technology archives
“How’s this for a social media strategy—watch your customers flail around on your site, or app, or whatever, listen to what they need, and then go and build that. Regardless of whether it fits the latest headlines.”
Great quote from Mark Hurst on not drinking the latest tech-buzz Koolaid.

posted by ted 5 minutes ago · 0 comments

“The world needs more UX. Without the knitting that UX performs for organizations and their customers, we’ll likely end up with continued wanton proliferation of technology rather than the thoughtful, iterative progress and leaps of innovation that good UX practice nurtures.”
This one hits home for me today. From Chris Baum in the latest Boxes and Arrows email newsletter. (I looked for a specific link on their site for a specific web page to cite, but couldn’t find one.)

posted by ted on Tuesday, Feb 09, 2010 · 0 comments

Old Tech

This past weekend, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its semi-annual general conference. I had a scheduling conflict with the Saturday morning session, but I still wanted to listen live. The engagement was such that I would be sitting and waiting for most of the time, and so I could listen with very few interuptions. Unfortunately, I was going to be in a place without internet access.

The Church’s General Conference is broadcast over the internet, via C-Band sattelite, and by some local television stations (unfortunately none in my area). It is also shown in chapels around the world, and to Dish Network and Direct TV subscribers. Unfortunately, none of these options would meet my needs.

I of course considered streaming the conference to my Nokia phone, but it only supports RealPlayer, and the AT&T data connection speed around here is too slow and somewhat unreliable. Then it occured to me that if I can’t use my phone as an internet streaming audio device, perhaps I should just use it as a phone.

My final solution was to connect the line-in of my sound card to my Dish Network receiver, and write a brief Python script which caused Skype to call me and play the audio from the conference at the appropriate time. It also called me back if I got disconnected.

The solution was simple, and best of all, it worked flawlessly. The only unfortunate part was that it took me so long to think of it. I’m so used to thinking in terms of internet only solutions that I often forget about the older and sometimes more practicle options like the telephone.

Delivering content via phone is (on a per-user basis) probably never going to be cheaper than doing so via the net, but on the other hand, it is not as expensive as it used to be, nor is it as expensive as most people probably believe. This ironically is due in large part to the internet and Voice over IP, as well as increased competition and free and highly customizable PBX software like Asterisk.

So why am I telling you this? It’s not to sell you on the idea of using the telephone as a content delivery platform, though if it works for your application, go for it. Rather I just wanted to remind us all that as we rush head-long into the future, that we be sure to take full advantage of new technologies when appropriate, but that we also don’t forget the old boring tech that can often complement or even work better than the new. Just because we have AJAX and Flash doesn’t mean that plain HTML and CSS isn’t the better choice for many projects. Even though we can add autocompletion to forms and create flyout menus that look really sweet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.

posted by cannona on Wednesday, Apr 08, 2009 · 4 comments

“New technology + same old thinking = same old outcome with a buggy interface.”
Mark Hurst, in his latest Good Experience newsletter. Some important thoughts here about how a change in technology without a change in commitment to customers simply results in more efficient ways to annoy, frustrate, and exploit people.

posted by ted on Tuesday, Mar 24, 2009 · 0 comments

Check out the Pew Internet & American Life Project for boatloads of data about who uses the internet and how. Example reports: Home Broadband 2008, Polling in the Age of Cell Phones, and The Internet and Consumer Choice. I will be returning soon…

posted by ted on Thursday, Jul 03, 2008

LDS Media Talk : Sharing Technology Ideas for LDS Parents and Youth. A new joint effort by our CIO, Joel Dehlin; the Audiovisual Department’s Managing Director, David Nielsen; and’s product manager, Larry Richman.

posted by ted on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke

posted by clifton on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2008

Mark Bittman, after implementing a sort of digital sabbath (a special day of rest from electronic devices), says, “It’s been more than six months, and while I’m hardly a new man — no one has yet called me mellow — this achievement is unlike any other in my life.” Nice concept; via Good Experience . Get a (non-virtual) Life!

posted by ted on Tuesday, Mar 04, 2008

A perfect mix of high-tech and low-tech: This is the automated sink in the newly-remodeled bathroom on my floor. The faucet and soap dispenser are automated, but the towels are not, you can get soap without dripping water all over the formica, and the automated faucet does have temperature control.

The designer of this bathroom knew that water and soap work well being automated, but towels don’t.

posted by sam on Friday, Jan 11, 2008

“The doodle is the perfect way to kill time when you’re bored or don’t want to pay attention. It’s quiet, non-distracting to your neighbor, and has the added benefit of making you look like you’re actively taking notes.”
Erickson Barnett, asking whether portable technology has killed the doodle

posted by ted on Thursday, Nov 08, 2007

“The definition of “transparent” may end up being “utter chaos for at least two weeks.””
Eric Danielson, QA Lead, on the actual impact of a promised “transparent transition” from one version of an issue tracker to another

posted by ted on Saturday, Oct 27, 2007

“Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
Another familiar experience in haiku…

posted by ted on Friday, Sep 07, 2007

“First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.
Technology Haiku (lots more here)

posted by ted on Friday, Sep 07, 2007

The Intersection of Inspiration and Innovation

(Re-posted by request.) One of the neat things about working for the Church is that every once in a while, you get to hear how the systems you help develop are used by the Church’s general authorities.

In March 2007, the New Era magazine published an entire issue dedicated to helping young men and women prepare spiritually and practically to serve a mission for the Church. One of the articles describes how a prospective missionary can fill out the required paperwork, using a web application developed and deployed in the past few years.

A sidebar in the same article describes how Elder Henry B. Eyring records new missionary assignments as given to him by the Spirit:

All my life, from the time I have been a young boy and as far back as I can remember, I have had experiences feeling of the Holy Ghost. … But I’ve never felt what I have felt as I have … participated in the assigning of missionaries. …

We go into a room, and … it will be a two-or three-hour session and sometimes longer. Because of technology, it is possible for us to have your picture and the information about you displayed. And then quickly, on that same screen, all the missions of the Church with all of their needs are displayed. Within minutes, and sometimes less than a minute, the impression comes so powerfully that it would be, if it were a single instance, something that you would never forget. Can you imagine sitting there for hours at a time, having that happen time after time without interruption? I testify to you that it is real. …

In a world so large, the Creator … somehow not only knows you but loves you enough to ensure that your call is where He needs you to go to teach the children of our Heavenly Father.

Working on cool technology is one thing. Working on cool technology that’s used to further the work of the Lord is something else.

And knowing that the software you work on is being used by an apostle under inspired circumstances like this is priceless.

posted by ted on Monday, Jul 30, 2007

While we’re on the topic of feedback, check out the responses to Joel Dehlin’s questions on his LDS CIO blog: What is the Church doing well on the Internet, and what is it doing not so well? Read others’ ideas or submit your own.

posted by ted on Friday, Jun 15, 2007

“The men of 1960 were no longer lost in admiration of such [technological] marvels; they exploited them quite calmly, without being any happier, for, from their hurried gait, their peremptory manner, their “American” dash, it was apparent that the demon of wealth impelled them onward without mercy or relief.”
Jules Verne in a relatively newly discovered then-futuristic novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century

posted by ted on Friday, Jun 01, 2007

Want to see a modern miracle?

How many languages does your site broadcast in? The LDS Church will broadcast its semiannual General Conference in over 60 languages in this weekend. The list runs from Albanian, American Sign Language, and Amharic to Urdu, Vietnamese, and Yapese.

Along the way from A to Z, you’ll recognize lots of familiar languages plus such interesting tongues as Chuukese, Guarani (my wife served in Paraguay where this is spoken—she’ll be gratified to see it included), Kosraean, Pohnpeian, Papiamento, Twi, and Telugu.

Why bother posting about this? Because it’s a technological and theological miracle to get that many languages broadcast simultaneously. The entire Audiovisual Department throws its full effort into overdrive for these two weekends each year. Translation is arranged with native speakers and returned missionaries all over the world. The IT organization minds it satellites and streaming media servers. There is a deployment moratorium that takes an act of… well, that takes some serious effort to get passed if you need to release new websites or applications during the week before conference, so focused are everyone’s efforts on providing a good experience for conference watchers and listeners.

And it all works.

I remember when it didn’t work so well, trying to watch conference on my PC in Washington state 7-8 years ago. It didn’t work so well back then. Maybe my computer is faster. Maybe the Internet itself is zippier. But I also believe the Church has really started delivering on the promise of taking the Gospel to every kindred tongue and people, with technology helping pave the way for that effort.

But despite all the coolness, I hope you just enjoy listening to the words of inspired leaders this weekend, in your own language, without having to think once of the technical miracles that make it all possible.

That is the real miracle, when the technology disappears, and just lets you focus on the Spirit and Inspiration.

posted by ted on Friday, Mar 30, 2007

Free Online Genealogy Database Hits 150 Million Names . “Back in 1999, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invited family history enthusiasts to contribute their family trees to the Pedigree Resource File (PRF), a database housed on the Church’s FamilySearch Web site. Since then the file has grown steadily, and the Church announced this week that it has passed the 150-million-name mark, making it one of the largest free databases online.

”...The Church’s interest in family history is driven by its doctrine, which teaches that families can survive forever and that Church members have an obligation to research their family trees.”

posted by ted on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2007

What would Helpdesk look like 600 years ago? How do you help someone troubleshoot this new technology called “Book”? Watch Introducing the Book . Thanks to David Adam Edelstein, former Microsoft colleague and designer of mapping software, for pointing me to this hilarious YouTube clip (Norwegian with English subtitles).

posted by ted on Friday, Feb 16, 2007

UI bloopers in film —a fun review of the ridiculous interfaces of Hollywood. How the cool factor, plot demands, and restriction of the medium contribute to more-than-questionable interface designs in the movies. As Nielsen notes, mostly this doesn’t really matter in terms of real world technology. But he wonders if it influences audience expectations…

He left off one of my favorites: the virus download in Independence Day. Well, the whole film is full of unlikelihoods, starting with Will Smith’s uncanny ability to fly alien craft with no training or mishap other than a minor parking violation. But the human race’s ability to crack the security system of a space-faring race with a killer computer virus, then figure out the interface required to download it is truly astonishing.

posted by ted on Monday, Dec 18, 2006