Thursday, October 3, 2013

Art, UX, Computer Science (happy campers)

Happy Indeed!

Feeling very pleased, and perhaps amazed, with their luck at finding easy parking in Little Italy, many of the San Diego UX Speakeasy crowd at first walked right past the entrance to Sosolimited, the host for this month's amazing blend of art, design and computer science. Snugly fit into a funky building that looked non descript on the outside but was full of interesting odds and ends on the inside, 70 or so of us gathered for our monthly meeting of food, beverage, and socializing. Oh, and for a really cool presentation.

I was stumbling around in a corner doing something or other when Justin Manor, our host, explained the origin of the company name, but I believe it had something to do with he and his friends originally being in a band. or DJs perhaps? Something musical anyway. Many years later, the expanded team has morphed into working with clients such as The Denver Public Library, the Museum of Science in Raleigh North Carolina, the Center For Strategic and International Studies (in DC) and oh, I almost forgot, the 2012 London Olympics.

The projects Justin showed us snippets of were eclectic and it's hard to succinctly say what they all had in common. Lots of data, interactivity, live processing, .... urg it's hard to describe (fortunately it is all on their web page in lovely visual form). There was genetic patterning and sequencing in there, patterns of natures that flowed and swooped, streaming bits that looked like something out of The Matrix, physical animations of various natural processes, linguistic analysis -

wait. When Justin showed us linguistic analysis of political speeches and pronouncements from the US and UK the crowd got a good laugh while being educated. We watched a clip from the US presidential debates, and various political speeches from both countries. Streamed live at the time, various word clouds formed and rearranged as the politicians spoke, zeroing in on buzzwards, or egotistical references to themselves and a variety of other interesting things. There was one politician who said almost nothing intelligible in a very long winded way and it was quite interesting to see the analytical structures forming around his blathering. So if you sometimes think that some of these guys aren't saying anything, now you could know for a fact when that was the case.

I would love to see some live analysis of the current morass going on in Washington DC over the government shutdown.

You see, it's pretty serious stuff as well as fun - if you think about all the ways that live data analysis, pattern identification and matching in nature, micro to macro, can help us learn new things and understand the world around us. It's research, it's user experience, it's art, it's science. It's dynamic and it's cooooooooooooool!

For those of you who want to get your hands a dirty you know what is equally cool? (Aside from the fact that Justin talked about code and algorithms on more than one occasion.) Sosolimited has put an open source project on GitHub that you can use to do some things with YouTube videos. Again I refer you to their web page for the full scoop.

I realize this has been a somewhat sedate post about a UX Speakeasy meetup compared to some of those in the past. Perhaps it was the contentment I felt with the presence of vegetarian spring rolls. Yummy and healthy. Or a general friendly blurring and purring of memories from the evening. I would be remiss however, if I did not mention one small oddity. The bathroom. I didn't manage to locate it myself, but I was told by several people that to get there one had to go outside (out of doors), take a left, go left again, then left again, up a ramp, perhaps another left I'm not sure, and then one would find the Facilities. These directions involve some interaction with a loading dock (?), and a parking lot (?).

I didn't think to ask the building owner, a very nice guy named Marc Hedges about the Facilities Location. I'm sure he would have had an interesting explanation.

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