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Archive: April 2006

IceWeb on Ice

IceWeb 2006 wrapped up today (that is, Friday), and I’m deeply honored to have been a part of it.  The attendees were just wonderful, there were great speakers all around, and I was as impressed as everyone else by Joe Clark‘s Icelandic benediction at the beginning of his talk.

In general, it’s been an amazing trip.  In some ways, though, the highlight came before I even set foot on Icelandic soil.  On the way over, the Aurora Borealis was visible out my plane window.  With a touch of desperate improvisation, I managed to coax some half-decent shots of the lights (and the wing of our plane) from my battered PowerShot S45.  You can see them up on Flickr, along with a few of the better shots from our Wednesday trip through the Icelandic countryside (in the general photostream).  The actual aurorae were nowhere near as green to the eye as what’s seen in the photos, but more of a silver-blue phosphorescence with maybe a little tiny hint of green.  It was hard to judge, looking through a plastic airplane window while trying to block out cabin light enough to see them.

That’s not to minimize the beauty of this country, however.  There is a bleak and wild character that’s hard for me to resist, even as I know I’d never survive the dark of deepest winter here.  Much as I love landscapes, and Iceland has those in spades, the people are the best part: friendly and accepting in a way that’s still proud and reserved.  It’s hard to explain.  Moreover, they do know how to party.

My deepest thanks to all our hosts for letting me be a part of IceWeb, and I hope I get to return some time in the future.  Takk!

Flickrbomb

I’ve just done something that seems so common it must have had the term coined and in widespread use, but no: I just Flickrbombed.  Having put up exactly zero photos for months, I got my account turned Pro and dumped a whole bunch of pictures in.  According to Google, only one person has ever used that term online before, so I can’t claim sole credit for it.  I’ll just count it as yet another parallel invention, and see if it catches on more widely.

Anyway, you can check out the general photostream if you’re so inclined, or dig through my two sets: Artistic and Teh Funny.  That’s all I have up there right now, though collectively that’s over 100 photos added all at once (thus the term “Flickrbomb”), and that’s just the ones I made public.

I may toss in more pictures over time, most likely from various and sundry conferences, but that’s an iffy prospect at best.  And while you can feel free to add me as a contact even though the stream may be more of a dry bed, don’t expect a reciprocal link.  I’m already thinking about pruning some of the contacts I’ve already collected, as I just can’t keep up.  Too much content!

Flickr really needs a way to filter your “contacts’ photos” feed to include only those pictures that have comments, or above a certain number of views, or something.  Then again, I wish it showed me photos from friends and family that I can see, not just those that are fully public.  I’m just a walking contradiction.  (Man, I loved that video.)

Taste the Vitamin

The new weekly web-design ‘zine Vitamin (a.k.a. Yet Another Major New Project From The Carsons) launched earlier this week to generally positive notice from the design community.  I was glad to see this for three reasons.

  1. I wrote one of the launch articles, “Making Popular Layout Decisions“.  Although now that I think about it more, maybe that should have been “Making Unpopular Layout Decisions”.  Anyway, it’s a commentary piece that will probably annoy a few hard-core purists.  That always makes for a success in my book.
  2. I’m a member of the Advisory Board, so I have some stake in seeing it do well.  I’d hate to have things go badly due to my being a bad advisor!  Especially since I’m kind of new to the advisory game.
  3. It demonstrates that there’s plenty of room in the web design community for such resources.  Not that there’s anything wrong with what we have—after all, I love A List Apart so much, I wrote the markup!—but it’s a sign of renewed health and interest in the field.

Oh, and speaking of Carson projects, I hear this May’s Professional CSS XHTML Techniques workshop is almost sold out—so if you’re interested, better get cracking.  (The same is true for AEA Chicago, as it happens.)

Looking for Headset Help

I could use a little advice from the crowd, if you have a minute.  Basically, I need a new phone headset for my office landline, and maybe a new phone as well.  My current headset, an aging Plantronics Vista model, is generating this really loud buzz that I can only fix by forcibly contorting the boom mike, and even then the fix isn’t always permanent.  I’ve tried fiddling with the ‘channel’ and gain settings, and then only way to avoid the buzz is to make myself completely inaudible.

All I really want is a nice comfortable headset that has good sound quality.  I’ve looked at headsets that are just 2.5mm plugins, and at ones that have the little amplifier box.  I probably will want an over-the-head set, since the over-the-ear Vista I have makes my ear ache on event moderately long calls.  And a corded set is fine; I don’t really need a cordless headset.  In my specific case, any disincentive to stand up and pace while talking is probably a good thing.

Also, I’m not at all adverse to replacing my phone, which is also old and clunky.  It still works okay (and is not the source of the buzz—I checked) but it’s nothing spectacular.  If there’s a really good headset-and-phone combo out there, I’m completely open to that.

So anyway, if anyone has recommendations they’d like to make, either pro or con, please fire away.  Thanks!

A Very Weak Pulse

Dear BlogPulse,

A couple of days ago, you had a page found here on meyerweb titled “How Not To Get a Job” ranked as the top blog post in the blogosphere (blogscape, blogsea, blogsoup, take your pick).  You even made reference to it in your own blog post on April 17th.

Okay, first of all, it’s not a blog post.  It’s a standalone static HTML page that’s just a marked-up version of an email that made the rounds of the Internet in the mid-1990s.  (It might have been a combination of a couple of emails; I don’t clearly remember any longer.)  I have a bunch of those in my “funny bits” section, if you’d like to waste a few hours.

Second, the strength of that ranking has propelled meyerweb to #6 on your Top Blogs list for April 16th, which puts it just below Michelle Malkin and above Engadget, Gizmodo, and—no kidding—ScobelizerThirty-two places above Scoble, which is too many kinds of wrong to easily quantify.  Previous to this, I don’t think meyerweb even registered on your list (except on April 14th, when it was at #16), as it really should be.  I’m fairly well known in my field, but outside it?  Not so much. 

Before I wander too much further into the weeds, let me get to my point: have you looked at the trend chart for that page?  How about its citationsThese results are due to blog spamming, people.  I don’t know why some Blogspot spamachine included a meyerweb URL in its output stream, but it did.  I had nothing to do with it, and frankly, I’m severely annoyed that it happened.  I know there isn’t anything I can or should do about it, but I’m still cheesed that I’ve been tainted by involuntary association.  Your blithely going along for the ride, posting commentary about it without even the barest smidgen of checking into the history of this sudden star on the blog cosmos’ event horizon, just ticks me off all the more.

So please, if you could, pull that URL out of your results, recompute the rankings, and pay more attention to your own data analysis in the future.  At the least, could you manage that last part?  I’ve paid you scant attention in the past, I admit, but this doesn’t exactly leave a positive impression.

Thanks, and sorry if I came off a bit testy.

Addendum: oh, cripes, now it’s been blogged as real over at CBS News.  Thankfully, the reporter, Melissa McNamara, is now aware of the situation and has promised to post a correction.  So it looks like I’ll have a better media outcome than Tim Bray did with the Washington Post.

The Silence of the Lamb’s Blood

With Passover recently concluded and yet another viewing of The Ten Commandments under my belt, a question has occurred to me.

The whole point of Passover is to commemorate the events that freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and the English name of the holiday comes from the fact that the Angel of Death passed over the Jews as it slew the first-born of Egypt as the final plague.  So why is it that the very act that caused the Angel to pass by a household and spare any first-born within, the smearing of lamb’s blood on the doorway, is not part of the Passover seder?  You’d think that would be a central act, a way of asking that the Angel of Death pass by the house for another year, in much the same way Jews ask God to inscribe their name in the Book of Life for another year during Yom Kippur.  If I were designing the seder, I’d make the smearing of the blood the opening act of the entire ceremony.

Never mind that lamb’s blood can be hard to come by and disquieting for some to handle; it could be symbolically represented with paint or red wine or some other substance.  Most of the seder consists of symbolic representations anyway.  Why not the Pesach blood as well?

Praise IE, Go to Jail

A week or so back, the shattered remains of a wasps’ nest appeared in our driveway.  Despite the fact that it’s clearly vacant—even wasps know when it’s time to find new digs—I still tread carefully whenever I walk past, avoiding them out of some latent respect for the threat they once contained.

You’d think I’d behave in a like manner in the rest of my life, but no.  For example: I recently spoke well of the IE team and their efforts.  Kind of an obvious goof, really, but I’d hoped for a different outcome.  It’s the incurable optimist in me.  And when I say “incurable”, I mean that in the sense of “disease that can’t be purged from my body and will no doubt one day kill me”.

While the enraged buzzing took many forms, the comment that seemed to distill the bulk of people’s anger was this:

“How am I supposed to trust a smiling face of some developer at Microsoft when the company as a whole was charged with being an illegal monopoly not too long ago?”

Because one is a person, and the other is a corporation.  I realize that American law moronically (and, in a certain sense, unlawfully) equates the two, but they really are distinct concepts.

You can dismiss my attitude as the biased perspective of someone who personally knows members of the IE team.  That would be a major miscalculation, because it’s those personal relationships that make my observations different than what you’ll find elsewhere.  Think what you will of Microsoft, but there are actual people working on IE, and they’re by and large people who care about the same things we care about.  They are part of this story.  If you think they’re minor nodes in a monolithic collective consciousness, then boy, do you ever have a lot to learn about how large organizations function.

Allow me to draw an analogy, if I may.  While at Mix 06, I was talking with one of the senior IE team folks about improving standards and the browser market.  He said to me, “So what is it the Web design community wants?”—as if there is a single such community, and it always speaks with a unified voice on all matters.  Does that sound like the Web design community you know?  Does that even sound like any arbitrary collection of five Web designers you know?  (Aside to WaSP steering committee members: feel free to take a ten-minute laughter break.)

So why do we assume that Microsoft, a company with tens of thousands of employees working in hundreds of teams and units, would be any more unified?  Sure, the PR department speaks with a single voice.  To take that as representative of every Microsoft engineer is like ceding all authority for your thoughts and opinions on Web development and design to the Web Standards Project.  Anyone volunteering for that?

Not me, thanks.  Not even when I was a member, back towards the end of the last millennium.

This is what I said to him, by the way, except I compared the Web community to Microsoft, with all its subunits and competing voices and priorities and goals.  He got what I was saying instantly, even though it let him down a bit.  His job would be easier, after all, if the Web design community were a unified collective.  It’s certainly less mental effort to think of “the other camp” as being a Borg-like hive, isn’t it?

A few people accused me of being lulled into missing the Great Looming Threat of Microsoft’s non-standards efforts.  For example:

“…Microsoft spent those years planning and building WPF, to lure Web developers into its proprietary and patent-protected embrace. And that should have you most concerned.”

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, wore it threadbare, and repurposed it as a cleaning rag.  I was openly expressing precisely that concern back in October 2003, which as you may recall was near the middle of said years.  The aggregate response of the community was a disinterested shrug.  This was largely true whether I posted publicly or talked to people one on one, as I’d done in several cases in the months before October 2003.  The only place I found any similar concern was with some folks at Macromedia, thank you very much.  Everyone else seemed to think I was on crack.  So sorry, but I pretty much wore out my concern back then.  You can have it now.

Besides, over time I’ve come to see WPF (as it’s now called) as being very much like Flash, which it clearly wants to supplant.  Despite all these years of Flash being very widely installed, and all the years of Flash being able to do XML data exchange with servers to cause dynamic updating of pages—you know, like Ajax does—the Web has not become an enormous Flash application.

I thought the most interesting observation was this one:

“Dave Shea pointed out… a few months ago that one reason [for IE7] may be that Microsoft, in developing things like live.com, are finally having to eat their own dogfood, struggling to get things working on their own browser, and that as such there may have been internal pressure to get things up to scratch.”

That makes a certain amount of sense, though I’m not about to accept it as the sole reason for IE7’s development path or even its existence.  I think there were a whole lot of factors that drove IE7 into being, and standards support was honestly pretty far down on the list.  I, for one, am deeply grateful that the IE team seized on the opportunity to build better standards support into the browser, whatever the internal rationale they used to justify it to the higher-ups.

I’m also impressed with the CSS and other advances in IE7, and with how the IE team is managing the development process to accommodate the needs of Web developers and designers.  They didn’t have to do any of that.  After all the crap they’ve had dumped on them the last decade or more, they have every reason not to care about what’s best for the Web.  Despite this, they still do.  Recognize and respect that, if nothing else.

Still Here

I’ll get back to the whole IE7 thing in a day or three.  Sorry to start the conversation and then go silent, but I’ve recently learned two things.

  1. The week after announcing a new event over at An Event Apart (like, say, AEA Chicago) is always very busy as registrations come in, people contact us with questions, posts have to be written, and so on.
  2. The week before an event (like, say, AEA Atlanta) is always very busy with travel preparations, double-checking of arrangements, last-minute tweaks to talks, and so on.

So of course we’d set things up to have both happen the same week.  With another conference on my schedule for the end of the same week as AEA Atlanta.

Anyway, as I say, I’ll get back to the blogging Real Soon Now.  In the meantime, I have two new appearances to announce (in chronological order).

  1. 27-28 April 2006 – Iceweb 2006 – Reykjavik, Iceland

    I’ll be presenting “The One True Layout?”, which will be a detailed look at the pros and cons of techniques debuted in Alex Robinson’s article.  A bunch of other big names will be there as well, despite which I got top billing on the site’s speaker list.  Ha!  Take that, Mr. Dave “I’m Too Sexy For The Web” Shea!

  2. 12 May 2006 – Carson Workshops – London, England

    This will be an updated version of the full-day seminar “Professional CSS XHTML Techniques”.  Seating on these is quite limited, so you might want to register early and often.  Or at least early.

That’s it for now.  I hope to be back soon.

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