Archive for March, 2009

New Work: Wikirank

Small Batch, Inc. are some super smart folks. But you already knew that. They’re the team that created Measure Map, which was later bought by Google. Earlier this week, they launched Wikirank, a tool for exploring and comparing what’s popular on Wikipedia. It’s pretty damn cool.

Jeff Veen explains why he digs Wikirank:

… it helps people find stories in the data. One of the great things about the web is how measuring tiny behaviors reveals patterns that tell stories. The data we get from Wikipedia is no different; as we started playing around with the numbers, we saw loads of interesting shapes emerge in the charts.

I mean, just do a comparison on the past and present lead singers of Van Halen, and you’ll see an accurate visualization. The possibilities are endless.

It was an honor and privilege to work on this project. Great, smart people + a compelling idea + awesome implementation = best client experience in quite some time. My little part was designing the logo and working with Small Batch on the visual design. Congrats to Jeff, Bryan, Greg and Ryan on turning an idea to completion in such a short period of time. And I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

FourTrack

I’ve always loved the constraint of a 4-track cassette recorder. So when I first came across FourTrack, a simple recording app for the iPhone, I figured I’d give it a whirl. I grabbed my trusty ukulele and laid down a little tune I often play to the kids. The audio records right from the iPhone’s built-in mic. The quality is impressive. Then I grabbed my three year old son Jack’s toy percussion kit, and banged along to the uke track. In literally 5 minutes, I had a finished song.
FourTrack lets you download the raw track files by temporarily creating a web server, giving you an IP address to grab the files individually via wifi. You can then drag those files into an audio editor on your desktop. I dragged mine to GarageBand, quickly added a stupid bass line, applied a British amp distortion to the uke, then exported it to an mp3.

All in total, it took about about a half hour to create the final version. With vocals by our 8-month old girl, as well as me telling Jack to “hold on” while I finished up the drums. It’s certainly not a hit — but this app might just be what I need to get back into music making.

Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Changes

We’ve rolled out some changes over here at SimpleBits that have been chipped away at for months. Visually, it’s not a drastic difference, but lots of adjustments and polishing were done in other areas. Chunks of copy were chopped, multiple pages combined into one, things simplified. More care and attention was given to the internal layout of pages that aren’t weblog pages. Finally.

Also, the idea of _fluid_ grid layouts has intrigued me since I heard Ethan talk about them at a Markup & Style Society event we threw a year ago. The combination of a rigid design framework, with the fluidity that makes the web unique is a topic I hope will continue to gain some steam — thanks also in part to Ethan’s recent article over at A List Apart. So, replacing the previous elastic grid (based on ems), is a fluid one. More on that at a later date perhaps.

Meagan helped clean up the new Work section, which quite frankly was a bit of a mess, and she also skinned a new Work Requisition Form that the fine folks at Airbag Industries are letting us kick the tires on. You may remember Greg Storey introducing a new way of communicating with potential clients, and we’re exited to watch it grow over here.

All in all, it’s a continued evolution. That’s what the web in general is, isn’t it? But improvements are improvements, and I’m happy to have things a bit more organized than before.