26 Oct

NYTimes.com – The Election That Wasn’t

If we were a serious country, this is what the midterms would be about: How do we generate the jobs needed to sustain our middle class and pay for new infrastructure? It would require a different kind of politics — one that doesn’t conform to either party’s platform. We will have to raise some taxes to generate revenue, like on energy or maybe a value-added tax, and lower others, on payrolls to stimulate work, and on multinational corporations to get them to bring the trillion dollars they have offshore back to the U.S. for investment. We will have to adjust some services, like Social Security, while we invest in new infrastructure, like high-speed rail and Internet bandwidth; the U.S. ranks 22nd in the world in average connection speed. And, most of all, we will have to have an honest discussion about how we got in this rut.

via NYTimes.com – The Election That Wasn’t. I can’t really add much more.

26 Oct

gdgt – Will the Mac App Store have enough to sell?

Granted, we’ve yet to see what Apple is actually going to reject from the store, and it’s not like the Mac App Store will prevent developers from building the software they want to build and distributing it independently (or so we all hope). Apple is also free to relax these rules in the future, just as they did for the iPhone App Store. But for the moment, I’m ambivalent about the whole thing, as I’m sure are a lot of developers. Having a built-in distribution platform for developers will certainly be a plus, but combined with the general migration of apps to the browser means that a Mac App Store it isn’t the obvious slam dunk it was for mobile.

via gdgt – Will the Mac App Store have enough to sell?. I’m also very ambivalent about the whole thing. I don’t feel like I have a hard time finding applications that I need. The ease of installing new applications is defiantly a nice improvement but until all applications (whether in the Mac App Store or not) gain that ability I doubt I’ll be using it much. Also the whole bit of not being able to download beta or trial versions of an application is pretty awful. I hate having to spend money on iPhone apps essentially blind, why would I do that for more expensive applications?

22 Oct

LATimes.com – Juan Williams: Fox News gives Juan Williams an expanded role

As NPR weathered a storm of criticism Thursday for its decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams for his comments about Muslims, Fox News moved aggressively to turn the controversy to its advantage by signing Williams to an expanded role at the cable news network.

Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes handed Williams a new three-year contract Thursday morning, in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million, a considerable bump up from his previous salary, the Tribune Washington Bureau has learned. The Fox News contributor will now appear exclusively and more frequently on the cable news network and have a regular column on FoxNews.com.

via LATimes.com – Juan Williams: Fox News gives Juan Williams an expanded role. NPR make a stand for factual and non-baised reporting, Fox News makes a stand for opinion and commentary. Explains perfectly why Fox News is not real news organization, real news and real reporting is based upon facts and not commentary.

Meanwhile, conservative leaders lambasted NPR for firing Williams and called for cutting public funding for the media organization. By midafternoon Thursday, more than 4,900 comments had been posted on NPR.org, including many from people who said the media organization was bowing to political correctness and unfairly punishing Williams for expressing his personal opinions.

Personal opinions is not the role of NPR or any news organization, all news organizations should eliminate people who are not established opinion commentators and openly provide opinion based reporting over factual reporting (talking to all cable networks, Fox News and MSNBC). One of my friends took some journalism classes and one of the highlights was that a journalist should always remain the in-partial observer. Fox News pushes an agenda and is openly partisan, that is not something NPR desires to turn into. Also as a side note, just how much does the government (State and Federal) pay of NPR’s budget: 5.8%.

21 Oct

Seth’s Blog – Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant]

Let’s assert for the moment that you get paid to create, manipulate or spread ideas. That you don’t get paid to lift bricks or hammer steel. If you’re in the idea business, what’s going to improve your career, get you a better job, more respect or a happier day? Forgive me for suggesting (to those not curious enough to read this blog and others) that it might be reading blogs, books or even watching TED talks.

As for the deliberately uninformed, we can ignore them or we can reach out to them and hopefully start a pattern of people thinking for themselves…

via Seth’s Blog – Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant]. That’s part of my reasoning behind this whole site, people thinking for themselves.

20 Oct

FiveThirtyEight – The Most Overrated Concept in Elections Analysis: Momentum

In general elections, the direction in which polls have moved is not predictive of the direction in which they will move.

Thus, it is usually wrong to say that a candidate is gaining ground in the polls — present tense — or that her position is improving. Instead, you should say that the candidate has gained ground or that her position has improved.

via FiveThirtyEight – The Most Overrated Concept in Elections Analysis: Momentum. Another post from FiveThirtyEight that shows why I love reading it, no spin just the facts. A sorely missing concept in reporting especially political reporting.

18 Oct

Cennydd Bowles – End hover abuse now

Designers who pop up information panels or move page elements on hover are using flawed logic, second-guessing what users want to do before they do it. The result, which I’ve seen in countless usability tests, is that users activate these controls accidentally. You know what happens? People actually flinch: “What was that?” They return with hesitation, less confident in their understanding of the site. It’s no accident that the Twitter worm propagated through hover—accidental activation meant users spread the worm unintentionally.

via Cennydd Bowles – End hover abuse now. A call to action for designers to stop over using the hover attribute.

Should mention at the end the designer goes back and says that if you are to use hover to show new information to add a 500ms delay before firing the action. I’ve seen and implemented hover states to display new information and I think it’s a useful technique with a well defined use case, the problem does become one of people having a correct and valid mental model for the website and how it works. Hover actions can quickly break that model.

18 Oct

Trying Out Some New Technologies: WordPress Child Themes and GitHub

I recently moved this site over to a new host (MediaTemple in this case) and along with that I decided to start with a new theme and try out some new (for me) technologies along the way.

The first, is WordPress Child Themes. WordPress Child Themes basically enable you to extend a theme to your own liking, while allowing the parent theme to be updated along the way. That’s bad way of saying; you can make changes to the theme without editing or worrying about the parent theme. The old theme was a customized version of Viligance and I ran into the problem of Viligance was being updated and I wanted to apply the updates however I couldn’t because I had customized the theme so any updates I applied would break all the changes and tweaks that had been added in.

Child themes are WordPress’s answer to this sort of problem and I’ve already found them imnessely useful. Erudite didn’t support favicons, Bit.ly short urls, OpenID Delegate Server, etc. Now it supports all of those and more in the future. Most of that probably didn’t mean something to you but the basic idea is that you can add custom style sheets, add custom templates, interject code where ever a WordPress plugin can and a lot more. If you are interested in WordPress Child themes, two places to check out: ThemeShaper – How To Modify WordPress Themes The Smart Way and ThemeShaper – Sample Theme Options. The first is a good guide on building a basic child theme, the second walks you through adding an options page to your theme.

So, that was the first new technology, the other is GitHub. GitHub is built around two ideas, Git is an awesome tool for programmers and coding is a social experience. Both of these differ from most of my experience with programming. I’m used to SVN and have used it almost exclusively over the years. Programming as well even while working on a team was built typically around working one person at a time on a particular task or area of the project. Git and GitHub are designed to change both of those.

Unfortunately GitHub makes it so easy that I’ve found myself becoming lazy. It feels a lot harder to contribute to non-GitHub projects because it often requires signing up for their custom bug tracker, learning the patch process, and waiting longer before the patch is accepted. That extra friction is sometimes enough to prevent me from submitting a fix, and that’s not good for the project.

Ease of contribution is clearly an important factor for open source and other community-driven projects (just look at Wikipedia). As GitHub continues to grow, are more projects going to feel pressure to switch? I think they will, and I’m looking forward to it. Better software is good for everyone.

via HipChat Blog – GitHub is making me lazy but I like it. So I’m going with the flow at first I had the code for my child theme posted on a public SVN repository but I’m going to make it even easier for people to play with and see what I’m doing. It’s now on GitHub: http://github.com/jtyost2/Erudite-Child-Theme.

Let the hardcore forking action commence.

17 Oct

QuirksBlog – The HTML5 drag and drop disaster

After spending about a day and a half in testing I am forced to conclude that the HTML5 drag and drop module is not just a disaster, it’s a fucking disaster.

The module should be removed from the HTML5 specification straight away, and conforming browsers should disable it at their earliest opportunity pending a complete rewrite from the ground up.

Web developers MUST NOT (in the sense of RFC 2119) use HTML 5 drag and drop. They should use old-school scripts instead.

via QuirksBlog – The HTML5 drag and drop disaster. So that’s drag and drop kids.

17 Oct

The Typekit Blog – Type rendering: operating systems

As we dig into type rendering on the web, we’ll begin by looking at text rendering engines. We are all familiar with operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X, but within each OS are smaller, specialized components available for use by applications like web browsers. APIs such as Core Text on Mac OS X, and DirectWrite and GDI on Windows, are examples of these components and are responsible for rasterizing fonts’ vector outlines. Let’s examine screenshots of web type as rendered by each of these APIs, and talk about the application independence of rendering engines.

via The Typekit Blog – Type rendering: operating systems. How does type get rendered on Macs (also iOS devices) and Windows and what is each platform aiming for?

17 Oct

Freedom to Tinker – Hacking the D.C. Internet Voting Pilot

The specific vulnerability that we exploited is simple to fix, but it will be vastly more difficult to make the system secure. We’ve found a number of other problems in the system, and everything we’ve seen suggests that the design is brittle: one small mistake can completely compromise its security. I described above how a small error in file-extension handling left the system open to exploitation. If this particular problem had not existed, I’m confident that we would have found another way to attack the system.

None of this will come as a surprise to Internet security experts, who are familiar with the many kinds of attacks that major web sites suffer from on a daily basis. It may someday be possible to build a secure method for submitting ballots over the Internet, but in the meantime, such systems should be presumed to be vulnerable based on the limitations of today’s security technology.

via Freedom to Tinker – Hacking the D.C. Internet Voting Pilot. Internet voting, yeah it’s a bad idea in theory and bad in practice.