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Together for Ten Years

Five years ago, I published an article for our fifth wedding anniversary. So if I have got my head on straight, that makes it our tin – 10 years – anniversary today.

How time flies. When we first got married our wedding site had a guestbook I cooked up in PHP. Five years on, a blog post was where a few friends gave their comments. Ten years on, and it’s Facebook where all the reactions have come from. So from DIY PHP/MySQL to WordPress (also PHP/MySQL) to Facebook (PHP too) things keep on changing.

Here’s to ten more! No doubt the next anniversary post will happen somewhere else entirely. Any predictions?

Facebook Redesign and Change Aversion

Every time a major site with a big audience changes, there are always going to be detractors. Especially a site like Facebook. People spend a lot of time there, so interface changes are almost tantamount to moving stuff around in their lounge/den.

I think there are a number of issues with the new Facebook homepage. I’ve seen it before. It’s called feature creep. Lots of stuff all clamouring for your attention. Chat, realtime updates, top stories, the rest of the news, adverts, suggestions for friends, app updates, messages (FB-ized email) and notifications. Continue reading

The Little Details

Supermarket receipt

On holiday this summer in the Vendée region (near the Loire valley), I was pleasantly surprised by my till receipt for my holiday shopping. Instead of a list in simple order of items scanned by the cashier, the receipt was both grouped by department, and ordered by highest priced item first. At a glance, you can see which items from each department are the most expensive, and which departments you bought the most goods from.

In the past, till receipts were printed line by line first mechanically – possibly with mechanical tabulation (addition of next item to subtotal) inside the machine – then by fairly dumb electronic calculators which would do much the same. More recently, bar code scanning meant the machines queried a database for the item price. Later, the item name would be queried and printed (initially a few characters per item) and yet the basic running totals and chronological ordering have still to change in many supermarkets and other stores where you buy a lot of items.

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Sketch Notes on Design / UX

I love the series of sketch notes from Eva-Lotta Lamm, someone who attends a lot of conferences and makes notes with amazing visual impact.

I could have chosen one of many different images that she has uploaded, but this one is recent, colourful and contains perhaps a few things that are less technical – though you probably need to work in a company with an active website to really “get” the overall message. I’d love to know if you get anything out of reading them if you’re completely outside of web marketing / user experience / web project management.

They’re available as a book and there is a fantastic presentation on how sketch notes work

Do you sketch in meetings while taking notes? Did you realise that it’s a good thing to maintain your attention span? Or that it helps you to memorise what you hear?

User centred Design at XING @ UX Camp Europe
Originally uploaded by evalottchen

French Country Dancing

On the 1st of May (or the Sunday close to it usually) Argenteuil closes a stretch of road near the Seine and they remember the pre-war (pre WWI) era with old style dress, dances and activities. Argenteuil has a fine artistic history. Impressionists like Manet, Monet, Caillebotte, Sisley, Seurat and Braque (born there) all spent time there at one point or another. Flâneurs from Paris would catch a train to Argenteuil on Sunday to be in the “countryside” and wander by the Seine.

I think I’ve been every other year – on average – that I’ve lived in Argenteuil. A lot of people play the game and dress up for the occasion. There’s usually some jazz / musette playing live, dancing, traditional street food as well as typical international fare (beer, chips and BBQ sausages). It’s a shame that the very road they close for the occasion is the road that stops most people from being able to venture down onto the banks of the Seine. You can get there, but you have to go up on the bridge, down a set of stairs, and then walk over the grass verge with cars going past at 90 km/h (56 mph). There’s only a section – as far as I can tell – of grass and trees wide enough to get you far enough from the traffic to appreciate the river.

French Country Dancing
Originally uploaded by simon_music

3 Parisian Things

Sacré Coeur

The church (Basilique, in fact) of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. It’s quite a climb through streets aptly named things like Rue du Calvaire, roughly translated as “time of hardship street” in common parlance.

You can get a cog-wheeled railway which mounts a steep incline instead, called the funiculaire. Recommended if you want a bit of energy to check out the nearby square where artists paint caricatures or portraits and coffee is ridiculously expensive.

Maybe check out the Espace Dali if you’re into a small, hidden away museum with all things Dali. Continue reading

Improving Ways to Read While Writing

flickr typewriter typo?!

I have been doing a bit of writing lately, and might even get an article or two published in an online technical publication. Which led me to thinking about the separation between technical stuff I write, often close to my profession, and the more personal items I write at other times. There are bits of photography and music in here too.

Many successful blogs stick to one subject, and treat it well. Some bloggers who want to scratch several itches therefore launch several blogs. I’ve always preferred one place to do everything, especially given that I don’t create anything like a useful volume of work to really get a following going anywhere in a given niche subject. I quite like the notion of an eclectic mix, and that has been my sub-heading ever since this blog was launched.

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Foolish Games

Over a year ago now, I was in a band that got together for a gig in Paris which was a line-up of colleagues from work. I have been thinking about our vocalist recently, since she’s from Tunisia and has been very active on social networks following the revolution and helping people connect as regular digital communications were hampered.

This is a track from a time before that… a little bit of nostalgia for me recorded at rehearsal – the first run-through of the Jewel track Foolish Games for which I played the piano. The song itself is a story of unbalanced love, and the single was a big success which was nominated for best pop female vocal at the Grammy awards in 1998.

It was a wonderful moment of musical complicity – it starts off a little weak and sometimes slightly out of time, but somewhere in the middle it all comes together quite beautifully. Nothing like music to take you away from the anguish of existence and just let yourself relax for a few precious moments. Funny how this first run through was never matched afterwards, even though it has a couple of rough edges. Click the title or the “play” icon to hear it.

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V Special Club & Friends
Originally uploaded by simon_music