Quartz Things

The Quartz Things Team is Herman Wong, Zach Seward, David Yanofsky, and Nikhil Sonnad. Follow all of our work at http://qz.com/re/quartzthings/

How we built hastheusgoneoffthefiscalcliff.com

Today we put hastheusgoneoffthefiscalcliff.com to sleep after a month of service, so we wanted to explain how it came to be.

How did the site work?

We had a DSLR plugged into a AC power supply, on a tripod, hooked up to a Mac Mini with a USB cable:image

  1. The Mac Mini ran a bash script every 5 minutes through the crontab
  2. the script triggered a camera capture through the USB cable and downloaded the image
  3. the script created two smaller resized copies of the image (one for the site one for social media use)
  4. the script uploaded those images to our web server, replacing the previous captures
  5. the script put a timestamp in the full sized image’s filename and moved it to an archive on the Mac Mini (for posterity)

The webpage was hard coded to the location of the image file and had some javascript that would update the image every 2.5 minutes (faster than images are taken to reduce the lag between what one user may see and what is actually in the office). That script used jQuery and looked like this:

setInterval(function() {
"http://hastheusgoneoffthefiscalcliff.com/imagecapture_1000.jpg?timestamp=" + (new Date()).getTime()

This redefined the path to the image every 2.5 minutes; appended with the date stamp as a parameter to make sure we dont get a cached version of the image.

The clickable areas were defined in a Google spreadsheet that was loaded in every time the page loaded and on each subsequent image replacement. We updated this document by hand every time we changed the wall.

How was the wall work?

The hard way: Every morning we got up, printed out some headlines, tweets, quotes and pictures, tiled them together and taped them to the wall.


The idea for the single serving site from the beginning was Zach’s. Sometime in October he noticed that that the hastheusgoneoffthefiscalcliff.com domain was available to register, and he brought it up as something maybe worth pursuing. The first idea he sketched out was this:


A man who slowly inches towards the edge of a cliff paired with links to stories around the web about the topic and an explanation of what the fiscal cliff was. That conversation devolved into the merits of different depictions of cliffs:


After seeing Brian Rea’s coverage of the US Presidential Election Night on Instagram and remembering the website for Sagmeister and Walsh, I thought about making a webcam of a wall of stuff. I made this as a proof of concept:


Everyone got on board, and this is what resulted over the next month:

- David Yanofsky

View the code on github

Development time: 2 days


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