[Paul Ford observes that the web works best when it feeds our need to be consulted.](http://www.ftrain.com/wwic.html).

Brent Simmons has a lovely post [in praise of readability](http://inessential.com/2011/11/25/the_readable_future).

Schema

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have gotten together to adapt a collection of microformats that will make it possible for folks who produce and publish content to the web to make searching that content more meaningful:

> Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, `

Avatar

` tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the a hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.

> Schema.org provides a collection of shared vocabularies webmasters can use to mark up their pages in ways that can be understood by the major search engines: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!

> You use the schema.org vocabulary, along with the microdata format, to add information to your HTML content. While the long term goal is to support a wider range of formats, the initial focus is on Microdata. This guide will help get you up to speed with microdata and schema.org, so that you can start adding markup to your web pages.

Steve Jobs on Web Applications in 1996

This video over at MSDN is great not only because it’s an interesting bit of history — and a moment when Jobs reveals his ability to see into the future and he’s doing it at a Microsoft event — but also because it’s a great explanation of how web applications work.

A Slight Change in Style

A slight change in style to the website over the weekend: I not only changed type faces, but I am now having them served using Google’s WebFont API:


@import url(http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Tinos);
@import url(http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Maiden+Orange);

I had been serving Yanone Kaffeesatz and Gentium Book from my own setup, but not only does Google save me bandwidth, but it also gives me more choices. (And switching type faces is as easy as changing one of the above lines and then changing the font names elsewhere in the style sheet. (For the body font, this is easy since it appears only once.)

And, finally, for good measure I also changed the active color of the site to the official RGB for loden green:


color: #6D7356;

A new header is coming. I just haven’t finalized the design yet. It is going to be a play on logbook:

A Handwritten Ship's Logbook

More Dropbox Goodness

I wish all services, and even a lot of applications, were as good as Dropbox. I turned the participants in my digital humanities seminar onto it, and, if I had done nothing else, I think that alone would have made the class for some of them. *None* of them hauls around a USB drive anymore. They have made sharing Dropbox files and folders part of how they work: it’s been amazing to watch.

If you haven’t tried it out, do. 2GB of storage is free. I have a slightly larger account, 10GB for $10 a month. I keep my home and office files synced via DropBox, and I also access PDFs and other files in GoodReader (iPad) via DB.

If you try it and like it, feel free to use my referral code. We both get an extra 250MB for free.

Once you are up and running, head over to AppStorm and read their “Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit and Guide” (link to post).

Own Your Data

I had never heard of Lendle until they found themselves on the wrong side of Amazon’s API guidelines, but I agree completely with the assessment offered by _The Economist_: “The brief outage demonstrates a fundamental truth about the internet: if you don’t own the data you need to run your business, you’re dependent on the policies—and whims—of the parties that do.” (Link to post.)

I find myself making this point rather regularly to my students with regards to Facebook, but I also found myself making the same point to a university committee that is working to develop a digital repository. Worse, I wonder now if I didn’t make the point strongly enough as part of the team that is working to build a new infrastructure for the American Folklore Society. (We are using a software-as-a-service vendor, and my experience of it has been, er, eye-opening.)

Google eBooks

Google’s eBooks has finally emerged from its Google Book shell:

Today is the first page in a new chapter of our mission to improve access to the cultural and educational treasures we know as books. Google eBooks will be available in the U.S. from a new Google eBookstore. You can browse and search through the largest ebooks collection in the world with more than three million titles including hundreds of thousands for sale.

The full post is here.

Tumblr is down.

Tumblr has been down for twenty-four hours now. No big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it came right as I wanted to post the video from last night’s Belsnickeling, where Lily was held entranced by the powerful combination of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, and Black Peter. I will have a write-up momentarily, but Tumblr’s failing at this particular moment drives home for me that I prefer having more control over my infrastructure. I have done some research on setting up a tumblog using WordPress, and I will probably take advantage of the Christmas break to get that up and running.

Not too much time because I have an essay to revise for Journal of Folklore Research and there’s that book that is wanting some attention. I have two weeks while my daughter is still in school to cram in some overdue interviews with various folks, most of whom have been waiting for me to call them since September. (I am very lucky in my research in this way.)

Google’s “Website Optimization for HDTV”

At long last it seems that the much promised and/or anticipated and/or hyped wave of internet television, in its many varieties, is finally set to crash upon our shores in some organized fashion, thanks to the practically simultaneous release by Apple and Google of their version of it. Unlike previous incarnations, which seemed largely to be focused on either getting television into your web browser or getting the web onto your television, Apple and Google’s versions are built upon their handheld device platforms: iOS for Apple and Android for Google. Both platforms depend upon a well populated universe of apps and web apps.

I’m not invested in either platform — though obviously I am invested in the larger Apple platform of Mac/iPhone, iPad/MobileMe for the time being — but I am following it a bit. I don’t have the time to follow it too closely, but because the iOS and Android devices have become so popular and would seem to indicate where a lot of consumer computing is headed — though please note that I am not arguing that these platforms are only for consumption — it seems to me that they may represent an inevitable transformation of the web as it becomes consumed more through these devices and less through the kind of general purpose computers that most of us use today.

While most computer monitors, especially those built into laptops, have transitioned to HD aspect ratios, it remains the case that most monitor usage is not dedicated to HD viewing of content.[^1] That is, when I observe colleagues and friends working on their computers with HD monitors, they typically have multiple windows open and use the width of these screens as a way to layer content across the screen so it can be easily brought forward and into focus. That means most applications and most websites worry less about optimizing content for the HD aspect ratio and allow the user to determine their preferences. In iOS and Android devices, all apps, by design, must fill the screen. (I am less clear on what this means for web apps, but I have to assume that they will move that way in order to achieve parity with native apps at least in terms of look.)

This means that app interface design will change. In order to guide developers, Google has started a website with guidelines and a FAQ. Check it out and then let me know what you think it means for design and development of content.

[^1]: I remain unconvinced myself of the necessity of HD and think it is largely a product of a fad to drive sales and will be replaced by another aspect ration fad in five to ten years that is the next “true” thing.