Week two, like week one, was awesome. Go figure. I was focused, had some good projects underway, and felt like I was learning a lot.

My Week Two Super Awesome Highlight

Each Monday evening at Hacker School, there are opportunities to hear people speak on a variety of topics. I was so excited to learn this week’s guest was someone whose work I’ve admired for ages, Amit Pitaru. Amit is an interaction designer, artist and educator, who works with Fifty Three, makers of Paper and Pencil. He also collaborates frequently with PressTube, someone else I’ve followed since the good old days of Flash. Amit’s artwork has been shown all over the world and former Flash designer/developers like me will remember being inspired by Amit’s Flash 5 work.

Amit talked about prototyping and how different frameworks can aid (or hinder) collaboration with designers and developers, and the speed and ease of testing ideas and interactions. As an example, Amit used the Ejecta framework to demonstrate how he evaluates and uses the tools he works with.

I hadn’t heard of Ejecta before this talk, but was interested to learn it’s a framework that allows you to write Javascript, Canvas, and audio and then compile it for iOS in XCode. You have access to APIs that respond to touch, the accelerometer, and localStorage. If you’re building HTML5 Games, there’s a good chance they’ll run in iOS right out of the box with Ejecta! Oh, and it’s also open source.

Back to the talk, Amit demonstrated how to get Ejecta up and running and how to navigate the XCode GUI for those unfamiliar with it. Ejecta was surprisingly fast and Amit showed off a really cool animation collaboration he did with Presstube using Ejecta. The speed of the demo was very impressive.

You can watch a video of Amit demonstrating this project and Ejecta on Vimeo.

Amit also talked about the difference between far-sighted and near-sighted prototyping. Far-sighted research and prototyping is focused on exploring new technology and interaction ideas, asking questions like, “How will we interact with a smart device 5 years from now?”. Near-sighted research and prototyping, on the other hand, is all about the micro-interactions in the tools and technologies users interact with now, asking questions like, “What happens when the user presses this button?” or “How does the user get from the login screen to take their first photo?”.

For near-sighted prototyping, something more accessible to those of us who don’t frequently read academic journals, Amit had some great advice on how to improve as a prototyper:

Ask five of your friends to record a video of themselves using their favorite app. Then take those 5 videos and build prototypes for the interactions demonstrated in the videos. Once you’ve built prototypes for the existing interactions, build alternative interactions and ask you friends to try out both prototypes and give you feedback.

This exercise gets you building and refining prototypes. The more you do it, the better (and faster) you’ll get. Tools like Ejecta and Framer are making prototyping easier and more accessible to both designers and developers.

Needless to say, I left this talk really excited about Ejecta and protyping and art. So thank you, Amit! Your talk was awesome.

What else happened in Week 2?

More talks! One of the founders of Hacker School, Sonali Sridhar, gave an excellent talk on jobs. This focused primarily on what to expect in the job hunt process that for many of us, will immediately follow our time at Hacker School. In addition to getting to focus on programming for three months straight, we can also work with Hacker School facilitators, residents, and peers to prepare for the job hunt. This includes practice coding challenges, white boarding code, mock interviews, and resume advice.

Because, Ghostbusters

Another highlight of week two is that I discovered that Ghostbusters HQ is a five minute walk from the Hacker School space. The fan girl in me is still ridiculously giddy about this.

Fan girling at Ghostbusters HQ

What did I accomplish this week?

Work-wise, I put my basic calculator project on hold (I thought it was finished and then realized operator precedence was completely broken). I wasn’t excited about tackling the problem so I decided to step away from it for a couple of days.

The other reason for shelving it was my extreme excitement about a new app idea where a user would take a picture of a friend or group of friends and using gestural input, place a cute cartoon head over a friend’s head in the picture. This is an app I need on my phone right now.

By the end of the week, I had the basic flow figured out and learned how to recognize gestural input. Victory! Actually saving the resulting image turned out to be much harder, so that’ll come next…

On to week three!

In week three, I hope to fix the basic calculator app and post it to Github. Once that’s done, I’ll tackle saving an image in my Creatures are Friends app.

I also plan to blog about each of my app projects, covering each project’s goals, ups and downs, and next steps.

That’s it for now. Week three, awaits!