Ever felt like you couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but that something seemed to be “wrong with the world” and the way things are? What if things are the way they are for a reason? What if the institutions the people have setup are no longer serving the interests of the people but instead those of their owners and a select few well-connected? The news industry has a dirty little secret. No, not the kind of raunchy Madison Avenue affair or lurid Hollywood homicide carried out secretly in the night which you may typically see portrayed in the movies or on TV; however Hollywood and Madison Avenue both, as leading beacons in the mainstream media, certainly have a hand in the secret as well.
The secret is that the mainstream media, especially the News, TV, Ad and Film industries are tightly controlled by their corporate owners in cooperation with the governments of the regions in which they broadcast their messages, to push specific political and/or financially-motivated agendas.
While to some people reading this article, there’s no surprise whatsoever in that statement and this is old news (because quite frankly it is not only old news – its also common sense), still some may be shocked or skeptical at such a statement. That is fine, and for those people, my only hope is that they can at least begin to approach the above institutions with the same sort of skepticism, even if you’re the type that inherently trusts just about everything the same mainstream media tells you.
Don’t believe me? Allow me to explain the main mechanism by which the “secret” is carried out, the News Wirefeed.
How does a News Wirefeed work?
A news wirefeed is a service provided by a large news agency that acts as a single source of news information that will be distributed out to, read by, acted on, and possibly even re-published verbatim, by other smaller news organizations and outlets. Essentially, their role can be compared to the Town Crier of days of old, in that it constantly yells out news headlines through the airwaves, just as a person used to do through the street. What the town crier said, the townspeople essentially believed (until the Town Crier was proven wrong, at which time they would send the old town crier to the gallows and get a new one). Why did most of the entire town’s people believe what the Town Crier said? Simple really, they were the only source of information, thus there was no source of truth to verify the Town Crier’s claims against. If the Town Crier said “all is good on the western front” then that must be the case; likewise if they said “the sky is falling” then it must be time to buy hard hats and hide out in your bunkers.
List of Wirefeed Services
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Next up in my little “E-Learning for Toddlers” series is this example which was extended/based (i.e. blatantly lifted) from the excellent “Stay-in-the-Letter” initial concept by Chris Heilmann which I saw on the Mozilla Hacks blog:
My pilfering of this little app concept was for solely and completely personal reasons for teaching my own son, as I simply wanted to see if I could extend it to support the main Japanese characters (hiragana/katakana, maybe even kanji at a later date) as well as extending the English alphabet which it was already designed for to also provide phonetical readings of each character (should work whether using in English or Japanese mode).
These days, digital distractions are far too proficient at taking our attention away from important responsibilities. You know, like giving your children the care and attention they need and deserve. Especially when it comes to teaching and learning, I even find myself guilty of becoming quickly bored to tears of the typical paper flash word cards and basic, repetitive picture books for toddlers and pre-school aged children.
To fight this boredom, yet still fulfil my fatherly duties, I decided to put my “day job” skills to use and at the same time develop yet another requisite “me-too” HTML5 web app, but this time with a good purpose; namely, teaching my son more interactively.
This is a simple word/alphabet memory game I developed for teaching my child. He has trouble remembering certain colors, words and letters so this game basically mixes up a set of images and uses their filename to display an image. If the folder is prefixed with “alphabet_” it will also create a large letter “stencil” containing the first letter in the top left corner of each card.
It can easily be used for just about any subject by dropping a new folder in the images directory, full of the images you want to appear in the game.
For example’s sake, I’ve added “Animals”, “Numbers” and “Colors” as separate categories just so others can see how this is possible, and the possibilities are really endless.
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Since I wrote about Skeumorphs last month, I thought I’d include this piece I had worked on. This is an older idea I had that I’d done the initial design for but forgot (ahem… procrastinated) to do the coding for back when I had the idea. The general concept was to replicate the look of an old-school needles and knobs analog radio.
I’ve always sought to bring more humanity to the online content experience. If we have to be forced to sit in an office or stare into a screen for most of our waking lives, just to be considered “modern and relevant” and have a chance to compete in this global marketplace, then the experience might as well feel natural and familiar to our interactions with the real world. It might as well be a pleasant co-existence with technology, rather than a mechanical, robotic, in-human and uncomfortable one.
So enough of that esoteric philosophy nonsense and on to the interesting stuff. The concept is that I missed the radio dial on my grandfather’s old analog radio. As a child, I used to play with the knobs and enjoy tuning into many different stations. It was a long-range radio so on a good day in my teenage years, I could even tune into the Howard Stern show broadcast from New York and some of the more edgy french stations from Quebec. Even my grandfather’s gone digital now though, so I figured the fond memory of this technology from the past might as well too.
There were 5 main components to this project:
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What are Skeumorphs?
In designing and developing new software systems and applications, a common strategy is to attempt to approximate device user interfaces to mimic or look like real-world physical objects. This is called a Skeumorph, or a skeumorphic design.
Some of the biggest problems with Skeumorphs are that they are time-sensitive and may not actually do a great job at approximating a particular item or interface from the real-world. For example, we still use the floppy disk to represent “Save” activities, when an entire generation of computer and internet users have grown up without the use of Floppy Disks.
This approach to implementing software solutions has been propagated by Apple in particular, as well as a number of other companies such as Adobe and Microsoft of late. On the other side of the fence is Google and Microsoft who have traditionally had very non-Skeumorphic designs that feel more like using a software interface than approximating any particular object in the real-world.
Where do Skeumorphs work?
Here are a few examples of types of interfaces for which I think Skeumorphs tend to work well (for the most part):
- E-Reader Bookshelf
- Text Editors
- Media Players
- Text fields
- Edit-in-place Text
- Tabs (as markers in a book, folder or binder)
- Pages and paging (flipping through pages)
- Voice controls
- Toggle Buttons
- Fullscreen applications
- 3D Models
- CAD (engineering design)
What are some non-Skeumorph design elements?
Some examples of non-Skeumorphic designs and Flat Design features would also be useful for comparison:
- Search Results
- Infinite Scrolling
- Flexible Grid
- 3D navigation components (i.e. Spherical/Cubic)
- File Uploads
- Progress Bars
- Most Animations
- Tiles (i.e. Windows 8 Metro app tiles, Google iCalendar, widgets, etc)
- Word Clouds
- Zoom in/out
- Virtual Tours
- Drawing (graphic design)
So let’s see some side-by-side examples of Skeumorphs .vs. Flat Designs that are each relevant in their own rights: Read the rest of this entry »
BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money
The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:
1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.
2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.
3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.