Helvetica Film DVD Pre-Order Available

An entire documentary on typography and the most influential typeface of the last century: Helvetica. I’m in heaven. And now the Helvetica Film DVD is available for pre-order with release scheduled for November 6th.

I missed the documentary when it came to Portland so the DVD will be my first chance to see it. I just need to decide between the basic DVD and the deluxe edition which includes a c-print still from the film and an actual piece of Helvetica metal type. How cool is that?

links for 2007-08-15

Who Remembers These Things?

I’ve been trying to find the RSS feeds on Facebook that TechCrunch wrote about earlier today when I was prompted by Facebook with a requirement to add a security question. Here is a screenshot of what I saw:


Who remembers the name of their first stuffed animal? The time you were born, not the year. My third grade teacher had a Japanese last name that I can’t remember how to spell. Too bad it wasn’t my fourth grade teacher who I liked much less, but whose name is simple to spell. Least favorite nickname? Uh… First kiss? Well, she was cute. I remember that much.

Maybe this is just a sign that I’m getting too old, but the only question from the list that I felt confident answering is my mother’s maiden name, and maybe I’ll give her a call just to be safe. :-)

Welcome Signal vs. Noise Readers: Take a look around the site. In particular, Speed Matters: Presentation Files and Resources, It’s the Mobile Web. We Just Don’t Realize It., and Logouts and form-based HTTP Basic Authentication may be relevant to you. If these topics interest you, then please subscribe to the RSS feed.

A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Joel on Software points to a great article by Clay Shirky on why a Group is its Own Worst Enemy. Joel points out that that he was rediscovering something about social software that Clay had documented 4 years ago.  Similarly, I can’t believe I hadn’t found Clay’s article before.

The article captures the challenges of building online communities and the need to provide structures for those communities better than anything else I’ve read. There are a lot of articles that will describe the things you need to do to be successful in building online community, but this is the first article I’ve read that makes a compelling, rational argument for why groups of people are so likely to fail and how you can’t separate the technology from the social structure.

I can’t recommend this article enough. Great stuff for anyone trying to build community online.

YUI Compressor, Web Site Speed

Via Ajaxian I learned the Yahoo has released a new javascript compressor that reduces file sizes 18%. Compression of web site code is something that too many web site developers ignore.

A few years ago, our CTO and I read Andrew King’s Speed Up Your Site book and became consumed with improving performance of our customer web sites. We decreased download time for one site by 75%. These changes prevented us from hitting our network capacity long enough to move to a new hosting facility where we weren’t constrained by bandwidth.

What amazes me is how frequently developers ignore the simple things that can be done to speed up their web applications. Most web servers contain options to supply their content in gzipped form. This option alone can save tremendous time for users and bandwidth costs for companies.

I have a short list of books that I wish everyone who develops online would take the time to read. Speed Up Your Site is near the top of that list.

P.S. I was pleased to find that my new hosting environment appears to be using gzip by default. The home page would be 19K uncompressed, but is delivered to the browser as a 4K gzipped file.

links for 2007-08-14

2008 Promises to be a Big Year for Social Media

Jeremiah Owyang’s blog linked to an article from Lewis PR indicating that 2008 will be a big year for social media adoption. In particular:

Over 90 per cent of marketing departments are planning to launch a social media campaign in 2008, despite the fact that over a third are yet to use social tools in their organisation.

This is consistent with my experiences with clients this year. There is a lot of interest in participating in social media, but little understanding of what this would mean for organizations.

Awareness of the impact of social networking and in particular viral marketing has reached the point where people are asking for it, but their expectations are that they can simply add it to their site without the associated work to nurture the network and community.

There is already a lot of opportunity to help businesses understand how to participate in social media, and it looks like we’re going to have more of these conversations for the foreseeable future.

New Design, Infrastructure, ISP

I’ve finally found time to upgrade this site. The previous articles and materials will be eventually ported over and there is still much work to be done. That said, I’m pleased with the site and grateful to be working with WordPress on my personal site after installing it for so many customers over the past three years.

With this site launch, I’m also one step closer to shuttering my personal hosting operation. Over seven years ago, I set out to learn what it would be like take to host a web site and maintain a server. At the time, it was also prohibitively expensive to host a personal site in a professional web environment.

I built a server, installed debian, and set it up as my router, firewall, and web server. Through the years I replaced the hardware, purchased uninterruptible power supplies, attempted RAID configurations, and fretted whenever I left town that my server would go down.

No longer. Last December all of the email accounts I hosted for family and friend were moved to Webmail.us. I’ve been very pleased with the service and the price.

Now, this web site is being hosted at MediaTemple. MediaTemple is more expensive than some of the other low-end providers, but the peace of mind of a reliable and scalable environment is worth it.

So no more worries about hosting and maintaining a server. I can focus on what I love to do: Learn, work and play on the web and mostly sharing what I’ve discovered.

AJAX Prophesy

On February 26, 2005, I wrote my co-workers imploring them to read and grasp the significance of Jesse James Garrett’s article that coined the phrase AJAX. I recently stumbled upon this email and was pleased with how prophetic it turned out to be.

In retrospect, AJAX seems like an easy call, but at the time I wrote this, the phrase had just been coined and no one was certain how widely the technology would be adopted. In fact, I received push back from engineers that there was “nothing new here” and that they were doing this before with Perl-based web clients.

I’ve decided to post the email here for archival purposes and back date it to the time of my original email:

To: Staff
Subject: AJAX Web Development

As technology develops, it seems that there are seminal moments that describe and amplify a trend that has been percolating under the surface. Four years ago Jeffrey Zeldman wrote “To Hell with Web Browsers,” and with that declaration changed the way web developers everywhere, including Kavi, build sites.

What Zeldman proposed wasn’t anything new. The technological underpinning that he advocated had been around for years, and there had been a growing trend towards standards-based design prior to his call to arms.

What made Zeldman’s declaration significant wasn’t the ideas in it. Instead, he said the right thing at the right time. He coalesced many trends in web site development into a single, forceful argument for the standards-based web site development.

Why talk about this now? Because the day after the anniversary of Zeldman’s article, Jesse James Garrett wrote an article that I believe will mark another seminal point in web site development:

The article carries many of the same characteristics. It describes existing technology (XMLHttpRequest) that has been around for a long time that has only recently begun to be looked at in a different light. Recent projects, particularly by Google, have illustrated how powerful this technology can be.

Take a look at Google Suggest (http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en) to see a web page auto-complete your search terms or try Google Maps and drag the map around with your cursor (http://maps.google.com/). And of course Gmail’s major appeal comes from it’s wonderful interface based on the same technology. In each case, the traditional web paradigm of the user making a change, submitting a form, and then waiting for the entire page to load has been replaced with nearly instantaneous feedback.

Garrett’s article gives this technology combination a name–AJAX which short for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML. His article marks the launching point for broader adoption of this technology. I expect to see many more web sites utilizing this technology combination over the next couple of years.

AJAX holds tremendous promise for our applications as well. Imagine auto-completion functionality when editing a company record and the time-savings it would give our customers who interact with our applications daily.

Four years ago, we could not have anticipated that the change advocated by Zeldman we be pervasive throughout the work that we do. Yet it has become a key part of what we do. And we have benefitted from adopting that philosophy.

AJAX holds that same promise. I encourage everyone who develops sites to read Garrett’s article. Keep your eye on this technology. I guarantee that you will see more of it in the future.



Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications

And Jeffrey said, “To Hell”

To Hell With Bad Browswers

XMLHttpRequest References

Examples of Ajax (XMLHttpRequest)