Category Archives: Design

Saying No?

Via Boris I came across a post on Susan Mernit’s blog called the No Patrol. It is supposed to be a defense of saying “no” to things in the product development cycle, but as I read each bullet point it struck me as actually a brilliant summary of why big companies often fail to create anything truly interesting, or put another way, why a product like Yahoo Personals is so impersonal. No one would advocate bloat or cruft in software, but sometimes a little silliness, a little frivolity, a little “novelty outweighs the business impact” is what separates a Youtube from a Google Video. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

New Blog Design

It is now official get out of your RSS reader day. Take a few minutes to check out the new photomatt.net and browse around a bit. This is, I believe, the fifth major iteration of the design here but it’s the first one since 2003. When I last freshened the paint around here it got a link from Zeldman saying “lucky in redesign” and I figured I would never be able to top that, so I left the design the same for years. The only major change was the introduction of Asides in 2004.

Well I couldn’t top the last design, but Nicolò Volpato had no trouble creating something beautiful I started coding up earlier this weekend. Nicolò is still working on mocking up a few of the pages, and in the meantime I’ve been working on a little additional functionality around the site, particularly with photos.

Here are a few things you might notice so far: related posts on entry pages, recent entries shown in the sidebar on entries older than 2 weeks, when a blog is from the same day as a photo album random photos from that day are shown at the bottom, and likewise a photo will show when there’s a post that day.

The main goals of the photo integration were to enable a little more serendipity. There are a lot of other little Easter eggs, but those will remain an exercise for the reader.

Nick Denton: Blog Maven / Thief

Every once in a while someone you hear a story that makes your blood boil. Sometimes it happens to someone you know. Joe Clark has the complete details, but here’s a rundown of the events as I understand them:

  1. Noel Jackson redesigns Fleshbot using CSS and XHTML, all in perfectly compliant code. I talked with him for a bit of this, sent some screenshots. He worked really hard on it and the result was, if I may say so, gorgeous despite the questionable content.
  2. Joe contacts Nick Denton on behalf of Noel saying what a neat thing Noel had done and recommending they hire him. Joe can be a nice guy like that.
  3. Denton responds that they can’t really afford anything like that right now.
  4. Noel’s design shows up on Fleshbot, a few days later they remembered to credit him for it.
  5. Later Noel’s exact code, right down to an empty div he had to add to get the layout to work just right, shows up on Gawker and Gizmodo. Some colors are changed, and likely due to incompetence of the implementor the other new designs have numerous mistakes added.
  6. Noel steams quietly for a few days, then talks to Nick Denton. Denton doesn’t see what the big deal was using Noel’s copyrighted work on several other sites. It reminds me of people who rip off other’s designs and then don’t understand why you’re mad about it. The copies are not as high quality as the original, as well.

Smells rotten to me. Personally I was quite fond of Gizmodo, as it really is a high quality blog, but I’m not going to visit it anymore and I’ve delinked it because I don’t want to support a company with such low ethical standards. I encourage you to consider the situation and come to your own conclusions. All I can do at this point to support Noel at this point is let more people know about what’s happened to him, in the hope that possibly this could end on a more positive note.

Update: Denton has emailed me and is telling everyone that he has posted chat transcripts that clear everything up. I applaud him for putting more information out there, but it doesn’t seem to help his case much. I suppose anyone can claim ignorance as the reason for a mistake. Some will believe that, some won’t. What makes the difference is actions from here on out, now that everything is “clear.”

Distributed Social Networking Software

One of the greatest things about South by Southwest interactive last year, which I just barely made it to, was the incredible creative energy born of like-minded people interacting with each other closely. Out of a conversation with Tantek Çelik regarding linking, social interaction, and leveraging HTML rather fabricating new formats I became involved in what now is known as XFN, or the XHTML Friends Network.

XFN is a standardized method for leveraging the HTML rel attribute to describe relationships between people. More simply, it’s about enhancing how you link to somebody. Together with Tantek and Eric Meyer (and wonderful feedback) we’ve put together some great information and guidelines for using XFN. Check it out and share the link.

As an example of an early XFN application, people who I’ve met in person now automatically have a star beside their name when I link to them. See the “timely dozen” to your right or my portal page.