Project Highlight: Explain

At Ooer we believe the web should be a happy, exciting, vibrant sort of place where the best companies have the best websites. We believe in designing a brilliant experience for users first and developing it with passion. And we do this for the love of creating amazing things, so we're quite cheap.

More about Explain »

Thoughts about things

Thoughts

My web browser is leaking data.

Everywhere we go we spew forth a veritable deluge of personal information, giving a detailed account of our daily lives to anyone with the tenacity to bother listening. The microscopic minutiae of our most mundane activities is the apparent life-blood of business in the era of 'Big Data'. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, and perhaps worryingly, it all seems entirely normal and not creepy in the slightest.

Everything we do is watched, recorded, analysed and used against us.

Before I started writing today I read a news website, watched a YouTube video of a TED talk, and started a Spotify playlist that my girlfriend created for our second anniversary. Three innocuous actions that thousands of people might have done in similar weekend rituals all over the world.

Now though, somewhere in an anonymous low-slung concrete building on a mid-Western US industrial estate, the analytical power of a data warehouse is connecting the dots between what news I read, people who like to hear speakers talking about ecology, and people who listen to Elbow. I've inadvertantly added myself to a network graph - a mathematical model that plots our likes and interests, and now the corporate world has a slightly better way of targeting me with their purnicious adverting. There's an amazing amount of information in just a few clicks, and by aggregatting the data and using a few statistical tricks practically any aspect of who you are can be inferred.

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All that happens will be known.

"All that happens will be known."

The motto of quite-obviously-supposed-to-be-Google tech behemoth The Circle in Dave Eggers book of the same name was probably supposed to be a warning rather than a portent. As technology marches forward, driven by the unlimited cash of governments and venture capital, coupled to the egos of amoral entreprenuers who believe that their twisted intepretations of 'useful' always trump what the rest of us consider to be 'right', we're not just over the edge of a privacy cliff, we're about to hit the rocks below.

Your phone lets everyone know where you are.

The number of times we're tracked daily is truly staggering. We're on CCTV in most high-streets and chain-stores. We're on traffic cameras on every major road. Number plate readers build profiles of who drives where, when, and how fast on every motorway. Who and when we text and telephone our friends is tracked by our mobile phone providers. Where we go with our phones is logged too, with metadata about which cell phone masts can 'see' our phones being recorded. In the online world what web pages we view, what email we send, what we buy and what we share is recorded on the servers of our ISPs, social networks and retail websites. Those little snippets of data are catalogued, cross-references, and built in to amazingly detailed and insightful associations accessible by any company with enough money to buy our records.

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Asking The Questions

About two thousand five hundred years ago a chap called Socrates would wander around the markets of Athens bothering people. By all accounts he was an ugly, short, unhygenic man who asked impertinent and tiresome questions that few people really wanted to be asked. For that, he has earned the title of the Father of Philosophy.

Socrates' rational was that people didn't question things that they thought were obvious irrespective of whether or not they were right or wrong. If something seemed obvious then it must be obvious. Obviously, this was often not the case, especially in ancient Athens were they believed things like birds grew on tress. By our standards they were crazy. But then, by the standards of someone living two thousand five hundred years in the future we probably believe some pretty ridiculous nonsense too.

Socratic method as it came to be known is the idea that we should question everything that we are told even if, on the surface, it seems ludicrous to. What seems obvious might not be, so without questioning we can't know whether what we believe to be true is or not.

The ability to question, and even perhaps more importantly the ability to withhold judgement until something has been properly examined, is absolutely critical in developing an amazing user experience. If your website is built on untested assumptions you have no way to know whether or not it is really as good as it could be.

Quote

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Steve Jobs

Projects

Online

Follow

A way to visualise how mobile phones are tracked.
Offline

Explain

A side-by-side document editor for translation, explanation, etc.
Offline

Spectrum

Spectrum analyses and maps the amplitude kicks in a song to provide key points for demonstrations designed for Party.
Offline

mHealth

Quantified Self style tracking for depression, anxiety, mood, and relationship information.
Offline

Party

A WebGL experiment to turn a web page in to a web party.
Offline

Pitcher

Pitcher is a social media automation service that finds content and gives users the tools to share and comment on it over a number of channels.

Experiments

New

Neon Effect

A flickering neon effect in CSS.
New

Radial Spinner

A spinning radial gradient effect.
New

Form Error Shake

CSS animation and an animationEnd event.
New

Prime Number Sieve

A test of using the nth-child pseudo class to match prime numbers.
New

CSS Clock

Using CSS animation to rotate the hands of a clock. Set to the right time with JS.
New

Camera Shutter CSS

A camera shutter using CSS rotations.
New

Chasing Lights

A grid of divs that light up in a chasing pattern.
New

2 Column 3D

A clone of the 2-column 3D gif idea spotted on Buzzfeed.
New

:target Adventure Game

Using the target CSS pseudo class to show divs based on URLs that match IDs.

What is Ooer?

Ooer is a website, blog and 'idea graveyard' belonging to me, Chris Neale, a web developer based in the UK.

What sort of things are there here?

Generally, front end code stuff.

What do you use?

This is the wrong question. I'm a strong advocate of designing the user experience first and then choosing the technologies that will deliver that experience through a web browser (or app, or whatever). Consequently, asking what tools a developer uses presupposes you're building the same experiences, which you probably aren't.

But seriously, what do you use?

I've got experience of PHP, Laravel, Wordpress, MySQL, Javascript, jQuery, Backbone.js, Marionette.hs, Bootstrap, LESS, Font Awesome, and a bunch of other things.

Can I reuse the code here?

Everything on Ooer is free to use under a Creative Commons CC0 license. That means, in short, you can take code from here and do pretty much anything you want with it - use it, share it, sell it, whatever - with the only exception that you can't claim it's yours and sue other people for using it.

Really?

Sure. I'm using some of the code and ideas herein on websites around the internet. It's served it's purpose for me. If you can use it and make a little money from it, brilliant.

I tried to use thing and it didn't work. Help?

The code supplied here is given out "as is". It should work, but if it doesn't then that's a bit unfortunate. If you drop me a line I might be able to help out but I'm not guaranteeing anything.