Amazing floating words

While preparing for Siggraph 2006 i went through my archives and found a couple of videos from my visit to Siggraph back in 2001. Some of the technology and art installations are still pretty amazing so I have decided to post a series of videos from that conference.

This one is from the art exhibition. The system consist of a couple of computers, a projector, a camera and a pool of water. The projector and the camera is mounted directly above the pool. One computer renders the characters and project them in the pool. Another computer is analyzing the video feed from the camera and control the animation of the words on basis of the movements of the elements in the picture. One is used to move the characters and the other one is used as an eraser.

Link to the video on YouTube.

You speak into a microphone and letters start to drip out of the funnel. Then you can have fun lifting the letters up, moving them around and erase them.

These kinds of alternative methods of controlling computers are quite interesting. Again, I have to think about Brian Eno and the wish for more “africa” in computers. Mentioned here at before. You also find some thoughts over at

If you want to follow the rest of my videos from Siggraph 2001 I recommend subscribing to this blog through your RSS reader or through my email update. You find all the information you need here.

Credit goes to the artist Shinji Sasada, that will be back with some interesting stuff this year.

(If you want to link to this story you find an image that you can use here.)

Amazing floating words

Siggraph 2006 – Boston

Siggraph 2006 Logo
I am heading for Boston and Siggraph 2006 in the end of July.

It’s a couple of years since the last time I visited Siggraph and I look forward to a week of inspiration and interesting presentations. The art gallery and the emerging technologies being two of the arrangements I look forward to. Check out the emerging technologies video preview here.

Of course I will bring my camera and my laptop and post to this site during the conference, but right now I just wanted to know if any of my readers are planning to go as well. Or, if I have any readers in the Boston area?

Please feel free to contact me.

Siggraph 2006 – Boston

Making a truly personal presentation

Hotel Croatia
At the EBU Connect conference earlier this month I experienced an excellent presentation by Patrick Damsted. It was a very good example of utilizing one of the most important advantages of doing a presentation. The fact that the presenter is there in person.

I have watched too many presentations where this advantage has been wasted. Presentations where a person goes on stage, reads through a bunch of bullet points and goes off stage.

Why bother? Why spend your money and time travelling to the venue at all? If you are there to read some bullet points I can give you some valuable advice: don’t go.

Email your bulletpoints to the audience and let them read through it themselves. It will be more efficient. People read faster than they speak. Even faster than you speak. You’ll save your money, your time, your jetlag and your disappointed family. Stay home.

Patrick Damsted
So what did Patrick do?
First of all, the good people organizing the conference was very clever at connecting the right people the day before the conference started.

Because I was talking about future technologies in general at day 1 and Patrick did a presentation on digital video recorders at day 2 we sat down and went through our presentations. I did some adjustmants and found some references where I could inform the audience that they would learn more in Patrick’s presentation the next day.

Patrick also did some adjustments. Actually, he did some serious adjustments…

So he goes on stage, introducing himself. Then he says something like this:

“After listening to some of the very interesting presentations yesterday I decided to throw away my original presentation and make a new one.

I skipped the party last night and went to my hotel room. There I made a new presentation and you’ll have to accept what I was able to make with my camera phone and my Mac.”

At that point he actually got a short round of applause from the audience.

He starts his presentation, and a large part of the visuals are actually pictures taken in that hotel room.

Because most of the audience stay at the same hotel, have the same bag of office schwag and have the same conference programme in their hands we can know for sure that he made those slides right there at Hotel Croatia.

100 000 views
He used the traditional note papers from the hotel. Some postcards from the bag of conference sponsor goodies. The conference programme. Even the toilet paper in the hotel room. Of course he also kept some of his original slides in there, but the overall impression was of a truly personal presentation.

Tailored completely for that particular audience. Filled with references to the other presentations.

Because I had gone through his original presentation with him I could see that he had kept the main points, but by adjusting the presentation the way he did he really honoured the audience with a one of a kind, special act for those people, in that conference at that particular stage.

By doing that he made his own trip from Denmark and all the trips by the audience worth it.

And yes – without the excellent content, knowledge, confidence and general presentation skills this approach would not work at all. But that goes with all presentations. You should always start with hard research, practice and the ability to keep things simple. And of course, read Presentation Zen.

The Market is a conversation
Related stories:
How to avoid making boring presentations
How to make illustrations even if you can’t draw

Making a truly personal presentation

Site down for a while

I am very sorry for the inconvenience, but went down when my post about how to make simple illustrations reached the front page of

I am currently communicating with the support team over at Dreamhost to find out what went wrong. I have been digged, boingboing’ed and flabbergasted before without any problems.

824 people digged the story before they had to remove it from the front page because my site was down. I had about 17 000 pageloads in a short while, even with my site down most of the time.

Having a blog that can’t handle links from sites that most bloggers only dream about is of course unacceptable. I’ll have to get som answers from my hosting comany…

Site down for a while

How to make illustrations even if you can’t draw

Make illustrations
I really hate clipart. So much that I at some point decided to start making my own illustrations for my documents, presentations and my blog.

Now I get all these nice compliments about my childish drawings. They seem to work well in my presentations because they add a personal touch. Doing presentations is a personal thing. The fact that you, yes you is there to present. People tend to appreciate the fact that you have spent the extra time adding your own special finish to the slides.

One little problem when I started was of course that I can’t draw. I made my own small cartoons at the age of 14 but has not done much drawing since then.

So when I started my experiments I immediately realized that my drawings where identical to the ones I made at the age of 14.

With some tricks in photoshop I was able to give these childish drawings a slightly more professional look, and after a while I am now able to make my own illustrations so fast that it can compete with the work I have to do if I want to find decent clipart.

The illustration in the example in this article took exactly 33 minutes from my decision to make something to finished illustration.

This is what you need:
1. Some courage to expose your unprofessional drawings
2. A black pen and some white paper
3. A digital camera or a scanner
4. Photoshop or Photoshop Elements

The idea
Start by trying to figure out the simplest possible illustration for the point you want to make. The fact that I can’t draw helps me a lot. It forces me to keep things simple. Not having the skill to make advanced illustrations is actually a good advantage when you want to make simple things.

Filt tip pen
The drawing
Use a thin pen. 0,75 or 1 mm. Have fun. The simple idea that comes to your mind first is often the best one when making illustrations like these. Don’t be afraid to break all rules about perspective, depth, proportions and whatever difficult guidelines that you could think of.

Don’t get scared by the fact that your drawing will look unprofessional before you start your magic in photoshop.

Draw with a firm line and close all open gaps.

Close all gaps
Closing the gaps is important for the work that you are going to do in photoshop.

Digitize it
Use a scanner, or a digital camera to get the illustration into your computer. If you use a digital camera you need an even lighting. Don’t use flash. Put your drawing near a window or under a soft light source. Using a digital camera will make the work in photoshop a bit more tricky, but with good lighting, a decent resolution and maybe a macro function on your camera it will do fine.

The photoshop work
First you want to separate your black lines from the white paper. Use the magic wand and select the white part of the picture. If you used a digital camera like I did in this example you might have to adjust the tolerance of the magic wand.

When you feel that you have a tolerance that selects the white part nicely you go to the “Select” menu in photoshop and choose “similar”. Photoshop will now select the parts of the white paper that was closed to your initial selection.

Now you have all the white areas selected. Go back to the “select” menu and choose Inverse. Now all your black lines are selected. Go to the edit menu and select copy. Then go back to the edit menu and select paste. (Or, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V).

New layer
Now you should have a new layer with your drawing on a transparent background. Turn off the original layer with your photo or scan and start working on that new layer.

Here you use the magic wand to select the parts that you want to fill with color. The process is simple and quite repetitive. Select area, find your colors, select the gradient tool, choose a gradient type and apply the gradient.

Apply the gradient

If you want to add shadows or other effects you have to copy the part you want the effect on to a new layer.


For this illustration I added a shadow on the person and some motion blur on the globe.

Shouting to the world
I have also had fun adding real photos or screenshots like the desert island in the TV and the screenshot from the Pirate Bay in the story about Bob the Millionaire. You find some more examples as well through this post.

Related story:
How to avoid making boring presentations

…and you can digg this story here.

How to make illustrations even if you can’t draw

How to ridicule a bandwidth thief

How a left wing blogger suddenly encourages people to vote right wing.

You have a shop and the store on the other side of the road puts up this beautiful poster in their window. You can’t afford such a nice poster but you get this great idea. You put a mirror in your own shop reflecting that particular beautiful poster from the other side.

This is a great idea until the shop on the other side change the poster to something that you really, really don’t want in your window.

Recently I went trough the raw traffic logs of The logs from my hosting company that show all kinds of activity on my server.

This log will show me if anyone is stealing images and bandwidth from me.

Let me explain
If someone find a nice picture on your web site that they want to use on their own page they can do it in two different ways.

Stealing bandwidth
1. Include the picture in their page linking directly to the source picture on the original website. This gives the benefit of the fact that all bandwidth and storage space needed to show that stolen picture is eaten from the original owner of the picture. Meaning that the owner pay for the bandwidth used to show the picture on another site.

Every time someone ask for a page at the site that have stolen the picture it is loaded from the original servers.


2. Copy the picture to their own server and link to it there. Then they have to pay for the bandwidth and storage space themselves.

I have marked this blog with a creative commons license allowing non commercial use of everything here as long as you give me credit and stamp your new work with the same creative commons license.

I have also allowed some types of commercial use if it would drive traffic to my site in form of a link or an article.

But some people don’t care about that and use pictures from my site without asking and without linking back giving credit. Because they don’t know better or because they deliberately want to steal bandwidth. But that’s the nature of the internet. It’s how it work. Publishing something on the net gives other people quite a bit of control of your content.

But, when people steal images using method number one described above you have a way of getting your revenge. Yes, it sounds smart to let the place where you steal your images also pay for the bandwidth, but it is a seriously risky business.

You practically gives the original site total control of a window in your site. If I change the picture on my server it will also change on all the sites that have stolen it linking directly to me.

The picture of the TV
Currently, if you do an image search for “tv” in Google Images, a picture that I have made is number three of more than four million. Several people have stolen this and a lot of them link directly back to me. Giving me full control of that picture on their web page.

I have insane amounts of bandwidth available with Dreamhost so currently this problem is not very big. So for this picture I simply added “” to the picture to get a little attention on the sites that have used that picture.

Adding to the picture

Here are two examples. A page using my picture before and after. And another one before and after.

The political joke
But one case was just begging for a practical joke. I discover that a Norwegian blogger with a political very strong left wing message has used a picture of a glass of white wine from my blog. I am not voting extreme left, nor do I vote extreme right, but this case was screaming for some good old and very geeky fun.

So, right now there is a huge picture begging for people to vote right wing on this guys web site. On my server I exchanged the picture of the glass of white wine with a picture saying “Vote for FRP” with the logo of FRP (Fremskrittspartiet), the right wing party in Norway.


The message here is a graphic that practically scream “Vote right wing!” in the middle of this left wing blogger’s web site. ROFL!

This is the link to his page. My joke has been there for a day or something. I guess he’ll change it soon, so here’s the screenshot.

The bottom line
If you enter this world of citizen journalism and utilize the fact that even your mother can have a web page on Blogger, please do your homework anyway.

Just like in the real world. If you go to Bangkok without doing any research at all you’ll probably get ripped off by a tuktuk driver pretty fast.

If you publish on the net without having any idea of what you are doing or who you are stealing from, then you’ll probably be victim of some arrogant geek fooling around with your site.

The side effect
This left wing blogger is not the only one using my picture of a glass of wine. So now a couple of other sites look pretty stupid as well. New York blogger Amanda is suddenly doing commercials for the Norwegian right wing party as well.

Personally I really don’t like this party, so as soon as this left wing Elvis Bling Laden guy fix his page and destroy my practical joke I will change this picture to something else.

Do you have any suggestions? Leave out the obvious offensive pictures that I could have put in there. I want to be more subtle than that.

Digg this story here.

How to ridicule a bandwidth thief

The power of citizen journalism

Screaming to the world
The internet gives everyone with a connection a powerful distribution channel. A potential to reach millions of people. 90% of the stuff out there reach a very small audience, but some of it reach out bigtime.

Two quick stories.

1. The customer representative from hell
Vincent Ferrari knew that AOL was known for trying to talk people out of their desicion to cancel their account. When he wanted to cancel an old account he recorded the conversation and posted an article on his blog. The story reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Now the customer representative from AOL just got fired.

You can see an interview with Vincent Ferrari on NBC here.

2. The horrible online photo retailer
Thomas Hawk was bullied by the online retailer PriceRitePhoto:

“I will make sure you will never be able to place an order on the internet again.” “I’m an attorney, I will sue you.” “I will call the CEO of your company and play him the tape of this phone call.” “I’m going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you.” “You’d better get this through your thick skull.” “You have no idea who you are dealing with.”

He posted the story on his blog. Got digged, slashdotted, boingboing’ed etc. Evetually he ended up in New York Times. Now this is the Alexa chart for priceritephoto:


Steady traffic, then huge amounts of traffic at the time of the article from Thomas Hawk. Then death. The last times I’ve tried to reach their web site there is a 404 not found.

Now this is all good. The phone conversation with AOL is solid evidence. Following the story from Thomas Hawk with all comments and links you get enough information to believe that Thomas did not make this story up.

But will the flow of information on the internet, with comments and links and all its open nature prevent this power from being abused? I don’t think so. Do you have any examples of people abusing their power as an unorganized and free guerillia “journalist”? Someone trying to harm without a good reason? An example where someone actually got fired or a company was ruined?

Related story here: Legal threats and the internet.

The power of citizen journalism