Tuesday Feb 8 '11IT growth and global change: A conversation with Ray Kurzweil

Video Screenshot

McKinsey Publishing’s Lars Föyen recently sat down with engineer/inventor/technology-theorist Ray Kurzweil to hear about the basis for his predictions, how industries will change when they come to pass, and the double-edged nature of his vision.

The video clip is brief but interesting in the reveal of his projections from the simple thesis that technology evolves exponentially rather than linearly.

* You can watch the interview at the McKinsey Quarterly's website and download a full transcript attached to this post.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Monday Feb 7 '11Using the Social Web to rally grassroots community action - Alive in Egypt

Alive in Egypt - banner
Protesters at Al Tahrir Million Man March - Feb 1, 2011

I just came across a powerful example of how the social web is enabling people of common interest to gather around that interest and rapidly be able to collaborate online.  Alive in Egypt is a project inspired by a moment and facilitated by micro-blogging, collaborative document editing and co-publishing platforms.

Google recently launched a telephone service through SayNow (a company it just acquired) which allows people to ring a number, leave a voicemail and have that message archived in a web post whilst simultaneously being tweeted with a thematic hashtag.  Given the recent events unfolding in Egypt, this has proved a very powerful, albeit simple, technology - people on the ground in Cairo and elsewhere witnessing events and unable to express them directly through new media (due to state-inflicted Internet access shutdowns etc...) are now able to simply make a telephone call and have that message be transmitted across media and available online.

Taking the voicemail-to-web concept further, was Habib Haddad, who sent a single tweet asking for help translating the published voicemails from Egypt and received hundreds of responses offering assistance.  The result is a website called 'Alive in Egypt,' which posts translated voicemails from the country with an impressively quick turn-around time from when they were first recorded.  Organized via twitter and then using shared Google Docs, the hundreds of  contributors to the site collectively are creating a resource which makes these voicemails accessible to a global audience in English, Arabic and other languages.

Now, the technology used in this example is nothing revolutionary or new in itself (telephony-web hookups have existed for years are are something we have worked with here at Design Guru).  Amazing to note in this story however, is that grassroots spontaneous collaboration can prove successful - the quality of translation on the site cannot be held as accurate as say, the encyclopedic accuracy of Wikipedia posts, yet the two sites share an expression of the passionate commitment to vocalizing truth that people can relate online - and that in itself leads a reader of Alive in Egypt to assume that what they are reading are true representations of stories unfolding in that country.

*Article Photo: Protesters at Al Tahrir Million Man March - Feb 1, 2011

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Thursday Jan 13 '11Video advertising online for online products - example: the New Yorker

See video

I had done some research recently to track movements in the Advertising world using video online in ways that are markedly different to segments produced for television broadcast. 

Over the past few years, as online video has become a larger part of the web experience for wired North Americans and Europeans, agencies are creatively producing and distributing moving pictures to relate subject matter cross-media (including both the physical and digital realm); and motivate action around their (commercial) messaging.  Video proves an exciting platform for engaging not-just-future customers in multi-lateral communication with companies/brands and has a virtually unlimited potential to enable viewers as spokespeople for the content they are viewing.

Of course, the context of online video is increasingly becoming social - phenomena such as 'going viral' not only results from viewers commenting on and promoting clips but results in a stronger relationship between viewer and what they view (because of the personal nature of sharing a video with 'friends' and adding commentary to it) as promotional success relates to the viewers opinion of the video. 

A few years ago JWT Spain created an intriguing example of online video advertising with their Friexnet segment called 'The Keys to Reserva' - a short film by Martin Scorcese positioned the sparkling wine product in a fictional narrative about long-lost Hitchcock screenplay copy.  The segment went viral thanks to its high-quality aesthetic, association with both Alfred Hitchcock and Scorcese plus creative use of cross-media promotion - including a micro-site to further engage the public with the video's narrative.  Since then numerous campaigns by other agencies which merge Big Screen celebrities with commercial brands have made great use of online video's social capacity (e.g. Nike/WK; "Get your basketball on!").

For the most part, online video advertising has been produced to promote physical products and today I came across an amazing example of, what I think, we will be seeing a lot more of in the next few years - video to promote online products.  Released at the end of September 2010, this clip was directed by Roman Coppola and features Jason Schwartzman walking the viewer through the New Yorker magazine's new iPad app.  The clip is highly watchable (youtube comments reveal some viewers watched the clip repeatedly and others even see it routinely!), for its combination of ridiculous mise-en-scene and comic performance by Schwartzman - who is generally regarded as iconic of New York (through his role as Jonathan Ames in HBOs Bored to Death, set in NYC) and so is a great choice for the spot, despite the end scene where he jumps out of a pool (who has a pool in New York?)

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Nov 3 '10How to use HTML in alternative titles on Drupal sites

Drupal by nature doesn't allow for markup to be included in node titles - which had me scratching my head when a large multi-national client of ours requested the ability to use superscripted characters in page titles on some of their content.

After much research, it seemed to me that there were a couple of sketchy approaches people use with 3rd party modules such as Page Title and Automatic Node Title; the idea being that those modules might let markup be entered in alternative fields to the standard Drupal title field, and then display that markup whilst hiding the title field.  Well, I tried these methods and they just seemed too convoluted - plus I don't think they really get by the display of HTML issue.

In the end, it turns out that some simple CCK'n'theming goodness can make a powerful solution very very easily.  All you have to do is:

  1. Create a cck field for an alternative title,
  2. Hide the display of that field from nodes of the type(s) which feature it,
  3. Version a page.tpl.php for the node type you are replacing the titles on and include some custom php statements to optionally display the alternative title when one has been filled in for that node being displayed.

A great thing about using CCK of course is that you can display the HTML title in Views and Panels and so on as needed.

I called my new field 'alttitle' - here's the code I used.  Note: you can get creative with the php such that you have a conditional statement in just the main page.tpl.php of your theme which only uses the alternative title per node type using it and so on...

code

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Tuesday Oct 5 '10Setting up a local development environment for Drupal work

MAMP panel

Because most people come to working with Drupal professionally through teaching themselves, everyone seems to have their own methodologies for building sites using the framework.  I've advocated working live off of remote development servers for a long time which the belief that it prepares you early on for any hiccups that may arise relating to the nuances of your hosting environment, but then today rethought that approach.  The problem was that Media Temple, who is generally pretty reliable, got very very slow with mysql access speeds and I began to get frustrated building out a client's site at tricycle speeds.

So, I rolled up my sleeves and prepped my trusty Macbook Pro to help me finish up development on this site.  For this, I needed a Linux-Apache-Mysql-PHP stack installed (LAMP) and decided to use a software package called MAMP - which is very easy to install.  After futzing with the php.ini file to get things up to my preference (upping the upload max file size restrictions etc...) I moved the site I'm working on off of our dev server by tarballing it and then using the WGET command in shell.  Note: WGET apparently doesn't ship with macs so you'll need to install it - I found a package and instructions from statusq.org very helpful.

In just a few minutes (our internet connection is quite fast), I had untar-ed the package containing my site's files and database and repointed the settings.php file to the new localhost database location and was off to the races - I can't believe how fast work has gone this afternoon on this project... Up until you need to show a remote client or project partner your work, this approach is lightning quick and extremely fun :)

For more insight into setting up your own development environment I highly recommend peeping the article on drupal.org.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Sep 15 '10A new beginning for our Why Drupal blog

Just over 3 years ago I launched a blog called 'Why Drupal?' which resided at http://whydrupal.com and served as a repository for tips and tricks picked up along the path of learning and working with the Drupal Content Management System/Framework. Since then, Design Guru has focused 90% of our efforts in building groovy web places to working with Drupal and we thought to finally migrate the blog over here to our main site.

In addition to posting more frequently, you can look out for some video content we've been working on to help explain what Drupal is, and why we love working with it - so please check this space over the next few weeks!

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Sep 15 '10Our lovely new Eames chairs!

Since we moved in this past Spring, our conference area of the Studio has felt off-balance - our table is quite large and four black wire-frame armchairs just have not been able to carry the space around the table's ends, so yesterday I went out shopping to find two new pieces to solve this dilemma.

As the table is white and our (old) chairs are black, I wanted a combination of this polarity in two chairs which wouldn't be so striking as to draw focus to themselves when not being used - and I think I found the perfect chairs for the job at Morba, just around the corner on Queen st West.

These repro's aren't Herman Miller but feature the original design as conceived by Charles and Ray Eames in the 1950s. I chose to put together black metal bases with white fiberglass seats and the effect is very nice - don't you agree? :)

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Aug 25 '10We're excited to be working with Souktel

See video

Souktel designs and delivers mobile phone software services that link young people with jobs and connect aid agencies with people who need help. They're almost ready to launch a new website and we're proud to be working on streamlining the user interface of that site to make it more accessible and engaging to potential Souktel customers and anyone interested in this innovative organization.

We really believe that Souktel is an excellent example of how SMS can provide very powerful means of communication through its simplicity. You can learn more about what they do in the video attached to this post.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Thursday Aug 19 '10Moshi Moshi Handsets revive tactile telephony

Native Union Moshi Moshi handset
Native Union Moshi Moshi handset

I just came across a very interesting handset manufacturer by the name of Native Union - the firm is Hong Kong based and makes handsets with a combined audio jack, which can interface with USB, for mobile phone use. You can also use their handsets with a laptop and whats specifically of note is that they've worked with credible product designers (such as UK-born Michael Young and France's David Turpin) to improve the usability and styling of their handsets.

Currently marketing under the 'Moshi Moshi' brand ("Hello" in Japanese) they've obviously get sales targets on the Asian Market and are leveraging japano-kitsch to help sell their products. In addition to 3 current models of plug-in handsets, there is also a Moshi Moshi speakerphone which looks very interesting.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Thursday Aug 12 '10How to install APC on Media Temple's Gridserver accounts

I freaked out a little this morning when I noticed that a key resource I had bookmarked was missing from the web well almost!  Thanks to Google's cache I dug up the instructions originally posted on urbanmainframe.com on how to install APC (for displaying realtime upload progress details next to the field uploading a file in Drupal for example) on a Mediatemple account. Et voila: Installing APC on Media Temple Grid Server

1. Telnet or SSH onto your GS server

2. mkdir /home/#####/data/lib (where “#####” is your Media Temple account number)

3. mkdir /home/#####/data/lib/php

4. wget http://pecl.php.net/... (at the time of writing this is the latest stable version - adjust as necessary)

5. tar zxvf APC-3.0.19.tgz (again adjust as necessary)

6. cd APC-3.0.19

7. phpize5

8. ./configure --enable-apc --enable-apc-mmap --with-apxs2=/usr/sbin/apxs --with-php-config=/usr/local/php-5.2.6-1/bin/php-config

9. make clean

10. make && cp modules/*.so /home/#####/data/lib/php

11. Finally add the following code to your php.ini file: extension_dir = /home/#####/data/lib/php/ extension = apc.so

That’s it. APC should now be installed and you should be able to measure a significant improvement in your PHP script performance.  

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)
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