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The Young Man from Proviso and His Monkey Friends Meet the Hamburglar

There was a young man from Proviso, California. He was a kind young man, and a smart young man, and he had three monkey friends: Provo, Rebozo, and Lobo. 

Provo, Rebozo, and Lobo were magical monkeys who could shrink down so small you could barely see them, or grow to full size, or anything in-between. Provo was pink, Rebozo was blue, and Lobo was purple. They wore fancy three-piece custom-tailored suits in bold colors that complemented and contrasted with the color of their fur. Pink Provo, for example, wore a blue suit with bright yellow piping on the collar and shiny green buttons.

The three monkeys resided inside magical bubbles, which could grow very big or very small, just as each monkey desired. The three bubbles were generally to be found in the top pocket of the Young Man’s excellent tweed jacket. To keep the bubbles from flying away, and protect the monkeys from prying hands, the top pocket of the Young Man’s excellent tweed jacket closed with a zipper, plus a button, plus three snaps. Nobody could open the pocket except the Young Man himself, and the monkeys, of course.

Now, Proviso, California, where the Young Man and his three monkeys hailed from, is a lovely place. But this Young Man had a yearning for adventure. So he left California and set out for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which he had always been told was a magical city of hills, rivers, and bridges.

And so it was that on a fine Spring day, the Young Man found himself strolling delightedly across a big yellow bridge that spanned a river between the South Hills of Pittsburgh and the old downtown business district.

And so delighted was this Young Man with the conversation he and his monkeys were having—for the monkeys’ voices were magical voices that the Young Man could hear even when the monkeys were at their smallest, and inside their bubbles, and securely snapped away in his top pocket—

So enraptured in conversation were the four friends, that they failed to notice as a stranger approached them from the opposite side of the river.

The stranger wore a black mask over his eyes, and a black cape on his back, and his black-and-white, horizontally striped shirt proclaimed that he was a criminal.

He was, in fact, the Hamburglar, who had recently escaped from McDonald’s restaurant, and as he came up to meet the Young Man and his pocket friends, he pulled a large blue blunderbuss from the lining of his cloak, and jabbed it against the Young Man’s ribs.

Now, a blunderbuss is a big old-fashioned weapon, and that jab in the ribs informed the Young Man that the Hamburglar was not a well-meaning person.

“This is a stick-up! Give me all your money,” the Hamburglar shouted.

The Young Man fumbled to open his top pocket, and the robber, seeing this, relaxed and smiled. The robber thought the Young Man must keep a wallet in that pocket, and he imagined that he would soon grab that wallet and be off.

But instead of a wallet, three tiny bubbles floated out of the Young Man’s pocket and hovered in the air between the Young Man and the robber. As the Hamburglar watched in baffled amazement, the three bubbles grew larger and larger and settled down on the ground where they popped open, revealing the three colorful monkeys in their equally colorful suits.

“These are my friends, Provo, Rebozo, and Lobo,” said the Young Man.

“Never mind all that, give me your money,” cried the robber, who was beginning to become confused by the situation.

“Certainly, certainly,” said the Young Man, “but first, may I ask you a question? Why do you dress like a robber and carry a blunderbuss? Why do you try to take other people’s money?”

The robber thought a moment. “I have no other skills except waving a blunderbuss and acting scary,” he explained.

“Well, what if we could change that?” the Young Man asked. “What if we could help you get skills and be a magical scientist, like we are?”

“I would like that very much,” said the robber, and to demonstrate his sincerity, he tossed the blunderbuss over the side of the bridge, letting it sink to the bottom of the river where it would never hurt anyone and never be seen again.

And with that, the three monkeys and the Young Man smiled, pulled thin white wands from their pockets, and waved the wands in unison, creating four small circles in the air. 

The Hamburglar looked down and found that he was now wearing a clean white lab coat. In the top pocket of his lab coat there were some small medical and magical instruments whose use he did not know but would soon learn. And on the top of the pocket, his name had been stitched. It read “Professor Hamilton Burglar.”

Everyone smiled, and then they heard the wail of an approaching police siren. Professor Burglar looked afraid when he heard that sound! But his three new monkey friends smiled and waved their wands again, causing a magical bubble of privacy and safety to arise from the tips of their wands and cover the professor completely. The monkeys then waved their own bubbles back into existence, and stepped gently inside them.

Then all four bubbles shrank and rose, gliding through the air and shrinking, always shrinking, until the four bubbles had come to rest in the safety and secrecy of the Young Man’s top pocket.

The Young Man zipped, buttoned, and snapped the pocket, then continued on his walk across the bridge, enjoying the beautiful day. He smiled at the police car as it passed.

Next time, we’ll learn more about Provo, Rebozo, Lobo, and the Young Man, and their new friend Professor Burglar.

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Ten Years Ago on the Web

2006 DOESN’T seem forever ago until I remember that we were tracking IE7 bugsworrying about the RSS feed validator, and viewing Drupal as an accessibility-and-web-standards-positive platform, at the time. Pundits were claiming bad design was good for the web (just as some still do). Joe Clark was critiquing WCAG 2. “An Inconvenient Truth” was playing in theaters, and many folks were surprised to learn that climate change was a thing.

I was writing the second edition of Designing With Web Standards. My daughter, who is about to turn twelve, was about to turn two. My dad suffered a heart attack. (Relax! Ten years later, he is still around and healthy.) A List Apart had just added a job board. “The revolution will be salaried,” we trumpeted.

Preparing for An Event Apart Atlanta, An Event Apart NYC, and An Event Apart Chicago (sponsored by Jewelboxing! RIP) consumed much of my time and energy. Attendees told us these were good shows, and they were, but you would not recognize them as AEA events today—they were much more homespun. “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” we used to joke. “My mom will sew the costumes and my dad will build the sets.” (It’s a quotation from a 1940s Andy Hardy movie, not a reflection of our personal views about gender roles.)

Jim Coudal, Jason Fried and I had just launched The Deck, an experiment in unobtrusive, discreet web advertising. Over the next ten years, the ad industry pointedly ignored our experiment, in favor of user tracking, popups, and other anti-patterns. Not entirely coincidentally, my studio had just redesigned the website of Advertising Age, the leading journal of the advertising profession.

Other sites we designed that year included Dictionary.com and Gnu Foods. We also worked on Ma.gnolia, a social bookmarking tool with well-thought-out features like Saved Copies (so you never lost a web page, even if it moved or went offline), Bookmark Ratings, Bookmark Privacy, and Groups. We designed the product for our client and developed many of its features. Rest in peace.

I was reading Adam Greenfield’s Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, a delightfully written text that anticipated and suggested design rules and thinking for our present Internet of Things. It’s a fine book, and one I helped Adam bring to a good publisher. (Clearly, I was itching to break into publishing myself, which I would do with two partners a year or two afterwards.)

In short, it was a year like any other on this wonderful web of ours—full of sound and fury, true, but also rife with innovation and delight.


As part of An Event Apart’s A Decade Apart celebration—commemorating our first ten years as a design and development conference—we asked people we know and love what they were doing professionally ten years ago, in 2006. If you missed parts onetwothree, or four, have a look back.

 

 

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Acclaim Announcements Design people Press Publications Publishing Stories Web Design Web Design History Web Standards Zeldman

Insites: The Book Honors Web Design, Designers

“INSITES: THE BOOK is a beautiful, limited edition, 256-page book presented in a numbered, foil-blocked presentation box. This very special publication features no code snippets and no design tips; instead, 20 deeply personal conversations with the biggest names in the web community.

“Over the course of six months, we travelled the US and the UK to meet with Tina Roth Eisenberg, Jason Santa Maria, Cameron Moll, Ethan Marcotte, Alex Hunter, Brendan Dawes, Simon Collison, Dan Rubin, Andy McGloughlin, Kevin Rose and Daniel Burka, Josh Brewer, Ron Richards, Trent Walton, Ian Coyle, Mandy Brown, Sarah Parmenter, Jim Coudal, Jeffrey Zeldman, Tim Van Damme, and Jon Hicks.

“We delved into their personal journeys, big wins, and lessons learned, along with the kind of tales you’ll never hear on a conference stage. Each and every person we spoke to has an amazing story to tell?—?a story we can all relate to, because even the biggest successes have the smallest, most humble of beginnings.” — Insites: The Book


I am honored to be among those interviewed in this beautiful publication.


Insites: The Book is published by Viewport Industries in association with MailChimp.

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business Design experience Standards State of the Web Stories Teaching The Essentials The Profession

Our Jobs In Cyberspace: Craft Vocabulary vs. Storytelling

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS designing websites and applications, I still don’t think in words like “affordance.” And when my colleagues use a word like that, my mental process still clatters to a halt while I seek its meaning in a dusty corner of my brain. (When someone says “affordance,” there’s always a blank where thought stops, and then I see a mental image of a finger pushing a button or stroking a surface. Somehow that one image stands in for everything I know about what “affordance” means, and I’m able to jump back into the discussion and catch up with everyone else.)

Should you ask B.B. King if the lick he just played was in Lydian Mode, he could probably answer you after stopping to think about it. But after all these years playing blues guitar, B.B. King doesn’t say to himself, “I’m going to switch to a Lydian scale here,” he just plays blues. Scales and vocabulary are necessary when we are learning the craft behind our art. But the longer we practice, the more intuitive our work becomes. And as it becomes more intuitive, it disconnects further and further from language and constructs.

This is why young practitioners often argue passionately about theory while older practitioners tell stories and draw pictures.

Of course any practitioner, green or experienced, can create a word to describe the work we are inventing together, just as anyone, young or old, can have the next great idea. And it is most often the young who come up with exciting new ideas in UX and design and on the internet—possibly because they are still exploring theories and trying on identities, while those who work more intuitively may shut themselves off from the noise of new ideas, the better to perfect a long-term vision.

But the nice thing about the experience arc I’m proposing is that it allows younger practitioners to use words like “affordance” when working together to create a website or application (and soon we will stop distinguishing between those two things), while the older, storyteller practitioners use simpler, down-to-earth language to sell the work to clients, investors, or users.

We need both kinds of practitioners—theorists and those for whom everything has become intuitive second nature—just as we need both kinds of communication (craft vocabulary and storytelling) to do Our Jobs in Cyberspace.™ Don’t you think?

Where are you on this arc? Are you the kind of designer who gets fired up from reading a new theory? Or do you sketch and stumble in the dark, guided only by some Tinker Bell twinge in the belly that tells you no, no, no, no, hmm, maybe?

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Acclaim Applications apps architecture art direction Authoring Best practices Browsers business Career Code creativity CSS Design development HTML HTML5 Ideas industry interface ipad iphone javascript links maturity Photoshop Platforms Publishing Standards State of the Web Stories The Profession Web Design Web Design History Web Standards

SlideShowPro adds HTML5

Todd Dominey at Happy Cog.

Most of us web folk are hybrids of one sort or another, but Todd Dominey was one of the first web designers to combine exceptional graphic design talent with serious mastery of code.

Being so good at both design and development that you could easily earn a fine living doing just one of them is still rare, although it looks like the future of our profession. One of the first serious designers to embrace web standards, Todd was also one of the few who did so while continuing to achieve recognition for his work in Flash. (Daniel Mall, who came later, is another.)

Finally, Todd was one of the first—along with 37signals and Coudal Partners—to abandon an enviably successful client services career in favor of full-time product development, inspiring a generation to do likewise, and helping bring us to our current world of web apps and startups.

A personal project that became an empire

In Todd’s case, the product was SlideShowPro, a project he designed for himself, which has grown to become the web’s most popular photo and video slideshow and gallery viewer. When you visit a photographer’s portfolio website, there’s an excellent chance that SlideShowPro powers its dynamic photo viewing experience. The same is true for the photo and video gallery features of many major newspaper and magazine sites, quite possibly including your favorites.

SlideShowPro

But deliberate lack of Flash support in the iPad and iPhone, while lauded here on February 1, 2010 as a win for accessible, standards-based design (“Not because Flash is bad, but because the increasing popularity of devices that don’t support Flash is going to force recalcitrant web developers to build the semantic HTML layer first”), presented a serious problem for developers who use SlideShowPro and readers who enjoy browsing dynamic photo and video galleries.

Mr Dominey has now solved that problem:

SlideShowPro Mobile is an entirely new media player built using HTML5 that doesn’t require the Flash Player plugin and can serve as a fallback for users accessing your web sites using these devices. But it’s not just any fallback — it’s specially designed for touch interfaces and smaller screen sizes. So it looks nothing like the SlideShowPro player and more like a native application that’s intuitive, easy to use, and just feels right.

The best part though is that because SlideShowPro Director (which will be required) publishes the mobile content, you’ll be able to provide the mobile alternative by simply updating the Flash Player embed code in your HTML documents. And just like when using the SlideShowPro player, because Director is behind the scenes, all your photos will be published for the target dimensions of these devices — which gives your users top quality, first generation images. The mobile player will automatically load whatever content is assigned to the Flash version, so the same content will be accessible to any browser accessing your web site.

A public beta will be released in the next weeks. Meanwhile, there is a video demo. There’s also an excellent Question and Answer page that answers questions you may have, whether you’re a SlideShow Pro customer or not. For instance:

Why mobile? Why not desktop?

We believe that (on the desktop) Flash is still the best delivery method for photo/video galleries and slideshows for it provides the most consistent user experience across all browsers and the broadest range of playback and customization options. As HTML5 support matures across all desktop browsers, we’ll continue to look into alternate presentation options.

Into the future!

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Apple Design HTML5 software Stories This never happens to Gruber

iMac dies after Safari update

iMac cannot boot after installing Safari update.

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.

Maybe this is what Apple means by “HTML5.”