s2e02: Typing, Continued 

by danhon

0.0 Sitrep

8pm on a Monday night after a work day of ploughing through hundreds of pages of request for proposal documents because at this moment I am Thinking About How You Get From A Pre-Windows-95 Era Mainframe Application to Something That Is A Bit More Reasonable. I think it’s fair to say that I have Opinions about this sort of thing at the moment. If you’re the kind of person who likes Total Information Awareness, then you’ll have noticed that I didn’t spend today swearing in various capacities about Google Docs: because I wasn’t using it. Track changes in Microsoft Word, my friends. You can’t stop the qualified lawyer from practising law (and, indeed, make it illegal for him to do so) but you can’t take away six years worth of Track Changes habits.

Anyway. A long walk yesterday picking up more comics (Trees 9 and catching up on Wicked+Divine post the Volume 1 collection). Oh, and the two year old got a Batman board book that he’s obsessing over, not because of Batman (at least, I don’t think so), but because he’s two and a quarter and that’s what two and a quarter year olds do. Obsess. Lots. And then throw things. Right?

1.0 Typing, Continued

Two thoughts, today. One, a continuation of the whole streak thing from the last episode. Via Hacker News[1] comes news of STREAKS[2], a new to-do/habit-forming app for iOS (and the developer’s first using Swift, Apple’s latest language, and Healthkit, Apple’s framework for health data that seems oddly but predictably misogynist in terms of what it tracks and the manner in which it tracks). STREAKS is pretty much the embodiment of something that two-years-ago-me would be totally into because it’s all about habit forming and trying to get you to do new things and behaviour modification and all that malarkey and it includes just enough pop-science (“Working on something every day helps you form a new habit. Don’t break the chain, or your streak will reset to zero days.”) for you to go “huh, OK, that looks like it’s worth a shot”. But hey, your mileage will vary because depending on your particular mental and emotional architecture (of which: ha!) and temperament, you might feel *really great* about building up a streak, and then, let’s say, not be quite so resilient about having that counter set to zero. You big fat loser. Zero. Now you have to build it up again. Because that’s what the streak is like on its own: ascending a narrowing staircase, higher and higher until every single day is an opportunity not to continue the streak, but you being at risk of destroying it and setting everything back down to zero. See, yes, you might want to count streaks. They can feel great when you’re doing them. But you also might want percentage of goal hit. Not just how many days in a row you’ve flossed your teeth. But how many days out of the last 365 you’ve flossed your teeth at all. Because it’s the latter one that matters, in the long run.

Thought second: Khoi Vinh on his blog[3] on the UI reel[4] for Avengers: The Age of Ultron from London-based Territory Studio[5]. Vinh pretty much gets to the point when he says:

“While Territory’s work is impressive, this project doesn’t showcase any particularly new ideas. In fact, I’m a bit weary of this school of UI aesthetic for the silver screen; not only does it seem highly commodified (i.e., these UIs always look the same in every movie), but the style is looking less and less like what real user interfaces will look like in the future.”

Vinh’s right: a lot of MovieOS UIs these days just look, well, pretty much all the same. I’m hopeful that something like Fox’s forthcoming Minority Report will have something new because of its Borensteinian {Max[6], Greg} provenance and while the short clip[7] released so far has your standard Flat Screens Of Something Sans-Serify, there’s a glimpse of something intriguing and potentially Augmented Realityish at (as Tom Cruise would say) Time Index 21.

Anyway. Most movie UIs still look like the kind of stuff we’ve seen in Oblivion[8] (two years ago, and still a favourite of mine), Tron: Legacy[9] (four years ago) and Iron Man 2 (five years ago). And, you know, Mark Coleran’s reel from *2008*, seven years ago[11].

Part of this is a visual storytelling problem: in something like a tv show or a movie, you’re most likely showing user interface elements (if you have to) because they’re critical to the story. And we’re still figuring out (but, it appears, rapidly approaching some sort of consensus) how to show “the internet” and text communication in the medium of film (obligatory Every Frame a Painting[12]).

One thing, though: Vinh says the styling is looking less and less like what “real” user interfaces will look like in the future, and I suppose on the one hand I was going to say: aha! Yes! Lots more voice user interfaces in the future! Lots more Scarlett Johansson, less Adobe After Effects, but Vinh did say what they’d *look* like. Hm.

[1] Show HN: Streaks, a todo list that helps you form good habits | Hacker News
[2] STREAKS. The to-do list that helps you form good habits. For iPhone.
[3] UI Reel for Avengers: Age of Ultron + Subtraction.com
[4] Marvel’s Avengers Age of Ultron UI Reel – YouTube
[5] Territory Studio
[6] Max Borenstein – IMDb
[7] ▶ MINORITY REPORT | Visions Of Murders | FOX BROADCASTING – YouTube
[8] OBLIVION GFX Montage on Vimeo
[9] Tron Legacy Motion Graphics Design – VFX
[10] Prologue – Iron Man 2 : Interface Design
[11] Coleran Reel 2008.06 HD on Vimeo
[12] A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film – YouTube

Anyway.

That was some writing. Now it’s done.

Best,

Dan