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Many Irons In The Fire.

As it has been put to me recently: “you’ve got so many irons in the fire, its hard to keep track”.

Lets start with Iron #1: Winter People. We’ve been on tour recently with Melbourne songstress Gossling. The shows were great and the audiences very warm and appreciative (especially in one little venue in the Blue Mountains, which was probably my personal favourite show of the tour). The final show was in a huge ballroom in Melbourne, called the Thornbury Theatre. It was like playing to a gala dinner!

The Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne

Also, this is a bit old but I forgot to post about it when it was released. We made this live acoustic clip for “Wishingbone” in an abandoned paper mill. Making video clips tends to be pretty exhausting (and certainly in this instance, after playing the song about 35 times over the course of the shoot, its taken awhile to regain my affection for it!)

And on the note of live-acoustic-videos, we recently did this unplugged version of Gallons in a Darlinghurst living room kindly lent to us by the drummer from the excellent Sydney band: Bearhug

We’re just starting our “Gallons EP” tour now, having played the first show in Melbourne, Sydney on June 7th, then Brisbane after that (then about 16 shows planned for the album tour). So really clocking up the frequent flyer miles in the coming months. Here’s a stream of the Gallons EP:

Iron #2: Matahorn. I’ve been working hard designing / coding / building Matahorn, which is intended to be “a music-centred interview broadcast site, coming from three perspectives: artists, industry and fans. The mission of the site is to give an insight into the personalities who constitute these three perspectives”. So far I’ve gathered up interviews with The Preachers, WIM, Jonti (of Danimals fame), Tim Whitten (engineer for The Go Betweens, Augie March etc.), the head of A&R at Sony ATV, Joel from Umbrella Management (Cloud Control, Urthboy, Belles Will Ring) and a whole lot more lined up. Here’s a sneak-peak at the pre-launch site design (full post on the Matahorn design & dev process coming soon):

Matahorn Pre-Launch.
Matahorn Pre-Launch.

Iron #3: Freelancing & Desiging & Start-Upping. I’ve started working on some really fantastic freelance projects lately. One I’m particularly excited about (but can’t talk about till its launched because of a Non-Disclosure) centred around the parallax scrolling effect, will be totally awesome when it launches. I’ve also been working hard on a start-up of my own, an application for the music publishing industry – something along the lines of a Spotify type app for music publishers to make their catalogues available to media buyers in a much more intelligent fashion than the current process allows. Here’s some mock-ups:

Synkr UI
Synkr UI Mockup

Synkr UI Mockup (with video)
Synkr UI Mockup (with video)

Iron #4: Bekin Labs. I feel blessed to live in the internet age primarily because of the web’s power as an educational resource. As someone who has always preferred self-directed learning to a course-driven / institutional model, the internet is like the greatest interactive library ever created. This is really only possible because of generous and knowledgeable folk sharing their discoveries online, and since I spend a great deal of time designing / developing for the web, I’ve decided to create my own resource. Hence I’m currently designing a new site called “Bekin Labs” that will be a journal on all things design, development, web and start-up related. I’ve written the first few articles on Jquery, designing to grids and parallax effects. Hopefully launching in the coming months.

So yes, “many irons in the fire” is about right, but it feels great to be burning all day long!

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RideShare App: Designs.

Between client work, I’ve been toiling away on my “collaborative consumption” ride sharing application. Here are some of the interface designs I’ve created:

Search Interface
Search Interface
Ride Details
Ride Details

Since sociality is a vital aspect of the car-pooling concept, I built in a lot of the familiar functionality / semantics of social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, including group & private messaging and real-time notification. Surprisingly, it was probably this feature set, and not the geo-spatial mathematics, that turned out to be the most technically challenging part of the application. Admittedly, the question I asked myself was: “what’s the most intuitive process flow I can imagine?” not “what’s a reasonably intuitive experience, that won’t be a nightmare to implement?”. But I’m glad I was ambitious because I learned a great deal working through the adversity.

Messaging System
Messaging System

My co-founder and I, flew down to Melbourne two weeks ago to pitch the application for a spot in an venture seed-capital incubator called AngelCube. We beat out 200 other start-up applicants to make it into the 20 team pitching round, and beat out a further 10 teams to get into the final interview round. In the end however the investors passed due to Australia’s taxi law, which prohibits profiting from offering a ride without a taxi licence. This was a worry I’d had from the beginning in terms of commercialising the application. Though, I still feel that a subscription based service could be profitable. Regardless, its been a fantastic experience already, not only from the creative and technical standpoint of designing and developing the application myself, but from a business and networking standpoint as well.

Create Ride - Route
Create Ride - Route
Create Ride - Details
Create Ride - Details
Create Ride - Confirm
Create Ride - Confirm

I built the app with the Code Igniter PHP framework which has been a really positive experience. The framework itself is pretty bloat-free, the MVC architecture is very flexible and its allowed for a high degree of modularity / re-usability in the code. Besides discovering Code Igniter, I’ve learned a heck-of-alot in a whole slew of different technical arenas: the finer points of JSON, some awesome little Javascript language tricks, MySQL database schematic optimisation, all-about-GeoSpatial-math, how to push data in real-time with Socket.io / long polling and how to push Ajax further than I’d thought possible.

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Gallons release.

Winter People have just released a track called “Gallons”, the second single from our forth-coming album. It’s one of my personal favourites on the album, lyrically and musically, but most of all as an evocation of a specific mood. You can listen to a stream of it here:

I also designed the artwork and what will become the single tour art:

The artwork I designed for Gallons.

The band will be doing a fair bit of travelling / playing in the next little while. We’re flying down to Adelaide next week for a show, then we’ve been given (yes given!) a house in Byron Bay to record/write/hangout for a week, then we’re doing the Secret Garden festival, then an East Coast tour off the back of the Gallons release and after that there’s a (potential) run of 10 dates as the support for a pretty cool act, whose name unfortunately I cannot commit to print until we’re confirmed.

In other design news, I’ve been getting some great feedback on DylanBaskind.com and has been featured on the design showcase websites: webcreme.com, Unmatchedstyle, Creattica, Designfridge, Web Designers Blog and a couple of other top-ten best xyz type lists. I still haven’t managed to get a site onto Styleboost, but its one of my great unsung missions in life (is that a little bit sad?).

Between freelance web-design client work, I’m currently also working on a new collaborative consumption web app revolving around car-pooling. There’s a couple starting up in the states, and a big site in the UK, but I think I can out-gun them all for usability, functionality and interface design (well, here’s hoping anyway!). Will post some design samples in the near future.

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Underpar: re-design + re-build.

I’ve been working on a complete re-build and re-design for Underpar, an Australian wholesaler golf bags and buggies. It was an especially enjoyable project for the information nerd in me, since there was a large volume of product and company data that needed to categorised and organised into efficient and navigable units.

Underpar Product Search Page
Underpar Product Search Page

Since the search experience is at the heart of a product site, I put a great deal of effort into making that experience as seamless as possible, to allow a user to drill down through the large breadth of product, to get exactly what they were after.

Product Detail Page
Product Detail Page

One of the major challenges for this site was creating a menu system that allowed the full breadth of the product catalogue (now, and in the future) to be accessible and structurally clear, without cluttering the navigation interface. After much best-practice thought mulching, I went for a the so-called “mega-menu” dropdowns.

Underpar Menu System - Top Level
Top Level Navigation
Underpar Second Level Navigation
Second Level Navigation - Support Menu

I went for Expression Engine as a CMS on this project, since the site administrators were not going to be highly technologically literate, and I knew the site would quickly accrue complexity as the diversity of products got larger. This project was my first opportunity to try out David DeSandro’s excellent Isotope.js in a commercial context – whose super-smooth filtering I implemented into the product search pages. Big ups to Mr. DeSandro on that one.

The guys at Underpar are still updating the site with the latest content, but I’m hoping for a launch some time in the next week. Exciting stuff!

Cast down into
Bottomless perdition

- John Milton, from "Paradise Lost "

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Los Angeles: Mixing The Winter People album with Rich Costey.

Its been a very crazy time this past month. Between a slew of shows with the Winter People, I’ve been completing a few freelance projects (will post on the design / development story there in a week or two) and about three weeks ago we got a call from Los Angeles to say that Rich Costey wanted to mix the rest of the Winter People record – after the excellent Peter Katis had to drop out.

This had always been talked of as a potential with our managers, but given the man’s intimidatingly impressive discography I considered it quite out of the ball park of the reasonable (i.e. Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against The Machine, Bruce Springsteen, Aphex Twin, The Shins, Interpol, Bloc Party, The Mars Volta, Philip Glass, Fiona Apple etc.).

Myself and Rich Costey
"Look at my geiger counter Dylan, isn't it awesome?!"

But just before we played a show (on a boat!) I got a call from our managers to say that it was all on, leaving me about three days to organize, pack and leave for LA. So I’ve flown, mixed and returned – bringing the Winter People album one step closer towards its completion.

Similarly to having Peter Katis involved with the mixes, I personally got a great sense of validation from Rich wanting to do the project. These are the guys who mixed records from bands who are for me the top-of-the-top of contemporary music game in my opinion. To be a part of that, even vicariously, was pretty exciting stuff. Speaking of bands who are in that top echelon Omar from At The Drive In and The Mars Volta was hanging out in Studio B the whole time we were mixing the record, so I got to hang out with him, and he was a pretty awesome, friendly and funny fellow.

Omar from The Mars Volta (What a great dude!).

Now I tried to document the journey with some photographs, but I have to confess that I was (rightly so) distracted by the mission at hand, which was to mix the record as perfectly as possible. Hence the relative lack of documentation.

I’ll leave with this quaint factoid of Americana (which I didn’t know): you can buy guns over the counter at a sporting goods store!

Guns
"We need some milk, bread, eggs and guns".