Tantek's Thoughts

  1. 20040421

    1. 0535

      Congratulations are in order

      • friends

      Congrutulations to Jeffrey and Carrie on their announcement! I must admit this was perhaps one of the most difficult secrets to keep during the recent SXSW interactive conference. So for all those who asked me why Mr. Zeldman wasn't there and heard me say "for personal reasons", now you know. Well done you two. We await September with baited breath.

    2. 0347

      More recent links

      • web
      • news

      More links worth exploring more later. Many of these are from BoingBoing.

    3. 0338

      Taxes completed after all-nighter

      • govt
      • personal

      I finished my taxes last week, and managed to file electronically just after 9am on tax day, after having spent all night finishing them up. This was the first time I pulled an all-nighter to do my taxes (ah, memories of college), and is perhaps an indicator of how much more overloaded I've been the first few months of this year as compared to past years.

      Also, for the first time in several years, I actually owed money to the Feds. I'm considering getting an accountant to at least review my taxes to see if I paid too much and if so, file an updated/revised return.

  2. 20040414

    1. 1400

      Blog Service Pinger

      • blog

      Check out the most excellent blog service pinger that Dougal Campbell wrote. Enter your blog title and URL, check the services you want pinged and click the "Submit Pings" button. That's all there is to it.

      Even better, the result of the ping submission is a URL which represents the form submission, so you can bookmark it (add it to your Favorites) and double-click it to ping everyone at once.

      I think this is also the first multi-service pinger that pings RubHub, the XFN relationship lookup engine. Well done Dougal.

    2. 1330

      Rant and resources

      • blog
      • web

      D. Keith Robinson writes an excellent summary: "A Rant And A Few Resources..." of recent web drama that I was unable to keep myself out of.

      Because more than one person I respect told me that my satire was not clear at all, I've added some explicit markup and styling to the reactionary post in question to make its intended message clearer.

      Then again, a colleague wrote me:

      I don't think you can get away with satire when people see that your buttons were pushed.

      Good point.

  3. 20040413

    1. 0833

      Technorati auto-post-cosmos

      • web

      David Sifry announces that BoingBoing is using an MT template to automatically generate links that take advantage of Technorati's post cosmos feature. Brilliant, simply brilliant. One click and immediately see all the blogs that are commenting on a specific post. Let's see if I can add something like that...

    2. 0744

      Lost Rembrandt

      • friend
      • art

      Betsy Devine "found" a refurbished version of Rembrandt's Night Watch. Heh. You're too kind Betsy.

    3. 0631

      Panther upgrade problems

      • friend
      • mac

      Thought I should point to Jeffrey Zeldman's: The Great Panther Disaster of 2004. Ouch. I guess I lucked out by waiting until Panther to dip my toe into the OSX pond.

    4. 0305

      Who sat in the ire?

      • blog

      Jason Fried completely missed the point of my post, which was to illustrate the silliness of rants like:

      There's way too much talk about CSS and XHTML and Standards and Accessibility...


      All I could hear was CSS CSS CSS.

      with satirical rants in kind.

      Perhaps I should have simply asked what's wrong with people showing that they sufficiently absorbed some of the presentations they had attended, enough to reiterate and discuss afterwards in the hallways?

      No matter. Jason took the opportunity in his response to make a few points, albeit misquoting me in the process. I'll try to avoid doing the same.

      First regarding the book promotion issue: I'm glad (though a bit surprised) that Jason was asked to promote his book due to the booksigning. However, other presentations were also asked by the conference coordinators to announce upcoming book signings, which no one else AFAIK interpreted as an encouragement to go beyond simple announcements and turn into a promotion.

      Next, I pointed out with rhetorical questions that XHTML+CSS is in general more accessible than PDF. It really wasn't a fair comparison, since PDF is unfit for human consumption. But somehow Jason misinterpreted my comparison as implying something else:

      all that matters in making a presentation accessible is to make sure it's in CSS+XHTML.

      Here's what I actually said:

      We need good design and valid, efficient, accessible markup and styling.

      Accessibility starts with good design and valid, efficient, accessible markup and styling. It certainly doesn't end there, as anyone who has read the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines could relate.

      On the other hand, PDF is a step backwards in accessibility, since more often than not, it traps content in a static format unadaptable by user preferences / style sheets etc. with the exception of an awkward zoom function. Sometimes I wonder if the PDF viewer was designed to turn all of its users into scrollbar-jockeys, since the content never seems to reasonably fit or flow into a window.

      Jason proceeds to setup a few strawmen:

      What if I want to print it out?

      Use a print style sheet. E.g.

      <style media="print" type="text/css">

      Have you ever tried to print out an entire site or a 50-page HTML-based presentation?

      This works just fine when all 50 pages are in the same HTML file, styled to look like slides when you're viewing them on the screen, and printed pages when you're printing.

      Or, what if I want to view the presentation offline? Say on a plane? Viewing an HTML-based presentation offline can be a real hassle (most people have no idea how to "get" a multi-paged HTML-based presentation off the web and view it locally).

      See above. This too works just fine with a multi-page HTML file, especially with an inline style sheet or two.

      These capabilities aren't XHTML+CSS rocket science. And yet, even this short series of rhetorical questions with straightforward answers illustrates the point that perhaps a better understanding of the tools is a good thing to acquire and discuss.

      I agree with the definition of accessibility that Jason points to, however he sets up another strawman and again misses the point that although valid XHTML+CSS may not be the end all be all, it is certainly more accessible than PDF.

      I won't bother iterating through all the refutations of Jason's twisting of the definition of accessibility because the commenters in his post have already adequately addressed it.

      The one thing I will point out is that when someone uses language like:

      ... the majority of people might want ...

      It's usually a pretty good indicator that they've completely missed the point of accessibility, which is to focus on making things accessible to often neglected minorities.

      Jason says he didn't present in XHTML because he used Keynote, which begs the question:

      Why doesn't Keynote support XHTML+CSS? Fundamentally, typical presentations are just outlines, structured text, styled with a few images and special effects. Speaking of which...

      I can certainly appreciate the entertainment value of subtle transitions and visual effects, and sound effects too. Hence I too used a presentation program (PowerPoint) for a light-hearted "Top Ten List" intro to the "CSS: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" session.

      And yet, as Tufte has pointed out, the tool shapes the content, which applies as much to the new Apple Keynote as it did to the old Aldus Persuasion and the current PowerPoint.

      Which begs the question, are there presentations that would NOT benefit from hypertext? Jason seems to think so:

      The SxSW presentation I [Jason] gave had no web links or web-dependencies so HTML was not appropriate in that context.

      This is a (perhaps common?) misconception that needs to be corrected.

      Any presentation can be made more semantic (i.e. meaningful and useful) by hyperlinking key concepts, acronyms, terms, abbreviations etc.

      Any presentation that uses examples from the Web can benefit by linking those examples to either live URLs from whence they came, or perhaps to archive.org versions.

      Any presentation which builds upon the works of others, with citations or quotations can certainly benefit from hyperlinks to those references.

      Any presentation which discusses a good book to purchase on the subject can be made better by hyperlinking that book to its convenient 'click to buy now' Amazon page.

      As Jason said, I could go on and on with other examples but the differences are clear: pickled, static, and proprietary vs. hyperlinked, adaptable, and open.

      Which do you think provides a better foundation for accessible and usable content?

  4. 20040412

    1. 1746

      Progress on crises, sbb meetup, flood confrontation

      • personal
      • work
      • mac
      • transport

      My iBook is fixed. It was the well known iBook motherboard video problem. Fortunately for me the problem occured well within the warranty time period (less than six months after purchase, rather than suspiciously just after the computer came out of it's 12 month warranty as the article claims happened to many users. Then again I'm probably as heavy a laptop user as any. Lesson learned: carry your laptop everywhere with you for the first year to "exercise" it properly and discover any defects while it is still under warranty.

      My car is fixed. After some prodding and escalation by phone call, the dealer covered the repair under warranty. They've sent the broken parts (clutch, flywheel) back to Japan to figure what went wrong at only 33k miles.

      I finally picked up TurboTax from Fry's today (either Intuit doesn't offer a download only option on their website, or their website is so horribly designed that the option is impossible to discover, same difference) and will be taking the next three days off (starting tomorrow) to do my taxes. If I finish before the 15th, any time remaining is a self-reward. How's that for an incentive to avoid (additional) procrastination?

      I think I'm still going to swing by Coffee Society this evening for the southbay bloggers (sbb) meetup that Courtney has organized.

      Then it's straight home to confront a library floor covered with a semi-organized flood of financial papers. The goal: to vanquish the flood.

  5. 20040407

    1. 2220

      Recent XFN buzz

      • web
      • friends

      There has been a flurry of XFN activity in the past month plus.

      People are joining the XHTML Friends Network faster than the GMPG folks can keep up with the What's out there page.

      But let's start with Matt's recent post: XFN Press, where Matt links to a couple of recent posts/articles on XFN:

      Finally Matt links to his new tool Exefen 1.0 which lets you easily add XFN to any web page.

      Here are a few more recent posts discussing XFN. Apparently XFN has spread far enough that people are beginning to compare their experiences with FOAF.

      • The Underground Economist writes about XFN: the XHTML Friends Network:

        ... I don't yet have a decent mechanism for keaping my FoaF file up to date, so it's likely you soon will be able to find out more about me by spidering my XFN-annotated links than from my FoaF file.

      • Rami Kayyali writes XFN, the FOAF alternative

        Now FOAF is good, actually, anything that works is good. But personally I tend to move away from complexity whenever I can, and XFN gives me just that.


        For instance, I'd like to say that John Coggeshall is my friend, I can link to his web site like this <a href="http://www.coggeshall.org" rel="friend">..</a>. it'll be much easier than adding an FOAF RDF file describing my relation with him.

        The advantages:

        • It's standard compliant
        • Any XML parser can simply ignore this value
        • Any XFN-aware parser can use this to map relations
        • It's found withing the context, not external links
        • It's much easier to implement
        • It just looks nice

        I was planing to use FOAF, but XFN is just to tempting for me, so I guess I'll be adding XFN-friendliness into my website pretty soon.

      • Finally Leora writes a post about Matt's Exefen. I just had to point you to her site because of the amazingly cool "Complex Spiral" effect (I don't have the URL offhand and my cafe wifi connection just died. Go search Eric's site) that is going on with the background (use IE5/Mac or a non-IE modern browser to see the effect). I love the blurred green version of the background that the text blocks use.
    2. 2053

      Disconnected links: Take Two

      • news
      • web
      • blog
      • music

      Ok, here is my second attempt at summarizing recent links (which have no connection other than being recent) so I can read and analyze them more thoroughly later.

      • Microsoft Releases Source Code on SourceForge. Uh, what?

        Emphasis mine.

        Matusow [Jason Matusow, manager of Microsoft's shared source initiative] said that the CPL licensing terms are ideal for WiX. Any size or type of customer can download the code (even though WiX is most useful for teams of 10 developers or more, according to Matusow). CPL bestows commercial rights for modification and distribution. It insures patentability (on a royalty-free basis). It allows individuals to build on top of the technology and use the resulting products commercially and/or proprietarily. And all changes made to the source must be returned to the community, even though the individual(s) who make the changes retain ownership rights to them.


      • Ben Brown recounts perhaps the biggest disappointment of the SXSW Music festival.

        This is embarassing, and I don't know why I am telling you this, but here it goes. I had never heard The Pixies until I saw Fight Club.

        Um, I confess. I too am a post-"Fight Club" Pixies fan. Ok, shut up already (as Ben might say).

        And someone had told Lane that it was going to be The Pixies. It was almost a fact.

        Note that the night (or so?) before, someone had told Lane that "They Might Be Giants" were playing as the "special guest" listed for one of the clubs, and they did and I saw them, and had a great time.

        On second thought, if there is even the slightest chance of seeing Ozomatli, stay home. The Pixies will tour again.

        True enough.

      • Joi Ito ponders Is my obsession a feature or a bug?

        It's a feature. Do not fear. We will adapt the world to match our attention span.

      • Now for something much scarier: The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party. Perhaps this is in the "pointing out the obvious department", and yet, many of the details contained therein should disturb free-thinking rational conservatives and liberals alike.
      • More wackiness: Noam Chomksy's blog: Turning the Tide.
      • And in the benevolent world domination column: The Secret Source of Google's Power. Perhaps the best chance yet for someone to "accidentally" create the first self-aware AI.
      • Stop Hotlinking with htaccess!. For dealing with sites that link directly to your images (or style sheets or other secondary resources).
      • San Francisco Top 100 Restaurants Image Map. Now if only their restaurant descriptions would note the hours and whether there was any open wifi nearby (for those of us that have difficulty getting through a meal without linking up to the collective).
      • W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents. Sounds fascinating and certainly an area that I have some background and interest in. Unfortunately there is no chance that I will have time to submit a position paper (required to attend) by the April 30 deadline.
      • ABCNEWS.com : Restaurant Workers Strip-Searched in Hoax. Wow, what you can apparently convince people to do over the phone. Scary.
      • Philips KEY019 Key Ring Camcorder. 128MB USB2 memory drive. MP3 player. Digital Camera. Camcorder. I want one now.
      • Augmented Metadata in XHTML. Another example of people exploring methods of capturing simple metadata simply with XHTML. A bit dry to read, but loaded with good concepts that can be reused.
      • Selectress. Nothing to do with W3C Selectors.
      • vcard-temp.

        Canonical documentation of the vCard-XML format currently in use within the Jabber community. Perhaps a good starting point for a simple vCardML format that's easily embeddable in XHTML and usable (readable, writable) by mere humans. Oh, and interoperable with numerous tools that already support vCard (and XHTML and CSS etc. etc.).

      • Jack Valenti, wrong and wrong is not deserving of respect (see Cory Doctorow's comments in the post which document Valenti's apparent Japan-baiting).
      • Understanding Evolution Home. Next time you are having an argument with a flat-earther, be sure to have this site handy. It helps walk folks through what is science and what is not, how evolution works, how to avoid flat-earther relativistic traps etc.
    3. 1918

      Avoid self-defeating artificial dichotomies

      • blog
      • web
      • news

      This post was going to be a short collection of links, until my comments on the first link became something other than short.

      Jeffrey Zeldman does a far better job than I would have in deconstructing Jason Fried's ill-reasoned rant.

      Check out Jeffrey's well written analysis: If you're eating enough fruits and vegetables, you must not give a damn about protein.

      <div class="satire rant reaction">

      I would have probably said something about the greater accessibility of lightweight presentations posted in XHTML as opposed to a 2.5 MB PDF which could easily have been done in valid and accessible XHTML+CSS.

      Or I might have said something about how presenters at SXSW were specifically told NOT to pimp their company, products, or books or otherwise suffer the consequences of attendee ridicule and disdain (with perhaps the exception of the Google recruiting session (I attended it, I'm not complaining) which clearly had something to do with the Google branded lanyards that all SXSW interactive attendees had around their necks).

      Or I might have made some smartass remark about how maybe short lists of related points (yes, the much maligned bulleted list, maybe it's not all bad when used in moderation?) actually help people better remember a set of points, as opposed to slides with only a single 72pt one-liner each, differently colored (chartJunk/colorJunk anyone?) as if to metaphorically spit in Edward Tufte's face with each heading. Is chartJunk pretty? Perhaps. Does it get the point across? No.


      So nevermind my rants (which are no better than the troll-bait they ate), just read Jeffrey's calmly reasoned disassembly, and his take no prisoners followup.

      Bottom line (er, paragraph): Yes there is a lot of bad design out there on the Web, as there is a lot of invalid, inefficient, inaccessible markup and styling. We need to fix both. We need good design and valid, efficient, accessible markup and styling. Don't compromise one for the other. And certainly don't invent self-defeating artificial dichotomies between the two.

  6. 20040405

    1. 1739

      Valid poetry

      • art
      • web

      Samira is a web designer, artist and poet.

      She has published a few nice poems recently whose words and designs are beautifully haunting.

      And they're all Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict and styled with Valid CSS. A wonderful blend of art and technology. Well done Samira.

      P.S. I should mention that she's also a DJ. Breaks anyone?

    2. 1415

      Less responsiveness, more disconnectedness

      • personal
      • perception

      Similar to what Danah describes, my responsiveness will drop very low for at least the month of April.

      I have a few key things that I must complete ASAP, to the detriment of most everything else. Assuming I survive April, I may be taking some time to disappear and disconnect for a while in May.

      Nonetheless I'll likely continue to post various disconnected things of note that I want to either get back to or explore further. I have also found it useful to log events before my short to medium term memories of such events fade too much, in order to clear out those mental spaces for the important tasks at hand. I can already feel the details of SXSW2004 slipping away.

  7. 20040402

    1. 1924

      Kaneda's bike

      • transport

      They've built Kaneda's motorcycle from the film Akira. Any fan of Anime will immediately appreciate how cool this is.[From Slashdot. Thanks to Patrick for the reference.]

  8. 20040401

    1. 1956

      A few things

      • web
      • friends

      Looks like Doug Bowman and Dave Shea are trading styles.

      And Shane McCarron announced XCP - The XML Control Protocol.