Paris Meetup Details

Lizard LoungeLooks like we got ourselves a venue for the all-in-one Les Blogs/Flock/Bar Camp/Word Press/Riya Meetup! So, tonight, Sunday, December 4, 2005 @ 19h05 at the Lizard Lounge (18, rue du Bourg-Tibourg, 75004 Paris). Should be a pretty good crowd, so if you’re in the area stop on by!

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Geeky Things

I’ve had a couple things cross my radar recently that I’d like to see be improved somehow… either in Flock (or browsers in general), RSS aggregators or blogging tools.

Better Reading through Columnization

Web reading vs. TofuWhich do you prefer? I think it’s quite apparent that Tofu makes reading webpages and blog posts infinitely easier and more enjoyable. So where’s the Firefox extension? Huh huh? I guarentee you this will get into Flock eventually… if not my next RSS aggregator. Or both…?

Well, looks like the recent Firefox betas already have this. Now to just see some smart Tofu-like uses of this feature!

DOM state in history

With all the hoopla about AJAX-based interfaces, it’s about time that browsers get keen to the fact that the DOM state is part of your history. It’s not some scripty side-effect — no, when I use the back button, I expect the page to be in the same state that I left it. This should be the case whether I navigate off to some other page or close the window or tab. The only way to restore the state of a page back to its original state should occur if I clear my history or exit out of my browser (or somehow reset the DOM through some other intentional mechanism).

And this should exist in the browser because it’s the thing that’s storing my path history. So what does it mean when the browser adds DOM state to my history? For example, when I use Gmail and navigate off to some other page and then return, I would no longer lose the email I was reading or composing. In fact, I could even load up Gmail in a new tab or window and find myself in the same place where I left off. Which is exactly what I want.

So the effect would be in effect to maintain your session state across tabs, windows… no matter where you are or what you’re doing, the browser would be staying with you, never skipping a beat, making sure that every little action you took was recorded and there for you to return to until you decided to start afresh.

It’s time the browser got wise to the current state of web application design. If not to encourage the further development of fast webapps like Basecamp or Flickr, but to make the browser reflect user expectations about the purpose of the back button!

Blogbars

BlogbarsThe last thing on my list concerns a rather recent feature that Matt just launched on WordPress.com. It’s just like the Blogger toolbar, except that his bar applies to WordPress.com account holders instead of general visitors. It’s a good start, but I think it can be better. He’s open to ideas — as am I. How can this tool help you blog better?

Hmm, if only the browser could facilitate blogging somehow… heh.

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What of this silly little invite-only idea?

Google TalkI’ve received a couple invites from folks for Google Talk, Google’s new instant messaging service. The funny thing is that it requires a Gmail username and password to make use of the software, which, like other Google software, only runs on Windows. Now you’ll recall, too, that Gmail is an invite-only system. This would make for some rather troublesome exclusivity in the service if it weren’t for the fact that you can talk to your buddies on other IM services.

So here’s what’s interesting about this, and something I wonder about personally given Flock’s current “private beta”: what results are had by using such an invite-based system to grow your userbase and social network? What are the costs and benefits, and to whom? There are myriad reasons for busting out with a fully public beta but just as many for going private, which is, admittedly, different than exclusive (Flock is the former, Gmail the latter).

To limit your system to invited participants, you must certainly have something of both legitimate and substantial value to create demand… that actually incents invitees to sign up and login. But you also must not upset or invite the bitter ire of those who haven’t yet received invites.

And quite obviously, as we learned over the past week, once you’ve extended an invite, especially in the world of software where there is hardly such a thing as scarcity of resources, what you giveth, you nary can take away.

So what of all these invite-only (or formally invite-only) services where you have to know someone on the inside to get a golden ticket? Does it artificially increase desire? Does it help services grow organically and cut down on trolls and spam, creating more value for invitees? Does it create more investment from the user community and perhaps establish even minor connections between invitor and invitee? Or does it create a false hierarchy around an inner circle of well-connected geeks?

Who knows?

What I do know is that it’s a curious trend and happening rather profusely across the web. Good or bad? I can’t quite say — except that in the case of Flock, we’re using the invite system to start out slowly on purpose. We want to not only be able to scale up organically, but we also want to cultivate relationships with our brave early adopters so that we can build the best experience possible over time. And to that end — we want to make sure that when we do launch publicly, we’ve hammered out all the glaring issues — as well as minor ones — so that sum total Flock makes you more productive, more explorative, and more voraciously social on the web. So for now, Flock will remain available to few kindred souls with enough courage to shove through our bugs and dodge the sharp edges. In the meantime, do add yourself to our invite lottery so that your name will be there when the next round of invites go out!

It’s been one hulluva week

One of those weeksWhat can I say other than it’s just been one of those weeks? I can’t even characterize it so much as sense the depth of the changes happening in and around me. Nor can I chalk it up to any singular thing, there’s just a lot goin’ on!

So first off, lemme give props to Matty Mullenweg, for topping 200K downloads of WordPress, the software the powers this very blog. 200K. That’s just friggin’ sweet.

Moments before and in no way diminishing Matty’s accomplishment, Firefox hit the big 50 mil. Even if the quality of design at Spread Firefox seems to tanking since I left, I’m really proud to have been part of the effort to get the word out about the Fox. And having a hand in the launch of the rather successful syndicated download counter thing feels pretty tasty too (to use an Ericism.) Oh, and it seems SFX just hit the 99,000 member mark. Day-mn…

Ok, so other schtuff.

Well, I’m deep into rewriting my CivicSpace themes from the ground up, gutting all my previous code and aiming at a consistent codebase. I still don’t know how big a project this is and I’m having some trouble keeping focus on it. The good news is, this overhaul will have very positive results, both for CivicSpace, Drupal and, I hope, themers in general. We shall see.

In other news, my nascent work on SpreadOpenOffice seems to have suffered a bit of a blow, with one of the originators of the project being blown off by the OOo proper folks. I mean, it never makes me happy to see people fight, and it makes me even less so when having seemingly silly disputes over apparent falsehoods. I mean, Charles Schulz’s line “It is a very smart attempt to fork the community.” just seems preposterous. In an all the discussions about this effort I’ve been privy to, it’s never seemed like an effort to fork anything… The way I see it, if the OOo community doesn’t develop a way to harness the efforts of its grassroots supporters, there’ll eventually be more forks than a UN dinner party anyway…

So while I have a few other related projects going on, none warrant much discussion… except the nascent SpreadCC discussion and SpreadButter

…which is, mind you, yet another CivicSpace site. Speaking of… this week was probably one of the most tumultuous for us so far. But I’m not too worried; from adversity and conflict usually springs innovation and clarity, which is precisely what we’re in need of. I’m willing to give it some time and see what happens, but between balancing theming, module improvement, Drupal development, relationship building, promotional efforts, and business model planning, it’s been a helluva week.

Oh, and in the meantime, the Web 2.0 arrived. Backpack, Rojo, and hmm… something else… all launched… Firefox got SVG, Tiger finally dropped and… oh yeah, I moved (which has nothing to do with anything).

I forget what I was going to write next. But oh yeah, it’s really been one helluva week.

Making it better

WordPress Woodtype WordmarkMatt writes eloquently about the kind of user experience he seeks to create in WordPress and how it leads to a much larger goal:

“We all love software that is a joy to use and elegant to work with. As far as WordPress can become that software to more people, I think we’re doing a good job.

“It’s tough work — it hasn’t been easy and it won’t get any easier. There are proprietary and commercial companies trying to do the same thing, except with millions of dollars and dozens of full-time employees. However they don’t have the community or passion that we have, and I think we can do a better job and make the world a better place in the process. I truly believe this, otherwise I would have given up or sold out long ago.”

That Matt and I share such similar moral aesthetics contributes to how well we get along. Having similar long-term goals also helps. It’s interesting to read Matt’s characterization of the development of WordPress; in spite my dayjob, he makes it sound so epic, I almost can’t but pitch in…

…Which is perhaps the reason I’ll be turning my attention to a new and exciting (as yet unannounced) venture very soon… working directly with Matt and the WordPress community… details as they develop!