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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!

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Category: discussion topics

…Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable… – Henry Ford

Well worth watching…

The basic elements of creativity – Copy, Transform, Combine.

The Government has backed a new ‘Startup Britain’ initiative. I find it hard to see it as much more than a spin of optimism to smooth over a messed up economy (…cynic that I am…) “Recently lost your job? Don’t be too upset.. it’s an opportunity – start your own business!”.

It comes at a time when the funding axe is hitting Regional Development Agencies. These will either be reconfigured or will disappear. The days of generous match funding are closing.

This is both a bad and good thing.

Bad because it’ll make it harder to start a business – and good for exactly the same reason. Free-flowing funding has encouraged the seeding of new businesses which don’t have solid models, and supported business owners who don’t have total commitment to their ideas. Alongside this, many third-party benefactors of funding (i.e. suppliers) know that the system has been abused by inflated costs and unsuitable delivery.

I’m not sure where this twin prong of startup evangelism and tight purse-strings will lead. I hope it will enthuse a slice of smart entrepreneurs with well-formed business ideas and lean spending trajectories, but there’s a risk that it offers false hope to many who fall into starting a business because it seems like the only open door, one that the government is ushering them towards, and one that they’ll painfully fail at.

That’s not to say that new businesses can’t get money. For tech businesses, funding is available via loans (via JEREMIE in the North East) and private capital is available at a few levels- both will are likely to cast more scrutiny on your plans than has been the case for RDA match funding. This is a good thing.

For the first three months of this year I’ve been running a new business through The Difference Engine tech accelerator with my business partner Oli. It’s been an honour to do so and an amazing personal journey. Our project idea was selected by potential to allow us to enter the programme- and we’ve been able to bounce it round some very sharp business types to hone it into something that has a decent chance of success. We have some seed funding in exchange for a small amount equity and had a fostering environment to grow it so that it’s now market launched (though currently private for testing). The scheme has been an fantastic launchpad, because it combines practical help with a smatter of capital for some promising ideas/teams – and we’ve all worked damn hard for it.

The strongest element has undoubtedly been the steering we have received. All rookie entrepreneurs should harbour a strong desire for mentorship to help them along.

Due to the RDA kickabout, I’m not sure what will be happening to The Difference Engine next year- I hope it continues to run in some potent form. It’s worth keeping an eye on alongside its spiritual sister, Springboard, which is entirely privately funded.

A pretty low-grade, but functional associative array sorter in JavaScript:

// execution
var assocArray = new Array();
assocArray[ 'b' ] = 'item3';
assocArray[ 'c' ] = 'item1';
assocArray[ 'a' ] = 'item2';

array_dump_html( 'Pre-sort', assocArray );

assocArray = array_sort( assocArray );

array_dump_html( 'Post-sort', assocArray );

// ---
// Sort functions...
function array_sort( arrayIn ) {

	var arrayCouplets = new Array();
	for( key in arrayIn ) {

		arrayCouplets.push({

			key: key,
			value: arrayIn[ key ]
		});
	}

	arrayCouplets.sort( sort_couplets );

	var arrayOut = new Array();
	for( i in arrayCouplets) {

		arrayOut[ arrayCouplets[ i ][ 'key' ] ] = arrayCouplets[ i ][ 'value' ];
	}

	return arrayOut;
}

function sort_couplets( coupletA, coupletB ) {

	return coupletA[ 'value' ] > coupletB[ 'value' ];
}

// ---
// Fluff functions...
function array_dump_html( title, arrayIn ) {

	var output = '';
	for( key in arrayIn ) {

		output += 'key(' + key + ') value(' + arrayIn[ key ] + ')<br />';
	}

	document.write( '<div><h1>' + title + ':</h1>' + output + '</div>' );
}

Outputs:

Pre-sort:
key(b) value(item3)
key(c) value(item1)
key(a) value(item2)

Post-sort:
key(c) value(item1)
key(a) value(item2)
key(b) value(item3)

Copy and paste into an online editor to try it.

Can you improve it? Please comment!

Dr. Frank Echenhofer proposes of a cycle to describe the generation of imagery under the influence of a psychoactive (ayahuasca)  or within a meditative state.

This cycle may also loosely map to the antagonism and resolution occurring within a dream, and could perhaps also be applied to conscious creativity or directed problem solving.

I hope my interpretation does not do his work an injustice!

Form Dismantling and Healing

Descendent: Negative, haunted, hurtful. ‘Letting go’.

1. Enhanced Conflicting Energy (clearance)

Uncovering the unresolved and potentially tortuous aspects.

2. Tolerating Overwhelming Experiences (the gateway)

Approaching the issue- circling and deconstruction (dismantling of form).

3. Dismantling of Self-Schema (rebirth)

The germination of the new form. The loss of conscious control. This may be a positive or negative experience.

Form Creation

Uplifting: positive and transcendent

4. Enhanced inner attunement (focus)

Awareness of the components.

5. Enhanced form fluidity (awareness and wash)

Exploration.

6. Enhanced compressed complexity (collapse and collation)

Formation of detail and form consolidation.

Form Expression

Resolution

7. Enhanced field complexity (a broadened perspective)

An appreciation of the generative field, i.e. the structure surrounding the invention.

8. Enhanced vertical attunement (escalation)

An acceleration of the thought process- the ‘mind-blowing’ stage.

9. Enhanced horizontal attunement (sharing)

An openness and diffusion of the generated form.

Gradual Self-Improvement

Each time we undergo the cycle, we get better at the stages, more adept at stabilisation and more skilful at expression. There is, however, never any guarantee that the cycle will complete successfully once started.

My own interpretation of the final phase is that broadcasting the final form can, under the right conditions, push it into the start of the cycle for others and, thus, can form a chained ‘collective consciousness’.

[Some pontification, as a mental warm-up to being surrounded by some seriously deep thinkers this week]

There are a couple of episodes in my life that blew my mind- figuratively, and perhaps even literally. Core to these have been an established, self-built mental construction about a person or situation that has been forced to collapse very quickly. These have predominantly centred around broken trust.

It’s an intrinsic human trait to rationalise in order to understand- to fit our impressions of the world into a coherent schema; with discrete, logical steps bridging any complexity. We may well create fiction along the way to cope with any cognitive dissonance within our world view.

Very occasionally, rationalisation isn’t possible- particularly where a situation has a strong emotional component. The conscious mind rapidly bounces between aspects, without being able to resolve any of them.

I’ve recognised quirks in my own cognitive behaviour, which have been triggered by incoherence. Some of these attempt to rectify, others are simply a side-effect. These have included:

  • Invention – a willingness to accept facts that are clearly untrue
  • Appeal – entertaining a divine, or out-worldly cause (I have never been religious)
  • Obsession – an inability to mentally focus on anything but the incoherence
  • Lockdown – an inability to mentally focus on anything at all, including the incoherence

The practical truth is that ‘some things just don’t make sense’ – this is a naturally difficult, but powerful tool, to adopt.

Most of us subscribe to a fundamental model of the physical world, where causes have direct, observable, and traceable effects. This is extremely useful and very empowering (pretty much essential for our daily operation, actually) – and I think we’d like to believe that we can apply this sort of computation elsewhere. But why is it necessarily true that all human actions have an understandable trigger, and all causes have a logical effect on people’s emotions?

Some primal emotions can be be rationalised as basic stimulus-response affairs (happiness, pain response). Other emotions may require a little more explanation (fear, awe). Can some be irrational enough, or too complex for us to logically work through?

Alongside the obvious – love (thanks, Spock!), perhaps we can include duty, respect…?

When the alternative is mental flip-flopping, and a first-class ticket on the train to madness, this is the most worthy mantra:

Some things just don’t make sense!

One of the flagship features of Adobe’s CS5 Suite, direct compilation to iPhone app code, has been rather spectacularly undermined by Apple a few days before release (see Phil Lindsay’s well-written account for the details, and an Adobe technologist’s response to the news).

On the one hand, it’s difficult to believe that Apple would do this with as spiteful an attitude as has been suggested. On the other, I just can’t see what they’d gain from this for all that they would hurt.

One long-held conspiratorial belief for why Flash doesn’t exist on iPhone/iPad is that the richness of media functionality and ease of development/distribution would pose a threat to the iTunes foodchain for native, paid apps.

I don’t like it, but I could at least the commercial justification is clear.

Could this have similar roots?

Maybe as a security measure to guard against ‘non-conformist’ code structures entering iTunes.

Does Apple feel that 3rd party compiled code would be harder to police for policy violations at submission stage?

Does Apple think that a proliferation of development tools would leave them having to mop up developer support for other environments?

All possible, though it would be professional manners to work with a company as respected as Adobe to address these issues in partnership.

One of the most interesting, and more powerful moves Adobe ever made was to open source the Flash compiler / FLEX SDK. There are now great 3rd party tools (such as FlashDevelop) for developers to use if they see fit. Although this might appear to steal from their own revenue stream, the net result is that more applications appear for the Flash platform and Adobe still get to lead the field with their premium software.

Sadly, it seems Apple are doing the complete opposite.

Perhaps an official clarification will emerge from them shortly.

April Fool only works if you don’t know it’s coming.

This morning, every fourth message on Twitter was #AprilFool – on not being caught out, or waiting to see what the big media and social media companies come up with (Google have a glittering history here- perhaps they have a wing of the Googleplex devoted to it?!).

Reference to the occasion was also plastered all over people’s Facebook statuses, and telegraphed via a couple of ‘Don’t be an April Fool’ sale emails.

I knew it was going to be April 1st last night, but somewhere deep within myself I hoped I wouldn’t remember when I woke up- I’d be caught off-guard and might enjoy the playful, blushing charm of being fooled.

The Internet killed the fun.

It doesn’t work any more- we’re all too plugged into our networks, hyper-alert, and waiting to be fed an amusing, all-too-knowing fabrication from a megacorp.

I vote for change. Mass foolings are an amazing thing, but we need to pull this back to the personal, and here is my proposal:

Everyone has their own individual ‘mirthday’ on which they can be tricked. It’s like your birthday. In fact, it’s exactly a week before it. Anyone close enough to know your birthday can organise a jape, and those in the same friendship circle can coordinate. Those who know your birthday should know you well enough to decide if you’d appreciate a mirthday… simple.

Let’s put the fun back!… Who’s in?

(My mirthday is 16th June – so bring it on!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day

Simply beautiful:

This month’s meeting of SuperMondays started with a talk from PayPalX ‘Chief Wizard’, John Lunn (@johnxcom) about PayPal’s fledgeling services for mobile app integration. These are likely to be available across the mobile platforms, but will initially be available for iPhone developers.

Apple’s terms require that 3rd party payment services must be used for ‘real world’ rather than ‘digital’ goods, so they’re restricted in scope, but, in the right place, should offer a smooth payment flow without the security minefield associated with accepting credit cards through mobile devices.

John was joined by colleague Anthony Hicks (@anthonyxcom), Jon Nairn (@jonstep, working for @neverodd), Alex Reid (@alexjreid) and Peter Bull (@RoguePlanetoid) for a panel Q&A session.

General points of note from the session and pub discussions:

  • Perhaps surprising to some, the iPhone market accounts for a small proportion of mobile devices, and Android mobiles are apparently selling at twice the rate of iPhone.
  • iPhone users are generally more comfortable with app purchasing, and represent a more general consumer demographic.
  • Submissions and updates are developer-driven for Android, so app deployment can be rapid- especially when compared to Apple’s approval process.
  • Development for the less popular platforms may attract incubation or start-up funding.
  • Some high-qualify third-party technology exists for integration, e.g. Bump, OpenFeint.
  • Commercially, producing good middleware may be a better gamble than a good app.
  • Windows Phone 7 Series sounds promising.

Events like SuperMondays are great for setting bits of your brain in motion- even if the talks don’t directly relate to your field of expertise, and your thoughts don’t directly relate to the talks!

See: SuperMobile event listing, @SuperMondays.

North-East mobile app developers, and those requiring app development should check out Paul Smith’s AppNorth group for contacts.

j0nnywill

The following clip, taken from daytime TV has riled videogamers:

Well done Tim Ingham for:

  • remaining calm, erudite and articulate in the face of brick-wall stupidity.
  • swiftly realising that he was there to be placed in stocks, rather than for rational discussion.
  • being the only one to realise that research doesn’t equal fact- especially when it’s badly recounted research.
  • attempting to steer the session onto the more significant issue which should have led the exchange.

It’s a superb example of TV pandering to its audience under the guise of informed discussion. Shame on you.