Archive for ‘standards’ category

Introducing Cork’d

I like wine. I’ve even touted it’s ability to act as a design enhancer. The problem with wine (for me, and for many) is knowing what’s good. There are infinite choices out there. It’s overwhelming. Oftentimes, I lean on the suggestions from friends — people that probably know more about wine than I do.

When I finally find a wine that I like, it’s always impossible to remember it for the next trip to the store. Some people keep a journal, writing down what they thought about the wine in a notebook. But wouldn’t it be great if you could do this online? And wouldn’t it be also great if we could share those lists with our friends through a simple, free interface? And while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be the if this same interface allowed you to review the wine, tag it, and set up lists for wines that you want to buy or that you own in your cellar?

Cork'dIntroducing Cork’d. A brand-spanking new site devoted to reviewing and sharing wine created by Dan Benjamin and myself. We’ve been working on this for quite some time. Just the two of us. Call us the Bartles & Jaymes of the wine web world (wait, no, don’t do that).

What is Cork’d?

Cork'd screenshotThe basic gist of Cork’d is this: after painlessly creating a free account, you’re able to keep track of wines you’ve tried in your Wine Jounal. You can rate, review and tag wines (more on that below), and these “tasting notes” end up attatched as comments to each wine in our database. You can also build a Shopping List of wines you’d like to buy (think of this like you would a Netflix queue), and a Wine Cellar for wines that you own. Keeping track of what your friends are tasting is as easy as adding them as a Drinking Buddy. You can also recommend wines to your buddies after you’ve rated and reviewed a bottle.

We have a partnership set up through, where a selection of their bottles have seeded the Cork’d database with about 1200 wines (which will grow as members add their own bottles), each with a link to buy that wine right away. But we can also see other cross-promotional opportunities by getting involved in the meat-space wine community. There are endless ideas flowing about connecting with wineries and vineyards, other wine blogs and podcasts. We’re really looking forward to watching it all grow.

Tasting Tags

The idea of tagging a wine may sound absurd — but when we started to realize the benefits, it became a must-have. We call them tasting tags, and by applying keywords like “oak, pepper, vanilla, berry” to a wine, we’re then making it easy to find similar wines based on those flavors. If you like oaky wines, for instance, then it should be easy to find them.

Why and How

What’s funny about Cork’d when looking at it for the first time, is that it’s pulling in many of the current technologies that have been brewing out there, and applies them to… wine. And why not? This is something Dan B. and I built quite simply because we wanted to use it. We’d been trading favorite bottles, realizing there would be an incredible benefit to keep track of things through a web interface, building a community around it, and making it easy to subscribe to buddies and wine lists. It had to be.

It’ll also be interesting to continue to talk about what we learned by building a web application with a team of 2. Working with Dan B. is a natural fit, as our areas of expertise overlap only slightly (design/ui/development), and where they do overlap actually made things run all the smoother. I was continually amazed by the way Dan approached building the app in Ruby on Rails, the speed, the structure, the way he thinks about a problem for a while, then takes all of about 3 minutes to write the working code — he’s a developer who designs in code. And I’m sure he’ll have much to write about regarding the process, including his already-published thoughts on the launch over at Hivelogic (far more thorough than mine).

This was a giant learning experience for me in terms of dipping my toes in Rails, becoming more familiar with Subversion (more on this later), and in using these tools as a collaborative and iterative way of building a web application. It’s a gratifying way for a designer to work on a large project, chipping away at things in real time, using real data — it’s a bit like sculpting. An evolution.

Go Forth and Uncork

I’m excited to share much more about the site over the coming weeks and months, and we’ll be rolling out some additional features and tweaks. But until then, if you dig wine (or want to start digging wine), then head on over and, um … uncorkCork’d.

Fence Riding Once Again

screenshotApparently the fixed/fluid-width toggle feature here at SimpleBits was a popular one. The latest realign bid farewell to the option, instead settling on a centered, fluid-width layout with a conservative max-width applied. For those that requested it, the ability to toggle between fixed and fluid is now back. There are a few reasons I decided to add it back in:

  1. Well, you asked. Actually, I don’t usually cave in to reader demands, hence my recent useless-but-riveting articles regarding oatmeal cookies and (of all things) the weather.
  2. It’s so dead-simple to implement. Well, after reading this it should be.
  3. Choice can be nice. Since max-width isn’t currently supported by all browsers, giving those readers an easy option for readable line-length seems to me a Good Thing.
  4. It’s fun to play with. Along the same lines as twirling a pencil in your fingers like the drumstick of a spandex-wearing drummer from the 80s.


I have yet to download and install an IE7 beta, but it sounds like it’s actually time to start paying attention to the latest release (Beta 2 Preview). We’re hearing reports from MIX 06 that the browser is essentially done in terms of CSS implementation:

Really interesting stuff from the above links. I’m impressed with what we’ve heard regarding the now-standards-aware IE team. On the flip-side, Roger Johansson brings up an excellent point: whether we’ll need a new way to self-clear floats in IE7.

Wow, this is a bit frightening, as I’ve been using the easy clearing method extensively, finding it to be pretty rock solid and predictable. It’s especially handy to use this to group components that use complicated floats and most importantly keeping them independent as self-contained, bulletproof “modules”. Being self-contained means they’re not dependent on subsequent elements in order to clear, and can then be moved around at will. Handy stuff.

So, it appears we’ll need a way to self-clear floats in IE7 that doesn’t use the still unsupported :after pseudo-element and the now fixed height: 1%; trick that previous versions of IE/Win so lovingly accepted. Here’s hoping there’s an alternative out there (aside from floating the container among others). I’m sure there will be, but even then this particular method would now feature 3 different declarations in order to work across browsers (actually add a few more in if you’d like IE5/Mac to work).

Update: Roger has posted an update, where a solution using display: inline-block; instead of display: inline-table; seems to do the trick for IE7. It’s a tad more complicated as to why this works, so be sure to read Claire Campbell’s informative write-up.

CSS Patches

The term “hack” implies that a legitimate solution to the problem exists. Yet, in order to save time, or perhaps due to lack of knowledge, a sloppy fix is applied to just get the job done. “Let’s hack at it, ’till it works”. But is this the case in terms of CSS hacks? Sure, we call them “hacks”, when in reality they’re really patches. Patches that fix known, documented problems in certain browsers.

I know it’s really just a term, but the problem is this: by using “hack” to describe often necessary code, a negative connotation can be attached, even if what we’re really doing is compensating for a browser’s shortcomings. When you hear someone say: “I avoid all hacks”, you’ve witnessed this negative connotation. Heck, we’d all love to avoid hacks — but we’re also realistic, living in the real world, and designing in 2005.

Now think about the term “patch”. It brings to mind, mending something that’s broken. It’s rip or tear is clearly visible — we know it’s broken, and we know what we need to do to make it look better. We’re not cutting corners, we’re applying a fix.

Perhaps from now on, I’ll refer to fixes for gems like the double float margin bug, or the three-pixel text jog as, well… patches.

When Floated Figures Attack!

I recently began publishing full entries in the RSS feed for SimpleBits, figuring that if people would rather read the entire Notebook post in the comfort of their aggregator, they could go ahead and do so. Personally, I enjoy reading content in its intended environment, with all the site design around it, and find myself skimming NetNewsWire for interesting articles to pull up in a browser later on.


Boston-Area Web Standards Job

My friend and former boss is trying to find you. EH Publishing (a Boston-based publisher of magazines and trade shows covering the connected home industry) is seeking a Web Standards Expert/Production Manager to join their team. And I quote the description verbatim:

EH Publishing is looking for an outstanding
person to fill a crucial role. As the Production Manager you’ll be
handling the constant production work flow for all of our sites, as
well as building and designing new sites and sections. Working with
all departments within EH, this is a key role that requires both the
right skills and the right attitude. You’ve got to love web standards
and be fully committed to delivering the best code and UI possible.
You need to be able to juggle multiple sites, projects, and handle any
type of personality that comes your way. Finally, you need to be
willing to accept change and new challenges without missing a beat. My
order of preference for skills? 1. attitude, 2. project
management/production skills, 3. standards knowledge and ability, and
4. design. Preferably you’ll have a good mix of it all.

What can we offer you? A chance to work with an organization that is
growing fast and is totally committed to building first class web
sites to match their award winning magazines and trade shows. You’ll
be one of the first members of a new team that will retool and grow
the web offerings of EH Publishing. We’ve been in business for 10
years, we’re privately held, very profitable, and currently at about
50 employees. This is a great opportunity to build sites which will be
highly visible and very important to all aspects of our business.

If you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you. Email Rob Roesler: rob
[at] ehpub dot com

This is a great opportunity for someone who is looking to hone their web standards skills on a variety of cool sites. If you’re in the market for a new job, be sure to check it out.