Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

working backwards for christmas

wing 1
wing 1 by Tim Caynes

if I’m ever asked how I did something, I can never remember. I mean, specifically to techniques used in photo processing, not like how did I end up with a face like that, etc.

I do have a little set of preferences that I’ve built up over the last 10 years or so which are just photoshop basics, like masking, blending and tweaking shadows and highlights, which I tend to use to some degree or other in everything I do. but not usually the same way twice. the post-processing environment is such a huge beast that if I ever understood or had even fiddled with all of it I would probably implode or something. no, I usually do a couple of simple things and move on.

having said that, of course, I can spend about 7 hours blending 2 layers in a way that I didn’t do it yesterday. it depends entirely in the photo I’m working with and my short-term memory being a bit vague and whether I actually wrote down what I did last time. which I didn’t.

so when I do get a specific request of ‘how did you do that’, it’s a question of how long ago I did it, and whether I can work it out by going backwards. to make it a little bit easier, I never flatten photoshop files, which means, of course, that I’ve got about 27 high dynamic range renditions of cathedral ceilings at about 1gb a piece that are really useful as reference items, but really terrible as disk space savers. but, if I do go back to an old photoshop file and look into the layers, I can often work out what I did. meaning, I can work out what I did, like I multiplied layer 3 with layer 2 at 67% opacity and I did something to it that involved a bit if exposure correction and a layer mask but oh dear it looks like I also did some kind of calculation with produced an alpha channel with a pasted into the mix to see what would happen and I’ve forgotten quite what that was. you see, I can work it out up to a point, but…

but back to a request. I’ve been asked if I can’t dissect the shot of a wing I took a while back when landing at Denver airport, which I threw into the post-processing mangle at some point after I got back to the UK and then uploaded to flickr. I think I might be able to work some of it out. the rest I’ll just make up. but we’ll see what comes out…

Finding Storage

Sounds like it should be a film with Tom Hanks and an emotionally challenged Tupperware box. It is, in fact, the long-awaited solution to one of our common web problems. Whether you call it filtered searching, directed searching, product finding, trans-navigational learning aid cognitive process map hierarchical cross-sell or something, it’s about trying to find the right product for your business. And we’ve just launched it on sun.com.

The new storage finder is built from the ground up with the intention of enabling customers to find the right products for them, based on their unique requirements. We’ve tried this before, you may have noticed, with mixed results. One of the problems we’ve previously encountered is trying to architect a finding solution that’s based on the interaction model alone, rather than really understanding what is important to our customers and how those key criteria drive the user experience. To avoid repeating those mistakes, for the new storage finder, we took a significant step backwards, to understand the product taxonomy and how it maps to business needs and customer expectations. When reviewing the product data, and testing with business groups and customers, it was clear that what seems like an important attribute of a product or product family is not necessarily what matters to the people who are actually wanting to buy it. Seems obvious, but until you get real people to give you real opinions, then you’re just guessing.

After investing such much effort in evaluating the product data and determining what really turns folk on about storage (it does happen), we were in a much better position to look at the interaction model and the representation of the data on sun.com. I mean, we already knew that driving customers down a one-way street with road signs that only the product marketing team can read is a pretty hopeless exercise, but there was still a lot of decision making and testing to be done around the entry points to the customer journey, the complexity of the options (parabolic vs. optional), and the level of detail required to enable a decision to be made. Oh, and whether the Ajax thing would work.

I won’t bore you with the iterations of prototypes, usability testing, data refining, back-end systems, publishing frameworks and specifications that need to collide gracefully in order to get a project like this out of the door, but, suffice to say, a number of dedicated, hard-working folks from across Sun managed to pull this one out of the bag just in time for Christmas, so enjoy. There’s still a shopping day left, by the way…

We’ve a list of enhancements and future work that we’re already planning, but let us know what you think so that we can involve you in the ongoing development of our finding capability on sun.com

Listening Post: Dananananaykroyd: Pink Sabbath

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