San Francisco, Part Two

Jeffrey Zeldman and me

I’ve had a couple of days to digest the material from WordCamp and An Event Apart. I’m not going to transcribe the entire thing, as many other blogs have it covered, but here are a few highlights.

The WordPress WordCamp got my gear turning. WordPress == framework, which can be a website, blog, photoblog, social media site, etc. It’s open and completely customizable. Liz Danzico and Jane Wells did a fascinating demo of “Crazyhorse,” a prototype of the next generation of WordPress. It’s not clear if all the changes they’ve described will be implemented, but many were improvements. Their process involved a lot of user testing with cool “lasers” that track eye movement on the computer screen. They literally took what users asked for, proto-typed it, had the users test it again to see if the changes worked. Liz then gave an interesting talk on improvisation at An Event Apart, and how users and designers must work together to create better web sites. I think I was already tuned in having seen the Crazyhorse demo, and she offered that this process can be considered a framework.

Framework: Provides uninscribed and detectable cues that loosely govern a set of actions or interactions.

She made an interesting parallel to the recording of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album, where Davis walked in a handed the musicians slips of paper containing a theme, thus giving birth to modal Jazz. She called this “creative instability” and talked about the need for user design process to be improvisational. I think she sorta ran around Robin Hood’s barn to make the point, but I love when anyone uses music theory to make a point. Even if a pending book deal is likely in the works.

Eric Meyer’s first talk was on CSS frameworks…should we use them? His answer was essentially “No” and then he spent an hour talking about them anyway. Anyone who does CSS regularly already has some sort of base foundation they will use on each project, and an external Framework isn’t going to do much. I sensed a little contention between Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric about the next generation of HTML and XHTML – I think I would have preferred hearing their thoughts on that, than wasting time on something most attendees wouldn’t use.


There was a lot of talk about jQuery, a lightweight JavaScript framework at both AEA and WordCamp. The thing that drew me to jQuery initially was it’s simplicity. It’s a tiny, simple, extremely elegant library. I love jQuery.

Me and Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria, always an inspiration, asked us to put the “design” back in “web design.”

I spent some time with Jeremy Keith at the Minna gallery talking about accessibly navigation (and a day later with Eric Meyer, too).

I learned a lot about making sites MORE accessible using AJAX, about how panda obsessed groups battle each other on flickr and about project management scrums.

Do Websites Need to Look Exactly the same in Every Browser?

Finally, Dan Cedarholm definitively answered this tortuous question. I’m so glad this has been settled.

75th Post

I began this blog a year ago next week with a tentative post about my favorite breakfast sandwich. Seventy-five posts later, I’m celebrating this milestone at WordCamp in San Francisco.

Wordcamp 2008

Here’s how this little blog has impacted me (and mine) this past year:

  • Other blogs that were started as a by-product of this one
  • I filled a sketchbook in thirty days
  • We have started using blogs at work, to great effect
  • I have produced a sizable body of work, ideas and happiness in the past year
  • I had my first exhibition at an art show, and another pending
  • I have met many talented, inspiring, nice people because I blog

Yes, many nice people, including WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg.

Me with Matt Mullenweg

WP MoleskineIf you can get to a wordcamp (and you are a blogger or want to become one), Please do. Having access to WP developers (THE developers), search-engine-optimization experts and a diverse, fantastic community is invaluable. Plus, they have free temporary tattoos (and for those who donned such tattoos there were limited edition Moleskines).

I’m thinking I’d like to get WordCamp going in Baltimore. I’m 100% behind wordpress as a platform, and I really think it is a platform, like Facebook, etc. And there are really cool things coming to WordPress soon, too. I am going to start developing pluggins in addition to themes. I’ve seen the light.

OK – I’ve held my thoughts so I could post this post at Wordcamp. More on my adventures with my friends Neil and Hobbes in San Francisco tomorrow – like, the fact the Neil and I have a fridge filled with bananas, Doritos and lime diet coke.

Lucky Hedwig

Hedwig the Cockatiel

Our cockatiel Hedwig escaped last week during an avoidable mishap. She slept outside while the girls and I stayed awake and worried for her. The next morning, I hit Craigslist and canvased grocery stores, vets and pet shops with MISSING BIRD fliers.

The last store I visited explained, rather bluntly, that I’m a fool for not keeping her wing feathers trimmed. They also said that when a bird escapes, they are overwhelmed with trying to find the “ceiling” outside. Typically, they won’t go more than 200 to 300 yards from the house, and they will usually stay put in a tree until forced to move (food, predators, etc.)

I picked a street in the next neighborhood and started walking and whistling – Hedwig always whistles back, it’s a kind of game we play. Almost immediately, I heard her respond to Sleigh Ride. I still can’t believe my luck – I keep reliving the thrill of hearing her in the distance. Such amazing relief. It took us both about 20 minutes to figure out which tree she was in, and how to get her down in the wind. She managed it, and is sitting on my shoulder as I type this.

Hedwig in the tree

The advice from the cranky store owner was excellent. I called to thank her, and she then told me that people will often keep friendly birds if they meet them. And Hedwig is the friendliest ever.

A Fabulous Holiday Weekend

1. I am recovering nicely from Lyme disease – my fatigue is improving. I am so grateful.

2. I returned to my beloved Kung Fu school last week. I’m definitely on the mend.

3. I’m also deliriously happy about the fact that friends gave us a POOL this weekend. A POOL!

goils in the pool

4. I had crawfish for the first time (and it’s weird that it’s taken me this long to eat them)


5. I cleaned up my old family kitchen table and put it in the back corner of the barn. It makes a fabulous drawing table.


6. I had a fine time with some drawings. This is for the sketchbook swap:

The Old Man and the Sea Turtle Skeleton

7. This is sketch of an idea I have, on 8″ X 2.5′ paper (pen, ink):

Giant Jellyfish

8. There’s more on flickr.

And summer is just getting under way! Completely awesome.

Sketchbook Swap!

I’ve decided to start a sketchbook swap.


Here’s the skinny. We’ll use flickr to post things and communicate with each other.  It’s free, and more than enough.

  1. Pick up a new sketchbook (Moleskine is fine, but not a required), no less than 100 pages and easy to mail.
  2. Write your name and preferred mailing address in the cover, draw something and mail it to the first person on your list.
  3. When you get the next book, you will have three weeks to fill seven pages.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until your book returns to you

If you are interested in participating, please send me your mailing address.  I will finalize the mailing list and we can get drawing!

If you have a flickr account, please join the Sketchbook Exchange Program group.