onLine weblog archive

Friday, May 19, 2000

For this of you that like Flash satire, this one is F****** great: Bah B Nai.
I think that Cam's reaction to Ron's Study of line widths on blogs makes this common mistake: it values user control over the designers skill and knowledge. I probably err on the other side of that equation here at glish.com, but one thing I don't think I will ever change is the text in fixed size, reasonable width columns. I believe that there are very few circumstances that benefit from fluid column resizing; wide columns are simply NOT a good way to read text, no matter how short the paragraphs. Designer's know this, and they should use that knowledge and provide text in a narrow format column that is demonstrably easier to read. I mean, what good is user control when you have to politely ask your users to make their browser windows smaller? (No disrespect to Cam intended; what a great blog he has!)

Hey, fluidity is good! This site is slightly fluid: resize your window and watch the content stay in the center! Exciting! That is but a feeble example of how an overall design can be fluid while still maintaining consistent column width. I know there are much better examples but I don't have time to hunt then down... help me out?
The Guinness site features the most subtle animated gif (pointed out by V). And now I really want to go to Pat's for lunch and tip back a few.
A comment on Stewart's comment on the Zeldman article on the 5k contest: Yes, limitations foster ingenuity and creativity, and that inventive spirit is what has always separated web people from the rest. When you see a print designer thinking about turning away from the dark side and tackling web design, you can predict their success based on their attitude: "You can't have multiple levels of transparency? That sucks!" or "I can do it, yeah I can see a way to do that." You have to enjoy the challenge, not resent the limitations.

However, the corollary to the "limitations are the soil from which creativity grows" maxim (and this ain't nearly as pretty) is that limitations often encourage the wide spread use of bad practices (or at least inappropriate practices) that arise from people exploiting tricks that help them escape the limitations. Huh? Well, like image maps. Image maps suck (sure they have their place, yada yada) but they were ALL over in '95-'96. And think about the animated GIF explosion. And JavaScript image roll-over effects. And now Flash (humor me here). I hereby name this the "because I can" corollary.

Am I too negative (or do I just overuse parentheticals)?
I must read this: Virtual Tip Jar or Charity Case?: Asking Artists to Take It Up The ARS.
...a challenge to all those working in the Internet music business to put their "substitute royalties" and ancillary revenue streams where their music-fan mouths are and to figure out a legitimate way to compensate musicians for their songs.
New even sneakier ILOVEYOU mutation: VBS.NewLove.A. See also the NIPC alert and the Cnet Story.

Whay aren't there white hat virus writers that distribute worms that change the security settings on Windows Outlook systems so that these sorts of worms can't be spread? Why don't YOU become such a white hat?

Thursday, May 18, 2000

Wow. Cam has pulled together some web application resources.
Here's an interesting story from CNET.com about "dynamic pricing" schemes.
"Randomized pricing will anger and isolate consumers," Johnson added. "They'll never trust that retailer again."
In a related story, I have been working on a project for a company that is testing a new authentication system. I made a trivia game that students at a particular college can register for and participate in for a chance to win a weekly cash prize. To play the game you have to authenticate using this new technology. The problem is that the technology is in its infancy, and it only works on a particular browser with a particular hardware configuration. That has pissed off a number of students who can't participate because of these software and hardware constraints, and who claim that the contest is "not fair" because it excludes them. I guess it sucks to be excluded, but from where comes the feeling that such a program must necessarily allow any and all to participate? I want to quote from Exodus to them: "I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

Of course, to get back to the "dynamic pricing" issue, a store has a vested interest in not angering customers. It seems most unwise to do something that upsets customers, whether they are justified in their outrage or not.
Here's the Microsoft patch for the cookie vulnerability in IE, and then some: Microsoft Security Bulletin (MS00-033)

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Kottke has this to say about Web applications. i'd say that the most pressing problem is the security issue, considering the recent browser vulnerabilties that have been documented (1, 2). Also because people make mistakes.
Mac users of IE5 are vulnerable to a browser bug. Also, please reference this post by the Mac IE5 Product Manager when you hear that the Mac IE5 team is being disbanded.
I have to find time to try out Microsoft's Dynamic HTML Editing Component, but I've been so busy. Anyone out there using it? Impressions?
Another useful blog: ZZZXYZ.
Stewart put up some old Power Computing ads yesterday, which brings back fond memories. We had this poster up in the old Schwa Office.

You know, I still do all my coding on my PowerTower 225, and I have a great fondness in my heart for it (even thought the son of a cost us like $6000). But eventually I want to get me a new G4. Maybe this fall.
From Digital Web Magazine: For and Against Microsoft, an article exploring the issues surrounding Microsoft and support for standards. Via scottandrew.com, which I just found and which is great.
A couple of posts ago I asked the question "Is privacy our most basic civil right?" O Briggs wrote in with these comments:
Well... How about we rephrase it: identity is your most basic civil right. Civil rights seem to hinge around this idea that you have the right to some autonomy: that You are worthy. Not just everybody, but every individual. The privacy angle starts to get more philosophical (=slippery) in that it assumes a relationship between privacy, autonomy, and identity. Which I agree with, but I don't think I can do a quick, satisfying, rational defence for right now.
Until I read Garfinkel's book, does anybody out there care to tackle that challenge? Or point me to an online resource that makes the case for privacy as a fundamental civil right? Talk to me.
I was writing an email to "Emily" this morning, and I accidentally addressed it to "Emaily."

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

BusinessWeek has some good articles on the wireless web, like "The Immediacy of Data" Will Change How We Work AND Wireless in Cyberspace.
The write up for Garfinkel's Database Nation : The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century describes privacy as "the most basic of our civil rights." I am not really sure what that means. I have always been a bit uncomfortable with the emphasis many in the internet community put on privacy, as if the anonymity of the web must be protected so that we may continue to live our secret online lives without ever being held accountable for what we involve ourselves in. Now, I know it is more than that. I hate Spam. I hate being tracked. I hate the idea of vending machines calling me up as I walk by them in the airport. But is privacy REALLY our most basic civil right? I don't know. I should read the book I suppose.
From The O'Reilly: You Must Read this Book: Lessig's Code. Besides the Lessig book, Simson Garfinkel's Database Nation is mentioned in the article, and I'm actually more interested in reading that one.
From David Sims, a report on WAP, which is likely to become an ever increasing medium for delevering online content: WWW9 Report: All Thumbs at Phone.com
So much that we've learned about elegant Web interface design, as we waited for high-bandwidth to come, falls flat in the face of reality. We are returning to a 9600-baud world.
Here is Microsoft's information on the coming updates to Outlook: Protect Against Viruses with the Outlook E-mail Security Update.

Monday, May 15, 2000

Big News: Post Love Bug, Microsoft Trades Flexibility for Security.
On May 15, Microsoft will announce that it's making some fundamental changes in Outlook -- an e-mail, contact management, and calendar program widely used in business. The repair patch for Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000, which will require a download of about 1 megabyte, will be made available on Microsoft's Web site the week of May 22.
From the Online Journalism Review, a great story on the problems and possibilities of online news: Newspapers Should Set Web Standards.
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