When a little JavaScript is too much

August 30, 2007 at 8:31 am | Posted in Assignments, HTML, Programming | Leave a comment

Create a Lightbox effect only with CSS – no javascript needed at Emanuele Feronato provides a simple solution to create a basic light box using predominately CSS. The promise of liberating the conundrum of presenting images, often photographs, within the virtual space of a webpage using simple techniques drew a large amount of interest (myself included) and feedback.

That the title promises no JavaScript, but the substance of the solution relies upon it, drew ire from most commentators. Some provided constructive feedback, others provided their own solutions, and still others were quick to point out which particular browser failed to display correctly.

There are tons of Lightbox scripts in the web, each one with its unique features and limitations, but all require massive use of Javascript or the installation of javascript frameworks.

Which captures the current problem. JavaScript creates a perception of complexity, of insistent pop-ups, of browser incompatibilities, of bloat. People who desire to create virtual light boxes want implementations they can use without needing Computer Science degrees.

JavaScript predates CSS. Current CSS progress extends CSS with modifiers such :active and :focus. These improvements allow CSS to supplant and remediate JavaScript with similar functionality. This follows current programming design to favor abstract descriptions in favor of explicit control. While the light box may be a case of There is More Than One Way To Do It (TMTOWTDI), in the end very few of the comments eschewed the solution for avoiding JavaScript, but rather using too much JavaScript.

A discussion of <blockquote>’d interviews

August 28, 2007 at 12:07 am | Posted in Assignments, HTML | Leave a comment

In Should interview answers be marked up with a <blockquote>? PPK discusses the quoting of interviews and conversations in HTML.

The website of a Dutch ministry has been tested for compliance with the Web Guidelines. I have been asked to supply a second opinion, which I’m currently writing. I came across a complicated semantic point that I’m not quite sure of; hence I’d like to ask your opinion.

The main question according to PPK is…

…if interview answers count as quotations. After all, they are almost never direct, literal quotations of the interviewed person. Instead, the journalist usually changes the texts a little bit to remove the erms and such, and to create grammatically correct, readable sentences.

Semantically <blockquote> sets off text that is cited from another textual source (such as in this post). By using a block quote, authors acknowledge that the cited text comes from another source. However, PPK makes the point that journalist will usually need to edit dialog to a printable form. Journalists replace useless bits of mumblings (such as these) and conversational phrasing with coherent sentences.

Rather than reach a conclusion, PPK poses the question of appropriateness of <blockquote> to his readers.

The responses discuss other solutions. For instance, <dt> / <dd> pairs may create appealing visual results, but if reproduced aurally make little sense. Tables provide structure, but provide little semantic meaning. Most responses agreed that within current HTML, nothing quite completely captures the ordered nature of a dialog. Finally, PPK reaches the conclusion that for the time <p> provide the best compromise until <dialog> in HTML 5.

The discussion is interesting because of the various solutions provided. Yet, no one approach completely solves this issue. That web designers need to consider the aural representation of documents says a lot about the strides in accessibility the web has made in recent years. The balance of visual versus aural rendering illustrates the importance of clean markup combined with CSS to control document presentation.

A very minor survey of blogisms

August 23, 2007 at 3:38 am | Posted in Assignments, Thoughts | Leave a comment

I’ve been using Peter-Paul Koch’s website, Quirks mode, as a reference for the past couple of years while working on various web projects. The site describes and catalogs many idiosyncratic differences in HTML, CSS and JavaScript exhibited by web browsers that plague developers. He has also published a book by the same name.

Knowing that his website is such a great resource, I went looking for a blog and was happy with what I found. The blog is as interesting and useful as the website. If you develop websites and don’t know of this resource, you don’t know what you are missing.

If you haven’t heard, Internet Radio stations are currently under threat of annihilation. The blog at Digitally Imported is but one of many places across the net chronicling this travesty.

The recording studios, using their proxy SoundExchange, have demanded excessive per listener statutory licensing rates, rates in excess of satellite radio, itself a barely profitable business model. They are threatening stations with little annual income with million dollar bills, with billion dollar fees for larger sites. To ensure destruction, the fees have been backdated a year. Meanwhile, terrestrial radio pays no such fees. At the moment the hour of execution has been paused, but the future remains uncertain. Help Save Net Radio and contact your congress people.

Like shinyaryart, I’ll probably begin reading Game Blogs this semester just because it looks like it might be interesting.

Penny Arcade is probably well known to most of us. More a web comic than a blog, the blog acts as a sound board for the comics creators, Gabe and Tycho. The melding of comic and commentary provides telling insight into the gaming world and its norms. Posts range from con experiences, to making fun of over hyped games, to telling self-referential criticism (Green Blackboards (And Other Anomalies)).

Slashdot, an online community, was one of the precursors of community driven link sites such as kuro5hin, Digg and Reddit. Styled as “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters”, Slashdot allows users to submit stories and post comments. While the site has been in decline, its hordes created the term slashdotting due to the tremendous surge of visitors a site would receive upon posting a story (back in the day when people read stories and computers were less capable). A number of Internet memes, such as RTFA, “hot grits”, mis-labeled links to goats.cx (which apparently originated on 4chan, NSFW), “first posts” and the like started here.

2B || !2B

August 20, 2007 at 3:40 am | Posted in Assignments, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Not having blogged before, I decided to find some useful guides as to where not to tread. I found Chris Pirillo’s 10 ways to eliminate the echo chamber an interesting read. Essentially, what everyone growing up needs to learn, “stop worrying about what others might think and just be the insane odd ball you are, you’re cool anyway”. Particularly interesting are the warnings against being topical and simply toeing the blog-o-line. Not having run into these issues myself (not having blogged before), I moved on.

Somewhere along my quest I threw “usability” into the trusty google box and found Linda Bustos Top 10 Sins
of Blog Usability
. I found it interesting that she echoed Chris’ admonition on timeliness. She provides a number of useful tips that I quickly acted upon: making an “About” page with my full name (not like this one, ahem); staying away from fiendishly colored templates; ensuring that the widgets were in proper order with a easy to spot search box, some of the templates are just wrong. I’m ambivalent about moderation just yet.

Usability aside, I started looking for the clichés that run through the blogosphere, not wanting to fall victim to naiveté. Coding Horror provides a nice succinct list of 13 Blog Clichés, not 10 mind you. Of interest is the history of the random image gallery that often curses a blog. Another mention to include your name and a backdrop for your words. Unfortunately one of the 13 is meta-blogging (I wonder what they mean by that?). And don’t blog about not blogging. Insert funny warning about blogging between 2 and 4am.

At the other extreme of brevity is For the Love of Blog Cheese which manages a little bit of wit. Lots of good advice, lots of good annoying clichés (if needed). I guess everyone agrees that blogging about blogging is a cliché (I’ll have to remember that one).

Still not quite sure what blogging was (but with some ideas how not to go about it), I decided to check out Everything2 (they retired everything several years ago).
The Node about blogging provided some interesting insights that explained some of the features presented here at wordpress before I read our assigned reading. Particularly, the relationship and meaning of the blogroll became apparent and why everyone kept warning about worrying about it. Like our readings, the criticism about blogging about blogging is credited with the age of the medium.

(Getting to the point) With the readings and these thoughts in mind, essentially blogs provide an outlet of expression. They facilitate communication, particularly communication that would have been tricky or impossible to coordinate otherwise. They provide greater flexibility than message boards, both in format and content, yet allow communities to flourish. They expose more personal and informal thoughts than wiki’s or information rich sites. They engage in dynamic change quite a bit more often than static home pages. And their sheer numbers rival the total of printed media, there are maybe 8 million printers (at 1/1000 pop?). Finally, anyone can join (look at meeee!).

On the other hand, the present state of blogs resembles the time when newspapers were plentiful and varied. When the daily churn of paper covered the street corners from sidewalk to sidewalk. When you’d find comrades who read and engaged in passionate debate over morning coffee or the last evening stein. Was there ever a time like that before? In fiction, IIRC Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle hints that 18th century England was like that. In any case, as then, as now, a revolution is looming (loomed?) that will hopefully change how we communicate forever.

If the future is anything like Charles Stross’ Accelerando, it’ll be interesting.

Hello world!

August 18, 2007 at 9:03 am | Posted in Programming | Leave a comment

Something simple…

#include <iostream>
int main(int argc) {
    std::cout << "Hello world!" << std::endl;
}

On the other hand I think this is hilarious… YMMV

HAI
CAN HAS STDIO?
VISIBLE "HAI WORLD!"
KTHXBYE

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