WebVisions rides again

Posted in Design, Media, People, Tech, Web at 12 pm

While everyone else is getting ready for SXSW, the WebVisions board has been busy getting this year’s edition ready to go. I’m really excited that Jeffery Veen is back. His presentation (5 or so years ago) was one of the best ever and even though we usually don’t have return speakers, Veen is one of the few that I’m truly glad to hear again.

WebVisions: May 22 – 23, 2008 – Portland, Oregon

Media, technology and consumer trends visionary Lynne Johnson will join WebVisions to deliver the Thursday keynote address. Lynne is the Senior Editor and Community Director for FastCompany.com, a leading website and community for people passionate about business ideas that also offers the complete content of Fast Company magazine. She also writes a technology blog following web, media, and consumer trends for FastCompany.com, and guest blogs for techPresident and Black Web 2.0.

An internationally sought-after sage, author, and user experience consultant, Jeffrey Veen will return to WebVisions to deliver one of the event’s keynote addresses. Currently a Design Manager and project lead for Google’s Measure Map project, Jeffrey is returning to WebVisions to share his vision for the future of the Web.

At this point, WebVisions as an event runs really smoothly. We get a good set of volunteers returning each year, and my Tech Crews are always on top of things. I’m the stage manager and try to make sure that each speaker is prepared and comfortable, the audience is undistracted, and the volunteers understand that the audience members are expecting to have a great experience and we want to give them an outstanding experience.

WebVisions is incredibly cheap and for the quality of the speakers and the location, it cannot be beat. I hope you’re coming!



Posted in Tech, Web at 1 am

<meta http-equiv=”X-UA-Compatible” content=”IE=8;FF=3;OtherUA=4″ />

Ah now there’s the rub. This whole thing with the X-UA-Compatible HTTP header has been basically portrayed as how the web creation community can bail Microsoft out of a tight corner that it got itself into. With both Zeldman and Meyer supporting this and many, many people railing against it, I’ve been trying to figure out where I stand in this. Here’s my gut reaction and how I got there.

  1. It makes perfect sense for Microsoft to do this.
  2. It makes perfect sense for everyone else to ignore it.

1) This is the next version of DOCTYPE switching. No it is not. DOCTYPE switches were not simply a method to choose a rendering engine. Using the DOCTYPE to switch to ‘standards’ mode worked well because using it made the pages markup more valid. It was a situation where the hand of standards was slipped into the glove of DOCTYPE. X-UA-Compatible does nothing of the sort. It simply adds more information to the header of a page. (Interestingly enough, this is exactly what HTML5 is shooting to *reduce*.)

2) “IE=8;FF=3;OtherUA=4” Exactly who designated IE as an ‘official’ abbreviation for the browser from Microsoft? And who said that FF was adequate to represent all of the multitude of Gecko-based browsers out there? Talk about arbitrary. I would hope that Microsoft would put forth some sort of official registry for these “browser codes” like we have for MIME types and for Unix communication port numbers. At this point, this is going to be as helpful as User-Agent strings…

3) What IE=7 really means What Microsoft is stating with all of this is that they are happy to designate IE 7 as being their final answer, their best effort to present what I’ll call “IE7HTML”. Much like HTML 4.01 or XHTML, this is a specific flavor of HTML. Our friends in Redmond are also declaring IE7HTML as the final version of HTML. This stems from the idea that all pages that are not designated with IE=8 (or 9 or 10 or ‘edge’ or whatever) will default to IE 7’s rendering engine. So that’s it. HTML 3.2, HTML 4.01, XHTML can all be put out to pasture because IE7HTML will be the default way for MS’s browser to render the World Wide Web.

4) Smart for Microsoft This is incredibly intelligent for Microsoft. Here we have a great language (IE7HTML) that can be used to present Web Pages and is really good at Documents, and can be forced into use as Applications. The IE7HTML language works with all of that ‘interesting’ code those goofy guys working on Word used for their ‘Export to HTML’ function. What a bunch of comedians over there! Who can forget such funny tags as “<o:p>”?

But then, when IE7HTML becomes ‘old news’ or too limiting, where will we go next? HTML5? HTML6? No! We will need to abandon HTML entirely, because unless the web creators write code that specifically tells IE to use a later rendering engine, it will always default to IE7-style rendering, sending us right back into the arms of IE7HTML. In order to break out of it, we’ll need some new web technology that doesn’t use HTML at all… What about Flash? Oops! Flash requires the OBJECT or EMBED tags from HTML. I wonder if anyone has a technology that displays rich graphics and advanced (ie Desktop Application-style) interfaces. Well golly gee! Someone does! And it’s a good thing that it’s being fostered by a company with such a passion for open communication and shared standards.

Gosh isn’t it funny how selecting the default rendering engine to be the outdated version caused Microsoft’s last best chance of controlling the web to become a viable alternative?

5) Ignore it and it will go away. In this case, the old sarcastic admonition might be true. If no other browser respects this X-US-Compatible tag, and if only a small minority of web creators and Microsoft tools support this, the overwhelming majority of the web will continue to evolve and grow and adapt to new technologies. Looking 10 years down the road, the bulk of the web will use new technologies. The IE browser family and later generations, by defaulting to the IE7HTML rendering, will become increasingly outdated. It will certainly be able to read old and outdated web sites, but yet again Microsoft will have painted IE into a corner. They will then create a new browser (Windows-Yahoo-Live Explorer anyone?) that will skip forward to modern era web pages.

6) Is there any chance we could have a <sarcasm> tag added to HTML5? I’m actually serious about this.


Who Are You?

Posted in Life, People, Web at 10 pm

From Jock:

Lemur-Labs – Who Are You?:
It is quite possible that half of the reason that people watch the various editions of CSI can be attributed to the brilliant choice to play The Who during the opening. The selection of
Who Are You? is especially brilliant. It speaks directly to the core of any criminal investigation: establishing identity.

It’s cool to listen in while the wizard makes up his latest spell… Even cooler when you get mentioned. : )


Price quotes for website, the quick way

Posted in People, Web at 12 am

Ben, another suggestion on how to respond to this question…

Q: “How much does a Web site cost?”

A: “How much does a book cost?”

This usually sets the stage pretty well since people start to understand the possibility that all web sites may not be the same size, even though they are viewed through the same browser window…. This tactic has worked well for me in the past.

(I didn’t think it was that pithy…)


Oh Hai!

Posted in Design, Media, Web at 11 am

Zola LOL!


Looking for Videos from WebVisions Wrap Party

Posted in Media, People, Tech, Web at 10 pm

I heard that someone got video of Michael at the wrap party for WebVisions at the Greek Cusinia. Please get in contact with me if you do. It will be the highlight of next year’s show!

UPDATE: YES!! Yes yes yes!


Zeldman on "Comments are the lifeblood of the blogosphere"

Posted in People, Tech, Web at 11 am

So at the bottom of Jeffrey Zeldman’s entry “Comments are the lifeblood of the blogosphere” he has set up a spam blocking question: “Is ice hot or cold?”

I think this is great! I can’t wait for the Spammers to break it.

Now let me be clear that this is not some call for an all out comment spam war on blogs, since that’s already in progress.

This is about getting ‘bots smarter.

Think about it this way: Spambots are getting better and better at decoding the existing CAPTCHA images. They are getting better at pattern recognition and the idea is that if the spambot builders can improve the abillity to decode these images, then we’ve actually taken steps forward in the realm of Optical Character Recognition, a fundemental computer science problem that has never been fully worked out, although great strides have been made.

If the general CS researchers could get their hands on the most advanced CAPTCHA-busters (that aren’t using a sneaky Mechanical Turk system) they would have the opportunity to learn from the ‘bots and improve the state of technology.

That’s why Zeldmans “Is ice cold or hot?” is such a wonderful question! Perhaps we are creating an economic system that actually rewards technical innovation with advertising revenues. Sure, it’s slimy; comment spam is a horrible horrible thing to deal with.

But on the other hand, if we get some sort of leap in artificial intelligence because someone builds a bot that can 1) Identify this as a question, 2) Parse the question into a set of component words, 3) Construct a logical model of the question, 4) Work through an internal or external database of knowledge that can find the answer, 5) Present the answer in a succinct manner, and 6) Successfully bypass not just this question’s challange, but also other simple and not so simple questions, well then we’ve just made a huge leap in artificial intelligence.

I think it would be worth the trade off. Then again, this blog doesn’t get nearly as many comment spams as someone like Z. So I’ll let him do the work. Sorry Jeffrey!


Rails for the Rest of Us

Posted in Tech, Web at 11 pm

Nick just let me know about a great article at Digital-Web: Ruby on Rails for the Rest of Us:

Rails also includes a technology called scaffolding that will create a skeleton application. The scaffolding contains the models, views, and controllers. Models are the objects you are working with: a user, a real estate listing or a city. Controllers contain all the actions that your application perform. A scaffolded controller creates the basic actions to add, remove, edit, update, and show whatever type of model you are working with. Views are the actual pages that are shown to your users. They are a mix of HTML and Ruby code. It’s similar to mixing HTML with PHP includes. In fact, if you’re a designer who has built web sites using PHP includes, the process should be familiar when developing Rails templates: You are still doing the same sort of work, but with a little difference of syntax.

Great stuff!



Posted in Tech, Web at 1 pm

Looks like whocalled.us is a great tool for dealing with unwanted phone calls:

The phone is ringing, and I don’t recognize the number,
All Caller ID says is, “NAME UNAVAILABLE”.
Please help me figure out who is calling and what they want

Googling a few phone numbers has brought this up. Nice to see that this is starting up. Again, it’s one of those things that should be pretty obvious once you start watching what people are searching for.


PDX Web Group

Posted in People, Tech, Web at 7 pm

This was fun: PDX Web Innovators, though it was a bit surpriseing who showed up. Most of the people there knew of or attended WebVisions, or in the case of Tom, actually worked on my crew one year.

Ooh, and it looks like WebVisions is going to be in May this year. I hope it doesn’t conflict with other things…