MY GLAMOROUS LIFE: Tragicomic fodder from the life of Zeldman. A LIST APART: Design, code, content. For people who make websites. LES MISC: Articles, essays, and miscellanies. TAKING YOUR TALENT TO THE WEB: A Guide for the Transitioning Designer.
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Current ALA: 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web | Manage Your Content With PHP
Current Glamour: The Velvet Fist
Recent Essentials (clickety-click)

18 August 2002
[2 pm]
We’ve all heard the one about the Japanese soldiers stationed on a remote Pacific island who continued to fight World War II through the 1960s. Nobody had told them the war was over. We’re not sure why we mention that story, but a shiny new Netscape 4.8 upgrade is now available for downloading. Hat tip: Drew.

Reader Feedback of the Month. “An important usability tip: your ‘Jakob Nielsen Corner’ is not in a corner. Users will be confused. It should be in the top left-hand corner for maximum visibility, and it should be yellow: Jakob Nielsen is strongly associated with that color. Renaming it the ‘Jakob Nielsen Yellow ConvertBox’ may help with usability and describing expected functionality, but this will require testing on sample users.” — L. Wood, Surrey, England.

We’re spending this sunny summer weekend in a pool of Photoshop comps and style sheets as two commercial web design projects head into production on wildly accelerated schedules. Some of the work required us to upgrade to Photoshop 7, which in turn required us to upgrade our operating system, and thereby hangs an upgrade tale.

Fray is a long-running indie site dedicated to personal storytelling. Fray Day is its real-world corollary: a gathering of storytellers in various cities all over the world. Fray Day 6 takes place in mid-September. If you live in or near any of the participating cities, it’s well worth checking out. :::

15 August 2002
[1 pm]

New ALA issue: 10 tips on web writing

In Issue No. 149 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: Your information architecture is as smooth, clear, and inviting as a lake. Your design rocks. Your scripts work. But what keeps readers coming back? Compelling, honest writing that’s continually fresh and new. Updating content can challenge the most prolific scribe and daunt the most dedicated site owner. Mark Bernstein’s 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web will help you keep the words and readers coming. A List Apart is an independent, non-commercial ’zine and a production of Happy Cog Studios.

Search engine hosts CSS design contest

In the Daily Report of 19 July, we told how the AllTheWeb search engine was inviting its users to customize their experience through the power of user-defined style sheets (CSS). The search engine’s new Alchemist Design Contest will award prizes to user-submitted CSS designs in three categories; Grand Prize in each category is a $750 Amazon gift certificate. The contest rules explain why AllTheWeb has focused so much energy on the CSS standard:
        “Alchemist renders AlltheWeb in the most basic HTML tags, with no layout, design, positioning or formatting rules. This enables you to get creative and work some CSS magic to transform the site from its bare bones into a work of art.”
        Perhaps more to the point, CSS is a low-bandwidth technology. Less bandwidth means faster display, and that’s what you want in a search. AllTheWeb rivals Google in speed and relevancy, scanning 2.1 billion pages (including PDFs) and delivering meaningful results in seconds.

Building smarter sites

In “Using Controlled Vocabularies to Improve Findability,” Christina Wodtke explains basic principles of organizing metadata to help site visitors find what they seek. In a similar vein, and also in this week’s Digital Web Magazine, Meryl K. Evans interviews info architects Jeffrey Veen and Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path.

Web fonts redux

Tuesday’s Report discussed the sudden discontinuation of Microsoft’s web fonts program. Wednesday’s linked to the rationale a company spokesperson fed Typographica. Though the program is kaput, its old launch page is still available in the Internet Archive, and the links still enable you to download the fonts. (Hat tip: Lotta.) The fonts are also still available in a special directory at (Hat tip: James B.)

Buggin’ out

We’ve spent most of this week conked out flat, thanks to a virus that flares up whenever we work too hard, too long, on too many projects. Currently we’re juggling three site launches, one pitch, one big-ass book on web standards, two speeches for the Builder conference, and various other tasks. None of it is the kind of stuff you can hand off to a colleague. Our body’s telling us to rest, and when the body talks, we listen. We especially listen when the CIA-controlled radio in our left molar talks, but that’s another story. :::

14 August 2002
In answer to the question raised in yesterday’s Report, a spokesperson for Microsoft tells Typographica that the software giant discontinued its web fonts program because “the downloads were being abused.”

Coudal Partners, creators of Photoshop Tennis, proudly present the RGB Cup, featuring visitor-selected players from previous bouts. Cast your vote.

Simon Wilson recreates SitePoint’s new design using structural XHTML and CSS.

To cope with bandwidth issues, the signup page of CSS-Discuss has moved to a new URL.

The secret is out. Actually, of course, both “Eric Meyer” and “Jeffrey Zeldman” are aliases of Vicki Wong, who in turn is but a fictional character developed by Amy Franceschini to disguise the fact that she’s really Eric Brooks. Heather Champ is Steven Champeon, who’s actually an AI program developed at M.I.T. and housed on 14 mainframes. Josh Davis is a fictive persona developed in the labs of Macromedia to promote Flash, which in turn is actually XML with a front end developed by 37signals, who are suing Adobe. Adobe is of course owned by Toho, owners of Godzilla, who is really Mothra. XML is really .Net, which is actually the next version of Mac OS X, which will only run on Intel Pentium chips, which are secretly made by Apple, who also secretly own AOL, which, along with MSN, is in fact owned by O’Reilly, which is secretly run by Dave Winer, who is really Jason Kottke, who of course is merely the online persona of David Sedaris. Sedaris is a whimsical creation of Jakob Nielsen, who occasionally enjoys letting his hair down and pretending to be Harsh Patel, who duets with Sir Paul McCartney on an upcoming single produced by Wu-Tang, who are really three white chicks. You heard it here first. :::

13 August 2002
[8 pm | 7 pm]
Peter Marquis-Kyle wants to know what happened to Microsoft’s web fonts program. Good question. For those who missed it: in the mid-1990s, at Microsoft’s behest, Matthew Carter created Georgia and Verdana to enhance the legibility of onscreen text and thereby promote consumer acceptance of the web.
        Microsoft bundled Carter’s web faces with their browser, OS, and office software, and made them available as a free download for Mac and Windows users. With a little trickery, you could make the 16-bit versions work in Linux/Unix as well. And many Unix users did just that. Code Style found 69% of Unix users surveyed had Verdana on their systems, and 54% had Georgia. Not bad, considering how most Unix folks feel about Microsoft.
        Why did web users line up behind these free Microsoft products? They did it because the two faces were—and still are—far superior to the Times and Arial that dominated early web design. The old faces discouraged reading. The new faces made it a pleasure.
        The creation and free dissemination of these two typefaces was rightly seen as a generous act, earning Microsoft some of the goodwill and web cred it desperately desired in the 90s. Designers were quick to use Verdana and show no signs of slowing down. Georgia bloomed later but is now enjoying a vogue that borders on trendiness. By any estimation, the web fonts program has been a great success. So why has Microsoft suddenly discontinued it? We wish we knew.

Yesterday’s Daily Report is today’s mainstream press headline as The Register covers Toho’s attack on harmless blogger Davezilla, and comes to the same conclusion we did.

We’ve been saying this for seven-plus years, but media titans still don’t get that the web is about a multitude of independent voices. It’s not a failed cash channel for the conglomerates. It’s a success—just not the kind they understand. (Thanks, David.)

CSS-Discuss, the world’s best mailing list on the subject of practical CSS layout, now has an archive you can browse or search. Hat tip: Jeremy Dunck, among others. :::

12 August 2002
[4 pm]
Attorneys. Can’t shoot ’em, can’t beat ’em with a tire iron and dump the bodies in an abandoned cornfield. Toho, owners of Godzilla, have sicced their laywers on indie web publisher Dave Linabury. Either Dave deletes a dinky dino from his site, or Toho’s lawyers will do to him what their fictive giant lizard did to Tokyo. Toho’s beefs include many that are false and absurd, as is often the case when lawyers go infringement hunting. We wonder if Mozilla is next on their list.

PageSpinner 4.1 (download | release notes) is a Mac OS X Jaguar-ready version of the venerable $29.95 web page editor. PageSpinner supports HTML 4, XHTML 1, JavaScript and CSS, and includes some features even mighty BBEdit can’t match. Registered users of version 3.1 or higher can upgrade for free. We love PageSpinner and use it every day.

Contrary to popular belief, most (X)HTML table layouts can easily be made accessible. It’s data tables that send developers to the medicine cabinet. Ian Lloyd’s aptly named Accessible Table Builder relieves the pain fast.

Basefield is taking a breather. Helmed by Design is Kinky’s Jade Palmer, the project supports children’s charities through the sale of posters created by members of the design community. While the site hibernates, you can satisfy your designer poster cravings elsewhere. Pixel:Industries has original posters for sale, including unlimited, limited, and single editions. :::

9 August 2002
[? | 4 pm]
Our little web agency Happy Cog has teamed with Hillman Curtis to redesign Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Tuesday, on another site, we noted that Cast’s Bobby™ accessibility validator had been acquired by Watchfire. Alas, the transfer of ownership broke third-party bookmarklets enabling designers to test their pages’ accessibility with just one click. Scott Baldwin’s revised Bobby bookmarklets solve that problem. :::

8 August 2002
[10 am]
A week late but a day early. How very zen. In Issue No. 148 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: XHTML for structured markup. CSS for presentation. What more could you ask? How about an easy way to manage your site, using free, open-source tools? Christopher Robins’s “Manage Your Content With PHP” shows how to build a simple, template-driven system that handles maintenance chores and remembers visitor preferences. :::

7 August 2002
[5 pm | 10 am | 9 am]
The cover story at Hotwired’s Webmonkey, “Web Standards for Hard Times,” discusses the financial benefits of designing and building with standards, and provides tips on getting started. Six nicely written pages, worth reading, printing, and sticking under the noses of recalcitrant bosses and colleagues. {More ... } :::

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