Flash, Inspiration, Journal

TED Global 2010, Hyper Island Creativity Lab and Flash On The Beach

The next few months are gearing up to be a bit of a roller coaster. I’ve been working on a couple of projects that I’ll finally be able to talk about, as well as attending some pretty amazing events.

TED Global 2010: Oxford

Chris Wild at TED2010

The first event in a couple of weeks is TED Global in Oxford. I don’t yet know if I’ll be there for the event but my good friend Chris Wild will be presenting some of our work. Chris is the maestro behind The Retroscope and the nicest time traveler you’ll ever meet. I won’t give away any spoilers but I want to thank Mike and Simon for helping us get to the submission deadline in one piece!

Hyper Island Creativity Lab: Middlesborough

The day after I’ll be heading up to Middlesburgh for the Hyper Island Creativity Lab. Founded in Sweden in 1996, Hyper Island is like boot camp for creatives – the original course is still run from a converted prison. In fact it might be better to describe it as re-boot camp. The course aims by way of self discovery to let you think creatively about digital. Should be great.

Flash On The Beach: Brighton

John Dalziel at FOTB 2010

Last up in September is the biggest UK Flash conference of the year. Flash On The Beach has a well deserved reputation as a fun and inspiring three days. I cover the con every year for FlashMagazine, but this will be my first time speaking. Blink and you’ll miss it as I’ll be covering 10 years of FlashMagazine in 3 minutes!

If there are tickets left I’d thoroughly recommend getting along. Despite the name, the sessions are not all about Flash. All creative technologies and media are represented and there’s a good mix of design and technical sessions. The end of day inspirational sessions are worth the entrance fee on their own.


Don’t be evil


photo by Tom Dalziel

New year is traditionally a time for introspection. Thoughtful consideration of the year ahead; the fruits of which become a new year’s resolution – a course correction for how you live your life. Interestingly, this soul searching is not restricted to individuals. A few days ago one of the biggest companies in the world made an ethical stand. Google famously follow a credo of don’t be evil. Maybe more infamously they censored their search results to gain a foothold in China. This hear no evil, see no evil approach brought them considerable criticism and seriously dented their good-guy image.

I’ve written before that organisations have a personality. As a web developer I engage with a number of companies on a daily basis and my perception of those companies affect the technologies I choose to offer my clients. Actions like this matter. They have a long term effect on the bottom line.


Take Google as an example. I have a lot of goodwill towards them (more so since the China decision). They create innovative and powerful services, and offer them free to anyone. To me their personality is smart, nerdy and humorous. They are welcoming and since last week maybe even [gulp] trustworthy. What’s not to like.


Now, take Microsoft (please). My experience of them has often been unfriendly and at times even bullying. They have abused their ubiquity with bug ridden browsers, misinformation and shady tactics over standards. That says a lot about personality. The consequence being I don’t want to play with them anymore (okay maybe XBox) and have slowly removed their products from my toolset.


So let’s look at Apple. Just about every web developer I know has a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. They’re just the best products around, and beautiful to. The price you pay with Apple is proprietary lock-in – they have you by your short and curly braces.

Apple has Steve, and by inheritance a personality that is immensely charming, yet secretive and controlling. They don’t play well with others and for developers a life with Apple can feel like an abusive relationship. We adore them but they don’t treat us with respect. For a few of my friends at least, their famous distortion field is weakening.


Lastly then we have Adobe, a company with which I’ve become intimately familiar. As a Flash Developer I accept that I work with a proprietary technology. Decisions regarding it’s future (and therefore mine) are made by by them so we have to get along. We don’t always see eye to eye <cough>European pricing</cough> but on the whole I trust the guys steering the ship.

The upside of a proprietary technology is that unilateral decisions are made quickly and the platform has benefited enormously from this agility. The other thing I like is that Adobe is not in the operating system business. When the web is the platform, openness and cooperation are a good thing, and any involvement with open source and web standards feels genuine. It’s in their interests to play well with others.

And I know I haven’t gotten into standards bodies and other non-commercial web institutions but I think it’s commercial entities who’s integrity is most at risk. That said this isn’t about money – all these companies make plenty of it. This is about the long term effects of corporate responsibility. Just know that your actions matter, and we’re watching you.

Flash, Inspiration, Journal

Cynergy MultiTouch Calendar for AIR 2.0

There were lots of new feature announcements at Adobe MAX this year but one of the most exciting was support for multi-touch in Flash Player 10.1. This along with the likes of accelerometer are paving the way for a massive push onto smartphones. You won’t be able to buy a smartphone next year that doesn’t come with a Flash Player… okay, maybe just one.

During the keynote Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch demonstrated multi-touch in AIR 2.0. What caught my eye was the app was using multi-touch gestures to control calendaring. Swipe to flick from month to month and pinch to zoom into weeks and days. The company behind the demo are Cynergy Ssystems who are doing some great work with UX in web applications. If you want more information about the project it’s worth reading the blog posts from Dave Wolf and Andrew Trice.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YLCgcpbniE 470 337]
Flash, Inspiration, Journal

Flash on the beach 2009

FOTB 2009

I’m a great believer that organisations take on the personalities of their founders. This is certainly true of Flash on the beach, an annual gathering of creative and technical innovators from in and around the Flash community. John Davey, the events organiser, loves people. He’s big, he’s brash and he loves a party. And that’s exactly what you get with Flash on the beach.

Now in year four, it’s been going long enough that for regular attendees it has a real family atmosphere. This in turn gives the whole event an open and infectious creative vibe that I hope makes newcomers feel welcome. There is a lot of love for this event. You only have to run a quick Twitter search for the #FOTB tag to see for yourself.

This year I covered it for FlashMagazine along with my long term collaborator Jensa Brynildsen. With only two of us covering three streams it was a bit of a sprint but we have all the sessions written up now. I won’t duplicate the content but here are the links if you’d like to find out more.

Adobe Flash CS5 Sneak Peaks from FOTB 2009
Flash on the beach – Day 1
Flash on the beach – Day 2
Flash on the beach – Day 3

And finally for a flavour of the event here is a short video I took of Andre Michelle’s Flash Audio DSP session.

Thanks again to everyone who came along – it’s the people that makes this event so special.

Flash, Journal

Searching the Digg API with AS3

I’ve been messing around with a lot of social API’s recently. Most of the common ones have their own AS3 wrappers although often these are authored by someone else. The diggflashdevkit for the Digg API for example is written by the guys over at Stamen who, as I’m sure you’re aware, have got some game.

It’s a nicely architected framework with cleanly separated model and service classes. Calls to Digg are proxied through the com.digg.services.API class. This contains methods for all the API calls except strangely for SearchStories. It could be I’ve missed something but I gave up looking and wrote a method for it. Just add this function to the API class and call it as you would any other method.

Development, Journal

Will Flash for cash


Well I had “the conversation” this morning and it looks like my employer will be making a big round of redundancies next week. I don’t tend to talk about work here (this is the home of my personal projects)  but this is a the big one so forgive me this once.

If anyone is in need of an experienced Flash developer in the London or Brighton area then please get in touch. My email is john at this domain. I have a new portfolio of work and cvs are available on request.

Development, Drake, Journal, Kepler, Latham

Minkowski Spacetime

Herman Minkowski

“The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.”

Hermann Minkowski, 01809

Time and Space
In the previous post I surmised that current temporal standards offer poor support for historical data. I also know that modelling time at deep timescales is going to throw up some new problems. The thing is, once you start messing around with time outside of historical systems like calendars you run into another dirty little secret. Time and space are related. We’ve known this for over a hundred years but temporal specs are all geared towards events in the short now, so fiddly little problems like relativity are conveniently ignored.

Even if I ignored relativity, I can’t ignore space. Recent temporal innovations like daylight saving time and the timezone system are all local modifiers based on spatial coordinates. What I find odd is that I haven’t encountered a single specification that tries to treats time and space equally.

Hermann Minkowski
The German mathematician Hermann Minkowski (1869 – 1909) was the first to formalise the notion that space and time are not separate. He proposed that the best way to understand Einstein’s special theory of relativity was to use a 4 dimensional space he called spacetime. It’s often referred to as Minkowski spacetime to differentiate it from a slew of other modern multi-dimensional theories.

Getting your head around the ideas of relativity and spacetime isn’t as hard as you might expect. I found some great articles here that walk you through all the concepts using simple examples. Getting my head around the mathematics of spacetime is another thing entirely!

Minkowski image via AIP Emilio Serge Visual Archives