Wednesday 28 September 2005

Moments of Doubt and Glory

IT’S 5:00 AM IN SYDNEY and in just a few hours I am going to do something I’ve never done: keynote a conference, in this case the highly regarded Web Essentials 2005 event. Many readers are well aware that I’ve been on the conference circuit for a very long time, and have enjoyed many opportunities to speak to peers about topics I love, to learn from others in the process, and to travel the world while doing so.

But a keynote talk is a major milestone in my life, for a few reasons. We all have our times of doubt, and the last few years haven’t been easy ones in that regard for me. Just because a person seems to be successful doesn’t necessarily mean he or she feels that way. In fact, I’ve felt very unfocused, deeply confused as to who I am and my place in my profession and the role I play, and have felt the wear and tear of too much hard living and work burnout. At many levels, I feel unworthy of such an honor, much less one that is coming from such a highly regarded group. On the other hand, I know I’ve put in so many years and passion as an evangelist and teacher about Web technologies and the Web itself that at some point the recognition is something I do deserve.

Funny how we are, isn’t it? We get something great in life and question whether we’re worthy, even when everyone around us believes we are. We get something bad in life, and we complain, but we often are the cause of the bad thing or in those cases where we’re not, we feel responsible at some level, or that we deserve bad. This is a mindset I see in almost everyone I know – it’s a rare and valuable thing to have self-esteem. I’ve always been good at coming off as though I have it, but I don’t. What I do have is a certain cockiness and fuck-the-naysayers mentality, and that’s what’s gotten me to this point.

I guess what I want to express here is that I’m pretty blown away to be honored in such a way. I want to be worthy of this honor and I want to rock that audience later today as best as I can with as much passion and all the love I have for people, for my peers, and for my readers and supporters who have helped me get to this place that many speakers and authors never get to. My own mother told me last week that it was something she had always wanted to achieve: to keynote an event within her profession, and it’s something she never did achieve. She also told me that now I, as her daughter, am able to achieve that dream for her as well.

So I hope you’ll indulge me in a toast on this very important day in my life.

Here’s to my wonderful hosts here in Australia, to serving my peers and community with passion and pride, to giving my mother the piece of something she’d always wanted but never achieved, and to rising above my own self-doubts and feeling the glory and goodness of achievement that we all deserve.

Thank you all for helping me to achieve this day.

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Posted by:   Molly | 12:29 | Comments (56)

Monday 26 September 2005

Taxing the Internet and Trying my Patience

TAXING THE INTERNET is not a new idea, nor is it particularly novel. However, so far we’ve managed to stave off the issue because responsible, globally oriented people have worked hard to not allow that to happen. But now the problem is resurfacing, and from a disturbing sector – the blogging public.

Fellow author and blogger Dave Taylor writes about why he thinks an Internet tax for online commerce is a good idea. With each word in his post, particularly in the interview section, I felt my well-known idealistic self losing all patience and wanting to scream out loud.

The problems with Internet taxation are pretty damned self-evident. The first problem is the global nature of the medium. Who gets the tax money? How is it regulated? Where does it go? Just think for a moment of the infrastructure that would have to be put in place to manage something of that nature. Who would fund that? And to what benefit? Just thinking about it should make every reader here very, very concerned.

As if we really need more layers of Kafkaesque hell in this world.

Then there are privacy issues. Taxing online purchases means that not only will sellers have access to information about how, where and when I purchase goods, but so will governments. I’m of the mindset that privacy is mostly dead anyway, but I surely don’t want to purposely give any government more information – particularly about where my earnings (that aren’t ripped out of my hands in the first place) actually go.

I do not believe many people selling online will want to participate in taxation. It hurts, not helps, the business model. The global marketplace thrives in many cases because people aren’t taxed. This is good news for both sellers and buyers because we get rid of the middleman. What about states rights, too? Certain states in the U.S. have no sales tax. Suddenly those individuals are being taxed? I can only imagine how this breaks down when we begin to examine taxation worldwide.

If the sentiment is to take tax money and use it for good, well that’s a nice sentiment. I haven’t seen that happen here in the U.S. In fact, my tax dollars have been mishandled to the point that I live in a constant state of shock and horror as my nation makes blunder after blunder, committing my hard-earned dollars to a war I firmly believe we shouldn’t be in and simultaneously failing its nation’s citizens during some of the darkest, saddest days we’ve ever known. I am deeply ashamed of my nation, which for the record, I happen to love very much for its freedoms despite this current government’s failings.

The Internet and specifically the Web are instruments of global change. The most noble manifestation of the Web is how it brings us together as people, matching those that have with those that need. Idealistic? You bet. But there are plenty of instances to point to where people around the Web have come together during crises to inform, assist and comfort. Adding regulatory and governmental complexity to the soup isn’t going to help anyone economically, except government.

Surely from such a sophisticated global network as we have with the Internet, which is contributed to daily by hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life as well as all nations, can emerge a far better means of community fundraising, goods distribution and individual responsibility that eliminates the need for Internet taxes, or any taxes, at all.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 12:24 | Comments (27)

Saturday 24 September 2005

Got Browser Woes? Think Again.

IF YOU’VE BEEN LOSING HAIR due to browser incompatibilities on the desktop, blame your remaining gray hairs on IE 6.0, Safari or Opera bugs and implementation problems, and have felt the calcium leeching from your tired bones while trying to make standards-based sites compatible in older browsers, you may wish to stop reading right now.

As we expand our horizons from desktop to wireless, browser support isn’t going to get easier. In fact, anyone who has done wireless development already knows cross-device and wireless agent development is much more insane than anything we deal with on the desktop.

The battles we’ve fought and ultimately appear to be winning for screen-based browsers have done nothing to inspire those in the wireless manufacturing and user agent environment to think standards. Add to that literally thousands of unique wireless devices, many with proprietary user agent implementations, and if you haven’t gone bald, gray or lost bone mass, you’re about to.

Here’s a little taste, and I do mean a little, of what kind of XHTML support major agents sport.

Device or Browser XHTML Support
Openwave XHTML MP (XHTML Mobile Profile) and WML Extensions
Access Systems XHTML Basic
AU Systems XHTML Basic

“Okay,” you’re thinking. “That doesn’t look so bad! It’s pretty much either XHTML MP or XHTML Basic, right?”

Wrong. Despite the simplicity of both the XHTML MP and XHTML Basic specifications, there’s such inconsistent implementation between the individual devices and browsers it’s enough to make a standardista give up the old holy ghost.

Ready for another morsel? If you’ve read this far, you know you are. So here’s a little taste (and I do mean little) of mobile device and browser inconsistencies:

  • title element woes. Some browsers render it as text, some use it properly within existing agent chrome, some use it for bookmarking. Which does what? You’ll have to test to find out, because even devices coming from the same manufacturer are likely to have different rendering capabilities
  • Device manufacturers like to confuse us. Samsung, for example, uses the AU System browser but, get this, implements their own rendering engine. That’s almost as weird as Netscape 8.0 and its dual Trident / Gecko rendering engines
  • Provider gateways are not our friend. If MIME types and content negotiation in XHTML 1.0 and 1.1 annoy you, try this on for size. Provider gateways can totally influence the rendering of your documents. Some are sophisticated: They let only valid, conforming XHTML through. Some don’t. Some might translate any graphics, or drop them all together

I did say this was only a little taste, right? Well, we haven’t even covered mobile CSS support, which is either very limited or downright non-existent in most mobile environments. Where it does exist, what happens to many of the best practices we teach for the screen? Out the window! Why? Because most existing mobile browsers that support CSS do not cache CSS! As a result, any CSS in use must be embedded or inline.

I’ll revisit CSS in mobile devices on another day. Right now I think I need to go color my hair.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 09:01 | Comments (164)

Tuesday 20 September 2005

My Heart Be Still: Vincent D’Onofrio and Chris Noth

Vincent D’Onofrio and Chris Noth appear together in the U.S. premiere of Law and Order’s: Criminal Intent. It’s a new season, this Sunday, September 25 on NBC.

Though not my favorite of the Law and Order spinoffs, that’s just really hot.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 20:34 | Comments (82)

Friday 16 September 2005

No Mr. Ballmer, Microsoft Will Not Win the Web

Reading through an article about Microsoft in Business Week, I was not shocked but oh so enraged by this bit from an interview with CEO Steve Ballmer:

“We won the desktop. We won the server. We will win the Web. We will move fast, we will get there. We will win the Web.”

In the past months, WaSP and Microsoft have been working together in the trenches to improve standards support in Microsoft products. While this is certainly a very positive move on Microsoft’s part, critics of both Microsoft and WaSP have pointed out Microsoft’s long history of aggressive business practices and ideologies. As a member of the WaSP / Microsoft Task Force, I’m extremely confident that the developers we’re working with get it and it’s been my take to separate Microsoft business practices and ideologies from the day-to-day software development work. And I stand by that perspective.

What I cannot stay silent about when reading these words is how blatantly uncaring a statement this is. How ignorant and arrogant and just plain wrong.

The Web is not a prize to be won, and Mr. Ballmer’s attitude is deplorable in the light of what the Web means to the world, to users, to designers and developers and to put it into Microsoft parlance, customers.

The Web belongs to everyone. The Web’s core vision and value is to be platform independent. Microsoft has no right to think it can win a tool that is for the people, of the people, and ultimately – by the people.

No Mr. Ballmer, you will never win the Web for one very good reason: We the people will make sure you never do.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 14:47 | Comments (135)

Thursday 8 September 2005

Searching for Standards

I did a small comparative analysis of markup practices at several major search engines. It’s interesting to note that only one engine is using valid markup and CSS layouts, and that would be MSN. Close behind is AOL, whose validation problems are mostly related to ampersands not being escaped, and HotBot, who have a few easily corrected errors.

Engine Markup Language Table Layouts or CSS? Markup Validation
Alta Vista Presentational HTML, no DOCTYPE Tables Does Not Validate
AOL (beta) XHTML 1.0 Transitional CSS Does Not Validate (mostly due to ampersands not being escaped)
Excite Presentational HTML, HTML 4.01 DOCTYPE Tables Does Not Validate
Google HTML, no DOCTYPE Tables Does Not Validate
HotBot XHTML 1.0 Strict CSS Does Not Validate but only a few conformance errors
Lycos Presentational HTML, no DOCTYPE Tables Does Not Validate
MSN XHTML 1.0 Strict CSS Validates
Yahoo! HTML 4.01 Transitional with presentational and proprietary elements and attributes in use, partial DOCTYPE CSS Does Not Validate

With the exception of Yahoo! which I know has progressive developers examining markup issues, it’s curious to think that many search engines and portals, which tend to be highly trafficked, haven’t been exposed to the benefits of Web standards.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 03:35 | Comments (72)

Tuesday 6 September 2005

How 9rules Wore me Down

9 rules network
I GUESS I MUST BE EASY because today I became an official member of the 9rules network. After several weeks of relentlessly pursuing me with promises of gifts and fame and fortune, Scrivs and Rundle and Oliphant finally wore me down.

Why would I, who carry no ads on this site and do not give two hoots about A, B, or C lists join a network whose mission is in part to build traffic? Well, the answer is: Exposure and rich content. There are some significantly impressive sites within the 9rules network, Roger Johansson’s fantastic 456 Berea Street, Kartooner and Snook among them.

I also like that there’s an effort to get more women’s sites and more international sites involved. So, I’ll give 9rules a spin, and let’s make sure we all hold Scrivs to his promises of plying me with free drinks next we meet.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 18:12 | Comments (43)

Slashdot Goes CSS: Help Beta Test

AFTER 8 YEARS. That’s EIGHT years, the infamous Slashdot is finally working with CSS. They are asking folks to look at their CSS and report bugs.

And don’t blame me if you can’t connect. We’re talking Slashdot after all.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 09:28 | Comments (7)

An Event Apart: Don’t Miss One

ZELDMAN AND MEYER are two names that will always pack a punch when it comes to being shapers of the Web. Now, they’ve teamed up for the long-awaited, content-rich Event Apart.

Having worked side by side with Eric for many years, I know how much fun he is to learn from. And Jeffrey never fails to be thought-provoking and entertaining, too. Yeah, they’re my great friends so I’m biased, but who cares. They’re two among the very few best when it comes to knowledge, experience and the ability and willingness to share it.

I’m interested in the fact that the first Event kicks off in Philadelphia – a great city that has long been under-represented in terms of killer Web workshops and conferences.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 07:42 | Comments (7)

Monday 5 September 2005

Helping Hands for Displaced Designers

DESIGNER MATTHEW RICHMOND of the fantabulous Chopping Block is someone I regard highly not just because of his creative skill, but because he’s a designer who does beautiful Flash work and cares deeply about Web standards, too.

Matthew sent out an email to friends and colleagues about a site dedicated to helping designers displaced by Hurricane Katrina get back on their feet. I felt it was a great thing to be doing for our community at large and wanted to let folks know about it.

The site matches any displaced creative designer with those who are willing to offer a desk, a place to sleep, a computer – anything to help folks get back to work and re-establish self-sufficience.

If you have resources to offer or are in need due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, please visit Displaced Designer for more information.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 16:41 | Comments (5)

Saturday 3 September 2005

Of Old Recordings

GOING THROUGH OLD RECORDINGS today I stumbled across some of the studio work I’ve done. I’ve never shared these because I just now pulled them together, but I hope you’ll enjoy them. Regular readers and old friends know I had a bit of a music career at one time as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. I had some dumb fortune: amazing talent perform my songs with me – ah, Tucson – legendary musical talent but shitty venues. You’ll hear some great playing here that makes me sound lots better than I might have really been.

You can download the tunes (MP3 format, all for broadband) at your leisure from the directory page or one at a time here. This first batch came from a locally distributed album I did back in 1990 called Mysteries Involving Circles and Rings.

  • Terra Cotta Slumber. One of my earliest songs written for guitar, composed somewhere around 1980. Recorded here in 1990 with the phenomenal guitarist Ed DeLucia featured playing acoustic lead.
  • Lost Heroes. The line about George Bush makes me shiver considering I wrote it about George I. Beautiful lead guitar work once again from Ed.
  • Postcard from Haiti. Something for you folks who want a little more rock in your political roll.

Here are a few other things I found:

  • Life as a River. Recorded at Crash Landing Studios with Courage Sisters. Me, Patty Sundberg, Don Reeve (another phenomenal guitarist – listen for the soaring electric leads in this one), and fantabulous Marx Loeb on drums.
  • This Heart. A one-off recorded with my amazing friend Mark who walked into the studio and we got these harmonies down in one take. An uplifting love song with more guitar from Ed DeLucia (sound quality unfortunately not so good, but Mark’s vocals are worth it).
  • Wrapped in Gray. Just me: lead and harmony vocals, guitar. A song contrasting my life with the death of my father. Annoyingly long, but the lyrics are cinematic.

I have more. Let me know what you think.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 14:08 | Comments (12)

Friday 2 September 2005

Prayer for New Orleans

MY BROTHER MORRIS is a man deeply connected to the world and to spirituality. I’ve long admired him for this, because he’s a very unconventional person (you’re shocked, I’m sure) and yet has found a way to express himself to very diverse groups in an inspirational way.

Today he sent out this prayer, and I feel like sharing it with readers here because it expresses so much of what I, too, feel about what’s going on in New Orleans. So from my brother Morris, to all my fellow humans at this disturbing time, I offer you a Prayer for New Orleans.

As a man of deep faith I find myself compelled to pray. Won’t you
please join me? If you are not a person of faith please take this time
to consider tragedy and intend and act for healing and support of
victims in whatever way is most nurturing for you.

Let us pray for all of those who have suffered in the path of natural
disaster and human cruelty.

Let us pray for those who have strayed from the path towards sanctity by
speaking evil of others.

Let us pray for those who have pointed fingers of judgement at the
entire citizenry of vast communities.

Let us pray for those who have attempted to speak for the almighty;
those who dare to speak of others they do not know as sinners and those
who assert natural disaster is punishment from above.

Let us pray for those who attempt to rise up by using religious language
while denegrating their fellow human beings instead of seeking to
improve themselves.

Let us pray for those who have forgotten the golden rule and treat
others poorly or offer only condemnation in the face of loss and suffering.

Let us pray for those whom instead of rising to help a neighbor in
distress seek to use tragedy to forward their own narrowminded idea of
what is right.

Let us pray for those who think they know it all.

Let us pray that we can join together and work for good.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 12:05 | Comments (14)

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