F@$K F%^K F*$K and other web designer war songs

Okay, so I’m reminded of why I hate (hate hate hate) using other people’s scripts. The AJAX poller has stopped working. I’ve spent about two hours trying to figure out why, deleting and re-uploading different files, all sorts. It’s still not working. It’s been fine for ages. I’ve done nothing to it to the best of my knowledge. The vote goes on to the database. I checked. I checked the error log. No error. Does it give me the result graph back? Obviously not.

Very very very annoyed.

And what’s more, I have no idea what to do beyond deleting the whole thing and redoing it from scratch. I would naturally rather avoid this eventuality.
Very very very annoyed. Would blog about other things but want to fix other things having wasted so much time on that.

NB – Prospective employers please note that this problem was fixed the following day. You live and learn.

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Frustration

I’ve been trying to implement two things for my questionnaire. One is a tag cloud which comes back after the user has filled in their answer. This will give them two entry points in to all of these words.

Now I come to write this I’m considering the value of having the tag cloud at all. Is it any more than a trick? Will it help people to reflect on the questionnaire. I’m actually inclined to think that the best things here will be the simplest. People will want to read other people’s answers. They’ll definitely want to do that. Who wouldn’t?

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CAPTCHA

One issue with my questionnaire is spam. Any online text form is open to a lot of spam. I need a way of protecting myself against it. The most common way is the CAPTCHA (stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). I hate these things. I think most people do. You know the things where you have to type in a mash of letters and half the time they’re impossible to see and if they’re not, at best they ruin the pleasant flow of the navigation. I really don’t want that. They’re fine for Yahoo! but not for this. I don’t want one of those CAPTCHAs coming near my questionnaire. There’s also a useful page on the accessibility issues associated with CAPTCHAs on the W3C website.

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Ajax polling system

NB – Please note that I wrote most of this post about a week ago but didn’t feel like it was finished for some reason. By rights the date on this ought to be 18th of June.

I’ve found an ajax polling system that takes one closed question, adds it to a database and serves back the results for the poll immediately. Exactly what I need. I had some trouble getting it to work but the basic problems I didn’t figure out myself were solved on this useful ubuntu forum discussion.

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databases and poll scripts

I’ve been testing a simple poll script that has a few advantages. These include cookies that stop people from filling out the questionnaire twice, a pie chart that gives results immediately after filling the form out (which is linked to the Google API) and a simple form based admin process that means I can create a questionnaire in ten minutes.

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Flash Experiment and interaction thoughts

I’ve spent a fair bit of today trying to get this tutorial working. webdesignermag.co.uk. It’s supposed to make a poll and chart in Flash that connects to a MySQL database. I can’t get it to connect to my database though.

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Max Frisch’s questionnaires

I’ve found a very useful piece of context for my questionnaire. It’s a book by the playwright Max Frisch called
'Sketchbook 1966-1971'. It features a series of questionnaires that pose some quite challenging questions. There are nine or ten of these questionnaires in the book and each one takes on a different theme. These questionnaires were quite highly acclaimed when the book was released. I can’t help but feel a lot of them are quite reductive though. A lot of it seems to be a Socratic form of argument with Frisch bullying people into sharing his beliefs.

Each questionnaire consists of twenty five questions. Here’s a sample of questions from the different questionnaires:

The human condition in general

  • Are you sure you are really interested in the preservation of the human race once you and all the people you know are no longer alive? State briefly why.
  • If you had the power to put into effect things you consider right, would you do so against the wishes of the majority (yes or no) Why not if you think they are right?
  • What in your opinion do others dislike about you, and what do you dislike about yourself? If not the same thing, which do you find it easier to excuse?

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Unit 2 – Final Report 1 – The Prototype

I’ve done three versions. One main one and two using less of the same ingredients.

1 – questionnaire with both flash and backing pixel picture.
This is the key one. I’ve talked about the flash bits in my previous posts. I talk about the backing pixel pictures below. They were originally made to go behind the flash relatively unobtrusively. I’m now wondering if they’re not just better than the flash bits.

2 – questionnaire with pixel picture but no flash.

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Development of the questionnaire flash visual accompaniments

NB – I wrote this on 19/11/08 and then made lots of these ideas in flash. I’ve now reflected on them a bit so I’ll put my reflections below each idea I’ve done in italics. You’ll be getting action and reflection in one sweet sweet pill. Also, I’ve figured out a few bits of the php in that time and managed to get a version of the questionnaire online. I should add that the from isn’t yet linked anywhere. Click here to see it, though it’s likely to change every other day now. Today, it still needs design work doing on it. Maybe I should stick the flash files up here separately. Not sure about the best way of doing that. Okay, I’ll make an archive page somewhere. Soon.

I’ve just had a scribbling session thinking about how I’m going to make visual accompaniment for each question. Below is a pretty good typed version of that.

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Participation

I haven’t really blogged about my PGPD in any direct way yet. It feels kind of rude not sticking up a link about it though. So here you go. Regardless of any dissatisfaction I may feel with it, it did help me think through a lot of things, and I’m finding I’m taking a few things more seriously as a result of it. I’ve already said that haven’t I? I’ve also already said that it’s left me with more questions than answers. But such is the way of these things.

I think one of the key reasons I’ve been getting interested in participatory art leading up to writing my PGPD is remembering an exhibition we had at the house gallery years ago, back when it was still just a gallery and not a gallery and cafe. The exhibition was called the Library of Unpublished Books by a woman called Caroline Jupp. I thought it was rather wonderful, not least because my friend Ben and I contributed a book to the project, which in itself was brilliant fun. My memories of the show are that it had a lovely feeling about it. It was very open. And I felt truly privileged to have been asked to take part, even though Caroline obviously just wanted to get as many books as she could. It was quite liberating creatively to do something for sake of it. We ended up binding the finished book together with old socks.

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Questionnaire review

For my unit 2 prototype I’m planning on making a very basic version of the online questionnaire I’m planning. I’ve been learning PHP so that I can put the whole thing into a MySQL database and it will be searchable. We’re doing a show at the house gallery in December. I’m planning on showing this basic prototype then. Clearly I want to present something a lot more developed for the final show. But I’ll get to that.

I’ve just had a quick review of the questionnaire in the show in August. I’ve broken the questions down in to three categories. These are as follows:

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Questionnaire

Probably the most important thing I did in this show was get people to fill out a questionnaire about the word all. It starts off fairly innocently and then goes off the deep end a bit. I think my final piece is most likely to be a honed down version of this questionnaire. A few people said they really enjoyed filling it out and a couple even said they’d been thinking about it in the week after doing it. That has to be a good thing. It’s a good way of engaging people with a thought process.

After questionnaires were completed, I hung them on the wall so people could read other people's answers

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Questionnaire, Draft 1

I’ve been working on a questionnaire. If anyone has anything to say about it, I’d be most grateful for their thoughts.

  1. When you hear the word all, do any vague impressions immediately flood your mind? ie – all of the known universe. Or all of the hairs on someone’s head.
  2. At a rough estimate, how often do you think you say the word all on any given day?
  3. When using the word all, how often do you use it in a completely logical manner?
    How often do you use it as a rough figure of speech? ie – ‘I eat jam sandwiches all the time’. Surely ‘quite frequently’ would be more accurate.
  4. What is the opposite of all?
  5. Does all imply either wholeness, completeness, both or neither of these things?
  6. Where is all’s centre?
  7. If you had to leave it all behind, what would you take with you?
  8. Can you name three pop songs with all in the lyric or title? What is being expressed by them?
  9. The universe is mind-spanglingly big. However, there is, I’m told, evidence suggesting that the universe is not infinite and in fact is flat (At least that’s one theory that’s done the rounds). Now clearly I don’t expect anyone to have too much to say about crazy physics but I do have a question: When you consider what might (or might not!) be beyond the finite universe, how do you feel?
  10. Do you think whatever is or isn’t beyond the universe is part of all?
    in other words, do you think this unknown is nothing, or nothingness, and if so, is that nothing part of all?

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End of year show and questionnaire

Okay, I really need to talk a bit about my reaction to the end of year show. Not so much what I thought of the work, but more a reaction to the show as a whole. I don’t like private views. I never find they’re the best time to look at work. I also feel uncomfortable at university shows because there’s so much work there. It’s difficult to look at any of it because there’s just so much to take in.

It reminded me of one of the key things that I really like about digital art. It can easily be web based. I find this very attractive. People can look at it in their own time. The kind of things I’m dealing with need time. I need to find a way of walking people through a thought process.
Galleries don’t have the space to do that. This comes with issues though. The way I’d been thinking was fairly definitely gallery based, with the idea of having everything layered in various media. So, that’s another ball that’s up in the air. Good.

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Cynthia Beth Rubin amid other things. Mainly written 14/04/2008

Cornwall

I took some photographs in Cornwall over Easter. Here is one such picture:

A hillside

Regular readers, (Hi Andy) may notice my fondness for bleak hillsides. It was very nice to get out to take some pictures. At times I could have almost swooned with pleasure. I know this sounds daft. This is a really important part of making anything for me.

Cynthia Beth Rubin

She came and gave us a talk today. She made me realise how much I’ve missed by not attending lectures here. I’ll have to force time into my schedule. She spoke of layering techniques, putting one heavily manipulated image on top of another less manipulated image, then erasing lots of the manipulated one so that parts of the other becomes visible. She was kind enough to give me some slides from her powerpoint presentation that demonstrate this. This layering thing is clearly very relevant to my own thoughts about layering my moments (I’ve so got to find a better word for that).

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