Thursday, April 13, 2006

text input

Distilling meaning from text that users enter into arbitrary text input fields is going through some good iterations these days. I see three general buckets of "smart entry fields"; you could build six permutations of them if you consider client-side and and back-end-side versions of each, but, for the purposes of this post, I'll assume it's irrelevant whether the logic crank gets turned on the client vs. the back-end.

Auto-completion:
This kind of smart entry field simply relies on historic entries, and matches text you type, to things that entry field has already had typed into it. Examples of this would be spreadsheet cells, web form managers that browsers have built-in, and the URL bar in a browser. I had the distinct pleasure of writing the first web browser auto-complete implemetation; it was released in Netscape's 4.x browser. Auto-completion is handy, for repetitive tasks, but is horribly simplistic. A more interesting "smart entry field" is described next.

Intelligent intent derrivation:
This kind of "smart entry field" has a lot going on behind the scenes. Once text has been "entered," that text is sliced and diced through complex grating algorithms and statistical analysis, in an attempt to derrive the meaning of the user's intent. Search boxes (such as those found at common search sites) are good examples of this (note: that there are obviously many search boxes that are "dumb" and simply look your words up in an index.). Once you search for some text in a search engine, that text is checked for spelling, more popular word ordering/pairing, synonyms, and is dis-ambiguated. The latter concept is pretty neat in that the system will try and figure out if your search for "eagles" meant "eagles the music band," "eagles the bird," "eagles the football team," etc. Sometimes text can be dis-ambiguated, and sometimes not; at a minimum however, the user can be asked a follow-up question asking what their intent actually was. The last type of "smart entry field" is the one that's in the lime-light right now; I'll call it "contextual parsing."

Contextual Parsing:
This kind of "smart entry field" assumes some general context before it ever gets started. Two good, public, recent, examples of it would be the web-based calendar applications at 30boxes ("one box"), and Google ("quick add"). These smart entry fields consider things you type into them under the guise of calendar/event related text. For example, it's pretty simple to deduce what "Jon's Birthday party at 9pm tomorrow" means in terms of a calendar application. The power of contextual parsing is significant considering it doesn't have to solve the most generic problem of them all: did I mean eagles the bird, the band, or the football team. As I've noted in a previous blog entry, I think it's silly trying to solve "intelligent intent derrivation" given our current set of tools and math.

These all have the advantage of severely minimizing the number of UI elements that can sometimes crop up in order to decipher the user's intent, and gain context. For example, "check this checkbox if you want to search the web, or site.com."

I like what I'm seeing w/ the evolution of entry fields.

text input

Distilling meaning from text that users enter into arbitrary text input fields is going through some good iterations these days. I see three general buckets of "smart entry fields"; you could build six permutations of them if you consider client-side and and back-end-side versions of each, but, for the purposes of this post, I'll assume it's irrelevant whether the logic crank gets turned on the client vs. the back-end.

Auto-completion:
This kind of smart entry field simply relies on historic entries, and matches text you type, to things that entry field has already had typed into it. Examples of this would be spreadsheet cells, web form managers that browsers have built-in, and the URL bar in a browser. I had the distinct pleasure of writing the first web browser auto-complete implemetation; it was released in Netscape's 4.x browser. Auto-completion is handy, for repetitive tasks, but is horribly simplistic. A more interesting "smart entry field" is described next.

Intelligent intent derrivation:
This kind of "smart entry field" has a lot going on behind the scenes. Once text has been "entered," that text is sliced and diced through complex grating algorithms and statistical analysis, in an attempt to derrive the meaning of the user's intent. Search boxes (such as those found at common search sites) are good examples of this (note: that there are obviously many search boxes that are "dumb" and simply look your words up in an index.). Once you search for some text in a search engine, that text is checked for spelling, more popular word ordering/pairing, synonyms, and is dis-ambiguated. The latter concept is pretty neat in that the system will try and figure out if your search for "eagles" meant "eagles the music band," "eagles the bird," "eagles the football team," etc. Sometimes text can be dis-ambiguated, and sometimes not; at a minimum however, the user can be asked a follow-up question asking what their intent actually was. The last type of "smart entry field" is the one that's in the lime-light right now; I'll call it "contextual parsing."

Contextual Parsing:
This kind of "smart entry field" assumes some general context before it ever gets started. Two good, public, recent, examples of it would be the web-based calendar applications at 30boxes ("one box"), and Google ("quick add"). These smart entry fields consider things you type into them under the guise of calendar/event related text. For example, it's pretty simple to deduce what "Jon's Birthday party at 9pm tomorrow" means in terms of a calendar application. The power of contextual parsing is significant considering it doesn't have to solve the most generic problem of them all: did I mean eagles the bird, the band, or the football team. As I've noted in a previous blog entry, I think it's silly trying to solve "intelligent intent derrivation" given our current set of tools and math.

These all have the advantage of severely minimizing the number of UI elements that can sometimes crop up in order to decipher the user's intent, and gain context. For example, "check this checkbox if you want to search the web, or site.com."

I like what I'm seeing w/ the evolution of entry fields.

text input

Distilling meaning from text that users enter into arbitrary text input fields is going through some good iterations these days. I see three general buckets of "smart entry fields"; you could build six permutations of them if you consider client-side and and back-end-side versions of each, but, for the purposes of this post, I'll assume it's irrelevant whether the logic crank gets turned on the client vs. the back-end.

Auto-completion:
This kind of smart entry field simply relies on historic entries, and matches text you type, to things that entry field has already had typed into it. Examples of this would be spreadsheet cells, web form managers that browsers have built-in, and the URL bar in a browser. I had the distinct pleasure of writing the first web browser auto-complete implemetation; it was released in Netscape's 4.x browser. Auto-completion is handy, for repetitive tasks, but is horribly simplistic. A more interesting "smart entry field" is described next.

Intelligent intent derrivation:
This kind of "smart entry field" has a lot going on behind the scenes. Once text has been "entered," that text is sliced and diced through complex grating algorithms and statistical analysis, in an attempt to derrive the meaning of the user's intent. Search boxes (such as those found at common search sites) are good examples of this (note: that there are obviously many search boxes that are "dumb" and simply look your words up in an index.). Once you search for some text in a search engine, that text is checked for spelling, more popular word ordering/pairing, synonyms, and is dis-ambiguated. The latter concept is pretty neat in that the system will try and figure out if your search for "eagles" meant "eagles the music band," "eagles the bird," "eagles the football team," etc. Sometimes text can be dis-ambiguated, and sometimes not; at a minimum however, the user can be asked a follow-up question asking what their intent actually was. The last type of "smart entry field" is the one that's in the lime-light right now; I'll call it "contextual parsing."

Contextual Parsing:
This kind of "smart entry field" assumes some general context before it ever gets started. Two good, public, recent, examples of it would be the web-based calendar applications at 30boxes ("one box"), and Google ("quick add"). These smart entry fields consider things you type into them under the guise of calendar/event related text. For example, it's pretty simple to deduce what "Jon's Birthday party at 9pm tomorrow" means in terms of a calendar application. The power of contextual parsing is significant considering it doesn't have to solve the most generic problem of them all: did I mean eagles the bird, the band, or the football team. As I've noted in a previous blog entry, I think it's silly trying to solve "intelligent intent derrivation" given our current set of tools and math.

These all have the advantage of severely minimizing the number of UI elements that can sometimes crop up in order to decipher the user's intent, and gain context. For example, "check this checkbox if you want to search the web, or site.com."

I like what I'm seeing w/ the evolution of entry fields.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Consensus

I came across this great cartoon, apparently from 37signals, where two people agree that they want to build a house.

Working for a big company, I see this happen all to often. I think it's a mechanism to reach "agreement" on something rather than nothing at all. Sometimes the initial, high-level, agreement leads to lower-level executable decisions, but often it does not.

I think we should all breathe air, and be nice to eachother; agree?

Consensus

I came across this great cartoon, apparently from 37signals, where two people agree that they want to build a house.

Working for a big company, I see this happen all to often. I think it's a mechanism to reach "agreement" on something rather than nothing at all. Sometimes the initial, high-level, agreement leads to lower-level executable decisions, but often it does not.

I think we should all breathe air, and be nice to eachother; agree?

Consensus

I came across this great cartoon, apparently from 37signals, where two people agree that they want to build a house.

Working for a big company, I see this happen all to often. I think it's a mechanism to reach "agreement" on something rather than nothing at all. Sometimes the initial, high-level, agreement leads to lower-level executable decisions, but often it does not.

I think we should all breathe air, and be nice to eachother; agree?

Monday, April 3, 2006

Video & Conversion (not that kind of conversion!)

Do you remember your first kiss? I do; 5th grade, Gina Stabile, recess, outside the gym doors. We pecked, then ran away from eachother as fast as we could.

Do you remember when you converted to Apple? I do.

It was a couple of years ago. Two things moved me to Apple: one, OS X (a linux based operating system, with the sex appeal of Apple design), and two, ease of video editing (iMovie/iDVD).

My wife (didn't turn out to be Gina) had our first child, and I wanted to capture everything and create videos that family/friends could see. I also wanted the videos for archival purposes; you know, typical parent stuff. I wanted to put some production quality into the videos as well; not just send out clips of things I'd captured (although I wanted to do that too). I recall going to the local CompUSA to pull all the pieces together for a Windows based PC. For fifteen years I had been cobbling together my own PCs/desktops (I even had a computer build/resale business for awhile), so I was interested in playing with video components on wintel. That is, until I had a shopping cart half full of products (software and hardware) that undoubtedly was going have trouble integrating. The "old" me, the "pre-parent" me, would have really enjoyed knocking all the pieces together, and the multiple trips to CompUSA. The "new" me, the "parent" me, knew that I wouldn't have time for all the construction and experimentation. Not to mention learn multiple workflow products (importing tools, editing tools, exporting tools, etc), none of which was meant to work with the other except at the win32 API level.

I wandered over to the Apple section and told the Apple representative what I was trying to do. He introduced me to the iMac, firewire, iMovie and iDVD. I walked out of CompUSA with two items; an iMac (which came preloaded w/ iMovie and iDVD), and a 3' firewire cable to connect my camcorder to the iMac. Soon after that, I had my first iMovie which I burned to DVDs for the non-Internet savvy of my audience, and an MPEG version for those who could drive a browser and media player. I did have to buy a couple of DVD players for grandparents without them.

I was so pleased at having converted.

Today, my video editing skills have improved immensely, and I spend my time considering the creative aspects of video editing; such as, event/time/audio sync'ing (the true art of video creation). I would probably still be trying to get all the parts to interoperate had I tried to do all this with a Windows box.

Apple takes the technology and user interface challenges out of useful computing processes; what a concept!

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an old technology friend, during which I asked, "when is this all just going to work?" "This" referring to technology (specifically we were talking about the challenges of cross-platform browser plugin finding and installation).

Apple's making it happen!

Video & Conversion (not that kind of conversion!)

Do you remember your first kiss? I do; 5th grade, Gina Stabile, recess, outside the gym doors. We pecked, then ran away from eachother as fast as we could.

Do you remember when you converted to Apple? I do.

It was a couple of years ago. Two things moved me to Apple: one, OS X (a linux based operating system, with the sex appeal of Apple design), and two, ease of video editing (iMovie/iDVD).

My wife (didn't turn out to be Gina) had our first child, and I wanted to capture everything and create videos that family/friends could see. I also wanted the videos for archival purposes; you know, typical parent stuff. I wanted to put some production quality into the videos as well; not just send out clips of things I'd captured (although I wanted to do that too). I recall going to the local CompUSA to pull all the pieces together for a Windows based PC. For fifteen years I had been cobbling together my own PCs/desktops (I even had a computer build/resale business for awhile), so I was interested in playing with video components on wintel. That is, until I had a shopping cart half full of products (software and hardware) that undoubtedly was going have trouble integrating. The "old" me, the "pre-parent" me, would have really enjoyed knocking all the pieces together, and the multiple trips to CompUSA. The "new" me, the "parent" me, knew that I wouldn't have time for all the construction and experimentation. Not to mention learn multiple workflow products (importing tools, editing tools, exporting tools, etc), none of which was meant to work with the other except at the win32 API level.

I wandered over to the Apple section and told the Apple representative what I was trying to do. He introduced me to the iMac, firewire, iMovie and iDVD. I walked out of CompUSA with two items; an iMac (which came preloaded w/ iMovie and iDVD), and a 3' firewire cable to connect my camcorder to the iMac. Soon after that, I had my first iMovie which I burned to DVDs for the non-Internet savvy of my audience, and an MPEG version for those who could drive a browser and media player. I did have to buy a couple of DVD players for grandparents without them.

I was so pleased at having converted.

Today, my video editing skills have improved immensely, and I spend my time considering the creative aspects of video editing; such as, event/time/audio sync'ing (the true art of video creation). I would probably still be trying to get all the parts to interoperate had I tried to do all this with a Windows box.

Apple takes the technology and user interface challenges out of useful computing processes; what a concept!

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an old technology friend, during which I asked, "when is this all just going to work?" "This" referring to technology (specifically we were talking about the challenges of cross-platform browser plugin finding and installation).

Apple's making it happen!

Video & Conversion (not that kind of conversion!)

Do you remember your first kiss? I do; 5th grade, Gina Stabile, recess, outside the gym doors. We pecked, then ran away from eachother as fast as we could.

Do you remember when you converted to Apple? I do.

It was a couple of years ago. Two things moved me to Apple: one, OS X (a linux based operating system, with the sex appeal of Apple design), and two, ease of video editing (iMovie/iDVD).

My wife (didn't turn out to be Gina) had our first child, and I wanted to capture everything and create videos that family/friends could see. I also wanted the videos for archival purposes; you know, typical parent stuff. I wanted to put some production quality into the videos as well; not just send out clips of things I'd captured (although I wanted to do that too). I recall going to the local CompUSA to pull all the pieces together for a Windows based PC. For fifteen years I had been cobbling together my own PCs/desktops (I even had a computer build/resale business for awhile), so I was interested in playing with video components on wintel. That is, until I had a shopping cart half full of products (software and hardware) that undoubtedly was going have trouble integrating. The "old" me, the "pre-parent" me, would have really enjoyed knocking all the pieces together, and the multiple trips to CompUSA. The "new" me, the "parent" me, knew that I wouldn't have time for all the construction and experimentation. Not to mention learn multiple workflow products (importing tools, editing tools, exporting tools, etc), none of which was meant to work with the other except at the win32 API level.

I wandered over to the Apple section and told the Apple representative what I was trying to do. He introduced me to the iMac, firewire, iMovie and iDVD. I walked out of CompUSA with two items; an iMac (which came preloaded w/ iMovie and iDVD), and a 3' firewire cable to connect my camcorder to the iMac. Soon after that, I had my first iMovie which I burned to DVDs for the non-Internet savvy of my audience, and an MPEG version for those who could drive a browser and media player. I did have to buy a couple of DVD players for grandparents without them.

I was so pleased at having converted.

Today, my video editing skills have improved immensely, and I spend my time considering the creative aspects of video editing; such as, event/time/audio sync'ing (the true art of video creation). I would probably still be trying to get all the parts to interoperate had I tried to do all this with a Windows box.

Apple takes the technology and user interface challenges out of useful computing processes; what a concept!

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an old technology friend, during which I asked, "when is this all just going to work?" "This" referring to technology (specifically we were talking about the challenges of cross-platform browser plugin finding and installation).

Apple's making it happen!