Processing, The Language

I have been wanting to jump into several programming languages, recently. Unfortunately, I’m very limited on time. As a full-time Flash developer, it is bad enough that I am lagging behind on adopting AS3, Flex, AIR, and Papervision. I would love to pick up Ruby, Python, and Silverlight, too.

However, the data visualizationist in me has been captivated this year by a language called Processing. Flash is a great tool for visualizing sets of data, and has served me fairly well in the past. While Flash is mostly tied to the web (and with AIR, it takes a step out of the browser), Processing is designed to be put in many more places. More on that in a second.

Let’s start with a summary of the platform. Here is an excerpt from

Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions. It is used by students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists for learning, prototyping, and production. It is created to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool. Processing is developed by artists and designers as an alternative to proprietary software tools in the same domain. Processing is free to download and available for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Processing is built on Java, which means you can create applications for the web, desktop, and mobile devices. Even more fascinating, there is a project related to Processing, called Wiring, that allows your Processing application to communicate with homemade hardware (circuit boards, solder, and microprocessors, oh my!). This means that no matter what input or output medium you want to use, Processing should be able to do it.

Before I get motivated enough to try out any new technology, I need to see it in action. The more impressive the examples, the more motivated I will be to try it out.

I found out about Jonathan Harris thanks to his TED Talk in 2006. The project that I found particularly fascinating was “We Feel Fine“. It features many colorful objects floating in space that represent feelings the application discovered while scraping blogs.

As a Flash developer, I could not miss Audi’s “Rhythm of Lines” micro-site built using Papervision3D that features moving lines in 3D space, shaping the outline of an Audi A5. I was surprised to learn weeks later that the accompanying TV spot for the “Rhythm of Lines” campaign was created using Processing. Upon doing more research on the subject, I came across this detailed AIGA article about Processing.

Another feature that Processing boasts over Flash (something I have been wishing to see added to Flash years) is OpenGL-powered hardware acceleration. Papervision3D is filling the gap a little bit, but it still requires a lot of work from the CPU, instead of throwing it onto the GPU where it should be. OpenGL support means that you can add more complexity, some shading, and other fancy effects without taking much of a performance hit.

Even though I am very short on time, if I get inspired to do a particular data visualization, I might invest some of my sleep hours into a micro-project.

Why Should You Be Building A Personal Brand?

Personal branding is something very few people consider as an investment in their career. How do you get a more enjoyable or higher paying job? Education, portfolio, experience. Once you have enough of those, you can look for your ideal job, submit your resume, and stand a better chance than the rest at getting it.

Who benefits from a personal brand?

I commonly talk to people about the benefit of name recognition for entrepreneurs. If you start a business and thousands of people already know and trust you, your business will have an immediate kick-start customer base. In the web services industry, it is all about staying afloat until you hit critical mass and become profitable. The sooner you can do that, the better. With that in mind, the name recognition and established trust can have a significant impact on the likelihood of success of your business.

How does personal branding plug into the job-seeking paradigm?

While the entrepreneur discussion is very interesting to discuss, there is also great value in personal branding for working professionals.

I have learned this first hand while building a brand around my name during the last year. To help establish a reputation as a skilled developer, I worked on various weekend projects and released them to the public with my name attached. Some of the projects yielded tens of thousands of visitors while a couple even hit the 6 figure mark. Right now, it is remarkably difficult to find good or great Flash developers. Guess what happens when tens of thousands of people view a simple Flash tool you built. Some of them are likely to be business owners or managers that are in need of a Flash developer.

Obviously, the more you put your work and yourself out there, the more you will regarded as an expert on a topic. Also, the more your name is seen and discussed around the industry, the more job opportunities will come your way. From here, we can take a look at your situation from an economics perspective. If you are receiving job offers, especially in an industry that is lacking good workers, the supply and demand scale is tipped in your direction. The supply is you, which is constant, and the demand is the number of companies that want to hire you.

By establishing yourself in the industry and building your own personal brand, you put yourself in a position to choose from jobs that are seeking you rather than settling for which ever employer will accept your resume.

Actionscript 3: Faster Integer Math – Bitwise Operators

Several months ago, I stumbled upon a great resource for bitwise operators in AS3. Bitwise math is available in many languages, but this one looks at it from an AS3 perspective.

Since I first discovered that page, I have thought to pull it up a few times and searched Google for it (racking my brain to choose the right key words). By posting it here, I will not only be sharing it with you, but effectively archiving the link where I can access it quickly.

Check it out

It isn’t a tutorial or explanation of bitwise math. It is a list of common operations, paired with their decimal math counterparts. The best part about it is that the author details the change in performance between the two techniques (when used in AS3).

Great stuff!

If you have any bitwise math resource pages you would like to share, post them in the comments.

Why the New Blog?

I have decided to move my blog from to as part of a restructuring and re-purposing of the former. The idea is that I can focus as the professional side of my web presence, while will be more casual.

It seems fitting to have one location for showcasing projects (both commercial and for-fun) and another for sharing my thoughts. After all, the purpose of my web presence is to establish a brand around my name.

By moving this blog to its own location, I should be able to post more freely, without having to take into consideration the professional atmosphere of the site. Think of it as being a company/brand site and being the site of its one employee.

This should result in more frequent posts and more conversation.

Phoenix Presents a Strong Offering of Panels for SXSW 2008

There is a new Valley poised to get some attention at SXSW 2008 — that of Phoenix, Arizona. Some of the brightest people in Phoenix’s interactive scene have submitted panel ideas for next year’s conference. This is a highlight of five highly intelligent individuals from the Phoenix area (plus an opportunity for some shameless self-promotion, which will be kept to a minimum). I met each of them during the last 1-2 years, and have followed their work enough to know that they each deserve my wholehearted recommendation.

Let’s dig in — alphabetically by last name.

Note: Please support these individuals by VOTING at Your vote counts. Support these ideas, support Phoenix’s budding technology community.

James Archer
Scope Creep and Other Villains

Description: Are you a web design superhero? Then you’d better know your villains — Scope Creep, Needy Client, The Write-Off, and the rest of the sinister crew — and the secrets of how to defeat them!

James is the Project Management & Marketing Mastermind behind Forty, a well-known web design and branding agency.

He spoke at SXSW 2007 with an excellent presentation about building and managing a successful web development firm. This time around, he is going to present a humorous side to client relations with stereotypical traits that have forever annoyed web developers of all shapes and sizes. Obviously, he is also going to cover the serious side of the topic by discussing how to effectively handle these situations in a way that benefits you and your clients.

David Koontz
A Better Gun to Shoot Your Eye Out With

Description: Introducing the idea of applying the ideas made famous by Ruby on Rails (convention over configuration, strong MVC, good plugin system) to the context of game engines via the Railgun engine.

David is someone that I have only met on occasion, but I know him through several of my colleagues. He is a talented developer and looks to be one of the next big names in Ruby circles. If you have any interest in Ruby whatsoever, hearing what he has to say about Ruby development should be a top priority.

Aaron Post
A Day at the Web Factory

Description: Show and build awareness of GTD concepts for web companies. Through demonstration of your average day at the office, you will be able to see common mistakes and faults with how you or your team works.

Aaron Post (now part of the Forty team) is very well-known in Phoenix web development circles. He is one of the key organizers for Refresh Phoenix, which is the best group I have found in the area to meet the rockstar designers and developers of the [Phx]Valley. I would like to see Aaron gain more recognition nationwide, and SXSW is one of the best places to make that happen.

In the description, Aaron notes “common mistakes and faults”. While they may be common to many web companies, I think most people probably do not realize that it is an issue they are having. This is definitely a panel I see being beneficial for any web company looking to grease the cogs of the company clock.

Aaron Post
Clients are From Mars & Designers are From Venus

Description: How many times have we working with a client, narrowed down the project scope and get a signed contract only to have the client say “Oh so that is a widget, then what did I just pay for?” Or a potential clients calls asking for just a basic web site, nothing fancy, how much?

This will be an interesting discussion about communication. Clients often misinterpret, miscommunicate, and misunderstand even the most trivial web design tasks. I am looking forward to hearing Aaron’s perspective on how to overcome these situations.

Brian Shaler
Converging Web & Client Applications: The Growing-Pain-Killer

Description: Traffic surges on the Internet can topple newly popular web services, a common side-effect of success called “Growing Pains.” With today’s technology, web services can provide more functionality and consume fewer server resources by distributing the workload. This is an overview of technologies available and strategies to use.

While mostly technical, this presentation will be very useful for non-technical individuals. Learn how to add functionality, improve service responsiveness, and save on hardware costs.

Brian Shaler
Internet Celebrity: An Entrepreneur’s Ace in the Hole

Description: Name recognition can make the difference between reaching your market and sinking into oblivion. Trust is important, but nothing is more valuable to a fledgling start-up than a kick-start audience. By building a brand around your name, you can shed additional exposure on your next big idea.

I will be presenting industry analysis as well as metrics from my own experiments. Fascinating stuff.

Kimbro Staken
A Developer’s Cookbook to Leveraging Virtualization

Description: Virtualization is a trend that’s reforming the landscape of hosting and ISP’s but developers may not be aware of the benefits for running desktop virtualized environments for testing and development. The snapshot capabilities afforded by virtualization is a deadly arrow that should be in the quiver of every developer nowadays. This panel explores the basic to intermediate level of usage.

Kimbro is the CEO of JumpBox, a company specializing in developing bundled virtualized software packages. The topic has been around for quite a while, but as more advanced virtualization technology becomes available, the conversation is rejuvenated. If you are a developer and don’t use virtualization, you should definitely attend this panel to see how you will benefit from it.

Joshua Strebel
Bankrupt Your Startup in Five Easy Steps

Description: This panel will use humor and wit to show HOW TO bankrupt a fledging company. Panelists will share their insight and knowledge of moving from the garage to the corner office by successfully navigating through the challenges of cash-flow, staffing, and biz marketing. Emphasis will be placed on missteps that could have (or did) sink the company.

Josh is the owner of one of the top web design firms in Arizona. He is an experienced entrepreneur, founding several web companies on the side of his core business. If you want to know what it takes to launch a business successfully, you will want to pay attention to Josh Strebel.