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Reset v2.0

Earlier today, I updated the CSS Tools: Reset CSS page to list the final version of Reset v2.0, as well as updated the reset.css file in that directory to be v2.0.  (I wonder how many hotlinkers that will surprise.)  In other words, it’s been shipped.  Any subsequent changes will trigger version number changes.

There is one small change I made between 2.0b2 and 2.0 final, which is the replacement of the “THIS IS BETA” warning text with an explicit lack of license.  The reset CSS has been in the public domain ever since I first published it, and the Reset CSS page explicitly said it was, but the file itself never said one way or the other.  Now it does.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and perspectives on the new reset.  Here’s to progress!

A Year Apart

It’s well past time for me to spend a few minutes reflecting on An Event Apart in 2010.  In two words: absocrazifreakiperfluously staggerblasticating[I totally stole those. —Ed.]  From the first show to the last, 2010 was an incredible year for An Event Apart, easily our best yet on every front.  Jeffrey and I stand in humbled awe of the amazing speakers and wonderful attendees who joined us this year.  I’ve said before that AEA attendees are “as much colleagues as anything else” and that continues to be so.  While I love our speakers, I love the attendees even more.  What I look forward to most at every show is time spent talking with my fellow craftspeople in the hallway, at lunch, and at the social events.

It seems like a lot of people feel the same way, because every single one of our 2010 shows sold out in advance.  We’re understandably proud of this, and also very, very grateful for your faith and trust in what we do, and hope to continue earning both into the future.  (In honor of your support, AEA recently made a donation to Computers For Youth in support of the next generation.)

So in 2011, we’re building on what we learned in 2010.  We’re going from five to six shows, including a long-delayed return to Atlanta (site of our sophmore effort), and each sporting an optional A Day Apart featuring in-depth coverage of topics like mobile web design, HTML5/CSS3, and content strategy.  If you’re interested, check out our Events page for the show nearest, or of most interest, to you.

Again, our deepest thanks to all our attendees and supporters.  We couldn’t do what we do without you, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of clearing the bar you’ve set for us!

The Survey, 2010

I TOOK IT! And so should you—THe Survey For People Who Make Websites, 2010

It’s that time again: the 2010 edition of The Survey For People Who Make Websites is open and taking your input.  If you’re someone who creates web sites,  whether all the time or some of the time or even just occasionally, please take just a little bit of your day (as I write this, the average time-to-completion is just over 10 minutes) to let us know about you.  Furthermore, please spread the word to any groups to which you belong—local SIGs, mailing lists, newsgroups, forums, message boards, and so on.  I truly believe it’s important to the profession as a whole to have as many web folks as possible participate.

I was asked a little while back why we do the survey, and my answer surprised me not just for its content but also for how much passion I felt.  I said:

I think it’s a vital investigation, a look into our profession that nobody else is even attempting and is… essential if we’re going to be taken at all seriously by anyone other than ourselves.

And even more vital than that, it tells us who we are, collectively speaking. We’re scattered. Many of us are solo. We don’t even know what kind of community we’ve joined. The Survey, though limited and imperfect, tells us something profound and essential about us.

That’s why I’ve wholeheartedly supported this effort from its very outset, putting in hours upon hours of thought and effort into its operation and approving the use of [funds] to pay for professional analysis. This matters.

Other professions have it easy: they require certification or degrees or membership in a professional organization before you can take part.  Because of that, they can often estimate to a reasonable degree, or even count directly, how many of them there are.  They can go to their membership rolls and survey a few thousand randomly picked members to find out their age, location, experience, salary, and anything else that seems interesting to know.

We who build the web don’t have that luxury.  Our profession, just like the medium it serves, has no gatekeepers, no central organization, no clear boundaries.  The Survey is our attempt to disambiguate ourselves.

So please, if you’re someone who makes web sites, take ten minutes to tell us about yourself.  If you know people who make web sites, please point them to the survey and ask them the same.  Thank you.

Seeking Hosting Advice

A friend and I have decided to build a web service/site/whatever the kids are calling them these days.  A thing on the web to help you out from time to time.

As a result, we’re looking for a web host with great service, reliability, and scalability, and I was curious about your experiences.  Here are a few details on what we need:

  • A managed server where patches are applied automatically.  Neither of us are Linux experts, and we want something secured for us without us having to worry about whether some patch breaks the system. 
  • mySQL with phpMyAdmin.  (Don’t judge.)
  • PHP w/cURL, mySQLi, and mCrypt, as well as an editable php.ini file.
  • Apache!
  • Some sort of CVS (Subversion and the like) built in.
  • Bonus: some experience on the hosting side with the ability to escalate to Memcached and other noSQL techniques.

The mySQL and PHP bits are of course incredibly common, but still, no point not mentioning those requirements.  In our case, the bigger issue is really “Who can we trust to provide support for what may turn out to be a reasonably large-scale service?”  So the features aren’t nearly as important as the reliability and trust.

Thus: what say you, friends?  Who rates as a great place to plant a web service seed that could one day grow into a mighty forest?  Let me know!

MIXmasters

The winners of Microsoft’s MIX 10K Smart Coding Challenge (for which I was honored to serve as one of the judges) have been announced, and the Grand Prize has been awarded to…

Jimmy D‘s Frog Log.

Which is an HTML5/CSS/JS entry.

That doesn’t run in Internet Explorer.

Yep.

Frog Log was my top pick, and obviously did very well with the other judges too, for a good reason: it’s a fun game.  It doesn’t play quite the same in Firefox previous to v3.5, as the drag-n-drop doesn’t work.  Instead, you click on a frog, then click where you want to place it.  I actually found that made the game a touch easier for me, but your interaction may vary.  In addition to working in Firefox, Safari, and Opera, it also runs on a number of mobile devices.

Here’s an excerpt from my judging remarks:

Just a great little game, addictive and well thought out with some interesting gameplay.  I would LOVE to see this developed further by the author…  My only ding was that drag-n-drop failed in Firefox 3.5; clicking worked fine, though.

I’m not sure why I had trouble with drag-n-drop in Firefox 3.5, since I don’t have have the same problem now.  Maybe I got confused with browser version numbers or something.  Regardless, it works fine, it’s a great game, and remember: it’s less than 10K unzipped.

I also gave high marks to the HTML5 runner-up, Chris Evans’ 100pxls, which was the source of my Dadaist tweet a couple of weeks back and lands right in my personal sweet spot for “doing odd things with popular web services”.  Here’s some of what I had to say in my remarks:

…really liked the concept here, especially the nonsensical tweets that were generated by drawing your own icon.  The icons could be made easier to see in the main display, but I suppose that’s a minor quibble.

I’d like to thank the MIX 10K crew for getting me involved as a contest judge; I really enjoyed seeing what people created and had a hard time narrowing down my votes to just a handful of winners.  More importantly, though, I offer my heartiest congratulations to all the winners, and most especially to Jimmy and Chris for doing such fun, interesting, and downright cool stuff with 10K of web standards goodness!

Events and A Day, Belatedly

I’m a bad conference organizer.

Why?  Because we opened the An Event Apart 2010 schedule for sales back in, um, flippin’ November, and I never mentioned it here.  Cripes, I never even posted when we announced the lineup of cities.  I could go through the great big long sob-story list of reasons why 2009 was really tough and blah blah blah, but when you get right down to it, I fell down on my job.

Okay.  So.  Time to correct that.

(deep breath)

Hey everyone, check it out: the complete tour schedule for An Event Apart 2010!  Woohoooo!

  1. Seattle: April 5-7, 2010 (yes, three days; more on that anon)
  2. Boston: May 24-25, 2010
  3. Minneapolis: July 26-27, 2010
  4. Washington, DC: September 16-17, 2010
  5. San Diego: November 1-2, 2010

We’ve got a pretty killer lineup, if I do say so myself.  You can get the mostly-complete list from our opening-of-sales announcement last November.  It lists the people we had confirmed at the time; there have been a few additions since then.  Check out your city of choice to see who’s going to be there!  (But always remember that speaker lineups are subject to change: speakers are people too, and life has a way of interfering with schedules.  I myself had to withdraw from An Event Apart Boston last year due to a family emergency.)

The price to register for these two-day, one-track Events is the same as it was in 2009, and there are educational and group discounts available for those who are interested.

But wait, I just said “two-day” when the first show of the year is clearly three days.  What gives?

Seattle is the site of our first-ever A Day Apart, a full-day workshop that can be attended on its own or as part of a full three days of Event Apart ecstasy.  And the inaugural Day Apart will be nothing less than a detailed plunge into HTML 5 and CSS3 with Jeremy Keith and Dan Cederholm.  Jeremy handles the markup; Dan gets stylish.  It’s going to be fantastic.  I’m going to be in the back of the room for the whole day, soaking up as much as I can.

If you want to attend just the workshop, it’s $399 for the whole day if you buy an early bird ticket (available through March 5th).  The price goes up $50 when early bird ends, and another $100 if you show up at the door.  But I wouldn’t recommend that last, because I don’t think there will be any tickets available at the door.  Again: if you show up unannounced on the day of the workshop and ask to buy a ticket, we will most likely have to turn you away, because I expect that there won’t be any seats available.

On the other hand, maybe you’d like to experience more than just one day of AEA goodness.  Maybe you’d like to go whole hog and attend both the two-day Event Apart and the subsequent Day Apart, soaking up all the knowledge and enthusiasm and camaraderie that typifies An Event Apart.  And who could blame you?  If you do that, then the total early bird price for all three days is $1,190, whereas buying the event and workshop passes separately would total $1,294.  That’s right: you actually get slightly more than $100 off the cost of the workshop if you attend all three days, over and above the early bird discount.  (Or you can think of it as getting $100+ off the cost of the conference.  We’re not fussy.)

As it happens, these three-day passes have proved quite popular.  So if you want to get your hands on one of those—or on any Seattle tickets, whether one, two, or three days—I wouldn’t wait too long.  Our internal analyses suggest that there will come a time, some time before the doors open on April 5th, that the ability to buy a ticket will cease to be.  It may even pine for a fjord or two.

As for the four shows that come after Seattle, well, they’re looking pretty popular too.

I know I say this every year, but I’m really excited about what we’ve got planned for the year.  Jeffrey and I constantly and (we hope) consistently strive to create an event that we ourselves want to attend, and that’s absolutely true of the shows and workshop we have planned in 2010.  I can’t wait to hear what the speakers and attendees have to share.  Hope to see you there!

Announcing Followerlap

Last week, I got an interesting inquiry from Velda Christensen:

@meyerweb *wondering just how many of your followers follow @zeldman and vice-versa*

I had no idea.  Furthermore, I didn’t know of a tool that could tell me.  So I built one: Followerlap.

As it turned out, the Twitter API made answering the specific question pretty ridiculously easy, thanks to followers/ids.  All it takes is two API requests, one for each username.  The same would be true of friends/ids, on top of which I suspect I’ll fairly shortly build a tool quite similar to Followerlap.

Since I announced Followerlap’s existence on (where else?) Twitter, I’ve had a few repeated (and not unexpected) bits of feedback.

  • Why not list the common followers?  Because followers/ids returns a list of numeric IDs.  Resolving those IDs as usernames would require one API hit per ID.  If there are 15 followers in common, that’s not such a big deal, but if there are 1,500, well, I’ll run out of my hourly allotment of API requests very quickly.  Maybe there’s a better way; if so, I’d love to hear about it, because that would be a great addition.

  • Why can’t I find out how many people follow both Stephen Fry and Shaquille O’Neal?  Past a certain number of followers, somewhere in the 200,000–250,000 range, the API just dies.  You can’t even count on getting a consistent error message back.  There are ways around this, but I didn’t want to stress the API that way, so it just fails.  Sorry.

  • How can I link to a specific comparison?  At the moment, you can’t.  I hope to make that happen soon, but I decided that a tool this simple should have a similarly simple launch.  Ship early, ship often, right?  Anyway, it’s on the list of things to add soon.  Use the new “Livelink to this result” link underneath a result.  (See update below for more.)

So that’s Followerlap.  Any other questions?  I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments, though for a number of reasons I may be slow to respond.

Update 6 Jul 09: as noted in the edited point above, livelinking of comparison results is now, um, live.  So now you can pass around results like the number of people who follow both God and the Devil (thanks to Paul M. Watson for coming up with that one!).  I call this “livelinking” because hitting a result URL will get you the very latest results for that particular comparison.  “Permalinking” to me implied that it would link to a specific result at a specific time, which the tool doesn’t do and very likely never, ever will.

Findings of the A List Apart Survey 2008

At last—at long, long last!—the results of the A List Apart Survey 2008 are available, along with the anonymized raw data we collected.

There are a great many reasons why it took so long to get this out the door.  A big part is that it’s almost entirely a volunteer effort, which means it happens in our “free time” (and there the word “free” has a couple of meanings).  I say it’s almost entirely a volunteer effort because the detailed analysis is actually done by a pair of professional statisticians, who are paid for their time and expertise.  They did a great job once more, and did it in a reasonable time frame.  It just took us a while to get them the data to analyze, and then a while longer to take their report and findings and process them into report form.

The biggest change this year is that we’re publishing the results as HTML+CSS instead of a PDF.  This greatly increased the challenge, because it was important to me that the data be presented using styled tables, not images.  That’s easy like cake if all you’re doing is putting them up as visual tables, and we certainly do that for some of the figures.  In the other cases, where we have bar charts of varying kinds, things got difficult.  I managed to devise solutions that are 99.9% effective, and I’m both proud of and frustrated by those solutions.  Proud, of course, because I managed to wring three-stack bars out of table markup; frustrated because of the markup I had to construct to make them possible.  I think this report represents more than half my lifetime usage of the style attribute, but unfortunately there’s no way (using just CSS) to say {width: content;}.

So why not use JavaScript to do that, or to just replace the tables with canvas-drawn charts?  I did consider both, but decided that I would push as far as I could with plain HTML+CSS. 

A few implementation notes:

  • I used HTML 5 in order to step around some previously unrealized limitations of HTML 4—did you know tfoot has to come before tbody in HTML 4?  I didn’t.  I did not use elements like header and footer due to known problems in Firefox 2 and related browsers, which mangle pages containing those elements.  Instead, I took the same path Jon Tan recommends, and classed divs using those names for later, easier conversion.

  • The tables which underlie the charts do not have summary attributes.  If a group of civic-minded individuals would like to write useful summaries, please let me know in the comments and I’ll let you know how best to submit them.  Similarly, I did my very best to make sure all the table headers had accurate scope values, but if I botched any, let me know.

  • I’m aware that Opera shows horizontal scrollbars on most chapters of the report.  This is due to its refusal to apply overflow to table boxes, which according to my recent reading of the CSS 2.1 specification is the correct thing to (not) do.  Every other browser I tested does apply overflow to table boxes, though, which I found most useful.  I tried applying overflow: hidden to a few other boxes, and that got rid of Opera’s horizontal scrollbars, but it also cut off actual content in some other browsers.  I chose a cosmetic problem in one browser over loss of content in others.  The best fix I’ve devised is to wrap the tables in divs and apply overflow: hidden to those divs, but I didn’t want to rush the fix and botch it, so it didn’t make it in time for first publication.  I expect to get it in shortly after publication.

  • In a like vein, there are a few combo charts where a bar goes shooting off the right side of the chart in IE7.  This appears to be due to some kind of width-doubling problem that’s only invoked on elements with a style attribute when the row header goes to two lines instead of being just one.  Googling for an explanation yielded no joy, and a lengthy series of attempts to hack around the problem came to nothing.  If anyone knows how to counteract that problem other than preventing the header text from going past a single line, I’d love to hear it.  (Update: I’ve implemented the “fix” of preventing line-wrapping in the report, so there aren’t any off-the-page bars right now, but you can see an example of the problem on this test page.)

  • Surprisingly, the charts mostly work in IE6.  The exception is some of the triple-stack charts, where data points overlap when the rightmost sub-bars get too small, and also the double-width bars mentioned in the previous point.  I don’t really have a fix for this short of upgrading the browser, but if somebody finds one, I’d be happy to test it out.

On that last point, if there are questions or suggestions surrounding the implementation of the report, we can certainly discuss them here.  With regard to the survey and report itself, though—that is, the questions asked and the results we’re publishing—please direct those thoughts to the comments section of the ALA article announcing the report.  I’m hoping that we’ll have the 2009 survey up within a few months, so comments on what we asked and how we asked it, what we didn’t ask but should have, and that sort of thing could well have a direct impact on the next survey.  But please put those on the ALA site, where more people are likely to see them.

It’s done, it’s out, it’s yours—both the report and the data, about which I’ll soon write a little bit more.  Read the report, or produce your own report using the data.  Just always know that when we publish these reports, we do not mean for them to be the final word.  No, what we always mean is for them to be the first words, a starting point, a place from which to grow.  What comes next is as much up to you as anyone else, and I can’t wait to see what you do.

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