04 - 08 - 2004
I've been blogging with wordPress for a few weeks. It doesn't look like
I'm going to get the design iterated any further before I leave for a
west coast trip, including Mozilla Developer Day and the ACM Hypertext
conference in Santa Cruz. Drop me a line if you'd like to grab a
beer in silicon valley this weekend.
The new url for this blog is surfmind.com/muzings
. The mozilla only view: in html
Posted at 10:18
29 - 06 - 2004
RSS Aggregator design.
Apple does a bang-up job on a news aggregator with a DHTML widget for a continuous partial to full post filter.
Most notably, the system offers both merged-feed and single-feed views. DW
ranted that the merged-feed is more usable. I agree that it's more useful since I read weblogs a couple of times a day.
There are two different uses cases which match to the single feed (aka 3-pane) and merged-feed views:
- Merged Feed:
- Frequency of Use
- User Goals
- Keep up with the blogdom
- Track the current buzz
- Single Feed View
- Frequency of Use
- User Goals
- Keep up with author
- Revisit particular post
So, it's not the case that 3-pane is inherently more usable. It is more
efficient if you keep up with a core set of feeds frequently enough to
take all updates in one sitting. For refinding a particular post
or insuring that you don't missing anything from a particular author,
single-feed views are also important.
I use the Mozilla Mail aggregator Forumzilla (much improved since my last mention
), newsable.org as my core merged feed, and a collection of other merged views: linux focused aggregator.vanderossen.net
, the design media aggregator
, and occasionally mozilla planet
For more design ideas for aggregators, check out Rob's ideas for a newsable redesign
Posted at 8:1
27 - 06 - 2004
A tip for a happy Monday
With an imminent departure from the rural southern locale where we've
spent the last two years, one of the the things I'll miss (unlike the
blue laws and pervasive conservatism) is WNCW. With a eclectic
mix of bluegrass, roots, jamband, and generally quality tunes, it's
sure to brighten your day.
to a "world of music.
Recently overheard: Bluegrass is the new jazz
Posted at 23:6
24 - 06 - 2004
DHTML Form Widget
Uzilla, LLC has released a new open source DHTML form widget
as an alternative to <select multiple>.
Posted at 17:22
22 - 06 - 2004
Unfortunate lag here in the surf mind blog, but so it goes. A few more letters (MS) are bound for my mail sig.
A hodge-podge of must reads:
Now that I'm wrapping up my masters, lots of potential on the
horizon. Big announcements coming soon from my involvement with
, Uzilla and the Googlebar. Updated mozwho soon.
Posted at 21:37, Published in: Mozilla Academia
25 - 05 - 2004
Why Blogs Matter
I had hoped to write up some of the insights below for the Weblogging Ecosystem Workshop
at WWW04. Instead, here's the quick version with an eye towards implementation.
Using the Google API, I've been tracking the position of Blogs vs
Traditional Media on a range of different queries for a number of
months. The visualizations below, crafted with DHTML, portray a
set of related queries.
For "google print" and "google print beta", the blogdom rules search
results. In the image, green squares are blogs
and traditional media outlets are red
with yellow squares in between (often community
bbs style). The 1st result is at center and subsquent results are
layed out both radially and by radius with the 10th result at 12:00
after the first concentric color transition. This image is just of the
top 40, the picture for the top 200 looks similar.
The blogdom has a notable but lesser presence in data for Patriot Act (sic
) related queries. Traditional media dominate the top results:
Perhaps it's the case that widespread blogging of a top has a
synergistic effect on the page rank of top blogs? My
investigations suggest this is the case, though for Lord of the Rings,
e-commerce sites tended to outperform blogs, garnering more top 20
So, to wrap up from the title, blogs matter because users encounter them in high ranking positions in web searches
. This is good.
Finally, a note on the implementation. I know color coding
shouldn't be used exclusively but getting scaling on non rectangular
gif shapes is troublesome. SVG or Flash would solve the problem,
but DHTML is so much quicker to develop (for me, and not that you can't do both in Mozilla). An interesting
aspect to this visualization is a tooltip along with a opacity filter
that features two levels: massive fade for un-related query results,
and a partial fade for results from the same query. Browsers
handle walking 100s of result datapoints in the DOM and applying the opacity filter with a
minimum of latency!
Posted at 1:26, Published in: Blogging
24 - 05 - 2004
WWW 2004: Views from the web
I was disappointed not to make WWW'04 and spent last week teaching web
development in Chicago. That did, through per happenstance, give
me the chance to make a guest appearance in HFI's "Putting Research Into Practice
Alas, the www04 site doesn't have the papers up yet, but I'm sure
they're coming as they've been publicly available for the last 10
years. Here's my pick of web coverage & conference topics:
Posted at 12:58, Published in: Academia Hypertext
16 - 05 - 2004
It's Out: Beginning the Dialog on PIKII
Props & thanks to Lilia
and Chris at Usability Views
Edmonds, K.A, Blustein, J., & Turnbull, D. (2004). Personal Information and Knowledge Infrastructure Integrator. Special Issue of the Journal of Digital Information, Future Visions of Common-use Hypertext. 5(2).
The issue's not quite live, but since it's been discovered by some
dedicated internet researchers and I've been quietly soliciting
feedback since the originally scheduled November '03 publication, here
it is. It's densely anchored, here are a few highpoints:
- The Beginning
- The Next Big Thing is being
grown organically, cultivated by software developers and pruned by personal
Weblog publishers. The rising Weblogging space of the Internet is looking
more like traditional hypertext than the Web of the 1990s.
- Reading Weblogs
- While the simple representation of a single author's
Weblog posts is more aptly termed syndication, the rise of merged XML
documents from multiple authors on related topics approaches Nelson's vision
for transclusion in a way that user's find useful. A key issue that the
current Web tool set has dealt with is preserving authorial credit.
- Connections Between Blogs
- In addition to site-level links, individual
posts create a network of related links. Two systems exist currently for
promoting bidirectional links. Trackback is a simple HTTP notification
system in which a linking page requests a reciprocal link.
- Current Issues
- Granular and easily modifiable access control to personally
crafted content collections is needed. Today we can search the content
of blogs that have been broadcast with RSS-based tools such as Technorati
(Sifry) and Feedster,
but we have no tools that enable automatic content negotiation between
users' software agents or even between two users.
- The growth in the amount of digitally captured and hypertextualized
information in the coming years will be even more astounding than the growth
of the Web over the past ten years. There are significant technical challenges
to overcome, but the standards-based organic growth of Weblogs and the
Internet shows methods by which these challenges might be overcome.
We've looked forward to kickstarting a discussion in the
blogosphere. Admittedly, since we wrote this, much progress has
been made, notable among them XFN
. More to come on this from myself and Jamie
Posted at 17:3
15 - 05 - 2004
While I'm not quite as excited as this guy
, a how-to on squarified treemaps
article takes us on a tour of the most successful visualization
in addition to providing some illumination on a rather
It also provides a reminder that Microsoft has taken the value of
circular user-interface layouts to heart. In a lot of common
everyday operations in modern computing circular layouts (and high
fidelity zooming) can provide:
- noticable performance advantages in speed and accuracy
- better memory due to novelty of the spacial characteristics
- a whole slew of new up-the-ante on OS X cheesy effects
Maybe we'll be spared #4, but this visual whizbang aspect to the future
of computing has the potential to run Linux from geeky to square
The Gnome guys know they need a better graphics subsystem and perhaps Mozilla does
too with SVG rising.
I never imagined I'd use trigonometry and physics regularly on the job when I was in secondary school.
Posted at 17:59, Published in: UI
05 - 05 - 2004
More Open Source Usability
I found a new entrant in the professional academic record on usability in open source
from this year's CHI conference via MM-P
Alas, I also discovered one of the most disappointing public Mozilla discussions I've encountered in a while over at m-zine
In the discussion thread, a user offers a recount of his top bug picks.
The response is typical and the equivalent of a racial slur in the open
- So you gonna fix those bugs?
The act of delving into bugzilla and tracking feature development and
bug fixes is a non-trivial task. Mozilla.org has long valued "bug
triagers" who monitor for duplicates and bug accuracy. The huge
presence of duplicates is a sign of the inefficiency of user feedback
in the project, but that's not my focus today. Users who are willing to
provide feedback in the context of existing bug reports should be
valued not chastised.
The bug list post in this thread was not especially useful with a
blanket "this would make Outlook Express users feel more at
home". A subsequent account of "Aunt Tillie" trying to use the Thunderbird mail account snafu
is invaluable, or would be, if a significant number of people chimed in
about their experiences introducing users to Mozilla software.
However, when vitriolic commentary shuts down user feedback on
experience on the software products something is deeply wrong.
Even in open source, the user is still the customer. Deleting features
, or a natural selection process of over-implementing and pruning, is not the answer to usability. Up front needs
analysis, user profiling, and data collection about existing usage and
pain points is the answer to designing the right features in the first
place. It's also still the answer in iterative design.
With the new open source implementation of a logging system at uzilla.mozdev
, we may finally bring usage logging to Mozilla development.
Posted at 8:17