Interesting Internet

May 15, 2011

Moving the blog

The Vanity Experiment is moving to

Small change you won't hardly notice if you're browsing online, but if you're reading this via a RSS reader, you'll want to go change the feed address to this: feed://

Why the change? I've been using Movable Type version old.OLD since about 2004, so I decided to get with the times. Bring on Wordpress (which is now running my entire site).

Posted by Ant at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2008 Links

I added a link log to this blog... If you're not sure what is, it's a social bookmarking service. I post bookmarks that I find interesting, 'Tag' them with words that describe/categorize them for me (and hopefully other people), then other people can see the things that I've bookmarked (in case they find the same things interesting that I do). I can also find articles that others have 'Tagged' with things I find interesting. So, anyway, look left. There they are.

Posted by Ant at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2006

Minority Report interface & a glimpse into the future

Jeff Han presented at the TED Conference (Technology Entertainment Design) an interface that comes straight out of the movie "Minority Report" - its all dynamic and notably sans-mouse & keyboard or any other third party interaction device. I was blown away at how effortlessly Jeff seemed to be able to manipulate objects directly on a screen in this demo seen here. Using more than one finger at a time you can move, resize and position objects while the things on screen react very similarly to the way they would in the physical world. I think this is a glimpse at the future here, but actually realized, not a movie fantasy. Thanks to Dak Elliot for finding this one.

Another interesting phenomenon is the spot presenting the demo done by 'Geek Brief TV' which is a video podcast. In closing the presenter mentions she'll be haning out on Second Life, a social computer game that simulates reality.

Keep up Gen X... technology and society is moving fast. In that one Geek Brief TV spot, we saw three things that are revolutionary.

  1. A professionally edited podcast. That's the type of thing that will eventually end TV as we know it.
  2. An interface that signifies the next step in seamless interfacing with technology.
  3. A presenter who will be promoting her product, essentially doing business (as many now are) in a virtual world.

I'm feeling old all of a sudden.

Posted by Ant at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2006

Memory Miner

Not sure who'd actually be bothered with all this assigning metadata to a photo or album... an Information Architect if nobody else. Regardless, its a good example of what can be achieved with clever interfaces for adding metadata in a fun, engaging way. Could get tiresome after the novelty wore off though.

Take a look at the somewhat quaint tour, complete with messy desktop and un-prepared script. Its good for showing what it does if you don't get hung up on the "Exclusive from my basement" feel.

Memory Miner

Posted by Ant at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005


mRSS is the next generation of RSS (Really simple syndication) which adds an appropriate framework for syndicating multimedia. "Media RSS enables content publishers and bloggers to broadly distribute descriptions of and links to multimedia content"

Posted by Ant at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

EPIC - Googlezon, the future of the internet

EPIC A picture of a world where the news is generated by the people and collated by Googlezon, the merger of Amazon and Google. The company which is to supercede Microsoft. Quite big thinking in this presentation and definitely worth seeing.

Posted by Ant at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005

Greasemonkey, BBC, Open Source

Greasemonkey Scripts are a fantastic example of why open source is such a good thing for the internet and software industry.

This is a library of scripts that you can load into your Firefox browser to enhance the way you view certain sites. The scripts are all made by various hackers, who in tinkering and playing with other people's web offerings, are doing a great service to the humble internet surfer and web industry alike. Want to auto log-in to friendster? There's a script for that. Want to compare your Amazon's book price with Barnes & Noble's, right on the same page? There's a script for that too. Want to add delicious tags to your blog entry on blogger? Yup, many of the things you think "I wish I could do 'x' on this site" are accommodated with a Greasemonkey script.

Some of the scripts I'm sure make web site providers nervous. For instance, there's a handful that block ads and put more useful things in their place. I know that the company I work for is pooing bricks over that one. Especially since this open source concept is so compelling that its likely to be popular enough to prompt Microsoft to accomodate something similar in IE, just so the Firefox browser doens't gobble any more market share.

When you open yourself up to the developer community, you can not only leverage cheap (or even free) labor, but exponentially increase your chances of hitting on a truly great idea. It’s progressive for any organization to open their doors to people ‘tinkering’ with their product, but doing so is reaping rewards for the BBC. The inspiration from a few clever developers can reveal concepts that the in-house team may never have thought of. Check out this fantastically brave idea by the team at BBC News. BBC Backstage.

The only reservations I have about Greasemonkey are 1. This is not for joe public yet. There's no way that the vast majority of internet users would be savvy enough to make the effort in installing plug-ins, script upon script etc. 2. There's no security guarantees. You must be able to understand the scripts and what they're doing so that you don't install something that will scrape your hard drive for your most precious data and send it to some scumbag in Eastern Europe, only to wake up the next morning with your bank account emptied, your website proffering pornography, your computer being used as a DOS attack drone... maybe I'm paranoid, but this isn't a risk that seems worthwhile.

But, that said, its a great idea and I think a hallmark of things to come.

Posted by Ant at 10:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Where to get Wiki

Scraped from the Sigia-L mailing list... lots of good places to get Wiki.

  • PHP wiki -
  • Kwiki -
  • Twiki -
  • Moin wiki -
  • UseMod wiki -
  • Wacko wiki - and a blog about how to install it
Posted by Ant at 12:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Visualising Information

Links to Information Visualisation things from Stamford university and Cybergeography's equivalent. This site also has lots of lush topics like 'Network Topology Maps' and 'Global Internet Diffusion'... ooer, don't that sound fancy?

Posted by Ant at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FAQs about FAQs answered

Here is some info on FAQs that Steve Schang pulled together... and was kindly posted to an IA list I subscribe to by Samantha Bailey

FAQ Research
No empirical research identifying best practices in FAQs was found. Anecdotal evidence for FAQ design was identified in several message threads on the SIG-IA and SIG-CHI listservs. In addition FAQs are mentioned in Jakob Nielsens "Top-Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2002" and the Yale Web Style Guide.

FAQ Themes identified:

  • Use actual questions that users ask
  • Do not use questions that the business want users to ask
  • Do not use marketing information
    Placement/Use of FAQs
  • Provide FAQs when the user would ask the question based on user tasks/goals
  • Make FAQs searchable

  • Provide contextual link title. (i.e. Frequently Asked Questions About Opening a Checking Account) The link should not just be called FAQs
  • Do not use the FAQ acronym, instead spell out Frequently Asked Questions
  • Logically group and order questions
  • Ensure visual layout of FAQs is readable and scannable
  • Bold key phrases not entire sentences or paragraphs

  • Gather FAQs by asking call center what questions customers are asking
  • Use FAQ research to drive site design by making requested information more accessible
  • Update FAQs, remove questions that are no longer frequently asked and add new questions that are being asked
  • FAQs are a tool to reduce support type demands on staff

Yale Web Style Guide
The Web and other Internet-based media have evolved a unique institution, the FAQ or "frequently asked questions" page, where the most commonly asked questions from users are listed along with answers. FAQ pages are ideal for Web sites designed to provide support and information to a working group within an institution or to a professional or trade group that maintains a central office staff. Most questions from new users have been asked and answered many times before. A well-designed FAQ page can improve users' understanding of the information and services offered and reduce demands on your support staff.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, December 23, 2002:
Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes of 2002
#7 Infrequently Asked Questions in FAQ
Too many websites have FAQs that list questions the company wished users would ask. No good. FAQs have a simplistic information design that does not scale well. They must be reserved for frequently asked questions, since that's the only thing that makes a FAQ a useful website feature. Infrequently asked questions undermine users' trust in the website and damage their understanding of its navigation.

CHI-WEB Summary post for FAQ Design Tips
  • Use actual questions customers ask not what marketing wants you to know
  • Provide several different ways to display FAQs
  • One large scrollable list of FAQs
  • Integrated with search
  • Put FAQs in context of product
  • Map FAQs to user goals/tasks
  • Integrate FAQs at the right place and time based on user goals and tasks
  • The term FAQ should die. It does not provide context for the user
  • Bold essential phrases to facilitate scanning. Dont bold entire paragraphs or sentences.
  • Use the question and answer format.
  • Logically order questions. (i.e. listing top five most asked questions first and then alphabetically or categorically.)
  • Index and make FAQs searchable

CHI-WEB Summary post for In-line Help vs. Separate Help Documentation
  • Use inline help for complicated, infrequent tasks
  • Use separate help documentation for simple, frequent tasks.
  • Context sensitive help is more useful because it does not take user out of initial context.
  • Adjust FAQs frequently. They represent actual questions asked.
  • Contextual help may clutter screen and reduce user efficiency

SIG-IA Labeling an FAQ link (link 2)
FAQ name describes a format for content, question and answer, rather than being descriptive of the content.

A usability test of Internet savvy users showed that most of them could not accurately define what an FAQ was. Resulting in the designers spelling out "Frequently Asked Questions" in the site's navigation.

SIG-IA FAQ Design Tips
Advocates linking to pieces of the FAQs to users at the moment they may have the question.

SIG-IA FAQ Strategy

  • Ensure that the layout of the FAQ is readable and scannable.
  • Arrange FAQs in multiple places around the site. Have fewer contextually relevant FAQs versus long lists.
  • Make sure they are questions people really asked not just questions we would like them to ask. (Gather data from multiple source call centers, website feedback, etc.)
  • Use FAQ data to drive site redesign, making most requested information more accessible. Site design driven by making requested information more accessible requires updating the FAQs highlight what the new frequently asked questions are.

SIG-IA Writing for the Web
  • Link relevant documents from the FAQs.
  • Make FAQs searchable.

Posted by Ant at 05:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Writing for the Web

A checklist for when writing for the web from Clearwater Communications. Its a concise and evolving list of sound concepts.

Posted by Ant at 03:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003


Very good article all about RSS Feeds.

Posted by Ant at 07:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Wifi and bad B.A.

Just got back from the USA. Am feeling jetlagged and grumpy as British Airways did a fairly average job of getting me from there to here. Stuck faffing about on the runway for 2 hours in Denver becuase they knew that a strong tailwind would save them a few hours on the journey. What with that, hardly any water service on the trip itself, mistimed inflight video (so you got to see half of a movie before it was switched off for descent) with constant announcements interrupting it and finally 'congestion' at heathrow terminal delaying us another 20 minutes... and then another 10 because the ground crew pissed off before attaching the gangway... I feel that their good reputation is ill deserved. Give me Malaysian Air any day.

Met a nice chap on the shuttle who was also headed for London. We got chatting about free wifi and where to get it in London among other things. It prompted me to do some research. Here's what I found.

News story on ZDNetUK on WarChalking

Matt Jones (founder of WarChalking)

Official WarChalking site

Map of Wifi nodes in London

And finally, a bunch of other good resources from Gavin.

Posted by Ant at 03:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

Image Rotation

Random Image Rotation on A List Apart which has also been redesigned.

Thanks to Dan Hill who's blog bought me this nugget.

Posted by Ant at 08:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

The coolest sound-scape software

This is the very coolest sound-scape software I've seen in ages. By Amit Pitaru, it uses a pressure sensitive digitising tablet to make sound on a kinda rotating interface. See the demo here. WOW!

Posted by Ant at 03:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No need for a 'print page' button

Nice tutorial on using xhtml and css to rid us of having to make 'print this page' pages. It can only be a good thing. Going to Print by Eric Meyer.

Posted by Ant at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2003

Tim Berners-Lee

Went to a lecture at The Royal Society given by Tim Berners-Lee this evening. He made some interesting points in a frenetic and charasmatic style. The main thing I took away was that his initial vision of the web was bourne of the requirements for a document control and sharing protocol. A founding principle of this was independence from software or hardware platform, network accessibility, application, language, culture, disability... and so on.

"To seperate content from form is good design." was one statement that I've heard before, but rarely has it had as much resonance as when put in context of the lofty goals of what the architects of the web set out to achieve. The standards laid out by WC3 have been a little lost on me in my more ignorant past. Over time I have realised that the standard is our friend and to deny it for aesthetics, economy or perceived flexibility, is short sighted.

Tim Berners-Lee made me realise that web ubiquity will only be achieved through a combination of standards and goal directed design. This is what will lead us to his vision of The Semantic Web. He uses the metaphor of the London Underground tube map to illustrate a web connected by RDF ontologies. Different lines represent different data properties of a relational database (e.g. calendar or event). Where those properties intersect (represented by an interchange on the tube map) with a subject (e.g. time or location), we find a value which is of real usefulness in our everyday lives. At the moment, those properties and subjects do not intersect to create values in terms of the aforementioned application and platform independence. Instead, we have to 'manually' connect them in our heads. In this regard, we are still pre-web (if we go by the measure of what the web set out to achieve).

You should be able to find his whole presentation here. You can also find a less cumbersome explaination some of what I'm rambling about at Paul's blog.

Posted by Ant at 11:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack