Our intranet at work greets most people like so when they log in: "Hi username, so happy to see you today!" When I log in, I get this: "Hi jkottke, so unhappy to see you today!" (emphasis mine) I think my coworkers are trying to tell me something.
Attention! All you designers out there: you need to enter the 5K Award contest. Basically, it's a competition to see who can come up with the best Web page (or site) that's under 5K (5120 bytes) in size. As one of the judges, I'm really looking forward to seeing what people are able to come up under the circumstances.
Today on the webcam: my new <body> tag shirt, complete with the closing </body> tag on the back. I'd tell you where I purchased it, but then everyone would have one. And nobody wants that. It's actually not too hard to find...you just need to poke around a little. Somewhat odd: the store carrying the shirt did not have a corresponding <head> hat.
Wonder Boys is an OK movie, but didn't really do anything for me overall. I expected more from the writer/director of L.A. Confidential....too much perhaps.
Bottle Rocket, on the other hand, was wonderful. You'll never see a movie with more deadpan, underemphasized humor in it than this one.
I shouldn't be allowed to put my own butter on my popcorn at the movies. It leaks out the bottom of the bag.
People don't know what to make of my Amazon entry from yesterday. Entertain the possibility that I'm just playing the devil's advocate here. Thinking aloud (rambling on?). Not jumping the gun. Not going along with the crowd, just because.
It's important in situations such as these to educate yourself. Read the patent before you go signing petitions and pointing to Web sites.
I'm in an "all companies suck" mode right now. People are telling me I shouldn't point at Amazon anymore. Should I point at B & N or Borders? Nope, they ran all the local mom and pop bookstores out of business. When I link to movies, should I point at Internet Movie Database? Oops, can't, they're owned by Amazon. Should I point at the movie Web site? Probably not....they're making me pay too much for their movie...not to mention the popcorn....not to mention that all those huge media companies suck in one way or another. I really need to stop going to Miramax movies altogether because they're owned by Disney, and Disney, as we all know, is brainwashing the minds of our youth.
But, but, but:
Amazon has a great selection, excellent customer service, and is a really good site for finding information on a wide selection of products. Barnes & Noble is fun to waste an afternoon in because they have a wide-ranging selection. IMDB has tons of useful information on movies. And movies....I can't possibly stop going to those, even if they do cost too much. Even Disney makes a good flick (Toy Story 2) every once and a while.
Where does this leave me? I have no idea.
People are up in arms about Amazon being awarded a patent for their affiliates program. While I agree that this is stupid, what is an appropriate and effective response? I'm an Amazon Associate myself and link to their merchandise frequently. Should I change those links to Barnes & Noble instead? Aren't they just another big, stupid company that would have patented their affiliates program if they would have thought of it first?
And that brings us to Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft is perhaps the largest target of this sort of "boycott", organized or otherwise. People hate Microsoft. Companies hate Microsoft. It's the company you love to hate. Apple, on the other hand, is one of the most beloved companies in the world. People love Apple.
But what if Apple were Microsoft? What if Apple had won the battle of the PC and was the largest company in the world? People would hate them. Why? Because they would be using the same tactics as Microsoft to stay ahead and keep every bit of that advantage in anyway that they could. Apple is the way it is because they are the underdog.
I'll even argue that life would be worse under Apple's rein. Apple controls the OS *and* the hardware: if we were under Apple's boot instead of Microsoft's, we'd be paying too much for hardware as well as the software.
And now several dozen people are going to tell me that I'm full of crap....which I probably am (that's the risk involved with off-the-cuff thinking). It's fun to play "what if" sometimes though. It prepares you for thinking back on your life and your regrets. I'm not looking forward to that. Regret, I think, is part of your life when you're introverted.
And speaking of Brad, I guess I don't have too much to say about this. Except that I don't know if I want to reveal the significance of "purple monkey dishwasher" to anyone...some things are just better left unsaid.
I went to see The Kids in the Hall this evening at the Orpheum Theatre (thanks for the ticket, Brad). It was pretty entertaining. I felt a little left out at times; the audience would cheer madly when they recognized a favorite character, but I wouldn't really know what the hell was going on since I've never actually seen any of their shows before, except for the excellent Brain Candy. The best bits were the improvised lines and the parts where the Kids would be laughing too hard at themselves to perform the lines.
I'm going to have to start working the phrase "Jesus Christ on a bike" into the conversation more often.
I've never seen this before, but Amazon has a page for the Brain Candy DVD that encourages people to let the studio know that people want them to make the DVD version of the movie. I'd love to have this movie on DVD.
During the show, the Kids made numerous references to the Internet and....da dada da: porno. There you have it....five days in a row.
Jim Romenesko has an interview with Dan Green and Bill Bastone of The Smoking Gun about how they found out about Rick Rockwell's past. They took finding confirmation very seriously, just like real journalists....very few DIY Web sites would take that approach. I certainly don't.
Four days running: Every time I hear Rick Rockwell's name, I think of Chest Rockwell (played by John C. Reilly), Brock Landers' sidekick in the faux action/porno series in Boogie Nights. Like John Wayne Bobbitt before him, Rick is destined to make lots of money starring in adult films. Insert your own title here: "Who Wants to ________ a Multimillionaire?"
Happiness is a new shower head.
One person Web publishing is dead. My apologies for deluding you and wasting your time.
In my effort to keep the adult content theme running for three straight days, I bring to you the story of a debaucherous Minneapolis library. Apparently, library patrons have been frequenting hardcore porno sites on the library's computers. People have been caught having sex in the bathroom after viewing the pornography, and one librarian has had to "remind several pornography-viewing patrons that masturbation is forbidden in the library."
I saw Rear Window last night. Great movie and a great movie experience; sitting in the balcony with a soda and popcorn, listening to the hum of the projector. I hope they never tear the Uptown down.
"Yes, I'd like this comb, that Time magazine there, a nail clipper, that foot powder, and...er...65 pounds of erotic photography." That's right, a book weighing in at 65 pounds...and it only costs $1500 (it comes with its own stand, designed by Philippe Stark). If anyone were to order this from Amazon through my affiliate link, I would make $225 on the deal. Hot damn.
An astute reader notices that according to Google, inside the box (11,699 matches) is actually larger than outside the box (only 10,999 matches). Now, since the universe is expanding at a rate equal to....oh, the hell with it, I'm too tired.
A new trend in showbiz: getting naughty pictures taken so you get fired from your TV show. I don't know why Spelling is suing, though...feeling a little burned, are we? To get to the important part of the whole deal, here are the pictures of Ms. Biel in her birthday suit.
I've been wondering lately where and when the Superfriends "Wassup" video originated, so I did a little investigating. The first Usenet post mentioning it seems to have occurred on Feb 2nd, but none of the search engines I tried had anything about it. However, I did find this story claiming that Philip Stark, a writer for That 70s Show, came up with it.
Note to self: code an Outlook email virus that "infects" a person's outgoing mail preferences so that their mail is sent in plain text format (no HTML please), has the proper line wrap settings, doesn't include the original message as an attachment, doesn't send any sort of v-card or 50-line signature file, and disables the read receipt "feature".
Note to readers: if your mail program is currently doing any of these things, you may be pissing people off.
Conform is an interesting experiment in collaborative design (or is it art?) on the Web. One person creates an image and then the next person modifies it to create something new. Then another person modifies that image and so on. From the folks that brought you Suffocate, which was a promising collaborative Web site in its own right but hasn't had anything new in quite a while...due in large part to the fact that all the design kiddies over-extend themselves and work on 50 different things at once. I can relate.
Since the quantity of a thousand years seems to be an arbitrary (and somewhat populist) value, I've decided that the time elapsed between January 1, 0001 and February 19, 2000 is exactly 2000 years. Happy New Millennium, everybody!
I'm thinking inside the box today, because it's getting too crowded outside of it.
I'm not a big fan of having conversations via Web sites (too passive aggressive...it's almost Minnesotan in nature) or of beating dead horses, but this whole Scripting Rules!/Powazek Sucks! thing has me thinking about how design and designers are perceived by people. And I think that there are some important issues afoot here....somewhere. What follows is my rambling (and feeble?) attempt to uncover some of those issues.
Design, for most people, is subjective and aesthetic in nature. People know what they like and dislike. If a Web site or magazine layout which prominently features a color that a person doesn't like, but is otherwise designed very well, that person probably isn't going to like it.
For designers, on the other hand, design is mostly objective and only partially aesthetic. There aren't any hard and fast "dos and don'ts", but there are some (very) general guidelines for design, mostly in the form of questions such as "who is my audience?", "what am I trying to communicate?", "what's the purpose of this?" and the like.
To me, the great thing about Web design as a discipline within design is that it borrows some of the best aspects from other areas of design:
Architectural design. Borrowed from architectural design is the idea of physical space. A Web site is something you enter, not something you look at. You click to get in, you move about within it, there are walls and long, meandering hallways. Is your Web site a square, one-story building with one big room with 14 little side rooms? Or is it a three story building with ample parking? What does that communicate to your audience?
Package design. Without using too much imagination, you can think of the front page of a Web site as that site's package. When you open that package, what do people expect to find? How do people know what's inside the box before they open it and how do you communicate that?
Industrial design. A Web site is not a pretty picture sitting on a bookshelf....it's a tool, made to be used. You click to get places, to uncover information, to make connections, to communicate. How does this tool need to be designed to accomplish all that? Or rather, how does this tool need to be designed to accomplish the things you want it to accomplish?
Graphic design. A lot of the principles of graphic design work on the Web. People had been doing layout and typography long before the Web came along. Emotion and communication, both major aspects of graphic design, are borrowed as well. Red is bold and communicates something about the site a person is visiting....the user *feels* something about that site. Using large or small browser type on a site tells the user something about that site as well...as does the typeface used.
Film making. I know, film making isn't a design discipline per se, but it's close enough. Borrowed from film making is the idea of pacing and storytelling. As the user moves further into a site, how much time do they spend at each stage? Are there natural pauses and stopping points? Is too much information presented for the user to process all at once? Or is there not enough information for them to be able to make the next decision to move on to the next page? Does the voice of the site jive with the rest of the design?
There's obviously a lot more that I could write here, but I'm tired. So, I'm going to close with this:
Once and for all, why does the Manila/Scripting/UserLand cowskull suck? (I'll give you a hint: it's not due to any mis-implementation on the backend). Because it takes one of the more important functions on the site and obscures it behind a small graphic element that has nothing to do with that function whatsoever (and probably has a lot to do with the fact that the site is running on Frontier, which from the user's perspective, is totally irrelevant). I've been visiting (but not participating because the tone of the writing and design does not foster a participatory atmosphere) Scripting News for about two years now, and I still don't get what the purpose of that thing is....and I'm a very experienced, savvy Web user. What's wrong with making a text link that very clearly states what the user is getting into by clicking that link? How about a "Discuss this" link after each day's content?
From Scripting News, Feb 15th (one of the last entries): "Derek, you don't even know how to do a friggin email link."
Oh God, that's good. I saw that and laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I scrolled back up to that cow's head that Dave uses for his link to the discussion threads for Scripting News. I laughed some more. I laughed until my sides were aching and I'd peed my pants....twice. Then I spent 4 hours looking at my HTML for Dummies book trying to figure out how to do an email link. I'm stumped...any suggestions?
Have you noticed that UserLand's new ManilaExpress looks and functions a lot like Blogger? Monkey see, monkey do?
Greg Knauss with the only intelligent commentary I've read on the recent distributed denial-of-service attacks.
Scary article from Fortune magazine about Abercrombie & Fitch. Some lowlights:
"The beautiful people don't do much...greeters get minimum wage to have fun -- to listen to Smash Mouth, to be carefree and breezy, to radiate charm. Why? Cool, great-looking guys attract cool, great-looking girls, who attract..."
"During peak selling periods like Christmas, other workers--less cool and less good-looking--come in after hours to do the grunt work of counting inventory, restacking tables, and unpacking boxes, lest these mundane chores get in the way of the beautiful people radiating a good time. 'They're not here to fold clothes or to make money,' says director of stores David Leino about his hip helpers. 'It's a status thing. They can say, "I work at Abercrombie."'"
And people wonder why Columbine happened.
Ariana has a Napster haiku:
sentinel of funky beats
yep. I heart napster.
We all heart Napster.
Inexplicably, I continue to find the Pets.com spokespuppet very amusing. In this video from Good Morning America (RealAudio), he rescues socks, plays fetch with dogs, and makes fun of Charlie Gibson. I don't know what it is....I just can't get enough of the puppet. Did you notice I even used the word "spokespuppet" without a trace of sarcasm? Jeez....
Watching Wallace and Gromit is a treat. Sure, the animation is a little rough in the first film, but "The Wrong Trousers" is an excellent 1/2 hour diversion. Alas, the Web site for Aardman Animations, makers of W&G, is a little, um, bad. One good thing: they do let you download soundbytes from the movies...Fox in particular could learn a little something from that.
I checked out the Rushmore Criteron Collection DVD the other day. Good stuff. I haven't listened to the director's commentary yet, but the auditions, the "making of" documentary, and the MTV Movie Awards promos were well worth my while. I think I might buy it for the cover art alone.
Downside to reading things on the Internet: unless you have a computer right next to your toilet, it doesn't make for very good bathroom literature.
Oh my God, this is good. David Hudson sends along filibuster.org, a portal that looks and works like all the other portal sites...except that the content is all made up. On the fly. By computers. So, although it looks like there may be important content here ("Democrats Visit Stricken Area" is one Onionesque headline), there really isn't. Remind you of any portal sites that aren't fictional?
I don't do requests on this site very often, but here goes: Happy Birthday, Minnie!
<sigh> Don't get me started on the Oscar nominations. In a year that saw the finest crop of movies in a long, long time, the Academy chose to nominate the Sixth Sense for Best Picture. The Sixth Sense was a good movie, but it wasn't a great movie...it wasn't even close. It certainly wasn't up there with Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, Election, The Iron Giant, or even Eyes Wide Shut. And did I mention Magnolia? The Green Mile and The Cider House Rules, while both good movies, weren't amongst the best of the year either. Hopefully, one good thing out of all of this will be that American Beauty, a marvelous film, will easily but deservedly win the Best Picture award.
For some unknown reason, being alone on Valentine's Day this year isn't as bad as it has been in years past. Maybe it's because I've been so frickin' busy I haven't noticed.
And if you have a special someone, don't forget to send them a li'l lovin', Internet-style, courtesy of your friends at 0sil8 and Exception Media.
Maude Flanders dies tonight.
Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't remind you to send that special someone a li'l lovin' (yes, it's one of them free ecards).
I posted some pics that some folks have come up with whilst playing with Jason. My favorite one is "talking trash"....and I think you can detect a theme with many of the rest of them. Ahem. Mouser has small kottke.org cam screenshot selection as well.
Well, Google, you've pushed the search box (you know, the *only* thing that people come to your site for) clear down the page. You guys really need to stop with the cheesy graphics. I'm all for having fun around holiday time, but that's just bush league stuff. You need to hire someone over there who knows about information architecture and a good visual designer to implement that stuff. Get with the program.
What now, Napster? You've got a bunch of MP3 freaks pirating music at a pace that would make the warez kids proud, but how are you going to make any money off of that? Some options:
- Share more file types than just MP3s...the aforementioned warez kids would love that. People could share application installers (shareware or otherwise), fonts, photos, spreadsheets, Quicktime movies, bookmark files, or anything else.
- Staying with the music theme, their app could be used as a legitimate delivery platform for commercial music so you could buy Mariah Carey's latest single in MP3 format off of Napster for a couple bucks. Of course, the music industry would never go for this, nor would Napster's existing users....they would just d/l the single off of someone else's hard drive for free.
- Napster could conceivably use the popularity of their app to build a separate little Internet...much like AOL has with their online service. Having information scattered about on several million different computers (like it is on the Napster "network") sounds like the Internet at large, but I believe the fact that the computers in question are the users' own computers and not servers is an important difference. Having 5 Gigs of storage space somewhere where you don't have to upload anything to will make a difference in the nature of the content offered. Right now, Jane Q. User gets her 5 megs of GeoCities Web space to do with as she wants....what happens when she have 5 gigs to play with?
Whatever they do, Napster is going to be very valuable as a buyout target. Look at their current demographic: people with nice computers, early adopters, fast bandwidth, Web-savvy, young, media-happy, etc. It's a goldmine.
About four hours after I wrote the above brainspew about Napster, I read this little ditty over at Feed. I guess a lot of that stuff was pretty obvious.
Lance asks: what else could you want from Flash besides a pipe-smoking chimp singing the theme from Sanford & Son? Not much, Lance, not much.
Some sites to visit, just because: Riothero, Ftrain, Out of Order, Introversion.
Did my taxes today. What a huge pain in the ass. Two bright sides: I'm getting a pretty good refund and they are done a couple months early...no scrambling around like last year.
The other night, I watched Boogie Nights on DVD with the director's commentary turned on. I think I have a non-sexual crush on P.T. Anderson. He makes films like I make Web sites.
Turn off the Internet, Mabel, there's geeks on the Teevee! Code Rush is an upcoming PBS documentary about programming Netscape software. It only sounds boring and uninteresting....give it a chance.
If Yahoo! bought Google, would they rename the whole thing Yahoogle? Apparently, someone is betting on it. I just like saying "Yahoogle," don't you?
Disclaimer: this is quite possibly the most inside joke I've ever been a part of. For those that know who Jakob Nielsen is, it'll probably be worthwhile.
Anyway, a while back on a mailing list, a few folks were discussing UI design, skins, and usability. To make a long story short, Matt came up with a quick sketch of what a Jakob Nielsen-designed WinAmp skin might look like. Never one to pass up the chance to do something utterly useless, I took Matt's preliminary sketch and came up with UseitAmp.
**To use this skin, d/l the zip file and put it in your WinAmp "Skins" directory. Then select the "UseitAmp" skin using your skin browser.
It is, of course, a parody. I'm especially pleased with the way that the "hyperlinked" text is almost useless as a way to use the app...you'd almost need graphics to do that. The only thing I'm really disappointed in is that I couldn't find a way for the playlist to be non-scrollable...
[ This space left intentionally blank. ]
Personal computer: $1899.
Windows NT 4.0: $350.
Downloading MP3s of live Paul Oakenfold mixes you can't get anywhere else: Priceless.
Also priceless: using the aforementioned Napster to download the musical stylings of William Shatner. "In the jingle-jangle mornin', I'll come followin' ya."
Can we please retire the phrase "my two cents"? I really don't have a good reason....I just am tired of it and never liked it very much to begin with. Also annoying are the many variations on the theme: "my 1/50th of a buck", "my 1 cent" (presumably because their opinion counts for about half as much as anyone else's), and "my 10 cents" (used only by the self-righteous know-it-all). Make. It. Stop.
So here's the answer to the three gunmen problem:
Gunman #1 should fire his shot into the air.
Want an explanation? Here's the best one I received via email. Rob Cooper writes:
This calls into question Game Theory -- which was a cold-war think tank strategy on how to wage and win in very dire straits. Each should fire towards the most likely target. If #1 shoots #3 and hits, then he's second shot in a two way. If he aims at #2 and hits, he's second shot and sure to lose. If he fires his gun into the air, #2 will fire at #3. If #2 misses, and #3 hits, #1 gets to go first. If #2 hits #3, #1 gets to go first. Ergo, fire into the air, let the bad guys duke it out until you are first shot in a two-way contest.
The worst thing #1 could do would be to aim at and hit his target in a 3 way contest -- he'd most likely die. But if he aims and hits in a 2 way contest, he wins. In a 3 way contest -- no one is shooting at him so it's in his interest to keep it a 3 way contest until someone ELSE hits the other target.
Seems completely counterintuitive when you first hear the answer, but once you hear the explanation, it makes perfect sense.
Worst episode ever? Or just The Simpsons' writers getting back at fans with too much time on their hands?
Yee-haw! Eyes Wide Shut is being released on DVD March 7th. In general, people didn't like this movie...I loved it, putting it on my "best of" list for last year. Two things about the DVD: it appears to be the Americanized R-rated version (grrrr) and it's not in letterbox. The non-letterbox format could be a good thing though. The Shining was released on DVD in non-letterbox and actually displayed more of the movie than theatre audiences saw because of the way it was shot. Let's hope EWS is the same way.
The Talented Mr. Ripley, I'm sure, is a good movie. I just didn't find it all that interesting. And the Gwyneth-to-dollar ratio was way too low.
Give me some good soundbytes on my voicemail: 1-877-218-0260 ext.358 (toll-free) Update: Sorry, it's full already. Call 1-877-TAME-HER instead.
Odd day today. I went to get some lunch around noon and picked up an early metro edition of the Sunday paper. Much to my surprise, I find an article (entitled "Weblog wizard Jim Romenesko") inside the Entertainment section about James Romenesko's weblogs, Obscure Store and Media News. While it's odd reading about weblogs in a Minneapolis newspaper (Twin Cities' newspapers are about as un-media savvy as you can get), it was even stranger that the newspaper in question was the Star Tribune, a competitor of the cross-town newspaper that Jim used to work for. Quite possibly the last thing I expected to see when I woke up this morning.
But not quite. Whilst looking for a link to the above story on the Star Trib Web site, I ran across something even stranger. It seems that Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, who maintains the excellent Pop Culture Junk Mail weblog in her spare time, is running a daily weblog on the Star Tribune site. You can even suggest items for inclusion via email. Go Gael! Suddenly the Star Tribune doesn't seem so lame anymore....although they still have a way to go considering their lack of real reporting about technology and the Internet up to this point.
And Gael, if you're listening...if you could get me a link in that sidebar there, right above Robotwisdom, that would be great. ;)
The biggest part of a designer's job is to create something that "feels right" and then come up with some reasons to justify your creation to the creative director, client, and investors.
Suppose there are 3 gunmen in a deadly shootout situation: if someone gets shot, they're dead. Gunman #1 gets to shoot first, but only hits his target 33% of the time. Gunman #2 gets to shoot second and hits his target 50% of the time. Gunman #3 gets to shoot last and never misses. This continues until only one man is standing. What should Gunman #1 do with his first shot so that he has his best chance of escaping with his life? I'll give you the correct answer in a few days.
Blast from the past: God.com, one of the more popular episodes of 0sil8. Includes the phrase: "the best meatloaf this side of Galilee."
A question from a few days ago: When you look at yourself in a mirror, everything is reversed from left to right and from right to left. Why aren't you upside down as well?
A: Quite simply, everything in the mirror is not reversed from right to left, it just seems that way. Psychologically, we think of the object in the mirror as another person and imagine ourselves in that person's place. But we really couldn't be in that person's place because then our right hand would become that person's left hand (picture yourself walking around the other side of the mirror and see what happens). With our misguided perception removed from the mix, a mirror doesn't display things upside-down because *that's just how mirrors work*.
For more on mirrors and such, visit these sites: 1, 2, 3, 4. Please note that some of the information on these sites may be wrong. Thanks to various folks for sending these links in.
From Steve Champeon comes the evolution of the portal:
1) come here
2) go somewhere else
1) come here
2) look at an ad (ka-ching!)
3) go somewhere else
1) come here
2) look at an ad (ka-ching!)
3) go somewhere else, but stay on this site
4) goto #2
1) come here
2) go somewhere else, but stay on this site
3) buy something (ka-ching!)
4) goto #2
AOL has been so successful, perhaps, because they skipped right to the last part.
Oh. Good. Lord. David Siegel, author of a couple of Web design books, creator of the Tekton typeface, and all-around egomaniac, is now, apparently, a comedian. Of course, I was once a physicist and am now a Web designer, so whatever. Update: I wasn't paying close attention here (because I'm an idiot)...this is not David Siegel the former (current?) Web designer. Sorry for the confusion. It would be funny, though, if Dave up and decided to become a comedian. So, how 'bout it, Dave?
More DoubleClick stuff. In addition to opting out of their follow-you-around-the-Web cookie, you may also send an email message to several of DoubleClick's affiliates asking them not to share their information on you with DoubleClick.
"I am a happy invalid and it has revolutionized my whole attack. My back is turned on the more banal kind of advertising, and I have canceled all commissions and am resolutely set on starving. I shall undertake only the simple childish things that call for compromise with the universal twelve-year-old mind of the purchasing public and I will produce art on paper and wood after my own heart with no heed to any market. Revolution, stark and brutal." - W.A. Dwiggins
It seems that the mirror question from a couple days ago is driving folks nuts....I've been getting lots of answers, right and wrong. When I get a spare moment, I'll post the correct answer. Also, stay tuned for a brain teaser that is even more mind-boggling than the mirror question.
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