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Moving Toward Something

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but there’s definitely movement.

This is going to be a rambler of a post. I just have to get some things out there. You’ve been warned.

Goodbye Trackback. In 4+ years of blogging I’ve only had one legitimate Trackback and lately I’ve been deleting dozens of them. That and comment spam are really souring my faith in the great communication enabler that weblogs can and should be. I have to remind myself that I’m an optimist.

If I can squeeze some time out of this weekend I might try implementing some of the anti-spam suggestions that this person made. Initial scan of the article looks promising — most of it is stuff I’ve been too lazy to try.

On Tuesday I got a case for my iPod at the Tucson Apple Store. Man, those stores are sweet! I couldn’t help but purchase an iTrip too and since it was a lot cheaper than buying a new Alpine Head Unit, Jenny should be pleased. I haven’t been disappointed. The iTrip works great.

I recently paid $29.95 for Alex King’s Tasks 2.0 software. I had tried an early version before he was selling it. I was amazed back then and I’m more impressed now. I’m trying out the 2.5 release canidate right now and if I stick with it over the long haul I think this might be the tool that really helps me be more productive through efficient task management. It fits my personality and habits very well. Keyboard shortcuts where you need them, simplification of things other tools make difficult, web-based (duh!), and generally pleasing to the eye (if not just change the theme).

Two recent posts by Jason Fried on the 37signals blog are spot on in my opinion. First Google Maps proves “It’s the experience, stupid” and then Getting Real, Step 1: No Functional Spec.

Wow. The first was pretty obvious. Google is killing everyone in the web app space. I get goosebumps thinking about what they might come out with next. It always seems so obvious in hindsight, but then why didn’t MSN Maps, Mapquest or Yahoo Maps (who have been around longer) get feedback from users and make improvements that could have gotten them closer to what Google launched in “beta”? It doesn’t make sense. Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe our geek bias and techno-wow gets in the way. I don’t know.

Then Jason lays down the law on functional specs sucking (at least in the web design world). I’ve had this suspicion in the past, but couldn’t quite articulate it, and in some discussions I would have been arguing for more “spec documents” up front. I kept thinking that we must not be doing the spec document correctly, and now I think we shouldn’t have been doing it all along. Another factor in some organizations is the whole parallel design/engineering that goes on. The engineers know the timelines are tight for a particular project so they want to start modeling the DB, designing the APIs, coding the main objects, etc… and the designers are working on the mock-ups, getting the look-n-feel down, hopefully working on the info-architecture and usability, etc…. Now we might assume that these two groups in a company are actually meeting daily and talking about what is going on, but you know what they say about assuming.

I think it can be hard for a project manager to make a decision that says we are to work linearly starting with the designers creating a full interface. This could also be a big political can of worms. The engineers might worry that the designers are going to steal all the creativity away from them or something like that. I don’t know.

All-in-all, you have to work as a team, and communicate very very well to be really really good. I get the sense that the 37signals team does this already. Jeremy Hedley has some words about this as well.

And last but certainly not least, I was part of the first Tucson Webstandards Meetup that included the web-famous Molly E. Holzschlag. She posted about it and included photographic evidence of the event. My head was buzzing for hours that night. It really was great to chat with like-minding folks about this whole webstandards thing.

One thing that stuck in my head from that evening was about webstandards being more of a code word for “Best Practices” since the standards are really just recommendations and that in all of computing history standards have been subjugated and tweaked by the players involved. Sometimes — okay, most of the time, by the creators of said standard. I think we’re mostly realists when it comes to the “standard” and would break/bend it when and if necessary. Anyway, I can’t wait till the next meetup.

Oh yeah, one more thing. I’m getting very excited about SXSW. If you’re going and would like to meet, drop me a comment/contact/e-mail/IM/phone call or whatever. This year I’m not going to be as much of a lurker. I want to talk more and I might just do so until people tell me to shut up. Which is what I should do on this entry. I told you it was going to be a rambler.

Originally published on Thursday February 10, 2005 at 11:56 pm

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