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  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:40 pm on December 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Banksy, , , , famous graffitti artist, , graffitti artist, , , , Human development, , Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Maslow's pyramid, Microformat, Personal development, , , , , Structure,   

    Deadprogrammer’s Hierarchy of Web Needs 

    I recently received a phone call from a recruiter. He wanted to lure me away to some “big company” that still had “small company feel” to participate in a “redesign of a major website”. He felt like all of these things, as well as “a well stocked kitchen” were big selling points.

    I am a veteran of many website redesigns, major and minor. I’ve come to dread the word “redesign” because very frequently it meant taking a perfectly good website and making it significantly worse, and then through major struggles making it marginally beter. In the past I wrote a rather bloated article titled “The Russian Tea Room Syndrome” about this. Today I would like to write a bit more about this, as this topic rarely leaves my mind and my life.

    Earlier in my career, I had very little influence over the redesign process, but this is changing. This is the primary reason why my job title has the shameful word “Architect” in it: I write code and configure servers, but I want my say in strategery as well.

    So, Michael, you might ask, what is the problem with redesigns? Aren’t redesigns about making websites better? Well, many redesigns suffer from not following IBM’s famous motto.

    IBM has one of the best corporate mottos ever: CRUSH and DESTROY. Uh, I mean THINK. They even give out props with the word “THINK” on it and publish THINK magazine.

    Many redesigns happen simply as a knee jerk reaction: oh, look company X is doing Y and using Z. When you sit in a meeting and somebody is describing a redesign purely in terms of things other people do, you are likely in trouble. No thinking is involved at all.

    But sometimes it’s the type of thinking that is going on that is the problem. You have to think about the relative importance of things.

    I have a picture by famous graffitti artist Banksy hanging on my wall. It is a metaphor about true and false importance.

    In 1943 a Brooklyn College professor Abraham Maslow outlined what is now known as Maslow’s Hierarchy: a pyramid that ranks human needs. It looks like prior to him nobody really gave a lot of thought to relative importance of pooping and morality. Well, maybe a little – there’s a Russian idiom for a person of untrustworthy nature that originated during WWI when soldiers relieved themselves in rows, next to specially dug trenches: “I would not take a dump next to this person”. Also see “I hope they serve beer in hell

    Here’s Maslow’s pyramid in all of its glory:

    I decided I’d come up with the hierarchy of web needs:

    standard adherence: strict XHTML, CSS, etc

    choice of technology: language, CMS, OS, cloud/servers, etc

    other features: widgets, games, microformats

    multimedia: video, podcasts, interactive flash

    design: graphical elements, typography, pleasing layout

    semantic web: metadata, tagging

    usability: text size, image size, logical layout, uncluttered interface, site name/urls, browser support

    community features: comments, ratings, feeds

    googliness: search, speed, security

    content qualities: usefulness, interest, freshness, uniqueness

    content: text, images, links

    In my opinion unsuccesful redesigns happen when people start from the wrong end of the pyramid (always skipping the first step: I’m yet to meet anybody with power who thinks about these things are important).

    I will expand on this in my next post.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:51 am on November 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Abu Gharib, , , , , , , , Pentagon, Structure, , Youth Technology   

    Zoomfly Test: Capitalist Monkey 

    I frequently want to post images that don’t make a lot of sense to post in smaller format. I’ve been meaning to build a custom zoomer similar to Zoomfly, but gave up and just installed an off-the shelf module.

    Here’s a sample file – a scan from a Soviet “Youth Technology” magazine circa 1961. A bought a couple of these on eBay – and I got to tell you, they really took me back… While growing up I was constantly reading back issues of these magazines, and now, in these few random issues that I purchased I found a few illustrations that I remembered, like the one that is at the end of this post. It’s a very strange feeling – remembering a picture last seen 20 years ago.

    Another very strange feeling is noticing the lack of ads and Photoshoppery – all illustrations are either photographs or drawings, and they look so much better than what you’ll find in most todays magazines.

    The article that accompanied this full page illustration was titled “Bourgeois Ideologists on the Future of Mankind” and was about doom and gloom that proliferated amongst western philosophers. In the illustration robots are going Abu Gharib on their creator’s ass, Martians are running for cover from Pentagon’s missiles, labour bosses are exploiting monkeys, dour looking generals are growing artificial goose-stepping soldiers, hippies are going back to stone age, and Malthusians are working on biological warfare. The top hat wearing capitalist monkey in the background is just darling.

    Meanwhile, on the next page simple Soviet people are partying in the light of aurora Borealis.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:17 am on July 31, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aventurine, , chemical composition, Count Alois von Beckh Widmanst├Ątten, , Gemstones, metal detector, Meteorites, , Structure, truck driver, Widmanst├Ątten pattern   

    Space Bling 

    If you are a constant reader of this journal, you might have noticed that I am highly interested in unobtanium — various exotic materials. This post will depart from my usual blabbering about titanium.

    Many years ago I got my first glimpse of aventurine – a form of quartz with suspended flecks of other minerals. The name itself sounded absolutely exotic and appropriate for a mineral that looks like a piece of solidified star field. It comes from Italian “a ventura” – meaning “by chance”. It refers to the fact that Italian glass makers learned to make glass that looks like aventurine by chance through mixing in flecks of copper. But in Russian “avantura” is a word that does not carry the same meaning. It can be best translated as “a risky and/or shady venture”.

    Aventurine is usually green or orange, and I am not sure if the black version that I like so much is really aventurine at all. Recently I came by an ad in Russian Forbes magazine for a very expensive watch made by Bernhard Lederer Universe called blu-Planet. It has an internal dial made of aventurine which the ad claimed was of meteoritic origin.

    My research shows that aventurine has a terrestrial origin, but while looking at meteorites I found a most interesting fact. It turns out that many metallic meteorites when polished and dipped in a dilute acid bath, show the most amazing patterns reminiscent of microchip’s silicone surface. These are called “Widmanstatten patterns” (after the name of a scientist who discovered them) and are a result of nickel and iron cores of asteroids slowly crystallizing for millions of years in the void of space.

    Pieces of space rock are desirable. Apollo space program brought back a limited amount of Moon specimens and it was waaay expensive. Then it turned out that some meteorites found on Earth have the same chemical composition. So basically, you can get pieces of asteroids, the Moon, Mars and hell knows what else without leaving the planet. In fact you don’t need to leave your chair — eBay has loads and loads of meteorites for sale.

    Space stones do not come cheap — they sell for about a dollar per gram, which is significantly more than the price of silver, and might go for much more than the price of gold. No wonder that a former truck driver from whose website I took these amazing photos of meteorites has been able to support his family through meteorite hunting. Overall, it looks to me like the cost effectiveness of a truck driver with an ATV and a metal detector is pretty good compared to the cost of our space program.


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