Hopeful Monsters and the Trough Of Disillusionment

The trough of disillusionment certainly seems like an interesting place to work in:

Last Saturday, Matt Webb and I hosted a short session at O’Reilly FooCamp 2010, in Sebastopol, California.

The title was “Mining the Trough of Disillusionment”, referring to the place in the Gartner “Hype Cycle” that we find inspiration in – where technologies languish that have become recently mundane, cheap and widely-available but are no longer seen as exciting ‘bullet-points’ on the side of products.

Hopeful Monsters and the Trough Of Disillusionment – BERG


Epic Win

Epic Win is an RPG inspired todo-list app for iPhone where you gain experience and level up for doing chores.

The idea isn’t entirely new: Chore Wars is a web-based game with a similar concept, and it has been around for three years.

Google App Inventor

Google App Inventor tries to enable people without programming knowledge to create Android apps:

App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.

Watching that demo video i couldn’t help but think that “pull my finger”-style apps just became a whole lot easier to create on Android…

I doubt we’ll see any high-quality apps or runaway successes created with this, but it might be useful for creating ultra-niche apps.


A few months ago last.fm started looking for a data griot – in their words, a griot “must … have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his understanding of history formidable.”

I thought this was a fascinating take on the need within companies for stories. It’s normally gussied up in other language – research (stories of the past and present) & design, futurism, innovation, even business contingency (all stories of potential futures). Companies spend a lot of money looking for these stories. Traditional product companies had to ask people and users to tell their stories, normally through market research. Web companies are at a huge advantage: they have rivers of usage data flowing through their servers, and the problem inverses – how to make sense and tease out meaning and interest from such a torrent.

Chris Heathcote: griotism

iPhone Deconstruction

In researching the iPhone as a part of Critical Wayfinding, the analysis of the device, the corporation, the vast network of shareholders, technology and the distribution infrastructure that surrounds it yielded an overwhelming amount of information.  In an attempt to organize this information into a format that is engaging and reflective of the wayfinding foundations of the project, two large conceptual diagrams in the style of Harry Beck’s London Underground diagram were produced.

Ben Millen » iPhone Deconstruction

Viewports and Pixels on iPhone 4

A while back, at the end of a piece on viewports and resolution-independent pixels, i was left wondering:

I’m curious to see how Apple will deal with this when and if the need arises in the future. In the meantime it’s hard to predict how best to prepare for possible future changes. I wouldn’t be surprised if many existing iPhone-optimized websites and web applications break in rather unpredictable ways when an iPhone with a pixel-doubled screen appears.

Now that the iPhone 4 is shipping we can answer this question, and today i came across an interesting post describing the new iPhone 4 behavior regarding device-width and device-height queries. In short:

  • iPhone 4 reports its device-width and device-height as 320×480 pixels instead of its actual, physical screen resolution of 640×960 pixels. This seems to be consistent with how Google is handling this on their Nexus One, which also reports “iPhone standard resolution values”, rather than its actual resolution. This behavior ensures that existing mobile web apps and iPhone optimized websites continue to function as expected, but seems like a really bad long-term strategy to me. From here on out, all smartphones will have to misrepresent their screen resolution for device-width and -height queries, effectively ruining the intended functionality and behavior of this property.
  • iPhone 4 supports a new media query: -webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio. With its pixel-doubled screen compared to previous versions of the iPhone, it reports -webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio:2. Using this media query, web developers can specifically target iPhone 4, for example to provide higher resolution images in their stylesheets.
  • iOS 4 finally adds support for orientation media queries, so you can apply different stylesheets for portrait (orientation:portrait) and landscape (orientation:landscape) orientation. This has already been available on iPads, but is a new feature on iPhones and iPod touches.