Proposed 35W bridge plans are a joke

“We’re adding 2 lanes.”

That was the sum total of the innovations and creative ideas the state of Minnesota could muster. Yes the first new bridge project in Minnesota spanning the Mississippi in decades is going to be a boring ass highway bridge, despite the fact that residents are clamoring for light rail options (not included), architectural beauty and creating an new icon for our state (not included), and a little patience (also not included).

I am not going to stand by, however. I have written my governor, the mayor of Minneapolis (who is championing these ideas as well), and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. I also plan on attending the public meetings at Roseville High School on Thursday night (4:30pm to 7:30pm).

If you think that our state deserves to take some time and consider some alternative bridge designs please write to you elected officials and come to the meeting tomorrow to voice your opinions.

Not an iPhone review

There are plenty of iPhone reviews out there. This is not another. This post is just an observation as to why the iPhone is so different and inspires such goodwill from those who use it. It is simple really, but Apple has taken tasks that on most (all?) other phones are cumbersome, non-intuitive, and often just plain crappy and made them a joy. I am not really over stating this, the iPhone is really fun to use. Browsing the web is not reminiscent of the “real” real web, it IS the real web (ok a web without Flash – for now). Google maps works just like Google maps should. Email is great, not some crippled version, and the phone, despite what some have said, is very nice too. Almost all the interfaces are easy to use and it is easy to know where to go and what to do to make things happen. My previous Windows Mobile phone and my Palm PDA phone before that, took a while to master and it was only because I learned their backwards way of doing things was I able to manage on those devices.

This should serve as yet another lesson from Apple that design matters. Make interfaces (both physical and virtual) that are fun and intuitive and people will enjoy using them and tell their friends.

A couple other observations – No wonder there is a 10% restocking fee if you return an iPhone. With the amount of plastic they use – wrapping everything multiple times in their way. It would take a while to wrap all that stuff back up, I imagine. And what is up with the industrial glue used on the bags they put the phones in when you buy them. Not sure if it is the same at Apple stores but at the at&t store the clerk put the phone in this bag and then pulled away a strip between the two insides and the bag sealed up tight – had to use keys to rip a hole in the bag to open it. When we asked him about it, he said Apple was making them do that. Think different, I guess.

MinneBar remembered

Lots of folksBy our count nearly 350 geeks and “geeks at heart” converged on the Railroader building in downtown Saint Paul this past Saturday and I think most everyone has been very positive about the result. I believe that number (or any number over 300) would make minnēbar the largest barcamp outside of India (Barcamp Bangalore 3 – just a couple weeks ago – drew over 500 people!). I know that barcamps are supposed to be about local community and ours was no exception, but it was still nice (and a little amazing) that we had quite a few people drive or fly in from New York (at least 2), South Dakota (at least 2), Wisconsin (6 or more), and Chicago (at least 1). Knowing that this event is worth someone’s Saturday is one things, but also worth a six hour drive, or several hundred dollar plane ticket? That is awesome.

I am very happy with the way the event turned out. I think the sessions, by and large, were first-rate. The special guests such as William Gurstelle and his excitement for making things that go Whoosh, Boom, Splat as well as the Scout Robots from the University of Minnesota gave a nice real-life tech component to the day. Of course David Heinemeier Hansson was a highlight as he was his usual witty and charming self. I have had lunch with him before (at Etech last year) and have seen him present, but he seemed even better in this setting. All his answers came very freely and he didn’t really seem to struggle with any of the questions. I am sure he had been asked about such things time and time again. Even so, I thought Jamie Thingelstad did a very good job with his side of the interview, as well.

I was very worried that the size of the crowds would really take away from the intimacy and sense of participation that is crucial to barcamps, but I don’t think these fears turned out to be warranted. Plenty of people talked between sessions or headed off to an “ad hoc session room” to discuss this or that and the sessions (with a few exceptions) never got too full. I still believe that the 50 minute session length is good. It is not so much that it can get too detailed so people really have to know their stuff. I spoke with Shourya Sarcar, one of the planners of barcamp Bangalore, and he said that one of the differences between the Minnesota and Bangalore barcamps was that their sessions are 30 minutes and that they “vote with their feet” meaning they leave a session if it is no good, or not what they had hoped. Minnesota “nice” retards that practice a bit, but there was still some wandering between sessions.
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Google Calendar launches, is Google Office next?

I have put the new Google Calendar app through its paces and like many people, have found many things to like (invite features are looking good. I think evite is in trouble and Skobee is likely DOA) and some to dislike (still very buggy with refreshing itself after certain actions and there are some issues with duplicating entries for the same shared event). The purpose of this post, however, isn’t really about those things. It isn’t really even about Google Calendar. It is about what’s next for Google and the glimpse they have given us within this new application.

It is obvious that they will soon integrate their calendar and mail apps. My thought is, though, that they will not stop there. I think the time is ripe for them to unleash their first version of an integrate office style suite containing search, mail, calendaring, and word processing. I mocked up some screens as to what I think it may look like when it comes, posted them as a Flickr set and added notes to them as well. Here are some thumbnails:

  • Google Search as part of the Google Office Suite
  • Google Mail as part of the Google Office Suite
  • Google Calendar as part of the
  • Google Writer as part of the Google Office Suite