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RIA Weekly #007: Ajax with Jazz, Web-native Interfaces, Power Users in RIA, Blu-ray, iPhone Rumors

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Ryan was kind enough to edit this episode write up these notes – yuh! – so the “I” refers to him ;>

Coté and I introduce ourselves and Bill
, a front end developer for Jazz. Bill starts by explaining what
Jazz is and says it started a couple of
years ago with the goal being to create a collaborative development
platform. Since the idea is focused around collaboration so one of the main
parts is being able to support multiple interfaces. It was primarily done in
Eclipse and when Bill came on he started to work on the web interface for
Jazz. Coté contrasts the current quick development process with larger cycle
projects and Bill says that Jazz is actually on a pretty quick turnaround

Coté asks if when they were building Jazz in Ajax if they looked at other
technologies. At first they started with a Java server side application
according to Bill and after 3-4 months it wasn’t going to work. They got
permission to choose whatever technology they wanted and it was right around
the time Ajax was starting to take off. Bill reminisces about a Joel Spolsky
talking about the Google auto suggest app from before Ajax really took off.
Bill says that one of the biggest barriers initially was that there weren’t
a lot of resources. They looked at a lot of the original platforms and
eventually chose Dojo. He says that currently it’s about 40% Dojo and 60%
custom code. Coté asks if it was a good idea to turn Ajax based on the info
they had now and Bill thinks it is. Ryan asks what the other options were
and Bill talks about some of the other server side technologies they looked
at. Ryan asks about the Eclipse RAP project and whether or not they looked
at that since the project’s rich client is based on Eclipse. Bill responds
that since it was very early they looked at it but didn’t go with it.

Coté wonders how big a deal it is to have two separate interfaces for
things and what the challenges have been to keep up. Bill says that one of
the things they wanted to do was make the back end sophisticated so that
they could specialize on each and make both interfaces high quality. Bill
talks about it being difficult to have good UIs on every level if you try to
reuse code and methodologies. Bill talks about their server side and how
they started with EMF but eventually moved to REST because it made it much
easier for both clients to talk to the back end. Reuse of the services made
it easy to reuse code and one of the benefits of REST is that you can easily
use it within multiple clients. Coté asks Ryan about BlazeDS and whether or
not BlazeDS could be used as a REST layer. Ryan isn’t really sure how that
would work and wonders if you could use BlazeDS on a rich client like

Ryan mentions Bill’s Uncanny Valley post and asks Bill how he thinks
about the converging of a web interface and a desktop interface and how you
plan for that. He talks about his experience on Jazz and how it’s not a good
idea to steal user interface elements from other platforms. It looks out of
place. Ryan asks about how a platform can build user interfaces that look
great everywhere and notes that some AIR interfaces look out of place on
some platforms. Coté calls it the “WinAmp” problem because you could re-skin
the application and the user interface was always so out of place and bad.
Bill says the cool design shouldn’t stand out, the content should be front
and center. Bill brings up the example of Cloverfield as using visual
effects in a background way to enhance the experience.

Coté asks the question is it better to have really good functionality and
a crappy UI or a really good UI or crappy functionality. Bill says it
depends on what you’re trying to do and gives the example of an application
that you’ll be using in your jobs for a very long time and says capabilities
are very important. We come up with the idea of the “F8 people” and discuss
when those simple, low-fidelity interfaces are beneficial. Coté notes that
we don’t have a “civilian user” and a “power user” in the RIA world. Ryan
agrees and says that he believes it’s just because RIAs don’t have power
users. Bill notes that those interfaces are perfect and people know them so
you don’t want to mess with that. Ryan says that he thinks there might be a
UI that could make them more productive but Bill notes that people don’t
want to learn new things and change can be bad.

Coté mentions that he and Ryan have switched from Google Reader to using
and what that means for interfaces. Bill still uses Google Reader and Ryan
noted that his big requirement was that he could get access to the feeds
from anywhere. We compare feeds and talk about the <a href="
feed usability study with the idea of looking at different user
interfaces. Cote talks about what he likes in a news reader and how
different RIA technologies could fit into that. Ryan says he really wants to
see an AIR application from the Newsgator

We dive into a talk about the Blu-Ray and HDDVD wars as Coté informs us
that part of the Bu-Ray spec requires Java to be on every player. He says
it’s a JavaME implementation. Since most of the players are supposed to be
networked enabled, that opens up some interesting possibilities for building
applications. As an example he gives the Alien v. Predator movie which has a
Java game on the Blu-Ray disc and you can create a character which then
might move around based on where you’re watching the movie. It’s a cool idea
for RIAs on non-traditional devices.

Finally we talk about the differences between the web and the rich client
space and how the functionality is starting to converge. Coté brings up the
HTML5 spec and the new features that have been added to the spec but haven’t
been implemented quite yet. Bill talks about the fact that a lot of the
standards innovation comes from other companies creating proprietary system
that pushes the boundaries. He mentions Alex Russell’s post about innovation
as a good read.

In the news we talk about Flash on the iPhone, and the some of the new
browsers that are coming out including Firefox 3
Beta 3
and the new WebKit

Update: also see Bill’s commentary on the episode.

Disclaimer: Both Adobe and IBM are clients. See the RedMonk clients list for other RedMonk clients mentioned.

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Categories: Programming, RIA Weekly.

Comment Feed

4 Responses

  1. Listening to what Bill Higgins' experience/insight on Ajax and usability of web interfaces was a breath of fresh air.
    Great episode!

  2. Berkay: I’m glad you enjoyed special guest Bill. It was nice have a new perspective on 😉

Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] RIA Weekly because I figure most people who want to listen will have subscribed to to the feed but this episode was one of my favorites so I wanted to mention it. We sat down with Bill Higgins from the Jazz […]

  2. […] sorts of devices (”screens”): mobile, desktops (RIAs), the web (video and RIAs), TVs (Java has an interesting lead here on Blurays), or whatever “devices” has some need for programming in it, like Chumbys. […]