Tuesday, May 31, 2005

BBC Tagging shows its value...

Lee et al at Headshift have been playing assiduosly with BBC backstage it appears, and have hooked up a little Ajax tagger which allows you to free-tag BBC news stories. I played around with some stories about the French "no" vote to the EU constitution and de Villepin's promotion, and found it worked a treat. Well worth a fiddle for five minutes...

Monday, May 30, 2005

Language and Homes

The UK is famously a nation of shopkeepers, but increasingly (since Mrs Thatcher's push for wealth for the individual and release of the nation's social housing stock) a notion of homeowners also. Watching a few TV programmes recently, I have become annoyed with the way in which this has meant that estate agency culture is starting to influence language (and hence the way we think about housing). One of the signal words for me is "property", which now only appears to be used in the context of houses and flats, but there are other worrying signs. The couples on TV are expressing increasingly passive opinions about housing (not "I don't really like it", but - as I heard today, "it doesn't have the X-factor" as if that were a quality that existed in anyone's eyes other than their own) and purely evaluating "properties" for investment potential rather than as homes. I think my least favourite is "outside space" or "outside living space" - funnily enough I thought the words "garden" or "outside" would cover this territory well enough, but the increasing commoditification of the home means that the available leisure-time activities have to be spelled out. So people are ripping up patios to put down decking, forgetting that the loveable British weather has always meant that "outside living" is a fleeting and enigmatic activity for the Anglo-Saxons... hmm - on Friday I was accused of being a "Grumpy Old Man" - maybe this annoyance with the estate agent's brochure-speak influencing our own way of referring to things is just another sign of this!

Switzerland, Shame on you!!!

My wife was just on the phone to one of her best friends, she recently married a Swiss guy (also a very good friend) after having been a couple for very many years, and moved to Geneva. Despite several years experience as a Product Manager for an international pharmaceutical company in France, she has had no success in finding a new job. One factor in this is certainly the fact that she doesn't speak German, however, she was recently discussing her situation with a neighbour (also working in Pharmaceuticals) who told her the following: you are 30, you are recently married, no company will take you on as they expect you to get pregnant within the next couple of years. You should have a baby now and then look for a job in a couple of years, where having a family will reflect will (stability etc.).
I am stunned that in this day and age this can still remain as a tacit "understanding". For someone to express this opinion as fact, it must be an opinion that is widespread, and - in my opinion - reflects a general lack of respect for women at work. Tut-tut!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Le bloc-notes d'information de Mark T

I think I'm behind the times on this one, but I via Tom Coates plasticbag, I found this story on Coop's corner pointing out that a French Commission wants "blog" to be replaced by "bloc-notes". I checked this out a bit more and found a Le Monde article from the May 21 (not April 1!) which appears to corroborate this (look at the call out or see my loose translation below. I'm not really sure of the best way to translate "avis").
"Ne dites plus jamais blog mais bloc-notes - ... La Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie a publié au Journal officiel du 20 mai un avis établissant une liste de termes et d'expressions destinés à supplanter les anglicismes sur Internet. Ainsi, "bloc-notes", que l'on pourra accepter sous sa forme abrégée "bloc", désignera "un site sur la Toile, souvent personnel, présentant en ordre chronologique de courts articles ou notes, généralement accompagnés de liens vers d'autres sites", soit un blog."
"Don't say 'blog' anymore - now it's 'bloc-notes' [jotter/note-block]: in the official journal of May 20, the General Commission for Terminology and Neologisms published an advice-note setting out a list of phrases and expressions aimed at replacing Internet anglicisms. So, 'bloc-notes' (which can be shortened to 'bloc' will mean "a site on the Net,often a personal site, of short articles presented or of notes, usually accompanied by links to other sites ", in other words, a blog"

At the same time, it put forward that hoax will become "canular", worm - "ver" and splash screen - "fenêtre d'attente"."I'm not sure why the Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie would bother with this - I don't think that courriel (officialese for "email" or "mail" as everyone I know who is French-speaking calls it) has caught on, so why should this? (NOTE: My wife is French and said "Well, it makes sense", so maybe I'm being overly anglophile about this). I do like the French chauvinistic defence of its patrimony - limits on how many English-language songs can be played on radio stations was the big talking point a decade ago (how the media environment changes)... Ollie's blog suggests (tongue-in-cheek) that the Commission members might be worried about their jobs (and therefore need to be seen to be active)...

Project Management Qualifications

I was delighted yesterday to discover that I passed my PRINCE2 practitioner exam, and can now call myself a qualified PRINCE2 practitioner. At the moment, I am working on a project that uses a related (very very close cousin, I would say) simplification of PRINCE2 called PRIDE/PRIDElite, and am just trying to get to grips with the differences (mostly these are terminology and/or quantities of specific project documentation) between it and PRINCE2. This got me thinking about relationships between project management methodologies - there is an underlying philosophy or approach to each method, and - having come across a relatively close overlap relationship between two methodologies - I was wondering whether anyone has come up with a visual/written map/taxonomy of how the different methodologies relate to one another? I haven't come across anything yet, but I am sure that such a map might be useful to work out which methods are most appropriate for which type of project (based on duration; discipline; cost; organisation differences etc.). Just a thought...

Monday, May 23, 2005

More Ajax stuff just to stay in touch...

I think I got to this via Lane Becker and Adaptive Path, but I can't remember: LukeW writes the nicest, simplest Ajax piece for communicating to non-techies that I've seen so far, and the lovely little file upload progress monitor from Home Made. Go on, try it, you'll like it...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Video and KM - Trade Secrets

While watching Trade Secrets on BBC2 today (a 5 minute show of top tips from industry experts - in this case theatre dressers), I suddenly realised what a great piece of knowledge management it is. I think video is often under-used by companies, and this sort of top-tip format could work beautifully in companies either for induction training or broken out into clips (with nice descriptive metadata) via an intranet. The benefits include the fact that the tip is mediated by a person (closest value to face-to-face), can be demonstrated in context (as a demonstration), and obviously can be stored for later retrieval. With the advent of low-cost DV cameras and editing, budget also shouldn't be an issue. Has anyone used this sort of video-based, Lessons Learned format within a company before?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Editorial tone of voice and IA revisited

Something about this post from 37 signals resonates (and not just because I am having fun trying out backpack at the moment): "Getting Real: Copywriting is interface design". I said earlier on in posting called "Choice Theory" that I would have a think about how editorial voice informs information architecture and lo and behold, I haven't got around to it yet... Anyway, Jason's piece is a nice, brief starter for ten.

"Good writing is good design. It’s a rare exception where words don’t accompany design. Icons with names, form fields with examples, buttons with labels, step by step instructions in a process. Clearly explaining your refund policy is interface design."

And if you haven't read "Defensive Design for the Web" yet, then I suggest you do!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ajax Blog

I've just had a read of a few postings on Ajaxian Blog, but there are some nice wee Ajax demos, including an Amazon diamond search with accuracy sliders. Worth a quick peek.

How Art Made the World and BBC Weather

As a callow undergraduate (I think that you only ever get to use the word "callow" in conjunction with "undergraduate"), I lived downstairs from Nigel Spivey, so it was with interest that I tuned into "How Art Made the World" on BBC2 last night. While I'm not sure I entirely agree with the very Platonic theory of Art having [entirely] stemmed from stone age hallucinations being cast onto grotto walls, it was interesting to think about Art in grammatical terms - very Hildegard of Bingen - lines, dots and shapes coming together to make meaning. I don't think I've really thought about this much since reading books by Ernst Gombrich, Oliver Sacks, and John Berger's excellent "Ways of Seeing" a number of years ago - but it's definitely nice to go back to first principles and think about what is happening when we represent objects as images.
Anyway, I found this highly interesting as the BBC has just launched advanced weather visualisations whereby its previous iconography is now being replaced by "realistic" graphics. Personally, while I relish the effort, I'm not quite used to the relegation of the Orkneys in terms of importance from the isometric projection of Scotland (the borders looking pretty big to my mind - funnily enough I have just noticed that I am not the only one to think so) instead of the top-to-bottom map used previously, nor am I sure about how easy it is not to be distracted by the different precipitation animations running at different speeds in the top corners of the screen. I wonder what caveman trancing out in Lascaux caves would have thought about it?

Monday, May 09, 2005

EU Citizen?

I'm on holiday in Dubrovnik, which GB Shaw apparently called a paradise on earth - we've come over from Budapest (Hungary) which is now part of the EU. Croatia is also looking to join the EU, and in the square in Old Dubrovnik today I picked up an ABC lexicon to the EU in Croatian (not that I can understand Croatian): it made me realise (looking through the entries) how little I actually know about the way the EU operates. I knew about Schengen and the EMU obviously, but had no concept of Eurostat or the EIB. I think I need to become a better European! Seriously though, my point is that - as an EU citizen - I've never seen anything as simple or as straightforward an introduction to what the EU actually does before. In the days of 500 page constitutions, perhaps this should be kept to the forefront of the EU's collective mind...