Aza Raskin has released a wonderful new toy, Algorithm Ink. As he states in his introduction, it really lowers the bar to exploring the creative mathematical beauty of fractals. Aside from the images themselves, there are two things I love about this site.
First, the less-is-more UI design really lets the canvas be the focus of attention by keeping tools out of your way until you need them. Second, and more fundamentally, is the “view source” ethos and the direct manipulation of the visualization-generating code that really makes the experience compelling (if not addictive).
Here’s what happens to me: select an interesting image and watch it play out. Click open the “edit” panel to expose the surprisingly few lines of code that make it tick. See all the pretty numbers. Change one. Click “draw” and see the effects of your change. Repeat about a thousand times.
Before I realize it, I’m copy-pasting functions from other drawings, following the logic in code to reverse-engineer how an effect is generated, musing on the power of weighting the randomness of my results. Like writing HTML on the Web 1.0, I’m learning by example and trial-and-error. Sure, there’s a manual for the syntax somewhere, but the experience of seeing and affecting the code in action is so much more fun.