Archives » June, 2002

June 30, 2002

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I’m at a crossroads now. I found out today that (without the hyphen) was finally available, so I snatched it up right away. I’m still shocked that a porno company or a cybersquatter didn’t grab it first, but hey – I’m not arguing. This was the domain I wanted in the first place last year, but it was taken and I had to settle for the hyphenated domain. Now here we are, a year later, and in that time I have been consumed by the hyphenated domain. It’s seeped into my subconscious, and now in my mind it’s the ultimate symbol of my brand. The domain without the hyphen just looks so funny, almost like it’s spelled wrong. So where do I go from here?

I’ll certainly get to point to this site. That’s not even a question. What I’m confused about is: which one should I advertise? Which should become my “main” domain? I’ve already spread my hyphenated e-mail address to sites all over the Web, and the hyphen is in my marketing materials, and just the other night I was visited by the Googlebot for the first time. So, is it too late to take the hyphen out? Would leaving the hyphen in confuse the hundredsthousands of people who haven’t heard of me yet? Does anybody reading this really care?

More hard questions.

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June 27, 2002

Semantic Soup

David Weinberger wonders if all the hype about the Semantic Web will play out in an article in Darwin Magazine. And he brings up a good point in an area that I’ve decided to let people who are a lot smarter than me work on: how can we make computers really understand what we’re working on and how important it is to us? When we’re reading a web page, all the computer sees is: Header, paragraph, paragraph, link, header, link, paragraph. It doesn’t have any idea what the document is or how to classify it. Can we change that? Can we actually get computers to recognize what kind of web pages we’re reading, and be able to intelligently sort and group them for us, or will we have to spend so much time initially telling the computer what kind of document we’re working on, that it will cancel out the benefits we get from the computer knowing?

These are the hard questions. Don’t look here for answers.

June 26, 2002

Computer Personality

Nathan Shedroff has put up a good article on Boxes and Arrows about how to make computers more natural to use. He derides previous attempts such as Bob and Clippy, and says that computer applications need to watch and learn our behaviors and react to us like real people react. A taste:

So when you’re developing a tool, an interface, an application or modifying the operating system itself, my advice throughout development and user testing is to ask yourself what type of person is your interface most like? Is it helpful or boorish? Is it nice or impatient? Is it dumb or does it make reasonable assumptions? Is it something you would want to spend a lot of time with? Because, guess what, you are spending a lot of time with it, and so will your users.

Good stuff to think about as more and more non-geek types start using computers.

June 24, 2002

Better Projects

I’m never sure if I should be elated or depressed when 37signals comes out with the latest of its BetterProjects. On the one hand, I’m elated because I can see what some highly imaginative people have come up with, and I’m treated to a vision of a better world, where websites are feature-rich and easy to use. On the other hand I’m depressed, because I know I have to go back to reality soon and I won’t ever get to use these inventions.

37bettermotors is the latest example of this. It’s thoroughly engaging to play around with it, and imagine a “what-if” world where you could actually unlock your car door from your office computer, turn on your heater a few minutes before you go outside, check real-time gas mileage from your web browser, or wirelessly send songs from your computer to your car’s. But, I know this is a work of fiction. I’ll never actually see a system that works like this. And that’s what’s so depressing about 37signals. They tease you with these great glimpses of a made-up future, they let you know what could be possible with the Web, and then they let you loose back into reality knowing the vision will never come true.

It’s fun to dream, I guess.

June 19, 2002

Boo Hoo

Cripes, I’m still not in Google. I feel like such an outcast. A Google ranking is the highest mark of status, and I’m not even mentioned in a search for my own URL!

Think it has anything to do with the fact that nobody links to me? Nah, that couldn’t be it….

Lessig Interview

Sometimes an intelligent person is able to put into words what I’m thinking so well, that there’s no need to comment on it. This interview with Larry Lessig is one of those times. Read it.

June 18, 2002

John Ensign

A few months ago I sent a boilerplate fax to Congress expressing concern about the CBDTPA. Yesterday I got a boilerplate response from one of my own Senators, John Ensign (R-NV), who, it turns out, is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee that is considering the CBDTPA. In this letter (if he actually wrote it) he’s in true politician form, waffling around without taking a clear stand. But phrases such as “aggressively protect copyrighted works” and quoted stats on how piracy is harmful to the economy seem to suggest that he’s on the side of the industry here, and not much of a fan of fair use.

I didn’t vote for John Ensign in 2000.

June 17, 2002


Looking over all these standards-compliant redesigns of popular sites has reminded me of my dreams for this site. I have grand visions of my website as a playground, a place where I can try out fun web design experiments like what happens at Eric Costello’s Glish or Eric Meyer’s CSS/Edge. But my site has none of that. Right now my site doesn’t even have any personal info on me; it just has the bare minimum amount of content that’s needed to qualify as a website, and a blog that’s written in about twice a month. Reality’s a little depressing, isn’t it?

But I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve realized that I like spending time with my wife and tottering around the house too much, and when I’m at home I just don’t have a lot of time to sit at the computer. Well, I bet my wife would argue with that statement; I’m on it way too much for her. But I’m not on it nearly enough to flesh out my website the way I want it. In time, I guess. In time I’ll get around to building all these fun sections, and make my site a real destination for people other than myself. But, until then…it’s not even a destination for me.

Oh well, as long as my priorities are in order.

Webby Shenanigans

A few interesting web-related things were going on while I was gone.

First, the new redesign of Yahoo! is causing quite a stir. Mainly it’s people yelling about how it still isn’t valid HTML. Oh well. That’s what you get when you’re one of the biggest web properties in the world, and you have to look the same in Netscape 1.0 as Mozilla 1.0.

But anyway. I found out from Simon Willison that Micah S Sittig has done an XHTML/CSS redo of the redo. It’s a nice thought, nice execution, but it kind of falls down on the job. It looks good in Mozilla, okay in IE, but it lands right on its face in Netscape 4.x. In fact, it rather nicely does the job of proving why XHTML+CSS won’t fly as long as 4.x browsers are still out in the wild. I guess it all comes down to an individual’s definition of “nicely degrade”. I’m sure this isn’t a Yahoo! manager’s idea of “nicely”.

Next up is Amazon. Another hot target, Anil Dash did a really nice version of it that validates and looks damn good in Netscape 4. Ralph Brandi jumped in and turned it into XHTML, and still lookin’ good in Netscape. Steve Clay jumped in, but he couldn’t resist the temptation to use <div>s instead of <table>s. Oh, sorry. Better luck next time. Does not degrade “nicely”. Can’t win them all, I guess.

So, the ruling from the bench: XHTML/CSS is the wave of the future – up to a point. CSS1 can happen right now, if the big managers get behind it. But tabled layouts are here to stay, at least for the afore-mentioned big boys. There’s no way around it; most people’s idea of “degrading nicely” just isn’t “nice” enough when 5% of your audience is counted in 5, 6 or even 7 digits.

You’ve Got Overload

And then, of course, there’s the inevitable downside to vacation (yes, one does exist). I come back to find 1,400 e-mail messages waiting for me. Just a few. Most of them from the Evolt and Webdesign-L mailing lists. Talk about stuffing your head too full of knowledge. I forced myself to do it, though, and it took me a few hours to slog through them all, even when I only read the ones I was actually interested in. Lots of holy wars and in-fighting, luckily, so there wasn’t a whole lot of meat to chew on; it was mostly fat to be trimmed away. Remind me not to go on vacation again.