Archive for April 2009
@kennymeyers I do not have a beer pong table, unfortunately. Someone should bring one though! Nudge, nudge.
Thinking about throwing an old school kegger at my house on Tuesday evening, after An Event Apart Seattle.
Having some fun with the @msnbc_breaking account right now. I swear, that bot needs to get out more. People appreciate a friendly bot.
The percentage of days where 100% of my postal mail goes straight to the trash is about 80 now. I think Kramer was onto something.
@kennymeyers Holy crap, really? I always assumed those things took 2-3 weeks minimum to make. Great series.
According to PBS Frontline, stormwater runoff dumps as much oil into Puget Sound every 2 years as the Valdez spill dumped. Is that true???
Swine And Pine Flu: Sickness caused by acute pizza overdose.
@echuckles Holy CRAP that is some serious biting. Can you pull a semi with those teeth?
The government intentionally banked a 747 low over New York City today for a “photo shoot”. Infuriating: http://tinyurl.com/c6rw7n

The Sorry State of WYSIWYG Web Editors

We got into a heated discussion in the office about WYSIWYG web editors today. While heated discussions are nothing new to us, neither side even being happy with their own argument was. When people are arguing over things they don’t even believe in, there can be no positive outcome.

My side was as follows: All web editors — including TinyMCE, YUI, and FCKEditor — are broken in different ways, and the only software I’ve seen which can satisfactorily desuckify one of them is WordPress. Because of that, we should deconstruct what WordPress has done to TinyMCE and apply the same duct tape to our own editor on Newsvine (we use TinyMCE currently, but are in the process of moving to YUI).

Our development staff’s side was as follows: All web editors — including TinyMCE, YUI, and FCKEditor — are broken in different ways, and because of the crazy amount of ridiculous cleaning, converting, regexing, transforming, and other shenanigans WordPress has to do to their editor just to get it to the state it’s in right now, it’s not worth spending the time to recreate such a mess, only to have it remain imperfect and possibly break in upcoming browser releases.

There are several things wrong with each editor but the particular problem we are trying to solve is that when you’re in HTML mode, you can’t create paragraphs just by putting double newlines between them. Some people say that because you’re in HTML mode, you shouldn’t expect an editor to do this for you, but I’ve been using blog software for six or seven years and that is the behavior I — and I believe most others — are accustomed to, so I couldn’t imagine releasing something without it. As mentioned above, the WordPress team has craftily hacked this functionality into their WYSIWYG system, but other platforms like Typepad have not.

I could go on and on for another hour about details, but after going through all of the WYSIWYG editor machinations we’ve gone through, I’m left wondering why the web development world still hasn’t figured this out yet. We can write an entire e-mail application, a replacement for Excel, and whatever the hell these things are, but we can’t replicate a toolset we’ve had in MacWrite since 1984?

Think of how much has happened in the last 25 years, and we haven’t been able to nail that.

TinyMCE circa 2009: Millions and millions crrrrrrrrazy features. Doesn’t work satisfactorily.

Microsoft Word circa 1991: Just enough features. Works plenty fine for most people.

I know hard-core coders like to hand-code html even when writing web comments (self included), but 90% of the world would rather not be bothered with that. What’s it going to take for this problem to go away? If you’re involved in WYSIWYG editor development, I’d love to know. Is it the disappearance of old browsers? Is it something that should be Flash-based? Is it just that no one’s really worked full-time on the problem yet? Why isn’t WordPress’s crazy hackery built into TinyMCE in the first place? So many questions…

So far, the one effort I’ve noticed that seems to take the cleanest possible approach is the WYSIWYM Editor. What-You-See-Is-What-You-Mean essentially translates to “the HTML code associated with what users type will semantically match what they intend”. Meaning, if I type two blocks of text separated by a double newline, I get two properly <p>d paragraphs out of that… not just a blob of text separated by <br> tags. Or if I bold some text, I get <strong> tags instead of other ridiculousness.

Sadly, the WYSIWYM Editor seems to have been in development since 2006 and is only at 0.5b, but happily, there appears to be a healthy flurry of activity around it lately. I really don’t mean to disparage the hard work that’s gone into all of these imperfect WYSIWYG editors in the past, and I do realize that browsers are the core culprits here, but it’s 2009 already and I’d prefer a solution to this longstanding real-world problem over almost anything promised in HTML 5, CSS 3, or any of the other specs we’ve been eagering awaiting for the last several years.

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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.