September 22, 2005
That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace.
(William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties, p.133)
Update: Heh. I'm not the only sucker for a great line.
August 01, 2005
Listening to the Product
Tom Peters, management guru, interviews Jason Fried about Basecamp, a web-based product for project management and collaboration. Fried is the founder of 37signals, a web design firm that productized some of its tools.
Fried has a great spiel on how simplicity and focus (structural, visual, and content) in product design can add up to superior user experience. Also, he's very conscious of the importance of clear writing and expression, especially for decentralized project teams, who use email, IM, and phone to mediate between people.
Also, Fried has an very zen attitude towards product design and development, with a short planning horizon that enables the team to be very flexible and open to opportunities. Listening to the product, no long-term plans that constrain the future, and a fierce commitment to the product and to excellence in general -- there's a lot of good stuff here.
April 11, 2005
Another Side Project
Another Side Project is a blog for Marc and Jim's wedding. This will be a group blog, mostly to gather info regarding wedding weekend activities. In this and with brooksPTO, I'm finding that the TypePad limitation on authors (they can only manage their own posts) might be greater than I'd initially thought. I wish I could permission an author to be able to update a "TypeList", one of the sidebar lists of links or people. Comments will be turned on in this blog, let's hope that the spambot harvest of email addresses is delayed.
My biggest problems in the setup of this one have been in setting up the domain (mgjk2005.com) and getting it mapped properly between 1&1, my domain name registrar, and TypePad. Domain name mapping is oddly complicated and extremely boring -- it should be one of those things that Just Work. I'm always surprised when I encounter the inevitable DNS hurdles.
April 08, 2005
BrooksPTO Side Project
I'm currently working on an upgrade to the BrooksPTO.org site. Currently, it's a completely static site, with a CSS-based design and no tables. XHTML compliant.
The design is supported by a few Dreamweaver templates, so theoretically it could support multiple authors without breaking the design.
However, I was never able to do that -- couldn't arrange the training knowledge-sharing meetings, and the authoring overhead has gotten to me. Last night Meryl asked me why the most recent Brooks Blue (weekly newletter) on the site is from 3 weeks ago. Sigh.
Anyway, v2.0 of the site will support multiple authors, so minor updates can be delegated. See the work-in-progress here. It's been interesting so far, a small exercise in content inventory and metadata design, with an eye to extreme simplicity and ease-of-authoring, using the typepad service.
More later on this.
January 03, 2005
A key article explaining the foundation concepts underlying this phenomenon is Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata.
The author, Adam Mathes, notes that
The organic system of organization developing in Delicious and Flickr was called a "folksonomy" by Thomas Vander Wal in a discussion on an information architecture mailing list (Smith, 2004). It is a combination of "folk" and "taxonomy."
... An important aspect of a folksonomy is that is comprised of terms in a flat namespace: that is, there is no hierarchy, and no directly specified parent-child or sibling relationships between these terms.
Check out my bookmarks at http://del.icio.us/jambop -- you can check out tagging patterns in practice by going to the main page and following any of the most popular tags that are stacked along the right-hand side.
I haven't yet established a Flickr account -- I just haven't had enough time to do photography to my own standards -- but it's likewise fascinating to check out how various people use keywords to describe their photos -- signs, auntie, tsunami, bike, orange. Flickr has a page that tracks the most popular tags. You can get some nice random serendipity by viewing the slideshow.
November 12, 2004
Social Interface Engineering
Interesting article from Joel On Software that points out that
Software in the 1980s, when usability was "invented," was all about computer-human interaction. A lot of software still is. But the Internet brings us a new kind of software: software that's about human-human interaction.
Discussion groups. Social networking. Online classifieds. Oh, and, uh, email. It's all software that mediates between people, not between the human and the computer.
For years I've taken the utilitarian tack and said that "If it ain't useful, who cares if it's usable?". Spolsky takes this a bit further and points out that the social interaction that effective social software supports has *got* to be right, carefully designed by looking at human behavior. And more importantly, technology that models human-to-human behavior correctly doesn't need to be usable per se -- look at the explosion of text messaging.