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#1 eKstreme

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 02:34 PM

Only a few short years ago, very few people have heard of AJAX and the promise it brought with it. In the time between its inception and wide-spread adoption, we saw many great failures and many great examples of how to implement AJAX. It seems that the trajectory AJAX followed was filled with more trials and errors than simple successes.

And now, we seem to be on the cusp of another major disruption in how we code and interact with websites. To take a few examples, we have the all too common APIs that developers can tap into to get hold of interesting data. We have new services gaining prominence like the Amazon Web Services (AWS) collection like S3 and EC2. These days, building scalable and highly-available websites is more about simply choosing to do so than anything else.

On top of this, we have a new set of technologies now, beyond traditional Javascript and HTML, like Microsoft's Silverlight and Adobe's FLEX. Silverlight 1.0 was released a few months ago and version 2 is on the way with a massively increased functionality. Both promise a much richer and interactive web experience.

Not to mention Google's Android, Gears, OpenSocial, and of course, the hot topic of 2007: Facebook apps.

So how do we make sense of all this? How do we quickly learn best practices for implementing these technologies? How can we keep up with all the news and updates that are going to shape our future as web developers and users?

The answer: We need a new forum. (I bet you didn't see that one coming :) )

The Cre8tive Tomorrow forum is the place where we put our collective knowledge and intellect to figure what these technologies do, what they mean for us, and how to best implement them. This is not just a technical forum; on the contrary, it includes other important aspects like usability, SEO, and marketing. Cre8tive Tomorrow is a forum for us to answer now the questions related to what we could be doing in the future.

And since this is an amorphous and emerging field covering many different technologies, we want to emphasize the importance of each and every member's role: we are going to learn these technologies together. If you have expertise in something, please jump up and shout. If you are puzzled by something, be sure to ask.

Pierre

#2 cre8pc

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 04:27 PM

Pierre, you mentioned many names of things I've never heard of.

I wonder if you and others can begin by describing them to us? What are they? What do they do? What do we need to know about them, related to SEO or web design or usability or marketing, etc.?

Sort of a Future for Dummies - with me at the start of the line :notworthy:

#3 iamlost

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 04:35 PM

Pierre:
Please tell me what tomorrow will bring.
Thank you :)

Kim:
Names have power that is lost when explained.
Just enjoy the mystery and stop trying to look behind the curtain.
Thank you :naughty:

I see two very different RIA models developing:
1. as an enhancement to (x)HTML allowing, among other things, the modification of page components rather than an entire page refresh, especially useful with forms, shopping carts, etc. Server-side dynamic scripting goes client-side.

2. a standalone application generating its own sandbox within which to operate. Able to interact with online data or as offline replay, customised GUI interfaces, independent of OS or browser, privacy and encryption enhanced, etc. Great copyright item potential.

The buzz will mostly be on about first, the money is likely in the second.

#4 cre8pc

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 04:50 PM

Just enjoy the mystery and stop trying to look behind the curtain.


Me? Miss Impatient???? :frustration:

:)

#5 eKstreme

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 05:28 PM

OK Kim, a pleasure. What would you like to hear about?

I'll kick off with RIA which iamlost started talking about.

RIA means Rich Internet Applications. Its definition is a bit... amorphous... and so I'll give you examples. A "poor" (opposite of Rich) application is one that doesn't have much coding beyond HTML or some javascript. Rich content could be video or photostreams or audio. Rich controls could be calendar controls, text boxes with extra functionality and more - anything beyond the basic interface that HTML allows you to build.


jQuery (the Javascript and AJAX library) websites can be rich. For example, with jQuery you can have a text box where when you enter it, a calendar pops up. The calendar is part of the page's HTML but it is a new level of interaction and functionality that is not inherent in HTML itself.

The two biggest contenders for building truly rich web apps are Adobe's Flex and Microsoft's Silverlight. Google Gears helps with just one aspect so I'll start with it as a specific example.

Gears is a browser plugin that allows you to store website data locally. This allows for "offline modes" to be built. The scenario is this: you log into (say) GMail and you download your email to your browser. You can then go offline but you'll still have access to your emails. Cheekily, this is called the "man in an airplane problem".

You can imagine a powerful scenario where you're working on a document that you can edit offline in your browser and then have it uploaded when you're back online. Zoho Office allows you to do that with some of its web office apps.

Flex is essentially the next generation of Adobe Flash - I think version 9. Using ActionScript (Flash's coding language) you can build rich websites based on Flex. Because ActionScript is similar to javascript in many ways, and because Flash has a huge installed base, Flex is a strong contender. Remember that a lot (all?) embeddable video players are Flash based. Flex also has local storage as Gears has.

My favorite horse in this race is Microsoft's Silverlight. Again it is a browser plugin that allows you to interact with the browser, the HTML, and the server that generated teh page. It works by creating XAML, an XML-based interface language that describes the interface's controls. Version 1.0 was released a few months ago and it supports JS as the language of choice. The power of SL though is when version 2 is released. Then, we'll be able to use any .net language to write websites. That includes C# and VB.net and have those run in the browser. This means that we'll be using desktop-quality controls and programming languages and have them display in the browser. That's going to be very disruptive.

Silverlight also has an attached service called Silverlight Streaming. Basically, it's 4GB of free space on MS's computers where you upload your Silverlight app and the videos and have them run on MS's computers and streamed from there. In short, your own mini YouTube.

So why do I think Silverlight will win? Many reasons:

1. More powerful languages at our disposal. Programmers like things easy, and it will open up the opportunity of desktop programmers to write web apps.

2. Theoretically, if you code your app well, you could have it run unmodified on the web, on your computer (both Windows and Linux!), and even on the XBOX. It's one platform to rule them all. This is yet to be seen so don't hold your breath.

3. IMHO: Adobe has had a less than exemplary record of building browser-friendly plugins. Flash on Firefox consumes way too much CPU and the Acrobat plugin tends to crash the browser more often than not. MS is more friendly that way, and the biggest stumbling block they've had (standards compliance) is apparently fixed.

So this is the RIA crash course. It's going to be big and it is going to open up a whole set of cans of worms:

A. Usability of rich web apps is a big big issue.
B. Accessibility is an even bigger issue: how will screen readers handle XAML?
C. SEO is another issue. We already know about Flash's problems, so multiply that by many more sites. XAML is XML - i.e., text - which could theoretically be indexed by SEs if they know how to deal with it.

And of course, the inevitable flame wars (I may have started one in point 3 above :) ).

Questions? Next topics?

Pierre

#6 DianeV

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 06:39 AM

Pierre, thank you for taking the time to explain this. Understanding paves the way, and all that. :)

It does, though, make we wish your day job was freelance programmer, not scientist.

#7 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 07:41 AM

I both love and fear the idea of Rich media/sites.

They havethe potential to make so much easier, for development and end usage - it's phenominal.
Simpler forms, easier usage, damn straight construction... got to love it.

The fear comes in with things like abuse and lack of thought.
To begine with, there will always be a user-base that doesn't have support for such items... JS disabled, or the inability to actually see the content.
Then you have those people that instantly grab such items and use them for their own ends... this runs from advertising agencies who seem to be riding the first waves of this area to feed us video adverts, through to those that will use it as a way of obtaining extra information about us that we'd rather they didn't.

Every time a door opens, there is the chance of an uninvited guest walking through it.


What would be lovely would be a coding system that would provide alternatives to the construction... so that you don't have to worry about building something lovely and wondewrful and clever, then have to go back and build a complicated, somewhat messy in comparison alternative for those that cannot use the good stuff.
Even better would be some form of automated protection and limiation to it, so that no malign scripts could be injected, that the librarires could detect questionable usage and flag it up as a defulat.


Yes, a little paranoid... but I am willing to hold my breath on this - I think there are enought people in the development field now with the experience and foresight to possibly tackle such issues.
Will have to wait and see though.

#8 eKstreme

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 08:09 AM

You're welcome Dianne. I'm happy in my science though to keep life varied enough! Please do ask questions if you want more info. There is a lot of new stuff coming up we all need to at least know about, let alone exploit or avoid.

Autocrat: A pinch of paranoia is a healthy thing. No doubt all the new stuff will be exploited maliciously, but I think everyone has learned the lessons of working on an open platform like the internet. Identity and security are now inherent features not add-ons like back in the 90s. That's not to say there aren't any holes and whatnot, but it's much harder these days.

The other thing is permission. When pop-ups came along, pop-up blockers flourished. The people spoke loudly and the advertising agencies responded. When adware and spyware came along, there was initial uptake but now people call it scum and more nasty things.

So if someone, like the Washington Post today, tries to make me watch an intrusive ad, I'm happy to close the window and get my fix elsewhere. They don't have permission to annoy me - and I get to define what's annoying - so I walk away. Nice thing is that there is plenty of other places I can get my news fix without being hassled.

In short: I think people will vote with their feet when the boundaries are reached. We don't know the boundary right now, but with your type of paranoia and with some vigilance, we'll see when we get to it.

Pierre

#9 saschaeh

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 04:59 AM

Pierre - Fantastic topic! Perhaps we should start a forum section that deals only with emerging technologies? Then this discussion is not limited to this thread. It is ongoing and i think it will be v. interesting to hear peoples different renditions about certain technologies.

#10 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 06:24 AM

...saschaeh... I think you will find that this is the introduction to that new forum...
http://www.cre8asite...hp?showforum=73

As knew things crop up, new versions are released, or things that have been lurking in the code jungle get sighted... I think they will end up there.

#11 DCrx

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 09:13 AM

Some "tomorrow" aspects which you may wish to consider:

Usability for Rich Internet Applications

Usability 2.0 ?

Most of the tomorrowish look and feel is going to come from interaction design. It's not the basic tools, but what you do with them and for which futuristic user applications. Otherwise we're not creating tomorrow, we're reliving the desktop era.

Using ruby or C-sharp or app-as-RIA is not "a creative tomorrow," that's a buzzword makeover of yesterday.

Check out:

Air New Zealand - How Far Can I Go? This is interesting not because it's slick, but because it's trying to make flight booking a more casual affair users don't have to think about as much. Strip off the aesthetics and it has the simplicity of a Flash game UI, encouraging users to play "what if?" And that's a creative marketing tomorrow by possibly encouraging users to consider air travel in situations when they might not ordinarily do so.

Farecast Airfair Predictions is a good exploit of putting the data rich RIA to practical use for customers. Without something like Farecast, the continuous priceshifting makes price data contextually useless. You may buy a ticket today, only to have prices drop tomorrow -- creating a bad "User Experience."

Traffic Flow Maps apply real traffic report data to create a map which meets user priorities. Users are shown peak traffic congestion and off-peak routes to their destination.

This will give you a taste for what a creative tomorrow could look like. But it won't happen without getting focus off the tools and onto user objectives. Technology is indeed, fascinating ...for the Amish. For a more creative tomorrow, we have to start thinking differently -- Right Now. Technology is not news just because it exists. Electricity is a modern wonder as is Google, but a truly technological society would be far less infatuated with technology for its own sake and be far more demanding in its application than is vogue right now.

Unfortunately the people one might look to for a creative tomorrow are those most fond of what I'll call "hello world" apps with primitive user desirability. The very people we might look to for guidance about what a given tool or technology could do are far too glad the code compiled/website validated at all to bother about user relevance or application. Consequently we should be calling them Rich Internet Gimmicks.

It's high time we stop thinking like the Amish about the wondrous "intertubes" and start figuring out how to use 'em. Sorry, but I can't seem to work up any enthusiasm for AJAX versus Flash or PostgreSQL versus MySQL. If you haven't worked through your issues about pedigree and whose got the "optimal" tool, then you're not ready to have a creative tomorrow.

These are all endianisms that haven't changed since high-tech hijacked the term from Gulliver's Travels thirty years ago. (Where a war broke out over which end of a poached egg to open "smallendian" or "bigendian.") Guess what, it's all sub optimal. And next week there'll be yet another goofball "more optimal than thou" argument.

That's not a creative tomorrow ...it's a broken record.

A creative tomorrow is one in which we stop our superficial infatuations with the technological environment and start asking "What has it done for me -- the user -- lately?"

Edited by DCrx, 05 January 2008 - 10:12 AM.


#12 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 09:40 AM

Good insight... those with the tools seldomly build something for the masses.

That is were those with insight and innovation come into play, as well as those with experience in usership requirements, design goals based on needs/wants, and those who truly examine what the masses desire.
(alternatively, those that have a knack for creating markets could do well too.)



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