In The News Internet

Backlash From User Generated Websites

All the buzz these days seems to be about websites that let users generate the content (while the site collects most or all of the revenue). From Wiki’s to MySpace, and Digg (and their millions of clones), all the cool kids are letting the users dictate most if not all of the content on the site.

Though lately these stars have been falling from grace. For example the recent Digg controversy has raised questions about if it’s possible to have a system where users can’t game the system.

YouTube’s business plan has been subject to constant question and often doubt. It may also be subject to a new form of viral marketing further eroding trust in user generated content. Perhaps not just the trust of YouTube investors, but for sure some users.

So the question I think of are: Will the web continue to move towards this model of user generated content? Or will we go back towards the web being a more read-only medium with occasional points of interaction (forums, article comments, blogs)? Can a business model be based on someone else providing all the content? Can investors trust a company whose actual content is created by it’s customers (try explaining that as a business model to someone 10-20 years ago)?

Of course this leads to the question: is this “Bubble 2.0”?

First of all, there is more to the “2.0” movement than just user generated content. It’s about usability, and flexibility more than who generates the content. For example the impact AJAX has had on making web applications like Gmail easier to use. And getting rid of the clutter on so many sites, to be replaced with easier to read text. Sure “Web 2.0” is getting over hyped with silly names, frustrating reflective logo’s, and goofy highlighting all over the page, but there is an advantage to all this XHTML, and DOM scripting. More usable and flexible websites.

I personally don’t believe the MySpace or YouTube model will survive on their own, it’s just not practical. They depend 100% on users to generate the content that attracts users. The same attracting is what draws spammers and just regular delinquents who abuse the system for profit, or simply to be a pest aka “Troll”. They may survive as part of something (MySpace is now part of News Corp.), but as a stand alone operation? I’m not to confident. People get tired of things. Video is fancy now, but eventually it will be just another GIF. Advertising will further help us become blind to the content, just like it did to GIF and Flash that came before.

YouTube today, YouGIF tomorrow.

Does that mean “Bubble 2.0” is confirmed? Hardly. There are many useful applications around with a more stable and reliable model, such as Flickr, WordPress, Technorati, Bloglines, JotSpot, LinkedIn and of course Google who seem to have some sort of a balance, by being more service driven than content driven (you go there to do something, rather than see something), or in the cases of Flickr, WordPress, and Technorati, they have done a good job keeping spam and other abusers out of the system, while fostering an open community using things like API’s to further growth. Flickr and WordPress have “Pro” features for paying customers. Technorati doesn’t (that I’m aware of) but uses advertising to cover it’s cost. It’s main problem is spam, and competition from the likes of Google. Though Google doesn’t seem to have figured out how to handle blog searching yet, either just like a regular website, or though a special blog search interface. LinkedIn has a social networking aspect but also bundles in useful things such as job /people finding tools, which lets face it: aren’t a fad.

Who will survive? Those that can correctly manage and balance user generated content. It’s that simple. The days where there is no balance can’t last. While the days of totalitarian websites that ruled the web are gone, the days of anarchy can not last. There is a balance, and likely an profit for the one who can find it, and use it effectively to allow users the freedoms they desire without the problems facing todays websites.


Theme Review

I was going to initially write this as a comment on Asa’s Blog, but decided to make a post out of it so can use some screenshots with ease. These are mainly opinions having tested the latest (20060911) on Windows XP, with a custom Windows theme. There may be bugs already filed on some of these, feel free to CC me. Feel free to file bugs against those which have none. Feel free to leave a comment on if you agree or disagree.

Some creative freedom was taken for the sake of me just not wanting to be 100% serious on this post.

First of all let me say it’s much better than it was previously. The previous revision looked pretty awkward, this is much smoother. So it’s clearly come a long way.

I’ve got the blues

BluesI’m really not fond of the blue folders. They have a Aqua-like feel (but not quite), and it just doesn’t seem right for XP. Vista seems to be sticking with the yellow folder icon to symbolize a directory. Mac OS X seems to stick with the lighter blue so far for Leopard. So what influenced the dark blue? It just doesn’t seem to feel right.

Edit: beltzner says this will change.

You crossed the line

The is just a small glitch, but looks like the menu’s highlight extends too high, in comparison to Windows Explorer. That should be fixed.
Menu BadMenu Good

Gradient Mouseovers

Looking around Windows XP, and Windows Vista RC1 Screenshots (I haven’t installed Vista RC1 as of yet). I don’t see much reflecting this gradient mouseover effect that Windows XP did with Windows Explorer. It seems the trend for Windows goes two ways (in the applications I looked at):

  • Dark thin border
  • Brighten icon

Gradient Mouseover

Is this really the right effect for Windows XP and Vista?

Along with this, there is a giant difference between when the mouse is/isn’t over an icon on the toolbar, but the Go button, and the Search icon in the search box don’t have the same contrast. It’s actually somewhat hard to tell, especially compared to how obvious it is for the back, forward, reload, stop and home buttons.

Ooh, shiny!

A friend in High School was admittedly attracted to shiny objects. He even covered a textbook in aluminum foil (presumably perfect for burning ants and/or household pets). But is the Web 2.0 effect on the icons a little overdone? Mouseover looks fine, but otherwise it looks like the effect was a little abused, causing the top left of the home button to look a little washed out. Personally I think it should be more faded than looking like Uncle Jesse‘s hair. But maybe that’s just me. The blue folders mentioned above have this same problem.

Around The Web Google

Google Maps Image Variation

Some may not know this, but as you zoom in with Google Maps, the imagery that’s used may change, as a result on occasion some strange things may happen. The following is a great example.

On Lybia’s shoreline (with the Mediterranean sea), you can tell there’s either some seasonal flooding, or some big tide difference. Open that link (as is), and zoom in 1 level. You’ll be able to see the difference. Still curious if it’s flooding or a tide thing.

Edit [9/18/06]: I should note at some point this will likely prove false, as Google occasionally updates the images.

Accettura Media Update

So it’s been about 10 days since I launched, and so far the response has been extremely positive. I made a few small changes to the system to improve the quality of “memorable” passwords, and I have now made the default length of passwords a minimum of 10, up from 8 (it’s actually is random between 10 and 14). A few slight UI fixes were also made.

Overall, very good first week. Thanks to those who gave feedback.

Apple Hardware

Airport Express 2.0? iTunes Movies?

Oh there’s so much to talk about. Next week (on Tuesday of course) Apple is supposed to reveal some new products and/or services.

  • Apple sent out a notice saying “It’s Show Time“… just smells like a movie service is coming.
  • Apple just updated the iMac line, and just released the Mac Pro, so desktop hardware doesn’t seem to likely to be a big focus.
  • iPods haven’t been updated in a long time, likely in part because Apple has been redoing them to use a Samsung chipset (Apple already uses Samsung SDRAM) rather than the PortalPlayer chip. Rumored to have a touch screen. Which I mentioned a while back (with a mock-up).
  • Apple’s also rumored to reveal a new Airport Express with support for video.
  • A cell phone is still said to be in the works (iPhone), but that’s not due until 2007.

I really like the idea of a video enabled Airport Express… I really want one already, and they haven’t even announced it yet.


Windows Vista Pricing

Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft went a bit over the top with Windows Vista pricing? Looking at the pricing for Windows Vista I’m starting to wonder how “worth while” it really is. It seems when you look at it, you very quickly get pushed to Windows Vista Ultimate (which is super expensive). Wikipedia has a decent rundown on differences between editions and pricing

And of course, if you use a PC who ships the OS in an image format (like IBM/Lenovo among others), the “upgrade” editions only work if you install the previous OS first. Making the task of reinstalling on a system just that much more complicated. I had that drag when upgrading a system from Windows 98SE to Windows XP. That’s right, I had to install Windows 98 on a new drive, before I could install XP! What a mess.

Come on Microsoft… make the pricing more reasonable, or perhaps have some financing options on the site, so it’s more like buying a car.

I just can’t imagine the average end user spending that much cash to have the headache of installing a new OS. So I’d assume this is just an effort to get people to buy new PC’s, rather than upgrade their old ones. I just don’t see average Joe spending hundreds on the nightmare that is OS upgrades. I really don’t see it. From what I’ve seen, most people are fed up with paying for a nightmare experience like that.

Funny In The News

Shaving linked to stroke risk

A BBC article points out a possible link between shaving, and having a stroke. I guess that’s just one more reason why Chuck Norris is invincible.

Apple Mozilla Web Development

The Need For Browser Testing

Ok, I’ve done a fair amount of work over the years in browser compatibility. From web development work, to writing the reporter tool. I’m well acquainted with the stress of testing your beautiful site against a dozen different browsers/versions/platforms. I just recently did so with which I launched the other day. IE5,5.5,6, Firefox 1.0, 1.5, and soon 3.0 (2.0 is pretty similar to 1.5, so likely not much trouble), Safari, Opera! It’s a drag.

What drives me nuts is I can’t keep parallel versions of IE on 1 system to test against. I want to test against IE 5.5, 6, and 7 (RC1 as of this post). This hack lets you have IE 7 as a standalone, but the broken stuff is rather critical.

So what does a web developer do?

  • Keep several computers lying around with different browser versions? This seems costly?
  • VMWare (or Parallels) with different configurations? This too is rather expensive, as Windows licenses aren’t just given out like Linux.
  • Install/uninstall each and every time? That’s excessively time consuming to test between just IE6 and IE 7.

I know there are some services out there that will give you screenshots of your page, but that doesn’t work for things like JavaScript functionality testing, and debugging. So those are effectively worthless for most purposes.

So what is the recommended approach to testing between IE versions? I haven’t been able to find any recommendation from Microsoft on the topic (if anyone knows of one, please point it out). Perhaps it’s a topic for the guys over at the IE Blog?

The same question goes for Safari? How can I a Mac OS X Tiger guy, test how my apps ran with whatever version of Safari someone with Mac OS X 10.3.6 would have? Or 10.2 (though to be honest, I have a 10.2 machine around)? Perhaps it’s a topic for their blog as well?

For the record, all Firefox releases can be found here, Opera can be found here.

So what’s the “best practice”? So far it seems the jury is out on IE and Safari. Firefox and Opera are a pain, but easily done. So what do you do?