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I don't do as much formal specification writing these days as I used to, but I've been noticing some promising software for prototyping and specification writing lately. Could be that I've become so entrenched in the Visio world that I never pick my head up to take notice any more.
I downloaded the demo version of Axure RP ($589 for Pro, $149 for Lite version) after quickly viewing their Flash demo. This Windows only tool allows you to build a page hierarchy for a site and then design the pages by dragging and dropping widgets (like Visio stencil objects) onto the wireframe pane. As with Visio, you can link widgets to other pages and then generate the document as an HTML prototype. What intrigued me most was the Microsoft Word specification document that it produces, providing the wireframes with notes for all of the page objects.
Software like this seems like a real time saver for rapid development, which is the kind of work I've been doing a lot of lately without the actual prototyping bit. That is to say, I turn over informal specs and wireframes on short schedules. To be able to handle all of these tasks in one tool seems great. Anyone have any experience using this or similar tools? Which do you like best?
Just got this from a colleague at work. For all you MAC users out there who work with XML, this is something that could be of interest.
Cooperating Systems released a downloadable version of HelloWorld this week. HelloWorld aims to create a platform for "social computing".
Alongside the chat, file transfer, personal publishing, HelloWorld displays geographic visualization of nodes in the network. I'm not sure what level of detail the visualization has - my own social network has multiple nodes close together. Not sure how well I can separate a cluster of 8 people in Edmonton at the level shown in the screenshots.
OntoLog is a tool for annotating (describing and indexing) video and audio using ontologies - structured sets of terms or concepts. It used RDF and the Dublin Core. This is a PH. D. project by Jon Heggland. He is looking for testers and users.
For OntoLog and my doctoral degree to be a success, I need the ideas, requirements, critique and feedback of (potential) OntoLog users. OntoLog, though usable and useful, is not finished - there are lots of things I want to do. But I want to anchor the capabilities of OntoLog in the real world
Obvious applications in looking at video/audio from ethnographic observation, contextual interviews, or usability testing.
I've been reminded of AT&T Labs' GraphViz again, most recently by a Drupal developer who's writing code to draw diagrams from Drupal's database. Lately, my organization has been pushing to get reports of user data. The reports we get generated from our sysadmin are mostly raw dumps of data that have some columnar formatting. What we're looking at right now is using log files to auto-generate diagrams that show usage data. Should be fun. If you've done this sort of thing with GraphViz before I'd love to hear about your experience. I've downloaded the Mac OS X package and am learning the languages now.
Other semi-automated diagramming packages (gleaned from the Tulip site).
Ideagraph is a "Personal Knowledge Manager" that is in early beta. It is intended to eventually be a commercial product, but is currently free to download.