Cards are the new novel design idea

Yup, I meant the redundancy of “new novel”. I wanted to emphasize that I think I am full up on the web changing everything and the web itself changing in some fundamental way every time I turn around. (Let me be clear: the web has given birth to some really, and fundamentally, interesting developments: like just how quickly, and easily information, can, and should, be shared, which became the foundation for the idea of open source. There’s more, but that’s a pretty good one thing.)

So enter the idea of “cards”. According to this [Intercom article](, cards are the future of the web, because, well, we need a new future of the web because we haven’t had one in the past fifteen days.

Okay, joking aside, cards are the future because everyone believes that mobile devices are the future of the web and that those mobile devices will necessarily be made up of small screens. (No one seems to consider that once we get our implants in, our screens will be really as large as we would like.) One facet of this new inevitability is that the cards will be personalized, a la Google Now, which means that what people are imagining is that our interface with the web in the future will be based upon an application of our choosing that will then cull our preferred information from data streams via an API.

Every time I see such an article, I think of the sheer pleasure of web surfing versus the drudgery of trolling through Facebook, which kinda gives you that card experience: lots of “bursts of information” that are, in some fashion, pre-determined by you (since you establish your network of friends and thus who can “feed” you information).

I think I prefer the wide open web.

Another Reason Not to Use Facebook

A lot of people I know use Facebook. It’s true that the site is amazingly good at connecting or re-connecting people. The problem is that people then stay within the confines of Facebook for these connections, corresponding with each other, commenting on each other’s photographs, and setting up events and holding larger conversations.

And that’s all well and good. That was and is the promise of the internet. The problem is that it’s not the internet: it’s Facebook. It’s a private internet. It’s AOL reborn. It promises privacy. It gives you the illusion of privacy, but in the background Facebook is relentlessly grinding statistics about you and selling this profile of you and your relationships to advertisers. And if you haven’t updated your privacy settings since Facebook changed its Terms of Use, it is also exposing you and all your friends to the larger internet, which may or may not be a much darker and scarier place.

And just in case you thought Facebook was a safe kindergarden, it turns out that the guy running the show has been [peering into your e-mails]( Zuckerberg, and allies like the [guy who founded Zynga](, are willing to pry themselves as far into users’ lives as users will let them. (The Zynga link is to a Youtube video featuring Mark Pincus where he reveals, in NSFW language, how willing he was to screw users — sorry, that’s the most polite word I could come up with.)

And that’s why I mostly post to Facebook from my [Twitter account]( Twitter has not, so far at least, locked my data up. More importantly, a number of my Twitter posts act merely as selective feeds to this site. This site is not as full and complete as I would like it, but finishing it is entirely within my control.

Choosing a CMS (and how the web works)

In the past few weeks I have had a number of direct conversations or made indirect observations about a number of websites run either by individuals or by organizations that are still using some form of static HTML generator when they probably should be using some form of content management system (hereafter CMS), almost all of which produce HTML dynamically.

What’s the difference between *static* and *dynamic* you ask? Static HTML pages sit on a server, typically in a folder/directory titled `public_html`.

Now let me make this clear for all my friends who have asked me, or were about to ask me, that static HTML generation is great for the internet.

### Comparing Code

A pretty fundamental, and arguably not very interesting to most users, way to compare the various CMSes is to look at their code base. [Dries Buytaert]( has done so. His graphs reveal the size of the code bases over time.

It turns out that the Drupallers are themselves prone to reflecting on what they do in relationship to WordPress. There have been a number of threads over the years. [This one in particular]( reflects on ease of use issues. And here’s [another discussion](

Web developers regularly ask this ( precisely because they want to be able to deliver to their clients a stable, robust platform that is very user friendly. If any of those three dimensions fail, they know that the client will fault them, not the platform. But what do we mean by stable, robust, and friendly?

> WordPress is really slick for quick, turnkey web sites that don’t really need much functionality beyond a blog and an ‘about’ page.

> Drupal definitely has a learning curve, but it’s your platform if you anticipate needing to integrate a lot of custom functionality; its biggest strengths are its APIs.

I’m Ready for my Close Up Mr. DeMille

The University of Louisiana has long encouraged faculty to consider distance learning as part of their overall portfolio of course offerings, but there really hasn’t been much of a push, nor much of a plan — so far as I could tell — to really make it happen. With the hiring of a director for distance learning efforts, I am guessing it might be moving forward on that collection of burners that represent any large organization.

That’s good news. [As I noted yesterday](, universities, especially hybrid universities like UL-Lafayette, are going to have to re-establish for themselves and for the public what it is they do and how they go about doing it.

So here’s a seemingly trivial dimension that I think will play a much more significant role than many of us imagine: *production values.* Too many on-line offerings from universities are videos of professors lecturing in a classroom. I am currently enjoying a course on developing apps for the iPhone — gearing up for thinking about the iPad don’t you know. The course is on iTunes University and it’s from Stanford with faculty and guests from Apple. All they did was stick some cameras in a classroom, give the folks up front wireless microphones — which they sometimes have to pass back and forth — and turned them loose.

It’s a great start, but with only a little more effort, we might have something really stunning:

It wouldn’t take much to pull this off: you paint a wall of a classroom white, or black — or even green for cool keyed effects, and then you could work with a professor and a camera. Anything worth a close up, the producer could note as worth coming back to and have the faculty member repeat what they said for a cut to the close-up. With a little practice over a few iterations, I imagine it would become a pretty straightforward affair of when to zoom out to leave room for visuals to appear beside the presenter and when to zoom in.

Of Flash, the Web, and iDevices

John Nash over at Adobe has published a [great essay]( on his personal blog about the nature and status of Flash vis-a-vis web standards, functionality, and the iPhone (and now iPad) embargo:

> I came to Adobe ten years ago to build an open standards (SVG)-based Web animation tool. I like standards, and I have some experience here. … Here’s a quick summary of my long piece below:

> Flash is flawed, but it has moved the world forward.
> Open standards are great, but they can be achingly slow to arrive.
> Talk of “what’s good for standards is bad for Adobe” is misinformed nonsense.
> Flash will innovate or die. I’m betting on innovation.

Note that Nash actually worked on Flash’s competitor — remember Flash was created by Macromedia, then Adobe’s competitor for authoring applications — and is well aware of its history and its limitations. Most importantly, it’s a thoughtful piece with lots of details. No screed. No paranoia. Not your typical internet.

Flash Is Tomorrow’s IE6

The news may finally be sinking in at organizational IT shops all around the globe: Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP is a security vulnerability so great that continuing to use it reveals a level of incompetence that no on wants to risk. But instead of beating IE6 or the organizations that grew to depend upon it relentlessly over the head, let’s admit that the root problem was that organizations were simply trying to make web pages to things that they could not yet do. We now call these things web apps and, well, *everybody is doing it*. It’s the coolest, greatest thing ever, don’t ya know?

The problem is that HTML is not an API, it’s a presentational framework. Getting `

So, go ahead and beat up on ActiveX and IE6 and all the fools who rely upon them. But look closely at your own infrastructure: got Flash?

Styling for the Mobile Device

The age of the mobile device is upon us. Smart phones, or smartphones, be they iPhones or Blackberries or Droids, are everywhere and making sure our users can access our content in a way that respects the full functionality of their devices and, at the same time, the limitations of their screens is becoming increasingly important. As many web developers already know, the problem is that the browsers on these devices often don’t announce themselves very well, and so you have to guess a bit — or, rather, make it possible for your website to guess a bit.

Here’s the `` code for guessing the iPhone and sending its browser, Mobile Safari, the right style sheet:


A good place to begin, as always when it comes to CSS, is [A List Apart](, which has an article entitled [Put Your Content in My Pocket](

The Redesign Itch

With the Christmas holidays here and a little bit of time on my hands, I am feeling in the design mood/mode. With the bathroom repair behind me, I am also in the building mood. I don’t know that an overhaul of the JLX site’s CSS would typically fall under *build* but it’s too wet to put my furniture-building plans into effect.

There are several articles discussing CSS3 that are prompting this:

* [24ways]( has an article on [making your mockup in mark-up]( that repeatedly cites the convenience of CSS3’s ability to use gradients, create highlights and shadows, and to specify fonts as a reason to “design in your browser.” (Much of this is in reference to an overwhelming number of web designers doing their mockup in Photoshop.)
* The author of the “Make Your Mockup in Mark-Up” is [Megan Fisher]( who has a nice site of her own which takes advantage of a number of CSS3’s abilities.
* A lot of designer’s now subscribe to the cult of grids. [Slammer]( is a gridding tool that you deploy as an overlay on your Mac — and so it isn’t built into your CSS the way some of the gridding systems are. The interesting thing about Slammer is that it offers you the chance to choose different gridding/design systems: Golden Ratio, Fibonacci, Rule of Thirds, etc.
* One of the cool new things about CSS3 is it’s ability to create alpha effects with color, using the new `rgba` property. It uses the following scheme: `color: rgba(0-255, 0-255, 0-255, 0-1);`.
* Tim Brown has a terrific write-up on how to use [`@font-face`]( He also has a great list of [web design basics]( that are worth reading either when getting started or reviewing when you feel the need to revisit the basics.

The Web and the New Era of Micro Celebrities

[Paul Carr]( has a great article over at [TechCrunch]( in which he continues to snark at the cultural and social meringue that has piled on top of the Internet, often under the auspice of “Web 2.0.” The setup for the article is that he and Arrington are over at Le Web Conference in Paris and they ran into Anina, a model who has built — cultivated is perhaps the better word — a following in China and is seeking to spread her empire further afield. One of her methods for doing so is a personal iPhone app:

> Anina was in the middle of pitching Arrington on her new mobile app. It’s called Anina Dress-Up and, as the name hints, it allows teenage girls to dress up Anina in various outfits, and pervy men to do the exact reverse. Fun for all the family. The app is available as a free download, but each item of clothing – right down to the underwear – is a replica of a real garment that can be purchased through a mobile store. … What struck me about Anina’s demo of her app – apart from the mind-blowing weirdness of watching a hot real-life cartoon undressing a virtual cartoon version of herself – is how neatly it illustrated the latest fad for wired celebrities: the ego-app.

The [article is worth reading]( not only for the funniness of the moment but also because Carr is generally funny and snarky in all the ways one might hope.