Sips from the Firehose


Jun 04

Migrating Sites & Dealing With Email: Not For the Faint of Heart


Posted: under Design.
Tags: , , ,

Quick hit: here’s how to ensure all your past emails don’t vaporize when you migrate to a new hosting service

Just got done with trying to help a friend with the fallout of migrating from one hosting provider to another, and I had a couple of insights:

First, email is a deceptively simple issue, when you’re trying to deal with DNS settings, new billing schema, upgrading PHP, etc..

“email seems like one of the easiest technologies, because it’s been around so long – but in practice, it is truly thorny. Because email is a very attractive target for spammers/scammers, tech companies have had to add layer after layer of protections onto what is now 35-year-old technology. Think of an old UPS or FedEx delivery van that has been robbed & hijacked over the years, and now is bristling with security cameras, barbed wire, machine guns, etc. As long as the truck sticks to old patterns of behavior, everything is fine, but once you swerve off the road, things start getting unpredictable.”

Next, the documentation for dealing with email migrations reads as though it were written by Cenobites who have infiltrated the IT department. A sampling

Migration endpoints are management objects that describe the remote server information and connection settings that are associated with one or more batches. When you provide server information during a migration batch request, you’re actually creating a migration endpoint. After you create migration endpoints, you can assign them to new migration batches or pending migration batches.

Meanwhile, you’ll have to make a whole bunch of choices, none of which are really explained all that well, and which seem to have all manner of long-term consequences. I can’t possibly predict what will happen, what will be needed, or how it can be best handled, but here’s an overview of a couple of terms, with language that might possibly make sense:

Email client: No, this isn’t a client that you’re emailing things to/from. This is the program on your computer that you use for email; common ones are Outlook, Mac Mail, Thunderbird, etc.

Online client: The program you use inside a browser to check your email – Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail are the biggest players in this space.

POP3 and IMAP: These are settings that regulate how the local program on your computer handles getting, sending and storing your emails. There’s a difference between the two, explained in depth here.

IMAP: Your emails stay up on the server; if you delete or move an email to an inbox in Outlook, then the Outlook program will send a signal to your online inbox (Gmail or whatever) to mirror what was done on your local machine.

ADVANTAGE: You don’t need to download all the emails to see what’s going on; you can access your emails from a desktop computer, tablet, phone, etc., and whatever you do is mirrored across all your devices

DISADVANTAGE: Sometimes you delete emails on your local client, and then the server just replaces them from where they are stored on the server online.

POP3: You download all the emails to your local computer, and then you deal with them there.

ADVANTAGE: You clean your online mailbox out as clean as a whistle. Nothing there for anyone to root around in, if they ever compromise your passwords.

DISADVANTAGE: If your local computer hard drive crashes, you lose all your past emails.

WARNING: If you’ve been set up with a hosting service by someone else, and you were on IMAP (where changes aren’t destructive) but somehow wind up with POP3 email settings, BE VERY CAREFUL OR YOU COULD WIND UP DELETING ALL YOUR EMAILS.

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Jan 15

CSS 4: the Web Design Standard that Doesn’t Exist. Only It Does. Confused Yet?


Posted: under Design, Digital Migration, UX/UI.
Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday, upon the stair/

I saw a web design standard that was not there/

It was not there again today/

Gee, I wish it’d go away…

css is awesome but try to make the text fit into these little damn boxes

“I sense a great disturbance in the Force…”

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Aug 04

Shwedagon Pagoda and Dave by Night


Posted: under Design.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As with so many major cities in Asia, the ancient and the modern exist side-by-side.

The guy on the right is dancing a jig, I think. They are hidden under the eaves, and I only spotted this group because I was looking up in awe as the heavens opened and the rain poured down.

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Mar 03

Experimental VR Art Project at Google’s Venice HQ


Posted: under Design, Friday Noon Videos, UX/UI, Video.
Tags: , , ,

Depending upon your tolerance for the sight of people wearing virtual reality helmets all craning their necks and looking about themselves, this video is either really charming or really alarming.

Thanks to Kluge interactive for the invite to this special event.

UPDATE: I had to upload this video to YouTube to get it to embed correctly. 

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Jun 11

How Big Data and Online Games Help Catch Scammers


Posted: under Design, infographic.
Tags: , , , , ,

I did a case study on this use of analytics technology more than a year ago. The gist of it is this: online MMPORGs like World of Warcraft, EVE, Everquest, etc., are wonderful tools whereby to study human interactions.

Here’s the gist: when you map the connections between people – or stores, or institutions, or giant multinationals – there are certain geometric patterns that emerge. Analyzing the shape of those patterns reveals what kind of community is in existence, how healthy and vibrant that community is, and whether or not any of the people in that community are acting in a criminal or shady manner.

This technology is being used by Ninja Metrics (h/t to Dmitri Williams, a colleague at USC-Annenberg who runs this amazing company), to help online game environments to detect and remove the kinds of “gold-farming scammers” that ruin the gaming experience for the other players. It’s also the kind of thing that is being used to catch real-world drug cartels, money-launderers and fences for stolen goods.

Now if they can only do something about that punk griefer who keeps zapping me in “Destiny,” they’ll really be onto something…

infographic showing online analytics and scams

(Click to view full size)

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May 29

Mary Meeker’s yearly “Future of Internet” PowerPoint


Posted: under Design, Digital Migration.
Tags: , , , , ,

Shorter: Mobile is still undervalued. Hackers suck. China is about over; India is next. Professional content producers still doomed. But good design still matters.

Every year, Mary Meeker produces a massive presentation that quickly makes the rounds on Teh Interwebz and gets name-checked by all the digerati. This year is no different; everything has changed, is changing, will change. So what does the Oracle of KPCB tell us this year? Well, for one thing, she’s down from the “Death by PowerPoint” presentations of years past, that clocked in at 350+ slides (and a whole lotta Visine for anyone plowing through the dense bar charts & bullet points).

Anyway, check it out:

So what’s my analysis of her analysis? Glad you asked.

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Oct 18

JetPack: the Always-Open University Library that Fits in Your Pocket


Posted: under Design.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

…but without the annoying biology grad student who is using himself as a human guinea pig to see if it’s possible to survive for 3 months on a diet of only beer, vitamin pills and broccoli florets. 

the website for jetpack

The switchover to all-digital textbooks is happening faster than predicted. I'm not too sure about reading an entire text on a smartphone screen, but for in-between class cramming, or getting instant updates to course material, it's not a bad choice.

I’d love to say that this is it, we’ve found the perfect replacement for textbooks, but from what I can see here, this is still a very limited solution. They are also trying to accomplish something that is unbelievably complex. I know, because we’ve been trying to do the same thing: come up with a way to create once-publish many.

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Jul 01

Sweet Mother of FSM, Google+ Is Smart!


Posted: under Design, Digital Migration, google.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In less than five minutes, I responded to an invitation (that is probably still in pretty high demand) and signed up for Google+.

Being able to add people to the circles is an absolutely frickin’ brilliant move! The little animations are absolutely killer. I have been wanting this and talking about this and boring the living shit out of my tech-dw33b friends about how the one big problem STILL with social media is that it’s damn near and all-or-nothing game.

No longer. Someone at Google “got it,” and this is a killer feature that Facebook DOES NOT HAVE.

Also: Google+ aggregates my information from all manner of sources, so I don’t have to go through that goddam tiresome “OK, let’s fill in all the blanks on this profile page yet again … wait, what? … it timed out? (long cursing session)”

Check out the screen cap below – this is after only a few minutes of cursory work:

dave lafontaine profile on google plus
All this got added to my profile automatically. It borders on the creepy … except for the fact that I wrote and posted all this info about myself in the first place, and I approve of it and can tell instantly where it came from. Also note on the right-hand side: all the various places where I have established a social profile, all aggregated in the same place.

I kinda disagree with this post on AllFacebook, where they focus in on how Google has made it “compulsory” to be part of Google+, and that the key to all this is “time on site.”

While tech pundits are widely praising Google’s new Plus product, I’ve found the one feature that could take away from Facebook where it’s most dominant: Time on the site.

Facebook users are known for staying on the site for over half an hour a day, something no other site could compete with… until now.

To be honest, my gut reaction after using Google Plus was initially, “Why on earth would anybody switch to this from Facebook?”

However, when I loaded up Google Finance as I do every morning, I suddenly realized that I was asking the wrong question. The reality is that users won’t have the option of not using Google Plus.

However, later on, they kinda stumble into something interesting, that’s also come up recently in the kerfuffle over the “Open Letters to RIM” — that is, that tech companies are starting to realize that what will really make them successful, is making it easy for developers & propellorhead-types like, well, us … to come and play in their sandbox.

Add to that this very insightful dissection of what was at the core of MySpace imploding – the same thing at work, i.e. pissing on indie developers — and you start to see something fascinating emerging in corporate thinking … for those intelligent enough to read the tea leaves (or Cheeto crumbs, if you will).

 

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Sep 02

Janine Warner shows off top 10 new Dreamweaver CS5 features


Posted: under Design, New Marketing.
Tags: , , , ,

Janine played to a packed house at Photoshop World. Apologies for the muddy pic and the brevity of posts, but I am in info-overload mode.

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Aug 04

Unruly Adobe Tag Cloud for MAX in LA


Posted: under Design, New Marketing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I stumbled across this today while poking around at the new Adobe products, trying to decide whether it’s worth it to upgrade to CS4 for the new features in Premiere Pro and Photoshop, or to just hang on to CS3.

Anyway, this is a 3-D animated tag cloud to promote the Adobe MAX conference here in LA; but I think they might want to regulate this a bit more, because some of the user-chosen tags are getting a little … pungent.  Hey. That’s pretty good. Maybe I’ll go there and add “pungent” to the mix…

I'm not sure if you can geo-anchor the text; if not, having "PORN" appear about where Chatsworth is located, is a stroke of serendipitous genius...
I’m not sure if you can geo-anchor the text; if not, having “PORN” appear about where Chatsworth is located, is a stroke of serendipitous genius… (click to embiggen)

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