tue24jul2007—30w205d56%— 06h24m00s—0utc

Why I can help frog design.

Because it’s a dream come true for me. When applied to interfaces (and you seem to have done a lot of them lately), your three core services of Evolve, Expand, and Envision come down to doing innovative, playful tweaking — at the client’s request and with its help.

I obsess about how to tweak stuff to improve it. The improvements are usually small, but they add up. If this is what they call a design mentality, I have it — for everything, but particularly for interfaces. So much so that I’ve often resorted to scraping popular websites just because I desperately wanted to do a better job at the interface.

I’m a web craftsman.

I love…

…interface design. In Steven Johnson’s words, I believe it’ll be the art form of the century.

Imagery is an interface to Google Images I did in December 2005 as a proof of concept that image searching could be improved. It was a big success making it to Lifehacker and the Del.icio.us homepage (almost 1000 people bookmarked it). Blogs in 22 languages talked about it. I gathered the media coverage here. My favorite comment was: “One of the coolest things I’ve seen since … mmm, Google Maps, I guess.” (Steve Molin, personal email, Jun 13, 2006)

Other interface design projects I’m particularly proud of are PLBRS, an interface to the Real Academia Spanish dictionary and Domburi, the next version of Imagery. NotReality is the webstudio brand under which I code such projects.

I’ve often done spontaneous interface design critiques of popular websites — see An essay on Riya or The Secret Lives of Numbers. I’m also prone to fanciful discussions of interface concepts — see Why are hyperlinks underlined?, Blogs are comics ((wikis are movies), or Space is time’s ultimate interface.

My principles/aspirations in the area are immediate satisfaction (interactivity), (Ben Shneiderman’s) direct manipulation, full screens (what Edward Tufte would call high data density), single pages, (Jef Raskin’s) modelessness & monotonousness, and, ultimately, (Doug Engelbart’s) human-intellect augmentation, (Steven Johnson’s) art-form status, and (Jaron Lanier’s) post-symbolic communication.

…JavaScript. I have a deep understanding of the language and its particular environment (browser constraints, debugging tools, libraries, JSON, best practices, latest developments). Imagery relies on powerful, complex JS code and I’ve been polishing my technique ever since. A recent JS snippet of mine, HyperScript, was recently saved by over 120 developers in Del.icio.us and raved about as “absolutely amazing” by Download Squad’s Ian Smith in a post titled 3 must read JavaScript articles.

CSS, ((X)HTML, AJAX I like styling things and coding up elegant markup. I like to push the boundaries of what people believe to be possible with non-Flash web technologies. That is the whole point of Imagery and all my interface design projects. It was also the point of eemadges, an experimental quote database on the strength of which I was once offered a job at Etsy, a craft marketplace (Robert Kalin, personal correspondence, November-December 2005). I have a deep understanding of CSS and (X)HTML, and, again, of their environments ((browser constraints, workarounds, idioms, debugging tools, best practices).

…Ruby. I’ve been madly in love with it for over 3 years now, before Rails put it on the map, and I use it for everything I code on a desktop. During college, I also programmed extensively in C++. I dig and am proficient with regular expressions. I’m eager to delve into any language or markup that the job requires.

…Rails. I got on board the Rails train just as it was starting two years ago, back from Curt Hibbs’s now classic Rolling with Ruby on Rails tutorial. I believed in it since its inception and have been using it intensely since. I dig MySQL too.

…online communities. I’m starting a very ambitious one right now, Uruban, a local encyclopedia of Guadalajara (my city) that anyone can edit and that aims to be a cross between a Yellow Pages, New York Magazine restaurant guide, and Wikipedia.

With two friends, Adolfo Rodriguez and Erasmo Trujillo, I started in May 2006, CajaNegra.org, an online community towards the 2006 Mexican presidential elections. A Reddit-like fact database about the presidential candidates, it was meant to improve the electoral debate and was open for one month but closed at my own deep personal disappointment with democracy. It is now defunct.

…information design. I’ve closely studied the work of Edward Tufte and in November 2, 2005 I attended his one-day course in Arlington, Virginia. Inspired by a 19th century work praised in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, I recently contributed an innovative timeline of English monarchs to Wikipedia.

At the beginning of 2007, I started an infodesign calendar contest that was picked by infosthetics and that tried to create a better infograph to fit a year comfortably within a business card. There was much interest and 12 very interesting submissions.

For Imagery, I created scale view, a new visual display to give an immediate, intuitive assessment of the size of the original image linked by a thumbnail. It proved very successful for many users.

I came on my own to the concept of visual-syntactic text formatting almost a year before it was made widely popular by the release of Walker Technology’s Live Ink. I called it spacing and spaced (manually) several examples.

…graphic design. I have taste. See this Flickr set for a sample of my graphic design work — mostly posters and fliers. I illustrated my own toki pona handbook.

…hacking. Nauseated by how hard it is to input foreign characters with a US keyboard I created KinKey, an AutoHotkey script that eases the pain with a novel and very intuitive method — it has been downloaded by hundreds of happy users. I often spider websites for my own investigations — see Linguistic vitality on the web. I’ve long contributed (see “the ‘>’ command”:http://groups.google.com/group/YubNub/browse_thread/thread/c8d68d941fb37d1c/4cd9ca620e9879d1?lnk=gst&q=elzr&rnum=19#4cd9ca620e9879d1 and YubNub is rewiring my thought paths) to YubNub, the command line for the web. I cobbled up my own personal wiki and have spawned a myriad tiny web apps for my personal use, like note takers, chronometers, image galleries, and crazy experiments. I know (and use daily) Vim, Subversion, and Unix.

…languages, particularly English. I consider English one of my mother tongues. I speak it without accent and as well as a native. All my schooling was done in English-first bilingual schools up until high school, at which point I presented the TOEFL and got a near perfect score (663/677, PBT).

I also speak Spanish (my second mother tongue) and French, some German, Esperanto, and toki pona.

…writing and have often been complimented for it. I have a blog, elzr.com, where I’ve written over 500 posts for over a year now — see favorites for the posts I’m most proud of. I’ve written a handbook, in Spanish, of the toki pona language. My website eemadges is a collection of beautiful descriptions I’ve collected over the years.

…learning. I know both how to learn by myself and that I can do it.


Starting August 2002, I studied math in CIMAT — perhaps Mexico’s best math center, taught only by researchers in the field. I dropped out after 2.5 years, after reading Virginia Postrel’s The Future and its Enemies and after finally believing both in math itself and in my ability to create it. I made a pact with my parents that I’d rather study webcraft by myself for the rest of what my major would have taken. Out for 2.5 years now, my time is up this August 2007 — I’m graduating!

Outside computing and design, I’m passionate about economics, education, history, science fiction, science, math, spinning, and yoga.

I’m 22, Mexican, and single. I love my three younger sisters and my parents. I’m happy.

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