Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Ahhh. The tool is largely done and just being tested. It should be unveiled on Thursday morning.
Yes the text size on the page has changed. I moved the font from a fixed size font to a variable size font for the user's ease of reading. I may play with it a little bit after the release, but it will stay variable. I may change it to a system that allows for the user to choose their font size down the road, but this is it for now. If it looks too big, use your browser to change the size.
Info Design provides Arch Deliverables Schemas. I have a feeling this will become a core link for many folks.
I have pointed a few folks to the CNet Builder programming and scripting page, which is a nice resource for many things Web scripty.
The UNIX file system should no longer be a mystery after reading O'Reilly Net's UNIX File systems. It seem the advent of Mac OSX with UNIX at its core has added a better set of resources for learning and understanding UNIX. The core of UNIX is very flexible and nice to work with, much better in my measly opinion than Windows or what Mac was, but that is just me.
O'Reilly was also thinking UNIX-y thoughts when it wrote network test automation with OS X and tcl (tcl is pronounced tickle).
Not only do I like Michael Angeles site, I found there is a lot on his site that is similar to where I am heading with mine, at least with functionality. I really like his visual design of the site, but visual design is not in my bag at the moment. There are other things that I prefer. I love Communication Arts and have for years, but reading and having my hands produce what is in my mind is a different story. But, I digress.
Scott Berkun provides Strategies of influence in interaction design, which could apply to most anybody. The politics is hurdle that must be overcome by many.
A Windows resource management bungle knocked out five other items to post. I will go back and get these at a later date (tomorrow or Thursday when I have categories).
I have a load of links piling up and I have been concentrating on the weblogging tool. I tackled one of the tougher items last night. After overcoming an unintended array within and array (thwap went the hand to the forehead) things moved very quickly. The rest "should" be rather straightforward.
I am realizing a need to a second style for links that appear for categories underneath the main content. The same link color is too distracting from the content, but I am not sure having two link colors will be clear to users. I am needing to break the rules, because in this case it does "depend", to quote Jared Spool (who is quoting another).
I will have a category available to follow any comments I get on usability and problems I run into. In a sense I am putting up a beta tool. Why? because I need an easier way to post and track my thoughts (as I use this to get back to links and ideas and the context that framed them). This will be a work-in-progress open for the public. The month change over is the most logical time, for archiving purposes, to install the new tool.
Hopefully the links will make it up this evening.
On a side note, now seems to be a good time not to be in DC, but there is work to be done.
Sunday, October 28, 2001
I have been building my own CMS, moving the small TravelBlog tool to vanderwal.net from its previous location. The database tables and elements have been renamed and repurposed. I have added some new tables to extend the tool to become my regular blog tool. I am hoping that this will be ready for use November 1, 2001. I am making it possible for each idea section to have its own entry. This will give me the ability to attach metadata to each entry so that thoughts and links can be grouped by one or more entry type. This enables the reader to eventually click on the metacata category and retrieve other information like it that is stored in this web log/journal/essay repository. At some point in the near future I will be adding a comment function to the entries. This had been planned an partially begun on the current blog, but was not fully implemented for public use. I will post more of the links and observations tomorrow. Well, with any luck.
Friday, October 26, 2001
Good news for those of us who love the life of an IA, Lou Rosenfeld states IAs are in, which is a very good thing. Lou is making these statements from his own booked time. This could really extend to many as there seems to be a lot of interest in having the IA work performed, and this I can attest from my own observations. Many firms rushed to grow their sites and did not spend time to understand the information nor the storage structures. Setting up and maintaining the systems and functional logical access structures are important. I also liked Lou's discussion of the faux guru culture in the IA/Usability world. (Don't hate Lou because he does not have permanent links to the wonderful things he writes, I am sure he is working on it)
Jason highlights Peopleware and discusses ideas that stem from the book, like: "If you find yourself concentrating on the technology rather than the sociology, you're like the vaudeville character who loses his keys on a dark street and looks for them on the adjacent street because, as he explains, 'The light is better there.'" This sounds like it is right up my alley.
Yes, I use MySQL quite a bit for Web development of Internet information applications. There is a great tool that I have experimented with off and on and now know I want to buy... Datanamic's DeZign for databases and its ImporterMySQL are sweet and comparatively inexpensive database design tools. The DeZign tool is an ER design application that makes not only the visual design but uses the visual design to modify the code for the database to set the structures. The ImporterMySQL will pull in your MySQL databases and map them dynamically. So nice and easy. This does in minutes what it takes a few hours to map manually. The two items together are less than $200 US, so you do the math whether you need or could save time and money now.
My new edition (2nd) of Web Design in a Nutshell arrived yesterday. It is larger than my very well worn copy of the original book. It has been a great reference resource for me when I get a memory lapse or am just plain stuck. The new book keeps the wonderful structure and the quick well formed sections that are easy to scan. If own one book... okay maybe this is not it, but if you do Web work to any degree you owe it to your self to add this to your shelf.
Amazon is selling cows from Cow Parade. Not interested in buying? Well you will most likely want to just take a look.
The Intranet Journal offers Performance Matters: Guidelines for Building a More Responsive Intranet. It is a solid quick read. It offers this guidance: "Nevertheless, developers interested in building usable systems have an obligation to take account of performance during the design process. System performance is a pervasive design consideration that impacts every step of the development life cycle." This is often over looked when developing information applications on any platform. A user that has an application that is responsive, on top of relatively bug free, will have a greater propensity for enjoying what was built for them.
Dan Gilmore has pointed to Living Without Microsoft for those that want to cut themselves loose.
To add to the links is Challis Hodge UXblog, which I stumbled upon this week and have found to be intriguing and was has some good depth in the archives. Go nuts.
The Cranky User: Constraining users with modal dialogs is presented by IBM. This is a thinking piece to help us approach interface design that is task oriented. Those of us that are have short attention spans like (hey did I tell you about I am a suggested destination in the digital-web new section) but I won't name names, could be the target audience for the modal approach. The article suggests that the modal approach, which tries to focus the users attention until their task is complete, may not be the best idea. The user has a plethora of buttons to push, including open a new browser and drift away, so the effort to focus the user may not be the best plan.
The wonderful Marc Rittig offers his Notes on the dimensions of prototype tests. I have read Marc's writings for years off the Web, but was just astounded by his personal approach to tackling problems and finding solutions. I sat in on some of his presentations at the Web2001 conference and was just amazed with the presentation of ideas in very creative way. Marc's approach is one that I think many of us have within ourselves, even those of us that seem highly systematized and anal have a strong hope that we have this streak of wonderful creativity somewhere inside us.
I am working on getting the TravelBlog tool I built modified and moved over to vanderwal.net this weekend. I have a handful of functionality to add that will help the blog tool archive automatically and also make each of the ideas trackable. This could help with readability and also for the categorization that is also on the way. At some point search will be added and a dynamic link tool that will help maintain and better classify and cross classify the links. Well I need to get coding...
Thursday, October 25, 2001
I had a wonderful virtual meeting, with a wonderful group of folks that are going to be amazing to work with down the road. One of my passions can be a focus for a good while. I spent years doing what I knew needed to be done, based on education and based on trying to live what I thought was a maxim but was actually a dream. When people said technology will make our lives easier in some part it was a dream, in that very little technology comes easily to everybody. To a majority of people technology is a hindrance as people have ingrained methods and patterns for doing things that work for them. Many people tried to fix what was not broken and then things really became unglued in the eyes of the masses. Those of us that could see beyond the blue screens and the screens filling with gibberish, knew that having digitized information could really ease what we do. It is getting there.
It is akin to a Turning Test, which one can not tell if the one responding to questions is a computer or a human. Technology should be unobtrusive. It should not strike us that it is an amazing program it should work well. To do this technology should reflect the presence of the manner in which a task was done prior.
In many cases, this is not the case, yet it worked anyway. But, in doing this it took time and adapting from the part of the users. Remember the old clickers for the television that had channel up and down and the same for volume with a big on and off button at the top? When is the last time you have seen a remote without a number pad? How did we make that jump? The old clickers moved the round dials that had been familiar for decades. People could see the correlation between the two actions, one clicking the remote button, the other seeing the dials/nobs move. The next step was the dials were replaced with digital numbers representing the channels and volume. But the remote did not change too much as it became the known interface for changing the settings on the television remotely. Over time people looked at the digital numbers that were similar enough to the new calculators that had digital numeric readouts and there were some correlations that could be made in the consumer's minds between the remote and the digital numbers on the television and the calculator number pad and changing the numbers on the screen of the calculator.
Visual interfaces to information need to be similar to something that the user can extrapolate and apply the understanding of one environmental interaction and using it in a slightly different context. Children are doing this innately. A paddle with a numeric keypad is a remote to children and depressing the keys cause the television or the stereo to change. The buttons had a cognitive association. Children will push these buttons and see what has changed. As children play with a jack-in-the-box and see a connection between turning the crank and the box popping open, they expect turning a crank to have a similar effect on other items. It is fun to watch kids watching a monkey grinder that have the cogitative association with the cranking tied to a jack-in-the-box. These children expect an action from the box on which the grinder is turning the crank. The longer it doesn't happen the more anxious they get. In time the children learn actions have more than one resulting outcome. Children learn contact of actions and the appearance of items set this context.
This leads to an item's interface having an physiognomy. On the Web a site that looks like CNN is a news site and the associated actions and corresponding information appears when clicking on items. The purpose or mission of a site can be inferred to some degree by the layout, appearance, and animated structures on a Web page. As people have instincts about a person looking like a crook as they have shifting eyes and their body posture seems to indicate lack of sincerity this sets in our mind predisposed indicators that trigger responses. Many of these responses are learned and some seem to be innate based on visual clues.
The Web is a morphing environment that can play host to games, information dissemination, interactive communication, an information repository that given context and associative properties this information can become knowledge, and as an environment to view video or listen to audio transmissions. Understanding how to structure information and develop interfaces is a large part of the understanding I love to think about and play with. The users of these items become at ease with their interacting when this interaction is normal or is familiar.
Back to links tomorrow as they are piling up.
Wednesday, October 24, 2001
The NY Times offers a story of business experience over business school, this is in light of September 11. It is also a good insight into a well known NYC electronics store.
The Forrester Group has a great report about what makes successful Internet projects that are cost effective. Do you know information architects are at the core? You do now. It states better to spend $50k now and get it right than $90k and six weeks lost development time later.
TechTV provides a good quick matrix assessing web-based teleconference tools. Great for those small, special projects when the team is spread around the globe.
Who knew Matt would rant so much about Windows XP. You go Matt. Matt did miss that XP does not allow partitioned drives that could run other operating systems. Try it and say good bye. Now I just need to find these links that support this one again.
Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Information Architects are good folks, as was born out of the DC IA meeting that was held tonight in Georgetown's Car Barn. It was a documentation show and tell. Very cool stuff all around. One favorite was Mike Lee of e.magination and his display of a web site with 14,000 static pages. It was a wonderful display that went on and on. The works of Tisani were presented by their IA, Dan Brown, which were beautiful and easy to understand (hat tip to Dan for pointing out the meeting and the group). I had many other great conversations and learned a lot. I am really looking forward to further events.
The NY Times wrote about using humans as computer models, which is a nice turn.
The interactive design magazine ID offers only a tiny bit of their wonderful resources in the print version. I suppose it is too late for them to share the wealth.
Monday, October 22, 2001
There are jet planes flying over at 3am and sounding like they are trying to land on the street behind. This seemed to have not only woke me, but many neighbors. So much for a good night sleep. I don't know of any airports open at that hour, which is very odd.
Voice is a tricky thing. I have been using more of a personal tone lately, but it is annoying the hell out of me. So, I am going back and talking to me, sorry.
Keith Instone posted Measuring Information Architecture Panel from CHI 2001. This really helps frame the discussion of ROI for the IAs. Projects that give it the short end of the stick really show the lack of cohesion and understanding of the audience. [hat tip ia slash]
CNet's Charles Cooper writes about, Still waiting for the next big thing?
I am debating whether to build a dynamic link tool or finish my web log tool. I have a few nights this week to finish either. The links should be rather straight forward as what I am wanting most is something to build onto down the road (mostly a notation of what is updated daily, weekly, monthly, and a cookie when I last accessed). Cookies for you? Do you think I am Betty Crocker?
The (ought to be) Honorable Zeldman has written a great piece on trying to do a redesign on a shoestring. Jeffery does a nice job of laying out the possibilities and the problems with each approach. He pretty much nails the CMS tools and approaches. I know folks that have been working to move their rather large site (2k to 3k pages) over to CMS and it is now six months later, at least. But, this is not out of the norm. Don't listen to me, read the article.
Peter is discussing information ecologies, which is a rather encompassing concept. I have worked at two places that have used how they structure information and their technology that interfaces with the data/information as a method of indoctrination. In many working environments, this is the case, but not so much intentionally. Understanding how an organization looks at and uses information is central to developing a method to process the information for an end result product. There are very few environments that have perfect data or information and how they approach filling in the gaps in that lapse is vital to grasp. Understanding how the data would be used properly if it were in perfect order is essential to understanding how to work around its void.
A fun exercise is to look at the life of a piece of data or chunk of information. Look at its creation, who touches it, who gives it context, who gives it understanding, how is it molded and reused by different players in the cycle. We did this at a company in SF that pulled in client's data from their database to track an item's flow through their process. The item was represented by a string of data. This information told a story of where in the world the item came from. There was information that gave the story of how the item was transformed, used in conjunction with other items to create something new, or the item remained it its same state. The last string of information gave the story of how the item left the country. Our job was to track what item came in and resultantly left the country, this resulted in the import duty on that imported item being refunded. This was two or three strings of 144 characters that told this story. Ensuring the Fortune 500 companies could provide this seemingly simple information along with descriptions was essential to getting the money. We would track the flow of those data through their cycle to get a better idea of any possible transformation the item's identification number might take or a change to the description of the item. This got into who touched it and how that cycle of people or processes would change the information flow and how they were assisted in that process. Understanding that flow of information and how each of the people and sub-sets of an organization framed the information representing the item was highly important. There are few professions or organization that do not need to understand their information or could benefit from this understanding. I have not run across one yet, but a few that thought they could be candidates.
Sunday, October 21, 2001
It is a beautiful day today. A nearly perfect Fall day, well maybe a little too warm, but hey it is nice.
Mike from Rockaway, we hear ya. He is one proud, pissed, true New Yorker that really sparked the heart of the NYC rescue worker crowd at the Concert for New York City on < a href="http://www.vh1.com">VH1. The concert, all five hours of it, was great. I was really impressed with The Who. Actually there were very few if any lulls in the show.
A flash from the past for the chronologically challenged is the Calendar CGI script by Matt Kruse.
Saturday, October 20, 2001
Today's main event was a wedding of a friend/co-worker of Joy's. It was up near Baltimore, just off 695. It was amazing to exit 695 and to seemingly be in a beautiful Fall color country setting. The wedding was very nice and in a great setting. Many of the folks there were in the pharmaceutical or biotech world. It was a world of good conversation.
I have been following the Coudal Partners PhotoShop Tennis on Fridays. They have been amazing displays of talent all along, but this past Friday the Heather Champ and Derek Powazek match had a killer move by Derek that just floored me. I have laughed and been awed, but his round 7 move just floored me. It was a great creative stroke as he moved beyond the desktop to the street and back. Genius
Everybody is loving the art and the fun of Orisinal games. You have and I have a browser, lets enjoy.
Friday, October 19, 2001
Richard T. Watson argues that customers want the perfect choice as he lays out his economic use of information. This argues against perfect competition enabled by perfect information is the purest form of capitalism. His argument is that customers want choices and the only way to compare products truly is to have standardization and this does not serve the customer too well in a consumer market (in a technical environment standards are the grease that eases use, but that is not the case in this piece).
New to Perl or looking to figure out how to problem solve poor code? Take a look at the article, Perl Debugging for Beginners. This is a solid reminder of the elementary techniques that will ease your pain.
Thursday, October 18, 2001
Peter shares a wonderful song-filled departure from Portland.
I am a sucker for landscape photos and I stumbled across Chris VenHaus' Collection. Ahh.
Kevin Cooke at WebMonkey discusses the serving of information on the Web in times of heavy load stress. Part of the reason performance was impacted is based on flexibility and not speed. [hat tip Charles at Little Green Footballs]
Joel brings up his reasons for liking the .Net approach to coding, which includes VB# and other sharp tools. The comments on this post are well worth reading. The .Net approach is essentially in competition with Java and its J2EE approach. Both of these approaches make use of pointers and garbage collection, which helps improve efficiency of the code. I like some of the arguments made. This said I am still very wary of the all for one Microsoft approach of having nothing being port-able. You can separate your code from your presentation as well as other important separations that help maintain solid growth and modularity while keeping an eye to the future, but it is all tied together in the OS. You can not pick-up your computational components and move them to a UNIX server that may need to sit outside a firewall. This approach seems very counter to the separation of the various layers.
Those of you that have been following the biotech world and the likes of the Human Genome Project, know that the advances are being made on the backs of computational technology and there is much use of Web and Internet based information storage and sharing. Many of us have been following Lincoln Stein and his writing in The Perl Journal and Web Techniques about Perl and webmastering, which are part of his work in bioinformatics. Well the folks at O'Reilly are publishing a book on Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics by James Tisdall, who summarize the need for this book in the article Why Biologists Want to Program Computers.
If you are like most folks and are having a tough time discerning between the different server-side languages it is time to read an solid overview.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
A few of you wrote to ask about book gutting. No, it is not my term, but seems to have come from academic circles. Dr. David Lavery, Professor of English, Middle Tennessee State University How to Gut a Book, which includes sources of the term and concept.
Check out Matt "BlackBelt" Jones RuleSpace, it is the PowerPoint presentation under October 16, 2001. It has some good ideas I have really not run across elsewhere.
Are you looking for elements of Web Design Patterns? Then click the hyperlink and search no more, or at least not for a while longer.
Eric van der Vlist writes about using the new W3C XML Schema recommendation.
It seems that IBM has patented template based Web sites. They only applied for the license in 1998 and Vignette had created these systems in 1995 or 1996 for CNET and was selling Story Server by 1996. If I remember right this is "prior art" and voids IBM's patent. The Patent (one-click) Office rarely seems to get things right or they make their decisions in a deep dark hole.
Who said computer programs were crazy? Well looking to Cognitive Psychology and Computer Programming could help make it all better. Much of the social science elements that are pervasive in the world of IA and UCD (user centered design) are based on Cognitive Psychology elements.
William Seus Shakespeare pens Seuss, Forsooth (faux Dr. Seuss take on Hamlet).
Tuesday, October 16, 2001
Is it getting to be the norm that sites refresh the Web page every new ad they post? This if f**king annoying. It ruins the history of the page and ads nothing to my enjoyment of the Web.
Those wonderful folks at Apple have upgraded the object of my tech lust, the Ti. The upgrade has 667MHz and currently 512 RAM. Why the passion for the Ti? The ability to run Apple OS, UNIX OS (OS X), Linux, and Windows 2000 (via Connectix Virtual PC. Having Perl, PHP, MySQL, and Apache all running natively on a machine I can carry with me is just amazing. I can travel and still play (also known to some as working, but to me it is just fun).
Talk to your Palm and it will listen and can even talk back.
A wonderful rant by Charles Connel, about why most software stinks. Not only does Charles rant, but he explains what makes beautiful software. In part it takes planning and knowing where you are going. Flying by the seat of ones pants is not professional, it is immature (that was my rant, which I am amazed that it is ever needed to be ranted about).
I finished reading the Madman and the Professor a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed the book. It was not only a look into a mentally challenged individual, it was a view into an amazing project of enormous scope. The glimpse of the planning, teamwork, and teams separated by geography, and yet making it all come together. The project of course is the Oxford English Dictionary. It is an immense task that took over 70 years to complete the work. It is a good read.
To preface my next comment, I tend to "gut" books. I have a decent library of works that I read in chunks as I search of understanding of topic and to challenge my thinking. I learned the gutting of books while studying at Oxford (yes that Oxford) in the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Each week one would have two or three papers due for tutorials or for lecture review. The tutorials require one to teach themselves about a subject. This process begins with one or two books on the subject and reading for context and an overview of the topic. Following this cursory read one digs for other resources, sometimes whole books on the subject, but in 7 days one does not have the time to read a handful of 300 plus page books and write a six to eight page paper summarizing ones new knowledge. Gutting the books uses the indexes to root out the most pertinent information and skimming through the book. Much of the context of a book echo other writing that you have already read. The gutting process skims and takes in the current works support of your known information and more importantly looks to punch holes in what you know. This practice has followed me through life and enhanced my breadth of information that I use and reuse.
My current read, in the sense of reading a book for full enjoyment by taking in every word, is Second Coming of Steve Jobs. This book also peers into the life of a man who is slightly mad. It is a good insight into what worked and did not work with Jobs life at Next Computing (and NextStep), Pixar, and the return to Apple. I am enjoying the book, but some of the personal life stories are a little over done (yes, I am a geek, so get on with the tech and stop describing the girlfriends).
The Value-Complexity Matrix from the folks at noise between stations. This is a very useful way to think about projects and what can and should be accomplished when and what should wait for a later date.
In spite of my dislike of the new v-2 redesign (mostly usability problems with software clashes killing my computer and small windows in windows to scroll through text), they have a wonderful documentation section of their redesign process on their site. I have loved the work of v-2 for some time. I am really enamored with many of their writings and this is a great extension of that work. Fortunately the notes are not stuck in their new interface.
While digging for a website connected with the Library of Congress I stumbled across a few good weblogs. Library Stuff was my first find and was really impressed with the depth of links and reviews of a world I am not too in touch with (only on the periphery). The Library Techlog is a blog regarding the intermingling of technology and library science. Both of these sites my become regular resources, particularly LibTech, as they seem to dovetail with some similar interests of my own.
Monday, October 15, 2001
I finally fixed the anchors for the posts, okay it is only on this one so far. More will be corrected in the future and the dynamic version will have them implemented properly.
I am happy to be back to the land of good coffee.
Yes, Joy and I had a very nice anniversary weekend. More of that and pictures at some later date.
The patent claims have become silly, or have patents become silly?
XP as a National Security Threat, or so says the headlines.
Congratulations Lou Rosenfeld, on your nuptials. We should get him permanent links for a gift. Lou provides more diagrams on post-Web information system design. The graphics are quite good.
Wired reports RIAA wanted to remotely erase your MP3s as part of the terrorism bill. Corporate freaks, have they lost their mind? MP3s give them a great year or two in sales and they shoot themselves, the artists, and the fans in the foot. Now they want to prove they are utter morons with no business sense. Being greedy, does not get you more money it gets you loathed.
The loved wireframe Visio stencil from Michael Angeles, has been updated. Read the info and follow the directions.
Thursday, October 11, 2001
The one of the hot Web apps of late seems to be photo community sites . The newest entrant is Picture Station.
Are you having power problems, no not at work, in your electrical wires? Red Herring shows how to grow your own power.
If you are looking for a new interface for information, Noone writes and discussion new options. [idea to look for the link from Peter]
I have a feeling we will be hearing about this private government network in the future, whether many folks think it is secure or efficient or not.
If you are in the Bay Area and are interested in Information Architecture, User Experience Design, are a Web builder, or come anywhere near folks building and information applications you could do your self a favor on Tuesday, October 16th, 2001 to go to the East Bay CHI: Methods for Information Architecture discussion. The panel is Christina Wodtke, Peter Merholz, and Jesse James Garrett. This is part of the BayCHI-East Bird of a Feather group that encouraging sharing of information and networking with other Human Computer Interaction folks. This makes me wish I live back in the Bay Area again.
If you missed the Nobel Prize news, three economists were awarded the prize for their creation of the field of "information economics". Oddly enough it is this combination that could well describe my passion. I was fortunate to have an amazing high school economics teacher that who really sparked my mind with an understanding of economics. I always had fun with economics (yes the I did get hit by the geek stick) and was a strong believer in the theories that the best decisions and market conditions are set with a free and pure flow of information. When I thought about college I was somewhat intrigued with econ, but understanding what made a free and pure flow of information baffled me. How does one communicate ideas easily, efficiently, and how do the intended users of the information consume that information. Some intro to communication classes and speech classes pushed me over the edge into being a communication major. Some social anthropology and sociology courses and a broad smattering of philosophy and great books courses filled in the spaces in my organization communication and communication theory course work. This solid grounding in the 80s taught me to look at the audience, understand their motivations, understand how they think and use information, and how to get information and messages to them efficiently. At the same time I was playing with and using computers intensively in my day to day work.
After working in direct mail, marketing, advertising, and some publications work for a non-profit then working as an information and data analyst and moving in to the client relationship side for a Customs House brokerage firm, I went to grad school in public policy. Yes, I got to hone my econ and information analytical (statistic and econometrics) skills. This education really helped me understand the relationship of information and the analysis of information. Information is only helpful if it is used. Information that is easy to find, easy to understand, easy process and store, and easy to assimilate is the information that wins the policy battle. The same can be said for business. Complex analysis is relatively worthless unless there can be an easy way for folks to wrap their mind around it. Getting information out to the public is very important. Having that information found by your prospective audience is also very important. The Internet offered breadth of reach for a message and their analysis and understanding of data which they turned into information. This was the foundation for my understanding of information and economic, which pleased me greatly that these fine people were awarded the Nobel Prize. Were it not for this path and melange of two ideas my passion would not be my job.
Technology is the base and foundation for the access to information. We use digital technology to gather, sort, analyze, synthesize, digest, and design information for that information and idea's consumption. There are many steps along that path that can be streamlined to better use technology, or rather make technology more usable. The hindrance for a literate audience is largely with technology, or seemingly with technology. Technology does not think (yet). We, people, think about the information and how to best organize the data into chunks that make logical relationships in the minds of those that can theorize and use the data to form informative ideas. The ultimate presentation of the ideas that lead to knowledge, must be accessible and usable. This is what I really enjoy working on. Not only the whole path to knowledge, but making the information usable and the processes behind the creation of the presentation usable and manageable. All of this is tool building and building a user's experience.
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
Today was a rather nice weather day and I had a wonderful dinner with Fred, which means I got to visit my mug. As always we drifted in to great enjoyable discussions.
A discussion in Computerworld asks technology visionaries scope the future, which includes Ed Colligan, Michael Dertouzos, Gerry Kaufhold, Jakob Nielsen, Donald Norman, Jef Raskin John Thackara, and Carl Yankowski.
Speaking of Raskin, he spoke at Stanford regarding Prolegomena to future interface design.
I restumbled across the Designers Network today. It is a decent resource of designers around the globe.
Should I get a Mac, and the reasons to move in that direction seem to be mounting everyday, this article explains how to network Macs with Windows on a home network both by wired ethernet and wireless (keep in mind the link may not point to the article as their navigation system does not seem to have stable links).
Tuesday, October 09, 2001
Another odd week as today seemed like Monday, as it should have been as yesterday was a holiday.
For those that have not been put onto this, First Monday writes about the effect of September 11 had on Google. This is an excellent analytical piece in structure and writing. The subject offers great insight for those who build, maintain, or deconstruct the Internet and other communication tools.
Kevin O'Boyle writes about Chunking, which is the first in a series of articles on interface design based on scientific and engineering concepts. The article focuses on breaking information and layout in to discernable pieces that are more digestible.
Charles Johnson points to an article that describes how to use PHP to parse RSS 1.0. I knew you wanted to know. Of note the iaslash portal uses RSS to pull information about what is available from other external resources.
Brian Livingston, of all people, dumps on Microsoft XP and tries to put forward a solid reason for not upgrading. He makes some excellent points. I would not have an interest in XP were it not for the crap called Microsoft ME.
Monday, October 08, 2001
I am largely caught up on sleep, or so I would hope. I ran errand today that were elusive on Saturday as there was a food festival that had many stores closed. I tried driving into DC today to run some errands, but after driving around for an hour and a half and not finding parking that did not cost $6 an hour (or part there of), I decided I could do better near home and it would be cheaper. I only got a handful of tasks done other than errands. Maybe the evening will be more productive.
MSNBC has a really slick Infographic regarding the conflict in the Southern Asia continent. It seems to largely use Flash for its elements.
IBM gets into wireless security.
I stumbled across Dithered this weekend and found myself entertained.
Saturday, October 06, 2001
I have been having fun with a beta of Movable Type personal (mini) content management system. It is a full function blog tool. Much like Greymatter with the build in comment tools and so forth. MT takes it farther with categorization, multiple archive types, e-mail notification of updates, XML-RPC/and SOAP output files, and a nice looking (beta feeling) UI admin tool. It runs on a Perl backend that builds your static site dynamically. If it had a database tucked somewhere in the back end so to make better multiple uses of the information and search the content I would adopt it straight out.
When your nose gets tired you need a color picker (this has 216 colors) and has links to fuller versions. This was a handy find this past week.
Web Development in the "Real World" is an interview with three varied Web designers/developers. They get into their favorite tools and other usual interview topics until you get to the third page where they discuss where things are going and how to make things better. Better seems to involve IA and UX tasks.
The world has change with the advent of the Internet. Roger Ebert documents his changes and states he does not want to go back. Like the introduction of e-mail, the Internet has changed how most of us (okay, me out of this) perform our jobs. We perform our research, keep up with what the competition is doing and have learned a thing or two about business all thanks to the Internet. Business news is for more than just the Wall Street Journal, granted I could not live with out the WSJ as long as I get it on-line (I can't find a thing in the paper version).
Considering a splash page for your Web site? Web Techniques offers pointers how to build splash page. Please read to the end, where they discuss when you should not build a splash page, this may be the most useful part of the article. I think of splash pages like those that do a cannonball dive into the pool, a waste of effort to annoy everybody. There are a few occasions were they are helpful, as we have seen in the last couple weeks as many people and companies have shared their grief, blessings, and open arms with a splash page. If your site is drastically changing or there is a large business change, it could be good to use a splash. Other than these help the user get to what they are looking for, your home page.
Nicholas Negroponte is interviewed in Convergemag and offers his view on how technology has changed how we do things. He also offers a view of where things are going.
O'Reilly guides you through learning to use Palm and Tomcat to monitor applications. The article discusses folks using Palm and Tomcat to monitor and manage mission critical systems for nearly anywhere.
N2S:: The CSS master compatibility grid is infinitely helpful and easily found by clicking on a hyperlink.
N2S:: Apple's Internet Developer site is a great resource to get an overview and read about the general components of Web building. There are also links to the uses of Perl and PHP within Apple OS X.
Tim Bray provides a guide to what we have learned living in Internet Time, which gets to not being able to separate your online and offline businesses any more. What happened in one area impacts the other. It requires a well rounded approach and a solid understanding of the characteristics and dependancies/risks of each.
IBM Developerworks offers rapid development: How to create flexible sites quickly using standards like CSS and XHTML. This includes a section focussed on "Create a model for capturing data consistently. The focus of this section is how to capture and then a great short overview of metadata. It is a good article overall.
Do you want to build a better Web? Learn how novices and the hordes that didn't pick up the Web like their four year old use the Web and browsers in Seven tricks that Web users don't know. This is also by the folks as IBM Developerworks.
WebWord interviews Christina Wodtke in their "The Face of Information Architecture article.
So you have been having calm discussions about who had an easier time getting to 71 home runs, Barry Bond or Mark MacGuire? ESPN's Rob Neyer and David Schoenfield provide numbers on homers and the strength of the league for Barry and Mark.
Friday, October 05, 2001
Ongoing issues with the post September 11th syndrome have the opening of National Airport driving me nuts. It is not the noise, but seeing planes flying rather close to the ground quite near to buildings. Yesterday morning when driving to a meeting I was at a stop light in Bethesda and saw an airline jet on its decent to National (about 8 or 9 miles away as the crow flies) and I immediately looked for a skyscraper it was going to fly into. There are no skyscrapers that were in my sight only trees, so I kept blinking to see what I was missing. Later in the day I was driving past the Mall near the Potomac and a place was following the Potomac to National and banked hard to line up with what could have been a runway or the Pentagon (the photo was taken on Labor Day weekend 2001 just seconds after leaving National Airport and after I took the photo I made a comment to my wife that flying that close did not give me a secure feeling).
Thursday, October 04, 2001
You need to remember I post this page largely for my own use. If there are others out there that read this and find it useful that is great, but if you don't that is because it is not for you. I use this as a journal and a set of annotated Web links I can access from most anywhere. Why do I state this? I am about to dump a load of links today and comments tend to trickle back to me about my postings.
Voice XML has more than arrived with Tellme taking over ATT's toll-free look-up service. The TellMe is a free service to learn VXML on for personal projects. You want to have your Web page or an aggregated list of news read to you over the phone? Learn Tellme or Voxeo.
Don Norman writes about Applying The Behavioral, Cognitive, And Social Sciences To Products in an extremely thorough manner. [link from christina]
"The role of an information architect often isn't fully understood, even within software and web development organizations. At one company I was sometimes introduced to teams as "our navigation guy." I'm actually okay with "navigation guy" as an informal working title, provided it comes with the understanding that navigation isn't something that can just be slapped onto a system, but rather one aspect of a broader user-centered design approach."[link from christina]
Most everything and more on the subject of topic maps is put forth in The TAO of Topic Maps: finding the way in the age of infoglut by Steve Pepper. As the abstract says, "Topic maps are a new ISO standard for describing knowledge structures and associating them with information resources. As such they constitute an enabling technology for knowledge management. Dubbed 'the GPS of the information universe', topic maps are also destined to provide powerful new ways of navigating large and interconnected corpora." [link from Xblog]
Content management systems for the Web invoke various hurdles including Content Publishing Strategies: Creating Usability While Building the System Architecture.
The current state of the world has many wondering about what is normal, well rebecca has a wonderful collection of thoughts on normal.
A 1997 document (in PDF) from David Modjeska covers with relative breadth and depth Navigation of Electronic Worlds, which gets in to mental maps, cognitive engineering, user interface metaphors, navigation, wayfinding research, and much more.
Now from 1998, an article on Generating Metaphors for Graphical User Interfaces, which discusses tools to help the developer understand the users and how to use what is gained from those exercises to build interfaces.
IBM Developerworks offers Finding out what users want from your Web site: Techniques for gathering requirements and tasks, which covers electronic surveys, iterative surveys, exploratory surveys, and scenario building.
A fantastic set of IA resources links, which includes methods, tools, technology.
N2S:: WTOP along with Etak offers a great DC area traffic map.
Tia O'Brian of the San Jose Mercury hits upon the obvious in her Tech devices leave many befuddled article. There is a great quote opportunity with, "'I have a Ph.D. in computer science and I can't navigate all of the menu options,' says technology veteran Eric Schmidt, CEO of search engine Google, referring to the version of Microsoft Windows on his PC." This and many other insights into the curse that plagues technology, poor usability. You ask why I believe so strongly in IA, user-centered design, user-experience development, usability testing? Now I have one more article to point you to. The business decision maker is trying to value user testing, understanding how their audience thinks in the terms of ROI (return on investment). The ROI is an application that is used and is usable. A map routing tool that tries to take you to the most congested intersections and down has you turn twenty times in less than a ten mile drive is worthless. A Web application with a couple hundred items in a pull-down menu will not be a joy to use, if it gets used at all. We live in a world cursed by folks who program, develop, and design with little regard for the user. It is not always these folks who are to blame, as often there is little budget for getting this right. Many of use fell down and became badly bruised and scarred years ago using cruddy products or (yes it is true) building cruddy products. We can build a better, if not at least, a more usable world.
I some how missed this wonderful PowerPoint by Lincoln when I was going through school. So here are his slides and notes for the Gettysburg Address.
Yes, Virginia there is 70.
Tuesday, October 02, 2001
Jeffery Zeldman, among hundreds of others, points out the W3C patent problems and the extension of the timeframe for you and me to write-in to let those with the control know how we feel. The issue at hand is whether you believe corporations can patent standards and make a buck (or billions) off it. Part of what is at stake is the XML being patented and us having to pay for the right to use it. Hundreds if not thousands of people toiled to help form the standards and some sub-set of these people could get the financial reward. The world without standards is one that puts the use of technology at a disadvantage as every attempt is fraught with reinventing from scratch or paying money to buy something that may not be exactly what is needed, but we are not allowed to modify this tool. Standards give us options to form technology to what we need and know that there is a high probability it will work with other's technologies.
The patents seem anti-progressive as humans developed tools to help shape their surroundings to make survival and life easier. The development of tools and the use of the technologies have developed an understanding that creating greater ease of use is optimal. Standards are an excellent extension of this progress as standards allow for an easier development and interaction of the tools with other tools, which all (hopefully) are working in concert to make life easier. Patents however inhibit this ease of use for the purpose of monopoly, money, and exclusion. There is much money to be made from tools that take advantage of the standards, but being greedy and trying to control and limit the use of standards is inane and doing a disservice to other developers, but also the legacy of humankind that developed the tools they used to try and become greedy.
I have more than plenty links to share, but I also have tasks I have promised to friends that I would complete. I also need sleep.
Monday, October 01, 2001
It is the first Monday of the month, so it is knitter's night at our home. I don't knit so I am in the office, where I usually can be found.
Fall is definitely here and that is most wonderful news.
The PHP project is just underway here at Vander Wal Net. Some of your saved links may be changing ever so slightly with .php extensions rather than .html or .shtml. I will be making this change over as painless as possible for all involved. The PHP will allow me to tie a database to the backend to better store and search the information here. This will also allow me to put together a content management tool that will also permit categorized web logs as subsets to this main log.
In a search for news of Mike Kuniavsky's upcoming O'Reilly book on user research I found his article from sendmail list It's the User, Stupid, which covers usability and Open Source software. I also found his well known Why User Testing Is Good from his days at HotWired.
The Flamenco Project focusses on usable site searches and offers many links to further information. One of these items is Designing Information Architecture for Search. The link was ultimately from Lou Rosenfeld, but I found it somewhere else.
Many links stem from Peter's recent discussion of sorting. Take a look at the The Wall, which is an education in itself and part of MIT's Design Concepts Group. The folks at Illumination provide Information Design using Card Sorting, which seems to cover the gamut in depth. Also worth checking out is IBM's Ease of Use with EZSort.