Posts Tagged development

This Happened - it happened even if I wasn’t quite ready for it

I was a little less than prepared (I blame last weeks knee injury) but I presented at This Happened last night.

We opted for a little bit of tech presentation and I tried to make it as accessible as possible but I did find myself rambling a little bit (during a 10 minute presentation is not a good idea).  The audience response was very kind and people asked some great questions.  So thank you everyone who attended and listened and for Chris for arranging.  Also I forget to thank Petra for all her hard work during the project but the timer was scarily ticking down to zero and I was really quite keen to get finished.

Michael Salmond - had some interesting links to ours in trying to view the city in different ways from a double decker bus and the juxtaposition of ideas of colonialism and cultural diversity.

Paul Rodgers and Ewan Winton -  might be of interest to some of our colleagues on the JISC RI funding programme, as it explores the connection between the tools of social media and the actual use in the creative industries.

Anab Jain - her talk was about a project see undertook with 8 people to explore the idea of the future and peoples desires, needs and expectations of the future.  It’s a really interesting project exploring the aspirations and consequences of a group designing for the future.

Sarah Drummond and Laurie Currie presented mypolice which is quite simply a really brilliant idea.  Allowing anyone  to engage with the police in both formal and informal ways using social media.  The idea being that people can celebrate interactions with the police where they have had positive experiences, to reinforce good work.  It also allows a dialogue when the service has been less than brilliant, allowing people to have a democratic voice to highlight flaws but also get some feedback to hopefully feel they are being listened too.  The work came out the Social Innovation Camp in Glasgow, which unites nerds and non nerds to produce interesting work in 48 hrs.  It’ll be really interesting to see how they bring the idea to market.

Twitter discussion

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A little bit of Cache goes a long way - a win

Petra enabled some of the compression and caching on the tomcat server and too great success.

Petra and my tests have been against a 3GS and Chris loaned us a 3G to do some testing.  A little bit of pre-caching of some images and the site now flies along.  As the data is not changing a great deal (it is historical after all) we can have a long cache time on and well it works.  Don’t know why we didn’t think of it sooner (well I didn’t and Petra did)

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Google Maps 3 API - Fail for us

We tried - we failed…  For us to implement it, would require a good bit of re-write and we took the decision to not go with it this time.  It did make us think about the modular nature of the javascript

It doesn’t quite have the feature set at this time that we were looking for but it does look like it’ll be great when it’s finished.  The focus on mobile tools would be great and gesture support for Android would be great.  Not this time but we did think it would be worth  keeping an eye for when it matures

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Web App fail?

The first round of testing that Karlyn performed was a resounding… well, fail to be honest.  I received a phone call bright and early one morning with the results of Karlyn’s testing.

To be honest it just didn’t work for her.  After a fairly disappointed chat we figured out what the problem was - is - might be?

Our testing has been done with WI-Fi and with iphone 3gs’s, and whenever we have done tests they are under lab conditions with the watchful eye of Petra or myself.  Outwith those lab conditions it turns out that the world of mobile and web apps is a bit fraught.

The main issue was getting a consistent and reliable signal at 3g - without this our application doesn’t work so well.  This is probably true of almost all mobile applications that need an internet connection but particularly for us as we are getting back data from a couple of sources and presenting it.  One web service call and another direct HTTP connection but that is for each tile, so we are basically sending a whole lot of HTTP requests and over GPRS this is not so good.

We came up with a couple of ideas on how to solve this - 1) try the Google Maps 3 API which is a little more mobile centric 2) some caching

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Cross Platform?

One of our goals was to try and produce something which worked cross platform.  We recognised this was a bit of a steep call but our lofty goals haven’t stopped us this far.  As a lot of our earlier work was focused on exploring navigation techniques and ideas we got a little swept up in iPhone mania (I blame Chris personally) but worry not…

android Video

I gave it a spin in the android simulator and well … it works …

Kind of, a lot of the functionality which we are relying on api’s for doesn’t seem to work in the emulator but what does work is the very basics of the application - which is really, really encouraging

Please excuse the crudely put together flash video but I was so excited that I a) got the emulator to work and b) the application worked, I felt a need to share…

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Work on the Basics

With our recent successes in prototpying our next step is to get the basic functionality agreed:

Create Database Model -> 1 day
follow the user - > poll position - 1 day
Navigation across the top - to change the map layers - Fixed - 0.5 day
Query and display of markers - API - 2 days
Simple Route - 3 days

This is what we are looking at for our first bigger release of the software.  Our prototype at the moment is running away quite nicely at the back of the room but we are looking to build in the database functionality as our next big step.

In the loose set of requirements we identified for next bigger phase, include the following:

Routes Administration
Edit Landmarks
Settings and displays of application
Adding Notes to Landmarks
View by Notes - Using the Notes against a landmark to drive the navigation in terms of tagclouds etc
View by Landmarks - Sizing of the landmarks with the time period relating to size.
Make the routes more complex - changing the layers as the user progresses through the route.

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Screen grab

Looking good. Starting to work.

I was actually standing in the ECA quadrangle so we seem to be 3-400 metres SW of target. But pretty good progress so far.img_1215img_1216

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Talk of Deloreans and TagClouds

As we got our demo working our next phase is to move onto actually making it do something.  So after some sessions with Chris and Karlyn, Petra and I went away and attempted to come up with something useful which would describe some of the processes and screens in a meaningful way.  After some furious white-boarding, scribbling, crossing out, revising and chatting we managed to get a fairly workable model and a clear set of tasks/functions.

I used balsamiq mockups to create some fairly loose demo screens, which is a great prototyping tool as it has iphone templates making it easy to frame everything in a mobile context.

Here are some of the results.  Describing the starting points and what happens when the user goes back in time

After talking about some of these things we started to discuss how to represent time as a navigation item in the system.  Petra and I had originally proposed the size of the marker being how far back or forward in time the object is located.  Allowing the user to shift between maps and map sets without having to fully understand the datasets available to them.  Karlyn and Chris expanded on this by looking at it a different way and using the title of the landmark as a kind of visual “Tag Cloud”, and perhaps using the number of comments a landmark gets to influence the size of the text - removing the time element but creating an interesting social/folksonmy element. This style also lends itself to using tagging etc to create different perspectives on the data.

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User Experience notes

Ok so a stab at describing the user experience based upon todays meeting.picture-4

Click here for the pdf

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Phone Mock up

Might it, just might it look like this?!!!

phonemockup

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