Looking forward to checking this out. Esp this panel at 5pm: 
5 pm—Reclaiming Public Space/Surveillance and ControlCatherine D’Ignazio (Media Lab, MIT)Teddy Cruz (UCSD)Marjetica Potrč (HFBK, Hamburg)Krzysztof Wodiczko (GSD, Harvard)Jane Hutton & Adrian Blackwell (GSD, Harvard)

Looking forward to checking this out. Esp this panel at 5pm: 

5 pm—Reclaiming Public Space/Surveillance and Control
Catherine D’Ignazio (Media Lab, MIT)
Teddy Cruz (UCSD)
Marjetica Potrč (HFBK, Hamburg)
Krzysztof Wodiczko (GSD, Harvard)
Jane Hutton & Adrian Blackwell (GSD, Harvard)

"This whole process of making- part of what we’re addicted to is learning something new and taking this magic that we see in technology and harnessing it. And what I’m most excited about is bringing it to the viewer through some element of interactivity. So you can take this wonder, and bring it to an audience. 

When you bring it to an audience, when multiple people can engage with it, it gives us new ways to get to know each other. It gives us new ways to make spaces more inviting.

When you can do this- and I can get to know somebody, and I can feel welcome somewhere- we can be more playful and whimsical. It gives us new ways to find joy. And to me that is one of the most exciting things to explore with new technologies.”

From my talk “Building for Wonder”, at Makerland in Warsaw.

2048 and patatap: two examples of wildly compelling mobile web apps

Two weeks ago 2048 came out. It is hosted on Github pages. It is open source, it works great on mobile, and it went viral. You can see on the page it has been tweeted over 100K times. The creator Gabriele Cirulli had great exposure as his game spread, both on Github and also on Twitter as you can see below (# Twitter follows).


When it came out it shot up to the top of HN and stayed there for a couple days.  This is rare.  People hacked on top of it, releasing a version with a built in AI, based on the Fibonacci sequence, and even a doge version.


More recently patatap made the rounds on the internet.  It was not a game like 2048, instead it was a kind of sampler instrument. It has gorgeous visuals and samples when you press a key. It works also on mobile, with tapping. 

The Verge: Patatap turns your browser into a musical animation controlled by your keyboard

Patatap makes use of the web audio api to play back the samples, and twojs and tweenjs for the visuals.  It’s surprisingly snappy too, the latency is low enough that you can comfortably jam alongside other beats.  The thing about patatap is that it is the kind of app where low latency is essential.  The visuals and the sound must play back without delay. JavaScript is at that level of performance now.

These apps makes me excited for a few reasons

1. You don’t have to make a native mobile app. The apps are in a browser.  The touch gestures feel fine.  They work great on my laptop too.  I don’t want to program for android or iOS, and I don’t have to. I can make an app in JavaScript and host it on Github. JavaScript on mobile browsers is at that point now. Of course this sort of virality is rare, but knowing that now it is possible is wonderful.

2. The openness of the apps led to some awesome hacks.  As I linked to above, there were some pretty wild projects that could come out because all of the code was available, specifically for 2048.  I love that people could make it their own.  After all, the 2048 idea was originally inspired by other apps.  For patatap, a console sequencer was created for it. I’m currently digging into the code to learn more about visuals and audio in the browser.

3. It’s all on the front end. Regarding 2048, games can get complicated. This one is pretty simple. There is no server component, it’s all on the front end. I love this simplicity.  It’s easy to replicate and play around with.

4. You don’t need the appstore.  If I wan’t a ton of people to find my app, I no longer have to rely on being highlighted in the app store.  If you make something compelling, Twitter can be a powerful channel.  People want to share exciting, fun, inspiring things.  Now it is getting easier to make those things.

For the developer who made 2048, it isn’t about making money.  But there is still a great effect of it- likely over a hundred thousand people have played it, and at least several thousand developers have looked into the code.  That’s a lot of exposure for a simple web app. And the same goes for patatap.  

A few years back when I wanted to make dynamic apps for mobile I had to go native.  Now I don’t have to, and I love that.  And the best part is this: we’ll likely start seeing more and more compelling mobile web apps- simple ideas that can be quickly built, shared, and remixed

web audio on the phone - whaaaat?!

So after seeing patatap I was way inspired, especially after seeing it uses the web audio api.  It is way snappy.  So I put up a quick test to see if it works just as well with an oscillator instead of one-shot samples for mobile. 

You can find the repo here: mobile synth test, and test it out with this link.

It’s pretty simple, just press the screen and it will play a sound from an oscillator via the web audio api.  The synth doesn’t sound amazing, but it means a lot. It means I can get input from the screen and map it to a synth, with fairly low latency.

Why am I so pumped about this?

I can make an instrument on a web page, add whatever is necessary for mobile, and now a whole room of people can open up the instrument on their phone and play with it.  I can make minimal synth experiments to see what people do with these sounds when they are together. This is pretty awesome. 

If you know any good APIs that deal with touch events and mouse events together, I’d love to know.



Facial recognition technologies are getting better and better, from auto tagging images in Facebook photos to video surveillance streams. At the same time we’re providing great data for classifying our faces with all of our selfies. 

HYPNO emphasizes the glorification of the selfie and reality of facial detection. When the computer recognizes you, you appears on the center with a colorful aura and outline of your facial features. An absurd, overstimulated display with rainbow iris and spinning meme-styled background.  Snapshots are taken and placed in the background. 


You can find the piece here, and the code is here.

It’s still going :) @forresto

The piece was made during Art Hack Day with Forrest Oliphant and was presented on the opening night of the 2014 Transmediale festival in Berlin. 

It was delightful to see people interacting with the piece. The initial smile and wonder when their face was picked up and placed on the screen- they were the chosen one! They would make funny faces, or compete with their friends for the attention of the computer.  While I would find it invasive to automatically save all the images, the attendants were hoping we saved all of them.  ”I made some great faces for you!”

HYPNO BY Forest Oliphant and I at the Transmediale Festival in Berlin

The piece was covered on a few different sites, including Vice: 

The Best and Wackiest Pieces at Berlin’s Art Hack Day

Forrest Oliphant and Kawandeep Virdee’s “Hypno” installation uses facial detection technology to record and process people’s faces. A visitor stands in front of the facial detection tech, and watch as their faces become abstracted and manipulated in psychedelically cartoonish ways.

Serendipity vs Spam in Social Media

Lately I’ve been added on Twitter lists referencing founders- like “East Coast Founders”, “Founders - Boston”, “Boston Founders”, etc.  When I first was added, I was going to a lot of Embedly meetings. I thought they must be mistaken. I’m not a founder of Embedly.  Then I remembered in my profile I’ve written that I’m a co-founder of New American Public Art.

I didn’t think much of it until it started happening more.  Last night I decided to dig a bit more after being added to a list “Great Founders”. Wow, pretty flattering!  I looked at the user who made it- he had 30K+ followers.  I looked at his lists.  There were tons, many of them with over 3K people in it.  A quick count with jQuery yields $(“.js-list-link”).length = 786.  That’s a lot of lists, and a lot of people. Looking at the titles like “Cool Bloggers”, “Talented artists”, “World class gamers”, it is clear they may be programmatically generated. Go into any of the lists and you’ll find a common word in the profiles of all the members in the list- be it “Founder”, “Blogger”, “Gamer”, “Model”, etc. 

When I look back at the lists I’m added to, many of them with “Founder” in the title have thousands of members.  But the rest of the lists are in the 10s, few are over 100. 

Automating Notifications to Gain Followers

Why would there be automation in the process of creating lists and adding members? The thing is- when you’re added to a list you get a notification.  You see who added you to the list. You check their profile, and maybe you add them. If you’re making lists, you can specify characteristics for users and target a group.  The more notifications, and the more relevant the targeted group, the more follows you’ll get. So automate the process and get tons of follows.

This isn’t the first time automation has been used to gain followers on Twitter.  First there was follow & no-follow.  When you follow someone, they get a message and perhaps follow you back. After some time you can unfollow them. This process can be automated.

More recently there was auto favoriting.  I’d noticed random tweets I wrote would be favorited.  The funniest thing is that I first saw this when one of my tweets contained the phrase “growth hacking”. When my tweet was favorited I’d check to see who it was, and maybe I’d follow them.  This could be automated as well, automated exposure. 

The thing is- when it started happening more it became a bit annoying- it was less relevant to me, it was spammy.  The action of ‘favoriting’ was being diluted.  Because my tweet was algorithmically favorited rather than intentionally, I felt the interaction was meaningless.

Gentle Introductions

There is a wonderful side of this though.  There is discovery, there is serendipity.  I can be exposed to awesome people and companies, and I already have. The favoriting and automated lists are based on what I tweet and what is in my profile- I’m signaling out there who I am and what I love.  The automated actions are little introductions to others who share similar interests.  Now a message back and forth wouldn’t be unusual since the ice is already broken.  

I think one of the problems is that the exposure isn’t mutual because of the automation.  So I get a notification, but they don’t, they have no idea who I am, and that feels imbalanced. 

Perhaps the next thing to do is write a script to determine when actions are automated.  How likely is this favorite automated? Or this list-add? In cases where it is automated, I can send an automated @ message to the creator, just thanking them.  Now we have mutual automated exposure, and everyone is happy.  


Singing to no one but yourself can be such a beautiful thing

There was a guitar at the apartment I was staying at. The host left for work a few hours before. After packing and checking for forgotten things- the last thing I did before I left- I picked it up and sang Norwegian Wood.

After a trip there is some light smiles and sadness, you’re looking back over it as you pack and remembering everything that happened, all the surprises, things accomplished.

It all wraps up and flows, something to reflect and conclude with, when singing this song.