19 April 2005 12 noon edt

Tag clouds are the new mullets

Like mood rings and fanny packs, like mullets and the Macarena, the weighted tag clouds meme popularized by Flickr and Technorati is about to cross a permanent cultural shame threshold. Brilliant as the idea remains, faddishness is choking its air supply. Damned clouds are everywhere.

It’s not just blogs that are using weighted tag clouds. Businesses are shoveling them into interface makeovers, with predictably mixed success. Thus Lulu, a company that helps people publish their own books, CDs, and other products, offers a half-hearted tag cloud to help customers browse categories.

It is of course wrong to compare weighted tag clouds to mullets, mood rings, and similar instances of mindless pop-cultural detritus. Tag clouds are not dumb. Their smartness is why so many have rushed to use them. But ubiquity and repetition quickly turn sweets to ashes. Kopy Kats Kill Klouds?

14 April 2005 11 am edt

The big roundup

The Web: A Work in Progress
Q. How many web pages have gone live with placeholder text?
A. Loads, as Jim Heid discovers in a smart, funny piece that will embarrass more than a few web pros. (Sample.)
Reboots are Made for Walking
Each year on 1 May hundreds of sites redesign for the sake of creative refreshment and to express community solidarity. May 1st Reboot is the trigger for these transformations, and the event site is once again soliciting entries. (The fifth anniversary Reboot site’s nifty, Susan Kare-like icons are by Simona; Paul did the rest.)
I am once again among the judges, and I once again urge content-oriented, standards-based sites to join the many Flash sites competing for attention and awards. But this year I do not have to my urging alone. There are already quite standards-based entries thanks to B. Adam Howell’s evangelism. See CSS Reboot for details on how to submit your site.
Style Master CSS editor unveils educational pricing
Students, teachers and faculty members can get a 50% discount on Style Master, Westciv’s professional CSS editor “for hand coders and designers,” and an equal discount on the company’s Platinum course bundle, which teaches...
  • HTML & XHTML for CSS
  • CSS Level 1
  • CSS Level 2
  • Color & Graphics
  • The Complete CSS Guide
Westciv are not newcomers to the cause of web standards; their tools and their teaching are as good as it gets.
Lines of Desire
Desire lines are the paths people make when they cut across a grassy area instead of following the prescribed walkway.” Rather than discourage such activity, landscape architects study it, and alter their architecture accordingly. The analogy to what web designers do is obvious, but it goes deeper. Tanya Rabourn’s short, pithy blog post will keep you thinking for days.
Apple Should Hire John Gruber
I’m linking to John Gruber’s recent post, “Point, Counterpoint: Mac OS X Is Great for Fortysomething Unix Hackers,” because it is witty, incisive, well-reasoned, and fair, and because you might enjoy reading it. But I could have linked to almost anything John Gruber has written at Daring Fireball in the past couple of years to make the point indicated by this entry’s title.
A while back, Microsoft was smart enough to recognize that Robert Scoble’s chronic blogging could be used to put a human face on their huge, all-powerful software company. Scoble is the best thing to happen to Microsoft since they killed Clippy.
Gruber does not write as fast or as much as Scoble — nobody does — but what’s there is cherce. Gruber can make kernel panics sound good. Most important of all (because it underlines his credibility as an Apple spokescritic) Gruber consistently criticizes Apple’s few shortcomings, such as the inconsistencies and contradictions that still plague the OS X Finder.
Could Gruber be as effective on Apple’s payroll as he is off it? Apple should hire him and find out.
(Unofficial) Apple blog moves and redesigns
Speaking of Apple and blogs, congrats to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, which has a new URL and an improved new design. (See the old design for comparison.)
Acid 2: Putting Browser Makers on Notice
WaSP Drew McLellan’s summary of recent Web Standards Project CSS activity is too good not to quote:
Those with long memories will remember ABBA. The rest of us may just about recall the good work of the CSS Samurai when they launched the Acid Test back in 1997 and challenged makers of browsers world-over to improve their support for CSS 1. Well, dammit, we’re at it again. ... Acid2 is a brand new test designed to push the limits of HTML, CSS, and PNG support in browsers and authoring tools. ... Early feedback is coming in from the likes of Safari developer Dave Hyatt over at Apple. [Hyatt has already used Acid2 to isolate and fix two CSS bugs in Safari.]