25 January 2002
[6pm | 4 pm | 11 am | 10 am]
Happy Cog is back online.
We would like to thank those who read this site daily and exchange mail with each other complaining about it. We can envision no finer use of one’s human potential.
Today, some griped about our comments on everyone’s second favorite monopoly. “Why does Zeldman continue to use Network Solutions?” they asked each other.
Fact is, Happy Cog is hosted by a friend, who registered the domain and paid for it as a gift. Said friend paid the renewal fee when it came due. Said registrar, mucking about in its own feces, ignored the payment.
We thought it worth mentioning why our business site went offline. We love you all and will try to say only uplifting things from now on.
Microsoft is smart about many things, but not about the importance of maintaining consistent URLs on their site. The company routinely moves pages around without leaving forwarding links or providing redirects.
Recently Microsoft changed the page from which you can download Windows Media Player. Tens of thousands of media–rich sites linked to that page. Tens of thousands of sites suddenly had broken links and confused visitors. Tens of thousands of companies suddenly had to pay a developer to locate the new Media Player Download page and change the link. Or the developers had to do this on their own time, at no charge.
Protest from site owners (including one of our clients) seems to have persuaded Microsoft that if they’re crazy enough to move one of the most popular pages on the web—a page used to promote their own product, which competes with RealPlayer and Quicktime—they ought to at least include a redirect, rather than frustrate tens of millions of potential customers.
Being Microsoft, they used their own technology to perform the redirect. As a result, the redirect sometimes works and sometimes times out with a meaningless ODBC Drivers error message, certain to send web users fleeing to Apple, Real, or the liquor cabinet. Not that you can easily find the RealPlayer, either, since Real would rather sell you a fancy player than help you find their free one.
Maintaining consistent URLs prevents frustration, expense, waste, and missed marketing opportunities. Randomly changing URLs has the opposite effect. We hope the owners of large commercial sites are listening.
Okay, so we fibbed about trying to say only uplifting things from now on.
Some of you may remember last year’s W3C RAND patent proposal and ensuing controversy. W3C’s Current Patent Practice was released yesterday with the goal of keeping web standards Royalty–free. Seems like a good start.
The 1000 Panel Fusion at Waferbaby aims to become a worldwide creative jam. Fusion is based on “exquisite corpse,” a Surrealist game in which each participant responds to a previous image and nobody knows the narrative outcome. Previous Fusions have limited themselves to ten panels; judging by the name, the 1000 Panel fusion will run a bit longer. Participation is open to all.
Our business domain has disappeared due to a Network Solutions blunder. Instead of accepting a renewal payment, the cross–eyed monopoly chose to list Happy Cog as “not renewed.” For now, the site is available at its numeric address.
Speaking of personal sites jerked around by uncaring corporate types, the site formerly known as Speech Therapy is back online, and its author has finally recovered the interviews lost when a careless ISP crunched its database.
No new issue of A List Apart this week. Two fine articles sit in the queue, but we cannot finish editing and producing the issue due to a workload that would choke an ox. Regular ALA readers, kindly accept our apologies. :::
24 January 2002
CSS. One little word, three little letters. Now there is help. John Allsopp of Western Civilisation and Eric (CSS: The Definitive Guide) Meyer have created a discussion list where CSS experts and novices alike can ask questions, request and provide technical assistance, and share practical as well as advanced tips on CSS authoring. Sign up at the appropriately named CSS–Discuss. See you there. :::
23 January 2002
[10 pm | 3 pm | 1 pm | 10 am]
Inspired by our Resize for Cinema bookmarklet of 21 January, Steve Williams has created a bookmarklet for Windows users with large monitors. Steve’s Maximize IE the Right Way fixes the brain–dead behavior of the current Windows “maximize” control, at least in IE.
Broke? Jobless? Macromedia is hiring. They’ve posted several new openings today and will list more tonight or tomorrow.
We’ve started a new site section called Forward Compatibility, from the book of the same name that we’re currently writing for New Riders. The section is not yet designed and so far contains just one brief tip (on controlling your site’s appearance). More to come.
Tomorrow is the drop–dead date for submitting your site to Communication Arts’s Eighth Annual Interactive Design competition. CA’s awards have genuine credibility, and CA’s annuals are read avidly by creative directors, art directors, and recruiters in advertising, design, and related creative fields.
Never announce before the fact that you will be too busy to update your personal site. Doing so encourages readers to stop visiting. Instead, if you’ve missed a day or two, apologize with a simple note.
We were too busy to update this site yesterday. Our apologies. :::
If you own a Mac with a Cinema display, and use DragThing to access your applications and folders in OS 9, you might enjoy our Resize for Cinema bookmarklet, which sets your browser’s width to 800 pixels, its height to that of the screen minus what DragThing requires, and tucks the whole package neatly into the top left corner (screenshot). Drag to your Toolbar Favorites bar or to a subfolder therein.
In keeping with Saturday’s theme, Rachel McAlpine’s concise and lively Web Word Wizardry: A Guide to Writing for the Web and Intranet covers the essentials of web writing, while Nick Usborne’s Net Words: Creating High Impact Online Copy focuses on using words to do business online. Both books can help clients deliver more usable web copy to their designers, or designers improve client–written web text.
Ideally, corporate sites should include professional writers in their budgets, along with designers and developers, but alas, this is not the norm in our puzzling industry. To those who took Saturday’s entry as an attack on the quality of writing found on many personal sites, that is absurd and we would never do that. :::
19 January 2002
[9 pm | 7 pm]
Our stupid industry pitifully undervalues good web writing. If more web writers consulted in their creation, fewer sites would fail usability testing. With good web writers crafting their metadata, more sites could actually be found by searchers instead of rotting unvisited. You might even enjoy reading the web if most sites weren’t written by chimps, committees, and CEOs.
“But most web users don’t read, they scan,” we’re told. True enough: on many sites, consumers scan quickly before settling in to read the particular item they sought. Consumers also merely glance at the products they use every day—and for that very reason, mass market products are carefully designed to function properly even when those using them are thinking about something else.
On the web, words are components that guide users through the experience of each site. Hard–working labels, titles, captions and blurbs are as essential as intelligent graphic design to the proper functioning of any website.
Chimps, committees, and CEOs are incapable of making every word count. Only a good writer can do that. So here’s to the writers—the least appreciated and least understood of all the web’s workers.
Calling all design geeks! For an upcoming book on CSS web design, Christopher Schmitt of Babble List seeks the URLs of sites that are: (1) well–designed; (2) CSS and (X)HTML–compliant. Chris is looking for sites that are “beyond minimalist in style and are pushing the boundaries.” Got a site like that? Send Chris a note about it.
Tim Bray’s WHAT IS RDF? answers that question in ways even the technologically fearful could understand, and links to everything you might need to learn more. Written clearly and persuasively, it’s refreshingly pleasant to read. Bray co–edited XML 1.0, and is among the most charismatic of all geeks.
Paul Sowden has finally revived his personal site, filling it with standards–based experiments in “Dynamic HTML.” Lucid, focused, and opinionated, seventeen–year–old Sowden is also the creator of the Open Source ALA Style Sheet Switcher.
Our baby’s out of town, and her absence creates a vacuum that puts Hoover to shame. We’ve spent the week designing three interfaces for an upcoming music site. The results please us, but life feels empty without the girl. :::
18 January 2002
[10 pm | noon | midnight]
In Issue No. 134 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites: GETTING PAID. As businesses struggle to stay in business, many are short–changing their designers, or woefully delaying payment. Zeldman laments the increasing difficulty of getting paid.
Chris Casciano’s Your CSS Bores Me bemoans the cookie–cutter approach many designers are taking as they transition from HTML table–based layouts to the intimidating (because less familiar) realm of CSS. Think of Chris’s complaint as a creative wake–up call. For a fresh approach to CSS, check CSS/Edge at Meyerweb.com.
Yesterday, W3C issued a CSS3 Selectors Test Suite authored by Daniel Glazman, Ian Hickson, and Tantek Çelik, intended to help browser makers test and improve their products.
Don’t expect a visual treat. In fact, don’t be surprised if much of the Test Suite looks like plain HTML (or XHTML source) in your browser. Even the latest browsers don’t claim to support a lot of what’s on these pages (CSS3, XML, and “purist” XHTML 1.0).
Mozilla appears to understand all or most of XHTML 1.0 and XML. Other compliant browsers support “compatible” XHTML, following W3C’s backward compatibility guidelines, and that’s the form of XHTML we’ll probably be writing for the next few years.
The main thing is, tests like these enable browsers to continue inching forward. To view of the state of CSS in today’s browsers, we once again suggest a visit to CSS/Edge. :::