Tool Box : Balsamiq — post by Perfect Tuna

I tried out this tool after reading Samantha LeVan’s post.  It’s super fast and all the alignment just happens. $79 is totally worth the money.  I plan to write my own review post on the tool soon.

I’m always looking for new ways to sketch and wireframe my GUI ideas, searching for something quicker than hand drawing and less refined than Visio and Illustrator. My rule for the perfect tool is that it has to be super fast to learn and quick to produce results.

Googling wireframing tools, I came across Balsamiq’s website. What captured my attention was the fun appearance of the GUI and the statement that “life’s too short for bad software”. That’s a pretty bold statement to make so I had to try this tool out immediately. Super psyched that I could run it on both my work PC and my home Mac, I installed it and had it running within minutes.

I fell in love with this software immediately.

Why Balsamic Mockups is fantastic:

  1. It doesn’t require much learning time. Drag-and-drop interactions are intuitive and consistent.
  2. Work feels fun. I felt like I was sketching ideas and playing, rather than feeling like tasks are tedious and repetitive. The grunt work is done for me.
  3. The primary GUI widgets are included. Containers for both web and software applications are included.
  4. The elements are sketchy. In this I mean my wireframes really do look malleable and editable. It is clear that at this stage, a project can be critiqued and changed easily. This is sometimes hard to communicate with more refined wireframes and mockups. The focus is on the layout, not the visual design.
  5. Having all the widgets in front of me helped drive me to some creative solutions my first try. Interaction methods I hadn’t considered were sitting right in front of my eyes inspiring innovative solutions.

I believe my biggest reason for supporting Balsamiq’s software is that it feels like a tool designed for users. As a usability analyst, I am a firm believer that software must be designed based on research and this tool feels like a company invested in user research. I see this in the little details – the notebook background that gives a sense of drawing in a sketch pad and the awareness of the common GUI elements that designers are looking for.

Of course, there’s always the one big block to many designers looking for a new application – cost. This one’s really reasonable, just $79. There’s no excuse not to try it as the demo is free. I honestly believe you’ll be hooked if you just try it once.

Posted bySamantha LeVan
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Tool Box: Webware – Feed Rinse

This Webware coverage of  Feed Rinse caught my ever searching eyes for the best tools to improve my digital life. Google Reader is a huge part of my digital life and tools that will make it even more useful are at the top of my list.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. Feed Rinse is a super simple and user-friendly way to tweak RSS feeds before subscribing to them in your favorite reader tool.

With it you can pick which authors or keywords you want to exclude, giving you complete control over what ends up filling your feed reader. For example, on Webware’s RSS feed you could very quickly choose to only get posts about Google (which is possible on our main site using tags), or a handful of keywords at the same time.

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Some Practical Advice For Getting Profitable

Ted Rheingold at Dogster has a great post up titled 10 Tips for Building a Profitable Business.  My favorite is #4: Spend at least 50% of your time selling.

Many technology companies assume if they built great product it will sell itself yet that almost never happens. Usually we’ve found that incorrect assumption is a rationalization of people who love building product, but secretly loathe the business side of running a business. Such a strategy is a great way to lose a lot of money. So constantly ask yourself, are we spending 50% of our time selling? I bet you’ll always realize you’re focusing too much on the product and not enough on finding customers that want it. (Of course the inverse is true. If you love selling you need to make sure you spend at least 50% of your time building product or your sales effort will be for naught.)

In most companies, too few people sell too little of the time.  If you are a member of the senior executive team of a company that is trying to become profitable, are you spending 50% of your time selling and generating revenue?  If not, why not?  And, if you have a board of directors, are your board members selling also?

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Original source : http://www.feld.com/blog/archives/2008/11/some_pra…


Oblong – Seeing Is Believing

Shared by Alex

HCI matters!

At Foundry Group, we’ve been talking about human computer interaction (HCI) as one of our key investment themes.  Our premise behind HCI is that the way humans interact with computers is going to change radically over the next 20 years.  If you roll forward to 2028 and look back to today, the idea of being tethered to a computer via a mouse and keyboard is going to be a "quaint" as using the punch card or a cassette tape as a primary data storage medium.

Rather than try to explain Oblong, take a look (it’ll take three minutes – it’s worth it, I promise.)

We invested in Oblong a year ago although, as I wrote in my post on their site titled Science Fact, my interaction with the people involved in the company dates back to 1984.  John Underkoffler, the original mind behind all of this, also writes about how Oblong came to be.

Oblong’s products are real and shipping today – take a look at the commercial overview and well as the description of the various layers of g-speak.

Now this is innovation with a capital I.

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Original source : http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/FeldThoughts/~3/M9r…



Shared by Moah

stunning. totally going on my wish list. 😛

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Original source : http://thomasmoser.com/image.php?file_id=9587…


Meet NYC's Most Expensive Apartment: $65 Million

Shared by Moah

wow, the things filthy rich people do. Pay 65M dollars and you don’t even get a yard or your own building.

mostexpensiveaptfloorplan.jpgAre you freaking kidding us?

The New York Observer: A 78th-floor penthouse at the Time Warner Center came on today for $65 million, which works out to a bewildering $7,831 per square foot.

A bigger problem is that the monthly maintenance fees are $13,361 and the monthly taxes are $16,332, which means it costs an extra $356,316 per year to live there. On the bright side, the master bedroom suite happens to have an office, his-and-hers dressing rooms, his-and-hers bathrooms, and a gym, too. Then the condo has a 41-foot-long living room with floor-to-ceiling windows; a red lacquered corner library/office (not the first red lacquered library in town); a dining room with a view of the Hudson River; a chef’s kitchen (“and pantry with full laundry center”); a screening room; and four other bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms.

Records suggest the apartment was sold for less than $30 million two years ago.

Looks like the Time Warner real estate is a better bet than its’ stock.

Here’s what happened to the past most expensive pads in town:

When an $80 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West came off the market late last month, it left a depressingly big hole in New York’s super-luxury apartment market. (As it happens, an 18th-floor duplex in the building is being quietly offered for $75 million, while Courtney Sale Ross’ sprawl at 740 Park is asking “over $60 million,” but neither are official listings, so they don’t quite count.) Not that anyone actually keeps track of such things (actually, of course they do), but a relatively unthrilling penthouse at The Mark was, thanks to its $60 million tag, briefly the most expensive apartment on the market in New York. That just changed.

Illustration from Brown Harris Stevens via The New York Observer.

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Original source : http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/alleyinside…


Google Earth’s ancient Roman holiday

Google Earth's new layer of ancient Rome offers virtual tourists the chance to explore an ancient city at its peak.

(Credit: Google)

Google Earth is extending its satellite perspective to paint a picture of what the ancient city of Rome looked like nearly two millennia ago.

While satellites weren’t around to give us a bird’s eye view of the city in 320 A.D., Google’s “Ancient Rome 3-D” offers a 3D simulation of the ancient city at the height of its power. The new layer for the tool allows virtual time-traveling tourists to fly around the city and zoom in to explore ancient structures as they likely looked at the time, including the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Circus Maximus. Pop-up windows offer historical information.

The project, which was unveiled Wednesday, is the first ancient city to be incorporated into Google Earth and was developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Virginia.

The computer graphics are based on the Plastico di Roma Antica, a plaster model that was created by Italian architect Italo Gismondi and finished three years before his death in 1974. (The model can be viewed at the city’s Museo della Civilta Romana.)

The digitization project began in 1997 and took 10 years to complete. It then took 15 people the better part of a year to transfer the project to the Web.

And apparently, they got it right.

“What fascinates me most about this project is the accuracy of the details of the three-dimensional models,” Gianni Alemanno, Rome’s mayor, wrote in a blog posting on Google’s site. “It’s such a great experience to be able to admire the monuments, streets and buildings of Ancient Rome with a virtual camera that lets you go inside and see all the architectural details.”

While the public’s interest in ancient Rome has exploded due in large part to movies like Gladiator and TV shows like HBO’s Rome, Google is promoting the new layer as an educational tool and has invited teachers to submit innovative lesson plans that incorporate the new feature.

In other Google globetrotting, the company recently announced that after recent launches in France, Spain, and Italy, Google’s Street View is now available in six countries. Also, Street View cameras have been spotted in New Zealand.

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Original source : http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/webware/~3/45132356…


The Lazy Man’s Guide to Getting Things Done

Shared by Jim S


Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.

What if I told you that you could be totally lazy and irresponsible, and still accomplish just as much? What if you could slack off, loiter, and essentially do nothing and get more done than the average person. It’s a bit of an art, but you can master this skill with some practice.

Some of these things may seem like a lot of work up front, but that’s the price you have to pay to lounge around all day.

1. Be effective.

The indigenous lazy tribesman knows the value of hard work. But he also knows that he can get more done easily and more efficiently by being effective. That means focusing on the things that matter. What matters more to you, having a color coded underwear filing system, or writing that world dominating book you’ve been talking about for the past 12 years?

Focus on being effective, instead of trying do everything perfectly. Let things slide, let your house get a little messy, let your desk be a little less than immaculate. Let your email inbox *gasp* go unchecked for a day. Whatever it takes to focus on what actually matters.

2. Do your research.

This might not seem like something lazy people like to do, but it’s essential if you want to waste a lot of time doing things that, you know, you actually enjoy doing. If you want to work less, it’s important that you do your research. Study trends, follow what major movements are going on in your industry. If you know the right time and place to act, you can be miles above others that were simply working hard, hoping things would turn out for the best.

3. Act from your gut.

People that work hard and achieve little spend a lot of time thinking about the best course of action. They plan and plot incessantly. What eventually happens is these come up that they never could have planned for. The lazy man knows that planning is useful, but often overrated. It’s better to act from your gut then to have a highly detailed plant you’ll simply throw away later.

4. Know people.

A smart, lazy fellow understands the importance of connections. He knows that he can get more done by helping others and cooperating. It’s not always about what you can do, but about “who you know.” If you can focus on helping others as much as possible (being a mensch link) you’ll naturally create meaningful connections with other people. It’s always a lot easier to get help from other people who you’ve helped in the past.

5. Ditch meetings and other things that don’t matter.

Meetings are usually unproductive and a waste of time for everyone. They’re usually irrelevant to most of the people involved. The objective of most meeting can usually be handled with a simple email or phone call. If the meeting doesn’t require high level, strategic decision making, opt out whenever possible.

Whenever possible, cull whatever is not working. There’s certain things that just don’t make much of a difference when you spend twice as much time on them. There’s also things that don’t make sense to do at all. Try to focus only on things that produce the most results. Cut out the rest.

6. Focus on less.

If you’re lazy like me, you probably don’t want to spend unnecessary time churning out ineffective work. It’s much better to work on one amazing idea, than 20 mediocre ones. Focus on producing less. Don’t sacrifice quality to fill an arbitrary quota.

7. Allow things to happen.

Trying to force things to go your way is not only stressful, it’s not very intelligent. It’s better to guide things along, than trying to marshal them in like a dictator. Try to let things happen, instead of making them happen. Remember that a small rudder directs even the most giant ship.

8. Don’t do what works.

The number one dream killer is doing what works. We follow a template of what has worked for other people. But just because climbing a corporate ladder works, it doesn’t mean it’s the best idea for you. If you’re smart and you want to be lazy, you’ll follow your own path. You’ll work from your strengths, instead of trying to follow a predetermined pattern of effectiveness.

It’s a lot easier to apply your unique strengths, then to force yourself into an arbitrary mold.

These things might seem like they require diligent work, and they do. But they also allow you to free up the time to be as lazy and unproductive as you want to be.

This article was written by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead of the Illuminated Mind blog. For more ways to defend your laziness grab a free subscription to Illuminated MInd.

Read elsewhere: How Getting Nothing Done Can Make You More Productive.
If you liked this article, please share it on del.icio.us, StumbleUpon or Digg. I’d appreciate it. 🙂

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Original source : http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/zenhabits/~3/450008…


Reusable Dry Cleaning Bag/Hamper from Greenward


As a professional organizer, we find dry cleaning bags to be irksome for a couple reasons. The environmental waste is obvious. But from a closet organizing perspective, we see a lot of clothes organizing systems break down when people bring home their dry cleaning…

One of the most user-friendly ways to organize your clothes is usually by category (e.g. shirts together, pants together etc.). For those who do a lot of dry cleaning, they bring home a batch of mixed category clothes, wrapped in one plastic hanging bag and usually people just toss that on the closet rod and the category system is rendered null and void.

Greenward, a great eco products store in Cambridge, is now selling a reusable dry cleaning bag which doubles as a hamper. While you’re accumulating your dry cleaning stash, the bag is in hamper format. Then you bring the hamper to the dry cleaner and they revert it to the hanging bag format to protect your clothes in transit. When you get home, in order to start your hamper cycle all over again you must remove the clothes from the bag, and that’s your chance to put them into the proper categories in your closet!

And it really is disheartening to see the amount of plastic bags that accumulate in people’s closets from dry cleaning. The Greenward reusable bag/hamper is a simple way to reduce your impact. (Greenward also has an online shop and delivers by bicycle!) Of course, choosing clothes that don’t need to be dry cleaned is the first step but that’s not an option for everyone. Also, if you haven’t already switched to a greener dry cleaning service, there are a number in the Boston area, including Clevergreen in Medford and Beacon Hill.

Most dry cleaners will also accept your returned wire hangers or you can drop them at a local Salvation Army or Goodwill for reuse.

How do you manage your dry cleaning? Any other greener dry cleaners in the Boston area that you’d recommend?

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Original source : http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/apartmenttherapy/ma…


Robert Reich's Blog: The Mini Depression and the Maximum-Strength Remedy

Shared by Moah

I discovered this post from Scoble’s shared items. The power of Google Reader!

I am more than glad Obama picked people with this kind of view to be on his economic advisory team.

So the crucial questions become (1) how much will the government have to spend to get the economy back on track? and (2) what sort of spending will have the biggest impact on jobs and incomes?

The answer to the first question is “a lot.” Given the magnitude of the mess and the amount of underutilized capacity in the economy– people who are or will soon be unemployed, those who are underemployed, factories shuttered, offices empty, trucks and containers idled — government may have to spend $600 or $700 billion next year to reverse the downward cycle we’re in.

The answer to the second question is mostly “infrastructure” — repairing roads and bridges, levees and ports; investing in light rail, electrical grids, new sources of energy, more energy conservation. Even conservative economists like Harvard’s Martin Feldstein are calling for government to stimulate the economy through infrastructure spending. Infrastructure projects like these pack a double-whammy: they create lots of jobs, and they make the economy work better in the future. (Important qualification: To do this correctly and avoid pork, the federal government will need to have a capital budget that lists infrastructure projects in order of priority of public need.)

Government should also spend on health care and child care. These expenditures are also double whammies: they, too, create lots of jobs, and they fulfill vital public needs.

Expect two sorts of arguments against this. The first will come from fiscal hawks who claim that the government is already spending way too much. Even without a new stimulus package, next year’s budget deficit could run over a trillion dollars, given the amounts to be spent bailing out Wall Street and perhaps the auto industry, and providing extended unemployment insurance and other measures to help those in direct need. The hawks will argue that the nation can’t afford giant deficits, especially when baby boomers are only a few years away from retiring and claiming Social Security and Medicare.

They’re wrong. Government spending that puts people back to work and invests in the future productivity of the nation is exactly what the economy needs right now. Deficit numbers themselves have no significance. The pertinent issue is how much underutilized capacity exists in the economy. When there’s lots of idle capacity, deficit spending is entirely appropriate, as John Maynard Keynes taught us. Moving the economy to fuller capacity will of itself shrink future deficits.

The second argument will come from conservative supply-siders who will call for income-tax cuts rather than spending increases. They’ll claim that individuals with more money in their pockets will get the economy moving again more readily than can government. They’re wrong, for three reasons. First, income-tax cuts go mainly to upper-income people who tend to save rather than spend. Most Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. Second, even if a rebate could be fashioned, people tend to use those extra dollars to pay off their debts rather than buy new goods and services, as we witnessed a few months ago when the government sent out rebate checks. Third, even when individuals purchase goods and services, those purchases tend not to generate as many American jobs as government spending on the same total scale because much of what consumers buy comes from abroad.

Fiscal hawks and conservative supply siders notwithstanding, a major stimulus is in order. Government is the spender of last resort, and the nation is coming close to its last resort.

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Original source : http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2008/11/mini-depre…

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