Archive for February, 2005

Typecast

Typing was a required course in high school. I hated the class at the time, but boy, am I glad it was required. Typing properly is certainly helpful as far as workflow is concerned. If I hadn’t learned how to type, would I have learned later — or would I be hunting and pecking?

The reason I bring this up, is because I recently witnessed someone hunting and pecking with unbelievable speed. Just using their two index fingers with rapid and forceful precision. I was amazed, and this person was probably typing as fast as I do (using all ten fingers). The noise was incredible — a machine gun ferocity. I don’t recall the delete key being used at all. Impressive.

I would think that capitalization and special characters would be significantly slower using the hunt and peck method, but after witnessing the amazing index finger typist, it seems that it’s possible to keep up with the best of them.

I’m curious, do you type from the home row — or do you hunt and peck?

New Feeds Available

In the spirit of Burger King, there now two three ways to “have it your way” in regards to SimpleBits feeds. A master feed, which contains a singular flow of both articles and QuickBit links (you need not change your subscription URL if you want this feed). Or, for those that are happier with fewer items in their aggregators, there are also “articles only” and “QuickBits only” versions. All three flavors come in RSS 2.0 or Atom formats:

I suppose I could also offer a “QuickBits only” version, but for simplicity’s sake, the master feed will give you all the updates in one place. And since I’m not writing 50 articles per day, I can’t see the occasional article here and there being a nuisance, but popular demand could sway me. There was really no reason not to offer this.

Update: I’ve updated the above list of feeds to also include a “QuickBits only” version. And the feed lovers rejoice!

A Note About the Notebook

Equally a reaction to my recent busy-ness and my desire to fold the QuickBits (short links to cool stuff) into the main content area, I’ve made a few small tweaks to the Notebook here.

Following the lead of a few other sites, I wanted to experiment with a singular flow of Notebook entries — both fleshed-out articles, as well as quick links to stuff that I happen to be reading. It’s become quite common for sites to break those quick links out into a separate column (as I had done previously). It prevents a proper “article” from being pushed down the page when quick links are added in succession. But there were other aspects of the dual setup that were bothering me.

title=”abuse”?
It started to feel funny, stuffing longish descriptions of QuickBits into the title attribute of the link. Oftentimes, the descriptions weren’t titles at all. In fact, the title was often the text that was being linked. Visually, it’s cleaner to just show the linked text, and have the longer description shown on mouseover (when placed in the title attribute), but it’s hidden, and usually contains far more than a title. I want the ability to say more than just a few words about what I’m pointing to.
Attribution
Attributing the source of a link becomes a problem when using the title attribute as well. If I want to give credit to someone for a cool link I’ve found on their site, I can only add unclickable text: kottke.org at the tail end. Even worse, If I just say, Kottke, is everyone going to know where that is? (Yes. OK, bad example).
Description Length
We’re limited as to how much text we can actually stuff inside a title attribute (I belive some browsers will truncate at a certain character length). I want the ability to write a bit more about something, without feeling the need to write a whole article about it.
Lack of Comments
This is primarily because I was using my own home-grown mini CMS previously, and I realize that other sites enable comments on link lists.
Lack of a Permalink
See the item above.

So, these are some of the reasons for the tweak. I now need to experiment with how to handle feeds. Should the title for a QuickBit link directly to the site that I’m pointing to, or should it point back to the archvied entry? I suppose if I enable comments on these, linking to the post would make more sense. Things to think about.

At present, a QuickBit’s title will link to the site directly, as well as a “Visit site” link at the end of the description. A permalink is added at the bottom (marked with a # icon) to reach the archived entry on SimpleBits. An extended notebook entry’s title links to it’s archved entry, and permalink is also marked with a document icon.

This got me thinking about importance, weighting and text size (a hot topic these days). It’s perceived that a separate link list in another column becomes less important than proper full-blown entries (and maybe that’s intended). But when mixed in together, the importance evens out. I’m attempting to weight the importance subtly by decreasing the size of QuickBit titles.

Confusing? Make sense? I guess that’s for you to let me know. I think it’ll work well going forward (still not sure about the feeds though).

And the experiment continues…

Update: Well, the experiment was a success, in that I’m back to having QuickBits in the sidebar :-). But while I’ve returned to abusing the title attribute, I’ve solved several of the other problems: permalinks, ability to comment, searchable entries (now that I’m using MT for all of it) as well as a singular flow for the main Notebook page and monthly archive indexes. Attribution isn’t perfect — the link obviously isn’t clickable in the tooltip, but it will appear in the archived entry page (as well as any other HTML). I’m also happier with the feeds, now still offering a singular flow of entries for all content or separate feeds for articles and QuickBits. So, while I’m back to the same placement, I’m much more content with the improvements.

Long Winter Remedy

I’m gradually learning ways to get through the long New England winters. One such way: cross country skiing. It’s a give-and-take sport, where you’re rewarded for climbing up a long hill by being allowed to ski down a long hill — carefully. Unless of course you actually know what you’re doing. But by the end of three days at the Mountain Top Inn (highly recommended), we were getting good — cocky, even. Turning down windy paths through the woods. The amount of fun was measured by the lack of feeling the 20 degree Vermont air.
on the trail
If having some fun in the snow helps Spring get here faster, I’m all for it.

Office Space (but not the hilarious movie)

I’ve recently begun hunting for office space here in downtown Salem. I need an excuse to get out of the house each day, as well as a little more space to spread out and get work done. Currently, I’m working out of a converted walk-in closet. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. It does have a window.

I thought I’d poll the audience here — what do you look for in office space? What are the pros and cons? Finding something small and affordable enough seems difficult, but not impossible. And having dedicated work space outside the house seems to be of growing importance to me (and perhaps many of you).

I know I have to worry about an internet connection, utilities, etc. But it’s the less obvious details that I’m afraid I’ll overlook. Feel free to share your workspace experiences, whether you work at a home office, or dedicated space.