A ‘metaclass’.

Kanji metaclass posterEspañol

I was invited by the center I formerly studied Japanese at (Ceija, here in Santiago) to give a short workshop. It was an open invitation, as I could suggest what the theme for it would be. I decided long ago that I’m no good as a teacher, so I almost rejected the request, but finally decided to propose a non-traditional program in which I would not be a teacher but just someone who’s been studying longer (a senpai, as a Japanese person would put it,) and turn the classroom into a more level place for discussion and discovery. The themes to discuss would be the Japanese kanji writing system, and self-study. I called it kanji metaclass, loosely using the ‘meta’ prefix the same way it’s used in the word ‘metadata’: that is, to suggest recursiveness, learning about learning.

Although I haven’t found the teacher in me, I do think about education a great deal. I’ve been teaching myself lots of things since I can remember. I am largely frustrated by the way in which education has been institutionalized. And I work developing ludo-educational software.

I strongly believe in intrinsic motivation as key to learning. Extrinsic motivation would be grades, rewards and punishments; that is, how most schools nowadays work. Intrinsic motivation would be doing something because it is its own reward, or because it leads naturally to our reward. Put another way, I think that mainstream education teaches us to hate study and learning, by making those the hurdles we need to hop over to get to the carrot they put in front of us instead (or to get away from the whip behind.) But, of course, there’s no better stimulus to learning than just wanting to know.

So this class I’m about to finish offering this week reflects my views on education at large, and experimental as the format is (for someone inexperienced like me,) it’s been, from my point of view, a great success. My main priority was to make everyone curious, invested, and in charge of their own learning. I got everyone enjoyably (even excitedly) discussing varied subtopics, once they got comfortable enough with me and one another (that is, by the second session.) The flow of each session is almost entirely freeform, it leading wherever the discussion takes us. I prepared beforehand a long document full of little packets of (largely personal, even anecdotal) information, though, which I use as a resource to plant new ideas and questions. It still remains to see how this influence impacts their learning, but first I just felt the need to impact their mentality.

So that is one of the things I’ve been up to. And to end this post, here’s a little bullet-point manifesto I wrote for myself, to keep me focused on my goals for this workshop:

  1. The classroom is a place for active discussion, exploration, and exchange of knowledge and ideas by and for all.
  2. Our themes are Japanese kanji, self-study, and the intersection of the two.
  3. When leaving the classroom, study has just begun.
  4. A student questions, asks, errs, researches, teaches themselves, shares their knowledge.
  5. The teacher is but a guide.
  6. If one must teach, teach that which is elementary and general.
  7. Better than teaching is suggesting.
  8. Better than suggesting is asking.
  9. Better than asking is listening.
  10. Anything can be debated.

[…]

Stretchy rectangles.

This is contract work I did some months ago but neglected to post about. It’s just a visual effect that my client wanted to implement in the website they were commissioned, but I think it’s a pretty nifty one. The site’s links are distributed in an array of rectangular picture crops of different proportions, which stretch and compress according to mouse input. So of course I did just the programming for this one. That’s all!

Aphasia poetica.

Acabo de terminar un asuntillo.

Prueba Aphasia poetica (web)

Esto comenzó como un trabajo en conjunto con Ilan Libedinsky el 2010. Era algo imposible de construir bien: requería mapear palabras con una palabra alternativa, manualmente y una por una. Pero el idioma es claramente demasiado vasto para hacer esto una tarea alcanzable por dos individuos, así que nunca se cumplió. Tres años y medio más tarde, lo llevé a cierre. Esto no pasa de ser un punto medio: usando un bastante nutrido diccionario de sustantivos, diferenciados por género, el intercambio es generado automáticamente, sin el mapeo manual.

The Pirate Bay Bundle.

The wonderfully enthusiastic Steve Cook put together a compilation of over a hundred free games, and made me a part of it by including my game Runnerby. It’s called the Pirate Bay Bundle.

I recognize only a handful of the included titles. But knowing the kinds of games that he reviews, I’m sure they’re all good stuff. I’m currently in the process of downloading the torrent, so I’ll be sampling them later.

Bye bye Pixelpost.

Spambots were having a field day with my neglected piclog Pixelpost installation (old picture blogging CMS, not updated in several years), and it was getting hit so ferociously that it was hogging resources and my host complained. So I took it down. But since I have a few blog posts that link to pictures over there, I fixed it. I basically scrapped Pixelpost, downloaded the database, and implemented a super simple version of it that uses YAML files as a database and PHP. And no commenting, since it wasn’t getting anything other than truckloads of spam anyway. The design and all, I couldn’t be bothered to update. I did, however, change the URLs to make them a tiny bit prettier, taking care to redirect links written in the old format.

Fade EP.

By mistake I opened the folder where I keep my music projects, and was struck by the sense of nostalgia. I browsed them, listened to all the tracks and unfinished bits thereof I made many years ago. I decided to string some of them, the more complete and the more listenable, into an EP, this one here I call Fade. It’s only 15 minutes of lo-fi/bleep music, and it’s probably not even worth a listen, but here, I release it nonetheless.

Download Fade (zip, mp3)

(Head into the post to listen without downloading.)

These tracks are all from 2009 at the newest. Since those days I haven’t been making music, except for the occasional track for a game. I now no one’s missing all the crap music I haven’t made these years, but I sometimes think of that parallel me who focused more on music and perhaps became proficient in an instrument, and wonder if I wish I was that me.

[…]

Tiles visualizer.

Español

I was contracted to finish a work that had been started but never completed, a floor and wall tiles in-context visualizer web app. You have a photo, and you can choose among the client’s catalog of tiles to place them in the photo’s walls and floors to see how they would look in a real setting. Although this work was almost finished, the source code had disappeared. Taking this as an opportunity, I revised the interaction design, ending up with a more focused and approachable app than what was originally conceived. I was originally only going to iron out the remaining programming wrinkles, but ended up doing the interaction design as well as a full code-up.

The biggest design challenge was making the app casually usable, since such a utility would see little action if it is not instantly understood and provides results in seconds. The number of choices is quite large, so I had to make these choices seem fewer. I put the user straight into the action by simply randomly choosing a photo for them to work on, with the ability to swap it. The flow of use goes from just selecting a surface to then one or two tiles for it. The tiles are filtered contextually according to the environment and the surface selected, so, for instance, for a bath wall there will only appear tiles that are appropriate to put on a bath’s wall. These tiles are arranged chromatically in a grid, and are all simultaneously visible in their correct relative dimensions, to make it quick to compare and find the desired one without having the need to specify any filtering criteria; however, if needed, several filters are available. When the user’s happy with what they did, they can take that with them in the form of a PDF with the image and information of the selected tiles, or they can share a link with friends (which takes them to the same utility, with the tiles pre-filled).

Technically challenging was figuring out a way to display the tiles in correct perspective according to the (flat) photos. Turned out that the easiest was using the same geometric technique that visual artists use, involving two vanishing points plus the horizon line for a flat surface, together with algorithms for finding segment intersections. I’ve obviously little idea of 3D coding, so this was all new to me, but I got good results! I also experimented with two interesting programming patterns that were new for me, reactive programming and promises, the combination of which made it easier working with the asynchronous loading of images and other data.

Although I am rather happy with my work on the interaction design end, the result does sadly have many shortcomings… […]

The Japanese countryside.

I just came back from Japan, after spending six months improving my Japanese there at a language school and generally enjoying being in such a culturally interesting environment. I made tons of friends, Japanese and from countless other countries; it was extremely stimulating.

The place I lived at was a small city called Ueda, located in a valley in the mountainous Nagano prefecture. If you asked someone from one of the bigger cities in Japan, they’d say where I lived was what they call inaka, the countryside. But would you ask the people who had lived there their whole lives, or in one of the surrounding, smaller cities and towns, they would say no, that’s not inaka. Of course, me coming from a pretty large city, the place was small and cozy; refreshingly so. I started using Vine —the short video recording app— during this trip, so here are some of the best ‘moving photos’ I captured from those places.

Muévete at the Design Biennale.

Español

So yesterday it was the opening of this year’s Design Biennale here in Santiago, which featured that one project I worked on a year and a half ago with Sebastián Skoknic. He was invited to participate, and he chose that one to display. Despite having to endure an insufferable parade of politicians and academic officials speaking nonsensical, trivial formalisms for what must have been at least an hour and a half, the event itself was super high on polish, and featured a great deal of impressive projects from a variety of forms of design. We had the spot number 78. […]

Spwords.

What happens when you combine sports and words? That’s right, the unholy portmanteau of this post’s title. Conceived as a last minute entry into the TIGSource Sports competition, Spwords is a player-versus-computer match that puts your (English) vocabulary, spelling, and typing speed to the test.

Play Spwords (web)

Maybe you didn’t understand the commentator’s quick explanation of the rules. That’s fine, that’s what this paragraph is for. You and computer take turns typing words during rounds, and each round has an assigned letter. Each word played must start with the round’s letter. Also, a word must contain the last played word’s last letter for it to count. In addition to all this, you have a time limit, and words may never be repeated. Win three rounds to win the match. Have a go!

This game was possible thanks to Keith Vertanen’s word lists.