Wednesday 31 August 2005
FIRST FRIENDSTER THEN ORKUT and then a long line of social networking sites emerged, including the professionally-focused Linked In.
Over a year and a half ago I joined all the social networking sites I was invited to. I figured hey, who am I to say no to a party invitation? But social networking sites in general didn’t keep my attention, although I do retain an interest in social languages, such as XFN.
With the exception of Flickr, for which I have a passion that goes beyond words (that’s kinda the point of Flickr, yeah?) I became quickly disinterested in the more Friendster-like social networking sites.
In the past 30 days, though, it seems as though Linked In has become very active again. I’ve received nearly 20 invites from friends, many overseas but some in the U.S. as well. It got me to thinking: What on earth caused this renewed interest in Linked In?
Tuesday 30 August 2005
I’ve been chatting lately with Markus Mielke of Microsoft.
Markus is sprucing up Microsoft’s documentation for Internet Explorer. His first article will attempt to remove some of the mystery surrounding
hasLayout. Ingo Chao and band have supplied some great fixes for anomalies caused by
hasLayout Markus’ document will explain the mystery behind this property and the effects it has on page rendering. He is keen to do more and has agreed to take requests from fellow web developers!
Is there an area of IE documentation that you think is lacking or needs improving?
Markus wants to know!
Comment here, because even though Dean is in his kitchen, and his server can’t take the strain, he really likes to read your comments.
OKAY OKAY! Yet another cartoon of me. This time my mom would be proud, because it’s really caught my, erm, mercurial personality.
Not that I have one of those. Really.
Note that the artist, Chris Flick, who did this for Community MX, has fled his home to parts unknown this week.
Now, I ask you, gentle reader: Do you think this an intended departure?
Sunday 28 August 2005
I’m wondering how to properly frame my discussion about Joe.
Joe Clark is not always nice.
But Joe and I have found reasons to chat. It’s given me a broader perspective about Joe, and what he has to share.
I’ve learned that Joe Clark is courageous. This is what I like most about him. As a presenter, he will provide detailed and important accessibility information to you and do it in such a way that is not only relevant, but funny too. You will learn how to apply what you learn in very practical ways, and also learn where the pitfalls of Web accessibility lie.
Joe appeals to those with a great sense of humor and a true desire to be challenged.
Joe is a cut-through-the-bullshit person. While not always pleasant, the blunt truth is a faster way to get the job done. Like ripping a bandaid off quickly, or jumping right into the pool. The shock stops your heart for a moment, but the pain is fleeting.
So, what shall we do with Joe Clark?
Creating some color swatches on a pre-dawn Sunday morn.
Saturday 27 August 2005
HERE’S A LITTLE MOVIE of me ranting about blogs and blogging. A bit of context, this was taken at the Blog Business Summit last week in San Francisco. The short movie is linked from the photo, it’s 21,327 KB in .mov format.
The question was asked: “At what point does internal controversy become important to express to audience members?” Readers here will know I’m a renegade when it comes to this – I believe the authentic voice can help in all public relations. In this answer, I’m referring to certain Microsoft employees who have stepped up and even risked jobs in order to try and attend to public demand for information.
My response to the question:
“Because those individuals have been given a blog voice, a lot of times they will step over the line and just put that controversy out, or answer the question, knowing that on the inside they might be causing trouble for their own jobs . . . but knowing that the public is expecting that of them. It is a very difficult thing to do.
I think it takes a lot of courage. Blogging in general – if you’re doing it well – it’s an act of courage. In my opinion, if you’re doing it well, it’s an act of courage.”
The way I see it, if you want a blog to be interesting, particularly from a business perspective, it has to be personal, authentic and even controversial. Otherwise, don’t blog – it’s not going to be interesting.
Courage is interesting. Stepping out of the expected is interesting. Facilitating change is interesting. Publishing legalese and press releases is not interesting, nor is it very courageous.
What do you think – is blogging about breaking rules? I can promise you this, as a blogger who has watched corporate blogs change the face of a closed company such as Microsoft into one that is far more forward facing than ever, I don’t believe conservative use of blogs is in order. If the attorneys and marketing departments are watching every blog post for potential problems, then doesn’t the blog just end up becoming a long list of public relations bullshit?
Thursday 25 August 2005
It is with great pleasure that I introduce Kazuhito Kidachi as the newest member of WaSP. Kazuhito will be our liaison to Japan, working with the growing number of standards-oriented designers there to spread the good word.
With joy and pleasure, welcome, Kazuhito.
In other WaSP news, here’s what’s on tap and I promise quite refreshing:
- WaSP will have a complete redesign within one month tops
- WaSP is reorganizing in order to support the action-oriented times in which we live: more DOM, more accessibility, more standards
Okay, now get this – we will be opening comments (yes we’ll moderate) but oh yeah, we are very interested in what constructive issues you have.
How cool is that? You have no idea what a triumph it is within WaSP to be able to open up to your comments, and I can’t wait until we can. I’ve long disliked our one-sided relationship.
Still, patience is everything, darlings. Let’s say within a month? At least on WaSP. Here at my place . . .
I look forward to the conversation!
Tuesday 23 August 2005
DANIEL WRITES IN AND WONDERS about good resources to learn more about prototyping for Web design.
“I’m having problems with the whole concept of storyboarding. My problem I think is that I’m not a designer by background. I have years of IT experience . . . I have in the past designed application programs and am familiar with flowcharts, hierarchy diagrams . . . but still I seem to have Web designer’s block!”
There are several approaches to this problem that I typically advocate. First, there’s the complete standards-based prototype. In this model, Photoshop comps are broken down directly into XHTML and CSS wireframes, which are then flexible enough to use as the layout, colors, fonts and other design elements are built into the design.
The advantage of this approach is that it is very fast, and if done properly, results in having the basic templates already complete, reducing the need to return to visual tools to describe changes in the design.
Eric Meyer and I will be presenting on this topic in October at the UI10 Conference in our session, Design Prototyping Made Easy with CSS.
Another approach, especially useful for those who prefer working within a visual tool has been advocated by Andy Clarke. His articles CSS: Markup Guides and Work Smarter with Fireworks Symbols both demonstrate useful techniques for addressing wireframing and workflow.
Andy will be demonstrating his workflow techniques during the WOW Web Design and Project Management event this September, joining Aaron Gustafson and I for three days of practical XHTML, CSS, web graphic design and workflow.
Insofar as helpful books, Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler’s Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that Works offers up some great ideas and is essentially the workflow book in Web design.
On behalf of Daniel’s request and to appease my own curiosity – any resources, books, tools or suggestions for prototype and wireframe workflow models would be very welcome!
Monday 22 August 2005
RECENT DISCUSSION ABOUT shape reminded me of research I’d done some years ago regarding the symbology of shape and color in Nazi concentration camps.
Triangles played a profound role in the way Nazis – notorious for good record keeping – identified and tracked prisoners. Color is equally if not more important in the coding used, as is direction. The triangles are all inverted, with the exception of the Star of David, which contains both an upward facing and inverted triangle, as well as six smaller, intersected triangles.
Blue triangles represented immigrants. Brown, the gypsies. Anti-socials and lesbians (often those women and men trying to fight off sexual or physical attacks) – a black triangle.
The Nazis enjoyed classifying prisoners by type. While there were some differences with these shape and color coding practices from camp to camp, generally speaking a green triangle represented a regular criminal: a burglar, for example. Red triangles were worn by political prisoners, particularly communists. Purple triangles were worn by Christian Fundamentalists opposing the war. Note that purple is related to death and mourning in Catholic Europe.
Jewish prisoners wore yellow Stars of David as identification. The pink triangle represented male homosexual prisoners. The lowest prisoner in the hierarchy of camps wore a yellow Star of David under a sumperimposed pink triangle.
This of course represented a gay Jew.
Wednesday 17 August 2005
I HAD AN ENJOYABLE DAY spending time over at Technorati. Tantek Çelik invited me to come down and chat with some of the engineers there and gain insight into the challenges of building a specialty search engine for blogs.
Time spent one-on-one with the Vice President of Engineering, Adam Hertz, was especially informative and interesting.
Technorati’s Oft-Slow Performance
A well-known issue has been that Technorati server performance can be very slow, and apparently the reason is a bit more complex than one might imagine. Technorati understands the problem very well, and has in fact made solving it priority one.
Adam drew an upward facing triangle on a whiteboard and told me it’s known as the “Devil’s Triangle” around the office. The bottom left angle is marked as query rate, the top is marked data set and the bottom right angle is update rate.
While data set and query rate are involved in other types of search engines, the update rate is a feature that is challenging Technorati. Unlike a traditional search engine, which doesn’t look at update frequency, Technorati is constantly logging updates to blogs as well as managing data sets and queries, and this is the area where the most problem solving needs to be done.
“It used to take hours for us to index a blog, now it takes minutes.”
Web Standards Allow Better Searches
We know this from past experience, but in this case, Technorati doesn’t just look at text as Google or Yahoo! do. The engine looks for discrete information within a page such as a blogroll. Apparently, blogs that conform to standards-based template designs are easier to do this with because they are marked up properly to begin with. Services such as MSN Spaces are also easier to grab information from, because the discrete data is in consistent locations within the document.
Knowing this makes a strong argument for bloggers with custom designs to use meaningful markup and CSS if they want Technorati to parse their blogs more effectively.
Think Tags Don’t Matter? Think again.
Several respected colleagues have expressed that tags don’t matter – D.L. Byron said it in exactly that way. Adam had a lot of insight about this, pointing out that when you apply a Technorati tag to something you’re assigning meaning to it. This is important because it extends the meaning of a given post.
An example would be if I have a post about a beautiful rainbow I saw while taking my car to get repaired. I might mention my car, along with the repair issues. A regular search engine isn’t able to distinguish that the post is really about the rainbow, not the car. But an author who tags the post can extend the meaning via a tag, let’s say, rainbow.
This allows people searching Technorati to hone in on posts about rainbows and end up with results that are far more specific to their query.
“We’re trying to do two things, be of service to bloggers and of service to readers.”
Two interesting Technorati tag facts:
- If you tag posts using any of the current top ten tags, this boosts traffic to your blog. Of course, this is to me a bit of an SEO Snake Oil Strategy, because the goal is to up the traffic by not using tags relevant to your post
- There is a great animation of tag growth at Technorati. You can view the small version (12.2 MB) or the large version (20 MB) or grab it via this torrent link – it’s distributed under a Creative Commons attribution NonCommercial license
“Using tags is a social act as well . . . I’m not just tagging that post so I can keep track of what it’s about, I want other people to find it, and, I’m participating . . . in building a collection of information on these topics”
After my visit with Adam, Tantek and I had a nice conversation over coffee a bit later in the day and we talked more about tagging from a technology standpoint, microformats in general and the relationship between technology and society. I’ll be writing more about that in the not-so-distant future both here and for InformIT.
It was a terrific time, complete with a Thai lunch with David Sifry, Ryan King, Derek Powazek and Tantek and Adam. So many thanks to Tantek and Technorati for welcoming me so warmly, and answering all of my questions in such detail.
Despite the problems building, improving and scaling a specialty search engine, Technorati is a company built on passion for the Web, for blogs, for individuals and for society at large.
Hey everybody, this isn’t Molly posting this — it’s Mike Rundle from Business Logs and I’m currently hanging out with Molly and Scrivs late at night in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. We’re slightly inebriated at the moment, so I wanted to quickly pontificate about what a great night we all had. Hanging out with great web standards folk like Eris and Matt have been a lot of fun, and we’re all really excited about the Blog Business Summit the rest of the week. Okay, 4am, time for bed. Later y’all!
Tuesday 16 August 2005
IN NOVEMBER I get to do something I always enjoy: Go to the U.K. This time, it’s for a workshop I’m co-presenting along with Andy “Malarkey” Clarke. Here’s a bit about the event:
The course is aimed specifically at helping visual people start designing in CSS. Throughout the day we will look at how CSS can be used to manage space, shape, colour, typography and other aspects of graphic design. It is an essential course for any designer who wants to move from creating restrictive table-based grid layouts to using more fluid CSS-based layouts. There will be visual examples from other genres of design including fine arts, architecture and product design to show you exactly what can be done with CSS. There will also be plenty of time to ask specific questions or pose individual problems on the day.
We hope to see you there! Early bird registration continues through Friday and comes along with a discount. For registration and additional information, please see the event home page.
Thursday 11 August 2005
YOU HEAR ABOUT A MOVIE when it comes out. It clocks on your radar because someone gives it a thumbs up, but years pass before you actually see it. Occasionally, this ends up in you watching the film thinking how on earth did I miss this?
Nurse Betty is one of those gems that I somehow missed. I remember my youngest brother telling me it was excellent – he’d seen it on screen back in 2000 when it was first released. Usually, if Linus tells me a movie is good, I find it good as well – we share a taste for very dark humor.
The film is in fact excellent, due in no small part to the script. A script can be brilliant and fall flat without the talent to carry it out, but in this case, the acting does not disappoint. With memorable performances from the likes of Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Renée Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, Tia Texada and Crispin Glover, the film is both funny and very, very disturbing.
The plot involves Zellweger’s character, fresh-faced Betty Sizemore, finding herself through a series of bizarre incidents. A small-town waitress married to a sleazy car-slash-drug dealer, Betty dreams of becoming a nurse and lives out her fantasy daily through her favorite soap opera, “A Reason to Love.”
When her husband is brutally murdered by Freeman and Rock, who are looking for drugs that Betty’s husband has hidden in one of his autos, Betty witnesses the killing from another room. In her shock, she sublimates her husband’s gruesome death and goes on an adventure to find the real man of her dreams: The fictitious Dr. Ravell (Kinnear).
As the story unfolds, the blurring of what is real and what is fantastical increases. The plot has many rich twists, and the acting is so top-notch that it comes off without a hitch.
Perhaps the most disturbing character in the story is played by Rock. Some reviews I’ve read suggest that he didn’t carry the part because it was so brutal, and he’s known for his comedy. I, however, have to disagree and say he not only carried the role, but did so in such a way that added a level of extra creepiness. Of course, with Crispin Glover on the set, that probably wasn’t an easy thing to do, because Glover doesn’t have to be in character to be creepy.
Nurse Betty: A found classic. If you’ve never seen it and enjoy dark comedy, I highly recommend it. It’s not for the kids though, there’s explicit violence, but it is a memorable and worthy film.
Find any classics lately?
Tuesday 9 August 2005
I say unsurprising because the findings are in step with some fairly well-accepted ideas about how men and women relate to design, at least in general.
A point made by Gloria Moss, Research Fellow and co-author of the study describes how men and women differ in their approach to shape:
“ . . . males favour the use of straight lines (as opposed to rounded forms) . . .”
That women like circles and men prefer straight lines is no accident. If we look to known archetypes, the circle signifies the feminine and attributes considered to be feminine: curves, community and cooperative communication. The straight line signifies the male not only physically, but in terms of representing focus and linear thought and communication.
These archetypes historically appear in product design, which is where Moss and her colleague, statistician Rod Gunn, make some compelling points about how gender bias among Web designers could have significant impact on the way visitors to Web sites interact with Web sites.
Gunn points out that:
“. . . there is no doubt about the strength of men and women’s preference for sites produced by people of their own sex.”
One of my favorite examples of shape in product design has to do with the design of automobiles.
Cars that are meant to appeal to men tend to have more straight lines and as a result, angles, in their design.
Consider the Ford GT. This car is most decidedly geared to be sold to males, and its design is so full of straight lines and angles the car almost appears to be a flat, straight line.
Those vehicles meant to appeal to women have more curves. The VW Bug is predominantly bought by women, and it is all about round.
There are many other visual examples of this across design and the fine arts, and the Glamorgan study raises a significant issue about matching gender styles to audiences in order to achieve more effective communication on Web sites.
According to Moss:
“If website flow is to be maximised, greater attention needs to be given to the production aesthetic used and the consequent appeal websites will have to their target markets. Given the strong tendency for each sex to prefer the output of its own sex, it does not make sense to attempt to appeal to women using an aesthetic which is largely male.”
Moss and Gunn studied groups in Wales, France and Poland and their findings have crossed national boundaries. This suggests that at least to the Western eye and ear, the esthetics influencing how male and female Web designers use shape, type, space as well as language is consistent.
Awareness of this esthetic difference can allow both female and male designers to incorporate that knowledge into how they approach a given design. If the site is selling to women versus men, taking into account the linearization of esthetics will very likely improve how site visitors interact with that site.
Monday 8 August 2005
Put on your clogs and dance, because Happy Clog wants you to. Happy Clog, you say? Isn’t that Zeldman’s design company? No, no my friends. That would be Happy Cog.
Happy Clog is the pun-ny name coined for a new standards group emerging in the Netherlands. The goal of the group is not only to unite Dutch standards-based designers and developers, but to provide social outreach to anyone interested in standards – and more.
Faruk Ates of KuraFire.net and founder of the group says that Happy Clog has several goals in mind, not the least of which is to create a conference most likely to be held in Amsterdam. While still in the early planning stages, Ates revealed some of the group’s ideas as to how and why this conference will stand out:
“We have three target audiences in mind for the conference – all separate groups but closely related ones: business executives (those who decide), web developers (those who make) and college professors (those who teach).”
The conference would be held in English, with speakers from abroad as well as local to the Netherlands, much like the model first created by the Web Essentials conference in Syndey, and expanded upon by @media in London.
Ates describes ideas to ensure that there’s plenty of daytime networking and birds-of-a-feather sessions, something that is often missing from events yet is frequently cited as the most valuable part of a conference experience:
“One suggestion for that is to have parallel sessions, two at a time so that the third group can mingle and ask questions informally over some coffee and cake.”
Happy Clog’s current membership features accomplished standards developers and designers including Anne Van Kesteren, Egor Kloos, Mark Wubben, Rob Mientjes and WaSP DOM Scripting Task Force’s own Peter-Paul Koch.
Happy Clog is not the first national group to emerge out of standards. The Web Standards Group is doing great work in Australia with outreach to the rest of the world via its interviews, workshops and related resources. In Japan, Kazuhito Kidachi has been working tirelessly to promote Web standards and reports that there are hundreds of members signed up to his Web standards community on the mixi social networking site.
And of course there’s the Brit Pack who not only promote standards in Great Britain, but invaded the U.S. this year when significant representation came to SXSW and later extended its reach and inspiration to the world via @media2005.
The emergence of such groups with strong national identities yet a real desire to reach out and interact with other nations is a fascinating and, to my way of thinking, very powerful way of preserving and promoting national identity on a global scale. Transcending the standards issues, initiatives of this kind are truly serving to remind us that it is the World Wide Web after all.