The lessons of September 11, 2002

On September 11, 2002, I found myself in a place as strange as Vegas. I was there to speak at a web conference. They must have gotten a good deal on the rooms, it being the first anniversary of the attacks.

“They’re holding a conference on September 11th?” I had shouted aloud on receiving my emailed invitation to speak at the show. “How could they?”

And how could I, as a New Yorker, respond to such an invitation?

But people told me if we couldn’t hold web design conferences on September 11th, then the terrorists had won. People said many stupid things back then and still do. I don’t know why I heard wisdom, or the call of duty, in this sophistry. But off I went, persuaded that I was somehow taking a stand against the people who had so grievously harmed us.

On September 10th, I gave my talk to a roomful of hungover IT professionals. On September 11th, I slouched around the conference site at Caesars Palace feeling absurd and unreal and painfully missing the woman who is now my wife. (I love you, honey.)

In New York, George Bush was laying a wreath at Ground Zero. In Las Vegas, I was lying on a sedan chair, watching the animated flag on the JumboTron outside the Bellagio. The pixelated call to patriotism felt not merely inadequate but crazily beside the point. Its 60-second cycle seemed to proclaim that our enemies may fly our planes into our buildings, but damn it, we have big-screen animation.

Many of our subsequent responses to 9/11 have felt like that giant LCD—gung-ho about the wrong things, a garish distraction to keep us from seeing and solving our real problems. But on September 11, 2002, I only knew that it was not patriotic or wise to have left my woman alone in New York City on that day.

And that JumboTrons suck.

And that I hate Vegas.

[tags]myglamorouslife, september11, 9/11, anniversary, webdesign, conferences, lasvegas[/tags]

Tracking Elections From the Ground Up

PollTrack is a new website that combines poll tracking data and written analysis to decipher “what voters are actually thinking and feeling” in the lead-up to the election. The site is not complete: sections are unfinished, artwork is rough, and usability problems involving labeling (“Today’s Map Today”) have yet to be sorted. But though the paint is not dry, the site’s potential fascinates.

The Presidential Race section includes a three-layered map showing current poll averages, projected averages in the coming weeks, and projected election day averages. It’s nail-biting stuff.

Commentary by Maurice Berger complements the visual data, explaining what the polls reveal or analyzing the way events in the news affect how the country says it intends to vote. Berger is a cultural historian, curator, art critic, and the author of numerous books, including White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness.

The site needs, and will no doubt acquire, polish. Copy is required to help the first-time user understand what the site is about and make better use of its features. The design feels more like a wireframe than a layout, and the stock photos on the home page are unneeded and poorly chosen. Intended to humanize, they merely cause the site to feel generic—and it is anything but.

But these are fixable problems, and almost beside the point. What matters is that PollTrack delivers insights and information on the most important election in years.

[tags]polling, election, vote, websites, webdesign[/tags]

Photos from An Event Apart San Francisco

Take a dip in the Flickr photo pool from An Event Apart San Francisco 2008. Day Two is about to begin.

111 Minna Gallery (MediaTemple party)

[tags]aeasf08, aneventapart, webdesign, conference, sanfrancisco[/tags]

Books-a-Million

Pssst. New Happy Cog Studios design. Books-A-Million Online Bookstore. It looks even better when you start using it. Details soon at happycog.com.

Update: A Books-A-Million case study is now available for your reading pleasure at Happy Cog dot com.

[tags]books-a-million, happycog, design, webdesign[/tags]

The Survey for People Who Make Websites

It’s back, it’s improved, and it’s hungry for your data. It’s A List Apart’s second annual survey for people who make websites.

I took it! And so should you. The Survey for People Who Make Websites.

Last year nearly 33,000 of you took the survey, enabling us to begin figuring out what kinds of job titles, salaries, and work situations are common in our field.

This year’s survey corrects many of last year’s mistakes, with more detailed and numerous questions for freelance contractors and owners of (or partners in) small web businesses. There are also better international categories, and many other improvements recommended by those who took the survey last year.

Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.

[Comments off. Pings on.]

[tags]survey, web design survey, webdesign, webdevelopment, professional, alistapart[/tags]

Underwear

One of my happiest memories is the day I quit my job. No longer was I a mere office shlub, meekly thanking life for the cold mashed potatoes it deigned to drop onto my plate. I was somebody now—somebody with a destiny. I was a web designer.

Times being what they are, more and more of us are working at home, not always by choice.

Working from home as a freelancer or remote employee can be fabulous. But if you share that home with a family and kids, creating a productive, professional environment can be challenging.

In Issue No. 263 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Natalie Jost discusses the joys, sorrows, and coping techniques of Walking the Line When You Work from Home.

Natalie is a great writer and as a freelance web designer, wife, and mother of three girls, she knows whereof she speaks.

If you identify with what Natalie has to say, and if you have some home-working tips of your own to share, please tell us how you overcome distractions and deal with deadlines while walking the blurry line between work and home.

[tags]freelance, working, workathome, alistapart, nataliejost[/tags]

Around the Word with Web Talent

My first book didn’t sell very well but it had an effect on people’s hearts. Web designers around the world circulated a single copy of Taking Your Talent to the Web, adding their autographs, drawings, photos, and other verbal and visual messages to every page—even the covers and spine.

While unpacking from the office move, I found this special world-traveled copy of the book and snapped a few pages at random. Some people who signed this book went on to do amazing things on the web. Others lowered their profiles but continued to do work of quality and significance. Still others simply disappeared. (At least they disappeared from the worldwide web design community.) I love every one of them. Thank you all again.

A photo spread on Flickr Around the Word with Web Talent.

[tags]webdesign, community, talent, takingyourtalenttotheweb, newriders, publishing, book, books, zeldman, writing, dreamless[/tags]

ALA No. 262: Binding & Subversion

In Issue No. 262 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Ryan Irelan invites us to collaborate and connect with Subversion, and Christophe Porteneuve explains how to get out of binding situations in JavaScript.

Comments off.

[tags]alistapart, webdesign, webdevelopment, javascript, binding, subversion, Christophe Porteneuve. Ryan Irelan[/tags]

What happened here

It’s been a month for milestones.

On May 31, my site turned 13 years old.

On June 7, making the previous milestone and all others possible, I had 15 years without a drink or drug.

On Saturday June 28, Carrie and I celebrated five years of marriage by hiring a babysitter, eating a meal, and bumming around the east village.

Between these landmarks came a flight to Pittsburgh and back-to-back train trips from New York to Washington DC, and Boston.

In the last-named burg we put on a two-day design conference for people who make websites.

At home during this same period, our daughter outgrew last month’s clothes, began swimming, got a big-girl bed, attended and graduated summer camp, stopped being even slightly afraid of school, hung out with her grandma, and advanced so much intellectually and emotionally that it would qualify as science fiction if it weren’t the lived experience of ’most everyone who has kids.

Between all that came the usual tumult of client meetings, client projects, and potential new business, giddily intermingled with the publication of two A List Apart issues. Make that three issues as of tomorrow.

Been busy.

If I had to pick an image to symbolize the month, it would be me on a rerouted slow Amtrak train from Boston to New York, using an iPhone and one finger to peck out a strategic response to an 80 page RFP.

That would have been the image, but now there’s a new one. For now there’s today.

On the calendar it is Happy Cog New York’s moving day. Today I pack up what for 18 years was either my apartment or Happy Cog’s New York City headquarters (and was most often both).

I hit bottom in this place. Ended a short-lived, tragically wrong first marriage. Rebuilt my life one cell at a time. Found self. Found love. Became a web designer. Found the love of my life. Married well, had a magical child. Wrote two books. Made money and lost it a couple of times over. Founded a magazine. Co-founded a movement. Worked for others. Freelanced. Founded an agency. Grew it.

It all happened here.

This gently declining space that has been nothing but an office since December and will soon be nothing at all to me, this place I will empty and vacate in the next few hours, has seen everything from drug withdrawal to the first stirrings of childbirth. Happiness, anguish, farting and honeymoons. Everything. Everything but death.

Even after our family moved, the place was never empty. The heiress to an American fine art legacy came here, to this dump, to talk about a potential project. Two gentlemen who make an extraordinary food product came here many times to discuss how their website redesign was going.

When I wasn’t meeting someone for lunch, I went downstairs to this wonderful little place to take away a small soup and a sandwich, which I ate at my desk while reading nytimes.com. Helming the take-away lunch place are three Indian women who are just the sweetest, nicest people ever. The new studio is just far enough away that I will rarely see these ladies any more. I will miss them.

I will miss Josef, the super here, with his big black brush mustache and gruff, gently-East-European-accented voice. He will miss me, too. He just told me so, while we were arranging for the freight elevator. We were kind to him after his heart attack and he has been kind to us since he arrived—the last in a long series of supers caught between an aging building and a rental agent that prefers not to invest in keeping the place up. The doormen and porters, here, too, some of whom I’ve known for nearly twenty years, my God. Can’t think about that.

I will miss being able to hit the gym whenever I feel like it and shower right in my workplace.

And that is all.

This is the death of something but it is the birth of something more. We take everything with us, all our experiences (until age robs us of them one by one, and even then, they are somewhere—during the worst of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she reacted, however subtly, to Sinatra). We take everything with us. The stink and glory of this place will stay on me even when we are set up in our slick new space. It will be with me long after the landlord’s collection letters have stopped. This place, what happened here, will live until my head cracks like a coconut, and then some.

And now I pre-pack. Adieu, adieu.

[tags]happycog, moves, moving, newyork, NYC, design, webdesign, alistapart, wedding, anniversary, zeldman, zeldman.com, 5years, 13years, 15years[/tags]