Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Late of the Pier, Coding Keyboards & Stained Glass Video

Weekly Update 2020-07: I'm late to the game on electronic musicians Late of the Pier, an examination into why there aren't more designed keyboards specifically for coding, and a wonderful interactive music video for a Real Estate song.

More below!

Music: Late of the Pier
Quite possibly one of my missed discoveries from the electronica era of 2007, Late Of The Pier from Castle Donington, England was certainly a staple of the scene with delightful, tongue-in-cheek synth melodies that I just can't get out of my head...only thirteen years later.

Upon further inspection I remembered that the band's lead singer Sam Eastgate is none other than LA Priest (previously blogged here). So I have certainly gone backwards in my listening to this musical metamorphosis, but I can definitely see the relation between two high-energy, if different, sets of music.

And yet, Late of the Pier only produced one LP, 2008's Fantasy Black Channel, which you can listen to in all its glory below.

I finished marking all the briefs (with the help of my associate Tamira), this class is running quite smoothly so far I must say. All the students also handed in their assignments properly, on time (except one student who was 2 minutes late - can I round down?), and it was such a joy to see. Another reminder that I could never handle myself in a classroom full of unruly children.

I also managed to pack everything I think I'll need for my trip, all into one carry-on suitcase. Now as long as they don't weigh it (or possibly even measure the depth), I'm good.

I've got half a class to teach on Thursday night and then I head straight to airport from Union on the UP Express. It seems crazy that I'm dragging a suitcase all the way downtown but this seems to make the most sense and might be the most straightforward journey to the airport that I've taken. I won't be sorry to wave goodbye to the snow and welcome the blazing, blazing sun into my life for the next two weeks.

My goal is to do my darnedest not to get overwhelmed on this trip. I don't think I'll have enough signal (or wherewithal) to write posts so I'll see you next on February 28 when I'm back!

Random Thought:
I was typing out some HTML the other day as I do from time to time, and thinking that the standard QWERTY keyboard is simply awkward for typing out code. Now perhaps it's because I am out of practice in typing out an HTML "sentence" in the same way I am used to typing an English sentence, but this keyboard design just doesn't seem optimized for that job. And yet I don't think I've ever met a developer who used an alternative to the QWERTY keyboard. This seems quite strange to me, especially as there have even been advancements beyond QWERTY for English keyboardists. Since developers tend to be an industrious bunch (by nature of their job), I am really surprised this hasn't been further investigated.

At the very least, I could attest that longer fingers would certainly make one's coding tasks a lot easier. Even keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys are a further modification to improve one's speed and accuracy, but still nothing has really been done to the keyboard itself. Is it that programming languages have such varying syntaxes that no single keyboard design would suit them all, or even a majority of them?

A quick google search revealed the keyboard above as the top ergonomic choice for developers, and yet upon close inspection you can see it's still a variation on QWERTY, but with a separation of left-side keys from right. 

Inspiration: Stained Glass Video
This one's been in the blog backlog pretty much since it came out, but I just remembered in the other day as I was marking a particularly interesting student brief on a sound production online portfolio. My BrainStation students have the choice between three things for their term project: a new app/website idea to fulfill a need, an improvement to an existing one, or the design of their own online portfolio. I usually lead students toward the first two and away from the portfolio since they need to produce work before they can build a showcase for it, but here I got this cool curveball of an idea.

This student wants to build an online portfolio for his design work as well as his sound projects, which excites me on a few levels. There are so many cool visualizations one can treat overtop sound, plus I find sound to add such a level of immersion to projects that visuals alone cannot compare to. Of course auto-play controls are a big accessibility no-no, but allowing the user enough control to meet those needs, while also curating a path of discovery, can be so cool.

So, I've been sitting on this wonderful piece of interactive design since a certain song came out in 2017:

Real Estate released Stained Glass in 2017, I even saw them when they toured Toronto. And yet the project holds up pretty well over time. I have been noticing some pretty cool interactive music videos, though few and far between, are really impressing me with interesting interactions mixed with great music.

Especially when considering that the music video format has died down a little with the death of cable television, this seems like the right way to go for appealing to this online audience who may never have heard of this band before. Plus, it's just so fun to colour in the band members while they play me a little tune. Thanks, Real Estate!

The project was created by Wieden + Kennedy group creative director Craig Allen, alongside MediaMonks.

I can't wait to see what my student comes up with for his project.

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