Saturday, March 21, 2009

I don't get Facebook

I'm not a heavy Facebook user which is probably why I didn't even really noticed that they changed their design to be more like Twitter. It doesn't matter to me what the page looked like 'cause I can click on the "profile" link and see my profile and see the friends list (yes, I know I can click on the friend list at the top).

The first time I really tried using Facebook was when I heard they were making themselves a "platform". People can write apps that other people can access through Facebook. That could be cool, but I always had a hard time finding apps unless I saw it on someone's profile. I eventually was able to find it, but don't ask me how. With the new design, I got lost again.

Eventually I found it it at the bottom of the page (Applications > Find More). So I found an app and I guess I "installed" it, but now have no idea how to put it on my profile page like other people do.

I'm guessing that if I bothered to spend 5 minutes understanding how Facebook work that I'd be able to figure it out, but given how people have been talking about design and using Google as a poster child for suppressing it, I'm asking "Why aren't people accusing Facebook of destroying design?" Google might not be "pretty" but it's design is simple and very functional.

3 pixels vs 4 pixels

Doug Bowman's post on leaving Google had a quote that has gotten picked up by many bloggers as representative of what is wrong with the engineering culture:

"I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case."

He doesn't give much more context about this debate, but it reminded me of some of my own experiences where I got involved with almost the exact same debate. In my case, the cause of the debate was almost always because there were multiple designers. Either it was two more more designers arguing about the width or it was after a product launch that the next designer decide that the width decision should be thrown out.

What drove engineers nuts was that because decisions are so arbitrary anyone can override the design at any time. Maybe Google is on the extreme end to demand numerical metrics to back up any decision, but for most engineers it was mainly that they wanted to understand the reasoning for a change. Otherwise, engineers would spend their entire lives changing the size of borders.

Designer's post overblown.

Apparently one of Google's visual designers decided to leave Google and wrote a blog post on why he is leaving. While he has all the right to tell the world his personal opinion on why the job wasn't good for him, I think the reactions to his post are way overblown. Unlike art or print media, software is very much about function.

Is Google destroying design?!? Why don't they ask the question," Are designers destroying engineering?"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The value of Google Chrome

A friend of mine recently posted his thoughts on the "Chrome's overinflated importance". If viewed only as a web browser then it is just another entry in the various browsers that exists out there. However, I believe the true value of Chrome will be if it can change the way people and developers look at web applications.

In many ways, advancement in web development is hindered because developers and businesses have not been able to really think outside of limits imposed by the "WWW" of 10 years ago. Another way to say is that the world wants to move to using the Internet as a platform but we are still stuck on using the WWW as the platform instead.

There has been many attempts to try to break out of that mentality. The unfortunate term "Web 2.0" was one attempt (I think) although it never clearly articulated what it really meant and is now just a overused marketing term. In some ways, "Cloud" seems to be another way to break out from the mindset of "web development" to building applications on the Internet.

Chrome's importance to me is whether it can open up the developer's mind to new possibilities by providing them a tool that goes beyond building web sites and web applications. I hope that someday the "web" will move beyond being viewed as an interactive magazine or at least let the "web" be the interactive magazine while we're also using applications on the Internet.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Installing pysvn on OSX Leopard

Here are the steps I took to install pysvn, a python module for subversion, from source on OSX Leopard.

Assuming you're using macports:

sudo port install python26 (follow any instructions it has)
sudo port install subversion (1.5.6 at time of my install)
sudo port install db43 (whichever version of Berkeley DB you installed, updated the sed line below pointing to the right directory).

Download the pysvn source code.

tar -xzvf [file you downloaded]
cd [directory where you uncompressed the file to]

python configure

sed -i .backup -e "14s@\(.*\) /opt/local/lib/libsvn_ra_dav-1.a \(.*\)/opt/local/lib/libdb-4.3.a \(.*\)@\1 \2 \3 /opt/local/lib/libsvn_ra_neon-1.a /opt/local/lib/libsvn_ra_serf-1.a /opt/local/lib/libserf-0.a /opt/local/lib/libsvn_fs_util-1.a /opt/local/lib/db43/libdb-4.3.a -lsasl2@" Makefile


sudo cp -r pysvn /opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/lib/python2.6/site-packages

(sed line taken from here: