Thursday, March 30, 2006

SEOmoz's Web 2.0 awards

Two days ago announced their Web 2.0 awards. Speaking frankly, I have no idea how representative these awards are – or what exactly SEOmoz is? (SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization – but what that has to do with Web 2.0 I am not sure). The list of applications, however, is long and quite interesting. While I definitely do not agree with some of the awards, I enjoyed reading the list, and discovered quite many new applications there (well, new for me at least).

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

GDC 2006

Just returned from GDC 2006. That was my first GDC, and I was overwhelmed with almost every aspect of the conference. Crowds of interesting people, booths of multitude of companies, famous ones and unknown ones, having to chose from several equally interesting lectures and having only three days to enjoy this event…

Here are some of my impressions from GDC. This is not my notes – just some disjointed musings.

The biggest disappointment of GDC for me was Will Wright’s keynote speech. Everyone was waiting for the speech by the cult game designer on “What’s next in game design” (at least, that’s how it was declared in the conference schedule). He was assigned the largest auditorium – and the line of people wishing to attend his speech wrapped around the building. But, instead of sharing his ideas on game design, Will spent an hour talking about astrobiology and research he had done for his next game, “Spore”. I was angry because of the wasted hour and the lack of respect that Will demonstrated towards his audience.

“Spore” was, in some sense, one of the most talked about games in the conference. Several lectures were dedicated to different aspects of this game – which was strange for me, since the game was not released yet.

One of the hot topics of the conference was prototyping. There were several lectures directly dedicated to prototyping (I’ve listened to one – “Advanced Prototyping” – it was really good); and it also was discussed in many other lectures, from all possible angles – what to prototype, how, when and why?

A curious session named “Burn, baby, burn!” was led by Eric Zimmerman from GameLab and was nothing else but game developers ranting about different issues. Funny, but most rants were about ranting too much!

The indie games presented at the Independent Games Festival were really impressive. Several games that caught my eye:
  • "Braid" - a game exploiting the idea of "rewinding time", but adding some very unusual twists.

  • "Strange Attractors" - a game with one- button control. The game reminds a pinball table, where the player can control the gravitational forces between objects on the field.

  • "Ocular Ink " -gesture- controlled game with interesting system of gestures.

Another hot topic at the conference was emotional game design. It seems like emotions in the games are the next “big thing. It’s too sad that, while pursuing emotional aspect, designers often forget that the game, first of all, should be fun. Some of “emotional” games, presented at GDC, were quite boring (for me, at least).

Conference ended on Friday with a perfect finishing touch: “Video Games Live” show, where a symphonic orchestra was playing music from different video games, both old and new, while some video clips from the games were projected on a huge screen on the stage. This was truly a memorable event!

I am very happy that I went to GDC this year – and ready to go there next year!

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ma.gnolia - impressions

So, I spent significant time last week sorting my bookmarks in ma.gnolia. Here are my impressions so far.

What is good:
  • Overall page design. Nice colors, clean, easy to read and navigate. The ads are pretty unobtrusive.

  • Ability to have private bookmarks.

  • Import feature.

  • Nice auto-suggestions when adding tags.

  • If I got it right, the site uses some king of fuzzy search when selecting tagged items, and this is good – it helps when I have accidentally created similar tags (reference and references, for example)

  • Nice bookmarklet for FireFox – and Google toolbar add-on for IE!

  • Community features seem to be good – though I don’t use them as much.

Now, what I think can be improved:
  • Bookmark layout. Each bookmark occupies too much space – it would be great to have (at least, as an option) more condensed mode.

  • Too many page loads. To edit details of a bookmark, I need to go to the “Edit bookmark” page, then, after saving, I’m getting “Bookmark details” page – and if I was working on some tag, I have to go to “Tags” page again, and select the necessary tag. In-place editor would help a lot.

  • Tag list is not present on every page. As a result, an extra page load is needed when I want to open another tag.

  • Limited search options. No support for NOT, OR operators. AND operator is supported (represented by comma), but not documented (information from

And some more notes:
  • Currently Ma.gnolia has no API – but, according to the site, it is in works.

  • The “Page thumbnail” feature is cool, and there is an example of creative usage of this feature (, but, unfortunately, quite many screenshots are incorrect or outdated. In the FAQ, Ma.gnolia team explains: “Ma.gnolia uses a third-party service to create the small images of saved copies of web pages. Sometimes the service gives us an out of date image of a web page, or an image from another part of the web site.”

Overall, I am happy with ma.gnolia – but, probably, will check out some other services, too.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Ma.gnolia team is great!

Wow, I’m really impressed by Ma.gnolia! When I posted my previous post, I didn’t expect that people from Ma.gnolia will react to it (hey, I didn’t even think they will read it!). So, imagine how I was surprised when a couple of hours after posting I found a reply to my post in my mailbox. The reply was from Ma.gnolia, and they offered me help with my import problem.

So, I wrote a message to them, and for two days the guys worked with me trying to troubleshoot my import process. At last they found the reason for the import failure (it turned out that Linkman produced incorrect bookmark file), and suggested another way to import my bookmarks.

And so, now I am a happy Ma.gnolia user! I am busy sorting and organizing my bookmarks now – not an easy thing to do, though the import process converted my folders into tags, so I’m not starting it from scratch.

I’ve never seen such a level of attention to users! Thank you, Ma.gnolia team!

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In search of bookmarking tool

Well, well, well… I am definitely not an early adopter – on the contrary, usually I wait for quite some time before trying some new technology. It happened already with RSS and with blogging – now I am ready to try social bookmarking!

To be more precise, I am not that excited with the social bookmarking – I just need some online application to store and organize my bookmarks. And the only reason I want it online is because I want my bookmarks collection to be accessible from both my home and my office computer.

So, what exactly am I looking for? I want the tool to:
  • Let me easily add bookmarks from any browser

  • Let me organize, annotate and search my bookmarks

  • Provide some reasonable level of privacy

  • Provide a way to export bookmarks – if I will decide later to change the tool

  • Allow importing my existing bookmarks – I have more than 500 of them!

For beginning, I decided to try two services: and ma.gnolia. I’ve created accounts in both. In, I found out that their import tool is currently disabled – so I didn’t go any further. Ma.gnolia allowed me to upload my bookmarks file, but then it told me that my bookmarks would be added soon. Six hours later my bookmarks are still not added – which I don’t understand at all. I understand that there might be some kind of queue, and that parsing a file takes some time – but not six hours!

So, I will wait a little longer – but, probably, I will try something else. After all, social bookmarking is so hot now – there should be some working tool out there!

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Why people like creating tools?

Call me a slow thinker, but it didn’t occur to me until today how beneficial for a career might be working on company’s internal management/organizing tools. (Not that I am doing such a work – I was just pondering about the fact that the management added yet another request/ticketing application to the existing zoo).

The work on such applications (ticketing, document management, request tracking etc) has some great advantages over any other development work:

  • The work is highly visible, especially to the management.

  • The work is not mission-critical: a bug in the ticketing application will cause just some trouble. The same bug in a user-visible application might become a disaster.

  • Management usually just loves this kind of tools (probably because the tools provide them with feeling of control and organizing power).  Managers pretty soon become dependent on the tools, and the person who creates and maintains them swiftly becomes a VIP.

  • There is always a space for improvement – so you can work on the same application for as long as you like.

  • Deadlines and schedules are usually quite flexible.

  • You can use any cool technologies you like – as long as the application works, no one really cares how it was implemented.

This revelation helped me to get answer to a question which was intriguing me for some time: How come that the number of such systems in my company keeps growing despite all attempts to reduce it? And it also sheds some light on another question, which might seem totally unrelated, but, as I see now, touches the same principle: why people around the globe spend so much effort on creating and improving GTD and other so-called “productivity tools and systems”? The same reason: working on the systems and tools which purpose is to help us doing some work is infinitely more pleasant than actually doing the work…

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