Friday, November 08, 2002

DirectImage Xtra: Speaking of Xtras, you folks who use Flash should examine this page... Shockwave's extensibility lets talented developers do remarkable things with this platform.
Director->PocketPC: Werner Sharp's Export Xtra is in final release... this parses a Director file, converting media, handling interactivity, and delivering a new file which can then be played on a PocketPC device. (Werner used to work on the Director development team, and has a solid understanding of how to make such a thing work.)
GetContentSize: Give this page an URL, and it will tell you how much of that page is content, how much is supporting structure like scripts or styles. Creator Adrian Holovaty has more info & reader comments here. (The page "JD on MX" that you're reading right now is 53% content... gotta get less grey space, I suppose.... ;-)
[via Poynter Media Tidbits]
Schlotzsky WiFi: Sandwich shop will offer connectivity in each store. There is a commercial advantage in helping people connect together. (Starbucks and Borders Books are two other chains which offer net access.)
Jeffrey Zeldman on OBJECT/EMBED: He notes that AListApart next week will present a new method for specifying extended content (not just Flash) in a page. I'm 'way behind on public email, much less private email, and so can't investigate right now, but I'm not sure what that might be... the existing browsers are extended in the way they specify. Doing a JavaScript dynamic-write of extended content is one way to make the strict validators happy, but that makes the page larger, not smaller. I hope that the article doesn't end up causing more problems than it solves...? (Comments from the author welcomed here, btw.)

Thursday, November 07, 2002

What prevents ease of use? I hadn't visited before, but it's linked heavily in blogs today. On first scanning this article by Scott Berkun appears very useful... I'll print it out for reading later and will also check the other articles there. "I’ve tried to catalog the different reasons why projects didn’t result in easy to use designs. Below I’ve compiled the top ten reasons into a short list, with some brief suggestions on how to approach fixing the problem. A good first step might be to send this list out to your team, and ask each everyone to identify the ones they think apply to their own teams."
[via Blogdex]

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Nielsen interview at Sitepoint: Four page interview by Kevin Yank... seems like an overview to his story. The section on Flash describes the current offerings. Pull quote: "All designers should take the following three measures: 1. Test your design with real users... 2. Check the design against established usability guidelines... 3. Run some user tests of other designs that attempt to solve similar problems...." I wasn't aware of this until I caught the link from Aral Balkan... Derrick Rapley manages the ColdFusion User Group at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and web-publishes a categorized database of resources for developers. He has opened this up to suggestions from readers. Essentially he is creating a directory of resources, like the Open Directory Project but with tighter focus, more appropriate structure, and a known editorial eye. I think this type of assistance in navigating and evaluating infospace will become increasingly important as time goes on. Kudos!
MSNBC -- The Big Picture: Very interesting SWF programming from MSNBC... it's essentially broadcast material, with some limited client-side interactivity, but it does have some group-interactivity through a (now-expired) live voting feature. The overall production values are those of a network... the video is large and well-done, the infographics are clean and polished. I get the sense that they're trying to move their existing skills to the web, and they're not really set up to ask how the audience can be empowered to do things through their site... they're still in that mass-broadcast style of communication.I'm fascinated and ambivalent... it's very well-done, but for me it's also wrong, because any monosyballic monologuist with big hair is really scary from the start. But they've done this "Things to See, Say and Do" piece so well.... ;-)
[via Daniel Dura]
Harry Potter Aggregator: We've seen aggregation in the tech world, but I think it's significant that it's now moving out into the consumer world. I'm not sure of the implementation... the .CFM suffix on some pages implies ColdFusion use in some way... I think it feeds in both RSS and non-RSS sources... some of these sites are general news as well as Potter-specific news, so I'd imagine they filter at the article level as well (ie, this differs from Google News because we subselect sites as well as particular content within those sites). The network produces a lot of stuff... how can we help people find the stuff they actually want...?
[via Ben Hammersley]
Anthony Eden's Eyeballs: Quite sick. If you jump up a directory level then there are a few dozen more visual experiments to examine. If you work with Flash you'll want to see this; if you don't work with Flash you'll want to see this too. It's good to build a mental library of interactive visualization techniques.
[via Todd Hopkinson]
Chris MacGregor on DevCon: I had missed his reports on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday sessions until he relinked them. (I was offline a few days, and am still catching up.) It was great to finally meet, but I was just guessing about that "'Hemispheres' is the top logical level" thing.
Long-distance User Group meeting: Guy Watson notes here that the next meeting of the London Macromedia User Group will have Samuel Wan and Branden Hall talking about the Flash Communications Server... while they're still in the States. We're still exploring ways to effectively use these new communication technologies....
Macromedia warez and crackz: If you steal digital bits, you may get caught, or you may not. It's like playing the lottery, only in reverse.
Article on Kartoo, a SWF-fronted metasearch engine: "I urge you to give Kartoo a look. Ask yourself whether visualizing data brings new capabilities to the search experience... I have the suspicion that visualization is one area where companies are hoping to reinvigorate the tech world." This will be a big area of opportunity over the next five years... we have lots of great capabilities, but we need to find where they add the most value to actual user experience, and we need to learn to implement these technologies for the most effective and engaging user experiences. Those most in tune with their audiences will do best here, I suspect.
Flash Happy Meal: Singapore Palm Users Group discusses Flash on Sony Clie, and how McDonald's is using them in a restaurant promotion. No hardcore info here, I just liked the photo and the title.
[via News]
Skills needed in Australia: states "Soon-to-be released Hub data shows demand for IT skills in certain areas has risen over the past year including: risk assessment, disaster recovery, wireless, storage management, web services, Macromedia, SAP PeopleSoft and security." Let's hope they're not all busy making "Skip Intro" pieces.... ;-)
DevCon feedback survey: I caught some of the results from the feedback forms people filled out after the conference... "97% felt they received practical info they could immediately use"... "93% indicate they better understand Macromedia's product strategy"... "95% of attendees rated their overall experience at DevCon as Good or Excellent". The obvious takeaway is that the disgruntled pessimists out there need to spend more time on feedback surveys.... ;-)
Studio MX price increase 2003: This press release states that the price will go up to $899 US after the end of this year.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

CF-Europe Conference: This will be held in the end of May in London next year. I have no personal connection with the event, but saw it mentioned in a user group mailing list.
Userplane Flash IM client: They're not just selling a software application, they're also selling a service. I think there's an important niche for customizable messaging systems, particularly in light of developments such as AOL providing monitoring of such conversations. There's info on a few other business applications at the Userplane site.
Flash/Palm comment: The Flash bloggers picked up on this port before the actual news release, but now others are aware of it too. There's a good range of comments here to show how this ability is currently understood within the posting Palm community.
My DevCon takeaways: (Late, I know, but I took some time to travel after, and still don't have my home computer back.) Of all the Macromedia conferences I've been to, this one had the greatest range of subject matter, and the greatest depth in each... the group of us covered a lot of subject matter, and there was a great diversity in attendees. The Disney thing was a little weird for me -- I just learned you couldn't buy chewing gum there, for instance -- but now that the three-year rental contract is fulfilled I think that the Sept03 DevCon in San Diego should be the best yet. I still miss the closing session, the Sneak Peek and the feedback session... hope we can restore those next year. I was really glad to put faces to names I've respected for a long time, but still missed some folks who were there... there's gotta be better technology to help in finding and meeting people at events such as this. I was surprised by how many people said they read this blog and column... appreciate the comments greatly, and I'm glad you found it worthwhile to attend, thanks!
Jon Udell on video blogging: This is a few days old but I've been offline. He notes an advantage to cam-reporting in immediacy and visual details. After the conference I've been thinking that cam-blogging can be also advantageous to see how people react to each other in conversation. (I didn't include cam SWFs here because I didn't know we'd have wireless, and so hadn't purchased a card for my home laptop.) I know in my gut that there's advantage in such easy publishing of visual data, but also suspect it will take us-all some time to figure out how it can be of unique advantage over text.
Comments on WiFi at DevCon: Robert Occhialini notes, in part, "we all had the ability to discuss the keynotes with other people who were in the room without actually having to know who else in the room had a laptop and wi-fi." (The permalink above isn't currently working for me, but you can read the full comments on his Nov4 entries in his blog.)

Monday, November 04, 2002

Corporate adoption of Flash video: This is just a press release, but could be a useful bookmark if you have a client who needs SWF but needs a voice-of-authority argument before they'll be comfortable with it. Fox, Universal, Siemans, more are using it for their audiences by this point.
Googlism: I learned of this through BoingBoing too... you submit a name or place, and you get back text extracts from the Google results. (It seems like it appends terms to the search... "X is" is common in every result.) The results are trivial, sure -- finding what the web is saying about a noun is just a mechanical operation and doesn't require human insight -- but I'm interested in this because it's another way of harvesting the decisions made by thousands of independent people. The site also made good use of viral marketing... they give away a utility that friends will want to tell each other about, and then have paid ads and directories on the page itself.
Links from Boing Boing: Some nice referrals recently... a map of Manhattan WiFi coverage (wow, but let's get busy on Central Park), Scot Huot's Evil Clown Generator, Infinite Wheel Dub Selector.I'm not sure how "Jim" is using these last examples... seems like he's trying a variety of approaches to a particular experience he wants... I could see this being used live on a screen in a club, or with multiple people on multiple machines. It's interesting to compare the interfaces, figure out which things work and why, how you'd handle a given task differently.
TerraQuest: This game uses Shockwave, and seems to blend online and realworld experiences together. I haven't played or examined it yet, but got a pointer to it from an article in MacCentral today.
Usability tips for corporate Flash: Charles Fuller has a ten-item checklist at First two items are "know your audience" and "know your message", and he makes the distinction between visitors just looking at things versus actually doing things. (It's great that we're seeing more emphasis on usability in the general press these days... feels like a real change in emphasis out there.)