Flying North

I was in the Austin airport, looking for my gate, when a raspy voice rang out:

“If he wants more than I’m giving him, fuck him. No, seriously, fuck him.”

And I said:

“This must be the flight to New York.”

[tags]NYC, Austin, SXSW, SXSWi, people, glamorous, airports, airtravel, jetblue, flying, jetting[/tags]

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]

Podcast news

Crisply produced Voices That Matter Podcast video interviews with your humble narrator and a host of design and web luminaries—people like Nathan Shedroff, Dori Smith and Tom Negrino, Stephanie Sullivan, Robert Hoekman, Jr., Aarron Walter, DL Byron and many more—are now available for your listening and viewing pleasure in the iTunes Music Store and at Peachpit.

Additional Happy-Cog-related SXSW video, coming soon, includes:

  • A discussion on user interface design between Michael Lopp and me
  • Video of the Everyone’s a Design Critic presentation featuring Jason Santa Maria and Rob Weychert
  • Video of the Respect! panel featuring Google’s Douglas Bowman and Happy Cog’s Erin Kissane, Liz Danzico, and Jason Santa Maria (and moderated by your humble)

Watch for announcements!

[tags]podcast, video, interview, zeldman, sxsw, voicesthatmatter, peachpit, authors[/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]

The SXSW Diet

Last year, a month or two before SXSW, I went on a movie star diet, all tiny portions of unseasoned unsucculent nothingness. I lost five pounds and wanted to murder the world.

This year I decided to skip desserts instead of dieting.

It’s amazing how many sweets you’re exposed to as the parent of a young child. Even if you don’t stuff your own larders with sugary treats, every weekend it’s some kid’s birthday party, where the cakes and ice cream flow like apple juice. In an environment where all that sugar and flour is normal, you partake without thinking.

So I started thinking.

Rejecting dessert soon became second nature. No birthday cake at little Johnny’s birthday bash. No fabulous pear thing when Grandma visited. No red velvet cake at the place in our neighborhood where it’s to die for. No exquisite little French pastries at the business lunch bistro. No little tin bowl of mango raisin coconut whatever at the best little vegetarian Indian place in Curry Hill. None for me, thanks. Not having any. It looks delicious, but no.

Man is a fallen creature and the devil weaves endless snares. I stuck to my no-dessert program through an onslaught of spectacular temptations. And then, like a fool, I succumbed.

Yesterday, the mother of the tot celebrating his third birthday came around with cupcakes baked into ice cream cones. Sugary vanilla frosting, M&M crumble topping, ordinary packaged cake batter, stock stubby cone—not even a sugar cone.

“No thanks,” I said, waving her away, but smiling to show that I appreciated the offer and did not judge anyone.

A minute later she came back, revolving them a few inches from my lips. “I made extras,” she said perkily.

“No thanks—well, okay,” I said, grabbing one of the things.

I wolfed it down. It was entirely as expected: an initial burst of pleasure followed by disappointment and regret. An absolutely ordinary child’s treat. Nothing special. No depth. Dutifully, no longer enjoying, I finished it all, even the dry, frostingless part deep in the little cone’s bottom.

It was like throwing away a marriage over a one-night stand with someone you met at a bus station.

[tags]sxsw, sxswi, parenting, dieting, food, treats[/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]

Austin Power

As snow falls prettily on the island of Manhattan, Mrs Zeldman and I prepare for our annual junket to sun-baked, star-studded Austin, Texas, accompanied by the keynote speaker of 2025 and cradling the blessed StarTAC. Most of Happy Cog and the A List Apart staff will be there as well, many with speaking roles. Here are a few panels I found (with more to come):

Writing, Better

Ballroom F
Saturday, March 10th
10:00 am – 11:00 am (same time as “A Decade of Style,” below)

If content is king, why don’t designers talk about it? Panelists will discuss what makes for good writing, what each person does to keep fit with verbs and vowels, and what the future might hold for the written word in a world that is being inundated with podcasts and video.

Moderator: Greg Storey

Greg Storey Principal/Creative Dir, Airbag Industries LLC
Bronwyn Jones Mktg Comms, Apple Computer
Erin Kissane Editor, Happy Cog
Ethan Marcotte Vertua Studios

A Decade of Style

Room 19AB
Saturday, March 10th
10:00 am – 11:00 am (same time as “Writing, Better,” above)

A small group of grizzled veterans reflects on a decade of successes, triumphs, failures, disappointments, reversals of fortune, and just plain fun in the world of CSS and web design.

Moderator: Eric Meyer

Molly Holzschlag Pres, Molly.com Inc
Eric Meyer Principal, Complex Spiral Consulting
Chris Wilson IE Platform Architect, Microsoft
Douglas Bowman Visual Design Lead, Google

After the Brief: A Field Guide to Design Inspiration

Room 18ABCD
Saturday, March 10th
11:30 am – 12:30 pm

You’ve received the creative brief; now what? Learn how to draw creative inspiration for your web design projects from a number of likely and unlikely sources.

Moderator: Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria Creative Dir, Happy Cog Studios
Cameron Moll cameronmoll.com
Rob Weychert Art Dir, Happy Cog Studios

Ruining the User Experience: When JavaScript and Ajax Go Bad

Room 18ABCD
Saturday, March 10th
4:05 pm – 4:30 pm

With the exploding popularity of DOM Scripting, Ajax and JavaScript in general, it’s important to know what to do—and what not to do—when dealing with these technologies.This session will walk you through several real-world examples, pointing out common mistakes that hinder usability, accessibility, and searchwhile teaching you ways to avoid them altogether, either programmatically or simply by altering the way you think about JavaScript-based interactivity.

Aaron Gustafson Sr Web designer/Developer, Easy! Designs LLC
Sarah Nelson Design Strategist, Adaptive Path

Book Signing

SUNDAY, MARCH 11
3:00 pm

I’ll be signing Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition in the SXSW Bookstore, located in the Trade Show + Exhibition.

Robert Hoekman Jr. Designing the Obvious
Jeffrey Zeldman Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition
Brendan Dawes Analog In, Digital Out
Phil Torrone MAKE Magazine
John Jantsch Duct Tape Marketing-The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
Marrit Ingman Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out With the Diapers
Gina Trapani Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tips
Elliot McGucken Own the Risk: The 45Surf.com Guide to Hero’s Journey Entrepreneurship

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0

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

Is your team mired in the goo and muck of old-school thinking? Are your designers and developers divided on their approach and about to throw in the towel? This panel features formerly stuck experts as well as those who have helped clients get out of the muck.

Moderator: Liz Danzico

Liz Danzico Director, experience strategy, Daylife
Kristian Bengtsson Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman Founder and Executive Creative Director, Happy Cog

Preserving our Digital Legacy and the Individual Collector

Room 8ABC
Tuesday, March 13th
11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Many great art, book and manuscript collections survive because an individual had the foresight or good luck to save the good stuff. Libraries and museums owe a debt to individual dealers, collectors and packrats for saving illustrated Czarist plate books from the Soviets, and WWII letters from the trash-heap. Who are today’s collectors? What are they preserving? How will they manage fragile born-digital collections long enough share with future generations?

Moderator: Carrie Bickner (aka Mrs Zeldman)

Carrie Bickner, Director of Education Outreach, The New York Public Library
Josh Greenberg Assoc Dir Research Projects, Center for History & New Media
William Stingone Curator of Manuscripts, The New York Public Library
Megan Winget Professor, UT at Austin

[tags]sxsw, sxswi, austin, texas, mrszeldman, alistapart, happycog[/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]