Friday, March 27, 2009

Twitter

Twitter and iBlogger can both be considered micro-blogging systems. Somehow, though, I suspect that iBlogger isn't likely to inspire this kind of creative satirical genius. iBlogger isn't sufficiently annoying.



Our Twitter nick is: illumineX. Feel free to follow. It's low-traffic, and mostly related to iBlogger.

Click here:



Attention to Detail

Apple has set an extremely high bar with respect to attention to detail in every aspect of the interface between the company and the customer. Yesterday I purchased an iPod for one of our beta testers, who was also a substantial contributors to iFlinger (an iPhone application that would let you toss a virtual cartoon shoe at a cartoon caricature of former U.S. President George W. Bush, if Apple had approved the application, which they did not.)

Today I was greeted in my email in-basket with a request to fill out a survey. The survey form was efficient and responsive, clear, concise, and contained places for me to elaborate or describe responses which varied from the options on the form. When I finished filling it out, I was greeted with this plain, simple, competently styled web page, which included a minimal set of links to places I might want to go, and a roughly standard footer with other such links, and a thank you.

200903270827.jpg The pleasant experience with Apple's feedback survey stands in marked contrast with other forms that I've filled out for other companies. Feedback forms always seem to receive the least attention in big companies. Very often they are not well organized, and contain exactly no way to deliver the kind of feedback the company needs to hear.

In these other companies, it's as if the committee in charge of the feedback form is somehow shackled, or has an incentive to gather only positive results, or more likely just doesn't have any experience with conducting surveys, doesn't know much about the company, or just doesn't care. Most of the other online feedback forms I've seen dump you to an oddly unstyled web page, which sometimes says "Thank You" but other times doesn't say anything meaningful at all. Usually they don't include a simple link back to vendor's main web site. I've even seen things like PHP core dumps which left me in no doubt that the vendor really didn't care one iota about my "feedback". Thank you for your feedback! We are promptly tossing it into the bit bucket! Have a nice day!   

This almost obsessive attention to detail at Apple, which results in seemingly minor things like the thank you page of the feedback form being considered as an important customer interface, is applied to every possible interaction between Apple and its customers.

Unfortunately, this corporate obsession is not applied to every interaction between Apple and its third party developers. As with similar stories from other vendors, when our iFlinger application was rejected, the reasons offered didn't really make much sense. There was no avenue to provide feedback or make an appeal, or engage in a discussion which might result in the application being modified in such a way as to get approved.

Despite Apple's recent declaration (in the iPhone OS 3.0 presentation) that everything is fine because most apps get approved within a week, now, the iPhone App Store process is hopelessly broken. Developers must guess at what might get approved or rejected, based on a lengthy document full of vague legalize which translates quite literally down to this phrase:

"Apple can reject your application for any reason, for reasons other than stated, to provide them with a fig leaf, or for no reason at all. If a summer intern at Apple rejects your application, tough luck."

To some extent, relations between Apple and their development community have always been rocky. Some tension between them is a natural and unavoidable outcome which arises from Apple's need to keep research and product plans secret. However, the iPhone App Store policies have been upside-down (build it first, we'll tell you later if you will be permitted to sell it) for too long. If it's too difficult to put a concept-approval process in place, then an appeals process needs to be created, and guidance on how to overcome app rejections should be available.

One might be tempted to suggest that Apple's rocky developer relations are their "perfect flaw" but somehow I don't think so. Perfectly flawed pottery doesn't leak water all over the floor.

No, a perfect flaw is more subtle. A perfect flaw is holding your iPhone upside-down, on your otherwise very stylin' iPhone consulting web site.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Raven Zachary: FAIL

Raven Zachary, holding his iPhone upside-down, in the banner at his web site... where he markets his iPhone expertise.

FAIL.

[Image: Screen capture from Raven Zacharys web site]

Raven Zachary, holding iPhone upside-down

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ectoize - bookmarklet for ecto

We received an interesting email from an ecto customer recently. Here's what they asked us about:

"Hello, Any text that I publish using the "ectoize" bookmarklet appears on my blog entirely in italics, indented, with a vertical line on the left side of the text. I've searched high-and-low but can't find any reference to this problem on your website or in the documentation. Can you help? Thanks."

Of course, since we didn't have the full context, we had to chat back and forth a bit to figure out what they were really trying to do. They had been advised by a WordPress consultant to use ectoize, the ecto bookmarklet, as a tool to help them migrate content from a static web site (which had been created in GoLive) to a new site, managed in WordPress.

ectoize, the bookmarklet, grabs a chunk of highlighted text from a web browser window, launches ecto, and pastes the text into a nice little block quote. The italics and vertical line were coming from the user's CSS stylesheet, which defined a nice blockquote style.

ectoize normally does this:

ectoize:

After installing the bookmarklet, you can create weblog entries from any webpage you are visiting. When viewing a page that you want to write about, select some text you want to quote, and then choose or click the "ectoize" item from the browser's Bookmarks Bar. This will open a new draft window in ecto with text from and details about the current webpage.

[From bookmarklet for ecto]

The styling is determined by your CSS style for the "blockquote" tag.

To use ecto to help migrate the content of a static web site (initially created in GoLive, iWeb or any other HTML authoring tool) you can simply cut the text from the site using CMD-C and paste it into an ecto compose window with CMD-V.

If you want to preserve HTML tags from your original site, you could View-Source on the original site, then cut and paste the right portions of the HTML. Be sure to keep your tags balanced.

Friday, March 20, 2009

illumineX Offers Free Games to Mac User Groups (MUGs)

illumineX is pleased to announce its 2009 MUG Sponsorship program. pastedGraphic.pngEach year, illumineX offers your Apple User Group free software in exchange for a link on your group's website. This year, your group can receive a set of 10 free licenses to HoppiX, the newest game in the Infinity Game PaX.

User Groups may use the software for door prizes, raffles, rewards or any other activity to help promote interest in your MUG.

In addition, illumineX will provide one license to the full Infinity Game PaX to any MUG which posts reviews of the games.

To participate and receive the licenses via email:

  1. post one of the illumineX banners on your group's website, then
  2. email your  

Get the details: illumineX 2009 MUG Promotion .

This worldwide offer is valid until June 30, 2009.

This offer is limited to one set per user group.

HoppiX works on PowerPC or Intel Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 or later, including iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, iBook and PowerBook systems.

Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

MacHeist - BabelBloX giveaway

illumineX is giving away free games for Mac OS X -- something in the range of 20,000 licenses to BabelBloX as part of a MacHeist promotion this week. Sign up at MacHeist, where you can join the MacHeist missions and get lots of cool free software for Mac OS X, including BabelBloX.

When you get your "loot", you'll be able to unlock all of the games in BabelBloX (which presently contains 11 different games, based in the same universe of colored, shattering or popping blocks of glass). Press the "Change World..." button to switch to a different game world.

200903181559.jpg  

Enjoy playing BabelBloX. If you like it, please blog about it and link back to our site.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Apple logo MacBook hardware hack

Some clever kids hacked open a MacBook, placed a second screen inside, behind the Apple logo, facing out, and wired it up as a second display. The Apple logo is pretty sexy with the iTunes visualizer running behind it. OK, this is a little geeky, but it's fun, and oddly compelling.

As display technology gets lighter and cheaper, we'll be seeing it everywhere. Some of it won't be this cool.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Muntadher al-Zaidi sentenced to 3 years in prison

Muntadher al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at then US President George Bush, in a gesture widely recognized as a traditional Iraqi insult, has been sentenced to three years in prison by an Iraqi court. (His chosen form of protest is so amusing to westerners that it inspired iFlinger, which you still cannot find at the iTunes App Store, and many apps on other platforms like it.)

CNN reports on the details.

Even the recently retired President Bush himself seems to have found the shoe-throwing incident amusing, and said so in this interview.


Some of the President's comments:

"It was amusing. I've seen a lot of weird things during my presidency.
This may rank as one of the weirdest."

"This happens. It's the sign of a free society."

"I thought it weird, I thought it was unusual to have a guy throw his
shoe at you. I'm not insulted. I don't hold it against the government.
I don't think the Iraqi press corps as a whole is terrible. The guy
wanted to get on tv, and he did."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bad Words and the iTunes App Store - Irrationality Continues

Today comes word (see atebits twitter feed) that the most recent update to Tweetie, one of the most popular iPhone application for handling Twitter feeds on the iPhone platform, was rejected by the Apple Secret Ministry of iPhone Application Rejection and Approval. At least this time they offered a reason. There is a bad word in the Twitter Trends list. Naughty, naughty, all you Twitter users!

Rumor has it that Apple got their list of Bad Words from the late George Carlin.

George Carlin: Bad Words.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Good Design

Apparently Apple's Jonathan Ive finds inspiration in Ten Rules of Good Design enumerated by Dieter Rams.

These rules are useful for software designers to consider, too. Here are the headlines. Follow the link for interesting details on each.

Dieter Ram's Ten Rules of Good Design
  • Good design is innovative.
  • Good design makes a product useful.
  • Good design is aesthetic.
  • Good design helps us to understand a product.
  • Good design is unobtrusive.
  • Good design is honest.
  • Good design is durable.
  • Good design is consequent to the last detail.
  • Good design is concerned with the environment.
  • Good design is as little design as possible

There are some interesting interviews with Jonathan Ive available at YouTube, too. Here's an excellent one such.