6 October 2005 5 pm edt

AOL to buy Weblogs Inc.


Congratulations to my man Brian Alvey.

5 October 2005 5 pm edt

Are you now or have you ever been a social software millionaire?

Spin your own social software faster than you can say “Web 2.0.” Marc Andreessen, who changed the world with Netscape, now presents Ning. The site explains:

Ning is a free online service (or, as we like to call it, a Playground) for building and using social applications. Social apps are web applications that enable anyone to match, transact, and communicate with other people. Sign up. Build new social apps. Use new social apps.

A community is quickly clustering ’round Ning, building apps you can find via (what else) tag clouds. By this time next week, 20,000 bloggers may have brought mature Web 2.0 products to market. The mind boggles, the cosmos bends.

3 October 2005 1 pm edt

Writeboard. Fast and free.

The brilliant minds at 37signals, creators of Basecamp, Backpack, and Ta-da List, have done it again:

Writeboard™ is a wonderfully usable web-based tool that lets individuals or teams write, share, and revise any kind of written documents, without fear of losing or overwriting a good idea.

It’s made for authors, editors, publishers, bloggers, students, journalists, business writers, marketers—in short, for anyone who uses words for business or pleasure. And it’s free. How do they do that?

29 September 2005 10 am edt

10 for 9/29

  1. The Inheritance” is the first short film to capture the dangers of accepting a cursed rubber rodent from one’s deceased uncle.
  2. Typetester lets you compare fonts for the screen.
  3. Dan Cederholm’s Chameleon is a stock icon set that can be any color you want it to be. Preview the color live on the site. Neat!
  4. Lefties will love designer Patrick King’s newly launched ProgressWear (“meaningful messages for thinking people”), where progressively-themed clothing is beautifully designed. The site expostulates: “Never discuss religion or politics at dinner. Wear it instead.” A portion of all profits are donated to progressive causes.
  5. Khoi Vinh dissects the 16-part grid behind Behavior’s redesign of The Onion.com.
  6. The British Film Institute has launched a redesign by Precedent with construction inspired by DWWS. Says site editor Danny Birchall, “the entire site (except the home page) is based on one single template that can be made to hold anything.”
  7. It’s old news, but Slashdot is finally heeding the advice of A List Apart and many of its readers and getting a standards based makeover.
  8. Oops! The trouble with Quark’s new look. (Via Netdiver.)
  9. Know your kill cults: Hashshashins vs. Thuggees.
  10. Mitigation, yo!

28 September 2005 10 am edt

My existentialist

Our daughter is one year old today. Along with Barney, Puppy, and Baby Jesus, she has discovered Nothingness.

At night, after we’ve read a book a couple of times through, she likes to flip its pages, pointing to characters and objects so I will tell her their names.

Her tiny forefinger stabs firmly at a cow.

“Cow,” I tell her.

Turning the page, she points at a tree.

“Tree,” I say.

She points at a barn.

“Barn,” I explain.

She points at the empty space beside the barn.

A List Apart No. 204: Columns, columns

In Issue 204 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

CSS Swag: Multi-Column Lists
by Paul Novitski
Multi-column lists: can’t live with ’em, can’t achieve perfect bliss without ’em. Paul Novitski offers a staggering six possible methods for accomplishing this commonly requested layout trick. Examine your options and choose wisely.
Introducing the CSS3 Multi-Column Module
by Cédric Savarese
Cédric Savarese would like you to meet the CSS3 multi-column module. It may not have extensive browser support yet, but this semantically sound method of dividing content into columns may be more relevant than you think.

20 September 2005 12 noon edt

ALA No. 203 + design software news

A new issue of A List Apart focuses on print CSS, plus I catch up on design software news nobody should miss.

A List Apart No. 203: Print Styles

In Issue 203 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

ALA’s New Print Styles
by Eric Meyer
Print away, you fiends! Eric Meyer presents the ALA 4.0 print styles and discusses the challenge of translating a complex screen layout into a well-designed and useful printed page.
Improving Link Display for Print
by Aaron Gustafson
Some time ago, Eric Meyer showed you how to add URIs to the printed version of your pages using print styles. Sometimes, though, too many inline URIs can make pages hard to read. Aaron Gustafson comes to the rescue with a JavaScript add-on that’ll have you loving your linkage again.

Thanks to the authors and to midnight oil burners Erin Kissane, Jason Santa Maria, Dan Benjamin and Kevin Cornell for bringing ALA No. 203 to our screens.

Design software news

Off-camera action has kept me from posting about interesting design and software developments of recent days. This quick course correction will not give any of the following items its full due but will at least get the links out there:

Firefox Plugin for A List Apart
Ted Drake’s plugin lets you search A List Apart from the comfort of your favorite browser (if Firefox is your fave).
Many software packages can help you track your website’s traffic and stats, but at too high an aesthetic cost. Shaun Inman’s Mint does the job usably, affordably, and quite beautifully, too. Imagine taking visual pleasure from such workaday tasks as checking visitor resolution. Now you can.
Embraced by the design community even before it was released thanks to a beta test program worthy of Macromedia, Mr Inman’s Mint is extensible. Hidden Chemistry keeps track of the rapidly burgeoning plethora of plug-ins, such as Sparks!, which embeds the high-res graphics Edward Tufte calls Sparklines in your Mint display.
We have been using Mint at An Event Apart and plan to use it everywhere. See also: Mint AJAX goodness.
FontExplorer X
Nearly out of beta and good enough to use today, Linotype’s FontExplorer X combines the advanced type management functions a designer needs with an interface (and store) born of iTunes. Think of it as a respected type foundry doing for art directors what Apple did for music fans. And like iTunes (but unlike Suitcase and other type management programs) FontExplorer X is absolutely free.
An older beta works for Mac Classic and Windows. The current, near-released version is for Mac OS X only. One guesses the program will be cross-platform and one thinks it will continue to be free upon final release.
For the past week, I have been using FontExplorer X to evaluate it as a permanent replacement for my beloved but buggy Suitcase.
Which interface, FontExplorer X’s or Suitcase’s, works better? Which is more attractive? Toss a coin. Both interfaces are bone-simple to understand, and both look great — FontExplorer X looks like Suitcase morphed with iTunes. Both programs make it easy to create and manage collections, but FontExplorer X additionally lets you create smart collections, a la iTunes smart playlists; and FontExplorer X provides one-click shopping for Linotype fonts.
Better still, fonts which Suitcase assured me were corrupted and unusable work fine in FontExplorer X (welcome back, Opti Craw Clarendon!), and FontExplorer X includes font repair software that actually works. Oh, and FontExplorer X is free.
Lest euphoria overcome judgement, I must point out that FontExplorer X is a beta and it does have bugs, at least in my experience. Sometimes, for no reason, when you attempt to activate a font by checking the activation checkbox or pushing the Activate! button, FontExplorer X refuses to do what you’ve asked. As you try for a fourth or fifth seemingly futile time to make the program do the most basic function it was designed to perform, it may not only fail to do that simple thing, but also simultaneously uncheck (de-activate) previous active fonts. The frustration could send you to the roof with an AK47, a bag of Pirate Booty, and an aging yellowed copy of True Detective Magazine.
But here’s the equally nutty salvation to this damnation. When the program fails to do the most basic thing it was designed to do, just quit. Then restart. Lo and behold, the fonts you activated actually were activated. The interface was failing to update properly — a bug I’m sure the product’s makers are hustling to fix as you read these words.
If you use Mac OS X and lack a font management tool, download FontExplorer X now. If you use a competitive product, give FontExplorer X a try anyway. Bug or no bug, after a week of use, I have not switched back to Suitcase.