Thursday | 1 April 2004

Time for Change

Feeling inspiration from others who've been redesigning, I finally decided it's time to take this site's design in a slightly new direction. I've been working on this one in the background for a while, whenever I've had spare time. The colors were inspired by a photo I took of the Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park while I was visiting Vancouver last year for the AIGA National Design Conference.

The Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.

The column structure is basically the same, though I've shifted some of the content and navigation around. The redesign is still partially in progress, so bear with me while I continue to update pages throughout the site. All feedback is welcome. Love it? Hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments for this entry.


Wednesday | 31 March 2004

Eternal Sunshine

Last night, we went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ll add my enthusiastic endorsement for the spectacular brilliance of this film. Whether it’s Kaufman’s creative screenwriting, Gondry’s directing, Carrey’s talented acting, or all of the above and more, I don’t care. Something comes together in this film that makes for a wonderful experience. All of us left the theater, nodding our heads, unable to immediately identify exactly what it was we liked so much about the movie.

I solidly enjoyed Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich when it was released several years ago, but had not yet seen any of his other works. To catch up on the Kaufman style before going to see Eternal Sunshine, I rented Adaptation this past weekend, and liked it just as much, if not more than Malkovich.

Rather than spoil any of the mentioned movies by drilling into them too deeply, I’ll note an observation, punctuated by recent exposure to two more Kaufman pieces. I’ve noticed the modern movie-going experience is evolving the “reality-as-entertainment” idea. For decades, movies enabled us to escape our own realities, temporarily transporting us to another location, another life, or another world. Reality in movies featured the often unattainable greener-grass side of life: glamorous lifestyles, careless cowboys, and perfectly scripted love stories with happy endings. Through the ’70s and ’80s, some movies shifted away from reality, leaving confines of this world, going back in time, or depicting scenarios of the future. The ’90s brought us Hollywood’s version of doom-and-gloom reality, painting overly grim pictures of hyper violence and mass destruction.

Recent movies like Memento, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine pull back from the over dramatic urban destruction. They throw away the notion of chronological story telling. Instead, they toy with our minds (and characters’ minds), shift the time/space continuum, and travel far beyond traditional dream sequences, challenging our perceptions of the movie’s own “reality”. Is this really happening? Or is this how the character remembers it happening? Did this happen before or after the last scene? Where are we now? Is this yesterday or tomorrow? I thought this already happened?

Eternal Sunshine is an original, entertaining experience right along these lines. One of those love it or hate it movies. If you like the style of Kaufman’s other works, Sunshine is definitely worth your time if you haven’t yet seen it.


Tuesday | 30 March 2004

Portal Implosion

With all due respect to any former colleagues still stuck within the organization, there’s no greater satisfaction than leaving a major internet company over year ago, and now, seeing their home page turn into this.

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Monday | 29 March 2004

Life in the Slow Lane

The very slow lane. I returned from Austin a little over a week ago. Once here, I had to face the reality: I needed to use a dial-up connection to get online from home. Something I haven’t needed to do (at home) for almost five years since DSL was installed. Our office has high-speed wifi, as do the cafes I frequent. Even when traveling, many airports and hotels are now set up with a high-speed wireless network. So I seldom experience dial-up speeds.

A week before I left for SxSW, I asked SBC to upgrade my DSL connection to a faster speed. Since I had DSL installed soon after it was introduced, my account existed in some ancient database, disassociated with all the “modern” accounts created in the last few years, and was not changeable. I was told they’d need to disconnect my current service, terminate the account, then create a new account in the new system. And that all this would result in a 2-week disruption in service.

So I had them start the process while I was in Austin. This meant, upon return, that I’d only have about a week on dial-up at home. I looked at the situation as a temporary minor inconvenience which would remind me what the online experience is like for millions of home users.

Throughout the period of crawling connection speeds, I noticed a few acute differences between broadband and dial-up. My experience, expectations, and the tasks I attempted varied immensely. The differences I noticed when going back to dial-up for a week:

  • Group tasks together. Broadband connections are always on, so there’s no hesitation in using the internet for small, quick tasks that can be accomplished immediately. With dial-up, I hesitate, and wonder if I really need to do the task now, or if it can wait and be grouped with other tasks when I connect later.
  • Avoid links. With a broadband connection, I don’t think twice about following a link that appears slightly interesting. Clicking around on a site to find what I’m looking for is usually just a minor inconvenience. With dial-up, I avoid clicking as much as I can, and am always trying to think of the shortest possible path.
  • Revive the Yellow Pages. With a fast connection, the Web is effectively a replacement for Yellow Pages. Need an address for a store or restaurant? Pull it up online. I’ll have hours, a map, and directions faster than I’d be able to make a phone call and write down the information. With dial-up, I’d never think about going through the trouble of connecting just to get a phone number or an address of a business.
  • Comparison shop less. On dial-up, comparison shopping takes tedious amounts of time. I hit fewer sites, click through fewer reviews, and am less likely to start a process I know I’m not likely to finish. With faster connections, I’ll often have multiple windows or tabs open at once, each with different products or competing sites displaying relative information.
  • Sing praises of RSS/Atom. News readers are invaluable for saving time on dial-up connections. There’s no way I’d hit all the sites I like to frequent without a fast connection. Getting updates via XML means I can get a quick survey of all the day’s (or hour’s) content without hitting each one individually. Again, I carefully choose which links I follow. With broadband, if I only see a summary, I’ll often follow the link to the site.
  • Yell at error pages. Server errors or missing pages annoy the heck out of me when I’m on a dial-up connection. If I’ve invested significant time in getting to where I’ve finally gotten, errors on the site I’m visiting are much more costly. On broadband, I brush it off, and move on.
  • Avoid email attachments. Unless it’s a small text file, I’m much less likely to tell anyone I’ll send it to them via email. Last week, I was sending files back and forth with a client. When a simple attachment takes 10 minutes to send, and the client IM’s you with another change while the first file is still sending, you think twice about using email attachments. And you curse your friend’s uncle, who insists on sending the body of every one of his joke-of-the-week email messages in an attached Word file.
  • Suffer through online banking. Online banking is a much more pleasant experience when you can get tasks accomplished in under a minute. Get in, get it done, get out. Dial-up online banking makes me want to go back to paper and pencil record keeping.
  • Forget music downloads. After five years on DSL, there’s not a chance in hell that I’m going to wait 30 minutes for a 4MB file. Friends’ bands sites with new clips available? Exploring indie music sounds? Related bands? iTunes Music Store? Forget all of them on dial-up. Same goes for video news clips. They’re not worth the wait.
  • Surf fewer images. Upon returning from SxSW, everyone started posting photos from Austin. Browsing through image galleries is not as instantly rewarding on dial-up, so I tend to look through less photos, and have less patience for wading through pages of thumbnails to find the interesting shots.
  • Admit that tabbed browsing is it. Even more true than when surfing with high-speed connections, when on dial-up, tabs enable me to pop open a bunch of links in other tabs, and let them load in the background while I’m reading/using the current page. Tabbed-browsing is a welcome addition to browser feature sets, whether on dial-up or broadband, even if the tabs are used for different purposes in each environment.

I’ve taken for granted these differences. Only when I’m forced to do something a new way do I recognize the variances in habits, routines, and expectations when it comes to living and working online. It’s sort of like being thrown back in time, taking with me the invisible knowledge of what’s possible today. High-speed access — and now, prevalent wireless high-speed access — is changing our use of the Web and our lives in ways that aren’t always immediately obvious.


Friday | 19 March 2004

DWM Interview

There’s a spattering of activity here all of a sudden. Yes, I’ve been busy. And yes, you’ll see even more from me soon. Big things have been in the works for a long time.

Digital Web Magazine just posted another interview for their latest issue, this time, the questions from Craig Saila were directed at me. Read all about why I wrote off CSS as a failed pipedream for so long, what I think about the Wired News design more than a year after our launch, and my sentiments about the end of Webmonkey.

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