Um, don’t blog, or something

In Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004, Wired, which ceased to be relevant in 1999, says you shouldn’t write a blog because, um, Calacanis and Scoble.

Uh, wait, the problem is that some comments are not thoughtful. And I guess you can’t turn off comments in blogging software (except in all the blogging platforms that are already out there in the marketplace). But all those many long-established blogging platforms aside, I guess, like maybe in some new as-yet unreleased blogging tool, you might not be able to turn comments off. And then you’d have to, like, endure that some comments might not be thoughtful. So clearly you should just use Twitter and not write a blog because people can’t respond to you on Twitter. (What? They can?)

Well maybe the reason you’re not supposed to blog is that you won’t get rich blogging, because Calacanis did, so I guess he used up all the rich. Sorry, no more rich to go around. I mean, what’s the point of expressing yourself if there is no immediate rich to be had?

In conclusion, Twitter, Flickr, Calacanis and Scoble. Which proves you can’t have a blog and also use Twitter. Or maybe you can have a blog and use Twitter but you shouldn’t because comments, Scoble, rich.

Paul Boutin is usually a good writer. I’m not sure what happened here. Paul, when do we stop talking about web content exclusively in terms of narrow platforms and shallow, self-interested goals? When do we stop saying x makes y irrelevant? When do we stop reducing the web to a vulgar and trivial competition between head boys, and start appreciating it as a maturing medium for real thought and expression?

Obviously, not today in Wired.

[tags]journalism, opinion, idiocy, wired, blogs, blogging[/tags]

A List Apart is changing

A List Apart, for people who make websites, is slowly changing course.

For most of its decade of publication, ALA has been the leading journal of standards-based web design. Initially a lonely voice in the desert, we taught CSS layout before browsers correctly supported it, and helped The WaSP persuade browser makers to do the right thing. Once browsers’ standards support was up to snuff, we educated and excited designers and developers about standards-based design, preaching accessibility, teaching semantic markup, and helping you strategize how to sell this new way of designing websites to your clients, coworkers, and boss.

Most famously, over the years, writers for ALA have presented the design community with one amazing and powerfully useful new CSS technique after another. Initially radically new techniques that are now part of the vocabulary of all web designers include Paul Sowden’s “Alternative Styles,” Mark Newhouse’s list-based navigation, Eric Meyer’s intro to print styles, Douglas Bowman’s “Sliding Doors,” Dave Shea’s “CSS Sprites,” Dan Cederholm’s “Faux Columns,” Patrick Griffiths and Dan Webb’s “Suckerfish Dropdowns,” Drew McLellan’s “Flash Satay,” and so on and so on. There are literally too many great ones to name here. (Newcomers to standards-based design, check Erin Lynch’s “The ALA Primer Part Two: Resources For Beginners“.)

Web standards are in our DNA and will always be a core part of our editorial focus. Standards fans, never fear. We will not abandon our post. But since late 2005, we have consciously begun steering ALA back to its earliest roots as a magazine for all people who make websites—writers, architects, strategists, researchers, and yes, even marketers and clients as well as designers and developers. This means that, along with issues that focus on new methods and subtleties of markup and layout, we will also publish issues that discuss practical and sometimes theoretical aspects of user experience design, from the implications of ubiquitous computing to keeping communities civil.

The trick is to bring our huge group of highly passionate readers along for the ride. My wife likens it to piloting the Queen Mary. (Q. How do you make the Queen Mary turn left? A. Very, very slowly.)

The slow, deliberate, gradual introduction of articles on business and theory has not pleased all of ALA’s readers, some of whom may unrealistically wish that every issue would present them with the equivalent of a new “Sliding Doors.” It is possible, of course, to publish one CSS (or JavaScript or Jquery) article after another, and to do so on an almost daily basis. We could do that. Certainly we get enough submissions. The trouble is that most articles of this kind are either edge cases of limited utility, or derivatives that do not break significant new ground. (Either that, or they are flawed in our estimation, e.g. relying on dozens of non-semantic divs to create a moderately pleasing, minor visual effect.)

We review hundreds of articles and publish dozens. Some web magazines seem to have those proportions reversed, and some readers don’t seem to mind, and that’s fine. But any content you see in ALA has been vetted and deeply massaged by the toughest editorial team in the business. And when you see a new “design tech” article in our pages, you can be sure it has passed muster with our hard-ass technical editors.

Moreover, the fields of meaningful new CSS tricks have mostly yielded their fuels. We’ve done that. We’ve done it together with you. While a few new lodes of value undoubtedly remain to be tapped, we as a community, and as individuals who wish to grow as designers, need to absorb new knowledge. ALA will continue to be a place where you can do that.

When we began focusing on web standards in 1998, we were told we were wasting readers’ time on impractical crap of little value to working designers and developers. But we kept on anyway, and the things we learned and taught are now mainstream and workaday. While we apologize to readers who are again being made irritable by our insistence on occasionally presenting material that does not fall directly within their comfort zone, we hope that this experiment will prove to be of value in the end.

[tags]alistapart, webdesign, magazine, editorial, content, focus, change, publishing, standards, webstandards, css, design, layout, userexperience[/tags]

Mental models. Yipes! Stripes!

In Issue No. 267 of A LIST APART, For People Who make Websites…

Look at it Another Way

by INDI YOUNG

Before you can solve a user’s problems, you must see them as that user sees them. Once you understand what drives people’s behavior, not only do new ideas flow freely, but the ideas that flow are appropriate and useful. Indi Young tells how to get out of your own way and hear what your users are telling you.

and…

Zebra Striping: More Data for the Case

by JESSICA ENDERS

As designers or marketers, we share a desire that our tables and forms be easy to scan, read, and use. Does the widely practiced shading of alternate rows help, hurt, or have no effect? A previous study proving inconclusive, designer and researcher Jessica Enders has tackled the conundrum again, coming up with statistically relevant data and a set of recommendations.

[tags]jessicaenders, indiyoung, mentalmodels, zebrastripe, zebrastriping, alistapart, ALA, happycog, publications[/tags]

Running woman and madman

Two incidents mark my morning walk to work.

i.

On Second Avenue, a long-legged woman in a short black skirt dashes past, late to an unknown appointment, her movements fluid and beautiful.

With every step, her skirt bounces, flashing legs at the avenue. Her left hand hangs at her hip, trying to keep the skirt down. But she fails at this, and the attempt only makes the male viewer more aware of the rhythmic, teasing visual.

The whole thing is unconscious. It has the visual semantics, but not the intention, of cheesecake. She is simply late, happens to be beautiful, and isn’t dressed like an Anabaptist. Nevertheless, her passage fractures the Matrix.

Even businessmen who dress like they never so much as take a breath without running a spreadsheet first can’t help turning back to get a second look.

She runs fast and is out of sight in minutes, leaving a trail of pheromones in her wake.

I want to thank her, but I would never catch up, and running after her is probably a bad idea.

ii.

Minutes later, approaching Lexington Avenue, I see a mentally ill man hurling racial epithets at the street.

“Fuck you motherfucking niggers,” he shouts.

Did I mention this part? He is black.

In his hand is a beer that a clerk at a nearby convenience store apparently thought was an okay thing to sell him.

He screws up his face into a horror mask and screams nonsense syllables as I pass him.

On the corner with several other people, waiting for the light to change, I feel him sneak up on us, and a moment later he defeats his own sneaking by shouting again.

“Don’t GIVE a fuck!”

A large plastic milk carton sits abandoned on the sidewalk. He grabs it and flings it into the street, just missing us corner-bound pedestrians. The milk carton touches down in a busy lane of traffic. Speeding cars begin changing lanes to avoid smashing into it.

Damn it, I think.

I think this because I know I’m going to get tangentially involved, and past experiences with mentally ill street people have not gone well. There was the guy in DC harassing women on the train. I interceded and he messed with me. DC yuppies, watching the whole thing, moved away rather than help. Then there was the guy— Well, anyway, enough.

I walk into the oncoming traffic, pick up the milk crate, take it back to the sidewalk, and push it down directly in front of the raging drunken mentally ill homeless man.

I look at him, he looks at me.

I don’t know whether my eyes are communicating toughness, compassion, or a kind of inattention—as if, by not focusing on him, he might not focus on me. I have no strategy. I’m moving on instinct and my plan is to disengage.

Whatever happened between us passes. I turn back to the street, the light changes in my favor, I move quickly into the intersection.

Behind me, he throws an abandoned filthy bath rug into the street.

I let him win that one.

[tags]cities, NYC, New York City, urban, living, urban living, street, life, streetlife, myglamorouslife, glamour, zeldman[/tags]

ALA 266: next generation sprites, metaphors

In Issue No. 266 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

CSS Sprites2 – It’s JavaScript Time

by DAVE SHEA

In 2004, Dave Shea took the CSS rollover where it had never gone before. Now he takes it further still—with a little help from jQuery. Say hello to hover animations that respond to a user’s behavior in ways standards-based sites never could before.

Mapping Memory: Web Designer as Information Cartographer

by AARON RESTER

The rise of the social web demands that we rethink our traditional role as builders of digital monuments, and turn our attention to the close observation of the spaces that our users are producing around us. It’s time for a new metaphor. Consider cartography.

[tags]daveshea, aaronrester, alistapart, webdesign, webdevelopment, informationarchitecture, userexperience, css, sprites, jquery, animation, navigation[/tags]

ALA No. 265: better experience

In Issue No. 265 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: The web is a conversation, but not always a productive one. In “Putting Our Hot Heads Together,” Carolyn Wood shares ways to transform discussion forums and comment sections from shooting ranges into arenas of collaboration. Plus: Because of limited awareness around Deafness and accessibility in the web community, it seems plausible to many of us that good captioning will fix it all. It won’t. In “Deafness and the User Experience,” Lisa Herrod explains how to enhance the user experience for all deaf people.

P.S. The Survey for People Who Make Websites closes Tuesday, August 26. Don’t miss your chance to help educate the world about the practice of our profession. Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.

Comments off.

[tags]alistapart, deafness, user experience, UX, accessibility, collaboration, discussion, comments, community [/tags]

The Survey for People Who Make Websites

It’s back, it’s improved, and it’s hungry for your data. It’s A List Apart’s second annual survey for people who make websites.

I took it! And so should you. The Survey for People Who Make Websites.

Last year nearly 33,000 of you took the survey, enabling us to begin figuring out what kinds of job titles, salaries, and work situations are common in our field.

This year’s survey corrects many of last year’s mistakes, with more detailed and numerous questions for freelance contractors and owners of (or partners in) small web businesses. There are also better international categories, and many other improvements recommended by those who took the survey last year.

Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.

[Comments off. Pings on.]

[tags]survey, web design survey, webdesign, webdevelopment, professional, alistapart[/tags]

Lower East Side Lit

Monday, July 28, at 7:00 PM, in the company of my fellow field testers, I’ll be giving a reading at Coudal Partners’s Field Tested Books Live. Join us on the rooftop of the Delancey at 168 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002 (map). Admission is free.

Scheduled readers:

  • Ben Greenman
  • Liz Danzico
  • Steven Heller
  • Ron Hogan
  • Matt Linderman
  • Randy Cohen
  • Randy J. Hunt
  • Debbie Millman
  • John Gruber
  • Jon Parker
  • Andy Ross
  • Jason Santa Maria
  • Maud Newton
  • Michael Surtees
  • Michael Bierut
  • Scott Korb
  • Mike Sacks
  • Pitchaya Sudbanthad
  • Jeffrey Zeldman

[tags]fieldtested, coudal, delancey, zeldman, live, readings[/tags]

Underwear

One of my happiest memories is the day I quit my job. No longer was I a mere office shlub, meekly thanking life for the cold mashed potatoes it deigned to drop onto my plate. I was somebody now—somebody with a destiny. I was a web designer.

Times being what they are, more and more of us are working at home, not always by choice.

Working from home as a freelancer or remote employee can be fabulous. But if you share that home with a family and kids, creating a productive, professional environment can be challenging.

In Issue No. 263 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Natalie Jost discusses the joys, sorrows, and coping techniques of Walking the Line When You Work from Home.

Natalie is a great writer and as a freelance web designer, wife, and mother of three girls, she knows whereof she speaks.

If you identify with what Natalie has to say, and if you have some home-working tips of your own to share, please tell us how you overcome distractions and deal with deadlines while walking the blurry line between work and home.

[tags]freelance, working, workathome, alistapart, nataliejost[/tags]

Around the Word with Web Talent

My first book didn’t sell very well but it had an effect on people’s hearts. Web designers around the world circulated a single copy of Taking Your Talent to the Web, adding their autographs, drawings, photos, and other verbal and visual messages to every page—even the covers and spine.

While unpacking from the office move, I found this special world-traveled copy of the book and snapped a few pages at random. Some people who signed this book went on to do amazing things on the web. Others lowered their profiles but continued to do work of quality and significance. Still others simply disappeared. (At least they disappeared from the worldwide web design community.) I love every one of them. Thank you all again.

A photo spread on Flickr Around the Word with Web Talent.

[tags]webdesign, community, talent, takingyourtalenttotheweb, newriders, publishing, book, books, zeldman, writing, dreamless[/tags]