Win an iPod Shuffle with cssmastery.com | February 26, 2006

iPod Shuffle on a copy of CSS Mastery

If you’d like the chance to win an iPod Shuffle, check out the new competition over at cssmastery.com. To enter, all you need to do is get a picture taken of yourself with a copy of my new book, CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions. Post the picture up on cssmastery.com and the best, funniest or coolest pic wins. Simple as that!

To check out the rules and post up your pics, head over to the iPod Shuffle competition page now.

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Egotistical B@5£@rd! | February 24, 2006

Well it’s now official. I have the second biggest Ego on the web. Bigger in fact than the combined egos of Robert Scoble and Jon Hicks.

Screenshot from egosurf.com showing me as having the second highest ego!

Who’d have thunk it eh?

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MapSurface | February 22, 2006

Mapsurface is the personal project of friend and local developer, Glenn Jones. Inspired in part by Jeremy’s DOM Scripting book, Glenn decided to rediscover DOM scripting and created his excellent Ajax link tracker. If you’ve not seen the link tracker before, it’s a cool little script that records and displays which links your users are clicking on. This is a fantastically useful tool as it allows you to see which parts of your page are getting more attention and which parts are not working. As such it could be used in both a marketing and a usability context.

Screen shot of Glenn Jones Ajax Link Tracker

Many people would have stopped there, but working evenings and weekends Glenn advanced the technique to produce Mapsurface. Mapsurface is essentially a stats widget which displays the traffic, referrers and user link behaviour on your site. Most stats packages show this information, so what’s so special? Well, while most stats packages show you this information on a separate admin page in aggregate, Mapsurface makes this data readily available on the actual page. I’ve been beta testing Mapsurface on my site now for a few weeks, so hit alt x and see for yourself.

Screen shot of the mapsurface dashboard

You should now be greeted with the Mapsurface dashboard, a floating widget that contains basic data for the page such as the number of visits, and highest referrals. The widget is composed of JavaScript, XHTML and CSS, has PNG transparency and is fully dragable. Glenn explains the workings a little more over at his blog.

Rather than weigh each page down with code that will only be used by a few people, the files that make up the widget are downloaded on demand, when the user presses the required key combination. This is a truly fantastic feature and one I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of. If you’d like to know how this all works, Glenn also explains the map surface architecture at his site.

Clicking the map link at the top of the dashboard brings up the now familiar link tracking map. As you can see from the following image, 133 people clicked on the link to my book in a recent post, while 229 checked out the book flickr set. You don’t have to be Jakob Nielsen to see how useful this type of data could be for your site usability.

Screen shot showing the link map superimposed over my CSS Mastery book article

Clicking on the more link brings up a second window showing a 7 day and 30 day activity graph, a full referrers list and the exit points for the page.

Screenshot of a bar chart showing the weekly visitor stats for the homepage

Now I don’t know about you, but I find it much more useful viewing page statistics on the actual page in question, rather than trying to decipher the divorced and aggregated data most stats packages supply. For instance, prior to installing MapSurface I’d probably look at my stats 3-4 times a year. Because it’s now so easy I check them at least a couple of times a week, more if I’m posting a lot of stuff.

Mapsurface is still in beta, but you can sign up for a test drive over at www.mapsurface.com. I’m not sure what Glenns plans are for this widget, so don’t know if it’s going to become a commercial project or not. However I know that I’d happily pay $2 per month for such a cool and useful tool. What do you think?

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Take a Look Inside CSS Mastery | February 15, 2006

My book, CSS Mastery finally arrived today and I have to say that I’m over-the-moon with joy. It took around 8 months to write and there were times when I never thought I’d make it to this stage. But I have, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is.

I’m really pleased with how the book’s turned out. The cover design looks great, and the illustrations and screenshots have come together really well. If you haven’t already got your copy and would like to take a sneak peak inside, check out my CSS Mastery Flickr set.

inside cssmastery

I hope you enjoy the book and look forward to hearing your thoughts, suggestions and feedback. If you spot any typos, please drop me an email and I’ll make sure they are corrected. If you enjoy reading the book, please drop me a line or leave a comment below. Alternatively, please feel free to blog about the book or post up a review on Amazon

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And the Winners are … | February 14, 2006

Firstly I’d like to thank everybody who entered my big book give-away. I was bowled over by the number of entries, and picking a winner from the plethora of smart, funny and sometime quite scary comments was extremely difficult. However after much deliberation the first FREE copy of CSS Mastery has to go to Chris, for his straightforward yet funny wobbly table leg comment. Sometimes the best gags are the simplest (and oldest)!

I want a copy of CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions because … My desk is all wobbly and I need something to help prop it up.

The second FREE copy goes to Simon for the following whimsical and inventive comment.

I want a copy of CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions because … my websites have more tables than a furniture shop, more fonts than the church of England, and more styles than a walk in the country.

The runner up, who unfortunately wins nothing but a warm cosy glow for being singled out, goes to Boppyer for this smart and amusing comment.

<TD>, or <TD>: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The <SPAN>’s and <TR>’s of outrageous fortune,
Or to take <DIV>’s against a sea of <TABLE>’s,
And by opposing end them?

And I think a special mention should go to Rhyddian Pugh for a very clever anagram. Props to you!

I want a copy of CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions because … <anagram>Bad and obsolescent code is a scary way - I’d want a fun, vast, super-css tome<anagram />

For all those who missed out on a FREE copy, I’ll be giving away a few freebies at SXSWi and @media 2006, or you could simply buy a copy from Amazon. If you grab a copy now, you’ll be in with a chance of wining an even better prize in the next couple of weeks. Keep you eyes glued to my RSS feed for details of this exciting new competition.

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Win a Copy of CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions | February 7, 2006

To celebrate the publication of my new book, CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions on the 13th of February, I am giving away two FREE copies to a couple of lucky readers. All you have to do is answer the following question in 30 words or less.

“I want a copy of CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions because…”

The top two answers, as judged by yours truly, will win a signed copy of the book. Points will be given for humour, creativity, desperation and sheer smarminess.

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Post SXSW Mexico Travel Advise | February 5, 2006

After SXSWi 20006, I’ll be heading down to Mexico for a well deserved break. The flights only cost a little bit more, so it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. I’ve never been to Mexico before, but it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. As such, I’m looking for a bit of travel advice from anybody who has spent time in the area.

I’m flying into Cancun, and have been told that Playa Del Carmen is a good place to base yourself. However if you have any other recommendation, please let me know. I’m looking to stay somewhere nice, relaxed and not too touristy, preferably in a pleasant but not to expensive hotel. I’m looking forward to seeing the Maya ruins, as well as getting in a few days diving. I’m particularly interested in checking out some of the cenotes as I’ve not done much cave diving, and these places look out of this world. I’m also keen to do a significant amount of chilling, away from the laptop and mobile phone, with the only interruption being the occasional margarita.

So if you’ve been to this part of Mexico, I’d love to hear your top travel tips. Where is a good place to stay, a good place to eat and a good place to chill? What are the best Maya sites, the top tourist highlights and what do I absolutely, positively, have to see? Oh, and if you’re into your diving, what are the best dive sites and cenotes to visit?

I look forward to your advice and suggestions.

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CSS Hacks in IE7 | February 4, 2006

The closer Internet Explorer 7 gets to an official launch, the more concerned the IE dev team seem to be about the effect of CSS hacks. It started simply enough, with a few passing remarks that certain CSS bugs had been fixed and therefor hacks that use those bugs wouldn’t work on IE7. As things have progressed, these remarks started to sound a little more worried while the last few remarks actually sound seriously concerned.

I have to admit I can understand this concern up to a point, as nobody really knows what is going to happen. However I imagine the IE Dev team have been doing their research and have come across a number of broken sites. This is why they have asked developers to stop ditch CSS hacks and start using IE conditional comments instead.

The thing is, I really don’t understand the level of concern here. Maybe I’m missing something, but the majority of CSS hacks are used to send specific rules to Internet Explorer to make up for a deficiency in its CSS implementation. The IE dev team have fixed the majority of these deficiencies, so who cares if the hack no longer works? In fact it’s actually a good thing and I’d be more concerned if the hack still worked.

Take the humble Star HTML hack for instance. This hack is commonly used to supply rules only to Internet Explorer and not to any other browser. You would normally use this as part of the modified simplified box model hack to deal with IE5.x’s proprietary box model. The box model was fixed in IE6 as well as IE7, so what’s the big deal?

Similarly, I may sometimes use an underscore hack or child selector hack to compensate for Internet Explorers lack of PNG alpha transparency support or support for fixed positioning. With both of these CSS features suposidly fixed, where’s the problem?

It seems to me that their may be two issues at play here. First it appears that the IE team believes that CSS developers actively want some kind of filtering mechanism so they can filter out certain browsers. Personally I’ve never wanted to filter out a particular browser, just a particular broken browser version.

More importantly, I think the IE dev team are catering to a group of developers who build their sites with IE, rather than the standards in mind. If you build your sites expecting to use Internet Explorer 5.x’s proprietary box model and faulty overflow handling, of course your site will break on IE7. However it will also break on Firefox, Safari and any other half descent browser around. The problem isn’t the hacks themselves, it’s the way some developers have been using them. At least that’s my theory anyway.

Admittedly I’ve not actually tested IE7 yet, so this is pure conjecture. However if you’ve been using IE7, what’s your feeling? Are many websites seriously breaking due to CSS hacks, or are the IE dev team just being overly cautious?

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How to be a Web Design Superhero | February 2, 2006

Inspired by the title of my SXSW talk, I’d like to know what you think it takes to be a web design superhero, and who your web design superheros are?

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SXSWi2006 | February 2, 2006

SXSW interactive –the biggest event on the web geeks calendar– is only 6 weeks away, and I’m seriously looking forward to it. If you’ve not been to southby before, it’s four days of inspirational talks, hanging out with cool people, eating, drinking and partying.

Last year saw a bit of a British invasion, with many of the BritPack heading out for the first time. This year looks to be even bigger and better, with the British contingent easily doubling in size. If you happen to live in Austin, I suggest letting the local bars know they need to stock up on beer. Despite drinking far too much last year, it was impossible to get even mildly drunk on their 3% larger, giving us a fairly undeserved reputation as hardened drinkers (if you’ve ever been out drinking with me in the UK you’ll know I’m a bit of a lightweight).

However it’s not all drink, drink, drink. There are some fantastic speakers there this year and some great sounding panels and presentations. Invariably panels will clash, but theses are the ones I’m most looking forward to:

You may have noticed amongst the book plugs and underpants icons in my right hand column a “See Me Speak at SXSW 10-14” button. That’s right, I’m going to be speaking at southby again this year, which is something I’m looking forward to. I’ve teamed up teamed up with the talented Mr Clarke and will be giving a presentation entitled “How to be a Web Design Superhero”. I’m not quite sure what it will entail just yet, but I’m sure it will be fun. Feel free to come up afterwards and say hi, or grab me in the corridors for a quick chat.

If you happen to be on a panel, I strongly recommend reading Seven Steps to Better Presentations by Jeff Veen. How to Kick Butt On a Panel also has some good, sensible advice. Whatever you do, just make sure you have your morning coffee first.

The official evening events look as good as ever, but it’s worth keeping your eyes on upcoming.org for a list of all the unofficial ones as well. Last year I painstakingly transfered all the events into iCal only to realise that I could subscribe to their shared iCal calendar. One big event that may have slipped under the RADAR is BarCampAustin on March 11th. With so many geeks in town, it could be good. Although it’s a real shame they didn’t put it on the day before the conference when more people were free.

If you are looking to keep track of all the latest southby news, or want advice on eating and accommodation, head over to the official SXSWi Community Blog or check out SXSWBaby. If you are stuck for accommodation I’d recommend finding a couple of people to share a hotel room with, or you could try couch surfing if you’re really desperate.

If you are planning to go to SXSW interactive this year lets start to get to know each other. Where are you from, what’s your website address, how many times have you been, where are you staying and what are you most looking forward to?

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