Our Newest Flash Site is Up… Cluckhere.com

We at The Iona Group concepted and designed a site that uses Flash, Video, Telephony, User Personalization and Email to create an e-card-like experience that has never been done quite this way before. We wrote, shot and edited together nearly 200 unique videos and payoffs that are very humorous and allow the visitor to stitch together a custom message that composites their voice (recorded and played back by Oddcast‘s very cool telephony, keyboard or text to speech technology) with the actor on stage. The results are pretty cool and super funny! We’ve been working very hard on this site for some time and needless to say it hasn’t always been easy, but our designers and videographers at Iona, and the developers at Oddcast have all done a great job! Many thanks to the client for the opportunity to do this work, and we look forward to sending tons of Improv-o-Grams to friends, coworkers and family!

Take a look:

Cluckhere screenshot

I’ll be posting some behind the scenes on how we accomplished some of the video/flash interaction later this week, maybe this weekend, if I get around to it.

For now, go check it out!

Adobe ripped off a blogger to create Kuler?

I wasn’t aware of this until I saw it on Digg today. This is pretty crappy if true. I use Kuler pretty frequently on my projects during the design phase, just for inspiration, ideas, etc… Seems it’s pretty much a copy of ColourLovers.com.

It turns out the basis of the sites are about the same, the pallette used in the sites’ designs are about the same and according to the owner of the ColourLover sit (a bit tongue in cheek), both have “Color Spelled with a U.

What do you think? Is it just a case of copying being a sincere form of flattery? Or is it not giving credit where credit is due?

Amazing Insight into What the iPhone Means to the Mobile Developer…

Many of my friends write Flash Lite stuff… They also are interested in developing content for the Wii… with the iPhone and the new Wii Ware SDK their interest in using Flash to do so may just have changed… especially with the new JQuery update.

I found this blog post especially insightful on what the mobile developer may need to consider on the iPhone and how it’s not playing Flash content might be better for everyone in the long run.

Deep Thoughts on File Naming Conventions

When you work collaboratively, it’s important to have a bit of a system to help organize files and keep everyone on the same page. I have tried so many different little systems and techniques, and while I may not have the perfect system, I certainly know some things that I find that work and some things that don’t work. Here are some things I like….

  • Pick a plain english-y (or whatever language you use to speak) couple of descriptive strings whenever possible to form the base file name (eg. main.fla, loader.fla, etc). – A file name like a_4_3.fla only makes sense to the developer who wrote the array crawling code that makes a file name like that valuable. If you as a developer feel that file names like that are necessary to make your development easier, possibly consider a lookup table, associative array or some other form of developer key document that you use to cross-reference against the human friendly names. – Your designer friends will like you better.
  • Use a post base file naming suffix that offers a logical versioning system to people that look for the file. Of course if you are using something like Version Cue or Subversion, etc. this is less important, but for those not using such a system, a convention like “main_v1.psd, main_v2.psd” is preferable to “main_mock.psd, main_revision.psd, main_final.psd”.
  • Don’t mix up the idea of versions of files and version of interface mockups… (i.e . mockup_v1.psd, mockup_v2.psd are iterative version of the same style, not completely different designs.)
  • Create folders for major revision cycles – mockup, revision, beta, final candidate, etc.
  • Using color labeling on Mac OSX is totally acceptable if everyone involved knows what those colors mean, and everyone on the team is actually using Macs.

Here are some things that I don’t like.

  • Dates in file names are pretty much irrelevant and unnecessary… Most of the time you are using the date in the name to remember when you made the file, right? Well, that information is stored in the file already. Get properties on it, see? Additionally, you can store that stuff in the spotlight comments if you want.
  • Spaces, punctuation, strange characters like $#@&*(^$!Ѣ߬?Ģ??묥ƂĆ???Ķ???߂⧂%(, etc.
  • ALLCAPS.PSD
  • Initial_Caps_Case.psd
  • mockup_chad.fla (using the designer or developers name in the file)

What are some of your tips on file naming for teams? Pet Peeves, etc. I’d like to hear form other mixed environments especially… designer/developer cross disciplinary teams, etc.

Why Microsoft Silverlight Will Fail.

Being a long time Macromedia developer, recently converted to Adobe, of course I am biased. This post will do little to prove otherwise. On top of this, I favor OpenSource technologies for my server side development stack (LAMP, please). Furthermore, I use primarily Macintosh computers for my day to day work. So it is of little surprise to anyone that knows me that Microsoft’s WPF/E now redubbed “Silverlight” doesn’t really impress me.

My main reasons (And please, correct me if I am wrong):

  • No IDE for me – The development path is currently platform specific to Windows. Not even an open compiler or server side compiler for Linux is available. Use Expression Blend on my Mac? Not happening.
  • No plug in for Linux - Even Adobe has managed to deliver it’s modern plugin to Linux users. I only use Linux as a server platform, but with Ubuntu, etc making inroads on the desktop, it’s nice to have it as an option.
  • Market Penetration = Demand - With Flash player 9 on 80%+ (and well over 90% at Flash Player version 8) of all end user web clients, my audience has currently spoken. They use Flash player. With YouTube and pretty much ever major motion picture / recording artist / sporting good microsite developed in Flash, this probably isn’t changing any time soon.
  • The Growing Mobile Content Market - With FlashLite2, Adobe has proven they are serious about mobile devices multimedia delivery. FL3 looks to be even more so, adding support for FLV. Don’t see that on the Silverlight front, yet.
  • Maturity – With FlashPlayer at version 9, Silverlight as a first gen product has a ways to go to add that feeling of security that I get when I recommend a Flash based solution to a client. The SWF file format is over a decade old. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • The Developer Community - As a Flash developer, I get a built in community doing great things (The CASA Framework, Tweener, PaperVision3D, etc.). With my OpenSource work (Drupal, PHP, Apache, MySQL, etc) I get the same… Whenever I have worked on a ASP/IIS solution, everything is a pay-for situation. Pay for support, extensions, scripts, etc. Do I want to get into a community like that? Not so much.
  • CS3 - With an integrated suite behind me, I know I can be as creative as I need to be. No such luck on the MS Silverlight end… Do they have a compositor? An industry standard photo retouching tool? A vector illustration tool? Any sort of “roundtrip” editing? Nope.

I’m sure that if I sat and thought about it, I could probably list about a dozen more… But at this point, color me unimpressed. I’d welcome those more knowledgeable on the Silverlight front to refute my arguments.

My Flex Based Celeb Aggregator: MediaDinosaur – is Online.

In 2002 I launched a community generated content site and groupblog called MediaDinosaur. Users could rate and vote on the content, submit top ten lists, bash celebs and media sites. It was great fun. After I took a full time job, the site languished… I recently resurrected the domain name and am beginning the reinvention of the site. Here is version 1 of that reinvention.

MediaDinosaur Logo

I have built a Flex based RSS reader that grabs feeds from the biggest gossip sites on the web (and if you have others you know about but I missed, please do tell!) and allows you to read the feeds and visit the sites. I plan on adding trend charting to track the overall celeb memes in paparazzi (creating hall of fames/shames, etc.), and eventually adding other categories, like entertainment reviews, gaming reviews, special topics like new media formats, DRM, etc. I don’t actually like celeb worship, but there just seems to be so much material out there to pick from and it’s just too hard to resist. On top of that, my wife just so happens to be a perfect beta tester for this type of content. ;-)

All that said, if you are interested in checking out what I have up there now, go check it out.

A few things I am concerned about with it being built in Flex…

  • Flash 9 penetration – I am limiting my audience by requiring Flash 9.
  • Search Engine Visibility – I’m using SWFObject for the Placement code, so I think I might build a RSS parser for the PHP powering the page to put some real content on the page, as well as provide at least a little bit of info to our non flash visitors.
  • Download time - Currently the main.swf file is 290KB. Man are components heavy… any optimization tips out there?

If this project sounds interesting to you and you like to parse regular expressions (Hey – Who doesn’t?) contact me and we can collaborate on it. I have no experience with Flex Charting, but am looking to learn.

Drupalers out there, activate!

While in Highschool I was pretty active in community service, college, a bit too… While living in Chicago, not so much. Now back ina smallish town, I just think I’d like to get back in to serving my neighborhood. I met this evening with a representative from the neighborhood association and I am going to be helping them with the revitalization of their website. I am planning on installing a Drupal site with a customized theme for them. We have some ideas for basic typical community content, calendars etc, but I am wondering from those out their in the developer community… are there some modules that I should be specifcally be looking into?

I normally don’t like the idea of Drupal being called “community plumbing”, because I never use it for community site, but in this case, I guess it fits. ;-)

Is the Dreamweaver Task Force Rolling Over In It’s Collective Grave?

My post about Dreamweaver 9′s impending release laid out my hopes and dreams about what I’d like to see in the next major release of the application, and it’s first release from Adobe.

Most of them look to be coming true, if, at least you don’t care too much about web standards…

  • I like the XML integration, alot!
  • I like the CSS layouts (as much as I can with out seeing the code they produce)
  • The addition of some AJAX support was a necessary thing, certainly.

My main gripe with the whole thing, is how can I sell myself as a standards based designer when theAJAX library chosen produces nonstandard markup… case in point:

Even Odd Row Samples – Pretty sure this isn’t valid XHTML: <tr spry:repeat=“dsEmployees” spry:even=“even” spry:odd=“odd”> – in fact look at the validator results from that demo’s page.

Now, I just picked this one example from the larger demo’s page, and I don’t have the time to look through the other samples, but I’m sure that many of them use similiar sorts of custom attributes, etc. Now, Alistapart addressed this very issue of custom namespace’s/DTDs about two years ago. From the article:

Custom DTDs can be a very useful tool to enrich the existing markup languages or create entirely new ones. One always has to keep in mind that they are tantamount to creating a new language, and that proprietary languages are best kept in closed environments where they can be taught to a limited set of agents and tools, and NOT to make the web a modern version of the Tower of Babel by unleashing them in the wilderness.

Sounds just like what we got from Adobe, right? Why not use Prototype or JQuery? I just don’t get it. Someone, please, fill me in.

CS3 Launch Event Today… who’s going to be watching?

I know I will… It will be webcast live at: http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/launchevent/

Can’t wait to see the new interface for Flash, learn more about the Flex integration for IL and FW, see what Ajax-y goodness Dreamweaver has in store for us, check out the PS/AI import for Flash, and learn more about Photoshop CS3 Extended’s 3d Support…

Overheard on a mailing list I subscribe to:

The new version of Photoshop CS3 announced today allows you to “edit
existing textures on 3D models directly within Photoshop Extended and
immediately see the results. Photoshop Extended supports common 3D
interchange formats, including 3DS, OBJ, U3D, KMZ, and COLLADA, so you can
import, view, and interact with most 3D models.”

In other words, it allows you to load and display a Collada scene, including
basic manipulation of objects and camera, edit the textures of the models
and see the results directly. Only texture editing seems to be currently
supported.

Absolutely sick!

Teaching Tools in a Modern Multimedia Instructor’s World.

My friend, Sven, wrote a post about a visiting artist, Paul Cantanese, who spoke at Bradley University last week. I was unable to make the lecture, unfortunately. Paul does some great work and is very much into Processing right now, as I gather from the chatter around campus. Paul turned Sven onto the awesome Graffletopia. Wow! What a cool resource. Wish I could have caught his session, it’s always great to .

As a part time instructor, and one mainly focused on professionally minded multimedia and web development, it’s important to keep my toolbox full of great stuff… I try to choose the best books, best tools and best software to maximize my actual contact time with my students (which unfortunately is fairly minimal as I am also employed full time). For example, Sven relayed my use of Del.icio.us to Paul as a library of sorts. To me this was never a real innovative idea, as it just seemed to fit the purpose of Del.icio.us perfectly for me. It’s always on, allows asynchronous communication and works dependably and reliably.

My del.icio.us page has nearly 400 links that are purely web design and development focused. It’s primarily standards focused with mentions of multimedia content generally only when there is crossover between the two realms. I have been building that list over the last two years and do prune it fairly regularly for dead links. Not only is it a reference for my students, but one for me as well. I add to it and consult it often.

I also have a library of books that could choke a horse. Some favorites, and ones that I teach from currently: Jeffrey Zeldman‘s Designing with Web Standards, Craig Grannell’s Web Designer Reference, Eric Meyer’s CSS Definitive Guide. Beyond that, I have books from Joey Lott, Colin Moock and many others on my shelf. Some of my O’Reilly favorites include Databases in Depth, The Agile Web Developer, and Javascript the Definitive Guide. I appreciated the mission and vision of Amibient Findability, but found it lacking in substance. I generally lean towards O’Reilly titles, but find the Friends of Ed books a pleasure to read as well.

For the last two semesters, when I taught a class on PHP/MySQL, we used the CSS Definitive Guide to serve as a desk reference and the Dreamweaver 8 with PHP by Jeffrey Bardzell for the main software teaching book. As I tried to keep the class largely tool agnostic and more focused on the actual code written, all work in the Bardzell book was self directed with me available for questions if needed. While the Dreamweaver Server behaviors are nice, in the long run, I don’t believe a college level course in web design should tie your knowledge to a software vendor.

Beyond that, I have recently begun introducing my students to Color Schemer, Kuler and other design tools for more making more objective color choices in their designs. I also introduce my students to the Firefox Web Developer Toolbar and Firebug Javascript debugging tools as I don’t want to think about designing a website without them. We pull out the terminal and learn Ping, Whois, Traceroute, etc… I also like to show them Netcraft.com and the Wayback machine as I think they have invaluable info buried within. I am really looking forward to seeing Sven’s VMWare Windows web development image that he has been cooking up, complete with nearly every version of IE ever made and a few other little tricks should be a great tool for the Intel iMacs in the labs.

I am interested in hearing other resources, etc. I should be investigating from other instructors out there… What are you using to help your students navigate this big world? Web resources, books, software etc.

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