Photography, Cycling and the Internets

Archive for October, 2006


Due to a snafu in regards to handing out the comment sheets at the Ajax experience, those of us that presented on Wednesday aren’t going to be receiving many comments on our presentations. Myself included. If you attended my talk on Netflix UI and have any feedback, I would really appreciate hearing it.



After the Ajax Experience conference, I had a couple days to check out Boston and Cambridge. Boston is one amazing place and surprisingly small. Looking at the map, Boston Logan Airport has more land than the downtown area.

I spent most of Wednesday afternoon and well into the night walking around and checking out the sights. The size of the town definately made walking seem like a real mode of transportation. That’s in sharp contrast with all I have been made to believe by being a life-long California resident. Even taking the T out to Cambridge to visit some friends was a snap. The cab ride from the airport to the hotel was the only time I was in a car for the entire trip. I think that is the longest amount of time I have been without a car in many years.

Perhaps one day far far in the future I can be bicostal. Boston sounds like it would be high on the list for me. However, it is a bit cold for a Californian 🙂

I had a great time presenting

The Ajax Experience conference was fantastic. I want to thank everyone that came to my presentation on Netflix UI. Your questions were great, and I loved getting the feedback from many of you. There were some great ideas suggested, and a few that I hadn’t considered before.

I love the Ajax Expereience conference because it brings the best talent in the web development space together. For the second time in a row, I have left excited and motivated about the overall space; with many new ideas to boot.

Speaking at UIE Web Application Summit

I’m honored to have been invited to speak at Jared Spool’s UIE Web App Summit in Monterey January 21st – 23rd. My talk will be similar to the one I am giving next week in Boston. I am excited about the Web App Summit. Having the opportunity to hear how things are done at Yahoo, Flickr, and Ebay looks very promising.

Ajax Experience Presentation

I’ve finished preparing my case-study presentation, Building Great UI, the Netflix Way for The Ajax Experience. The development approach and challenges faced implementing several of the Netflix Ajax features are central to the discussion. Each case-study gives great insight into the goals, issues and results of developing each feature. The case-studies include the Starbar Rating Widget, the Add-to-Queue behavior, and the movie detail bubble among others. In addition to the specific Ajax interactions, the discussion emphasizes how data-driven development and usability testing work together, creating a great customer experience.

The Ajax Experience in May of 2006 was a fabulous conference, and I encourage anyone that is looking to improve their web development skills to attend. I’m very excited about presenting in Boston this October alongside such great folks. I can’t speak highly enough about each of the speakers I saw in May. The great news is, they are all speaking again in Boston. I’m looking forward to another great 3 days.

Poor Performance – My initial thoughts on Tivo

So my Tivo arrived, and I am disappointed. I can’t help but compare it to my old ReplayTV. To give it credit, the setup process was very simple, and the wizard was very easy to use. However, it did take quite a long time and the status indicators had a tendency to lie. For example, it would count up Loading from 1-100% only to be switched to Organizing. I don’t really care what it’s doing, I just want it to be over at 100%.

Anyways, to understand my real disappointments, you have to look to the usability. Now I was really hoping for quite a bit. The ReplayTV had a very utilitarian UI. It did what it was supposed to do, and not much more. It did require you to learn a bit, but it worked great. After seeing Tivo menus at my friends’ houses, I always admired the great looking UI. The animations, sliding effects and nice colors were great. I used to think that maybe Tivo had an edge that ReplayTV didn’t.

My initial thoughts were wrong. The first thing I noticed when I started using the Tivo is it is really slow to respond to remote commands. I constantly find myself overshooting my target position because my commands get queued up and executed slowly. I even tried to add my Yahoo ID to the little weather app. After 10 minutes of moving the cursor to the various characters to type in my ID and password, I overshot the submit item and ended up back at the opening screen somehow. It didn’t cache my previous information. I am not about to sit through that anytime soon again.

In addition to the slow remote response (which is why I am now convinced is the reason why all the cutesy little noises are required) the channel guide (especially when in grid mode) feels really clunky. I am surprised by this behavior, especially in the Series 2 with all of the software updates that should have happened since it released ages ago.

I know some things that I really liked are gone forever, such as the automatic commercial advance. But simple little features like jumping to a specific minute of a show is great for moving to a specific point in an educational show that you want to re-watch is something I expected to be available and isn’t.

I realize that I do need to acclimate some to the new box and I am sure I will find the right groove. The dual tuners is nice, and I don’t have to be creative about my recording strategy. Now I can record the real news and the Daily show at the same time.

The navigation model is interesting, and I am sure I will have some comments on it after using it for awhile.

No DVR, No Way

I tried a full week without my ReplayTV DVR. In the end, I think the Comcast navigation drove me more crazy than the billion ads. I now hold the menu system up as a great example of a poor user interface. Seemingly very simple actions, like looking at the channel guide during playback of an on-demand show pulled you out of the show entirely and back to live TV. In order to get back to the on-demand movie, it is necessary to click through 4 different menus. Ugh. Needless to say, I ordered a Tivo Series 2 DT. I am anxiously awaiting an end to my navigation frustration.