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SXSW 2009 – Day 4

Come 730a, the body was less than electric, needless to say.  The bus rescued me from a light drizzle, as I finished up the end of the last audiobook in the Twilight series—yeah, whatever, I think it was pretty damn inventive and my curiosity got me sucked into listening to all four books in about two months time (mostly in the car during my daily two hours of commuting).  After all was said and done, I couldn’t connect to my media server for some reason, so I just listened to some metal album that I happened to have on my phone for the duration of the bus ride.  Ghetto dude sitting in front of me turned around and said something indecipherable over the Sunday morning ruckus in my ears.

“Excuse me?”  I replied.

“(Mumble mumble)…,” he reiterated.

Still baffled, even with my headphones pulled out, “Sorry, what did you say?”

He made some lazy bouncing movement with his hand, affirming at an only slightly more audible level, “Sup sup.”

Really?  All that foreplay for this?  “Uhhh, nothing really, just riding the bus.”

A moment passes.  “(Mumble mumble mumble).”

Not expecting anything much more interesting than the last exchange offered, I busted out, “Sorry, but you’ll have to speak a bit louder—I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

“Where… you… goin?  You on your way to church or somethin?”  he annunciated.

“Haha… Uh, no.  On my way to a conference downtown,” I explained.

“(mumble mumble),” he replied.

“Sorry?”

“What… Kind… Of… Conference?” he stressed, though still mumbling.

A second or so later when I made sense of his retort, I explained that it was for “web design”, hoping that it was a bit more easy to guess the meaning of than “web development”.  Nope, the conversation continued.

“What’s that for?” he asked, kind of shocked and somewhat defiant now—as though I were crazy.

“Well, hmm… I don’t know man—for fun?  Because I like learning new stuff about the things that I like to do?”

This seemed to pacify him, and he went on to make more basic conversation with the dude across the aisle from him about what build was outside of his window.  This new conversational participant was way less interested in talking to the guy in front of me than even I was—he wouldn’t even look at dude in front of me when he spoke to him, he just glared straight ahead.  Dude in front of me eventually gave up trying to engage those of us that surrounded him on the bus at like 830a on a Sunday, resigning to pull his hood over his entire face and just lean against the rail in front of him.

The conference was pretty rad today, learned lots about ARIA, CSS3, and some more technical topics like version control.  The highlight of the day came with the last presentation—or performance really: Gary Vaynerchuk.  For those of you that have not yet heard of this absolutely awe-inspiring individual, long story short, he started up a daily video blog about wine a few years ago and has risen to be a fairly wealthy and heralded business man as a direct result.  I witnessed his sheer presence last year at the SEED conference in Chicago, and was rather confused about this new comer who wasn’t a tech dude that had somehow gained the headlining slot at the conference.

Within the first five minutes of his SEED presentation, the dude had me laughing uncontrollably, tears streaming from my eyes.  He is seriously amazing!  If you EVER get the chance to see him speak anywhere about anything—seriously, anything at all: paper bags, mud puddles, slingshots, whatever—you have to go see him.  It will be worth every penny, every second, and every inconvenience it may cause you to do so.

Today’s presentation was no exception.  The primary difference is that he has caught like wildfire amongst techies since last year when I saw him, so he only spoke for about 15 minutes, and then just took an hour of Q/A from the audience.  There were two lengthy lines of attendees waiting their turn just to plug themselves/their sites/their Twitter name (what the hell is it with these people?  I’ve seriously heard the word Twitter more times than I’ve heard the words “the” and “and” combined over the last several days.  I don’t get it man, I’ve really honestly tried to get into it, tried to find a purpose for it, but it has been to no avail.  I hate the character limit, as well as the fact that you can’t edit the damn entries—it drives me crazy, and yet people just totally have this insanely fanatical affixation with Twitter.  I mean, I’ve really tried, and I just don’t get it.  After failing to see its purpose, I tried to find a use for it as like a Delicious substitute because Firefox’s Ubiquity plugin makes interfacing with Twitter super easy, but that was pretty lame, so my Twitter account lay fallow for a few months before I had the bright idea today to capture the super random snippets of conversation that I glean when I walk past people sometimes.  Totally priceless, check out my Twitter for some examples haha [@douglasgraves]).

Ahem, anyway, Gary is totally amazing.  I tried to capture his amazingness with my friend’s Flip camera today, but I only had less than 13 or 14 minutes worth of space left after having recorded the JavaScript library presentation yesterday.  Damn damn damn.  I was totally frustrated at first, but then Gary had me laughing and wheezing again, so it quickly became not a big deal.

I left the conference with a renewed vigor to tackle Veggie Heaven again—I’d just laughed for over an hour straight, Gary built everyone up sky-high, and the sun was shining out for once, so off I marched to the bus stop.  Arriving to a mostly packed house at the relatively small Veggie Heaven about forty minutes later, I grabbed a table for one—sigh—and set to the task of narrowing down the many mouth-watering options.  The veggie ham and fried vegan spring rolls caught my eye, and I decided to have my first bout with bubble tea after hearing about it and seeing it for several years.

Talk about efficient, their wait staff brought all of my items out at the same time, along with my check!  It seriously took them less than ten minutes, and it was kind of awesome to not have to wait for the check at the end.  So usually when you go to cheap Asian restaurants and they say “spicy” on the menu, its just the right kind of spicy for me:  a little bit of kick has been added for flavor, but it is not “hot” by any means.  This was not at all the case with the veggie ham unfortunately—about three bites in, my mouth was like a goddamn inferno.  No, seriously, I’m surprised I could even taste the food because it just felt like biting into napalm every time I spooned some more in.  Sure sure, water doesn’t help—eat some rice.  Well, the rice didn’t do a damn bit of good either, actually, it felt even worse.  See?  Totally the edible equivalent of napalm.

Though I wasn’t much of a fan of the consistency of the never-ending supply of tapioca balls in my strawberry soy milk bubble tea, the strawberry soy milk part was damn good, and it oddly enough neutralized the glowing embers on my tongue.  All in all, a good experience despite the fire, and fairly inexpensive as well.

I was in Hyde Park, so of course there was no direct route back to Nick’s.  This time, Google wanted me to go back downtown (south), so that I could transfer busses and head back north.  Ridiculous, but I learned a bit of a lesson last night—looking at the map, I noticed that the main street that runs to Nick’s is just on the other side of the UT campus.  Cool, I could just walk for a short distance and catch the bus that goes directly to the casa.  Well, let’s just say this: UT’s campus is goddamn gigantic because it took me half an hour to walk across it.  I made it to the bus stop with about eight minutes to spare, but ended up having to flag-down—and subsequently chase—the bus that did not show any hint of stopping for me.  Dude stopped eventually, apologizing profusely because he “never picks anyone up from there this late at night”.

It was an uneventful ride back, and here I sit—legs sore and unhappy, mostly in the shin region.

Accessible AJAX

Presenters:
  • Sharon Rush   –   Knowbility.org
  • Becky Gibson   –   IBM/Dojo accessibility

Sharon is basically going to “interview” Becky during this presentation.

Becky is showing off the ARIA example from the Secrets of Javascript Libraries presentation yesterday.  ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications.  Long story short, ARIA is about assigning semantic roles to certain elements (specifically widgets—for example, you would assign a div that surrounds a file tree widget role=tree, then a tree item could be role=treeitem expanded=true, or selected=true).  Dojo has ARIA integrated by default, and jQuery UI, YUI and Google tools are working on integrating ARIA as well.

Go here for the ARIA specifications: http://w3c/wai/pf

Becky is demoing this Dojo file tree example with the JAWS screen reader.  Pretty awesome.  JAWS tells you how many treeitems there are, when they are opened/closed, how many children there are, what is selected, etc. as you navigate the file tree with your keyboard’s arrow keys.  Keyboard support is extremely important, even if you are not a screen reader user.

ARIA has a set of roles called “landmark roles” (eg – “headers”, “navigation”, “main content”, etc).  Becky is demoing how JAWS reads these.  Wow, in JAWS 10, you can bring up a Landmarks panel, and navigate to the various landmarks on the page with your arrow keys.  This is a great way to get around the clunky “skip navigation” or “skip to content” links.

Check out the mark-up in Becky’s University of Illinois example for an idea of how to implement these landmark roles: http://test.cita.uiuc.edu/aria/nav/nav1.html

They are ripping on the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s tab accessibility (apparently, you have to tab through every single item in the subnavs before getting into the next main nav link).  Ultra annoying.  Becky recreated this site with Dojo for ARIA support, and it fixes the issue.

JAWS is really kind of annoying by the way—by default, it talks super fast, and is actually really difficult to understand (at least by my untrained ear).  If you do anything with your keyboard, it interrupts itself and shouts what key you just pressed (eg – Welcome to the Career cen—TAB!—resumes and cover let—TAB!—etc).  Seriously irritating, and for the amount of money that they charge for a JAWS license ($900[standard]–$1,100[pro]), they could have at least given JAWS some better and more realistic voices.  Hell, Leopard ships with a speaking feature that has several voices that are way more natural and decipherable than this terrible JAWS default voice.

You can mark regions as live for content updated via AJAX, and JAWS will start reading that area as soon as it is loaded.

Now they are ripping on recovery.gov’s timeline because you can only browse it with a mouse.  Becky recreated this using YUI’s carousel and ARIA to break the timeline into panels so that the timeline can be navigated with just the keyboard.  JAWS is speaking the title of each of the buttons (eg – “Page 1 link, 1 of 5, click left arrow to go to the next panel”), which is kind of cool.

Man, Becky is all about Tree Controls—this is the fourth example she’s shown of the tree control’s ARIA accessibility.  It makes her seem kind of like a one trick pony—all of the recreated examples were pretty weak with virtually no styles (eg – the aforementioned timeline looked like absolute hell, total 1995 styling)—but she seems to know quite a lot about ARIA and accessibility—which rules, so she doesn’t really need to be a bad ass developer I guess.  However, they didn’t really talk about AJAX at all—save briefly touching on live regions—so I’m kind of confused about where the “AJAX” In the title “Accessible AJAX” came from.  There is another dude (James Craig, who is part of the ARIA working group) sitting in the front row who keeps jumping into the conversation, and he is WAAAAAY more versed with accessibility and ARIA implementation from a developer’s perspective, so I kind of wish that he had been the presenter because he seems like a massive wealth of practical knowledge, and he was at both presentations that have dealt with ARIA anyway, soooo…

There is an ARIA attribute called hidden, which you can toggle as true or false for drop downs etc.  Apparently, with live regions, you shouldn’t change the role of DOM elements on the fly.  They suggest giving the live region div the live region role in the mark-up rather than changing it to a live region when you insert new html elements into said div.

When you mark a region as live, there are three different attributes that will govern the interruption of the screen reader reading the live regions (polite, assertive, rude [actually James just chimed in and said that rude is no longer in the spec, but assertive is basically what rude used to be, and now the third value is off]).  Polite will wait until there is a pause in the info being read before interjecting the updated content, and assertive will interrupt the screen reader’s normal flow to interject the updated content.  It is pretty obvious what off does.

Also, there is another property related to this called atomic.  If atomic is true, the screen reader will read the entire element, but if atomic is false, the screen reader will only read the content that has changed.

I spoke with James Craig after the presentation about the potential redundancy of ARIA’s landmarks and HTML 5′s roles.  He basically said that landmarks may be redundant in the case of HTML 5, but that also presupposes that whatever browser the user is employing supports HTML 5 (and thus recognizes the roles).  He also told me that ARIA’s landmarks can be used in other mark-up languages such as XML, which is pretty rad.  Cool guy, super nice, super knowledgeable.

Version Control: No More Save As

Panel:

  • Matt Mullenweg   –   WordPress
  • Joe Pezzillo   –   Metafy LLC   –   metafy.com
  • Derek Scruggs
  • Karen Nguyen   –   Yahoo
  • Zack Nies

According to Derek, this presentation will server as a bit of a Version Control 101—siked!

Zack
Version Control is better than Save As because it fosters a collaborative environment.  Zach is using some stills from Groundhog day to illustrate the point of Version Control: “You start off in the morning, and you are working with a team that doesn’t use version control.  At some point you get over-written and you are stepping on each other’s toes…”  Even if you are working solo, and you totally ruin your project, you can just go roll the clock back—continuing with the Groundhog Day analogy.

Derek
Derek is talking about how he is a self-taught programmer that has only been involved in programming for the last few years.  He originally thought that version control

> svn update = brings up all working changes in the directory.

> svn status = shows you all of the files you’ve been working on so that when you make a commit, you know what is going to be affected.

> commit = how you commit your files to the repository

Derek built the http://rate.sxsw.com app, which was saved by version control because of a bug that had been introduced a few days before the conference.  You can roll back with subversion, which is awesome—basically just like hitting the rewind button.

Joe
Joe’s opening slide: “Virgin Control 1.1: if you’re doing it, you’re doing alright!”  Kind of weird, but whatever.  According to Joe, Time Machine != Source Control.  It does some of the same key things, but at some point, it begins to delete your old archives etc.

SVN is built into Xcode, and Coda also has some SVN hooks.  Joe is talking about FileMerge (part of the Developer Tools in OSX), which I also use for comparing files—it is totally awesome by the way, though it is kind of weird with CSS files sometimes.

3rd Party SVN apps

  • Cornerstone has Timeline and FileMerge-like features.
  • Versions is apparently very easy to setup/use, and it has Beanstalk integration.

Beanstalk
Hosted SVN repositories, free version with no SSH, Integrates with Basecamp, FogBug, Lighthouse, etc.

Git
Git is open source, it makes branching really easy (every check out makes a branch), and then it is really great about putting everything back together.  The cool thing about Git is the social coding access for open source projects.

GitX is a Mac client for Git.

Mercurial (Hg)
A different kind of version control: Distributed Version Control System (DCVS).

Karen
Karen is a flash developer for Yahoo, so she is mostly talking about updating .swf files etc. and using SVN to track the changes.  She says to make sure you commit your binary files along with the .fla files.

Apparently, moving from CVS to SVN is a pain—even Yahoo is having trouble transitioning.

Hmm, not a lot of meat here.  Many things are being glossed over, such as cross-repository development (two teams working together while using different repositories).  I thought that this was to be a Subversion 101 session, but thus far it seems more like a scattering of different terms that aren’t very well explained or demonstrated.

Matt Mullenweg
Awesome!  Matt is going to do a live update of WordPress site to show us how to work with SVN!  He just added “matt wuz here” to the footer on their live site haha.

This looks like a great article that talks about how to avoid committing syntax errors: http://phpadvent.org/2008/dont-commit-that-error-by-travis-swicegood

Matt is talking about how you can basically commit anything to your SVN repo—he even committed like 510gb of RAW camera files!  He also uses it to sync multiple computers.  However, SVN is not a backup for your computer because if you lose your repo, you’re pretty much s.o.l.

Matt hates branching because when people go of into their own branches, it slows things down because it is difficult to keep track of changes/merges, and working with the most current files, etc.

There is a great article on installing/updating wordpress with svn on http://codex.wordpress.org/installing/updating_wordpress_with_subversion

The general consensus of the panel seems to be to work through a bug from start to finish before committing.  WordPress actually doesn’t commit until things are ready for deployment.

Apparently there is an Easter Egg somewhere in WordPress.  Hmm, didn’t know about that, but here is someone’s blog entry on it: http://ocaoimh.ie/2008/11/26/wordpress-26-easter-egg

Designing Our Way Through Web Forms

Panel presenters:
  • Chris Schmitt
  • Kimberly Blessing   –   AOL > Paypal > Comcast
  • Eric Ellis   –   Sr. Designer for Bank of America


“Forms Suck” from Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks by  Luke W.

Think of someone that you know as a master of conversation, is a great communicator and their conversation is flowing.  The primary question is do you trust this person?  Good forms offer trust, good forms are patient, good forms are forgiving and facilitate a 2-way communication.

BofA follows 4 basics when it comes to forms:

Expectation
(He didn’t really talk about this much)

Flow
(He didn’t really talk about this much either)

Order
Get the important stuff done in the first few pages/fields of a form—a user could give up half way through the form, or something could happen and they’d get timed out.

Noise
Anything that may distract a user from completing their form, but information which may not want to be eliminated (eg – instructions, )

Use a conversational voice, and remember that successful forms should put “people before pixels”.  Consider the sign up form of Cork’d—totally awesome, and very much Gary.  Huffduffer’s fill in the blank approach is pretty rad too.

Check out The Paradox of Choice by Barry Shwartz (basically about how our infinite array of choices paralyzes us).

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time we have to make a form because forms are one of the few things that we can totally reuse ad infinitum.  These elements are universal

SInce JAWS is so damned expensive, the Firefox Vox plugin is a decent baseline screen reader that will at least get you in the ballpark of accessible forms.

Kimberly Blessing

Kimberly busted Eric because the social security number inputs for BofA’s saving account sign up form are not disabled when you select that you don’t have a social security number—though you get a message that you cannot continue with your application.

Kimberly has a span class=”accessaid” message to tell screen reader users what the form is for.  She also has each separate option for US Citizen with a security number, Legal Alien with a social security number, and no social security number embedded in their corresponding lis .

The best way to set up company standards is to pull together the folks that are passionate about standards—particularly the back-end folks because data storage will sometimes dictate how the front end works (eg – “we don’t want to store three separate fields for a phone number”).

Kimberly uses paragraph tags and other such unsemantic mark-up for forms because they “look better when css is turned off”.  I personally feel that this is a total cop out, and that nesting the parts of forms within ordered list items looks just as nice and is more semantic (they are a list of input fields after all).

Christopher

http://webformelements.com has some really great screenshots of all of the various form elements as rendered by the various browsers and on the various platforms.

With HTML5, you’ll get:

  • input type=”slider”
  • input type=”date”
  • input type=”time”
  • input type=”placeholder”

Which may be a bit more difficult to style due to CSS limitations.

CSS3: What’s Now, What’s New and What’s Not?

Mozilla dude (Jonathan?)

“We have some good news, and the some bad news.  The bad news is that CSS3 does not exist and has no plan for it to exist.  The good news is that we’ve broken the CSS3 specification up so that individual modules can move on and we can start using them sooner.”

He is kind of glossing over the following properties:

  • nth-child[odd] & nth-child[even]
  • the color module (opacity, rgba)
  • border-image
  • moz-column
  • text-shadow (x y offset opacity)
  • box shadow (x y offset opacity),
  • word-wrap (can break long strings of text to the next line)
  • font-size-adjust
  • @font-face (downloadable fonts!)
  • example: @font-face {font:”Mrs Eaves”,serif; src:url(“MrsEavesR.ttf”);}
  • (you must import each face and weight/style that you intend to use)
  • transform (skew, rotate)
  • svg “clip-path”, “mask”, and “filter” can be applied to an iframe

They are proposing as high priority:

  • h1 { content: url(logo.png); }

Internet Explorer dude (last name Galineau) (he has a Firefox sticker on his laptop haha)

They are focusing on implementing CSS2.1 completely, correctly and optimally.  This guy is actually pretty funny, he is really playing up the enemy card in his jokes—which are actually pretty funny.  As of IE8 2.27, CSS2.1 has been completely implemented and passes several different tests.

They are not implementing any new CSS3 properties, byt they are supporting things like overflow-x, background-position-x, etc.

In the future, they are going to push for opacity, multiple backgrounds, border images, etc.

He is calling for people to participate in testing, email: www-style@w3.org

Hakon Wium Lie   –   Opera CTO   –   howcome@opera.com

Hakon is talking a bit more in depth about

text-shadow

web fonts (the big disagreement with microsoft is trying to get them to support true type and open type on the web)

border-radius (admitting that they should have had this since css1 and apologizes to designers)

box-shadow inset gives a pretty awesome subtle gradient effect

border-image (you can repeat the fragments rather than stretching the image)

wow, he actually recreated the Opera logo

CSS Transitions

WOAAAAAAHHHHHH, you can actually specify an amount of seconds between the active and hover state, so effing cool!!!!  He says that it is only 3 lines of CSS

Media Queries

Wow, you can totally change the CSS based browser window dimensions (for mobile devices, for example).

As for print, you can do leaders (for table of contents) and footnotes with CSS in Prince (a tool that generates HTML/CSS into pdfs).

Questions

Why do we need to have separate rendering engines?

FF: The danger of having a single rendering engine is that you end up with the web stagnating and other things replacing it.  You may even have something that competes with HTML/CSS.

IE: Also blames stagnation.

Op: We really focus on mobile devices, with very different rendering needs and abilities.

Moderator: We want the implementation of the standards, and don’t really care so much about the rendering engines.  The browsers need to get their implementation in sync a bit more—the competition can breed better security, better implementation, etc  We shouldn’t be competing on the standards level as we have been.

Are our current design styles complicating the spec—will we need/want them in 10 years?

Op: Lots of requests for specific features, help developers not have to worry about hacks, images, etc.

(More of a statement about using floats, etc in the absence of a proper layout module.  Check out Jonathan Snook’s layout module.)

FF: The working group has a lot of work to do in deciding what is essential and important in the various proposals offered by FF, WebKit, Opera, and IE.

Op:  You can actually build things that look/act like tables but are not actually tables with the table module.

*ongoing discussion about how html5 is going to change this issue, but at the same time breaks down some of the separation of mark-up and structure—which makes the standards evangelists rethink their positions a bit.

Hakon: “I do not like the scrolling interface of web browsers, and would like to see a pagination interface instead”.

Molly.com will have links to all of the notes from the presentation.

SXSW 2009 – Day 3

No rain on the way to the conference today, which was a pleasant change.  The Rails presentations that I had been so excited about were ultra lame, but there were a few other presentations that I didn’t expect much out of that were actually pretty awesome.

I didn’t leave the conference until about 730p or so today, which is about an hour and a half later than yesterday.  Braving the bus system again, I journeyed off to the Hyde Park area to find a vegetarian Asian restaurant called Veggie Heaven.  The restaurant met me with a dead open sign and all of its chairs flipped upside down on the tables.  Drat, they close somewhat early, and it was actually much later than I had expected it to be.

Oh well, not the end of the world.  Considering my options, I decided to try The Parlor again—hopefully their infamous vegan pepperoni this time—and called to order a large pizza, of which I was going to take back to Nick’s because I figured that he probably hadn’t eaten as he’d been tattooing all day.  As I’m getting my palette all siked about delicious vegan pizza, Parlor dude on the phone tells me that they are still out of Pepperoni.  Damn, foiled again.  Whatever, so I just ordered the mock chicken instead.  Half an hour wait?  No problem—it will take the bus that long to get there anyway.

The bus finally comes, drops me off a block or so from The Parlor, and our pizza is ready and waiting when I arrive.  Awesome, now for the return directions.  I punched the proper start and end points into Google Maps, and realize that there is nothing even remotely resembling a direct return bus route to Nick’s house.  The only viable option was to take some bus in the opposite direction from Nick’s in like twenty minutes, then walk a few blocks, then wait for another ten minutes or so for another bus that is going to make me walk so more.  Eff this, I’ll just walk back to Nick’s house.  Mind you, this is about a 3.5 mile walk—I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.

So I walked.  And then I walked some more.  Thirty minutes later, I was still walking—carrying our pizza and my big heavy messenger bag, and sans my jacket and sweatshirt.  I finally got to the main street that Nick’s neighborhood meets up with, and rechecked the Google Map options because my legs, shoulders and back were starting to express their annoyance with this decision.  Again with the whole waiting for half an hour for the bus thing—whatever, I’ve come this far, I may as well see it through.

Twenty minutes later, I’m finally back at Nick’s—legs burning, feet pretty surly, and shoulders protesting.  But damn was that pizza good after we reheated it in the oven!  I was going to hit the couch shortly after dinner, and went in to say goodnight to Nick, but we ended up geeking out about music until about 230a, which ended with both of us introducing each other to a bunch of new exciting stuff.

Come to find out, Nick had been asking me if I was awake the night before because he and his newish lady friend were going to watch the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s book Choke. Bummer that I was so ridiculously tired and narcoleptic, because I would have really enjoyed seeing what they did to that masterpiece.

Hidden Secrets of Javascript Libraries

Panel of Presenters:

  • John Resig   –   jQuery
  • Dude from Prototype
  • Another dude from another js library
  • Becky Gibson   –   Dojo (accessibility)

Thanks to the dynamic timing of Austin’s transit system, I made it to this presentation just a few minutes before it began.  It was SUPER packed—there were so many people and so few chairs that probably 20% of the people in the room were standing around its borders, sitting in the aisles, leaning against the walls, etc.  I stood in the back, and since I couldn’t really bust out the laptop for note-taking—well, not comfortably at least—so I decided to try out my friend’s Flip Mino.  Sorry for the shakiness that happens intermittently, but as you can imagine, trying to hold the camera perfectly still while alternating hands to avoid hand/finger cramping proved to be rather difficult.

Some interesting ideas about social networking

Platforms like MySpace & Facebook could learn some lessons about “friending” from platforms like Flickr and Plaxo.  I’ve never really liked how platforms like MySpace and Facebook have only the default setting of “friend” available to assign your “contacts” to.  Back when I had a MySpace account—in the early days of the platform—I absolutely refused to add anyone that I wasn’t legitimately friends with.  This policy of mine caused quite a few problems, and people would get all pissed off about how I wouldn’t add them as a “friend” until we actually knew each other.  Often this was of no verifiable detriment to me, but maybe I missed a few connections along the way by being so aggro and defiant about the term “friend” as it was being used/abused by MySpace.

I took the term “friend” at face value, and never really agreed with how it was being watered down by MySpace & company.  I’ve always considered the word “friend” to be a very strong word only granted to those in my “inner circle”—people that I could call at 3a broken down on the side of the road (or whatever equivalent exists) and they’d do what they could to help me out, and people that would conversely have the right to expect the same of me.  That’s a big commitment, I mean, you don’t want to go off being friends with hundreds and hundreds of people due to sheer maintenance issues within this schema.

Recently, I had a freelance client that wanted to integrate his Flickr account into his site, so I finally had to sign up for a Flickr account so that I could walk him through some things.  After I signed up, I did some poking around and found myself really liking the Flickr interface.  Dude, seriously, so well though out.  You can just edit descriptions in-place without having to go to another page, and then hit submit, and then go back to the original page—pain in the ass, and a total waste of time, right?  At any rate, more to the point, Flickr does this awesome thing: they let you categorize your “contacts” not only as “friends”, but also as “family”, “family and friends”, and just plain old “contacts”.  Sure, this is basically just setting permissions for certain users, but dude, this is totally revolutionary!  Finally, someone figured out that not every single goddamn person that you meet online is your “friend”.  Brilliant.  I just heard about a different social networking platform called Plaxo that is more like Myspace/Facebook/etc. that apparently has the same Flickr-esque distinctions between your various types of “contacts”.

I think that these distinctions are really important, not only because I put such stock in the word “friend”, but also because this shift in mindset has the potential to stave off the increasing ambiguity of the word in our culture.  I wonder if Myspace/Facebook/etc.’s abuse of “friend” has had any negative impacts on the various types of relationships in our culture…

Web Typography: Quit Bitchin & Get Your Glyph On!

Panel presentation: Elliot Jay Stocks, Ian Coyle, Jon Tan, Richard Rutter, & Samantha Warren

I had to wait in a goddamn line to get into this presentation that was already 2/3 of the way over—the room was way packed, more packed than any other presentation that I’ve been to so far, and they weren’t letting anyone new in until some attendees came out.  Barring the whole gaining entrance fiasco, this panel presentation was totally awesome!  I missed a lot of the meat of the presentation, but the website has all of the info on it from what I understand: http://sxswtypography.com.

I didn’t get the opportunity to take notes during the presentation due to the complete lack of sitting room (who am I kidding, there was barely even standing room), but they were talking about the various possibilities for getting better/different fonts on the web (eg – sifr, glyphs, CSS3, etc).  The basic consensus was that things are going to get awesome for web typography in the near future, that we are good enough designers that we can take the default fonts and do awesome stuff with them in the meantime, and that if you have a problem with the lack of font support on the web, tell the W3C, WaSP and Browser peeps.

The raddest thing that I got to witness was when one of the dudes from Opera stepped up to the mic in the center of the aisle to “ask a question”, and just laid down the law.  He basically said that Opera has been supporting font-linking since the late 90s, and dropped a few other tidbits of web-font-related knowledge that I can’t quite recall at the moment, and then turned to the room at large and said something along the lines of “If you have a problem with the way that browsers are doing something, it is really helpful for you to tell us your ideas on the matter so that we can address it”.  Awesome, new respect for Opera.

You should definitely pour yourself into the website for this panel—it’s pretty informative and interesting.

Designing the Future of the NY Times

Maybe I missed something pivotal during the first 15 minutes of this presentation, but I’m having trouble discerning exactly why there are approximately a billion people in this super hot and over-crowded room.  Though I love Khoi’s work, and think that he is a design genious, his public speaking skills are not really sucking me into the presentation.  This is mostly just he and another older gentleman (who is presumably another NY Times designer) patting themselves on the back for what was definitely a job well done—in other words, the web typography presentation next door is sounding like the clear winner of these three presentations.