THIS MORNING Contents Magazine launched the beginning of something both good and important: a set of guidelines that could lead to a safer world for user-created content.
Contents believes (and I agree) that products and services which make a business of our stuff—the photos, posts, and comments that we share on their platforms—need to treat our content like it matters. Not like junk that can be flushed the moment a product or service gets acquired or goes under.
On the web, popularity waxes and wanes; beloved services come and go. AOL was once mighty. MySpace was unstoppable. Nobody expected Geocities, Delicious, or Gowalla to just disappear, taking our stories, photos, and memories with them. But that’s what happens on the web. Tomorrow it could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr. We can continue to blindly trust these companies with our family histories, and continue to mourn when they disappear, taking our data with them. Or we can demand something better.
Contents and its small team of advisors have devised three simple rules customer-content-driven services and apps should follow to respect and protect our content:
Treat our data like it matters. Keep it secure and protect our privacy, of course—but also maintain serious backups and respect our choice to delete any information we’ve contributed.
No upload without download. Build in export capabilities from day one.
If you close a system, support data rescue. Provide one financial quarter’s notice between announcing the shutdown and destroying any user-contributed content, public or private, and offer data export during this period. And beyond that three months? Make user-contributed content available for media-cost purchase for one year after shutdown.
You may see this as a pipe dream. Why should a big, successful company like Facebook listen to us? But citizen movements have accomplished plenty in the past, from bringing web standards to our web browsers, to peacefully overthrowing unpopular governments.
I’m on board with the new Contents guidelines and I hope you will be, too. If enough of us raise enough of a sustained fuss over a sufficient period, things will change.
HEY, YOU WITH THE STARS in your eyes. Yes, you, the all too necessary SXSW Interactive attendee. Got questions about the present and future of web design and publishing for me or the illustrious panelists on Jeffrey Zeldman’s Awesome Internet Design Panel at SXSW Interactive 2011? You do? Bravo! Post them on Twitter using hashtag #jzsxsw and we’ll answer the good ones at 5:00 PM in Big Ballroom D of the Austin Convention Center.
Topics include platform wars (native, web, and hybrid, or welcome back to 1999), web fonts, mobile is the new widescreen, how to succeed in the new publishing, responsive design, HTML5, Flash, East Coast West Coast beefs, whatever happened to…?, and many, many more.
Comments are off here so you’ll post your questions on Twitter.
The panel will be live sketched and live recorded for later partial or full broadcast via sxsw.com. In-person attendees, arrive early for best seats. Don’t eat the brown acid.
BECAUSE FACEBOOK LIMITS USERS to 5,000 contacts, I had to migrate from a conventional user account to what used to be called a “fan” page and is now called an “Artist, Band or Public Figure” page. (Page, not account, notice.)
There’s a page on Facebook called “Create a Page” that is supposed to seamlessly migrate from a conventional user account to a public figure (aka “fan”) page.
The page says it will only migrate your connections—it will lose all your content, photos, apps, and so on—and Facebook means it. After migrating, all my stuff is gone. Years of photos, wall posts, blog posts, tweets, you name it. Even the “help” page link is gone once you’ve migrated, so you can’t refer to any help documentation to find out where all your stuff went and if any of it can be saved.
Custom URL breaks on migration
Because of an idiocy in the database, you can’t keep your existing custom URL, since, when you request it, Facebook tells you it is “taken.” My Facebook page was “jzeldman,” but that URL is “taken” by a fellow named “Jeffrey Zeldman,” so I can’t use it on my Jeffrey Zeldman page. So I had to change to a new URL (“JeffreyZeldman”) and now all my admin links (for instance at facebook.com/happycog) are broken, as they point to the old user page instead of the new fan page. At the very least, Facebook should seamlessly redirect from facebook.com/jzeldman (my old URL) to facebook.com/JeffreyZeldman (the new one), but it does not.
So all my other social media sites that point to the old Facebook account need to be updated by hand, and any third-party links will now be broken because Facebook doesn’t let you keep your custom URL during a migration.
Third-party apps disappear completely
Likewise, none of the third-party functionality (Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, RSS, and so on) has migrated from the user page to the fan page, and there is no information explaining how to reconnect these apps.
No reasonable app like the ones I’ve mentioned appears in the “apps” section of the sidebar on my new page. When I look for additional apps, I get treated to a bloated browse of crappy apps nobody on earth uses, whose creators probably made deals with Facebook in hopes that newbies would be persuaded to hook up these contraptions. You can find “PhotoMyButt” but not Flickr.
I, however, use Flickr.
So, since I can’t find it in the big dull browse, I resort to Facebook’s Apps’ “Search” box. Typing Flickr in that box is exciting. Instead of being taken to the Flickr apps on Facebook, I’m treated to endless redirects courtesy of a broken PHP script that loops infinitely forever suffering like Christ on the cross world without end amen while never actually resolving. Each new partial page that loads for an instant before being replaced by the next is undesigned and unbranded and contains only the sentence fragment, “Please stand by, redirecting…”
The devil will see you now.
So much for content
My photos are gone. My existing writing is gone. Facebook does seem to be migrating human beings who were “friends” on my old page, but nothing else works.
Oh my God, I can’t Admin my own page
I can’t Admin my new Facebook page because the “Admin” is “jzeldman” (me at the old account, which Facebook deleted). Perhaps this is why it’s impossible to post content, no apps work, etc. Nice.
Kids, don’t try this at home
All these bugs are probably known to Facebook, and there are probably nice people at Facebook whose job is to execute known secret internal workarounds when helping an actual “celebrity” migrate his or her page. I’m just guessing of course, but it stands to reason that Ashton K or Lady Gaga, if they want a Facebook page, probably don’t have to deal with all this frustrating brokenness. They have people for that.
But I don’t. I’m a web guy. And web stuff should just work.
I CANNOT LIKE Happy Cog’s new Facebook page, due to Facebook’s unexplained and arbitrary limitation on how many things a user is allowed to Like. In Facebook’s world, it seems I Like too many things, and that’s bad—even though a chief value of Facebook to advertisers is as a platform where users connect to brands by “Liking” them and encouraging their friends to Like them. Breaking the user/Like connection arbitrarily not only frustrates the user, it also runs counter to Facebook’s business model. Moreover, the vaguely worded error message is a lie. No matter how many things I remove from my pile of Likes, I still cannot Like anything new.
So the real problem may be that I have too many “friends” (i.e. colleagues, business contacts, actual friends, and family). I’m allowed 5000 and I have 5000. If you have 5000 friends, you can’t add more friends, because God forbid you help Facebook grow its network beyond an arbitrary cutoff point. Moreover, if you have 5000 friends, you apparently aren’t allowed to Like anything. You have to choose: friends or brands. Like anyone, I choose friends. As a result, I lose value to Facebook’s advertisers, whose products I can no longer Like. This inability to simultaneously Like people and things maps to nothing in the real world and makes no business sense, but here we are.
So Happy Cog has a Facebook page, and I founded Happy Cog, but I cannot like Happy Cog’s Facebook page. Even if I remove everything else I Like from my list of Facebook likes, I will still not be able to Like Happy Cog’s Facebook page, unless I start removing contacts, which I’m unwilling to do for obvious reasons.
If Facebook were an eager young startup, they would quickly fix this problem, which runs counter to all their business interests and is not based on any real system constraints. But, as we all know, Facebook is an insanely successful company, so they have no incentive to fix the things that are broken in their user experience.
I like Facebook. I don’t mind the brain-dead broken parts of Facebook; all web apps have broken, brain-dead parts. That’s what testing and user feedback are for: to find fix broken, brain-dead stuff. I hate, hate, hate thinking Facebook will never fix what is broken and brain-dead in its site used by half a billion people. Say “Amen,” somebody.
Captured from Twitter, here is Tom Henrich’s partial reconstruction of my conversation with Tantek Çelik, Glenda Bautista, Andy Rutledge and others on the merits of self-hosting social content and publishing to various sites rather than aggregating locally from external sources.
When kids interact with software they explore and engage with anything that looks interesting. Especially if it looks like content. Graphical user interface components don’t.
Consider the example of Dr. Seuss’s ABC book on the iPad. The intro screen uses colorful blobs to bring attention to large hit targets. But tap on one of these elements and up pops a standard modal menu asking you to select from one of three options. Modal menu dialogs and kids don’t mix.
I RECENTLY ATE dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years. If you are in a position to do likewise, I highly recommend the experience. So much had changed, yet so much was still wonderfully the same. We were still the same joyously creative young fools, yet time had seasoned us. No longer poking the world with sharp sticks, we had found a place in it. I was pleasantly reminded of this existentially thrilling encounter while opening a pre-release version Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit 9.6 update—released to the public as of 12:19 EDT today.
A beloved and venerable HTML and text editor for Macintosh, BBEdit is tailored to the needs of web developers and designers who write their own code. Its no-frills interface consists of a document window in which you write your code; a side drawer that lists all pages you’re working on, enabling you to navigate between them; a stack of buttons (many with drop-downs) you can push to perform tasks like choosing and inserting a DOCTYPE, wrapping chunks of copy in paragraph tags, checking syntax and links for errors, and more; and a report window where you can view your test results and correct your errors.
Previous versions of BBEdit were updated with the precepts of Designing With Web Standards in mind, and the current version takes some of its feature cues from Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers. (When I say the software takes its cues from Mr Keith’s book, I mean that literally; Bare Bones Software head Rich Siegel and his team used HTML5 For Web Designers to help develop some of their testing suites.)
Given these antecedents, it’s no surprise that the new version adds support for HTML5, including published element lists from WHATWG and W3C; CSS3 properties, including vendor-specific properties for Mozilla, Safari/WebKit, and Opera browsers; a new contextual code-hinting feature tied to your chosen doctype that includes as-you-type popups for allowed elements, attributes, and (in CSS documents) style properties; and Bare Bones’s own offline validator (HTML 3.2 through HTML5, XHTML inclusive), baked right into BBEdit.
BBEdit 9.6 also found the errors in WordPress plug-ins like fbLike Button and TweetMeme Retweet Button, enabling me to make an informed decision to stop using the former plug-in and helping me edit the PHP files of the latter plug-in so that it now validates here.
BBEdit 9.6 also offers increased performance for several common
operations, including search, and includes several enhancements and
refinements, plus fixes for reported issues. Detailed information on
all of the changes and improvements in BBEdit 9.6 can be found on the Release Notes page.
After using the new version for two days, I am switching back to BBEdit as my full-time coding platform.
BBEdit 9.6 is available free of charge to all registered BBEdit 9 customers from the Bare Bones Software website on the BBEdit Updates page. For more information, or to download a fully functional demo, visit Bare Bones Software’s site.
Rich Ziade, creator of the popular reading tool Readability, guests on Thursday’stoday’s episode of The Big Web Show, co-hosted by Dan Benjamin and taped before a live internet audience.
Richard Ziade is the founding partner of Arc90, a consulting firm, product shop, and idea incubator based in New York City. Arc90 has a reputation as one of the best web application design shops around. Alas, nearly all their web application design work is for private corporate clients. Thus most of us don’t get a chance to see and learn from Arc90’s work. Fortunately we can get a taste of what they’re about by visiting the Arc90 Lab, where the company shares ideas, tools, and the occasional experiment in web technology.
During Thursday’s Friday’s taping of The Big Web Show, we will probe Rich (if you’ll excuse the disgusting imagery) to find out where his ideas come from, how Arc90 manages the balance between product development and client services, and how to build a reputation when your client services agreements prevent you from having a public portfolio. I will also try to force Rich to tell our listeners if he has any awesome future plans for Readability.
Prior to Arc90, Richard worked in various roles crossing disciplines in design, technology and product management. Rich shares his occasional thought on design and technology at his blog: www.basement.org.
The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”) is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ETtoday at 2:00 pm! on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards, often within hours of taping, via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.
Designer Aarron Walter guests on Thursday’s episode of The Big Web Show, co-hosted by Dan Benjamin and taped before a live internet audience.
Aarron is the author of one of my favorite web design books, Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond (New Riders, 2008). It’s the book that explains the connection between “search engine optimization” and good, accessible, semantic markup. (Buy your clients a copy.) He works as the lead user experience designer for MailChimp, bringing ease of use and even fun to web-based email marketing and list management. He is also a popular conference speaker; the author of an upcoming A Book Apart mini-tome on emotional design; and the lead of the WaSP InterACT curriculum project, “a living, open curriculum based upon web standards and best practices, designed to teach students the skills of the web professional.”
The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”) is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards, often within hours of taping, via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.
Vincent (no last name given) has designed a beautiful, extremely useful, feature-rich interface design framework for web designers who create their initial design mock-ups in Adobe Illustrator. And it’s free for personal or commercial use (credit link required).
The set includes:
GUI library – Hundreds of vector elements for interface design
Minimal UI icons set – 260 vector icons for Illustrator
Styles library – 200 styles to apply in Illustrator
I’d pay cash money for the color schemes alone: 330 swatches harmonized with graphic styles for backgrounds, typography and other GUI interface elements.
The back-link requirement may be a deal breaker in some situations. I’d happily use these GUI icons on a personal project, but I might refrain on a client project if it seemed awkward to include a widget credit on the site. (It all depends on the client.)
That possible caveat aside, this is an extraordinary set of widgets and gizmos many web designers will want to have in their tool kit.
In Heaven, if I should get there, I will play the Mellotron. Meanwhile, I play the Mellotronics M3000 HD, a $12 Mellotron for iPad (and soon for iPhone and iPod touch as well) by Synthtopia.
From the manufacturers:
The M3000 is an uncannily accurate, beautiful-sounding and immensely playable instrument, packed with 13 huge, authentic voices from the Mellotronics tape vault. These are the same production tapes that featured on Strawberry Fields Forever, Nights in White Satin, Watcher of the Skies, Odessey and Oracle, and hundreds more timeless classics.
Or in my case, “In The Court of the Crimson King,” the album that blew my mind in ninth grade and still holds up in 2010, despite lyrical conceits that would make Chuck D giggle and border on Sp?n?al Tap parody. But I digress.
The real Mellotron was powered by looped audio tape recordings of full orchestra, solo flute, and so on—one recording, one tape loop, for each note of the 35-note keyboard. The M3000 is powered by individual samples of all 35 notes of each original tape set. The resulting sound is incredible, even over the iPad’s tiny built-in speaker.
All 35 keys are on-screen and available at once, so anything that can be played on a Mellotron can be played on the M3000. … The M3000 also supports 4 in-memory voices at one time, with independent keyboard and chordpad voices. The inclusion of a rich, spacious onboard reverb unit allows the M3000 to be used as a recording or performance instrument with no outboard effects chain.
Here’s what you can’t do. You can’t plug a MIDI keyboard into your iPad to drive the M3000’s performance. You have to play the virtual onscreen keyboard. You also can’t record your M3000 performance to a sequencer.
But there’s nothing stopping you from taking this $12 iPad Mellotron onstage or into a home or professional recording studio. Or just whipping it out on a long bus trip or tough day in the cubicle and regaling your companions with impromptu renditions of “Space Oddity.”
There is a new Safari update. After I installed it, my home iMac cannot reboot.
For about an hour, the iMac was stuck in the grey Apple screen (sometimes with, and sometimes without, a progress bar). The progress bar would “finish,” then the Mac would restart back into the grey Apple screen.
I decided to leave the iMac alone while I worked out.
When I returned two hours later, the iMac had progressed from the grey screen to a blue screen. Zapping PRAM and restarting gets me a grey Apple screen followed by a blue screen. The blue screen flashes twice while changing its color balance settings, indicating that some part of the operating system still works. Then a tiny white rectangle appears at the top left of the screen. Then, nothing further.
This machine contains my entire music collection and all my photos of my daughter.
I have a backup drive but cannot force the iMac to boot from it.
I have an OS X CD but cannot force the iMac to start from it.
GEORGIA and Verdana, Lucida and (to a lesser extent) Arial and Times New Roman have served us well. For fifteen years, these cross-platform default fonts have been faithful stewards of our desire to read, write, design, and publish web pages. Yet we designers have always wanted more. As far back as 1994, we hoped for the day when we could brand our layouts as magazine and poster designers do, by setting our pages in Franklin or Garamond, our headlines in Futura or Rosewood. And since 1998, CSS2 has provided a standard way to embed any typeface, not just the fab five, on a web page.
In August, 2007, CSS co-creator and Opera Software CTO Håkon Wium Lie wrote CSS At Ten, reminding us that CSS provided a mechanism by which actual font files could be linked to and retrieved from the web. Soon after the article was published, “web fonts” discussions started popping up at interactive design festivals and my friend Jeffrey Veen got the idea for a product that would get web fonts happening without running afoul of inconsistent browser support, multiple format hangups, or type designer licensing agreements and piracy concerns.
Speeding up design acceptance
While browser improvements and web standards alone provided multiple partial solutions, Typekit offered a complete solution that just worked. And the people behind Typekit (including Bryan Mason and Jason Santa Maria) did everything right: they reached out to the type design, graphic design, and standards-based web design communities; they worked with vendor after vendor to offer as many fonts as possible; they spoke everywhere, marketing their venture one lecture and even one designer at a time.
Typekit excited the web design community about type and proved that licensing and hosting web type was a viable business, providing options and convenience for designers and their clients, while bringing new revenue to type designers and protecting their intellectual property.
Typekit is the tipping point
Publicly and truly, I support Typekit because it is getting us to the world of web fonts faster. We could wait indefinitely for type vendors to agree to industry-standard licensing terms and font formats. We could wait far longer for IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera, Opera Mini, Mobile Safari, and the rest to support the same font formats. (Currently Firefox supports WOFF and TrueType, Safari and Chrome support TrueType, MobileSafari supports SVG, IE supports EOT, and on, and on.)
But with Typekit, we don’t have to bother our pretty little heads worrying about these inconsistencies, and we don’t have to sit on the sidelines, waiting for all font makers and all browser makers to support a single standard format.
Platforms and performance
Typekit works, and that helps web designers and type designers take “web fonts” seriously. Typekit’s success is even helping to make web designers and type designers more aware of platform problems that can make fonts hideous on various platforms. Georgia was designed for the screen. Garamond was not. Moreover, platforms vary the way they hint fonts (Apple throws out hinting altogether, Microsoft over-hints) and the way they render them (from purely pixellated to at least three varieties of sub-pixel anti-aliasing), making a font’s appearance on a given user’s system hard to predict.
If not for Typekit, we might have had to wait years for most or all type designers to license web fonts. Only then would we have discovered that body text set in anything other than Georgia and Verdana pretty much blows on many Windows OS, browser, and monitor combinations.
Thanks to Typekit, we all know about the problem, and type designers are re-hinting their fonts, and in some cases redesigning them for the screen.
For all this I and all of us can be grateful to Typekit.
They also understand that designers will only use “web fonts” if they have access to the fonts they need. Just as a huge selection enabled iTunes to dominate online music, Typekit’s makers know their service must offer pretty much every good typeface out there—and they are working on it.
Renting versus “owning”
All this said in Typekit’s favor, I have mixed feelings about their product because I’d rather buy a web-licensed font than rent it—and Typekit’s success at establishing the viability of a rental model means that individual type foundries will also rent their fonts—and those who succeed at renting their fonts to web designers may not be inclined to sell.
Of course you never really own the fonts you buy—you simply license their use. So the analogy of owning versus renting doesn’t exactly hold true. But a one-time font purchase as a line item in a design budget is easier to explain and sell to a client than an ongoing rental charge.
Web Standards and @font-face
My other qualm has to do with a preference for pure web standards over product-assisted web standards. I don’t know if my preference is ideological or just the way my mind works (or fails to). But, given my druthers, I’d rather see millions of websites using standard @font-face to link to self-hosted web-licensed fonts than see that same number of fonts using a service—even a brilliant service created by friends for whom I wish continued, deserved, great success. It must be a quirk of mind; there’s no other logical explanation for this preference.
For those who share this bias, possess the properly licensed fonts, and don’t mind using FTP and writing a little code, the CSS @Font-Face Generator by Font Squirrel provides an exceptionally easy way to automatically generate the font formats necessary to take all browsers (including mobile) into account—complete with automated Cufón backup and your choice of best-practice @font-face code strings.
In April of 2009, in a post every web designer, publisher, or business person should read, Joshua Schachter told how URL shortening services like TinyURL and Bit.ly came to be, and why the latest ones were so addictive. (Missing from Joshua’s account of their utility is the benefit URL shorteners can provide when sharing an otherwise obscenely long link on the printed page.)
The prescient post concludes that, despite their benefits, such services ultimately harm the web, decreasing clarity while increasing the odds of linkrot and spam:
[S]hortening services add another layer of indirection to an already creaky system. A regular hyperlink implicates a browser, its DNS resolver, the publisher’s DNS server, and the publisher’s website. With a shortening service, you’re adding something that acts like a third DNS resolver, except one that is assembled out of unvetted PHP and MySQL, without the benevolent oversight of luminaries like Dan Kaminsky and St. Postel.
There are three other parties in the ecosystem of a link: the publisher (the site the link points to), the transit (places where that shortened link is used, such as Twitter or Typepad), and the clicker (the person who ultimately follows the shortened links). Each is harmed to some extent by URL shortening.
There’s more, and you should read it all.
One of Joshua’s recommendations to minimize some of the harm is that websites do their own URL shortening instead of relying on middlemen. I’ve done some of that here, via the ShortURL plug-in for WordPress. Thus I use zeldman.com/x/48 instead of a much longer URL to notify my friends on Twitter about a new comment on an oldish thread. Likewise, zeldman.com/x/49 redirects to yesterday’s big post, “Write When Inspired.”
Rolling your own mini-URLs lessens the chance that your carefully cultivated links will rot if the third-party URL shortening site goes down or goes out of business, as is happening to tr.im, a URL shortener that is pulling the plug because it could neither monetize nor sell its service.
tr.im is now in the process of discontinuing service, effective immediately….
No business we approached wanted to purchase tr.im for even a minor amount.
There is no way for us to monetize URL shortening — users won’t pay for it — and we just can’t justify further development since Twitter has all but annointed bit.ly the market winner.
The Short URL Plugin for WordPress installs automatically. It provides simple statistics, telling you how many times a link has been clicked, sets up redirects automatically, allows you to choose a custom link style, and more. You’re not limited to shortening your own URLs, although that’s mainly how I use it; you can also shorten third-party URLs, turning your site into a miny TinyURL. I’ve used this plugin for months, with nothing but joy in its cleverness and usability.