Posted in projects, technology by johnsnavely on September 12, 2010

Google has a new website out called Google Scribe. I’m using it to write this entire post. Basically, it’s an autocomplete field for general writing, not just the search box. The algorithm isn’t published, so I’m not sure how it exactly works. I think it samples from the “great” writing found on the web, but no idea if it turns you into a more generic writer or a better one. But there’s a lot of different uses for this thing, and google has made it easy to place it into any website with a text field.

Here’s a couple experiments that other people have done with the writer. You can start it out with just a phrase and then just let it go. It doesn’t support link suggestions, which might make the tool go from being a clever toy to the most awesome thing I could use to write. When I’m writing, I need an autocomplete that goes beyond words– it needs to include documents, links, contacts and content (preferably scraped from my copious online output). I’m building all these loose associations in my brain by collecting things in delicious, in blogs, other social networking websites…but tying them together is something that I do when I sit down and write. A tool that could effectively sit in my idea-flow and help finish my thoughts would be a piece of software that I would pay for.

Yesterday on NPR they announced this weeks new 3-minute story contest. This weeks contest gives you the first and last sentences and lets NPR listeners send in the remaining 600 words. I’m going to have google scribe write the in-between and see what comes out. (Shhh, don’t tell them that I’m doing this.) I hope it’s funny enough to win something. Maybe Michael Cunningham deserves to be Sokal-ed? I’ll publish the story here when I finish it.

I’ve Got Five On It

Posted in culture, projects by johnsnavely on March 24, 2010

I totally misread this site:

As suggested things you can do for 5 bucks. Not things you would do. (which is basically begging to be the mechanical turk of porn).

I’d rather have a yelp/craigslist sort of site that lists stuff that would be fun that costs $5 (or maybe even $10) in Seattle. In fact, I think this is such a good idea I might even build it this weekend.

Salon, And thanks for all the fish.

Posted in hobbies, personal, projects by johnsnavely on July 30, 2009

My lovely partner, K, has organized a “Salon” at our place and we’re about to have the second of what is hopefully a long series. Basically, we pick two of our talented and unsuspecting friends to give a presentation on something that interests them.

I’ve built a little website for the event here. (still working some bugs and content fixes!)

If you’re around Seattle, and would like to come, please let me know. It’s been really great to talk to people in depth about subjects that they find fascinating.

Maybe you could present?

Presenting Salon Fremont


Posted in architecture, art, friends, hobbies, personal, projects by johnsnavely on July 20, 2009

I’ve been away from this blog for a while, but it’s because I’ve been sort of busy…. and also lazy, so lazy. Here’s a batch of updates in no particular order. More to come, of course.

For work, I’ve been managing construction for two interior projects at Microsoft.

One is an office remodel for my group, Office Labs. We’ve been working in an old building: Building 4– the buildings are numbered by when they were built on the Redmond Campus– that’s been less than ideal for team work and collaboration. Basically, we’re taking down a lot of walls and putting up some glass to provide areas where people can work together more easily. I’ve designed a couple really simple pieces of furniture for the space too. Pictures will come soon.

The other is the second phase of the Envisioning Center, a lab space where my team (the Envisioning Team) will experiment with different software and hardware prototypes. I’ll talk more about this later. There’s still much more work to be done on the space. Another phase. Furniture. Technology pieces. For now enjoy the renderings.


At home, I’ve been playing around with type and some Oppen lines (many thanks to K). Posted a few more to flickr.


In older news, my friend, Pablo Herrera, has published a book which accumulates the work we’ve (Kenfield, Daniel, Pablo & our students) done in  a series of Rhino Workshops in Latin America.

Last but not least, my good friend Arthegall is finally engaged to the lovely R. Congratulations! (It’s about time.)

Lost in Translation

Posted in art, programming, projects, technology by johnsnavely on May 21, 2009

MonaTweeta II, originally uploaded by Quasimondo.

Skitch delicioused me this project, which I think is pretty cool. Basically, the challenge was to compress an image into a 140 tweet. The image description describes the process in more detail:

Preliminary result of a little competition with the goal to write an image encoder/decoder that allows to send an image in a tweet. The image on the left is what I currently manage to send in 140 characters via twitter.

This is the tweet for the image:
圑嘌婂搒孵怤實恄幖戰怴搝愩娻屗奊唀唭嚟帧啜徠山峔巰喜圂嗊埯廇嗕患嚵幇墥彫壛嶂壋悟声喿墰廚埽崙嫖嘵奰恛嬂啷婕媸姴嚥娐嗪嫤圣峈嬻尤囮愰啴屽嶍屽嶰寂喿 嶐唥帑尸庠啞彐啯廂喪帄嗆怠嗙开唅恰唦慼啥憛幮悐喆悠喚忐嗳惐唔戠啹媊婼捐啸抃岖嗅怲幀嗈拀唹坭嵄彠喺悠單囏庰抂唋岰媮岬夣宐彋媀恦啼彐壔姩宔嬀

I am using chinese characters here since in UTF-8 encoding they allow me to send 210 bytes of data in 140 chars. In theory I could use the whole character code range from 0x0000-0xffff, but there are several control chars among them which probably could not be sent properly. With some tweaking and testing it would be possible to use at least 1 or 2 more bits which would allow to sneak 17 or 35 more bytes into a tweet, but the whole encoding would be way more nasty and the tweets would contain chars that have no font representation.

Besides this char hack there are a few other tricks at work in the encoding. I will reveal them over time. For now I just mention the difficulties involved here:

A typical RGB color needs 24 bits which is 3 bytes. This means if you just stored raw colors you could send 70 colors. Unfortunately you couldn’t send anything else. At least that would allow you to send a 7×10 pixel matrix.

The worst way to store one full x/y coordinate would be 2 times 4 bytes, which is 26 coordinates in one tweet. That’s 8 triangles. Obviously you have to do some concessions with the precision here. 2 bytes per number maybe? Gives you 52 points or 17 triangles. Unfortunately those come without color info.

What I like about this project, other than the fact that you can send an image (albeit a pretty lo-res one) via twitter, is the unintentional text that’s generated from the compression. In this case the compression has to stay in the realm of text and therefore is still “readable”. In the comments for the image, one fan of this project has translated the Chinese characters that encode the mona lisa:

The whip is war
that easily comes
framing a wild mountain.

Hello, you in the closet,
singing–posing carved peaks
of sound understanding.

Upon a kitchen altar
visit a prostitute–
an ugly woman saint–
who decoys.

lonesome mountain valley,
your treasury: a dumb corpse and
funeral car, idle choke open.

exactly what you would call nervous.
Well, do not suggest recalcitrance
those who donated sad.

The smell of a rugged frame
strikes cement block once.

Where you?a
Cape. Cylinder. Cry.

It’s nice to see digital art that has multiple readings which are dependent on the medium itself. We still use the words “images” and “text” when we’re talking about the digital analogs of real world media.

But maybe they are qualitatively different?

Différance Engine

Posted in art, personal, projects by johnsnavely on April 26, 2009

Had an “art” idea:


Take Derrida’s Différance lecture and run it through google translate, translating from French to English and back again. Repeat until the translations remain unchanged. Voila!



Click on this image for the poster sized version.

O, Canada

Posted in architecture, personal, projects by johnsnavely on April 20, 2009


A month or two ago I had some work of mine (a collaboration with Shirley Shen and Andrea Brennen) on display at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The show was called Actions: What You Can Do With the City. From the CCA’s call to action:

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents the exhibition Actions: What You Can Do With the City, an exhibition with 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world. Seemingly common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening are pushed beyond their usual definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives featured in the exhibition. Their experimental interactions with the urban environment show the potential influence personal involvement can have in shaping the city, and challenge fellow residents to participate.

The proposed project, was sparked from an early art piece by Gordon Matta-Clark called Odd Lots. In the project, Matta Clark mapped out a series of tiny plots of land in New York that because of their shape or size, were “valueless”.

For our contribution, called Super Neutral,  we proposed that a carbon credit market could be used to connect small projects with small design firms. Individually, the projects could be tiny, but taken together you might see changes on an urban scale.



All photos Michel Legendre ©CCA. More photos, courtesy of the CCA can be found here.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Posted in personal, programming, projects, technology by johnsnavely on April 15, 2009

As part of my hiring package at Microsoft, I got a very modest stock award. Those of you who know me also know that I have never owned any stocks in my life and also usually don’t have any savings.

However, these are tough economic times and I’d at least like to keep track of how the stock I have (it’s not much and it’s all in one company) is doing. I’d also like to keep track of it with a daily reminder, a daily notice that fits in with my other daily activities. For me this means twitter.

What I want is something pretty simple. A twitter account that I can follow that will update me on Microsoft’s stock price daily. Now there are a number of twitter stockbots out there. Generally, however, you have to ask them for a stock quote. (Which defeats the whole push model of twitter to begin with) After searching for 5 minutes on the internet and not finding a solution, I decided to build my own.

I took an rss feed from and then used to tweet it to a new Twitter account. I think it’s all working, and it literally took about 10 minutes from start to finish. The only annoying part was having to create a new twitter account; this seems really dumb.

In the same way that I can build and manage my RSS feeds, I’d really really like be able to create virtual twitter accounts. Twitter isn’t just about looking at other news sources or information outside of myself. Twitter should be able to deliver stuff that I can curate.

I need a Yahoo Pipes for Twitter.

Poster at Colophon

Posted in architecture, personal, projects by johnsnavely on March 17, 2009

Edwin Gardner from Volume Magazine sent me a couple of photos of the poster I made on display at Colophon.



More photos in a slideshow of their sweet setup.

Recycled Part III

Posted in architecture, art, projects by johnsnavely on March 10, 2009

More recycling! Two old pieces of work are going to be shown.

First a drawing from my thesis will be in Visionary Drawing Building, a collection of architectural drawings edited by Max Goldfarb. The book will be on display at Mass Moca, on March 21 as part of Matt Bua’s installation at Kidspace Gallery.


Secondly, a poster I worked on with Shirley Shen for Volume Magazine will be shown at Colophon2009. It’s a mad lib for architects to get them thinking about all the activities they could be doing. I wrote a simple script in flash to layout verbs and nouns from an xml file.


I feel really honored to have my work still out there. Thanks to both Max and Volume Magazine.

Now, I need to start making some new stuff…