The Problem with Telecommuting

This past Monday I had problems with my wireless network which prevented me from having access to the internet. I thought at the time it was a problem with my isp, as I had thought many times before, but playing with the settings created a voila moment, miraculously allowing network access.
Yesterday for some inexplicable reason I could not access a site that I use to run a web app.. In fact half of the sites I use, all on the same server, are unreachable – the other half are fine. All of these use the same block of IP addresses. I can’t continue with the work I was doing 5 minutes before the outage.
Is this the 21st century equivalent of my car won’t start?
Our increasing dependence on complex magical systems like the internet for our livelyhood makes me wonder what would happen if there were extended outages or increased unreliability at just the worst possible moment. I can’t get to work and there is no ‘internet bus’ to take me there.


December Exhibition

“To present the musical soul of the masses, of the great factories, of the railways, of the transatlantic liners, of the battleships, of the automobiles and aeroplanes. To add to the great central themes of the musical poem the domain of the machines and the victorious kingdom of Electricity.”
“I unfurl to the freedom of air and sun the red flag of Futurism, calling to its flaming symbol such young composers as have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice.”
A few years ago I became enamoured with the audio environment around me. Through my photoblog at that time I had already been noticing and sharing small bits of visual artifacts but noticing interesting signals through all the noise that is present here was something new. When you take the time to listen you may find yourself surprised at the remarkabley diverse array of delightful noise. Your cityscape transforms itself into futuristic noise orchestra that constantly changes, a never ending performance, which in turn completely changes you and your relationship with your city.
And I started to record and think of ways to share what I heard. I decided I wanted to be a sound artist.
A year and a half ago I finished a body of work, well mostly just prototypes and concepts given form, of sound art and tangible UI/interactive art. It was a tremendous learning experience – an education in product development rolled up in less than a year. We exhibited in an entirely appropriate old railway house to some acclaim. Since then I have been lucky to show various pieces at other venues throughout Taiwan. But until now I haven’t had the oportunity to focus entirely on sound art.
This December I will exhibit my traffic series of installations in Puli Taiwan. I wanted to show more, including my ambient room, but budgets would not allow. I’m looking forward to it as a source of inspiration and a break from the doldrums of freelancing.
All the pieces are reltively similar but with different execution. Here are brief descriptions of the pieces:
Traffic 1
“Now we are satiated and we find far more enjoyment in the combination of the noises of trams, backfiring motors, carriages and bawling crowd.
To excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of musical noise.” -The Art of Noises- Luigi Russolo
Traffic 1 is a series of sound vignettes played through custom built enclosures. It communcates through sound various emotions felt during the daily commute through Hsinchu’s streets. Using the simplest tools possible I set out to recreate the sounds I hear when driving in traffic in Hsinchu.
Traffic 2
Traffic 2 attempts to create spontaneous real time auditory compositions or improvisations using data gained from network traffic. A secondary aim is to test our understanding of the usage of network data in the public and private sphere.
We treat the network as an unseen life form – a body in constant change – born from the usage patterns of the users of the system. By using network traffic as a tool for creating music we in effect illustrate this unseen form.
Unlike traditional musical performances, Traffic 2 does not exist over a set period of time. It is in effect never ending and never the same at any given point in time.
Traffic 3
Over a period of time we gathered sound samples from various locations throughout the city of Hsinchu. We edited these samples and tuned them to a specific harmonic structure. We then fed these sounds, over a 100 in total, into our software agent which communicates with our server. The result is a cacophony of sound which could be understood as the city of Hsinchu acting as a Futurist Noise orchestra driven by network traffic.


Taiwanease Issue2

In the heads down mind fog of “bus(y)iness” of last week I forgot that Issue 2 of Taiwanease is out and available in limited (hurry get one before they are gone) quantities at key locations throughout English speaking Taiwan.
An interesting observation is that it seems that a front cover illustration of a stretched and tortured dead pig is far more acceptable to distributors than a cover featuring an illustration of a couple of Mormons.
I am starting to believe that there is more art in finding art than the actually process of creating art itself. Finding and directing good illustrators who are willing to follow a brief for free is a task I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Though attractive in theory, stock companies that have an escrow service of sorts have proven to be useless. Who can wait 2 weeks for an email reply?
Here is an illustration from my friend 林授昌, who did the cover for this issue, that didn’t work out for the editorial.
lin.jpg


Design and Business Ethics

“AIGA has released a series of brochures outlining the critical ethical and professional issues encountered by designers and their clients. The series, entitled “Design Business and Ethics,” examines the key concerns a designer faces in maintaining a successful practice and speaks directly to the protection of individual rights.”

From Swissmiss.


Taiwanease Magazine

issue1-cover.jpg
The first issue of Taiwanease Magazine was officially released to the wild today and can be picked up at a number of outlets throughout Taiwan. Kudos to all.
Special thanks to 錢世泓 and 汪峻德 for their illustration work. 汪峻德 had to endure many nights of revisions, a task he didn’t complain too much about. 錢世泓 finished his work with only a few hours to spare before he boarded the bus to start basic training for the Taiwan marines.
After being in development for almost 10 months it’s great to see elements of this project finally seeing fruition. Next the website.


Help Wanted (PHP)

Well I thought I might give this a shot here on my web log. Taiwan is a Microsoft island and though I have met many talented engineers during my stay in Taiwan far too few are into open source software. There are many people like myself who know enough about PHP to be dangerous but I am looking to meet people who live and love this language. I have a number of projects languishing due to slow development.
Here’s what we are looking for:
PHP developer
We’re looking for a local PHP developer to work on some neat projects we’ve been developing. Required buzzword-y skills: PHP, MySQL, XHTML, CSS, Javascript (including AJAX), Linux. Design skills and usability experience wouldn’t hurt. Familiarity with wiki’s and social software would be cool. Some English ability required.
I am also looking in the near future for a Chinese speaking Community Manager but I think I will have far less difficulty with finding a partner to fill that role.
These are ‘partnerships’ and we work on a monthly revenue share payment system.


Late Projects

Some quotes from a thread on 37s:

“How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time.” -Fred Brooks, software engineer and computer scientist
“We release things when they are ready to be released, not based a we-can-predict-the-future schedule.
Priorities shift, products change, new ideas bubble up, we discover new techniques and concepts, mistakes are made, external circumstances reveal themselves.
All those things make schedules a waste of time. They don’t account for surprises, new opportunities, gut feel, and human error. Schedules are too theoretical for our tastes.
The only time we start thinking about dates are when we’re really close to release. Then we can say “let’s try to get this out next Monday” or “Let’s do what we can over the next couple week and then go live with it.” Our schedules are relative.


The Hard World of Quiet

quiet.jpg
I’ve got a meeting in 20 minutes and instead of working on deadline doom I am looking through my photos on flickr and posting entries from Youtube on my weblog. I should start a for credit class on procrastination. Why not? UC Santa Cruz offers a major in computer game design.
The above photo was likely likely posted on this site a few times before. It features some of the main ‘players’ in my Quiet Please exhibition extravaganza.
While I enjoy the freedom that working outside of a corporate environment provides I feel at times that this freedom is an illusion. Sometimes having so much choice in what to pursue is numbing – too much choice ultimately makes you unhappy. This philosophy is true in just about every endeavor in life. Perhaps the restrictive nature of working in a large company is not so bad after all. I’ve always enjoyed working within constraints, all my work has been about that – improvisation, music, web design, interface design, and sound are all limited modes of expression.
I miss the singular focus we had in that project. Now it seems I am truly becoming a jack-of-all-trades, my head thinking on a million different ideas for a multitude of projects of which only a couple are truly interesting.


Project Management Tips

“One thing that derails projects is the lack of a discrete beginning or end. Projects either meet with dissatisfaction from their sponsors, or they amble on past deadlines as scope creep locks you, the project manager, into a lengthy and morphing situation of countless follow-up tasks. Here’s a trick. Use this measurement up front: From what to what by when?
My favourite project de-railer is when the features and goals of a project constantly shift like quicksand. You spend all your time building and managing a part of a project only to find out 3 months later that a sponsor has changed their mind and don’t want it anymore.
Read the full article.


Pop Wuping Launch

I haven’t been that busy around this site of late as I have been devoting a significant amount of time over the past couple of months developing a new site which is linked in the footer and on my contact page. It’s called Pop Wuping.
I think we all have our minor product obsessions or idiosyncrasies (some call it an object fetish); some people collect sneakers, others buy too many shoes, some have to have all the latest gadgets, while others may have the luxury of buying a new car every year. For me it’s always been bags and t-shirts (to a much lesser extent sneakers as well). So I created Pop Wuping as an online buying guide for people who might share my interest or who might benefit from having someone find the best bags and t-shirts available on the web. It also serves as a research tool for me as I have had a dream of having my own line of bags and apparel – as farfetched an that idea may be. It still being developed but have a visit and let me know what you think.
Now that I am getting into a groove I hope to learn to enjoy managing all the blogs I have created (and am creating).
Pop Wuping


PingMag’s – The Website Development Process

howtomakeawebsite.jpg
We’ve been too serious and downright stodgy for too long. Maybe the power of fun is catching on, here is a delightfully fun, unique, and understandable approach to presenting the usually boring web development process to clients. It’s over simplified but for a first meeting with an inexperienced client this could be a great way to break the ice and get them involved. Kudos. Use this approach for your next financial services client and perhaps they will actually enjoy yet another meeting with yet another vendor.
Check out: PingMag’s – The Website Development Process


Old Interview – 工研院研究員 Clark Macleod

I linked to this interview I did over a year ago and had completely forgotten about it. During that time the friends I had just happened to work in or have acquaintances in various news media companies so I tended to find myself giving interviews allot. It was fun and yet anothe rof the many great experiences I have had working here.
Here is the interview (such as it is):
物專訪-工研院研究員Clark Macleod
工研院創新研發環境 椅子,來點音樂!
前言:在工研院工作五年多,加拿大籍的克拉克‧麥克勞(Clark Macleod),因為陪著一歲女兒玩玩具,觸發設計音樂椅的想法。在工研院創意中心的支持下,很快地,這張坐上去就能參與音樂演奏的椅子,即將跟大家見面。

Read more


Charlottetown – A Good Choice for Relocation

It’s been a couple months now since I have returned to Taiwan from my 3 week visit home to Charlottetown. P.E.I. There are a series of selected photos on 35togo and my flickr stream. It’s hard to say whether it’s my age, the length of my summer absense (7 yrs) but this trip home gave me a whole new perspective on just how special a place PEI is. I was so impressed with my visit that I hope to set-up a summer residence there in the hopefully not to distant future.
There is much to admire about the place. The scenery, people, and laid back culture are all pretty common refrains whenever anyone describes PEI. But what isn’t said all to often is just how much PEI, or I guess more like Charlottetown, is shaping up to be an ideal location to locate a technology based business or a telecommuting career.

Read more


Open Loops: Sleep and Productivity

“As we rob the night of sleep hours to get more things done, we are depriving our body of much needed time for it to repair and rejuvenate itself. Sleep is what we need to stay alert and focused on the day’s activities.”
“Exhaustion, fatigue and lack of physical energy are common sleep deprivation symptoms. Exhaustion and fatigue affect our emotional moods, causing pessimism, sadness, stress and anger. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has suggested that social problems such as road rage may be caused, in part, by a national epidemic of sleepiness.”
Open Loops: Sleep and Productivity


Specialization

“Specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the ‘expert’ is fooled into accepting his slavery by making him feel that in return he is in a socially and culturally preferred, ergo, highly secure, lifelong position. But only the king’s son receive kingdom-wide scope of training.”
— R. Buckminster Fuller, “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth”
Found at Caterina.net


Overcoming workflow paralysis

“I’m a good, modern hipster. I’ve read GTD (twice). I’ve got my moleskines, my hipster-pda, my treo, my powerbook, my basement covered with notes. I know the difference between a next action and a to-do. Yet every once in a while, I still manage to get behind. When I do, my behavior changes. The more behind I am, the more time I spend staring blankly at my monitor. The later my nights get. The crabbier I become. I feel like poo. And I look like it too.”
Read: Almost Cool: Overcoming workflow paralysis:


Maintaining Motivation

Rather pertinent information for me now as I sit here in my home office unshaven and in a ripped pair of jeans trying to get serious about staying on task.
“When I went solo, one of the first of many things that hit me like a kick in the teeth was consistently being able to get into a work mindset when I sat down at my desk. The workplace was now my apartment, where all my fun diversions live, and the staff was now me. When I would go to work before, the change of scenery and addition of new faces would instantly put my mind into work-mode and I would get down to business. Currently, I have three cats that don’t pull their own weight and a picturesque view of a sink full of dishes. Not the most potent inspiration starters. So, I was forced to really reflect on the way I do things. It wasn’t going to be as easy anymore to just sit down and start working. I would have to learn how to motivate myself in a new environment.
There are many ways to get things done, ways to stay organized, and ways to keep things running smoothly. But, they really don’t mean shit if you can’t find something to love about what you do.”
Jason Santa Maria on Maintaining Motivation


Site update

I updated my portfolio recently and though its far from finished have published it for all to see (yes I am looking for work). I want to write more about this experience later as it seems my best laid plans didn’t quite go as I had hoped.
I wanted to create a site the reflects my personality and my work well of course but I wanted to do it quickly and simply. Why is it that simple is so hard? And why must the tools we use to create sites quickly always end up costing us more time in the end?
Part of this process for me is checking out what other people are doing to show/market/promote themselves online. I especially love this part of the process since it gives me the excuse to spend hours looking some really brilliant work.
It seems some things haven’t changed much in the past 8 years. Why so many broadcast-like, over produced, click to the next flash movie sites that profess to be interactive and yet yield the vast majority of these sites manipulated their users’ environment to reduce interactivity. In fact so many interactive sites are not interactive at all.
Other sites tend to be so obsessed with complying with web standards that they lose all sense of voice. All these sites look and interact the exact same way. Sure when you create a commercial site used my a broad spectrum of people its pays to rely on UI and web development standards but what happened to creating ‘unique’ personal sites?
These are just observations and maybe my age is showing. It’s all good baby. I suffer from all the above I’m sure and I am by no means professing originality. Far from it.
Work site and r


Good Bye Bldg. 51

Almost a couple months have passed since I wrote about hearing that my employer would be laying off a large number of staff. It was largely a thinning of the ranks through early retirement and generous severance packages for those who would agree to leave. The company is refocusing it’s human resources on specific research for which the team I call home does not fit. This kind of event always brings stress and sadness, especially since no one knew how or who would be affected. I had for some time given some thought to seeking new challenges, so the thought of leaving the company wasn’t a new one. Thinking about and having the reality of having to make a quick decision are different things. In the end with a great deal of consideration I chose to leave. After close to six years of employment I “retired” last week.

The past six years will be the bench mark for my future career experiences. If I can find a group of people as good as the team I have had the pleasure of working with the past years than I will consider myself very lucky indeed. Many of the people I have worked with are like second family (most of who have gone themselves). Leaving isn’t easy but hopefully new opportunities await. In many ways I feel the past years have provided me with a tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. Now that I have “graduated”, it’s time to put these skills to work.

Though I am officially gone. I am still there for 6 more weeks – Chientai and I will be writing what will be hopefully one of the better manuals on developing good user experiences for the Chinese market. Should be a fun final 6 weeks.


Traffic I sound selections

I wouldn’t attempt to call this music nor necessarily pleasing to listen to. These sound vignettes as I call them are a part of larger collection that were created for the Installation Traffic 1. Context is key here and these were not meant to be experienced over small computer speakers, in fact some of the frequencies are so low you might not hear anything at all. Better speakers are required.
Rumble
Feeling 1
Top Voice 1
Short description of the installation: Traffic 1 is a series of sound vignettes played through custom built enclosures. Traffic 1 communcates through sound various emotions felt during the daily commute through Hsinchu’s streets.


Girls Ambient Room pads

Here are a few tracks from the Girls Ambient room installation that was apart of the Quietplease! exhibition. I think my focus has always been on sound more than music, a by product of my training I suppose. The sounds I hear and love to listen to usually are far more than I can understand. In the installation pads like these would alternate depending on the time of day with matching sound signals sounding as the data they represented became apparent.



We gathered data from the activity of todays online communication tools (msn, yahoo, and email) and translated that to art elegantly projected on the four walls of a room. As well each activity was also registered with audio which was played as a tuned and unobtrusive signal.


The House of Wigs

Funny and true. I’m adding this site to my daily reads.
“When the boss from the company that’s taking over our company came in and gave the “Hello I Am Friendly!!”? speech which I’ve heard on several occasions before (seeing as every company I’ve ever worked for has been bought out by somebody), he described himself as an “insecure overachiever


Digitimes Interview

My apologises if the text is garbled below. It’s the opening paragraph for a recent interview I had with the Digitimes here in Hsinchu. I have been doing a number of interviews lately and have used the opportunity to promote the projects I am on. I’ll post a radio interview I did in the coming days as well. Once I get over my atypical shyness I become chatty it seems.

在工研院工作五年多,加拿大籍的克拉克·麥克勞(Clark Macleod),因為陪著一歲女兒玩玩具,觸發設計音樂椅的想法。在工研院創意中心的支持下,很快地,這張坐上去就能參與音樂演奏的椅子,即將跟大家見面。

Read the interview (Chinese)


What’s in a title anyway?

These are a few short paragraphs I wrote awhile back in response to both my constant confusion about what to call my professional self. Today I find that my confusion is no less abated. Of course nothing compares to the array of BS titles you see in larger web and non-web business environments.

designer noun person who designs
I have a problem with titles. I feel that in an environment of mutal trust and respect they are unnecessary. We just do what is necessary to do good work unrestricted by the boundries set by roles and titles.
I have only experienced that environment for mere fleeting moments. And what about people outside this wonderous environment?
Talking on the phone to a musician friend a year ago I mentioned that I was no longer performing and was focusing my attention on being a designer. He jokingly said what Haute Couture?
Titles are useful on some levels. In the country I work now they are absolutely necessary – if you don’t have director or manager in your title you seem to get no where with people. But what do I call myself? This industry has spawned an incredible array of job titles. Based on the roles I have taken here is a partial list of titles I might give myself: Art Director, Art Designer, Creative Director, Creative Lead, Educational Technologist, Facilitator, Graphic Designer, HTML programmer, Information Architect, Information Designer, Production Artist, Production Manager, Lead Designer, Lead Web Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, Producer, Project Lead, Senior Designer, User Experience Designer, User Experience Lead, Visual Designer, and Web Designer.
Does any one title apply?
For now I’ll stick with designer and deal with the jokes about creating dresses for runway models (which come to think about it, wouldn’t be so bad).
Clark
Designer

For job title fun check out: Job Title Generator and Bullshit Job Titles.


Reading list 1

Reading List

Code
Information Architecture
Information Design
Project Management
Usability
Typography
Visual Design