Archive for September 2004

ESPN Motion for Firefox Launched

Hot on the heels of the ESPN Motion for Mac release a couple of days ago, we’ve now enabled Motion for PC Firefox users as well. Just head to the ESPN.com front page and you’ll see your video selections in the sidebar running down the right side of the page. The sidebar, of course, follows you from page to page on ESPN so you can really access Motion from anywhere on the site.

Although I’m not really supposed to comment on these sorts of things, let me just say that the initial release of ESPN Motion for Internet Explorer a little over a year ago had nothing to do with the sorts of nefarious theories put out by a few ill-informed reporters. One reporter attempted to knock ESPN for not supporting web standards because Motion didn’t work on Firefox, when in reality, not only do we lead the charge towards web standards in our category, but Motion was clearly a “bonus” feature to the site and it was only made possible by technology not available in Firefox. Another reporter falsely concluded that the setup had something to do with our then partnership with MSN. Again, not true.

The initial release of ESPN Motion for Internet Explorer was strictly an issue of prevalent technology. ActiveX, for all of its shortcomings, provides a clear filesystem I/O which allowed us to download and store high quality video on users’ machines without any detrimental side effects… the downside being that it was only implementable in Internet Explorer.

Anyway, enough of that. Motion is now freely available to all. Happy?

ESPN Motion for Mac Launched

With our last redesign in 2003, ESPN.com launched a revolutionary video feature called “ESPN Motion”. By downloading high quality video transparently to users’ hard drives, we were able to give our viewers, free of charge, some of the highest quality video on the web, with no waiting, no buffering, and no noticeable encoding artifacts. With a simple installation of the little ESPN ActiveX control, users could watch freshly cut ESPN video right within our front page.

Well, it’s been a little over a year now, and there have been over 3 million downloads of the ESPN Motion installer with hundreds of thousands of active users viewing video every day. Through this trial, it became apparent that given high enough video quality and a wide enough selection of cuts, there really is a place for this sort of multimedia on the web, if you do it right.

Part of “doing it right”, however, is serving the largest audience possible. When we initially launched ESPN Motion, we had to limit the audience to Internet Explorer users on the Windows platform. This limitation was strictly a technological one, as the easiest way to download and access video on a user’s hard drive is by using ActiveX. With this in mind, we designed and engineered our own patent-pending ActiveX control to serve video to all Disney sites. With a 95% market share (for now at least), PC Internet Explorer accounted for the great majority of Disney and ESPN users, so this initial release of Motion at least served most of the market.

Now that Motion has proved to be such a popular addition to ESPN.com, it’s time to bring the feature to our beloved Mac users. We run a ton of Macs at ESPN and Disney, not just in the design department but in engineering as well. With this in mind, the teams in New York and Bristol today bring you ESPN Motion for Mac. By utilizing Flash MX video and plenty of fancy DHTML and CSS goodness, Mac users are now able to view ESPN Motion video without even downloading an installer. In this user’s opinion, it’s an even better experience than the original.

So head on over to the Mac Motion showcase to check it out, or just go to the ESPN front page and look for Motion in the right-hand sidebar.

sIFR 2.0b2: The Mo' Betta Beta

UPDATE: Version 2.0 is now available. See article here.

Another week, another round of improvements to sIFR. I think we’re 95% of the way to an official release now. Here are the improvements in the latest beta:

  • Syntax now 100% compatible with XHTML Strict, even when served as application/xml
  • Optional conversion to uppercase or lowercase now supported
  • Optional link underlining on hover
  • Bolding and italicizing of TrueType fonts now supported
  • Automatic removal of extra white space in HTML
  • Full support for Safari, Firefox, Mozilla, Mac IE, and PC IE
  • Improved support for Opera
  • Better international character support
  • Ability to use quotes, ampersands, and other normally escaped characters
  • Various speed improvements and bug fixes

For people who have already implemented sIFR, you don’t need to redo any of your CSS. Simply pop the new JS file into place, re-export your SWFs, and you should be good to go. Please make sure you have the updated .as files in the same folder as your .fla when you re-export.

There was only one minor change to implementation you should be aware of: The replacement calls must now go either at the end of your HTML document or at the end of the JS file. This only affects people who may have embedded the replacement calls in the middle of the JS file previously.

Alright, here’s the sIFR 2.0b2 download. Bang away.

I Found Some of Your Life

“Double Accidental Excellence / Awesomeness”A few times a year, you find something new on the web which you just know is going to get contagious. Today, via Phillip Torrone, I discovered such a thing.

Here it is in a nutshell: A few months ago, someone found a memory card in the back seat of a New York taxicab. The memory card was filled with 227 photos of some frat boy’s life over the last year. Trips to Amsterdam, keggers, ridiculous mugshots… the whole bit. Rather than just deleting the memory card, this extraordinarily creative (and a bit diabolical) person started a blog and is posting one photo per day from the reel. This, by itself, would not be so entertaining, but in addition to posting the photos, the blogger narrates each photo pretending it is his own life with his own friends. What a great premise for a blog. Seriously, it’s hilarious.

You could say that this is a mean thing to do, but really, can you think of a better way to get this person’s photos back to them? I can’t.

Check it out at: ifoundsomeofyourlife.blogspot.com.

UPDATE: On September 20th, the creator of this site pulled all content offline. I can only guess the cause was a scary e-mail from an armchair lawyer because the original memory card’s owner doesn’t seem to have stepped forward yet.

sIFR 2.0b: Come Kick the Tires

UPDATE: Version 2.0 is now available. See article here.

Without further ado, I present for download sIFR 2.0b (or Scalable Inman Flash Replacement Two Point Oh Beta). Before I get into the details, I just wanted to post the link first, and also, an example of sIFR 2.0b in action. Note that this new example does not have a single image anywhere on the page or even in the CSS. It’s pure XHTML text. That’s it.

Now then.

How about an update on what’s occurred since 1.0.

Major goings on

Perhaps the most interesting thing that’s happened in the last couple of weeks is that according to Daypop, the original sIFR article was the 13th most popular page in the entire world (well, blogosphere at least) for a short period last week. That’s pretty cool, damnit. As blogging spreads from the techies to the general public over the next several years, reaching the top 20 is going to get harder and harder, so I reckon that’s probably it for me. Might as well retire now.

Besides the nice linkage, I received posts or e-mails from people in over 20 countries. Most posts or e-mails were feature requests, improvements, or written expressions of glee. Besides all the nice e-mails, it’s interesting to note who hasn’t shown up in the comments. The highly esteemed Joe Clark is absent, which means one of three things:

  1. Joe is vacationing on a beach and away from a computer.
  2. Joe is sick of responding to my nonsense.
  3. sIFR is actually accessible!

So now that I’ve shot the big accessibility flaregun into the air, we’ll see what happens. Great accessibility improvements have already been made, but I don’t claim to be a master at testing screenreaders, so if you have insight, please post it.
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sIFR 2.0 Beta Coming This Weekend

UPDATE: Version 2.0 is now available. See article here.

I didn’t want to go the whole week without giving a quick update on the latest builds of sIFR. I’ll be releasing version 2.0b on Sunday and features to look forward to include:

  • A completely rewritten set of javascript/DOM methods which are now object-oriented and fully compatible with XML Strict documents (even when served as application/xml!), courtesy of The Netherlands’ Mark Wubben, brewer of fine javascript. Much more on this to come.
  • Support for hover colors, multiple links, manual position adjustments, text-centering, and more.
  • New, smaller .swfs resulting from the use of character subsets. About half the filesize of version 1.1.4. Along with this font subsetting comes support for international character sets as well.
  • Quicker text rendering.
  • Domain-securing of your .swf font files.

With contributions coming now from Seattle, Baltimore, Sweden, The Netherlands, and other corners of the world, the task of getting all of components distilled down to a single mechanism is not trivial. The 2.0b release this weekend will still be a “developer’s release” per se and might not quite be idiotproof yet, but it will contain the same full feature set as the release version.

sIFR Update: More Enhancements on the Way

UPDATE: Version 2.0 is now available. See article here.

Three days and tens of thousands of hits later, sIFR has so far held its own as a solid, compatible way to replace browser text with custom typography. I’ve released a few new updates in response to minor glitches reported, but more importantly, a solid release is only days away. In the meantime, please feel to download version 1.1.4 which simply refines the replacement function a bit so that it should work on very complicated replacement rules and such. I’ve also updated the example page.

Here are some of the issues which I plan to address in version 1.2 (to be released hopefully in the next few days):

  1. Simple instructions your mom can follow. This thing can really be implemented across an entire site in under ten minutes if the instructions are clear enough.
  2. Support for international character sets. This is an issue I haven’t solved yet because I’m a snooty uncultured American whose foreign language acumen is largely limited to profanities.
  3. A more rock-solid replacement function that is perhaps even quicker than the current one.
  4. A built-in adjustment for Flash’s tendency to position text a tiny percentage away from its textbox origin.
  5. Ability to include a reduced character set, for extra bandwidth savings. Most people probably only need standard letters, numbers, and punctuation, so by eliminating all of the characters you’d never use (like a degree symbol maybe), the .swf filesize can be reduced by, in some cases, 50%. This will involve having an actual textbox on stage in the .fla instead of dynamically creating one. Not as pure as I’d like, but I don’t think there is a way to selectively embed character subsets using pure Actionscript.
  6. An adjustment for the box-model problem in IE 5.x (PC) whereby offsetHeight and offsetWidth are reported slightly differently if padding is included in the element.
  7. A change to the display method of the hidden browser text so that it is even more accessible.
  8. Lockability of .swf files by domain. This will prevent others from using your font .swf file.

I’m probably missing some stuff, but those are the biggies. I want to again thank everyone who has taken the time to put this thing through its paces over the last few days. sIFR is nice in that it is portable enough to pop into your site fairly quickly, and pop out of your site even quicker. The nice side-effect of this is that when I release updates, they should be fairly easy to apply. The upcoming 1.2 release will have its own dedicated page with release notes, but I’m a designer so don’t expect a full-on SourceForge repository or anything.

Please feel free to comment on any of the items above… especially if you have solutions to suggest or additional features to request.

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Steve Jobs speaks about the future at the International Design Conference in 1983:

31 years later, it’s safe to say this is one of the most prescient speeches about technology ever delivered. Jobs covers wireless networking, tablets, Google StreetView, Siri, and the App Store (among other things) many years before their proliferation. A fantastic listen.

How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
The iPhone and Disruption: Five Years In:

Take your pick of about 20 great quotes from this Daring Fireball article. My personal favorite:

The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.