Ten Years Ago on the Web

2006 DOESN’T seem forever ago until I remember that we were tracking IE7 bugsworrying about the RSS feed validator, and viewing Drupal as an accessibility-and-web-standards-positive platform, at the time. Pundits were claiming bad design was good for the web (just as some still do). Joe Clark was critiquing WCAG 2. “An Inconvenient Truth” was playing in theaters, and many folks were surprised to learn that climate change was a thing.

I was writing the second edition of Designing With Web Standards. My daughter, who is about to turn twelve, was about to turn two. My dad suffered a heart attack. (Relax! Ten years later, he is still around and healthy.) A List Apart had just added a job board. “The revolution will be salaried,” we trumpeted.

Preparing for An Event Apart Atlanta, An Event Apart NYC, and An Event Apart Chicago (sponsored by Jewelboxing! RIP) consumed much of my time and energy. Attendees told us these were good shows, and they were, but you would not recognize them as AEA events today—they were much more homespun. “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” we used to joke. “My mom will sew the costumes and my dad will build the sets.” (It’s a quotation from a 1940s Andy Hardy movie, not a reflection of our personal views about gender roles.)

Jim Coudal, Jason Fried and I had just launched The Deck, an experiment in unobtrusive, discreet web advertising. Over the next ten years, the ad industry pointedly ignored our experiment, in favor of user tracking, popups, and other anti-patterns. Not entirely coincidentally, my studio had just redesigned the website of Advertising Age, the leading journal of the advertising profession.

Other sites we designed that year included Dictionary.com and Gnu Foods. We also worked on Ma.gnolia, a social bookmarking tool with well-thought-out features like Saved Copies (so you never lost a web page, even if it moved or went offline), Bookmark Ratings, Bookmark Privacy, and Groups. We designed the product for our client and developed many of its features. Rest in peace.

I was reading Adam Greenfield’s Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, a delightfully written text that anticipated and suggested design rules and thinking for our present Internet of Things. It’s a fine book, and one I helped Adam bring to a good publisher. (Clearly, I was itching to break into publishing myself, which I would do with two partners a year or two afterwards.)

In short, it was a year like any other on this wonderful web of ours—full of sound and fury, true, but also rife with innovation and delight.

As part of An Event Apart’s A Decade Apart celebration—commemorating our first ten years as a design and development conference—we asked people we know and love what they were doing professionally ten years ago, in 2006. If you missed parts onetwothree, or four, have a look back.



Nicole Sullivan on CSS

CSS troubleshooter Nicole Sullivan on The Big Web Show.

Update! Episode 11 featuring Nicole Sullivan on CSS optimization is now available for your listening and viewing pleasure at 5by5.tv.

If writing good CSS is tough, fixing someone else’s (or multiple someones’) bad CSS is a rarified art calling for the skill of a surgeon, the sensitivity of a Stradivarius, the patience of a saint, and the diplomacy of a Zheng He. Nicole Sullivan is one of the best and most successful of that small pool of CSS troubleshooters. Dan Benjamin and I are thrilled to have her as our guest on Episode 11 of The Big Web Show. Join us today, 8 July 2010, for the live taping at 1:00 PM ET.

Nicole is an evangelist, front-end performance consultant, CSS Ninja, and author. She started the Object-Oriented CSS open source project, which answers the question: how do you scale CSS for millions of visitors or thousands of pages? She also consulted with the W3C for their beta redesign, and is the co-creator of Smush.it, an image optimization service in the cloud.

Nicole is passionate about CSS, web standards, and scalable front-end architecture for large commercial websites. She speaks about performance at conferences around the world, most recently at An Event Apart, The Ajax Experience, ParisWeb, and Web Directions North.

The Big Web Show is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards (often within hours of taping) via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.

Web charts with HTML5 + Flash

ZingChart hopes to end the war between HTML5 and Flash in web-based charting:

Today we launched the first charting library that renders charts and graphs in both HTML5 <canvas> and Flash. Rather than join the Flash vs. <canvas> debate, we built a version that renders charts in both frameworks. With the recent launch of the iPad, we hope ZingChart Flash + HTML5 <canvas> helps the growing data visualization community focus on building great visualizations rather than worrying about compatibility.

For you visual learners and tinkerers, here’s the demo:


via ZingChart.

Next question: How accessible is it?

WordPress 2.5 unleashed

WordPress 2.5, designed by Happy Cog and built by Automattic, has been released. Download and enjoy.

[tags]wordpress, wordpress2.5, 2.5, happycog, automattic, blogs, blogging, tools[/tags]