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February 2002 Archives


February 27, 2002 3:35 AM


The Tauzin-Dingell bill will be voted on today, and unlike the rest of America, I am not-so-blissfully unaware of what the implications are if it passes (or not). The competitive landscape of the Telecommunication industry is so convoluted to the point where competitors are your ally and enemy. Covad's deal with SBC Communications is a perfect example of this dynamic.

With Tauzin-Dingell possibly making it easier for the larger Telco's to do their DSL thing without opening local lines to the CLEC's, I can hope that a Cable modem will not be my only high speed option. Unfortunately, Verizon seems to be unable to get DSL working right and this bill might end up killing Covad. So at the end of the day, my question will still remain. Who is going to fix this mess and earn the right to my $50/month for a high speed connection?

February 26, 2002 4:14 AM


They are paying for it after all, so they should want to own everything. But, in my experience, this can get in the way of the application's usability and the visual design. You are the web design expert, and they are the domain expert, which means you know how it should look and behave based on their desired results. Both need to learn from each other, but you don't control the money, the client does. So be prepared to be flexible.

Occasionally you get a hands off client that lets you do your thing. Unfortunately, a client who trusts you to make judgments and decisions without too much oversight is a double edged sword. You run the risk of making a bad decision and allowing it to become written in stone before the client sees it (who then freaks out). At the same time, being enabled to make decisions allows you to move towards completion on an accelerated schedule, which is great if it's a fixed price engagement.

More often you find clients that micromanage the project. They will make requests like 'bold that' and 'make this green' and 'put that at the top' when doing those things don't really make any sense. This sort of feedback can be great to have if it's on target, but is a time consuming (and expensive) process.

Mitigating the risk of responsibility against compromised visual design (and usability, functionality, et al) is a huge challenge. The balancing act is dependant on the people you work with and how you start the project. Be up front about the process of turning ideas into working solutions, and always include the client in the decision process along the way. Short but flexible processes for making collaborative decisions (like giving two, and only two, comps of a design) will keep things moving and let everyone feel like they are in control, which creates the 'buy in' you need to get a project completed (and paid for).

February 25, 2002 9:24 AM


Adobe will finally release OSX native versions of Photoshop in April, and LiveMotion and GoLive, today. I don't really care about GoLive because I am a BBEdit kind of guy, but LiveMotion 2.0 is something I've been waiting for. The reason being that Macromedia products have always been quite difficult for me to learn and use. Their interfaces just don't work for me, but Adobe interfaces do. Learning to use Flash 4 was just a terrible experience in terms of using the damn production app, and Flash 5 was just a bit better, but still not good. (I've seen betas of Flash 6 floating around recently, but I don't have high hopes for its level of application usability. If anyone out there has tested the betas, please to post a comment).

Finally getting a native version Photoshop is a great thing, even if it's a year too late, because I was considered going over to The Gimp.

February 21, 2002 9:25 AM


Well, I'm not sure yet, but it will have an impact if MSFT gets .NET off the ground. If you aren't sure what .NET (who really is?) Ars Technica has a good overview of the framework and JavaLobby has an opinion about it all. Both articles are a bit technical, but offer up a good base of info on what is coming.

At the core, .NET will allow developers to use various languages under the same development framework to create all sorts of network aware applications. Of course the technology is MSFT centric with its ability to direct development of these application back to the Windows™ mother ship, even if you work with Java.

You have to expect that a proliferation of network aware applications will come, and have repercussions for user experience architects of all kinds. We're going to have to adapt our skills to a hybridization of client/server and web application architectures where live data streams replace request/response experiences.

February 20, 2002 4:41 AM


I think it's interesting that in article after article, tech writers complain that Apple isn't winning market share. Typically these authors complain and then get bombarded with responses from the Mac Zealots about why Apple/MacOS is great and shouldn't pander to the Intel masses. One argument about the single digit market share is the ratio BMW enjoys in the automobile market. Apple owns more of the personal computer market than BMW owns in the car biz. That sounds cool, but doesn't really mean too much.

What does really mean something is the aggregate message of these articles. They want Apple to survive. Usually the tone of the articles are written in a complaining tone, and I'm guessing it's because the OS they have been using is taking over their lives and is emptying their wallets. They want a viable alternative, and so do I.



February 19, 2002 11:09 AM


I would really like to beta test Norpath Elements, and it seems like many others would like to as well. They note that "Due to overwhelming demand, we can only offer the beta to applicants who qualify." Which is surprising considering it has gotten zero press outside of the weblog community.

After looking at the info required for registering for the beta, I've decided to wait. Making a phone number a required field for a beta is ridiculous. Name, email and a field for adding any comments (and perhaps soliciting reference info) is a pretty low threshold, but my life's story isn't. My favorite field is the 'Usage' field, which is a text area that I couldn't fill due to NDA's on the projects I work on.



February 15, 2002 4:39 AM


In jjg's latest ia/recon installment he says...

If our discipline continues to develop along its current course, we will have developed an entire body of knowledge about information architecture that amounts to little more than a set of tips and tricks for beating the test. Meanwhile, the real creative problems inherent in our work will remain as poorly understood as they are today.

...and I have to believe that there is a lot of practical value in that result. You see, there has been some discussion in the past about 'practical IA' vs 'fundamental IA.' Garret asserts that "It's a lot easier to defend science than it is to defend opinion, even when that opinion is informed by experience and professional judgment." I expect the best IA's will be those that can offer evidence of 'beating the test' with the confidence of experience to back it up.



February 13, 2002 9:03 AM


When I first started working in my current position, there were no offices or even temporary space. We met at Starbucks for meetings and interviewed new recruits at various restaurants (free meals!). One early lesson was to stay as connected as possible at all times, which meant company subsidized cell phones and Instant Messenger accounts. Working at home all day on highly collaborative projects made these means of communication vital, but that didn't change when we moved into offices. Even though we all worked at the same place, the knowledge of presence was just as valuable.

February 12, 2002 3:57 AM


  • BT attempting to enforce a hyperlink patent is as lame as Unisys enforcing their GIF patent.
  • MSFT has released a patch that hopefully fixes these horrific security holes (none of which affects the Mac).
  • Usability is important to eBay, which is a positive change from how things are.
  • Comcast is up to no good, but I live within 5 miles of AOL, WorldCom, PSInet, Adelphia and Exodus Communications (now a part of Cable & Wireless) but none of them can offer me high speed access. I'd take the snooping Comcast service over 56k any day.
  • Rumor has it Futurama is not going to be picked up for next season. This is utterly disappointing but is not surprising since Fox never gave the show a time slot that would foster success.

    February 11, 2002 4:42 AM


    There's an interesting article at Yahoo! from Business Week Online that is definitely MSFT biased, in a 'position paper' sort of way. It asserts that AOL is going to have to get used to more competition from MSFT in the various areas, which seems obvious. At the core is the MSN vs. AOL customer base battle in which AOL won't see accelerating subscriber growth like it did just three years ago. The article states...
    Although MSN will continue to lag behind AOL in the number of Internet subscribers, Microsoft may ultimately compete head-to-head with AOL for consumer dollars spent online. 'Content is not king, and it never has been,' declares Matthew Rosoff, an analyst at consulting firm Directions on Microsoft, referring to AOL Time Warner's top media brands. 'Compared with AOL,' he adds, 'Microsoft has a far superior understanding of how consumers use computing devices,' which will help it woo consumers who want more than just dial-up access.
    So, is this to say that people use technology for the sake of technology? That interactive systems are about interacting with the systems? That if these things are true then MSFT wins? Not!

    Even if MSFT has a better understanding of 'how consumers use computing devices' (which is debatable) how does that translate into wooing users who want more than online access? I'd suggest that the 'superior understanding' would translate into more compelling and usable systems that enable people to use technology in meaningful ways. Im my experience, MSFT certainly doesn't have the usability market cornered, and what content do they have? None. Time to embrace and expand?

    February 9, 2002 3:33 AM


    MPEG4 could be the raster equivalent of Flash. Early this week the first consumer grade MPEG4 decoder card was announced by Sigma. Two days ago, word got out that Apple will be supporting MPEG4 in software via Quicktime. Yesterday we found out that a potentially high licensing cost might keep wide spread adoption a hope instead of a reality. In the C|net article, Douglas McIntyre, chief executive of On2 Technologies comments about the cost of the license and it's impact on the standard...

    "I don't think (the fees) are commercially viable," said Douglas McIntyre, chief executive of On2 Technologies, a video-compression provider. "To come out with very high usage fees undercuts the whole concept of having a standard."

    If you want to compete with MSFT, you need give it away folks (especially when you want to call it a standard).



    February 8, 2002 9:50 AM


    Here are two examples of data that describe other data, but are not explicily encapsulated in something like XML...



    February 6, 2002 2:39 AM


    I had forgotten just how cool SmarterChild was, but this News.com article about its creator reminded me. If you are an AOL Instant Messenger user, make a new buddy, give it the name "SmarterChild" (or just click here) and send a message saying hello. Don't be afraid, it won't bite, even if you tell it where you live by typing "set location your zip code". After that, ask for the weather, or for movie information, or just talk to it and see what happens.

    It really is a great thing and here's why. I like the interactivity when trying to find info on things like movie listings. The experience of using the phone book and listening to phone recordings is labor and time intensive. SmarterChild makes that experience shorter and easier, and since it's a text based medium, I don't have to write down showtimes in the corner of the page in the phone book. Sweet.



    February 5, 2002 11:45 AM


    I've been on the job hunt for the last several months, and have been reintroduced to the realm of the ridiculous job ads. It usually goes something like this...

    Qualifications: 5+ years experience, C++ and Java, PostGreSQL, Oracle and UI frameworks. Knowledge of Photoshop, HTML, Javascript, CSS and usability issues. Excellent analytical skills, written and verbal communication skills.

    Anyone who knows usability issues isn't an Oracle DBA or a C++ programmer. Anyone who knows Java has no tolerance for writing JavaScript (no cushy IDE's or API's) and tries to create their own interface solutions by inventing UI frameworks that are unusable to UI designers. Also, since this is Northern Virginia, many of these ads tend to say things like "must have active Top Secret clearance with full scope polygraph" (which indicates government work). Last, anyone who knows Photoshop has no business writing stored procedures. By now you should be getting my point that many (most?) job ads are wish lists. Scott Berkun sums up the point from a different perspective (sanity).

    For projects of importance, you need divergent skills to succeed. It is not possible to find an individual with all of the skill sets needed, nor would you want to. To create a first rate website or software product, you need many tasks to be done in parallel, which means that more than one person has to be working at them.

    Having been on several 'projects of importance' on teams of diverse experience, this point has been driven home, repeatedly. The continuum of experience, from those who know far back end to UI dweebs, will hopefully include sufficient experience overlap. That overlap fosters effective communication thru mutual understanding, and contributes to project success. Employers need to realise this fact and get realistic with their job ads.



    February 4, 2002 8:21 AM


    Don't let the Wintel press lie to you, Mac OS is a multi-button-mouse OS. In OS9 you had to take an extra step on your own and install some third party software and buy a new mouse to get multi-button functionality. That is mostly true in Mac OS X if you want to fully leverage the capability. You don't need the software, but you still need the mouse.

    Out of the box, you can plug any multi-button mouse into your USB port and it works as expected. You can go a step further though. USB Overdrive is now available for OS X and is the best solution for controlling modern input devices, even those from MicroSoft. This one bit of software does the job of the wildly assorted device drivers (dll's) that you find in Windows, but thru one interface and one code library.

    February 1, 2002 12:16 PM


    This will be old news to some people, but it's worth bringing up again...

    Christina Wodke is working on a new site called badpractices.com that will be some sort of websites-that-suck archive with an eye towards bad usability, bad interface and bad Info Architecture. Since Christina's site is in Blog format, some people posted their feelings/ideas about the project. In particular, I found the following quote in a post from Nadav important...

    "I would personally find goodpractices.com more helpful."

    And perhaps he's right, but there is still a ton to gain from examples of bad practices. Personally, I find examples of bad stuff, and why it's bad, to be more helpful. Now, Mark Twain has been attributed the following quote...

    "Good decisions come from experience, experience comes from bad decisions"

    ...and I tend to agree. It seems to me that being told what is good or 'correct' doesn't help creativity. It tends to narrow things down by offering the proven and easy path. Having an open ended path suggested by things to avoid keeps the creative door open to new solutions.


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