Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I'm currently involved with a project called My Art Space, which aims to provide visitors to museums with a way of collecting objects that are interesting to them using mobile phones. Objects are collected by entering a short code, and after your visit you can then view your personal collection and start arranging objects into a gallery that you show to other people. Each object can be annotated with your own notes, and comes complete with its own set of info from the museum archive. It's a really nice idea, and on Monday I got to see the system working for the first time.

The system makes use of an application running on a mobile phone to collect objects, together with a web-based application for viewing, sorting, and presenting your gallery. We had a lot of constructive discussion about how to change things, and one of the recurring issues for me was workflow. The team have built a flexible application that lets you do things in a number of ways, not necessarily in a specific sequence. The problem with that is that users who are not familiar with the system don't know where to start, and aren't sure what the dependencies are within the application. In some cases it really helps to have imperative text, saying "First: do this, Then: do that". This is the kind of handholding that expert users will ignore, but novice users find invaluable.

The system is going live for a school visit tomorrow, and it's a shame I won't be around to see what the kids make of it. I hope to report back when I've heard from the rest of the team. My hunch is that kids will really show the potential of the system, no doubt findings some uses for it that were never imagined...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Christmas is coming
It's amazing what you can do with computers nowadays. Really nice..... :-) It's a .wmv movie. Try it. But not for too long.

Older people do not respond to modern adverts
Research reported recently suggests that older people buy the brands that they bought in their twenties, and that they are strongly influenced by what their parents bought. But then again, another report suggests that whilst they are slow to adopt new technology, once they adopt it they are keen to use it. SMS represents one example of this. Can both be true? How can they try out new things if they don't respond to current adverts?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So wrong
This is so bad I'm almost out of words to explain it. No consultation, no parlimentary debate: no oversight, no control, no enforcement of the enforcers - what sort of state are we in danger of becoming? Ethical issues are huge: police tracking and storing our locations, wherever we go.....

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New Mac's quite soon?
In my email the morning was one from Apple, encouraging me to download the latest development kit for the Mac, to make sure my code would be ready for the new Intel-based Macs. hey are not officially coming out before June 2006, but this activity makes me suspect that somethnig will happen earlier. Rumours make them sound good: the first of the new breed is supposed to be a 15" Powerbook (which has already, in current guise, had a nice screen upgrade and now sports higher resolutions than before) - this machine is supposed to be 25% thinner than previous ones.

Apple seem to keep getting it right. What do users want from a laptop? Aesthetically - thin, light. Practically: built in DVD/CD drive, connectivity. Ergonomically: decently weighted keyboard with acceptable key travel, and a big high resolution screen. And Apple keep on delivering..... The only thing they coud usefully add in to the package is a standard VGA output connector as well as the DVI out - it's a pain carrying round the adaptor. Roll on Feb or March for the releases (I hope!).....

Friday, November 04, 2005

Rocket Ajax to the rescue.

Okay, so only fans of Flash Gordon will get the reference, but Ajax is hitting the news now; partly because of Google maps being so popular and working so well, and partly cos it solves a lot of problems for web and UI designers - it offers decent interaction and removes the reliance of a server response to any interaction element.

For those who want to know more, the above reference is a good start.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A few TomTom thoughts.

TomTom offer a subscription service to allow you to know where all the safety cameras are. But PocketGPSWorld offer it for free, as a community project: contributions us are collated by them and made available to us - and we all benefit.

Alerts can be used to warn of approaching safety camera - but then you're reminded of the route every time you drive there, just so that you can hear the camera warnings. If you turn off the voice then all sound is turned off so you miss the warnings. But there is a solution - select a non-installed voice. The directions are then not spoken (or rather, spoken in a silent voice), but the alerts still go off.....

And as to it's usefulness and engageability - one of the key issues is that the cost of mistakes when navigating with a tomtom is minor - you'll still get to your destination easily - whereas if you are forced off a conventional route, you are suddently into unknown territory and the stress of finding your way becomes immense. In fact, often you'll search for a way back to your known route, rather than a way to your destination.....

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