Tuesday, March 18, 2008


An idle thought

I've noticed in the last few days that the frequency of @replies on twitter amongst my small circle of friends has increased dramatically.

@replies were always interesting as they grew out of the natural behaviour of the community, and were only later included as a full feature of the system.

I'm wondering if the high crossover between friends and use of twitter as SXSW as an organising tool might be due to this. It would be an interesting stat to track - changes in the 'flocculence' of the site as replies cluster around events with large groups of active users. It might be an interesting visualisation exercise, particularly if it were possible to map cel location to incidences of flocculence.

Were I able to write scripts to extract the data, and map it against dopplr co-incidences, I would.

But I can't, so someone else is welcome to the idea.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Nitrate Pirate

Nitrate Pirate
Originally uploaded by MildlyDiverting

Pirate Mona

I've just found the negatives to my favourite pictures of my grandmother.

They're Nitrate, and badly damaged.

Does anyone know a Nitrate film preservation expert?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On
Originally uploaded by I like
I have a copy of the iconic 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster framed on my wall at home. I found it via a post on flickr, and bought it over the internet from Barter Books Gift Shop a couple of years ago.

I find it slightly sad that other places are now taking much of the credit (and presumably the income) for its rediscovery. You can't stop things going viral, I suppose. At least Barter books link to some proper contextual academic information.

Can I suggest buying from Barter Books, and thus support 'the British Library of second hand bookshops'? I'd also point out that a poster from Barter Books is a LOT cheaper than some of the other options...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

World of WarCraftCraft

Checking my personal email this morning, I found a thread from my Warcraft chums in our guild, about the appeal of the game. I will paraphrase here, this being a good starting point for the complete waste of time that follows.

Hactar: So, an idle question: When you hit lvl 70, do you keep earning XP?

Tikker: and, do you keep doing quests? what do you do after 70?

Jonalock: You don't earn any more XP, no, but the XP you would earn from completing quests gets turned into extra gold instead. You'll have a bunch of solo quests to keep doing when you hit 70, for which you get more money and sometimes better equipment as quest rewards. Further progression comes from doing instances to get better equipment which then lets you do harder instances to get better equipment which lets you do raids (instances for more than 5 people, typically 10 or 25) to get better equipment which lets you do harder raids to get better equipment which lets you ... And there goes your life.

Tikker: when you put it like that it sounds so.....futile....

Jonalock: On the plus side there'll be an expansion out soonish raising the level cap to 80 and with a huge number of new solo quests and the like .. (and which will also overnight make all your hard-won uber-gear entirely useless - green is the new purple!)

Kieth: you see this is the point I lose the will to live...why are we playing this again?

Tikker: cos it releases crack from a keyboard while you play as a reward.

Kieth: finger ingested rock...that's it, I forgot

Crystaltips: I feel like framing this thread.

Now, I have this ongoing problem with Alice (Crystaltips) telling me to do things: I just unthinkingly obey. Dunno why, I just do. She used to use it to get me to bring her Lattes in meetings, the cow.

So, the framing the thread comment kicked me in to action. How do you frame a thread and make it nice to look at? And specifically, how do you do it for someone like Alice, whose favourite thing is slightly rubbish game-based crafts?

You turn it in to cross-stitch, obviously.

So - first, let's find some imagery. I wanted something Horde-y, obviously, so I checked out the official Blizzard fan site kit.

World of Warcraft Europe -> Fan Site Kit

Lovely avatars, but not quite what I was after. So, copyright infringement time! What happens if you type 'Horde' in to Google Image Search?

Horde Shield

Aha, that will do nicely. Many thanks to the Horde Army guild site, from whom I've ripped this off (sorry guys!). Incidentally, that's one of the best put-together guild sites I've seen - they even have their own resources database. Go Horde Army!

Next step: some kind of slogan. I love antique samplers, with their folk-artsy cross-stitch writing, and I don't see why a Horde embroidery should be any different. I think a simple guild name - in angle brackets, of course - with a quote from the discussion should do. And what's that on my hard drive? A copy of Fritz Quadrata, the Warcraft tooltip font? How did that get there? Surely that's in violation of lots of copyright rules?*

To Photoshop, comrades!

Horde  Shield with Guild Name unassigned variable and the slogan Finger-Ingested Crack
Nice design, eh?

The next thing is to convert it in to a sewing pattern. I've found a few sites that offer image to embroidery pattern conversion in my web-peregrinations, and the two best are coincidentally, free to use online.

MicroRevolt are an excellent organisation that protest at the use of sweatshop labour by making protest quilts to send to the CEO of Nike. They deserve your support.

They also have an excellent little tool for converting pictures to patterns on their site, called KnitPro. It produces simple-looking patterns, but doesn't reduce the number of colours in the image.

Running our design (and a brightened up version) through Knit Pro gives us our first four patterns

A good alternative to KnitPro is Pic2Point.com: it spits out more complex-looking patterns, but reduces the colours in the image for you to simplify it, gives you a chart of yarns on the front, and makes the pattern easier to follow. I don't think it sends blankets to corporations with questionable ethical records, though.

  • Cross-Stitch Pattern 5 - guild name, dark colours, stitch count 18, 8 inches wide, 12 colours, 27,000 stitches apx.

  • Cross-Stitch Pattern 6 - guild name, bright colours, stitch count 18, 8 inches wide, 13 colours, 27,000 stitches apx.

So, there you go. Horde Guild Quote embroidery patterns.

Things I discovered during this process:

  • Running dull colours through either of the pattern makers above will make them muddier. Work with your image first to brighten it up a lot.

  • With KnitPro, as it doesn't do colour reduction, you might want to save your design as a gif or a png with a reduced colour palette. If you're really clever, you can use the 'Save for Web/Devices' option in photoshop to select a good palette of colours for your thread.

  • Using a tool like 'posterise' in photoshop to simplify the image doesn't seem to help with the output much.
  • KnitPro barfs on some png files, and renders white as black. I think this is something to do with differences between the way png8 and png24 handle transparency, but I may be wrong.

  • None of the pattern makers I tried handled the text well: even with antialiasing and at a larger pixel size (stitch-pitch?) it looks a bit rubbish. You can live with that, and keep the font recognizable as the WoW font, or you could use a tool like Crossstich.com's Caption Maker or the Subversive Cross-stitch Magic Robot.

If you want to know how to actually do the embroidery - and I'm not going to, because 27,000 stitches would play merry hell with my RSI, there's an excellent primer on game related embroidery at Kotaku by Maggie Greene, that takes you through the process step by step.

To finish, a couple of interesting bits:

Radical Cross Stitch
Subversive Cross Stitch Kits

And some context: information from the Brooklyn Museum Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art that goes part way to explaining why alt-crafting is a political act.

* NB: I actually care a lot about copyright violation, and feel tremendously guilty about the unlicensed fonts I own. In particular, I *really* *really* want to buy a copy of House Industry's Neutraface, because it is beautiful, but really, $249? For something I will use maybe twice in personal projects, and maybe on a weblog? If you price your content out of your market, you're just encouraging piracy. See also: legal copies of Photoshop.