Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Patterns help introduce patterns (or any new idea)
Through the 1990s, a new movement in software development called patterns gained momentum. Inspired by the thinking of the building architect Christopher Alexander, a group of smart guys authored 23 patterns for software design as "a way to analyze solutions to recurring problems, make them reusable and communicate them." Patterns collected together form a working language that help systems architects and programmers cope with the complexity of software systems.
Over the weekend, while revisiting some citations on patterns, I landed on Mary Lynn Manns' and Linda Rising's Introducing New Ideas into Organizations, which is a web page of papers and resources on the patterns of practice they and many others used over several years to introduce the concept of patterns for software design in organizations. As you might imagine, any radically new way of thinking is a tough sell, and their collection of patterns (123 page PDF) for introducing patterns is really a comprehensive cookbook of tactics that can be used to sell any new technology-related ideas in an organization.
Reading through some of the patterns, I recognized many of the tricks I've stumbled upon over the last few years to sell information architecture, usability, accessibility, and user-centered design to my employers and their clients. Some example patterns for introducing new ideas:
- Adopt a Skeptic - Pair those who have accepted your new idea with those who have not.
- Big Jolt - To provide more visibility for the change effort, invite a well-known person to do a presentation about the new idea.
- Corridor Politics - Informally work on decision makers and key influencers before an important vote, to make sure they fully understand the consequences of the decision.
- Group Identity - Give the change effort an identity to help people recognize that it exists.
- Hometown Story - To help people see the usefulness of your new idea, encourage those who have had success with it to share their stories.
- In Your Space - Keep the new idea visible by placing reminders throughout your organization.
- Just Say Thanks - To make people feel appreciated, say "thanks" in the most sincere way you can to everyone who helps you.
- Personal Touch - To convince people of the value of your new idea, show how it can be personally useful and valuable to them.
- Shoulder to Cry On - To avoid becoming too discouraged when the going gets tough, find opportunities to talk with others who are also struggling.
- Whisper in the General's Ear - Managers are sometimes hard to convince in a group setting, so set up a short one-on-one meeting to address their concerns and to offer them the opportunity to announce your new idea as their own.
Each pattern is explained in detail, related to key roles and illustrated with a real world scenario. The patterns collection has also been expanded to book form and is scheduled to be published next year by Addison Wesley. I'm saving a space on my nightstand.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Pain-free news feed redirection
I realized today that a heap of aggregators and blogerators, not to mention my favorite desktop news reader, are still pointed to my defunct RSS/XML syndication file. For example, Syndic8 smartly notes that my feed is "Awaiting Repair." I was thinking, aiyaa! I'm going to have to go into the shell of my host at Pair and set up a redirect for the path to the old Blogger-generated XML file. But then I thought many others must have had to deal with moving an RSS feed, and sure enough, a search on Google turned up Dave Winer's Bootstrap: How to redirect an RSS feed. A couple minutes of coding and an upload to the old curiousLee site enabled the redirect. Now I'm seeing the new curiousLee news feed in NetNewsWire.
Damn, these people are smart.
Update: Well this solution is apparently not pain-free because discussion of this issue (among other things) precipitated a battle over the RSS core standard. Looks like I will have to revisit server-side configuration hacking to effect HTTP error code 301 or 302. Oy.
Sunday, August 10, 2003
The many facets of Tanya
Tanya's second fan here to trumpet her implementation of faceted classification in MovableType for her blog. Somewhere, Ranganathan is smiling.
I look forward to the possibility that facets will come to TypePad.
Saturday, August 09, 2003
curiousLee Mobile Edition
May pointed out that the default templates in TypePad squeeze the columns of text into a stack of single words on the 240-pixel-wide screen of our T-Mobile Sidekicks. This is a common problem on CSS-based sites and is really a problem in how Danger's mobile web browser parses its HTML. Hopefully they will fix this in a future update.
Ahh, this is the way maintaining a site should be: I went into the Weblog Design section of TypePad and converted the default templates into an advanced set, which exposes all of the constituent pages and support files of the site. I then duplicated the index.html file (the main page of the blog), and saved it as mobile.html. Then I opened the code for that page and hacked out all the CSS IDs and class tag attributes. When I loaded the new page, I got a plain vanilla layout that loads fine and is quite readble on the Sidekick. Coding time: 10 minutes.
The ease of converting the home page demonstrates the power of CSS-based page construction over HTML tables, the benefit of content that is separate from presentation and the well-designed TypePad content management controls. Template adjustments like this are not easy or impossible in the convoluted administrative interfaces of million-dollar content management systems I've used.
I'll probably end up duplicating and converting the other page templates this way to create a complete mobile device-friendly site. The advanced templates are where I'll also begin to create extra pages for curiouslee such as a gateway page to multiple collections of photo albums. In the current template, all photo albums are stuffed into the right navigation, and that won't work when I have more than a handfull of albums. I also want to create a links portal page.
So for May and all my Sidekick buddies:
Recombinant Meme: Flash Streaking
I'm intrigued by how fast the Flashmob phenomenon is taking hold. I was just reading the Mammoth End-of-week Flashmob Roundup at Smart Mobs and wondered how long it would be before we see Flash Streaking a crowd of people gathering at a location to run naked for a few minutes and then dispersing.
Friday, August 08, 2003
The default's at fault
Despite Victor's kind comment about the default template I chose to start off this TypePad blog, I am getting sick of it already. I'm saving a screenshot (67k JPEG) of it so I can remember to avoid this color scheme in the future.
I haven't done any extensive coding in raw HTML in over a year, so I'm cracking open my new copies of Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards and Eric Meyer's Eric Meyer on CSS as I work towards a new site design. Both are excellent references.
And I did discover that the HTML formatting buttons on the Compose a New Post screen don't appear in the latest Safari or IE 5.2 on Mac OS X, but are OK on Netscape 7.1. Kind of a big boo boo in my opinion. Good thing friend Tim has filed a trouble ticket.