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.
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.
It’s Friday, so I’m going to take a few minutes to describe the most annoying concept I see espoused by 95%+ of blogs I read, people I talk to, and friends I have. The problem is until you let go, you’ll never be able to build something truly useful to a non-trivial audience.
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.
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.
Denton responds that they can’t really afford anything like that right now.
Noel’s design shows up on Fleshbot, a few days later they remembered to credit him for it.
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.
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.
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.
It’s over, it’s done. Those of you holding on should wave the white flag as two of the best flexible width sites, Doug Bowman and Dan Cederholm, have thrown in the towel and gone fixed-width without even an entry of explanation, I suppose because the benefits of fixed-width are so obvious no explanation is necessary.
Dear Mr Antonioni:
I recently screened your classic film, The Red Desert, starring Monica Vitti and Richard Harris. I have a problem with the way you used screen space. My theater’s screen is big and wide. It is capable of handling many actors at the same time. For instance, crowd scenes and battle scenes work well. But in your movie there are only a few actors — and many times they are pictured in one corner of the screen or another, against a stark minimalist background. This is a terrible waste of screen space. For instance, there is one scene where Ms Vitti is filmed on the left side of the screen and there is a white forest behind her. The white forest is not much to look at. Sure, I can look to the left and watch Ms Vitti’s performance, but what do I see when I squint my eyes and look only at the right side of the screen? Not much! I urge you to add extra characters and situations to your movie so every inch of my screen bursts with action at all times.
Ouch. Now I think the film/web analogy is a bad one, and it breaks down with any sort of critical thought. Zeldman knows this but he’s trying to make a point.
Was it that long ago that flexible-width designs were all the rage? They came in with a bang, and left with a whimper. Is anyone still holding out? Are there any good flexible sites left? The only place I see it anymore in web applications (such as the WordPress administration interface) and in lightly designed e-commerce sites like Amazon.