A Weblog of Artem Dudarev

Prototype, Focus, and Experiment

Blocks: Not just for kids anymore

Image credits: nouqraz.

During the first week of Knight-Mozilla learning lab we had an opportunity to learn from three excellent speakers: Aza Raskin, Burt Herman, and Amanda Cox. There were plenty of deep insights and ideas. I keep track of useful links in my personal wiki.

If curious, dive into lecture note, from there you may pick up some good thoughts in condensed and structured form. The process with which we, the participants, are generating them is inspiring by itself. This is done with etherpads hosted by Mozilla Foundation. You may read about Etherpad in Wikipedia, but it is better just to try to collaborate with a group of people on a document.

Not to reiterate the speakers’ points here, I’d rather highlight some ideas that have led me to actions. In the application to the lab I wrote about three ideas that also may be found in the wiki. I have focused on Locovidi, the idea to better connect videos to places.

Aza Raskin in the slide 10 of the slide deck that may be found on Slideshare mentions a concept of the “communication bandwidth”. It grows along the path Idea-Writeup-Mockups-Prototype-Video. For Locovidi, all steps were done except video was not included on the website. This was fixed by creating About page.

Burt Herman’s talk for me emphasized the idea of iterating, so it’s not sufficient to go along the path from the previous paragraph just once. One constantly has to keep trying new things and improving existing features and processes.

They have changed format of titles of Youtube videos. This caused malfunction of the bookmarklet that I am using to submit videos to Locovidi. There was a hack that required messing with URL to fix it, but this increased “activation energy” for the process of submitting videos. The bug is fixed now - submitting videos with the bookmarklet works smooth again. The process of improving little things must continue.

Amanda Cox talked about data visualization done in New York Times. I like to visualize data. Most of the figures in my academic papers were done by me. I keep a blog of simple visualization examples done mostly with Python. Locovidi may be not directly related to visualization of data. Yet, some Amanda’s ideas could be very relevant. Her thought that “sketches are important” resonates with and emphasises Aza’s ideas that “prototypes are important”.

One of the links I particularly liked is to a blog post The Black Belt: How Soil Types Determined the 2008 Election in the Deep South. There, the data visualization tells an insightful story how geology determined soil types, that determined cotton farms distribution, and, as a result, racial distribution of population, and affected results of the last presidential elections in the US.

Locovidi also helps to tell a story with more details. I like to visualize networks and there I see a network of places connected by videos, there may be some insights if the network is studied. I am just hesitant to dive into analysis, because many more basic features should be implemented first. The thought will be archived for the future.

I am looking forward to more insights from the following weeks.