Sunday, April 11, 2010

Invention of Twirlpaper

Chapter 1: In which I find an itch

Some people fill up every square inch of their monitor with information.

I can't stand maximized windows. Everything ends up being justified to the left edge of the monitor, which means I have to turn my head and not be looking straight ahead when I'm working. Bad ergonomics, bad for my neck.  Dual monitors always mean one in front, one to the side, as opposed to one to either side.

I have whichever window I'm using centered, and various folders that I frequently access peeking out on the sides of the main window. Really, the only time I ever maximize a window is when I'm viewing video, or if I'm on my laptop where the LCD is much smaller than my desktop's.

To create points of interest on the visible desktop, I've been putting up wallpapers since 1993.  Every once in a while I'd go on a scouring binge and gather a bunch of new wallpapers to keep it interesting and fresh.  The more I did this, the more it felt like wasted time.  Eventually I realized that what I really want is a constant stream of new wallpapers, without me having to manually search for it.

Chapter 2: In which the itch is scratched

Figuring that everything can be found on the internet, I look for a web service which would randomly send me new wallpapers.  To my surprise, the closest I can find are wallpaper changer software which could be configured to download from certain sources with much too broad a set of criteria.  I need to tap into the power of crowdsourcing so that there are unseen wallpapers for whatever keyword is being searched for.  I start learning the relevant web technologies to implement this idea.

Somewhere along the way I learn of the Netflix Prize, a competition sponsored by Netflix to find a better collaborative filtering algorithm to provide more accurate recommendation for Netflix users.  I realize that by designing a recommendation engine into the service, I can improve the resulting wallpapers, by selecting not with keywords, but with a prediction of the best wallpaper based on previous favorites.

Chapter 3: In which I eat my own dog food

Twirlpaper Wallpaper Changer is now running on my laptop.

Right now Twirlpaper is filled with public domain and creative common images.  As more users join and upload and rate images, the service will become what I envisioned, and also serve the needs of the other users with the same craving for an entertaining and surprising desktop that I do.

Twirlpaper: Embrace Serendipity.

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