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Archive for February, 2009

Is it me, or are Google losing it

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Google have without a doubt been the breath-taking success of the internet age. Along with the innovation and financial success they have consistently been well-liked. Even people who caution against their rise as a possible big brother haven’t been able to deny that they are very good at what they do, delivering product after product that is very usable, demonstrating an Apple-like attention to detail and devoid of a desire to manipulate (adsense aside).

But recently I’ve noticed a handful of things that maybe demonstrate this is slipping:

Exhibit A – Being annoying

Google tasks annoying dialogueI signed up to Google tasks, a new Google labs project accessible via gmail. I can’t say I’ve made any use of it, but I am in fact likely to ditch it before I do as every time I visit gmail it flashes up a dialog box which

  1. states the obvious
  2. just won’t go away. Doesn’t even offer a “tick here to not show again” option
  3. covers up the titles of about 5 or 6 emails

I can’t imagine the google of yesteryear letting anything so intrusive and persistently annoying slip through to even a labs product. It’s kinda, dare I say, evil.

*Edit – I’ve discovered that if you click on the Tasks link then the popup does go away, but it’s still annoying

Exhibit B – Repeated rebranding

This blog has pictures and dates to prove it. In summary, Google changed from having the recognizeable capital G, to having a nondescript lowercase g, to now having a barely legible, garish lowercase g. Big evil corporations engage in meaningless rebranding. Google doesn’t, surely!

Exhibit C – Holiday logos

This was supposed to be the nail in the coffin, proving that Google have lost their sense of fun as they don’t do as many logo variations on special occasions, but the jury’s actually still out on that one, as you can see from the figures below.

  • 1999 – 2
  • 2000 – 11
  • 2001 – 11
  • 2002 – 18
  • 2003 – 15
  • 2004 – 21
  • 2005 – 17
  • 2006 – 19
  • 2007 – 16
  • 2008 – 27
  • 2009 – 4

Does it matter how you organise a stylesheet?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

A thought just struck me that it really doesn’t matter very much. If you use firebug (which I think most front-end developers should), then you can easily find out which lines in which stylesheets affect which page elements.

I still do order my stylesheets (roughly) in the order elements appear on the web page, but I don’t think I’ll ever agonise about whether there is a better way to do it any more.

Happy valentine’s

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

The funniest thing just happened:

I was adding this as my facebook status in one of the study pods at the library:
“Rhys is wondering why the amsterdam library has lots of signs up saying “2,000+ dicks”. 2,000 people and some dicks? More than 2,000 dicks?”

Just then a middle-aged man with his elderly father poked his head in to the pod and said in dutch something which must have been along the lines of “And look, father, in this modern library there are plenty of places where people such as this young genius can study hard”

Could there be a  better illustration of how the internet lowers our level of thought. From now on I will only have studious facebook messages.

On another note, I’m trying to choose a php framework to learn to use (akelos is the frontrunner), and used the website to help me. Two interesting aspects of it are:

  1. The site is wider than my screen. I guess it’s really as wide asmy screen, but they forgot to account for scroll bars. A rare example of a website aimed at the programming community that takes advantage of the fact that most of us (though alas not I) have massive screens.
  2. It uses tables for its layout. After working for a day converting a site made with Frontpage to standards compliant, semantic xHTML, and revelling in the difference between the sites when I turn CSS off, it saddens me that everyone isn’t doing it. I mean, it’s actually quite good fun.

Happy valentine’s day

New design

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Yes I know it’s not finished, but I’m quite happy I’ve managed to create a menu with angular areas just with css… no Flash required!

The return of position:fixed

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I always found it annoying when websites got an element (normally an advert) to stay on the screen even when you scrolled up and down athe page. But recently, with the advent of web applications, position:fixed could start to be more commonly used. Facebook’s messaging/notifications bar is the best (and only, if I’m honest) example I can think of; it’s discreet and contains features that it’s quite resaonable to expect you will always want to have to hand.

Along similar lines, I’ve edited my worpress template. Adding .submitbox{position:fixed;top:100px;} to your wp-admin.css means you never have to scroll around to publish a post.

CSS file layout

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Every now and then I come across and article where some CSS guru outlines how they structure their stylesheets (main layout elements at the top, all headings together etc.), but I don’t think I’ve ever read any discussion on how to layout the individual elements.

Recently at work somebody, probably thinking they were being helpful, put all my stylesheet selectors in this sort of format

   font-size: 2em;
   color: #000088;

whereas I much prefer it like this:

h1 {font-size: 2em; color: #000088;}

The reason being that when I’m scanning through a css file I’m generally looking for elements, classes and other selectors, not individual rules. Having each line begining with a selector aids easy scanning. Breaking each selectors rules up into individual lines increases the amount of scrolling you need to do by probaly at least a factor of 5, and decreases the number opf selectors you can see at once – both leading to a lot of time wasted searching for the selector you need to edit.

But everybody apart from me seems to default to the split up style. As far as I can see it’s because in programming a ‘{‘ generally means the potential of nested loops and conditionals, so you need to emphasise the curly bravcket’s depth in the stack. But CSS hardly ever (except for some hacks… which I don’t use) goes beyond one level of curly brackets. So why insist on laying it out that way?