Reboot 9.0 day 2

(Wait­ing for my train home to arrive, I final­ly have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to post this.)

So with Reboot 9.0 and the after-par­ty done, I think I’ll briefly write up my impres­sions of the sec­ond day.

Stowe Boyd — Good talk as always, offer­ing a new def­i­n­i­tion of ‘flow’. I guess his attempt to have peo­ple open them­selves up to the ben­e­fi­cial sides of being inter­mit­tent­ly con­nect­ed was a suc­cess.

Marko Ahti­saari — Inter­est­ing char­ac­ter with a good sto­ry to tell. His free mobile oper­a­tor for teenagers scheme made a lot of peo­ple curi­ous. (Free stuff always does that, it seems.)

Lee Bryant — Very fit­ting to the theme of human?, a touch­ing sto­ry of how for­mer inhab­i­tants of a Bosn­ian town used social soft­ware to recon­nect and rebuild the town.

Julian Bleeck­er — Cool stuff on new ways to inter­act with com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy beyond the util­i­tar­i­an and effi­cient, into the realm of play.

Dave Win­er — An inter­est­ing char­ac­ter hav­ing a nice con­ver­sa­tion with Thomas. I enjoyed his off­beat remarks and dry wit.

Guy Dick­in­son — Anoth­er round of micro­p­re­sen­ta­tions, this time with me par­tic­i­pat­ing. I stum­bled sev­er­al times. Next time I’ll pre­pare a cus­tom talk for this. The oth­er pre­sen­ters were awe­some.

Ras­mus Fleis­ch­er and Mag­nus Eriks­son — Two cool young anar­chists with inter­est­ing ideas about file shar­ing and the future of music. Too bad large parts of their pre­sen­ta­tion were read from a sheet.

Leisa Reichelt — A care­ful­ly put togeth­er overview of ambi­ent inti­ma­cy, what it is and what it’s for. Next step: com­ing up with design guide­lines for these types of ‘tools’.

Matt Webb — Deliv­ered on the expec­ta­tions raised by his per­for­mances pre­vi­ous years. Inter­est­ing to see him move into expe­ri­ence design ter­ri­to­ry and hear his take on it. Very much applic­a­ble to my dai­ly work in design­ing web ser­vices.

Din­ner and the after-par­ty were great (although it seemed that the reser­va­tions scheme had gone awry, they had no place for us at our cho­sen restau­rant). I guess drink­ing and talk­ing into the night at Vega with a lot of con­fused locals around was a fit­ting way to end anoth­er great Reboot.

Web of data — third of five IA Summit 2007 themes

(Here’s the third post on the 2007 IA Sum­mit. You can find the first one that intro­duces the series and describes the first theme ‘tan­gi­ble’ here and the sec­ond one on ‘social’ here.)

Typ­i­cal­ly, IAs have con­cerned them­selves with the design of web sites. The metaphor most suit­ed and used for the web so far has been space. Even the term ‘infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture’ points to this. Nowa­days, besides hav­ing to tack­le the social dimen­sion (as per the pre­vi­ous trend men­tioned) IAs are forced to rethink the spa­tial metaphor in favour of a new one: the web as plat­form. This means design­ing for a web of data, where sites become data sources and tools to view and manip­u­late that data. This is a far cry from the old hier­ar­chi­cal mod­el. Like design for social soft­ware, IAs are still explor­ing this new ter­ri­to­ry.

There was an excel­lent pan­el on this sub­ject (notes and audio at The Chick­en Test), with amongst oth­ers Tom Coates and Matt Bid­dulph (both pre­vi­ous­ly employed by the BBC). Coates’ pre­sen­ta­tions (Native to a Web of Data and Greater than the sum of its parts) are essen­tial resources. He gave a super short overview of what design­ing for the web of data is all about. Matt went beyond screen based media into the realm of phys­i­cal com­put­ing (see the first trend) show­ing some cool exam­ples of Arduino pro­to­types feed­ing into Sec­ond Life.

Jared Spool talked about the usabil­i­ty chal­lenges of web 2.0 and focussed on (among many things) the short­com­ings of RSS and the dan­gers of mash-ups. RSS as a tech­nol­o­gy is pret­ty cool, but no nor­mal user intu­itive­ly under­stands its appli­ca­tion. This is a tech­nol­o­gy still look­ing for a killer app. Mash-ups are typ­i­cal­ly made by enthu­si­as­tic ama­teurs look­ing to com­bine avail­able data sources or inter­faces. This means we’ll see a wave of sites with seri­ous usabil­i­ty issues. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing per se, but still some­thing to look out for.

Google Reader improvements

The new Google Reader trends page

I hadn’t touched Google Read­er since tak­ing a brief look at its ini­tial launch in Octo­ber 2005. I’m now using it as my pri­ma­ry read­er, hav­ing grown tired of Rojo’s poor per­for­mance and fre­quent inter­face over­hauls. There’s a few things that have real­ly improved since that first release. I’ll sum them up briefly here:

  • Unclut­tered, sim­ple inter­face. They’ve gone back to basics and mim­ic a plain desk­top appli­ca­tion UI. Hard­ly any super­flu­ous web 2.0 fea­tures demand your atten­tion.
  • Trends page (I’ve book­marked a few arti­cles on this); which allows you to look at the feeds you’ve been read­ing the most but, more impor­tant­ly, allow you to weed out the ones you nev­er look at or have died. Essen­tial for some­one who has over 200 feeds to track.
  • Mul­ti-fold­er organ­is­ing, not quite free tag­ging (which is a shame) but still nice for the folk­so­nom­i­cal­ly inclined.
  • When scrolling through a list of expand­ed new feed items, Read­er auto­mat­i­cal­ly marks items you’ve scrolled past as read. Which great­ly reduces the excise oth­er web-based read­ers force on their users when want­i­ng to mark a feed as read.
  • Per­for­mance is accept­able to good. It’s not as fast as Gmail, but vast­ly supe­ri­or to Rojo for instance, despite the con­sid­er­able use of AJAX.
  • There is an unof­fi­cial Mac OS X noti­fi­er that uses Growl.

Most of these fea­tures are not includ­ed in one or both of the pre­vi­ous two web-based read­ers I used for a length of time (Blog­lines and Rojo). Google have real­ly come up with some­thing nice here. I won­der when it’ll move out of the lab.

Why am I not using a desk­top based read­er? I’d like to (Net­NewsWire’s great for instance), just as I’d love to use a prop­er desk­top email client, but my mul­ti-plat­form, mul­ti-machine per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al use doesn’t allow me too. I work on at least two sep­a­rate PCs at work (a desk­top and a lap­top) and have a cute lit­tle iBook that I use at home. This all means I am a real web OS user. Fire­fox as brows­er (with Google Brows­er Sync to keep it the same across all installs), Google Read­er for RSS, Gmail for email and (until recent­ly) Google Cal­en­dar for, well, my cal­en­dar. Is it coin­ci­dence I seem to pre­fer Google prod­ucts for these things? Prob­a­bly not, Google seems to be doing a very good job at these kind of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty appli­ca­tions (just as Yahoo! seem to be lead­ing the way in social appli­ca­tions).

Rojo redesign

Rojo has redesigned. It all feels a lot clean­er and more com­pact (as well as slight­ly faster). Head­line scanning’s improved quite a bit.

The one glar­ing mis­take I’ve noticed is that head­ers no longer link to the orig­i­nal sto­ries, but are some kind of perma­link to the post inside Rojo. You have to click a link beside it, labelled “via [feed name]”. Sil­ly choice!

Trying out new web apps

I’m giv­ing Rojo a spin right now.

I trans­fered all my feeds from Blog­lines yes­ter­day and, after an ini­tial feel­ing that the app was bloat­ed, I must say I quite like it. The tag­ging is well-imple­ment­ed, and for some rea­son I feel I can scan my new sto­ries much faster here than in Blog­lines. The only glar­ing ommis­sion is a noti­fi­er!

I’ve also signed up for 30 Box­es, and have been play­ing with the real­ly cool nat­ur­al lan­guage event input sys­tem. Once you get used to the forced AM / PM syn­tax, it’s quite nice. The only thing I’m miss­ing here is a way to import an iCal export (.ics).

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Google Reader

While I was still wait­ing for Feed­Lounge to launch and release me from the agony that is Blog­lines’ user expe­ri­ence — Google launch­es their Read­er. I quick­ly import­ed my feeds, and am toy­ing with it now. At first sight, their inter­face encour­ages quick brows­ing of new entries. I’m still not sure about how easy it is to label spe­cif­ic feeds though…

Google Reader

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Dashboard

This week­end I had some time to fid­dle around with my home­page at www.leapfrog.nl. I decid­ed to cre­ate a dash­board-like page that shows my lat­est con­tri­bu­tions to sev­er­al sites. I’m no pro­gram­mer, so RSS Digest was a great help in glue­ing every­thing togeth­er. Thanks to the con­tin­ue­ing open­ing up of the web’s con­tent through RSS, now I have one place to show what I’ve been up to recent­ly. Joy!

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