Thursday, July 28, 2005

Friday, July 15, 2005

All-singing all-dancing all-picturey Google images post

Now that I can (easily) add images to posts I've added some images to the Google images post. I quite like that technique. I'm wondering if the technique could be used to help profile subjects as well as create new ideas.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Percentage Pockets

About this post

Technique in a nutshell: you select a period of time, consider an activity that occurs in that time period and change the percentage of that activity in the time period.

Example: You know that two hours will be spent eating a meal at a restaurant. Your chosen activity is 'tipping'. To increase the percentage of tipping could suggest providing a tip specifically for the chef in addition to the waiter.

Percentage Pockets

Percentage pockets can be used like Experiments In The Day to change behaviour and suggest ideas for changed behaviour. There are four stages to using the percentage pockets:

1) Select duration
2) Name activity that occurs in that duration
3) Calculate (guesstimate) percentage of activity in that duration
4) Change the percentage and see if any new behaviour is suggested

1) Select duration

I will make a list of various durations:

The next ten minutes
The next two hours
2 o' clock to 4 o' clock today
Christmas Day

Or alternatively I will list an action I know I will do during the day and use that action to label the duration. Thus:

Jogging hour
Brainstorming afternoon
Watching television two hours

2) Name/List actions

I will make a list of actions and randomly choose one of these actions. For example:

Talking, considering, reading, seeing, seeking, jumping etc

Or alternatively I can choose an action I know will occur within the duration. So for jogging I could choose: breathing, sprinting, putting shoes on, sweating, recovering etc

3) Calculate (guesstimate) percentage of activity in that duration

I will create a guesstimate as to how much of an activity occurs within the duration. So, for my jogging hour duration and the activity 'reading' chosen I can guess initially that the reading percentage would be zero. But it's quite probable that I'll glance at an advertising hoarding as I'm running along so maybe my guesstimate for reading during the jogging hour could be at 0.2 percent.

4) Change percentage to see if new behaviour or ideas are suggested

The percentages of zero percent and 100 percent are usually the percentages I start with. So with the jogging/reading example '100 percent reading while jogging' would initially suggest that I run with a book. Dangerous. However if I consider the '100 percent reading while jogging' as a target that I have to achieve then I can get down to some creative thinking. 100 percent reading would be doable if I used a treadmill. So a reasonably good idea is a by-product of the percentage pocket.

With 'zero percent reading' I would have to avoid the advertising hoardings! I would do this perhaps by running in a field. I could change my route. Again, an idea is a by-product of the percentage pocket.

If I pick a random percentage such as '15 percent reading while jogging' then perhaps this would suggest having a break in the jogging to read a book.

Experiments In The Day

Percentage pockets can lead to changes in behaviours that are usually routine. If the duration used is 'Saturday morning' and the action is 'being nostalgic' I can consider that my usual nostalgia rate on a Saturday morning is zero percent! But if I set the rate at 100 percent: "Saturday morning is 100 percent nostalgia" then I create the idea of devoting a Saturday morning to nostalgia and I can think of ways I can reach the 'target' of 100 percent. I can look at old photos, read through my old diaries, visit FriendsReunited, recreate walks from my past and take an imaginary walk through my old schools.

Transactional Analysis

The percentage pockets approach was inspired by Transactional Analysis. The TA practitioners would advocate being aware of how much time is spent in the different states such as Nurtuting Parent, Critical Parent and Adult etc. I wanted to take a further step so that it would be possible to create sub-categories of each state. So for Nurturing Parent I could be more specific about behaviours that would be typical of Nurturing Parent. For Free Child I could create crazy goals to reflect the Free Child spirit.


Dicing is when an individual creates six options and rolls and dice to choose which option to take. The book of the die by Luke Rhinehart has some examples - some of them crazy such as: 'burp in a meeting', 'do everything backwards - even walk backwards', 'get on all fours and observe objects close-up'. The percentage pockets approach can be used to create dicing options - both sensible and crazy. For example, if the duration is 'one day' and I consider changing my "saying 'but'" percentage to zero I would spend a day never disagreeing with anyone!

Ideas and general creativity

The percentage pockets approach can lead to new ideas.

In this entry on the Innovation Tools site Doug Fine discusses Silent Brainstorming. Silent brainstorming could be a product of the percentage pockets method where the talking percentage would be zero. The percentage for 'boozing' at a brainstorming session would probably be zero percent so why not drunken brainstorming?

At a job interview the questioning (by the interviewee) would be at about ten percent at the most. Why not increase the percentage of questioning?

What percentage of dreaming would feature 'waking'? Zero percent probably. Much has been written on the problem-solving ability of dreams. If the 'waking' percentage was increased this would suggest that a person could be artificially woken during/after a dream to see if the otherwise 'lost' dream could offer any insights.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Planet Earth 2012

I was thinking what would happen if you build up a complex picture of what Earth could be like in the year 2012. Silver suits and flying cars aside you could create ideas for any area - these ideas could be fanciful or kept in check by the limits imposed by technology. If an idea is required back in 2005 could an idea from the 2012 project be 'picked off' and used? If there was a great quantity of ideas how would the creative find suitable ideas?

Some ideas for for the 2012 project would be a by-product of the automatic fiction project. Anyway, some of the ideas coming from the fiction game project at the moment are very strange indeedy!...

An 'itch machine' that can induce itches on the body so that the 'itchee' can enjoy alleviating the itch (there's something fulfilling about scratching one's back with a back-scratcher). Reminds me of Woody Allen's orgasmatron.

A website that allows people to do a ouija board on the internet with others. Instead of the usual placing of fingers on glass each of the participants would have to move their mouses in a circle. The website would calculate tiny group fluctuations in the mouses that indicate the chosen letter. Lots of potential for stories there I reckon.

I'll leave "Mr 'I know what you don't know you don't know'" for another time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Imagination Club

Jeffrey Baumgartner of creativity and innovation resource JPB.COM is starting an internet-based imagination club:

"The purpose of the club would simply be to bring together a group of people who like to stretch their imaginations by playing with ideas,devising creative solutions to hypothetical problems, dreaming up outlandish inventions and so on. The Imagination Club would be a place to be creative rather than a place to talk about and analyse creativity and innovation."

To apply, email Jeffrey at

Will be interesting to see how this idea develops!

Monday, July 04, 2005

The 'Fiction Game'

I used the multiple redefinition method over the weekend on my automatic fiction project. Before I applied the method's provocative statements my objective would have been described (loosely) thus:

Create a formula/system that creates good stories.

Using the provocative statements helped me create a new 'spin'/entry-point for the project. Instead of trying to create a system for creating stories I decided I should strive to create a kind of 'fiction game'. The fiction game would be an exercise that generates scenarios and characters and the writer can enjoy 'juggling' the concepts generated and developed in the fiction game. The fiction game would produce a wealth of interesting information/characters/events and the writer could pick-off the interesting parts - a kind of 'edited highlights'. These highlights would form a story - thus the final story is a by-product of the fiction game.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Various Ideas: July

Advertising on the escalator steps on the tube. (Okay, I'd be the first one moaning about over-commercialism if this were introduced but an idea is an idea and I like ideas :) )

BoingBoing is a collection of strange things, and people certainly do set up some interesting picture libraries. I'd like to do a website featuring photos of unintentional two-finger salutes. I heard that when Churchill first started doing his victory salute he did it with his knuckles facing the people. Someone pointed out that this was a rude gesture. I know he wasn't the only one who's made that mistake - I've seen pics of politicians making the same mistake in Private Eye.

There are the Darwin Awards, celebrating people who have died in bizarre and daft ways. How about an award for people who've avoided death by miraculous means? I know one example: at Manston Air Museum they display a WWI soldier's tobacco tin that saved his life by stopping a bullet.

The artist Damien Hurst (famous for animals cut down the middle and preserved in formaldehyde) wanted to do a human version featuring his dead grandmother. I think this would have been illegal but he could have made a mock-up.

Some fiction game ideas

1) If a story needed to feature a ouija board then a computerised version of a ouija board could be introduced. The computer would instantly detect the direction of the glass and print the destination letter on the screen.

2) A group of people could be doing a ouija board and, on contacting someone on 'the other side', they could find that that person is also do a kind of ouija board where they contact people on a second 'tier' of the afterlife. The insights from this second tier could be life changing and profound.

3) A scientist could have worked out a way to create his own ecosystem using genetically altered maggots. The maggots would meet all the scientist's nutritional requirements. In one idea for a story, the scientist would set out to sea in a boat with his young son. However, the scientist would die and leave his young son alone on the boat for many years with only a few books for company. Eventually - perhaps many years later - the boat would drift ashore and the now adult child would meet people for the first time in years. His reality would be totally different and based on the knowledge he had gained through the limited number of books.

4) Someone could invent a mobile phone that changes their vocal tone to a tone that means that the person hearing their voice will obey every command. (Perhaps there could be some pseudo-science about the frequency reaching the part of the brain that is reached during hypnosis?)

5) Magic glasses - through right eye you see normally, through left eye you see what a person is thinking - or maybe how they pereive themself etc.

6) I thought of this as a filler scene of the film 28 Days Later. I asked 'What if a pregnant lady got infected?' Perhaps the unborn baby would become infected and scratch/eat his way out of the womb. (Nice imagination, no?)

7) A character could be cursed so that everyone reacts in extreme to the way he wants them to. For example, if the character said something to make person B feel guilty then a few days later person B could be drowning in guilt.

8) The sign: there could be a sign that somebody is about to die. Nobody could've noticed this sign before. The sign could be that the soon-to-be-deceased thinks they hear someone calling their name. One person could figure this out and could keep this knowledge secret or publicise it. The character could use the knowledge for good or bad ends. Perhaps there could be a twist where the character hears someone calling them and tries to 'beat' the sign and avoid death?

9) This idea is a product of the 'storylet system' that I've created but not blogged about yet. There is a Big Issue seller who can read people's minds and uses this to play games with people. As a person walks by thinking 'If I avoid eye contact he won't bother me' the Big Issue seller shouts out "Avoid eye contact and I won't bother you". The passer by turns to say "I've already bought one thanks" but before they can talk the seller shouts out "I've already bought one thanks". The passer by proceeds along the road and their attention is caught by a tasty cake in a baker's window. Suddenly the Big Issue seller shouts out "Ooh no, I mustn't!" The passer by is now a little annoyed and turns round to 'give the finger' to the Big Issue seller. But the seller is already giving the finger and shouts 'Beat you!' The passer by turns to walk away but comes face to face with the Big Issue seller. The passer by looks back to see the original seller and he's still there. Then a voice says "Don't you hate it when twins show off?"

That's as far as I got with 9 using the storylet system. The storylet system is good for creating little ideas but so far I'm finding it hard to develop the ideas into suspense-filled stories.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Problem solving and a creativity technique: multiple redefinition

I like this multiple redefinition technique I found over at Mycoted's library of creativity techniques. I've been using it to redefine my project for automatic fiction.

Open-ended problems by definition are not well defined ‘the boundaries are fuzzy’

The following checklist of provocative statements is suggested:

- ‘There is usually more than one-way of looking at problems. You could also define this one as ….’

- '….but the main point of the problem is….’

- ‘What I would really like to do is….’

- ‘If I could break all laws of reality (physical, social etc.) I would try to solve it by ….’

- ‘The problem put in another way could be likened to …’

- ‘Another, even stranger, way of looking at it might be….’

The full details of the technique are over at Mycoted.