August 15, 2011

Hacking The Web With Interactive Stories

I recently made The Parable of The Hackasaurus, which is a game-like attempt to make web-hacking easy to learn through a series of simple puzzles in the context of a story. The parable is really more of a proof-of-concept that combines a bunch of different ideas than an actual attempt at interactive narrative, though. The puzzles don’t actually have anything to do with the story, for instance. But I wanted an excuse to do something fun with the vibrant art that Jessica Klein has made for the project, while also exploring possibilities for the Hack This Game sprint and giving self-directed learners a path to understanding how the Hackasaurus tools work. ... Read more

August 8, 2011

The Decline and Fall of The URL

The URL is a very powerful concept; it represents a universal way to access any resource anywhere in the world. Here’s one of them, as it appears in Firefox 5’s address bar: The first few letters before the colon are called the protocol, which tells the computer how to interpret the rest of the URL. The http protocol is the most common and specifies a resource on the World Wide Web, while the tel protocol specifies a telephone number, and https specifies a resource on the Web transferred over a secure channel that can’t be eavesdropped. ... Read more

June 25, 2011

Moving At Internet Speed

In his book Program or be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff writes: For most of us, the announcement of the next great "iThing" provokes not eagerness but anxiety: Is this something else we will have to pay for and learn to use? Do we even have a choice? At Mozilla, we talk a lot about user choice, but one choice we have a hard time giving our users is whether to upgrade to the latest version of our software. ... Read more

June 23, 2011

The Challenges of Developing Offline Web Apps

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, there's a lot of usability problems that make writing an offline web app difficult. When writing a "native" client-side app using technologies like Microsoft .NET or Apple's Cocoa framework, it's assumed that everything your program is doing, and everything it needs, is already installed on the local device. Anything not on the local device needs to be explicitly fetched over the network. ... Read more

June 22, 2011

On The Usability Of An Offline Web

Last week I spent some time working on a simple offline web app called All My Etherpads. Creating it has made me think about a lot of things, one of which has to do with how the word “offline” constantly seems at odds with the word “web”. When you’re using a web browser, it’s simply assumed that you’re online. Many argue that a resource must live in the cloud for it to be truly “of the Web”. ... Read more

September 15, 2010

Good Customers

Here’s something I read in a blog post by Esther Dyson, where she describes a visit to Russia in which she was asked for advice on how to spur innovation in the country: In fact, I started my discussion with Russia's government leaders by talking about my experiences as chair of NASA's Innovation and Technology advisory committee. The issue, I said, was not really about funding technology innovation; it is how to create a culture that rewards thoughtful innovation and considers mistakes the price of learning. ... Read more

August 29, 2010

My First CrisisCamp

On Friday I attended CrisisCamp Silicon Valley. I didn’t really know what to expect, since I was unfamiliar with the nascent field of internet-facilitated crisis response and was unable to find a high-level overview of how people—both techies and non-techies—can really make an impact. The Bird's Eye View As I understand it, this is the big picture of internet-facilitated crisis response: People on the ground in a disaster are told, through various channels, to report what they're seeing to the public through a variety of media: SMS, Twitter, Facebook, whatever's easiest and most understandable for them. ... Read more

August 24, 2010

A Dashboard for Bugs

Early this year, I had to start using Mozilla’s Bugzilla, an issue tracker that, while incredibly powerful, nonetheless confused and intimidated me to no small degree. One of my most basic needs was to have a simple display containing bugs of interest to me. I couldn’t find a page in the product that satisfied me, so I used Gervase Markham’s excellent Bugzilla REST API to create an HTML page that fetched the information I needed and displayed it. ... Read more

August 12, 2010

The Emotional Design of Firefox

Earlier this year I read Don Norman’s Emotional Design, and I’ve been reflecting on some of the reasons I decided to start using Firefox back in 2004. When I hear most people talk about why they used Firefox, they sound pretty rational. They liked Firefox because it stopped pop-ups; it had tabs; or because it was faster than Internet Explorer. My recollections of my first impressions of Firefox involved some of those things, but I mostly remember having a positive emotional reaction to the product. ... Read more

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