Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Saturday, February 24, 2007day link 

Wikipatterns is a Wiki collecting patterns of practices for how to launch a successful Wiki. And anti-patterns for how not to do it. Much of which could apply to other kinds of activities or sites than wikis. Here's the Barn Raising pattern:
A wiki BarnRaising is a planned event in which a community meets at a designated time to build content on the wiki together. One person alone can't build all the content in a wiki, and a community of people needs to understand how to use the wiki, and feel a sense of buy-in for it to become successful. A BarnRaising achieves this because people come expecting to learn how to use the wiki, and they are able to interact with each other as they work, thus strengthening community bonds and creating a support network that keeps people using the wiki... BarnRaising is a great way to jumpstart a wiki. It gets people used to using the wiki, and gets a critical mass of content on it so people keep coming back.

[ | 2007-02-24 14:13 | 19 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Meetings make us dumber?
People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests.

Scientists exposed study participants to one brand of soft drink then asked them to think of alternative brands. Alone, they came up with significantly more products than when they were grouped with two others....

The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.
Of course it would greatly depend on how a meeting is run. There are brainstorming formats that certainly would work better in a group than alone. But, I guess, if it is the normal format of a meeting, once something emerges as the theme or focus of the meeting, it would be hard to make it go anywhere else. Which is a good thing, if that's really what you're supposed to work on, but a bad thing if you're trying to generate new or alternative ideas.
[ | 2007-02-24 14:15 | 19 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

I've used FireFox for a long time, and generally I've been happy with that. Lots of useful plugins, for one thing. But after version 2.0 somehow worked worse than the previous version, I started considering seeing if there are alternatives. Which there are, of course. Like Opera.

There's a few annoying problems I've always had with FireFox. One is that the file downloading is horrible. You click on a download link, and I'm stuck with a spinning beachball for a number of seconds, no matter how small the file might be. Once the download is running, Firefox can do other things, but it seems to be a really big deal to start it. In the same time it takes, I could open a terminal window and do it with some command-line utility, like wget. I don't understand why nobody's ever fixed that. Downloading a small file should not be a big deal. There are an assortment of download manager plugins, connecting to external programs that are good at downloading, but that's kind of overkill if I just want one little file.

The other really annoying thing is that after I've used the program for a while, and I have a number of windows open, things slow down. With tabs, I can quite easily have 20 or 30 sites open. And it can quite easily happen that one or several of those do something that uses up resources. It might have some Ajax running, or Java, or Flash, all of which might be doing something dumb. It might be in the middle of queueing up a dozen embedded videos for viewing. The point is that when things slow down, it is not always obvious why. If I close all the possibly offending pages, things get a bit better, but the browser remains kind of slow. And the system would often show that it is using, like, 98% of system cycles, and hundreds of megs of memory.

What I really would like would be that the browser could give me an idea of what resources each page is using. It shouldn't be hard for the browser software to show me where the problems are. And then it should of course recover the used resources when that page is closed.

There are other things, but they're minor. Firefox now has a nice feature for restoring the pages you had opened in your last session. Except for that the windows are in a seemingly random order. I normally have around 5 windows open, with a number of tabs in each. The tabs are in the proper order, but the windows never get loaded in the order I had them in in the Window menu.

I tried Opera for a week, and I actually really like it. It is faster, and it downloads files fine, and it restores the last session with everything in the proper order. And it includes a bunch of standard features that I have in plugins in FireFox. Very nicely put together. But after using it normally for a day or two, having a bunch of windows and tabs open, the same thing happens as in FireFox. Things get slow, and I don't know which page is doing it. And there are a few key plugins I use a lot in Firefox, which don't have anything comparable in Opera. Like the Firebug Javascript debugger, and a plugin that shows me the dimensions or paths or pictures in a page.

So, I went back to Firefox. But if anybody knows a browser or a plugin that shows you which pages slow everything down, I'm all ears.
[ | 2007-02-24 14:18 | 24 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Writing books in HTML/CSS
"Opera CTO Håkon Wium Lie hit back today at Microsoft's push to fast track Office Open XML into an ISO standard, in a
blistering article on CNET. He also took a swipe at Open Document Format: 'I'm no fan of either specification. Both are basically memory dumps with angle brackets around them. If forced to choose one, I'd pick the 700-page specification (ODF) over the 6,000-page specification (OOXML). But I think there is a better way.' The better way being the existing universally understood standards of HTML and CSS. Putting this to the test, Håkon has published a book using HTML and CSS."
Just posting this to remember the thing about making books in HTML and CSS, which actually seems to be quite possible, and probably a better idea than those horrendous document formats.
[ | 2007-02-24 14:20 | 22 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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