Monday, January 23, 2006

Hacking Idea: Blog Sketchpad

I've been making my way through the book "How To Make A Journal Of Your Life", by D. Price. It's a small, mostly inspirational guide for how to keep a traditional paper journal about your life.

I've made it through just about three chapters, and the flow has been focused first on writing, then sketching and now photography. The idea being that each new technique helps add to the value of your journal.

One of the primary reasons I maintain this blog is to keep a journal. I'm hoping that many of my posts will be glimpses I can look back on and use to trigger memories, 5, 10 and 20 years down the line.

The similarities between paper journaling and blogging are many. And while one usually thinks of a journal as a private affair, it is assumed that years down the line you will share your journal with your family, friends and perhaps even the world.

The advice given about writing and photography map well from journaling to blogging. This led me to thinking, what about the sketching suggestions?

Price makes it clear that there is special value in recording sketches. First, because they require less hardware than photography, and perhaps more importantly because sketching relies heavily on your ability to really see something. If you took the time to draw something, then you really understand it (in fact, Price recommends learing your camera by sketching it from memory!).

OK, I'm sold on sketching. But how does that fit in with my blog? And especially with my mobile blogging requirements. My first though was that I could simply sketch on paper and then scan the results. I guess that would work, but where's the fun in that? Which leads me to the actual point of this post...

As a hacking project, I'd like to convert/build some device that would allow me to make sketches and post them to my blog. The device should be relatively small, lightweight and durable. At the very least it should sketch black and white lines, though color, multiple pen tips and perhaps even pressure senenstive entry would be great.

In terms of form factor, the device should be as thin and light as possible. A device the size of a steno notebook, or even as large as an 8 1/2" screen would work.

The software should be painfully simple, just storing multiple pages which one could browse through. Add an erase page function and you would be all set. Battery life is a big concern, so less software functionality should help here.

Connectivity could get interesting. Most ideal would be built in wifi. Push a button, have your sketch on flickr. Next desireable would be to store images (postscript files?) on a usb thumb drive or MMC card. Finally, a simple USB connection to a computer would work.

Devices like the new Fly Toy or the Nokia digital pen come close to solving this need elegantly. But, the pens are bulky and not condusive to drawing (IMHO), they are fragile and finally you have the issue of having to pay for paper. In an ideal world you could draw as much and as often as you wanted, and the digital ink would be free.

I would think that I could find some old device to convert to a digital sketch pad. Perhaps even an old palm pilot or ancient failed tablet PC. I'd also take a close look at kid's toys, as they are getting savvier all the time. I wouldn't be surprised if the gadget I want is already used by two-year olds everywhere.

Once I have this device I'll only have one issue left - I can't draw to save my life. But I figure that's just a matter of practice.


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