Christian Heilmann

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Archive for June, 2007

YUI – The Elephant in the Room. Hackday presentation by Nate Koechley and Chris Heilmann

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Finally getting the wireless at the open hack day to work, here are the slides of Nate Koechley’s and my presentation from this morning. For some reason slideshare has the fail when it comes to showing the PDF right, so I needed to upload the powerpoint.

Hackday Ho!

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

I am sitting here sipping a coffee before leaving for Alexandra Palace to attend the first European Open Hack Day organized by Yahoo! and the BBC. My presentation is ready, I am listed for 11 o’clock (I think) and it is going to be amazing! I went to the preliminary drinks yesterday and the venue is gigantic, especially its 20ies style in the outside are is just beautiful to behold. Thanks to the organizers for pulling this off. More life-blogging (maybe) later.

Seeking a US counterpart – are you in the Silicon Valley and ready for a real web development challenge?

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Coming back from @media, I am sure the world is full of amazing developers. Almost every speaker said something along the lines of “you know all this already” (effectively intimidating the ones in the audience who don’t, but that is another story). So now I want to see if you can bring on what is allegedly there.

I need a counterpart of mine in the U.S., specifically in the Silicon Valley. This is an amazing opportunity as it means:

  • working on one of the biggest products Yahoo! currently has (11m registered users and counting)
  • working with a brand new, enthusiastic team re-architecting the system from scratch using best practices in development, ensuring web standards compliance, unobtrusive scripting, accessibility and the adding of extra semantic layers
  • working with one of the main engineers of a MVC framework to create the frontend layer and help it scale to the necessary dimensions
  • ensuring i18n readiness for currently 20 languages, but growing weekly
  • ensuring that both the teams follow the same agreed standards and work effectively together.

If you pull this off, it is going to be the biggest chocolate star in your career you can have. The team is an absolute joy to work with but it is tricky to cover both the UK and the US parts as 8 hours time difference is tricky to juggle.

So, what you need to bring:

  • Excellent knowledge of web semantics, HTML, CSS, JavaScript
  • Excellent knowledge of browser quirks – what breaks how and how to fix it
  • Solid knowledge of running a small team
  • Good knowledge of templating, using APIs and debugging PHP
  • Good knowledge of accessibility issues and workarounds
  • Knowledge/Acceptance of the YUI as the library to work with
  • Being on-site (don’t bother with proposing telecommuting, you know it does not work)

I hear all over the place that the war for web standards is won and that we can do all these things, but finding people who really come through in interviews is another issue.

Send your proposals and CVs to me, I will treat them with all confidence. I am really not kidding when I am saying that this is a massive opportunity both to show the world that what we preach works but also get the satisfaction to have fixed a massive chunk of the web.

Isn\’t it time to stop the consortium/corporation bashing when talking about web standards?

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Back in 2004, Brian Alvey wrote in A List Apart about Everything I Need To Know About Web Design I Learned Watching Oz, detailing that some parts of prison life can be translated to becoming a good web designer (avoiding solitarity, playing to your strength, giving things out for free and so on).

Lately I get the feeling that the bad habits necessary to survive jail also become part of our life as web developers, namely making sure to beat up the biggest guy in your way to establish your place in the pecking order.

A lot of presentations lately take the mickey at larger corporations and their web sites and during panel talks like last week’s @media in London there seems to be no better fun than constantly picking on the W3C, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Apple or whoever is big and corporate and seems to be much slower in bringing us towards the brave new world of standardization, microformats goodness, semantics and a very cool, available and usable world wide web.

Well, looking back several years, I distinctly remember that we wondered why large corporations don’t follow web standards and what can be done to change that. We had the problem that every small client would come to us and ask why they should have CSS layout and valid HTML when none of the big companies do. Corporations seemed too far away to reach and talk to and we reveled in being hard-core and grass-roots celebrating our independence.

Well, times changed and many of the large corporations do take web standards serious, have a thorough understanding of them as a part of the interview process of new developers and give out information as to what obstacles were in their way when shifting from easily maintainable tag-soup (remember, this is what enterprise level frameworks create out-of-the-box) to CSS driven layouts with cleaner, semantically valuable markup. Some even offer frameworks, widgets and code for anyone to use that is built upon their findings.

Instead of welcoming this, we rather ridicule these efforts and pick out bad examples to show how much cooler we can be as smaller, fast-moving individuals and companies.

Maybe it is time to remember that working with grass-roots means getting your hands dirty and we should concentrate more on really producing some larger products, actively help improving framework output and allow for tools to make things easier for people who are bound to software to maintain their sites that is sub-par in terms of quality of generated code.

Maybe we should also remember that the way of working as a web standards evangelist or famous blogger is not the norm, but far from it. For example it is really easy to claim you can add microformats to any document by adding some spans and classes to an HTML document, but in reality a lot – and I mean a massive amount – of content of the web is developed by people who never touch the HTML or know about it. This is why we invented CMS - to separate content from structure and allow maintenance without needing to code HTML.

I do realize that a lot of these panel talks and presentations are tongue-in-cheek, but let’s not forget that this can hurt a lot when someone slaps you on the back of the head while you do it.

Just for the record: I do work for a large corporation, but I was not asked to write about this. I would have written this in any case as I welcome the change web development has done and I don’t want our efforts of the last few years to be in vain because of arrogance.

I can haz .net podcast?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Scrounging my referers in statscounter I just came across the .net magazine podcast linking to my blog post about print magazines having problems in delivering tutorials. Yes, I just bought my first iPod a week ago, I am not using iTunes and in general I do stumble across podcasts by chance and not by subscription.

I was pretty much shocked that the podcast discusses my points – if you can call them that – without any of the people involved commenting on the blog post or actually telling me about it (I do write for .net after all). So here are some more points on this matter, as the blog post was a bit rushed.

  • I am not attacking .net magazine, but based my musings on several different publications I have done – even old ones in German for things like Commodore 64 magazines
  • I am very much in agreement with the arguments mentioned in the podcast that magazines and books have a professional editorial process and that way come up with higher quality content.
  • I stand by my point though that the restrictions of print and this editorial process – if done badly – can be detrimental to the quality of the tutorials. It is all about chosing the right subject. As Paul pointed out, he cannot do tutorials as audio podcasts, either.
  • I based some of my points on me spending half an hour in the airport waiting for my rental car to be ready and browsing US publications.
  • I am shocked to see that people really seem to read the stuff I write here. This has always been a bit of a braindump for me – much like the pensieve in Harry Potter.

Anyways, I just wanted to point out that my post is not a snotty attack towards print media as a whole, but was meant to point out that some tutorial materials are just not meant for print but are better online, the same way a lot of online material should undergo a proper editorial process before being put out there.