Flash Creativity

I am not a huge fan of flash coding, in fact I hate it most of the time. It is flash by name and flashy by nature. It is in your face advertising and as loud and bold as you can imagine. Usually. But I would like to share with you a web site that is so far from this it would be classified as art anywhere else. It is so far removed from the stereotype of flash that I don’t even think it the same and yet it is.

The website does not have a name as such. It is a demonstration of the beauty that can be created using the flash code. From what I understand flash is difficult to code, if this is the case this web site is a stunning example of what is possible given the time and determination. I am sure this is some sort of on-line resume for a designer and creator of some sort as his name is in the title bar: Jonathan Yuen.

The website does not “do” much. It plays some relaxing music. It displays some rendered scenes. I sometimes just go there to look at the images that unfold as a “walk” through the created landscape. Believe it or not it is actually relaxing! It just flows as you discover about the page’s creator and what is important to him. Hover over the text to get the English version, hover for everything actually. I am reminded of a bonsai garden, very zen.  I just like it. You might think it pointless, but if you are a bit strung out take a visit. If nothing else appreciate the creativity and thought that has gone into the creation and design of this page, it is nice work.

Jonathan Yuen Screenshot

This Blog is Part of the Beta Group to Test Snap!

I have just learned that the Rooster’s Rail is part of the beta group of blogs on WordPress that is testing a plugin called Snap, which is short for Snap Preview Anywhere™. I am very very excited about being a part of this group. I saw Snap some time ago and liked the concept a lot. So much so that I have requested that it be implemented on The Global Geek Podcast Blog. Hopefully that is happening in the next couple of months. For those people that don’t know what Snap is you are probably asking, what the heck is The Rooster on about now?

Snap is a great feature that enables visitors to your site or blog mouse or hover over a link and have a preview pop up. Yeah it is just eye-candy really. But it does give you a bit of an idea if you want to go to a site or not, what it looks like. The images are high resolution so they look great. Or maybe you are just curious and don’t want to visit but just have a peek. Tops, this is great for that. In addition to that it is just plain cool!

Anyone can have Snap on their site by signing up and placing some code in their page. Us WordPressers don’t have the ability to put this type of code in our pages, especially since this is a script. Yet again the WordPress gurus have come through and are giving us feature after feature, and now we get Snap! Woot. This is definitely a place you want to be. I continue to be impressed and pleased to be a part of this community.

For those that absolutely dislike this feature, you can disable it. Doing this will disable Snap on any site not just the one you are looking at. You must refresh the page to not see them. The good thing is that it is not permanent. Disabling it works by using a cookie in your browser. So if you want the functionality of Snap back just delete your browser cookies.

This is a great feature for WordPress users and readers and I sure hope that they keep it. I like it and I think it is useful. Thanks Matt and crew another winner in my book and I am looking forward to seeing it utilized in my posts. Readers of this blog, I would love to know what you think and I will include your comments in my feedback to WordPress Admin. I would also be interested to know what other beta testers here thought about it.

Snap Preview Anywhere Screenshot

Riding the Line

Line Rider LogoI noticed that a few blogs were carrying this flash website as a story today and after about the 3rd one I thought “I” had better check it out. I am glad that I did. It is the absolute biggest time-waster that I have found to date. The “toy” as it is described is called “Line Rider
The reason it is the biggest time waster is that it is only a toy, in other words there is no point to it, there are no scores, there is no goal. Other than to draw a line that a toboggan then runs down and along. Ideally it does this without crashing!

The author of the game states that it was a project that he did for illistration class. The usual beta tag is attached and there has been a swell of suggestions for ways to improve the game. Inclusions for future versions include:

  • Eraser tool – would be very handy, you spend five minutes making what you think is a great track and make a bump in the wrong spot and you have to start again.
  • Line drawing tool – maybe but I think half the fun is getting it right. Maybe handy for the tricky bits you want to add.
  • Rider falls less easily – good, it doesn’t take many bumps for him to plough into the snow.
  • Physics engine mods – cool, adding some funky accelerate, decelerate functions. Jumps here we come.

I had some fun with this and a big warning: It is highly addictive. I stopped playing when I had wasted half an hour but ILine Rider This is bad... think you could waste a whole morning without trying.

I am really looking forward to the next version and I can see it having a cult following. Very cool and it just goes to prove that the best games or “toys” in life can be the simplest.

This is bad, face in the snow and all busted up is not a good look. No that is not blood, but it should be. This was a major stack and I am sure the little bastard reached terminal velocity. It was fun but.

Skype 2.6 Beta Released

Skype LogoFound out today that Skype 2.6 beta is out. Normally I would jump on it and install it with much excitement. But because there is no record button I am going to sulk a few days, maybe a week.

If you want to check it out you can download it here.

The other reason I am not going to install it straight away is that there is nothing mind blowingly outstanding or must have about it. Well maybe one feature that would be good.

Listed features:

  • Skypecasts on LIVE Tab

No interest, I hope you can deselect it in the “view” options

  • Browser Plugins

Why? Not sure that I would use this at all. In my opinion this just makes you use SkypeOut and I don’t like choice being manipulated. But you never know it might be useful to some people. Glad it is an optional install.

  • Clickable Links in Mood Messages

Now this one I like. Lots of people put links in their mood messages and I am no exception. I often put a link to the podcast here or I might link to the blog or whatever. I can think of many ways that this would be useful and fun.

  • Birthday Notifications

I don’t think this is very useful at all. I presume that it is using the user details that are a part of the Skype account. Which assumes that everyone fills in these details and that they are correct. The majority of users probably do not fill it in and if they do use a bogus date. Usefulness as a result gets a 3/10 in my book. That is one for each Skype contact that I think filled in their birthday accurately!

  • Clickable Avitars in Chat Windows

Not sure what this means exactly and what it does, user information maybe? But it might be useful.

  • Avitar Drag and Drop Ability

Might be handy to add people to a chat or call. Otherwise no big deal in my opinion.

It would seem that this edition of Skype is more of a bug fix than a great new features edition. Sure I am jaded. I love Skype but it is looking more like bloat everyday. I wonder how much bandwidth the whole Skypecasts thing will steal? I hate to think. Then get 7 million users doing it at the same time! I make that assumption from the 8 “new features”, 4 “changes”, 41 bug fixes (might be off by one or two here, very hard to count that many you know) and a further and a remaining 2 “known issues”.

Well I just hope that makes Skype better because I am not thinking big here. Give us the bloody record button… please? Sorry that was uncalled for but I am getting tired of waiting and I think this is something I need more than Skypecasts. I will try not to be a cynical bastard on the next post.

Usual beta rules apply.

Capitalism in the Face of Content

I have often thought about this issue and I think it has even come up on Global Geek Podcast. How are all these lovely looking “Web2.0” websites going to make money? At this present time most of these sites look great, they have minimal advertising; if any. They look a million dollars due to the sleek web design and neat Ajax applications that they are employing. Or to use what has become a social term: these sites look very “Web2.0”. But today I see that this is changing.

Shoutwire is what people would term a “Web2.0” site. It is an on-line community that works a little like Digg in that news stories are submitted by the community and are “shouted” or “liked” by the users. In this way articles get X number of “shouts” which promotes that story up the ladder. I guess that you could say it a form of voting. Users can submit comments and have discussions about the stories as well. Great idea, news that the community decides is important gets promoted and read by more visitors to the site. There is also an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for the front, page much like Digg. The site when I joined was slick, pleasing to the eye and easy to use and it was fun. Although being a new site at the time the community was small. I don’t know how big it is now but if they continue wrecking their “look” they are going to scare people off in droves.

I had not visited Shoutwire for a while and I had some time free so I decided to swing on over to their site. To say that I was appauled is an understament. Sure there were some sort of syndicated adverts along the top, making up part of the header. Fine, a lot of sites have that or something similar. But the wart on the face of beauty was an overly large, flashing, obnoxious, irritating, badly placed advert right in the middle of the submitted article pane, right at the top. Absolutely disgusting.

Shoutwire Screen Shot[Click thumbnail for bigger image] Not only does this make the once slick site look cheap; it was also probably one of the most badly placed ads I have ever seen, but yes, I noticed it. I hated it, I am not even sure that I want to go back and I most probably will not. In addition to that is the fact that the type of advert that the editors (or whoever decides this stuff) have used; just does not look like it belongs on the site. It looks like they were desperate for money so they stuck up whatever they were offered. I don’t care if this type of advertising works, if it was me making these decisions it just would not have happened. It would be like a flashy magazine like Vanity Fair placing ads that you might see in Picture Magazine (Australian soft porn magazine) in the featured story. I am not sure if they realise that is how the selection and placement of advertising comes across or not but I would be interested to find out what other people think. There is another “choice” advert along the right side of the main page but at least it is not in your face. But it is one that I would not have expected to see, it just does not fit with the “flavour” of the site.

That said I have always maintained that these flash sites that we are being spoilt with are going to change and some like Shoutwire for the worse. The services and the nice looking sites, to say nothing of the bandwidth do not come for free. Something has to give here for them to be able to continue to operate and maintain the services that they offer.

We are going to see some things happen. These sites that promote traffic are going to have to decide how they tackle the revenue problem. Decide to fall on their sword and die a dignified death. Or they advertise. The only other alternatives is to charge a subscription to be able to contribute to the site or perhaps to even enter it. They would have to be pretty confident of their product for that to occur. But I can see the advertising thing happening. But please do it with class and good taste, Shoutwire is a great example of what not to do.

One nasty trick that some companies might be considering is that of building a user base that is highly involved and somewhat reliant on what they offer, like Odeo for example, then start to charge people to use it. I am not saying that I have heard that Odeo is considering doing this but I must say that if I would suspect a site for maybe doing it, it would be Odeo. You ask why I hear. Well; what Odeo are doing is transferring heaps of data in the form of podcasts and sent odeo messages to their user base and anyone else that wants to just listen to podcasts. That aspect alone would be costing them a lot of cold hard cash. Up until this point in time I have seen no advertising, except for themselves. But then again they might get their funding from somewhere else I don’t know.

Another site that comes to mind is YouTube, again huge bandwidth, big dollars, huge active user base and to top it off they are as popular as you might be able to get. Are they loosing money? I know they were for a while but they might not be now.

I would pay for both access and use of a site if a few conditions were meet. One is that I would have to rely on the service that they were offering and it would have to be good and reliable. Or alternatively I would have to very much enjoy being a part of that community. Secondly, I would expect that a subscription was payed in lieu of having to put up with Odeo Logoobnoxious advertising. For example, if Odeo said to me that I would have to pay to be able to recieve Odeo messages into my inbox for the podcast, I would agree to it. The reason being is that the service is a great one, it works, it is reliable, it is of high quality. But I would expect this fee to be reasonable as well, I won’t pay through the nose either!

So it remains to be seen if companies and websites will maintain the look and feel of their websites while meeting the need to raise revenue in order for the site to exist. I can see the need for both. But what I do not see the need for is the example of Shoutwire. It will be interesting to see what route these companies take over time as the pressure increases with more competition. Given Shoutwire, I am sure some will opt for cash and capitalism over content. In the meantime I am going to Newsvine, they look like they are doing something right.