February 28, 2002

One more piece of the Mac OS X desire list has been filled in tonight with the Iomga driver set for OS X which gives me access to my USB Zip drive. Real Player for OS X and a functioning driver for the Zio card reader would complete much of my desires.

A note about choosing the new phone. I enjoyed my Motorola Startac flip phone for the last two and a half years, but the battery life was killing me and the keys, well had some minor issues. I really wanted a phone that would vibrate (I hate hearing other people's phone ring, so I want my phone to have the ability to be courteous). I also wanted a hands free phone for the car, so speakerphone was a need (some folks only seem to call when I am in the car and the headset is problematic at times when the cord wraps around the gear shift, particularly when shifting to 5th and your headset is ripped right off your noggin). I am interested in text messaging so friends can send quick notes to say when they are leaving work, etc. I also wanted a phone that would easily fit in my pants pocket (this feature is in no way tied to the vibrate function). These desires quickly narrowed down my choices. I am very happy with the size and weight, as it is not a great amount bigger than the Startac. It does give me web capability, which is good for testing wireless page builds (more on that in a future post) and the bizarre ability to plug in an FM stereo adapter so listen to the radio using the phone. I was very impressed with the Verizon sales guy as he was very helpful and knew their products and capabilities quite well.

Can I tell you how ready for sleep I am? This week included the approach of an ISO audit at work, end of the month usual stuff, tons of paperwork for work and home, spending time with my wonderful parents that were in town (although they stayed in a private club/hotel that lost them when I was trying to meet them for dinner), realized I could not find my running shoes I liked (hello Adidas for home delivery), figured out that the ASIS IA Summit is largely on a weekend that I have not away and close by in Baltimore (hello I am now going), finally got tired of my cell phone and its poor battery life and my non-national call plan for that phone that put me back more than $300 while stuck in SF around Sept. 11 (vavoom a new phone and a national plan, which includes e-mail, text messaging, and Web and a much longer battery life), and allergy season beginning. I also realized I leave for Austin a week from tomorrow.

PHP has a security hole that warrants a patch/upgrade ASAP. Hopefully you are running PHP on server with a recent version of Apache so that it is built in using Apache's dynamic modules. This will make the upgrade a breeze. Fortunately my Web host had upgraded this server to PHP 4.1.2 prior to the news coming out. My host? PHP Web Hosting.

Decisionmaking about design is critical and demonstrated. This walk through of how design influences impressions of a product. Communicating a message is important in the words and visual design. Each of these samples builds an experience and expectation for the product.

The U.S. Government relaunched their central information sourcse today. First Gov is a much better resource this go around. The site is very quick and serves information based on queries very quickly. Now I really want to know more about how it was put together. The site seems to quickly and easily get the user to information. Parsing through the amount of information that is available on government sites is a daunting task. Now if am very curious.
February 26, 2002

Personally I think I would extend the Hillman Curtis quote, "Web designer has to think of every pixel and the role it plays in brand" and extend it to the code behind the design. Every choice in the code impacts the display of the information or the way users, particularly with disabilities use the information. Sites that are well crafted have more usable information than poorly coded sites. Unfortunately, I have run across a lot of poor code of late, which the developers of the code believe everything is fine as long as it displays properly in their browser. The problem is not everybody has their browser. The poor coding not only adversely affects the display of every pixel on the page of other browsers, but provides poor usability of the information for the sight impared. The best step is to learn the standard code, learn to code my hand, learn what every tag and element does, learn to write a page efficiently, and most of all learn how to code for everybody in your user base. Lacking this we are just blindly coding in the dark and wasting our own time, the time those that thought they could use our information, and those who have to recode the information to make it usable.

Having watched the desktop publishing (DTP) trend "empower" people to design their own newsletters and brochures, I thought the Web would have followed in a similar growth path. DTP came to popular being in the late '80s with the advent of Adobe's PageMaker. Having formal training in communication design I realized the tool was powerful, but also dangerous. Moving into the workforce I watched the folly of the DTP trend. This powerful application when in untrained hands, could create output that was as far from what anybody would want being put out by a professional organization. I heard more than my share of executives screaming down corridors, "What is this cr*p". The DTP in the hands of the admin staff or the intern with out design backgrounds or training created about what was expected, garbage. DTP was quickly relegated to the hands of trained graphic artists, who turned out great products from the same application and often same machine.

What took four or five years with DTP is not being realized with Web development. Part of this may be Web development is more accessible and children can do it from home. The novelty of Web development has not reached the ends of the earth. Another driver that sets the Web apart is the embarrassment of people's children being able to build pages, which leads some folks logic patterns to the belief Web development/design is not difficult. Much like DTP, it is not difficult to build "something", but is does take a lot of work to build something good that is usable and maintainable. I still hear some executive yelling down the hall about the poor quality of a Web page, but the conversion of those developing sites to knowledgeable developers or turning the site over to experienced expert staff is still a slow transition. The glamour of the Web has worn thin, which is helping move the development to the hands of craftspeople and those with the passion to learn all the details.

I still have hope, actually I work in an environment that gives me great hope as the people with the power to say no do so for all the right reasons. The reasons are development that does not meet the minimum standards of a professional organization. The Web reaches far more people with the messages of our organization that the world prior. The Web imprints user's minds with the impression of a solid organization that cares about the information it handles, or it can do the opposite with equal ease. The experience and impression is in the hands of the professionals to see that these standards are met and adhered to. I am happy to work with not only professionals, but people with the passion to understand what is right to get the information to the people and get it there properly.

This evening I went to a jam packed AIGA DC event, Good Design is Smart Business 6, which included a panel discussing design and experience design as it relates to building a businnes' brand. The panel included Hillman Curtis, Neal Boulton, and Brian Jacobs of Pentagram. Hillman discussed the redesign of Adobe and pointed to the Web environment offering a double barrel of visual and functional design. Hillman had one of the best quotes that a "Web designer has to think of every pixel and the role it plays in brand". Brian Jacobs was another favorite of mine on this panel discussing his role in redesigning the Muzak brand. The brand now encompasses the organization, which was amazing. If you have the opportunity to see Hillman or Brian speak it is well worth the effort to see them.

I think a note of clarification is needed regarding the frames comments from the other day. I am a huge fan of the Content Management Bible and have been perusing it for a couple months (or so) now. The use of frames is not all bad, if used in a proper context.

One reason to use frames is using the browser client as an application interface and there are distinct sections with quasi-interrelated functionality. A mapping application (select any one of these elements on the page to see the use of frames - keep in mind there is a heavy use of JavaScript that requires a version 4.5 browser or higher). The application interface often has command elements that are essentially toolbars and definition selection elements that set the metadata layers of the information to be displayed. These toolbars direct the actions of the other frames or provide tools to be used in other frames (a zoom tool, etc.). The functionality in a toolbar is not an element of the map display and it should not be an incorporated element of the map as it has a much different functionality from the map display. Conversely, our users are familiar with navigation being incorporated into the Webpage and that is now a common and preferred construct. But, we are looking at an application being displayed in a Web browser, which requires a different mind set.

Another use of frames is in a controlled environment that has a plethora of distinct content items that are within a contiguous text, such as an extensive table of contents. Here the Metatorial CM Bible is a good example of when to use frames. There table of contents is a helpful information tool to quickly scan through the information to place the reader at distinct point in a larger body of text. The table of contents is a large (long) element of text that could work as an element is one distinct page, but that would require rebuilding those elements of the page with every snippet of information delivered to the browser.

Frames should be used when the distinct content elements require each other. The table of contents and the page display elements should not work with out the other components (if they can we really have to ask ourselves why we are using frames). If we can enter a page in the CM Bible without the table of contents the functionality of the site is broken. The navigation is not available and the assistive information (navigation and/or metadata elements) is not available.

The last item is to ensure that if a frame can stand alone as its own page, please ensure there are the needed navigational elements on the page. In the example that drove my frames rant (largely because the CM folks understand information and its need to be used, but the site breaks information use constructs we know from experience and research to be proper and needed) the thing that was disconcerting was each of the frame elements needed the other to provide complete information for the user. The user needs context. We need to provide the user a means to get to our front page or to other areas within our sites, because if they like our information we should offer them more. If we build a site using framed elements and these elements can be used on their own (no JavaScript sniffers to ensure the other frames are open as a requirement for displaying the content, or other similar technique) the content must have navigation elements (the footer is an unobtrusive placement) and really should have some branding or other statement of ownership.

We know that users of information have varied purposes and methods of using our information. We need to provide the users the tools to help the user provide this information. We are often proud of our information work, but if a user does not know it is us or we do not want to claim our work is decreases credibility.

We need to embrace functional information architecture to ensure proper information use. This bleeds in to user experience design, but understanding how information is used and the information interface is used must be integrated into the IA. Proper functional IA should keep improper use of frames from occurring. Functional IA would walk through a string of questions using a wireframe of a site and ask how the frame sections would interact. We would ask what information is lost if not all the frames function (a surprisingly common occurrence). We would ask if frames maintain context for the information. We would look at methods of insuring the whole of the frames remains so to provide proper navigation, proper context, and proper metadata to help understand the information provided. Not asking these questions is not being responsible to the information, those that collected the metadata and spent time understanding how the information is to be used, and is not responsible to the consumers of the information.

February 23, 2002

Metatorial offers a great selection of papers regarding content management on their site. The papers are great discussions on the subject of CM. The site also offer interviews, a great CM poster, and a promo for the Content Management Bible.

This site is unfortunately a great poster child for why one should not use frames. Frames make pointing to the desired content far more difficult than it needs to be. If people link directly to great content they lose the site's links to their other great resources. This site is horribly frustrating as there is great content wrapped in the absolutely wrong method for presenting great information to be shared. I guess folks can't be great at everything, I know I am not.

A sad day for Inspector Morse fans as John Thaw has passed away. Thaw added a wonderful dimension to the Oxford inspector created by Collin Dexter. It may have been the time I spent living and studying in Oxford or being a Brit mystery fan that drew me in, but what ever it was, Morse became my favorite.
February 22, 2002

There may be some hope for the sharing of digital music. I found more new music through Napster and the like then in turn bought the stuff I liked and kept listening to. In the past year I have bought very little new music as the radio stations in my area play little music that is worth buying, IMHO. I have had many friends in bands that received record deals, which in turn ruined their creativity and ability to create music. Most were happiest the day their contract ended. In turn the music I loved to go hear was rarely recorded as the music companies thought they knew best.

IBM Speed Team

Fast Company examines IBM's Speed Team, which has been working on developing speedy development environments. They cut back on processes that ensure proper development, but it seems like the the IBM developers have experienced developers, which make streamlining the development process much easier.

Scott offers a great rant on understanding the Web client. Scott is not a generalist, he understands the details of the interface. Did I mention he is providing specialist information in the Dynamic HTML Bible? Bow down and be a sponge when Scott speaks as you will learn a lot.

Business Week's Byte of the Apple column looks at A Great Future in Store for Apple?. I could not agree more. The environment is friendly and the store workers are very helpful and informative. The downside is there are not great sales people. It is almost like they are trained to be host to a show of great greatly functional tools. Apple could be sitting on a gold mine. As I talk to folks about my Mac they say they have heard other raving reviews from other friends of theirs. Most people are tired of the broken way Windows tries to work and want to walk on the other side. One of the downsides of the Apple stores, and I find very few, is there workers/hosts are not also PC people or former PC people. Most times when I am in the stores the folks looking at the Macs are PC people and want to have their conversion questions answered. It is a minor thing, but I would love to see many others as happy as I have been with my duel OS life (moving toward Mac centric).

The the architecture of information as translated from French. This work offers some understandings of how we got to a place on the Web where people started saying that nobody can find information on my site that is there. [hat tip Christina]
February 20, 2002

I found Zoomify to be an insanely cool application. The clarity of the zoomed image was stellar. It reminds me of some of the LuraTech graphic compression applications I tried a couple years ago, when I was looking to build a document repository for Web based use that allowed quick loading snapshots of the documents prior to downloading. Zoomify would be a great application to inspect photos and painting details while keeping the image weight relatively low. Genius.

In the Easy 802.11b Wireless for Small Businesses article on O'Reilly Net is a nice tutorial on setting up your Apple Airport. I found my setup of the Airport very straight forward, including encryption and hiding the service as much as possible. It took me less than a half hour from the time I opened the first side of the Airport box to sitting on the sofa next to my wife having full access to the DSL.

The school of hard knocks teaches us to learn where the pitfalls may lie in our plans as we are in the discovery and planning stages so we do not add to our "lessons learned". Web Services Pitfalls from O'Reilly Net and XML.com provides this wonderful bruise saving insight.

What Does Usability Mean: Looking Beyond ëEase of Useí from the fine folks at Cognetics. This solid overview focuses on the Five E's: Efficient, effective, engaging, error tolerant, and easy to learn. The toughest hurdle from my view is error tolerant, which is an often overlooked element in application and Web development. Planning early and knowing the user will help incorporate error tolerance into the development plans. One of the toughest areas to accommodate error tolerance is during feature creep as features grow and interact with various elements the probability for errors that do not have corrective paths accounted for rises greatly.

The solution to the = in the link is to use  in its place. This may require a solid tweak to my home-rolled weblog application so to sniff, parse, and replace the symbol prior to inserting into the database.

The Supreme Court to hear copyright extension case. Congress has tried to enact a 20 year extension to the current copyright laws, which would protect Disneys sole use of Mickey Mouse beyond 2003 as well as other properties. Lawrence Lessig has been a strong opponent of these extensions for very good reason, it restricts advancement of technology, culture, and the free flow of ideas. This free flow of ideas is what America is about, but copyrights have hindered the discussion of works and even the ability to satarize works.

I have posted a quick photo journal of this recent trip to NYC. The slide show is a presentation built with PB's SnapGallery. The images were cleaned-up and reduced in PhotoShop prior to moving them in to the SnapGallery. I found SnapGallery very quick and easy to use. I have a strong feeling I will be playing with it some more.
February 17, 2002

I found it very frustrating to use Earthlink/MindSpring on the road. I have many e-mail accounts that I use on a regular basis. Earthlink refused to pull some accounts and blatantly refused to let me send e-mail from any of my e-mail accounts, but the one they own. I stopped using Earthlink months ago for e-mail as it was nothing but spam. I know they don't like people using accounts other than theirs so that they are not the conduit for spam. I just need a usable solution. I have two Web-based accounts and really like Mail2Web, but my favorite account uses a non-standard login that causes outgoing mail to have strange traits on M2W. Yahoo and other accounts are options, but I really like hitting reply in my e-mail client so to keep continuity. This weekend saw many unsent e-mails sitting in my outbox, only to be deleted after it was too late. Suggestions appreciated.

The New York City log goes a little something like this... We did the obligatory trip to Tal Bagels on First Ave to fuel up on my favorite bagels. Saturday I was able to knock out much of the computer set-up, but I had a feeling early on (Wednesday or Thursday) that I would need cables. We needed longer phone cord, but also when looking for a monitor stand that one can slide a keyboard under. The cords were no problem, but the stand was another issue. We went trekking through the mid-50s on the Eastside up into the mid-60s trying everyplace I had remembered seeing the stands. But, we got one of two answers 1) sorry we stopped carrying that a year ago, or 2) sorry we stopped carrying that four to six months ago.

After an hour and a half of searching we stopped at Mangia at 50 57th Street for lunch. Mangia has great salads and sandwiches for lunch. The salads were very good and the grilled vegetables were amazing.

The post-nourishment lead us to Rizzoli's Bookstore to peruse the art and design books, but did not make a purchase. We started back on our search and happened to stop into Fauchon for some chocolates, and to try our French on the Japanese staff (odd cultural blur). Then we were off to the Upper West side, beginning at Lincoln Center. We walked up West Broadway and stopped in Gracious Home, a wonderful "We have everything" home store. The did not have the desired monitor stand, but they did have an amazing tool section, lamp selection, kitchenware, and everything you could ever imagine with all of it seeming to be top quality and top brands. We stopped a few other places on the way to Zabars to look around and sample. By this point it was time to head back to rest up for dinner after stopping in nearly ten places that had the monitor stands in the past. At Work Stand on West Broadway, I finally had to tell somebody I was beginning to take this personally.

Our evening included dinner at MI, which was very good Asian fusion, with very slow service. We did happen to see Charlie Rose at dinner, which some how added to the dining experience. Next it was off to the Rise Bar on the 14th floor of the new Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park. The bar looks out across the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Jersey City, and from the outside deck up to where the Twin Towers stood. In all it was a great night with Joy's family and friends of hers and theirs. We did finally found a place that would order the monitor stand for us.

Sunday was another trek to Tal and off to find more cables to try to get an HP printer to talk with the new Dell. We also needed cables and a converter box to get the DVD player running. These efforts after our hunting left us with a working DVD player and a noncommunicative printer. This of course lead to lunch at the near-by Houston and then off to visit a new baby and his parents on the Upper East Side. It seemed like such a short visit before we had to get back and pick up our bags to head back home.

It was a jam packed weekend and once again I have a great place in my heart for NYC. The people in NYC definitely are now very friendly and courteous. This to me is a little un-nerving as I like the New York edge. But, it was also nice to have people being completely sweet and helpful at every turn.

February 16, 2002

I am feeling like Carrie Bradshaw as I look out the window and type on my Mac laptop, but that is about where the similarities end (thank my lucky stars). It is good to be in NYC, but it is a quick and filled trip of setting up a computer and home theater. A possible trip to SoHo and a couple other side stops.

Last night flying in I caught a bright light out of the corner of my eye, it was the WTC pit brightly light for work at night. I had made a conscious decision not to go down to there, but here I was flying right over and peering down in. I am staying with the brother-in-law that worked in the tower 2. I also got a flash back to 1990 on my first trip to NYC and meeting a friend in the Trade Center, which on my way back overheard a groupd of tower workmen singing "I've got the Power& by Snap. That scene was vivid in my head. It added a very different tone to the start of this NYC adventure.

It is looking like there may a trip to the Prada store today, as I mentioned it to Joy, who mentioned it to her sister. It could be 10 minutes of cool and then an hour or more of "what was I thinking". I used to love to shop, but now it is sort of eh.

February 14, 2002

This weekend it is off to NYC for a very short visit. I am setting up a computer, Internet connection, and DVD player for a relative. In late Friday, install (expecting to have to run out for cables and other items "not included") on Saturday day, get taken out to dinner for the duties provided, brunch and packup Sunday and return home. This may be the first trip to NYC that I have not had a huge desire to see something. The Cloisters would be nice or the Planaterium, but I just don't see it fitting in. Maybe I need regular visits to NYC, just to see friends and take in things I never have done. I now know a good smattering of folks in NYC, but I will see most of you in a couple weeks in Austin.

Joel explains the software development paradox when the technical folks and non-technical folks meet. I am very fortunate that I do not go through this at the moment, as I work for a client that understands the development process. I can not say that about every place I have been, but the developing a prototype in a few weeks that has rough functionality in it is light years from an actual product. The most important part of that next step is getting real data and getting a good understanding of the data and information you are working with as well as knowing what is to be done with said information. This being said is why many of us like using wireframes for interface development and not live GUIs (there are other reasons to use wireframes, but I will address that on another day, possibly real soon).
February 13, 2002

The Beeb discusses payment from mobile phones a reality and the affect this has on the marketplace. Once again the Beeb looks at many, if not all, sides of an issue. The money in the mobile adds a new payment system for merchants to track. The mobile is targeted at small charges that would be too small for credit cards, but ironically most people pay their mobile bills with credit cards.

Over at CommArts, Mary Brodie outlines the requirements for developing successful navigations and user experiences. One of the things Mary brings up is UMLi (The Unified Modeling Language for Interactive Applications). I know that Jesse is not a fan of UML, but I have found many of the concepts and models quite helpful to frame interactive interface issues.
February 12, 2002

Jesse offers part 3 of the ia/recon discussing the over reliance on user testing for everything. This may be my favorite of the three components Jesse has posted so far. User testing offers a great step up and helps to understand the users better. Understanding graphic design, application development, and information architecture will help to construct solutions to information structure and interface and interaction design problems that user testing offers little insight. User testing in these areas can help let us know we are on the right track, but it will not point us in the right direction as we have not offered the user these choices if we don't have the experience.

Web Page Design for Designers offers a browser size test that lets us choose the pixel size of the browser, Mac or PC, and IE or Netscape to view our pages. This tool is a great one for our tool belt. [hat tip xblog]

InfoWorld has an interview with the executive director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Dan Reed discussing the computing grid. This is somewhat like having an electric grid but the commodity is data. The grid's biggest hurdle is interacting with differing data types for essentially similar data. This he explains is bridged using metadata. The metadata needs are enormous. Understanding the information and data is paramount to the task and getting the system right.

Palm's Mac OS X Beta is seemed very bug free so far. I synched my HandSpring Platinum using the USB port quite easily. Now I am just waiting to have Microsoft's Entourage get the ability to synch. This will make going on the road and keeping everything up to date quite easy.

My Timbuk2 bag, built to order and in appropriate colors. This could be the most comfortable bag I have ever had. I had the bag loaded up today and it really was comfortable for the commute. The bag has a lot of room and is well padded. It was a great gift, even though I picked the build of the bag. The next time you need a bag give these folks a look, they are hand-made in San Francisco.

New item causing muscle memory issues. I had to get a new keyboard for my PC as many keys went out for good last night (a, s, d, e, f, g, h, j, left ctrl, delete and down page). This made for creative alternatives this morning. The keyboard started developing a personality a couple months ago, but always came back to life in 15 minutes or so. I got a MS Natural keyboard, which had really nice key movement. I am quite impressed. Being a touch typist (is it okay to say that?) I really like the feel of the humped center, as it really eases typing. I am not sure I like the directional arrow layout, but I will learn. I did give up a volume knob and a mute button (along with 20 other buttons I did not use), but oh well.
February 11, 2002

I have added two pages to help provide a guide for metadata usage. One page sorts categories by number of times the metadata definition has been used. The other page is an alphabetical listing of categories with their count. These two page builds took very little time to knock together (half an hour or so) and the value to me is much greater than that half hour used.

In following the ArsDigita closure, I have found many linking to a diary of a start-up, or how ArsDigita began. The goals and inspiration for the company are a place that many would want to work. Remembering back there seemed to me many places that had high-minded goals, but lost sight when money came in. Philip Greenspun also offers his take, which includes a great insight...
Spending time in the aviation world has given rise to some thoughts about why there are so few plane crashes and so many business failures. The FAA establishes strict guidelines on what training and experience is required before someone can be pilot-in-command in various situations (daytime, nighttime, instrument conditions, single engine, multiengine, turbine, all alone, one passenger, lots of passengers, etc.). The president of United Airlines can't hire his old college buddy and put him behind the yoke of a 747 because he has a good gut feeling that Biff can handle the job. Very seldom is a pilot legally able to get into a situation that is beyond his or her capabilities, training, and experience (JFK, Jr., for example, was flying in instrument meteorological conditions with only a visual flight rules rating; he was legally required to make an immediate U-turn and fly back into the clear). But in the business world the Peter Principle rules: people are promoted until they reach a job at their level of incompetence. Because there are no standards, it really isn't possible to say whether a person is unfit for a business job until and unless you give him or her the job. Afterwards it is tough to admit that you made a mistake and demote or fire the incompetent-at-that-level person.
This is very much a meritocracy mindset, which a lot of us that are in techinical fields hold to be true.

Now the fun begins. I can now sit on the sofa next to my wife, not only work on my laptop but have access to the Internet using Apple's Airport. Yes no wires attached and I have full througput of our DSL line.

This is enabling me to watch the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and alternate tasks. I have been more impressed with the ads during the opening ceremonies, much more so than the Super Bowl. My favorite so far is the multi-sport Nike ad. Hands down my favorite add I have seen in months, not saying much as I really do not watch too much television, as I prefer to watch the interesting bits off the Internet. You ask what made the Nike ad so impressive? Not only was it the transitions, the relationships between athletes and youth and amatures trying the same performance, and the visual beauty, with intermixing a steady camera and a moving shot. The cinematography was beautiful. Full marks.

Okay, O'Reilly Net has been offering a lot of good resources of late and I am a little behind in catching up.

Those of us that need a light weight database for a small project and are using Microsoft Windows often turn to Access to perform the task. Steven Roman offers his tips in how to set up an Access database. The best tip is right up front:

Don't touch your PC until you have taken the time to rough out a design of your database.
The tips keep coming and many of them apply to any other database development. Once I learned to think of information and metadata in a relational database format (which also helps with setting up XML documents) application development became easier. Understanding a little database design will also help ask the right questions when setting up an application, database, and/or project.

This article also helps define the limitations of Access databases. Each database will have its own limitations or peculiarities. Knowing these differences will help think about the application, information, and how they can and will be used is helpful.

February 7, 2002

DM Review provides a history of metadata and the future of metadata in one article, what more could you want. It is a good overview of the past tools and goals of metadata. Central to providing a solid information application is understanding the data and information we are working with. This understanding allows us to tie is to other information to give that data better depth and this is best done with metadata. Metadata help explains the data and allows for data to be tied (or joined) to other data.

An example would be putting together a quick view of all products sold in an ice cream truck. The driver has a small computer that captures all the sales he has makes throughout the day. At certain intervals he synchs his sales to a central computer so that he can easily stop back at the warehouse and stock up on items he is low on. The driver has sold 7 of ab4532 and 16 of tr78t in the past hour. He has had requests for pp887 too. This information is useful for the computers and the data has meaning, but it needs some metadata to know that he will need 7 of Abners Glow-cicles, 16 Tricky Rootbeer pops, a carton of covered paper cups. This metadata will help the person that will prepare these items for the driver's arrival at the warehouse. The "pp" indicates that a paper product is needed and the number following is its actual product code. The raw data now has meaning with tanks to the metadata.

CommArts features the Herman Miller Red site design, which includes User Experience and Information Architecture work of Nathan Shedroff (on of the Vivid Studio founders). I went to a session at last year's SXSW where Nathan presented an over view that is essentially the same as this, I am glad this is now on line as I can share it. This article provides a solid insight into decision making, workflow, and the purpose of wireframes.

An intriguing piece in the Mactopia section of the Microsoft site about Presentation tips from Dale Carnegie Training. The "plan" section reads:
  • Describe your audience as it relates to the topic ó their knowledge and experience, their needs, wants, and goals. Ask yourself, "What does my audience know about this topic?"
  • Define the purpose of your presentation as it relates to the outcome you seek. Is your intention to inform? Persuade? Motivate? Teach? When you clarify your purpose, you will more easily hit your target.
  • Plan the content of your presentation around your purpose and your audience's interest and level of understanding. Use words and phrases common to your audience, and focus on your purpose.
This sounds like it is straight out of a user centered design or user experience design article. This would even be at home in an advertising or public relations primer. Heck, it is just smart communication technique and one of the very basics, we must understand the user/audience.

I have a very strong feeling I am going to be living vicariously through Jay's site for the next few months or years. Jay is off to travel the world after leaving his job (well not really his choice), moving out, selling his possessions, and heading on the road then off to Europe. Sunday's posting was a great find and a wonderful travelogue piece.

Welcome folks venturing here from Digital Web. Information about last years SXSW Interactive Festival can be found in my March and April Off the Top entries. You will also want to check out the SXSWBaby group blog to help you make up your mind to go. You will have a great time and meet others that are passionate about the Web (you came here from Digital Web right?).
February 4, 2002

Do you build Web pages? Do you have Mac? Do you have to convert text to HTML/XHTML? If you answered yes (if you didn't you should see what you are missing) please go check out Dean Allen's AppleScript for writing on the Web. These should be wonderful additions to our tool belt.

There is a void of technology based television shows these days. I miss seeing and hearing what is new in technology, well maybe not. I have become very addicted to News.com's video snippets. One does need more than a dial-up modem to really love the streaming video. Seeing and hearing discussions, views from the exhibition hall floors (like LinuxWorld tour) and seeing leaders in their field and market discuss the topics of the day (like HP CEO, Carly Fiorina discuss HPs Linux strategy) really bring to life the news. News.com's news anchors really help get the most out of their guests. The video stream uses Real technology, which has its plusses and minuses, but it provides a great clean stream of the mostly talking heads and techology demonstrations.
February 3, 2002

Six Degrees software sounds like it may actually aid with knowledge management. The toughest part of knowledge management is getting the information and data into the KM system. This software's approach provides a cure to that at the desktop, where data and information are turned into digital knowledge. Joel has an overview of Six Degrees on his site.

Last Days of the Corporate Technophobe the NY Times headline reads. This article on how business is driven by information and the organization of information is paramount. The business world, or now those that did not "get it" before, is a knowledge-sharing and information processing realm. Those with out the ability are lost, or as this article states:

Not being able to use a computer in the year 2002 is like not being able to read in the 1950's.

This is important for us that create applications, Web sites, and other technologies. We have an important job in assisting the ease of information use and the process that helps this information become knowledge. Digging through the heaps of data can be eased so that the user can find the information that is important for their purposes. A large part of this job is creating an environment that will make for the ease of information use and mining the desired bits and bytes. A centralized or a minimum interconnected system of data stores that have the ability to keep information current across resources. Finding the snippets of information is often daunting in a large database centered system, but even worse in environments that have stores of segregated documents and data files (like MS Access). Information Architecture is vital to this effort assisting in helping create a navigatible structure of information. Looking at Google and its great improvements in vast information searching is the right direction also.

At the Saturday morning ritual car wash I read about Man Who Would Be God: Giving Robots Life in the NY Times. I was completely facinated. The focus is Steve Grand of Cyberlife Research Limited. His creations are artificial intelligence creatures.

Trying to play music CDs on your computer and they don't work? Neil McAllister explains the music labels don't want you to in the SF Chronicle. Those of us that like our music and believe we do have our "fair-use" rights to record music like we always have, from the days of albums and tapes to CDs and MP3s, should buy as much music that we can (keeping in mind the lack of the notice "Compact Disc Digital Audio"). Then return it and rightly state it is broken, as we can not play it on our computer. Who does not play music on their computer?

The current term the neighbor from the Graduate would say is "Web Services". If you have Mac OS X, then O'Reilly Net's "AppleScript Primer for Mac OS X" is your passage to understanding how to do Web Services today. This means you don't have to wait for the expensive .Net Framework as you have the the technology now.

I have been looking for a solid e-mail client for quite some time. I seem to have found one that I really like, MS Entouragge for Mac OS X. Entourage is much farther ahead of Outlook in that you can not only flag an e-mail, but set a reminder in your calendar to come back to that e-mail at a later time. The ability to set categories in addition to rules and other elements is a great help. I find it easy to use and work with.

The competition has left me cold to some degree. Netscape 6(plus) is light years ahead of version 4 (did not allow pulling from multiple e-mail sources), begins to really choke with a couple thousand e-mails in a folder (the downside of being on some wonderful listserves that are full of great information). Outlook Express does not permit archiving. Outlook on Windows has a muddled interface that works well with Exchange and that is not completely a plus.

In all I am very impressed with MS Office on Mac OS X. That is my "productivity tool" of choice. It loads faster and the application does not get in the way of doing what you want it to do, although "Clippy's" cousin is alive and still annoying.

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