London town

Visiting London (as I just did; see previous entry) remains a complete delight: from the classic squares and buildings to the pleasures of meandering and willingly getting lost; to the politeness of Brits in general to the amusement of dealing with foreigners behind the counter in service-sector jobs, trying valiantly to mimic the good graces of their peers; to the tittering fun of remembering to use—and using correctly—indigenous terms like “quid” and “the tube” and “takeaway”; to the uniquely alien familiarity with the city’s pace and its trains and its maps and its taxis and its working environment, all so different, yet so similar; to, most importantly, my British friends, full of warmth and unfailing hospitality, whom above all other factors make me wish for return visits sooner than later, and whom despite the challenges of distance and infrequency are doubtless among my favorite people the world over.

So here’s to you, London town, and Mark and Arindam especially. I miss it already.

Dictionary listings

Jason Kottke notes, “I’ve been keeping track of words which return a link to a dictionary definition of the word in Google.”

As kottke.org defines blog topicality, now is probably a good time to call out my own dictionary word list. Since early 2004 I’ve been tracking in del.icio.us (almost) every time I’ve looked up a definition, 164 in all. Sometimes it’s been a supplement to what I’m reading; others have been to confirm something I’m writing; still others are just sheer curiosity. A few trends can be spotted in the list if one looks hard enough.

A full list of terms (with links but without contextual notes) appears in the Read More link below for archival purposes.

  1. comportment – Definitions from Dictionary.com
  2. Cautel – definition
  3. vertiginous: Definition
  4. sedition: Definition
  5. kleptocracy: Definition
  6. Dictionary.com/multiplicitous
  7. Dictionary.com/flibbertigibbet
  8. A word for “neither solid nor liquid?” | Ask MetaFilter
  9. jerry-rig
  10. Dictionary.com/jury-rig
  11. pandemic: Definition
  12. epidemic: Definition
  13. disseminate: Definition, Synonyms and Much More From Answers.com
  14. Dictionary.com/dastardly
  15. Sloppy joe – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  16. Dictionary.com/sloth
  17. Dictionary.com/abecedary
  18. Dictionary.com/cairn
  19. Dictionary.com/taproot
  20. Dictionary.com/cherub
  21. Dictionary.com/buffet
  22. Dictionary.com/marginalize
  23. Dictionary.com/boondoggle
  24. Dictionary.com/equitable
  25. Dictionary.com/beneficent
  26. Dictionary.com/borne
  27. Dictionary.com/purveyor
  28. Dictionary.com/animation
  29. Dictionary.com/fetid
  30. Dictionary.com/influx
  31. Dictionary.com/divest
  32. Dictionary.com/levee
  33. Dictionary.com/commingle
  34. Dictionary.com/orgastic
  35. Dictionary.com/recondite
  36. Dictionary.com/commiserating
  37. Dictionary.com/conjecture
  38. Dictionary.com/albatross
  39. Dictionary.com/dilution
  40. Dictionary.com/titer
  41. Dictionary.com/fending
  42. Dictionary.com/decried
  43. Dictionary.com/breviary
  44. Dictionary.com/occlude
  45. Dictionary.com/marque
  46. Dictionary.com/biddable
  47. Dictionary.com/quixotic
  48. Dictionary.com/egregious
  49. Dictionary.com/premier
  50. Dictionary.com/premiere
  51. Dictionary.com/bogart
  52. Dictionary.com/wonky
  53. Dictionary.com/poultice
  54. Dictionary.com/taffeta
  55. Dictionary.com/mimesis
  56. Dictionary.com/endoscopy
  57. Dictionary.com/gastric
  58. Dictionary.com/exegesis
  59. Dictionary.com/obsequious
  60. Dictionary.com/verbiage
  61. Dictionary.com/vernacular
  62. Dictionary.com/asperity
  63. Dictionary.com/snipe
  64. Dictionary.com/belie
  65. Dictionary.com/semblance
  66. Dictionary.com/vanguard
  67. NIMBY: Definition
  68. Dictionary.com/emphasis
  69. Dictionary.com/dongle
  70. Dictionary.com/replicate
  71. Dictionary.com/contumely
  72. cottage industry: Definition and Much More From Answers.com
  73. Dictionary.com/propriety
  74. Dictionary.com/prescient
  75. Dictionary.com/productional
  76. Dictionary.com/effluent
  77. Dictionary.com/employee
  78. Dictionary.com/coworker
  79. Dictionary.com/colleague
  80. Dictionary.com/unequivocally
  81. Dictionary.com/dynasty
  82. Dictionary.com/fortuity
  83. Dictionary.com/manipulable
  84. Dictionary.com/half
  85. Dictionary.com/unprepossessing
  86. Dictionary.com/ignominy
  87. Dictionary.com/rambunctious
  88. Dictionary.com/postulate
  89. anastrophe
  90. anaphora
  91. What is Chiasmus
  92. Cliche Finder
  93. Dictionary.com/benediction
  94. Dictionary.com/promise
  95. Dictionary.com/denouement
  96. Dictionary.com/necrology
  97. Dictionary.com/unawares
  98. Dictionary.com/duende
  99. Dictionary.com/cajole
  100. Dictionary.com/presence
  101. Dictionary.com/pervade
  102. Dictionary.com/efficacy
  103. Dictionary.com/efficacious
  104. Dictionary.com/redact
  105. Dictionary.com/ruckus
  106. Dictionary.com/hoo-ha
  107. Dictionary.com/uproar
  108. Dictionary.com/furor
  109. Dictionary.com/fracas
  110. Dictionary.com/clamor
  111. Dictionary.com/arch
  112. Dictionary.com/recalcitrant
  113. Dictionary.com/capricious
  114. Dictionary.com/capacious
  115. Dictionary.com/strapping
  116. Dictionary.com/stridently
  117. Dictionary.com/modicum
  118. Dictionary.com/shyster
  119. Dictionary.com/grok
  120. Dictionary.com/sumptuous
  121. Dictionary.com/heathen
  122. Dictionary.com/ligate
  123. Dictionary.com/barista
  124. Dictionary.com/obviate
  125. Dictionary.com/sanguine
  126. Thesaurus.com/despite
  127. Thesaurus.com/regardless
  128. Thesaurus.com/reluctant
  129. Dictionary.com/conceit
  130. Dictionary.com/rejoinder
  131. Dictionary.com/notoriety
  132. Dictionary.com/myriad
  133. Dictionary.com/renascence
  134. Yo, vote! | csmonitor.com
  135. Dictionary.com/bi-
  136. Dictionary.com/languorous
  137. Dictionary.com/indolent
  138. Dictionary.com/dilatory
  139. Dictionary.com/gravitas
  140. Dictionary.com/ditto
  141. Dictionary.com/persnickety
  142. Dictionary.com/prow
  143. Dictionary.com/itinerant
  144. Dictionary.com/palpable
  145. Dictionary.com/glower
  146. Dictionary.com/bittersweet
  147. Dictionary.com/plectrum
  148. Dictionary.com/sycophant
  149. Dictionary.com/end-all
  150. Dictionary.com/be-all
  151. Dictionary.com/unctuous
  152. Dictionary.com/smarmy
  153. Dictionary.com/wrester
  154. Dictionary.com/double-tongued
  155. Double-Tongued Word Wrester
  156. Dictionary.com/ostensible
  157. Dictionary.com/prurience
  158. Dictionary.com/hotfoot
  159. Dictionary.com/lug
  160. Dictionary.com/ingenious
  161. Dictionary.com/touchstone
  162. Dictionary.com/twee
  163. Dictionary.com/peripatetic
  164. Dictionary.com/jocular

Early results

I received 97 pieces of spam at my home email address between 11:30 p.m. last night and 8:00 this morning.

Sounds like a lot, until you consider what I was getting: a hundred items an hour, on average, sometimes as many as 1200 emails between bedtime and 9 a.m. My spam filters, which have a 96% success rate, are still working well, only now my junk in-box won’t implode if I don’t empty it within 48 hours.

So far my domain-squelching plan is an unqualified success.

Gone fishin’

The nice thing about living a triple life as a freelancer, consultant, and business school student is the great scheduling flexibility I have. So I’m traveling. A lot.

The 18-month span between my layoff from The Economist and my business school graduation will, when all is said and done, include the following trips out of the metro New York area:

  • Whitewater rafting, upstate New York (twice)

  • Hawaii
  • Athens, Greece
  • Istanbul
  • Atlanta
  • Palm Beach, Fla. (three times) and Miami
  • Puerto Rico
  • San Francisco and vicinity
  • London
  • Prague
  • Chicago (tentative)
  • Martha’s Vineyard
  • Cape Cod and Cape Ann, Mass.
  • Shanghai and Beijing
  • Xi’an, Chongqing and Wuhan, China
  • Hong Kong
  • Tokyo (if an airport layover counts)

Bring on the traveler reward programs.

At the movies

Between the commercials and previews for “Shrek 2” at the Regal 14 Union Square, a man in employee attire walked to the front of our theater and called us to attention. He explained that Regal is raising money for serious illnesses this summer, and that he, Tony, was living proof of the positive effects of this research.

“I was very, very sick,” Tony earnestly explained to the crowd, “and had it not been for expensive brain surgery, I wouldn’t be here today.”

From the fifth row a little girl’s hand shot up. Tony, excited for the interaction, called on her: “Yes?”

“I have a friend named Tony!”

One terabyte!

Google has gone and upgraded my Gmail account to one terabyte of storage.

What the heck do I do with a terabyte of email access? Maybe Google has plans on giving me FTP access, too, so I can have a free repository for all my MP3s.

Update: Just a glitch. Ah well.

Stop thinking home page

One of the hardest things to do during Web site creation is to finalize a vision for the home page. So much to do, and so little real estate! How will users find anything? Where will it all fit?

Yet the same questions that stymie home-page development often magically disappear inside the site, where suddenly, logic and order rule. Major items go in top- or left-hand navigation schemes. Subcategory navigation squeezes under the main lists, either through clever spatial allotments or more-clever DHTML and Javascript tricks. Promotional items cascade down the right-hand side or across the page above and below major content.

Why is this so? Several reasons:

– Stakeholders around an organization all feel they need, and deserve, home-page placement and promotion for their interests.

– The home page tries to be all things to all people. Heaven forbid a user land on a site’s home and not see every crucial function the site provides.

The good news is that Google’s continued dominance has brought the trend in home pages toward lighter, cleaner designs. Urging their continued dominance is not a new argument, but it bears repeating, as too many sites still do not practice this policy well.

The solution to this is to stop trying so hard with the home page and start thinking about how the rest of the site works. Functionality and placement become more obvious inside the site. Why not carry those same principles backward, onto the home page?

A prime factor in lightening the home page burden is that home pages aren’t the all-encompassing portals they once were. Search engines still lead users deep into sites, and initial exposure is often not the home page but an internal content area that showcases an entirely different set of priorities. Only as a second or third click do users find the home page–which they expect to deliver better functionality or explanation, not necessarily the kitchen sink.

Therefore, if the home page is not necessarily the starting point, it doesn’t have to be the catch-all presentation device like, say, a magazine’s cover. It has to continue the brand definition and extend functionality, whether that is more simply executed or more accurately explained.

Users are increasingly goal-oriented online; they arrive with a purpose, and they want to achieve their goals as smoothly and easily as possible. Some recent arguments even contend that users don’t care what page they’re on, relative to a Web site’s hierarchy, so long as they’re making progress toward their goals. That may not be an all-encompassing argument, but the underlying tenet rings true: one only needs to identify position in a site structure only if one is confused or lost.

Bearing that in mind, a well-designed Web site will have simple, useful navigation and a moderate (or less) amount of clutter on internal pages. Ground is ceded to the presentation of content, and utility finds logical placement, sometimes by default. This should be the standard site-wide.

That brings us back to the home page, which may be the first or the fourth page a user visits during a session. It should maintain a similar navigational structure to internal pages. This is not because it’s a good introduction, but because it may be part of the continuing progress of the user. A visitor could quite conceivably go from an article to a section index to the home page, inside-out; if that is the case, how disconcerting might it be when the home page looks and works differently than the inside? (Even ultra-simple Google maintains the same top-of-page links on its home page as it does on its results pages.)

The same rules apply to the myriad interests angling for home-page positioning. Many sites have one or more links or promotions that go to specialty or off-site pages; these are miniature advertisements that don’t appear elsewhere on the site. Rather than cluttering the home page with one-off opportunities, find ways to integrate these links with the rest of the site, in places that make sense and promote consistency. If said placements overlap on the home page, so much the better.

The idea is not to revolutionize home-page design but to ensure that it embraces the activity within. Let the home be integrated rather than stand-alone. Your users will appreciate it.