Tue, 04 February 2014

Database for fungi in Belgium

KVMV is a Belgian organization that researches and promotes mycology. I build for them both a web application and website. The application part, Funbel, was the biggest chunk. The aim was building the standardized database of dispersion and ecological data of fungi and slime molds in Belgium. When i started they several access databases with in total above a half a million entries.

A entry sounds simple but the catalogisation is done in such a methodological and scientific way that became quickly a large project.

The challenges, next to understanding the complexity of mycology of course, were

  • to clean up their access databases (they uses local access databases that weren’t identical),
  • to make sure the administrator has enough privileges to control the entries without obstructing the users
  • to allow easy export functions
  • and to make sure the website (Expression Engine) can also use the application data. 

Technically I used Bootstrap for the css, Codeigniter as framework (probably would redo it in Laraval), Flexigrid.js for the overview tables, Grocery Crud for the more basic (20+) database tables, jQuery and ajax for entries, a custom hack on chosen.js for searching in dropdown fields,... The website was designed by Tim Buelens and i used Expression Engine as CMS.

Fri, 18 October 2013

Fed Ex

Marco Arment, one of my favorite independent developers, is mostly known for the read later application Instapaper. Here he speaks about his new plans but the most interesting is to hear him talk about patent lawyers, competition stress and crowded markets.

Fri, 27 September 2013 #jQuery #Responsive

Responsive video in slider

For a new website the client wants to integrate not only pictures but also video’s in their responsive slider. My jQuery solution here seems to work but is a bit slow as it waits for the page to be loaded first. image-lg

Anyone a better solution?

(I’m using flexslider)

Tue, 30 July 2013 #big data #work

“The best model for a cat is a cat.”

Over the last few months I’ve been working together with Made with Love on an MVP (soon to be launched) for a startup which would enable users to discover correlations between their own physical behaviour and activities. This got me thinking a little about the whole big data hype and how bad we still are at making predictions. We have lots of data and computer power to test, but it’s still a “risky” business where competition and human characteristics force us to sometimes make incorrect or preliminary forecasts.

Weather is one of those fields where prediction is sometimes a bit forced in order to gain attention or make the consumer happy. For example, the American National Weather Service is accurate and well-calibrated; when they say there is a 20 percent chance of rain, it really does rain 20 percent of the time. On the other hand, at the for-profit company TWC when they say there is a 20 percent chance of rain, it only rains five times out of hundred. Why? Because if it doesn’t rain people see at a bonus, whereas they hate unpredicted rain. (source)

But in general terms, weather forecasts are a success story. However, in economic or sports forecasts we see even more variations and opinions. The worldwide house price bubble around the millennium showed clear evidence of an impending crash. House owners had unrealistic assumptions about the return on their investment and banks were making unacceptable bets. There was too much greed and not enough fear, meaning the graphs were not read properly.

Predications and data will only become more important in the future. It could already have avoided lots of trouble when read and interpreted carefully in the past decennium. Think about the house price crisis, where consumer confidence showed warning signs but the banks looked in the other direction. Think about earthquakes that are still very hard to predict and where signs are not always followed up.

“The best model for a cat is a cat” is a quote from mathematician Norbert Weiner. Models are a simplification and need human interpretation to be useful. It’s a myth that big data will tell us everything, just like that. But it is obvious how bad we still are with numbers and at predictions. We love analysts that extrapolate data into a grander theory. We love biased opinions. But we need to be better consumers of forecasts and data. In short, we will need a better understanding of ourselves and the way we distort and interpret the signals we receive.

Thu, 25 April 2013 #Usability

You Have “Inattention Blindness”

Originally published in 2009 on The W Blog.

Thu, 18 April 2013 #music

The responses to my digital music poll

A couple of weeks ago I’ve nailed down some small questions to learn a bit more about music downloads in the adventurous/experimental music circles. Payed digital downloads aren’t working. To put it bold: where an album sold 10 years ago 1000 copies it now sells 200 and 20 downloads. I have ideas about why downloads don’t work well, but what I don’t understand is why the streaming platforms are hardly adopted. Bands and labels could complain for their payments per track but as a user?

So, it was actually a big surprise to me 2 out 3 people preferred downloads above streaming. One of the reasons is better sound quality but for the others I have to guess. Think it comes partly out of tradition: the adventurous listener is a group that likes where “searching” is part of the fun and it has a lot of collectors in their circles. Streaming is not attractive from that perspective.

Another remarkable answer can be found on the price question. Downloads are too expensive. And if labels and shops want to sell more they should lower the price. The price between an actual album (15.00 usd), a download (9.99 usd) and a streaming play (0.1 usd) is not in balance. This is off course subjective, but I think the suggested 4-6 euro is a very fair price.

Side note: it’s sooo easy to create a poll with Google Docs and recommended way to do some analyses. Almost one hundred friends answered in a one week timespan. Thanks to Gonzo Circus for sharing

Wed, 17 April 2013 #Symfony

Symfony on MAMP

How to set up Symfony on Mac OS X Mamp? This might interest some of you as it took my an hour to figure it out. I wanted to run my other sites next to my Symfony project(s). Add in your httpd.conf file the following:

Mon, 11 March 2013 #Usability

7 UI requests for Basecamp.

This week the project home page was updated a bit. Nice and clear improvement.

Here a list of UI things i would love to see changed as well, after it’s first anniversary (that was last wednesday actually).

  1. I don’t understand why the discussion overviews show both messages, text document discussions and to do’s discussions, … when you can only post a message on that level. Is a discussion then not a message you may wonder at first? When you’re behind that, it still feels awkward. There is no way to get an overview of all pure messages or, say, to do discussions. In the overview you can’t  even see if it’s a message or to do in the overview, the nerdy way is check the url when hovering over the titles. Suggestion: replace discussions overview with the word messages (and only show messages) or add a column with the content type.
  2. There is no way to search a discussion, to do or file within a project. It would make sense to me to move the search box to a project level, or to have a project filter on the search results page.
  3. When you’re in a project section and you want to move to a different section, you first have to click on the project name. Or what if you’re in a discussion and what to see another discussion thread. Same thing, first project name, then section. That means a lot of clicking. I suggest a tab system, see ugly mockup here to get the idea. basecamp tabs mockup
  4. You can’t see who received an e-mail notification. Suggestion: add it in the same tiny font size next to “posted on…”
  5. You can’t see who created a to do.
  6. This is more like a feature request: being able to add a tag next to a to do, just like they did with the file uploads. Could be very handy, eg to tell the status or priority for a to do.
  7. A lot of projects in my Basecamp ended slowly or are almost inactive for months. It are especially those project where you need the “Catch up” feature. Now the project Catch up means a page per day. But 60 clicks on previous day to see how a project slowly ended two months ago isn’t my favorite activity. On the other hand is the general progress too crowded for me. So, switch the project’s Catch Up and the general Progress or have a progress view on a project level.
Fri, 08 March 2013

1 minute poll about buying digital music

I created a little poll for the adventurous music listener to get to know and understand more the current interest in digital sales. I’ll post results in a couple of weeks on this blog here.
The four quick questions.

Wed, 27 February 2013

One of the nice surprises when working remotely

If you’re working on the other side of the globe it’s harder to get a good feeling about the size of the client’s audience. I worked on a festival site lately and when it launched two weeks ago it was really encouraging to see the audience numbers this week. 

The site was made in Expression Engine and with the default caching it’s still very fast.

Mon, 11 February 2013 #work

Lupe Toys

Launched little teaser site for Lype Toys first game: the prisma.The teaser site is a preview of what’s coming later this year as we’ll develop a full e-commerce site for them. Prisma is a chess set and a puzzle enginered by a group of architects and designers from Mexico City. 

The got backed early january on Kickstarter for more then their 26,500 usd goal.

Teaser site: lupetoys.com

Wed, 06 February 2013 #work

Identity and website for Otto

​Made a logo, a small flyer and promotional website for the online digital sales tool Otto. Worked a lot already on the actual tool with wireframes, numerous discussions and front-end work but to the public there was nothing more then an unconstruction page. That changes a few days before midem 2013.

Sat, 26 January 2013 #Displaced Sounds #music

Charlemagne Palestine

Tomorrow it’s the penultimate Displaced Sound at Stuk. We host an evening with Charlemagne Palestine. Not sure if he’ll play one of his strumming (rapid alternation between single notes and chords) or more vocal pieces. He goes for the an ecstatic experience, that’s what we know. Jens Brand and Frederik Croene will play a short piece on a the “programmable piano’. During the performance, Croene will try to press the keys and block them before the programmable piano does so. The only notes that will reach the audience are the mistakes he makes.

Displaced Sounds is a series of performances Pieter Paul Mortier and me organized focusing where listening and hearing are the keywords.

Fri, 11 January 2013 #music

Lovely mix from Dublab

​Dublab is a non-profit web radio collective from Los Angeles. Check out this little mix with their personal highlights from last year.

Wed, 09 January 2013 #pics

The new office

This week i moved to a new coworking space in Leuven, De Hoorn. It has fancy offices and a flex desk that you see at the picture. The flex space was originally targeted at those nomadic laptop users, but we got permission to leave our external monitors there. In general it’s a quiet space and happy to share the table with the lovely (but ahum, now invisible) guys from madewithlove.

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