March 31st, 2015


Querki goes into Beta

[tl;dr: Querki finally enters Beta today. I'd love to have people come try it out; drop me an email or comment here if you'd like to try it.]

Have you ever ridden the Superman coaster at Six Flags New England? (Which I gather has been renamed Bizarro.) The first time I tried it, I saw the sign out front, which said that the coaster was 208 feet high, and started with a 221-foot drop, and nervously figured that it had to be a typo. So we went on the ride, climbed up the first hill, got over the top, and realized (a) that the initial drop is *straight down*, and (b) it was straight down into a big black hole in the ground. No typo. So there was the OMGOMGOMGWe'reGonnaDieAhhhhh, followed by the exhiliration of shooting out the other side of the hole into the air.

That's kind of what the past six months have been like.

It's been just about three years since I tendered my resignation from Memento and said, "I need a personal project to work on", and exactly 30 months since I started coding. There have been a lot of ups, downs and learning experiences along the way. The past six months have been *nuts* -- it was six months ago tomorrow that we incorporated the company, and I've spent most of the time since then rewriting the UI to make it Not Suck. But today, it's time to shoot out the other side.

As of today, I'm officially declaring Querki to be open for Beta. I'm not going to claim that it's *done*, mind -- I've got a list of bugs to fix as long as my arm, and an absolutely enormous list of enhancements I want to make. But we're finally up to the point where I think the process of building a Space isn't half-bad, so it's time to get more people in to start using it for real.

I've just finished the first draft of Learning Querki, a short book that teaches how to use the system, with copious examples and illustrations. Impatient engineers may still want to use the much-shorter Querki Quickstart, but if you prefer to know what you're doing before you start kicking the tires, take a couple of hours to read Learning Querki. (And if you've been wondering what the heck I'm talking about, I recommend the page What is Querki?, at the beginning of Learning Querki.)

Today, I'll be upgrading all of the existing Invitees to Full User status, and inviting everyone who has previously asked to join. That's still only about 50 users, though, and I'd like, over the next few months, to get closer to 500. So if you'd be interested in using it, please comment here or send me an email or DM. (I will need an email address for the invitation.)

Folks with a little technical background should be able to jump right in. Those who don't, but who have interesting projects, please talk to me -- I'd be happy to help build a Space for you, as I have time available. While I'm going to be working on Scalability for the next few months, in the meantime I want to get folks using Querki for real, and telling me what works and what's broken.

Or in other words: now that the safety rails are mostly working, I'm looking for company on the roller-coaster. Please join me there, and welcome to Querki...

Never underestimate Google's ability to foul up a decent UI

So I've just been kicked into the "preview" of Google's new Contacts UI. Let's count the ways in which it is awful:

-- After I've spent years carefully curating My Contacts, they've gone and dumped that. I can't tell if they actually lost all that information, or simply de-connected all of the users that I had merged by hand, but the counts are *way* wrong. They offer to automatically re-merge everything, but to say the *least* I do not trust them to get it right.

-- The UI is very pretty, yes. It is also inefficient, with gratuitous use of modal dialogs. It forces you into Google+, with all of its ticks and quirks and excessive information that I don't give a good goddamn about.

-- Because it is now all Google+, it pops up *every goddamned IM* in that window, and I can't figure out how to turn that off! I don't *want* my IMs to show up in this window -- that's what I use Pidgin for. Google+'s Hangouts are intrusive, loud, use screen real estate incredibly inefficiently, and just plain less pleasant to use. But of course it looks like Facebook's Messaging, so it *has* to work like this, and god forbid they should provide an obvious way to opt out of this UI. (This is, I should note, one of the primary reasons I do *not* leave Google+ open: those damned Hangout notifications are crazy-loud, and I don't want them.)

-- It forces open a new window, rather than being a tab inside Gmail the way it used to be. This is *way* less convenient, IMO.

-- It doesn't let me copy a freaking email address! Seriously: if I right-click on an email address, it doesn't even recognize it as a link. The only thing is lets me do is open an email in Gmail, failing to understand that the entire world does *not* revolve around Gmail. So I'm left with no choice but trying to highlight and copy the text of the email itself -- which isn't easy in this new over-splufty UI. This is a huge fail: being able to copy email addresses where I need them is the single most important feature of a contact list, IMO, and they've actually made it worse than it was.

-- And it seems to be inescapable. I clicked on "Leave the Contacts preview", which opened the old-style UI. Great -- until I went to Contacts again, and it forced me right back into the preview again.

I'm appalled. These changes appear to have been designed for looks and corporate mandates more than usability, and doesn't seem to have a functioning escape hatch. Big fail in my book...