Creative Juices

What gets you thinking creatively?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the need to have more time spent away from the normal timesinks that define our working lives. Getting more dead time. Daydreaming time. Doodling time.

My main ways:

1. Daydreaming

I had 10 hours of driving time on Friday. That’s the perfect environment for me to get some thinking done, I’m unable to escape to the digital tethers of mobile phone or computer, and reading a book isn’t possible. Therefore I think, and seemingly unrelated patterns start to become apparent from different projects, people and initiatives that I’m involved in.

Daydream logo

This fits in with an article I read on Fast Company recently, “Hard Work’s Overrated, Maybe Detrimental“.

“By most measures, we spend about a third of our time daydreaming, yet our brain is unusually active during these seemingly idle moments. Left to its own devices, our brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving, which researchers had previously assumed were dormant during daydreams. Moreover, it appears to be the only time these areas work in unison.”

Honestly, I don’t do this daydreaming stuff enough, I need to do it more. My goal is to untether myself from my iPhone and books more often. Some of my best ideas last year came from an airplane flight where I forgot my book and my iPhone was dead, leaving me with 5 hours an pen and a notebook…

2. Doodling

I used to draw a lot, but about 7-8 years ago I just kind of stopped. I’m determined to get started again, even if it is just doodling spaceships in a notebook.

Closely related to doodling is finding crazy, yet professional and cool, images that inspire me to strange thoughts. Case in point…

Snow Zebara

Good blogs to follow for occasional posts with reams of these types of images are InstantShift or Smashing Magazine.

How about you?

I’m very interested in hearing how others get their creative juices flowing. At some point we all have to shake up the norm, the status quo, in our lives or work. Is there a way that you do this purposefully?

Tags, Time and Location

On Friday I had a long conversation with Noam Cohen from the New York Times about Ushahidi and Twitter. He was doing some homework for an article he was writing on the increased value that geolocation data can add to the massive streams of data coming out of tools like Twitter, called “Refining the Twitter Explosion with GPS“.

A lot of our discussion was centered around location, especially since he was thinking of the Ft. Hood shootings and the value of location in determining useful information from the Twitter stream during that crisis. This is what we’ve built Ushahidi around of course, the idea that location and even small bits of information give us a better understanding of an unfolding crisis. This is just as true of mundane information, or trending topics in a locale, which is why Twitter is building a new geo infrastructure. It couldn’t be in better hands either, with both Ryan Sarver and Schuyler Erle on the team, what Twitter puts out will be top notch.

What was more interesting than just geographical references for information was the combination of two other big ways to parse this data: Time an Tags. We’ve started to see a lot more apps mixing time and location in the past year or two, and we’ll see more as the visualizations for it improve. Categorizing information, pictures and video by keywords (tags) have been around even longer.


We need to see more combinations of tags, time and location in visualizations and platforms. I can’t think of anyone who does all three really well (if you can, please leave the link), though there are a number who do two of them incredibly well – including Flickr’s geocoding of images (tag + location), TwitterThoughts (tag + time) and TwitterVision (time + location), etc.

We have a widening stream of information. The lowered barriers for entry globally, and the encouragement by social tools, means we’re seeing exponential growth rates. Twitter alone saw an increase from 2.4 to 26 million tweets per day in just the last 8 months. We need some way to make sense of this information. Our ability to create information has far surpassed our ability to understand it in a timely manner.

Chris Blow outlined this best with a visual for Swift River for use in a presentation I did at TED this year:

information produced vs information processed

It’s a serious problem and one that only gets deeper with every month that passes. In most areas, it’s not a big deal, but when a crisis, emergency or disaster hits the misinformation and lack of understanding has very real consequences.

I’d love to see more work being done with all three: Time, Tags and Location.