My friend Alex is a lighting designer. He had an idea for a HyperCard stack he wanted to write, to help him coordinate lighting cues with a script; unfortunately, his PowerBook 140 is no more, so a written script he has to follow manually is the best he can do. To explore the state of citizen coding in 2010, I've implemented Alex's simple idea as many ways as I could, and we've still got a long way to go.
So what happened to HyperCard? Photo editing, music production, page layout and publishing—all these dreams of 1980s computation have evolved and matured into world-class software, while HyperCard and its descendents have languished. We know that there are citizen coders, like Alex, who want to contribute. Why can't they? Does creation not scale?
Computation becomes ever more mainstream, and today we sit at an inflection point: while social networks and devices encourage passive consumption over creativity, we have a unique challenge—and opportunity—to provide tools to help consciously perceive and manipulate our increasingly digital environment. HyperCard's time has nearly come: we are called to widen the reach of code beyond our geek niche.
Citizen coding candidates touched on:
- Cocoa (1990s Apple kids programming environment)
- HyperCard 2.4
- Web HyperCard clones - various
- Quartz Composer
- Squeak eToys
- Novell Visual AppBuilder (1994)
- Prototyping tools - var.
(I'm submitting as a short-form talk, because that's as long as I can imagine my talk being, but this could be a fun long-form workshop as well—do a quick overview & discussion of the problem, split people up into groups, try and get everyone to bang out an idea in some framework they've never seen before, maybe even hash out some concrete ideas for HyperCard 2010.)
From creating remote-sensing CubeSats to analyzing aerogel: how the public is hacking into open source space exploration.
As technology shifts from a means of passive consumption to active creation, people are collaborating on a massive scale. The endeavor of Spacehack.org is to transform that into more of a community, so that space hackers can easily connect and interact.
Amateurs were once considered to be at the crux of scientific discovery, but over time have been put on the sidelines. Despite this, citizen science is witnessing a renaissance. Agencies such as NASA no longer have a monopoly on the global space program and more participatory projects are coming to life to harness the power of open collaboration around exploring space on a faster schedule.
Instead of complaining about where our jetpack is, we can now demand to figure out how to take an elevator to space . And, while you still can’t own a CubeSat as easily as an iPod, you can join a SEDSAT-2 team and learn how to engineer one.
There’s also GalaxyZoo , which opened up a data set containing a million galaxies imaged by a robotic telescope. Why projects such as these are important is because robots are actually kind of dumb. Humans are able to make classifications that well-programmed machines can’t. Currently, 200,000 humans are identifying over 250,000 galaxies.
If tinkering with spacecrafts is more your speed, the Google Lunar X PRIZE is a competition to send robots to the moon. However, you don’t need to be a robotics engineer to participate. Team FREDNET , the first open source competitor, is open for anyone to join.
While the concept of open source has resonated around the world and beyond, there is still much education to be done. NASA and the ESA have made large quantities of their data open, but have yet to facilitate developer communities that allow for active contribution to the code rather than just feedback on finding bugs.
Spacehack.org , a directory of ways to participate in space exploration, was created for this reason, among others. Many of these projects are buried in old government websites or do not clearly communicate how someone can get involved. It is with great hope that it will not only encourage the creation of more participatory space projects, but also urge existing ones to embrace the social web.
1st–4th June 2010