Sunday, November 25, 2012

Robert Frank's Life

He penned this himself, as spare as his imagery.
This made me pause "I spend a lot if time looking out the window. Camera still in closet. I wait". The next entry was the death of his daughter five years later.
From the Aperture series

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Media

What will the 21st Century bring for the creative sector? It's looking increasingly like it will bring software into the creative fold as the all embracing medium which all content will be subsumed into. This will likely be a century long process, one at the end of which, we will look back and see the beginning of the 21st century much as we look back and see the early days of the 20th, scratchy radio, daily newspapers with different editions through the day, early film, experimental television research, and telephones being for the wealthy only.

The initial scrabblings at the frontier of this process have two early promising starts. One is ebooks, the arrival of tablets as a primary computing platform has already started to be the engine for the re-invention of books. Currently it is very much along the lines of what my generation first imagined back in the mid-Eighties, embedded media, limited interactivity along pre-defined routes, non-linear story-telling. As the century unfolds the mixing of coding into this practice will result in evermore sophisticated forms of interaction and experiences.

The other area of interest is the emergence of long-form drama, on screen or on television as a major force. It is the first medium other than gaming to have a level of audience immersion we've not seen for quite some time. Given the challenges independent cinema now faces, the opportunities here for innovation are huge. How the viewer interacts may extend to enhancing the main storyline, about diversions which illuminate characters and relationships, about behind the scenes footage and commentaries which indicate process and intention. Building in many ways on what extras have provided but with a much more integrated approach, indicated by Sony's early explorations of clicking on a script page to jump to the scene in question on the DVD. This likely as not will be a running option within any film as it plays.

Software, software, software... Time to plan on integrating it, no matter which creative field you are in. Coders will be a key component in creative teams as the century progresses.

Monday, March 19, 2012


A recent update has prompted me to dust off my Hazel rules. I've become steadily more and more impressed with the options this little addition to OSX brings, Hazel tidies things up, does a host of smart jobs around the computer for you, and I've grown to depend on it.

I've developed a very consistent file naming philosophy,  one I've used for a long time.   The principal tools for organisation in my system are not folders or tags, for me, it's all in the name.   What I like about Hazel is that it takes my twenty year long file naming and organizational practice and has it fully automated. And I barely have to think about it.

A couple of things first.   I have folders for file types, rather than projects, inside my Documents folder.  So all my Word, Pages, RTF and TXT files all sit inside a Text Docs folder.   All my spreadsheets in another, all my PDFs in another, all my OPML docs in another, etc.   

I don't use Hazel for files I create (unless I'm goofing off and forget myself, in which case it catches me). It's more for how files arrive from other sources. I've found that there's three folders where this can arise: Mail Downloads. Downloads and the Desktop.

I have a few quick rules which are straightforward:
- Hazel simply sends anything that lands in Mail Downloads straight over to Downloads.
- I have Hazel rules for gathering up any stray files on my setup, in the Home folder, Documents and so on, and pop them on the Desktop.
- I have Hazel ignore folders on the Desktop. If ever I want to keep a file or two temporarily on the Desktop for some reason, I create a folder as I save them and keep them there.

I have Hazel do most of its work on Downloads and the Desktop. What Hazel does is look at these folders, name files found there according to my system, and put them in the correct folder.

If you open up my Text docs folder, you will see a long running list of files, no internal folders.  For me, the folder lies in the name.  I have a set of three letter codes I use for each project I have.  It would be 32A for a film, ITS for College work etc.   It's the first thing I name a file with and is key to my Hazel rules. My earlier blog post explains the logic behind it, it works for me. what can I say. This particular post is how Hazel integrates with that approach. I just had to find a way to inform Hazel, on a file by file basis, which project each file pertained to.

Here's my Spreadsheets rule for the Downloads folder for example. 


From the top,
1.  I have a rule for each basic file type I typically use, this catches anything vaguely resembling a spreadsheet.
2.  It assigns a Orange label, this rule only affects files I've not created and I like to have a visual reminder of documents I've received rather than created.
3. It makes a request for information, "which project does this relate to?".
4. It runs a simple Automator workflow which does one thing, adds spotlight comments, I always use a Three Letter Acronym to indicate my project and nothing else.
5. It renames the file accordingly:
- The "comment" is my three letter acronym which designates my project
- followed by the date as I always format it, YY.MM.DD
- followed by DLD, a searchable signal for me that I downloaded the file rather than created it
- followed by the actual name it originally had and the extension. 
6. It then pops it in the Spreadsheets folder.
7. And sends a Growl notification. 

So I may have had a file 'draft budget.xls' emailed to me by my wife. So a personal project.   The first thing that happens is an Automator box pops up and asks 'Which project does it belong to?"  I type PER and press return.  It renames the file  PER 12.03.19 DLD draft budget.xls and pops it in my Spreadsheets folder.  I'm happy.  I have similar rules for text files, outlines, presentations, scripts etc.

I have all the searchability of my existing file naming structure and I've added in the ability to search for documents which arrived on a particular date simply by searching for "YY.MM.DD DLD" no matter which project they were or what kind of filetype it is.

I do hope Hazel at some point offers the ability to prompt for user input, the Automator workflow is very straightforward but a built in option would be nippier I bet. This is the point where if there's a lot of files I simply turn off Hazel until I've got some space to handle the sequence of requests, usually at the end of the day. One of Hazels virtues is that it simply sits there if you don't have it active. Turn it on, everything is cleared up, and you're back, all tickety-boo.

Now I don't have Hazel do everything to everything.  Renaming music and videos would not be a good thing. I have it simply move them into my Music or Movies folder, I'll decide if I want them imported into iTunes later.  I don't want Hazel launching weighty apps like iTunes either.  

There's additional rules in Downloads for Packages, Zips and DMGs which never land on my Desktop. Hazel ignores them for two days and then moves them to an images folder on an attached external hard drive.

I have a folder for stray photographs which it adds to Aperture for me. That's a recent and very welcome feature.

I did consider setting up an Archive rule which would do what I do myself each new year, and back up and archive off older material. But I think I'd like to integrate Devonthink Pro Office into that, and I haven't had a chance to work it through.

Beyond files I'm originally creating, which I simply save with appropriate names in their filetype folder, I haven't had to do any filing or clearing up since adopting Hazel into my workflow.   It runs smoothly in the background collecting downloads and stray files,. gets them named properly and puts them where they should be.  What more would you want from an intelligent assistant.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

ACTA in Ireland

Here's the copy of the email I wrote to my TDs last week and our MEPs. Sometimes I wonder….


I am writing in connection with the proposed legislation being pursued by Minister Sherlock in relation to copyright material and online services.

I could say I am writing as a resident of such and such an area, and voted here there and everywhere along the political spectrum over the years.  But I'll spare you all that.

I am writing as a filmmaker who has worked in many creative fields, from music to art, theatre and photography over the intervening years, I've produced several feature films and had some modest success.

I have also followed the rise of technology since the mid-Eighties, lectured on Computer Animation in Ballyfermot in the early Nineties, and continue to teach in Digital Media in the IT, Sligo.  I've over twenty five years experience, researching and tracking the steady advance of digital technology as it has swept over the creative sector, from digital creation, through digital distribution and consumption. 

What it is important to understand right now is that we are in the middle of a watershed, a period of transition and various creative media are at different points in their transition.   But all of these:
- Music
- Television
- Publishing
- News
- Art/Photography
- Film
All of them have entered the watershed right now.  Moving through huge changes.  It's, as the word of the day says, disruptive.  Extremely disruptive.  It's been tough on all in the business.

Each of these media, to a lesser or greater extent,  find themselves transitioning, through creation, distribution, combination with each other and the interaction of the public, gradually being absorbed into another medium, Software.   Software is emergent as these other forms break apart and transform.  

That, from a bigger picture, is what is in play.   And a bigger picture likely is a century long viewpoint.  At some point, there will just be creative software, it's the key art form of this 21st Century.

It's absolutely vital that we don't get in the way here.    The challenges facing the creative sector is not to stem, contain, or alter the creation, distribution or consumption patterns.   The challenge is actually one of excellence, we just need to get better, a lot better, at what we do.  I, personally, have every faith in the creative and content sectors in getting to do that, excellence and innovation are two keywords we have lived or died by for a long time.  We need to embrace the technology and just be better than the pirates, we need, in short, not to contain or stem it, but to actually push it, and get involved in deepening it as this century progresses.

Please I would use your connections to urge the Minister to move away from this legislation and to spend his time and portfolio encouraging the content industries to focus on their own path, to encourage partnerships in particular with our software and technology companies and to pursue excellence in these fields.

I would be happy to discuss this further with you should you so wish.


What you gotta do…. Anyway please visit and sign up.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On Software

Today I discovered that this blog was down, all my permalinks were non-functioning, so I loaded it up to have a look and see what was up. It was an easy fix but over the course of checking through the links I had a read… I've been spending a lot of time on Twitter over the past while and not so much time here. I had been wondering about that, about what it said and why. Perhaps looking at what I'd discussed here, bar posting the odd photograph, held some insight.

I've lost my earlier postings in the previous incarnation of this blog, whatever platform I used prior to Blogger. I'm pretty sure that I was talking about the same area of focus, various bits and bobs on technology and the creative sector. One clear benefit to blogging, even casual short notes, is that such thoughts are captured as some form of argument, a postulation in formation, at least how I practice it. So perhaps of interest to some readers, here's a summary with handy (and functioning) permalinks.

First, back in 2006, I had a note about the music industry, which has always led the way, despite how that industry works. Those guys had issues that the film industry was going to face.

Then in January 2007, some speculation about an iTV, perhaps Apple would release some video device for consuming video. But in fact they didn't, it was something else entirely, "something so interactive, you'd never put it down'. And yes, I still haven't managed to do that. Little did we fully realise that the iPhone was the platform for ubiquitous computing which the public would fully embrace.

In April 2007, when financing creative projects online started, I compared it to our experience financing a feature. And in that month I talked about some people who were doing just that, the gang at Four Eyed Monsters. in July 2007, I welcomed the arrival of Charlie Rose and his content online, the early vanguard of mainstream media. I also noted that interactivity was changing, that search had become the norm, that the structuring of data had moved to algorithms rather than experts providing links, the data equivalent of the democratization of links in hindsight.

In January 2008, I stopped listening to mainstream radio entirely, moved my listening needs to podcasts. I've been a lover of good talk radio longer than any other medium bar books, but I've never looked back. That month I also noted that I was a Grumpy Old Punk, but thats neither here nor there. in February I celebrated the podcasts of IT Conversations, an unashamed quality stream which broadcasts content from various sources, including conferences, a model which will be developed further I feel. The IT Conversations crew are actively exploring podcast curation around topics, Colleges take note.

In June, 2008, I wrote a short piece about Computer Art and what had happened. And what was beginning to happen now... The following month I revealed my file naming nerdiness to the world.

In January 2009, I had some inkling about personal tastes and software, but the real thing which was developing in my head only became clearer later, in April 2009, when Apple sold a billion apps. The revolution underway was about a relationship between the consumer and software.

Then in August 2009, I arrived at what has become the equivalent of an organising principle for me, how software has become the key artform of this century.

In September 2009, I had some thoughts about iTunes Extras, Apple making a start on digital delivery, and in October 2009. I speculated along with everyone else about Apple's upcoming predicted iPad, about a computer based on content, that content being primarily software. And in May of last year, I talked about Sony's latest efforts in iTunes Extras. There hasn't been enough development here in the interim, I still think this will be the field of apps.

And more recently I've been thinking about curating again. Looking back, it's a little like feeling like the guy who was pointing at the oncoming tidal wave. It came alright and washed over me like everyone else. Time to digest I think. The wave has happened, the transition is in play, and the future is clearly software. And time, definitely, to resume blogging.