Archived entries for Social Web

Wireframing with Balsamiq Mockups

Thanks to Pras for the pointer to Balsamiq’s Mockups application. I was sketching wireframes quickly within minutes of finding the product.

I believe in low-fidelity sketching at the wireframe stage. Balsamiq makes it easy with its large library of UI control stencils, its auto-complete driven keybroad stencil selection, on-screen snap-to alignment guides, a powerful inspector for precise control when rarely needed, and, more of all, a simplicity that makes it easy to start sketching or tweaking your mockup immediately.

The output is Balsamiq files, PGN or flattened image files, and XML. Because it exports XML it’s possible to use Balsamiq as a programmatic ingredient for downstream engineering systems and tools (such as partially automating the creation of detailed functional specifications, or using it as source for the automated building on the actual interface.

There is a rumor that they’ll be announcing clickable output files shortly, which might allow for the fast creation of clickable wireframes for usability testing (and other) needs.

I haven’t noticed, but it should be possible to customize what’s in the included UI Widget Library to a) take on a different visual skin; b) reflect new or fewer interface widget options.

All and all, I’m pretty intrigued. It seems there’s a market for consumer-friendly ways to design interfaces. Once more people catch on how to much fun we’re having, they’ll want a shot at designing and realizing all the apps they’re dreaming up, too!

I’d love to hear what you think of this approach. Have you tried it? Does it work for your teams”

Balsamiq Mockups For Desktop - * New Mockup

Songbird Public Beta (0.7)

Congrats to my buddies (yo Koshi!) over at Songbird for reaching another big milestone: public beta.

Songbird is a media player like iTunes. Except that it’s build on top of the awesome Mozilla Firefox foundation. And like Firefox, it has an extensive array of extensions, themes, and assorted addons. Earlier versions haven’t supplanted iTunes for me, but it’s looking like this version may well do that.

I had some trouble imagining what type of addons would make sense, but in this release we’re beginning to see. An early favorite for me is the ticketing integration:

Songbird%20Blog%20%C2%BB%20Play%20music.%20Play%20the%20Web.

You can read all about the release on their blog, download it here, and see a screenshot below:

Songbird

Twitter Faster than Reality

LA shook at 11:42:15 today according to the official record from the U.S. Geological Survey. But according to [a report of] Twitter activity today (by the tweetip site) it happened 43 seconds earlier at 11:41:32 (adjusted for time zone).

tweetip

(graphic snagged from tweetip site)

That Twitter routinely breaks news fastest is often discussed, notably in the wake of the May quake in China.

Today the AP’s wire posted news of the earthquake 9 minutes after it happened. 9 minutes is fast. Negative :43 is amazing.

(Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s explainable as an accounting error in twitter’s api or tweetip’s processing. But the point remains that twitter is always on the scene.)

Yahoo! Opens Search and Supports Developers

Marshall over at Read Write Web has a great review up posted covering the exciting news that Yahoo! has opened up our search index and engine. I’ll point you to his coverage, and pull out my favorite gems.

Update: Vik Singh had the idea for BOSS, and posted Yahoo! Boss – An Insider’s View. It’s money line is this, and describes the big idea succinctly: “I think users should be confident that if they searched in a search box on any page in the whole wide web that they’ll get results that are just as good as Yahoo/Google and only better.”

First, here’s what happened tonight:

Yahoo! Search BOSS

Yahoo! is taking a bold step tonight: opening up its index and search engine to any outside developers who want to incorporate Yahoo! Search’s content and functionality into search engines on their own sites. The company that sees just over 20% of the searches performed each day believes that the new program, called BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service), could create a cadre of small search engines that in aggregate will outstrip their own market share and leave Google with less than 50% of the search market.

Might this impact things? He thinks so:

In both cases, Yahoo! BOSS is intended to level the playing field and blow the Big 3 wide open. We agree that it’s very exciting to imagine thousands of new Yahoo! powered niche search engines proliferating. Could Yahoo! plus the respective strengths and communities of all these new players challenge Google? We think they could.

And that part that was music to my ears (emphasis mine):

It is clear, though, that BOSS falls well within the companies overall technical strategy of openness. When it comes to web standards, openness and support for the ecosystem of innovation – there may be no other major vendor online that is as strong as Yahoo! is today. These are times of openness, where some believe that no single vendor’s technology and genius alone can match the creativity of an empowered open market of developers. Yahoo! is positioning itself as leaders of this movement.

Marshall, thanks for the great writeup. Yahoo!, thanks for making me proud.

Twitter and Summize. No worries.

There are rumors that Summize has been acquired by Twitter. It has people chattering.

Some worry that the acquisition will hurt the effort to make Twitter scale. It can’t and won’t.

I believe Twitter’s engineering team is headed up a mountain (they need to switch architectures at a low level), but that they finally know which mountain. True, it’s a tall mountain not quickly climbed. But they finally know their problems and have people in place. Better days ahead.

Others worry that Twitter’s scaling ills will infect Summize. I don’t think that’s possible because they are distinctly different engineering problems. Summize is “fresh search,” an understood and known problem that Summize apparently designed for from the beginning. Twitter, in contrast, evolved a product into a service that no longer matches their architectural model. It didn’t start out as (and therefore wasn’t built to be) a massive-to-massive (when each massively is unique, personal, exponentially expanding) real-time messaging protocol. I believe architectures exist for that problem space, but unfortunately that’s not how Twitter was initially built.

Put briefly, Twitter’s already on the path to health and Summize is immune from Twitter’s disease, so it should all work out fine.

While they are different systems, they may be complimentary. Jettisoning Twitter’s track and reply functionality to Summize’s infrastructure may offer Twitter engineers the headroom they need to roll updates into Twitter’s codebase with a bit of a cushion.

FriendFeed’s Inline Media

FriendFeed is a great way to bring lots of information you care about onto one page. If you subscribe to me on FriendFeed you’ll see all the photos I post to Flickr, bookmarks I tag on del.icio.us, articles I share from Google Reader, events I’m attending on Upcoming, songs I like on Last.fm, blog posts and Twitter messages I write, and more. These are a small subset of the 41 services FriendFeed can pull in; they also take unlimited RSS feeds making nearly any shared record of my social activities online viewable in one place.

Subscribe to me on FriendFeed.

friendfeed logo

One feature as a user of FriendFeed is the inline media. MP3s and video can be played right within the page. Click “play” on an audio file to start listening and expose slim player controls. When you play a video the thumbnail grows to standard video player size. For photos / flickr thumbnails, clicking “more” displays the entire set or upload.

Because I’m testing out a new screen capturing process, here are some pictures of the inline media collapsed and expanded so you can see how it works inline.

Here’s what the audio looks like initially.

friendfeed-inline-audio-2

And here’s how it expands when you click play.

friendfeed-inline-audio-playing-1-1

Same for video. Initially you see a thumbnail of the move.

friendfeed-video-closed

And when you click play the player grows into view.

friendfeed-video-expanded

Works like a charm.



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