August 2011
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Month August 2011

Want to discover more music on Spotify?


If so, you’ll want to check out Spotibot.com, which uses the data of Last.fm to generate a playlist for you. Or tap into you own Last.fm account for more. After giving this a few tries I’m pretty impressed. This will definitely get me to use Spotify more.

Scams, Chain Letters and Other Pests

Every few months I get an email forward (of a forward) from family members warning me about this, that or the other thing. At times it’s just to me other times I’m CC’ed along with their entire address book. On the plus side these occurrences are happening less and less, though I hope that’s because they’re getting wise to the mass of scams out there. Non-the-less, they still happen and it makes me wonder how big of an issue this really is outside of my bubble of tech savvy friends.

Though those of you reading this are more than likely more tech savvy than world at large I’m sure you have family and friends sending you similar stuff. How do you explain to them they can Google the claims or usually even the email’s subject line to find out this scam has run for years? How often are you pointing them to Snopes or other debunking sites so it’s not your word versus the hype of a well crafted scam?

I know it’s a game of cat and mouse, once you educate the masses to verify sender & reply to email address, URL names and other tell-tale signs the scam artists add a little twist re-ensnaring the less informed. For example, the one featured above struck me as well crafted to skirt past the slightly informed as it has “bankofamerica.com” in the URL, but rather than being followed up with a “/” it’s just part of a long list of sub-domains. (I’ve removed a few characters for when some smart-ass wants to follow the link and mark the receiver’s email as valid and the receiver as gullible to scams).

If it sounds too good to be true or sounds like something that should have been on the nightly news but hasn’t it’s probably a scam. This is no different when online as it would be face-to-face though some seem to forget their sense of “street smarts” once they’re online. As a User Experience Designer I wonder what causes this difference of reaction between online and the physical world. Is it the feeling of being overwhelmed by technology? That it must be true as so many others are sharing it as truth? Any thoughts?

Ok, now send this to 5+ friends in the next 24-hours to save a young Nigerian prince in need of a new career.

First Look at Adobe Edge


On Monday, Adobe opened up their beta trial of Adobe Edge, their latest tool for creating animations for the web. Being that they are getting hammered on all sides about Flash, instead Edge uses HTML5/CSS/JavaScript as it animation engine. HTML based animation has gotten dramatically better, my test animation ran surprisingly well across browsers and mobile devices. Whether this is Adobe’s little white flag on the end of Flash is yet to be seen but for now we options.

At first glance Edge seems closer in structure to After Effects then to Flash which could be a nod to where Adobe is heading or a way to separate the apps, again we’ll have to wait and see. The application is laid out in four sections: Properties, Timeline, Elements, and the editor window, which is Webkit based. The basic premise application is the simple, add items to a stage and then animate them via keyframes along a timeline. There are no interactions or ability to add scripts with this version of the application. Nor can you create new objects/shapes outside of rectangles, so all your assets will need to be created externally.

The timeline offers auto-keyframing and each attribute can be animated separately. Edge supports the standard set of easing which can be applied individually or to a group via multi-select. Each object/layer is a different color and their attribute list can be contracted/expanded to maximize work space. Attribute values are displayed both in the properties panel and inline within the timeline. Similar to After Effects, you can filter the timeline by typing within the timeline’s search field. Another nice AE style feature is the ability to scale the timeline and manipulate your existing keyframes in bulk.

Since the main editor is Webkit based text is true HTML text as are the CSS styles connected to it. Adobe’s handling of object positioning within the stage has a few quirks. The biggest being an object’s Zero Point being based on where it was initially introduced to the stage and not to top-left or other standard. This make is difficult to quickly create animations or layouts based on numerical coordinates from either external applications (Fireworks) or from object-to-object. For now you’ll need a PNG/JPG to create your gradients. I’m not sure if this is due to the complicated CSS to support gradients between browsers or just something missing from this release. There’s also a few glitches revolving around scaling images but text and divs work as expected.

Code wise, Adobe hides most of the magic in pre-minimized JavaScript files with the external CSS file only defining the initial elements. As long as you keep the stage and associate includes untouched you can edit the rest of the page at will. Which will only help Adobe gain support of this among larger web shops. Despite this flexibility HTML based animations still lack the self-contained nature of Flash’s SWF, which means to view my sample animation you’ll need to click to a page outside of WordPress’s CMS.

Overall, I think this is a great example of where I think web content creation apps need to go. Live HTML in the editor means there is no guessing on how things will look when it hits a browser. I hope they follow this thinking with the next version of Fireworks allowing less web savvy designers to get a better feel for what how their designs will really look outside the false perfection of the current design tools present.

Though Edge is only in its first beta release it’s pretty solid app and could easily be used to create complex animations for websites, banners and other strongholds of Flash. You can view the my test animation I created for this review. Future versions promise support for increased support SVG and the Canvas tag which will only make this more powerful tool for web animators. Will HTML5 really be the death of Flash? If so, Edge is a smart bet for Adobe to keep relevant in this new world.