Saturday, January 19

Recycling code, Freecycling computers

"Recognize this code?", the designer next to me flipped open a website he was working on and scrolled through a dozen lines of Flash coding. The minimal commenting, the structure a true coder would launch into a rant about. Yeah it was mine. But the site I hadn't seen before. "I've used your code for two more sites since you gave it to me". For this graphic designer, reusing a generic function to scroll through images was easy. Keep the structure the same, alter the type and colourings, and export. It just worked.

Strangely, in this information age, well commented, reusable code is a tangible asset - saving hundreds of real hours. Sites like DZone Snippets have 10,000 users tagging and submitting snippets. Prototype, for Flash developers, has been running for 7+ years now.

More interestingly, a recent workshop on the Processing language in Barcelona showed another trait of good code. Participants had 6 hours to do a "mod" (modification) of the classic arcade game, Breakout. The catch? No one had ever coded before.

Steph Thirion, who conducted the workshop had the "objective of showing the participants that it is not required to understand code to experiment and play with it." The result? A selection of totally compelling, experimental 'sketches' - as they're called in Processing - which abstract the videogame, reinterpreting it in dozens of ways. Glitchy line drawings fill the screen, green blocks flicker on and off like some pixelated Barnett Newman work, cute Tokyo inspired blocks bounce back and forth playfully. With no restraints to make something functional, and no previous experience with code, the results are inspired.

From pixels to paper, the worldwide FreeCycle network adds a twist to the notion of recycling, providing a network for people to post objects to give away, or things they'd like to have, all for free - it's "all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills." The Auckland network currently has 1782 members, with around 10 posts per day, ranging from desk lamps to paint, electric tooth brushes, and Dungeons/Dragons sourcebooks. For those working with technology hardware or music, items like older computers, laptop hard drives, stereo parts, and printers surface regularly.

No comments: