Monthly Archives: July 2009

Getting ToDoSo Real!

I’ve finally been reading Getting Real: a great book by the guys behind Ruby on Rail, about the method to get a Web application real: online,  engaging and ready to use as soon as possible. It changed my plans for the work to come on ToDoSo without any doubt.

There are only five weeks left until the hand-in date of the project’s report, and what has been achieved so far? I’ve written quite a good specification of the project with a detailed analyze of the accessibility issues in presentations, I’ve dived deep into the mess that vector graphics are on the Web… But I’ve been creating mockups for less than one month and the first prototype is not even one week old. What exciting part of the application have I to show? Well, I’m proud of this first mobile prototype but it’s a bit far from the core of a presentation software.

I was intending to write about the rational behind the interface concepts and stuff… Yes, I could spend hours talking about why I’ve chosen the Open Web, Github, jQuery, Jaxer,  just like I wrote 2000 words to compare dojo.gfx to Raphaleljs. Eventually I would event gain enough knowledge in some of those technologies to conclude that they are not good enough and start my own project. But this is pointless, it is a waste of time, effort and creativity. This is not helping to get ToDoSo real, to let people get as excited by it as I am. Worse, it’s even undermining my enthusiasm to have to write about that when I could be creating svg mockups or coding some prototypes with my weapon of choice. Focusing on the details, thinking about all the insignificant features of v2.0 and considering performance problems early on is definitely things that I’ve done wrong.

I’m instead going to put all of my efforts into getting real, starting yesterday : ) I’m going to write stories about ToDoSo: why people would use it and which feature they could expect from it. I’ll also create the mockups of the authoring part of the application (and strip the shiny vector graphics and animation feature out) and create the most important prototypes: the player, the authoring part and the management interface (maybe in a different order). I’ve already updated the homepage of the project to add a small description and separated the content into tabs.  I’ve opened a Launchpad for the project and I’m going to twitt more regularly about it.

I’m anyway pleased to have the confirmation that there are parts of this project that I’ve been doing right: starting with the interface, epicenter design, using real words (the “Cat guide to world dominashun”)… and choosing the name of the app (definitely better than SlideMe ; )

Whoever you are, you, visitor of this blog, please do not hesitate to be the first one to file a bug in launchpad, or to ask a question there!

"I won't make you click": exploring the potential of presentation on mobile

In one of my Master’s module, I designed and developed a script to display presentations on mobile devices (typically a smart-phone with a Web browser). The presentation was a simplified HTML file with all the slides stacked one on top of the other, each one displayed in full screen. It took me quite a long time to find a way to enable users to navigate through those slides and to get it to work on one device. Basically the world of mobile browser is a horrible mess, even when trying to work with Webkit based browsers, I was still facing some strange behaviors in the way events were handled.

I did manage to have it work on Android few days before the hand-in date of the project and realized that the result was not that impressive. In a corner of my brain there was the idea of using a mobile device to control a projected presentation. That seemed cool. So in 24 hours I read through the documentation of cometD, set up a server and hacked into the code (only the client side part) to get a functional prototype. It turned out that it was not only cool as my teachers thought that this was the main purpose of my project.

Anyway, time has passed and the cometD server no longer works, so I can’t produce any video to demonstrate it. However, while watching a video of Mozilla’s design challenge, I realized that my script required to tap the screen at least twice to navigate, when using only the native scroll of the browser was far enough! So I produced the first prototype of ToDoSo. Go ahead, give it a try. It won’t bite and I won’t even make you click!

I hope that this feature is not only cool, but also useful:

A presentation-assisted talk is in most case given in front of an audience, with the presentation projected in the back of the speaker. To be able to refer to his/her presentation, the speaker can use a remote control, which allows for moving freely but requires to turn back and look at the screen. Alternatively, the speaker can stand in front of a computer, allowing him/her to face the audience while restraining his/her movements.

A mobile device could take the best of both world if it was able to display a presentation to the speaker and control the slides faced by the audience.

New mockups and keyboard navigation

I’ve added mockups demonstrating the appearance of the presentation when an embedded one is maximized. Since it is pure HTML, it is not going to be opened in a different window unlike a Flash video, it is rather going to overlay all the page.

todosOverlay, the overlay plugin used on the intro page of ToDoSo, is now an independant project since it tends to become a full featured overlay plugin. It is now possible to use the keyboard for navigation and I got rid of some graphical glitches. I’m quite proud of its look & feel. The idea of using buttons looking like keys  is likely to be used again in ToDoSo since it seems like a great way to make keyboard shortcuts discoverable.

Embedding a presentation in a Web page

I have uploaded the first drafts of the embedded player in a Web page. I’m trying two different styles: one with the controls overlaying the content à la vimeo, one with the controls under the content à la

The advantage of the former is that it takes less space and it is easier to integrate in any website no matter its design (unlike youtube, where you can change the colour but it would still not fit in a minimalist design). The advantage of the later is that the controls never hide the content. In a presentation this is important since the controls are used more often than in a video… I am undecided yet.

I’ve also updated my plugin for jQuery which now overlays the overlay with the possible title of the original image.