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Chat Wars

An engineer’s-eye view (and history) of the battle between Microsoft and AOL for chat market share. One of Microsoft’s strategies was to allow people to use AIM chat inside their client, which involved reverse engineering the AIM protocol. This turned into a back-and-forth battle between the opposing company’s engineers.

AOL tried different tactics. At one point they seemed to be identifying the Microsoft client because it wasn’t downloading a huge chunk of advertising that the AOL client downloaded. So I changed our client to download it all (and then throw it away). They put in mysterious messages that didn’t seem to affect their client but broke ours because we weren’t expecting them. One day, I came in to see this embedded in a message from the AOL server: “HI. –MARK.” It was a little communication from engineer to engineer, underneath the corporate, media, and PR worlds that were arguing over us. I felt some solidarity with him even though we were on opposing sides.

Apr 18 2014

What Coke Contains

This is currently my favorite thought narrative:

The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space.

Mar 4 2013

Product Design at Quora

A condensed description of Quora’s design approach.

For Quora, [design] means designing for whys (the product) and taking the most straightforward route possible for the hows (the interactions).

The hows are then driven by the answers to the whys—after all, why a user must enter a flow dictates how they progress through it.

Feb 25 2011

Understanding the Kano Model

The Kano model is a theory of product development that has a great way to describe user’s reaction to product features as well as help prioritize feature development. Of course, it is neatly flattened and visualized with two axes. I’ll take the upper right quadrant, thanks.

Jan 25 2011

CSS Box-Shadow:Inset

I have been leaning towards more textured interfaces. Although I’ve never really liked inner shadows, the examples here suggest a quick experiment with some CSS wouldn’t hurt.

Dec 11 2010

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