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Archive for the ‘Web Development’ Category

Pardon Our Dust

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OK, yes. The site has done gone ugly. Not that it was necessarily beautiful before, but it’s even uglier now. Really, it’s not you — it’s me.

I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week at An Event Apart in Boston, a conference for web developers. Several luminaries in the web design and development field — people whose blogs I’ve been reading for years — presented talks, and the conference did exactly what it was supposed to do, what I’d hoped it would do: it got me re-energized about web development. I realized that I really do enjoy building websites, even if I’ve been more than a bit bored with the specifics of what I’ve been doing lately.

I hope to have more to say on this topic soon, but for now know that my site’s uglification is part of a project. One of the concepts I took away from the speakers at the conference was rooted in the Japanese term kaizen, or “progressive and continual enhancement.” That means…well, okay it means sort of the exact opposite of what I’m doing, but bear with me for a minute. Kaizen means I don’t have to pull down an entire design and start from scratch: I can make small, subtle changes over time. I’ve already begun doing this to Moviegeekz and Mother Mirth, Terry’s site.

For this site, though, of all my sites…I need to have my own design here rather than use a stock theme, which is what I was doing. So I scrapped that theme and I’m starting with nothing. I currently have no style or design on this site. And over time, I’m going to make progressive changes and build it up into something which hopefully won’t suck. I’m designing in the public eye, to some degree: I’ll put up here whatever I have whenever I’m done working on any particular bit. It won’t always look good — it sure doesn’t right now — but hopefully when I’m done it’ll be something I can be proud of. And I plan to document some of what I’m doing.

I have no idea how long this’ll take to do, especially since it’s not really my main focus. I won’t be offended if you read what I write here in an RSS reader for awhile. But I hope that the project will be interesting and that you’ll check in from time to time to see how it’s going.

Written by Allen

June 25th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Web Development

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MySpace Invader

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Against my better judgment, I now have my MySpace profile relatively complete. (Yes, thank you, I’ve noticed that I’m not a 15-year-old girl.)

My reasons for setting up the profile are couplefold:

  1. Most of my friends from Florida are on MySpace, and that seems to be one of the main ways they keep in touch. For example, my insanely talented (and now Cali-ized rather than Florided) friend Steve (he of the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu video I posted here a few weeks back) has an acccount there, and I might actually keep in contact with him a little bit better if I know where I can consistently find him.
  2. There seems to be some small opportunity to network effectively using the stupid site — there are several comic book writers I like who have accounts there and allow anyone to friend them. I seriously doubt anything will actually come from having, say, Warren Ellis on my MySpace friends list, but hey — it can’t be any less than the absolutely nothing that will likely happen otherwise.

MySpace is, of course, an Internet entreprenuer’s wet dream: the guys who built it launched the site in the summer of ’03 and sold it two years later to News Corp for $580 frickin’ million. The people who programmed the site originally couldn’t possibly have known that their little community application was going to become one of the biggest phenomena on the web and one of the centerpieces of modern teenager culture, but that’s exactly what it is. At the time I’m writing this, MySpace is the fourth-most-visited English-language site in the world according to Alexa.

As a professional web applications developer, however, using MySpace feels like digging tiny barb-covered Mountain Dew-dipped daggers underneath the fingernails of my soul. It really and truly is a wretchedly put-together site. The usability and navigation are abysmal, and we can’t even get started on the entire “ugly design” ethos that MySpace empitomizes lest my frontal lobe catch fire. I can’t look at the site without thinking of all the things I’d have done differently if I’d built it. [1] But as part of my plan to Get My Name Out There And Network, I decided that I needed to swallow the bile rising in the back of my throat and start using MySpace, at least a little.

So any of you reading this who are willing to admit you have a MySpace page, let me know or just add me as a friend on your profile. I’ll tell Warren Ellis you said hi.

[1] Of course, who knows — the things I’d've done differently might’ve made for a better application but a less-popular site. It seems that MySpace’s rough-around-the-edges-ness is one of the reasons it’s so popular. My designer mind can’t quite wrap itself around that one, though.

Written by Allen

June 23rd, 2006 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Web,Web Design

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Link: Sports In the Year 2015

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Okay, the idea’s decent enough: What will sports and the sports viewing experience be like ten years from now? That I’m cool with–how we viewers watch sports has changed quite a bit in the last ten years and is sure to change even more in the next ten.

But man, whoever put that project together needs to have their keys to the Internet taken away. Most of the featured “predictions” (quotes necessitated because I can’t imagine most of them were made with any seriousness, especially given that we’re only talking ten years in the future) were laughable and the Flash-based presentation itself was horrible, like the folks at ESPN found an intern in the production department, gave them a copy of the Flash software and some URLs to tutorial sites, slapped ‘em on the ass and told ‘em to let ‘er rip.[1] Awful, awful stuff.

The best part of the presentation was the predictions by Frank Gibeau of EA Sports, who seemed to have the most practical, most considered, most likely–and, honestly, the coolest–ideas for where the sports experience is going. Makes sense to me that the best ideas would be coming from the guy working in the video game industry, since they probably spend more time thinking about exactly how viewers take in sports than anyone else.

[1] To be fair, I think they paid a professional Flash designer to do the groovy animated background and the annoying vapor trails that follow your mouse–but then they gave the rest of it (meaning, of course, the important stuff: the content) to the intern to finish. (This article also published at

Written by Allen

December 30th, 2005 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Web,Web Design

Link: Best Fonts of 2005 (Part One)

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The graphic designer in me was all over part one of Typographica‘s Best Fonts of 2005. These are all gorgeous typefaces (I especially liked Proxima Nova, Arrival and Vista Sans) that I wish were available for free, but of course they aren’t–these are professional-grade fonts and, as such, ain’t cheap. But they do make me want to go find some new fonts to use in those occasional design projects I undertake.

All of this reminds me that I’ve been meaning to mention how glad I was to find that I’m not the only typography geek I know. Upon reading that Microsoft was releasing a new batch of fonts that would be shipping with Windows Vista, a friend of mine installed his beta copy of Vista (he’s got an MSDN [1] subscription and so has a really, really early version of the software) just to get those fonts. That’s right, he installed an entire operating system (a bloated, beta Microsoft operating system, no less) so that he could get six new fonts–mainly, I think, just to get the new fixed-width font so he could use it in code editors.

Of course, I asked him to slip me the fonts, too. Consolas is so, so purty for editing code…

It’s also worth noting, if you’re into this kind of thing, that Windows Vista and the next version of Microsoft Office will also have a new font for its user interface, the first change since Microsoft began using Tahoma back in Office 97.

[1] That’s the Microsoft Developers Network, for those of you who aren’t tech geeks. Or for those of you who are pure *nix geeks. ;)

Written by Allen

December 29th, 2005 at 5:16 pm

Driving Blind

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I feel like I should be working on the book tonight, but I’ve been having trouble getting back into the swing of things after everything going down the last week or so. Fret not–I still intend to be done with the first draft of the book by the end of October, though I most certainly realize that every night I don’t work on the thing is more work I have to put into it later.

As I think I’ve likely mentioned here previously, I’m writing the book in a very seat-of-the-pants manner. No outline, no character sketches, no ending in mind when I started, all strategies gained from my National Novel Writing Month experiences. And honestly, 25% of the way into the first draft, I’m not sure if it’s working well or not. Yeah, OK, I’ve got almost 16,000 words down at this point, and that alone implies some sort of success given my previous efforts, but given that it’s hard to see very far ahead, it’s hard to judge how well I’m doing.

It’s like I’ve decided to drive to Florida, gotten out on the road and pointed myself generally south and hit the gas…now I’m several hours into the trip, but I don’t have a map, so I really have no idea how my route’s working out. I’ve got the sun to guide me some, and I know I’m going pretty much southerly, but I just don’t know if I’m on the best roads for getting me to Florida. Though I guess as long as I end up in Florida and not in Oregon, whichever way I got there was the right way, huh?

So anyway, to keep myself from having to do any writing on the book, I reverted the ol’ blog here back to its original design, but updated with all the new funky stuff I’d put into the sidebar over the last few months. I liked the simplicity of the old design, but I’d also grown pretty damn bored with that simplicity, so we’re back to this, which at the very least looks a bit more distinctive, I think. Hope you like it, ’cause even if you don’t, I ain’t changin’ again for awhile.

Written by Allen

September 7th, 2005 at 10:24 pm