Engineering design problem solving activities

June 8th, 2010 315 comments

Engineering design problem solving activities

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What Apple seems to have forgotten, is that Flash solved a big problem when it started supporting video a couple of years ago. Suddenly it was possible to easily display videos on a page, regardless of browser or operating system. Only one chunk of code and only one video file were needed; plugin daisychains and forced installations were a thing of the past. Due to its ubiquity, Flash effectively enabled the online video surge of the last few years.

HTML5 and video are not buzz words to the developing community. Bringing standards to this space means allowing rich web experiences without the need for plugins or browser specific implementations.  Apple’s recent HTML5 showcase is actually a Safari/Quicktime showcase and does not work in any other browser. Speaking as an iPhone developer, there is value in this showcase, but as a demonstration of creating rich web applications on the iPhone and iPad and not as a demonstration of HTML5 standards.  Jeroen and Zach go into greater details about Apple’s lack of standards here and I encourage you to read what they’ve written.

HTML5 and the accompanying technologies are truly powerful and I believe the future of the modern web. But without standards, HTML5 will fail to go mainstream in the long tail (average Joe developer).  Cross-browser compatibility will win out over multiple browser-specific implementations of the same solution.  Apple is on the right track, but instead of pitching Safari and Quicktime as HTML5 solutions, I wish they would focus on cross-browser support and embrace emerging standards like WebM, Vorbis, and Ogg.

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Categories: Project Rethink Tags: 315 comments


June 1st, 2010 335 comments

Below is an animation adapted from a lecture given by Dan Pink. This presentation is compelling. The talk is 10 mins long, but I promise, if you have 10 mins to spare Dan will hold your attention to the end and leave you wanting more.  This is a great example of how things should be done.

Categories: Project Rethink Tags: 335 comments

Easily Embed HTML5 Video

May 13th, 2010 413 comments

If you’ve ever watched video on the Internet, chances are you’ve seen JW Flash Player, created by Jeroen Wijering at  The JW Flash Player is the most popular open-source video player on the Internet today.

Yesterday, Jeroen and his team at LongTail Video announced a public beta for the next evolution of their most popular player, JW Player for HTML5.

With a few lines of code, the JW Player for HTML5 allows you to easily embed, configure, and skin video players using the HTML5 standard.  If a user is using a browser that does not support HTML5, the embed code will automatically fallback to the original JW Flash Player.  HTML5 is widely supported in many modern browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox and IE9 — but most importantly, mobile devices including the iPhone, Android and the iPad.

The JW Player for HTML5 is a fully skinnable and configurable player based on the new <video> tag found in HTML5. It is built using javascript (jQuery) and enables a seamless fallback to the popular JW Player for Flash. Currently, our HTML5 player is in Beta. Certain functionalities that we consider essential are missing in this Beta version, and will be included in the 1.0 release.


It’s that easy.  Jeroen has posted multiple examples of the player and is actively looking for feedback.  Just as a quick demo, the video below was embeded using the following lines of code and will play on your desktop, iPad, iPhone, or anything in between.

Thanks Jeroen!


Here is the code for this setup. Make sure to change all links to the scripts, player, image and video. They must refer to the correct files on your server.

First, place this code in the <head> of your page:

<script type="text/javascript" src="/scripts/jquery.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="/scripts/jquery.jwplayer.js"></script>

Second, place this code where you want the video to appear:

<video height="270" id="player" poster="/files/bunny.jpg"
  src="/files/bunny.mp4" width="480"></video>

<script type="text/javascript">


Categories: Project Rethink Tags: 413 comments

Relevant Real-Time

March 7th, 2010 Comments off

Search is an interesting problem to explore.  Fifteen years ago, Clifford Stoll wrote an article for Newsweek entitled, “The Internet? Bah! Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and will never be, nirvana”.  Stoll’s article is often referenced as an example of getting it completely wrong. Today, even Stoll can look back and admit, “Wrong? Yep.

It is easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but reading Stoll’s article, “Search” seems to be one of the central arguments.

What the Internet hucksters won’t tell you is tht the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them—one’s a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn’t work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question…

About a year later two PhD students at Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, would change the world forever by solving Stoll’s problem with the idea of PageRank — an idea that later became the backbone of Google. Google describes PageRank as:

… [a] uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important”.

Stoll’s critical misstep was the assumption that the Internet would never be organized.

Real-Time Search

Flash forward 15 years and we find the Internet is still evolving. With this evolution, however, we have a new problem — PageRank is too slow. PageRank works really well on websites that are updated two or three times a week. It takes a long time for Google to index the entire Internet. On average, Google will only index a website once a week. Higher profile websites such as CNN, NY Times, and other major news outlets will be crawled more regularly and sometimes even in realtime, but most websites are much less frequent.

Twitter recently had breakout success as a real-time search engine.  Unlike Google’s PageRank (which needs to seek out and find stories to index), Twitter is supplied with content by its users. Because Twitter users tell Twitter what is going on at that moment in time, Twitter is able to instantly calculate what is trending and provide real-time results.

Both Facebook and Google have recognized this potential and started creating competing products. Facebook’s new privacy settings and API allows users to discover content within Facebook’s real-time network. Similarily, Google recently announced Buzz, a product designed to allow Google users to share information within a network of friends.

What’s next?

So where are we going? We face a similar problem today as Stoll did in 1995.  How do you separate out unwanted information provided through Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz from information that is truly valuable.  The most important thing to learn from Stoll is to avoid the assumption that we will never be able to filter this information — instead of abandoning real-time search, let’s figure out how to way to make it work.

There are many possible solutions. The first is to build upon the idea of PageRank and inverse the content flow. Google could build out a public API that allows content providers to easily submit content into Google’s system. Instead of forcing Google to seek out new pages, content providers can tell Google when their pages are updated.

Reversing the PageRank workflow, however, is not a silver bullet. Systems like Google need to rethink the idea of PageRank. Instead of ingesting “pages”, these systems need to ingest an idea or concept from those pages. Future systems of search need to be able to figure out what a story is talking about and assign that idea a ranking, not the webpage or article itself.

By assigning topics a ranking, instead of pages, search systems would be able to rank real-time information by observing similar topics, summaries, and stories from multiple sources.  Essentially, when website A, B and C all start talking about the same story, that story becomes a trending topic. PageRank then becomes a method of weighting individual sources.  If website A has a higher PageRank than website B, it would matter more when they start talking about a specific story.

Additionally, sources can be ranked within each topic or story. For example, as I mentioned in my previous post, I recently developed the Photoshop World iPhone app.  My PageRank is likely not as high as some of the people who recently wrote about the app on their blogs, however, if I were to make an announcement about the app these new systems should recognize me as the highly ranked “source” on the subject — since I am the developer. Similarly, real-time sources should be ranked within their given area’s of expertise.

Fifteen Years Later

Who knows, fifteen years from now we might be laughing at articles that talked about how ridiculous tools like Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz really are. Articles complaining about random tweets from someone’s cat and complaints about how loud a stranger’s dog barks. Articles that put too much emphasis on the noise of real-time search and did not place enough value in the information provided when that noise is filtered out. Looking forward, I believe when we find a way to cancel out the noise, real-time search will become vital to all forms of business.

As the Internet and its uses evolve, so will search.  As search evolves, so will the Internet.  It is an endless cycle, but one that continues to allow new innovation.

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Photoshop World? There’s an app for that.

February 22nd, 2010 303 comments

I try to make every effort to stay on top of technology trends. I love learning new skills and strongly believe that it can be vital in understanding the breadth of a technology.

To that end I began learning how to develop applications for the iPhone.  In a little “self cross-promotion”, I wanted to link you to my latest creation: Photoshop World for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

The app went live last Friday and has already received rave reviews from Tech/Design legends such as Scott Kelby, and Terry White. Terry had this to say:

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch and you’re going to Photoshop World there is simply NO reason not to have this App! This is a great example on how a conference App should be designed. It’s a must download.


The Photoshop World iPhone app features 5 main sections: MyPSW, News, Schedule, Expo and Instructors. When the app launches it will automatically check with an online database to see if it has the most recent content. If there are changes to schedules, rooms, times, instructors, exhibitors, featured content, or NAPP simply needs to send a message to all users, the app will automatically download and update the resources on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

This process is completely seamless to the user (but can be easily canceled if necessary). Just by launching the application you can be sure you have the latest schedule and room information. This feature has already come in handy


This is the best part.  When the app first launches, “My Schedule” is pre-filled with all of the conference events (opening keynote, Art of Digital Photography, etc). Simply tap the plus button to add a class or an entire track to your schedule from the PSW or Expo class schedules. Classes can be removed with a simple swipe to delete. All classes can be filtered by Date and Time, Session Track, Instructor, and Class Name. Have an empty time slot in your schedule? Tapping on the empty slot will pull up all the events taking place at that time. Best of all, never worry about getting lost or missing a class again. The PSW iPhone app will highlight where each class is located within the conference center and it will launch Google Maps for any event located outside the conference center.

Your home screen will show the start time of each event in the green band leading up to the event. One hour prior to the start of the event, the green band will change red and the start time will change over to a countdown timer.  Classes in session will be indicated by “Class in Session”

I will be posting a video walkthrough and more content relating to this application over at later this week.  As always, feel free to follow me (and now the app) at for all the latest news.



Categories: Project Rethink Tags: 303 comments