December, 2007

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Mini-Tutorial] Create Your Own Video Play Experience


    In my last mini-tutorial, I showed you how to publish Silverlight video experience to Silverlight streaming using Expression Encoder. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create your own video player template and reuse it on your blogs or websites. The process is very straight forward and you can leverage a lot of exciting templates to build your own video player. No coding is necessary unless you want to code! :-)

    Here are the major steps to create your own video player template for Expression Encoder:

    1. Start off by choosing an existing player from the Encoder template folder, which is  located at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Expression\Encoder 1.0\Templates\en folder. An advantage of using an existing player template is that all the necessary files are there. All you need to do is changing the player interface. All the player controls should be already working.
    2. Save a working copy of the chosen template (I'll refer it as "working template folder" later on) to your desktop or your preferred location to edit.
    3. Open the template project in Expression Blend and edit the player.xaml file in Blend to your own look. Save the project in Blend!
    4. Final fixes:
      • Change the Default.html file in the working template folder. Give an appropriate name to the template. The name will up in the template list in Expression Encoder.
      • Change the StartPlayer.js. Make sure the AutoPlay attribute is set to "false" if you don't want the player to play right away when the webpage loads.
      • Update the Preview.JPEG in the working template folder with the new template look.
    5. Paste the working template folder into C:\Program Files\Microsoft Expression\Encoder 1.0\Templates\en folder
    6. Restart Expression Encoder. Now you have your own template in the Encoder template list and you can reuse it many times.

    Feel free to download my MapleLeave player template here. I renamed it to be "CanUX2."

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] CanUX 2007: Accessible User Experience Design


    Imagine you listen to a webpage rather than view it in order to decide how to interact with it. How different is it? How fast should the webpage be read to you by a screen reader? What's the logical order should the screen reader read the page so that it makes sense to you? If you have a minute and haven't heard a screen reader reading a website before. I strongly encourage you to listen to the first minute of my podcast, where I showed a clip from a screen reader. It'll give you a whole new perspective on user experience design. It's quite challenging already to design for everyday users, what about designing for the people who can't see, move, or remember,...

    I have a chance to sit down with Derek Featherstone at CanUX. Derek is a web accessibility guru, he founded the web development and accessibility consultancy Further Ahead, which is based in Ottawa. We talked about his view on accessible user experience design, the common mistakes designers make related web accessibility, tips for accessible web design, and the opportunity of making website more accessible with today's rich web applications built in AJAX and scripting languages.

    The screen reader clip I showed can be found here.

    Derek Featherstone

    Derek Featherstone is a well known instructor, speaker and developer with expertise in web accessibility consulting.

    Derek delivers technical training that is engaging, informative and immediately applicable. A high-quality instructor, he draws on his background as a former high school teacher plus seven years running his web development and accessibility consultancy Further Ahead, based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

    His experience includes hands-on development, web accessibility consulting and training. He advises many government agencies, educational institutions and private sector companies providing them with expert accessibility testing and review and recommendations for improving the accessibility of their web sites to all people.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Guest Blogger] MVP Award Program – What is it all about (part 2 of 2)


    guestblogger Sasha Krsmanovic , MVP Lead, Microsoft Canada

    In my previous guest blog entry I touched on some “MVP Program Basics”. I received a few notes from people who read it and thought they are a good match. I look forward to receiving more and possibly getting a few new MVPs out of all those contacts I made. In this guest blog entry I will try to answer  the question every blog reader looks for in a blog entry - “what’s in it for me?”. Speaking to such a wide range of developers who read this blog, it’s difficult to answer this question. The answer that I can offer is what’s in it for MVPs who are already part of the program....

    Before I get into the benefits, Qixing asked me to cover the type of communities I will be looking at when I look for MVPs. It is hard to say – but I am pretty sure I will cover both online and offline communities. For starters, I will be evaluating top participants at the Expressions Community discussions (see snip below). Some MVPs are already there – you can see the MVP logo attached to their signature. Also, I will be attending as many offline events such as code camps and bar camps to look for key community experts there. Of course, I will lean on Qixing to provide me some tips here as well :).


    I promised to cover some of the MVP Program ‘benefits’ and Microsoft product group (PG) interaction in my last entry. Well, these two are kind of tied together. The ability to talk to a developer who developed a specific feature on i.e. Expression or Silverlight is generally seen as a great benefit by MVPs. When answering developer questions, on forums or on stage, it is useful to have a connection to the right people. If an immediate answer is not available, we can generally connect the MVPs and the Expression or WFP product group to help find a correct answer. We do this through private newsgroups, monthly live meetings, conference calls and chats – whatever is best suited for particular MVP / PG combo, which is kind of neat. “

    However, according to most of the MVPs I talk to, the biggest benefit is the ability to connect to other MVPs. The MVP Program facilitates this in a number of ways, both online (private newsgroups, Live meetings) and offline (i.e. Local, country specific MVP Open Days, MVP Summit). MVP Summit is the highlight of the year for me. Last year we had a 5-day MVP Summit in Redmond. Some 1600 MVPs from all over the world came and collaborated with the Product Group. I already mentioned MVPs are sometimes our biggest critics – and this really comes out during these face-to-face meetings.  A lot, if not all, of MVPs have new ideas on how to make the products better. During the summit we get a chance to discuss many of those ideas. This could potentially be your chance to make a change in the next Microsoft product. I already mentioned it before -  7/10 biggest RFCs (requests for change) for Visual Studio 2005 came from MVPs!!

    On that same note, the MVP summit is not the only place MVPs get to influence Microsoft products. MVPs are involved in pre-alpha, alpha and beta/CTP releases (depending on how much free time they have J). So, throughout the year they give us feedback on what they think needs to be changed. As MVPs spend a lot of time in the community, they know very well what the community thinks about certain features of the ‘current release’ and they are the main voice of the community back to the product group.

    There are many other ‘benefits’ which I think, and I am sure many of my MVPs would agree, are nice to have but not a reason why they are MVPs  – i.e. MSDN / TechNet subscriptions, etc. These subscriptions are worth a few hundred dollars and if you are spending hundreds of hours in the community just to get a technical subscription, then I’m not sure that’s the best use of your time. I said it in my previous blog entry, and I will say it again – they are in this for the good of the technical community without expecting to get anything back for it.  

    Some MVPs say having a dedicated person – MVP Lead - handling the relationship between them and Microsoft is a pretty big benefit as well. On that note, and if you are more of a “podcast type”, here are the Channel 9 podcasts from my peers in the US (Part 2 & Part 3), discussing where MVPs can be found and what are some of the other benefits of MVP Program (website, public profile, award kit, etc). You are also welcome to check out the MVP Profile of John Marshall, a Visio MVP from Ottawa.

    This entry concludes my 2-blog series on MVP Program. If there is anything else you would like to hear about, feel free to drop me a line.

    - Sasha

    Sasha Krsmanovic (MVP Lead)

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Popfly Your Blog


    If you haven't played with Popfly yet, it's time to! I created he following simple photo mash-up in less then 30 seconds. I took the CanUX 2007 photos on flickr mashed up with the carousel display. I set it to extract 8 photos from Flickr that have the tag "CanUX 2007."

    image image

    Popfly team has a very short video on mash-up basics. There are many ways you can share your popfly projects with others (see the list above) such as embedded in your blog like I did here or use it as Windows Vista or Live Spaces gadgets. You can even send it as a Ecard. Just in time for the holiday. :-)

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Mini-Tutorial] Publishing Video Experience to Silverlight Streaming


    I had an early tutorial on how to embed podcasts and screencasts in blog posts using Silverlight Streaming service. At that time, there was no publishing features in Expression Encoder to allow direct publishing of your video/audio experience once you encode them. Since then, our Encoder team has added a Silverlight Streaming Publishing Plug-In to make the encode-to-publish workflow really easy. Check out my updated tutorial below. Double click on the video player to view it in full screen. Make sure you have the following installed on your computer before starting the tutorial:



    • Install Live Writer: Configure to Publish to Live Spaces or your own blog)
    • Install Live Writer Plug-in: Insert a Silverlight Streaming Application (This plug-in was written by James Clarke on the Expression Encoder team. Trust him!)

    You can also follow the link below to download a step-by-step instruction document on how to do this.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Blend 2 December Preview and Blend SP1 are Available!


    image With the recent release of Visual Studio 2008, the December Preview of Expression Blend 2 is available now to better integrate with VS2008 and support designers and developers working together. Also, just last week, the Expression Blend team released Blend (i.e. Blend 1) Service Pack 1 to enhance its integration with VS2008 and update Blend with latest changes and minor fixes. If you have the release version of Blend or Expression Blend installed on your machine, make sure you download the SP1.

    The following are some of changes made between the Expression Blend September Preview and the December Preview. For the detailed list, see here.

    • Font Embedding and Subsetting
      More of WPF's text properties are now exposed via Blend: Beyond just providing access to new properties, Blend December Preview also allows you to have greater control over how fonts are embedded so that users who do not have the specified font installed on their machines can still view the content as designed.
    • Support for WPF 3.5's 3D Features
      WPF 3.5 introduces some new 3D types, and while Blend doesn't allow you to use them directly, one can make modifications manually in XAML to use them. Manually created 3D objects using the new types are recognized by Blend, and one can use the 3D adorners to manipulate those objects in the scene.
    • Web Site Projects Listen for External File Changes
      When editing a web site project simultaneously in Blend as well as Visual Studio, any changes made in Visual Studio are now properly picked up by Blend.
    • Improved Keyboard Shortcuts Consistency with Expression Design
      A number of keyboard shortcuts in Blend have been updated to be more consistent with the keyboard shortcuts in Expression Design.
    • Silverlight Projects are now Treated as Web Sites
      New Silverlight 1.0 projects will be created in the form of Web Sites as opposed to Application.
  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] CanUX 2007: The Process of Innovation


    DSCN0889"Everyone is creative to certain extent. There are different levels of creativity. ... An innovation process is like a roadmap." Kes Sampanthar, the creator of ThinkCube, said to me in our chat following he and his wife's presentation on innovation tools and techniques. This is one of my favorite presentations at CanUX07 because I love the fact that there are concrete steps people can follow to be creative. In our 12-minute chat below, Kes talked about the five steps or phrases of innovation: Preparation, Incubation, Insight, Evaluation, and Elaboration.  Also, he pointed out that when we are coming up with good ideas to solve problems, we have the tendency to stop once we have one good idea. The different innovation techniques can help us to come up with more ideas or building on existing ideas. Then we can a pool of good ideas to choose from. The innovation process consists of complex mental tasks, so a game like ThinkCube is a fun way to practice these skills. I included a list of innovation resource below for your reference.

    Innovation Resource

    Process: Preparation -> Incubation -> Insight -> Evaluation -> Elaboration


    Books and Tools:

    Kes and Sue Sampanthar are the partners at MetaMemes, a company that makes tools to help people innovate. Building on the successful 2004 release of the eponymous innovation game MetaMemes, they have just release ThinkCube, an innovation system for individuals and teams.

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