Things I've always wanted to say (first in a series)
April 29, 2002 +
Buy my book!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble
'Meet the Makers'
April 24, 2002 +
By my account, yesterday's Meet the Makers conference was quite a success. Congratulations to Brian Alvey and friends for putting together an entertaining and intriguing day.
I'll have more to say on some of these topics later, but here are my notes from yesterday.
~ Interesting: Doubleclick serves two billion ads a day and uses an offline subnet database to help figure out its geotargeting.
~ 1800flowers.com uses XML and "XFML"--Floral XML--for markup. Heh. Still doesn't explain why I got porn spam to my flowers@ email address, though.
~ LifeFX is a little creepy. It is also, as its founders note, a fantastic idea for distance learning situations.
~ Atomz makes some good stuff. Atomz Publish sounds like an app with a future for small- and mid-size business that either can't afford or don't want to deal with creating their own CMSes.
~ Flash MX is the real deal. Designers should not be afraid to embrace it for appropriate situations. What a smart designer needs to do, though, is have a parallel feed—produce a basic Web page of data (for Google searches, non-Flash-enabled browsers [I don't believe Macromedia's 98% penetration numbers], et cetera) and lead users into the MX interface from it.
~ After all this time, I still don't talk in jargon.
~ Netomat would be far more impressive with some visually compelling designs. Its lack of flair hurt its impact (not just my opinion, either). Still, playing with multimedia sans plug-in could be a compelling sell.
~ Microsoft's .net presentation began with Powerpoint visuals. By its nature it looked amateurish, not because it was poorly done, but because one has become tired of seeing warmed-over Powerpoint presentations by business professionals of all walks who fancy themselves professional artists with a good eye.
All in all, I learned plenty, opened my eyes to new and interesting projects, and spoke with many talented and bright industry professionals. I'm glad I was there.
Food I love
April 18, 2002 +
If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, those trying to get to my heart should provide me with:
~ Chocolate chip cookies
~ Steak, medium rare, preferably a soft cut
~ French fries, well cooked
~ Veal cutlet milanese (wienerschnitzel is good too)
~ Thin-crust pizza with lots of slightly tangy tomato sauce
~ Ice cold water (Volvic is the best)
~ Dr. Brown's cream soda
~ Snapple orangeade
~ Turkey Hill orange tea
~ Coca-cola from the fountain
~ A root beer float
~ Poppy or everything bagels with butter
~ Cream cheese
~ Scrambled eggs and cheese (on a platter, roll, or bagel)
~ More chocolate chip cookies
~ Peppermint stick ice cream from the Ice Creamery in Bearskin Neck, Massachusetts, or wherever they order it from
~ Vanilla fudge ice cream, any brand
~ Turkey Hill choco mint chip and tin lizzie sundae ice cream
~ Mister Softee vanilla in a sugar cone with chocolate sprinkles
~ Raspberry brownies or blondies
~ A juicy hamburger with a lot of ketchup
~ Meatballs, homemade or from Subway (really)
~ Carrots and celery with vegetable dip
~ Caesar salad
~ A crunchy garden salad—lettuce, cucumber, carrot, radish, crouton—with thousand-island or Ken's Lite Parmesan Peppercorn dressing
~ A grilled chicken sandwich from Gene's Coffee Shop, East 60th St, lettuce and mustard on a roll
~ Claussen kosher dill pickles
~ Russian rye bread
~ Sourdough bread
~ The onion baguette from the Ninth Avenue Cheese Market
~ Brie cheese on crackers
~ Corned beef on rye with mustard (or a reuben or a pastrami sandwich)
~ Nacho cheese or ranch flavor Doritos
~ Ripple-cut potato chips
~ Buttery popcorn
~ Everything I tasted the night I had dinner at Le Cirque 2000
~ Arroz con pollo
~ Roast pork fried rice
~ Chinese restaurant take-out chicken with cashews and water chestnuts
~ Chicken parmigiana hero with extra tomato sauce
~ Cold spaghetti for breakfast
~ Shredded chicken mai fun soup, hold the bean sprouts
~ Hot soba soup with tempura
~ Won ton soup
~ Matzoh ball soup
~ Chicken vegetable soup with noodles or rice, heavy on the "stuff"
~ Jell-o mold (red Jell-o, strawberries, bananas, and sour cream)
~ Rainbow cakes
~ Cupcakes, eclairs, and other desserts baked with flour and covered with fudge
~ Those M&M-style candy-and-chocolate-covered mints
~ And a few more chocolate chip cookies, preferably my mom's, which are by far the world's best.
Like a charm
April 16, 2002 +
"High Fidelity" is on Starz this evening, channel 241 on digital cable.
Rob, twirling a CD in his index finger: "I will now sell five copies of 'The Three EPs' by The Beta Band."
Dick: "Do it."
Music cuts to the swelling chorus of "Dry the Rain." Entire crowd in store starts tapping feet and bobbing heads.
In his apartment, the author pops up off the couch, turns off the TV, delves into his Avant Rock subsection of CDs on the wall, and puts "The Three EPs" into his CD player. He launches his HTML editor to the opening strains of "Dry the Rain."
That song is possessed, and wonderfully so.
Design control: opening thoughts
April 10, 2002 +
Now that the book work is complete, I am jonesing to write more about Web design. I have gone too long without pushing my boundaries as a philosopher regarding design and the Internet; in the coming months I will be sharing more thoughts on the subject, and immersing myself in languages which I have until now been content to know only peripherally (XHTML/XML, PHP, even CSS). A coming redesign of netwert.com will include an area on usability and design. This will kick things off.
I have been discussing Web accessibility and functionality on a mailing list today. I have posed and answered this thought: How much or how little should a Web site (or any Internet-related piece of functionality, for that matter) allow for user-based alteration?
Interestingly, while I know how I feel on the subject, I have been twisting my own thoughts into contradictions. I like to think that design is best when it is fairly firmly set upon delivery. Yet I cannot defend that position without mentioning the importance of comfortable user settings, thus countering my own argument.
I proposed, rather quietly, that a toggle could exist on a Web browser, allowing a quick flip between VIEW THIS PAGE WITH MY SETTINGS (e.g. fonts, sizes, resolution, browser width, etc.) and VIEW THIS PAGE IN ITS ORIGINAL FORMAT, which would prserve the designer's settings. User stylesheets aren't installed in Internet Explorer, and in other browsers they're somewhat esoteric; I was thinking along the lines of a solution for the general populace. Even this, though, gives me headaches: I'd want all sites to default to "original," which is in some ways bad usability.
There is not yet a single answer to this, at least not in my mind (if there's one in yours, please share). I have a lot to unravel on the subject, including changing my perspective from that of a content-delivery specialist to a usability guru and an ecommerce maven. I am looking forward to the challenge.
April 5, 2002 +
Since the ninth grade I have had a default system deeply implanted in the nether reaches of my brain, one which never fails me in times of extraordinary need.
I can, without notice, eradicate any song that gets stuck in my head by thinking about Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love."
I am not sure why or how this works. I believe it started in the inverse, which would make sense; in the late 1980s, Van Halen was everywhere. Vivid memories still dance in my brain of interminable biology classes enhanced (or further deflated) by having That Damn Song dancing through my brain. For a while, it probably overpowered the songs I wanted to "hear"—who knows how many times my personal Van Halen tune kicked Don Dokken's ass in my subconscious?
Somewhere along the line, though, I reversed the equation. Instead of getting in the way, the song became my savior. Bad songs that took root could get muscled aside by good ol' VH. I don't even know where my copy of 5150 is, but its lead single has saved me from the bad-song abyss more times than I can remember.
One might argue that getting Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen power-pop songs stuck in the cranial jukebox is about as bad as it gets, but in those rare moments when Jack Wagner's "All I Need" threatens to overpower the flaring synapses, I thank my lucky stars for the fuzzbox power of Edward's lead guitar.
Well, my boys are out of it (and likely on the decline), so I may as well root for the local underdogs.
New York Times as hometown paper: People I know got married this weekend. (Too bad the site doesn't reprint the photos.)
Midgetville, New Jersey.
More cowbell. Lord do I love FilePile.
I was going to link to several articles today before realizing they all came from Techdirt, so instead I'll just send you there to read today. Techdirt is good weblogging.
For the first time in 40 years there are no British acts on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. Blame the methodology that weights airplay at 75% of the chart total and the current divergence in British (earnest rock, quirky pop) and American (hooky dance, hip hop) tastes. And, of course, the record industry's wholesale abandonment of commercial singles in favor of full-length CD sales.
There's a discussion going on at WebWord about Economist.com's design accessibility, complete with comments from me, based on this post I made to the CHI-WEB mailing list Monday.
David Coursey: Can a Windows guy learn to love the Mac? You bet!
The Media Person column has some nastily fun things to say about the New York Sun, the New York Times' Escapes column, the newly touchy-feely Wall Street Journal, and other easy-to-skewer subjects. (Yeah, even I took a potshot at the Sun the other day. But that's because I was disappointed, not malicious. C'mon, Seth and Ira, prove it.)
Not to knock the devoted work of its new staff, but the two-day-old New York Sun is a disappointment thus far. The pages are disorganized, very little hard news is covered, and the fluff pieces are irrelevant for a publication "published at New York City." Monkey contraceptives on the front page? Are these folks serious? I'll look again in a month and see how they're doing.
Today's fun fact: National security adviser Condoleeza Rice's dream job is to be NFL commissioner someday. Yeah, but how's her J-E-T-S-JETS-JETS-JETS chant?
Music sale numbers have been hurt by the forced obsolescence of the CD single. Even NARM says so. Essential (and fast) reading for those following the RIAA dispute who agree with the behemoths.
The single most amusing fictional character of the 1990s was Homer Simpson. Disagree? I dare you to listen to the Homer Simpson Soundboard without laughing.
When office supplies attack. Zefrank, you are still a funny man.
My pop star has a first name, it's b-r-i-t-n-y ... or was it b-r-i-t-t-n-y ... or maybe it's....
Are the very rich like you and me? Apparently, they all read the Journal and the Times, for one thing.
ESPN.com checks in with a report on the factual accuracy of "The Rookie". The movie was certainly romanticized and dolled up for Hollywood a bit, as one can tell just by watching. But the important details—and some of the fun ones—are dead on. Which is why the movie is so much fun.
37 Record-Store Clerks Feared Dead In Yo La Tengo Concert Disaster, from The Onion. "There's not a lot of hope. ... It's just a twisted mass of black-frame glasses and ironic Girl Scouts T-shirts in there." Ha! Guilty as charged, record-store employment aside. (thanks, Cam—twice in one week)
Mrs. Vopal's math class Web page, complete with a link to "Dr. Math." That oughta sufficiently scare my high school friends who read this page.
—Actually, the whole Livingston High School Web site is pretty frightening, in that "Wow, this is soooo high school" kind of way. Check out the departments page.
Quality weblog URL of the week: shakejugsnotbabies.com. My all time favorite is still Catherine Skidmore's suck-my-big.org.
The failure of customization. One could make the case that most people don't really want a personalized touch at all. To wit: McDonald's, which doesn't customize, does more than twice the business of Burger "have it your way" King.
Well, quite obviously: the Smurfs lived in a Marxist utopia. Better discussion: 101 Smurfs, one Smurfette—one Smurf gangbang? Or is it 100, since Vanity Smurf is probably gay? More thoughtfully: the Smurfs do provide a wealth of socio-political analysis, right down to the damn cat. (via and inspired by Cam; I don't normally think about Smurfs)
Communities, audiences, and scale by Clay Shirky pretty much lays out the obvious, but it's an important reminder: Millions can never really be woven into a single social circle.
The Smoking Gun has compiled an impressive list of musicians' backstage riders. They're a fun read, for the occasional giggle more than any revelations, but entertaining nonetheless. Dig it: Moby apparently gets all his underwear from his tour dates.
Thomas L. Friedman shares his Middle East angle in a CNN interview: "I feel like I was putting a 5,000-piece puzzle together as someone who is following this story. And I thought with Camp David, we maybe only had a few more pieces to go. Somebody came, tipped over the table, the pieces are all over the floor now. The dog has eaten some. Somebody spilled coffee on the others. Now all we have to do now is put it back together. And as much as we want to, there is a sense of 'God, can we anymore?'"
Turning Torso is a new building in Sweden that more or less rotates. "The building will contain 54 floors, divided into 9 cubical units. ... The entire construction turns 90 degrees as it curves upwards."
Coming soon to your night sky: planetary clumping. It's cooler than it sounds.
Yahoo! sneaks in yet more spam. If you have a Yahoo account in any way, shape, or form, your details have been "reset," and you are now willing to receive marketing information from Yahoo, including snail mail and phone calls. Get to your account info soon and reset your marketing preferences.
Vanilla Coke from Coca-Cola itself. Mmmm. I've been ordering these at TGI Friday's for years. Sign me up for the test-marketing.
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