October 2007 Archives

It's Halloween - and Guy Kawasaki's post on the 'Top Ten Leopard Tips' greets me with an early-morning flashback: Adam Engst. I immediately search my bookshelves for his Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh 2nd Edition and find it in 2nd row :) The 1000-page volume carries a time stamp, the date I bought it: October 29th, 1994. What a coincidence - that was almost exactly 13 years ago. Scary. I had forgotten that name Adam Engst despite the fact that I received his TidBITS regularly and devoured the Starter Kit cover to cover right away.

The cover reads, amongst other marketing blurb: "Software Included!

  1. MacWeb 0.98a - A fast, slick World-Wide Web browser that challenges Mosaic.
  2. TurboGopher 1.0.8b4 - The fastest way to browse the resources available in Gopherspace."

Remember Gopher?

A world without Netscape, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and Safari. Scary indeed.


Image © www.ti.com

Basic work on information and communication technology.

Re-reading Computers: An Illustrated History, we came across Jack Kilby yesterday who is one of the two fathers of the integrated circuit.

[The second father, Robert Noyce, was working on the same topic at the same time but his patent application was filed in July 1959 five months after Kilby's, thus being only the second. He co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and later Integrated Electronics together with Gordon Moore. Integrated Electronics is better known as Intel today.]

The story goes that Jack Kilby as a new hire without vacation time was alone in the Texas Instruments plant in July 1958 with the task to work on microminiaturization while everyone else left for summer holidays. Studying the cost analysis of an IF amplifier, he came to the conclusion "that semiconductors were all that were really required - that resistors and capacitors, in particular, could be made from the same material as the active devices." That was the birth of the integrated circuit. Half the Nobel Price in Physics 2000.

Speed read and scientific background from Stockholm.


We just came across Seth Godin's post 'Thinking About Domains'.

Seth states: "For a long time, clueless surfers would type a word into the address bar of their browser, figuring it was some sort of magic search engine. Type "gloves" into the address bar of Safari, and yes, it will take you to www.gloves.com. But Firefox and others are wising up and connecting that spot to the search engines. Type 'gloves' into Firefox and you'll automatically go to the number one result on Google. Research shows that the number of people who accidentally end up on these sites is going down."

Our question is: Why are there two different UI elements in the first place, one for the URL - the other for Web Search? Both are text fields with an action button attached: "Go to the address" in one case, "Find this term" in the other.

Combine those two into one element and let the Browser figure out if an address or a search term was entered. As a side benefit the Web Search field could be recycled into a Page Search field, thus making it unnecessary showing an additional search field in the lower left or upper right of the page or even worse in a pop-up upon hitting CTRL/CMD-F.

Read Seth Godin!


25 years ago Tom Peters (#8) and Bob Waterman co-authored the classic "In Search of Excellence". The book resulted from an internal McKinsey assignment and the wish of the two consultants to present the findings in a structured manner to PepsiCo after a 700-slide presentation in front of Siemens management in 1979.


Jakob Nielsen analyzes what he calls Generic Commands today. Interesting read!

"In application design, there's a tension between power and simplicity: Users want the ability to get a lot done, but they don't want to take the time to learn lots of complicated features.

  • One way to address this dilemma is to use progressive disclosure - that is, to show users only the most important options until they ask for the advanced features.
  • Another good approach is to use generic commands, which remain the same across many different contexts and thus reduce complexity."

And: "The cut-copy-paste triad offers the most famous example of generic commands. These 3 basic commands suffice to let users do everything from move text to edit movies."

Read the (unofficial) What if Jakob Nielsen had a blog? introduction! | Read the Alertbox article (generic commands)! | Read the Alertbox article (progressive disclosure)!

Reminds me of an early-morning flight from Munich to Amsterdam when the crew announced - boarding completed - that during the night the wrong plane had been fueled, this one being completely empty ;)

We had to wait for the firefighters to show up in order to proceed. Enjoy Guy Kawasaki's 3 lists and 2 tips for the weekend.

Read how to change the world!

We left out Economics when we introduced this year's Nobel laureates two weeks ago. Taking the time to read up what mechanism design theory could possibly be, it comes to our mind that there might be a link with yesterday's &43/ Individualism in Business post.

Chris Del: "In the absence of a strong sense of collective aspiration, individualism kills collective effort, which, in turn, spoils the result."

The Nobel prize answer is: "Whether one considers auctions, elections or the taxes we pay, our lives are governed by mechanisms which make collective decisions while attempting to take account of individual preferences. Such mechanisms are designed to deliver the greatest social good despite that fact that individual participants may act for their own gain, rather than for the general well-being of society."

Speed read and scientific background from Stockholm.

Chris Del from tompeters! has opened an interesting discussion with his Individualism in Business article yesterday.

He asks: "Should I buy SAP or invest in my team?"

A. "It seems increasingly rare to find a true business team. (Dys)functional reporting groups appear to be much more common." and

B. "Investing in process and systems improvement feels more reassuringly tangible than investing in talent, it seems. An SAP R4 ERP system feels more likely to deliver ROI than teamwork development. Even though the stats on ROI for ERP implementation are frightening, they are more tangible than the soft stuff."

In our opinion, failure with strategy B is a direct result of the situation A and not an independent option.

And beware of that dysfunctional business team! What does business team stand for?

The sales team, the sales & marketing team, or the whole organization including several distinct IT silos working on the hosting, implementation, training, operations and support of SAP for the rest of the company?

The hard stuff/ software in itself is not to blame.

We answer: Buy SAP/ Oracle/ Microsoft and then invest in

  1. A cross-functional talented team
  2. Jointly collaborating on the workflows and business needs,
  3. Defining requirements for the implementation of the system and
  4. Constantly training/ empowering the users, thus
  5. Enhancing the processes as well as the implementation by incessant feedback.

Read the AL.X. tompeters!!

IMSAI 8080

Image © Computer History Museum

Guy Kawasaki recommends the computer vintage photography book by Mark Richards, Core Memory. So do we.

Exactly, an intuitive interface is

  1. easy to explain,
  2. then easy to use and
  3. impossible to forget - but
  4. not necessarily self-explaining in the first place.

Remember when you used your first mouse!?

Read the article in Cooper's Journal of Design!

5 more faces in 6 videos (the first 5 can be found here):

  1. Bill Gates formed a venture with Paul Allen, at age 14, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. The rest is history.
  2. Seth Godin founded one of the first online marketing companies, Yoyodyne in 1995. Since then he has written a lot of books and spoken at quite a few events. On Being Broken as well as Sliced Bread. [Update December 30: Seth Godin Action Figure available!]
  3. Tom Peters presented the findings of his McKinsey study with co-author Bob Waterman 1979 in Munich. Since then, Xcellence as always and Innovation is easy.
  4. Ted Nelson founded Project Xanadu in 1960 with the goal of creating a computer network with a simple user interface. "What is called technology is something you should be very suspicious of."
  5. Fons Trompenaars is a Dutch author in the field of x-cultural communication. What is culture?

5 (actually 6) faces in six videos:

  1. Doug Engelbart received a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1948 and is known for inventing the computer mouse. Part of the 1968 Demo of the oNLine System - known as the mother of all demos.
  2. Richard Branson sold records out of the boot of his car to retail outlets in London in 1969 under the name Virgin. Himself, taking a bath with Rove.
  3. Steve Ballmer was hired in 1980 by by Bill Gates as Microsoft's first business manager. Pitching Windows 1.0 in a 1986 TV spot. And the famous one.
  4. Bill Buxton studied at the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht, Holland and holds the title of Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. Interviewed by UX Connection.
  5. Tim Ferris wrote a #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller. Interviewed by Robert Scoble. Robert Scoble joined Microsoft in 2003 and left in 2006. Interviewing Tim Ferris.


Image © www.sciencedaily.com

Chemical processes on solid surfaces. What is so important about rusty iron?

I am browsing several available reports that I googled right away but do not find an answer I really understand - so let's just accept the fact:

"Ertl's research laid the foundation of modern surface chemistry, which has helped explain how fuel cells work, how catalytic converters clean up car exhaust (...) Surface chemistry can even explain the destruction of the ozone layer as vital steps in the reaction actually take place on the surfaces of small crystals of ice in the stratosphere," the award citation said.

Speed read and scientific background from Stockholm.

Hard Disk

Image © www.sciencedaily.com

Giant magnetoresistance. "This year's physics prize is awarded for the technology that is used to read data on hard disks. It is thanks to this technology that it has been possible to miniaturize hard disks so radically in recent years."

Why quantum mechanics is important for all of us...

Speed read and scientific background from Stockholm.


Who cars about the homepage? Exactly.

"No one visits a Web site's home page anymore - they walk in the back door, to just the place Google sent them. By atomizing the world, Google destroys the end-to-end solution offered by most organizations, replacing it with a pick-and-choose, component-based solution."

Seth Godin compares with Columbus: "People don't always find you the way you want to be found."

And the solution for information architecture?

The navigational hierarchy is dead - long live the navigational hierarchy.

Columbus did not land in India, but a (complete) world map might have served him well to sail over to India from the Americas if he just had one. Regard the hierarchical navigation with a Homepage (e.g. Asia) at the top as a map to sail where you intended to be - even if you landed in the Americas. And if the Americas was your destination, fair enough...

Read Seth Godin!

Highly academical.

At least so far... How can clutter be measured?

"The fact that one person's clutter is the next person's organized workspace makes it hard to come up with a universal measure of clutter."

"A team of MIT scientists has identified a way to measure visual clutter. Their research, published Aug. 16 in the Journal of Vision, could lead to more user-friendly displays and maps, as well as tips for designers seeking to add an attention-grabbing element to a display."

Interesting ideas ;)

Read the article!

Great stuff concerning interaction experience - highly academical?

Not really:

Pliancy: How Google changed the way of panning maps by just grabbing and moving. Making sure I don't loose my point of focus.

Fluency: The cell phone ringing for 100% attention during a meeting - crying like a baby for instant care or ignorance.

Jonas Löwgren is professor of
interaction design at Malmö University, one of the founding faculty members of the School of Arts and Communication (k3). He is a teacher and researcher with professional experience from interaction design consultancies, specializing in cross-media design and the design theory of the digital materials.

[Update May 7: Apparently, FromBusinessToButtons has disabled the video link. Check Jonas' Malmö University site instead.]

View the presentation!

John Quelch has an interesting take on How To Be a Customer: "99% of marketing focuses on how to sell to customers. Very little attention is paid to why and how customers should sell themselves to marketers."

He continues to line out 5 bullets that we want to summarize as follows:

  1. Be Demanding - You have options!
  2. Be Respectful - Treat your vendor as a professional!
  3. Be Reliable - Don’t try to nickel and dime the seller!
  4. Be Surprising - Leave a good impression!
  5. Be Engaging - Treat the seller as a problem solver!

Read Harvard Business!


Just found? Well, not really. Two months ago - pls. read Mark Hurst's "Bit Literacy". Essential reading indeed...

We are fans of killing it. The architecture of a site should transport the what, why, and where. No more words needed.

Read the (unofficial) What if Jakob Nielsen had a blog? introduction!
Read the Alertbox article!

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