December 2000

12/29/2000 Friday

I was browsing through those Timex Sinclair 1000 game books last night. The coding style back then was awful. Granted programmers were stuck with BASIC but the number of gotos and gosubs make the code unreadible. Most of the variables are single letters and there's almost no comments (and the existing ones are pointless). I found a correction my dad made to one of the listings and I have no idea how he managed to debug the code. I was impressed, however, at the ingenuity behind some algorithms. In a morse-code converter, storing the full code for each letter (up to 4 characters each) would be overly long. So the programmer created a mnemonic that converted the dots and dashes into numbers limited to 2 digits using a tree. Then the numbers are converted into the corresponding ASCII character so that the data for all 26 letters required only 26 characters.
10:00 permalink

The problem I see with XML and content management systems is that they are suited to information-based design and not task-based design. The future will see people wanting to do anything from anywhere on anything. Usability dictates that the presentation of the information and steps required to performing a task will depend on the particular interface being used.
09:50 permalink

In the early days, websites and CD-ROMS had completely different designs. This was because websites had two important limitations: bandwidth and limited layout / interactivity. CD-ROMS were what designers wanted websites to look like. Think about that when you see CD-ROMS authored in the mid-90's. Thank god interactive design has progressed since then.
09:30 permalink

12/28/2000 Thursday

When I was visiting my parents for the holidays, I borrowed (permanently?) the old Timex Sinclair 1000. It was designed as an affordable computer which meant 1K of memory (expandable to 16K - which you needed to do if you wanted it to be usable) and almost no commercially available software. It forced you to make your own stuff. We also had a bunch of books that contained program listings you could type in. I wanted it partly because of the nostalgia and partly for inspiration for WAP games.
09:25 permalink

Charging people to link to your articles is stupid. Firstly, you can't really prevent people from doing it for free. Secondly, the web is based on links. It's how you get traffic. If I read an interesting article, I want to link to it so that people can read it for themselves. If I have to pay to do this, I won't. I'll just summarize the article in my own words. No laws broken, no link made, no traffic to your site.
09:05 permalink

12/22/2000 Friday

Any script in a frameset document must appear before the first <frameset> tag. This means that if you want to set an attribute value in a <frame> or <frameset> tag, you need to dynamically output the whole frameset. The only exception to this is if you can get away with using a javascript: url for a <frame> tag's src attribute value.
10:05 permalink

Some of the things modern viruses do are amazingly similar to the actions of biological lifeforms. The Kriz virus, which will strike some computers this Christmas, has no way of propagating itself. Instead it attaches itself to portable executable files and is spread as those files are exchanged between computers. In some instances, Kriz has attached itself to another active virus (notably, Happy99.worm) which does propagate itself. This gives it a wider distribution. Very elegant.
10:00 permalink

BT jumps gun on i-mode trademark - British Telecom continues it's spree of nastiness by registering a number of i-mode trademarks with the UK patent office. NTT DoCoMo's service of the same name is huge in Japan and is expected to be exported to Europe and the US in the new year. BT seems to be in the business of stealing other people's business.
09:45 permalink

A High-Tech Domino Effect: As Dot-com's Go, So Go the E-Commerce Consultants (NYTimes requires registration) - The woes of the big internet consultants are based on two things: the woes of the dot-coms who used to make up a great deal of their business, and a lack of understanding of traditional business practices. To solve these problems, many consultants are targetting Fortune 1000 companies and are brushing up on their knowledge of how their clients' industries do business. They are also attempting to offer a wider range of services to rival traditional consultants like IBM and Anderson Consulting. A very good over-view of the industry. (via Dot.minion)
09:00 permalink

12/21/2000 Thursday - A place to buy or sell dot-coms. Though browsing the listings is interesting in itself, the best parts of the site are the articles which tend to be high level views of industry trends.
08:50 permalink

12/19/2000 Tuesday

I added a Google site search a couple days ago but I wanted the indexing to be more up-to-date. I did a bit of research on remote site searches at SearchTools and found an excellent comparison of various services. I ended up choosing Atomz because of it's flexible results display, manual indexing, and ability to define collections. Their free service is limited to indexing 500 pages but it'll be a while before I hit that limit.
17:00 permalink

Jakob Neilsen advocates the use of article lead-ins or teasers (I can't remember the term he uses to define them) where a link to an article is accompanied with a brief summary of the article to help you decide whether you want to read it. I agree. But I find the length of the summary is important as well. I'll read a long article but I won't read a long (but much shorter compared to the article) summary. Tomalak's Realm always has the right length summaries but I find that the practice of grabbing a representative paragraph as a summary aren't always clear as they may rely on their context (which they have been stripped of). WebWord's summaries are sometimes a bit long but the author often includes a comment which I find extremely helpful.
09:10 permalink

Inside the Cult of Kibu - Yet another dot-com failure story. These were interesting to begin with but there's so many of them and they all sound the same. Not just a bit the same - exactly identical. And I won't even go over the details of this one because you already know them. It's because the same type of people write these stories - people who see themselves as writers or journalists at heart. And the same types of dot-coms hired these people - companies who needed people to produce content on a site to give their site some uniqueness and a raison d'etre. This is probably why these companies are so forgetable and fail so easily - they can't be unique because they hire the same people to produce the same drivel. Then when the 'freelance' journalist / writer is laid off, they need to feed themselves so they write yet another story of a failed dot-com and sell it to Salon. Boring. Mind you, I still read them because I'm fascinated that people stay on sinking ships.
08:45 permalink

12/18/2000 Monday

Spent this weekend doing small re-designs. I wanted to make the content areas more early-browser friendly and use more logical tagging to reflect the information structures. I also cleaned up some bugs and errors.
09:30 permalink

12/15/2000 Friday

I like Google, but the HTML that Google generates for their 'Add Google to your Site' service is awful.
12:15 permalink

Yesterday, I bought a copy of The Mosaic Handbook for Microsoft Windows for a dollar. The disk containing Mosaic was missing but that doesn't matter - I already have a copy. A quick flip through give you an interesting insight into the web in 1994. It even has a guide to HTML, some tips about what to put on your homepage and a homepage template (a personal picture, a list of hobbies and a personal 'hot list').
12:10 permalink

BT sues Prodigy over U.S. hyperlink patent - British Telecommunications 'discovered' earlier this year that they owned the patent on hyperlinks (applied for in 1976, granted in 1989). They tried to force some of the biggest ISPs in the US to pay licencing but that didn't work so they are taking the biggest, Prodigy, to court. The article mentions the 1965 Ted Nelson book Literary Machines which first coined the term. The concept of hyperlinks was developed and demonstrated, as far as I can remember, a few years earlier. BT is a stupid-head.
09:05 permalink

12/13/2000 Wednesday

The first web authoring book ever is probably Larry Aronson's HTML Manual of Style which was apparently published in January 1994! Laura Lemay's Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in a Week (January 95 - though I've seen references that say 1994) was the first book I remember.
13:20 permalink

Bitching about Netscape is not new. Check out David Siegel's open letter to Netscape and the web community from 1995. By the way, where is David now?
11:05 permalink

Before Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and The Yale Style Manual, there was Designing Large-Scale Web Sites: A Visual Design Methodology by Darrell Sano (February 96). The very first web design books concentrated on HTML - there was very little concept that this new medium needed new rules. Sano's book tackled the concept of information architecture - particularly site design as opposed to page design. Jennifer Niederst's Designing for the Web: Getting Started in a New Medium came a couple months later (April 96) and covered graphic design. But no-one remembers them. The books everyone knows of are Creating Killer Web Sites by David Siegel and Designing Web Graphics by Lynda Weinman.
10:55 permalink

Book sites should learn from Amazon. Lately, I've been reading bits and pieces around the web saying how Amazon has some excellent features. The Amazon search engine, as I found out, is incredibly flexible. It allowed me to look for books published before a particular date - something other book sites didn't let me do.
09:50 permalink

Altavista, Microsoft, Progressive Networks, Shareware, UPS, Xing, and Yahoo as they appeared in May 1996. (via Memepool).
09:10 permalink

12/12/2000 Tuesday

The NCSA What's New page for June 1993! When I first encountered the web in Dec 1993, I spent a couple hours going back through the What's New archive and bookmarking anything interesting. When I was done, I had the feeling that I had seen the entire web up to that time.
10:30 permalink

The global Network Navigator (GNN) was the first web portal. It was developed by O'Reilly and Associates (the animal book publishers) in 1993 and sold to AOL in 1995 at which point it pretty much died. Jennifer Niederst, the original designer, has a page dedicated to the evolution of the site.
10:20 permalink

A Brief History of Microsoft on the Web - The evolution of the homepage from April 1994 to the present.
10:05 permalink

12/11/2000 Monday

Further nostalgia from WebWord: Discovering Usability Improvements for Mosaic is an analysis of the web experience introduced by the Mosaic browser. One thing I had forgot is that the web used to be called the WWW. Will the Web Browser Replace Powerpoint?, written in 1997, predicts a demise that never happened. In fact, Powerpoint is used even by web development companies. For some people, it defines the concept of information presentation. Which is why you get people wanting websites that look like Powerpoint presentations.
09:35 permalink

I'm in a nostalgic mood. I spent some of Sunday tracking down old browsers. Actually, I set out to find copies of all the 4.x Netscape browsers (still looking for 4.0) but started finding sites dedicated to archiving much older browsers - like Cello and Netscape 0.93 beta. Also discovered which relives the old days of the web (incidentally, I forgot to bookmark it, forgot the url, cursed myself, but then managed to find it again with a lot of luck). My own Krackpot Kosmologies is a snapshot of the web from early '96. The only current site that I can think of that has a similar look is For Sale By Mental Patient.
09:25 permalink

12/08/2000 Friday

P3P is a W3C specification that allows your site to tell a visiting browser what the cookies you are sending will be used for. The browser will then accept or reject the cookie based on preferences set by the user. Opera (version 5 was just released and it's free) already supports it and IE6 support is proposed.
09:45 permalink

Now it's Viant's turn - 100 people gone. From the look of The Standard's layoff-tracker, it's going to be a bleak Christmas for some folks.
09:35 permalink

Dot.minion - a weblog about working in the internet industry. (via Xblog)
09:30 permalink

Is brochure-ware all that a small business needs? Frequently, yes. I frequently look to see if a business has a website so that I can look up basic information - where they are, what their hours are, a basic idea of services or prices. I don't mind picking up the phone to get more in-depth info but I'd rather start my information gathering passively. (via Tremendo)
09:20 permalink

12/07/2000 Thursday

Scient laid off 460. This comes after iXL and MarchFirst's huge purges. If you are looking to create an obscenely large glut of strategists, managers, client relations staff and other document writers in your company, it's a buyers market. (via Fucked Company)
09:00 permalink

The 5K Contest has a new home. There are tentative plans to have another contest around March of 2001. (via Sylloge)
08:50 permalink

I received some Japanese spam today. It's all in Japanese, of course, but I can work out enough to figure out that it is probably porn spam.
08:40 permalink

12/04/2000 Monday

Imagine Media Latest Victim of Dot-com Shakeout - Next time you see some manager type with Business 2.0 tucked under their arm, you may laugh at them. The quotes are startlingly candid. Sounds like they knew enough to know that they didn't have a clue. (via MetaFilter)
08:45 permalink

Regarding the unionization effort at a dot com I mentioned last week, they all got fired. That was fast. (via MetaFilter)
08:30 permalink

12/01/2000 Friday

Inside a web design firm
Account Manager: "Are you happy?"
Strategist: "Our research shows people want to be happy."
Creative Director: "Make it more happy."
Art Director: "Make it more orange."
Sr. Designer: "Orange is over."
Jr. Designer: "Someone on K10K said orange was over."
Usability Specialist: "Orange doesn't work."
Technical Architect: "Orange needs more resources."
Project Manager: "We will make it orange."
Production Coordinator: "Did you make it orange yet?"
Front-end Developer: "#ff6600."
Back-end Developer: "sColor."
DBA: "Select 'Orange' from 'Color'."
Information Architect: "'Orange' goes under 'Color'."
Content Strategist: "Are we using 'colour' or 'color'?"
Quality Assurance: "Yep, it's orange."
Client: "I didn't ask for orange."
09:35 permalink

Graphical User Interface Timeline - I always wanted to know what Windows versions 1 and 2 looked like. Windows 3.1 is usually the first version people remember but I did encounter a machine with Windows 3.0 on it. I guess Microsoft likes to disown software releases prior to version 3. Like Internet Explorer 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0. (via Antenna)
08:45 permalink