1 part blog, 1 part monthly columnist…

No item is too small when I’m reading the blog of a good friend. Everything they post is interesting.
But from everyone else, I don’t want the details. Just the rare, fantastic, inspiring, thought-provoking, post. And then I might want some context. If I ask.
Christina Wodtke is on to something. (Thanks, Derek!).
I want editors back. Not the “I only have 32 pages available and we have a 6 month story-plan for upcoming issues” editors. Web magazine editors who edit and post the best stuff as it arrives, with links back to the author’s blog home where I can find out how many cats they have and what they did on their birthday and that their car door got keyed last night.
Like the carnivals, only more organized, more centralized, and better edited.

Distinguishing old data from fresh data

I don’t want my computer to forget anything, unless I tell it to.
But I want everything annotated by time: when it was created, modified, and used. And I want the annotation to be ambient; subtly shown all the time.
My web browser favorites should fade away if I haven’t visited them in a long time. I should be able to look at my contacts and see who I call or correspond with the most, and to “touch” or mark the ones I see in the flesh, the interactions the contact manager doesn’t know about.
My favorite thing about NoteScraps is that I don’t have to organize anything. Time organizes, and the old stuff just falls to the bottom of the pile.

Apple, save us with your iPhone

I watched the iPhone demo at Apple.com.
The iPhone is so well designed that it makes me angry that the other tools I use every day are so annoying.
And then I remember that my own product isn’t that well designed (yet), and that doing good design is very hard, and very expensive, and that I shouldn’t throw stones inside my glass house, etc., etc.
And the iPhone is not perfect. My Windows-based cell phone syncs my contacts, calendar, and email all day long, live over the cell network. I’ve never even hooked it up to my computer. The iPhone does email, but apparently needs to be “wired up” to sync other data. So there.
Microsoft gets some things right. But how can they do such a bad job on the simple stuff? Why is it so hard to lock the phone? Why are the onscreen keypad buttons smaller than my fingers?
I’m hoping Apple saves us all. Even if we don’t all get iPhones, it’s so incredibly good that Microsoft and others will be compelled to improve. After tomorrow, who would dare ship another mediocre smartphone interface?
(Don’t answer that.)

Black user interface…

iphone.pngEli Evans (one of our information architects) sent me some thoughts on the “black is the new blue” trend.

It allows for high contrast designs that probably work pretty well on very small devices; it makes colors pop even as it allows otherwise incompatible colors to coexist peacefully without clashing; its much easier on the eyes than white if you need to stare at it for long periods of time…

I remember Encarta as being the first major Windows app to “go negative”, and now there are lots more. But Encarta seems to have gone back towards the light.
Some examples:

Color is not the most important feature of the next version of Logos Bible Software, but when it comes to the overall tone, it’s an important early decision. It influences the design of the interface itself, as well as all the art that has to be made, and it’s expensive to change later. And, done poorly, it can make the interface harder to use and the text harder to read.

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?

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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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:
Bellingham, in-town: