How to Start a Blog

Starting a blog is not hard. People do it all the time, by the millions. But if you’re not technically inclined it can be intimidating. We often talk to people who want to get a simple website and blog up and running. Sometimes we work with them, other times it’s enough to point them in the right direction and give a little advice. Today I’d like to share a bit of that advice. Step 1: Hosting Web hosting is both simple in concept and complicated to get right. There are a ton of hosting companies out there. You can sign up for a couple of dollars per month at Blue Host* in a few minutes and host your own blog. […]

I Like Digsby

Digsby has opened its doors to the public and while there is clearly work to be done I’m pretty impressed with the software. Digby is a desktop application that puts all your instant messaging, email, and social network updates in one spot. The interface is nice, with some basic themes you can choose form. I like the simple system notifications as well. The IM one is really cools since you can respond from the notification bubble. They also offer a nice embeddable chat widget you can add to websites. I’ve the one below to our Contact page. It took me about 5 minutes to customize and add to the site. I love that it lets a visitor instantly interact with […]

Internet Filters Continue to be Stupid

I got an email today from a teacher friend of mine telling me that the Mandy & Pandy website was blocked by the internet filter at his school. They apparently thought that the nice site selling children’s books to teach kids Chinese contained sexual content – the official categorization from the Websense Enterprise filter was “Sex”. Now, having built the site I’m pretty confident that is a pretty wildly inaccurate categorization of the site. In fact, I don’t see how anyone who looked at the site or even spidered the content of the site could find anything even slightly sexual on it. It’s about a little girl and talking Panda who do such things as walk in the park and […]

Handling Mistakes

At some point in time it happens to everyone, you make a mistake. Sometimes they are big, sometimes small and sometimes they are perceived by others to bigger or smaller than they are. How you handle your mistakes can make a big difference in your relationship with a client. There are no hard and fast rules for handling these things. You have to apply some judgment based on the people you are working with. Are they fixated on blaming someone or on fixing the the problem? If their focus is blame, then you are dealing with a dysfunctional, paranoid culture, the type of environment where CYA (Covering Your Ass) is the most important activity you can participate in. If their […]


(via O’Reilly’s Radar) Homophily refers to the tendency to associate with people who are like you. This is as common in chat rooms as it is in elementary school lunch rooms. There is a natural tendency to seek out and associate with other people that are like us in some way. It makes us feel like we “belong”, like we are not alone. Sometimes this is harmless and even beneficial, as when quilters find each other and form a club. They get satisfaction and enjoyment out of their shared interest. Sometimes it is very bad, as when young men and women with radical inclinations find each other and push one another toward terrorism, strengthening one another’s resolve to kill. Generally […]

Time Zones and Countries

I needed a quick list of countries and time zones and I wanted to add it to my database so I could manipulate it easily for a new application we’re developing (details on that coming soon). I looked around but didn’t find what I wanted so after a bit of searching I took a few static select lists and copied them into Excel. I then imported the lists into my database using ColdFusion. In case they help anyone I’ve made the lists available here as CSV files. Time Zones (.csv, 4 KB) Countries (.csv, 4 KB)

Accessible Data Tables

(via Jonathan Snook) Roger Hudson has posted a nice primer on using tables in HTML to display data. We quotes the W3C specifications and walks through some clear examples on how to properly use tables in HTML. It’s good to see resources like this that explain how to create data tables that are accessible for all users. Hudson links to a number of resources at the bottom of the page but he leaves out a very useful post by Roger Johansson at 456 Berea Street. I’ve drifted away from posting basic HTML and CSS instructions here of late, hopefully these resources of of some interest.

Missing the Point: Web Applications

I recently went to try online banking with National City only to come face to face with the following error message: Alert – browser does not meet requirements Your browser does not meet minimum security requirements for Online Banking. If your browser does not support 128-bit encryption, you will not be able to enroll in Online Banking. In addition, your browser version must be Microsoft® Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, or Netscape Navigator® 7.0 or higher I am browsing using Firefox 1.0.3, which shares a rendering engine with Netscape 8.0. However, the developers behind National City’s website have chosen not to recognize this browser. I’m guessing Safari, Opera and other modern browsers are also locked out of the online banking […]

Internet Explorer 7 Update

Good news out of Redmond. Chris Wilson posted some new information on the IE Blog. Looks like they will be adding support for alpha transparency with PNG images. This will allow designers to layer images that are partially transparent in IE 7 like they can do in other modern browsers. Alpha transparency support will enable drop shadows, partially transparent gradients, and other effects to be used in more complex layouts and will allow background colors to change without reworking non-rectangular images. I think we’ll be seeing an explosion of creativity as the new browser gains widespread acceptance and we don’t have to worry about so many visitors seeing designs broken by incomplete PNG support. The IE team is also working […]