Fly on the wall: “What does this button do?” Matt 29 Sep 2006

20 comments Latest by Stilgherrian

Some of the activity this week at our internal 37signals Campfire chat room:

Scannable dates
Socialtext just did a UI overhaul where the dates are listed in this format: 2006-09-19.


Ryan objects because scanning is tough. He argued it ought to be “Sep 19” instead. Jamis countered, “Interesting, I actually find “2006-09-19” more scannable than “Sep 19.” Ryan: “Ah, maybe it’s a programmer mind :)…When i try to read that line as a whole, name and date together, it’s a big jump from reading a name to parsing a bunch of numbers.”

On the other hand, Ryan really digs this image at the ST site:

email overload

Steve goes, “Boom!”

Mark: “It’s all in the inflection.” Ryan: “Whup!” Matt: “That’d be a great Apple commercial.”

Specific spam
David noted the precise amount of money, down to the cent, he “won” according to an email he received:

David H.
“You have won US$820,000.00. Congratulations!”
David H.
I love the precision
David H.
It’s important to know the distinction between merely $820k
David H.
and $820,000.50
David H.
50 cent is money too, you know
David H.
(from the daily spam)
Mark I.
They keep that for the postage.
Marcel M.
i specked the most expensive server you could get on Dell once just to see how expensive it was, and when it showed me the price during checkout (like a quarter of a million dollars) there was a little flash box that said, “Looks like you are spending more than $100. This qualifies you for a free keyboard!”
Mark I.
David H.
Mark I.
Free keyboard, hell, how about a trip to Vegas?!
Marcel M.
on Michael Dell’s private jet
Mark I.
Rackspace offered to fly us out to Texas for a visit.
Mark I.
“Oh boy, let me see the servers.”
Marcel M.
Mark I.
“What does this button do?”
Marcel M.
“Is there redundant fail over power supplies?” *unplugs stuff*

Paper vs. Screen
Jason went to Technology Review’s Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT: “I went to this reception at the MIT Museum tonight. Dang, very very cool stuff. Amazing how much important stuff comes/came out of MIT…fascinating…got in a great debate about paper vs. screen and I totally sided with paper…which caused all the techies to freak out.”

Ryan pointed out the new version of Mousepose visualizes your keystrokes.


Jamis: “That’s slick.” David: “Very nice.”

Good vs. bad jargon
Jamis’ response to a draft version of Buzzwords say all the wrong things resulted in some changes. The original version attacked jargon which Jamis defended in some cases: “I do think there are people that try to hide behind jargon, but jargon is also a valuable tool for reducing the bandwidth of communication. When Marcel and I talk about Ruby and programming, for instance, we can use terms that non-programmers wouldn’t necessarily ‘get’, but it allows us to talk about things at a higher level. For example, talking about ‘meta programming’ and ‘accessors’ and stuff. It’s jargon but it lets us share ideas more rapidly. Even Einstein spoke in jargon. He had to, in order to communicate his theories with other scientists. You can’t describe the nuances of relativity in baby talk. The problem is the abuse of jargon, not jargon itself.”

In response, the post specified buzzwords and the bad kind of jargon (in this definition, #5 “language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.”) instead of the good kind (#1 “the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group.”).

In the kitchen

Marcel M.
Cecca (a type of pasta preperation) is wicked good
Marcel M.
big chunks of buffalo monzarella, large basil leaves, chopped up heirloom tomatoes with olive oil
Marcel M.
light and way tastie
Ryan S.
mmm sounds good
Matt L.
basil is like a magic trick. it just shouldn’t be as good as it is.
Marcel M.
Marcel M.
ditto the dream team of cheeses with french bread and herb encrusted salami with red wine (e.g. chianti classico)
Marcel M.
last night i was having a “wtf this is so good” moment while cooking dinner and snaking on that stuff
Ryan S.

Marcel: “I’d just like to say, autumn is my favorite month and it’s awesome outside.” Ryan agreed. Then Marcel noted that autumn is kind of a weird month. Matt: “Chicago is your favorite state too, right?” Marcel: “Texas is my favorite country, i’ll say that much :)”

In other “whoops” news, Jamis accidently typod the word “calendards.” Mark asked, “Is that like the short-bus for calendars?”

Ergonomic keyboard = stay away
Mark uses this funky ergomic keyboard:


He says, “It works great at keeping other people from using my machine.”

Ryan pointed out the very cool Remote Flying with VR Goggles and a Camera. He said, “I’m really impressed when people hack tangible things together…that’s gotta be satisfying…i think programming a physical thing would be way cool too…like, you spend a day with code, but then when you’re done with a ‘feature’…some robot can move its arm or something”

Aha moment for editing Quicktime movies
Jason discovered a simple technique for piecing together a bunch of quicktime videos into one. Doing demos with no cuts is very tough so he records a section at a time: “The biggest issue was threading them together and having the mouse pointer match up…so it didn’t just appear somewhere else and look weird…that was the hurdle…so what I do now is quickly THRUST the mouse off the screen at the end of a segment…and then when I start the next segment I just bring it back in off camera…and you never know the difference…that was an AHA moment…makes it 500x easier.”

Width and IE7
We’re expanding the Backpack page width a little. We’re designing everything for 1024 now. We’ll give the content area another 100px or so to give it some more breathing room. Will help especially for the toolbars.


We’re also putting more of a priority on adjusting for IE7. More and more support emails are coming about it and it looks like they’re going to make the switch shortly.

A competitor uses this image on their homepage:

Why does that look familiar? Oh yeah!…

Stay classy, San Diego.

20 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Daniel 29 Sep 06

I must say I agree completely with the “hacking of tangible things” you mention. I code a lot, and I think it’s to do with the instant gratification of it. You code somthing, your computer does something new. Even debugging, annoying as it is, offers instant gratification - perhaps moreso than coding - because you can just change a single character, and you’ve squashed a bug.
But if I could be in a garage building physical things, I would be there. It’s too expensive to do all the time (why do physical things cost money? No fair!), but I do treasure every chance I get at working with good ol’ tools of the non-digital kind.

Also, the RC plane with video you mention is darn nice! I wonder how much adrenalin you’ll produce if you crash. If he goes 3D with stereoscopic cameras, I suspect a crash will be near-traumatizing.

jcs 29 Sep 06

YYYY-MM-DD is a popular iso standard and is useful for presenting dates unambiguously to people in different countries

daniel 29 Sep 06

One problem, however, with the YYYY-MM-DD format is that it doesn’t allow for the month of “autumn”

Mark 29 Sep 06

YYYY-MM-DD also helps distinguish 6/7 from 7/6 without one or other groups muttering darkly about cultural imperialism, and making dating mistakes… “Oh, *last* month?”

MM 29 Sep 06

YYYY-MM-DD also helps distinguish 6/7 from 7/6 without one or other groups muttering darkly about cultural imperialism, and making dating mistakes� �Oh, *last* month?�

But, Ryan’s opinion of how the date should be formated, “Sep 19” is unambiguous. He wasn’t suggesting it be formated “6/7”.

Mark 29 Sep 06

Totally agree on the dates issue. I once wrote about never using digits to indicate months (unless it was for input) and I got a bunch of heat from developers acusing me of being stupid — any person with normal cognitive abilites should be able to relate digits with months.

Think fast: 05

Can’t we just write March?

Beth 29 Sep 06

Paper requires no power source. Until there’s a screen that can say the same, I’m with Jason on the paper side of the paper vs. screen debate.

Jo�o 30 Sep 06

Don’t understand why in the US you don’t use DD-MM-YYYY.
This is the format that makes more sense.. starting with the day and ascending to the year.

Jough Dempsey 30 Sep 06

YYYY-MM-DD makes the most sense, going from less to more specific. You can sort things in this format easily (otherwise files named DD-MM-YYYY would all sort according to the days, then months, then years).

It’s a convention to store dates that way, but you don’t necessarily have to display them in the same format you use to store them in a database. Keeping the YYYY-MM-DD format disambiguates the date for non-English speakers, but if the site is primarily (or only) in English anyway, using the names of the months certainly wouldn’t be any further obstacle for someone reading the site.

BS&S 30 Sep 06

RE: The “Boom” of Steve…

Makes you realize how powerful his unchanging wardrobe is. You can’t place him in space or time based on his look. He becomes this constant while the tech around him keeps changing. It’s actually, I think, a very powerful iconic symbol for Apple.

Keeran 30 Sep 06

Re: the Quicktime editing.

It would be really cool if the desktop recording software had a ‘dead’ area you could drop the mouse pointer into to stop recording, then if you needed a break or you knew you were at the end of a section, you could just swipe the mouse over to the dead area.

Inversely, recording could be triggered by the mouse entering a certain ‘active’ area. (this would control audio and desktop recording).

The recording software would create split files for you to mess with later.

Just a thought!

GL 30 Sep 06

As one of the developers involved with the Anchorman reference above, I just wanted to point out that we don’t think of ourselves as competing here. We love your products and use them. Ours has its own specific purpose and audience.

keeran 30 Sep 06

lol btw, anyone else thinking ‘May’? :)

Stilgherrian 30 Sep 06

I might as well add another point. Many non-US countries will prefer “19 Sept” over “Sept 19”, to match their “19/9”.

Stilgherrian 30 Sep 06

I might as well add another point. Many non-US countries will prefer “19 Sept” over “Sept 19”, to match their “19/9”.

Trent Steele 01 Oct 06

Another great thing with the “YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM” standard is you can easily parse it with JavaScript and replace the (UTC) date with a more “readable” one in the user’s locale.

Fizik 01 Oct 06

woooo - love that socialtext vs. email image! That’s getting shown to my office for sure (as I am pushing a drive towards collab/wiki instead of email)

Ben Darlow 02 Oct 06

I’m totally with Ryan on the date issue. So many sites use all-numeric dates (regardless of the specific ordering) and I find them visually discordant for scanning purposes. I much prefer natural language terms like “Yesterday”, “Two Days Ago” and “September 19th” - they’re so very different that they’ll stick out. 2006-09-30 16:32 and 2006-10-01 13:12 are like serial numbers. Who wants to spend their time scanning through those?