Thu. 08 May 2014


I composed this short essay while living in London during the summer of 2012 for the UK’s Creative Circle publication. Strange to stumble upon it again two years later, having replanted myself in New York and feeling ten years older. Thought I’d share it now.

So I was asked what makes me click. Here we go: I’m motivated by playfulness—and playfulness comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the simplicity of Atari’s Pong. Sometimes it’s the intellectual gymnastics of Frank Drake’s Arecibo message. A blinking computer cursor. Ten measures of a steady beat followed by one low-slung accidental. Curiosity. Exploration. Creating and solving puzzles can be satisfying but creating puzzles with a beautiful reveal is even better. I’m also motivated by learning—projects can be a valuable opportunity for paid learning. At university one must purchase new skills. Meanwhile, clients will pay you as you learn new things. I value teaching. Some of the projects I’m happiest with have a way of revealing how they were made—a hint at the grid or the process behind it. I learned to make things by taking apart and decoding the artifacts of others, it seems good karma to return the favor.

What doesn’t motivate me may be just as revealing. Money doesn’t motivate me. It’s important, certainly, but I’ve discovered—painfully—that a client dangling a fat paycheck in front of a boring project doesn’t inspire any additional creative spark no matter how many digits are in the number. Landing a big name client doesn’t motivate me. There’s an initial thrill because it looks prestigious on a CV and perhaps it sounds impressive to friends outside the business, but that’s as far as the thrill carries. Awards don’t do it for me either. Award show parties can be a great way to meet people and to survey the field but it’s not something to tie one’s self worth to. I’ve won some. I haven’t won some. Occasionally I’m invited to judge awards competitions and that inside-view is priceless. Snark doesn’t motivate me. I used to think snark was really clever; casually tearing down others with a sharpened shiv of insight. Whole campaigns can be built around snark. But being earnest and constructive is much more meaningful and holds its value far longer. I don’t want snark anymore.

There’s beauty in cohesion and consistency This makes having control over all aspects of a project very important. If I can’t orchestrate a process it becomes less interesting to me. My favorite clients are either collaborators who share a knowledge and fascination for whatever puzzle we happen to be solving, or detached customers who are happy to leave the decisions to those they’ve hired. For me play, learning, and directing all go hand in hand. I chafe at the term “creative” as a noun or pronoun; the notion that there are and ought to be aspects to a project that are not creative or team players who are not creative. For me creativity is a prerequisite for engagement.

Lastly, I’m always making things. I can’t stop. When I can fit that compulsion into the context of a project that’s when everything pays off. That’s when motivation sings.

Wed. 10 Jul 2013

Raptors in hats

Whether it’s a hack, an eccentric debug utility, or clever marketing—there are raptors in hats hiding on Vogue’s UK website. Load it up and then enter the fabled Konami code to manifest a strafing raptor wearing a random designer hat. That’s Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A.

Oddly there’s also a general debug console that can be called up by using the same sequence but switching the order of the last two taps to A B. For the code curious, the JavaScript to trigger this raptor rapture is contained here, just do a search for “konami”:

If you open up your browser’s JavaScript console you can get the actual raptorization code by entering: $('body').raptorize

The analytics line of code in there makes me think it’s more of a clever marketing ploy than some hacker attack—as some supposed “news” outlets would have you believe. Ah, hype. I’ve posted the raptorize code after the jump in case it vanishes from Vogue’s site.

Update: This little easter egg appears to be inspired by a jQuery library called Raptorize created by Zurb in collaboration with Phil Coffman and Noah Stokes. More after the jump…

Tue. 02 Jul 2013

Roll It wins double FWA recognition

Creative Lab’s recent Chrome Experiment, Roll It, is today’s FWA Site of the Day and today’s FWA Mobile of the Day. Roll It is a classic boardwalk game played right in your desktop’s browser and uses your smartphone as a motion controller. Play now:

Thu. 27 Jun 2013

Browser Pong on Hacker News

My old Browser Pong game (2009) is currently on the front page of Paul Graham’s Hacker News. It probably won’t stay there for long, so here’s the permalink: Browser Pong was previously on Hacker News when it first launched in 2009. Odd, but flattering, to see a new conversation about it materialize.

Mon. 24 Jun 2013

Racer wins double FWA recognition

Creative Lab’s recent Chrome Experiment, Racer, is today’s FWA Site of the Day and today’s FWA Mobile of the Day. Racer is a multiplayer Chrome Experiment built for mobile browsers—a slot car game that unfolds across multiple device screens. Get out your smartphone or tablet and load up in your mobile browser to play now.

Mon. 03 Jun 2013

Racer—Cutting edge project of the week

Creative Lab’s recent Chrome Experiment, Racer, has been awarded Adobe’s Cutting Edge Project of the Week by the FWA. Racer is a multiplayer Chrome Experiment built for mobile browsers—a slot car game that unfolds across multiple device screens. Get out your smartphone or tablet and load up in your mobile browser to play now.

Sun. 05 May 2013
Tags. Apple, Google, talk

Apple store talk tomorrow, 6:30pm

I’m speaking about my work tomorrow evening—Monday, May 6th at 6:30pm—at the SoHo Apple store in Manhattan. This is part of the ADC’s Young Guns series of talks (see ADC blog entry). Should be fun. The store’s schedule says I have from 6:30 to 8pm—way too much time. Let’s keep it short and sweet (maybe 1/2 hour?) with some Q&A at the end if that seems worthwhile. The content shouldn’t be much of a surprise: some favorite project highlights, random rants, and so on. Just walk up the glass stairs to the second floor where you’ll find some theater-style seating and a big screen.

Monday, May 6th. 6:30pm
Apple Store SoHo
103 Prince Street
New York NY 10012

212 226 3126

Fri. 01 Mar 2013

ASCII lyric music videos

ASCII lyric vids are music videos made primarily of a song’s lyrics rendered as computer text and animated over time to pair with the vocals. [What is ASCII?] These pure lyric vids are distinct from representational ASCII art vids which use glyph shapes as abstract textural components, rather than as text meant to be read. These genres are not mutually exclusive, however. [What is ASCII art?] To celebrate being blown away by the new

Petula Clark video, here are a few notches in the genre listed in reverse-chronological order. If you know of more do mention it.

Petula Clark—Cut Copy Me (2013)

Portal 2—Want You Gone (2011). The not-so-surprising sequel.

The Chameleons – Up The Down Escalator (2010). A fan video by Mr. Nicky Ramone using my Jed source code as a base.

Portal—Still Alive (2007). Written by Jonathan Coulton for the ground-breaking game Portal.

Grandaddy—Jed’s Other Poem (2005). A fan vid made-good. By yours, truly.