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Street crossings and user interfaces in Nashville January 31, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in city planning, nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Pontification, Urban Planning, user interface.
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Street crossings and user interfaces in Nashville
by Pontiff
The study of user interface would I suppose date back to when woman or man first picked up a stick and attempted to beat some animal into becoming dinner. (..”all in all a good stick but could have been more responsive to wrist movements…” ) UI study was elevated to consciousness by the PC, circa 1980s, and gained respectability when the web and particularly the web browser caused blood pressures to rise in the 1990s. Now we see user interface design in virtually everything. Good user interface designers have to be part psychologist, part phsyologist, part gerontologist and often urologists and ever other kind of ologist. In all that We’ve gained some understanding or should have of how the disabled interact or interface with everyday things.

This brings me to discuss my own disability or what others consider my disability — left-handedness. Its hard for you right handed people to grasp just how serious we lefties take UI design. Try putting yourself in our shoes for just one day. You’ll find you can’t use scissors, mirrors, and try wielding an assault rifle that has not been outfitted for left handed sighting and you’ll see why the lifespan of a left handed person is almost 12 years less than that of a righty.

Till tonight I’d questioned the accuracy of the lifespan thing since my left-handed grandfather lived accident free and in good health till he was 98. Tonight I had an experience that brought it all home. I’m glad for a chance to illustrate just how difficult this has been form me and my left handed brothers and sisters. Plus I get to use Google Maps for more than just a . hey look at this..

I was walking home from the Green Hills Club or The Club in Green Hills (side note: see if you can find their website which is the subject of another lesson in real life user interface) when I came to the intersection of Crestmoor and Hillsboro here This is a particularly nasty intersection with several closely spaced traffic lights in the middle of Green Hills which has to worst traffic on Earth (parts of Bangkok and Beijing come close). In my left-handed confusion I look for an indication of where to cross, anything to help me navigate the street in a safe and orderly fashion (well that’s a lie .. I was looking to see if there were any cops who might ticket me for jay walking but it leads to the same conclusion so shut up).

That’s when I saw the sign – “Crossing on South side of street ONLY”. Here is the essential difference between left and right .. handedness. The street crossing is designed no doubt by the same fellow who oversees usability at the Nashville International Airport — a Malthusian right handed chauvinist. Nashville isn’t New York where I could always tell North and South because I knew which streets ran East to West and could work out the South part by standing with my right hand pointing west and left hand east. This left my butt pointing south btw.

I looked for further guidance thinking how in the world am I supposed to know which side of the frigging street is north or south in a city where all the streets ran wherever? There was no button to push, no white lines in the street , nothing logical . So how am I supposed to know? I know that Allan Funt is dead or I’d think they had a camera on me. (I still think that’s makes more sense than anything).That’s when it hit me that the damn street was designed for right handed people. Only right handed people would be so anal as to have a compass with them at all times? How could I be so stupid I thought. Another example of how the majority oppresses. And its wrong okay. There should be some kind of crossing for left-handed people who don’t have a compass up their butts at all times. Even some right handed elderly peoople might have a hard time seeing the little hands. Add to that the pressure of being nearly blind with onrushing traffic, (the worst on Earth as I said), no sidewalks and not having any idea what to do other than pull out the laptop and go to Google Maps to find out which direction is south and whether the sign refers to the adjacent street or the tangential one. So okay, there is a Starbucks across the street which should have wireless if it hasnt been sued by Bellsouth.

I’m sure the conservative bloggers are reading this and thinking oh no! here they go again. Will the cradle to grave socialist mentality ever stop? You want us to do what? Put up street crossings? Do you know how expensive that is? No. actually I don’t. I might just opt for the old fashioned . CROSS THE FRIGGING STREET HERE, YES HERE WHERE THIS SIGN IS and leave out the need for a guide or skills at orienteering and guessing in general.

Sometimes.. good UI design means CUT THE CRAP. And if this stems for some secret agenda by the Purcell administration to weed out the old and infirmred for budgetary reasons. well okay. I understand. But .. but it might cause a lawsuit if they are from out of town.. Some day soon a right handed person will be killed at that crossing and you’ll be sorry. Then you’ll put up a sign.


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Google PR quotient just doubled January 20, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in Civil Liberties, Federal Courts, Google vs. US, Government & Politics, Law & Politics, Pontification.
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Today or in the last 24 hours Google has scored two perfect PR coups by doing the right thing.

The first — telling Bellsouth to take a hike (detailed below) — was a no brainer in many ways. After all it is Bellsouth and what can they do? I mean as a company they save all their abuse for customers which I can assure you Google is not among. As a matter of fact and completely off point I don’t think anyone who isn’t forced by circumstance would willing become their customer.

PR coup number two is telling the US government to take a hike with a subpoena for search records as detailed by this New York Times story. Now this one can result in some problems even for big G.

I’m not a lawyer but I’ve noticed over the years there has been a slight increase in the power of the federal prosecutors while the state and city DAs have been losing authority. I for one think this is a very bad thing for the simple and uncomplicated reason that federal prosecutors are not accountable to the local populace.

The gument boys are saying they aren’t going after individuals and even if there is some data that would point to the identity of users they wouldn’t use it. I mean if you don’t trust a United States law enforcement group to keep their word then.. well then you are probably not an idiot. Google isn’t an idiot either.

The last few years have been a big power grab by the feds. My opinion is that a power grab is power grab and the reasons why civil liberties must be circumvented in these special cases is never more than a cover story de jour. The cover stories have been drugs, child porn and terrorist. This latest is child porn but you could do a search and replace in this subpeoena substituting the words porn with drugs or terrorist and it would be the same.

But once again Google’s backbone is good business sense. People don’t much like the idea of the guvment knowing what they search for on the net. It doesn’t matter than 99.99% of internet users are not searching for child porn or illegal drugs (notice the words ‘child’ and ‘illegal’) or how to manuals on becoming a terrorist either. I can hear it now — “well if you aren’t a child pornographer, pusher or suicide bomber what have you got to worry about?”. The answer my friend is quite allot.

Conservative bloggers have been too quick to side with this administration. I don’t think this administration is actually very conservative when it comes to increasing the scope of federal power. In fact George Bush has never seen a power grab he didn’t like. Federal law enforcement is a special interest no different than big pharma or big oil or big fill in the blank. The Ronald Regan conservatives clearly saw this in the social welfarecrats of the seventies. They — the drug, terror, porn warriors — have a massive payroll that needs to be justified plus like all special interests they have to ratchet up the threat level in order to grab more power, money, prestige.

But you say their cause is noble and they are good people. So to was the cause of the social welfare barons. But someone has to pay the bill in both cases. We got sick of paying for a welfare machine that never seemed to win the war on poverty till the money dried up.

These conservatives (I use this in the sense they label themselves as such) fail to grasp that the very principal of power in the hands of a central distant authority is anti-conservative no matter what your reason ..er cover. Moreover the great idea and intellectual basis for Ronald Regan 80’s conservatism was that there is an inextricable connection between economic freedom and liberty and political freedom and liberty. You don’t get one without the other and when one is slowly but steadily eroded the other is not far behind.

The bill for all these wars, drugs, terror and whatever is coming due. Your economic freedoms will be quickly eroded in order to aid the tax collector. So if the Google records can somehow create a profile of a child pornographer why not a profile of a tax cheat. Tax cheat is a notoriously vague term and given to constant reinterpretation by the IRS. The problem people is that their is no due process in such matters. If the IRS decides you are a target then you’re screwed and if you can become a target because of your search patterns on Google then I would say you will soon have concentric circles painted on your back.

As an aside Yahoo, MSN and another company quickly handed over your search data to the feds. If I were you I woulnd’t be using them anymore just in case.

So wake up people and see that Google’s battle is more than just about the search records of porn freaks. Its your money they are protecting.

Bellsouth Has a Plan to Ruin The Internet January 20, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in Bellsouth, Companies headed south, Corporate Technology Ethics, Uncategorized.
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Really they do. And they want to carry it out.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — BellSouth Corp. confirmed Monday that it is pursuing discussions with Internet content companies to levy charges to reliably and speedily deliver their content and services.

They’ve figured out that people use only a few big services and further research has shown people want them fast and reliably. The conclusion is typical. They figure that if everyone uses Google why bother with the little Google wannabe that just clogs up the net. Plus.. we — Bell-headed-South — can charge more and do less which has been our mantra for 15 years.

They don’t care and I’m beginning to thing couldn’t figure out that Google didn’t really exist just 5 years ago. Had Bellsouth been in charge it probably wouldn’t exist now because they would have made it so hard to access and slow to load no one would have given it a chance.

Bell-headed ever further -South has had quite the year. They’ve spearheaded a campaign of fear and intimidation against small town America with their wireless lawsuits. When the feds rebuffed their ridiculous petitions for protections they engaged in a campaign to lobby corrupt state legislatures to convince them to pass laws against their own people using wireless to address Bellsouth’s crappy and nonexistent services. Further I think this effort was probably illegal on antitrust grounds.

Obviously such behavior it is unethical if it isn’t illegal. Bellsouth has a corporate policy against ethics. They demonstrated this in the aftermath of Katrina by reneging on an offer to donate an unused building to the people of New Orleans after learning the city was going to implement free wireless in an attempt to lure business back to their flood ravaged downtown.

Now they’ve shown they are all for slowing down the speed of technological advancement with their anti-wireless campaigns. (Actually they are just slowing down their customer’s access to technology services but nothing new there as they can’t supply DSL to their customers anyway.) But this latest is a new one. They want to turn back the clock. They want to revert to an era before the internet by destroying the internet and making arbitrary decisions as to who you would have access to on the net. They of course would decide based on whatever crazy, venal and ignorant criteria of the Bell-headed toward disaster-South management de jour.

Nashville Scene’s Source Questioned January 19, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Uncategorized.
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The much improved Nashville Scene website is running a story about the …'[l]ocal assistant U.S. attorney’s explosive Justice Department allegations ‘…

The seven-page document reads like the screenplay for Scarface, had it been written by a Justice Department attorney instead of Oliver Stone. U.S. Drug Enforcement agents in Bogotá, Colombia, help local drug lords traffic narcotics.

This piece in the Narcosphere — the blog for The Narco News Bulletin — gives allot of further background if you’re interested.

It also calls into the question the believability of the unnamed source behind the allegations. Its interesting to read both the Scene’s take and that of the Narcosphere. Note that they are not questioning the Scene reporter’s, John Spragens, veracity here only the intentions and motivations behind the unnamed source. If you read the comments you’ll see Spragens writes the author to thank him for finding one error of fact (a date).

Be warned that this is complicated and I had to read it a few times to make sense of what is being said. My take it is yet again another example of the futility and morally questionable nature of our so called war on drugs.

The war is of course not against ‘drugs’ but the people who use, traffic, cultivate or are involved with any of the above This means that its a war against a sizable portion of this countries population waged by a class of ‘legal czars’ who offer up their noble purpose to justify actions that sometime don’t seem very justifiable.

I for one think most of these people are protecting their power , jobs or both and don’t think it through beyond those ends. Further a climate of fear creates an eviroment in which people are scared to question whether these ends are justifed or the purpose really noble to begin with — not to risk comming off as ‘pro drug’ which is like saying if your are against the war in Iraq you are pro terror. I don’t believe they even know what the ends are and lost sight of the purpose a long time ago.

What site? January 15, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in NashvillesNews.net, Unbundled Media, Uncategorized.
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The real change between the old web and the newly christened web 2.0 is in user perception. Internet users now see a large portion of the net as one ‘thing’ rather than allot of small sites with links to one another.

Specifically they see two large areas of the web — 1.,those individual sites that are engaged in ecommerce or selling stuff and 2.,what has become known as the blogosphere. Some users of course are aware of the technologies powering blogs and blogging software. While they understand that these things are powered by discrete servers and databases they behave as if it is one big single web applications. This behavior is translated into a general impatience with anything that has to do with re identifying themselves to individual sites.

This behavior is of course the grand design behind the blogosphere and a testament to its success. People are frustrated by having to log-in to each site and inputting their credit card information to make a small purchase.

Note too that RSS is the enabling technology here. We who work in the boiler room are focusing on the cogs and gears when in point of fact they only relevant to others in the same engine room — ie. very few. (more…)

Google Video is going to work..I mean now. bye bye networks.. Hello fun. January 13, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in Google Video, Unbundled Media, Uncategorized.
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Here is Kenzie. I think she’s an angel. You might not aggree. But who cares? I can do this and it took me 4 minutes. Now anyone in my family from LA to New York to Nashville and infinity and beyond can look at my daughter in all her cutness.

Next up — a one hour version. heh heh.. Okay you don’t have to watch. But look what your will be missing.