Oct 17

IE Plugin Handling Silliness

Tech No Comments »

I had almost forgotten the Eolas ruling that mean IE does silly things with plugins.

It reared its head when I had to install a flash component in an application. All worked fine until we started to test in IE/Win. There we saw the lovely usability feature:

  • When you mouseover the component a box surrounds the widget
  • A message comes up: “Click here to activate the component”
  • Now, the component becomes live

Pretty much unusable.

Of course, there is the simple fix of using SWFObject: Javascript Flash Player detection and embed script.

Do you think it is bizarre that you can bypass all of this through a script? Ah fun with law suits.

Oct 16

Dead users.

Tech No Comments »

I was doing some due diligence for a company, and they wanted to know the number of users that another company had.

As I was analyzing data, I started to get morbid. This community had been around for quite a long time, and there was no cost to be a member.

This means that a lot of users may not actually be on the other end of the phone. Many of them will statistically be dead. Dead as a door nail.

The company also really liked to boast about the number of registered users, and cares maybe more about the quantity than the quality. This means that they never clean out their user database, which would safe them resources, be cleaner, but would lower the number.

So, here is to the dead users that live on in their mortal memberships.

Oct 13

Naked Active Records

Ruby, Tech No Comments »

I had a weird dream last night (literally a dream, not in the MLK sense). In the dream I was building a Rails app (I know, couldn’t I think about more interesting / racy things?) and the designer for the project got hit by a bus.

Instead of finding another designer, I delivered the UI that was already built. No, not even Streamlined but instead:

% ruby script/console

I didn’t JUST give them the command line, I also had a piece of paper that listed the domain models and documentation for them to grok, but even that told them how to look at methods on the objects to delve deeper.

This is Naked Objects taken to the extreme, but a lot of us probably use this “UI” don’t we?

This is because the developers of the application put the power in power users. We have to know everything about the system, and often have to dig deep into the system to fix bugs and such.

script/console is my best friend. It means that I do not have to drop to SQL to poke around my DB. Instead I have a more powerful tool to munge the data, in a language that I prefer for day to day tasks. Also, it means that I do not bypass any validation / business logic when playing with the data. I have known many a project that has SQL loading scripts that end up being invalid when business logic changes (and this logic wasn’t constrained in the DB).

Writing scripts that use the bootstrapping is great too. Now instead of doing a bunch of work in Ruby and then dropping to SQL, you can stay in Ruby land and it will do the hard work for you.

So, here is to script/console. The power users tool.

Oct 12

OPML in Browsers

Tech No Comments »

With IE 7 and Firefox 2 coming up to full releases, we have gotten to a place where browsers are doing better with RSS. At least, a lot better than just showing you XML :)

What is next? How about going deeper and groking something like OPML.

I would love to go to wickedcoolsite.com and have a drop down in the toolbar showing me all of the feeds available on the site. What better way to do that than by having the site host an OPML file (and can talk about it in meta just like we do so with RSS).

This would be a lot more useful to me than an icon saying that the given page has an RSS feed.

In fact, this means that you could even do into RSS mode and navigate and display the entire site through this. I now think of my sites as competing with my feed. If I can not make the site more useful and usable than someone looking at the feed in a reader, then I have lost. OPML takes it up a notch.

(NOTE: Mike over at TechCrunch has wanted this for awhile I think)

Oct 12

The importance of the music video

Personal 1 Comment »

As soon as MTV came online we knew that musicians had to think about another part of their art: the music video.

This was great news for good looking performers, and video directors with crazy ideas.

As with any medium, the majority of videos were quite boring. It took time to learn that a video didn’t have to just be a recording of the band singing the song!

Peter Gabriel did great things such as Sledgehammer.

In 2006 music videos are just another thing you produce with your songs. How important are they though?

With the advent of myspace, youtube, google video, and others, I think that they can make your band.

A great example is OK GO and their highly creative treadmill video:

I would be willing to bet that they have a LOT more fans due to this video, and the pure coverage that it has gotten both online and in traditional media.

If I was to create a new band, with the huge competition out there, I would be looking for a killer creative music video and seed it all over the shop. If I was good looking and had no talent though, I would signup with American Idol :/

Oct 11

The Follow-through

Tech 1 Comment »

One of the most overlooked aspects in sports is the follow through. We tend to focus on hitting the ball, but what you do after the fact is very important.

The same is obviously true for projects, but we often tend to get to focussed on finding the ball and hitting it out of the park. What about the next pitch?

Too often projects work like this:

  • Get idea
  • Spec out idea
  • Implement idea
  • Crack open champagne the night of launch. “We made 1.0!”

The hardest work is actually post launch. Not only do we need to do maintenance, but we need to track the usage/project and make sure it is a success.

To do this correctly we need to think about this up front. The initial project plan needs to define what will make this project a success, and you need to work out the statistics that you will need to track to measure it.

The process then needs to have someone with ownership of the project to take care of the follow through. This takes time, not only for tracking, but also because chances are you will want to DO something about the information that you are tracking. This means giving the developers time to work on those tasks.

It may be fun to whip something cool together, but wouldn’t it be more fun to see it truly succeed? Follow-through.

Oct 09

Spam Sieve: Must have for Mail.app

Apple, Tech 4 Comments »

I was watching a friend working on her Mac. She was cursing as a ton of spam snuck right through the default junk filter that you get with Mail.app.

In the Apple software list that I published in the past, Spam Sieve was there with the comment “Waiting to see if needed”.

When I first started to use Mail.app, it was pretty good at coping with spam. It caught all but a few. However, a few months ago it couldn’t handle it anymore. A set of spam such as the darn stock images would get right through. This is when I jumped in to get Spam Sieve and it has taken care of the issue.

At this point I don’t know how you can cope with the normal filter as it just doesn’t work. I hope that Apple has put in some time on that for future Mail versions. Spam is such as PITA that you need to update your barriers regularly, so to do a good job you need the mail app provider, or plugin provider, to release constant updates that take into account the newest baddie.

What a shame.

Oct 05

Google Code Search: Find out who is using code

Google, Tech 1 Comment »

It is nice to see Google Code Search, something that I am sure I will find useful. It also good to see more vertical searches.

I did a few searches, and quickly saw that it is also useful to see people using open code that you write without permission, or correctly licensed :)


Oct 04

The Ajax Experience: Coming up shortly

Tech No Comments »

Time really flies. I can’t believe that we will be in Boston shortly for The Second Ajax Experience on Oct 23-25th.

The first show in San Francisco in the Spring was so much fun. It felt like the first TSS conference. The community was all together for the first time (in this niche), and everyone was a buzz.

It is a practical group, and the parrallel between: “Ok, how are we going to make this EJB thing work” to “Ok, how are we going to make this Ajax thing work” was obvious.

The second time around we have an even better show. A great amount of content came in through our request for presentations, and you will see a lot more case study material to learn the quirks and lessons from real Ajax projects. We also have a larger group from the UI/UX community. Ajax needs to cross the borders between design and development, so we wanted to help get the groups together.

Of course, we also have the usual suspects, including the new frameworks. Google will be in the house to represent GWT, as well as their practical “we have done ajax” content.

I expect even more banter in the hallways, as a few months on, much of the crowd will have more Ajax experience, and more lessons to learn from eachother.

I can’t wait to see you at the show!

Oct 03

Getting Tarpitted

Tech 2 Comments »

We are having fun at the moment as our legitimate email to users that have Yahoo! email are not getting there, or if they do it comes in hours later.

It turns out that Yahoo! is tarpitting us.

This is just another example of how bad guys make life bad for everyone.

It is always bloody hard to get off of any ‘bad’ list even if you are a good guy.