Archives for Category / Miscellaneous

  • Future Imperfect

    As I’m writing this, it’s a rainy morning in Vancouver, Canada. Nothing new. Spending time with friends that I don’t see but once a year near my birthday. In this case, I’m here to attend the IA Summit conference this week. This is my first non-US conference since IxDA Interaction 13 in Toronto.

    Looking back at that conference there were a number of things that stood out. A number of them became influential years later. One of them was a short lecture by a designer named Nate Archer called “Beyond Responsive”.

    Nate Archer: Beyond Responsive from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

    Well, four years later, those words seem prescient right now. The world has been filled with all sorts of devices that we access the web. More than just the trio of phone/tablet/desktop. Basically, any device that has access to the web is an access point – from watches to 4000K TVs. But there is another way of looking at this. Instead of “devices”, let us consider going in the direction of “inputs”. Responsive design appeared not just with mobile devices but devices which are also touch-enabled. Now, mobile devices are as ubiquitous as any household device, front-end developers like myself have to deal with coding for interactions that take place on touchpad as much (or even more) than mouse/keyboard. (Though we could be doing a better job at the keyboard then we are currently doing.)

    [Note: touch-enabled devices are not necessary phones/tables and doing feature support for touch is still a bit tricky]

    In some respects, the beautiful lie of responsive design is that the constraints are visual, via breakpoints and media queries? But what if those constraints aren’t visual. CSS has hidden artifacts describing inputs – media types. If one would look at the specs (https://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/media.html#media-types), the following types are supported:

    screen, print, speech/aural, handheld, tty, etc.

    Screen is the most familiar with print/speech following. But there’s tty? From the spec, tty refers to devices like terminals and teletypes. The later was a telecommunication device that has long since disappeared with the advent of email. But back in the day, it was considered important enough to be considered in the W3C CSS spec. Now think about the future. Someday, will we may consider mouse/keyboard interactions as obsolete as teletype?

    Now, we are seeing the advent of AI interfaces – sophisticated interfaces that allow access to the same information like we do with mouse/keyboard and touch.

    Which comes back to the conference I’m attending, IA Summit. This year’s topic is artificial intelligence and information architecture. The main job of a front-end developer is building interfaces for acquiring information. Obviously, things will change in the next couple of years. But change into what?

  • Innate’s spotlight on Olympic Fencing

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog, edited by Hilary Finkelstein)

    Ivan Wilson, who is one of Innate’s front end developers, has been a competitive fencer for over 17 years! Ivan, who began his career in college, currently belongs to Olde Town Fencing club in Alexandria, Virginia and DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring, Maryland. As a epee fencer, he has participated in numerous local, regional and national tournaments. He is currently active in numerous competitions on various levels/groups, including Vet-40. Ivan’s years of experience and expertise gives us some insight on what to expect from Team USA in this summers upcoming Olympics.

    Who to look out for in Rio Olympics in fencing for the US

    Fencing has been in the Olympics since the very first games in 1896. Americans have been making up for lost time, ever since Zagunis and Jacobson medaled in 2004 (gold and bronze in women’s sabre).. As a nation, we’ve won medals in fencing in the last three Olympiads, the most in 2008 Bejing with 6 medals.

    At Rio, there are a few favorites among the US team who not only could place well but also get medals. But fencing is known for being unpredictable, and surprises do occur. The familar saying,“The best fencer on the day“ can hold true, especially in an event such as the Olympics.

    Amidst all this, can we continue this brief medal streak? Let‘s take a look.

    Women’s Épée

    Individual – 8/6

    Team – 8/11

    Team – Kelly Hurley, Courtney Hurley, Katerine Holmes, Katarzyna Trzopek (alternate, team event only)

    In London 2012, the women’s team beat Russia to win the bronze medal. Half of that team, the multi-Olympian Hurley sisters, are back with two new fencers. One of them, Katerine Holmes, is a native of this area. The team is currently rated #7 in the world and are a dark horse for a bronze medal. They will have to deal with some strong teams such as Russia, China (world/defending Olympic champions and current world #1), Romania, Korea, and Estonia (who recently won the Europeans).

    Same for individual event, with anyone of the three being dark horse favorites.

    That said, épée (men‘s or women’s) is one of the more unpredictable events, where some one unexpected could make a run.

     

    Men’s Foil

    Individual – 8/7

    Team – 8/12

    Team – Alexander Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt, Miles Chamley-Watson, Race Imboden (alternate, team event only)

    Besides the woman’s sabre team, this is considered one of the favorites to medal at these games. This quartet won a silver medal at the 2013 championships and are the world #2 team behind the Italians (the current world/Olympic champions). The team itself is a set of highly decorated individuals. Massialas is currently world #1 and silver medalist at last year’s world championship. He recently won his second event of the year, Shanghai Grand Prix in June and followed with a Pan-American title last month. Meinhardt won his second career world bronze medal behind Massialas last year and currently world #4 foilist. The #3 fencer on the US team, Chamely-Watson, was 2013 World Champion – the first American individual men’s title in the senior championships. The alternate, Imboden, was last year’s world #1 and won Paris World Cup (repeating from last year) and bronze in Havana Grand Prix this year.

    For the individual – Massialas is currently the hot fencer and one of the favorites to win or at least medal in these games. Meinhardt is consistently a top finisher and could get in for a medal as well. If Chamley-Watson is in the same form as he was in 2013, a medal is also possible.

    As for the team – everyone is waiting for the (no pun intended) spaghetti western showdown between the Italians (current World and Olympic champions) and the Americans (winners of two of four team events during the year at Tokyo and Paris). Either one could take the gold medal. Of course, there are other teams like Russia (European champions, world #3), France, China, and the upstart Brits that could be roadblocks.

     

    Women’s Sabre

    Individual – 8/8

    Team – 8/13

    Team – Mariel Zagunis, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Dagmara Wozniak, Monica Aksamit (alternate, team event only)

    Headed by twice-gold medalist Zagunis, this team has been the most consistent – winning medals at the last four world championships, grabbing the title in 2014. Both Zagnuis and Wozniak are both returning Olympians (fourth for Zagunis, second for Wozniak) with the other two making their first appearances. Expected to get the bronze again but would like to have an upgrade. Currently world #4 team, they are competing against France, Ukraine (headed by world #2 and London bronze medalist Olag Kharlan), and Russia (headed by current world champion, world #1 and London silver medalist Sofia Velikaya).

    As for the individual, Zagunis is one of the favorites again – #3 in rankings and recently won a medal at Moscow Grand Prix (silver) and title at Athens World Cup. She was disappointed in London (4th place) but still a medal favorite along with Velikaya and Kharlan. Muhammad has had a good season as well – bronzes at Athens and Orleans World Cups and Pan-American title last month. If she fences well, she could be in the medals.

     

    Men’s Épée

    Individual – 8/9

    Team – 8/14 (no US Team)

    Team – Jason Pryor

    United States did not qualify a team, which meant individual qualification. Pryor worked his way up steadily in the year long qualification, with some top 32 finishes at grand prix events at the right moments (beating the World #1 Grumier at Doha) and medaling in satellite events. Prior to the Games, he recently won silver medal at the recent Pan-American champions.

    He will be the lone American in a tough, mostly European dominated field. Could finish in the top 16. Same statement about women’s épée goes here as well.

     

    Women’s Foil

    Individual – 8/10

    No team event

    Team – Lee Kiefer, Nzingha Prescod

    Both fencers are world medalists – Kiefer in 2011 (bronze) and Prescod in 2015 (bronze). Kiefer has taken the place as the top American foilist with her high #3 ranking and silver medals at the Shanghai and Havana Grand Prix events. She is looking like a medal favorite at this point.

    On both occasions, Kiefer was defeated by Italian Arianna Errigo, current #1 and London silver medalist. Apart from Errigo, the other top rated fencer is Irian Deriglazova from Russia, world #2 and current world champion. Also returning is the defending Olympic champion Italian Elisa Di Francisca.

     

    Men’s Saber

    Individual – 8/10

    No team event

    Team – Daryl Homer, Eli Dershwitz

    Homer won the silver medal at last year’s world champions, the first American sabre medalist at the senior worlds. Dershwitz is fencing is first full year at the senior level, after coming off the junior title. His highlight was winning the Seoul Grand Prix in March.

    Both have a decent shot at medals. They will have to go against a strong field which includes all three medalist from London – champion Szilágyi (Hungary), Occhiuzzi (Italy), Kovalvev (Russia) – as well as world champion/world #1 Yakimenko (Russia), and a duo of Koreans (Kim, Gu) in the top 5.

     

    That’s it for now. Hope all you enjoy the fencing events from Rio

  • Post Ottawa

    Three months between posts. Sorry for the long delay. Been rebuilding…

    Conferences

    Conferences in late 2013

    Earlier in the year, I went to the IxDA Interaction 13 conference in Toronto, Canada. I have two more conferences for this year.

    Next week, An Event Apart DC in Alexandria, VA (another serving…).

    Then, in late October, CSS Dev Conference near Denver, Colorado.

    Charles

    View of Charles

    As of this entry, finishing contruction/testing of the WordPress theme. Will be writing blog entries related to the whole history/process of Project Charles. Debuting on Monday, August 5.

    August is going to be a busy month…

  • Building the Future, Day 1 – The Beginning

    Like all things, every story has a beginning. In this case, [Project] Ottawa started with the concept The Information Layer (2009). But what came before this?

    Well, it all started in Vancouver, Canada (February 2009) where I saw this film, in a lecture by BERG designer Timo Arnall:

    Wireless in the World 2 – http://vimeo.com/12187317

    In Wireless in the World, they were imagining wireless networks available in the surrounding environment. Now, this looks like an interesting film. But to me, it was a pretty eye-opening experience. You see, up until this time, I only viewed the Web as being static. That is, something that was only accessible from the comfort of a chair and a desktop computer.

    Step back for a moment. Now imagine all those dotted circles representing access points just like one of those desktop computers w/chairs. It would look funny at first but the main point is that each one of those access points is accessing data. They are accessing the same content I am through my desktop computer. If your concept of content is something that is seen through a desktop monitor, what does this do? The concept of having the same content available across all sorts of devices, being available at will – without the constraint of the standard web page format. Even without the author controlling how the information was displayed. The user now has the power not only to access the information but to display it in any fashion he/she wanted.

    That idea of information being free, not in the political sense but in accessibility, really changed how I worked. After that film and the lecture, I decided that my job as a front-end developer was not of creating layouts. My job became a person who tried to build products that allowed for easy access to information. Building the layout with excellent code was simply a means to an end. Improving upon the work simple meant improved access to information. Information, in my terms of my work, is equivalent to content.

    At this point, I was trying to find a way to explaining this way of thinking. It was only a few months later that I was looking at XSLT or XML transforms. Basically, it is a method of taking data in the form of a XML format and transforming into a format resembling a HTML web page. Well, XML is an open format, anyone can use it at will and modify the information to display it in any form they want. We have RSS feeds – XML format data streams that user can collect data and use. This is where all the dots began to connect. You see, XML or JSON, can carry content/information anywhere with the user applying the formatting.

    Going back to this point, I wrote some ideas and sketches which later became The Information Layer. What I realized was that the current UI model was not sufficient – it was simple not granular enough to fully describe what was happening at the time. One of the novel things I did was creating a separation of the Semantic (HTML) Layer from the Information (content) Layer. How important was this? It was very important because it depicted the free flow of information /content. It also displayed the fact that HTML has its own sense of meaning, which was further expanded with HTML5 semantic tags a few years later. This was not a new concept but was not fully realized until now.

    And so, that was the beginning. From here, I used this model for building my work.

    As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, Project Ottawa is simply the first practical application of the model. This was revised recently to deal with the concept of content, which will be the main focus point of Project Ottawa/Third Draft.

  • 2012 : Build The Future, Fight The Future

    O, wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
    That has such people in’t!

    Miranda, from William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1

    I thought I could organise freedom
    How Scandivavian of me

    Bjork, The Hunter

  • Fragile Creatures

    [Movie scene:]

    Midwest, no specific location. Motel on the side of the road, someplace where Route 66 might have gone through, but got superceded by The Interstate Highway. Instead of a two lane highway, it got the choice placement of being right next to a highway turnoff.

    Early hours (3-4AM). Sunrise is still a good hour or so away. Even with at this location, nothing is really moving. Quiet. Seems like the highway is asleep, just getting ready for the next work shift.

    In a room. Nothing unpacked. Double beds with a clean bathroom. Little decoration, at least the ones that could distinguish one room from another. I’m lying on a bed, writing pad open but haven’t written anything for about two hours. Laptop open, no files open.

    Changed positions in the bed, head facing the TV, remote control ready. Flip through the analog channels, then the digital. Evangelists/Salespeople working hard tonight. Gotta get their quota. Pitchmen are working hard too. Here, everything is for the buying, even if you don’t need it.

    [Start of background/scene music – Beth Orton’s “Don’t Need a Reason” from Trailer Park]

    Picked up a pen.

    Just write.

     

    If things had happen on course and on plan, I should have been writing this blog entry in a hotel room in Vancouver, Canada. 2011 was the year that I did so many things and traveled to so many places. It was also the year that I found how little it was in an instant.

    Historically, second year in every decade has always been the toughest for me, personally and otherwise. By November, I thought that I had escaped “the curse.”

    Then, a family member underwent surgery, removing a tumor from the colon. Thankfully, it was beign and little of the large intestine had to be taken out. She is recovering nicely and running around again. She is thankful to the Creator because it could have been worse. I am not so religious but I am just as thankful.

    But I’ve spent the remainder of the year having something I don’t have much need for: regrets. Just the “what if’s” and the “what would happen if’s.” I’ve done so much, only to realized that maybe I’ve done so little. In the middle of all this, I tweeted “Human beings are such fragile little creatures.”

    Yes, we are fragile creatures. We are these small, flimsy, little things, easily overwhelmed by a virus or a predator or an ice cream truck. Yet we do what we do. Living without much though of what might happen next minute, next hour, or even next decade.

    Carl Sagan had a quote from one of his books about human beings being capable of such wonderful dreams and horrible nightmares. One day, my world went from global to the size of a hospital room. And in some ways, it became even smaller, to the size of my own frame.

    In all this, I found out that I am the most fragile of all creatures.

    If form holds, this will be the worst of it this decade. Which means 2012 could be a big year and it looks like it could be one of the biggest years, work and personal. However, I have lots of questions. I’m a problem solver with the type of questions that can’t be solved with pen and paper. Not with the simple equation. Certainly, not with the wave of the magic wand I once had.

    A friend told me during this tough time to take everything one moment at a time. I could say that I readily took his advice. But I can’t lie. I’m the child of the five-year plan. And when that didn’t work, I reworked it and call it the next five year plan and so on. This time, I have nothing. At the point where I could have some of my greatest success, I have no plan and nothing to adjust. I was the Russian who had the plan for everything. Now, I am just a human being.

    Well, on New Year’s Eve, I’m here. At home. Not alone. With family and friends nearby. If there was one question that was solved, it was the quality of friends I have – better than I could have imagined.

    So, 2011 ends. 2012 start tomorrow.

     

    [End of movie scene:]

    Finish the scribbles and close the pad.

    In an instant, I’m in motion. Clean up a bit, collect my things, and turn off the TV. Step out and close the door. Quietly, as if a single squeak from the joints could shatter the windows.

    Get in the car. Don’t worry about waking anyone up. If they were awake, nothing you need to know about. Still quiet on the highway overpass. The only light sources are those from the highway and from the restaurants. It’s an alien world, as if the aliens took the 1960’s American tourists as a starting point and went from there.

    Close the door, twist the key, rev the motor. Then, just step on the gas and move. Not fast (who’s going to notice), just keeping the car in motion. A minute, I’m off tarmac and on asphalt, moving down the road. Passing the lights and signs, quietly without fanfare, slowly passing everything. Soon, I’m away from the light source, like a satellite heading for deep space.

    I pointed the car down the road, away from the highway, No signs. Just two yellow lines. If I’m lucky, I will get some direction from the sunrise.

    I’m going somewhere.

    That direction.

    [Last notes of the song fading out as the car fades into the dwindling night.]

  • Today, I’m Blowing Up My Code

    Seriously. http://twitter.com/#!/iwilsonjr/status/124622801914171392

    This is not a joke.

    If you are laughing at this, I understand. It still won’t change anything.

    Let me explain.

    In 2009, through contact with interaction designers, I saw the coming wave that we now call mobile. That wave moved so fast that it took everyone by surprise. Today, designers and developers are dealing with this via responsive design and other techniques.

    Now, what does it have to do with me. One day recently, I was tasked to revised some code I made in late 2009. Now, it was good by those standards but it has a few faults. Not perfect but usable and everyone was satisified.

    At the time, it was "Job done. Go to sleep."

    But I didn’t.

    (more…)