2011 In Review; 2012: The Year of Shipping It

2011: The year is almost over and looking back, it’s been a pretty good awesome year. I married a wonderful woman in August, moved to LivingSocial in March (via the Infoether acquisition), and moved from The Farm at Oatlands Mill to Alexandria. A lot of work went into The Rails View book for Pragmatic Programmers and I finished a few freelance client sites for EFM, Market Street Advisors, and Guggenheim Securities.

But 2012? I’ve resolved that 2012 will be the year of shipping stuff. There’s far too much stuff sitting around on my hard drive that’s in a partially finished state and it needs to be delivered or abandoned entirely. And to that end:

The 2012 SHIP IT List

  • Relaunch Boboroshi.com
  • Relaunch Meticulous.com, including new MeticulousTalent.com
  • Ship “The Rails View” book including TheRailsView.com site
  • Redesign WeLoveDC responsively
  • Setup a new ongoing site for JohnandWhitney.com
  • Finish the Eden Soundtrack
  • Finish the Rotoscope record
  • Ship the Juniper Lane “Standing on the White Line” record (with remixes)
  • Finish at least a Boboroshi & Kynz EP
  • Ship FlickrFndr, a Flickr/Creative Commons utility
  • Ship the first version of an iOS gardening app

And a few other projects I’ve got on a list on my wall. In addition, I’ve got a lot of training to do on various topics. This may seem agressive and optimistic, but if you shoot for the moon, you at least get into orbit.

WWF: A New File Format

WWF File Format Icon

The World Wildlife Fund has started a new campaign to save files as WWF, a file format that is effectively a PDF with printing disabled. While their intent is noble and there are serious issues with deforestation and water pollution from paper mills, is this really an effective solution, or is this just another process that will make people feel good while actually accomplishing nothing?

There are valid cases for printing PDF files:

  1. When sending a PDF instead of mailing a document, there is no wasted paper on packaging, there is no expended fuel in delivery1, and the group sending the document does not need to maintain large quantities of the file already printed (as most print orders are done in multiples of 500 or 1000)
  2. The file will need to be used where there is not readily available power and/or it would be difficult to use
  3. Someone is creating documentation for working offline.

Now, if I send you the document as a PDF, you have the choice to print or not to print. Granted, some people print regardless, but disallowing a user to print? For me this begs the question, why don’t we just encourage people to not print out PDFs?

There has to be some monetary cost to printing at a company. Can we offer incentives to users who print less instead of creating a file format that requires more software to be installed and users to be educated, etc.?

Is this the right solution to the problem of executives gone wild with the print menu item?

1 Okay, yes, there is some micro-expenditure of fuel to generate the electrons required to send the PDF and operate the computer, but nowhere near the amount used in traditional mail.

MacRuby Site Live

The new MacRuby website is alive and kicking with a new look and feel (courtesy of me) and a nice Webby-based backend (courtesy of Rich Kilmer).

Webby is a Ruby framework that allows the user to work with model files to build a static site. We have a lot of helper methods and ERB that ends up dumped out as HTML when we run the deploy command. It’s similar to WordPress in that way, and it is a phenomenal tool for building static sites that feel dynamic. While it does support things such as HAML and SASS, we relied on good old Textile to get the job done.

The site is run without a database. It uses structs and helper methods to generate everything. For example, if Rich wanted to add someone to the “Project Team” list, he would simply update the Ruby array of people objects and the helpers loop through and make it all nice and styled. There was more info presented on this page initially, being the name, URL, focus and company affiliation, but it was simplified down for some of the presenters. The Special Thanks are handled in the same way.

We’ve been very happy to see some of the recent press about MacRuby as well. If you haven’t seen it, please check out:

Upcoming MacRuby Implementation to be Substantially Faster (at ArsTechnica)

Creating a Harvard Rule with CSS

Having grown up with pica sheets and crop slides with wax pencils, I come from a world of print design effectively dead with the advent of QuarkXPress, Pagemaker and InDesign. I still remember learning the rule types in high school yearbook design sessions and in some cases, I’ve recently implemented what’s known as a Harvard Rule line in a design.

What is a Harvard Rule? The old yearbook publisher I worked with defines it nicely:

A standard rule line is any printed line that is less than two picas wide. These rule lines can also add variety to your page. Common rule line weights are one, two, three, six, nine and twelve points. Rule lines are intended to unite design elements, not separate them. A Harvard rule line is two parallel lines, with one line wider than the other. Standard widths are one, three, six, nine and 12 points. When used as a border, the thin line is usually inside.

First off let’s get these terms right. A pica is 12 points. There are 72 points in a printed inch. (Sorry Windows users, someone back in the day thought 96px to an inch was better than 72. Apple is 72px/inch.) There are, therefore, 6 picas in an inch.

I didn’t want to use an image to do this, and wanted to accomplish it with html and css. Luckily, there’s an HTML element called “HR” that is a horizontal rule. These, in their basic implementation, are plain and simple ugly:

but some CSS can make it pretty:

That’s not nice to use. So with some HTML and CSS hackery, we can get something that looks a lot nicer. In your HTML, you first want to call the rule:

<pre> <hr size="0" noshade /> </pre>

Since it’s XHTML we’re using here, this is a self-closing element. The CSS for this isn’t too complex. We need to define the base colors to hide the original element. We then need to apply borders to finish the magic. You can alter the margins to space it out from other elements.

<pre> hr { /* Faking a Harvard Rule */ color: #fff; background-color: #fff; height: 2px; /* this is teh white space between the lines */ border: 0; /* this removes left and right borders */ border-top: 4px solid #aaa; border-bottom: 1px solid #aaa; } </pre>

With that in place, we can give these unique styles and flip the lines as needed.

You can also accomplish a double rule this way:

These are all being used in the forthcoming MacRuby redesign.


InfoEther Website Launch

!{border:1px solid black;}http://boboroshi.com/assets/2009/2/17/infoether_site.jpg (The new InfoEther website design)!

For those of you who don’t know, I started working at InfoEther last fall as their UI/UX/Design guy. One of the floating projects I had been tasked with was the redesign of the InfoEther company site. In light of getting me back into Ruby on Rails, they also decided that I should be the one to code it.

The site is done and up and will probably expand as we have time and new things happen. Now it’s off to work on wireframes for our new product.

You can see the site at infoether.com.

RubyConf Design

The website for RubyConf has gone live. I did the design for my friends at InfoEther. I’ll be down in Florida for the event (baring unforeseen circumstances) but will not be talking. I’m not the Ruby programmer you may think me to be. I make pretty pictures for Ruby programmers. And dabble a bit when i have time with archaeopteryx and MaxMSP.

Hyphenated People's Usability Prix Fixe

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Nota bene: We’re only budgeting the time for a few of these projects this summer. It’d be a clever marketing tactic to make that up and then urge you to contact us now if not sooner, but it’s actually true. This is something we’ll be doing in addition to our normal, larger jobs. We will of course deliver our very best (as we always do), but this is an experiment for us from a business standpoint.

1 This assumes a fairly typically sized application: similar to or bigger than Basecamp, smaller than Salesforce.