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Planet Argon winter dinner party 2008

20 Mar 2008

We’ve been so busy the past few months that we almost forgot to post photos from our team dinner party in January.

The dinner party was hosted at Noble Rot, a wine-bar and restaurant in Portland, Oregon. We had the whole upstairs to ourselves with personal chefs and excellent food.

It was a great opportunity to have everyone bring their loved-ones for a intimate evening out together. :-)

Here are a few photos from the event.


Melissa, Allison, and Daniel


Pinot Noir


Robby and Paige


Personal chefs prepare our dessert!


View from above


The Planet Argon team

Thank you to the Noble Rot and Melissa for organizing this excellent evening out.

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Meteorites: Thanks for the extra hour Daylight Savings Time

20 Mar 2008

The Autumn of the Multitaskers

“Neuroscience is confirming what we all suspect: Multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy. One man’s odyssey through the nightmare of infinite connectivity”

Jeff Raskin on ‘Intuitive Interfaces’

“Many claims of intuitiveness, when examined, fail. It has been claimed that the use of a computer’s mouse is intuitive. Yet it is far from that. In one of the Star Trek series of science fiction movies, the space ship’s engineer has been brought back into our time, where (when) he walks up to a Macintosh. He picks up the mouse, bringing it to his mouth as if it were a microphone, and says: “Computer, …” The audience laughs at his mistake."

Edge Cases are the Root of all Evil

“Most Edge Cases are presented in the conference room. You get a cross-functional team together to come up with some solutions to The Problem (insert meeting title here). You have people from all the departments that The Problem touches (plus a few more hangers-on who weren’t invited to the party, but personally felt that The Problem could not be solved without them). You brainstorm ideas, go on tangents and then finally inspiration strikes you.”

Easy, Intuitive and Metaphor, and other meaningless words

“Many tasks, that were once hard, can become easy. Learning to ride a bicycle as a child is precarious, often involving falling off, scuffing knees, and occasional tears. But as experienced cyclists riding a bike is easy. The process of transition from hard to easy is one of learning. All the time we spend in education is aimed at turning the hard into the easy. Not by changing the tasks at all – but instead by changing us.”

Where the Heck is My Focus?

“There’s nothing wrong with the point-and-click navigation model of the mouse, although it can degenerate into mystery meat navigation if you’re not careful. I don’t expect web designers to create keyboard-centric websites; the mouse is a natural and intuitive enough way to navigate web sites. But so is the keyboard, in certain circumstances. What frustrates me is when web developers fail to pay attention to the most rudimentary of keyboard support in their designs.”

Blissfully Ignorant Shoppers Happier with Choices

“The researchers used three experiments to arrive at their conclusion. Two of them were consumer test-style experiments in which subjects were asked for their opinion of chocolate in one and hand lotion in the other. In each experiment, one group of subjects was given lots of information about the product, the other group much less. In each instance, the subjects who had little information were more optimistic about the chocolate or hand lotion than those who had more information.”

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Daniel versus Potholes

20 Feb 2008

Daniel was recently mentioned on OregonLive for helping the city improve the road conditions in Portland. This was aimed at helping bicyclists from spotting pot holes on their commutes to work.


Photo from wildsheepchase on flickr

Kudos to Daniel for helping improve the quality of Portland’s streets for bicyclists and cars.

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Planet Argon visits London!

13 Feb 2008

It’s been over a week since we got back from London and I am starting to get to sleep at a decent hour again. Three of us; Robby, Andy, and myself were invited to London for a week to visit one of our larger clients in London and Bromley, which is a suburb of London. We stayed at the Thistle Marble Arch just off of Oxford Street well know for its shopping. Oxford Street is a broad bustling street packed with shoppers night and day, one morning I even woke up to hordes of people queuing up to get into Primark from my window. Which then meant I had to go shop at to see what all the fuss was about.


We spent a lot of time on the London Underground

We had three full days of client meetings and three full days to ourselves to run around and sight-see. The weather was spectacular, sunny almost every day.

The business part of the trip was very informative. We met with our client in Bromley, visited their operations office and their print distribution office, commandeered a small room and rearranged the furniture, talked for three days straight about improvements on the administrative and public interfaces of the application, and met over ten new people from the company. It was great to finally meet some of the people that we’ve been working with for the past nine months and elicit Interaction feedback from our client so that we can continue to design and develop a solution that compliments their workflow and future marketing campaigns.


Andy Delcambe commuting on the train from London to Bromley

We also did a fair amount “getting to know you” type socializing. Something we were all happy to do since we had been working together for half a year with few if not all of us having ever met in person.

We also visited one of their vendors, who are responsible for the development of a 8+ year .NET project that we’ve been interfacing with via Ruby on Rails. Andy has been having weekly conference calls with developers there and he got to have a few pints and work side-by-side on some lingering tickets. Their offices were directly across the street from Buckingham Palace, which meant that we got to walk around and see where the Queen lives.


Walking past Buckingham Palace

Once we finished working for the week we had a few days to be tourists. The touristy part of the trip was mellow and, well touristy. We did a lot of walking, visiting various neighborhoods. Since our client is in the travel industry, they were kind enough to supply us with some free tickets for a guided bus and river tour. We went all around London on the river Thames and saw many sights. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the London Eye. I could never have seen so much by foot. We went to the British Museum, The British History Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate, Buckingham Palace and many more places. We drank flat, “bitter” beer at pubs with names like “Three Tuns” that had carpets, dark wood paneling and “jacket potatoes.” We took the tube with our “oyster cards” everywhere and our fearless transportation leader Andy kept us headed in the right direction at all times.
Our trip was heavily documented by Andy and Robby who have graciously posted torrential amounts of photos Andy Delcambre’s photos and Robby Russell’s photos.

Oh yeah! And it was great meeting those of you who came out to join us for drinks on our nights off!

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Google Street View for Portland, Oregon

10 Oct 2007

Last night, while working late in the office, Andy noticed that Google now had Street View for Portland, Oregon.

Here is our current office location (for the next three weeks).

In a few weeks, we’ll no longer be facing this side of the block as we’re moving around the corner.

…and a closer view of the exterior of our new studio.

Thank you, Google, for putting Portland (streets) on the map!

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Let there be light!

4 Oct 2007

We moved to downtown Portland, Oregon in February of 2006 and while the space has had it’s perks, it also lacked a lot of natural light. So, we had decided that our next location would have much more natural light.

Construction in our new studio!

The new office space lacks private offices, but over time we have all migrated to a shared workspace anyway.

Planet Argon Rearranges the Furniture

It’s just our luck that within the same building, a new studio space opened up. We have people working this month on improvements to the space, such as a finished (wood) floor, installing a sink/kitchen area, amongst other fun stuff. We’re hoping to be in our new space, which is just down the hall around November 1st.

New Studio == Lot's of Natural Light!

The team is excited that we’ll be in a space that has way more natural light than our current space. :-)

Ground Kontrol
Small perk… Ground Kontrol is across the street!

Stay tuned for more photos as the construction team makes progress…

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Meteorites: Goodbye Summer!

25 Sep 2007

Even Simple Multi-tasking Can Make a Project 30% Late

“Instead of doing many things at once (thinly-veiled in the name of Productivity), focus your attention on one task at a time, which in the long run will allow you to do more.”

Collaboration with development is a handshake, not a handoff

“As designers, we have the opportunity to provide an immense amount of value as the design moves through the development process. This process is best when it’s less of a handoff and more of a handshake; it’s a commitment between the designers and developers. Trust is a key component of this relationship, and once developers learned to trust our design decisions—and realized that we were really listening to their feedback about technical feasibility—it allowed them to focus on writing code and not second-guessing our design choices.”

If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0 you didn’t release it early enough

“It is well known that the sooner you catch a mistake in development, the cheaper it is to fix. I believe this is just as true in marketing. A sure way to find these marketing mistakes is to release. You wouldn’t write a thousand lines of code before you tried to compile it. Why would you spend a year or more on development before testing it in the market? Creating software should be an incremental process.”

How well do you know prototype

“Here, I’ve collected most common use cases that do NOT use all of prototype’s capabilities and their simple solutions. I hope this will be a basic checklist to go through when developing for your next project.”

Simple Ways to Help Your Design Suck Less

“I often deal with people that have programming and website creation experience but lack any design experience or even common sense in design. Creating things visually pleasing comes naturally to me (I think), I also study the area at a tertiary level. Following some published theories as well as my own aesthetic sense there’s some simple things you can do to create better design.”

Getting Creative With Specs: Usable Software Specifications

“Usability applies to our deliverables as much as to our designs. Creating a usable spec is an excellent way for us as designers to make things easier for the rest of the team.”

Foundations of Interaction Design

“…Interaction Design is distinct from the other design disciplines. It’s not Information Architecture, Industrial Design, or even User Experience Design. It also isn’t user interface design. Interaction design is not about form or even structure, but is more ephemeral–about why and when rather than about what and how.”

Hat Heads vs. Bed Heads

“Every project and every office has multiple personality types. How you work with them and how you manage the rationale of decisions and feedback is crucial to your success.”

Typenuts, The Funny Side of Typography

see for yourself… ;-)

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Rails Boxcar is here!

22 Aug 2007

A week ago, we quietly opened up the process for accepting new orders for our brand new hosting solution for Ruby on Rails. Here is what we sent out to all those who signed up on the Rails Boxcar mailing list.

Rails Boxcar is here!

We’ve been busy getting everything setup and tested for our newest hosting solution for Ruby on Rails. Boxcar, a pre-configured virtual server for hosting your business-level Rails applications, was developed out of our observations of how our Rails hosting customers are deploying their applications. Boxcar was designed to support the best-practices for Rails deployment.

How, you ask?

Unlike a typical VPS, we’ve pre-configured Boxcar to allow you to follow just a few steps to get your Rails application up and running as quickly as possible. We’ve also given you more control over your environment to install additional packages, gems, and programs.

We don’t want your Boxcar to box you in… except when you want it to.

Boxcar will provide you with more privacy. Your application will be completely separate from other customers’ applications. You will also get excellent performance as you will not be competing for memory usage or disk space with other customers, which leads to more stability for your application.

Don’t feel lonely!

All Boxcar customers will have access to a community-driven documentation project, aimed at helping everyone share tips
and tricks for configuring and maintaining your Boxcar.

Ready to hop on our train?

For the initial launch, we’re offering 6 and 12 month plans, both of which have a 30 day money back guarantee. Prices start at $85/month for the twelve month plan and $90/month for the six month plan.

Go ahead and place an order

Questions?

If you have any questions about our new Boxcar service, don’t hesitate to send an email to contact@planetargon.com or give us a call at +1 877 55 ARGON.

We’re excited about the launch of Boxcar and would like to thank all of our existing customers who have helped us design it.

Cheers,

The PLANET ARGON Team

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Meteorites: Hot August Nights

2 Aug 2007

26 Reasons What You Think is Right is Wrong

“A cognitive bias is something that our minds commonly do to distort our own view of reality. Here are the 26 most studied and widely accepted cognitive biases.”

The Five Biggest Web Site Mistakes

“Mistake No. 2 Don’t organize your site based on what’s familiar or convenient for your organization or its departments. You want a site that’s convenient for its end users—they come first. Put yourself in their shoes. Use language that makes sense to your intended audience; translate terminology (and any other jargon) into plain English.”

Multi-Tasking: Why projects take so long and still go late

“In most project environments multi-tasking is a way of life. This seemingly harmless activity, often celebrated as a desirable skill, is one of the biggest culprits in late projects, long project durations, and low project output. At the same time it is one of the least understood factors in managing projects.”

IT Conversations – Several podcasts of conversations with Interaction Design experts, from Irene Au to Jesse James Garrett.

Survey: Internet Explorer ‘most influential’ tech product in past 25 years

“Interesting word “influential.”" .. ""Best" certainly would have been a different story."

Microformats in Google Maps

“Today we’re happy to announce that we are adding support for the hCard microformat to Google Maps results. Why should you care about some invisible changes to our HTML? By marking up our results with the hCard microformat, your browser can easily recognize the address and contact information in the page, and help you transfer it to an addressbook or phone more easily.”

Proving the Value of Design

“We know that design is an expense—just look at any company’s balance sheet. And we know intuitively that for many companies, design is a profit center. But few organizations can actually prove that great design drives profits.”

Open – Code – New York Times Blog – The New York Times launches a new “blog about open source technology at The New York Times, written by and primarily for developers. This includes our own projects, our work with open-source technologies at nytimes.com, and other interesting topics in the open source and Web 2.0 worlds.”

Why usability is a path to failure

…"why oh why do people in this day age still hold up “usability” as something laudable in product and service design? Praising usability is like giving me a gold star for remembering that I have to put each leg in a different place in my pants to put them on. "

Never Use a Warning When you Mean Undo

“Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realize—just a split second too late—that you shouldn’t have clicked “Okay” in the “Are you sure you want to quit?” dialog?”

What Puts the Design in Interaction Design

“Designed behavior is not invisible. Sometimes it is obfuscated; at other times, it is apparent or even obvious. Most importantly, designed behavior dictates the flow between action and reaction, which is the basis of an interaction.”

Using Omnigraffle to visualise Rails model associations

“a quick script to scan the associations between models and output it in the Graphviz DOT format.”

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