Saturday, May 30, 2009

Patent Trolling or Patent Infringement

It's hard trying to make head or tails about the i4i v Microsoft case. Anybody interested in a robust tech industry needs to be concerned about this. Large, powerful entities can't simply take processes created by smaller firms but neither should we allow the copyright process be taken advantage of.

The patent in question is for separating the manipulation of content from the architecture of the document, which the company, named i4i argues, covers basic XML editing. It's quite troubling that doing something as simple as adding an XML editor should infringe on a patent, but what's even more troubling is that the court somehow ruled that such an editor was worth $98 in the copies of Microsoft Word where it was used. An XML editor. $98. And people say patent awards aren't out of sync with reality?
Wait, Editing An XML Document Is Patented And Worth $98 Per Application?

Doug Cawley, i4i’s lead trial lawyer argued that i4i demonstrated its product to Microsoft in 2001 and that Microsoft, instead of buying it incorporated a similar function of its own. i4i did not accuse Microsoft of copying its code or product. The question then is - how is this a patent infringement? I'm not a patent lawyer, nor have I read the patent in detail, but it seems as if i4i is arguing that any XML editor written now, or in the future, owes i4i royalties. What would change my mind would be if the i4i patent was for something truly insightful. I'm not getting that impression in any of the reporting.

Patent Litigation Weekly: E.D. Tex Unkind to Tech; PubPat's Other Suits

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Make Your Own Fonts

Tell me this isn't great. allows users to make fonts from their own handwritting practically instantly (a few hours). Twenty years ago, was it that long ago, when I was making my first fonts I would have been ecstatic about a program that could have made fonts so quickly, so easily, so inexpensively.

How I love what's happening. What used to be fantasy is now ordinary.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Forms, Labels and Usability

I received some interesting feedback on a website I was working on. It's a form heavy site where the employees, as they get new customers and leads, enter the information into the database. The forms were designed with the labels right-aligned. The creative team liked it because it looked better. The business owners signed off on it for the same reason.

However, we started to get complaints from the users that "the forms were hard to use." In the end it was decided that left-aligned labels were "easier to read" than were right-aligned labels.

Personally I find the right-aligned text more visually appealing and I don't find the left-aligned text "easier to read." But that doesn't really mean much, does it?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jakob Nielsens First Rule of Usability

Jakob Nielsen's First Rule of Usability still holds true today: pay attention to what users DO - and not what they say.

This holds doubly true in what users predict they will do in the future.
Say, for example, that 50% of survey respondents claim they would buy more from e-commerce sites that offer 3D product views. Does this mean you should rush to implement 3D on your site? No. It means that 3D sounds cool. The world is littered with failed businesses that banked on people's attitude toward hypothetical products and services.
First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users
When in doubt, think like Dr. House. "The patient always lies about what he does." Do not take the user's "word" for it - send out your staff to ascertain how the patient/user acts,

In short, any and all changes must improve the bottom line. It must reduce the time and effort in accomplishing a task by the users, whether they are customers or employees.