Stream: UI

October 18th, 2006

Right-click menus are problematic for novice (and also experienced) computer users for several reasons:

Discoverability
Novice users are surprised when you tell them you can right click things to get extra options.
Added complexity
After discovering that their interface to the computer has another variable, they can become confused as to which button they should use in which situation.
Too many options
Because GUIs usually have a lot of containment metaphors, right-clicking on a point means you could be directing your attention to any of several nested entities. As a result, context menus don’t have enough context and tend to be very long and hence difficult to find things in.

Discoverable, Entity Specific, Left-Click Context Menus

There is an alternative

  • When the user makes some gesture towards an object such as hovering over it, a discreet target is displayed close outside the border of the object.
  • If the user makes a gesture towards the target, hovering or clicking, it expands to show possible contextual actions for that object.
  • Otherwise, if the user moves in a different direction, the target disappears.

IMHO, this goes some way to solving the problems above. Newbies can discover contextual functinoality easily. They don’t need to worry about an extra mouse button. And the menus can be entity-specific, so the functionality can be simplified. Plus, this interface is an evolution: it can be complimentary to the standard right-click menus.

Issues

Small Entities
Sometimes the user may want to direct attention to a small part of the interface, for example a character in a text editor or a pixel in a graphics package. These are valid conceptual entities and as such should have associated actions and options. However, it seems impossible to display a context menu target for every mouse over of such entities – The smaller the entity, the harder it is to avoid the menu target.
Overlapping Entities
Sometimes different conceptual entities take up exactly the same screen real estate. This increases the complexity of the contextual menu, but no more than that of a right-click menu.

Microsoft Office 2007

This pattern has popped up as one of the changes in the new MS Office interface overhaul. Here’s what happens when you select a piece of text. Look closely, there’s a hint of a contextual toolbar there:

Office 2007 contextual popups

As you move your mouse towards the faint target it gets solid and you can directly change the properties of the text:

Office 2007 contextual popups

If you move your mouse in the opposite direction it disappears and never comes back.

Office 2007 contextual popups

It seems the Office team have only used this on text selections and only for text formatting properties so far. It works in Excel and Power point as well. If you want to try out the new interface for yourself, Microsoft have set up vanilla installs that you can interact with through a website without installing anything. You have to have Internet Explorer on Windows, and be willing to install some ActiveX remote desktop plugin.

Elsewhere

Here’s another example from Flickr. Right-click menus are even less discoverable on the web, since not even experienced users expect them. Hence, Flickr does this when you mouse over a person:

Flickr contextual menus

Flickr contextual menus

Seen any other examples?

 
September 29th, 2006

ChaCha is a new search engine that will connect you to a personal search assistant (a human!) to help you with your query. Matthias decided to test it out with a challenging query:

Status:
Looking for a guide …
Status:
Connected to guide: SomeGuide
SomeGuide:
Hi there. I will be helping with your search.
SomeGuide:
Hey, there. How are you today?
SomeGuide:
So you’re looking for the ‘answer to everything’?
You:
i am good
You:
and you?
You:
yes
SomeGuide:
I’m great. Thanks for asking
You:
SomeGuide, I am really curious what might be a good answer for everything
SomeGuide:
You mean in conversation?
SomeGuide:
Or ‘everything’ in an all-encompassing philosophical scope.
You:
yes, philosophical
You:
It sounds like a hard task, but I am looking for that to put into a slideshow for my next presentation
You:
as an opening quote
You:
it will be a technical talk about research opportunities
You:
for the future
SomeGuide:
Hmm, that’s quite a question…

…….

Go read the rest at Matthias’ excuse for a permalink. It has a happy ending!

 
September 14th, 2006

It just doesn’t have enough workingness yet. Files that don’t show up, or won’t transfer.

Having said that, I did keep trying to use it. If it worked properly I would find it pretty useful. But don’t you feel this should and will be baked into the OS?

 
September 14th, 2006

I’m lovin’ the new iTunes album flicking interface. I’ve been using CoverFlow for a while but it’s nice to have it integrated into the iTunes library. Apple actually bought CoverFlow for this, I’m assuming for patents and/or people.
iTunes 7

On the downside, the iTunes version doesn’t seem as good at getting album art automatically, and incidently, ignored my almost complete CoverFlow artwork database when trying to find the right images. The wonderful interface for adding album art manually has been lost in the transfer too. In CoverFlow there was a handy context menu item for doing a search on Google Images or Amazon for the artist/album name. And you could copy and paste any image you found directly onto the album. With iTunes there’s a whole rigmarole of selecting all the songs on the album, opening a dialog, and then pasting.

Oh, and yes that does say Chistina Millian, and no I don’t know how that got there.

 
August 4th, 2006

To my one blog subscriber,

If you’re wondering why I’m posting twice in the same month (how shocking!), it’s because things are changing around here. You are reading this via the RSS feed so you won’t be aware that I have redesigned the blog’s homepage. My intent was to make this medium more conducive to writing quick posts on more diverse subjects yet still keep it hanging together as a coherent whole. Because let’s face it: something has got to change around here if I’m going to write more and better.

My first goal was to deemphasize the “latest post”, so everything got shrunk a bit until it was only readable by expanding with a click. (It has a nice flowy animation too. You know me, dear reader, I’m all about the javascrizzle.) Still, you can get a taster with a quick glance, and not just for one post but for the whole site, stretching back months at the moment. Please let me know if you disagree, dear reader. I value your opinion greatly.

There’s also a very simple greedy algorithm for sorting posts into streams by category/tag, so that the casual reader (not you, no no) can follow my stream of thought on a subject that interests them. And possibly ignore others. Most blogs don’t do much with the categories except list them in the sidebar. I think it’s time we made use of them. I guess it’s related to this unsubscribing thing that James Corbett is always going on about. Many people don’t want to commit the same way you have. They just want to dip in now and then to see if anything interesting has been going on. Call it grazing if you will. I noticed myself doing this recently for some blogs.

So, I understand that RSS is making the “homepage” increasingly irrelevent. Being an RSS subscriber yourself, you care little for homepages. In fact this change might even effect you negatively if I start spewing out any old rubbish that only looks good on the homepage because you can’t quite read it. NO, don’t unsubscribe!! I need you loyal reader. Without you I’m just sitting here sadly typing to myself. I haven’t forgotten you. I’m also thinking about the RSS angle. And, hopefully, RSS aggregators will pick up on the idea and start doing something useful with tags too.

Until then, let the others fly by, grazing me as they pass. You and I have a special, enduring relationship, dearest subscriber.

Yours always,

Eureka Man

PS: If you want to use the theme for your own wordpress blog (I loved that last post by the way, you put things so much more eloquently than I ever could), just leave a comment and I’ll work out how to package it up nicely.

 

Stream: Personal

September 23rd, 2006

Gareth and Francis in the US of A

Gareth and Francis have been tearing up and down western America. They stopped over with me in San Francisco, and now Gareth is beautifully evoking how Vegas always fails to meet expectations but the Grand Canyon blows them away.

 
August 26th, 2006

… and not those of my new employer, the Palo Alto Research Center. 🙂 I’m just reviewing their blogging guidelines and as long as I state that, it shouldn’t affect the content here too much. I don’t tend to post anything relavent to the work I do at PARC anyway.

It’s an IP focussed company so let’s see how it goes. The PlayOn team already have a blog.

 

Stream: My Tweets

Stream: Quick Links

August 4th, 2006

I just came across this month-old zefrank episode which includes some characteristically insightful advice from Ze:

I run out of ideas every day! Each day I live in mortal fear that I’ve used up the last idea that’ll ever come to me. If you don’t wanna run out of ideas the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don’t have the time or resources to do ’em right. Then they stay around in your head like brain crack. No matter how bad things get, at least you have those good ideas that you’ll get to later.

Some people get addicted to that brain crack. And the longer they wait, the more they convince themselves of how perfectly that idea should be executed. And they imagine it on a beautiful platter with glitter and rose petals. And everyone’s clapping for them. But the, but the, but the, but the bummer is most ideas kinda suck when you do ’em. And no matter how much you plan you still have to do something for the first time. And you’re almost guaranteed the first time you do something it’ll blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who’s still dreaming of all the applause. When I get an idea, even a bad one, I try to get it out into the world as fast as possible, ’cause I certainly don’t want to be addicted to brain crack.

Then, as so often happens on the show, he breaks into song. This time it’s the catchy number “Where the fuck do ideas come from?”, a great illustration of getting a bad idea out into the world. ;)Â I much prefer “Hindsight is 20-20“.

 
July 28th, 2006

Have a look at cambrianhouse.com

An outlet for spare ideas and coding time? I’ll be very interested to see what projects come out of it, and what the project collaborators have to say about the service afterwards.

 

Stream: Practical

June 2nd, 2006

Coming next Monday: a web app the likes of which has never been seen before; an all singing, all dancing, all screen-scraping, spectacular that will change our lives forever. Oh, and we haven’t started development yet.

We’re just one of several money-making projects that will progress from idea to deployment in the course of this weekend at DHX. It’s got to be simple. It’s got to be popular. And it’s got to make us more cash than any other competitor in the next month. And we need you! How would you like to take a chance this Saturday and Sunday? Imagine that you could work like hell for two days, and then never again have to work on something you didn’t enjoy. Ever. It’s a gamble. But then, that’s exactly what our project idea is about! 😉

I’m talking to you, Irish web 2.0 community. We need someone to focus on the backend of this thing, someone who’s comfortable working out data storage schemes, working out how to parse emails and things, working with APIs. You can work in any framework that the competition rules allow. There’s no problem with you working remotely. We’ll be on California time but that might work out for the best. We can take shifts at sleeping.

Cue big lottery finger. IT COULD BE YOU! Send me an email: eurekaman at gmail.

Update: We flaked out. Sleeping under a desk is not good for morale. Release will be delayed a couple of weeks. Full marks to Matthias, though, for his MacGyver-style office camping creativity.

 
May 11th, 2006

I like nice clean interfaces. Firefox’s search box has always bothered me. It’s always there, cluttering up your view with your last entered search terms. It’s too small and fights with the url box for space. I always have it disabled.

So as practice for another XUL project I’ve been working on, here is my solution:

ToggleSearch for Firefox

It goes away when it’s not needed. It shares space with the url bar. Just hit the search button to enter/leave search mode. Have a look at the screenshots.

 
March 11th, 2006

At the end of January, James Corbett coined the term Feed Grazer with reference to my OPod widget. Well, he’s certainly captured some people’s imagination with that phrase. Via James, comes news of Grazr.com. Their main product is still under wraps but they have released the Grazer Mini, which bears a distinct resemblance to OPod, though not quite as pretty even if I do say so myself 😉 To make this work they’ve done what I was afraid to do: created a web service that translates any RSS or OPML url into JSON format.
Nice work guys! Can I play?

A few updates:

 
Comments Off on Hacking a Grazr
March 8th, 2006

Microsoft’s Live Clipboard is great stuff. Plus it’s not dependant on Microsoft Live at all. Microsoft are just proposing the standard and providing a nice little desktop integration app for their Windows users.
Have a look at the screencasts. There will definately be UI issues to be worked out. This functionality should really live in the browser, detecting microformats and providing the grab UI. But it’s nice that we don’t have to wait for the browsers to aggree on a standard. Hopefully it will be easy for them to integrate post-hoc, to supplement this interface where it appears on the web, and emulate it where it doesn’t.

This is very important for the web as a platform.

 
January 11th, 2006

Today I released the first version of OPod (Cue cease and desist letters from Apple). James has the scoop.
I think I’m going to make this the first of a series of posts releasing widgets I’ve developed as parts of other projects.

Things I didn’t know before starting this:

  • Firefox allows frames embedded to a maximum depth of 8 levels.

    There’s a much more elegant way of coding this up if you can embed frames within each other to an arbitrary depth. However, to stop crashes caused by infinitely recursing frames, the Firefox developers decided to disallow frames embedded in 9 other frames. How did they choose this arbitrary number? Beats me. Am I the first to come across a useful scenario for embedding more than 8 frames? (IE seems to have no limit.)

  • Navigating within multiple dynamically created iframes does something weird to the Firefox history list. (Still under investigation)
  • An iframe with no src adds a new item to Firefox’s history list but not to IE’s.
  • Overflow:scroll gets you mandatory scrollbars but overflow:auto only puts them in when the div actually overflows.
  • Scrolling divs have no scrollTo method. But you can set their scrollLeft and scrollTop properties to achieve the same effect.
  • You can set the rows and cols attributes of a frameset dynamically! (though I didn’t use this)
  • This works:
    var head = document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0];
    var link = document.createElement('link');
    link.rel  = 'stylesheet';
    link.href = 'style.css';
    head.appendChild(link);
    • And finally, a plea to browser makers:

      In your next version, please support some kind of ContextAgnosticXMLHttpRequest (and come up with a better name while you’re at it). There’s a lot of client processing power going to waste right now while the server churns away fetching XML and transforming it one way or the other.

 

Stream: Net

May 6th, 2006

Ok, back to practicality (I hope). Here’s what I was going on about during the lunchtime session at . Adam Green brought up the problem of API lock-in. And there’s another, related problem which I know Flock is feeling at the moment. They want to allow you to save your bookmarks to whatever bookmarking site you use, upload your photos to the photo-sharing app of your choice and talk directly to your blog, whatever platform it’s running on. Yet that means they have to write interfacing code for each instance of the above, and push out an update every time there’s a new API to support. Do you realize how many bookmarking sites there are? And yes, many have APIs, but few share common APIs. Same goes for photos and blogs.

So Canter‘s answer to this was to set up broker servers which would act as a translating intermediary between client apps and web APIs (and he says his company is going to do this for certain API flavours). But then all API trafic gets routed through a centralized server. Anybody can see that’s not so smart. When I want to talk to a new API, I don’t want to talk through Canter’s server. I want Canter’s server to tell me how to talk to the new API. Then I can go off and do just that, all decentralized and pretty-like.

Now, web APIs very often talk fluent XML. So it seems possible that the hypothetical translation server could serve me an XSL transform that would tell me all I needed to talk directly to any API it supports. The idea is that these API normalizing transforms get written once, and reused in as many client apps as possible. They can be provided by the developer of the API, one of the client app developers, or anyone really. Client developers can simply target the normalized API and know that, without any effort on their part, their app will be able to talk to services which don’t even exist when they . Check out my MS Paint skillz:

xantComments? Would you like this? Think it’s unnecessary? Think it wouldn’t work? Is it out there already? If not, maybe I’ll start a standard-defining session at BarCamp or Mashpit.

 
May 3rd, 2006

So I turned up for the day at DCU. Witnessing the Marc Canter show was entertaining and there was a bit of tech discussion sprinkled on top. But the overwhelming topic for the day was…

Money

Yes, that’s an actual slide, taken out of context, from one of the company’s presentations. It was web 2.0 very much from a business person’s perspective (not surprising given that it was an EI event). “What exactly is this web 2.0 thing?” “What features and technologies do we need to adopt to get some of this web 2.0 money?” or “How can I tell that a company is web 2.0 so I can decide whether to invest?” Web 2.0 used as a noun or an adjective.

Here’s my take. From a developer’s perspective web 2.0 should be a verb, if anything. Ask “How can I web 2.0 my business?” Say “Our product is web 2.0ing”. It means you’re pushing things forward, doing things right this time, right by the web, right for the people. And you’re not quite sure what the final desination of your web 2.0ing will be (Hint: there is no final destination). You’re just trying to be valuable to somebody. Web 2.0 is not any one group of technologies or features. It is whatever makes sense and makes value for the people you affect. Web 2.0 is a vague, yet meaningful term that describes a movement, a journey. The reason there is no clear definition is that we’re not sure where we’re headed yet.

The most interesting things will happen without knowing exactly how they’re going to make money. Web 2.0ing should convey a sense of relinquishing control. Relinquishing control of people’s data, sure. Relinquishing control of taxonomy maybe. But most importantly, relinquishing control of your business plan. Admit that it’s difficult to predict who will use your software and how they will use it. Release it and be ready to adapt.

What is my problem? I don’t really have one. I’m not bashing Enterprise Ireland or the companies who presented at the event. They put on an interesting and valuable show. I have masses to learn about the business side of things and I’ll take every opportunity i can get. In one sense Web 2.0 is about the money. It’s a resurgence of venture capital interest in web companies. It’s not a case of they’re wrong, I’m right, or even that we disagree. I’m not trying to own the term, only give a different perspective (one that may be equally, if not more bullshitty, sorry). However slight a distinction it is though, it makes a difference to the audience at your conference and the ensuing discussion. Thursday’s event did contrast to the unconferences I’ve been at where the feeling really was “let’s push things forward”. I’d like to recreate that here in Ireland.

So we’ve had the Web 2.0 conference. How about a Web 2.0ing conference? I caught a whiff of it during Adam Green’s roundtable. There are hackers out there interested in pushing things forward. I want a regular get-together focusing on them (us). If you’re in teh Valley this summer look me up. And if another TechCamp happens in September I won’t miss it this time.

 
January 27th, 2006

I’ve heard it again and again over the last year: People with “RSS overload” complaining that their aggregator is swamping them with information. The same generality of RSS that has made it so ubiquitous has also exposed problems in any application trying to serve as a consumer for all RSS feeds. RSS/Atom can describe many types of content and accordingly we need more than one type of interface for consuming that content. Bloglines has excelled in the list-of-feeds sidebar approach, organized into a single level of folders. Feedlounge uses tags instead of folders. Dave Winer’s newsRiver and Google’s Reader take the focus away from the individual feeds and present the user instead with an aggregated stream of updates. Then there are the one-level-removed filtering systems like Tailrank which try to be a bit intelligent about what they show you. Each interface has its own strengths and there is room for another paradigm or two in there.

Here are the first few species I can separate out of the feed ecosystem:

  1. Temporary, throwaway feedsComment feeds come to mind. This is where the blogosphere ‘conversation’ needs a lot of work. If I make a comment on someone else’s blog I often want to keep track of replies and other comments. So I subscribe to the comment feed. But I don’t want to be notified of every comment from that blog forever. After a period during which I haven’t been interested in the comments for a while, my aggregator should stop displaying them to me. And I don’t want a list of all the comment feeds I’ve subscribed to previously, just the latest ones. I don’t know of any aggregator that monitors your attention like this yet.
  2. Potentially interesting feedsThese are almost like bookmarks (and better than bookmarks really). Often when I subscribe to a feed in Bloglines what I’m really doing is bookmarking. I’m saying “This person/group produces good stuff. I’m registering my interest.” But I bookmark way too many sites to actually read all their updates. I just want the best stuff. A list-of-feeds interface is no good here either. This is where something like Tailrank comes in. It tries to present you the latest interesting conversations going on in your selection of feeds and just beyond.

    What would be great is if del.icio.us auto-discovered the feeds from my bookmarks and had it’s own intelligent aggregator. Or if Tailrank could sync with my del.icio.us bookmarks and then auto-discover the feeds for itself (Kevin, this seems like a good way of making yourself an attractive acquisition for Yahoo). Or if, when I bookmark a page through a browser like Flock, it also submitted the associated feed to my Tailrank-style aggregator.

  3. Seldom updated, but important feedsHere I’m thinking, for example, of things like update feeds for software libraries I use or vanity searches. I don’t want a list of feeds here because I don’t need it. I just need to notified when any of these feeds contain a new item, and then I’m going to read it immediately.
  4. friend’s and must-see feedsWith these feeds, I want to at least glance at every item that comes through, maybe not immediately but eventually. These can be almost as important as personal email. List-of-feeds works alright here. My current personal project is addressing this latter species (and the interface is experimental, you might say).

It’s good to see that the Google Reader team plan to build several different interfaces on top of their feed reading back-end. I’d like to see them making it easy for users to subscribe to a feed in one of their interfaces and not the others, whether by tagging or whatever. The fact is that the feed-space is far from homogenous. There really is no “best” way to consume all the feeds that interest you.

 
November 25th, 2005

The Swing

Deep in the foothills of Wicklow a new web app is quickly taking shape. But when I lose concentration I’m pretty lucky to be able to step out the front door and go walk in the woods. On the hill opposite the house there is a huge, sprawling tree. And hanging from a branch is a swing. This is one of my favourite places in the world. You sit here swinging slowly, iPod cranked up, the winter sun warming away the chills. You can see the sea sparkling in the distance and you can’t help but feel good. And you think…

“Hey! I could make a nice little javascript panorama viewer/editor pretty easily!”

So there goes the rest of the afternoon :). I’ve put the result on this page because WordPress doesn’t seem to accomodate javascript in posts (Anyone know of a plugin for that?).

Feel free to put your own images in and nick it. In fact this widget was specifically designed to be copied. Like some broody, psuedo-biological AI it can reproduce its own source code with whatever modifications you like. It won’t be long until it takes over the world ;). Select ‘Edit’ and, when you’ve finished making your own panorama, click ‘Get the Code’. Let me know if you find any problems with it.

 
November 14th, 2005

Other people, it seems, have felt similar disappointments to mine with the gush of web 2.0 cash-ins. People with web 2.0 visions, I’d like to direct your attention to something you may have been overlooking: Planet Earth. I have a feeling that we (as web-app developers) are missing something right under our noses. Something big. We may have more power than we realize. The power to change something. Short of an actual idea, I present to you a niggle: the glaring absence of an idea where there surely should be one.

This niggle stemmed partly from reading Pay it Forward. It’s about a real world-hack that feeds off the same power as email chain letters. Someone does a very good deed for you and instead of paying them back you promise to pay it forward to 3 others. Kindness proliferates exponentially. Of course it works in the novel, but I think the internet has lowered the bar for making things like this happen in real life. Things happen faster on the net. It’s easy to experiment. And there is a steady supply of bored surfers to experiment with. If only we’re open to the possibilities maybe we can come up with something to shake things up. I recommend Pay it Forward as web 2.0 reading material. Plus it’ll make you feel all warm and bubbly inside.

While you’re at it, and to bring you back down to Earth so to speak, read the Gumption Memo. You could hardly find a more easily digestible yet outlook-altering 50 pages. It’s a specs document for solving world problems by Brian Skinner, an open source coder who I hope to be collaborating with over the next while. One of Brian’s positions is that national governments, driven by tribalism, are squandering their enormous power to cure some of the world’s ills. Here too I think we have something on our side. The Internet melts country boundaries. Online, you are primarily a citizen of the net and only secondarily of the country that hosts your physical self. When you act in the interest of your netbrethren it is for a vast, yet connected nation, the likes of which the world has never managed to host before. The rest of the world will be joining our virtual nation shortly. It would be great to have something cool ready for them when they get here, apart from somewhere they can upload photos or find hot chicks.

I think one lead is the power of social software to create and distribute value at a micro-level. I’m talking firstly about value in information. Flickr (or any social tagging site) invites its users to spend a small amount of their time adding metadata to their (and other’s) stuff using a simple textbox. Crucially, this effort is mostly directly for the benefit of the user themselves. They create a valuable information scaffold around their data to help find things in future. But the software skims some of this value off and, by the power of aggregation, reuses it for the good of the community. A global information scaffold emerges to benefit anyone who needs it. Everybody wins, to some extent. The game of information exchange is not zero-sum

Now information is one thing. Of course, there are other currencies, like money for instance, that do tend to be involved in zero-sum games. But money and information do not live in unconnected realms. People readily exchange money for information every day. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is getting towards what I’m talking about. It pays people just for having the abilities of a normal human (and having access to the net). It connects. A bundle of capillaries channeling droplets of value around the net. Yes, from a developer point of view, when you start handling money as well as information things get a bit more complicated. That’s something else that needs to be worked on.

Like me, you don’t have to have one altruistic synapse in your cranium to tackle something like this. Do it for the for the fame and adoration. Do it because you might make the world a nicer place for yourself to inhabit. Do it to learn Ruby on Rails. Do it because it’s better than making another social bookmarking site, right? Channel some of that web 2.0 energy and direct it towards World 2.0. Think global, and then act global too. There’s even the possibility of investors out there for budding world-hackers.

So idea-people, that’s the niggle. I’m suggesting to you that these days changing the world, far from being a lifetime’s work, may simply constitute a weekend of inspired coding. Pass it on. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.

Update: Forgot to mention the Recovery 2.0 project.

 

Stream: Publicity

March 27th, 2006

Gareth, of technolotics, gave OPod a glowing review on last week’s show. 24 minutes in:

I think this could be the future of the web browser

… could you repeat that?

Reeeeeewind…I think this could be the future of the web browser

You can check out the xvid here and read more about Gareth’s vision on his blog. They want me to come on the show so stay tuned for more hot data browsing action.

 

Stream: Meta-Ideas

January 26th, 2006

Here‘s this week’s inspiring read from the man himself, just in time for anybody who’ll be filling in their CAO this weekend. Read it yourself, but in short: Realise that work and fun are not exclusive. Aim to do what you love and you’ll be great at it, easily. If you don’t know what you love yet then take as many opportunities as possible to try different things.

That’s the way I’ve been playing it for most of my college and work life. And I have very few regrets. (Though you might get a slightly different viewpoint from certain girlfriends/parents 🙂 )

Now, if only I could combine my work with that more tormenting duty: exercise. Has anybody ever taken the building metaphor of software development literally and come up with a physical programming language? A hot, chiselled bod by coding – now that would be the ultimate panacea!

Tags: ,

 
October 28th, 2005

Paul Graham says: “[S]tartup ideas are worthless”. The value of a successful startup lies in the people and in the process of exploring an idea.

And there should be more than one person: “Y Combinator has a rule against investing in startups with only one founder.” I’m inclined to believe him. Unfortunately my main project at the moment is a solo one. It would be great to meet up with more dev geeks now that I’m back in Ireland. I’d love to get some Dev House style meetups going. Any interest out there? Mail me.

 
August 19th, 2005

When you have ideas, the first instinct is to keep them secret, a possession, in the hope that they increase your net worth. But ideas are very risky assets. Ideas are data. They transfer easily from person to person. They can be copied and recopied and never lose their value (and never gain any either). They can instantly be rendered worthless to you by popping up in a similar form in someone else’s mind. Your real worth is something that noone on earth has the technology to steal yet. It is hardware. It is moulded by all your years of experiences. It is information, yes. But it is encoded in the inner wirings of the enormous, continuously changing machine that is your brain. The real worth lies in the hardware that generates great ideas.

So, my advice to myself (and anyone else you this applies to) is to publish, talk to people, blog and generally vent hot air. If you are so confident in your talent for generating ideas and you want somebody to employ you on the strength of this talent then you can’t expect them to take your word for it. Put your ideas out there. They are worth more to you as advertisements or previews of what you can do than they promise hope of single-handed exploitation. You want a patron who recognises your brain’s capacity to generate new ideas as a more valuable commodity than any individual idea. It’s hard to get someone to pay you to start having ideas from nothing, but someone may pay you to stop telling everybody else your ideas.

With that sentiment in mind, roll on BarCamp!

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Stream: Social

October 22nd, 2005

After a long holiday, bookended by barcamps, normal service will resume soon.  (PS: I tried to post this using Flock but it doesn’t seem to be working quite right with blogs.ie…)

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Comments Off on Back soon
August 23rd, 2005

I’m glad to see the world is paying attention to BarCamp . So far there are murmurings about franchises in Washington DC, Boston, New York, UK and Puerto Rico. And don’t forget the TechCamp back home in Ireland. I hope I can make it. It will be interesting to see if these tributes can pull off something as special as their inspiration.

Someday I’ll tell my grandkids: “I was there when it all began…” 😉

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