Inventing for the Internet Part 2 – A Message is a Medium

The post title plays with Marshal McLuhan’s most famous line – the medium is the message. A medium is something that sits between – hot, cold and medium.  A spiritual medium sits between the living and the dead.  Clay is a medium as it sits between the creator and the creation. BUT any context is also a medium as it sits between the creator and the content. Context is what describes a node (content is what is in a node – see nodism).  An idea is a medium, we can work within it. Even a word is a medium.  So… as soon as you get the message, it is a medium.   We can also say that there is no such thing as content, it is all context.  So the only thing that could be a message is the medium itself.  I still find it easier to think of a message as being a new medium to work in.  Because there is only NOW – the time when content becomes context and the medium and the message are one in the same no matter which way you look at it.  The node is now and that is reality.

CHATNAP – 2006

ChatNap - Chat Game by Dan Zen

Chat was huge in the mid 2000’s.  Chat is a medium.  So… what kind of tools and games can we make for this medium that relate to the medium?  Well… I often found it annoying when someone said that they were online but then did not answer.  Was it just me?  Probably they were away getting a snack, etc.  ChatNap was invented – if you think you have caught your friend away from their chat here is what you do:

1. Go to ChatNap and it will create a URL that you paste into the chat.

2. If your friend clicks on it within 5 minutes, you lose and if not, you win.

ChatNap was to be followed up with ChatChit – the game where you insert stock phrases into your chat and if your friend catches you you lose a point but if they were wrong, you win a point.  This would encourage people to chat a little more profoundly.  Using games as a “Trojan Horse” for personal or cultural advancement is one of the most rewarding aspects of inventing.

ZEN MIX – 2006

Zen Mix - Interactive Mixing Tool

With all the people posting to YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.TV, and other hosting sites, there was the issue of talking heads with perhaps less compelling visuals than your average TV and movie footage.

Zen Mix lets users put any Web video on top of any Web picture and apply cool blend modes.  Not only that, but you can mix interactive works in the same way – any Flash swf files with video, picture or more swfs.  You can even mix Zen Mixes with Zen Mixes.

There is a simple linear interface that leads the user through the mixing process.

The tool worked well – but there was one problem.  Distribution.  The mixes could not be loaded on to YouTube or the others and that is where the people are.  Oh well.  The tool was one of the first tools – if not the first tool specifically invented for vloggers – or Video Bloggers.  It was certainly handy for content creation – see where it was used for features such as:

TAPOLL – 2006

Tapoll - voting and predicting tool

Tapoll is the Web 2.0 site that lets you predict as you vote on a topic.  This inventive step adds a whole new dimension to polls – it is quite shocking that it had not been done before considering the power of the combination to show social opinion.

The site is Web 2.0 due to the mashup available.  To help you choose a topic for the poll, common information sites Digg, YouTube, Flickr, Amazon and Delicious were accessed based on poll keywords.  You could then include the outside article as a reference image and link for your poll.  An inventive e-mail administration access was provided to avoid user name and password requirements.

FOCUSO – 2007

Focuso - Out of Focus Photographic Art

Fell in love with Bokeh – that out of focus stuff in the background of pictures with a depth of field.  So… just started shooting Bokeh only and called it Focuso.   It works really well for backgrounds in my other art such as psychedelic dancing as exercise posts.  Focuso is an art form in its own right – much like impressionist painting.  The purpose is to capture the light, the form, the mood of the picture.  Focus Out – abstracts the details, simplifies (a prime design guideline) and makes subjects more timeless.  Thousands of Focuso pictures have been taken as found here:


Comment Right - Comment Activism

After posting hundreds of blog posts it was determined that comments were hard to come by.  So, CommentRight was invented to try and prompt people to leave comments.  Alas, it did not seem to work ;-).  Perhaps the messages were just a little too esoteric.

PARTY – 2007

Facebook Party by Agency Zen

Building communities is hard.  Social platforms like Facebook now give the content creators an easier way to involve our friends and new friends.  No separate login, no e-mails for communication… Yay!  Party is the first Dan Zen (Agency Zen) feature to make use of the platform.  Here, all your friends are shown at a party.  They have a popularity based on a secret formula of wall posts, friends, etc.  They talk to you based on their interests and links go off to Amazon.  You can choose backgrounds and at some point, this was going to be yet another platform – a party platform where you could chat, sponsors would wonder throughout and take backgrounds and product placement, etc. It would be made more interactive with you getting to choose who falls down drunk or wears the lampshade, etc.


A Million Clouds - Environmental Game

A Million Clouds is an environmental game where you just fly around in the clouds.  But your flying is not free – in a chilling realization… there are only a million clouds and after 5 minutes or so of flying, you fill up your pack by sucking in a cloud.  I also launched other environmental initiatives like Ban Van and Car Curling, etc. – you can visit them through Zenvironment at

Stick Aliens 2008

Stick Aliens and Facebook

Stick Aliens was in response to the series of “what kind of ________ are you?” that was prevalent in the first wave of Facebook apps.  It features a unique property assignment tool called the oracle.  You would drag any of the circles around to apply a percentage of that quality.

Group Games 2008

Group Games on Facebook

Group games is a way to “hack” facebook or turn available social tools into games themselves without need for programming.  It might help to have some graphic design and or story telling skills but even without you can make games.  For instance, Nano Race is set up so that the group who gets the most members is winning.  Light roll playing through wall posts help encourage entrants.  This is very similar to Blimp Races on Dan Zen which ran three times from 1998-2002.  Other metrics for scoring might be the number of photos posted or how many comments.

Flash Feathers 2008-2009

Flash Feathers Advanced Open Source Interfaces for Flash

Flash Feathers is a series of open source advanced interface packages for Adobe Flash:

  • ROBIN – multiuser chat and realtime game classes with Flash and PHP
  • FALCON – easy data transfer between Flash and server scripts
  • HUMMINGBIRD – parallax effect with mouse movement for 3D menus
  • GOOSE – multitouch emulator and processor with just Flash and Browsers
  • PENGUIN – tilt emulator and processor for tilt and translation apps
  • WOODPECKER – sound frequency and wave animation for MP3 and FLV
  • OSTRICH – motion capture so a cursor follows your Web cam motion
  • DODO – blob detection to provide blobs anywhere there is Web cam motion

If you do not have the interfaces that you want, sometimes you have to make them:

  • Flash Feathers consists of 10 packages with 40 classes, 1000 lines of comments, 5000 lines of code and 30 examples.
  • The classes are consistently organized in the reverse domain format of creator Dan Zen with all the Flash Feathers in three main packages – com.danzen.interfaces, com.danzen.effects, com.danzen.utilities. Readme instructions are provided to help designers and developers install these correctly in their class path.
  • There are 9 integrated supporting blogs currently with 12 videos, 20 pages, 30 posts, 300 comments, 4000 downloads and 50,000 views.

Snipisode 2010

Snipisode - Facebook Storytelling Application

Needless to say… people are on Facebook.  So why not tell stories there?  Snipisode is the storytelling application that lets you snip up your story into status lines and automatically schedule the status lines daily.  Then people can comment on the status lines perhaps branching the story – but at any time they can click the More Story link to see the post in context.  This could be used for poetry, education – or just fun daily things like jokes.  This type of tool opens up more invention – for instance, it got me thinking of nano-technology and futuristic stories again.

Touchy 2010

Touchy - Mobile Mediated Game for iPhone, etc.

I have been inventing games for mobile for 10 years now starting with PhoneSays, a mobile mediated game where you have to do what the phone says.  The juxtaposition of virtual and reality make this game dynamic and always different – assuming you move around!

Touchy is a more recent mobile game where players try to touch each other’s screens without letting their own be touched.  To get an idea of what happens when the game is played see Touchy.TV where hosts Kayla and Alex commentate on game play in night clubs, conferences, living rooms, etc.  Touchy is a social game that was created with a cause in mind – the game allows us to look up from that little device and get physical again – with an excuse!

I also vowed this summer to keep marketing Touchy as opposed to moving on to new things.  Hence, the work on Touchy.TV and the Touchy Facebook page with the Touchy Duel app that lets you challenge your friends to a game of Touchy.  Still to come are Android versions – and any phone with Flash versions as this was developed initially for the iPhone.  Also a system to let purchasers get a free code for a friend – through Touchy Sidekick.


So… that takes us through the last five years.  Although, truthfully, much of the inventive energy has been spent on four or five sketchbooks of Nodism and Recreational Ravine work not represented here.

Inventing for the Web still involves the same principles it did over 10 years ago – we have people, we have distribution, we have computing.  Now it also involves mobile – so invent for location.  Try and invent for what is unique about the medium.  All the best.



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