From Digg: Jack Cafferty Tells Us How He Really Feels About Sarah Palin

Jack Cafferty on CNN, September 26, 2008. Discussing Gov. Palin’s qualification or lack thereof of becoming VP. Holy Wow. Just wow. Wow.

read more | digg story

How To: Build a Simple RSS Reader with JQuery

This one’s from my Mashups class. The first project, was to build an RSS Reader. I’ve already posted a quick tutorial on how to build an RSS reader with Adobe Flex. Here’s a simple one that uses JQuery to get the feeds and then loop through them to output them to the browser window. Piece of cake for many of you, yes, but if you have never used anything but the DOM and plain ol’ JavaScript, you may be scared by the whole AJAX fad on teh intarwebs these days. JQuery makes it super easy to look like a Javascript rockstar. I teach a lot of students that haven’t ever touched a library of code like JQuery before, so tutorials like this are pretty valuable to some readers..

Bailout, My 2 Out of $700 Billion

Looks like America might be the newest big startup out there… Check this out:

Now with twice as many bailouts and 100x as many global economic repercussions. Seriously, hearing this clause sends shivers up my spine:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Are you freaking kidding me? Really? Really? No oversight? No review? No obligation to inform anyone? I’m not sure about you, but this makes me think being in Guantanamo might be preferable to being a taxpayer.

I promise this will be my only post on this subject. Please, if this frightens and angers you as much as it does me, contact your congressmen immediately. I have.

Social Media and Presentation RIA Updated: Presentation Viewer 2.0

About a year ago The Iona Group created a presentation viewer tool for the International Mission Board. I wrote a post on the tool and explained some of the key features in it. We were contacted by the client several months after the launch and asked to make some UI updates and some feature additions to the tool. We gladly obliged as the client was great to work with, the work was rewarding and the application is just really really cool. In it’s simplicity, it excels at providing a seamless well put together presentation and has some nice social/sharing features that allow the end users to really stretch the tool.the new codebase is live. Check it out here:

We owe alot of the success of the tool and the revision process to Flex. Honestly, the maintenance and the agile changes required to make it work would have been unnmanageable if developed without the Flex framework. We also use Degrafa in the app, too, so it really does have some nice things running under the hood, too.

It handles pictures, video, audio, SWFs, and the now defunct Flash Paper. It does Ken Burns effects, smooth dissolves and other types of transitions, too. It can go fullscreen, be embbedded in other peoples siites via the share code and can even be downloaded as an EXE or and Adobe Air app. All in all, a very cool ap and one we are proud to be part of.

How To: Make a Simple RSS Reader with Adobe Flex

A little over a year ago, I converted my then dormant domain,, into a gossip focused news aggregator (previously, it was a media/celeb focused community and blog). It now captures feeds from a number of high profile celebrity rags (Egostastic, TMZ, E!, WWTD, etc) and lets you get your fan fix in one centralized place. I built it in Flex to highlight the ease of use of the Framework and the power that the HTTPService and E4X gives you in getting and parsing XML. I’m using the site as an exercise for my Mashups and RIAs class as an introduction to developing with Flex and a easing into the concept of reading and using XML feeds and services for students that may have never used either of them. So let’s take a look at how this all comes together. (more…)

Design Resources for RIA Developers

In my presentation last week at CD2, I mentioned I would provide a list of the resources I recommend using as reference in designing application interfaces. I thought I might get a chance to blog that list this past weekend, but I was a tad busy, designing interfaces for an RIA, naturally. We at Iona have a great app coming soon that uses CakePHP, AJAX, Flex and a whole lot of experience developing superior elearning solutions in order to create a fantastic RIA. That’s pretty much occupying my time right now, but I needed to get this list together.

That said, when I need to sit down in front of my diagramming tool of choice, OmniGraffle, I like to have some references to tap in order to ensure I am making the right choices. I might not use all of these every time, but I certainly do refer to them once and again. I hope you can find a couple of these useful in your work, too.

  1. Designing Interfaces – Jennifer Tidwell: A newer book and one that many may not have in their library yet. This book is currently in use in my Mashups and RIAs class, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It is a virtual library of great UI analysis. Pretty much every modern UI pattern in play today is dissected and explained when and why it works. A must have.
  2. Edward TufteThe Visual Display of Quantitative Information - Edward Tufte: Not really UI focused, but a necessary academic resource for all UI designers to have read. It’s no nonsense approach to data display and intolerance for bad design will not steer you wrong. A bit heady at times, this beautifully printed book is one you can open and read a little bit at a time and keep for years. The information in here is not going out of style anytime soon. I really got a lot out of reading each of the Tufte books, but this is his hallmark title, IMHO.
  3. Information Dashboard DesignInformation Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data – Stephen Few: Lots of pictures and a short book. This title is all about explaining quick and easy data display. Charts, graphs, widgets, etc. Not heavy on interactions, but a good resource for effective infographics.
  4. Design of Everday Things – Donald Norman: This book should have you appreciating the nuances in the design of products you use all of the time. Hopefully some of that thought process will rub off on you when create the GUI you’re about to slave on.
  5. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition -Stephen Krug: I’m sure most of you have read this. It’s a very common sense approach to basic ideas behind web usability and may be one of the best known books on the subject. For those of you who haven’t picked it up yet, please do so. It may seem sort of obivious to many advanced designers out there, so if you are very experienced with topics like user testing, etc, you can probably skip this one.
  6. Art and Science of CSSThe Art and Science of CSS -by Jonathan Snook, Steve Smith, Jina Bolton, Cameron Adams, David Johnson : A simple book, no doubt, but this one has some real nuggets of CSS genius in it in regards to styling tables and form widgets. Some nice subtle effects get pulled off in here, so this one is shared with my students very often. Dates, lists, calendars, all kinds of things that can be really really boring screen elements get a bit of polish here. Nice touches all around.
  7. Getting Real – 37 Signals: Not really about graphical user interface design at all, but it should definitely help you make some hard choices in your application’s functional design. Think simple, release early, release often. Build half a product, not a half ass product. On and on. Indespensable.
  8. GUI Bloopers: Don’ts and Do’s for Software Developers and Web Designers (Interactive Technologies) – Jeff Johnson: This is a tome. Well over 500 pages. This teaches by illustrating major gaffes in UI design. It’s not an overly entertaining book, it’s not meant to be a graphic novel but rather a text book. Many of the apps detailed in here are showing there age, but I believe there is now an updated “2.0″ of this book. I haven’t reviewed that version, though.
  9. Human Interface Guidelines – Various: Be it Apple, Sun, IBM, Microsoft or Adobe… all of your favorite dev/design centers have great topics for making informed UI design choices for your audiences. Don’t overlook them just because they are obvious. They get updated often and are pretty much always worth spinning through when starting a new project.
  10. Creating Visual Experiences with Flex 3.0 (Developer’s Library) – Juan Sanchez & Andy McIntosh: Not technically available in stores yet, but a great great resource for understanding the powerful design tools in Adobe Flex. I was granted an early copy for review and it was a very satisfying read. RIA design with Flex is as much an art as it is a science, so dig in here. This book is really well laid out and has tons of great images.

So, there you have… some guides I find useful… Of course, I am always looking for new books and sites to add to my collection, so, let me know, what books are you using to help you with app UI design?

Sonny is getting all grown up.

Originally uploaded by Matt Buedel

He’s just a not a little baby anymore. I don’t blog much about my family, but I just love this shot taken by my friend Matt. What a nice photo. My boy, Liam, now 19 months old said “football” for the first time this weekend and he really likes to watch with me. How cute. Like father like son, I guess.

Developers Are From Mars, Designers Are From Venus… Recap

Many thanks to those who made it out to the CD2 users group meeting last night and checked out my presentation. After a bit of pizza and soda, we got started and covered a lot of ground. I think we had a good discussion afterwards. It was great. As promised, I thought I would share the presentation notes. Here they are in PDF and Keynote formats. Enjoy.

Many many thanks to the organizers of CD2, Anthony, Corey, Sandra, David, etc… I was very happy to be invited to speak!

Hopefully this weekend, I’ll get a chance to post the reading list as promised. This week has taken a toll on me. Even with the 4 day work week, I have taught 3 classes, driven to Chicago and back and had the first week of school for Sophia, so, I’m pretty beat… check in in a couple of days. I’ll post them then.

Moo Cards are here. I will be there… will you?

In the ever growing trend of Moo card mania (most recently Aral Balkan and David Stone), I bought some of the pint sized beauties. I’ll be handing them out at the CD2UG meeting. They feature customized mini prints of my CoolerKreator compositions. Come one, come all (but please RSVP, here). Take a look…

Hope to see you there!

An Oldie, But A Goodie… “What are Mashups?”

A few months ago, I was interviewed by a local TV station for a tech interest segment on mashups. I spoke with Tim McGinnis, the reporter featured in this clip and really had a good time. It was a short piece, but I still really enjoyed getting my couple minutes on the tube. My wife’s grandfather, (now 90!), saw me and immediately called her. The call went something like this:

Grandpa:“Chad’s on TV!”
Renee:“Yeah, we just saw that. Pretty cool, huh?”
Grandpa:“What the hell was he talking about?”
Renee:“I have no idea, either.”

I laughed.