Archive | January, 2010

Compile your own device drivers. Most people have real work to get on with.

30 Jan

People talk about Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, and I don’t disagree that the man has a quasi-hypnotic ability to convince. There’s another reality distortion field at work, though, and everyone that makes a living from the tech industry is within its tractor-beam. That RDF tells us that computers are awesome, they work great and only those too stupid to live can’t work them.

The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get “real work” done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the “real work”.

It’s not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.

The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table’s order, designing the house and organising the party.

I love this article. It’s the reason I’m impressed with a device I won’t get for myself. It’s about the form factor, the model of simplicity, where it takes us, and where the whole industry is going. After some decades, the user is starting to matter.

Actually, we’ve been talking about this at work, regarding our strategy for hosting TiddlyWiki, and I believe the hierarchy is a general pattern:

In order of optimisation, you should be focusing on:

(1) End-users – they’re the people who pay the bills and the whole reason anything gets written (yes, yes, you could be coding it to scratch your own itch, but then you’re wearing two hats under this model)
(2) Admins
(3) Plugin/App developers
(4) Core developers

We value the experience of all four, but we value the higher ones more (. We would ideally aim to have our cake and eat it (http://softwareas.com/designing-like-a-pollyanna-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too), i.e. find solutions that optimise all four. (For example, a congruent data model that is shared by all parties.) But where trade-offs are required, we will certainly be biased towards the higher categories, all things being equal.

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I’m in your osmoplex, designing your tiddlyspaces

28 Jan
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We’ve spent the day hacking (though mostly gearing up to hack) on tiddlyhoster (http://hoster.peermore.com) and @jermolene’s talking about the concept of spaces as a higher level abstraction than recipes.

The idea would be you want to spin off a new tiddlydocs, you clone a tiddlydocs space.

Discussing the model and implications.

that’s the future of casual computing right there

27 Jan
Media_httpc0581892cdn_jehed

no wires, no bench, no keyboard

the platform may vary,?? but this is the form factor we need

i like how reddit posts planned outages as regular stories

26 Jan

Reddit

One of the important points from last week's social design patterns talk was the principle, "learn from games". It's not a new point (Brenda Laurel emphasised it in the early '90s, in Computers As Theatre http://www.amazon.com/Computers-as-Theatre-Brenda-Laurel/dp/0201550601), but an important point.

I'm not a gamer – casual iPhone diversions aside – but as an observer, one of the interesting features is the way games weave "housekeeping" concerns into the game universe. (It's perhaps not a fundamental feature of game design, but certainly a relevant one for non-game design to pick up on.) For example, you wish to speak to to your mate. Instead of opening a pulldown menu, leading to a modal dialog, you make your avatar pull out their mobile phone and make a call. That kind of thing.

Reddit posts their announcement as a regular story and lets the community upvote it if it's relevant. You could frame it in a million different ways, but one way to look at this phenomenon is game design applied to a non-game.

.@psd scaring the masses with an APL lightning talk #btdeveloperday

20 Jan
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more memorable hex colors

18 Jan

Paul Irish recently posted some memorable hex colours (http://paulirish.com/2009/memorable-hex-colors/):

  • #b00b00
  • #de1e7e
  • #e1e100
  • #BADA55
  • #F0FEAF
  • #ac1d1c
  • #facade

with good comments too, ranging from the NSFW to the esoteric to the self-referencing (Facebookers use #faceb0, apparently). A good list from one commenter: DEF1ED BED FAD 1D1075 F00D1E 5EA BE51DE C0B BEA575 FEA575 DADD1E

Of course, you could just use descriptive names like "blue", but where's the fun in that?

I thought I'd write a script to generate any dictionary matches:

egrep '^[abcdeflso]{6}$' '/usr/share/dict/words' | sed 's/l/1/g' | sed 's/s/5/g' | sed 's/o/0/g'

which produces, with the more memorable ones highlighted:

aba5ed aba51a aba51c abba51 abbe55 accede acce55 aced1a ac1d1c a55baa a55e55 a5515e bab1ed bacaba baccae ba0bab ba501d ba551e beaded beb055 bedded bedead bedeaf be5cab be51de b1ac1d b10515 b0bbed b0d1ce b0d1ed b00d1e b055ed cadd1e cadd15 ca5aba ca5abe ca5e1c ca551a ca551e ca5515 ceb01d c1cada c0baea c0bbed c0bcab c0cc1d c0ffee c01fed c055a5 c0551d dab01a da551e deba5e decade dece55 dec1de dec0de dec01c deface de1f1c de5eed d1ac1d d1ba5e d1e515 d110d0 d0bbed d0dded d0dd1e d00dab d00dad ece51c ece515 efface e051de e5c0ba e50d1c facade fac1e5 fa5ce5 fa5c1a fa5c15 f1a5c0 f1c01d f1dfad f055ed 1b1ce5 1deaed 10d1de 10d050 0b5ede 0b5e55 0ff1ce 5abeca 5acc05 5cab1d 5ecede 5eeded 5ee5ee 51bbed 51c5ac 515500 50da1c 50dded

And the three letter magic:

aba abb ace add ade ad0 ae5 a1d a5e a55 baa bac bad bae ba5 bed bee be5 b1b b1d b15 b0a b0b b0d b00 cab cad cee c0b c0d c0e c00 c05 dab dad dae da0 da5 deb dee d1b d1d d1e d15 d0b d0c d0d d0e d05 ebb e55 fad fae fed fee fe1 f1b f1d f1e f0b f0d f0e f00 1a0 1ba 1ce 1de 1fe 150 0af 0be 0b1 0da 0dd 0de 0e5 0ff 011 05e 5aa 5ab 5ac 5ad 5a1 5a0 5ea 5ec 5ee 51b 51c 51e 515 50b 50c 50d 50e

(See also http://nedbatchelder.com/text/hexcolors.html http://blog.lyraspace.com/2009/03/06/hex-colour-words/#comment-103)

interns day at osmosoft

14 Jan
We had a troupe of BT interns visiting us at Osmsoft today. There were presentations in the morning and in the afternoon they had a chance to build something with TiddlyWiki. As they mostly weren't from a programming background, it was a chance to see how far they could take core TiddlyWiki config, combined with the TiddlyVerse ecosystem. Working in pairs, and guided by an Osmosoft mentors, the teams each came up with something interesting and different.

The projects:

TiddlyPocketBook Guide to Adastral Park – A very usable pocket book about a BT campus and surrounding areas using Paul's . See it here.

University Course – A university course transformed from a Word file into a living TiddlyWiki. The team built this as a single file, and in a few short minutes, we were able to upload it to TiddlyHoster so students could have a threaded discussion about each section.

Cookbook – An actual food cookbook. By tagging each recipe with its key ingredients, you could do the reverse: click on "Tiger Prawn" to find all recipes with Tiger Prawn.

Apprentice Guide – A guide for people on the apprentice scheme, with images of places they would be training and links to relevant sites. Info scattered through the internet was easily collected together in one place by the user population themselves.

So a fun day and a great way for us developers to see real first-time usage of TiddlyWiki. Each of the above was done in a couple of hours, so not complete products, but I think it gave the interns a good enough insight into the mindset behind TiddlyWiki and the places where it's useful, as well as the general benefits of the open source model for a product like this.