Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Flickr - proof that anthropology beats technology


Flickr's new upload page, due March 2012
Flickr was the poster child of Web 2.0 - the read/write web where anyone can publish their stuff, with no editor or coder required.

And now, 8 years after launch, it's finally getting an upgrade.

Why's it taken so long?

Flickr's success is more about anthropology than technology. People have stuck with Flickr for a whole load of very human reasons. Some people stick with it because they don't want to undo several years of investment of their time, their photo collection and their money. Many people have friends on Flickr. And many new people join because going with a popular choice is easier, quicker and often more reliable than branching out on your own.

Whatever their reasons, Flickr tells a reassuring tale about how there's more to success than keeping up with the hyper-evolution of the Internet. People may be complex, but at least they're relatively constant.

The centrepoint for any successful project is people, not technology.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

We, the Web Kids

"The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of.

The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us.

Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind."

- An essay worth reading at http://pastebin.com/0xXV8k7k
via https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-London/

Thursday, 16 February 2012

We've got a new website... or at least a new home page!

Woo-hoo, we've now got a home page for electricanimal.co.uk.

I used impress.js to build it, and it took a grand total of 11 hours to design and build from start to finish, all beautifully time tracked in our extremely powerful time-tracking and accountancy system Freeagent.

Saying it took basically a day to make is not an idle boast - I'm really impressed by how easy it is to work with CSS3 in 3D using impress.js.

But also, building something that quickly is a sure fire sign that it needs more work. We've included a beta swoosh, and a page asking if there's any illustrators or designers out there who might be able to help us. There's even a somewhat hastily put together brief posted up there. If you think you can help, get in touch via Twitter.

In the meantime, better live than nowhere, we figured!

We'd very much welcome any comments below. Let us know what you think of the site!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The future of imaging

Intelligent image recognition is now possible... and there's going to be a world of applications for it. Check out these two videos from Scalado... and below them, the classic vision from Photosynth, from all the way back in 2006.

Scalado

The 'imaging centre of gravity' - www.scalado.com.



Scalado Remove

Intelligently delete passers-by from your photos.



Photosynth

Detecting the links between photos and mapping them as a 3D view... in 2006(!)



Photosynth is now available as an amazing iPhone app.

Monday, 13 February 2012

koalastothemax.com - with any image you choose

Koalas To The Max is great if you like revealing koalas. But what if you want to reveal something else? Like, for instance, a picture of your own choosing? I had a look about online and couldn't see how to do it, so - shock horror - I worked it out for myself.

It's very simple to create your own koalastothemax.com image. Just add a URL to your own image file after the site URL, with a query ("?") separating your URL from the koala's.

Like this:
http://www.koalastothemax.com/?http://www.electricanimal.co.uk/store/notakoala.jpg

Can you tell what it is yet?


Friday, 10 February 2012

Why Project Management isn't enough

Bring out the methodology fascists! Hooray for them. No matter what nut you've got to crack, they'll scrum it, and they'll risk log it, they'll stand it up and they'll document it. Is there nothing the mighty Gantt chart can't conquer?

Building a website? Agile beats PRINCE2. Got multiple stakeholders? Maybe back to stage-and-gate. Don't worry. Nobody needs to worry. We've got a methodology that'll make us all safe.

OK, OK, that's an unfair caricature of Project Management. Tracking, co-ordination, collaboration, sticking to a plan, adapting that plan and good communication are all essential for stopping the lifeblood of a project from freezing to wearying sludge.

But there is something missing from that formula - without which a project will happily march into a cul de sac of frenziedly pointless activity.

Here it is: a plan should always precede methodology - and should be able to supercede it too.

What's more, plans change. That's good. They evolve. They improve. That's an advantage.

Methodology provides tools to make stuff happen. That's all: methodology is a toolset. Just because you've got a drill, you don't have to make holes in everything. Apply the right tool to the task. Be flexible.

Great Project Managers know that - of course. But it's all too easy for all of us to get lulled into a false sense of purposefulness. Surely we need to be doing stuff? And quickly too! Surely that's better than all this nebulous thinking and talking and deviating from the plan that seemed fine last week??

Project Management is about ensuring that a team of people are managed around a central purpose. That purpose is to complete a great project. That's all. Don't seek solace in anything else.

Great ideas emerge. They're not available until someone's had them. And when they do emerge, gather round everyone, let's act on them as best we can. And that, in particular, is why projects need to be managed.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" John Maynard Keynes (1883 - 1946)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Is there a distinction between style and substance?


"No no no! People who say there is a distinction between style and substance couldn't be more wrong. In computing in the 21st Century, there is no distinction between style and substance. If a device is stylish, then you want to use it, and you enjoy using it more. So you simply get more substance out of it."

Stephen Fry (slightly paraphrased)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Introducing Dropbox

The original video introducing Dropbox that Drew Houston made in his bedroom in 2007.
...Is here.

It's clearly a very well written piece of software. Drew Houston compares it to Subversion - personally I never use that feature. Sure is clever and efficient though.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Jeff Bezos on the long game

Great article on Forbes about how Amazon became such an awesome success.


"If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We’re willing to plant seeds, let them grow—and we’re very stubborn. We say we’re stubborn on vision and flexible on details."

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Last night's Crunchies, condensed

The Nest thermostat
There are few 'Awards' ceremonies worth bothering with. Trust me and have a brief look across the pond: San Francisco and last night's 'Crunchies' - the awards of TechCrunch. Here's what you need to know. The short version.

Cloud services couldn't be more zeitgeisty unless they were, I don't know: German. Dropbox was the overall winner with further kudos going to onLive (cloud gaming), Spotify and Evernote.

More highlights:
  • Nest - a new thermostat. Made by the guy that led the iPod and early iPhone teams. Came out of retirement because he was building a new house and got annoyed at paying $350 for a thermostat that was ugly and hard to use. Invented a new, beautiful device using smartphone innards.
  • Fotopedia, launched by 5 ex-Apple employees, provides curated photo collections of historical or special interest. These are released in small collections as iOs apps. Currently numbering nine these include Fotopedia Heritage, Fotopedia National Parks, Fotopedia Magazine and 'National Geographic'.
  • Square is the development by Twitter co-founder and software engineer Jack Dorsey of an iPhone accessory that enables you to instantly read and take secure card payments. Now processing $11 million+ per day.
  • Fab.com is a Groupon / Asos hybrid offering big daily discounts on specific fashion items. Matching up 'social media' with 'fashion' is bound to be strong since fashion itself is socially generated. 
    • Asos enjoys user-generated 'looks for him and her' where items from various designers are pinned together to provide inspiration as an online alternative to shop-window dummies. Check out their current trending 'Looks for Men'.
    • There are plenty of Pinterest boards along those lines too. Another Crunchies winner (Best Startup). Check out the 'My Style' boards.
    • Interesting that 'Fab.com' started as a 'gay social networking' site before doing the now mandatory 'pivot' into an entirely different business model.
  • Honourable mentions: Quora, Siri, Codecademy, Kickstarter, Github, Grindr, AirBnB and Skyrim (!)