Tantek Çelik has joined the roster of An Event Apart NYC, where he will bring unparalleled insights on microformats and web standards to Code Day, July 11. Tantek is chief technologist at Technorati, co-founder of the microformats movement, creator of the Tasman rendering engine and the Box Model Hack, a contributor to the CSS and XHTML specs, and more. Come meet and learn from the man Meyer and Zeldman call “Master.”
Issue 216 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, features great articles from Derek Powazek and Ryan Carson. Mr Powazek’s Calling All Designers: Learn to Write! explains why it’s important for user-interface designers to sharpen up their writing skills. And Mr Carson’s Four-Day Week Challenge offers an approach to getting more done in less time. It’s a treat to publish Powazek again and a delight to welcome Carson.
Rosenfeld Media has signed Donna Maurer to write a book on card sorting. Take a survey to help shape the book. (Note: All Rosenfeld Media books will be created with reader input. Disclosure: I serve on Rosenfeld Media’s advisory board.)
Novelist John Sundman, author of Acts of the Apostles (recommended for those who take their sci-fi black) and Cheap Complex Devices, has released this new, Creative-Commons-licensed, illustrated novella.
Clears font caches, thereby often fixing problems in Photoshop, the Finder, etc. The free and possibly best font management tool, Linotype Font Explorer X, also does this, as does Cocktail. Both Font Explorer X and Cocktail are a part of life at Happy Cog — and a fine part of life at that. But if all you need to do is empty your font caches, Font Finagler gets the job done, and how.
Every year or two a fresh crop of internet blowhards decides design doesn’t matter. Indeed, they proclaim that bad design is good. Not merely is it good, it is the secret to internet wealth and success, they tell us. Whereas, they assure us, user-friendly, brand-appropriate, professional graphic design — or even mere competence — is the royal road to Failureville.
I don’t understand the siren song of this demonstrably idiotic claim. I don’t know why it seduces a new crop of assh*les each year. I only know it does. And then, just as predictably, all the year’s hot young new media designers get in a huff defending design against the fools who attacked it.
Seems to me it might be better to let the anti-design dummies rant themselves out and roll along their happy ignorant path in search of new things to attack. Such as air. Or babies.
Maybe I am jaded. Or maybe it’s hard to get exercised over inanity you’ve seen recur so many times. The assertion that “bad design is good internet” has been made by one set of dorks after another since at least 1995. One prominent consultant aside, nobody can remember who these blowhards were. They charged full bore into obscurity, as dolts generally do.
So to this year’s hot (under the collar) web designers, remember: next year, you will still be designing beautiful websites. And the people who claim that bad design is good? If they’re lucky, they will be selling apples on the street corner.
It’s May Day. A day that honors worker’s rights. So it is only fitting that May Day was also the day of the Canadian Union of Public Employees website reboot. Happy May Day! Happy workers! Happy Canadians! Happy Cog redesigned this site.
In 1993, her brother, my uncle, took me to lunch. We hadn’t seen each other for a while. I was newly sober and raw as a razor burn, but pleased to be coherent and in his company. After some minutes of chit-chat, he leaned forward and said, “I think your mother has Alzheimer’s.”
People emerge from addiction like newborns. I got sober for this? was my immediate, shameful thought. And then:
“Yes,” That Voice Inside Me replied, “you were saved, in part, so you could be present for your mother in her illness.”
And was I present enough? Thirteen years on from my rebirth and my mother’s death sentence, six years on from her passing, I am as confused as any survivor who loves and cannot save.
It is a lousy disease. Especially when you know you’ve got it.
There’s realizing, by the strained smiles that greet you, that you must have said the same thing more than once.
There’s the stage where you’re upset but can’t say why, and people who love you are looking at you with pity, and their pity frightens you and hurts your pride.
You fabricate conflicts with old friends until they stop seeing you, so they will not be there to witness your decline.
Later there is running out of the house, pursued by ghosts.
Then forgetting your grown children’s names. And your husband’s.
Then comes a hideous second infancy.
Then you don’t eat.
At that point you must be placed in a facility. The transition from your home to a “home” is accompanied by the grief, guilt, mourning, rage, and regret of those still actively living. But you are not aware of it.
Or so I hope.
I do not live in the same city as my parents, so showing up involved air travel and schedule coordination — afflictions of the living.
Sometimes my mother came to my city.
The misery was like a layer cake.
There was the time I arrived at the unveiling of my dear aunt’s tombstone to find my mother and father already at the graveside. My mother was crying but did not seem to know for whom.
“Look,” said my father, pointing in my direction in hopes of cheering her up.
My mother looked right at me.
“I know that man,” she said.
A year later she could not talk.
Finally she was like someone in a near-coma. She could sit up. You could wheel her around. That was about it.
“Look, it’s spring,” you would tell her.
“Look, it’s fall, the leaves are changing,” you would tell her.
Near the very end, her hair turned white and she bloated after a lifetime of elegant thinness.
About a month before she died suddenly in her sleep I was visiting her in the Home. She had not spoken for a long time. She did not look you in the eye or notice if you were there. She had stopped eating the ice cream and other treats my father was always bringing her, which she used to eat like a baby from his hands.
Her stereo from home was in the room — another of my father’s ideas — and I popped in a CD she had owned and loved when it was an LP, Frank Sinatra’s “Wee Small Hours.” Not that it would do any good. But you keep trying.
There’s this haunting bluesy saxaphone riff on one of the tracks — a sad, brief volley of notes. Suddenly, as it played, my mother gripped my arm. Then she was gone again. Had it even happened?
Maybe one day I will see her and maybe she will be able to tell me.
She died before September 11th, 2001, and I remember thinking, Well, at least she did not have to see this.
It is a lousy disease, and one of the lousiest things about it is the way it displaces the memories one would prefer to hold onto. My mother was shrewd, smart, compassionate, hilarious, political, artistic, lively — and loved her family almost to a fault. Those are the things I want to remember, and do, when the damned disease isn’t obliterating all memories not related to death and decline.
I am blessed with a wife and daughter. My mother, who would have adored them, does not know them. My daughter resembles me as I resemble my mother. My daughter’s hands and feet are like my mother’s. Her face is like a bust of my mother my grandfather made. I never knew my grandfather although his photograph smiled opaquely at me from my mother’s piano. A painting of my mother adorns one wall of our apartment.
Will my daughter know my mother as anything besides a painting and a ghost? I think so. For there are things I will teach my daughter that only my mother’s son could teach.
A dollar short and two days late, happy birthday, Mom.
Nifty web maps powered by Google and Yahoo! APIs are all the rage. And rage is what a visually impaired user may feel when trying to use them. Is there a way to make beautiful web maps accessible? In a word, yes. Techy designers, you won’t want to miss this step-by-step guide.
Don’t be like MySpace. Well, okay, be like MySpace in attracting millions of users. But don’t be like them in exposing your site and your users to virtual vandals. Protect your community site from malicious cross-site scripting attacks. Part one of a two-part series.
Ubiquitous computing is coming. In some ways, it’s already here. Shouldn’t we think about what we want it to be? In our last issue, we published the introduction to Adam Greenfield’s Everyware. In this issue, we run the book’s conclusion.
It’s spring in this part of the world, and this issue’s color scheme by art director Jason Santa Maria reflects that pleasing circumstance. (ALA’s color scheme changes every issue, but you knew that.) Production editor Aaron Gustafson contributed significantly to the issue’s editorial content. Watercolor illustration by Kevin Cornell. Editorial assistance by Erin Lynch. Behind-the-scenes system improvements by Dan Benjamin. Erin Kissane edits the magazine. Published by Happy Cog.
As many who follow the blogosphere know, Jason Kottke recently celebrated a joyous event. That’s right, he was added to The Deck, our targeted ad network for creative, web, and design professionals. Kottke.org will begin running Deck ads in May.
I knew Jason Kottke before he was Jason Kottke. I knew him way back when he was doing nifty web stuff like creating a fake “pick your color” page to let buyers of the then-new, first generation iMac choose a color other than Bondi blue for their hot new fashion computer. At the time, the iMac was only available in one color. Maybe Steve Jobs was an early Kottke fan.
Then Kottke turned all his web attention to blogging. It’s safe to say that most of us who blog have learned from him, and none of us is as good as he is. If there had been no blogging, it would have been necessary for Kottke to invent it.
When we started our new ad network, we all thought Kottke would be a great addition. And now he is.
There are several ways to fund high quality publishing on the web. One way is to charge a subscription fee for for some content. If you’re The New York Times or Advertising Age, you can make paid content work, although it will take trial and error to achieve the right mix of paid and free features at the right price.
Another way is to cover your site in paid advertising. Boing-boing does that, and I am fairly confident that they make money. There is an aesthetic cost and a user experience cost to doing it that way, but if you publish content many people want to read, as Boing-Boing does, you can make the multi-ad approach work, like they do.
With The Deck, we are trying something different. We are not charging for content and we are not plastering our pages with ad after ad after ad. Instead, we place just one ad on every page of a Deck site. The ad is drawn from a shallow pool of advertisers whose products we know to be of the highest quality and relevance to our readers. User experience is not diminished, and the reader knows that the product being advertised is deemed trustworthy by publishers the reader trusts.
Happy Cog’s redesign of Advertising Age, the leading journal of the advertising profession, debuted on Sunday 9 April 2006.
Along with a complete visual overhaul, the redesign included a restructuring and repositioning. In the past, the print magazine was Advertising Age and the website was, well, a website. But with this redesign, the full editorial experience of Advertising Age comes to the web.
For the first time ever, the full contents of the current issue of Advertising Age will be available online for subscribers on Sunday night, the day before the print edition hits newsstands and in-boxes.
Publishing is changing, advertising is changing, where people get their news is changing, and how publications earn their keep is changing. The journalistic enterprise is no longer one-sided: magazines, while remaining authoritative, must also listen to their readers’ voices — and readers want to know what other readers have to say. On top of all that, there were tough decisions to be made about free versus paid content.
Happy Cog worked closely and intensely with Advertising Age to solve architectural, design, and usability challenges. Considering the vastness of the undertaking (not to mention the fact that all of us are still figuring this stuff out) I think we did all right.
Thanks to Allison Arden and Jason Schmidt and their colleagues at Advertising Age for the opportunity, the thinking, and the support.
For Happy Cog: V.L. Bowls, Rob Weychert, Dan Cederholm, Erin Kissane, and Jason Santa Maria. You are all made of stars.
In Issue 214 of A List Apart, for People Who Make Websites:
Anonymity and Online Community: Identity Matters — John M. Grohol argues that the ability to post anonymous comments, though it invites free and uninhibited participation, can nonetheless be a web community’s worst enemy. Grohol outlines six steps to better online community.
Adam Greenfield has written one of the most provocative books in years. If the right people read it, Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing may do for the coming, computerless computing interface what Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things did for design generally. Like Norman, Greenfield argues for good design not as an aesthetic issue but as an ethical and business imperative. There is an urgency and clarity to every word.
Everyware is both a prescription and a warning. Although films like Minority Report have made such ubicomp staples as the gestural interface look a bit silly, these kinds of interactivity are coming soon to a wall or object near you. Depending on who designs them and by what principles, they will work beautifully or badly. Everyware will enhance our lives by anticipating our needs or it will destroy our privacy — or both.
Besides Don Norman’s book, the other piece of writing I sometimes thought of as I read Everyware was Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Writing in 1937, Benjamin pondered what the existence of photographic reproduction did to the status of the unique work of art. If the Mona Lisa can be reproduced by lithography, what is the value of the Mona Lisa?
It’s not that Greenfield writes like Benjamin (he doesn’t). It’s that both writers see and can describe changes in the world to which their contemporaries are oblivious. Greenfield is a friend and former member of Happy Cog so I have an interest in seeing his book do well. But if I didn’t know him or couldn’t stand him I would still highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about how design and technology are shaping our time.
Baseball weather has come to NYC. And a baseball stadium is where we’ll hold An Event Apart Atlanta in just a few days’ time. If global warming worked the other way — if the winters were getting colder each year — the world’s governments would have already worked together to reverse global warming. But when winter grows milder and spring arrives sooner, it feels so good it’s hard to realize how bad it is. But I digress.
We’re busy prepping for Atlanta, so here are some links:
A former ad client, at one time the 3rd largest camera maker in the world, can’t compete against digital.
“Would you write your life story in pencil?” was an ad I tried to sell them for their Maxxum line of high quality, 35mm point-and-shoot SLRs. (Instead they bought “More Maxxum Magic!”, a line I did not write for them.) Even so, it’s sad to see them go.
Mac OS X dashboard widget embeds social networking in your desktop: “Watch websites scroll across as they are bookmarked by ma.gnolia.com members. Spend less time scrolling through pages of text and find those eye-catching sites now!”
“…total access to original tracks with remix and sampling… Download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through … Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like. Add them to your own song or create a new one. Visitors are welcome to post their mixes or songs that incorporate these audio files on the site for others to hear and rate.”
A new study released by the Economic Strategy Institute explains why U.S. companies can’t compete in key new business sectors, and offers a variety of regulatory and investment prescriptions (via Thomas L. Friedman).
Announcing An Event Apart Chicago. Join Eric Meyer, Jason Santa Maria, Jim Coudal and Zeldman in the windy city for a mind-blowing day of insights into design, development, and how to stay happy running a creative business. Register now to reserve your seat and save $50 off the admission price.
Friday, June 2nd, 2006
9:00 – 5:00
The Gleacher Center
450 North Cityfront Plaza Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4316
An Event Apart offers the opportunity to meet and learn from creative and technical stars who influence the direction of our industry:
Jim Coudal runs Coudal Partners, a design firm in Chicago. They work for companies and they build companies, like Jewelboxing, The Show, and The Deck. Before making websites, films, and real-world products, Jim Coudal was an ad creative director. His insights into conceiving and selling great ideas are not to be missed.
Jason Santa Maria has been recognized for designing stylistic and imaginative (yet also usable and effective) web interfaces. He recently won acclaim for the A List Apart redesign, whose secrets he’ll share with attendees.
Eric Meyer has conducted complex standards-based makeovers and led intensive multi-day training sessions for such clients as Apple Computer, America On-Line, Yahoo!, Macromedia, Wells Fargo Bank, Cornell University, and others. No one has a deeper or more practical grasp of CSS; no one can teach it like Eric.
Founder of A List Apart and Happy Cog, former leader of The Web Standards Project, and author of Designing With Web Standards, Jeffrey Zeldman helped bring standards to browsers and the design community. He serves clients from Ad Age and Amnesty International USA to Lexico (Dictionary.com) and the United Nations Womens Development Fund.
The Gleacher Center is 50,000 square feet of high-tech conference space, smack in the heart of Chicago’s business district, blocks from the Loop and steps from Magnificent Mile shopping, restaurants, and hotels. An Event Apart will unfold in one of its spacious, uncrowded lecture halls, where every seat has plenty of room and every view is a good one.
Gourmet lunch and other catering throughout the day will include vegetarian options. Spectacular river and lake views in the separate dining lounge will make you forget how good the food is.
Lunch is courtesy of Media Temple (“set your sites on us”), web host to the stars. We thank them for their continued support. AIGA Press and New Riders (“Voices That Matter”) will also be on hand to make sure attendees have reading materials to stay mentally stimulated after the event.
And speaking of mental stimulation, new sponsor Jewelboxing will throw a post-event Happy Hour And A Half at a Chicago pub. Schmooze, hobnob, network, or beg for a job while enjoying free cocktails. Further details will come soon.
A good time will be had!
Our Philadelphia and Atlanta events sold out fast and we were unable to accommodate many who wished to attend. Chicago, given its size and the depth of its design and user experience communities, will sell out even faster. Seating is limited and availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Register during our Early Bird special to save your seat and shave $50 off the price of admission. The full day, including tasty catered lunch and goodies, costs $549. But if you register by May 1st, you can attend for $499. See you in Chicago!
Starting in April, The Morning News becomes the sixth card in The Deck, our targeted advertising network for creative, web, and design professionals. The Deck is all about cost per influence, and adding one of the best written, most consistent and entertaining sites on the web extends that influence considerably. Limited advertising opportunities are currently available April through July.
A few weeks back, Microsoft’s Robert Scoble invited me to join Bill Gates, Kelly Goto, Roger Black, Lynda Weinman and other luminaries at Mix 06, a Microsoft-hosted “72-hour conversation” that wraps today in Las Vegas. Purpose of event: to “mix the next web now.”
It was like receiving an invitation from the emperor.
You may think “Web 2.0” and the “next web” are meaningful, industry-shaping concepts, or you may view them as marketing spin. You may trust that Microsoft wishes to be a citizen of the emerging state or suspect that it wants to be king. Whatever you hope or fear, and whatever value you place on such gabfests, to participate would surely be to learn. Plus you’d get to rub elbows with pirates and pundits from Tim O’Reilly and Marc Canter to Molly Holzschlag and some of the big brains behind eBay and Amazon.
Yet after at least two minutes of agonizing inner debate, I declined Microsoft’s invitation. Timing, which is also the secret of comedy, was the problem. Mix 06 followed SXSW too closely. As a business owner, I could afford to stay away from my agency for one week, but not for two.
Although a lot of designers, writers, and technologists seem to have been able to hopscotch from Austin to Vegas without so much as checking their office mailbox, I couldn’t.
Here in New York City there were jobs to finish and meetings to attend. There were clients to see and accountants and attorneys to see and pay. In Las Vegas they might be polishing up HTML 6 or figuring out how to make readers write all the content and pay for it, but back in my studio I had voice mails and RFPs and PDFs and Photoshop comps to sort through. (Just like you!)
Eric Meyer, one of the smartest people I have ever known, is at Mix 06 and has recorded some impressions, the most designer-relevant of which concern how much more CSS work Microsoft plans to do on IE7. (Answer: none.)
There is also a photo of Eric Meyer excessively enjoying free Internet Explorer stickers and bottled water.
Simon St Laurent, another of the smartest people I have ever known, has written a next web column on why the XML web, semantic web, and services web haven’t happened yet (and may never) while AJAX/”Web 2.0″ has, kind-of. Reading Simon’s column might almost be as good as attending Mix 06.
And Tim O’Reilly has blogged what he was planning to talk about while sharing a stage with Bill Gates. (And if I were sharing a stage with Bill Gates you can bet I’d blog it, too. After all, here I am doing nothing and getting a nice post out of it.)
There’s also a post and video of the actual conversation between Bill Gates and Tim O’Reilly, although, oddly, the video is not in QuickTime format.
Tim O’Reilly starts the conversation by telling Bill Gates how a Tim O’Reilly blog post launched Web 2.0 and led thousands of people to buy and sell stuff. That is as far as I got watching the video.
I guess if you are talking to Bill Gates you have to tell him who you are, even if you are Tim O’Reilly.
Well, anyway, I didn’t go to Mix 06, so I have lost untold thousands of pundit karma points. But this morning I read Hippos Go Berserk! to my kid. And even though we have read that book together at least 562 times, she found it fresh and exciting and new. And so did I.
Good stories stay new.
Fascinating and industry-changing revelations are likely emerging from Mix 06. I’m a bit sorry to miss the first utterances of them. But however brilliant such revelations may be, and however far their ripples spread, my web will not change. Whatever the pundits and pirates may say this week, my web is about content.
No matter what’s said at any conference, my web will continue to be about good writing and good design. Because that’s what I care about. And your web is your web because you care about what you care about. And whatever that is, there’s plenty of it to be found or made on this big web we share.
No matter how many new marketing phrases and acronyms emerge (some even with concepts attached), and no matter how much money some people make or lose betting on them (and the choice of Las Vegas as venue is telling), what I value does not change.