Category Archives: Design

Emacs and the next step

Zachary Pinter writes that Emacs, the hacker IDE, is more of an operating system than a text editor because of its durability and extensibility. Of course, the barriers to entry include inscrutiable key bindings and an overall high learning curve. He wants to create an application framework for keyboard-driven applications, but such a framework exists, it’s just called ArtLebedev’s Optimus Keyboards.

Think about it; the keyboards are programmable, the key bindings can be changed about to support different Emacs functions, the price points and availability are an issue (Lebedev now has a store in NYC), but when the third version of the keyboard finally comes into production, there might be enough keys to make it work.

Stay tuned for more details…

Beattie’s First Rule of Application Development – “It has to look better than it works”

Haven’t heard a lot from Russell Beattie in a while, but then saw this piece on Hacker News and had to post a link to it.

Of course, there’s more to this issue than meets the eye; are all your users going to pay attention to fluff and not to substance?  Are all your users not going to go straight to under the hood to make sure your data isn’t corrupting on the back-end?  Are all your users going to be satisfied by a surface-level treatment of the project?

Take an app like OpenClinica, for example, where data drives the application from beginning to end, and moreover, the data is all clinical research information where looking at a patient’s information has to be protected by user ID, user role, and so on. 

When we started development back in 2002 and showed it to the first client, I’ll be honest; it looked like crap.  But, our client was used to collecting information on paper and entering it into MS Access, which, let’s face it, also looked like crap in 2001-2002.  The process before OpenClinica was as design-y and flashy as an Excel ’98 spreadsheet, because basically, that’s all that it was.

Since then we’ve come a long way.  It looks better, and works better too :).  It didn’t in the beginning, but design would have gotten in the way of the data import, user requirements, and weekly reviews.  Design would have eaten away at our budget, regrettably, but after we started engaging the OSS community at large around the time of our first release, the design (finally) caught up to the application. 

Beattie’s First Rule of Application Development –

south by so what

Did not attend SXSW 2007. I remember it from the music half of the show in the 90s, when regular Austinites would just get tired of all the visitors, “South by So What” was the name that we used to come up with for the post-SXSW shows, kind of like a post-SXSW hangover.

However, I now have a big reason to attend SXSW 2008: Hugh Macleod will be back.