Monday, October 30, 2006

Web 2point2, Nov 9-10

I'll be attending the Web 2point2 uncoference (San Francisco, Nov 9-10). The event is organized by the energetic Chris Heuer of the Social Media Club (a project of BrainJams, Inc). Check it out, it's shaping up quite nicely. Will you be there?

Web 2point2

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Popup menus - Flickr vs. Google

A few weeks ago Google quietly opened up

While SearchMash is not branded with the Google brand, the fact that it is being operated by Google was quickly revealed and widely discussed:

(The lack of branding was explained by Google as an attempt to gather more objective data about user response to new interfaces).

The most surprising change for me was the behavior of the green link:

Screenshot: Google SearchMash search results
Since it looks like a link, and smells like a link, you'd probably expect it to - duh - behave like a link, and take you to the web page it points to.

This is not the case in SearchMash though. When you click on the green link, you get a *gasp* popup menu with options:

It's interesting to compare this to the approach taken by Flickr in their recent user interface revamp.

Looking at the menu toolbar on the top of the Flickr page, you'll notice a list of links, and a small arrow next to each one of them:

Now, it's interesting to note that unlike the Google interface, which sacrifices old habits to provide richer functionality, the Flickr menu manages to provide the richer functionality while retaining the class link semantics and behavior.

When you click the arrow, a drop-down popup menu opens up with a list of options:

Which is great. But, if you didn't notice the arrow, or you don't understand what is it supposed to do, you can simply click the link:

What's really nice though, is that once you click the link, you get the Latest Photos page - but you also get the same list of links which were in the popup menu listed at the top row of this page, so you're still able to navigate to them.

I find the Flickr choice of user interface a much better balance between retaining compatibility with existing habits and known metaphors, and providing new functionality.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Podcast me

I've used Talkr to add an automatically-generated podcast to this blog. Check it out, seems to work pretty well. Not sure how useful it is, but it makes me go "cool!", which is a good enough reason to add it :)
I've also switched to Firefox 2. I just love the built-in spell check. A long-overdue acknowledgment of the fact that so much of the content created today is created using the browser's text input box.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

But what if I'm offline?

Sitting in the Office 2.0 conference, after several days on the road, hopping from state to state, from one airport to the next one, from one flaky wireless connection to the next attempt to get connected, the following question posted to Yedda by one of the Office 2.0 attendees stroke a chord:

Yedda - People.Sharing.Knowledge.What happens to office 2.0 functionality when you ...

What happens to office 2.0 functionality when you don't have access to broadband (airplane, cottage, network goes down, etc)

Topics: , ,

Asked by jakerton on October 11, 2006

View the entire discussion on YeddaYedda - People.Sharing.Knowledge.

The same issue came up in the morning keynote interview, where Dan Farber interviewed Esther Dyson, who confessed she's posting to her blog mainly through email since she's so often traveling and offline and email works so much better in this scenario.

Karen Leavitt pointed out later, in the "Office 2.0, Where Are We" panel, that in the future, there'd be no offline or online, only choosing if I want to be offline or online. Most likely true, but I hate waiting.

We could put together different solutions for different applications - post to a blog through email, keep the Flickr Uploadr window open with new pictures, use an offline bookmarks manager that knows how to sync with delicious, etc. But this doesn't scale. It's not simple enough. It feels like a hack.

Creating a offline client client for each different applications would theoretically work, but is not very practical - it's expensive to build, and I feel that most of us are kinda tired of downloading (and trusting) so many different desktop clients.

Can we do it in a different way?

It'd be great if browsers would be smarter about offline vs. online, allowing the same bookmark to present an offline version when I'm not connected. So, the Yedda Ask page bookmark would still work when I'm offline, but would have reduced capabilities (for example, topics would not be automatically suggested), and would do something slightly different when the Post button is clicked.

It would be great to have the form posted data go into a "offline queue", and be posted to the online URL next time I go online.

But waiting for browsers to support new functionality is not a good idea, since at the current release rate, it means that we'll need to wait a year or two at best before we have this stuff up and running. And I hate waiting.

Can we hack this functionality today? Ideas anyone?

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