Field Report: ACM Meeting @ Google Chicago

This past Wednesday I attended the Chicago Chapter of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) meeting in downtown Chicago, Illinois.  I had not been to an ACM meeting in well over 10 years (since I finished Grad School).  It is good to see that the ACM has an active chapter in the Chicago area (they meet monthly during the academic year).  Special thanks to Marc Temkin and Greg Neumarke from the ACM for putting on a good meeting.

Note: I am going to be leading the presentation / discussion at their April meeting, with the topic being Silverlight.  Since it will be taking place a month after the MIX conference, we will doubtless have lots of news to share about Silverlight 2.0 and new bits to demonstrate.

The Google Office

I have to admit that one of the reasons I attended the meeting was to check out the Google offices.  Google stepped up big for the ACM group by not only provided the presentations, but also donating their office space and for buying all the food for the event (Normally there is a small charge to attend the meeting – not this time).

When I arrived at the office I was looking around and a very nice gentlemen came up and asked me if I needed anything.  Since he did not have a guest pass, I assumed he was a Google employee.  I asked him to see the “Xbox room” because I heard they had an awesome game room (I knew someone who had previously visited the office during an open house).  He offered to show me around the whole office.  At this point I felt compelled to mention to him that I worked for Microsoft.  He said “Thanks for telling me, we can still show you around – we love Microsoft we use a lot of their software on our desktop machines”.   The Google guys asked people to not take pictures outside of the lecture room, I honored their request. It was only after the tour that I found out what my tour guide did for Google.  He is one of their Executive Chefs and was in Chicago from their Mountain View Campus.

He showed me around their offices (they are on 2 floors) and the place is a very “cool” work environment.  They have lots of colors around the office (all of them web safe) and the office is laid out in a very open environment to facilitate collaboration (the “cubes” offer individual work spaces, but there are no real walls).  There are the giant balls that you can sit on instead of a chair pretty much everywhere.  All of their conference rooms are named after a Chicago theme, but it really presses the trivia part of your brain to figure out how (took me a minute to remember that the 1980’s movie Adventures in Babysitting was set in Chicago).  There were all kinds of fun things around to play with.  I counted 4 xboxes in the office (a couple of 360s and a couple classic xboxes).  At Microsoft we have 3 floors in our downtown Chicago office and I doubt that we have that many xboxes in the office (we have to fix that). 

After the tour I got to meet a couple of the Google guys.  They were all very cool about me being from Microsoft, although standard procedure might have required them to sweep for bugs after I left.  🙂

The presentations

Jon Trowbridge gave an interesting presentation on Bloom Filters, which are a way to quickly evaluate the presence of something in a large dataset (which is something Google is probably interested in).  The talk was focused heavily on the math side of things and not so much on the implementation (but what would you want for a 45 minute presentation?).  I think I really missed out on a lot of the algorithmic theory because I got my degree in Information Systems and not Computer Science.

Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman gave a fantastic presentation on “How Open Source Projects Survive Poisonous People (And You Can Too)”.  Brian and Ben are both on the Subversion team and have dealt with lots of people issues on that project (and others).  We can learn a lot from their guidance presented in this presentation, even if you are not working on an open source team.  These guys were fantastic presenters, very engaging, you can check out a previous recording of their presentation on Google Video.  I intend to follow-up on a couple of topics they touched on in a future blog post.

Field Report: The PhizzPop Design Problem

Challenge Packet

A few short minutes ago Chris Bernard gave the PhizzPop Design Challenge teams their problem to tackle over the next ~58 hours.  Here is the challenge that they have to create a solution for:

Your Challenge is to come up with recommendations for how digital technology can help [An Airline] create unique experience on the Web and within the aircraft and take into account how we can connect with the world and devices that we use to do it.  Your solution should demonstrate innovations in planning or preparation activities or the personal activities that occur during travel.  Your general concepts should be inclusive and demonstrate ‘thinking’ if not functionality about both experiences.  Your solution may use any combination of web (ASP.NET, Silverlight) or application (WPF) components.

There is a lot more information in the 9 page packet, including a list of 3 personas that you are creating the solution for.

To go from the loosely defined problem to a concept to design to implementation in that short amount of time is going to be the toughest part of the challenge.  Kevin Marshall the team captain from Clarity Consulting is rumored to have brought in sleeping bags for his team.  It will be interesting to see the different trade-offs that the teams will be making over the next couple of days.

A story about a (mini) design challenge

This past April I got to attend an ASP.NET AJAX class put on by Fritz Onion of Pluralsight.  The class was about 2/3 designers and about 1/3 developers and all the stereotypes applied, I think everyone could easily pick out who was the designer and who was the developer (but everyone got along just famously).  A quick note: I am using the terms developer and designer as a broad stereotypes, there were lots of flavors of people in the room (architects, web designers, creative directors, etc.).  One of the neatest things in the class was a free form hands-on lab / contest.  Fritz gave everyone a starter application (which was a Netflix style web site) and told everyone to “go to town” on adding AJAX to the site.  At the end of the 2 hour lab anyone who wanted to submit their creation to the contest could.  In true American Idol style, Fritz and Dr. Joe narrowed it down to a few contestants and then the class voted on the winners.  2 solutions rose to the top: One by a developer and one by a designer. 

The developer’s solution was the best technical implementation of AJAX that was possible in 2 hours.  Every page of the site was AJAXed up and he used several different techniques (Panels, Web Services, Control Extensions).  He spent his time focused on making the site really flow, but really did not touch any elements of the User Interface.  The designer spent his time improving the look and feel of the site, updating the CSS and adding DHTML animation effects (using the features of the AJAX Control Toolkit).  After 2 hours it did look very appealing.  There was only 1 problem: There was no AJAX on the site.  When it came right down to it the site itself was still using postbacks, there was no client side web service calls and other than using the stock components of the toolkit, no control extension. 

The designer won the contest “hands down”.  Only a few people raised their hands for the best technical implementation.  This example shows the need for the PhizzPop teams to strike a balance between creating a pleasing experience and a technically accurate one and if you have to focus on just one on them, the pleasing experience should be where you invest your time.

Jeff Atwood just posted a blog article yesterday titled Presentation: Be Vain that talks about the need to focus on the presentation of the software.  Jeff’s blog post focused on the shipping software, but I think it also applies to the design challenge as well:

Avoid creating software that’s beautiful on the inside but ugly on the outside. Be vain. Make something that looks as good as it works. If you pay attention to the presentation of your software, you just may find the rest of the world is a lot more willing to pay attention, too.

Chris Bernard summed this up in this advice to the design teams:

“Things that are beautiful and that work are what seals the deal”

Field Report: PhizzPop Challenge Training

PhizzPop Challenge Training

I spent the last 2 days in Chicago, IL at the Clarity Consulting office sitting in on a special training class for the PhizzPop Design Challenge.  I felt a little out of place at first.  The room was over 1/2 designers (MacBooks galore) and the rest of the room was filled out with developers who were teamed with the designers.  And then you had the Architect Evangelist in the room.  When they did introductions they asked if you were a Designer, A Developer or a Designer / Developer.  I answered “Evangelist, which pretty much means I spend most of the day in Outlook”.  Everything turned out okay, as I got to spend some real hands on time with the Expression Suite and my brand spanking new install of Visual Studio 2008.

What is the PhizzPop Design Challenge?

36 teams enter. 1 team leaves. In several cities around the United States over the next few weeks they are going to have regional competitions were teams of 3 compete to solve a design challenge in less than 72 hours.  Team make up is up to the company’s discretion (3 designers, 1 designer and 2 developers, etc).  Each of the regional winners will participate in a similar contest at the South By Southwest Interactive in Austin, TX next March.  They will be put through a similar cage match there and the winning firm will get bragging rights and probably some cool prizes as well.

So what’s next

The teams have the weekend off to absorb all that the instructors, Jared Potter and Dale Jones from Identity Mine have thrown at them.  I hope they all have a relaxing weekend and get lots of rest.  On Monday morning everyone meets back in downtown Chicago to hear what the design problem is (It is a closely guarded secret, Chris Bernard has not even told me what it is).  Then they have until Wednesday afternoon to design and create their solution.  Failure and a good night’s sleep are not an option.  On Wednesday everyone meets over at Underground in Chicago to see the judging and have an awesome party.  Have you registered yet?  The event is all most full!

More information

My Flickr Photos (will be added to as the event proceeds)
Chris Bernard’s Blog
PhizzPop Twitter Feed and Chicago Specific PhizzPop Twitter Feed

Field Report: MOSSCamp 2007

The first ever MOSSCamp was held this past Friday (November 9th, 2007) in Chicago, IL.  This was a devcamp style event that was focused around Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint 2007.

Standing Room Only

One of the highlights of MOSSCamp was the number of people that showed up to the event, as near as we can figure we had about 110 people at one point or another during the day.  Closely related to this highlight (actually directly proportional to it) was the lowlight that we pushed the facilities to the edge.  It was standing room only for the first couple hours of the event (as you can see by the photo, campers were literally spilling out into the halls).  I appreciated the patience that everyone showed with tight quarters.  We capped the registration at 130 campers and wait listed 10 more folks (many more people wanted to come to the camp, but we had to turn them away).  To answer a question that many people might be asking, we did not plan for 110 people.  We actually thought we would get between 80-90 (we based the estimate on historical drop off figures from past events, which are typically 25-40%).  Clearly we underestimated the interest that people had in MOSSCamp and when we have a MOSSCamp 2008 (and there is a good chance that we will), we will adjust the registration numbers and / or get a bigger room.

The camp organizers did all that we could to ease the congestion.  I for one gave up my seat at the event, and even exited the main room (I hung out in the kitchen area and talked with campers).  Many of the camp organizers also skipped lunch so that we could make sure everyone got a shot at the pizza (thankfully everyone did get at least one plate of pizza).  The office manager at Clarity ordered up dozens of cookies for an afternoon snack (the pizza went so fast that nobody was able to get seconds).  The guys at K2 stepped up big for us by having an unplanned breakout session during lunch so that we could relieve some of the congestion in the main room and even ran that session twice (thanks guys).

My Favorite Parts of the Camp

I have to say that the SharePoint airing of grievances was one of the best parts of the camp.  We gave the campers about 15 minutes to stand up and say things they don’t like about SharePoint or to raise issues that they have had when using the platform.  It was meant to be a fun activity, but was also an opportunity for people to connect.  We had several people bring up issues that other people in the camp had either solved or had some expertise around the problem so that they were able to help each other.  Here was the grievances that were aired during the session:

Timeout on Large Infopath files HTML Editor is weak
Column level security on lists XHTML Compliance (Poor HTML, Table Driven, Styling Webparts)
Filtering Views is not clear WYSYWIG on Web Parts
Impersonation Testing 13 connection limit on connected web parts
Having all fields available on contacts Lotus Notes Integration
Service Unavailable Message Relative links are broke

The other thing that I enjoyed was talking to the campers on how they were using SharePoint.  I met a gentleman from a large company that was telling me about their SharePoint implementation and he mentioned that they had “200,000 users on their implementation”.  I said “Oh, you have an Internet facing implementation”.  He said “No, we have that many employees and they are all on SharePoint”, he then showed me some very impressive architectural diagrams on the implementation (jaw dropping).  I also met a guy who told me that he is “an open source guy”, but SharePoint is compelling enough that his consulting company is starting to focus on it.

Don’t call it a barcamp

MOSSCamp was structured as an unconference, but the organizers made it clear that that we should not draw any parallels to barcamp.  Barcamps are user generated conferences that cover a broad variety of topics (I was in a gene splicing conversation at a barcamp), but in general the barcamps are focused on Open Source technologies.  Because SharePoint is a commercial product we wanted to make sure that we did not say “it is like a barcamp”.  We also made sure that the camp Wiki was not hosted on  This was also a good chance to show how you can host a wiki on WSS.

There was some trepidation at first with the unconference style of the event.  It took a few minutes for the campers to get into the groove of participating in the event.  By the end of the day, people were just hanging out in various parts of the Clarity office learning and sharing with each other.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Field Report: IndyTechFest

Speaker Badge
Originally uploaded by jodieandlarry.

Yesterday (Saturday the 13th) was the IndyTechFest in Indianapolis, IN.  IndyTechFest is an all day technology conference that is centered around Microsoft Technologies (mainly .NET and SQL Server).  It is co-presented by the Indianapolis .NET Developers Association and the Indianapolis Professional Association for SQL Server.  It is very similar to the “Day of .NET” or “Deeper in .NET”  events that have been held in other cities.  They had close to 400 attendees and the entire event was free to participants, thanks to some great sponsors.

What does it take to put on a conference like this?

I was amazed at what a professional conference the organizers were able to put on using a volunteer work force, especially because this is the first time that they have held the event.  This event was on-par with smaller technical conferences that I have been to that cost in the neighborhood of $795 to attend.  Some interesting things to note:

  • They ordered 100 dozen doughnuts, or roughly 3 for each person
  • Each attendee got a “swag” bag that was a nice conference style messenger bag filled with goodies from some of the sponsors (including a T-shirt)
  • They had an unreal number of giveaways including over 150 books, a Halo 3 branded XBOX (with controllers and a copy of Halo 3) and a Halo 3 legendary edition (the one with the master chief helmet)
  • There were 25 sessions across 3 tracks with lots of great presenters from Indianapolis and from across the region.

The Keynote

Buck Foley Keynote
Originally uploaded by jodieandlarry.

The day started off with a bang during the keynote.  They had the usual 10-15 minutes worth of logistical information (thanking the sponsors, describing the session format, talking about the user groups who put on the event).  Then Brad Jones came up to give an overview of the technology landscape in Indiana.  Hey talked about the number and type of jobs that were available in the area (a large number of open positions for people who know the Java platform).  Brad works in the online publishing business, so he also explained how the online publishers “judge” the popularity of technologies based on the number of articles read and keywords searched for.  There was some surprising data in there and I hope to spend some time with Brad to publish some of the findings that he talked about (quick preview: Java is still number one, C/C++ is number 2, Visual Basic is growing like gang busters).  When Brad tried to give give his views on technology trends, he was rudely interrupted…

Buck Foley, a motivational speaker who is “thrice divorced and lives in a van down by the river” busted in on the presentation.  Buck is a distant cousin to Matt Foley, who you may remember from the Saturday Night Live fame.  Buck spent about 15-20 minutes describing his views on technology and giving us a preview of the conference.  This included:

  • Pointing out that today’s conference was not just about technology you were also going to learn about music (C#)
  • “You guys also also going to learn about a lot of Diseases (TFS, VSTS)” he added “You want to make sure that you don’t catch any of those”
  • Railing on both of my sessions – s+s and mashups
  • Giving the most hilarious explanation of LINQ I have ever heard

Dave Bost got the whole thing on video tape, but it is almost unusable because they camera was shaking so much as he was laughing too hard while he was recording.  We are in talks with Buck Foley’s agent to get him to appear at an MSDN Event or a Devcares.

Note:  Not only is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, but Buck Foley also donates a portion of his proceeds to the Chris Farley Foundation.

Code to Live roles into town

Code to Live DPE
Code to Live DPE
Originally uploaded by jodieandlarry.

Code To Live is a program that my colleagues Josh Holmes and Steve Loethen are putting on this year.  I will have a separate blog post describing the program and everything that it entails (and ask for your participation in the program).  Josh and Steve are currently on a kick off tour where they are touring around to various events on a Harley-Davidson Road King.  Josh spent Friday and Saturday morning at the Devlink Event in Nashville, TN, but drove up for the afternoon and gave an impromptu “closing remark” to the IndyTechfest crowd.  The crowd really liked the fact that we wheeled the motorcycle into the conference area (not sure if that was cleared with building management ahead of time or not).  🙂

But wait there is more

I did 2 sessions at IndyTechFest.  One on software and services and one on Mashups.  I will give a quick recap of those sessions and post the slides that I used in a blog entry in the next couple of days.  I also recorded a couple of podcasts with some of the speakers at the event including Chad Campbell, Tim Landgrave, Robert Bogue and Brad Jones.  Each podcast was interesting in its own ways, but the one with Brad Jones was especially interesting because I asked him what it takes to put on an event like IndyTechFest.

If you would like to see more pictures from Indy TechFest, please click here.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Note:  This entry was updated after being posted to correct a typo

Field Report from SilverlightDevCampChicago

Hey - free t-shirts
Hey Free T-Shirts

Originally uploaded by jodieandlarry.

Today was the SilverlightDevCamp in Downtown Chicago at Clarity Consulting.  It was a day that was jam packed with learning about Silverlight.  We had a very good mix of people that had some real deep knowledge of Silverlight and a lot of people who were enthused about Silverlight and wanted to learn more.  In unconference style we starring a few minutes late, ran long on a lot of the sessions, had several sessions added and removed during the day and were still talking Silverlight over 2 1/2 hours after the event was supposed to end.

A quick recap of the sessions

Overview of SilverlightRyan Powers of Clarity Consulting kicked off the event by giving an overview of Silverlight.  The organizers of the event got feedback from the San Francisco Camp that we ought to start off with a session that covered the basics of Silverlight. 

Deep Dive into Silverlight Application – Jon from the Revere group gave a great demonstration of a real world application that they are building for a customer in Silverlight 1.1 (and yes he knows that it is not a supported platform yet, but they needed the capabilities that the .NET CLR provides).

Silverlight Games and Graphics – this was a really cool topic that centered on high end graphics and gaming on Silverlight.

Silverlight in a data driven world – Tal of the Centare Group walked us through a very cool sample application to select beers.  The application is a sample built by Centare to demonstrate what you can do with data driven applications.  They are planning to put the application up on the Internet and to release the source code so that the community as a whole can learn from their efforts.

Silverlight and FacebookRyan Powers gave his second talk of the day around how you can embed a Silverlight application on the Facebook platform.

Adobe Flex / AIR – Zach Stepek gave us a look at the Flex and AIR platforms.  He did a very good showing the power of the Adobe platform and even gave us some insights about how Adobe has dealt with some of the issues that Silverlight is facing (like using cross domain policy files to limit service calls).

MVC in SilverlightGilbert Corrales had a very interesting talk about building Silverlight 1.0 applications with object oriented techniques and component development.  Even more amazing was that he built his first commercial application using open source tools on the Mac OSX platform.

Silverlight / TwitterDave Bost walked through his SilverTwitter application.

“What about Design” Closing RemarksChris Bernard, the Microsoft Central Region User Experience Evangelist, closed out the day by giving us a quick overview of design process.  Chris was the first person of the day that did not start out their presentation by saying “I am not a designer”.  🙂

What I learned

There is a new version of Expression Blend available for download (September Preview) – download here.  I think the notification is buried in the 1000+ e-mails I have back logged in outlook.

There is not as much excitement about the Silverlight 1.0 platform as I thought there would be (or that I think there should be).  The 1.0 platform is a great way to get started on Silverlight and it is not just about video!  JavaScript can be a rich development platform as Gilbert taught us during his presentation (more about that later).

People are really starting to think about serious business applications that they will build in Silverlight.  I figured that we would see lots of Internet applications that are geared towards consumers before we would see real world business applications, but it seems that we will see business oriented applications at the same time as the consumer applications.

What’s Next?

SilverlightDevCamps are popping up right and left across the United States and I am sure we will see one outside of the US very soon.  As for Chicago and the surrounding areas we will probably wait a few months before we have another SilverlightDevCamp.  However, before we even officially kicked off the SLDC this morning several of the attendees asked if we could put together a similar event based around SharePoint.  Dave Bost and I will probably spend a couple days recovering from this event and then work with the community to start planning that event.  If you would like to help out, let me know!  Otherwise, stay tuned for more details.

Special Thanks

The guys at Clarity deserve a big thanks for spearheading this event.  Also everyone who participated in the event by giving a presentation or asking questions during the sessions are what makes an event like this great.

More Details

Flickr Photos:

Twitter Feed:

Field Report: An Event Apart Day Two

This is a summary of day two of the “An Event Apart” conference in Chicago.  To see day one go here.

Be Pure. Be Vigilant. Behave. Session

Jeremy Keith gave this session and he was the first person at the conference to actually show any code (and he showed client side javascript).  He raised a point that I have made in the past when I have talked about the use of AJAX on a web site:  Your site should still work even if the client does not use javascript.  The easiest way to accomplish this is to build the site first as a Web 1.0 style site (with postbacks), then you should add the AJAX functionality.  There is a real balance to this, because the presence or absence of AJAX would normally effect your design.

Best Practices For Form Design Session

Luke Wroblewski is a principle at Yahoo! and he showed a very visual presentation on design patterns for web forms.  Sounds really boring, but may have been one of the most useful presentation of the conference.  He gave some great “rules of thumb” for laying out your web forms.  Because the presentation was so visually oriented, it is tough to summarize this session.  Luke will have a book out next year, or you can read some of his blog entries about forms here.

Accessibility: Lost In Translation Session

Derek Featherstone gave us a wonderful insight into accessibility on web sites.  I have always thought that I had a good grasp of accessibility on web sites, but some of the issues that Derek showed during his presentation really humbled me.  AJAX and other cleaver DOM scripting techniques have really thrown a wrench into the accessibility of web sites to a level that I was not even aware of.

The State of CSS In an IE7 World Session

Eric Meyer gave this presentation on IE7.  As a guy who works for Microsoft I was “braced” for the worst, because if you search for Internet Explorer CSS Issues you get close to 1/4 of a million search results and most are not flattering (Internet Explorer 6 has a very checkered past).    Eric gave a fair and balanced view of IE7, and was complimentary of the work that the IE Team has done to fix the problems of the past and to comply to standards.

Eric made one point that was interesting:  He was very critical of sites that claim to know how what the percentages of people are using which browser (like 25% of all people are using Internet Explorer 7).  His point was that these sites aggregate data and the only thing they are telling you is what the aggregation is.  He said you should focus on what browsers you are seeing visiting your web site by looking at your logs (he used a funny example of probably does not probably see a lot of traffic from IE).  He has a great point for existing web sites, but for new web sites I still think there is value in looking at aggregations.

Technorati tags: , ,

Field Report: An Event Apart Day One

I got to attend the An Event Apart conference in Chicago this week.  An Event Apart is the in person version of the popular web magazine A List Apart, which bills itself as “explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices.”

This is a different style of conference than what I am used to, and the change was refreshing in some ways.  Normally I am used to a conference where they have somewhere between one and three keynotes over the course of the conference in a massive room.  All other sessions take place in between 3 and 50 simultaneous breakout sessions.  At An Event Apart  there were no keynotes or breakouts.  All of the sessions took place in the same room and all of the attendees saw the same session.  It was great in that you did not have any angst to go through in picking out which session to attend (always stressful because you have the fear of picking the “wrong session”).  The other benefit is that during breaks everyone is talking about the same topics, because you just saw the exact same session.  Here is a quick overview and some thoughts from today’s sessions.

Secrets of the CSS Jedi Session

Eric Meyer is a CSS guru, it is hard to have a conversation about CSS with his name popping up as part of the conversation.  He gave the opening presentation called “CSS Jedi”, in which he built around his demo of how to take an HTML Table of sales data and strictly using CSS was able to turn it into a bar graph.  You can see the before and after on his web site here.   

Key Takeaway
You can’t completely divorce the content from the presentation.  We get really hung up on the “separate your content from the presentation” mantra when we talk about the value of CSS.  I think everyone would agree that using CSS is the right thing to do, but his point was that you have to have some presentation built into your content, or you can’t do any styling.  His example, which was very insightful, was that you can’t apply CSS formatting to a text file, because there is no structure to anchor to.

Writing the User Interface Session

Jeffrey Zeldman gave this talk on the importance of copy in the design process.  “Design helps people read less” and “Copy is the easiest and cheapest part of you site to fix” where two of the key messages.  It re-enforced the Copywriting is Interface Design section of Getting Real by 37 Signals.

Designing Your Way out of a Paper Bag Session

Jason Santa Maria is the creative director for Happy Cog Studios and this session was insights into his personal design process.  Jason showed us a lot of the projects that he had worked on in the past (some of the stuff that he has done includes the current version of A List Apart, the new WordPress logo and the redesign of  The most remarkable part of his session was that he would show you the evolution of the design process.  He would show you “before” images of sites, sketches he made in his sketchbook, early prototypes he called “Grey Blocks”, later drafts and finally the finished product.  It was really neat to see evolution of the design process.

Search Analytics for Fun and Profit Session

Lou Rosenfeld is the co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites (an awesome book) and his talk was focused about how to look at search logs and gain insights into what your customers are looking for.  He gave a great explanation of “the long tail” with real data from a search engine log.

Interesting points

  • Many search results are seasonal (searches for the word “football” are at a peak in September and October)
  • The #10 search result on a typical search results page (1-10) is actually clicked more often than the number 6,7,8 and 9 results on the same page
  • Don’t underestimate the value of a manually configured “Best Best” on a search result for common searches
  • Most search results fall into the Zipf distribution (where the name “the long tail” come from), but you should not ignore the queries that people do in the second half of the distribution.  You can find some really interesting results.

The Seven Lies of Information Architecture

Liz Danzico is an information architect with Happy Cog Studios.  Her presentation focused on the 7 rules that you can break, including: Navigation must always be consistent, There is a magic number sever (plus or minus two), and Users must get to all parts of the site all the time.  One of the neatest things about her presentation was that to prove some of her points she would show a portion of a screen shot and ask you what it is.  We (as human) develop a natural pattern recognition.  Do you recognize what this is despite the small snip?:

Interface Design Jugging

Dan Cederholm walked us through a lot of interesting graphic and design issues.  He did this via a guided tour of his sample site “Toupee Pal”.  He then shifted gears and started talking about Microformats.  I mentioned Microformats last week in Madison, WI during my presentation on Mashups.  Check them out, they have now achieved sufficient mass to pay attention to them.

Attendee Party

I am not going to blog at the attendee party.  I am going to hit “publish” and head over to Fadó Irish Pub.  Look for another update tomorrow.

Technorati tags: , ,

Field Report: Chicago Facebook Developer Garage

Beer and Code
Originally uploaded by jodieandlarry.

Last Saturday I got to attend the Facebook Developer Garage in downtown Chicago that was hosted by Clarity Consulting.  I am a relatively new user to Facebook, so I had a lot to learn about Facebook as a web site and as a developer platform.  I am glad that I went to the event because I learned a lot about both of these things.  Overall the event was pretty good, but it was not without its hiccups.  The biggest hiccup was that Facebook was supposed to send someone to give the keynote address, but at the last minute they had to pull out of the event (probably got a great idea about a new feature that they just had to implement).  There was some delay while trying to set up a video conference with them that never got started.  In the end, Jia Shen from Rock You!  (a company that builds applications for social networks like MySpace and Facebook) stepped in a gave a great keynote presentation.  He did a great job of explaining the basics of the platform and then showed us newbies how to build a “hello world” style application on the platform. 

I spent a lot of time talking with the various attendees and I got to see what some of the startup companies where doing with Facebook, like Swap Simple who have integrated the facebook login with their site.  I added several new friends to my Facebook account and even ran into Jeremy and Kevin from Web414 at the event.  I then spent some time building Mashups of Facebook photos with popfly. I took some pictures of the event, you can see them on Facebook or on Flickr.

Thoughts on Facebook as a platform

I like Facebook as a web application, but I am still trying to figure out how much of a developer platform that it is.  They have done some impressive stuff with opening up their web site to people who want to build Facebook “applications”.  However, the standard Facebook application runs on the Facebook website.  I don’t see a lot of openness to exposing the data outside of Facebook (there was some information that you could tap into from popfly, but it was limited).  I look at other platforms like Flickr and Twitter where there is a rich eco-system of complimentary applications that have been built on the APIs from those sites and I don’t see that yet in Facebook.  I hope that over time they start to open up more Internet based APIs so it will grow into a true platform.  Maybe they were working on that last weekend.  🙂

Thanks again to Clarity for hosting such a cool event.  They paid for coffee and doughnuts in the morning and pizza and beer in the afternoon.  Way to step up guys.