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Teresa Cos

I Was There – Observations on “The Society of The Spectacle”

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“I Was There” is the first chapter of a long term (lifetime) project which explores western society and its obsession with success. I started by depicting the worlds of art, fashion and culture, where anxiety and struggle for success, together with the desperate need for recognition and approval are ubiquitous; where people live with the constant fear of being considered losers. The images have been taken in 2010 at Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice Film Festival, Milan and London Fashion Weeks, Frieze Art Fair in London and Paris Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC).

I chose these events because they are globalised examples of a bubble (for instance the art industry) that is on the verge of explosion. As wrote Jean Baudrillard: When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how much such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players totally indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil.

If one substitutes current art with current society the equation doesn’t really change, does it? And who are these indifferent players, if not us? I want to keep on exploring and understanding photographically the Hyper reality created by consumerism, where people aspirations are dangerously confused with the models of living that the society of the spectacle is constantly selling us and where need has become desire and admiration envy.

To me, it is fundamentally important to understand these social dynamics because, by creating the idea that through a selfish individualism everybody can finally reach extreme forms of wealth and success, one drastically contributes to the social and economic disparities in this world.

 

Bio

I was born and grew up in a small town called Latisana, in the North East of Italy, a one hour drive from Venice, where I ended up living for six years as an architecture student. It is thanks to architecture that I discovered photography, because it taught me to look at the world through different eyes.

After graduating in 2008, I was in the Italian team of architects and urbanists in the international table of consultation wanted by the French government to produce ideas for the future of Paris. I lived for seven months in the suburbs of the French capital, producing my first important body of work, Banlieue 08/09, that allowed me to be accepted last year onto the Photojournalism & Documentary Photography MA program at London College of Communication, where I graduated with Distinction.

I live and work in London and I am also part of the photography collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine.

 

Related links

Teresa Cos

Collective Five Eleven Ninety Nine

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Web design is a craft that is constantly evolving and yet also sometimes sabotaged. The moment a design is released, a new version is born. In the beginning, like a baby, it seems vulnerable and weak, but in time it grows up and becomes self-sufficient. Redesigning a website for its own sake doesn’t prove anything; quite the contrary, it reveals a lack of effectiveness on the part of the designer.

Product design is a craft in which new versions come to life with increasing difficulty. We can learn a thing or two from it when designing for the Web. First, let’s look at some examples.

  • How many designs for the iPhone has Apple released since 2007? The answer is one, with only two tweaks. How many Motorola phones for Android can you find on the market right now? Thirteen, not counting the old models.
  • How many designs of the Mini Cooper do you know of? Just that one brave design that has continually evolved since 1959! How many Toyota Corolla models can you count since 1967? Nineteen.
  • Zippo lighters have retained their appeal since 1933!

Forget marketing, technical specs and hardware. Products such as the iPhone, the Mini Cooper and the Zippo lighter have become wildly successful because of their outstanding design. Such massive success springs from three sources: the designer, sticking to the scope and iteration. These aspects can help us in Web design, too. In this article, we’ll look at what we can learn from successful product design.

The Ability Of The Designer

Zippo
Zippo lighters have remained elegant and reliable through time. (Image: cell105)

Do you trust your instincts? You should! Because when you see a design, you judge its attractiveness in less than a second. We all know what we like, even if we can’t always explain it. It’s about aesthetics. Aesthetics is a child of harmony, and harmony is not magic. It can be achieved when the designer embraces certain principles, such as balance, contrast and dominance. Becoming a fantastic designer, though, requires more than pure technique. It requires that you see the context and make decisions accordingly.

A couple of comments by Karim Rashid, featured in the documentary Objectified are fascinating and revealing. First, Rashid talks about a stereo that he loved as a teenager:

It was a white kind of bubble stereo with these two bubble white speakers. And it was probably very inexpensive — it was a real democratic product, and it had a turntable and the whole thing built in. It was a beautiful thing. Looking back and thinking why it was a beautiful thing, it was very self-contained, and the message was very strong and very simple, and at the same time it was very human. There was a quality about it.

See? A democratic, self-contained, human, simple thing with a strong message.

Here is Rashid again on thinking outside the box:

Why do we feel like we need to keep revisiting the archetype over and over and over again? Digital cameras, for example, [whose] format, proportion, the fact that they’re a horizontal rectangle, are a model of the original silver film camera. So, in turn it’s the film that defined the shape of the camera. All of a sudden, our digital cameras have no film. So, why on earth do we have the same shape we have?

How is it that Karim Rashid extracts such clear conclusions? What hinders us from doing the same? And not just in theory. Let’s do it for real. The next time you are about to make an important design decision, stop and ask yourself, What would I do if I were Dieter Rams or Jonathan Ive or — since you’re a Web designer — Douglas Bowman?

Asking this kind of question briefly expands our skills of judgment and makes us ultra-alert. Doing it regularly can drastically heighten our perception, values and actions as designers. Is this enough? No, but it is the beginning of a beautiful relationship with design.

And the Zippo lighter? It looks both friendly and solid, a comrade that needs your attention in order to keep working. Ιt has its own scent; it’s windproof; and above all, the sound when you flip open the lid is distinctive. And if you’ve owned a Zippo for a while, you must have noticed that it learns how you touch it when you light it.

All together, a Zippo is a product of craft — just as our designs for the Web should be. This is as simple and as hard as it sounds.

Focusing On The Scope

Mini Cooper
Once a Mini, always a Mini. (Image: Shelley Gibb)

Let’s go back to cars for a moment.

As noted earlier, the Corolla models of Toyota are nothing spectacular in their design. But what is a Toyota car known for? It’s a reliable, relatively cheap family car. Is Toyota successful? You bet!

What’s a Mini Cooper? It’s a beautiful small car that appeals mostly to young people. Is it successful? Of course, it is.

Cars are complicated machines. They do more than transport people. If a Toyota were as fancy as the Mini, then it wouldn’t be affordable. If a Mini were reimagined as a family car, then it would lose some of its charm. Oversimplification? Perhaps. But you get the point.

There’s a scope behind each product. As long as the scope is met, the product will be effective and remain on the market. The same happens in Web design.

Consider a metaphor. The closest physical product to a website is a periodical. Take Wired magazine (the physical magazine, that is, not the website or iPad app, which have slightly different characteristics). I’ve been reading it for more than 10 years, and if I had to describe it succinctly I would say “forward-thinking and cool.” Wired reinvents itself every once in a while and persistently fine-tunes the design, but the scope remains the same. Excellent design and illustration, superbly written long articles and a ton of clever short ones serve the main purpose: to introduce its audience to a new era. Audiences change over time, and new eras dawn, but Wired remains. Why? Because it has always respected a higher purpose. Sure, many magazines are well designed, and enough of them have great content. But you rarely find one with a unique identity, an identity that can’t be easily copied.

Your probably less complicated Web project needs to perform similarly. You must define the objectives. The design must promote them. Good content should prevail. You know the rules; make sure to follow them. Moreover, know where to stop. If it’s a new idea with vague potential or yet another feature or a last-minute change, just say no.

Websites are like breathing organisms. They evolve; new features are added and others are dropped, but they never stay still. Or at least they shouldn’t. Thus, while a promising fresh idea shouldn’t be discarded, it should be held until the next major update.

Big, ambitious, well-funded websites often seem to lose focus. Their owners try to satisfy all requests. This is a recipe for disaster, because it creates unnecessary friction between everyone working on the project. It dulls the impact of the best features and, above all, the scope. Tension fills the air. The worst days are ahead.

Such practices have led to the infamous concept of design by committee. Simply put, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

Iterations

Apple Store, London
Is what Apple does magic? I think not. (Image: Jon Rawlinson)

Let’s talk Apple. Apple’s iconic design and its founder’s exceptional way of thinking have been overanalyzed lately.

No matter how many words we write about Steve Jobs, we still seem to explain away his success as being a kind of magic. But that’s plainly wrong. People are inclined towards the least complicated, least demanding explanation to a conundrum. It is written in our genes. We think more deeply only when there’s a serious reason to do so. (But I digress.)

So, let’s do away with what Adrian Slywotzky refers to as the “Eureka” myth:

Apple would love us to believe it’s all “Eureka.” But Apple produces 10 pixel-perfect prototypes for each feature. They compete — and are winnowed down to three, then one, resulting in a highly evolved winner. Because Apple knows the more you compete inside, the less you’ll have to compete outside.

If Apple iterates so painstakingly, why shouldn’t we?

Inspiration for a great design roars when it comes. And implementing the idea brings a rush of enthusiasm. And our eyes sparkle when we anticipate outstanding success. And yet it rarely works that way.

Why? Because ideas and their execution are seldom free from flaws. You know the old cliché, “There is always room for improvement.” It still stands. There is always room for improvement, and accepting that your idea is the one that needs improvement takes courage. Demolishing your next great product in order to make it better takes nerve and self-discipline. But it also makes you wiser, and can dramatically improve the product.

Iterating extensively and in detail doesn’t depend on a certain type of project or a certain budget. It’s a tricky thing, because it forces us to confront our imperfect nature as human beings. To embrace our inner flaws is to walk the road of truth and maturity, silently, without making a show that we’re doing it.

This weight might feel a little heavy on our shoulders. If it does or if you dismiss Apple’s success, consider what Oliver Reichenstein, head of Information Architects, says about the iterations that his team makes in each development phase (this quote appears in the comments section):

It’s often almost impossible to explain easily why things look like they do, because we went through so many iterations, that it feels like explaining a chess game with all the ifs and whats.

The same goes when designing for the Web: there’s no excuse to avoid making as many iterations as we can.

Final Thoughts

When successful designers are asked where they seek inspiration, they often say something like, “Everywhere — I go for a walk and observe the world around me.” And it’s true. But what they don’t often say is that they also know what to observe and how to ignore the noise of the world.

There are many beautiful well-functioning products around us. Each has a story to tell, a story that is strongly attached to its design, its scope and the iterations that the designer took before releasing it to the world.

Take the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Its design is at least impressive, and its scope is clear (to suck dirt better than other cleaners and, thus, to make your environment healthier), and it took hundreds of prototypes for the designers to figure out how to make it work without a bag. The first Dyson vacuum cleaner was sold in 1970! To explore further and find similar products, just search for our three key words: “design scope iteration.”

Creating a lasting website is no easier than creating a lasting vacuum cleaner. But neither is it impossible. It requires a holistic approach, focus and maturity, just like the products we’ve looked at here. Not to mention, it requires a paradigm shift.

(al)

© Yiannis Konstantakopoulos for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Amazon recommendation network

Whenever you look at an item on Amazon, the site recommends related items that you might be interested in. So in a way, these items are connected by how people buy. Artist and designer Christopher Warnow uses the metaphor to create a network of Amazon products, where each node represents an item, and connections, or edges, represent common bonds of recommendations. Simply enter an Amazon link, and Warnow's software generates a network.

For example, the image above is the network for Edward Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information, although Stephen Few's Information Dashboard Design seems to have more connections for some reason. My quick guess is that book's that are less niche have more connections, because when I entered Visualize This, the network was pretty small. Although I would've thought that Tufte's book would have a larger network than Few's.

In any case, the application and Processing code is free to play with. Warnow uses Gephi for network connections and grouping. Or if you don't feel like downloading a 60mb file, you can just watch it in action in the video below.

You might also be interested in Yasiv. It's a web app with a similar idea, but not quite as slick of an implementation.

[Christopher Warnow via Datavisualization]

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Actor Logan Cunningham voices Rucks, the narrator of Supergiant Games' Bastion. Creating the character in collaboration with sound director Darren Korb and studio director Amir Rao added new dimensions to a long-standing friendship. The three first met on their neighborhood soccer field and in high school, growing up in San Jose.

The Supergiant sound team is in the running for three VGA awards, with votes currently being accepted on the Spike website. In this interview we hear about the creation of the voice of Rucks from the actor and sound director.


Logan Cunningham at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles

What was it that led you to pursue a career in acting?

Logan Cunningham: When I was in high school I had done some acting with Darren, but I didn't train as an actor while in college. I studied basically everything else. When it came time to graduate Fordham University at Lincoln Center as a journalism and communications student, also studying a lot of English, film and visual arts, I realized that everything I had been studying was leading me back to acting and the theater.

Acting was very difficult, and I liked that. In my life, acting and writing are the two things that I've done that have been the hardest and the most fun. I've been out of college for five years, and have spent a lot of time thinking about being an actor. While I don't go on a ton of auditions, I do whatever comes my way. That was, ironically, how Bastion happened.

Did you feel that your interdisciplinary background was something that helped inform this performance?

LC: Certainly. I think that if you are an actor you should study as many things as you can.

When you began creating the character of Rucks, you had not been thinking of yourself as a voice actor. What preparation was necessary to satisfy the requirements of supplying narration for the game?

LC: Voice-over in general is a technical challenge. It's easier than live action acting, in that you don't have wardrobe or makeup and you can get away with more. Obviously, I would never be cast as Rucks in "Bastion: The Movie." But I can produce his voice.

There are things like diction and speaking clearly that are much more important in voice acting. I wasn't as used to that. The majority of the very early work with Darren was in finding that voice. What made it harder than live acting was never having a whole, completed script to read. I've since learned that this is pretty much the plight of all voice actors in videogames, who generally don't get whole scripts for security reasons.

Lyrics by Greg Kasavin, vocals by Logan Cunningham

Were suggestions you were receiving from writer Greg Kasavin helpful in building the character?

LC: A big influence on the sound of the voice is Ian McShane from Deadwood. Greg would send links to YouTube clips, which was great timing because I had just started getting into the show. In the credits of Bastion, I thank my friend Marcus for lending me his DVDs of the series the summer before, where I developed a huge actor crush on McShane and his voice.

Before Bastion, I had not been comfortable dropping my voice that low. When I was in school I was the kid that the teachers always asked to read out loud, which I hated doing. I was really self-conscious about the deepness of my voice and would pitch it higher in my everyday speech. This was a new thing for me, feeling comfortable in that lower register. And I have Deadwood to thank for that.

What kinds of exercises were you doing in order to capture the right sound for the character?

LC: Before we would start each session I warmed up with a blurb from cereal boxes, film synopses from Netflix envelopes, whatever was around. I did that four times in total: as Daniel Day-Lewis's character Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, as Sam Elliot, Al Swearengen from Deadwood, then finally as Rucks, after all that. Doing those three passes, somehow Rucks would come out.

Apart from the mechanics of finding the voice, were there insights into the personality of the character that came from Greg's writing or your own choices as an actor?

LC: The script we used came to us as a Google document, split into six columns. The column next to the lines themselves were pointers from Greg, giving some context. He had written an extensive backstory to Bastion that I was not privy to until the game had been unveiled publicly. I didn't even meet Greg until seven or eight months into it.

From the lines and my own imagination, I sensed that archetype of an aging gunslinger. I got the loneliness and the regret. It was clear to me that he had spent most of his life alone, but also that there was a lot going on with the character. I was eager to read that backstory that Greg had written once I learned of its existence, and once I did I realized that I had been on the right track.

You had in fact grown up with Amir Rao and Darren Korb. How did that relationship form prior to development on this game?

LC: Amir and Darren went to elementary school together and have been friends since they were seven. Amir I met in eighth grade. Almost every season I would play recreational soccer on their school's team, the Cougars. I stopped playing in high school and became a theater kid, but in high school it turned out that Amir and I had a lot of mutual friends in common. The three of us all went to New York for college, and they were the familiar faces that I had in the city. The three of us have stayed friends since.

darrenkorb_santamonica_tn.jpg
Sound director Darren Korb in Santa Monica, California

You've described the genre of Bastion's score as "acoustic-frontier." How did you find a sound for the music score that was unique and fit with the environment that Supergiant was looking to create?

Darren Korb: Early in the process we tried to pin down a tone for the game. I was lucky enough to be involved from the beginning, and stumbled upon "acoustic frontier trip-hop." That was something that everyone seemed happy with, so I was looking for everything to fit that genre as a kind of thematic glue for the game.

Trip-hop uses sampled beats. The juxtaposition of the trippy hip-hop and the frontier acoustic guitar made for a fun mix. World One now has a Byzantine kind of sound, with Middle Eastern and Asian influences here and there. For World Two, I've gone more in the direction of Bayou and Western frontier. Each world has its own musical tone.

The soundtrack's concept of the frontier complements the visual quality of the Bastion sprouting up around the protagonist as you explore. Was the personal context of exploring new territory as independent developers at all informing the decision?

DK: Yeah, part of the idea behind the frontier vibe was to give you the feeling that the world around you wasn't settled. Being an unsettled independent game company, we delved into this project not knowing what was ahead of us.

Are there scores for past games that stood out in your memory at the time of working on the soundtrack for Bastion?

DK: My favorite music score for a game is Marble Madness. I love it so much. Another of my favorites is Dungeon Keeper for the PC, Windows 95. Back in the day I would put the actual Dungeon Keeper game disc in my car and would listen to the music tracks on it. As far as music in games goes, I grew up playing games and they are a big part of my influences, along with bands like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Weezer and They Might Be Giants. But before I liked rock music, I liked game music.

Have you found that joining the development team has allowed you to be directly involved in your role as musician?

DK: I love being a part of Supergiant Games. Not only do I get to do something that's incredibly fun, I get to work with friends of mine, who I really get along with. Because it's such a small team, I feel that everything I do has a large effect on the overall project. The soundscape of the game is directly affected by the things that I do. It's nice to feel like I have a stake in the project.

What kind of tone did you feel was right for the character of Rucks, and what do you feel the game gains by having the narration serve as an enduring element of the gameplay?

DK: We did some experimentation, looking at other memorable narrators that we really enjoyed, like Alec Baldwin in the Royal Tennenbaums, or Sam Elliot in the Big Lebowski. We looked at how narration like that fit with the quality of Logan's voice, and started to build the character a bit from the outside in. It started off with the aesthetics of his voice and then became more about who he was and what he was all about.

The narration in this game tells the story in an unobtrusive way that happens while you're playing and it gives context to your actions. During development, I would play levels that didn't have narration on them yet and I kind of had no idea what was happening. When the narration is added, you always know what's going on. You know your objective, and everything has a context.

bastion_01tn-thumb-478x268-987.jpg

What kind of attitude did you want the narrator to have toward the playable character of the Kid?

LC: I knew there was an affection there. Rucks really has no other choice but to like the Kid, because there's no one else around. I think he likes the Kid and sees a lot of himself in him. Fans of the game have theorized that Rucks may in fact be the Kid in a Star Trek-esque causality loop. I never saw it that way myself, but I can see how other people would.

Who was supplying the vocal effects found in the game? It seems like that may have fueled speculation about whether those characters were actually related somehow.

LC: The Kid's exertion sounds are Darren. There are two male Ura at the end of the game, and Darren and I both did the sounds for those.

Additionally, you are singing on the soundtrack. When you were listing the subjects you studied in college, I noticed that vocal performance did not come up. How much background did you have as a singer prior to this game?

LC: Not much. I had been in musicals, though it's the one kind of acting that I'm not particularly fond of doing. When I see it done well, I love it. Darren wrote a musical with his older brother and it was chosen for the New York Theater Festival. There were two performances about a month ago. I was actually their assistant director, stage manager and on-stage briefly in a panda suit.

Singing is something I do reluctantly. I knew going in that they wanted me involved on the soundtrack in some capacity, but I had no idea what it was going to be. The soundtrack came out on a Friday, while I got the song from Darren only the Monday before, and we recorded it on Wednesday. Darren wrote a Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash kind of song, that required a looser, more relaxed kind of singing style forgiving to someone like me, without technical vocal training. We did it in maybe two takes. He had to rewrite the guitar track I was singing over, because it turned out I could sing much lower than he thought I could. We're really happy with how it turned out.

Lyrics by Darren Korb, vocals by Logan Cunningham

The soundtrack has been very well received. It has millions of plays online. That must be gratifying.

LC: Yeah, the number of plays is some insane number. Out of everything about the game, the reception to the sound has surprised us the most. We all knew that Darren writes good music, but witnessing the crazy response to that has been a really nice surprise.

Could you tell us a little about your thoughts on Jen Zee's art style, seen in the game? When you saw Rucks for the first time, was that image something that meshed with your vision of the character?

LC: That was pretty much what I thought he would look like. What I really like about Jen's portrayal of Rucks is that he's a little threatening looking. He's not totally a kindly elder. Like everything she did in Bastion, there's a lot of layers to the look of the character.

There's an edge to it.

LC: Yeah.

What was your experience, having been on the development end for so long, finally playing through the finished product?

LC: I was floored by just how good it was. People sometimes question our "indie-ness" when they see the WB logo, but the truth is that it turned out the way it did because every single one of the seven people who worked on this were amazing at what they did. For those without a background in development, there's a lot of mystery to how a game is made. But, in fact, you can do it, just with labor and a small amount of hardware.

Playing Bastion from start to finish for the first time, I was so proud of it. More than anything else, I was happy for Amir for having pulled it off. When I had heard that he had started his own company with Gavin, it was surprising to me. For most of my life I had known Amir to be a huge gamer, an English major and intellectual. It was therefore a little shocking to discover that he was now an entrepreneur. But he's done it, terrifically.

Your character has popped up in a number of unexpected places outside of Bastion. There was a segment on the Dorkly website, showing Rucks narrating Mario games.

LC: I've seen that video everywhere and I like it. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, or whatever. There seemed to be a lot of people, to my eyes, that thought that was me speaking, which was a little disturbing, but that's fine.

There was also the wedding you narrated.

LC: Yeah, the guy emailed Greg. We were going to be recording anyway, so we thought, "Why not?" Our recording session was actually interrupted by that earthquake that hit New York back in August. We did it, sent it out and then we didn't hear anything. There wasn't even confirmation that the lines had been received, so we left it at that. Then this past Friday, I guess he emailed Ars Technica about it. That was how we found out that he had gone through with it and used the recording for his ceremony.

Do you have thoughts on the potential for working with Supergiant in the future, expanding upon the collaboration so far?

LC: There's enough in the lore to support another Bastion game. I, for one, would love to see a prequel happen. Rucks as a young man, in his hayday, would be an interesting place to go. All I know is that if what Supergiant does next requires a voice that I would be appropriate for, I'll be there.

[Images courtesy of Supergiant Games. For more information on Bastion, see the Supergiant website and soundtrack album. See also our GDC 2011 group chat with Darren Korb and other composers of indie games. Photos by Jeriaska.]

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Retread of post orginally made on 18 Mar 2004

I was attending a workshop at XP/Agile Universe in 2002 when the
phrase 'Specification By Example' struck me as a way to describe one
of roles of testing in XP.

(These days it's terribly unfashionable to talk about Test Driven
Development (TDD) having anything to do with testing, but like Jon I do think that having a comprehensive automated test suite
is more valuable than the term 'side-effect' implies. Rather like if
someone offered me a million dollars to hike up a mountain. I may say
that the main purpose of the hike is the enjoyment of nature, but the
side-effect to my wallet is hardly trivial....)

Specification By Example isn't the way most of us have been
brought up to think of specifications. Specifications are supposed to
be general, to cover all cases. Examples only highlight a few points,
you have to infer the generalizations yourself. This does mean that
Specification By Example can't be the only requirements technique you
use, but it doesn't mean that it can't take a leading role.

So far the dominant idea with rigorous specifications, that is
those that can be clearly judged to be passed or failed, is to use pre
and post conditions. These techniques dominate in formal methods, and
also underpin Design

by Contract. These techniques have their place, but they aren't
ideal. The pre-post conditions can be very easy to write in some
situations, but others can be very tricky. I've tried to use them in a
number enterprise application settings, and I've found that in many
situations it's as hard to write the pre and post conditions as it is
to write the solution. One of the great things about specification by
example is that examples are usually much easier to come up with,
particularly for the non-nerds who we write the software for. (Timothy Budd pointed out that while you can
show a lot of stack behavior with pre and post conditions, it's very
tricky to write pre and post conditions that show the LIFO
property.)

An important property of TDD tests is that they involve a
double-check. In fact this highlights an amusing little lie of the XP
community. They make a very strong point of saying things Once and
Only Once, but in fact they always say things twice: once in the code
and once in the tests. Kent has pointed out that this double-check
principle is a vital principle, and it's certainly one that humans use
all the time. The value of the double check is very much tied into
using different methods for each side of the double check. Combining
Specification By Example with production code means that you have both
things said quite differently, which increases their ability to find
errors.

The formal specification community have constantly had trouble
verifying that a design satisfies a specification, particularly in
doing this without error prone humans. For Specification By Example,
this is easy. Another case of Specification By Example being less
valuable in theory but more valuable in practice.

One Design by Contract fan pointed out that if you write a
specification in terms of tests, then the supplier could satisfy the
specification by just returning hard-coded responses to the specific
test inputs. My flippant answer to this is that if you are concerned
about this then the issue of tests versus Design by Contract is the
least of your worries. But there is a serious point here. Tests are
always going to be incomplete, so they always have to be backed up
with other mechanisms. Being the twisted mind that I am, I actually
see this as a plus. Since it's clear that Specification By Example
isn't enough, it's clear that you need to do more to ensure that
everything is properly communicated. One of the most dangerous things
about a traditional requirements specification is when people think
that once they've written it they are done communicating.

Specification By Example only works in the context of a working
relationship where both sides are collaborating and not fighting. The
examples trigger abstractions in the design team while keeping the
abstractions grounded. You do need more - things like regular
conversation, techniques like Domain Driven
Design
, indeed even doses of Design by Contract. While I've
never had the opportunity to use Design by Contract fully (i.e. with
Eiffel) I regularly think about interfaces in contractual terms.
Specification By Example is a powerful tool, perhaps my most used
tool, but never my only tool.

(For more thinking on Specification By Example, if not by that
name, take a look at Brian Marick's
writings. Somewhere on his site there probably is one super page that
sums up his view on it. Of course finding it is less valuable than
reading all the stuff there while you're trying)

Some Later Comments

A couple of years after I first wrote this, there was a post by Cedric
Beust
that was critical of agile methods that
caused a minor blog spat. There were rebuttals by Jeff Langr and Bob
Martin
, and I sent this post through the feed again. Jeff Langr
later added a nice
example
using using tests as specification by example for Java's
Math.pow function.

reposted on 17 Nov 2011

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Compare the complex model of what a computer can use to control sound and musical pattern in real-time to the visualization. You see knobs, you see faders that resemble mixers, you see grids, you see – bizarrely – representations of old piano rolls. The accumulated ephemera of old hardware, while useful, can be quickly overwhelmed by a complex musical creation, or visually can fail to show the musical ideas that form a larger piece. You can employ notation, derived originally from instructions for plainsong chant and scrawled for individual musicians – and quickly discover how inadequate it is for the language of sound shaping in the computer.

Or, you can enter a wild, three-dimensional world of exploded geometries, navigated with hand gestures.

Welcome to the sci fi-made-real universe of Portland-based Christian Bannister’s subcycle. Combining sophisticated, beautiful visualizations, elegant mode shifts that move from timbre to musical pattern, and two-dimensional and three-dimensional interactions, it’s a complete visualization and interface for live re-composition. A hand gesture can step from one musical section to another, or copy a pattern. Some familiar idioms are here: the grid of notes, a la piano roll, and the light-up array of buttons of the monome. But other ideas are exploded into spatial geometry, so that you can fly through a sound or make a sweeping rectangle or circle represent a filter.

Ingredients, coupling free and open source software with familiar, musician-friendly tools:

Another terrific video, which gets into generating a pattern:

Now, I could say more, but perhaps it’s best to watch the videos. Normally, when you see a demo video with 10 or 11 minutes on the timeline, you might tune out. Here, I predict you’ll be too busy trying to get your jaw off the floor to skip ahead in the timeline.

At the same time, to me this kind of visualization of music opens a very, very wide door to new audiovisual exploration. Christian’s eye-popping work is the result of countless decisions – which visualization to use, which sound to use, which interaction to devise, which combination of interfaces, of instruments – and, most importantly, what kind of music. Any one of those decisions represents a branch that could lead elsewhere. If I’m right – and I dearly hope I am – we’re seeing the first future echoes of a vast, expanding audiovisual universe yet unseen.

Previously:
Subcycle: Multitouch Sound Crunching with Gestures, 3D Waveforms

And lots more info on the blog for the project:
http://www.subcycle.org/

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Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living:

 1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

 2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

 3. Follow the three Rs:

        1. Respect for self

        2.  Respect for others

        3. Responsibility for all your actions.

 4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of        luck.

 5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

 6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

 7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

 8. Spend some time alone every day.

 9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be      able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t          bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other          exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

(via thecaptainoftheship365: / saramdle: / klodt:)

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