Tech Life Figuring out who actually changed the world

2005 Holy Shits — In Progress

I need a place to hold the various holy shits I stumble upon and this is that place. If you’ve had any recent holy shits, please feel free to add as comments. As the year comes to the end, I’ll likely reflect back on the year, tidy this list up, and figure out who actually changed the world in 2005.

Google Maps: The initial reaction to Google Maps is “Wow, a big fat map.” I’m certain that a majority of the people that use it have not figured out the holy shit feature — you can drag the map and redraws on the fly. The Net is a buzz about the technology surrounding Google maps, but that’s not the point. The point is that web pages have suffered from an immersion problem since day one… I can’t lose myself in a web page because I’m either staring at a static HTML page or I’m confined in a Joe Cartoon sized box. Web applications have evolved in 2005. There’s more coming.

HTMLArea: Staying with the web immersion problem for a moment. I’ve been frustrated since day #1 at Netscape by the fact that HTML (and subsequent cooler technoglies) gives developers a high degree of creative freedom… except if you want to edit text in a web page. We’ve been stuck with the lame textarea control where none of the rich formatting of the web is used. Try to edit any page on Wikipedia and you’ll see a great example of this problem Making text bold is a backwards non-intuitive nightmare.

My holy shit regarding this problem occurred while testing driving Jotspot — a recent entry into the commercial Wiki arena. Go check out this page right now (user: weblog, pass: weblog) and edit it. If you’re using Firefox, you’re going to see the HTMLArea control… this is a rich text editing control (which has been around for awhile) that solves the rich text editing problem. I can already hear the collective sigh of relief from the Web when this control garners a bit more browser support.

The Long Tail: A first for Holy Shits — it’s an idea. Go read about it.

Tags: I’m hesitant to put tags as a Holy Shit since they’re really just another name for metadata which has been buzzy for years. Still, tags are changing the way folks are managing and sharing huge piles of information. is the first example which comes to mind followed closely by Flickr. The holy shit really is how tags are being used… social meta-data… hmmmmm…

More as it shows up… Stay tuned.

9 Responses

  1. That google maps thing was a HUGE eye-opener for me when I saw it a week ago or so. I had no idea the capability to request data like that existed in pure JavaScript. As soon as I saw that I sat down and built a VERY basic chat room using that same technology in about 7 hours at my local coffee shop.

    I think Google is going to open a LOT of developers up to these ideas. Being able to break away from the whole request–>display–>enter data–>request–>display cycle can be huge, and hopefully we’ll begin to think of web pages more as interfaces, instead of request results.

  2. Sean Winstead 19 years ago

    Regarding tags, a friend who runs created a Tags module for Drupal. He’s been experimenting with tag relationships. For example, if you look at content on the website, it will look for tags similar to those related to the content and show content that has those tags. Convoluted but kind of neat.

  3. kristen 19 years ago

    i found this on the other day and happen to like it a lot:

    and made me obsessed with tags. thank god iphoto implemented it. my life is complete.

  4. Actually, the click-and-drag was one of the first features I found (and the one that kept me going for hours). What I like is that it starts to combine the powers of Google searching with an interactive map. looking for a haircut in your neighborhood (I *really* need one)? Type [barber shop *your town, state*], and it pulls up a map with pinpoints showing where they are. the interaction with the map is great, as you said, and you can see for yourself where the businesses are located.

  5. I just used Google Maps to organize a pubcrawl in Brooklyn. The great thing about it was a) scrolling b) being able to combine it with the local search capability. I could find most of the bars I wanted to attend and map out a pretty nice route. Scrolling sped everything up immensely.

  6. As far as preserving semantics, I prefer Cameron Adams’ WidgEditor:

  7. Tim Haines 19 years ago

    HTML Area is good, but I prefer FreeTextBox which does pretty much the same thing. There’s actually a whole bunch of these controls floating around – see and check out the list, and comments from John Dyer.

  8. Apple’s new Automator might potentially be programming for the non-programmer. If that pans out, it certainly constitutes a holy shit in my book.

    As for Google Maps and what has come to be called Ajax, the Achilles heel is JavaScript. JavaScript is an abomination. The implementations are poor, as are the development tools. As a web developer, I am hoping that good techniques appear for doing cool web UI’s like Google Maps while sticking with more reasonable programming languages.

  9. Rands, Google outdid themselves when they added satellite maps to Google Maps. Here’s a use case for you:

    1. Look up a location

    2. Click that location tag, a popup dialog (balloon) appears

    3. Ask for driving directions to another location and search

    4. Now you have your driving directions and the path traced on the map: click on the Satellite link in the upper right corner

    5. Watch the image appear WITH THE PATH STILL TRACED

    That was definitely a holy shit moment for me. Not only do you just get the directions, but you get a real good sense of what the surrounding area looks like before you go there. You get to figure out that you’re not just “bearing left for 1.3 miles,” but that there’s a fork in a road at a light that has a big mall next to it–information MapQuest and the other guys can’t provide yet. It’s a beautiful thing.