Bret Victor: Inventing on Principle

Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

Bret’s talk takes a while (53 minutes) but man is it worth it. Don’t be put off by the code (if you don’t code), it’s less about code, more about tight interactivity leading to more creativity as a guiding principle. When you couple excellent coding skills with a creative person who enjoys sharing many things are possible and this video is a demonstration of that.

Seymour Papert, various folks at the IBM Watson Research Lab, Bill Atkinson, Alan Kay, Larry Tesler, and others at Xerox PARC, and many other people have been working in this area but I have to say, Bret’s talk is the best I’ve heard (and I’ve heard many). He uses Tesler’s invention of modeless text editing as an example, among others.

Bret’s web site: Bret Victor



PressPausePlay from House of Radon on Vimeo.

The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent in an unprecedented way, with unlimited opportunities. But does democratized culture mean better art or is true talent instead drowned out? This is the question addressed by PressPausePlay, a documentary film containing interviews with some of the world’s most influential creators of the digital era.

This is an amazing film, really worth making the time (an hour and 21 minutes) to watch. It’s well thought out, well shot, well edited, and the message is nuanced, not a slam dunk for digital or against it.

[via PetaPixel]

Isang Litrong Liwanag (a Liter of Light)

I subscribe to the video feed from and just saw this excellent video on an innovative project in the Philippines to bring a free source of light to poor people: Innovation at its finest.

The link in that video is this one (don’t bother writing it down, I’m giving it to you here):

Watch the Reuters video at that site which goes into more detail on the project.

Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light), is a sustainable lighting project which aims to bring the eco-friendly Solar Bottle Bulb to disprivileged communities nationwide. Designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Solar Bottle Bulb is based on the principles of Appropriate Technologies – a concept that provides simple and easily replicable technologies that address basic needs in developing communities.

Take a large, plastic soda or water bottle with top, fill it with water and a bit of bleach (to prevent mold over time), cut a hole in a corrugated roof and fit the bottle in with grout and you have a source of light that’s better than a skylight because the water diffuses the light and turns the bottom end of the bottle into a 60 watt light bulb.

This is pure genius.

Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang collect beach plastic

One Plastic Beach from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

What appeals to me about this is less the finished pieces, more the collecting, sorting, playing. Note the 128 megapixel camera on a stand for documenting it. These two really have done amazing work over a long period of time.

Gary, this one’s for you. I want to see the Oregon coast equivalent of this soon.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Load Carrier

Load Carrier for Labour

Design for less developed nations is incredibly difficult to do well. You can’t just transplant highly developed materials and constructions, as tech almost always requires a support and maintenance structure to keep it working. So how do you help billions of people improve the way they carry, to improve their efficiency and reduce their injuries? Vikram Dinubhai Panchal has a carry idea that just might help.

Spectacular idea.

Hands-on learning

PBS NewsHour does Maker Faire: “Can DIY Movement Fix a Crisis in U.S. Science Education?”

Xeni Jardin, one of the tech contributors to boingboing has a great post and overview of a piece Miles O’Brien did the other night on the PBS NewsHour on the Maker Faire. Read her excellent post and watch the NewsHour segment, it’s very well produced.

I just commented on her piece, here’s my comment:

Great post Xeni. I too saw the NewsHour segment and have been following the movement for a long time. I’m of the age where we used John Muir’s How to Fix your Volkswagen for the complete idiot (me) as the bible and it worked by making car mechanics more accessible.

For at least one set of roots of the makers movement check out The Whole Earth Catalog and all of the associated publications Brand, Kahn, and others did.

The only thing that bothered me about Miles’ piece was that I think it was put together backwards: the case for making engineering more accessible should have been made first, then the makers movement shown as one possible way to help it happen for people with visual/hands on learning styles.

Hands on learning isn’t for everyone just like book learning isn’t for everyone. The problem with American education is that we design it for book learners so hands on types don’t do well (except in shop class). But, the answer isn’t to cater more to hands on types, the answer is to have many ways in and not rank them one better than another.

What makes the Stradivarius violin so special?

What makes the Stradivarius violin so special?

Ms Todes agrees that Stradivari’s instruments were “exquisitely crafted, the pinnacle of sound engineering”.

She says the quality of a Stradivarius is “down to someone who was always trying to do better, he was always getting feedback from players, there was constant self-criticism”.

However, Dr Whiteley points out that the shape of the soundbox is not as important as the talent of the violinist.

“A great violinist like Yehudi Menuhin could make a great sound from an old box and a piece of wire.”

Helen Rodel’s design process

Documentário Helen Rödel – Estudos MMXI (english subtitles) from Helen Rödel on Vimeo.

This mini documentary about the Latin American fashion designer Helen Rodel is beautifully produced*. You don’t have to be into crochet or dress design to appreciate her creativity and spirit. Watch full screen.

*Produced by Aura, a collective formed by Antonio Tenderness, Ieve Holthausen, Sergio Guidoux Kalil and Tuane Eggers.

[via Product by Process]

Silk Road: Not Your Father’s

Silk Road: Not Your Father’s

Silk Road (anonymous marketplace), Tor (anonymity network), Bitcoin. If you’ve never heard of this stuff listen to this NPR: All Things Considered piece on Silk Road, an e-commerce site that sells cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, among other illegal drugs.

Rachel Martin interviews Adrian Chen, a Gawker staff writer. The original Gawker article by Chen is here: The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable.

I have no interest in the drugs but the technology is fascinating. Where there’s a market, there’s a way.

Creation myth

Malcolm Gladwell Looks at Technology Innovations

Robert Siegel (All Things Considered) and Malcolm Gladwell look at the mythic story of how Steve Jobs toured Xerox PARC in 1979 and came away with the basic ingredients of the Macintosh computer. This is a brief discussion of a piece Gladwell has in the May 16th issue of The New Yorker.

PARC = Palo Alto Research Center. Xerox PARC was a think tank much like IBM’s Watson Research Center or MIT’s Media Lab and the folks at PARC developed some of the fundamental tools of personal computing but they never made these tools commercial, they were expensive prototypes that Xerox had no way to turn into products.

Some think Jobs stole the ideas but Gladwell (and others including me) think he took the essence of the ideas and simplified and improved them and found ways to engineer them so they were affordable.

Technically speaking, it wasn’t only Jobs who was on the tour that day, it was also Bill Atkinson who designed much of the original Macintosh user interface and underlying operating system along with other members of the original Macintosh Team at Apple. Atkinson has said numerous times that he got the idea for overlapping windows on the PARC tour but the way he did it on the Macintosh (the programming) was totally different from anything the folks at PARC knew about. This underscores Gladwell’s point about the difference between being first, and being first with a viable product.