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The root of software industries problems:

Unlike film or automobiles, where there is a significant cost of goods, software (while hard to write) was relatively fast to create. With less upfront expenses, the rush to market was coupled with relatively less risk, thereby further fueling the rush to start coding with out thinking twice. Also, the reality of Moore’s Law meant that there was no time for things to settle down to the point where such “niceties” as design, quality, and usability standards might become established. My perspective is that the bulk of our industry is organized around the demonstrable myth that we know what we want at the start, and how to get it, and therefore build our process assuming that we will take an optimal, direct path to get there. 

More info on Skype:

Niklas Zennstrom co-author of Kazaa talks about Skype. “You should not try to do things that are artificially viral like an “Invite a friend to use this service” feature. Those don’t really work. We’ve had that feature on Skype but it doesn’t really bring in the users. The product has to be fundamentally viral in itself.”

Quips from NYTimes magazine on Design:

Inspiration: Where Does It Come From?: “The most impressive designs are those that seem naturally right, unimprovable, inevitable.”

The Guts of a New Machine: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. The starting point for IPod wasn’t a chip or a design; the starting point was the question, What’s the user experience? If you start to work on something, and the time is right, pieces come in from the periphery. The pieces just come together. The design process is not serial. It’s not one person passing something on to the next. It’s almost easier to talk about it as what it’s not.”

Yahoo introduces RIA style shopping interface:

Yahoo! shopping released a shopping interface on October 16 for its most popular holiday products. This interface called smartsort does client side product sorting using sliders for user input. Heavily relies on javascript and is not responsive enough for me. Has a long way to go. The nice thing about it is, it lets users adjust whats important to them rather than arcane product specs.

Earthlink’s cool flash panoramas:

Sarah Allen put up screenshots of the new Earthlink’s new Personal Start Page made with Laszlo Presentation Server. The highlight is clearly the panoramas which visualize the incoming data in an unobtrusive, calm way. Sparcely populated text displays, with ambient information in the environment reduce the clutter and complexity in an interface. The Lawrence weather site designed by Dan Cox also has a Lawrence-skyline panorama that changes based on the weather forecast. The pods in cental have a lot to learn from ambient interfaces. I have related posts here and here. And if you are looking for ambient information in the physical environment, look at Ambient Devices. Lots of cool gadgets there.

Largest hosting provider gives free webhosting:

UK based 1and1 is giving free webhosting for 3 years for anyone in the US or Canada who register before Jan 15. Kevin is setting up free MT installations using this offer. This is a part of the ad campaign before 1and1 enters the US market. According to Netcraft, “1&1 is the largest hoster in the world by a margin, and hosts fully 18% of the hostnames in Europe.” Another article on netcraft points to cheap domain name registrations.

Search engine decoder in Flash:

A neat visualization of the give and take relations between the popular search engines. Via Seb’s open research.

Royale released as Flex:

Macromedia released more details on Flex, previously Royale, a presentation server that developers use to build a Rich Internet Applications without the flash IDE. “Flex is a presentation server installed on top of a J2EE application server or servlet container, a rich library of user interface components, an XML-based markup language used to declaratively lay out these components, and an object-oriented programming language which handles user interactions with the application.” Some links:
Flex site: on macromedia.
Christophe Coenraets’s blog: Macromedia Flex Evangelist
Overview of MXML: Macromedia’s version of XAML / LZX.
Design patterns and RIA’s: Article on Devnet.

The right question:

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner). Denham Grey quotes this while explaining why the right questions matter. Via Emergic. Very true, answers can be obtained through deductions. Looking at all the current developments, deductive and repetitive tasks are being automated and inductive and design oriented tasks are what humans are doing. Design involves identifying the right questions and finding a solution within these constraints.

Web site VS Web Application usability:

Jean Tillman has an article on Digital Web, which compares UI design decisions of content based websites to that of web applications. Via CentralMX.

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