March 31, 2009

A Brief Summary of Coding so far....

Okay, my plan right now is to describe the coding that has been taking place over the last couple of weeks. I'll try my best to not write a book, but there is a LOT of information that I could cover, so I'll try and keep it brief and write it in simple terms.

The past couple weeks I've mainly been learning actionscript. Basically, I'm learning how to tell Flash to go into the Flickr API, and grab whatever information that I tell it to grab (who, why, what, when, etc.). Luckily for me, I'm using an actionscript wrapper called Flashr. This "wrapper" is basically a preprogrammed set of classes, functions, methods, etc. This wrapper makes it much easier on me, because I'm not stuck coding and defining all of these properties (and this is something that I don't know how to do anyways). However, I still need to program the front-end of my applications; defining what they do and what they look like.

I could go on and on about how these applications actually work, but I think it's smarter to just break my research down into what I've learned/accomplished so far, and what I still am stuck on and am worried about.

Learned/Accomplished to this point:
-Basic actionscripting (functions, classes, methods, etc.)
-Basic XML
-How interaction works between Flash and an API
-How to retrieve information using actionscript commands
-Created a keyword search that returns results from flickr (I will post that link in a new topic)

-Not many resources on the internet for help, so when I'm stuck, I'm really stuck
-I need to figure out how to represent the data retrieved visually, because currently I only have text
-Although I know basic actionscripting now, this type of project requires a programmers level of knowledge to complete, and I'm worried that I won't learn it in time
-I still need to decide on a format for the final version. I'm too involved in the coding, and havn't put thought into the final product

February 26, 2009

Semester Timeline

Week 1 (Thru March 7th): Research the categories of each site's API (Digg, Flickr, Be able to fully understand the workings of the API, and select the categories from which I will be retrieving information from.

Week 3 & 4 (March 8-14, March 15-21): Work with the Flashr program and be able to fully understand the actionscripting, and how to modify it to meet my needs.

Week 5 (March 22-28): Start creating initial test runs (web pages) to see how the actionscripting influences the visual results, so that I can get a better grasp on what I can do visually.

Week 6 (March 29-April 4): Create 3 different implementations of the visual scripting. In other words, 3 sites that manipulate the information in different ways. Publish them online. This is to test out what looks good and what works.

Week 7 & 8 (April 5-11, April 12-18): Pick one of the 3 sites mentioned previously, and work with it in detail to produce an interesting final site. Publish online.

Week 9 (April 19-25): Fix all bugs and problems.

Week 10 (April 26-May 2): Project is online and completed.

Final Project Details

-Ideas and Research:

The main idea that I always come back to is how computer automation can produce random results. In other words, completely automated images, data, words, etc. I love the idea of influencing art with mathematical formulas, and creating a grab bag full of results. I then wanted to explore how I can use this data automation to create an inspirational tool for designers and artists...a page they can go to and with every refresh get totally random and new ideas than the time before.

After doing research on the topic of automation and the internet, I came across what is called an API, or Application Programming Interface. An API is, in general, a programmed interface which reacts to the information that is entered into it's database, or pool. On the web, most of these interfaces are can be seen as the website's design. For example, uses an API to present a database of photo's in a regulated way.

So, how does this API come into play? Well, it seems that certain websites (Flickr, Digg, GoogleMaps, to name a few) offer their API database publicly for software testing. By offering their information publicly, I have an open door to all of the information that these websites include. Now all I need to access the information is a "key" to the "room full of information."

So what is the key? The key is a program called Flashr. Flashr is a Flash based actionscript that dives into these API database's and retrieves information, and then takes this information and presents it visually. It sounds like a lot of words here, so let me give you some examples:

More on Flashr:

API Entry on Wikipedia:

What I will be doing is creating a website which uses the Flashr script to produce random and inspirational results. I will be combining photos (, sounds (, and news headlines ( to produce a wide range of ideas and thought visually on a web page.