There are too many methods of designing digital media. We currently have “agile” (hip, groovy) at one end and “waterfall” (a term of abuse) at the other. Each of our projects at LBi inhabits a space somewhere in between these two extremes at any one time – although because we’re an agency it’s mostly just…

I will not be buying shares in Joost any time soon. This is not because they don’t have a good product – having been on their beta testing swarm for the last few months, I think it’s quite nice really. The trouble is, according to the Guardian they will be getting their content from media…

I was going through some stuff at the weekend, and found a CD I bought in the Los Angeles from a shop in Melrose several years ago. Fans of Julian Cope will of course spot why it found its way into the bargain bin with a hole punched through the barcode. If you’re not a…

I took out one of those incredibly dodgy-looking “100% cashback” mobile phone deals last year. Much to my surprise – it seems to have worked. £35 a month for a 12-month T-Mobile contract with 200 free any time/any network minutes per month. The handset was free too – a K700i. I didn’t go over my…

So the BBC is now the latest broadcaster to sign a deal with the force that is YouTube. Right now, the Beeb (and CBS, NBC and Fox) are all saying that YouTube is a “promotional vehicle” for them. Nothing to do with their core programming or anything like that. OK, and what about all those…

I like this video for a number of reasons. It’s text speaking about text speaking about content, and has no aural commentary. It uses real imagery yet is figurative; it connects the edge of an arcane concept (hypertext markup) to the edge of some very big issues (love, communication and copyright) yet makes this connection…

I like Flickr more every time I go there. I like it so much I’m now paying for it just as soon as my PayPal echeque clears. As a rule I pay for nothing in life if I can possibly help it. This alone is a measure that they are doing the right thing. And…

Those groovy people at AKQA are so groovy they are even in Second Life. Here’s a picture of me in their lounge, marvelling at the slideshow on the wall. And here’s one of me leaving a groovy comment. Although quite deserted (it’s a Saturday night after all – they’ll be at home looking at their…

Having taken this photo while waiting for our kid to chomp through a McDonald’s Kids Meal at new year (mea culpa – but it’s the winging, really), I’ve just noticed another frankly amazing example of a nutritional content “explanation.” This time, it’s on the cardboard sleeve of a pot of Sainsbury’s Cornish clotted cream (again,…

Most people don’t know that under UK law, it is currently illegal to copy music from (say) a CD you have bought, to your own MP3 or other music player. As a result of a petition to Downing Street organised the Open Rights Group, the government has responded positively to the suggestion that we should…

Originally uploaded by Gilgongo. I don’t often travel on the tubes, but this must confuse the hell out of tourists! I wonder why they did it like this? Seems to be the case all along the line – well, as far as Camden anyway I think.

Just posted this to Sig-IA in reply to somebody wanting some examples of good tag clouds (see also my earlier venture). I’m sure the following will be wonderfully arcane in about 10 years time. I was looking at movietally.com the other day. While it’s not exactly a shining example of good design overall, the use…

It being near the end of the year, I find myself in retrospective mode, so I’ve got an excuse not be very topical in reviewing Scan This Book! by Kevin Kelly of the New York Times, written back in May this year. I’ve just finished reading it (it’s that long – doesn’t the NYT have…

Now this is interesting. Kaoru has been working on a site that allows you to upload videos – and schedule them. I like to think of myself as a contrarian (well, until it becomes uncomfortable), and there’s something about this site that tickles my contrarian fancies. Timeshifting, PVR-fuelled, 24-hour living is all the rage, and…

I’ve recently been using StumbleUpon more, and although it’s fun, it’s not as fun as putting interesting strings into Google to see what turns up. For example, using this: “parent directory ” MP3 -xxx -html -htm -php -shtml -opendivx -md5 -md5sums and this: ?intitle:index.of? mp3 Brings up all sorts of interesting stuff.

I’ve been reading 37 Signals’s book Getting Real on line. This caused a bit of stir when it came out as it self-consciously throws out the rule book(s) on application development and looks firmly towards the new dawn of Web 2.0, and (sort of) in the direction of an extreme “agile” methodology. All the rage.…

I don’t read the Guardian much these days, but I’ve always known it as a broadsheet with a sense of humour. Their printing today of this article, “written” by Mick Hucknall, and the inevitable comments about it on line, must be one of the funniest online occurrences this year. Hucknall (oh OK, it’s some music…

It’s not long now until 3 starts selling its X-Series in the UK. Hidden among the usual bundling and partnerships fluff (eBay, Skype, etc.) is a rather quiet, yet potentially cataclysmic feature: X-Series will have flat-rate pricing. So, after the glorious £4.3 billion they spent on their 3G license and the completely predictable failure of…

One of the sites I read rather a lot is Boing Boing. Some over-enthusiastic web filtering software (and possibly some oppressive regimes) classifies Boing Boing as an undesirable site and blocks it. So, I’ve installed the Distributed Boing Boing proxy on this website. The URL for the proxy is http://www.webtorque.org/dbb.php Now might also be a…

I’ve been meaning to record my thoughts about seeing Christian Lindholm, head of Yahoo! Mobile (and former Director of Multimedia Applications for the Nokia Ventures) talking about “Mobile Usability” at the Neilsen Norman Group’s User Experience 2006 in London a couple of week ago. Firstly, let me state that I’m not exactly a mobile phone…

10 Downing Street, in conjunction with mySociety, have recently launched an on-line petition system where citizens can collect signatures for issues with which to petition the government. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to lend your support to petition set up by Suw Charman of the Open Rights Group: “Thousands of people own…

This graphic “explaining” what the BBC’s honeypot might have been employed to do had it been hijacked (which I assume it wasn’t – how boring) is all but pointless. While rather an extreme example, I think it highlights rather well what I’ve realised recently is the biggest single problem I have with graphical representations of…

Originally uploaded by Gilgongo. I’ve been at User Experience 2006 (London). Don Norman looks even more like Capt. Birdseye than normal, but he had some good things to say along with bashing Microsoft and spending rather too long talking about cars. A good day out I think – and one that also might need to…

As prophesied, the roll-out of IE7 via Windows Update started today, and as a “High Priority” update no less. Webmasters everywhere now need to be afraid. Well, afraid of those running legitimate copies of Windows, since the wording on the download mentions that it’s for those with “genuine installations” – so WGA will prevent the…

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 was released in August 2001. This week, one of the biggest and most damaging private monopolies in human history relented, and fully five years after, we now have their MSIE 7. I installed it today. Coincidentally, a couple of days before I heard that the 7 was out, I happend to…

I’ve become a bit of a tag cloud hawk recently, looking for examples of their use and what I think is abuse, or just plain old misunderstanding. My definition of a useful tag cloud is something that allows you to get a feel for the “mood” of the information tagged on a site. On the…

When designing an e-commerce site, it’s hard to avoid the payment form. For an industry barely a decade old, the payment page has a powerful mystique – associated as it is with high technology like i-frames, fraud, mysterious loss of life savings, and alien invasion. I was thinking about this last week after reviewing some…

He’s gone for the irony hat trick…! Boingboing reports on this article is about a man who has asked his daughter’s school to take Fahrenheit 451 off the curriculum because of its use of “bad language” and (for extra irony points) smoking, amongst other things. The incident is wonderful not least for the fact that…

I’m sure there’s a wittier subject line for this, but it’s hardly worth the effort. The project I’m currently working on has some “wizzy” interactivity planned, and verges on being a proper “rich Internet application” sometimes. As mentioned here before though, people like me working in the stultifying confines of a web development agency are…

Blogging from Flickr – I am so Web 2.0! Not sure why I’d want to blog many photos on Flickr, but you never know. Another benefit of moving to WordPress though: at least I can. Assuming it works – which, if you’re seeing this – it has!

I’m a bit late with this, but last weekend’s Slashdot discussion of this article on the ZDnet blog was interesting, if somewhat awe-inspiring in so far as some of the opinions expressed about designers (and the software development process in general) were breathtaking stupid. Ever since I got preview of Expression and the wonders of…

I’ve been keeping half an eye on Slashdot’s tagging beta since they gave me access to it a few months ago. Despite reading the explanation, I’m rather unsure as to where it’s going to go: (Good opportunity for me to try this new image-popping WordPress plugin…)

Golly – it’s about time I wrote down something about user experience design, seeing as this is what this blog is suppose to be about. I’ve been doing some work for a site re-design, starting with user testing 24 people over two weeks. We asked them (a wide demographic) to use some currently live sites…

Microsoft’s “fastest patch ever” is interesting: If you really want to see Microsoft scramble to patch a hole in its software, don’t look to vulnerabilities that impact countless Internet Explorer users or give intruders control of thousands of Windows machines. Just crack Redmond’s DRM. One of the more stunning conversations I’ve ever had with a…

The recent Sunday Times report(s) on keylogging got me thinking about why journos never examine the other dimension of the problem of keyloggers and security compromise: spam. The Times basically took the start of the problem to be a mysterious process of “inadvertently downloading a Trojan” which then installs a keylogger, which then reports all…

Welcome to a new Webtorque – now running WordPress. Drupal had fallen victim to the vagaries of software versions. For the geeks: I was running Webtorque on Drupal 4.4.2 (the current version is 4.7.3). This web server runs Red Hat Enterprse v3.2, which has PHP 4.2.2. Red Hat will not move RHEL 3 to a…

We’ve been on holiday in Scotland for a bit of Edinburgh Festival, visiting relatives and – amazingly – very good weather while it threw it down in London.

I’ve had a cold, but am now better, and am thinking seriously about buying some Armor of God Pyjamas – not that the two are connected. Or are they? As an aside, there can’t be many ecommerce sites “salvation” as a link on the main navigation, and while greed is sin there seems to be nothing wrong with attempting to spamdex your title tags.

Alan Cooper: feted genius, father of Visual Basic and giant of user-centred design. Jonathan Baker-Bates: pitiful, microscopic nobody. But at least I’ve designed a few websites…

I assume Alan Cooper hasn’t designed any significant web sites because Cooper Interaction Design only lists one in its case studies, and that is HP Shopping. Cooper (or more likely his acolytes) identified a needs-based persona and presumably designed for that and not any others, as per the methodology handed down by the great man. HP then ditched that design for a solidly features-based Endeca boilerplate a couple of years later. Oddly, the only thing Cooper says about the project in terms of results is that most users would have recommend the site to others. The lack of any reference to sales, or even traffic, speaks volumes to me about Cooper and their work for HP.

One of Microsoft Word’s biggest time-wasting functions is auto-numbering. This feature is actually an option which (of course!) is turned on by default. Hardly anyone knows this though, so most people struggle needlessly as auto-numbering rudely kicks in when they start a paragraph with “1.” It then usually refuses to actually number the other lines properly according to what the user wants, or to stop numbering when they want it to; or re-starts not from 1, but from 5 next time, or whatever. The behaviour of auto-numbering is not in fact the bugfest that it appears to be. It’s just follows a logic too complex to actually understand.

So you’d think that the OpenOffice developers would see this, laugh, and either avoid it or implement something better. But no. This is a visual bug report (3.1Mb MPEG) of why the OpenOffice designers should not attempt to follow Microsoft’s “lead” here.

One of the less wonderful things about working as a permanent employee for a company larger than a certain size, is that you have appraisals every six months. And every six months both you, your line manager, and anyone you care to talk to about the appraisal system agree wholeheartedly that the experience is awful. Having passed through several companies, each with their own interpretation of what makes a good appraisal, I have the somewhat dubious pleasure of being able to compare and contrast different systems. Having had my first appraisal at my new company today, here are my findings.

After years of trying to remember to give Technorati a go, I’ve finally now remembered. They make you put a link to them on your blog in order to get your blog listed. And so, while trying to ignore the snobbishness of all this, I hereby post my Technorati Profile.

I’ve been attending a few of the many think-ins that the publishing industry, pressure groups and various other institutions have been having recently around the subject of The Internet and What Is Means For Us.

Sadly, these have been largely unnoteworthy, although my attendance at the IPPR event last night “The Long Tail: Opportunities in a New Marketplace?” threw up an example of what I hope is not a very wide misconception about Google and search engines in general.

I don’t think I’ve ranted here about what a pointless occupation ‘blogging is, nor why all ‘bloggers should be shot through the back of the head with a small bore rifle.

And so it is with rich irony and customary pointlessness, on a blog that nobody reads (and I have the Google Analytics stats to prove it!), that I link to the indefatigable Richard Lockwood’s, er, ‘blog!

And thanks for the abbreviating apostrophe, if that’s what it is.

Any normal person will of course have heard nothing about the recent merger between LBIcon (business consulting, branding, communication and technology services) with Framfab (web marketing, design and production) into the largest digital design, marcomms, branding and technology firm in Europe. Indeed, the newly-merged entity will rival that of the super giants of Digitas, Omincom and others that currently graze among the lush forests of digital media in the States and Asia. This is surely a tectonic event.

I made some online music purchases today from AllofMP3.com. This was mainly because if the USA has its way, then the site may be taken down in preparation for Russia’s entry into the WTO. If you’ve not been there before, AllofMP3 is everything you ever wanted from Internet age commerce: dirt cheap goods sold legally (according to Russian jurisdiction), massive choice and as a finishing touch, stunning typos. Not surprisingly, a whole album for a dollar (or any combination of tracks you like) has been making the RIAA and its international puppet organisation the IFPI see red. Ha!

An announcement from the management: I’m getting so much comment spam now I’m going to have to turn off the anonymous posting or I’ll start missing the real posts. If you want to post, please create an account.

I’m pretty sure this won’t matter since so few people read this blog anyway, and for those lovely people who have accounts – let me take this opportunity to say thanks.

No blog is complete without some stultifying post about AJAX or some other generally asynchronous thing. As a user of the damn stuff it’s beginning to get me riled, but at the risk of adding more guff to the pile, two points occurred to me with some clarity the other day. Firstly, that whenever somebody mentions AJAX out of any context not bound strictly to discussions of the DOM and that godforsaken XMLHttpRequest object etc. etc. they are really talking about rich Internet applications. Secondly, geeks like me that talk from either side of the end-user divide have their glasses steamed up too much to notice that what I think I’d like to call “non-paged interaction” has in fact been known and loved on the web for years.

I was in Dallas last week. It’s a big place – it has the second largest airport in the world in terms of square mileage. Even the city is so big it gives you a feeling that hardly anyone’s there. We went there to observe some user testing of a prototype I’d created, and to conduct some marathon meetings with the client. We discussed, amongst other things, the juicy subject of how we’re to engage with the build team, etc.

I love a good bit of historical perspective, and this Wired article is a good ‘un.

I must admit to being a bit worried about people playing sudoku though. All that mental effort… why?

I commend you today to the “articles” section in the top right nav, where I humbly offer for your most worthy attention a treatise entitled “When the Internet is Gone.”

It’s a load of rubbish, obviously, but it was fun to write. I’ll tighten up the bit about fall of the Rupee a bit later maybe.

Recent events toward something collectively dubbed the “two-tier Internet” by journos have got me thinking about the future of the Internet again. Bear in mind Clay Shirky’s adage that whenever he thinks about what should happen, it prevents him from thinking about what will. The following is therefore not particularly considered against anything and is doubtless rooted in too many pre-conceptions, but what the hell. See what you think.

Forward into the future by 50 years, when those evil ISPs have squeezed the life out of the Internet. The “commercial network” is an oligopoly of walled gardens, each as dull and boring as one another, having long since raced to the bottom for lowest common denominator appeal. Microsoft controls the EyeCandy Platform on which much of it is based, and most have ditched TPC/IP as being too “outdated.” Content is controlled by a handful of media conglomerates that pump out a methadone metronome of sport, celebrity gossip sites and vapid branding vehicles masquerading as “lifestyle portals.” TV, voice communication and the old Internet have now pretty much melded into one on line. Music on the network is largely the preserve of pre-teen pap pop since DRM is built in to the protocols in use – nothing that isn’t part of the ISP’s kickback deals with music publishers is allowed to play. But music (and print) publishers, as we shall see, have all but died a complete death. The artistic desert of the Old Internet is the only place they can ply a trade.

I know the phrase “card sorting” either baffles, bores or does something else beginning with ‘b’ to almost everyone that hears it. Perhaps the most vocal source of information and critique of card sorting techniques recently has been the force that is Maadmob’s Donna Maurer. I recently caught her attention on this subject via comments on the blog of another Australian IA, Leisa Reichelt.

Leisa had been blogging about her negative experience of card sorting in the context of “validating” an information architecture. I’d been thinking about this and the wider issue of whether related techniques might be better or worse, and under which circumstances.

After two years at Framfab UK, my clutch engages on another gear shift in the cross-contry rally of life on Monday, when I start work at Wheel.

Music is like drugs – if you have a relationship with it at all it tends to be at its most intense when you’re young. But in common with most people of my age, I suppose I’ve drifted away from music as a passion to it being merely an occasional pastime. A CD on a Sunday afternoon, some backing music to a kids party… I feel this does most of what I like a huge injustice (and Axel’s friends must be amongst very few toddlers who have played pass the parcel to Killing Joke’s Democracy). I certainly don’t play music any more (well, I was a drummer that couldn’t drive and didn’t own a van – my days in bands were numbered). And in the past five years, it’s all fallen victim to the Three Hour Tyranny.

I have a rather sixth-form attitude to art. Something is art if a) I could not have thought of it myself (a standard that gets lower as I get older) b) it works on numerous levels and c) it says something to me or asks me questions I can’t answer, but I try to anyway, and fail. Crucifix NG gets a perfect ten on those things. If I had to pick out one aspect of this that fascinates me most: it’s made by a faith-based based organisation, yet has clearly aethiest implications. Like John Peel used to say – I’m glad I lived long enough to have seen it.

The absurdity of UK government agencies having to sell data back the very tax payers that paid for it has been going on ever since I was a lad. I’ve always regarded it as another one of the breathtakingly stupid things the Thatcher government did that, once done, could not be un-done. Like football hooliganism, chaotic public transport and the poll (now council) tax.

But the Grauniad’s now come up with an interesting angle – and a campaign no less – that holds out the possibility of change.

(By the way, I love that Guardian Technology masthead with the picture of Admiral Tojo wearing 3D glasses on it. It’s a classic.)

About once every six months or so, somebody on the otherwise excellent SIGIA mailing list posts to say they think there are too many “off topic” posts. This is invariably couched in some painfully lame justification – in this case appealing to us to “respect others” – but more usually assuming the mantle of “the silent majority” or some other hogwash. Naturally, I reminded them in my customarily restrained manner that they were idiots. Nobody took any notice.

Somebody must be reading this blog. At least, I’ve now had postings and email on subjects as diverse as copyright, software and public speaking. I’ve even had to remove a posting after somebody complained! Surely it can’t get much better than that.

I don’t write much about marketing, because I usually regard myself as somebody who designs systems for people, not profit. But lately I’ve been re-examining this because it’s hard to ignore Seth Godin.

I watched Godin’s talk to Google this evening. In the past I’ve always regarded him as a bit of a marketing smoothie: how can the writer of Permission Marketing be anything else? But his talk has me thinking about that in a different way.

I suddenly recalled some billboard ads for O2’s i-mode launch last year and wondered: where’s the beef? I’ve been shopping around for a new handset and contract recently and don’t recall a single mention of i-mode on any of the spec sheets I’ve been reading. Maybe I’m not looking in the right price-bracket?

At the beginning of the month, I posted a comment on one of Framfab’s public blog postings. It was, as usual, rather spur of the moment, in between coffee and the next round of application testing we’re doing. In it, I clipped some text I found around a quote from Naked Lunch that I was looking for. I originally just wanted the quote, but the text I found around it served my point rather well. I should have attributed it, but what happened next was interesting.

I heard today that somebody I knew at Oyster Partners died a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t really know him, but I’d like to write something about him. I don’t know if this is the done thing or not – I hope his family and friends will excuse me. His name was Barnes Tilney.

I went to see Cory Doctorow and others on a panel organised by Free Culture UK last night. The subject was “Open Content” – a moniker given to the concept of digitisable works of either art or craft distributed under an alternative copyright licence (such as Creative Commons). Inevitably, a lot of ground was covered by the speakers, and one of the hottest topics of the evening was the recently-launched BBC’s Open Archive project. I wasn’t actually aware that they’d launched, but it sounds evil.

I’d been only dimly aware of the “Amen Break” drum sample until now, although the sound, if not the rhythm itself is instantly recognisable. However, this video (34Mb MOV) puts the use of the sample into its fascinating social context. Anyone interested in music, popular culture and particularly the effects of recent copyright legislation, should see this. I get spammed by Zero-G every now and again as well. Bastards. Makes me want to download some Squarepusher to up the ante.

Somebody at work was asking what they might be able to buy in Japan for £100-200 as a birthday gift. Gagetry of various types was suggested, but I chipped in the idea that for that money they could get a reasonable shamisen. At least, that’s what some friends bought me for my birthday once and I’ve always counted it as one of my prized possessions. It’s a wonder of wooden engineering: collapsible into a small case a bit bigger than a shoebox, and wonderfully made. Kumi doesn’t like Japanese stuff lying about, so the days when it was propped up casually next to the Bang & Olufsen are long gone.

It’s been shut away in its box for at least a year or so, and it occured to me that I’d not given it a pluck for a while. So, while Kumi was at Tescos I took the box out of the cupboard and – horror! It’s warped!

Blimey. You take your eye of your blog and what happens? More than a month goes by and you’ve not done a thing with it. I had an excuse: a pathetic new year’s resolution to only blog about positive things. And lo, I could think of nothing.

But I’m not going to completely throw that out with the Christmas tree, because one of the undoubtedly good things that’s happend recently is Framfab’s blog.

The holidays now over, and even the first week at work done, I can now return to some good ol’ blogging now that we’ve bought a new car, almost tidied up our files (well, my files anyway – Kumi still just chucks all her papers under her desk and mumbles shoganai…) and packed up the plastic Xmas tree.

My new year’s resolution (on my blog at any rate) is to think about more positive things. Too many of last year’s posts were cynical, negative rants. Writing about happy, nice things sure is going to be as dull as ditchwater but I’m going to make a fist of it.

It’s the new football! It’s the new rock and roll! It’s impulse blogging!

Impulse blogging (my italics, to increase the hype) is the new craze coming straight out of North Finchley’s finest blog. Like all great ideas, it starts off all complicated and difficult to grasp, then suddenly reveals itself to be so simple that even a five-year-old could blah blah blah, and probably has. Here’s how impulse blogging works:

I’m always late in on things, and this is no exception. But I’ve just put up a Shoutcast stream of the American Edit mashup tracks. First time I’ve done this, so hope it works. For a day or so anyway…

Well I finally did it. I had no particular stimulus other than me being on holiday and saw a Slashdot post about a recent review of Linux distros for the desktop. They’d rated Ubuntu highest, so I went along to distrowatch.com and did some reading up. After downloading and burning the (single) ISO, I’m now running it. I always find descriptions of Windows to Linux migrations pretty boring, so I’ll lay off the details about how I got my printer working, etc. but after about 48 hours hacking about, I’ve now got almost everything I need and Windows seems long gone.

I’ve just posted a rant on www.fool.co.uk about their awful site design. Hm. Feel a bit guilty. A bit soiled to be honest… I actually think the site’s content is fantastic. But the form of that content really, really stinks. The last straw was their announcement of some forthcoming “layout changes” which (I assume) have now gone live. In classic 1995 style, they’ve just made things worse. The site needs major surgery.

Of course it’s too early to say, but I’d like to think that this is the beginning of the end for the music publishing industry. The terrible signal: too weak to even recognise…

Unless you’re Madonna, Coldplay or U2, chances are that you’re 
not going to make money selling records. 

So let’s try something different here.

I just spend my life specifying stuff. There’s just no time for anything else. Creativity, research, even design (always an afterthought…) is pretty much a covert activity when you’ve got the offshore crews to keep happy. But once in a while I feel I’ve made some headway somewhere, however microscopic.

When you consider that IRC, chatbots, and whole instant messaging thing is now ten years old or more, then you’d think that AOL would at least get their new “AIMbot” adbot system out of the door without it being so utterly useless. But no.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to find a better way of documenting designs. I’ve posted about this before, and I still think that Axure looks promising, but most of my IA life’s been based around Visio, some occasional PowerPoint – and on joining Oyster/Framfab – FreehandMX. None of these tools has really baked my cake when it comes to combining text with annotated graphics though. This is a shame because that’s what I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of in the last couple of years. However, after a chance realisation abut MS Word a couple of months ago, the arrival of a Fireworks guru on my project and some good teamwork, things are looking up and I want to tell you about it.

Incredible, amazing and funny as hell! US business-methods patents (and the people who pay money to bring them to the USTPO) just took another leap further into surreality – with Cereality!

Cereality has patents pending to give them an exclusive right to six business methods,
including "displaying and mixing competitively branded food products" and adding
"a third portion of liquid." If these patents are approved by the U.S. Patent Office,
Cereality would have a complete monopoly on cereal bar business.

Meanwhile, and playing for somewhat higher stakes, NTP and RIM are still slugging it out.

When I was doing some user testing for A Very Large Company That Shall Remain Nameless, one of the questions we were asked to ask of the users was what, if anything, they thought about the fact that there was not one, but three terms of use links on the sign-up page to their service. Not surprisingly, just about all users said they wouldn’t even click on the links, let alone read the contents of them. One user was honest enough to say that even if they did try to read them, they would have neither the stamina nor the capacity to understand them.

Having spent three days writing one of the most rigorous and boring five-page documents of my life this week (a “Summary of Business Rules”), I decided that nobody was going to read the thing unless I could promise it to contain hidden Jane Austen references. This, I thought, would endear me to my classically-minded colleagues while turning them on to the finest points of whether hiding a shared Page transfers medico-legal responsibility to the Pathway. So I spent another few hours working in references to Sense and Sensibility while pretending to work on wireframes.

Coming home from work seems to be a time when I can think slightly creatively. This is a pity, since I’m paid to do that while I’m at work, but the sheer cacophony and chaos of the office I work in kills that stone dead about 20 mins after the morning coffee. Today, for instance, somebody’s PC fan started running in emergency cooling mode. This, combined with the telephones, keyboard tapping, seemingly constant car alarms and the (yes) children’s’ playground outside, made it feel like we were all riding a Boeing 747 to hell. None of us did anything about it of course, and least of all IT. If I were managing a company that supposedly traded on creative thinking, I’d… oh, never mind.

In an effort to make a visual change around here, I thought I’d start a collection of links to stuff in my new “Links” section on the right hand side. In true 1995 style, I’ve just saved the images out of a couple of sites. So say konnichiwa to Magnatune (and while you’re at it Brad Sucks), as well as the blog of my mate Kaoru – without whom none of this would be possible (probably).

Update: I’m now being a little more sophisticated, having just discovered www.bannerart.org.

Canadian law professors have produced a 600-page book that is being made freely available under a creative commons license in which they make the point that “The public’s interest in copyright, something inconceivable even a few years ago, is the result of the remarkable confluence of computing power, the Internet, and a plethora of new software programs, all of which has not only enabled millions to create their own songs, movies, photos, art, and software but has also allowed them to efficiently distribute their creations electronically without the need for traditional distribution systems”

OK, slightly misleading title: I’m not actually running Vista, I’m thinking whether I’ll ever run it. The other day I tried to think of one thing that WindowsXP Home Edition (the on that came with my new Dell) gives me that Windows98 didn’t have. I don’t consider myself a computer geek, just an interested party – but I could not think of a single thing.

“Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people!”

Right on! I have a gun, I’m wearing a beret, and my daddy’s the richest man in America!

Earlier this year I took down the Tor server I was running, mainly because it was hoovering up rather a lot of bandwidth and throttling it down to the trickle that would have been necessary to keep under my bandwidth cap seemed a bit silly. I’ve now set it up again (nickname “Doormouse”) on one of our Hatters servers for the continuing good of all mankind (huzzah!). Wonder at the graph and bask in the glow of pure freedom – or something.

This blog post shows how chaotic the discipline of IA is (see the comments in particular). There’s not even a pretense of union, agreement or even polite tolerance of divergent views amongst the practitioners. I look at designs by other people and I feel almost bound by duty to pepper them with criticism. I even expect it in others: a senior colleague recently reviewed some work I’d done and drew large rings around some elements, writing the words “awful” in large red ink next to them. Two months later, and after much fruitless experiment, the same interaction he so abhorred has now been deployed. The belief that there’s a mythical “true way” promotes the idea that the one who puts their idea across with enough force wins. We’re no worse than cowboy builders or politicians. Oh, and Euro IA rejected my application to give a presentation. Bastards.

For too long, login, registration and online point of sale processes have been designed either by IT business analysts who see users as UML symbols, or worse by developers who don’t want to think about users at all. More often than not, information architects get frozen out. I’ve worked on loads of sites that had ecommerce or registration processes that for some reason were deemed out of our scope for us. So we deliver a great experience up until the point the customer actually wants to engage with the site, whereupon it’s all “enter your 15 digit user name with no spaces or diacritical marks.”

There is a (possibly apocriphal – I’ve not checked it) John Lennon quotation: “Life is what happens when you’re making plans for other things” which is rather apt for me recently. For instance, I noticed that I’ve been blogging for more than a year now and that the anniversary (July 11th) completely passed me by. Not that this is in itself a wonderfully interesting event, but I did imagine I would be marking the date with a fantastic post on world peace, the copyfight, or at least something on site maps. But no. Instead I’m worrying about my pension.

Once in a while you get “one of those moments” on a project. This time, it was courtesy of the off-shore developers we’re working with. I’ve inherited the acceptance phase from the first iteration of an application that was specced up before I got on the project (I’m picking it up on the second iteration).

The requirements for iteration one are pretty simple, so I found it odd that while some aspects of the application were fine (the layout, menus etc.) others were just utterly wrong. It was almost as if they’d not even read the specs there were given.

WHY do I do it? Perhaps I’m being governed by the GIFT, but for no apparent reason this evening I posted the following to uk.d-i-y. Readers may recall my equally inexplicable posting on uk.legal a few months ago that produced a very witty set of responses far funnier than my original post. This is one is equally weak, but I hope it’ll both fish in some suckers and spark some funny replies. Lets see if it works…

We had an email from HR on the company “fun” list today seemingly inviting all employees to listen to a popular music number called “Running Away’ by Roy Ayers.” Why, I don’t know. Out of lunchtime interest though, I was curious to find out whether we’d need a license to distribute music to employees. So I Googled about and got to PPL. Looks like we’d need to get one. Hmm. The phrase “screw you” came to mind.

I’m selling a shower rail on eBay, and a bidder has asked me how much it might be send to Germany. That should be easy to find out (indeed, why don’t they look it up themselves the lazy buggers?) I’ve got a vision of a nice form to fill out: dimensions, weight, destination, insurance, etc. And with this in mind I go to the Royal Mail. I go to City Link. I Google.

There’s been a great thread on SIGIA this last week or so on the good old subject of documentation. It’s incredible how diverse the approaches are. Some people are plugging away with ye olde Visio, while others are pioneering with things like Dreamweaver and even Together.

I’ve been fiddling with computers recently. It all started when my wife bought a video camera (Sony PC-110) with a DV output. Then I got a Firewire card. Then I tried to burn DVDs of my sister’s wedding. Then I f****ing tore my hair out and gave up.

I feel relieved that the European Parliament voted by 648 votes to 18 to reject the proposed directive on computer-implemented inventions this week. There was a heck of a lot of activity on both sides, and I did a bit with some letter and postcard writing, and trying (unsuccessfully) to ring MEPs in Strasbourg last week. It was also good to meet the goons from the DTI on the issue, even if there wasn’t enough time to table my question about interface development.

This is my favourite picture from the days leading up to the vote, and a BoingBoing post that talks about it.

The fact remains, however, that software patent legislation is still in the hands of individual EU countries. It just won’t be Europe wide. The UKPTO has the hots for patents. I’m not expecting this all to end very soon…

This post is political – no apologies. Look away now.

All my life the forces of evil have been embodied by “terrorists.” The IRA, Abu Nidal, Tigers, FARC, Al Quaida, the list is endless. All my life, the foreign policy of governments have been ranged around the war against terror, supported by the war against drugs and “organised crime.” It just goes round and round and round. It’s reached the status of a culture of our times and it’s making me sick.

Consuming the mainstream media to find answers to why people are committing acts of terror is a bit like trying to get a hearty meal out of candyfloss. The “analysis”, “commentary” and sheer weight of verbiage that pours forth about “policy” and “countermeasures” is completely disorientating. You can’t look into it for more than a few hours before you keel over with media-induced vertigo.

I’m three weeks into a brand new project, and my mind is on requirements and specifications. Like every project I’ve ever worked on, this is unique. This time, it’s unique because it was half documented and thought about, and was then mothballed. Now it’s back from the dead a year later, and I’m on the case trying to make sense of what was done. There’s one person in my department who worked on it before it was frozen, but the others (who wrote most of the docs) have gone.

StumbleUpon is a nice idea and I’ve been using it a bit recently. Its categorisations are a bit too broad to be really useful, but if they hooked it up with some sort of folksonomy system that you could use to refine your profile, then it might get really interesting. Like del.icio.us/ only less… flat.

I was impressed when the “random stumble” button took me to one of my favourite pages on the web, hence the title of this post.

I’ve been having to edit my urges recently. There have been various little things happening to which my almost instant (and in my view unhealthy) reaction is that “I should blog that.”

Had an informal presentation today about folksonomies. A lot has been said about them recently, and I don’t think anyone’s thinking of them as really serious tools to rival more traditional systems or techniques, but some things that came to mind about the long term future started with that Killing Joke track.

I spent most of this afternoon (almost five hours, actually) trying to get 25mins of video footage from my Sony DCR-PC110 DV camera onto a DVD. What a palava. Nero is a sorry mess of an application – so bad you don’t even know what program to launch, let alone how to use what you think you need to use.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

This is apparently helping to finish somebody’s PhD, but it was mainly out of curiosity that I filled it in. He doesn’t give you the option of listing Trillian as your IM client, so he’s obviously a bit stuck up in his ivory tower. The results page is down at the time of writing, but it promises to be quite interesting.

Just as I’ve found a Greasemonkey script that fixes up Odeon’s site and provides a link to IMDB for all their films, I’ve now found a script that puts a link to a torrent for films listed in IMDB! So now I can see what’s on at the Odeon, and if I don’t think it’s worth the money to go and see after reading IMBD, I have the option to burn it to DVD and watch it the next evening.

Sure, this is piracy, but at least it’s discriminating.

You may or may not have been following the Odeon cinema website usability/accessibility saga over the last year or so.

I installed a Greasemonkey script written to improve the site, and it’s pretty interesting. It completely changes the interaction design of the site, and throws in a new feature – a link to the IMDB page for each film – which the original site doesn’t have! This is all completely without the say-so of the site designers. Of course, you can probably count the number of people using this script on the fingers of one hand, but the principle is interesting nonetheless.

When I was in Japan, I set my father-in-law up with an Internet connection. He’d been given some brochures about NTT broadband from his local electrical store. The pricing was just jaw-dropping: a 100Mbit (yes, one hundred megabit) connection, with no usage capping, is £24 a month. Holy cow!

Avast! Brian Appleyaaard! The hammy Bible-bashing tech/culture journo we all love to hate came out on Sunday as a shameless raider of intellectual property in his article on the death of TV last weekend:

"...the internet has begun to work as it should. Thanks to broadband, students now routinely download 
the best television shows — at the moment, that means the US hospital comedy Scrubs — over the net and, 
happily, pass them on to me. Video is now at the same stage as audio was when Napster first started. 
Just as MP3 chipped away at the foundations of the record industry, so video downloading is subverting 
television and film.

Ah, Japan: land of individually-wrapped bananas and toilets that squirt warm water up your bum.

Ten days in Nagano (Ena City) with the in-laws followed by visits to other relatives and friends. The food! The technology! Even the interminable shopping trips for kids clothes were interesting. Japan qualified for the world cup against North Korea in a match that nobody could attend (so they did the whole thing on video screens by proxy), Takanohana died (at 55) and there was some really weird stuff in the news for ages about roadside guard rails and the mysterious vicious spikes attached to them.

A holiday for three weeks in Japan, starting tomorrow! It’s been a while since I last went – the sushi, the traffic, the in-laws and the partial lack of understanding of what’s going on. I’m looking forward to all these things and more, starting with airline food (Korean Airlines! A kimchi wagon in the sky!).

Observers of the date stamp will note that I’ve not posted for… weeks!

This is not for lack of subject matter, of which I hope to expand at some point, but due to the fact that I’ve been working on a project with deadlines which anyone would be excused for thinking were some kind of Guinness Book attempt: two people writing a 200-page specification in three days and nine (nine!) other deliverables over three further, not to mention numerous updates of issue logs and all the attendant noise around that has left little room for sleep, let along blogging.

Hope to provide something worth reading soon, but we’re off to Japan for three weeks come the 25th May, so it might have to wait a bit.

Our weekly Monday-9am-with-buns department meetings usually consists of discussions about projects people are working on, techniques we have applied or are thinking of applying, department housekeeping issues etc. All good inward-looking stuff. But last week was a little different.

My uncle Julian, Bagpipe Maker to the Stars (Warning: sound samples are not work safe) wrote me a letter the other day. It struck me that people writing to me by hand is now an immensely rare event, and that I myself have not written a letter to anyone in about fifteen years. The last may have been during my gap year in Japan.

For some reason last night I decided to post a rather late April fool to uk.legal. It was a bit rough around the edges, but only took about fifteen minutes to do (and spookily time-stamped at exactly 00:00hrs). I’m quite proud that it seems to have at least partially hooked one person in, while producing some pretty good replies from others. Nobody picked up on the the first line about “giving me a steer” though. (The better replies are on the “next 10” page at the bottom of the listing).

It’s obviously a by-product of collaborative websites like Slashdot and Kuro5hin that April 1st generates so many fake stories. One or two might be funny, but there were about ten on Slashdot yesterday: EU to ban Macs, UN to outlaw Internet, Opera inventing a new P2P system called “SoundWave” etc. etc.

After almost two days off line while we made the changeover from Plusnet, we’re now with Homechoice. It’s TV, phone and broadband down your phone line, so no dishes or cable laying. You get a nice brushed aluminum STB which looks very much like a Mac Mini only it has a large soft blue light on the front – very large. A bit too large. There’s also a disconcerting lag between hitting a button on the remote and the interface responding, which makes you unconsciously puuush the buttons really hard. I find it remarkably difficult to stop doing that as well.

Sometimes I think I’m the only person who lies awake at night worrying about content. Well, I don’t literally do that, but it feels like I might be sometimes. I’m certainly gaining broken record status on the issue and thinking crying-in-the-wilderness thoughts at times.

Part of the problem is that it’s hard to articulate what the problem exactly is (well, I find it hard at least). It’s certainly made harder by the fact that according to the content management software industry it’s not a problem that exists if you use a CMS. How could it, since such software “manages” content! And who indeed could possibly have a problem with managing content after they’d spent half a million bucks on the latest enterprise XML format-agnostic end-to-end solution?

We’ve decided to move from our current ADSL provider (PlusNet) to Homechoice, the London-only provider of broadband, TV and telephone packages. They do all this via the little copper wire that runs from the BT telephone exchange to your house – impressive.

I sold my old bike on eBay this evening – £320. That’s more than I thought I’d get. I can’t help feeling a little sad to see it go. 45 people had it in their watch lists, which was a bit like having a crowd of anonymous mourners at a funeral: a mark of some respect I hope. It’s been a part of me for almost a third of my life; longer than I’ve known my wife and many of my friends, and I’ve ridden every single one of those 30,619 miles. It may have only been a CB250, but for me it always flies sideways through time.

Thanks.

Having worked for a print publisher for two years and developed a negative impression of that industry (and journalists) when it comes to all things on line, imagine my surprise when I saw the Sunday Observer Blog this morning! I can honestly say that if I were in charge of a serious redesign of any newspaper’s online presence this would be it, and more.

Back at the grindstone this week with an interesting foray into card sorting, but this time using a web application while facilitating users (one to one) over conference calls. It’s thrown up some issues, and almost fallen apart at the seams at one point, but I think it’s going to be helpful in the next stage of working out the site’s taxonomy.

As a blogger, I call on the Iranian government to free Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad, both in prison in Iran for expressing opinions on their blogs about the government. February 22nd, 2005 is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day – this blog is dedicated to them and their protection.

At last I’ve got round to doing something about that lame home page with the spinning pipes on it. It is now no more – and the blog page is king of the castle. Well, as far as I can tell, anyway. It was actually quite tricky to do in the end (I had to learn what ^ and $ mean) and pedants will note that things that link to “home” now link here. Hmm.

I’ve just looked at my Slashdot profile and I have three fans! Maybe I should move my blog there. Better for the ego at least.

Just when it looked like things had got back to reality….

I’m getting sick of this, and worried too. Here’s a letter I’ve just penned to Robert Evans
MEP:

Now that software patents in Europe have gone back to the drawing board, both sides will now doubtless regroup. I feel that we have a head start though, if for no better reason than the FFII looked like it was fighting an uphill struggle most of the time until the eleventh hour, when at last MEPs saw their point and showed their displeasure at the Commission’s railroading of the issues.

"It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such
an instrument has been created for the exchange of thought between all nations of the
earth."

The Times, about the invention of the telegraph, 1858.

I find myself doing what I think might be an unhealthy amount of thinking about the tools I use to do stuff, and regular readers of this blog will know that one of my ambitions is to discover – or better still help to make – an Information Architecture IDE. So one of the things I’ve been meaning to blog about is the latest release of what was called Ubiquity RP, now Axure RP, by a company called Axure. Peter van Dijck published an interview on his blog with the creator, Victor Hsu, when the first version went golden. I had a look at that and corresponded with the creators about a few things. My verdict at that point was that it wasn’t ready for industrial use, and sure enough, the IA world hasn’t exactly buzzing about it. But version 3.0 shipped a couple of months ago – so is it a quantum leap or an incremental change?

Amazing. I get in to work on Friday, and the senior PM comes in to say that the client has decided to go for an ecommerce deployment so that £250,000 they’ve just given us to redesign their site along non-ecommerce lines (because originally they weren’t up for that) is canned. Well, maybe about 20% of it can be salvaged for re-use, but all the work I’ve been doing for the last three months (along with two other IA’s, some graphic designers and a PM) is definitely never going to see the light of day.

Well such is life. Good for our balance sheet, crap for job satisfaction. It’s the off-shore developers I feel sorry for though. We only handed them our designs at Christmas!

Standard & Poor’s site is larded up to the eyeballs with JavaScript and Flash, and (surprise!) is a broken wreak of a site because of it. Firefox users can’t sign up for one thing. I mailed them about that, naturally, while the chances of them replying properly are of course zero. At least they show you a warning – and a picture of somebody attacking their thumb with a dentist’s drill. Are their designers trying to tell you something?

When I started this blog I told myself it would be a good place to critique online experiences of various kinds. I’ve actually done very little of this, mainly because it’s unexpectedly difficult: you only realise you’ve got a badly designed experience on your hands when you’re some way into the journey, and back-tracking to record the process is usually not possible. I’ve half caputured this mess of a customer registration journey though – it’s really terrible though.

I’ve been too busy with things over the past month to blog much, but I thought I’d make some time to get some (typically) half-formed thoughts down about the clipboard. There are a number of things about the clipboard that I’m interested in, both in terms of HCI, historical influence on things like content management, and various other aspects of this incredibly influential invention (no, really).

From time to time I get a reminder that the future isn’t somewhere you travel to, it’s something you create. As a teenager, my grandfather made a crystal radio set and let people listen to broadcasts from Paris at church fetes (this was before the BBC existed). He must have felt good about that. I feel the same sort of thing about onion routing.

Just thought I’d check Slashdot after one last brandy and a mince pie (made by me: Ainsly Harriot BBC Top 100 recipe, the one with the grated orange peel in the pastry). I love Slashdot. Not that I understand half of what gets talked about there, but the responses to this Christmas day story are wonderfully heart-warming.

It’s not over yet, but it looks like our protests to MPs, the government, my postcard to Theresa Villiers, and then that confab with Lord Sainsbury may have done something. It seems that the Poles have put a spanner in the works for us, and the final decision on patents has been delayed for more thinking.

It’s good that we’ve got some more time, but we have to keep the pressure up. I’m increasingly thinking that this really is an us-and-them situation. The Poles obviously agree, and even Lord Sainsbury seemed to think that maybe the government has it wrong, or has at least been ill-advised by the UKTPO. Some very large interests will be served if the Council of Ministers has their way. Things smell distinctly fishy.

I got one of those actually rather nice “pass-this-round” emails from a friend the other day. I thought I’d blog it. In fact in one of those “when-I-ever-get-the-time” thoughts, a little web app to do this would be an interesting project…

One of the things I did on my holidays was to re-install my computer and get rid of all that junk on it. After about 18 months and it accumulated all manner of cruft and things were crashing. I took the opportunity not only to go to Firefox 1.0 (I’d been using 0.9 before) but to ditch Outlook as well for Thunderbird 1.0, released on the day I re-installed.

After managing to wangle an extra day’s holiday from work after I mixed my dates up, I attended the meeting today on the European Computer Implemented Inventions Directive today at the DTI. Lord Sainsbury of Turville had generously invited all those who had written to their MPs (well, some of them at least) to explain the government’s position on software patents and to allay fears of impending doom.

I was playing with Axel this afternoon while we listened to what I used to think was a rather boring album that seems to have grown on me even though I’ve not listened to it for about three years: The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. I was surprised by how many “rather British” samples there are in it. Churchbells, leather on willow, lawnmowers, that kind of thing. But for some reason I got thinking about what to do with that dusty old PC I have.

I’m off! Two weeks of something-we’ve-yet-to-decide lies ahead. Motorbike meddling and shower rail fitting beckon, as does some time at last to play with Axel after spending night after night doing all that Freehand malarkey over the last month. I’ve not looked forward to a holiday this long in ages.

Oh – and it was my birthday today as well. The company intranet’s birthday script did it’s job (scroll down to bottom), even if the other content was rather, er, stale. Not that a single person noticed the news and wished me any happy returns mind you, but then what are intranets if not to be utterly ignored by everyone? After all, being a busy digital solutions development agency, paying attention to web-based systems is hardly… wait, no, something wrong there.

In my continuing adventures through the looking glass that is eBay, I have made a profit on a mobile phone sale. This is getting pretty weird. Who are these eBay buyers who are willing to pay so much?

Well, I bought a Yamaha YP125 Majesty on eBay, picked it up in a van, got it serviced and am now waiting for the insurance to come through on it. I still can’t quite work out if I did the right thing or not, but it was fun. You only live once, etc. etc. For those interested in the details, read on.

Although I yield to no man in my respect for the rigour that David Danielson brings to IA research, at times I can’t help wondering if either I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, or he’s up his own a*se.

That bike crash has shaken me up. I’ve been riding my trusty Honda CB250N for over 12 years and it failed the MOT last year, and it’s going to have to have some repairs as well this time. So, I getting new wheels.

I fell off my motorbike last week going in to work. I’ve done it before: pottering along at about 30mph you come up behind some stationary traffic. If you then use the bus lane, you stay relatively safe but run the gauntlet of the cameras (I’ve had two fines for that in the last five years), so I usually try to squeeze down the outside against the oncoming traffic and risk it. And no, you can’t stay in lane and wait with the cars. On a motorbike that’s morally wrong.

The performance of Bill Drummond’s “Seventeen” went flawlessly last night. Although Kumi and Axel couldn’t stay for my actual performance (way past bedtime), the place was standing room only as we mooed and whooped our way through the “score.” Mercifully, it was only a few minutes this time, although I could see one woman’s toes visibly curling as we sang.

My banging on about software patents to sundry MPs and ministers has borne fruit in the shape of an invite from the DTI to attend an event organised by them and the Patent Office to present the arguments in favour of proposed EU software patent legislation. The Register has some more details on it.

I’ll see if I can digest the brochure they sent with it, but on first sight, I’m confused about how the “technical effect” will be determined. Better start RSVP-ing as places seem limited.

Busy this last week doing “pixel-perfect wireframes” (don’t ask). I dunno. With seemingly the whole world going with Jakob on this one: low-fidelity, fast iteration prototyping with rapid whatnots; we’re plodding away with Freehand documents and hardly even a whiteboard sketch between them and the A3 colour printer that lovingly prints them out. All this after Visio purgatory and the dreaded “user journeys” as well (the latter not done by me, luckily). All we need now is some site map psychosis and the madness will be complete. Still – if the client’s paying, I’m all for it. And I’m sure it’s good for me to do this… somehow (grits teeth…).

I tell myself I look down on blog posts that simply link to other things, but it’s Friday and I’m feeling lazy. The Charlie Brooker incident is (I’m gonna say it) significant, but not because he’s called for the assassination the US head of state, or that he’s annoyed so many Americans, but for what it says about the state of the “media.”

My dad went to school with him and remembers him as a bit of a loner. I didn’t like all of the music he played, and I can’t really say he changed my life as others have claimed he changed theirs, but he sure did have a hell of an influence on my musical taste. Listening to his shows was like panning for gold – you found wonderful nuggets, but you had to work hard. It was fun, but it was hard fun.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been doing flow diagrams in Visio. These are supposed to describe the “flow” of pages that a user goes through when ordering certain things on our client’s site. They are exhaustive representations of every permutation of that journey, showing the exceptions, error screens, diversions, etc. that are encountered. And sweet Jesus are they boring to do. Not only that, but they’re frustrating, confusing, relentless and needlessly time-consuming. Let me count the ways…

The Open Money Project looks interesting (although I wish they’d sort out their navigation). I can’t decide whether they are the seed of a revolution that will tear apart the rules of commerce as we know it, or just a geeky fad.

Still, I’ve promoted it to my “stop” button above as it’s potentially a Rather Big Thing.

“Banner blindness” notwithstanding, I seem to have lost my Google ads from this blog. Not that I can be bothered to find out why (no messages on the Adsense account pages that I can see that might explain). I was earning about 10p a month off them.

I’ve been reading some technical specifications for parts of a client’s web site that we are re-designing. I’ve read (and probably written) some really dire specifications in my time, but these are worse than even I’m used to seeing. Have a read of this clip, randomly sliced to my email this afternoon (specifics removed to protect the guilty):

Our network went down today. Consequently, I didn’t get much done until about lunchtime. It was a router misconfiguration, apparently. But the paralysis I suffered (in common with all my colleagues) got me thinking.

Just run another spam report. Things are about the same as they were three months ago. Odd how the two addresses get quite different amounts and show such separate patterns. Not sure what to make of that.

We took a test at school once to find our what kind of career we might be suited for. When my results came through I went to the careers advisor’s office to be told that he thought “printing and packaging” would be my best bet. At the age of seventeen, I thought that sounded suicidally boring and swore I would never show any interest in such things ever. And so it has been until yesterday, when a colleague had a new iPod mini delivered to work.

Despite being keen on free software, I’ve been using Microsoft Internet Explorer for years out of sheer laziness. But about six months ago, the weight of evidence against using this flabbergastingly insecure web browser drove me to install Firefox, and I’ve been using that fine ever since.

Well that was interesting. Last night I became one of North Finchley’s “Seventeen” at the soon-to-open Arts Depot. This is part of Bill Drummond’s latest project entitled “How To Be An Artist” and involved seventeen men (well, it was actually fourteen I think) recording an improvised vocal performance accompanied by the sound of Bill’s Land Rover engine and a C minor chord.

I’m getting itchy to try out another blogging system. Drupal is really more of a content management system than a blog, and I’m not using even half of the bells and whistles at all. It’s also quite – urgh – difficult in places but it’s been fun to explore it. Maybe something like Blosxom would be better? But will I ever find the time to do a move? Perhaps I should concentrate on migrating bakerbates.com to CSS instead…

I’ve just got a mail from Bill Drummond. He’s doing an installation of some kind (details rather sketchy) in the soon-to-be-opened Arts Depot, which is just round the corner from my house.

The installation/project/work will be called “How To Be An Artist” and he needs male voice “singers” (in my case that term is applied loosely) to record something as part of that.

This has been worrying me for a while: why does fruit get juicer as it ripens? If it’s off the tree, then it’s not got any source of water, so why doesn’t it just dry up? Why does it appear to have less water in when it’s not ripe?

Hmmm. Ahmmmmm.

Axel’s been showing quite an aptitude for making cubic structures. While most of his peers are content to pile up bricks repetitively, perhaps with the occasional asymmetric flourish, he prefers to create a base, then build Guadi-like cathedrals using the properties and shapes of the materials rather architecturally. Last week Kumi showed me something he’d made that was actually a little spooky in its complexity (remember, Axel is only just four).

Lawd – I is churnin’ it out today!

Why is content not treated in the same way as page designs and HTML?

On most projects, one of the primary deliverables is a set of HTML “templates” to be integrated at some point into a CMS. The CMS then uses these templates to render content loaded into it. This represents a transition from an initial set of page designs (usually developed with a graphics package) into a format (HTML) generally suitable for “decomposition” in some way.

As part of some recently expansive thinking, I’ve been jamming on the following theme recently as follows. So far, I’ve got some thoughts, but no good solutions, on streamlining the experience and graphic design process overall.

There’s some interesting stuff here, including summary of some research showing that changing navigation in subtle ways actually helps users navigate (and aids their understanding of the depth of the site), thereby seeming to contradict the standard guideline that navigation should be kept consistent. Also talks about other things such as classifying information toward the end of the process, not the beginning. It’s a presentation but has some citations worth following.

Then there’s some page-scrolling stuff that’s good to counter the nay-sayers.

There’s been an upsurge in deep thinking about development process at work over the last few days, and I’ve been in somewhat expansive mood.

Now that Bluetooth can liberate my lo-res snaps from the confines of my phone to the wasteland of my blog, I thought I’d celebrate by puttin’ some up:

Having recently bought a Sony Ericsson T610 on a deal from BT Mobile (and no, that’s not O2), I’ve been reflecting on the fact that while the phone itself is pretty good (if seemingly designed by somebody left-handed), the peripheral stuff like support, billing, accessories and general “off-handset” features, are appallingly bad.

WARNING: The following post is probably very, very tedious.

I watched the DVD of Hayao Miyazaki’s anime epic today with Axel, who was (almost) glued to it throughout. It’s a spooky film, and I was worried he’d get nightmares, but he seems OK.

I didn’t realise the film was made twenty years ago. The first thing that struck me was how much The Matrix (and in particular Reloaded) plundered it for ideas: the sentinels are in it (well, as huge insects) and some scenes are extremely similar. There’s even a bit where Naushika is wrapped up in tendrils just like Neo is for the big showdown.

"If Haydn had patented 'a symphony, characterised by that sound is 
produced { in extended sonata form },' Mozart would have been in trouble."

Since I am involved in software design, I feel I should oppose any move by the European Union to allow the patenting of software. Software patents threaten to stifle innovation in software design and given even more monopolistic power to existing software corporations to the detriment of smaller companies and fair competition. In my own case, they could lead to a nightmare situation in which ideas in the experience design of websites would have to be checked by slow and expensive patent lawyers before they could be deployed by the clients I work for.

The European Union is considering introducing legislation that would allow patenting of software. If you make a living from software development in any way, then I think you should be similarly opposed.

For more information see this website

The fact that millions of pounds a year are lost to credit card fraud makes the whole “chip and PIN” thing more mysterious by the day. When’s it happening? Why did it happen years ago? How will it be introduced? There seems to be a veil of confusion over it all, but most people seem either not to know nor care about it. Hmm. Well, maybe it’ll all be OK.

But I began to worry when I got a flyer from Barclaycard entitled “Answering your questions about chip and PIN.” It must rank as the single most confusing and self-contradictory piece of customer communication I have ever received.

I just had one of those Really Nice User Interface moments.

I’ve been getting into tabbed browsing with Firefox, usually right-clicking links and choosing “Open Link In New Tab.” But after a while you want to re-cycle tabs as it gets a bit cluttered spawning new ones, and shutting down old ones can be a pain.

So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just drag the link to the tab I want it to load it in?”

And guess what? You can! Ahh, it’s sooo nice when that sort of thing happens.

So far, I’ve managed to avoid being paid to do HTML – and I count that as a Very Good Thing. To date, the pinnacle of my achievement in creating an entire site from scratch is www.bakerbates.com. Which is crap, obviously.

I remember 1995. One of the things I particularly remember was having a conversation with a journalist who really, really hated the idea of the Internet. What the hell would happen to quality journalism if any old Joe could set up a website and start ranting?

True story: somebody told me once they’d been looking at a site called “Flash Your Rack.” They said it was a bit like “Hot Or Not” but “raunchier.” I thought they meant effects (or perhaps server) racks. After all, I’ve seen some really impressive racks in Telehouse: twenty Enterprise 450’s divided by blue routers look cool, particularly if they have well-managed cable tidies with them and lots of flashing lights.

But no. He meant tits.

Nevertheless, I thought it might be a goer creating a site like that. And now I see somebody has!

I am not, and never have been, a smoker, but sometimes I find myself thinking things are far worse than I thought. This week was one of those times.

In an echo of a flabbergasting report frome the BMA that tobacco should be made illegal, there comes a survey that shows that a large proportion of people in Britain think it should be banned as well. This opinion says more about misplaced belief in the rule of law than it does attitudes to smoking, and it illustrates why I’m convinced that in hundreds of years time people will look back on The War On Drugs (and perhaps the War on Smoking?) as baffling as the obsession with witchcraft, alchemy or religious schism in ages past.

I was going through my chat logs this evening looking for something. It’s only the second time I’ve ever done it I think, but I must do it more often – you find all sorts of interesting stuff. Anyway, I spotted this amusing account of an exchange I’d had (edited to protect the innocent and to correct my howling typos):

We did a paper-prototyping dry run the other day in preparation for some similar sessions for a client (not involving me, unfortunately). It was the first time I’d done it hands-on, having only read about the theory before. Here we were basically evaluating the technique.

There have been some cracking threads on the Chinwag uk-design list over the last couple of weeks. I say that because not only am I participating in my usual “you’re all stupid” kinda way, but there are some really excellent people coming out of the woodwork. For example, the celebrated Nico Macdonald, who (I like to think) I have been putting on the spot in a gentlemanly fashion about his spatial interface musings, etc. Here’s peek:

I note that Google indexes Flash (I’m probably the last to know this), which is interesting. I wonder how long it will take Googlerank to treat Flash movies in the same way as text, PDF and those other formats it indexes as well?

Being in an expansive mood this Saturday morning, and having received the latest from Clay Shirky on his “Networks, Economics and Culture” (NEC) mailing list, I’m trying to gather my thoughts around what’s going on (from as high a level as my little mind can get).

It’s been nose-to-the-grindstone this last week working towards an insane deadline to write up the findings (and think up some suggestions going forward) from a large card-sort being done while I was in Milan the week before. Planning and analysing the results of a 30-user card sort is actually rather fun. It’s rare you get the chance to do one – I only regret not having the time to facilitate more than a couple of sessions. And of course it’s more than just a pity it ended up crashing into such a short deadline, but such is life. At least, I say it’s just life. But I have a sneaking suspicion it’s something else as well.

User testing in London and Milan last week. The scripts we’re using for this are pretty complicated, and the client wants us to cover off a lot of very specific questions about the system, which was pretty tough to do while making sure the user was relaxed enough to give us reasonably truthful answers.

Blogging from abroad is sooo trendy. But I forgot to pack my camera so no piccies I’m afraid. We’re doing user testing (I facilitated the sessions in London, and sitting in on the ones in Milan – more about that later).

I’ve been totting up the amount of spam I get per day on my two email addresses over the last few months.

It’s pretty depressing really. An average of about 120 a day on each address. Odd how one address gets quite different numbers from the other one. Luckily, I only ever see about three or four a day, as I’m using Spamassassin, but the thought of all the junk pinging around the email system…

I was waiting for Axel to have a pee yesterday before he went to bed, and was idly thumbing through my standard-issue-for-new media-nutters copy of Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital.

It’s been a while since I read the book, but I remember it being thin on actual predictions (and therefore slightly disappointing), but I suddenly saw one, on page 173. He must have been pretty confident about it too, since he (almost) names a date:

This is hardly an original subject to blog on, but it interests me nonetheless. I was at a new year’s party this year and discovered that I’d been to school with one of the guests. After chatting a while about jolly japes (slightly embarrassing as you’re aware it’s boring the crap out of the people around you…) we got round to asking what each other did. He told me he was as surprised as anyone to have become the MD of Sony Music Publishing UK. I felt like I’d just discovered Rudolf Hess hand landed in my allotment.

I’ve been thinking about Vernor Vinge’s 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity.

It’s a good read if you’ve not seen it, but in it Vinge says that he thinks one of the paths to super-human intelligence could be “intelligence amplification.” In particular, he says:

Guinea pigs are highly allergic to egg white.

How I bumped into this is a complete mystery, but it’s one of those things I like about the web – bumping into things.

One thing that gets me irrational about BBC News Online is the glaring lack of any proper back channel. People want to talk, and I for one resent only having half a chance to do so. The “Have your say” links at the bottom of some (but not all) stories, accompanied by the pretty contemptuous small print: “The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published,” works me up even more.

I’ve been hearing about nanotechnology for a while, but for some reason was never motivated enough to find out much about it. Far future stuff… solution looking for problem… blah blah.

But a random post on Slashdot the other day caught my eye. The poster was saying that once molecular nanotechnology and “nanoengineering” take off, then the nature of matter as we know it will fundamentally change – with massive socio-economic consequences. The details were sketchy, So I did a bit of Googling.

Standard issue first blog post:

It’s taken me about six months longer than I thought – but I’ve finally got this site up and running. I had some rather grander plans for it before, but after much reflection, I’ve decided to start small and just blog. Thanks Kaoru – you gave me that advice, so I took it.

I’ll be expanding Webtorque according to my Secret Master Plan… later.

Meanwhile, have a look at the Articles link.