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Archive: November 2012

Sixth Annual Blue Beanie Day

I just recently stumbled across a years-ago post where I said, almost as an aside:

Web design isn’t like chemistry, where the precipitate either forms or it doesn’t. If chemical engineers had to work in conditions equivalent to web developers, they’d have to mix their solutions in several parallel universes, each one with different physical constants, and get the same result in all of them.

While that’s still true, the constants are a lot less divergent these days.  The parallel universes that are web browsers are much closer to unity than once they were.

Remember those days?  When major web sites had a home page with two links: one for Netscape users to enter, the other for IE users?

Madness.

We know better now, of course.  Thanks to early pioneers like the organizers of the Web Standards Project, the path of web development was bent to a much saner course.  We still have little glitches and frustrations, of course, but it could be so unimaginably worse.  We know that it could be, because it was, once.

Along the way, the book cover of my friend and business partner’s book, Designing With Web Standards, gave rise to Blue Beanie Day, the day on which we give visible presence to our solidarity with the idea that web standards make possible the web as we know it.  Pictures go up on Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr with the tag #bbd12, and can be added to the Flickr group if you post there.

In this rapidly unfolding age of multiple device platforms and web access experiences, standards are more important than ever, even as they come under renewed pressure.  There will always be those who proclaim that standards are a failed process, an obstruction, an anachronism.  The desire to go faster and be shinier will always tempt developers to run down proprietary box canyons.

But so too will there always be those of us who remember the madness that lies that way.  Come November 30th, thousands of us will don our blue beanies.  I hope you’ll be among us.

Image © Kevin Cornell.  Used with permission.

The Web Behind Turns Five (Shows)

The Web Behind now has five episodes under its belt!  I don’t know why that seems like a milestone worth celebrating, even accounting for the digits-of-my-hand bias humans tend to have, but it does anyway.  I am really, really happy with how the show has been going.  I’ve learned things I didn’t know and been reminded of people and events I’d almost forgotten.  I think the listeners are also learning a lot.

Here’s a list of all five along with the top-line topics that were covered in each one:

  • John Allsopp — early web design tools, community groups that shaped the web, and thinkers from the mid-20th century who shaped hypertext and the Web
  • Steve Champeon — predecessors to HTML, the webdesign-L online community, the birth of the web standards project, and how he coined the term “progressive enhancement”
  • Dave Shea — the CSS Zen Garden, the origins and lasting effects of the CSS Sprites technique, and reminisces about the web design community of a decade ago
  • Molly Holzschlag — what it was like to be online in the time of BBSes, Gopher, and the text-only web, early accessibility, the blink tag, the Web Standards Project, and how Microsoft started embracing web standards
  • Chris Wilson — the origins of the Mosaic Browser, Internet Explorer 3 and 4, the origins of CSS, and how * html is even possible

If you follow those links, you’ll land on each show’s 5by5 page, which has all of the links that were collected by listeners on the livestream as the shows were being recorded.  Those alone constitute some fascinating material, and they’re that much better as hypermedia adjuncts to the episodes—as you listen to a show, follow the link as it comes up so that you can see the thing we’re talking about as we talk about it.  The future, man!

Those links are a measure of just how awesome our listeners are, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you.  If you’re one of said listeners, please comment here so you can be publicly recognized.  Your efforts are making every interview even more valuable than they are on their own.  You are helping us identify and preserve important information about the history of the web.  You are making the whole endeavor even better than I could have imagined.  Thank you for believing in what we’re doing.  Thank you for pushing us to new heights.  Thank you.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the episodes, now is the perfect time to get caught up.  And if I could ask a personal favor of you iTunes subscribers: if you like an episode, please give it a good rating.  If you’re feeling particularly effusive, a comment would be great as well.  Why do I ask, you ask?  Because ratings and comments help shows bubble up to the top of the heap in the iTunes Store, and that brings in more listeners.  More listeners means more sponsorship income, which means we can think about doing shows more often.

We’d actually really like to do that.  I have a list of almost fifty potential guests, and there have to be some I’m missing.  I really want to hear their stories and bring them to you as quickly as possible.  With increased sponsorship, we can make that happen.  If you feel we’ve earned that with what we’ve produced so far, please take a minute to help us get there.  I really appreciate it.

Election Day Results

[FOR PUBLICATION WEDNESDAY 7 NOVEMBER OR WHENEVER ALL THE COURT CHALLENGES ARE SETTLED]

After a campaign season that seemed even more vitriolic and interminable than any before it, America finally made its choice for President.  To many, that choice was surprising, even unthinkable.  To his supporters, of course, the win was a welcome vindication after so many difficulties and setbacks.  Between the deluge of attack ads, the debate stumbles, and the lackluster polling, it must have seemed at times as if the odds were insurmountable.  Despite all the roadblocks, however, things moved his way in the late stages, providing enough lift to secure the election.

Of course, nothing will be easy: with a divided Congress, the President will have a tough time making progress on his legislative agenda, and overseas challenges are no less acute now that the U.S. election has been settled.  The budgetary situation is still a major problem, with the “fiscal cliff” and the prospect of yet another bruising Congressional showdown looming ever larger in the country’s headlights.  The one bright spot is that—assuming the will is found to avoid plunging over the cliff—the economic recovery is likely to continue, albeit as slowly and cautiously as ever.  To a populace wearied by the campaign, any positive news will be more than welcome.

(With apologies to The Economist.)

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