Archive for category Personal
Yeah, big news, I will be leaving B-Reel and New York and going back to Montreal mid-August.
But why o why?
Well, really nothing against B-Reel, these guys are awesome, but it has more to do with the realization that I might not be at the right place. I mean B-Reel is the best production company in the world and they paid me a trip to London and the Alps, so if I’m not happy there, maybe the problem is not them. But I do have a lot of gripes with the Advertising Industry in general, a lot.
First, the more I do it (build marketing experiences) the more it grows futile. Secondly, it’s a pretty savage industry if you consider how it handles it’s people. Yes it pays well, but the hours and the pressure are pretty high, which is very alienating. I don’t think I have any power to change this and I don’t feel the urge to participate in this system. Thirdly, I’m pretty tired of being told what to do, part of that comes from the fact that this industry is stuck in a old model where the creative director is the rockstar and tech people are tools (it is getting better), but also as long as there will be a client there will be someone to tell you what to do.
So what is next?
Nothing really, or everything I guess. Haha, if I wanted to be more vague I wouldn’t know how to write it. I won’t be getting a job, that I know for sure. It’s a funny thing to tell people, they don’t really get it. The thing is, I have a plan, now I just have to do it. I want to make games. It’s been something I have been wanting to do for a long time, I even started multiple ones (mutant farm, doodle destroy, a nameless rpg) but never got to finish any of them because of time and life constraints. Well now I am giving myseld the time to finish them properly. While in New York, I was able to put some money on the side, so it only make sense that I return to Montreal, where life is cheaper, and spend some time doing personal projects. I am at a good place in my life to do so.
The plan in detail
Basically rent a desk somewhere not to expensive and get things done 7 hours a day, go to the gym, take some mix martial art class, pass my driving licence test (cause the joke as gone on long enough, I’m 30 and I don’t know how to drive), write more on the blog and finally maybe do some freelance if I really need to put bread on the table ( I think I should be ok on that side, at least for 6 months). If I can do that and get a game or two out, than I don’t care about the outcome, the worst that could happen is that I find another job, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to this haha!
Today I was checking out an introduction video to CoffeeScript and it got me thinking about programming languages in general and where they were heading. The thing is, I think I would go in a different direction. Haha, that’s a pretty bold statement and I don’t know that many programming languages to be frank, but the last two I checked out, Python and Coffee Script didn’t have the same values that I think a future programming language should have.
You see if I look back in time ( with my time machine glasses) at first there was byte code, which was the summum of being cryptic, after that there was assembly code, which I manage to pass the class by acting as if I knew wtf it was meaning. C code was already more readable but still pretty hard to juggle with and I ended up with Java / ActionScript / C# which were the most readable in all the languages I had learned. When I say readable in all this I mean closer to the English language. That for me should be a primary value when creating a new language. I think the more readable a programming language is, the less barrier there is to creating code. You wouldn’t need to translate what you think into something else, you think, talk, write and program in the same language, that would be the best I think.
There is all lot of really easy thing we could do to turn Java into something already more readable without changing the syntax. Most of it would just be replacing shortcuts like for if statements “==” would be “is equal to” so
if (myCat == yourCat)
if (myCat is equal to yourCat)
I mean this is a pretty simple example, but push this further and say we add a lot of these changes where we remove symbols like > < = / ! || && and put words instead, I think it would make code really easy to read. I think that if it is easier to read, it is easier to grasp and if it is that way you can build more complex programs more easily. When all those simple swaps are done we could work on the syntax to make it more like English and then we would have a new programming language. I would like to reclaim the dot (“.”) to mark the end of a sentence like Latin languages.
So yeah I think we should create a new programming language where you have to write more code to get things done but that has less abstractions. That might sound stupid but I think it doesn’t matter, where the language gets longer to write the code editor should pick up and do code completion to speed things up, like FDT does so well for ActionScript.
Anyway, I will probably never do so because I am not a compiler genius, but I think it would be great to head in that direction and see where it leads. Anyone thinks the same? Anyone knows of a languages that tries to do this as its primary objective?
I wanted to sit and write this for a long time. The problem is that this year it is not as straight forward as the past two years, for multiple reasons. First, I have been working a lot lately which kinda pains me a bit, but I guess it comes with working in New York. The workload has impacted how much I could commit to this blog, I wrote 39 posts this year compared to 43 last year (ok not a huge difference, but still I wanted to write one post a week). Secondly, the last two years, making a recap of the year was pretty easy, everything went well and the path forward was clear. I mean everything went pretty well this year too, I got hired by the best production company in the world (B-Reel), in New York to top it and I got to work on amazing projects. The thing is that my future isn’t as clear anymore. What I liked the previous years was the fact that I was improving so much as a programmer, I really like to learn, but I can’t say that I learned as much this year, the last big improvement in my programmer’s skills was Robotlegs (or frameworks in general) and that seems so long ago. Since then, I improved a little but nothing significant. If I look as to what I could learn more it becomes very abstract and I don’t really think I am interested in that, I left Computer Sciences after all because it was too abstract, but it is slowly making its way back to me.
So yeah, here I am, asking myself how long I will still be a programmer and if that is what I really want to do in life. I think the last couple of post I wrote kinda show that, they are more about concepts and ideas than about code. Another thing that is pretty funny, as much as I hate the Creative Technologist title, I think it applies to me pretty well. I like the ideas, the concepts, not so much implementing them (except if it is my ideas). I guess I could also become an architect, I like shaping a project, just not finishing it. I don’t know…
That being said, even if I am reflecting on this right now, I am stills confident about my future, it has always been good. I am not too stressed, I will end up in a nice place.
Today at lunch, I was talking to a colleague about 3D printing and it got me thinking about a couple of fun ideas.
The first idea is about the fact that some 3D printer can actually print all the parts that are needed to build themselves. Pretty neat! Now all they need is arms to assemble themselves and they are ready to take on the human race. We should not fear the time that the computers will challenge us, but the silent threat of the printers is way more dangerous. Haha, I find this pretty funny, not that it bears any truth, but it would make for a nice animated short, where the printers tired of being seen as subjects to computers, would rise and build an army of themselves and show the world what they are made of. Anyway, on to more techy subject.
The interesting thing about 3D printer is that it is becoming cheaper and more accessible to anyone. I remember being young, being shown a prototyping printer, being very impressed and wanting one but there was only a few being made and very expensive. Now, the technology is becoming available, that means that more and more people will start doing crazy stuff with it, things that we never expected, that is what is making me very excited about it.
I came up with an idea of my own about what I would do if I had one of those 3D printer. I would make an installation for like a gallery or something. It would be a booth where people go in and they would have a screen in front of them. Now that screen could give instructions or ask questions but the important part would be a camera and a microphone above it. Based on the person’s movements, clothes’ colors, sounds she makes and the answers she gives, the installation would start shaking and produce (3D print) a unique object for each person. These objects would be shaped like spike balls where the length of the spikes and the amount and the pattern would be determined by the characteristics mentioned earlier. It would be like a physical oscilloscope representing the uniqueness of everyone ( You are a unique snowflake; Shut up Tyler Durden!). I think it would be kind of fun and people could go home with something tangible, a souvenir representing themselves.
What would you do if you had a 3D printer?
I have been asking myself this question lately. I have been a web developer (in agency and production company) for nearly 5 years now and sometimes I wonder why I willingly submit myself to this (most of the time I am really happy, but sometimes…). Two things come to mind: first, if the timeline has to rape someone, it will be you and secondly it is part of your job description to say no.
Timeline having you in sight
If you think about it, developers are at the end of the production chain. This is a known fact and I still chose this job. This mean that if anyone fucks up before you, it is your time that they are eating up. By fuck up I mean designs not being ready when you’re supposed to start, bad management, bad estimate of time (ok dev can be blamed for this, but I have never seen a place where they actually sit down with you at the end of a project and tell you how you did with your estimate), too many clients reviews, etc. And these things happens; a lot.
You’ll always have to say NO
Yeah, creatives say yes all the time, but they don’t get to actually do the work (ok, ok they do, but creative director offload the work to designer so). They can go crazy with ideas and that’s pretty fun. On the other hand a developer can go crazy with ideas but there is always a little voice in his head telling him that he his shooting himself in the foot. In the end, because of the project timeline, you end up saying no a lot. Way more than you say yes. And after a while, it gets to you. I want to build the best experiences ever too, but not at my expense (or not so much at my expense). I am willing to stay long nights and weekends, but there is a limit.
So that’s why I was asking myself if developers are masochist. Maybe we start out with a taste for pain and hard work. Maybe it’s in our personality. The other question is how long can you put up with it. I have been to a couple places and I have never seen old web developers. Maybe they couldn’t stand it anymore and switched to software dev… I don’t know.
Will I go on being a web developer? Yeah for a couple years. Am I thinking of what comes after? Hell yes!
Oh yeah, get it while it’s hot and live. Mistubishi Live Drive: drive a real car over the internet using your keyboard. Pretty impressive project if you ask me. My part in it was pretty small but the team here at B-Reel did an amazing job. It might not look like it but there is a lot going on in the back, hardware wise and server wise. Anyway go see for yourself and be one of the first to drive a real car through the internet. http://drive.outlandersport.com
Now that this is done, what comes next? A real race where the real cars are controlled by users? An helicopter test flight? The possibilities are endless!
Going to the gym makes me want to write. Kinda weird, but kinda makes sense too; tire the body to let the mind flow. Anyway, I have been having this idea for a little while: The FWA has a great load of data but the only available visualization of it is in the profile section where you see the all time list of the agencies that won the most FWA. I mean there could be so many other interesting ways of displaying the data.
I came to think about this because, some of you might know, six months ago I started working at B-Reel NY. At the time that I was looking for a new job, my main benchmark was exactly this profile page; I wanted to work in one of the best agency (or production company) in the world. I think that at the time, B-Reel was 7th or something, just below 2Advanced Studios. Now you see I have nothing against 2Advanced Studios, I think they were amazing in their time and I remember being baffled by their hi-tech interfaces, but I don’t think they are still leaders in the rich experience website area. I mean they won an FWA in 2009 and the one before that is in 2007.
I know that the FWAs are not the end-all be-all metric to determine if an agency is good or not, but for me, as a developer, it sure was my main metric, and it is pretty accessible.
So, what I am proposing is that someone build a data visualization application that would enable the user to create different graphs based on the metrics that are currently being saved in the FWA databases.
These metrics are:
- Town or country
- Client (not in the database but can be deduced)
- Front-end Technology (not in the database but can be deduced)
There is a lot of information that you can get out of these metrics; it would be interesting to see which agency was the best in 2009 or 2010, it would be interesting to know which country was the best at a certain year, it would be interesting to notice the rise of HTML5 in 2010, it could be really nice to know which client you can push more because they accepted crazy ideas before.
How to do this? Well the simplest way would be to pay an intern to recreate a database for you by going by hand and redoing the data entry of all the FWAs won. You could also do a script that will scrape the data from the current site, I mean there is an html page under the Flash site. Hell, you could ask Rob Ford himself, I am pretty sure he would willing to give more exposure to the FWA and would give you access to the data (well maybe, I mean, I never talked to the guy).
So, am I ever gonna do this? Nah, I have no time. Would I be happy if someone did it? Hell yeah! It would show the world that I currently work for the best rich web experience production company in the world (haha, yeah I am a bit biased in all this). So here you go, a good idea, go ahead and do it! Please…
Ok maybe not, but I got this idea while traveling in the train in Europe. This has nothing to do with Flash, but still I thought it was a pretty cool idea and I wanted to put it out there. The idea came from two fairly new technologies and mixing them together. What it would result is some kind of sculpture/performance art form. It could look very similar to this ad from Apple ( keep the painting of 3D strokes in mind):
The first technology that would be needed would be motion capture. So nothing really new here; motion capture has been fairly well mastered. It would be used to record the movements of a performer be it a dancer or an acrobat. I was thinking of mostly recording the movements of each fingers, because the hand is what we humans have most controls over.
The second technology would be augmented reality. So you got this room in a museum or anywhere and when people get in it they receive the augmented reality glasses. What is added to the user’s vision is the 3D strokes that the performer would have recorded with the motion capture. So as the user moves around the room he can explore the 3D light sculpture ( because the computer knows the position and inclination of the user’s glasses he can display the right part of the 3D structure). Also the sculpture could be animated showing it as it is being created (since it was recorded it is just a matter of playing it). Now augmented reality is not that perfect yet, I am not sure that the glasses could send precise enough location of the user to have a seamless experience but I think that soon we could have something that is close enough.
So there you have it, this is basically painting in the air, in 3D. My idea of brush was exactly like what was in the Apple commercial, but you could have as many brushes has you want since it is basically the 3D program that creates them over the motion capture. I think a lot of artists would be really inspired by this as it removes the need for a tool (pen or brush) because you would use your body directly to express yourself.
Do you guys think this idea is worth anything?
Yeah, things have been different lately. I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted. Multiple reasons for that; I have been going back to Montreal some week-ends, I went to Lollapalooza (and it was awesome) and the work load is a bit bigger here. But it’s worth it. I mean the projects I get to work on are amazing.
Just as an example my first project Google Chrome Fastball was pretty cool, plus it won an FWA, a first for me and I am pretty happy about it. Now I just need to win one for a Flash project… Anyway, by the end of the month, I will be done with the current project, so I will have that to show, and after that I really want to focus more on this blog and get back on the one post a week horse.
More on my current project soon.
Sometimes I get some ideas that are not that much tied to code, but are more about the process of developing website. I still think this is relevant to this blog so that is why I will post them here.
Ad agency or a business where deadlines are tight and project are from 1 month to 2 months long
When a project is long enough and the pressure is high, the developer (the last worker at the end of the chain) can’t stand looking at his work anymore, gets tired and unmotivated. This is not good for the project and for the individual as he is not happy.
Here his my idea: if you could start two projects of about the same timeline at the same time, then at some point in time during the projects (about at 75%), you switch the developers from one project to the other. You would probably loose some time because the new developer would need to get accustomed to the new project, but in return you would inject some new energy in the project. The new developer would probably think more about the project than the previous one who would be demotivated and not caring as much anymore.
Why do this on 2 projects at the same time? Because finishing a project is probably not the best part. If you do a switch, both developers would have started and finished a project so it would be fair for every one. Now, there might not always be 2 projects at the same time of about the same length, so one of my coworkers suggested that you could have this floating finisher developer, that for a little while only finishes projects and after that get puts back into the loop of starting projects. Another possibility would be to hire freelancers to help finish a project, in that case I wouldn’t let the freelancer alone, but it would still instill new energy.
For the 2 options where you are doing this in house, you pretty much need your developers to be very close, code in a similar manner and respect each other (coding knowing that someone else will use your code) so I don’t think this could happen everywhere, but I think the culture of your company should push towards a strong developer fraternity, anyway.
What do you guys think? Is this possible? Would you see this happening in your company? Is this how you would fix this problem?