Category: General Posts

Girls Learning Code

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Girls Learning Code’s Website

They made me do yoga.

It was horrible.

Other than that it was a satisfying experience. I expected the worse because I didn’t know html/css well enough to teach it so I was doubting whether I should be taking a mentor slot in the first place. Luckily I was put in charge of an older group so they were able to solve of a lot of their problems themselves.I also agreed strongly with the camp policies where they encourage to teach using a hands-off approach to make sure students can become self sufficient and as a result learn to learn. As a result I only stepped in a few times when they were really stuck or they had to rush to finish their websites on Friday. It really impressed me that they were able to problem solve themselves using Google. It seems like something fairly obvious but it’s something I see a lot of people fail to do. In addition to that they were able to collaborate on levels that I wouldn’t expect to see until high school or university. When they were told they had to choose one website out of the two they made for Friday they actually decided to go through the process of taking apart both of them and combining them into one. The end product looked great.

Specifically I mentored for two days (it seemed like that was max amount for everyone) on Tuesday and Friday both from 8 am to 4 pm. Because of this I was able to see how my group started and finished off. Tuesday was an intro to html so I was able to help out but Friday was clean up for the site as a whole. When the girls had problems on Friday I asked for help often from other mentors more experienced than me.

As for what I learned I picked up a lot just from talking to other people. It’s not often that I could have small talk with programmers that are currently working. I was able to ask about how programmers work together as well how it felt in general to do so. I also got a glimpse how the work ethics of a company like FreshBooks would be like. The way the desks were setup with various personal items and multiple monitors/standing desks seemed new to me. The cafeteria was also pretty amusing since you could just leave food on the kitchen table or fridge and it would be free for anyone to take. We had to ask someone to protect our pizzas while we left them there. Overall it was a satisfying experience and I would recommend it for people who can’t go on the trip next year.

Indiegogo

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Indiegogo’s Website

1.Do you think you can learn from companies like Kickstarter? If so what?

2.How was selling a product yourself vs using Kickstarter in terms of difficulty?

3.Did you feel like the product was still yours after changing so much from feedback?

4.Where is the line drawn when making changes from feedback?

This visit started off with a presentation describing what Indiegogo was. The main chunk of the talk however came more from his background of working with various types platforms to release products. He’s tried pitching ideas to companies, using KickStarter and is also currently working for Indiegogo. Because of this diversity he was able to talk about how he’s seen successfull products grow through user feedback. One large point he made was that if you wanted to make a good product you should be receiving constant feedback and changing your product to fit the user. With platforms like crowdfunding it gives the seller the ability to actually find a target audience by simply putting the product out there and letting anyone interested fund it and give feedback. Finally an interesting point he made was about finding special customers that really want your product. Customers that would brag about the product just because he has it for example. By finding these people the product has a firmer base in terms of support as they put their trust in you.

Recently I’ve been able to experience working on game development and playtesting to get feedback so the whole idea of feedback he was talking about interested me. One thing I agreed easily on was the feedback does in fact improve the product. If you were to ignore it then there’s a good chance you’ll get the same kind of reaction from customers as you did when “playtesting” when you release the product. That being said I didn’t like the idea of changing the product to fit the user. It should be nearly impossible to make a product that would completely satisfy all of your customers. If something came close to it then it would probably be a huge mess where each user was only interested on one small part of it.

Studio [Y]

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Studio [Y]’s Website

1.What kind of professions/people have you had?

2.How exactly is the program facilitated?

3.What are some interesting projects you’ve seen made here/by people who’ve taken this program?

When we entered the room for Studio [Y] the first thing I noticed was the amount of chairs on the floor and all the members/students sitting around in the same space. Compared to the other visits it was a lot more welcoming and felt the closest to a class rather than a tour. We were first given a description of what the place was, what they taught and the similarities it had to Digital Futures. After that we were split into discussion groups and talked for a few minutes. We met back in the main room afterward and one representative from each group gave a summary of what they discussed to give everyone an idea of their conversation. The topics were so interesting that there was even a reporter their recording this process.

The most interesting highlight was the discussion itself. In our case we talked about education in games. One idea that was brought up was how games could be used to make educational topics feel more natural. Rather than having math and science taught separately he argued that through games using physics the person could pick up the intuition needed in both of these fields without having to isolate and focus on them. Another example brought up was Portal that also used physics and encouraged problem solving in engaging ways that normal education struggles to do. Minecraft was also used as an example with the way how it taught mixture of materials fairly accurately.

Xpace

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Xpace’s Website

Questions

  1. What opportunities are there for game-like pieces?

  2. What kind of events have you done in the past?

  3. Exactly what kind of connection does Xpace have to OCADU?

Stepping into the Xpace building felt like walking into a small gallery. The window had an installation while the walls had paintings setup in a style unique to OCADU. The art pieces themselves could even be identified as works from the school. The main part of the visit was the explanation what Xpace was and what they have to offer in terms of services. They described how they let students from any program put up work at their spaces to give them the opportunity of showing their works in a professional setting. They’re funded by the student union but all the money goes into planning gallery events for the students. In addition to that they were really open about what kinds of works they accept to the point where they were interested in planning new events when people asked whether pieces from digital futures would even fit to begin with.

I found it interesting to see that OCADU had connections to this kind of program. I’m not interested in putting up work in galleries since I like working on games that are made purely for entertainment rather than art. That being said I bet if I were to ask they would be willing to plan a gaming event for digital futures to showcase our stuff. I personally don’t think they’re the ideal place to ask to show my games but it’s nice having them as one of the options.

HackLab

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HackLab’s Website

Questions

1. How did the club get established?

2. To what extent have you modified the building/room?

3. How exactly does the funding of projects work and what experiences have you had with the projects themselves?

When we first entered Hack Llab we saw a bunch of people working on projects as well as a few 3D printers that were modded excessively. I had no idea what kind of place it would be but I never would’ve expected it to be Kate-ville. One of the first things he described to us was all the cool things that they got the led screen at the back of the room to do such as displaying user information and a logo for the most recent person signed in and the name of the current song playing. After that we saw the kitchen where we learned how they served meals as well as the fact that the kitchen can be used for melting metal as well.

I found the place really funny the way how nerdified everything was. For example when he was asked how much and how accurate was the electricity information they were getting was he got all mad scientist on us and showed us the front led panel. The flashing numbers on the LED screen on top of the front door were actually apparently electricity readings just so people could be aware of how much was being used currently. In addition to that the “tree house” at the top made the place seem even more fun. Overall if the place was more of a game development club rather than a hacking one I’d be pretty interested in joining.

Hot Pop Factory

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Hot Pop Factory’s Site

Questions

1. How much improvement have you seen in the quality and cost efficiency of 3D printers over the years?

2. Can you see something that could only be printed on an expensive printer being printed on a Maker Bot in the near future?

3. Do you find the procedural generation adds a lot to the jewelry you make. To be more specific do you think it could have been a success without it?

We went to a room filled with 3D printers and a bunch of what seemed to be client orders on the table. To start things off we got a presentation that gave an overview of what Hot Pop Factory has done, where it came from and what they’re interested in as a company. One thing that came up was the use of procedural generation in 3D printed jewelry. By using code to make unique designs they were able to make a successful product that utilized 3D printing nicely. Because each piece of jewelery was printed one by one either way switching out a new design each time had little to no effect on the process. After that she described a much larger scale project where the same idea was applied to architecture. By playing with code they were able to make a feasible architecture scheme. Not only that but the idea was accepted and actually created. It really put into perspective how much rapid prototyping could create in terms of scale.

The first thing that interested me the most was the idea of using procedural generation to 3D print jewelry. I’ve used procedural generation before but I’ve always been unsure as to whether it would be adding to the game or not in terms of variety/re-playability. My goal with procedural generation in general is to make an environment that grows in an interesting and aesthetically pleasing way so it was really encouraging hearing that one of the main selling points of the product was the generation itself. Another thing that interested me was the building using not only code but rapid prototyping as well. I haven’t heard of many large scale 3D printers or anything similar so hearing that they were able to successfully create such a project gave me a little faith in the development of large scale 3D printers.

Push Strength

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Push Strength’s Site

Questions

1. How many programmers worked on the product and what kinds?

2. How long did it take you guys to get a functioning product?

3. How exactly does the product work?

We first took a tour of the office Push Strength used to be in in the MaRS building. There he explained that the office was for smaller startups and that anyone could pitch ideas to MaRS to get access not only to office space but guidance as well. He also explained that the device worked using an accelerometer and a large database of recorded motions. In addition to that he answered one of my questions regarding how many programmers were used in the process. To my surprise even though various different types of programmers works on different aspects like the app and the website only one worked on the core algorithm itself. After that we took a tour of the space they’re currently using.

I found the visit interesting in that I was able to make connections to the game pitches we do in class to the ones he was describing to apply to MaRS. Not only that but the idea of business plans tied in nicely as well. It really reinforced the importance of learning them. Another aspect that I found really interesting was the explanation of how the device worked. Although it wasn’t directly related to the company itself learning the technology and the process that went through making it was educational. For example when he said that one person made the core algorithm for the device I was surprised because I’ve always assumed that programmers worked together directly for efficiency. I haven’t had the chance to work together with many other programmers so it was nice hearing something new to me like that.

Office of Creative Magic Research

Jer Thorp is a techno-wizard

 

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When we arrived at the front door of the Office of Creative Research, a third floor unit of a somewhat run-down, china-town apartment building, I could not even tell you what my expectations were. The neighbour hood felt like the first scene with Deckard in Blade Runner, noodle shops and neon signs, except under daylight. However, once we climbed the slanted steps of the building, and sat comfortably on the carpet and couches, we realized how cyberpunk this office actually was. Two massive Microsoft touch panels, one wall mounted, the other on wheeled easel, dominated the first half of the room. It was on those screens that we would experience data like nothing we had ever seen before.

Jer’s team had built a program to observer the functions and behaviours of ‘decapitated’ botnets. The software would intuitively display the data provided to his team by the security professionals at Microsoft in beautiful and imaginative ways. Some of the visual methods included particle systems that pulsed whenever the botnet attempted to send data, others were auditory and scanned through the last 24hours of data in both a wave form mode as well as a radial, sonar like mode. These different methods allowed the team to observe patterns that might previously have been hidden in more basic forms of data visualization.

Jer’s talk was extremely interesting to me as I love data visualization, but have never been very good at programming systems to do so. Since Jer and his team primarily utilize processing, a program DFI is quite familiar with, it really got me thinking about the power available through that free program. I’ll never forget about what he said in regards to the term ‘data’ which gets thrown around quite often these days.

“data is not the thing, data is a measurement of that thing and you constantly need to remember that when working with it.”

This definition made me rethink data vis as less of a hard science, but more of a playful endeavour to uncover the systems in the background. This guy is a freaking data-sage.

Q: Beyond visual and sonic methods, what other ways of interpreting data have you and your team experimented with? Tectile?

Q: Can you recommend any resources for processing that relate to the type of work you do at this office? Perhaps some tutorials or projects that inspired you when you first learned the program?

Q: Since you work primarily in ‘tool design’ rather than product design, what sorts of considerations do you think should be made when people design digital tools?

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