Off the Top
Random notes and rants.





OtT Archives

Sunday, September 30, 2001
I could explain why I have not updated in a few days, but that would mean I would have to remember I was dog tired, stayed in on a Friday night cleaning, entertained family then worked and ran errands on Saturday, and dropped off family at the airport then ran errands and worked on a Sunday. I am not ready to divulge that, so you all will just have to deal. This also means that I have a plethora of links that have built up that I want to post.

Top 10 usability guidelines for wap applications from the folks at Openwave (formerly They also have a decent selection of links on their technical resources page.

A companion piece to this may be designing effective user interfaces for wireless devices, which outlines the basic limitations of wireless.

You are still interested in wireless? Then you need to understand How to get information to mobile devices.

Cooper - Interaction Design uses a mobile deployment to illustrate focussing on the users and how they will best make use of what the developers are intending. Cooper calls it a goal directed approach. Cooper's Gretchen Anderson discusses making use of user research. This brings us back to the ethnographic studies of users that we have become so familiar with of late. Yes, this is the same Cooper that writes the books.

IBM offers rapid application development with CSS and XHTML. Like many of the articles in the IBM Developerworks area, this one is well written and offers an abundance of links.

On a side note I am amazed at folks that do not separate the systems, content, and display on their sites to this day. Having portable separating the applications and systems is seeming ever more important these days too. Why? There are many that have chosen an operating system, application development platforms, and applications to store and provide the presentation layer information that are joined at the hip. Microsoft has tied many folks into this predicament and they really desire to move to a more secure platform, but that requires rewriting everything. Building with Perl, PHP, Java, etc. for the application development platform allows one to pick up an move the application with relative ease to any other OS. Storing the information in a database that is not directly tied to the folks that make your operating system will enable you to pick up and move to a broad choice of operating systems and systems platforms. Where systems remain to have problems communicating, use XML to communicate. Portable solutions are very key in this day and age. One day mobility will be a wonderful option too. Applications that are systems agnostic will get you farther than applications that are devoted to one way of doing things.

I knew it would have to happen one day, The Internet is now a dominant tool for regular people or so claims Dan Bricklin.

The wonderfully sweet Rebecca points to a wonderful interface that produces a wonderful way to tunnel into new books that are tangentially related to your interests. I am not how many folks would understand the interface, but I really enjoyed playing with it and foraging through the resulting discoveries.

The folks at Microsoft and Cal offer optimizing search results in context [link from Lou Rosenfeld].

A good overview on the uses of Groove and some other P2P developments.

The view from Forbes of what future of technology and it is coming to you.

A quick and well linked review of weblogs if you were not familiar with them before.

Web Review offers the insight into 10 mistakes in site planning. The number one mistake is not knowing your audience. Guess what is first on your list? Yep, getting to know your audience.

I did run across one of my favorite alternative Web interfaces on Will's Web Page. I stumbled across this at least two years ago as I was following links off the Keble College's site.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Tony Fernandez gets it, explaining that winning products come about when technology is focused on people. The industry has been so focussed on technology and what it can do for you. The focus has been slightly backward, as many of the time saving products were not developed with the use in mind. As many of has encouraged others in the technology arena, technology can help ease people lives, but the user has to be part of the focus. If a product is not useable, is it a product? Who cares if it can do amazing things (okay maybe I do) it is not those that will be targeted to use it.

An article by Jennifer McFarland in the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Journal explains how to help understand the user with a Consumer Anthropologist. Those of us that enjoyed the "social sciences" of communication, sociology, anthropology, etc. has a decent head start on understanding the world around us and how people use information and make decisions. A great precursor to this article, also from HBS, by Richard Bierck is The Manager's Guide to Communicating with Customers Collection (or know thy customer). This article get into understanding how your customer (user) thinks. Does your customer understand your messages? Do they understand your product? How do you need to better focus what you offer to make a better connection between you and your customer?

This is for those of us that help provide the services to build to applications and to help you understand your customer, The Art of Business: Coping with the Client from Hell. This is for the rough clients. Most clients are gems, or at least have the potential to be wonderful. But, occasionally there are ones that are better left alone.

Turning back to the world of terror, The Washington Post highlights the professor guiding Bush's speech. David F. Forte understands the perversion of the Muslim faith that bin Laden uses to pull people from what is right with much of the Islamic religion and turn to a world of terror. The stretch of the religion seems so thin that these terrorists are a disgrace to all that call themselves Muslim. They has stolen the Islamic belief from people for their own glory. Bin Laden and his ilk are the Reverend Jim Jones' of Islam, only far worse.

N2S:: This is how to get to Bookpool.

Amazon does an amazing job of providing recommendations for books, music, and DVDs/videos for me. They fell off the dock when providing software recommendations. I just bought Macromedia Dreamweaver for Windows (which I like, even though I prefer to code by hand) and now they suggest I buy it bundled with Fireworks, the Macintosh version, and an upgrade version. No people. I just bought it. Hello. (I just needed a mini rant).

Tuesday, September 25, 2001
Indi Young discusses the importance of user experience on the Modcom (Modern Communications) site.
My chronological clock is messed up as I thought yesterday was Tuesday and today was either Monday or Wednesday. This was largely caused by not enough playing this past weekend. I am finally ready to sleep normal hours, now if I could just feel rested when I wake.

Now available is DigitalWeb issue that focuses on User Experience. As is always the case every article is well worth your time. The interview this month is with the folks of CarbonIQ. The experience and links mentioned in the interview are well worth the time to read (not scan) the piece. Christopher Schmitt provides an insightful overview of what is in your web's log files (mmm, web log files a place with abundant goodies).

Peterme discusses hierarchy and facets and how to use these approaches to help users get to the information that they want. The accompanying links are an added bonus to the posting.

IBM provides Object, View and Interaction Design (OVID) articles to help with Ease of Use (an IBM product feature area). IBM also offers a User-Centered Design area, which has a very good over view of what is needed.

The Information & Design folks offer updated offerings in their Usability Toolkit (the various components run down the left navigation bar).

Flow Interactive Limited puts forth answers to the question Why is the user experience important? I tend to cover the broad spectrum of information application (including Web) development and the steps that help the most in keeping costs inline and having products the provides the user's with their client's intended result is the information architecture/user experience design tasks. These answers help reiterate what most of us that have been around for more than a short while have found.

Need a bag that makes a statement?

Sunday, September 23, 2001
A lot happens over the first week in September and I happened to be away. I am just catching up on some of the minor changes in life. I usually watched CNet on television on either Saturday or Sunday. Today I went digging and found CNet cancelled their show on CNBC. I was a little bumbed, but found that I enjoy CNET radio. I really enjoyed driving around listening to CNET in the car while I was in San Francisco.

Lou Rosenfeld provides a wonderful interview with Peter Bogaards, who is behind InfoDesign blog on the Web. The interview provides insight into a volunteer community developed and maintained site as well as keeping the site fresh.

IBM's Developerworks reminds Webmaster's to pay attention to their users. This article provides the maxim "Every complaint represents ten thousand users", which may be over kill, but it is very important to look at each problem as if it is just the tip of the iceberg of complaints.

If you have not been to IBM's Usability pages it would be well worth your time.

When you travel do you miss your greater than dial-up connection at home and/or work? Add to your tool kit before you book a hotel and check if there is a Geektel where ever you are going. (Thanks Matt for the reminder.)

I stumbled upon Web Page Design for Designers business links the other day and found it a rather good collection of links, many of them I point others to rather often.

I also restumbled upon Deconstructing found in InfoWorld (a PHP driven site). Deconstructing is a product of Lou Rosenfeld and John Shipple.

Saturday, September 22, 2001
N2S:: Avocet 40 cyclecomputer calibration chart from Sheldon Brown. (For future reference I stared setting at 81.02.) The Web is great for finding things like these calibration charts for a product I bought in 1991 or '92.
Charles is providing a very broad perspective of the recent past terror, the current state of things, and a glimpse of the future. A global perspective is what we need. Ignorance and arrogance has never been a great combination, whether in the workplace or in the world's face. To paraphrase Aristotle, "the unexamined life is not worth living" and I would offer that an unknowing world (one that does not know its neighbors that share all the surface of the earth) does not understand living.

The times ahead seem to be similar to the time I spent in the UK and other parts of Europe in the late 1980s where bombings and terror attacks were a possibility. I witnessed guards on the Champs-Elysˇes clicking the safeties on and off on their semi-automatic weapons then bruskly chuckle to each other as people walk past that fit the racial profile of the groups that were bombing police stations. This, at the time did not cause ease within myself. I was regularly asked to dump my carry-on bags, occasionally asked to step off to the side to be frisked, and nearly always asked a myriad of questions when crossing the boarder to the UK. On my way back home I asked the border security officers, which was one of my longer security diversions, why this kept happening? I was told by security that I fit the description of an IRA suspect for which they had been searching. When I returned to the US I was not comforted by the liberties, but felt a little less safe. I never have looked the same way at a briefcase left on a bus or a paper sack forgotten at a counter.

Has this changed how I look at others? Perhaps it brings me to lover others more as the acts of aggression seem to stem from a feeling of lack of love, feeling of separation between parties, sense of disrespect, the deprivation of property, the deprivation of freedom, and/or the deprivation of liberty. I can not redress many of these issues, but I can offer love and try to understand. Once we have understanding we can hopefully try to mend the fences. When all this fails we as people turn to an eye-for-an-eye system where nobody remembers if the score is even or not.

Friday, September 21, 2001
I am still having problems with words and tying ideas together. It works when I am talking (or so I think), but my hands are somewhat failing me. I am tring to post links, but can not remember if they were posted prior and lacking a search component for this site I keep losing what I am looking for here.

In another world Christina asked mommy, where do blue links come from? This greatly helped the mood of my day and some of the folks I work with.

A child has to learn to hate, we are told over and over. The child's perspective to love untainted by adult hate and narrow-minded fears is a treasure of plenty. To see a child smile and giggle at the joy of new things, warms a heart. To remember there are loving children the world around that know not to hate but respond to love, this is the world we all need to think of in the days ahead and through the future. To see a child filled with fear from people who have hate, tears me deep inside because it does not need to be. Love knows no color. Love knows no lanuage. Love knows us all.

Does love seem lost on the arrogant and proud? If so, how does this come to change.

I greatly empathize with Jeffery.

Thursday, September 20, 2001
Jamye over at Silvergull is seeing through the fog of terror and shares the experience.

I finally ran spell check on my posts that I put up while I was away. OUCH. I need a spell check in my TravelBlog and I need to reread posts when I am dead tired (although I don't always know I am that tired).

Tuesday, September 18, 2001
Tom Cosgrave is heading home. This is very good news for him.

The latest Internet virus has been brutal. I can not believe folks using Microsoft servers did not learn their lesson yet. The attacks this sucker sets are amazing.

I had a Mirror Project posting from the SF trip. I really need to get the rest of the pictures up on line. I ran some through an initial trip through PhotoShop last night, but now I just need to shrink the file size.

Those of you using HomeSite to code pages and are using PHP will be happy to know (if you did not already) there is a resource for add-on components to make you job more fun and accurate.

O Reilly has partnered to put more books on line in electronic format. The Safari Tech Books looks to be a great resource, particularly now that the selection is so broad.

The idea of computing taking over all aspects of life has a little dent in its appearance this past week or so, but a great article on pervasive computing is worth your time to get the juices flowing.

Monday, September 17, 2001
Mark Newhouse captures part of the social happenings and yours and hers truly. While Nick Finck captures many of the names of people I got to meet also (there were some differences in this list, of course).

Soon to add my own photos from Web2001 and other photos from the trip.

I am still stuck in some sleep time warp. This is very reminiscent of the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco with the stress and then sleep crash.

If you have not found it yet nixlog has infographics of the disasters. A view of what lies ahead from the Washington Post, Afghanistan: A Nightmare Battlefield, which seems like another war we could never win. It seems like rounding up the 100 to 200 of Bin Laden's cell leaders and deputies would be easier.

Christina is back putting forward IA matters.

The New York times had a light tech article from last Thursday.

O'Reilly has released the DocBook under GNU License, offers Confessions of an Accidental Programmer as an intro to its Perl for Website Management, and a 2nd edition of Web Design in a Nutshell is due out within weeks and is said to have been largely rewritten with mostly new content.

Sunday, September 16, 2001
At the moment Tom Cosgrave is in a bit of a bind and may need a shoulder and a little more. I am hoping Jessamyn arrives home safely soon. There are many more that I met in person that I have found are still in transit to their homes. I wish peace to them all.
I am home at last. I got to see Pittsburgh, PA on my way back, which seems like a good place to visit again.

The airport was quite busy yesterday it took over four hours to get to the ticket counter from getting in line before 5am. The security is very high as they were checking many of the check in bags by hand and all the carry-on bags. Each person was checked twice with the regular metal detector and then a wand and pat-down search. The gate areas were very quiet.

I am very glad to be home.

Friday, September 14, 2001
Once again my flight was cancelled. I am going to try stand-by tomorrow as the flights are getting more regular throughout the day. I have a scheduled flight Sunday, which I hope will get me home.

I may go to the gathering in Golden Gate Park this afternoon, which Megan mentioned.

Peace and hugs.

Thursday, September 13, 2001
I should be heading home Friday. It has been wonderful to have such great friends in San Francisco to stay with and have community. I am extremely thankful that so many friends in NYC and DC are safe. I am still rattled and don't really want to watch another replay on television again. I would like to see my wife, family, and friends on the East Coast, which I am hoping should come as early as Friday night.

My heart goes out to all those who have personally felt loss in this tragedy.

I have been warmed by the global heartfelt sorrow that has been reaching us regarding this horror. I really am speechless and look forward seeing and touching friends at home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001
I am still in San Francisco and have heard from most of my New York and DC friends and all are well. Some have amazing stories and most of us are still shaken. I am really missing not being with my wife at times like these. The net is enabling many of us to keep in touch and share gentle humanity.

I am fortunate to have many friends here in San Francisco and to be staying with my friend Rob, one of my friends I grew up with who lives in SF.

Peace and hugs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001
New York City and Washington, DC have been attacked. Joy is safe north of DC and our brother-in-law Bob is okay also as he worked in what was the World Trade Center. I am still in San Francisco and not sure at the moment how I will get back home, I may have to drive or take a train.

It may be time to go pull some cash out.

Monday, September 10, 2001
CNet offers an opinion on building better wireless applications. Focussing on the user and how they work with the wireless devices is critical.

My desire is better inter connectivity with other devices so that I can choose how to use the information. I am constantly trying to reuse, for e-mail or posting in the log so that I can find it later and share with others, information I read on various services supplied by Avantgo, which I find to be a great service for me. The interconnection with my PC or to push the link (URL at a minimum) to my PC when I synch or via e-mail to my self would be a great assistance. Currently I am very limited to the reuse of that information that may help me do my job better and may be of assistance to others.

Sunday, September 2001
Also in the NY Times OpEds Maureen Dowd points out the media, the President, and Congress all love Big Business. There is something in this that seems like it would extend the right to free press, but it seems that the press, government, and big business are all one happy family. Who is left to oppose and offer informed opposition to protect "The People". "We the People..." begins one of the U.S. most important founding documents, yet the people may no longer actually be heard or considered in the decision making process. (These are just open thoughts and concerns.)
Sometimes the Economy Needs a Setback OpEd in the NY Times by James Grant, is a rather straightforward assessment of the boom correction. Those of us that watched the boom in the 80s and its demise in 1987 could see this one coming.

There is nothing like a 3 hour lunch with very interesting folks to help keep ones sanity.

I am still in sleep deprived mode. Last night was Fray Day 5, which provided great laughter and introspection from the story tellers, then bathed in wonderful music from the Walkingbirds. I was so happy to hear the Walkingbirds live, but about the point they came on I found my synapse slowing their firing processes and knew it was time to find the horizontal holding pattern.

This morning I dropped Joy at the airport then made the pilgrimage to the Pork Store for a great breakfast. Following this I trekked up to the top of Filmore Street to catch some of the San Francisco Gran Prix bike race, which includes Lance Armstrong. From there it was off to Green Apple Books and found Richard Saul Wurman's Information Architects (thanks Christina for the heads-up) and Stuart Brand's How Buildings Learn.

One of the things that I has been reaffirmed is the small world that the Web has created. I had lived with this experience since 1996. Even though the world around us tries to tell us that the Web was over-rated it can not take away the extended realm of friends that one makes over the Web or because of the passion to build a better Web. This week in SF has built tactile hyperlinks that allow one to reach out and touch and share the world face-to-face. It has been akin to a human portal. This greatly shrinks the world and brings vast experiences as well as like minds from far away all within reach.

There are so many thoughts still being mulled in my mind and formed from this past week. It should flow out and be recorded in the coming days and weeks. It has been great to hear that others have some of the same concerns and observations about where technology and electronic information flows have gone. Information needs to be useable. In a portable/mobile context there needs to be a connection to other devices to port the information so to use it in other contexts. Information is still not ultimately usable in every context or situation and not that usable across these points of context.

A nap and an excursion or two should help bring me back to life.

Saturday, September 8, 2001
The going to bed on West Coast Time and waking up on East Coast time finally caught up with me today. I was nap worthy for much of the day and finally caught a few moments of shut eye about 5:45pm.

We wanted to go to Laghi for dinner, here in San Francisco, but when I called to make a reservation, an answering machine picked up and stated that Laghi had closed on September 2nd. I was so bummed, as it went from small cozy restaurant out on Clement, to a larger venue near Japantown. But, there will not be any fresh pasta and sauces in the near future.

We ended went to North Beach to La Felce, which is an older Italian restaurant that I had been to while I was in college. It had not changed too much, which is a very good thing. The gnocchi melts in your mouth. The tables on either side of us were speaking nothing but Italian. It was the North Beach I remember.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference and then it is Fray Day and my turn to enjoy San Francisco. I am already getting ready to take in SXSW, well after a little bit more sleep than I have been getting.

There are a ton of folks that I have met and heard speak that are wonderful and very much on top of the Web Dev world.

Good night.

Thursday, September 6, 2001
Last evenings IA/UX cocktail hour put together by Christina and held at Method was fantastic. It was a great sharing event as different perspectives, experiences, and mindsets interacted and we all came away with a better, if not broader understanding of the world of IA/UX. This was a fantastic event and it was great to meet Christina in person (also solved the mystery Amazon Wish List gift, of which I am so grateful).

The wrap-up of the two day intensive course on User Experience Design was great. I came into the two day to help find and fill in gaps in what I know in the process and how to analyze the user research, user testing, information architecture, interactive design, and documentation of the who process. I found I understand a great amount of it and have been implementing it in a manner that is very consistent with what the Adaptive Path folks (and even with what the carbonIQ) practice. One of the elements that came out of this session was the separation of interactive design and information architecture disciplines. These two disciplines have been tethered in my head under the information architecture classification for some time. The approach of the IA is very different than the ID approach and tasks accomplished. The session was also very helpful in better forming mental mapping of the users tasks they expect to happen on the site. The graphic representation of this information was fantastic. I was fully enamored with the whole of the AP team that presented this information and approaches over the past two days.

Spelling creations are free until they are corrected.

Tonight was a wonderful evening with a dinner at a fantastic tapas restaurant in the Mission District. The company was wonderful with Heather, Derek, Christina, Jeffery, Carrie, Joy, and myself. I have been taking photos of varying quality this trip and stretching the capabilities of the camera (with out the flash on at least) and I did not think to take a photo as I was so captivated with the conversation throughout the evening.

Just before heading to dinner I had a few moments at a happy hour for folks on the webdesign-L listserv. It was great to meet these folks, but the time with them was far too brief. Although I did get pictures of this event, but they were slightly blurry and will be posted upon my return to the Eastern portion of the country.

My contacts are sticking, so I must head to bed as I need to rest up for the remaining days a head.

Tuesday, September 4, 2001
The Adaptive Path folks are putting on a great session on Experience Design.

Bandwidth and dial-in are proving to be somewhat problematic. I am hoping this is an aberration for just today.

The HP and Compac news really floored me this morning. It is a good, but very overlapping merger.

More later...

Monday, September 3, 2001
I am really wishing I spent the time (first I had to find the time) to put together a photo upload and display system for before I left. I will post them once I get back, unless I can find some more bandwidth (using a laptop stuck with a 33.6kbps modem).

Today it is off to SF to catch the Giants. Get settled in the hotel and visit friends in Marin. It seems like it may a sleep depravation experiment for the next 9 to 10 days. There are so many people I want to see and meet in person as well as places I would like to get to (there really is no time to just hang out on this trip).

San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area is a wonderful place just to hang out. There are so many places to explore and relax. I had lived and work in SF for five years before moving East, I went to college (a href="">St. Mary's College) in the East Bay, and went to high school over the next couple set of hills. I am still trying to get in touch with a few folks to catch up with in the fragments of spare time I have next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I have been using Mail2Web to pull my personal mail while traveling. It dumps in your Web browser and seems to work very well (although it messes with the From line in what you would receive. At least I can read mail and respond. My previous Web host had browser-based mail as an offering. I am missing that to some degree, but not enough to go back.

Sunday, September 2, 2001
The trip out was quite painless. I stopped for a burger at Red's Java House, which is an old dock workers hang out. Burger pattie, slices of real cheddar, chunked onion, mustard, and pickle on a sourdough roll for about two dollars, which can also include a long neck Bud.

More later...

Saturday, September 1, 2001
We have another new vehicle on its way to our family, which should be here when I get back from the West Coast. This one is not particularly for me though. Our hard work, you might say, is paying off.

I am looking forward to relaxing some tomorrow on the trip out West and to the Giants game Monday. It has been at least six years since I have seen them play, which is far too long. I have not seen them in the new Park, which will also be a good experience. It will be strange to sit and watch the Giants, not on television or listening to a game off the Internet like I have done the last four summers.

I am going to try and quickly knock out a location post for the TravelBlog. Last night I coded some new functionality that will only display the current month and has nearly all the coding in place so the drop into the regular log will be much easier for me. There were a couple new unused elements that will come into use when this site turns dynamic, probably in October.

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