AL FWT Rebecca

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The Augmented Library

Tentative Schedule

I need 160 hours to complete my FWT (I'm attending Sr Conf, so it's not 210). I'm planning on spending a few days in California before flying back to school, and depending on my friend's FWT schedule, I may or may not be working on those days. So lets somewhat arbitrarily say that this will run from Monday 7 Jan to Tuesday 5 Feb. And lets just exclude weekends, for the sake of numbers. That comes out to about 7 1/4 hours for each of those days (about 11 to 6:15), and about a 36 hour work week.

Week 1, Jan 7 - 11

General - Check out the Seattle library. Get a library card. Check out the public art stuff. See if I can find info about tour schedules; do they do architectural tours? Check out rules re: photography/surveys/observation/loitering/whatever else may affect me, etc. Make friends with the librarians? Go through the wiki and pull out key points, organize. Wander the library. Feel out the building and the people who inhabit it. Stake out a "spot"? Learn all the staircases....

Monday - chat w/ Robert. Make a schedule. Start going through wiki, making notes.
Wednesday - chat w/ Robert. Discuss wiki work and schedule. Set next meeting time.
Friday - general library tour, 12-1 ??

Week 2, Jan 14 - 18

General - with input from Robert, look for information about similar/related projects. Hopefully talk to somebody about the library and how it has: affected, changed, enhanced, augmented the way that people use, work, browse, interact. Visit other library branches in Seattle to see how they compare?

Week 3, Jan 21 - 25

General - with input from Robert, search for books and readings that might help us (I can also check out Borders &and B&N, which are nearby, for books that the library may not have in their collection).

Week 4, Jan 28 - Feb 1

General - continue readings, look for more sources. Take lots of notes, photocopy, etc.

Week 5, Feb 4 - 5

General - wrap up whatever need wrapping in Seattle. Return any checked out books. Make sure wiki is in good shape. Go to California and finishing tweaking/cleaning. Fly to Albany on the 11th, Sr Conf starts on the 12.

Summarize Outline Thing


Original Idea Proposals


After a lot of reading, discussion, observations and surveys, each member of the class was asked to formulate a project idea that in some way took into account the issues we had covered. Proposals were wide-ranging, from making all-knowing information gnomes that would roam the campus to simply adding public writing spaces in the carrels. The proposals were jotted down and then passed around the room, gathering written input. Reflections and revisions were posted on the wiki.

A number of the ideas that were formulated during this brainstorm session were later folded into the BookMark project:

Jess proposed an idea that involved tying personal information about your concentration and interests with the books you scan and check out, with the thought that it would create a sort of recommendation web: people who declared similar interests would probably like similar books. Kind of like how "Pandora" works for music. She also discussed the possibility of this project becoming a sort of social network, where people can view each other’s contributions and leave comments for/about one another.

Rebecca had a similar idea, also involving barcode scanning. She proposed a system the uses the unique code on every book to generate shapes, sounds and colors for each book. Patrons would be able to scan books, selected either for their content or the "beauty" of the book’s code. Patrons could string books together to create a sound and image "tapestry" that could be altered and shared with others. They could enrich the "tapestry" by adding comments, excerpts and other work.

Kyle’s original idea was a conveyor belt that would snake through the library, like a sushi buffet, allowing patrons to pick up or set down books that piqued their interest. Other people in the class suggested making this a digital conveyor belt that scrolls through information (titles, quotes, book covers) across a screen – similar in some ways to the installation in the Seattle public library. The keywords Kyle listed for this were "movement, browsing, curiosity, accident". He also proposed a screen with a single button that would pull up a random book, information about the book and a map of how to get to it.

Hannah brought up a low-tech way to augment the library: adding post-it notes and whiteboards to some of the carrels. She felt that this would help create a public, interactive environment within the private time that patrons spent in the library. This would allow patrons to leave each other messages, interesting finds, etc about the work they were doing. She wrote, "We should have a place to exchange ideas, a place to post ideas and have others comment on them." An extension of this idea involved having small paper dispensers in the aisles so patrons could slip comments into books.

Jason’s idea revolved around putting screens in various places around campus. Each screen would display text from books that were recently returned to the library – either a scan of the first page, or perhaps a passage of text that the last patron thought was particularly interesting. It was suggested that this information could be displayed on the green room TV during meals, or on campus screensavers.

Several people brought up Robert’s Casa Segura project, particularly the appeal of touch screens and the ability to upload the created work to an online database, visible from anywhere in the world. Location was also mentioned: several projects were ubiquitous within the library, some extended beyond the building walls and some were site specific (near the entrance to the library might encourage patrons to interact with the "new arrival" books; the carrels are places where people are already likely to be reading, writing and reflecting).

Exercise Summaries

One: Mapping

Our first exercise we were randomly assigned to groups of two and asked to "map the library", in whatever way we felt was appropriate. Most of the mapping involved observing the comings and goings of patrons. This information was captured in different ways: inane lists of the actions, sights and sounds; head counts; flow charts and even movie police style push-pin style mapping. One group interpreted the assignment as an exercise in trying to remap the library by thinking about how labeling the shelves with iconography rather that words would change the browsing experience.

This observational time gave all of us a richer perspective on how patrons use the space and resources available. Patterns emerged between the different mapping exercises. For example: we all noted that the most consistently "populated" area is the computer cluster on the ground floor. Several groups made observations about the way in which patrons interacted - or didn't - with those around them.

With confirmed suspicions and new insights into the way patrons acted in the library, we created a touchstone of what Crossett means to the people who use it most frequently. From here, we could make educated guesses about how various things would affect the everyday flow of life in the library.


A plan was formulated: ask students draw the library from memory, to see what areas seem to be the most often used and the best remembered. David and Hannah sat down in Commons at lunch, offer to those who participated. They gathered data such as the current term of the student and how often they used the library. Most people drew the ground floor, and the computer cluster was usually the most accurate or the most prominent feature of the drawings, helping to confirm what previous observations had determined. It seemed, from the limited survey, that upperclassmen were far more knowledgeable about the non-ground floor levels than freshman. The student-drawn maps varied greatly in accuracy, detail and style and provided a good visual tool to help explain our findings.

Two: Intervention

After gaining a background in how the library is used on a day-to-day basis, we were challenged to create some kind of intervention.

Adam, Ben and Hannah came up with several potentials that resonate with our current focus on the BookMark project. They proposed making the library a trading post not just for information stored in books, but also for physical objects and ideas. One suggestion was to "place post it notes in the books, ones with quotes from the books, ones with ideas about the books, and leave post it notes so people can comment as well." They were interested in the idea of creating a sort of scavenger hunt where patrons could hop from book to book, looking for some designated endpoint or goal.

David, Jess and Kyle thought specifically about what kinds of technology could be adapted to library use, from RFID IDs letting the library personally greet you when you arrive to a fully digitized database of Visual Art Lecture Series and Music Workshops. They also liked the idea of keeping a complete list of all class reading lists from every class that has been offered at Bennington, letting interested students take a peek into one-time-only classes that they may have missed out on.

Rebecca, Luce and Jason decided to hold a physical intervention as a way to gather more information about library use, direct from the mouths (or pens) of patrons. They offered up free coffee in exchange for filling out a short survey that asked questions about how often they use the library, for what, and what they like best about the space. Aside from the written responses, they made several realizations about the way the people treated them - despite being quiet and non-aggressive, some people avoided them at all costs and many walked briskly by.

Three: Keywords and Sentences

After discussing individual ideas, we broke into teams of three to try and find common threads and goals that we felt were worth working towards. We were asked to create sentences that embodied these qualities and formulate examples of possible projects.

David, Rebecca and Jason were interested in "making visible the invisible", with a focus on the resources of the library, including the consumables. They also felt that, in the spirit of the library, it was important that there should be an emphasis on inter- and intra-disciplinary interaction, where both specialized and general knowledge could be shared equally and be accessible to everybody.

Hannah, Jess and Luce were excited about pushing the boundaries of the library in attempts to engage people in new ways. They thought it was important to "create a seductive environment that inspires learning and playing, through social interaction". The experience should be different and engaging, even if that meant potentially disruptive or annoying, they argued.

Adam, Ben and Kyle concerned themselves the idea of making the library itself a system of knowledge by trying to quantify it: What materials are the oldest? What book are most commonly checked out? How could these things be represented in a meaningful manner? They were also quite taken with the idea of physically or visually displaying the act of browsing and discovery that occurs within Crossett.

It was their interest in making connections between books, seeing the “journey” that others have taken in finding books and keeping the intimate personal knowledge of the library within the library for others to use that helped influence the way we've been thinking about BookMarks as a sort of tracking device for knowledge.

Seattle Public Library



First Impressions

The Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library is the strangest building I've ever been in. It is huge, absolutely packed (on a Monday at 2:30) and confusing as all hell.

From the third floor entrance, there is a set of neon yellow/green escalators, which take one to the fifth floor. This floor holds the mixing chamber: 145 computers and nearly every one accompanied by a person. On the other end of the fifth floor is a single, glowing, one-person-wide, up-only escalator that ascends into what seems like a neon book heaven -- the beginning of the book spiral on the sixth floor. One MUST enter the spiral and walk at least a short distance if they hope to get out of the library, because there is no corresponding down escalator.

Realizing that I had jumped from the third to fifth floors, I backtracked. Nearby the heavenly escalator, there is an

Tour Notes

I took an architectural tour (they have a "regular" tour, which is more about the collection) and it was awwwwwesome. Most of it was technical information about the building and why it was made the way it was, which we've discussed in class. I can type up the rest of my notes if there is an interest, but otherwise here are a few fun things:

The floor designed by Ann Hamilton, with backwards, raised letters in various languages, contains 556 first sentences of assorted books. The reference library has a list of what they are - I need to get myself a copy of that. Apparently, on the floor plans they sell in the gift shop the lettering is included, but it's incredibly tiny.

The automated sorting system handles 1400 books per hour.

The dividers that can be pulled down to block off the auditorium have perspective drawings of the interior on them so that people looking from the outside of it can "see in".

You can rent basically any space in the library. According to the tour guide, parties in the reading room are great.

The 16.5 million dollars that were allotted for building the central library were for the building only and didn't include money for the interior.

There are apx 400 computers in the library. The flooring in the main computer section, the Mixing Chamber, is made of screwed-in aluminum panels. Before deciding on the material they had a "runaway" to have people walk on it in all kinds of shoes to prove that, despite being metal, it's really quiet. The whole building is really quiet, all things considered. (Well, it is a library, too). The panels, which are probably 2' x 2' or so, can be individually moved or replaced so that technicians can fix issues with the wiring and electronics.

So, that one single, skinny escalator that enters the book spiral? The reason there's no down is NOT to make people walk through the stacks. It's because they ran out of money to build a down one.

The text in the red hallways of the meeting room floor is from Robert's Rules of Order.

The artists were called and selected before the architects were decided. There are two video projections, the floor art and the informational design installation. And some traditional art, too (including a resin cast of card catalogs).

Things I Pulled From the Wiki

"Let's build something, further let's build something that answers questions and asks new ones that we have not thought of yet."

Site vs non-site is like "looking at the books in the book return and thinking about the shelves they are no longer on."
"...Mapping what books people looked at. But to do it you would have to take the books out of the library. To define people as a pile of books."

"Interaction is intimately connected with the settings in which it occurs." - Paul Dorish

"It is coming --- and as yet, the people who will be most affected by it, the overwhelming majority of whom are non-technical, non-specialist, ordinary citizens or the developed world, barely even know it exists." - Everyware

One goal that was stated was to begin "encouraging patrons to take advantage of the physical and social aspects of using [the library], the things that cannot be digitized."

"We need to stay aware that the campus population and community is likely to change and grow, interests change, tools will, too."

"What ... aspects are there to Crossett that can be leveraged in augmenting it?"

"Whatever we do, we need to realize that not only are we doing it together, but the patrons are also a part of the process, changing not only the way we think and design our project, but changing the project itself as they use (Or don't use) it and the library space it's housed in."

"While we are not necessarily trying to have people all be in the same physical space at the same time, they are both in the same physical space at different times and possibly in the same digital space at the same time."

"The most rich, interactive experience you will ever have will probably be a conversation with somebody."

"Still use the library in ways they have before but at the same time add new ways that people can relate to the library."

"We want to provide a more social experience for how people can relate to what is in the library."

"...a sense that the building is more than just a warehouse for books, a sense that the library is a space that is richly layered with all kinds of cues and information."

Important Braindumpings of the Past

Class Discussion
Class Meeting at 4:00 Saturday
AL Project 5

Places to Contact about Public, Interactive Art

The awesome librarian at the Seattle collection recommended a couple of places to look for information about public, interactive projects that might be related to some of our goals. The resource desk also threw in some ideas. All of them were super friendly and enthusiastic. (This is mostly a reference for me for later)

  • Mayor's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs (they place city-sponsored art)
  • King County Cultural Resources Division (ask if I can see artist calls and the submitted proposals - it's all public domain stuff, so it shouldn't be a problem. Jodee said she'd throw in her weight if they give me trouble)
  • (Look up stuff in San Jose since I'll be in the area for a few days and there are probably some good things)
  • Ballard library branch has an example of BAD digital art installation
  • Sno-Isle and King Counter have interesting "swarm" style data vis for searches
  • ProQuest thesis database; search for related thesis projects
  • The Seattle Art Museum has librarians (1.5) on staff who might be able to rec projects



LED Elevator Display -- library data vis!! Minneapolis library elevators reveal book titles as they rise and fall. From We Make Money: “The project also emphasizes the more current model of a library as a node in a network of information flows.”

Sistemi Emotivi -- an interactive wall project, mapping-based visuals. The website this is on, Explorative Environments, has some other amazing projects and links, many that are architecture and physical-space related.

LITERACY IN... is a project that seems to display literacy rates in different countries and highlights the differences between the genders. The description is in German, but it seems fairly straightforward. It also demonstrates where in the world (north to south) the country lies on the globe.

vitamin B -- "digital tangible reading". The interface design looks like it could use some work to make it more user-friendly (that book-square thing would get in the way, I would think!) but it's a neat idea. It was prototyped in 2 weeks, too. Impressive!

The Whale Hunt -- (Alaska, what!) I like the ability to browse this by timeline, subject matter or excitement level. Displaying the information in the heartbeat like timeline showing the amount of (photographic) activity at any given time is really appealing to me, aesthetically and otherwise. Biggest issue with something like this in our system would definitely be privacy. Talking to librarians about the Legrady work, every single one of them mentioned the privacy issue and how Legrady had to make sure his code stripped all personal information from the data he was collecting. I had an interesting conversation with one of the librarians about how people are becoming more and more comfortable with putting themselves on display, or at least a very specific public persona part of themselves.

Live Plasma -- webs of music and movies. The closer the spheres are to your search, the more likely it is that you’ll like it. Apparently the information is somehow tied to the recommendation list. The larger the sphere, the more popular the band is. Apparently colour is determined by the popularity of bands within a certain sphere: the most popular bands influence the colour of similar bands (I think the more frequently the “smaller” bands are listed by the same people who list “larger” bands, the closer the colors will be to one another). They seem to struggle with the same problem we have in relation to mapping: how to show the steps from one to another. Theirs is solved by (a) being able to click on any visible band and see its map and (b) having a box on the side with a “Last Maps” option so that you can backtrack. It looks like you could make a large pathway map, but because the elements constantly rearrange around the selected band, it constantly erases its own progress.

Book Scape -- a visualization of the Google Books Projects illustrations. It’s not up and running and, unfortunately, the movie about it is HUGE. But it sounds cool, nevertheless. It’s got limited data vis views, though.

Similar Diversity -- analysis of frequency of actions/names in holy books. A Processing-Made-It-Possible project, using something called “vvvv” for visual stuff. Something to look into!

Everyday Information Architecture -- photos of how people arrange information in their everyday lives. Just kind of interesting.

newsmap -- this is highlighted everywhere as an excellent datavis. HOw could some of these principals be applied to our project? The color arrangement is very similar to what we've discussed, with different kinds of information in different colours and having them fade into the background as they age (though this makes them still easily readable). The rectangular arrangement is really nice and maximizes space, though it's less applicable to how we've been thinking about our data. There could be some kind of mosaic view, I suppose.

Word Count -- an interactive list of the most common English words (including common names)! Augmented is 14329 and Library is 1252. The least common word in the database in "conquistador". I am personally offended that they did not include "syzygy".

zipdecode -- the mystery of the postal system revealed! Alaska is not included. Again, I am personally offended.

Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud -- The frequency of words used by America's presidents in speeches through the years. I wish the slider were less touchy. What I really love about this is that he explains very simply HOW the data is gathered, arranged and presented. It's clear, effective and fun.

The Dumpster & [1] -- we've already looked at this one, but it's an appealing way to display user-generated (if unknowingly used) content. Difficult to find something specific, but fun to just poke around in. There are lots of possibilities to use a falling structure like this with more parameters to make it easier to navigate.

Feltron Annual Report -- I'm in love. I hope that someday I can send out an annual report as a Christmas letter. This is what my life would be like if I just had a little more free time; I already keep lists of nearly everything.

Websites as Graphs -- Graphing the content of a website based on its HTML structure (number of DIV tags, links, images, etc). The results are actually quite lovely. Makes me reconsider the Tubes as a forest.

Microsoft Live / Operation Smile -- A processing project by firstborn with Digital Kitchen and Wexley School for Girls. Photographs taken at kiosks are streamed into the crazy Processing-run projection of 3-D faces all made of smaller photographs.

The Sheep Market -- wanna put in your two cents? Or better yet take somebody else's? Aaron Koblin paid people $0.02 to draw a sheep for him and used a little Processing applet to record the action of the drawings. I love the idea of "contracting out help" for an art project.

Anymails -- little cell-like creatures swim around displaying the amount of e-mail the user has, as well as what type, how old it is and whether or not it's been read or responded to. We keep discussing the possibilities of displaying inbox info and this is the first I can see myself using/downloading/enjoying. Making them into little creatures makes them at once adorable and engaging and also repulsive and germ-like. I like the analogy of a living thing to display communication.

Fidg't -- the video is pretty meh, but it looks pretty cool as a widget, if you're a big user of Flickr and/or LastFM. A great example of user-controlled searches through other user-volunteered information. Sweeeet.

Lovebytes & [ h -- Holy cow. I am in love. I want them all! Monsters! Large-quantity Randomly generated visuals! Digital Arts festival! They had a Processing workshop at this thing, too.

Travel Time Tube -- an interactive display of how long it takes to get from one tube station to another. A VERY easy to understand display of travel time tables.

Reconfigurable House -- "a critique of ubiquitous computing "smart homes", which are based on the idea that technology should be invisible". Users can user a touchscreen interface to reconnect the sensors and actuators in different ways, as they fancy.

Mob Zombies -- players hold a screen and run around as their avatar, who is mimicking their movements, avoids zombies. This would be awesome to play remotely with others: one person is a human in Bennington, a dozen other people are zombies in New York, Japan, Sydney, etc. You could join a "horde" of zombies to compete for team high scores....

Motion Theory -- they do all kinds of work with Processing in a very public way (music videos, commercials, etc). They also have a really wide range of projects that hey undertake, from R.E.M. to Papa Roach to Matisyahu.

Sonic Wire Sculpture -- A seriously awesome 3-D drawing-to-musical-tone converter thing. Using pressure and changes in movement you can control the sounds produced. I haven't downloaded the plug-in yet in order to run it online, but it seems like it would be a ton of fun.

I Eat Beats -- kind of the BEST INTERFACE EVER. It's an edible audio system for creating beats. Suh-weeet.

MWiimote -- "Wiimote + Processing + Mobile = MWiimote". A video example of the interface, but there are so many potentially cool things that could be done with this! I have no idea what, but anything involving a wiimote is automatically pretty cool..

80 Million Tiny Images -- averaging out images and then grouping them by noun relation. An interesting way to pack a LOT of information into a (very) tiny area.

Digital Relief Processs -- a Processing-enhanced approach to printmaking. Pretty cool. Though, as somebody who enjoys printmaking because of the amount of intense personal contact one has to have with the material and the imperfections that this brings to the work, I can't help but feel this is a little bit of a cop out. A steady hand could produce those images with some good working sessions. But I will admit that he got some lovely results.

Malwarez -- beautiful 3D renderings of malware. The PWSLineage one is my new desktop. Alex Dragulescu does very cool reinterpretations of the unwanted ephemera of the internet.

Presidential Watch 08 Map -- an interactive map showing which political blogs are the most linked-to, what their political tendencies/affiliations are, etc. Basically, a sphere of influence vis. I'm not so fond of having to scroll through the toolbar on the left, but the filtering options and display design are appealing and pretty easy to work through.

Trulia Hindsight -- shows dynamic growth of neighborhoods and properties. The blog has speculation about why certain growth spurts / ceases happen.

Sleep Waking -- A robot that basically does an interpretive dance of a user's dreams. Amazing!

Crayon Physics -- This looks like the best game ever. Just sayin'. You draw, and then physics take over. Kind of like The Incredible Machine, but with a different set of user controls.

AudioSurf -- Brilliant idea. Like a cross between a racing game and Guitar Hero, it generates a map based on whatever music you choose. The cool thing is that you can play ANY SONG you want. You're compared to people on the internet who have played that same song, so there is still competition, despite unlimited levels.

Juice Taste Map -- what a fantastic interface! There are so many levels of information involved here. You can click on any combo of fruit and know when they're in season, what they taste like (sweet, sour, etc), descriptive words about them and user comments. Amazing!!

Info & Misc

Did You Know? -- Stats about internet use and world population, etc. Just generally interesting, ties into the above mention of privacy, etc.

A Graphic Language for RFID -- this contains some interesting questions to consider when designing iconography for “new technology”, or a system that doesn’t have a set of particular visual language.

Brain Map -- I just like this one. It impressed my geologist brother.

Paul Rand -– talks about aesthetics and design.

San Jose Semaphore -- I'm flying into SJC on Feb 5, so I'll probably get to see this piece by the incredibly prolific and cool Ben Rubin.

Google Experimental Labs -- alternate modes of searching w/ additioanl data vis stuff.

Library Elf -- remember our gnome idea? Looks like somebody already created an Elf, to help you keep track of your books. Seattle is a member of the system, as is the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Library Thing -- natch, the self-proclaimed social networking type site for books and book lovers. I like their UnSuggester, which gives bad book advice (the least likely items to share a library with whichever book you enter: Did You Like Critique of Pure Reason? You Will Not Like Confessions of a Shopaholic. I entered one of my books and #3 on the UnSuggest list was another book I love). I really should use this to keep track of my collection.

Gap Minder -- a non-profit that makes use of visual data to get its point across.

Read a Book -- language warning. The best, most educational rap you will ever hear.

Headtracking & Finger Tracking -- Wiimote fun. I just want to be this dude. He does an amazing job of clearly explaining how it all works. What a simple (and cheap) way to set up an interface!

RFID Life Meter Shirt -- RFID is eeeeeverywhere/ware! Those women were right! It's IN OUR CLOTHES!

Super Tuesday Infographics -- an analysis of assorted infographics from the primaries on Feb 5.

Selected Blogs

Super Crazy Librarian Guy / Library 2.0 This guy loves libraries and loves tech. So we should love him. This reminds me: I saw a shirt for sale at the Seattle Central that bore the legend "Guybraian". Also, he used to work in a brewery

Information Aesthetics -- my new bible.

LEDs, Controllers and Batteries

leds in general, but ones that shift colors, their power consumption and then some battery options. Arduino, mini, LilyPad. Etc

A search over at DigiKey yielded a lot of results, but that site has a horrible interface.

Loose RGB LEDs

SparkFun -- $1.76 Each for 10-99 pieces

The forward voltage is listed as 2.0-3.2V, and the luminosity as (RGB) 800, 4000, 900 mcd.

The light degradation after 1000 hours is a loss of (RGB) 4.68%-8.27%, 11.37%-15.30%, 8.23%-16.81% mcd.

ScreenKey RGB Graphic Button

SparkFun -- $48.95 Each

Totally absurd for what we've decided these lights should function as, but remember how we discussed having a screen? It's a screen ... and a button ... and an RGB light display!! Pretty swanky.


Enough acronyms there? Surface Mount Red-Green-Blue Light Emitting Diodes....

SparkFun --$2.03 each for 10-99 pieces

Again, 2.0-2.5V for these buggers. Lum is (RGB) 81, 130, 54 mcd.

Function at 30-50 mA.

The size is typical of surface mounts.


.60" x .62" x .631" RGB LED w/ attatched microcontroller. 8000 millicandelas; 140º visability.

Easily programmable, using Arduino or other platform (BASIC, etc, via I2C). For the lazy, you can just pop it right onto an Arduino and use the I/O pins as power and ground while you're programming -- no wires! They can also be daisychained together, up to 127 of 'em.

Color codes can be sent as RGB or HSB, and it has its own interface to make color programming easy (no messing about with PWM issues). It looks fairly simple to choose color and set whether you want it to change, fade, whatever.

The timing isn't very precise (at all), so if we wanted a whole room of these blinking in unison, it wouldn't last too long. They can be reset or re-commanded quickly, but if we're going for a particular aesthetic, they might not be so great.

Like all RGB lights, it needs about 3.5V to reach maximum color potential. The documentation has this to say on battery power:

"...Any battery between 3V and 6V will work with BlinkM.

"Coin cells that are between 3-5V will also work ... but their high internal resistance means BlinkM maximum brightness is reduced. Also coin cells have a small capacity so will not last very long if driving a BlinkM that is always on.

"In general, BlinkM brightness is inversely-conrrelated with battery life. If a BlinkM is always on and at full-brightness, battery life will be half of what it would be if the BlinkM was at half-brightness or blinking witha 60% duty-cycle."

Keep in mind, these are Super Briht LEDs we're talking about and we may not need them to run at full brightness (60 mA - about 3x regular LED consumption). Full dark is 15 mA and if it's held low, 1 mA.

BlinkMs - some basic information

Video -- MAN, these things really ARE "super bright"!

$11.66 each for 10-99, from SparkFun

LilyPad Arduino

LilyPad & @ SparkFun -- the super amazingly awesome textile-purposed Arduino!

Takes 2.7 - 5.5V, and is about 2" in diameter and .8mm thick. Sweeet.

Has 14 I/O pins, 6 provide PWM.

SparkFun has them for $19.99 each, or $17.96 for quantities of 10-99.

LilyPad also has specially made RGB LED ... disc things that are also targeted at wearables. These are $7.16 for 10-99; 20mm diameter. Still looking for documentation on brightness, power consumption, etc.

LilyPad Power Supply is just a pretty AAA holder. $14.95 each, or $13.46 for 10-99 pieces.

USB Battery Charger

Here is a nice tiny one! A little hacking and it would be great for our purposes.

This one has a long cord. A tail!

Like this one could probably be messed with fairly easily to just power the object itself, rather than loose batteries. Really, just encapsulate the thing within the BookMark.... Energizer makes a brand-name two battery one.

Or we could do it Minty Style! Just inverse the power flow to charge the batteries, not the other way around.

Multiple Styles (list o' links)

General Rechargables

There is, of course, the option of just buying some rechargeables (in the past we bought some cheap from Solarbotics) and hack in a USB charger for 'em.


Let's just put an RFID tag on each, and then plug them into potatoes to run.

Power Cart -- this is a cute idea of combining street vendor ubiquity to help out with electronics ubiquity. Go up to the cart, pay and plug to get a little extra juice for your device. Of course, it only makes sense for a short-term solution, unless you have a fast-charging device. I guess the vendor could sell battery backs that you could plug in. Then you could sell them back to the power cart guy for a small refund (recycle!)

Electronic Crafts has a good list of assorted power types, most of which would not be terribly reasonable for our uses.

Quotations & Notes from Readings

Sister Corita Kent's Rules

These aren't from a reading, but I found them and think they are wonderful. Think about Rule #1 in terms of the library. Also, #7 is nearly exactly what Joel Spolsky talks about: if you keep advancing and firing, at least a little each day, the enemy (in this case, stagnation or boredom) can't do anything and you'll eventually win. (I did not know until just now that Sister Corita is the one responsible for the rainbow Boston Gas Tank. I've seen that thing so many times, and every time I love it more!)

Corita rules.jpg

Interview from Creative Time: The Book, page 82

Tom Finkelpearl & Tom Eccles

TF: "In a school for example, the only people ever to see the artwork will be the school community. While it is a 'public' site, it has more limited access than a museum; you can't just walk into a school those days. So in this context the school community was the public." (Finkelpearl worked for Percent for Art in NYC)

TC: "...the worry of offending the public is much less than offending the public is much less than offending the governor or mayor." (or other authority figures with veto power!)

TF: "Within the context of public space you really have to argue to be heard, or at least to speak. Rather than expressing the activity of public art in collectivist terms - in terms of the community - I would be much more atomistic, that this is an individual artist and a specific artwork and its presentation is part of the democratic process, which is about having access to very different ways of seeing and thinking about the world, and not necessarily coming to a consensus. It's about the individual, not the communal."

TF: "There is this feeling in the art world that if the voice is positive, if there is a positive message, then it's not serious. To this I ask, 'What's so funny about "peace, love and understanding"?' Why can't a work be serious and positive?"

TF: "...The biggest hurtle is to get people to embrace ambiguity, to resist pinning one specific meaning on an artwork, because most art is so layered. However, I don't necessarily buy the notion that good art will always baffle the public."

Free Art! Or: To Be or Not To Be (Multiple Choice)

by Vito Acconci

"b) There are already too many things in the world; there's no 'nothing' out of which something can be created. All anyone can do, artist or not, is organize, re-organize, dis-organize the things that are already there."

"b) If something is meant to be 'public', it has to begin at least semi-public, quasi-public. Public starts with the numbers three: one is solo, two is a couple or a mirror image, the third person starts an argument. Public begins when an argument starts."

Design of Future Things

by Donald A. Norman

(This book is mostly about industrial, product interface design, but in varying degrees the same things still apply to what we're doing. An interesting read, regardless of the design on hand.)

"Designers of advanced technology are proud of the 'communication capabilities' they have built unto their systems. But closer analysis shows this to be a misnomer: there is no communication, none of the back-and-forth discussion that characterizes true dialog. Instead, we have two monologues. ... Two monologues do not make a dialog."

"Design: The deliberate shaping of the environment in ways that satisfy individual and societal needs."

"Designers must be generalists who can innovate across disciplines." is important for the following reasons:

  • reassurance
  • progress reports
  • learning
  • special circumstances
  • confirmation
  • governing expectation

Summary of Design Rules:

Design Rules for Human Designers of "Smart" Machines

  • Provide rich, complex and natural signals
  • Be predictable
  • Provide a good conceptual model
  • Make the output understandable
  • Provide continual awareness, without annoyance
  • Exploit natural mappings to make interaction understandable and effective

Design Rules Developed by Machines to Improve Their Interactions with People

  • Keep things simple
  • Give people a conceptual model
  • Give reasons
  • Make people think they are in control
  • Continually reassure
  • Never label human behavior as "error" (rule added by the human interviewer)

The Power of the Artist and The Power of Art in the Public Domain

by Mierle Laderman Ukeles

(This one is a little intensely "artist-like" but struck me as an interesting articulation of public art)

"I am wild about the public domain because we all own it; it is ours. Each person is unique. Period. Each person is an entire world and has infinite value. Each person is different from all the people who ever lived.

"Art is freedom; freedom of unique human expression. Period. Its process, form, infrastructure, system, duration, location, its any-material-whatsoever is the choice of the creating artist.

"I am for an art of mass urban scale, yet at the same time where the limitless value of each individual human creature can become articulated where the voice of an individual can be heard forever."

Joel on Sofware

by Joel Spolsky

I feel that Adam in particular would appreciate this one: "If you want to teach somebody something well, you have to start at the very lowest level. It's like Karate Kid. Wax on, wax off. Do that for three weeks. Then knocking the other kid's head off is easy."

Things to Take Note Of When Fixing Bugs:

  • Complete steps to reproduce bug
  • Expected behavior
  • Observed (buggy) behavior
  • Who it's assigned to
  • Whether or not it's been fixed

Joel has a lot to say about writing up specs before the project is coded -- designing the entire system first so that things are done correctly, the first time. Obviously, he works on a far greater scale than we do, but much of it is still applicable. His list of what specs should contain is as follows:

  • Disclaimer ('this is only a spec!')
  • Author (taking credit = good)
  • Scenarios (stereotypical users and how they'll use it)
  • Non-Goals (what we won't be covering)
  • Overview
  • Details, details, details (as precise as possible)
  • Open Issues (in early versions, don't worry. Solve before you program!)
  • Side Notes (technical notes about coding, highlights for PR people, etc)

He also insists that it should be updated constantly and kept somewhere easily accessible so that people will actually read/use it. He also suggests reprinting it / sending out reminders every now and again highlighting changes that have been made.

Rules For Spec Writing

  • Be funny
  • Use stories / human-compatible language
  • Be simple, use clear word choice
  • The Anti-Tufte Rule: use some fluff and junk to fill up the pages so that people don't overload and stop reading
  • Review, re-read, repeat until it's actually worth handing out
  • Don't use templates (<-- if you write a lot of 'em)


Programmers are the only ones who know how to schedule themselves.

Make estimations by houses, not days or weeks. Break things down into small, manageable chunks of a few hours. This forces everybody to think about all of the parts that go into the whole and to really contemplate the design of the thing and how it functions.

Build buffer time into the schedule: it WILL take longer than one thinks. Plus, people get sicks / have lives / etc. He also reminds schedule-makers to add in time for (a) integrating code written by different people and (b) looots of time for fixing bugs.

His schedules contain the following information:

  • Feature (eg, automatically getting book info)
  • Task (eg, rigging the barcode scanner, or linking program to the library database)
  • Priority
  • Original Time Estimate (it'll only take two hours!)
  • Current Time Estimate (okay, maybe twenty)
  • Elapsed Time (how long it's been dragged out for)
  • Remaining Time (how long is left, using the current estimate)

Joel recommends constantly updating the elapsed and current estimates, so that, in a way, the schedule is "always right". It gives everybody a chance to see how wrong the original estimate was.

Links to Look At

1, 2, 3, 4