Thursday, November 17, 2005


A high definition web experience

If you read a few of my posts, you'll notice that I'm not a fan of sites that use Flash, where particular examples which I've commented on include Flickr (now thankfully gone the AJAX route), Yahoo maps and most recently Google Analytics.

Robert Scoble just linked to the Flash Troll Generator, of which he says:
"Hate Flash? You'll like this site. Done by Oliver Steele. Personally I don't agree with Oliver."
This seems to suggest that Robert thinks this site is anti-Flash, whereas by trotting out the regular trolls, and labelling them as such, it seems to me that it's precisely the opposite.

On the other hand, Robert then notes, "It's time for a higher definition web", with the implication through proximimity that Flash is the way to a higher definition web (especially when you read his next post, which is about Laszlo mail, which is an email client written in Flash).

I'm fully in agreement with Robert in wanting a higher definition web, but Flash doesn't seem to me to be stepping in that direction.

A large part of higher definition to me means that I can zoom in at will to see the details I want. Examples of this in my regular browser, running regular HTML and AJAX based web sites are:

All of these features work on all web pages - that's a high definition web experience to me.

There are plenty of other examples I could use which are currently more specialized, but which all look forward to an even higher definition web. These include:

In contrast to all of these, tends to Flash provide me with a low definition experience. The data is trapped in what is often a fixed size box on the page. With it's gaming and presentation heritage, the artwork is often literally low definition - eyecatching no doubt, but not particularly useful. Simple web conventions and behaviours are broken - whether its the back button, chosing to open new links in new windows or tabs, bookmarking specific information, saving the page to disk etc.

I've no doubt that it's possible to program high featured applications in Flash, and Lazlomail is up there with the best of them, but for me high features on their own (rich client if you prefer that terminology), does not on its own make for a high definition experience, when I lose so much in getting there.

It's similarly possible to program AJAX badly, but when done well the result is also a rich client experience, without throwing out all the existing browser experience that makes for a high definition web.

Robert ends his note on Lazlomail with a comment that Lazlo are building a platform - and that Flash is just the first target of that platform, with AJAX yet to come. That gives me hope - we may reach a very high definition web when we can mix the existing high definition web browsing experience with the undoubted innovation that some rich client experimentation is showing us now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Why does the Google Analytics UI suck so much?

Google Analytics launched this week, and has certainly had its fair share of teething troubles in the first couple of days - with registration suspended for periods as the servers stuggled to cope with the demand.

However, now that I've managed to get it set up, I'm very unimpressed with the UI, which is poor in a number of respects.
Having said all that, the rest of the experience outside of the Flash displayed content is actually quite good. There's a good amount of AJAX driven dynamism to the site, and the data is laid out reasonably (with the possible exception of a wide strip of unused white space down the right of the page - could this be reserved for advertising I wonder?)

I'm also glad to see that there is the facility to export the data in alternative formats of tab separated data, xml, and as Excel data. However, this always seems to be restricted to the current view - I can't see a way to export all the data at once, which would be very useful.

Another disappointment is the poor support for printing - there is a "print" button, but all this does is hide a bit of the navigation - the layout of the remaining items is not adjusted at all to take advantage of the capabilites of the printed page. Compare this to Google Maps, which makes sure that printed driving instructions look good on paper, with a quite different appearance to that which is appropriate for on screen display.

Update: Found another problem with the map - when you click on a result on the map, it shows you a set of details in a popup - but the popup always appears below and to the right of the point. So, when you have a load of points in Australia to look at, the popups are truncated since they can't go outside the Flash borders, so you can't see the data.


Official Google Maps API blog

Bret Taylor, Product Manager of Google Maps and Google Local, has announced the opening of an official blog to support the Google Maps API.

The first post is uninspired, but it does promise:
This should certainly be an easier communication mechanism to follow than the existing Google Group.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Grid coordinates in the Netherlands

Whilst considering producing a mashup with a database containing locations in the Netherlands, I was dealing with coordinates in the Dutch nation grid system known as RD coordinates (Rijksdriehoeksmeting).

For one off conversions there is an online converter which will convert to latitude and longitude.

As is very often the case, the wikipedia article on the Netherlands is a very good general reference.. It explains

There is a west-east coordinate between 0 and 280 km, and a south-north coordinate between 300 and 620 km. The reference point is the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwentoren (Our Lady's tower) in Amersfoort, with RD coordinates (155.000, 463.000) and geographic coordinates ca. 52°9′ N 5°23′ E

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Lots of releases today

The past 24 hours has seen a flurry of new releases:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Virtual Earth mashups competition results

Mashups using Microsoft's Virtual Earth have been slow to arrive - probably because although the API may be easier to use, the underlying mapping experience is much poorer (and noone really wants to tie their application yet to what was obviously a very rushed beta).

In an effort to kick start things, Microsoft's arms-length developer site organized a competition, offering a $1000 first prize, for mapping applications developed using their API.

The results are now available, with the top prize going to
Honourable mentions are also made to
It's apparent there is a sharp drop off in quality with these second placed entries. Perhaps they work better in IE rather than the Mozilla browser which I have installed.

(I feel that the competition may have shot itself in the foot - as well as the first prize, there were other lesser prizes offered to the "first 25 entries to arrive" - which rather makes a quickly coded but poorly produced entry a worthwhile proposition).