March 30, 2002

IAwiki jump in points

Two items pointed out to me or found lately have improved the usability of IAwiki (an open collaboration site for information architects). 1) IAwiki categories and 2) Index of IAwiki terms. There is great information that the IA community has entered and built upon in iawiki, now I have points that can attract my attention and find the gems that are tucked away.

We finally saw Amelie this evening. I wished I had seen this earlier as I would have seen it a few times by now. This is a wonderful movie that had me laughing and yearning. This deserves an all thumbs up.

CeBit a portal to the future

In reading Brian Livingston's Symbian cell-through, I found it contained a great intro paragraph...

I'VE traveled to this German city to cover developments of interest to Windows users at CeBit, indisputably the world's largest computer trade show. More than three-quarters of a million souls wander its 27 convention halls each year. Regrettably, only 1 percent of CeBit's visitors are Americans. That's a shame because hot technology often bursts forth in the European market first, taking a year or two to be adapted for the States.

It seems that CeBit and not Comdex is the big tech show in the world. Not only is it the biggest, but the on the leading edge.

Fox counters Microsoft's mistruths

After battling the crappy MS OS at work the past couple of days (it locked all users from copying files to the development server only solution was to create a new base directory and copy the old files in with the permissions set like they were on the previous folder), I was happy to see Kevin Fox' response to Microsoft's proposed hipocracy and lies. Microsoft should change their slogan to "We use fear to sell, because are products aren't worth they money you pay". The consolation is I get to come home to Mac OS X and have few if any problems, because it is UNIX at the core. [hat tip Dinah]

AOL and browser selection

I knew somebody would see the bright side of AOL switching to Mozilla browser, (for those who don't know Mozilla is what is under Netscape and it is Open Source). I personally could not see the dark side to the switch. I guess there might be a few poor souls that don't know how to code by the standards, or may not know there are standards. I feel even worse for the fools that paid money for insipid Web pages that are not coded properly. If it is built in a browser and the developer does not know the interface (in the browser case the document object model (DOM) they are getting paid too much).
March 28, 2002

Web no fun

The NY Times claims what I feared, As the Web Matures, Fun Is Hard to Find. Not exactly my fear as the Web has brought the boring and mundane to my browser, you see I love the geeky stuff. The article points out the Web brought us the bizarre and eclectic, but the Web has also made this stuff the mundane.
March 27, 2002

I took a step today that I have not done in a long long time. I wrote Congress. Yes, I was a fellow in the U.S. Senate, which was a wonderful experience and gave me a strong coating of cynicism. This EFF Congressional Alert regarding the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). I have a feeling I will be writing much more to my friends on The Hill (Mike you there and listening?).

To understand more read Matt's using Lincoln to rebut Michael Eisner, Scott discussing not being able to provide his music freely, Rebecca's outlining of the case against the CBDTPA, and Paul's outlining the issue and steps also.

In my note to Congress, using the online form at the Senate Judiciary site I tried to remind those in Congress that America was founded on the pursuit of freedom, the provision of a free competitive marketplace, and a fertile environment for innovation. The CBDTPA essentially is a grossly un-American pursuit as it removes competition, freedom of expression, and grossly inhibits innovation. The law does try to protect those in business that do not have the bright minds to know how to adapt and use technology to their advantage. These business have forgotten how to compete and forgotten how to innovate. The irony is Disney was founded on free content and technical innovation. Eisner is an embarrassment to the Disney tradition as he is trying to pimp Congress into protecting his inadequacy as a business leader and innovator. Congress should not be protecting the powerful that have lost their ability to stay in power.

America was built on innovators like the Edisons, the Wright Brothers, Fords, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, etc. Innovation and competition is what has kept America at the forefront of the global marketplace. Innovation and competition have provided wealth that America should share. Innovation and competition sparked the skills to conquer disease. Innovation and competition gave us great technology that allows us to investigate and advance science and learn how to take better care of the Earth.

The Bill proposed by Hollings should be called, in all honesty, "The Anti-American Way Bill".

UCD is an Art

ViewPointz' Carol Righi examines Art, Science, and Magic: What really happens during User-Centered Design? This somewhat sounds like Jesse's ia/recon repurposed for UCD. The article draws on the concept that there is art (hunches) at the core of good UCD. Much of what any profession does is educated guesswork, which largely is based on pattern recognition (understanding symptoms to doctors). Those that are very good at their craft have internalized which points to watch (where the pulse can be found) that indicate success or troubles.
March 25, 2002

The Beeb on Broadband

Some days the Internet blows my mind. I was looking for background music from some other continent. I perused Broadcast-live and Live365 for genre and language. I tried a few Dutch, French, and German stations, but when I clicked on the the TV sectoin of Broadcast-live and selected BBC World at 300kbps. It runs in Windows Media player and is nearly perfect looking at 250 px across and not too bad at full screen (1280px across.) with great sound quality. I was able to watch Click Online's review of CeBit.
March 24, 2002

Metaphor of Attraction

Beginning with a discussion with Stewart on Peterme and the encouragement of Lane in another discussion to look for a metaphor other than navigation that could better explain what we do on the Web. Seeing Stewart walk by at SXSW after I had seen some of Josh Davis visual plays I combined the discussion with Stewart with the magnetic attraction Josh showed, which began my thinking about a metaphor of attraction. Magnetism seems like what happens when we put a search term in Google, it attracts information that is draw to the term on to your screen.

Come see where else this metaphor can go in this poorly written for draft of the metaphor of attraction. This is posted to begin a collaboration to dig back and move forward, if that is where this is to go. The writing will improve and the ideas will jell into a better presentation over the next few weeks.

Apple Applause

Are you like me, a PC user for years that has just bought a Mac? Apple wants to hear from us PC to Mac converts. My biggest difficulty is the lack of keystrokes that echo the keystrokes on the PC for those of us that keep our hands on the keyboard and don't always reach for a mouse. Using keystrokes within forms in Web browsers has been a little bit lacking, but for all the great steps forward I will wait for this minor steps ahead. I wish that Real and others lacking foresight to build OS X versions of their software, would see this is the way the future of desktop and laptop personal computing. My Mac gives me so few problems it is amazing that one would call it a computer. The incredible battery life on a souped up TiBook shocks me at every turn. My frustrations with the PC are regular, but there are few frustration with the Mac. Actually the converse is true, I find amazement and great ease of use at nearly every turn.

Comments ahoy

Ah, the comments are running is a decent manner. I do not have a preview running yet, but that will be coming. Some other backend elements will be on their way too, but that is behind the scene stuff. Test if you want. The comments open the way for the next step, which should be posted in an hour or two. Then it is getting tax info together.
March 23, 2002

Linux Journal offeers a great article about the state of Apple OS X written by Brent Simmons and Doc Searls (whom it was wonderful to meet at SXSW). The article gets to the core of what is great about OS X and the stability of the OS and the usability of the OS. Over the past week or so I have grown more iritated with Windows and its foibles of lack of detail in so many areas.
March 22, 2002

I am really enjoying my new cell phone. However it is the first phone in a long time that I really needed to learn the keylock. Not only does the phone dial easily, but the speakerphone is quite loud. I had my phone tucked away in my bag, which would believe one to believe that the loud walkie talkie sounds ("please hang up and dial again" and other gems) were from some idiot's phone or the custodial services. Nope they were from me. I have learned to easily operate the keypad lock, which also saves my pockets from talking to me.

We finally saw a beautiful mind this evening. I rather liked the movie, but it was not as deep as I thought it was going to be. Yes, I am a wee bit behind in my movie watching. I tend to lean on the computer, Internet, books, and magazines for entertainment.
March 21, 2002

I have very intrigued with understanding where metaphors break. At some point they all break, but a metaphor that lasts would be nice. We may get to play with one in the near future. I would like you to play with it, but to make it useful for all of us, it would be good to have comments to share thoughts. The comments are coming and may be posted in a not a perfectly usable state as getting the info out and commenting running is my goal.

A forced break in the comment tool development. I may be able to catch up on some e-mail and get a good night sleep.

Comments in common

Too funny!!! I have been developing the comment tool for this site in a very special place that is not in a very public place. Some folks have found it. I have been posting test comments, all very truthful, and some folks have found them and commented. ;) I suppose I will not clear the database before turning the app live.

Rebecca shows a great understanding of where the line on digital content should be drawn. We pay for content and we want to be able to use the content in a manner that fits our desired method of information use. Thinking we live in the 1950s still does not work in a digital age. Applying the wrong concepts to problems never did work properly and it never allowed for innovation or brilliance.

Like the previous post, The Digital Consumer gets it. Not only does the Digital Consumer get it they will help Congress get a grip too. Consumers have more votes than corporations, even though corporations have the dollars. While you are at it, go back to the EFF too.

Ooh, cookie paranoia strikes the CIA. The U.S. Congress blundered its understanding of cookies and has proven itself inept on understanding technology. The U.S. in trying to combat cross-site cookies, as in Double Click, ended up giving cookies themselves a bad name. Cookies running on one site and not sharing information with another site are innocuous and actually are what keep sites running properly. Cookies ease personalization and enable bringing desired information to the user easily. I know you understand this, you are using the Web and you are intelligent as you come to a site that is overly verbose.
March 18, 2002

Minor site updates

This evening the left navigation bars have changed. They have moved to left aligned and to a fixed font size (I am not a great fan of fixed font size, but there are a few exeptions to that rule here). The home page was modified (more change is coming to the homepage). I have also modified the orange color in the H2 headers so that there is greater contrast with the navy background. Also in the works is a comment system, which should debut in the next day or so. I am getting closer with the comments. Had I not got a flat on my way home this evening I think I would have knocked them out completely.
March 17, 2002

I am back, well physically, from the Information Architecture Summit. I am experiencing near information and intellectual saturation. Over the past two weeks I have been surrounded with very bright and creative people discussing our passions and beliefs. This weekend really was amazing as the theoretical and intellectual pursuits of information theory, information structure, and information architecture was the focus of topic. I got to meet and discuss ideas with a people I have revered over time and found the interplay of conversation riveting. The mental stimulation was stellar and I look forward to the future even more, given the more refined frame of reference.
March 16, 2002

I spent this evening at the IA Summit and found some of the folks from SXSW there in Baltimore. I spent much of the evening hanging out with the other Boxes and Arrows staff. I have never met some of the other staff that are in Baltimore now. I did get to meet some of the former Argonauts, which was a huge kick. I spent much of this evening playing with ideas and hanging out with more very bright and passionate folks. I could really get used to this, but conference life must end. More tomorrow or Sunday (yes it is late for me, too late) when I get back.
March 15, 2002

Based on descussions begun with Stewart, Peter, Lane, and others in, beginning in discussions about navigation as a poor metaphor for the interaction of humans and information on the Web (which really breaks down further when looking at other types of Internet information interaction), I am working on another metaphor that struck me while in Austin. Lane asked in another conversation for alternatives to the navigation metaphor. I will be posting a series on this site that will open the idea for discussion and help finding holes or coming to the conclusion the idea sucks. The postings will most likely begin next week sometime. I am going to put the idea past a few friends at the IA Summit and see how hard they laugh or like it. For me the concept is working so far and seems to have a decent reach into Web and non-Web Internet interactions with information. No I am not going to state it now, but I will soon.

I am sitting in the Austin Airport using an 802.11b wireless connection to collect and read e-mail and to post here. The world of wireless connectivity has been kick ass this trip. The SXSWi guerilla wireless efforts by Cory (boingboing) Doctorow were greatly appreciated and widely used and many of us would offer our first child or at least a beer for his fine efforts.

Another observation of this trip is the insanely wide use of Apple laptops. They were everywhere at the conference, it was almost as if they were in the conference bag of goodies. Those of us on Mac had little problem grabbing wireless connections and were showing our pictures to others we had taken. By the end of the conference many of the Windows folks were cursing their non-compliant and non-easy to adopt laptops. Not only were the graphic folks using Apple, but the tech geeks were too (this is where I fit in, believe me). Even Doc Searls was Mac'n around. In the land of Dell, Apple proved to be king.

I am somewhat saddend to be heading home and leaving old and many new friends behind. SXSW is a place were passion for the Internet rules and sharing our passion, knowledge, and experience is what it is all about. Hair color, age, gender, skin color, or location is not important as the passion binds us together. We are all out to make the Web and Internet a better place to be. To a person we all have become much better people because of the free sharing and passion. Jack Vallenti and his trying to label us terrorists is not only poor sighted but a fat lie. We share to grow and learn. Jack only want to play his Anderson card and shred our reality. (There will be more later to clarify and to help you understand what I mean by these comments.) Liars and fear mongers are trying to steal the truth, but Austin let truth ring out. You bet your sweet bippy, I'll be back.

I love all those I met and whose paths I crossed and wish all safe journies home. Keep the passion alive.

March 12, 2002

The mind is functioning and also completely blown from watching and listening to Josh Davis. The world of visual, digital, mathematical, and relational information has broken more synapses than I new were functioning today and seemed to have spawned new channels for information to flow and be processed. In other words, my mind and concept of the world has just been altered again. Not only do I know have an understanding of what somebody means when they say the words that comprise the name Josh Davis, but I have a whole new way to look at information and human responses.

One of the items presented was a visual and audio presentation of network activity. Not only could one visually watch the activity and interaction of those on the network and watching what activities the users on the network were performing and showing their IP address. This visual presentation was augmented with audio that dynamically corresponded to the actions. A sys admin could sit and monitor a network aurally and not watch a monitor. Like a mother and a child, a sys admin could emotively interact with the sounds of the network. A user on the network has saturated the bandwidth the downloads, and the sounds emitted could trigger and emotive response from the sys admin to nurse the network back to a healthy state for all users. As many of us hear our cars and listen to the pitch the subway train makes pulling into the station, which indicates how full the train is so we know where to position our selves on the platform (usually lower tone>es indicate fuller trains and the lowest rumble on a seemingly empty train is the money car on the money train).

I think is it finally time to put together an edit entry tool for this tool. I have been using the MyPHPAdmin provided by my site host to go in and edit the entries when there are errors or updates needed. This has not been a great method when I lacking on sleep, as I have been here in Austin.

There are most likely going to be some small to moderate changes to this site in a few weeks. I have started working with modifying the left navigation bar to add more local and global elements (area of the site specific or applies to the whole site). The front page is also in dire need of re-contenting and possibly a small redesign. There is a CSS problem with font sizes here in Off the Top that I really want to address also. I may implement the comment system here soon, which has been running in test mode quite well. There will be a central photo page added in the very near future. A book list page for developers will also be added soon. The largest change will be to the links page, in that it will be changed from a hand built page to a content management system generated page.

One thing that I have had the benefit of viewing and discussing while at SXSWi is Flash. Folks from Macromedia have shown their soon to be released version of Flash. Flash MX (as it is named) has some very good new features, in its providing common Web development objects to help developers create scroll bars and the like very easily. The application seems to provide object or extensions to Flash that streamline the process to building something usable and consistent in Flash.

The best new feature of Flash is content can now be made accessible for those with sight disabilities. This is greatly helpful as Flash is largely a visual information development and presentation tool. The information is now usable by site readers that read information aloud stored in Flash. This has been a large hinderance for many folks who would like to adopt Flash into their development tool belt, but had restrictions that limited the use of Flash because it locked out a segment of the users who had visual disabilities.

There is one large element in Flash that is completely disappointing still. The information is not accessible for reuse. All Flash can provide is visual information presentation, which restricts a user's ability to copy and paste or to have the information machine readable. The information is locked in an unusable format for these purposes. What does this affect? If a hotel provides their phone number and address in their Flash presentation the user can not copy and paste the information out into their PIM (Outlook, Access, Palm desktop, etc.), to an e-mail, or text message that the user could read from their PDA or cell phone (given messaging capabilities). The user would also be restricted from grabbing the information to put together a matrix from which to make decisions or to supply to others to make their comparisons. The locking of information in Flash requires the user to retype the information provided, which introduces the ability for errors in the information that was carefully crafted.

Not only do human users have the inability to re-purpose the information, which is a great benefit to those providing the information, but machines are precluded from accessing the information. If the same hotel wants to be included in their city's chamber of commerce listing on the CCoC Web site the hotel information can not be easily extracted by the CCoC as it could be from HTML (using an id tag) or XML. The information is locked again in an unusable and un-reusable format. The creators of the content lose, and could possibly lose big by not having information that is easily reused. This becomes increasingly important with the growing use of Web Services that rely on machine readable or machine accessible information.

Why the hotel scenario? Macromedia used the hotel demonstration to highlight some of their great new features. As I watched the presentation I kept wondering if the information was still unusable for purposes other than reading or having the information read to the user. It was later confirmed the information was still un-reusable, but Macromedia is also aware of this strong down side to the information presentation and is working hard at fixing the issues.

Yesterday was all about getting the synapses to fire in the right order at SXSWi. I was running on sever sleep deprivation from phones and alarm clocks ringing when I had not finished my needed sleep cycle. None-the-less I had a great time. I greatly enjoyed Steve Champeon's peer panel on Non-Traditional Web Design, as it focussed on the fine art of tagging content, understanding the uses of information, and the true separation of content, presentation, and application controlling the information. The Web Demo panel I was on seemed to go rather well as there were a broad spectrum of sites reviewed and the information from the panel to the developers was of great use (I hope) as I think we all learned something.

The evening provided good entertainment, a wonderful gattering at the EFF party. Once again many folks adjourned to the Omni Hotel lobby for the after-hours social gathering. I spent much of the time just listening to conversation and occasionally partaking. Of intrigue was Rusty of Kuro5hin and Adam of Brian of Slashdot discussion development of site tools that will help a dynamic site fly, keep in mind all these tools are in Perl.

I think is it finally time to put together an edit entry tool for this tool. I have been using the MyPHPAdmin provided by my site host to go in and edit the entries when there are errors or updates needed. This has not been a great method when I lacking on sleep, as I have been here in Austin.

There are most likely going to be some small to moderate changes to this site in a few weeks. I have started working with modifying the left navigation bar to add more local and global elements (area of the site specific or applies to the whole site). The front page is also in dire need of re-contenting and possibly a small redesign. There is a CSS problem with font sizes here in Off the Top that I really want to address also. I may implement the comment system here soon, which has been running in test mode quite well. There will be a central photo page added in the very near future. A book list page for developers will also be added soon. The largest change will be to the links page, in that it will be changed from a hand built page to a content management system generated page.

March 11, 2002

I would gladly buy 10 more hours a day from somebody so that I could sleep and still have time to take in everything at SXSW. Last night's entertainment included Fray Cafe 2 which was utterly amazing. The stories were completely moving me to laughter, tears, joy, and understanding. It truely was a wonderful live storytelling event.

The SXSW panel that amazed me yesterday was the first independent content panel, which included Jeffery Zeldman, Derek Powazek, Josh Davis, and the creator of Born Magazine. The interaction on the panel, not only about independent content production, but design understanding pushed my small envelope. I think it was the Josh that opened my eyes farther than they have been in a while. This panel brought to life what I love about SXSW, I grow more comfortable knowing what I do know and that I definately understand more than I give myself credit for knowing, but also it kick my butt with the knowledge that I have only scratched the surface of what is possible.

I want more time to just sleep and time to hang out and absorb in the great conversations and spend more time with friends who view the world very much like they way I do. SXSW provides a wonderful feeling of belonging to a tribe of people that are passionate about this digital connectivity tool of the Web and Internet. Passion is the key and the jam packed rooms yesterday were a testament that the passion is very much alive.

There was another panel, or more aptly a discussion lead by Lane Becker revolving around the understanding of what the Internet has really brought us and how has it really changed the way we do things. The topic also drifted on to the fears of that is great about the Internet being legislated away by folks that really do not have even the most basic grasp of how this medium for interaction, information sharing and gathering, entertainment, and commerce can be moved forward. There was a lot of discussion that we only have hit the tip of the iceberg and that we really do not have a solid grasp of what just happened in the past six years.

Pictures may be up soon, or then again...

SXSW is Back

Ah, it is good to be back in Austin at SXSW. Last evening's gathering of a multitude of folks at the Iron Catus, a gathering orchestrated Brad, for dinner and drinks then on to karaoke. Austin is a tad bit humid at the moment, which is doing my allergies and infection some good.

The good conversations have begun and the mind is whurring. This is a very good thing. I am hoping to post some more while I am here and hoping to post photos, but these efforts take some time and well, this is Austin and SXSW.

March 7, 2002

I am feeling marginally better, thanks for asking. My head really is not properly attached as of yet. None-the-less I am packing so to head out to Austin for SXSW tomorrow. I will be in Austin tomorrow evening and most likely abstaining from Shiner and other forms of adult beverages, so conversation, caffine, and food will have to do. Please say hello if you see me (probably wearing blue and orange proudly). Those of you I miss I may see at the IA Summit in Baltimore the following weekend.

Jesse has posted the final installment of his ia/recon. The whole of the series is on one page, which eases reading and following along. I like where Jesse ended up, which is with hunches and working toward building better tools. I can not say that I see things that differently. I am walking some folks through this now teaching the skills and having them grasped is not as easy as I thought. I use IA as one of the skills in my tool belt to help build sites that work better for the users. I use IA to build information applications that are easier to use and more "intuitive".

I did not know what I was doing was IA, but is was how a target audience was defined in communication and also the tasks that I had gone through to develop software (first on the client side and then used it in my own tool belt and had good results). Learning how users think about information and processes then grouping and structuring content toward the results of the research seemed like a natural step. I used to teach Sunday school and learning how to tie lessons to understandable chunks of information was a very important skill to learn. I have always looked at trying to help build a more efficient flow of information between the two or more parties involved in the data/information/knowledge transaction. The best way to ease the information flow is to understand the user and how they consume information. What is the mind set of the user that comes to the information transaction? How do they think of the information? Where will logically place the information in their personal information repository so that they may make use of that information. Half the trick to being knowledgeable if having an easy way retrieve and access the information store, be that stored in someone's mind, in a database, in a book, or on a Web site. Understanding the information transaction from the individual and personal standpoint of a user is the best place to start.

I have weighed through useless metadata repositories and been asked to fill in metadata structures that I knew I personally would not be able to retrieve information from, let a lone glean knowledge. Metadata becomes most helpful when it is seamless, not over burdensome to capture, and ties relevant items together in a means that not only one user group can easily make sense of but multiple user groups. IA is tightly tied to the Web, which is helping this young technology. The Web provides the wonderful ability to cross categorize and cross link to similar interests and store information in places that people can find related materials easily.

I am one that has continually had problems with one of the most commonly used metadata repositories, the Yellow Pages. To me the Yellow Pages are utterly useless. Nothing is ever what I think to call anything. I want to go buy pants. That becomes a task in the Yellow Pages. Even better is having to go retrieve something from a bar and trying to use the Yellow Pages to find the number of a bar name that did not stick in your head the first time by choosing a tavern, pub, or nightclub to start. None it was a bar. Not an option. I love IA and information structure because I have sympathy.

March 5, 2002

Derek Story finally has posted his wide view of Mac OS X based on over 500 e-mails in response to an open question regarding how folks liked or disliked the new OS. Derek's write-up seems to do the broad spectrum justice. Me I love the OS and I am getting more used to it with each use. I switch between Windows 2000 and XP to Mac in the course of each day. I find less confusion based on which keyboard I am using that I did at the beginning. If I had to choose Windows or Mac at this point it would be Mac.
March 4, 2002

Temp today was 100 this morning. Went to work (a day I did not want to miss). Went to the doctor late in the afternoon. Temp was perfectly normal. Came home napped. Temp now 101.4. I give up. I did get anti-biotics to kill the bug and to keep my from having a Shiner in Austin. Good night.

It finally caught up, allergies and being worn down have had me largely flat on my back today. The usual errands were not a joy and the Hoya's last game this season (it was sad too to say good bye for a few months to those in the seats around us, but I did snag a free t-shirt). I have been trying to rest up for tomorrow and get better for the week and SXSW, which is followed by ASIS.
March 1, 2002

One thing about being a bi-OS kinda guy is that I now look for what OS software will run on. More often than not of late it is not easy to find. I guess I just assumed the Web was MS centric prior to my finding an OS I like much better. I never looked before and everything I downloaded ran. When I was running Linux I went to the Linux sites for software and the rest of the Web for MS.

It took Jish pointing to Araneae for this to dawn on me. Now I am wondering what is wrong with the Web sites with software that they don't tell you what OS their software will run on.

The Visual Display of Quantitative XML on O'Reilly Net really rocks for me. I am really impressed with the presentation, but not nearly as impressed as I was with the ease of downloading and running the SVG plug-in in IE 6 on Windows and IE 5.1 on Mac OS X. Overal this is a great article as it not only walks through the how-to portion, but also offers insights into things that will make similar development go more easily.

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