Archive for the ‘flash’ Category

Review: Adria Airways and NLB

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Recently two more big and very frequented Slovenian sites relaunched and I think they too deserve a mention.

Adria Airways

The first page I want to put to the test is the new page of the first and the biggest Slovenian airline. It was recently launched by my ex colleagues at Parsek as the second version to be made there. The first edition was designed and prepared in another agency and Parsek only did the backend while the new version is all Parsek. To be fair the biggest and the most important part — the reservation module — is still made by the french company Amadeus.

The new design tries to incorporate a leaner navigation with less elements even though it became wider, almost reaching the 1000px mark. The front page is much more sales oriented, displaying a lot of useful information. I can’t get past the color scheme that is really too dull. There are quite a few validation errors, the ones in HTML mostly due to non–escaped ampersands, while those in CSS are just sloppy coding without checking the validator.

I was surprised to see that some stuff doesn’t work well with Firefox 3 and Safari 3 even though the first one isn’t released yet (will be tomorrow) and the second one doesn’t have a lot of users in Slovenia. I’d still stick to what Yahoo! has to say in their Graded Browser support table for browser support.

I was positively surprised at how well some inside pages are designed down to the last dot and icon and negatively how bad the pages that “only” present CMS content look. I don’t know whose fault this is and I don’t even care, it doesn’t matter for the end user. I’m sure the guys at Parsek will check these pages out and try to make changes that will make them better. When I first saw the design while I was still at Parsek I wasn’t sure if the title on the right would work but now that I’m surfing the page I actually think it does. There is one problem there though – if you visit this page (screenshot) you’ll see that you can see its title “About us” four times in a very small area. It’s nice to know where you are but isn’t this a little bit too much?


The next big redesign is the biggest Slovenian bank which redesigned their site after quite a while. I don’t really know what to say about the redesign – the last one was horrendous so this one is easy on the eye. It too got wider and restructured so people can find relevant information easier. The home page lists all the products for residents and businesses so you can access them directly.

If the design got overhauled the backend didn’t — if it did it got it fashion tips from the 90s. Validation returns a lot of errors and — prepare for a shock — the encoding is iso-8859-2. The number of non semantic elements is significant and inline scripts are there too (<SCRIPT language=JavaScript>).

The most interesting thing about the new page is the fact that it now uses “friendly URLs”. And how utterly broken they are. You could also say this page is a textbook case for how wrong things can go when you don’t think about them. So you’ll have two pages, one at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje and the other at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje1. I have no idea how that tells you anything about how the content behind these links is different. It would tell you more if the first was prefixed with /residential and the second one with /businesses.

Another funny thing I noticed is how banners are designed to look as if they weren’t images but rather just HTML parts of the page. The reason I noticed is that I was on the Mac while checking the page and since font rendering is different it looks really weird. I think I might have seen the same difference on Vista with ClearType on.

Zemanta Pixie

Video is the new AJAX

Monday, April 14th, 2008

TVImage via WikipediaRecently there’s been a lot of video news sites popping up here in Slovenia. In addition to TV networks almost every newspaper site now has a video section. I understand that these sites need to evolve and that media is changing. Every year we see statistics changing telling us we read more on the web and less newspapers. Even TV is losing ground. The media business is changing and in this ever changing world the easiest and the cheapest solution is to follow what others are doing. Unfortunately this also means that you do things without thinking them over thoroughly.

When you do that you have a problem – you’re thinking that you’re giving readers what they really want but in turn you’re giving them what you want. Or what you think they want – either way you’re not on the right track. That made me think of the ways I watch video online and the ways I want to watch it.


Most video I watch is actually not on the internet – it gets downloaded (almost) automatically into iTunes. I don’t watch the podcasts everyday even though some podcasts are daily news reports.

So local media companies are adding podcast feeds to their video content and hoping that people watch them[1]. Newsflash – podcasts are not a technical issue. Most people don’t even know what feeds are (another story), why do you think that they know what podcasts are?

The solution here is quite simple – for a quick start of course. Make real podcasts, use the news you’re making or providing on your site already. This way you can leverage your existing content while providing something that people might actually watch. Focus on local news[2] and target the younger audience, with daily episodes not exceeding 4 minutes in length. A very important thing is choosing the presenter – they need to reflect your your goals and suite your target content and audience. This means that your average TV anchormen won’t work – check the most popular podcasts to get the feeling what you’re looking for, keywords probably being humorous, personal, friendly.

Such podcasts have a few possible ways of monetizing themselves. One possibility is to add commercials (add them at the end, not the beginning), you might have weekly or monthly sponsors that you display in the background or even at the beginning of the show (not more that one screenshot). Since you can differentiate your subscribers from random web users you can adjust advertising to get most from both worlds. Be creative!

TV shows

Fortunately both local TV networks now have ways of watching locally produced shows I’ve missed. I do that quite often[3] since I can’t really fit some of them into my already busy schedule. When I’m watching such a show on the internet that’s probably the only thing I’m doing at that specific time and means that the computer is actually acting as if it was a TV.

Since I can move the slider you can’t push ads to me as you would on TV. That doesn’t mean you can’t have ads in such shows, you just need to think about them differently. What I do often is pause the video to check my email, browse around or just wait for the show to download – perfect time for placing ads. When I come back there’ll be an ad waiting, I’ll click next and continue watching the show.

The idea is not mine – when I was in the Netherlands a few years ago I went to the movies – in the middle of the movie there was a commercial which announced a brief break during the movie. I don’t remember the commercials going on while the break lasted (we all left the theater) but they were on again when we started coming back.

A great option with watching TV shows would also be to allow me to set the shows in my profile – that way I could see when something will be on TV and when I can watch it online. If I have a few shows to check you should allow me to add them to a playlist much as I would in iTunes or on my iPod. And I wouldn’t mind ads in between – if I’m watching a show that has already preloaded you could preload an ad into memory and play it while you start buffering the next show in my playlist – I’d have to wait anyway. You could also create a podcast that would push the shows I added or subscribed to.

Video news

This is the one that most media providers do currently and get it wrong most of the time. When reading news on the internet I’ll have many tabs open since what I’m doing is browsing. This means I’ll start at the homepage and then click on random news there, maybe click a category I’m really interested in, when news open I might click some related news and so on. This “trip” is rather random and fast.

Since I’m in browsing mode I’m more likely to only skim the information on the news page. This means that when I come to a page that only provides a video I’ll have nothing to skim and will close that tab immediately. I won’t see the ad in front of the video and I won’t see the video. In a month I might discover that I’m not getting quality information and move on to another site that will let me skim what I want to skim and fully concentrate on what I want to see.

Video as add-on

One solution to this problem is to use the video to convey information that text can’t. For example if you’re talking about a football match you might add video of the best move or all the goals scored. Another possibility would be that you’re pushing news on Britney and you add video of the incident. This way I can skim the news, figure if I want to see the video and check it if it interests me enough.

Video as primary content

When you think the only way to present content is video (I don’t think that ever happens but some do) you could use the idea already mentioned – profiles and sort-of bookmarks. I first saw this implemented on the International Herald Tribune website for text only articles – while browsing and skimming for interesting news you add what you want to read to your profile. At the end you can sit back and read what you saved or in this case check your own news show. Hey, you could even add social features to this with sharing of such shows (technically speaking playlists) with friends,… This also makes ads less invasive since you can add them less often then on every video I watch.


Some of you might know that I hate AJAX and I do for the same reason I hate video on the web currently. There’s a bunch of idiotssites shoving it down my throat in totally inappropriate ways and I really hate being molestedbothered this way. Technologies are here to solve problems and the only way they can do that is if people think what problems they solve better than others. That way we can read the news, watch the video, get an AJAXy[4] exeprience when and where we want to and where that specific technology solves our problems best.

  1. I’d really love to see the statistics on that. Anybody know where to get them? back
  2. We get world news in other podcasts or from other sources – keep it linked to what you know best. back
  3. More often on PopTV since I prefer their way of delivering content – via a fullscreen Flash interface – opposed to a small Windows Media / Real player on RTV Slovenija. back
  4. By the way – with all the AJAX around home pages of both local media houses reload automatically (which could really be an asynchronous request to retrieve the latest news) – one with a meta refresh tag and the other with inline JavaScript. back

YouTube related videos

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

I see that this isn’t news anymore but I was amazed when I saw it. It needs a few more refinements though.

YouTube related videos vizualization

Flash video not loading

Friday, May 25th, 2007

My colleagues have just found out that when loading a Flash video file into Flash, the URL must end with “.flv”.

Flash doesn’t check the type – if the URL does not end with “.flv” it won’t even request the file. This could lead to an endless battle between the Flash developer and the web developer because the static version would work and the online version wouldn’t. The Flash developer requests a static .flv file on the disk but when the web developer changes the request to a CMS based file the video doesn’t load.

So, when using a CMS what you’d do is add a “&ext=.flv” or even just “&.flv” to the CMS provided URL (eg. /loadContent.php?id=123) for it to load. You can do that in Flash or in the code that passes the video URL to the player.


Update: While checking other sites that load dynamic .flv files I found out that it might just look if the “.flv” is in the URL. Still funny though.

WPF/E competition

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Yesterday was a fine day that ended with a talk about the website (now offline). It’s made with WPF/E technology and is made to mimic the look & feel of the real Vista operating system. A great showcase of the technology.

There’s been much talk about WPF. The whole Windows Foundation Platform seems to be competition to the Adobe Apollo platform. They’re both made to create desktop applications. Apollo seems to be on top with the cross-platformness while Microsoft is putting its hopes on the size of the Windows developer community.

When we come ‘down’ to WPF/E (the E stands for Everywhere), the competitor everyone is talking about is Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash. They both solve a lot of common problems – animation, multimedia, drawing – stuff that you can’t do in HTML. But when you look under the hood of you’ll find there’s a bunch of JavaScripts that seem to do all the magic. And the code looks much like when you’re working with the infamous <canvas> tag.

This was also confirmed by the developer of the page – due to the limitations of the current plugin and it’s work with XAML everything on the page is dynamically created with JavaScript and is not present in the source XAML file. Since there are no components available he actually wrote all the controls himself – tabview, scrolling, panes, menus, windows,…

Two things come to mind:

  1. Direct3D vs OpenGL battle that went on about a decade ago
  2. document.layer vs document.all and the time of the DynamicDuo

Seems like a good idea would be to write a library that will seamlessly switch between WPF/E, and Flash whether they’re present or not. Especially since the tag will obviouslly never be trully cross platform (at least for a while) and that WPF/E doesn’t yet have a plugin for all platforms & browsers. Then again – what’s wrong with Flash?

xinf is not flash

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Spletne urice” started today with a talk from the lead developer and inventor of xinf Daniel P. Fischer. He talked about getting rid of flash by using it. The talk concentrated around xinf, an open development tool that shares a lot of goals with Flash but has a community driven open development.

The idea behind xinf is to create a new environment for creating rich media applications and then export them to different ‘platforms’. Currently available are javascript (in Firefox) and native (xinfinity). Export for Flash existed in a previous version and is also planned for this version. Xinf is LGPL and is based on many opensource solutions and libraries. The project is also looking for developers in various areas with the promise that Daniel will take you to his island when xinf is so huge that he’ll be able to afford it. You’ll probably get more insight when the presentation is online.

Related news:
Our local multimedia center Cyberpipe is hosting haip a multimedia festival of open technologies this week.