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Get your angel on


Have you ever seen an angel? I see them all the time. There is one in the Boston Garden that I swear is the real deal, but really–Where are they? I think they are in other people whenever they do something kind… people are often so kind in the subtlest of ways… if you pay attention… you’ll see the angel.  So come on… get your angel on!

Cool rounded corners css


I think this is done really well… very simple… separating content from presentation… easy to use…

Is it too simple for browsers I wonder?


Flash Forward Conference Notes From September of 2007

This was a great conference to go to–mostly because it had a lot more
future vision then any other conference I had been to. I really think
a number of the presenters were truly on the cutting edge of the web
and truly are shaping how people will use it in the near future.

There were a number of sessions on Web Video, one third of the sessions
were on Flash an video.

They really made me think about what the future will be like when bandwidth is no
longer an issue–the web has the potential to be all interactive flash video without
the need for a browser… or even a television at home… just use flash based
desktop applications… in some ways, it almost makes html based web sites have
the potential to become obselete. It was interesting to think about at the very least.

I attended three session on the topic, one focusing on web cams, another on
customizing video interfaces, and another on interactive video (which was
very cutting edge).

There was a simple session on making videos with flash, with a bit of an intro on
how to skin flash videos… which is now possible, although a bit complex. You can
create a simple custom skin fairly easily though without much coding… As soon as you
introduce more then one video to a movie is gets complicated fast.

There was another session basically on using flash for webcams which tied in nicely
with the most interesting session I went to by Craig Swann. Craig’s session showed
how he created flash videos on his computer that were intelligent… they could tell
he was there and interact with his video stream using actionscript. If he was wearing
green, the flash movie would recolor his clothes to be red. He could get the flash
movie to interact with him as he moved, all of which seemed very artistic. Basically,
it was as though computer was watching him and interacting with him–like his computer
had an eye… a little 1984ish or big brotherish, and still extremely fascinating
and cutting edge.

The emphasis on video was clear and it seems that Adobe really wants it to be the future
of the internet–interactive video.

Adobe Air:
There was a big focus on Adobe Air, a new application that allows you to
create desktop applications using flash that run in the background and allow
passive usage of the internet–i.e. content is brought to you while you do
other things. The possibilities are endless… One such application is called
finetune shown below… This application was created with adobe air and allows
people to share and mix playlists. It is an easy way to create a social networking
application that runs on the desktop or in facebook.

One thing about adobe air that is of importance is that it takes the emphasis off
of using the web browser… basically, with adobe air you can create new apps with
flash that allow people to interact with the internet without a browser.

Apparently, the HBS multimedia group is looking into using adobe air to take their
MBA Flash courseware used on the web and then package it up as a desktop app
that they can then sell through HBSP.

I went to another session on using sound in flash. The biggest take away from that
session was the concept that sound creates a mood and some people recognize and
are more open to hearing one sound over another. Using sound for navigation can
be extremely helpful in giving people cues about where to go.

Quark Interactive Designer:
Apparently, quark has created an application to work with quark that allows print
designers to turn their print designs into flash based web designs quite easily,
which might have some possible uses for our group.

New Ideas:
There were a number of ideas that also might be specifically useful for our group…

One person suggested making a help overlay… when help is on, an overlay shows up
on the page telling people what everything is… and when it is off, the overlay goes

One of the big take aways from the conference is the notion that an entire
generation of kids are spending most of their waking hours playing around on the
internet. Their whole way of interacting is changing completely because of facebook
and other sites. 2nd life has the potentional to be the future of business meetings.
Computer users will be extremely advanced in the near future, especially MBA students,
and they will be incredibly good at multitasking.

They will expect to receive their information in interactive video applications that
are essentially brought to them through aggregators–the new adobe media player is
one such application meant to support this need: it is an interactive video aggregator.

Exploring Facebook and Myspace


I have finally ventured into the land of myspace and facebook, although the profiles I built are for HRC Boston.

I intend to spend more time on these sites, but, I have to say, I will always prefer face to face contact when meeting people.

I am endlessly fascinated by the popularity of these sites–it is such a phenomenon on one level and then on another level it really was bound to happen eventually. The Berkman Center, (the Group at Harvard that provided me with this blog) had been exploring online social networking well before myspace took off.
I am also amused at the businesses that have popped up just to help people design their myspace pages, and I bet they are quite successful.

It makes me wonder–if I was going to build a social networking web site–how would I want it to be… myspace has such a simple web design really–it is amazing how popular it is. They do get the functionality of their design right and also they got the right people in the beginning, too. As I understand it, myspace became hugely popular initially because pop stars and models had myspaces, which drew in all their fans who wanted myspaces, too. Pretty clever and especially appealing to us younger generations with so much time on our hands to play on the internet.

To me, facebook is really a model of clean, minimalist design. I am quite impressed by it.

I definitely find both myspace and facebook quite inspiring.

Summer Fun


This summer has been pretty busy, and I have been having lots of fun. I’ve been biking up a storm, including several 80 mile bike rides. I also finished two more classes, and now I have three left. I moved to an awesome new apartment with cheaper rent and also redesigned two web sites. My volunteer work with HRC continues, and I just love the fabulous people I get to meet all the time as a result.

I met Cyndi Lauper this summer… that was fun 🙂

HBS is going well, too. We are getting a new Director for our department, and I am sure I will be working on some more great projects once they come in. I am part of such a great team at HBS. I’m really proud of all my co-workers because we have all worked together for five years now, and we have just gotten so good at what we do. They have taught me so much. I am also gearing up to co-chair the Harvard ABCD Design Group.

Graduation, here I come.


I will be graduating from Harvard with a C.A.S. on June 8th. I am expecting an A in my last course, Oracle Database Administration, so keep your fingers crossed. Working full time and going to school at night has been one of the most challenging and most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

I have just one year left until I complete my Master’s at Brandeis. The worst is definitely over, and I am so happy to be done with classes at Harvard for now. For anyone interested in courses at the Extension School, the IT program is fabulous. I definitely recommend the courses to anyone.

Information Architecture Summit Roundup


I attended the Information Architecture Summit in Vancouver this past march, and it was a truly excellent experience.

I went to several seminars during the conference as well as Peter Morville’s day long section on Information Architecture during the pre-conference. Vancouver is an amazingly beautiful city, and I loved being there.

David Weinberger from the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society was the keynote speaker. He talked a lot about the new trends in managing content, taxonomies, and folksonomies.

If you go on a web site like or delicious (see below), users have the ability to tag or group their own content with keywords. This is an example of a folksonomy.

For example:

Users, in this way, are developing their own cataloging system. This is pretty revolutionary. As each user tags a given piece of content that content is automatically grouped into that tag/subject area. It becomes immenently easier to find content related to that tag/subject area.

Folksonomies are taxonomies created by users and they are revolutionizing the field of information science. There are certain drawbacks to folksonomies.

In the past, businesses have hired professional taxonomists with degrees in library science to categorize information and create hierarchies and pathways to navigate it.

In a sense, these taxonomists built a tree of information that was easy to follow. You could see various branches of information and the pathway to get there because they are all related.

With folksonomies, you have a collection of leaves from this tree, and not anywhere near the whole tree. Trees last and piles of leaves decay and are temporary. And there you have the problem with folksonomies.

Overall, people are trying to find balance between taxonomies and folksonomies. Folksonomies have a tendency to grow and also not all information ends up in the right categories, while taxonomies are not flexible enough to accomodate each individual users taste.

One other thing to note about David’s talk is that it was an outstanding presentation with innovative use of powerpoint. He used pictures with simple one line statements to tell us engaging stories. There were few bullet points.

It reminded my of a book I had checked out about powerpoint and moving beyond bullet points.

I was lucky enought to attend Peter Morville’s day long seminar on Information Architecture and Findability. I am really glad I did, because it was a highly interactive session and I had a chance to learn a lot from my peers in the field about what they are doing. 

This seminar showed me how to approach information architecture as a science, and I had a sense that there is a definite system and process one can follow when doing I/A for web sites.

While I have been doing I/A since I started making web sites in 1999, Peter showed me how to back up my designs and wireframe mockups with research and usability testing.

There was a fair amount of talk about tagging which echoed David Weinberger’s talk.

Here are some key practices mentioned that were helpful to me:

  1. Sit down and talk with your users whenever possible. Get to know them.
  2. Use icons that make sense–do usability testing to make sure.
  3. Add best bets to your search engine.
  4. Users prefer navigation to be on the left.
  5. Design your web site to work on multiple platforms.
  6. Organizational politics are an integral part of the I/A process so you want to have as much research and user testing as possible to back up your assumptions in order to get a green light from key decision makers.

There was a lot more, which he covers in his new book, “Ambient Findability”.

The whole idea behind I/A is to make it as easy as possible for users to find the information they need and perform the functions they want on your web site or in any other medium.

The overwhelming themes of the conference were managing folksonomies, selling I/A to decision makers, and rapid prototyping with wireframe mockups. 

Resources From MIT Presentation


Here is a link to the powerpoint presentation from the meeting:

Here is a link to all the cfm files we created during the meeting:

Here are some links related to the presentation:

Adobe On Demand Seminars for DM8:

Harvard Course On Developing Web Database Applications:

There are some great resources on database design and normalization here:

Building your first CFM web app:

Adobe Login/Registration Tutorial:

MMBUG Presentation at MIT, 3/8/2006


I am really excited to be giving a talk this week for the MMBug group at MIT. I hope you can come!

Topic: Creating Database-Driven Websites with Dreamweaver
Speakers: Rebecca Dornin
Date: Wednesday, March 8
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Cost: Free
Where: MIT Stata Building
AKA Building 32, on this map:
Room 32-124

Topics included will be:

1) How to connect to a database easily
2) How to insert, update, and delete items from a database easily
3) How to create logins easily
4) How to show query results on a web page
5) How to do all of these easily using cfm, php, or jsp

FlashJester NetChecker


I was playing around with the Flash Jester netchecker today and seeing if I could get it to work with a screensaver. The net checker is an independent executable file that you call from within the Flash movie with and FS Command to see if your user is online. It works fine with stand alone swf files, but so far not within a screensaver. The screensaver can’t seem to find the executable file, even when installed with the screensaver package.

So I have had to resort to my simple load variables from a text file on a server. If the variables load, then it means the user is online, otherwise they are not. This is fine, except that I don’t officially know how long it takes to load those variables in. I set up an extra period of time for the variables to load as a precaution, however, it might take longer depending on connection speed. If the user is online, my net checker might not always work–that’s the problem with my little system. I think it will work on the vast majority of systems though. I just want something that is more precise. The NetChecker can be found at

Suggestions are appreciated…


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