Monday, 18 February 2002

Published 22 years, 5 months past

A big gap in writing means a big update.  I’ll try to keep it brief.  Wait, who am I kidding?  I’ll be as long-winded as usual.

Travel: Kat and I just spent a weekend together in New York City, after I met with various people within Time-Warner to introduce the Netscape Evangelism teamJeff’s head cold prevented us from seeing him and his gal for dinner (although I’d seen him earlier in the week), but we did get time to hang out with a variety of Kat’s friends.  On Saturday, we fought our way through packed masses of people to see the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown.  It was there that I found a new definition of “pathetic.”  The parade turned out to be two very short dragons, a guy hitting a cymbal, and some local businessmen in suits.  Front to back, the entire parade was about twenty feet long.  Seriously.

We also got to see Kat’s parents for brunch on Sunday morning, which is always nice.  The Inn at Great Neck has a great buffet-style brunch, including oysters on the half-shell and some really amazing jumbo shrimp.

While coming in for a landing at Hopkins, I composed a blank-verse poem.  I’m not sure why.  It was as wretched as my other poetry, so I let it go, but what is it about recent months that has made me more poetic?  Or at least made me think I am?

The Written Word: People have been asking about my writing, and there are quite a few rumors floating around, so here’s the latest scoop straight from me.  (I’d just like to pause a moment to reflect on the fundamental oddity of there being rumors about me and my work.  Okay.  Let’s move on.)

The biggest news is that I’m writing a CSS book for New Riders; if you want to waste a few minutes for no good reason you can check out my author profile on their site.  This book will not, as some have speculated, be called “CSS Magic.”  This is entirely because I couldn’t live with the format restrictions that series places on its authors.  Instead, the book will preserve the spirit of the Magic books but be presented more like a narrative text that walks the reader through the creation of a design, or an important aspect of one.  The feeling the reader should (hopefully) get is of sitting next to me while I work through a project, seeing how the styles are built up and, when necessary, changed.  Every chapter will be a project, and labeled as such.  Code fragments will show what’s added or changed at every step.  The entire book will be in full color, and I’m aiming for an average of about one screenshot per page.  Code fragments will show what’s added or changed at every step.  Sidebar notes and warnings will point out other things to try, or certain caveats, and so on.  So in many ways, it will be very much like a Magic book.  But it won’t be called “CSS Magic.”

We’re aiming to have it on shelves this summer, with writing projected to be finished by the end of March.  It’s about two-thirds done already.  As a bit of a teaser, the book will incorporate at least three of the demos found in css/edge, in whole or in part.  I’ll leave you to guess which ones made it in.

As for Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, there will not be a second edition before 2003 at the earliest.  The problem is that expanding the book to cover CSS2, as I would pretty obviously have to do, means I’d have to write a lot of “this is how things should work, but no browser gets this right yet” or “only one browser will handle this, the rest will gack up a hairball.”  Even in a book like CSS:TDG, which is concerned as much with theory as practice, I vastly prefer to cover theory that can actually be put into practice.  Who wants to read a 20-page chapter on generated content when it isn’t fully supported by any known browser?

So that’s a big factor in when the writing starts and when a second edition might hit the shelves.  The release of IE6/Win actually delayed this process, because it added so little in the way of new and correct CSS support.

There you have it: the latest writing information.  I should probably restructure my “Books” page so it has room for this sort of thing, and allow me to keep interested parties more up-to-date on what I’m doing.  Maybe when the New Riders book is done…

On a related note, Owen Briggs ( and Eric Costello ( are also finishing up a practical CSS book, and I believe it’s due out in April.  I don’t know much more about it, except that given the uniformly excellent work the both of them have published, I’m confident it will be a worthwhile addition to anyone’s library.

On another related note, Meryl K. Evans has posted a new article, Blast Sites with User CSS Sheets, which was written with some input from me and was apparently inspired in part by my presentation “User Stylesheets: A Tool for Design (and Destruction!)” last November at Web Design World 2001.  You can find the original Powerpoint files for that presentation on my Talks page, but read Meryl’s article for a much more friendly and thorough look at how user stylesheets can be a useful too in the hands of a savvy designer.

css-discuss:  Although the pace has slowed quite a bit, we’re still adding members; the count is now over 1500 subscribers to the list.  The ebb and flow of the list has been fascinating, and I think we’re starting to evolve the kind of community I’d hoped to create.  It will still take some shepherding, but I think people have caught on to what I’m about.  Word.

On yet another related note, Al Sparber, founder of Project VII and a highly respected Dreamweaver guru and real-world standards advocate, recently started up a CSS discussion newsgroup on the PVII NNTP server.  I presume the group will be primarily focused on using CSS in a Dreamweaver environment, and certainly in conjunction with Al’s DW extensions and design packs, but I bet it will also be a good place to get information about using CSS in general.  You can find it at news:// (Thanks to Shirley K. for reminding me, by dint of her blog entry, that I’d forgotten to post this before my trip to NYC.)

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