Just Shelley Weblogging

Shadow of the Megalith

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There’s a cicadia shell hanging off my neighbor’s door. It’s been there over a week. He (my neighbor) comes and goes daily, and I keep expecting him to flick it off. But each day when I go outside–to the store, the laundry, a walk–I look over and it’s still there.

I thought about flicking it off myself, but it is his door; it is his cicadia shell.

Speaking of shells, Sour Duck made an interesting comment in the post “Shiny, Happy, …”. She wrote, To my mind, this blog is still currently living in the shadow of that megalith, Burningbird..

Not a truer phrase spoken: my old site casts a big shadow. Not as creepy looking as the cicadia shell, maybe, but still noticeable. It was, after all, my identity for a time. No, that’s wrong. It was my ‘brand’.

Brand. I’ve been reading that term with increasing frequency; people are worried about their ‘brand’ now. Not their sites, or their identity, or their writing. No, the focus, now, is on ‘brand’.

Recently, when the PodShow site re-published several podcaster syndication feeds, it replaced the copyright information with the site’s own. The developers associated with the site said it was a mistake, and it could have been. Until it was fixed, though, there was a minor uproar among those so recursively syndicated. In particular, more than one podcaster mentioned about the ‘threat to their brand’ in having the syndication feed republished without proper copyright and attribution.

Brand. Huh. I grew up in farming country, where the only brand was the one made of twisted metal and burnt into the butts of cows to mark ownership. When I hear ‘brand’ among webloggers, I still see that big furry butt with the squiggle inside a circle with a bar across the top.

I walked away from a site that might be considered a popular site. Or more popular than some. The popularity, though, stayed with the site; the momentum of links and syndication is such that it stops for the will of no woman or man. All that’s left now is this simple site with it’s plain name and odd colors, and my other sites, which I’ll probably start and drop and change on a whim. This site, this writing, these pictures, the code, me, and you, of course; you, silent or otherwise who weren’t so caught up in the ‘brand’ that you forget it is little more than a facade. Or, perhaps, like me grew up around cows and recognize burned bovine butt when you see it.

As for the ‘megalith’ as SD called it, I walk the Ozark ‘mountains’ and they’re small and quaint compared to the those where I grew up in the Northwest. Hardly more than green rolling hills. Yet in the past, the Ozarks were an imposing mountain chain that reached high above the plains–tall and jagged and snow covered. Time wore them down. Time wears everything down. Nothing is meant to be immutable.

I was thinking that the old subscriptions to the Burningbird syndication feed also remind me of the cicada shell. It is humbling to see them. They, too, had meaning once; a use. Now, like the bug’s old body, like Burningbird, they’re just a remnant.

Now that that’s out of the way…


Summer in Missouri

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

… Excessive heat watch remains in effect from Saturday afternoon
through Wednesday evening…

An excessive heat watch remains in effect from Saturday afternoon
through Wednesday evening.

The combination of temperatures in the middle to upper 90s and
high humidity will lead to dangerous heat levels during the
afternoon and early evening hours Saturday through Wednesday.

Heat index values in the St Louis metropolitan area will hover
around 105 degrees during the afternoon and early evening hours
each day.



Safe for eyes…maybe

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I had pulled the colors for the Bb Gun from an old ad for Red Ryder BB guns. If you’ve watched the movie, “A Christmas Story”, you’ll recognize both the gun and the ad. I also originally had an image of the gun on the site. However, when I asked permission to use the image, the Daisy air gun company said they’d prefer that I remove it; as is their right, and I was happy to comply.

I kept the colors, though, as I thought a good strong dose of color was appropriate for the content. I had a chance yesterday, though, to check it out on a Mac where I hadn’t modified the gamma setting to be between that of a pure Mac, and that of a PC. My first reaction was, “Argggghhhh!”

Thinking that the site’s tagline starts with “Safe for eyes…”, it behooved me to make it safe for eyes. I’ve set the background color to white, for now.

Even if I hadn’t set it, I do provide full feeds at all the sites and a person could forgo the pleasure of directly reading the page at the site in favor of reading it in an aggregator. Yes, I’ve come fully around on feeds, and it was my recent book project that led to this change in attitude.

I don’t agree with the Ajax enthusiastas who say that one can blow off both valid markup and accessibility in the interests of creativity. When I was working on the Learning JavaScript book, what kept going through my mind in providing an accessible alternative to a site heavily JavaScripted and DHTMLized is to use a content management tool, like a weblog, to create multiple templates: one with ‘the goods’, one without.

(If the site was XHTML, one could also use XSLT to transform the page, but let’s face it, working with XSLT sucks.)

Still, even providing a ’site safe’ template, you can’t plan for all types of user agents. The best we can do, then, is provide a syndication feed. If we provide a properly formatted syndication feed, no matter the user agent, the site writing and the annotation that accompanies the writing is accessible. That’s the most important component of our pages, the contents of the individual posts. If all else is stripped away, this still comes through–if you use a properly formatted syndication feed, that is.

As such, I agree with DeWitt Clinton that providing type information for syndication feed consumers is imperative–especially if you have sites that provide a great deal of structured data. Where I don’t agree is that I don’t provide multiple feeds at my site. One feed is sufficient.

(And it irks me that I have to edit the default wp-atom.php that comes with WordPress in order to generate valid Atom.)

Using NOSCRIPT to add whatever is needed when JavaScript is not enabled, and making sure all content is accessible by keyboard, properly labeled, as well as logically layed out for speech-to-text browsers is the major first step in making a valid and accessible site. Providing a carefully formatted and precise syndication feed, with support for rich markup, is the second. Between the two, your word (and your metadata, and we all know how big I am on metadata) gets out.

Now, back to shopping for a new background color for Bb Gun. What think? A pale lime chiffon pie green, maybe?

PS: An good article, Reading and Subscribing to Blogs Through RSS: How Accessible is this world to people with vision loss, covers accessibility and RSS. The issue with being able to properly manage markup in addition to the recommendations outlined in this article means that if there is microformatted data associated with the post, such as calendar data, it also can be processed without undo intervention of the web page reader. An example can be to add an event to a reader’s calendar, or other such metadata related processes.