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Into The East

Hey, Japan, I’m headed your way and looking for gigs!

I’ve received official confirmation that I’ll be presenting a half-day tutorial at the Fourteenth International World Wide Web Conference, otherwise known as WWW2005, and also delivering a keynote and participating in a panel at the W4A Workshop at the same conference.  WWW2005 will be held in Chiba, Japan, running from 10 – 14 May 2005.  There will be more details on the Complex Spiral Events page in the next week or so.

So here’s the deal: I’m already committed to travel to Japan,  so this is a rare opportunity for any companies, organizations, or other groups that would like to hire me for training, speaking, or other consulting.  My usual fees include reasonable travel expenses such as hotel room and airfare, and as you might imagine, a plane flight from the eastern United States to Japan is just a tad expensive.  (Try somewhere around $1,250 for economy class and $7,500 for business class.)  However, since I’m going to be there anyway, I’ll waive the airfare expense for any consulting engagements.  That’s a pretty notable savings no matter what airfare class I’ll be flying.

Here’s the flip side: I will need to book my flights before the end of January, in order to make sure I can get good flight arrangements.  That means I’ll need to have settled any agreements to consult (in whatever capacity) by that time.  So if you’re in Japan or know people who are there and interested in standards, spread the word!  This is the first time I’ll ever have been to Japan, and I may not be back again for quite some time.  Any assistance in making the trip more productive will be greatly appreciated.

If you have a suggestion on where I could search for leads, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.  If you have a business proposal or wish to seriously discuss how we might work together, please contact me via the inquiry address at Complex SpiralDomo arigato!

Checks and Balances

Today I received my first Complex Spiral paycheck.  Yay!  I’ve done several paying jobs by now, and more are underway, but this is the first check to actually show up for deposit.  Let that be a lesson to those of you who might be thinking about striking out on your own: if you can’t cover all of the expenses you’ll incur between leaving your old job and the point two months after you finish your first project at the new job, you can’t afford it.

Yesterday, the mail brought to me a package from New Zealand.  It contained a copy of the Digital Life episode on Web standards.  That was especially fascinating since this morning an article on standards support (and the limits thereof in Internet Exporer) was published on c|net quoting me, Zeldman, and others.  With Explorer’s development at an apparent end, it’s becoming a heavier and heavier millstone around the necks of designers.  Let’s assume that there are no advances in Microsoft’s Web standards support between now and Longhorn.  That’s close to three more years of the millstone getting heavier.  By then, we’ll all have serious back problems.

(Yes, I can count: Microsoft’s Longhorn launch date of 2005 says to me it’ll actually launch in 2006.  I’m just drawing a historical inference here.)

Of course, the whole Eolas situation probably doesn’t have the Microsoft folks in a benevolent frame of mind regarding standards.  If they just abandoned the public Web and moved everything into a closed, proprietary sandbox of some kind, they might be able to avoid these sorts of problems altogether.  That’s exactly what I expect them to do in Longhorn, and the expectation worries me.  If the whole world moves into the sandbox—and let’s face it, in an e-commerce sense, IE/Win is the whole world—what reason would there be to pay any more attention to the Web?

We might say hey, fine, let’s get Microsoft and its partners the hell off the Web so we can go back to developing it the right way; let’s take back the neighborhood.  That would make about as much sense as rooting for Flash to be the technology used on every Web site in existence.  When one company owns the medium, everyone else loses.  Thus far, the Web has been a community asset, with no one company calling the shots.  How can we make sure that situation continues past the next few years?

When the Going Gets Weird…

It’s been a month since I announced my foray into consulting, and it’s been a busy but rewarding month.  I did of course finally get the official site online, but also put in time working with Macromedia, created a three-day training course for the staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and shorter training sessions for two different universities.  Between that and preparing to chair a track (and present twice) at the Seybold-WOW Web Design and Development conference, I wasn’t lacking for things to do.  So much for using my newfound freedom to lounge around eating Cheetos and playing XBox games.

Not that I would anyway, to be honest.  Kat can’t even take me on relaxing vacations in tropical venues, because after two or three days of not doing anything productive, my head implodes.

Someone let me know that Containing Floats hit #9 on Popdex as well as Blogdex, so thanks to all you linkers out there!  Y’all are the greatest.

Since we’re mentioning the greatest, we went to see “Weird Al” Yankovic play the Taste of Cleveland festival.  I say “the greatest” not because I think he’s the greatest musician of all time, but because I completely agree with what a friend of mine said about him:  he’s out there working it every night like it’s the only show he’ll do all year.  That’s professionalism at its finest, and I respect that no end.  Al always makes it a fun show, a high-energy show, and the only way you can leave disappointed is if you’re a humorless sourpuss in the first place.  In which case, what the hell were you doing at a Weird Al show?

And now that “weird” has come up, you might remember I mentioned that I’d received time-traveler spam a while back.  Wired has the whole story behind that spam, and as you might expect it’s a bit odd.  I feel so special to have scooped Wired… especially since I inadvertently fooled them three and a half years back.

Spiralling Apples and Mice

Much to my delight, Containing Floats hit Blogdex, just above a story about Al Franken (when I looked, anyway).  It also tied for 29th with the Ars Technica Macintosh browser smackdown, which I was further delighted to see used the complexspiral demo as one of its evaluation criteria.  Thus we come spiralling back to where we started.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Zeldman and Doug Bowman on their new project with Apple!  Doug explains that they’ll be giving Apple strategic guidance toward better using Web standards, which is wonderful thing for me to hear at this stage—it’s another indication that there is indeed a demand for the kinds of services I’m offering through Complex Spiral.  I’ve very little doubt that the demand exists, but reinforcing evidence is never a bad thing.

Speaking of Apple, I like OS X a whole lot better now, but not because I’ve gotten used to it.  Instead, I’ve gotten it used to me, with help from Robb Timlin.  He wrote the freeware tool Classic Window Management, the installation of which instantly eliminated about 85% of my frustration with OS X.  Now the Finder acts the way I think it should: when I click on the desktop, all the Finder windows come to the front instead of staying hidden behind whatever application I was just using.  In other words, now OS X acts like a Mac, not a Windows machine.  That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

I also recently upgraded my computing experience by finally ditching the Apple hockey-puck mouse in favor of a Logitech MX700 cordless optical mouse.  Between the freedom to mouse anywhere on my desk and the application-specific programmable buttons, I’m a happy guy.  I also picked up an MX500—same mouse, except with a cord.  I was going to use the MX700 on the TiBook so that I could use a mouse on flights and not have to fight with a mouse cord.  It was the perfect plan until I realized the plan involved using a radio transmitter on a commercial airliner.

Oops.

Multiple Launches

It’s up, running, and official: Complex Spiral Consulting finally has a Web site.  So far I have up recent news and upcoming events, information about the services I’m offering, ways to contact me, and a publications area that contains a new article: Containing Floats.  If you’re having trouble getting elements to stretch around floats, this article is for you.  Anticipate more such articles in the future, as well as the addition of information on just what I’ve been doing in the past month, and for whom.

Also today, Macromedia announced the impending release of Studio MX 2004, including a major new version of Dreamweaver MX.  I’m happy to say that the CSS support in this new Dreamweaver is pretty darned good, and it comes with a number of CSS-driven templates already installed.  I provided the layout skeletons to Macromedia, and then helped make sure the markup and layout were acceptable once a design firm made the layouts look pretty.  And hey, who are those mugs being quoted in the Dreamweaver MX press release?

There’s also a new layout for the Macromedia Web site, and it uses some relatively sophisticated CSS to create the layout.  I did some CSS optimization and upgrade work for the site, running in parallel with the Dreamweaver MX input I was providing.

Plated

Just to demonstrate that my brain has melted, I’m actually thinking about adding a “Plate Watch” box to the site sidebar.  On my way back home this afternoon, I found myself situated behind an SUV whose license plate read “ICU PEKN.”  I was impressed.  It isn’t often you see reverse psychology employed on a license plate.

The business side of life seems to be jumpin’, as they would have said back in the Big Band era.  Besides the work for Macromedia, I have one confirmed CSS training contract and three possibles, plus what looks like three conferences between now and Thanksgiving.  I’m also hoping to sign in the next week a few more contracts to do standards optimization and strategy work for various companies.  All that, plus I’m trying to assemble a business site for myself and create or acquire the materials that are so vital to being on one’s own.

Considered in this context, I suppose the persistent light insomnia is a bit of a blessing in disguise.  Still, I’ve no cause to complain.  I think I almost had to go out on my own at some point, just to find out if I can hack it.  If so, great!  If not, then I’ll know that I tried.

At any rate, the heavy work load does make for light journal entries.

Feedback

Yesterday’s announcement has generated a fair bit of attention, which is certainly a good thing for a new startup.  My deepest thanks to everyone who wrote words of support and congratulations, through all the e-mail and many a weblog.  Your collective enthusiasm has definitely made today one of the best in months, and eased my mind quite a bit about the step I’ve taken.  And those of you who got in touch regarding contracting my services get extra-special thanks!  (What are the rest of you waiting for?)

I mentioned that one of my clients is “a major and highly respected name in the industry,” and I’m proud to say that client is Macromedia.  My work is actually in two different areas, both of which relate to CSS, and I’m looking forward to talking about the projects in more detail once they’ve been completed.  For now, let me just say that Macromedia is serious about using CSS well, and in doing the right thing.

I’m hoping that this weekend I’ll get the consulting site material together and ready for launch—I don’t even have a design yet.  What I may do is use a variant of a meyerweb theme as a first look and then, like Zeldman did earlier this year, redesign in public, commenting on my choices and techniques as I go.  I don’t know if a business site has ever done exactly that kind of a redesign before, and it seems like it would be an interesting experiment.  To be honest, I may chicken out and just jump from one design to another instead of evolving it over time, rather than experiment with a business site.  We’ll see what kind of feedback I get on the idea.

Speaking of feedback, I need to pass along some tidbits readers sent in response to my discussion of governments and open standards:

  • Bob Sawyer wrote to say he’s created a discussion forums for Webmasters at the fledgling Built For The Future, which looks like it could be just the kind of resource people need.
  • Felix Ingram sent in a link to a fascinating Wired article on standardization and its distinctly political nature.
  • Rob Lifford pointed out the Texas Governors’ site is accessible, and even has a dedicated statement about the use of W3C standards.  That jostled my memory and I remembered that the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska‘s site did something similar a while back.
  • Paul Martin speculated that, until recently, standards use and accessibility have been almost entirely the concern of hand-coders, the people who know the nuts and bolts that make a page work.  If that’s so, then the WaSP was absolutely right to concentrate on getting tool vendors to clean up the markup they generate.

I’m going to take the weekend to concentrate on responding to e-mail, doing some writing, and fleshing out the new site, and should be back bright and early Monday morning to regale you with more random stuff.  Enjoy your weekend!

Close One Door, Open Another

Today is my last day at AOL Time Warner.  In the end, my interests weren’t compatible with the positions available in the post-Netscape environment, so I decided to leave.  I won’t have any free time, though:  I’m proud to announce that I’m firing up my own consulting business!  I’ll be concentrating on the following:

  • Advising clients on best practices in standards-oriented design
  • Guidance through standards conversion projects
  • CSS and HTML optimization for improved site performance
  • Hands-on training in CSS and design techniques for groups of any size
  • Help resolving design compatibility problems

As you can probably tell from the above points, I’ll be taking my passion for intelligently using Web standards and applying that passion to my work with clients.  More detailed information should be on the way soon, but the work I’m already doing has me too busy to set up the consulting site.  Here’s a sample of what’s on my plate:

  • I’m working with a major and highly respected name in the industry on optimizing their site’s CSS and providing guidance for their future plans.
  • I’ll be doing three days of CSS training at a major research facility in early September.
  • Also in September, I’ll be chairing a conference track at Seybold San Francisco, one of the largest and oldest technical conferences in the United States.  In addition to the chair duties, I’ll also be delivering two presentations and sitting on two panels.
  • This November, I’ll be in Las Vegas co-presenting a developer-centric CSS class at COMDEX.  The other presenter for this session will be Molly Holzschlag.

I have some other projects simmering as well, but that will do for a quick glimpse into this new venture.  Hopefully I’ll find some time in the next week to get the consulting site up and running.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in my services, please feel free to get in touch with me via my meyerweb e-mail address.  (And please, make the subject line really painfully obvious so I don’t accidentally throw your message away with all the spam I get!)

I may not be working for Netscape any more, but I’m still incredibly proud of the work done in my two-plus years there.  It was an honor and a joy to be a part of our team.  I wish the people still at AOLTW continued success in their fight to promote standards both inside and outside the company, and I truly hope we’ll have a chance to work together again in the future.

July 2014
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