Send your battered old copy of 1984 to the Oakland Tribune. When they get 537 copies, they will be sent to every member of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Thursday, December 29th, 2005
Will the circle be unjerking - a roundup of this year's roundups of this year
As 2005 draws a close, a blogger’s thoughts inevitably turn to analysing, cataloging, listing and rating all the analysis, catalogues, lists and ratings from the preceding twelve months.
I could just give you a roundup of my year, but I thought it would be more interesting to give you a roundup of other people’s roundups of the year.
Andy gives us the movers and shakers in blogs, books, and designs. He gives a special achievement award to Molly, who has her own list of worthy recipients. She rightly lauds the writing on Eric Meyer’s blog. Eric earns extra points for not having his own end-of-year awards ceremony, thereby breaking the cycle.
All in all, it’s been a very good end of the year for end of the year posts. If I had to choose just one, it would be a very difficult choice indeed. But in the end I think I would have to choose… this post - now with extra meta-recursiveness.
A blogger who was on a flight that lost cabin pressure blogs about it... with pictures.
Wednesday, December 28th, 2005
‘Tis indeed the season of goodwill. Yea, verily even amongst competing browser manufacturers.
A whole back, the Microsoft RSS team asked for feedback on some proposed icons to indicate the presence of an RSS feed. Some of the designs looked pretty nice but, as many people pointed out, did we really need yet another icon?
The guys at Microsoft listened. They’ve decided to use the same icon as Firefox:
"We’ll be using the icon in the IE7 command bar whenever a page has a feed associated with it, and we’ll also use it in other places in the browser whenever we need a visual to represent RSS and feeds."
The guys at Mozilla were more than happy to share the icon. This effectively creates a de-facto semiotic standard for RSS-detecting browsers. It’ll be interesting to see whether Safari will follow through.
In the meantime, web designers looking to customise the icon for use on their own sites can check out Feed Icons - a grassroots effort to promote the standardised icon that offers downloadable Photoshop and Illustrator files.
It’s a win-win situation all ‘round. Everybody’s happy… except maybe Dave Winer.
Monday, December 26th, 2005
Starbucks employ a creative bit of viral marketing: coffee cups glued to car roofs.
Saturday, December 24th, 2005
Web Ring 2.0
There's a page on the Apple website devoted to Mac mini mods, including one in a Millennium Falcon casing.
Friday, December 23rd, 2005
Letter from AAmerica
I’m in Arizona at the end of a well-travelled year. This is my fifth time visiting the States this year (after Austin, Alaska, Florida, and Seattle). It’s the third time that I’ve flown the Gatwick to Dallas route.
It’s not that I have any particular love for the airport in Dallas, it’s just that I hate flying out of and, more importantly, into Heathrow. Gatwick is so nice and close to Brighton that I’d rather leave from there and have to change planes in the States than to fly direct from Heathrow.
Inevitably, I end up flying with American Airlines. They’re not so bad, although their food and in-flight entertainment really stinks compared to British Airways. There’s only so much chemically treated beef and Everybody Loves Raymond that a body can take. Still, at least they have extra leg room (theoretically).
Reaching into the seat pocket in front of me, I found a copy of the in-flight magazine, AAtractions. That’s not a typo. It seems that as part of their branding, American Airlines like to double up all instances of the letter A. That’s why the old transit system in Dallas airport was called the TrAAin.
AAnnoying isn’t it?
Closer to home, there’s an even more egregious treatment of the alphabet by a UK insurance company called More Th>n. Presumably it’s meant to be pronounced “more than” but I prefer to say it as “more th greater than n”. But, as Joe pointed out, by inserting another instance of the word “than”, it could become recursive. What if that “than” is really “th>n”? That would make the name “more th greater th>n n” which in turn would become “more th greater th greater th>n n” which itself would require word substitution leading to an infinite recursive loop.
Seriously though, I would have considerable concerns about doing business with a company with an angle bracket in its name. Is the company actually registered with the weird punctuation? What about on legally binding contracts? I can foresee some tricksy little legal loopholes.
Enough with the ascii art in company names. What’s next… colons?
It’s good to talk about typography. The last few weeks have been particularly good.
There’s no doubt about it; Gill Sans, like its predecessor Johnston Underground, is a gorgeous typeface that no amount of overuse or abuse can tarnish. In fact, one of the things I like about southern Britain, and London in particular, is the ubiquity of Gill and Johnston’s work. I find a city with a consistent typographical identity as pleasing as a unified architectural style.
The big news for web-based typography recently was the unveiling of Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web. This is an ongoing project of Richard’s which, I think, is superbly researched and tremendously useful:
"Robert Bringhurst’s book The Elements of Typographic Style is on many a designer’s bookshelf and is considered to be a classic in the field. In order to allay some of the myths surrounding typography on the web, I have structured this website to step through Bringhurst’s working principles, explaining how to accomplish each using techniques available in HTML and CSS."
There’s an RSS feed so you can stay notified of new additions to the project.
Did you know that Richard used to work at Multimap? Before he jumped ship for Clearleft, he made sure that his legacy of web standards, accessibility and typography was in good hands by passing the baton to Andy Hume. Now Andy has published a fantastically good article over at Sitepoint called The Anatomy of Web Fonts. Read it, enjoy it, bookmark it.
An interesting take on the recent round of acquisitions by Yahoo.
Thursday, December 22nd, 2005
Molly has written a great article about CSS and urban planning. The ensuing comments are sometimes thought-provoking, but mostly just plain antfucking.
Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
I’m off to spend Christmas in Arizona with Jessica and her family. A long day’s travelling awaits.
My metaphorical telephone is off the hook; emails may not receive a prompt (or any) reply. I am now officially getting into the festive swing.
Monday, December 19th, 2005
You can skin Adium using just XHTML and CSS. Who knew?
Sunday, December 18th, 2005
The dark side
Y! vs. G
I was asked a while back if I would speak at an internal developers’ conference being held at Yahoo’s London offices. I was more than happy to. It was only later I found out that I was going to be the only non-Yahoo employee speaking… hey, no pressure or anything.
This was the equivalent to being asked to play guitar while having Eric Clapton in the same room. I was understandably nervous in the run-up to the conference, but I needn’t have been. Everyone at the conference made me feel very welcome and it was pleasure to attend.
As it is, nearly all the services I’m using on Adactio Elsewhere have been snapped up by Yahoo anyway: Flickr, Upcoming, and now, Del.icio.us. All they need to do is buy Amazon and they’ll have the full set.
It would seem that Yahoo has become a cool-hunter. They are also very developer-friendly (just check out those APIs). Why is it then, that the general perception is that they are somehow stodgy? Earlier this year, Ben Hammersley wrote in The Guardian about the disconnect between the reality and the public perception of Yahoo and Google:
“Yahoo is the new Google. Google is the new Yahoo. Up is down, and black is white.”
But Yahoo’s effort’s don’t seem to have resulted in a corresponding shift in attitude towards the company. The reaction to the recent purchase of Del.icio.us, for example, has been less than enthusiastic. Stan says:
“There is something that feels really dirty to me about what just happened with del.icio.us. A great tool is made and a great community forms around it, then the tool is sold and the community along with it.”
Would the reaction have been the same if Google had been the company doing the purchasing?
Despite having cooler APIs and more standards-savvy blogging workers, Yahoo is still perceived as being “The Man” as in “working for the man”, whereas Google is seen as being “The Man” as in “You the man!”.
Friday, December 16th, 2005
Andy Hume has written a superb article about typography on the Web.
Wednesday, December 14th, 2005
Tuesday, December 13th, 2005
Yonder on the horizon
On the flight back from Barcelona, iPod earbuds bouncing the warm sounds of My Morning Jacket against my eardrums, I attempted to relax and read The Player Of Games. Ironically, two people sitting in front of me were real-life players of a game. Specifically, it was some game involving the rapid and repeated rattling of dice; a sound that gets more annoying with each repetition on a two hour journey.
As we approached the English coast, the pilot interrupted my reading and listening to inform us that we could take in the view of the giant black cloud stretching across the sky. I had spent the weekend in Catalonia enjoying a self-imposed news blackout. This new information about a more literal blackout was a strange return to what passes for normality. It struck me, not for the first time, that real life grows more like a William Gibson novel every day.
Before my rude return to hyper-reality, I enjoyed a very pleasant few days in Barcelona. If you’re interested, I took pictures.
Daniel Pink explains folksonomies.
Well, it only makes sense that I'd post this to del.icio.us, doesn't it?
Yahoo! does it again. Now they've gone and snapped up del.icio.us.
Thursday, December 8th, 2005
Hopping to Catalonia
Hold my calls - I’ll be incommunicado for the next few days. I’m planning to spend the weekend in Barcelona.
My friend Karin is celebrating her birthday. Rather than spend it in her adopted town of Brighton or in her German homeland, she’s decided she wants to mark her passage on foreign shores; Spanish shores.
A list of articles discussing the impact of a reliance on PowerPoint® and bullet-point based communication.
I tend to avoid reading Jakob Nielsen. This time, I made the mistake of following a link from somebody else, started reading through Why Ajax Sucks (Most of the Time) and, before I was half-way through, I was fuming at the inaccuracies and sweeping generalisations.
It wasn’t until towards the end that I realised it was a spoof. Doh! It was parodying (quite successfully) an earlier, genuine article called Why Frames Suck (Most of the Time). Nicely done - you had me going there.
Seeing as this parody consisted of simply substituting the word “frames” for the word “Ajax”, I thought it would be fun to do some word substitution of my own. Courtesy of the Onion article generator, I give you Why Nielsen Sucks (Most of the Time). It makes a surprising amount of sense.
Oh, the irony! I've sparked a veritable orgy of antfucking.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2005
A fun debate featuring Tim O'Reilly, Esther Dyson, Malcom Gladwell, Clay Shirky and Moby.
Word Of The Day
After I wrote my slightly offensive little rant, I was assailed by niggling twinges of doubt. Could it be, I wondered, that I came across as being… a nit-picker? (gasp!)
Say it isn’t so!, I admonished myself. Why, there’s nothing I dislike more than a nit-picker, a splitter of hairs, a pedant of the insignificant.
Sadly, nit-picking seems to be a thriving activity on the Web. In what appears to be a subset of a well-established theory, it seems that:
Internet + Opinion = Comic book guy from the Simpsons
Notice that I don’t have comments here, thereby denying these aggrieved people the right to reply. It’s the internet equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and going, Na Na Na, I Can’t Hear You.
Although it’s a universal trait, Germanic cultures seem to be particularly well-endowed in the nit-picking department. There’s a lovely German word, "Rabulist", that, by virtue of being practically unused amongst speakers of the language, is a self-fulfilling definition of a sophist.
The Dutch also have a wonderful word and I would like to propose that we bring the English translation of this word into common usage. I first learnt of this word from Veerle and Geert when I met up with them in Brussels. We were discussing just how nit-picky some comments on Veerle’s blog could be, particularly those criticising her English (not her native language).
The Dutch word for someone as petty as this is "miereneuker". This is a compound word. The first part refers to an industrious insect. The second part denotes the act of copulation. The nearest English translation would be:
What a wonderfully evocative and satisfying term! I hereby pledge to improve my word power - I will endeavour to use this new word as often as opportunity allows. I’ll begin by sending a one-word response to anyone who gets in touch to point out inaccuracies or errors in this very post.
Join me for the next instalment of Word Of The Day (Netherlands edition), when I reveal why Dutch people always giggle when they hear us singing the praises of Flickr.
Tuesday, December 6th, 2005
The Beeb is blogging on TypePad.
Monday, December 5th, 2005
DOM Scripting Your Way to Better Blockquotes
This article first appeared in 24 Ways, the online advent calendar for geeks.
Sunday, December 4th, 2005
This series of cartoon panels is funny because it's true.
Writing for the Web
There’s a wonderful article over on Digital Web called "Resurrect Your Writing, Redeem Your Soul". It’s all about how to write well, especially on the Web, and it’s the very antithesis of Nielsen’s checklist approach.
The article was written by Digital Web’s own Copy Chief, which helps explain the high standard of writing on that website. Here’s a choice quote I’d like to echo:
"You know you’re on the Information Superhighway to Hell if crap like enhance, leverage, implement, context, driver, focus, core, actionable, outcome and stakeholder crops up in your copy."
Amen to that.
But you know what’s even worse? If you find yourself using language like that in real life. Now I’m going to publicly name and shame Pete Barr-Watson.
A bunch of us were sitting in an Indian restaurant just the other evening, shooting the breeze with Thomas Vander Wal, who was in town for the evening. With a complete lack of irony, Pete dropped the word "synergy" into the middle of a sentence.
For shame, Pete, for shame!*
While I’m on my high horse, here are some words that will be first against the wall when I am king:
Unless you are a dentist talking about molars, don’t use the word "impacted". The practice of arbitrarily taking nouns and turning them into verbs must stop. Now.
Next time you feel the urge to say "leverage", try saying "use" instead. It’s not hard. I know you can do it.
What does "enterprise" mean in the context of "enterprise level solution"? Really. I have absolutely no idea. What distinguishes this "solution" from others of lesser levels? How many levels are there? Leaving aside the whole notion of levels, just remember that "enterprise" is not an adjective.
The problem with buzzwords like "impact", "leverage", and "enterprise" is that they only make sense if everyone got the memo explaining what the hell they’re supposed to stand for.
Lest I sound like some old fuddy-duddy mouthing off about how things aren’t as good as they used to be, let me just point out that the practice of obscuring meaning with buzzwords isn’t new. Writing in 1946, George Orwell took this passage from Ecclesiastes:
"I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
He then translated it into the bad writing that he found all too prevalent at the time:
"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."
Finally, while we’re on the subject of writing, I’d just like to remind everyone that "definite" is spelled d.e.f.i.n.I.t.e, not d.e.f.i.n.A.t.e. It’s not that hard to remember. And don’t think you can rely on your spell-checker either - it will just fill your text with "defiantly"s. Right, Andy?*
Now that I have insulted my friends* and berated my readers* (who will no doubt get in touch to point out my own grammatical faults), I’ll finish with one last short quote from the article that inspired this rant:
"Give people some credit - doling out an information fix doesn’t have to preclude thoughtful writing."
* no offence intended.
Create your own Web 2.0 Company. Hit reload to create another potential million dollar idea.
Saturday, December 3rd, 2005
One great web development tip for every day in the Advent calendar, courtesy of Drew McLellan
That should be fun. This not a music presentation - this one's for the geeks.
Mobtagging: Discreetly move all copies of 1984 to a more suitable section, such as "Current Events", "Politics", "History", "True Crime", or "New Non-Fiction."