Kids should learn programming!

Blogger Nico Lumma recently published a rant on Handelsblatt about Germany (and probably other countries) are wasting time by not letting children learn to program in school.

There have been initiatives like to promote »coding« as a basic skill of the future:

… or a recent German version »Jeder kann programmieren«

And maybe in 20 years from now kids will be creating interactive toys like these gloves of musician Imogen Heap:

Some even provide interactive tutorials for starters (more here).

Actually there are not many things that you can learn so well online like coding…

But why coding?

In the information age, being able to code turns you from a consumer into a producer. If software defines what you can do, then creating software is a way to of doing things for your own way.

This is not meant to be turning kids into software developers: Programming is a way to be able to experiment with information and data. In a world of data it teaches how to think about machines, processes, data and communication. It makes you aware of what technology can do and thus could become. Maybe for your personal profit, maybe for the profit of many.

A society where only few people can program a computer is unthinkable!

Fargo: Outliner for Bloggers!

Finally! Fargo is an online tool for writing in outlines to a WordPress blog.

Very good. Outlining has been underestimated as a writing tool – but there was barely any way to edit content without a desktop software – like OmniOutliner – this way. I was using Userland Software (Frontier with Manila – later Radio) for blogging … but switched to WordPress a while ago. Dave Winer continued the core software with the OPML Editor – and has begun to mix it with web technologies.

The stuff Dave Winer usually is working on isn’t always usable by everyone. But it is original and nerdy. And it always is an inspiring playground. He writes software for himself. But it does things that others like also. Like outlining.

Update June 2014

Dave Winer talked about the mechanics of change in the web at the State of the Net conference in Trieste last week.

I am following Dave’s work since 1996. He is a developer. He tends to say he is a software developer, but that doesn’t really explain it well. He does not develop software — I’d say he develops through software.

I am very glad to hear that his former employee Brent Simmons wants to resurrect Frontier. Frontier was an application invented by Dave in the early 1990ies that integrated a database with a scripting language in a way that allowed to be creative with code (and later the web). It was not a tool accessible for an average user, but nevertheless it took away a lot of complexity made you able to solve complex problems with it yourself.

Frontier allowed to create a completely own understanding of what you regard as data and text and work the web with it. You could take anything from anywhere to anything with it and transform it into what ever you wanted… and keep a record of everything along the way. One could to this today, but it became much harder. Too hard. Looking forward to a new version.

SIGraDI 2012

I will be giving a keynote presentation at SIGraDI 2012 conference in Fortaleza in the middle of November and I am looking forward to that.

It has been quite a while I visited northern Brazil for a conference. I was presenting on the 1st Software Design Conference in Campina Grande, Paraiba, in 1996. The Internet was a pretty new thing at that time. A lot has changed in the past sixteen years. The Internet and the World Wide Web were still pretty new things in many places of the world. There ware barely 0.5 million internet users in Brazil at that time — and now there are well over 50 million. I was introducing »Interface Design« and applied that to the new activity of Web Design. Websites have been very simple things at that time that basically anyone could do professionally in almost no time by just following some basic common sense principles. There was no CSS, no dynamic manipulation of HTML with JavaScript and web layouts were done by abusing tables with invisible borders. Since that time everything has matured: the technology, the standards, the design know-how, the business and the educational agendas.

Testing World Outliner

This is just a test with the WordPress editing tool of Dave Winers OPML Editor and Word Outliner software.

I owe Dave Winer a lot. He invented Frontier (which apparantly is running at the core of the OPML Editor). It got me into Blogging in 1996. I experimented a lot with it at the time an even wrote a bunch of plugins for that system. Out first univeristy blogging server was based on Frontier and UserLands Manila.

Dave is also an innovator of a rare kind and writes at He is a developer by trade but also an Internet pioneer (or the other way around) — thinking about Internet culture and business like few do. He is always someone to listen to. He may be very subjective and personal from time to time — but we all are sometimes. He may be even wrong about things — but when he is right, he is often is dman right about it.

I lost track about what Dave is doing acouple of years ago (obviously still the same after all), but maybe I should tune in to him again. I also don’t know if I will spent more time with the World Outliner tool. But being able to edit my WordPress blog with it is a plus.

New seminars for winter semester

Two new seminars have been announced for the winter semester (details in German). These seminars are open to all students starting from 3rd semester.

»Data Transformation«

Lecturers: Prof. Dipl.-Des. Oliver Wrede

A seminar for information design interactive media in the context of topics like »Data Journalism«, Generative Gestaltung, »Big Data«, Datenvisualisierung, »Information Mapping«, Informationsgrafik, Data Mining, Open Data, Organic Information Design. Eventually we will use Processing for a lot of the practical aspects.

Seminar blog:

Note: There have been two older seminars to similar topics some years ago: »Code Visual« and »Dynamic Information Design«.

»Multi-Channel-Design – Design of holistic User Experiences«

Lecturers: Dipl.-Des. Wolfgang Gauss und Dipl.-Des. Markus Strick

The title says it all in this one. Students will work on topics like Responsive Design, Liquid Layout, Dynamic Layout, Scaled Content, Flexible Grids and Images, Responsive Imaging, Responsive Adds, Responsive E-Mail, Responsive Video, Cross Channel, Multi Channel, Smartphone, Tablet-PC, Touchpoints & Transmedia Story Telling, Customer Journeys, Use Cases, Device Complexity, User Experience Design, Interaction Design

Seminar blog:

OK. Reset!

Well, as this blog obviously shows: I simply did not have the time to blog in the past (the Twitter account is more active). The past years have been of that sort. There is too much going on and I started to contemplate for a moment if I should revoke the old blogging habit from the nineties an »blog to focus«. Problem of that is that much of that is confidential stuff from my consulting work. But maybe I could use the subjects to touch some overarching topics. Let’s try…

Hot Topics in Information Design

I have accepted to work for the Information Design Journal as Special Interest Editor.

I want to think in the open about this:

What is a “hot topic” anyway?

In my view there are four criteria for any topic to be “hot”:

  1. the news value
  2. actuality
  3. amount of discussion in the community
  4. touching “high-level aspects”

The news value

The news value is a very hard to identify aspect. Some topics may be news to some and outdated to others. There is no “topic map” that shows the age of topics – hardly even an identified list yet (while there is a list of research fields and areas of expertise). So the news value pretty much comes down to a statistical evaluation of demand and interest in certain topics.


In contrast to news value the actuality can also be high for older topics that have regained some attention recently. It can also be interesting, because it is reflecting about new developments and “game changing” or disruptive topics.

Amount & intensity of discussion

To define “amount of discussion” one needs to look at two things: the quantity of participation (e.g. the postings in discussion forums and mailing lists) and the level of dissent above consensus. Both values are hard to track.

Touching high-level aspects

Any submission in the “hot topic” section should focus on the identification and reflection about the topic itself — and its location in the overall topology of topics. So the direction of a submission should be “looking from inside out” or trying to define a bird’s eye view onto the subject.

Possible candidates

I went through some monographs, magazines, conference sites and journals and tried to identify an initial list of hot topics. This list is nothing more than a starting point – a first step.

  • Multi-touch user interface design
  • Making sense of the mobile technology
  • Visualizing complex matters
  • Visualization as political propaganda
  • Open government
  • Aligning sound and visuals in UI
  • Improving public transport
  • Intercultural communication

More steps will follow and this list will change.

Do you think there is a “hot topic” not in this list? I am constantly collecting material — do not hesitate to e-Mail or twitter-message me.


(Via Dynamic Information Design Seminar Blog)

Minority Report science adviser and inventor John Underkoffler demos g-speak — the real-life version of the film’s eye-popping, tai chi-meets-cyberspace computer interface. Is this how tomorrow’s computers will be controlled?

G-Speak is a really interesting concept. Right now I do not feel it is where it should be to be adopted on a broader scale: You need a certain environment with at least 2-3 square meters of space in front of a quite large screen.

I wonder if Microsoft will offer a extension to its Project Natal sensor some day — so that voice commands, body language and hand gestures create an immersive UI.

I can imagine that one day displays will cover complete walls so that you get a pretty cave-like situation. It is maybe time for another Display seminar?

IA conference 2010

I am at the IA Konferenz 2010 in Cologne (my hometown). Would have been a crime to miss this conference here. Met James Kalbach , Søren MuusJason Hobbs (I owe him a written commentary to his talk) and others…

I need to write more but until I find the time to do that I suggest to look at the twitter tag feed #iak10.

Update: Presentation slides start to arrive on

Track 1 from IA Konferenz 2010


Björn Hartmann: Enlightened Trial and Error

Björn Hartmann (Stanford HCI Group) talks about the different prototyping tools he and his collaborators have built to address two research questions:

1) How can tools enable designers to create prototypes of ubiquitous computing interfaces?

2) How can design tools support the larger process of learning from these prototypes?

(Duration: 1 hour, 13 minutes; this is from Stanford’s HCI Seminar lecture series, February 2009; This is a more in-depth version of the talk Bjorn gave at Interaction 09)

When faces become hyperlinks

The algorithms for facial recognition have improved a lot in recent years. Here is a company showing a working prototype of a mobile app that recognizes faces and attaches links to social network layers to them:

The prototype was shown last year — but there was a live demo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelone last week. Obviously the company that also created the service wants to turn this in to a real application.

The implications of this is shown in the video: when looked through the “eyes of the app” people virtually carry logos, brands, name tags and messages around.

10/GUI & con10uum

10/GUI (by Clayton Miller) is an novel approach to human-computer interaction. But it draws attention to the fine line designers will need to walk to effectively create physical human-computer interactions.

The video demonstrates the potential advantages of navigating within a desktop interface with up to ten fingers, rather than via a single cursor:

[More on]

Next generation of devices: Tablets

There have been many attempts to make a computer work from your pocket and without a keyboard. Apple is rumored to work on a tablet device. It has invented the Newton Message Pad over 15 years ago – which was a marvelous (but expensive) device at that time.

Microsoft is working on a new prototype that features a dual-screen called Courier. Here is a design mockup (published by Gizmodo) that shows how the device could look like:

Here is a discussion from TechViShow:

I’m am a little bit skeptical looking at the design mockup. And I think Microsoft should take a different course: finish the product in the lab and market it as “availbale now” instead of creating new vaporware.

GPS + Compass + Motion sensors = Augmented Reality

The new iPhone 3GS adds a compass to the set of sensors. Combined with the GPS, the motion detection sensor and some image change detection via the internal video camera, this enables a new breed of “augmented reality” applications.

NearestWiki for example displays WikiPedia entries about buildings and places in the vicinity.

NearestWiki is not the first augmented reality app for the iPhone, but it is the first that is not tied to a specific region or city (like Metro Paris)

Next versions of the iPhone may feature more precise sensors and a lower latency – giving a much better feeling (e.g. labels not jumping around in the scenery).