Thursday 27 July 2006

Dear John (Dvorak)

Dear John,

I know it will come as a complete shock to you and everyone who knows me to find out I’ve actually been holding my tongue and waiting to respond to this one.

You see, I had to sort through a few emotional issues before talking with you. Some suggest that answering you could be a bad thing.

That’s my first inclination: Ignore the problem, it will go away. But then again, others advocate challenging your CSS issues head-on.

Not ever having been a wilting rose in this relationship, I suppose at the end of the day I’m going to have to speak my mind. But instead of having a tantrum, I’m going to make it very, very easy on you.

In fact, I’m going to make you an offer that would fully and totally break my heart if you refuse. The offer? I will come to you and help you learn CSS.

Give me two days, dear John, and I promise you will know the Cascade intimately. You will understand origin, sort order, even the specificity algorithm. I will teach you the secrets of CSS in a way that I am sure no one has ever taught you before. You will be able to float, position and even hover in ways you probably never imagined possible.

I will teach you why you don’t need hacks, or when you do. I will teach you the workarounds, the ups and downs, the ins and outs. I will do this for free, at my expense, on my dime and on my time because I’m just that convinced that all you need is a little CSS love.

Please, John. This was a very difficult letter to write. You know how I feel about things. You know I want my love for CSS to be our love, together, as it was meant to be. I hope you will have an answer for me soon.

Love always,

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 14:29 | Comments (93)

Tuesday 25 July 2006

Transcendent CSS: Creating the Aesthetic Web

For those folks working with Web standards, particularly CSS, the road’s been a bit of a difficult one. We’ve faced a lot of challenges and continue to face them. But there’s hope on the horizon, lots of hope. This hope has emerged from the hard work of many people who are attempting to transcend the technical problems and create great Web sites. Our joint goal is to create sites that are structurally sound, accessible, usable, and designed with aesthetic appeal for multiple platform use including screen, print, and wherever possible, mobile devices.

Understanding the Challenges

The first challenge we face is that we have to learn CSS, which isn’t particularly easy for most people, especially visual designers accustomed to working in visual design tools such as Photoshop, Fireworks, and so on. There’s a reason for this: CSS was developed by technologists for designers, and it’s only been recently that the W3C’s CSS Working Group has even had input from a visual designer.

This has extended a gap that’s long existed between “creatives” and “techies” and has left us all at a disadvantage. Designers are expected to learn programmatic concepts found in CSS such as conflict resolution, application hierarchies, and the specificity algorithm. Conversely, developers tend to find these concepts familiar, but struggle with aesthetics.

In a typical work environment, these seemingly separate factions are, in fact, separated. Designers sit in their area, developers in theirs. But this is a critical mistake. Because technologists tend to grasp CSS as a technical language, while designers are trained in aesthetics, separating them does nothing to advance our understanding, education, and progress. My first recommendation is that we use the buddy system to solve this problem, and get developers and designers working together. It’s a great divide in some ways, but one that must be breached in order to progress beyond our current state of affairs.

Please, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

We’ve also had to deal with browser compatibility issues. Fortunately, with better CSS in the upcoming IE7, most of us are now in a place where we can design with CSS confidently. Where we cannot, there are good practices to follow, such as using surgical correction techniques and hack strategies; grading browsers and supporting them accordingly; and for some, implementing proprietary techniques such as conditional comments to correct IE-specific concerns. So, at least for the desktop, we’re seeing great strides in this area and out of that will come the opportunity to do progressive work.

So Now What?

We know we’ve got a major learning curve and transition on our hands, and while the software products we use as Web designers and developers are getting better all the time, we still have to know the code. I like to compare using a WYSIWYG tool without understanding markup or CSS as allowing Word to correct your spelling and grammar. If you don’t know that something’s correct or incorrect and allow Word to do all the work, you can end up with a document that is downright unintelligible! So we have to accept that designers must learn as much CSS as we can, and developers must look to designers for help with esthetics. Again, not necessarily an easy task, but one that I believe is fully necessary.

As our skills grow, and our tools become more mature, it becomes imperative that we begin thinking not only about retrofit solutions for existing Web sites, backward compatibility, and how to make something work today, but that we look toward a progressive future where the technology isn’t the focus – the entire quality of the project is.

Principles of Transcendent CSS

The principles of Transcendent CSS are very straightforward:

  • Use CSS that is currently available
  • Deliver better CSS to those browsers able to manage it
  • Use CSS that might not be currently available in such a way that it anticipates a feature. Such features might include attribute, child and adjacent sibling selectors as well as bits of CSS 3.0
  • Embrace a philosophy that combines the value of the designer with the value of the developer to achieve results that literally transcend the limitations of current technologies
  • Look for inspiration off of the Web, not just from other Web sites
  • Collaborate and share your work with the world, don’t keep techniques and solutions private

The interesting reality is that we can do all of these things today, at least theoretically. The problems we’ve faced in the past can be worked around or resolved. What remains for us to manage is accepting and dealing with the learning curve, creating more effective workflows and processes, and getting designers and developers working together.

Changing an ingrained infrastructure and finding the resources to do these things is no doubt a daunting task, but again, one that I feel is absolutely necessary. We need to change in order to move above and beyond the limitations we’re dealing with today and face tomorrow with strong, agile skills; better communication and organization; and ultimately, better Web sites for all.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 16:57 | Comments (25)

Web Professionalism: Continuing the conversation

John Allsopp chimes in today with his powerful voice on Web professionalism and best practices. In his article Professionalism and Best Practice in Web Design and Development, John points out that while CSS techniques might be “sexy” and technical discussion about semantics, validation and accessibility are no doubt important, the need for a defined professionalism and best practices is long overdue:

“ . . . it’s long past the time we should be addressing issues like “what does it mean to be a professional web designer or developer?” and “what does constitute best practice in web design and development?”

I couldn’t agree more. But, as with all grass roots ideas, these things take time, and more importantly: leadership and collaboration. We’ve had the best practices discussion at WaSP a thousand times, here and elsewhere and something solid has yet to emerge.

Prioritization is often lacking, as are truly effective project managers to address these issues – much as we find in our real workaday worlds.

Another recent example is when Meri Williams launched a wiki for discussion about a Code of Ethics for our industry. Thanks to her we have a tool, but the leadership on driving the discussion has yet to emerge.

Or maybe we’re not in the action phase yet. We all know we work with technologies that are in constant motion and change. It’s difficult to commit to philosophies when the practicalities of the job are demanding the majority of our time.

One thing is certain; this is a conversation that is continuing. What’s even better, we’re creating building blocks, as Tantek Çelik so eloquently encourages.

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Posted by:   Molly | 06:48 | Comments (22)

Saturday 22 July 2006

I’ll Have a Redesign with My Liver Transplant, Please

This story is serious as a heart attack and almost too ridiculous for me to wrap my head around. Help me out.

I received a big welcome packet from (finally) a health insurance plan, full of exclusions and riders but a plan nonetheless. In the packet are several “member’s discount” items, including low-cost vitamins, chiropractic care and health club memberships. All understandable, as they relate to well-being. Okay, no problem there, right?

I get to the last page and what’s being promoted?

“Customized Web Services”

Web design services (redesigns a specialty) with HTML programming “experts” and “Web Marketing Promotion Specialists” at the ready to help you get your site up and running in a few days. And a 20% discount for health plan members!

I’m thinking I’ll take a redesign with my liver transplant, please. How about you?

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Posted by:   Molly | 20:22 | Comments (32)

Rooms to Let


Rooms to Let

Taken in Seattle, July 2006.

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Posted by:   Molly | 00:19 | Comments (49)

Thursday 20 July 2006

Aloha, Hawaii

I come to Oahu each year to present workshops with Pacific New Media and the University of Hawaii. I’ve always enjoyed my time here, working with interesting, warm and friendly people who are doing a wide range of site work. From libraries to one-woman design shops, the challenges facing folks working out here are as diverse as anywhere. To my lovely students, love and Aloha, and thank you for a great workshop.

beautiful sunset from oahu hawaii

Environmental woes we don’t hear too much about

This year, however, I got to experience not just the beauty of Hawaii, but learn about some of its unhappier sides. One bit of news I apparently missed back in March was a massive sewage spill into the Ala Wai Canal.

A man fell (or was pushed, the story isn’t clear) into the canal and suffered massive bacterial infections which led to several of his limbs being amputated. The man, only 34 years old, ultimately died from his infections.

Not only is this environmental disaster unfortunate, but environmental scientists are concerned what it will do to the local ecosystem. Not much is being said in the hotels these days, and the beaches are open for swimming despite local concern that it’s far too soon to allow people back into the water, particularly anyone with open wounds, children, the infirm and the elderly.

This shot shows an area of the cleanup along the Ala Wai Canal:

sewage cleanup along the ala wai canal in oahu

The other side of life

One evening I went into Chinatown to explore a bit. Something happened to me that’s never happened before in my life: I got turned around directionally and found myself lost. Walking around town as night fell, I began looking a bit frantically for a taxi. The area in which I was walking was definitely daunting.

Many homeless, mostly Vietnamese and mainland whites, were on the streets. Many were selling crack and other drugs. As I tried to make my way to a major street, a young Vietnamese man, Tommy, took me under his wing and escorted me out of the area. Along the way, Tommy introduced me to many of his homeless friends, who all greeted me with warmth and I felt no danger anymore. In fact, it became a journey into the other side of life here in Hawaii, which of course looks pristine and perfect to the many vacationers who flock to its shores.

But there is a sad, sad side to Oahu. On the way to a more central area, we passed Tommy’s house:

tommy's bed is just cardboard on the ground by a dumpster

Old cardboard on the ground near a dumpster, with an old castaway refrigerator to use for storage.

The sobering part of all this? Tommy, and most all of his friends, have jobs. But, due to the economic divide, drug problems and other maladies of today’s world, even the working poor can find themselves living in the streets.

In an hour I go to the airport and begin the long journey home. As beautiful as Hawaii is, as often as I will come here again to enjoy the beauty and hospitality of the islands and the many warm people who live here, I will never, ever forget the experiences I had this time around. They opened my eyes to many things, things I probably would rather have never experienced or seen, but that I’m grateful for nonetheless.

Aloha, Hawaii. 0 na hoku no na kiu o ka lani.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 22:48 | Comments (11)

Tuesday 18 July 2006

I Love My Sandwich But

Geeeez. I ordered two sandwiches to go, so I’d have one for later. Tuna, and egg salad. Hardly uncommon in this crazy world, and they are fresh made and otherwise I should have no other complaints but for the . . .


I’m not even one of those people who hates sprouts (also known as “cress” – I’m not talkin little cabbages here). You can put sprouts on my sandwich. You can put sprouts on my salad. Hey, if you want to get adventuresome, you could even put sprouts . . .

Ahem, sorry, got distracted there. Sprouts are fine, but not in MASS quantity. I pulled all the sprouts off of my sandwich, and made a pile of them that reaches to the ceiling.

We just do not need that many sprouts. Besides, they’re sticking to everything. My Mac keyboard, my screen, the table, and oh, how lovely, sprouts have decided to stick to my face.

What on earth is with the sprouts, folks?

This just in: It turns out that there is actually an International Sprout Growers Association. Perhaps they are responsible for the spreading of sprouts.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 14:28 | Comments (33)

Sunday 16 July 2006

Things That Make You Feel Better

Do you run across snippets of quotes and other bits that bring you comfort? Today, I saw the following quote from Disraeli:

“Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth.” – Benjamin Disraeli

As an emotional person who expresses herself almost unabashedly, it makes me feel better about myself to realize how true this quote is. Feeling and emotion are our individual truths, even if those truths might quickly change as we work through our feelings toward better understanding.

Do you have a favorite phrase or quote that you keep close?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 06:43 | Comments (155)

Friday 14 July 2006

Top Ten Male Hotties of the Web, 2006

This is such a sexist post, I should be ashamed of myself. But I’m not. I decided I’d write my top ten hot males on the Web list so we can discuss.

Fact is, there are at least 20 people that didn’t make the top list. The men in web, let’s face it, not only dominate, but they’re just HOT.

So, today, at the risk of embarassing everyone on this list, I present to you my ten top male hotties of the Web, 2006

Notice that I’ve used an unordered list. Feel free to order or delete my nominees at will.

  • Andy Clarke. Oh I’m biased but it’s a good bias. If you’ve not seen him present in his suit and that hot pink tie I bought him, then you should. His presence, insight and charisma will change our world. He’s the one who understands and can navigate with ease the separation ‘twixt design and code. Andy is, even if you choose to order this list, my number one.
  • Dean Edwards. Okay, I’ve probably just done something really wrong by outing two of the hottest men I’ve ever met, both from the UK. A pattern perhaps? But let me tell you ladies and gents, this man is gifted. He’s a genius programmer, which would be hot to me on its own. But, wait there’s more! How about that sexy white streak in his hair? Or the fact that he is a world class cook? Oh, be still my beating heart.
  • Douglas Bowman. Okay, the guy is cute. But what I really love Doug for is his compassionate insight regarding humanitarist ideals and the Web. If you’ve never seen this side of Doug, well, I recommend it. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll see what I mean.
  • Dave Shea. The man is perfection. Just ask him 😉 No, seriously, I’ve co-authored a few books in my time, but Dave has been and will always be the consumate professional. And he’s very nice to look at, too. More importantly, he has such a great soul, which he pretends to contain but all you need do is look into his beautiful eyes.
  • Eric Meyer. Redhead, tall, droll, and smart. Not to mention he probably saved my life one night. And then some. The man is too sexy for his books, I tell ya!
  • Derek Feathersone. Have you felt his arms? I touch him just to be reminded what strength really is. I think Derek is going to save us all a lot of pain. If he weren’t married and I weren’t, well, me, and it were a different life? This is a guy I could and would have married.
  • Joe Clark. Okay, I’m throwing this one in for spice, but really. Joe is hot not for any expected reason, but because when I look in his eyes, his soul is right there. He is a person that doesn’t do the social thing too well, but he’s also one of the very few people I’ve ever seen stick by his ideals and convictions. I hate vacillation. With Joe, you’ll always get his truth, and that’s just plain hot.
  • Tantek Çelik.. Let’s put aside the fact the man has given more to our profession than anyone I know: Mac IE, the DOCTYPE switch. Technorati. Put all that aside, and Tantek, dressed in black from head to toe with two computers side by side multitasking while he waxes poetically about the building blocks of the world’s future? Hot hot and let me say again, hot.
  • Faruk Ateş. Faruk is not only physically beautiful, he’s got a soul I recognize. Had I been younger and male, I think I would be very much like Faruk. As it stands, he could easily be my son in terms of years, and I love him as if he were. Here’s a young man with an open heart and mind, and willing to stake his claim. He’s earned accolades, and critics too. To the critics, I say, I think you might be jealous. To those that have hired him, I say treat him right and don’t neglect him. He’s smart, he’ll figure life out, he deserves your love and appreciation.
  • Erik Hatcher. Many of my readers might not know Erik’s name, but with the rise of Web apps and search, you should. A Java developer I first met in Tucson, then again across the states, I have to say this man is brilliant. And stealth. He’s doing the backend stuff we all should aspire to. Besides, apparently for a very white boy, he can speak Chinese well enough to make a girl gush. And you know exactly where I mean. HOT!

Is that it? Only ten? Oh why oh why did I choose that number? I’m thinking John Allsopp, the ever dreamy Simon Collison, Roger Johansson, Steve Champeon, Simon Willison (he’s just so cute and I’m sure he’ll hate me for writing that, but so what), Chris Wilson, John Oxton, Jon Hicks, Jeremy Keith, Hugh Forrest, Nick Finck, Matt May, Bruce Lawson and Patrick Lauke . . . oh I thiink this list is just too short. Maybe a “who’s not hot” list would serve us better.

What do you think? Let’s hear you’re top 10 list, male and/or otherwise 😉

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 18:40 | Comments (40)

Wednesday 12 July 2006

The Microcosm is the Macrocosm

The idea of how the micro affects the macro came to me during a conversation with some very bright young minds when I was 17 years old. I was attending my first year of college, and doing what so many college kids did way back then in the seventies. We would sit on the college commons during breaks, passing the peace pipe and pondering the meaning of life.

Today, that long ago conversation came back to me suddenly and with great clarity. I was watching the news which for the entirely of this current U.S. regime has become increasingly more disturbing to me. I began to cry when the Israeli situation was discussed, and a revelation that I think is both personally and globally important came to me that I want to share with you for discussion.

I am an American-born Jewish woman who was raised in a household that, despite its personal dysfunction, embraced the highest ideals found within the Jewish culture. I was taught that humankind is precious; that we owe it to the world to serve humanity; that education is the central theme of life and we must always learn and share our knowledge.

Note that my biological father, now passed, mother, and one brother held these ideals despite the fact that they were or are atheists. My other brother and I chose a more personal spiritual path that acknowledges our heritage but doesn’t limit our faith to Judaism. For those unfamiliar, this is actually very common amongst Jews, who might identify as being strongly Jewish culturally, but do not necessarily practice Judaism as a faith or even believe in a divine being.

One thing I noticed at a very young age was that, as with all religions, the ideals and the realities can be greatly divided. In my own family, the violence and emotional turmoil was extreme and often did not live up to those high ideals. That was a microcosm. A macrocosmic parallel to this is Zionism. Zionism is often associated with Jews despite the fact that not all Jews (me, for example) embrace this essentially a separatist ideology and prefer to live by other ideals, perhaps fundamentals found in the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor. And critical to this post, from Leviticus in the Old Testament: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

In my daily work I exchange ideas with people worldwide. I speak to Muslims and Christians and atheists and Buddhists and Taoists and a range of other belief or non-belief systems. We are able to communicate, to come together through common ideals and solve problems related to technology and social issues surrounding the Web. If this can so easily and readily occur in smaller groups, why is exactly the opposite happening on borders, between religious groups, and of course, within and between governments?

The troubles of this entire world weigh heavily on my soul. I can’t help that; I’ve always been sensitive that way. Much of that comes from this disconnect I feel between what my core values are and how I see people, including myself, behave.

So, there I was watching the news, and those tears began to fall, and I questioned aloud to an empty room “Why, how, when will we heal?” Instantly, a voice (my own? God’s?) spoke clearly and succinctly in my head:

Fix yourself. The rest will follow.

If we as individuals are filled with rage, how can we as a world society not be enraged? I don’t think it’s possible. So we have to start with our own house, to borrow from a biblical metaphor.

In my own deep soul searching after reaching the lowest point in my life in 20 years, it is becoming clear that the reason I need to get better as a human every day has actually very little to do with me at the end of it all.

But, it has everything to do with contributing to the world’s healing. Before you think that’s profoundly egocentric, the point is that it’s not about me at all. It’s about fixing the microcosm in order to heal the macrocosm, which in turn could take care of individuals far more effectively. I believe now that we all bear this responsibility if we are to see human growth and societal advancement and not destroy ourselves, our planet and each other in the process.

Far fetched? I don’t think so. What do readers here think? What do you believe it will take to bring a better way of being about for humanity and our world?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 08:24 | Comments (46)

Saturday 8 July 2006

Blue Clouds

digital photograph of blue clouds from plane

A few more cloud photos, this time from over Virginia, Brandon’s new tattoo, and some D.C. area friends during a recent visit to Northern Virginia.

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Posted by:   Molly | 01:01 | Comments (7)

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