SXSW Parents Cooperatives

If I learned one thing at this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival, it was this: you can’t bring your three-year-old to SXSW Interactive and expect to actually participate in SXSW Interactive.

Don’t get me wrong: Trading parenting duties with your spouse enables you to see or contribute to at least some of the show’s panels and parties.

Don’t get me wronger: SXSW Interactive is foremost about the stuff that happens in halls, the chance meetings with your web heroes on Congress, the small gatherings and compressed conversations at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These mini-gatherings are the best thing at SXSW, and, with the exception of an occasional meal cancelled on account of meltdown, you don’t have to miss out.

Don’t get me wrongest: Traveling with your young child is a privilege, and the memories you make are more precious than the panels you miss.

Still, there is the problem. SXSW Interactive is the annual gathering of the tribes. Many of the tribes now have younguns. Attending a two-day educational conference without your kids is not a huge deal, but SXSW lasts a week. The choices are not good: See the whole show but miss your kids for a week? Bring your kids and miss practically the whole show? Attend for only a couple of days, missing your kids and most of the show?

On the third day I found myself in a costly hotel room across from the conference center, skipping a keynote to play with Barbie dolls, it occurred to me that groups of parents could band together to create a more optimal experience.

Here’s how SXSW Parents Cooperatives could work: You and six other families bring your kids. An Austin nanny provides knowledge of local activities and primary child care. Parents pool their money to pay the nanny. Each day a different parent accompanies the nanny and kids to the playroom or museum or park. (That way there is always one parent present.) Everyone has each other’s mobile phone numbers; there are strict rules about drop-off and pick-up. Each participating parent misses one day of the conference, but gets to attend all the other days without worry or guilt.

It beats missing the conference—or your family.

Variations are possible. Maybe two parents hang with the nanny each day. Maybe one parent does the morning and another does the afternoon.

You start your co-op and I’ll start mine. For reasons of child safety and privacy, we can’t organize our co-ops on public-facing websites. But we can pool our experiences after next year’s show. Maybe several co-ops can start a wiki. Or a bowling tournament. Or a kid-friendly party or two.

Catch you ’round the jungle gym.

SXSW Interactive Video

  • Respect! Panel Excerpt featuring Douglas Bowman of Stopdesign and Google, and Happy Cogs Erin Kissane, Liz Danzico, and Jason Santa Maria. Moderated by Jeffrey Zeldman. The panel’s title gets mangled, and the name “Santa Monica” is shown when I talk, but interesting things are said about getting buy-in on design.
  • Michael Lopp and Jeffrey Zeldman on user interface design and managing design and development teams.

[tags]sxsw, parents, co-ops[/tags]

Monday links

WCAG Samurai
The WCAG Samurai Errata for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 are published as an alternative to WCAG 2. “You may comply with WCAG 2, or with these errata, or with neither, but not with both at once.” Published 26 February 2008. Read the intro first.
Happy Cog Studios at SXSW Interactive
Two hot panels, plus bowling.
Alex King’s Twitter Tools
Integrate your Twitter account with your WordPress blog. Archive your tweets, create a blog post from each tweet, create a daily digest of your tweets, post a tweet in your sidebar, and more.
Chopsticks by Carlos Segura
Brilliant! 51 chopstick bags by Carlos Segura assisted by Ryan Halvorsen. In EPS for your raster or vector pleasure.
Can a Gas Station Really Be Green?
Boston design firm builds green gas station in smoggy LA.
48 Unique Ways To Use WordPress
CMS, city guide, history/timeline site, intranet, movie poster and trailer site, network hub, polling site, Feedburner alternative, Twitter clone, many more.
Misleading Marketing Copy
Words and phrases to avoid if you want an honest relationship with your customers.
Pattern inspiration (Veerle’s Blog)
Design inspiration via wallpaper and tiles.
Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior (on Flickr)
Illustrations from the newly published book by Indi Young (Rosenfeld Media, 2008).
A Speck of Sunlight Is a Town’s Yearly Alarm Clock
On March 8, the sun will rise again in Longyearbyen, the first time since October.
Dockdrop
Free Mac OS X application lets you share files fast. Drag any file or folder onto the Dockdrop dock icon, then choose how you want to send it. Dockdrop uploads it and puts a URL for your upload on the clipboard, ready for pasting into an email, chat program or website.
Official Google Maps API Blog: Google Maps Without the Scripting
The Google Static Maps API provides a simpler way to add maps to your website. Rather than use JavaScript, the Google Static Maps API creates map images on the fly via simple requests to the Static Maps service with HTTP requests.

[tags]zeldman, wcagsamurai, happycog, sxsw, googlemaps, wordpress, veerle, indiyoung, mentalmodels, wcag2, accessibility[/tags]

Happy fourth birthday, real world semantics

Four years ago today, Tantek Çelik and Kevin Marks gave a presentation on real-world semantics. Working backwards from HTML extensions like XFN (created by Tantek, Matt Mullenweg, and Eric Meyer), the paper showed how designers and developers could add semantics to today’s web rather than starting from scratch or waiting for a “purer” markup language to bring us an “uppercase semantic web.”

As with ‘most all great ideas, the principles were simple and, in hindsight, profoundly obvious. Do what designers were already doing. Instead of toiling over new languages that might or might not get adopted, use existing (X)HTML elements such as rel and class, and agree on such things as common class names for simple things like relationship definitions.

On behalf of all web designers and developers, thank you, Tantek and friends, and happy birthday.

[tags]microformats, semantics, realworld, tantek, xfn, hcard, 4years[/tags]

Self-publishing is the new blogging

Everyone a writer, everyone a publisher, everyone a citizen journalist.

Everything that could be digital would be. Content wanted to be free. Then we had to get paid. But animated smack-the-monkey ads were so declassé. Ch-ching, Google AdSense, ch-ching, The Deck advertising network, ch-ching your ad network here.

Everyone a writer, everyone a publisher, everyone a citizen journalist, ch-ching.

First the writers and designers did the writing. Then the non-writers who had something to say did it. Then the people with nothing to say got a MySpace page and the classy ones switched to Facebook.

And ch-ching was heard in the land. And the (not citizen) journalists heard it, and it got them pecking into their Blackberries and laptops.

And then the writers and designers, ashamed at rubbing shoulders with common humanity, discovered the 140-character Tweet and the Tumblr post. No stink of commerce, no business model, nothing that could even charitably be called content, and best of all, no effort. Peck, peck, send.

When you’ve flown that far from Gutenberg, the only place to travel is back.

Enter Lulu, all slinky hips and clodhoppers. Self-publishing is the new blogging. No more compromises. No more external deadlines. No more heavy-handed editors and ham-fisted copyeditors. No more teachers, lots more books.

You don’t need distribution, you’ve got PayPal. You don’t need stores: there’s only two left, and nobody buys books there, anyway. You don’t need traditional marketing. Didn’t we already prove that?

Got book?

[tags]blogging, editing, publishing, self-publishing, writing, writers[/tags]

Blue Beanie Day

On Monday, November 26, 2007, don your blue beanie to show your support for web standards and accessibility. So goes the pitch by Douglas Vos, founder of Facebook’s Designing With Web Standards Group:

Monday, November 26, 2007 is the day thousands of Standardistas (people who support web standards) will wear a Blue Beanie to show their support for accessible, semantic web content. … Don a Blue Beanie and snap a photo. Then on November 26, switch your profile picture in Facebook and post your photo to the Blue Beanie Day group at Flickr.

Is this silly or serious? Seems to me, it’s a bit of both. If enough people do it on enough social networks, it might even raise web standards awareness in a small but positive way. (As opposed to, say, busting people for a validation error, which, surprisingly, doesn’t win you their love.)

Participation is easy. Here are the instructions, from Facebook’s Blue Beanie Day Event Page:

  1. Make a personal commitment to fight Web Standards Apathy. Show solidarity with the Standardistas on November 26th, 2007.
  2. Buy, beg, or borrow a Blue Beanie (blue hat or cap, even a black or grey one will do in a pinch.)
  3. Take a photo of yourself wearing the Blue Beanie. Or take a cool group photo of you and your friends wearing Blue Beanies.
  4. Post your photo, or photos to Facebook, the Flickr pool, and other social networks on November 26th, 2007. Remember to switch your profile photos that day on all your social networks, like Flickr, Twitter, Last.fm, iLike, Pownce, Dopplr… you name it.
  5. Promote Blue Beanie Day in your blog or wiki starting today, and tell all your friends to get ready for Blue Beanie Day. Start by inviting all your Facebook friends to this event.

Related Links

[tags]webstandards, webdesign, accessibility, bluebeanieday, blue beanie day,facebook, twitter[/tags]

Proposed Catch-Phrases for the Next Bruce Willis Film

  • E-I-E-I-O, motherfucker!
  • Hi-ho, the motherfuckin’ dairy-o, motherfucker!
  • Anchors aweigh, motherfucker!
  • Hinky dinky parlez-vous, motherfucker!
  • Skip to my loo, motherfucker!
  • A tisket, a tasket, motherfucker!
  • Pocket full of posies, motherfucker!
  • The cheese stands alone, motherfucker!

[tags]catchphrases, hollywood, screenwriting, scriptwriting, brucewillis[/tags]

10 Things the Next iPhone Will Do

  1. Provide the option to download and save YouTube videos for 99 cents.
  2. Accept voice commands, read text aloud in any of six user-selectable voices, and provide optional verbal audio feedback on all actions.
  3. Improve built-in camera to 6 Megapixel and include a feature-limited version of Aperture.
  4. Facilitate borrowing from your local public library.
  5. Translate incoming or outgoing e-mail messages. Supported languages will initially include Spanish, Russian, two kinds of Chinese, and Australian.
  6. Vibrate when you approach someone with compatible musical tastes.
  7. For drivers: pay monthly E-Z Pass fees and beam E-Z Pass fare at toll kiosks.
  8. For mass transit riders: pay discounted monthly transit fee and beam per-ride fare at subway entrances and on boarding buses. Also good at Six Flags.
  9. Locate lost keys, pets, children, or anything else tagged with RFID.
  10. Copy and paste.

[tags]apple, iphone, RFID, cameras, 6 megapixel, australianforbeer[/tags]

Staying creative

Everyone is creative. But some stay that way longer. Sooner or later, most people charged with designing, writing, illustrating, and the like find their stores of invention running low. Inspiration pays fewer calls. The well of originality produces only echoes. Ultimately, the very urge to create—the thing that got them into this business when their parents advised them to study dentistry—shrivels and fades.

Or so I have read.

A List Apart illustrator Kevin Cornell is no stranger to the problem of becoming and staying motivated, and in his new ALA article, coincidentally entitled Staying Motivated, he shares his process for doing just that.

Also in Issue 243 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

We say potato, our client says po-tah-to. Clients and those who serve them come from different backgrounds, possess different skills, and often seem to speak different languages. To work around these differences, many of us use a metaphor- and simile-driven shorthand. The site should work “like Amazon,” with features “like Expedia.” It should be “like Basecamp” and “like Wikipedia.”

This language of comparison can help bridge the knowledge gap, but it can also create false expectations and frustration on both sides of the client/designer relationship. Can you master the metaphor without falling prey to its pitfalls? Jack Zeal thinks you can, and in Design by Metaphor he shares tips on using the technique to keep clients engaged but not unhinged.

Pretty good, right? But there’s more. In Editor’s Choice, from 16 August 2002, we proudly revive 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web by Mark Bernstein—the classic article on updating daily content to grow community and keep readers coming back.

I should reread that one myself.

[tags]alistapart, creativity, inspiration, jackzeal, kevincornell, designbymetaphor, clientservices, ebay[/tags]

Independent content is the new web app

Attending SXSW Interactive not only tunes us in to web trends and ideas we may have missed, it also makes clear where we are in the life cycle of developments with which we are familiar. Thus in 2001, if you weren’t already aware of it, a quick scan of panels and parties made it manifestly obvious that blogging had peaked. The spread of web standards was the previous year’s meme: practically everyone I met in 2000 apologized that their blog didn’t validate “yet.”

Two years ago, everyone I talked to at SXSW Interactive asked what app I was working on. I felt painfully unhip to still be doing content and design—like I’d shown up for a punk gig in disco drag.

But times change. Even the quickest scan of this year’s parties and sponsors made it obvious (if it wasn’t already) that the Web 2.0 “get bought” window is closing fast. If your tag management app isn’t out of alpha by next week, don’t bother—unless you actually wanted to create a tag management app, and weren’t building it to finance a Sean John lifestyle.

I came away this year with two impressions:

  1. Possibly because “Web 2.0” has pumped money into the field, people care about the craft again.
  2. Web 1.0 is the new Web 2.0.

As the second point is more interesting, I’ll focus on it.

SWSX Interactive is about zeitgeist, and what’s on people’s business cards can tell you as much about the industry as what’s being discussed on the panels. Last year people’s business cards told you that AOL, Google, Apple and Yahoo were hiring everyone with a nice blog, a SXSW panel, and an A List Apart article to their credit. This year’s business cards are about (drumroll) content.

The kind of content we used to create on personal/independent sites like {fray} and afterdinner.com, many of us are creating again (not that we ever stopped). But this time, we are creating it at the behest of companies like AOL, Google, and Yahoo.

Ficlets, for example, is a collaborative fiction site put together by Cindy Li and her colleagues. It’s awesomely cool. But instead of being something Cindy and her colleagues do at night, after their day job, Ficlets is their day job. And it’s not a long-shot day job at an underfunded startup. It’s a day job at America On-Line (and the content is part of the AIM.com network).

Not long ago, giants like AOL were buying startups like Brian Alvey and Jason Calacanis’s Weblogs Inc. network. That was smart. Now the giants are creating their own startups and networks. That’s also smart, and it’s doubtless more cost-efficient than hunting and buying.

What is the trend? First, big companies (excluding AOL) ignored the web. Then they hired professionals who didn’t understand the web to design their sites and other professionals who didn’t understand the web to create their content. Last year, or maybe two years ago, these companies began hiring smart, experienced web designers who understand usability and web standards. Now they are hiring smart, experienced web content creators. Web 1.0 is the new Web 2.0. Long live Web 3.0.

[tags]sxsw, sxswi, web1.0, web2.0, independentcontent, webdesign, aol, google[/tags]

StarTAC Memories

I’m doing something different for this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival. Instead of giving a talk or participating in a panel, I’ll be sharing my mobile phone with anyone who asks. Call it a micro-meetup.

Dust off your memories. I proudly carry the Motorola StarTAC. One day it will be as collectible as a Bulova watch from the 1950s, or the first-generation iPod. I acquired it before September 11th, 2001 and have held onto it all these many days and nights.

Lots of sleeker phones with richer features have come along over the years, but their interfaces always reeked, and I’m particular about interfaces: I like them simple, clear, and functional. I never felt the need to replace my Motorola StarTAC until I saw the iPhone.

After SXSW I will retire my faithful servant and switch to Apple’s new device.

If you see me at SXSW, whip out your digital camera (or camera-phone), and ask to see my Motorola StarTAC. We’ll commemorate the micro-event with a photo, and share the photos in a special Flickr group.

See you in Austin!

Update: they keep dragging me back in

So I’m on a panel after all.

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0

Room 18ABCD
Monday, March 12th
10:00 am – 11:00 am

Moderator: Liz Danzico, Daylife

Kristian Bengtsson, Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina, Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski, Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder, Happy Cog

[tags]micro-meetups, SXSW, SXSWi, Motorola, StarTAC, mobile, cell, phones, iPhone, Apple, memes, flickr, photos[/tags]