The Yahoo! Query Language (YQL) is Yahoo!’s new way of accessing data with a single URL. An SQL-like query is written into the URL, and data is returned in either JSON or XML. The system has access to many Yahoo data sources, including Flickr. It can also access arbitrary URLs. Users can play with the tool here.
Unfortunately, YQL URLs can’t simply be pasted into the location bar of a browser–they can only be accessed with authentication. It is also unclear where to find good documentation for the language itself (although it’s easy to find a list of all the available tables).
Microsoft Live Labs has a tool called Thumbtack. It is essentially a repository of web clippings with support for arranging, viewing and searching them. Web clippings are cut-and-pasted from other web pages into Thumbtack. One possible use is to cut and paste product details for laptop computers from different websites in order to view and compare them all at once.
Security concerns are popping up all over, but the advantages are very tempting: photo-editing can be brought to the web, single and multi-player games can use Native Code instead of requiring a separate download potentially.
Native Code has it’s first release and demos are already available
An article in InfoWorld reports that a plug-in masquerading as Greasemonkey (a popular Firefox plug-in for adding funtionality to web-sites) is stealing log-in and password for online banking. The information is being sent to servers in Russia, which is where the threat is believed to be originated. Mozilla - the maker of Firefox scans plug-ins registered on their site, but this plug-in was not registered.
The iniital announcement came out of research from BitDefender an antivirus software company.
We talked about the Optoma Pico Pocket Projector, a tiny little projector that fits in your pocket and connects to iPods, iPhones, cameras, etc. David Pogue liked it, and played a movie on a plane to the delight and confusion of those around him. Rob imagined using it for business meetings on the go and to show movies to his kids without everyone having to huddle around the iPhone. Contrary to the title of this post we didn’t discuss heat dissipation issues.
I guess I’m the gadget scrooge of the group, because I couldn’t imagine paying $430 for a pocket projector. I can’t see myself using it other than the day I open the box and test it out. Business meetings? At my meetings I either have a projector handy or am meeting with one other person who can see my laptop. And if I was using this, the tiny resolution would preclude me from showing desktop resolution images. Watching movies with a group? Well, this has a horrible speaker, so I imagine I’d have to carry around my own speakers… at which point this stops being a pocket system. Watching movies on a plane? I don’t see a big win over my laptop screen here. How could I get the projection to be bigger than my laptop? Pointing it up? I don’t want to look straight up for two hours from a barely reclining seat.
Ok, this post has turned into a bit of a tirade. But am I wrong here? Would you use this thing regularly?
MIT looks like a good place for HCI this spring. Here are some of the course offerings coming up:
- 6.813/6.831 User Interface Design & Implementation (Rob Miller)
- 6.870 Intelligent Multimodal Intefaces (Randy Davis)
- 16.470J Statistical Methods in Experimental Design (Missy Cummings)
- MAS.672 New Paradigms for Human-Computer Interaction (Patti Maes)
- 21A.850J The Anthropology of Cybercultures (Lucy Suchman)
IAP (January 2009)
- 6.470 Web Programming Competition (Lydia Chilton)
- 6.964 Interactive Technology Design (Michael Bernstein)
- 6.190 Web-Based Speech Application Design Competition (Alex Gruenstein)
In an example that might be straight out of Tufte, Science News reported recently that Florence Nightingale was an early user of creative information graphics. She used an unusual radial bar chart of hospital deaths during two years of British involvement in the Crimean War, to make the case that better sanitation and better hospital conditions could substantially reduce mortality. The figure in the article is too grainy to read, but an excellent Flash animation makes it much clearer.
When we first examined the graph, some of us made two assumptions: first, that the number of deaths was proportional to the radius of each sector (like a normal rectangular bar chart), and second, that the bars for different causes of death were nonoverlapping (like a stacked bar chart). Both assumptions are wrong: the number of deaths is proportional to the area of each sector, and the sectors do overlap, each one starting from the center of the pie. These assumptions were doubtless driven by familiarity with current bar charts, which probably wasn’t as common for Victorian viewers; nevertheless, it’s interesting to note that our assumptions actually understate the size of the effect. So even to our confused eyes, Florence Nightingale and her graphic designer weren’t lying with this graph; there really are a lot more deaths from preventable disease than from other causes.
One could also ask whether this data would be better displayed as a conventional rectilinear bar chart, with time on the x axis and number of deaths on the y axis. Such a display would be more consistent and more likely to be interpreted correctly, but the radial area chart is certainly more compact, and more interesting too.
I’d like to believe that Facebook status updates are a reasonably successful piece of social software. I like hearing what my friends are thinking, and I’m willing to (via Twitter) pass my thoughts on to them. But for as many friends that update regularly I seem to find folks on Facebook whose status is from 2007. Do Facebook status updates follow that same 80/20 rule of social software? Or have they succeeded in breaking that barrier and drawing in folks who wouldn’t otherwise participate?
To look into this, I mined my own friends’ status updates for a period of two weeks using an RSS feed that Facebook makes available, from November 17th to November 30th. I then ran some very basic histogram statistics over the data. I’m sure Facebook has much better data than this, but they sure aren’t sharing it.
How many status updates?
OK, it’s a power law. Not surprising. Fully half of my friends didn’t update their status at all within the two-week period. About a quarter did it between 1 and 5 times during the period, and about 8.5% updated between 6 and 10 times. I would call anyone who updates daily or every couple days pretty active. I have a couple friends who updated over 50 times, though they must be aware their friends won’t see all of them. (They may be importing status from other services like Twitter, where people are more likely to see repeated updates.)
Do the number of status updates change over the time period?
I’m surprised how consistent the numbers are day-to-day. In my last Facebook application I found user engagement typically fell over the weekends; here it seems relatively constant. Of course, these numbers could be overrun by a few individuals who update a lot, but the trends are still pretty strong. Seems like there were some drops the couple days after Thanksgiving.
11/17: 125 updates
11/18: 116 updates
11/19: 112 updates
11/20: 121 updates
11/21: 121 updates
11/22: 117 updates
11/23: 95 updates
11/24: 139 updates
11/25: 110 updates
11/26: 128 updates
11/27: 110 updates
11/28: 98 updates
11/29: 93 updates
11/30: 123 updates
Today, we discuss about an online book - how do you design? — that provides a review on cross-displine design processes. The book is a compendium of industrial, UI, and software design models, and it classifies design models into several categories, such as academic models, consultant models, etc.
The most interesting part highlighted in the discussion is the Rational Unified Process (RUP) model, that contains a vertical dimension to represent process disciplines by grouping software engineering activities. If you are a software engineer, this model might be easier for you to understand the design process well.