Showing posts from January, 2012

Kids and Science: Lego Man in Space is Truly Inspiring

So by now you might know that 2 Canadian teens sent a Lego man into near space. And you might know that they are still in high school. And you might have seen the footage below of the remarkable flight. But did you know that this was a completely random project they decided to complete, after seeing MIT students send a weather balloon into space a couple of years ago?

Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad embody all that is good about kids and science. I love these guys. They are barely adults and yet when I show this to the Dude, he'll want to be like them when he grows up.

I read a number of articles about the guys, but my favourite is this one over at the Toronto Star. It really gives you a sense of their brilliance and excitement. The best line is:“We didn’t really believe we could do it until we did"Check out the footage from the flight below. Oh, and you can keep tabs on the guys by "Liking" the Lego Man in Space Facebook page. Truly inspiring.

(Source: The Guardian)

World IA Day is coming and Ottawa has an Event!

Unlike World Usability Day, when Ottawa didn't have many formal events planned, I'm happy to announce that there is a meetup for World IA Day. Ok, so we had to plan it ourselves. But we have one none-the-less.

Join us on the eve of the first ever World IA Day for a casual meetup with the Ottawa's usability, design and information architecture community.

It's been a few months since the last usability and accessibility camps took place, so we thought we would use WIAD as a great excuse to host (and grow!) the UX community. Whether you're from the public or private sector, a n00b or an expert, we invite you to meet your peers, share a drink and join the discussion.

This event doesn't qualify as an official WIAD event, so you won't find it on the WIAD website but we know there is an excellent, active community that deserves one! Here's hoping we make it next year.
Details SPIN Kitchen and Bar, 100 Kent St, Ottawa, Canada
Friday, February 10, 5:00 - 7:00 pm

Architecture-Building Insect Robot Drones: Kewl and Creepy All At Once

This video amazes, amuses, and well, completely freaks me out.

Let me just say that the idea of drones building architecture with mathematical precision is mesmerizing.

And the fact that they remind me of giant insects makes me giggle.

Until I think about it for a little too long and then I get completely creeped out.

This was put together as an architectural representation of a full-scale construction project that can house 30,000 people. It's a comment on architecture and how it can be dynamically created.

According to the video description:
The installation, called "Flight Assembled Architecture", was conceived and built by teams led by my colleagues Fabio Gramazio & Matthias Kohler as well as Raffaello D'Andrea at the ETH Zurich. It illustrates a radically new way of thinking about materializing architecture: Use a multitude of mobile flying agents working in parallel and acting together as a scalable production means. As you can see in the video, the quadroco…

Rant: Are you using social media to co-operate or collaborate?

On Wednesday, January 25th, I presented a short rant at a conference themed around collaborative management. My talk was about challenging some of the assumptions around collaboration: specifically, that using social media and collaborative tools doesn't always result in collaboration. In some cases, the co-operative behaviours that result are mistakenly interpreted as collaborative actions. But there is a difference, and in only recognizing these patterns in our own work that we will be able to move beyond them and into authentic collaboration. Below is a modified version of my rant.

Collaboration has become a bit of a buzzword. Like convergence or synergy. In fact, it is often completely misused.

Your staff are sharing their research, projects and knowledge on collaborative platforms. If they need some information, a set of stats, or a best practice, they know exactly where to find it. They’re networking with groups in other organizations doing similar work.

So, are they collabo…

Kewl Design Alert: Tim Burton Playing Cards

Ok. I'm gonna show you something awesome. Truly dark and geeky and awesome. And you're gonna need to do me a favour: please don't buy them all up before I get a chance to get some of my own.


Ok, here we go.

Below is a set of Tim Burton Playing Cards. Gorgeous. Dark. Twisted. Love them.

Well, I love the idea of them.

So it turns out that these gorgeous drawings are only on the face cards. The highest face cards. And apparently the deck is totally confusing to play with. Ok, so they're a bit of a fail. But the idea of them is so great. And you know what they could be used for? Decorating your office. Planning poker. Or you know, just owning.

Get them here.


(Source: The Awesomer)

What does an Android fanboy look like? (Infographic)

So first came Mac vs. PC. And now we can add Android into the mix.

Last week, I mentioned the BlueStacks app to run Android apps on PC. What I did not mention at the time was this fun Infographic I found on their site that makes me think of a cross between a fashion review and a singles ad: "what is Mr. Android 2011 wearing?"
First of all, can we just mention that there is no stat on this page that identifies the proportion of Android users who are male vs. female. While I'm sure that the ratio is in favour of the males, it would have been an interesting stat to kick things off. Of course, there is also a note at the bottom of the page that says all of these numbers come from polling their facebook fans, so who knows how representative it is... does the average person Like a software company's Facebook page and fill out their surveys? Probably not. So I would caution to take this infographic with a grain of salt.

Either way, I like how they portrayed the stats by merg…

Extreme Fan Fiction: Crowdsourced Star Wars Uncut (video)

Quiz: What do you get when you crowdsource a movie? In particular, Star Wars? In 15-second chunks provided by 472 fanboys?

Answer: You get a mashup of live action, cartoons, paper art, Lego and action figure stop motion that amounts to pure awesomesauce. The result ranges from silly to hilarious, from awful to incredible.
It's probably not something you'll watch over and over like the original, hell you might not even make it through the whole thing once. I suggest you at least hit play and then jump to a bunch of spots on the timeline to get a sense of the final product. I plan to sit down with the Dude and watch the whole thing end to end at some point but for now, I'm happy to play along the timeline and see what I discover.
Take a look for yourself:

(Source: Neatorama)

Friday Fun: Awesome Lego TV "Shows" Superman

Wow. A Lego builder by the name of 2 Much Caffeine posted this insane Lego TV that he built. It's got a retro feel and a small Superman figurine on the front. The most incredible part is that the background on the screen scrolls to make it look like the Man of Steel is flying.

And it's amazing. Check it out:

(Source: Nerd Approved)

Kewl App Alert: BlueStacks Runs Android Apps on PC

There are so many crazy kewl apps in the Android market. If you've never been, just head on over and try it out for yourself. The best thing is that a very large proportion of them are free. In fact, of the 70+ apps on my phone, I've only ever paid for... well, none. And I have productivity apps, news and current event apps, apps to keep in touch, apps to distract me on the bus...

But every once in a while I find an app that I wish I could use off my phone. Especially some of the productivity apps that don't come in full versions for use on a computer. Enter BlueStacks.

BlueStacks is an app player that will let you use Android apps on your PC. You download their app (which is in alpha, so it could be buggy) and then run your Android app of choice right there on your computer.

Converter applications like this are brilliant. As people adopt mobile technologies, some of the apps they use are only available for mobile platforms. As I mentioned, this is great for being on the r…

More new stuff for 2012! "How To" and "Rants" Sections

As an RSS reader or Facebook follower, you might not actually come to the blog very often. Which means you might not realise that there is a handy dandy set of category buttons (IA for you geeks) at the top of the site, which can help you get to the geeky goodness you're looking for.

New for 2012, things have been moved around and a few new categories have been added.

You'll notice 3 new buttons in the menu: I already told you about the new "Apps" Section, and today I am launching 2 more:

The "Rants" section is where you will find my longer posts and my endless diatribes about stuff that annoys me, from "girly" tech to social media fails. The "How To" section contains educational posts, a combination of instructional pieces from me and instructional content I have curated from around the Web.
More of my content this year will focus on these 3 categories, in addition to all the fun, geeky stuff I will still be posting. Who says you can'…

Kewl Design Alert: Smart iPhone Cover (Probably a Patent Violation but Still Handy)

So you have yourself a fancy iPad and a magnetic Smart cover, which if you remember the hype when it launched last year, was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Like Apple invented magnets or something.

Fast forward a year, and someone has launched a KickStarter project to develop a similar cover for iPhones. It's smart (ha!) and simple, and makes perfect sense. They are positioning it as a headphone wrap first and foremost. I wonder if that's to distract people from the fact that it's just a small version of Apple's iPad cover, and once Apple finds out about this, they will likely sue the pants off these cute fresh-faced design students from Chicago.

But for now, you can still pledge your support until the end of the month. Then if they raise enough, they may get to produce their product.

Want one? Check out TidyTilt on KickStarter.

(Source: Internet's Best Secrets)

Lego Thinks Girls and Boys Can't Play Together

Oh, Lego. Please don't make me hate you.

With the recent launch of the new Lego Friends line of toys, Lego is truly challenging my loyalty. Now first, let me remind you that I personally, and my entire family collectively, are such fans of Lego that there is an entire section of this blog dedicated to it. And we have enough Lego in our home to sustain a village of children in the event of some major Lego catastrophe.

Now I do have enough experience in marketing and communications to understand that Lego is interested in appealing to a huge target market that they've had trouble reaching over the years. (Granted, that might be a problem of their making, since they used to market Lego as gender-neutral.) And I also understand that there are well documented gender differences in how boys and girls play, but I have always been of the opinion that this is as much the product of cultural biases as innate biological tendencies. (I'm of the nature AND nurture school on this one.)

Wayback Machine: 80s Kids' Book About Computers

The Dude was so proud to show me his library books this week, especially the one he referred to as "really geeky". This retro throwback is an epic look at mid-80s tech.

First of all can we just talk about the 8-bit graphics? I suddenly have the urge to play Pong.

And those computers and peripherals!!! The best part? The refer to them as MICROS. Micros!

AND TRON!!! The original!!! 
This book completely blows me away. It's like having a piece of the Smithsonian in the house. And it came from the school library! You should have seen the Dude, completely enamoured with it. He immediately suggested that I blog about it. So here you are.
This gem is definitely out of print but you can still find the odd used copy online. (ISBN 0-86592-906-8)
So what retro geeky gems do you have in your library? Leave a comment!

PSA: The Skyrim Widow(er)

So... the latest craze in relationship abandonment is Skyrim, the non-MMORP in which spouses disappear for hours to play a game alone. Not alone with a bunch of people online, socializing through their computers in the way geeks do, but alone-alone. Alone at their computer with no one to talk to but the troll they're about to fight.

Sadly, this brings to light a whole new type of spousal neglect: In fact, if you were once a WoW widow* (or widower), you may now be a Skyrim widow(er).
Now, personally, I actually enjoy sitting on the couch, working on my blog beside hubby as he fights trolls or gets eaten by wolves. I have to admit that it's one advantage of not having a home office: he plays on the tv in the family room, so we get to hang out and each do our own thing. No widows here! 
But if you haven't got the same setup and your better half is disappearing each night into an office or other room to play, you might not know what it's all about. Maybe this video can giv…

Motorola Droid Razr Fanboy Ad is Creative. And a total hoax.

Below is a great piece of fanboy fiction. There's no way this would work and um, I'm pretty sure the phone costs waaaaaaay more than what he gets in return. But there's no denying that it's creative and results in a potentially viral piece of free advertising for the Motorola Droid Razr.

Assuming it really is a fan piece.

Or maybe there is a crazy creative ad agency behind this.

(Aside: clearly I've been hanging around the Interwebz too long, and am skeptical about anything clever. But seriously, does this remind anyone else of the Times Square iPhone hoax?)

Anywho, enjoy!

(Source: Ubergizmo)

New Year's Resolution to Learn to Code? There's a Site for That

@paminottawa tweeted last week:

I thought: that sounds like a great resolution! So naturally, I checked out the website and promptly signed up. And based on the tweets I've been seeing over the past few days, it looks like a number of other tweeps did so too.

In fact the website shows that (as of January 9th) over 280,000 people have signed up.

If you haven't heard of Code Year, according to the website they'll send you:
a new interactive programming lesson sent to you each week and you'll be building apps and web sites before you know it. The first lesson arrived earlier this week and it's an introduction to programming, including JavaScript. They've also a sample project that you can test your skills on.

I love this program for 2 reasons:
it makes coding accessible. You might not be developing complex apps at the end (who knows, maybe you will) but at least it will explain the basics and give you a better understanding of what's involved in developing thos…

New for 2012: New "Apps" Section

I love me some apps. There's nothing more I enjoy than finding some random app that will help increase my productivity or help me blow off some steam. My absolute faves are the ones that make time move more slowly: the ones that just seem to help me do so much with minimal effort or impact on my day.
More and more folks (especially my bretheren of the Android persuasion) have been pinging me on The Twitter to ask for app recommendations when they get their sticky little fingers all over their shiny new Android devices. Well, even if you like the iThings, I am more than happy to oblige.
I've written a number of app-related posts over the years and now they are all available to you in a handy dandy section. I'm planning on making it a key resource, so watch for more posts coming to you in 2012.
So you love apps and you're always on the lookout for something new? Well, I'm happy to say that I've got you covered. Check out the Apps Section now. And if you've g…

2011 Retrospective: My Favourite Posts of 2011

I write this blog as much (maybe more?) for me as I do for you. There are posts that make me giggle endlessly, videos that I became completely addicted to and information I just couldn't wait to share.

So you got your say on your favourite posts of 2011 (well, kinda, via the stats) but I also had my favourite posts and the twain did not always meet.

Here's what I enjoyed finding and/or writing this year, month-by-month:
January - 5-Year-Old iPhone App DesignerFebruary - A Must See: Preview of Adorable "Young Darth Vader" Volkswagen Superbowl AdMarch - Making a Gesture: Why I Love Earth Hour (despite all the detractors)April - Teaching Kids Math Is Beautiful and All Around YouMay - Kewl Design Alert: Affordable Exoskeleton Enables Student to Walk at Grad and What NOT to Buy a Geek Mom for Mother's Day (or: Why I Hate Tech Targeted "To Women") (for totally different reasons, obviously)June - Wayback Machine: Mid-60s Video About Online Shopping in the Fut…

What You Were Reading in 2011: My Top 10 (and then some...)

First of all, a thank you.You geeks are what keep me writing. I love having a little place to nerd out and I appreciate you so much for visiting (and a special fist pump to the 5 of you those of you who come back again and again). Top Posts of 2011
So it wouldn't be a new year without a look back, right? Here's the obligatory bandwagon retrospective post a look back on my most popular posts last year.  PSA: Only you can stop Comic Sans abuses
The biggest day for the blog this year was a surprise to me. Turns out that Google played a little April Fool's joke on the world: If you searched "Comic Sans" on April 1st, your search page was suddenly reformatted in Comic Sans. (It was a great prank) And it also turned out that a comic I posted on my site was the #2 result in Google Images for that search.

Here's how the rest of the posts lined up:Bunny Suicides: Why The Cadbury Eggs Are Offing ThemselvesGeek Art: These Are Not The Droids You Are Looking For...Geek Aweso…

4 year old Geek Girl Knows Her Dinos (video)

Did you happen to notice the article in The Ottawa Citizen earlier this week about Stella Hatton?

She's an adorable little budding paleontologist who found flaws in a dino toy when she was out shopping with her parents. They taped her explaining the issues and posted the video on YouTube for family and friends. Apparently, the Museum of Nature came across it. According to the article, They kindly sent Stella a correct triceratops model, the build-it-yourself kind, along with some dinosaur books and trading cards. What a great story. Kids at that age are so impressionable. Isn't it amazing what can happen when we fill their growing brains with science, art and other goodness?

A geek girl in the making. Love her so much.

Kewl App Alert: Snowed in? Alarm Clock App Will Wake You Earlier (or Not At All)

What if your alarm clock was smart enough to know if you need more time in the morning to clear your car after a winter storm? Or maybe decide for you that it's just too damned ugly outside to even attempt to head into the office?
Well Boondoggle Agency (who apparently live in a world where it's still ok to have Flash websites that require you to sit and wait while they load - ugh) came up with an app that does just that. According to said Flash-based site:
"During the night, the Winter Wake Up app collects weather information for where you are. Based on this, the app decides whether it’s necessary to wake you up earlier. How much earlier is something you decide for yourself."Apparently they built this for their own employees. Who they trust to make up time on the weekend if the situation becomes too hopeless. Yep, apparently you can configure the app to not wake you at all if the weather and resulting driving conditions suck so much you can't even be bothered to t…

Geek Meditation to Help You Through The Holidays

Welcome to the New Year! Hopefully you are enjoying a well-deserved day off. Now, I know it can be hard for geeks to relax and completely unplug. So this might help...

(Source: Geek Culture via Hubby. He gets full credit for knowing exactly what I would blog. He completes me.)

Happy New Year from Grumpy Snow-Shoveling Chewbacca (video)

Happy New Year!

It's supposed to be a mild day so hopefully there won't be any angry snow-shoveling Chewbaccas at your place :)

(Source: One Cool Thing a Day)