2 March 2005 11 am est

A List Apart 196

In Issue 196 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Use-Cases Part II: Taming Scope
by Norm Carr and Tim Meehan
The use-case model can be a powerful tool for controlling scope throughout a project’s life cycle. Because a simplified use-case model can be understood by all project participants, it can also serve as a framework for ongoing collaboration and a visual map of all agreed-upon functionality. Use it to plan, to negotiate, and to prevent scope creep.

Protect your site from Google’s new toolbar

To the delight of gadget freaks and the consternation of some web designers and thinkers, the new Autolink feature in Google’s latest toolbar sticks links on your site that you didn’t put there.

For instance, if your company’s site includes a street address, a link to Google’s map service will magically sprout from your page when users click the Autolink button. Likewise, a book’s ISBN number will trigger a link to an Amazon page selling that book. The BBC and CNET cite additional examples.

Critics point out that with this technology Google is approaching the very thing Microsoft tried to do in 2001. See Chris Kaminski’s “Much Ado About Smart Tags” (A List Apart 22 July 2001) if you missed that drama. Kaminski cited three problems with Smart Tags:

  1. Per Walter Mossberg in The Wall Street Journal, Smart Tags enabled Microsoft to “edit any page on the web without the author’s knowledge.”
  2. They extended Microsoft’s monopoly power into new markets, giving the Redmond giant the power to decide which non-Operating System companies would live and which would die. (Companies Microsoft’s Smart Tags division partnered with would live; their competitors would eat worms.)
  3. Not least, Smart Tags were “amenable to nefarious uses, such as covert user tracking” (Chris Kaminski in ALA, paraphrasing Dan Gillmor).

Google has been a good corporate citizen and outstanding netizen for so long that one wants to give the company the benefit of the doubt. And, to be fair, consumers might derive benefit from Google’s new service — as, indeed, many might have benefited from Smart Tags. But Google’s new toolbar doesn’t solve the three problems cited above. It merely makes Google instead of Microsoft the arbiter of life and death in the information space.

You can’t stop a juggernaut in pursuit of its own increase, but you can do something about the part where they mess with your website, adding links you didn’t create.

Namely, you can download this script from Threadwatch, install said script on your server, and link to it from the <head> of your web pages.

Drew McLellan explains how it works:

The script cycles through all the links in the page and removes any that are found to have been placed there by Google.

Obviously, the more links your page contains, the more work the script must do. Client-side wear and tear could go away like a bad dream if Google would do what Microsoft did with Smart Tags: namely, provide a meta tag that disables them. (Unlike Smart Tags, which were on by default, Google’s new Autolink feature is off by default; this is the company’s rationale for not providing a disabling meta tag.)

Please note that the toolbar is still in beta; the company is soliciting consumer feedback. Like previous Google toolbars, this one works only in Internet Explorer and only on the Windows platform. But most of its actual benefits, such as popup blocking and in-page Search, are built into newer browsers like Safari and Firefox.


17 February 2005 12 noon | 3 pm est

New and different

Screenfont.ca bows
Screenfont.ca covers the typography of captioning and subtitling and will serve as an activity hub for the design of new fonts in the category. Helmed by Joe Clark, Screenfont.ca is “part of an upcoming project to research and develop a set of standards for captioning, audio description, subtitling, and dubbing.”
Virtual Stan
You make Stan smile or frown. You make Stan sing Roxanne. You plop Stan down in an Apple Store, Hogwarts, or Middle-Earth. Concept, design, illustration, animation, programming and more by Rob Weychert. Crank up your Flash player and enjoy Stan!
Designers Toolbox
Designers Toolbox is a handy resource for folks who push vectors and pixels around.
We Are Basecamp’s Bitch
Happy Cog Studios’ productivity has increased by 413 percent since we started using Basecamp™ to keep our creative projects on track.

16 February 2005 11 am est

A List Apart 195

In Issue 195 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

A passion for web standards can become a broken heart when effects that are easy to achieve with table layouts seem to defy the earnest CSS- and markup-conscious designer. Fortunately, new ALA author Nandini Doreswamy loves a challenge. In “Bulleted Lists: Multi-Layered Fudge,” she shows how to create two columns of bulleted lists in the flow of text.


9 February 2005 12 noon | 3 pm est

Return of the son of Linkmania

Uncle Milton (Glaser on Film)
Milton Glaser is my neighbor. His studio is around the corner from mine. One of the world’s best known and most influential graphic designers, Glaser has been practicing for something like five decades, yet he still wakes up inspired — as this short film directed by Hillman Curtis shows. (Hat tip: JSM.) [Related]
Davezilla on Sexy Chevrolet Redesign
The Weekly Standards interviews Dave Linabury on the sexy, CSS-driven redesign by Campbell-Ewald of the official Chevrolet shopping site. (Note that the content of this article will disappear in the Safari browser due to its difficulty parsing The Weekly Standards’s layer-swapping trickery. This happens with all Weekly Standards content when viewed in Safari.)
GooeySAX
Web and software developer Todd Ditchendorf (hey, nice blog!) presents GooeySAX, a product whose name probably discomfits him when his mom asks what he’s been working on. The free product tests XML documents for well-formedness and can locally or remotely validate XHTML docs against a standard or custom DTD. Available for Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Linux.
Looking for People Who Like to Draw
American Illustration announces its 24th illustration competition. The deadline for submissions is 18 February 2005. The jurors:
  • Christine Curry, The New Yorker, (Jury Chair)
  • Joan Ferrell, The American Lawyer
  • John C. Jay, Wieden + Kennedy
  • Joe Kimberling, Los Angeles magazine
  • Hannah McCaughey, Outside magazine
  • Richard Winkler, Curious Pictures
Old Browser Archive
We posted this link back in the 1970s (or so it seems), but we are always getting new readers, and some new readers may be unaware of this magnificent resource made possible by Adrian Roselli, Algonquin Studios, and the hard-working volunteers of evolt.org. And so, once more with feeling:
Need to find out what your site looks like in old browsers, dead browsers, outdated versions of still living browsers? Look no further than Evolt.org’s free Browser Archive.

2 February 2005 5 pm est

Linkmania!

Lightboxing
Hot designer-on-designer action!
AIGA design archives
A browsable record of design work honored by AIGA.
Weightshift
Beautiful and unusual presentation by small design agency out of Chicago. CSS layout, valid XHTML structure.
What if...
A visual experiment in personal narrative by FlipFlopFlyin.
Eric Meyer: Be a Parent
Got kids? Run a blog? Then read this.
Cloud King: Owen Mundy
Fine art photographer, straight outta Lawrence County, Indiana.
Seventies!
A collection of 70s images.
The dullest blog in the world
I know, I know. I’ve linked to it before. How dull of me.
Mezzoblue: Getting unstuck
Fighting creative doldrums.
Backyard
Incredibly unusual site of what appears to be a film production company. I say appears because the site does not explain itself. And maybe that’s okay. Could be a marketing ploy. (If you have to ask who they are, this company is too hip for you.) Main thing is that the site, fashioned by ex-Designers Republican Matt Pyke, is unlike any other.
Goldberger on Johnson’s passing
In the 7 February New Yorker, architecture critic Paul Goldberger has penned an eloquent epitaph for Philip Johnson, American architecture’s enfant terrible, who died this week at age 98. Accompanying Goldberger’s perfectly pitched prose is an incredible Arnold Newman photograph of Johnson in Manhattan in June, 1959, with the Seagram Building looming behind him.
Although The New Yorker posts much of its content online, and intended to post Goldberger’s epitaph, the magazine’s link to its own content is broken (or the content was never uploaded — or a data entry error scotched the database). Whatever the cause, the content cannot be retrieved from the web.
So buy a print copy.
Homeland Insecurity
From the same New Yorker issue, William Finnegan on the U.S. government’s efforts to look like it is trying to protect citizens from terrorist attack.

1 February 2005 1 pm est | twice updated

In today’s Report:
ALA 194
Special double issue on separating behavior from structure and presentation.
Black History in Motion
As Black History Month begins, The New York Public Library launches In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience.

ALA 194

In a special double issue of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Peter-Paul Koch shows how to separate behavior from structure and presentation via JavaScript “hooks,” and J. David Eisenberg explains how to make those hook-laden pages validate.

JavaScript Triggers

Now that you’ve separated your website’s (XHTML) structure from its (CSS) presentation, wouldn’t it be great to similarly abstract the behavioral (JavaScript) layer from the others? ALA prodigal Peter-Paul Koch shows how to use JavaScript Triggers to do just that.

Validating a Custom DTD

In his article in this issue, Peter-Paul Koch proposes adding custom attributes to form elements to allow triggers for specialized behaviors. The W3C validator won’t validate a document with these attributes, as they aren’t part of the XHTML specification.

Not to worry! This article will show you how to create a custom DTD that will add those custom attributes, and will also show you how to validate documents that use those new attributes.

Black History in Motion

In the U.S., 1 February is the first day of Black History Month. This year it also marks the launch, by The New York Public Library, of In Motion: the African-American Migration Experience:

A sweeping narrative from the transatlantic slave trade to the Western migration, the colonization movement, the Great Migration, and the contemporary immigration of Caribbeans, Haitians, and sub-Saharan Africans. Told in historical texts, rare visual materials, and contemporary photo-journalism.

Although it is not instantly apparent, the site provides immediate access to rare documents in The Library’s collection. It is a web interface to non-web documents. In Motion is a joint production of NYPL’s Digital Library Program and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Hat tip: Carrie Bickner Zeldman, who helped birth the colossal site.


28 January 2005 12 noon est

Gunner Palace double launch

We would link to the newly launched Gunner Palace website even if it were not crisply designed and compellingly written.

The indie documentary Gunner Palace (“Some war stories will never make the nightly news”) chronicles the daily experiences of 400 young American soldiers headquartered in a bombed-out pleasure palace once owned by Saddam Hussein.

Compiled by co-directors Mike Tucker and Petra Epperleinand, the Gunner Palace blog...

...consists of notes from the production of the film in 2003–2004 and emails sent from 2/3 FA soldiers during their 410-day deployment to Baghdad and Najaf.

The film (view trailer) has been picked up for nationwide U.S. theatrical release on 4 March 2005. Leading up to the wider release, director Tucker and soldiers from the film have begun a sneak preview tour of select U.S. cities.

God bless the brave.


25 January 2005 8 am est

ALA 193

Issue 193 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, features Norm Carr and Tim Meehan’s gentle introduction to use cases:

One of the biggest problems in creating and delivering a site is how to decide, specify, and communicate exactly what we’re building and why. Use cases can help answer these questions by providing a simple, fast means to decide and describe the purpose of your project.

Also in this issue, please note that ALA’s translation policy has changed.


21 January 2005 1 pm est

Picture for a Friday afternoon

As the weekend approaches, I leave you with two good links and one interesting stinker:

The Mindness of Strangers
Over three months, Danish designer Simon Hoegsberg stopped 150 strangers on the streets of Copenhagen and New York City and asked them what they had been thinking about the second before he hailed them. Using a microphone and a dictaphone, he recorded their answers, then snapped their photos. The result, launched today, is The Thought Project.
Dooces Loaded
Dooce.com, the website of Heather B. Armstrong, continues to provide the pleasures of real human writing (see, for instance, “Why simply enjoy an organism when you can experience a sensational organism?”) in an enviably clean yet smartly branded blog layout. There are even nifty Categories for those who like to slice reality into comprehensible pieces. If you like your personal sites personal, this Dooce is for you.
Not so bright
Mensa International is a society of people who are much, much smarter than you or me. (You or I? See, that’s one reason I’m not a Mensa member. Them cats knows they grammar.) Anyway, the people of Mensa are bright, which makes deliciously ironic the fact that their website is kind of dim.
For openers, when you go to mensa.org, you are redirected to mensa.org/home.php. No, I am not kidding.
According to the home page, Mensa “‘provides a forum for intellectual exchange.’” (I use double quotations because Mensa wraps quotation marks around its own site copy.) Perhaps they should exchange intellectual ideas with someone who knows how to configure a web server. There’s tons more but I’ll leave it as an intellectual exercise for the reader with time on his or her hands to list all the bone-headed mistakes on the smart folks’ site.