Blogs Media Lab NMI Today

Changes in New Media, job opening for a web designer/developer

There are changes in store for the New Media Initiatives department. After being with the Walker for four years, I’ve taken a position across the river Minnesota Public Radio as a Web Designer/Developer. It is very hard for me to leave the Walker, but I’m excited about working on new projects for an even larger […]

There are changes in store for the New Media Initiatives department. After being with the Walker for four years, I’ve taken a position across the river Minnesota Public Radio as a Web Designer/Developer. It is very hard for me to leave the Walker, but I’m excited about working on new projects for an even larger audience at MPR.

This means there is a job opening in New Media, and if you’re a web nerd, you should consider sending in your resume. My title at the Walker is New Media Designer, but the job posting is for a Web Designer/Developer. This reflects the changing nature of the work I’ve taken on over the years, including doing more back-end development work on the Walker Channel and Mobile Site, amongst other projects. In the future, we have work planned around an overhaul of major portions of the Walker website. Our tool of choice is Django, but even if you don’t have python or django experience, consider applying. I didn’t know a lick of Python or Django when I tackled My Yard Our Message, but it was easy to get up to speed and make things happen.

Full details for the position are listed on jobs site, and the deadline for applying is September 3rd.

New Media kills in the Walker’s pumpkin carving contest

Every year, the Walker has a staff halloween party, which includes a departmental pumpkin carving contest. And this isn’t just a carve a grocery store pumpkin contest, it’s a creative, conceptual, re-imagine an artist or artwork pumpkin contest. Invariably, our carpentry shop and registration departments usually blow everyone else out of the water. Those of […]

Every year, the Walker has a staff halloween party, which includes a departmental pumpkin carving contest. And this isn’t just a carve a grocery store pumpkin contest, it’s a creative, conceptual, re-imagine an artist or artwork pumpkin contest. Invariably, our carpentry shop and registration departments usually blow everyone else out of the water. Those of us that are a little less hands-on with the art work tend to be outclassed every year (exhibits 1, 2, and 3). New Media Initiatives never wins.

But not this year.

This year, we had a plan.

Actually, we came up with the plan after our no-show defeat last year, but we smartly held onto it for this year (thank you, iCal). On the day of the contest, we replaced every image of artwork on the Walker website with an image of a pumpkin.

walker homepage with pumpkins

And the rest of the pages (click to embiggen):

Calendar

Calendar

Collections and Resources

Collections and Resources

Artists-in-Residence

Artists-in-Residence

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Design Blog

Design Blog



We ended up winning in the “Funniest Pumpkin” category.

Because we serve all of our media from a single server using lighttpd, and our files are all uniformly named, we were able to implement a simple rule set in lighty to replace the images. Instead of the requested file, each image was re-directed to a simple perl script that would grab a random jpg from our pool of pumpkin images, and send it’s contents instead. Part of the plan was that we would only serve these images to people visiting our site from inside our internal network. The rest of the world would see our website just as always. In our department, we all unplugged our ethernet cables and ran off of our firewall’d WiFi, which effectively put us outside the network, seeing nothing different on the site. We had a hard time holding back evil cackles as people came to us wondering how our site was hacked, and watching it slowly dawn on them that this was our pumpkin.

The images we used were all the creative commons licensed flickr images of pumpkins I could find. There were 54 of them. Here they are, for credit:

Testing time-lapse software

WACTAC has an event next week called Don’t Sleep on It, taking place during Art-a-Whirl. The gist of the event: over the course of 24 hours different groups of artists will transform a gallery space, destroying and re-building the art many times over the period. At the end of the event, they want to show […]

WACTAC has an event next week called Don’t Sleep on It, taking place during Art-a-Whirl. The gist of the event: over the course of 24 hours different groups of artists will transform a gallery space, destroying and re-building the art many times over the period. At the end of the event, they want to show a time-lapse video of the transformation.

Making a time-lapse movie is not hard. While it can be done using a video camera, it’s easier to use a digital still camera. You take a series of images at predefined intervals and stitch them together using software like After Effects, or, even simpler, Quicktime Pro. We’re using a Canon G10 and the Canon Remote Capture software to take photos every 10 seconds. I set up a test in our office just to make sure it would run correctly and without incident. Here’s the result:

[flickrvideo width="500" height="333"]http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkerart/3510291897/[/flickrvideo]

Taking one photo every 10 seconds over 24 hours generates 8640 frames, creating a video just under 10 minutes long. We may end up dropping every other frame to create a shorter movie. The nice thing about using a digital still camera for this is that it produces a video well beyond even 1080P HD resolution.

In the above video, you can enjoy watching me look up documentation on Django, read a book about symfony, and my be mesmerized by a screensaver.

Imagining a world without Google

It’s Monday morning, and like many of you I’m sitting down to my computer for the day. I’ll check my email (office and GMail), see what’s new in the blogosphere (Google Reader), maybe catch up on the world a bit (Google News), and finally start my day of programming. (searching Google to see if anyone’s […]

search-twitter-google_1213627736498.pngIt’s Monday morning, and like many of you I’m sitting down to my computer for the day. I’ll check my email (office and GMail), see what’s new in the blogosphere (Google Reader), maybe catch up on the world a bit (Google News), and finally start my day of programming. (searching Google to see if anyone’s already written the code I’m working on ;)

You may notice a trend: Google. What would my world be like without Google? It’s an interesting thought experiment.

… except yesterday morning, it was a reality. Details are still sketchy (it may have just been Comcast?) but for an hour Sunday morning, I couldn’t reach a single Google domain. No GMail, no RSS, no search. And, in a creepy side effect I hadn’t anticipated, MANY sites were either slow, broken, or eternally loading as my browser tried in vain to pull the Google Analytics or Adsense code for the page. In short, the Internet was Broken.

It was amazing to watch myself try to remember how to search without Google. Maybe… Yahoo? No, I’ll try Ask.com. Turns out the results are terrible, at least for programming-related searches. A friend called looking for directions to a farmers’ market, and it took me a bit to remember the world beyond Google Maps. Doesn’t… Microsoft do maps? Hmm, who else… If only I could search!!

Twitter was still up, and via TwitScoop.com I could see a big spike in Google-related tweets, but I have yet to see any official word on this. Clearly big companies have downtime (Amazon was down for a few hours recently), but still… It may be time to rethink my utter dependency on “The Google”.

Teaching web design online and student web sites

One of the other things I do besides making websites is teaching other people how to make them. For the past three semesters, I have been adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, teaching an online class called “portfolio.net”. Teaching via bulletin board, instant messenger, screencast, and email can be a frustrating […]

Portfolio.net websitesOne of the other things I do besides making websites is teaching other people how to make them. For the past three semesters, I have been adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, teaching an online class called “portfolio.net”.

Teaching via bulletin board, instant messenger, screencast, and email can be a frustrating experience for all involved and requires a bit of dedication on the part of my students that might not need to be there if you were taking a class in person. A downside: it might take a few email exchanges to understand and explain a problem. An upside: You can “go to class” from anywhere, wearing pretty much anything. I usually graded student work from my favorite cafe. The person who used to teach this class lived in South Africa.

The main emphasis of the class is producing a web portfolio, which is the final project. But beyond just the portfolio, the class tries to teach some of the real mechanics of the web. Students learn HTML, CSS and get a little basic javascript. I am a firm believer in hand coding (as is any decent web designer), and tools like Dreamweaver or iWeb are not easy to teach over the internet. Plus, the web is a place of democracy, and using expensive tools to build code that is easier made with a free text editor doesn’t seem in the spirit of the web. By learning the basic building blocks, it’s my hope that students will be well prepared to actually maintain their sites down the road. While they might loose access to dreamweaver when they graduate or Adobe changes/discontinues it, the HTML of the site will look the same in any text editor.

Now that the semester is over, I thought I would share my student’s work and get them a little exposure and google-fu on the rest of the web. As you can see, my students are were mix of illustrators, photographers and fine artists:

A side project: Nothing (Nowhere) to Hide at the MN History Center

Several months before I was employed by the Walker, I was one of the “resident artists” that participated in the OPEN-ENDED exhibition. The project that my collaborators, The Revolutionary Party, and I came up with was called Nothing (Nowhere) to Hide. We were asked by the Minnesota History Center to bring the project out of […]

Several months before I was employed by the Walker, I was one of the “resident artists” that participated in the OPEN-ENDED exhibition. The project that my collaborators, The Revolutionary Party, and I came up with was called Nothing (Nowhere) to Hide. We were asked by the Minnesota History Center to bring the project out of the archives for the opening of The Enemy Within: Terror in America – 1776 to Today. The opening reception will be Tuesday January 29, from 7-9pm.

The project is an examination of the aspects of secrecy in the government, and how much the government wants to know about the goings-on of citizens. The idea for the project was largely inspired by the warrantless wiretapping scandal, broken in the New York Times. We wanted to show how government secrecy is, for the time being, still a two way street, at least in a token manner, but highlight the disparities in the flow of information.

The project consists of four parts. One is documentation of de-classified, re-classified documents from the National Archives, a separate, but perhaps more mind-boggling example of government secrecy. The second is documentation of the FOIA request letters and responses to our request for our own FBI files (we requested them). The third part of the project is a computer and printer kiosk where users can fill out an on-screen form with their information to generate FOIA and Privacy Act letters to request their FBI file. The final aspect of the project is a video we created explaining how to request an FBI file. We shot this video with local actor Jim Bovino. Here’s the video, it’s kind of fun:

How To Request Your FBI File from Justin Heideman on Vimeo.

Sadly, our FBI file request generator does not work online, as it was designed for a specific browser and printer settings, but the site Get My FBI File seems to do the same thing (maybe even better).

Picasso’s Party People

Just a quick note, as we’re busy prepping for the sold out After Hours Preview Party tonight. As per usual, the pictures from Party People Photos will be uploaded to flickr during the event, and will show up in this set and also in the After Hours group pool. Don’t forget to join the group […]

Just a quick note, as we’re busy prepping for the sold out After Hours Preview Party tonight. As per usual, the pictures from Party People Photos will be uploaded to flickr during the event, and will show up in this set and also in the After Hours group pool. Don’t forget to join the group and add your own photos if you’re at the event and have a digital camera.

We’ve set up something special to happen with the photos (see above). I’ll share more after the event is over.

The new Walker Shop

One of the first big projects I worked on when I came on board here was redesigning the Walker shop’s online storefront. This effort has now come to fruition and I’m happy to present the new Walker Shop. Here are some interesting tidbits about the design: The design makes heavy use of our identity system, […]

One of the first big projects I worked on when I came on board here was redesigning the Walker shop’s online storefront. This effort has now come to fruition and I’m happy to present the new Walker Shop. Here are some interesting tidbits about the design:

  • The design makes heavy use of our identity system, Walker Expanded, as implemented on Shop materials, and extends this into the web version.
  • The shop home page borrows the poster design metaphor from the main Walker homepage, since it works well to exemplify the different neighborhoods, and in the shop, item categories.
  • Each of the item categories also have different photography in the header that closely tie in with the items as they are seen in the physical shop.
  • In creating the design, I also did research on what information shoppers look for or need when shopping. The resulting pages are located in the bottom 3 columns on every page.
  • The cart icon in the shop is from the Drunkery Love icon set and the plus icon is from urlgreyhot.

In terms of technology powering the site, we worked with EVT Retail to handle the back end work. EVT hosts the entire operation, but their software is able to talk to the point of sale system and inventory system that our shop uses. This means that the online shop has accurate knowledge of what items are for sale and how many we have left. Not every item that is in the physical shop is online, but there is much more available than the old shop. The new shop also talks to our membership database so patrons with memberships can also get their 10% discount (it shows up in the checkout process).

Party People Photos returns!

If you attended the After Hours party for Heart of Darkness, odds are you might have participated in one of the 300-plus photos taken during the night. Another After Hours is happening again tonight, and PPP will be there for all the action. This time around, the technical setup is more automated and much improved. […]

IMG_4591.jpg

If you attended the After Hours party for Heart of Darkness, odds are you might have participated in one of the 300-plus photos taken during the night. Another After Hours is happening again tonight, and PPP will be there for all the action.

This time around, the technical setup is more automated and much improved. Photos will be automatically uploaded to flickr during the party. You won’t have to wait for me to come into work the next morning, batch process them, and upload them. I’ll try to post some more technical details on the workflow next week, since it has taken a bit of debugging and might be useful for some to know.

In the meantime, you can find the photos in the Kara Walker After Hours flickr set, and also in the After Hours group pool. If you take any photos at the party with your own camera, add them to the pool!

Announcing Party People Photos

At this Friday’s After Hours event, we’ll be debuting our latest crowd pleaser. “Party People Photos” is an installation that lets people take their own photos and have them projected onto several screens during the party. Additionally, we’ll be putting all the photos up in a Flickr Pool for all to see and even add […]

At this Friday’s After Hours event, we’ll be debuting our latest crowd pleaser. “Party People Photos” is an installation that lets people take their own photos and have them projected onto several screens during the party. Additionally, we’ll be putting all the photos up in a Flickr Pool for all to see and even add their own photos to the pool.

The idea for the project grew out of the theme of the ads for the party, “Party People”, which uses images of people from the expansion opening party back in 2005. We like the opening photos, but we want more of them and we want everyone to be able to experience the party. We did a test run of the installation on monday and it went quite good. Word got out among some of the staff and we captured quite a few photos. Funny, sassy, weird… Exactly what we’re hoping for.

Below is a screenshot of the projection movie from the test, which is what it will look like on Friday night.

After Hours Projection
Quicktime h.264, 880K

Capturing

We’re using an iMac with a built-in iSight to capture the images. The iMac is hooked up to a Canon Eos 10D via USB, which is the camera that actually takes your picture when triggered. To trigger the capture, we have a big red button connected to the computer via an i-pac. I soldered up the connection for the button and the iPaq, which marks the first time I’ve ever got to do soldering at my day job. The button took some googling to find, but it turns out the company that makes it is actually located in Roseville, MN. The flash on the camera is a ring flash, so they have a sexy, fashion photo feel.

Tying all of the inputs together is Max/MSP + Jitter. When the button is hit, it acts as if the “x” key has been hit on the keyboard, which starts the countdown. At 7 seconds, the camera capture is started. As I talked about in a previous post, we’re using gphoto2 to handle the capture. It takes a few seconds for it to happen, but goes off at right about 0. The built-in iSight on the iMac is used to give a preview image so people can compose their shot with the proper amount of sass and pizzaz (heavy on the sass, please).

Some geek porn:
max patch for after hours capture station

Once the photo is downloaded, it is dropped in a folder where launchd sees it and triggers a script that rysync’s it to the projection computers. At this point, the capture station is ready to take another photo.

Projection

The projection isn’t quite a slide show, but achieves the same goals as a slide show in that it shows a collection of images. We’re using quartz composer to do this, since it’s the hottest graphic tool on OS X and makes this kind of thing very easy and very smooth. In this patch, the images around the edges randomly pick an image from the pool of available images and display it. The center images have a simple algorithm that displays a mix of the most recently taken images, but some other random ones as well. This way, if you’ve just gotten your picture taken, you’ll be able to see it big, but you’ll also have an opportunity to see other photos.

Even more geek porn:
quartz composition patch for after hours

If all goes well, the projection will be showing on “The Rock” in the Bazinet Garden Lobby and on the shades in the Cargill lounge.

On the Web

Once the party is over, we want the fun to keep rolling, so all the photos are going up on flickr. Not only do we want an easy way to show the photos, and flickr has one of the best web-based interfaces for that, but we also want people to be able to add their own. We’ve set up a group for the After Hours parties, where we’ll be putting our photos. If you go to the event and take some photos with your phone or digicam, join our group and add it to ourAfter Hours Flickr Pool. We’ve also set up a page on the walker site that has some info about After Hours and the flickr group.

One small note: By attending the party and getting your pictures taken in the photo booth, you give us the rights to use your photo in documentation of the party and project. This is all covered on the back of your ticket for the event, so it is basically a condition for getting in the building. If you add your photos to our pool, they’re covered by whatever copyright restriction you put on them in Flickr.

So, go to the party, get your picture taken, take some photos of your own (just not in the galleries), join our flickr group, and upload your pictures. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it.

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