Thursday, July 1, 2010

Having Read Some Books

Recently I have been listening to a lot of audio books because I have 40 minutes to 1 hour of walking every day. Many of the books I have listened to relate to psychology on some level however some are of other areas. My favorites recently have been: Connected, Predictably Irrational, What the Dog Saw and The Language Instinct. On the other end of the list are books like Rework, The Four Hour Work Week and The Pursuit of Elegance which I thought were all relatively shallow. However, I have noticed an important issue with audio books which is that if the reader is bad the book seems a lot worse, which I think is the case with some of the ones I have disliked. So far, it seems that a bad reader is exemplified by a strong American accent and a tendency to over pronounce and over emphasise the text with seemingly no awareness of it's meaning. On the other hand, books read by the author seem to have remarkably more impact, however that could just be because of the meaning the author can naturally evoke. 

For more on what I have read or will read check my google books library

I suppose I am looking for suggestions in what to read next. Also, I would be grateful for suggestions on where to find good collections of audio books. It may be clear that this list is almost completely non fiction of some kind or other which is something I would like to change in the future. I feel these days few people read enough fiction.

The images are from various sources but all show pages from one of my favorite books, Codex Seraphinianus

Anyway, please suggest books and sources in the comments.

Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Progress by Title

Last semester I was TA for a class doing some new product development work with LG. It was a lot of fun because I got to interact with a number of teams as they developed their projects throughout the semester. 

After a several weeks of trend research and preparation the students started to propose concepts and a seemingly important factor in their success was in the choice of a title. This may seem strange, and to me it originally was quite unusual, however I think there are some strengths (and some weaknesses) of this approach which are worth contemplating. 

A positive attribute of concept naming is that if done effectively it can communicate the core value of a concept quickly and easily and can drive more laser like development in the future. Also, naming obviously offers a quick way to refer to the idea which makes discussion and reflection more accessible. On the other hand, naming too early seems to result in heightened perceived familiarity with the concept (especially in others introduced to the idea) which can lead to scope creep (either perceived by the audience or real within the team) as further development occurs. Another negative impact is when a name poorly communicates a concept and it is thus drastically misinterpreted. 

During my work as a TA I observed all of these situations on numerous occasions. In reaction, I have considered some precautions which could be taken to gain maximally from early naming. 
  1. Don't Name Too Early - If a design can't yet cause an impression, but can only be interpreted as an incomplete concept then it is not ready for a name. However it can be useful to name features or other design patterns before a complete concept is established. 
  2. Make the Name an Icon - Names should be act as symbols of the core concept. They should be a logical and clear explanation of the concept being presented and they should help others understand it and remember it.
  3. Keep it in Beta - Early names should always remain flexible
  4. Always Iterate - As changes are made new names should be considered. I personally think this is worth doing even if the factors which make the name significant have not changed significantly. 
  5. Be Righteous - The name is part of the design so it should be treated with the same level of flexibility and the same sensibility as other parts of the design.
I think many further and better informed claims could be made about how to deal with naming effectively but for now this is what I think. What do you think about this issue? 

Image: Irrelevant but Pocari Sweat seems like a pretty disgusting name to me. I took this shot with my S90 which is now lost. 

Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The optimism of adaptation

you're already doing something — whether it's a job, a hobby, or an occasional recreational pastime — that exploits your strengths, allows for your weaknesses, gives you pleasure, and uses your uniqueness.

This is a short quote from an optimistic article at HBR about how if you try to use your values effectively you can probably, over time, create a rather lucrative niche for your self. I agree in general, despite numerous obvious exceptions.

In any case, I agree with the greater point of finding a true value in what is had, as opposed to trying to create a new kind of value. I think, by extension, this also applies in many other forms of value and even in design. In some strange way, the best design could be to use what you have in a reasonable fashion to perform the activities you need to.

What do you think?

Posted via web from Mark Whiting's posterous

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Which DSLR Should I Buy?

I am thinking of getting a DSLR. Which one should I buy?

I am looking for something quite cheep because I agree with Ken Rockwell that in most cases more features and pixels in DSLRs do not tend to improve people pictures. He does offer some good suggestions but I need to also consider several other factors:
  1. I currently own 2 Nikon lenses. A 50mm 1.8 Prime and a relatively old zoom lens. Both require a motor in the body of the camera for autofocus. (which limits me to a D80 or higher, the D5000 will not work) It may well be better for me to replace these lenses but for now my budget is limited.
  2. I don't mind Nikon and Canon but I also appreciate many factors of other companies like Pentax etc. (I also have access to several older Pentax lenses, though they are currently waiting for me in another country)
  3. I am interested in used cameras as much as new, such as a used D90 etc.
Any suggestions or useful comments would be really appreciated. 

The image is a Leica S2, the DSLR I want but can not afford. 

Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

Monday, April 5, 2010


Today I spent a little time modelling and rendering a ring. It is loosely based on one from Tiffany's and currently rendered in polished silver. Not much more to say about that. 

I am also playing with DOF in Modo. All except one of the two closeups has DOF. I cant get it to look really great. Any suggestions?

Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

Monday, March 22, 2010

Design for Medicine

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research in Bremen, Germany have developed biodegradable surgical screws. The screws are a composite of polylactic acid and hydroxyapatite, biodegradable over 24 months. Hydroxyapatite, a major component of bone, promotes bone growth into the screw.

Full story: Bone-hard biomaterial...

I think medical design often ends up showing what designers (or the feature creators) can really do because of the obvious risks involved. Additionally because of the nature of living things, many features must be considered in a simple but complete way. This screw design is not interesting to be because of the materials technology but because of the elegance of the industrial design and the tight relationship of all the features which make it up.

Posted via web from Mark Whiting's posterous

The Zen of Language

I am a lover of Zen, though my notion of Zen is quite specific to a certain perspective, as most peoples' interpretations of that word seem to be. To me, Zen is about a conceptual purity and simplicity but also a high level of appropriateness or correctness for a context. I have thought quite a lot about what this means for design but I am not ready to share that now. 

In any case, recently I have been exposed to another kind of Zen in a vaguely unexpected environment. During my masters here in korea, one of the fundamental things I am learning is the value of a Zen like approach to language. In this case, english, from my professor, who speaks english as a second language. What I mean by this Zen is a kind of ideal use of language to describe exactly what is meant, despite arbitrary complexity and the possibility of various interpretations of words. I think this kind of english is favoured in Korea, because of the way people learn english, as a kind of exact science, and also, favoured at my university, KAIST, because of the kind of publications expected here. Personally, my english is still far from Zen-like, and I think, though I am learning to improve it to participate here, it is probably never going to be as exact as many academics here make it. I believe this because I think native english speakers simply do not tend to treat words with such subtlety of application. Some poets and authors seem to be able to do it, however, most seem to use words like the USA uses oil.

I have never really liked reading, because I am slow at it and distracted easily, however, all my life I have enjoyed learning and acquiring knowledge, especially on mass. I have, on many occasions complained that books are aggravating because they act as a jail for knowledge, hiding it among numerous useless pages of imprecise words. Zen language is thus when every word counts and contributes fully to the meaning, not only of the sentence but to the whole work.

This view of Zen seems to act as a good framing example of what I think the general concept of Zen implies. What do you think? (I am sure my notion of Zen is not in accordance with more formal definitions, let me know if you have a more informed perspective)

Also, does anyone have suggestions about how to become able to write with Zen language? 

The images are a little bit random, just three shots of a lotus farm in Chungdu in SiChuan China. It seems that lotuses are often depicted in relation to Zen. 

Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

Sunday, March 21, 2010

See Creatures

Sometimes we see creatures because of the way we make things look. This was a quite simple example which turned into a sea creature of sorts when I made it look the wrong way, accidentally. 

I think it is a small creature, perhaps similar to a jelly fish and I think the ridges wave like continuous fins. Perhaps it eats by induction being that it has two loops or by burrowing in the sand and absorbing nutrients. It is hard to know. 

Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chrome OS as a platform without versions, potentially even for mobile

Chrome OS is really exciting to me, partially because it is like having an OS on a thumb drive, as some people have done, only even more flexible in some ways, and partially because it will break down many of the platform issues that we commonly run into. Software that works in the browser, or at least in Crome, will do so on any computer that can run Chrome or ChromeOS. 

Recently many people are talking about the growing issue of fragmentation of the Android platform and most people seem to be pretty worried about it. Michael Gartenberg has written a related article for engadget, Will Android Fragmentation Destroy the Platform. I think the crux of this issue has a few factors. 
  1. People expect to own phones for too long. 2 years is a long time to wait before getting a new phone and right now phones and their contracts are designed to endure this kind of period. This needs to change if technology is going to continue to also change so rapidly
  2. Phone manufacturers having to do too much to make Android work they way they want it. I am afraid I do not know much about what they need to do so this point could be framed slightly inaccurately, however, I think if Android was designed to evolve in a more friendly way and if the efforts to make a phone work on a given platform were less significant, then this kind of issue could be reduced quite a lot. 
In any case, as most have probably read, Chrome OS is currently including designs for various different window styles, which are targeted at various different device form factors, including touch input devices. The one platform they have not mentioned targeting is of course mobile handsets, however I tend to think their could be some value in doing so. ChromeOS on a mobile phone would mean several things.
  1. Native support for great browsing.
  2. Software independence. Because:
  1. ChromeOS auto updates - which is not that significant..
  2. Chrome is becoming an industry standard and is really good at running almost every website out there and it is really unlikely that there will suddenly be a new kind of browser that can not run on year, or even two year old hardware. 
  3. This would also mean that any apps would work on any other phone or platform with a modern browser. 
  • Device independence. With android you can already log in and out of your phone easily but with ChromeOS syncing you could imagine setting the experience on all your computing devices at once, and not being particularly miffed if data failure of any kind occurred. 
  • One issue this raises is how manufacturers can give their users a custom experience, however, given the ChromiumOS is open and adaptable I imagine we could see a version which still supported Chrome syncing and updates to the engine etc. 

    Also, issues like a dialer could be solved with some local code or with Google Voice, via the mobile HTML5 client

    I have included a Phone UI mock up based on the current ChromeOS Touch UI which is on the Chromium website. 

    In a lot of ways, I am talking about something similar to what Apple seemed to be presenting when they first released the iPhone, a phone without an app store that just uses web apps, however now, it seems this is becoming a desirable reality for several reasons.(sorry I had a link for that but I forgot where it was - perhaps next time) 

    So, what would you think about a Chrome OS phone?

    Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    God of the Black-holes not Just the Gaps

    With a 30 minute walk too and from my lab each day I now have a good amount of time to listen to audiobooks (Something I rather like because I am a slow reader usually). In any case, I am currently reading the rather long but interesting, History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (another good link and his listing on google books). He details the history surrounding many significant philosophical developments, discussing their relevance and their value. So far, apart from hearing a lot about greek philosophers I have also been introduced to 2 points which I find particularly interesting. 

    1. Religion of the gaps can be more clearly though of as religion of the black holes in our perception of the world. Many people like to think of the so called 'God of the gaps,' or the idea that religion exists as a way of describing things we don't understand and as history has developed and various findings have occurred in psychology, mathematics, physics and other sciences, more and more aspects of our religions are defined and though of in non religious ways. Bertrand Russell suggests that God, in this way, may be more of a representation of the things we will never understand, not just things we don't understand for now. An example of a contender of this kind could be the meaning of life, which for all intensive purposes, we have no hope of learning without a distinct change to our current secular understanding of the universe. 
    2. Learning about others' philosophies through the context of their logic. Bertrand Russell talks about many interpretations of the notion of philosophy as well as several ways of understanding the writings and opinions introduced by others, in particular, philosophers. The significant advice he offeres is to not concentrate on showing that a statement is true of false but instead to understand why the philosopher though it to be true or false at the time that they did. This of course gives us more than simply and understanding of the concept as a group of words but lets us understand the concept as a reaction to a context which we chan then determine to be reasonable or unreasonable and which we can potentially transmute in a useful way to a modern scenario. 
    I find both of these to be rather useful ways of thinking, and I would be interested to learn of any extensions of either. 

    I rather enjoy consuming audiobooks however I wish there were better services for getting them and I rather wish that more publishers made them of all their content, in particular academic works. 

    Posted via email from Mark Whiting's posterous

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    An interesting user interface innovation.

    Recently I though about UV mapping living humans so we could do interesting skin touch stuff. This system seems to work quite well though it seems a little invasive.

    Posted via web from Mark Whiting's posterous