Whenever I see a painting or a design that is especially interesting, I like to understand it as well as I can. In order to do that, I make a copy. In order to make a copy, you’ve got to pay attention to a much finer level of detail than when you’re just appreciating something. Every brush-stroke in a painting needs to be made, and when you try to make them all yourself, you understand them better.
It’s the same with programming. Spending time wondering “how did they do that?” will give you some answers, but trying to do it yourself will give you more.
A few weekends ago I was watching Jared Tarbell’s speech at Flash On the Beach from 2010, and when he started talking about his ‘substrate’ algorithm, I was eager to try it out. His experiments seem to be centred on the crystalline quality of the result, but I found the idea of a street map to be more interesting. Hit ‘Draw’ at any time to start a new map, or play with the numbers to get a different effect. I’ve managed to create maps of 6000×4000 pixels with 90 starting wanderers. I have some good samples up at My Flickr page.
Note: This runs in other browsers but it was written as a chrome experiment, so it’ll run best in Chrome and Safari.