Christian Heilmann

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@media2006 is almost over…

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

I very much enjoyed attending @media2006 over the last two days and network, hear some good stuff, meet some people again I met last year, take embarrassing pictures and much much more.

The topics discussed and presented were much more diverse than last year, where it was a bit of “preaching to the choir”, I especially did feel the pain of Patrick when he showed his introduction to HTML and half the audience fell asleep last year. What I didn’t quite like was the two channel idea of having parallel presentations, as it meant you had to sacrifice some good presentation for one that is only slightly better or even different.

The keynote by Eric Meyer was a wrap-up of the history of CSS, and actually was much like the WaSP story Jeffrey Zeldman told last year.

Jeffrey Veen’s presentation was my favourite, basically as it was very cleverly playing with the fears of seasoned developers (dunno what seasoning flavour) that Web 2.0 and the lot just turn out to be another bubble that will soon burst and set us back to square one.

The JavaScript panel was less controversial than I thought, and I talked to Dan Webb and Brothercake that we might do some more collaboration writing in the future (for netzines that is).

The “Good Design vs. Great Design” panel was rather insightful, but was a bit disjointed at times.

Tantek’s Microformats talk was very informative on the subject and I will take a very close look at some of those soon.

Nate Koechley’s Yahoo vs. Yahoo (vs. Yahoo) I was lucky enough to see in the office the day before (and pointed out that it is IFRAMES or iframes and not iFrames as they are not Apple products) and I hope that it showed some people in the audience that there is quite a difference between running a blog and getting millions of hits a day. The photo beta is really a stunning piece of coding and shows that web apps can and should work like real apps rather than simulating them with the browsing ideas and patterns in mind.

Dan Cederholm’s Bullet Proof presentation didn’t show me many new things (I do own some of those flexible trousers – they’re made by Dockers) but that is also due to me devouring his books.

Molly’s internationalization talk was very passionately presented and informative, but somehow I get the feeling that the American crowd is much more amazed by the idea of multilingual and multicultural distribution as us Europeans are, as it was quite a necessity for any product if it wanted to sell Europe-wide.

My personal highlights:

  • Seeing Eric Meyer doze off next to me during Nate’s presentation
  • Roger Johansson doing the webmonkey
  • Meeting the dude that did the Firefox logo, the man who built most MSIEs and the man who built MSIE5/Mac and started the CSS hack stuff in two days!
  • Meeting Dan Cederholm and Jeffrey Veen for the first time
  • Meeting my publisher Chris Mills and forcing him to buy me drinks.
  • Plugging my book and upcoming presentation to some people in order to get some interesting feedback and reviews.
  • Doing very silly moves and stuff with Norm and Cindy (I dread all the photos coming out)

Things I would have liked to see

  • A panel with Chris from Microsoft, Opera, Safari and Mozilla representatives talking about upcoming browser collaborations (they easily agreed on not hiding location toolbars any longer, that is a great start!)
  • Drinks (soft) in between presentations
  • A bar where you can distinguish the colour of your free drinks vouchers (beads) and without a DJ who tries to play bad music too loud
  • Parallel presentations according to skill level rather than having to choose (CSS tricks / future of CSS, JavaScript best practices / JavaScript 2 …)
  • Panels that introduce a topic, and the members and then become a 1 hour Q&A rather than experts talking amongst themselves – the latter is cool on TV but can become annoying when some people in the audience would have had much better questions to answer than who is going to win the footie cup.
  • Representatives of IDEs and development frameworks for Q&A and to throw tomatoes at
  • More forward thinking in terms of market place. It is great that we forge the future development and practices but many of the people in the audience have a day to day job to fulfill and have to suffer frameworks and CMSses that totally mess up their coding efforts. Personally I think it is time to tackle these obstacles rather than wait till we finally can use several background images


  • Dan Cederholm gets the answers dodger award: “Err, yes, I think that is possible, Google for Liquid Design!”
  • Molly gets the “Damn I am passionate about it, you MUST join me” and the “frivolous use of the word ‘fascinating’” award
  • Nate Koechley for “pulling off a big company presentation without sounding like a salesman” award
  • Norm and Cindy get the “Poetry in Dance Motion” award – which cause I yet have to upload to youtube. Cindy also gets a “Badge all the people with my Cyberchicks badge” award.
  • There is just no competition – Andy Clarke and Roger Johannson once again bag the “Snappiest dresser” award

I stop now..

See all my flickr photos shot at @media

MSIE problems to watch out for when using animation libraries

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

I had some issues with one of the code examples for the upcoming book. MSIE has a very annoying bug that when you use an opacity animation – for example with YUI or jQuery: When the element you want to fade in our out has no background colour, MSIE messes up the font for some reason. Another problem is that when you use jQuery for the fading, the element needs to have hasLayout set.

Check out the testcase

Are getting answers from experts systems the new hype?

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

It seems that there is a new trend for Question and Answer systems on the web. It might be that mailing lists, forums and other “old school” knowledge systems appear too boring / complex / slow and we want information and answers a lot quicker or properly channeled to us or to the issue itself. Experiencing the signal to noise ratio on many forums and mailing lists, this does not really come as a shock to me.

Yahoo Answers is a web service that allows you to pose a question and get immediate answers from thousands of Yahoo users. After a day you either choose the best answer or the people answering vote for what was the best answer. The idea is to store all the best answers and thereby accumulate a vast knowledge base. Every answer gets points, those chosen as best answers get bonus points and so on. The points are there for their own purpose, unlike Google Answers there is no monetary compensation.

Just as Yahoo Answers went live across Europe after being in beta for quite a while in the US, I stumbled over an interesting system:

QUNU is an contribution expert service much like Y!Answers, with the difference that it doesn’t store information or content but connects you to real people answering on their IM clients. The system uses Jabber – which is every geek’s favourite. The idea is pretty sweet but I had a hard time seeing the innovation in it – from a communication channel point of view. If you look closely it appears to be something like a fancy IRC client with rounded corners. The difference is that you can search, tag and add other meta data to questions. Well worth taking a second look and dabbling in it a bit.

Another service that made me go “hmm…” is Ether which allows you to sell your services giving advice over voice-over-ip on a per-minute basis. Sounds like all these funky telephone numbers offered on late night TV get a stiff competition there. in case you need to talk about a web site

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Gabbly is a really interesting approach to the issue that you need to discuss designs with clients and peers. It is a chat panel that appears on any page (except for those that redirect the user) when you add the URL as a parameter, for example

It is a matter of time before there will be some legal issues with that (libel and all that), but is a really nice idea!

A DOM scripting enhanced template for Picasa (updated)

Friday, April 28th, 2006

It took me a while to find a tool to put my pictures on the web that does not create horrible HTML code and isn’t clunky to use. Most picture packages have outgrown their usefulness over the years and have become bloated media browsers with proprietary formats.

Then I discovered Google’s Picasa and was instantly taken by its simplicity and slick interface.

I now discovered that you can “Pimp your Picasa” with own templates and created one myself.

You can download the template as a zip and unpack it to the template folder of your Picasa installation (on my PC this is c->Program Files->Picasa2->webtemplates). The template zip contains all the files in a folder called “dompreview”.

To export images, all you need to do is highlight them, press ctrl+w, choose the template and the image size and Picasa will do the rest.

The template features

  • HTML standard compliant output
  • Display of the big images in a layer above the thumbnails instead of a new page if the visitor has JavaScript enabled
  • Normal “new page” display when JavaScript is not available.

You can tweak the styles.css to your needs.

For a demo check the Santorini Picture Gallery .

The only thing I am missing a lot is that you cannot define alternative text for the images in Picasa, or am I missing something?

Update Following several requests, the large picture will now always stay in the visible area when you have to scroll the page, and not stay glued to the top. All you need to replace in already existing galleries in the dynpreview.js file.