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March 2003 Archives


March 31, 2003 5:04 AM


Working on something that will be on the AOL Welcome Screen, or something linked from it, is sort of stressing. You simply can not fuck up, and you have to scale like a mo-fo. I've just completed an item (with tons of help from many other people) that will appear in that type of location. Now, I'm just a cog in the wheel, but I happen to be the cog where people actually see the spokes turning (metaphorically and realistically) and if it breaks, I'll be getting the 3am phone call.

It's a ticker of the amount of spam emails that have been killed (before they got to a member's mailbox) since midnight. It's a huge number, and ticks along in real time. The systems by which that data gets from one place to another, and finally gets represented on screen for the user, is equally big. This scale issue has been one of the things that has been hard to get used to over the last year, but I think I'm finally getting it.

One of the cool things is the architecture by which data is cached (or not) depending on the responsibilities of that data and how it will be consumed (all in an effort to conserve network resources). Also, equally cool is the ability to embed web stuff in the proprietary AOL screens and make it look like it's totally normal. That sort of thing makes me hopeful that more "normal" web technologies will be used to present users with the content they are there to consume, and thus make my skills more useful :)

March 30, 2003 8:32 AM


Brent Simmons, author of NetNewsWire (NNW) gets the once over by one of our favorite Mac oriented webloggers (ie, Daring Fireball). when asked if Net News Wire was always intended to be a commercial app, Simmons says...

Yes. It was the intention from the beginning, and that the main difference between the full and Lite versions would be that Lite is read only, while the full version is also a writing tool.
I definitely use NNW as a read only application, thus NNW Lite is good enough for me. The editing piece of the Pro version isn't bad at all, but I'm really a BBedit kind of guy and have gotten to the point where I need (rely upon) BBedit to be better at blog post creation.

Currently, I type everything up in BBedit and switch back and forth between NNW and Safari to assemble up the pieces of these posts. Perhaps I'm lazy, but all that switching back and forth sucks, and makes it harder to create the linkfests that each of these postings is supposed to be. And then I have to connect to my site, and log into MovableType, etc, etc. Doing all that junk is a hassle.

March 27, 2003 10:07 AM


CNN is running a war blogging story that points to a blog by "L.T. SMASH" which is, of course, a Simpsons reference. It's interesting how CNN doesn't make that point though (likely because that would seem like a trivialization).

March 25, 2003 2:23 AM


Dolphins are helping out in the US led war against Iraq by searching for under water mines. Meanwhile, many people on shore don't have drinking water. That contrast is shocking.

March 25, 2003 1:39 AM


The Guardian offers up the first chapter in Douglas Coupland's novel All Families are Psychotic. One of the reviews at Amazon sums it up best...

Coupland's style is straightforward and self-aware. Like in his other books (for some reason, Microserfs comes to mind immediately), he's very capable of quickly drawing in the reader with a complex cast of characters who are faulted, funny, and fully human.
I certainly found that to be the case in Microserfs (which I read three or four times several years ago) and I appreciate the self aware style. Blogging is a lot like that where the writing is expected to be read, and the relationship between author and reader is casual.

[via interconnected]

March 24, 2003 10:23 AM


O'Reilly has a short article about the instant massaging competition between Adium and iChat, and much of it has to do with usability. The conclusion of the article is ...

Adium seems to be the power user's choice seemingly for being unobtrusive and handling many chat sessions at once. iChat integrates with other iApps and handles the wireless and power settings for which Apple's portables are known for.
In particular though, this is the most important aspect...
Its interface is clean and simple, and I find the tabbed conversations to be immensely easier to manage than separate windows.
I can't overstate the importance and utility of a clean, targeted, non-shovelware application. The mere fact that Adium makes Instant Messages less annoying is a good thing (I get MANY instant messages every day, all day, and it adds up) and this is something iChat has been unable to do. iChat just feels like it is gobbling up my transient work mindshare.

"transient work mindshare" - What I mean is, that as I work, interruptions are costly because they divert, and STOP the progress I might be making in a UI design, or a JavaScript function (or whatever). New IMs in Adium are non obtrusive (partially because I replaced the sounds with less obtrusive sounds) whereas in iChat, the scrolling, and bubbles, and the generally more kinetic interface make the interruption more powerful than what I experience with Adium.

[via macslash]

March 23, 2003 4:32 AM


This cat knows it's ugly.
This image seems to be making the rounds recently, but I'm not exactly sure where it originally came from. At the very least, this cat seems to know it's been violated, and is unhappy about it.

March 23, 2003 3:56 AM


There are more and more blog aggregation sites every month (and I'll miss many of them in this post). Rootblog seems to be the newest, and weblogs.com seems to be the most useless (to me anyway). Here's a list of these sites and a brief explanation of what they are trying to do...

  • Like I mentioned, weblogs.com seems to be completely useless due to the fact that it only tells you who recently updated. As a consumer of blog media, I do indeed care about who recently updated, but a list of hundreds of blogs placed in order of their update timestamp is not helpful.
     
  • NewsIsFree is pretty cool because it lets you know who updated recently, what kind of blog it is, and where their RSS feed is. The Directory of blogs and news sites, etc is good for discovering more of the types of blogs and sites you want to find. Also, if no RSS feed exists for a given site, NewsIsFree goes thru the trouble of scraping one together.
     
  • Syndic8 is pretty much the same deal as NewsIsFree, but has an XML-RPC interface for extracting information in more sophisticated ways. That's pretty cool, even though I won't be using it (for now anyway).
     
  • Rootblog takes the tact of reading RSS feeds and listing who has updated recently, and listing the recent posts with their short descriptions. This is more useful to me than weblogs.com, but I think there is more Rootblog can do. I'd like to see some sort of info architecture that lets me know what sort of content is at the recently updated site. Maybe that means everyone should be using Dublin Core metadata and pings should carry that information.
     
  • BlogTree isn't really an aggregator, but it does contain more semantically rich organizations of blogs by allowing authors to associate their site with others. You can say "this blog over here inspired my blog" and that gets leveraged by showing which blogs are children blogs, siblings, and parents. Very cool, but it's not much better than randomness for finding engaging blog content that you are interested in.
     
  • blo.gs let's you know who recently updated, and if known, shows you a link to the RSS feed for that blog. That's certainly more useful than weblogs.com, and better yet, you can set blogs to be watched, and there's a listing of the most watch blogs. Popularity as an index can be useful in terms of finding quality. There's a mechanism for finding blogs that are related, but that is "determined by who other people who have added it to their list of favorites." That's anecdotal relationship building that can be useful.
     
  • Technorati is kind of cool, but kind of promotes a High School popularity contest mentality, and is a manifestation of the blog power curve. Outside of that, I like the features of the site that allow you to see who is linking to a given blog, and consume that as HTML or as RSS. I read my server logs every day, and carefully look thru the referrers and follow them back to see who is linking to me site. Very often I find good sites that way, and I like that Technorati makes that useful information to anyone.
     
  • Blogrolling.com "is a web service designed to take the hassle out of updating lists of links on your website or weblog. By using simple "bookmarklets" with one click you can add links immediately on your website. No pesky HTML to edit everytime you want to add someone new." I don't use it, but I see referrer links coming from it every day now, so someone likes the idea of avoiding "pesky HTML."
     
  • AmphetaDesk "is a free, cross platform, open-sourced, syndicated news aggregator - it obediently sits on your desktop, downloads the latest news that interests you, and displays them in a quick and easy to use (and customizable!) webpage. With thousands of channels available, AmphetaDesk can shave hours off your day." It's important to note that you run an application and select blogs to aggregate and then view that aggregation thru a browser, so it's still sort of a website, but kind of an application. I use it.
Knowing that someone recently updated their site is good to know, but it is not the nexus of what compels me to go read that blog. I want assistance in finding new blog content that is interesting to me.

March 21, 2003 10:28 AM


In the last week I have seen several referrer URLs show up in my server logs pointing to people's résumés. My advice? Knock it off, because anyone who thinks this is a useful way of finding work is delirious. I don't need anymore delirious co-workers.

Perhaps the bitter irony for some of these folks is that my group might be looking for someone with some mad skills, but referrer spamming is not the way to do it. Spamming, in any format, is dishonest.

March 20, 2003 8:01 AM


While discussing some 'quirks mode' and 'strict mode' browser behaviors, and regarding the need for more correctly written HTML, Dave Hyatt asks...

If you don't behave strictly when in standards mode, how will people ever write valid HTML?
Sorry dude, that's a false question. "Writing Valid HTML" is like "burning clean coal." It can sort of be done, but there's always something making it dirty, or systems that are so draconian that they sap out the value of the resource (be it coal energy, or perfectly valid XHTML).

Human nature, poor markup rendering engines that are widely spread, and idiotic decisions like making XHTML 2.0 not be backwards compatible, will make "strict" the sigma seven on the curve of diminishing returns.

Should we try to write valid markup, and assume it will be rendered with tender loving care? Of course! And I think Dave's efforts, to make that a reality by following reason and altruistic goals, are good efforts. Unfortunately, browsers can't trust the markup they will have to render, and web developers can't trust browsers not to be quirky (or completely stupid).

Should strict mode be "less quirky" mode or should strict mode be "if it isn't perfect, it's going to be an f'ing mess" mode?

March 20, 2003 3:47 AM


The New York times reports about Intel's new Centrino chip, and make the point that Intel seems to think wireless networking is their idea. We nerds know Apple and Linksys were on that boat years ago (and now Linksys is being bought by Cisco), but more importantly we have this...

Although Pentium M chips are making their debut at speeds from 900 megahertz to 1.6 gigahertz, they're faster than previous mobile Pentium chips even in the 2.4-gigahertz range. For years, many consumers have assumed that more megahertz is always better, unaware that megahertz comparisons among different chip families are meaningless. It will be fascinating to see Intel, which for years has benefited from the Megahertz Myth, suddenly put into the position of having to dispel it.
Still though, my G4 running at 550 mhz is butt ass slow. I've got wireless access at the office though, with technology that's about ayear old, and includes zero Centrinos, so that's pretty cool.

March 19, 2003 9:25 AM


I have recently begun to receive emails from readers asking for help on things. Quinn asked me about an RSS issue, and I was more than happy to help him out on that (and I hope my suggestion worked). On the other hand, I'm getting emails from people about their broken javascripts, Macintosh oriented problems, and small phallus sizes, er wait, that was spam...

What I want to know from other bloggers out there is, do you get these emails asking for help? Do you answer them? All of them? Or just the ones that are bloggy in nature?

[Real life craziness continues to preclude robust blog postings. I'm hoping to get back to normal soon.]

March 15, 2003 9:58 AM


This was posted to the Webdesign list today. It's bad news because Glasshaus made User Interface, Info Architecture and User Experience oriented books. The Ed books were pretty good too, I don't care about Wrox though...

From:"Hugh Blair" <xxxxx@xxxxx.xxx>
To:"'Webdesign-L'" <list@webdesign-l.com>
Date:Sat, March 15, 2003 12:24 am
Subject:RE: [WD]: [OT]: Glasshaus and Friends of ED: RIP?

> -----Original Message-----
> 
> > I hear that Wrox is dead too.

Dear all

Please note that Peer Information, our parent company, has just been declared officially insolvent (bankrupt). This means that all current book projects end immediately and there will be no more friends of ED books.

All of us that worked here are now unemployed. Please accept my apologies for the sudden announcement, but it came as a bolt out of the blue to all of us here - we knew the company had been in trouble but had been led to believe it would be able to pull through, this turned out not to be the case.


Further to my communication regarding placing Peer Information into liquidation, I would like to clarify that Peer Information includes the following legal entities:

- Wrox Press Ltd
- Friends of Ed Ltd

Wrox Press Ltd also trades as: Glasshaus, Curlingstone, Active Path and Tect.



March 14, 2003 2:41 AM


This work week has been a long one with strategic shifts, personelle changes and personal (family) drama. Regular posts will resume next week.

March 11, 2003 4:19 AM


I attended this thing at work today where Jeffery Cole, a Ph.D. at the UCLA Center for Communication Policy (see inset) spoke about current internet trends. It was pretty interesting, but I felt that one major hole in is presentation was bilateral media communications (eg, blogs).

Anyway, here's a bulleted list of some of the things he spoke about (notes were taken in real time, and thus punctuation and grammar are assumed to be absent)...

Surveying the Digital Future
Year Three: The Emergence of Trends
Jeffery Cole, Ph.D.
Director, UCLA Center for Communication Policy
The UCLA Internet Report, 2002
-----------------------------------------

Intro for Cole emphasizing social and economic impacts of digital media on society.

Cole apparently arranged the Info Superhighway conference with Al Gore nine years ago. Today he stands on a stage, bathed in a projected AOL logo talking about the impact of the net on the social fabric.

Today 14 year olds are watching less TV, and this confirms the fact that bilateral communications are attracting people away from TV.

In interviews with a random sample, 5% of Americans appear to NOT be online for the simple reason that everyone else is.

He feels that the gap between Broadband users and modem users is wider then the gap between modem users and non-users. "Broadband changes everything." (And I agree, due to the simple fact the immediacy of data interaction creates a seamless experience, and allows the user to concentrate on the data and the experience instead of the delivery of it. The mental shift between the meaning of the data and the delivery of it creates roadblocks.)

59% of Americans are online. 42% of the rest expect to go online soon (within 12 months) but that might be a hopeful statistic.

Hours per week usage has increased about 2 hours/week in two years.

As people gain internet experience, their usage and online time increases. A bar graph shows a relatively linear increase.

The graph for "at home" connections is vastly modem based, but broadband connections of growing pretty well. WebTV is on the decline. Cable modem seeing the greatest numeric increase.

Internet use is sapping time away from of-line media activities, except in the case of movies.

Broadband use impacts TV advert watching and modem use impacts general TV watching. Broadband use tends to be more atomic, as in, bite sized chunks, perfect for preempting commercials.

March 10, 2003 11:01 AM


Beginning sometime soon, my office mate (Lee) will begin posting to this here weblog type thing. I've made a few changes to the data under the blog postings to help show who is posting what, because I'm guessing Lee and I will likely be talking about similar things. I want you know who you are yelling at when you post your comments :)

March 10, 2003 4:25 AM


Last year Jamie Kellner said some semi-crazy things about watching TV and ignoring commercials...

Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots.
I felt that that position was kind of extreme, and that it wasn't a TiVo friendly position. When Kellner announced his pending resignation, I chuckled to myself that maybe his comments had caught up with him. But sadly, that attitude is burned-in like a video game on an EPROM (ie, a cartridge). For example, AOL is making a Tivo competitor that...
lets networks set the parameters, dictating which shows users can reschedule, and it also creates ways for networks to insert commercials.
And that is clearly the type of system that Kellner would approve of and is completely not focused on empowering/emboldening the consumer. In fact, I think I've noticed a fabric at AOL that is based on the idea that content is something to be delivered. As in, We make it, you consume it, pay up. I don't think the future of media (or journalism) is uni-directional.

March 7, 2003 4:39 AM


Last week I was sitting in front of my TV watching Cory and Rael on the ScreenSavers, which is pretty geeky to begin with (just ask my wife) and I was tooling around online. Thankfully I had a mail client up and poised for a new message when they announced a little contest. The first five emails to be received at some address would receive a free pass to the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference. I typed like mad, forgetting who I was going to send email to, and hit send. Yesterday I got this back in the mail...
Hi there! and Congratulations!
You are a winner of a free conference pass to the Emerging Technology Conference, April 22-25, 2003, in Santa Clara, California at the Santa Clara Westin Hotel.
Whoot! If anyone in Northern Virginia is going to this too, drop me a line.

March 6, 2003 9:35 AM


Check it out, a wholesale adoption of my UI appears here. Even the logo!

I'm assuming that they are using the UI as a basis, and will be making changes, but I've sent a note along asking for that change to happen. It's sort of flattering to have this sort of thing happen, but kind of uncool to see they didn't remove my logo.

March 5, 2003 9:37 AM


Blogger wants to make it possible for webloggers to call it in, so you could push your material out as MP3's. That's pretty cool, and I think opens up the possibility for Blogger peeps to become on-the-scene reporters. Now, if you wanted to create a system where you have your normal blog outputted in HTML, and RSS and now in audio, you could do that. If you did, would you put an index.mp3 file in your web root directory, and edit your httpd.conf file to hand that out? (after index.html, and index.shtml, and index.php, etc.)

If so, do you need a <link> tag to point to this alternate presentation layer? We have this tag for pointing to our RSS files...

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="http://inmyexperience.com/index.xml">
Why not make one that looks like this...
<link rel="alternate" type="audio/mpeg" title="MP3" href="http://inmyexperience.com/index.mp3">
Now you may ask, how do I easily make an MP3 out of my little bloglets? Thankfully someone already asked the LazyWeb and there were several answers (one is nearly perfect). But they cover how to take in an RSS feed and turn that into an MP3, not making the MP3 at the time of your posting. That's no big deal really, after (before?) you post your blog item, you could turn around and run your MP3-ification routine (and assuming you use Mac OSX, you could automate a lot of that, including the upload).

If someone made all of this work, and wrote it all up, I'm guessing it would probably qualify for Ben's Weblog Hacks book.

March 4, 2003 7:26 AM


At my local grocery store, there are five self check out lines that are almost always empty. Only when there's a snowstorm coming, and its right after work, will these lines be used by the non-geeks. I love it, because, being a UI dork, I like attempting to use these over complicated and highly conditional systems to see how they work.

First, when you approach the register/thing it sense that something has come close, so it starts telling you how to work the system. IF you have a Bonus Card, please scan that first, and then you can start scanning all of your junk, but if you have any oranges, please weight them, but if they are Tangerines, those are four for a dollar, so just look up the item on the touch screen (I was able to do this in four clicks, but I've seen others use seven or ten more than that).

Ok, that Coke you have, well, the UPC label is coded in to represent a six pack, so when you scan that, the light over the register/thing will start blinking, so a cashier can run over and tell you how to deal with that (thus I now avoid single bottles of soda at this store). Now, keep scanning your stuff, and watch it go down to the conveyer, where it sits there until you are done and can go bag it yourself.

Ready to pay? Ok, if you want to use cash, hit the cash button on the touch screen, and if you have change, insert that first, and then your bills (and this is where the system shines, I have yet to have a refused bill of any kind), and when you insert enough money to match or exceed your bill, your change is ejected in a spot back behind the register/thing. If you have change that's more than a buck, bills come out somewhere else, which the system tells you in a not-so-sexy mother like voice. In a third location above eye level, two feet down the aisle, your receipt is printed out on top of the machine that looks at the conveyer belt to make sure you put four tangerines thru, not five.

No cash? No problem, press the credit button, or if you prefer, the debit button. Now, go back to the beginning of the aisle, and swipe you card thru a different machine, hit the credit or debit key on this machine, and then listen to unsexy mother like register/thing tell you that is "processing" ... "processing" ... "processing" ... "processing"

I should start a photoblog of all of the confused faces that I see alighting upon these poor customers. Until then, I've got the system down pat (thru learned behaviors) and use it at every chance, because it gets me out of the store faster than anyone else (especially those who are older than me).

March 3, 2003 9:22 AM


We all know how to pirate MP3s right? Sure! Everyone (who's evil) knows how, but modem users like myself don't really get that much out of that system, and even worse, pirating movies is pure hell. The downloads are huge, and all of the formats are confusing, but TechTV wants to help you take those DivX files you have and pump them onto a DVD. All of the apps involved are freeware too.

March 3, 2003 8:29 AM


Viral marketing only works when people don't know that they have been infected. It's kind of like people who have the flu and don't come to work to spare those who are healthy, but in reverse I think. Those who are healthy (me) avoid the infected (see below).

"Nicole, 18, a Louisiana high-school senior with a popular blog" has been flown somewhere, with other bloggers, to be Dr. Pepper'd. Being a gen-x'er, and being aware of a marketing attempt by proxy, I already think the whole thing is dishonest.

[via boingboing]

March 3, 2003 2:55 AM


So, some kid submitted an essay in shorthand text massaging shorthand, and some wonk says...

a decline in grammar and written English was partly linked to the text massaging craze.
Duh. But really, it's the other way around, and only in that format. The text massaging craze leads to a decline in written english in that media transmission format due to the fact that the text entry interface, and the medium of reading it, is not conducive to prosaic dissertations. Paper written essays are not the place for l33tsp34k. Teach your students that.

The student was communicating effectively, but for a given media transmission format, and should be taught where that's appropriate. I'd give the kid a failing grade for being cheeky and for not effectively communicating (which is the point of excersize). Then I'd get right back to sending all of my IMs in lower case and sans punctuation. L4m3r.

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