Ramblings & ephemera

Steve Jobs, genius

From Stephen Fry’s “Steve Jobs” (The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: 6 October 2011): Henry Ford didn’t invent the motor car, Rockefeller didn’t discover how to crack crude oil into petrol, Disney didn’t invent animation, the Macdonald brothers didn’t invent the hamburger, Martin Luther King didn’t invent oratory, neither Jane Austen, Tolstoy nor Flaubert invented […]

Refusing a technology defines you

From Sander Duivestein’s “Penny Thoughts on the Technium” (The Technium: 1 December 2009): I‘m interested in how people personally decide to refuse a technology. I’m interested in that process, because I think that will happen more and more as the number of technologies keep increasing. The only way we can sort our identity is by […]

How to deal with the fact that users can’t learn much about security

From Bruce Schneier’s “Second SHB Workshop Liveblogging (4)” (Schneier on Security: 11 June 2009): Diana Smetters, Palo Alto Research Center …, started with these premises: you can teach users, but you can’t teach them very much, so you’d better carefully design systems so that you 1) minimize what they have to learn, 2) make it […]

The watchclock knows where your night watchman is

photo credit: 917press From Christopher Fahey’s “Who Watches the Watchman?” (GraphPaper: 2 May 2009): The Detex Newman watchclock was first introduced in 1927 and is still in wide use today. &hellip What could you possibly do in 1900 to be absolutely sure a night watchman was making his full patrol? An elegant solution, designed and […]

Steve Jobs on mediocrity & market share

From Steven Levy’s “OK, Mac, Make a Wish: Apple’s ‘computer for the rest of us’ is, insanely, 20” (Newsweek: 2 February 2004): If that’s so, then why is the Mac market share, even after Apple’s recent revival, sputtering at a measly 5 percent? Jobs has a theory about that, too. Once a company devises a […]

ODF compared & constrasted with OOXML

From Sam Hiser’s “Achieving Openness: A Closer Look at ODF and OOXML” (ONLamp.com: 14 June 2007): An open, XML-based standard for displaying and storing data files (text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations) offers a new and promising approach to data storage and document exchange among office applications. A comparison of the two XML-based formats–OpenDocument Format (“ODF”) […]

My new book – Google Apps Deciphered – is out!

I’m really proud to announce that my 5th book is now out & available for purchase: Google Apps Deciphered: Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop. My other books include: Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox Hacking Knoppix Linux Phrasebook Podcasting with Audacity: Creating a Podcast With Free Audio Software (I’ve […]

To solve a problem, you first have to figure out the problem

From Russell L. Ackoff & Daniel Greenberg’s Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track (2008): A classic story illustrates very well the potential cost of placing a problem in a disciplinary box. It involves a multistoried office building in New York. Occupants began complaining about the poor elevator service provided in the […]

To combat phishing, change browser design philosophy

From Federico Biancuzzi’s “Phishing with Rachna Dhamija” (SecurityFocus: 19 June 2006): We discovered that existing security cues are ineffective, for three reasons: 1. The indicators are ignored (23% of participants in our study did not look at the address bar, status bar, or any SSL indicators). 2. The indicators are misunderstood. For example, one regular […]

The Vitruvian Triad & the Urban Triad

From Andrés Duany’s “Classic Urbanism“: From time to time there appears a concept of exceptional longevity. In architecture, the pre-eminent instance is the Vitruvian triad of Comoditas, Utilitas, e Venustas. This Roman epigram was propelled into immortality by Lord Burlington’s felicitous translation as Commodity, Firmness and Delight. It has thus passed down the centuries and […]

Vitruvian Triad terminology

From “Good Architecture“: In ‘building architecture’, for comparison, we have the 3 classic Vitruvian qualities to which ‘GoodArchitecture’ aspires: ‘Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas’ (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio ‘The Ten Books of Architecture’ 1st C AD). These qualities may be translated as: ‘Technology, Function and Form’ (C St J Wilson ‘ArchitecturalReflections?; Studies in the Philosophy and Practice […]

The structure & meaning of the URL as key to the Web’s success

From Clay Shirky’s “The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview“: The systems that have succeeded at scale have made simple implementation the core virtue, up the stack from Ethernet over Token Ring to the web over gopher and WAIS. The most widely adopted digital descriptor in history, the URL, regards semantics as a side conversation between […]

The history of tabs (card, folder, & UI)

From Technology Review‘s “Keeping Tabs“: Starting in the late 14th century, scribes began to leave pieces of leather at the edges of manuscripts for ready reference. But with the introduction of page numbering in the Renaissance, they went out of fashion. The modern tab was an improvement on a momentous 19th-century innovation, the index card. […]

Tools vs. tasks

From Adam Fields’s blog post, "Unthrilled with the Office 12 UI": Over many years of designing custom content management interfaces for lots of people to use, it became crystal clear that there’s a huge difference between a “tool” and a “task”. A tool is a function that lets the user do something, but a task […]