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March 2001 xblog archives
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Friday | March 23, 2001 | 8:54 p.m. CST Permalink

A Primer in Diffusion of Innovations Theory | To Marketing | “Some inventions 'take the world by storm' (archetype: the Sony Walkman). Others seem to fail, lie dormant for decades, but when 'their time has come', their use grows quickly, even explosively (archetype: the fax machine). Most achieve slow penetration at first, then their adoption grows more quickly, but later slows down again. A broad social psychological / sociological theory called Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) Theory purports to describe the patterns of adoption, explain the mechanism, and assist in predicting whether and how a new invention will be successful.”

The Critical Project | To Visual thinking | “The Critical Project compilation of Web resources, knowledge fragments, and commentary, is the work of James R. Elkins, Professor of Law, West Virginia University.” Features all kinds of critical thinking resources.

Links Want To Be Links | To Web design | “This document explains why you, as a Web page author, should not try to prevent Web browsers from displaying textual links underlined and image links with borders around them. It also discusses common mistakes in setting (suggesting) colors for textual links. In special cases, it might actually help users if you 'tailor' link presentation; there are both HTML and CSS methods for that. The beauty of textual links is explained and compared with the drawbacks of non-textual links and pseudo-links like buttons. Finally we present various ways of 'animating' or otherwise enhancing links without destroying their natural beauty.”

A Message in A Web Site | To Usability | “How Students And Their Parents Receive (or Don't) What Is Sent: This pilot study views the University Internet site as a text and through the perspectives of semiotics, audience and meaning making analyzes how well the message to one part of the audience, the prospective student and parent, gets through.”

Customer Conversion Rate (CCR) Calculator | To eCommerce | “CCR, also sometimes called the Sales Closing Rate or Sales Closing Ratio, is the ratio of orders to site visits.  It is the measure of how well your site can make a sale to a shopper, and is considered by many to be the most important metric in your toolbox. Also notice that, logically, it is the result of all of the factors that go into building a site that 'knows how to sell.'” Thanks WebWord.


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Thursday | March 22, 2001 | 5:48 p.m. CST Permalink

Amazoning The News | To Journalism/News, Web design | “Adapted from a presentation by Ellen Kampinsky at The Editor & Publisher Interactive Newspaper Conference, Feb. 21, 2001: What if we told stories on the web the way Amazon sells books? Storytelling on the web demands its own vocabulary and strategies — indeed a whole new way of thinking. The web site that does the best job of telling stories in a web-appropriate way is also the most successful: Amazon. So blow up your old notion of 'story.' See what happens when you apply Amazon's user-savvy approach to typical news events.”

The church of usability | To Usability | “Throughout history, people have sought wise leaders to show them the true light, and Web designers are no different. In the quest for effective sites, designers seek enlightened individuals — sages — to guide them to a truer path. These gurus of the GUI are respected; their books are sold out, and their lectures and seminars become standing-room-only love-ins. When they speak, the masses hang on every word, and they are quoted as if their words were divinely inspired.”

Confessions of a Flash Addict | To Flash | “My name is Squid Vicious and I'm a Flash-aholic. I'm not exactly sure when I first became addicted to the abuses and misuses of Flash as it was a subtle seduction. It started out with nothing more than a bloated demo here, an oblique navigational system there, but the next thing you know, I was building entire sites with the damn stuff whether it suited the job or not.”

Ayn Rand on creativity and genius | To Creativity | “Does Objectivism hold that all individuals have something valuable to contribute? What about people who lack creativity or ability? Would they fit into a pure capitalist society?” Thanks daily gristle.


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Wednesday | March 21, 2001 | 9:06 a.m. CST Permalink

Blind people may be able to “see” with their tongues | To Visual thinking | “Scientists have developed a device which transfers visual cues from a video camera to the brain through electrodes in the mouth. A map of the outside world is sent to a postage stamp-sized 'tongue display unit' made of 144 electrodes which stimulates the highly sensitive tongue. The device, developed by Paul Bach-y-Rita and Kurt Kaczmarek at the University of Wisconsin, US, has been successful at conveying simple information like computer-generated graphics.”

The Story Behind Tux the Penguin | To Branding | “One of the first questions asked by mainstream technology companies beginning to offer Linux products or services is, 'Who owns the penguin?' The answer is no one. The Linux logo, a plump penguin known as Tux, is an open-source image. Anyone can employ Tux to promote a Linux-related product, and there are no licensing fees or any need to get official approval from someone to use the penguin.”

Interview: Jeffrey Zeldman | To Web design | “Jeffrey Zeldman is an outspoken web designer, author, and speaker. His book Taking Your Talent to the Web will arrive in April 2001. Zeldman is the publisher and creative director of A List Apart, a weekly magazine "For People Who Make Websites;" co-founder and current group leader of The Web Standards Project, a grassroots coalition fighting for standards on the web; and founder of Happy Cog, a New York City web design firm.”

The DesignerSites Course | To Web design | “This is a completely empty website. It is not cool. In 6 easy steps, we will make it cool. In fact, after this course, we guarantee success in the underground design scene. We will give you all the tricks and tips for making killer underground sites.”

Ergonomic guidelines for arranging a computer workstation | To Accessibility | “Creating a good ergonomic working arrangement is important to protecting your health. The following 10 steps are a brief summary of those things that most Ergonomists agree are important. If you follow the 10 steps they should help you to improve your working arrangement. You can also use the Computer Workstation Checklist to help to pinpoint any areas of concern and take a look at the 'Computer Workstation summary' diagram' for specific tips. However, every situation is different, and if you can't seem to get your arrangement to feel right or you are confused about some of the following recommendations you should seek professional advice.”

The Electric King James Bible | To Internet | “Welcome to an experiment in web technology. Quickly, until I can get a better explanation here, I wrote an Apache module to display Bible verses. The host portion of the URL should be bible.conman.org and the file portion of the URL is /kj/ (for King James, the translation of the Bible I'm using) and then the book, chapter and verse you want. A period separates the book from the chapter number, and a colon separarates the chapter and verse. So, if you wanted to see Revelation 13:18, the URL would be: http://bible.conman.org/kj/Revelation.13:18.”

Random thoughts: ...still werkin' on the new site... ...OpenCola has the most entertaining “corporate” site I've seen in a long time. Just read it... ...Eric Costello is a CSS layout SuperBot... ...peterme has some nice new colors... ...Will restarted his “Songs that get stuck in Will's head” weblog... ...Pinback is an excellent band...


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Thursday | March 15, 2001 | 8:22 a.m. CST Permalink

Updates will continue to be less frequent for a short time. And you may have noticed that this front xblog page is the only one that gets updated here while we're building our new site; the individual categories within xblog are currently not representative of the latest posts. The new site will remedy that. Thanks.

Choose your own Carl | To Comics | “The web's only fully interactive, multiple path, reader-written, death-obsessed comics extravaganza was finally completed on February 25, 2001. See how over 1,000 readers, over the course of more than 2 years, helped participate in the creation of a LIFE! A very inane and pointless life perhaps, but a life nonetheless.”

Visual Design for Instructional Content (Part I) | To Information graphics, Learning, Visual thinking | “In an earlier article 'Monkey Instruction', we addressed the issue of effective writing for online instruction. We asked why some online courses are boring and analyzed a Webmonkey course to understand its writing style that makes it such a popular course. In planning for this article we looked at several resources, addressing disparate issues, conflicting theories, numerous principles, techniques and rules — that it was difficult to bring them all together in one article. Hence we have decided to tackle them in a series of parts, with each part devoted to one set of guiding principles or a specific resource. Part I of the article analyses Edward Tufte's principles of visualizing information.”

Clay Shirky Explains Internet Evolution | To Internet | “Really. He does. Quite eloquently. Clay Shirky's answers to our questions could easily be turned into an all-day seminar on where the Internet is today as a communications medium, where it might be 10 years from now, and how it is going to get from here to there. This is information you need if your career or business is affected by the Internet in any way. Lots of good debunking, too, of everything from WAP to the myth of increased media homogenization, all put forth with enough humor to keep even Clay's most depressing thoughts from bringing (too many) tears to your eyes.”

Bayeux Tapestry | To History, Visual thinking | “The most important relic to survive from the eleventh century. A stitched chronicle of the battle. Who commissioned it? How and where was it made and how did it manage to survive, when so little else did from those times? What does it tell us of the Battle of Hastings? ...Here, you will find the complete Bayeux Tapestry reproduced section by section in much higher resolution and scale.”


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Well, we're working on the new xplane.com. Updates will be even more sporadic for a few days. (sneak peek -- not ready yet!!!)

In the meantime, check out the 4-page Infoporn fold-out graphic we did on XML in the April 2001 issue of Wired (9.03, page 81).




Tuesday | March 6, 2001 | 8:22 a.m. CST Permalink

Spot the difference | To Copyright/TM | “Website copying may be widespread, but there are some simple measures you can take to protect your copyright.” Oh, but anyway: Stealing things is OK. Our original work.

The Appeal and Usability of Games Interfaces | To Games/Game design | “I'd Rather Play Computer Games Than Do Real Work! (Wouldn't You?): Given the choice of playing a computer game or doing some more serious computer application, I'd generally choose to play a game. And I know I'm not alone in this choice. What is there about games that makes them so appealing? Playing is generally more appealing than working, certainly. But is there more? As part of the research association with Rensselaer's distance-education program in Human-Computer Interaction, I've started to explore computer-games interfaces — their appeal, usability, and supportiveness — to try to understand how we can make human-computer interaction, in general, more effective.” Thanks Noise Between Stations.

To Use or Not to Use: An XHTML Roadmap for Designers | To XHTML | “January 26th, 2001 marked the first birthday of XHTML 1.0 as the official W3C recommendation for Web markup. But XHTML has yet to toddle, yet to smile, and yet to cry loud enough to get the attention of most Web designers.”

Building a Web Vocabulary | To Information architecture | “There's no point in accumulating data if you don't know how to organize it. A Web vocabulary can help you put it all together. By building a 'Web vocabulary' — also known as a taxonomy or a classification system — companies are finding they can organize information better, attract and retain more visitors to their Web sites, and, most important, stay ahead of the competition. A Web vocabulary is based on metadata — the data that describes other data.”

The White Stripes | To Music | I love this band! “Red. White. Red and White. These colours, paired with their simplistic approach to music let the White Stripes create some of the most original and sincere music in a long time. With 2 albums and a handful of singles already under their red 'n' white striped belts, they are prepared for anything, they fear no challenge. The White Stripes hail from the depths of Southwest Detroit. In a city ravaged by drugs, ghettos, gangs, and racism, the White Stripes give people a reason to hope for rebirth.” Thanks Brian.


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Friday | March 2, 2001 | 10:28 a.m. CST Permalink

Back To The Drawing Board | To Usability | “One of the major problems, according to experts, is that the user experience is almost always left to programmers and engineers, who are driven more by a love affair with technology than empathy with the user ... The result is that engineers and programmers often guess at what their users might want, or assume that users will thrill to the same kind of product the they would.”

Finding a Better Way | To Interaction design, Wireless/PDAs | “Interactive Week challenged Cooper to come up with a design for a device, an application, or a Web site interface that illustrates why our GOAL-DIRECTED® approach to design leads to usable and successful products. In response to this challenge, we chose to create a design for a PDA application to help people find their way around an airport. We call it the Wayfinder. We followed our GOAL-DIRECTED® methodology to create this design.”

Adaptive Path | To Usability | “No matter how you use technology in your business, quality user experiences provide an essential competitive advantage. The partners of Adaptive Path are committed to advancing the art of user experience development. We believe that design is a strategic business issue, and that effective user-centered design improves profitability. We view success not only as launching an effective design, but also developing stronger organizations that can make wise decisions about design long after we've gone. That's why we make sharing our knowledge and experience part of everything we do. Through consulting, publishing, and speaking engagements, we develop high-quality user experiences, and educate people and organizations to do the same.” The Dream Team? Yep, I'd say so: Lane Becker, Janice Crotty Fraser, Jesse James Garrett, Mike Kuniavsky, Peter Merholz, Jeffrey Veen, Indi Young.

The Victorian Internet | To Communications, History | “Jean-Antoine Nollet, the Abbot of the Grand Convent of the Carthusians in Paris decided to test his theory that electricity traveled far and fast. He did the natural thing on a fine spring day in 1746, sending 200 of his monks out in a line 1 mile long. Between each pair of monks was a 25-foot iron wire. Once the reverend fathers were properly aligned, Nollet hooked up a battery to the end of the line and noted with satisfaction that all the monks started swearing, contorting, or otherwise reacting simultaneously to the shock... This story of the early days of electrical experimentation leads off The Victorian Internet, a fascinating story of the telegraph by Tom Standage, a journalist who writes for The Economist. Thankfully, Standage makes the point that the telegraph was the Internet of its age, but then lets the metaphor drop and tells the story of the spread of the telegraph on it's own terms.”

Zwol Forum > Reinventing Comics | To Comics | “Hello, my name is Greg and I'm an online comic author. With the final chapter (for now) of Scott McCloud's Zot! Online posted, what will become of the Zot! Online message board? Well, it seems likely that the current host, CBR, will allow posts for some time to come, but if anybody would like a second home for the community that isn't dependant on CBR — a place to discuss the past, present and future of comics as an art — well, then I humbly invite you one and all to Zwol's Reinventing Comics forum!”

Beginning PHP4 | To PHP | “Thanks to programmer-friendly syntax and a groundswell of community support, PHP has grown in popularity to rival its competition in the server-side scripting arena, which includes Perl, ASP, Cold Fusion, and JSP. While PHP was designed to be a language that presents a familiar face to developers experienced in languages like C and Perl, PHP is also relatively easy for beginners to learn from scratch. Nevertheless, people with little or no programming experience will benefit greatly from a guided tour of the language to get them started, which is precisely what Beginning PHP4 from WROX Press provides.”

KUMO : the W3 PROGRAMMING WEBLOG | To Weblogs | This looks to be a strong, interesting newish weblog with some real good meaty links, everything from sound to XML to design to people and movements.

The Bauhaus: People, places, products & philosophy | To Graphic design, Industrial design | “The Bauhaus firmly establish industrial design. It stripped away the decoration, and left clean lines of function. To some this represents the removal of all that is human in the crafts. To the teachers and followers of the involved in the Bauhaus, function was the primary concern, removing the past was a secondary consequence. The Bauhaus ushered in the modern era of design.” Thanks KUMO.


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Thursday | March 1, 2001 | 7:55 a.m. CST Permalink

Stories on a Rail | To Games/Game design | “What good is storytelling in an action game? Steven Johnson looks for answers in the new game Oni... 'One of the best fundamental principles that anybody ever expressed to me about game design is that games should teach you how to play them,' says Hardy LeBel, designer of the newly released Oni, from Bungie Studios. An action title deeply influenced by Japanese animé films like Akira or Ghost in the Shell, Oni follows the story of a young cybernaut named Konoko and her battle against an industrial espionage outfit called, predictably enough, The Syndicate.”

A Eulogy for Design | To Graphic design | “I mourn the death of design, yet I am grateful for its existence. As a discipline, design has entered the same meaningless existence as art. Before discussing this further, it is appropriate that I admit to the same arrogance frequently found amongst designers. Namely, the belief that 'graphic design' is the only design-related term that doesn't need to be prefaced by interior, clothing, software, etc. in order to be placed in context. Furthermore, I believe we could ignore the introductory statement if we stop trying to apply design as a discipline to its digital/ online/ whatever permutations, or trying to define 'new media' design as a subclass of graphic design.” Thanks Zeldman.

CSS layout tests | To CSS | “I am working on a series of cross-browser CSS layout tests, and although I am not nearly finished, I posted an early draft of one to a mailing list the other day. I though you might like to see it too. It works roughly the same on IE5 Mac and PC, and NS6. It's close in Opera 5.”

Advertising: ESPN Uses a 'Hostile' Web Site | To Advertising | “Anxious advertisers are studying a myriad of methods to encourage visits to their World Wide Web sites, but few have considered a multimedia campaign to urge computer users to not visit their Web sites. But one big media company is undertaking just such an exercise in reverse psychology, with apparent success so far.”

Review of Speech Synthesis Technology | To Accessibility, Sound design/Audio | “This is a pre-study for a larger audiovisual speech synthesis project that is planned to be carried out during 1998-2000 at Helsinki University of Technology. The main objective of this report is to map the situation of today's speech synthesis technology and to focus on potential methods for the future of this project ... The objective of the whole project is to develop high quality audiovisual speech synthesis with a well synchronized talking head, primarily in Finnish. Other aspects, such as naturalness, personality, platform independence, and quality assessment are also under investigation.” Be sure to check out the Speech Synthesis Demonstrations page.

Template-Based Web Sites as Easy as P-H-P | To PHP | “PHP makes our lives easier. We began our exploration into the good life with What You Should Know About PHP. In that article I focused mainly on PHP concepts with a little script thrown in for fun. Now we'll delve deeper into the power of PHP and cover several strategies that will help you quickly set up a site that's easy to maintain and update.”


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XPLANE | The visual thinking company, is a group of artists, designers, thinkers and programmers dedicated to turning complexity into clear, effective, visual communication.

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