Archive for December, 2010

Flash’s future ain’t so bad after all

Back in February I wrote a post in which I stated that the future of Flash wasn’t so bright, well if you ask me what I think about that right now, I would say that it ain’t so bad. Why? Well, the roadmap for new features seems pretty exciting and also the array of stuff you can do with Flash is astonishing.

Molehill API (Hardware accelerated 3D)

After AdobeMax, I wanted to write a post just about this topic but I continually postponed it… but now it seems to fit perfectly with my second point so here it is. Molehill is some new low level API that enables some function calls to be hardware accelerated. Basically it permits some code to be sent to the video card instead of the processor, thus enabling us to do more crazy 3D stuff. Here is an example of what has been done with it and it is not even released yet:

If you’re a Flash Developer and this doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will. Actually, I don’t think I looked forward so much for the next version of the player since I started using Flash. I started at FlashMX 2004, so Flash 8 gave us the filters and BitmapData; computers weren’t powerful enough to do the cool stuff with filters at the time, and I don’t know, BitmapData is pretty useful but I kinda didn’t know what I could do with it then. After that came Flash 9 with ActionScript 3, well that was nice but it took so much time for people to switch from ActionScript 2 to 3 that the excitement was kinda mitigated. Flash 10 was to follow with nothing really to offer… maybe Vectors are cool but they didn’t really impact anything. Flash 10.1? supposedly it is faster, doesn’t seem to be a game changer, the mobile stuff is cool but I wanted more for the web. Now Molehill is a very different ball game. Molehill will allow us to do way more than what we could before, both on the web and on the mobile. Gaming wise it is very easy to foresee how it will be used, but what I am mostly interested in is how it will be used for rich experiences, for rich internet applications or for data-visualization. It is the possibilities of this new technology to be used in unsuspected ways that makes it very exciting. Now, all we have to do is wait for it to come out. I bet you that the adoption rate will be very fast.

Flash everywhere

Maybe one of the good consequence of Apple saying no to Flash is everybody else saying yes to it to differentiate themselves. So yeah, Flash on a shit load of mobile ( Android, BlackBerry (PlayBook), Windows Phone 7), Flash on the TV (GoogleTV) and now Flash on the cloud (ChromeOS). It is seeing how easy it was to add a Flash app to the Google Chrome Web Store that made me realize that I was lucky to have liked Flash and have made it my job. I have so many possibilities now, from gaming to advertising (banner ads, ok I never want to do this again even if you threaten me with a gun), from website to mobile application, from your TV to the cloud. If you ever get bored as a Flash Developer there is still so many things you can do. So yeah, that did put a smile on my face and made me realize that Flash’s future wasn’t so bleak.

And to those who said that Flash would die, well it’s going to be goddamn hard to kill now on all these media… Cheers!

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Shooting crap about 3D printing

Today at lunch, I was talking to a colleague about 3D printing and it got me thinking about a couple of fun ideas.

The first idea is about the fact that some 3D printer can actually print all the parts that are needed to build themselves. Pretty neat! Now all they need is arms to assemble themselves and they are ready to take on the human race. We should not fear the time that the computers will challenge us, but the silent threat of the printers is way more dangerous. Haha, I find this pretty funny, not that it bears any truth, but it would make for a nice animated short, where the printers tired of being seen as subjects to computers, would rise and build an army of themselves and show the world what they are made of. Anyway, on to more techy subject.

Example of a 3D printer

The interesting thing about 3D printer is that it is becoming cheaper and more accessible to anyone. I remember being young, being shown a prototyping printer, being very impressed and wanting one but there was only a few being made and very expensive. Now, the technology is becoming available, that means that more and more people will start doing crazy stuff with it, things that we never expected, that is what is making me very excited about it.

I came up with an idea of my own about what I would do if I had one of those 3D printer. I would make an installation for like a gallery or something. It would be a booth where people go in and they would have a screen in front of them. Now that screen could give instructions or ask questions but the important part would be a camera and a microphone above it. Based on the person’s movements, clothes’ colors, sounds she makes and the answers she gives, the installation would start shaking and produce (3D print) a unique object for each person. These objects would be shaped like spike balls where the length of the spikes and the amount and the pattern would be determined by the characteristics mentioned earlier. It would be like a physical oscilloscope representing the uniqueness of everyone ( You are a unique snowflake; Shut up Tyler Durden!). I think it would be kind of fun and people could go home with something tangible, a souvenir representing themselves.

What would you do if you had a 3D printer?

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Web Analytics are broken

Why are they broken? Because I like them, because I like charts, graphs and numbers, and because the tools are awesome. Ok, that doesn’t really explain why I think analytics are broken, but it might help explain why I feel this way. So if the tools are so awesome and easy to use, why are analytics not use properly? Because it is the actual process that is broken (well, I’m talking for the rich web experience world because that is what I know).

How it should be

I guess people think implementing analytics is easy so they don’t give it enough time. The part that is not working currently is not the implementation but the analysis. And the analysis part is the most important, if you don’t do it, there is nearly no point to implementing analytics. In my head you could divide the analysis part in two, first would be building an hypothesis document about what the final data is going to be (ex: we are going to try this interface and it is going to have this impact on data), and secondly an analysis document that review the previous hypothesis, tries to explain why things went well or not and what to do the next time to improve. The thing is, none or only part of that is happening right now. Having made these steps will also make implementation more coherent (and no, just tracking everything and not caring is not a solution).

The problem: finding the right person

I think that the whole problem comes from the fact that it is not the right person in charge of the analytics. Most of the time one of two things happens. Either the person in charge of analytics is a so-called analytics expert paid by the client (so separated entity than the production company), that is never talked to, that just provides an excel sheet with stuff to track, he usually works way before the project is completed (so project could change a lot meanwhile), and once this is done, he is never heard of again. Most of the time the goal is to integrate the data of this campaign into the data of the main site. The problem is that campaigns (rich experiences) needs to be tracked differently so the data probably integrates badly anyway. The second case I have seen is where the developer is the one in charge of analytics. I think this approach is already a bit better because you can’t get someone closer to the project than the developer. The problem is that most of the time, he doesn’t have access to the data once the project is completed, so no post analysis can be done or at least not by the person who would know what to analyze.

Who is that right person?

For me the right person would either be an information architect or a usability expert. These people are close enough to the project plus they are the one who need to check if they what they did was right using the real numbers. These guys could write proper hypothesis before the project, write thoughtful analysis and they can point out what to improve next time. Actually, an IA or a UX person that doesn’t care about analytics seems pretty phony to me, because they can’t prove what they preach. Analytics are easy, these people should be able to pick it up.

So what now? Well we can hope this gets better. UX and analytics are still pretty new fields (IA is a bit older) so I think they might evolve in the right direction, but we have to keep pushing so that things get done right. And don’t worry, if it doesn’t, I’ll complain again!

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