Character Notes from Womack

With characters, get them to surprise you in some way. Show how people react: ‘Wow! I didn’t expect that!’ Show them having the experience and reacting to it.

A person uses your product then goes on to do other things. Your website is one of 20 websites, and probably the last, rather than the one and only. Don’t make the project a star of someone’s life. Just make it good enough. Show that it did something for the person. Then your character moves on to the other things in his/her life.

Show internal struggle. Don’t try to show the whole experience. Focus on the critical moments.

There’s a difference in the plot and the experience of any character. Involve more than one person and have some conflict exist between them. It’s the conflict between the characters and complexity that keeps you going more than the overall story arc.

“Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people.” —Elaine Scarry, Professor of aesthetics, Harvard

The Whale Hunt is awesome, and lead the author to making Cow Bird. Products need characters. Stories need products, or main characters to focus them.

Character Stories

Prachi learned to ride a bike late in life, at the age of thirteen. Though, at that age, she didn’t ever get a chance to ride her bike outside of her house compound in India. The streets outside of her house were busy with traffic. I can imagine some similarities to the streets of New York.

Prachi’s took her first proper ride the day she bought a new bike as an undergrad. It was a proper ride, to say the least—all 14 miles of it. Needless to say, Prachi has her daring and ambitious side: ‘I head straight for the most difficult path,’ she says.

Prachi moved to New York nearly a year ago, and hasn’t ridden or even owned a bike since she gave hers away in India. When she said yes to being a contestant in the SPOKED Kickstand IxD battle, Kristin and I were both excited, but a little confused about how she would bike without a bike. Regardless, we signed her up to color the map in mustard yellow string of yarn.

Still, I couldn’t help to think, ‘why did she do it?’ So, I asked her:

“I’m just looking for reasons to go out in the city, and usually I don’t find one. So I thought, awesome, I can borrow and bike and just go out. And I have at least some motivation to do that. Otherwise, I can’t think of any other reasons why I would go for a walk, on say the Hudson river park in the middle of the day. But now I have to cycle and get miles, so I should go.”

And, when I asked, ‘Are you planning to ride more?’ Prachi unhesitantly answered: ‘Yes, I am. It was awesome.”

But, she didn’t stop at that: “When I did the Hudson River Park stretch, I was like, ‘Wow! I covered an entire stretch of Manhattan in 2 hours.’ It’s good exercise, then you’re also traveling and seeing new places at the same time. And it’s faster than walking around. And much easier than traveling in subways and taxis.”

Certainly, it takes only a taste to know the goodness of biking. Prachi has shown us that.

About Julie via her blog:

“I’m an Urban Girlscout in New York City. I live on the Upper East Side and I always carry a camera – whether it’s just my cell phone, a disposable, a toy camera or my DSLR, I’m always prepared to document the events of the day. (But mostly I use a rough & tough Pentax Optio H90)

April ’10, I started almost-daily bicycle commuting. I try to ride in the clothes I plan to wear to work or whatever event I’m going to, and I take a lot of Bicycle Outfit photos and discuss that here, but I also talk about random stuff, adventures, stuff I bought, etc.

I work as an in-house fit-model and receptionist at a Junior/Women’s clothing company in the Garment District. I’m 32 years old.

Something else very important about me – My husband and I live in a 375 square foot apartment in a Historic Landmark Tenement building. Yep, NYC tiny. I have had a professional home organizer come over and talk me through some things.”

Julie on SPOKED via her blog:

“One week in and the map looks freaking awesome! Some people are showing out and making designs in the map. I am jealous.

I need to go track some rides in the northern part of Manhattan. I’ve been going straight to work and back home. Saturday I rode downtown for my PP volunteer shift but that’s pretty straight down and back up north.

So many people are biking serious miles, like 5 times as many miles as me. Dang.”

How do we get Wang to ride his bike?


With Teams:
It’s a sunny day perfect for riding. The sun beats down on the cooble stone streets of Dumbo. Will Wang ever ride? Mattias rides his bike everyday. Naturally, it makes Wang a little curious. Mattias finds SPOKED and decides to start a game. He invites, rather “summons” Wang into it so that he’ll have an excuse to get on his bike and ride. He can’t say no to helping Mattias beat his friends on the COGS team.

Measuring happiness only (no competition):
Mattias wants to get his friends with dusty bikes to ride. So, he tells them they will be happier if they just ride. He invites them to join him in measuring their happiness for two weeks.

Avid biker dilemna (with teams & friends):
Mattias signs up for a game against the COGS. He has 8 spots to fill in order to play. He thinks through all of his friends. He knows 9 avid bikers and a handful of people with bikes in their garages. Of course if he chooses the avid bikers they will win. But will they? If he chooses the weaker links, could they still win?

Summoned to Battle:
Wang gets summoned into battle. He joins because his friend asked him to. He wasn’t riding very much in the beginning. And he wasn’t riding much during. And in the end, he still wasn’t riding much.

He wasn’t riding much in the beginning. But, on the third day, he decided to give it a try. There’s no way he was going to win, but he could at least help the team get ahead in the game. On his second day of riding, he gets the word that his miles for tomorrow will be doubled. Of course he’s going to ride get the most from his efforts. Super-spoked days are game changers.

Wang hears buzz about a bike battle happening in his work. He doesn’t have a bike, but wants to be a part of it. So he chooses a color and joins. He doesn’t ride ever. But other people are riding. And they’re talking about it. He wants to, but is too busy. On the weekend, his co-workers organize a group ride. He decides to rent a bike and join. Afterwards, he doesn’t ride anymore.

- Get avid riders to choose people that aren’t biking already
- normalize points, incentivize summoning non-riders
- Team size
- Who are you collaborating against
- Friends or strangers?
- Friends or co-workers?
- Number of teams competing
- Are the team sizes flexible?
- Team within a team
- boys vs. girls
- avid vs. non-avid
- ordered by commute distance
To be a part of something, means you’re contributing

- friends and strangers?
- workplaces, co-workers?
The behavior that we want is for the avid rider to big brother the non-biker.
“Let’s do this together!”

Story Notes

TAKE 1 (From video sketch)
We want to spread the joy of biking.
So, we asked 4 people to track their bike rides with thread on a shared map.
But, when people got curious about how far they had been riding… it was a bit of a problem.
We realized, there must be a better way.
But all of the tracking apps we tried were all about fitness—calories, speed, etc.
A lot of the people that we have gotten to know and love are simply using bicycles to get around—to eat tacos, go to work, meet up with friends.
And so, we’ve set out to spread the joy using a bike to get around.
We want to expand our network, make our own world, get inspired by people and what other people are doing.

Our goal: To get people that are biking to get people with bikes to bike more.

city in dots (life the first year, 2 hours in subway)
- started expanding our circles
social pressure
- what if …
- fell into riding to Manhattan because of each other
(Kristin’s tendency to dare other people to do crazy things, so she can do them herself)
(My tendency to say yes to any challenge)
lines in city
- sometimes it’s hard to get on it, but we’ve had each other to push each other into the habit

We made the social pressure between us
now we want to make that between other people.

- the empowering feeling
- the sense of flying
- being in charge of your own time and your own route
- you can be impulsive – stop at places, talk to people
- the closeness to the city – stitching the city together
- being outdoors and free

Carrie: And for thesis we want to spread the joy of biking that we experience to more people. We launched a bike challenge in the studio for a week in October to explore how we could motivate people to bike.

TAKE 2.1
I hated New York the first year I was here. But I like it now. And I’d like to tell you what has enabled that. I spent most of my waking hours working (in the studio); and a couple of them in the subway. This is what I knew about New York. (points on CG and SVA)

When I moved to Park Slope last summer, I got a bike. And to justify the purchase, I started daring Carrie to go places further away to get my wheels rolling. I didn’t consider myself and avid biker so I actually suggested crazy things I wouldn’t (couldn’t) do on my own. (coney island, traffic) … and everything in between.

But I never say no to a challenge. So, this lead us to … tacos in Queens, fireworks on the West Side Highway, Coney Island, wine tour in Long Island (biking with 3 bottles of wine)
All of a sudden New York looked different to me.

The social pressure that we created between us, lead us to going further and being more committed to our bike seats than we had ever intended. I use my bike to get everywhere in the city.
And I do too. What we experience when we bike (the freedom and fresh air) is something we’d like to pass on to other people too.

SPOKED—a service that helps you and your friends get on bikes more often through two-week bike battles.

Sharing Story, Facebook

We had the folks from Facebook join us at SVA for a workshop Saturday morning. So, with the help of our classmate, Benjamin Gadbaw, we imagined how SPOKED could be shared through a Facebook app.

SPOKED Choose your color. Track your bike rides.
See your snazzy patterns emerge on your city map.

In her Facebook timeline, Kristin sees a comparison chart between she and her friend Carrie. While she has been consistently riding, she notices that Carrie has been consistently slacking. It hasn’t even been raining lately. She wonders what’s keeping her off.

Kristin comments on the chart to encourage Carrie saying, “Holy Cow! Carrie, you should ride tomorrow! It’s going to be sunny and beautiful!

When Carrie sees the message, she goes to the SPOKED website to see what’s been happening on the streets of New York lately. Her friends have been taking their typical commutes to work and it looks like a few rides to the park, but her personal map is completely blank. She thumbs through some archives, because she knows she’s done better in the past.

The next morning, even though she’s fallen off the boat, Carrie is determined to make some marks on her city. She ditches the subway and the coffee routine she recently fell in love with, and wrestles her bike out of her tiny apartment.

She starts tracking on her SPOKED app before taking off. She’s got to prove to Kristin that she can do it. While she’s had a couple weeks off, she feels pretty good to be on two wheels again. Not to mention, the two hours of fresh air, make her so happy!

Kristin sees in her ticker that Erin is on her bike cranking up miles across the Brooklyn Bridge. She smiles and sends some encouragement her way.

Later that day, SPOKED shares with the biking community that Kristin and Carrie both biked over the Brooklyn Bridge this morning. The story is paired with a photo of their paths.

Dave, a former colleague takes notice. He wonders, “What is SPOKED?” He actually sees that a lot of his friends are riding bicycles and tracking on SPOKED. He decides to join and give it a try.

[Work happens]

The next day, Carrie sees a notification that Dave joined SPOKED. She’s excited, and writes to him the next day, “Hey! You’re biking! Are you still riding from Chelsea? I’m heading home to Carroll Gardens at 7pm. Ride together?”

Carrie and Dave ride home together that evening. Mid-ride, while stopped at a red light, Dave gets a message from Paul. “Hey! You should stop by the Spotted Pig for a beer and burger. They are both deliciously fabulous there.”

They decide to stop and reminisce on the good ‘ole sleep-deprived days of grad school, and toast to having a life again.

Web Dev Stuff

Read the HTML5 for Web Designers book by Jeremy Keith.

Went through the whole W3C CSS tutorial to brush up on the skills. Took lots of notes that are in draft mode.

Will go through W3C JavaScript tutorial as well.

Considering responsive/adaptive web design as a framework, but unsure how our geolocation-based visualizations on top of a map will work if we take an approach like this.

Testing pretty simple stuff here:

Based on tutorials like these:

Not really working at all. Grrr. Will update all my browsers.

Processing Status

FEB 16
I have a basic processing sketch rendering in the browser (Firefox). However, the geo-data is not rendering in the browser yet. The solution? Start with a very simple processing sketch that plots one ride, then start building from there. Also, call Yang, Amit or Jer Thorp.

FEB 15
- learn how canvas works
- sprinkle in codeacademy tuts
- get one ride rendered in processing to show in the browser (data?)

Loading processing sketches
Processing.js example, Ask Ken, doing much of what we want on the front-end
Elevation processing code
Basics of Canvas—Processing.js is a framework for canvas, so we shouldn’t have to do additional things in the web-browser defining the canvas; it’s all done in processing.

FEB 14
Simple processing sketch works in Firefox and Safari
Note: sketch does not work in Chrome, but could later with some troubleshooting with the help of ErisDS; for now, we will test primarily in Firefox.

In dropbox >> thesis >> processing >> hello_web >> hello-web.html

One map image is ready to test in processing.
Does not display the image when image is native to the processing file. Need to research. (I think the image should be displayed in HTML)

Next steps:
- get image to display

- get canvas element to display over the entire background
scale canvas element to fit page: Stackoverflow, Automatically scale the HTML5 canvas element to fit the page
related: Stackoverflow, Center both vertically and horizontally

- start experimenting with width and height options to size with browser size (determined in processing or in canvas markup)
Possibly something like this in Processing:

- look into centering the map on the page

Tracking apps and file output

We have been researching different tracking apps to be used in the prototype:

MotionX GPS for iPhone $1.99
Outputs in .gpx and .kmz
Share tracks by email (one button click)
Has live updates to email/twitter/facebook

Cycle log for iPhone $0.99
Outputs in .gpx and .tcx
Share tracks by email

RunKeeper for Android and iPhone $0
Outputs in .gpx and Google Earth (.kml)
Share tracks through website

MobileLogger for iPhone $0
Outputs in .csv
Share tracks by email

Data Storage Options

250 MB storage limit per user account, 1 million characters per cell
upload limits—1 MB per spreadsheet, 100 MB per .csv or kml

To get more space, you have to have and work through the Maps API Premier account
Purchase more storage space for Fusion Tables: Google Groups Thread

How to query from google fusion table: Google Dev Guide

Get data storage, user accounts and server-side code with Cloud Mine

Instructions for parsing data from a .gpx file into processing

From Willy Wong, Week 3

Notes per our conversation
February 2, 2012, NY & Company

Call out the key principles/values that our audience stands for. (ex: lifestyle, pleasure)

State the value propositions:
For riders
- document of bike trips
- share your data for bike advocacy
- engine for exploration and curiosity (needs to be better stated)
- data to advocate for and inform placement of bike lanes
- (more)

The string on the handlebars—a grassroots signifier of riders being involved (using the product) and tracking

Consider the order and architecture of the language we’re using
Is everything mapped to an artistic act?
What do you call your users?