Music Drives the Flow

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on January 18, 2006.

A general day at iMarc will consist of me having my headphones on for six or seven hours of the standard nine-hour day. I can't stand listening to all the litle clinks and clacks in the room around me, it drives into my brains like screws, slowly twisting... driving me insane. Click, clack, the screws tighten... The remedy is music. Anything that will disconnect me from the perpetual ticking of the world's natural clock: business. Without it I lose focus. I'm lost. That being said, a friend of mine and I have always thought that A Perfect Circle's Mer de Noms album was one of the ultimate 'creativity inspiring' albums. I still find that to be true today, but I've recently added a bit more to the playlist that fuels complete shifts each day. What's in the Shuffle (An Incomplete List) A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders Flyleaf, Flyleaf The Mars Volta, Deloused In the Comatorium/Frances the Mute System of a Down, Mezmerize/Hypnotize A Perfect Circle, Thirteenth Step Martin Denny, The Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny Radiohead, Kid A/OK Computer/The Bends Tool, Opiate/Ænema/Lateralus Puscifer, Both Songs off of the Underworld Soundtracks Of course, it's different for everyone. That's why I use my headphones. What's inspiring you?

Wolf & Company

Posted by Nils Menten on January 6, 2006.

Blog image

iMarc recently completed a web site for Wolf & Company, Certified Public Accountants & Business Consultants. With a century-long history of service, it was important to Wolf to show their community heiritage side-by-side with their wide range of expertise. Since staff recruitment and retention is key to a service-based company such as Wolf, the site also showcases career opportunities and growth potential.

Of course, the site has to be easy to maintain and keep fresh. So iMarc built easy-to-use content management tools, that make publishing content fast and easy, and ensures that new content is attractive and complies with the company style guidelines.

"iMarc delivered on our project needs and objectives! And throughout the development process, iMarc was professional and efficient. In addition to the inviting new look and feel and user-friendly navigation, our new site allows us the flexibility to easily administer a variety of content updates ourselves without creating a drain on staff resources or investing in monthly maintenance fees."
— Margery L Piercey, CPA, Principal
Wolf & Company, P.C.
Certified Public Accountants & Business Consultants

The site architecture is built on a dynamic, database-driven framework that makes it easy to add, edit and remove pages from the site. At the same time, the architecture preserves branding and navigation across all pages, so contributions to the site contain appropriate branding and formatting. This means the site can grow, without redesign costs, to satisfy Wolf's needs for years to come.

About Wolf & Company

Wolf & Company, P.C. is a certified public accounting and business consulting firm with offices in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts. As a leading regional firm founded in 1911, Wolf provides its clients with comprehensive audit, tax and risk management services delivering extensive resources, specialized industry expertise and outstanding service.

Visit Wolf's web site at

The 1 Tool 1 Task Initiative

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on December 27, 2005.

When we design a site, one of our main goals is to make things as simple for the user as possible. These enhancements includes streamlining the navigation, generally-standardized positioning of main elements and increasing the "obviousness" of things. While the public side of a site is the most important aspect, something that is often overlooked is the administration area.

All of our dynamic sites come with their own online tool-kit that we call the "admin area" to help maintain your site and keep things fresh. Elements of a site are controlled dynamically from here, which enables you to keep your site up-to-date from anywhere in the world (which, as we all know is the full glory of the online life).

While the admin area never gets displayed to the public, its importance rivals that of the full-package of the public display. Many times this is like building two separate sites as one package, but the end result is well worth it.

What Springfield Museums' Admin Section Looks LikeWhy? A couple of reasons.

First, a lot of clients will look at their admin area just as much (if not more) than the public side of their site. They should visit the admin area regularly to ensure that information is as current and valid as possible. This area should be easy to use, simple to figure out and well organized.

Second, this is what represents us (iMarc) on a regular basis to the client. When they visit their admin area, they should see us and our principals in the work we've done. (After all, if the admin area is amazing, just think of how good the front-end is.)

Third, while this reminds the client of us, it doesn't require the client to have to contact us. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy talking with our clients and don't mind helping them out, but a well-made admin area is easy enough for anyone to figure out. This also comes in handy when whoever is maintaining the Website moves on to other parts of the company and has to train someone else on how to use it.

This brings us to a theory not used enough on the Web these days: Occam's Razor. It is a principle that states "given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler" (Wikipedia: Occam's Razor). This doesn't exactly fit here, but we can go a step further and say if two processes acheive the same goals, the simpler is preferred. (And as argued by Dave, if it's preferred, it must be better.)

In a lot of the things that we do in our day-to-day lives, one tool that can do many things (corporate buzzword "multitask") is better. Why have many remotes for many appliances when you can have one remote to control everything. This converence of technologies was thought to be the wave of the future at one point, and I suppose to a degree still is, but there have been noticable walls where such is not the case; take for example the Motorola ROKR, combining MP3 playing with a phone just never was really that appealing to the mass audience.

But I digress. While convergence may appear to make things simpler, it infact complicates the entire process. Two simple tools combined into one supertool creates the weird gateway between them in which they must interact, convoluting code and logic.

This is also something that must be watched in creating our admin tools. There have been times in the past where we have created one tool that actually manages many different aspects of the site (and sometimes multiple sites) with one form. Combining many ideas into one tool ends up in confusion and explanation.

Which brings me to my main point: the 1 Tool 1 Task initiative. Each tool in an admin area should serve to maintain one and only one aspect of a site. As an example: we may have a section called "News & Events," but I wouldn't expect to see a "News & Events" tool on the backend of a site if they contain different data. I would expect a "News Manager" and an "Event Manager," because although they're being displayed on the same page, most of the time these things feature completely different data. (In the case that these display the exact same data, combining them is possible, but it's still logically simpler to handle two tools.)

For a lot of our tools, there does seem to be a number of tools that have similar schema, but there is not a skeleton key to control them all, nor should there be. That's the reason we offer custom solutions to each of our clients instead of a Web tool to fix the current problems. Furthermore, I'd rather spend the time creating two separate tools instead of having to hack through the thinking to stuff it all into one. It's the better use of everyone's time (or 'money' on the client end of things, since time = money).

What Springfield Museums' Admin Section Looks LikeThis can lead to one site having many tools, and while it sounds like it might be overwhelming it truly isn't. Check out this picture of what the Springfield Museums admin area looks like. Nice icons, simple layout, very easy to use. A lot of these tools look very similar, but we've broken them out into logical tools, and so far we haven't heard any complaints. (Additionally, this site is updated more often than a lot of the sites we've built due to its size. I wonder if these are related.)

As you can see, simple doesn't equal less. Simple means easier to understand, which in some cases (like this) means a little more work. Either way, the end product is worth it.

This may end up being just one of the many battles I'll be fighting alone around the Web, but it's a worthwhile cause.

1 Tool, 1 Task

1 Tool 1 Task
Join us.

An Essential Firefox Extension For Apache Junkies

Posted by Will Bond on December 22, 2005.

LiveHTTPHeader Firefox Extension If you've worked with Apache much at all, you have probably used some Redirect commands, or even mod_rewrite. Every once in a while these nasty inifinite loops occur or you just get the wrong content from the server. LiveHTTPHeaders is the Firefox developer tool for exactly these situations.

To the right is a screen shot of the extension in action after requesting As you can see, it displays all of the http headers including cookies. The extension is easily activated by pressing Alt-L (on Windows, not sure on OSX) and can even save headers to disk.

For everyone upgrading from Firefox 1.0.7 to Firefox 1.5, make sure you get the new version, 0.11. You can download it from the LiveHTTPHeaders site, or from I wasn't able to get the version on the official site to work, so I grabbed it from the ftp server. Enjoy!

Thoughts on Project Planning

Posted by Dave Tufts on December 14, 2005. Tagged: strategy

A battle was never won according to plan and a battle was never won without a plan. —Napoleon

In 1999, a New Zealand Habitat for Humanity chapter built a house, from scratch, in 3 hours and 26 minutes, after spending 14 months planning the project. 0.03% of their time was spent in execution, 99.97% of their time, planning.

Chris Hardwick also had a plan when he solved a Rubik's Cube blindfolded in 18.50 seconds. He spent 99.8% of his time planning his solution by staring at, and memorizing, the cube for 1 hour and 54 minutes. The remaining 0.2% of his time was spent executing the plan.

Do yourself a favor, spend just a little more time planning your next project.

RSS and IE7

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on December 14, 2005.

I was just browsing around and saw some very, very good news. Microsoft was looking for an icon to use for their Web browser to indicate that a site has RSS feeds available. They came up with a bunch of their own, posted in their blog about it, asking what the people thought. The result? People said liked the icon Firefox already used. It is at this point that things could go only one of two ways: 1: Microsoft does their usual; forging their own path, ignoring everyone else, creating their own symbol 2: Work with people and set up a standard Oddly enough, this time they went with option two. As they wrote here, they met up with the Mozilla folk and have decided to use the icon Firefox is already using. Simply awesome. Standardizing is something that seems like it should be common sense, but has never come easily. There are so many proprietary formats and tangents away from standards that it makes developing more and more challenging. While this has less effect on the actual coding here, it's great to see cooperation among those guiding the way. So kudos to both Microsoft and Mozilla for improving the user-experience. Stuff like this actually gets me looking forward to IE7, rather than dreading what my Websites might look like under the new rendering (and the thought of learning more hacks to make things look right).

We (Finally) Have Signage

Posted by Nils Menten on December 8, 2005.

iMarc's Sign
It's been over five years since our move to downtown Newburyport. Over this time we've watched local artists capture Inn Street in every way they know how: paintings, photographs, quick sketches, even the occasional video shoot.

(A couple examples: Newburyport Downtown,

We've always been missing from these paintings, at least until now.

The next time you're strolling down Inn Street, look up and you'll find a slick new 4' by 2' black and green sign that says:

Interactive Media Architects

Annual Holiday Party

Posted by Nils Menten on December 8, 2005.

iMarc's 6th annual holiday party is just around the corner...

When: Thursday, December 8th @ 6pm
Where: iMarc's Newburyport office (directions)
Who: The iMarc team will be there. We hope that lots of our clients and friends come too.
RSVP: Send an email to if you're coming

This year's theme is Wine City (Wine and Sin City) - more info... Like last year, we'll have wine tasting, good music, and food.

Postcard Invitations

See you there!

Unintended Consequences

Posted by Robert Mohns on December 7, 2005.

The "Law of Unintended Consequences" states that when you change a system, there will be resulting changes that you could not predict, and did not intend. When I was in high school, our guidance counselors told us that many of us would someday have jobs that didn't even exist yet. (I, of course, didn't believe them.) Over a decade later, we have interactive designers, web developers, and information architects, all developing strategy and content for a kind of business that didn't even exist in 1990.

Here's another one: commercial color printing.

In the early 90's, there were some really interesting developments in 4-color printing that basically allowed a print shop to bypass the traditional plate setup work. At the time, those in the industry thought this would mean that local print shops would take on more small but full color print jobs.

What really happened? Super-short run printing met the internet, and boom!

Nobody saw it coming. Even the famed Bill Gates has been incredibly, amazingly wrong. In his early 90's book "The Road Ahead", he made a lot of bold predictions about the future directions of computing, yet he was completely blind-sided by the Internet. Who would have expected a largely academic and government network managed by a non-profit entity to change the world?

This morning, Fred received a shipment of a dozen or so gorgeous full color 2006 calendars featuring his photography. Photos were uploaded to around 12:30am in the morning on Monday; calendars were printed a few hours later; these colorful holiday gifts were put on a truck and delivered to Fred less than two days later. Unintended consequences are cool.

Hybrid7: An Art Project

Posted by Fred LeBlanc on December 5, 2005.

In an attempt to convey our different views, a couple of us iMarcians have started an art project which for now we're calling Hybrid7. (Mainly because we're squatting on one of Craig's domains.) This project is an attempt to explore who we are, what we see and how we interact with the everyday things around us. The premise is simple: weekly, the three of us (Craig, Christian and I) will each find two items around Newburyport as subjects. These can be places, items, people, anything, and each of our jobs for the week is to shoot a picture of each item. Every Friday, we'll post our results side-by-side and we'll see how the results turn out. We've been trying not to see what one another is taking to purify the outcome, but even in the first issue you'll see that a couple of the pictures even came out similar. And that's perfectly fine. It's the way we see things. Over time we hope to develop quite a catalog of pictures. The objects and deadlines help to spur creativity forward even through times when it may not be obviously present. Not only are we exploring how we see things but we're also making the uninteresting interesting. You get three views items that one may normally never even consider in their daily travels. We're making the things you may walk by everyday stand out and impress. Or so we hope to accomplish. The project is young, but the first issue is up and we're ready to churn forward. Check it out.