About this site's lack of design: Yes, it's supposed to look this way — I'm using a sandbox theme for WordPress (see it on GitHub).

Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977

Archive for August, 2003


View Browser Source (AppleScripts)

Friday, August 29th, 2003

Our set of AppleScripts was mentioned yesterday by Zeldman, and was coincidentally updated to version 1.3 — for those of you in the dark, Webgraph’s View Browser Source AppleScripts (created by yours truly) fill a still-glaring gap present in all OS X web browsers: the lack of an option to view web page source in an external editor of your choosing.

Our scripts solve this problem by using the AppleScript hooks built into most OS X web browsers, as well as a few clever uses of Unix apps like cURL, to pick up the source of the site you are viewing, and insert it into a new document in your text editor of choice (actually, the text editor must be selected from the list I chose to support, but I’ve covered pretty much all the usual options, including command line editors, and I’m willing to add text editors to the list upon request).

They are really wonderful, if I do say so myself (I use them every day), and for folks like Zeldman, these scripts provide a much-needed feature not seen since the days of OS 9…

Download your copy today, and let me know what you think — I’m always open to suggestions.


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Contests, Quizzes and Semantics

Thursday, August 28th, 2003

If you haven’t checked out The Old Technology Giveaway, you are missing some great collections of techno-stuff. Of note so far: Grant, Emilio, Tim and Dave.

The deadline for submissions to Sidebar Redesign is near (the 31st of this month) — if you have any suggestions at all, any ideas, or if you just desperately want those TypePad discount codes, submit something. Anything. Be creative. Heck, redesign my logo if you want; at this point, I’d rather hand over those codes to someone who will use them, than let the entire contest be a flop. Experimentation is the name of the game…

In other news, Dan Cederholm has launched a series of quiz questions to generate discussion regarding web standards, semantics and the various methods employed by developers when writing markup. It’s worth a look, especially Sunny’s comment, which nails it right on the money (you’ll need to scroll for it though: Dan has yet to provide permalinks for each comment). I’m looking forward to the next quiz already.

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately (Jason, Dan, Doug, Dave, Jeffery) regarding the difference between valid markup and semantic markup. I find it interesting that something I have taken for granted since I began my transition from tables-based design to XHTML/CSS should suddenly be the topic of the week. After reviewing the thoughtful opinions of the authors listed above, as well as the comments from many other developers and designers, it is clear that there are many “right ways” when it comes to the concept of semantically rich markup, which makes the discussion worthwhile.

While this site is not a perfect example, I have been working to improve the semantic qualities of the markup for quite a while. There are still some things that are not as I would like (the primary navigation, for example), but I have used the current design (version 2) to build on what I learned from version 1. New projects are even more semantically correct (it’s always easier to start with a clean slate than to fix in place what is already broken), and I’m beginning to think this site is ready for Version 3: The Semantic One.

As I commented on Dan’s post, I believe responsible designers will find their way to more semantic markup on their own. Granted, books like Designing With Web Standards and Speed Up Your Site (both are currently on my nightstand) should almost be required reading for any web designer, and there is no question in my mind that reading both will make any developer better at what they do, but there is so much information available to help guide developers and designers through the transition to XHTML/CSS that their markup will naturally become more and more semantically rich.

It’s all about being comfortable: Designers have to focus on design first, which means leaving semantics (a somewhat intimidating subject to begin with) alone until they are comfortable with writing valid XHTML and CSS, and have left table-based positioning behind entirely. This is where XHTML and CSS validation is a good thing: it provides positive reinforcement to designers making the transition; for many, those “dumb” validation apps might be the only encouragement they receive (especially for in-house developers).



Contest: Sidebar Redux

Wednesday, August 13th, 2003

From the nice folks who brought you “The Old Technology Giveaway” (me) comes a new contest, with useful prizes!

Presenting: Sidebar Redesign

Objectives: Redesign and enhance the sidebar for this site (SuperfluousBanter), in keeping with the existing look and feel.

Prizes: The Grand Prize winner will receive 10 TypePad 20% Lifetime Discount codes, as well as your name credited in the “About” page of this site, a link to your site in the “External” column, and a credit in this site’s source. First Runner Up and Second Runner Up will each receive 5 TypePad 20% Lifetime Discount codes.

Requirements: If you plan to submit a working demo, it should validate as XHTML 1.0 (Transitional or Strict), and the CSS should validate and work properly in the following browsers: IE5/Mac, IE6/PC, Mozilla (and related browsers), Safari. All designs must work well in the 3 different color schemes of this site. Things I’d like are a recent comments list and a “currently enjoying” link list, but those are just ideas. Feel free to come up with ideas for its content as well (this is also an opportunity to shape a small part of the regular content of this site). Do not feel obligated to fit your design into the current sidebar dimensions: there is no restriction on size, but it should fit visually with the rest of the site design and layout.

Submissions: Post a link to your entry in the Comments of this post, in one of the following formats: JPG, GIF, PNG, PSD, or an actual working demo of your design.

Deadline: The TypePad 20% Lifetime Discount codes expire November 30th, 2003, so we will receive entries through 11:59pm EST on August 31th, 2003. The winners will be announced on or before September 30th, 2003. This will give the winners enough time to figure out how they will use their spoils.

More prizes may be added before the contest is over, and I’m certainly open to donations to the prize pool.

Questions? Email me.



A Second Voice for Mezzoblue

Monday, August 11th, 2003

Dave Shea kicks his site up a few notches with the introduction of A Second Voice, a new section of mezzoblue which features different authors writing about their areas of expertise, all relating to web design in some way.

The first installment, Build it, and They Will Come, Nic Steenhout focuses on Accessibility. Check out the comments–they are already starting to add some useful info to the article.


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Something’s Coming…

Thursday, August 7th, 2003

Separating Content From Presentation [book cover]Something is indeed coming, and coming soon; unfortunately, good news often comes at a price, and the price in my case has been limited time to do anything other than work, eat and sleep (and little of the last two), which includes managing SuperfluousBanter.

Posting has been rather infrequent of late (as noted by readers like Adam Polselli), and it’s due to a few projects which have been taking up quite a bit of my time over the last few weeks (most of them warrant the time spent…).

I will be writing more in the week(s) to come (expect limited posting until some of these projects have been completed) but here’s a quick run-down of what to expect:

Everything is quite exciting at the moment, which is a nice change of pace. I’m also working on ideas for a few articles that I will attempt to have published (ALA, Digital Web, etc.) — I’ll publish them here if I have to (ahh, the joys of independent publishing).

Changes continue to be made to SuperfluousBanter, some noticeable, others hidden behind the scenes — I’ll write up a list of changes and any interesting tidbits once some of these other projects are underway. One you will see soon is a transition from JavaScript to CSS for the style switcher rollovers in the sidebar, as well as further use of the FIR technique (or its recently discovered alternatives throughout the site (for more on FIR, read Dave Shea’s new article for Digital Web Magazine, In Defense of Fahrner Image Replacement).

Finally, in addition to The Old Technology Giveaway, I’ll be posting another little contest early next week (possibly over the weekend) with some more useful prizes, and a little less-esoteric theme.