Christian Heilmann

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Are getting answers from experts systems the new hype?

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

It seems that there is a new trend for Question and Answer systems on the web. It might be that mailing lists, forums and other “old school” knowledge systems appear too boring / complex / slow and we want information and answers a lot quicker or properly channeled to us or to the issue itself. Experiencing the signal to noise ratio on many forums and mailing lists, this does not really come as a shock to me.

Yahoo Answers is a web service that allows you to pose a question and get immediate answers from thousands of Yahoo users. After a day you either choose the best answer or the people answering vote for what was the best answer. The idea is to store all the best answers and thereby accumulate a vast knowledge base. Every answer gets points, those chosen as best answers get bonus points and so on. The points are there for their own purpose, unlike Google Answers there is no monetary compensation.

Just as Yahoo Answers went live across Europe after being in beta for quite a while in the US, I stumbled over an interesting system:

QUNU is an contribution expert service much like Y!Answers, with the difference that it doesn’t store information or content but connects you to real people answering on their IM clients. The system uses Jabber – which is every geek’s favourite. The idea is pretty sweet but I had a hard time seeing the innovation in it – from a communication channel point of view. If you look closely it appears to be something like a fancy IRC client with rounded corners. The difference is that you can search, tag and add other meta data to questions. Well worth taking a second look and dabbling in it a bit.

Another service that made me go “hmm…” is Ether which allows you to sell your services giving advice over voice-over-ip on a per-minute basis. Sounds like all these funky telephone numbers offered on late night TV get a stiff competition there.

Web2.0-tastic – my office outside the office

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

As much as I am annoyed with the web2.0 hype and a lot of products that are just clones of others (how many RSS readers are there?) I just had an epiphany of sorts when I was on the client site and had to do some work without my trusty laptop with Photoshop, Homesite, Word and all the other goodies.

It is pretty amazing how efficient you can work without your local software when you use what the web offers you:

  • Writely allows for uploading word documents, changing them and saving them again (this has been bought by Google, so some privacy fanatical people might object to it). Works good for simple documentation, but of course it seems to break makros and change tracking
  • Pixoh allows for uploading, cropping, resizing and turning pictures and saving them in an optimised fashion.
  • Meebo is a browser interface for all of the Instant Messaging Networks out there and allows you to stay in touch with your work mates without installing MSN, Yahoo or AIM.
  • Openomy allows you to store and share files with work mates (and stop you from abusing your personal FTP)

What I haven’t found yet is a cool online code editor that would allow me to upload JavaScript, HTML, PHP or CSS and edit in a color coded fashion. Has anybody web2.0-yfied the portable NVU yet?

Some good lists of Web2.0 apps:

And in case this bores you and you need the lighter side of the idea:

Poke London are looking for a designer and a webcoder

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

I am not affiliated with those guys, just heard about them via flow once, but I really really like the job post they have on their site:

Desperation of the most charming kind

Sounds like a fun place to be.

DOMnews, well, news: Coincidence or Plagiarism?

Monday, March 6th, 2006

I just got informed via email that The XHTML compliant scroller at ibloomstudios looks spookily like a slightly edited version of my own DOMnews script .

I don’t want to point fingers and Nick claims in the comments that he did the script himself.

Am I paranoid?

Update: Nick has taken the article off-line, agreeing that the code is similar. He had claimed in the article beforehand that the code was taken from a horizontal scroller without giving the source or credit though. Now it might be interesting to know where that horizontal scroller is, as Nick doesn’t know any longer. Anyone?

AJAX/DHTML library scorecard

Monday, March 6th, 2006

Just when I thought I am going research crazy I stumbled upon the AJAX/DHTML library scorecard at

The article reviews a lot and I mean a lot of DHTML/AJAX/JS libraries and categorises them into grades how cross-browser they are. If you want to pick a library to use instead of rolling your own solutions and you don’t want to leave a certain number of visitors standing in the rain, check this scorecard beforehand.

Great job!

The only annoying thing is the page itself. I’d have liked to print the lot out, but it won’t do that on Firefox.