Mock up your app with Balsamiq Mockups

•31Aug08 • Comments Off on Mock up your app with Balsamiq Mockups

This post is a plug for a great new tool: Mockups. It makes it brain-dead simple to create quick sketches of your application design, and it integrates with Jira and Confluence. I bought a copy to do the mockups of a new startup idea I had, and I love it.

The product is the first from a new company, Balsamiq, started by a good friend who worked on Acrobat.com. Check it out!

Advertisements

Mozilla TraceMonkey speeds javascript

•25Aug08 • Comments Off on Mozilla TraceMonkey speeds javascript

I think it is very cool how much progress is being made on Javascript performance in both Firefox and Safari – very exciting times. It will be interesting to see if/how/when Microsoft can step up to the bar.

It’s also cool how the Mozilla/Firefox effort was fueled in part by the donation of Tamarin and Tamarin Tracing to Mozilla. I hope this collaboration can continue to be productive.

Quick Recommendation: Awesome Q Sauce

•31Jul08 • Comments Off on Quick Recommendation: Awesome Q Sauce

Bought some of this sauce the other day at Whole Foods, and used it to barbecue ribs. It is awesome – sweet, smoky, complex, and a touch spicy. Even my older daughter, a fervent chili-avoider, loves it. Both kids were dipping their bread and veggies in the sauce at the end of dinner.

What is this elixer, you ask? Its Rub with Love’s Ancho & Molasses Barbecue Sauce. Unfortunately their site shows it out of stock, but it is available elsewhere including Amazon.com. It would be great on chicken as well.

rub with love ancho bbq sauce

Scalability fun…

•18Jul08 • Comments Off on Scalability fun…

Since its launch two weeks ago, we have been able to discover firsthand that Adobe Reader 9 is an amazingly effective device for generating traffic – twice as good as we expected it to be, in fact. So much so that it is generating more traffic than our servers can handle, and as a result performance has been poor. I want to apologize to anyone who used our service over these last few weeks and had a bad experience. Last night we deployed a new build that has improved things some, but not as much as I’d like. Another release is coming next week which will improve things even more. I’d offer subscription extensions like Apple did with MobileMe but since its 100% free that is kind of moot…

I also have to pass on this scalability post from Ted Dziuba (via Stefan Tikov via Jeff Atwood), which I found very funny (and yet so true) in my punch drunk state: I’m Going to Scale My Foot Up Your Ass.

Unless you know what you need to scale to, you can’t even begin to talk about scalability.  How many users do you want your system to handle? A thousand?  Hundred thousand? Ten million?  Here’s a hint: the system you design to handle a quarter million users is going to be different from the system you design to handle ten million users.

Amen, brother. Subscribed.

Dean on Google Scale

•15Jun08 • Comments Off on Dean on Google Scale

James Hamilton has a nice writeup of Jeff Dean’s talk at the Google I/O conference. The slides to the talk itself are well worth checking out as well.

Acrobat.com has left the building…

•01Jun08 • 2 Comments

Share -> Acrobat.com

I’m glad I can finally talk more about the project that has been consuming me for the last fifteen months – the first beta release of Acrobat.com. One of the questions the end users of SHARE ask us a lot is whether SHARE is just a short-lived experiment – they worry that Adobe will just shut it down one day and they’ll lose their files. I think the announcement of Acrobat.com, with what was once known as share acting as the central file hub, should address that question pretty convincingly. It was hard not being able to give people a real answer before.

Beyond that, there is so much to talk about here that I need to split things up into several blog posts. For this first post, I’m going to talk about the project from a more personal and historical perspective. Future posts will discuss the design of the new file organizer and the work that was done to make SHARE scale.

I came into the project myself somewhat serendipitously: just a couple of months before, I’d taken a job as an architect in the Acrobat team, thinking about how we could further extend PDF’s reach – on the web, on mobile devices, etc. One of the things I designed was a better experience for viewing PDFs in Flash, which ended up being one of the key features of Adobe Share. At the time, though, I was really thinking more about mobile devices. (I did some other cool design/prototype work, some of which may show up in Acrobat.com one of these days…). But then there was a reorg, and my boss had me take over an existing group that was responsible for several existing hosted services around PDF, most notably Create PDF, Adobe Document Center (which lets you protect PDF files), and pdf2html (an online PDF to text/HTML converter intended primarily for accessibility). Together, these services generate quite a bit of traffic, a lot more than people might think. But they weren’t generating enough traffic or revenue to make them into a viable business in and of themselves. We joined forces with the Acrobat Connect team who were working on a next generation web conferencing platform that became Brio. Our mission was to take the talented and experienced teams who had built those services and help them build something more successful that focused on collaborative work in its myriad forms.

For my team, the first step was to build SHARE, which was first released in October 2007: something extremely easy to use and that solved a real world problem, something we could build relatively quickly and get feedback on from real users. From that perspective SHARE was a huge success. We’ve gotten a lot of user signups, we’ve shipped a lot of releases, and we’ve learned how to scale our underlying platform. That platform, by the way, is largely based on the Document Center code-base. But you’d never know it by looking at the UIs of the two products (click the image to view full-size):

Doc Center vs. Share

(I also need to mention that we had a lot of help on the SHARE UI from our talented XD designers – thanks y’all!)

Along the way we also bought Buzzword, which fit in incredibly well with our strategy for acrobat.com. When you look at the product today you can see how well the pieces fit together, and it shouldn’t be hard for people to figure out how we’re going to mesh these projects even more closely in the future. It also shouldn’t be hard to see how the incredible UI design of Buzzword has influenced the design of the rest of Acrobat.com – one of the things we’ve been working very hard on is redoing the user interface of SHARE, using the Buzzword document organizer as a starting point. But Buzzword’s organizer only had to deal with one type of document, it didn’t support thumbnails, and it wasn’t built to help people organize larger numbers of files. Once again, we worked with a lot of talented designers to come up with a new design. I think the new organizer in Acrobat.com has really come up with some innovative ways of solving those problems, which I’ll discuss more in a future blog post. Again, a side by side comparison is in order:

Share 1.3.5 vs. Acrobat.com
We also had a very fruitful collaboration with the teams who make Acrobat and Reader. These teams are much larger and better organized than ours, and they are working on a much more mature product. I know there were more than a few times when they wanted to throttle us because our product reliability was “chaotic”, and I want to thank them for their forbearance. I think the end result is going to be an incredible boon to our customers – the workflows for Shared Review and Forms are vastly easier to use now that they are integrated with Acrobat.com, and having our AIR application included with Reader should help a lot of those users share their documents with others.

Looking forward, I’m incredibly excited about the future stuff we’re working on as a group. Supporting more and better ways to organize your work, adding new types of collaborative workflows, adding subscription features people will gladly pay for, and even inventing whole new classes of applications. I’ve been very lucky in my career to have been able to work on three completely new categories of commercial software, all of them focused on collaboration: first Pink/Taligent, then PlaceWare (which eventually became Microsoft Live Meeting), and now Acrobat.com. I expect that Acrobat.com will be by far the most successful, whether measured in terms of revenue, number of users, or, most importantly, as measured in the effect it has on the way people work together.

Humorous Microsoft Rant of the Day…

•22May08 • Comments Off on Humorous Microsoft Rant of the Day…

Must be something in the water. Here’s an experienced designer ranting about Expression Blend and WPF. My favorite quote:

I think the message of Blend has some nice takes, but in the end the whole concept of [the] Designer <> Developer processes to me is always couched in developer controlled languages which is Blend’s ultimate failing. It really is a tool to allow developers to be better designers, instead of a tool that really let’s designers do their job better.