Tazz field trip today! We are off to see the Simpsons Movie this afternoon.

Update: Wait to watch it on TV (its natural environment).

Understanding a Visual

Kirsten Robinson, at Dynamic Diagrams, mentioned how the Calliope Hummingbird visual took time to understand. The understandability of a visual is something we grapple with all the time. It is a subset of the challenge of making a tool that's use is obvious to the user -- or at least to their children. Kirsten knows what she is talking about and so her comment is more about this visual crossing the line between effort needed to learn to use and density of information presented. I think she is right.

The reason I was drawn to it was that the bird's cycles are continuous and so the circle expresses this better than a time-line. It is also hemispheric neutral in that time-lines start in January and finish in December and so for Southern birds their breeding season, for example, might cross the December and January year boundary and so, for those birds you would not see a continuous line but a line in two segments

          Jan Feb Mar Apr ... Oct Nov Dec
nesting   -------                 -------

It is also similar to the situation awareness visuals I have seen [1] and very much like.

Learning how to read this visual is not difficult and so a short audio training might be used. For example, this NPR story [2] is about the movie High Noon's title song and how its elements were repeated in the movie's score. Towards the end of the story there is a short segment of the score featured with overlaid commentary. It is a stunningly informative information presentation. At least to this musical klutz.

[1] "Visual Correlation for Situational Awareness"

[2] "High Noon"

Presence & Tagging

I want to add centralized tagging to the centralized buddy list of an instant message server. Perhaps personal tagging would be useful but let's start by helping everyone. By tagging a buddy I mean to place them in a group, a team, a project, a location, a department, a title, an interest, etc. My office tags might be
Andrew Gilmartin:
Principle Engineer, Engineering Team, Providence, RI, USA, Narragansett Project, AlphaDog Project, BetaBand Project, Stewie Project, Java Specialty, Concurrency Specialty, User Interface Specialty, Data Model Specialty, Interface Specialty, Gardening Interest, Cooking Interest, Parenting Interest, Board Game Interest, Automata Interest, etc...

My instant message client user interface would then allow me to view staff by any set of tags. Either a small faceted search or a two-level hierarchy. Selecting an account name would start or join a conversation. Selecting a tag would start or join a conference.

IM & Ingenta

When I worked at Ingenta I installed an instant message server and gave everyone in the company an account. I also automatically created everyone's "buddy lists". The buddy list contained everyone's account (in one list ordered by first name), it was fixed (no adding or removing accounts), and was updated with every staffing change.

The server was a great success -- over time. Even the COO logged in each day. Over the course of my work day in Providence, RI (US) I would see the Providence staff's full work cycle of starting their day, going to lunch and coming back, and ending their day. For the Oxford and Bath (UK) staff their day had already begun and so I would mostly see them return from lunch and end their day. For the lone California developer I saw him start his work day just before I headed out for lunch.
And it wasn't just me that saw this but everyone because everyone had the same buddy list.
Read Geoffrey Bilder's posting, "Backchannel" [1], about his experience at Ingenta.

Presence- & Work- Line

General purpose IM clients do not address the needs of a globally distributed team as well as they could. After simple presence information the next important datum is availability (or simply timezone). Within availability having a good sense of the work day is important. This sketch shows the workday (the gray bar), and lunch (blue hatch), where "now" (red line) is for each of three locations

Now replace location with team member names and you have a much better presence indicator.

Thomas Sgouros's Paintings

While buying my morning Cafe Tobe from Coffee Exchange I picked up a post card for a new exhibit of Thomas Sgouros's paintings. His work is atmospheric and stunningly large. If you every get to see his work do so. The Gallery Agniel has some images of this work.

The Calliope Hummingbird's Year

Looking for an interesting image to use here I discovered this information visual [1] about the molting, breeding, and migration periods of the Calliope Hummingbird. I have heard about the Cornell bird encyclopedia [2] but this is the first time I have seen content from it. I would like to see more; perhaps my library has access to it.

I wonder, do they let you overlay several birds year so you can compare the comings and goings of the population?

[1] UEWebApp/images/ calliope-hummer-fig-4_6.gif

Don't move furniture wearing open-toed shoes

... Ouch.

Canonical's Lunachpad

I recently discovered Canonical's Lunachpad [1]. (Canonical also does Ubuntu.) It is another software engineering management and repository portal. Its focus is not to be the sole owner of information (like, for example, SourceForge and CollabNet are) but to be a consolidator and/or owner of information. Bugs, for example, can be defined and tracked elsewhere and yet have a presence in Launchpad. The same for the code. I have only read the introductory document [2] and poked around so don't know how well it works in practice but it has a great feature set and one I would use on my next open source project.

Even if you are not looking for such a portal it is worth reading about Launchpad's features. I especially like the Blueprints and their rough dependency tracking.


Calliope Sounds

I had a weird moment today. I was walking alone by the highway and heard calliope music. I instantly reached for my cell phone. This was weird because I don't use the sound as a ring-tone but my mind said "cell phone" and "alone" so it must be "mine". The music came from an ice cream truck on the highway. Seems like ring-tones have absorbed all the odd or misplaced musical sounds.