Oct 21 2008

Hello Again, Microformats

Microformats have attracted a lot of sporadic attention over the past couple years, but nothing substantial has really materialized (as far as I've noticed).

I recently found a nice Microformats Bookmarklet as well as the Tails and Operator plugins for Firefox. The bookmarklet has been around since 2006, but the Firefox plugins were just released this summer. Finally, it seems people are using the parsers to create something that actually gives this data format some life.

Firefox 3.0 includes a Microformats API (but no GUI). IE 8 is rumored to have also added support for the format. So, it seems if usage increases, we might start to see Microformats actually catch on this time. It would provide a way to easily extract contacts, locations and events from web pages.

Oct 20 2008

Value User Experience

Jack Shedd referenced an Adaptive Path report, How ROI Changes User Experience, in a recent post. The gist of the report is that valuing user experience will make it more credible in the world of business. Previously, the report would have set you back $395, but the report is now free to download (PDF, 412kb). It's basically making a case for investment into user experience.

While not necessarily a thrilling read, but you could at least muddle through and extract a few talking points to pitch your next client. Though, it doesn't have to be the rocket science business-speak that they dish out either. It's can be as simple as better design and user experience will lead to higher returns. However, if you do work in a corporate environment, quoting it verbatim might be the better way to go.

Oct 16 2008

slotMusic

Recently, the world's four largest music companies (EMI Music, SONY BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group) partnered with SanDisk to create slotMusic, a new format for music delivery. slotMusic cards are essentially microSD cards loaded with 320kbps, DRM-free MP3s. In addition, the card may be loaded with "liner notes, album art, videos and other creative content that an artist may choose."

According to the press release:

It's the first time the major labels and retailers have unanimously embraced a new physical format in over 25 years. slotMusic makes today's hottest music available on interoperable microSD cards that let fans instantly plug and play albums into their microSD slot-enabled mobile phones, portable media players, computers, and an increasing number of car stereos.

As a person who primarily creates work for the web, this format is mildy appealing. Moreover, from a standpoint of conservation it seems this format would reduce the waste created from standard CD jewel cases and digipaks. However, the real test will be whether or not consumers feel a tiny microSD card feels worth the "suggested retail price of $14.99." Seeing as we'll already pay $9.99 for an album of 256kpbs variable-rate MP3s from Amazon, I'd say yes. Then again, do we really want a music collection consisting of hundreds of microSD cards?

Nevertheless, it's a interesting development in the music industry and I'm going to follow it with, admittedly, a little cynicism. You can find more details about slotMusic on its marketing site and the SanDisk sansa site.

As a side note: considering the money they probably paid for the marketing site, you'd think whomever built it would've sided against the component Flash video player. Weak!

Oct 15 2008

Flash Player 10

I mentioned it over on Flash Charlotte and I might as well mention it here: the official release of Flash Player 10 is now available. Update your engines!

Oct 14 2008

Her Majesty of Sound

For some time now, I've been discouraged by the lack of a music scene in Charlotte. While we have great venues and fairly steady stream of good shows, a sizeable audience never seems to materialize. If no one goes to the shows, then the bands don't come back—it's that simple.

With that in mind, I'm happy to announce the launch of Her Majesty of Sound. Currently, the site is a basic concert calendar, highlighting the best upcoming shows in the Charlotte area. Obviously, there are a lot more shows scheduled in the area, but the intention is more about quality than quantity. Of course, my criteria is purely subjective, but there is an effort being made to provide a diverse listing.

Following the tenets of Getting Real, I took the quickest, easiest path to getting the idea up and running. Rest assured, I'll be regularly rolling out updates. For now, go check out the impressive lineup of shows Charlotte will host in October and November.

Oct 8 2008

Ubiquity

Back in August, Mozilla Labs introduced Ubiquity. As with most experimental prototype plugins for Firefox, I received the news of Ubiquity with a grain of salt.

One night a few weeks ago, I decided to give Ubiquity a test drive and installed the plugin on my laptop. Even though it's essentially just a proof-of-concept at this point, it opens a new world of functionality for browsers.

Ubiquity functions much like Enso from Humanized, which is no coincidence, since Aza Raskin joined the Mozilla team earlier this year. Basically, you launch Ubiquity with a key command and type a natural-language request (i.e., map Concord, NC). That's only the gist of the platform; to really experience the functionality, you should watch this video or just install the plugin.

Since Ubiquity is a platform, commands can be created using basic Javascript—check out the Command Author Tutorial. I'm definitely watching the development of this platform with great interest, because it could eliminate many of the needlessly repetitive actions associated with browsers and the web.

Oct 7 2008

Michael Lebowitz Presentation at Click:NY

A few weeks back, I watched the Big Spaceship installment of Creative Inspirations over on Lynda.com. I already knew Big Spaceship produced great work, but the videos revealed more of their internal organization. I've always been an advocate for teams and I love the way they structured their company. While they have about seven persons per team, it can be effective for a team of just two. There's something to be said for the cohesion and rhythm that can develop within a team.

Recently, Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship spoke at the Click:NY conference. I found notes from Lebowitz' lecture on Swissmiss and they expand on the fundamentals covered in the Lynda.com videos. Additionally, Lebowitz posted the presentation slides on his blog—definitely worth a quick read.

My favorite notes from said slides:

  • Don't say "Creatives"
  • Fun begets passion, passion begets quality
  • Small is good
  • Experiment constantly
Oct 6 2008

Validator S.A.C.

I stumbled upon Validator S.A.C. through a link off Shaun Inman's site. It seems worth the download, if you're concerned with quickly validating your HTML/XHTML and find yourself at the W3C validator often. It's fairly versatile, for a simple app:

Validator S.A.C. can validate local files, as well as pages on local web sites. Validate using the stand-alone Favelet, drag and drop files and URLs onto the application icon, or simply use File > Open. Validator S.A.C. can also be setup as a Web Service, allowing users to validate over the local network.

After some searching, I found that you could install the W3C HTML Validator directly in OS X. However, Validator S.A.C. seems much more convenient.

Now, let's see some Markup/CSS combo action and then we're talking.

Oct 3 2008

A Simple URL Shortener

For those looking for an alternative to TinyURL, I wanted to express my appreciation for and recommend bit.ly. The fundamental service, which launched back in July, is exactly the same. However, they've stripped away all excess and made the task at hand the focus—seriously, you have to try to add excess to this process.

Additionally, they've introduced some great features for developers, provided a great bookmarklet, as well as setup the simplest REST API I've seen yet.

Oct 2 2008

Pingback Support

Today, I added pingback support to this blog. Pingbacks have been around for years, but for some reason I just became infatuated with them. Basically, it was one of those things I always wanted to learn more about but never set aside the time.

Movable Type introduced trackbacks, which are reportedly more prone to spam. Trackbacks were built around the REST model, whereas pingbacks use XML-RPC for requests (i.e., pingbacks seem to be better). Though, as you're well aware, people will find a way to spam anything.

In case you're drawing a blank on XML-RPC:

[XML-RPC is] a spec and a set of implementations that allow software running on disparate operating systems, running in different environments to make procedure calls over the Internet.

Right now, I only accept incoming requests, but I plan on adding outgoing requests. Nevertheless, I built my "server" off the Incutio XML-RPC Library and had it up and running in under an hour.

In the coming months, I plan to launch Very Helpful, a resource site for web developers. It will be much like the resource sites around the web, except I hope to cater to the middle of the development spectrum (i.e., the intermediate knowledge level). Moreover, I hope to provide code that can be freely used in Flash and PHP projects—basically, an open source resource in the vein of the new Webmonkey. That said, my pingback implementation will be made available there.