Friday, June 21, 2002

Mozilla & Flash ads: Hi, I don't have the time to create an account there right now, but if you've got concerns about SWF ads (whether you're in Mozilla or not), then could you drop a note to the Flash development team directly, please? (I'm forwarding the concern, but it's helpful if you make the contact directly too.) Thanks!
Helen Triolo on W3C pages: Hey, that's nice, Helen got a mention for that awesome work she has been doing in creating a SWF that can reader and render text SVG descriptions.

In a post to the SVG-Dev list she also commends the Flash CSS Parser of Claus Wahler... this and other recent applications like news aggregators and text editors really impress me that the small distributed engine can be instructed to create a wide variety of powerful browser-based applications.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Dreamweaver MX upgrade doesn't pick up existing site settings: There have been messages in the newsgroup that some have not had an MX upgrade recognize their existing sites. We've seen enough reports to know there's something up there, but we haven't been able to establish the difference on those systems yet.

An MX upgrade should just naturally recognize site addresses & passwords and such from previous copies of Dreamweaver or Dreamweaver UltraDev. If it doesn't, then your options are to either manually re-enter the settings, or to do a reinstall of the new app, which has apparently been successful in at least some cases.

We'd still like to find out what makes this not happen automatically on some of the machines out there, and the macromedia.dreamweaver newsgroup would be a great place for any leads on the difference, thanks. (I'm wondering whether there might be some type of common problem in the naming of the directories, some invalid character or length that could be triggering things in those situations.)

Runtime practicalities: I haven't yet seen external confirmation for this article in The Register about distribution issues of client-side Java discussed in a Microsoft/Sun legal case, but it has some interesting quotes:

"This attorney tried very hard to make me describe how I would approach the task of finding alternative ways to achieve ubiquitous distribution of the JRE if the preliminary injunction Sun is seeking is not granted. He...seemed to feel that Macromedia Flash was the key to getting Java widely distributed, but I truly cannot fathom how he expected this distribution strategy to work?"

We can. Because Flash - which is at most a 2MB download max, give or take a few bytes, is unbiqutious - the shyster was trying to goad Ross into acknowledging that Java should be just as widely adopted.

...Ross also points out that Flash is widely bundled - far more widely bundled than a Java run-time, but the Microsoft attorney didn't seem to be aware of the fact.

Wacky lawyers. Have a nice fancy expense-account lunch there, fella. ;-)

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Dreamweaver slow: There's another thread in macromedia.dreamweaver.appdev about slow performance, and this one was resolved with the one-or-all-files test... apparently the person posting the symptom was using a particular 194K document with a curiously heavy table. We do know that there are various ways to get unusually slow performance -- an over-active anti-viral program is one -- but getting that basic "some or all?" troubleshooting work done is the first step in clarifying anything for engineering. (The app should be about the same speed across versions.)
Adobe needs to take a stand Trying to prevent people from copying Aristotle is dumb... Project Gutenberg is cooler. But current authors would like to get compensated for their work. There must be a saner way to do this....
SWF bandwidth comparison: This is one of the few quantifications I've seen of the actual bandwidth used for comparable content:
In general, Pet Market consumes less bandwidth because the server sends a smaller amount of information over the network to the rich client front-end. Because the Pet Market front-end is already loaded, it executes code for formatting and presentation, so only data needs to travel down the wire. In contrast, the Java Pet Store and .NET Pet Shop have to send both data and presentation code over the wire.

This illustrates a fundamental dynamic of Pet Market: the longer the application is in use, the greater the benefit in terms of bandwidth savings. More importantly, once the files for Pet Market are cached on the local machine, the bandwidth advantage increases because Pet Market does not require an additional initial load.

(There's a massive amount of material in the new Pet Market Blueprint Application Center... I'm still reading through it myself!)
NPR linking policy: Wait until they find Google is caching all their pages.... ;-)
[via Doc Searls]
Macworld Expo no-go: MacCentral has an article stating that Macromedia won't be bringing the big booth to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in mid-July for the MacWorld Expo. When I check the events calendar I see that's right... we'll be at Javits two weeks prior, for an actual web-development conference, and will have a smaller presence at FlashForward2002 in NYC the same week as MacWorld Expo. There are additional links in my reply to that thread.
Measuring web capability: ZDNet offers a lengthy article about the difficulties of measuring consumer support for various video formats. Do you measure how many files there are out on the web? Or whether people have actually watched certain types of files in the last month? What do you do when one player handles multiple files, or when multiple players can handle the same file? Should certain types of content count more than others? (Here's more discussion of the cited numbers.)

Macromedia Flash MX does video, but it offers a single compact codec rather than the range of codecs available in the system-level video architectures. This makes it easier to download and install... wider adoption, faster update rate... sportscar vs pickup truck. The most recent Media Metrix consumer audit was conducted in March, right after the Macromedia Flash Player 6 was released, but here in June they're conducting a new viewabiliity audit which should be published in July. I'm guessing about 25-30% consumer viewability by this point, but would defer to their actual survey for best info. (The Media Metrix tests of actual consumer viewing capability seem the best numbers to me, although of course your site's particular audience may not match overall consumer net norms!)

Update: There's a press release today with interim info about Player distribution... in these first three months of availability there have already been over 200 million completed downloads, which is the fastest rate yet. (Note that we're measuring "completed downloads" here... when you hear "X downloads" execs usually are talking about initial download requests -- far greater than actual completed downloads, particularly when plugins are large.)
What should browser "back" button do in apps? In the ACM's CHI-Web list Jakob Uszkoreit ponders differences between browser-based documents and browser-based applications: "if i do something in an html based web application and press the back button, is the action i just caused by clicking that button comparable to the 'undo' menu item? does it undo what i did before?... the back button is useful for navigating through WEBS of information connected to each other by meaningful links, but not for [practical tasks such as] reserving a seat." "Go back" makes sense when you're navigating among things to look at, but what you should happen when you're doing something in a browser...?

(btw, if you're regularly on mailing lists then check out CHI-WEB's FAQ and Guidelines for an effective netiquette summary.)

Update: Mike Chambers has an article on this very subject today at the DesDev Center. (I think I'd still let the browser's page-retracing button do what it does best, myself, but your own mileage may vary.)
Robert Hall SWF speech synthesis: I'm sorry I didn't pick up on this three weeks ago, but I picked it up this morning from his comments on about the RNIB's accessibility critique in The Register. Here's more info about how Robert is approaching this, current status.
EFF copyright game in Flash: I haven't had the chance to play it yet, but it's an interesting concept to use a game to tell an otherwise-dry and intellectual story.
[via The Shifted Librarian, via Boing Boing]
Pet Market Blueprint: This is massive, and folks in the Developer Support Group here really want to hear how this works for you. It's a rich commerce application documented from front to back. It's the baseline application -- with this documentation, we're guaranteeing you can't do worse than this, and I'm betting that once you go through it you can do a whole lot better, too.

Mike Chambers has the overview of new articles... Colin Moock and Richard Koman orient app developers at O'Reilly... Guy Watson documents what's documented... CHris MacGregor already has usability comments up... I've got some context in this week's column. I expect there will be much discussion in the online groups where people already spend time, but feedback to the development team would be great if copied into the "soapbox" thread, thanks!

[NB: Macromedia does not actually endorse shipping live animals through the mail, save for certain special cases such as ant farms and sea monkeys.]

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Got a Google implementation? I'm having difficulty following the links back from Google Weblog through Rael Dornfest to Tara Calishan (?), but apparently there's a book in the works about interesting uses of Google and other engines. I know folks have been using ColdFusion and Flash with Google... if you've got something good, then you may be able to get some exposure for it.
SWF accessibility complaint: The Register UK reports that the Royal National Institute of the Blind is unhappy that the work done in the Macromedia Flash Player 6 for turning text and objects to words is not available to those using the JAWS screen reader from Freedom-Scientific. (I don't see a link in the Register's article to source info, and the RNIB's press releases don't provide access to this complaint either, so I don't have details on the complaint.)

It may be true that things aren't yet as they'd like, but I'd urge them to check whether the MSAA support in JAWS 4.01 makes the difference. I'm not sure whether the MSAA support is only for "list views" so far, or whether it's general MSAA support, but Freedom-Scientific is indeed moving in the direction of standard system-level assistive routines, rather than requiring special code in each application for their own reader-specific hooks.

(MSAA is "Microsoft Active Accessibility", providing a common system-level interface between various readers and various applications... you can think of it as a device-driver layer, similar to how Windows 3.1 freed applications from including special drivers for each video card. MSAA implementation is still in its early stages, and Macromedia Flash MX and GW Micro's Window-Eyes were some of the first to take advantage of this advance. The Mozilla browser is another early implementer of MSAA. I'm hoping that similar standard system-level routines become available for other operating systems soon too.)

I know it's hard to please every person perfectly, but I hope they're glad we're investing and succeeding in these early, standard, steps...?
[via David Emberton in]

Monday, June 17, 2002

Dreamweaver Hot Issues: There aren't many. The newsgroup does get a few different threads a day on "it's slow on my machine, anyone else?" (I guess they don't look at the existing messages first... each one asks "Have you checked the troubleshooting technotes first?", which can help with known differences such as over-active anti-virus utilities, Mac CarbonLib requirements, menu-modifiers and other customizations.)
Create interactive data map? Jenny Levine of The Shifted Librarian mentions Rick Klau's Chicago blogger list... I get the sense they're looking for a SWF-efficient rework of the rather awesome New York City Bloggers map. If you're honing your data-driven mapping skills, then this might be a synergetic opportunity...?
Death of the 'Official Story': Cool. I did that? Hey, for my next trick, I'll disappear car drivers who don't signal their turns because they're too busy on the phone.... ;-)

Seriously, if you're here because of the Clickz article and you're thinking of doing something similar, then a good first step may be to listen, and to ask, and listen some more before talking. Your customers are already talking together. Are you listening? Answering where you can? Asking for more info when you're not sure what it is that's important to them? Bringing their conversations back to others in your group?

This series of citations here in this blog is just a different way for me to keep things on the record... it's easier than wading through the 16,500 Usenet hits for prior conversations, or the various mailing list archives or web discussion boards.

"Bad products, shoddy service, and dishonest tactics will have a shorter shelf life than ever before." That's what we're fighting for with interactivity, and efficient publishing, and rich internet applications... as more people become more powerful, meaningful inequity tends to flatten out, BS becomes harder to sustain. Do you believe in what you're doing...?
PIXELSURGEON interview : jakob nielsen discusses, among other things, the new ways that SWF can help webwork. Brett Archibald asks him many interesting things, but like CHris MacGregor, this is the part that jumped out at me: "If the main goal is to read articles, then I think that standard web browsing will often be best because it allows users to focus on the content... On the other hand, if the design is very functionality oriented, as would be the case for a feature-rich Internet-based application, then I have long said that it is foolish to present it as a series of web pages. This is where Flash has the greatest potential for improving usability: when people need to use new features that are not provided by an article-reading tool like a web browser."

The computer can be used for different tasks, and "reading something" has different needs than "doing something". SWF doesn't replace HTML, but adds complementary strengths.
[via Flazoom, via Jeffrey Zeldman]
Flash in embedded Opera: Devices need browsers, and Opera is fully-functional and small. The Macromedia Flash Player will be available to licensees of Opera for embedded devices. You can see the platforms they're already on, as well as filesizes and how Java is larger than the Flash Player, but I don't have info about versions, dates, or distribution routes, sorry. If you see additional info you need, then the feedback form is a good way to request more info on the site, thanks.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Steve Gillmor: "Tear Down the Wall": Interesting article, in part for what it doesn't say. The topics range across Java vs Microsoft, client vs server... some speakers apparently believe client-side Java is a requirement and that it must be included in the browser to be viable... other parts talk about migrating Visual Basic users to the eventual Common Language Runtime... there is discussion of how the barriers between platforms are similar to the barrier the USSR tried to erect around its people.

"Are VB developers defecting to BEA's Weblogic Workshop or IBM's Eclipse or Macromedia's Flash MX? The numbers showed that the VB community is largely unchanged, [a representative from Microsoft] said. 'I'm not saying that most of these guys moved on to .Net and adopted it, because they haven't. What I'm saying is there is an early wave in about the first 30 to 45 percent of the VB developers who have tried .Net in some form and started to adopt it. But there's also a huge amount of concern for the rest of the VB developers [who ask], 'Oh my God, what should we do?'"

The big philosophy behind Macromedia MX is to be open to mix'n'match components and architectures, yet just make it more efficient to use MX components together. ColdFusion can sit atop and call elements from J2EE or COM, and yet Dreamweaver writes PHP or .NET or JSP just as easily as CFML. The Macromedia Flash Player has a higher deployment and lower adoption cost than client-side Java, and talks with any of those server-side languages, but if you'd rather deploy markup and JavaScript to the browsers then that's fine too. Gillmor says, "The developer community is looking for people who are not working off of proprietary business agendas; they're looking for people who are going to solve customers' problems." Not lock-in; entice-in... work with everyone, provide advantages to each.