Lines in the screen

Thanks to Suw Charman (and here and here), I found out what that magenta line down my PowerBook laptop monitor is most likely caused by — a short in the connection between the ribbon cable and the monitor. Seems to be a fairly common problem with PowerBooks–Apple, not being the most concerned about quality assurance it seems when it comes to delivering hardware.

Unlike Suw, though, and other folks, I have only had the one line — knock on wood. But I also have a broken case and a jammed battery, which is starting to fail, so I can’t take the computer off its power source.

I am thinking of returning to my Dell laptop for most of my work. The keypad is acting up, but I can attach a keyboard and everything else about the machine is perfectly fine. The only problem is I have Photoshop for Mac OS X but not Windows.

I’m thinking, though, that from what I can see of Gimp, as well as OpenOffice (and NeoOffice), that the better route for me to go is load Linux on the Windows machine and get it ready to be my backup environment. To that end, I ordered a couple of disks of Ubuntu Linux. I don’t know if it’s the better Linux or not–but I really like the organization’s attitude. And what’s not to like about an operating system that has a hoary hedgehog release?

(Thanks to Sam Ruby and Jonathon Delacour for recommending Ubunto Linux.)


I, hypocrite

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In deference to those who are tired of my discussions about links and linking and gender or racial disparity, I’ll try to keep this post short. I’ll fail, of course; but I’ll at least try.

I had stopped reading Scoble and wasn’t aware that he’d mentioned me a couple of times in recent posts. I gather that Dave Winer also mentioned me in a podcast, along with a statement that most webloggers aren’t women. In my opinion, from the nature of both discussions, these efforts were more in line with wanting to generate contentious debate (and the associated linking) than in having an effective dialog.

There is another weblog, though, interested in generating discussion: The Vision Thing. The weblogger, Ethan, ran a series of posts this week on ‘visibility’, primarily related to much of the recent discussions. One of the posts compared links to men, women, and I assume, ‘other’ between Scoble and me in April. He found that Scoble only linked to women 4% of the time, which I guess was expected. However, what was not expected was that I linked to men more than women, on an average of 2 to 1.

Ethan asks how can that be? After all, aren’t I the one pushing women to be linked more?

I wrote a comment in reply, leading others to respond to what I wrote either with disapproval or defense; I’ll live with the former, and appreciate the latter–but the point is mute. I was disappointed from the resulting discussion to find out that the message I thought I was communicating wasn’t heard. I have to assume that’s because I didn’t do a very good job of communicating.

When I questioned Scoble’s invite-only list to have dinner with the VP at Microsoft, I wasn’t doing so as a demand that that he include a certain percentage of women from now on. I was asking what was the basis of his invitations; as he responded with critiera, I then pointed out that there were women in the area that met his stated standards.

When I wrote my satire about men linking, I wasn’t doing this to generate a flurry of links to women, any women. The effort wasn’t done to send scores of men out into the blogrolls of the women webloggers they know, hoping to find some writing, or some weblog, they could link and feel smug about having ‘done their duty’.

When I wrote about the Ajax summit, and joked about ‘manly tech’, I wasn’t doing this to force organizations into including any women, just so the numbers balance.

Lately, when I question the value of blogrolls and popularity lists such as the Eco System and Technorati, I’m not doing so because women aren’t represented equally; I’m doing so to question the value we place on links, and the authority we gift to those who have more, as compared to those who have fewer.

Once upon a time, these counts mattered to me, they mattered a great deal. I would look at Technorati and assumed that we women were not valued highly in this environment because we weren’t listed, equally. After all, the New York Times doesn’t go running after the person who is ranked 1053 for juicy quotes.

But it’s all a game, really, with rules set by an arbitrary group composed mainly of sad, sad folk; a game where links are used as strings to yank us about until we behave just so. And once you buy into that game, you’ve lost your soul, because we only have to look at the would-be puppeteers to see they’re now the greatest puppets of all.

Link to me for my birthday!

Now what matters to me more is being heard when we speak; being seen when we stand up; and being respected for what we do. If we have these, then the issue of how many links we have, or how high we rank in a system, or how well we complete against a set of arbitrary rules is no longer important. Ultimately we women may get both links and rank in this system, but unless fundamental changes occur in our culture and our churches and our work places and in our governments, this doesn’t mean we’ll finally get respect.

Do you understand what I’m saying with this?

Ethan didn’t because he assumed from my writing on this issue that I would automatically link to women at least 50% of the time. I wrote in response–defense really, and that was silly because I didn’t need to defend myself–that I tend to write on technology and since there are currently more men than women in technology, its not unusual for me to link primarily to men in my technical writings.

Oh, my didn’t I hear about it then. Everything from how can I give Scoble an excuse to ignore women, to accusations of being hypocritical, writing one thing, doing another. How can I write on fair representation for women but still link to men in a 2 to 1 ratio?

It’s quite easy actually. In fact, if Ethan counts links for May, he’ll probably find that I’ll have linked men more than women this month, too. I wrote a fair bit on WordPress and REST, may write some things on digital identity, am reviewing a book written by a (guy) friend, and am planning on writing several posts on Microformats, taxonomies, and Ajax in the next week or so. I will be linking to some women, but most of the opinions I’ll be referencing have been expressed by guys. I know this now because I’ve been collecting a set of links to writings I wanted to include in my own discussion.

Does this make me a hypocrite? If all that matters in this environment is a count of links–how many we give out or how many we have–then I guess it does. But if I stop writing on these topics, I would effectively remove one of the few women who write on these technologies–would this, then, be more honorable?

Quick: how many fingers is the invisible woman holding up? Stand her up on a pile of links so she towers above those around her; now how many fingers is she holding up?

Jesse James Garrett wrote before the Ajax summitI am looking for women (preferably in the San Francisco Bay Area) who have been working as managers, designers, or developers on Ajax applications. When questioned as to this odd request, he replied, Gender balance is a persistent problem in the public discussions about technology, and it’s one I’d like to take steps to avoid as the public discussion about Ajax moves forward..

I would have liked to help you, Jesse, I really would. With all due respect, I could give a rat’s flying ass about your reasoning behind this request, but I’d still like to help you.

Scoble wrote in one of his new posts that he wanted additional links to people and then said, where are the women, and why did they not provide their site so he could link them? How is he going to link to women if they don’t contact him? But he did point out one woman who did–who wrote defending Scoble. He responded with:

Avonelle, thanks for speaking up. I’m going to attend the BlogHer conference for at least a morning (turns out I can make it after all) and it sure would be interesting to have you debate Shelley Powers on this issue.

I think they charge 1000.00 for shows like this Robert, but regardless, I won’t be attending BlogHer. I was invited and asked to lead the advanced technology session, but I declined. I hadn’t the heart to attend a conference on women and visibility, only to speak on technology. Odd how my mind works, isn’t it? I don’t understand it myself at times.

I’ve gone on too long, as usual. To those who are angered by my hypocrisy or saddened by my betrayal, I would give you my heartfelt regrets–if only I had any.


Flickr DHTML: first looks

Flickr recently pulled its use of Flash in some of the pages and replaced it with DHTML (Dynamic HTML). If you’re not familiar with DHTML, it’s a mix of scripting language and underlying page ‘object’ model’ used to modify the appearance or behavior of the page without having to reload it from the server.

I was pleased to see this move, not the least because Catarina used the word “DHTML” to describe the technology used rather than the newer, hipper, AJAX. Doing so tied this effort into previous uses of the associated technologies: this, in turn, linked this new effort to a rich set of *existing tutorials, libraries, examples, books, and articles that are being missed when people searched using the newer terminology.

An additional reason I’m pleased is, of course, the fact that much of the functionality at the site is now no longer restricted to having Flash installed — something that prevented the page from ‘degrading gracefully’ with non-Flash enabled browsers.

Focusing specifically on each individual photo page, I like the fact that much of the photo annotating capabilities are now available for ‘in-place’ editing: capabilities such as adding a photo to a set, sending to a group, or blogging the picture. The sets and groups loaded a bit slowly at times, and I wonder if pre-loaded, or on-demand, client-side caching couldn’t be used to help this along a bit. Regardless, it’s much simpler now to use these functions without having to go to separate pages.

I also enjoyed that the Flickr folks didn’t try to obscure the JavaScript so we could look at the DHTML used; in particular seeing the interface between the new DHTML connecting with the existing API to handle much of the photo toolbar functionality (such as Send to Groups and Add to Set). I also appreciated the humor present in this script, when seeing the ‘george’ and ‘catarina’ objects. After all, if we can’t have fun with our work, what’s the point?

The new functionality is great, but returning to the original issue of ‘degrading gracefully’ what happens at Flickr when you turn off JavaScript? To test this, I turned off JS in my Firefox browser, and then accessed one of my photo pages; creating a snapshot of the page to use as reference in this discussion.

First, prominantly displayed in the page is a message (1):

To take full advantage of Flickr, you should use a JavaScript-enabled browser and install the latest version of the Macromedia Flash Player.

There isn’t anything wrong with letting people know there is an advanced script enabled interface to the page, but to do so in such a prominant manner disrupts the flow of the page. Making an assumption that people viewing the page don’t have JavaScript enabled for a specific reason–because they’re using a screen reader or they’ve had problems with JS in the past–also means assuming folks know they’re not going to be able to access the goodies. The message about an advanced interface should be placed in a less prominant place; certainly not between the photo title and the photo.

The positioning of messages such as this doesn’t necessarily imply that the page isn’t degrading gracefully. However, displaying a non-working toolbar (2) does impact on the overall positive effect of the page. If you turn off JavaScript, and try to click any of the buttons above the image, nothing happens. There are few things more disruptive to a page than to provide a button or functional icon that cannot be accessed.

Rather than display non-working buttons or icons, a more graceful approach would be to test to see if JavaScript is enabled at the server, and then output link-based alternatives (with or without associated graphics) for those functions that can be accomplished using more traditional web techniques. From the existing toolbar and from what I know of the API, this means including links to pages that allow a person to send to a group, add to a set, access a page with all sizes, delete the photo, and blog the photo.

The only item that would most likely be dropped is add a note, unless this can be managed using text-based coordinates (showing the photo layed out on a grid and having the person intuit and input where the note box would begin). Even the rotate image capability could be emulated using server-side graphics utilities and a hypertext link.

The Flickr developers could also use existing client-side techniques to test for JavaScript and either display the JS-enabled toolbar or a HTML links-based toolbar. There’s a tag, <noscript> that will display different page contents if JavaScript isn’t enabled. Used in combination with enclosing the script in HTML comments should ensure that the page works equally well in all user agents/browsers.

(Which approach to use–testing at the server or the client–is based on other factors, but both work equally well to ensure the page functions effectively for all readers.)

This testing for whether script is enabled could also be used for the functionality to add tags. Right now with Flickr, if you have a JS-enabled browser, there’s an option associated with the Tag grouping (3) that allows the user to add tags directly in the page. For non-JS user agents, adding a link to a second page for editing tags provides the same option even if the behavior isn’t exactly the same. It is true that this and other options are available lower down in the edit grouping (6); but there’s no harm in putting a link ‘in context’, rather than force the person to have to search around for the capability.

The same applies to the photo navigation (5). The links to the next and previous photos are missing from the non-JS enabled experience, and I’m not quite sure why. the photos above the navigation link are are basically the same type of functionality, and show with both the JS and non-JS enabled browser. Not providing next and prev links to traverse the photo stream seems to be more of an accident than intent — this one isn’t DHTML dependent as far as I can see.

Finally, the last item is the slideshow (4). For those browsers so equipped, the current slideshow remains Flash-enabled. Right now in non-JS browsers, the link to the slideshow does work, but clicking it takes you to an empty page. I am making an assumption that a non-JS enabled slideshow is in the works and that’s why the link is still present. However, if a non-JS enabled slideshow is not in the works, this link should be removed–no need to demonstrate to folks what they’re missing.

(A Javascript-enabled slideshow would also be nice, as an alternative to those who enable script, but don’t allow Flash–though I realize that Flash is most likely better suited to this effect. But it seems a pity to stop when the company is on a DHTML roll.)

All in all, Flickr’s move to DHTML is a good one, and the interface is very clean and intuitive. Even these items mentioned in this post (other than the slideshow) are minor and, if the organization is so inclined, easily corrected. I also appreciate being able to see under the covers, so to speak, and looking through the Flickr JavaScript gave me an idea of how I can mix Flickr’s API into one of my existing DHTML applications. Nice to know that my old skills now have new uses.

(Thanks to Doug and Karl for the heads up on this.)

*Disclaimer: I wrote a book on DHTML in 1998, as well as having written several articles and tutorials on the subject. I’ve also created several DHTML script libraries, and hundreds of DHTML applications and examples.

To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never once created an AJAX library or application.