February 27, 2003

Mister Rogers has died

Mister Rogers has died at the age of 74. I learned a lot from his shows and as an adult would watch the shows when I was home sick. He taught kids (and adults) not only about the world around them, but how to care for others.

I have known folks who knew him personally and said he was just the same in real life as he is on the show. This is one of the best role models for kids that has ever been on television and it is wonderful to know he is just as nice and caring off the camera.

February 24, 2003

Information Accessing and Browsing book

I am really enjoying Accessing and Browsing Information and Communication by Rice, McReadie, and Chang from MIT Press. I am less than 100 pages into this academic review and assessment of how people approach, find, assess, and retain information. The book is wonderful as it takes an cross section of academic disciplines and the research from them on browsing information and information use. The book is uncovering new pools of information in the library sciences, organizational communication, and knowledge management fields that help one better understand how people find and process information. There is a lot of information that is echoing the Model of Attraction approach to user and information relationships as well as helping to better refine the approach (there are some updates to the MoA that I have clarified in the last three weeks, and this reading is helping gell).

I may write a full review when I finish the book. I am reading the book on the train to and from work at the moment. I may need to read at home so I can check information that is being referenced.

February 22, 2003

Neal Stephenson has Quicksilver on shelves in September 2003

Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver is slated for release in September 2003. I am anxiously awaiting this book. Hopefully the book arrives at the beginning of September as things may be a little busy after that.

February 19, 2003

WaSP Buzzing

The current Buzz is that the Web Standards Project is growing and offering a new perspective and as is noted in the WaSP press release I am now a member of the WaSP clan. This takes advantage of what I already do in my free time, try to build a better Web and work on structuring information for use and reuse. This is smart group dovetails very nicely with the smart group of information architects that absorb another chunk of my free time.

Mobile phones offer better control of communication

The Beeb offers Mobiles let you control your life. Increasingly the mobile phone has given people the ability to control their communication flow and their information streams. I can relate to this as I use my mobile as my primary phone, actually I have two mobiles and one is my mobile information access point. I use the my voice mobile for talking with friends, family, and work, but it works wonderfully as it does a much better job with voicemail than my work phone. I use the other phone, the Hiptop for mobile e-mail to have needed information at my fingers and to send notes to my self that are easily used from e-mail. The Hiptop also offers the ability to touch base with coworkers and digital friends as well as keep up with reading off the Web. I agree with the article I have better control of my communications with these mobile devices. I am also getting closer to having information attracted to me so that the information is there when I need it.

Understanding Referrer Systems

Rashmi Sinha's Recommender Systems overview on Sig-IA is a great overview of the tools used to bring information closer to those that may have an interest in that information. Essentially this gets to the heart of the Model of Attraction. Recommender Systems can provide tools that group information through links that are based on others similar interests. Finding information is what many spend much time doing. Lessening this time and providing methods to predict interests are helpful. This of course takes patterns. Patterns need a breadth of data to be useable.

In particular you may be interested in Rashmi Sinha's "Interaction Design for Recommender Systems". [hat tip Matt]

February 18, 2003

Bethesda February 2003 snow photos

My snow photos from February 16th to 18th are now posted in the photo section.

I posted this round of photos with Apple iPhoto 2. I did all the editing in iPhoto and created the gallery and their export from within iPhoto. I was somewhat pleased with the results. The output from iPhoto creates decent HTML markup with "alt" tags. The doctype is not exact, but there is one there.

February 17, 2003

Yes we have snow

Snow update. After four rounds of shovelling yesterday I took the night off. We went to open the front door's storm door this morning and it was blocked. This means it was more than 5 inches of new snow and sleet last night. We were able to open the kitchen storm door enough to grab the snow shovel and dig off the landing outside that door. The snow next to the landing was even to its height, over three feet high. This is from shovelling and drifting. I had dug out paths from the kitchen to the garage and carved out a ledge six to eight inches up to keep snow from falling back into the paths. The paths are now indistinguishible from the ledges. I am enjoying the view out the office window. Pictures to come.

BBS 25th Anniversary

It is the 25th Anniversary of BBS. The BBS or Bullitin Board Systems were dial-in digital resources for software, discussions, patches, hacks, games, sounds, and other digital goodies. The BBS' were run by hosts that gave out the phone number to their service, some charged and others were free. These were great resources that offered a glimpse of what was to come with the Internet. The BBS' were all test based and companies grew up around providing software to run the services. One company Mustang Software (or Mustang Software description) seemed to have the corner on the hot and easy to use BBS' by the early '90s. Oh, those were the days, but do I want to go back? No, I like where things are now.

February 16, 2003

Snowing for real this time

I am about to give up shovelling show. I have been out four times already to shovel. Now it is snowing harder than at any point yet. We woke to about 8 inches of new snow this morning and I have shovelled two or three inches with each new venture out. As you can see the roads are not too clear (this traffic cam is a few fee from our house) and have not been all day. We took the truck out about two hours ago to return movies due back and to pick up some paper products from the grocery store. The roads were not in great shape, people are walking in the road, people had abandoned cars and SUVs in the roadway. It seems that we have 15 to 18 inches of snow already with the heavy snow just beginning and is expected to stay heavy for a few hours. The snow will start to subside tomorrow mid-day the reports are saying.

Good thing we have cornish hens and fixings for dinner tonight.

February 15, 2003

Mahi Mahi with fresh pineapple salsa

This morning I ran some errands to get out of the house before the heavy snow started (never really had heavy snow today). I stopped by Whole Foods and picked up items for dinner tonight and tomorrow night.

This evening I made seared mahi mahi with a fresh homemade tomato, pineapple, and roasted Anaheim chili salsa and a dollop of fresh made guacamole with a side of baby spinach. I was very happy with the results of the mahi mahi as I had not made it or the fresh salsa since I left San Francisco.

The salsa is made with two seeded and diced tomatoes, two green onions chopped, about one cup of thinly sliced fresh pineapple, the juice of one lemon or lime, one and a half tablespoons of fresh roughly cut cilantro, and one roasted and skinned and seeded anaheim chili and salt to taste. Mix ingredients in a bowl and mix and blend with your hands, gently squeezing the ingredients to mix the juices.

To make the mahi mahi warm a pan on the stove an cut the mahi mahi into third pound pieces. Once the pan is warm add olive oil and heat it until until it lightly splatters when a drop of water is added (this should be long before the oil smokes). Add the fish to the pan to sear one side and spoon over a large spoon of the salsa over the fish. Cover the pan to help steam the fish. This should cook three to four minutes. Uncover the pan and brush off the salsa and turn the fish with tongs to the opposite side and spoon salsa over the previously seared side. Cover the pan and cook for two to three more minutes. Serve with more salsa spooned over top and a dollop of guacamole on the side.

Still missing a French Bisto in Bethesda

We went to Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda for lunch today as we had an itch for Bistro food on this lightly snowy day. The food was good, but I would not call it French. The restaraunt looks like it should be sitting in the Latin Quarter in Paris and the fresh baguette is warm and wonderful, but it seemed to stop there. Joy and I really wanted French Onion soup (Gratinee des Halles). We ordered the a bowl each. Have you ever wished there was much more cheese on your Gratinee? Well MAG gives it too you as there is a plethora of cheese. I now understand the balance of just the right amount of cheese to create a wonderful soup, like the one at Balzar in Paris or even the one at Bistot du Coin in DC. We tried to figure out what the type of broth was used as it was much lighter than any I have had before.

Our lunch entrees were a chicken and mushroom crepe for Joy and I had a Croque Monsieur. The crepe was larger than our forearm and had large chunks of chicken. The taste was good, but the size and texture was off. The Croque was stuffed with ham as if it was made in a Jewish deli in New York City. Again the balance of ingredients was way off.

The food seems like it is what a Mid-Westerner would create if they had been to France once for a few days many years before. The portions are huge and the balance of ingredients were way out of whack. If I was not looking forward to a good French bisto meal I may have liked it a little more. The look of the place is right but the food is very American, very big American. I will gladly take Bistrot du Coin any day, even with the drive and parking hassle.

One for the sniffer

Last night I went shopping at a normal supermarket (not a Whole Foods store, Trader Joes, or the occasional Sutton Gourmet) as I needed deoderant and contact cleaner and I know the prices are lower than the pharmacies. I was disappointed that they did not have my deoderant. I have been wearing the same deoderant for years, decades even and it was no go. It was one of those moments when you see the spot where it should be and it is empty all the way to the back. I started checking all the other shelves and end of aisle displays. For years I had two to five extra sticks of the same old stand by scent just incase I ran out and the store ran out. Joy told me the store would never run out. Well the store ran out and I was too tired to go to any other store. I sniffed the three other deoderants (I don't wear anti-perspirant, which is another story all toghether and for good reason and wished I did as there are 20 options for other anti-perspirants) that the store did have in stock. Old Spice was not the ticket, Sea Breeze scent was tangy, and I went with Lightening. I have no idea what scent lightening is, but I did know I did not smell like me today and it really bugged me. I smelled like a bad day at the scent factory. I really want my old scent back, it has been normal since I was 15 or 16 years old. I may go back to hoarding sticks in the future too so this never happens again.

Oh yes, I have issues.

Apple upgrade make things zippy

I have upgraded Apple's upgraded beta of Safari, X11 upgrade, and Mac OS X 10.2.4. These upgrades have my Mac zipping along again. I am not sure what happens with each upgrade, but the performance improves on my TiBook with each upgrade. I have yet to have any buggy nature with an Apple upgrade. On Windows every few upgrades from Microsoft would cause a minor or extravagant disaster and never did it make the machine run faster. Have I ever said how much I love Apple?

February 11, 2003

Extending Dreamweaver MX for PHP

O'Reilly Net offers Getting Dreamweaver MX Up to Speed with PHP, which discusses how to get and build the Dreamweaver extension you need to build PHP-based sites. Macromedia is now charging for the newest extensions (their perogative), but this article points out how to get the extensions you need for sessions and authentication.

Build your ideal creative team and other articles

Boxes and Arrows serves up three great articles right now. George Olsen shares his R&D (Relevant & Desirable article discussing the need for vision driven design in user-centered design. Scott McDaniel offers up What's Your Idea of a Mental Model?. My favorite of this current bunch is Erin Malone's Modeling the Creative Organization in which Erin walks through how to put together her idea of an ideal creative team. Her discussion is provides insight into a great approach.

February 10, 2003

Tivo for the ears in Audio Hack

I finally found an application that does what I have been wanting one to do for some time. Audio Hijack for Mac OS X allows one to grab audio audio files and save them to AIFF. The audio can be coming from a DVD player, Flash files, or streaming audio. I have been seeking this to pull streaming audio of some of my favorite radio shows (Studio 360 and Marketplace) and timeshift them or more importantly play them with out an Internet connection or radio when travelling or commuting. Audio Hack has a timer to record at any time, so it is much like a Tivo for digital audio.

February 9, 2003

Europeans recycle satellites

Europeans are known to be recyclers. Now it is satellites that Europe is thinking of recycling. The Beeb reports The European Space Agency can reuse satelites for digital radio. The mobile digital services like OnStar and digital radio can be performed by older satellites. This is much less expensive than floating new birds.

Content management interview with Bob Bioko

Elearningpost interviews CMS wiz Bob Bioko. The article has an e-learning bent to it, but it is a great interview discussing content management. I really enjoy Bob's approach as it separates information from technology and stresses the importance of understanding the information and its needs prior to digging into the technology. This is brought out in this quote from the interview:

Firstly, technology changes a lot and focusing on technology is not the right thing to do. What's really important to me is figuring out what exactly you want from your learning system or information system. From my point of view, I have certain information resources that I would like to deliver to certain people in a certain way. That's not a technology question. That's not about what system I have. Rather its about what information do I have, who wants it and how do I deliver that information in the best possible way. Now obviously I would need a system to do that, but the infrastructure follows from the need I have, not the other way around.

When someone makes the decision the other way around, focusing on the platform, the software, the features etc., they limit and constrain themselves to what the system allows them to do. This is not to say that technology wont be a determining factor in what you actually have to, its just that technology should be a response to the problem not a definer of the problem.

Two other bon mots in this article include discussions of "context management" and the perenial question of "build versus buy".

February 8, 2003

Microsoft gets an F for security and consumers pay

Security experts give Microsoft an 'F' CNN reports, but some experts are pointing to Apple as being more secure. One of the experts will be switching to Mac as he finds his wife's never gets viruses Mac.

I was supprised when Bank of America embraced Microsoft OS for its ATMs and services. My first thought was that they did not understand security or care about their customer's digital information. When I was changing banks my first consideration was digital security. I seem to have been thinking correctly this time as it seems the Slammer virus hit major company's resources using Microsoft OS and Bank of America had serious problems. As our society moves more toward digital interactions we need a secure framework and Microsoft has never provided that and appears it never will. The regular people who depend on the digital systems are the ones who suffer and the economy takes a huge hit with every Microsoft failure. We really need to stop the reliance on Microsoft now.

February 4, 2003

Moblogging and Joe Average persona

The Online Journalism review offers up Moblogging the next big thing, which brings "Joe Average" into play. I am not sure Joe Average would want a Hiptop or find a use for a Hiptop. I do like the idea of the Smartmobs, but it is not for everybody.

In a discussion at the DC IA book reading group (this time it was The Tipping Point) we ventured on the topic of using mavens as a persona candidate. The person said they were looking for somebody less adept at finding information, like a "Joe Average". This is often how many of us build personas we go for the less adept, or make sure they are represented across our personas. The discussion later came to how to keep the mavens intrigued, which is also a valid discussion.

Fusebox FLiP's for user centered design approach

While going through the Fusebox application development site (a coding framework for ColdFusion, J2EE, PHP, and ASP that helps separate coding from presenation by building reusable components and templates) I stumbled upon FLiP. The Fusebox Lifecycle Process (FLiP) section focusses on application development and project management "best practices". FLiP the steps are Personas and Goals, Wireframe, Prototype / Front-End Development, Application Architecting, FuseCoding, Unit Testing, Application Integration, and Deployment.

I was so happy to see personas, wireframing, prototyping, and application architecting as well as the suggested order. This is the path I have found to provide the best path for success. I was introduced to this process in the very early 1990s when working on a project to replace a mainframe application and moving it to the PC. The approach seemed solid and achieved some quick results with few hiccups. That approach has stayed with me and the focus on the user being the extremely important. Application developers often want to jump right into the coding and interface designers want to start crafting the visual design. Doing either with out proper understanding can easily lead to complications that are costly to correct.

The field of information architecture structures its approach to development on these tasks and roles. A great overview for application development is wonderfully laid out in Jesse James Garrett's The Elements of User Experience. Many that build applications have become familiar with these steps. Those wanting to learn programming and application development have found this the user-centered design approach is a great preparation. Why? Once the users are defined, the information structure defined, the interaction elements outlined, the interface outlined, and the framework for the application decided upon the coding becomes easy to focus upon. The coding portion of development becomes much easier because the interactions for the users are defined and the coding solutions are largely pre-defined.

February 3, 2003

Hiptop helps show extending the model of attraction

I am already enjoying my Hiptop for much of the reason that I picked it up. I wanted access to information. More importantly I wanted information to be able to follow me. I found information or thought of information I really have been wanting to have access to that information from where ever I am. I wanted the ability to share the information from where I was and have others be able to use that information to better their understanding.

Yes, I have had cellphones and have called others, but the information is not that useable in voice form. The information needed to be convered to data elements that could easily be used and reused. Voice only (at the current time) allows us to hear then act upon the information and not store that information in a searchable repository or to easily share that information back out.

Yes, I have PDAs (Palm-based handhelds), but they need to synch with other devices to share information and the e-mail capabilities were not the best around. The 3rd party applications on the Palm and the fantastic operating system that is fast and small are great features that will be hard to beat by anybody.

I have been looking for a solution to have the information I wanted when I want or need it in my hands. The Hiptop gets me much closer to that goal. I tend to use e-mail to share ideas with myself and others. This weblog is another method of doing the same. Being able to search for an address and get a map is a solid tool to have at all times.

This is a personal quest to have the Model of Attraction (MoA) extend back to myself. The MoA not only helps us think about the attration between the user and information during the finding tasks, to help improve findability, but in phase where the user wants information to stay attracted to them. My Hiptop is my information attraction device. I can push an e-mail to myself that has the name, address, time, and phone number needed to do to a party with friends that have come in from out of town. I can access my Amazon Wishlist when I am in a store to help remember the author or title of a book, CD, or DVD I have been seeking. This bookstore amnesia (or musicstore amnesia) can be a thing of the past. The Hiptop provides me the information in my hand and gives me the access to the information I do not have at hand wirelessly.

There will be some experiments to see if I can improve on the information attraction to keep the information closer to me. Am I getting rid of my Palm? No, as there is information in it that I prefer in the format it is in. I will be keeping my cell phone as it has great reception and is CDMA (I found having a non-dominant cell phone technology is an advantage during emergency times, like being in San Francisco during September 11, 2001, which is a TDMA and GSM dominant city. I was one of a few that had no problem getting a signal to call out). It is rather awkward having three devices with through out the day. We will see how it goes.

February 2, 2003

Tweaking the presentation layer for links

We are still doing some tweaking related to the recent redesign. This latest change includes the underlining of links. The style sheet now treats the distinct content area separately. The links page does not have any underlining on the links as the page is all links and the underlining tends to interfere with the user's scanning of the links and therefore the lack of underlining eases this pages use. The hover is identical for all the links through out the site, the hover provides an orange hue to tie the colors of the site together. The right content frame does not have any links either as the combination of the light orange background and the blue link has a little reading difficulty, but with the underlining there was strong reading hinderance. The links through the rest of the site are all underlined to ease the user's ability to discern that the links can be clicked. The links under the Off the Top remain grey with underlining with orange hover.

Let me know how these work for you.

Cell phones burn holes in brain cells

Cell phones cause brain damage? This has long been a discussion, but until know is has been a subjective argument. A new study examines cell phones burning holes in rat's brains. Humans don't have the brains of rats, but our grey cells are very similar.

Me, I perfer my speaker phone on my cell phone for driving and general conversation as it keeps my hands free to do other things. It seems I may be keeping other things safe also. I do have friends that that have developed tumors on their head near their ear and jaws, and yes they were regular users of cell phones. The type of cell phone seems to play a role also.

February 1, 2003

iPhoto 2 Reviews and automated photo gallery building

I started using iPhoto 2 last night and found it to be a nice improvement from the previous version. I did not use the first version often as it was not how I wanted to do things. The new release is very usable and I have imported many of my monthly archives into iPhoto and have used the enhance to bring out some nice touches. The Enhance tool is not quite perfect or consistent yet, but it is well worth a try on every photo as you can command-Z it right back.

James Duncan Davidson shares his 12 Hours with iPhoto 2 and Derrik Story offers his review in iPhoto 2, it's mostly good news. These two review offer a solid insight into the solid program that Apple is offering.

My next step is to test the build HTML page option, which is something I am missing at the moment on my Mac. I want good clean code, thumbnails build with ease, the ability to caption and "alt tag" the photos. My favorite application is Paul Bausch's snapGallery (does not or did not provide thumbnail option, but it was great clean and valid code that was easy to tweak) and closely followed by PhotoShop auto-generate gallerys option (this has a wonderful look and builds reduced versions of the main photos and thumbnails). I have not picked up PhotoShop for the Mac yet, but may do the Cross-Platform upgrade as I miss it. I will post the results of my postings in the near future.

Previous Month

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.