Other Thoughts

May 15, 2011

Moving the blog

The Vanity Experiment is moving to

Small change you won't hardly notice if you're browsing online, but if you're reading this via a RSS reader, you'll want to go change the feed address to this: feed://

Why the change? I've been using Movable Type version old.OLD since about 2004, so I decided to get with the times. Bring on Wordpress (which is now running my entire site).

Posted by Ant at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2010

3D printing

Straight out of a Neal Stephenson novel - 'Diamond Age' is about life when nanotechnology is matured. This 3D printing service is reminiscent of a gadget he talks about where you can have anything you want created by dialing up a few codes. Cool for prototyping!

And if you think that's nifty, check this out: RepRap is a 3D printer that you can have at home. Not only does it print plastic objects for you, but it also can print itself! (well, about half of itself anyway). In an Open Source meets Slow Food way, the RepRap is freely available to everyone and is primarily distributed locally.

The concept is quite staggering in that it indicates a future as depicted by Stephenson and it's happening right now. Download a design off the internet and your RepRap printer will whip it up for you. The implications of no longer needing to buy as many manufactured products, since they can be made at home not only means cheaper goods, but also less transportation and the environmental damage that brings along with it.

RepRap from Adrian Bowyer on Vimeo.

Posted by Ant at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2009

Latest readings...

Posted by Ant at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2006

Hello World in 2006

This year I intend to Blog more. For goodness sake, I couldn't possibly blog less than last year, which was an altogehter abysmal effort on my part.

My time is more scarce these days. I am writing a book (sporadically) and work harder for 'the man' now than I did at the BBC. Corporate America just demands more of my time than Jolly Old England did. There's more to do outside of work hours too. I've taken up racing sailing boats once a week during the summer. I can't imagine doing that on the Thames. The most activity I did on a boat there was lifting a pint glass to my mouth. I miss the Queen Mary and the company I kept on her.

There's less paid holidays to be had and at least an hour of extra work every day. The bigger percentage of every day is invariably spent working for the company.

The sad part is that I'm not learning as much nowadays and perhaps thats why I've felt less inclined to blog the process of my opening eyes. It takes time to learn things. Time to research. Time to watch trends. Time that I spend now actually earning my keep.

I've spent the better part of the last six months trying to hire Information Architects for my team. I can usually secure one for a while, then for some reason they all want to fly away to far flung places. In the meantime, I have to manage a team and be a senior IA practitioner too. Frankly, its gruelling at times.

So, the resolutions for this year are to call my mother more often and to get the damn workload to a point where I have time to think again. Think and write those thoughts here. Know any good IAs or Interaction Designers who need work in Seattle?

Good luck me.

Posted by Ant at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2004

Gett'n Zen

Why is it that someone special can inspire you to reach for your full potential as a human, rather than just as a worker-bee when alone? I met someone whos done little but rock my world for the last five months and the stability, or perhaps safety, that was comforting prior to our meeting, is on its head.

In as many months as years in the UK, I've decided to uproot myself from an established life here; all the very dear friends; the great job and future in it; the family; the cheap spacious flat near a park; the vibrant city that has treated me so well... Why? Why leap into the virtually unknown - to the USA, knowing there may not be many others to identify with? And all to be with someone known to me for less than five months?

We went to our fourth philosophy class Wednesday, and on Tuesday I started a course of yoga. Never done yoga, or philosophy before, but have been philosophical and tried to live a 'balanced' life albeit unmotivated to expand those tendencies in any academic sense. We do a lot of breathing in yoga and plenty of being still in philosophy. Both are supposed to bring you back to the essential elements of being. "We are given all we need in this life when we're born" so, as long as breathing's going on I won't need all my friends, steady job, house etc right?

I've done all this before, so it's really not as daunting as It could be. The difference is that this time the reason for moving countries is about chasing something, rather than running from it. That feels a lot more empowering. Seattle's an interesting city, with mountains and ocean nearby. There's loads of my kind of work with interesting companies. Change is good. Growth is better.

Growing is strange because it seems to come in spurts. I think if you graphed it, it would look something like this.
Graphing Growth
Inspiration seems to come in many forms. Sometimes its an experience, something you see, or sometimes its a person. The result of inspiration feels like an increase in knowledge that is disproportionate to the amount of experience normally required to accrue it.

My inspiration for moving is the same as that for taking up philosophy and yoga classes. I reckon that's worth following if not attempting to keep a hold of.

Posted by Ant at 01:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 01, 2004

What's in a blog?

I've had blog paralysis lately, not feeling like I know what to write about. Nothing very interesting happening professionally, or at least nothing I can write about... just yet. Besides which, the beginning 'understanding' phases of a project are high on making plans and asking questions. Not a great deal of interesting insight to write about.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what this blog is for anyway... So, I had a look around at blogs and you've got all manner of them out there. Work only blogs, personal only blogs, blogs that are just links, blogs that are just photos, blogs that are diaries, blogs that are written to four times a day, blogs that are written to less than four times a year. So what's this blog supposed to be about? I'm asking myself. What's missing from my blog experience that has me constipated? Why don't I feel like writing?

So far I've focussed my blogging on work stuff, feeling like if this thing ever gets an audience, I don't think they'd be interested in my little old life. I also have a problem with writing about myself in a self-congratulatory, or what I feel like is an egotistical way. Rarely do my entries contain my interpretations of events, but more factual stuff, links and references that I'd find interesting to look back on. So what's the ultimate goal? Why did I start blogging? Was it to try and assert some kind of territory in the 'blogsphere'? Am I a slave to a trend? Was I trying to open a channel with the new-media boffin in me? Was this designed to try and promote myself as a user experience designer? What? This conflict is has been present from the start of this blog's life and is evident in the title.

On a fundamental level the question really is: Am I writing for me or others?

The very fact that a weblog is all connected to other people and publicly accessible makes it hard explain away as an entirely private endeavour. But it is for personal use. As such it is a list of bookmarks that I can use to support my appalling memory. But its also for public use, or should I say publicity. The work insights I try to put in The Vanity Experiment are supposed to prove that I'm thinking, pushing myself to learn new things. Expressing the things I learn is a way to capture this process, but also to illustrate that I know them. Should a potential employer look on this space, maybe they'll look more favourably on me for having some idea about me or at least what I profess to know.

So there's little of me in this space. Perhaps that's what's missing from the experience? Life isn't all about work, and my life's been too full of other good things recently to have time to write about my profession. So, starting with this entry, The Vanity Experiment is going to have a little more of me in it because life's too short to be so damn professional.

Hello world!

Posted by Ant at 09:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 10, 2004


This blog has become so badly spammed now that I have to turn off public comments because I spend the time I would've spent writing on it, weeding out the "Nice site" comments by Mr Penis Enlargement and friends. I know there's something I can do about this, but it involves thought, effort and 'playing' with code, all of which don't come naturally to me. It may be a few weeks...

Posted by Ant at 09:34 AM | TrackBack

March 18, 2004


Please don your hat that doesn't object to politically incorrect jokes... it is a joke after all.

An Englishman, an American and a Chinaman are in a battle situation and are being appointed the CO's of different units by the commander in chief. The chief says to the Englishman, "OK, you Brits are good at talking, so you be the diplomat and see if you can talk our way out of this..." and then he turns to the American and says "If he fails, you yank's are pretty quick on the trigger, so you head up the armed forces and blast em to hell..." and then he looks to the china man and says "Hmmm... OK I'm not sure what the Chinese do well but we need someone to keep the supplies, so you supply the ammo and stuff for whole outfit". Anyways, the battle heats up, the Englishman goes to the front line to try and negotiate and is promptly shot. So the American sends his troops in to kick some ass, but gets about through a half day when they start to run out of ammo and says "where's that darn Chinaman? He's supposed to be supplying us with bullets". He finally gets desperate when he's suffering heavy casualties and the enemy is on top of them, so goes to look for the Chinaman. He hunts high and low and can't find him anywhere. Finally he goes to the 'munitions dump to fetch the ammo himself and just as he's loading up bullets, out from behind the boxes jumps the Chinaman shouting "supplies!!"...

Sometimes you stumble accross someone's web log and you know they know people you know and you just can't work out who it is... and then you pick up on nuances of speech/type that 'sound' familiar and guess their identity.

Tonight I discovered a good mate of mine started 'blogging at the start of the year and never told me. Perhaps just because he's not into all this "ooh, I read so and so's blog who was quoting so and so's blog" stuff... I mean it does get a little incestuous and vain (hence the name of this one). But in a way that's the whole point, it's about inspiring each other, supplying one another with food for thought and suppliesing them with little gems like this.

Welcome McWebb to the world of the 'blog. You are now officially a wanker, just like the rest of us. ;)

Posted by Ant at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2004

Let there be light

Concrete casts new light in dull rooms

The days of dull, grey concrete could be about to end. A Hungarian architect has combined the world’s most popular building material with optical fiber from Schott to create a new type of concrete that transmits light.

This is a beautiful invention. I wonder if you'll be able to tailor it to your designs, like having more optic fibre in some places over others? The variation in density of light you could create a whole new architectural art form.

Thanks to Sri for "brightening" my day with this article... arf!

Posted by Ant at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2003

Record Digital Telly on your Mac

Just found this product called the eyetv 400 which is essentially a box for getting digital terrestrial TV signals into your mac. The software that comes with it enables you to do most all those things you wanted to do with a TVR except it only recieves digital terrestrial. Downside is you have to watch it on your mac, but I'm sure there's ways to plug the Mac into the television again.

It'd be good if you could decode cable and other signals on it, but it doesn't do that... yet. I wonder how long it will be before they can work out a legal loophole or negotiate a deal with the commercial media pirhanas providers. Now that'd be a coup for the consumer.

Posted by Ant at 03:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 28, 2003

Network Theory

I just love it when a theory comes together (no, not my theory, I'm not that clever).

A pattern of network(s), be it mathematical, sexual, social, internet... WHATEVER, all look the same. (sorry, secure hyperlink so you'll have to copy and paste) This article aptly titled "The World's a Net" from New Scientist last year is where I first heard of the Barab�sian theory, but have since seen it in presentations of others in various forms. The memes are flying! Ben Fry from MIT has also been exploring the same patterns through how people use a website and visualising complex data structures inherent within the human genome.

Posted by Ant at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2003

Safeguarding against Dot Com Bubble.

Recently I have been asked to undertake some work for someone on a freelance basis. On inspecting the brief, it struck me that perhaps there was a lot of work represented for a company that did not yet exist. The company was to be founded on the web site and stock tracking software we were to build. Without going into the details, it seemed that the business model was just not going to work. So I said so, to the chagrin of those present who'd be happy to take the opportunity to make some money.

It is the web industry's responsibility to not just do what people ask. I believe that if you suspect a client is setting themselves for a fall, you should advise them so, even if it means losing an opportunity to make good money. It is a false economic opportunity as the more clients that are burnt by dot com failures, the less people will trust the industry's potential for investment. This ultimately leads to fewer jobs for the professionals working in the industry. Greed now equals recession later. You only need to look toward the 1980s to see this lesson in a slightly different form.

So, now I'm out of pocket because they're looking for someone else who'll just do the damn job and not be difficult and ask too many questions. Nice guys do seem to finish last. I hope for the client's sake it's a success. I fear it won't be.

Posted by Ant at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003


'Tis the season for farewells. On Friday evening we sent off Gideon who's leaving The Beeb to go work for a fashion outfit called Chunk. It was a messy, debauched and fun evening that led from pub to bar to club.


Mark McClure, who worked with us to help design Connector, also had a leaving do as he is Australia bound in a few weeks. The Easton pub is a very nice discovery. I'll be frequenting it more often.

Posted by Ant at 07:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Wifi and bad B.A.

Just got back from the USA. Am feeling jetlagged and grumpy as British Airways did a fairly average job of getting me from there to here. Stuck faffing about on the runway for 2 hours in Denver becuase they knew that a strong tailwind would save them a few hours on the journey. What with that, hardly any water service on the trip itself, mistimed inflight video (so you got to see half of a movie before it was switched off for descent) with constant announcements interrupting it and finally 'congestion' at heathrow terminal delaying us another 20 minutes... and then another 10 because the ground crew pissed off before attaching the gangway... I feel that their good reputation is ill deserved. Give me Malaysian Air any day.

Met a nice chap on the shuttle who was also headed for London. We got chatting about free wifi and where to get it in London among other things. It prompted me to do some research. Here's what I found.

News story on ZDNetUK on WarChalking

Matt Jones (founder of WarChalking)

Official WarChalking site

Map of Wifi nodes in London

And finally, a bunch of other good resources from Gavin.

Posted by Ant at 03:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 31, 2003

Beautiful bye bye

Matt Jones' got a lovely farewell image. He's Helsinki bound. Good luck!

Posted by Ant at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fish's grievious bodily harm.

My brother admitted to me yesterday why the fish is really sick... The story goes that he tried to scoop the fish out to clean its tank without using the usual glass dipping technique. Instead, he grabbed the fish in his hand and the little beggar slipped out and suffered a three foot drop to the hard floor. After moments of panic Andrew managed to pick the panicked fish up again, only to repeat the trauma with a second slip knocking the poor thing senseless. It's never been the same since. I fear no amount of peas will fix poor fishy now. Poor fishy.

Posted by Ant at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sick Fish

I'm worried about my brother's fish. It's a bit wierd and lays on the surface on its side, although seemingly not by choice. It's been like that for ages apparently and still seems to have plenty of energy. Andrew, my brother, thinks it's got trapped air and needs to fart. It's all this altitude up here in Boulder I think, which has us all drinking much more water to keep fluids up. Your skin get's really dry up here too.

The vet told Andrew to feed him peas, but he wont eat peas... even when they're broken up and dangled in front of him on bits of cotton. Poor fishy.

Posted by Ant at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003


Went for a hike up the Flatirons (part of the Rockies) with Avery (my sister) and Terry (her husband) which was awesome.

It's so beautiful up there. We got a good view of the smoke from the 'wild fires' that were ensuing a small village up there.

More Pictures here

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October 24, 2003

Solar Storms

This BBC NEWS article on Solar Storms made me think... if the sun has these big solar storms and spews hot gasses toward the earth every now and again... does this affect our weather? I mean, surely if it can knock out satellite neworks, its got to be responsible for a bit of a hot day? Or Year? P'raps it doesn't work like that. But if it does, maybe we're blaming the greenhouse effect for something that a solar tempest is responsible for. Prolly not... I'm sure the scientists would've thought of that one.

Posted by Ant at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Alice is blogging

Alice, who I was referring to here has got herself a blog. It's aptly called Wonderland. Have a read, she's a funny lass and a bloody bright cookie to boot.

Posted by Ant at 07:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Computer Failure

Note to self. Don't try an upgrade an operating system 2 hours before you're due to leave to get on a plane. The laptop seemed to crash half way through the upgrade and had been behaving very strangely since. I decided the easiest thing to do was not to shut it down incase it wouldn't start up again. So finally after 3.5 days of conference noting like a demon, the G3 Powerbook finally crapped out and lost it's operating system. I don't know where, but it's gone la la now. I have more handwritten notes to type up from the last seminar. Will do that tomorrow and take it to the doctor.

I'm in Boulder with my Brother now, and he's got LOTS of computers so I shouldn't be stuck for an internet fix for the next week. Yay!

Posted by Ant at 07:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

The coolest sound-scape software

This is the very coolest sound-scape software I've seen in ages. By Amit Pitaru, it uses a pressure sensitive digitising tablet to make sound on a kinda rotating interface. See the demo here. WOW!

Posted by Ant at 03:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

A piano's lesson... interface confuses information.

Today I am the proud owner of a new Korg SP200 digital piano! I've been playing it a bit today and it's a real joy. Having grown up with a piano in the house as a kid, I have missed having one around to just plunk away at for relaxation.

Although the piano is not my first instrument, it's definately the one that I find the easiest to communicate with. It's to do with having all that visual feedback from the keys whereas with a saxophone or guitar, you just don't get that. You can see what you're pressing and then associate this action with the result it produces – a sound.

The interface with a piano has direct mapping too – there's no dual functioned keys. One key does pretty much one thing 'affords' pressing. So, as a teaching aid, it is far superior to most any other instrument because you can visually see the structure of chords and melodies.

The downside to this is making a connection between the visual patterns learned on the keyboard and those one must learn to read musical notation on paper. These are unfortunately not the same. When there are no learned visual patterns within the interface (such as with the saxophone, because you can't see the keys when you're playing), the patterns within music notation can be more easily 'learned by route' and translated into actions made by the fingers.

Music notation isn't just any old information though... or perhaps it is... It's a whole language in itself comprising letters, numbers, punctutation, sentences, phrases and more. So learning this language is less difficult when you don't have to cope with visual feedback too... or is it? Imagine being able to see how your mouth makes sentences when you're trying to learn a language. Is there an instance where visual feedback isn't necessarily a good thing? I don't know. I fear I've flown up my own backside here.

Posted by Ant at 11:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2003

Lost Vagueness

Spent saturday night at a 30's caberet themed club night. The outfit who put it on do many nights by the same name (Lost Vagueness) and are always a great laugh. They started at Glastonbury where the irony of gadding about in ball gowns and tuxedos in a paddock can be truly appreciated.

As with all really great club nights, Lost Vagueness has started to fall victim to their own success. The intimacy is lost when there are so many people. I couldn't guess how many were there at the old Cinema in Elephant and Castle, but numbers eclipsed any event I'd been to previously. This just meant that there wern't enough roulette or blackjack tables for the numbers. It was good that the temperament of the masses that attended was amicable. There was little angst among punters, except when booze ran short and they turned off the cold water in the toilets. Cardinal sin!

The event was moved from an outdoor, 24 hour event in Sussex at the last minute due to 'harrassment' from the local police. I think the unwanted attention was because of liquor licensing, as the venue to where it was moved admitted members only. Membership had to be purchased in advance and membership was exchanged for tickets purchased for the original venue. There was some annoyance at the fact that some people seemed to have paid £10 more than others for 'membership benefits' which were available for free to all other attendees who cared to sign up.

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September 26, 2003

Just damn funny

Stealth Disco. The name says it all.

Posted by Ant at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Links a plenty


Ooer! Wired article "The SenSay cellular phone, still in prototype stage, keeps tabs on e-mails sent, phone calls made and the user's location. The phone also adapts to the user's environment."

RFID more privacy and identity issues here... Radio Frequency Identification - tag items with a radio chip the size of a pin head.

IA, ID & Graphic Design

Useful IA and Design Resources for sorting out work practices and process.

Deciding which usability test method to use. Nice overview of different usability methods

Found Gold on colour theory and international interpretations of it in design. Colour Matters, Symbolism of Color in different cultures. Also, Colorcom colour consultants.


The trouble with out of the Box thinking article on Ubiquity magazine site.


Grays Anatomy Online. I always loved the book, now it's online.
Posted by Ant at 11:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

"No, I don't want fries with that"

Matt suggested an improvement on this shirt shown at bowblog. Imagine carrying around a pocketful of velcro patches for the different shops you entered. I think its the new wave in fashion accessories.

Posted by Ant at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2003

Space Elevators and Cyberpunk

An article in the newspaper this morning featured Space Elevators. Sounds far-fetched, but apparently nanotube technology is almost at a stage where it's feasable to make one of these things - a gigantic elevator into space. Reading it reminded me of Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age, which is a great read about a time where nanotechnology is the norm. A girl is given a book which teaches her about herself, her society and how to overcome both. Totally egrossing.

Researching a little on that has made me aware of a partiality to CyberPunk as a genre. It started with Star Wars - Empire Strikes Back which was the first movie I ever saw. I left after 5 minutes because R2D2 is pretty scary to a 5 year old kid. Blade Runner is a slightly grittier, punkier film and a favourite of a generation. A kind of modern noir, it left me with a wanting for more which was not satisfied until recent years in films like Gattica and novels like Spares by Michael Marshall Smith (whoa, that one's a trip - mind bendingly horrific and compelling) and Jurrassic Park by Michael Crichton (in a more popularist vein).

So the future is dreamt in the head of novellists. The space elevator concept is a century old and was made popular by Arthur C Clarke in his novel The Fountains of Paradise (1979). Now they have an annual conference about it. If this is so and the heads of novellists such as Stephenson, Marshall-Smith and Crichton are anything to go by, we're in for a wild ride.

Posted by Ant at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2003

The Boogie Man

So, on the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, we are shocked again. "The latest block buster from Al-Queda... Osama's back baby, and he's badder than ever...". Our modern day "Boogie Man" has achieved his goal. His image alone, strikes fear into the heart of the western world. Any westerner who didn't take a sharp intake of breath at the sight of that bearded icon on a craggy mountain someplace unknown, is either dead, or utterly distracted.

What is it about the Boogie Man? Why is it that Bin Laden is so much more vivid, so much more a frightening sight now? Because like the Boogie Man, nobody really know's whether he exists. He's on the telly now. He must be real! 'We didn't gettim' I think as I realise it's the first time we've seen footage of him shot after that horrible, shocking and doom-laden day.

All the western hype and spin about this 'evil' figure, has built him into something far more scary than a pissed-off fundamentalist who's rallyed a few other pissed-off mates to try and screw a common enemy. One of the Tabloids here did their best to scorn the enemy "The Goat-Herder's Back" or something similar the headline read. They don't fool me. They're scared too.

Posted by Ant at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2003


Ok, now I'm just dead chuffed, because I managed to get this sucker installed. By all accounts, Moveable Type is 'da bomb baby' but... CHEESUS CRIES it's hard to install when you're not a server monkey.

Anyways, I did it... and I'm proud. It only took me all day! I've made my own piece of software which requires server installation too. How am I going to get my users around this headache???

Posted by Ant at 05:39 PM | Comments (4)