Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Links, mostly Computer related

607 words

Other links I wanted to mention here that have accumulated on my link Stickie – yes, I still think that Stickies are one of the most useful way to keep notes quickly:

John Gruber makes his point on clickthrough clearer, upsetting Matthew by contradicting him on a point not central to the issue. 'Not central' being my judgement. One thing I'd like to add on the topic of click-through is that while it had been possible for ages in MacOS to drag background windows without activating them by holding the command-key while doing so, support for this background manipulation has improved in OSX. In Cocoa applications you can command-click most controls and use them without activating the window first. I like that. Click-through for the people who want and it and can handle it. It's far from perfect, though, as it doesn't work uniformly through all applications and doesn't work for toolbar items either as the command-Key is used for moving items there. But toolbars should be banned anyway.

Wiki: First part in a series of three on Wikis. I stumbled across them accidentally on Google a while ago. At first I was impressed but then, as usual, I had the suspicion that everything was pretty computer-centric and they still have a long way to go before being able to compete with proper encyclopædiae in terms of quality or even consistency.

Doing The Right Thing is the topic of an article on The Register after talking to Gitta Salomon, former UI researcher at Apple.

If you do this kind of work, everything bugs you. Your car, your cordless phone, your home entertainment system - you hate everything.

Sounds pretty much like me. I am terribly fussy about using things and keep complaining – in case nobody notices. Perhaps a job for me?

Blog Search: Also at The Register an article on blogs spamming Google and what's to be done about that. I wasn't aware of that problem yet but the common idle chitchat we all produce could actually get into people's way. On the other hand, you wouldn't want to censor blogs either. I have found quite a few valuable bits of information on blogs.

More and more people have more text to type, and may not have anything authoritative to say - they just throw up characters on the screen. [...]

However, through dense and incestuous linking, results from blogs can drown out other sources.

Of course for searching blogs, there could still be Feedster, now with an image feature – not search, as it seems. Nice idea to see what's going on. My spontaneous complaints/ideas: Constrain image size. Huge images currently blow my browser window away. Why not arrange the images as Google does? Perhaps only one image per blog? It doesn't seem to support search, just chronological listing. Tieing it in as an extra into the normal search in an 'show as images' option could be cool. Good idea: Have a permanent link to a results page. Just that it isn't permanent yet. It doesn't look like it reflects later additions on the same day or allows referencing the latter search pagers. But I guess that'll be fixed soon.

No Updates may be the sane solution says Matt Gemmell. Sounds like a good idea. And we all know it's not going to happen... Perhaps Matt's very own Bah should be turned against him for that.

Free Extra Links: Cheap pens via Mark Pilgrim, also: Knot theory, Fun with Windows people. iTunes Store and DRM evil. Hits, Impressions, Vistors. Why mirrors don't interchange left and right.

May 9, 2003, 21:56


Trackback “Re: The Evils of Clickthrough” from Solipsism Gradient:

…Here’s an additional interesting tip from Sven-S. Porst…

May 11, 2003, 21:11


Comment by d.w.: User icon

<p>I started playing with Wiki software last week, as a way of doing a <a href="http://www.freeke.org/cgi-bin/awki.cgi">series of FAQ pages</a> for the station.  The biggest hurdle, so far, is that, with Wiki markup conventions, you end up having to &#8220;unlearn&#8221; a lot of what you&#8217;ve learned from other text tagging environments you might have used.  I spend most of my time using (rudimentary) HTML tagging, and I&#8217;ve become pretty comfortable with it, comfortable enough so that when I move to a supposedly more natural type of markup (HUMANE, atx, wikiwordish, etc.) I end up working more slowly than I would otherwise.   The real question is which systems are easiest for people who&#8217;ve never tried to do any markup.</p>

May 10, 2003, 14:43

Comment by Sören Kuklau: User icon

“It?s far from perfect, though, as it doesn?t work uniformly through all applications and doesn?t work for toolbar items either as the command-Key is used for moving items there. But toolbars should be banned anyway.”

Now, should they?

Sure, toolbars encourage abuse, as do contextual menus. Some developers - especially those not used to the basic Mac UI guidelines - think that contextual menus and / or toolbars are generally far more convenient than the menubar, because they are “closer to you”. Of course, with the Mac OS having a global menubar, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

A toolbar, or a contextual menu, should never ever contain an item that is not in any way accessible from the menubar. A contextual menu must always be a summary of the most suitable items taken from the menu bar and reasonable for your current context (like, a symbol of a file). A toolbar is - figuratively - a contextual menu of the window: its context is the window; hence its placement directly below. Therefore, like the contextual menus you generally access using ctrl-click, right-click or (in some Classic Apps) cmd-click, toolbars should contain few items, but solely items that make sense for the current window.

Neither a toolbar nor a contextual menu can replace the menubar. And neither should try to be irreplaceable.

If and only if these rules apply to an app, then I think it’s reasonable to say: both the toolbar as well as the contextual menus can be helpful for the user. Both aren’t required, but both can be convenient.

Now, someone might mention “no current browser has items in the menu bar that could replace the contextual menus on links, form fields, frames, etc.” - which is why I believe that every current GUI web browser has flaws, inherited from the Netscape / Mosaic days.

May 10, 2003, 18:52

Comment by ssp: User icon

Sören, I 100% agree – I would even more if that were possible.

Toolbars and contextual menus can be evil. Personally, I loathe toolbars in most cases and have them turned off wherever possible. IE5/Mac proved that they’re not even necessary for web browsers.

I’m more comfortable with contextual menus as they’re less intrusive. My dad can use his computer (Mac) without contextual menus and he doesn’t miss them. That may be another advantage of the one-button mouse: You won’t be bothered by contextual menus.

On the other hand, seeing Windows users, particularly young Windows users: They tend to use contextual menus for everything (except for the fact that they don’t know the concept of “context” and just memorised to “right click” everywhere, or “press the wrong mouse button” as the directionally challenged, like myself, would say) – even where it doesn’t make sense.

May 11, 2003, 20:22

Comment by Sören Kuklau: User icon

Just a quick response to some points raised.

Remember that up until Mac OS 8, contextual menus weren’t even (“officially”) available. A real toolbar implementation was, as far as I know, not even added before Mac OS X. That means Mac OS’s GUI worked perfectly without either for over ten years, with few applications disagreeing and having custom implementations (The first app I know of to add a custom context menu implementation was Mosaic, whose developers apparently believed that certain commands just couldn’t fit anywhere else. As for toolbars, Microsoft Word 5.1 had them already, I think.).

You mention the one-button mouse argument: in my opinion, a well-written application can make use of the secondary button for contextual menus, and perhaps of the third (middle) button for navigation (although I believe this should be a system-wide feature that works like the Finder’s list view’s alt-cmd drag cursor), but it should never require it. The pre-OS 8 Finder had neither a toolbar, nor any kind of contextual menu. Instead, it had (rough guess) about 60 menu items, clearly organized over various menus and submenus. I never had the feeling that something was missing. When contextual menus were intro’ed with OS 8, it came in convenient in some cases, and now that OS X’s Finder windows have a toolbar, I find it helpful for quickly switching between the three view types, or for dragging files to favourite folders (which can be put in the toolbar). But I could also switch the types using Cmd-1 through Cmd-3, or using the View menu. And I could put shortcuts to those often-used folders - Applications, Home, whatever - into the Dock.

Often, articles in PC magazines - which should be written by people who know what they’re talking about - talk about “right-click menus”, or use the strange-sounding German word “Rechtsklick”. The mere existance of such a faulty term (what about left-handed mice?) tells me how overly popular using contextual menus is for Windows users. How else could you manipulate files on the Windows desktop? No, there is no menu bar. Ask the Windows GUI (by looking at the taskbar) what application is in front, and it tells you “none”.

Btw, I am guilty: I do have a three-button mouse for my iBook, and use it regularly. But then again, I have no other choice for remote controlling my Windows computers using VNC or RDC - button emulation doesn’t work well.

Unfortunately, looking at Shake 3, and the recent introduction of the “Apple Mouse” and “Apple Keyboard” for the entry-level consumer Mac (eMac), I have a feeling we’ll soon the the new “Apple Pro Mouse” with - sigh - three buttons. That’s not bad per se, but 1) people arguing that Apple should finally get rid of the “ridiculous” one-button mouse will feel like they’ve won, and 2) this will further encourage developers to focus on contextual menus.

(Did I say quick response? Erm.)

May 11, 2003, 21:47

Comment by ssp: User icon

What more could I say. Most important point is that it seems possible to make general interest applications work with one button mice (I’m not sure about 3D-apps - pros in that area seem to have all kinds of funky input devices).

Yes, it may mean extra effort for the programmer but that’s what programmers are there for.

The most prominent example for this imo is Photoshop. It’s easy to use, even with a one button mouse. Compare that with the GIMP which is virtually impossible to use with one mouse button only (other technical issues with it aside).

I do have a three-button (two button plus wheel) mouse that came with my Wacom. But I never use it. I occasionally like contextual menus (particularly for Services, in conjunction with Nicholas Riley’s IceCoffee), but I seriously don’t like the second mouse button. On the Linux box in my office I keep hitting it accidentally.

Looking at my Apple Pro Mouse, I sometimes thing that it were nice if the two fixed bits at the side of the mouse were made of rubber and a little squishy. Pressing them would turn the mouse into a scoll-mouse, activate gestures or something.

As for contextual menus, I really liked FinderPop in OS 9. Long-clicking seems to be a good way to do them, without need for extra buttons or keys. People usually say it’s inefficient. But it’s not. As you won’t use the contextual menu all that frequently in a well designed application. Perhaps someone comes up with a hack or APE module to give us back the behaviour enabled by FinderPop.

May 13, 2003, 11:58

Comment by Scott Johnson: User icon

Hi there,

I just wanted to let you know that most if not all of your comments have been addressed on Feedster Images.

The permanent link is to an entire day’s worth of images and there is probably some more thought I need to put into that. Once the day moves past then it is “more permanent” — if that makes sense.

Thanks man.

May 14, 2003, 1:28

Comment by ssp: User icon

Cool to see Feedster evolve. I find the images feature much more useful now. Whatever useful means in that context. But today, it seems dollar bills are an issue. Seeing the same image several times indicates it’s a topic moving several people.

[ OK, don’t kill me for this…

It would be extra-neat if Feedster could recognise that two images are the same. I’m not sure to which extent this is possible, when also wanting to take into account scaled and recompressed versions, though. Might be tricky. Perhaps links could also be used to determine whether images are the same. Some time in the future… ]

Re: permanent links. Doesn’t Feedster simply fill the images in reversed chronological order? It should be quite simple to number them then. First page of the day will be 1, the next one 2 etc. But the first page will be a bit tricky. Another way to do it, if feasible, might be to just attach a time index to every page, making it ‘page 3 of image results as seen on May 14th, 0:13 GMT’.

Don’t take these suggestions too seriously. They’re not inhibited by any such things as knowledge of technical limitations.

May 14, 2003, 2:18

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