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					iPhone App Idea: WineSnap
					December 7th, 2009 

					
						
Don’t let the beautiful bottle fool you… this is terrible
wine.

If you’re an iPhone developer, you probably struggle a lot with
the issue of effort vs. revenue.  In other words, you think
you’ve thought of something cool and you don’t mind
investing the time to produce it, but you just aren’t sure if
anyone will actually pay for it.
Here’s an app that — if well done — I would pay $20
or more for:
Whenever I’m having a glass of wine, allow me to snap a picture
of the bottle (or the barcode from the bottle) and within 30 seconds
enter some very basic information about it:

Grade — A through F
Characteristics — Mild, Strong, Oaky, Fruity
Optional freeform text comments

Once I hit submit, save this to my wine library database, accessible
via iPhone or web browser.
Are there other wine rating apps and services available right now?
Definitely. But unfortunately none of them pass the 30 second test.
They don’t even pass the 5 minute test. Usually when
you’re in the middle of drinking wine — whether at a
wedding, a party, at dinner, or in a dark alley — spending 5
minutes typing notes into your iPhone is just not something
you’d ever consider doing… and this is the critical void
that no one has filled yet.
It should be “snap, select, select, done”. By reducing the
effort required to create a personal wine note library to this simple
30 second routine, you’d be enabling thousands of recreational
wine drinkers to do something they’ve never been able to do
before: actually remember what wines they try and which ones they
like. That level of detail, in most cases, is all people really need,
and it’s something I am 100% sure many would gladly pay for.
Ok then, who’s going to step up? I’ll be your first sale.
	
					

					Posted in Technology |  18 Comments
				
			

					
				
					Mail > File to Task…
					September 23rd, 2009 

					
						Perhaps this is already obvious to everyone else who has inbox
overload, but I just figured out what I hate about e-mail and task
management: they work against each other.  Even if you’re the
sort of person who diligently creates to-do lists in applications such
as Anxiety or Things, any incoming email about your to-do items has
nowhere useful to go. You currently have the following options:

Leave it in your inbox until it’s done.  I believe this is the
most common and works decently if your load is low.  It breaks down
big-time when you have hundreds of e-mails on the same subject though
and negatively affects your ability to deal with the rest of your
inbox as a result. Even when you complete a task under this strategy,
you often have to sift through your inbox and delete many e-mails
afterwards.
File it in either a simple or complex folder arrangement. This does
not work well for many people, including me, because if something is
not in our inbox, we tend to forget about it. Filing is for long-term
storage, not easy recall.
Make use of the “flagging” function in your email app, and
flag each incoming message that requires action.  This is mainly an
improvement upon method 1, but it doesn’t solve a lot of
problems.

I’ve given a bunch of different workflows a shot but nothing
seems to have struck a chord yet. In popping open Anxiety today for
the first time in about a year, I was reminded of how much I like its
simplicity. It’s an automatically synching list of tasks and
nothing more.  You click to add a task and then when you complete it,
you click its checkbox and it goes away forever. There’s no
tagging, no dragging, and no nagging. It’s basically a half step
more advanced than electronic Stickie notes… which I love.
That got me thinking, however, of how a nice simple app like this
could play a role in finding the holy grail of time management: a
simple solution that both declutters and organizes your information
workflow, helps you get things done, and doesn’t require you to
learn much or add administrative tasks to your routine.
I may eventually mock this up and screencast it or something but
I’m too lazy right now so here it is in a nutshell:

You receive an email from a co-worker telling you that you are on the
hook to provide a mockup for a new product. It is due in a week.
You click once in Anxiety (or a similar app, or some similar function
in your Mail app) to create a task.  You call it “Create mockup
for Product X” and it instantly shows up in your task list.
Every subsequent mail that comes in about this subject is either
deleted by you if it’s trivial or “filed to this
task”. Filing a message to a task removes it from your inbox and
places it in some sort of mail folder that is linked to the task you
created in Anxiety, Things, or whatever app. The key is how it gets
there. Dragging messages in mail applications requires too much
precision and mouse movement, in direct opposition to Fitts’
Law. Dragging 100 messages a day to different mail folders is
incredibly onerous, especially if you have a ton of mail folders. 
Instead, inside each message would be a few buttons representing
recent tasks you’ve filed messages to. There would also be some
intelligence built-in based on subject lines and senders. With one
click, you could file the message to any of your open tasks.
You send off various mockups over the next few days and every time you
need to refer to an email you sent or received about the project, you
could simply click on the task in the task list and a (smart?) folder
would open in your mail application showing you all messages filed
against this task.
You send off your final mockup and check off the task as
“done”. The task is removed from your list and the folder
full of messages tucks into an archive somewhere, out of sight and out
of mind.

To me, this is the ideal workflow of an e-mail/task management system,
and I haven’t seen anyone do it yet. Microsoft, of all
companies, actually tried something along these lines with
“Projects” in Entourage, but the interface got in the way.
I’d love to see someone tackle it but with a keener eye towards
simpler, more natural interaction. I almost wonder if the entire thing
could be done with Mail.app and AppleScript.
Whoever finally solves the problem of inbox overload is going to make
a lot of money. This would be a great first step.
	
					

					Posted in Technology |  24 Comments
				
			

					
				
					The Amazing Color Photography of Sergei Mikhailovich
Prokudin-Gorskii
					September 3rd, 2009 

					
						
The Library of Congress has a spectacular collection of photos by
Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii that you
must see. What makes them so amazing?  Well, they are color photos
taken about 100 years ago.
The process used to create and develop the photos is revolutionary yet
simple.  Essentially, three separate shots are taken, each with a
different color filter over the lens: one red, one blue, and one
green.  The shots are then composited to form incredibly lifelike
color portraits.  It’s actually quite similar to color
compositing in modern applications like Photoshop, but to see it
applied to photos taken 100 years ago is mindblowing.
When I first saw this photo collection, my initial reaction was that
it was fake, because these shots look like they could have been taken
a few years ago. When you grow up in the modern color photography era,
you’re subconsciously conditioned to actually think of the world
as black and white around the turn of the 19th century because those
are the only photos you ever see from that period.  To see real-life
scenes from back then in full color is surreal.
Prokudin-Gorskii’s collection is one of the most amazing I can
ever remember seeing, and I’ve only gone through a few hundred
photos so far. Here’s where to start:

The exhibit home
The making of the images
A listing of some of the best pieces from the collection
A browsable gallery of the entire collection

Note: Kottke, as usual, is about 8 years ahead of me on this.

	
					

					Posted in Design |  7 Comments
				
			

					
				
					Msnbc.com Acquires EveryBlock… Welcome Brother!
					August 17th, 2009 

					
						News that has been brewing secretly for the last several months
finally broke this morning: Msnbc.com has acquired EveryBlock, the
most interesting (in my opinion) startup in the hyperlocal news space.
 It is with great joy that I welcome my colleagues Adrian Holovaty,
Wilson Miner, and the rest of the EveryBlock crew to the msnbc.com
family to help re-imagine, re-invent, and re-volutionize local news
online.  You can read several other accounts and descriptions of the
acquisition here (msnbc.com, New York Times, EveryBlock, Lost Remote)
but I thought I’d provide some color from the standpoint of a
founder whose company, Newsvine, was acquired almost two years ago by
the same company.
First let me say that the acquisition of EveryBlock is an excellent
fit for both companies.  Msnbc.com’s focus has always been on
national news, a concentration that has made them the most visited
news site in the United States for over a year now; more than CNN,
more than Yahoo News, and more than most local news sites combined. 
Leading the national news race is a great accomplishment to anchor
your company around, but local news is where most of the disruption is
occurring these days, and thus it is fertile ground for innovation. 
Local newspapers find themselves rich with great journalism, but
crippled by legacy distribution and operational costs.  Community news
blogs enjoy tremendous grassroots energy but very little means to
monetize their content.  There are a million gusts swirling around in
the local news tornado right now, and when the dust finally settles,
the landscape will be much different than anyone could have imagined
even five years ago.
The organizations that succeed in local news will be the ones who
respect all of the great journalism and increasingly available data in
cities and neighborhoods across the world while creating better ways
for people to consume it.  If you’re a organization in the local
news space — big or small — and you’d like to be a
partner in this future, we’d love to work with you.
Another reason I’m excited to welcome EveryBlock into the family
is that I think it’s a great family to join if you’re an
entrepreneur.  When we signed on with msnbc.com almost two years, it
was a leap of faith considering that other suitors would have provided
different experiences.  We knew msnbc.com was the closest to us
geographically, so that part couldn’t have been matched, but you
never know how you’ll be respected, used, or abused until
you’re part of the family.  When I read about incredibly smart
and likable people like Joshua Schachter selling a great service like
Del.icio.us to Yahoo, only to see Yahoo marginalize the product and
send Josh fleeing the company like a burning building, it saddens me.
In addition to things going horribly wrong between acquirers and
entrepreneurs, a perhaps even more common case is when entrepreneurs
leave on good terms the day their contract period is up.  For
background, when you sell your company, you are usually required to
stick around for some period of time until you receive all of the
acquisition proceeds.  This happens all the time, the most recent of
which (that I can recall) being Dick Costolo at Feedburner. 
Dick’s a great guy, he sold a great service in Feedburner to
Google, but he left more or less when his contract was over. 
There’s nothing wrong with this all… he made a truckload
of money and probably wants to blow some of it on gold chains and
petrified walrus testicles.
I think when you’re an acquirer though, your real hope is that
the employees you are welcoming into the family *want* to work for you
after they no longer have to… and that is the situation we find
ourselves in right now.
Things, for the most part, are going swimmingly.  Although building
technologies and services for msnbc.com has slowed our development
efforts on newsvine.com a bit, for the time being, Newsvine now serves
over 4 million uniques a month; almost four times the traffic we did,
pre-acquisition.  We’re also distributing more revenue to our
great community of writers than ever before.  Additionally, there has
been some nice cross-media collaboration in the form of Newsvine
members appearing on national television and gaining press access the
political conventions in 2008.  We also have people like Retired
Colonel Jack Jacobs and NBC Correspondent Chuck Todd popping in to
write articles and answer questions during important events. All of
this and we feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
There’s plenty of unfinished business to do when it comes to
building out the Newsvine, msnbc.com, and now EveryBlock communities,
and we’re just thrilled to be around to do it.  I look forward
to working closely with the EveryBlock team in the coming months and
welcoming another passionate group of people into the company.
	
					

					Posted in Business,  Technology |  6 Comments
				
			

					
				
					Breaking Ground
					July 9th, 2009 

					
						344 days ago, I bought my first house.  Today, I began
demolishing it.  You can view the live cam of the progress on the
newly installed House by the Park Live Cam here.

Before: A charm-free 1953 house that’s never been updated, on a
great plot of land.

After: A rendering of what the new Northwest Modern house will look
like.
It’s been a long but fun road getting to this point, and both my
design/build firm — Build LLC — and I are extremely happy
to be breaking ground.  Throughout the design and construction
process, I’ve kept Mike Industries mostly free of updates,
instead opting to chronicle everything on A House by the Park.  After
all, I don’t want to stray from this blog’s laser focus on
web design, remixed infomercials, and tasty beverages.  So far, it
seems that decision has been a good one, as Mike Industries averages
about 10,000 RSS subscribers while HBP has only 547.  It is not
surprising that most people are uninterested the ins and outs of
homebuilding.
That said, the design and construction process — and the in-situ
documenting of it — has been extremely educational to me and I
want to share a little of what I’ve learned so far:
The site itself: A House by the Park
I am not building the best home in the world and I am not the greatest
writer in the world, but I honestly believe that HBP is the most
complete and useful first-hand journal of custom homebuilding online
today.  There are updates on every aspect of the process, from finding
the property, to negotiating, to choosing an architect, to homing in
on a design, to the difference between a G.C. and a C.M.  Every step
of the process is in there, with costs attached.  The cost thing is a
bit controversial and several people have asked me why I’m
exposing how much I pay for everything.  The answer is simple: costs
are the murkiest aspect of design and construction and if I’m
going to demystify the process of building a home, it is essential to
expose them.  There is no sense in detailing interesting things for
other perspective home builders only to leave them in the dark about
what something similar might cost them.  This blog is about
transparency, and everything I can reveal, I will reveal.
HBP is also a great marketing tool for people and businesses involved
in my project who do a great job.  I plug Build all the time because
they deserve it, and I also mention and/or link to contractors,
consultants, and others who help along the way.
The economy
When the economy dropped off a cliff last October — right in the
middle of design stage — I wavered as to whether or not I wanted
to go through with construction.  While mostly (but not completely)
out of the market at the time, a sinking feeling that the U.S.
financial system was about to implode got me briefly curled up in a
ball like the rest of the country.  I contemplated delaying the
project until the economy recovered (if it ever recovered) both for my
own mental well-being and because with real estate values plummeting,
it seemed like a bad time to be investing more in real estate.
I jumped back and forth between wanting to build and wanting to delay,
but in the end, what got me over the hump were a few things:

This is the house I want to die in.  I never want to sell it, so its
paper value means less to me than its intrinsic value.  This fact
lessens my interest in turning any sort of profit and heightens my
interest in getting it done as quickly as possible so my girlfriend
and I can enjoy it before we are old and decrepit.
The best time to build is when everyone’s business is slowing
dramatically.  If you build on the upswing, contractors’ bids
and availability reflect the fact that they are in high demand.  If
you build at the bottom, many contractors and subs have already gone
out of business so the labor pool has shrunk to match demand.  But if
you build on the downswing, the available pool of contractors is
gigantic and the rates are lower as a result.  So far, we are getting
extremely competitive bids… a rarity in recent times, I hear.
I feel a certain patriotic pride that I am helping put people to work
at a time when our economy needs it most.  My architects told me
I’m one of the few who have “gotten out from under the
covers” and I feel good about that.  I feel we overspend quite a
bit as a nation, and I don’t think people should just go out
there and spend willy-nilly to stimulate the economy, but if you have
the means to make a purchase right now, whether house, car, education,
or other things, there’s never been a better time to do it.

The people
The number one thing that will determine whether or not a home
building project is a success is what group of people you choose to
work with.  You can hire the greatest architect in the world, but if
you aren’t on the same wavelength as him or her, your project
will turn out horribly.  Similarly, even if you make it through design
stage with flying colors, the wrong contractor can bring the project
in well above your budget level.  When I interviewed two general
contractors before moving forward with Build as my construction
manager, one of them provided me with a “low estimate” and
a “high estimate” to account for if things went well or
poorly.  Their low estimate was almost twice the total cost of the
project when going the design/build route, and the high estimate was
almost three times!  An uninformed client would be out several hundred
thousand dollars or more with the wrong decision there.
So far I have not hired a single person on this project that I regret
hiring.  Everyone’s been great and that has contributed to an
ultra-low stress level for me.
Cost structures
I am procuring flat fee bids for every service I possibly can.  Build
charged me a flat fee for design and a flat fee for construction
management.  The electrical, plumbing, framing, and other bids are all
flat bids as well.  As a client, I love the flat fee system because I
know exactly what I’m getting and I know exactly how much
I’m paying for it.  I don’t care if it takes someone
longer or shorter than they estimated.  I just want the work done and
I want to pay a certain amount.  As a designer, I also prefer this
system.  If someone wants a logo designed, I’d rather charge
$5000 up front and agree to spend as much time as it takes to get the
job done.  If I kick ass and produce a great logo in a few hours,
woohoo for me.  If it takes me longer than expected, my effective
hourly rate just decreases a bit.  Not a big deal.
Anyone who agrees to pay an architect 15% of the cost of construction
should think twice about how their interests are aligned.  If the
architect makes an extra 15% if he or she convinces you to use a
material that is more expensive but not that much better than another
material, how is that good for you?  I’m not implying any sort
of dishonesty here… just misalignment of interests.  If I
charged that way, I would also naturally gravitate towards the most
expensive items my clients could afford.
I have a huge amount of respect for the fields of architecture and
construction.  I just want to be charged in a way that aligns my
interests with my providers’.
Being green
The easiest way to “be green” is to live in a windowless,
heavily-insulated, unlit, underground bunker. You’ll barely suck
any energy from the grid and you can brag to your friends at parties
that you have less of an impact on global warming than Ed Begley Jr.
Of course if you do this, you will eventually complete your
transformation into the Unabomber and not be allowed at parties
— let alone in society — anymore.
The best way to think about building green is to figure out how to
have as little of a negative impact on the earth as possible, whilst
maintaining the reasonable level of comfort that an atmospheric
parasite such as yourself is accustomed to.  Does this mean giving up
your beautiful west facing view for the sake of completely eliminating
solar gain? No. But it means making other smart decisions along the
way.
For me personally, it meant donating nearly 55 tons of material such
as sandstone and teak to The Re-Store so it can be re-sold instead of
shoved into a landfill.  It also meant building a smaller, better
insulated house than what is currently on the property.  And finally,
it meant not blowing $100k on environmentally questionable
photovoltaic panels or drilling into my hillside for geo-thermal
energy, but pre-wiring my roof for 5 or 10 years from now when we can
unroll solar panels like beach blankets.
Tumbling as window shopping
I created a Tumblr at tumblelog.ahousebythepark.com to clip all of the
interesting things I see on the web which may work well in the house. 
From appliances, to siding materials, to furniture, it’s a great
place to store stuff you want to remember later.  No more “where
did I see that cool lamp?”.  It’s all on the Tumblr.  My
architects can also monitor the Tumblr to get a feel for what sorts of
things interest me and what they may have to design for along the way.
Onward…
Almost a year after beginning phase one, we now move onto phase two:
construction.  Phase one may be the make or break phase for curb
appeal, but phase two is where bank accounts go to die.  I don’t
expect more than a small percentage of Mike Industries visitors to
follow along, but if you’re interested, head on over to HBP and
help shape decisions along the way.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
	
					

					Posted in Business,  Design |  10 Comments
				
			

					
				
					The House Comes Down Today (Right Now in Fact)
					July 9th, 2009 

					
						I’ll have a more complete post on this later, but the live
construction cam of my house demolition is now online.  Click here for
the latest image (the image will update every minute).
It’s going quick.  Watch now while there’s still something
left, if you’re interested…
	
					

					Posted in Technology |  2 Comments
				
			

					
				
					What affects the taste of tap water?
					July 7th, 2009 

					
						
The tap from the Waitsburg cemetery. Even the dead people get to
benefit. (photo by J.C. Westbrook)

I don’t drink a lot of water, mainly because I’ve never
really loved the taste. That, and I’ve always thought the whole
“8 glasses a day” thing is bullshit. On a trip to Walla
Walla wine country a couple of weeks ago, however, we stopped in a
quiet little town called Waitsburg that is a dead ringer for Radiator
Springs (from the Pixar movie “Cars”). We had a delectable
dinner at the phenomenal Jimgermanbar but perhaps the most amazing
part of the meal for me was the tap water. It was the first time in my
life I ever remember thinking to myself how great a glass of water
tasted.
Pure, zero flavor wetness without even a hint of aftertaste. Even at
room temperature.
I asked our waitress about it and she said people comment about it a
lot so I had her pour me two magnum bottles full and I brought it home
(well, Tiffehr brought it home). Upon arriving back in Seattle, I had
a few co-workers taste it and they also had positive reviews. Then I
did a blind taste-test at home and it won with flying colors.
I’m now reasonably sure this is the best water I’ve ever
been in the presence of, so of course my curiosity continues to grow. 
In researching the peculiarities of water taste, I came across this
great but suuuuuuper fugly article explaining how minerals and other
things affect the taste of water. Hint: use this readability widget to
decrappify the layout.
Lots of interesting stuff in there. I’m convinced this water is
extremely pure and contains very little mineral content, and now I
want to have it tested. Anybody know what the easiest way to do this
is? Are there local labs that will charge you a few bucks to quench
your obsessive curiosities? If so, I’m all over it… and
will report the results back here of course.
	
					

					Posted in Miscellany |  19 Comments
				
			

					
				
					Newsvine is looking for a web developer
					July 1st, 2009 

					
						There’s no better place to be during an economic downturn
than a solid, profitable company with a long track record of success. 
Come to think of it, there’s no better place to be during an
economic boom than that sort of place either.  Msnbc.com, proud parent
of Newsvine, is just that sort of place.  The most visited news site
in the United States for the past 12 months and running, msnbc.com is
hitting on all cylinders and is expanding the Newsvine team by one
talented web developer.
As co-founder and CEO of Newsvine, I can tell you that this is a great
place to work and retains the best aspects of a startup atmosphere
while inheriting the equally great aspects of working for an
established media organization like msnbc.com.  If you’re
interested in joining the crew, please read the job description below
and send your stuff to msnbcjobs@msnbc.com. One caveat, however: We
are specifically looking for someone who is passionate about writing
code.  Javascript, PHP, HTML, etc.  This is not a design position and
the only UI work involved will be on the implementation side, from a
coding perspective.
Job description
The Newsvine Team is looking for an experienced, self-motivated, and
passionate front-end developer to join us in building products and
services on the Newsvine platform. Your primary responsibility will be
to design and develop site features and functionality in a multi-tier
web environment using PHP, CSS, JavaScript, and the YUI JavaScript
library. Additional responsibilities include daily site support and
maintenance. The ideal candidate is able to work on small teams under
tight deadlines with little supervision. A computer science degree or
equivalent is a plus, but experience, skill, and attention to detail
are more important.
The ideal candidate will have a strong command of the following
knowledge areas:

X/HTML, CSS, DOM, and JavaScript
PHP or similar scripting language
Mastery of web standards and cross-browser compatibility

Preferable Job Qualifications:

Experience working on large-scale, high-availability web sites
Successful industry experience using latest DHTML and ajax
technologies
Experience with SQL and relational database implementations serving as
the backend to production web applications
Experience with, or an interest in, working with the YUI JavaScript
library
Familiarity with Subversion a plus

	
					

					Posted in Code |  15 Comments
				
			

					
				
					Examining Typekit
					May 31st, 2009 

					
						Last week brought word of a promising new type solution for the
web called Typekit. Created by Jeff Veen and the smart folks at Small
Batch, Typekit aims to solve the problem of custom typography on the
web once and for all.  Unlike sIFR, Cufon, and several other stopgaps
before it, Typekit does not attempt to hack around the problem, but to
solve it in a permanent way, which is exciting.
As a co-inventor of sIFR, I’ve been getting a lot of emails this
week asking what I think of this new effort. In evaluating its
promise, it’s important to examine the following
characteristics, in order of importance: compatibility, functionality,
legality, ease of use, and hackiness.
Compatibility
Compatibility is the most important aspect of any new web technology.
If your shiny new method only works in 10% of web browsers, it’s
nothing more than a proof-of-concept. It is this reality check that
keeps me from getting excited about W3C meetings, Internet Explorer
extensions, or anything else that doesn’t apply all browsers in
the here and now… or at least the right around the corner.
Compatibility was also what pushed sIFR over the top in terms of
popularity, working in over 90% of all systems and falling back
gracefully in most others. It also came out at a time, 2004, when
there wasn’t a whole lot of tolerance for leaving certain
browsers behind or having things look ideal in a few browsers and not
so ideal in others.
Typekit appears to be doing ok on the compatibility front, targeting
current versions of Safari, Chrome, and Opera natively, the next
version of Firefox (3.1) natively, and all versions of Internet
Explorer via a “backup” EOT solution.  Here’s what
the browser share landscape looks like today:

Works in:

Internet Explorer: 66.1%
Safari: 8.21%
Chrome: 1.42%
Opera: 0.68%
Firefox 3.1 or greater: 0.18%


Doesn’t work in:

Firefox 3.0 or lower: 22.3%
Miscellaneous other browsers: 1.11%



So you can see right off the bat that Typekit will work in just over
76% of browsers. Not quite as high as some of the methods that came
before it, but it’s extremely important to recognize that the
one group that’s keeping Typekit from almost universal
compatibility is Firefox. I have no evidence to support this, but I
imagine that Firefox users are among the quickest to upgrade, which
would seem to suggest that this compatibility gap could be closed
relatively quickly. Data shows that Firefox 3 is already used by 11
times more people than Firefox 2, and considering it was released just
short of a year ago, this sort of upgrade pattern is encouraging.
Given the above data, combined with how often Firefox seems to annoy
me these days with upgrade notices, I expect Firefox 3.1 or greater to
be the dominant Firefox version in use one year from now, thus pushing
Typekit’s compatibility percentage into the upper 90s fairly
soon.
It’s also important to praise what Small Batch has done here on
the compatibility front: their killer concept was involving type
foundries in web-only licensing and propagating the font files through
the standards-complaint @font-face CSS declaration, but they realized
their solution would be academic if it didn’t work in Internet
Explorer, so they made sure their backup implementation using EOT
files took care of all IE users.  The lack of this sort of practical
thinking is what keeps a lot of great ideas from gaining traction on
the web.
I also think that designers these days, self included, are a lot more
amenable to things looking great on “most systems” as long
as they at least work reasonably on other systems (as long as they
look great on the particular system the designer uses).  This is a bit
of designer bias, of course, but it also represents an increasing
desire in the design and development community to leave the old web
behind. I still remember how much crap I took at ESPN from
validatorians when we decided to leave Netscape 4 — with its 1%
marketshare — behind. Now it’s all the rage… and I
love it!
Functionality
By all accounts, Typekit will be more functional than any method that
came before it. This is quite obviously because it uses a
browser’s native font rendering technology. There are some
concerns about reliability gaps stemming from downloading fonts off
third-party servers, but I believe this fear will prove unfounded.
Additionally, I imagine both the @font-face and EOT versions of fonts
will come in larger files than sIFR font files (because usually you
only embed a subset of characters in a sIFR font file) but with
broadband penetration being what it is today, this too will prove
immaterial. Additionally, even though sIFR font files may be smaller,
the noticeable delay in rendering them probably more than makes up the
difference.
Legality
I put legality in the middle of the pack and not at the top because,
to my knowledge, there haven’t been any serious legal dust-ups
over the use of technologies like sIFR and Cufon. So far, the burden
has been on designers to buy the fonts they use before embedding them
using sIFR or Cufon, but at the same time, there’s been no clear
blessing or condemnation of this practice by foundries or type
designers.
The nice thing about Typekit is that it specifically involves
foundries and type designers in the process of licensing their fonts
for use on the web. When you use Typekit, you know with certainty that
what you’re doing has the direct blessing of the people who
created and/or marketed the typeface you’re using.  This is a
nice piece-of-mind upgrade as well as a way of further compensating
type designers for giving us the building blocks of web design.
Ease of use
Typekit promises to be easier to implement than either sIFR, Cufon, or
any other font replacement technology. I guess we won’t know
until we start using it, but it would shock me if it took more than a
few minutes to implement, including licensing the font you want to
use. sIFR’s second most common complaint other than “it
uses Flash and Flash kills puppies” is that it’s a bit
difficult to implement. Typekit’s improvement on this front will
be more than welcome.
Hackiness
First let me say something I’ve said many times before: the
entire world wide web is a hack. Get over it. Secondly, however, any
technologies or methods — that work — which serve to
dehackify it a bit are welcome. Typekit certainly dehackifies custom
typography on the web by leaps and bounds.  It was the solution we all
knew would come eventually when we created sIFR as a stopgap five
years ago.  Just about the only things hacky about it are that it
falls back to EOT (which, as discussed earlier, is great) and that it
uses Javascript to handle the licensing nuts and bolts (meh, big
deal).
Conclusion
Typekit is likely the best thing to happen to web design since the
re-emergence of browser competitiveness. It will be embraced quickly
and fervently when it is released this summer, and its creators should
be loudly applauded for doing it instead of just talking about it.
There are too many talkers in the world and not enough doers. The team
at Small Batch has done an excellent job of taking a problem that a
lot of people like to talk about and solving it in a practical,
equitable way.  It’s a welcome solution to a real issue and a
significant step towards a leaner, Veener web.
	
					

					Posted in Code,  Design,  Technology |  33 Comments
				
			

					
				
					The Sorry State of WYSIWYG Web Editors
					April 27th, 2009 

					
						We got into a heated discussion in the office about WYSIWYG web
editors today. While heated discussions are nothing new to us, neither
side even being happy with their own argument was. When people are
arguing over things they don’t even believe in, there can be no
positive outcome.
My side was as follows: All web editors — including TinyMCE,
YUI, and FCKEditor — are broken in different ways, and the only
software I’ve seen which can satisfactorily desuckify one of
them is WordPress. Because of that, we should deconstruct what
WordPress has done to TinyMCE and apply the same duct tape to our own
editor on Newsvine (we use TinyMCE currently, but are in the process
of moving to YUI).
Our development staff’s side was as follows: All web editors
— including TinyMCE, YUI, and FCKEditor — are broken in
different ways, and because of the crazy amount of ridiculous
cleaning, converting, regexing, transforming, and other shenanigans
WordPress has to do to their editor just to get it to the state
it’s in right now, it’s not worth spending the time to
recreate such a mess, only to have it remain imperfect and possibly
break in upcoming browser releases.
There are several things wrong with each editor but the particular
problem we are trying to solve is that when you’re in HTML mode,
you can’t create paragraphs just by putting double newlines
between them. Some people say that because you’re in HTML mode,
you shouldn’t expect an editor to do this for you, but
I’ve been using blog software for six or seven years and that is
the behavior I — and I believe most others — are
accustomed to, so I couldn’t imagine releasing something without
it. As mentioned above, the WordPress team has craftily hacked this
functionality into their WYSIWYG system, but other platforms like
Typepad have not.
I could go on and on for another hour about details, but after going
through all of the WYSIWYG editor machinations we’ve gone
through, I’m left wondering why the web development world still
hasn’t figured this out yet. We can write an entire e-mail
application, a replacement for Excel, and whatever the hell these
things are, but we can’t replicate a toolset we’ve had in
MacWrite since 1984?
Think of how much has happened in the last 25 years, and we
haven’t been able to nail that.

TinyMCE circa 2009: Millions and millions crrrrrrrrazy features.
Doesn’t work satisfactorily.

Microsoft Word circa 1991: Just enough features. Works plenty fine for
most people.
I know hard-core coders like to hand-code html even when writing web
comments (self included), but 90% of the world would rather not be
bothered with that. What’s it going to take for this problem to
go away?  If you’re involved in WYSIWYG editor development,
I’d love to know.  Is it the disappearance of old browsers?  Is
it something that should be Flash-based?  Is it just that no
one’s really worked full-time on the problem yet?  Why
isn’t WordPress’s crazy hackery built into TinyMCE in the
first place?  So many questions…
So far, the one effort I’ve noticed that seems to take the
cleanest possible approach is the WYSIWYM Editor.
What-You-See-Is-What-You-Mean essentially translates to “the
HTML code associated with what users type will semantically match what
they intend”.  Meaning, if I type two blocks of text separated
by a double newline, I get two properly <p>d paragraphs out of
that… not just a blob of text separated by <br> tags. Or
if I bold some text, I get <strong> tags instead of other
ridiculousness.
Sadly, the WYSIWYM Editor seems to have been in development since 2006
and is only at 0.5b, but happily, there appears to be a healthy flurry
of activity around it lately. I really don’t mean to disparage
the hard work that’s gone into all of these imperfect WYSIWYG
editors in the past, and I do realize that browsers are the core
culprits here, but it’s 2009 already and I’d prefer a
solution to this longstanding real-world problem over almost anything
promised in HTML 5, CSS 3, or any of the other specs we’ve been
eagering awaiting for the last several years.
	
					

					Posted in Code,  Technology |  74 Comments
				
			

		
			
				« Older Entries | 			

						
				
				


				
				
				
SharedHow to use CSS @font-face: Very thorough writeup. It’s almost
time to walk sIFR peacefully into the sunset. (via oxygensatchel)3A
great HDR Tutorial from Wolfgang Bartleme (aka “The Austrian
Wolf”). One of these days, I’m going to start shooting this way…
probably after it’s an automatic function of the camera
though.1Where Should I Eat? Fast Food Edition: A nice flowchart. Good
to see Jack-In-The-Box getting some props. Pretty tough on Arby’s
though!1A quite possibly accurate, Grand Theft Auto style Chinese
re-enactment of what happened during the Tiger Woods incident.  (via
tyler)#Cameron takes a stand against American Apparel: I actually
don’t give a shit about their advertising. I just don’t like their
tees to begin with.  Give me thick old-school Beefy-Ts any
day.4McNiche: On the perils of scaling down a mass model: “WikiCity
in its current state strikes me as a textbook example of a site built
by robots. Such sites tend, in my experience, to appeal mostly to
other robots.”#Anatomy of Japanese folk monsters: This looks like
the type of thing Jason Santa Maria would lust after and
collect.#Hypnotized by an Audio Book: How can you possibly not buy
this audiobook by Scott Adams after a description like that?
Purchased! For use on plane ride during upcoming vacation.231Three:
Hot damn, Jesse’s site is nice!#Driving a car with an iPhone. This
is simultaneously harder and easier than ghost riding the whip (via
the the jimray™)#Spin It - Reinventing The Bathtub: A shower that
is not gross when you want to bathe in it. I likes. (via
Freckles)3Even though I am long sick of the Geico cavemen, there is
something about the bowling commercial that just tugs at the heart
strings!3When comment spam pukes on itself: I was reading this great
article about traveling to the Galapagos Islands and noticed it had
154 comments. Unfortunately, none of them are real. Comment #120 is
priceless though.4Trademarkia: An easier way to search for trademarked
names: Beats the hell out of the USPTO search site.1Weezer, plane
crashes and everything else that’s worrying about the real-time web:
It seems like there are 99 pro-realtime-web articles for every
anti-realtime-web article. This article is a good reminder that
documenting life does not equal living life.#View Shared Archives

	
				
				
				
				
				
OversharedThe second-best Tiananmen Square picture ever:
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/12/2009_in_photos_part_1_of_3.html#photo32#@mykola
Yes, but this *is* for dev work. :)  I roll with Safari for normal
browsing.#Just downgraded to Firefox 3.0. SO much faster than 3.5.#If
only LaGuerta would have also gotten the knife, that would have been
the perfect ending for Dexter. #eliminateannoyingcharacters#@jratlee
Hmmm, weird. No.  That is only supposed to be created if you comment
on a TodayMoms feature. How did you get to that page?#Wow, Ryan Succop
pointing to the sky after a 21 yard first half field goal? I'm sure
God has other things to do.#NFL Red Zone channel in HD now.  Thank you
Comcast!#Gerhart beats Ingram in almost every statistical category,
both play in tough conferences and Ingram gets the Heisman?
Puzzled...#@funkatron Aha.  So until Spaz goes OAuth, there's probably
no way... correct?#@jcsalterego Hmmm, I think the problem is that
@spaz doesn't use OAuth yet, and thus they have no API Key to even
store. :(#@jcsalterego Having a bitch of a time finding where @spaz
stores its API key.#Testing @spaz.#@jcsalterego Aha. Hacking @spaz
might do the trick! Good tip.  Commencing hackerations...#@KuraFire
@mike9r @kennethlove Right, but I'm wondering if you could take an app
and just change its API key to your own.#Anybody know of a Twitter
client out there that lets you customize the "from" attribute for your
tweets? (E.g. "from Tweetie").#View Overshared Archives

				
				

			
			



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