Archives for Category / Miscellaneous

  • Future Imperfect

    As I’m writing this, it’s a rainy morning in Vancouver, Canada. Nothing new. Spending time with friends that I don’t see but once a year near my birthday. In this case, I’m here to attend the IA Summit conference this week. This is my first non-US conference since IxDA Interaction 13 in Toronto.

    Looking back at that conference there were a number of things that stood out. A number of them became influential years later. One of them was a short lecture by a designer named Nate Archer called “Beyond Responsive”.

    Nate Archer: Beyond Responsive from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

    Well, four years later, those words seem prescient right now. The world has been filled with all sorts of devices that we access the web. More than just the trio of phone/tablet/desktop. Basically, any device that has access to the web is an access point – from watches to 4000K TVs. But there is another way of looking at this. Instead of “devices”, let us consider going in the direction of “inputs”. Responsive design appeared not just with mobile devices but devices which are also touch-enabled. Now, mobile devices are as ubiquitous as any household device, front-end developers like myself have to deal with coding for interactions that take place on touchpad as much (or even more) than mouse/keyboard. (Though we could be doing a better job at the keyboard then we are currently doing.)

    [Note: touch-enabled devices are not necessary phones/tables and doing feature support for touch is still a bit tricky]

    In some respects, the beautiful lie of responsive design is that the constraints are visual, via breakpoints and media queries? But what if those constraints aren’t visual. CSS has hidden artifacts describing inputs – media types. If one would look at the specs (https://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/media.html#media-types), the following types are supported:

    screen, print, speech/aural, handheld, tty, etc.

    Screen is the most familiar with print/speech following. But there’s tty? From the spec, tty refers to devices like terminals and teletypes. The later was a telecommunication device that has long since disappeared with the advent of email. But back in the day, it was considered important enough to be considered in the W3C CSS spec. Now think about the future. Someday, will we may consider mouse/keyboard interactions as obsolete as teletype?

    Now, we are seeing the advent of AI interfaces – sophisticated interfaces that allow access to the same information like we do with mouse/keyboard and touch.

    Which comes back to the conference I’m attending, IA Summit. This year’s topic is artificial intelligence and information architecture. The main job of a front-end developer is building interfaces for acquiring information. Obviously, things will change in the next couple of years. But change into what?

  • Post Ottawa

    Three months between posts. Sorry for the long delay. Been rebuilding…

    Conferences

    Conferences in late 2013

    Earlier in the year, I went to the IxDA Interaction 13 conference in Toronto, Canada. I have two more conferences for this year.

    Next week, An Event Apart DC in Alexandria, VA (another serving…).

    Then, in late October, CSS Dev Conference near Denver, Colorado.

    Charles

    View of Charles

    As of this entry, finishing contruction/testing of the WordPress theme. Will be writing blog entries related to the whole history/process of Project Charles. Debuting on Monday, August 5.

    August is going to be a busy month…

  • Building the Future, Day 1 – The Beginning

    Like all things, every story has a beginning. In this case, [Project] Ottawa started with the concept The Information Layer (2009). But what came before this?

    Well, it all started in Vancouver, Canada (February 2009) where I saw this film, in a lecture by BERG designer Timo Arnall:

    Wireless in the World 2 – http://vimeo.com/12187317

    In Wireless in the World, they were imagining wireless networks available in the surrounding environment. Now, this looks like an interesting film. But to me, it was a pretty eye-opening experience. You see, up until this time, I only viewed the Web as being static. That is, something that was only accessible from the comfort of a chair and a desktop computer.

    Step back for a moment. Now imagine all those dotted circles representing access points just like one of those desktop computers w/chairs. It would look funny at first but the main point is that each one of those access points is accessing data. They are accessing the same content I am through my desktop computer. If your concept of content is something that is seen through a desktop monitor, what does this do? The concept of having the same content available across all sorts of devices, being available at will – without the constraint of the standard web page format. Even without the author controlling how the information was displayed. The user now has the power not only to access the information but to display it in any fashion he/she wanted.

    That idea of information being free, not in the political sense but in accessibility, really changed how I worked. After that film and the lecture, I decided that my job as a front-end developer was not of creating layouts. My job became a person who tried to build products that allowed for easy access to information. Building the layout with excellent code was simply a means to an end. Improving upon the work simple meant improved access to information. Information, in my terms of my work, is equivalent to content.

    At this point, I was trying to find a way to explaining this way of thinking. It was only a few months later that I was looking at XSLT or XML transforms. Basically, it is a method of taking data in the form of a XML format and transforming into a format resembling a HTML web page. Well, XML is an open format, anyone can use it at will and modify the information to display it in any form they want. We have RSS feeds – XML format data streams that user can collect data and use. This is where all the dots began to connect. You see, XML or JSON, can carry content/information anywhere with the user applying the formatting.

    Going back to this point, I wrote some ideas and sketches which later became The Information Layer. What I realized was that the current UI model was not sufficient – it was simple not granular enough to fully describe what was happening at the time. One of the novel things I did was creating a separation of the Semantic (HTML) Layer from the Information (content) Layer. How important was this? It was very important because it depicted the free flow of information /content. It also displayed the fact that HTML has its own sense of meaning, which was further expanded with HTML5 semantic tags a few years later. This was not a new concept but was not fully realized until now.

    And so, that was the beginning. From here, I used this model for building my work.

    As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, Project Ottawa is simply the first practical application of the model. This was revised recently to deal with the concept of content, which will be the main focus point of Project Ottawa/Third Draft.

  • 2012 : Build The Future, Fight The Future

    O, wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
    That has such people in’t!

    Miranda, from William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1

    I thought I could organise freedom
    How Scandivavian of me

    Bjork, The Hunter

  • Fragile Creatures

    [Movie scene:]

    Midwest, no specific location. Motel on the side of the road, someplace where Route 66 might have gone through, but got superceded by The Interstate Highway. Instead of a two lane highway, it got the choice placement of being right next to a highway turnoff.

    Early hours (3-4AM). Sunrise is still a good hour or so away. Even with at this location, nothing is really moving. Quiet. Seems like the highway is asleep, just getting ready for the next work shift.

    In a room. Nothing unpacked. Double beds with a clean bathroom. Little decoration, at least the ones that could distinguish one room from another. I’m lying on a bed, writing pad open but haven’t written anything for about two hours. Laptop open, no files open.

    Changed positions in the bed, head facing the TV, remote control ready. Flip through the analog channels, then the digital. Evangelists/Salespeople working hard tonight. Gotta get their quota. Pitchmen are working hard too. Here, everything is for the buying, even if you don’t need it.

    [Start of background/scene music – Beth Orton’s “Don’t Need a Reason” from Trailer Park]

    Picked up a pen.

    Just write.

     

    If things had happen on course and on plan, I should have been writing this blog entry in a hotel room in Vancouver, Canada. 2011 was the year that I did so many things and traveled to so many places. It was also the year that I found how little it was in an instant.

    Historically, second year in every decade has always been the toughest for me, personally and otherwise. By November, I thought that I had escaped “the curse.”

    Then, a family member underwent surgery, removing a tumor from the colon. Thankfully, it was beign and little of the large intestine had to be taken out. She is recovering nicely and running around again. She is thankful to the Creator because it could have been worse. I am not so religious but I am just as thankful.

    But I’ve spent the remainder of the year having something I don’t have much need for: regrets. Just the “what if’s” and the “what would happen if’s.” I’ve done so much, only to realized that maybe I’ve done so little. In the middle of all this, I tweeted “Human beings are such fragile little creatures.”

    Yes, we are fragile creatures. We are these small, flimsy, little things, easily overwhelmed by a virus or a predator or an ice cream truck. Yet we do what we do. Living without much though of what might happen next minute, next hour, or even next decade.

    Carl Sagan had a quote from one of his books about human beings being capable of such wonderful dreams and horrible nightmares. One day, my world went from global to the size of a hospital room. And in some ways, it became even smaller, to the size of my own frame.

    In all this, I found out that I am the most fragile of all creatures.

    If form holds, this will be the worst of it this decade. Which means 2012 could be a big year and it looks like it could be one of the biggest years, work and personal. However, I have lots of questions. I’m a problem solver with the type of questions that can’t be solved with pen and paper. Not with the simple equation. Certainly, not with the wave of the magic wand I once had.

    A friend told me during this tough time to take everything one moment at a time. I could say that I readily took his advice. But I can’t lie. I’m the child of the five-year plan. And when that didn’t work, I reworked it and call it the next five year plan and so on. This time, I have nothing. At the point where I could have some of my greatest success, I have no plan and nothing to adjust. I was the Russian who had the plan for everything. Now, I am just a human being.

    Well, on New Year’s Eve, I’m here. At home. Not alone. With family and friends nearby. If there was one question that was solved, it was the quality of friends I have – better than I could have imagined.

    So, 2011 ends. 2012 start tomorrow.

     

    [End of movie scene:]

    Finish the scribbles and close the pad.

    In an instant, I’m in motion. Clean up a bit, collect my things, and turn off the TV. Step out and close the door. Quietly, as if a single squeak from the joints could shatter the windows.

    Get in the car. Don’t worry about waking anyone up. If they were awake, nothing you need to know about. Still quiet on the highway overpass. The only light sources are those from the highway and from the restaurants. It’s an alien world, as if the aliens took the 1960’s American tourists as a starting point and went from there.

    Close the door, twist the key, rev the motor. Then, just step on the gas and move. Not fast (who’s going to notice), just keeping the car in motion. A minute, I’m off tarmac and on asphalt, moving down the road. Passing the lights and signs, quietly without fanfare, slowly passing everything. Soon, I’m away from the light source, like a satellite heading for deep space.

    I pointed the car down the road, away from the highway, No signs. Just two yellow lines. If I’m lucky, I will get some direction from the sunrise.

    I’m going somewhere.

    That direction.

    [Last notes of the song fading out as the car fades into the dwindling night.]

  • Today, I’m Blowing Up My Code

    Seriously. http://twitter.com/#!/iwilsonjr/status/124622801914171392

    This is not a joke.

    If you are laughing at this, I understand. It still won’t change anything.

    Let me explain.

    In 2009, through contact with interaction designers, I saw the coming wave that we now call mobile. That wave moved so fast that it took everyone by surprise. Today, designers and developers are dealing with this via responsive design and other techniques.

    Now, what does it have to do with me. One day recently, I was tasked to revised some code I made in late 2009. Now, it was good by those standards but it has a few faults. Not perfect but usable and everyone was satisified.

    At the time, it was "Job done. Go to sleep."

    But I didn’t.

    (more…)

  • On Business Casual/Leisure Dress Days…

    Friday morning.

    I woke up, did a mile plus on the treadmill, got ready for work. Nice sunny day, last day of the work week and need to score some low-fat yogurt after work. Anyways, I got dressed in shorts, plaid short-sleeved shirt and (closed-toed) sandals. No fencing tonight – which means I can use the bike today.

    I got to the bus stop on my bike and another bus rider walked up to me. He was wearing black sneakers and mentioned that today was his company’s “Leisure Dress” day. Of course, he saw my sandals and mentions that it seems everyday, at least from his perspective, is business casual for me.

    Well actually it’s true, but I digress…

    This is when I replied with the following line:

    “I may dress leisurely for work. I just don’t work leisurely. Big difference.”

    Of course, I added some additional emphasis with the “Issac from The Love Boat” double finger point on “Big difference.”

    Now, he could have perceived that statement with some “attitude” but it wasn’t. We both had a nice smile and laugh afterwards.

    And it was so true…damn right.