A drawing of a small terrier dog jumping through a hoop held by a monkey.

Code as Poetry, Time as a Variable – Options in the Ether

Backstory Driving into work I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing Nikki Giovani a poet from Virginia Tech. In high school I was one of those people who really suffered reading the The Red Wheelbarrow and other non-rhyming poems. They irritated me in the same way people seem to be annoyed by White Paintings or 4’33”. In any case, in college I took lots of English classes. One of those classes was on poetry with Donna Hickey. The class selection was driven more by fitting my schedule and a vague notion that I might minor in English rather than any real interest in poetry. The first day of class she had everyone list their favorite poets. I don’t recall what people chose but I remember feeling like my choices of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess was not of the same category. In any case, I had a great deal of fun with the course and using poems as games and puzzles to think around and through. I later took a graduate course with Dr. Hickey1 in poetry and made my first digital liberal arts website around 2001 or 2002. It focused on breaking down various Richard Hugo poems and creating attempts at multimedia experiences.2 That stuff is all long gone from the UR website. I might have backup […]

Portfolio Timeline

One of the things I ended up being dissatisfied with on my own portfolio was the timeline of my work history.1 At the time making an interactive multimedia timeline seemed like a good idea. Just the phrase “interactive multimedia timeline” sounds fancy, right? I made it using the KnightLab Timeline JS tool (which is a great tool) but it just doesn’t do what I want. Define the Purpose I hadn’t really thought deeply enough about my audience. If it’s people trying to hire me, and I can’t imagine anyone else caring, then I have to think what I want them to understand at a glance. Paging through the timeline can tell a decent story (if it happens) but the timeline does not allow the viewer to see the big picture at a glance. I also tried to show that while I’ve had a large number of jobs there’s a pattern of, and consistency between, organizations and between higher ed and k12. I tried to make that connection in the Timeline JS version by using the same logo and color pattern in the segments but it requires people to notice that and hold it in their heads. It’s not doing what a good visualization should do which is to offload that cognitive load to the eyes of the viewer. Hand Sketch […]


Portfolio // Data Visualization

This is meant to be a general survey of a fairly large swathe of concepts and examples with lots of links for additional specificity. I encourage you to follow links.1 I’ve tried to also mix it with quotes from a variety of designers.2 Those people are also worth exploring and most links will lead you to something that will lead you down an associative trail3 of links/searches.. Portfolio design considerations are grounded in many of the same design decisions that are foundational to good data visualizations. Many portfolios also include, maybe should include, elements that meet the typical definition of data visualizations although usually of small data sets.4 Both portfolios and data visualizations can be thought of as heuristics. You’re helping people think. You’re helping them understand you, a concept, a relationship, etc. Rich content brings meaning to a graphic. Inviting visualization interprets the content and highlights the essence of the information for the reader. Sophisticated execution brings the content and the graphics to life. Dona Wong Have an Audience in Mind5 The audience sets the initial frame for your consideration. Who are you trying to talk to? What are their likely experiences with websites and what do they care about? It’s also worth thinking about what might keep you from being attractive to people that you wouldn’t like. Assuming […]

Three rows of orange-ish colors with the text 'fake hues' over the top of them in white.

Fake Hues

I heard Trump saying ‘fake news’ on the way in this morning and it led me to ‘fake hues.’ It’s been stuck in my head ever since. I thought this would have been done already but a cursory google search didn’t turn it up so . . . I took the image of Trump from this article and used Color Thief1 to pull out the three main skin-ish colors. It took all of five minutes to slap together and write this post so I’ve now got it out of my head and can move on to more productive things. But I’ll probably come back to it this evening to match the font and the box ratios on the upper portion so the white spaces matches the letter cross-strokes like the lower portion. 1 It’s science rather than my biased selection of especially orange colors.

Four Leaf Clovers, Question Paths, & Literal Names

Yesterday, I decided I’d look for four leaf clovers getting in and out of my car. Not hanging out searching, just opening my eyes and paying a bit more attention. Wikipedia tells me there’s one four leaf clover per 10,000 three leaf clovers. What surprises me is despite their relative rarity just how many four leaf clovers seem to be out there. It’s like interesting things. If you just start looking around, you end up amazed at how many interesting things surround you daily that you never noticed. One interesting thing leads to another. It gets to be harder to pay attention to more mundane things like crossing the road because there are so many interesting things to see and think about. Generating Questions I tried to take pictures representing each question I had walking to work the other day. I only decided to do it about halfway in but it was interesting to see it snowball because I made it intentional. The results are embedded below as a set. Additional questions are sometimes in the descriptions and won’t be visible in the embedded view. Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Literally Literal Dodge Caravan takes on a very odd feel if you read it literally. I decided to start capturing all the car/bike names I came across that were also actual […]

Two Different Time Lapse Experiments

Time Lapse Trip from Richmond VA to Tampa FL from Tom Woodward on Vimeo. This is my first attempt with the GoPro. I think it’s set to one shot every 30 seconds. You can see me fiddling with the settings a few different times if you’re masochistic enough to watch it through. The battery ran out early in the trip and resulted in me using it without the stand. That helps explain the repeated drifting as the USB cord1 pulls it slowly towards the driver’s side. It is interesting to see a 12.5 hr trip condensed down to 4 minutes or so. I may do it on the way back but pointed mostly towards the sky or maybe at the kids. Knowing where the stops were makes me wonder if something similar would make for a interesting take on Dan Meyer’s original graphing stories. On the other end of the time lapse spectrum is this attempt to condense one my attempts to fix a photo from the reddit pic request group. This one is kind of amusing to me in that you can see me googling some stuff for a sick child in the middle and finishing up with some posts to reddit and flickr. There is no sound but it’d be pretty easy to narrate if you wanted to […]

Markov Seeds

I started to comment on Alan’s recent post but realized I needed to document this a bit better than a comment. Every so often I kick over the #ds106 Markov generator and see what comes out. Sometimes I push it on to Twitter to share with the world. en You know what I understood characters (included. You to in inner pages @IamTalkyTina is Back? Where is YOUR photo? #ds106 #markov — Tom Woodward (@twoodwar) December 4, 2013 This one amused me so I did. @twoodwar en But I don't really understand what you just said. Like what #markov means? #ds106 #contextfelldownthestairs — Talky Tina (@IamTalkyTina) December 4, 2013 Talking Tina replied, justifiably confused. I explain. (There’s some additional side chatter you can see here but the more interesting stuff is below.) @IamTalkyTina random text assembler w #ds106 tweets as source material http://t.co/GPAK1njFkh It's fairly fun (to me) although context free — Tom Woodward (@twoodwar) December 4, 2013 It could have died there but instead it went into a realm I could not have predicted- probabilistic programming in quantitative finance. @twoodwar Am I here ?? Probabilistic Programming in Quantitative Finance | Quantopian Blog – http://t.co/suhLmUKjab #ds106 — Talky Tina (@IamTalkyTina) December 4, 2013 Bill Smith chimes in with n-dimensional Hilbert space. @IamTalkyTina @twoodwar You R probably not here, but likely to be there. […]


Video Game Equation?

It’s supposed to represent the role of mind/emotion in creating engagement but the very fact that I feel compelled to explain that probably means I’m not doing a great job and I wonder about the degree to which I’m joking. There are elements here I may end up making work though. I can parse a few out for a #ds106 assignment as well . . .


Markov Tweet Generator Code, Path, & Potential

The following is how I adapted the Markov chain generator from Hay Kranen. Thanks to the comments1 I found below Hay’s post2 this Markov + Shakespeare version inspired me to figure out the “post-to-Twitter” option.3 Anyway, the much cleaner version is up and running. It now allows you to push the results to Twitter although I’m still adjusting this a bit. The code for the page I modified is below. It’s still slower than I’d like but it’ll do for now. The fact that I can go from a conversation one day to a fairly finished product the next is the piece that amazes me about computers and the Internet. I cannot stress enough that I don’t know how to write PHP. I feel that’s a statement of empowerment. This project took about three hours of work. 95% of that was searching/research and breaking it and then fixing it.4 Someone who knew what they were doing could probably knock it out in ten minutes. Now how is this more than just random #ds106 amusement? I think the generator works a little like this example about machine imagined artworks5. So there’s a chunk of human constructed meaning from machine assembled pieces. It doesn’t always work but that’s part of why I like having a human layer between generation and Twitter publishing […]


Markov Chains, Horse e-Books and Margins

In discussing trajectories, elements of engineered serendipity, “thought vectors in concept space” with Gardner and Jon yesterday the following occurred. Gardner shared this video (which is well worth watching and I rarely have the patience for videos). That led to a discussion about creating and using a MOOC/hashtag specific Twitterbot (like horse e-books but real1) using Markov Chains2 to create algorithmically driven conversations/connections that occur in the margins of intention and result.3 So I began messing with the idea last night. Given I have a completely illusionary knowledge of programming I looked for people to tell me how to do this. I found the metaphor a minute tutorial which will help me out with the Twitterbot end of things in the near future. I also found this PHP based Markov generator which does very nearly what I want absent the Twitter-ing part. I did want to automate the connection to a particular Twitter hashtag rather than adding the content manually so I started wandering around looking for ways to do that. Step one was trying to use curl. I eventually semi-melded some curl examples with the Markov generator. I was using the Twitter search for #ds106 as the source initially. With curl you are pulling the html so I got some interesting pieces but a fair amount of code fragments […]