June 22, 2007

Should apps go black?

I just downloaded the new Adobe Digital Editions. It’s cool to see the next generation of “rich internet applications” starting to emerge. I’ve always preferred client side applications interface to seeing everything through the a web browser, but I love apps that are easy to install, ready to go, and always connected.

This is the way to go.

But should it be white on black? I’m so conditioned to light app chrome, but now I’m seeing more white on black UI. Is it better or worse? And is the answer different for “reading applications” like this? Does it frame and emphasize the black on white content, or just make the controls harder to use?

June 19, 2007

O’Reilly Tools of Change

I’m at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference for Publishing, in San Jose.

I did the rounds of electronic publishing conferences a decade ago (can it be?) and there’s a strong sense of déjà vu. The imminent end of print publishing was predicted, again; new e-book readers and formats were discussed; and, while the names have changed, the exhibits all looked the same.

The only difference is, this time I believe it. The solutions are no longer ahead of their time, the scenarios aren’t unrealistic, paper is being given credit where it deserves it, and we’ve got the long tail to reassure us that it’ll all be okay: even if you don’t get everything right, you can still live forever in the long tail. Like the guys who still make vinyl records.

I presented our Pre-Pub and Community Pricing models under the embarrassingly confident title “Business Models that Guarantee Profitability in Publishing.” My favorite part was showing a 1790 “Proposals for Printing by Subscription” that illustrates how un-original our model really is. (You can see it in my PDF handout.)

Lunch with one of our publishing partners and dinner with another capped off a very thought-provoking day.

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May 19, 2007

Sushi + Technology

I love sushi, and I love eating it at Blue C Sushi, where it rolls by endlessly on a conveyor belt in a cool, high-tech space.

I thought the bar coded serving rings were the height of sushi tech, but it looks like they’re going RFID to optimize freshness (and profits!). If only they would open in Bellingham…

May 12, 2007

Mansion shopping

I was talking with a friend about our crazy real estate prices and what comparative bargains must be available in older cities. “Like in Detroit,” I said.

A quick web search shows that houses (a technical definition) in Detroit start at under $1,000. But there are derelict houses everywhere. What does real money buy in a place that’s lost a million people since its peak?

Well, less than a million buys a mansion. A real mansion, with nearly 12,000 square feet on half a city block, nine bedrooms and murals on the ceilings.

Those slightly larger spec homes with granite counters that go for a million around here don’t quite have the same feel…but they’re probably cheaper to heat.

What $975,000 buys:

Detroit, in-town:
975kDetroit.jpg

Bellingham, in-town:
975kBellingham.jpg

May 11, 2007

Visual Syntactic Text Formatting

Years ago I saw some framed Bible verses made with scraps of paper and wire in a way that emphasized the structure of the text and specific words. (Gift products distributed by Zondervan — but I’ve forgotten the name.) It got me thinking about how text might be arranged on screen to enhance reading, and I did a little research on the subject. But I never figured out how to use that in Logos, or if it would be worth the trouble.

Today I found a link to Live Ink, which got me thinking about it again. Logos Bible Software users do a lot of on screen reading; would this help?

May 6, 2007

Karen Spärck Jones

Years ago I got up to speed on the field of information science by spending a couple days at a university library flipping through every journal in the field. I took each bound volume off the shelf in order and read the table of contents for each issue, and then every article that looked interesting.

Skimming 50+ years of journals is a great way to get an overview of a field – and to see some long term patterns. One of those patterns was Karen Spärck Jones, whose name seemed on to be on, or referenced by, many of the most helpful and interesting articles.
She was also the editor of Readings in Information Retrieval, which I was delighted to discover collected all the best articles in one handy volume.

I didn’t know anything else about her, though, until I saw her obituary today. It only served to impress me more. She developed and explored many concepts at the foundation of modern computing and won a stack of awards for a lifetime of achievement. All the more difficult, I imagine, in a field dominated by men. (“Computing is too important to be left to men,” she said in an interview this year.)

Karen Spärck Jones worked in language and information processing research for five decades, and if you have searched the Internet – or Logos Bible Software – you have been a beneficiary of her work.

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