Everyware

Adam Greenfield has written one of the most provocative books in years. If the right people read it, Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing may do for the coming, computerless computing interface what Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things did for design generally. Like Norman, Greenfield argues for good design not as an aesthetic issue but as an ethical and business imperative. There is an urgency and clarity to every word.

Everyware is both a prescription and a warning. Although films like Minority Report have made such ubicomp staples as the gestural interface look a bit silly, these kinds of interactivity are coming soon to a wall or object near you. Depending on who designs them and by what principles, they will work beautifully or badly. Everyware will enhance our lives by anticipating our needs or it will destroy our privacy — or both.

Besides Don Norman’s book, the other piece of writing I sometimes thought of as I read Everyware was Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Writing in 1937, Benjamin pondered what the existence of photographic reproduction did to the status of the unique work of art. If the Mona Lisa can be reproduced by lithography, what is the value of the Mona Lisa?

It’s not that Greenfield writes like Benjamin (he doesn’t). It’s that both writers see and can describe changes in the world to which their contemporaries are oblivious. Greenfield is a friend and former member of Happy Cog so I have an interest in seeing his book do well. But if I didn’t know him or couldn’t stand him I would still highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about how design and technology are shaping our time.

Heartwarming

Baseball weather has come to NYC. And a baseball stadium is where we’ll hold An Event Apart Atlanta in just a few days’ time. If global warming worked the other way — if the winters were getting colder each year — the world’s governments would have already worked together to reverse global warming. But when winter grows milder and spring arrives sooner, it feels so good it’s hard to realize how bad it is. But I digress.

We’re busy prepping for Atlanta, so here are some links:

Minolta quits camera biz
A former ad client, at one time the 3rd largest camera maker in the world, can’t compete against digital.
“Would you write your life story in pencil?” was an ad I tried to sell them for their Maxxum line of high quality, 35mm point-and-shoot SLRs. (Instead they bought “More Maxxum Magic!”, a line I did not write for them.) Even so, it’s sad to see them go.
Monochrom Brandmarker
An attempt to evaluate the power of brands by making Austrian people draw twelve logos from memory, 25 people per brand. Via Coudal.com.
Magnolia Blossom
Mac OS X dashboard widget embeds social networking in your desktop: “Watch websites scroll across as they are bookmarked by ma.gnolia.com members. Spend less time scrolling through pages of text and find those eye-catching sites now!”
Gapers Block
Clean, good-looking, well written Chicago blog.
In Progress: Logo Design (A)
Cameron Moll on the National Gazette identity he and Jason Santa Maria are designing.
In Progress: Logo Design (B)
Jason Santa Maria on the National Gazette identity he and Cameron Moll are designing.
Top 15 Skylines in the World v. 3.0
An urban planner picks his Top 15 skylines. Via Gapers Block.
Dieter Steffmann typefaces
Immense archive of Dieter Steffmann fonts. “Acorn Initials” is typical Steffmann work. Re-blogged from March 2004.
CNN.com redesigns
1024 wide. Looks great. Pity about non-validating table layout. Via Hivelogic.com.
coComment
In one central place, track comments you’ve left on blogs all over the place.
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
“…total access to original tracks with remix and sampling… Download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through … Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like. Add them to your own song or create a new one. Visitors are welcome to post their mixes or songs that incorporate these audio files on the site for others to hear and rate.”
Drupal
Open source content management platform that cares about accessibility and standards.
Airbag – Styrofoam
Adventures in food management.
Designers must write
“As my ability to shape both written and oral communication improves, I am better equipped to direct the work of others.” (Via Cameron Moll.)
In Search of a Comprehensive Type Design Theory
“Type designers might be convinced that our profession is vital to society, but we wouldn’t risk going on strike.”
Ironic Sans – Pre-pixelated clothes
“Stop worrying about whether or not the producer of that Reality TV show you’re on will pixelate your carefully chosen t-shirt. Beat them to the punch with pre-pixelated products!” (Via K10k.net.)
Thank You for Smoking – main titles
Beautiful! via Stan.
America’s Technology Future at Risk
A new study released by the Economic Strategy Institute explains why U.S. companies can’t compete in key new business sectors, and offers a variety of regulatory and investment prescriptions (via Thomas L. Friedman).
Teaching at Risk: Progress and Potholes
The Final Report of the Teaching Commission (via Thomas L. Friedman).
It’s a great time to start a business
Six reasons to start a business today (by 37signals’s David Heinemeier Hansson).
IE7 Improvements and Bug Tracking
Eric Meyer weighs in.
W3C: Failed Commitments?
Much ado about nothing. Forest. Trees.
Happy Doomsday to You!
“Washington was about one horseman short of an apocalypse yesterday.”

An Event Apart Chicago

Announcing An Event Apart Chicago. Join Eric Meyer, Jason Santa Maria, Jim Coudal and Zeldman in the windy city for a mind-blowing day of insights into design, development, and how to stay happy running a creative business. Register now to reserve your seat and save $50 off the admission price.

Friday, June 2nd, 2006
9:00 – 5:00
The Gleacher Center
450 North Cityfront Plaza Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4316
(Map)

The Speakers

An Event Apart offers the opportunity to meet and learn from creative and technical stars who influence the direction of our industry:

  • Jim Coudal runs Coudal Partners, a design firm in Chicago. They work for companies and they build companies, like Jewelboxing, The Show, and The Deck. Before making websites, films, and real-world products, Jim Coudal was an ad creative director. His insights into conceiving and selling great ideas are not to be missed.
  • Jason Santa Maria has been recognized for designing stylistic and imaginative (yet also usable and effective) web interfaces. He recently won acclaim for the A List Apart redesign, whose secrets he’ll share with attendees.
  • Eric Meyer has conducted complex standards-based makeovers and led intensive multi-day training sessions for such clients as Apple Computer, America On-Line, Yahoo!, Macromedia, Wells Fargo Bank, Cornell University, and others. No one has a deeper or more practical grasp of CSS; no one can teach it like Eric.
  • Founder of A List Apart and Happy Cog, former leader of The Web Standards Project, and author of Designing With Web Standards, Jeffrey Zeldman helped bring standards to browsers and the design community. He serves clients from Ad Age and Amnesty International USA to Lexico (Dictionary.com) and the United Nations Womens Development Fund.

The Space

The Gleacher Center is 50,000 square feet of high-tech conference space, smack in the heart of Chicago’s business district, blocks from the Loop and steps from Magnificent Mile shopping, restaurants, and hotels. An Event Apart will unfold in one of its spacious, uncrowded lecture halls, where every seat has plenty of room and every view is a good one.

Gourmet lunch and other catering throughout the day will include vegetarian options. Spectacular river and lake views in the separate dining lounge will make you forget how good the food is.

The Sponsors

Lunch is courtesy of Media Temple (“set your sites on us”), web host to the stars. We thank them for their continued support. AIGA Press and New Riders (“Voices That Matter”) will also be on hand to make sure attendees have reading materials to stay mentally stimulated after the event.

And speaking of mental stimulation, new sponsor Jewelboxing will throw a post-event Happy Hour And A Half at a Chicago pub. Schmooze, hobnob, network, or beg for a job while enjoying free cocktails. Further details will come soon.

A good time will be had!

The Deal

Our Philadelphia and Atlanta events sold out fast and we were unable to accommodate many who wished to attend. Chicago, given its size and the depth of its design and user experience communities, will sell out even faster. Seating is limited and availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Register during our Early Bird special to save your seat and shave $50 off the price of admission. The full day, including tasty catered lunch and goodies, costs $549. But if you register by May 1st, you can attend for $499. See you in Chicago!

It’s a new morning in adland

Starting in April, The Morning News becomes the sixth card in The Deck, our targeted advertising network for creative, web, and design professionals. The Deck is all about cost per influence, and adding one of the best written, most consistent and entertaining sites on the web extends that influence considerably. Limited advertising opportunities are currently available April through July.

Unmixed

A few weeks back, Microsoft’s Robert Scoble invited me to join Bill Gates, Kelly Goto, Roger Black, Lynda Weinman and other luminaries at Mix 06, a Microsoft-hosted “72-hour conversation” that wraps today in Las Vegas. Purpose of event: to “mix the next web now.”

It was like receiving an invitation from the emperor.

You may think “Web 2.0″ and the “next web” are meaningful, industry-shaping concepts, or you may view them as marketing spin. You may trust that Microsoft wishes to be a citizen of the emerging state or suspect that it wants to be king. Whatever you hope or fear, and whatever value you place on such gabfests, to participate would surely be to learn. Plus you’d get to rub elbows with pirates and pundits from Tim O’Reilly and Marc Canter to Molly Holzschlag and some of the big brains behind eBay and Amazon.

Yet after at least two minutes of agonizing inner debate, I declined Microsoft’s invitation. Timing, which is also the secret of comedy, was the problem. Mix 06 followed SXSW too closely. As a business owner, I could afford to stay away from my agency for one week, but not for two.

Although a lot of designers, writers, and technologists seem to have been able to hopscotch from Austin to Vegas without so much as checking their office mailbox, I couldn’t.

Here in New York City there were jobs to finish and meetings to attend. There were clients to see and accountants and attorneys to see and pay. In Las Vegas they might be polishing up HTML 6 or figuring out how to make readers write all the content and pay for it, but back in my studio I had voice mails and RFPs and PDFs and Photoshop comps to sort through. (Just like you!)

Eric Meyer, one of the smartest people I have ever known, is at Mix 06 and has recorded some impressions, the most designer-relevant of which concern how much more CSS work Microsoft plans to do on IE7. (Answer: none.)

There is also a photo of Eric Meyer excessively enjoying free Internet Explorer stickers and bottled water.

Simon St Laurent, another of the smartest people I have ever known, has written a next web column on why the XML web, semantic web, and services web haven’t happened yet (and may never) while AJAX/”Web 2.0″ has, kind-of. Reading Simon’s column might almost be as good as attending Mix 06.

And Tim O’Reilly has blogged what he was planning to talk about while sharing a stage with Bill Gates. (And if I were sharing a stage with Bill Gates you can bet I’d blog it, too. After all, here I am doing nothing and getting a nice post out of it.)

There’s also a post and video of the actual conversation between Bill Gates and Tim O’Reilly, although, oddly, the video is not in QuickTime format.

Tim O’Reilly starts the conversation by telling Bill Gates how a Tim O’Reilly blog post launched Web 2.0 and led thousands of people to buy and sell stuff. That is as far as I got watching the video.

I guess if you are talking to Bill Gates you have to tell him who you are, even if you are Tim O’Reilly.

Well, anyway, I didn’t go to Mix 06, so I have lost untold thousands of pundit karma points. But this morning I read Hippos Go Berserk! to my kid. And even though we have read that book together at least 562 times, she found it fresh and exciting and new. And so did I.

Good stories stay new.

Fascinating and industry-changing revelations are likely emerging from Mix 06. I’m a bit sorry to miss the first utterances of them. But however brilliant such revelations may be, and however far their ripples spread, my web will not change. Whatever the pundits and pirates may say this week, my web is about content.

No matter what’s said at any conference, my web will continue to be about good writing and good design. Because that’s what I care about. And your web is your web because you care about what you care about. And whatever that is, there’s plenty of it to be found or made on this big web we share.

No matter how many new marketing phrases and acronyms emerge (some even with concepts attached), and no matter how much money some people make or lose betting on them (and the choice of Las Vegas as venue is telling), what I value does not change.

And that’s what I learned at Mix 06.

Fine Corinthian Leather

Sophia Marie Dominey
A very healthy eight pounds, eleven ounces.
Dissecting The Process
or: How an A List Apart Illustration Comes Together, by the illustrator himself, Kevin Cornell.
simplifier lab
Phoebe Espiritu’s fine blog on the quest for simplicity and minimalism in design.
Rogue Librarian: SXSWi Takeaways
Carrie Bickner Zeldman’s writeup of her SXSW Interactive panel on Digital Preservation and Blogs. See also:
Digital Preservation Panel at SXSWi
Librarian Avengers’s notes on the same panel. See also:
Digital Preservation: What and Whom Are We Saving?
Bill Anderson’s notes on the same panel.
Vantan.org
Personal site of Vanessa Tan, devoted Netizen and musician, blogging from Singapore.
Aspen Design Summit
AIGA-sponsored retreat.
This is Powazek
Beauteous and well-written site of cofounder of JPG Magazine (and creator of bunches of other fab web content, none of which I need to tell you, ’cause you know)
Behind the WaSP Redesign
Designer Clarke discusses creative process. See also:
WaSP Annual General Meeting
Transcribed by Muffin Research Labs.
Does Your Blog Have a Business?
SXSW Interactive panel transcribed by Auscillate.com.
CSS Floatutorial
In CSS layout, float is all. Maxdesign’s step-by-step guide shows how to float elements such as images, drop caps, and next and back buttons to create image galleries, inline lists and multi-column layouts.
CSS Tweak
Now with in-page Help! Andy Peatling’s free web-based tool optimizes your CSS files. “It will take any CSS file and optimize the syntax, grouping your style declarations into shorthand where possible. It can also remove comments, and strip whitespace for maximum compression.”
A brief history of the “clenched fist” image
Like it says.
GrayBit v0.5 Beta
“GrayBit is an online accessibility testing tool designed to visually convert a full-color web page into a grayscale rendition for the purpose of visually testing the page’s perceived contrast.”
Interior Desecrations
Horrible home design from the classic halls of Lileks.
George Bush: I Don’t Know Much About Designing Rugs
In Design Observer.
Accessible Web Developers
A public group at ma.gnolia. Creating accessible (and mobile-friendly) sites.
Brit Pack
Proud members.
More Ma.gnolia Marks
See all 345 (and counting) of Apartness’s bookmarks.

SXSW III: Things That Were Said

  1. Jason Fried, the president of 37signals, had just finished speaking to an admirer.

    “It’s always guys,” he said wistfully of his fan base. “Never women.”

    Fried’s colleague, Jim Coudal, said, “Women come up to me all the time. They say, ‘oh my God, do you know Jason Fried? My brother LOVES him!’”

  2. Baby A__ , designer Jason Santa Maria and I were leaving everyone’s favorite egg-and-bean breakfast joint. We paused while Baby A__ and I negotiated the fine points of stroller and sippie cup maintenance.

    A guy with just a touch of yesterday’s ashtray about him, one arm draped over a parking meter, eyed Jason Santa Maria suspiciously.

    “You a Jew?” he asked.

    Somehow it didn’t sound friendly.

    Jason, who is of Italian American descent, answered truthfully in the negative.

    “Have a good day,” I said to the guy, pushing the stroller briskly out of his universe.

  3. A bunch of us had been dawdling in a sunbaked courtyard and now I was alone and late for the green room. Still wearing jet-black sunglasses against the Austin glare outside, I rode the long escalator through the airconditioned cool. Up, up, up.

    I was riding up. Others were riding down. My face was turned vaguely in the direction of the people coming down, but I wasn’t looking at them, and wouldn’t have recognized anyone through my dark glasses even if I had been paying attention to them.

    Suddenly, one of the people coming down was in my face, leaning across the up-down barrier to confront me.

    “Ya know me!” she shouted angrily. “I’m Mary! [Not her real name.]

    It took all of a cartoon moment. By the time I realized what had happened, Mary [not her real name] was twenty feet below me and about to turn onto a lower escalator.

    I could see by her gestures that she was furiously complaining to a companion about my perceived rudeness in not embracing her with flowers and song, or at least with a hello, as our bodies passed in the vast anonymous convention center space. That I might not have seen her hadn’t occurred to her.

    Off guard and off balance, I tried to rectify a social mistake I hadn’t made by calling down to her rapidly disappearing body.

    “Hi, Mary!” [not her real name] I trilled down the escalator, girlishly waving a hand in her direction. My voice was chirpy and strange to me, my gesture artificial and nanocenturies too late.

    So now there are two dolls in hell.

    There’s the Mary doll [not her real name] that breathes dragon fire and roars, “Ya know me! I’m Mary!

    And there’s the Jeffrey doll, waving girlishly down the vastness of an endless escalator shaft.

SXSW II

Alice, asleep at her solitaire table, dreamed the cards had come to life. A similar surrealism pervades SXSW, where thousands of your favorite websites become friendly, noisy flesh.

The fun at SXSW Interactive is people. Every year there are more of them, from more places around the world. From Sydney and Stockholm and Tokyo they come, as well as from Denver and Dallas. Each year you ask yourself how much bigger SXSW can get before it starts to suck. Yet each year as it gets bigger it gets better.

This is, of course, a good time to be of the web, and so a special energy buzzes the halls and spills from the stages.

The people provide the kick, the buzz, the juice, but the panels and keynotes aren’t half bad either.

Sunday at 5:00 I led a session on How to Roll Your Own Web Conference. It went well and seemed to provide value, thanks entirely to my wonderful panelists.

(I have found that if you stack your panel with smart people with diverse backgrounds and points of view, the hour takes care of itself and everyone, including you, learns something. This is also the way I run Happy Cog: build a small team of talented people with complementary skill sets, articulate the problem you need them to solve, and stand back.)

Monday morning I’ll have the pleasure of contributing to DL Byron’s panel, Does Your Blog Have a Business?. I’ll also do a book signing and contribute a few nostalgic meanderings to the WaSP Annual Meeting. (It will be the first WaSP meeting I’ve attended since retiring from the group in 2002.)

The session I wish I could see is Carrie’s on Digital Preservation and Blogs:

The emergence of the early web, and of blogging, stands to be like early film; if the preservation of blogs does not begin soon, most of the initial output of this new medium and genre will be lost, and future understanding will be limited to the scraps that survive.This fall, a group of students in the Library and Information School at Pratt worked on a small project to preserve a handful of blogs. Join us as we discuss the technical, social and legal problems posed by this endeavor.

Anyone who has worked long and hard on a blog, zine, or web product realizes how ephemeral they are. (We are Ozymandias.) Preserving blogs is a multilayered task involving curatorial and editorial acumen, systems and programming skills, an understanding of copyright law, and more. If the preservationists do their job right, people 25 years from now will have some inkling of what we have created in this time. If they get it wrong, our work turns to sand.

See you in the hallways, comrades.

SXSW I

Our daughter is a radiant being of pure light. She is also a 17-month-old kid. Fellow SXSW speakers and panelists, if I’m not in the audience for your panel today, it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s because I’m off taking care of little A__.

And if I don’t show up at a dinner or party, it’s because the joint serves hooch, and the State of Texas has laws forbidding little kids from entering such places. We learned about these laws last night when we were unable to join a group for dinner. Ended up in an ice cream parlor. The state frowns at exposing kids to the sins of the bars, but winks at gluttony.

Zeldman.com Reloaded

With a book half-written, two conferences looming, and waves of client work smashing the levees, it seemed a good time to change hosts and funnel this old hand-tooled site into a modern content management system.

The site is now powered by WordPress (why?) and hosted by Media Temple (why?). The hand-rolled summaries feed has retired. In its place is full-text RSS 2.0. There is also a full-text Atom feed for those who like their tofu extra crunchy.

Feeds and browsers

As the DNS rolls over, revealing this post, the retired RSS feed will seamlessly redirect to the new. If you’re reading this but seeing the wrong feed when you click the little RSS badge in your browser’s address bar, you’re using Apple’s Safari, and it’s clutching dead files in its cache. Quit the browser and restart OS X to make Safari find the new feed.

(Safari users may not need to do any of this, of course. Bang-your-head-against-the-desk Safari caching problems typically only affect site owners and developers.)

Hacky sack

I wanted WordPress to do things my way, which meant getting under the hood. I needed to finish before SXSW, which starts tomorrow. And I didn’t have time to learn anything new.

So I asked Noel Jackson (home, agency, software) to do the light hacking required to make WordPress my beast. He made it happen well and fast.

Still to come

Haven’t implemented comments yet. Still considering how best to do so. May not get around to it until after An Event Apart Atlanta. Comments. Gar. After nearly 11 years without. Huge. Gotta ponder. As for My Glamorous Life, for the time being that part of the site is sealed off until I figure out how (if at all) I want to carry it forward.

Basically, though, we’re open for business. Welcome back. (If you haven’t read Why WordPress? and Why Media Temple?, now might be a good time to do that.)

[tags]zeldman, wordpress, blog[/tags]