AEA Boston 2007 — Day 1

on the fly notes…

CSS Jedi

Yes, we saw Yoda and heard a light saber turn on and off. woo! or should I say w00t! No I shouldn’t.

Eric Meyer on Code (“or Markup if you think code is only for programming languages.”) talking about the CSS file that ships with FF. on windows do a search for html.css and see how FF messes with your designs.

Universal Selector. “* {margin:0; padding:0; line-height:1.2;}” to take care of most of the browser shipped style issues. But don’t use this if you are using Form elements. Too unpredictable. The bad news is you have to define every other element and avoid the forms elements. The good news is you only have to do it once (for most projects) and save it.

“If you are obsessing over 1px differences, it’s time to starting thinking about Flash.”

“I did something wrong, I don’t know what it is, it doesn’t matter.” Oh how that describes my coding skillz. :)

CSS does not care what you think an element does. Once you realize that you can make elements do what ever you want them to do.

The canvas copies from the root element and if that’s not there it’s copied from the body.

Reminding every Mac owner to pick up Mouseposé especially if you are presenting and your content will show on a big screen.

Mmmm… positioning table cells “because CSS doesn’t care.” you can just move them around wherever you want. which is good to talk about because I do work with tabular data now and again.

Turning a table into a graph using only CSS. which is really cool because you didn’t know where he was
going until he got to the named CSS of “graph” and he started putting it together. I wonder how you
can do this on the fly with dynamic data…? JavaScript! ha. “It took me 9 years of using CSS to realize I could do this.”

I like how Eric works on the fly. It’s how I function too.


Writing. The web really is about content. “Freshness counts more than looks.” Zeldman has 627 “unread” messages in Flickr. oooo.

“Get a writing budget and hire a copy czar/tsar.”

“All copy is a brand opportunity.”


It’s not that he didn’t say anything, I just need to get analog notes on here. later. :)

Steve Krug

“usability is just an attribute of good design.”

Solving usability problems is everyone’s responsibility. (me).

Reminding everyone that they should probe when someone says “can’t.” Can’t? Don’t know how? Won’t? This is a conversation I had many times. Usually… the answer is “don’t know how.” And that’s easy to fix.

Steve thinks everyone should be able to do user testing with just a little bit of knowledge. I agree.

Knowing what to do with the data? That might be more the hard part.

Steve asks why UCD/usability will always be one of the first items removed due to budget issues.

“Even the best-thought-out products/sites have usability flaws.” So why worry a design to death? How do you know where the cut off point is?

We talked about the homework: My homework.

ha: it’s a “kayak problem.” “If you roll over in a kayak it’s not much of a problem if you keep going around and right yourself again.”

it’s a typo, not a spello.

“all you’re doing is watching people use your stuff and using your design intelligence to know how to fix things.” (paraquote)

talked a lot about Camtasia and it’s usefulness. which I agree about.

“competitors have gone to all the trouble of building a full scale prototype of a possible design that will work for you…”

Andrew Kirkpatrick

Adobe Product Accessibility Manager

“Accessibility is more than just making sure your site works with JS turned off.”

Brief overview of some of the more “common” accessibility issues, disabilities.

The basics: always define: What is the object called (name), What kind of object is it (role), [and…]

keyboard accessible slider widget: Slider doesn’t have “accessibility” help, but text field provides it.

W3C WAI-ARIA is working on an Accessible RIA Road maps: for tab example, tree example: (decent, not perfect, example of keyboard accessible “accordion” list.)

Dan Cederholm

The take-away on Dan’s talk was all about Microformats. Did he talk about other things? Yes.

Dan’s talk was about juggling interface design. He broke his talk down to 5 sections: Color, typography, iconography, Microformats, and flexibility. The theme was doing things in each of these aspects of design that help “optimize” (my word) your time.

He showed some interesting color pickers and ways to choose palettes. He said great typography should be invisible. Yet later he said if you have a background image behind text you should provide a background color for when images aren’t there. Which goes against his note that the text should be invisible. ;)

But all that aside, he spent most of the time (it seemed) speaking about Microformats. Which was fine since I feel I know more about Microformats now and don’t consider them a waste of time. He probably could have talked the whole time about Microformats.

The (mt) Party

We had a hard time finding the place even though it was only a few blocks away. The funny thing was that I’ve been to 33 before. A year and a half ago when I first came to Boston. It was a little odd. Free drinks and free food were advertised. I think it should have been free drinks and free appetizers. If it had been advertised that way I would have eaten before hand. As it was I left at about 8pm at the behest of my stomach. I expected more people there, but would guess only one fifth of the people attending showed up.

Random Thoughts From Day 1

I think speakers in general should create talking points memos to hand out to the audience. Especially if they are giving even a moderately persuasive speech. Dan’s Microformats talk could do with an accompanying memo. The idea is that you have just been converted to, in this case, using microformats, but need ammunition for convincing your company or clients. A talking points memo would give you the 3 key points (or whatever) to say over and over to the people you work with. And you are using the same text that 500 other people are using. Okay, not all 500 are bought into the idea of standardized markup.

But this idea would work well for most speakers I think. Slides are fine, but don’t convey much info to those who didn’t attend. A talking points memo could go a longer way to getting your message beyond the group in front of you.

Next up: AEA peeps should have started a Twitterbot or something to get people connecting. For the first time in a long time I am at a conference where I don’t know many people. Most of the people I know are the speakers.

Finally, it would have been nice to have a map of the immediate area with things to do, restaurants, coffee, etc. While I live in the area, there are a LOT of people here form elsewhere and a decent-sized handful of people from other countries.