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Archive for the ‘Office’ Category

Aspiration or Version 2

Posted by Avadhut on 20 April 2008

This time around, I want to make something that will look better next year than this…

Just like Mr. Bowie

Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet earth is blue
And theres nothing I can do.

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Posted in Foo, Office, Visual sick | 4 Comments »

Clangoring imp

Posted by Avadhut on 10 April 2008

Once, long ago, she pinned this on my softboard during halloween:

A gentle breeze rustling the dry cornstalks

A sound is heard, a goblin walks

A harvest moon suffers a black cat’s cry.

Oh’ do witched fly!

The bonfire catches a pumpkin’s gleam.

Rejoice, it’s Halloween!

She used to award me “stars” for good behavior and “commas” for bad.

She always thought that I’d choose spelunking over food.

And she thought that my favorite game was mudpie-mudpie.

Then she was gone.

Now, she’s finally here.

🙂

Posted in Foo, Nostalgia, Office | 7 Comments »

Hear what the Chief Lizard Wrangler has to say

Posted by Avadhut on 31 January 2008

What has Mozilla Corporation’s chief contribution been? The Firefox browser? Or the email client Thunderbird? I would say neither. It has been its model of developer participation—of managing innovation outside corporate borders and passing on decision making to its community of developers. 40 percent of its code is not from employees—a staggering statistic if you consider that the company’s revenue-sharing arrangement with Google for searches that originate in Firefox delivered revenues three times greater than Mozilla’s expenses (a little over $50 million in 2006)!

Mozilla’s model proved that Open Source not only works but works extremely well when managed properly.

McKinsey Quarterly recently interviewed Mitchell Baker, CEO, Mozilla Corporation. A must read, despite the compulsory registration. She sums it up the best when she says

Turning people loose is really valuable. You have to figure out what space and what range, but you get a lot more than you would expect out of them, because they’re not you.

PS: A discussion on the same theme spawned a large number of really, really, huge comments some time back. Remember?

Posted in Mozilla, Office, Open source, Social media | 3 Comments »

Will this do?

Posted by Avadhut on 26 November 2007

I have lunch with three women. Everyday.

They tell me a lot of stuff. So…

blackbeard_by_avadhut1.gif

P.S: Thanks R, S, and C, and a few thanks go out to P also. 🙂

Posted in Foo, Office, Sarcasm, Visual sick | 14 Comments »

Foo

Posted by Avadhut on 21 September 2007

-My dinner last night: Masala Maggi with atleast 75 grams of butter on top, 5 cubes of cheese, and Maggi Hot and Sweet Tomato Chilli Sauce It’s Different®—I call it special effects :).

-Three years ago I was taking calls in a BPO at 4 am. Two years ago I was listening to calls. A year ago I was unemployed. Yesterday, my CEO offered me copious amounts of money to keep me from quitting to join a US-based startup.[1]

[1] Read somewhere that when you pursue things that truly excite you, they would reward in more important ways, like happiness. So true.

Posted in Foo, Office | 15 Comments »

Quotes about design

Posted by Avadhut on 11 September 2007

A few days ago, I came across a collection of design-related quotes over at sysprog.net. Below, a couple of my favorites:

In the beginning we must simplify the subject, thus unavoidably falsifying it, and later we must sophisticate away the falsely simple beginning.

-Maimonides

Walking on water and developing software from a specification are easy if both are frozen.

-Edward V Berard

You can only put as much intelligence in a system as was in the design engineer to begin with.

-Peter Orme

When one has no character, one has to apply a method.

-Albert Camus

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

-Ayn Rand

Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic.

-Fyodor Dostoevsky

If you cannot grok the overall structure of a program while taking a shower, you are not ready to code it.

-Richard Pattis

Designers must do two seemingly contradictory things at the same time: They must design for perfection, and they must design as though errors are inevitable. And they must do the second without compromising the first.

-Bob Colwell

The two main design principles of the NeXT machine appear to be revenge and spite.

-Don Lancaster

Very often, people confuse simple with simplistic. The nuance is lost on most.

-Clement Mok

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.

-Alfred North Whitehead

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.

-Leonardo da Vinci

Much of the Web is like an anthill built by ants on LSD.

-Jakob Nielsen

Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.

-Frank Lloyd Wright

Quality isn’t something you lay on top of subjects and objects like tinsel on a Christmas tree.

-Robert Pirsig

Crash programs fail because they are based on the theory that with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month.

-Wernher von Braun

Out of intense complexities, emerge intense simplicities.

-Winston Churchill

Posted in Office, Sarcasm, System design | 5 Comments »

Turbulent confabulations

Posted by Avadhut on 9 July 2007

My second site in Drupal.

index.png

Front page: Modules used: Panels, views, & a custom banner generation module. Although, Drupal does have a contrib Banner module for 5.1, I wasn’t too happy with the functionality. So coded my own module to handle things like Banner rotation, displaying of a recruitment banner when a new posting is uploaded, etc. Minimum work for the end user, in this case—HR. (Note: The banners in this image are simply an example—placeholders till the Web team comes up with new banners). Also, the search box and newsletter subscription form has been shifted to the top of the page and can be toggled (a tab-ing script in JS).

editage.png

Team page: Modules used: Custom Banner module, views, panels. Notice how the side-bar has appeared on this page now. This was not done through Panels (that would require too many CSS workarounds), instead a template-level workaround/hack was implemented.

cnbc_news1.png

News page: Modules used: Views, Panels. Notice how the date has been displayed—this, again, was a template level hack implemented in node.tpl.php. The blockquotes have been styled to attract attention fast to the important bits, like in newspapers. Makes for easier skimming through.

faqs.png

FAQs page: Modules used: Views, CCK, ConTemplate. Instead of using the contrib FAQs module, I used CCK to create a custom FAQ type. Further, the displaying of the content on the FAQs page—questions on top with named anchor links below—was automatically generated by using a template defined in ConTemplate. Easier for HR to upload questions without meddling with any coded bits.

cutlture.png

Work culture: A static page, but it was made AJAX-y by using the accordion functionality of MooFX.

employee-speak.png

Employee speak: Modules used: Views. Employee Speak was implemented as a custom data type and this listing page was generated using Views. All icons were handcrafted to go with the theme of the site.

colin_speak.png

Employee speak (Individual pages): Modules used: Views, Panels, ConTemplate. Notice how author names and Taxonomy are not linked and the submission line is styled quite differently as compared to the default Drupal style. This is again a template-level hack implemented in node.tpl.php.

careers.png

Careers page: Modules used: Views, ConTemplate. An open/close Javascript wrapper was used to minimize the scrolling and dynamically display content without having to reload pages.

teams.png

Teams: Static content page.

contactus.png photos.png

Facility tour page: Again a static content page. However, the Lightbox Ver 2 Javascript plugin was used to display a slideshow of photos without having to reload pages—the main Web page grays out and a photo is overlayed on top of it with “next” and “prev” controls.

facility.png

Contact us: Simple static content page.

Like I said, it will be a while before this one goes live, but at least the port to Drupal has been performed. The level of CSS detailing Drupal allows you to define is mind boggling. All you need to do is understand the styling system (Drupal has several different style sheets to deal with—system.css, default.css, style.css, and any other style sheets that are bundled with the contrib modules).

I found the Firebug plugin for Firefox an excellent companion in styling Drupal sites as well as to ensure that your site is standards compliant—it helps unlock the complex levels and hierarchies realized by Drupal style sheets.

In the end, it would be the safest to say that no matter what your design looks like—custom tables for each page, differently styled lists on different pages, differently styled blocks on different pages, etc.—nothing is impossible in Drupal.

Posted in Drupal, Office, Visual sick | 7 Comments »

Samantha

Posted by Avadhut on 13 June 2007

-Ever had a sense of constance that made you feel like the feelings, emotions, beliefs you held about certain things haven’t really changed in a long time, like, say, since you were in the eigth standard?

Lately, I have begun to feel it sometimes. Have I not grown up or was I never immature?

Either is scary!

-Is it ok to quit your workplace when you realize that the implementation of your creative endevors is directly proportional to the understanding prowess possessed by someone else?[1]

-Is talking gibberish considered a desirable quality for grooms in any culture?[2]

-You really didn’t expect the title of the post to make any sense, did you?

[1] Sometimes, it’s easier to talk in math.

[2] An example—How about telling the story of Die Hard 1 using only sounds and never-before-heard words like “grig.”

Posted in Foo, Office, Weeping cozened indigo | 4 Comments »

PMP

Posted by Avadhut on 28 April 2007

A PMP is a project management plan, and I consider it as important to a software project as earbuds are to a fish.
When I came in on Monday hoping to get my hands dirty with MySQL, Drupal, and some good old-fashioned PHP, this is what my CIO expects me to do—prepare a freaking PMP!
What does it do? Make people run here and there achieving absolutely nothing. Seriously!

Preparing it made me feel like I was back in college preparing UML and use case-diagrams without really knowing their usefulness—the so called essential documentation of a software project. My stay in college hadn’t been a particularly efficient learning experience. When I graduated, I had learnt, from sitting for lectures, only as much in my five years of college as what smart kindergarten toddlers learn in one year. My “research” work was not dissimilar [1] to the kind of analysis that I imagine idle secretaries indulge in when they make estimations about the love lives of their bosses based on the amount of paper they are shredding. That’s exactly how I felt preparing the damned PMP.
Anyhow, the project’s gone well. The themeing is done. I will put up some pics of the interface on this blog as soon as I get back to work on Monday.

[1] either in spirit or complexity
P.S: She literally forced me into writing this.

Posted in Foo, Office | 27 Comments »

Cognitive seduction

Posted by Avadhut on 7 April 2007

While conceptualizing the wire-frame for the office Intranet, I was always confused with regard to the amount of complexity/ease-of-use I should build into the user interface. Should it be amazingly simple or should I make it extremely techie. Should I go according to the textbooks just because they enumerates rules? When will I do something new then? Conventions say I should make sure all hyperlinks are blue because all over the Web they are blue. Conventions say that tagging works for blogs, Flickr, and Youtube; it would be of no use for enterprise content. Conventions say that my navigation should be extremely simple. What new groundbreaking feature do I build into my site so as to make it stand apart from the rest?

On doing research for solutions to this problem, I came across this foreword to the book “Steps to an ecology of mind” by Gregory Bateson. While discussing games, Gregory Bateson makes this important observation:

…there are important emotions that we feel and go through and enjoy and find in some mysterious ways to enlarge our spirit.

So, is solving Rubick’s cube even remotely sensual to our brains? Is formulating strategies sexy? Absolutely. This is what is referred to as “cognitive seduction.” While most of us do not refer to the word “seductive” in non-sexual contexts, game designers do. They are experts at the art of “cognitive arousal,” and I am looking for ways to build these type of features that ensure “repeated playability” of games in a Web model. I am not talking about the use of sex and imagery to keep users/readers interested. I am talking about the type of “experiential pleasure” one might derive out of solving a puzzle, finding something new in an existing framework, interacting with someone in a social networking model, discovering something new about themselves, etc. The premise here is people derive pleasure by having to work something out or to engage cognitively in a challenge.

How does one go about doing this?

Lets try to establish a sort of list of different types of user experiences in conjunction with cognitive seduction:

  1. Discovery: user experience as the exploration of something new
  2. Challenge: user experience as overcoming an obstacel in achieving something, going past previous individual thresholds and knowledge levels, etc.
  3. Narrative: user experience as a story
  4. Self-expression: user experience as self-discovery and creativity
  5. Social framework: user experience as interaction with colleagues or someone unknown in an Web model
  6. Cognitive arousal: user experience as a brain teaser
  7. Thrill: user experience as risk-taking in presence of a safety net
  8. Triumph: user experience as an opportunity to kick ass
  9. Flow: user experience as extreme concentration, extreme focus, lack of self-awareness
  10. Fantasy: user experience as alternate reality
  11. Learning: user experience as an opportunity to grow and improve

No. Its not possible to build a model equipped with all these features. An excellent example of the implementation of the above features would be game design. But even the best game designers do not, and cannot, build a game to mirror all of these requirements. The idea is to make sure that whatever you build—be it a game or, as in my case, a social collaborative tool—incorporates some of these features into its basic model. Or at least it should be tuned to realize a few of the above mentioned user experience types. In simple words, I do not want to make a site extremely simplistic, I do not want to provide just excellent usability; instead, I want to provide a user experience. I want to make sure that every time I design a site, I keep in my mind that my users are smart. I want to give them some credit and reward them if they use my system in an innovative way I had’nt thought of before. I want them to surprise me. I do not want things to get boring very fast!

Am I on the right track here? Or is convention the only way?

Posted in Knowledge management, Office, Social media | 7 Comments »