Fresh Faces 10

The other day a friend asked me why I haven’t started a faces group on Flickr. I told him that there were plenty of groups that focused on faces but the more I thought about it the more I realized that there isn’t really a group that looks on faces the way that I’m interested in. There are plenty of groups that do focus on the face – Faces and Portrait*Faces are two great ones. While I like them both neither is exactly what I’m looking for – a place to share simple photos of faces with limited context, limited manipulation – natural, the way people present themselves to the world every day.

Most of the people I photograph are strangers (at least the first time we meet) and the shared act of photographing and being photographed can create a connect that’s locked in the image that created between us. Many of the strangers I’ve photographed are now friends and I love going back to that first photograph – when then were a face in a crowd or in a bar or on the street.

Photographing thousands of everyday people has given me a fresh and growing appreciation of how wonderful people are – how beautiful they are. I don’t mean beautiful from a strictly aesthetic perspective – but how much of a person’s essence can be captured in the brightness of the smile of the sparkle in their eyes.

So I’ve started a new group – 1000s of Faces – that I hope will be a place where other people can also share some of the faces they come across and think are wonderful. If you’re on Flickr join the group and contribute. If you’re not, come on already and sign up – and then join the group and contribute.

Now here are some recent fresh faces:

WebInno 22

For a while I wrote previews of the companies presenting at WebInno but then I just got way too busy and feel behind. Tonight marks my unofficial three-year anniversary of attending the event so I thought I’d dust off the ol’ keyboard and give a rundown of what’s going to be presented and what I think of the various companies.

Main Dish Companies

Planet Cazmo – It presents itself as “a virtual world set inside an alien solar system who have been inspired by music, hip hop and other earth cultural phenomenon.” Poor grammar aside, if I’m going to hang out in an alien solar system I want to check out the alien culture, I get plenty of earth cultural phenomenon right here thanks. I created an account (you can find me, I’m Bloopis McGee) and spent some time checking the site out.

The first thing I noticed was that it takes a long time to do things on the site. While it could be my connection (which isn’t the fastest on this planet) it felt pretty slow. I’m still waiting for it to load. Still waiting. Yep, still waiting. It’s been five minutes and I’m still waiting. I just got an error saying “connection lost” and got kicked back to the log-in screen. That’s not very much fun.

Not being able to log in is a problem when it comes to virtual worlds. But to be honest, this world probably isn’t designed for me. What I did see of it seemed cool enough – concerts, chat, etc. After a second unsuccessful login attempt I think you’ll have to check it out for yourselves.

Thunder Thimble – I think there needs to be a rule that any company with an inscrutable name has to explain it at WebInno. I loved that Crimson Hexagon (which isn’t dissimilar to T2) explained the whole Borges connection when they presented.

Thunder Thimble is another real-time conversation monitoring and engagement tool. It actually looks kind of cool and I’m looking forward to seeing a live demo. The online tour was helpful but it left plenty of questions unanswered. I guess I’ll have to wait a few hours to find out more.

BuySellAds – At the other end of the spectrum we have names that leave no mystery whatsoever. Hmmm, might buysellads be an online pet store, a dating site, the latest fad diet? No, no and no! Buysellads is just what it sounds like – a place to buy and sell ads. I’m not really in the market to buy or sell ads so I’m not really in a position to judge how cool or effective this site is. Instead, I’ll just share my basic impressions.

The site and service seem pretty straight forward. It appears to meet a clear need in a clear – if uninspiring – way. I’m for it. I’d like to hear from people who’ve used it – either as buyers or sellers – to get a sense of how well it does what it promises.

Side Dishes

Shareaholic – now this on is really spiffy. Step one – add Shareaholic to your browser. For me that meant dragging a button to my shortcut bar and clicking it when i had something to share across dozens of services. I get it, it’s awesome. You should use it.

Muzzy Lane – 3D browser-based gaming? Sign me up. I think that the growth in mobile gaming could take a bite out of interested in browser-based games but hey, it looks good, seems cool and is perfect for conference calls.

Localytics – you know what? I love statistics and analytics. I hardly ever actually need them but show me a good graph and I’m yours. I also happen to like mobile stuff so if you can mix mobile and analytics it’s pretty darn cool. That’s what Localytics promises and it is good.

Fluent Mobile – imagine you have an iPhone. Maybe you do. If so, take it out of your pocket. Now imagine you can read the news on your iPhone. What? You can? But can you get news from multiple sources all at once? Now you can – it’s free, it’s slick and it’s cool.

Tor – talk about a cool name. This just sounds like some kind of angry Scandinavian to me – and it might well be. Tor is an open source project that helps protect your anonymity online. And goodness knows in these days of sneaky agencies poking their nose into everyone’s business we sure need it. Not that any of us have anything to hide . . .

Capture Code – I’ll be honest, I looked at this site and my head got kind of numb. 2D bar code? POS? Merchant-driven marketing solutions? Maybe I’ll understand when I see it but this is sure filled with marketing language that makes what they do Greek to me.

So that’s the round up. I’m getting ready to head over there now and shall see what I shall see. Hope to see you there.

What’s the appeal of dancing/skating/talking babies?

I really don’t understand the appeal of all the baby stuff. Maybe someone can explain it to me. That old school dancing baby gif? Hated it. The e-Trade commercials? Hate them. The Evian skating babies? Hate it. I’ve got no beef with babies – have two kids myself – but there’s just something creepy about this whole concept to me.

The Evian one has had more than 5 MILLION views in less than two weeks. Seriously? What is it that gets people so excited about this? Would people like a war movie staring babies? Baby boxing? Is it just the fact that they are babies? I feel the same way about talking animals – maybe I’m missing the gene to appreciate cute?

A new game I’m working on

I had my 25th high school reunion in May. For my senior year I attended The New Hampton School, a small boarding school in the middle of New Hampshire. The reunion started on Friday evening and lasted through Sunday brunch. It was a great time. One of the things that happened while I was there was that I started to think about a new game.

The first iteration involved a pitcher’s mound, the rubber, a golf ball and some softballs. The golf ball sat on the rubber and players tossed softballs onto the mound to try to get as close to the golf ball as possible without knocking it off. It seemed like a game with potential.

Since then I’ve been working on the game. The mound has been replaced by a circle (usually a 25′ hose), the pitching rubber by a post, the golf ball by a whiffle ball and the softballs by bocci balls. Here’s how it looks (click on the image to see details on the field):

The object is the same – to come as close as possible to the post without knocking off the ball. I kind of combines horseshoes and bocci I guess. The circle can be almost any size depending on how much space you have. I’m still working on the ideal balls to use. The whiffle ball is probably too light – it flies off the post at the slightest touch. Also I think the post should be shorter – probably just a few inches off the ground. This would allow you to hit the post without necessarily dislodging the ball – and this is important.

It’s important because of how the game is scored. If a player hits the post and the ball stays on top they get 10 points. If they are the closest (and no one has hit the post) they get five points. If they knock the ball off the post they lose two points. The scoring formula still isn’t quite right – but it’s getting closer. We kept running into negative scores and deep deep holes no one could get out of. (The first game I think the score was -15 to -10 when we gave up . . .)

It is starting to stabilize though and attracting fans. Matt Searles wrote about the game on his blog and I think it’s going to catch on like crazy.

Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on improving the game. If you do decide to play and have fun let me know that too.


I am dismembered
Torn and tossed
Bits of me spread everywhere
My warm heart pulled from my chest

Even it isn’t whole
Here and there
Bloody bits are flung about
As far as the eye can see

Some still twitching
Hurting and hoping
To be cleaned and reunited
And stitched up in my empty chest

That dark hole
Idle and aching
A yawning cavity to be filled
With hope and affection

I pull myself together
Hunting and gathering
Stooping to scoop up the mess I’ve made
And reassemble it into something new

That’s just (copy)wrong

On July 7 the FT had a good opinion piece on the role of copyright as it relates to online freedom. The point was that we’re kowtowing to a set of principles which – while claiming to support the creation of culture and content – is doing exactly the opposite.

If you search for Elvis Presley in Wikipedia, you will find a lot of text and a few pictures that have been cleared for distribution. But you will find no music and no film clips, due to copyright restrictions. What we think of as our common cultural heritage is not “ours” at all.

Christian Engström, Pirate Party member of the European parliament

I was thinking of this issue especially as I’m reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – a literary mashup that augments Jane Austen’s classic with a new zombie and ninja subplot. It does so much right – taking a familiar story, mixing it, twisting it and making it something new.

Now what would happen if someone were to try to do the same with a current contemporary formulaic novel? There are plenty of commodity authors out there but good luck to you if you were to try to play with that content . . .

Copyright isn’t about protecting and supporting creativity – copyright is about protecting and supporting commercial interests – and more often than not that interest is at least one step removed from the content creator.

Maybe when the tools for content production and distribution were out of the reach of most copyright as it’s currently understood made sense – but now, do we need to have commercial interests dictating the rules of the game when it comes to creativity?

As the opinion piece points out, copyright was intended to foster cultural production – not avarice. But that’s what it’s become. I can’t agree with the author that wholesale distribution of copyrighted works ought to be encouraged; but derivative works that add to rather than diminish our shared culture ought to be applauded.