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Archive for the 'Web design' Category

the teen domain scene was my precursor to today’s net

Monday, February 19th, 2007

I was thinking yesterday about typical. Most people don’t know that Meranda Writes is not my first foray into Web site ownership. Hardly. I actually bought my first domain when I was 14. Yeah, 14. It’s still around at typical.net. But I haven’t redesigned it or really updated much since freshman year of college. It looks way off on Macs, but the quote splash pages look pretty great on PC’s using IE. (This was before Firefox existed as a serious contender on either.)

I have, every year, paid to renew the domain out of a sense of obligation. See, typical.net has history. It’s a big part of my adolescence. I’ve tried to think of what I can do with it. My main objective, honestly, is to avoid it being snapped up by a domain reseller who will turn it into a page of links. In the meantime, it sits there, a relic of my past.

But that’s not why I was thinking about typical. I was thinking about how lucky I am to have grown up using the Web as my playground.

There was a time before MySpace and Facebook were the go-to places for young people. There was a time before Flickr hosted your photos and your bookmarks were anyone’s business but your own. Back in the days when AngelFire, Tripod and Geocities hosted the Web. There was a time when Yahoo was how you searched, and nobody’d ever heard of Google. Hotmail was a fledgling idea, and AOL was the cool ISP to have. And back then, everyone had ICQ, and you could still get a meaningful AIM username. There was a time before Blogger, Xanga and LiveJournal gave everyone license to be a writer. Believe it or not, there was even a time when Amazon only sold books and when eBay was just a place to look for rare beanie babies.

I know this because I watched each of those technologies develop in the past decade of my lifetime. And that my friends is why new media excites me.

I don’t care about SoundSlides. I don’t care about the benefits of QuickTime versus Windows Media Player and how Flash is really what you should use anyway. I don’t care about message boards or story chats. I don’t care about blogs or wikis. Sure, all of these things are fun to play with and make for some compelling packages and discussions… today. But what excites me is knowing that next month or next year something I never even saw coming is going to become commonplace.

Typical is an example of this. It is who I was, and it was a necessary step in becoming who I am today. It taught me about the importance of community, about keeping content fresh and writing for an audience. It let me hone my photoshop skills and gave me an outlet for my photography and creative writing to be seen. But I was one of many doing that.

There was this almost underground “teen domain scene,” we even had a homebase. You’ll notice the last time the “Today’s Domain Online” site was updated was June 2003. That’s about right, because that’s when I graduated from high school and kind of stepped away from the “scene.” There were hundreds, who knows when you count the hostees probably thousands, of us. We hailed from Tokyo and London from San Diego to Alaska to NYC to Akron. It was in many ways an elite club. You had to prove yourself to get noticed, to get hosted. You had to participate and put yourself out there for critique. But that interaction made it fun.

We didn’t just use these communities like kids today use MySpace. We CREATED them.

Today’s teens wallow on MySpace, but we had message boards on domains with names like “snuggles.net” and “bluemorning.nu.” When I first bought typical, I put up a message board. One of those UBB’s, which seemed ubiquitous among the higher profile “teen domains” of my era. I even grew a community of probably 50 very active users. We even had a mascot, Fred, who graced the top of my very orange message board. We talked about school and relationships. We talked about parents, about careers and college. Last year, one of the girls who had frequented the message board contacted me at my kent.edu e-mail address. She was enrolling at my university and wanted me to show her around campus. It was an interesting meeting, and it reminded me of the real world implications of the connections we make online. I learned how to moderate and generate discussion on those boards. I also learned how to collaborate and create a community on the domain.

Those are skills that, at 14 or 15, I just thought meant making it more fun. But then yesterday, when I was thinking about some of the awesome things available today and their predecessors, I realized it has all been just one big precursor to today’s Internet. I guess that’s the theory behind calling it Web 2.0. It excites me to think how quickly we’ve gotten here today. I can’t wait to see what the next generation holds and what new tools it will bring for communicating in, collaborating on and most importantly creating our world.

My first foray into Flash

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

I’m hoping this works, but I’m not optimistic: It works now!

Ugh. I don’t know why the videos won’t load. Trust me they’re funny. They are clips from fall semester at the Stater. There’s one of Seth attempting a cartwheel, the infamous Driving Ben Bananas video and then another never-before-seen clip of Aman (then city editor) playing NBA Jams in the newsroom on election night. A hodgepodge glimpse of the “play hard” part of the Stater.

If it’s not working for you (and it’s not working properly for me), I uploaded here.

And if anyone knows why the videos won’t load here but they do on that page… I could use some help. My hunch is it has something to do with the paths to the movies being called. (As in, it’s trying to call them from the folder this post is in, not the one the flash movie is in.) But I could be and probably am way wrong. Either way, I don’t know how to fix it anyway. It’s working now! :)

Even so, I will say I am surprised I got it to work at all. And considering it’s pretty much my first foray into Flash, I’ve impressed myself.

With much thanks to Mindy McAdams whose handout helped me get as far as I did. And for the tip that helped me fix it.

Teaching myself Flash

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

I am playing with Flash this weekend, which is partially my reason for not updating more. Though I have no real excuse. There is plenty to comment on and say, and I will probably do so on a few items that caught my attention this week later on tonight.

For now, though, I’m teaching myself how to embed video in Flash and creating a silly series of videos from my collection of Stater clips.

As I have previously said, my Flash skills leave a lot to be desired. I’ve decided to beef up on them. So, little by little I’m going to try and learn how to do some basic things. I wanted to learn the video bit first just because it is something cool I can look at immediately and say, “Hey, I did that and I didn’t know how to an hour ago.” :) I’m finishing off encoding and adding the last of the three clips right now. If it doesn’t look too bad and none of them is too incriminating, I’ll probably post the project here later tonight.

And, if anyone has good tips for Flash tutorials, please pass them along.

Fav icon

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

I decided today, after being inspired by all the awesome favorite icons on this post, to create a favorite icon for Meranda Writes.

Because I don’t have a real logo, I knew I’d need an image or just text. I opted to create a sort of pseudo-logo using the first letter of both words. It also happens (not unintentionally) to be the first letters of my first and last name.

As anyone who ever saw the pages I proofed after I had signed off on them can tell you, when I sign my initials it just looks like a squiggly line. The MW run into each other. I created a similar effect on my icon by using similar colors and just offsetting where the M and W met.

Maybe not as cool as some of the icons on that post, but I think it works for this site.

Some notes about the blog

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

I’ve officially had this blog for more than a month.

In that time, I’ve missed exactly two days posting. So far, I’ve only missed one day in December. Most days I’ve had several posts. In fact, I’m quickly approaching my 100th post. I’d say that’s not bad.

I switched up the design on the top of the blog. What used to be a composition notebook is now a stack of newspapers. (Note to any of those wondering, that was actually just one week’s worth of the newspapers I’d accumulated in my office. I read four newspapers a day in print, sometimes more.) I think the newspapers hit the journalist part home more than the composition notebook did. Carl had suggested I add a computer, and I took some photos of my MacBook, but I decided my keyboard was enough for now. It’s subtle enough.

I added a calendar to the sidebar this morning. I’m still tweaking the design of it, but yeah. I also may add a few more things to the sidebar. Maybe a “What I’m reading” box, so everyone can follow along with my latest books. Plus, then I could keep a running list of the books I read and buy in 2007. (An idea I totally stole from Katie.)

I also updated the about page and the sidebar about myself. Now the sidebar is a list of random things worth knowing about me. It’s funny, but it’s a pretty quick snapshot of what I’m all about.

I am going to start in January doing a daily quote. (For those who don’t know, I’m obsessed with quotes.) I have a random quote in the sidebar already that changes with each refresh. But, I come across quotes I like every day. So, I think I’m going to start doing a “daily quote” or “daily inspiration.” It could be anything from something I read in a book to something I read in the newspaper to just a really good quote I came across. Today’s entry would be the one I just swapped into my e-mail signature:

“Fate loves the fearless.”
— James Russell Lowell

Finally, I wanted to note that now when you search my name in Google, the first result is this site. I don’t pretend to understand the inner workings of Google and how pages are ranked, added, sorted or anything. But at least now anyone wanting to know about me sees this before some random stories I wrote about May 4 for the 35th anniversary DKS a few years back. That’s reassuring.

Other than that, I think that’s all I have going on.

NYTimes in-site dictionary?

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

I was reading an article on NYTimes.com when I noticed something at the end that piqued my interest:


To find reference information about the words used in this article, hold down the ALT key and click on any word, phrase or name. A new window will open with a dictionary definition or encyclopedia entry.

It actually worked too — even on my Mac. I held down alt and clicked on slave to test it, and up popped just about everything I’d need to know to understand any reference made in the story. Clicking on Civil War brings up an exhaustive encyclopedia entry.

This has to be one of the coolest and most useful site add-ons I’ve ever seen implemented in a newspaper Web site. I never noticed it before, but now that I have I’m sure I’ll use it a lot.

Normally when I come across words I don’t know I just hit F12 and search on my dictionary widget. Now, this saves me the time and trouble. My vocabulary thanks you. If only books came with this feature.

Customized front pages on news Web sites

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

So, after talking with one of the reporters I met in the past few days and thinking about this, I have a question… Why aren’t newspaper Web sites more like My Yahoo! or Google‘s personalized home?

Hear me out. It isn’t hard to create elements that are movable. On a very small scale, I did it with my magnetic poetry at typical. It was super easy, a little DHTML script. (Admitedly, I didn’t write the script, I found it on Dynamic Drive. I haven’t had time/desire to learn and teach myself yet.)

So, as much as newspapers are saying, “We want to give you what you want!” Why don’t they make their Web sites fully customizable? So, if sports are the most important thing to me, I can put that up top. If breaking news is most important, I can make that higher in the hierarchy. If I want to know when new videos are posted, I could move that above the blogs or columnists I don’t care as much about.

This would also give readers a reason to sign up (ask a few demographic questions, which helps the paper know who the viewers are beyond IP addresses.) People would be less inclined to use services like BugMeNot to avoid registration, if the layout/content was customized to each user’s experience.

I don’t know of any newspaper Web sites that are doing this. But it is a really good idea and I can almost guarantee it will happen eventually. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for some examples.