Tag Archive / mobile

  • 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?

  • The Secret Life of Forms

    CSS Dev Conference 2016 - San Antonio, Texas

    Slides – http://www.slideshare.net/IvanWilson3/the-secret-life-of-form-67435952
    Lecture – https://cssdevconf2016.sched.com/event/7Q0d/the-secret-life-of-forms-secretforms

    One of the highlights of the year was lecturing for the first time at a conference. In this case, CSS Dev Conference at San Antonio, TX. Basically, I decided to take some advice and take a chance. After sending my proposal, I was shocked and thrilled to be selected via anonymous vote in July.

    Of course, getting the talk ready was even harder than the waiting. It took months of writing and editing and practice. But I was able to get it together and delivered it a small audience at the conference on October 17, 2016. This talk was about UX, coding, and forms. However, it was peppered with things that I’ve done during the last ten years at CDG/Innate.

    That said, I want to thank my fellow co-workers – including Lisa Crotty for her advice, Brian Schlansky for his time and his ear while prepping the talk, and Scott Adams (company CEO) for letting me do one final practice in front of the company for a much needed warm-up.

    I also want to thank the other speakers at the conference in helping me not only relax but also giving me advice for speaking not just for the first time but also their experiences in giving lectures as well.

    And finally, I want to thank Christopher Schmitt, Ari Stiles, and Elizabeth Moore in helping me make my first-time experience as a lecturer a wonderful and memorable one. It means so much when for years I was attendee, to be not only speaking but giving back to the community that I respect.

    Thank you all 🙂

    Lecture - The Secret Life of Forms, left - notebook, right - presenter pass

  • 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.

  • A Brief Musing on the Supposed Separation Between Mobile and Desktop

    A couple of months ago, I was looking at a promotional video touting some new technology. Something that was written solely for mobile. They went on about their processes, that by focusing not on the desktop, they were saving file size and increased performance, which is all and fine. Anything to life better, especially on those days when I want information without waiting for everything to compose itself during the morning rush hour. But at the end of this, I wanted to ask this question (which, in hindsight, I should have added to the comments):

    Why should there be anything difference between the desktop and mobile?

    Before answering, think about it real hard.

    Don’t worry. I’ll wait…

    The current paradigm of mobile is based on two things; the mobile phone and the tablet. But isn’t this the same sort of think we had before – the PC as the desktop. Didn’t we got over this? I got over this years ago, especially when my previous job required me to work with both Windows and Linux.

    What I am thinking is that the current paradigm is just as short-sighted.

    Let me put it this way? In a year or less, why not see a mobile device become the desktop?

    Why not give the "desktop" have touch-enable events like its mobile cousins?

    What I am imagining is the mobile/desktop schism not just disappearing. It simply gets redefined.

    If my life is nearly almost located within the confines of my mobile phone, why not go all the way?

    Our perception of the desktop is that of the monitor tethered to an external hard drive and et. al. What about a rapidly approaching near future where our version of the "desktop" is a mobile device tethered to cloud storage.

    Just a thought?

    Don’t wait too long.

  • 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…)

  • Prologue from Chicago

    What does one write about on a two hour plane trip to Chicago?

    coding, mobile, Shadout Mapes, Churchill, and John Lennon

    Important? What does this mean?

    Well, you’ll find out in the next blog entry…

  • What’s in a Title (of a Block of Related Blog Entries and Other Assorted Writings)

    After a few months of delays, I am finally starting. But even figuring out the title seems to be a bit of a fight. Well, the title will be just simply enough The Information Layer.

    However, there is the “formal” name that gives more of an explanation of what this groups of writings will be about, based on the following:

    The Information Layer
    A group of writings/blog entries based on the observations of the mobile/web environment
    by Ivan Wilson

    Beyond that, still working on the initial step.

    Of course, I just realized that there are two initial steps and I have to figure out a way to work this out.

    Pain.