Friday, September 17th, 2010

Web Ninja Interview: Mr. Doob

Category: Web Ninja Interview

>As part of our Doob-a-thon today, we have a Web Ninja Interview with Mr. Doob. The Web Ninja Interview series focuses on people doing amazing and interesting work using JavaScript, CSS, HTML, SVG, WebGL, and more.

Mr. Doob has delighted us with many awesome visualization and demos, including the recent Wilderness Downtown project. He is one of a crop of JS wizards that are taking advantage of new tools like Canvas, CSS3, SVG, and WebGL. Let’s get started.

Brad Neuberg: First things first, the most important question is where the name Mr. Doob comes from?

Mr. Doob: I’ve always been very dependent on wearing headphones in order to get some level of concentration. Because of that I started using combinations like do_ob, dõ_õb, dò_ób, dê_êb, d=_=b, … as IM nicknames. One day a friend greeted me as Mr.doob and the name somehow stuck. It was also easier for my coworkers to pronounce than my real name.

Brad Neuberg: Now that we have that out of the way, tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, your background, interests, and some projects you have worked on (don’t be humble!)

Mr. Doob: I’m originally from Barcelona (Spain). After primary school I studied Electronics and later Arts. From the early days I was very involved in this thing called Demoscene. Always attracted to anything computer graphics but, although I tried to learn code my mind wasn’t ready yet and focused on design and editing. Because I felt I was learning way more from doing demos than attending college I stopped my education and looked for a job where I could develop my interests and ended up working as a HTML developer. Since then I’ve been alternating the coder and designer roles in every company.

Most of the projects I’ve worked on have been about creating the ID or online presence for small companies. It wasn’t until I joined Hi-ReS! that I worked for bigger brands such as Sony, Nokia, Sprint, Jägermeister, Chanel, Dolce&Gabanna, …

By that time I started experimenting with Actionscript and uploading the results to my site. Unexpectedly the site started to attract production companies and studios that were looking for some experimental effects and/or interactions.

Brad Neuberg: You recently worked with Google on The Wilderness Downtown. Tell us a bit about the project and what you did, including some technical details on how you built things.

Mr. Doob: Probably the project in which I’ve been able to apply most of what I’ve learned until now. There are some pieces of code reused in the project like three.js, the Sequencer code or the Harmony base code but my main tasks were working in the Street View shots and the birds. The Street View being by far the most challenging for performance reasons. We intended to directly use the Google StreetView Javascript Embed but it performed very slowly. A custom Street View Data viewer had to be done by drawing sinusoidally distorted columns of crops from the panorama texture. The effect isn’t 100% how it should be but it’s very similar and fast. After that there was the challenge of finding out where in the panorama was the user’s home so we could use the right point of view for some shots. I couldn’t find much documentation about that, but just when I had a desperate email ready for the Google Maps guys I came up with idea of getting the vector from the lat/lng of the house and the lat/lng of the panorama data. It’s now obvious but there was so much data around to assimilate and the deadline was approaching fast.

Brad Neuberg: Tell us about a hobby, interest, or something in your background that most people wouldn’t expect or know about.

Mr. Doob: Hmm… not that it’s too interesting but… I used to be fairly good at football. At some point I had to decide whether to join a football team or joining a comic school. Some times I regret I didn’t do the former. Something tells me I’ll go back to that eventually…

Brad Neuberg: What is a clever hack, trick, or elegant turn of code you’ve discovered or created while working with JavaScript, HTML, CSS, etc. Give good details, and don’t be afraid to be technical :)

Mr. Doob: It’s not much of a trick or a hack, but I’ve always found very beneficial to avoid using libraries such as jQuery. I guess such libraries are helpful for cases where IE6+ support is required, but otherwise I think that, ironically, it over complicates things. The more control you have over your code the better.

Also, I’m still learning JavaScript and I don’t know the reason behind some objects. As an example, I recently stopped using new Image() and started using document.createElement( ‘img’ ) for consistency reasons.

Brad Neuberg: Where do you see HTML5, CSS3, SVG, (i.e. the new stuff on the web) going in the next year? How about the next 3 years?

Mr. Doob: They’ll continue evolving at a nice pace. And browsers will have to keep up to date or they’ll lose their user base.

In 3 years I think it’s all going to be WebGL though. I think it’s easy to imagine videogames moving from native applications to web applications. Windows/MacOS/Linux compatibility comes for free, the downloading/installing process won’t be needed and, if done right, the experience starts instantly. At this point Windows/MacOS/Linux as OS becomes irrelevant for most of the people.

It scares me that people browse the internet more and more from devices that can’t be used for authoring but, on the bright side, I like the fact that with Javascript nothing gets compiled and kids will be able to right click any page and see directly the code.

Brad Neuberg: What excites you the most about what is happening on the web today? What still frustrates you?

Mr. Doob: The competition between browser vendors. That competition is making the platform improve at a rate I wish the Flash platform would have been while I was into that.

This new trend of serving results in realtime and realtime interactions is also exciting. The internet is evolving very quickly.

What still frustrates me are usually stupid politics-based decisions like Safari and Internet Explorer not supporting Vorbis in <audio>, Safari only playing iTunes rendered h264 .mp4, … And other than that I just can’t understand why ‘darker’ is being removed from context.globalCompositeOperation in the WHATWG specs.

Brad Neuberg: For folks that want to do the kinds of cutting edge things you’ve been doing, what advice or resources would you give or point them to?

Mr. Doob: Just look at the past. I’m not doing much else than combining old Amiga/DOS techniques with what the web has to offer. Thanks to the recent JS1k contest we now have lots of code to learn from and experiment.

Thanks Mr. Doob! What questions do you have for Mr. Doob? Ask them below!

We end with a presentation Mr. Doob gave recently at ARTtech 2010 on Laziness, Creativity, and Code:

ARTtech 2010: Laziness, Creativity and Code from AssemblyTV on Vimeo.

Posted by Brad Neuberg at 6:15 am
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Your surname is “Cabello” ? Like me :O not a very common surname..

Comment by JhonnyPienso — September 17, 2010

I was disappointed with the Wilderness, because really popup windows ? This isn’t 1999 you know.

Comment by SilentLennie — September 19, 2010

Love Mr. Doob work, really inspiring

Comment by Jesse — September 19, 2010

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