Sep 30

Searching for Ajax in 2001 on Google

Google, Tech 5 Comments »

Ajax search for Google at 10

When Dylan told me about the idea to resurrect an old index as part of the 10 year old birthday festivities, I thought it was very cool indeed.

They found one, and you can search on it here. Vanity searches are fun, and Ajax returns very different results :)

Sep 30

From Google Developer Day to The Ajax Experience

Ajax, Tech with tags: , , , 1 Comment »

I am on the final leg of a few weeks on the road. I had a great time in Europe speaking at the Google Developer Day events. Above, are the slides from the Madrid event for the “State of Ajax” talk that I gave.

The video is up too:

Now, in Boston, I am having a great time at The Ajax Experience as always. The reason that Ben and I started this event was to have an excuse to get the community together. The speakers are top notch, and it is great to have them.

Since Ben and I have given a ton of talks together, we wanted to shake it up a little bit for our opening keynote. So, 30 minutes before the talk, we whipped up a trivial “Random Presenter” application that would run a buzzer at a random time between the min and max that you set. We used 10 seconds to 120 seconds, and whenever the buzzer went, the other presenter had to take over at the point. This would often be mid-sentence, and Ben did a particularly good job at ending mine :)

It was a lot of fun for us, and I hope it was a little entertaining for the crowd. There is nothing like improv to keep you on your toes!

Sep 29

Small feature, huge difference; Correlating entries in FriendFeed

Tech with tags: , No Comments »

A week or so ago, FriendFeed included a feature that changes the experience for me on the site.

I used to see this kind of stuff all the time:

FriendFeed Duplicate

Many people would Twitter something with a link, and post it to, and blog about it, and also were members of FriendFeed Rooms. This is a poisonous interface, as it gets very frustrating for the user (at least, for me).

With the new feature, my flow looks like this:

FriendFeed Related

It appears to be quite smart too. It puts together items, kind of like TechMeme, where you see Bob posting to his blog, and then Harry posting about it too appears under that item. It is doing smart grouping, which in turns give you more content.

I would like to see it go further in some ways, and not take up as much space on the “related” line, especially for items that are true duplicates. The algorithm is still getting its grove on, and I often still see the duplicates, but this is a great feature, and knocks down another mini-barrier of my FF usage.

Sep 25

Frustrating User Experiences: iPhone NetNewsWire and Newsgator

Tech with tags: , , 7 Comments »

iPhone NetNewsWire

I love NetNewsWire. I still prefer it on the Mac, and was jazzed to get it on the iPhone. Unfortunately, the picture above is normally about as far as I get with the iPhone NetNewsWire application.

I am sure that the problem is that I have many feeds. Too many for the application to handle. I wanted to give it a hand, and setup a profile of only the feeds that I really care about. I have folders already setup on my desktop application for this. I have the ‘must read’ folder, and then other ancillary ones.

Newsgator has thought about this, and gives you the ability to setup different profiles for various devices and systems, but the UI is awful, and misses the key feature that I need. As you can see below, when you have a profile, you can’t just select an entire folder, but instead you get a list of feeds! This means that I would have to go through all of my feeds and manually select the ones from my ‘must read’ list! And, what about when you add a new feed? You have to go in and select it for that profile then too? Ugh, do I really have to migrate everything to Google Reader?

iPhone Newsgator

Sep 24

Time for SPEC JSVM? Benchmarks are bloody hard, but we need better

JavaScript, Tech with tags: , 1 Comment »

I have had the pleasure of spending time with members of the V8 team such as Kevin Milikin and Kasper Lund, and Brendan Eich of Mozilla and TraceMonkey. I haven’t had a chance to talk with the great folks behind SquirrelFish Extreme yet, which looks very good too.

It has been great to talk to these guys about the way their implementations work, and to look at differences too. What has been particularly exciting has been how they have loved each others work. There is a huge amount of respect between all of the teams, and they are jazzed to be making the JavaScript world scream.

One common issue that I have found has been benchmarks. They all use slightly different benchmarks and can all agree that:

The JavaScript benchmarks suck!

SunSpider has known bugs in it which are not changed because they have a baseline with IE. Are you kidding me? It is also very Regex heavy, and also focuses on other areas. The methodology of just adding up all of the timings also doesn’t help, and totally skews results (you could do the important things fast, and the obscure things slow, and still look bad). IE can’t even run the tests correctly, and thus their numbers are messed up too.

Dromeo is interesting, but has flaws too. The timing seems to be broken as only V8 gives you precision that doesn’t get rounded down, and thus they get penalized. Also, it uses libraries which do “if browserX do X elsif … else ….” which means different engines actually go down totally different paths.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Benchmarks are notoriously hard to build in a way that measures practical performance versus micro meaninglessness.

It seems like everyone acknowledges that JS benchmark life is pretty bad, so we can either keep that in mind, or we can get everyone together to have an attempt to do a better job. Doing the practical thing can be tough too, as there are too forms of practical:

  • How we do things now to get past browser bugs
  • How we could do things if there were those silly browser bugs

Time for SPEC JSVM?

Sep 24

The two Oktoberfests; The State Fair of Germany

Personal, Tech No Comments »

Google Developer Day Munich

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to speak at Google Developer Day in Munich, where I met a lot of bright developers doing very interesting things indeed on the Web and beyond. It was interesting timing, as during the event, T-Mobile made their announcement of the G1 phone. A few people are talking about that. We cut to the webcast of the announcement during the show, and Chris DiBona did a great job showing off a real device (gasp). Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but there are some great features in the phone, and the platform. I have been a little surprised at some of the media writeups, for example people talking about syncing without realizing how cool the over the air stuff is. It drives me nuts that I ever have to hard wire the darn iPhone! And, then there are the issues of the market place. Wil Shipley pretty much covers my thoughts. It is crazy what Apple is currently doing. What if Apple decides to get into the Flashlight business…. will they kick out all of the duplicative flash light applications?

Wil gets to the chase:

I have to be clear: it simply will not stand for Apple to prevent applications on the iPhone from competing with Apple’s own applications. Besides chasing away all decent developers, besides hurting their customers by stifling competition and innovation, besides it simply being evil, it will, shortly, be illegal. This kind of behavior is illegal when you hit a certain point in market saturation for your product; Microsoft was slapped for it constantly in the late ’80s. If the iPhone is the success Apple thinks it will be, they will find themselves the target of a huge class-action lawsuit.

Anyway, back to Munich. The first Oktoberfest was GDD, which someone called “Oktoberfest for geeks” but later in the day, people got to go to the real Oktoberfest. I have to admit that it wasn’t at all as I was expecting.

It felt like the Minnesota State Fair! All of the rides, and the food…. not as much of it on a stick as the Minnesotans would like, but they would enjoy the fried stuff, and the ‘wurst. There were some differences though. The State Fair has lots of John Deere (machinery hill), and truck pull events, and 4H clubs. Oktoberfest has beer tents. Oh, and some beer tents, and some…. you get it. As I poked around, I heard a huge amount of English (or should I saw American), and I remember hearing Germany and Norweigan in Minnesota :)

Humans are strange creatures aren’t they? To fly thousands of miles to go to a fair where you get incredibly drunk and try hard to find a bar maid that tickles your fancy.

Sep 21

No Shit, Sherlock

Personal with tags: 3 Comments »

Sherlock Holmes

My body clock doesn’t know what day it is. I am back in Europe as of this “morning”, after a trip that has taken me from California to London, Paris, back to New York (I know, what was I thinking), and now to Munich.

I had a great time in New York with my partner in crime, Ben. It was interesting to be at Web 2.0 Expo NYC, which had a very different vibe from the west coast one (less “Web 2.0″, more “agency”). The browser panel with Brendan Eich, Chris Wilson, and Ojan (of Chrome) was fun, and then our state of Ajax talk was a good time as always. We then got to go to glamorous places such as Jersey and Westchester, before getting dessert in Little Italy, which had a party going on in the streets.

On Saturday I got to go on a four mile walk around Manhattan, taking it in, and picking up a replacement presentation pointer at Circuit City. Then I got to head to JFK (didn’t take the new public transport option like Dave Winer did…. should have given that a try) and many hours passed before I landed in Munich.

Murphy’s law kicked in, and the hotel didn’t have a room available until 2pm (I got to Munich at 7am) so I tried to stay away by walking around the city, and then taking a nap right in the freaking lobby. It was a strange day. I spent it with Sherlock Holmes, which I have been reading thanks to Stanza. This is the first time that I have read about Sherlock’s reasoning and exploits since a kid. I wonder what I thought about the cocaine and smoking rituals back then?

Being a loner today, I felt a new connection to Mr. Holmes, and I took on my own mission to find a good restaurant nearby. I didn’t look online, I just stepped out of the hotel and tried to hunt down a nice area, and after quite some time, I ended up at a table, with good food, and a new Sherlock adventure on my phone. Holmes lived in a London that is no longer, and in some ways his character feels closer to German than British these days. He is the Commander Data of his time (do you remember that Star Trek episode when Data becomes Holmes via the holideck… I love how if the writers were desperate for an episode, they could use that plot device to jump to anything “crap! it is broken! we can’t get out!”).

All I need is to find a pipe, and my quiet day of introspection and observation would be complete. Tomorrow? Time to go into the Google office and get ready for Tuesdays Google Developer Day, and then on to Madrid for another!

Sep 16

Frustrating User Experiences: iPhone Dashboard Manipulation

Tech with tags: 2 Comments »

iPhone iTunes

I primarily use the iPhone as a read-mostly device. I rarely reply to email unless it is very important, or I can send a one line reply. One of the user experience issues that has been bugging me recently on the iPhone, is the way you are made to interact with your home screen experience.

When you had one screen of apps, the “hold down on icon and drag around” experience was fine. Now though, you have 5+ screens, and if you want to migrate something from the last screen to the front, you have to drag and slip on the edges to try to move along. You then drop it somewhere and everything else gets pushed around. Ugh. It is exasperated by the fact that when I get new upgrades on apps that I have, they end up appearing at the end instead of the icon where they were.

Why doesn’t iTunes give me a nicer interface? A simple way that can show a set of the screens, and use keyboard and mouse to easily work with the icons.

It’s a small thing I know, but it would mean less frustration when I get that new application :)

Sep 15

Frustrating User Experiences: How Apple and DRM can ruin your flight

Tech with tags: , , No Comments »

As I got ready for my 10 hour flight to Europe, I booted up iTunes and looked around for some interesting TV shows and movies. I found a few new things that I thought would be good for wasting some of those hours away, so I put them on the iTunes tab.

Fast forward to 30k feet in the sky, when I pulled out the laptop after the obligatory 10 minutes of staring as we took off. I went to start one of the shows and was shocked to see:

Grr Quicktime

You are kidding me. How had the iTunes install experience now grabbed the latest Quicktime with it? This reminded me of the fuss that DRM has been making with Spore and how all this effort is going into the bad side of usage. Installing Spore and getting a bad hard drive would make you hate the darn thing and never buy anything of its ilk again. There has to be a better way.

If I had just downloaded a movie file, then even without Quicktime i could have played it.

Sep 12

A commercial about nothing; How we are talking about Palin and Seinfeld/Gates

Personal, Politics, Tech 8 Comments »

Disclaimer: If you don’t like politics, Seinfeld, or Microsoft, please more on now!

The latest ad airs, and a larger version gets posted to the Web. The first one had people saying “huh?” and this has lit up the blogosphere again. “This has nothing about Microsoft in it!” That is the point. Seinfeld is going a commercial about nothing… at least to begin with. They are setting the stage. Letting people know that they may be a little out of touch, and how they will explain through each other how Microsoft actually gets it. That will be the tough sell. For now though, they have everyone talking (case in point!).

Remember the last campaign? The WOW factor?

Did people talk a lot about that? In fact, when was the last time anyone paid attention to Microsoft in this way? That is why the commercial is a success, right now.

It actually sounds very similar to the Sarah Palin story. She had the big bang onto the scene (rather than the ‘huh?’), but the more people get to actually interview and thus get to know her, I predict the ‘huh?’ will come to the American people too. I am sure she is a nice person and all, but Matt Damon hits out like we all have too:

I know what you are thinking? Matt Damon? “He is just an actor! I have just as much right to …” You do, and you can get out there and demand more from this election too. I am really hoping that the runway to the election is long enough that people get past the honeymoon phase, and think about the “oh right, that person doesn’t just sit and have fun BBQs, they run the free world.” America voted in the BBQ guy twice over the last 8 years, maybe it is time to go past someone who changed colleges 5 times, and get someone who was president of the Harvard Law Review. Let’s vote in someone who really will fight to make a difference, and will have the respect of the world.

I am writing this sitting at an airport, and I am about to fly to London, Paris, New York, Munich, Madrid, Boston, and in the European countries I know which way they want to go. Don’t take that as “well WE are the ones who get to vote, who cares what the Frenchies think!” Take a second to reason why.

It will be interesting to watch and see if Seinfeld and Gates can grow to show us something about Microsoft that is compelling, and if Sarah can get away with limiting her exposure since she has already probably done her best work.