Friday, July 30, 2004

Firing By PowerPoint (Beyond Bullets)

Forget about your antics at the last Christmas party - Cliff points to a real career killer.
beyond bullets: Board Fires CEO Over PowerPoint

Ok, sure there were some other things that may have gone wrong but it certainly re-emphasizes the importance of being about to publicly speak, especially when you're in a role that demands you communicate.

But what role doesn't? The age of "I don't have to communicate with others" is certainly behind us in almost EVERY industry. I get really frustrated when I hear developers or other people of a technical nature say "I don't present" or "I don't like to talk about what I'm doing". If you can't make what you do sound interesting, something needs to change.

Now communication is a two (or more) way street and I'm sure many have stopped reading or listening to certain people because they don't like what they hear or what the person has to say. That's fine.

But to be in any kind of position of responsibility and not be able to communicate effectively strikes me as nuts and while it may not get you fired as this CEO was, it certainly draws into question the qualities that you may have been hired for in the first place.

(this may sound like a rant and I'm sure many can point to examples where I have mis-communicated and had to restate something, but the point is not mis-communication, rather it's simply BAD communication. Then again, maybe I'm frustrated because I've dealt with too many people where I've simply flipped the bozo bit! - because of their inability to communicate. They may have talent but the head in the sand attitude doesn't always fly. Anyways, now I'm off on a tangent so I'll stop here but point to another bozo bit article (here.)

I can appreciate that technology can be tricky for execs but if it's the industry you're in, it really shouldn't be. (I sat in on a online presentation recently where none of the slides worked - and it was a presentation on webinars, ironically - and only the audio was there. The company blamed the provider but then yesterday, I went to a similar presentation with the same providerWebex (but different company) and they had more people attend and it worked. )

That post should certainly be a wake-up call, Cliff - Thanks!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

MS Responds to Craig's issues

If there's no bigger positive sign of the attitude of a company, it's the way they respond to issues or criticism. As Craig notes in his blog, he got a direct email related to his last blog about the problems with the VS.Net Setup.

Read on...
FoxBlog

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Better debugging Tools

Craig also points to a great CNN article on better debugging.

Here's a link to the actual paper from the authors.

It also mentions another problem called AskIgor noted here which only works with Linux PC files but is a similar type of tool, mentioned on Ask Joel in 2003.

The problems of installing Microsoft Service Packs

Craig discusses the problems of updating Service Packs and I have to agree with his results.

" I should not be required to have my Office installation disks. The SP should install without them"

With the litany of controls that some applications may use, it can get even worse for users who aren't even aware that they had an application installed. I've run a VFP application that halfway through it said "Please insert MS Office CD" because it had to re-register a control that was last installed through MS Office.

There's something certainly wrong with that.

If a service pack requires certain files to be present, I can appreciate needing to look for them on the Internet but don't force people to have to look for their CDs or DVDs (interesting copy protection scheme, I have to say, but it makes securing the applications way too time-consuming).
I install most of my applications from a network drive but Craig's absolutely right when he says:

"Other people will give up entirely because they either can't find the media, or in the case of a corporate environment, don't have access to it"

FoxBlog

Monday, July 26, 2004

Registering Web services

I was revising a web service over the weekend and tried to post it and got the lovely "Problem accessing the Listener URI" error message in Visual FoxPro. So off to troubleshoot by searching on the web for this message. The problem started on Friday but I got pulled away and had to look at other things. Took out a bunch of stuff, including disabling my SharePoint server (which I love) only to not resolve the problem.
 
Then just on the off-chance, tried to visit one of my own URL on my server: DSN Error. Hmmm...problem isn't as big as it may have been. Tried accessing the server from another box - no problem.
 
As it turns out, one of my other trouble-shooting episodes (getting Rogers Cable to work with Webex (http://www.webex.com), I had set IE's proxy server to cache. Note: NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. Removed the proxy server and whammo - everything worked like a charm.
 
It's one of those things though that you would expect to be on a checklist somewhere. And so (http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~WebServiceDeploymentChecklist~VFP) - please add to it as needed.
 
 
 
 

MapPoint Web Service Offering for MSDN Subscribers

An aussie/MS points out that MSDN subcribers can get the MapPoint web service for a full year free. (the actual link is here)

This is awesome news! I'm a big MapPoint fan, using it for all kinds of things but I have to say, I hate having to constantly upgrade to the latest version to see the latest street changes, etc.

Besides as a web service, you never have to worry about it being installed on the user's workstation. I'll report on how integration within VFP goes in a bit.


MapPoint Web Service Offering for MSDN Subscribers

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Tales from the Doghouse - MSDN Labs

Found this useful site just recently through looking for more information on FoxUnit and other testing architectures. I had never heard of the MSDN Lab site before but now that I have, I'm certainly going to watching it for more hints of what's to come.

Not a lot of new stuff recently (just the Whidbey beta - but who knows)

Tales from the Doghouse - Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Coming from VFP - a .NET Programmer Thoughts

Interesting blog on the struggles a former Fox programmer is going through on moving over to DotNet.

What's really nice about the blog is the comments on the value of various exercises, such as books (Beginning C# objects - read it!) and CBT studies like SmartCertify (don't)!


.NET Programmer Thoughts

What's New in Visual FoxPro 9.0 - What's Missing

Ken's blog notes some of the key features they will be promoting on Visual FoxPro 9.

The list looks complete except it doesn't mention one of the key productivity features that will be instantly used by many applications is the new Auto-Complete feature (Toni Feltman covers this in the July issue of FoxPro Advisor (the article's not online but should be) --- FoxPro Advisor!

Auto-Complete is a single property setting that can be turned on and INSTANTLY makes data entry easy for end-users.

There are a number of other extra settings for it , including the ability to specify the AutoComplete file that gets created. (hint: set the AutoCompTable property)

The AutoCompSource property specifies the value that will be used to lookup the autocomplete value. (if left empty, it uses the name of the object)

The file structure of the lookup table looks like this:
SOURCE Char(20)
Data Char(254)
Count Int -
Weight Int
Created - Date/Time
Updated - Date/Time
User



What's New in Visual FoxPro 9.0 Beta

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Data Integrity with VFP 8 and Older Code

I was working on a problem earlier this week with VFP 8 (SP1) and an application that has been "upgraded" over the years from DOS to Windows to VFP. With any such application, unless it's been lucky enough to receive a complete re-write, there are always lots of older pieces of code that are running around that do FLOCK( ), RLOCK()  and the like.
 
When this application was first distributed, an alarming number of "record is in use" messages occurred. And it was determined by the company's development and support staff that it was because of change in VFP 8 with the new SET VALIDATE TO, which creates better corruption awareness. As a result, we immediately switched all their customers' SET VALIDATE to a value of 0, to minimize the problem.
 
But now the problem seems to be resurfacing. Obviously, this is a case for "why aren't they using TABLEUPDATE() ,buffering and etc?" but I'm wondering - has anyone else seen this problem with older applications recompiled under VFP 8 or is it simply the case of an older application needing a wakeup call?
 
(yes, things like network issues, etc are being looked at but it's very interesting that it only occurred in a more recent version). If we find an obvious reason in the meantime, I'll be posting it but it's an interesting scenario.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Duke to give iPods to all freshmen

Jeez and all I got was a pencil.

You see, this is how Apple is the number one computer for students and in the education market. They cut the right kind of deals, they know what to give away in the deal and they end up with huge mindshare.

Marketshare? Who cares about marketshare if you have people simply saying "one day I'll get an Apple" - because eventually they will.

(now,now - don't jump on me for saying that. Yes, Apple only has less than 10% of the computer market - but that doesn't stop them from still being a better REGARDED company than most others. and typically speaking, they aren't hurting in the overall sales area.

Yes, it could always be better but not every one has a BMW or a Lexus either - yet when you think of luxury or high-quality cars, those names typically come in on top.)

That said, you can't eat "mindshare" and you can certainly eat with "marketshare". It's a trade-off but this deal shows that Apple still knows how to get to the "core" of the early adopter.

MSNBC - Duke to give iPods to all freshmen

Monday, July 19, 2004

Solution for Normalizing Filters()

I recently posted an article about how the FILTER() command doesn't always return back what you want it to.

Well, Sergey Berezniker set me straight - that's why there's a function called NORMALIZE.

I had never heard of this function before although it's been in FoxPro for quite a while (even back in FPW 2.6).

From the help file: NORMALIZE( ) returns a character string from the character expression cExpression with the following changes:
The character expression is converted to uppercase. However, embedded strings are not changed. An example of an embedded string is "Hello" in the character expression "LEFT('Hello',1)".
Any abbreviated Visual FoxPro keywords in the character expression are expanded to their full length.
Any -> operators separating aliases from field names are converted to periods.
The syntax of any Visual FoxPro commands or functions within the character expression is checked, although the expression is not evaluated. If the syntax is incorrect, Visual FoxPro generates a syntax error. NORMALIZE( ) does not check for the existence of any fields, tables, memory variables, user-defined functions, or other references in the character expression.

WHat this means is that if you put in something like:
SET FILTER TO (company_name!="Alfred" OR region<>"NC") AND country = "United States"

You can do
a ? NORMALIZE([(company_name!="Alfred" OR region<>"NC") AND country = "United States"])

and it will return
(COMPANY_NAME#"Alfred".OR.REGION#"NC").AND.COUNTRY="United States"

What a life saver! Thanks Sergey for bringing it to my attention.

Andrew MacNeill - AKSEL Solutions: Beware of how the FILTER() works

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Furrygoat Experience - Reference Cards

Steve Makofsky referenced this great reference cards site earlier last week. The XML and XSL stuff is very handy.

The Furrygoat Experience - Reference Cards: "Steve Makofsky "

Download Visual FoxPro 9.0 Beta Samples

The VFP 9 team has made available a number of samples for the Europa beta. If you want to get a good idea of what's going to be possible with VFP 9, be sure to download them and go through them.

Download details: Visual FoxPro 9.0 Beta Samples

Alex's Tips and Tricks

Alex just put his Tips & Tricks page up with an RSS feed, thanks to Dan Bricklin's new ListGarden site. Check it out in both Spanish and English!

Bloglines Clip Blog

No Need to go to tools


Now when you're editing a form, you can choose how you want to change the tab order WITHOUT having to go to Tools Options. Either interactively (for those who like to go mouse crazy) or by list (for easily choosing by Row or Column).

VFP 9 Feature: Easier to Change Control Orders

In earlier versions of Visual FoxPro, you had to set the Tab Order method in the options dialog. In VFP 9 , you can now change it interactively - the options are right on the menu. See next post for a picture.

MS and the PocketPC

For that matter, I have to gripe about MS some more. I use a Pocket PC and wanted to search for news yesterday. As soon as I directed my browser to MSNBC.COM, it immediately took me to a "pocket PC friendly" site. No problem there except that you can't read any of the news - just the headlines and you can't even search.
 
To make matters worse, I tried to see Ken Levy's email letter: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vfoxpro/letters on my Ipaq. Where did it take me to? A "Mobile device" friendly page that wouldn't let me read the letter.
 
I have no problem with web sites that offer friendlier views of the same information but DON'T LIMIT what I can look at.
 
As a result for my news search, I ended up going to CNN's web site.
 
Now, don't tell me that the PocketPC is an "old-hat" product, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I know more resources are going into the TabletPC (which as far as I know still can't be fit into a pocket) or into the Smart Phone (which is effectively PocketPC on steroids). The point is that if they want to promote these technologies as viable, they have to STOP limiting what people can access with them. Tell them it may not look right (and allow me to turn that warning off) but let me get to the information I want to see. (in some ways, technological censorship of this kind is worse than real censorship because you aren't being TOLD you can't access the information - you're just left to feel it's simply not important.)
 

MS Gets It - Why Doesn't MSNBC?

It's become rather obvious based on the immediate explosion of blogs at MS that they certainly see the benefit to RSS and the entire newsfeed concept. So one has to wonder why they haven't put that over onto their partner network, MSNBC?
 
When you use NewsGator, you can automatically add known 'real news' news feeds and the biggest one is, arguably, the NY Times. Both CNN and MSNBC offer email alerts and yet searching their web site for "RSS feed" produces menial results, little articles about this "new way" of getting information.
 
I, for one, am slowly starting to cancel any email subscriptions I have, purely in favor of the RSS feed. (I say, slowly because if I tried to use Outlook's Unread Messages folder, I would find about 25,000 unread messages from the various blogs I subscribe to).
 
Using NewsGator and LookOut in Outlook, I let it do the job of getting the news I want to read and then view it at my leisure.
 
Now that's convenience.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

posting on a pocket PC

I wonder if it's the same on a tablet pc but whenever i write blog , My
iPaq sees it as an attempt to flog.

So remember- when you post, put down the whip.

Andrew Ross MacNeill's White Papers, Conference Notes and Articles

The White Paper site is now up and active although all the content isn't there. In the next few days, you'll see the list grow from not just the more recent articles but also older ones that have since been revised.

The RSS feed is also there.
Andrew Ross MacNeill's White Papers, Conference Notes and Articles

Star Office: why can't they get save as html right?

Just a little rant but I just was saving a Word document in Star Office (a complimentary copy from Sun for attending one of their seminars). I then took the document and saved it as HTML.

Everything looked great in Star Office but posted it on my White papers site and the result?

All the text was centered.

I don't mind a few formatting changes but when they say "Formatting changes may not be retained" - wouldn't that mean LEFT-aligned?

Maybe this is why OpenOffice is the better choice (I'll install that after removing StarOffice) but for the interim, I'm installing MS Office as my primary office tool.

Sheesh.

FoxPro 9.0 News - July 2004 - Letter from Ken Levy

Ken's latest letter lets everyone know that VFP 9 is on course for release by end of the year, which is great news.

If you haven't downloaded it yet, DO IT NOW! I use it as my primary dev environment and then simply recompile the apps in VFP 8 for release purposes.

Of course, if you've got a new project that won't be released until next year, VFP 9 is CERTAINLY the way to go. The beta doesn't expire until May 2005 so you can start now and be ready for the production version in time for your release.

Sadly, he does note some of the limitations that cannot be extended due to the current 32-bit architecture of the product (the 2 GB file size limitation). Steve Black recently noted on the wiki however that the overall size of VFP hasn't changed despite all of the great feature enhancements (http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~VfpExeSizes~VFP).
 
Who knows ... maybe if enough people get on the VFP 9 wagon, a 64-bit version might be in its future...

Naysayers may say that's unrealistic but the fact that VFP is still around today as a viable app dev environment is something that a few vehemently said would never happen just a few years ago.


July 2004 - Letter from the Editor

uh oh- now i'm dreaming blogs now

nothing like having a dream in which i'm at a lunch and Ted starts
joking on how i need to correct one of my posts. At least the dogs knew
when to wake me up.



Friday, July 16, 2004

Beware of how the FILTER() works

Some older applications use the FILTER ( ) function in Visual FoxPro to identify what the current filter on a file is.
 
Be warned that what this function returns isn't always what a filter was originally set to.
 
Here are some examples:
 
USE HOME(2) + "TASTRADE\DATA\CUSTOMER"
SET FILTER TO region<>"NC"
 
? FILTER ( )
 
This Returns region#"NC"
 
But it gets better than this:
SET FILTER TO (company_name!="Alfred" OR region<>"NC") AND country = "United States"
 
Returns (COMPANY_NAME#"Alfred".OR.REGION#"NC").AND.COUNTRY="United States"
 
For most cases, this won't hurt anyone's code but it's a real pain when you're trying to translate the FILTER() statement to match an original filter. For example, in one application, we have a table that looks like this:
 
cDesc C(30)
cFilter M
 
The cDesc field contains a friendly name like "Important Customers" or "Customers who I need to call" and the filter contains a valid FoxPro expression.
 
The problem is unless you store the variable of the Desc somewhere else, you'll never be able to properly identify what the description is without major work. What kind of work? Well, here's a sample of some code:
 
SELECT * FROM FILTERS INTO ARRAY laFilters
lcRealFilter = UPPER(ALLTRIM(FILTER() ))

FOR lnI=1 TO ALEN(laFilters,1)

lcValue=UPPER(ALLTRIM(lafilters(lnI,2)))

IF lcValue==lcFilter
    lnValue=lnI
** Match found
EXIT
ELSE

ENDIF

ENDFOR

(Note: no - this code isn't optimized!)

But then I also have to check all of these individual conditions:

lcValue=STRTRAN(lcValue,' OR ','.OR.')
lcValue=STRTRAN(lcValue,' $ ','$')
lcValue=STRTRAN(lcValue,['],["])
lcValue=STRTRAN(lcValue,' AND ','.AND.')
lcValue = STRTRAN(lcValue,"<>","#")
lcValue = STRTRAN(lcValue,"!=","#")
lcValue = STRTRAN(lcValue,"!",".NOT.")

It's not pretty but it works. Are there any others? Let me know.

How many DotNet developers are there?

Someone(?) had a problem with my post about how many developers were using DotNet so I thought I would clarify my stand on it.
 
1. The actual title was a link to an MS blog which had noted a survey in which it stated that 64% of app developers use DotNet.  Now, in all seriousness, that's kind of like someone saying that 98% of the world speak English because the majority of Americans do. It's a very one-sided comment.
 
(as a note - I have re-titled my previous post so that it's a little more obvious that the "title" is not necessarily my opinion)
 
2. The post makes more of a note of the comments back to the original poster. If MS wants their entire dev groups to be blogged (which it certainly seems like), they need to be careful about how they blog (just like I am correcting right here) -
 
 in fact, Scoble wrote an article about that http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2004/06/25.html#a7890)
 
3. The comment was fairly accurate on how lame the study was though as it stated "This survey could be summed up as "We surveyed 500 out-of-work VB4, 5 and 6 programmers who said they'd be glad to ship an app in DotNet!"
 
Consider me clarified.

 

Survey says 52% of application developers use .NET ??

More interesting than the article itself (or the survey for that matter which certainly appears biased) are the comments.

My own theory behind this is because everyone who used to be a VB developer likely has DotNet on their desktop - whether or not they are USING it actively or just want to say they are using it to make it look good - remains to be seen.

I have DotNet. I have USED DotNet and if a survey asked me what tools do I develop in, I would certainly check off DotNet. But I don't work 100% in DotNet, which may be the real question that needs to be asked.

52% of application developers use .NET

Microsoft buys Lookout to boost search | CNET News.com

A smart move - LookOut is a phenomenal tool.

Outlook will certainly benefit from it.

Microsoft buys Lookout to boost search | CNET News.com

Monday, July 12, 2004

Blogs and RSS come to Microsoft.com

MS has just introduced their portal and it's pretty comprehensive. Nothing quite like learning that some people use AIM instead of MSN messenger, or that there really may be a need for supporting 4 monitors (Cyrus Complains)

However, it's really a great sign that MS is serious about supporting the blogging community which seems to have um, exploded in size in the past year.

Blogs and RSS come to Microsoft.com

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Ken Levy Clarifies

Wow - good to know Alex keeps up on the UT. That's an interesting tidbit from Ken Levy that basically says exactly what people want to know:

"There won't be anything announced about what the VFP team works on post version 9.0 until after we launch VFP 9.0"

What's the version of Windows going to be after Longhorn? Jeez, people! VFP 9 is a phenomenal version. You want it to keep going - get people to buy it.

VFP is NOT a cash cow for Microsoft, unlike their other products. SQL Server pays them $$ every time someone installs a SQL Server application. VFP apps do not. SO the ONLY source of proof that MS has, that VFP is alive and well, is by sales of its Developer product.

The fact that VFP 9 is bundled with MSDN probably hurts it more than helps because people don't have to actually buy it anymore.

Bloglines | Clip Blog

Welcome Alex

Welcome, Alex to the wonderful world of blogging.

FoxBlog

learn vascular surgery in 24 hours

Ok - it's a bit profane but I couldn't resist after I read the line:

"when was the last time you were meandering through the bookstore and you spied learn vascular surgery in 24 hours?"

Where is THAT book? Sounds like an idea for the dummy line:

"Neurosurgery for Complete Dummies" by Dr. V. Frankstein

- Learn how to find the right donors for your subjects
- Circumvent the hydro company with your own power generation
- Learn why corks make the best necklaces around
- How to find the right girl for your new best friend

On a more serious note, caustic has some major issues with things that are 100% valuable. If I buy a book and get at least 5 good ideas from it, it's worth it. I don't care if they are in the form of tips or do's and don't. The fact is that people who buy books want to enjoy reading - just because caustic likes reading dictionaries doesn't mean that everyone else should have to.

Look at Dynamics of Software Development - that was a great read as was Code Complete. Were there sections that were, um, dry? Yes - but the real benefit were the core concepts that people got out of it.

If I want to learn something, I'm going to learn it - but I would at least like to make the experience enjoyable. Just like attending classes or conferences - I want a teacher who engages, not one who makes me read right out of the textbook.

Caustic reminds me of Eddie Murphy or any one of those other comics who feel the obligation to swear to get his point across - it actually diminishes the point he is making. Once is fine - hell even twice is okay - but when every 5 words is crossed with crap, he starts to sound exactly like those blithering idiots he feels are wasting his computer library choices.
causticTech: learn blithering idiocy in 21 days

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Conference On the Web Part II

It's an idea that I'd love to gauge interest for. While I know everyone likes to get together and physically "bond" at a conference, the technology is now available (readily) for a true virtual conference - where sessions are given via on-screen demonstrations, tele-conferences, even some with video..
 
I know many of the companies I work with will be offering individual one-on-ones of this nature in the near future but why not expand it a little bit to an entire "Virtual DevCon" where sessions are given on a number of topics. See my previous post for full ideas on that.
 
There wouldn't necessarily be a need for multiple tracks because one conference could offer different times for all of the various tracks over a 2-3 day period.
 
There are obviously some gotchas:
a) the main one is making sure people are good "online" presenters. I've seen great online presentations and I've seen terrible ones. If we follow concepts in Beyond Bullets but also make the entire conference follow a strong theme, it would be very easy to manage. And since everyone could "try out" their sessions online wherever they are, they would almost always be running off their own machines.
 
b) internal cost. Someone needs to sponsor online.  I don't know how Live Meeting is managed when they do those sign-up seminars. I can't imagine authors are paying those $$ to promote their books. I do know that WebEx is kind of expensive in that manner. We have 6 licenses and it costs $1200/month for them. Anyone know? I'm going to research it but if you know of inexpensive GOOD options, let me know. 
 
c) mediators. On a web conference, the real need is to have a mediator who watches for notes and then answers them if need be. So all questions can be answered as they go through.
 
But there are huge benefits here. The cost of the conference notwithstanding, the actual cost would be considerably lower than a regular conference (For both the attendees (something speakers typically forget) and organizers) and you would have added benefit of real streaming, and live recording going on at the same time.  Of course, larger companies and user groups could get really involved here with study groups, etc. We've seen the benefit of when many people attend public chats and then that information is posted.
 
It also brings up a point that I know many other speakers have made in the past - a single repository for all conference materials. This type of idea would make not just the materials but also the recorded presentation, a major benefit.
 
One downside though: how do you hold a speaker dinner online? <bg> I know IBM showed a Jam session from 6 different countries in one commercial but I think dinner might be a bit trickier.
 
Who's interested?
 
 
 
 

Conference Re-design

Craig makes a great post referring to Beyond Bullets and their socialable media template. After going through their template and their blog articles, I have to agree but then I start thinking out the actual content of the conferences.
 
Wouldn't it be great if a conference actually was organized to go from different types of application development from beginning to end?
 
Think about it - two possibly three tracks: Desktop, Web, Hybrid (or Pocket PC, etc, etc)
 
Day 1 - Design. An entire day devoted to different design techniques, including physical, architectural and conceptual designs. Show exactly what each member of the team does during those phases.  Discuss project management on the whole.
 
Day 2 - Prototyping and Development. Discuss data planning techniques, user interface prototyping, show some examples of Extreme Programming at the prototype phase. Have a round table of why certain approaches to n-tier architecture work and others don't..  Even bring up unit testing.
 
Day 3 - Testing and Implementation. Discuss the roll-out ideas, training, re-factoring concepts as well as the all-important concept of integration testing and the final post-mortem.
 
If you needed to handle 4 days, you could easily expand out these basic concepts (UI on one day and under the hood on another) and there is enough to discuss in each individual topic.
 
Hey Craig - now you've done it - I'm pumped on this idea! Anyone else? I think this has the makings of not just a regular conference but a web-based conference. Interested in that? Drop me a line and let me know...(more on the next post)
 

Nielsen Sounds Off on Web Design

Jakob Nielsen sounds off on better web design. Interestingly enough, he doesn't mention blogs per say but he does the goal is to limit what needs to be in an email from a corporate standpoint. If you believe that concept, run, don't walk and pick up the Simplicity Handbook (http://www.simplerwork.com/handbook.htm) because Bill Jensen suggests deleting 75% of your new email as a way to become more productive. Funnily enough, the approach actually works. Bill also has great ideas for making your emails more effective.
 
Now, who's to say how Nielsen regards RSS feeds but the fact is, using something like NewsGator (which makes new blog posts appear as emails), it simply makes it an easier search mechanism (especially when combined with Lookout).
 
Sadly, the issue with making intranets more useful is NOT having more intranets - the problem I have found is with the people. That's why blogs and wikis are so valuable. I can easily find out what people are up to by reading their blogs. No blog? I don't want to read a status report (ugh!). Nielsen may be good at saying what's wrong - but he needs to give better insight into why people don't use intranets. (hint: It's NOT because of PDFs,popups and searches - it's because they don't want to have to go somewhere else).
 

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Form vs. Function

Seems like Scoble's on about form vs. function again...Not really much to add here as the designers have tried to tear a strip off him while the readers have said "no design".

Kind of sounds like Windows vs. DOS all over again. Hell, everyone loved DOS and the Unix command line, right?

Can you imagine making a phone call if it actually involved trying to tell the phone what phone switch to go to each time you wanted to do something?

Good design makes things easier to access - but the point on blogs is simple. "Here are my thoughts. If I can make it easier to read quickly, I'll do it - if I can't, tough luck." Eventually better design will win out and everyone will be happy. Until then, read it in your own view.

I say this after having played with various Blogger templates ad finitum only to have to copy and paste other code into it.

The biggest downside to bad or lack of design is that your message may actually get lost, because of a confusing interface.

Disagree? Consider Windows XP's support for digital cameras. We had an old Intel digital camera that when you plugged it in, up popped XP's Camera and Scanner Wizard which worked great. Just got a new Fuji FinePix and the Camera and Scanner Wizard no longer pops up. You can TELL it to pop-up under Properties - but does it? Nope! Now Trish, my wife, curses whenever we have to transfer pictures because it's three steps instead of one. Wouldn't it be so much easier if it all worked properly from day one?

Likewise with reading a blog. If you want better design, read a newspaper or check out FeedDemon's RSS Reader. NewsGator comes close with its summary view but the basis for the RSS feed is the content, the Blog URL is for the design.

Who reads Scoble via his web page anyways? Most I know do it via RSS.

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger

When I was on this project...

Scoble points to a post about someone from the old Money team discussing direction...all very nice and retrospective.

For more of a really neat discussion as to what went on with one of our favorite database products, check out Kerry Nietz's FoxTales.

It's a great read. When you consider how long it's been since "Soul of A New Machine", very few books have taken readers on that journey in an introspective manner, with the view of someone who was on the team. Philip's Money post reminded me of it somewhat but I have to say that I read Kerry's book on the plane ride back from Milwaukee last year and found myself chuckling at all the stories, including remembering my first Fox DevCon back in 91.

Not necessarily for current technical reading but great retrospectives...

When I was on this project...

Friday, July 02, 2004

No Imacs until September

If I didn't know better, I would swear Ted was starting to bleed six-color blood.


Ted's Radio Weblog

MSN Search Improves?

Definitely noted the speed improvement with MSN Search (as noted by Scoble). Now what about those meaningful results?

I still find I'm constantly searching in the results (on both MSN and Google). I suppose it's a trade-off - on MSDN, I search and never find things that I know are there - on MSN and Google, I search and find things that I would never want to know existed.

(oh well)

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger

Download Ken & Yag

Craig makes note of the interview Ken and Yag did for Channel 9. Unfortunately, I can't do a direct link to Craig's archive because the URLs are off.


FoxBlog