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Moving to Korea
July 28, 2007

After spending 6 years in Washington DC, and a combined 13 years in the States, we have decided to move to Korea as of August 9, 2007. You can find my new blog at www.strangesystems.com. See you there!


New venue
November 30, 2006

It's funny how that while nothing has changed on this site, it's looking dated.

It's the opposite from the physical world where everything gets older and decays, and one tries hard to stay the same, to maintain the newness as the day it was bought (I am thinking of my car). On the internet, everything gets newer and staying the same is actually the equivalent of getting older...

It's been a long while since I have posted to this site. I would encourage the few visitors to the site to visit my work blog at Forum One Communications where I post more regularly.


Garden State
March 15, 2005

It's pretty sad when I can't remember the last movie I watched. I think it may have been "Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind", but I can't be sure. With the Oscar Awards just gone by, there was a bunch of movies I wanted to see, but who has the time to sit down for 2 hours these days? (Unless it's Piglet's Big Movie with my 3-year-old for the 50th time).

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Using Wireframes (Revised)
March 07, 2005

Here is a much needed, much overdue updated version of the original Using Wireframes article. I've included more templates and stencils for OmniGraffle and Visio

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Bye-bye 35mm film
July 15, 2004

So I finally did it. I sold my SLR. I had a nice Contax RX that I had been using since 1994. It has been gathering a lot of dust lately. It took me a whole month to get enough courage to put it on eBay. Now it's gone.

I had been using a Canon G1, but got sick of how slow it starts us, and the dinky 30sec movie capture rate.

So I swapped one Carl Zeiss lens for another: Sony DSC-W1.

First response: "Wow, that's a huge LCD" - it comes with a 2.5" screen. Second response: "Wow, that's a fast startup!". No little melody or animation to keep you distracted while the lens sluggishly winds out. This Carl Zeiss jumps out at you.

Had concerns about battery life, but I got myself some PowerEx AA's and a charger and it's been working incredibly well. Spend a weekend in Shenandoah without running out (given I only took 80 or so shots).

The image quality is outstanding. 5MP makes a world of a difference from my 3.2MP days.

A photo of my Powerbook keyboard:

Now let's get closer:

The manual controls are a little lacking, since it only has 2 apeture stops. Couldn't get the water to blur as much as I want with this shot:

Not having regrets yet, but I can see myself going to a full digital SLR at some point :-)

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RSS re-addiction
July 14, 2004

My initial fascination with RSS feeds died with I realized that I can never keep up with all the information being stuffed down my throat. In retrospect, I think I O.D'ed through over subscription. I was subscribed to news, mac, IA, CSS and a bunch of other things I was interested in. Over-stimulation just killed all interest in RSS and I just went back to manually checking website when I wanted to. It was ironic that all that control over information lead to a sense that I was losing control.

So it was with some caution that I reapproached RSS through a wonderfully lite and free aggregator. This time I am only subscribed to a small select list of feeds:

kottke.org
A List Apart
AppleInsider
SimpleBits

I learned that you can now view Flickr by tags. What's this got to do with RSS? Well you can subscribe to the tag as a feed. Sweet. I just subscribed to the Cameraphone tag. There's something perversely voyeuristically-CNN'ish about all this.

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MIT Media Lab Website
June 11, 2004

For all the things I have read and books I have bought about the Media Lab, I have never been to their site.

It didn't disappoint.

It's hard to nail what I like so much about it, but I think is must be the appeal to the architect within me. The way that the transluscent planes extend to the vanishing point. May be it reminded me of Mies van der Rohe's orthagonal masterpiece, the Brick House that extends to infinity or his immaculate play with transparency and reflection in this Barcelona Pavillion.

Most of what you see on the Web these days (no little thanks to Mr. Nielsen) is very functional and useful. I think it must be the absolutely gratuitous use of gorgeous color and graphics that serve no apparent purpose that appeals to me the most :-)

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Interesting web redesign fee structure
May 25, 2004

The web is full of serendipitous connections.

One example: today, I was reading the article in the Washington Post about the how the US-led authority in Baghdad's website's design lifted directly from the Brooking Institution's newly designed site.

The artlcle goes on to say that Brookings had paid a lot for the design by Roger Black. As I was browsing through Mr. Black's site, I came across the firm's web redesign methodology. The last slide talks about how much the whole procedure costs:

Unlike traditional redesign, Black Line fees scale to the size of the site. Like software, we charge by the "seat", by the number of people on your team that will be handling the pages. The price per seat is $5000; the general range of a Black Line redesign is $15-50,000. Multiple Web sites my receive discounts.

Now how exactly does this work? Is that web masters or stakeholders? I can imagine a situation where this pricing may work well to mitigate the risk that comes with having a large group of stakeholders involved in the process.

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Web icons study
May 25, 2004

A great cross-comparison study of web icons across sites. It reminded me of the Appendix of Jakob Nielsen's Homepage Usability where he compares the use of homepage real estate, logos, search boxes, images, shopping carts across the 50 sites he deconstructs, but it's not as detailed or broad (or graphically appealing presentation-wise) as this one.


Boost your wi-fi signal
April 15, 2004

I've been suffering from dropped wi-fi signal on my Powerbook even in my humble 1000 sq. ft. apartment. Even with 802.11g. Might consider getting a Cantenna.

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ideo.com
January 15, 2004

ideo.com

IDEO is one of the most innovative design firms that engages in a wide range of design activities from the design of products, services, environment and digital experiences.

The company's website takes the approach, that images speak more loudly than words, and once you get past the uninformative splash page, you are offered a wide variety of pretty images to go exploring what IDEO has been doing and has to offer.

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MoMA.org
January 05, 2004

MoMA.org

This is a site that is well structured as it is beautiful. The image at the top establishes a strong visual appeal to each page, while the navigation elements on the left, provide clear links to the site content. This site is almost a text book approach to good IA design.

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New year, new category
January 05, 2004

One of my new year's resolution is to contribute more regularly to this site. As with any new year's resolution, I really don't know how long it will last, but I guess it's better than not committing to anythng at all. So I've decided to start a new category Website Studies with the idea that since I spend half my day surfing anyway, I may as well present sites that I think are interesting from an IA or design point of view. One a week may be stretch but we'll see how it goes.


Bubble 2.0
November 17, 2003

Been really swamped with work lately. Been juggling 4-6 projects almost every week for the last couple of weeks. One thing that has allowed me to stay sane and awake is leaving work at a reasonable time. It makes complete sense that this is one of the core practices of Extreme Programming.

It's not just me. A friend in NY is experiencing the same thing. Could this be the return of the "bubble"? The parallels are there. Certainly not bubble with a capital "B" though. Even Napster is also back, but it just ain't the same.

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The Happy/Sad George Trick
August 14, 2003

I was rolling around in tears after seeing the quicktime movie of The Spoon Trick on Simple Bits.

Another good trick is the "Happy/Sad George" [my title].

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Taking notes on my Palm
May 23, 2003

I finally dumped my pitiful Palm V (with it's teeny 2MB memory) and brought a Palm Zire 71 and a 256MB SD card. This thing is amazing. In many ways.

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Syndicating Content thru RSS
May 16, 2003

I'm back after quite an absence. No excuses - I going to try to be more disciplined about posting. Along with going to the gym and cutting down on caffine intake :-)

A co-worker, Jason gave a great brownbag presentation on RSS (or how to syndicate your site) yesterday that prompted me to:

1. Finally overcome my laziness and add an icon to the default Movable Type RSS feed on this site. (See XML image at bottom of right column. Orange kinda goes well with the green don't you think?)

2. Look into the matter a little further.

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Critique of the "unböring"
January 30, 2003

With much spam, IKEA launched its "unböring" community, where "non-professionals" are encouraged exchange tips on home design ideas. This prompted me to jot down a few thought about online communities.

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DHTML Rollover Menus
November 27, 2002

I've had to use dynamic rollover menu in two recent project. One out of choice, another because the client had previously used them. This prompted me to think it a good time to take a hard look at this method of navigation.

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Using Wireframes
September 20, 2002

Wireframes serve a central function in communicating the content and layout of each web page for internal discussion and client review as well as a blueprint from which graphic designers and web developers will derive final designs. It's importance, roles and implementations are discussed in this article.

* NOTE: I have updated this article. Please see Using Wireframes (Revised)

* NOTE: Also see Scaled Visio Wireframe Templates, Stencils

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Autmomatic Site Mapping Tools
August 02, 2002

I was looking for some automatic site mapping tools for a site re-design project I've been working on. I spent a couple of hours surfing C|Net's Download.com and went through practically all the apps I found when I typed in "Site Map" in their search engine.

I only found one that I liked.

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New York City & Usability
June 21, 2002

Until 10 months ago I used to live in and work in New York. A lot has changed since then: I moved to suburban Northern Virginia, bought a car and been blessed with a beautiful daughter.

Last weekend, I finally found time to take the whole family to visit New York for the first time since I left. It turned out to be a pretty miserable experience.

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The Beauty of Decay
May 30, 2002

I often find myself torn between the desire for the new and the attraction to the old.

It's something I inherited from studying architecture I suppose, where one is constantly creating something new with the knowledge that time will have an effect on that which is created.

Having worked on both physical and virtual structures, I often find myself reflecting on the nature of the passage of time registering on an object as decay.

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Elegant Hack mention
May 28, 2002

Since it was Memorial Day weekend and I had a little more time, I went through the server logs for the first time in a couple of months. To my surprise (and horror) I see a referrer from "http://www.eleganthack.com/blog". I don't recall telling anyone about this blog, which I kept more as a reminder to myself à la Memento than anything else.

But glad you found it. Thanks to Christina for mentioning the Using Wireframes post on Elegant Hack (5/27/2002).

I've been meaning to follow up the original article with one on actual examples, and another on tips on using wireframes as a common (sometimes flawed) language to interface with designers and developers (drawing from experience on a recent project). Now I have more of an impetus to do so.

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Printable format | Email article
May 14, 2002

Finally. I've added "Format for Printing" and "Email this article" features to the full article pages.

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Links section
May 07, 2002

Added links section. Accesssible through top nav bar. Enjoy.

Please email me with any recommendations.


Audio Tours Online
April 11, 2002

While doing research on a proposal for a museum's website information architecture, we were looking into something online akin to those handheld devices that look like oversized phone receivers that provide audio tours you can rent at most major museums.

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AIM Bots
April 11, 2002

Came across something interesting: An AIM-based (AOL Instant Messenger) interactive agent called SmarterChild. It's just like any other buddy, but a) it's not human and b) you can ask it short questions to get info on things like weather, movies, news, stock quote, games and so on. You can even ask it for translations (though it's not great), in the form of "translate I love you from english to french".

I haven't had this much fun with text based interaction with a machine since the early days of text base adventure games.

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Pogosticking
April 04, 2002

Eaves-dropping in on some of the threads on SIGIA-L list, I came across a very interesting term that Jared Spool brought up while discussing zoom-in zoom-out behavior:

Pogosticking.

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Five Minute Madness
March 30, 2002

Caught in the act :-)

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Shopping Carts for Content II
March 30, 2002

After posting "Shopping Carts for Content" on a IA discussion board, I received a lot of responses that were interesting. The following is a digest of what people (mostly IA's) had to say.

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Shopping Carts for Content
March 28, 2002

Looking for Using Wireframes?. It is here.

***

The "shopping cart" is a ubiquitous metaphor on the web. Everyone understands it (as Jakob will tell you). You browse product pages and when they find something you want to buy, you hit the button that adds the item to their shopping cart. Later when you are done shopping around, you proceed to "Check out" your shopping cart.

Other established tools are "Printer-friendly version of this page" and "Email this page". I get really annoyed at sites that have text content as their bread-and-butter who do not offer these two simple services.

So why hasn't anyone put the two together?

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Faceted Classification
November 28, 2001

Lately I've been hearing a lot about Faceted Classification. I'm not sure who was the first to coin it but it's a navigation method that seems to work very well when you have a large list of items you need to classify and browse.

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Online surveys
November 27, 2001

I've been working on a couple online surveys lately. I've been doing some research into how best to present online surveys. Here are some guidelines, tips and resources that I have been able to in the course of researching, executing and analysing the responses.

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