Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

The Importance of Time In Design

Screens are not static display devices. Unlike printed pages, they can change, act, react, and transform themselves within the limitations of their two dimensional spaces. The web originated as a way to present textual articles, but has evolved far past that now.

Temporal design means thinking of not only visual and interactive but change, progression, control and context to designs – something lacking in most ‘interactive’ design we see today.

Temporal Design enfolds visual and interactive design to create an immersive experience

The problem is that many designers still embrace static methods of planning and executing their ideas. It’s not really their fault – at least not until recently – because they were used to the static confines of the printed page and then the severe limitations of maintaining backwards compatibility with legacy browsers. So, too many digital interface were inherently static by design to meet the medium.

It is time to change that, but it will take a fundamental change in the way in which we approach experience design.

Existing Art

The good news is that not only is this change is already well underway, there is plenty of ‘existing art’ (literally) in other mediums that will help experience designers along the path. Comic strips and comic books have been around well over a century now, but sequential art has been around for all of recorded history. In fact it is the first way humans recorded history, and they idea of showing a narrative through visuals is that the core of needing to communicate.

Cave painting were the earliest form of temporal design, showing change and progression

Early films also mimicked the style of the prevailing medium at the time: theatre. Moving pictures were staged with single fixed points for an entire scene, often simply filming the same stage direction as the play. In other words, static. Filmmakers quickly learned that they could do so much more with multiple camera angles, close ups, scene transitions to name only a few techniques. What they really learned, though, was that they could play with space and time in a way that was impossible on the stage.

Early film sets were little more than stages with a camera pointed at it

The State of Experience Design

Where we stand now as digital interface designers is not so different from where early cinematographers found themselves. We have been trying to use the style of the printed page, imposing its limitations on our new medium creating a static. The now all but defunct Flash technology allowed us to take some halting steps towards temporal design, incorporating video, transitions, narrative, and even limited self-determination for the actors.

(I’m trying to move away from calling the people who work with our products users or customers with the implication of passivity or (worse) addiction those words connote. I have sought a better term for over a decade now, and finally realized that what we should call them – and how we should think of them – is as actors. You may also notice that I no longer refer to User Experience design or User Interface design, preferring simply Experience design and Digital Interface design. Won’t you join me?)

However, Flash turned out to be a blind alley for several reasons, and the core Web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) are only just now really catching up to the power once provided by Flash. We’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible thinking about our experience designs as existing in time and space, but we really like what we see.

That’s why parallax and other movement design tricks have been so popular of late. Finally someone started moving things around on the page in a somewhat realistic manner, providing visual interest and motion queue. Yes, there’s some backlash now. Parallax was pretty much a one-trick pony, giving the illusion of flow while providing very little extra information.

The traits of temporal design thinking

Temporal design is beyond the cliched ‘interactive’ which has been diluted to such an extent that it has little meaning anymore. Instead, what actors are expecting is something much more immersive and naturalistic.

Here are the five layers of temporal design thinking for experience design.

The temporal design view of experience design

01. Keep context

Temporal experience design respects the actor’s context in time. Your design should proved messaging that change depending on the time of day and, potentially even the visual and interactive design based patterns in use through the course of a day.

02. Give a narrative

Temporal experience design reveals its own self-consistent story to the actor. Digital interfaces should not feel like discreet chunks lumped together, but need to provide an overarching context as well as the specific context. This can also mean the actors place within the interface or within a specific process.

03. Make it unfold

Temporal experience design has a natural flow that unfolds around the actor as they move through it. As new information becomes available, the actor should feel as if it is increasingly pertinent to what they have already experienced, not unlike putting together clues in a murder mystery building on and adding to the previous experienced contexts.

04. Show transitions

Temporal experience design moves smoothly but clearly from one moment to the next, preventing change blindness. As elements change, actors can clearly see those changes over time, rather than sudden or jumpy changes.

05. Provide agency

Temporal experience design empowers the actor to find their own path through their own self-determined actions. This is key to turning someone from an interface user into an interface actor – giving them maximum control over the environment. This attribute has the furthest to go for temporal design. Currently, we treat digital interface as at best a ‘Choose Your Own adventure’ with two or three options. In the future, interfaces will need to live more like open environments than a two lane high-way.

Where do we go from here?

This article is just a brief overview of the direction experience design has to move into, kept intentionally short to avoid the TL;DR associated with static design (yes, this article is a prime example of static design). So, I need to eat my own spinach and figure out how to communicate more effectively using temporal design.

Here are three things you can do to help me out:

  1. Share great examples with me have the traits of temporal design.
    I’ve shared a few in this article, but there is so much great stuff going on out there, I can’t possibly see it all.
  2. Help me find better tools for creating temporal designs.
    I’m constantly on the prowl for better tools to help designers think bout temporal design.
  3. Share your own experiences moving from static design thinking to temporal design thinking.
    Are you working on designs that are more temporal in nature? Let me know.


5 ways to make temporal prototyping your next design skill

Imagine a world where you could only describe your visual designs with words: all shapes, colours, and sizes had to be described orally. You could only tell what something should look like, never show what it would look like. That’s what it is like to create designs in the temporally flat confines of a static space. We can describe how something transitions, transforms, or animates, but never show how it works.

But, we can do more than tell. We can show how these designs work, it just takes a little more effort.

In a previous article, I introduced the term temporal design to differentiate from ‘visual’ or static designs. Temporal prototypes, then, are ones that truly allow us to explore our designs in more than just visual appearance but allow temporal appearance as well. Creating prototypes that look and work more like the final product is where interface design is headed.

We prototype to explore ‘What if…?’

Simply stated, we create prototypes to answer ‘What if…?’ questions, before we ask the ‘How do we…’ questions. This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but to be creative we need to be able to try out any idea, with an eye for what is possible rather than the other way around.

What if…? Like a good science fiction story, a temporal prototype should help you see the future. (Image source: Jonas de Ro, 2012)

The problem with visual prototypes using programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, OmniGraffle, and Sketch is that they can never help us answer ‘What if…?’ questions when it comes to time, i.e. temporal design. You can describe how it works with these tools, but you cannot show how it works which is the only way to truly answer ‘What if…?’ questions. This helps us go beyond simply showing designs and begin to enter the more useful domain of the proof-of-concept.

Temporal prototypes enfold the visual and dynamic

There are three levels of prototypes, each building on the capabilities of the previous. You will find that as you increase the scope of your prototype, you will also push back the base of the fidelity cliff, which is the point at which your prototype becomes more about answering ‘How…?’ than ‘What if…?’. Temporal prototypes turn us from designers into storytellers.

Three kinds of prototypes, each increasingly complex to build, but more informative for answering ‘What If…?’ questions
  • Visual: incorporates the traditional page structure and visual layers, and is what makes the first and most immediate impression on the actor. However, the visual layer is static in nature and is not enough to convey the full interface.
  • Dynamic: is where interaction happens in of the temporal arena, allowing us to show the basic interactions as ‘clickable’ prototype (i.e. click here, this happens). However, interactive prototypes have come to simply mean showing a clickable site schema. It is not enough.
  • Temporal: goes beyond the visual and interactive allowing the user to engage with the design over time, in ways that simple interactive prototypes cannot encapsulate. By showing how the prototype works in time, we can truly say that it is an interface proof-of-concept.

The old ways of weaving the web are not working anymore

It used to be that ‘web designers’ would work with clients to create storyboards, wireframes, and visual comps, hand those over to the developers, stand back and wait for the magic to happen. This will always end in the best product that works exactly the way the client wanted, every single time, right?

The Client-Designer-Developer relationship in its ‘happy path’

Probably not. The waterfall methodology for interface development, while far from dead, has been widely discredited. The reason for this is that it relies heavily on static deliverables (sitemaps, wireframes, storyboards, and visual comps) that quickly run foul of the fidelity cliff making iteration and innovation problematic or impossible.

Waterfall is still with us

Many digital interface development workflows rely on the agile methodology, or one of its many variants. Agile promotes design iteration, rapid prototyping and constant testing. Yet designers are still yoked to the same old deliverables, based on creating static designs.

Agile allows for after prototyping and creation

Where we need to go is into truly temporal interface prototypes that can be quickly turned into the development code. This transition is not going to be easy, but necessary if we want to keep pace with the changing nature of software.

The happy path to temporal prototyping is knowing what is possible

It’s no longer enough to just show developers what you want the interface design to look like, you have to be able to show them how you intend it to work. To do that, though, you, the designer, have to know learn what is possible.

01. Learn the basics of the core technology your interface is developed in

For the Web, learn what HTML tags do, how CSS works, and the capabilities of JavaScript well enough so that you know what is simple to do and what may be a more complex temporal design task.

CSS now includes transitions, transformations, and animation, something that far too few designers are aware of, much less include in their design thinking. For native apps, learn the capabilities and possibilities of Objective C and Java and what you can do with those that you cannot do on the Web.

02. Learn a tool that helps you design with code

If you eventually learn to roll your own code, great! For most designers, though, looking at code is like trying to translate Latin into Greek. A good tool can’t make a poor designer better, but a bad tool can really bring them down. Right now, there are no killer apps for temporal prototyping, but there some up-and-coming contenders, like Adobe Edge Animate, Tumult Hype,Macaw and Principal Animate.

03. Learn how to manipulate a scripting framework

Once you understand how JavaScript works, you are ready to continue learning how to manipulate a JavaScript framework. A framework extends the capabilities you will have with Web UI, but also simplify the implementation of common dynamic tasks, making it easier for non-developers to do really cool things.

AngularJS from Google is one of the most commonly used, but there is a bit of a learning curve. If you want something easy to pick up, but more limited, I highly recommend UILang which uses natural language to allow simple but common interaction.

04. Learn what others are doing with interactive and temporal design

Although you can find some really cool ideas in Dribbble, these are generally not real working examples. A better place to look for temporal design examples are at CodePen.io. CodePen not only provides working examples, it also gives you the code you need to implement.

05. Learn to think about the space between

Once you understand what is possible, it is time to apply that knowledge. Temporal design happens in the spaces between that parts you plan. Your job as a temporal designer is to sweat these details. Nothing ever changes without reason, moves without purpose, or acts without motive.

Follow these guidelines, and you will increasingly find yourself not just as a designer, but a designer/storyteller.

Originally published in Creative Bloq.

What are Trusted Filters?

There is just too much information in the universe—too much to know, too much to see, too much to do—for one person to experience even a small fraction of it it all first hand. We have always turned to the people around us to help sift through and synthesize data (turning information into knowledge) and to help us learn what’s going on (turn knowledge into understanding). We have always relied on our trusted filters.

At every major shift in the way technology is used to transmit information, we see a parallel shift in not only who our trusted filters are, but also the very nature of what it means to be a trusted filter.

With the rise of the Internet, and the shift away from the one-to-many paradigm of trusted filters to a many-to-many paradigm, some alarmists are sounding the fall of civilization as we know it. However, we must view the period we are in now as one of transition—a transition that may last several decades—and consider it against the background of other significant historical shifts in culture and technology. Doing so, you’ll realize that the future of communication, knowledge, and understanding our children will know will be nothing like what we know today, even for the so-called digital natives.

Trusted Filters is where I will explore the shifts in culture and technology we are currently experiencing have developed from, the implications they have on how we gather and process information, and where these changes may be leading us. Neither reactionary nor Pollyanna, Trusted Filters will acknowledge the downsides of the “New” media, but will equally acknowledge that the devaluation of “Traditional” media is not necessarily a bad thing.

Original posted on Medium as What are Trusted Filters?

He put his passwords online, and he doesn’t care

This is an incredible interview with my new hero, Y. Woodman Brown, the “idiot” who posted his passwords as a comment on the Washington Post. Predictably he got hacked, but not the way you might think.

He’s interviewed on the podcast TLDR, and explains why he did it, and I have to admire him for what he has to say.

I feel similarly, but have to admit that I’m not ready to follow in his foot steps.

Your Kid Can Still Dream of Being an Astronaut!

“My kid said he wanted to be an astronaut” there goes that dream!” space evangelist Tim Bailey overheard that statement while standing in line to pick up tickets for a planned (but canceled) space shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center earlier this year. The speaker went on “Unless maybe he learns to speak Russian.” What made these sentements even more depressing to hear was that they came from a member of the media covering the event.

Tim, always a fast thinker, pointed out to the reporter that NASA was at that very moment holding a press conference awarding contracts to US commercial providers to create a new fleet of space vehicles. But if this is this the way most of the press is thinking and reporting “that there is no future for space flight, and America is only dreaming” what hope does the prospect of manned space exploration have for our children? Is the dream really dead? Will astronauts become nothing more than the stuff of legend, like cowboys and knights in shining armor? I don’t think so.

By the time you read this, the last space shuttle — Atlantis — will have launched, marking the end of the US Space Shuttle program and the end of an era in manned US space exploration. There are a lot of people who are decrying this as the end of the United States dominance in space exploration. Maybe, maybe not, but it really depends on how you define dominance. There’s little argument that NASA has achieved some astonishing and wondrous things — both with manned and unmanned craft — but NASA is best when it is pushing the boundaries of space exploration and science, and NASA will dominate that arena for the foreseeable future.

If you look at the history of human exploration, however, you will quickly realize that many of the great “discoverers” were private individuals who may have been government sponsored, but not a part of the government itself, and many where completely private ventures. Consider Christopher Columbus. He was a Genoan flying under the flag of Spain, but only because King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were footing the bill.

There are a few notable exceptions to this, but it’s generally people in the private sector who move quickly into undiscovered (or recently discovered) territory, but only if there is the hope of profit. The future of your child’s dreams of becoming an astronaut (or cosmonaut or taikonaut) are less likely to reside with the fate of any particular state or governemt, but instead with humanity’s ability to find out-of-this-world commercial opportunities.

There have been close to 550 individuals trained as astronauts, but until 2004 anyone going into space had their training sponsored by a government. That changed with the launch of SpaceShipOne, the first wholly private venture into space. Virgin Galactic is building on the success of SpaceShipOne, planing to launch its first commercial space flights for adventurous sight-seeres.

Virgin Galactic is now taking reservations at $200K a pop for a trip 70 miles straight up — you can download the brochure here. Although the exact length of the trip is unclear, you and five other passengers get to float above the earth, looking down on the world where, as Carl Sagan so eloquently put it, “everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

Still, taking a quick and expensive picnic into space is not the same thing as working and living in space. The dream of being an astronaut is about a profession, not a hobby. So that’s where those commercial contracts Tim was telling the reporter about are important. NASA has awarded four contracts for commercial crew development. This is what NASA should also be doing: encouraging the private sector to take on the more day-to-day aspects of space travel, while they push the frontiers. According to the NASA press release:

Each company will receive between $22 million and $92.3 million to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft.

OK, so that isn’t exactly Buck Rogers, but it’s an important start. We may be in a slight lull between epochs of manned space exploration, but a new paradigm will emerge, where we go into space, not just because “it’s there,” but because of what is there. NASA is constantly discovering resources that are hard or impossible to find on the Earth. That’s where your kids can still dream of being an astronaut — aboard missions with a purpose. Not just to go there, but to go there, do something, bring something back, and sell it. What will eventually drive our children into space is not just the desire for discovery, but also the promise of profit.

Top 10 Fictional Geek Dads

I think we can all agree: The best dads are geek dads. After all, we generally share a lot of interests in common with our kids—like, reading comic books, playing video games, and building Lego— and we are far more likely to want to play a game of D&D with our kids on a Saturday morning than, say, go play a round of golf with “the guys.” So, why are there so few geek dads in fiction? When I first proposed a list of fictional geek dads, there were many here in the slave pits at Geek Dad who didn’t think I could find 10 fictional dads geeky enough to make the list. “Pshaw,” I said, “stand back.” It turned out to be tougher than I thought.

The problem with being a fictional dad (especially a fictional geek dad) is that, to make a compelling story, there has to be some element of danger. Someone’s life has to be on the line. Some tragedy has to be hanging over everybody’s heads. The protagonist (often the kid) has be risking certain death, or the story is just not going to be very interesting. Yet, one of the primary goals of being a dad (or at least a good dad) is to keep your kids out of danger. So, when looking for fictional geek dads, my criteria included how much time they spent with their children, how cool a geek they are and finally how often they place their children’s lives in mortal danger.

10. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Gear Head

Kids: Luke and Leia

Grade: F/A+

Ok, I concede that his list of villainous crimes is lengthy: killing billions of people, torturing his own daughter, and cutting the careers of many a promising Imperial officer tragically short, to name just a very few. He may have even killed his own wife (of a “broken heart,” really?!) and tries at various times to kill his own children. But Anakin Skywalker comes through in the end, saving his boy from the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. That’s got to be worth at least a few thousand points. And, yes, Anakin is a total gear-head geek: Even as Darth Vader, he loved his tricked out TIE Fighters.

9. The Doctor, Doctor Who

Marital Status: It’s complicated

Geek Type: It’s complicated (Varies depending on regeneration)

Kid(s): It’s complicated

Grade: N/A

We know he had a granddaughter, Susan, but her mother and father are never mentioned. At least she called him “Grandfather.” But, “Grandfather” might have been more an honorific rather than indicative of their actual relationship. And recently when asked if he had any children the Doctor said “no.” But, then there’s that episode called “The Doctor’s Daughter.” But she was actually a clone. But clones are people, too. As I say, it’s complicated.

8. Arthur Dent, Mostly Harmless

Marital Status: Single

Geek Type: Hitchhiker

Kid: Random (no, not random children. Her name is Random — Random Frequent Flier Dent).

Grade: D

Arthur Dent may be the worst father this side of a father who is actively trying to kill his own children (see above). More than neglectful, he seems incapable of anything close to a paternal feeling.

7. Wayne Szalinski, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Inventor

Kids: Amy and Nick

Grade: C

Wayne is trying to create a shrink ray, which, of course, is best left in an attic where your nosey kids can easily find it. Talk about not kid-proofing your house!

6. Kevin Flynn, Tron: Legacy

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Hacker

Kid: Sam

Grade: B−

Kevin may be the ultimate absentee father, but he does sacrifice himself to save his son. Plus, it’s not like he wanted to be trapped on the Grid for all of those years. Just the line “We’re always on the same team” chokes me up every time I hear it.

5. George McFly, Back to the Future

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Nerd/Sci-fi Author

Kids: Marty, Dave, Linda

Grade: B

George is hard to nail down as a dad. He starts out as a nerdy dad who loves his kids, but is basically ineffectual at every level (Grade: C−). However, through the magic of time travel, he ends up being the cool sci-fi author dad who buys his kids jeeps (Grade: A+). Averaging things out, we’ll call that a B.

Dr. Benton Quest

Image © TBS

4. Dr. Benton Quest, Johnny Quest

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Scientist

Kid: Jonny

Grade: B+

Benton is really smart, loves his son, and takes him to some cool out of the way places. We shouldn’t hold it against him too much that those places generally have giant lizards, flying saucers, and frog men trying to kill Jonny. But we will a little.

3. Caractacus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Marital Status: Widower

Geek Type: Inventor

Kids: Jeremy and Jemima

Grade: A−

Caractacus (no relationship to Galacticus) is an inventor, and, although his kids sometimes feel a bit neglected, he has a flying car to take them on picnics and tell them cool stories. His stories involve the children being abducted by a creepy child catchers, imprisoned in dungeons and then saved by Benny Hill. Minus a few points for that.

2. Gomez Addams, The Addams Family

Marital Status: Married

Geek Type: Goth

Kids: Wednesday and Pugsley

Grade: A

Gomez loves his wife (a lot!), stays at home with the kids, and is always available for fun and games. The games generally involve sharp objects, explosives, or predatory flora and fauna, but do you really think that Child Services is going to be stopping by to ask any questions? I don’t think so.

Rick Castle: #1 Geek Dad

Rick Castle – Image © ABC Studios

1. Richard Castle, Castle

Marital Status: Divorced

Geek Type: Literary & Secret Fanboy

Kid: Alexis

Grade: A+

Rick is always there with the father-knows-best advice, yet still finds time to listen to his daughter’s own words of wisdom. He has a cool Manhattan apartment, sends his daughter to the best schools, and only occasionally gets paranoid about her boyfriends. What’s not to love? Okay, so he needlessly endangers his own life fighting crime with the New York City Police Department, thus risking leaving his daughter fatherless. Nobody’s perfect.

OK, I’m sure I left some great geek dads out (what about Arthur Weasley?) and maybe you disagree with my ratings (Anakin got an A+?!). Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for a Great Time at WebVisions 2011!

I want to thank everyone who came to see me speak at WebVisions 2011 last week. I had a great time teaching the intricacies of web typography to the 35 people at my Wednesday session and talking about the ins and out of selling progressive enhancement to the around 200 people at my Thursday session.

If you were there, please take a few moments to rate my performance.

50 Years of Americans in Space: Remembering Alan Shepard

Originally published in GeekDad»

Alan Shepard aboard Freedom 7 before launch

Alan Shepard aboard Freedom 7 before launch

Alan Shepard, was close, so, close — he ventured into space 50 years ago today, the first American in space, but a little less than a month too late to be the first human being in space. That honor went to the Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

As the saying goes, “Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.” Still, it’s important to remember the achievement of America’s first man in space on May 5, 1961 on board the Freedom 7 — an achievement that would eventually lead to the first moon landing. It’s debatable which was the more significant accomplishment (first person in space or first person on the Moon), but no one can argue with the bravery or pioneering spirit of all any of the Astronauts and Cosmonauts risking their lives to take those first steps away from Mother Earth.
For Shepard, this was the culmination of years of rigorous training and a selection process that chose him from amongst the hundreds of other test pilots vying for the distinction to be chosen as one of those with the “right stuff.”
The countdown for the Freedom 7 flight started at 8:30PM the night before, but Shepard did not enter the capsule until 5:15 AM on May 5th, 2 hours before the “planned” take off time, but the lift off would not happen until 9:20 AM. This was the period when Shepard is supposed to have coined what would become know as Shepard’s Prayer “Dear Lord, please don’t let me f--- up”, although Shepard claims the exact words to be “Don’t f--- up, Shepard…” (Do I see a possible orthodoxy war in the far future between Shepard Fundamentalist and Reformist sects?).

MOON SHOT: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landing by Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton, Updated by Jay Barbree
With an estimated 45 million people watching him on TV in the United States, he lifted off from Cape Canaveral. Shepard did not achieve orbit as Gagarin did, but he did control his own ship whereas Gagarin was basically just a passenger along on an automated ride. Shepard was able to position his ship, practicing different maneuvers, before finally splash-landing in the Atlantic ocean having traveled 302 miles in just over 15 minutes.
It’s also important to remember Shepard’s other great accomplishment: Besides being the first American in space, Shepard was also the fifth man to walk on the moon, clocking the longest moon walk and also becoming the first (and, as far we know, only) human to play golf on another world.
Before he died in 1998, he and fellow Mercury Astronaut Deke Slayton (who served as Director of Flight Crew Operations throughout the Apollo program) recorded their first-hand experiences in the book MOON SHOT: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landing, which is being re-released as an enhanced ebook for the 50th anniversary of his momentous journey. The new version has been updated by noted journalist Jay Barbree, who has covered every American space flight. In the new edition, Barbree includes never-before known or told stories of Apollo missions, embedded video, and Barbree’s thoughts on the state of the American space program today.
Below, you can enjoy the commemorative video NASA has put together to celebrate the occasion.

Envision Yourself at WebVisions

If you’ve ever wanted an in-depth crash course in web typography, here’s your chance. I’ll be presenting a half day marathon workshop at WebVisions in Portland this May to help you understand the NEW Web Typography. My workshop covers recent advances in technology and focuses on case studies that that provide a framework and techniques for successfully implementing online typography. Designers will see how they can use the new Web typography to set their work apart from the rest of the herd.

What you’ll learn:

  • How do I use Webfonts?
  • How do I find Webfonts?
  • How do I choose webfonts?
  • Where can I find inspiration for new Web typography techniques?
  • What are the technologies that have shaped the evolution of Web typography?

In addition to me, there’s other great stuff to do. WebVisions is a nationally recognized conference exploring the future of Web and mobile design, technology, user experience, and business strategy.

  • A great selection of workshops with me and others.
  • Keynotes by Douglas Rushkoff and David Armano.
  • Shorter, punchier sessions on the event’s Main Stage, and BarCamp style presentations in the Design, Tech, DIY and Business Pods.
  • Fun parties and networking events like the Stumptown 40, The Webvisionary Awards with Presentation Karaoke, A Meet the Speakers Mixer, and the famed wrap party.

Register before April 5th to get the Early Bird rates »

20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving SXSWi

SXSW 2011

South By Southwest (SXSW) is a little less than a week away, so time to get packing. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is the “techy” portion of SXSW—the others are Film and Music—and is one of the geekiest popular culture events this side of San Diego Comic-con. While there isn’t any cosplay and no one is likely to spit in your face if you tell them that Janeway was the greatest Star Fleet Captain of all time, SXSWi does attract the likes of Felicia Day, Devo and Bruce Sterling as regulars. It’s a mixture of art nerds, drama nerds and computer nerds, who are almost all focused on technology and culture.

This will be my 3rd year attending SXSW but my first as a non-speaker. In previous years I’ve given sessions on web typography and online comic books. This year I will be attending as a representative of my company, Forum One, and I will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the sessions without the specter of an hour long speech hanging over my head.

While I’m by no means an old pro—this is the conference’s 25th anniversary—I have picked up a few nuggets of wisdom over the years that I would like to share with you.

NOTE: If you’re going to be at SXSW let me know and maybe we can get a GeekDad meet-up together.

Continue Reading “20 Tips for Surviving and Thriving SXSWi” on GeekDad »

Top 10 Things Science Fiction Promised Us That DID Happen in 2010

Total Recall

Total Recall

Earlier this week I published a list of top 10 things science fiction promised us that didn’t happen in 2010. So, lest you think I’m completely negative, let’s take a look at a few things that did happen in 2010 that were predicted in science fiction. The funny thing about progress is that it’s rarely confined to just one year. This list collects some of the important stuff that either happened or reached a tipping point in 2010. They are my favorites, but feel free to share yours in the comments below.

  1. Walk through X-ray airport scanners — Who can forget the classic scene in Total Recall where Ahnuld walks through the scanner at the space port and we get a full x-ray of his body? Well, for some reason, people didn’t think this technology was quite as cool when it was brought to an airport security line near them this year. Maybe it was the the thought that someone in a dark room is looking at virtual nudie pictures of us. Maybe it was the increase in radiation bombarding our bodies. Whatever it was, many want to leave this advance behind in 2010.

  2. Video phones — This one has been possible for a long time, but just never seemed to catch on. Maybe it was the expense or the fact that to use it the other person needed the same equipment, but both of those issues were solved when the personal computer entered into the equation. With the growing popularity of Skype, Google Chat, and the new Apple FaceTime protocol, we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of each other in 2011.
  3. Alien Life — Admittedly it was not extra-terrestrial alien life, but a complex life form completely unlike our own was discovered this year. Rather than being carbon-based like us (and every other form of life we’ve known so far) this small microbial life form thrives on arsenic. This is a far cry from pointy eared Vulcans or acid drooling bugs, but it means that life seems to have developed twice on one planet greatly increasing the likelihood of ETs. [UPDATE: This one has since been shown to be slightly different than initially thought. The lifeforms thrive in arsenic and use arsenic instead of phosphorus in their DNA but are still carbon based.]

  4. 3D TVs — Well, it’s here. 3D TV. Yippee. And for a mere 4000 or so dollars and another $800 for goggles for the family you too can watch any of the 50 videos Amazon has in 3D. This one still has a ways to go. Of course this catalog will grow over time, and some TV shows may even make the switch, but I still see this as more of a gimmick than a real technological break through. I think a more ground breaking technology is Sharp’s Aquos TV that adds a fourth color (yellow) to the standard red, green, and blue, vastly increasing the color gamut (possible colors that can be displayed) for your screen, meaning sharper and more realistic images.
  5. Big Brother — I remember as a young lad reading George Orwell’s masterwork, 1984, with great fear, but being highly skeptical of the entire concept that the government could spy on all of the people all of the time. That would take an awful lot of people watching. The answer, of course, is to have everybody watching everybody. It may not be exactly what Mr. Orwell predicted, but we are all watching each other these days using the Internet. Whether it’s an old lady in the UK throwing cats into trashcans or the broken condoms of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, we are all now up in each others’ business to an unprecedented degree. And these people are all publicly taken to their own virtual Room 101 to repent their actions.

  6. Telepathy — Got a mobile phone and Bluetooth headset? Then you’re a telepath. Stay with me on this one. Telepathy is the ability to broadcast your thoughts across small or great distances to another persons mind instantaneously, seemingly without using your normal senses. With a wireless headset you can send thoughts (through speech) to anyone in the world almost instantaneously. Implant the headset behind your ears and mic at your throat, learn how to sub-vocalize (speaking with only your throat) and no one around you would hear. For all intents and purposes, telepathy. It makes me wonder if all of the crazy people wondering the streets muttering to themselves aren’t just early adopters.
  7. A Permanent Space Station — Although started in 1998 and not slated for final completion until 2011, 2010 was the first year in which the International Space Station (ISS) was fully crewed with 14 occupants. It may not be the double ringed floating Hilton envisioned in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it still counts.

  8. Tablet Computers — Kirk had them in the 23rd century. Picard had them in the 24th century. Now you can have them in the 21st century. The iPad and other tablet devices are changing the way we will be consuming and creating content. How do I know? I’m typing this article on one.
  9. The Web — Yes, the Web has been around for 20 years now, but 2010 has seen the widespread deployment of some important new technologies that will fundamentally change the way you view the Internet’s most popular offspring. “Web 2.0″ was really just a marketing ploy compared to how HTML5, CSS3, and the new web typography are shaking things up. If you are using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS devices or other tablet devices to view the Web, then you are getting a taste of things to come. Expect the static pages you are viewing now to come alive, transforming The New York Times into something more akin to the The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.
  10. Cyber Wars — 2010 has already been labeled the Year the Internet Went to War and I can go along with that. The information warfare started by Wiki-leaks blossomed into a fully formed conflict, as sides began DNS attacks both for and against the embattled secret-spilling Web site. These conflicts will only grow in size, but may avoid public attention for a long time, since there is no obvious collateral damage. We’ll probably only find out the true size of these wars when someone brings down a bank or a national power grid. Strange days indeed.

Top 10 Things Science Fiction Promised Us That Didn’t Happen in 2010

The Jetsons

Image © Warner Bros. Animation

Science fiction makes a lot of predictions about the future — that’s really the point, isn’t it? The best science fiction looks at the future, trying to see where we are headed and what it will be like when we get there. Some authors are so good at this it seems as though they actually are able to peer into the future (even if only through a scanner darkly) and tell stories of what is to come. But even the best sci-fi has, over the years, gotten a lot wrong about what was the future when it was written.

2010 is almost over, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at a few things that were supposed to happen (or have happened) by this year, but didn’t.

  1. Flying Cars — This is a popular one to gripe about, but I’ve got bad news for you: it ain’t ever gonna happen. It’s not that flying cars are technically impossible, but they are socially impossible. I have little doubt that if our best and brightest applied themselves to the task, we could mass-produce personal travel devices that would allow us to rise off the ground and zoom through the air just like George Jetson. But imagine a world where the millions of cars on the road are replaced by millions of flying cars, or, should I say, millions of potential flying bombs. Even if we were to create some system that automatically forces cars to avoid buildings, how long before some moron with a beef against a particular government, philosophy, or just against sanity in general hacks that system and heads towards the closest sky scraper in a flying car packed with C4 explosive? No thanks, I’ll stick to the ground.
  2. A Moon Base — We were supposed to have Moon Base Alpha by 1999, or at least by 2001, but for sure by 2010. That didn’t happen. What did happen in 2010 was some unmanned moon landings (deliberate crashes, really) that provided new evidence that it might be technically possible and financially rewarding one-day to establish a permanent (but small) outpost on our lonely satellite. Well, I guess that’s something. The goalpost for a working Moon base has now been pushed all the way to 2069, according to a recent design challenge from Shift Boston. I’ll be 101 years old in 2069, so I just hope we have anti-aging pills soon.
  3. Anti-Aging Pills — Although you can not yet pop a pill and stay 36 forever, the possibility of arresting or reversing aging is looking promising. New advances in unlikely places such as nano-technology are pointing to ways that we might ingest little robots that rebuild our systems from within. But nano-bots are also the bane of a lot of sci-fi stories, turning the world into a mass of gray goo.
  4. Trips to Jupiter — Zooming off to planets far was a staple of 1950s sci-fi. What’s changed in the nearly-50 years since Yuri Gagarin took the first off-planet jaunt is that we learned space is a really inhospitable climate. No air, no water, no heat, no gravity and no magnetosphere leads to dead humans. And recreating all of this in a portable format has proven far more elusive than the dreamers of the golden-age of sci-fi first thought. Even the more realistic versions shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010: Odyssey Two may be centuries away.
  5. Nuclear Holocaust — OK, so it’s a good thing this one didn’t happen, obviously, but when I was a child in the 1970s, it seemed like a high probability. Growing up with the specter of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction, for anyone too young to remember it) looming over you was a way of life that we hoped no one was mad enough to test. The made-for-TV movie The Day After scared the hell out of me when I was a teen. But no one would have guessed in 1980 that by the end of the decade the Soviet Union would no longer exist. The nuclear threat may not have disappeared with it; however, the constant specter of nuclear holocaust has, if not disappeared, at least become less of a daily concern.
  6. Virtual Reality — Sure, we have Second Life, World of Warcraft and Toy Story 3D, but the truly immersive user interface that is virtual reality is still just a dream. There’s some promising work being done with wearable computing, but its still a long way from being able to jack your cranium straight into the net as in Neuromancer, or even hacking your optic nerve with VR goggles as in Snow Crash.
  7. AI Robot Butlers & Self-Driving Cars — I want my piña colada served to me on the veranda at the perfect temperature by a slave robot. I want to be chauffeured around the city at night in my high speed luxury electric car while it reads to me the news of the day customized to my unique interests. I want all of this and I want it all guilt free. Oh sure, I can get a Roomba to vacuum my house or a Lexus which can park itself, but that’s not really the same thing, is it.
  8. Computer Overlords — On the up side, none of the non-existent robot butlers and self-aware cars have risen up to overthrow their human oppressors and imprison them in The Matrix. We’ll call this one and #7 even.
  9. Commercial Supersonic Air Travel — We actually had this mode of travel, but lost it in 2003 with the last flight of the Concorde (although we did get a very funny semi-eponymous TV show). There is some movement to bring back supersonic commercial flights, but I suspect you’ll be buying tickets to Moon Base Alpha before you are buying supersonic airplane tickets again.
  10. Cheap, Clean, and Unlimited Energy — Nikola Tesla’s dream of free and unlimited electricity seems even more impossible today than when he first proposed it in the early 20th century. Many of the wars on this small blue marble we call home are in large or small part over energy resources. Global climate change is intrinsically linked to the ways in which we produce energy. Whether it’s gas for your car or electricity for your house, we all spend a lot of money on energy. A limitless, non-polluting, inexpensive (or even free) energy source could completely transform humanity, taking us out of the energy dark age we live in now, and leading to a true peace on Earth and good will between all mankind. That’s my wintertime wish for the future. Do you have one?

Later this week: 10 for ‘10: 10 things sci-fi promised that DID happen in (or by) 2010.

Dream Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of: Parabolic Flight Crew

In Douglas Adam’s book Life, The Universe, and Everything, he shares the secret of flying: it’s the art of learning how to “throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Tim Bailey  teaches people how to do just that:  throw themselves at the ground (in an airplane) and miss in order to fly.

Tim Bailey — Parabolic Expert

Tim Bailey — Parabolic Expert

Professionally speaking, Tim wears a lot of hats. Although his LinkedIn profile gives his job title as simply “Catalyst”, it  then lists 10 separate jobs under “Current”. To name just a few, he works on SpaceVidcast, Space Task Force, Yuri’s Night (The World Space Party), and is the co-founder and Chief Operating Office of Sky Fire Lab—an independent organization promoting space travel in the media. See a theme yet?  But if you scroll down to the bottom of his lengthy list of job titles, you will see that he is also a member of the Parabolic Flight Crew for the ZERO-G Corporation. What’s that you ask? parabolic what?

Tim’s job is the closest thing there is to being an astronaut without actually going into space. He spends his days assisting and training people in aircraft flights that simulate a microgravity environment—effectively he’s a flight attendant teaching people how to fly—and he is one of only nine people on the planet qualified to do this.

Tim has performed over 150 such flights, each with multiple parabolas—where the craft goes up and down at a steep angles to create a “weightless” free-fall environment inside—equating to over 24 hours of his life that Tim has spent unencumbered by the Earthly bonds of gravity. This has led to Tim’s unique ability to, as he puts it,  “execute some fairly bad-ass flips in any axis [x, y, and z].”

In addition to being an evangelist and trainer for manned space travel, though, Tim is also a husband and recent father. Judging by his recent Twitter posts, he spends a lot of time with his family going between  Kennedy Space Center and Disney World—a true geek dad’s paradise!

I recently chatted with Tim about his job, his work advocating for manned space travel, and his own future in space.

Read the full interview on GeekDad »

Adding Transparencies and Gradients With CSS

24 Ways

24 Ways

The way you handle color in your web designs is about to change. Perhaps you’ve been playing around with hexadecimal color values since you were a wee web-babe; if you were, get ready to to grow up fast. CSS3 has arrived, and your palette is about to get a whole lot bigger.

Compared to what’s coming, it’s sas though designers have been color-blind, working with only a small part of the chromatic spectrum. No, new hues will not be added to the rainbow.

What will happen is that color values will be defined in new ways, the entire spectrum of opacity levels will be added and gradients based on pure CSS rather than images will be thrown in, too.

Some forward-thinking websites, such as the impressive 24 Ways to Impress Your Friends, are already playing around with RGBa for text and background color effects—and the results are great.

Read the full article on Webdesigner Depot »

Web Designers VS Web Developers

Some one sent me this insanely funny info graphic on Web Designers VS Web Developers. It reminds me of the series of articles I did for Webdesigner Depot: 5 Pet Peeves Designers Have With Developers (and How to Avoid Them … and the sequel 5 Pet Peeves Developers Have With Designers (and How to Avoid Them …

free website builder

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Get my new book on CSS3 for $9.99 (cheap!)

Buy the eBook version of CSS3:VQS this week for $9.99»

CSS3: Visual Quickstart Guide by Jason Cranford Teague

CSS3: Visual Quickstart Guide

After months of research, coding and writing, my latest book—CSS3: Visual Quickstart Guide—is finally in shops and available for purchase online. This book covers everything you can do with Cascading Style Sheets today, including the latest advances in design and interactivity. This is a particularly exciting time to be a Web designer: we are about to get a whole new set of tools for our Web designs. This book will show you how the CSS3 capabilities ready for prime time (or soon will be) that will explode your creativity.

CSS3: VQS is a slim concise volume covers the breadth of CSS3, much of which remains unchanged since CSS2/2.1. If you are an old hat at CSS, Here’s a brief peak of the new material I cover in the book:

  1. Borders –  Border images and rounded corners.
  2. Backgrounds – Multiple backgrounds can be added to a single element, backgrounds can be more precisely positioned, backgrounds can be extended clipped to the inside or outside of a border and backgrounds can be resized.
  3. Color –Color opacity settings, gradients in backgrounds, and HSL color values.
  4. Text – Text shadows, text overflow, and word wrapping.
  5. Transformations – Scale, skew, move, and rotate an element in 2D or 3D space.
  6. Transitions – Simple dynamic style transitions.
  7. Box – Drop shadows, boxes can be resized by user, overflow can be set separately in horizontal and vertical directions, outline offset allows you to set space between the outline and the border and box model specifications allows you to set how width and height are applied to the box.
  8. Content – Styles used to add content to an element.
  9. Opacity – Elements can be transparent.
  10. Media – Ability to style pages based on the viewport size, color, aspect ratio, resolution and other important design considerations.
  11. Web fonts – Updates and extends the ability to link to fonts for use in a design.

The book also includes:

  • Compatibility tables showing the exact browser version each CSS property is compatible with
  • Quick reference tables showing all property values, their compatibility, and default values
  • Quick fixes for common CSS problems
  • How to organize and debug your code
  • 33 best practices for CSS

A support Webpage where you can download all of the code from the book

For a limited time, you can buy an eBook version of CSS3:VQS directly from Peachpit for the low, low cast of $9.99. Get all of the advantages of the most thorough resource on the latest version of CSS3—with information on how you can apply these cutting edge techniques to your Web site today—in a convenient electronic format. This deal is only available from my publisher this week, so get it now.

Buy the CSS3:VQS eBook now for $9.99 and let me know what you think.

10 Geeky Web Tricks with HTML5 and CSS3

It’s a glorious time to be a web geek! Did you see the cool effect the folks at Google added to their logo the day before they made their big announcement about changes to the perennial search engine? It’s gone now, but for a brief period when you moused over the logo, it flew apart in colorful blobs avoiding your mouse.

To most people’s surprise (OK, maybe only to most web geeks’ surprise), this interactivity was not created with Adobe Flash, but instead using the most recent versions of common Web technologies. It’s likely that you’ve already benefited from these new Web technologies: HTML5 and CSS3. They are already popping up all over the place, despite the fact that they are not supported in the most popular browser, Internet Explorer <insert dramatic pause here> at least not until today!

That’s right, the next version of Internet Explorer version 9 will support HTML5 and CSS3 and that version will be released today 15 September as a public beta!!

And there was much rejoicing!!!

Our long nightmare is finally over. Now everyone will be using a modern browser and Web designers can finally do really cool things without Flash. Ok, maybe I’m being premature — it’ll take a while before everyone is upgraded — but a guy can dream, can’t he?

The great thing about any ground breaking technology is all of the cool experiments that get thrown together. The early adopters are less worried about finding practical applications and more interested in just playing around to create new toys. Let’s play with a few today!

Below is a list of my favorite 10 new Web toys. Of course you will need a modern browser — Safari 5 or Chrome 6 are usually best, but Firefox 3.6 will work for a lot of them. If you are running Windows — and are very brave person — you should go download Internet Explorer 9 right now and test these toys out. Let me know in the comments if all of them are working for you in your browser of choice.

Continue Reading “10 Geeky Web Tricks with HTML5 and CSS3″ on GeekDad»

via GeekDad.

Vote For Me to Speak @SxSW

I want to spread the good word of Web typography again to the fine folks attending South By South West (SxSW) at the 2011 event, but I need your help. The first round of selection is (literarily) a popularity contest based on a thumbs up or down by the public at large.

I’m proposing a session on Web typography (surprise, surprise), recapping the basic technologies, but then examining directions those new technologies are taking us. Here’s a bit from the intro:

As the dust settles from these changes, a new style of Web typography is emerging, one that reflects print origins, but is also experimenting with the unique strengths of online communication. This session begins by recapping recent advances in technology and then focuses on case studies at the borders of online typography. Designers will see how they can use the new Web typography to set their work apart from the rest of the herd.

All you have to do to help me out is give my session on Web typography the thumbs up. You will have to register (don’t worry, it’s painless) and that’s it! And if you could leave a comment at the bottom of the ballot, I would be ever so grateful.

While you are there, I can also recommend a few other great panels to vote for:

Voting ends 11:59 CDT on Friday, August 27.

So, run, don’t walk to the SxSW Panel Picker and choose the best.

Win a ticket to the CSS Summit!


It’s been a crazy busy few weeks for me as I finish up my new book CSS3 Visual Quickstart for Peachpit, but I’m really excited that in just over a week I’ll be presenting at the online event of the year for CSS: The CSS Summit. The summit is an online only event lasting from 9am–5pm Central Time (10am–6pm EST) brining together some of the best minds writing about CSS today to give you the inside scoop on Web design.

In addition to my own teachings on fluid web typography, you can hear:

  • The wonderful Stephanie (Sullivan) Rewis teaching the gospel of CSS and progressive enhancement.
  • My buddy David McFarland talking about CSS Animations.
  • The energetic Zoe Gillenwater helping you get effective and efficient design with CSS.
  • My sister from another mother, Desnise Jacobs helping you troubleshoot your CSS.

All of this for the low, low price of $149, and, if you act now, you can get a 10% (~$15) discount using the code CSSCRANFORDTEAGUE. You can also use the discount to get a meeting room ticket, getting 10% off the $449 price (~$45).

Wanna’ go? Of course you do, and I have two tickets to give away to two lucky readers.

How to Enter to Win Tickets

There are three ways to enter to win one of the two tickets.

  1. Follow @jasonspeaking on twitter and then tweet “I want to go to the #CSSsummit to hear @jasonspeaking» http://ow.ly/2cxRd” .
  2. Follow @fluidwebtype on twitter and then tweet “I want to go to the #CSSsummit to learn @fluidwebtype» http://ow.ly/2cxRd” .
  3. Add a comment at the bottom of this post with a link to a Web site that is using Webfonts (not using Flash or images) to create particularly inspiring typography.

Three ways to enter, and yes, you can enter all three ways once a day to improve your chances to win. The more you enter, the better your chances.

RULES: The contest starts at 12:00 PM EST, Friday, July 16th and runs through 12:00 PM EST, Tuesday July 20th. Winners will be announced later that same day. You have to be following @jasonspeaking or @fluidwebtype when the winners are announced OR have left a comment. This is the only way I will have to contact you. Only one entry per channel per day will be accepted. The judges decisions (mine) are final.


Join Me At Voices That Matter

Voice That Matter Web  Design Confernece

Join Me!

I’m approaching the half way mark for my new CSS3 book, but I’m getting psyched up to amongst some heavy hitters in the Web industry at the upcoming Voices that Matter: Web Design Conference in San Francisco. It’s just a little over a week until I’ll be presenting a retooled and updated version of my session on Fluid Web Typography. If you want to get the latest on branding your sites through typography, be there.

The post-conference seminar with Tantek Çelik talking about HTML5 is already sold-out, but two days with Jesse James Garrett, Dan Cederholm, Steve Krug, and other luminaries is still yours for the taking.

If you are going to be there, let me know.