Just ran across this little nugget from our friends and customer Smilebooth:
In case you’re wondering, that image is currently being displayed in Times Square. Way to go guys!
Just ran across this little nugget from our friends and customer Smilebooth:
In case you’re wondering, that image is currently being displayed in Times Square. Way to go guys!
Ok, so I should preface this post by saying that if you’re not yet familiar with TED, TED Talks, TED Videos, or the like, then you need to high-tail it over to TED.com and get acquainted. (Or I can tell you briefly that TED is an non-profit organization “dedicated to ideas worth spreading” and features inspiring talks by brilliant people about amazing subjects.)
Now that that’s out of the way, I will offer one more bit of explanation. TED has its own two annual conferences, but it also has a variety of TEDx events, which are locally organized.
There you go – now you’ve got the background for this wild and crazy news: Three great Blackpulp customers were involved in this year’s TEDx Houston event: Chris Seay from Ecclesia Church, Carrie Schneider from Hear Our Houston, and the fine folks over at Smilebooth.
You should be sure to check out all the videos from the TEDx Houston event, but be sure to check out Chris Seay’s talk about religion, narrative, conviction and more. Chris is the pastor at Ecclesia Church, and Ecclesia was also involved as a host for a simulcast of the event for those unable to attend the event at the Wortham Theater.
Also on the docket was Carrie Schneider, who is building an online MP3 library of walking tours around Houston, uncovering the secrets, beauty, and hidden richness of the city Blackpulp calls home. Check
Check out this article about Hear Our Houston to learn more.
Last but not least, our friends at Smilebooth were on hand at TEDx Houston to document the event – Here are a couple of splendid examples of the Smilebooth hard at work (or you can check out the whole event gallery here):
The following letter was shared with us by a Blackpulp customer, Jon Fielder. Jon is a Rice University alumnus who we met through another Blackpulp customer and Rice alumnus, Lucky Suahalla over at PBHS. We first had the opportunity to work with Jon on a cover design for a field manual that Jon self-published on treating Tuberculosis in HIV Patients. Apparently, in Western medicine, these two ailments are rarely if ever seen together, and Jon pioneered some important discoveries in how to diagnose and treat these two things together while he was serving as a missionary doctor in Africa.
At any rate, we were pretty impressed with Jon and his work then, and continued to be impressed the more we got to know him. This past spring, we worked with Jon to put together a website for his new foundation, the Africa Mission Healthcare Foundation. AMHF works to identify and partner with effective, compassionate and life-saving health institutions all over Africa – basically they cut out the hard work of figuring out which institutions are actually making a difference, which institutions are responsible with their finances, etc., and then they connect those institutions with interested organizations, donors, etc. in the U.S. and the West who can help support them. Great work - seriously go check out the website and learn more about what they’re doing and how you can help.
Currently, Jon is living in Lilongwe, Malawi serving at the Partners in Hope Medical Center, a clinic which has registered over 5000 HIV-infected patients since 2005. In partnership with UCLA medical school, Partners in Hope is a training center for US and Malawian clinicians. Jon sent us an email today and we thought we’d share it with the Blackpulp world because we thought it was pretty moving:
Nothing Human Is Alien To Me
The swollen thigh presented a problem. The hour was late and a debate commenced. I could send the HIV-positive mother of three to the central hospital. Recalling the patient who was allowed, criminally, to sit on the government ward for a week with a foul, dead leg, I decided against a transfer. The abscess should be dealt with today.
There is a reason I am an internist: Fear of scalpels. Yet there I was holding one, having put Esther gently to sleep. The pus had already exuded partially. The cut must go deeper. I probed. Out came blood, steadily, relentlessly.
Now what? I washed and cleaned, reaching terrifyingly far down the gaping hole into which the nasty bacteria had burrowed. Gauze packed the space, and then a bandage was tightly wrapped round the limb. Antibiotics, pain medicines, and her antiretroviral drugs comprised the rest of the therapy.
The next day the bleeding had ceased, but the purulence oozed. And for the next 20 days-save three when attended to by my colleague-the nurse and I irrigated and cleaned and packed the wound. The process became progressively more painful as the infection eased and tissue re-grew, nerve endings again sensitized. Every day, thirty minutes, sterile kits, short-acting anesthetics, syringes, saline, my time-it adds up. Her mother came in to observe. I explained, urged Esther to keep to her medicines every day. Her sorrow and depression were evident. Was this a waste? What would happen when she returned to her impoverished rural home? No one would dress this wound properly, healing though it was.
A constant refrain in international health these days is “sustainability,” as in “That’s not sustainable”-as in, having a scarce doctor in Africa pack a wound for three weeks is “not sustainable.” Maybe it’s not sustainable because we have set the bar so low for what constitutes acceptable medical care that such suffering people are left to their own devices, under the general rubric of “unsustainable”-as in, you the patient are unsustainable.
She left looking beautiful, wrapped in a colorful bright yellow Malawian chitenje and head covering, limping under her own power. Two weeks later our nurse, visiting a nearby clinic to help improve HIV care, reported that the wound had nearly healed.
The Roman Terence wrote, “Nothing human is alien to me.“ So I pack the putrid, tedious wounds, and at the same time contemplate if doing so is a waste, is unsustainable.
Our community health worker Luka and I pick our way through garbage-sodden streets on the outskirts of Lilongwe. We reach our destination. The house is burned out from a recent fire. HIV-positive mother and small child sit next to the charred, blackened vat where traditional beer is made. It stinks, the odor of stale decay. A 16-year-old niece is brought. She tests positive. How did that happen? She appears unmoved, face blank and placid. Mid-afternnon, we return past bars full of men, sullen and drinking.
Nothing human is alien to me.
It’s late and the clinic is closed. My colleague and I are astonished. The needle continues to pour pus from the man’s infected knee, hundreds of milliliters. I aspirate viscous material; he milks the cap of the joint. Still the brown flow gushes. My hands are covered, the syringe now slipping from the pasty glove.
Nothing human is alien to me.
Harold defines long-suffering. First TB, now cryptococcal meningitis which threatens his sight. Many times I have put a needle in his back. I want to do so again, to remove the pressure slowly eroding his optic nerve. He readily agrees, no opposition, no complaints. I ease in the tapered point. The case around the spinal cord is hard. The room is hot. I become flustered. More lidocaine. It shoots back and lands on my naked arm. The risk is very low, but I am unnerved. Gloves removed, arms washed. Should I try again? He can’t see well. I re-glove, insert the needle, unsuccessfully. It was all for nothing, the risk to him, the risk to me.
Another young man is very ill. He also has cryptococcal meningitis. And is it now TB? The heart, the lungs, the abdomen-all filled with fluid. I slept 2 hours the night before, hacking and coughing from a cold. The nurse calls at 8 PM. Joseya can’t breathe. I knew I should have drawn out the fluid earlier that day, but it was busy. Why should I go in at this hour? One better have a good reason to be about at night in Lilongwe. Anyway, he’s going to die.
I get in the car. We barely get the patient on to the procedure table. A brother holds him steady. The needle angles in, directed upward to miss the air-filled lung. A cloudy, particulate green solution streams forth, over 2 liters of it. I move to empty the collecting bag, the sticky, infected water bathes my gloved hand. These gloves are terrible, the realization hits me in slow motion. I take them off, stare at the still dry powder underneath, rubbing my fingers together scratchily. Vision telescopes when you hit this level of fatigue. What am I doing here? His breathing eases considerably. The night is comfortable. He dies the next day.
The nurse asks me to come for a sick patient. They can’t draw blood. The report of the positive HIV test result from the fingerstick sits unconcealed. Why did it take so long for this guy to be tested? Why is it still like this in 2011? He has clearly been sick forever, a wraith and a wreck lying prostrate, not knowing the year or even the day. I move to do what I always do first: feel the pulse. Why is it wet? I pull back my fingers: they are red. No one has bothered to clean this man’s arm after they poked him repeatedly with a needle. I wash my fingers with bleach and alcohol and soap. There is a paper cut. Where did that come from? Did blood hit that? I think of my family and start a course of prophylaxis, the second in the past year, before returning to the bedside.
Nothing human is alien to me.
We sit in the dark. Light hurts the skin and eyes of our albino patient, a class of citizen mercilessly marked as different, exotic. She takes her TB medicines and is improving, but she is afraid to start antiretrovirals. Her father drinks and does not know of her HIV status, although we also found TB in his sputum and suspect he too is infected with the virus. She fears he will shout at her, yell all over the neighborhood. One of our nurses lives nearby and confirms this kind of behavior. The atmosphere is oppressive and glum in this room where she spends most of her life. Honestly, I want to leave. We stay for 30 minutes, working out a plan for her to receive the care she needs.
For the One whom I follow did not shirk from the woman afflicted with a dozen years of bleeding. He touched the lepers, ate with the repugnant outcasts. Nothing human was ever alien to him.
I don’t really know what is sustainable. I do know what we are supposed to do.
I suppose that title best summaries how I feel right now, especially given my latest project for my new friends @tiny_studios (I’d list them, but since there’s a ton of them just picture one of those “and Noah begot so and so” paragraphs from the bible). These tiny dreamers had an elephant of an idea, and to “get ‘er done”, they shared it with us.
Before I just blurt out the idea, you should know a little bit about who these people are. Tiny Studios is made up a unique mix of creatives / artist types. The sort of people who are always thinking of the “next big thing”. This power team’s line up consists of photographers, designers, artists, writers, teachers, insanely brilliant business dudes, musicians, computer wiz kids (no, I’m not tooting my horn), and lots, lots more. I quickly realized the word “tiny” by no means describes their imagination. Trust me! In fact, one of my favorite parts of working with them is the brainstorms!
What idea did these cats come up with? Well, they all shared one main idea: a desire to build crazy mobile apps the world has never seen. Kinda like this:
They came to the right place, we love building crazy stuff too! Out of all the ideas swirling through our brainstorms, we narrowed down what we’d create to 7 apps. It sounded reasonable. We knew what to do, done it before, we were set. Then came the next hurdle, time. These 7 apps had to be launched and ready on February 14. Great! Well, the project didn’t “officially” begin until early December, which means we had about 2 and a half months to pull this off. Ok, good! Well, there were other time related hoops we had to deal with too. First the project took place over the holidays, and second, we had to deal with Apple and the App Store approval process, which averages to about 2-3 weeks. Not counting the holidays, that left us a whopping 1 month and 3 weeks to get this done. If you know anything about apps and development, you probably realize we were shooting for a miracle.
Already the scope of what we were being asked to do was huge, but what I’ve described so far is only the “tip” of this elephant iceberg. There was still a whole load of work to do on the “back side”. One of the other goals Tiny Studios had was to use these apps to sell more mobile apps to other creatives who liked what they saw, and then buy one of their own. That being said, that “huge scope” we were looking at was now “gi-normous”. Then, on top of that, Tiny thought it would be “cool” if these new customers could visit a website, buy their app, and login to a private area with the aim of easily managing their app… meaning they could add content, post new pictures, and specifically tailor them for their audiences. Yeah, that “gi-normous scope” then resembled something similar to the Titanic.
Hopefully, you can see what I mean about these Tiny kids and their imaginations?
You should be wondering: “did Blackpulp back down from the idea and tell them to scram?” Absolutely not! We loved it! Mostly because it was crazy and seemed impossible. So, we were in.
Remember, I titled this post “Mad Scientists taking the world by storms of shotgun weddings”, and at this point hopefully its clear why the words “Mad Scientists” and “shotgun” are in it, but what about the words “world” and “weddings”? Why are they in the title? Good question.
Well, the answer to that is February 14, 2011, aka “Valentines day”, aka spend time with our lovely wives day… And on this day, the Tiny folks were participating in a massive Wedding Photographer convention in Las Vegas. Not only were they participating, they were presenting. What were they presenting? Among other things, the launch of this brand new idea / product. So it only made sense that the first “market” Tiny would advertise this amazing new concept to would be the wedding photographers at the convention! Hence… “wedding” and “world”.
It should be noted that this also added a new level of pressure to the deadline.
Wow, that was a long project description, sounds nice huh? So what did we actually do? Well, we took that balloon of a description and blew it up until it became a hot-air balloon complete with fancy pulleys, a fireplace, custom window tint, and we even threw in a butler. Basically, we pulled the Blackpulp card out of our hat and played it.
You see, Blackpulp specializes in quickly delivering a wide variety of interfaces to a large audience on a variety of platforms, and we have spent 10 years perfecting that by building a sweet set of tools. But even still, this project was really large, involved tons more interfaces / screens, tons more people, and it had to be done in a lot less time then we are used to for something like this. We were being asked to create a rock star, turn-key business.
We realized early on, there were lots of people @Tiny wanting to do different things inside a lot of different apps. Just imagine an app for a photographer, another for a photo booth, another for a party, another for a musician, another for a record label etc… obviously, these should all do very different things. The only way we could possibly do all this, was by using all the tools we’ve been building over the last 10 years. All these tools would have to work together, reach their full potential…and if it worked, it would turn these apps into everything the “dreamers” dreamt. These would be no ordinary apps… they would become the tiny “SUPER APPS”!
What we ended up creating was a business, not just a couple apps that could only do X, Y, and Z. Yes, the apps can do X, Y, and Z, but they also do much more. We built the apps, but more importantly we built a foundation that supports a limitless number of apps with a limitless number of possible features. Even cooler than that, once a new feature is built into the “foundation”, its immediately available to be added or “plugged in” to any other “Tiny app” without a super computer whiz kid doing a darn thing… the customers can login to their apps and add these features themselves with a few clicks.
And it doesn’t stop there, if a customer adds a new “gizmo” to their app… they won’t necessarily have to issue updates to the app store for their app. It will just work like magic next time someone opens that app on their phone. Catch my drift?
Why did we build a whole foundation when all we were asked to do was build 7 apps? First of all, we didn’t realize that’s what we were actually making. We only just realized this. It sorta just happened as a result of our design. And we designed it like this because it was the ONLY way we figured out how to get everything done in the amount of time given.
So what we built was a set of tools that makes great apps automagically. Then we used them to make the apps originally requested for Feb 14.
So what can these “Tiny Apps” do? If you can dream it, they can do it. The tools we built into the apps includes: Blogs, Galleries, Videos, Social stuff, Maps, Forms, Slideshows, Choose Your Own Adventures, Restaurant Menus, Password Protected stuff, Lists, Links, Host Events, Give Instructions, Plug in to the “Smilebooth“, Display Contacts, Play Music, Display your favorite Website, Deliver Content after a user Answers Questions, Innovative Live Interactions between users, and much more…
Not only can a “Tiny App” do all this stuff, it can deliver a special blend of stuff to different people, in different (or the same) spot at the same time. Meaning you and I could both open up an app and see different things based on a unique set of rules that the owner of the app gets to specify.
A good example that should explain this potential, is to imagine an app built for a small local Mexican restaurant that we’ll call “Jaunita’s Cafe”. One day, I walk into “Juanitas Cafe” and see they have an app, I download it, open it, and it shows me their food menu with pictures of entries, appetizers, etc. I thumb through the menu, find sizzling fajitas, and mash a button that says “order now”. Or, let’s say I have a dumb phone, instead of using my phone, the hostess could hand me an iPad or something like that too…
In the kitchen, Miss Juanita is also using the app except when she opens it, she sees what’s important to her, a list of that night’s dinner orders that haven’t been prepared. She sees my fajita order pop up, and starts cooking. When she’s done, she mashes the “ready to eat” button and bam the order goes away! A waiter comes and grabs the dish on the bar, and starts walking to me! Simultaneously, my phone vibrates and I see a message that my order is on its way! I eat my fajitas, love em, and before leaving, I rate my fajitas, and write a note that “Juanitas Cafe” rocks. That’s one example in one industry of what this foundation can do, now…
Where are we at today? The foundation is built, the Tiny team has created and is creating apps, and building more great stuff everyday. The best part off all is the Tiny dream has only just begun…
So maybe it wasn’t too far out to claim “mad scientists are taking the world by tiny storms”.
I’ve been in business for about 10 years now. I’ve applied my talent to a number of projects, and for all of them, I tried my best to set my goals high. Some projects were great ideas and successful, some of them not so great (if only the client would have listened… ). But in this post, I’ll highlight one of the successes: The Smilebooth project.
I’ve written about it before, so if you don’t know anything about the project, read this.
Here’s the update on the next chapter of the Smilebooth + Blackpulp story.
Here’s a crappy video I shot on my iPhone:
Here’s some photos from my trip, and setting up:
The hotel we got to stay in was so cool that they gave you chalk to draw on your hotel door… here’s what I wrote
The Control Tower:
Me, Sara (my twin flame / love of my life), Josh and Aubrey acting stupid…
P.S. Stay tuned, this blog post was written about events from about a month ago, a lot has developed since then… some stuff that I’m even more excited about…still trying to catch up. I’d like to thank Tyndall for helping me see this thing to the finish line. Josh for believing in the project. And Sara… because without you, none of this would be possible. Love.
Sometimes people ask me what I’m working on, and I’ll say things like “a website for so and so”, or “a mobile app for blah, blah, blah” or I may whip out my phone and quickly show them something like the demo video below. But in reality, what people see is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that happens to bring a project to fruition, and most of the time it’s stuff that’s really difficult to communicate, or just goes unnoticed all together. So in an effort to dig deeper and illuminate the craziness that is a “Blackpulp project”, here’s the story of how one of our recent projects, the Smilebooth iPad app, came to be:
A few months back, the Smilebooth crew came to us with a question, which went something like:
“Hey dudes, people are in love with smilebooth, and because people dig it so much, a ton of people are lining up to get their picture taken, and that line is long… is there anything we could do to move people through the booth as fast as possible?”
In those initial meetings, we generalized the booth has two basic functions:
From there, we concluded that function #2 doesn’t have to take place within the booth. In fact, if it didn’t happen in the booth, people would spend less time in the booth. Bingo!
We were onto something, but there was still a problem. In order to share a photo with someone, we needed to ask a person for their contact info which requires more time from that person, and some kind of interface to ask them for their info.
First, we considered modifying the existing software inside the booth. But that meant people would sit inside the booth longer, so we scratched that.
Then we wondered if there was a way to create a new interface outside the booth. That way people would get their picture taken, get out, and another person could hop in quicker.
One idea was to throw a new kiosk into the mix, which would be used by the person after taking their photo, and serve as the solution for function #2 (sharing the photo). At this kiosk, a person would select a picture they wanted and have it send to them. This meant the kiosk would need to be:
While this solution would’ve ultimately worked, the idea of adding this huge, clunky kiosk, ATM thing felt a little like something from the 90′s, not to mention the cost of the machine would be expensive. So back to the drawing board we went, but this time with the realization we needed some kind of computer to handle diplaying and sharing the photos. That’s where the iPad came in.
We started playing with the idea of using an iPad as the kiosk, and immediately we knew we had a winner. Not only could the iPad do everything we needed, it was smaller, cheaper, and a heck of a lot cooler.
From there, we had a ton of issues to solve, like network connectivity, filesystem access, whether or not the booth was connected to the internet, application performance, and interface design. But at this point, I’ll summarize. We went on to build the coolest iPad app ever. After a few more weeks of design, testing, and revision went by, blackpulp brought into being the very first Smilebooth iPad App. Here’s an early demo video I captured on my iPhone… sorry, but it’s all I could find… and the pictures loading into this thing are from my personal pictures folder.
And not only did we build an iPad app, we also constructed an entire web service for sending SMS, MMS, and email messages to support the app. Which by the way, if any of you readers have need for sending SMS/MMS on a project you’re working on, contact us, we’d be happy to share it with you.
All in all, this project was a blast, and on behalf of us @blackpulp, much love goes to the folks @smilebooth for letting (and paying) us to have fun, and geek out with the iPad on such a cool project & idea.
Check out Smilebooth @ http://smilebooth.com
A while back, we did a business card design for our friends at Eleven2. Just found out today that the design was featured on Cardview.net. Yeehaw! Thanks for the feature Cardview!
Check out more of our card designs on our Flickr Gallery.
We just launched a new site for another great customer. Performance Based Healthcare Solutions is an awesome company here in Houston working on incredibly cool healthcare research. Check out the screenshots! Then check out the site: http://www.pbhsolutions.com/
Home page with custom built Flash banner carousel featuring a nice animated mask and title animations:
One of several subpages – all the subpages feature customized banners, unique to each page. All managed easily from the Blackpulp CMS:
Another subpage showcasing some of the CSS styling. All of the CSS styling is easily available and usable by the client from with the Blackpulp CMS via the Page Editor. It’s true WYSIWYG editing with the front-end styles mirrored in the Page editor. No more guessing what your page is going to look like when you publish it! (Also check out the 3D timeline banner. That’s a screengrab from a presentation Blackpulp built for PBHS as well…):
Generating thumbnails can be a pain for web designers and developers! Not only is it time consuming, mundane work, once you put someone’s site up, they want to change all the images! Back to square one! If you are a developer, you may have built in a way for your clients to manage their photos, but then comes the issue of having them resize the images, and having to learn image editing skills is not something your client may be too excited about.
Well, there’s now an answer. We have been building thumbnailing technology for a few years now, kinda as a pet project / added bonus for our customers. A few months back, we were talking about the possibility of opening up some of our technology for others to use, it seems useful right?
We are in the very beginning stages of putting it together, but if you’re interested, check out what you can do with it, and some basic documentation here