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Archive for August, 2007

Smashing45 Excellent Blog Designs. You’ll find many a well-known CSS designer mentioned – and that’s only to be expected, of course.

Well DoneCSS Dock Menu is a must-see for Mac-lovers and Ajax-aficionados alike.

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An API Is A UI Too ! I attended a meeting this afternoon, to discuss a few extensions to be made to an existing deployment platform at work. Unfortunately, the exact requirements remain unclear, which isn’t good (our collegues had three months to think this over). And it got worse, when we were shown a rough outline of a service interface. Now I can’t claim to have understood the subject matter completely, since that was too far off-topic for our meeting, but it reminded me of something that is often forgotten by the makers of API’s, software libraries, et cetera: “the ‘programming interface’ is the user interface for the developer“. And that means that all the principles of ergonomy must be applied to API’s (and other PI’s as well)! Here are a few terms that must always be taken into consideration when talking about ergonomy: metaphors, coherence, focus, readability, structure, learnability, and consistency. See e.g. A Summary of Principles for User-Interface Design or AskTog for a good intro to the subject of UI principles, and remember that it is quite easy to translate those principles to the API context! Too bad it seems so hard to find good examples of an ergonomically good API – I can’t think of one right now… ;-(

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NUKLEOS WEBLOG 2007-08-22

Wiki Web Folders. Of course I know this was and is possible, but it is surpising to see it in a Wiki-product. So Wikispaces surprised me by making it possible to access the content of a Wiki through WebDAV. Who needs a special backup procedure when you have WebDAV access? Who wants to use his/her own desktop editor to edit Wiki pages? Or perhaps you want to write your own desktop Wiki application using web storage? Well, all you need is a (paying) Wiki account at Wikispaces (you pay for write access; reading through WebDAV can be done from a free account). This product has matured significantly and in a meaningful way (for Wikis) since I started using it – good show, guys!

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NUKLEOS WEBLOG 2007-08-20

Censorship. Turkish courts apparently don’t understand the meaning of the term “Free Speech”: Why We’re Blocked in Turkey: Adnan Oktar. In brief: some kind of creationist/fundamentalist zealot succeeded in convincing a local court that all the WordPress blogs should be blocked, since he felt “slandered” by the content of a few of those blogs. The man in question is Adnan Oktar, and a recap of his exploits can be found here: Who is Harun Yahya? (Haryn Yahya is the pen name of Oktar). Perhaps “zealot” is too kind as a characterisation of this person… Anyway, about the block: as mentioned in some of the comments on this affair, the block isn’t too hard to bypass, and the block will probably not last too long (how about other Turkish bloggers complaining against the block before the same court?). But knowing how hard it is to apply current free speech law in the US or in Europe to all things Internet, we shouldn’t be surprised to see “censorship” in other parts of the world, be it Turkey or China. Be aware of the context, but remember: fighting censorship is necessary, anywhere in the world! (Thanks for pointing me to this case, Janne).

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More Than A Good Idea. Cascading Stylesheets are “a good idea”, but to get the most out of them, developers and designers have to work closely together. To facilitate such collaboration, Olav Bjørkøy of Norway has created Blueprint (aka. Blueprint CSS), a CSS framework for grid-based design. Blueprint is lightweight, simple to use, and I guess it will be appearing in quite a few development frameworks, like a BlueRails or something similar ;-)

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NUKLEOS WEBLOG 2007-08-14

Cryptography Is Not Mathematics! I always thought that to become a cryptographer, you had to study mathematics first. According to The Uneasy Relationship Between Mathematics and Cryptography in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, I’m wrong! And the author adds: “Drama and conflict are inherent in cryptography, which, in fact, can be defined as the science of transmitting and managing information in the presence of an adversary.“, and uses ‘the “spy vs. spy” mentality of constant competition and rivalry’ to explain the seemingly dissimilar culture in both sciences. Good reading!

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Drupal On Java?I hadn’t seen this before: IBM developerWorks has published an extensive and detailed case study on “Using open source software to design, develop, and deploy a collaborative Web site“. The 15 (long) articles explain the why and how of choosing and implementing a site management tool, in this case Drupal. IBM has a few more sample projects documented, but this one caught my fancy after reading Geert Bevin’s Clustered Drupal through Quercus, Terracotta and Ehcache. Suddenly, using Drupal doesn’t seem so strange any more – even to a Java platform fan like me. I know there are many Java-based CMS solutions out there, but until today I haven’t found any that can rival Drupal when you combine the factors ‘functionality’, ‘extensibility’ and ‘community support’… But: let’s first see if Geert’s experiment can be turned into a practical solution, without hacking and with measurements.

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UI Is For The User. I’m certainly not telling something new when I say that good user interfaces (for software and hardware) have been, are, and will be essential in making a “good” product. But it’s not always easy to find research papers, experiences, etc. about the subject of interaction design. So I’m happy to have found UIScape, a young but promising site that explains scientific papers in a more casual way, without skimping too many details. Let’s hope Amar and his friends can keep the site alive – after all, new content is a necessity if you want visitor fidelity.

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Simple It Isn’t… Cimples.com has published a somewhat limited but nevertheless very interesting overview of the enterprise portlet market. I currently do not have much hands-on experience with portlets, so I cannot pretend to agree with all that’s written here. However, to me it’s clear that building a good portal is very hard, and that fact is plainly confirmed by this text. Knowing what a user expects, and being able to combine that with what the enterprise (or organisation, or community) wants to achieve with the portal is a non-trivial exercice!

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Non-Zero! IBM’s Project Zero is a bit strange, in that it is an attempt by IBM to build a strong community around what is eventually to become a commercial product, and not some kind of open source project. At the same time, it is quite interesting because of its axioms (REST, KISS), the technological choices (Groovy, Atom) made to implement it, and the availability of plenty of documentation of the choices made and the architectural underpinnings of the project. And on top of all that, through some of the blogs mentioned on the project site I have learned of few more juicy terms, like Heisenbug and WOA or Web-Oriented Architecture. Learning those kinds of things is (part of) why I surf the Web!

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A Hot Box. I have mentioned ColdBox a few months ago, but I have never gotten further than installing and clicking a few of the demo apps – I have too much Mach-ii app development and maintenance going on at the moment. Tonight I watched a Breeze session recording on his cfframeworks workshop, and my positive impressions of this framework have been further reinforced. Having a tool that allows you to introspect the running framework as well as the application is a great way to discover and learn about a framework; having lots of what I would call “official” documentation is more than just a nice treat! We’ll see if I can put this to real use in the coming weeks…

How Do They Do It? Well, here’s how Google does its best to get to grips with that massive inflow of requests from mimmions of visitors every day: Google Architecture. Beware: the numbers are staggering!

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Tongue-in-cheek Indeed. A few weeks ago, Scott Ambler presented “a formula for calculating the cruftiness of a document”, which measures the degree in which development documentation is ‘badly designed, poorly implemented, or redundant’. Great! Now: can that same formula be applied to the applications and systems themselves?

Thirteen Indeed. Frank Zappa probably would have been amused, rather than proud, to see that a small ugly street originally called ‘Number 13’ is now being named after him: “Schön ist sie nicht, die Straße Nummer 13 im Industriegebiet. Und doch wird sie ab morgen als erste Straße in Deutschland den Namen der US-Rocklegende Frank Zappa (1940-1993) tragen” (from the Berliner Zeitung Online).

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