Delicious has finally launched its redesign. It feels weird linking to it from Magnolia.
Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Tantek is quoted ("EMAIL shall henceforth be known as EFAIL") in this LA Times article on the tyranny of email.
A seriously nice recipe sharing site. Everything is creative commons licensed and everything looks delicious.
Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
The Evening Standard picks up the story of Silicon Roundabout: Last.fm, Dopplr, Schulze and Webb, Moo...
Nice QR code patches (I don't mean something that patches code, I mean a patch that you sew).
A good overview of the OpenID panel at OSCON: "Is OpenID a panacea, a placebo, or something in between? Opposing viewpoints took turns on center stage Wednesday afternoon at OSCON 2008. The session entitled "A Critical View of OpenID" started off â€¦
Monday, July 28th, 2008
Benford's law blows my mind. Be sure to watch the video. This is all related to network theory and power law distributions ...I'm just not sure how.
It’s been a busy week for Clearleft. I wasn’t in the office for the start of the week though; I was in up north delivering some Ajax training to the good people at the Library of the University of Liverpool. Alas, due to construction work, I didn’t have the chance to peruse the world-famous science fiction collection. I’ll just have to return to Merseyside sometime when the builders are gone.
I made it back to Brighton in time to press the proverbial button and launch the website of Silverback, the project that’s been keeping a portion of Clearleft very busy for a while now.
It’s been fascinating to watch Silverback take shape from the spark of an idea from Andy to the conflagration that is desktop software development. It’s been a learning experience for everyone involved. If you want to delve into all the details, be sure to read Garrett’s in-depth look at Silverback.
I didn’t have that much to do with the development. In fact, all I did was mark up and style the website (oh, and integrate the PayPal stuff …joy). Still, I’ve found myself caught up in the excitement of an honest-to-goodness product launch. We’ve all been tracking the feedback on Twitter and on blogs. On the whole, it seems like people really, really like it. But what’s far more important than whether people do or don’t buy this piece of software is the fact that people are talking about usability testing.
Silverback is all about usability testing — Rich has summed up exactly what Silverback does nicely. It’s a Mac app that we built to scratch our own itch. We wanted a way to be able to run usability tests quickly and cheaply.
Usability testing is one of those things that always seems to be amongst the first to get cut from projects, usually because of cost or time concerns. Maybe Silverback can help tip the balance back in favour of doing at least some usability testing even if it’s really quick’n’dirty.
I’m constantly amazed by just how far a little user-testing goes. The analysis of the results needn’t be time-consuming either. Having a handful of people try out your wireframes can lead to forehead-slapping revelations of obvious issues.
So I’m really happy that, if nothing else, Silverback will encourage more people to think about doing some quick usability tests. I guarantee that after just one round, the benefits will be so self-evident that usability testing will become indispensable.
There’s one other forthcoming release that I’m hoping will spur on the growth of usability testing. It’s not another piece of software. A little birdie tells me that Steve Krug—author of the classic Don’t Make Me Think—is writing a new book on… yup, quick and easy usability testing.
The rewards of usability testing are within reach for the price of one book and one piece of ~$50 dollar software.
Friday, July 25th, 2008
Scenes from an IBM slide presentation.
Thursday, July 24th, 2008
Lego. Sushi. The awesomeness of each is not doubled; it is multiplied.
...because the apocalypse doesn't have to be lonely.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
Another beautiful frosty design from the Erskine chaps.
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
So, so true ...if you design for everyone, you design for no-one.
There's a new London geek event going on. The inaugural evening next week features a nice selection of speakers. And it's free!
Sunday, July 20th, 2008
A crazy way of viewing news stories courtesy of Brendan Dawes.
Saturday, July 19th, 2008
This is required reading for anyone planning to join in the Werewolf games at the next BarCamp.
Friday, July 18th, 2008
Side by side comparison of stills from the Watchmen trailer and the graphic novel.
Thursday, July 17th, 2008
There’s something about watching videos of unnecessary censorship—particularly of the Sesame Street variety—that cracks me up. Not content with simply finding them funny, I wanted to figure out why they tickle my funny bone so. It turns out that Matt has already figured it out, although he was referring to Nathan Barley:
That’s it! At first glance, it may seem over-complicated. After all, aren’t those videos of unnecessary censorship funny because they look like they’re rude? But no, they are funny because they look like they are funny because they are rude. That’s an important distinction.
Matt repurposes this sentence construction in an excellent post about the reports of the death of privacy being greatly exaggerated. He points out the huge danger in confusing the fact that technologies can be used to destroy privacy with the assumption that those technologies therefore will destroy privacy. If we fall into the trap of making that assumption then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy:
Here’s another example. A snapshot on Flickr of the TripLog iPhone app interface initially drew nought but scorn from designers deriding how complicated—and therefore, frustrating—it looked. But following a comment from the app’s designer and a subsequent analysis on the 37 Signals blog, things weren’t quite so straightforward. The initial criticism assumed that the app would be frustrating to use because it looks complicated but really…
Could it be that Matt has created a snowclone?
It’s not X because it’s Y, it’s X because it looks like it’s X because it’s Y.
Maybe I’ll add it to the queue and see what Erin thinks.
I'm not entirely clear what this is all about but I don't care. There's some imaginative stuff in here.
The first part of Joss Whedon's new web-based musical superhero comedy sing-along blog is up now. The other two episodes will be released over the next few days. Then they will all disappear.
Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
Sound and vision
The Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures was FACT10. The album artwork was designed by Peter Saville. The words “Unknown Pleasures” don’t appear on the cover. Neither do the words “Joy Division”. Instead, the cover contains a series of 100 lines representing pulses from the first radio pulsar ever discovered—thanks to Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. It was a groundbreaking piece of graphic design. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: a two-dimensional representation of raw data.
That was almost thirty years ago. This week Radiohead released the video for the song House of Cards from the album In Rainbows …except it isn’t really a video at all. It wasn’t shot on film or video. It is a three-dimensional representation of raw data.
You can play with the data visualisation, altering it while the song plays. You can even download the raw data. You are not just allowed to play around with the data, you are encouraged to do so. There’s a YouTube group for aggregating the results.
Suddenly every other music video seems very flat and passive. I’m reminded of a prescient passage from Douglas Adams’s essay How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet:
I expect that history will show “normal” mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this.
Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?
Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.
What was the Restoration again, please, miss?
The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.
Apple admit that they totally screwed up the roll-out of MobileMe and offer a 30 day extension for free. Now if only it were as easy to make up for the craptastic markup underlying the web-based MobileMe apps.
Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
The Last.fm beta redesign is now available for the great unwashed masses to test.
Monday, July 14th, 2008
This mashup serves no purpose other than to make me cackle with glee. Navigate Flickr pics on the walls of Castle Wolfenstein.
The new Radiohead video isn't really a video at all. It's data visualisation. Here you can interact with the data points while the song is playing. I love this.
Sunday, July 13th, 2008
If, like me, you were going cold turkey on Mobile Scrobbler after updating your jailbroken iPhone/iPod Touch, you can stop sweating now. The official Last.fm app is really, really nice ...and it's free.
Saturday, July 12th, 2008
Garrett's in-depth look at Silverback, the Mac app that we've been cooking up at Clearleft.
Friday, July 11th, 2008
The Google Chart API can produce QR codes. Neato!
Thursday, July 10th, 2008
Cameron asked some type creators for samples of their handwriting. They obliged. Compare the handwriting to the fonts.
Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
In the spirit of my Matrix recreations from Sydney, here's a photo set recreating shots from AmÃ©lie.
In the course of defending a porn site owner, a defense attorney has come up with an interesting way of trying to define "community standards" ...using Google search stats.
A zeppelin over London. No, this isn't some steampunk flight of fancy; it's for real.
Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
Open Tech 2008
Open Tech was fun. It was like a more structured version of BarCamp: the schedule was planned in advance and there was a nominal entrance fee of £5 but apart from that, it was pretty much OpenCamp. Most of the talks were twenty minutes long, grouped into hour-long thematically linked trilogies.
Things kicked off with a three way attack by Kim Plowright, Simon Wardley and Matt Webb. I particularly enjoyed Matt’s stroll down the memory lane of the birth of cybernetics. Alas, the fact that I stayed to enjoy this history lesson meant that I missed David Hayes’s introduction to Edenbee. But I did stick around for the next set of environment-related talks including a demo of the Wattson from DIY Kyoto and the always-excellent Gavin Starks of AMEE fame.
After a pub lunch spent being entertained by Ewan Spence’s thoroughly researched plan for a muppet remake of Star Wars, I made it back in time for a well-connected burst of talks from Simon, Gavin and Paul. Simon pimped OpenID. Gavin delivered a healthy dose of perspective from the h’internet. Paul ranted about the technologies depicted in his wonderful illustration entitled The Web is Agreement.
My talk at Open Tech was a reprise of my XTech presentation, Creating Portable Social Networks With Microformats although the title on the schedule was Publishing With Microformats. I figured that the Open Tech audience would be fairly advanced so I decided against my original plan of doing an introductory level talk. The social network portability angle also tied in with quite a few other talks on the day.
I shared my slot with Jeni Tennison who gave a hands-on look at RDFa at the London Gazette. The two talks complemented each other well… just like microformats and RDFa. As Jeni said, microformats are great for doing the easy stuff—the low-hanging fruit—and deliberately avoid more complex data structures: they hit 80% of the use cases with 20% of the effort. RDFa, on the other hand, can handle greater complexity but with a higher learning curve. RDFa covers the other 20% of use cases but with 80% effort. Jeni’s case study was the perfect example. Whereas as I had been showing the simple patterns of user profiles and relationships on social networks (easily encoded with hCard and XFN), she was dealing with a very specific data set that required its own ontology.
I was chatting with Dan at the start of Open Tech about this relationship. We’re both pretty fed up with the technologies being set up as somehow being rivals. Personally, I’m very happy that RDFa covers the kind of data structures that microformats doesn’t touch. When someone comes to the microformats community with an idea for a complex data format, it’s handy to have another technology to point them to. If you’re dealing with simple, common structures that have aggregate benefit like contact details, events and reviews, microformats are the perfect fit. But if you’re dealing with more complex structures—and I’m thinking here about museum collections, libraries and laboratories—chances are that some flavour of RDF is going to be more suitable.
Jeni and I briefly discussed whether we should set up our talks as a kind of mock battle. But that kind of rivalry, even when it’s done in a jokey fashion, is unnecessary and frankly, more than a little bit dispiriting. It’s more constructive to talk about real-world use cases. On that basis, I think our Open Tech presentations hit the right note.
Opera have unveiled the Web Standards Curriculum. It's released under a CC attribution non-commercial share-alike license and it looks like a very valuable resource.
A handy tool for calculating grid and gutter widths although you'll still have to some calculating to get the figures to work in percentages (assuming you're designing for the Web).
Monday, July 7th, 2008
Mike Davis makes some conservative predictions about the near future.
Friday, July 4th, 2008
Open Tech schedule
I’ll be speaking about microformats, probably reworking some of the things I was talking about at XTech. It looks like there’ll be quite a lot of discussion around social networks, portability and privacy so I’m going to concentrate on XFN and hCard. Speaking of which, be sure to read Ben’s excellent article on Digital Web and then check out David’s superb implementation of the Social Graph API: what a productive pair of flatmates!
I put together an hCalendar schedule for Open Tech so if you’re going along, you might want to subscribe. I recommend subscribing over downloading as the schedule is likely to change. I’ll do my best to update the hCalendar document accordingly. Depending on the WiFi situation and how knackered I am after the early start from Brighton, I may try to do some liveblogging.
Note to self: this is how to recursively remove .svn files from a directory (y'know, just in case your host screws up your svn repository).
Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
Sales were going at their usual quick pace until five eighths of Clearleft were safely ensconced in Denmark. At that point, Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance. The server at Joyent, where both Clearleft and dConstruct are hosted, decided to experience—to use the modern parlance—epic fail.
This was no minor outage. Our sites were down for days while we frantically moved our cyberworldly goods to a different host and waited for DNS changes to propagate. Joyent did finally managed to get our sites back up but we were faced with the unwanted time travel experience of losing five weeks of changes: that’s how infrequent their backups had been. Fortunately we had a somewhat more vigorous backup routine in our office so we were able to get things back to their pre-fail state.
So if you were trying to get hold of a dConstruct ticket but found your quest frustrated, I apologise. If you weren’t trying to get hold of a dConstruct ticket …are you crazy!? Don’t you realise that for a measly £125 (including VAT) you can attend the kickassingest conference there is?
Just look at that line-up: local games geek Aleks Krotoski; newly-published author Joshua Porter, designer-extraordinaire Daniel Burka, the microformats man himself, Tantek Çelik. Last year we had one brilliant Matt, this year we have two: the Dopplr duo of Jones and Biddulph. But most exciting of all, the event will be keynoted by Steven Johnson, author of Emergence, Everything Bad Is Good For You and most recently, The Ghost Map.
So what are you waiting for? Register now!
Oh. Wait. I think I’ve just figured out why you might not have yet grabbed a ticket. Perhaps you’ve noticed the little glitch in the line-up.
‘Tis true, I’m afraid. If you fork over one hundred and twenty five of your hard-earned squid, you’ll have to suffer through one of my rambling pretentious flights of fancy (unless you duck out early).
I have no idea what my name is doing on such an illustrious roll call but I’m going to do my utmost to live up to the honour. That means that, as September 5th approaches, I will be shitting bricks with ever-greater frequency. Why not come along to dConstuct 2008 at the Brighton Dome and watch me make me a complete idiot of myself?
Watch the best car chase of all time mashed up with a map of San Francisco to create geo-broadcasting. The added context gives an already perfect sequence added zing.
This is seriously brilliant. Starting from a single URL (adactio.com), a lifestream is creating based on XFN rel="me" links. David Singleton wins the internet.
Ben has written a superb article outlining the hows and whys of distributed social networks with hCard and XFN, finishing with an inspiring call to arms.
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive Â» ORG verdict on London Elections: â€œInsufficient evidenceâ€� to declare confidence in results
The ORG have released their report into the London mayoral elections. â€œthere is insufficient evidence available to allow independent observers to state reliably whether the results declared in the May 2008 elections for the Mayor of London and theâ€¦
Tell the UK government what you'd build with public information and they could help fund your idea. Time to put your hacking hat on.