April 2001

04/30/2001 Monday

Anyone else remember Deluxo Land and Cyclops Boy? Deluxo was the shit back in the day. The shockwave and animated gifs look kinda basic now. But they're still good time wasters.
18:35 permalink

v-2.org: Jakob Nielsen, Slick and Wrong. This article brings up online branding to counter some of Jakob Nielsen's dogma. Unfortunately, it doesn't question the validity of branding itself (which would weaken the argument). However, it's concentration on Nielsen's vehemently anti-graphics viewpoint is interesting. Because such a stance can stand in the way of usability. Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And, when discussing the usability of device interfaces, Jakob does include a picture of the interface. Such is the case in his latest article on Japanese gadgets and an article on Modo (which I discussed earlier). But he always places the images based on very conservative estimates of load time and not usability. The image should be placed near the text that relates to it (a rule he breaks in the first article) and the both text and image should be placed in the most appropriate place in the article (violated in the second article).
09:35 permalink

04/27/2001 Friday

NS4.x doesn't like you to use the background-image CSS property in <table> tags. The background won't show. You have to stick with the background HTML attribute. Using background-image in <td> tags is fine. No problem there and, since NS only supports the background HTML attribute for <td> tags in version 4.6 and later, it's the prefered way to set a background image for a table cell. I just don't understand this inconsistent support of styles.
09:35 permalink

Neat! The Blogger Template Design Contest. (via Metafilter)
09:25 permalink

CNet: AOL, Microsoft rift expands. AOL Time Warner is testing a Gecko-based browser for use with it's America Online and Compuserve services. Currently, the AOL browser is based on IE but AOL and Microsoft are direct competitors in some arenas and AOL bought Netscape a while ago. AOL says that it wants to move away from reliance on any particular vendor of browser technology. Interestingly enough, the new software is named Komodo. That's the same name as another Mozilla-related package - ActiveState's recently beta-ed IDE. (via Scott Andrew)
09:05 permalink

04/26/2001 Thursday

Some multi-millionaire and his son living in the British Properties (pimpin' acreage on Vancouver's North Shore) was arrested after police found hundreds of recycling boxes, plant pots, lawn chairs, and door mats stolen from other people's homes in his house. (via CBC radio - soon to appear on Obscure Store)
08:55 permalink

Funny. Also funny. Well, for at least 5 minutes.
08:40 permalink

The recent discussion of human multi-tasking (or lack thereof) at Evhead and PeterMe (no permalink) has reminded me of a couple oldies-but-goodies from Joel: Human Task Switches Considered Harmful and Where do these people get their (unoriginal) ideas? (about halfway in this article, Joel brings up the idea that it takes 15 uninterrupted minutes to start working at maximum productivity). I have tremendous respect for Joel. Not only do I think he is a very smart guy with some fantastic ideas, but also he's not above changing how he thinks if there is a good reason to do so.
08:30 permalink

04/25/2001 Wednesday

Sang was surprised that I had never seen this movie of a whale carcass being blown up.
16:35 permalink

over-resourced v. tr. see overworked.
16:30 permalink

04/24/2001 Tuesday

LA Times: Dot-Com Refugees Find Welcome in Porn Industry. Ex-employees of failed dot-coms in the LA area are finding jobs in the recession-resistant porn industry. Techies used to plush offices and free goodies now work in warehouses and brown-bag their lunches. Interesting article. It's the first time I've seen the phrase "traditional dot-coms". (via Slashdot)
09:05 permalink

04/23/2001 Monday

You know the horizontal scrollbar that appears on your DHTML site in NS4.x and you have no idea why it's there because the page doesn't need to scroll? It's there because your layers are hidden off-screen with negative left (x) position values. Instead, position them on-screen and use the visibility CSS property to hide them. After the page is loaded and laid out, you can move them off-screen to mimic hiding and the scrollbar won't appear.
09:20 permalink

I'm getting a little bored with all the hype behind CMS stuff. With the growing variety of web-enabled devices, tasks will become more central than content. Finding a restaurant on the web is a task that can (should) be possible on any device. But the content that gets pushed at the device in order to perform that task will depend on the device. Screen size, input limitations, memory capacity, and through-put are all things that will have to be taken into consideration. But how do you describe the way the same task is performed on various devices?
08:45 permalink

week·end n The end of the week, especially the period from Friday night through Sunday evening. A time period marked by low attendance at work and, therefore, also a period of increase productivity for myself. (partially borrowed from Dictionary.com)
08:25 permalink

04/20/2001 Friday

The 1k DHTML API is taking on a life of it's own. Brent has compressed the original script to a crazy-light 912 bytes! It sacrifices editability for minimal size so I'm going to provide both for downloading. Coming soon is a ultra-minimalist version of the script that will provide positioning only and strip Opera compatibility. It should be around 350 bytes. Update: Brent's code went on a diet. Now it's 888 bytes. 8 is a lucky number (scroll to entry for "8").
10:20 permalink

MSNBC: Study finds consumers want basics. People prefer the ability to compare and rate products over value-added features like chat and postcards. They want websites which are tools, not ads.
09:30 permalink

04/19/2001 Thursday

I rock! For the record, I didn't make this.
14:50 permalink

More updates to The 1k DHTML API (thanks again, Brent). These are just for weight saving. We're down to 1084 bytes now. Yippee!
10:45 permalink

This collection of login screens shows you how even a simple process can vary across different sites. Somewhere in there are the elements of the perfect login UI.
09:00 permalink

04/18/2001 Wednesday

Shit. Brent found an error in the gE() function in The 1k DHTML API (now, that's dedication). It only affects nested layers in NS4.x. But the fix added another 4 bytes to the script.
18:00 permalink

I like how little kids draw / paint / represent reality. One assumes they have a pure outlook on the world. However, the similarity of particular aspects of little kid art makes you wonder if this is true. We all used to draw the sun as a circle with little rays sticking out of it. How do all kids know to add the same imaginary element (the rays) to their suns? Or know to mix perspectives in the same ways (roads and sideways seen from above, buildings from the side)? Kid art might be more of a mono-culture than we imagine - they copy representations from other kids. But it's still an interesting culture.
14:50 permalink

When I have a scrolling layer, I usually put a named anchor at the bottom of the content so I know when to stop scrolling. In NS, you use the y attribute of the anchor to figure out where the bottom of the content is; in IE, you can query the offsetTop property. For a while now, I've known not to mess with the y property in NS4.0 or NS4.01 - the property doesn't seem to exist in those early browsers and looking for it can be fatal. I've also known that IE4.x on Mac is very flaky when it comes to the offset* properties. I did some tests on IE5 Mac and was pleased to see that the property has been added. But I've recently run into an odd bug in that browser - if you scroll the layer then write new content to the layer (including the anchor), attempting to access the offsetTop property returns a Object doesn't support this property or method error. What's odd is that you can re-write the layer as often as you like (as long as you don't scroll before the re-writes) and the scrolling with still works. It's only after a post-scroll re-write that things stop working. Messed.
10:30 permalink

04/16/2001 Monday

Ok. One of the 5k things is done - The 1k DHTML API. It's a fully-functional, cross-browser DHTML API that weighs in at 1103 bytes. The script provides functions that set an element's visibility, z-index, x and y coordinates, width and height, and clipping. I've also thrown in one that can write new HTML content into the element. The accompanying page provides documentation and a demonstration. I'm releasing the script with the hopes that others find it useful in their own 5k entries. I was going to use the GNU licence, but the blurb that I'd need to attach to the script would be too damn big!
14:45 permalink

There's a pair of seals that live in False Creek / English Bay. Sherry and I have seen them three straight weekends. I wonder if they will stick around when it gets busy on the water this summer.
09:20 permalink

The Standard: Disappearing Act. Ad-killing software may soon be built directly into hardware. This could effectively kill any sites that figure that they can still survive on ad revenue.
09:15 permalink

One week after the 5k contest closes (I didn't enter anything for various depressing reasons), I come up with not one but two ideas for entries. Shit. Figures. I decided to work on them anyways. Just so I have something ready for next year. Plus one might be helpful for other people's entries. More details as I finish and post them.
09:10 permalink

Public Service Announcement: "Hey" is not spelt "Heh". "Yeah" is not spelt "Yah" or "Ya" (unless you want to sound like you are chewing a wad of gum). That is all.
08:40 permalink

04/12/2001 Thursday

The Metafilter thread on 1000journals has unearthed a similar journal-based collaborative project that took place in 1971 - Space Atlas. 250 three-ring binders were purchased and 250 people where recruited to produce a single page (photocopied 250 times) for the binders.
11:55 permalink

1000journals is a sort of offline collaborative thing.

One thousand blank journals are travelling from hand to hand throughout the world. Those who find them will add stories and drawings, and then pass them along. This is an experiment, and you are part of it.

(via Metafilter) 09:35 permalink

04/11/2001 Wednesday

ActiveState (the Perl for Windows people) has released Komodo, an IDE built on Mozilla. That is neat. I will have to pay more attention to what those guys are up to. Especially since they are based in Vancouver and I now know a couple people there. (via Snowdeal)
18:00 permalink

Yes. I agree with Victor. United Airlines has a nice, clean, usable, helpful site. Another site with a sitemap at the bottom of the page.
17:40 permalink

eCompany: Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History. A fun, entertaining read. (via Metafilter)
12:15 permalink

In NS4.x, you can't write to a layer (by which I mean a <layer> or absolutely positioned <div> or <span>) until the document containing the layer has finished parsing. Use the onload event handler to populate layers after the document has been parsed. It's an odd bug. A document.open() on the layer will execute (but won't actually work). The script will then terminate on a document.write() call to the layer but won't report any errors. That took quite a while to find.
12:10 permalink

04/10/2001 Tuesday

The design of broadband, immersive websites can learn a lot from game design. The user interfaces of games have evolved over 20 years whereas web design has been in existance for only 6 or 7 years. Game designers have already made the mistakes we are making now and have moved past them. Not everything is transferable, though. Waiting at the beginning of a level for the computer to perform much of the processing required to play the level is tolerable (and preferable to spreading the processing out while the level is being played when it might interrupt game play). On the web, the idea of the impatient visitor is still prominent. Waiting for information to be rendered is intolerable - it is better to spread out processing.
09:40 permalink

04/09/2001 Monday

Ran into an interesting NS4.x Mac bug on Friday. We had a page with two flash movies on it - one output by Javascript, the other embedded normally. When the window was resized, NS re-parsed the document (as it is wont to do) but didn't run the Javascript again. So the Javascript-written flash movie wasn't drawn again. That's annoying but the really weird thing was that if the Javascript-embedded movie was before the normally-embedded movie in the code, resizing caused the Javascript-embedded movie to replace the normally-embedded movie (the wrong src was used).
09:55 permalink

The redesign at Xblog includes a sitemap at the bottom of every page. Simple click-thru studies show that this type of navigation is well used by visitors.
09:35 permalink

WikiWikiWeb reminds me of Metababy. Though the latter is more chaotic (and more fun). I like collaborative sites. Filepile also comes to mind. And there is another site where every word is linked to a page about that word (where every word is linked to a page about those words; etc). But I can't remember what that site is called. Shitty. Update: It's called everything2.com. Props to Cary.
09:05 permalink

Usability advice always seems based on heresay. Hard-and-fast rules are accompanied by phrases like "I have noticed" and "usually" or "often". Probably why so many people ignore usability advice. Joel provides a short, sweet usability lesson based on a simple, solid experiment.
08:45 permalink

Just realized that the dates on last weeks posts were all off. They're fixed now.
08:40 permalink

04/06/2001 Friday

The 3D Shockwave beta is now available. (via Metafilter)
15:50 permalink

Salon: Personalize me, baby. Personalization is hard to do right. Because the technology behind personalization generally depends upon a large volume of existing data, it is difficult to add new stuff - new additions, by definition, have no existing data to build relationships from. As a side note, customization and personalization are closely related. Customization is about explicit choices; personalization is about implicit choices.
09:45 permalink

PDN-PIX: STEAL THIS WEBSITE!. Zeldman's article on giving away stuff (code, design hints) for free on the internet. And where the line between borrowing and stealing exists.
09:40 permalink

I'm still waiting for a decent review of the IE6 beta. I'll I've seen are links to Microsoft's own propaganda and articles that waffle a bit and then link to said Microsoft stuff. I am getting some useful info from mailing lists but it's sparce.
09:25 permalink

Wired: Fine Print Not Necessarily in Ink. The Passport Terms of Service fiasco (see concern and capitulation) has brought the terms of service of other websites into scrutiny. Legal experts say that the more restrictive agreements (like the old Passport one) wouldn't survive a court battle.
09:20 permalink

04/05/2001 Thursday

I've just realized that decorating one's desk / cubicle isn't an expression of individuality. It's an indication of longevity. It takes time to accumulate a lot of crap. It indicates that you are one of the originals. You have seen it all. And you deserve to be treated with respect because of it. An accumulation of garbage and comfort items like pillows, sleeping bags, slippers, etc would be a truer sign of staying power. But garbage tends to smell and comfort items are bulky and kinda gross if they don't get cleaned every now and then. Toys are a non-smelly, non-gross alternative.
12:00 permalink

Animutation Central - "Really crappy Flash Animations."
09:15 permalink

CNet: Privacy terms revised for Microsoft Passport. A reaction to the stink about privacy and ownership. (via webdesign-L)
08:30 permalink

04/04/2001 Wednesday

This just in: NS4 does not populate the document.images[] array for an absolutely positioned element if that element is defined within a table. Your div or <span> tag must appear outside of all <table> tags if you want to do rollovers on that layer.
15:15 permalink

Got an appointment request in Outlook. Accepted it and opened the appointment to check the list of attendees. There was only one - a group alias - with a plus sign indicating that you could expand the group to see the members. Clicked on the plus sign and I got a dialog that says this:

If you expand the list, Outlook will replace the list with it's members. You will not be able to collapse it again.

Why not?
09:45 permalink

The Register: 99% of Web users eat cookies. Yum. Stats accumulated by Websidestory from one billion page views indicate that only 0.68% of users turn cookies off. This is a much lower percentage than the number of users that have Javascript turned off (about 10 - 15%). The article parenthetically mentioned something I didn't know: that Amazon admitted tempting first time visitors with deeper discounts than regular users last year.
09:15 permalink

For months (11 to be exact), I'd been looking forward to it. I didn't know if it would come again but I thought that it probably would. And it did. But when it did, I didn't have any time or inspiration or ideas. I was busy. I was tired. And now that it is almost over, I am sad. I hope I am ready for it when it comes around again (in another 11 months). The 5K is almost over.
08:50 permalink

04/03/2001 Tuesday

Say you want to go to Google. And say you mis-type it and go to googel.com instead. You will find yourself at the future home of Googel: Your Googel Family Geneology Center. You'd expect googel.com to get a lot of traffic destined for Google. Many sites in the same situation would set up a link to the more popular site as a gesture of goodwill and friendliness. And there is a search textbox on the googel.com site. But it routes traffic to searchfuel.com. Could it be that searchfuel.com owns googel.com?
13:35 permalink

In the beginning, there was Compute. And it was good. And Compute begat Compute's Gazette. And it was better. It had tons of programs that you had to type in by hand - many in "machine language". One of my favorite games for the C64, Pandemonium, was typed in from that magazine. In Pandemonium, like 99% of all games of the era, you ran around a maze collecting things while being chased by a menagerie of creatures. But what made this game different (and where the title came from) was that the bad guys would kill each other and then spontaneously regenerate again at an insane pace. There was no soundtrack - you wouldn't be able to hear one over the white noise roar of death and rebirth. It was shear pandemonium. And there was a level editor. All good games had level editors. Lode Runner was one of the best games in history because of it's level editor.
09:35 permalink

Books on project management, like books on usability, seem to be read by many and ignored by all.
09:20 permalink

Though NS4 is supposed to seamlessly convert positioned <div>s and <span>s to <layer>s and <ilayer>s, it doesn't always work correctly. NS will usually add an extra line at the bottom of a relatively positioned <div> or <span> that doesn't appear when you use <ilayer>. It also doesn't like it when a positioned element contains other elements with an inline style attribute - doesn't let you access the container element. I've also seen <div>s and <span>s crash the browser when lots of applications are open - something that doesn't happen if you convert to layer tags. And just yesterday, I saw a page someone was working on where NS4 would ignore any images below a particular spot on a positioned element. The images would show up but there would be no javascript reference to them - they didn't exist in the document.images[] collection. All these problems seem to be due to the use of <div>s and <span>s and can be fixed by writing branching code - NS4 gets the <layer>s and <ilayer>s and everyone else gets the <div>s and <span>s. But this results in really messy code.
09:00 permalink

04/02/2001 Monday

Glish redesigned a week ago with a CSS-driven layout which doesn't seem to load in NS4.7x (Netscape's problem, not Eric's). To read it now, I have to open up IE. But I'm lazy. So I've only just visited now. I like it. Probably more for the possibilities than the actual design. My site is pretty archaic behind the scenes - lots of tables, some css, and no backend. Everything is updated by hand. I know what I'd like to do with this site. XML, XSLT, CSS, DOM, etc. It'll happen. Sometime.
18:00 permalink

What demented imagination did Ice Capades spring from?
09:10 permalink