2009 (old posts, page 2)


I really liked a recent post by Alex Payne titled Switching Season. He says he gets an itch every year or so to go try something different, and I can sympathize. What he says at the end really resonates:

It’s about computer usage as a creative act, something that becomes harder and harder to experience the more proficient one gets with a computer.

I feel this way every once in a while too - It used to be fun just getting a computer to do something. Once you know enough about how it works and most of what you do is handled pretty smoothly, some of the fun goes out of it. The problem with high-quality free apps like Mail and Address Book is that they remove the motivation for people to tinker with new ways of using computers for the same old things.

This urge to tinker is pretty strong, at least for me, and I think it might be one reason why I'm not so excited about web and mobile (at least iPhone) programming. Both platforms have a lot going for them, but the barrier to tinkering with my data is high - sometimes I can't get my data out of a service, and if I want to write scripts to combine two web apps, where do they run?

For example, I've seen a lot of great things come from the community built around BibDesk's scripting interface, and if it were a web app, none of that would have happened.

Just wasted a lot of time doing a clean ...

Just wasted a lot of time doing a clean reinstall of WordPress to avoid lingering malicious code from the recent worm that's been infecting WP installations - I noticed a new user on my blog that I didn't recognize, and so it looks like I'd been hit.

I thought a couple of times that I'd like to just replace the installation with a static site and move this blog over to something hosted, but it wasn't easy enough that I decided to stick with status quo. I did clean things up and get rid of an old drupal installation that couldn't have been secure in years. The redirection WP plugin was a big help in managing this.

From [@spamsieve](http://twitter.com/spa...

From @spamsieve, I heard that BareBones' Mailsmith has a new home: mailsmith.org. It's freeware and will be under development.

It's great to see new life for one of the few alternative desktop mail clients for OS X, and while there's no info on their plans for it yet, there's some great discussion of possible features on the google group mailsmith-talk.

I'll be curious to see if any of the design choices will be changing - for example, no IMAP support and no inline HTML display... I have to use IMAP, and despite common abuse, I do think HTML email is useful.

edit: Looks like no Mailsmith IMAP: "Not any time soon…" – @siegel on twitter

Notifications and Distraction in Webapps

Found via Hacker News:

abi | blog » Introducing Silent Diving Seagulls: An XMPP Interface for Desktop Notifications

The idea here is that you can use XMPP to let web apps pop up Growl (or libnotify or Snarl, etc) notifications on your desktop. This is a pretty cool hack, and it seems like the right solution to getting notifications from the cloud onto your desktop - as Abi mentions in the post, you don't want direct connections to Growl and you also don't want every site writing its own notify app. It's also another step in blurring the lines between web apps and desktop apps.

However, I think the majority of uses for this kind of notification are distracting and unproductive. The example Abi uses is getting updates from friendfeed - you'd get a notification every time one of your friends does anything on friendfeed. If you think hearing a beep every time you get new mail is distracting, just wait.

About the only use I've found for notifications is to let you know you can get back to work when something long you've been waiting for finishes. I wrote more about this in 'go juggle': an attention callback.

So notification technology is useful, and it's cool to see web apps getting into it, but please, web or desktop – ship with notifications off. Let's not have the default behavior of your app be distraction.

edit: In the HN thread on Silent Diving Seagulls, abi notes that he's sensitive to the distraction this can cause, and makes some good points about why it's still a good idea. The best point - if everyone adopts something like this, email goes back to being email and not an overloaded notification scheme.