Thursday, December 12, 2002

Social uses of Google: Excellent article by Steven Levy in Newsweek. It's not just about the search engine; it's about how the network, and our use of it, has permanently changed. Lots of different angles explored here... towards the end it gets into the standard company history. One line in particular caught my eye:

"By empowering the masses to make use of the multi-terabit glory of the Web, Google has made supersleuths of us all. Privacy advocates are going crazy at the Pentagon’s plan to track citizens’ purchases, Web-site visits and phone calls. But as my search for the eBay seller indicates, with Google everybody is Big Brother." Thank goodness... my first reaction to the frenzy about "Total Information Awareness" was "You're kidding, they don't do that already?" When I got into bed with a CitiGroup credit card I had no illusions about what they wouldn't trade with others. You may have an expectation of privacy in your transactions, but it's better to get it in writing. I suspect we'll morph to multiple authenticated identies eventually anyway, so you can control individual facets of your public life without trusting centralized powers.
[via Cory Doctorow, via Meg Hourihan]
Froogle: The folks at Google scare me sometimes. I've used their regular engine to search for products, but even this beta is just more efficient. They already trawl most sites, so they've extracted product listings, categorized them, and allow searching by price range. See "merchant info" for details on implementation. And I'm really jealous of whoever thought up that name.... ;-)
[via CNET]
WIRED on Torrone's Segway: I hadn't realized that only 30 people had them already, and Phillip apparently had to write a compelling essay to qualify. Check out the photos of him & Beth doing the "Daisy, Daisy" routine after dinner at Kamen's. I'm still sorta jealous that Seattle is apparently more progressive and tolerant than San Francisco, though.... ;-)
Veer Image Zoom: A stock-photography house offers realtime zooming on images via SWF. I'm on a fast connection and can't readily determine the resolution of the bitmap they're sending down the wire. They also have "Flont" where you can enter a custom text string for previewing and comparing typefaces. Both are web applications that help you do things and play with things, not just look at things.

(Anyone remember Shockwave for xRes? This was the first bitmap-inspection handling I recall for the web. A high-res image was chopped into tiles and a CGI routine would fetch and position chosen tiles on demand. Later zooming techniques found different balances between initial download time and number of eventual download requests... there's always a balance between how much is done on the server, how much is done on the client.)
ColdFusion MX Updater Release 2: There are many changes in this one, detailed in release notes. It's strongly recommended to install this updater, because ColdFusion MX is the first version ported to Java, and these first six months of worldwide use helped discover many additional change-requests. Note that this Updater Release 2 includes all the changes from Updater Release 1, so you can go directly from a stock installation into this preferred version.
Top 10 "need to know" items: A. Russell Jones at DevX writes "The 10 Technologies that Will Help You Stay Employed": XML, web services, OOP, a language like Java or C#, JavaScript, regexp, design patterns, Macromedia Flash MX, Linux-and-Windows, and SQL. (I'm still surprised at seeing little ol' Flash on year-end lists like this.) But he adds at the end that the most important skills of all are likely keeping curious and cutting yourself some slack, which I'd go along with.

" When you need more client-side graphics and programming power than you can get with HTML and CSS, Flash is the answer. Programming in Flash is much faster and easier than programming graphics applications with Java applets or .NET code. In its newest version (MX), Flash is not just a drawing and animation package, it's also become a highly programmable application environment. and it's capable of consuming SOAP Web services and calling ColdFusion, Java, or .NET code running on a remote server. Flash is ubiquitous; its runtime is on most of the client machines in the world, including handheld devices, set-top boxes, and even the new Tablet PCs, so using it may actually extend your programs' reach."
Spectrum Policy: Property or Commons? Sounds dry, but I suspect this may turn out to be a watershed event. Right now goverrnments award frequency, and market feedback cannot influence its use. Thomas Hazlett and Lawrence Lessig will debate how models based on property or commons can work better. These two guys can talk... should be exciting, and the results could have positive implications for us all.
[via Jeff Jarvis]
New Flash Player now in consumer distribution: This is the 6.0.65+ version which has been in developer-level public beta for the last two months. It's a bit bigger than its number may imply, because it adds some some new features as well as addresses some engineering requests; full info and links in this technote.

One other thing: the Player Download Page, which may be the only page some consumers ever see, now links directly to the documentation on player privacy settings and the settings manager. This request came directly from the "flash sees you" discussion last week... we can't always handle change-requests so quickly, but the timing for this one worked out well. Other specific change requests are always appreciated, here, or on lists, or in the team input form, thanks.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

LibraryLookup: Good use of web services. Some libraries expose to the net which books they have, and which are currently on the shelf. Jon Udell offers a set of bookmarklets for such libraries, one per library. If you're on a page in a catalog like Amazon which keeps the book's unique ISBN number in the URL, then click your local library's bookmarklet. It parses the URL to extract the ISBN, submits it to your local library's web service, and then gives you a page about whether the book is currently available.
Contribute boxes arrive: Bob Tartar dropped me a box of Macromedia Contribute 1.0 this morning. At first I thought they left the manual out, but then I realized that all the documentation it takes is a tri-fold brochure on heavy cardstock.... ;-)

(It's really easy to use Contribute, but we all have a lot to learn in administering and designing in Dreamweaver for Contribute. Specific issues are listed in technotes, and subject articles are at the Contribute Development Center, but if you've got a request for the ongoing documentation then please drop a note, thanks!)
Las Ketchup monthly mindshare in five nations: Google's regular Zeitgeist archive of changes in search term popularity has its year-end summary right now. They're exploring some new visualization techniques this year, but I can't help but feel there are more effective ways to picture changes in the thoughts of the collective mind...? (I picked up this link from Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librarian, and she also points out Janes' Blogosphere for blogroll-based aggregation, the new Google Viewer to quickly inspect sites and Google Webquotes to find how sites are described by other sites... lots of good info-management stuff here.)
Live-action wireless game: "The Go Game" uses wireless connectivity for group games on the streets of San Francisco. I haven't played it, and don't recognize the organizers by name, but I wonder if there's a connection with Jayson Wechter's annual Treasure Hunt, which grew out of the San Francisco Suicide Club. I know there are other people exploring live-action games with connectivity, but I'm not sure how to search them... terms like "wireless game city streets" pull up too many extraneous hits.
[via Vince Kimball, via Howard Rheingold]
"Easier than FrontPage"? I don't usually mention product reviews here, but this article in EContent had a line I don't recall seeing before: "If you've explored previous versions of Dreamweaver, you will be struck by how much easier MX is to use because it automates many coding-intensive tasks; it gives (dare I say it) FrontPage a run for its money in ease of use."
3D walkthroughs for realtors: Davood Soleymani offers two visualization techniques for prospective tenants: a photo-based panorama via client-side Java, and a fully navigable tour using Shockwave. It seems like these two approaches complement each other, one focusing on appearance, the other focusing on the actual space itself. Due to the costs of modeling or constructing a panorama I suspect this would work best for housing complexes, rather than owner-occupied units. This MicroTies site opened up just two weeks ago, and is opened to arbitrary listings, with the business model being based on selling these visualization services.
Drum RIA: Pearl Drums has a rich internet application where you can build a custom drum kit. It lets you do stuff while shopping -- play with things, try arrangements -- it's not just looking at some photos and text. Worth examining... kudos to the design group on this.
[via Matt Brown]
Christine Perfetti on hotel UIs: She watches while people actually use various web applications to book hotel rooms, noting what works and what snags people. (I hadn't realized that over 600 hotels already use the iHotelier OneScreen system.) See more site analysis from the User Interface Engineering group here.

I picked up the link from Chris MacGregor, who also has links today on topical web games, and an odd article which seems to be Jakob Nielsen's experiences with muggles...?

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Honduras bans games based on content: This article in Games Industry Biz has enough irony that I don't need to add more. The recent Greek ban on gambling games was overturned recently, but this Honduras action seems to break new ground. Meanwhile, Australian courts say they have jurisdiction over web material published elsewhere. What next? If I say Mohammed liked pretty girls, can I be legally offed in San Francisco?
[via Matt Drudge]
Instant chain-letter response: Are you still getting Craig Sherwood messages, or Neiman-Marcus cookie recipes? Just send your credulous friend this URL. (Most of the "tell five friends" messages I get these days instruct me to rag on Bush for recognizing the War Against All Infidels, but I'd hate to bruise their egos by sending them the URL to Charles Johnson in return....)
[via Jenny Levine]
Genuine artificial text: True, you could use the "Insert Corporate Mumbo Jumbo" extension on the Dreamweaver Exchange, but this is high-quality lorem-ipsum we're talking about here, folks, baked fresh daily!
[via Jeffrey Zeldman]
Web designers obsolete? Naw, you know more than you think you know. Take a look at what happens when this self-confessed "Cranky Consumer" tries to make his own wedding site using Dreamweaver, FrontPage, GeoCities, or hired services.... ;-)

(btw, I'm working on a DesDev column about Director MX today, so it will likely be a light blogging day here.)

Monday, December 09, 2002

Trade it at Trodo: Interesting new app. Members list books or other media they'll ship to other members. If you send, you can receive. I'm not sure about the specifics of the business model (packing something, for me, is a hassle), but I'm fascinated by the dynamics of connecting people directly with those who can use their clutter... feels like there's something real here. More info in the comments at WebWord.
Dan Gillmor on social uses of new tech: Companies don't figure out how people will use new forms of communication. It's individuals and groups which actually blaze the trails here. "Japan is a leader in a phenomenon that others have been slow to grasp. The people who use multimedia phones are not passive consumers of next-generation mobile services. They are extending the boundaries of mobile communications." With the diversity of experience in this development community, and with the emphasis on fast iterations and testing, I suspect that people we know will be moving very quickly here.
Finding SWFs in Italy: Here's a handy Google technique, shown at this URL. I wanted to find some high-profile SWF sites in Italy. First I went to Google's advanced search page and set the language to "Italian", reasoning this is mostly a nation-specific language. The "filetype:swf" argument restricts results to SWFs. The dummy term "-ioquerpiwqeupro" (note the "-" NOT prefix) is needed so there's at least one text term in the search. I don't think pagerank applies in this case (people would link to the page, not the SWF), but at least it offers a quick visual scan for SWFs in pages which use a particular language.
Dreamweaver 6.1 update issues: This info is available when downloading, but like a lof folks, I'm often in a hurry.... ;-) Right now this is an English-only updater, and I haven't seen an estimated date yet for delivery of the localized versions now under way. If you're having any problem with it that this document does not solve, then please use either your support contract (you won't be charged if we messed up) or online forums... be sure to include the build number of your copy of Dreamweaver, as well as contact info in case followups are needed. Thanks!
Component Headquarters: Some strong pre-rolled Flash scripting here. The interface took me a moment to adjust to, but once I used it, it makes a lot of sense... similar to how a browser can open links in a new window without losing your place in the clicked page.
[via Mario Klingemann]
Tom Muck on Flash Remoting: I first met Tom through the Drumbeat community, and was impressed when Dreamweaver UltraDev: Complete Reference" arrived. Now he's blogging ("not-blogging"?) on statelessly connecting browsers and databases through Flash Remoting.
Supernova reporting: There's a conference of A-list bloggers and techies in Palo Alto this week. From what I understand, this link above is the hosts' blog of the sessions, and there's also a group blog open to participants, as well as links to speakers' blogs. "How to deal with decentralization is the key question Supernova poses."
MXDU Conference, Sydney: As soon as I made the previous entry I ran into a notice for this February conference at Full As A Goog Maybe I better stop while I'm ahead, I don't want to risk omitting any such events.... ;-)
"MX On The Rocks" conference: This is a regional event for people around Denver, Colorado, although if you'd like to travel here then that would be fine too. Affiliated with the Northern Colorado ColdFusion Group, it will be held March 20-21. Last year's conference had over 300 people connecting together. There's also a sizable contingent of people enrolled in middle schools... good opportunity to pass it forward. (For more info on face-to-face networking around the world, see the Macromedia events and user groups resources.)
Digital divide? San Francisco Chronicle: "Bay Area residents are increasingly logging on to the Internet, although the gap in use between high- and lower-income groups is widening." As ecologies become more complex you do start to see a power-law distribution... most plants aren't as tall as redwoods, few animals consume as much as a sperm whale... a few web sites get most of the traffic, the email gap continues to widen. It would be more interesting for such articles to study how income and internet use change over time -- for individuals, rather than just groups! -- and whether income leads to internet use or (what I suspect) whether internet use leads to income.
Slashdot Interview: Joe Clark, accessibility: I haven't read the whole thing yet. The first three screenfuls raised the interesting question of how much you could usefully translate a visual experience into other sensory modes. (Tip: Google on "flash caption component" to bring up authoring assists, should you desire speech-to-text transalations.) Towards the bottom of this first question he gets into a topic we all usually just gloss over: how to accommodate those with cognitive differences? Many people find it difficult to read long articles, for instance. He suggests that Flash may be helpful here, which is a novel point of view, raising other questions....
[Update: The initial comments on Slashdot rake him for things such as formatting. Anonymous comments don't have to be of lesser value, but the correlation is remarkable.]

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Should Macromedia disband? This BBC interview with Richard Stallman seems to suggest so. I don't know how reliably he has been quoted or reported in this article, but a check of his personal site suggests these may be accurate quotes. Things that caught my eye include: "'Non-free software is wrong and we do not want it in our lives' ... He has been campaigning since 1984 for the end of proprietary software." The first seems valid to me, because you can live as you see fit, but the second seems to be denying choice to others...? "'A whole generation has grown up with the idea that it is normal for them to have no freedom'" says Mr Stallman. 'We should destroy the record companies and put an end to institutions that are this arrogant and trying to take away our freedom,' he says." Assuming the premise, then wouldn't you logically pursue other goals first, such as the extirpation of deadly intolerance?

"'The end point is that all published software should be free, you should always have the freedom to study, change and share software,' he says. 'These should be inalienable rights.... If I cannot share it then I will not install it... if it requires me to mistreat others I would say no to it.'" I'm usually leery of "should be" statements, because they leave out the "in order to achieve which goal" part and seem to brook no dissent. It's fine if you have philosophical differences with a particular piece of code and choose not to use it... that's your choice. But he seems to be implying that others must not be allowed to enter into arrangements which do not include the source code. When combined with the last phrase, I really wonder what he's like in face-to-face conversation.

Anyway, I'm interested in additional and alternative views on this subject... I'm hoping to learn something new, to have my mind changed here. Part of his article rants against software patents and intellectual copyright, which are separate large issues I'd prefer not to wander off into here today, but do you see ways that we at Macromedia can improve the balance between code we open to others and code we pay the rent on? I may not be able to do anything with the suggestions received, but I can definitely raise 'em with my partners here. Thanks!