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Audio Waves

As the year draws to a close, I have a few bits of podcast news to help fill the lonely hours between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

The first is that Jen and I have done two more “The Web Behind” episodes since the last time I mentioned it, and they were both really fun.  Back on November 28th, I interviewed Tom Bruce of the Cornell Legal Information Institute about the very earliest days of the web, parallels between the arguments then and the arguments now, writing the first Windows web browser more or less from scratch, his invention of marquee, and the time he took a road trip to NCSA with Tim Berners-Lee to help bring cgi-bin to the web.

Then on December 20th, I got Tantek Çelik on the line to discuss how the web is like OpenDoc, why the web didn’t impress him the first time he saw it, the creation and interesting features of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, how interviewing developers working in the field helped shape IE/Mac and thus the browsers that followed it, and how DOCTYPE switching came to be (and who thought it up).

On the other side of the microphone, I was honored to be the guest for the first episode of Besquare’s “12 Days of Podcasts”, which started on Boxing Day and continues on through the Feast of the Ephiphany.  We talked for just over half an hour about CSS past and future, conferences, how I got started on the web, and ways to land a job in the web industry.  As I publish this, they’re just three episodes into the series, so it’s not too late to jump in.

Happy listening, and a joyous New Year to you and yours!

The Web Ahead, Episode #18: Me!

Last Thursday, I had the rare honor and privilege of chatting with Jen Simmons as a guest on The Web Ahead .  (I’ve also chatted with Jen in real life.  That’s even awesomer!)  As is my wont, I completely abused that privilege by chatting for two hours—making it the second-longest episode of The Web Ahead to date—about the history of the web and CSS, what’s coming up that jazzes me the most, and all kinds of stuff.  I even revealed, toward the end of the conversation, the big-picture projects I dearly wish I had time to work on.

The finished product was published last Friday morning.  I know it’s a bit of a lengthy beast, but if you’re at all interested about how we got to where we are with CSS, you might want to give this a listen:  The Web Ahead, Episode #18.  Available for all your finer digital audio players via embedded Flash player, iTunes, RSS, and MP3 download.

My deepest thanks to Jen for inviting me to be part of the show!

Text, Speech, Video

All of a sudden, people have been asking me to yak about myself and stuff that I know (or at least think I know).  These things tend to come in waves, and right now I’m surfing like a search engine’s crawlerbot.

I don’t think that metaphor made any sense at all.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve had to say so far:

  • The Geek Talk: Eric Meyer — a brief e-mail interview I did a week or so back.  Want to know my favorite color?  Applications?  What I think of CSS3?  What I intend to do this year?  A recent inspiration?  Read and enjoy.

  • The Pipeline, Episode #19 — a half-hour interview with Dan Benjamin.  We talked very little about CSS and a lot about how I got started with the web, why I’m still with it nearly two decades later, and why I believe quality is everything.  This was a very interesting interview because I went into it entirely cold: we didn’t discuss topics, length, or really anything at all beforehand.  We just jumped in.  Refreshing, maybe a little unnerving, but a lot of fun, not least because Dan is a master interviewer.  Probably one of the most personal interviews I’ve ever done.

…and speaking of Dan, he’ll be the co-host (along with Jeffrey Zeldman) in my next public appearance:  Episode 12 (Thursday, 15 July 2010) of The Big Web Show.  The incomparable Andy McMillan and I are the scheduled guests and the topic of conversation will be web conferences—what goes into them, how to found one, how to help it grow, and so on.  I’m really looking forward to it, being especially interested in what Andy has to say about his experiences with the Build Conference, and I hope you are too!

‘Off By One’ On 2 July

For them what might be interested, this Monday (July 2nd) I’ll be the guest on Off By One, a half-hour technology radio show originating from the studios of WCSB in sunny downtown Cleveland and is available on iTunes as well as via the station’s streaming audio.  Locals can, of course, catch it at 89.3 MHz on their FM dials.  The show starts at 12:30pm EDT and runs a half-hour, so it will be, y’know, off by 1:00pm.  (Hee hee!)

This will be my first time on the air since Your Father’s Oldsmobile ended back in 2005 (unless you count my talk radio call-in earlier this month), and the first time I’ve done a live on-air chat about my professional work and life in about seven years.  Bart, the show’s host, and I haven’t discussed any specific topics to be covered, so if you’ve ever wanted to find out what I’m like in an almost totally unrehearsed environment, well, now’s your chance.  I’m looking forward to it.

Update [4 Jul 07]: a recording of the show is available via the “Off By One” weblog.  Apparently I say “fractional update” a lot.

I’d Like To Thank The Academy…

Among all the other stuff this past week, I let something slip off the radar: an interview with me over at the Lunartics blog.  The interview was conducted via e-mail by Amy Armitage, who I briefly met last year at the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas.  It’s not your usual “why is CSS important” kind of interview; Amy likes to keep things fun while still covering serious questions.  It’s definitely worth a read.

It also scoops news of a development I’ve never gotten around to mentioning: in October 2006, I was inducted as a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.  It’s a pretty incredible honor, given that it’s an invitation-only body of 500 members including “David Bowie, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Internet inventor and Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton Cerf, ‘Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening, Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser, and fashion designer Max Azria”.  The fact that my name appears on the same list as those people is jaw-dropping enough.  To me, it wasn’t the most stunning part by a long mile.

I’ll admit, though I’d heard of The Webbys, I assumed the IADAS was one of those name-collector groups, like those “Who’s Who in America” books where you pay to be listed.  Instead, I found that the IADAS levies no membership fees, and I was deeply surprised and pleased to discover that they invite people based on their actual qualifications.  How do I know?  Because my welcoming letter didn’t praise my web design work.  Instead, it cited my “dedication to promoting Web standards”, my “international recognition on the topics of HTML and CSS”, and proclaims that I’ve “helped inform excellence and efficiency on the Web”.

Yes, the text string “HTML and CSS” was actually in the letter.

It’s a little difficult to express how important this recognition is to me.  See, most of the time, I’m introduced and perceived as an influential web designer, which is frankly insulting to actual web designers everywhere.  If you aren’t reading this post via RSS, look around.  Does this look like influential web design?  Hell no.  At best, we can call meyerweb’s design minimalist and maybe—maybe—possessed of a certain elegance.  And it only took me five years and ripping off ideas from Khoi Vinh to get here!

But I’ve never claimed to be a designer.  I think the perception that I am one arises because I get linked to from people who really are designers.  I’ve always claimed to be a communicator.  I’m someone who’s done his best to explain, promote, and advance the technologies that let designers do their work.  I’ve invested tons of time and effort into making good web design easier without sacrificing clean and semantic markup.  I wouldn’t say that work is done by any stretch, but there’s been a lot of progress.  Sometimes I forget just how much.

And so, to be invited to join the IADAS not for what I’m usually thought to be, but actually for who I am—it’s an indescribable feeling.  A fantastically good one, certainly!  But not one I could describe no matter how many words I threw at the problem.

It’s a delicious irony, and I do so love my irony:  my powers of communication fail me when I wish to express my feelings over being honored for my communicating, over all those years, my love of the web and my passion for getting it right and the inner workings of how to make that happen.

But I can at least say this:

Thank you.  Thank you for coming to read my posts, for reading my books and articles, for listening to me speak.  Thank you for being the other end of the conversation.  Thank you for being open to what I have to say, and for responding with your insights and perspectives, all of which have changed me in untold ways.  Thank you for making everything I’ve done and said and written about the web worth far more than what I put into it.

Thank you for making this honor possible.

Spoken Words

A couple of interviews that involved me were recently released, and I’ve been very tardy in linking to them.  Life has been like that of late: I passed a major career anniversary last week and completely failed to note it.  I was lucky not to overlook Mother’s Day, which is not really something you want to do when there are children in the house.

So anyway, the interviews:

I’ll be showing up again on the Web 2.0 show as part of an ensemble cast in their discussion of ma.gnolia, but I don’t know when.  I’ll probably linkblog it when it comes out.

Ya know, I remember when interviews were printed, not audible, which was preferable because I tend to sound more intelligent in print than I do in person.  Of course, I also remember acoustic-couple modems, so maybe it’s not that I’m less intelligent so much as more senile.

Before I Forget

At the risk of being a bit backward-looking, on 21 December 2005 I was quoted in the article “Year in Review: CSS, Standards, Microformats and Flash“.  (And I wasn’t even the one who talked about microformats, Jon!)  This was the second half of a year-end review by Stephen Bryant; part one, “The Highs and Lows of Web Design in 2005“, is also online and quotes many familiar names.  I was going to blog both at the time, and, well… I forgot.

For historical purposes, here’s the whole block of text from which I was quoted, in response to the question “Generally speaking, did you see much progression in the adoption of Web standards this year? In CSS use? Can you give some specific site examples?”:

As in previous years, 2005 saw standards adopted more slowly than I’d have liked, but faster than in previous years.  I think this was the year when it became self-evident that standards-oriented design is the way to go.  I can’t remember the last time I had to defend the practice, and whenever that was, it wasn’t in 2005.  At this point, it’s basically all over but the training.  I think the biggest gap now is between the people who want to go standards-oriented, and their ability to do so.  That’s not an easy gap to bridge, but I think we’ll get there.

I mean, it’s the point now that desktop applications are using XHTML and CSS to drive their layout.  Just recently I discovered that Adium, a multi-service chat client for OS X, uses XHTML+CSS for its chat windows.  [E]very chat session in Adium is just a single XHTML document that’s dynamically updated.  Which means that you can define your own markup and CSS to create your own chat window theme.  It’s amazingly slick and powerful, and some of the themes are just gorgeous.  There are other programs doing similar things, and I expect the trend to continue.

The new-in-2005 CSS-driven sites that immediately come to mind: Apple, Slashdot, Turner Broadcasting, AlterNet, McAfee… and I’m sure there were hundreds of others I missed.

Hopefully this won’t lose me the bonus points Jeremy awarded me.  C’mon, man—at least I didn’t post my answer to the question “Best books, blogs, design? Best CSS layout?”!

AIGA Interview Redux

Speaking of AEA, the good people at AIGA released another podcast interview with Jeffrey Zeldman.  Rumor has it they’ll have one coming soon starring Our Man Stan, and there might even be another from yours truly.  Grab hold of their podcast feed if you’re interested in any of that, or in hearing from other designers in the future.

(One week to go.  Woo hoo!)

Update: Jason’s interview is now available.

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