You can influence life

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that you will never be the same again. – Steve Jobs

Frank Ludolph’s Last Working Day

Frank Ludolph on Apple Lisa

Hi Frank,

today is your last day at Oracle. I cannot belief that retirement is an alternative to designing software and improving products for decades. I might figure it out myself in a couple of years.

Our ways have crossed several times. And I am extremely thankful for that. I still remember my first session on an Apple Lisa. It must have been around 1985. I was still in school, and we were visiting the University of Hamburg to get some orientation on the departments. When I started I chose Informatics. And I suppose the Apple Lisa played a significant role in my decision. Is it fate that I later wrote about Apple Lisa?

I’ve attended your presentation and public demo of the Lisa System at CHI ’98 in Los Angeles. Maybe a video still exists. I should look it up and publish it somewhere.* You had also booth duty for Sun Microsystems – presenting HotJava Views, a user interface for a network computer. And you were handing out VHS tapes (!) of Starfire. I still have mine – but no player anymore.

Then I joined Sun in 2002, and I guess I popped up in your office each time when I came to Santa Clara. The SEED mentoring program finally made it possible that we exchanged and discussed many ideas on the past and future of HCI. Dueling Interaction Models of Personal-Computing and Web-Computing at MEDICI 2007 is one of the results. But do you remember for instance also our jam session with Phil Clevenger on Hello World? Marvelous!

I will miss you at Oracle. Enjoy your life and let’s stay in touch.


* Even better, transcript and video of CHI 98 are already online:

The Lisa User Interface as presented by Frank Ludolph and Rod Perkins at CHI ’98, April 1998

SocialChat on Apple

applediskette2I was asked why I retweet my SocialChats en suite. It clutters the Twitter stream. Well, microblogging imposes a special style on text that cannot be represented properly otherwise. It is a medium of its own with a unique set of rules. Maybe I break expectations as I am not sending haikus every half an hour. Tweets are very condensed statements. Some are poetry. Some are fun. Some are hard facts and bear deeper insights. I try to ignore the rest.

Microblogging is also a special form of hypertext that comes close to (one aspect!) of Doug Engelbart’s NLS/Augment, i.e. each sentence can be referenced. In Twitter each tweet gets an URL and you can quote and retweet it easily. This is not possible with any other widely adopted hypertext system. What’s missing though, are display clients, that merge and revert the order of tweets that come in flocks. Then the reader does not have to twist her head around to read in sequence.

But hey, instead of talking about hypertext and the good old times, I wanted to post my OraTweets from today’s SocialChat on Apple’s hegemony. Read bottom up:

  • And one for the road: Google & Apple Common Brand Values at slideshare 
  • Today you have social media getting more momentum every day. There you have to touch and move other people, to create an avalanche. 
  • Apple got the press with the desktop publishing revolution. Hence, most of the news was positive news for Apple. That scales. 
  • I guess you have to be “viral” by any means. Otherwise you do not get a big share of the cake. 
  • Maybe Apple takes the mobile web. I don’t know. The battle is in full swing. 
  • Apple is not web, is not search, is not enterprise computing, database, … what else? What else matters or will matter? 
  • And Apple is of course desktop publishing. At least it ruled the 80s. 
  • Let’s see. We had personal computing, personal information management, music, phone, video, TV, (it is getting weaker here)… 
  • Yes, Apple is a fashion company and a design house. 
  • But after that it is a fashion statement to own an iPad for instance. 
  • Don’t get me wrong. The technology must be working and well designed. Very well designed! 
  • Apple is a fashion company nowadays. 
  • Maybe you can target areas where Apple products are not so strong yet. 
  • Apple has so many loyal customers and fans. That’s the difficult part to get the attention and awareness of the current customer base. 
  • Technology must be working, useful and usable. But it is really a matter of brand perception. 
  • I guess the question is how to develop such a strong brand like Apple, Google, Coca Cola, Levis, Starbucks, .etc. 
  • I am on Apple since 1983; Apple //e, later the Mac. iTunes and iPod of course, but neither an iPhone nor an iPad yet. 
  • Some of my SocialChat contributions on today’s subject: Apple… 

Design Process at Apple

Insights On Innovation. Apple thinks good design is a present. Pixel-perfect mockups are critical. 10 to 3 to 1. Paired design meetings. Brainstorm meeting. Production meeting. Pony meetings.
What else does Apple do differently? 1. Apple does not do market research. 2. Apple has a very small team who designs their major products. 3. Apple owns their entire system. 4. Apple focuses on a select group of products. 5. Apple has a maniacal focus on perfection.
So is it possible for you to innovate like Apple? You need a leader who prioritizes new product innovation. You need to focus. You need the right people, and you need to reward them.
Complete article at: You Can’t Innovate Like Apple — By Alain Breillatt

Shake it, baby

A couple of new window management features of Windows 7 are quite remarkable. First of all the shake of windows, that hides all other screen clutter. Shake the window again and the other windows come back. This is an excellent, fun, and easy to remember gesture to remove distractions and focus on the current task. For me on Mac the shortcut Cmd-Opt-H has a similar effect. It hides all windows from other applications. But I suppose it is not as much fun, and not consistently implemented across all applications. Back to Windows’ gesture, I would expect just one caveat: The trigger MouseDown-RapidSmallMouseMovements works best with a mouse — a trackpad is not the best graphical input device to perform this gesture.
Two other gestures grabbed my attentions. Move a window against the upper border of the screen and it maximizes. Move it to the right or left border to use the right or left half of the screen. These gestures simplify the task to compare two documents side by side. A small, yet powerful aspect to work with windows.
There is another shake gesture that becomes fashion. Shake Apple iPods and you get a new random song. I would like to see this feature for iTunes as well. Shake the iTunes window to randomize to the next tune. Alt-Click on the forward button is my most used function in iTunes anyway.