SitePoint Podcast #156: Paywalls Revisited

Episode 156 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week the panel is made up of Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Kevin Dees (@kevindees) and Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy).

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Episode Summary

Here are the main topics covered in this episode:

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/156.

Host Spotlights

Interview Transcript

Louis: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the SitePoint Podcast. I’m back; I’ve been off for a couple of weeks sort of touring around Australia with my brother who’s come to visit. We’re back with a panel show; unfortunately Stephen couldn’t make it today, but hi Patrick and Kevin.

Kevin: Howdy, howdy.

Patrick: Hey guys.

Kevin: How’s it going?

Louis: Going great. Thanks for filling in with those interview shows, Kevin, much appreciated.

Kevin: Oh yeah, no problem, it was fun, a bunch of really good guests and knowledgeable folks.

Louis: Nice.

Patrick: That sounded almost a little too slick (laughter), a little too slick, “A bunch of good guests and knowledgeable folks,” wink!

Kevin: That’s right.

Patrick: Well, it’s been a full month, it’s been a full month since we met up and did a group show.

Louis: Yeah.

Patrick: And I’ve been — we went to SXSW which is where Kevin got those interviews, and I got to say hi to him down there, and, yeah, just a mess of travel and being sick and having a cold and whatnot, but it’s good to be back.

Kevin: But you’re better now, right?

Patrick: I am. I’m almost 100%.

Kevin: Good job, yay.

Patrick: Yes. This isn’t like the poor podcast the other night that I couldn’t help coughing on; I had to keep muting the mic every 30 seconds.

Kevin: Yeah.

Patrick: Where does your brother live, Louis?

Louis: Lives in Montreal.

Patrick: Okay, wow, so that’s quite a trip.

Louis: Yeah, quite a trip, pretty significant.

Patrick: My brother only lives four hours away, so I’m thankful for that (laughter), not quite as long.

Louis: It’s a bit more manageable. So who wants to go first with a story this week?

Kevin: I’ll go first. I have an article from Chris Coyer on content folding, and he posted this a few days ago and it’s kind of relevant, but at the same time it’s a little future friendly, not necessarily now friendly, if that even makes sense. But basically he’s talking about the way you flow content with Responsive Web Design and what the W3C is doing in accordance to that with the — I think it’s the Regents Module. And basically he does a little tutorial on an interesting technique donated by Adobe on how to basically send pieces of content from one div to another based on how wide your screen is. So if you can imagine like with most sites you have a sidebar and a content area, and then as you lower the size of the screen the sidebar tends to jump all the way to the bottom, and so if you have like six or seven items there it’s not very useful, especially if those are ads. So what this does it allows you to create so-called divs within or between articles in that main content area, and when the screen size comes down instead of shooting all the ads to the bottom you can put them between the articles as appropriate. So it’s kind of an interesting approach, however, I did want to ask you about this, Louis, because in the example there’s some empty divs in here, and I don’t know, I mean you can always go and add that into a field divs, but I feel that would become kind of a standard thing to have empty divs laying around, and the semantics behind that I don’t know how I feel.

Louis: Well, a couple of things, one, semantically, at least according to W3C, semantically the div is neutral, it has no semantic meaning, so if you’re going to put an empty something it may as well be a div because that’s not saying anything semantically, right; if you had an article that is confusing semantically.

Kevin: Right.

Louis: But a div in theory is semantically neutral. Now obviously it sort of clutters up your markup and a lot of people are purists about that kind of thing.

Kevin: Right.

Louis: But, yeah, I mean this is obviously an important thing. I think that so many attempts at responsive design have had that sort of moment where you’re like, well, I don’t really know where to put all this stuff, and I can’t really integrate it intelligently using just CSS, so I’m just going to chump it all at the bottom; that’s kind of a cop-out for a lot of situations, right, sometimes the stuff you’ve got in that sidebar is useful, I mean sometimes you’ll have navigation in the sidebar that goes along the top, and then maybe some category links or lists of monthly archives for a blog, for example, and that’s find if that goes at the bottom, but as you mentioned, putting all your ads at the bottom doesn’t really make your advertisers very happy.

Kevin: Right. Exactly. You know, this reminds me of the days when people were using like span tags to create the before and after effects for a lot of things, like with rounded corners where you just have an empty element sitting there, and then you would kind of give it widths and heights to add your rounded corners sometimes, and then they came out with the unbreakable box model that Dan Cedarholm talked about, and so it’s interesting to see this kind of thing come back and then how it will retract I see in the future, at least is what the hope would be anyways.

Louis: Yeah, I mean my gut feeling would be that those kind of empty divs sort of shouldn’t be there, but maybe it feels like this is really probably the best solution if you want a really adaptive layout where things move around pretty flexibly, and you don’t want to use JavaScript to do it, although maybe someone would make the argument that it’s perfectly legitimate to use JavaScript to do it because the mobile devices you’re targeting being iPhones and Android devices are almost all going to have pretty competent JavaScript engines, and just using JavaScript to shuffle that content around might be a good idea. Or, you know I talked with Luke Wroblewski on the last interview show I did, and his approach of mobile first is an interesting way of looking at this; if your ads are actually included in your content in the original markup, and you move them out to the side when the screen’s wide enough, that might be a different way of approaching this.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah. I actually kind of like that approach a little more to be honest. But I don’t know, because like if you were to use that — not trying to get too technical here, but if you were to use that approach from desktop carrying to mobile, wouldn’t mobile have better support for these features in the future? Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff to think about.

Louis: Yeah, things have gotten a bit trickier with regards to a lot of this stuff, but I definitely think that this is an approach that people should be considering, and I think it’s important for people when approaching responsive design not to just do that copout of everything that’s in the sidebar goes at the bottom.

Kevin: Yeah.

Louis: Because that’s not really approaching mobile as its own platform, right, all you’re doing is being, well, I have less space and I’ve got all this stuff and I’m just gonna put the stuff that doesn’t fit at the top I’ll put it at the bottom, you’re not really thinking about the mobile user experience at all when you’re doing that. So I think it’s important to think about it and to start to have these kinds of technologies that are going to make that easier to do, so in this case it’s done in CSS and he uses some sort of browser detection for fallback. You know I think it’s great, and it’ll be more exciting once it’s well supported and everyone can do this sort of as a matter of fact when you’re building a new site.

Kevin: Yeah, I agree with you, I think this is going to be kind of an ongoing standard as we see the whole space move further forward, and you can always go — the site has demos and the files you can download to see it for yourself.

Patrick: And that was a great conversation I have to say, and one that I am absolutely not intellectually qualified to participate in (laughter), so I was happy to listen. But I’m just — my mind is blown by the idea that you can take content from one div and have it appear in the other, I mean my mind is blown around that concept. So I’ll kick it to a story that I’m a little more qualified to talk about.

So we talk about paywalls on this show somewhat often I would say, I did a quick search in our archives and saw we talked about it on episode 73 with The Times in the UK and the experiments they were doing, and we talked about it on 130 in regards to The Boston Globe, and then, Louis, you interviewed Ethan Marcotte on episode 132 and kind of brought it up briefly, so I found an interesting story that linked to by ReadWriteWeb and it was actually reported by the Columbia Journalism Reviews’ The Audit Blog, and basically it’s on the success of the New York Times digital subscribers, so in other words they’re paywall. And it’s illustrated in numbers, in the second quarter of 2011 they had 281,000 digital subscribers, in the third quarter of 2011 that went up to 324,000, the next quarter 390,000, and then this quarter, first quarter 2012 which is still under way, they’re up to 454,000. So some pretty impressive growth as far as paying digital subscribers to access the New York Times content behind their paywall, and these subscribers pay between $15 and $35 a month; $15 you get access to the website plus access on your Smartphone, for $20 you get the website plus access on your tablet, and for $35 you get all of it, and of course their print subscribers, the people who get the New York Times at home, they get access to this with their paid print subscription, and they don’t factor into these numbers, this is strictly the people who pay for digital subscription.

So in looking at this The Times at least appears to have been pretty successful with the paywall model, and I don’t know if that’s something that other publication replicate, but at least in the case of newspapers here in the U.S. some other major corporations have announced their plans to move to a little more paywall based monetization. Gannett, another big publisher here in the U.S., has announced that they plan to do their own paywalls, and also Lee Enterprises, a smaller publisher that does some Midwestern newspapers has announced similar plans, and that’s according to ReadWriteWeb.

So, do these numbers change the idea of paywalls in either of your minds, I mean does this change anything? I know the first episode I referenced before was before Louis was even with the show, and I don’t think — I think it was Kevin, and Kevin wasn’t too up on the idea of paywalls, but do these numbers illustrate that they can be successful?

Louis: Well, it certainly illustrates that they can be successful because in this case they are successful, right.

Patrick: Yes, absolutely.

Louis: Now, so just to clarify here, the New York Times does sort of an incomplete paywall, right, it’s not — the content is still accessible if you don’t pay, up to a certain limit, once you hit a certain number of stories that you’ve tried to view on the site and you’re not a subscriber it’ll say hey you’re using this a lot, you seem to like our content, you might want to pay for it, right?

Patrick: Right. Right, that number right now is 20 articles per month and on April — in April they’ll be taking that down to 10 articles per month.

Louis: Right. So that’s one thing, it doesn’t break your ability to share the stories online to people who might not be interested in reading all of the New York Times stuff, or who might potentially gain interest via having the story shared, right; we’ve all had the experience if someone posts something on Twitter and you click through and because you’re not a subscriber you either get taken to the homepage of this website or just a login page.

Patrick: Sure.

Louis: And that doesn’t even give me the opportunity to see is this something that I would be willing to pay for if I find myself using it a lot, it’s a wall, right.

Patrick: Yeah.

Louis: And more, the other thing though is that the New York Times is such an iconic publication and has so much quality content that — and so much quality reporting and editorial content that —

Patrick: Built-up credibility.

Louis: Yeah. And not only just built-up credibility, they’ve got the credibility, but they’re also still doing the reporting and still doing probably — I mean they still have better writers and better reporters than a lot of other smaller newspapers, right. So the willingness to pay for the New York Times versus the willingness to pay, for example, for your local paper or for a somewhat lesser known national paper I guess remains to be seen, we’ll see how successful other attempts at doing this kind of thing are; it seems like if someone was going to succeed the New York Times doing it this way was the best bet. And if that works then we have to try the other things that might be less likely to succeed, but who knows.

Patrick: Yeah, and you made a couple good points there to point out how it’s different from like it’s not simply pay or nothing, and there are actually a couple more points I read in a press release for the New York Times, and they’re going to knock it down to 10 articles per month, but on the Smartphone and tablet apps the top news section is already free and will remain free, so they already allow people to access kind of the top most popular news stories in the Smartphone and the tablet apps. And also according to the press release readers who come through links from email, search, blogs and social media will continue to be able to access those individual articles even if they have reached their reading limit; for some searches users will have a daily limit of five free links of Times articles. So there are these sorts of back doors I guess, if you will, where they allow people to read their articles if they’re coming through different sources and still allow the times to kind of tap into the power of social media, if you will, kind of an overused phrase, but if people are sharing links to the Times articles through social media those will then still be accessible. So it’s an interesting sort of hybrid approach, it’s not simply all or nothing, where they are still benefitting from the traffic that comes from being a top story on Twitter, for example, while still maintaining some control over let’s say the most active readers, the people who are really digesting a lot of their content.

Louis: Yeah, and I have to say I prefer this approach to a free approach but where the papers go too far out into the social media sharing, the passive reading sharing apps on Facebook for I think The Guardian and The Washington Post, for instance.

Patrick: Right, yeah.

Louis: That’s just really annoying, like not being able to click through the link without adding the app.

Patrick: Right.

Louis: And if the alternative is, you know, you either force everyone to share your stuff passively just to be able to see it, or you allow them to share if they want but you make them pay if they’re using it a lot, I prefer that partial paywall to the full-out social media press that these other publications have gone with.

Patrick: It’s funny you mention that because I’ve clicked on a couple links like that, like you said, the passive sharing or whatever it is, and it’s asked me to add the app, and I’m not like militant on this, but I still haven’t added the app.

Louis: No, because the thing is like it’s going to share it before you read the thing. What you’ll notice is that most of the things that get shared by via The Washington Post and The Guardian app are very, very sensational headlines because of the things that people are like, oh, I want to see what that is, and it’s not something that you would share after you read it, but you want to be able to read it. You know I usually just — I’ll Google the article and find it separately without adding the app because —

Patrick: Precisely.

Louis: Yeah.

Patrick: (Laughs) absolutely.

Louis: Anyway, so, I mean it’s great to hear that these publications can make a living for themselves, or carve out a niche for themselves on the Internet, and that the Internet doesn’t spell all doom and gloom for traditional newspaper and print publications.

Patrick: Absolutely. Yeah, for The Times, I mean like you said, they’re still massive, but this is a decent amount of money even if you assume that all those subscribers are on the $15 a month plan; 454,000 subscribers timed by $15 is 6.8 million dollars, and over a period of a year that balloons to 81.7 million. So, even to a big company like The Times that’s still a nice amount of pocket change I would say.

Louis: Yeah, I wouldn’t say no to it.

Patrick: (Laughs) neither would SitePoint.

Louis: Alright, moving on, I’ve got a bit of a story this week, back to some nerdery because that’s what we do here.

Patrick: Sure.

Louis: Sorry Patrick.

Patrick: I’ll be quiet now (laughter). I’ll go sit in the corner with my dunce cap on.

Louis: This is a blog post written by Stephanie Rieger, I think I’m pronouncing that right. This was a while back, it was posted in January but I only saw it a few weeks ago and I figured I’d pass it along just in case anyone had missed it; it is sort of a plea for progressive enhancement. So what she’s trying to say is that a lot of people sort of have leapt on the Responsive Web Design bandwagon but are not paying attention to traditional best practice techniques of Responsive Web Design, and just making the site accessible on as many devices and as many contexts as possible. So the whole post was prompted by her noticing the new campaign site for Barrack Obama for the upcoming presidential election in the U.S. I imagine, and it is a Responsive Design, it does collapse down if you’re viewing it on a mobile device, and it’s got this sort of slideout menu where you hit a menu button and it just opens up a big menu so you can navigate the site. And then she had it completely fail for her on an iPhone 4, and then so she went and did a bit of testing and wondered what does this menu actually work on, and found that the only device she could get it to work on was an upgraded iPhone 4 with IOS 5, or the newest Android phone the Galaxy Nexus. And it failed on the iPod Touch, failed on the iPhone 4 that wasn’t upgraded, failed on the previous top of the line Google device, the Nexus One, failed on brand new Windows Phone 7 devices, there’s this massive list, the Kindle Fire, all the Android tablets she tested, and just, you know, it was not degrading gracefully.

So she wrote this very compelling piece, the whole post is trying to impel Web designers and developers to not lose track of those traditional progressive enhancement techniques, and really focus on serving something that will work on any device even if it doesn’t have the screen size that you expect, or it doesn’t have the JavaScript performance or behavior that you would expect, you really have to have a baseline that works well and is usable, and then you can serve your fanciness to the latest generation of devices or browsers, but you really have to make things accessible and usable. And Responsive Design on its own is not a panacea for that; it doesn’t solve the issue of making your site degrade gracefully.

Kevin: Yeah, it feels like the whole prefix thing all over again, except in the responsive aspects where developers are just getting a little lazy, in my opinion, to just doing a good job, you know what I mean.

Louis: Yeah, and in this case obviously on mobile I mean we’ve had a hard time as developers for a long time just doing browser testing, right, if you want to have two or three versions of Internet Explorer on your machine, plus Chrome and Safari and Firefox, that can be tricky if you’re using a Mac or Linux, you have to have your Internet Explorer in some kind of virtual machine or a dual boot scenario, and then getting multiple versions of Internet Explorer is even trickier. That was tricky, but then on mobile devices it’s even harder because you have to own these physical devices, so, you know, this testing isn’t easy, but I think if you’re an agency that’s focused, and especially I imagine that the budget for Barrack Obama’s presidential campaign site was sort of on the high side as far as web designs go, so the kind of agency that takes on that kind of project one would expect to be able to do a bit of testing.

Patrick: That and the volunteers they have which is a massive number, they must all have different types of phones, they could just call them in.

Louis: Yep, absolutely. I’ll just quote a little bit from the end of this article where she sort of drives her point home. “The failure of the Obama site was not in the use of new techniques like Responsive Design; it was forgetting that older principles and techniques still have an important role to play in building a better web. If anything they’re more important than ever before. Without progressive enhancement Responsive Design is simply a site that looks pretty when you resize your desktop browser, with progressive enhancement the mobile web truly becomes a tool capable of reaching and connecting all of us.”

So, just making a really strong case for having at least your menu fail gracefully, for example; it’s a JavaScript menu, so if you’re using JavaScript to display something, conventional wisdom on the Web or for progressive enhancement, is have it open by default and then hide it with JavaScript once the page is loaded so that if your JavaScript fails the menu’s still accessible, right, which is something that wasn’t done in this case.

Kevin: If all else fails at least you know Barrack uses one of these two phones, the Nexus or the iPhone (laughter).

Patrick: He’s either on the latest iPhone or the latest Android, so.

Louis: Yeah. Also pointing out it failed on a number of Blackberry devices, so not impressive.

Patrick: This is a big enough issue for developers in the U.S. to change your vote, so definitely want to take a look at the code on his website, see how standards based it is, see how it looks, and then vote based upon that.

Louis: I think you’d have to compare all the candidates’ mobile sites and you’d probably find a pretty impressive level of failure on all sides; I don’t know if anyone’s got great mobile.

Kevin: Maybe this just means they’ll send us free phones so we can access websites, which would be kind of nice, I’d like that.

Louis: Alright, I think that puts a nail in the coffin of that one.

Kevin: So I have one more article here to talk about, and it’s about Google Play. Now, of course, it’s been a little while, but I believe from what I’ve read that Google Play came out on March 6th, and since then it’s had a little bit of an uproar in the community, specifically with Android, where basically they’ve changed the policy behind the apps. Now, there is a link to ZDNet where they talk about this, and so I’m kind of pulling for multiple places because it’s been out for a little while now. But basically Google Play has changed part of their policies, and Reddit Is Fun, this is an app for Android, has run into some issues with the policy plan. If you don’t know what Google Play then go check out play.google.com and you can find out from there, now I haven’t used it much myself, in fact I looked at it somewhat for the first time today, and basically what it is this is integration of Google’s products, sort of like Amazon Prime, where you have movies, music, books, and now the Android market has all been pulled into this. So, from what I understand, on the newer versions of Android you now use Google Play to buy your apps, not necessarily the old Android market.

Louis: Yeah, I actually got the update even on the old — I have an older Android device running I think 2.3.4, so a little bit out of date, and I still got an update that switched me over to Play.

Patrick: Okay, what is that, melted ice cream sandwich? (Laughter)

Louis: Aw, Patrick.

Kevin: Nice, very nice.

Patrick: Well, and I say that as a person with a cheap pay-as-you-go phone, that doesn’t have a Smartphone, so just, you know, I can’t be any more humble (laughter). But, yeah, Google Play is the Android market now, I mean it’s been rebranded; the Android market is no more, Google Play is it.

Kevin: Okay. Right, I use an iPhone, and again, I just looked at this today, so the information I have on it isn’t perfect, but, you know, from this like one of their top apps, Reddit Is Fun, is running into issues with this.

Louis: So this is an app with, according to this article, with 300,000 active users, it was the most popular Reddit app on the Android market, and then was more recently banned and removed from Google Play for policy violations. And the email to the developer said it was a violation of the sexually explicit material provision of the content policy. So basically it links users to the Reddit front page and to Reddit threads on that, and I guess if those links then in turn link to, let’s say not safe for work content, Google feels that it’s alright to block it from the market.

Patrick: Right. Now, personally, all things equal I don’t have a problem with Google doing this with their marketplace, but the issue here is that, and I feel like Jon Stewart when I say it wasn’t supposed to be this way, Google, (laughter); it’s supposed to be the clear alternative, right, and it’s not good or bad, I don’t view either approach as good or bad, but Apple’s, obviously Apple’s, the iTunes and app store, the marketplace is there, they have a tight restriction over those, they manage them very closely. The Android marketplace, and Android as a platform, more or less, was supposed to be more open. Now, and then I think that’s the biggest problem here is that I think people had an expectation of Google from Google’s own actions, and from their actions with regard to Android, and now feeling as though they’re coming down on them for adult content and maybe feeling a little betrayed.

Kevin: Yeah, I don’t really understand the whole Google stance on this because I mean if you have a Twitter account on here and somebody sends you an explicit Tweet, like, is Google going to ban Twitter now?

Louis: The Twitter client, yeah, that’s an extremely good point where it just becomes very ambiguous, right, a link to something on the Internet that’s coming through from content.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly.

Patrick: Sure. Yeah, I thought of — when you were reading out loud I thought of like forum reading apps, right, so certain forums have apps and there are apps that read forums, and certainly some forums might have a thread with this sort of content, maybe even on a once-off basis some sort of uncharacteristic piece of content, and then that leads to that issue. I mean that might be an extreme example, but I guess it’s the slope so to speak.

Louis: Yeah.

Kevin: Right.

Louis: Although, to be fair in this case, and going back to the original post that you linked to from ZDNet, it points out some quotes from developers who run a separate Android market, so the interesting thing about Android is because all that’s required to install an app is just to get the app installer file and run it on the phone, you can basically create your own market. So, they’ve got some quotes from a rival market here saying, you know, that they’ve been contacted by a lot of developers who’ve been affected by this, and that they’re trying to push ahead with that, so it doesn’t make it impossible to get these kinds of apps on the phone, but in the case of Reddit it’s not really, I think as we were saying, it’s not really an adult app, or it’s not an explicit app, it’s just — potentially linking to things that might potentially then link to explicit content, which is really hard to justify the ban.

Patrick: There was a lot of potentiallys there.

Louis: Well, yeah, and that’s the heart of the issue, right.

Patrick: Yeah, yeah. And you made a good point, though, as far as the openness of Android to the point of you can have other app stores, right, Amazon’s created one, and there are other ones out there that people can turn to. I wouldn’t turn to Amazon in this case because I don’t think they want your app either, but, I would say it creates a possible business, right, because if — and this is just the entrepreneur in me speaking, but if they don’t allow adult apps then you start an adult app store.

Louis: Yeah, and this is the one that’s linked to from here, I’m not going to drop the link because it’s been warned in the article that the site article is not safe for work, so I’m not going to drop the link.

Patrick: You can Google it! Ironically enough you can just Google it (laughter). Um, but, yes, I mean that’s the entrepreneurial spirit there is that you can create an adult app store, don’t call it an app store because Apple doesn’t — they’re going after Amazon for using that term, call it something else, call it an adult Android application market, or whatever, but, start your own app store and take that market.

Kevin: Yeah, and anyway, so the Google Play check it out, and I believe Google Play was kind of Google’s response to the Amazon app store in a way, or basically that Kindle Fire with its integration with movies, books and apps.

Louis: Yeah, and I mean obviously iTunes has had this sort of integrated store forever, right, that it was never a separate app store, or not really from where you would buy your music and your books.

Patrick: Yeah, they’ve had it since before The Land Before Time 1 came out, so.

Louis: Wow! That was a reference. (Laughter) now I just feel sad.

Patrick: And that sadness is the perfect segue to spotlights (laughter).

Kevin: Sad times.

Patrick: And I’ll go ahead and go first because we’re on sort of this app store, app talk, so my spotlight is a reading app, completely focused on Apple, so it’s an Apple e-reader called Read Mill, and I got to meet one of the founders, his name is David, down at SXSW, and he showed me the app, although I don’t have an Apple device so I couldn’t experiment with it myself, but I played with it on his device and he showed me it, and they have like a web interface, and they also allow you to import a little bit from your Kindle Fire, or your Kindle library I should say. But basically it is a — so it’s an e-reader but it’s more, it’s, you know, they call themselves a curious community of readers highlighting and sharing the books they love, so it’s very much based on highlighting excerpts from books, sharing interesting thoughts, commenting on them, there are authors in the community who highlight small excerpts and then provide additional context to those thoughts. And it’s really very slick, and it struck me as something that if you do a lot of reading on an Apple device, on an iPad or an iPhone, and you’re into talking with people who are reading a book, or sharing the books you are reading, it seemed like a very, very slick, very, very well done application and website, and I’ve started to play around with it myself. So if you’re a hardcore reader and for reading on an Apple device definitely check it out, it’s readmill.com.

Kevin: Very cool. But I have a spotlight, and it’s a very fun URL to begin with, so that’s what makes this spotlight awesome, so it’s craig.is/making/rainbows, which I think is awesome.

Patrick: Yep.

Kevin: And this is a JavaScript library, kind of a library, it’s multiple scripts that you can install and run, but basically it’s syntax highlighting for code within web pages. And I have to say I’ve used several like code syntax highlighting plugins before for, say, WordPress and Drupal and just standard ones like this, and this one definitely takes all with the way it’s implemented. It’s using some nice HTML5 stuff in here as far as syntax goes, and you can create your own expressions; this uses regular expressions to generate the content, or parse through the content, and figure out what types of code pockets that you want to copy, I don’t know how else to say that, or code blocks, and, you know, extensible, it’s very, very nice, and you only include the packages that you want. So if you want Python then you can just include a script, and I’m smiling a little bit here because this is so cool (laughter).

Patrick: I’m smiling because this is so cool.

Kevin: It is cool. It’s awesome; it has great documentation, just check it out guys.

Patrick: It’s 1.2 kilobytes of rainbow amazement.

Kevin: That’s right. And I know you’re thinking it, it’s double rainbow.

Louis: It is; it is.

Kevin: Almost a triple rainbow.

Louis: If only I knew what it all meant. Alright, we made it through Kevin’s spotlight, we made it alive. Cool.

Patrick: What’s your spotlight, Louis?

Louis: My spotlight is, again, it goes back a little while because like I said I’ve been disconnected a little bit, but it’s an article written by the one and only Jeffery Zeldman on his blog a few weeks ago, and what it is he’s pointing to a new technique for image replacement developed by a guy called Scott Kellum. And basically his point is that the traditional FARK image replacement that we all have been using forever, which is a text indent of minus some obscene number of pixels in order to knock the text off the screen and replace it with a background image, that’s a great technique, and we’ve all been using it forever, as long as we’ve been doing CSS. However, if you’re doing animation in CSS it does have some drawbacks because the browser’s actually going to draw this giant box that extends as far as that negative text indent goes, which when you try and animate it on a device that’s maybe not as fast or as powerful as it could be causes some performance issues. So there’s this alternate technique which someone has just developed using text indent to 100% and overflow hidden, which just sort of forces the text out but then hides the overflow. So just something to take a look at if you haven’t seen it, and I know for a lot o people it’s kind of hard to break the habit of doing something like minus 9999 pixels because it’s so ingrained in the way we do CSS, but there are alternatives, and they’re new alternatives, and that in some cases can perform better.

Kevin: This is very cool, I actually like this a lot. It’s a good link.

Patrick: Did you ever talk to Mr. Zeldman at SXSW, Kevin?

Kevin: I did not; I did not. I wanted to give him a hug but that might’ve been a little much (laughter).

Patrick: Awkward silence. (Laughter) I love that, sweet, good spotlights, absolutely.

Louis: We got an email from Zach Wong, and I’m just going to read it out, “hey SitePoint Podcast I just wanted to say that I’m an avid listener of your podcast and appreciate the insightful comments that you guys produce.”

Patrick: Sweet! Thank you.

Louis: “I also just listened to the last panel show of 2011, and I just want to give you some thoughts on ads, personally I don’t care about ads when I visit, I think that as web viewers we’ve grown accustomed to them, and we just ignore them now. Do I click on them? If they interest me, like you guys said. Will I buy anything? No. But I like just looking into it, that’s why I have no problem with Google tracking what I search, what I email, etcetera, to generate ads, it’s because they generate useful, interesting ads, that’s how I learned about 99designs.com; I appreciate useful ads if just simply for a brief off-task moment.” So that’s a bit of an additional perspective on the conversation that we had about ads and tracking, I don’t exactly remember what context we were talking about this in.

Patrick: Who cares about the context, he uses a SitePoint product (laughter).

Kevin: That’s right.

Patrick: It doesn’t really matter! Thanks, Zach, for the email and kind words. It’s like when Louis gets an email he yells at the top of his lungs in his office, “We got an email! The podcast got an email!” It’s like Steve Martin in The Jerk when the phone books come, that’s kind of an old reference, I don’t know who all will get that, but yeah, we like to get emails about the show, so definitely do drop us a line, and if you have some comments or something you’d like to add or feedback we’ll definitely read it on the show. Yeah, and so if you’d like to give us your two cents email us at podcast@sitepoint.com.

Louis: Alright, so that’s it for today’s show, let’s kick it around the table.

Kevin: So I’m Kevin Dees and you can find me at kevindees.cc and on Twitter as @kevindees.

Patrick: I am Patrick O’Keefe for the iFroggy Network, on Twitter @iFroggy, i-f-r-o-g-gy.

Louis: Alright, and you can follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, that’s sitepoint d-o-t-c-o-m; you can email us as Patrick said, at podcast@sitepoint.com, and you can find us on the Web at sitepoint.com/podcast, that’s where to find the show, leave a comment, subscribe to the show, all of that; we’re also on iTunes. I’m Louis Simoneau; you can find me @rssaddict. Thanks for listening, and next week we’ve got an interview that Kevin conducted, so I will be back in two weeks to host the next panel show. Thanks for listening and bye for now.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

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  • Zach Wong

    Haha I just listened to the podcast last night! I got mentioned! :D

    Zach