The three forbidden words of web design

IE6 has long been the bane of the web design community. You design a site and it works in Firefox, it works in Opera — heck, it even works in Safari. But in IE6? Anything can happen, and, usually it does.

Just as superstitious thespians say “the Scottish play” when they mean MacBeth, web designers shudder and talk about “other browsers” when they mean Internet Explorer 6.

IE6 has long been the bane of the web design community. You design a site and it works in Firefox, it works in Opera — heck, it even works in Safari. But in IE6? Anything can happen, and, usually it does.

It takes just a few minutes to download and install Firefox (and it’s free), but most middle-of-the road PC users are still accessing the Internet with exactly what came installed on their PCs: IE6.

As a web content producer, I’m often involved in evaluating a site’s design or redesign for functionality. I test in several browsers, including IE6. But often, if we discover problems, the client doesn’t want to take the extra time or money to make the site anything more than minimally functional in IE6. It’s ugly, but it works, so it’s done.

Jeff Starr, of the excellent design blog Six Revisions, has written a comprehensive article on “taming” IE6, right from the beginning of a web design project. The good news is, it’s possible.

Five things to pack for a great vacation

Go ahead, check that bag
Go ahead, check that bag

If I read one more article on packing light and what you shouldn’t take on vacation, I’m going to book a discount flight to the author’s city and challenge him or her to a duel. I’ve had far too many short trips ruined because I (or a travel companion) was trying to travel light. Once we reached our destination, much of our “vacation” was frittered away trying to find, purchase, adapt, and belatedly put to work one or more of the items that one of us had insisted on leaving at home.

So here’s my contrarian list of items you simply must pack — even if it means taking an unfashionably sturdy bag or (brace yourselves, we’re going radical here) checking a bag:

• Travel medications. There are certain medications people rarely use at home, but which they often use while traveling. These can include items for digestive problems, sinus problems, sunburn, blisters, allergies, etc. Keep a list of these travel-related items in your suitcase, and pack them. It’s much better than scouring a strange city at 11 p.m. on a Friday night trying to find a particular medication so you can sleep — or paying a ransom for it at a resort hotel.

• A spare pair of pants. An exploding ballpoint on the airplane or some greasy barbecue at dinner can spell the end of that great pair of beige pants (or jeans) that you were “going to wear all weekend.” Who wants to spend Saturday in a vacation spot shopping at Macy’s or Eddie Bauer and then hanging out at the dry cleaner waiting for new pants to be hemmed?

• A bathing suit. It’s no fun if everyone else is hopping in the hotel pool or hot tub and you are stuck poolside wearing those jeans that were “all you need for the weekend.” Pack a suit. This is particularly important for women; bathing suits can be hard to fit, and it’s no fun to discover that the hotel boutique’s selection is limited to string bikinis.

• Extra shoes. Your “comfortable shoes” can suddenly become uncomfortable if you’ve spent all Saturday tromping through museums and hiking in the park. Bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes so you don’t spend the second day of the weekend limping and whining. Even if you’re completely confident that your shoes will remain comfortable, there are other factors to keep in mind: The one pair of shoes that were “all you need for the weekend” may stand out for all the wrong reasons at the wedding reception Sunday after you’ve spent Saturday touring your cousin Rainbow’s goat farm. Ewww!

• Chargers for your phone, your computer, and your camera. Why is it that we never remember to pack the chargers that are plugged into the outlets at home? If I remember the camera charger this time, chances are I’ve forgotten the cell phone charger. Do everyone a favor: buy an extra of each, and keep it with your travel bag or travel briefcase.

Full disclosure: I love checking my bag and waltzing onto the plane with just a knapsack or tote bag. Yes, I know I’m missing the joys of banging a roll-aboard against every seat on the aisle, throwing out my back hefting the bag into an overhead bin, and nearly crushing someone when the bag is taken down again, but…what can I say? When it comes to travel, I’m one crazy gal.

You can’t tell a person without the book cover

How, indeed, can you tell if the ebook someone is reading on their Kindle or iPhone is Chaucer…or chick lit?

James Wolcott’s amusing article “What’s a Culture Snob to Do?” in Vanity Fair bemoans the impending loss of the book cover as a way to assess fellow travelers. How, indeed, can you tell if the ebook someone is reading on a Kindle or iPhone is Chaucer…or chick lit?

Wolcott goes on to predict the demise of the bookcase, and even the end of the coffee table book. But, speaking as someone with more than 30 bookcases overwhelming the house, I’d happily lose those and have more wall space available for art.

(Thanks you to The Culinary Curator for pointing out the Vanity Fair piece.)

Getting the gig: Skills vs. style

Pay close attention to each contractor’s ad to figure what they want to know about first — skills or work style.

I bid for contract work on a regular basis, and recently started two new contracts.

The selection processes for the two gigs got me thinking about the way companies choose new people for their organizations. The process usually involves two filters, but the order in which they apply them is significant.

One filter selects for quantifiable skills and experience. How effective this filter will be is based on how well the organization has analyzed the work it wants to have done. Well-structured organizations with narrow job descriptions for contract work (“an experienced editor to edit the latest revision of this book” “an experienced outside sales person to fill this sales position while our regular employee is on National Guard duty”) have great success with this approach. But often this relatively rigid approach leaves organizations deaf to applicants whose strengths are wholistic rather than job-specific: energy, team building, leadership, loyalty, creativity, etc.

The second filter selects for the best stylistic fit with the organization. At its best, the “fit” filter gets the company a smooth transition, clear communication, and a satisfied employee or contractor  — one who’s likely to be with the organization for the long haul. But this filter often accounts for hires who “look like” the rest of the organization when it comes to gender, age, socio-economic background — and that can lead to self-congratulatory group-think and stagnation.

For one of the contract positions I sought, the company filtered applicants first by skill set and then interviewed a few of us to find out if we would be a stylistic fit. Company #2 filtered applicants for style, and then interviewed the compatible folks to see who had a decent skill set — and was really compatible.

The process told me quite a bit about each of the clients, and their priorities. (And I noticed that client #2 seemed to be having a lot more fun with the interview process.)

But it also reminded me that I need to pay close attention to each contractor’s ad to figure out what they want to know about first — skills or work style.

Social media: Lots of fire, no works

Scot Berkun throws much needed cool water onto the bonfire of “social media” hype. Some good ideas to take with you into the holiday weekend.

Scot Berkun (The Myths of Innovation and Making Things Happen) throws much-needed cool water onto the bonfire of “social media” hype. As you might expect, plenty of smokes rises from the blog comments.

Some good ideas to take with you into the holiday weekend.