Infoblox is a nice Laszlo app created in the blogbox style. It lets you aggregate a bunch of popular web feeds, gathering the information in a concise and pleasant presentation.

Its neat to see how the blogging community is supporting the evolution of the semantic web. A significant group of avid info-consumers and early adopters provide an audience for rapidly developed experiments.

Its getting to be common that companies that create human-readable websites that publish information or offer transactions also offer XML feeds and web services. The landscape is changing.

Bryan Rieger writes about Kinabalu and his ideas for a web based Laszlo GUI editor.

It reminds me of other efforts created in Flash and Director. I can only remember the more recent Balthasar’s Pro:Fx. In 1997, there was a really neat animated typography web-based authoring tool done in Shockwave. Sadly, I can’t find the link. Back in the Director’s hey-day there were a number of great tools that let you create Director movies. Its a tribute to the Director and Flash teams that so many early titles still run flawlessly, yet many no longer alive — either accidentally separated from their source code or abandoned by their creators.

I sincerely hope that Laszlo’s XML format and open source initiative will allow people to create applications like this that will have a long lifespan. I like Bryan’s fresh perspective of integrating recent trends in information collecting: bookmark tools and XML feeds.

Interesting post on The Old New Thing: “People lie on surveys and focus groups, often unwittingly.”

Software engineers, usability reports and marketing groups often interpret what people say too literally. As humans, our words are imperfect approximations of our perceptions of reality. I always try to do what they mean, not what they say. Whether that person is part of a focus group, participating in a usability session, or my boss. Its a tough challenge. It requires developing a mental model of the individual and their perspective.

“Just because people say they would do something doesn’t mean they will.”

Its a good point that people are quick to say what they want. Its harder to figure out what they need: what they will pay money for or what they will actually spend time on. People can’t necessarily imagine what the software will be like when its finished. Sometimes they imagine that you will solve problems you haven’t even thought of yet, or they can’t see past a temporary flaw or limitation of a prototype. There is a gaping chasm of difference between regular folks and those of us in the software industry. The words we speak between us are founded on unspoken assumptions.

I remember a focus group where the results were reported by a particularly insightful product manager. He said that people at first responded warmly to the demo, but at the end said that they wouldn’t use the new software. He remembered that they were a few times during the focus group that the new software failed (it being a prototype, rather than released software). It is likely that what the people were really saying was: the software I use now is reliable; I wouldn’t use this new software because it doesn’t work.

I find it easiest to find the truth in watching what people do. It hard to do this when developing software, since you have to sit people down in front of something that basically works and carefully watch where they move the mouse and what keys they type. Did they right-click that icon because they really want to control it using a context menu or was it that the interface failed to surface the command a better way? Then you have to be willing to go out on a limb and change things and test again. And at some point, you have to make a call that its good enough, because there is no perfection in human experience.