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  • Wanderlust : February 2011

    Sorry for the month delay in blog entries but it’s been a non-stop rollercoaster of travel and events.

    Here is the shortlist of what happened in after the last blog entry and a few important things happening this month:

    WordPress DC Town Hall with founder Matt Mullenweg

    1.31.2001 – Washington, DC

    This event happened at Fathom Creative, down the road from CDG Interactive.  It was well attended and the sponsor even got an internet stream for online viewing and questions.  Matt was really relaxed, calm guest who talked about how WordPress was started (at the heart, WordPress started as a image gallery) and answered plenty of questions about it, running a business, some things in the works/future as well as what could be better. I asked about how it was doing in the mobile world and got the surprising answer (700% in two years! – with apps in almost every mobile platform).

    IxDA Interaction 11

    2.9-12.2011 – Boulder, CO

    Decided to arrive early to this conference (third time for me) to relax in Boulder and get to a workshop for the first time. However, I fell ill Tuesday morning and spent the following 24-48 hours in bed.  Missed the workshop but attended the full conference. I even got to attend an after-party on the first night (it was definitely an experience, especially the music and its location inside the Boulder Theatre). This conference was well attended and did not disappoint, concluding with the keynote speech from Bruce Sterling (design critic as well as sci-fi writer).

    All the keynotes as well as the individual lightning lectures were all interesting in one way or another.  However, the tone, in my perspective as a developer, was different in that were was more of a focus internally than the last two years. Whereas I was more in sync in the last two (especially with mobile coming up big during this duration), this was more internal than anything else.

    One of new additions to this conference was a day for design-related activities. In my case, it was geocaching, where I spend a few hours in the streets of Boulder playing hide-and-go-seek for hidden treasures. (Thankfully, I was well by then!)

    I will be doing a CDG blog entry on my geocaching adventure later on this month.

    Oh, BTW…it snowed 3-5” and went from single digits (Tuesday) to 60s (Sunday) in one week.

    You thought DC had crazy weather!

    Nixon in China

    2/19-20, 2011 – NYC, NY

    I packed bags again the following weekend, for a trip to NYC for The Met’s presentation of John Adams’ 1987 opera Nixon in China. I last heard this opera on CD a decade ago in college but the performance did not disappoint. Well sung by all the performers and John Adams (who conducted his own work) got a standing ovation.

    What was interesting about the opera, apart from the music, was the whole scenery. As a person who grew up during the last glimmer of the Cold War, some of the scenes were familiar from all the news broadcasts during this time (you know, when you only had TV and print).  The opening scene of the Nixons stepping out of the plane matched the videotape footage to a point where it was eerie.  Of course, the big irony, particularly those in the audience, is how much has changed in the almost 30 years that meeting.  As a point, during a scene in the second act, Pat Nixon was presented with a jade elephant. The official near her remarked "We can make hundreds of them cheaply!", which was followed with laughter (with a tinge of irony) from the audience.

    The second act ended with the agitprop play (the music the basis for a Adams’ stand-alone work The Chairman Dance), which really reminds someone of my age about the old Socialist/Communist displays in the 80’s, or more recently, in North Korea. Of course, the big irony is that so much of that change would start two years later.

    Leaving memory lane, I spent a quiet following day listening to three Shostakovich quartet (11th, 12th, and 15th) and Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue, Op. 133 at Bargemusic with the St.Petersburg Quartet. Back home on Monday (President’s Day).

    And that was my month of February.

    Will be returning to NYC for two concerts:

    • March 26 – NY Philharmonic/Avery Fisher Hall for Bartok’s 1st Piano Concerto
      — I will be able to say that I have heard all three concertos live – 3rd in DC/NSO (2005) and 2nd in Boston/BSO (2007)
    • April 16 – Met Opera for Berg’s Wozzeck
      — Heard Berg’s other opera Lulu last year

    Hopefully, things will slightly quieter further in the year.

    Later (multiple crossing of digits…)

  • EOY

    Early morning from hotel window, Vancouver, Canada - 12/31/2010

    As I am writing this, I am looking at a fabulous view from my hotel room in what some of my friends call my second home of Vancouver, Canada. Part of me needed to get away to here do some end-of-the-year evaluation and some focused thinking about 2011. Then again, I allowed myself to relax a bit during these last days of 2010 (and I watched the Canucks beat the Flyers 6-2 Tuesday night at the home area…)

    But there are some things that occurred during the year that I need to mention before the final ball drop closes the year 2010:

    Fencing

    If you had asked me at the start of the year if I was going to start fencing again, it would have been a firm “NO.” There was no motivation to start again and no one was really asking to do so. And all the focus that I had with fencing went into my work, which paid off big. Irony, the only people who ever asked about me starting up again were my co-workers at CDG.

    Well, after two years, I decided to try fencing again. It has been the only sport that I have some liking to. Not to mention, the least likely to get bored at.

    Another bit of irony is that I restarted with Olde Town Fencing, the club I left almost four years ago. Despite that, the warming response made the comeback easier. Definitely a reminder of why I fence in the first place.

    Despite dealing with various injuries the last month, I am determined to continue my progress and actually compete again after a 2+ year absence.

    Travel

    This year:

    • Savannah, Georgia (IxDA Interaction 10)
    • NYC for opera (The Nose and Lulu) and design (Cooper-Hewitt)
    • Seattle/Canada (Victoria and Vancouver I)
    • For my first time, travel outside the Americas with FOWA/London
    • Of course, Vancouver for end-of-the-year

    For next year:

    • Boulder, Colorado for IxDA Interaction 11 (February 9-12, 2011)
    • NYC for opera with Nixon in China (Adams) and Wozzeck (Berg)

    Project Charles

    Basically, stops and starts. At one point, it was dead in the water. At one point, I almost considered ending the project. However, I caught a break (and some motivation from Tame Impala’s InnerSpeaker album) and did the complete site mockups. Started to work on the HTML templates but delayed due to technical review from the last two conferences I went to. Both made me think about what I was doing and in the end, the decision to make some more substantial changes in my work.

    Restarting work on templates in early 2011 and hopefully finishing the new site by The Wilson Project’s 10th anniversary in April.

    Work

    High point was three conferences:

    • IxDA Interaction 10 in Savannah, Georgia
    • An Event Apart a few blocks from my office in Washington, DC
    • FOWA in London, UK

    Lots of work, punctuated with four blog entries and some other minor additions to the blog.

    However, lots of reflection on my work process, especially considering many of the changes that affected my position as a UI/Front-end developer.

    But more about that in the next entry in this blog…

    Epilogue

    In the end, I remember about ten years ago that I started what would become a 20-month unemployment period. Now, at the end of 2010, thing have changed so much. A number of things that I first experimented with such as XHTML and building pages without table layouts are now not only accepted; they have become the gold standard.

    Now, with Project Charles heading for the finish line (?) in April 2011, more changes are in the pipeline for the next couple of years. Hopefully, 2011 will be a good one, not only for me, but for my family, friends, and especially my co-workers at CDG.

    Happy New Year 2011 from Vancouver, Canada!

  • London and Back

    _DSC1607

    Just re-entered the country, after a week in London for the last FOWA (Future of Web Apps) conference for 2010. Take a while to settle down (not to mention get back to a regular sleep schedule). Spending a week going through all the notes and ideas from the conference. However, all this information will be slowly integrated for the remainder of this year. I was able to get some sightseeing, as well as going to The National Theatre (Hamlet) and a concert (BBC Symphony @ Barbican).

    Now, going home to DC to a stack full of work at CDG.

    Later.

  • Another Blog Entry for CDG’s Book Club

    Package, Book - HTML5 For Web Designers

    On the train back from NYC last Sunday (8/22), I got a chance to write not only the last blog entry (26.08.2001) but also one for CDG. In this case, it is the third CDG Book Club review. The book was Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers, a brief intro into the hottest topic on the web – HTML5.

    To buy this book – go to A Book Apart

    Interview with the author Jeremy Keith from The Big Web Show (5/7/10) – http://5by5.tv/bigwebshow/2

    BTW – The author will be in Washington, DC for An Event Apart conference on September 17th. Unfortunately, the conference has been sold out for months. However, there are some tickets still available for the one day workshop on Saturday, September 19th for HTML5/CSS3 with Ethan Marcotte.

  • HTML5 for Web Designers Book Review

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog)

    It’s back-to-school time, so here’s a pop quiz on today’s new buzz word: HTML5.

    1. What is it?
    2. Should I care?
    3. Should I worry?

    Answers: 1) see below, 2) yes, 3) not yet but soon enough

    So, now that you’ve taken the quiz, may I suggest a textbook? Specifically, HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith.

    Now, I’ve known about HTML5 for a while (and some of the preliminary work around it). But when I heard about this book, I was curious how much more information could I gleam from its pages about HTML5. Judging by the title, I thought that it would be just an introductory text for web designers (not necessarily for experienced web developers).

    But, I took a chance. I ordered a copy and waited. And the package arrived.

    And when I first opened the box and held the book, the first thing that popped into my head was “Wow, this is a pamphlet!”

    OK, not a pamphlet but a brief, concise book (under 100 pages).

    However, from the very first page, it was evident that conciseness is the intent of the author. What Jeremy Keith does, with good effect, is to give the reader a brief synposis about HTML5, bypassing W3C language. (Alert: W3C documents are so precise, they could turn a cake recipe into a DVD instruction manual.)

    Of course, he starts off by answering what HTML5 is and is not–not a new version, but a much-needed upgrade for building future web applications. This means it not only adds/removes features, but also adds more semantic meanings attached to the current set of tags (important for Internet devices like mobile phone or screen readers.)

    For the remainder of the book, Keith highlights some important features and gives bits of advice for the newly introduced. The best thing is that he engages the reader enough to encourage further study in HTML5, which is not easy. This book could have easily become just another five pound dictionary. Of course, he remarks that there are others more experienced with this and points to some online resources. (As I am writing this, a number of new HTML5 books have popped up in the stores.)

    In the end, the author does what he planned out to do – give a nice gentle push in the right direction towards HTML5.

    Now, if you don’t mind. I have a list of HTML5 books to read.

  • News On The Homefront

    002

    NYC IxDA Redux

    A big belated “Thank You” to IxDA New York for Interaction 10 Redux (3/6). It was nice to meet all the people who attended and to see all of the presentations that I missed at Savannah.  Would come back for another event hosted by the group if my schedule allow it.

    Of course, that means I have to start paying attention to the home IxDA branch as well.

    More Opera

    Ironically enough, after NYC IxDA Redux, I went back to New York for my scheduled vacation for Met’s performance of The Nose. This weekend, went back to The Met for Lulu, the Alban Berg opera composed a few years after The Nose. Same decade, different moods but both are considered some of the most avant-garde works of their time. This was the last performance for me this season. Already planning for attending two performances next season in 2011 — John Adam’s Nixon in China and Alban Berg’s Wozzeck.

    Futura

    If you have not noticed, the font has changed in this site. After the font change last year, I decided to re-evalute my choice and changed to the first choice of Futura. I like Super Grotesk and it was choosen because of its closeness to Futura. However, there were just some things that I felt were not right (weight, letter styles) for me. It was nagging me in the back of my mind for a few months. So I decided to go back to the first choice of Futura.

    I am still on the look out for any other Futura-like fonts but the right choice has been made right now.

    Recent Blog Entry for CDG

    Last week, finally completed a book review of Morville/Callender ‘s Search Pattern for CDG and posted on the blog. Interesting read and really changed my ideas about search engines and how search result can be displayed for easier use.

    I mentioned on Twitter (5/4) that this would be my blog for CDG for the next couple of months as I will be spending writing for this blog. A consquenence will be some important announcements about The Wilson Project and Project Charles, as well as some important blog entries.

  • Search Patterns Book Review

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog)

    After a few months’ hiatus, the CDG Book Club is back. In this installment, UI Developer Ivan Wilson discusses Search Patterns: Design for Discovery by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender.

    I first heard about the book Search Patterns during the IxDA Interaction 10 conference in Savannah, Georgia when I attended Peter Moreville’s lecture about The Future of Search. This brief book (less than 200 pages) interested me because it focuses less on technology and more on design. It’s not about Google or Yahoo, but on interaction designers and information architecture.

    That said, the main premise of the book can be summed up in the following statement:
    The problem of search is designing interfaces and processes that allow people to find things.

    Let us step back a moment. Is searching and finding two of the same things? Well, no. And that is a bit of a revelation to anyone, especially me who builds the front-end code for search pages.

    The book addresses two main points:

    1. Search is a not passive activity.

    What do we do when we go to a search page? Input term(s), click button, get results—right? But what happens when the results don’t lead to the information the user is looking for?

    The user isn’t some blank slate. Even if you’re just surfing around, you’re affected by a variety of filters–such recommendations from friends, past memories, etc. As users, we’re always judging whether a search result is right for us or just another dead end. If a user isn’t finding what he’s looking for, the problem isn’t necessarily an inadequate use of the search; it may be a user interface problem. In other words, the interface may not be adequate for what/how the user wants to find.

    2. Information need to be findable, not just searchable.

    Here, the authors approach the problem from the other end: those who create the content that is being searched. Especially on the web, content does not lend itself to being able to be found in an instant. It’s up to content producers and coders to make content searchable by using tools such as keywords or tags or database indexing. If you’re a business, you need to understand how to categorize products in a way that makes it as easy as possible for the user to find them via search (for example, adding information like ISBN numbers for books).

    Throughout the book, the authors detail different interfaces currently being used (faceted navigation, widgets, etc) in search. They also give glimpses into the future, with examples of search being tied in with social media like Twitter or Facebook. Also, the authors detail some of the methods the users take in searching for items whether in narrow or expanded focus.

    But in the end, designing for search engines will be about more than speed and accuracy; it will be more about having the process of finding easier. And that is what this book is about.