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Weblog of Freelance Designer Steven Clark

6/4/2005

Should You Be Podcasting?

Filed under: — 12:40 pm

What is podcasting and why have we been hearing so much about podcasting in the recent past? What can podcasting do? Why have I used podcasting in several sentences and not just used the ‘it’ word? Is podcasting something you even need to know about? Well yes to the last one and I’ll explain something about the rest in turn.

First, I mentioned podcasting over and over because I want you to remember it and not think of it as just another technical catch phrase. I don’t want you to dismiss it as superfluous trivia either because its a technology that’s going to change a lot of how we do things. Podcasting isn’t just about getting mp3s for your music collection.

Put simply when RSS became RSS 2 it provided the ability to include audio and video files into RSS feeds. Podcasting is the creation of an mp3 file that’s then made available with RSS 2. Its really as simple as that and some lateral thinking will no doubt come up with a gamut of applications you can put it to. With podcasts you can deliver you own radio show, its deliverable like all RSS at the users convenience and isn’t subject to the same laws that apply to real-time radio stations. The key is its easy to produce podcasts and they are available when users want to experience them - you just have to figure out how to make commercial profit from them with new business models.

In the bigger picture RSS and podcasting are changing the way we do business and how information and products are, or can be, delivered to our clients. Its a ‘user request’ and not a ‘company sent’ line of communication too which means you won’t be sending those unwanted emails out to people. Provide the RSS Reader and instructions how to install it and then point users to your RSS page. From then on the client has real time access to all of your product information via RSS and podcasts. Podcasting is just another dimension to the RSS experience.

5/4/2005

Blogs as Business Strategy

Filed under: — 8:19 pm

As a near daily blogger (blogophile) and someone who enjoys some great Flash on broadband on occasion (vicarious Flashturbator) its not a surprise to anyone that I read a great many blogs on a daily basis (yes a bloody blogoholic). Its a way of building business and social relationships, it gives me a view of what’s hot and what’s not in the design world, it puts my finger on the real time daily pulse of a world community. But its also a business thing - we should probably all have blogs if only to bring business to the door.

Blogging’s becoming something CEOs are looking at more and more and recently Jeffrey Zeldman asked not only ’should every blog have a business’ but also ’should every business have a blog’? The short answer to both is yes you should, it should and we all should.

I recommend to clients now that they should consider having blog software integrated into their site design too. A blog, if used properly and with original content, offers the business a way of delivering updates and information via RSS and Atom feeds to a waiting world audience. Real time updates to a real audience and without the worry of invoking the wrath of the already over-spammed.

A sports shoe store, for example, could obviously blog their latest sale prices or offer ongoing information to athletes and enthusiasts. A kennel can offer support information for the welfare of dogs. Someone high up in Microsoft can offer the reasons why IE isn’t what we’d like. And they are real world blogs being done by the day. So you don’t have to be a genius to see the commercial value of endearing customer loyalty and pursuing those relationships. If you’re like me and run your blog and a business site they have the power to share an audience, as well. And Google loves dynamic fresh word meat more than anything I can think of (except maybe direct cash deposits of course).

Good blogs offer something unique to the author(s), something not borrowed or stolen. They’re created with enthusiasm and if you’re excited about it you can excite others, too. In fact last year blogging rose by 58% (even if the figures are a bit suspect due to the spam blogging phenomena). Real blogs not only offer a wealth of information and resources on about every subject known to man but they also have the potential to make you money, and make your business money.

2/4/2005

Designers and Coders

Filed under: — 4:28 pm

Reading the Web Standards Group daily email digest the other day I was knocked over by a couple of simple questions from someone I consider far more knowledgable than myself at the whole web standards thing, whether that was just a biased impression I’d grown for no reason isn’t really clear. But this guy does know his stuff. The questions were - what are use cases?, and what is information architecture?

This is important because it defines where I see coders and designers parting ways. In fact web development covers a wide range of actual jobs and these are just 2 blurry lines that often shift back and forth. Its important because here is someone who is a great coder, he knows the specs backwards, is a great troubleshooter and problem solver and would be a fantastic team asset. But what does the designer do? Well maybe I should call him an information architect or at least say that information architect is a subset of the designer role. The designer is less interested in the nuances of actual code and doesn’t design within his capabilities. They will take all of the information and research and design the most effective user interface for the situation, and they are also problem solvers but of a different type.

I could ramble on about this no end and probably not everyone will agree with how I draw my blurry lines here. In Japan the web development project is clearly defined into a great many actual jobs. Myself, like a lot of people who do this, I’m a fence sitter in that I can code a bit but I’m primarily interested in design. I’d like to be the one doing the report, the investigation, the research into effectively achieving the organisational goals and objectives. I enjoy investigating the underlying information architecture to reveal a user centric view of the information and how it should relate.

So although they’re different they’re closely related by necessity in small business at least. And I only mention it as I was totally shocked someone I see as very adept in his field had not even heard of some very basic software engineering principles. It made me feel a little bit good to know that some of the things I say do actually make sense. My job after all is to make a successful site that gets used and makes money. Just a tad more to it than perfect code…

1/4/2005

A Post-Mortem - Why They Never Got the Contract

Filed under: — 3:39 pm

A good 5 months ago I was informally asked for some advice on a project that would launch a national company involved in fuel transport onto the web. They were specifically looking to do the job right and wanted a company intranet / extranet set up for them. They emailed me as I had a contact there whose responsibility was actually this project with the question - we’ve got bids between $8,000 and $80,000 and what’s the difference? - so I sent them a bunch of information, recommended they contact the Web Standards Group for referrals, and they went off to choose their designer… so this is the story as this project nears completion.

The lady the Web Standards Group recommended came highly qualified but underprepared, the feedback is that she seemed to know her stuff but in her presentation she appeared to the corporate end of town to be unprepared and not someone they felt would work well within the corporation. They needed someone who they could rely on, they wanted a CMS that wasn’t free and which had support, and they wanted someone they could feel confident in bringing the job to a successful completion. So who got the job…

Well I’m not sure of the actual company but they won the $27,500 bid and are providing a CMS that meets the clients needs, they presented well on the day and knew what they could and couldn’t provide and were confident. Weekly meetings ensure that everyone involved in the project gets input and is heard, feedback is obviously important.

Its very unfortunate that the web standards lady who was very qualified didn’t get the job simply on presentation and the impression she’d made. Its highly unlikely you’ll find any company ready to risk that much money on another company that doesn’t portray professionalism. Not to be beastly to her by a long shot. I mean if you’re going to sell to corporate they’ll be more comfortable with someone who looks, acts and speaks on their level. Which is natural.

29/3/2005

Steven - Pig in the City

Filed under: — 9:00 am

Well I’ll be in Sydney from April 20th (a Wednesday) until April 24th (the Sunday) meeting some clients for a face to face. Its that interstate move thing that has to happen with Taswegians (that’s a Tasmanian to the rest of the world) if they want to escape the local scene at all. How do I explain web development in Tasmania? Well yes we’ve got a few larger firms that pretty much have it sown up as well as a few solid established ones and of course 20,000 freelancers that can do anything from FrontPage sites to hard core programming on the back end. I guess its how it is wherever one travels.

The issues in Tasmania in general revolve more around the larger unemployment rate though. We’ve got a state where every second person seems to have a degree in something or several certificates and diplomas. Web design in particular has been a fave of Centrelink for ‘Work for the Dole’ programs where they teach basic DreamWeaver while exploiting them by doing business sites cheaply. TAFE also pumps out a large array of designers on a six monthly basis across 3 schools and also runs multimedia and graphic arts streams… so its a little pond (whinge whinge). What we don’t have is a real lot of standards compliant developers (or people who understand these concepts).

So if you’re interested in hooking up for a beer while we’re over there (or your company is looking to take on a standards developer who is always willing to learn more) then those are the dates I’m in town.

Why should you hire me? Because I do this stuff for a passion and the other guy does it for the money. Who will make you richer?!

28/3/2005

How To Convince the Unconvincable?

Filed under: — 8:29 pm

How do you convince a business that doesn’t want to listen when it comes to paying for market research into who exactly their site will be used by, what that user will want to do, how that user will interact with the interface and how to design that interface to best commercial (and therefore usable) effect? Well you don’t.

The bottom line is that for a business to put up a half arsed solution to skimp a grand or two then its their call. What can you do? Hold them down? Get out the big fat semantic feather?

I suppose its true that Norty Pig doesn’t court the bottom dollar and it could be interpreted that we only want the larger customers but that isn’t exactly true. While we’d like to be paid more for our time its actually not an argument about money as such, more about methodology. Say if you knew a 21 year old engineer had $4000 of disposable dollars to spend this year on your merchandise, say if you’re only one of many options for him to spend that money on, say even that he has a lot of close friends with the same demographic,

(snap goes the camera and you’ve got the picture by now)

wouldn’t you try to make your site a streamlined experience to get into his pants (well wallet)? So I don’t feel really bad missing the boat on jobs where they only want a cloned page with their face on it. Norty Pig makes pretty good pages that would’ve made them more money than otherwise. After all software engineering is about the process not just the coding stage. We aren’t ‘too good’ for anything; we just don’t make rubbish pages.

By the way we’re always in the market to strike up business relationships with exceptional quality graphic artists and designers who might be interested in freelance work down the track, not necessarily web designers as such. One of the things we’re currently lacking in-house is the graphic element even though we’re working hard to get it under our roof. So drop a line and we’ll chat maybe.

27/3/2005

Old Blog / New Blog

Filed under: — 8:51 pm

Down with the old and up with the new as always - the old Norty Pig blog was left up as an archive but I decided a few days ago to pull it down and redirect to this one because its newer and more relevant. It was a tough choice as Google loved it (hand coded individual pages choc full of lovely Googley keyword relevant content) but for all the many visitors it had every month in archive it didn’t get many return visitors so it was time to bite the bullet and chuck it into my filing system. I’d considered laboriously entering the articles into WordPress but no thanks… martyrs all turned left at the last corridor.

Easter sees me waiting for my new PC to be assembled in the shop too with a better quality monitor. There’s always the capital outlay for software and equipment to be concerned about in small business. But yes out with the old and in with the new (at bloody last).

26/3/2005

Shopping Cart Tardus

Filed under: — 3:20 pm

This week I did a rough assessment of an acquaintance’s website and was left with the question - when does a shopping cart become a Tardus (as in Dr Who’s preferred mode of transport)?. This was one of the most ingloriously confusing mazes of unusable nonsense.

Every page on this site had a clickable shopping cart icon that lead on a dead trail requiring either full and detailed registration or login and password and which culminated in the affirmation that my shopping cart was empty. Umm yeh I kind of knew that so why put the icon everywhere if its always going to be bloody empty? A stream that’s a blind alley wastes my valuable time and nobody wins. The cart required JavaScript to be enabled so 10% or users weren’t able to access this right off the bat.

My next bet was a link on the homepage called ’shop’ which I thought might have something to buy. Unfortunately it was just a plain old disclaimer page that explained transport and return policies for the site. I noted this was the third navigation structure I’d found so far which was another major usability issue, consistency of navigation being an important aspect for designing user interfaces.

Third choice was to enter the galleries directly. Clicking a large slow loading thumbnail brought up a larger image (using JavaScript again) which contained the link to the real e-commerce stream that I’d assumed to exist on the site. On one occasion I couldn’t work out why the images wouldn’t work because just as pop-ups steal focus and confuse they can also be stuck behind the current browser window.

The gallery stream in fact led me to the same login and registration stream as the earlier unsuccessful shopping cart icon. My back was really up at this point and it had become really unpleasant as I went further in the cart process line. For one there were no indicators that said I was at step 2 of 6, for example. In fact in the end I was dumped at a screen that simply said your order has been made and you should post a cheque or money order to the named person’s home address??? Ummm why my detailed registration? Why don’t you want my money? Why stuff me around when you could have just given me your address on the contact page without the bloody shopping cart? Why why why?

The simple truth about this site is that questions weren’t asked about what would a user do and the architecture hadn’t been considered worthy of attention. By creating simple personas and doing use-case studies its possible to identify every single one of these problems including the one about no reason to be having a shopping cart in the first place. OK I’m probably overly critical but it was a long and frustrating journey to reach a pot of tar.

The case study in question is exactly the best example I’ve seen in a long time as to why businesses shouldn’t go for the cheapest solution in town, why documentation, testing, research and sound science should go into building a website. How valuable is an unusable shopping cart? How much is it worth to not only not get business but deter customers from giving you money? From a business perspective it was just a waste of time and resources to irritate the general public (pulls out hair in ranting gagging moment of angst).

Yet if the underlying information architecture had been assessed and proper investigative background study undertaken with user and technical testing this same site owner may well be some thousands of dollars richer already and the extra work would have probably paid for itself. Money saved not installing a cart (let alone an inferior one) and thinking about the sensible naming of links may have eased my experience entirely. From home page to checkout in the shortest route was about 8 or 9 clicks with a few extra and a form to fill in if you needed to register an account (an account for what by the way? and why did they want my address, phone number and email?).

OK that’s my rant and it also relates to the expectations of businesses to get the most for the least out of web developers. Basically you get what you pay for and $500 gets you about how many hours work, thought and meetings? The whole idea is we’re supposed to make you money goosey so invest in us, trust us to do the hard yards and pay us our dues. OK here’s a challenge - if I make you money then pay me more and if I don’t make you money then pay me less. Write it into the contract. Cos that’s my job - to make us both richer.

23/3/2005

WordPress Quicktags in 1.2.2

Filed under: — 5:36 pm

OK I’m a doofus and couldn’t work out why Quicktags weren’t showing in my WordPress admin section. Mystery solved. Now while I’ve read some deep and interesting stuff trying to work it out the answer was so unbelievably simple I think its important for everyone to pull up a chair.

You see, I use a web development toolbar like a lot of people (know now?) and one thing I do quite regularly when assessing sites is TURN JAVASCRIPT OFF.

So like a doofus with a club foot stuck in the back of my mouth the solution was low tech and simple. In fact this was a perfect example of my emotively running off to solve something that good methodical problem solving should have caught very early.

Ajax (the web’s latest flame)

Filed under: — 5:13 pm

Our personal relationship with the Web has always led to small issues becoming points of flame war legend. I’ve been personally attacked in the past for using XHTML and delivering as mime type text / html and seen some real corkers erupt over the semantic differences between an unordered and ordered list or a paragraph and something that’s not a paragraph (librarian get ye a life). So just for the sport of it and in incredulous wonder at how passionately change can inspire people to flame I thought I’d mention Ajax.

Personally I tend to either agree with Fiftyfoureleven or think its a non-issue entirely. OK so it existed before but so what? The choice we have is either use it or don’t use it. What terming it Ajax did was bring it into the front row so we could collectively look at it. So what - a new name? Am I going to run out and bonk some guy called ‘Hero Bastard’ on the head for using deed poll to change his name (OK that’s ridiculous).

I guess what I’m saying is there are bigger fish to fry than splitting hairs over chicken and egg stuff like which technology evolved into which to the nth degree. Its insane to think as well that any computer related field is going to stay the way you had it last week because you’ve become comfortable (a sign your business may be in for a wake up call too).

The idea is just that Ajax is a hell of a lot easier to remember off the top of your head. Man that’s such a basic idea. Of course calling it Ajax and all this discussion just made about a million new people aware of it overnight (OK I made up a million) so in itself that’s a good thing, too.

22/3/2005

The Monitor Variable

Filed under: — 1:20 pm

On a general note my office computer monitor has had far better days. It was cheap, generic and needs to go to heaven. Or does it?

When I design I find walking over to my partner’s higher priced new monitor shows a different user experience (sometimes entirely). Not only do colours not always display the same there’s the differences in legibility of text and clarity of images. Occasionally I’ll go back to my work and revisit the pallette because something I perceived as subtle on mine has become overtly blatant on the better (and calibrated) monitor.

I guess the instinct here is to run off and say ditch the old one and get a newer and better model. But what about the number of users on the net with older monitors just like mine? I’m sure its not that unusual. While I’m definately getting another in the near future I think from a usability testing point of view (and accessibility in general) this old and dying gem is a useful tool as a minimum bar to get over. Develop on the newer screen and test on the old for legibility of text.

I remember reading a blog on these lines some time back but thought I’d bring it up again as its a given that not everyone has a sub-one year old monitor that isn’t budget that they use for the web.

21/3/2005

They Return from SXSW

Filed under: — 11:54 am

Its good to see the who’s who have started returning home from the infamous SXSW in Texas (where they execute the most people for the least reason apparently). Home of the Alamo, JR Ewing and those bloody big hats. OK you can tell that I’m green to the gills for being too impoverished and not famous enough to get a trip to the United States. Well I’m not sure I’m actually allowed into the U.S. anyway so I’d better hold that wish.

I think the number of blogs that reported back on the event seemed to give a good enough coverage though. I’d only have gotten bored like Joe Clark (but without the BOOORING cardboard thing - and no apparently he never held it up to the presenters lol but that’s where urban legends get started). It was funny because the next day I read about it on one of my fave reads Overcaffeinated where Joe was summarily chastised for this rude behaviour. As a speaker I’d have been pretty pissed off with that attitude but I guess I’m not an SXSW kind of guy so I wouldn’t know.

Anyway guys welcome back to the world of sobriety and I’m sure if you’s all get mighty nostalgic about the good ol’ times in Texas you’s can get into a few games of HomeRun. All this game really needs now is for the character in the game to sing out ‘My name eez Villiam Vallace, and I vant FREEDOOOOM’.

19/3/2005

Hunter Island Press and Harvest Supplies

Filed under: — 12:37 pm

We’re working on 4 sites here at the moment and trying to get the content together in between bouts of email regurgitation and tele-not-communication glitches. Plain text holding pages are up in the interim for 2 of these if you want a space to watch - pull up a beanbag and sit quietly for a period of time until we get us the stuff to create with - an NPO in Hobart called Hunter Island Press and a winery supplies distributor in Queensland called Harvest Supplies. Like I said they’re just text holding pages at the moment looking for Google’s love and affection.

Still working slowly on the PC4Peace redesign / rebuild in Japan although I’ve recently had a run of email mis-configurations on this end of the planet. I know they’re busy with their latest consignment of computers being sent off to Cambodia though so its not surprising with Uni commitments and everything else that they’re finding it hard at the moment. I’ve pitched a rough proposal and we need to really look closely at the logo and so forth but its coming along.

My partner has taken on a couple of sites recently and seems to be gathering interest in the Arts sector. She’s a printmaker - lindenlangdon.com and Translucent - with a B.A. in Natural Environment and Wilderness Studies and a B.F.A. with first class honours in Printmaking. She’s also doing a Certificate 4 in Website Design and another Certificate 4 in Multimedia. So while she isn’t directly Norty Pig she’s fast becoming the wave of the future here.

We’re meeting the guys from Harvest Supplies in Sydney from the 20th April to the 24th to discuss content and their parent site for IMEMS Pty Ltd. Then we’re also over to Perth in W.A. from the 18th May to the 23rd as my partner is a part of the Hatched exhibition which is displaying the best contemporary art from graduating honours students around the country. Exciting stuff.

So things are looking kind of busy on the ground (if and when content arrives to get it all moving again). Its always like full forward and full stop with these things, never a constant speed. Maybe its the way I judge my momentum and exactly why I’d never be a great speedway racer. Ah but that’s another story full of bullshit and wishful thinking. Its better just to enjoy the ride.

18/3/2005

Some Beginner Coding Tips

Filed under: — 11:01 am

One of the first tips I can give is if you’re doing CSS layouts then either put borders or different background colours on your containers so you can see what’s pushing where because its not always obvious. Its simple and I’ve been called a ‘Duh’ but 2 seconds of putting it in can make you slap your forehead.

Document your work either internally with comments, externally or both. This will save you so much trouble when you realise last week’s pages are falling over and the form has scroll bars (don’t laugh that was me yesterday).

Get your hands dirty on the coal-face and don’t rely on WYSIWYG editors to do it all. You need to understand what the code means and how it reacts to different browsers. Try HTML Kit which is what I use or something similar. If you’re interested in Java try Eclipse.

Note that no matter what or who you do anything for you have to keep backups or previous versions if you don’t want to eventually have to go back and fix the unfixable.

If you cut and paste code (particularly with PHP in my case) either put it underneath and rewrite it by hand or paste it onto MS Notepad first and then onto your page to get rid of the invisible characters. Many a PHP line fails simply because of this.

Another PHP tip is never leave spaces before your PHP opening tag. Often simply backspacing the tag to the beginning of a line gets code working.

Do one thing at a time and then check it in several browsers. This sounds like its going to take more time than just hacking it all better at the Fantastic Code Hospital but in the long run it nearly always works out quicker to test after each change of your code.

Go to forums, good ones like Webdeveloper.com, PHP Freaks or Codewalkers. Active forums mean more likelihood of responses to your questions faster.

Use DOCTYPES and the correct validators to check your (X)HTML and CSS. Get the relevant specs for your code and keep them handy. A short list (for example of simple XHTML no-no’s) pasted to your wall will save you a lot of time.

Understand separation of content from display from behaviour (XHTML, CSS and Unobtrusive JavaScript respectively). Try not to use inline styles for example as this mixes the display within the content.

I guess that’s all I can fit in here off the top of my head while avoiding my current email issues - yet again. If you’re new to coding of any sort maybe these short tips could help you save an hour or so of work later on. Write good clean code, comment, test and be sure to backup your work. Finally, ask questions and be annoying until you get the right answers!

17/3/2005

Never Did Hear from ALA

Filed under: — 12:29 pm

Admittedly I’m just a poor bugger from the penguin infested legume growing from Australia’s buttock but I’d kind of hoped a trickle of my question regarding A List Apart’s article on Dynamic Text Replacement with PHP written by Stewart Rosenberger would make it back to them and they’d eventually know - problemo - there is an issue for quite a few people with getting it to work.

So I’m kind of yell-beg-hairpulling it into the blogosphere as an open question still?

Why does IE show the alts but only red X’s and why does FF display the words in the original font and bunched together without spaces between them? I figure there has to be a logical technical fixable answer to that one that maybe someone’s discovered since it was posted.

My frustration comes from having read the entire 28 pages of comments a number of times and having no way to contribute to that closed thread. So if you know Stewart’s number or have your best mate at ALA you can tell them I think they’re legends but I’m absolutely out of my depth here. Is it my server, as I’d suspect? If so, what needs to be done to fix this one identifiable problem…

Ball of knowledge thrown into the blogosphere to be caught (hopefully) by someone who knows how to fill it and send it back to me. If you do you’re a legend because it’d be sooo bloody handy.

16/3/2005

May 1st Reboot

Filed under: — 10:28 am

Here’s an interesting concept that I’d never known about until this month - the May 1st Reboot.

The idea is an international array of web designers register with Reboot and commit to creating a new design to be launched simultaneously on May 1st and its been happening since 2000. So on April 25 all the sites that are participating in this year’s Reboot will go down and just have a Reboot holding page. On the 1st they’ll all upload their index pages at exactly the same time and voila! Yep I’ll be checking out their work bigtime.

Uber-cool way to get yourself out there with something new, experimental or innovative.

13/3/2005

Absolute and Relative URLs

Filed under: — 10:19 am

Its not always easy to get the idea of absolute and relative addressing through to people at first but once it’s in there it’s like riding a bike.

An absolute URL (or URI for that matter, don’t worry about splitting hairs here) consists of something like ‘http://www.nortypig.com/graphics/pic1.jpg‘. This simply says the message is http (hypertext transfer protocol) and the file is located on the domain name of nortypig.com in a folder called graphics and that it’s a jpg file called pic1. That’s about it really. You can if you wish use this method to reference files on your site but most often it’d be for external ones.

A relative URL on the other hand is a reference to a file relative to the file calling it. So if you look at the first example and assume that we’re in the nortypig.com folder already and you want to reference that same jpg from the index page you would simply write ‘graphics/pic1.jpg‘. The server is savvy enough to know you just mean look in the graphics folder that sits next to my index.html file and get the pic1.jpg image. Likewise you’ll often have to go up a directory.

Doing that one is easy too if you can imagine another folder called test sitting next to the graphics folder and index.html. In the test folder is a file called testpage.html and you need to display the jpg on it so you would write ‘../‘ to go up a directory and leave the test folder and then ‘graphics/pic1.jpg‘. So the complete reference to do it is ‘../graphics/pic1.jpg‘. Its pretty cool really and you can always figure out any issues by looking at the actual file structure on your server to see where you’ve gone wrong.

So what about this one? I have a CSS stylesheet in a folder called stylesheets that sits next to the folders called test and graphics and next to the index.html file. The CSS file in the stylesheets folder is styles.css and it is called into the head of the index.html file with a link in the head section of the (X)HTML. If you can visualise it great but if not then draw it on a napkin while you try to work out what I’m getting at. So in my styles.css file I want to call a background image into a div perhaps. How would I do it? Is it from relative to the index.html file or the styles.css file? The answer is it’s relative the styles.css and requires you to go up a directory and into the graphics folder by writing ‘../graphics/pic1.jpg‘.

The obvious advantages of using relative referencing are that you have shorter addresses to deal with and that your site is portable. It can be moved onto another domain and will work perfectly, wheras with absolute referencing you would have to change the nortypig.com part. I guess a lot of what you do with this comes down to judgement calls and personal taste but its important you do understand the difference and how to access resources in both ways effectively.

11/3/2005

Communication Glitch

Filed under: — 2:15 pm

The best laid plans of mice and me (n) definately don’t forsee every contingency. I recently had a slowing of communication with the Harvest Supplies people in Queensland. At present I’ve uploaded a simple text page but I’m designing and will be building a decent site that caters for ordering and has a member login area and some other stuff . But why was it looking like it was out to sink?

The clues were my email client sent the Harvest emails - the emails never arrived at Harvest. So where did they go? Well a few months back the Harvest account was moved to another server and a not unusual thing to do in this evolution is to retain the original mail box until the new one was properly established. So what was happening was I would send my email, it’d look to see if the address was on the same server (which the old one surely was) and just place the email there. So nobody elses email disappeared just mine. Unfortunate to say the least.

So there goes a couple of months of sending user questionnaires and reports and trying to establish information to develop personas, a couple of proposed site maps of course. Its a good tap on the shoulder that all business correspondence really needs to use digital signatures or other means of verification of receipt. This small oversight just in hours worked that had no value, the slightly corroded but fixable business image it portrayed and the simplicity with which it could have been detected and solved in the shorter term are indicative of a need for better lines of communication with interstate clients. We’re meeting in Sydney for a face to face in late April and hope to hammer out the last of the design elements there.

10/3/2005

$500 Sites With Documentation?

Filed under: — 1:08 pm

I’ve asked this question a lot this year and how do people create AU$500 sites with documentation and research and testing and the gamut of pieces that make up the whole? Well they don’t, lets be honest. If your client asks for a AU$500 five page site then you have to gather the content from them, source graphics, answer emails and phone calls, most likely attend at least one meeting, provide a technical specification report as well as questionnaires and surveys, do an information architecture report of some sort investigating the information your client has and evaluating the competition and probably much more. Which to my estimate on AU$500 sites says to me you’re broke before a line of code is written.

So its OK to make a site 5 pages long for AU$500 but don’t make me believe you’re doing the whole shebang there. On those new terms yes I could produce for clients without too much stress a basic and static well laid out standards compliant website.

The difference between a AU$400 and AU$4000 site becomes apparent when you see the paperwork involved and look at the site map. The AU$4000 site will likely offer a level of programming, target your clients directly instead of merely displaying static information, it would include e-commerce and some database wizardry that makes users want to give you money - even helps them give you money. And that’s where the buzz is really, its in success. But now I think about it I see the other side of the coin too which is making a static site for $500 is quite practical if that’s what the client insists on to save money in the short term. I think I’ll have to do a couple, not put my name to them and see how the whiskey tastes when its payday. I also love Porche 911’s if you’ve got one for my wish list lol… never know your luck ay.

7/3/2005

Taming Scope on Freebies

Filed under: — 8:30 pm

Where is a big job declared to be too big? Or a small job said to be large for that matter? Scope is the creeping enemy that can and will sink the smallest software projects right up to the multi-million dollar ones. So its important before ever a line of code, or agreement to sell your soul, that you and the client come to a signed agreement of what you are willing to do for the money that they’re willing to pay. Its as simple as that in its most basic form. Anything bigger than the original plan means scope creep and you’ll have it written into the contract this is work to be billed on top of your original quote.

I mention scope because I’m reading some documents sent to me by a client who I’m about to do some free work for. The usual situation would be to use the contract and monetary means to try to keep the project in scope, but what do you do for free? And a high end programmer I’m definately not so there are also limits to my ability to bring things in at all let alone on time.

Well perhaps ‘keep it simple stupid’ (KISS) is the philosophy that comes to mind here. I can see that every extra bell and whistle could possibly become the solution. But does it have to? Wouldn’t a more usable and simple solution be more viable than making a complex one simply because you can? The right solution is the one that fits the problem like a glove not a giant Ugg boot (don’t sue me for using the Ugg word either).

So it makes me wonder what in the living life of Mulder (off the X-Files) can a guy do to pull this one into some kind of manageable scope?

In the meantime I’m having fun playing with Virtual Stan.

TheNews.com.au moves to Weblog.com.au

Filed under: — 2:05 pm

The recent article relating to TheNews.com.au has been kind of put out of date prematurely by its move and renaming back to Weblog.com.au, so many apologies to anyone looking under the hood and not seeing the product I’d advertised. These things happen in the wild world of website creation.

To make a positive of this move is probably to use both these sites as a comparison to some extent with perhaps the true path being one of design integration rather than exclusive islands of difference that now stand. Is one better than the other? Well no. Is one more usable, accessible, or visually attractive? Well they both have their high and low points of course. A site without content or visual design elements can be, well, yes a site with writing and not much else. While a site with an array of well crafted work may fail to offer the level of usability that’s probably expected in some quarters nowdays.

It’d be good to work with Jason sometime and make sites that are both visually dynamic as well as functionally and structurally more sound. The meeting of those two worlds is where the money sits. While I think a Jakob Nielsen design is like polishing the teeth of an elephant (both stupid and hilarious), so is the opposite pole of pure eye candy for the sake of it. Naturally its about bringing to market a product that makes money both for the developer and the client and creating good and interesting interfaces which have science behind them, which fulfil a users purpose on the site and makes them spend more time and money.

5/3/2005

When to Walk Away

Filed under: — 3:25 pm

There’s always going to be a tension or conflict between client and designer. The business might want specific things while the designer has other ideas. Is the client always right? Oh if it was only that easy I could sleep like a baby and drink whiskey every other night in front of the television.

Lets put it this way. Standing in the middle of a problem (as does the client) its not always that easy to see what the problem really amounts to. Its not to say they don’t know what their business is because they’re the most valuable resource of information about it that we’ll have at hand, but they don’t necessrily know how to identify the problem. I mean in the context of the creation of a web solution to solve their www problem. If they don’t have a problem they don’t need a designer to find a solution.

Its tiring wrestling with an organisation that just boldly insists they want what they want, too. Imagine they like animated gifs or have an extreme love of the brightest boldest cack fireman’s pencil red with green Times Roman because it’s on their company newsletter. What do you do? Well I guess my advice is as valid as anyone’s and its a judgement call, especially as a freelancer. Income vs grief and pain. Ideally the client should respect you know a bit of science about internet technologies and what works as well as the designer understanding the client has to go home with a product they’re happy to call their own. Unfortunately not all business relationships will be as amenable as the ideal and its necessary to cut them away and move on. Don’t let your job wreck your head, in other words, as its just not worth the bucks.

4/3/2005

TheNews Becomes Standard Compliant

Filed under: — 10:14 am

The recent dramatic rebuild of graphic designer Jason Carter’s TheNews launched today with a new minimilist look and with XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS, and powered by WordPress. While its not the eye candy but the white space pushing this design it’s built with a definite eye on being more usable and accessible than the previous one.

It’s encouraging to see the local web development industry becoming more open to the ideal of a more accessible and universal web. So, no tooting because I did the coding, congratulations to TheNews for reaching a greater audience more effectively with this new facelift. I’ve already subscribed to the RSS feed too.

2/3/2005

Good Java - The Value of Coffee

Filed under: — 11:29 am

This is a hardcore article because it covers fetish, addiction and coding all under the same heading - probably a h2 or h3 because I’m too lazy to look under the hood and find out what I’ve got going on under there today. Yes a sense of humour in web design is an essential or the world will fall down. But that’s not the topic.

Coffee is the topic. The hot warm wet love I have for my breakfast as I start up the aging beast in the office, still in a dressing gown or pulling my pants up. It stays by my side like a good dog for most of the day only being replaced by another good dog or a cup of coffee or the hand of my lovely mrs blister as she takes and leaves vessels of coffee for me to drink. There wouldn’t be much to the day without coffee and especially a good quality plunger coffee. Then the last thing before I go to bed at night or even in the morning sometimes is to have one last coffee so the sleep will envelop me. My woman first naturally, doggies second, my computer third - then my coffee. Given the choice between food and coffee I usually take coffee.

As an XHTML / CSS coding tool I think coffee is essential. OK sure it cuts down my life by a great number of years, causes heart disease and strokes and would never get to market if it was discovered today. But I honestly wouldn’t have any teeth left if I drank this much Coca Cola.

1/3/2005

Mockups and Prototypes

Filed under: — 8:45 am

Recently there was a conversation of sorts between two developers and something tweaked my ears. One developer suggested jumping directly to XHTML / CSS prototypes and skipping the mockup stages for the simple reason at the end of prototyping they would have the shell to build, it would all be sitting there. They asked the advantages of doing mockups in FireWorks or PhotoShop rather than in code. So I guess my comment would go something like this.

Firstly to each their own and I really don’t ever want to be a soapbox guy who thinks he’s got the only answer to every single issue. But I’d suggest that its in fact quicker to get signed off on graphic mockups simply from a logistical point of view - they are much easier and quicker to come up with, they can go in the bin and start again with very little time involved (personal heartbreak aside of course) and graphic mockups can just be emailed back and forth or printed out and handed around the table. Everything I’ve been taught has actually said this is the best process to get the best software out to market, too.

Wheras with an XHTML / CSS prototype to develop the actual design takes a lot of grunt if the client is on the other end of the phone working out the look and feel as you go. What if they decide the right navigation should be top navigation or that every second paragraph in a specific section needs some special case. By this I mean that you have to hunt through the CSS trying to work out sometimes complex inheritance issues or browser bugs on the fly. I’ve chewed a lot of days doing this very same thing just because I’m the kind of guy who gets a video game and reads the instructions like next week or later when I’m stuck. But process should be about discipline and the process should make for a better product one would expect.

So personally I won’t be throwing mockups away to jump straight to prototyping as it just seems bad sense. Of course, you just might find me breaking my own rules tomorrow but hey I’m also a human lol. I make my fair share of bad moves like everyone.

27/2/2005

PC4Peace.org

Filed under: — 1:52 pm

My call for an NPO which needed free services badly a few days ago resulted in a prompt email from a deserving group called PC4Peace.org in Japan. It always amazes me how the world is so big and small at the same time.

PC4Peace refurbish computers and send them to Cambodia as well as sending books to Laos. Small as they are they have global ideals and recycling useful stuff isn’t just uber-cool in a humanitarian sense but also kind of geeky-cool in the fact someone who’d never get access to some books or technologies can be checking out Pacman (or doing Math) on your old Pentium III in whole other country. So if anyone else has services they can help these guys out with (ie. experience helping us deliver a multilingual site) then drop an email or a comment to Norty Pig. Its important to us, at least, to be a responsible part of the global society which our Web encompasses.

While only a few years ago most users of the web were U.S. in origin this is steadily decreasing as more countries get online in a big way. As a small firm we definately want to go down the multilingual route with these guys because in the long term we’ll be a stronger competitor in the marketplace. So its win / win really. PC4Peace gets a facelift and boob job and we get to evolve toward an International capability.

26/2/2005

CMS - Pushing Squares into Circles

Filed under: — 1:33 pm

I’m no particular fan of CMS solutions or making one size fits all sales pitches to a diverse range of businesses, in fact my few experiences of CMS have generally been that they take a bit of learning, are not very intuitive, don’t provide what I the user expect, blah blah. OK I ‘really’ don’t like CMS but its mostly founded on two peeves. The first is that a CMS should and really can if it wanted be a pleasant experience that doesn’t require me to read 80 pages of counter-intuitive mumbo jargon when I just want to know how to do something basic like add some content. The second is that CMS are very often offered as a one solution fits all bag of tricks. All businesses are different with their own culture, information architecture, and client base. And its a case of having 100 sites up (well way more) that all look like yours. Jeffrey Veen wrote in his aticle Making a Better CMS his similar experiences investigating the CMS path in that they aren’t made to be easy to use at all. Software made by geeks for geeks. Now as I read his words I just thought ‘oh yeh, yeh, oh’. That was an article at Adaptive Path by the way.

25/2/2005

Non Profit? Need a Redesign?

Filed under: — 9:43 pm

After some consideration of the spare slice of time that sits on my desk between the other jobs, waiting for content, meetings and the like, I’ve decided to offer my services to another non-profit organisation gratis to either build their site or redesign the current one. I’m sure there must be some NPO either in Hobart or interstate looking for the free services of a savvy firm like us (tongue in cheek). From the one’s I’ve looked at most are badly done template sites so maybe its time one of them found a real designer.

So if you belong to, are associated with, or know of any deserving group or institution that has a doh site and needs a facelift and complete overhaul steer them to our contact page at Norty Pig.

Think Before You Sink

Filed under: — 9:58 am

Some general advice to developers, well people everywhere, about being abusive on forums. While I agree in the sanctity of one’s office, bedroom or garden shed it may appear that some high ground or victory has elevated one’s status to demi-god of geeky ‘I know the specs-ness’ those barbs and taunts are being indexed by Google and MSN and kept in other web site archives. Its sound advice to remember this before calling someone an idiot, for instance, or criticising your boss or calling your client any name other than the one they arrived in your office with - because they or the next customer may just Google your name and find out what is out there. For instance, you might apply for a good job oneday or want to create business partnerships.

Good PR and marketing is more than the face you put on for the office.

24/2/2005

Jobs In the Mill

Filed under: — 11:20 pm

Recently I’ve agreed to do a free(ish) site for the Hunter Island Press Inc who are trying to get off the ground. Maybe there’ll be money in it but maybe not and its not about that. Its about giving back to the community and having a diverse society that isn’t as bland as the local poster-cum-print shop. So its definately a spot to look out for some development. When the first round of meetings give me more to put forward I’ll have more to say, obviously.

Another project I’m kind of working on behind the scenes is IMEMS Pty Ltd T/as Paul Anderson and Associates, from Palmwoods QLD, who are environmental advisers to businesses around the country. As well we’re developing for them their Harvest Supplies site which distributes Lallemands products in QLD and sells enzymes and so forth for brewing and wine making. Its a long haul job though and hopefully after a meeting in a month or so with them in Sydney we should have some decent direction and a bit of content to start pulling the designs together into a proper solution.

My friend Mike Marinos approached me with an interesting project too this week, an interactive wildlife site for people to report sightings of endangered species. Sounds cool if it comes off and by all reports the Parks and Wildlife are interested in the concept. Can’t say more as its not my idea and it’d be unfair to Mike in this early stage to paint any clearer picture.

Moreover there’s the recent death of Pig Folio so Muerto for that one. We had to kill it off in-house for its pig-ugliness and accept it was purely experimental and lacked any concept of real design. So Pig Folio is being redesigned into a simple but classy white portfolio and resume I can show clients independently instead of via the hard sell of the commercial website.

On top of that there’s the next evolution brewing of Translucent, but we won’t go into that. I’ve just put RSS on there and would like to create dynamic PNGs and a few other things. Nothing major, don’t worry Lindy I won’t trash your blog while you’re out of town.

So basically things are getting busier at Norty Pig but not busy enough. We’re welcoming new projects so get in contact with us. If its cool and especially if its different we’d love to give it a go. Oh and a sense of humour is a must in this business…

23/2/2005

WordPressing the Easy Way

Filed under: — 5:56 pm

The first time I looked at WordPress I thought ‘how can I change your stylesheets’ and it was an icky pain in the butt. I figure a few people have probably looked at these kinds of integrations and either found them difficult or even given in. Really its a piece of cake if you just do the following:

First develop a page layout with whatever you want it to look like, basically the whole kit and kaboodle.

Second download the index.php file and do some stuff. Cut and paste all of the head section and the confusing bunch of php function calls into your version of index.php. Its cool here to comment them out and make sure your page validates.

Then change the calls in the head to link to your own stylesheets and start uncommenting a few of those functions like search, calendar or the WordPress links. And that’s about it you’re done. Fully functional and your own design.

While its no major drama integrating like this its probably counter-intuitive in one aspect. Probably most people would originally start the other way around trying to mould WordPress to fit them. What can I say? Simple, effective and I’ve got the RSS, search and so forth with minimal effort. And I know what you’re thinking, hey you already know this. Its the others who can use the tip.

22/2/2005

We Don’t Do Budget Designs

Filed under: — 10:25 am

As an emerging small web design firm trying to get established its quite hard coming to terms with the budget market. All I can say is that I neither want Norty Pig to compete at budget rates or for us to produce shoddy undocumented and unsound web solutions. Whether its pride, personal ethics, or simply the ambition to take us to a more viable level of web development its a given that eventually we’ll either be submitting quotes for larger more lucrative work or simply sit in the background doing our own thing as freelancers. The third option is for some larger company to hire us directly and make us rich without the accounting paperwork.

Budget designers on the other hand offer a service that doesn’t give documentation, ignores information architecture, omits persona and user profiles, and so many other essential pieces of the web designer’s arsenal. Of course the budget designer can have you up in a week and you have, to all intensive purposes, the navigation bar and the picture of your main office, but to what effect? I really do think you get what you pay for in this business. Unfortunately the budget market itself is so competitive they tend to push each other into starvation wages which creates a situation where quite a few potential clients expect to be quoted far less.

So I guess what I’m saying is there’s at least two and probably ten different levels of web design depending on the skills of the organisation, their experience and the extent they are willing to go to give you the site you really need. I can’t make sites for $500 but then I really don’t want to so I guess its fine if someone else does. But, of course, if you have a spare $3,000 and (way) up we can start talking about web ’solutions’.

20/2/2005

RSS 2.0 on Linden’s Blog

Filed under: — 8:10 pm

This article only applies to RSS .9x and RSS 2.0.

The RSS ‘thang’ is a must have on any site nowdays if you have any kind of dynamic content and don’t we all know it. Generally all I’ve done in the past is utilise the WordPress feeds though and never really looked into just ‘how’ simple Really Simple Syndication can be to implement by hand. OK there’s the manual update that takes a couple of minutes but hey this is a geeky blog right?! And its nearly always better to do something by hand at least once to understand what it’s really doing down there (excuse the pun).

On Linden Langdon’s blog, Translucent, this week we decided to implement just such a hand made RSS 2.0 feed and submit it to the feed eating world. Basically although I developed the site Linden is responsible for updating and manually validating the content and RSS feed by herself. While the rest of the world (now including me) hooks into automated blogging software some people like to have a nice home brewed personal blog experience including writing content into the page in straight XHTML and manipulating Cascading Style Sheets. Something I liken to the difference between buying a fibreglass dinghy and hand crafting one from good huon pine. The craft in the craft so to speak.

The best and really best way to start looking at making RSS of the .9x or 2.0 variety is the Harvard Law Blog, which might sound counter-intuitive at first. But try not to be disappointed when you see that all these gains are made with such little effort and skill. Really Simple Syndication is really simple.

Unless you want to chase up the RSS 1.0 spec which is based on RDF - but that’s another story.

16/2/2005

Norty Pig Version 6

Filed under: — 9:51 am

Well from my reckoning its version six - Norty Pig. Minimalist, slightly interactive, featuring my digital photography in a small random fade in banner, xhtml 1.0 with css, tableless layout as per usual. Keep an eye on the variation of images as I still have to increase the number of images in the array… less boxey perhaps or just a smaller box? Is my left brain slowly waking up?

12/2/2005

fluxx, Brother Jones and Rammstein

Filed under: — 8:31 pm

On the front end of sites I like on this day is fluxx by BJ Cook, a subscriber to the Web Standards Group mailing list. It shows the direction I’d like to take Norty Pig if only a decent graphic artist with web experience were to happen along. Three ticks to BJ for keeping it cool under the hood too.

Another couple I think are interesting are Brother Jones Artworks and in a totally sick sort of way Rammstein, although for the latter I kind of liked the music which helped.

I’m just sure there’s more out there than single header picture with chunks of plain text…

11/2/2005

When Shite Be Big Brown Shite

Filed under: — 7:22 pm

Often when small businesses are confronted with the idea of whether or not to get a web solution they either don’t see the value in it (’Oh I was thinking under $500′) or they don’t know how to judge the actual value of the product. To many businesses it comes down to asking what will I get for $4,000 that I won’t get for $400? Or similarly, a family friend had been fielding quotes for a site to represent a national company and he emailed me that the quotes ranged from $8,000 to $80,000. Now thats a lot of pressure to be under when you don’t know whats going on under the hood or are not as web sophisticated as say another developer.

So here is what I really don’t like. I don’t like people who use FrontPage 5.0 like its Publisher, who don’t know about web technologies, who can’t be bothered learning about how to maximise the clients potential, who have bugger all time to think about information architecture and documentation, who have not improved or changed what they do or how they do it for the last x number of years, who misrepresent themselves and what they can and can’t provide clients, who don’t want to be better at what they do, and who charge a few hundred dollars for a four page site.

I can see the point for a mini league but I’ve never played in one and figure after about grade 6 I’d outgrown the opportunity. What do I have to offer? The fact I will always be better next year is a fair indication that I’m at least interested in my work.

10/2/2005

Preventing Image Theft

Filed under: — 12:25 pm

I’ve done work for artists in the past and the more astute do ask the age-old question about ‘how do I stop my images being pinched’? The best thing about the web is it lets people look at your images in the privacy of their own home - the bad thing about the web is exactly that! What stops them from using those same images for financial advantage?

Although I would have to attest there aren’t any methods to totally protect yourself from a determined thief, Tim Murtaugh’s article Protecting Your Assets pretty much covers available options. Remember a really determined thief will look in your source code or a number of devious tricks. Like I hear stated often, if you aren’t prepared to lose something then don’t put it on the web. One effective way that should be considered though, as it is already an offshoot of better web design, is the optimisation of images - create JPEGs that don’t save at the best quality but still look good.

I’m sure industrious server side programmers have effective methods as well but its really a compromise. What protects your image but doesn’t mess with user experience or accessibility?

6/2/2005

Links from Russ’ List

Filed under: — 5:20 pm

As a subscriber of the Web Standards Group mailing list the irregular page from Russ has often cost me half a day of reading. Like today for instance. Some of these I just have to pass on so excuse the nortiness of pinching yer links Russ but I honestly can’t help it today and I’m half way down the page.

First a subject close to home at the moment, Interview With a Link Spammer gives a good insight into who drives this end of the spam business.

Second How to Build a Successful Freelance Web Design Business was great. Even if you don’t read it all check out Kevin Airgid’s site. I know what some designers think about Flash but you can’t deny its Wow factor and after all its ‘mostly’ about money and ‘a bit’ about politics. A web designer I know says ‘all web designers are whores’ and we are, honestly, at least most of us, whores for the dollar. To those who can afford to retire I apologise no end and envy you no end.

Having read Kevin’s article I backtracked and read another one on Multidisciplinary Design which was food for thought, too.

4/2/2005

Phono Phunk and Airbag

Filed under: — 8:35 pm

Just to lighten the mood and if you’ve never been there before you should check out a site that’s really kind of cool. Phono Phunk is the work of a Melbourne guy called John Serris who has a lets just say it ‘uber’ sense of humour. My faves about his site are the menus, cool style switcher setup an idiot like me can play with for hours - um left, right, left, center left, right, left, center right, umm doing it again aren’t I? Sorry. Read the ‘about’ page for a pretty good laugh. Which led me to remember this site, I’d forgotten I used to read it for a while and lost it somehow. A great read, Airbag has a bit of everything. Pink is a stark reminder of the willingness of Iraqi militants to attack the core of American values - ok Barbie! Next it’ll be Genie or bloody Flipper, pulling a look-a-like Mousketeer or an old retired president in front of the cameras. Now why was America in Baghdad again. Oh yeh the oil…

2/2/2005

Finding a Designer

Filed under: — 2:55 pm

Not one to criticise but I read this article on How to hire a web designer and got to the lower part of the page. Pricing and Guarantees. I’m sorry but as a small business I couldn’t possibly offer unrealistic things like: “money back if you are not 100% satisfied” or “match any cheaper quote you find".

My argument: Many clients come in not knowing what they want even regarding color. They may or may not have unrealistic expectations about the technology, medium or bang for your buck. Not to say they are wrong, but the chances of someone coming in, tying my business up for a month or more, and deciding at six months they want to use this clause to get all the money they paid back is kind of silly. Further, there is a developer in the Hobart yellow pages offering a guaranteed $250 cap on any 5 page site for the next 12 months. Should I be forced to match unrealistic quotes from some guy who picked up a weekend course in FrontPage?

While the article itself was rather sound and from a reputable resource the writer may have just lost touch with what a small business is about. I’d like to think my clients are satisfied and I do compete competitively, of course. But would you go to an architect, ask him to design a house of indeterminate height and width and in which you are not sure yet how many bathrooms you’ll need (If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers), work on the plans for a month and then give them their money back if they decided they really wanted a 12 square suburban brick house with a backyard? Norty Pig finks you’re gone in the merry head if you do …

26/1/2005

Time for a Politeness Campaign?

Filed under: — 11:38 am

I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again - why are people so rude on phones, in cars, and on the web in places like forums? How many times has it been that I’ve either been abusively attacked or seen others in that boat in some backwater forum or mailing list? Its like road rage without the need for the aggressor to have any actual fighting ability. The common factor is the inability of the abuser to be grabbed and throttled by the person they’re abusing of course, and for the most part it seems to come with such undeniable passion and belief that their opinion is the right and only way to do things. And maybe its me being into making web sites and learning all this stuff on an ongoing basis, but my abusers more often than not are very intelligent people with good I.T. jobs who should know better.

Like the WASP campaign to bring standards to the web and browsehappy we might just need a ‘be polite to other developers’ or ‘my opinion is just an opinion’ campaign. Why? Because really, and its just my opinion, those seeking help shouldn’t be abused for not knowing something or trying to become better. Learning anything is in itself an evolutionary experience so simply quoting subsection xyz of rule 3 and calling them an idiot is really just kind of dumb in itself.

So for today at least and in the name of being actual non-elitist sharing professionals lets embrace our fellow developers, smile and say ‘I will no longer road rage you in forums and on mailing lists’. Please….

25/1/2005

The Naughty Pig - Satire

Filed under: — 4:18 am

I’d been aware for some time of a Naughty Pig predating my Norty Pig but never gotten around to checking it out. Hey you’ve got to go over there for yourself, this guy’s bloody funny. OK insensitive, blunt, even socially warped - but that’s satire after all. Issue 55 already! How did I miss you, dude, in the multibillion web addresses out there?! This guy deserves a standards based redesign and graphic overhaul if ever there was a charity case though, anyone with some spare time on their hands for an obviously broke comedian? Finally, media not owned and operated by internationals in the name of Fairfax or Murdoch.

21/1/2005

Pig Work / Real Work

Filed under: — 11:08 am

This isn’t the birth of a new blog so much as a remodelling and move onto a WordPress shell of the old blog undergoing a redesign. Why WordPress? The arduous task of continuously maintaining a growing blog archive in hard coded XHTML was more time consuming every month and I don’t think I could have kept it up indefinately. Initially I started writing my own CMS of sorts, a very simple one, but then I came across this unbelievably handy tool. So here we are, remodelling as we go, the new face of the Norty Pig blog! Its called Pig Work and I’ll be posting shorter but hopefully more useful blog entries on this site. The Norty Pig blog will be left to archive simply because its got some useful information but otherwise this is simply a continuum. I could of course spend the rest of my life putting a year full of blog entries into this blender but it’d send me insane. OK then, cheers, and welcome to Wonderland Alice!

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