3d desktop UI research prototype

Came across this interesting video on the prototype. I’ve love to see more of this kind of research. This prototype looks quite advanced with weight physics and mouse gestures.
However, this is still pretty much based on the mouse as UI control. One thing I’ll really like to see is new ways of interaction and getting rid of the mouse completely. Can there be ways to sense hand 3d movement on the screen, instead of touch screen?

Project page

User testing can be a waste of time and money.

User experience is the new big buzz word in today’s software and web applications. As the market starts to get saturated, it is harder for consumers to distinguish the differences between companies. Software and web applications cannot compete on functionalities alone, hence they start promoting their great user experience to be ahead of the pack. Microsoft has a big section on user experience on their Vista and office 2007 site. Apple sell themselves as the best at providing great user experience.

Every other company now is trying to improve their user experience. They hire usability experts who come up with a detailed report from things learnt from user testing. However most companies would have ran out of budget by the time the report was finished. The programmers get pressured to finish the project and end up in building a half finished job. The report from user testing is just a tool to justify the budget for project and cover their backs if the end result of the project are as good as expected.
The results from user testing can be easily manipulated. Be careful of what you’re testing with in the first place. People often overlook the importance of a good design. There’s no real connection between the designer and the user groups. Designer will design on their own and then someone else will do the testing on the design. What’s worse is the client only chooses what they like personally for the user test. You can’t get a good design from testing bad designs. There are guidelines on achieving accuracy on user testing, but finding a good designer in the beginning is quite an subjective matter. User centered design is an iterative innovation process.

  • Is your designer involved in the user testing?
  • Have you given enough room for your designers to innovate?
  • Did you pick the designs you like for user testing?

Next time before you start a project, ask yourself if you’re hiring the right people to design your user experience.

Where is the Yahoo browser?

Browser war 2.0 is between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!. Influencing the browser can bring huge benefits to the underlying company. You can set the default search engine, start page and plugins. Google is the big supporter behind firefox. Google is the default search engine. Now they are starting to release value added plugins such as the notebook, synch. Firefox is almost branded as a google product. It is a very good way to secure the number of user base.

Where is Yahoo’s browser? Yahoo has been desparately forcing users to install the yahoo toolbar which comes packaged with alot of popular downloads, such as the flash plugin. I was actually quite impressed by the Yahoo tool bar on IE, which provides tab based browsing and it feels almost like firefox. I think Yahoo is in a very weak position to compete in the browser war. They are trying their best to partner with the minorities – flock and maxthon. Will they succeed in sharing a part of the pie? I doubt they’ll ever make it to the mainstream. I think yahoo should start partnering with opera browser for mobile to dominate the mobile market. In 2-3 years time, I’m sure we’ll see another mobile browser war. Hopefully they’ll be in a better position then.

More business resources for entrepreneurs

Video and podcast from top US business schools.

Can people be taught to be entrepreneurs?

My answer is no. It is the same as asking “Can people taught to be a designer?”. I think the entrepreneural passion needs to be born with, just like the designer sense. A young designer can be taught to be a better designer from formal training but its very hard to teach someone to be a great designer.

So I think we should get on with work and provide more resource for entrepreneurs to do their work rather than helping people who aren’t meant to be entrepreneurs to learn what it takes to be one.

Can people be taught to be managers?

My answer is yes. It is still very hard to teach someone to be great managers as there are no set guidelines. It is also because of that, it is hard to say who is a great manager. Different companies of different size and industry faces different problems and has different set of employees. However the goal are the same – maintain profit and growth and keep the employees happy. Good management requires good people skills. People skills can be taught, they just need more practise. Managers can achieve the same goals with in their own styles.

Debugging Javascript on IE

Everyone should know about Firebug for Mozilla by now. I had the problem not being able to use ‘console.log()’ on IE.

Here’s a quick solution, a wonderful package log4javascript by Tim Down.

I used wrapper class to switch between the two on different browsers.

if(navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Firefox") == -1) {
// Create the logger. "mylogger" is the unique name of the logger and
// can be any string.
var log = log4javascript.getLogger("mylogger");// Create a PopUpAppender with default options
var popUpAppender = new log4javascript.PopUpAppender();

// Change the desired configuration options
popUpAppender.setFocusPopUp(true);
popUpAppender.setNewestMessageAtTop(true);

// Add the appender to the logger
log.addAppender(popUpAppender);

var console = Class.create();
console.log = function(s) { log.debug(s);  }
console.debug = function(s) { log.debug(s);  }
console.info = function(s) { log.info(s);  }
console.warn = function(s) { log.warn(s);  }
console.error = function(s) { log.error(s);  }
}

What will be the web3.0 boom?

Web 1.0 – the boom of information publishing

This is the boom for publishing information on the net from a few big players, and searching of information from those publishers.
e.g. Yahoo, CNet, Google, MSN, Excite

  • CMS
  • Ecommerce
  • Webring
  • 3 levels drop list navigation
  • ASP, J2ee
  • Open source projects were still babies – drupal, phpBB

Web 2.0 – the boom of The Long Tail information

This is the boom for self publishing from the masses. This is also a boom for web applications that stores and manage users’ specific tasks. People are able to use the web to replace desktop application because the network speed has increased dramatically and browser technologies have stablised.
e.g. myspace, blogger, flickr, delicious, ta-da list, basecamp, youtube, odeo.

  • blog
  • socialnetworks
  • folksonomy
  • ajax, Ruby on Rails
  • Open source projects matured – phpBB, wordpress, drupal
  • Aggregators are still babies – bloglines, google reader, rojo …

Web 3.0 – the boom of intelligent information

This, I predict, will be the boom of personalisation and aggregation of content. This will be the start of an artificial intelligence era. We have spent a decade on making is easy to publish information to the internet and its about time to harvest those information intelligently. Information overload is a common problem.

The fame might go back to the big players because they have the resource and user base to aggregate content intelligently. With storage cost being close to zero and bandwidth cost coming down, there will be an overload of content in different media – mp3, video, pictures. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft will certainly put out new functionalities for search and aggregating all the media.
e.g. Google new search, Riya – facial recognition, Findory – personalised news

With the cost of mobile data going down and mobile technology stablelising, there’ll be alot more mobile applications just like the web 2.0 app.

  • aggregators
  • web services – Gdata, rss, REST
  • personalisation
  • mobile
  • multimedia
  • web development matures – .net, j2ee, rails
  • mobile development begins – flashlite, symbian, windows mobile
  • Natural language processing

Will semantic web ever take off?

I doubt there’ll ever be a time when everyone have the patience to build valid XML/RDF data on the internet. The mundane task of defining information into chunks is justÂÂ inhuman and the work should be pushed to the intelligence of the machines.ÂÂ Machines will get intelligent enough to understand the context of the content rather than us putting it into meta data. There could still be some use for rdf but it won’t be the common way of using the web.

Essential business books for web entrepreneurs

Ever since the web1.0 boom, I’ve been preparing myself for starting up my own business. I’ve been selectively choosing the books that will add value to me. The knowledge gained from these books are well worth the time and money, and I will tell you briefly why.

If you are a technologist with an engineering background and don’t have the time to goto business schools, “The 10 day MBA” book is for you. It provides a good overview of all facets of managing a business, accounting, economics, marketing, risk management, finance. Don’t be put off by the ’10 day’ title, if the book is written well, it is worth more than a 100 days long textbook that says one thing in 10days. Having the bigger picture of the potential of conflicts between the department is important. MBA is all about numbers, what is the market size, how much stock should you buy, how much cash should you keep, how much money should you borrow, how do others value your company. Knowing the basics certainly helps for reading the new strategy books.

“Selling with NLP” is more of a pscyhology book that illustrate how to influence into your customer’s buying decision on a one to one level. This is a good book for communication skills. It tells you how to quickly identify the type of person you’re talking to and speak in their own language to close a sale. It also shows what signals to you send and pickup with body languages.

“The tipping point” is more of a recreational book on marketing and can be read quickly. It illustrates the steps and elements from an out lier idea to become a trend. Basically, you need to harness the power of a few influencial people that has a large social connection to set off a new trend. Marketing to these influencers and get them on board promoting your product is the start of a successful viral marketing system.

“Blue ocean strategy” and “Seeing what’s next” both have similar ideas in how to create the next big thing. These are the books that will set you apart from your competition. “Seeing what’s next” is gears more towards technology entreprenuers. It is a good complementary book to the “Blue ocean strategy”. One can apply the blue ocean strategy framework on any industry. You need to provide greater value at lower cost in your new market by looking across the whole eco system of your product. The key there is to work out the target price that will attract the mass market to adopt and innovate on cutting the cost. However, the dilemma of technology innovators is that in order to bring the cost down, it might mean a very long time of research and technology advancement. E.g. if the mass market cannot afford wireless broadband, should you be stuck and wait for the cost to come down before utilising that technology? “Seeing what’s next” guides us to look for opportunities where the same technology can be applied but in a market that might require less quality of service, therefore keeping the cost down. In order for a disruptive technology to grow under the radar of big companies, you need to start from the lower end of the market that demand less from the product. Both of these books are very valuable to anyone that is deciding how to position yourself in the market and check if your ideas have a big chance to tip.