Blog Pile

Web-A-Sketch and the beauty of obscure blogs

This post is as tangential as the twisted web path it took to get there. The ending is at Allen Smith’s Web-A-Sketch, a detailed description and parts list for how he hooked up some motors to an original Etch-A-Sketch and made it so anyone could remotely control it via a web interface.

An Etch-A-Sketch that can be controlled from a web page… first added stepper motors to this Etch-A-Sketch a couple of years ago. The stepper motors are from 5 1/4″ disk drives. These can be had at hamfests for a dollar or less and usually contain a nice 12 volt stepper motor. The belt and pulleys are from Small Parts They are called timing pulleys and timing belts, they cost less than $20 total. The motor bracket is a piece of sheet metal I cut with a hacksaw and bent into a right angle in a vice before drilling 4 holes in it. I fastened the bracket to the Etch-A-Sketch with two heet metal screws into the plastic frame. Oversized holes in the bracket allowed me to pull the belt tight then fix the bracket in place by tightening the screws.

To me it seems that for multimedia developers, making a web version of the classic Etch-A-Sketch, is the equivalent to the command-line programmer’s “Hello World” effort. I even did my own in Macromedia Director/Shockwave as “Maricop-A Sketch”.

But this is more about these sorts of web trinkets than about the breadth of weblogs and how I ended up at Allen’s Gadgeteer trying to draw circles (the rest of the story…)

Actually this begins with a the curiosity in the “geoURL” link/icon I had noticed on the sidebar of David Carter-Tod’s Serious Instructional Technology blog. Heck, I will click on anything.

The GeoURL site is attempt to match webloggers by location to other bloggers who have registered their blog at the site and entered their geographic coordinates. So it gives you who is blogging in the within 500 miles of your own location, listed in order of closest first.

So scanning David’s GeoURL neighbors (he is in southwestern part of Virginia), you get this amazing array of weblogs (these are plucked at random and who knows what is there- the titles are interesting enough):

Blue Ridge Mountain Area Plants
FuzzFace’s Notebook (www dot shado dot info)
Sol’s Whole Wheat Radio Page
Journey Inside My Mind
Hurricane Blog
The Lean and Mean Pita
Mousemusings Weblog

and somewhere down in that list I had scanned:

Allen Smith’s web enabled Etch-A-Sketch (map)
293 miles NE
(near Baltimore, USA)

And thus to the beginning of the story.

The fuzzy point I am trying to make is that despite who gets the top rankings at technorati or other blog-indicators, and although a small number of bloggers have the wide appeal so that whatever they post gets echoed around the blog-verse, there are more blogs out there than grains of sand on the beach, each one a personal publishing venue noit possible before. And they are certainly not just rambling diaries of “I cleaned my fishbowl today” and cat updates (some are, but not all), there are some real gems out there.

Every blog tells a story and often more than one.

So take some time, and just enter some of these lesser know corners of the blog-verse, a detour from the mainstream, and just see what you can find. You can start from the GeoURL neighbors from this cogdog or go to the bottom of other blog indexers.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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