via wifi yet), but overall there is so much potential here, simply by having a real browser with wifi on it and supporting rich media, as well as the UI and multi-touch interface. It could very well be the Rosetta Stone of digital museum tours.

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