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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Buzzbrews : Dallas Diner Dining, 24x7

Dallas isn't really a diner kind of city[1]. Chain restaurants of every stripe, some really good high-end dining and good selection of tacquerias, but not so much on the diner front. Buzzbrews[2] is my current choice for diner-like dining with some Dallas flavor, and the only real choice after midnight[3]

My favorite diner food is a fried egg sandwich and Buzzbrews does up an excellent, if baroque, version with grilled tomato, fried eggs over hard and two strips of thick bacon on some hearty toasted bread. It comes with potatoes. They have a cute name I won't repeat here, but they're those small round ones done up with garlic. I didn't love them, but people who are into potatoes tell me they're good. I liked the coffee.

The interior looks like a small traditional diner, with a row of booths along the windows facing the Central Expressway, a row of two-person tables down the middle, and a counter with stools facing the kitchen. While I was there there were a couple of random East Dallas types, a pair of NorthPark moms with small kids and what looked like a rock band[4] The restaurant has Wi-Fi, but the place is just too small to camp out effectively. I'd say you could probably get away with an hour if it wasn't during a rush. The seating is communal (did I mention it was small?) but in the couple of times I've been there it wasn't an issue.

It's too expensive to really be a diner ($6.50 for my fried egg sandwich) so it's really a 'diner' in quotes, but the quote marks are what makes it a Dallas diner. Chris says check it out.

[1] Notable exceptions for the traditionally inclined include the Metro Diner over by Baylor Hospital and the Pitt Grill on Davis in Oak Cliff. I hear the Buzzbrews location used to be a Pitt Grill, which if true would be cool.

[2] BUZZBREWS? BuzzBrews? Capitalization unclear. And no, it's not like they're new or anything, but I was out of town for a while.

[3] Be honest, the only reason you go to Cafe Brazil is because it's open and you're too drunk to notice that the food is lousy. You know that nasty taste in your mouth the next morning? It's not from the booze, it's from the Cafe Brazil quesadilla you don't remember eating.

[4] Or what normal people dress up like on Halloween when they want to pretend they are a rock band. Black jeans, black t-shirts, dark glasses. You know the drill. They seemed suspiciously clean to be a rock band, though. Doesn't matter, the point is they were entertaining to look at. Oh, and when I say "East Dallas types" I mean people who look like they would really prefer to live in Austin.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Flash of Design Insight

I read POET[1] a while back, and I haven't been able to look at door with a "PULL" sign the same way since[2]. I've also acquired the (they tell me annoying) habit of (over) analyzing my environment. I recently came across the above weirdness at the Pizza Hut franchise inside our local Super Target. It's a little hard to see, but the bar stools facing the window have a board mounted vertically in front of them. It sticks out as an anomaly in an environment obviously designed to be efficiently churned out by the thousands and lacking any non-functional detail.

I sat and stared at it for a good chunk of the 6.001 minutes it took to prepare my Personal Pan Pizza before finally realizing how it added to the usability of the space. Here's a hint: it has to do with the interaction between patrons on the stools and people outside. No? Ok, [3].

[1] The Design of Everyday Things.The name's changed (it was 'The Psychology of Everyday Things') but the song's the same. But you're read it, right?

[2] Only very badly designed doors need signs telling you how to operate them. Good doors have affordances that tell you how to operate them without the need for written language.

[3] Women in skirts. 'Flash' of insight? Puns are the highest form of humor.


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Friday, July 06, 2007

Buddy Icons, Avatars and Profile Images

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it ended up taking forever to put this chart together. Part of it was getting distracted by the sites themselves[1], both the interesting content and the sometimes frustrating implementations. The various sign-up processes are definitely worth a survey.

The list is pretty random, and consists of some sites I was researching anyway, plus most of Jeremy Keith's sites from his adactio article on social networks.[2] The table has the name of the site, the size(s) of the icons, how the icons are cropped and what terminology is used to refer to the images.

flickr48x48cropping widgetbuddy icon
twitter48x48, 24x24center squarepicture
dopplr128x128, 32x32top squareicon
last.fm160x160, 50x50aspect scaledyour picture
jaiku75x75, 30x30center squareyour photo
anobii48x48center squarebuddy icon
corkd64x64center squarebuddy icon or picture
pownce140x140, 48x48center squarephoto
revish48x48scaled?user icon
ficlets48x48nonebuddy icon
newsvine120x120cropping widgetyour photo
ma.gnolia.com75x75, 32x32aspect scaledavatar
xing140x185aspect scaledyour photo
digg48x48, 32x32, 16x16cropping widgetyour image
librarything207x276aspect scaledpicture
wishpotNx75aspect scaledmy picture
dreamcrowd80xNaspect scaledmy icon

last.fm has a pointer to mypictr if you want to get fancy with cropping. That's a good idea, since apart from Flickr the site-specific cropping widgets were uniformly hard to use.

aNobii allows you to upload an image, or you can give it your Flickr name and it will use your flickr buddy icon. There's an an option to check Flickr for updates once a month. Cool.

revish delights and disappoints. It looks like they make a wild guess that your revish login is the same as your Flickr login and speculatively download the matching buddy icon. It worked in my case. At first I though they were using the Flickr api's findByEmail call to match my email address to my Flickr account (which is a neat idea), but I used a email that isn't hooked to Flickr, so they must just be guessing. On the other hand, if you upload your own icon they scale it without cropping, which is just nasty.

ficlets doesn't even bother with manual picture uploads. They're associated with AOL, so as expected you can use your AIM icon, but you can also point at your Flickr or twitter account (which are, conveniently, both 48x48)

Conclusions? If you're going to use a small image as your primary user icon, then make it 48x48 and give users the option to use their Flickr buddy icon. For extra credit, if you've got an email, use the Flickr API to grab the appropriate icon speculatively (without forcing them to enter their Flickr name). For extra extra credit, poll Flickr once a month for changes to the icon. Don't bother with a fancy cropping widget unless you can make one as good as Flickr, instead just crop the uploaded images to the largest centered square and scale to fit. Point users to mypictr if you think they want to get fancy.

On the other hand, if you want a portrait-style picture on the profile page, 48x48 is too small and the picture shouldn't be square. Give the user the option to upload a picture or let them give a URL that points to a profile picture they like.

If you're not sure how your site will evolve, let people upload whatever they want, and then keep a relatively high resolution copy of it so you can re-scale or re-crop later on. Once you scale down, you can't scale up again.

If you want to leave a comment giving information on your favorite site, I'll try to keep the chart up-to-date. I suspect it will become more important as profile-exchange mechanisms start to proliferate.

Update: If you liked this post, you'll love A Survey of User Profile Fields.

[1] Corkd was especially bad. I felt obliged to fully research my wine before entering it in. Le Cigare Volant led to some reading on Bonny Doon and finally to The Phenomenology of Terroir: A Meditation by Randall Grahm. Some hours later, it was on to other, mostly less compelling, sites.

[2] I was at adactio because of Brian Oberkirch's excellent (if oddly stereo-mixed) Edgework podcast interview with Jeremy. I drive with only one earbud in (under the possibly mistaken impression that it's legal) so I could only hear Jeremy's answers. It was frustrating at first, but I got to kind of like it.



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