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Most Recent Projects

  • Amazon Light 4.0Amazon Light 4.0
    Based on Amazon Webservices release 4.0, this adds wishlist searching and ties into a number of other web apps.
  • King Kong - Business MonkeyKing Kong - Business Monkey
    An overview of recent massive marketing/merchandising push associated with the new Universal Movie.
  • Delicious Linkbacks
    a bookmarklet to track what delicious users are saying about a particular page
  • Google Maps TransparenciesGoogle Maps Transparencies
    two maps overlayed on top of each other, with the topmost map being slightly transparent
  • Cassini at SaturnCassini at Saturn
    my curated space imagery Photoset on Flickr - thanks to NASA/JPL

Webservices / API / Mashups

  • Amazon LightAmazon Light
  • Washington Post Current Events BooklistWashington Post Current Events Booklist
    a dynamically updated Booklist based on Word Bursts in the WP
More +
  • Amazon Light v2.0Amazon Light v2.0
    an experiment in DHTML UI
  • Amazon Light v3.0Amazon Light v3.0
    Five Million Items, displayed via standards-based XSLT / XHTML / CSS
  • Amazon Light v4.0Amazon Light 4.0
    Based on Amazon Webservices release 4.0, this adds wishlist searching and ties into a number of other web apps.
  • Amazon Light UK
  • Amazon Light Germany
  • Amazon Light Japan

Popular Projects

  • The MegaPenny ProjectThe MegaPenny Project
    Have you ever wondered what a billion pennies would look like? This award-winning exercise in visualizing huge numbers might help. People regularly talk about millions of miles, billions of bytes, or trillions of dollars, yet it's still hard to grasp just how much a "billion" really is.
  • MegaFaunaMegaFauna
    A List of Remarkable Prehistoric Animals - From the Mammoth to the Sabretooth to bizarre Chalicotheres - a collection of 30 large, extinct, prehistoric mammals.
  • Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907
    Two panoramic photographs of the waterfront of Seattle, Washington, taken from the same vantage point - 95 years apart
More +
  • Luciferous LogolepsyLuciferous Logolepsy
    Over 9,000 obscure words - dragged into the light of day.
  • To the MoonTo the Moon
    Our Journeys to Luna (and Back): Did you know that Men have attempted over 100 Missions to the Moon to date? Do you know who launched the most missions? What Earth Creature was the first to reach the Moon?
  • Mars Stereo ImageryMars Stereo Imagery
    Stereo Images from Mars presented as space-for-time animations, (either slow or fast). Images from Pathfinder in 1997.

Amateur Armchair Detective & Older Projects

  • King Kong - Business MonkeyKing Kong - Business Monkey
    An overview of recent massive marketing/merchandising push associated with the new Universal Movie.
  • The Incredible$The Incredible$
    An overview of the massive marketing/merchandising push associated with the new Pixar Movie.
More +
  • The Cat in the (Officially Licensed) HatThe Cat in the (Officially Licensed) Hat
    Universal and Dr. Suess go hog-wild with Merchandising Tie-ins for their 2003 movie. How much Cat is too much Cat?
  • The HulkThe Hulk
    a massive Green Wave of Movie Merchandise
  • The Burning BuildingThe Burning Building
    The identity of a curious Burning Building in Iraq

Older Projects

  • nowords.orgnowords.org
    The name of the site speaks for itself.
  • nowords 365nowords.org 365
    A Wordless Blog
  • 300 Miles High300 Miles High
    Take in the beauty of our planet, shown in 125 images taken from high in orbit.
  • Preserving the French Republican CalendarPreserving the French Republican Calendar

Books, Talks and Writing

  • Google Maps HacksGoogle Maps Hacks (by Schuyler Erle & Rich Gibson)
    I contributed one hack - an A9.com images/Google Maps mashup
  • Yahoo HacksYahoo Hacks (by Paul Bausch)
    I contributed two hacks - an image replacer toy and a reverse-link lookup tool
  • Amazon HacksAmazon Hacks (by Paul Bausch)
    I contributed one hack - an in-page amazon search tool in javascript
More +
  • The Strangest Town in Alaska : The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage ValleyThe Strangest Town in Alaska (by Alan Taylor)
    (The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage Valley) - Historic events shaped a bizarre unattractive town in the midst of Alaskan beauty, this is the history of Whittier, Alaska. Written, illustrated, and published by me (and my wife). - Available online through alaskabooksandcalendars.com

Talks

  • TTI/Vanguard's NextGens Technologies 2005
    Spoke about Web Mashups. Slides available here
  • Emerging Technology Conference (ETech) 2005
    Web Services Mash-Up Tutorial. Slides here, mashup resources here
  • Siggraph 1998 Special Session
    Web 3D (VRML) Presented an interactive 3D model of the International Space Station for MSNBC.com and an Interactive 3D Story of mine, Raven Stories

Articles/Essays

  • My Time is Stored all over the World
  • A life where TiVo has always existed [blog]
  • 22 pairs of unexpected pants [blog]
  • Dec 96 CSS Article [wayback version]

Older Webtoys/Widgets/DHTML

Show +

Toys/Widgets (IE4+ on Win32)

  • Orgulator [2004] have fun manipulating websites
  • Gegenschein [2002] (5k entry)
  • Pauciloquent Obnubilation [2001] (5k entry)
  • Square Ripples [2001] click inside the square, make ripples
  • Spraypaint text [2001] Move mouse, text follows, click to 'spray' gray wall.
  • 3 Follow Conelights [2001] move mouse over text, lights follow
  • Text Shake [2001] fake shaky-text, emulating creepy movie credits
  • Sea of copyrights [2001]
  • Multi-hued Squares [2001]
  • Drag-drop pre-viz tool [2000]
  • Seattle traffic [1999] If you live in Seattle and have to cross the bridges, this should be useful. Mouse over the camera images once it's loaded.
  • KK Right-click tools [1998] Permanent right-click webdev menu items for IE4+.
  • DHTML Maker [1997] A series of select boxes to manipulate DHTML properties and generate source code.
  • Find your country [1997] - sprite-driven interactive quiz template.
  • Table Rules [1996] Originally part of IE3's compliance w/ HTML 3.2, little-used attributes of the TABLE tag.
  • MSNBC Pop-up widget [1997] First pass at a story-rating widget
  • MSNBC Tax Calculator [1997] Originally completed for MSNBC.com in 1997. For fast results, try the test cases by pressing the buttons marked "Smith" or "Wong" at the bottom left.
  • MSNBC widget from channels page [1996] At MSNBC.com, I was tapped to make our "channels" page (To see it, in IE4+ choose "Favorites>Channels>Msnbc" from the toolbar).
  • MSNBC trial widget [1996] A second version of the widget above.

VRML Web 3D Projects (very old)

  • International Space Station (on MSNBC.com), or here [1997] - need VRML plugin. One of the most fun projects I've ever worked on, unfortunately it's written in a rather dead language.
  • Raven Stories (VRML) [1996-98] need VRML plugin. Native American tales animated in 3D on the web.

Online History / Mini-portfolio

Show +

General

  • First personal site: Northwest World o Media December 1994
  • First Pro Site: Media Inc. mid-1996 - winner of a "top 5%" award (remember those?)
  • First Web Dev article: The Evolution of Style Sheets, a CSS article from December 1996 Webreference.com

Work History

  • [amazon.com] Amazon RSS Feeds
  • [amazon.com] Pop-downs (the annoying dhtml ads on the front page - sorry)
  • [amazon.com] First version of Gold Box (again, sorry)
  • [amazon.com] 911 tribute page (for 2003)
  • [amazon.com] Golf Game: Promotional DHTML game
  • [amazon.com] Basketball: Promotional DHTML game
  • [amazon.com] Purchase Circles: (only partially involved)
  • [drugstore.com] Pieces all over the old version
  • [msnbc.com] MSNBC.com Active Channel Landing Page - early IE4 beta DHTML
  • [msnbc.com] Move the homepage code from Roger Black's MSNBC.com (with two ActiveX Controls and a Java Applet) to this (cleaner, lighter, DHTML replaces applets)
  • [agency] Various corporate homepages from 1996-97, including CBS.com, NFL.com, Boston Consulting Group, Nikkei BP, and the Christian Science Monitor
  • [agency] The Official Baywatch Website, when it was Baywatch.compuserve.com
RSS Feed for Gedankengang (a weblog)RSS for Gedankengang (a weblog)
RSS for Kokogiak's Del.icio.us LinksRSS for Kokogiak's Del.icio.us Links

GEDANKENGANG

New Project: The Big Picture

I'm happy to announce the launch of a new project of mine, one that lives not on my own domain, but that of my employer, boston.com. It's called The Big Picture, a news photo blog inspired by publications like Life Magazine (of old), National Geographic, and online experiences like MSNBC.com's Picture Stories galleries and Brian Storm's MediaStorm.

The Big Picture is intended to highlight high-quality, amazing imagery - with a focus on current events, lesser-known stories and, well, just about anything that comes across the wire that looks really interesting. Each entry will be made up of anywhere from 6-18 photographs, tied together through some common narrative.

My first experiences with serious online photojournalism came back when I was a developer at msnbc.com back in 1996-97. I've always loved hanging around with the creative groups, designers, writers, editors. That's where I first met Brian Storm and his team, and was really struck by their commitment to quality, and how much difference their selection and presentation of photographs really made - far better than anything else available online at the time. I've held that level of commitment as a standard of mine for a long time.

The photography on The Big Picture comes from many sources, largely wire feeds of AP, Reuters, Getty and more. The stories are of my own choosing, sometimes they are the stories defined by the photographer, sometimes they are related in other ways, but every entry has a story threaded through it.

The sizes of the photographs are deliberately large - taking advantage of the majority of web users who have screens capable of displaying 1024x768 or larger. The long-held tradition of keeping images online tiny and lightweight is commendable still - when designing a general purpose site. But one dedicated to quality imagery should take full advantage of the medium, and I hope I've struck a good balance with The Big Picture.

When I see quality photography consigned to the archives, or when I see bandwidth readily given up to video streams of dubious quality, or when I see photo galleries that act as ad farms, punishing viewers into a click-click-click experience just to drive page views - those times are the times I'm glad I was able to get this project off the ground (many thanks to my friends within boston.com)

And the thing that makes me happiest about it - I'm telling stories once again, on a regular basis, with great support and great platform. I hope you enjoy The Big Picture - go check it out.
6.03.2008 @ 11:46 PM

9 Comments +

bravo dude! I used to spend many hours clicking through the tiny jpgs on yahoo news, longing for something like this. Big Picture is going to be huuuuge.
by Anonymous t o n x at 6:55 PM 
This is a welcome new site to the internet. Bookmarked.
by Anonymous Christopher at 7:45 PM 
The Big Picture is fantastic! As a journalist and a photographer, I appreciate the chance to see these excellent pictures at a decent size.

Great job.
by Anonymous Mark A. Dodge Medlin at 9:17 PM 
telling stories. yes. This is a great project. Instant fan.
by Anonymous collegewebguy at 11:34 PM 
I just set this as my screensaver in Mac OS X Leopard by choosing the ".Mac and RSS" option under Photos. Cool, it works!
by Blogger Grant Hutchins at 2:00 AM 
Love it... I'm a sucker for great photography :)
by Anonymous John Lampard at 9:55 AM 
Alan,

Unrelated topic, but you might want to mention to your wife that Ken Tilden died, back in January 2008. There's a blog apparently hooked up by the Village Theatre gang online that allows you to read more about it.

I am completely in shock, as I just found out about it maybe 20 minutes ago. 36 years old.

Sorry for the bad news, wasn't sure where else to post this. At the very least I'd assumed your wife would want to know.

Regards,
S.Amou
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 4:38 PM 
[this is k]
by Blogger pup at 9:01 PM 
Alan I read that you are looking for "daily life" photos from Iran but are having difficulty. I think I could help you out in this regard.
JJ - you can contact me via the link.
by Anonymous JJ at 10:09 AM 
+ Add a Comment
Google Maps - Long Drives

I set out to find the longest distance for which Google Maps would give Driving Directions. Now that they've shut down the fun "swim the Atlantic" feature, things have changed a bit. It turns out there are multiple "longest drives", because the Google Maps World is partitioned (many countries don't support driving directions), and sometimes ferries are included, and sometimes they are not.

In order of distance, here are the seven longest drives I found. If you can better any of them, please add yours to the comments (please use TinyURL to shorten up the giant URLs).

North America, Unalaska, AK, USA to Southern Newfoundland, Canada - 7,267 mi (11,695 km) - about 6 days 15 hours - 100 steps

Europe - West Canary Islands, Spain to Hammingberg, Norway - 4,425 mi (7,122 km) - about 4 days 8 hours - 156 steps

Brazil - Northern Amazon Basin, Para to Chui, Rio Grande do Sul - 3,719 mi (5,985 km) - about 3 days 5 hours - 100 steps

Australia - Cape Bruny, Tasmania to Mardie, Western Australia - 3,474 mi (5,591 km) - about 3 days 4 hours - 93 steps

Japan - Soya, Hokkaido to Tomai, Kagoshima Prefecture - 1,480 mi (2,382 km) - about 1 day, 12 hours - 10 steps (mostly by train)

New Zealand - Cape Reinga to Milford Sound - 1,400 mi (2,253 km) - about 1 day 8 hours - 205 steps

Hong Kong - Shek Pik to Wu kau Tang - 48 mi (77.3 km) - about 1 hour 28 mins - 20 steps
4.30.2008 @ 4:21 PM

17 Comments +

A little bit of a fiddle about got me this far, http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl;=en&geocode;=8463651387605141957,53.871869,-166.451773%3B11838804331881292171,53.327720,-57.473339&saddr;=Overland+Dr+%4053.871869,+-166.451773&daddr;=53.742214,-56.99707&mra;=dme&mrcr;=0&mrsp;=1&sz;=7&sll;=53.599025,-59.381104&sspn;=3.775156,12.041016&ie;=UTF8≪=56.072035,-88.59375&spn;=58.742892,192.65625&z;=3

7,360 mi – about 7 days 2 hours
Does it qualify?
by Blogger Dave Heath at 4:17 AM 
This one in Europe is slightly longer, also Norway to Canaries: http://tinyurl.com/3eb3ls, 4 days and 12 hours, 7 205 km.
--
The Krim to Canaries is even longer: http://tinyurl.com/4erjxg, 4 days, 14 hours, 7 271 km.

Great fun, this is!
by Blogger Ezelhaar at 4:53 AM 
Tweaking Dave's map above, I managed to get up to 7,498 miles, ending in mid-ferry trip in Goose Bay: http://tinyurl.com/57gysn
by Blogger alan at 7:09 AM 
To the people who posted maps in Europe: You do realize that 7200km in only 4474 miles. So it's not as long as the Alaska-Newfoundland route.
by Blogger Eli at 7:33 AM 
No fiddling,

Unalaska to Cartwright, Labrador:
7354 miles (11835 km)
by Anonymous Anonymous at 1:45 PM 
So, what are the countries with routing data?

- US
- Canada
- Brazil
- All of Europe(?), except:
- Russia
- Turkey
- Japan
- Australia
- Thailand

NOT:
- Mexico
- Central America(?)
- South America(?), except Brazil
- mainland Asia(?), except Thailand
- Russia
- Africa(?)
by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:56 PM 
http://maps.google.com/maps?client=firefox-a&rls;=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hl;=en&tab;=wl

Anchorage, Alaska to Homestead, Florida

A little over 5,000 miles
by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:19 PM 
I think it should be obvious that "tweaking" doesn't count. It has to work with a single start point and a single end point.

Otherwise you could wind back and forth until the waypoints maxed out, which is not the point of the exercise.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 5:24 PM 
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida is about the most you can drive from one point in the US to another.

5,605 mi (9,020 km)
by Blogger Trav at 5:25 PM 
Overland Dr., AK to Miami - 6,361 mi – about 5 days 17 hours
by Blogger Jim G at 6:54 PM 
This is the longest I have for Singapore, a piddly 60.4km or 44 minutes: Tuas South Ave 9 to Nicoll Drive
by Blogger Daryl at 5:02 AM 
there used to be a googlemaps cheat that would give you directions "from new york to london" that included among the steps "swim across the atlantic ocean." I suppose they removed it after awhile.
by Blogger -me at 8:09 PM 
I remember seeing that. That was a damn good idea, I liked it.
by Blogger Annie at 11:13 PM 
47 days, 1 hour ;)

http://tinyurl.com/46n7j7
by Anonymous Jim at 11:07 AM 
Why stop at Cartwright, Labrador?

Unalaska to Rigolet, Labrador.

7,436 miles. 7 days, 6 hours.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:23 PM 
Australia

Cape Bruny to Nhulunbuy
3 days, 7 hours; 4892 km
http://tinyurl.com/5zq2c7
by Blogger peder at 1:59 PM 
Not sure why GoogleMaps would take you BELOW the Great Lakes to get from Alaska to Nfld - it should take you ABOVE the lakes as GoogleEarth did with me to cut off about 400 miles and 2 hours. Try Overland Rd, AK to Cape Race, NL in Google Earth.
by Anonymous S2B at 10:46 PM 
+ Add a Comment
Current Browser Usage for Boston.com

One of the advantages of working on a website that gets a fair amount of readership is the visibility of that traffic and what it says about the browser usage of the general population. My day job is with boston.com, which has a moderately large level of traffic (Alexa rank of 1,591, fwiw). Being a general news site with inbound links from really diverse sources, I'd like to think that we get a good representative cross-section of the web at large. My management was kind enough to allow me to share some numbers, giving a look at what web browsers people are using today, compared with a year ago.

Top line assessments: IE still rules. As of January, 2008, IE7 and IE6 each have a 34% share of our users (with IE7 barely ahead). Add in all other various IE versions in our top 20, and IE usage is still well over 70% (even though it's down from 76% one year ago). Firefox 2.0 jumped from 6.63% in Jan 2007 to 20.21% in Jan 2008. Gecko-based browsers (FF, Mozilla, Netscape) are now used by almost 22% of our audience, compared with 18% last year.

Interestingly, there appears to be some consolidation as well. The top 4 browsers from Jan 2008 (IE7,IE6,FF2,Saf3) combined make up 93% of our audience - In 2007, the top 4 (IE6,IE7,FF1.5,FF2) made up only 87%.

Safari 3, which wasn't even in existence in January 2007, has rocketed into the top 4 in less than a year. Overall Safari usage (all versions) grew a bit, and now is 6.12%, compared with 4.66% last year. Notably, Safari 3 for iPhone (and iPod Touch) is now our 11th most-popular browser.

So, the story for January 2007 - January 2008 is: IE7 is very slowly overtaking IE6 (after a year and a half, 7 has barely overtaken 6). But those leaving IE6 are not all moving on to IE7 - IE overall share is down by 6%, Firefox usage is up by 13% and Safari usage is up by 2%.

What does this mean - especially for those of us building websites daily? Well, using Yahoo's A-Grade browser support page as a guideline, over 98% of our users are now visiting with A-grade browsers. However, I can't overlook the fact that browser number 20 on our list from Jan 2008 (19,843 visitors) is Netscape navigator 4.0 - a browser that is now over ten(!) years old.

The charts and graphs below are what I used to compile this, enjoy.

Jan 2008 - 23,883,906 visitors
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.08,214,26134.39%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.08,163,282 34.18%
Mozilla Firefox 2.04,827,865 20.21%
Safari 3.0.41,042,383 4.36%
Safari 2.0.4236,659 0.99%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 (AOL)171,302 0.72%
None (Scrapers)143,027 0.60%
Microsoft MSN Explorer 9.0127,728 0.53%
Mozilla Firefox 1.5.0.1113,888 0.48%
Safari 1.3.2102,797 0.43%
Safari 3.0 (iPhone)94,767 0.40%
Netscape Navigator 3.084,651 0.35%
Mozilla (Gecko) 1.856,120 0.23%
Mozilla Firefox 1.5.053,540 0.22%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.751,420 0.22%
Mozilla Firefox (unknown version)36,204 0.15%
Netscape Navigator 7.230,996 0.13%
Microsoft MSN Explorer30,986 0.13%
Mozilla Firefox 1.028,949 0.12%
Netscape Navigator 4.019,843 0.08%

(Chart below shows top 13 browsers rolled up into major versions)



Jan 2007 - 20,669,104 visitors
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.010,824,878 52.37%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.04,254,413 20.58%
Mozilla Firefox 1.5.01,680,501 8.13%
Mozilla Firefox 2.01,369,394 6.63%
Safari 2.0.4722,460 3.50%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 (AOL)379,392 1.84%
Safari 1.3.2190,176 0.92%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.7163,895 0.79%
Microsoft MSN Explorer139,466 0.67%
Mozilla (Gecko) (unknown version)106,286 0.51%
Mozilla Firefox 1.086,828 0.42%
None81,938 0.40%
Netscape Navigator 7.279,476 0.38%
Netscape Navigator 8.152,727 0.26%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.551,004 0.25%
Safari 2.0.349,798 0.24%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.647,716 0.23%
America Online Browser 1.142,427 0.21%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.434,039 0.16%
Netscape Navigator 7.131,629 0.15%


(Chart below shows top 13 browsers rolled up into major versions)

2.22.2008 @ 6:30 PM

4 Comments +

These are unique hits, correct? Not one guy hitting the URL ten times, a second just once, and a third three times.

Thanks for sharing. Genuinely curious what tools you use to compile this data. I speak for at least two other bloggers who might be keen on using this tool. If, of course, available.
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 5:36 PM 
Did you get this data from Google analytics or another program?
by Blogger Body Builder Chic at 12:59 PM 
Wow. Great post! Very nicely detailed stats here. Not only is Netscape 4 on the list but also version 3. LOL that's crazy! Very information thanks. It's nice to know a lot of people are using A-grade browsers.
by OpenID Devon at 1:48 PM 
I wonder why there is no Opera listed. According to several statistics from European Web sites, Opera has between 2 and 5 % of market share. I really believe that Opera is used more than Netscape 4. Is there something wrong with your browser detection? Because Opera ”cloaks“ as other browsers like MSIE or Mozilla.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:33 AM 
+ Add a Comment
2008 (and 40)

This is the year of creation. My year of output. Recently, my life has been heavily unbalanced, and the swing back to balance is underway. There are so, so many ways to get quality media these days (I hate the term "media" in this case, but what better all-encompassing term is there for books, stories, music, news, movies, podcasts, TV shows, blogs, art, audiobooks, and more). Using an RSS reader, TiVo, iTunes, iPod, Netflix and more, I've achieved a constant stream of high-quality information and entertainment - way more than I actually have time to process, let alone enjoy or savor. And, my daily media consumption has grown way out of proportion with my level of output.

I need to turn this time around, and get back some balance by increasing my time spent both contemplating and producing. I have too many ideas and too many opportunities to keep on the back burner for so long - time to move them back up front.

Today, I turn 40 years old, so what better time to take stock of one's life, what one wants to do with their life. My personal life is fantastic - my family has brought me a kind of wealth I could not have imagined 20 years ago. Professionally though, I feel like there is room for improvement. In my 40 years, I've had over 30 different jobs. The ones that I enjoyed the most, that were the most fulfilling, all involved storytelling. I discovered long ago a real love for storytelling, and have practiced it in many different ways (oral, digital, print, video, graphic, more) - all very satisfying. This is my central passion and I need to keep nurturing it, and I will.

My day job is still with boston.com (The Boston Globe), and I love that I can be involved with storytelling at some level there. In the past, it was a bit difficult because of my specific role there, but recently things have been changing, and there will be more opportunity for me to nurture that passion at work as well.

In a way, deciding to increase my output into the world of storytelling is just choosing to heap more media onto the global pile. But the inspiration isn't so much the quantity of stories available, it's the quality. In recent months especially, I've been truly enjoying a couple of podcasts - This American Life, and WNYC's Radio Lab. Every time I listen to an episode of This American Life, I am moved - I wonder what my fellow commuters must think when the see me get teary-eyed on the train. Every time I listen to an episode of Radio Lab, I learn something I never knew before, and I learn it in a way that's entertaining and impactful. Both shows are tightly produced, well put-together, and thoroughly engrossing. They both inspire me to do the same thing - to tell stories that move, that inform, that engross... stories that have value, and live beyond a single telling.

I've been trying to brainstorm ways of lending emotional impact to scientific exploration - trying to figure out how to take that deep "WOW" feeling you get in your head when you learn some incredible fact about the Universe and put some of that Wow in your heart at the same time.

Thanks to those of you (writers, bloggers, artists, daydreamers, performers, journalists, and more) who have been producing so much good work lately. I've been an avid consumer and admirer, and will continue to be - just one with a little less time, (so I'll be even more picky). Here's wishing you well in 2008, may this year smile on us all.
1.10.2008 @ 12:26 AM

7 Comments +

Happy Birthday Alan!
by Blogger Joe Goldberg at 2:38 PM 
Congrats, Alan! Damn, 40? I mean...really? Wow. Anyhow, hope Christina and the kids are doing well up in Bean Town. It's been a long time since we chatted. I linked you to my blog a while ago, some of my friends have tech issues, and this looks like a good archive for you. I trust that's okay.

Peace out, yoame.

--Sonny.
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 1:58 AM 
Hi Pard,

Congrats on the neat site. Wish you'll visit my site and comment too, whenever free. www.payinguests.com . Wish you and the kids well.
by Blogger Bally at 6:36 AM 
write more stuff on science, god knows we need good science writing, and good thinking, and the implications for what it all means....

and what is a better story, better theater, than the process of discovery??

go for it
by Blogger gregory at 11:44 AM 
You were really inspired While U wrote this

please see this link
being me
by Blogger Rocio Da Silva at 6:07 PM 
I have no doubt you'll make great things.
by Blogger Joel at 4:35 PM 
you know, another science/storytelling thing I enjoy are Rober Krulwich features on NPR, like this one. All his other stories are archived here. They make for great listens.
by Anonymous drew at 1:37 AM 
+ Add a Comment
All Solar System Bodies Larger than 200 Miles: The Poster

For the many (yes many) people who asked, I've finally created a purchaseable poster version of the 88 known objects in our Solar System that are larger than 200 miles in diameter.

You can purchase the poster here, through Zazzle.com. The poster (huge size recommended) is 6 inches tall by 52 inches wide. One caveat - I haven't created a poster with Zazzle before, but have heard that their image quality is good. Let me know if you order one, and have any troubles.
5.30.2007 @ 12:30 PM

2 Comments +

Any chance that you'll be updating your now iconic image, as new imagery (such as this titan composite) becomes available?
by Anonymous Anonymous at 8:49 PM 
Can it be reconfigured as a desktop screensaver? Or...too big.

Hope you and the wife are well. My offer to mow the lawn still stands.
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 7:03 PM 
+ Add a Comment
A List Apart Web Design Survey, 2007


Jeffrey Zeldman and the folks at ALA have just announced an interesting - and I feel - long-needed Web Design Survey. Don't be put off by the title if you're more of a developer than designer. It may as well be titled "Web Professional Survey". Quoting from the survey introduction sums things up well:

"Designers, developers, project managers. Writers and editors. Information architects and usability specialists. People who make websites have been at it for more than a dozen years, yet almost nothing is known, statistically, about our profession. Who are we? Where do we live? What are our titles, our skills, our educational backgrounds? Where and with whom do we work? What do we earn? What do we value?"

I've been earning a living as a fulltime employee doing nothing but web work for over 12 years now, and I still feel like the industry in general is viewed as immature, ill-defined, and often trivialized. Making content for the Web these days is easy (as it should be) Striving to do it well, in a scalable, usable, semantic, elegant and interesting way is difficult, and deserves encouragement and recognition. Surveys like this might help us (and others) see ourselves as a whole, or, as a part of a larger movement toward craftsmanship on the World Wide Web.
4.24.2007 @ 10:39 AM

1 Comments +

bravo!
by Anonymous wjj - CEO of space150 at 7:07 AM 
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All (known) Bodies in the Solar System Larger than 200 Miles in Diameter

It's just one of those things I've been itching to make for a long while, frankly because I wanted to see it - a visual listing of objects in the Solar System, ordered by size. A couple weeks ago, I started tinkering with it, today, I have something to show finally: A (large) image showing the 88 known objects in our Solar System that are larger than 200 miles in diameter.


When making it, the first questions were about limits - there are hundreds of thousands of asteroids, do I really want to make an image that big - would it even be useful? No, likely not, so where does one draw the line? I chose the Earth as the visual axis, placing it full-disc at 1000 pixels. The larger planets and Sun just bleed off the page, but still give a sense of scale by the visible curve of their limbs. And where to cut it off on the small end? Why 200 miles? Well, that's entirely arbitrary. It so happens that I have a fondness for Saturn's moon Mimas (247 miles across), and 200 was the next round number down. That simple. Also, it captures a fair percentage of known Trans-Neptunian Objects (51), enough to give a good idea of their place in the larger scheme of things.

After the parameters were chosen, it was a matter of digging up images where possible (photographic or artistic), laying it all out and labeling it. This was the largest photoshop image I've ever made - around 170 layers total. It feels good to build info visualizations like this again, I hope to do more in the near future.

Many thanks to the Wikipedia contributors who made this page: List of solar system objects by radius, it was an excellent resource.

Update 04.02.07: Added two other versions of the same image, Metric Only - All (known) Bodies in the Solar System Larger than 320 Kilometers in Diameter, and No Text Labels - For those who just want to see these objects in a line. I'm very happy that this image has been so well-received. (And, enough with the Uranus jokes, sheesh.)
3.29.2007 @ 4:26 PM

27 Comments +

This fills me with and reminds me of the kind of wonder that made me seek out things like this when I was young. Thanks! I love you, you know, in a manly kind of way.
by Anonymous stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:41 PM 
Very Cool!
by Anonymous joe at 11:25 PM 
Wonderful, thanks for doing this.
by Anonymous GammaBlog at 11:48 PM 
That totally rules.
by Anonymous Ashley at 1:31 AM 
Oh wow!

It's stuff like this that makes the internet great. 15 years ago I could have dreamt of seeing something like this, but where would I have gone to find it? How would you have been able to piece together the content to put it together.
by Anonymous Dane Carlson at 2:39 AM 
Wonderful Image
by Anonymous Essjay at 5:47 AM 
Thanks, this spurred a great conversation and learning moment with my 7 year old. A big poster of this hung up in classrooms would be great! Hmm, I might be able to tile print it out...
by Anonymous Jason at 10:06 AM 
Make it into a poster so that I can buy a copy?
by Anonymous Erin at 11:14 AM 
You should consider putting the image in an article from Wikipedia.
by Anonymous Pedro at 12:00 PM 
Can you post a version of the image without the labels? I'd love to make it my desktop image.
by Anonymous designjerk at 2:03 PM 
Kudos!

As I wrote in a post on my own blog, you should try printing it. As large as possible. It would make a great science poster that would attract both people liking its great looks (image lovers) and people interested in the science behind (schools maybe).

There are plenty of locations that would allow this to happen without your investing money into that.
by Anonymous Yves Roumazeilles at 2:12 PM 
An amazing image. This would make a wonderful poster for a classroom. Or my room.
by Anonymous MArainman at 2:52 PM 
Have you considered expanding the bigger planets out to the right such that they create the background? I think it would give a better sense of their scale compared to the rest. It's hard to judge when they're just slivers on the right.

But great job! Thanks!
by Anonymous Abe at 2:54 PM 
*just slivers on the LEFT is what I meant of course.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 2:55 PM 
Yes, thank you for your time and effort. It's a beautiful image, and like many others, I'd love to see it as a poster for classrooms or personal use. As a "child of the space age" (born the day Sputnik went up), I too am coming up on a half-century. However many years are left to me, I will never forget my first glimpse of Saturn through a telescope: not large--I was a child, the scope barely more than a toy--but seeing those gorgeous rings in the clear, predawn chill... well, lives can be changed by little moments like that. Thank you so much for the lovely image, and the memories it evoked. Bless you.
by Anonymous George at 3:34 PM 
Yeah I think that would be a good poster... I could love a copy
by Anonymous Rob at 4:16 PM 
If you addad image map and made the objects clickable, that would be wow!
by Anonymous MaS at 4:57 PM 
Also quite interesting and DIY :)
http://jef.raskincenter.org/pictures/solar_system.html
by Anonymous MaS at 5:02 PM 
This is great. Thank you.
I wonder if there are any things 200 miles in diameter in our solar system that we have not found yet?
by Anonymous Ken Roberts at 5:18 PM 
Wow -- fabulous. Must print one out for my office, thanks so much!
by Anonymous squawky at 11:42 PM 
This is great ... but you're missing some asteroids.
by Anonymous Luke at 2:31 AM 
Sorry - you're right, the list of asteroids is complete as far as I can t ell. I originally misread it as all objects with diameter > 200 km, not miles.

In answer to Ken Roberts - discovery of Kuiper belt objects is very far from complete at 200 miles. The brightness of objects that reflect sunlight drops as 1/(r^2 D^2), where r is the distance from the Sun and D is the distance from the Earth. If you observe identical bodies in the asteroid belt (r = 2.5 AU, D = 1.5 AU) and in the Kuiper belt (r = 40 AU, D = 39 AU), the Kuiper belt object will be 13 magnitudes fainter.
by Anonymous Luke at 3:05 AM 
Awesome, Dude! I sent it to everyone I work with in Space Odyssey (DMNS)
by Anonymous M David Martinez at 6:09 AM 
This reminds me of this great scale lineup nikon put together:

http://www.nikon.co.jp/main/eng/feelnikon/discovery/universcale/index_f.htm
by Anonymous CharlesV at 8:38 PM 
Wow, really nice! It would be great though if you could give something back to wikipedia by releasing this image in one of the "free" licences, such as CC-BY-SA.

I'd also like the idea of having the diameters of the 5 big planets being shown by just drawing a white line where their right perimeter would be - for Jupiter this would be somewhere near the right edge of the image, Neptunus and Uranus would end up somewhere near Io and Saturn in between. The sun would off course fall off by far!
by Anonymous Tijmen Stam at 4:50 AM 
Great job Alan, this is a great visual and helpful teaching tool!
by Anonymous Matt Jones at 3:15 PM 
Very very impressive. Indeed, it evokes in a me a sense of wonder that I have not experienced since a child. A suggestion - as you have made the Earth the visual axis, perhaps a visual indication of the distance the bodies are from Earth - a dot placed under the Earth in the centre of it's diameter, with a white line through to each side of the image. Where the matches the centre of each object, have a line and the distance (in millions kms? Solar units?). Only a suggestion and in no way a criticism! Well done! /\/\
by Anonymous Martin Daly at 9:53 AM 
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