Older blog entries for clarkbw (starting at number 196)

Raindrop

Raindrop Shadow Logo

Today Mozilla Messaging released the Raindrop project

Raindrop is an experiment in the design of a new messaging platform in the open.

What I like most about Raindrop is our process.  We started with some simple designs, created a couple iterations and now we’ve opened up the whole process to share.  This isn’t another email client or a twitter client, we have been designing for the way people communicate on the web today.  And we’re looking to make it awesome.

If you’re a developer or just have lots of patience you could grab the source code, follow the instructions and get raindrop up and running.  But that’s not what we’re launching, we’re launching the next version, the one that we design and develop in the open.  Read that again, there is no download. :)

Design

Starting today, new raindrop designs will be uploaded into the Raindrop Design flickr group for discussion and review.  As designs are ready to be implemented we’ll be blogging about them in the Raindrop Design Blog.

Develop

Discussion of code and extension development takes place on the Raindrop Development Google Group.  We’re currently built on CouchDB, Python, and JavaScript(if you’re trying to get raindrop up and running make sure you read the INSTALL doc carefully)

Extend

From the ground up Raindrop was built as a set of extensions on top of extensions.  This architecture was a design choice so that others could easily continue extend on top of our work.

There are places to add Data Miners which can search messages for regular expressions and User Interface Extensions which can modify the layout and design of messages presented.

Check out James’ video on Raindrop Software Components for more on the extensions system.

Syndicated 2009-10-22 21:28:56 from Bryan Clark

Cubed Mail

Lately I’ve been working a lot on the Thunderbird add-ons developers user experience.  Often times designers don’t get to work on developer experiences because developers tend to do those pieces themselves without much design.  With a lot of others I’ve spent a good amount of time working on the whole experience of development, docs, and extension types so hopefully the Thunderbird 3 add-on developer experience will be significantly better.

To get into the user experience of an add-on developer I recently made a Jetpack, Bugzilla Air Traffic Control, to examine what it is like to develop inside Jetpack.  I’ve also been creating a number of example extensions that take advantage of the new code that has landed in Thunderbird recently and learn the pitfalls of extension development.

So in honor of the hacks.mozilla.org recent article called 3D transforms in Firefox 3.5 – the isocube I added a similar hack to my tabbed message example extension.  I give you…

Cubed Email Messages

messages-in-a-cube

To demonstrate the awesome interactiveness that I didn’t add to my email extension I also have a pure HTML demo available.   Try out the email cube test demo for yourself.  This demo requires Firefox 3.5, go get it if you don’t have it.

If you’re asking “why email in a cube,?” then I’ll ask you why not?  This demo reminds me that Thunderbird has all the same Firefox goodness that’s coming out in 3.5 but we have yet to take advantage of much of it.  Hopefully as we make more progress in the coming months we’ll do just that.

And if you’re asking yourself… Is this what Bryan gets paid to do?  Well then we’re asking ourselves the same question; though I don’t think I’m referring to myself in the third person.

Syndicated 2009-06-18 23:59:17 from Bryan Clark

The pattern is not full

This past Friday I made my first Jetpack and on Sunday while lazily waiting for chores to finish themselves I posted my Jetpack on userscripts.org.

Bugzilla - Air Traffic Control

For Jetpackers a mid-air collision is an especially scary thing.

Mid-air collision!

So this Jetpack does a pretty simple thing to help you avoid the mid-air collision by notifying you before it’s about to happen.

Mid-air collision warning

For every tab you have with a bug open this Jetpack does a simple check in the background to see if someone else has modified the bug while you were looking at it.

Code

The code for this is pretty simple and in total it probably took me only an hour to get up and running and then a bunch more time polishing things off.  Here’s the break down.

I have a simple regex to find urls that are showing a bug:

var show_bug_regex = /^https:\/\/bugzilla\.mozilla\.org\/show_bug\.cgi\?id=(\d+)/;

Then I check if the url matches whenever a new page is loaded in a tab:

jetpack.tabs.onReady(function(doc) {
  // here we setup our persistent check
  var match = this.url.match(show_bug_regex);
  if (match) {
    init(this);
    this.bug_id = match[1];
    startCheckingTab(this);
  }
});

Also for good measure I do a similar check when a tab is focused, in case the Jetpack wasn’t installed or running during the original load.

jetpack.tabs.onFocus(function() {
  // here we just double check out status
  var match = this.url.match(show_bug_regex);
  if (match) {

    /* if we've already notified then we aren't checking anymore */
    if ( alreadyNotifiedTab(this) )
      return;

    if ( ! areCheckingTab(this) ) {
      // they focused a url match that we haven't been checking!
      init(this);
      this.bug_id = match[1];
      startCheckingTab(this);
    } else {
      resetCheckingTabInterval(this);
    }
  }
});

The start checking function simply runs an ajax request against the bug on an interval.  All that was needed for this was to know if the bug had changed from the last time we looked so we build a url that only retrieves the delta_ts field to create a Date object.

"https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=" + bug_id +  "&ctype=xml&field=delta_ts";

That’s about it.  If you want to check out the source or install it yourself you can go to the Bugzilla - Air Traffic Control page at userscripts.

Syndicated 2009-06-08 15:47:50 from Bryan Clark

The power of defaults in our choices

My bus ride home trippled in time last night because of some construction so I had the opportunity to watch this TED talk.

This really drove home the power of defaults user interface choices and how it is the responsibility of good designers to default to the right behaviour, especially when the options are complex.

<img src="http://images.ted.com/images/ted/tedindex/embed-posters/DanAriely-2008P.embed_thumbnail.jpg&amp;vw=432&amp;vh=240&amp;ap=0&amp;ti=548"/>

Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?

Syndicated 2009-05-22 20:08:31 from Bryan Clark

Negotiate with your users

I always advocate against simple (and especially modal) dialogs in user interfaces because they aren’t there to help the user get past the problem, more like work through the emotional issues the software is having.

Dialogs aren’t the real evil, though they usually aren’t great, it’s the lack of real negotiation.  In the book Getting to Yes it states that you “Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate…”, however don’t stop there.

Acknowledge Me!

A useful dialog would negotiate with your users.  Give them actions and power to change their situation.  Don’t ask users to acknowledge your troubles and stop the negotiation there.  ReconnectTry Again!  Even simple actions can help people correct the situation.

Syndicated 2009-05-14 18:46:56 from Bryan Clark

question: dualbutton css

How do you make the dualbutton always appear like the last two sets of screenshots (as it does on hover)?

I’m looking to make dualbuttons always show their dropdown button with a real button like look.  This dualbutton reply button is  going to land in Thunderbird 3 soon and I’d like the style to look correct for both Linux and Windows (Mac is using it’s own button style).

dualbutton-dropdown-hover

However this doesn’t appear to be some kind of toolkit CSS hover issue. The windows CSS is decidedly worse than the Linux right now so that may be a separate issue all together; and if so we can attempt that in the same way we handled the Mac.

Hints, answers, and the like are greatly appreciated in the comments.

Syndicated 2009-05-11 22:07:55 from Bryan Clark

Testing RTL in Thunderbird

For bug 484166 we’re moving away from the old search icon  to the newer Firefox search icon .  Included in this change we need to ensure this icon works for RTL as well as LTR.   With bug 481860 offering a way to use css to transform the image I just needed to test that the transform works.

Here are some notes I have from my limited experience working to test application UI in both LTR and RTL.  Please drop a comment if you have better experiences, I’d love to be able to save a bit of time.

GNOME RTL

In the GNOME world to do a simple test of an RTL language you could start up the application with the LANG environment variable set to an appropriate language.  For instance:

LANG=he_IL eog

LANG=he_IL eog

Thunderbird RTL

With Thunderbird I’ve found a number of options to make this happen.

The UILocale flag can be added your command arguments.

thunderbird -UILocale he

However Thunderbird, as compiled from hg, or download nightly likely doesn’t contain the translations needed to run that test successfully.

For the nightly build you’ll want to grab a translation XPI from the comm-central-l10n nightly builds.  You can drag any of those XPI links into the Thunderbird add-on manager window to install them.  (saves a bit of time compared to downloading and installing)

For your compiled builds the process seems a bit longer and more difficult getting the translations from l10n-central built in.  I gave up half way through as there is an easy method out there already, at least for simple testing.

Force RTL Extension

An easy alternative approach is to use the Force RTL extension, which I only just found out about today.  The extension provides an option in the tools menu to trigger RTL mode, which is really a lot better than trying a language you don’t understand.  If all you need is to test layout in an RTL this works really well.

Syndicated 2009-04-02 22:49:52 from Bryan Clark

Earth Hour Wordpress Plugin

I just installed the Earth Hour plugin for wordpress.  So if you’re trying to read my blog this Saturday during Earth Hour you’ll be getting less pixels than normal.

Earth Hour 2009

After which transmission will continue normally, the same spotty and random posts as ever.

Syndicated 2009-03-25 20:28:45 from Bryan Clark

Thunderbird 3 beta 2

It’s been a little while since the release of Thunderbird beta 2 and today we’re automatically offering the upgrade to all our existing alpha and beta users.

thunderbird-logo

Upgrading from Previous Development Releases

At 12:00pm today (12:00 PDT) updates will start to be picked up by Thunderbird Alpha and Beta users.  In the following 24 - 48 hours you should be offered the update if you’re running a previous development release.

Alternatively, you can pick it quicker by going to the menu, selecting Help and then “Check for updates…”

Take a look a the Thunderbird 3.0 Beta 2 Release Notes for more information, we have one additional note for POP3 users.

Syndicated 2009-03-19 19:00:08 from Bryan Clark

Budget Customer Experience FTW!

Budget Truck rental of Canada has some special promotions available when you reserve via their web site.

However you actually can’t reserve trucks via the web site.  You have to call the locations.

When you call the location it goes something like this.

  • You: I would like to reserve a truck for next week.  I have a coupon from your site.
  • Them: Next week is no problem.  However the coupon is only for online reservations.
  • You: Oh, I couldn’t reserve online; it said there were no places available.
  • Them: No you can’t reserve online, only via phone.
  • You: So…
  • Them: So next week is all set!

Syndicated 2009-03-02 20:13:18 from Bryan Clark

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