Bookmarks for a rainy Monday

Fresh and preserved petals from my Ma.gnolia bookmarks…

AJAX, Web 2.0 and the Threat to Digital Archives

The more layers of mediation there are between you and the information you’re trying to preserve, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to access that information in the future. For historians, this problem is particularly painful; as information gets wrapped in more and more layers of technology, the profession increasingly relies … on the work of preservationists who keep this “stuff of history” around for future generations.

Create photo galleries in XHTML and CSS
Jonathan Younger’s Photon plugin lets you create photo galleries (like this one, designed by the incomparable Douglas Bowman) by exporting albums from Apple iPhoto to leading blog software environments. Photon supports Movable Type, TypePad, Blojsom, and WordPress. And because it is open-sourced, developers can extend it to work with non-iPhoto gallery software and with additional blogging tools.
Create photo galleries in Flash
Atlanta-based web designer Todd Dominey is that rare artist who understands user experience and graphic design, web standards and Flash. In consequence, his SlideShowPro, a dynamic photo gallery/slide show component for Flash MX 2004, is as luminous as it is utilitarian.

iPhoto , iTunes, iForgotToTest

The headline (“Apple caught cheating on RSS standard”) and the subhead (“New iPhoto feature disregards standards”) of Tom Sanders’s article both suggest that Apple is deliberately breaking the RSS standard with its Photocasting feature in the updated iPhoto application. I think it more likely that Apple’s implementation is simply, grandly inept.

It may be inept through knuckle-dragging unawareness of best practices in web design, as is the case with iWeb’s HTML markup.

Or it may be inept because it was rushed to market. iTunes 6.0.2 and iTunes Updater are incompatible with Panther-based Macs but Software Update installs them anyway. It does this not because Apple wants to punish Panther and iPod users (at least, I hope not) but because, in rushing make its applications compatible with Intel and non-Intel Macs in time for the Macworld conference, Apple seemingly neglected to adequately test on any but the latest models of its hardware and operating systems.

This theory of insufficient testing doesn’t bring back the week I lost tracking down and working around the bugs and breaks Apple dumped on my Titanium Powerbook. And it doesn’t bring back the additional 10GB of drive space the iPod updater eats out of every iPod sold. But it is comforting to believe that these screwups are merely human error and not part of a conspiracy involving the CIA, the big pharmaceutical companies, and the Trilateral Commission.

A film apart

Couldn’t make it to An Event Apart Philadelphia? Curious about what you missed? Our new, two-minute video reveals all. Well, anyway, it reveals what can be shown in two minutes. Shot on location at The Franklin Institute by filmmaker Ian Corey, it’s packed with thrills, chills, and design geekery.

See Zeldman explain why, the more words you have, the less you communicate. See Eric Meyer unveil the code behind last year’s best web layout. (Okay, so I’m prejudiced.) See Jason Santa Maria squeeze genuine typographic goodness out of two utterly common fonts. See lucky attendees win nifty prizes. See the music, hear the light.

Updated 24 January: SMIL video captioning by Andrew Kirkpatrick. Video playback requires QuickTime 7.

Year-end blowout

What makes for a good design book?
Lou Rosenfeld, co-creator of information architecture, is looking for people who like to read. Specifically, he is looking for people who like to read about design and user experience. Are you one of them? Then here is your chance to sound off. What vital topics aren’t being covered (or aren’t being covered well) in the design and user experience books you buy? Where are publishers falling down? What are you dying to read? Let Lou know what you think.
Technorati is hiring
Technorati, a real-time search engine that keeps track of what is going on in the blogosphere, seeks a modern web developer, “proficient in state of the art LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) development, with emphasis on PHP and Apache.” More to the point, says Chief Technology Officer Tantek Çelik, the company is looking for one who has kept up with CSS, semantic markup, microformats, and unobtrusive JavaScript.
Even more to the point, Technorati is looking for a smart web person who is tired of big-company bureaucracy, secrecy, and in-fighting, and seeks greater emotional and professional fulfillment—in other words, Technorati is looking for a web person who wants to make a difference. Yes, they really do write job descriptions that way, and not only in San Francisco, where Technorati is based. (Tags: technorati, jobs, webdevelopment.)
Freight for sale
FREIGHT (available from Phil’s Fonts) is a superbly detailed font family created by Brooklyn type designer Joshua Darden. Optimized for screen display, Freight is ideal for web interface design. You can also use it as a default font for such daily computing tasks as reading and writing email—makes a tasty break from Verdana and Georgia. Recent Darden fonts include Meta Headline (created at the behest of Erik Spiekermann and Christian Schwartz) and lovely, funky Omnes.
Kids with cameras

In Calcutta’s red light district, over 7,000 women and girls work as prostitutes. Only one group has a lower standing: their children. Zana Briski became involved in the lives of these children in 1998 when she first began photographing prostitutes in Calcutta. Living in the brothels for months at a time, she quickly developed a relationship with many of the kids who, often terrorized and abused, were drawn to the rare human companionship she offered.

Zana held weekly photography workshops between 2000 and 2003. There the children learned camera basics, lighting, composition, the development of point-of-view, editing, and sequencing for narrative. To Zana’s delight, equipped with inexpensive point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, the children produced incredible work. Their images are explosions of color: self-portraits, family pictures, street scenes, stunning tableaus of Bengali life.

Ruby on Rails podcasts
Audio interviews with David Heinemeier Hansson, who invented Rails and manages it as an open source movement, plus Ruby on Rails heavyweights and pioneers including Dave Thomas, Chad Fowler, Rick Olson, and A List Apart’s Dan Benjamin.
Fairplay defined
Everything you ever wanted to know about the digital rights management technology built into Apple’s iPod, iTunes, and iTunes Music Store. (Except how to turn it off.)

A List Apart 209

In A List Apart’s year-end issue, Brian Crescimanno provides an extensive yet compact checklist of ways to make your site’s forms usable. And Molly E. Holzschlag stokes the flames of creativity (or of productive argument) by advising web designers to think outside the grid. The issue also features outstanding illustration work by Kevin Cornell and Jason Santa Maria.

Thanks for making ALA 4.0 great: Erin Kissane (editor), Dan Benjamin (system developer), Eric A. Meyer (CSS genius), Aaron Gustafson (production editor), Erin Lynch (assistant editor), and Damon Clinksales (data migration director). Thanks also to the people of TextDrive for hosting above and beyond. Thanks most of all to all of you for reading, bookmarking, debating, and in other ways contributing to A List Apart. Love on ya.

Style vs. Design

With our blessing, the newly launched Adobe Motion Design Center has resurrected our famous article, “Style vs. Design,” originally published in 2000. A few words and references have changed to bring the piece “up to date,” but it is essentially the same article it was five years ago.

First published when web design, buoyed by dot-com dollars, was at its most self-indulgent, the article dared to suggest …

  • That trendy elements are not the same as design
  • That design is communication
  • That most web design is meant to be used
  • That most web design should therefore be usable

It still makes these points and they are still true.

The good news is that in the five years since the article was new, responsible web design has emerged as a practice. And it is being practiced by many people who are first and foremost designers.

The bad news is that college and university design curricula are still mostly about everything but information architecture, usability, application design, user-focused design, accessibility, and web standards.

[tags]zeldman, adobe, style vs. design[/tags]

Roadside link jamboree

WHILE I’M WRAPPING Web Design World Boston, here are some links for your pleasure:

In Search of a Perfect Plug-in Technique
First we had Flash embedding the automated way. It worked in all browsers but it didn’t validate. Then came Flash Satay and UFO, FlashObject and Hixie’s nested objects. Which techniques are most accessible and most reliable? Macromedia accessibility expert and occasional A List Apart author Andrew Kirkpatrick checked them all out and drew conclusions worth reading.
gotomobile: the mobile usability and UX blog
In the U.S. a mobile phone is a cell phone for making phone calls. In the rest of the world it’s a rich two-way media device. Starting a year ago, renowned designer Kelly Goto began travelling the world researching how handhelds are used today and discovering the emerging principles of ubiquitous computing. Kelly, who is here lecturing at Web Design World, maintains this mobile usability and user experience blog, to which she posts from her handheld camera/phone/whatever.
Seed Magazine
This beautiful and well-written periodical explores the changing role of science in our global culture. New York’s own Mike Pick and Tim Murtaugh created the clean, elegant, and playful site design (check out the little colored seedlings at the top left).
DropSend
Got big files to share? Files so big you can’t email them? Files too big even for Basecamp hosting and posting? DropSend has you covered. This fresh-off-the-vine web application by Ryan Carson takes ease of use to a new level, working well and simply as advertised. I use it. Try it, you’ll like it.
Folksonomy is such a lonely word
In this New York Times Magazine feature, Daniel H. Pink explains folksonomies to the non-digerati. As most people reading this page know, “folksonomy” is IA Thomas Vander Wal’s 2004 coinage for the tag-powered, communal taxonomies that are not merely changing how websites and web products are structured but how information is perceived and categorized all over.
Greg Storey portfolio
I’ve always thought Greg Storey was a heck of a designer. Now you can more easily see for yourself just how good he is.
Oh, the Plazes you’ll go!
Plazes (beta) is a spanking new web app offering a “grassroot approach to location-aware interaction, using the local network you are connected to as location reference. Plazes allows you to share you location with the people you know and to discover people and plazes around you. It’s the navigation system for your social life and it’s absolutely free.” I’m using it right now and it is cool.

An Event Apart Philadelphia Postpartum

I returned from An Event Apart Philadelphia with a head full of ideas, inspiration, and snot. Walking the snowy Franklin Parkway at 5:30 am after not sleeping for two nights in a row can give you a heck of a head cold. (It wasn’t nervousness about the show that kept me from sleeping; it was my fourteen-month-old’s nighttime restlessness. Will I take the kid on another business trip? You bet.) Mostly I came home happy to have pulled off our first travelling road show and pleased that it seemed to please most who attended.

Attendees came from as far away as Tokyo and London. There were plenty of locals, too. Philadelphia has a tight and engaged design community — you could see it and feel it.

There were problems. We were promised WI-FI for 150 people and barely had bandwidth for half that many. Some seats were more comfortable than others.

But most of the surprises were pleasant. Every attendee got a free book from New Riders—titles by Dan Cederholm, Hillman Curtis, Steve Krug, Marty Neumeier, Jakob Nielsen, Eric Meyer, and yours truly. Twenty people got free web hosting for a year courtesy of Media Temple. AIGA gave away posters, Pixelworthy gave away drinks. The event would not have been half so good without the caring support of these fine sponsors.

Jon Aldinger, Daniel Mall, Peter Santa Maria, and Rob Weychert provided invaluable ground support on the day of the show and the day before. Filmmaker Ian Corey videotaped the whole day for secret purposes that may be revealed at a later date.

The Philadelphia Standards Organization, blogging live, published the day’s schedule, to which we mostly adhered. In future posts here or at aneventapart.com I may talk more about what we covered and why. For now, I’ll defer to my co-host Eric Meyer, our special guest Jason Santa Maria, and various lovely people who came to the show:

No rest for the wicked

I am now at Web Design World, Boston; tomorrow I’ll keynote on web standards and do a session on the radically under-covered subject of writing as interface design. See some of you here and the rest when I return.

ALA 208, AIGA podcasts

Back from Spain, prepping for Philly. An Event Apart is days away!

A List Apart 208

In Issue No. 208 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, we focus on simplicity, both in practice and theory.

Printing a Book with CSS: Boom!
by Bert Bos & Håkon Wium Lie
Bert and Håkon gave the world CSS. Now they give us another use for it. Namely, controlling real-world printing jobs. Call it a microformat. An innovation. A heresy. The authors call it “boom!”
Power to the People
by D. Keith Robinson
Your dad doesn’t care about AJAX, Mr Robinson discovers.

More Event Apart AIGA podcasts, Mom!

AIGA, the professional association for design, presents “Talking with Jason Santa Maria: An Event Apart, #04” and “Talking with Zeldman: An Event Apart, #03.”

Each week leading up to An Event Apart Philadelphia, AIGA talks with founders and guest artists about what attendees can expect from the conference. Subscribe to AIGA’s Podcast Directory RSS feed to stay abreast.

This week, AIGA’s Liz Danzico talks with Jason Santa Maria about being An Event Apart’s first guest speaker, his involvement with the first critiques, and upcoming plans for Stan, his virtual persona.