Transcending the Traditional Web

A blog about building compelling, mobile and web-enabled software solutions.

March, 2009

Posts
  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Join the Microsoft Partner Program, Get Expression Web

    • 2 Comments

    Microsoft Canada has a great offer for any Canadian web solution provider that isn’t already a Registered Microsoft Partner.

    For a limited time, we are offering a free copy of Expression Web 2, our premier web design tool for building compelling web sites.

    All you need to do is go to this site, register as Microsoft Partner on the site (which is completely free) and enter your Partner ID to get your free copy of Expression Web 2.

    There are many other benefits with this offer as well.  We are offering access to free training on Microsoft web platform technologies, great hosting offers and other benefits as well.

    In addition to all that, by registering as a Microsoft Partner, you get other offers for training, deeply discounted software to help you start your business as well as support from Microsoft to help you grow your business.

    If you haven’t registered as a Microsoft Partner yet, this may be a great time to do it!

    -Paul

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    A Brief History of MIX: Feet on Ground, Eyes on Cloud

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    What can we expect at this week’s intersection of design and technology in Las Vegas?

    Before a week for looking forward, a brief pause and a quick look back for context.

    MIX06: “The Next Web Now.”

    3 years ago, Microsoft launched this hip series of conferences, inviting a cross-platform audience of business decision makers, developers and designers (…wait… designers?!).

    The inaugural keynote explored the opportunities that would emerge as the internet “evolves… and ‘web’ and ‘application’ concepts merge.”

    It was the only MIX keynote to star Bill Gates as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, and featured a fireside chat between Bill and Tim O’Reilly, and Bill’s mea culpa about the state of IE6.

    MIX07: “A 72-Hour Conversation”

    The conference’s sophomore year was billed as a “72-hour conversation” at a time when the rampant success of social networking was all the buzz.

    Ray Ozzie took the helm, WPF/E got its new look and name, and so we saw .NET boldly go cross-browser, cross-platform - at least, in CTP form.

    MIX08

    Loosely, the following year’s theme was (loosely) connected things: their impact on the individual, their impact on the organization.  “Small pieces, loosely joined” was I believe how Ray put it.

    And then there were Rich Internet Applications. Silverlight 2.0, the highly anticipated enabler, went Beta.  Designers (I thought) were finally somewhat understood, even if their Microsoft toolset was still fermenting.

    There was an explicit expectation set by Ray, Steve and Company that MIX08 represented but one of several steps on the road to something big at the PDC coming in the autumn.

    PDC2008

    Then, months later, Silverlight 2.0 was unleashed on the wild, with 3.0 already on the horizon. But wait… were we even talking about the presentation layer any more, or, with Silverlight’s eventual impact firmly impressed upon us, had we moved on to discuss awesome sky-plumbing instead?

    We’re talkin’ Azure, Live Services too numerous to mention, data and enterprise service buses and meshes in the sky, a bookstore that got there first, Models and Domain-Specific Languages (see Don Box’s characterization of this dreadfully wond’rous craic), and so much more, all available streamed online now for your viewing pleasure.

    MIX09

    So we begin MIX09 with feet tentatively on the presentation layer, but eyes on this intriguing Cloud on the horizon.

    The MIX09 Session List alone would suggest an emphasis (by session number) on:

    • Silverlight (31) and UI/UX (16),
    • Azure (11) and Live Services (8),
      and
    • ASP.NET (14)

    Bill Gates at MIX06 

    Bill Gates at MIX06

     

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

     

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

     

    I mentioned previously that I visit MIX for the buzz.  This week I’m there again to meet, to chat, and to think — and specifically, to ask what should we do with all this  stuff? What could I do for my clients? For their organizations? For my own projects?

    Even if you’re not able to attend, the keynote will be streamed live, and you’ll have a chance to ask ScottGu some questions online 30 minutes after it’s over.

    We’re three years into this MIX journey to The Next Web.  This week, we expect to gain insight into Microsoft’s perspective on the road ahead.  I’m going to try to write here daily, and figure out how to use this Twitter thing as well.  Inspired by keynote speaker Bill Buxton, I may even try my hand at a little sketching, and change up my technology choices as an audience member for the keynote and sessions. (hint: thinking of leaving the laptop behind).

    Right - that’s enough context - I’m off to Vegas to Mix things up a little!

     

    This blog post was originally posted at http://robburke.net/2009/03/16/a-brief-history-of-mix-feet-on-ground-eyes-on-cloud/.

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 1: The “Software” in “Software + Services”

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    Today’s MIX09 Day 1 Keynote and Sessions put the ‘Software’ into Microsoft’s ‘Software plus Services’ vision.

    It was the “feet on [presentation layer] ground” bit, made memorable by the energetic call to action delivered by Bill Buxton to get things started. His job was to deliver the “what”, and the Blend team is helping provide the “how.”

    MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton
    MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton

    Hotlinked Play-By-Play

    Tim Sneath has a thorough and thoughtfully hotlinked play-by-play of the keynote in two parts - here and here.  And fellow Canadian Jean-Luc David took over 500 keynote photos which I am sure he will filter before he uploads them here on Flickr, because apparently the man does not need sleep!

    In the spirit of Bill’s Sketching User Experiences, I drew a mindmap, even though I have all the artistic ability of a slug (see below).

    Blend 3 and SketchFlow

    The most important words on my entire mind map the morning were “THEY HAVE CHANNELLED BUXTON”.

    SketchFlow in Blend 3 looks superb. SketchFlow and its player will, unquestionably, change the way I flesh out user experiences to clients and get their feedback.  It will be very interesting to see how this tool actually gets used in practice, and evolves as designers and developers embrace it.  It’s not SketchFlow’s intent to replace all other forms of sketching, but rather to augment them with something innovative and useful.  I hope it will also improve developer/designer communication, by providing a tool and talking point that both can use.

    MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red
    MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red

    Silverlight 3

    Although nothing surprised me per se during the Silverlight 3 announcements, that was a good thing. There are significant improvement in v3, and answers to some (but not all) hopes.

    The very promising: Updates like offline capabilities, server data push (caching on client), VisualStateManager invalid states and validation, Merged ResourceDictionaries, etc., that will address important shortcomings and challenges for people building Silverlight line-of-business apps.  Things like SaveFileDialog.

    The important: Better text (desperately needed), library caching (for reducing download time - how many of my SL2 apps bundle whittled-down bits of the SL Toolkit?), sample data.

    The cool: GPU support (opt-in @ plug-in and control levels). Multitouch support. Perspective 3D, which will be much more approachable than the 3D support in WPF, and address most of the scenarios where 3D adds UX value.  Pixel Shader effects - which aren’t hardware accelerated, but look good. Pixel and Bitmap APIs which open up new scenarios.

    The awesome postscript.: Siverlight 3.0 runtime is actually 30k smaller than Silverlight 2! Madness!

    The things I hoped for but didn’t find in v3: Commanding, Printing (unless you count Nikhil’s “make an ASP.NET page and print that” solution), FlowDocument.

    The change in messaging that I didn’t expect: I attended BradA and NikhilK’s Silverlight presentations in the afternoon for more information about building business apps in Silverlight 3, and feel like I need a little more time for all of it to settle in.  The core message seems to have shifted a bit: from “you can run Silverlight on any web server”" to “you can run Silverlight anywhere, but it’s better together with ASP.NET, and you can use ASP.NET to obtain some things you’re looking for in Silverlight, like SEO and Printing.”  I’m also a little foggy on how some of the this ‘prescriptive framework’ all fits into where my mind was going with Prism and MVVM for Silverlight, as proposed by the Patterns and Practices group.

    IIS Media Services: As someone who’s more Dev than IT Pro, I’m not best qualified to comment on this… but adaptive, on-demand and live streaming sounds and looks pretty amazing.

    The New Microsoft-ism: It’s the verb “to party,” which I heard in contexts such as these:

    “now we can party over this data we got back”, and

    “you can go ahead and party on this query now” or in summary

    “I’m super-jazzed that we can go ahead and party over this data we’ve got back from the DataSource.”

    I expect tomorrow we will party over the cloud.  (The cloud and Azure, although mentioned, were not today’s focus by any stretch).

    And that’s why this MIX09 Keynote half-sketch is really upside down, isn’t it? I should have left the top side of the page to deal with the part that’s “in the clouds!”

    MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap
    MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap (would make a nice deep zoom)

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 2: “Return on Experience”

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmallCATKR3TE

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

     

    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote
    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote

    Bill Buxton, the Spirit of MIX09 (who, incidentally, now has a typeface named after him), was very welcome back for this morning’s keynote to introduce Deborah Adler, whose work as principal designer for Target’s ClearRx medicine bottles provided the focus for our discussion about design and its impact on user experience.

    ClearRx Case Study

    Deborah’s research identified and addressed many serious problems with traditional medicine bottles. Her prototype was refined by Target into the ClearRx products, and the resulting “return on experience” includes brand awareness for Target — and, much more importantly, the potential to change behavior and save human lives.

    Her advice to us was twofold - to have a love affair with our customers, and to bring our design skills to bear both humanly and humanely.

    There is more information about Deborah’s work at the Target:Health site.

    [Update: I just saw Robby Ingebretsen's post and agree with him - these two keynotes together (and particularly, Deborah and Bill's contributions) made for the best and most inspiring MIX keynotes yet.]

    Clear Rx
    Clear Rx (link goes to Target ClearRx site)

    IE8: In other keynote news, Dean Hachamovitch announced that Internet Explorer 8 was released today.

    For more info: You can now watch streaming video of the keynotes (for both days) here, and Tim Sneath’s thorough Play-by-Play is here and here.

    The Cloud?

    So I expected today’s keynote was going to be about the Cloud. I was totally wrong.  But it’s all good.

    My Mind Map, with Day 2 on the bottom, now makes more sense: the “Return on Experience” discussion provides the roots for everything we’ve discussed at MIX09 this week.

    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2
    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2 - with Return on Experience at the root

    p.s. More Misc MIX notes on the rest of Day 2 in a future post — I am shattered tonight. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk was particularly memorable (link goes to his killer TED talk).

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  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Inspirations: Back to the Drawing Board

    • 1 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmallCAZH1CS5

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    In the hope they may also inspire you, here are four other sources of inspiration I found at MIX09,

    Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place
    1. Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place

    1. Bill Buxton’s visit to “The Third Place.” He cites Henry Dreyfuss’s “Designing for People” as the next must-read book after his (preferably 1st Ed.). Render in the correct fidelity. Don’t rely on a “muse.” Consider minimally five alternatives. Persona and “Place-ona.” “Design is Choice.”

    Johnny Lee at TED
    2. Johnny Lee and HCI wonders

    2. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk. @shanselman a fanboi too. Know Johnny? Watch his MIX talk. Don’t know him yet? Check his TED talk first, which was worthy of a standing ovation. Johnny on the future of HCI: Dive off today’s local maxima. Want more HCI? Follow UIST, SigGraph, SigCHI, UBICOMP.

    Joe Fletcher MIX09 Surface Session - already online!
    3. Joe Fletcher Surface Session - online!

    3. Joseph Fletcher delivered a mightily polished Touch Computing presentation yesterday, and the session video is already online! Surface UX is “Hyper-real,” and Surface is Social, Seamless, Spatial.

    MmmmmUrl
    4. MmmmmUrl

    4. Purdy & Sells delivered an energetic talk on their RESTful DSL MUrl. Interested in languages, human and machine? “Oslo” and “M” are sexy. Probably this a good place to start. Their MIX09 Session is here.

    Back to the Drawing Board - Literally

    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote
    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote

    To sum it up, there are four things I carried away from MIX09:

    1. Bill Buxton urges us to focus on people, and craft our technology with informed design.
    2. Johnny Lee says we’ll need to get off our local maxima and be uncomfortable before we can progress.
    3. Joseph Fletcher and his team want to invent a totally new paradigm.
    4. Purdy and Sells were among speakers and teams too numerous to mention who introduced potentially game-changing technologies with which we can innovate.

    This reaction in our community is consistent with the global sense of a need for something new.  Put simply, the status quo isn’t good enough any more.

    This message was embodied by Deborah Adler.  There’s a reason why Microsoft so boldly chose to focus half a keynote on Ms. Adler’s contribution — it’s time for us to stop thinking like techies, and start thinking about the people using our creations, and the contexts in which they’ll be using them.

    To get there, we were all encouraged to use unconventional tools, and reminded that big ideas can come from going back to basics: a sheet of paper and a decent pen.

    I’m sure I’ll see more techies at the local cafe, rubbing elbows with thinkers who have always used these basic methods to achieve greatness.

    Until Next Year…

    As I type, the sessions are coming online at the VisitMIX site. Through a fog of tweets and jetlag this morning in Toronto, I was struck hard that MIX has made me want to return to doing the stuff that brought me here in the first place, whatever that means for me in 2009.

    I want to extend my thanks to the organizers of MIX for so much inspiration, and to the Microsoft Canada team for letting me share MIX09 with you.

    MIX09 boldly declared that “The Next Web” is a place where design matters.  We were taught to seek returns on user experiences, and think first about how our creations influence lives.  This is a future I want to help invent.

    Looking forward to continuing the discussion. You can always find me at robburke.net.

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Understanding the Microsoft Web Platform

    • 1 Comments

    A common complaint that I hear from people who build web solutions is that when they try to start building web solutions on the Microsoft Platform, they hit a wall because of 2 things:

    1. There is so much information they don’t even know where to start.
    2. There is no consolidated set of resources that give them a launch pad for learning and using the Microsoft Web Platform.

    The fact of the matter is, the people I talk to are right!   We literally have gigabytes of very useful and relevant information for anyone that wants to build great web solutions with our tools and platform technologies but there are so many places where you need to go to get that information it becomes frustrating and turns people away.

    Well, we’ve heard these complaints and to help you get the resources you need, we have provided a Canadian-focused portal for building web solutions on the Microsoft platform.  This portal is intended to provide a launch pad for finding the information you need about our web platform.  This includes:

    • Information on the tools you need to build on our platform and where to get them
    • Learning facilities where you can get online training on our platform technologies – for free!
    • Information on how to join the Microsoft Partner Program and why registering for free can help you grow your business
    • Offers on software, 3rd party training and other benefits to help you get up to speed at a reduced cost
    • Whitepapers to help you understand some of our best practices for building Microsoft-based web solutions
    • Links to important blogs on our web platform
    • How to find a hosting partner for your solution on Windows
    • and much, much more

    If you are building web solutions on the Microsoft platform or if you are thinking about it, I strongly encourage you to visit the site.  If you have feedback on the site, please let me know by submitting a comment to this post!

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags: Web Development Resource

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Welcome Swag (includes Sketching UX book!)

    • 0 Comments

    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

     

     

    MIX09 Swag Bag
    MIX09 Swag Bag

    This year’s Swag Bag Contents:

    • 1 Sketching User Experiences book (highly cool - I already gave my previous copy to a friend)
    • 1 MIX09 Notebook (also cool -this image does not do justice to the pages of the notebook, which alternate graph and plain. Session eval forms attached to back.)
    • 1 MIX09 T-Shirt with “<3 Your Web” slogan
    • 1 “Live at Kexp” Music CD (KEXP is a non-profit Seattle-based Radio Station)

    MIX09 Mystery Sticker
    MIX09 Mystery Sticker

    • 1 Sticker Thingamayoke which I have yet to grok (at first I thought it was maybe something that Lego Mindstorms sensors could do image recognition with or something, now it looks to me like an abstract representation of web content)
    • 1 Clip-On Flashlight
    • 1 Pen
    • 1 Water Bottle - handy for us winter-pasty Canoodians, as it is 22 degrees Celsius here and sunny!
    • 1 Coffee Mug
    • Misc Advertisements (not pictured)

    For reference, here’s what was in the MIX07 Swag.

    MIX07 Welcome Swag
    MIX07 Welcome Swag

    I’m most grateful for another copy of Buxton’s insightful book!

    I wonder if we’ll have any software to play with tomorrow, or if we’ll be downloading lab content ourselves.  I always come armed with extra storage to events like these in case I need to truck home some VPCs.

     

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  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Coffee and Code: A great idea and I’ll be there today!

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    My colleague Joey deVilla is brilliant.  He sets up the coolest events and really connects with the developer audience.  He’s now come up with an interesting concept called “Coffee and Code” where he picks a Toronto-based coffee house and spends the day there so developers can show up and chat with him.

    I wish I had thought of it myself, but since I didn’t I decided to join him at today’s Coffee & Code in Toronto.  From Joey’s Coffee and Code Blog:

    Yes, there’s going to be a Coffee and Code in Toronto this Friday, March 13th, and this time, it’s going to be midtown. I’ll be holding it at the Starbucks at Yonge at Davisville (1909 Yonge Street, right by Davisville subway station) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m..

    Map picture

    This particular Starbucks branch is pretty big, with a large second floor. A number of local groups, such as the Toronto Spanish Group, the “Mompreneurs” and other business networking groups have used it as a meetup location. The WiFi isn’t free, but if you have a Starbucks card with at least a $5 balance, you get two hours’ worth of wifi access at any wifi-equipped Starbucks every day.

    I’m planning to show up for around 11AM and I’ll likely stay until around 3PM, so please drop by if you can and say hello!

     

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