Fury 4.0d7
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003
Another day, another design mock.

Changes in d7 include:

  • Removal of the '3d effect' except for on the masthead.
  • Joining of the top property links to the masthead
  • Removal of separators in the 'on this page' (OTP) navbox
  • Changing () to [] for OTP comments. (I tried omitting them, or making the color/link just the number, etc. They all looked much worse, trust me.)
  • Changing the 'comments' area at the end of entries. Check the first and second entries for examples. The rest are for placement only (FPO).
  • 'Track this item'? What's that mean? (grin)
  • Removed the legend. More navbox changes to come.

For discussion: How does the color balance look now? granted the white/grey isn't set in stone, but I feel that without the legend, the salmon isn't so overbearing. Comments? Also: When you click on a salmon comment counter in the OTP, should it take you to the oldest comment you haven't yet read, or to the first comment? What if none of the comments are new?

Design habits die hard
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2003
So, amazingly, after giving you guys this speech about how I wanted to conduct a transparent design process, I squirrel myself away, whipping up visual iterations, changing them, showing them to a few close friends, and making changes. that's exactly what I was trying to avoid.

Still, my current design thoughts have problems, and I guess it's artistic ego that doesn't want to let me show it while those problems are unsolved. Nevertheless, discussion might help solve those problems, so here goes.

The 'current' mock is Fury 4.0d5. Caveats:

  • The parts that I focused on here were the masthead, the first entry on the page, and the 'on this page' nav box.
  • The rest of the nav boxes haven't been touched yet, though they absolutely will, and several will be going away, and new ones replacing them.
  • The HTML and CSS code are very messy. Don't worry about that. This is a design mock and the code will be optimized when I write it into the live system. CSS folk might notice that the 'on this page' nav box is all css, reducing a fair bit of table junk.
  • I haven't personally tested this on any browsers other than Safari.
  • The 'comments' summary after the first post is still a work in progress. I still need to put in links to the actual posts, see how it looks when there are 25 comments, and not just 2, have a clear link for adding a comment, etc.
  • I removed the 'comment dots' from the timeline. They made the design even busier, and their usefulness is diminished by the 'on this page' box.
  • The timeline bar items will actually be colored the same as the 'on this page' items, in a gradient (like topics is) instead of the 'new, 1day, 3 day, old' system. (Thoughts on this?)

Okay, now the known issues:

  1. The color scheme is either too sterile or too patriotic.
  2. The page seems too crowded. (This should be improved when the rest of the nav boxes are done)
  3. I'm not sure that I'm happy with the presentation of the # and newness of comments in the 'on this page' box.
  4. More I can't think of just now.

Okay, I again stress work in progress, but have at it anyhow.

For comparison and conversational fodder, check out a few earlier versions: 4.0d1, 4.0d2, 4.0d3, 4.0d4.

Whipping my Inner Doozer
Tuesday, Jun 10, 2003
Sorry for the slowness of posts. This time though it's completely warranted. I've been putting a lot of effort into Fury 4.0. Right now most of the obvious work has been in the visual design of the front page.

That visual design incorporates some changes in the interactive design of fury, but most of the interactive changes (and they are substantial) will be slower in coming.

I feel the flows have to be validated more, and will require more user testing, while I feel qualified to take a good solid stab at the visual redesign based on my knowledge of user habits, relative importance of various elements, and personal asthetic.

I'll probably have the first static visual design mock up late tomorrow or Thursday. Before that I expect I'll dive in to explaining one or more of the redesigned flows. FYI, I'm redesigning (or designing the initial flow) for: reading comments, posting main comments, posting IMblog comments, registering/login.

And that's just the stuff I can recall off the top of my head.

I'll say this though, after working on the VisDe for 4.0 for the last two days, it's almost icky goving back to 3.2 to actually post...

Trading Cells
Monday, Jun 09, 2003
I was talking with a friend a couple days ago about how horrible (or nice, depending) it would be to be Martha Stewart's cellmate. How would she go about redecorating the cell? Making it hers?

Thankfully, as always, people with more time on their hands had the same idea.

Fury 4.0: Redesigning by the book
Saturday, Jun 07, 2003
So hey, I've long found it amusing that so many webloggers with such tight design skills do their redesigns in private, suddenly unveiling them to the world with a big "here it is!"

Trouble is, this is the antithesis of the traditional interaction design process. Showing the design around to a few of your friends shouldn't be a substitute for an actual usability experiment, for a lot of reasons, most notably an inherent bias towards the designer, a familiarity with the existing site (this is useful, but naive users should also be tested), and most importantly, the fact that a person's subjective opinion is not the same thing as the usability of a site.

So I'm going to (more or less) conduct the Fury 4.0 redesign by the numbers. I'm going to do some low-fi prototype testing, some task analysis, a smattering of cognitive walkthroughs for the identified common tasks, and some rolling usability testing as the redesign comes along.

I've already started with a lot of logfile analysis of Fury 3.2. I've identified the five categories of visitors, and their use patterns:

  1. The regular subscriber - You read this site at least once every two weeks, and get here either via a bookmark, by hand-typing the URL, from your RSS aggregator (desktop app, or web-based aggregator), or by a link on your own personal links page (I'm so tempted to link to some of these as examples, but they might be private, so I won't).

    You read comments. Most of you use the timeline bar at the top of the screen. You might lurk, or you might post. Most of you check in at least 3 times a week. Some check several times a day.

    You almost never visit anywhere other than the front page, unless I linked to it in a new article.
  2. The general referred user - You saw a link on the sidebar of another site and decided to check it out. You might look around a bit. There's a 30% chance that you'll click on one of the topics in the 'Read by Topic'. If you do, there's an 80% chance that you'll follow the 'sex' topic. There's a 90% chance that you'll be disappointed by it.
  3. The specific referred user - A blog or news site you read linked to a specific article on fury, and you followed the link to check it out. When you do, you might visit the front page, and it's just as likely that you'll click on the 'Bio' link to find out more about where you are. You're more likely to become a regular reader than any other group.
  4. The google searcher - You dive in and dive out. You'll almost never go anyplace other than the page you land on (unless it's to the aforementioned 'sex' link). On rare occasion you'll actually leave a comment, but if you do, there's (almost exactly, strangely enough) a 50% chance that you're either a crackpot, conspiracy theorist, extremely vulgar, immature, or some combination. Trouble for you is that, though you don't know it, almost nobody will ever know you left that comment, unless they constantly scour the archives for recent comments.
  5. Kevin Fox - I use Fury differently than everyone else. When it doesn't suit my needs, I've built hacks in the back end so that I can do what I want. When someone leaves a comment on the site, it automatically emails the comment to me, so I never have to check back to find new content, and can respond to comments right away.

    I have hidden pages where I can get up-to-the-second lists of who came to what page of the site, and where they came from. I can spot new referring links easily, and see how popular that link is.

    I use the timeline bar as a guilt-o-meter, always wanting to see at least some dark blue on the page, lest I feel the page is growing stale.

I've spent the last several months with these use patterns in my head, and they have driven a few changes over the years (the timeline, color-coding, permalinks, comments, etc.) but now I've got enough new ideas that I'm doing a complete rewrite. I closely considered making it 100% CSS, but I found that while the concept of CSS is extremely elegant, in practice the compatibility differences amongst my target browsers (even between IE 5.5 and IE 6.0, browsers of the most common Fury visitors) mean that I'd have to code many kludges just to make it work right, and it would make me more reluctant to institute changes, knowing a small change could wreck the site.

Instead I'm using tables for layout, and CSS for styles, as I mostly do now.

Okay, this post is getting much longer than I intended. Back to the interaction design model, I want your input. I'd like the regular users to be the eyes over my shoulder, I want you guys to play the role of the stakeholder. I'm designing a tool both for you and the other four groups, and while I'll take your comments for what they are, and not gospel, I realize you guys have a lot of good ideas and frustrations, and as long as this post's comments inform the design, and don't drive it, I think it'll make for a better redesign all around.

Mmm.. Wireframe...So, knowing that many of the labels in the following wireframe will need description I won't delve in to until later this week, I'd like to share the preliminary Fury 4.0 home page wireframe.

Questions? Comments? Go for it.

iPod in the Hand
Friday, Jun 06, 2003
My 30 gig iPod came today, just in time!
Indie goes Mainstream at Apple
Friday, Jun 06, 2003
Yesterday Steve Jobs gave a presentation to 150 representatives from independent music labels, offering distribution through the Apple Music Store. CD Baby! has posted their notes from the event.

It sounds very cool, and very well thought out. It even opens the door for small indie labels to become clearinghouses for 'ultra-indie' musicians, lowering the barrier to entry even further than it is now.

The thing I was most impressed by is Apple's claim that they will always refuse money for preferential placement. Those big banners touting the 'band of the moment' are created by Apple, solely by what the Apple music specialists think is good and worthy, not by big promotions contracts. One of the label reps was dubious, asking how they can be sure it will always be that way, and an Apple exec responded that Apple's been in the OS business for 20 years, and they've never sold an icon on the desktop like other companies have. (Is this actually true? Did no money change hands for System 7 or 8, when IE was on the desktop, or when the 'Connect to the Internet' icon drove you to an Earthlink sign-up page?)

Since the 'bestselling songs' are calculated on a rolling 24-hour basis, even a small relatively unknown band can get on the chart by organizing its fans to get friends to buy music on the same day, pumping it up in to the list, where it will either fall the next day, or stay high by virtue of the music.

Indie stuff should start appearing on the site within 90 to 120 days. I can't wait.

When in Bird in Hand
Thursday, Jun 05, 2003
Last weekend Rachel and I ventured across Pennsylvania to attend a wedding where, incidentally, Rachel was the Maid of Honor. We left early Friday morning with a map and a timetable in hand.

Trying to make the most of my time left in the strange and foreign land known as Pennsylvania, I couldn't pass up the chance to drop in on the Pennsylvania Dutch, and so we planned a 30 mile detour just past Lancaster and deep in to the heart of Amish and Mennonite culture. In this case, a rural town called 'Bird-in-Hand'.

At the urging of the buggy company's web site,, we took the "quickest, then most scenic way" in to town, in defiance of Yahoo Maps's directions. It's a bit of a quandary, when you think about it: Who knows more about the optimal route? The computer that warns you that roads it tells you to travel on might not even exist, or the Amish who are forbidden to drive cars and haven't travelled more than 15 miles from their birthplace? In this case, Yahoo had the direct route right, though the way we took may have been a bit more scenic.

Buggy!We were already behind our tight schedule that would bring us to Reading (well, Hiedelberg, but who's counting?) in time for wedding rehearsal prep (involving the bride, her mother, bridesmaids, and a distinct absence of moi). Still, we made it, and the Buggy Ride bird was now in our hands, and we weren't going to let it go. Thankfully there was no line, just a buggy, a horse, and a driver (footnote 1). In 10 minutes we were underway. With a family of four fellow travellers sharing our buggy, I sat right up front on a small wooden footstool, right behind the horse. Unfortunately, the previous sentence isn't the only one that uses both the words 'horse', 'behind', and 'stool', but seeing as this sentence fulfills that prophecy, I don't have to bring it up later, but it happened, and at a trot, no less.

Mmm... Horse...The first bit of the ride was along the highway, in the 'buggy lane'. I was impressed that the horse looked both ways before merging in to traffic, a good thing since it turns out that because horses aren't machines, there's no license or age required to operate such a beastie on the open road. We quickly turned off the main road on to a smaller road, where our guide pointed out the ways to tell whether a given house was occupied by Amish (dark-curtained, unadorned windows, no wires leading in to the house, often simple clothes on the washline) or by others. We passed a carpenter's studio with a sign declaring that he would be happy to make custom furniture to order. A few moments later we were passed by a large tour bus. I got a momentary insight in to the Amish lifestyle as twenty tourists crowded to the windows and pointed at us, the presumptive Amish they had come to see through their tinted panes.


It wasn't too much further when we pulled on to a dirt road, heading towards barns and silos. It turns out that this was the first day in a month that they'd been able to take this path, as the earlier rains had made the path too muddy for the cart's narrow wheels. We drove between fields, seeing a horse-driven plow team here, a person tending to a garden there.

Amish look Amish all the time.

The average Amish family has about 10 children, which is why every day is laundry day. It also explains their culture's survival. the Amish culture has just about zero population growth, since so many of the kids leave the farm.

Anyone else reminded of the Dye Spot?Driving past a barn and scooter (Amish will ride push-scooters, but not bicycles), we came upon three girls working in the family garden. they were probably 20, 14, and 3 years old. When the buggy came, the middle girl came out and offered us chocolate chip cookies, three for a dollar.

Amish know their cookies.

Mooooo!We went on our way, and continued between fields, with silos in the distance, and grazing cows near the path. Trundling by the cows, I wondered: Does our horse know he's a horse? Does he look down on the lazy fat cows as he works for his daily fare, or does he lament his position? Do the cows laugh at him? Is there a parallel to be found here between the Amish and wider civilization? Are we the cows?

Plow or Plough?Amish Factoid Time:

  • Amish don't work on Sundays. Sunday is God's day.
  • Weddings always happen in October and November, when they interfere the least with tending the land.
  • An Amish man shaves until he is married, then he grows a full beard, but never a mustache.
  • Weddings are always held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It takes a full day to prepare for a wedding, and a full day to clean after a wedding, so mon-TUES-wed and wed-THURS-fri is the only way to ensure that nobody misses a wedding while preparing for another.
  • After the wedding, Amish newlyweds go door to door to collect their wedding gifts.
  • Amish aren't permitted to drive cars, but can be passengers.
  • Those Amish who require phones for their business keep the phone in the shed, a fair distance from the house.

I forgot to ask if the Amish vote.

Coming back to the terminus after our 30-minute ride, we saw a field trip of 20 kids in identical blue t-shirts. they were all going buggying. We asked how they'd handle them all, and sure enough a long buggy with lengthwise benches emerged to the kids delight.

A quick gift shop pit stop later and we were on our way to the rehearsal, plus a jar of blueberry syrup and a slab of rocky road fudge.

Amish Mennonites know their fudge. (Know the difference between Amish and Mennonites? Check the FAQ!) Actually, truth to tell, we thought they knew their fudge, and we wouldn't know any better for another two days, but that's another day, and another story.

Footnote 1: Driver is an interesting term. I was having a conversation with Ammy a few days ago about words that persist in our culture, after the literal meaning of the word has been surpassed by technology. Her example was an article about TiVo where it talked about taping shows, as if TiVo has anything to do with tape. I tried to think of others, but it's not easy to do off the cuff. 'Driver' is definitely such a word, as it derived [npi] from the person who 'drives' the horses forward. (go back up)

iPod AAC DRM backdoor?
Thursday, Jun 05, 2003
So I've been thinking (always a dangerous sign). With Apple's new Music Store, they enforce digital rights management (DRM) by apparently encrypting the songs they download to you with a key to ensure that only a computer registered to you can listen to the music. Other bloggers have verified that the actual content portion of the song is changed, not just some identifying header, having purchased the same song under two IDs and otherwise identical conditions, and finding no similarity to the data within the song files, though they play identically.

Under Apple's digital rights management scheme (which, by the way, for all the evils of DRM, is the least evil I've seen), an Apple Music Store customer can play their purchased music on a Mac that has been linked to their account, and at any time up to three macs can be so linked. At the same time, any song from the Apple Music Store can be played on any iPod, which brings me to my thought: How does the iPod get around the DRM?

What I mean to say is, if the song file is protected, presumably through some sort of encryption, so that only computers in possession of a decryption key linked to the user's account can decrypt a song, how are the iPods exempt?

It seems to me that there are four possible solutions:

  1. The files are encrypted by the user's personal key and that key is actually included inside the song file, so that iPods can decrypt any song. Mind you, any other application that knows about the key could decrypt any song, too, unless the key itself is encrypted by another key that is stored somewhere in the flash rom of every iPod so that iPods, and only iPods, can decrypt the key in the song, then use that key to decrypt the song. I believe this is similar to how DVD encryption works, though I could be wrong.
  2. Similar to #1, perhaps when a mac uploads a song to an iPod, it tacks on the user's personal decryption key along with the song so the iPod can decode it. A way to test if this is the case is to take a protected song to someone else's mac (that can't play the song because it doesn't have the key), then try and upload it to an iPod and see if the song plays. If it doesn't play, then it means that songs have to be loaded on to iPods from 'permitted' computers.
  3. When uploading to the iPod, the mac might completely decrypt the song and then upload it, obviating the need for any kind of decryption on the iPod side. In this case, as in #2, only a 'permitted' computer could successfully upload a song to an iPod. The difference here is that if two people purchased the same song, then uploaded them to iPods, then copied the song back from the iPod, using command-line copying or another third-party iPod tool, then the two files should be decrypted, and identical to each other. Incidentally, these files would likely be playable on any AAC player, effectively removing the DRM without sacrificing quality.
  4. Maybe the files aren't actually encrypted at all, and are just made to look different by inserting a small amount of random noise, or a digital signature, to the original waveform prior to encoding, so that the files can be tracked, and playability on different computers is solely regulated by a weak honor-based system within iTunes.

With a little time and two Apple Music Store accounts, it should be easy to tell which of these systems is being used (unless it's something other than the possibilities above). I might do it if I have the time in the next week or so, but I'm really just more curious than anything else. I don't feel the need to go around trying to break Apple's DRM and be a new EFF poster child fighting the DMCA.

For now my main hope is that TiVo sends out an update for its Home Media Option so that it can play my Apple-bought music, especially since Apple's courting independent labels today, and many more cool bands could be in the store in the next couple months.

Witness that I have not posted in a few days...
Wednesday, Jun 04, 2003
Know that I suck.

I plan to stop sucking tonight. Got one of those backlogs of too many things to write, making initiating a daunting task...


Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at since 1998.
I can be reached at .

I also have a resume.


I'm co-founder in
a fantastic startup fulfilling the promise of the Internet of Things.

The Imp is a computer and wi-fi connection smaller and cheaper than a memory card.

Find out more.

We're also hiring.


I post most frequently on Twitter as @kfury and on Google Plus.


I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

©2012 Kevin Fox