One of the interesting aspects of the rise of Mac OS X is the fall from favour of the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines, the bible for desktop applications developers looking to create applications that looked and felt Mac. In the old days (pre-OS X), any deviation from these norms were severely frowned upon. And while we still encounter apps that just don’t feel right (Azureus, for example, whose UI feels like a tree of function calls), there’s a huge variation in behaviour and consistency across Final Cut Pro, Microsoft Word, and the built-in Apple apps. Apple themselves have enjoyed experimenting: brushed metal was a new look and Apple didn’t consistently apply its own guidelines on when to use it (don’t miss these hilarious parodies). Now there’s yet more deviation in the new round of iLife (Rogue Amoeba’s amusingly titled screenshot caught my eye) and it’s interesting to consider what role HIGs play, whether they create or codify convention, and whether there’s a time to do away with them. I know that I’d like to see some HIGs for Ajax interfaces–on the one hand, making the web behave like the desktop is great, but on the other hand there are some absolutely shitlicious desktop apps swilling around out there. It seems to me that a collection of best practices, along the line of Designing Interfaces (a book I’m proud to have recruited for O’Reilly), would go a long way to taking away the Frankenapp feel of a lot of the current Ajax apps.
The DAEDALUS Project collects sociological information about MMORPG users. For example, MMORPG users spend nearly 3x as many hours in-game as watching TV; older male characters are more likely to gender-bend in-game; and female players are 3x more likely to get married online than male but most players (whether male or female) felt that getting married online was silly. (Side note: I got married on short notice (side-side note: Mexican INS can kiss my married ass) in 1996 on a talk.bizarre mud with an IRC gateway for my New Zealand non-talk.bizarre friends and family, and I still think it’s silly) Increasingly we have the option to live online, and these games give great insights into how people would love to behave if the technology, laws, and mores would let them.
Zillow is a fantastic web app for viewing comparitive property prices. It flashes images in such a way that I begin to hope I don’t have latest epilepsy, but eventually it settled down and showed me just how much those rich buggers across the road from us in Fort Collins got when they sold their prairie palace. It uses Navteq data and GlobeXplorer imagery along with a database of prices of property transactions.
Via Rachel Cunliffe’s blog entry, I found this interesting interview with Imogen Heap. My wife’s been exposing me to new music lately (“please, something without a banjo, Nat!”) and this came by as Jenine was playing Frou Frou and the song Imogen Heap did for the Narnia soundtrack. Heap posted to her blog with a list of possible topics for a song she was having trouble finding lyrics for, the readers picked one, and she went with that. When she wanted a photo for the album of her on her bike, cycling to the studio, she found a guy on Flickr whose shots of London she liked and asked him to take the picture. Of her blog readers, she says “they’ve kind of become my A&R men”.