Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tagxedo is amazing

Not so much an "alternative" to Wordle as much as "Wordle - the next generation". It's a leap forward both in the layout algorithms (which permit sophisticated shape-filling) and the design of the tweaking interface. It's very unusual to find a programmer who has both the sophisticated algorithmic know-how and the keen sense of user-centered design that Hardy Leung exhibits. He clearly has had an eye on the various warts in Wordle, and has addressed them with energy and determination. I wish him and his project(s) well. Go check it out!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Google News

On February 19th, I amicably parted ways with IBM Research, where I had spent over 6 years fiercely manning a very small tiller on a very large ship.

For the 4 weeks following, I joyfully hacked on Ben Fry’s and Casey Reas’s Processing project. I spent a couple of those weeks trying to stabilize the tooling around their nascent support for the Android mobile platform, and then dove into some of the guts of the language itself, adding support for most of Java 5’s new features. Finally, I fixed all open bugs around the “auto formatter”, which is supposed to neaten up your rat’s nest of code, but had been mangling and eating it under certain circumstances. It was an exhilarating month, which tells you exactly how much of a geek I am. To be paid for it was almost unbearably wonderful.

I spent a lot of time with my family, and a lot of time at various public libraries. Thank you Lincoln and Arlington, for your beautiful libraries, your kind librarians, and your free WiFi.

This past Monday, March 29th, I showed up at 5 Cambridge Center for my first day as a Noogler, which is what new Google employees are officially called. I’m proud to say that I’ve joined the team behind the amazing Google books.

Right now, I’ve got my lips to the fire hose. There’s no good way for me to express to you how complex Google’s engineering culture is, having its own succinct and expressive jargon, a custom tool set, and a Jovian scale. As I learn to crawl, my contributions there will be unglamorous—incremental improvements to this or that web page on a mobile device; a widget or two. But I hope, over time, to make some significant mark, and to be able to tell you about it with pride. But first I’ve got to learn C++, the language in which it’s “harder [to shoot yourself in the foot], but when you do, it blows your whole leg off.”

Wordle will continue to be freely available. I have no plans to change anything about it (although I have been experimenting with some new palettes during those few free minutes between making school lunches and collapsing in bed).


A beautiful and exceedingly clever visualization of how word frequencies change over time in some corpus. Timecloud. Brilliant. (Via an email from Rob James)