Friday, June 14, 2002

Are your games here? On a Director mailing list Gary Rosenzweig notes the has found some of his creations posted to another site without his permission, and considering the large number of games there he wonders whether others are in a similar position. URLs include , , [sic],

Note that I have not checked this charge, but I'm reporting what he has found of his own work, and am passing his request that others check too. (If you create URL-sniffing protections in your SWFs, then consider that intermittent failure may be more useful than consistent failure... it's harder to troubleshoot an intermittent problem.)
ColdFusion Apps You've Built: Great thread from CF-Talk about "what do you now know that you wish you knew then?" Snippets: "There will be two programmers that look at and edit your code: the programmer you were when you wrote it, and the programmer you are now." "I look at old code and ask myself what I was smoking when I wrote it, I think we all do. But accept that it's wrong and learn from it." "The code I wrote last week, I can now write better." We're not at perfection, but we are striving for it.
Enron infographic: If you haven't seen it from Robert Hall's site already, then this is worth a look, maybe even a bookmark... MSNBC has a nicely-made presentation about their story. I think this probably conveys the ideas more effectively than other means. They also license this infographic.
FlashKit on Macromedia blogs: I found the link in my referrer logs. I wish people would read before forming an opinion, much less publishing an opinion. I started this blog out of my own volition. I did check with other folks in the shop first, and nobody said "Don't do it". More info is in the archives here...

"Brings me back to Junior High... I always thought it would be cool to work for MM, but it sounds like a bunch of enthusiastic camp counsellors have taken over Human Resources." This was written by someone who identifies themself publicly as "Anna Banana". Online rule-of-thumb: If someone won't claim ownership of their words, this is often an indication of those words' value.
Another Flash usability discussion: I'd summarize it, except the CHI-WEB archive's UI doesn't let me easily follow the threads.... ;-) Hmm, here's a comment from Don Norman on the usability guidance they're working on for Macromedia.... oh no, now Chris MacGregor is beating up on him, I can't bear to watch any more.... ;-)
[via John Rhodes]
Waldo Smeets got hired by Macromedia. Cool. Have they made you sing the company song yet...? ;-)

(I'd encourage you to continue to publicly note things you think others may want to know... it can definitely take some time to get oriented, so no worries on the time.)
DesDev navigation? I'm sort of surprised to have seen so little comment on how we can improve the ability to find things in the Macromedia Designer & Developer Center. An easy shot would have been "I want a 'What's New' page", but no, not even that. I know there has been a lot of talk about improved documentation and case studies and tutorials, but has it just been all talk...?
Slow app? Matt Brown shows how anti-viral programs can slow Dreamweaver. He is also pulling out announcements and tips from the macromedia.dreamweaver newsgroups and related forums, which is handy if you don't have time wade through the 900 messages each day in that group.

ColdFusion group blog: This is being started by Robert Occhialini, and will be about ColdFusion, and written in ColdFusion. More details will be at the above two links over the next few days.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

DesDev article: There's an article about Dreamweaver templates here.
Mapping via SWF: Chris Goad has an article which starts by reviewing the file format, but towards the end he includes a gallery of mapping applications... could be a good bookmark for showing clients what is possible.
SWF Search Engine SDK: As noted yesterday, this kit provides libraries which easily extract text and links from SWFs. Although it was created for search engine companies, it's also open to individual developers for tinkering. There are some good comments from Robert Hall and Matt Rice. They'd both like more control over the HTML form (I'd suggest post-processing, perhaps applying a DW template), and both mention adding something like META keywords to SWF files, which would likely require a future version of the file format. I think Robert was also talking about other potential file format changes to track related files. (Jumping to a scene in a SWF is hard because it's a streaming file format.) The first version of the FAQ didn't include this info, but the macromedia.openswf forum is a good place to talk about this... has a chance of reaching engineers too that way, thanks.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Dreamweaver & MacOS 10.1.5 thread: This has gotten a bit of play, but a quick check of Google Groups shows that others are not seeing this problem. I haven't installed that OS to try to reproduce the problem myself... I'm sure they're seeing something, but evidence suggests that the conclusion is not correct. (For latest reliable configuration news, see Dreamweaver recent technotes.)
SWF can read domain cookies: This paper points out that, if your site uses cookie and hosts a SWF file whose content you have not checked, and if the visitor's browser supports "javascript:" pseudo-URLs from plugins, then the SWF can read the cookie. That's true... if the SWF can ask the browser for info, then it can ask the browser for the cookie for that domain. All the usual cookie restrictions remain in place. It's good to know the code you're executing in your domain. I'll pass this to the Macromedia web team to get a reminder up on the Macromedia Security Zone
[via Guy Watson, who got it from]
WaSP Dreamweaver Task Force report: I saw the effort that Rachel, Drew and others put in on this effort during the beta, and I appreciate how they clearly identified areas to change, and explained why the changes would be desirable. There's still a lot of work to do in making the web more accessible, usable, efficient and effective, and I'm grateful they'll be contributing here too.
Extracting text from SWF: This FAQ describes how to use the associated free download to get a text or HTML report of the text and links in a SWF file. It's intended for inclusion in search engines -- we're sort of pre-processing the SWF-specific coding -- but it's also open to smart developers for serendipitous other uses too.

There's a lot of bogus conversation out there about searching SWFs. Atomz was the first I knew of that extracted text from inside SWFs. HotBot and AltaVista earlier engines that let you specify SWF results, and Google now has that "filetype:swf" qualifier. Google is particularly interesting because content does not need to have the search query within it to rank high... do a search on "google bombing" to learn more. Even with plain text content you just don't dump it out there and hope it gets indexed as you wish -- if you care about such things, you optimize the page to be recognized by various engines under the desired searches. With SWF you'd do the same thing with the HTML page holding the SWF.

Still, if you want search text inside a SWF, it's easier for engines to do this now. If you get a novel use of this code yourself then it would be great to hear of it, thanks.

Monday, June 10, 2002

WaSP on usability and accessibility: "Zeldman says the time has come to address the other, possibly tougher roadblock to universal Web accessibility: those who build sites, not browsers." This echos that "bowie" point below... how well does your creation actually fit the needs of the audience? There are multiple related elements: accessibility and standards determine how wide an audience you can reach... usability determines if they can understand your message once received... effectiveness determines whether they actually act as you desire upon your message... efficiency determines whether you can create such a message at low enough cost so everyone finds it profitable.

I know Kevin Lynch and other Macromedia folk took some flak when first pointing out bad design, but I suspect the folks at WaSP will be in a stronger position here: "'We plan to lovingly guide our peers toward accessibility and standards compliance,' [Zeldman] said. 'And if that fails, we plan to guilt-trip them. And if that fails, we will ridicule them mercilessly, as we once ridiculed Netscape and Microsoft.'"
David Bowie in NY Times: This got blogged heavily today, but I think this passage has implications for all of us: "I don't even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don't think it's going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing. Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen."

I think all digital content is in the same boat -- because it's easy to copy bits, bits will be copied. Your websites and markup and code will be stolen. Our applications will be stolen. Movies will be stolen. Because spam is possible, spam is inevitable. Because noise on mailing lists is possible, open mailing lists will become unreadable.

There's a flip side to this too -- pollution is possible, and does increase in developing countries, but then decreases in developed countries as costs decrease further. In the US deforestation increased during early development, but reforestation has dramatically increased in recent times. Violent crime does increase as communities grow, but then decreases as people become more societalized. War does increase as countries become more powerful, but then decreases as countries become more wealthy. Software and websites are stolen by those who aren't yet vested in the work. Abuse follows a bell curve rather than an exponential curve.

But how do we cross the chasm to the other side? Bowie points out that the membership in the event is the important thing -- touring and providing a full and unique experience is more copy-proof than delivering artifacts. For web development, it's not so much the site you create but how well you understand the client's needs, and how usable you make the site for the client's audience. Connections become more valuable than mere things. Sleepy LaBeef "It ain't whatcha do, it's the way how ya do it... it ain't what chew, it's the way how ya chew it."
Flashy Flash ads: Designers are starting to make some very eye-catching ads with Flash, and I don't mean that in a good way... when I'm reading an article I don't want stuff exploding and shaking and whirring in other parts of the page. There are companies I won't do business with because of their advertising, but they have a slow feedback loop and won't realize it. Right now I do a context-click on bad ads to turn off "Play" from the context menu. I don't know what a better situation might be, though... a keyboard shortcut would be cool, except the browser would have to be told how to direct the key event to the object in the page. Per-domain ad controls haven't taken off yet. I don't want to see a system-level utility turn off SWFs unless told to play. Other ideas? Thanks!
Henry Norr on home networking: Wireless connectivity gets a lot of talk now, rightfully, but there are advantages to other approaches too. This article describes how high-speed local connections can be made through your home's wiring system, using a small device between your computer and power socket. (He also raises a usability point at the end about online forms -- if you can enter your postal code you shouldn't have to enter your city and state too.)

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Mozilla on bugcount: Excellent summary of what "a bug" is, and shows why "fix all the bugs" and "publish the bugbase" are more difficult than they sound. (I avoid the term "bug" myself, because it just means "something someone somewhere sometime wanted changed", and so "is a bug" or "is not a bug" varies with the speaker. Any well-formed change request is a valid request, but whether it can be fulfilled to everyone's satisfaction is another matter entirely.)
[via Scott Andrew]
Political effects of technology: Phonecams in Saudi Arabia describes how some men are leaving new cellphones with digital cameras in areas reserved for women, hoping to get photos of people without veils. I guess they don't have X10 popunder ads there yet. We used to worry about the centralized state possessing many surveillance cameras and databases, but it's very much more likely that visual surveillance will be a far more decentralized activity -- the eyes of individuals will become more powerful, and civil-rights laws won't have an effect on this. Simple Al Qaeda web codes shows how mere juxtapositions of images or nonsense phrases can be used for prearranged messaging. Encryption technology has been classified as a munition for some reason, but when you outlaw encryption only outlaws will have encryption. Encoding is simpler than encryption and can't be outlawed. We can't realistically stop the advancement of human intelligence and personal power... the big task is to figure how to create sustainable social systems around these rapidly changing new abilities.