31 December 2007

Google Maps My Location beta

In Google's recent Google Friends Newsletter we have this tidbit:

Google Maps for mobile, now with My Location (beta)

GPS-enabled mobile phones continue to rise in popularity - but most of us do not have that capability. Now, with the latest version of Google Maps for mobile, you can use the new My Location (beta) technology that uses normal cell phone towers to provide you with approximate location information. It's not GPS, but it comes pretty close. http://www.google.com/gmm

Cool stuff. The really interesting thing about this is the ability Google could eventually have to track location and correlate that to better target ads on the iPhone.

29 December 2007

More iPhone Features

If the folks over at Gear Live have the scoop on the newest iPhone firmware update, it looks like it will add some very cool features. My favorite will absolutely be the "Locate Me" feature added to the Google Maps application. Gear Live servers are slammed right now, but here are some of the small resolution images that look very authentic to me. With every iPhone software update, phone manufacturers everywhere are wishing they had a reliable way to distribute fixes and add features. Apple really has a competitive advantage with their ability to update the iPhone in the field.

12 September 2007

Workspace Traditions

Every company, every team has their different traditions and specific culture and Microsoft is no exception. Christian Buckley of BlueBadgeMojo.com pokes some fun at what I think is a Microsoft specific tradition of "decorating" offices of people gone for an extended period of time. I remember carting in sand for a "beach house" office decoration way back. Where did it all start? I guess I'll never know.

What funny workspace traditions do you have? Have you seen the office decoration thing outside of Microsoft?

15 August 2007


One of the great benefits of working at Microsoft is that when you add a new little one to your family, you get 1 month of paid paternity leave. Recently, we've had the opportunity to take advantage of this benefit. Since our little baby was born, I've been home working as Mr. Mom. I've been mostly offline, except for early mornings and late nights when the kids are sleeping. My boss isn't going to like it, but since I've been gone for paternity leave, I've logged on to my work email only once, and that was just to make sure my out of office emails were working. Needless to say, I've been happily busy with family.

I haven't been so busy that I didn't catch Apple's announcement regarding their new iWork application, Numbers. I haven't bought a copy, or logged into work to see what others are saying about this announcement, but I'm guessing it's much like when Apple announced Keynote for the first time. A combination of deep respect for Apple's software and design capabilities, coupled with sense of, "Let's get back to work and make something great!" kind of attitude.

What follows are some of my personal feelings that I've considered amidst making meals and playing at the park with my kids. I don't in any way attempt to speak for MacBU or Microsoft, these are just one person's opinions, specifically mine. And yes, I do work in MacBU, and yes I can't share everything I'd like to say for obvious reasons. So, here goes:

Once upon a time, it was decided that we needed to move to a more open file format. XML was the obvious choice. There were and are a lot of good reasons for opening up your file format. I'm not going to discuss these at length, but one of these in particular is that folks are not forced to use your application to both read and write files that others can use. This is a good thing.

Allowing anyone to read and write your file format is a bold move because it says in essence, "We don't need a locked down file format to compete. The format can be available for everyone, and we'll compete on the ease of use and efficiency of our applications. We have what we think is the best interface for reading, creating and managing Office documents, but if someone has what they think is a better way to build Office documents, wonderful, we welcome it!"

What Apple has done with Keynote, Pages and Numbers is exactly this. With each one of their applications, they've created a user interface that reflects how they think people want or should want to act when building a presentation, document or spreadsheet. I've been in this market for a long time, and obviously have opinions about how things should be done. If someone else has what they think is a good solution for building Office documents, I think that's great.

From another perspective, I think Apple's work on Numbers underscores that despite the large advances being made in web interfaces, there is still a place for rich client applications. Both iLife, iWork and even the Google Maps application on the iPhone reinforce that there's lots of opportunity left for innovation in the "rich client" arena. Numbers specifically proves there's opportunity left for innovation in the productivity applications space. I certainly think there is, and folks who think that the problem space that Office lives in is "essentially solved", should think again. There's plenty left to improve. Plenty. That's what makes it exciting.

Some have said, "I bet MacBU is envious of Apple being able to start from scratch." Now that's a loaded comment. Let me try to address the different parts. First the envious thing. Apple is a great software company and at Microsoft, software is pretty important too! ;-) At the very core of MacBU is the desire to produce great software for the Mac platform. When the business unit was created, the whole goal was to focus our energies on producing seamless and compatible, but very Mac, applications. There are a certain set of problems one must focus on when working on Mac Office. There's another set of problems one must focus on when working on iWork. You trade problems sets, but they are just different problems sets! The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Most people with significant software experience will know that "starting from scratch" is one of the most risky and difficult things to do. I don't think anyone is excited about scrapping years worth of effort just to have a clean start at things. From a programming perspective, that just makes no sense.

Also, Apple isn't starting from scratch. They are building methodically on the several foundations they've laid over the years in Keynote, then Pages and now they've added Numbers. One might even say that, Numbers is Keynote and Pages with better table and function support, and not be too far from the mark. This kind of progressive building together is what Microsoft did with Office originally. There's a pattern here. The bigger questions in my mind are really these: "Will Apple's software foundation allow them to add to and improve their software for the next 20 years? What will be the rate of their improvement?"

Lastly, in a very real way, we do "start from scratch" every product cycle. I wish you could all experience the high energy and exhilarating discussions we have when we are planning for the next version of Office. We "wipe the slate clean" and do our best to remove all inhibitions and constraints when we think about what we can do next with Mac software at Microsoft. And this doesn't just happen in MacBU. My favorite example of this, right now, has to be the new UI in Win Office. Maybe someday I'll write about that more in-depth, but the way that Ribbon interface elevates access to the many features of Office and makes Office easy to use is just wonderful. Anyone who's serious about interaction design in software should take a serious look at what this interface does and how it does it. There's a great deal to be learned, not the least of which is that sometimes you need to dramatically re-think the user interface of your application and not be afraid to do exactly that.

Finally, as in the past, the question will undoubtedly be asked, "What is the core value of Office on the Mac?" I'll answer that with one word: compatibility. Mac users are the kind of people that want things to "just work" and Microsoft Office for the Mac offers that exact value proposition. Mac users want to enjoy all the great things that make the Mac experience wonderful, but still be able to share documents and communicate in a Mac way in a Windows dominated world. MacBU is categorically in the best position to deliver on this promise of compatibility.

07 August 2007

A Clear Vision

One of the most important responsibilities of a great leader is to clearly define the goal, the vision, the what and why stuff, so that everyone can understand and really "buy-in" to the deal. Steve Jobs just did this masterfully in the Q&A session following an Apple press event:

Is Apple’s goal to overtake the PC in market share? Jobs said, “Our goal is to make the best personal computers in the world and make products we are proud to sell and recommend to our family and friends. We want to do that at the lowest prices we can.

“But there’s some stuff in our industry that we wouldn’t be proud to ship. And we just can’t do it. We can’t ship junk,” said Jobs. “There are thresholds we can’t cross because of who we are. And we think that there’s a very significant slice of the [market] that wants that too. You’ll find that our products are not premium priced. You price out our competitors’ products, and add features that actually make them useful, and they’re the same or actually more expensive. We don’t offer stripped-down, lousy products.”

Independant of the PR value of these statements, these words "make meaning" for Apple's employees who, in the end, are their most important customers.

Update: MacWorld has posted the audio of the question and Job's fantastic response here

19 July 2007

Be Microsoft

I love working on the Mac. I enjoy working in MacBU. These days, however, I'm not so thrilled about the vibe hanging around here at Microsoft as a whole.

We seem to have lost our self-confidence. There is a general and constant focus on "the other guys" these days. It's like everyone is continually contemplating competitive response, rather than acting for our customers. First it's open source software, then it's Linux, then it's Google, now it's Apple. Tomorrow it will be something or someone else. Least someone misunderstand, I'm all for looking out for the competition, but if all your focus is on how to respond to some perceived or real competitive threat, how will you ever be able to innovate, come up with something original or surprise and delight your customers? It's just paralyzing.

I wish folks would just realize that we are not going to be all things to all people. That's okay. We've got a job to do, and we have a very reasonable opportunity to do some very wonderful things. Let's stop worrying about the competition, or about what we can't do just yet. Can't we just focus on making our customers amazingly happy? Perhaps I'm too simplistic, but if we do just that, I really think everything else will work out.

I feel like we've lost our identity looking at and comparing ourselves with others. The insecurity and lack of confidence seems to be everywhere. You can see it in the way employees "defend their Microsoft position" rather than "just tell the story" because it's a good one.

It wasn't always like this.

What's totally ironic about this present situation is that this is exactly where Apple was, only a few years ago. In an interview at the "All Things Digital" Conference this year, Steve Jobs said this about that time at Apple:

[There was this belief that] for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose, and it was clear that you didn’t have to play that game because Apple wasn’t going to beat Microsoft. Apple didn’t have to beat Microsoft. Apple had to remember who Apple was because it had forgotten who Apple was. So for me it was pretty essential to break that paradigm.

There is space in this big old world for everyone, Apple, Google, free software and yes, even Microsoft. We don't have to be Apple to be successful. We don't have to be Google either. We just need to be Microsoft.

17 July 2007

Thoughts from Dad

I have a great friend in my Dad. He takes time to listen to me. He tries to help me. Our conversations are not so much about some grand conclusion as they are about exploration and discovery. Recently he sent me an email follow up to a conversation we were having. Here's what he wrote:

1. I am different. So I need to figure out how others think, because they don't think like I do.

2. Learning about change is not changing.

3. Most people agree that improvement and change is needed, until it means they have to change.

4. Getting someone to want to change is hard.

5. The power of the group, has something in it that facilitates change. (Carl Rogers)

6. Most leaders say, "You need to do this... You need to change... Good luck! See you later." Instead of, "You can change. I can help."

7. It's important to setup an environment that balances building the person and getting the job done.

Man, I love my Dad.

12 July 2007

Can it be? Yes it is...


Note: Many thanks to Andy Klepack for the Hi-Def image. Food and beverages not included. :-)

Sharing Music with the iPhone

There's a cool little feature I just discovered thanks to a friend at work. If you are on a phone call, and turn on your iPod music, everyone on the call can hear your music! Also, the volume controls for the phone call and the music are separate so you can have some nice background music to your call while still being able to hear soft voices loud and clear. I can't decide if this is a designed in feature or a happy side-effect of something else, but I think it's cool.

09 July 2007

iKnow iDeas

A fun parody of Apple. The product? Paper napkins.

The GM of MacBU wants to talk to You!

The general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft is Craig Eisler. He's been here now for just over 4 weeks. It's been fun to watch him step into his new role and if nothing else watch as everyone adjusts to a new dynamic leader. Craig seems to be just that, a high energy, leader. His transparent nature and naturally positive perspective on things has just instantiated itself on our official MacMojo blog. He's asking for suggestions on what you'd like to see different, feature requests, even topics that you'd like to see him personally address on the blog. Right now there are only 39 comments. Please, if you've ever wanted MacBU to do "X" differently, now is your chance. Get in there and leave a comment.

08 July 2007

Designing the Dreamliner

Today at 3:30 p.m. PDT, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner will rollout for the world to see. You can view the live webcast at www.boeing.com or watch it on Satellite TV. (576 DirectTV or 9601 DishNetwork).

Boeing hired a design firm Teague, to help them from the very beginning to build the Dreamliner. John Barratt, the CEO of Teague, gave some perspective on what it was like to work on designing the Boeing 787. You can watch the 10 minute interview here.

First, notice the importance placed on empathy and ethnography in the beginning of the design. They had their team travel around the world 5 times in economy class before they started! Wow. I think it's this kind of experiential learning that's needed to really understand your customers. They went to this trouble to improve their empathy so they could understand what can't be observed and also did the ethnographic research to understand what can be observed. I think it was also this kind of experiential foundation that allowed them to deliver things like larger windows, better air purification, more humidity in the cabin, and more open space.

Second, notice how important the transition from the walk way to the airplane cabin is to him. The whole feeling that "You've made it! Sit down and relax! We'll take care of you." is really communicated subtly in the curved lines, high ceilings, the lighting and open areas. I love how they increased the size of the windows! Also, the windows don't have plastic shades, but look to be touch activated and have some kind of "fade shade" effect like glasses that automatically become darker when exposed to the sunlight. Nice.

Third, notice how they had some amazing breakthrough concepts at first, but then when 9/11 hit, they had to give up their prized designs and adjust to the market. Making a really fast plane gave way to making a very efficient one. I often think about design as the skill of choosing what not to do. I guess we'll see if they made the right choice. I think they did. But, it must have been just dreadfully difficult for the designers to give up their 1st design. My hat's off to them for this alone.

Lastly, notice what a big part prototyping was given in the process. You really don't know how it's going to feel until you can experience it, and they did that by putting the designers close to the engineers and mocking up the whole cabin where they could physically iterate on the experience. Very, very cool. As he said, "You've got to prototype it and validate it."

The 787 is a big bet for Boeing. I hope they do well, and not just because I'm cheering for the home team, but because we could all use a big old object lesson in the importance of designing experiences in the aviation industry. Hopefully the airline companies will someday pay this much attention to the whole flying experience.

05 July 2007

The Courage to Help

Let me begin by stating that I unabashedly love the United States of America. It is just wonderful to live in the United States of America. There are problems to be sure, but these are had everywhere. On the other hand, the blessings experienced here are only found elsewhere in relatively small pockets. When you go to live someplace else, you learn that not only do you trade old for new in food, scenery and culture, you also trade major problem sets. The old proverb about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, elucidates the ease with which human judgment can be prone to error.

I don't think I can be called a world traveler, but I have had some experience outside of the US. I lived for two years in the jungles and deserts of the northeastern Brazil. I've visited Ireland, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. There are real families, real life and all that that entails everywhere. I feel confident in saying that the privileges I often took for granted, no longer seem to me the normal and the natural affair of mankind. They are not. In so many ways we live today at the tip top of human existence.

Yesterday was July 4th, Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. It was on this day that a group of brave men and women signed and fought for words like these:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Remembering on the Fourth of July that the extraordinary blessings I experience were not always so normal, is always very humbling for me. This year however I learned a bit more about that tempestuous and tenuous time of early America and I thought I'd share an insight I had.

Choosing to revolt against the King of Great Britain was with out a doubt insane. These 13 colonies had little money, a comparatively minuscule army, few weapons, little training and not much of a plan. What they did have was a belief that what they were doing was right. In their effort to show their faith, others were inspired by their cause and came to their aid. These others were Spain, the Netherlands and France. Men like General Lafayette, a French military officer, were moved to action. Said he of America:

The moment I heard of America I loved her; the moment I knew she was fighting for freedom I burnt with a desire of bleeding for her; and the moment I shall be able to serve her, at any time, or in any part of the world, will be the happiest of my life. - Marquis de Lafayette, Letter to Henry Laurens (then President of Congress), April 1777

With the help of the French, men like Lafayette and others, independence was ultimately achieved.

When a new nation forms, things are ever so fragile, chaos and fear so, so close at hand. I am thankful that a country far away, saw a distant tyranny so many years ago, and didn't choose to ignore it. I'm thankful that they had men, like Lafayette, who would be willing to sacrifice their lives for others to whom they had no reason to give anything. More specifically, this year, I'd like to thank the French who's sacrifice in large measure sustained a young and vulnerable nation. Their choice, so long ago, has made a way for my life, my liberty and my pursuit of happiness and I will be forever grateful.

Without the help of others, there likely would be no USA. Without those who were in a place to help actually choosing to help, the cause of freedom would have been snuffed out once again. For me, the lesson is this: even for causes with great ideals and great men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams leading the way, the US still needed help from others, or it would have all been some small footnote in some history book today. Back then we needed those with the courage to help, and we still need each other today. Really, it was a miracle that it all worked out.

03 July 2007

iPhone User Guide: The Anthropomorphic iPhone

Apple has posted their iPhone User's Guide for all those of you who can't get a hold of one, and all throughout are references to 'iPhone', not 'the iPhone.' One example follows:

To activate iPhone:

1 Download and install iTunes 7.3 (or later) from www.itunes.com.

2 Connect iPhone to a USB 2.0 port on your Mac or PC using the dock and cable that came with iPhone. (Don’t connect iPhone to the USB port on your keyboard—it does not have enough power.) iTunes opens automatically.

3 Follow the onscreen instructions in iTunes to activate iPhone and sync iPhone with your contacts, calendars, email accounts, and bookmarks on your computer.

Why would Apple do this? No one talks this way. What are they getting out of this grammatical detail? At lunch a few of us discussed it and the only thing we could come up with is that it anthropomorphizes the iPhone, and that some how makes it more, uh, human or something. I admit, it's kind of weak. Any other ideas?

iPhone Applications

When Apple announced that the "sweet" iPhone Software Development Kit was going to be AJAX and "Web 2.0 stuff", most developers scoffed. A few went to work, and now we are starting to see some web applications built specifically for the iPhone.

First up is a very nicely designed shopping list application named OneTrip. It was the first iPhone application released as far as I can tell. It's also my personal favorite.

Then 37Signals Ta Da List web app simply senses if you are hitting their website from an iPhone and adjusts to look like this:

OmniGroup is working on a version of their getting-things-done application OmniFocus for the iPhone and they have some screenshots online here.

Notice how these iPhone web apps follow or try to follow very closely the iPhone look and feel. This is a testament to how these developers really get the "build the experience" ethos. That said, even with all this focus on looking "iPhone-like" without the smooth transitions, it's really quite a different feel.

An attempt at a full list of all iPhone web apps can be found at iPhone Application List, but be prepared for some ugly looking iPhone apps. I think the delay in releaseing a "real" iPhone SDK may actually help cement the iPhone experience. With a solid customer expectation of what it means to be an "iPhone app" this could actually lead to an better user experiece with all 3rd party iPhone applications long term. Let's hope!

Apple's official documentation and guidelines for developing for the iPhone are located here: http://developer.apple.com/iphone/


You may have heard the saying, "It's the journey, not the destination." I like this saying, but I have never applied it to user interface design.

Normally, when prototyping or sketching up a UI design, I focus on the end states, the screenshot. Once you have that, you link screenshot to screenshot in a kind of storyboard that shows the process the user will follow to accomplish a task. Most of the time, these are just paper sketches. Sometimes I'll do some high fidelity screenshots, but normally the sketches are enough.

What's amazing to me about the iPhone experience is how much time Apple spent, not on the end states, but the transitions through and to the end states. I'm really starting to think that what makes you feel so great about the device is just as much the easy to use screens, but the ease and smoothness of "getting there." The "journey" through the iPhone interface is filled with great transitions from beautiful state to beautiful state. It really is just as much about the transitions as it is about the destination.

I started to think about other great experiences that I've had at restaurants, shopping, even a few websites and I realized that a very large part of what made them so enjoyable was really the way they managed the transitions. Every step of the way was cared for, curated really. I've always known the "out of box experience" was important, and the functional flow through the application critical, but designing the visual flow through each functional transition, this is a whole new idea.

Apple Form Factor Evolution: 1976 through 2007

Core 77, one of my favorite design blogs, links to Edwin Tofslie's visual time line of Apple products from 1976 to the present day. Very cool. Print this out, then put a mark by each device or accessory you've personally touched at least once. It's the perfect Mac User Group conversation piece. :-) Enjoy the walk down memory lane.

iPhone Envy

Admittedly, my sample is skewed, but I have yet to talk to anyone at work who doesn't want an iPhone. Even the skeptics, after playing with one in person have tried to purchase one. Tried and failed only because every store in the state of Washington is sold out right now. There's even been some talk about iPhones as our ship gifts for Office 2008, but I think that's just a vicious rumor. The universal reason for not getting one: finances. I'm not saying that Apple over priced the iPhone, but that the iPhone is so compelling that no one is saying they don't want one. Everyone does, just not everyone has figured out how to work it out financially just yet. Now that's impressive.

02 July 2007

The 1.0 that wasn't

From what I can gather, the biggest problems with the iPhone seem to be as follows, in order of severity:

  1. You can only use AT&T network

  2. The EDGE data network is slow

  3. The keyboard takes some time to learn

  4. Making a phone call can take more "taps" than with other phones

  5. No way to Cut, Copy or Paste

(I'm leaving off the list the fact that so many are having trouble activating their phones. I think this is AT&T's capacity planning problem, and I don't think we'll see this happen again.)

This is remarkable. The iPhone is NOT a simple device. It is a complex feature-laden phone, iPod and web device. And with all this functionality, the most folks can do to complain about it is reference something related to the items above.

This phone flies in the face of all those who think that 1.0 products must be either fully focused on one task to be done well, or those that consider 1.0 products something you should avoid by default until the next release, you know, the one with all the bugs worked out. The iPhone while complex and full of features, does have a simple interaction and experience. It is so compelling and just fun, that to miss out on this version while waiting for the "next rev" seems almost unbearable, once you've played with it. As others continue to market proudly their "alpha" and "beta" stickers, Apple shows us all, that you can deliver a 1.0 experience that really is complete.

What it means to be 1.0 will never be the same.

iPhone Activation and Sync

Before we knew the iPhone was real, the common wisdom was that in order for Apple to make the experience something of acceptable quality, they'd have to own or at least rent the cell network. Take a look at this iPhone activation and sync video. This is clearly an Apple experience, simple, clear and elegant. Apple is doing what it does best, and AT&T is doing what they do best. This is how every business partnership should be.

Doing activation and sync away from the store allows Apple to control the "out of box experience" which I think is key. You don't get an iPhone without your calendar, contacts, pictures, music and videos. If you did get a phone without all the above personalized data, the first time experience would be decidedly different. From a logistics and spontaneity perspective it also allows people to buy the iPhone quickly, cash and carry, and allow them to do the longer part of the process in the comfort of their own home. No pressure, everything at your own pace. This is designing an experience, not a phone.

29 June 2007

Rubber Edges

I spent some time today playing with the iPhone and there's one interaction I just love. It's that when you scroll to the edge of the web page, the iPhone allows you to drag/scroll as far as you like past the edge. It just lets you stretch right past the edge into the "grayness", but when you do let go it pulls back to the end/edge of the data being displayed. It's like the iPhone is saying, "You're in control, but there's no more data over there. Honest, but if you want to go there, sure, you can. But I'm telling you there's nothing there. See, I told you, nothing there. It really is the end." This is very clever. It gives you both a sense of control, but also a sense of boundary. It's like the difference between a corral with split pole fences and one with electric fences. Both define the boundary, but with one, finding the edge is much more unpleasant.

26 June 2007

iPhone. A Guided Tour.

This week Apple has released a 20 minute guided tour of the iPhone that shows in great detail the new user interface. You can download the high quality version here.

Apparently there are millions of people excited, even hysterical, about the iPhone's release this Friday. I must be out of the core news/media channels, but I haven't felt the fervor as much as it seems others have. That said, I'm very interested in a phone that "just works" and the iPhone has every indication of being just that. If this post adds to your hype pain, I'm sorry.

While the demos and ads for the iPhone thus far have been persuasive, they really didn't show all the details about the actual user interaction with the iPhone. Not so with this guided tour. If you are on the fence about the iPhone, this 20 minute tour will at the very least, make you want to visit the store and try it out.

Some of the things that caught my attention from a user experience perspective follow:

Everything moves very fast and fluid. Seriously, I'm so used to delays, even on my Mac, this responsiveness really makes you feel in control.

They actually show someone typing on the keyboard with their thumbs, but mention that you shouldn't try it for a week and until you've learned to "trust the intelligence of the keyboard." Personally, I have a hard time believing any touch screen keyboard can be better than something with real tactile response. That said, I tend to see small devices as mostly read only for me. I don't plan on doing major data entry on my phone. Add an appointment, respond to simple text message, type quick answer to an email, add a new phone number to my contact list, sure, but if I end up "living on my phone" I think I've got bigger problems than even a tactile keyboard will solve.

I cannot for the life of me figure out how you are supposed to tell the keyboard to "auto-complete" with the word suggested. I think it's hitting the spacebar, but I can't tell if that's just for spelling corrections or for auto-compelete as well.

It seems like the double tap is taking the "get me more info about this item" that the double click has represented on the Mac for so long. What is interesting is that they are adding to this gesture the sense of "I'm done now, get me out of here." For example in Safari a double tap both zooms in and zooms out. But this behavior is not consistent. In the Google Maps application, to zoom out, you need to tap once with two fingers. So, no zooming out while driving. ;-)

When browsing the web, it sure seems like the zooming is based on CSS devisions. I wonder what kind of problems this will cause on sites with poor or none existent CSS devisions?

It looks like a triple tap is what "activates" a link in the web browser. I think that's a good solution, but I wonder how many times folks will drag, flick or zoom before they actually figure out how to click a link? Activating a link or phone number in an email or SMS message only takes one tap. While not consistent, given the context, I think it will work. In my mind, this shows how weak consistency is, compared to the power of context.

The exterior buttons on the side of the phone actually look hard to press. And there's a button specifically to silence the phone's ringing. That button is one of 4 buttons on the unit. Way to go Apple for elevating that general need to silence a ring tone in a quiet meeting.

You can turn off the phone which looks to be quite painless. I wonder how long it takes to boot up?

The "drag your finger from left to right" seems to be the "authorize this action" or "serious stuff happens when you do this" gesture. You use it to unlock the phone, to confirm a shutdown and to initiate a deletion.

It looks like 5 buttons at the bottom of the screen is a theme in these iPhone applications. Kind of like a toolbar, but one that can never have more than 5 items. It's a constraint really based on the constant size of people's fingers. Apple still let's you "customize your toolbar buttons" at least in the iPod app. The upper portion of the screen is where "confirmation buttons" are located, like "Done", "Clear", "Save", " etc.

Sheets always come from either the bottom or side of the screen, never from the top of the screen. That area seems to be a sacred status area.

Dragging is done by touching a "drag handle" button that let's the iPhone know you are trying drag, not gesture. When you drag, the item increases in size so you you can see around your finger. Nice.

Sometimes you can drag and other times you can "flick" or "throw" things, like when scrolling a web page. I wonder as a designer, how you decide when you can do what? Also, how does the Safari app decided between a "flick" and a quick short drag? There must have been some fun iteration around that algorithm.

Big buttons actually look nice and not "too big and bulky", but not all buttons are huge. Like the audio scroll control in the voice mail application. I wonder how Apple decided when to make a button "finger size" and when to make it small?

The landscape orientation is like "full screen" mode on a Mac.

Airplane mode is awesome. I wish my Mac had that kind of mode as well, not just for airplanes, but for when I just want to be "off the grid" and focus for a bit. Call it QuietRoom: a place where distractions go away.

It looks like when someone calls, you might see a full screen photo of the person who is calling, not just a small thumbnail. If that's so, that's very cool.

Clicking some buttons, but not all, causes a "glow" response. It seems to be how smaller buttons register the click. I think it's a great effect and it looks like you can mostly see it around your finger, which I think is the whole idea behind the effect.

The ring tones seem really high quality and distinctive. Depending on how cool they are, Apple might even get some extra marketing out of "well known" iPhone ring tones. When folks hear a ring, they'll know that person has an iPhone, so even if Apple never sells ring tones, I hope they spent a lot of time working on them, because it could very well pay great dividends. Especially if for some reason they don't allow using a portion of an iTunes song as a ring tone.

All very interesting stuff, for me at least. :-)

What I really appreciate about Apple is their example of taking some domain that people largely view as "solved" and allow changes to occur by introducing new methods, ideas, or products or simply altering existing ones in new ways. Say, for example, how a human interacts with a small computer. Clicking and pointing with a device was "the way it was done," and "using a keyboard" before that. With the iPhone, Apple has said in essence, "No, there is a way to communicate with a computer that removes even the pointing or input device!" They remove the mouse and the stylus and take direct manipulation and human computer interaction to a whole new level. It's really amazing to watch. Allowing for changes to occur in any business is extremely hard, much harder than you might think. Seth Godin said it succinctly in his post on Reasons and excuses:

  • Most organizations need a good reason to do something new.

  • All they need is a flimsy excuse to not do something for the first time.

  • And they often need a lawsuit to stop doing something they're used to.

If there's a space in your area of expertise that people generally view as "solved" or "commodity" or "not interesting any more" look again. The very fact that folks consider that area devoid of innovative potential is probably your greatest indication that there's something more lurking under the surface.

12 June 2007

iPhone requires iTunes account?

I just got the second email from Apple after signing up with them for breaking iPhone updates via email. I read the mail a little bitterly, since I felt the least they could have done was to send me an email when they had the ship date nailed down. Well, the tone of the email was mostly, "Here are things you can do to get ready for your iPhone...", but it ended with this:

To set up your iPhone, you'll need an account with Apple's iTunes Store. If you already have an iTunes account, make sure you know your account name and password. If you don't have an account, you should set one up now to save time later. To set up an account, launch iTunes, select the iTunes Store, and click the Sign In button in the upper right corner of iTunes. Sign in and you're ready to go.

My first thought was sure, you'd need one if you wanted to use protected iTunes content, but on second thought, I wondered, could this be something more? Could it be that you'll need an iTunes account for other iPhone features to actually work, like maybe purchasing music from the store over WiFi? Could this be how ring tones are purchased? Could this be the mechanism for adding Apple applications and features to your iPhone? Maybe some integration with a new and improved .Mac service, like real time sync? Maybe to make up for the forever lost hidden features in Leopard, there will be some "sweet" hidden features in the iPhone? Nah, never mind.

Forward Looking Font Display

Yesterday, Apple released their own Safari 3.0 web browser for Windows XP and Windows Vista. Amid the security and performance comparisons, folks are also noticing that Apple has also ported their own sub-pixel display technology to Windows. Joel Spolsky summarizes the differences sucintly:

Apple generally believes that the goal of the algorithm should be to preserve the design of the typeface as much as possible, even at the cost of a little bit of blurriness.

Microsoft generally believes that the shape of each letter should be hammered into pixel boundaries to prevent blur and improve readability, even at the cost of not being true to the typeface.

I think Apple's method will turn out better when we all have resolution independence along with hi-resolution displays. The real question is will the current font display fuzziness in Safari turn off the current unwashed masses, so that even when hi-res displays become standard, it's too late. If that happens, Safari will follow a great Apple tradition: high technology ahead of its time.

27 May 2007

Coming Home

May we all experience a joyful reunion like this! And for those in the United States, Happy Memorial Day.

23 May 2007


The best thing about Silverlight is its icon. For regular users it's a web-browser plugin that allows you to view and use Silverlight content. What Silverlight content is there? Media and stuff. Have you ever seen a website done completely in Flash? Well, now you can do that but with Silverlight. From my perspective this is fundamentally about competing with Flash. There are some cool things going on under the covers to make this happen and as a developer, I understand the geek factor there. By the same token, as a developer, my ability to develop amazing software is directly related to the toolset available to me. So I ask myself, "Which toolset gives me the greatest ability to develop amazing software?" Flash or Silverlight? PHP or Ruby on Rails? Cocoa and Core Animation or XAML and .NET? I don't think I can compare any of these with much authority, but I have a hard time believing that the next killer app, web or otherwise is going to show up as a Silverlight application. Still, I love the icon.

14 April 2007

Blogger 2.0

Some people are getting re-posts of my older blog posts. As far as I can tell, this has started since I moved to the new version of Blogger. When I upgraded this blog to Blogger 2.0, I gained the ability to tag or label my posts. Very cool. I also lost my formatting in all 240 of my older posts. Not very cool. As a result, I'm going through my older posts one by one to manually fix the formatting and add tags/labels to the content. If I modify any one of my posts, either textually or by adding a tag or label, Blogger sees this as an update, and treats this old post, as a new one. I don't know how to get around this. Further, not everyone sees this behavior.

Bottom line: As I work through fixing up my older posts, you might get a re-post of old content. I'm not trying to spam you with re-posts, just trying to clean up my blog. I guess, with Blogger the adage, "You get what you pay for," applies. Maybe in the future I'll consider moving to MoveableType or something like that, but right now, that's not in the cards. Thanks for being patient.

12 April 2007

Apple Slips Leopard to Oct 2007

From Apple's Hot News web page:

Apple Statement
iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned. While Leopard's features will be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones. [Apr 12, 2007]

This is interesting. Apple, like many companies often slip their release dates. Historically, however, Apple has only slipped a little on ship dates, but this slip, from Spring 2007 to October 2007, is the largest slip I remember. It's very uncharacteristic of the rhythm of shipping Apple has had over the last 5 years.

Leopard is certainly Apple's most ambitious OS release yet, so it stands to reason that they could have bit off more than they could handle. I'm sure this was further compounded by the additional resources needed for both the Apple TV and the iPhone. I also wonder what the "secret features" are that Jobs referred to in his last keynote. Some have suggested that this slip was to add unplanned functionality, but I don't get that sense. I tend to believe that this is just what it's stated to be, a resource issue.

There are 3 variables you can change when managing a project: scope (how big it is), resources (how much money and people you can allocate) and time (how long the project will take). It looks like Apple reduced their allocated resources for Leopard, and without a corresponding reduction in scope, they were forced to increase the time the project would take. I'm sure this is super painful for them, it always is, but not long from now, they'll ship and this will all be a distant memory. Personally, I'm glad I don't have to put up with all the rumor sites constantly suggesting that Leopard is just about to RTM. ;-)

Update: Best quote from our chit chat around the office here: "Woah. October? :( Stupid iPhone. I want my Time Machine."


I was just skimming through the Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines and while in the Design Principles section I came upon this title, and I just had to laugh:

There is a point where marketing ceases to be marketing and becomes information; relevant, valuable information. There's also a point where something, truly informational becomes marketing. Branding folks like to say that any interaction with your product defines your brand. Whether you are working on marketing or strictly informational stuff, it's important to pause and ask yourself, "What does this say about me?" Sometimes, it's that simple human question that's enough to help you know when you need to work a little harder to remove a subtitle.

11 April 2007

Hardware and Software

John Gruber writing on Apple's choice of AAC as the DRM-free format sold on iTunes, makes this interesting comparison:

Apple’s use of AAC in lieu of MP3 is analogous to the Mac’s switch to USB in 1998. USB was an industry standard that wasn’t taking off because PCs didn’t ship with built-in USB ports, which PC makers didn’t include because there weren’t many USB peripherals on the market, which peripheral makers didn’t want to build because there weren’t enough PCs shipping with USB ports.

Then came the iMac, whose only peripheral port was USB. (It didn’t even have FireWire.) All of a sudden peripheral makers had a reason to make USB gadgetry, and after that, PC makers had a reason to include USB ports on new PCs.

Hardware and software are the Yin and Yang of the tech industry. Some argue that one is more valuable than the other, but you can't separate them. You need both. Apple is one of the few companies in the position to capitalize on this reality. From a human computer interaction (HCI) standpoint, if we are going to move forward the interaction, this necessitates hardware advances. And who is in the best position to push forward hardware advances that are included by default? Apple.

The newest and perhaps most interesting HCI advances recently have been the result of great software and great hardware, together. The Tivo, Microsoft's XBox and XBox Live, Nintendo's Wii and Apple's iPhone and Apple TV are perfect examples of what amazing things can happen when great hardware design meets with great software interfaces. Additionally, from a purely experiential perspective, people feel better about laying down large quantities of cash for something physical rather than something that's purely intellectual property, as much as I personally value the later.

Fundamentally, where should you look for human computer interaction innovation? You should look to the people who can move forward the whole stack, and can integrate it fully, seamlessly. In the realm of personal computers, that leaves only one company: Apple.

05 April 2007

Great by Default

The Future Parc at the Cebit trade fair in Hanover, Germany is a place to showcase future technologies. I didn't go, but two of the products I read about caught my imagination and got me thinking. Here they are:

Tobii Technology's eye tracking system

It's one thing to use multi-touch to move things about on the screen, but it's quite another to simply look at something, and have the computer recognize where you are looking and move your pointer there. A blink or a tap on the keyboard and you've clicked. I'd love this technology simply to review how folks use software. It's hard to tell, but it doesn't look like the "device" is that intrusive for installation in regular computer displays. In fact, Tobii even sells eye tracking hardware to OEMs that can, "provide eye gaze point, eye/head position and pupil size data. ... There are no external cameras or lightning units. ... The user does not need to "do" or "wear" anything and can move freely. Tracking is fully automatic and high accuracy can be relied on regardless of glasses, contacts, eye colour, age, ethnic background or light conditions."

The Fraunhofer Institute's Face Finder

The Face Finder is a system that can find faces, human faces even in low lighting conditions and then recognize if the face is angry, happy, neutral, sad or surprised. Of course they say this could be used for targeting advertising (an original business plan, I know...) but I think there's potentially a broader application in terms of simply recognizing when it's appropriate to "interrupt" a user. In my opinion, computers should keep things quiet when we are "in the groove" in order to maximize our effectiveness. This kind of technology seems a great fit for answering the, "Is it okay to notify the user event x just occurred?"

Both of these inventions require a computer with a video camera or some sort of hardware video device. I don't know if you could build an eye tracking system with only one iSight video camera, or even if the video camera installed on my MacBook is sufficient quality for something like Face Finder, but every new Mac that ships with a built in video camera makes for more fertile soil in which innovations, just like these can sprout, grow and even take root.

One of the things I've always loved about Apple hardware is that you can't order a "stripped down" version of any Mac. How long has Apple included FireWire standard with every Mac? More recently the Apple remote is "default equipment" with any Mac and a built in video camera comes with any Mac that includes a screen. By keeping the "lowest common denominator" experience so feature rich, Apple is able to create experiences that simply start at a higher level. Both Apple and their developers can assume a certain quality of system that Windows developers fundamentally can't depend upon. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons it's always so exciting to be a developer on the Mac platform.

It's never too late to start! :-)

04 April 2007

Google Desktop vs. Spotlight

Over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Scott McNulty has a review of Google Desktop for the Mac version 1.0. If QuickSilver were not enough, may this provide Apple the substantive reason to improve the speed and responsiveness of Spotlight. Please.

03 April 2007

Classic Apple

When Apple announced the iPhone, I signed up for "more information" and gave them my email address. Today they sent me this:

On so many levels this is classic Apple.

Update 1: The graphic I uploaded from the email I got from Apple has misteriously disappeard. I'm guessing it's some copyright issue, but I recieved no notice from Apple or Google, just that the graphic was gone. Interesting.

Update 2: Looks like I'm too paranoid, the picture is back. Must have been just another blogger bug.

02 April 2007

Apple: Confidence vs. Protectionism

Today Apple announced that all songs from EMI will be available free of DRM (digital rights management) limitations. In the past it was like this for EMI music on iTunes:

  • $0.99/song
  • $10.00/album
  • AAC at 128 kbps
  • All music with DRM (only playable on 5 computers, can't burn in same playlist over 7 times, only playable by Apple applications or devices)

    Starting in May 2007, all EMI music will also be available as follows:

  • $1.29/song
  • $10.00/album
  • AAC at 256 kbps
  • No DRM

    This affects not only music but music videos. From the press release:

    iTunes will also offer customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song. All EMI music videos will also be available in DRM-free format with no change in price.

    Famous business man, Warren Buffett once said: “In business, I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable ‘moats’.”

    "In days of old, a castle was protected by the moat that circled it. The wider the moat, the more easily a castle could be defended, as a wide moat made it very difficult for enemies to approach. A narrow moat did not offer much protection and allowed enemies easy access to the castle. To Buffett, the castle is the business and the moat is the competitive advantage the company has. He wants his managers to continually increase the size of the moats around their castles.

    When looking to purchase a business, Buffett pays careful attention to a business he understands not just in terms of what the business does but also of “what the economics of the industry will be 10 years down the road, and who will be making the money at that point.” He is “also looking for enduring competitive advantages.” This, in a nutshell, is what makes a company great: the width of the moat around the company’s core business."

    Apple has decided that the enormous moat it has in DRM is not as valuable as making customers feel unlimited by their technology. This is like Apple sending forth from its impenetrable castle and scheduling a battle, say next month on the open valley, Apple against everyone, all sportsmanship like. This kind of courage and confidence is something unique indeed. So what of Buffet's moats and competitive advantage analysis? I think it still holds, it's just that Apple's sustainable competitive advantage is their deep trust in the inherent value of their products and the experiences they provide. Almost no one has that these days.

  • 23 March 2007

    General Tug

    I recently listened to speech given by Lance B. Wickman which he titled Seasons. In this speech he recounts a remarkable story from his life.

    When I graduated from college, I was commissioned an officer in the United States Army. I was an infantryman. After completing some training, in early 1965 I was assigned-with my bride of a few months-to an infantry battalion of the 25th U.S. Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. My wife and I were thrilled with this assignment and looked forward to three years of life amidst the sun and the surf and the wonderful people of Hawaii. We rented a little duplex right on the beach on the North Shore of Oahu. You could step out of our back door onto the sand; it was literally like something out of a movie.

    In October of that year, our battalion received a new commander, Lt. Col. Thomas U. Greer-“Tug” Greer, as his peers called him. Tug Greer was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1951. In 1951, the Korean War was raging. Most of the West Point class that year was assigned immediately to the combat zone. Many of Tug Greer’s classmates died on the rugged slopes of that land. But Tug had survived and remained in the army. And now, 14 years later, he was assigned to command our battalion.

    No sooner did he assume command, than Col. Greer took the battalion on a week-long training exercise in the rugged Kahuku Mountains of northern Oahu. For those of you who have not been to Hawaii, let me describe these mountains. They are steep slopes of volcanic rock with little topsoil and covered with thick, green vegetation. For five days, we struggled up and down those slopes in one infantry maneuver after another. Finally, it was Saturday morning, the last day of the exercise. All of us looked forward to returning early to our battalion headquarters, turning in our equipment and hitting the beach. After all, we were young, and what was the point of being stationed in Hawaii if you could not go to the beach! I remember gazing down early that morning from my perch on the side of one of those mountains at the shimmering sand and sparkling ocean. I could hardly wait!

    About that time, Col. Greer came to our rifle company’s position. To our company commander, Capt. Jim Andrus, he said, “As the last exercise of this training, I would like Charlie Company (that was us-“C” Company) to establish defensive positions. Now, among other things establishing defensive positions meant digging foxholes. You know what a foxhole is. It is a hole in the ground where a soldier can seek shelter from enemy fire. But this was volcanic rock! And we were only equipped with those little folding shovels (which the army calls “entrenching tools”)! So, as Capt. Andrus gathered us platoon leaders around to give us the orders for establishing defensive positions, he said, “Since we want to get this over with quickly, we won’t actually dig foxholes. Instead, we will simply do “simulated foxholes”-we will just mark out on the ground where we would put the foxholes.”

    So, that is what we did. A little while later, Col. Greer came around to inspect our “defensive positions”. I remember it like it was yesterday! As he came to the first of these “simulated foxholes”, he asked Capt. Andrus, “What are those?” Clearing his throat a little nervously, Capt. Andrus responded, “Well, sir, those are simulated foxholes.” “Simulated foxholes!” roared Col. Greer. “I ordered this company to prepare defensive positions, and that means digging foxholes! This company is going to stay out here and dig until it learns how to dig foxholes that look like the came out of the training manual!” And so, as the rest of the battalion packed up weapons and equipment and headed back to the base and an afternoon at the beach, Charlie Company remained out on that hillside. And we dug, and we dug, and we dug. Col. Greer’s name was on every one’s lips that afternoon, and I can tell you that he was not winning any popularity contests that day! But by evening, we had foxholes that really looked just like they came out of the training manual.

    But, you see, there was something that we did not know that beautiful Hawaiian Saturday. When Col. Greer had been given his orders assigning him as our battalion commander, he had also received some other orders that he could not share with us-top secret orders-sending our battalion to Vietnam. We did not know it at the time, but this would be our last training exercise. And Col. Greer, with his vivid memories of his fallen classmates on the rugged hillsides of Korea was determined to do all that he could to save the lives of those men entrusted to his care. In a manner of speaking, Hawaii was the “season” for learning those skills that would save our lives. Vietnam would be too late.

    What happened next I did not personally observe, arriving in Vietnam a few days after the rest of the battalion; but it was reported to me by my comrades-in-arms. They reached the spot in the division’s defensive perimeter assigned to our battalion late in an afternoon. Col. Greer’s order went out: Establish defensive positions. Our men dug in because that is what you did in Tug Greer’s battalion. Another battalion next to ours, arriving at the same time, only scooped out some shallow cavities in the ground-not unlike our Hawaiian “simulated foxholes”-planning to dig real foxholes the next day. But that night, the Viet Cong enemy launched a ferocious mortar barrage into the green troops. Our men were safe and secure in their foxholes; but the men of that neighboring battalion were not so fortunate. I am told that the next morning Tug Greer’s name was again on everyone’s lips-but this time with reverence and respect. I still regard him as one of the great men I have known. From him I learned one of life’s most powerful lessons: There is indeed a “time for every purpose under heaven”-even a time to learn to dig foxholes.

    There are probably several lessons one could learn from this story. The questions that come to my mind are these: Who are those people in the software industry that might be like General Tug? Who are the people that have "been there, done that"? Who are the folks that can point to what really matters? Where are the sages of the software industry? Where are the mentors who are renowned for having wisdom that comes with age and experience? Am I the only person that has been caught in the illusion that what we are doing today is new and special? Maybe what makes the software industry so dynamic is not the remarkable speed of new developments, but the remarkable speed at which we forget.

    22 March 2007

    Porting to the Mac...

    One of my favorite bloggers, Scott Stevenson, recently wrote about a subject near and dear to my heart, namely, some Simple Truths About Cross-Platform Apps. Scott makes some great points:

    Mac users bought the computer they did because they found the experience more appealing. Bringing an application across from Windows with minor tweaks simply won't resonate with this sort of user. ... Maybe the most important thing you will ever need to know about Mac development is this: Mac users will generally favor an app with a better experience over the one with more features.

    The whole "write once, run anywhere" idea comes from and resonates with managers and engineers who are out of touch with their customers. Fundamentally, you need to decide who you are trying to help. If you are trying to help, say, Mac users be more productive and on their platform of choice, while still interoperate with the rest of the world, then that dictates certain realities. If you are expanding to the Mac platform simply to "increase your market coverage" then you might not have the right mindset needed to build something Mac users will like.

    Not everyone gets this, and that's okay, the market has a way of helping folks that don't get it. I remember back when we were working on Office X, right as Apple was moving to Mac OS X. We spent some serious time and money to study and really tangibly understand who these "Mac users" were. The results were amazing and strongly pointed out how different the Mac customer was compared to the Windows customer. That has not changed. I don't think it's elitist or smug to say that Mac users value different things compared to Windows users. It's a fact. So, if you are going to try to sell software to both the Mac users and the Windows users, before you start, you better understand the differences.

    21 March 2007

    How to Talk to People

    Don Norman has published a wonderful excerpt from his next book "The Design of Future Things" set to publish in October 2007. The excerpt is purportedly a research missive from future machines to other machines on how to deal with people. Certainly some of us lowly humans can relate to the difficulties of communicating effectively with other human beings. (We could also probably say some things about what it's like to communicate with modern-day machines.) What follows are some choice quotes from the article.

    It isn't easy to communicate with them; people take suggestions as criticism and get defensive, and sometimes angry. They misinterpret our utterances, ignore us, or overreact. Sometimes we just can't win.

    Five Rules of Communication From Machines to People

    1. Keep things simple.
    2. Always give people a conceptual model.
    3. Give reasons.
    4. Continually Reassure.
    5. Offer a feeling of control.

    People have difficulty with anything complicated, and they don't like to listen. So make the message short. In fact, it's better not to use language at all--it takes too long and, besides, human languages is horribly ambiguous.

    The best kind of communication is done subconsciously, so people don't have to interrupt their conscious thoughts to attend to them. Thus even for the most befuddled minds, we need to communicate so that the meaning is clear.

    Give them something their simple minds can understand. A conceptual model is a fiction, but a useful one as it makes them think they understand.

    In short, people like pictures and diagrams.

    Our early 21st Century Cars had almost given up trying to explain to people that they should drive more slowly on wet roads. But then we discovered that if we made it seem as if they were in trouble by faking skids and sliding around on the road, people would beg us to slow down. Sliding and skidding fit their model of danger far better than any words could have done. So wherever possible, don't try to tell them--let them experience it.

    But the bottom line is, if people haven't seen anything happening for a while, they get anxious, even jumpy. And no one wants to deal with an anxious person.

    [Make] them feel as if they are in control, even when they aren't. Keep up that deception--it's very useful. People like to be in control, even if they are performing a task really poorly.

    Any time you have to make recommendations, make people think the ideas are theirs. If you really have to do something fast, just don't let them know: What they don't know, doesn't bother them.

    There's some wisdom hidden in these quotes. Check out the whole thing, it's a fun read.

    Update: Originally, I had some snarky, toung-in-cheek comments about each of these suggestions, but it just didn't come off like I wanted it and obscured too much of the real value in Dr. Norman's suggestions, so I've removed them.

    17 March 2007

    Full Radio Silence on the Mac

    I was just listening to the most recent Security Now Podcast episode 83 wherein Steve Gibson goes to pains to describe what it takes on Windows to turn off your wireless hardware. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:

    STEVE: Believe or not, yes. We’ve basically snuck in an entire show on maintaining full radio silence on Windows WiFi.

    LEO: Well, it started when we were talking about this Free Public Wi-Fi that pops up on Windows from time to time, and what it was, and how now Microsoft has offered a fix but never told anybody about it, and you have to explicitly download it. That’s what we talked about last week. And if you didn’t hear last week’s episode, you should absolutely download that update.

    STEVE: Right. So that was our second mention. Then the week before, Episode 81, we talked about – we actually showed the dialogues required to turn off the functionality, just sort of this promiscuous connect-to-anything-that-I-hear, and also this idea of broadcasting the names of any networks you had connected to before, which by default Windows tries to do. It turns out that it’s trying to do that still, even after you’ve got the update, because Microsoft added a checkbox to one of the configuration dialogues which is checked by default, and you have to go turn it off. So here in our fourth serialized How to Get Wi-Fi Just to Shut Up, we have additional instructions. People can, if they go to the show notes for this Episode 83, I’ve got a link back to the new and enhanced instructions that are over now on Episode 81’s notes. So Episode 81’s show notes are enhanced with this additional information, and this episode links back to those.

    LEO: So this is if you installed the patch that Microsoft offered in November to fix wireless zero config, it’s still promiscuous unless you uncheck this box.

    STEVE: Yes. There’s a box which enables it to connect to networks which are not broadcasting. And so if the networks are not broadcasting, then your computer does. And it’s just like, okay...

    LEO: Is this ad hoc only? Or is it infrastructure networks, as well?

    STEVE: It’s both. And so anyway, the idea is – in fact, I realized, okay, I started using the term “maintaining full radio silence.”

    LEO: Yeah, that’s a good way to talk about it, yeah.

    STEVE: As the famous jargon. And that’s what we want. We want to be able to carry a laptop around. If we forget to disable our Wi-Fi, we don’t want it sending out stuff of any sort. We want full radio silence. And so it turns out that following the instructions that are now on the show notes for 81, with the update which we talked about in 82, which we’re all pulling together now in 83, when we first opened the topic in 80, we basically snuck in a whole Security Now! episode on maintaining full radio silence."

    Here's a link instructions to the instructions from Security Now:

    For details on "Maintaining Full Radio Silence" from Windows WiFi systems, please see the updated show notes for episode #81. They assume (and require) that the system has been updated with the Wireless Client Update for XP as described in episode #82 and notes.

    If it's not clear, the step by step instructions for how to turn off WiFi are located at http://www.grc.com/sn/notes-081.htm

    Because Steve didn't mention how to do this on the Mac, I think I'll take the liberty of providing a comprehensive guide complete with pictures, so you can follow along. This guide applies to at least the last 3 versions of Mac OS X. Here goes:

    Step 1: Click the Airport Menu

    Step 2: Select Turn AirPort Off

    Steve was talking mostly about WiFi radio emissions, but since most Macs have Bluetooth these days, I thought I'd go a step further and document how to turn off Bluetooth radio emissions as well.

    Step 1: Click the Bluetooth Menu

    Step 2: Select Turn Bluetooth Off

    In conclusion, if you are ever responsible for designing the "turn it off" use case, please consider the above mentioned comparison before completing your design.

    Update 1: As a companion article, Joel Spolsky talks about the trials of turning off Windows Vista.

    Update 2: It looks like I misunderstood what Steve was talking about. He wasn't talking about how to turn off WiFi, but how to keep the Windows WiFi system from broadcasting data about which networks you've connected to in the past. Does the Mac OS do this? I don't know.

    14 March 2007

    The Cool Kids

    Everyone has their own favorite language. Steve Rowe just pointed me to this funny my-language-is-better-than-yours graph. I found it really funny. I think Objective-C is just above C++ but below C. Where are you? ;-)

    13 March 2007

    MacBU MVPs

    Have you ever wondered what a Microsoft MVP was? Have you considered the performance implications of getting a Wii for your work force? Have you sat at night wishing you could just find a newsgroup to monitor? Have you wished you could have some tangible impact on the next version of Mac Office? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you!

    12 March 2007

    Losing the Idea

    Frank Shaw (who incidentally has one of the coolest named blogs ever) has a great post about how our impatience can get in the way of seeing the value of things. This is one of the reasons I'm in favor of people and processes that allow for ideas to interact. It's such a great post, I'm going to quote the whole thing here:

    Here’s the question: What is more important, the idea, or the instantiation of the idea? Based on what I’ve been seeing/reading over the past year, it feels like we’re all losing the idea.

    For example. Second Life – not that interesting. Not very many people, not great UI, business model challenges. Tons of hype – TONS of hype. And when SL vanishes, people will sniff and say, told you so. BUT. The idea – the idea behind SL, of a real platform for a virtual world, for robust commerce, ease of interaction, that’s interesting. It’s an idea worth pushing for, a dream worth having. Maybe the dreamers at Linden Labs will pull it off and make it real for everyone, but right now, we’ve missed the idea because of the focus on the example.

    Or look at Wikipedia. Again, people are focused totally on the example, and not on the idea (Jimbo, I think, has the idea well in hand). Warts and all, Wikipedia has captured attention and created controversy. But by becoming the de facto example for all things wiki, it makes it easy for people (self included) to scoff and poke and mock when things don’t go well. If Wikipedia fades into the oblivion, people will say, well the idea was flawed. NO. The idea – harnessing the real wisdom of the crowds – remains as a beacon. When we focus too much on the company in front of us, we lose the idea.

    There are tons of other examples – Digg, YouTube, Google. Each of these represents an “it” company of the moment, but behind each of them is an idea worth considering, regardless of the success or failure of the companies currently playing the lead role of the idea.

    Why is it so damaging to lose the idea in the face of its current incarnation? Because some ideas take multiple instantiations to succeed, and if we summarily disregard the idea because of a flawed example, we run the risk of missing a huge opportunity.

    As my dad always said, patience is a virtue. We’d all do well to be a bit more patient, and a bit more perceptive in our ability to applaud an idea and laugh at the current example.

    This is why from an external perspective (investors, business managers), you need patience and internally (the people actually doing the work) you must have a steadfast determination to persist. Point me to anything that you might call innovation, and I'll point you to a version 2.0+ of an originally underdeveloped even laughable idea.

    What's also interesting is that this is coming from a public relations guy! When you introduce something new, you almost always need to define it in terms of the past, in terms people already understand. (This is what makes things intuitive: they are like things you've experienced before, that you already understand.) Since folks, from CEOs to customers, are normally impatient, you need to use short words, quick explanations, simple concepts to promote a clear message, even if what's going on is much more interesting and subtle and even complex. This then, often has the very effect Frank is chafing against: It obscures the core idea while amplifying the current instantiation.

    When considering a new idea, most normal people will have a "failure of imagination" that doesn't allow them to distill past the current implementation and see hidden therein a foundation for a future master work. If you find someone that can discern the core value of things and has the patience and courage to persist, hang on, because there's more than likely an explosive future just around the corner.

    26 February 2007

    On Infrastructure

    The following quote is from a long article on Toyota in the New York Times:

    Improving efficiency in the factory, though, doesn’t necessarily lead to greater profits. Savings on the assembly line can mean a nicer dashboard without making the customer pay more for it. “If you’re efficient in the things the customer doesn’t see, then you can put it into the things the customer does see,” Ron Harbour, a consultant whose company rates the efficiency of auto plants, told me. A result is a car more popular with customers. Success on the assembly line, in this way, begets success in the showroom.

    For me, this best describes the business case for choosing Cocoa as your application framework for Mac applications. This is not to say that you can't write terrible Cocoa applications. You can, to be sure, but in general the APIs, the design patterns, even the style of the code subtly try to keep you from rebuilding things that have already been built. Many of the programming idioms try to get out of your way and "do the boring stuff" so that you can spend time adding value that the customer actually sees.

    If you are always spending time working on the guts of your application, especially the parts that the user doesn't directly interact with, there's often little perceived value in the work you are doing. If you are all of the time "platform building", it's easy to loose sight for what the platform is being built to support. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of infrastructure work, I've spent most of my professional career doing it. However, it's absolutely critical to see the connection from the work you do to the customer value. This is why a good user interface is so important. This is why a good application programming interface is so important.

    On the other hand, if you are working with people that watch out for the schedule and bottom line and you propose an infrastructure improvement, immediately you will, or should be, accosted with pointed questions about cost, time and customer value. All of these are very good things to discuss, but when you do discuss them, you must not forget the long term impact of the work you do. If you're only going to be there for one version of the software, then maybe the near term results are all you care about. There are as many shortsighted programmers as clueless business men, but I think the real answer is that working on improving the guts, the engine, the non-visible, un-photoshopable parts of your application are the long term the "critical path features" that will allow for money and time to be spent on the high customer impact features of version n+1.

    Toyota’s executives recognized early on that improving the process by which cars are designed and built is just as important as improving the vehicles themselves.

    You've got to have both, but if you only ever focus on what the user sees (and this is easy to do!) eventually, your application will collapse under its own weight. What I'm trying to discribe might be the best business case for the model-view-controller design pattern. How does this apply to Cocoa? Sure, you can build an app using the model-view-controller design pattern without Cocoa, it's just that with Cocoa, you just fall into doing the right thing long term, even if you don't quite know why.