Friday, December 6, 2013

The End is Near: The End of Moore's Law that is

The jist of the article is this:
"The cost curves are kind of getting flat," Samueli told reporters at an evening Broadcom event at the Tank18 wine bar in San Francisco's trendy South of Market district. Instead of getting more speed, less power consumption and lower cost with each generation, chip makers now have to choose two out of three.
Moore's Law isn't making chips cheaper anymore
The core issue (from a Singularity point of view anyway) is: "Does computing power continue to double every 18mths or so?" If costs and energy consumption level off - that's not good in the long run as now exponential growth works against you in those areas. But, I'm confident that solutions will be brought to those issues as well.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sexting and everything lives on forever

What's interesting is in the epilogue: When almost everyone sexts then sexts, by themselves, will no longer be career ending. But we, as people, will continue to find ways to embarrass ourselves.

Is it GIF or jiff?

The Kmart ad has resurrected the GIF v jiff war that raged in the early 1990s. I thought this was settled but then some pseudo-intellectuals bring it back up. I don't know why I'm so exercised about this but I am. It was an interesting debate 20 years ago as the community was trying to come to terms on how to describe things.

Do we say GIF (hard G) or jiff?
Do we say J-P-G or jpeg?
Is it dub-dub-dub or www?
Do we say "forward slash", "slash" or leave it out all together?

It doesn't matter what Steve Wilhite says, nor does it matter what CompuServ had in their original documentation. This is not 1993. The pronunciation, as chosen in millions upon millions of conversations over the last 20 years have settled the question.

I got the following quotes from

I don't know why I am so irritated that this religious war is being refought - but, there it is. I find it ridiculous that people make these claims. If they believed what they were saying (as opposed to being pretentious) they would be saying "jiff" instead of "GIF" in their conversations. And yet, I haven't heard it called "jiff" in close to 20 years.

Friday, November 22, 2013

So True

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's been a while since I've visited ThinkingWithType. If you're at all interested in graphic design I highly recommend it. In going through the site I once again came across this gem.
Beautifully said. Beautifully executed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

UX Design: Outline versus Solid Shapes

I read an interesting article regarding that the brain takes more time to process an outline than a "filled-in" icon.
Your brain traces the shapes on the first row an average of twice as much. Your eye scans the outside shape and then scans the inner line to determine if there is value in the “hollow” section.

Icons without this empty core are processed as definite and only the outer lines are processed. Depending on the outline of the shape, this happens pretty fast. No matter the shape, though, the hollow icons take more time to process.
While I agree with this completely within the context of the article - designing mobile apps - where people are often scanning your app while moving, or being in a crowded environment where they will devote even less of their attention then they do while sitting at their desk, I fear that Aubrey Johnson may be taking the point a little too far. He writes:
Choosing to use hollow icons for the sake of lightness / very-modern aesthetic is not the issue, it’s that to sacrifice the usefulness of what an icon does (aide in reading speed) for aesthetic feeling is really bad. Don’t follow bad design decisions to appease a platform.

Design above it.
Yes people will scan the solid shape faster than the outline, and if they are hurried and distracted will more likely miss or have to concentrate more on the app to perceive the icon, but this ought not be taken as a hard and fast reason to not use outlined icons - even in mobile apps. At issue: (from an IA perspective) is "how are people using the apps?" and from a UX perspective it would be: "does the [less readable] iconography increase the users enjoyment/experience more than the lack of usability detract from the experience?"

Combining the two questions would be: are there user personas which are negatively impacted to the point (from the reduced scannability) that they will either not be able to use the app or would reject it? IF that happens then absolutely one must "sacrifice" the hollow icons and follow the author's advice: "Design above it."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sublime Text 2 Won't Save

I was using Sublime Text2 and all of a sudden it wouldn't save a file. I kept getting a permissioning error: "Can't save file 'x'. It took a little while, and a little aggravation, to figure out what happened. Windows 8 just went through another of it's forced upgrades and the admin rights for Sublime Text to write to the C:\inetpub folder was revoked.

The solution is to right click on the application and give yourself admin rights.

Problem solved.

Back to work.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Windows 8 Mouse is Freezing - Solution

My wife got a new laptop with Windows 8. She hates it by the way, and what little I've seen of Windows 8 I can see why. The UI is not intuitive, especially for someone with years of Windows experience going from DOS to Windows 95 to XP.

Be that as it may be her mouse/slidepad kept freezing. She solved the problem, up-to-now, by rebooting her computer. Last night it froze and rebooting wouldn't start it. Of course I was dragged in to solve it. The long-and-short of it is:

So much frustration for nothing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Google has a problem with Brooklyn

I made a search for several addresses in Brooklyn and the search results kept displaying NYC instead of Brooklyn. What's going on Google. This is the first time I've seen something like this!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Closure versus Closure

I'm working to improve my javascript skills and am struggling to absorb, to grok, closures. I find that in addition to the issues in getting past the basic definition of a closure: that it is "code that remembers the outer environment from where it came while still being usable to where it has been brought." that I have overloaded the term.. Closure is also a graphic design term and I realize that somewhere, whenever I hear the word closure I keep thinking about "completing" code; or completing a partially worked out idea.

Wow. Talk about overloading and conflating terms. For the programmers out their who are not familiar with it closure is one of the components of Gestalt Theory which describes how the mind organizes visual data. Apparently while psychologists have rejected Gestalt Theory as it does not accurately reflect human cognition - graphic designers and HCI folks have adopted it as useful in understanding how it is that humans interact with their products / applications. For instance: "why is it that human beings don't always see something right in front of their face?" Or "why are somethings found and other things ignored?"

We, as UX professionals, have to understand this when thinking about how the user is going through the application. In addition to all the other burdens faced by the user we have to take into account the fact that the user's cognitive ability will be altered/enhanced/impaired by what it is he is focused on at the time he is using the app.

A closure, in design terms, is the ability, the tendency of the mind to fill in the gaps with expected information.
The importance of this is that we must take into consideration what it is that the user is expecting which in turn comes from what it is that the user is looking to do.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Design Fail

I needed to contact EZ-Pass regarding a question I had with their service. Typical with many government sites EZ-Pass is a horror but I couldn't resist posting this epic fail.
The Frequently Asked Questions pages may have the answer to your question. If you have not looked there already, please check there first. If the FAQs do not answer your question or issue, please submit your questions or comments using one of the links below. We're more than happy to respond! We welcome your inquiries and will get back to you in a timely manner.
There are, unfortunately no links below aside for Account Holders. But what if you are not an account holder, or do not have your account information? The minimum width for the site is about 1024. This is right in keeping with up-to-date design principles and will be even more of a pleasure to use on mobile device or tablet than it is on a laptop.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hero Shot and other interesting trends in Web Design*

There are several interesting design ideas that have taken hold.

 The Hero Shot / One-Page Design / Flat-UI Design

The Hero Shot
A hero shot is a large image that dominates the viewing area. The image, for all practical purposes, is the design. It's a very clean, very engaging look. The image brings out the emotional response of the viewer and the simple navigation and call-to-action elements do not overwhelm the viewer. Present different images on reload and the site remains fresh for return users - and it also allows one to more easily integrate multi-variate testing into site design.

One Page Design
The hero shot works very well with one page design. There were many reason we, as designers, went away from one page design in the late 1990s. Multi-page designs were "kooler"; it allowed for more images and text to be quickly shown to the user (connection speeds were MUCH slower then); it allowed for knowing when and where the user dropped out; it was useful for breaking up server-side interaction; it was useful for showing more advertising; it allowed more methodical presentation of data; and it was kooler. Designers and marketers want something new, attractive.

As with all things fashion the one-page design is fresh once again. Of course there's some interesting twists: namely the transitions between "pages." For all practical purposes the one-page design is presenting differing "screens" with transitions between them, but the fact that they're all on one page makes it new. I would say that there is also a utility in the design as all the information is loaded and remains even if the server connection is lost. Ultimately its appeal is not its utility - it's its freshness. Regarding the reasons why designers went away from one-page design and their return. All the practical reasons that existed before no longer remain.

Flat-UI Design
The use of flat, as opposed to textured, or beveled elements. It's advantage is that it has a clean, fresh look. It allows more elements to be presented to the user but at the same time maintain a more minimalist feel. All three elements are part of the current design zeitgeist where mobile design is influencing design presented on larger screens.

* For my distinction between Web Design, UX Design and UI Design please see "What's in a Name? Web, UX, UI Design"

Monday, March 11, 2013

SEO is like marketing

At the SXSW Conference Amit Singhal (Google) sat down with Guy Kawasaki to talk about the evolution of search engines.

Kawasaki veered the next stage of the conversation onto the topic of SEO, and how companies can improve their search rankings.

“We at Google have time and time again said—and seen it happen—that if you build high-quality content that adds value, and your readers and your users seek you out, then you don’t need to worry about anything else,” Singhal said. “If people want that content, your site will automatically work… you could make a bunch of SEO mistakes and it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Is SEO bullshit?” Kawasaki asked.

“That would be like saying marketing is bullshit,” Singhal said, which drew a laugh from the audience—and maybe some gritted teeth.

I wouldn't say the SEO is bullshit but there are a lot of bullshitters who say that they are SEO experts. As it happens the SEO world has merged with the advertising world and SEO/on-line marketing is becoming synonymous in many people's minds. Obviously expertise in marketing, determining ROI from analytics is necessary and legitimate for many businesses.

Traditional SEO has it's white hats: people who focus on what many content developers, product owners and developers don't do: associating high value words to directory and file names; placement of these words in H1s, alt tags; and cleaning up the HTML code. The last point should have been done by the developer - and is, only now, becoming standard as responsive web design forces developers into this practice. (EX: Putting navs at the end of the file and using CSS to place it elsewhere.)

The merge between traditional SEO and advertising is the focus on landing pages associated with marketing campaigns; how users navigate from this landing page; and the associated ROI analysis.

However, SEO, for much of the web-community, is associated with fast-talking scam artists who promise high returns and, of course, can only deliver for a short while by unethical practices such as creating landing pages with nothing but carefully crafted key words - but no actual content; by link farming; click-jacking, astro-turfing; hiring people to do automated +1 ranking; and spamming forums & blogs.

After showing such "promising" early results the company then takes more money from their victims until the game inevitably plays out.

ISO 8601

These guys are too good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Reality of a Developer's Life

JavaCodeGeeks has a great post on the joy of being a developer. Here are some of my favorites:

When you upload to the production server:

When you close your IDE without saving the code:

When you try to fix a bug at 3AM:

When you show your boss that you fixed the bug:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Predicting the Future

A warning from Michael Crichton on predicting THE FUTURE.
Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS? None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future.

They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.

The essay is called "Aliens Cause Global Warming" and one can find it in several places. EDIT 1/31/2014: Removed several dead links. Aliens Cause Global Warming

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Assist of the Year

Monday, January 21, 2013

Technology and Privacy

There is a TED talk Margaret Gould Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright which describes, in a general, way the state of technology. YouTube/Google is able to review an incredible amount of data in order to determine if the information is copyrighted - and if it is what to do about it.

If you're concerned about privacy use this video as a stepping to stone to comprehend the future. Computer processing speed is doubling every 18 months. In less than twenty years processing power will be 1000 times greater than it is today. What currently takes Google, YouTube, the NSA one year will take about 8.5 hours. Or, put in another way, what now takes 24 hours will take a little under 3 minutes.