Monday, October 31, 2005

A new religion has born

It had to be done.

Now that the Kansas state finally seems to be receptive about teaching alternative "theories" about the origin of men, it is our duty to do not limit these alternative theories to Intelligent Design, as there are other equally valid theories that can be taught.

I, for one, welcome our new Flying Spaguetti Monster overlord.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Explorer system error: -1072896658

Don't you love when explorer express its griefs in such a clear and helpful way?

I was putting the last touches to the new "Search place" code, and it was working beautifully in Firefox and in Explorer, when I faced a problem in Safari. The query to the database that retrieves the name of places that match the user search came back with the accents garbled!

Safari thought the received page, that I was retrieving with XMLHttpRequest behind the scenes, was encoded in ISO-8859-1 (or most probably, -15) when I was serving it in UTF-8.

Fair enough, I just have to put the header "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf8" in the reply, and sure enough, Safari was now working like a charm.

But then, the search stopped working at all in Internet Explorer! I was getting a weird error in the status bar:

Explorer system error: -1072896658

This thing popped when I tried to access the responseText of the request object. After I googled a bit this error code, I found that it was due to the XMLHttpRequest control receiving a reply on an unknown encoding. Please guys, next time put a message like:

XMLHttpRequest requested document was in the unknown "utf8" encoding. See the list of accepted encodings.

It turns out the charset should be UTF-8, and not utf8. Fixed it, and now it is happily working on these 3 browsers.

Update: Attentive reader Johan Sundström pointed out that I was missing the "text/plain; charset=" part on the Content-Type. I should really double check my blog entries before posting them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Basecamp + Writeboard

I said before that 37signals is one of these companies that "get it". I do not think however that they have got absolutely everything right.

Point in case, they integrated recently their new Writeboard with Basecamp.

For those not in "the known", Writeboard let's you manage the life of a document. You can see and compare older versions, see who changed what, etc. Basecamp is a web application to manage your proyects. You can see who has to do what, what has to be done before the next milestone, messages related to the proyect, etc.

Basecamp was structured in several parts. You had:

  1. Messages

  2. To-Do lists

  3. Milestones

  4. People

Now you have a fifth item, Writeboards.

Do you see the problem?

With the arrival of Writeboards we have two different classes of documents: messages and writeboards. What is the difference? You can track the changes to writeboards, and you can not track the changes to messages.

If you are a paying customer, there are zero reasons to use a message instead of a writeboard. Yet they are completely different things in the Basecamp interface.

Coming from a company that strives to make less, this one more tab to make a split that users could not care less about is bugging me.

Panoramio after three weeks

We are surprised about the evolution of Panoramio since the soft launch three weeks ago. Bloggers have been very nice posting about Panoramio. Panoramio also appeared in two major technology news sites (Digg and Barrapunto). From that a lot of traffic came, 536.595 page views until today. As a result already 2.940 pics have been posted, some of them are really amazing and most of them have been located exactly in the rigth place.

Many bugs have been fixed and some features added to Panoramio, but like our friend Ubaldo from Loquo, told us "the hard work starts right now".

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Panoramio + Google Earth

Stefan Geens suggested to publish a KML Network Link with the latest pictures of Panoramio.

I did not know what is a KML Network Link, but it sounds cool, so I looked up the documentation, and implemented a KML Network Link for Panoramio.

How does it work?

You just install Google Earth on your computer, and click on our network link.

Your browser will ask you what do you want to do with this file. You should open it. Google Earth will start up, and then you just have to go somewhere in the planet. When you stop moving, Google Earth will download pictures of this place of the planet from Panoramio.

Enjoy it!

New logo

And we have a logotype!


The father of this logo is Mike Rohde, of Makalumedia.

I will blog more about the whole process soon, but I wanted to share first the news with all of you :-)

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, October 14, 2005

Review of Panoramio (1/2)

Eduardo has contacted some pals in the usability field, and Christopher Grant and Albert Ribera sent back to us a review of Panoramio. They found a lot of little and not so little problems, so I decided (with their permission) to post it here along with my replies. I will start with the problems found by Christopher, as they were already in english. Happy reading.

BUG: I search for “Accra, Ghana”. On the one hand I get an error message “No places match this name” but the searching animated icon does not disappear.


  • Fix bug

  • When place is not found send mouse focus back to search field

  • Write error message in red.

Yup, the search is horribly broken. I will be working on it next week. Good idea to put the error message in red.

Login, register, help, blog, forum and link to this page links don’t make sense together


  • Add username and password fields to toolbar area. Include links for register and forgotten passwords. Include help link in toolbar area but seperate it from login area with a divider.

  • Move help, blog and forum links to upper right-hand corner. Group blog and forum together. Help should be seperate.

Yeah, right now it's a bit of a mess. My preferences are however different:

  1. Remove the "Link to this page". Only experienced users now how to copy an url out of a link, or what it means at all. My plan is to update the real url in realtime without reloading the page. It should also put each movement in the history of the browser.

  2. Group together Help, Forum and Blog, as these three links are useful to people looking for help / more info.

Register is not a very “webby” word.

use the same terminology as Yahoo, Google, Flickr, etc.: Sign Up (Darte de alta), Sign-up (el alta), Sign In (logarte)

Done. But I have not yet taken a hard decision on this one. The old wording may be worse in english, but I'm sure it was much clearer to our non english users. I may revert to the old wording even if only until I internationalize Panoramio.

When I’ve signed up or signed in, the help link disappears.

Recomendation: don’t remove this link. See point #2 “login and link” placement.

Done, good catch.

BUG: I upload a photo of Chicago, but when I search for other photos of Chicago, I am shown a map of Belize.
I also search for Cincinnati, USA and the search box recommends “Cincinnati, Zimbabwe”.

US and Puerto Rico places are not yet indexed. That’s explained in the help, but obviously I should give a proper error message, and it should say “No places matches”. (Or start working and add US cities to the database.)

Search feature is very uncomfortable, I can’t tell when it’s started or stopped searching.

Recomendation: add “Search button”. Don’t show the animated searching icon until the user has clicked on the button.

It was thought as a mean to give the user feedback about the different places in the world that can match its query, in real time. Obviously it's not working, so I either make it much much faster or I will have to ditch the whole idea.

I click on the help link and am taken to a new page with no link back to Panoromia.

Recommendation: place help content in a pop-up window.

I don’t like pop-ups, but a link back to the home is indeed needed.

I didn’t bother to read the text in the toolbar and had a very hard time figuring out how to upload my pictures.

Recomendation: don’t expect the user to read the toolbar text. Include a large “Add your photos” which opens a bubble that explains how to upload pictures and how to navigate from place to place using the map.

I don’t like the “big links” approach. It sometimes makes links even easier to dismiss, as they start looking like logos or ads. But your concert is very real… I put the relevant text in bold, as is by far the most import in the whole toolbar. Maybe I should put it in the last place in the toolbar, because there is less clutter in the middle of the page (over the map) than in the left side (over the previews).

BUG: When I try to upload a PNG the system takes 2 to 3 minutes to tell me that only JPEGs are accepted.

It also says that only jpegs are accepted in the Upload picture balloon. I will put an additional client side test to ensure that the file ends with .jpg or .jpeg.

BUG: When browsing other people’s pictures I see a delete link which allows me to delete pcitures that aren’t mine.

Wow. That thing is of course also checked in the server, but it’s disturbing anyway. It's fixed now.

While browsing other people’s pictures I decide to search for Athens, Greece. The “searching icon” appears but I am not shown the results until I click on the “Back to map” link.

Recomendation: as soon as the person begins a search, automatically jump back to map and show the location searched for.

Yup, good suggestion. It was also on our to-do list.

While browsing other people’s pictures I am constantly scrolling down to see the map and locate the place the picture was taken.

Recomendation: move the map above the fold.

If I do so, I fear you will be constantly scrolling down to see the picture. I tried to put the satellite mini map to the right of the picture, but there was not enough free space to put it on 1024x768. Eduardo suggested to put the mini map at the bottom of this page, and I think it looks better there.

It’s not clear which pictures appear in the left.hand column.


  • As soon as the user clicks on a picture in the left hand column, show the picture in the right-hand column, zoom in on the surrounding region and show all of the pictures from the selected region, not just the picture that has been selected. Use colors and borders to distinguish between the spot where the selected picture was taken and the spots marking other available pictures from the selected region.

  • When the user mouses over a spot marked on the map, show aa thick red border around the picture that corresponds to the place on the map. Then, when the user moves the mouse off of the market spot, remove the red border.

I will take a look at this suggestion later. My brain seems to not be able to digest it right now :-)

BUG: When I try to go back or forward I see the following error message:

[Very weird error message™]

Never seen it, but I will try reproduce this. Note to my dear readers: The image was not readable, so just believe that it was a very weird error message..

I can’t tell how many pictures are available throughout Panoramio or just in the region I’m browsing.

Recomendation: Include the total number of pictures uploaded in Panoramio’s history and today. Include the number of pictures available for a given region and show me where I am within the search results (“25-50 of 310 pictures”).

Yup, done. But I still want to improve a bit more. A link to each “page” of pictures would be better.

I can’t “reset” the app, ie. I can’t get back to the very first screen I saw with a view of the whole world.

Recomendation: Include a “reset” or “zoom out” or “home” link.

The “Panoramio” word is a link to the very first screen. I hope when we have our logo ready this will be much more evident.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Our to-do list

We are now working in browser compatibility. Explorer 6 and Firefox 1.0.7 should work okay. It's still not possible to post pictures with Safari and there are some bugs in Opera and Firebird, but we are fixing them. If Panoramio doesn't work properly in your browser, please report it to the support forum.

Today we made some minor changes in the search engine in order to make more intuitive the "suggest" system. Now the code to upload the pictures is also a bit more robust. We also raised the upload limit up to 5 Mb pictures.

We have been asked for other features like personal areas, editing personal data, photos urls, GPS and rotation EXIF tags, etc. They are all included in our to-do list.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Less is better

Some big names are redoing their webmail interfaces, in response to GMail. They are redoing the whole thing using a richer interface.

Basically, both of them are building something akin Outlook on html / javascript. And they are so wrong.

GMail has show us that you can implement responsive applications on a browser. It raised the bar. But people is not loving it because it uses XMLHttpRequest. Nobody knows what the hell is XMLHttpRequest.

It is because its interface is BETTER than anything else. Excuse me, but I already have Outlook. Why
do I need another Outlook in my browser? I don't want new applications, be it for the web or the desktop to be clones of what I already have.

There is somebody that has got the point. 37signals keeps pumping out little gems.

Excuse my french, these guys have balls! They have done a web page so you could have to do lists! And it's working!

37signals have the gift to see the deep root of a problem, and to deliver an application that fixes this single problem. And then stop. Don't think about "what if"'s. It is done.

Good and bad news

The good news: Yesterday Panoramio appeared in some big sites and visitors came fast and furious. Hundreds of amazing pics around the world were posted; Moscow, Italy, California, London, Kizhi (Russia), etc. We added a small world map to the photo page in order to give an idea of where the picture was located. Posting pictures over Japan didn't work, but we already fixed the problem.

The bad news: We have discovered there are still problems with Safari, Opera and Firefox. In Safari you can not post new pictures (bad bad) and in Opera you can hardly see the pictures, as a big map is over them (very bad). Firefox is showing the drop down of the search under the images. We are working in all these problems, and fixing them as fast as we can.

Bugs, comments, suggestions... please, report them to the Panoramio forum.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Panoramio 1.0, soft launch

Joaquín and me have been working in Panoramio the last weeks. Finally we believe Panoramio it's ready for a soft launch. Ideas, suggestions or bugs are welcome in Panoramio forum.

Using Panoramio

The Pico Turquino trail (Cuba), Cape Of God Hope (thanks eSHa) and North Cape and Mageroya island (Norway) are some examples.

I even have seen someone posting a McDonalds restaurant in Chicago. Some small cities like Konstanz (Germany) or Callosa de Segura (Spain) can give an idea of what it's possible, but it depends very much on the availability of high resolution pictures from Google Maps.

Next uses are to come, experiments are welcome.