Shameless Self Promotion

Did you already read the Exact 2009 annual report, if not get it here and go directly to page 18. It was fun to do a professional photo shoot and I'm pretty proud about my achievement in recent years that I even made it into the annual report 2009.

Here is a preview of the famous page, enjoy

Moving a Magnificent Milestone

You might already have read: Exact is moving! Monday the 26th will be a strange day, because at the first junction after leaving my home I need to turn left instead of right. This will be the start of a whole new working experience.

The move is not only a new building, it's going to be a whole new, open and transparent working environment to facilitate the Exact community. Two weeks ago I already spend two full inspiring days in the not yet furnished building. The light, the space and the overall atmosphere is really inspiring. It's a magnificent milestone, not only for Exact but also for me personally. The last few years I've been involved in research work, that hasn't been very visible, but is part of the foundation of the new office. Now it's slowly getting time to take off the wraps and start the next phase. This is going to be a thrill and I'm very excited to soon start sharing and collaborating with you all.

As the current Foursquare mayor I also have to inform you that the building has upgraded facilities, a gym and outdoors there will be colorful cows. Don't get distracted and please keep your eyes on the road.

If your are in the neighborhood step by for a visit, but don't forget to check-in.

My Dad doing very well with Windows 7

Professionally I encourage and sponsor projects with an increased focus on the user experience. As a results I pay a lot more attention to user behavior and become more critical. It's an interesting process to observe how people work and it doesn't take a lot of time to see the many different ways to achieve the same. Most of the time there isn't a right way of doing things, there are just many good ways of doing things.

About a year ago my came to me and told me he was thinking about getting a computer and needed help and advise. Before I continue let me first tell a bit about my dad, he is well in his 70's, retired 10+ years ago and never used a computer. In his professional career he avoided computers with an early retirement. On the more positive site he is technical and can operate a mobile phone including text messages. All together I wasn't too trilled and was a bit worried when he asked me for advice. I wasn't looking forward to provide continues support.

The good thing was that my dad likes to take time for everything and this gave me time to think over the options. Based on other experiences I at first thought about getting a Mac, they are simple to use and always work. Moving part of my own household to a Mac significantly reduced my support pressure. However it would a higher investment for my dad and I wasn't very sure if he would stick to using the computer. Alternatively I could just upgrade at home to a new 27" iMac and give the old Windows computer to my dad. Yes this was the way to go!

I also realized was that my dad likes to read and study manuals so I started to search for some books, especially written for elderly that start to use a computer. I found two excellent books: Windows 7 voor senioren (Dutch) and Internet en e-mail voor senioren met Windows 7 (Dutch). Both books are based on Windows 7 and that immediately determined the requirement for Windows 7.

Less software would mean fewer updates and less changes of something going wrong. I create a web based email account, explained the concept and told him not to worry about back-ups etc. This worked out great. You would be surprised how many stories these elderly people tell each other on mail boxes that get full and the need to regularly clean mailboxes. I figured he wouldn't fill several Gb that quickly.

He is working on the computer for a few months how and he is doing great. The system is stable and my support has been minimal. He studies and constantly learns, sometimes he has a question, but most of the time he can figure it out himself. The key challenge is that he sometimes asks my brother for advise and of course he explains stuff different from me and this sometimes causes confusion. There are too many different ways to achieve the same result, good for the power user, but confusing for the starter.

The title of this post explicitly mentions Windows 7. This is not only because the study material is based on Windows 7, but mainly because I learned that the task bar improvements have proven to be very useful for my dad. While surfing the web, often new browser instances are opened, causing troubles navigating back. The little previews in the task bar are a real rescue here. As a power user I never noticed this, but observing other usage patterns opened my eyes.

My favorite web apps

I'm a the cloud computing, SaaS and web apps are the future kind of person. They are convenient, simple to use and fit my lifestyle using many different devices. I don't need to worry about installing any software, applying any patches and backing up any files. They are there and they always work.

In a blurry work and private situation my browser usually opens with the following tabs loaded by default:

  • iGoogle for an dashboard for my email, documents, feeds and heaps of other stuff. It's hub for my further navigation between applications.
  • GMail, for my private email
  • Microsoft Outlook Web Access for my business email
  • Google Reader for tracking my favorite RSS feeds and for aggregating Twitter and Blog searches on favorite topics. It might not be real time, but it's easy and convenient.
  • Brizzly as my favorite twitter client it completely replaced my desktop twitter clients that required updates every few weeks. 
  • Google Docs for taking notes, sharing and collaboration with others on content
Not opened by default but used a lot are:
  • SkyDrive for storage and sharing of files. I love the almost unlimited storage!
  • Pixlr for a quick photo or image edit, especially when creating a quick image for a blog post or presentation.
  • MindMeister for my mind maps, although my mind is not very easy to map.
  • Wordle for creating beautiful work clouds I do use in presentations.
  • Rubular for creating and testing regular expressions. Yes sometimes I try to do some of these nerdy things.
  • Blogger, for publishing on this blog.
Besides these web applications that help me to be more efficient and productive, I use many others for entertainment and fun. Unfortunately I can't do everything I need with web apps. The highest on my wish list are:
  • A Microsoft PowerPoint compatible application for creating compelling applications. I don't mean a limited functionality version, it should be possible to create complete presentations from scratch. I've tried a few like 280 Slides, Online PowerPoint and Prezi, but they aren't there yet.
  • Video editing, however I'm also realistic enough to know that this is probably not very nearby yet.
What are your favorite web apps for me to try?

Skiing versus Snowboarding

If your are new here and expect a comparison between two sports, stop reading now. If you have been here before, first thank you for visiting again and will stay on my usual technology topic, please continue reading.

During my travels I usually find some interesting inspiration and have some time to think about it. Last week I was enjoying some hills and heaps of snow. I noticed and interesting comparison between skiing and snowboarding:
1. Skiing tries to create a high tech image. If you look at the designs and colors of the skis they look high tech, the bindings look like advanced pieces of technology and the prints on the skis use a lot of numbers and terminology like: titanium powered. Skiers also like to talk numbers, how fast they went or how much distance the covered. Skis are clearly designed to trigger the right half of the brain.
2. Snowboarding tries to create an emotional state of being. The board designs are very free form, often colorful and the binding are just some metal and a bunch of straps. It's all easy going expressed by terminology like: infinite ride. Boarder don't mention numbers, but more their style: You saw the air I was making?

If you go a little further in the comparison you can almost say they hate each others guts. Boarders to the skiers: stay out of our half pipe and away from our fun park, while the skiers will say get out of our fast lane.

The truth is that both sports are very high tech and both can address the right emotions. It's just that they both target different users and thus can also successfully exist next to each other. We see this all the time, as I wrote in Why are we all feature crazy and forgetting the user?  for instance:
1. The Google Nexus One feature rich versus the emotional Apple iPhone
2. Microsoft the skiers and Apple the boarders. Both are high tech with Microsoft bragging about it a bit more and Apple playing the emotion a bit better.

Are you a skier or boarder?