The Meaning of Scale

I’m quite a numbers person and have something of a penchant for statistics As if you couldn’t guess from the site name. So it is with Google (who also have a mathematical inspired site name). But unlike me they have more people (it’s just me) and lets face it, more computing power (only so many computers I can get in my house without getting told off).

So they bring us something of a large, automated, study (including some decent analysis) of what markup is actually being used, interestingly also including common class names. I’d love to do something like that – over 1,000,000,000 sites analysed!

On a standards front seems to be good news and bad news, some of the common classes are things like:

  • footer
  • menu
  • title, header, top
  • small, smalltext
  • text, content, main, body
  • nav
  • copyright
  • search
  • date

Most of those I can see use for. They Mean something for a start. Although some of the other top entries included things such as:

  • white
  • link
  • button
  • style1 (my personal fave)

Which maybe aren’t as well chosen.

On the other hand there are still lots of weirdness, proprietary tags and bizarre attributes. iWeb might be using crazy nested divs but it’s still valid.

Being Google it’s all written fairly amusingly, including a few digs at competitors with applications which generate nightmare markup. Overall, a good read. There are probably a good number of other useful nuggets of information burried in the document as well. Anyone coming across anything of particular relevance leave a comment.

Meme Warning! Enter at Own Risk

Help! I’m not sure what to do? I appear to have been set upon by nearly published author simon in an attempt to spread a deadly meme. Oh well.

Four jobs I’ve had in my life
  1. Paper Boy
  2. Kitchen Porter
  3. Packager of Shower Fittings
  4. Front End Architect

Four movies I can watch over and over
  1. Black Hawk Down
  2. Serenity
  3. 28 Days Later
  4. Impostor

Four places I have lived
  1. Bradford
  2. Durham
  3. Belmont (not to be confused with Belmarch)
  4. Newcastle

Four TV shows I love to watch
  1. Alias
  2. The Wire
  3. The Shield
  4. The West Wing

Four places I have been on vacation
  1. Cornwall
  2. Rome
  3. France
  4. Denmark (Lego Land)

Four of my favourite dishes
  1. Sausage Casserole with Guinness Gravy
  2. Seabass
  3. Falafel, Spicy Chutney and Chilli Rice
  4. Wild Mushroom and Real Ale Pie

Four websites I visit daily
  1. Google
  2. Newsgator
  3. Del.icio.us
  4. Newcastlenewmedia.org

Four bloggers I am tagging
  1. Steve Woods
  2. Phil Lindsay
  3. Pixeldiva
  4. Lee

Here endeth the lists. I’d be intrigued to see a rather cumbersome tree diagram of this meme thang in action. You know, track it back to it’s source, looking at relationships and all that jazz. But it’s late and I’m tired.

A Foundation to Build Javascript On

Like probably quite a few others I’m doing more Javascript of late, both professionally and at play. It’s not just the whole buzz around it, all the way back to Jeremy using Javascript for Good not Evil but I moved away from doing backend development when I moved jobs, Javascript is most definately in my client side job remit.

As an avid reader I’ve got hold of a few good quality Javascript books that have come along and was on the lookout for more when I came upon Foundations of AJAX from Apress’s black and yellow experts voice series. I haven’t read enough to give a full conclusion but I’ve been impressed with other books in the series and it looks promising so far. A few chapters did stand out (I jumped in and read them first) that had little to do with AJAX, concentrating instead on setting up a proper Javascript development environment.

I’m not a fan of bloated IDEs so the lack of one for Javascript doesn’t bother me as much as it does some. However debugging by browser is a pain for simple scripts, never mind larger applications. Firefox’s Javascript Console is mighty handy here, as is the DOM inspector and the view rendered source extension. There is also the Windows Script Debugger but I personally haven’t had much luck with that as yet.

Projects should have documentation and code should have comments. But it’s time consuming (honestly). Automatic generation of docs from source comments both makes you comment more efficiently and comprehensively and saves time. Everyone’s happy, at least as long as they are using the JSDoc perl application to do just that. Anyone familiar with Java will have come across JDoc and the name isn’t the only similarity. It’s now installed and ready to be used next time I write any Javascript.

Another area of interest recently has been application design, analysis and methodology, so I’d come across the idea of test driven development before and experimented briefly – but not with Javascript. The idea is that you write tests that can be run automatically on your finished code before you write the code, it makes you design more which cant be a bad think. Anyway, Javascript has JSUnit, a nice unit testing framework. Again, installed and ready to give it a whirl.

Hopefully this brief list will prove useful to anyone else making more use of Javascript recently and looking to be more productive. Anyone else with any other useful tools do post a comment, or is their a mythical application that you just wish existed to help you with your Javascript woes?

books

I’m something of an avid reader and, making use of the nice Amazon API I’ll try to keep my reading list up to date on here. I’m just including books that are maybe a little relevant to the web – otherwise this will get out of hand. I’d like to include some brief reviews if the time ever comes along, though dont hold your breath.

Music and Web Standards sitting in a tree

I’ve quite a music fan, I used to be more so but have been catching up recently with various bits and pieces. I tend to stick with more web centric posts on here but, while loading lots of music into iTunes I thought what the hell. I’ll touch on a few points of web goodness just in case.

I’ve noted quite a strong link between music and web standards style blogs for a while. Lots of end of year posts touched on music and simon even has his music monthlies My guess here is that the amount of time spent on the computer (both in and out of work) and a tendency to be male tends to lead to some musical interest or other. Having said that alot of the same bands seem to crop up as well. It seems to be lots of indie, newish brit popesque, garagish bands. Guitars. Men. That sort of thing.

A number of other instances spring to mind. A discussion a long while back on designersinhouse about listening to music at work, Jeremy Keith’s in a real band and visiting a certain Rock night after an accessify meetup with Patrick a few months back.

Where is all the music related web software produced by all of these people though? last.fm is nice and I keep meaning to get into it a little bit more than I have. iTunes and Amazon cater to most mainstream buying tastes but from very much a mainstream angle. I’d love to see, or get involved in, something that combines some of the cool aspects of flickr and del.icio.us et al with music. Time to come up with some ideas, or look around for interesting new sites me thinks.

Oh and while I’m at it the new music I’m listening to at the moment includes:

Sorry, the about the last bit. It’s quite cathartic listing my musical leanings on here. Not sure why but I’m in good company as already noted. What music, or music web tools, do you swear by? Please note that I reserve the right to edit posts which seem to advocate music I dont like. You probably know who you are.

More to come/statement of intent

More of a statement of intend, for posterity’s sake hopefully. Something I can look back on and think “Oh, yeah, I meant to do that” later in the year. Also so I dont forget, or just decide I couldn’t be bothered. Why this all of a sudden? Well, it’s the start of the new year anyway, but in particular the first meetup of people from the Newcastle New Media list got me thinking. And in particular more than thinking, wanting to act on existing thoughts.

So, without further ado, here is a brief list of thinks I’m going to do this year – fingers crossed, in no partricular order and missing several things that no one reading this will care about:

I may have forgetten a couple of things, I’ll add them as I see fit. Anyone else got a list that they would like to share? Either on here or post a link to your own site.

Widgets

Of late I’ve got round to installing a few widgets on my computers – Dashboard on my Mac and Yahoo Widgets on Windows (no linux widgets as yet). I’m actually still running OS X 10.3.9 and using the very nice Amnesty to allow run to Mac Widgets.

I’ve been meaning to play with widgets for a while, mainly because I’ve been using HTML, CSS and Javascript for years and widgets simply reuse these technologies – making it easy to just jump in an make something handy. I’m also a fan of web services in general and widgets provide another handy interface to many online services.

I’ve mainly been using the Junior Mint widget (and Minty) for keeping an eye on my site stats, I think I mentioned before I’m hooked). I’ve also been using WiFi monitoring widgets, battery monitoring widgets and looking at the backpack widget which looks nice.

As for having a go at developing them – I just made available my first go, a widget to keep track of the @media2006 feed agregator I have built. It’s relatively simply – it polls the site for a couple of variables and displays them across a couple of panes. The numbers in question are the total number of posts, the number of new posts this week and today – as well as a countdown to the event. I had to do a little work to expose these properties in an XML format from the site but nothing major.

I learned by looking at a couple of tutorials as well as existing widgets. Disecting code prooved the most useful – the majority of tutorials seemed to provide good Hello World examples but you could probably guess most of that. If anyone has any good intermediary or advanced widget tutorials then let me know.

The main problem with the development process was definately the iterative testing. With web pages I tend to work in large steps (with very little testing) early on and then move to more small changes and quick testing later on when it’s down to the details rather than the brush strokes. I’d definately echo the sentiment of others by testing in safari (it uses the same rendering engine) first, and also add that getting all the markup and CSS in place before moving to Javascript is probably the best bet. You really need to test the Javascipt with a real running widget as it has it’s own functions available via the widget object. I’ve heard Apple may be working on a suitable IDE for widgets (my guess would be a tie in with Xcode) and I’ve come across Wcode which appears to offer some useful tools.

I’ve not yet looked into the situation with Yahoo Widgets – I intend to port my @media widget to Yahoo as an experiment and we’ll see how that goes (and yes I know that’s the wrong way round – Dashboard was, to some, a copy of Konfabulator, now Yahoo widgets. It’s early days I think for widgets – the move to more of a distributed systems feel, with open APIs and web services, amongst modern web applications would seem to be a perfect match for small desktop applications that tie into them. Watch this space.

@media redux

Yes it’s back. @media returns as promised by Patrick last year and, well, it’s definately bigger. Two streams, more speakers and panels than you can shake a pink elephant at. I know for a fact that this was being planned even before Molly had left the bar last year and boy does it show.

The blogs are alight with the sound of people coming up with something, anything to tell their bosses in the morning. I’m sure I’m not the only one still awake either posting comments (Yes Zach, Patrick I do mean you) and making blog posts.

I’ll post more about what I want to see, how I’m going to decide which sessions to go to (I’ll need some sort of system – simply trying to decide which one’s will be best will only end in heartbreak) over the next 6 months or so. Yes it really is that far away. With the Carson Summit coming up so soon as well that should more than keep me going – especially with them having different emphasise (web standards/accessibility and web application development/design respectively) to keep thinks from getting boring.

And with all that in mind the reason it’s late when I post this makes sense. Yes it’s another feed agregator thing.

morethanseven.net/atmedia2006

The place is already starting to hot up and I’d guess that will only get worse (or better?) over the next few days. I’m glad to get in early this time. Last year proved useful (at least to me) in keeping up with the aftershow goings on with 150 posts from 52 feeds – but I only got it together a week or so after the event, thanks mainly to Faruk for compiling the initial list of posts.

Any bugs or suggestions let me know. Also if anyone has a good name (feed agregator is pretty mechanical) then please do tell. I’ve added a few of the requested features from previous editions and it’s now possible to quickly suggest new feeds and to search through all the posts.

Anyway – Hope to see people in June. My predictions of a year of real world activity to mirror our enlightened online existence are coming to fruitition already.

@Commented-on Follow up

Since the brief discussion based around ben’s original idea for using del.icio.us to track comments you have made on other blogs I’ve been having a play.

The main issue that people saw was simplicity, which I see falling under two headings:

  • Ideally it should just happen. If you comment somewhere (and opt in, obviously) you browser or online service should keep a track and give you access to this data. This would require changes to existing blogs and in particular the common software like textpattern or the other one
  • Saving that for later, a simple one click service which does not get in the way and achieves the same thing should be suitable.

It’s the later that I’ve been playing with and thought I’d present here in it’s early stages. The plan is as follows:

  • A bookmarklet collects the data from the page (title and url) and sends it to an intermediary page, rather than del.icio.us.
  • The intermediary page prompts for a username and password (HTTP authentication) and adds the post to del.icio.us automatically.
  • The page is then either closed or redirected back to the page from whence the request came.

The bookmarklet

The bookmarklet section is simple enought modifications of the existing del.icio.us bookmarklets. See the download at the end of this post for details.

Intermediary

The intermediary page uses HTTP authentication to ask for a del.icio.us username and password (note that I’m not storing these at all, or for that matter at present checking if they are correct.) This needs only happen the first time you use the page if you use your browser to store the details or once per browser session otherwise.

The page then makes a request to the del.icio.us API using the lovely PHP library from dietrich.ganx4.com/delicious/

Return

On a failed request the page reports that an error has occured (I’ll expand on this with more pertinent error messages as time permits.)

On success however we have two options, depending on the bookmarklet used. The default is to close the page down, with an alternative beiong to redirect back to the refering page. We do however run into a slight problem here with Firefox. Our favourite browser will only allow windows to be closed via javascript if they where opening by a script (NOT including our bookmarket). Internet Explorer has a similar set up where it prompts the user for an action, although a simple fudge get’s us around that one. At the moment therefore the close window bookmarklet is of limited usage for Firefox users.

Future

This could quite easily be expanded for use on a blog as the requests are simple HTTP requests with query string parameters. However the security implications of giving out your username and password would likely limit this approach. I’m going to look into the sending of bookmarks to others that ben mentioned and see if that can be used here – as hopefully that may only require you to give out your username. A service like gravatar could then be used to do lookups between email addresses and del.icio.us usernames and away we go.

Any thoughts, comments or suggestions welcome. And feel free to try out the bookmarklets. I’ve included a handy download below including a quick readme and the bookmarklets.

download @Commented-on pack

Obligatory next year post

Well, that’s nearly 2005 over and done with. Quite an eventful year all told and I couldn’t let it end without the obligatory next year post .

So without further ado, this year various things happened to me:

  • @media was great. Met lots of nice people and had a blast. Roll on next year.
  • I moved jobs
  • I actually started blogging. I redesigned the site around that goal and now I’m hooked. Oh well.
  • The Reboot was a massive success. It got me to redo my site properly, got me all of ten minutes of minor fame and I’m still on the front page. Thanks to everyone.

Next year my crystal ball predicts:

  • The Carson Workshops Summit will be huge.
  • I’ll find something more specific to write about rather than jumping around all the time.
  • Newcastle New Media will kick into action with some real world meetups and then who knows?

On less of a self centred trip:

  • Elastic and Liquid design will be essential.
  • Yahoo Vs Google will really hot up. With more buying and innovating that you can shake a stick at.
  • Intel powered Apples will be launch to a crazy ipod fueled public. Who still wont buy them. They will however by the machine of choice for the discerning conference attending web design geek next year.
  • Some crazy, web 2.0, buzzword compliant CMS/Blogging software will hit the streets causing a ruckus. Textpattern will still be great.
  • Some cools stuff has to come out of Alexa opening up their archive via web services

All in all, I’m looking forward to next year for a range of reasons including the above. Hope to see (or meet) all of you (again) over the coming year.