Brendan Dawes
The Aesthetics of Form and Code

That Was The Week That Was — 24th May 2020

In the course of researching an approach to creating a new piece of client work, in WebGL, I searched around for something node / graph based like Houdini or Touch Designer is, but for output on the web. I love the playful nature of node based systems, so was keen to see if there's a web creation equivalent.

I chanced upon a thing called Cables, a web based system which allows for the creation of interactive content using pre-made nodes you can wire together. As I played with this thing, it was evident there was a lot that was influenced by Houdini. I was impressed with just how much had been thought about, and the amount of video tutorials for each node as well as the great documentation. How had I not seen this before? Within a few hours I had something working. Yet it really bothered me using this for a piece of client work. What happens if the server goes down? Even though I did make it more like an app using Applicationize, it was still all driven by the Cables server. Cables was great but this wasn't going to work for me in this scenario.

Sometime ago I had also seen a thing called Nodes.io, created by the team at Variable.. It started out life as an internal tool which they've gone on to use everyday for their work. The software is currently in closed alpha, but after emailing them I managed to get hold of a copy. After very kindly arranging a video call, taking me through how it works, and after a few follow up emails, I had something working using three.js. I really liked the visual playfulness of wiring up discrete bits of code. Yet there were no pre-made nodes — you has to write everything yourself first, in the built in editor. And that's were it slightly fell down for me. I have Vim setup so can code quickly, yet Nodes.io required me to use the built in editor, even if it did have Vim key bindings. I think Nodes.io could be killer if it had a lot more pre-made nodes so there wasn't as much coding involved.

So in the end I went back to my trusty Vim code setup and began writing this WebGL piece by hand. I did install CodeKit as a way to help me manage the JavaScript decencies and build the project each time I updated the main JS file. It worked really well as a system. I did have to do quite a bit of Googling though to understand how ES6 Javascript works, especially when using multiple files.

Outside of the current work projects, the week before I had been interviewed by Craig Shaw — who I first met on a plane heading back from Belfast after speaking at an event. Craig is creating a series of interviews through his Seashore You Tube channel and mine went live during the week.

Love this quote from Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico.

What is especially needed is great sensitivity: to look upon everything in the world as enigma….To live in the world as in an immense museum of strange things.

I'm not sure why, but at school I never read Lord of the Flies. I remember reading Kes, but not William Golding's classic debut novel. So I managed to get a second hand copy featuring the David Hughes cover, and now I'm discovering why this book resonates even today. Jack is an arsehole.