drawing online

warning: tinyDoodle only runs on safari and firefox

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I’ve just deployed a simple web application called tinyDoodle. It is a javascript based public canvas where people can draw at the same time from any computer. I made it to open a space for people to chat with drawings, or to facilitate a place where somebody else could come up from nowhere and screw up your drawing. Every stroke made in the canvas is stored as a different object in a database, along with enough information to let me playback any portion of the drawing process at a given time. This idea is half inspired by John’s own oneline, and illustrated how much easier to make and interactive a similar project can be when made with current technologies, roughly eight years after John deployed his oneline project. As with other interactive drawing scripts I have made, tinyDoodle is based on the html canvas tag, and for this reason it is only supported by firefox and safari. Sorry about that.

I also took some time to research over the web and look for other drawing systems that use web resources to engage users in drawing based social interactions. I was surprised to find a ton, some of them very similar in spirit and implementation to the tinyDoodle canvas and other ones I have been involved with. The following are the ones I chose to describe and display [I must mention my selection parameters are completely arbitrary]:

Oneline (1997-1999):
By Maeda. A pioneering Java based system, this one is sadly not online anymore, but it is the first one of this kind I’ve known of. John’s website provides detailed information on how it used to work. The illustration shows a collection of drawings displayed over the same surface.

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Drawball:
This one is very fun. Drawball is a collective anonymous canvas implemented with flash. It has an interesting interface that zooms in and out the surface of the drawing, and keeps track of the portion you’re looking at by identifying it’s location with a URL. It also features an ink counter that keeps track of the ink you’ve used, and gives you ink if you keep the drawball page open in your browser. It also updates itself continually, so you can see others drawing in your spot while you draw, just like in tinyDoodle. The following illustration shows a sequence where Takashi and I were drawing our corresponding graffiti tags at the same time.

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BennetonPlay Flipbook:
The online collaboration model is a total trend these days, and several corporations have started social sites based on creative activities like drawing. Benneton’s Flipbook is a very successful example that provides a tool for making animations, user accounts, and a rating system that lets the most popular animations emerge from the collective pool of animations. Benneton claims they have 89,761 in there, and some of them are pretty good. Benetton also has a doodle community site, which features drawing canvases where you can chat with your friends using drawings, just like in, um, tinyDoodle. As most other social network applications supported by corporations, both of Benneton’s systems are user centric, and request visitors to create an account before they can use them.

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Openstudio:
By the PLW. In Openstudio, the drawing tool and the social network are put together with a simple open economy. Unlike different social sites where you get to choose who are your friends, Openstudio keeps track of your relations with others by looking at the history of your transactions, connecting you to the people you’ve had bought from, sold to, or those that chose to show your art in their own galleries.

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Sheepmarket:
This one is funny, because it turns out to be related with openstudio and with an entry I wrote in this journal some time ago about the shepherd, in which it seems I was completely clueless about where the shepherd comes from. I don’t understand exactly how it works, but I think it is hooked up to amazon.com so anyone could draw sheep and get payed for it. The collection of sheep is displayed online where you can buy prints. Of sheep.

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Tiny Icon Factory:
The tiny Icon Factory is an anonymous online repository for tiny icons. 168047 so far. By Brent Fitzgerald and yours truly.

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ZeWall:
Zewall emulates graffiti. It gives you pictures of walls of metro trains to paint on. It is kinda contradictory that you have to give away your email address before you can paint, becuase it takes away the whole point of graffiti and anonymous vandalism.

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Modster:
Created by Javascript mastermind and browser commander Takashi, Modster is a html canvas (safari and firefox only) user based exquisite corpse web application. You start by drawing the top of the drawing and invite someone else (from within the system) to do the next part. The point of exquisite corpses is that the people in turn can’t see what people made before them, leading to a fresh result of surreal, fresh, and dislocated images.

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… and tinyDoodle:
After all this, tinyDoodle doesn’t seem like much of a contribution to the world of online social drawings, except it joins Modster and Rafael Robayna’s painter example as an effort to find more natural ways to embed creative applications into the browser space, using drawing as an example to explore new ways to deal with digital interpretations of time, and how it can affect the interaction with process and data. Time and user actions make parts of the drawing disappear into the database limbo as each stroke grows older, illustrating a path to find meaningful relations between the ever changing information multiverse, and the ways we choose to represent it.

In the end, all of these tools are all nothing more than social toys and explorations. Even though I consider play as one of the most important human activities, I’d like to see the act of drawing incorporated to interactive technologies as a common place in daily life, just as typing and clicking are today.

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