Tinderbox goes Universal

One of the tools I am using for years now is Tinderbox from Eastgate. I have used it for quite some time to write this weblog here (but swichted to WordPress + MarsEdit recently). Nevertheless I think Tinderbox is a helper in many ways – although there are always features that can be and will be missed.

With a retail price of $229 USD the tool is not cheap – but depending on the usage and potential productivity gain this can be a bargain.

tinderbox.jpg

If you are ready and able to write some export templates one can export almost anything to XML or HTML and turn that into layouted documents, presentations or websites.

The “magic” of Tinderbox is that it allows visual unstructured brainstorming and turn that into structured documents over time. But does not stop there like other mind mapping tools: by adding text notes, metadata, agents and actions that perform queries and manipulate data. So you can make your document smarter and add some automatism to it. There are endless ways to use Tinderbox and to make it fit to your brain.

After watching some screencasts you can read some examples of what people are doing with Tinderbox.

You can’t expect from Tinderbox: online collaboration, custom import of any data, direct export to MS Office documents and the like, table editing within notes, a programmable enviroment (alhtough actions and agents can do a lot already), a Windows version (supposed to be in the making).

Here is a software review by Natan Matias from Sitepoint.

Posted in Cognition, Practice, Tools | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Google Wave

I am just collecting some thoughts about some observations and issues – while I am trying to understand Google Wave.

google_wave.jpg

(see a demo on their site)

Google Wave is an integrated set of technologies (with protocols that allow semi-synchronous editing of outlines and their federation across several servers). With this approach Google Wave solves some difficult technical and infrastructural problems.

But it also generates some new problems that need to be solved to make Google Wave a success — otherwise I think users will not adopt the system (which in case of Google will set the seal on this project I suppose!).

1. Misty horizon

Google Wave is a frameworked solution for things people did not ask for and communication processes that no one is practicing yet (but no one has really “asked” for the mouse as input device either!). It is hard to see where Google Wave is going to be. This breeds creation, but it also challenges the non-developer. There will be best practices, but it will take a lot of time to identify use cases that people can learn “to wave” with.

So Google Wave challenges the imagination – and few people will be able to answer the “What is it all about?” question easily. The horizon is schrouded in mist.

Possible approach: A potential solution to this is to start with guided tours (a LOT of them) showing very common and powerful use cases for different scenarios. This is probably going to happen when Wave gets closer to the public beta.

2. Asynchronous patterns

We have learned to communicate in a turn taking fashion. It is polite to let someone speak until he has finished before starting to respond. It is not polite for everyone to speak up at any time. Waves allow people to reply or edit without obeying to the turn taking pattern. This can cause “stress” and also a lot of misunderstanding. People could reply to a text, that is going to change without them noticing that. Their reply suddenly become nonsense – the playback feature could become the only way to percieve a conversation properly. But playback is new – people have learned that the threaded view is a chronology – but in Google Wave it is not (or not necessarily).

Even with the playback feature, people need to become aware of the asychronicity in Google Wave – and learn how to recap conversations correctly.

Possible approach: Find a very good way to understand the chronology of a wave (e.g. making the playback as fundamental for navigation of a wave like scrolling)

3. Information (over)flow

While Google Wave may integrate many messaging systems – it also generates a lot of density. Means of communication that were apart from each other – using different URLs and applications for each – are now combined. The crucial part of that is to understand which option is suited for what purpose.

With Waves being set to “updated” by displaying them in bold typeface and sorting it to become a top item in the inbox, this also means that things are brought to my attention that should remain buried for a good reason. Google Wave users would have to learn how to manageund understand the “Inbox” and the “Active” areas properly, to be able to get the most out of it.

Possible approach: Allow users very powerful and fine grained control over the way they are informed about updates.

4. Scattered spaces and framgmented scopes

One of the things that really can make things too complex to be comprehended properly is that people can read & write to waves – but replies can extend or narrow the scope (e.g. who may read and reply to a new item. Who is reading? Who am I replying to? Is this part really private or not? Am I releasing a secret to the public accidentally?)

With a view from a different angle: What I can see within a wave may be different to what someone else is seeing. To make my communication appropriate to the situation I need to be able to “read” from a different standpoint. It is required to understand when communication could fail on the recieving end.

Whenever I want to understand the perspective of someone else – in need to be able to represent his/her view in my mind. The change of scope for parts of a wave within that wave can make this difficult.

Possible approach: Make any changes of the scope (e.g. recipient list) within a wave very visible and allow users to navigate them.

Posted in Interaction, Interface, Tools | 1 Comment

WebKit adds 3D

The developers of the Webkit HTML rendering engine (the one that is used in the Apple Safari Browser) have added 3D styles to CSS. It allows layers to be rotated, scaled and moved in a 3D space.

You need to download a nightly build of the browser to see it working.

There are quite a number of applications for this I can think of. I wonder if this approach will be adopted by the W3C for a new CSS standard.

Posted in Interaction, Interface | Leave a comment

Project Natal – the first true innovation from Microsoft

I have been thinking about Project Natal over the weekend. I do not want to discredit some of the innovations Microsoft has created over the last two decades – but for the most part Microsoft has not been able to create innovations on its own (but rather mimicking or buying stuff from outside). There may be some advances like C# and .NET – but generally this is insider stuff – meaning nothing to a wider public.

Project Natal may be the first true innovation with an Microsoft stamp on it. Fifteen years ago I have seen programmers trying to recognize 2D movements of arms and legs from a video – with results that were respectable – but never a game changer. Too much CPU power was required back then to be relevant in the consumer market.

To include the 3rd dimension in the motion detection is such a game changer. Combined with voice and face recoginition, this takes away the controller out of the control: your full persona is represented in the system – not just your fingertip. This is radical – and it has been a dream for many many years.

Just look at this example from game designer Peter Molyneux from Lionhead:

The device is so complex that a developer will have to have access to an SDK that allows simplified communication with the sensory system of Natal. Frameworks could provide automatic recognition of gestures to programmers – even in combination (so I you wave your arm, that would call another function than waving your arm and saying “Bye!”).

The level of precision could increase with future revisions. It could be combined with classical controllers. Maybe one day even finger positions, fluctuations/timbre of the voice, body temperature or point of view will be detected as well. Simple “lite” versions specialized on facial parameters could replace webcams in laptops.

So I do not look at Natal as a game controller – I see it as a complete new interface generation coming up.

Hats off to Microsoft!

Posted in Disruptive, Interface | 2 Comments

Project Natal

Obviously Microsoft feels the need to claim back some market share the Nintendo Wii took away with a new controller type. Project Natal is utilizing a range of biometric sensors for body motion, face and voice recognition.

The video is more a vision than an actual feature presentation. But it is clear what the goals are.

Here is another Video from the demonstration that shows what is possible right now:

Posted in Disruptive, Entertainment, Interaction, Interface | Leave a comment

Checking out AudioBoo…

Posted in Tools | Leave a comment

Fast Company: Is Information Visualization the Next Frontier for Design?

This article asks wether or not Information Visualization is a field on its own in Information Design:

If we’re going to live in a world driven by data, the thinking goes, we need a simple means of digesting it all. We are increasingly a visual society, and our understanding of the world is increasingly made possible by this new visual language.

… and …

Designers have historically excelled at finding insightful ways of looking at complex problems. Visualization will likely play a prominent role as design evolves beyond the consumer economy (selling $2,000 poufs and other high-end furnishings) and helps create efficient new forms of buildings, food distribution and transportation.

Posted in Design, Information Design, Information Management | Leave a comment

Copenhagen UI concept

Via blogblog: Here is a user experience concept study that is a mockup of a new Windows UI – and it is not designed by Microsoft but by a guy named Cullen Dudas.

Looks good. Would love to see more. I hope Microsoft comes up with some UI innovations in Windows 7 that really serve the user.

Posted in Design, Interaction, Interface | Tagged concept, prototype, study, user experience, windows | Leave a comment

Future of Interfaces

DesignReviver (via @blogblog) has compiled a categorial list of aspects that drive future UI development:

  • Better and more intuitive devices interaction
  • Everyday devices connected to the Internet
  • Multi-touch, without touching the screen
  • Interactive and intuitive user interfaces for better browsing
  • Gesture based interfaces
  • Interfaces aware of context
  • New materials that will influence UI

While I agree with the list in general there is something I do not like about it: this list is purely determined by technological advances.

We will see changes in almost all areas of society: how we shop, how we love, how we go about politics, what we regard as value, etc.

So I add some other (very speculative and spontaneous) ideas that are not so much based of the hardware innovation:

  • Laws that require users have ideal control over privacy issues (hopefully!)
  • Programmable operating systems on any device with good scurity
  • Redundant storage on different locations that “logically cloud together” in a personal and searchable environment
  • Working culture that permits more work “on the road” as before (specifically regarding the social aspects involved in this)
  • Affordable plans for wireless connectivy and low-priced roaming
  • Architectural advances that integrate media and new display/projection technologies into the interior environments
Posted in Disruptive, Interface | Leave a comment

Quorum sensing bacterial communication

Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria “talk” to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves.

Posted in Disruptive, Science | Leave a comment

Thinking alternatives: From “Mobile” to “Mobility”

Shai Agassi is the CEO of The Better Place to get rid of oil dependency (especially for running vehicles). The idea: Give away electric cars for free (like mobile phones) and make the batteries part of the electric grid system (instead of a costly component of the car). You basically pay for miles, thus the service of mobility – not for the hardware.

Here is an interesting interview with him:

Posted in Business, Disruptive, Ecology, Peak oil, Politics | Tagged a better place, business models, cars, energy, future, mobility, visions | Leave a comment

100 months to desaster

Scientists and celebrities raise the alarm regard global warming. Prince Charles for example claims that there’re only 100 months left to act. On the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit 2009 the economist Nicholas Stern confronts politicians and scientists with a dire outlook of the future if politicians fail to act swiftly on carbondioxide emissions.

Obviously there is a strong consensus among scientists, that politicians haven’t taken the issue serious enough in the last years. The Bush administration did not only oppose the Kyoto Protocol – it failed to raise the public awareness about the issue, even negated that global warming is a problem at all. As a result 66% of Republican voters think the global warming issue is “exaggregated” (44% of all Americans). Only 41% of the Republicans admit that global warming has started to show effects in nature (76% Democrats). There is even a documentary claiming the whole thing is a swindle to allocate research funds.

The mere difference in these numbers of the Republicans and Democrats show that politicians are responsible! They set the agenda, they rally their voters, they need to act – it is not enough to hope that the market will act upon their behalf. This is not going to happen – or: It will happen too late. The reason for this is that clime change is too slow to be anticipated by individuals or corporations.

Nicholas Stern has estimated two years ago that countries have to invest 1 percent of the GDP to address the climate change issue. If they don’t do that, the cost will consume up two 20 percent of the GDP. And these figures may even be too optimistic.

Posted in Ecology | Tagged climate change, Ecology, global warming | Leave a comment

Lovelock: One last chance to save mankind

James Lovelock in The NewScientist about the ecology and global warming today:

I don’t think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what’s coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing’s been done except endless talk and meetings.

Posted in Ecology | Tagged Ecology, future, global warming | Leave a comment

NSA wiretaps like crazy?

Former NSA analysr Russel Tice talks publicly about the wiretapping of the National Security Agency. Obviously the NSA patched into backbones of national telecommunication providers and scanned ALL communications. Complete organisations had their communication secretly copied and backed up for investigative purposes.

See yourself:

Update: There is a second interview with Mr. Tice the day after:

Posted in Politics | Tagged conspiracy, Politics, privacy | Leave a comment

Competing with the iPhone

Ingo Hinterding wants to have a Plam Pre. The multi-touch, turning UI is clearly attacking the iPhone market share. I think the Palm Pre will not succeed as an “iPhone killer”.

Read More »

Posted in Business, Disruptive, Interface | Tagged apple, competiton, iphone, mobile, palmpre | 5 Comments

Seminar on »Slowness«

Here is a teaser for a seminar next semester:

Read a more detailed (german) description here.

Also: Overview about my teaching activities with links to other seminar weblogs.

Posted in Design, Education, Media | Tagged Design, Education, slowness, teaching | 3 Comments

Fans on Technorati? How could I have missed that…

I just noticed that there is a “fan”-feature on Technorati. It may be on for years but it never really drew my attention. I have four fans!

Beside of Marian Steinbach (whom I know, “Hello!”) I see three other people that I do not know:

  • Tom Roper who is a Information Resources Development Coordinator for the Brighton & Sussex Medical School in England.
  • Alwin Hawkins who seems to have added me years ago and seems to have kept me for my interest in Tinderbox (don’t know…).
  • Mark Blair who is a Website architect, Internet strategist and techno-sociologist.

Hello guys!

It’s odd how people get to appreciate things from authors that don’t know about it. I think this is fundamental that the Internet changes the relationship between authors and readers – more than it has already.

I’d love to see who are those 500+ people that have subscribed to this blog, but I fear I will never really know….

Posted in Social Computing, Weblog Theory | Tagged blogsphere, ssw, technorati | Leave a comment

I finally switched to WordPress

wordpress_logoAfter a long time of consideration I turned over to WordPress for this weblog and I will not be using Tinderbox to blog here anymore. Tinderbox is a great software for thinking and writing – and I love to have a more graphical/visual note taking approach to weblogging. But it was getting too clumsy to update my weblog or simply correct a typo. It also is a client side application – thus requiring me to use Tinderbox to blog (so it didn’t work with other clients or other computers).

feed-icon32x32  RSS Feed

Now I just need a slick design for this site.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged this_blog, wordpress | 1 Comment

3 components of good web design

Actually the site PSDTUTS has great tutorials for Web Designers. But one of the recent articles about what design roles that constitute a good web design discipline did not convince me.

Read More »

Posted in Interface | Tagged definitions, Design, discourse, information architecture, information design, model, theory, understanding, visual, webdesign | 2 Comments

US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics

Yahoo News reports: “US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.”

You can take the 33-question quiz here.

I couriously tried the test and scored a 60.61% as a non-US citizen. Doesn’t this qualify me for US congress?

Posted in Politics | Tagged Education, Politics, poll, public, usa | Leave a comment
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