jibbajabba's blog

What do you think of categories/subject headings on weblogs?

The development version of Drupal that ia/ is now running does not have Topics implemented as before. This is still being defined by the Drupal team. I'm interested to know what people thought of the use of Topics on ia/ in the past. Did you use them? Did you find them useful?

Please let me know what you thought and if you have any feedback on how to better implement topics on a weblog, I would be interested in hearing that as well. I started a discussion on this topic on the Drupal development site, hoping to take part in steering the direction taken in designing this aspect for the next release.

Please post your feedback here on this site.

Micropayments - Do Users Want Them?

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre.

Are 'micropayments' the future of the online publishing industry? Or are users reluctant to adopt the technology? We look at some of the conflicting arguments surrounding this topical subject.

New report says tech companies neglect usability - and fail

This little tidbit appeared in Europe Media summarizing a recent Forrester report on usability. Not sure which report they're referencing exactly. This search I did returns a list of reports on usability if you're interested in poking around. (Access to reports requires subscription.)

A new report by Forrester Research draws a simply conclusion: manufacturers should put the users' needs and wishes first when developing new devices. To [sic] often, new products fail because they heavily focus on technology without thinking of whom is going to put it to use.

For its demystifying report, Forrester interviewed executives at 25 leading CE and PC firms about their design and marketing methods and evaluated 12 products from MP3-players to digital terminals and e-books. It came up with a check list which helps executives to find out why their past products failed on the mass market.

Extreme Programming vs. Interaction Design

Interview in Fawcette Technical Publications with Kent Beck and Alan Cooper.

When two development design visionaries meet, there's room for consensus—but not much.

Kent Beck is known as the father of "extreme programming ," a process created to help developers design and build software that effectively meets user expectations. Alan Cooper is the prime proponent of interaction design , a process with similar goals but different methodology. We brought these two visionaries together to compare philosophies, looking for points of consensus—and points of irreconcilable difference.

Googling in pig latin?

Google Earchsay: "information architecture"

Those peeps at Google are a wacky sort. I was looking in my referrer logs and found a URL that outputs all the Google interface text as pig latin. Other interesting localization options available from Google's Language Tools include:

Think You Manage Creativity? Here's Why You're Wrong

The rational rules of management don't apply when it comes to fostering creative types. In this Harvard Business Review excerpt, the author explains why you should, among other things, encourage creative workers to defy superiors.

Sound Design

Dave Schroeder of Pilotvibe talks about sound design for interactive multimedia on CommArts' Design Interact.

I think we all know that music and sound affect people intensely. It affects moods and emotions, triggers memories and helps define environments. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words; the same is true of audio. It can convey specific information via language or environmental sounds and it can communicate extremely abstract ideas via music and synthesized sounds.

Sound is the invisible font pack. It’s also a way for developers to give their work a presence beyond the monitor. Sound comes into a room and moves around. It becomes part of the user’s environment. You can’t touch it, but you can definitely feel it.

thanks LucDesk

The Magical Number Seven

I didn't know that the George Miller Magic Number Seven paper was on the web. On SIGIA, George pointed to it's reproduction here:

Some thoughts and follow up papers:

O'Reilly Web Design series on CD-Rom

Thought this might be of interest. O'Reilly is publishing a CD-Rom containing the contents of six of texts including the Polar Bear IA book.

Six best selling O'Reilly Animal Guides are now available on CD-ROM, easily accessible and searchable with your favorite web browser: HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide 4th Edition; ActionScript: The Definitive Guide; Information Architecture for the World Wide Web; Designing Web Audio: RealAudio, MP3, Flash, and Beatnik;Web Design In a Nutshell, 2nd Edition; and Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide. As a bonus, you also get the new paperback version of Web Design in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition.

Type blog

On SIGIA, Timo pointed to Lines and Splines, a weblog about typography and type design.

Think twice before re-designing your website

Gerry McGovern is against rocking the boat with users when it comes to redesigning your site.

The desire to 're-design' your website just because it looks 'out-of-date' may not simply be unnecessary but may also be counterproductive. Your most loyal customers will have got used to the layout and structure of your website. Launching a major new design risks confusing and alienating them.

The role of project managers in interface design

On UIWeb, Scott Berkun discusses how to integrate interface design in a development team, drawing from his experiences as the Program Manager of MS IE 5.0.

thanks MakoVison

Meet the innovative force behind the new Handspring Treo

Article in San Francisco Chronicle discussing the design of the Treo, a PDA/mobile phone device. Includes a small tidbit about the enthographic research that went into the design.

An ethnographer even joined in, presenting her observations on how people use mobile phones in their daily routine, and not in the artificial confines of a focus group.

Celine Pering sat for hours near busy intersections or near entrances to subway stops in Europe and Japan, examining how people used their cell phones. She also hopped into the cars of friends and family of Handspring workers, snapping pictures and taking notes on drivers who were dialing.

Patterns emerged: Users preferred using the phone one-handed and often would try to drive, without using their hands, while juggling the PDA, stylus and phone.

A discussion of controlled vocabularies on EH

On Elegant Hack, CW logs a discussion she had with someon trying to grok the difference between controlled vocabularies and thesauri. Includes a lot of links to related stuff to read.

So I started a conversation with the clever and oh-so helpful Mike Steckel from International SEMATECH about thesauri and their kinfolk. It seems he learned a ton from the argus seminar, and was kind enough to share some of that learning with me. It proved to be trendously helpful.

Northern Light stops offering free search

According to Business Today, that's it for public use of the Northern Light Search engine.

Internet search software maker Northern Light Technology LLC dropped a $50 million Indy car racing sponsorship and also will stop offering free Web searches, its chief executive said yesterday.

The shifts come as the Cambridge company tries to extract itself from the sluggish business of selling ads targeted at people who use its Web site for searches.

``It accounted for a very large percentage of our server traffic and a very small percentage of our revenue,'' said David Seuss, Northern Light's chief executive. Northern Light will stop letting consumers use its Internet search engine for free come Jan. 16.

Classic Family of Knowledge Representation Systems

Peter F. Patel-Schneider's team in Bell Labs has a knowledge representation/ontology tool called Classic and NeoClassic that is freely available for non-commercial use. Two Classic systems, one written in LISP and one written in C++, are available from Lucent. Non-commercial use requires only the signing of a simple license. Commercial use requires negotaion with Lucent.

Classic is a family of knowledge representation (KR) systems designed for applications where only limited expressive power is necessary, but rapid responses to questions are essential. The Classic systems are based on description logics (DLs), which gives them an object-centered flavor, and thus most of the features available in semantic networks are also available in Classic. Classic has a framework that allows users to represent descriptions, concepts, roles, individuals and rules. Classic allows for both primitive concepts, similar to the classes and frames of other knowledge representation systems and object-oriented programming languages, and defined concepts, i.e. concepts that have both necessary and sufficient conditions for membership. Concepts are automatically organized into a generalization taxonomy and objects are automatically made instances of all concepts for which they pass the membership test. Another type of reasoning that Classic does is to detect inconsistencies in information that it is told. In the presence of defined concepts these operations are non-trivial and useful.

Us Versus Them

Nancy Nowacek on Design in Comm Arts.

Despite the market’s great expectations, these very well may be the worst times for graphic design. The Web, still in its relative infancy, has given birth to Web site design, which seems, from the experiences and observations of the author, to be forging a schism in what we used to call “design,” diluting, degrading and disengaging all those who called themselves “designers.”


Web designers are responsible for what’s called “look and feel.” The graphic designer on the team rarely has the opportunity to analyze the client’s content and objectives, and give input on behalf of visual communication and meaning. The rest of the team has already done that for the graphic designer, so it’s up to the designer to make the Web site look good, regardless of the appropriateness of the proposed ideas. The Web designer is the hands of the team, and sometimes the eyes, but not the head, heart, or ears.

Top ten sites compared

WDVL looks at how 10 of the most popular sites (Google, Amazon, Yahoo, etc.) compare when it comes to elements such as fonts used, page width, background color, link location, and more.

Usability - Out-sourced or In-house?

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre.

Depending on the situation, usability work can be best conducted in-house, by an external consultancy, or with some combination of the two. We take a look at the pros and cons of all three approaches.

Web's limitations as a medium for publishing newspapers' content

A post on MeFi points to an article on ZDNet which offers an analysis of some of the web's limitations as a medium for publishing newspapers' content.

It focuses on NewsStand, the service offering the NYTimes, the International Herald Tribune and others in PDF format, and says some interesting things about the respective formats' ease of use and ability to guide readers to what they're looking for. (It has me thinking, is HTML/CSS just too limited to do certain things well?)

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